There’s been a lot of celebrating going on here at the Vegan Backpacker household and no shortage of excuses to eat special things like cupcakes, for example. My birthday just passed, as did Valentine’s day, and friends and family came to visit us from Toronto and Halifax. That’s three great reasons to enjoy a cupcake. These cupcakes we’ve been indulging in, there from Thimble Cakes, a new cupcakery in Ottawa, Ontario. They’re a nut-free bakery with a great selection of vegan offerings. Our friends Calina and Dan, the same couple we traveled around South America with, came up for a weekend and surprised us with this trio, which included a banana split, espresso and double chocolate cupcake.
Urban Herbivore – Special Delivery
Calina and Dan also brought us a little piece of Toronto to chow down on. Before leaving the city, they stopped in at Urban Herbivore and picked up one of their amazing sandwiches and a sweet potato and date muffin. Gosh are we spoiled! Urban Herbivore is home of the best vegan sandwiches in the world. Trust me, I’ve been looking but haven’t found a better sandwich maker anywhere.
Vegan Tea Party
Inspired by the glamour of high tea, I decided to have an all girls tea party to celebrate my birthday. A group of girls came over and we spent the afternoon sipping on tea and snacking on sweets. I picked up some more cupcakes from Thimble Cakes and made cranberry ginger scones. My girl friends brought some additional treats, including double chocolate chip and lemon poppy seed cookies. I received a copy of Appetite for Reduction as a gift and can’t wait to make some of the healthy recipes in there.
John and I kept it simple this year and celebrated Valentine’s day by staying in and having a nice meal at home. He surprised me with a candlelit meal consisting of tempeh crouton salad and butternut squash soup. How cute! I gave him a gift card for Bridgehead, his favourite coffee shop, and he gave me a pretty plant to take to work.
We finally got around to trying the raw cashew and macadamia nut cheese I wrote about in my first At Home post back in January. The verdict: it’s impressive! This homemade nut cheese is very similar to the Dr. Cow cheese, smells like the real thing and tastes great! I left it in the back of the fridge to “develop a rind” for about two weeks. We went through one round of each kind and stashed the other two in the freezer for a special occasion. John and I agreed we liked the taste, texture and smell of the cashew cheese better than the macadamia nut cheese. Maybe next time I’ll soak the macadamia nuts longer and achieve a different result. For the recipe, you’ll have to check out The Raw Chef’s Recipe Series Cheese eBook by Russel James.
It’s winter in Ottawa and it’s darn cold! Some people have made remarks about this being a mild one, but after spending a whole year in warmer climates, it’s been a big adjustment. The cold weather has left us craving hearty soups, steamed veggies and baked root vegetables. I’ve also been super into kale, which is one of three reasons why I was so excited to find this ingenious recipe for African Yam Stew in the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. It combines three of my favourite ingreidents: peanut butter, sweet potatoes and kale. This one has my vote for the perfect winter recipe.
When it comes to cooking, John’s favourite thing to make, hands down, is curry. A few weeks ago he made a quadrupole batch of chana masala, using tomatoes, chickpeas and potatoes. We froze individual portions and have been using them as work lunches. Before we went on our year long backpacking trip, I used to take a salad to work for lunch every single day. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to keep up a salad a day during our trip. My preferences have changed and now I crave variety and warm meals for lunch. These frozen curry portions have been keeping me happy and well fed.
We’ve been steaming a lot of veggies for dinner lately, and baking sweet potatoes with garlic and spices. Add a little tempeh and rice and you’ve got a meal. This is our idea of a quick and simple weeknight meal.
On a recent week night, John decided to do something a entirely different and surprised me with this ultra impressive Wild Rose Smoke Stack. Sounds fancy, eh? On top of a bed of greens and a hearty, grilled portobello mushroom, John built this towering dish using a layer of sauteed kale and onions, quinoa with tahini and eggplant, cherry tomatoes and sprouts. He found this recipe, as well the recipe for the tempeh crouton salad mentioned above, in the Meet The Coup Cooks cookbook. Unless you’ve spent some time in Calgary, Alberta, you may not have heard of this one. The Coup and Meet Lounge are two side by side vegetarian restaurants in Calgary where you can find some really tasty, unique dishes. They have their own cookbook, and while the recipes are a little hard to follow, they provide some great guidelines for recreating their signature menu items. Sadly, the only place I know of where you can buy the book is at The Coup in Calgary.
I can’t get my fill of smoothies. I try and try, but I just can’t get enough. I could live off these babies. I’ve been mixing it up a bit lately but my go to combo is frozen banana, frozen mixed berries, almond milk and flax seed oil. On week days I’ve been adding hemp protein powder and a few pieces of kale, but on weekends I go for a sweeter version and add some coconut butter and cacao nibs.
On the weekends, when we have more time, John and I have been getting back into the routine of making vegetable juice. We’ve recently started saving broccoli and kale stems for juicing. I haven’t worked up to a green juice yet, but have been adding kale and broccoli stems in with apple, carrot, celery, beets, ginger and lemons.
On weekdays, I prefer warm lunches but on weekends I like to make big salads and mix it up using different ingredients. For this one, I used some homemade sprouts, curry leftovers, avocado, sprouted tofu, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and mixed greens.
Here’s another salad, this one’s made with leftover quinoa, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, bell peppers and greens.
On weekends John likes to make “his big breakfast” which, among other things, consist of potatoes and veggies. He fries up onions, mushrooms, zucchini and potatoes with a mix of dried herbs. Sometimes he’ll add kale and tempeh. He usually eats this with toast and a big smoothie. John always makes a little extra for me, because he knows that even if I say I don’t want any, I’ll end up sneaking some potatoes off his plate.
For now, that’s all the news I have to share about our winter meals. I’ll leave you with this colorful piece of urban knitting I spotted the other day amongst the white and grey landscape of snowy Ottawa.