27 July 2015

Homemade BBQ Sauce + BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches

I must admit that I've never really had a big love for barbecue sauce.  Now, being that I haven't eaten meat since I was 10, I guess that shouldn't really come as a surprise since generally barbecue sauce is something reserved for slathering on meat.  If I think back far enough, I'm pretty sure there was a time in my tweens when I took to dipping my potatoes in BBQ sauce, and the year in my 20s that I had a big thing for BBQ chips.  But other than that, I could pretty much take it or leave it.

But then a few years ago, I met jackfruit and it kind of changed everything.  Jackfruit as I know it, comes in a can packed in water or brine and it's very easy to use in cooking provided you've got an awesome sauce to cook it with.  (It's also at times very hard to come by, depending on where you live.   Asian markets are usually my go to, but without a big one up in Sudbury for example, it's only ever found packed in syrup which is a completely different product all together and not useful for savoury purposes.)

Fresh jackfruit, by contrast, is a monstrosity of a fruit that is big enough for two people to carry.  To slice it is a thing of wonder and the fruit isn't so much juicy, as it is gummy with a thick, sticky, glue-like substance.  I had the chance to try a piece of it fresh when in Austin at VVC while the lovely folks from Upton's were sampling it and it was really interesting to taste.  It actually tastes - I kid you not - exactly like Juicy Fruit chewing gum!  Strange but kind of good too?

But I digress.  Since discovering how interesting jackfruit can be in cooking, I've really enjoyed playing around with different sauces.  Usually I end up using Mexican flavours, but BBQ has been one that I like to come back to too for its sweet, tangy, spicy kick.  I've tried bottled sauces in the past and some have been great, but I wanted to make my own too so that I could kick out some of the sugar and filler that they usually contain.  The result is a super awesome sauce, made without ketchup or corn syrup.  Just pure whole foods sauciness.  (If I do say so myself.)

The sauce itself is so simple to make: add everything together and simmer it up for 20 minutes.  It's got a real bite to it, thanks to the apple cider vinegar, a little sweetness from the tomatoes and molasses and just a little spice from the addition of Sriracha.  Then it's just a matter of cooking the jackfruit in the sauce over low heat, to really infuse it with the delicious flavours.  This is easy summer cooking at it's finest.

I kept ours on the mild side in case the little person in the house was feeling open to trying it (spoiler alert: he wasn't), so in the future I'll definitely add more for our heat-loving tastebuds.  I imagine this BBQ sauce would also be amazing on tofu, so I think that's what I'll be doing with the leftovers.

Homemade BBQ Sauce
makes about 250ml

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pureed tomato passata
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (or more to taste)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
juice of 1/2 a lime

1. Heat the oil and minced garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well.  Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, reduce heat slightly and cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until thickened.  Use immediately or cool and store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week (or maybe more).

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches
makes 4

1 tsp olive oil
1 20oz can young green jackfruit (packed in water or brine)
1/2 cup Homemade BBQ Sauce
4 soft buns or dinner rolls
vegan mayo
1 1/2 cup shredded green or savoy cabbage
1 carrot, grated
1 green onion, sliced
juice of 1/2 a lime
pinch of fine sea salt

1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit in a colander.  Using your hands, break up the pieces - the jackfruit is quite fibrous and will pull apart into shreds quite easily.  For the bits that don't shred, you can leave them whole or slice them into smaller bits if you prefer with a knife.

2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat and add the jackfruit, allowing it to sizzle in the oil for a minute.  Add in the BBQ sauce, stir to coat and reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  (Or more, up to half an hour, over low heat if you have the time!)

3. Meanwhile, while the jackfruit is cooking, combine the cabbage, carrot, green onion and lime juice in a bowl.  Toss to combine.  Sprinkle with a pinch (or two!) of sea salt and toss again.

4. Slice the buns.  Pile on the hot BBQ jackfruit, top with a generous helping of cabbage slaw, spread a thick layer of vegan mayo on the top of the bun, top the sandwich and serve.

