Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wrap Me Up in the Tastes of Autumn

While we were in Italy, I picked up a bag of red and wheat coloured Organic Kamut Flakes. The bag has been taunting me from behind the cupboard door since I got home and unpacked my bags. Tonight, I took it on, and I think I gave it a pretty fair run for its money. I was totally impressed with this off the cuff meal. It wins for flavour, presentation and healthy ingredients. By far my favourite goodness of August. Sadly, the end of August in Belgium also means the beginning of Autumn, hence a recipe filled with the warmth supplying foods of squash, dried fruit and wheat - I have worn a sweater and a jacket to every day of week this week.

Wrapped Up Kamut, Squash and Adzuki Beans

1 can of adzuki beans - rinsed
1 small pumpkin - washed, peeled, cored and diced
1 1/2 cups of Kamut Flakes (but you could use any grain, pulse)
1/2 yellow onion - diced
1/2 cup of raisins
1 small red pepper - diced
2 cloves of garlic - peeled, diced
1 medium sized zucchini
cumin seeds
mustard seeds

I started tonight's festival of fall flavours by cutting up my squash into cm squares and adding them to a pot of boiling water. I let the little squares simmer for about 15 minutes, while I sliced the zucchini and threw it under the grill for 10 minutes, with a washed red pepper (for the Red Pepper Sauce). I set to dicing my onion and garlic, adding them to my favourite green cast iron pan. I gave the onion and garlic five minutes on their own and then added the cumin and mustard seeds. Next, after dicing the second pepper quite tiny I added it to the pan, with a little bit of water. When my squash was finished, I drained it and threw it in with the onion party. I set my Kamut water boiling at this point - it only needed 6 minutes of boil. It was also at this point that I cracked the can on the adzuki beans, gave them a drain and added them to the crock pot. I pulled the zucchini strips out of the oven, and let them cool. I drained the Kamut, gazed at the pretty pink and wheat colours, and plated them where they acted like a base for the squash component of the dish. I pulled the zucchini strips tight around the kamut, making a bowl for the rest of the ingredients. Once I had blitzed all of the red pepper sauce ingredients I added it and some cilantro to top it off.

Red Pepper Sauce
1 small red pepper - roasted, and seeds taken out
1 tbsp of flax seed oil
1 tbsp of fig infused balsamic vinegar

It was a great meal!!! I could have happily eaten it all night.

The last two days of work have been remarkable. I am so happy to be back at work and be working with some of my very favourite people. The small team of teachers who work in my grade alongside me are wonderful, and the woman who has moved into the room across the hall from me is dynamite! It was great seeing all of the kids from last year, but a little depressing to see that almost every one of them has surpassed my last notch on my height chart. Argh.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tamarind Tempeh Curry and Thumbprint Cookies

I have been battling a terrible stomach flu while trying to get myself ready for the first week of school, which is both exciting and a little nerve wracking.

I wanted to share a recipe I made on Sunday night, which I was really pleased with. I admit to forgetting the chilli peppers, but, I was in the throws of my first ever 'preweek' cook off. I actually premade most of our meals for this first week back to work. I tackled a really great carrot soup, a ratatouille, a stir fry, and a whole pile of cookies that are for the kids....not for Kevin.

The curry I made on Sunday night was made specifically for the tamarind that I picked up after our amazing celebration dinner at my favourite vegan/live food haunt in Brussels. TAN, which is an upscale, vegan friendly restaurant, is actually the location for our wedding lunch, and since we were celebrating an anniversary, it really only seemed right to tuck in for a nice meal. I had a wonderful quinoa and avocado salad to start, and finished off with stuffed zucchini. The meal was so light and well prepared. The best part is while we were eating our meal, you could look out at the terrace to see all of the container gardening the restaurant does. Great place.

Okay, here is the curry recipe, give it a whirl, it was delish.

T & T Curry
3 tsp Tamarind
1 eggplant
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic (marinade)
1 clove of garlic (for the stir fry)
Soy Sauce
Coconut Milk
in your own quanity: chili pepper

This really simple set of ingredients was made spectacular by the time I gave it to marinate. The flavour of the tamarind was a nice compliment to the texture of the tempeh. All you have to do is marinate the tempeh, which I cut into coins, in the tamarind, soy and garlic. Once you have let that sit for a while add a the diced eggplant to a cast iron pan and let it cook down, I then threw everything else in and added the coconut milk. I let this dish simmer for 40 minutes and then served it up!

