03 September 2014

Vegan Cuts Snack Box Review

For anyone who knows me well, it is no secret that I love snail mail.  When a card or letter shows up on my doorstep I get a whoosh of happy that lasts all day.  But when a package arrives, one that is full of yummy snacks - it takes things to a whole new level.  This level my friends is called the Vegan Cuts Snack Box.  This box of goodness recently arrived on my doorstep thanks to the generous folks at Vegan Cuts who sent it to me for review.  This snack delivery has been around for a couple years now, but I'll admit, this was my first one.  For some reason I had been letting the additional postage fee for shipping north of the boarder hold me back, but in reality it's only $8 more to ship to Canada ($15 for international and FREE in the states).

It's quite a fun novelty of having the surprise of not knowing exactly what you'll find in the box, and I imagine if ordered month after month, it would afford me the chance of discovering many new companies and products making delicious vegan treats.  Here's a breakdown of what I received in my snack box:

Somersault Snack Co. makes these cute little sunflower seed nuggets (nut-free!) that are spiced with plenty of cinnamon and a little sugar.  They were really great and my only wish was that the bag had been bigger, as it only included 6 tiny bites.  Lovingly referred to as "cookies" by him, they were a huge hit with Woodrow too.  This was my favourite discovery from the August 2014 snack box.

Snikiddy chips are packed with lots of vegetable powders from kale, to beets, to mushrooms and were generously salted for a crunchy chip perfect for dipping or enjoying straight up.  I'm a salty snack fan so these were the first things I opened.

Coromega included a tiny little sample of their cold pressed oil blend of coconut, chia, avocado, hemp & black cumin.  With only a 2 teaspoon sample, I'll admit, I haven't given it a try yet as I don't know what to do with it, but I look forward to trying it soon, likely just mopped up with some bread or drizzled on some sauteed greens.

Surf Sweets organic watermelon candies were not shared.  I've loved gummies since my preteen days and these sweet treats, although different in texture from the big company brands, were super flavourful and actually boasted a high vitamin C content to boot.  They made for perfect movie snacking.

Ziggy Marley Organics toasted hemp seeds were great to try.  I tend only to keep raw hemp on hand, so the crunchy, popping seeds were a fun change up.  They were supposedly flavoured with sea salt and pepper, but they just tasted salted to me.  No matter really - still very good, and another winner with Woodrow.

Chic-a-peas baked falafel flavoured chickpeas were a super savoury and moreish snack.  They tasted just like the crunchy little bits of falafel crust.  They're very yummy but very dry, so having a beverage near by is a must!  A perfect beer snack.

Smooze had an ice pop included that was made of fresh-pressed coconut milk and real fruit juices.  I can't say that I remember actually ever eating one of these as a kid, but something about it made me feel so nostalgic!  It's the kind of thing that I wish my local corner store carried so that on a hot summer's day we could go for a walk to get one and eat it on the stoop.  The guava flavour was very good and I'd love to try some other flavours too.

Pur-Absorb Iron is a naturally occurring iron-rich spring water sold in single serving packets.  This was more of a supplement than a snack so I'm not sure if it was rightly included, but I tried it anyways.  It tasted SO metallicy that I couldn't stomach more than 2 sips.  Bleh.  It does claim to be a gentler way to supplement iron, but I don't like the idea of spending money on individually packaged water, so supplement or not so I won't seek this out for purchase myself.

Laughing Giraffe Organics lemon snackaroons were something I have purchased myself in the past, but I had forgotten about them so it was really nice to be reminded.  They are super lemony in the most lovely way and the macaroons are so tender and sweetened with agave and coconut sugar.  Suuuuuper crumbly in tiny Woodrow-sized hands but we both enjoyed none the less.

Overall I really enjoyed the Snack Box. It's a great chance to try several products (all new to me except one!) in snack size before buying at retail cost, and will definitely order a snack box again. (Especially since the September box includes a box of Earth Balance Mac & Cheese! HOLLAH!)  The next box ships out on September 22nd, so order yours with plenty of time to spare.  Happy Snacking!

Disclaimer: I received this snack box at no cost, however as always, the opinions are entirely my own.  This post also contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting my blog.

21 August 2014

Pizza Primavera

I love vegetables and eating them in any way, shape or form.  But it's around this time of year every summer when the farms and gardens start to go crazy and my CSA box gets bigger and bigger every week.  This is generally a really good thing, but it means that my fridge starts to overflow and I find it increasingly difficult to come up with creative ways to use up the bounty. 

This pizza was a delicious detour from the giant salads, rice bowls and veggies & dip I've been eating lately.  Made up of resh veggies, a well-seasoned crust and a few tangy capers to boot, the whole family enjoyed this one and we kept going back for more until it had disappeared. 

