The New Veganminster Project

Our pal Melissa is building an excellent vegan community of businesses in Vancouver suburb New Westminster, and she’s giving away a stay there for two lucky folks. Interested? Read on…

Win a Luxurious Vegan Culinary Getaway for Two!

New Westminster, B.C. – Look out Portland there’s a new vegan culinary destination carving out it’s territory in the Pacific Northwest and hungry visitors don’t have to cross the border or check the exchange rate to get there. Nestled between the mighty Fraser River and the ultra convenient sky train New Westminster is a hot bed of vegan foodie activity and for the month of April this Royal City is showing off it’s Top Chef worthy dining experiences.

Although visitors may not need their government issue passports in order to get to New Westminster (unless of course they originate Stateside) what they will require is to pick up a New Veganminster Passport to gain entry to this exciting event. Once a New Veganminster Passport has been collected from either Shine Wellness Space, Coming Home Café, Karmavore Vegan Shop or Crepe Des Amis participants are urged to taste their way through the city enjoying some truly sensational culinary delights!

Once a New Veganminster Passport has been turned in at the end of April participants will be eligible to win this incredible, tasty prize package for two:
Our Getaway Grand Prize:
• One Night Deluxe Accommodation at The Inn at the Quay
• Welcome Basket From Karmavore Vegan Shop
• Lunch from Crepe Des Amis at the Fabulous River Market
• Guided Tour from Fraser River Bike Tours & Rentals
• A Dinner Feast at Wild Rice
• Delicious Breakfast at Coming Home Cafe
• Yoga Class Package at Shine Wellness Space
Our Stunning Second Prize:

• Wine Tasting for Two at Pacific Breeze Winery
The total winnings for this incredible vegan prize package is approximately $450! The Ultimate Vegan Getaway Contest runs from April 2nd to April 30th and participants are required to purchase an item of delicious vegan food in order to receive a stamp in their passports. For more information and for contest rules please visit http://www.thehungrytaurus.com/events/.

About Melissa Balfour
Melissa Balfour is a culinary event planner as well as a food activist blogger at The Hungry Taurus (thehungrytaurus.com). Searching for a cause and a way to make a difference in the world Melissa started the New Veganminster Project as a way to turn her city into the next Vegan Mecca of the Pacific Northwest. By highlighting existing vegan friendly establishments and meeting with potential new ones Melissa is helping to promote the plant based lifestyle one restaurant meal at a time. You can follow her on twitter @hungrytaurus.
To arrange an interview with Melissa Balfour please call 778.235.7020 or email thehungrytaurus@gmail.com

vegan abroad: review of Marmalade Restaurant in San Juan, PR

Following is a guest review by a good friend of ours who recently visited a veg-friendly restaurant in Puerto Rico. Let’s all imagine we’re drinking cocktails in the sun while we read it…

In late February I had the pleasure of visiting San Juan with my mom. Since holidays with my family are always an excuse to consume obscene amounts of delicious food, we wasted no time looking up the best places to eat. Marmalade is located in a restaurant-laden area of the beautiful district of Old San Juan, and its atmosphere is classy and open while still being funky and intimate. Backpackers be warned: this meal is not going to come cheap, but I assure you it is worth every cent — what’s a vacation if you don’t treat yourself?

glow bar

Before I talk about the food, I’ll just say that the service was incredible — attentive, accommodating, and knowledgeable without being imposing or pretentious. When I mentioned I was reviewing for a vegan food blog, our waiter was not only eager to point out appropriate items on the menu, but even asked the chef for a copy of the menu for me to take home (which he apparently doesn’t do for just anybody). The chef himself — Peter Schintler, an accomplished gentleman who studied under Gordon Ramsay — came out later on to talk with us about the food and the blog, and vegan/vegetarian food in general. Apparently his wife is vegetarian so he doesn’t find it difficult to cook without meat or dairy, and often will at home. I also appreciate his willingness to make something for everyone by leaving items out or altering dishes to meet dietary restrictions or allergies, something many chefs would consider akin to ruining the food.

