Pumpkin Hot Cocoa

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I’ll fully cop to being one of those semi-annoying people who are all about pumpkin in autumn.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin curry, gimme it all.

The thing is, the Starbucks pumpkin syrup isn’t vegan, and I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t usually get into pumpkin-y drinks.  Hot cocoa is more my jam.  Why did it take me so long to mash together two of my greatest autumnal loves?

3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
pinch of salt
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
2 1/2 cups milk

Combine dry ingredients in a small saucepan.  Add the milk and turn on medium-high heat, whisking to incorporate.  Add the canned pumpkin, whisking until dissolved.  Heat until warm and cozy, pour into your favourite mug, sit on the couch with a blanket and/or a cat and bask in the season.

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Kale-Sesame Udon with Roasted Beets

Oh, hello!

We’re still alive and we’re still very much vegan.  Life has been a bit crazy.  I was laid off from my job recently and we’ve had to put a lot of life plans (including our very first trip to Europe that was supposed to happen this October…sigh) on hold as a result.  The one upside to all of this is I have the time to reassess my priorities in life, and become re-inspired to blog and share something that brings me a lot of joy: food.  The ritual of preparing it, the experience of a well-crafted plate.  
A big thing for me right now is self-care to get me through this tough time.  Forcing myself to keep a routine, get enough sleep, get dressed each day, exercise and eat properly.  Ensuring I take care of those very fundamental things to keep my going, and as Woody Guthrie put it, to keep the hoping machine running.  
We’ve been doing a lot of quick, easy things like this; tasty and healthy but not super involved.

For the beets, I used the tinfoil beet method from the Post Punk Kitchen.
For the udon, I did the following:
1 tbsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head of kale, torn into pieces and hard stems removed
2 packages of Japanese udon (the kind that comes in individual servings and are kind of squishy like this, ensure it is vegan as I have seen them before with weird milk ingredients for no reason)
The following to taste: toasted sesame oil, sriracha hot sauce, soy sauce
Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil on medium heat in a large wok (you’ll need the room, because the kale takes up quite a bit of space before it wilts).  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds just to “blonde” the garlic and infuse the oil a bit.  Carefully drop the kale pieces in, with tongs, flipping to coat in the garlicky oil.  Sautée the kale and garlic until the kale is bright green and nicely wilted, about 10 minutes.  Open the udon packages and break apart the noodles (they will be a solid block) into the pan, with tongs breaking up to coat in the oil and kale.  Cook for 5 minutes.  To taste, add soy sauce, sriracha and just a drizzle of sesame oil, again stirring to coat.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Plate up and top with sesame seeds and, if you’re like me, another drizzle or two of sriracha.
- Crystal

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A Weeknight Dinner Narrative

What’s a lady to do when she’s had a long day at work, went to the gym, husband’s working late and it’s 6:30 before she even starts thinking about dinner?

Before she even solidifies her game plan, she puts on a pot of whole wheat rotini.  She hasn’t had pasta in a while, and it’ll come together quickly.

She assesses that her pantry and refrigerator and the first things that pop out to her are: a bag of carrots, a bunch of kale that won’t be good much longer, an avocado, 1 orange pepper and 1/2 a yellow pepper, some broccoli sprouts, some garlic.

She grabs the biggest wok she can find, adds a glug of olive oil, puts it on medium heat, and sets out to chop the carrot, mince the garlic, tear the kale, dice the pepper and avocado.

She adds the carrot to the sizzling wok first, followed by garlic.  Then comes to the kale, left for a few minutes to wilt, then the peppers.  She leaves this to do its thing quickly while she drains the pasta.

Back to the wok.  Now everything is nice and bright, hot and crisp-tender, it gets doused in a squirt of lemon juice, a big pinch of dried basil, generous pinches of salt and black pepper, and LOTS of nutritional yeast.  Mmm, cheesy, cheesy nutritonal yeast.

The pasta gets added back in.  Everything gets tossed together.  Then plated.  Then topped with the sprouts and avocado.  And some hemp seeds for some protein.

And some hot sauce, of course.

