Archive for February, 2010

February 28, 2010

Daiya cheese arrives in Toronto

Consider yourself warned: this is a decidedly non-raw post! But I think it’s a topic of interest to many vegans, especially those who are new to the lifestyle.

It’s now super easy to find vegan alternatives for virtually any common animal products on the market. There are countless varieties of soy, rice, almond and hemp milks, dairy-free sour cream and cream cheese, egg replacement products, fake meat, and so on — many of which are damn good imitations of the originals. But as many will attest, for a long time no one had succeeded in creating a reasonable approximation of cheese. Sure, some brands make orange-coloured blocks of hard stuff that look like cheese, smell a bit like cheese, and sometimes even sort of taste like cheese, but when it comes to the aspect of cheese that most people love – melting – they all more or less fail.

But all this changed with the introduction of Daiya vegan cheese. The buzz around Daiya has been solid for months. It won VegNews’ Product of the Year, and everywhere I go vegans are talking about it. I think part of what adds to the excitement is that it seems notoriously hard to get — it isn’t widely available in stores yet, and has mostly been sold prepared in restaurants. Up here in the great white North of Toronto, we had yet to experience Daiya — until this week, that is! Rumor had it that Daiya had hit the shelves of our local vegan store, Panacea.

Now, I’ve moved far away in recent years from relying on meat/dairy replacement products. I used to enjoy them, and I find they are tremendously useful for anyone new to the diet, or trying to consume fewer animal products. But at this point in my life, I eat mostly non-processed, raw food, and seldom consume replacement-type products. I feel best eating mostly raw and unprocessed, so I try not to stray too far from this diet. I was still excited to try Daiya, but not nearly as excited as my boy. He is newer to eating all vegan, and his last holdout was cheese, and it’s the only thing he misses — he has been itching to try Daiya for ages. We tried to find it during recent vacations in NYC and LA, but for various reasons that didn’t work out. He practically ran to the store to pick it up, and was like a kid on Christmas morning while the nachos and pizza we made were in the oven.

So how was it? Just as awesome as anticipated. It melts, stretches, and tastes pretty close to cheese. (At least so far as I remember, it’s been awhile.) It contains no scary ingredients of the type sometimes found in fake cheese, and it’s not bad on the calorie front, either. I may indulge occasionally, but I have no doubt my now Daiya-obsessed boyfriend will always have a container in the fridge.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the pizza I made with it: whole wheat crust, pesto base, caramelized onions, grilled zucchini, portobellos, and red peppers, and sundried tomatoes. It was amazing! Next post will be back to raw, I promise 🙂

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February 20, 2010

Carob chia cookies

Yesterday I made these cookies in literally 10 minutes before running out the door for the evening. They may or may not have been basically my entire supper.

I haven’t used carob powder much in my raw food adventures, but I am realizing it needs to play a more central role — it’s so good! Although a lot of people use it in place of cacao, I don’t see carob so much as a chocolate substitute but as a great ingredient on its own. It has a great caramel flavour. My carob powder wasn’t raw, but I’ve seen raw carob in some health food stores. Also, I used white chia seeds in these cookies (they were on sale the other day) and I like the way they add little white flecks to the dark cookies 🙂

Carob Chia Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts

1 cup dark raisins

3-4 medjool dates

1/3 cup carob powder

3 tablespoons chia seeds

pinch of salt

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture becomes dough-like. It may take awhile to break up the raisins, so give it a good few minutes. Roll out the dough and cut into shapes with your favourite cookie cutter, and place in the freezer to firm up. You could also roll them into balls to make it even less work.

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February 16, 2010

Raw protein + Tropical Power smoothie

“Where do you get your protein?”