Marmalade has a full page of vegetarian items on their extensive menu, and nearly all of these are or can easily be made vegan, which our wonderful server assured me would not be a problem. You can order à la carte if you’d like, but I recommend doing one of the tasting menus, which gives you four, five, or six smaller courses (including dessert, for $59, $69, and $79 respectively). I did five courses (though it was a bit much for me, admittedly), of which three were vegan.

sweet corn and lemongrass soup

The first dish I tried was the delectable sweet corn and lemongrass soup, which came poured over a salsa of haas avocado, grilled corn, red onion, and organic sprouts, and topped with sunflower shoots. The sweetness of the corn was offset by the tart pieces of avocado, and it had a pleasantly spicy finish. The texture and creaminess were reminiscent of a chowder, but the flavour palate was completely unique. I’m a big soup lover, but it’s not terribly often I have a soup in a restaurant that really blows my mind. This one did.

ratatouille

For the main course, I went with the ratatouille (I asked to have the goat cheese left off). This hearty provençal vegetable stew featured potato, spinach, zucchini, and a handmade roasted red pepper sheet pasta in a creamy tomato sauce, topped with pine nuts, sunflower shoots, and candied black olives. The sauce was so beautifully creamy that I actually double-checked with the server to make sure it was, in fact, vegan (he was jokingly offended that I would even ask). All the vegetables were cooked to perfection — no mealy potatoes or squishy zucchini to be found here — and each individual flavour was brought out. I don’t recommend ordering this as your last of four dinner courses, like I did; it’s quite filling so I could barely manage half of it, much to my own disappointment.

lemon-chamomile sorbet
Thankfully, there’s always room in the dessert stomach, and I had the lemon-chamomile sorbet*. This soft and delicately flavoured sorbet was punctuated with crisp pieces of sesame-peanut brittle. Certainly a combination I’d never encountered before, but it worked wonderfully, and its cool, light sweetness was the perfect finish for someone like me who had eaten too much but still wanted dessert.
*please note: this dish has honeycomb in it, but since most vegans I know are okay with honey, I felt I could include it here.

Overall, I think Marmalade was honestly one of the best restaurant experiences I have ever had. Not once were we kept waiting, not once was a bite of food I put in my mouth anything short of incredible, and not once did I feel rushed or uncomfortable. But the pinnacle of service that goes above and beyond? When we arrived, we had just been caught in an impressive rainstorm and had been using my mom’s scarf to shield our heads. Thus, it was completely soaked and she asked our server if he could hang it somewhere for her. When he gave it back to her at the end of the night, he hadn’t merely hung it up — it was still warm from being in the dryer!

I truly hope that anyone planning a trip to San Juan, or any Puerto Ricans who may be reading this, will devote an evening to visiting this delightful and creative restaurant.

all photos by me, from my flickr

Caramelized Apple Sticky Buns

We made these for our most recent brunch to rave reviews. Warning: if you are going to make these, be prepared to use a LOT of Earth Balance, a LOT of sugar, and a LOT of flour. These are by no means healthy, despite the inclusion of fruit. Oh, and prepare to spend about 4 hours on them.

The base is the VeganYumYum Perfect Cinnamon Buns dough. We had used it before and it worked perfectly. For brunch I doubled the recipe, but making a single recipe should work just fine. Yield is 12 big buns.

Dough

The original VeganYumYum recipe for the dough comes with great step by step photos, so head over there if you’d like.

Yeast Mixture
4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (a little less than 2 packets)
1 tsp Sugar
1 Cup Warm Water

Dough
1 Cup Non-dairy Milk
2/3 Cup Sugar
2/3 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
2 tsp Salt
2 Egg Replacers, prepared, optional (I used 2 tsp ground flax and 6 tbsp warm water, stirred in a small bowl and let to sit for a couple of minutes)
Yeast Mixture, from above
6 Cups All Purpose Flour, more for kneading

Filling

Raisins, optional
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Whiskey
2 Cinnamon Sticks

1/3 cup Walnuts, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup Earth Balance Margarine
1 & 1/4 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Ground Cinnamon

Sticky Sauce

1 – 2 Apples
1/2 Lemon or 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tbsp Maple Syrup (agave works too)
2 tbsp Non-Dairy Milk

Dough

Mix together the ingredients in the yeast mixture in a non-reactive bowl. Let the yeast mixture sit for about ten minutes to proof – you’ll know it’s ready when it’s nice and foamy.

While you’re doing that, in a saucepan, combine the non-dairy milk, sugar, margarine, salt, and egg replacers over medium-low heat. Heat until the margarine is melted, mixing together. You don’t want it to be hot – if it’s too hot, it’ll kill the yeast. Test by putting a bit on the back of your wrist.

Add the yeast mixture to the milk/margarine/sugar mixture and stir.

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of flour with the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix in partially. Turn out onto a clean, dry, floured surface and knead together until the dough is smooth and elastic, or 8 – 10 minutes. Use extra flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Once the dough is ready, place it in an oiled non-reactive bowl, cover it with (oiled) plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes.