I love the change up from our usual pizzas that are loaded with plenty of sauce and "meaty" toppings like tempeh and mushroom.  It's fitting for summer too given its lighter feel.  Don't worry though, it's not light on flavour - there are lots of herbs and garlic to take care of that.  And I would highly recommend making the Garlic Dipping Sauce too for that extra "zing".  Nom nom nom.

Pizza Primavera
makes 1 pizza

1 batch of prepared pizza dough (about 400g)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (or more depending on taste)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
sea salt & fresh pepper
1/4 cup sliced zucchini
1/4 cup sliced summer squash
1/2 cob of sweet corn, kernels removed
8-10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green onion, diced
1 tbsp capers
fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450f.

Stretch out the pizza dough onto a pizza stone, pizza pan or a parchment-lined baking sheet that's been dusted with a teaspoon of cornmeal.  Spread the oil onto the rolled dough, leaving a narrow border around the edge for the crust.  Add the garlic and spices, distributing as evenly as possible over the oil.  Next, add the vegetables in as much of a single layer as possible to ensure even cooking.

Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes to cool slightly before topping with some fresh parsley.  Then slice and serve with a side of Garlic Dipping Sauce.

Garlic Dipping Sauce (based on this recipe for tofu sour cream)
Unfortunately raw garlic really upsets my stomach, so unless I'm going to be cooking it, I tend to stick to garlic powder.  You can definitely try substituting freshly minced garlic in its place here.

1 package of silken tofu, drained
2 tbsp umeboshi vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt or Herbamare
1 tsp dried garlic powder*
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until silky smooth.  Store leftover sauce in a covered container in the fridge where it will keep for up to 1 week. 

Although I'll definitely be making this pizza again, I feel like I need more ideas to power through all the veggies week in and week out, so now it's your turn to share.  How do you get creative with seasonal produce?


Also, in case you missed it on Facebook, the lovely Melissa of Tastymakes posted an interview with me on their blog.  You can check it out here.

11 August 2014

Fried Granola

Starting at the age of 17, for five glorious summers I worked at a summer camp.  And although it was technically "work", it really was nothing of the sort.  There was plenty of responsibility of course in teaching swimming, canoeing, archery lessons and the like along with the overall care of campers, but all of that came hand in hand with early morning polar bear dips in the lake, leading canoe trips, campfire songs, forming life long friendships and just having the best all around job ever.  

I was recently preparing for a vegan campfire cooking workshop that I led with a friend at a music festival, and as we crafted our menu, I couldn't help but think back to all of the open fire cooking I did in my days at camp.  One of the
recipes that immediately came to mind was fried granola.

Fried granola was a camping trip staple.  It was a cooked breakfast we would reserve it for a day where we didn't need pack up our site to hit the water too early and could take the time to build a morning fire.  It was a little more work than bagels with jam & cream cheese (another canoe trip staple), but it was oh-so it was worth it.  Fried granola was so decadent: sweet, rich, salty goodness that would fill you up for hours of paddling and portages.  It was almost something to be eaten for dessert - and in fact we did continue nibbling on its sweet leftovers over the course of the day.

I haven't made it in years, but after getting some quality time in recently with a few of my best camp friends, it had been calling to me.  And so friends, I made it and today I'm sharing it with you.  And I really wish I could share the batch of it with you too because at the rate I've been snacking on it I'm going to make myself sick. 
(Seriously, someone please help me.)
This skillet granola is a breeze to cook up and even easier to gobble up.  It's the best for lazy camping breakfasts, but also a fun treat to make at home on the stove top.  It's not a crunchy granola (for a version like that try this one), but rather it's tender, moist and a little chewy.  Without further ado, here's a little taste of my campfire Wanakita days.

Fried Granola
makes about 2.5 cups

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut oil or vegan butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp sea salt (omit if using salted PB)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips 

Heat the peanut butter, coconut oil and sugar together in a cast iron pan until melted, stirring them to combine.  Add the cinnamon and salt if using.  Stir in the oats and "fry" them over medium to medium-high heat for 5 -10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan from heat and cool mostly , about 20 minutes, then fold in the chocolate chips.  If the oats are still too hot the chocolate will melt and become a gooey (albeit still delicious) mess.  Eat it while it's still just a bit warm on its own or with a splash of non-dairy milk.  Any leftovers should be fully cooled and then stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

I love my friends I made in those camp days.  We may not always talk that often, but when we get together it's as if we were still 22, staying up too late with the smell of campfire in our hair.  They will always be my friends, and we'll always have our fried granola.

