Cooking Delights

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Trinity, Part II

Well, the birthday goes on. Today we had family for Trinity's birthday party.

For appetizers I chopped some fresh veggies and served them with Dreena's Creamy Hummus. I love this hummus. We were already on the nutritional home run with raw veggies and hummus for protein.

I made a fantastic lasagna, for which I losely followed a recipe. I made this lasagna healthier by cutting the cheese in half and mixing tofu, crumbled, into the spinach/cheese mixture. So, this was a spinach, mushroom, and eggplant lasagna made with whole wheat lasagna noodles.

For dessert, of course we had cupcakes. I love how this photo makes the cupcakes look like a bouquet of roses. These are the sexy low fat cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, iced with buttercream icing. I cut back on the sugar in the cupcakes by 1/4 cup, but I don't recommend it. They needed some extra sweetness.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy Birthday to my little girl!

I can't believe that my precious little angel turned five this week. She is the light of my life. I love watching her to grown into a beautiful person each and every day. One of the highlights of this week was to make mini-cupcakes for 20 or so little JKers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Easy, easy, easy

OK, so not the cutest picture. This was one of the simplest things I have ever made. It comes from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family cook book It basically involves boiling some noodles of your choice, sending a box of mori nu through the blender and adding in some cheddar cheese. This was so easy. My daughter loved it too, so it definitely passes the kid test. I thought it was a great way to healthy-up traditional mac and cheese.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

28 cooks teaches me to make glazed nuts

Fiber at 28 cooks recently featured a trio of glazed nuts. Here are her chai walnuts, but I used almonds. Almonds lower your LDL cholesterol and help to reduce your risk of heart disease. These were scrummy... although fiber says they will last for a week in an air tight container, ours lasted under an hour and it was really hard to wait for them to cool.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More recipe testing....

Well, it was back to the kitchen to try more tofu icing today. I even consulted with the cook book author on this one. Today I tried the raspberry icing from Dreena's Vive le Vegan cookbook. This was my second try at this recipe. I tried it before for my hubby's birthday last June 10. Let me just say that with the tips from Dreena and the agar powder I am all set to go with this recipe. I think this is the one that I will go with for Saturday. I think sexy low fat vanilla cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World together with raspberry icing probably has more appeal than ginger cake with lemon icing. Tonight will be the real test though. I have packed these babies up in my brand spankin' new for Christmas cupcake caddy and I am taking them to yoga class tonight. Lucky yoginis! I am looking forward to what these mindful ladies will have to say about these little cakes.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 15, 2007

Weekend Breakfast

Sunday is the only day that I am not scheduled to be out the door by a certain time. Weekdays are a rush since my daughter has to be at school by 8:00 a.m. Even on Saturdays I start teaching at 9:30 a.m. It is nice to take a slower pace on Sunday mornings and spend more time on breakfast. Yesterday, inspired by Laura at Eden in the Kitchen I decided to make pumpkin waffles for breakfast. Now, just in case you thought I was perfect (ha ha!) I will let you in on a few disasters in the kitchen yesterday morning. First of all, I had to go grocery shopping before I could make these babies. That took until about 11:00 a.m. By then I was starving and losing brain function. So, I plugged in the waffle iron and proceeded to blow a fuse. From there I moved the waffle iron to the only other working outlet in the kitchen on top of the stove (not very convenient). The first waffle was a complete disaster - for some reason it didn't cook and stayed completely flat. (probably had something to do with blowing the fuse) The second waffle I burned to a crisp - how did the temperature on the waffle iron get turned up so high???? Third time was a charm and we all enjoyed beautiful pumpkin waffles with heinz beans in tomato sauce. YUMMY! Lucky I didn't give up! I spiced the pumpkin waffles with this masala tea spice that I found at my grocery store. It has ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ground pepper in it. It is fantastic in everything from pumpkin waffles to oatmeal cookies.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Recipe Testing for Cooking Class