I also re-worked a Veg Times cookie recipe, omitting the All Purpose and going whole hog with the Whole Wheat. These little thumb print cookies will be in the bellies of 23 children tomorrow morning (well, 22 - one can't get back from Iceland until Thursday). The recipe is from this month's publication, and came together really quickly, and turned out exuding the elements of both a perfect crunchy outside and a jammy centre.

I also wanted to extol the graces of letting food take its time to mix and mingle. I just polished off a bowl of the ratatouille I made on Sunday night, and the two nights in the fridge did wonders for this dish. I plan to keep up the practice of prepping all of my week's meals on Sunday. It is not only mega time saving for me after an afternoon of dragging meetings, but, it seems to have a nice effect on the food as well.

Tomorrow is the first official day back to school, and I just can't wait. I met some of the kids today (new ones to the school) and it was so invigorating to see their eager faces and be able to answer their curious questions. Can't wait to see all of the returning students tomorrow morning! Should be good fun.

OH!!! I also have some really great of my students from when I was teaching at Sheridan College in Oakville, has been hired by DISNEY, as an animator. Congratulations Randeep...what a great opportunity. His work is fantastic, and if you dig art/animation, then I encourage you to check out his blog. Randeep is also an amazing person, I can't think of any one else who deserves this more.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Here Comes The ...... Cupcake

We just got back from the wedding reception, and everything had such good reviews and the photos turned out so well that I couldn't wait to share.

I made four recipes today, and they all turned out to my satisfaction (though, to be honest, I didn't taste the cupcakes - but I did go on the compliments of many Early Childhood Ed teachers, and those people KNOW their cupcakes).

However, it wasn't the cupcakes or the salad I made that really made me feel like I had accomplished something special, it was the Marble Berry Cheesecake that I really and truly made to celebrate an exciting day for K and I. And after downing a slice of it (and maybe a little extra) I am really excited to share this easy, but totally delectable, recipe with everyone.

Marble Berry Cheesecake
Ingredients (Base) 1 cup of walnuts, 10 soaked dates (I am sure they don't HAVE to be soaked).

I just whipped these through the historical food processor and pressed into my spring form pan.

(Cakiegoodness) 2 cups of cashews, 1 cup
of soy milk, 1/2 cups of soy cream cheese, 3 tbsp of agave, 1 cups of blueberries, 1 cup of black berries, 3 tbsp of arrowroot and 1 tbsp of cornstarch.

I whirled the cashews and soy milk into a nice cream before adding the cream cheese, and agave. On the advice I took from Raw Freedom (though this cake was hardly raw) I took out half of the cream at this point and then added the berries to the remaining cream. I pulsed and was ready to start pouring the thick cream onto my base. I did this by adding the white, unberried cream first, with the pretty purple cream going on top. I took my knife and ran it through to make the pretty marble design.

I put it in the freezer to set, and then added blueberries and lavender sugar to the top. Tahhh Dahhhh. So yummmy.

I also made a tabbouleh salad using these gorgeous organic heritage tomatoes, which I found at the market on Wednesday.

And now...the cupcakes.

I made two batches. The first was a chocolate and orange cake topped with a chocolate ganache (my first ever), and orange rind. The second was vanilla and sesame cake with a coconut and cream cheese icing. They were enjoyed by grownups and kids alike....but, they didn't come without a little tragedy in my kitchen...a little fire while whisking the ganache??? and a small electocution and a broken wine glass. Such is cooking with Lyndsay Kirkham!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Be Still My Bechamel Heart

While on holiday in Italy we found a soy product that peeked K's interest enough for me to be persuaded from my usual non-fauxish type product buying. K actually got excited and rushed over to me waving his arms in the air and shouting "Lynnie, Lynnie look what I found!" (Okay, so I did a couple of drama courses in my bachelors degree).

What he found was none other than a soy version of the mythical 17th century Bechamel Sauce, or what we Canadians call: White Sauce (or what my step dads calls "No Thanks"). According to the all reliable source of wikipedia, Bechamel has a history that is tangled up with the all powerful Italian family The Medici. Apparently, Catherine de Medici, when she came into France, brought with her a couple of chefs who swapped their Bechamel recipes for a couple of baguettes down at the local cafe. It involves adding milk to a roux and warming it up until it is nice and gloopy (not really my cup of tea).

