Irish Potato Cakes

photo 1 (1)

I had a big bag o’ taters that I wanted to cook up before they started get all sprouty and happened upon this recipe on Facebook. It was shared by the Vegan Ireland FB page and you’d be hard pressed to find a recipe more Irish than this.

So, my results weren’t perfect, and certainly don’t mirror the pictures of perfection that accompany the recipe here: Vegan Potato Cakes. But, I ate three cakes the first day and saved the three remaining for lunch the next day. I had no troubles with the recipe. My only suggestion is that when following the recipe, the part where it says to add the flour, don’t add all the flour in at once. Maybe start with half and see how dry your batter gets before mixing in the rest. My potato/flour mixture was not fun to work with, so I’m thinking it was a little too dry. I mean everything still worked out, I just think next time I’m going to try with a little less flour and see what happens.

The filling was super easy and because I love mushrooms so much I probably tried to stuff too much into each cake! I actually liked leaving the ‘shrooms and onions to saute at a lower heat – I didn’t have to watch over the stove and could do other things while they were cooking.

photo 3 (1)

When I first sampled my potato cakes, I ate them with just a touch of salt and pepper. But, when I had some for lunch the next day I had a little Just Mayo and ketchup mixed together for a dip to add a little extra flavour.

Food Prep (or, To Err is Human, to Prep, Divine)

There is no such thing as perfection (sorry, Kanye), especially when it comes to regular folk making their way through the world. Look at me for example. Sure, I have a few selling points when it comes to my personality (I’m cute, I’m sweet, I’m good at celebrity trivia), but it is the nature of my species to be flawed, and when it comes to flaws, I’m no different than anyone else. Yes, I cry too much during romantic movies; and okay, I do sometimes think my taste in books (and music, and TV) is superior to that of others; no, I don’t want to share my popcorn with ANYONE when I’m at the movies; and fine, I admit it… I’m lazy.

I consider laziness my most troublesome fault, mainly because in all my encounters with people who are living a healthy, vibrant, vegan lifestyle – the kind of people I long to emulate –  I found these individuals to be highly motivated ‘doers’ who put as much time into their own well being as they do into all other areas of life. One of the places where successful, trim, and energetic people take extra time in their own lives is with the food that they eat. Food, as we’re coming to understand more and more these days, is a game-changer when it comes to our health and wellness. What we consume does more than just satisfy cravings or curb hunger pangs – it affects how our body feels and how it functions, from the tips of our toes to the roots of our hair.

This is where food prep(aration) comes in handy when striving to live a healthful life. Ultimately, food prep allows a person to do as much advanced meal preparation as possible when they have the free time to commit to it so that during the week, when most of us are exhausted by work and family and commitments, there are healthy meal options available that involve little to no energy to get from fridge to table. In the past I have allowed my previous lack of forethought and planning to result in many an unwise food choice, made on a stressful day, when its half past six and I have a desperately empty stomach. This is why the importance of food prep cannot be understated. While I’m sure there are others who can put all this more eloquently, here is my own simple approach:

First, I look at a LOT of recipes. I love recipes. I hoard recipes. I keep a digital folder of yummy-sounding dishes on my computer, and I also collect cookbooks and veggie magazine (like Laika). Then, on the weekend – usually Saturday afternoons – I peruse my collection, flip through the flagged pages of my various sources, and pick out a handful or two of recipes that I either want to try, or have tried before and want to make again.

Next, I whittle my options down by asking myself the following questions:

* what ingredients does the recipe call for that I already have
* what ingredients will I need to purchase
* how much do I have budgeted to spend on groceries for the coming week
* how easy to store/freeze are the recipes
* and lastly, how adventurous do I feel?

Best case scenario, I end up with a few good meal choices that I know I can afford, that I am confident I will enjoy, and that I trust to be nutritionally sound. These foods I decide to make will be in batches large enough to portion out, with half going into the ice box for longevity. A few simple entrees that are easily pulled out of the freezer can be mixed and matched with other easy meals like toasted sandwiches, tossed salads, and quick foods like oatmeal and veggie burgers, to keep your diet varied and appetizing.

Then, I make my grocery list and do the shopping. This step involves getting up off the couch, so its not exactly my favourite part. Don’t forget – it is important to check the contents of your refrigerator and pantry cupboards regularly – not just to get rid of any funky smells or ancient dried goods, but to see what you have, what you can use, and what you need. You might be able to cut a few things off of your grocery list if you find suitable substitutes already in stock. Fortunately, the grocery shopping itself is much more fun that cataloging the contents of one’s kitchen.

groceries

Sundays are usually my cooking day. I take over the kitchen, occupying every square inch of counter space I have, and group my supplies by recipe. I’m no pro at cooking, so when I actually get to preparing my meals, its pretty much guaranteed that a mess will be made.  But that’s okay – its my space, right? And at the end of all the washing, rinsing, cutting, dicing, peeling, simmering, sauteing, and baking, what is a pile of dishes and a dirty counter compared to a ready supply of nutritious meals for the week?

