What the heck do vegans eat, anyway?

I often get asked exactly that question, especially from people who are very ‘meat and potatoes’ in their own eating. Many people simply can’t imagine why I would want to live off salad and mashed potatoes (without the butter, of course) for the rest of my life. When I try to describe the highly varied diet I do have, some people have a difficult time visualizing it. Perhaps they don’t tend to cook like I do or they live somewhere where there isn’t much variety in restaurants, so they’ve never really had an Indian curry, or a Caribbean roti, or Japanese sushi (all of which often offer vegan options). So I’ve decided to start a series of posts on what we eat day-to-day around here. Nothing super fancy, just things I might cook on a typical evening.

August 27 2010 Share

Tonight’s dinner was going to be a thai green curry, but we forgot to grab tofu at the store. So, instead I grabbed some of our gorgeous Russian Blue Potatoes from our CSA, which I chopped and roasted with garlic and thyme and a liberal amount of salt, pepper and oil. I then grabbed some CSA baby spinach and sauteed it with some wheat-free soy sauce, garlic and brown sugar. All of that I paired with a veggie burger. I had mine on a slice of buckwheat chia bread, which is gluten-free, and topped it with a spicy curry sauce we also got from our CSA. As you can see, the CSA is a huge part of our meals around here.

Not the world’s most fancy dinner but it was delicious, and pretty typical of what we eat when we want to do a ‘meat and potatoes’ meal vegan-style.

Roasted potatoes, sauteed spinach and veggie burger

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Daring Cooks August: Pierogi!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I used to really love pierogi back when I was a gluten-eating vegetarian. I’d get the potato and cheddar kind from my local grocery store and boil a batch up, then fry them in butter and onions. Served with a generous amount of sour cream, they certainly were not diet food!

However, now I eat gluten-free and vegan. And all pierogi recipes contain gluten and some sort of milk product (cream, cottage cheese….) and often eggs too. So I had a fair bit of converting to do.

My filling was the easy part. I just took some of the vegetables from my CSA that week and cooked them up. I lightly sauteed some onions and garlic, then added in shredded carrot and some cumin, salt and pepper. To add texture, I added in some cooked chickpeas, half of which I mashed before adding. The filling was really tasty on it’s own, and while it wasn’t exactly traditional, it was delicious.

The dough was trickier. I started out with this recipe, which gave me a good vegan base. Since I didn’t have any vegan ‘yogurt’ but did have some ‘sour cream’ I decided to substitute that. I also had to come up with a flour combination that worked, and used sorghum, quinoa, rice and cornstarch.

Getting the dough’s consistency right was hard, to be honest. I had to keep adding in a bit of flour to get it to be not too sticky, and when rolling it out, I had to be careful to add lots of flour to the counter. This is no surprise – gluten-free doughs aren’t known for handling in the same way that gluteny doughs do! But I kept at it until I had something workable.

I used a pint glass to cut my rounds and very carefully shaped the dough around some filling. The dough was a bit crumbly, so I sometimes used a bit of water to help keep it together.

After shaping all my pierogi I boiled them in small batches, then pan fried them until brown and crispy.

The resulting product was quite tasty! Rich liked them as well, and said they were actually better than some of the pierogi he’s had, as gluteny ones can be a bit gummy (but mine were not).

Daring Cooks August: Pierogi

Would I attempt these again? Probably! But I have some work to do on the dough recipe. If you want to try what I did, the recipe is below.

Gluten-free, vegan pierogi dough

A work in progress!

1 cup sorghum flour
1.5 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz plain vegan yogurt or vegan sour cream product
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

Mix your flours well in a medium bowl. Add in the salt and yogurt or sour cream and mix again. Then, add in your water 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to mix very well between additions. What you’re looking for is the dough to come together into a ball and not be too sticky. At some point you will probably need to abandon your spoon and just mix with your hands.

Once your dough comes together, let it rest for about 30 minutes to make sure the water is well absorbed into the flours. Then, turn the dough out onto a well floured (use whichever flour you like, I used rice) surface and roll it out to be about a 1/4 inch thick. Yes, that’s thicker than most pierogi dough, but this gluten-free dough does not hold together well if it is too thin, and I found this thickness was perfectly tasty in the final product.

Cut rounds about 4 inches in diameter from the dough. Fill each round with a tablespoon of filling (your choice!), then fold the round over so you’re making a half circle shape. Then, gently seal the filling into the dough with your fingers. You may want to use a fork to crimp the edges.

Boil enough water to cover a single layer of pierogi in a medium pot. When at a rolling boil, add in a few pierogi (I was able to boil 6 at a time) and boil for 5 minutes. While the first batch is boiling, get a frying pan heating with a little oil. When the 5 minutes is up, transfer the first batch with a slotted spoon into your frying pan and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. You can keep boiling more pierogi as you pan fry each batch to keep the assembly line going.

Serve with vegan sour cream. I also liked these with some spicy curry sauce we got from our CSA.

Daring Cooks August: Pierogi

If you want to see what others did with this recipe, just check out the Daring Kitchen!

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Daring Cooks July: Nut Butter!

