LDV cooking

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Apple Raspberry Crisp

Crisp is traditional Sunday night dessert in my family - and now Monday night dessert (and let's be honest, Tuesday morning breakast). I threw this together this afternoon before heading to dress rehearsal, and it was a great dessert to come home to. Raspberries are one of my favourite berries, and I loved the tart combination of green apples I used with the raspberries. Yummy yummy.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Clobber!

In my family we've always called fruit cobbler clobber. Clobbers and crisps were always a part of Sunday dinner at our house growing up, and so I was happy to see that Cherry Cobbler (p.230) was on the recipe roster for this weekend. I didn't use cherries, because (a) there were no frozen cherries at Nesters'; and (b) I was not about to pit all the fresh cherries needed for the cobbler. So this became a mixed berry cobbler, using strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries that I had in the house. I also substituted Splenda for sugar, and used Red Mill Gluten-Free flour (biscuit and breads mix) for the topping, which is sprinkled with Splenda's Brown Sugar blend. This was delightful and I think it will definitely be going on my favourites list. The way I dropped the dough, the top sort of looked like a flower, and you could definitely get creative with the way you shape the dough on top if you were having company over. Me, I plan to eat this in secret, in the dark, with the door locked and the curtains drawn, so I don't have to share.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Simple Leek and Potato Soup

This recipe, for Simple Leek and Potato Soup (p.109) was ridiculously easy. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish, and gave me an awesome excuse to use my new fancy handblender that my parents bought me for my birthday. Got a potato and an onion or a leek? Great, then you've got this soup. This is a great, quick dinner when you've got nothing in the cupboard but an ol' potato and an onion.

Here I am feeding the soup to my Momma in Victoria (who is in the bath, yes), courtesy of Facetime:

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Stephanie's Asteroids

Stephanie's Asteroids (p. 209) are little balls of coconut, rolled oats and peanut butter, and the entire time I was making them, all I could think about was Alec Baldwin's hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live as Pete Schweddy, who makes...schweddy balls:

These, um, asteroids aren't to my liking, but they were easy and I can see how it would be a good kitchen project for kids.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Soba Noodle Miso Soup

I have a confession to make: I am anti-soup.

It pains me to say this, as my dad - well, he loves soup. A lot. And I've had vigorous arguments with various friends over my distaste for the liquid meal. Also? Not a fan of miso. So, as you can imagine I was delighted to find out that Thursday's recipe was Soba Noodle Miso Soup (p. 103) with gomashio garnish (p.305). However, this challenge is about trying new things, so I went boldly onward to Nesters', the grocery store downstairs from my apartment to pick up the ingredients I needed.

Now, living right downtown in a relatively new neighbourhood always makes it challenging from an everyday shopping perspective. I have my pick of bars, tattoo shops, and hot restaurants, but sometimes when you just want to buy, you know, toothpaste. It's getting better, at least we have a grocery store (we didn't for the first few months I lived in Woodwards) and Nesters' tries to stock a diverse range of products. Sometimes, however, they let you down. And Thursday was one of those days. Yes, they had nori, no they didn't have soba noodles. Yes, they had miso, but no, they didn't have bok choy.

I know we're not supposed to make substitutions, but look. This week was nuts, and it was soup, for crying out loud. I was not going to trounce around downtown Vancouver looking for soba noodles and bok choy. So I decided to substitute for the rice stick noodles that I had leftover from a previous nights' entry, the Asian Noodle Salad, and used some leftover organic cabbage that I had in my fridge instead of bok choy. I was sure this was going to turn out horribly wrong:

It don't look half bad, eh? And guess what? It was actually delicious! Seriously! The gomashio was amazing (who knew toasted sesame seeds, salt and nori tasted so good?), and added a nuttiness to the soup that I loved. The cabbage was crunchy, there was enough noodle to give me something to gnaw on - it's a winner! Soup 1, Dani 0.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Cumin Spiced Brown Rice

I'm glad tonight's recipe was an easy one, Cumin Spiced Brown Rice (p. 190), because I've had a doozy of a day. Work to do, meetings to attend, rehearsal, and I taped an interview with Dotto Tech about some current copyright lawsuits in the news. When I finally walked in the door, it was 8:30 and the last thing I felt like doing was cooking. But, here I am - challenge complete for the day. I threw a zucchini and some carrots from my weekly veggie box in a frying pan along with some Bragg's 24-spice mix while the rice was cooking, reheated some refried beans, and that's dinner. Oh, and there are fresh blackberries for dessert. Beats take-away by a mile.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Karen's Mexican Burrito Pie.

