31 January 2011

This Week in My Kitchen: Phở, step-by-step

 Kirk and I both love phở. Kirk goes to Vietnamese restaurants and gets phở with all sorts of gross animal bits in it, but I rely on home made vegetarian phở. Here's how I make it, step-by-step.

1. Gather your ingredients.
Here are the ingredients for the broth, minus the soy sauce, which didn't make it into the photo. I use this recipe as a base for my broth. I have no idea how traditional it is, but it sure is delicious! Never leave out the star anise - it will not smell or taste like phở without it. And I don't add salt, as the soy sauce is salty enough.

2. Char the veggies & spices.
Roughly chop the aromatics and throw them in a dry pot on medium high. Stir around a bit until they start to char and smell fantastic, then add the veggie broth (I do half broth and half water) and soy sauce.

3. Boil the broth.
Bring the broth to a boil to get all the flavour out of everything.

4. Prepare the protein.
My protein of choice for phở is tofu. This time I sliced extra firm tofu nice and thin and marinaded it in soy sauce, sri racha and rice wine vinegar. This is the first time I've cooked with tofu in a long time (other than the almond ricotta).

5. Prepare the noodles.
Boil some water and pour it over thin, flat rice noodles. Let them soak for a few minutes, but not for too long or they'll get mushy.

6. Prepare the accompaniments.
Green onions, enoki mushrooms (I couldn't find any nice bean sprouts, and the mushrooms made a nice substitution), lime wedges, tofu and sliced jalapeno. I forgot to pick up some basil, which is unfortunate, but not tragic. I did miss it, though.

7. Assembly, part 1.
Put some noodles in a bowl and ladle some strained broth over top.

8. Assembly, part 2.
Add the accompaniments to your taste. Here's my bowl, with jalapeno, tofu, lime, enoki mushrooms and sri racha.

9. Dig in!

30 January 2011

Vegan Eats Vancouver: Bandidas Brunch

Remember that time my friend Shaunna and I had dinner at Bandidas Taqueria and I was so excited to discover that they had vegan brunch? Well, do you? Anyway, I finally made it to brunch there last Sunday, and it was everything I dreamed it would be...

Kirk and I got there just as they opened at 10, and it's a good thing, as it filled up really quickly. We got a great seat by the window, the waitress brought us menus and water in little mason jars, and we proceeded with our indecision. Kirk is terrible at deciding at what he wants in restaurants, but I generally don't have much choice, so this was new territory for me. At first I kinda balked at the prices, but then I read that the menu prices include HST, so it's not so expensive after all.

Even though everything is veganizable (isn't veganizable a great fake word?), I decided on the already Vegan French Toast with sausage. It's been many years since I had french toast, and I was super excited.

The french toast did not disappoint! Four huge slices (I ate three and Kirk finished the last one) with a generous quantity of real maple syrup, fresh pineapple and little breakfast sausages. Yum! I can't wait to go back to Bandidas for brunch!

Bandidas Taqueria on Urbanspoon

15 January 2011


My favourite lunch place, Loving Hut, had a fire a few doors down in mid-December. For weeks they were closed and had signs in the window saying they'd reopen in January. This week those signs came down, and a big For Lease sign went up! This is so upsetting.

Their website still states they'll reopen in January. I still have a bit of hope that they're moving to a new location, but I'm probably deluding myself...

10 January 2011

Ode to My Pet Hair Eraser

Pardon my gushing - I know it's undignified - but can I just tell you how much I love my Bissell Pet Hair Eraser? And no, I am not being compensated for this.

I've been looking for a decent hand held vacuum for a while. We have three cats, a three-bedroom house, two couches and carpeted stairs. As good as my upright vacuum is, it needs a little support! Pet Hair Eraser to the rescue!

I got it on clearance at Zellers a few months ago. It's super small but really powerful, has a really long cord, and two nozzle attachments. The one in the photo has the actual pet hair eraser part (and it really works), and it also has a regular dust buster-type nozzle (also useful). My stairs and couch have never been so clean!

I love you, Pet Hair Eraser!

Here are some photos of my babies being adorable while leaving fur all over the furniture:

Jerry & Chaos on the "cat couch" by the window

Monkey & Chaos snuggling on the cat couch

Jerry & Chaos snuggling on the "sleep couch"
(so named because it's super comfy and I have a hard time staying awake on it)

 Silly Monkey on the cat couch

06 January 2011

Vegan Eats Vancouver: Las Margaritas

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know how much I love Mexican food. Las Margaritas is an old standby for me in Kitsilano - I even had dinner there on my thirtieth birthday! They don't have many vegan options, but luckily I love their Vegetarian Burrito (with no cheese or sour cream) and I always order it. Here's some shots of my last meal there...

Every table is served house made salsa and chips.
The chips are just okay as far as I'm concerned, but I absolutely love the salsa.

 The Vegetarian Burrito is stuffed full of beans, chiles, peppers and other veggies and
smothered with red sauce (I am a sucker for red sauce!). It's served with spanish rice,
beans (I always choose black beans) and guacamole. It's way too much food, but delicious.

I had a mojito. It was pretty good, though I've had better.

A decent selection of hot sauce is on every table.

I'll always go back to Las Margaritas when I'm in Kits. There's oftentimes a wait for a table, especially in the summer, so reservations are recommended but not required.

Las Margaritas Mexican on Urbanspoon

05 January 2011

This Week in My Kitchen: Pasta Galore!

Even though it's the new year and time for a stab at healthier eating and weight loss, we're on carb overload in my house this week.

