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Try Veganuary this January!

December is here! At this time of year, many people start thinking about what resolutions they want to make for the New Year. For those who have been thinking about going vegan, a website called Veganuary can help make that transition easier!

Veganuary (vegan + January) is a worldwide movement that supports people to go vegan for the month of January—the idea being, of course, that once you’ve tried veganism for a month, you’ll realize how easy it is and will want to continue as a vegan after the month is over. Veganuary’s colourful, user-friendly website shares the personal stories of other vegans, debunks common myths, and provides an online Vegan Starter Kit, recipes, and advice. They also have a support group on Facebook for participants to get advice, as well as a mailing list that provides additional support during the month of January. Oh, and did I mention that participants can get all this for free?

If you’ve been considering trying vegan but don’t know how (or when) to start, why not sign up for Veganuary right now?

If you’re already a vegan but still want to get involved, there are numerous ways to volunteer with the organization online—just send them a message using their contact form and ask for more information on volunteering. And don’t forget to spread the word about Veganuary a couple of weeks before January starts!

Recipe: Homemade Chocolate Bark

Français

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This recipe is super simple but creates elegant-looking pieces of chocolate bark that you can serve at a party, give as a gift or use to satisfy a chocolate craving.

It’s also highly versatile so feel free to play around with different mix-ins. If you’re a fan of the popular Peppermint Pretzel barkTHINS for example, you could use chopped pretzels, candy cane pieces and a pinch of sea salt. If you like the pecan-caramel combination, try chopped dates and pecans and a handful of toffee pieces. If you prefer fruit and nut chocolate bars, try adding chopped almonds, peanuts and cashews and raisins.

Enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Bark
Vegan | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free option

Makes one large baking sheet of bark

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams good quality dairy-free dark chocolate
    (baking chocolate, molding chocolate and chocolate chips/bars should all work well)
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
    (Costco sometimes carries Sunblest brand, which I love because it doesn’t have sulphites)
  • 1/2 cup seeds and/or nuts
    (I wanted a nut-free version so I used sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds)
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit
    (I used unsweetened cranberries and wild blueberries)

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, checking it often and stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn. While the chocolate is melting, prepare 1 large (or 2 medium-small baking sheets) with a layer of wax paper or a silicone baking mat.
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    Start heating the chocolate slowly…

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    … until it’s fully melted.
  2. Once the chocolate is fully melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in your mix-ins. Stir gently until they’re well incorporated.
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    Add all of your mix-ins into the saucepan.

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    Stir gently to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture out onto the wax paper or baking mat, ideally in the shape of a rectangle, so that it’s about half a centimetre thick. Place your baking sheet in the fridge and let the chocolate cool until its hardened (about 30 minutes).
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    Spread the mixture out evenly into a rectangular shape.

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    Chill for about 30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. When the chocolate is fully cooled, gently peel it off the mat/wax paper and break it into medium-large chunks. Try to work quickly so that the chocolate doesn’t melt – it needs to stay cool to ‘snap’ nicely into pieces of bark.

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    Break into various-sized pieces to create your ‘bark’.
  5. Store the chocolate in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy. If you’re going to give it as a gift, just package it in some cellophane or a glass jar, add a ribbon and you’re good to go!

Recipe: Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot and Coconut Soup

Français

Soup

This is a great recipe for fall. Not only is the soup warming and delicious, but it’s also simple – you can throw everything into one pot. The recipe also works really well with squash (I recommend butternut). Feel free to play around with the spices.

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot and Coconut Soup
Vegan | Gluten-free | Soy-free

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or other oil)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning. Add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, sweet potatoes and carrots. Cook on medium heat until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk, crushed tomatoes or tomato paste and spices (adjusting to taste).
  4. Stir and reduce heat. Simmer on low for about 10 mins.
  5. Turn the stove off and let the soup cool for at least half an hour. Purée in batches in a blender until smooth (if soup is too thick to blend easily, add a bit of extra broth or water).
  6. Serve warm with bread or crackers and a side salad.

Mint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Amanda

Here is my recipe that I used for the cookies I brought to the GoGreen Expo. Not too sweet but loads of chocolate and mint…what a great combination!

Mint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon real mint extract
  • 2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 12 oz semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup any vegan milk…soy or almond
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a mixer cream sugars and butter until fluffy.   Add liquids…non dairy milk and mint extract.  Combine dry ingredients in a large separate bowl.  Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Roll into small balls onto cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.

NCVA Cupcake Challenge – Meet Our Judges – Part 1 – Auntie Loo

Hey everyone,

We’ve had such an AMAZING response to the Cupcake Challenge and we’re really looking forward to seeing and of course TASTING all your creations!

For those of you that haven’t signed up for a chance to have your cupcake named Ottawa’s best vegan cupcake, please click here

We kick off the Meet Our Judges series with none other than Ottawa’s own queen of vegan cupcakes….Auntie Loo!

Auntie Loo’s is a small vegan bakery here in Ottawa. Ms. Loo learned to cook at the knees of her family members, and the majority of what she produces are these very recipes- veganized! Auntie Loo firmly believes that if you want a dessert, it had better taste like one. Auntie Loo’s uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.