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I’d never actually made my own nut butter before, so this was a fun challenge. Since we were allowed to make any savory recipe with the nut butter, I decided to make almond butter and then use it to make the Raw Pad Thai recipe from Jae Steele‘s Ripe from Around Here, which I’d just purchased days before completing the challenge.

IMG_0749

Making nut butter is pretty easy: Get out your food processor. Put in some nuts: about double the amount for the quantity of nut butter you need, so if you need half a cup of nut butter, put in a cup of nuts. Turn your food processor on and let it process the nuts for a few minutes, then stop, scrape the sides, and process for a few more. If after about 5 minutes you don’t have nut butter, add a neutral tasting oil in small amounts and continue to process until you do have the right consistency. Then, use immediately in whatever recipe you want. You can also add a bit of salt to your nut butter or roast the nuts before using them to give the end product more flavour.

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I’ll be honest with the pad thai – I didn’t go 100% raw. I didn’t want to spend the money on a ton of raw ingredients (such as raw tamari) when I have good non-raw ones in the house. As well, I modified the recipe very slightly by adding in some beets, since we had some from our CSA that week.

The end result was amazing.

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If you want to try making this yourself, go grab a copy of Ripe from Around Here, which I really recommend that you do. Yes, it’s a vegan cookbook with lots of raw and gluten-free recipes, but I really do think everyone will enjoy the recipes, even those of you who eat meat at every meal and aren’t really into vegan recipes.

If you want to see what the other Daring Cooks did with this month’s challenge, just check out the Daring Kitchen!

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Community Shared Agriculture

This year Rich and I decided to do a summer CSA. After doing a fair bit of research into what was available in the Toronto area, we decided to go with Kawartha Ecological Growers (KEO). We liked their share size options (large, small or mini) and we loved the way they set theirs up – you get a core list of produce from what was harvested that week, plus a small amount of money to spend on whatever you like that they have with them that day, including more vegetables or fruit, herbs, meat, eggs, flours, jams and preserves, maple syrup… anything that their farms produce and is either in season or is jarred from previous seasons. In our case, we have a small share, which means $15 worth of vegetables and fruit that they choose and $10 of whatever we want. We also love the fact that they are a grassroots organization of farms – yes, more than one farm. That means that if one farm has a bad year (always very unfortunate!), you will still get plenty of goodies from your share, as it is very unlikely that all of the farms will have a bad year at the same time.

Last week we had our very first pickup, from the garage attached to the back of Linuxcaffe (Grace at Harbord).

June 11 2010 share

Doesn’t that look awesome? The produce they chose for us was:

  • bunch of spring onions
  • head of lettuce
  • quart of fingerling potatoes
  • bunch of rhubarb
  • bunch of radishes (which unfortunately they didn’t have, so we got an extra $2.50 to spend)

And then with our extra money we got:

  • bag of awesome, handmilled corn meal
  • jar of huckleberry jelly, made by one of the KEO members (Zehr’s Bakery in Woodville)
  • jar of apple pie spread/filling, made from apples harvested from KEO then cooked up by students at the chef school at George Brown College

How great is that? Everything we’ve eaten so far has been wonderfully fresh and delicious. Plus, this has been a great way to plan our meals for the week – instead of randomly choosing dishes, we’re looking at what we have from the CSA this week and getting creative with the ingredients.

I’ll share some recipes I’ve made from our haul throughout the summer!

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Sadie’s Diner

I’m pretty much gluten-free and vegan. And yet I hadn’t tried Sadie’s Diner until a few months ago.

What exactly was I thinking? I was seriously missing out!

Sadie's diner sign

Sadie’s is a fantastic vegetarian and vegan diner located at Adelaide and Portland in downtown Toronto (just south of Queen and Bathurst). They do an all day breakfast along with simple lunch items (soups, salads, sandwiches, etc), smoothies, juices, coffee and (of course!) dessert.

These photos are from our first visit. We both ordered Huevos Rancheros; Rich got the traditional with real eggs and cheese, and I got the vegan option with scrambled tofu and vegan cheese. Since these photos were taken they’ve switched to using Daiya cheese in their vegan options, which I heartily approve of. The vegan option is also gluten-free, as far as I am aware.

Huevos Rancheros
Vegan Huevos Rancheros

We’ve been back a few times since. On our last visit we both ordered tofu scramble, which is essentially a ‘traditional’ breakfast done vegan style: toast, tofu scramble, veggie bacon or veggie sausage, homefries and coffee. We both ordered sausage and found that they deep fry it (or at least they seem to!), which makes it even more delicious than when we cook similar fake sausage at home. Not the most gluten-free breakfast, admittedly, but really good and a nice occasional treat.

My only real complaint about Sadie’s is the coffee (fair trade and organic) could be a bit stronger. But in true diner style, refills are free, and their mugs are huge. So I’m not really complaining all that loudly.

Mmm, coffee

I hear the desserts (especially the vegan cupcakes) are awesome, but I’ve always been too full from the rest of my meal to try one.

You should go. Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, you should go.

Sadie's diner - window

Sadie’s Diner, 504 Adelaide Street West, Toronto, (416) 777-2343. Meals for two with coffee, $20.

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