It sat in the fridge until Sunday night, when I decided to make a pasta-free lasagna with some of the veg I had hanging around in the fridge. The overall product was quite good, though, I think K went a little crazy with the sauce, as the picture indicates. yikes.

Pass on The Pasta Lasagna

I grilled up the following veg:
1 zucchini
2 sweetie potatoes
2 bitty aubergine

I assembled the dish like this: bottom layer of sliced sweet potatoes; next two layers were the zucchini and aubergine; I then added a layer of red sauce; and then things got a little crazy and I added a tin of chick peas as my next layer. I topped it off with the Bechamel and threw in a couple of chilis. It went in the oven for about 30 minutes. Voila! To be honest, there was/is so much more this dish could have had done to it to make it that much better. It was a lazy Sunday night experiment, that I think I will come back to sans the white stuff.

I, like Bianca of Vegan Crunk, also got some vegan vittles by post this week. Whoppee. Vegan Essentials sent me my vegan vitamins, some vegan protein powder and my wicked new grey t-shirt hoodie with a pink bunny on it! Yes! Bunny Power. Under the advice of a reader, I also went ahead and purchased the much talked about Vegan CupCakes Take Over The World, but Amazon has yet to get that load to me yet....

Speaking of cupcakes! I am taking my new risk on the road. K and I have been cordially invited to the wedding of two colleagues (see...we aren't the only lameo's who work together and then get hitched - seriously, its all the rage). I am baking a batch of vegan cupcakes, a raw cashew cream (of course) cake and I think I might also take a couple of salads......woooooooo. Can't wait to share the results.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't Trifle With My Heart Trifle

London was a great day trip, and we are already planning our next trip across the channel (mostly because I didn't have time to get to the Natural History Museum, where they keep the dinosaurs).

I could bore you to death with tales of my shopping (I got a really cute shirt with an owl on it, and a fantastic bird pin; I picked up a silly array of treats for my kids to 'earn' from Paperchase; K and I went nuts buying C.D.s and movies; and I found some really nice pens)....but I won't! I will however tell you that I had some great food, at the much recommended Mildred's, which is located in the used-to-be-bohemian-and-is-now-overly commercialized-SOHO.

The restaurant is apparently a well known stop for tourists and local veggers alike, so we were seated before they fired up the oven (given the one hour time difference, and our 4:30 am breakfast, we were starving). The interior is quite open and fresh with bright orange walls and wood furtniture.

We had to go for the whole thing, and ordered Goyza dumplings to start off, which were ok - I wasn't so keen on the crispy bottom though. K ordered the sweet potato burger, which came with huge fries and some vegan homemade mayo. The taste was ok, but I thought a little lacking in spice and texture (a little too mushy for me). I went for something a little different and went for a puy lentil dish that included raw tofu, a bed of baby spinach and a couple of slices of grilled pepper. I really enjoyed this dish and was impressed by the flavouring of this 'salad's' dressing of anise and fennel seeds. I couldn't leave without indulging in a VEGAN desert (not when I live in Brussels) and asked for a ginger and rhubarb cheese cake that I split with K, who, agreed with me that the texture was much too rubbery - as though they had a jittery hand while adding the agar.

Overall a great meal, which didn't kill us in the pocket. We had a pretty pedestrian maki snack for our dinner - we had both walked for hours, and weren't craving anything too heavy. I had a pickle roll and avocado roll, while K went a little wild and ordered some friends of mine who used to swim in the ocean (bad, bad kevin!).

Today I had an amazing work out, and spent the afternoon relaxing, tripping around the house and having tea with my fish eating man. I set to work on dinner with plans to make beanie buddies, but decided to make a not-meaty-meat loaf instead. First try, and I was quite happy with it. I also made a lentil soup, and a desert that I would give away my car for! Ohhhh it was good, good and good some more.

Not Meaty Meat Loaf

1 sweet potato
1 tin of red kidney beans
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of bulgar wheat (soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes)
1/4 cup of oats

I mushed the beans and the boiled potato together and then added the rest of the ingredients. I scooped it into a loaf pan and stuck it in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes. We had it with a little homemade garlic cream.....yum yum.

Don't Trifle with My Red Heart Trifle
I don't know if you would call this a trifle, as I didn't include any of the spongy cake I used to add to the trifles I remember making in grad school with my friend Melissa. But, K remarked on how much it looked like a trifle before I shoved it back in the freezer for its last chilling....

