Monday, 2 July 2012

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

That's right, it's one of the very best days of the year. Vegan Pizza Day! I don't know who started it, and I don't know who had the original idea. Frankly, I don't care. Is there any better idea than to have an entire day devoted to PIZZA?? Personally, I can't think of any.

I know that all of the non-vegans among you are thinking, "How can you have pizza without cheese?". Trust me, you can and it can be delicious. If you need cheese than there is the amazing delight that is Daiya.  It's melty, it's stretchy, it's DAIYA! Ask any vegan and chances are they will tell you that this has revolutionized their attitude towards vegan cheeses. Notice I say most. Not everyone loves it like we do, but that is the joy of food. Always something to disagree about. :)

So, how does a vegan enjoy pizza? When super-busy, like everyone else, pizza is an easy convenience food. Call, order, eat. Done and done. The only extra steps for us would be to make sure the sauce has no hidden cheese, like parmesan or romano, and to ensure the crust is vegan (it is unusual for it not to be). A quick internet search can usually answer these questions. Then we order a pizza with extra sauce and no cheese, with gobs of our favourite veggies. It is delicious as is, you would be surprised. But if we have Daiya on hand we just melt it on our slices in the microwave and VOILA! Easy vegan melty pizza deliciousness!

Melina is making her extra special pizza crust, upon my request, for Vegan Pizza Day. She'll tell you how to make it. I'll tell you it's amazing.


I make my 'thick' pizza dough that I modified form another recipe I used to use.

Super Yummy Pizza Crust

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, I check the temp (105* to 115*F[40* to 45*C])
3/4 sea salt
2 tbsp flax meal
1 tbsp  dry italian seasoning
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 - 1/2 cups cornmeal

I make this in my beautiful heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer.  One of my favourite things in life.

I rinse out the mixer bowl with hot water to warm it. I dry it and pop it in the cradle of my machine, and add the water and yeast. I mix it with a spatula, till dissolved. Then add salt, herbs, flax meal and olive oil, then add in the flour and turn on lowest speed to mix everything together a bit, the mix on speed 2 for about 2 minutes. Add more flour if needed, but it should all cling to dough hook and clean the sides of the mixer.

As it is summer right now and the AC is always on, I let it rise in the oven. This is how, detach the metal bowl from the machine, pull the dough off the hook, and add a little bit of olive oil around the sides of the bowl. Flip the dough ball round in the bowl till it is all covered in oil. I take a clean dish towel, wet it and ring it out well, and wrap it over the metal bowl. Then I stick the lot in the oven and shut the door. I did turn on the oven to just below the lowest setting. BE EVER SO CAREFUL!!!

An hour later, slightly warm, nice and risen, fragrant dough. Yum!

Brush pizza pan with oil, very lightly, sprinkle with cornmeal. Plop the dough on he pan, and press out to the edges of the pans. I rub some oil on my hands before I do this. It's a good idea to do this if you don't want dough stuck to your nails.

Then you just sauce and top as you like. We used canned pasta sauce, onion, kalamata olives, artichokes, mushrooms, all topped with Daiya.

We bake it for 20 minutes at 425*F (230*C).

It was pretty amazing.

-Melina  : D

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Day 11 - We Are Not Discussing Day 10

Day 10 ... la la la, I don't hear you! Of course it was still vegan, don't get crazy. But it was a terrible day and we wanted Daiya. What can I say.

Today was much better. Sometimes it takes hitting a rock bottom of sorts to get your crap together. We had a fantastic talk and have got some great goals set. And we will reach them, oh yes, we will.

Sleep is so much better since I have begun this challenge. Even with all of the stress lately, I have been sleeping like a baby, waking up to cats crawling over me and trying to convince me that they haven't eaten in weeks. FYI - it's a lie, they eat way better than we do.

Not tonight though! Melina is making curry, and curry is one of my very favourite things. I'll let her tell you more about it.

I have to say how much I am enjoying air popped popcorn with sriracha as a snack. Love it! It is totally keeping me from my usual ultimate craving - chips and dip. On Day 31 there will be chips and dip...

~ Denise

Tonight's curry was amazing. I ate so much I was uncomfortable. It was great.

I roasted some red potatoes. Chopped them, added sea salt and a little bit of canola oil. I cooked in the oven at 350* (our oven runs hot) for about an hour, flipping every 20 minutes.

