No meat? No problem.

This is the second post in a series I am doing as an official #SausageFestHFX blogger.

I have to admit, I was excited to find out I was covering EnVie: A Vegan Kitchen as part of my official Sausage Fest blogging duties. I’m a big fan of vegetarian and vegan food (when it’s delicious and creative) and it was a way to squeeze a healthy day into my week of sausages.

Today I stopped by for lunch at EnVie, and owner Diandra walked me through the special Sausage Fest creation they put together. I chose the kale caesar salad as my side, and when the plate arrived it was a very generous size for lunch. I couldn’t even finish it all.

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So what we’re looking at here is a white bean and lentil sausage on a toasted white bun from Local Source. The sausage is made with ground miso, smoked paprika, caramelized onions, garlic, balsamic and fresh thyme and sage. The binder (the reason it doesn’t require a casing like a meat sausage) is vital wheat gluten. The sausage is on a bed of crunchy romaine.

On top, there is a grainy dijon “aioli”, a beautiful sweet apple chutney finished with Garrison IPA and crunchy fried green onions. A huge sausage! I had to fork-n-knife it after the first couple bites because of the size. Great flavours and textures coming together here; I thoroughly enjoyed. Shamefully, this was my first visit to EnVie, and I’ll definitely be back. The kale caesar was so garlicky, creamy and delicious, and the coconut “bacon” added a great little twist on the salad.

Vegetarians and vegans rejoice — you, too, can enjoy Sausage Fest 2015!

Green curry-coconut spicy fusion tacos

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This has been the week of green curry. I brought home a can from Tian Phat on Monday and have been trying to use it in a variety of ways since. My favourite, so far, has been these green Thai curry-marinated tempeh tacos. You could easily make this recipe with the meat or seafood of your choice, but I think it’s delicious with tempeh or tofu.

Here are the elements that came together to make this delicious (almost vegan) creation…

Grilled masa corn tortillas + green Thai curry and coconut-marinated tempeh + spicy “Asian” slaw + Sriracha-citrus yogurt + daikon sprouts + crumbled peanuts + fresh cilantro = delicious fusion tacos.

This is my second run at fusion tacos, because as most of you know I am obsessed with the bulgogi style tofu tacos at Indochine Banh Mi on South Park Street. I tried recreating those once and something just wasn’t right. These are different, with the Thai curry influence, and I was extremely happy with how they turned out. I’m putting them in regular dinner rotation, maybe switching up the protein now and again. The marinating did take a little bit of time, but it was completely worth it.

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I’m not going to do a full recipe, just give you the basics. The tempeh marinade consisted of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, lemon-infused olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, freshly squeezed blood orange juice, fish sauce, green curry paste, more fresh ginger and garlic, fresh basil and of course coconut milk. I let that sit, sealed, for a couple hours. The cooking method to really infuse the flavour into the tempeh is to then put it on the stove, cover it in the marinade, bring to a boil them simmer for about 20 minutes. After that, jack the heat and let it completely reduce to nothing.

The Asian slaw I made had sliced napa cabbage, grated carrot, green onion, red pepper and cilantro. The dressing was hot (and tasted SO good the next day) with chiles, fresh ginger, rice vinegar, lime juice and lemon-infused olive oil. The Sriracha-citrus yogurt is simple, I used a mixture of Fox Hill plain yogurt, store-bought greek yogurt, Sriracha, lime juice and my secret ingredient, roasted garlic oil.

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Add your favourite Asian-inspired toppings and you’re good to go. I found amazing daikon radish sprouts at Selwood Green last weekend and they were perfect; those along with crumbled peanuts and fresh cilantro, and these were some spicy, yet beautifully balanced tacos.

Thanks to the Seaport Farmers’ Market I was able to use mostly all local vegetables, and grab fantastic handmade corn tortillas from El Gallo.

(To make these vegan, just leave out the fish sauce and use your favourite dairy-free yogurt.)

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Unintentionally Vegan: Creamy Lentil Salad

veganlentilsSince it’s January, I, like everybody else, am trying to eat a little bit healthier. Since I already do almost all my cooking from scratch and generally feel pretty good, it’s more about using nutritious ingredients that I’m not overly familiar with, and expanding my repertoire.

So, lentils. We’ve got a ton of them in our pantry, and they’re still not my number one choice, simply because I don’t entirely know what to do with them. I’ve come to love the brown variety; they are extremely easy to cook. There are just a couple tips about lentils that I’ve come across, including that you should always rinse them off beforehand, and that you should wait to salt them until after they are cooked (or they might get mushy). Other than that, lentils seem pretty easy-going. I haven’t overcooked them yet, or burned them to the bottom of the pot.

This recipe was very much an odds and ends creation, but came together better than I ever expected. And it’s perfect for Meatless Monday. I call this dish: creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. It is filling, rich and flavourful… oh, and unintentionally vegan. Here is the recipe, for one person, as it was a work-day lunch for me:

Creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. For one. 