Notes: I think the quality of the apple cider vinegar will really make a difference in the final taste of the BBQ sauce.  I like to use an organic, unpasteurized vinegar (Filsinger's) but Bragg's also makes a good one and I'm sure there are other brands out there too.  For the tomatoes, I buy jarred strained tomatoes which is more concentrated than simply using canned tomatoes.

If you try the BBQ sauce or Pulled Jackfruit sandwiches for yourself, I'd love to see the results, so tag  me @jessicalaurennadel or #cupcakesandkale on Instagram! 

20 July 2015

One Bowl Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sometimes I get that baking urge and think how great it would be to get in the kitchen and create something new and fun and interesting.  And then I look around and see bananas on the counter, so ripe they've begun to spot.  And then a toddler rushes past me as he hears the clang of my glass mixing bowls being pulled from the cupboards, asking 'Can I help?!'.  And just like that, the decision pretty much makes itself.  Banana muffins it is.

I've gradually been reducing the sugar and the oil in my standard banana muffin recipe and now it's reached a point that I love.  The muffins are not too sweet, just sweet enough, and they're made with whole wheat flour making them a little more dense, but perfectly satisfying.  Especially with the addition of some mini chocolate chips.

As an added bonus they're a cinch to make and the recipe is very forgiving.  Case in point: even when I had to leave the room for a few minutes with Woodrow at the wheel doing the mixing, they turned out perfectly.  Plus, one bowl for mixing makes clean up that much easier.

I like to fill the muffin tins with batter almost to the top and then sprinkle a few extra chips on top so that as they cook, they rise into a nice, pretty little muffin top.  They're perfect for little hands and for snacking around the house or on the go.  We baked them up to share with friends who were coming over for a playdate and they were a hit with the little ones and mamas alike.

Memorize this one, and trust me, you'll never curse those browning bananas on your countertop again.

One Bowl Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12 muffins or 2 1/2 dozen mini muffins

3 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350f and lightly spritz 2 mini muffin pans with oil.

2. Mash the banana well with the back of a fork in a large bowl.  Stir in the coconut oil and sugar until combined.  Add in the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon and stir until just mixed and no major lumps remain.  Fold in the chocolate chips, reserving a tablespoon or 2.

3. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling almost to the top.  Dot each muffin-in-waiting with a few of the extra chocolate chips and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the muffins test clean with a toothpick.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tins before transferring to a cooling rack.  Store fully cooled muffins in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for longer storage.

Notes: If using full size muffin tins instead of mini tins like I used, they'll need to bake for about 25 minutes.  I used Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips (my favourite brand of baking chips).

30 June 2015

Vegan Travels: Chicago

Two weeks back now we did something big, something we hadn't done in 3 years.  We took a trip together.  As in alone - adults only - sans bebe.  It was amazing and fun and exciting and made entirely possible thanks to my mother in law who generously offered to mind our Woodrow for 5 days.  Aren't we so lucky?

We decided to travel to Chicago because we thought our usual NYC could use a change up and because I'd never been.  We were in for such a treat.

The architecture in Chicago is unreal and we did a few guided tours to really soak it in, which is a little out of character for us as we tend to shy away from anything "touristy".  In this case it was a great idea though because we gleaned much more information from the expert guides than we may have otherwise and it inspired us to "look up" a lot more as we wandered the city.

Chicago hotels are really pricey but I managed to find a quaint little 8-room hotel called The Ruby Room that's attached to a spa, right on Division Street.  Not knowing Chicago, I didn't really know if it was located in a good part of Division Street or not, but given Mark's fondness of  Jason Molina and our shared love of the song Division St. Girl, it was too serendipitous to pass up.  Lucky for us it was in a great part of Wicker Park so there were restaurants, coffee shops and hip little bars all around us.  And as with all of our travel, we had a lot of eating that we were looking forward to.

