My Vegetarian Kitchen

Stories of a vegetarian food snob in Northern California


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CSA Delivery – November 30, 2011

I don’t know whether you’ve been missing my CSA delivery posts, but I have definitely been missing my deliveries – there was no delivery during the Thanksgiving holiday and I had cancelled the week before because of our trip to Canada.  My delivery is an important part of my week, and I definitely felt the void!

This week’s delivery included some green bell peppers and baby broccoli (I’m surprised they still have them available!).  There was also some curly kale, which isn’t my most favorite variety, but it still works for me.  I also included a couple of new items – parsnips and pea shoots.  Check out this link for some great nutrition facts about pea shoots.  I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to use these two ingredients, but I’m not too worried!

I also ordered some grapes and refilled my stock of Massa Organics brown rice – if you haven’t checked out my post on how to cook perfect brown rice, I highly recommend it.


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Recreating *Vegan* Cupcake Wars

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but not because I haven’t been working on my blog – I’ve just been doing a lot of work in the background.  I realized I had a lot of housekeeping to do as well as cleaning up some of my earlier posts to make the recipes easier to follow – I’m almost finished cleaning up all my posts, so you should very easily be able to follow the recipes I’ve posted.

Now onto the real matter at hand – cupcakes.  I was already a fan of the Food Network show Cupcake Wars, but when they added vegan contestants to the mix, I was hooked!  I still find it quite annoying though that most cupcakes shops continue to leave out a vegan option on their menu.  Sprinkles finally has a vegan red velvet cupcake, but other bakeries in my area, such as Kara’s still don’t (bizarre).

The most exciting episode of Cupcake Wars was the one where Chloe Coscarelli won the contest – take that non-vegan cupcakes!  Ever since then, I have been meaning to try out the recipes that these fantastic chefs competed with (ya, I know…real vegan bloggers were probably all over this months ago!).  Kim Garr of C’est La V Bakeshop did not win during her episode, but did post all the recipes she was intending on using on her blog.

This week, I decided to recreate two of Kim Garr’s cupcakes – the first time I tried out this recipe was with my guest blogger, Amandeep.  There are two reasons why I decided to remake the same cupcakes – the first being that I wasn’t blogging yet when we made these cupcakes, and the second reason being that I was only on decoration duty during our first attempt – Amandeep did all the baking last time.

The first cupcake I made was Kim Garr’s Jelly Donut and Coffee cupcake – a delicious white cupcake with a jelly filling and a coffee frosting.  The nutmeg and cinnamon in this cupcake really shines through and balances the sweetness from the jelly and frosting.  I pretty much followed the recipe as directed with the exception of the evaporated cane juice (I just used regular sugar because that is all I had available) and the instant coffee (I brewed a very strong cup of regular coffee instead).

The second cupcake I made was also from Kim Garr’s website – Midnight Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake.  I didn’t have the black cocoa powder, so just used more of the regular cocoa powder and the same thing again with the evaporated cane juice. This cupcake was pure heaven, although I had a hard time picking a favourite (and honestly, who needs to pick a favourite when you can just have one of each).

Here’s links to the other vegan cupcake wars recipes that are still on my to-do list:

  1. Kim Garr’s third cupcake war entry – Grasshopper Cupcake
  2. Chloe Coscarelli’s Creme-filled Chocolate Orange Cupcake

If you want another great source of veganized recipes, check out www.vegansaurus.com for their Veganizing Top Chef: Just Desserts series.  This bundt cake by Terry Hope Romero is one my favourites!


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A coffee substitute that is actually good for you? Sign me up!

Considering my past as a coffee (Peets) junkie, I’m almost embarrassed to write this post…alas, age (or something) has caught up with me, and I can no longer drink coffee without getting horrible jitters or feeling as if I’m going to die of a heart attack.  It took only one episode to get me to head directly for the decaf, but eventually, I started to drink more tea instead (check out my profile on steepster.com).

Every once in a while, the smell of coffee lures me in, and I somehow magically end up with a Peets’ decaf soy latte in my hands.  However, once I reduced the amount of coffee I was consuming, I began to realize that even decaf didn’t seem to sit well with me. I loved the comfort of a warm cup and the coffee flavour, but afterwards, my stomach didn’t digest the coffee well.

A few months ago, I was looking for a mild detox tea and came across Chartreuse Organic Dandelion Tea – dandelion greens are known to detoxify and strengthen your liver and this tea has a wonderful earthy flavour.  Don’t expect overnight results, but after a few weeks of drinking this tea, I did begin to feel that my meals were digesting better and my skin had cleared up quit significantly.  This tea is full of vitamins and minerals and has a great cleansing affect on your body – check out this list for a great summary.