  • 1/2 cup brown lentils, cooked and cooled to room temp. or warm
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 radish, chopped
  • 1 button mushroom, chopped
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of crushed cashews (preferably unsalted)
  • Greens for on top, optional

As a note, the ratio for lentils to water is 1:2. They only take about 20-30 minutes to cook. Bring them to a boil then simmer, uncovered, for the rest of the cooking time.

Method: This is pretty easy. Mix up the avocado, lemon juice and EVOO until you get a creamy dressing that isn’t too thick. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing with the lentils until they are covered. Mix in all your chopped up veggies until covered. Add salt and pepper if you need to. Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle the cashews on top. Finish with a handful of greens. (If you are a lover of heat, cut the richness of this dish with your favourite hot sauce!)

Look for my next post, which will be the complete opposite of vegan. It will feature making ravioli from scratch and other indulgences from my recent birthday weekend…

Meatless Monday: Sloppy Joe

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There is a way to get some flavour into that veggie ground round and use it for your favourite meat-heavy meals. This dish came from us just having odds and ends in the fridge, including a package of ground round.. Since it’s Meatless Monday, I thought I’d share the recipe. The Guinness and worcestershire are what really amped up the flavour, as well as the long simmer. (Leave out the jalapeño and it would be great recipe for kids too!)

Sloppy Joe Filling:

  • 1 package of Italian Yves Veggie Ground Round (or original)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 2 vine tomatoes, chopped (you might like it chunky)
  • 1/2 cup or so, sun-dried tomatoes that were packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, diced
  • Chilli powder and cumin to taste (a few shakes of each)
  • Tablespoon of worcestershire, or to taste
  • Sprinkle of brown sugar (optional)
  • Generous splash of Guinness, or other dark beer
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method for filling: In a good-sized saucepan (you will need some depth) sautée the onions until slightly caramelized at medium heat, add garlic, then all other vegetables. Sautée for a couple minutes, then add veggie ground round. Season with chilli powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Add worcestershire and sugar, stir. Add the beer to de-glaze the pan. Then add the water. Stir, then cover the saucepan. Let this simmer for about an hour. Check on it every so often, stir, and add more water (or beer) if necessary, as filling should be… sloppy.

To finish: Use the broiler to melt a cheese of your choice onto a toasted bun. Add filling. Top with sliced green onions, and maybe, hot sauce.

One note is that the ground round does have quite a few ingredients. To use fewer ingredients and fillers, consider trying brown lentils, which can substitute for ground beef nicely, like in my meatless shepherd’s pie recipe.

Brown Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is apparently Pi Day, which the foodies have turned into a day to post photos of pie-related dishes. Most memorable (so far) is this awesome creation by Ratinaud.

Lucky for me, I was already planning on blogging about my most recent dish, brown lentil shepherd’s pie. So what better day to post?

I love making a dish that’s a meatless concept where you’re replacing the meat with something else, but the look of the dish is virtually the same, and the way you incorporate this other ingredient works so well that it’s a whole new thing entirely on its own. Know what I mean? Probably not, unless you’re a mostly-vegetarian eater like me.

Brown lentil shepherd’s pie is DELICIOUS. I’m not going to say “it tastes just like regular shepherd’s pie,” because that would be a lie. It tastes like lentil shepherd’s pie. And when you use the right vegetables, herbs and seasoning, you can get a fantastic texture and flavour. So much that you would look forward to eating lentil shepherd’s pie, and wouldn’t even think about the “regular” version, or to compare the two.

IMG_7937Part of the deliciousness of my recipe was the mash. I oven roasted local fingerling potatoes and parsnips, kept the skins on, and added a splash of milk, along with Ran-Cher Acres chives goat cheese, and a bit of homemade roasted garlic oil.

For the lentil layer, I started with dried brown lentils, and cooked them like the package directions told me to. I haven’t cooked with lentils much. This worked.

Then I sautéed garlic, onions, and Brussels’ sprouts. When those are looking good, you add some tomato (canned works), corn, peas, veggie stock, and throw the lentils back in to simmer.

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You could use different herbs here (rosemary would be nice), but I only had some basil, so that’s what went in. I also squeezed in a generous portion of Sriracha, because I knew we’d love a little zing to our lentil shepherd’s pie. I was right.

Once this is reduced and thickened, seasoned to your taste, and the flavours have melded, you just spoon it into a baking dish, top with the mash, drizzle a little olive oil and bake it for 20-30 minutes, around 375, until the top is starting to turn golden brown.

IMG_7972Yum. The the best decision I made with this dish was to use the Brussels’ sprouts, as they added a needed crunchy-firm aspect. The dish had a little heat, too, just the right amount. We both had seconds.

One cool thing… if I hadn’t added the goat cheese and milk into the mash (you could sub out for almond or rice milk), this dish would have been vegan. And still hearty.