We arrived mid-afternoon and after checking into our room we set off to explore.  After putting in some good foot work we were ready for a drink and a snack.  We settled on Big Star, a super busy taco bar that was full of a young, hip crowd.  Unable to score a table, we grabbed a spot at the bar and enjoyed a few margaritas (the best we'd had outside of our own!).  We also tried 2 of their vegetarian taco options, veganized.  One was piled high with spicy, stewed mushroos and was garnished with freshly chopped swiss chard.  The other (not pictured) was a soy chorizo and potato taco that was a bit too spicy and somehow also a little bit bland for my liking.  Never the less the people watching was great and we decided it was worth coming back to if another sunny afternoon presented itself.  We returned our last night in town for another round of sunny margaritas (We couldn't resist!) and to try the carrot mole tacos.  They were very yummy although the mole flavour was pretty undistinguishable, and I requested some shredded green cabbage to liven it up.

After that first stop at Big Star we window shopped our way to Native Foods, a west coast chain that's expanded quite a bit it appears.  This was our first time ever dining there and I was really looking forward to seeing if it met the hype I've heard from others.  It's very casual counter service set up and after much indecision  we finally decided to try the nachos and the reuben. The nachos arrived first, and although they looked great, they were a real let down - luke warm, if not cold, with 2 big scoops of cashew cheese that was just too sweet for nachos.  Meh.  We picked at them a bit until our sandwich arrived.  The reuben on the other hand was really delicious and we happily gobbled it up.  Had there been no other vegan restaurants in Chicago we would have for sure gone back again to Native Foods, but given our other options we decided that we didn't really want to return.

Being the good little food-obsessed vegans we are, we planned our first full day so that we'd be in the neighbourhood of Upton's Breakroom around lunch time.  Unfortunately for us it was pouring rain that day, but we trekked on by foot anyways in search of seitan.  

The Breakroom is literally that - the factory processing operation happens next door and so there were several employees buzzing around at various times we were there.  There are only 8 seats, but from what we saw, a lot of their customers come in for take out so it must work for them.  Our first time there (because it was SO good we had to return on our last day!), Mark had the Italian Sandwich which wasn't the prettiest thing as it was just filled with a ton of thinly sliced seitan and pickled cauliflower and carrots, but he assured me that it was delicious.  I went with the employee meal of the day which was a Buffalo Seitan Ranch Salad, and It. Was. Amazing.  We topped things off with a giant cookie for Mark and a cone of soft serve for me, because I cannot ever pass up vegan soft serve!

On our return trip we made a point to arriving in time for the brunch menu and Mark went with the Club Sandwich, while I opted for the Breakfast Sandwich that was stuffed with tofu and hollandaise, seitan bacon, tomatoes and spinach, all on an English muffin.  It was again, a winner, as was the Club.   More soft serve (this time with cookie "sprinkles", which were just broken pieces of a giant cookie that the staff so awesomely adorned my cone with!) and another cookie for the road and we were on our way.

We also enjoyed some great snacking on our little private fire escape balcony with treats we picked up along our travels.  My favourite of all though was a wheel of Treeline cheese that we gobbled up with fresh bread and cherries.  Some locally brewed kobucha that I found on tap at a local shop was pretty great too.  

Planned for the end of our first full day was a book talk and Q&A at Read It and Eat.  We fought through tornado-worthy rains to get there (That's the honest truth - tornado sirens were ringing while we were en route!) and as it turned out we were the only crazy ones getting drenched.  Well - us and all of the wild Blackhawks fans that were on their way to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final!  So although the winds were against a great turnout for the event, we really loved getting to shop around in such a beautiful little space, and I found some friends up on the shelves too.  We left with dinner recommendations for what was a great taco joint, aptly named Taco Joint, and a pile of books (wrapped in plastic) tucked under our arms.

