Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vegan 'Nutella' Recipe

One thing I really miss is Nutella. There is a super soft squishy place in my heart for overly sugary not nearly as nutritious as it claims hazelnut spread, and it is extremely hard for me to fight off the cravings - especially when my husband sneaks it into the house. Even though it is on a shelf above my head, it is as if I can sense its presence there. Then I indulge and end up regretting it. "Enough is enough!" I said to myself. There has to be an attainable substitute that I can eat! Has to be, has to be! And there is! Actually there are several, but many require that you roast and hand-peel and kill your blender blending your own hazelnuts. I don't have the energy for such an undertaking (however, if someone else wanted to make me a chocolate hazelnut spread with freshly blended hazelnuts I wouldn't object!) so I found one that uses pre-fab hazelnut butter as it's base. For the original recipe, please see Seitan is my Motor.

I worked around what I had in the house at the time to make a chocolate hazelnut spread that I think tastes like a combination of a Bueno bar and the Mayan Chocolate Häagen-Dazs flavor ice cream. With my changes, the recipe looks something like this:

Per 1/2 cup hazelnut butter (the all-natural, no preservatives kind):

  • 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder, to taste (I used Fry's Premium Cocoa)
  • 2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (you can also make a simple syrup with unrefined cane sugar or use agave nectar or honey)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (for richness and depth)
  • 2-3 tablespoons rice milk
You can also add a pinch of salt for a more salty/sweet combination. If your hazelnut butter is not very oily, you can add a little bit of oil to help it stay spreadable. The recipe I followed suggested Canola oil. You can really play around with the ingredients to make it individual to your taste. It is good hot or cold, and is actually nutritious enough to be a believable breakfast item, and delicious enough to amaze you every time you eat it.

I make it in very small batches so I don't just sit there with a bucket and a spoon and go to town. Good luck experimenting! Next time I may try spicing it with chili to give it a bit of a kick!

Apologies, this blog post is unedited because life is kicking my butt.
Special thanks to author of blog Seitan is my Motor. Your recipes warm my heart.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Saturday Brunch

Went out for brunch with a good (coincedentally, vegan) friend of mine. She suggested this place: Fresh. It was an amazing experience. I have never had vegan food verging on the gourmet level; normally I am not inclined to spend 20$+ per meal, but this was worth every penny. It was so relaxing for me to walk into a restaurant and know that pretty much anything on the menu I can eat. Their staff are also super helpful, polite, and accomodating. They seem more than willing to subtract and make substitutions to fit their customers more individual needs.

Even though we both went in ar
ound breakfast time, we were both quickly lured away from the tinier 'brunchfast' menu (although next time I have sworn to go back for their vegan pancakes with organic dark maple syrup) towards the fairly large, extremely appetizing, completely digestible regular menu. We both ended up getting veggie burgers, mine a mushroom and onion burger, hers a BBQ onion ring burger (I know, imagine! Still vegan!) That is one thing I really want to mention, because we both agreed they were probably the star of the brunch. I love onion rings, and until last Saturday I hadn't had an onion ring in over two years at least. These giant onion rings (coupled with the amazing garlicky vegan house mayonnaise) are
some of the best onion rings I have ever had. The inside onion is soft and sweet, and the outside crust of crushed quinoa managed to retain a remarkable amount of crispness during whatever healthier frying option they opted for. Crushed quinoa crust, what a revelation! I would never have im
agined the combination could work so well, or even
resemble an onion ring, let alone be incredible tasty. They are healthy and filling, and a good cheaper option for a quick vegan lunch. We also sampled an order of their sweet potato fries (with the same house mayo) which were an easy runner up. And I would be amiss if I didn't fondly mention my tiny expensive glass of fresh watermelon juice. Absolutely delicious.

