20170612_125342

Last week I attended a conference at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. Lunch breaks were short, but luckily for me, Tacos 101 was close by to provide me with Nopal tacos. As confirmed in the photo below, these tacos are made from cactus! I don’t *think* I’ve ever eaten cactus before (?!).

20170612_124905

The Nopal tacos are made of cactus, refried beans, pico de gallo and salsa verde (I asked them to omit the cheese), and served with guacamole puree. They were very tasty tacos and kept me coming back. I also really enjoyed their aesthetics: it’s a cool space. You can sit inside or stand up at the benches outside. I definitely recommend a visit.

20170613_17225920170614_20413120170614_20415120170614_204404

IMG_2723

Pana Chocolate is a little bit too good. Their chocolate is “raw, organic, handmade, vegan, no dairy, no soy, gluten free, no refined sugar”… and delicious. It is made in Melbourne but you can buy it at various stockists around Australia.

My previous experience with their chocolate was limited to receiving a wonderful gift box from a work colleague… until recently. It happened like this: The supermarket where I usually shop used to sell some vegan chocolate that I liked, but lately they’re not stocking it.  So I had to look further afield, namely, the nearby health food store. The health food store sells many flavours of Pana Chocolate bars like these. Now I am obsessed.

The Orange flavour is amazing and is my favourite, but I also like Strawberry and Pistachio and the Sour Cherry and Vanilla you see in the picture.

Their chocolate is covered with hearts and the message “Love the Earth”.  Well, I love Pana Chocolate.

PS  When I decided to become vegan, more than 4 years ago, I thought it meant giving up chocolate. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!  (-:

IMG_2715

These are gooey black bean brownies from a recipe by Ella Woodward. Some of Ella’s recipes appeared in the paper when I was last in the UK, nearly 18 months ago, and my mother-in-law showed them to me. I was intrigued by this particular recipe, which uses black beans to make brownies. I finally got around to making them, and I’m still not entirely sure what I think of them, to be honest.

The recipe is… odd. It calls for an enormous amount of apple puree, an enormous amount of milk and quite a lot of maple syrup. I cut back on all of these, because I was worried about how sloppy the mixture was getting, and I didn’t want it to be too sweet. I had already messed with the recipe by using almond pulp instead of ground almonds, as part of my eternal quest for ways to use up almond pulp.

Perhaps I should have used a smaller sized baking tray, given that I’d reduced the volume, so it’s not surprising that my brownies turned out quite flat. They’re certainly gooey: mine are so moist that I had to use baking paper to stop them sticking together when I packed them into a container. (Maybe I should have cooked them longer?)

I kind of like these brownies, but they really are a little odd.  Maybe they’re just too moist for me. Ella is right, you can’t taste the black bean, even with the reduced amount of maple syrup that I used. I’m not entirely sure that I’d make this recipe again, though it was an interesting thing to try.

 

20170514_184459

A few days ago I had dinner at Vina Vegan Restaurant, Newtown. I was by myself but still managed to eat three fresh rice paper rolls (very tasty) and almost all of this steaming bowl of vegan beef pho noodle soup. Just look at it, it’s gorgeous and it tasted delicious. They certainly know what they’re doing with their mock meat, it’s quite something.

IMG_2706

After drooling over vegan faux seafood recipes online for a long time, I finally got my act together and bought some dulse flakes (I found them online). I decided to start with vegan fish and chips, following this recipe from Leafy Greens and Chocolate. The short version is that we all thought this was really tasty and enjoyed the meal. My 8 year old said “Mum, you got the packets mixed up, this *is* fish!” (-:

I served the vegan fish fillets with chips, steamed brocolli and roasted balsamic Brussel sprouts  (recipe from Greenilicious).

The process is easy and fun, though it does take a little planning ahead. If you want to learn more, read on…

IMG_2698

After pressing the tofu, you lay it on a nori sheet and drizzle with a simple marinade of lemon juice, soy sauce and dulse flakes. I accidently doubled the amount of dulse flakes specified by the recipe, but it all turned out fine.

IMG_2702

Then you put another nori sheet on top and blitz everything in the microwave for 2 minutes. The only dish I had that would fit the tofu filllets was Pyrex, and it wasn’t marked “microwave safe”. The interwebs assured me that the pyrex probably wouldn’t explode in the microwave, but that I should avoid putting the dish down on a cold surface when I took it out of the microwave. OK then. I placed it on a wooden cooling rack and nothing exploded. Then you just leave the tofu sitting there at room temperature for a few hours, to soak up the taste of the sea.

IMG_2703

Finally, you mix up a few ingredients and lay out some Panko crumbs, dip each steak into the wet stuff, roll it in the crumbs, place on a baking tray and stick it in the oven. Easy! Give it a try.

IMG_2694

It’s been a while between posts: I’ll blame the school holidays. We went camping for a few days with some friends and a small tribe of children. Other parents were experts with the campfire, and lots of delicious baked vegetables were consumed.

Now that we’re home, I decided to try some baked potatoes with homemade baked beans. I bought medium-sized white-skinned potatoes and followed these instructions. I cooked the potatoes for about 55 minutes and they turned out really well: soft and fluffy inside, just a little crispy outside.

For the beans I took this recipe from Vegan Sparkles as the starting point, but I skipped the sundried tomatoes, used 2 x 400g tins tomatoes, 2 x 400g tins borlotti beans, 2 chopped-up vine tomatoes and one large brown onion. I doubled all the herbs and spices except cayenne, which I omitted (too hot for my kids) and replaced with about 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder. I added plenty of salt and cracked black pepper, and some fresh oregano and kale from the garden. (A couple of leaves of kale, chopped finely with some herbs, and the kids don’t know they’re eating kale! Child #2 calls this kale surprise.)

As you can see, we were liberal with the grated vegan cheese on top. This was a hearty and tasty meal, which we all enjoyed. I think the fresh oregano really worked well with the tomato and cumin.

IMG_2617

I had quite a bit of leftover peanut sauce from the gado-gado recipe. So I fried some firm tofu in peanut oil, then put aside under alfoil to keep warm while I lightly fried some brocollini and snow peas, which I had chopped into bite-sized pieces. Then I added the peanut sauce, which resembled very thick peanut butter, and about 3/4 of a cup of water to thin the sauce down. Once the sauce was thinner and smoother, I reintroduced the tofu and left it on the heat for about 5 minutes.

We ate this over white rice and it was very tasty.