04 August 2014

How to: Music Festivals with a Baby

There are few things I enjoy more about summer than music festivals.  I love them for the sun, the live music, dancing in the grass and eating yummy food, but make it a camping festival that takes place in the woods with heaps of friends and familiar faces?  I’m a very happy girl.  This year marked our 2nd year attending River & Sky with a babe in tow, and although it makes me far from an expert on the subject, I thought I could impart a few tips I’ve learned along the way on how to festival with a baby.

Be prepared with 5 essentials.
If you’re a parent, you already know that babies and kids often require a lot of "things" to keep being on the move easy.   Here are my top 5 picks for essential music festival equipment to pack.

1. Earmuffs
Because let’s be honest, music festivals can be loud and babies ears are sensitive.  They’re great for when Woodrow wants to be up front and close to the action, but they’re also awesome for when he needs to take a nap.  They cancel enough of the music so that he can rest, and I in turn can take in a set.

2. Stroller & carrier 
It’s nice to be able to get from point A to Z with ease.  Most strollers have a basket to hold the essentials and a big bonus is that many babes enjoy napping in them.  I also love wearing Woodrow so having a carrier with me is also great for walks, naps or when he needs to be close.  Luckily my friend Katie was generous enough to lend me her Boba after I managed to forget mine at home.  For next year I will probably invest in a garden wagon.  My friend Tara swears by hers to tote around both her lovely 3 year old and all of there gear.  Plus she tells me there are side pockets perfect for holding beverages.  Sounds like a winner to me.

3. A few toys 
With all the nature, music and new friends to meet you don’t need much, but a few little things can’t hurt.  I try to pack a beach ball, sand toys, bubbles, a couple books and a familiar stuffed friend.
4. Sun screen & bug lotion
Kind of self explanatory, but worth listing because you’ll be lost without them!  Keep that babe’s sweet, soft skin protected from the elements.  I like this organic, vegan sunscreen and bug protection best.  (Both Canadian companies to boot.)

5. Snacks
Snacks, snacks and more snacks.  Schedules and meal times can kind of go to shit when your in festival mode and in the absence of sitting down to 3 square meals a day, it’s great to have lots of easy munchable goodies for the little ones and yourself too.  I like to make a big batch of some sort of granola bar (usually my PB Endurance Bars but this year I made some from Gena’s book), little pickling cucumbers and carrots with hummus, fruits that travel well, etc.  For babes 6+ months & toddlers those little squeezy pouches of smoothies and fruit & veg purees are great too.

Take in some of the kid’s programming.
Most festivals (if they’re in any way family friendly) will have some sort of programming for the little ones.  It might be super structured in the form of a workshop of class or unstructured crafting.  Or likewise, don’t.  This goes along with the point on relaxing (see below).  If structure isn’t your thing than don’t stress out about “missing out”.  There is plenty of adventure to be found in your own little explorations.  My friend Shannon, mama bird to 3 little ones, shared this little tip:

Taking time with each child away from all the hoopla. It gets a little overwhelming so everyone, adults included have meltdowns. We go on "treasure hunt" walks with one of the children and it's a chance to have one on one with them, check in on how they are doing, and lets them calm down a bit if they're over-stimulated.

Stay hydrated.
Bring your reusable cups and water bottles for everyone and keep those fluid intakes up.  You’ll feel better for it.

Rain gear.
With any luck your festival weekend will only shower you with sunshine and good times, but just in case it's important to be prepared for rain (and the mud that comes with rain).  Rubber boots are a festival staple for me anyway because they're easy to slip on and at night they protect my calves from mosquitoes, but they're also great for their intended purpose.  My friend Lauren just returned from Hillside with her adorable 8 month old and she covered her bases by packing an "emergency rain/cold weather bag" that she kept in the car just in case.

Keep your expectations in check.
Finally, the biggest thing is to relax and enjoy what you can, when you can.  Before kids I'd see as many of the bands as I possibly could and stay up til the wee hours, getting my good times on.  But times change, and my festival expectations have too.  As I mentioned above, baby earmuffs and a stroller come in handy for early evening set times and allow me to sometimes see most bands and if I’m really lucky, the headliner too.  But that’s not all always the case, and I'm okay with that.  You have to know when to cut your losses and pack it in for the campsite.  This year, Woodrow woke up in his stroller just as The Besnard Lakes were about to take the stage and so we made for the tent.  Woodrow got to crawl into bed and although I missed seeing the show, I got to hear things from the coziness of our tent.