Rotini with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce
This is a weeknight favourite for Kirk and I. Easy to make, even easier to eat! Sauteed mushrooms, shallots and garlic with sun dried tomatoes and black olives in a can of crushed tomatoes, simmered with oregano and crushed pepper flakes and served over your favourite pasta noodles. What's not to like?

1 shallot, 1 clove of elephant garlic and a bunch of brown mushrooms in olive oil

Kirk doesn't like whole wheat pasta, so sometimes I humour him by going half & half

I dressed it up with a little Daiya that I bought for making lasagna.
I discovered that as good as Daiya is melted, it's kinda gross if it's not melted.

Veggie Lasagna
The only things I really miss cheese on are poutine and lasagna. I have to say, Daiya cheese has improved vegan lasagna for me tenfold. This is not something I make often, as it's a lot of work to put together, but I sure love it!
Here's a step-by-step of my lasagna building process:

1. Not pictured: Tomato Sauce - Sweat 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1 small onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes, some oregano, rosemary and crushed red pepper flakes to taste, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for a while, until slightly thickened.

 2. Layer One: Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan and cover with lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat noodles that needed to be precooked - just check your package and follow the instructions). Cover the noodles with a generous layer of fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces and some Cashew Ricotta from Veganomicon.

3. Layer Two: Cover the spinach and ricotta layer with another layer of lasagna noodles. Top with a generous layer of tomato sauce and sliced mushrooms (any kind works).

4. Layer Two cont'd: Top the mushrooms with zucchini, sliced long & thin (I could have used a bigger zucchini).

5. Layer Three: Top the zucchini with another layer of noodles and tomato sauce, then more spinach, mushrooms and ricotta.

6. Top Layer: Top with one more layer of noodles and lots of tomato sauce, then 1/2-3/4 of a small bag of Daiya cheese.

7. Pop it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. If the cheese doesn't brown, put it under the broiler, but only for a minute or two.

8. Take the lasagna out of the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes (it'll be watery if you cut it too soon).

9. Dig in! Eat up! Yum! I love the crusty end bits...

04 January 2011

This Week in My Kitchen: Veggie Lentil Soup with Herbed Tea Biscuits, Pralines & Ice Cream

Okay, "This Week in My Kitchen" is a little misleading. It's more like last month in my kitchen - I'm a bit behind. But what are you gonna do?

Slow Cooker Veggie Lentil Soup with Herbed Tea Biscuits
I'm trying to use my slow cooker more often, and a proliferation of root vegetables from Spud made veggie soup the perfect option.

 I cut up some shallots, garlic, potatoes, carrots, leeks and celeriac and added them to some dried brown lentils and veggie broth in my slow cooker.
  I cooked it on high for several hours (4 or 5 - I can't remember exactly), and served it piping hot with some herbed tea biscuits.

I use the Fancy Biscuits recipe in How it All Vegan as a jumping off point for my biscuits. This time I made them with dill, oregano, parsley and onion seeds. They were delicious and went really quickly, as usual!

Pralines & Ice Cream
I had a sweet tooth one night and had some pecans in the cupboard, so I decided to make pralines (which I made once before) to go with some So Good Vanilla Ice Cream we had in the freezer. I used the same recipe, since they came out so well before, but I used almond milk instead of soy, and I added some fresh nutmeg.

Last time I made pralines I was really wishing I had a candy thermometer. Well, I went out and bought one and used it, but it was a dud! It maxed out at about 95 degrees! I kept stirring and stirring and the temperature didn't budge. Finally, it was looking like the soft ball stage that I remembered from last time, so I got out my digital thermometer and tested it. Sure enough, 120 degrees. So the new candy thermometer went in the trash and I went about finishing up the prailines.

Pralines cooling on some parchment. It's hard to resist them!

 Pralines & Ice Cream - yum!

02 January 2011

Vegan Eats Vancouver: 3-G Vegetarian Restaurant

Last night Kirk and I went to 3-G Vegetarian Restaurant for dinner. 3-G is a great little Chinese vegan place that opened up last year on Cambie Street @ 18th Ave. Unfortunately, they don't have Ginger B (I still haven't been able find it in Vancouver), but they do have a really interesting menu with the requisite dishes and some unexpected ones.

Kirk wasn't feeling particularly adventurous (Crispy Baked Baby Pig, anyone?), so we stayed with the familiar: Hot & Sour Soup, Deep Fried Tofu with Salt & Pepper, Abalone Mushroom with Vegetables, and Fried Rice with Special Chili Sauce (although I'm pretty sure that's not the rice dish they gave us). The service was great, really attentive, and they kept our tea pot full at all times.

The hot & sour soup was fantastic - light, full of tofu & veggies and just spicy enough.

It wasn't the best salt & pepper tofu in town, but definitely enjoyable.

We ordered Fried Rice with Special Chili Sauce, but this is what we got.
We should have asked about it, but we just ate it.
It tasted like curry and had no sauce. I liked it, but Kirk wasn't thrilled with it.

I love mushrooms of any kind, and the Abalone Mushroom with Vegetables was great.
The abalone mushrooms were sliced super thin, and the sauce wasn't too heavy and a little garlicky - yum!

They also gave us Coconut Tapioca Pudding for dessert that was fantastic! Well, I loved it, anyway. Kirk isn't a fan of coconut, and I ate most of his as well as mine!

Overall, we liked 3-G, and we'll definitely be going there again. The service was great, the prices were totally reasonable and the food was good with large portion sizes (we had the leftovers for dinner tonight).

3G Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon