Vegan Food Nerd


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Onion Bhajis

20140919_185950I’ve been lucky to live in England and get to enjoy some really fabulous Indian food. Hamilton has it’s fair share of decent options though, and living on the East side means we get to feast on the Himalya whenever the craving strikes. The Himalya is all veg Indian fare and they have a great vegan thali special.

I have always loved the variety of veggie options and pakoras and onion bhajis are a favourite. My parents gave us a bag of onions they picked up from a farm so we thought we’d make some bhajis to go with a lentil curry (recipe for the curry coming soon).

Notes:

  • I wanted to try baking these to see if they would turn out, but we weren’t sure. If you try baking them let me know if it works out for you!
  • You can alter the spice mixture if you like, but these were really flavourful with just a little bit of heat. Increase the chillies or add some chilli powder to make them spicier.
  • We didn’t try to form the bhajis at all, so they are kinda rustic looking. Cut your onion slices in half to help with shaping into more of a ball and less spider shapes will result.

Ingredients

1/2 large white onion, finely sliced
1/2 large red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 thumb of ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 cup of chickpea flour + 1-2 tbsp
6-8 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus oil for frying
salt

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1) Add sliced onions to a bowl and separate each slice. Add spices, garlic and ginger and mix.

2) Add 1 cup of the chickpea flour, 1 tbsp of oil and 6 tbsp of water and mix. You may want to add up to 2 more tbsp of chickpea flour and water to make a batter to coat the onions that isn’t too thick. Some onions may release more liquid than others as well which will create a thinner batter.

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3) Heat about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan or cast iron pan. You want it hot but not so hot that your bhajis will get dark brown too quickly without cooking the onions. Drop a bit of batter in the oil and if it starts to sputter it’s ready.

4) Drop a spoonful of the onion mixture into the pan without crowding and fry until browned on both sides. At least 2-3 minutes per side worked for us.

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20140919_1840425) Place cooked bhajis on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt. You can leave them in an oven at 250 F to keep them warm. Serve hot!

Makes 12 bhajis

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Italian Stuffed Artichokes

20140723_193807I’m pretty sure artichokes have always been my favourite vegetable. I remember requesting them for birthday meals many times throughout my childhood and teen years. I just love them anyway you can prepare them; whether it’s a simple steamed artichoke, or stuffed then steamed, or marinated artichoke hearts, or grilled, etc.

Now, artichokes do take a little bit of work to clean and prepare and stuff, but the result is super delicious. Your stuffing can also vary slightly, but I will provide you with my favourite method.

Notes:

  • Artichoke size varies greatly! I like to use larger artichokes for stuffing (organic are preferred as they taste so much better, but this is not necessary). If you only see smaller artichokes, use those for grilling or other methods of cooking as they won’t work well here.
  • It can be a bit time consuming prepping your artichokes, and the larger the artichoke the longer they take to cook. Generally anywhere from 30-80 minutes could be required for cooking.
  • You may have some leftover stuffing. Save it in a ziploc bag for future use. On the other hand, if you stuff generously you may need to make a bit more.
  • After writing this post, I realize more pictures or a video might be required if you’re new to this method!

Ingredients

2 large artichokes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1-2 garlic cloves (if they are large, 1 will suffice)
veg cheese or veg parmesan (optional)
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
olive oil

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1) First you need to clean up your artichokes so they are ready for stuffing. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top 1/4 – 1/3 of the artichoke. This will give you some room to get into the leaves.

2) Cut the bottom stem so that your artichoke can sit upright on it’s own.

3) Snip off the top of each of the leaves with scissors or a knife as they are quite sharp.

4) Turn the artichoke upsidedown (stem side up in your hand) and bang it on the counter or a wooden cutting board a few times to help open up the leaves. This will help you to get in between the leaves that are held fairly tightly together. You can also prod them open with your hands a bit.

5) Rinse your artichokes under cold water and if not using immediately place in a bowl of cold water mixed with lemon juice to prevent browning.

6) Mix breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slice garlic thinly.

7) Now, working with one artichoke at a time, get in between each leaf with a bit of your stuffing. The amount you use is really up to you. Try to get in between each leaf but it’s ok to leave a few without stuffing. I usually leave the very middle untouched.

8) Sporadically place the garlic slices in between some of the leaves, you want maybe 1/3rd of the artichoke to have garlic rather than every single opening.

9) If you so desire, you can also repeat the garlic part of the stuffing with some grated veggie mozzarella or parmesan. I have used pecan parmesan in the past with success as well as store bought vegan parm.

10) Once your artichokes are stuffed place into a pot and fill with about 1.5″ of water (you want to cover the bottom third of your artichoke).

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11) Drizzle each artichoke with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper. Feel free to salt the water in the pot fairly generously as this helps to season the artichokes. Squeeze lemon juice over each artichoke, especially if they were not placed in the lemon water earlier. This will help to brighten the flavour.

12) Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer – be sure to keep the lid on or they will not steam.

13) Large artichokes will take roughly 45-60 minutes to steam but they can take longer. You will know when they are ready when you can pull a leaf nearer to the center of the artichoke out easily. The bottom portion of the leaf should be tender and have a buttery texture.