Most people want to know the story, so here it is: Put up to having a vegan treat table at the 2004 Ladyfest Ottawa Craft Sale by her sweet-toothed roommates, Ms. Loo had never even considered baking as a career. Overwhelmed by the response, Auntie Loo’s was born.

Nowadays, Auntie Loo’s Treats can be found in several locations around Ottawa, including her storefront at 507 Bronson Avenue.

Tales of Cake and Frosting

By Erin

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but the NCVA is developing a restaurant outreach program whereby we try to encourage and teach local omni restaurants to be more vegan friendly.

As part of our restaurant outreach package, I wanted to include a really easy and delicious dessert recipe since, even at the veg-friendliest restaurants, vegan desserts are rare.

I settled on chocolate cake since there are so many great vegan ones out there. Specifically, I opted for one of the recipes that helped Chloe Coscarelli win on the Food Networks “Cupcake Wars.”

Check out an article on her win at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/tasty-vegan-food-cupcakes-show-it-can-be-done/.

She was also interviewed recently on “Animal Voices” a Toronto-based radio show. Check that out at: http://animalvoices.ca/2010/10/05/vegan-fitness-nutrition-ultramarathoner-brendan-brazier-dr-occhipinti-chef-chloe-coscarelli/

Anyway, I’d already tweaked the recipe a bit…a little less sugar, instant coffee because I never have espresso powder…but now I wanted to do a test run with the recipe as a two-layer cake. No big changes required, just needed to find the right baking time. Looking at other layer cake recipes, 350 for somewhere between 28 and 36 minutes seemed the norm.

I figured since this was an experimental cake, I’d run another experiment while verifying the bake time. Have you ever noticed how adamant vegan bakers are about not overmixing cake batter? Apparently it leads to tough cakes, fallen cakes, cakes that don’t rise at all, and various other types of badness.

But if that’s the case, why do all boxed cake mix instructions tell you to beat the hell out of their batter for two minutes?

I don’t get it.

So I decided to put it to the test. Layer number one was “mixed lightly until just incorporated” while layer number two was beaten violently à la a boxed mix.

I baked layer number one for 33 minutes. It fell a little bit, making me think I should do layer number two for 35 minutes. Which I did, and, when it came out of the oven, I honestly thought that it was the winner. It was big and poofy and had a smooth, glossy surface. I envisioned myself calling out all the know-it-all vegan chefs and telling them to stick their light incorporation and accept that fact that, evil omni or not, Duncan Hines has been doing cakes since they were in short pants so if he says beat, dammit, beat!

But then layer number two deflated. Here’s a shot of the two layers side by side. The one on the left is the beaten one. Quite the difference in looks!

Now on to the icing.

I recently found a recipe for great fluffy vegan icing. Turns out the secret is a pound of fat. Ever notice how often the secret ingredient is a pound of fat?

That recipe is below:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners does one using unrefined sugar, for a mere thousand dollars a bag)
½ cup Earth Balance buttery spread
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat until fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). For a chocolate version, add ½ cup of cocoa.

I was planning to go with that recipe. But then I discovered Mimicreme Healthy Top whipped topping. While this stuff is healthy only in comparison to sucking on the tailpipe of an idling car, it is very delicious. Plus, it boasts a level of fluffiness that simply cannot be achieved using traditional ingredients.

So I decided to try mixing some sugar, coffee and cocoa into the Mimicreme to create a fluffy mocha icing.

I began by pulverizing some sugar and instant coffee in my partner’s coffee grinder (I’m sure he didn’t mind), then tossed that and a few tablespoons of cocoa into the unmixed Mimicreme. The stuff looks terrifying just out of the box, by the way. Remember when Tyler Durden retrieved the bag of fat from the liposuction clinic dumpster? Like that, only square.

Then I whipped and beheld the miracle that I had created.

The stuff was yummy, but seriously weird. First, even though I’d added a good half cup of dry ingredients to the cream, it was runnier than the stuff I’d made on a previous occasion with no additives. How does that work?

Second, it was neither liquid not solid. I actually put it in the fridge before putting it on the cake, hoping it would firm up a bit. When it hadn’t changed much after half an hour, I decided to go ahead. I dumped it all on top of the cake, then began spreading it carefully over the edges. I fully expected it to pour over, making unappealing puddles around the base of the cake.

But it didn’t. The semi-liquid cream sort of clung to the sides of the cake. I was amazed! Then I decided to tempt fate by trying to smooth out the clinging cream. No way was I getting away with this, I thought. It’ll peel away from the sides of the cake, or start running down, or something.

Nope. It was amazingly malleable. I spread, I swirled, I smoothed, and the modified Mimicreme just sort of went with it. It was kind of like the bowling ball mattress – touching any given bit of icing only moved that bit – the stuff around it stayed put.

Very weird.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics of the finished cake, with and without espresso chocolate shavings. I’ve got a couple of taste testers coming by later to see if hey can tell the difference between layers one and two.

Oh, and here is the final cake recipe:

3 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp vinegar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350
Line the bottoms of 2 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper

Mix wet ingredients
Mix dry ingredients
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and “mix lightly until just incorporated”

Divide batter between cake pans and spread it around (it’s a thick batter)

Bake for 32-35 minutes.

The additions to the Mimicreme were 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp instant coffee and 4 tbsp cocoa.