December 31, 2013

Blog Highlights of 2013

Happy New Years Eve! Whether you're busy preparing for an exciting night of parties or planning on staying in and relaxing, I hope you all enjoy the last night of 2013 and are looking forward to a bright and promising new year!

To celebrate another year's end on the blog, it's time for my annual recap of some of my favourite posts published this year!

For the last two years, I've counted down the most popular posts according to pageviews plus my own favourite posts, but this year I've decided to do things a bit differently and only share my personal picks for my favourite recipes.

I will note that the most popular post of 2013 by far was my round up of ways to use a spiralizer, and two of the top three google searches leading to my blog this year were for "spiralizer" and "spiralizer recipes". So don't worry, I've taken notice that you guys like seeing new ideas for using a spiralizer tool, and I'll try to post some more spiralizer recipes next year!

Without further ado, here are my 10 favourite recipes of the year, organized by category.

My Favourite Breakfast Recipes of 2013

Coffee Banana Muffins - vegan muffins that taste like banana bread but with a dose of coffee flavour and cacao nibs. Replacing part of the flour with cereal gave these an even better texture!

Homemade Bran Flake Cereal - learn how to make your own healthy cereal and customize it how you like it! I made mine with a variety of flakes and added cinnamon, cranberries, and almonds.

Miniature Chocolate Cherry Crepe Cake - vegan chocolate crepes layered with greek yogurt and a sweet cherry sauce made a delicious and decadent tasting breakfast treat!

My Favourite Snacks of 2013

Apple Nachos & Jicama Nachos - I had a lot of fun making two different versions of raw "nachos": thinly sliced apples topped with coconut, peanut butter & cacao nibs; and jicama slices with fruit salsa, raw taco nut crumble and a cilantro sauce.

Pumpkin Stuffed Energy Balls - soft and chewy energy balls with a creamy pumpkin hummus filling!

My Favourite Meals of 2013

Corn "Polenta" with Peach Tomato Salsa - I love being able to make simple but delicious meals in the summertime using fresh, local ingredients and this was definitely one of those meals!

Curried Sweet Potato Apple Peanut Soup - my favourite kinds of soups are thick and creamy dairy-free ones, and I loved this sweet potato and apple version with peanut butter and lots of spices!

My Favourite Desserts of 2013

Raw Rainbow "Ice Cream" Cake - If you've been reading this blog for a long time, you've probably noticed that I love to celebrate holidays with food! For St. Patrick's Day this year, I created this frozen rainbow layered cake using different coloured fruits for each layer, with a fluffy coconut milk whipped cream topping.

Frosted Blueberry Lemon Cake - this moist vegan cake bursting with blueberries and topped with a sweet lemony frosting was a popular dessert, and I'm sure I'll be making it again next year!

Maple Strawberry Shortcakes with Coconut Whipped Cream - To celebrate Canada Day, I made these crumbly shortcakes with coconut oil and a touch of maple flavour, topped with maple roasted strawberries and coconut milk whipped cream - a healthier version of one of my all-time favourite desserts!

Here's to a wonderful and prosperous new year, filled with lots of food and new recipes to share!

December 19, 2013

No-Bake Chestnut Balls

I can't believe how quickly the month of December has gone by! I thought I would have tons of time to listen to holiday tunes, come up with some festive recipes, and get all of my Christmas preparations done, but Christmas Day is already less than a week away and I feel like I haven't accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to!

At least one thing I can say I've accomplished is my shopping - as of yesterday, I'm all finished! Now all that's left to do is is wrap my gifts, which isn't exactly my forte but I actually look forward to doing it every year.

As for cooking and baking, I admit I've fallen behind this year with only two holiday themed recipes to share with you so far. First were my gingerbread rye scones, and today I have an even easier no-bake treat for you!

I love roasted chestnuts, but it's a bit of a pain to roast them and pry the shells off. So when I saw bags of pre-roasted chestnuts at the store, I thought I would give them a try and see how they compare. As it turned out, they were much tastier than I thought and couldn't be simpler - you can eat them straight out of the package or heat them up for a warm treat.

Instead of just gobbling them up, I wanted to use my chestnuts in some kind of snack and my first thought were energy balls. I took my basic formula of energy balls but replaced the nuts with chestnuts and added some flavours like cinnamon, maple and vanilla to complement them.

Since the chestnuts were so buttery, they broke down easily in the food processor to create the smoothest "energy balls" I've ever made! These were nice and sweet too, so they tasted more like a dessert even though they're still pretty healthy.

These would make a unique addition to your holiday dessert platters this year, or just to have around as a snack to fuel you through the rest of your holiday preparations!

No-Bake Chestnut Balls

1/2 cup (100g package) roasted peeled chestnuts (I used Aurora ready to eat chestnuts)
1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp artificial vanilla extract (if you only have pure vanilla, use 1/4 tsp)
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
~1/4 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut

Place the chestnuts, dates, and oats in the small bowl of a food processor and process until everything is broken down. Add cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and maple syrup and process again until the mixture forms a sticky dough.

Roll mixture into bite-sized balls. Sprinkle the coconut onto a plate and roll balls in the coconut, using your hands to help press it in.

Store in the fridge.