As any vegetarian/vegan/raw foodie will attest, this is the number one question people ask about the various types of plant-based diets. I get the protein question on a weekly basis, and each time I patiently and politely explain that veg diets can and do provide all the protein any person could ever need, an that it’s a myth that plant foods somehow don’t contain enough protein. In her book Becoming Vegan, dietician Brenda Davis (a vegan herself) says, “For vegans on predominantly whole foods diets, a figure of 0.9 g protein per kg body weight is suggested.” To put this another way, people should get around 10% of their calories from protein.

It’s unspeakably easy to consume this amount of protein on a daily basis, and virtually all of us do. Nearly all plant foods contain this much protein, so  as long as you get enough calories, and not eating total crap, you’re safe. For anyone curious about the protein content of some common foods, check out this table by the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Most of the time, I don’t give a second thought to how much protein I consume and where it’s coming from. But during periods where I’m working out hard at the gym adding extra protein to my diet helps me put on muscle mass. Before becoming mostly raw, I used to eat soy foods and cooked legumes for extra protein. I mostly avoid these now, so I rely on other raw sources. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Greens. Kale is my first choice, with 6.6 g protein per 100 calories. Spinach and romaine lettuce are also packed with protein.
  • Sprouts. I usually eat sprouted lentils, with 7 g protein/82 calories per cup. Sprouting is easy as pie, and saves me lots of money!
  • Hemp seed. I add it to smoothies and salads, and I always make hemp milk as opposed to nut milk — it’s tastier. 5 g protein/82 calories per tablespoon.
  • Sun Warrior Protein Powder. This raw vegan protein powder is made from brown rice, and has 16 g protein/70 calories per serving.
  • Ruth’s Hemp Protein Power. Another protein powder that’s great in smoothies. 15 g protein/120 calories
  • Raw Organic Food Bar. These are fabulous when I’m on the go, and have 10 g protein/200 calorie bar. I swear they’re just like eating a candy bar.
  • Vega Vibrancy Bar. I could never stomach the other variety of Vega bars, but these new Vibrancy Bars are delish, and packed with sprouts and other healthy ingredients. Especially the Green Synergy one, with an extra boost of green goodness! Contains 9 g protein/200 calorie bar.

Today, I had my butt kicked by Jillian Michaels, via her Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism DVD. This is the first time I’ve tried a workout DVD, because I usually need to be at the gym before I can motivate myself. But it really was like having a trainer in my living room! After, I whipped out my Sun Warrior Protein Powder and made an amazing recovery smoothie. Here’s the recipe.

Tropical Power Smoothie

Ingredients

1 banana

1 cup chopped pineapple

2 kiwis, flesh scooped from skin

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup ice cubes

1 scoop Vanilla Sun Warrior Protein Powder

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Some other raw bloggers have touched on this topic too, recently — check out this Pure2Raw post (from today, coincidentally!), Kristen’s post on raw vegan protein grenades, and a Choosing Raw post on vegan protein powders.

February 15, 2010

Valentine’s Day treats

As promised, here’s a quick recap on all the sweets I made yesterday. I had been feeling inexplicably down all day — something that a trip to the gym couldn’t even cure — but finally picked up in the evening after my Valentine surprised my with roses. So I decided to make some chocolate hazelnut truffles, a la Ferrero Rocher. These were totally made up as I went along, and I had no idea how they would turn out. I think I have some thoughts on how to make an even closer approximation next time, but these were still pretty damn decadent.

The specific type of Ferrero Rocher treats I wanted to copy are the ones with a softer milk chocolate hazelnut interior, encased in harder, dark chocolate.  I started by trying to do a raw version of Nutella, and it tasted good but never quite reached the nut buttery consistency that I was looking for. Just not quite smooth enough. Maybe it’s my food processor? Anyway, to make the filling creamier, I ended up making cashew cream and combining the two. Again, it didn’t exactly come out milk chocolatey but it tasted great! I firmed up the filling in the freezer, rolled into balls, then dipped them in chocolate and rolled half of them in chopped hazelnuts.

