15 May 2015

Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles & Love Fed Review + Giveaway

Today I'm sharing a little about a new and wonderful book by a Christina Ross, a fellow vegan mama and author of the blog Love Fed.  She has just released her first book of the same name, Love Fed, Purely Decadent, Simply Raw, Plant-Based Desserts.  This lovely book is packed with over 80 recipes, all raw, healthy and decadently delicious.

It's quite a comprehensive book that covers everything from the ingredients in the Love Fed Pantry (*note there is honey in this book, but vegan alternatives are given), Kitchen Essentials that covers the tools, and Basic Recipes that will be used throughout the book (basic chocolate sauce, chocolate bar, caramel sauce, cashew cream, nut milk and butters, etc).  The main recipes themselves are divided into chapters that cover everything from cakes and pies, to shakes and smoothies, to candy and ice cream and more.

One note about the ingredients - Many of the recipes make use of cacao butter, coconut butter and fresh coconut meat - three ingredients can be hard to find locally if you're like me and don't live in a big city, but the first two are accessible online and all 3 should be a breeze to source in bigger cities.  Also, with a good food processor (and a lot of patience!) you can even make your own coconut butter at home.

There are a LOT of raw dessert recipes in here - so many so that I really didn't know where to start.
So I took the practical approach and I decided to start with what we needed after Woodrow woke up from his nap: a smoothie.  Based on ingredients we had on hand, together we made the Scrubby J's Peanut Shake.  It was really thick and even my Blendtec was having a hard time with the frozen banana and frozen blueberries so I added a bit more almond milk to get it moving.  The resulting smoothie was super thick with a nice PB flavour.  Even using half the medjools it called for it was a little too sweet for me so next time I'll leave out the dates and it will be perfect.

Then it was Woodrow's turn to choose a recipe.  He flipped through the book and quickly stopped at an image of brownies.  "We need to make these Mama!", he declared.  His finger was pointing markedly at the Mini Mint Chocolate Brownies.  Who am I to deny a child?  So we set about making them.  (Actually, Woodrow played in the garden while I made them.)  They were a breeze to make, and came together really quickly.  I had only half the amount of pecans the recipe called for so I filled in with almonds.  In the future I'd choose walnut or cashews (or simply all pecan) because I found the texture of the brownies a little dry with the almonds.  Still very yummy though, and even with the minty chocolate topping Woodrow loved them up!

Aside from the amazing recipes, part of what I love about this book is that Christina's glowing personality really shines through in her personal recipe intros.  The book is full of sweet stories and anecdotes and gives you a glimpse into the joyous person she obviously is.  If only we didn't live so far away, I feel we'd definitely hit it off and eat delicious food together with our vegan littles!

Next up on my hit list are these beautiful Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles.  They are screaming summer good times to me!  I'm thrilled to be sharing the recipe with you all today, AND I'm even more excited to send one of you home with your very own copy of the book!  (Scroll down for details.)

Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles
Yield: 5 dreamsicles
Prep time: 5 minutes, plus 2–6 hours freezing time
When my local Whole Foods Market sponsored a Blueberry Blast-Off Blog Challenge, I was excited—I have a ferocious appetite for all things blueberry. The contest specified using only ten ingredients, a breeze for me, since I tend to keep things simple anyway. The hard part was deciding which blueberry recipe to go with. In the end, nothing called to me more than the humble elegance of homemade Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles. A dreamsicle is my version of the creamsicle, which, if you grew up in the 1980s like I did, will probably be familiar. They’re usually orange flavored, a pairing of sweet cream and citrus nectar. I thought the idea would translate well to blueberry and coconut cream (and be even more delectable, hence the name dreamsicle), and it did. I can guarantee kids of all ages (aka everyone) will appreciate these blueberries and cream pops. If you like, replace your pop mold’s sticks with 6” twigs for a rustic look.

1 c. blueberries
2 tbsp. coconut nectar or sweetener of your choice (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ c. coconut cream
In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, coconut nectar (if desired), and lemon juice. Mix lightly to coat the berries.

Place the coconut cream in a second medium bowl. Adding the blueberry mixture a few spoonfuls at a time, whip with a handheld electric mixer or whisk until thickened. Some of the berries will break down, releasing their juices and creating texture. If you want the berries whole, gently hand mix them into the cream using a rubber spatula. If you prefer a quicker method and a more vibrant purple pop, simply blend all the ingredients together in a blender. 

Pour the mixture into pop molds. Freeze for 2–6 hours or until completely firm. Run the mold under warm water for a few seconds and gently remove the pops. Serve immediately or store in the freezer.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Love Fed by Christina Ross (BenBella Books, March 2015).
Photo credit for Brownies and Dreamsicles, Christina Ross.

