22 April 2015

Lightened Up Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo

We eat a lot of pasta in this house, at least once or twice a week.  It's a quick dinner fix that can always be thrown together with whatever's on hand, and as a bonus it's one of my toddler's favourites.  And if you live with, or have raised a little one, you'll know what I mean when I say that sometimes it's just that much more relaxing to sit down to the table and know that that little person is going to fill up their tummy without a fight.   (And frankly, Mark and I are always content with it too.)

It's always nice to have a bit of variety and so although we tend to stick with red sauces, I love having a go-to Alfredo sauce too.  This version is a lighted up from my High Protein Cauliflower Alfredo, which by the way, continues to be my most popular recipe ever on Cupcakes and Kale!  With spring in the air, I left beans out of the sauce, reduced the almond milk, added just a little lemon, and instead went with a some tempeh bacon crumbled on top.  So there's still no shortage of protein here, but it just feels a bit lighter somehow.

This sauce is uber rich and creamy, with just the perfect amount of "cheesiness" from the added nutritional yeast.  It makes quite a lot of sauce (over 4 cups), so if you don't use it all on pasta, it's amazing on just about everything else too - especially roasted Brussels sprouts.  I'm also thinking it would be fabulous as a base for scalloped potatoes.... Mmmmmm.

Lightened Up Cauliflower Alfredo + Tempeh Bacon Crumbles
makes 4 cups of sauce (enough sauce + tempeh to serve 8)

For the Alfredo Sauce
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Tempeh Bacon Crumbles
1 240g package tempeh
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp sesame oil
pinch sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Begin with the tempeh crumbles.  Start by steaming the entire block of tempeh for 15 minutes.  Remove and crumble into a medium bowl.  Top with the tamari, maple syrup, sesame oil and salt.  Stir well to combine and cover the crumbles.  Let rest to marinate for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add then entire contents of the tempeh, marinade and all.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  The goal is to brown and crisp the tempeh crumbles as much as possible.  Once cooked, remove lower the heat to keep them warm while the sauce is prepared.

3. Chop the cauliflower into large pieces and steam or boil them until soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

4. Meanwhile, peel and chop the garlic and sauté it in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until fragrant and just as it begins to brown.  Remove from the heat.

5. Combine the cooked cauliflower, sautéed garlic, remaining olive oil, almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and reserved cooking water in a blender and blend until smooth.  If you don't have a high powered blender, this may take several minutes and you may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the blender as you go.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and return to the pot along with as much of the sauce as you need.  If serving a crowd, and making 1 pound of pasta, use it all.  Fold the sauce into the pasta and heat thoroughly before serving, topped with tempeh bacon crumbles. If you're not using all of the sauce, place any unused portions in a sealed container in the fridge and use within a few days.

Is pasta a staple in your kitchen too?  What's your go-to sauce fix?  If you make this yourself, I'd love to see and hear about your results!  Make sure to snap a picture and share it on Instagram tagging with #cupcakesandkale.

And I already shared this on Instagram, but I thought I'd add this cute out-take from these photos.  Sometimes life with a little one is full of surprises - such as shorter naps that result in having an extra "stylist" on hand!

04 April 2015

Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crack

My aunt recently sent me an interesting article all about an amazing chocolate caramel matzo treat that I must say, I'm a little sad I've not tried before now.  Dad, if you are reading this, how could you have let this happen??!  (Edit: My father says it's because he thinks the only way matzo should be eaten is with butter.)  My father is Jewish, but we didn't grow up with much celebration or observation around the big holidays, rather we keep things more symbolic.  We light the Menorah, we dip apples in honey (or agave now for me), and we attend Passover seders with my dad's side of the family.  For me personally, holidays, no matter if it's Christmas or Pesach, are for two of my biggest loves: family and food.

And today on the blog, it's all about the food.  Sweet, crispy, chocolate-covered homemade caramel baked right into the crunchy matzo until it turns into toffee, food.  Trust me when I say, this is some good eatin' and not for the faint of heart.  And it's totally addictive - hence the "crack" in the name.

As the article mentions, this is not a new concept in any way, as it was apparently conceived by Marcy Goldman in the 80s and later popularized by the likes of David Lebovitz and Smitten Kitchen, among others.  Here's my vegan spin though and it's delicious.

Bring it to a Passover seder or your next office potluck, and I guarantee you will make new friends.
Thanks Heni for the inspiration.

A few notes first: 
I used coconut sugar but if you don't have it you could always use brown sugar as the original recipes all call for.  I also reduced the sugar a bit from 1 cup down to 3/4 cup - next time I may even try reducing it to 1/2 cup and cutting the vegan butter down to 2/3 cup.  Or maybe not.  This certainly isn't health food which ever way you slice it, so maybe it's best to just go all in.

Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crack
serves 8-10+

6 sheets matzo (I like lightly salted)
1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance sticks)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds
a few pinches of good quality sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line an 11x17 inch baking sheet with foil, making sure to wrap it up along the sides too.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  I know it seems like overkill, but trust me - things are gonna get messy.

2. Lay the matzo out in a single layer on the baking sheet, breaking them as needed to fill it entirely, edge to edge.  You will undoubtedly find one end filled with tiny little broken pieces that you fit together like a puzzle.  Don't dwell on this, as irksome as it is - we're about to cover the entire thing in caramel soon anyway.  Set the pan aside.

3. Add the vegan butter and sugar to a small saucepan and over medium to medium-high heat, melt them together, stirring to incorporate them.  Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and let it continue to bubble for 2-3 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove it from the heat, and then carefully (it will be HOT), pour this over top of the matzo and use a heat-proof spatula to spread it out evenly and to cover it.  Place the pan in the oven for 8-10 minutes to bake the caramel in and turn it into toffee.  Stay close by and keep an eye on things - if it looks like it's starting to burn, remove it from the oven early.

4. Remove from the oven, and scatter the chocolate chips over the matzo. Let it sit for a few minutes, to let the chips melt from the heat of the toffee.  You can also pop it back in the oven for 30 seconds if you're finding the chocolate's not melting.  Then spread the chocolate evenly across the toffee.  Sprinkle with almonds and sea salt.  Let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then pop it in the fridge for an additional 30 minutes.  Then, break it into pieces and store it in an airtight container.

Do yourself a favour and pick up a box of matzo to try this.  And when you do, be sure tag it #cupcakesandkale on Instagram so that I can see your creations too!

26 March 2015

Tucos Taco Lounge

Last time I posted I made reference to a few newish projects that were keeping us on our toes over here and I thought it time that I tell you about them, or one of them in particular.  For those of you who know me well or live close by this will be old news but for others - well, it's kind of a big deal.

We opened a restaurant.

It still kind of sounds crazy when I say it out loud.  But it's both awesome and true, and kind of a funny story.

Since forever ago (or rather in the past 6-7 years), Mark has been on my case and telling me that I need to open a restaurant.  Where we live in the bumping metropolis of Sudbury (a little bit of sarcasm), there was not a vegan, let alone a vegetarian restaurant to speak of.  Some of our local restaurants have been really accommodating with us over the years, but it's made it hard to go out to eat.  After a certain point you get a little bored of hummus sandwiches and veggie pastas.  So anyway, Mark was constantly on my case saying, "Jess, you need to open up a vegan restaurant.  You need to share your cooking.  And if you don't do it, someone else will."

But I'm not a huge risk taker, and although I've worked in bars and restaurants over the years*, I was never going to just up and open a restaurant.  And so just as predicted, someone else did first.  It just happened to work out that the "someone" turned out to be my husband and his friend Dan.

Across the street from from the record store and where we live, has sat a vacant KFC for more than 3 years and last year at some point Mark decided it was the perfect spot for a vegan restaurant.  And so he bought it.  It was one of the craziest and most brilliant moves ever.  And of course once the wheels were in motion I couldn't just sit back and not get involved at all, so I was at the ready to offer my feedback on design and concept when asked and of course with the food too.  With our beloved Mexico as inspiration, I worked really hard on the menu with Mark and crafted recipes that I thought (and hoped!) would be well loved by all.

And after many months of that saw Mark and Dan, his wife Melissa, and many others pouring endless hours of work into it, the doors to Tucos Taco Lounge opened just before Christmas.  So now, where once stood a fast food restaurant that profited on the death of countless animals, stands our little vegan restaurant.  And it's been a super fun whirlwind ever since.

I know the majority of you, my amazing readers, don't live close enough to visit - but if you ever do, I'd love to meet you for tacos and drinks at Tucos.  XO

Oh, and as for the other project in the works, I've got another cookbook on the go!  It's going to be awesome and I'm thrilled with be working with my girl Jackie Sobon again, so you can bet your bottom dollar it will be full of mouthwatering photos too.  I can't wait to share more about it but will wait until things have begun to take shape.

*Aside: Mark and I actually met in a bar that showcased live music.  I was the bartender and he was the singer-songwriter in the band taking the stage that night.

Photo credits from lovely friends:
top 4 images via Andrew Knapp
empty table via Rebecca Bose
bean & seitan tacos via Shauna Heron

13 March 2015

Quick Soba Bowls with Cabbage, Peas + Edamame

I don't know about where you live, but around here the weather has finally taken a turn towards spring and it feels amazing.  I'm getting away with wearing wellies instead of my clunky winter boots, the snow is slowly melting away and I'm actually excited to see pavement.  (Although not nearly as excited as I am to see grass!)  Combined with the extra daylight we've been gleaning since rolling the clocks forward last weekend I'm feeling the change coming and there's an extra spring in my step.