Base 12 almonds 1/2 cup of cashews 5 dates I soaked the whole lot for about 20 minutes in some boiling water and then ran the hand blender over them just enough to make it sticky and useful as a base, but not too gooey.

Yummy Inside
12 strawberries
25 fresh raspberries
I did a similar thing to the strawberries - blitzing them very quickly, but leaving some of the little goodies semi-while. I added the fresh, whole raspberries as my next layer of fruity goodness.

More of that decadant cashew cream that I just can't get enough of.

I put this desert in the frezzer while we ate our soup and loaf. It was just too good!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Corn Bread Crumble and Cashew Cream

Looking forward to a day trip to London tomorrow kept us in for dinner tonight (because we all known what a wild pair VeganCowGirl and her Cowboy can be on a Friday night.......if you count knitting and reading as adventures on the train o'sin).

But, not wanting to deny ourselves a sense of adventure, I decided to cook the UFO. Yes, I happened upon this little guy yesterday at the health food store. And, when the apathetic teenager who rang us threw asked C├ęst qui? I knew I was in trouble. It was quite obviously a squash, I am just unsure of which variety, and I was much too busy finding really cool Indian nan packaging today to spend too much time researching it (I think that is a big pink bunny).

I spent some time wondering what exactly to do with it, but over my afternoon treat (who knows what song this picture reminds me of?....hint - it is a line from a great Canadian crooner), and whilst reading the great works of Moskowitz & Romero I was inspired by a Cornbread recipe. I knew what the little UFO was going to be, and gosh darn it! a Corn Bread Crumble was born.

This was a wickedly great dish. I loved it. The skillet corn bread that I covered the top of the mexican flavoured squash, beans and potato mixture was crunchy, while the inside was squishy and full of flavour. I had a last minute brain wave and decided to make some garlic infused Cashew Cream to mix with a tomato base. I used this to cover the top of the crumble before baking it for about 10 minutes. I served it with the remaining half of the corn bread, and was totally satisfied.

Cornbread Crumble
Cornbread: I halved the skillet cornbread from Veganomicon

1 sweet potato - peeled and cubed 1 weird UFO squash - peeled and cubed 1 clove of garlic - diced 1 tin of black beans - drained 1 cup of tinned tomatoes 1/2 cup of raisins mexican spices as you like water if it dries out while waiting for the cornbread to bake up

How To: Cut up all your veg and add the potato and squash to a cast iron pan that may or may not have a touch of oil in it. Add your garlic and tomatoes, and move it around for about 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for 45 minutes. In the mean time, bake up your corn bread.
In a casserole dish pour entirety of innards. Add some crumbled corn bread (I halved what came out of my skillet and reserved the rest), cover with tomato and garlic cashew sauce and bake for 10 - 20 minutes.

Last night for dinner I had left overs, but I did try my hand at making a desert with Cashew Cream - something I had never tried. I also used up the dates I had squirreled away in my pantry to create a base and as a decorative top. It was a good little desert and totally did the trick.

I placed a mixture of raisins, hot water, dates and a bit of peanut butter in the bottom of two ramikins and then covered that layer with oats. I added the cashew cream (which I infused with Rose Water) on top of the oats and decorated with dates. I put the desert back in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Really, really yummy.

Well, I am off to wrangle myself up a really tasty slice of Vegan London tomorrow (6 59 am train) and to pay a visit to the British Museum.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back To School Baking

It is almost time to head back to work, and despite the days on my calendar still baring witness to my being on holiday, I am writing this post from work. I couldn't help myself. I came in yesterday, managed to get quite a bit of stuff done, and had planned to spend the day indulging myself with things that are Lynnie oriented - the gym, a book, the park, a walk, shopping for quilts and cashews. But alas, the organization and excited-to-get-started monsters gobbled my intentions up this morning on my walk home from my work out, and here, at 11:51 am, I find my lonely self sitting behind my desk. K is across the campus furiously typing away on a (MUCH MUCH MUCH) late graduate paper.

But, it isn't just getting back to work that excites me, it is also all the baking and cooking that can easily go along with starting a new year. I have started making cookies for my kids! I planned on veganizing the well known Belgian cookie treat - Speculous....but, this just isn't possible. At least not without vegan margarine. I thought I could easily swap the butter for oil and applesauce. But, yikes. The sticky mess, no matter how much time I let it sit in the freezer, would ever have rolled out into a dough for pressing my little butterflies into.

