25 January 2010

My Girls Are Adorable!

Here's a couple of shots of Jerry and Monkey from this past week. They are awfully cute! Unfortunately Chaos now has a reflective collar, so taking photos of him with a flash just doesn't work - but he's cute too!

Jerry in a rare Vancouver winter sunbeam

Jerry and her signature baleful look

Superhero Monkey
Books visible in the background: Marget Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace,
The Blind Assassin, and Cat's Eye; Richard Bach - Jonathan Livingston Seagull;
Barbara Hodgson - The Sensualist, Hippolyte's Island, and The Tattooed Map; Gary Indiana -
Depraved Indifference
; Chip Kidd - The Cheese Monkeys; Chuck Kinder - The Honeymooners

Pin-up girl Monkey

New Website

At long last I've posted something at www.carasheppard.com. Check out my new little portfolio site:

This Week in My Kitchen: Pho, Potato Leek Soup, Falafel Plate with Roasted Veggies, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes

I love pho, but I just don't trust that vegetarian pho in restaurants is actually vegetarian, so I learned how to make it myself using this recipe. The secret to the broth is the star anise, which fills the house with that pungent, beautiful licorice smell that 's the hallmark of so many pho houses. For add-ons we had tofu marinaded in veggie broth and Chinese 5-spice, fresh basil, bell pepper, jalapeno slices, sprouts, lime juice and sri racha hot sauce. Usually I have fresh limes and scallions, but I forgot to pick them up at the market. Mmm... I want pho right now!

Potato Leek Soup
Potato soup is one of my favourite things to make, so potato leek soup has to be that much better, right? Right! I used the Basic Potato Leek Soup recipe in How it All Vegan as a jumping off point, but I used less oil for frying the leeks and added some soy milk and margarine at the end of cooking for some creaminess. I pureed everything with my hand blender, but I think next time I'll reserve some of the leeks and leave them whole.

Falafel Plate with White Bean Hummous and Roasted Veggies
One day this week I was at a loss as to what to make for dinner. I cooked up some dried white beans and stared at them for a while. Then I remembered some fantastic white bean hummous I'd had once at Locus, so I set about trying to recreate it. The result was pretty good - nice and bright, lemony and not too garlicy. I roasted some zucchini, orange bell peppers and fennel (a big hit with Kirk), fried up some falafel balls and served it all with some Stoned Wheat Thins (since we didn't have any flatbread on hand).

Carrot Cake
One of my favourite cookbooks is Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld. It's full of rich, delicious recipes organized into menus. It's great for impressing your friends at dinner parties. This week I was craving carrot cake, so I broke out Voluptuous Vegan and used her recipe. I substituted pecans for walnuts, but otherwise stayed true to the recipe. The result was fabulous, rich and moist, more a spice cake with a bit of carrots. I only wish I'd had some coconut milk to make the accompanying coconut cardamom sauce. Next time!

Chocolate Cupcakes
So much for weaning myself off of sweets! You know when you really need some chocolate? This week I solved that with the Basic Chocolate Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (such an amazing book!). I iced them with a simple chocolate glaze, and my chocolate craving was satisfied!


24 January 2010

Bowen Island Day Trip

Last Sunday Kirk and I took the ferry over to beautiful Bowen Island to visit our good friends Shannon and Matti. After living in Victoria for 5 years and taking the hour-and-a-half long ferry ride to the mainland more times than I can count, the 20 minute ride to Bowen is pretty refreshing. We stopped in the village to pick up some wine and made our way to our friends' cute little cabin, which is deep in the wilderness (or so it seems to me!). We had a fun afternoon and evening catching up, eating and drinking and playing with their dog, Shiva and their cat, Ziggy. We had a nice meal of yummy split pea soup, mushroom & zucchini tarts (I veganized this recipe) and salad. I'd brought maple nutmeg cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing, but we were too full to eat them after dinner.
I wish Shannon and Matti lived on the mainland so we could see them more often, but it's always a treat to go over to the island for a visit.
The ferry dock at Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay

The ferry from Nanaimo coming in to Horseshoe Bay

Matti & Shannon enjoying dinner

Kirk likes split pea soup

Dinner - yum!

Shiva's big smile

Ziggy is beautiful

09 January 2010

Save the Brains!