I've been craving purples and greens too like you wouldn't believe.  Shredded purple cabbage has been making appearances in everything.  I can't get enough.  Meals have been simple over here as I've been really busy working on a new project & Mark's super busy with a wild & crazy thing we did last year.  (More on all of that next week.  But if you creep my Instagram feed, you can probably catch some hints.)

So a super quick & easy soba bowl was the name of game to fill our bellies.  I've been loving the simple combination of lemon and liquid aminos.  Yum, yum.  And all the little bursts of sweet green peas had me dreaming of warm days to come and being barefoot in the grass.  I can't wait.  But until then I'll settle for this.

Quick Soba Bowls with Cabbage, Peas + Edamame (vegan + gluten free)
makes 2 large servings

100g soba noodles* (use 100% buckwheat soba for gluten free)
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup frozen edemame
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
2-4 tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos (aka all purpose seasoning)

1.  Whisk together the lemon juice and liquid aminos.  Taste and if desired add more aminos to increase the saltiness.

2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.  If desired, toss with a little drizzle of Bragg's to keep them from sticking together.

3. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot.  Add the peas and edamame and cook for 3-4 minutes, until tender.  Drain, but don't rinse them, instead add to the soba noodles along with the cabbage.  Toss with the lemon sauce and serve.

*Notes: I realize that not all soba noodles are packaged in the same way, so use your own judgment here and use 1-2 bundles depending on how hungry you are.

Have a lovely weekend.  XO

27 February 2015

But I Could Never Go Vegan Review + Giveaway

I've been reading Keeping' It Kind since its early days, and right from the get go I was hooked.  Kristy's got such a flare for sharing stories that just makes you want to read more.  And then there's the food... Oh, the food!  Her recipes are always super creative and delicious and they look amazing.  Like almost-too-good-to-eat amazing.  (But if I was her neighbour, I'd have long ago befriend her and I'd totally be over all the time eating.  For the record.  And I mean that in the least creepy way possible.)

So you can imagine my delight when Kristy announced that she was writing a book!  And that we shared a publisher too - huzzah!  I was over the moon, because I knew just how amazing her book would be.

When I got home one day to find it had arrived on my doorstep, I don't think I even waited to take my coat off.  I sat down right where I was on the floor and I didn't move for almost an hour as I read through it.  I don't know if I'd ever call a cookbook a "page turner", but that's exactly how I felt with But I Could Never Go Vegan - I seriously couldn't wait to see what ingenious recipe lay ahead on the next page!

In the book, each chapter identifies a common excuse that one might give as why they could never go vegan, "I could never give up cheese!",  "It's all rabbit food.", "Tofu doesn't taste like anything.", "Where would I get my protein?", and then follows with incredible recipes refuting the excuse.  It's funny, it's approachable, and it's perfect for anyone interested in dabbling in a vegan diet but also for those already there.  With recipes like Balsamic Baked Pears with Cashew Blue Cheese, BBQ Bacon Burgers (as pictured on the cover), and Orange-Miso Mushroom Scallops with Oranges, Fennel & Forbidden Rice there is no way anyone will be disappointed.

I of course started with the chapter titled, "You Can't Bake Without Butter or Eggs!" because I can't help but love to bake.

We all loved the Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars and they went really fast.  I had a hard time getting a nice smooth date caramel sauce in my Blentec (I only have the WildSide jar and the smaller jar would have come in handy here), so next time I'll use my food processor or even my hand blender.  Although, in actual fact, I kind of enjoyed getting a little bite of date in the occasional mouthful.

I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I went ahead and substituted all whole wheat flour for the all purpose, which made them a bit too tough and cakey - my bad.  Woodrow still loved them and gobbled them all up though!  Next time I'll go all in with all purpose flour and get the intended results.

The Chickpea Omelettes were a no brainer because they made for a super quick and delicious lunch, and they are so high in protein and filling to boot.  Although I've made quiches before with chickpea flour, this was my first omelette made with it.  I loved mine as per the book, and I made one plain for Woodrow which he enjoyed sliced into wedges and dipped.

The Crispy Baked Onion Rings were off the charts amazing.  So good in fact, that although I had had the best of intentions of making the super up BBQ Cauliflower Salad topped with them, we ate them all and called it a night.  Hah.  Double the greens tomorrow, right?

I really want to share the recipe with you though, so that you can get an idea of how awesome this book is.  The recipe is long, but don't be daunted by it - there's lots of downtime while things are cooking.  Plus, just look at it.  Wow.

Photo by Chris Miller. 

BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing
Serves 4 Gluten-Free | Plan-Ahead

You know those big BBQ sandwiches stuffed with onion rings? Imagine taking away the bread, dumping everything else into a bowl with some lettuce, and dousing it with ranch dressing. That’s what this salad is all about. Roasted cauliflower coated in Barbecue Sauce makes an unforgettable replacement for meat and is an instant favorite of all who try it (even cauliflower-phobes). Topped with corn, tomatoes, and Crispy Baked Onion Rings this salad is for everyone who thinks a salad can’t be hearty, satisfying, and downright mouthwatering. All that, and it’s vegan!

Prep Time: 15 minutes (not including time to prepare Onion Rings and Zesty Ranch Dressing)
Cook Time: 30 minutes

BBQ cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, broken into small florets
Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon liquid aminos
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup (250 ml) Barbecue Sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 cups (120 g) mixed greens or lettuce
1½ cups (210 g) corn kernels
1½ cups (240 g) diced tomatoes
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped into chunks
Zesty Ranch Dressing (recipe below)
Crispy Baked Onion Rings (recipe below)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Spread the cauliflower florets on the sheet. Lightly spray with olive oil. Drizzle with the liquid aminos and liquid smoke and sprinkle with the cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over them. Toss to fully coat each piece. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  3. Mix the Barbecue Sauce and cornstarch in a cup. After 20 minutes, remove the cauliflower from the oven, add the sauce, and toss. Bake 5 to 10 minutes more, until most of the BBQ sauce has dried.
  4. Toss together the greens, corn, tomatoes, and avocado in a bowl. Divide the salad among four bowls, top with the BBQ cauliflower, drizzle with the dressing, and top with the onion rings. Serve immediately.

Zesty Ranch Dressing
Makes 1½ cups Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Plan Ahead

What doesn’t taste good dipped into ranch dressing? What salad doesn’t benefit from that cool, rich, creamy sauce? Okay, okay, there are probably a few, but I can’t think of one. It is my belief that a ranch dressing is best when it’s thick, luscious, and full of bold flavor. This recipe fits the description to a T. Raw veggies, French fries, anything BBQish—it’s all taken up a notch when dipped into this stuff. It’s also your salad’s new BFF. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Down Time: 3 to 4 hours (while cashews soak)

½ cup (80 g) raw cashews, soaked in water 3 to 4 hours, water reserved
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave syrup
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon dried dill

Place all ingredients in a food processor with 5 tablespoons of the reserved soaking water. Process until smooth. Chill until ready to use. It will thicken as it chills, so if you need to thin it (to drizzle on a salad, for example), you may need to stir in a couple teaspoons of water. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 7 days.

Crispy Baked Onion Rings
Serves 2 to 3 Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free

“Baked onion rings?,” you may be exclaiming. “For shame!” Now, before you go slamming this book shut, listen up. It is possible to get crisp baked onion rings with a crunchy, crumbly exterior and a soft interior. It is possible for said baked onion rings to satisfy your greasy, fast-food-style onion ring craving. It is possible for these onion rings to be just as delectable as the fried version while being healthier for you. It’s called having your onion rings and eating them, too.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 large sweet onion
1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened nondairy milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup (140 g) arrowroot powder or cornstarch
2 cups (80 g) panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if necessary)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Olive oil spray
Vegan ketchup, Barbecue Sauce, or Zesty Ranch Dressing, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Slice the onion into almost ½-inch (1 cm) slices. Separate into rings.
  3. In one shallow bowl, combine the non-dairy milk and lemon juice. Pour the arrowroot powder into another shallow bowl. In a third, larger shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt, garlic powder, and paprika. (You may have to stir a few more times during the coating process.)
  4. One at a time, place an onion ring in the milk mixture, coating it completely (see tips). Then dredge it in the arrowroot powder, coating it completely. Tap off the excess powder before dipping it quickly back into the milk. Dredge the ring through the bread crumbs, making sure to coat each one well. Place on one of the prepared baking sheets. Continue with the remaining rings.
  5. Spray the onion rings with olive oil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Serve immediately with ketchup or other dip of choice.
  • To prevent your fingers from becoming sticky messes, use one hand for dipping in the milk and the other hand for dipping in the arrowroot powder and bread crumbs.
  • It’s very important to tap the excess arrowroot powder off the onion ring before transferring it back to the milk. Too much arrowroot will make the onion rings dry.
  • To maximize baking sheet space, place smaller onion rings inside the larger ones.
Recipe from But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over Dinner, copyright © Kristy Turner, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.  www.theexperimentpublishing.com

If you have your ear to the ground about vegan cookbooks in even the slightest way, than you no doubt had already heard about But I Could Never Go Vegan.  If you hadn't and this was your first knowledge of it, I only hope I did it justice.  It's really and truly such a phenomenal book and I'm so excited to help one of you get your hands on a copy, because The Experiment have offered to supply me with a copy to give away!  Huzzah!  Contest is open to US and Canadian residents.

Best of luck to all entrants!  XO

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