Summer in #ldnont

It’s nearly summer here and based on the heat we’re feeling today, I’d say we’re pretty well there. And I feel ready to enjoy it. The last 365 have been crazy…and I don’t do well with crazy. I’m perpetually drawn to the safety, the routine, the comfort I can create for myself. The last year has taken me far, far outside my comfort zone, kicked me out of the car and drove off.

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But here we are. A year in our new home that we own (well, okay, the bank owns it but we’re closer and closer every mortgage payment).  A tumultuous two job changes for me, after leaving my employer of the last near-decade…the only employer I had since college. I miss the routine, the familiar — but I’m slowly working on building that again. Despite setbacks with my mental health. Despite the little things that happen in my day to day that because of my mental health affect me deeper than  someone who, you know, doesn’t have a severe anxiety disorder. Hey, I’m still standing, so that’s something.

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The world around me continues to be increasingly vegan friendly, almost to the point of (delightful) ridiculousness. In London, we said goodbye to Veg Out as the owner moves on to a new chapter in her life, only to welcome Glassroots and Plant Matter Kitchen.

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Glassroots.  Top left clockwise: roasted veggie chip amuse-bouche, local vegan cheese plate (with Nuts for Cheese cheeses), lemon-cran cheesecake, tofu scallops entree.
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Plant Matter Kitchen. “Chick’n” Caesar wrap, with accompanying sides of ‘kraut and salad. I was super impressed with this.

America now has vegan Ben and Jerry’s!  And I have nice pals who smuggle some over the border and share with me.

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It’s amazing but also kind of weird.  I’ve been vegan for a decade now and it’s a bit surreal to see how this thing that has been a separator, a divide between myself and a lot of people is now this thing that people are embracing. I hope it can stay about the animals and not another fad that gets disposed of as quickly as it becomes a “thing”.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the years of bakesale-ing, of making food for people, of doing punkrock catering gigs and all the people that have told me I shouldn’t be a graphic designer, I should be doing food for a living. I’ve been listening. But thanks to the aforementioned fear of uncertainty and danger, I’ve not jumped into action. If I’m being honest, I’m afraid of the market becoming too saturated and me still just sitting on my hands never realizing my dream.

What my dream is, I’ll never tell, lest some fancy serial entrepreneur who’s not even vegan goes and takes my idea. I hope I end up doing it once and for all eventually.

For now, I’m becoming quite the grill master, quite the amateur gardener, and enjoying feeding all the chipmunks in the yard. Each one of them is named “Chippy”.

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Baby’s first raised garden beds!  Tomatoes galore, brussels, several varieties of peppers and chilis, two types of kale, chard, beets, radishes, turnips, lemongrass, nasturtiums, mint, Thai basil.

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Next up: preserving and pickling all the things.  Strawberries and wild blackberries will become jam, gardeny things will become pickled accouterments for my virgin bloody marys.

 

 

Jamaican vibes and arroz con leche

We’ve been in our new house for about 6 months now and I finally feel like my kitchen groove is coming back.  You know when you move and there’s a period where you don’t have your bearings about you — which drawer is your favourite ladle in?  Where is your 1/2 cup dry measure?  AGH.  But I’m comin’ back, baby.  Today we went out to get some groceries today we ended up at our favourite international shop.  They have EVERYTHING.  And among that everything was callaloo!  We had callaloo in Jamaica and really liked it.  Well, I like any greens, really…but I found the preparation of callaloo in Ital style to be super delicious.  So of course we had to get it and make it, and we made curried TVP to go with it because it’s such a staple at all the Ital/Rasta places we’ve eaten at.  And brown rice.