For the curry, it's the same as our earlier post, Eggplant Curry, with the exception of no gardein, and I added peas to mine. Portabello mushrooms give a meatier texture and chickpeas round it out.

We had crushed raw cashews, unsweetened coconut and raisins for the condiments.

It was amazing. Go stuff yourself!

~ Melina  : D

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Day 7 - We Cheated?

Yesterday sucked. We all have those days, right? Where the entire purpose of the world seems to be to make you cry? That was how it was. When we arrived home we wanted to do no cooking. It was the kind of night where you just want to order pizza and be done with it. The thing is that we are also trying to save money, so that option was off the table in more ways than one.

No cooking and no ordering, and we are so emotionally spent that we are off the rails and just don't care. What we chose to do was simple pasta and red sauce.

I was beating myself up. We blew it! I felt awful. But then I stopped to really think about what I did.  What was the awful cheat? I had margarine. Organic vegan margarine. HOW EVIL! Even the red sauce on the pasta was organic and sugar free!

The idea that this is cheating just shows how much is changing with my eating. Not to say I will never eat true junk food again, but that I now equate lack of veggies with cheat-eating is revolutionary. Amazing!

So was the day a failure? I'm not convinced.

~ Denise

Monday, 30 April 2012

Day 6 ~ 14 Stiches

Ok, so I had surgery on Friday, but it is still sore. Come on, 14 stitches in my finger. Ouch.

So, we were sort of lazy-ish today. We had leftover chili for lunch, pasta with white sauce for supper. For a treat, I made raw balls. I'll not allow myself to make them again till Friday. I'm not big into self control, so I pace myself.

I'm so proud of us, we came home from working our soul sucking day job, and did a Zumba workout. Wow, did I really not feel like it. But we did it. Because we are awesome. Ha!

~ Melina

We are still doing fantastically well and the energy I had to do the workout after the job all day! AMAZING! We feel awesome and are definitely going to keep going.

~ Denise

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 5 ~ Melina Cooks Again!

Today I was able to cook. After a brief bit of not cooking yesterday, due to very high stakes finger surgery, I was back in the saddle again. I made raw balls (from 'The Kind Diet') late last night. Super yum.

We didn't have a proper lunch today, just snacked on raw balls and hummus and pita.

Supper was going to have to be good. We happen to have a lot of potatoes in the house, so I wanted to make sliced potato roasties. But what to have with it? We did notice it was cold outside. Chilly even. Chilly, chili!!! Awesome.

Didn't really follow a recipe as such. Took some onion, garlic, mushrooms, peppers, kale, canned tomatoes, canned kidney beans and romano beans. Added chili powder and salt to taste.

For the potatoes I sliced really thin, brushed real lightly with canola oil and sprinkled with salt. I bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes each side. I like them toasty.

Now I'm tired. And my finger hurts.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Day 4 - Smash That Myth Up!

There is a myth out there that I can't cook. Truth is that I do not enjoy cooking at all, but I love coming up with the recipes that Melina tries out. The fact is that she does not like to allow me in 'her kitchen'. She seems to think I am chaotic. But then today she had a minor surgery on her finger and it was either let me cook or starve. Anyone who knows Melina knows she would never choose starvation.

So sit back and absorb the glory of my cooking today, and let the myth die that I am kitchen impaired!

First was a lovely lunch that looked like this:
Ezekiel Wrap pizzas! These wraps are perfect for this recipe because they get nice and crisp. For these I used an organic tomato and basil pre made pasta sauce. Just make sure yours doesn't have sugar. Then I added some onion, mushroom, red pepper, black olives and kale and threw in into the oven at 350 for 15 minutes or until the edges if the wraps are crisp. I started my cooking off well, I'd say.

Far be it from me not to provide healthy snacks. Check it out!
Roasted chick peas. Drain a can and rinse well. Spread them out on a sheet lined with parchment paper. Very very lightly brush with canola oil. Put in the oven at 375. Flip them around after 15 minutes. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Flip them around. Repeat this process until they are nicely toasted and crunchy. Season as you like. We like curry powder and salt. 

