A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin
On January 16, 2009, my husband and I stood barefoot in the sands of St. Lucia and vowed to love and honour each other forever. It was just the two of us and a minister, and it was the happiest day of my life.
Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary and so a celebration was in order. While a one-way ticket back to that gorgeous tropical heaven had undeniable appeal, a more realistic plan to celebrate our anniversary was a trip up north to the empty family cottage. In anticipation of a quiet weekend away, I flipped through my vegan cookbooks and gathered meal ideas and ingredients to recreate our Caribbean paradise through a candlelight dinner for two. With images of St. Lucia and its lush tropical fruit as my starting points, I decided to whip up a warming coconut curry and mimosas, as well as a dessert that infused layers of tropical bliss into a special anniversary parfait.
Ah, inspiration. Do you realize it’s all around us, camouflaged in every corner of our lives, waiting for us to take notice? Inspiration gives us the courage to test the limits of our imagination. It is where brilliance thrives.
Have you ever thought about what stimulates your imagination or inspires you to create something new? It really doesn’t take much to inspire me or to make me smile in quiet awe. It’s the green bananas ripening on my kitchen counter. The way cookie dough comes together. Coconut oil melting. Lentils sprouting. What happens to chia seeds when I soak them. Beautiful photographs. The flowers that grow in my garden. My cat purring. My friends. And all of you. Those of you who leave your comments here, showing proof there are people who actually read my blog. Those of you who are silent but keep dropping in.
I find endless inspiration in other blogs, too. Food bloggers’ passion, and the delicious results of that passion, never fail to inspire me. This beautiful pudding is one such example. It is inspired by someone’s quinoa porridge, combined with another’s banana soft serve, and topped with my own creation of caramelized banana and nuts. The frozen bananas make this pudding thick and creamy, the cocoa adds a deep chocolate flavour, and the quinoa provides a perfect balance of essential amino acids and vital nutrients. As far as I know, no other chocolate pudding has the superstar power of this one. Enjoy!
Happy twenty-eleven! Now that it’s the beginning of a new year, it seems the holiday hoopla is already becoming a distant memory. The big meals and decadent desserts have been devoured, the wine bottles have been emptied, and the gingerbread house has been picked clean. After so much excess, I would feel a bit guilty if I tempted you with more sweets. And yet here I am, with a recipe for cookie dough bites.
But wait, don’t go! I promise you, this one is different. If you have a health-related New Year’s resolution still fresh in mind, a sugar and calorie laden treat likely won’t be passing your lips anytime soon. Or, perhaps your body is craving healthy greens and whole foods after too much Christmas cake and cocktails. It’s time for a fresh start, right?
While it’s nearly impossible to attest to giving up all sweets in January without caving before the start of February, one thing I have learned is that nutritious, whole food options are the keys to success. So, basically, you can have your [unrefined, whole grain, sugar-free] cake and eat it, too. Even that hidden desire to eat raw cookie dough can be fulfilled! Here, raw cookie dough bites—”raw” in the good sense of the word, not a raw batter of flour, sugar and eggs—are filled with nutrient-dense nuts and oats and sweetened with raw agave nectar. They are super easy to make, and they can be stored in the freezer for those times when you want to satisfy a sweets craving without feeling bad about it. Enjoy!
Ever thought you were missing the secret to turning your mother’s famous mac and cheese recipe into a veganized success story? I know I’ve had my fair share of flops. But thanks to expert author team Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman, who have unveiled the mysteries of vegan food substitutions in their new book, we can all learn how to turn old recipes into delicious, veganized masterpieces.
Far more than just another cookbook, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions is crammed with tips, tricks, recipes and charts, presented in an exciting and approachable way. If you’re a follower of Celine’s blog, you’ll know she has a fresh, fun style all her own, so you can bet this won’t be a dry, monotonous read.
Not to say recipe experimenting isn’t fun, but this book is sure to limit the miserable failures that can result even after hours of chopping, boiling, simmering and stirring. With over 200 recipes to choose from, the book is organized by chapters in which each main ingredient substitute is covered. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for replacing everything from dairy, eggs, meat and animal by-products. Simply look up whatever non-vegan ingredient you want to sub out, and Celine and Joni will explain what sub options are available, how to use them, and provide several recipes as examples of their use. You’ll also find a chapter of healthy substitutions for replacing things like gluten, soy, refined sugar and fat, so you can fine-tune recipes to suit your needs.
Straying from traditional entrees and baked goods, I was pleased to see there are far more than just the stereotypical recipes to choose from. More reflective of our tendency to adapt recipes with our own dietary needs and palates in mind, I immediately zoomed in on the irresistible-sounding pulp not fiction muffins in the dairy substitutes chapter. Using the book’s recipe for basic peanut milk, these muffins are a perfect example of how to use what you have on hand as a binding agent. In this case, the homemade peanut milk is used as a dairy replacement and its leftover pulp for binding.
Isn’t it crazy to think Christmas is this week? I’m not usually one to jump on the holiday excitement, and I seem to be growing more and more disinterested each year, as the holiday sales pop up and the malls become packed with frenzied consumers looking to spend past their limits on gifts their recipients probably don’t need. I have such an aversion to Christmas mall music and sales that I tend to avoid retailers until well past January 1st.
I’d like to think I’ve reached a higher level of existence where I no longer feel the need to be part of the Christmas marketing scheme, but the truth is I still feel the pressure. I’m not saying I don’t love giving gifts to those I love. Instead, I prefer to go the homemade route. This year, however, I chose to purchase gifts from a local not-for-profit group to go along with my homemade packages of chocolate-dipped ginger cookies.
Chocosol is a small but innovative initiative that links cocao farmers in southern Mexico with ecological and socially conscious producers in southern Ontario to make beautiful artisanal chocolate in its purest form—true whole food treats without the fillers. Chocosol is embarking on a friendlier trade route that goes beyond the fair-trade model, defining it as a horizontal trading relationship akin to community-supported agriculture. And, of course, everyone loves chocolate, right? I’m excited to tell my family members the story of how their chocolate gifts came to be.
One aspect of Christmas that keeps me sane is the excuse to bake with my favourite winter spices, break out the traditional recipes (veganized, of course) and try new desserts that are just too decadent for any other day. These Nanaimo bars definitely fall into the latter category. Once I took a bite of one of these babies, I realized that Christmas really isn’t all that bad.
The Nanaimo bar, a popular no-bake dessert that originated in Nanaimo, BC, is typically made with butter, eggs and honey graham cracker crumbs. While the butter and eggs are quite easy to substitute, I chose to make my own cinnamon graham cookies to use for crumbs in the bottom layer and it worked out perfectly.
If you’ve made these bars before, you’ve probably experienced the difficulty in cutting them into squares without breaking the chocolate topping. I almost cried on my first attempt, as I carefully punctured the chocolate with a sharp knife only to watch the chocolate continue to crack in misdirected ways through the beautiful bars that I carefully put together. On my second attempt, however, I discovered that placing a sharp serrated knife in a jar of hot water for several minutes helps lessen the impact. Using light, sawing motions with the knife on the horizontal also helps. Enjoy!