Monday, 28 July 2014

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Time management skills are not my current strongest suit right now. I haven't had a proper full cooking day in awhile, which makes me happy that I like doing recipes a few at a time so that I always have something to post. 

I was supposed to have one this weekend, but the lighting situation was just not working at all, with too many clouds, there was little natural light to work with. Which means I should probably really invest in some indoor natural lighting equipment. I am definitely planning to do so, but I'm reallllly trying to push it off until after we move across the country.

And now, to discuss this dish! I had never made stuffed mushrooms before, but after browsing through a few recipes and analyzing the fridge that day, I felt that it was a good time to give it a try.

This is one of the rare dishes I've made that include a vegan cheese. I used daiya because it's what I had on hand, but this would be even better with a homemade/artisan mozza style vegan cheese. It's even great without! It's the only added fat to the recipe, so make it low fat is as easy as omitting the cheese.

This is a great late summer recipe, with all the vegetables within being fresh and in season. Feel free to change it up with whatever you can find at the farmer's market.

Stuffed Mushrooms

- 5 portobella mushroom caps
- 1 zucchini, diced
- ½ large leek, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 can artichoke hearts
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp rosemary
- pepper
- ¼ cup nooch
- 1/3 cup GF breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp braggs

Pre-heat over to 375F

Cut out the mushroom stems and set aside to use in a broth or other recipe. You can also spoon out some of the gills to make more space for the filling, but I found that unnecessary.

In a large deep pan, water saute the zucchinni, leeks and garlic until lightly softened, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the sauteed veggies, well drained artichoke hearts and all the other ingredients (save the mushroom caps). Stir to combine, if you are finding it a bit wet, add some breadcrumbs.

On a parchment paper lines baking sheet, line up the mushroom caps and pile them high with stuffing. If you want to use vegan cheese, add a little sprinkle now. 

Pop them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops start browning a little and the cheese is melted (if using). Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Cafe My House

I had the chance to check out the new location of Cafe My House here in Ottawa. Their new location is very quaint, on Wellington St. West. The restaurant has a great backyard patio, where we sat to enjoy our meal. It was a great day for it too! Not too hot, a nice little breeze and great company!

We started by sharing the cheese plate, which had a Dill Herb cashew cheese, a coconut based Brie, a Kale crusted goat cheese and a peppercorn provolone. All vegan of course! It was accompanied by fresh berries, gluten-free crackers and pickled carrots and grapes. The cheeses were all quite distinctively delicious, with the coconut base being my favorite and the provolone a close second. It was a perfect portion to share between three of us too.

For the main course, we decided to share all 3 plates. First up is the Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Lima Bean falafels. To be honest, it wasnt my favorite of the meal. That being said, the falafels were very well cooked and pillowy soft on the inside. The panna cotta was my first time experience of the evening and I found the texture nice and creamy. The pickles on the plate and raw salad complemented the textures and tastes of the plate very well.

The next plate was a raw zucchini spaghetti bowl with a tomato sauce, kale goat cheese, spiralized beets and micro greens. I absolutely loved the combination of the sauce and cheese on the noodles. The noodles softened beautifully in the sauce and really gave the impression of pasta. I absolutely love and miss zucchini noodles and this was really a great dish overall.

Last, we had the Arugula and mushroom salad. This was so so so good. The combination of the greens, potatoes and mushrooms with a great lemon-dill cashew dressing was just the best part of this course. I could have eaten a very large bowl if this one. The greens were also particularly fresh and spicy, adding so much flavor.

Our last course was the dessert sharing plate, as you can see it is a very generous plate with 5 different desserts. All 3 of us were more than satisfied when this was done! There are 3 cheesecakes: mango, key lime and strawberry basil. All 3 had perfect texture and balance between acidity and sweetness. My favorite was definitely the strawberry basil, a great combination that I think I am going to introduce to my smoothies. The coconut tiramisu had great creamy texture with hints of coffee and chocolate flavors that hit the spot, and reminded me of an old favorite. The chocolate cake was dense and almost brownie-like in texture (it's made with coconut flour!) with a earl grey chocolate ganache on top.

Overall our dining experience was enjoyed through fully. The work and thought behind the dishes at Cafe My House shine through the entire meal and will definitely be seeing me again. Next up: I definitely want to try that brunch menu!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Butter(nut) Squash Curry

Today marks the official one year birthday of Plates for Plants! To mark this very special occasion, I am sharing a recipe thatI have been holding onto for a few months now. It's just so amazing and delicious that I had to wait for a special occasion such as today to share it with you.