OK, Burrito anything is always a win with me, and Karen's Mexico Burrito Pie (p.157) was no exception. Easy to make - mush some avocado with some faux sour cream, mush some beans with salsa, layer with tortillas and soy cheese - and unfortunately even easier to eat. I'll definitely make this one again. I might reduce the amount of pickled japalenos though - the recipe called for two tablespoons, chopped, and that means a vera vera spicy pie!

My tortillas didn't quite fit my pie pan, so you got a glimpse of delicious piiiiie filling around the edges.

Pie. Salsa. Eat. Try not to repeat.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Chocolate Espresso Cake with Chocolate Glaze

So, I have to admit, I have yet to make a cake from one of Sarah Kramer's books that has turned out well. Muffins? You betcha. Breads? Oh man, the banana bread from How It All Vegan is the best ever. But cakes? Yeah, they've never really turned out for me. This Espresso Cake (p.247) with Chocolate Glaze (p.260) looks pretty, but it was a bit of a dud, I gotta say. I couldn't taste the espresso in the cake at all, the cake was heavy in texture, and the glaze tasted more like margarine than chocolate. Fail. Since I'm gonna have to do every recipe in the book, hopefully I'll find a cake I can successfully make...but this one wasn't it.

Unglazed prettiness.

Melty glaze.

Purdy sprinkles.

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Noodle Salad with Spicy Nut Dressing

Ugh. My seasonal allergies are at their absolute worst right now, and today I took a new allergy medicine that I did not react well to - I ended up sleeping most of the day (including the 6.7 earthquake that hit the area), and it was not a good sleep, one of those tortured sleeps where you dream you can't wake up. I feel awful now. Anyways, I had to drag my butt out of bed to make today's recipe, Noodle Salad with Spicy Nut Dressing (p. 81). I didn't have the sui choy, fresh cilantro or rice noodles that were called for on hand, so I went downstairs to my local grocery store. NO sui choy - no surprise there - so I used organic cabbage instead. Also, weirdly, NO fresh cilantro. When I inquired, the produce guy said with amazement that there had been a run on cilantro earlier in the day. I guess there's maybe more people doing this challenge than we thought?

La Dolce Vegan Challenge: Almost Caught Up

Today's recipe was Blueberry Dilip (p. 228), a sort of blueberry upside-down cake. Given that I can whip desserts together in record time, I used the opportunity to play catch-up on the recipes I missed while in Mexico, and also made the Portobello Pot Pie (p. 168) with All Purpose Vegan Crust (p. 262). At this point I'm only one recipe behind (phew), Simple Leek and Vegetable Soup, which I hope to make sometime later this week.

Portobello Pot Pie and All-Purpose Vegan Crust

I've never been a big fan of savoury pies, despite my love of all other pie-related deliciousness (right, Acme Cafe?). I've blogged about making pies here before, and also about my dad's imperious pie-condescension. He thinks he makes the meanest crust around, using my Nana Elaine's recipe, and it's very good, it's true; however he doesn't appreciate it when other people (i.e., me) try to usurp the crown as family Pie Lord. But - a challenge is a challenge and so I set to work.

The vegan pie crust has to be made in advance and chilled for at least an hour. This recipe used a food processor which definitely cut down on the time spent cutting the margarine into the flour. However, it didn't get very "doughy" - it remained kind of globby and sticky, but I wrapped it up in plastic, threw it in the fridge, and hoped for the best. In the meantime, I peeled and chopped the mushrooms, onions, potatoes, celery and carrots that went into the pie filling. The flavouring was really simple - thyme, sage, and tamari, for which I substituted Bragg's Liquid Aminos. The filling was very very easy and quick to make, the sauce thickened up easily, and soon it was time to see how well this pie crust was going to roll out.

The answer is, not at all. Despite flouring up my cutting board and my rolling pin, the dough was still sticky and batter-like despite chilling for a good few hours in the fridge. I added a little flour, to no end, and ended up having to take globs of dough, stretch them by hand, and laying them patchwork-style on top of the pie filling. It got the job done, but it looked horrible, and my dreams of beautifully forked edges and a cute little leaf cut out on top were dashed. However, it still looked like a pie and I threw it in the oven for the 25 minutes required.

At the 25 minute mark, the dough still felt, well, doughy, and hadn't browned at all, and so I baked the thing for another 10 minutes. The dough baked up well enough but still didn't brown, but I decided to take it out anyway as I didn't want to risk burning the pie filling.

