Sunday, April 12, 2015

Vegan carrot cake.

Because I had a few carrots left in my fridge and because I am leaving in less than a week for a two months vacation in France, I decided to give another try to a vegan cake with flax seeds. Unlike the other time though, this recipe didn't call for "flax egg" but simply for ground flax seeds.

I love a good carrot cake. I am actually obsessed with carrot cake. It satisfies my sweet tooth but looks healthy enough not to make me feel guilty. Same goes for zucchini cake. And I sometimes cook a zucchini-carrot cake, because why not. My previous experience with flax seeds in my zucchini cake was such a disaster I didn't think I would be able to bake vegan cakes ever. But this new experience was a success. I am glad to say I have found a vegan recipe to fulfill my desires. Big up !

Vegan carrot cake.
Adapted from Oh She Glows.

1 1/2 cups finely grated carrot
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup organic honey
3/4 cup almond milk
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated carrot, ground flax, honey, almond milk, oil, vanilla, vinegar, and lemon zest. Set aside for at least two minutes while you gather the dry ingredients.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.

The texture was perfect and I didn't have to fight in order to bake it all the way. Cooking it for 40 minutes was plenty enough to keep a good consistency without overcook it. Plus the cake does not taste too sweet, which is everything you want in a carrot cake -at least it is what I am looking for when I bake treats with vegetables.

I simply loved it.

Next time, I will try to make it with zucchini and see if it is also a success. If so, I just found my new recipe for a vegan breakfast treat !!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Asparagus soup.

Some vegetables I have a hard time to cook with diversity. Asparagus is one of them. I usually boil or roast them as a side dish or in a salad. But I also get easily bored of eating the same ingredient the same way all the time. I'm totally for diversity !

Asparagus remind me -and always will- of Christmas at my grandma's. She would cook a bouillon d'asperges as a starter. I used not to like it, because I used not to like asparagus. She always used to scoop out the asparagus to only serve me the broth. That I could deal with. Later, I would eat the whole thing and ask for more.

I was then on search for a comforting bouillon d'asperges online and came upon an asparagus soup instead. It looked so delicious I decided to give it a try.

Asparagus soup. Adapted from Ricardo Cuisine.

1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp of Earth Balance
4 cups of asparagus, cut into 1 po pieces (keep a few uncut)
5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of rice (I used a mixture of wild and regular rice)
Salt and ground pepper to taste

1. Add Earth Balance over low-medium heat. Color the onion and add the asparagus -I threw in the ends first and then the tips of the asparagus. Cook for about a minute.
2. Add the vegetable broth and 3 tbsp of rice. Cover and cook until the asparagus are tender, for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rest of the rice in a pot.
3. In a blender, blend the soup. Depending on your blender, sieve the soup to make sure you don't have any filamentous part of the asparagus.
4. In a bowl, serve one or two spoons of rice, cover with the soup and top with a couple of whole asparagus, salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy !

I simply loved it. It was tasty, sufficiently copious, and beautiful. I added the rice because I don't have a good blender -I use a Magic Bullet- and it didn't blend the rice so it was left in the sieve in the end. I was also worried it would not be plentiful enough. With the rice added, it was just perfect ! Completely different from my grandma's bouillon d'asperges but still a pleasure for my palate. I will definitely do that recipe again and again... and maybe cook it for my grandma !

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Butternut squash spaghetti sauce.

If I tell you I found the perfect Mac 'n cheese sauce and it's totally vegan, would you believe me ? I know, I know, I had a hard time myself. How could the words vegan and cheese be associated ? Like, seriously. And yet...

As usual, I was searching my favorite vegan blog -Oh She Glows- to find a recipe with butternut squash. I felt a bit tired of simply roasting it or blending it as a soup. I was in search of something new, something delicious, something comforting, and something that would make me forget about the rain. I was also craving pasta for some odd reason. And here it was once more, the perfect recipe.

Butternut squash spaghetti sauce.
Adapted from Butternut Squash Mac 'n cheeze by Oh She Glows.

1 fresh butternut squash, peeled and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Earth Balance
3/4 cup unsweetened & original almond milk
1 tbsp corn flour
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2-1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup onion, chopped
4 serving of spaghetti
1 cup peas

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Mix chopped squash with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the cheese sauce. Add Earth balance over low-medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together milk and corn flour. Add into pot and whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients (Dijon, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper to taste) and whisk over low heat until thickened (it took about 5 minutes or so).
3. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
4. While your pasta are cooking, brown the onion over low heat in a big pot.
5. In a blender, blend the sauce with 1 cup of roasted squash. Reserve remaining roasted squash for later.
6. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed spaghetti into pot, along with cheese sauce, peas and remaining roasted squash.