14) Once cooked, remove from pot with tongs and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 2

To eat your artichoke

1) Starting on the outside layer, remove a leaf, and scrape the bottom portion of the leaf between your teeth. This will allow you to eat the stuffing as well as the tender portion of the leaf. Continue leaf by leaf!

2) Once you get closer to the centre of the artichoke, the leaves will be more and more tender allowing you to eat more and more of each leaf.

3) When there are no leaves left (you may have to pop off the really thin centre leaves), you will be left with the choke and the heart. Remove the choke (this is the hairy part of the artichoke) with a fork or spoon. Now you can eat the entire heart hiding below the little hairs. This is my favourite part of the whole experience as it is usually the most tender and delicious!


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Baked Zucchini Fries

20140731_184416Zucchini season is still upon us (at least in some areas), and it can be difficult to think up some new meal ideas. I love zucchini sauteed, grilled, roasted, raw in salads, baked into breads or brownies, and now also as ‘fries!’ Our zucchini plants have actually succumbed to the cold temperatures but there still seems to be an abundance at the farmer’s markets.

This is a simple recipe that just takes a little bit of time as you have to dip into a few bowls one ‘fry’ at a time. You can add flavour to the zucchini easily though by dressing up your flour or breadcrumbs that you will be using to coat the zucchini pieces.

I adapted this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.

Notes:

  • To prevent finger clubbing, use one hand to dip into the wet bowl and one hand to dip into the dry. This will keep the breadcrumbs from sticking to your fingers.
  • This also works with yellow squash. I used a green and yellow zucchini and they both tasted equally yummy.
  • You may want to spray the fries themselves with a little oil to help with the browning process. This was not done for the photo above, but they still crisped up nicely!
  • Try some different flavour combinations as you please.

Ingredients

2 small zucchinis
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk (or soy)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika (smoked, hot or sweet)
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 cup breadcrumbs (regular or panko)
1/2-1 tsp herbs of choice (basil, oregano, parsley would be great)
salt and pepper to taste

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1) Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly grease a cooling rack (I used coconut oil spray) and set on a baking sheet and put aside.

2) Cut zucchini into fry shapes, leaving the skin on. If you are using a larger zucchini you may want to cut out some of the seeds as they add too much moisture and your fries won’t be as crispy.

3) In a medium bowl or large plate with a lip, mix together flour, milk, salt, garlic powder, paprika and chili powder to form a thin paste.

4) In a second bowl mix together breadcrumbs, herbs and some salt and pepper.

5) Dip each zucchini fry into the flour mixture to coat, and then toss around in the breadcrumbs to form a thin layer. Place prepared zucchini fry onto the cooling rack. Repeat until you have no uncoated zucchini left.

6) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until browned. Serve immediately with your favourite dipping sauces. I used chipotle vegenaise and ketchup.

Serves 3-4 as a side dish.


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Lentil and cashew stuffed peppers

20140911_172625Stuffed peppers are the go to dish served at weddings here when I ask for the vegan option (well, that or a stir fry). One time I even got served a pepper stuffed with rice that came with a side of rice. Despite all of the mediocre stuffed peppers I’ve had over the years, I still think of this dish fondly. My mom made a mean stuffed pepper growing up and I wanted to create something that had a slightly different flavour profile. These stuffed peppers are protein packed and super yummy and would make a great main entree on their own or served with a salad or some roasted veggies on the side.

Notes:

  • You will have some leftover filling depending on the size of your peppers – it’s great just eaten with a spoon!
  • I used two small baking dishes and so I fit half the peppers in each dish – feel free to use one large baking dish of course.
  • I had cooked extra white rice the day before but feel free to use brown rice for the added health factor
  • My family gets together to make big batches of tomato sauce every year so I used that which makes this a bit faster to put together. I would either make some sauce ahead of time, or quickly cook up some pureed tomatoes with seasonings of your choice to use for this.
  • I also cooked the lentils ahead of time. With the rice, lentils and sauce ready to go, these are a snap to get into the oven!

Ingredients

2 cups cooked rice
1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
3 green bell peppers
1 small onion diced
3/4 cup of raw cashews
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 kale leaves, stems removed and ripped into small pieces
1 small fennel bulb
1 cup grated veg mozzarella plus more for topping (optional)
2 tsp capers
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp of olive oil, divided
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup tomato sauce for filling
approx 2 cups tomato sauce for baking dish and to top peppers

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1) Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and any white membrane. Drizzle both sides with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle some salt on both sides of each pepper half. Bake peppers, cut side up on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish for 15-20 minutes. The idea is to get them partially cooked.

20140911_1646412) Cut fennel into bite size pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and add salt and pepper to season. Roast for 10 minutes, flip, then roast for an additional 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

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3) Preheat a large pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to coat. Add cashews and continue cooking with the onion until they are slightly browned (5 mins or so).

4) Reduce heat and add spices, herbs, salt and pepper and stir. Continue to cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Add kale and garlic and cook until wilted. Add lentils and roasted fennel and stir to heat through.