The 16th was Mark's birthday (the reason for our trip!) and so we filled the day with lots of fun, including many delicious coffees and vegan scones, walking around the Pilsen neighbourhood trying to find decent vegan tacos, a boat tour along the river to see some of the architecture from another angle, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and dinner at The Chicago diner. 

In the name of celebration we gorged ourselves on a ton of heavy, diner food!  We started with the Buffalo Seitan Wings (not pictured) and the Pizza Puffs which were a feature menu item.  More of a pizza pocket than a tiny, cute little "puff" but still totally delicious.  The wings were spicy, deep fried and to die for.  After that we shared another Reuben (I think Cadry's love of them must have rubbed off on me or something.) with a side of Mac 'n Cheese because we needed more carbs.  Hah.  Although my dark, horrible photo does it no justice, this may be the Reuben to beat in terms of Reuben races folks.  It was awesome sauce.

Have you noticed the reoccurring them in all of our meals?  Holy moly, Chicago is a seitan and taco town!  It's not that I didn't love it, but man alive, did I want a big 'ol salad by the end of our trip.  For our final night out we enjoyed a meal of small plates at Mana.  Everything had a bit of an Asian fusion vibe going on, including fancy pants sake cocktails and it was really nice.  About 1/2 of the menu is vegan and the other half vegetarian, but there were plenty of choices.  I put my camera away so that we could just enjoy the food and each other so I have no photos to share, but we enjoyed a cucumber and seaweed salad, followed by pan-fried gyoza (my favourite dish of the meal!) and spicy thai green curry sweet potatoes and rice noodles.  If that hadn't filled me up I totally was ready to order some of the collards next!  But, we were stuffed and so enjoyed the summer night and wandered around the neighbourhood again one last time.

Chicago welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like we were old friends.  I think we'll be back.

12 June 2015

Artichoke Spinach Dip from Plant-Powered Families + GIVEAWAY

When I was asked to review Plant-Powered Families, Dreena Burton's latest publication, I jumped at the chance.  An entire book, dedicated to vegan families and kiddos?  Yes please!!

Believe it or not, this is my first time getting my hands on one of Dreena Burton's books.  (Let's just say, I now have some serious catching up to do!)  Part of what I love about this book is Dreena's no-fuss approach to recipes.  There were quite a few times that I found myself nodding my head while reading a recipe, thinking, Hey, I make something like this already - my boys will surely love this too!  I've also had virtually everything I've needed in my pantry already and didn't need to go shopping for other ingredients - I LOVE that in a cookbook!

This book is Dreena' 5th and the one she says she's been wanting to write.  I totally get that - since becoming a mama myself, I've definitely marked wanting to write a book of kid-approved recipes on my bucket list.

While the book contains a lot of wonderful recipes, there is also a large section about raising a vegan (or to use Dreena's terminology, plant-powered) family.  From a chapter on stocking your pantry, to tips on dealing with picky eaters, to dealing with school-aged brown baggers and even a section on nutrition that was written with the guidance of a holistic nutritionist, this book is definitely well rounded.  It's such a well thought out book and a great tool for families.  It's also a gorgeous book, shot by the lovely Nicole Axworthy, and is full of stunning food photography which makes you want to lick the pages.  But for the record I didn't actually lick the pages, mmmkay?
(Spoiler alert: there's a giveaway at the end of this post to win a copy for yourself!)

I didn't waste time before beginning to try out the recipes, and we started with the Thick 'N Hearty Tomato Sauce, because as I've mentioned before, pasta makes mealtimes easy for everyone around our table.  I had only 1 cup of red lentils on hand so I made a half-recipe and still had lots of leftovers for another meal later in the week (win!).  This carrot and lentil-based sauce was really yummy and enjoyed by us all.  I chose to puree mine because I have a 2 1/2 year old and I know better when it comes to his sensibilities.  ;)

While the sauce was cooking, I made Dreena's recipe for Chickpea Nibbles.  I often make these myself with tamari & garlic granules to be eaten as a snack, salad or bowl topping, but I was intrigued by the addition of balsamic vinegar. Two words: Game. Changer.  I loved the tang of the balsamic and I don't know that I'll ever make them without it again!