Now you’re ready to start preparing your filling.

Filling

If you’re doing the raisins, follow these steps. Break up the cinnamon sticks. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the raisins, whiskey, and broken cinnamon sticks. If the whiskey doesn’t cover the raisins, add water. Allow this mixture to heat until it’s simmering; simmer 10 minutes and then remove from heat. Allow the raisins to continue to soak.

Toast the walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, flipping often so they don’t burn. You’ll want to toast them until they have darkened/goldened slightly and are fragrant. If you really wanted to go decadent here, you could candy the walnuts.

At about the 70 minute mark, peel the apples and chop them into cm x cm cubes, approximately. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to avoid them browning while you take care of the other steps.

At about the 80 minute mark, when your dough is just about finished rising, throw the raisins into a food processor or blender, or use a hand blender. Alternately, cut them with a knife. You want to purée them a bit so they are spreadable, almost like a jam.

Sticky Sauce

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the margarine, sugar, maple syrup, and milk. Stir together until the Earth Balance is melted.

Pour the sticky sauce into the bottom of your lasagna pan. Add the chopped apples.

Dough – rolling and filling

You’ll know your dough is finished rising when you can press a finger into it and it doesn’t spring back.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Find your lasagna pan. Oil it.

Remove the dough from the oiled bowl and roll it out into a 15″ by 20″ rectangle on a clean, dry, floured surface. The more perfect the rectangle, the more perfect your buns.

Melt the Earth Balance for the filling and brush it evenly across the dough rectangle. Add the sugar, sprinkling evenly, and the cinnamon.

Now, starting at one horizontal edge (I prefer the one closest to my edge of the counter/table), spread the raisin mixture along the edge. You want to fill up about the bottom 5cm of the rectangle. This will fill the centre of the rolls with yummy whiskey raisins.

Sprinkle the toasted walnuts evenly across the dough rectangle.

Now it’s time to roll your buns up. Start at the bottom edge and roll nice and tight until you get to the top. You will now have a long, skinny tube. If possible, you will want to cut them with thread or fishing line so you don’t squish them. I used my thread to make marks along the length of the tube so I would end up with 12 evenly sized buns. Don’t worry – these will continue to rise afterward; they won’t really be as small as they look.

Again, for more details, check out the step by step photo guidelines at VeganYumYum.

Once your rolls are sliced, place them in the pan. They will be swimming in sauce by the end, which is good. Cover them and let them rise some more – I let them rise overnight in the fridge, but you can also just let them rise in a warm spot for another hour or 90 minutes.

Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until golden. We had a bit of an issue with the bottoms not being fully cooked due to the overwhelming wetness of the apples and sticky sauce. If this happens to you, put a piece of tin foil over the pan to avoid burning the tops and bake for another 20 minutes in the oven.

Let them cool for about 5 minutes before you eat them. Pull ’em out, flip ’em over, and eat with a fork. Add candied walnuts on top, or icing sugar, or fresh apple. Yum!

Pinterest as a recipe collection tool

When I first started using Pinterest I didn’t really get how it was different from Tumblr or any of the other myriad social media services I use, but lately I’ve been putting together a gorgeous collection of food inspiration. Some of it’s recipes, and some of it is presentation inspiration, and I thought I’d give you guys a chance to check out my “eat it” board on Pinterest if you’re a user of the site as well.

Nanaimo Bars, courtesy of A Dash of Compassion

I’ve made these nanaimo bars twice and have had great success both times. They were more perfect the second time – it is PIVOTAL that you take your time making these for them to succeed – but they were delicious both times.

Original recipe here.

I’ve always used tapioca or corn starch in place of arrowroot. It can also be made with success without the vanilla bean seeds, which not everyone can afford or even find, but do add more vanilla extract (another teaspoon should do it) to replace it. I made a double recipe of the cinnamon graham cookies when I made them the first time and ended up with enough cookie for three batches… and these cookies are not sweet enough to be eaten on their own. It’s great if you want to have a cache of graham crumbs, though.


Photo courtesy a Dash of Compassion.

I’m reposting this recipe simply because I cannot stand the idea of losing it!

Nanaimo bars from A Dash of Compassion

Ingredients
Bottom layer:
1/2 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
5 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup almonds
1 tbsp ground flax + 2 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (see recipe below)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Middle layer:
1/2 cup vegan butter
2 tbsp nondairy milk (I use coconut)
1 tbsp arrowroot
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2 cups vegan powdered sugar

Top layer:
4 oz. dark chocolate
2 tbsp vegan butter

Instructions

Bottom layer:
In a medium saucepan, combine the vegan butter and sugar and cook over low heat until melted. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat.
In a food processor, process the almonds to a fine meal. Add the flax mixture, cookie crumbs and coconut flakes and pulse to combine.
Add the chocolate sauce to the dry ingredients in the food processor and process until thoroughly combined.
Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch square pan. Set aside.