Now, obviously, I’m no expert. I’m just taking things day by day and doing my very best. But, I’ve been finding a lot of success with my eating and diet now that I’ve started paying more attention to fixing and preparing good, hearty foods for meal time, and by doing so in advance..

What are some of your favourite make-ahead meals?

foodprep2

Crispy Smashed Potatoes (or, Get in Ma Belly)

Okay. I may have said this before, but I really think that this time I have found THE ONE. The most delicious, most incredible, most perfect food ever known to man. My favourite recipe ever created. The smashed potato.

I could rhapsodize for hours about the potato. It is the one edible on earth that I will eat, no matter how it is prepared, because I have yet to discover a bad way to enjoy potatoes. I’ve been wanting to try smashed potatoes for awhile but just never really remembered when it came to feeding time… usually I just boil up some taters and throw them in a bowl with vegan Becel and some salt. I found a tasty recipe, though, from Oh She Glows (everyone’s favourite vegan chef/blogger!) and had to try it.

You can find the full recipe here. But in brief, all you need are some potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, some garlic powder, and parsley (for decoration). Its so easy! Just boil the potatoes (one of the culinary tasks I am actually proficient at) until they are tender, and drain. Once they’ve cooled just a touch, set the potatoes on a baking sheet. Then, with the bottom of a glass (or any firm flat object – a glass worked best for me) press down on each potato just hard enough to pop the skin of the potato and flatten it slightly – it should mostly still hold together though. Then, you top each of the smushed potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and really any other spices you want to throw on there, and then you bake em! They come out all golden and glisten-y and crispy and soft and salty and delicious and oh my goodness get me some now!!!!

pertater

The Oh She Glows recipe goes a few steps further and tops the potatoes with an avocado aioli. Unfortunately, I do not have a food processor, so while I did attempt to make the aioli in my decrepit blender it didn’t exactly turn out. So, I ate the potatoes relatively naked and used my avocado mixture as a sandwich spread for lunch the next day.

To go with the tasty morsels above, I pan-friend an Yves Chick’n Burger patty and made myself a faux chicken burger with Veganaise and lettuce. SO GOOD. SO satisfying. Being vegan is easy!

pertater and burger

The Clever Rabbit

One of the goals I’ve made for myself for this new year is to invest my money in local restaurants, and to eat only at places that offer vegan options. I cannot change the world, but I can make decisions in my own life that better align with the world I would like to see. An excellent Edmonton restaurant that offers a fully vegan and vegetarian menu is The Clever Rabbit, on 124th street and 107the avenue. I wrote about the eatery for an animal rights newsletter awhile back and upon returning for my second visit I was pleased to find the only thing that had changed was that the place was even more homey and charming than before.

On my first visit to the Clever Rabbit I enjoyed the lentil loaf (which was delicious) and had to fight the urge to get it again; instead, I chose to try the curried lentils with rice. As my side I went with the insanely good homemade tortilla chips and salsa. The curry… let me be honest here… was perfect. I was in heaven after the first bite. I wasn’t so much a fan of the rice (hidden under the curry in the picture below) so after I had demolished the vegetable/chickpea/lentil mixture I used my leftover appetite for the chips.

curry

I strongly recommend this restaurant. It is run by excellent folk, the food is tasty, and the atmosphere welcoming. There is also an almost sinful dessert counter which, while off limits to me right now after a holiday season spent overindulging, will be my first stop on my next visit. Full of cupcakes, nanaimo bars, giant cookies, and donuts – ALL VEGAN, the sweet spread held so much temptation I could barely get myself out of the restaurant empty-handed.

For more information on The Clever Rabbit, you can visit their website here or stop in for a meal you won’t regret at 10722 124th street.

Sweet Potato With Pomegranate and Coconut

I had never had a pomegranate before, and if you haven’t yet, try it soon! Pomegranate seeds – which are the part of the fruit we are meant to eat – are the most unusual little morsels. They are the same heft as any other fruit seed, but when you bite into one it is like a little explosion, a ‘pop’ if you will, and its like the sweet seed was filled with little more than a tasty puff of air. Combined with the satiny texture of the sweet potato (or yam, technically), the combination of sensations was more pleasant than I could have imagined.

Pomegranate

Yesterday my brother put together a sweet delight that when described to me sounded a little odd, but that turned out to be heaven on a plate. Two yams baked at 400 for about an hour, split open and drizzled with coconut milk, one perfectly ripe pomegranate sliced into quarters and cleared of those yummy little seeds mentioned above, and a sprinkling of coconut flakes made a meal that was part dessert, part stick of nutritional dynamite. potato

Product Review: Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders

There is a lot of talk about faux meats in the vegan world. Many vegans don’t understand the appeal of fake-meat burgers, hot dogs, ground “meats”, etc. Those vegans tend to state that they don’t miss the tastes and/or textures of meat, and therefore have no desire to consume any products made to resemble them. I happen to be on the other end of this particular teeter-totter. I, and many vegans I’ve talked to online, LIKE faux meat products – they help fill a void left by those foods we were all raised to eat, are used to eating, and might miss for some reason or another.