Next up were the Pumpkin Snackles because I don't care that it's not fall, I love pumpkin everything all year long. These were a HIT with the little vegan in the house.  The are perfect little handfuls and keep their moisture for 3-4 days as they're baked in big scoops as opposed to flattened out.  We skipped the raisins but included the 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips.  (Because I also include chocolate chips all year round.).  I was happy with how healthy they are (reminict of my banana bread cookies) and so I had no problem with Woodrow eating 2 as part of an on-the-go breakfats one morning, as his Grandma took him out early for a playdate.

I also whipped up the Mild Cheesy Dip and we enjoyed that for lunch with veggie dippers and drizzled on brown rice. I added lots of hotsauce to mine, Yum!  I didn't have any white chia seeds on hand which the recipe calls for so I used black chia seeds.  It was no problem for us to see some flecks in the sauce but if I were to make this for company I think it's worth the extra stop of picking up white chia because it's that much more pretty of a sauce (and that would stop some likely comments from the peanut gallery asking about what the spots are all about, lol).

When flipping through initially, one recipe in particular caught my eye - the Artichoke Spinach Dip. OMG I thought - this is exactly what I'm craving all the time - tangy, creamy, salty and perfect for dipping!  (Also it totally made me crave Beanito's Chipotle Chips which I spied in the photo styling.)  This recipe did NOT disappoint.  And I loved again, how simple it was to prepare and the best part - you don't soak the cashews so there's zero need to planning ahead.  MY KIND OF RECIPE.  We ate it for dinner along with plenty of veggies for dipping and some organic tortialla chips too.  It was super yummy and I want to eat it every day.  I don't even watch the Superbowl, but if I did, I would totally be making this for my next Superbowl party.

This is the recipe I'm most excited about (in case you couldn't tell from my enthusiasm above) and I am SO excited to share the recipe with you.

Artichoke Spinach Dip
Makes 3–3½ cups
This dip is exceptionally creamy and flavorful, and yet it contains no vegan cheese substitutes or oil. It will be a hit at any party!

3/4 cup raw cashews (unsoaked)
1–2 medium-large cloves garlic, sliced or quartered, to taste
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dry (ground) mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk (see note)
2½ –3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, partially thawed (helps for pulsing in blender; see note)
2 loosely packed cups fresh spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a blender, add cashews, garlic, sea salt, mustard, black pepper, milk, and lemon juice (I like the full 3 tablespoons for tanginess).

Blend until very smooth. (If using a Blendtec or other highpowered blender, this will only take a minute or so. If using a standard blender, keep blending until very smooth.)

Add the artichokes and spinach and just pulse through; do not fully blend, in order to keep some chunky texture! Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish (a loaf pan or similar size), and bake for 17–20 minutes, until lightly golden on top.

Milk Note: Be sure to use unsweetened milk. I prefer almond or soy for best flavor.

Artichoke Note: Frozen artichokes are preferred, but you can substitute canned if needed. Just rinse well and drain before using.

Serving Suggestions: This is the perfect party dip, served with sliced baguette or warm pita breads. Sliced red bell peppers and the inner (small and crisp) leaves of romaine also make great dippers!

Recipe reprinted with permission from Ben Bella Books.  
Photograph credit for Pumpkin Snackles, Mild Cheesy Dip and second shot of Artichoke Spinach Dip: Nicole Axworthy.

And now for GIVEAWAY time!  I'm thrilled to be giving away a copy of Plant Powered Families too!  It's a wonderful book and would be a great asset in your kitchen. Thank yo so much to both Ben Bella and Dreena Burton for the book.  The giveaway will be open to Canadian and US residents and will run until June 20th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

09 June 2015

Hoisen + Lime Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

I've been having a hard time getting this post out, as I've been trying to find the right words to describe my time spent in Austin 2 weekends back, but I keep scrapping it and starting over.  You see, I wanted to do justice to my amazing experience at the third and final Vida Vegan Con, but it's hard, even now,  to wrap my head it.  The experience of the weekend was life changing.