Today it was time to test out two of the items for next Saturday's cooking class. I started by baking a cake this morning at the break of dawn. I got the idea from Albion Cooks to try out David Lebovitz' Fresh Ginger Cake. Now this cake is right up my ally. It is chewy on the inside with an outer layer that is cracked and crispy, just like good brownies. The reason for making this cake, was actually to test out a lemon, maple tofu icing for next Saturday's cooking class. Thanks to my good friend Carolyn, I was able to secure some agar powder and now the world is my oyster when it comes to tofu frosting. Having worked with guar gum in the past, I must say agar powder is WWAAAYYY easier. I was quite pleased with the results of this cake and the icing. The icing is not too sweet like a lot of other icings. The only thing is, I'm not sure everybody will share my complete love affair with anything gingerbread flavoured. I will probably be testing some raspberry icing later this week to compare.

For dinner tonight I cooked up a eggless tofu quiche. This recipe was tweeked from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family cook book. I made this quiche with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. The meal was a hit with my family and is definitely ready for the cooking class.

There are two spots left in the cooking class, so let me know if you want to join us!

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Roasted Squash Soup and Cheddar, oat crackers

I am getting to that point where it is really time to do a grocery shop, but I am still trying to use up the rest of the ingredients in my fridge. I found a butternut squash and some sweet potatoes in the back of my cupboard and decided to make Dreena's roasted squash soup from The Everyday Vegan. I did change up the recipe a bit, however. I was out of onions, so no onions. I decided to roast a bulb of garlic with the squash and sweet potatoe. This addition made for a very rich soup and er, um, lots of flatulence! LOL! I love roasted garlic, but whoa nelly, does anybody else find it gassy? I am also finding that I am unfortunately developing a food sensitivity to sweet potatoes! Now who in the heck of it develops a food sensitivity to sweet potatoes? My tummy just finds it too much, which is really too bad because sweet potatoes are super nutritious. The cheddar oat crackers were fun, they are from Nava Atlas' Soups and Stews book, under the accompianment section. These are really neat. You cook them up in the fry pan until they are golden brown. I decided to get fancy and make mine heart shape. They were a nice accompaniament to the soup and a nice change from bread. The oats make them super healthy. I also used a combination of flours. Since I was pretty much out of whole wheat flour, I used a combination of kamut and whole wheat. Turned out great. Too bad my daughter wasn't that interested in them. I was hoping they would make a nice alternative to store bought crackers and even a great healthy snack to pack for school. Can't win them all I guess.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another Preview

Here is another preview of the yummy creations we are going to make with tofu at Saturday January 20th's cooking class. This tofu pudding is kid-proof and husband proof. Even the most paranoid tofu-phobes will be fooled. This is a great snack that packs a lot of punch with its protein and satisfies the sweet tooth at the same time. I only have a couple of spaces left so register asap to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cooking Class Saturday January 20th

With a new year comes renewed energy to cook with healthier ingredients. One of the number one questions I get as a vegetarian is, "How do you cook with tofu?" or "Do you have any good tofu recipes?" Let's face it tofu is pretty dull on its own, but prepared properly can be a healthy contribution to any nutritious meal. This seemingly bland food can miraculously take on the flavor of its surrounding ingredients making it a highly versatile as well as highly nutritious part of a healthy diet.

Tofu is an excellent source of protein. Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots, and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Soy has also been shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause. Additionally, most types of tofu are enriched with calcium, which can help prevent the accelerated bone loss for which women are at risk during menopause. Fish isn't the only good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Tofu provides 14.4% of the daily value for these especially beneficial fats in just 4 ounces. Tofu is a very good source of iron, providing 33.8% of the DV for this important mineral in 4 ounces.

With all these health benefits you are going to want to know a few ways to prepare tofu in a delicious way that the whole family can enjoy.

On Saturday January 29th I will be hosting my second cooking class. In this cooking class we are going to learn four different ways to cook tofu.