As for my burger, and I won't speak for hers (although
I know it was a bit messy, she had a tough time wrestling it into her mouth), when I order a veggie burger what I really, really want is something that reminds me of the burgers I used to eat, a patty with the same flavors and texture of a beef patty (a good example, the Lick's Nature Burger patties) . Mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise. I am a traditionalist when it comes to my veggie burgers; I desperately want that food memory to live on, and when it's not delivered, no matter how good the dish is, I leave slightly disappointed. This was unfortunately one of the more disappointing ones. It was a more literal 'vegetable' 'patty', a patty made up of identifiable vegetables. First of all
I find their texture doesn't hold up as well in a burger setting; they tend to be drier and crumblier. Second of all, this time in particular, the Mediterranean style seasonings inside the patty overwhelmed what was su
pposed to be a more traditional mushroom and onion burger. Also, the veggie cheese? Do NOT get the veggie cheese. It's expensive and they promote it and say it is "comparable" BUT IT IS NOT. It is nothing like
cheese, chalky and bland, and it doesn't melt when confronted with the high temperatures within a burger.

Even though the main course was a bit of a let down, I would gladly try this restaurant again, and again! My lovely friend and I already have plans to go together once a month, determined to try something new every time. I have already made a promise, next time pancakes! Dark maple syrup! Heaven.

if you are local, this is where it is:

Apologies, this post is unedited.

Sweets from the Earth, Spiced Carrot Cake

I was first introduced to Sweets from the Earth's cakes at my wonderful aunt's house. My parents were in from out of town and we had all gathered there for dinner (my aunt and uncle's house is bigger, so they normally stay there) and she bought two of these for me, and for other people's enjoyment as well, so I would have something delicious for dessert too; and delicious they are!
Before I go any farther, I am going to start something in these entries from now on called the "Husband Stamp of Approval". What this really means is a product with my husband's approval is "Regular People Friendly". Not that we don't like regular people, we love regular people! There is nothing wrong with people without our particular dietary restrictions, sometimes we even marry them! I want everyone to understand what I mean when I give a product the Husband Stamp of Approval; my husband has systematically rejected 95% of all the amazing vegan/vegetarian/Erin's-tummy-friendly products I have discovered over the years. So, these stamped products are 100% safe to serve to absolutely anyone.
Needless to say, this product has the Husband Stamp of Approval. We tried the spiced carrot cake with 'cream cheese' icing (photo above, sorry for the glare ) and their chocolate cake too. My aunt let us take the leftovers home and my husband and I spent the following week stuffing our faces. Of the two varieties I have tried, my favorite is hands down the carrot cake. This comes from a chocolate lover; one of my favorite cakes is my grandmother's dairy free chocolate "Cockeyed" cake, but I have an even longer history of being deeply in love with carrot cake. (FYI, My wedding cake was carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing [not vegan]). This is one of the best store bought carrot cakes I have ever tried, forgetting the fact that it is vegan. The fact that it is vegan only endears it to me further, because I can eat half of one when a craving hits without 'emergency-room-worthy' consequences (lesser consequences are inescapable; enough of any kind of carrot cake will inevitably go to your thighs, vegan or not - you just have to eat more). My husband agrees - about how delicious it is, not that it's going to my thighs. The only downside to indulging in these delicious desserts is that they do break the bank. The tinier versions of the cakes my aunt bought run at about 12$ a pop, which leads me to believe that my aunt really really loves me.
The packaging boasts: Sweet. Natural. Sinfully Delicious. All natural 100% vegan, dairy & egg free, peanut & nut free, cholesterol free, lactose free, 0 trans fat, low in saturated fat, no refined sugars, GMO free, no preservatives, nothing artificial. The genius behind the sweets writes, "As a pastry chef, I love decadent desserts. Having been a lifelong vegetarian, my dessert choices were suddenly limited by my decision to embrace a healthier vegan lifestyle. Unwilling to give up treats, I combined both passions and Sweets from the Earth was born. Using only the finest, all-natural 100% plant-based ingredients, our original recipes are handmade with care. Our delicious desserts are a healthier indulgence, because life is sweetest when you can have your cake and eat it too."

Ingredients (Spiced Carrot Cake): Organic carrots, organic evaporated cane juice, organic unbleached wheat flour, water, sunflower oil, non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese (water, expeller pressed oils [soybean, palm fruit, olive], maltodextrin, soy protein, tofu, non dairy lactic acid, organic sugar, natural gums [locust bean, guar, cellulose, xantham and carrageenan], veg mono and diglycerides, salt}, organic tofu, organic flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, sea salt, vanilla bean seeds. Baked in a dairy, egg. peanut and nut free facility.