It was absolutely delicious and it did taste like Mac 'n cheese sauce. The original recipe called for nutritional yeast, which is supposed to give a cheesy taste to your dish. But I didn't have any at hands so I skipped that ingredient, thinking I will never get the cheesy taste I was looking for. Wrong. Even without nutritional yeast, the sauce had the flavor, the consistency and the color of real Mac 'n cheese sauce. I am continually amazed by what you can do with healthy ingredients. Really, everything I used in this recipe is pretty much natural ! This dish has the taste of junk food, but the quality of healthy food. Does it get better than this ? I doubt it.

Try it out and let me know what you think !

Monday, April 6, 2015

Vegan for Health vs. Vegan for Ethics *

WARNING - This post might not be of your liking if you are a pure Vegan for Ethics.

A few days ago, I discovered Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast. And the first audio I have been listening to was about the distinction between Vegan for Health and Vegan for Ethics. Which is funny because, on the same day, I discussed my newly diet choices with a new acquaintance. You can listen to the podcast I am referring to here.

I liked and disliked what I heard, I agreed and disagreed with what I heard, but most of all it left me quite confused and unsatisfied -which is why I am sharing my terribly minimalist thoughts with you.

First of all, what is being Vegan ?
To me, it simply means not to eat and drink anything that contains animal products. In other words, it's a dairy-free meat-free diet. WHATEVER YOUR REASONS ARE. But, because we live in a society where we have to answer for every single action we take, people make a distinction between Vegan for Health and Vegan for Ethics. Personally, I am tired of justifying myself for my actions, especially when there is no real need for it. I do not think what I am doing is wrong. I do not think I need to be judged for my diet. And yet, I probably am.

When I started my vegan cleanse a month back -which gave birth to this blog, my only purpose was health. And today, I still feel like I did it for the same reason, even if I am learning more and more about veganism. Nowadays, I try to keep my diet dairy-free and meat-free because I noticed a difference while doing my cleanse: I was more energetic; my skin looked healthier -I have been struggling with skin problems since almost a year now for some mysterious reasons; and I was just feeling generally happier. Plus, it opened up a larger window upon the cooking world.
So yes, I am following a vegan path because I like the way I feel when I don't gulp down dairy and meat. Does it mean I am not compassionate ? Hell no !
I probably love animals as much as every pure vegan person in the world. I absolutely hate reading about animals being abandoned/tortured/hurt/killed and it makes me sick to think that some people do take pleasure in harming animals. Really. But yes, I sometimes do eat dairy and meat. And I enjoy it. I am not going to lie, because it would be ridiculous and against my will. I don't feel any shame when saying that, once in a while, I enjoy a piece of cheese or meat without crying. And I am very respectful of people who are able to quit those products from day one without failure. Unfortunately, I am not that way. And I am not sorry. Should I be called inhuman ? You can judge me, it won't change me.
My big weakness is cheese. I quit milk no problem -I am now only drinking almond milk but I will not get mad if someone pours a bit of cow milk in my coffee by accident. I was never big on yogurt. I can substitute cream or forget about it easily. I discovered delicious vegan ice creams. I now only use vegan butter. But cheese, I am having a hard time to let go of... I am French, it might explain it. Cheese is for us what maple syrup is for Canadians. Saying no to cheese is like a sacrilege to my French heart. As if I was spitting on my own mother. Would you spit on your mother without hesitation ? Yeah, that's what I thought... I am thinking of alternatives though, which will be the object of a future post.
As for the meat, I have never been a huge fan. Nevertheless, there are things I do enjoy and they involve the use of meat. I am thinking of saucisson, pâté, foie gras but also chicken, beefsteak, and more. Yes, that's quite a lot when I think of it. But I have been trying my best not to eat any. I use the verb try because I have not succeeded much. The majority of my meals are meat-free. The only infringement I have made lately might be the worst of all: foie gras. My parents sent me some from France for Christmas and I can't simply forget about it. I could if I was Vegan for Ethics, which I am not. But I repeat, it does NOT make me a monster.

In short, I am trying my best to have a dairy-free meat-free life style. If I am doing it for health reasons, I am nevertheless very happy not to contribute to animals torture. However, I will not freak out if I am swallowing something made of animal products. I will not feel guilty. I will not hate myself. And I will not judge myself either.

To sum up my thoughts, since time immemorial, humans have been consuming animal products. I am not saying because it has been done for decades it is a good thing. And I am also very aware that our use of animal products has changed considerably in the way of killing the animals. Notwithstanding, I do believe that humans eating animals is part of the food chain. The end.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mushroom risotto with caramelized onions and asparagus.

Yesterday, I received my Organic Box* -like I do every Wednesdays. Going away to Boston on Friday evening for a few days, I felt like I had to act fast with some of the vegetables I received. I was especially worried for my mushrooms and asparagus. I was then innocently looking on the internet for new recipes to make good use of both, for my two following meals.

[My big reference regarding vegan food has so far always been Oh She Glows. Every single recipe I have made thanks to this website, I have been fully satisfied with.]