- Crystal

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Orange Chick’n and Broccoli

I’m not huge on faux meats in my own cooking, since I really like cooking with whole ingredients and not premade stuff, but I am totally not above a good Chinese-style chick’n dish now and again.  We found some mock chick’n chunks at the huge Asian market that opened up in London.

What better way to use them than to put them in a Chinese take out style chick’n and broccoli dish in a tangy, garlicky orange sauce?

1 300g bag premade vegan chicken nuggets or equivalent chicken-style seitan strips
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
~1 tbsp canola oil

The sauce:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt and pepper

Add any mild-tasting oil (canola, peanut) you have to a wok and heat on medium-high heat.  Add your chick’n chunks or seitan strips and sautee until golden brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  With the remaining oil in the pan, add the broccoli florets and cook until bright green but still with some crunch.  Add the chick’n chunks back to the pan, add some salt and pepper, then coat with the sauce, stirring to coat everything.  Cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens up.

Serve over rice with hot sauce on the side.  Eat!

- Crystal

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IKEA food

So, I’ve got some postdated blogging to do.  Back at the beginning of December, we went to IKEA.  I love their little food section as I’m really fascinated by Scandinavian cuisine (even though it’s decidedly not vegan-friendly traditionally.  Though these days, since that block of countries is generally way more progressive than the rest of the world in almost every way, there’s plenty of vegan options).  I always get a packet of the ginger thin biscuits they have; they’re a nice tea break snack.  I knew I wanted a jar of lingonberry jam so I could try to make Swedish meatballs.  Wishfully thinking, I picked up a pack of this frozen gingerbread dough, which seems to be a seasonal item, and read the ingredients list:  another accidentally vegan score!  I like to make things from scratch, but I am not above the occasional shortcut.  These were really pleasant and spiced, I’ll be sure to get them next time I see them!

I hated the Glögg.  I’m always looking for interesting alcohol-free to have when I’m with people drinking (I’m straight edge) drinks, but this was…really nasty.  Tasted like cough syrup.

Gingerbread moose!

Anyway, yeah, I wanted to make Swedish meatballs.  I remember eating meatballs as a child and thinking they were gross; they were sort of greasy and slimy.  These were really good, with a nice savoury, meaty bite.  I used the recipe from Mo Betta Vegan, the only change I made was substituting soy sauce for the Worcestershire sauce.

I made mashed potatoes, Chris and Crystal Tate’s white peppery gravy (which used to be posted online, but the link is dead.  If you have Melisser Elliott’s book “The Vegan Girl’s Guide To Life“, it’s in there, too), and a proper helping of the IKEA lingonberry jam.

It was a pretty beige meal which I try to avoid most often, but sometimes the craving for colourless comfort food wins!

- Crystal

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"Holy Pie!" Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

This morning, as we were eating this, I meant to exclaim, “Holy crap, this really tastes like pumpkin pie!” but I accidentally said, “Holy pie!  Pumpkin pie!”.  True story.  It’s just that pie-y.
So let’s all rejoice and eat pumpkin with every meal for as long as autumn lasts.

Serves 3-4

2 cups soy milk (or water, but it’ll be less creamy)
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 cups rolled oats
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

In a medium saucepan, heat the soy milk and pumpkin over medium-high heat.  Stir the pumpkin to dissolve. Once bubbles are just forming on the surface, add the oats, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, salt and spices.  Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or a few walnut pieces if desired.

- Crystal

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Curried Butternut Kale Stew

This is one of my favourite types of meals this time of year.  I love kale, as do many foodies, because it’s really delicious and kind of amazing for you.  I feel like a responsible adult when I’m chowing down on kale, you know?

It’s warming, creamy, a bit smoky from the fire roasted tomatoes, and excellent with a dash of hot sauce on top (I say that about everything, though) and served over some brown rice.

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can light coconut milk
couple huge handfuls washed and torn kale, or a small bunch
salt and pepper
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat and sautée the onion until translucent.  Add the garlic and sautée for 1 minute longer.  Add the diced butternut squash, stirring to coat in the oil, and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened.  Add all the spices and a pinch of salt, plus the broth, tomatoes and chickpeas, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the butternut squash is soft.  Lower heat and add the coconut milk and the kale.  Cover again and let the kale wilt for about 10 minutes, or until it has reduced in size and is bright green but not mushy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

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