Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Taiwanese Noodles

Hello and thanks for stopping by The Essential Vegan!

It's been forever and a day since I posted anything here but I've recently been spurred into action. My brother-in-law's girlfriend sent me an email with a job posting: a food blogger for Organics Live. They are looking for people to submit recipes in exchange for local, organic produce. Um, yes please.

People sometimes ask me why I stopped blogging in the first place. I liked writing and sharing nutritional information, tidbits of knowledge and great vegan food. I got positive feedback from readers and even developed a bit of a following.

I put this entire project on hold about two years ago but still think about it often. I always told people I stopped because I didn't have the time (although this is absolutely true, considering I now have a 14 month old) but it was more than that.

As much as I enjoyed writing about food I felt the opposite about photographing it. I would obsess about lighting and staging despite not having proper equipment, props or setting. I would whip out a recipe and a post in an hour, then take hundreds of photographs from every imaginable angle trying to get the perfect foodie shot. It was overwhelming and exhausting and totally sucked the fun out of the blogging experience.

I found out about the Organics Live posting about two weeks ago and have been pondering how to deal with this photography hurdle ever since. I talked to my husband about it at length and he offered to take pictures for me. He isn't overly concerned about aesthetics, but loves great food. So we struck a deal: I make delicious eats, he takes a few pictures and chooses the best one. Done and dusted. I get to do all the fun stuff I enjoy without the stress and aggravation.

The aforementioned 14 month old is the real catalyst for submitting this post to Organics Live. Eating well is my passion but I've had to accept the reality that I cannot easily access good quality, affordable organic food. My local grocery store does not stock any organic produce, and health food stores are not within commuting distance.

I want my son to grow up with as little exposure to toxic pesticides, GMOs and petrochemicals as possible but until now I didn't have the means to make that happen. Trading my recipes for that opportunity is an absolute win-win.

My submission is a recipe for Taiwanese noodles: chow mein topped with a chunky, sweet-spicy sauce that tastes as I'd imagine an Asian Bolognese. Use whatever vegetables are in season, plus frozen add-ins like edamame.

Taiwanese Noodles

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


1.5 cups no salt vegetable broth
1 package Yves ground round
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp. ginger, grated
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup green pepper, sliced
1/2 cup red pepper, sliced
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. coconut sugar
1 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
1/8 tsp. five spice powder
cooked chow mein noodles


1. Whisk broth, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, vinegar, coconut sugar, sriracha and five spice powder in a small bowl and set aside
2. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium; add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently
3. Add ginger and cook an additional minute, then vegetables
4. Saute 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender
5. Crumble ground round into skillet and break down large pieces
6. Add broth mixture and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently
7. Sauce will begin to thicken within 1-2 minutes; continue cooking to your desired consistency*
8. Top cooked chow mein noodles with sauce and enjoy!

*I continued cooking for about 7 minutes. This sauce becomes quite thick once cooled but can easily be thinned out with water if desired.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Spicy Puttanesca Sauce

Confession time: I'm more than a little uncomfortable with self-promotion.

I know it's a big thing in blogging, especially food blogging, but I feel a little strange going on and on about the latest and greatest vegan recipe I've concocted.

I know what I'm making is good. Some of it is really good. But it's an exercise in futility to try and persuade readers that my recipes are to better than the scores of other vegan options out there.

Ideally, I'd invite everyone reading over for dinner and just let you try my recipes. That way the food speaks for itself and I don't have to re-use words like "amazing" and "delicious" for the billionth time.

Regardless of my concerns, I hope you'll indulge my ego and trust me: this puttanesca sauce is hands-down one of the greatest tomato sauces I've ever had.

A bold statement, I know, but it's true. This is the real deal.

I've actually never made proper tomato sauce on my own before. It's a little labour-intensive, but the results are so unbelievably good that it's worth every single moment of prep.

This sauce is so fantastically versatile; you can keep it chunky for a rustic pasta sauce or a bruschetta mix, pulse it a bit in a food processor to make a smoother pasta sauce, or even blend it right down for pizza sauce.

If you've never tried anything from The Essential Vegan, I urge you to start with this sauce.

You won't be disappointed!

Spicy Puttanesca Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes


2 cups tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup kalmata olives, chopped
3 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh curly parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. safflower oil
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. sea salt


1. Heat oil on medium in a cast iron skillet or a medium-sized pot
2. Cook onion for 4-5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally
3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another two minutes
4. Toss in everything else, then partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes
5. Stir every 5-7 minutes, breaking down larger pieces of tomato
6. Uncover and simmer another 5 minutes
7. Pulse mixture in a food processor to achieve desired consistency*

*I blended the sauce for about 1 minute to get a thick, slightly chunky pasta sauce.

Inspired by: Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The 9.3 Cupcakes

Okay, let's cut to the chase: I made some spectacular cupcakes yesterday.

They are not just a dessert, but an indulgence.

I normally look for vegan sweets that Dave can enjoy with less sugar and oil, but this time I just threw everything out the window and created some of the sweetest, most over-the-top calorie bombs imaginable.

These are not healthy-so-I-can-have-two cupcakes, but they are, apparently, quite phenomenal.

I say "apparently" because I haven't tried them. Nope, I'm sticking to my no-sugar policy, and wow, was that hard to do while making this recipe. I had to stop myself from licking my fingers on no less than four occasions, and that was before I got my hands covered in frosting while taking pictures.

It's okay, though, because I stay headache-free and Dave gets to enjoy some pretty unbelievable cupcakes.

First up was the taste test.

Dave stood chewing his first bite for quite a while. The suspense was killing me. I honestly had absolutely no idea if they would be amazing or absolutely terrible.

Then he looked at me with wide eyes and said "Oh my god, 9.3".

Allow me to explain: Dave likes to judge food based on a scale of one to ten, so 9.3 was pretty mind-blowing. His all-time favourite store-bought dessert are milk chocolate chunk cookies from Mmmuffins, which he ranks a 9.7, so this recipe was not far behind!

Now that says something.

So yes, this recipe probably has lots of calories and fat and definitely has lots of peanut butter, sugar, oil and chocolate, but that's not really the point.

They're totally vegan, and my transitioning partner will gladly choose them over processed, pre-packaged cookies or boxed mixes made with eggs and milk. That is a huge victory for me.

The recipe makes enough batter for twelve cupcakes, but these became twelve of the biggest, heaviest cupcakes I've ever seen. Make them huge if you want or divide the batter into two batches and make 24 regular sized cupcakes. Either way, they're moist, decadent, and super rich.

Give one of these to anyone who says, "Vegan desserts are boring" or "They could never compare to real desserts", and watch them literally eat their words.

Baby steps. Chocolate peanut butter baby steps.

The 9.3 Cupcakes 

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 22-25 minutes

Makes 12 enormous cupcakes or 24 regular cupcakes, depending on your level of indulgence

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened hemp milk (Hemp Bliss)
1 cup agave syrup
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter (or smooth, as desired)
1/2 canola oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cupcake Directions:

1. Combine flours, chocolate chips, baking powder, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl
2. Combine agave, hemp milk, peanut butter, apple cider vinegar and vanilla in a small mixing bowl; use a whisk to ensure everything is nice and smooth
3. Add the wet to the dry and stir until evenly mixed
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a muffin tin
5. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into each cup and bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
6. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting

Frosting Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup margarine (Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread), room temperature
1/4 cup unsweetened hemp milk (Hemp Bliss)
1 tsp. vanilla

Frosting Directions:

1. Combine everything in a medium mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer until smooth
2. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting and refrigerate until ready to eat

Inspired by Big Vegan