That's how I came upon a mushroom risotto recipe that looked perfect for the occasion. It even looked so delicious I could not resist the urge to make it... when I started cooking, it was about 10:30 p.m. Yes, that late. And yes, I had a full plate of this succulent meal right before going to bed around midnight. I am definitely guilty of that sin but I do not regret any bit of it. Just keep going and you will shortly understand my enthusiast and appetite.

[I decided to accompany this dish with some asparagus.]

Mushroom risotto with caramelized onions and asparagus.
Adapted from: Oh She Glows.

5 asparagus
1 big onion, divided in two
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 container of white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 cup uncooked rice (I used a mix of regular and wild rice)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to garnish
1 tbsp Earth balance or butter, to stir in (optional)

1. Cut in two your big onion and chop half of it. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook it for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook over medium-low for about 8 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to avoid burning.
2. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add all the sliced mushrooms to the skillet and let them cook for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, cook your asparagus in boiling water.
3. Add the seasonings to the skillet. Stir well. Cook for a couple more minutes. Now add in the rice, and the vegetable broth gradually as it cooks. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and stir every few minutes, reducing the heat when necessary to prevent it sticking to the bottom. Be careful because it will burn fast ! Do not hesitate to add more broth if you feel like it needs more to cook.
4. Meanwhile, make the caramelized onions. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Slice the other half of the onion into thin half moons. Add them to the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a nice brown, for about 30 minutes. Watch closely.
5. When the risotto has finished cooking, stir in a spoonful of Earth balance or butter if desired. Distribute into bowl and top each bowl with a spoonful of caramelized onions and freshly ground pepper. Add the asparagus on top and voila !

I simply fell in love with that recipe. It was such a comforting and satisfying dish. The caramelized onions are just the cherry on top of the icing. Seriously though. Who knew caramelized onions were so yummy ? I had no idea before then. Try it out and let me know what are your thoughts, I am curious.

*I will talk to you about my organic box in an upcoming article.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brussels Sprouts

For a very long time, I would get the same impression whenever someone would mention Brussels Sprouts: stinky and disgusting.

To this time, I still think of the same story when cooking them; the story of Franklin and the Brussels Sprouts. In this episode, Franklin the turtle must eat six Brussels Sprouts if he wants to have dessert. He first tries to give one of the round green vegetables to the dog, but even the dog doesn't want it. He then hides two in his pockets -understand his shell, two in his napkin and resolves to eat the last one. Not too long ago, I would definitely refuse to eat Brussels Sprouts. Until I decided to try them cooked with some bacon. And it ended up being not as bad as I thought. Still, I was not totally won on that one. It took me a few tries but then, all of a sudden, I became addicted. I simply love them roasted in the oven. I'm almost to the point where I eat Brussels Sprouts every week !

I now learnt a great deal about this cruciferous. For example, did you know they contain excellent levels of vitamin C, vitamin K and even vitamins B ? And like broccoli, they have a level of sulforaphane, which has potential anticancer properties ! And it's only a few of their good attributes... Go Brussels Sprouts !!!

(This recipe is for one person.)

1 carrot
5 Brussels Sprouts
1 Russet potato
1/2 onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. In a pan, mix all the solid ingredients cut into cubes.
3. Cook for 30 minutes, stir and put back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

You may want to cook your Brussels Sprouts separately because they don't need to cook as long as the other vegetables. But personally, I like mine to be crispy. Plus, I cut everything quite small which reduces the time of cooking. You can also enjoy the Brussels Sprouts plain with homemade sweet potato fries. Either way, it is delicious ! Enjoy what is about to become your favorite vegetable...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vegan Chocolate Cake

In the past, I heard of people who don't like chocolate. That statement always surprises me -as much as the cheese one- and people can easily read on my face my failure to understand such statement. In my mind, it is impossible not to like chocolate. Though, I do understand the dislike of dark chocolate, as I am not myself a huge fan. Chocolate is to me the comfort food par excellence. I find always handy to have a chocolate within easy reach for those moments of despondency. Therefore, chocolate cakes are on my top list.

After my previous failure at preparing a vegan bread, I was a bit skeptical about the association of the term vegan to the pastry cooking. Nevertheless, I gave it another try with this recipe found thanks to a friend of mine. Unlike the recipe for the vegan bread, this one is not calling for any substitute. It is simply a no dairy, no egg recipe. And I have to admit I am pretty happy with the result. If the cake doesn't have that sweet taste of chocolate I am really fond of, its texture is perfect. My mistake was probably to use unsweetened dark chocolate. Not being a big fan of dark chocolate, it is the only reproach this cake inspires me.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Pigut.

1 2/3 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
100 g dark chocolate
1 cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda)
3. In a pan, melt the chocolate and incorporate it to the dry ingredients.
4. Add water, olive oil, vanilla and stir until mixed.
5. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes depending on your baking pan.

Enjoy this very low calorie and healthy treat !