Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Just Another Pizza

What can I say?  Pizza has got to be one of my favorite foods.  Before I turned vegan, pizza was the one thing holding me back because of my weakness for cheese.  I have gladly overcome that obstacle, and have found many, many ways to enjoy herbivorous pizzas.  (Is herbivorous a word?  I hope so...but you know what I mean, right?)
I cheated on the crust by using naan bread.   When I'm cooking for one, it's the perfect size for an individual pizza and gives me more time to spend with the baby than if I made the dough from scrach.

I made this pizza in two phases: first I sliced up some tomato, onion, and orange bell pepper and placed it over a layer of tomato sauce.  I broke up a slice of tofutti and placed the pieces over the veggies. (This was purely for texture, not taste!)  After baking the pizza I added some fresh scallions, cilantro and half of a creamy ripe avocado.  The cold-meets hot fusion was really tasty and the flavour of the tofutti was (thankfully) masked by all of the other ingredients.

For those who aren't sure about eating a pizza without cheese, I would suggest trying avocado as an alternative because of its smooth creamy texture and mild flavour.

And now that I've already eaten the pizza I'm wondering why I didnt think to sprinkle some nutritional yeast on it.  Ohh, that would have been divine...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Is Agave?

Upon googling agave plant photos I discovered that there are many varieties, and most of them seem to resemble an aloe-vera-like cactus, although it is not in the cacti family at all. 
The core of the agave plant is called a piña (and it really does resemble a pineapple!)  It is pressed and the extracted juice is heated, in a process similar to making maple syrup
The piña core of the blue agave plant is distilled and roasted during tequila production.  The tequila manufacturers must have caught on to the fact that people are using  agave as a substitute for sugar and honey because they've also been selling blue agave nectar.  Hmm...if I leave it in my cupboard for a long time will it ferment and turn into tequila?
Agave registers 27 on the glycemic index, as opposed to honey which rates 83 (out of 100)  To be considered "low" on the GI it must be 55 or less, so agave seems to be a great alternative sweetener for diabetics.  However, its natural sugars are high-fructose so it's probably best to use agave in moderation.
If you'd like to learn more about Agave there is an excellent article here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Almost Sugar-Free Blueberry Rooibos Muffins

I have become fascianted with using tea in unlikely places.  So today when I was making muffins and I discovered that I had no more "milk" I happily used tea instead.  If I was to make this recipe again I might steep the tea in almond or soy milk rather than plain water but I'm still happy with the way these turned out.
This recipe is as sugar-free and fat-free as I could manage.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp stevia
2 tbsp ground flax
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup water, boiled and steeped with Rooibos tea, then cooled to room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp agave nectar
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 (F).  In a medium mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, cinnamon, sevia and flax.  In a seperate bowl, mash bananas and stir in tea water, agave nectar and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry until just mixed, then fold in the berries.  Scoop into ceramic baking tray or lightly oiled muffin tin.  Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes 12 muffins.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Green Tea Biscuits

 Here's my entry for this month's CLICK!  contest:  Green Tea Biscuits. 
Originally my mother used to make biscuits for dinner to accompany our spaghetti, but they are equally as good with breakfast...or in my case they were breakfast.  Since the CLICK! contest theme this month is "coffee & tea" I thought it might be a bit more interesting to actually put tea in the tea biscuits.
Betcha can't eat just one!
Green Tea Biscuits 
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground sea salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1 cup unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
2 teabags green tea.

Warm the "milk" in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Do not boil!  Once it is heated through, remove from stove, add teabags and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in Earth Balance using a pastry blender until it looks like coarse crumbs.  Make a well in the center and slowly pour in the green tea milk.  Stir until the dough comes freely away from the sides of the bowl. 

Knead on a lightly floured board for two minutes.  Roll out the dough to desired thickness; approximately 1/2 inch.  Cut the dough using an inverted glass or other round cutter.  Place on baking stone and bake at 450 for 15 minutes or until golden-brown on top.

Depending on the size you make the biscuits, you can get anywhere from 8 to 12.  Serve warm with fruit preserves, nut butter, or some Earth Balance and of course, a cup of green tea!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Afghan Horseman

I went for dinner last night with a friend to a Vancouver restaurant called The Afghan Horseman.  They have tables and chairs like every other restaurant, but there is also a dimly-lit room (where we sat) in which the table is very close to the floor, and you sit cross-legged on cushions.  It was so comfortable and relaxing.

 There are lots of vegetarian items on the menu - in fact they will prepare just about anything on the menu as a vegetarian dish if it isn't already one.  I ordered "The Vegan Plate"  which had a cucmber salad, potato fritters, rice with carrots, almonds & raisins, lentil dahl, and cauliflower.  Everything was delicious!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Almost Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes traditions need a little bit of an alteration.  Like the one where my dad always stops at a fast food place or gas station and buys peanut butter cookies for a road trip.  They are full of hydrogenated fats, animal ingredients and other things that are not healthy.  But it's just not a road trip without his beloved peanut butter cookies.

So I baked a batch of organic cookies for him to take along on his trip that are lower in fat, and way lower on the glycemic index than their sugary cousins at the convenience store.  Stevia has 0 calories and registers 0 on the GI.  Agave nectar is quite low as well.

I used a recipe from La Dolce Vegan as a base, but only followed it halfway as I needed to make these more diabetic-friendly and lower in fat.  Plus, I didn't quite have enough peanut butter so I topped up my measuring cup with tahini. (it was either that or pumpkin seed butter, which I might try next time)  The result is a moist cookie that is not overly sweet.  If you like your cookies sweeter, it's probably better to stick to the original La Dolce recipe, which I have made before and I can tell you they are really good. 

Almost Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground sea salt
1 "flax egg" (2 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water)
2 tbsp stevia
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini (or other nut/seed butter)
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and stevia in a medium bowl.  In a seperate bowl, stir together "flax egg," peanut butter, tahini, agave nectar, vanilla and water.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir until mixed, adding in the chocolate chips last.  Spoon onto a baking stone or lightly oiled baking sheet. Press cookies down a little bit and bake for 12 minutes.  Makes 16 cookies.

* I wouldn't recommend carob chips for this recipe as they tend to be bitter and may not compliment the subtle sweetness of the other ingredients.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cucumber Noodles with BBQ'd Corn and Lemon-Dill Dressing

I think I'm in love...with Lolo the Vegan Yum Yum Lady for intoducing me to cucumber noodles, among other things.  Today's lunch was inspired by her cucumber noodles with sweet corn & creamy brazil nut sauce post from last summer.  In this heat, who doesn't want to be as "cool as a cucumber?"  Bah-dum, okay, I had to say it.  Ahem...  Anyways, I confess I didn't go raw though like Lolo did, I used BBQ corn on the cob kernels that had cooled to room temp.  Yum, yum, YUM!Cucumber Noodles are in!

Lemon-Dill Dressing
2 1/2 tbsp Nayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Snip dill into fine pieces with scissors and whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over noodles and toss gently.  Sprinkle pumpkin or sunflower seeds on top, if desired. 

To make the noodles I used this instrument, which I think is actually a lemon zester?  Hey, whatever works, right?!