‘Tis the season to turn off the oven and enjoy more raw treats, so a couple of weeks ago I pulled out the Tiny Treats collection—you know, for old times’ sake. I wanted to make something for a friend’s birthday party that weekend and I knew these hazelnut brownies would be a hit (and they were).
After all, who doesn’t love chocolate? And especially when it involves other delicious, whole ingredients like nuts and dates and maple syrup. The chocolate frosting on top of these squares of heaven has become one of my favourites, not only because it’s so easy to pull together but because it’s incredibly rich and creamy. See?
Here in Canada, cupcake bakeries have been on the rise for more than a decade, thanks to the popularity of Cupcake Wars, The Cupcake Girls and DC Cupcakes. In Toronto, specifically, dozens of start-ups have been inspired to open, so now it seems most neighbourhoods have at least one cupcake shop.
Among the crowd there are some pretty fantastic vegan bakeries that make the veg community proud, but there are still many traditional shops that don’t consider the incredible cruelty-free substitutes they could use for eggs, butter and milk without sacrificing flavour or texture. (They will see the light soon enough—I just know it!)
When I was growing up, I had a very methodical breakfast routine. It went something like this:
Toast two slices of multigrain bread. Spread on a layer of margarine immediately, so it melted while the toast was still warm. Cover with a thin layer of peanut butter, so it melted against the margarine. Eat, crusts first.
That happened almost every single morning for many years, and if I was feeling adventurous I would add a sliced banana on top.
Now that I’m all grown up and my breakfast habits have changed, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the smell and taste of peanut butter toast. There was just something about the combination of buttery PB that I loved, and I clearly remember savouring every bite.
The scent of freshly baked banana bread has been wafting through my house for the last week. A sudden craving hit me recently and the next thing I know, I’ve used up every single frozen banana in my freezer in a crazy attempt to perfect a gluten-free version of my favourite baked treat.
I’ve been a big, big fan of banana bread ever since my grandmother introduced me to it when I was a wee child. So, I didn’t take this personal challenge lightly. This gluten-free bread had to be good, with a texture that wasn’t gluey or doesn’t fall apart in your hands, and a light banana flavour that wasn’t too sweet. Oh, and with a beautiful chocolatey swirl throughout. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I already had it planned out before I even started, but naturally, what seemed so easy on paper couldn’t quite be achieved in the kitchen. It took more than a few trials to get this just right.
I’ve been vegan for almost 14 years and I have never once questioned the lifestyle. I first became vegetarian at the age of 13 (veganism came several years later) after watching a program on TV about factory farming, and I remember becoming a very determined kid. This was not a decision I took lightly, because I knew it affected the lives of animals that had no choice. Back then, I didn’t know many vegetarians and my parents struggled with what to feed me.
Today, the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are no longer the foreign concepts they once were, and these plant-based diets are gaining more and more recognition for their health, environmental and social benefits.
If you’re curious about the vegan lifestyle and you’re thinking about making the transition, I want to tell you straight-up that it isn’t about restriction or deprivation—you won’t be doomed to a life of lettuce and tofu. A vegan diet is abundant in wholesome, filling foods, as well as what I call transition foods that mimic the flavours you’re used to, like meat substitutes and vegan cheese. When I made the transition to veganism, there weren’t many vegan wonder brands like Gardein or Daiya or Coconut Bliss.
I’ve compiled six important tips that will (hopefully) help make your transition easier. Most importantly, though, think of it as an adventure, enjoy the discovery process, and allow yourself room for error.