Makes 12-13 balls

December 10, 2013

Easy BBQ Tofu & Sweet Potato Wraps

Whenever I buy a package of tofu, I end up having such a tough time deciding what to make with it - not because I don't know what to do with it, but because I have too many ideas and I can't decide! Do I make soba noodles with tofu in a peanut sauce? Or crumble it up to make either scrambled tofu or tofu salad? Or maybe add it to a warm soup or curry?

One idea that I've been meaning to try for a while and finally got around to doing has been BBQ tofu. I love BBQ sauce and sometimes spend a while looking at all the delicious flavours of it in the grocery store, but I rarely buy it because I end up deciding I don't have much use for it other than as a pizza sauce (which I highly recommend!).

Of course, that was silly thinking on my part - there's no reason vegetarians and vegans should be deprived of BBQ sauce when it goes so well with tofu!

For my first BBQ tofu attempt, I kept things as simple as possible by using bottled sauce instead of making my own, and a premade coleslaw mix with just a splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and sugar for seasoning.

The tofu itself is pressed and then tossed in a generous amount of BBQ sauce, then baked in the oven to soak up the sauce and get nice and chewy. I also took some inspiration from this BBQ tempeh and sweet potato recipe from Appetite for Reduction and added some sweet potato to the tofu mix before roasting it all in the oven.

After roasting, the tofu and sweet potato really absorbed the sauce so they had lots of flavour. Rather than eating them on their own though, I placed a layer in a tortilla shell topped with the coleslaw mix and an extra serving of BBQ sauce to make a giant soft taco.

Or if you don't feel like making wraps, you could also eat this as a salad by topping the coleslaw with a serving of the tofu-sweet potato mixture and a drizzle of BBQ sauce - I liked mine both ways!

BBQ Tofu & Sweet Potato Wraps
Inspired by Oh My Veggies and Appetite for Reduction

1 14oz package firm tofu
1.5 lbs sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, plus extra for serving (use your favourite brand or a homemade sauce)
1 bag coleslaw mix
Apple cider vinegar to taste
Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste
Whole wheat tortillas

Remove tofu from package, drain, and slice into three lengthwise slabs. Press tofu between paper towels under a heavy book for 15-30 minutes (see this post by Oh My Veggies on how to press tofu if you need a guide).

Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare a large baking sheet by lining with aluminum foil and spraying with cooking spray.

Slice the tofu into cubes. Toss tofu and diced sweet potato in the ½ cup of BBQ sauce and spread out into a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then flip or toss the pieces and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

To assemble each taco, warm a tortilla in the microwave (or oven). Lay as much of the tofu and sweet potato as you like in a line down the middle of the tortilla. Top with extra BBQ sauce (as much as desired).  For each taco, take about 1 cup of coleslaw mix and toss with a splash of apple cider vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar, salt, and pepper. Lay the seasoned coleslaw on top of the BBQ mixture. Close wrap. (Alternatively, place the seasoned coleslaw in a bowl, add a serving of the tofu and sweet potatoes, and drizzle with extra BBQ sauce to make a salad).

Makes enough for 4-6 wraps

December 04, 2013

Vegan Gingerbread Rye Scones

For my first post of December, I thought it would only be appropriate to share a holiday recipe! As I'm sure you've all noticed, as soon as American Thanksgiving was over last week, bloggers couldn't wait to get into the Christmas spirit, and I'm definitely one of those bloggers! 

My holiday baking started last week with our annual cookie swap at school, and even though I had just gotten back from a conference and didn't have much time to prepare for it, I couldn't miss the opportunity to try out a Christmas cookie recipe - and to sample everyone else's Christmas baking! 

I brought these cranberry apple crumble squares from Sweet Twist of Blogging, and I loved how they turned out! And for the record, I think it was our best cookie swap yet, everyone's treats were so good (as evidenced by the rate at which my stash disappeared afterwards)!

My second holiday themed treat so far this year were these gingerbread scones. These aren't your average fluffy white scones, since they're made with a mix of whole wheat and rye flour and use coconut oil instead of butter. I liked how the darker flours gave the scones a bit of a deeper flavour though and complemented the gingerbread notes well too.

Lightly sweetened with a bit of maple syrup and molasses and spiced with both ground and fresh ginger, these scones have a subtle kick to them. You could leave them plain to highlight the gingerbread, or you could add a few whole cranberries to each scone like I did to double up on the Christmassy flavours! 

Hopefully I'll have more treats to share with you in the next few weeks!

Gingerbread Rye Scones
Adapted from Gnom-Gnom

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
Dash of salt
3 tbsp solid coconut oil
3 tbsp almond milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla
~1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional; if frozen let them thaw a bit first)

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flours to salt). Add the coconut oil and use a fork or a pastry cutter to cut the coconut oil into the dry ingredients until it is fully broken down and the dry ingredients are crumbly.

In a separate bowl, mix the almond milk, maple syrup, molasses, vinegar, ginger, and vanilla. If your molasses is really thick, you can blend the ingredients in a blender until smooth (I used this method). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Transfer mixture to a clean surface and pat it into a thick round circle. Cut into four equal wedges. Press a few cranberries into the tops of each scone if desired.

Place scones on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, until they are browned on the bottom and firm on top. Let cool on a wire rack.

Best served warm, spread with a bit of margarine or vegan butter.

Makes 4 small scones (recipe can be doubled for a larger batch - just cut the dough circle into 8 wedges instead of 4).


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