And one last tip.  What ever you do, don't forget the (vegan) marshmallows.

black and white photos via Preacher Katie
Woodrow with bunny photo via David Weiwel 

27 July 2014

Fig Bars + A Review & Giveaway of Choosing Raw

When I started reading blogs, back before I began my own, there were only a handful that I knew of and loved.  Gena's blog Choosing Raw was one of them.  It was one of my favourite reads then, and continues to be one my favourites now.  Aside from the simple, delicious recipes she shares, Gena always offers thoughtful posts and meaningful dialogue on nutrition and wellness.  Also, she brought banana soft serve to light for us all which pretty much gives her saint status in my books.

Choosing Raw the book was obviously a labour of love and has been getting rave reviews since its release earlier this month.  It is a beautiful book with plenty of full page images to drool over thanks to the talented Hannah Kaminsky and there are 125 amazing recipes within.  But not only that, the first half of the book covers everything from Gena's food history and how she came to embrace raw foods, to the ingredients that make up a kitchen supportive of raw foods, to the tools needed.  It also covers some common myths surrounding the raw food movement (No, you don't have to combine foods in certain ways to reap their benefits and No, there is not a lot of foundation to the enzyme theory), and there is also a 21-day meal plan for those who need a bit more help laying it all out.

The recipes are split up into several sections covering The Essentials, Juices, Snacks, Sauces & Dressings and Meal-sized Salads.  Following that you'll the remaining recipes are divided into 3 levels (Tried and True, Something New and Brave New World) to help ease you into expanding your raw horizons.

The first dish I made was the Quick Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Cilantro Vinaigrette.  I was all out of quinoa (how does that even happen?!) so I made it instead with farro and it was great.  I portioned out a little bit for myself and packed the rest up to deliver to a friend that had just welcomed a new baby.  She and her family, including her 2-year old, loved it.

Next I made the Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing and Chives.  It was so delicious - I don't think I've ever combined sweet potatoes and miso but I will be doing it again because their sweetness is such a good partner to miso's tangy umami flavour.  I also added a big tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds to the dish and really enjoyed the little crunch they imparted.

The Mango Coconut Chia Pudding was perfect for lazy cottage breakfasts overlooking the lake and the No-Bake Sunflower Oat Bars were great for a weekend of camping and music festivaling.  Woodrow loved them and kept asking for more "cookies".  And then the Fig Bars.  They are so yummy and rich and... figgy!  They are so good that I find I'm satisfied with only a small bar and so I got 20 bars instead of the 9 the recipe calls for.  Bonus!  They are so easy and a great raw dessert, snack or even breakfast for those unsure where to start.

And that's the beauty of this book: it is the perfect starting place for everyone.  It makes raw foods accessible and exciting.  And I love that so many cooked recipes are incorporated too, because it's all about balance. 

I am thrilled to share the recipe for the Fig Bars with you today, and also to be giving away a copy of Choosing Raw to one lucky reader!  But I hope you are all able to pick up a copy of the book soon because it is a wonderful book.  Congratulations Gena, on what I hope to be the first of many!

It’s amazing to me that a dessert this good can be free of refined flour or refined sugar. These fig bars have all of the chewiness and sweetness of traditional Fig Newton cookies, but they’re made with wholesome almonds, oats, and real dried figs.


Filling Ingredients:
3 cups water
2 cups dried figs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Base Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup almonds
1 1⁄2 cups rolled oats
1⁄8 teaspoon sea salt
6 pitted Medjool dates
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Topping Ingredients:
3⁄4 cup sliced almonds

1. Bring the water to a boil, and pour it over the figs. Let the figs soak for at least 1 hour (or for as long as 6).

2. Grind the almonds in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade until they’re relatively smooth. Add the oats and continue grinding until both are quite finely ground. Pulse in the sea salt.

3. Add the Medjool dates to the food processor, along with the maple syrup and coconut oil. Process until the mixture is evenly incorporated. Press into an 8–inch square baking dish.

4. Drain the figs, reserving the water they soaked in, and transfer them to a clean food processor. Process them with the vanilla. Add the soak water as needed, until you have the consistency of a fig jam. 

5. Spread the fig mixture over the oat/almond mixture. The fig layer should be 1⁄4 inch thick, or a little thicker. Reserve extra fig mixture to use in place of jam on your favorite toast.

6. Top the fig layer with almonds. Refrigerate the bars for a few hours, until they set. Cut into nine squares, and enjoy.
Store the fig bars in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for up to 2 weeks this way.

From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014

Please use the widgit below to enter the cookbook giveaway.  The contest will remain open until midnight on Monday August 5th and is open to Canadian and US residents.  The giveaway is now over, but congratulations to the winner Danielle!  Danielle, I will be in touch shortly to get your mailing address :)

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the Choosing Raw book to review, but all opinions are my own.