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5) Put cooked rice in a bowl and cover with hot lentils and vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Add 1 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce, capers, and veggie cheese if using and mix together. Taste the mixture for salt and seasonings.

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6) Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and add partially cooked peppers (cut side up).

7) Divide your stuffing amongst the peppers, making sure to push the filling into the corners. They should be heaping!

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8) Top each pepper with a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce.

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9) Cover your baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and check to see that the sauce is bubbling and the peppers are steaming – if not recover and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Once your peppers are just about done, top with a bit of the veggie cheese and return to the oven uncovered for 10 minutes.

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10) Serve immediately but be careful because they will be quite hot!

Serves 3-6 depending on your appetites.


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Homemade italian veggie sausages

20131002_180741When I’m in a pinch, or feeling particularly lazy, I have no problem buying some Tofurky or Field Roast veggie sausages to throw on the grill or in the cast iron pan. However, it really is so much cheaper to make them yourself (and healthier to boot since you can control the ingredients) that everyone should have a staple veggie sausage recipe at home. They are so simple to make and come together pretty quickly, and can even be frozen easily so that you can have some on hand for a quick meal. Isa over at theppk.com has some great sausage recipes and I adapted the following from her!

Notes:

  • These are pretty adaptable so you can flavour them how you prefer. I’ve also used red kidney beans or pinto beans and they all work well.

Directions and Ingredients

1) Mash 1/2 cup (plus a tbsp) rinsed, drained canned white beans in a large bowl

2) Add in the following order:
1 cup water
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsps liquid braggs
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp pureed garlic
2 tsps white miso
1 tsp herbamere
1 1/2 tsps ground fennel seed
1/4 tsp homemade dried chili pepper (1/2 tsp red pepper flakes would also work)
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
fresh black pepper to taste

3) Mix with a fork until well combined. Knead briefly with hands and separate dough into 4 equal portions. Get your steaming apparatus ready as the water should start boiling by the time you have everything rolled up.

4) Roll each portion into a log and wrap in tin foil. The dough is a bit mushy but will snap into shape while steaming so no need to be a perfectionist. Just make sure there are no tears in the foil or you’ll end up with some oddly shaped sausages.

5) Steam for about 45 minutes then remove from foil and saute in a cast iron skillet in a bit of olive oil to brown on all sides. They should also cook up nicely on the grill.

Makes 4 veggie sausages.


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Fried Garden Eggplant

20140903_182912Despite the odd growing season we have harvested a few sicilian eggplants and what’s better than breading and frying them? (Ok, well my vote was to roast eggplant slices in the oven, but someone may have convinced me to do otherwise). I just picked a few more eggplants so I will totally win the next round! Regardless, the breading method used here made a really crispy coating and the eggplant was deliciously creamy and tender on the inside. We served it with some tomato sauce and pasta and garlic bread on the side (hello carbs!)

20140904_165115Notes:

  • There are a few steps to breading the eggplant as you have to dip into the flour mixture, then into the breadcrumbs to coat. Make sure to give yourself a bit of counter space and set up an assembly line to make for quick work!
  • To prevent finger clubbing, use one hand to dip into the wet mixture and transfer to breadcrumb plate, and use your other hand to coat with the breadcrumbs.
  • You can peel the skin if you aren’t a fan or if it seems particularly thick. The skin was left on here.
  • The eggplant slices were salted first for this recipe. Since these tasted really delicious, and had a lovely silky texture, I can’t vouch for making these with unsalted eggplant and getting the same result. The salting also helps the eggplant to absorb less oil.
  • The leftovers are great in sandwiches for lunch the next day with your favourite fixings!

Ingredients

1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond milk plus 2-3 tablespoons
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

2 cups breadcrumbs
2 tbsp finely chopped herbs (parsley, chives & basil worked great)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

vegetable oil for frying

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1) Place your eggplant slices in a colander and salt each side generously. After about 30 minutes, pat each eggplant slice with paper towels to remove the moisture that has been seeping out.

2) Combine flour, almond milk and seasonings in a shallow bowl or plate so that you have a bit of a thin paste. It should be thick enough to stick to the eggplant and coat it in a thin layer – add more almond milk if necessary to thin it out slightly.

3) Combine breadcrumbs, herbs and salt and pepper in a separate bowl or plate.

4) Working with one eggplant slice at a time, dip into the flour mixture first and then into the breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs should stick easily.

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5) Heat a large frying pan over medium heat with about an inch of vegetable oil. The oil should be hot but not smoking – you can test your oil by taking some breadcrumbs and putting them into the oil. It should sizzle!

6) Put your breaded eggplant slices into the pan without overcrowding – 3 or 4 at a time is likely what you will fit. Fry until golden brown on both sides.

7) Place fried eggplant slices on a cooling rack placed on top of a cookie sheet while you continue frying the rest. This can be placed in an oven at 350 F to keep them warm and crispy and the cookie sheet will catch any excess oil. (You can also pat the excess oil with paper towels if you wish)

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8) When you are done frying all of the eggplant, serve immediately topped with some home made tomato sauce or eat as is.

Makes 8-9 slices