Thinking on the fly, I threw in some more ingredients and came up with some oatmeal & raisin cookies, that I admit to having a few more than the chef's rations of. But, at least I know the oven is cookie ready, and I can get down to a few more dozen when I get back from London this weekend.

I am also excited to report that I am ready to jump onto the vegan cupcake bandwagon. I was hesitant at first. I am a little shy of the bakey-bakey part of life outside of bread & cookies. I can make a mean raw avocado and chocolate birthday treat, a hot-damn pumpkin bread, and my vegan chocolate cake isn't too shabby...but cupcakes scare me. I think it is all the pretty little ditties I see on poopie bitches site and being featured all over the place these days. Vegan CupCakes HAVE taken over the world. Which is great!

I just couldn't wait too long to use my squirrel cup cake paper liners, so after the cookies were in the oven I flipped through V-con and found the jelly donut cupcake recipe. I don't like donuts, and I don't like jelly. But I do like apple I held on tight and in totally un-Lyndsay-like fashion (K was beside himself in disbelief) I actually followed the recipe - minus the jelly...and I added vanilla...and cinnamon. Oh god, I didn't stick to the recipe.

I added apple sauce on top rather than jelly....and I didn't end up making a frosting. They rose like little muffins (which I think can be accounted for by my filling the little guys up too high), and the apple sauce was so warm and gooey that I thought adding anything would be silly.

K has chomped through the batch quite well (I got home from the gym and there were TWO wrappers sitting next to him) and the bite I had was pretty darn yummy.

In other news, I found a new favourite (way too upscale) cafe/gourmet shop. It is located in Ixelles commune in Brussels on Place Brugmann. It is called Gaudron Cafe and it has some delectable (totally unvegan) pastries in the front of the shop, in addition to a HUGE array of organic, stylish and well designed products that just sucked my entire life savings out of my pocket. The menu has a couple of veganish options (granola, warm soy milk). It was their great selection of teas that had me as their newest devotee. Finding it rather hard to find even the most regular of chai teas here, I was enamoured (and a bit giddy) with the choices I had to pick from - chai, chai with cinnamon and a tickle of apple, lavender, english breakfast with mint, etc, etc.

I also bought a really nice Presse - sparkling water with fresh juice. I picked up the mandarin orange and was really pleased with the fizzy little bit of fun that I cracked open this morning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Curry & Clafouti & Chutney Oh MY!

I have a nice bounty of photos and recipes to share, and the great part is that most of the creations were inspired by the writing and cooking (and drool inducing photos) of other great vegan bloggers.

Last night I made dinner for us, following a taxing day of doing not much but house rearrangement and an attempt to find a new (and long) dinning room table from the flea market area of Brussels, which is neatly tucked away below the edge of the 'upper city'.

We did manage to make it to our favourite cafe on Ch. de Waterloo, where I indulged in a grilled veg salad.

The dinner was inspired by the writing of Ricki at Diet, Desserts and Dogs who made a great Tagine. Now, I don't own the proper cookware for an authentic tagine, and we were a little pressed for time after indulging in a late afternoon stroll. I did make a stew using the same philosophy harnessed in the obvious goodness of ricki's recipe. It was yummy, a little hot though. Might limit myself to 1 tsp of fancy harissa next time.

I used: green olives, 2 cups of quinoa, 1 tin of tomatoes, garlic, one can of chick peas, dates, harissa (2 next time) and cilantro sprigs for a topping.

This morning I was up at the crack of dawn after some tugging of covers woke me up. I managed to whip through some knitting that accidentally became unraveled last night, but soon wanted to play with the kitchen. Yesterday, almost by pure accident, we walked into a tasting party at a fancy gourmet shop that is actually open on Sundays (!!!!) in Brussels, on Waterloo. In addition to tasting some delightful wild strawberries, we picked up some harrisa, mango chutney and 1 basket of perfectly pink gooseberries.

I couldn't let these little darlings waste any time in my fridge so I set to work making my very first Clafouti, which is a French desert that is intended to be stuffed with fruit and custard. Kev was a pretty lucky dude this morning when he woke up to find his VB2B (a silly little name that he whipped up which stands for: Vegan Bride To Be....ahhhh.......) offering him a Gooseberry Clafouti for breakfast!!!! I made a quick Maple Glaze for the top. I had a tiny taste before embarking on my recent obsession of eating apple sauce as much as possible - and it was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself.

I borrowed the thoughts and basic rejigged desert recipe from
Vegan Visitor but mixed it up here and there.