Many thanks to the generous folks at BenBella for supplying a copy of Love Fed to one lucky Cupcakes and Kale reader!  To enter, please use the gadget below.  This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, and will run until May 27th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

29 April 2015

Vanilla Lucuma Protein Bars + Sprout Living Review

Sprout Living recently reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in trying their Epic Protein line of Plant-Based protein powders.  Being that I love trying all things vegan, I didn't hesitate to say yes and dug into them as soon as they arrived.  Although they have quite a few lines of powders, all with many flavours, the Epic Plant-Based Protein line comes in 4 flavours: Original, Chocolate Maca, Vanilla Lucuma and Green Kingdom.

I soon discovered there is a lot to love about them.  For starters, all of the their powders are:

Gluten Free
Nut Free
and Kosher.

They're a really fine grind which makes them blend so well into smoothies or other creations.  The Original is unsweetened and the other flavours are sweetened with stevia, but they're not overly sweet as some powders tend to be.  They also stand behind the fact that there are no hidden ingredients or additives, and they proudly list each and every ingredient on the front of their packaging.  To me that says a lot.  The powders are all based with sprouted brown rice, yellow pea, sacha inch and cranberry seed and after that each formula includes various other powerhouse ingredients such as cacao, ginger, baobab fruit and jerusalem artichoke.

The first powder I tried was the Original and it blended perfectly into my morning smoothie without any strong or chalky aftertaste.  Next up I tried the Green Kingdom.  I had my reservations about this one because I don't tend to be keen on green powder blends... they always taste, well, too green.  This one was amazing though - I whipped up the Tropical Green Smoothie from Greens 24/7 and added the Green Kingdom and it was delicious!  I was really impressed.

For the Chocolate Maca flavour I wanted to try incorporating it into pancakes.... Unfortunately they were an enormous fail (all because of me, no fault of the powder!) so let's just say my pancake skills need a little work.  Ahem.

Saving what I knew would be my favourite for last, I decided to make some energy bars with the Vanilla Lucuma flavour.  We have been on the go like crazy lately with book #2 and patio-building at Tucos underway so easy grab-and-go snacks are on my mind.  I wanted to make them nut-free too so that they're okay to pack in my bag when Woodrow and I go to preschool drop-ins, and so I used tahini in lieu of a nut-butter like I usually reach for.

Can I please say, that the tahini combined with the lucuma and vanilla flavours is INCREDIBLE.  Plus the awesome crunch of the crispy brown rice cereal is so good and is a nice change from the usual bars I make.  We all love these, but Mark is actually obsessed and claims them to be the best bars I've ever made.  He insists they're like the inside of a Mr. Big which was his favourite pre-vegan candy bar.  I don't necessarily see the conection, but whatever keeps them happy, right?

I added a quick little coconut-oil glaze to them to take them over the top, but that part is completely optional as the bars are really SO GOOD on their own.  I've made these many times already and only bother with the glaze half the time.

You can of course substitute your preferred protein powder in this recipe, but keep in mind that the flavour outcome may change depending on the level of sweetness in your powder.  Or you could try out Sprout Living's line - they are currently offering all Cupcakes and Kale readers a 10% discount off all orders until May 24th - simply use the code KALE10 at checkout.  Sweet!

The best part about these bars is how easy they are to make!  If you've got 10 minutes, then you've got time!

Vanilla Lucuma Protein Bars
makes 10 bars

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup crisp brown rice cereal
1/4 cup // 1 serving Sprout Living Vanilla Lucuma Protein Powder
1 tbsp lucuma powder (optional)
pinch fine sea salt
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup tahini

For the Coconut Oil Glaze:
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp lucuma
2 tsp powdered sugar

1. Place the oats in a blender or food processor and pulse until ground into flour - about 10 seconds should do it.

2. Transfer the oat flour to a large bowl and add the cereal, protein powder, additional lucuma (if using) and salt and mix well.

3. In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup (I like to use it because of its spout to transfer later), combine the brown rice syrup and the tahini.  My tahini is quite runny - if yours if very thick then you may have a hard time stirring the two together.  If this is the case, pop the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds and try again.  Once the mixture is smooth, pour into the dry ingredients and stir until fully incorporated.  The mixture will be very thick and sticky to begin with, but once all of the flour and powders have been folded in, it will be a little more dry.  Don't be shy, you may need to get your hands in there to really mix it all up.

4. Line an 8x8 inch dish with parchment paper and press the dough into the dish, pressing it down evenly.  If adding the glaze, whisk together all ingredients until smooth, then drizzle over the bars and then pop it into the freezer to set for 10 minutes.  Remove from the freezer and slice into bars.  Bars can be transferred to an airtight container or wrapped individually.  Store them in the fridge or freezer for up to 2 weeks.

As always, tag me on Instagram with #cupcakesandkale so that I can see your creations if you make these at home.  I can't wait to hear what you think about them!

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