Before we get to that though, I want to thank everyone who has followed Plates for Plants over the last year and helped us grow (over 41000 page views so far!). I am so grateful to be able to share with you my passion for plant-based food and health. Here's to growth and change over the next year!

This dish came to me so randomly, but that first bite was a revelation. My partner commented on how similar this tasted to what he remembers butter chicken tasting like. Now, It's been so long for me personally that I can quite remember it clearly, but I can say that it is damn good.

The butternut squash and coconut bring a nice rich creamy flavor to the dish that is really the highlight of the meal. If you can make fresh coconut cream from fresh coconuts, this is when the dish is at it's best. It can work with canned coconut milk as well, but the extra work is definitely worth it.

I've remade this about 5 times already over the past few months, which is really saying something as I rarely remake the same recipe more than a few times since I constantly try out new things to share with you.

Butternut Squash Curry

- 1 can coconut cream
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ tbsp minced ginger
- 1 ½ tbsp. minced fresh turmeric
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt/pepper
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 cup shredded Kale
- 3 cups cubed roasted butternut squash

Note: I would absolutely suggest doubling the recipe, you'll want leftovers!

In the blender, combine the coconut cream, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and turmeric and blend until smooth.

In a large deep pan or pot, water saute the onions for about 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add a tbsp or so of water and add the spices to toast for a minute or so, until fragrant. Dump in the sauce and let cook for about 10-15 minutes, until thcikenend. Add in kale and butternut cubes. Cook until the kale is softened.

Serve over rice, with naan, or on it's own.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Strawberry Blonde Bakery

It's always a favorite activity of mine to check out the vegan and gluten free joints of the city I'm living in. Ottawa is home (again) for the next few months so I really wanted to check out what was new, what has changed and my old favorites of course!

Strawberry Blonde bakery is a cute bakery situated in west of Hintenburg, right off of *Wellington* Street West. Here is their website. They have a wide variety of treats, both sweet and savory on offer. You can make special orders from them with 48 hours notice or just pick up a few things from their lovely display.

AS I walked into the bakery, I was excited to see what they had today. I was seriously hopping they still had some cinnamon buns and their now famous fritters. *Sidenote: while this blog is all about being oil-free and low fat, I do find that exploring vegan businesses is very important. I also love cupcakes. It's all about balance!*

The brownies we're of the cakey variety. Since I'm more of a fudgey brownie person, I let other people get most of it. They enjoyed it as far as I could tell. The icing was definitely my favorite part.

My littlest brother and cousin enjoyed one of the sprinkle bedazzled cookie sammiches and scarfed them down in a glory of crumbs. I think they did the job quite well in satisfying their sweet tooth.

Ahhhhhh fritters. These were pretty darn tasty. I got a bite of the blueberry maple and ate a whole apple cinnamon one. They were crazy fluffy and I was seriously impressed with them overall. Maybe a bit more apple would ahve made them even more epic. I really suggest trying them out though. As a gluten free gal, it's not often you get to devour a donut that is better than any gluten counterpart I've ever had.

We didn't buy any of the bread, but a customer at the counter very enthusiastically gave me a glowing review.

The cakes were nice and sweet. A little denser than most, the cherry was generously spotted with real fruit and a fluffy cherry vanilla icing. The queen Elizabeth was a hit, I only got a small piece to sample and the flavor was pretty spot on from what I can remember.

Now I must speak of the cinnamon buns. They were out-of-this-world delicious and fluffy and moist. Just what yu want from a cinnamon bun. They were very very sweet though and I could only scarf down half of one before getting sugared out. I'd say they are a great treat to share.

Overall, this bakery is a great addition to the Ottawa Veg scene,I wish them the best! Although, I really dont think they need any luck with the quality of products they are creating.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The BEST Vegan Potato Salad

Sometimes, there are recipes that are meant for later posting. Mostly because there are 5-6 in line before it... But then they are just too good not to share right away! This potato salad recipe reminded me exactly of the one I used to make that was full of mayo and eggs. It's kinda creepy actually...

I always find that when I make a recipe that eerily tastes like it's animal product counterpart, it kinda freaks me out. I know that when that happens, it's a winner for any event. Plus, this bowl of goodness is nothing but whole food. *score*

Since summer time is pretty much equivalent to BBQ for many North Americans, this potato salad would find a very happy place among any kind of BBQ spread you can think of. I love grilled vegetables, tofu steaks, bbq tempeh or a nice veggie burger grilled to perfection. Who says meat has to be the center of attention?

Potato salad made in a traditional fashion, with some surprisingly "hidden" ingredients that mimic mayo and all that jazz, is what you will find in the details below.

