01 October 2014

Vegan Baby: 22 Months

It's been a while since I've flooded your blog readers with photos of Woodrow, so here's a little peek at our growing boy.  And I'm afraid this post might just mark the final installment in the Vegan Baby updates because it's become very clear that what we have on our hands is no longer a baby.

We are officially in toddlerhood.  Aside from his shear size (Anyone out there who thinks vegan kids are slight can come try to sling this guy around for a day.  Oy.), there's his growing sense of independence and risk taking, the word explosion that just hasn't quit, and of course the tantrums too. 

Currently he loves playing with a train set we inherited, making "sushi" and "cookies" out of play-doh and reading books.  Outdoor time has been especially fun over the last few weeks and we've gone for lots of "hikes" along the creek near our house.  There is so much for Woodrow to see and do and he can spend hours looking for frogs, watching ants, smelling flowers, and picking up stones & tossing them into the water.  Simple things are the best.

He loves helping in the kitchen, especially when it comes to mixing and measuring things, and in particular baking muffins (cake as he calls them).  It's never a tidy process but I'm okay with that because I love that he loves to cook with me!

It's been getting easier communicating with him now that his language is emerging.  It's amazing how quickly he picks words up these days and what he chooses to use.  Some of his more often spoken phrases include "Oh! Somebody's house." and "Oh! Somebody's car." pointing out at every car and house we pass.  "No frogs in Mama's house!" he likes to exclaim at 5am and we have no idea why but it's hilarious every time.  "I working." when he's busy playing and you ask him what he's doing.  It's often quite hilarious.  Here is one of our recent conversations that took place while he was busy playing and I tried to convince him it was time to have lunch:

Me: Woodrow it's lunchtime.  We are having soup and toast and hummus.

Woodrow (hopefully):  Ummmm.... Cake?

Me: No darling, we don't have any cake.  We have soup and toast and hummus.  Would you like to sit down for lunch with Mama?

Woodrow (very matter-of-factly): No Mama I don't.  I working. 

With parents as strong-willed and spirited like Mark and myself, it's no big surprise that we have quite little personality on our hands.  As my mama gently reminded me recently, I apparently wrote the book on being a spirited child, so call it my just desserts.  Woodrow is wild and wonderful and quiet and cuddly from one moment to the next.  Two things I'm sure of are that parenting is exhausting and also the best thing ever. 

Only two months until he's 2.  Wow, that happened fast.

27 September 2014

Cornmeal Plum Cake

This recipe came to be all because of those plums I made reference to in my last post .  As lovely and sweet as they were just on their own, they seemed to be just the perfect thing for cake.  They were so darling and small - only about the size of golf ball, so if your plums are bigger, you may only need 4 or so. 

Although not the prettiest of cakes, it has a certain rustic charm to it.  And it's got a little heartiness to it too given the addition of cornmeal and flax eggs.  And since it has fruit in it too, it's totally fit for breakfast as well as dessert.
True story.

I realize that stone fruit season has come and gone for us in Ontario for the most part, but I reckon this cornmeal cake would be equally delicious with the addition of berries too. Or maybe with pears and some crystallized ginger too.  Mmmm, now that will be perfect for fall.

Cornmeal Plum Cake
serves 8-10

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal + 1 teaspoon for the pan
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flaxmeal + 6 Tbsp warm water)
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 cup coconut sugar or unrefined cane sugar
2/3 cup room temperature vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
7-8 small plums, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 350f.  Lightly grease the sides of an 8" round cake pan and then dust with a teaspoon of cornmeal.  Cut a round of parchment to line the bottom and set aside.  Alternatively, you can use an 8x8 brownie pan lined with parchment or greased and dusted the same way.

Mix together the flax egg, to it add the milk, and set aside.  Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and vegan butter.  To it, add the flax egg mixture and dry ingredients, stirring well until a thick batter is achieved.  Pour this batter into the cake pan and spread it out evenly with a spatula.  Top with the plums, cut side down, and press each one gently into the cake batter.  Place in the oven and bake for 55-65 minutes, until the top has lightly browned and a toothpick tests clean.  Remove from the oven to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan and serving.

I made this cake both with coconut sugar and also with unrefined cane sugar (pictured).  The coconut sugar, gave the cake a darker colour and a deeper flavour of molasses.  I completely understand that it may be a cost prohibitive ingredient (one that I very rarely purchase myself because of its price), and so I also tested it with the regular unrefined cane sugar that I stock my pantry with.  This sugar lightened the cake up significantly but both were absolutely delicious.  Moral of the story?  Use what you have on hand, and I guarantee you'll be a happy camper.

17 September 2014

Lemon Cucumber + Red Onion Salad

It's been a full time job keeping up with my fresh produce this season.  As it is I would have had more than enough with my weekly CSA box, but it hasn't stopped there.  I've been lucky enough to be blessed with zucchini, spaghetti squash, radishes for miles from beautiful friends who live on a farm, I have a neighbour whose apple trees lean into my yard and who brings me plums from his other property, and just last week one of Mark's customers from the record store brought us a basket full of his backyard garden.  Let's just say I've had my work cut out for me!

The most recent haul was extra exciting because it contained a bunch of curly kale twice the size of my head, and also because it contained a new-to-me veggie: my first encounter with lemon cucumbers!  For all my years of shopping for veggies I had never met a lemon cucumber before.  Colour me thrilled!

Contrary to their name, they don't taste like lemon. These cute little fellas are smaller than a tennis ball and you'd have to do a double take to make sure it wasn't a lemon you were looking at.  They are covered in prickly bumps which are easily removed by rubbing them in a tea towel after washing, and their skin is thin and needn't be peeled.  Their flavour is not much different from a usual cucumber so they can be easily used mush as you would your favourite concombre, as Woodrow calls them.  (My little French dropping cutie.)

When playing around with them today I decided to keep things simple because I was in the mood for a crisp salad and because I had plums to get to too (see above).  I sliced them thinly and mixed them with some red onion and lovely, fresh sunflower sprouts, making for a super light and tangy dish.  A perfect for lunch for one, or could also serve 2 as an accompaniment.

Lemon Cucumber + Red Onion Salad

2-3 lemon cucumbers
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 cups sunflower sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp umeboshi vinegar

Soak the onions in a little water for 5-10 minutes to lessen their bite.  Meanwhile, wash the cucumbers and dry them off in a clean tea towel, gently rubbing their skin to remove the prickly bumps.  Slice them thinly and combine in a bowl with the drained onions.  Whisk together the oil and vinegar and drizzle half of it over the cucumbers and onion.  Toss to coat and set aside to marinate either on the counter or in the fridge for 5 minutes.  Toss with the sprouts (or any other salad green really), right before serving, adding more dressing to taste, and serve.

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.