Additional research on dandelion tea led me to find Dandy Blend – everyone, take a moment and cheer, because this may be one of the most fantastic things I have ever discovered.  It is made out of roasted dandelion, chicory and beet roots – all respected ingredients.  I ordered a sample from their website (you can do this as well here) and tried it black with a spot of almond milk – it tasted just like coffee and was delicious! Coffee without any side effects and some actual health benefits (although they don’t make any claims on their website) – score!  Even if the health benefits aren’t proven, at least you’re not drinking excessive amounts of caffeine…not to mention how acidic coffee can be (that’s a blog post unto itself).  I can’t wait to try out different warm beverages throughout the winter!

Three cheers for Dandy Blend! If you get a chance to try it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke), Leek and Potato Soup

I received some beautiful sunchokes in my CSA delivery last week that I’ve been meaning to experiment with. This was my first attempt at using this ingredient, so I decided to play it safe by making a soup – it may not have been the best recipe to highlight the sunchokes, but it did create a delicious, creamy, vegan soup.

Before I get into to many recipe details, I should warn you that sunchokes have been known to create some gastrointestinal distress. This is due to the inulin (not to be confused with insulin) content in the vegetable. Our bodies do not contain the digestive enzymes needed to process inulin, which could lead to some gassy situations. We fortunately did not have this problem, which may have been because the soup had simmered for so long. You can read about all the health benefits of inulin here.

Sunchokes are extremely high in iron, calcium (told you milk isn’t the only way to get this), along with B and C vitamins. This vegetable is also well suited for diabetics because of the inulin.

Before I started making the soup, I set some carrots, celery and black peppercorns to simmer to make a quick stock. To make the soup, I peeled and chopped a pound of sunchokes into small cubes and began cooking them in some olive oil along with a bay leaf and dried chili. I then added two rough chopped leeks to the mixture, along with one potato and a can of chick peas. Once the vegetables had softened, I added enough broth to the mix to cover the mixture and allowed the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes. I had time to spare which is why I simmered it on low heat, but I’m sure you could get a decent result on medium high heat within 10 minutes as long as you’re around to stir it. I then turned off the heat, pureed the mixture with my stick blender and then brought the whole mix back up to a boil – before serving, I drizzled some chili oil over the top.

Adding the potato and chick peas to the mix was a great trick to create a creamy soup without any dairy products. The flavor of the soup was absolutely delicious, and the next day, I used the leftover soup to serve on some brown rice with steamed vegetables, which was also fantastic. This dish may not have showcased the sunchokes as much, but it is nice to be able to mix in a new ingredient amongst our usual produce items.


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What to do when nothing in your pantry seems appealing? Make a cherry crumble and pumpkin spice latte of course!

Ever had one of those days when Saturday afternoon hunger sets in, but nothing in the pantry or refrigerator seems appealing? Most people (ie. the huz) would just settle for having some trail mix, but I wanted something better.  So I decided to whip up a quick cherry crumble with a pumpkin spice latte. Yes, I’m a little bit crazy like that.

In my defense though, both things are so easy to make – and at least I was being active instead of lying lazily on the sofa (not that there is anything wrong with that).

For the cherry crumble, I set the oven to 400F and reached for the dark tart cherries in my freezer – these cherries have been playing a very important role in my life over the last month or so.  I grabbed my 5″ Le Creuset baking dish and rubbed a little bit of organic butter in the dish (you could use a vegan option as well).  I then added a layer of cherries on top of which I added a mixture of 1/4 cup dark rye flour, 1/4 cup oats, 1/8 cup brown sugar and enough butter (about 2 tbsp) to mix up a crumbly texture.  I usually use whole wheat flour in this recipe, but I’ve been trying to add more variety to the grains that I use in my cooking, and rye seemed like a good option for this hearty snack. I cooked the mixture for 30 minutes, and proceeded to work on making my pumpkin spice latte.

To make the syrup for the latte, I shredded a 1-2″ knob of peeled fresh ginger into a pot and added 3 cinnamon sticks (or a few pinches of ground cinnamon will work) and about 8-10 cloves.  I usually add nutmeg as well, but couldn’t find it in the pantry today (note to self, buy nutmeg).