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I made the callaloo per the instructions here and here’s what we did for the TVP:

  • 3 cups dried TVP chunks
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely diced (or leave out if you’re heat averse!)
  • 2 stalks green onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp gravy browning
  • 2 tbsp Jamaican curry powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put some water to a boil, get your TVP in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the TVP until well covered.  Let sit for 10 minutes, or until TVP is softened.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add your garlic first, get it to a nice blonde colour (30 seconds), then add your onions and carrots.  Stir to coat in the oil, and cook for 5 minutes (add a splash of water as necessary to deglaze if things are sticking).  Add in your soaked TVP, green onion, water, coconut milk, scotch bonnet, browning, thyme, curry powder and salt.  Stir everything up, pop the lid on, and let it cook down to a nice thick sauce, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste and serve with brown rice and callaloo on the side.

I also had a hankering for some arroz con leche which is just a Mexican rice pudding with cinnamon.  I made it in my rice cooker using this recipe and replaced the milk with soy milk.

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Now I’m stuffed, sleepy, and happy I’m getting my culinary groove back.

Watch this space.

Ethiopian party!

The first time we went for Ethiopian several years ago, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  It’s a damn shame that Ethiopian food/culture/music doesn’t get more visibility because it’s all so awesome!  The food has quickly become one of my favourites and I’m super pleased that I was able to help my friend Kittee from Cake Maker to the Stars test recipes during the creation of her new book, Teff Love.  It’s been released now; mine just came in the mail on Friday and I’m already digging in.

We are fortunate that the closest restaurant to us—literally, like a 2 minute walk—is an Ethiopian place.  We go there for their DELICIOUS vegan platter (suuuper cheap too) often, and they sell injera (the spongy, sourdough flatbread that you scoop up your food with) by the bag.  So, it’s ridiculously easy for us to buy a bag and whip up a spontaneous Ethiopian feast.  Lucky, I know.  It’s a part of why I’m so attached to living in our neighbourhood!

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Clockwise, we’ve got ye’tikil gomen be’karot (ginger-garlic cabbage and carrots), ye’kaysir atakilt (beet salad), ye’dubba alicha (roasted butternut in a spicy sauce) and ye’misser wot be’timatim (red lentils).

Bonus: these recipes utilize super cheap ingredients (lentils, cabbage, beets, squash!) and make a tonne so we have meals for days.

– Crystal

Le Creamsicle

Continuing on my theme of recreating Aux Vivres dishes…my favourite smoothie there is le creamsicle!  It tastes just like its namesake.  The menu says it’s made of coconut milk, orange juice, carrot juice, dates, vanilla…so I set to work and think I pretty much nailed it.  I think they add ice to theirs to make it more frosty, but I liked it as a juice consistency.

And since I juiced the carrots myself, now I have all this pulp that I will either make into Aux Vivre’s vegé lox or maybe these raw carrot cake cupcakes.  Waste not and all that.

The original.
The original.

Creamsicle Smoothie
Makes enough for a blender full

1 can light coconut milk
2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup carrot juice
1 tsp pure vanilla
8-10 pitted dates (I used Parnoosh sayer dates – they’re my favourite)

Blend, blend, blend until the dates are pulverized and everything’s nice and silky.

For the record, I’m going through the exercise of recreating all my favourites because I live a 10-hour drive away from Montreal.  But if you can go there easily, go!  It’s an awesome place and should be supported.  Until I can visit again, I’ll be busy in my kitchen trying to recreate those flavours.

Bowl Fever

I’m still obsessing over my food from Aux Vivres. My project over the last couple weeks has been trying to replicate some of their bowls! Oh boy, their bowls are awesome and make you feel like Popeye after you’ve eaten one.

Here’s my Dragon Bol dupe!

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Shredded carrots, beets, red cabbage, rice, greens, grilled tofu, and “dragon” sauce.  For the sauce, I used this recipe, which is tasty but didn’t quite hit the mark on authenticity.  Still, absolutely worth making.  Here’s the translation, as the recipe in the link is en Français:

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp tablespoons olive oil
2 tbsp tablespoons maple syrup
2 tbsp tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tbsp water
2 cloves garlic, crushed

And here’s Trevor’s dupe of the Bouddha Bol…

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Steamed broccoli, lots o’ greens, rice, shredded carrots, grilled tofu, sesame seeds, and absent pumpkin seeds and sauce.  For the sauce, we used the ninja carrot ginger dressing from Vegan Eats World, which the author has kindly posted on her blog.