It looks awful, but it held together well and didn't taste half-bad.

Despite the awful looking top, the pie was delicious. The crust was just short enough - flaky but not tough - and the simple flavours of the pie didn't overpower the taste of the vegetables. I loved it! Gotta work on that crust though - I wouldn't serve tonight's pie to company, it looked like Frankenpie.

An offering to our guru.

Blueberry Dilip

Blueberry Dilip is described in the book as "not quite a crumble, not quite a crisp." I'd describe it more as an upside-down cake, as the batter goes in first, followed by the blueberries. I love blueberries but have some amazing looking blackberries in my fridge that I was dying to substitute - but I didn't (sigh), in the name of the challenge. Next time, Dilip, next time.

This was so, so, SO easy to make. I think it took 10 minutes, tops, although it had to bake for almost an hour. The recipe called for 4 cups of blueberries, and I used almost 5 (in order to use up the remaining berries I had), and the recipe didn't seem to hurt for it.


The Dilip was Dilip-icious. The berries had a delightful gingery taste (which was blended with the berries and sugar before being placed on top of the batter) - not too much, just a hint, which worked well with the blueberry flavour. The batter part was cakey and moist, and I enjoyed it more than a crumble topping. I will definitely be making this one again...with blackberries. Mwahahahaa...

La Dolce Vegan Blog Challenge: Catching Up

I'm back from my amazing trip to Mexico with Cathy, Kate and Theo (more on that later). Today was spent catching up on work and catching up on cooking. Before I left, I agreed to participate in a challenge being sponsored by the Vegan Culinary Institute, where several bloggers will cook their way through Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan cookbook. We were given a set of recipes to follow for the next (gulp) nine months. I came home to find that I was six (!) recipes behind the rest of the bloggers, according to the Institute's itinerary, and so today I got to work. I'm not completely caught up, but I did manage to get through four of the six I missed. Sorry some of the photos are messed up; my iPhone appears to have contracted a case of Montezuma's Revenge while in Mexico.

Gerry's Artichoke Heart and Basil Pasta (p. 132)

This recipe was so easy and pretty fool-proof, and especially quick since I'm nerdy and have things like pre-toasted pine nuts on hand. It's hard to go wrong with the combo of fresh tomatoes and basil, although I think next time I would double the tomato (it only called for one fresh tomato, chopped), or I might choose to go with my absolute favourite, cherry tomatoes. I used the rice pasta I had on hand, and this meal was divine, and more than enough for two servings (hooray leftovers).

Nom nom nom - love fresh basil so much.

No-Salt Shaker (p. 303)

I'm a huge fan of Bragg's Organic Sprinkle as an alternative to salt - it contains 24 herbs and spices - so I'm not sure how this relatively simple herb mix is going to compare (I haven't used it yet). I did feel smug as I spooned the spices into the Mason Jar I'm using to store the mix, as I had every single spice called for in the recipe...except celery seed. Gah. I knew I was going to have to trot downstairs to Nester's at some point during today's cook-a-palooza. I mean, I even had dry mustard. Who just has dry mustard hanging around in their pantry, I ask you? Me, that's who.

Just a touch of this and a dash o' that.

Wolffie's Banana Blueberry Muffins (p. 274)

Any excuse to use fresh local blueberries is OK by me. This recipe asks you to blend the "wet" ingredients (banana, molasses, vanilla) in a food processor, which was fine - except for some reason my banana would. not. blend. I sat there pulsing that damn food processor for way longer than what I would deem necessary. I also found that the ratio of wet to dry ingredients seemed a bit off - I felt like I had to mix and mix and mix to saturate all the dry ingredients, which is a big no-no with muffins, which should be "just mixed." However, they seem to have come out alright and the kitchen smelled absolutely delightful while they were baking - molasses are great for that. I'm looking forward to eating one of these for breakfast tomorrow.

Tiny photo, ginormous muffins.

Estrellasoap.com Peanut Butter Fudge Mounds (p. 208)

Ohhhh, man. These lil' puppies are dangerous - sugar, cocoa, margarine, peanut butter, oats. Hot damn. I am a huge fan of Reese's - well, anything, and these yummy treats give you just enough of that taste of peanut butter and chocolate. After forming them you have to refrigerate them for at least an hour - I did two, and still found they were a little moist and sticky when I went to transfer them to a tin container (to be stored in the fridge). But hey, lookit, I ain't complainin' - I ate two already.

Oh yes I did.