Ingredients: 12 pink gooseberries, 1 packaged of silken tofu (medium), 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp of b.s, 1 tsp of arrow root powder, rose water, agar nectar, cinnamon.

I topped and tailed the goosberries, washed them and sliced them in half. I covered them with 2 tsp of agave syrup and 1 tsp of rose water. Whilst they soaked I added the lemon to the almond milk and processed the tofu (K did NOT wake up!), I added the milk to the tofu, and then the flour etc to the wet ingredients. I followed the advice of Vegan Visitor and added the fruit after the batter. I baked it for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350.
I couldn't bring myself to limit the little pink globes of gastronomic glory to one treat, so I made something else I had never tried - a chutney. We had the chutney tonight, with a yummy curry. Scrumptious!

Ingredients: Garlic chives, gooseberries, dates, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar.

I have also been a little bit naughty in other areas of my life. I spent some euros on really cute foodie stuff, which, when I saw them, knew that they really, really, really wanted to come home with this little lady.Can you see the goat? Can you see the squirrel?

My next batch of beanie buddies is destined to be in the shape of butterflies...and god help all of my students this year.....
Aren't they great? Just you wait and see what I get up to with those cup cake bottoms! I made our lunch today on the groovy plate - did you SEE the squirrel AND the goat?

In other news I have to share a major accomplishment for Kevin and, we fit a three seater sofa in side our uber tiny euro-version Ford Fiesta and then preceded to put together a piece of IKEA furniture without screaming at each other! YES!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Home on the Range and Garlic Ginger Greens

After 18 hours on the road yesterday this vegancowgirl and her trusted cowboy were exhausted, and hit the hay as soon as we walked (crawled) through the door. Italy was a remarkable country, with an interesting pace and culture to life, it challenged my thoughts about many things and the history that was at every corner has left an indelible finger print on my thoughts. We have already started to think about the possibility of Venice. I will be back for sure in April, when work will take me to Florence for a week of adventure.

In food news - the last day was a wash. We actually made our very first totally CRAP dinner. The veggies were under done, the beanie buddies, in my attempt to play with the ingredients and remove all traces of fat and gluten, fell apart, and the corn was too new. Interestingly, it was also the first time, in our entire time as vegancowgirl and cowboy that we almost had a fight. We cooled our cranky jets in enough time to avoid saying anything mean or unfair, but we were a little grippy with each other - which is what we blamed the bad meal on --- warning: do not piss off the food goods with silly squabbles about art galleries.

Today's dinner was great - minus some rice paper wrappers that had obviously sat on the shop shelve for much too long. I picked up some interesting greens today and made a great garlic chives and young kale side dish that reminded me of my lunches in China. It was so nice and light, a perfect accompaniment to the heftier wrappers, which I decided to stuff with some tempeh that I grilled briefly.

Garlic & Ginger Greens


-500 grams of garlic chives, remove only the stem ends
-1 bunch of young kale, remove ends and slice to your liking
-ginger, sliced and diced
-water to boil/baste, using only the slightest bit of sesame oil
-juice of half a lemon

I used my cast iron pan and brought a small amount of water and oil to a rolling boil and literally just through all of the greens on top, adding the ginger to the top. I let it cook down, adding water occasionally and turned everything over after about 7 minutes. This cooking technique was totally inspired by the Aie (aunty) who cooked at the work place where I nearly died of heat exposure while living in China. She was a really amazing women who went out of her way to veganize everything she brought to the staff table.

The rice paper wrappers had the following good stuff jammed into them: peppers, cilantro, carrots, cucumber, tempeh and ginger. They were great with the mushroom/chili sauce we dunked them into.

I am so glad to be home! Thanks to all the readers who came to Italy with me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One Year In Europe Vegan Feast.....

This past week was my year in Europe celebration and part of me still can't believe that I quit my job, left Toronto, packed myself into an airplane and started something totally new in Brussels. I has all gone by so quickly, I worry that I have missed the chance to really think about all the things I have seen in the 11 countries I have visited this year, and all the amazing people I have met, the new challenges I have faced. Wow.

Maybe the great meal we made last night can stand in as a celebration of sorts? Sure, why not.

We had a great day at the sea yesterday, just lounging about and recovering from the hectic pace of Rome. Went to a great bio shop that I had been wanting to check out since we got here. It is called Bio Marche and a veg*ns heaven if they are vacationing in this part of Italy. I picked up some stuff that I am going to take home with me. We also nabbed some tiny and super hot peppers, which we grilled up at dinner, but plan to use for our supper on Thursday night.