Last week I decided to try my first Gardein products – I had heard of the brand before, had even seen their products in my usual grocery store, but had never taken the leap to actually trying anything by them. The date of purchase, though, I just happened to be Craving (with a capital ‘C’) a chicken burger so gosh-darned bad. I know that sounds terrible, and I’m not proud of myself, but it just was what it was. So, I grabbed a box of these Chick’n Sliders to try.

BoxofSliders

When you open up a box of Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders you find yourself with two plastic-wrapped packages. Inside each package is two small slider burgers, buns and all. For my first go, I chose to make two of the burgers instead of all four, and picked the quickest way to get them into my belly, which was using the stovetop. I heated just a touch of oil on a skillet and then fried each of the burgers for about five to six minutes per side. The recommended cooking time is only three to four minutes, but I like everything a little extra crispy so I kept the patties on longer. In the last minute of cooking I added the two buns, face down, as directed by the cooking instructions on the package. After I took the skillet off the heat, I swiped a layer of Veganaise on to each side of the bun, added  lettuce, and then patties.

Slider

As far as taste and texture go, the chick’n patties met my expectations. Though small, the burgers were hearty and filling, and pleasing to the palate. I wouldn’t say they tasted exactly like chicken, but that wasn’t what I was expecting anyways. The most important thing to me was quieting that annoying craving without heading to my nearest McDonalds; I’m happy to say that my hunger for “flesh” was more than satisfied. My only complaint about the Chick’n Sliders pertains to the buns. For some reason I found the slider buns sweet, which put me off a bit. The buns are also slightly domed, so when I heated them up on the skillet the crest of the top over-cooked while the rest of the bun remained slightly chilled. Next time, I will look for Gardein patties specifically, and get the bread to go with them separately.

The only OTHER downside to the Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders is the ingredient list. As any successful vegan will tell you, eating whole foods is the way to a healthy and happy body. Often the complaints regarding faux meat products is how chemically processed they tend to be, and Gardein’s sliders are no exception.

SliderIngredients

But, for a quick fix, or to soothe the savage hunger beast in your belly, these will definitely do in a pinch.

Recipe Review: Mushroom Stout Pie with Potato Biscuits

My younger brother Stephen moved home this summer after spending three years in Newfoundland. While he was on the east coast, he found work at a St. John’s restaurant called The Sprout, which served vegetarian and vegan fare. Since Stephen has been back, he has only cooked for me a handful of times – but every experience has been amazing.

This week I wanted to share a recipe that my brother made for us called Mushroom Stout Pie with Potato Biscuits. Now, sadly, he was limited with cooking apparatuses so we weren’t able to have the potato biscuits baked on top, but once my kitchen is properly equipped we’re definitely going to have to try again with what I imagine could be the best part of the recipe (I’m addicted to biscuits of all sorts).

stew1

There is nothing like coming home after a stressful day at work, walking through your front door, and smelling warm home cooking. Nothing! This stew smells, and has your house smelling, oh so heavenly. One of my favourite things about one-pot meals that you can leave sitting on the stove for an hour or two is the aroma. It is like getting to enjoy your meal for longer, and on an entirely different level. To be honest, there wasn’t much time between me taking my shoes off and me scooping hot stew into a bowl! Actually, I’m not even sure I’d taken my shoes off before I had the lid off the pot and was sticking my nose in the steamy air as it and the accompanying smells of deliciousness escaped.

Now, I haven’t had a proper stew in years. My mom used to make it all the time when we were kids, but of course it would always have the traditional beef stew chunks in it. As you’ll see in this recipe, there are no meat or animal-related products to be found; the heartiness of the dish comes from mushrooms, carrots, and yummy beans. I wasn’t expecting the broth to be so like a traditional gravy, but it was just as thick and satisfying as I could have hoped for. The vegetables and beans were tender and delicious after having been on the stovetop for a few hours. And my favourite part? The smoky flavour added to the stew by the stout that Stephen had chosen made the dish feel like a reprieve from the cold of winter.

ale

Of course, the type or brand of ale you choose is going to alter the flavour of the stew over-all, so make sure you pick one you like. My brother used Tenaya Creek’s HaulingOats Oatmeal Stout that, to my great delight, can be found listed on Barnivore’s website as a vegan beer. As a side note – Barnivore is a fantastic resource. I found the information I needed when I couldn’t find it anywhere else, so be sure to check out their website at http://www.barnivore.com/.

You can find this recipe on the homepage of its creator at http://www.theppk.com/2013/03/mushroom-stout-pie-with-potato-biscuits/. Thanks to my brother and to The PPK for a yummy dinner!