Mango Quinoa Salad

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This fresh salad gives you that yummy Thai mango salad flavour with more substance and protein, and less chopping. It’s win-win!

Makes about 5 cups of salad

*When prepping the mangos and veggies, try to make all your pieces around the same size (except the red onion, which should be smaller).*

  • 1 cup quinoa (dry measure), cooked and cooled
  • 2 small-medium mangos (see note), flesh removed from pit and diced
  • ½ English cucumber, diced
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 3 green onions, green parts only, sliced
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped.
  • Lime wedges and cilantro leaves, to garnish.

Dressing:

  • Juice of 1.5-2 limes (if you’re reaming the limes, one and a half should be enough)
  • ½ teaspoon brown or turbinado sugar
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I used safflower, but any oil that doesn’t have a strong flavour would work)
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (or more, if you like it spicy)

Note on the mangos: I used ataulfo mangos that were moderately ripe. If you like your mango salad with firm green (unripe) mango flesh, by all means use green mangos. Try to avoid fully ripe ones, as they are difficult to cut and lose their cube-y shape.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and adjust to taste.

Combine the cooled quinoa with all other salad ingredients. Pour the dressing over and toss well to combine. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes, then toss again just before serving. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro leaves.

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Favourite Recipes: Vegan Mac and Cheese

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This recipe from Fine Tune Pilates is touted as the best ever, and I have to agree.  I tried four or five different vegan mac and cheese recipes before finding this one, and it is by far the best I’ve had.  Plus it’s easy to make, and uses sweet potato as the sauce base, allowing you to sneak an extra veggie into this yummy pasta dish.  I make this dish regularly; R and I both love it.

I do make a couple of modifications from the original recipe.  First, I do not add whole sunflower seeds (though I do use them in the sauce).  Also, I use more kale than the recipe calls for; about twice as much.

More significantly, after preparing the recipe as written, I pour the whole thing into a casserole dish, top it with panko or breadcrumbs, top the crumbs with lots of tiny dots of vegan margarine, and bake it for about 25 minutes.  The crumbs add nice texture to the finished dish.  I like to eat it with ketchup (much to R’s chagrin), but it’s also great with just some fresh ground pepper, or even hot sauce.  Delicious!

A Vegan-Friendly Birthday party

About six weeks ago, I was about four weeks away from turning thirty.  My mom floated the idea of having a party for me; in addition to her desire to celebrate the big 3-0 birthday, she was keen to host a party in her new home.  Despite feeling like my wedding was so recent that it was a bit ridiculous to have another event with my name on the header, I liked the idea of getting my friends and family together in my home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The first challenge was determining if we could actually get anyone to attend a December party that hadn’t been booked months in advance (we could); the second challenge was deciding what kind of food to serve.

My fun-loving and close-knit family has all sorts of diets: lots of traditional omni, some gluten-free, some working-toward-vegetarian, and me.  With a guest list of about 35 people and several family members offering to bring dishes, we felt that an all-vegan menu might not be the best approach.  Ultimately, we ended up with a mostly-vegan spread, accompanied by a small number of dishes that included fish or dairy.  My thinking was that this way, I could demonstrate that the delicious vegan stuff holds its own alongside the traditional food, and maybe help a few people take some baby steps toward interest in a vegan diet without making them feel forced.

My mom did a wonderful job planning the menu, sourcing dishes from a variety of caterers, and choosing a few to prepare at home.  I flew home the day before the party and the house was already decorated, the bar set up, and the dining room table covered with all the good servingware, all shined up.

EnVie is Halifax’s newest vegan restaurant.  Their artichoke and spinach dip was a huge hit at the party, and a great example of an I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan dish.  (We had some leftover and I pretty much lived off of it for the next couple of days.)  They also made me a beautiful and really delicious birthday cake that got rave reviews from everyone who tried it.

Tarek’s Cafe is a vegetarian/vegan-friendly and constantly bustling Middle Eastern restaurant that I always make a point of visiting when I’m in Halifax.  The falafels we got from them were huge and greasily decadent; cut into quarters and served with Tarek’s tahini sauce, they didn’t last long on the table.