Not sure what possessed me, but I guess I was on a roll by that point, so I also whipped up some chocolate and blonde macaroons from Sarma’s Raw Food Real World. They just came out of the dehydrator this morning and boy, are they good! Enjoy the photos 🙂

February 14, 2010

Toronto’s newest raw hot spot: Cruda Cafe

Thanks to the Toronto Vegetarian Association, veg-minded folks in Toronto are kept well-informed of new restaurants opening in the city. It was through a TVA email update that I first learned a new raw cafe would setting up shop in the St. Lawrence MarketCruda Cafe. I’ve been meaning to visit the Market since moving to Toronto, but unbelievably hadn’t made it down there yet. Since next week is reading week at school, I have a bit more free time and decided to check out both Cruda Cafe and some of the other eats St. Lawrence Market has to offer.

According to the description on TVA’s website, “Cruda Cafe (meaning RAW in Spanish) is the most vibrant, vegan cafe in the heart of downtown Toronto. Located inside the beautiful St. Lawrence Market landmark. We serve vegan organic living foods available to eat in, take out and catering.”

Cruda offers a variety of wraps, soups, salads, juices, smoothies, kombucha and desserts. My bf and I both decided on wraps with fresh veggies. He opted for the cashew pesto, while I went for the raw hummus, and we both loaded them up with carrots, greens, sprout, avocado, and more. The wrap itself was made from corn, and they have a variety of other wrap flavours, including one with sundried tomatoes. They were delish!

According to the owner, Claudia, they have been open for only a week and a half, but have been super busy in that time. Good news, and not surprising given a) the growing popularity of eating more raw food b) the fact that Cruda’s food is really, really good! I noticed on the wall that Claudia has studied at Alissa Cohen’s raw chef school at her five-star raw restaurant Grezzo in Boston. Cool!

I’ll definitely be back.

Last night, I made Kristin’s raw Sweet Potato Apple Curry soup for supper, and paired it with a kale, avocado, red pepper, sprout, and dulse salad. I loved it! Kristin, you’re amazing!

Finally, happy Valentine’s Day! The day started with pineapple-mango-banana smoothies for me and my sweetie. I’m not big into V-Day as a commercial holiday, but if any tasty food is involved I’ll do a recap post.

February 12, 2010

Raw date squares

When I lived in residence early on in my undergrad degree, I had to suffer through breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at the campus dining hall. It actually could have been a lot worse — there was a huge salad bar, and an entire vegetarian hot food section. They also had some decent desserts, including my favourite: date squares. At the time, I think my girlfriends and I had deluded ourselves into believing that date squares were a guilt-free dessert option due to the presence of healthy ingredients like oats and dates. They definitely weren’t vegan (I was only vegetarian at the time) and I was blissfully blind to the butter, white sugar, and other crud they likely contained. But they sure were delicious, so I indulged each time they were on the menu.

It occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t had one of my formerly-beloved date squares in a long time, so I set out to raw veganize the recipe. This version is way yummier than the standard cooked/non-vegan variety, with way more nutrition!

Raw Vegan Date Squares

Ingredients

25 pitted medjool dates

1/4 cup water

2 cups almonds

2 cups raw oat groats, ground finely in a spice grinder

1/2 cup maple sugar

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 + 2 tbsp coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

In a food processor, process the dates, vanilla and water until a thick paste is formed. Scrape date paste from food processor with a spatula and set aside.

Grind almonds into a coarse meal in food processor. Reserve 3/4 cup ground oats for later. Add all remaining ingredients and process until well combined.

Press two thirds of the mixture into the bottom of an 8 inch, plastic wrap-lined pan. Spread the date paste evenly on top of the crust.

Add the remaining oat flour to the remaining crust mixture, and process until well-combined. This is the crumb topping for the squares: the consistency should be more crumbly and less firm than the crust. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly on top of the date layer. Press the crumb layer down lightly – enough to make it stick, but not so much that it becomes too firm and compacted. Chill the pan in the fridge for one hour to firm up the date squares before serving.