Main Course Tofu

Sweet and Sour Tofu

Tofu Eggless Quiche

Tofu for Dessert

Chocolate Pudding

Cupcakes iced with delicious tofu icing

Here is a preview of the sweet and sour tofu that we will be cooking on Saturday January 20th. This dish is a favourite at our house. Apparently it is really good as leftovers as well, but we wouldn't know, because there is never a morsel left.

Here it is in the pan, cooking.

Here it is served with brown basmati rice and stir fried vegetables.

Come to my place and learn to cook delicious food and desserts with tofu in a fun, informative, and relaxing environment.

Cooking Class Features
Each class is limited to five people so that you can get the attention you deserve and enjoy hands on experience preparing your tofu. You will receive recipes, nutrition tips, and cooking instruction. Feast on a relaxing sit down meal after learning to prepare a delicious dinner and dessert with tofu.

When: Saturday January 20th 5:00 p.m.

Where: My place

For information on pricing and directions to my place contact me at: Space is limited so reserve your spot early to avoid disappointment.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Aloo Gobi

The other night I decided to try my hand at aloo gobi. I had some cauliflower in my fridge, which is unusual, because I don't often buy cauliflower. I find it hard to imagine that something so white could have any nutritional qualities, so I usually skip it. Cauliflower lacks the green chlorophyll found in other members of the cruciferous family of vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale, because the leaves of the plant shield the florets from the sun as they grow. Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, contain compounds that may help prevent cancer. These compounds appear to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and they increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens. We now know that cruciferous vegetables contain both glucosinolates and thiocyanates (including sulforaphane and isothiocyanate). These compounds increase the liver's ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances. Did you know that a one cup serving of cauliflower provides you with 91.5% of your daily intake of vitamin C. I guess I am going to have to give this nutritious vegetable another chance!

I served the aloo gobi with brown basmati rice and a home made coleslaw featuring cabbage, carrots and dried cranberries.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Good Nutrition for your Brain

Brain of a six month old.

I have been reading Dharma Singh Khalsa's Brain Longevity book. In addition to inspiring my yoga practice it has also influenced my eating habits. According to Khalsa "A substandard diet is the number-two preventable cause of death in America today, right after smoking. Smoking kills about 425, 000 people a year, and dietary mistakes kill at least 350, 000" (Khalsa 1997, 200). Khalsa's instructions for proper nutrition for your brain are relatively simple.

1. Eat a low fat diet.

2. Eat a nutrient dense diet. Empty calories stress your body in terms of digestions, assimilation, and elimination.

3. Avoid hypoglycemia. Don't let your blood sugars get too low. When your blood sugar is low, your brain functions poorly.

4. Eat a relatively low-calorie diet. Don't go hungry, but don't overeat.

5. Eat a balanced diet. That doesn't mean to eat from the "four basic food groups," rather eat a balance of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and non-animal based protein.

6. Take supplements.

7. Eat real food. Not processed food. Not pesticied-poisoned food. Not embalmed food.

It probably won't surprise you that Dr. Khalsa recommends a vegetarian diet. "Adequate protein can be consumed without eating meat, and virtually all meat is high in fat. Even the leanest types of white chicken are much higher in fat than almost any other high-protein foods" (1997, 207).

The reasons that fat takes its toll on the brain are two fold. "Excessive consumption of fat impairs cerebal circulation by clogging arteries with 'bad' low-density lipoprotein (or LDL). LDL decreases the elasticity of the brain's blood vessels" (Khalsa 1997, 225).

"High fat intake also creates a huge number of free radicals, because fat oxidizes so quickly that if you pour oil into an open container, it will become infused with air in just a few seconds. This infusion of air (or oxidation) will quickly turn the oil rancid, and rancid oil contains some of the most destructive free radicals that exist. When free radicals from fat meet your neurons, they quicly damage the neurons, and begin to kill them" (Khalsa 1997, 225).

Now if that doesn't motivate you to improve your nutritional intake, I'm not sure what will!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'm a lucky girl....

