Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan Mofo: My 5 Favourite Kitchen Tools

vegan graffitiWell, I had good intentions, but life got in the way, and I didn't share as much as I had planned to for Vegan Mofo.  To be honest, I haven't made anything super exciting for the last while anyway.  I thought I'd wrap up the month by talking about things that I found useful for me in the last year or so since I decided to follow a vegan diet.

My 5 Favourite Tools:

1. Hot-Air Popcorn Maker:

OK, so this one is a no brainer--I use it for popcorn.  I figured out that by putting in a little extra popcorn, the kernels move a little more slowly and have a better chance of popping in the machine rather than flying out of the chute and popping in the bowl, leading to popcorn flying around my kitchen.  I use about one and a half of the measures and it turns out well (you don't want to over do it, or it will burn!  Yes, this is the voice of experience).  Sometimes I use a vegan margarine on it, but I also like to give it a spritz of canola oil spray instead.  My ultimate I need something sweet and I have no vegan chocolate is to put some vegan chocolate chips in the bottom of the bowl before I make the popcorn.  The popcorn warms them up, they melt, and everyone is happy, or at least I am.

2.  My Blender:

I love my smoothies, so my blender gets a regular work out.  I had a Magic Bullet, but I ended up breaking that sucker (note to self remember to check on warranty).  Smoothies can be complicated, or they can be pretty simple.  I generally go for simple because I am not a morning person and I'm not going to try to figure out a complex recipe while my eyes are not completely open.  I throw in some fruit, usually a banana and some frozen berries, or fresh fruit, depending on what I have on hand.  Pour in some non-dairy milk (currently using almond milk-yummy!), pop the lid on and blend.  When I feel a little more creative, I add peanut butter or chocolate chips (no, they don't blend well, but hey, it's chocolate!).  I started adding chia seeds to my smoothies too.  They don't affect the taste and they're crunchy, so what's not to like?

Vegan Graf 3. Rice Cooker:

Love my rice cooker.  I tried to cook brown rice on the stove and every time I made it, it was crunchy.  We got a rice cooker, and suddenly I'm cooking brown rice perfectly.  It tastes good and the kids even ate it without questioning anything.  We eat a lot of different kinds of rice and they all cook well in the rice cooker.  I have also used it to cook quinoa.  Last time I did, I don't think I had enough water and it was a little dry and crunchy, and I may have burned some of it.  I still liked it, but I will have to experiment with the water levels a little more.

4:  Crock Pot:

When I talk about cooking, you may notice that I tend to "throw" a lot of things in to what ever I'm making.  I do this with the crock pot too.  I cook what I have on hand.  I'm not going to go digging for a recipe only to find that I don't have whatever is needed.  I make a lot of soup in the winter months in my crock pot.  Vegetable soup stock, water, chop up some veggies, add some spices, put the lid on and let it do it's thing.  You don't need a recipe.  It's soup.  Smell it.  Taste it.  If it doesn't seem right, try adding something else.  I like to finish my soups by adding vegan dumplings to them before serving, but my kids don't like them, so I don't make them as often as I used to.  (What kid doesn't like dumplings?  My brother and I used to love eating them!).

5:  Electric Frying Pan:

Last but not least is my electric frying pan.  I used to have an electric wok, but we never used it.  This is the way to go.  It's great for sauteing some vegetables, making a sauce, for pancakes and French toast and lots of other things.  Last night, I used it to fry up the pumpkin seeds out of my daughter's baby pumpkin.  (she got it on her field trip to a farm).  This is another tool I use to throw together a meal.  Toss a can of beans, some veggies and some seasoning in, heat it all up and pop it on your plate with a side of rice or quinoa.  Yum yum!

vegan pumpkin
How great is this Vegan pumpkin?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Crockpot Soup

If you've read my blog before, you know that I love my crockpot.  It's so easy to throw things in, push a button and leave it.  You come back a few hours later and dinner is ready.  Easy-peasy!

I used my crockpot before I was vegan, but I think I use it more now.  Soup is one of my favourite things to make, especially on days like today--it was a rainy, dark day and soup would hit the spot.  We also had a chiropractor appointment that meant that we'd have to leave as soon as the kids came home from school.  By the time we were able to get home, I knew the kids would be hungry and cranky, so I made soup in the crockpot.

I don't usually follow a recipe when I make soup.  When I say that I throw things in the crockpot, I'm not kidding.  I start with a vegetable broth cube and water.  Then I open the fridge and see what vegetables I have available.  Today I had some cauliflower and carrots.  I also tossed in some frozen mixed vegetables and a can of beans. Now that I think about it, I should have added some potatoes as well. Oh well, there's always next time.

bean soupI had planned to make some vegan dumplings, but I was out of non-dairy milk and almost out of margarine, so I didn't get my dumplings tonight.  I'll just have to make some soup again soon because I love dumplings.  My kids can't stand them, so I don't get them too often as it is.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Banana Loaf

Monday is Thanksgiving here in Canada and my extended family had our Thanksgiving dinner tonight.  Sometimes it's hard to be vegan at an Italian gathering.  I love pasta, but it was canaloni, so it was stuffed with cheese.  No pasta for me.  But that's OK because I had lots of great veggies to eat.  I even ate some rapini even though it's not my favourite vegetable.  I find it very bitter, but it wasn't too bad tonight. 