Potato Salad

- 3lb potatoes
- 3 ribs celery, sliced
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 large avocado
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1.5 tbsp dried dill
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Dice the potatoes into bite size pieces and put into a cold water filled pot. Rinse them well and refill with cold water. Bring the taters to a boil and simmer until a fork goes through. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Mash the avocado, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar with a whisk until very smooth. The best thing here is to have a totally ripe avo to get the smoothest sauce.

In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients until well combine and throughfully coated with sauce. It's best served after marinating for about 30 minutes and at room temperature. Add a little lemon juice to make sure nothing get brown if serving later.


Monday, 7 July 2014

The ULTIMATE Vegan Guide to Costa Rica

So, for anyone who has been following my blog, you all know that I spent 5 months in Costa Rica, more specifically near the town of Dominical. While this post is mainly going to be about that town, I want to talk about what a vegan can get food wise in general first.

Typical Tico food is usually very meat centric, but never fear, there are many vegan options to be devoured! First and foremost is comida tipica, translated as typical food which is what is served in most Sodas (dinners). This usually consists of gallo pinto (rice, beans and vegetables cooked in spices), fried plantain and tortillas with a choice of protein. All you have to do to ask to get a vegan version is to replace the protein with sautéed veggies.

This is going to be available ANYWHERE you go.

Another great option that is available pretty much anywhere is smoothies, you just have to ask for the water based beverages instead of the milk based ones (agua instead of leche). Try the guanabana aka soursop!

People are extremely nice and will accommodate whatever you need as long as you can communicate it to them. Use vegetariano estricto to describe your diet, then elaborate that "no como leche, queso, carne, pollo, pescado o huevos" which translates into saying you do not eat milk, cheese, meat, chicken, fish or eggs. Learning these words are key and make your whole trip that much easier.

Now to Dominical!

Surf Shack is a hostel/restaurant directly on the beach, serving up breakfast and lunch. I included pics of their menu at the time (May 2014) so you can get an idea of what they serve. They aren't exclusively vegetarian but the options are clearly marked on the menu. Their full breakfast usually comes with eggs, but we ordered it with avocado instead. Most of their menu items include gluten for anyone who has issue with that.

Further up the beach is a sweet little stand where you can get some cold fresh coconut to sip on.

On the main road is a little boutique yoga studio that also has a juice bar.

Also on the main road is a small lunch place which I has wraps, sandwiches, salads, juice and smoothie. Most of the veggie wraps have cheese that can be omitted to be vegan.

Rum bar is situated at the crossroads of the first entrance into demoniacal and the main road. they have a sign claiming they serve vegan and vegetarian food. When we went in they had a few different options for Chinese foods dishes, one being specifically vegan. It was a greasy plate of Americanized Chinese food, but it hit the spot at the time.

There is a small organic cafe that serves vegan pancakes and superfood smoothies. They also have really good organic fresh-pressed OJ. Their menu seems to change up alot and the hours change from high to low season as far as I could tell.

Last one is my MOST favorite of them all. An almost exclusively vegetarian restaurant, Maracatu was our go to place for food in Dominical. We sampled everything vegan on the menu and it was always a good quality meal that was through fully enjoyed. I'm including pictures of the menu that we took in May 2014. Pictured below in order is: the gallo pinto, the burrito, coconut curry and pad thai.

There are a few more places to hit up for more local options, including several sodas where you can get cheap gallo pinto and other dishes. Also, theres a small cafe coming into Dominical that makes smoothies and other drinks. It's a sort of European-like cafe.

The grocery stores have a wide array of both local and imported goods to fill you up as well.

If you can get to it, the farmer's market on thursday's and Friday's in San Isidro is amazing. A huge variety of fruit and vegetables, plus local artisan stalls with vegan and organic foods. They aren't cheap, but if you are looking for items like nooch or raw cashews they are the people to check out. The variety of exotic and tropical fruit everywhere is enough to keep you sustained throughout a stay in Costa Rica.

Travelling vegan is as easy as you make it. This guide does make it easier as it's all info and places that I discovered during my 5 month stay there. There are also farmer's markets in Tinamaste on Tuesdays and Uvita on Saturday's. I wouldn't suggest buying fruit in Dominical itself, because it's overly expensive and not always great quality. There is a great fruit stand in Baru called Fruiteria Baru that is easily accessible by bus or even bike that has great prices and quality.

The wide variety of options available there make it a GREAT vegan travelling destination.

There are also a whole bunch of vegan retreats, fincas and hotels around for those who want to be extra taken care of!