I made three new recipes last night, well, one brand new and two that were revisions of previous goodies.

I made my very first focacciabread! It was pretty tasty, the consistency wasn't right, but I think I needed to give it more rising time and...maybe read a recipe or two. Kevin mentioned at the last minute, that he would like some bread with dinner...and since Lynnie ate the last of the bread the night before, she offered to wing it with the remaining flour.

First Time Focaccia


I can't give precise amounts because I really just eyeballed it and played around until I thought it looked acceptable. I let it rise for about 20 minutes and then shaped it into a little square and popped it into the oven.

I also reinvented the soyziki sauce of the other evening into a Creamy Cucumber Salad Dressing by reducing the cucumber and garlic, keeping the yogurt and adding a little oil, lemon juice and balsamic. It was delightfully refreshing as the topping to the Basil, Cucumber and Tomato Salad I served.

The protein component of the evening was taken care of with 2 marinated Tofu Steaks. Not the most innovative of recipes, but a good standby that has been serving me throughout these long vegan years. To marinate the 'fu I used: balsamic vinegar, the juice and bits of one garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice and lots of love. We stuck them on the barbecue grill, along with another eggplant (I swear we have been eating other things) and enjoyed a great evening meal with each other.

Tonight is our LAST night in Italy, and then we head back to a new apartment that is in shambles and still needs us to take a few more trips to various furniture shops before it is totally ready. It has been a much loved holiday, full of adventure and explorations and great food. I feel that we have both relaxed and recovered from work and are ready to hit it again until the next big trip, which will take us to Canada in October. I am glad to be heading home though, my muscles ache for the gym and I miss my little home comforts and I am dying to get back into that new kitchen of mine. We are heading off to a day trip in London next weekend though...whoppp, whoopp. Looking forward to the British Museum and the shopping.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wowed By Rome

We had a spectacular day trip to Rome on Tuesday, made possible by K's stellar driving skills.
(If you grew up and learned to drive in Canada, it is more than a little difficult to drive 130 MINIMUM as prescribed on the Italian highways, but luckily, K is from Britain...)

We left for Rome after a quick, as predicted, Beanie Buddy breakfast and were standing outside the Coliseum by 10 30. We spent pretty much the whole day on our feet, minus a couple of trips on the metro and a great lunch at Miscellanea: International Student Pub, which you can find quite easily at its alley address of Via Pastelle in the Pantheon Area. We saw sights in abundance, to the point where I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed; literally every turn of the head offers the tourist (and there were many) another ruin or sign post of the cultures whose feet walked before us.

We prebooked a trip to Nero's palace, which is buried beneath a series of additional buildings that were consciously built atop this once opulent house of the emperor. I was struck by the sheer size. Well worth the few extra euros. (I promise to post a Flickr link when I get back to Brussels, in case anyone is interested in seeing some of the sights)

I am still continuing to find the relative cheapness of eating in Italy fantastically refreshing. Brussels, though, with good cause, boasting a boat load of top notch and diverse eateries, they are all so very expensive, and lack the street food that China, Toronto and Italy (with its pizza and stuffed olives) has in no shortage. Perhaps I should find myself a caravan and start dishing out fresh vegan road side dishes!

We got home around 10 30 with the worst sunburns we have experienced thus far.....and were wiped, barely able to nourish our exhausted bodies - settled on some warmed up tomato sauce on bread and a bowl of popcorn. Yikes - not the best food. But we made up for it today. We had a great day of good eats....

I am going to save that post for my (habitual) early wake up tomorrow. Until then may all your vegan cookies be scrumptious!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Soyziki and (more) Bean Buddies

In the swelter of today's heat we traveled to Loreto, where, thanks to the efforts of a rescue effort in 1290, we walked through the house of the Virgin Mary (though, myth has it that the house was actually lifted up by the wings of angels) and saw some of the most breath-taking frescoes I have ever seen. Really spectacular, and well worth the trek.

I was feeling inventive at dinner time tonight, but also, after reading a post by Kamutflake Girl, wanting to perfect my Beanie Buddies. So, I did a little of old and new to satisfy both urges. And, I was lucky enough to meet with success on both fronts. The bean patties I put together this evening were great baked in the oven, (versus the grill of the other night) and the Vegan Tzatziki that I made was eye poppingly awesome, and uber easy. I encourage you to give it a try, it is well worth it, especially when compared to some of the store bought vegan tzatziki dips I have experimented with in the past.