I'm not sure how to describe just how inspiring it was to be surrounded by hundreds of people who get it.  Who get you.  Who are all working to toward goals of love, compassion and animal justice.  Who don't ask you where you get your protein.  Hahaha.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone at times, as had I traveled there alone without a home base buddy to be my safety net in a crowd of new people.  My roommate for the weekend Sarah quickly became that, but I still felt socially awkward at times as I can be really shy with new folk.  But I quickly decided that no one would know I was feeling so uncomfortable if I didn't act it, so I made a point of introducing myself to folks I recognized as well as new people constantly throughout the conference.  It was scary at first, but it got easier each time.  Fake it 'til ya make it, baby.  

Over the course of the weekend, I learned from amazing peers and teachers, scarfed down delicious vegan food, tasted ALL the vegan cheese, and met friends that up until then I had only known in the realm of the blogosphere.  I even finally connected in person with my super rad cookbook photographer Jackie!  I think that's what I touched me most - seeing online friendships translate into real life friendships with some incredibly talented women (and a couple of their kind, hilarious husbands too).  Thankfully at least my Toronto gals are close by, but I wish Sudbury wasn't so dang far from Portland, LA and Iowa.

It was, in a word, INSPIRING.

To the 3 women who have invested 6 years of their lives into planning the 3 VVCs - Thank you.  The sense of community felt within the walls was palpable.  You are all truly wonderful and thank you so much for helping me get there this year.  My hope now is that some crazy cats also in attendance got so inspired that they're currently putting their heads together and trying to figure out a way to carry the VVC torch on in some new evolution.

Okay, now on to the recipe for these tacos, yeah?!?

They're amazing because they're delicious (duh), colourful and so quick and easy.  Like dinner is on the table and in your mouth in 20 minutes.  So good, right?!

Once you chop your cauliflower it's tossed in a yummy sauce and baked for 15 minutes.  During that time your super chopping, grating and cabbage cup patience will get a work out.  Because that's one thing I learned in making these tacos - cabbage can be reeeeally trying on my patience when all I want to do is peel perfect leaves in one piece without ripping them apart fortheloveofgod!  I wish you ease in this feat.  If all else fails, just chop it up and eat 'em like a salad.  Still delicious and you'll even keep your hands clean.

Hoisen + Lime Roasted Cauliflower Tacos
serves 2-4 (depending on if there are any other dishes accompanying the tacos)

For the tacos:
1/2 large head of cauliflower
1 carrot
1/4 english cucumber
1 cup sunflower sprouts
6-10 full leaves from a small head of red cabbage
sesame seeds, to garnish

For the Hoisen Lime Sauce:
1/4 cup hoisen sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1. Preheat oven to 400f.  Chop the cauliflower into mini florets, separating the stems and chopping those too.  Mix together the sauce and then use half of it to coat the cauliflower in a baking dish.  Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.  Place cauliflower in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove, stir and then return to the oven under the broiler to brown the cauliflower for a minute or two - but be careful not to burn it!

2.  Meanwhile while the hoisin cauliflower is cooking, prep the vegetables.  I found the easiest way to peel my cabbage taco shells was to slice the bottom inch off of my little head of cabbage, and then gently work the outer leaf from both the top and bottom until it has peeled free.

3. Assemble the tacos by piling all the veggies into the cabbage leaf taco shells and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  Serve with reserved Hoisen Lime Sauce & Sriracha.

Also, I want to leave you with a few photos from the weekend.  Such fond memories that I won't soon forget....
(Shout out to Cadry for the dinner table shot from our final meal together.)

More from me soon.  I've got an amazing cookbook review and giveaway coming up as well as a vegan kid update!  XO