Makes 20 date squares, at 258 calories/10 g fat per square. Given these are still somewhat high in calories, I think I’ll try cutting way back on the sugar and fat content in the crust/crumble next time, and let the natural sweetness of the dates shine through.

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February 6, 2010

Coconut snowballs

I made Coconut Snowballs last night for a late night dessert, and they didn’t last long! I knew I wanted something sweet, and it was a tough call between these babies and Chocolate Coconut Truffles — both from Sarma’s Living Raw Food. The snowballs won out because they were easier to make, and called for only a few ingredients — brazil nuts, shredded coconut, agave and coconut oil.

They were good! My one complaint is that they were majorly oily. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, given brazil nuts have quite a high fat content, but next time I’ll probably alter the recipe by cutting out the coconut oil and maybe using dates instead of agave for some extra stickiness.

I wish I had some left for a snack today, but sadly they were all devoured 🙂

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February 5, 2010

Indian-spiced dinner party!

I’ve always loved entertaining friends. I adore creating big, elaborate dinners, complete with wine, dessert and good conversation. Even after I started eating mostly raw foods, I still used to cook up vegan dishes for my omnivorous friends, unsure of what they might think of the raw eats. But as I got more into the raw lifestyle and mastered more and more gourmet raw recipes, I started testing them out at dinner parties. And guess what? My friends love the raw cuisine! When you think about it, what’s not to love? Fresh ingredients, crisp flavours, and all of this without the after-dinner heaviness that we used to experience after eating a rich, cooked meal.

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for a delicious Indian-themed feast. We kicked off the evening with Black Sesame Paratha, Spiced Cucumbers, and Mango-Green Papaya Chutney from Matthew Kenney’s Entertaining in the Raw. These were tasty little bites! The paratha (bread) base was my least favourite part — the rounds were made from flax, nuts, zucchini and spices, and they were a little on the bland side, but were better in combination with the cukes and chutney.

Next up on the menu was Biryani with Coconut-Curry Sauce from Sarma Melngailis’ most recent book Living Raw Food. (As a side note, this is totally one of my favourite books — every single recipe is a hit!) The biryani is somewhat complex to make, as it involves turning jicama and other ingredients into the rice, dehydrating some veggies, and blending up a coconut curry sauce. It is totally worth the effort, and was a hit with our dinner guests!

Jicama "rice" with nuts, raisins and spices

The real star of the evening, as usual, was dessert — a recipe of my own creation. With the Indian theme in mind, I whipped up two kinds of raw ice cream — vanilla chai, and chocolate — sprinkled on a coconut-pistachio-cardamom brittle, and topped off the creation with chocolate sauce. Delicious!! Here are some photos and the recipe.

Coconut-pistachio-cardamom brittle on its way into the dehydrator

Vanilla Chai Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 cup cashews

1 cup young coconut meat

3/4 cup strongly brewed chai tea

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons melted coconut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract, or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender untl completely smooth. Chill in the refrigerator, then run through an ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

For chocolate ice cream, replace the chai tea with water, and add 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder. Add extra agave to taste, if desired.

Coconut-Pistachio-Cardamom Brittle

Ingredients

1 cup pistachios

1 cup dried coconut

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine ingredients into a food processor until just combined. Spread on dehydrator sheets in a thin layer and dehydrate 8-10 hours, or overnight. Flip onto screens and dehydrate a further 8-10 hours. Break into smaller pieces and dehydrate a few more hours, or until sufficiently brittle.

For the chocolate sauce, I blended up melted coconut oil with raw cacao powder, some agave, and a pinch of sea salt, then poured the sauce on top of the ice cream and brittle. The great thing about using a coconut oil-based chocolate sauce is that it hardens on top of the cold ice cream, just like one of those chocolate-dipped soft serve ice cream cones I used to eat in the summer as a kid!