Save the Brains is an annual rock n' roll fundraiser for brain cancer research. I'm currently working on organising the second event, which will take place on Thursday, April 1st (the next day is Good Friday) at the Biltmore Cabaret here in Vancouver.  There will be performances by The SOME x6 Band, The Deadcats and The Stag Reels. It's emcee'd by burlesque beauty Burgundy Brixx and the ever-debonair Purrrfessor of Kitty Nights West. There will also be a fantastic raffle (details TBA), a silent auction featuring artwork by some fabulous local artists, and of course, door prizes and goodie bags at the event.

All of this is in memory of my friend Kevin, who passed away one year ago tomorrow from brain cancer. The people who knew and loved him will be raising a glass to him this weekend, as he would've wanted. *Kevin, here's to you!*

If you're interested in attending, donating to or helping out with Save the Brains, you can find all the information you need and my contact info at www.savethebrains.com. Hope to see you there!

This Week in My Kitchen: Polenta with Tofu & Veggies, Amazing Greek Salad, Lettuce Rolls, Curried Chickpea Soup

After Christmas I didn't do a lot of cooking since we had so many leftovers to eat. But the leftovers eventually dwindled, and I got back in the kitchen. After the glut of sweets over the holidays, I've been focusing on fresh, healthy, savoury dishes. I need to wean myself off of the sugar again!

Polenta with Tofu and Veggies
Exactly how it sounds. For my second foray into polenta of late I chose to add a half cup of water more than I did last time and set it in a loaf pan rather than free-form. I liked the loaf-shape (which served to keep me from breaking pieces off the edges and snacking on them), but the texture was a bit too wet for my liking. I marinaded the tofu in cider vinegar, veggie broth and some spices. I sauteed the tofu, carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, bell pepper and spinach, then added veggie broth thickened with arrowroot and served it over a slice of polenta. Yum!
I used the polenta to press the tofu

Amazing Greek Salad
Craving fresh veggies late one evening, I decided to make myself a quick Greek-type salad. I chopped cucmber, bell pepper, grape tomatoes and green onions (because I didn't have a red onion) and dressed it with red wine vinegar, Bragg's Sea Kelp Seasoning (because I'm out of oregano) and mustard seeds and topped it with kalamata olives. It was heavenly!

I'm hungry again just looking at this photo!

Lettuce Rolls - A Five-Minute Dinner
Last time I was in Nanaimo, my friend Carmen made these wonderful lettuce rolls, and this week I recreated them from memory. I used Asian style Yves Ground Round (you could use TVP and add your own flavourings) and sauteed it with diced onion and bell pepper. I think Carmen's sauce was made with peanut butter, but peanut butter is my mortal enemy, so I made mine by adding coconut milk to almond butter (cashew butter would be good too) and microwaving it until it was soft and soupy. I assembled the rolls by putting a scoop of the ground round mixture into the middle of a piece of iceberg lettuce, adding some sauce, and rolling it up. A cheap, healthy dinner prepared in five minutes. Thanks Carmen!

Curried Chickpea Soup
As part of my new life with a budget, I've been focusing on preparing hearty meals for very little money. I had a bag of dried chickpeas in my pantry, so I used a recipe from the ReBar Modern Food Cookbook to make curried chickpea soup. ReBar is a great little restaurant in Victoria that was one of my favourite places for breakfast. I added chopped fresh spinach, since I had some in the fridge that I had to use, and the leftover sauce from the lettuce rolls, which added a nice subtle nutty flavour.

I definitely recommend this recipe.


Bragg Organic Sea Kelp Delight Seasoning  Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

08 January 2010


Vancouverites! If you have yet to discover Ayden Gallery, you're missing out. It's a fantastic contemporary gallery hidden away in International Village on Pender @ Abbott. Kirk and I always check it out when we're going to a movie at Tinseltown.

Ayden showcases emerging and more established fine artists and fashion designers. It's definitely the place to go in town if you're looking to pick up some fabulous contemporary or lowbrow art and clothing. They always have a huge silent auction going with super reasonable prices.

Tonight is the Opening of Merge, which features art from my friend Matt Andres. It's his first Vancouver show, and he did the poster! Come on down after 7pm, check out the art, meet the artists, feel pretty cool because you're at an art opening, and maybe buy something to liven up those walls of yours!