I added enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot and set it to simmer on medium heat.  Once the mixture had started bubbling, I added 2 tbsp of organic canned pumpkin and allowed it to continue to simmer.  Once the mixture had reduced, I added a few drops of vanilla and a very small amount of agave nectar for taste.  This made enough syrup for two generous lattes.

I warmed up some almond milk and added in half of the syrup to the mix.  I used a Starbucks Via pack of coffee to mix into the latte – what a delicious afternoon snack!  I think I’m going to freeze the rest of the canned pumpkin into individual portions so I can whip up this syrup whenever I like.


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Leftover soup has a role in life – especially when paired with pasta

I really enjoy Pacific Natural Foods’ products – I like that the ingredients they use are foods that you can recognize and I also love that so many of their foods are organic.  Now that Costco carries their Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup in a multi-pack (vegetarian, not vegan), I usually stock up for a quick meal option when we’re short on time – in my opinion, warming this up is a much better choice than getting takeout from somewhere because at least you know when you’re eating. A quick salad or sandwich with a bowl of this soup makes a fantastic meal.

The only bad thing about the quart sized soup containers is that it is too much for two people to finish in a meal, but not enough for a second meal. I had an open carton leftover in the refrigerator, and decided to jazz it up and turn it into a pasta sauce.  Because the soup does contain some organic milk, the sauce turned into a creamy tomato sauce that was delicious.

I started by boiling whole wheat macaroni in a medium sized pot – I used to have a bad habit of making too much pasta, because it just didn’t look like there was enough when I boiled it in a larger pot.  I now control this problem by using a smaller pot.   As the pasta was cooking, I prepped 3 leeks, 2 cloves of garlic and a bunch of baby broccoli. I cooked the broccoli in my cast iron pan on low heat until it was tender. Once the pasta had finished cooking, I left the pasta to drain in a strainer, and in the same pot, cooked up three roughly chopped leeks with 3 cloves of garlic.  I seasoned the sauce with some white pepper and allowed it to cook down a bit to a thicker consistency. I added in the cooked pasta and allowed the mixture to cook for about 30 seconds longer.  If I hadn’t been in such a rush, I could have grabbed herbs from my garden, but the creamy texture of the soup was satisfying just on its own.

This whole process took me under 30 minutes (if I could figure out a way to make water boil instantly, it would be even faster).  I managed to use up my leftover soup and had only one pot to clean – now that’s an efficient dinner!


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CSA Delivery – November 9, 2011

This week, I decided to be a little adventurous and added Sun Chokes into my delivery – so far, the only thing I have thought about making is soup, but we’ll see what else I discover.  I also added Romanesco Broccoli to the mix – I just think it looks so beautiful – a piece of art really.

I love Japanese sweet potatoes, and this week, I think I’m going to continue my Veggie Burger experiments and try to create a sweet potato and brown rice based burger.

More leeks! I told you I loved leeks – the poor onions in my onion basket look a little bit sad because they’re being ignored ;).

I’m surprised that we’re still getting green peppers, but I’ll take them for as long as I can get them! These might go on a pizza this weekend.

The only fruit this week are the red grapes – they are so juicy and crunchy at the same time – deeelish!


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The Food Snob Series – Supermarket Yogurt Brands

I grew up eating homemade yogurt that was generally being made every few days, with the previous batch of yogurt being used to start the next batch.  I don’t ever remember my mom going over to my aunt’s house next door to borrow sugar, but I do remember her going over to get some homemade yogurt to use a starter for her own.  I even remember my mom making us homemade fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt with a dollop of homemade jam at the bottom of the container with the homemade yogurt left to ferment on top.  Of course, at the time, I had no appreciation for this homemade version and thought it was so much cooler to have store bought yogurts – how naive I was.

I’ve been doing some reading about skim milk and there were two things that caught my attention the most.  The first was a comment about how much higher the hormone concentration in skim milk is relative to whole milk since the fat is all removed.  The second was a comment about skim milk being a highly processed food – I’ve never thought of it in that manner, but why not? Most companies fortify their skim milk with powdered skim to ensure a proper color and consistency.  This powdered skim milk is produced by exposing the milk to high heat and pressure – this process oxidizes the cholesterol, which can lead to plaque formation in the arteries and heart disease.  So the very thing you think you are preventing by drinking skim milk is actually occurring because of it. These amounts of oxidized cholesterol in skim milk and reduced fat milk may be small, but really why take the risk? I could go on and on about why drinking skim or low fat milk is a waste of your time, but I’ll leave it at this – if you’re going to drink milk, drink a non-homogenized, organic brand.