I was treated today, first to a face lift in my kitchen and then to dinner at my favourite restaurant.

When we moved into our house about a four years ago it was completely white washed. Four years and a doctorate degree later we hadn't done anything to the house. We decided to try to spruce up the kitchen. I don't have a true before picture of my kitchen, but the cupboards used to be a really ugly beige laminate. We painted the cupboards white and the walls yellow. The yellow turned out much more like highlighter yellow than "lotus flower yellow." sigh



Today we slaved over adding these handles to the cupboard doors and drawers. Even though my husband cursed a lot through the experience I think it was worth the vision I had for my kitchen.

Tonight we went to one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, Café 668 This food is so incredibly tastey there is nothing I can write to give it justice. You have to go and check it out for yourself. All I could think about was how much my brother in law, Martin would appreciate this food, since he can often be quoted as saying, "this is some serious flavour" while enjoying his food.

First up is a vegetarian curry. How do southeast Asians make their curry? I need to know, because this is absolutely my favourite type of curry sauce. I have tried lots of different curries, but I definitely love this one the most. This dish has tofu and some faux bbq pork in it. I love the faux bbq pork!

Next up is crispy fried noodles with four different mushrooms. Crispy noodles has to be one of my favourite things about Asian cuisine. Sorry about the photo here, as soon as the food arrived we dug in and forgot about taking the picture until we had already destroyed the presentation.

Last, but certainly not least, one of our favourites at this restaurant, curried eggplant. They lightly batter and deepfry the eggplant and then cover it with their perfect curry sauce. Once again, apologies for the photo, we had already started eating before we took the photograph, again!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Behind the Apron

Fiber over at 28 cooks is hosting a "Behind the Apron" round up to try to get to know her fellow food bloggers out there in food land.

Here I am! I am the proud mother of a beautiful and spirited five year old daughter. I've been married to my awesome husband for ten years. Professionally I am a nutrition and lifestyle coach, vegetarian chef and cooking class instructor, yoga, pilates, and fitness instructor and freelance writer. I just completed my doctoral dissertation in communication and culture in December of 2006, which makes me Dr. Melissa West. I love to cook. My favourite thing to cook is probably cupcakes. That's it, that's me. Did I forget anything?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Day Celebrations

We had my sister in law and brother in law over for lunch yesterday and a late Christmas gift exchange. I made a couple of great recipes out of my new cook books.

The first recipe is from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons. This is a Brazilian Black Bean Stew.I served it over brown basmati rice. The rice was made with a mixture of tomato juice and water which made for an interesting flavour. This was the first time I made rice without my rice maker and it turned out great.

I served the brazilian black bean stew with Mediterranian Salad Stuffed Bread from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family Cookbook.. This recipe was an interesting mix of lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sun dried tomatoes mixed with olive oil and lemon juice. You were supposed to make this bread ahead of time to let the flavour soak into the breat. This made for bread that was a bit mushy. Next time I might heat the whole thing up in the oven and avoid soaking the bread. I didn't mind it but my hubby found it too mushy.

For dessert I whipped up apple blossoms made with puff pastry. The great thing about puff pastry is that it makes everything taste like it comes from an expensive bakery. I used up the apples I had in the fridge. Since I was out of white sugar I mixed the apples with brown sugar. It turned out fine, even though I think white sugar is better.

What did I get for Christmas from my sister in law you ask? I got this wickedly cool cupcake carrier and a cupcake tin to make mini-cupcakes! I'm excited.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

We were at a friend's place for a house party to ring in the new year last night. I decided to take some festive cupcakes with me. I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I had some "good intention" icing in the fridge that I had planned to use for sugar cookies of some sort. I also had a plethora of candy canes that I had taken off the tree earlier that day. In an effort to "waste not, want not" I used up these holiday staples to make New Year's Eve cupcakes. The cupcakes were a hit with the crowd. In fact, I scored a gig to make 150 cupcakes for a friend's wedding in July. How cool is that?