1 cucumber (1/2 if you are using a longish English Cuke) slice and dice as thin as possible, or grate.
3 cloves of garlic: crushed and then diced
I used two different types of mint from the garden
1/2 cup (or more) of soy yoghurt
salt to taste

This was the perfect creamy topping for the bean patties, offering a light, almost sharp flavour to the deep bean & sage flavour.

For tonight's bean patties, which in my opinion were even better than the others I used the same method, but instead of black beans I used canned borlotti beans. Although the taste and texture was loads better I defintley had to pull out my pipes to squish these bad boys. But, the arm work out was well worth it, they baked up delightfully well in the oven and I even saved one for a nice protein breakfast before my trip to Rome tomorrow.

I am so excited to see all of the positive feedback I have had about the Brussels Vegetarian Network! Whoop Whoop.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Special Guest Post

I have things cooking. Ok, I have lunch to make and I am currently baking up a fresh loaf of The Brussels Vegetarian Network's website - which, I have officially launched (crowds cheering), so, in this busy afternoon I have recruited the styles of one Mr. Kevin Healey, who will now, share with you his master cooking (and super killer bean burgers I made last night). If the British accent is too thick for you, just let me know and I will rewrite the post this afternoon.

Over to K!

After a hike up the Little Hell Gorge (Gola del'Infernaccio) in 30+ degrees, a barbeque seemed the only choice. And, of course, it fits the age-old stereotypical "man make fire" approach to cooking. Our ingredients almost all came from the front garden, with the exception of a yellow pepper and a couple of beautiful purple aubergines (that's eggplant in Canadian, eh?).

So, once I'd indulged my cave-man instincts and had achieved a fire even hotter than the gorge, we plonked the veg (peppers green & yellow, aubergine, garlic) over the coals and settled into a beer and a good book, pausing only to turn the veg occasionally and to deal with the odd escaped animal. After 20 mins or so, we had some truly squishy garlic and several incinerated veg, burnt outside but succulent inside. At this point, I handed the hot coals over to the bean-burger queen (a new fast food chain?) and headed for the kitchen, catching the juices from the veg in a bowl.

I washed the peppers under the tap to remove the charred skin, leaving a soft, sweet pulp. (I'm reliably told that a paper bag is a better method, but the burgers were already grilling, no paper bags in sight in our little holiday flat...) Then I sliced the flesh, removed the seeds and added a little of the smoky veg juice and some chopped mint from the garden.

The aubergine/eggplant (maybe it should be melanzane since they were Italian?) got halved and the soft flesh scooped into a bowl. I popped out the softened, sweet garlic from the skins and added a bunch of chopped basil, lemon juice and olive oil. Mash thoroughly, taste, add oil, add lemon,'s up to you, through I must admit the when the oil is a good and cheap as it is here, there is a strong temptation to go overboard. The result - a fresh, smoky, puree that nods its head to the Lebanese moutabal but is much lighter.

For a smoke-free option, we chopped up some tomatos (trans-atlantic pronunciation issues fortunately avoided online) fresh from the vine and added a little oil/lemon/mint dressing.

Back at the grill, the burgers were perfect. All that remained was to grill up some bland bread, rub the toast with garlic and add the tomatoes for perfect bruschetta. Some local wine, the slowly setting sun and a chorus of hounds (of the farm, not stragglers from the hell gorge) accompanied our meal.

As my mother will tell you, I have a problem not getting the last word (there is a great 'good night' story that goes all the way back to 1980 when this vegancowgirl was only a baby in her crib...)

A big thanks to Kevin and his sexy blog post. I wanted to get the bean burger recipe out there, because it was so killer easy, and they grilled better than any veg burger I have ever made (from a recipe or otherwise)

Lynnie's Bean Babies
1 tin of black beans
1 tin of chick peas

3 tsp of flour (your choice...I think)
1 tsp of yeast 2 tsp of olive oil
3 garlic cloves - diced uber tiny herbs to your taste

I simply washed the beans and added them to a bowl, whereby I went to town squishing them between my fingers. I added the remaining ingredients in this order: oil, mix; flour, mix; yeast, mix.

When everything seemed to be glued together I went to work on making 4 patties. They went on the grill for about 10 minutes on each side, and were thick without unpleasant density, and I vote the combo of black beans and chick peas five stars!