We ate these for DAYS.  The good thing about bowls is you basically just do prep for them and then assemble as needed.  So yum.  And an easy way to pack a ton of veg into your life!

We’ve been enjoying barbecuing tofu lately, too, and Trevor did some up in the ginger beer tofu marinade from the new cookbook Salad Samurai.  Man, Terry Hope Romero is killin’ it with this one.  It’s so full of deliciousness, and everything we’ve made so far has come together really quickly, which is great for week nights.  Served with some Caribbean-inspired red beans and rice, this was mighty filling and protein-rich.

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Also, cake happened this week!

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I had an itch for cake soooo badly.  Work has been crazy stressful and I just wanted some damn cake so badly at 8:30 at night on a Tuesday.  But no dang flour in the house!  Then I remember I read about this flourless chocolate cake recipe and it sounded pretty good.  I’m usually pretty skeptical of gluten-free stuff, but this was so good and fudgy.  A tiny piece is all you need.

I got the recipe from here, and topped it with a simple chocolate glaze (icing sugar, a bit of cocoa powder, soy milk) and of course sprinkles because I just love them.

Vieux-Port Strawberry-Basil Sorbet

As I mentioned in my Montreal post, we had some lovely sorbet in the Old Port.  I was really intrigued by the combination of strawberry and basil, and was eager to try making it at home.  I’d call this a success!  This tastes just like meandering around beautiful old Montreal, stopping at patio after patio.  Bon appetit!

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Vieux-Port Strawberry-Basil Sorbet

1 lb sweet strawberries, hulled
6 or 7 large basil leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsps corn starch
pinch of salt
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp lemon juice

Combine everything in a large bowl and use an immersion blender to puree until silky smooth. Alternatively, pop everything in a blender. Proceed with pouring the mixture into your ice cream maker, following your manufacturer’s directions.

J’aime Montréal

When I travel, one of the main things I like to do is check out the local market.  I think it’s a great way to get a really distilled sense of a place and its community and culture.  In the times we have previously been to Montreal, it’s been such quick fly-by-night trips that we haven’t had a chance to do that.  This time we finally ventured to the Marché Jean-Talon and it was everything I hoped it would be and more!

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It was amazing!  Rows upon rows upon rows of fresh Quebec produce, samples of everything, tons of maple syrup and fresh mushrooms…ahh, it was heaven.  We slurped on a couple of Banana Republica (banana, fresh soy milk, wheat germ) smoothies from Mangue et Melon while we shopped around.

After that, we carried on to the Vieux-Port / Old Montreal.  We grabbed a couple takeout boxes from La Panthère Verte on the way there, stuffed full grains, greens, roasted sweet potato, pepitas, sesame seeds and some sort of green goddess dressing, which we ate out front of the gorgeous Basilique Notre-Dame

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It was insanely hot that day and we were all just basically melted puddles.  After putzing around the basilica which didn’t have air conditioning, we were happy to come across a place that served vegan sorbet, so we got a 3 scoops — lemon, strawberry-basil and raspberry:

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By this time, I think we were all ready to call it a day and just go die in our hotel room.  On our way back to the car, we were walking along the water and there were a bunch of food trucks.  And this happened!

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Vegan poutine!  The curds were glorious bits of silken tofu in a sort of brine to make them salty.  Oh, happy day.  Thanks to Roux Food Truck for having such an offering!

It’s insanely easy to be vegan in Montreal.  It’s easy pretty much anywhere in the modern world, but some places make it really easy.  I love Montreal and can’t wait to go back!

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