Well that was a total tangent! This post was supposed to be about yogurt!  But my little rant above about milk was to bring additional awareness to what a scam nonfat and low fat yogurts really are – if you look at the labels closely, you’ll notice that most nonfat options have more sugar in them – added to make it taste better.  But that still isn’t what I was going to point out in this post – what I really wanted to talk about was the shelves full of fruit flavored yogurts, most of which have random additives.  Take the Yoplait brand for example:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored with Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3

You don’t need gelatin in your yogurt – it is probably the one ingredient I’ve been most sensitive to all my life as a vegetarian.  It is added to give the “yogurt” an appropriate texture.

The thing that gets me is that even some of the organic brands that are so readily available are also so high in sugar.  Stonyfield Organic is a line that is available at Costco, but take a look at the ingredient list.  Why is sugar the second ingredient? I don’t care if it is “naturally milled organic sugar” – it still adds 20g of sugar to a single serving.  And why do you need to add juice to give it a particular color? And how do you bottle “natural flavor” for a blueberry yogurt?

CULTURED PASTEURIZED ORGANIC LOW FAT MILK, NATURALLY MILLED ORGANIC SUGAR, ORGANIC BLUEBERRIES, PECTIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, ORGANIC
ELDERBERRY JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE (FOR COLOR), VITAMIN D3. CONTAINS OUR EXCLUSIVE BLEND OF SIX LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES: S. THERMOPHILUS L. BULGARICUS, L. ACIDOPHILUS, BIFIDUS, L. CASEI, AND L. RHAMNOSUS.

If you don’t have the time or don’t know how to make your own yogurt, find a good local organic brand (that’s what I do unless I need to be making yogurt in large quantities) or find a good probiotic supplement if you can’t have yogurt in your diet.  But stay away from the brands that are fooling you into thinking you’re eating something good for you – the only ingredient in your yogurt should be milk – and a little bit of fat never hurt anyone – go for the full fat version!


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The Food Snob Series – Aunt Jemima Syrup

Ok, don’t get all sensitive and teary eyed…I don’t have anything against your Aunt Jemima. But let’s be clear about one thing – in the world of pancake syrup, you definitely get what you pay for. Do you seriously think that you’ll be getting a quality product when a bottle of Aunt Jemima (or Mrs. Butterworth for that matter) will cost you $3.49 versus Grade A or B pure maple syrup can easily cost 4 times that price?

Let’s go through the ingredients in Aunt Jemima – corn seems to be the star of the show here (and somehow, I don’t think they cared much to make sure it was non-GMO corn). The cellulose gum is used as a thickening agent to make this appear syrup like – don’t worry, it must be good for you…especially since it is used in so many hair styling products. The lineup of preservatives after these “ingredients” seems pretty high for a simple breakfast syrup.

INGREDIENTS: CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVES), ARTIFICIAL AND NATURAL FLAVORS, SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE.

This product will provide you no nutritional value at all, unlike its real food counterpart. Maple syrup is filled with antioxidant compounds, digests better than sugar and is an excellent source of manganese, along with zinc, iron, calcium and potassium.

This morning, I enjoyed a pancake breakfast, but instead of reaching into my usual stash of frozen organic blueberries, I pulled out a recent find at Costco – Townsend Farms Organic Dark Tart Cherries.  These cherries are so delicious and addictive – I have been putting them in everything! Morning oatmeal, cherry crumble, with yogurt and granola – the possibilities are endless!

I buy my maple syrup from Whole Foods – they always have a large variety and their 365 Organic brand is a reasonable price for an Organic Grade B syrup.  Did you know that maple syrup grading is ranked the opposite from what you would expect? Grade B will always be a darker syrup than Grade A and is best used as a table syrup. If you are using syrup in cooking or baking, Grade A would suffice.  If you’re used to buying imitation syrups, it may be a sticker shock initially, but really, how often do you eat pancakes or waffles? And once you’ve had real maple syrup, I don’t think you’ll ever want to go back to the other stuff.


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CSA Delivery – November 2, 2011

This week’s delivery was really exciting for me because it included leeks! I love leeks – in soups, pastas, risottos…you name it, I’ll like it if it has leeks in it.

I also ordered some collard greens – the greens in our garden are starting to do well, but could use another week before we start harvesting them. As usual, good ol’ celery and broccoli was in the mix, along with red onions.

The grapes have just been fantastic, and this week was no different. I think I’ll hide them in the back of the fridge so I get them all to myself! *insert evil laugh here*