Halifax catering stalwart Scanway provided cold salad rolls with mint dipping sauce (superb presentation, and delicious – we only wished we’d ordered more of them!), tasty mushroom phyllo pockets, and tofu kebabs that were rather petite but very yummy.  The standout from Scanway was the huge tray of vegan chocolate cupcakes.  The icing was so thick you could have sculpted with it, and the edible glitter made them sparkle so prettily… they tasted as good as they looked.

The vegan offerings also included homemade hummus and guacamole, and a tray of beautiful canapés I whipped up featuring pomegranate seeds and garlicky baba ganoush on cucumber slices.  We rounded out the vegan menu with lots of tortilla chips, pita, olives, nuts, and fruit.

The party was fantastic.  The food was delicious.  A good time was had by all.  I really felt the love from my family friends on my birthday, and I’m excited about starting my thirties.

Have you hosted any vegan or mostly-vegan parties for an omni crowd?  How did it go?

Baked Panko-Beer Onion Rings

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Onion rings! So delicious, but depending on how they’re prepared, they may also be so greasy, unhealthy, and regret-inducing.  These crispy rings are the perfect solution: oil-free, baked, and with a light coating that gives a great crunch while allowing the sweet, delicious onion flavour to shine through.  And despite the various bowls and possible minor mess involved, they are actually pretty quick to prepare.

When I was a kid, I hated onions.  The first time I encountered onion rings was at Harvey’s when I was around ten, and they smelled so good.  My ingenious solution to this yummy-smelling but oniony dilemma was to break each ring in half, pull out the tiny string of onion and cast it aside, and eat just the batter shell.  Wow, eh?  I’ve come a long way since then.

These rings would make a great appetizer or side for a veggie burger, or you can just eat a whole bunch of them for dinner (like I did).  You’ll feel great; no pangs of regret!

  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax
  • 5 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup beer (or nondairy milk of choice)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups panko
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large Vidalia/sweet onion (about the size of a baseball)

Preheat oven to 450 and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the ground flax and water and stir well, then let it sit for a few minutes to gel (this is about 2 flax eggs).

Combine the flour, salt and pepper, and place in a shallow bowl.   Combine the panko, garlic powder and paprika and place in another shallow bowl. Once the flax eggs have gelled, add the beer (or milk) and stir, and place in yet another shallow bowl.

Set up the assembly line: flour bowl, flax/beer bowl, panko bowl, baking sheets.

Now you can cut your onion crosswise into very thick slices – mine were about an inch thick.  Pop the rings apart.

(I suggest cutting the onion after getting everything else is ready to minimize onion-related eyeball suffering.  You might want to light a couple of tealights or other unscented candles on the counter to help burn off the onion fumes.  You can also cover the cut onion with a towel to contain the fumes and just reach under to grab rings as you go.)

Make the rings: dredge a ring in flour, dip in flax/beer mixture, then dredge in panko.  Place on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining onion rings.  To save space on the sheets, you can place teeny little nubby rings inside big ones.

Bake for about 20-24 minutes, turning the rings over gently about halfway through.  They should be browned along the edges and soft on the inside.

Serve with leafy celery sticks and dip of choice!  I suggest ketchup, hot sauce, or fancy mustard.  Mega yum.

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Carrot Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger & Coconut

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Am I overdoing it on the soups?  Is that possible?

This soup is both aesthetically and gastronomically pleasing… looking as beautiful in the bowl as it tastes in your mouth!  An undercurrent of rich coconut adds depth to the delicious combination of carrot, sweet potato, and ginger.

After making a huge pot of veggie broth yesterday, I realized that my freezer is a little too full to accommodate a bunch of cup-sized frozen broth cubes.  As I was mulling over the broth-y possibilities, R. pulled out the giant bags of carrots and sweet potatoes we bought on a rare trip to Costco, and pointed out the half-bar of creamed coconut that’s been waiting forlornly for a purpose for an indefinite period of time.  He asked if I could make these things into a soup.  Yes, yes I could.

(Note: I wanted a very subtle coconut flavour to complement the ginger, so I used only a quarter-bar of creamed coconut.  If you really like coconut though, I think you could add up to half a bar for a stronger coconut flavour.)