Middle layer:
Using an electric mixer, beat the vegan butter until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl, whisk together the nondairy milk, arrowroot, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. Add the mixture to the butter and beat until well combined.
Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
Spread the mixture evenly over top of the bottom layer using an offset spatula and place in the freezer until firm, about one hour.

Top layer:
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat and then stir in the vegan butter. Remove from heat.
Remove the pan from the freezer and then sit for about 10 minutes. Then spread the chocolate evenly over the top using an offset spatula. Work quickly or else the chocolate will start to harden. Place the pan in the freezer for at least an hour to set. See above for tips on cutting the squares without breaking the chocolate.

Cinnamon graham crackers

Ingredients

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp nondairy milk
1 1/2 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp pure agave nectar

Instructions

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
In a small bowl, whisk together the nondairy milk, oil, molasses and agave nectar.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine.
In between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a cookie pan lined with parchment paper (no need to cut them into squares since you’ll be processing them into crumbs after baking). Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
Put the cookies in a food processor and process into crumbs. This should make about 1 1/2 cups, enough for the Nanaimo bar bottom layer.

Vegan biscuits are for lovers!

We’re making a little vegan brunch tomorrow for some 41 friends and family to the theme of “Vegan brunch is for lovers”, and our red-and-white benny will be sitting atop these cute heart shaped biscuits. Recipe below.

We modified from this recipe. This was all Kaylie, except for the cutting, which I did.

Two tablespoons shy of 1 cup unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup Earth Balance margarine, cold
1/3 cup garlic confit or roasted garlic in oil – if not soft, chop beforehand

Heat the oven to 450 F. Prepare two baking sheets by greasing or lay down parchment paper.
Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl; flip lightly with a fork to simulate sifting, or sift.
Cut in the margarine – use a pastry cutter or two knives or a large fork. Your aim is to have chunks of margarine holding the flour together to give the biscuit its flakiness.
Pour in the milk mixture and add the garlic – it should be soft and easy to cut with a fork. Mix together but do not overmix or you will end up with tough biscuits.
Roll the dough out until it’s about 1cm thick or slightly thicker on a clean, lightly floured surface and cut with a cookie/biscuit cutter or use a knife and cut into squares.
Put in the oven. Check after ten minutes – you want the bottoms to be lightly browned and the biscuits firm.

Vancouver’s Best Veggie Burgers

Lentil Burger at Splitz Grill in Vancouver
Splitz Grill lentil burger. Photo by SweetOnVeg

Splitz Grill – Main and 26th
Splitz is a burger bar reminiscent of a Subway – you choose your patty and then choose your premium (with a cost) additions or your regular ingredients. Their spicy lentil patty is fantastic and makes for a huge burger – you probably shouldn’t order fries, as I have never even finished the burger itself, no matter how hungry I am. For spreads, you are not just restricted to mustard – they have babaganoush and hummus for us vegans. Add onions, mushrooms, and an array of veg, plus other sauces, for one of the most satisfying, massive veggie burgers in town.

Sweet Cherubim – Commercial and Napier
Sweet C’s is an Indian vegetarian place. They serve some cheese, but other than that are completely vegan. And their veggie burger is the best one in town, in my opinion. It takes about 15 minutes for them to make it for you, but trust me, it’s worth it. Have it with avocado and their exceptional tofu-dill cream dressing. It’s a patty chock-full of veg and spice.

Roundel Cafe – Hastings and Nanaimo
The Roundel Cafe has only two vegan options – a tofu scramble and a veggie burger. Both use essentially the same flavour palate, teriyaki and black sesame with tofu. Both are exceptional. Order their veggie burger with avocado instead of mayo and cheese, and delight in its texture and flavour. This burger is mostly tofu and veg, with a unique flavour.

Vegan Mischief 2010 Holiday Cookzine

So last Christmas (I gave you my heart) Kaylie and I put together a little holiday cookzine to give to our family and friends. It’s got a bunch of recipes, almost all of which have never been published on the site. Most of them are much simpler than the stuff we put up here. We were selling hardcopies for a while, but I’m not going to print any more, so here’s a PDF version of the zine for you. It is not particularly printable.

Vegan Mischief Xmas 2010 Cookzine – Web Edition


Enjoy!