Anyway, even though I'm one of the kids and I'm not "supposed" to bring anything, I wanted to bring some dessert.  You know if there is one thing we Italians do not have enough of, it's dessert.  (sarcasm intended, people!).  I bought some bananas that were marked for discount this week because they were veeeerrrry ripe--so perfect for banana bread.  I looked at some banana bread recipes, but alas, I forgot to pick up vanilla when I was shopping and I ran out last week.  Not to worry, I found a recipe.

I made this Banana Loaf.  It was really easy to make.  I was all set to put it in my loaf pan when I read in the recipe that it needed a cake pan.  Surprise for me!  It was more of a cake than a bread, and that was fine.  I really liked how it turned out.  The cake was very moist and quite tasty.  One thing I learned is that it's probably better to cut the loaf into pieces before the sugar on the top crystalizes.  It's really hard to slice the loaf without cracking the topping once it has cooled, and it makes it look a little messy.

I didn't mention that it was a vegan dessert.  I figured I'd just say it was dessert.  I did make sure that the diabetics knew it wasn't a good option for them to have it.  Too much sugar!  My aunt told me she quite enjoyed the sugar coating on the top.  I quite enjoyed it too!

I've got another Thanksgiving dinner on Monday with my husband's family.  I get to bring the veggies, so I know that I'll have plenty to eat, even without the turkey.

Everyone loves to waste vegetables, but it's for art's sake, so it's cool.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Buckwheat Pancakes

It's been a crazy week and today was another crazy day. I had a lot of running around to do, so by the time I got home with two hungry kids in tow (and a hungry hubby), I needed a quick dinner. We've had pasta twice this week (I love leftover sauce!), so that was out. So, I went with quick and easy and made pancakes tonight. Apparently I make pancakes a lot, because on my Klout score, pancakes is my highest ranked topic of influence--sad, I know.

There are a couple of recipes on Veg Web that I've tried and really like, so I chose the one I hadn't made for awhile. Grandma's Buckwheat Pancakes were delicious! I just realized that I forgot to put in the regular flour. I only used the buckwheat. Hmm...that may explain why the pancakes where thinner than I expected. Oh well, they still tasted great! Normally, I'd serve them with fruit, but tonight we just had pancakes. Now, the recipe says that it feeds 2-4, and I'd say that you'd want to double the recipe if you are serving more than 2 people. Only the kids and I ate the pancakes and we had 2 1/2 small pancakes each. They definitely would have eaten more if I had made more.

I enjoy using Veg Web for new recipes because they are uploaded by regular folks and you can read reviews before you try to make anything. The reviews are helpful because sometimes other cooks will say, "This was good, but I made these slight changes and then it was great!" It's a good place to get some good basic recipes and some more complex ones too. You can read more about how I use Veg Web here. If you like pancakes, give them a try!
  Happy Face

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Carrot Fries

I thought I'd try something new tonight.  I had been looking for recipes last week to use some of the carrots that I had on hand, and this one caught my eye.  I started with a recipe from  You can find it here:  I didn't have everything listed in the recipe, so I winged it.

I peeled and cut the carrots using a Pampered Chef tool that I never get to use to make them crinkly.  I tried to cut the pieces fairly thin so that they would cook.  Put them on the baking sheet and sprayed them with olive oil.  I sprinkled them with a spice mix that I made in an empty spice jar.  I used some paprika, garlic salt, parsley and oregano.  Popped them in the oven and let them bake.

I did not take a picture, but I thought they looked pretty good!

The verdict:

I really thought the kids would like these, especially since they are like regular fries.  They did not.  On the other hand, I really liked them and I will make them again for me.  I'll try them out on my hubby when he gets home tonight.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan Mofo is Back! Pasta & What's in the Fridge Sauce

October is the Vegan Month of Food, also known as Vegan MoFo!  Last year was my first year participating.  You can find a blog roll of all of this year's participants at

I've now been vegan for a little over a year and I'm very happy with the decision I made to move to a plant based diet.  I'm still learning as I go.

Tonight's dinner is going to be pasta and "What's in the fridge" Sauce.  This catchy title is something that I ame up with because I generally choose the ingredients in the sauce by opening the refrigerator to see what I have to work with.  Today I scored with zucchini and eggplant.
pasta a la Luke / massa a la Luke
Not my pasta, but a close facsimilie

I start with a can of crushed tomatoes and add a can of beans.  Tonight I chose lentils because my kids seem to prefer softer beans, so I figured they would be more likely to eat them.  Usually I start with a bit of garlic fried in the pan, but I skipped it today.  I added a little water to the sauce and then chopped up some zucchini and eggplant.  Threw in some spices-orgeano, parsley, garlic salt and set it to simmer.

We'll be eating whole grain pasta tonight for a change.  The kids don't notice a difference in taste and I like being able to give them a healthier option.

I like to make my own sauce because know what is in it then.  When my father became  diabetic we found that many of the prepared sauces have a lot of sugar, so we started to do it ourselves.

Now for my not-so-secret secret: to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes, put a carrot in the sauce.  When it's finished, don't eat the carrot!  Compost it.  Trust me, the carrot will not taste good. And the verdict is in! Whole family enjoyed dinner. The youngest even asked for seconds (she's normally the one who does not like the veggies)!