Yield: Lots…. probably a good 8 servings.  (Or, dinner + seconds + leftovers to freeze!)

  • 5 very large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • Olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • Cooking oil (I use canola)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 inches of ginger, minced
  • 2 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (more or less)
  • ¼ bar of creamed coconut (the full bar is 170g), roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup milk of choice (I used soy)
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400.  Toss the carrots in olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet, then roast until softened through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat some cooking oil over medium in a large stockpot.  Add the onion, celery, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until softened.  Add about 3 cups of broth and the diced potatoes and turn heat to high.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft.  At some point during the simmer, the carrots will probably be done and can be added to the soup.

Once the potatoes are very soft, turn off the heat.  Stir in the milk and the creamed coconut and let the soup cool until it’s no longer hot enough to burn you if it splatters during pureeing.

Add fresh ground black pepper.  Using an immersion blender (or a food processor, but you’ll have to do it in batches), puree the soup.  Add more broth to reach your preferred consistency.  I tasted the soup before adding salt and discovered it was perfect, so I didn’t end up adding any at all!

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil to serve.

Portobello Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Soup

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This thick, satisfying, autumn-flavoured soup tastes just like a bowl of juicy roasted Portobello mushrooms.  Actually, that’s exactly what it is.  How can you say no?

Years ago, after my undergrad, I had a part-time job in a psychology lab.  It wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so I decided to take a few shifts a week at a newly-opened takeout soup place in Halifax.  Suffice it to say, I only made it through two shifts.  During my brief time however, I tasted heaven in the form of a pureed Portobello mushroom soup.  The interesting thing was that back then, I hated mushrooms.  I don’t know how I even ended up trying it out, but that soup was so delicious that it stayed in my mind for years afterward.  I finally decided this week to try my hand at making a similar one.  Too much time has passed for me to say if this soup is really all that close to the one from years ago, but it’s so yummy that it doesn’t really matter.

Yield: A lot of soup… about 8 servings.

  • 10 large Portobello mushrooms, stems separated and caps cut into quarters
  • Olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • Canola oil (or other cooking oil)
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium white potatoes, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used unsweetened soy)
  • ½ cup red wine
  • Salt to taste

Heat the oven to 400.  Toss the cut mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread in a single layer onto two parchment-lined baking sheets.  Roast for about 30 minutes, until soft and juicy.  Remove when done and put aside.

While the mushrooms are roasting, heat a frying pan over low-medium heat (about 4), and add some canola oil and the onions.  The key to caramelizing them nicely is cooking them at this low-ish heat for a while, about 30-40 minutes.  Stir them every few minutes.

When the onions are very soft and have begun to turn golden, add the celery and garlic and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until the onions look perfectly golden brown and gooey.  Add the broth, potatoes, and bay leaves and turn heat to high.  When the soup boils, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very soft.  Carefully remove bay leaves.

Now stir in the mushrooms, milk, red wine, and salt (about ¾ teaspoon, or to taste).  This should cool the soup down sufficiently to allow you to safely puree it, using an immersion blender on the stovetop.  (Be sure to check that it’s not hot before you puree though.)  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you’ll probably have to do it in a few batches in a food processor.

Puree to a nice smooth consistency, then adjust seasoning as desired.  Gently heat the soup back up on the stovetop at medium heat, and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh parsley to serve.

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Tabouleh Lentil Salad

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I love tabouleh.  I love lentils.  In this salad, they love each other.

This is more of an idea than a really specific recipe, per se.  I needed to make a quick lunch, threw this together, and it was fresh and filling at the same time (not to mention low-fat, high-protein)… perfect.

All of these measures are estimates, and I think that you could combine these ingredients in just about any proportions and the result would be delicious.

  • 1 cup green lentils, cooked and cooled (dry measure)
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 of a red pepper, finely chopped (to brighten the colour and add crunch)
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (for a normal person) or ~6 garlic cloves (Garlic Fiend option), pressed through a garlic press or finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Salt and pepper

Mix it all together.  Eat it for all your meals and snacks until there is none left.

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