Now it's time for dinner, the ultimate test. Avocado Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

This may not look as good as it was, because it was sooooooo good, fresh and yummy. And did I mention how easy this was? Put the juice of 1 small lemon and 4 cloves of garlic into a food processor. Swish about. Add 2 avocados and swirl until really creamy. Add 2 cups of raw spinach and a drained can of artichoke hearts. Swish squish and smash in the food processor. I added 2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast, seasoned to taste with salt, lots of pepper, and dried basil. Tossed it up with some cooked whole wheat penne.

What is that I smell? Is it vindication??

~ Denise

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Day 3 - The Day Zumba Could Have Killed Me

For those who don't know, Melina and I recently attempted this challenge recently and made it to day 11 before falling off the wagon. I figure it's a little like quitting smoking; sometimes it takes more than one try.

I am noticing the same things happening this time as the last, which is just further proof that the change in eating is the reason. The first change we both noticed is how much better we are sleeping. Seriously, I am sleeping like a rock! I wake up with actual energy. It's awesome.

The other thing I noticed today was how much food directly affects working out. I love to Zumba. LOVE! I grew up dancing so it is the perfect workout for me. After 11 days of our last challenge, I noticed how different my body felt when doing a crazy Zumba workout. It felt ... clean. Now today's workout, on only day 3 of the challenge, it felt a whole lot less so. You know the full body ick that happens when you hit the point of exhaustion? Yup, it was there. Like my body was trying to sweat out any remaining chemicals and refined sugar from a few days ago. 

Now, about today's food. Breakfast of nine grain bread and almond hazelnut butter. Lunch was the last of the Mexican Lasagna. I love the meal that gives tons of leftovers. :) And can I tell you how much I love a snack of an apple and almond butter? Well, I will anyway. I love it!

Supper was loosely inspired by this. Yes, we had a scramble, but the seasoning was totally different. And Melina very lightly brushed the sweet potatoes with canola oil (very lightly) to crisp them up.
I like my scramble pretty simple. This one had kale, mushrooms, red and green pepper, onion. I was seasoned with lots of black pepper, a pinch of paprika, salt, and a bit of nutritional yeast.  When it was on my plate I sprinkled some cajun seasoning salt on it that Melina doesn't like but I love. 

That's my day. On to the next!

~ Denise

The only thing I'll add it that the scramble is super, and the 'fries' were amazing. So having those again. Like tomorrow. Ha!

~ Melina

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Day 2 - Feelings Are Not For Eating

You know those days when you think 'but they were a flaming moron' should be a murder defense? I had one of those.

It started out fine. Had a lovely breakfast of 9 grain bread and almond hazelnut butter.  The bread is a delicious one from a local bakery that is carried by our grocery store. Important as it has no preservatives or assorted other ingredients that are unnameable. And the nut butter is yum. Don't get stuck in a peanut butter rut. I'm allergic to peanuts so I have widely explored the other butters, and they are so amazing. I think my favourite is cashew. So great.

We had leftovers from last night's Mexican Lasagna  for lunch. Might be even better the next day,

Work was tough. Not food wise. I had a  yummy apple on my break. But it was generally crappy. One of those days that can sometimes drive me to eat my feelings. My binge of choice is chips and dip. Oh, how I love the salty goodness. To kill the craving I substituted air popped popcorn dipped in sriracha. I've mentioned before that I won't give it up in spite of the sugar because I love it so much, but I use less than a teaspoon at a time. Craving killed!

Then I wanted something comforting for supper, and what is more comforting than pasta? I'll let Melina tell you how she made it. She's cooking now. It will heal me, I can tell.

~ Denise

I make my white pasta sauce like I would normally, with the exception of using oil to sauté, and there is no processed vegan cheese item of any kind. I just use some organic brown rice flour to thicken. And I usually add kale. So good.

Also, for dessert, I made mochi. I LOVE mochi. I lightly brush a non-stick pan with a drop of oil. put some cut up pieces of mochi on it, cover, flip in a few minutes, cover, and it's done when it looks all puffy.

Maple syrup or brown rice syrup over the top of the hot mochi is heaven. I used maple syrup tonight. Brilliant.

~ Melina

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Day 1 - Ready, Set, GO!

Today has been great. It feels so good to be back on track. And what do two ladies eat on their very first day of a challenge? Morning started with Ezekiel Cereal. Tastes a lot like Grape Nuts, but is even more filling. A little goes a very long way.

Then came lunch.  Melina made hummus from a recipe that came from the Engine 2 book. I should say she adapted it from the recipe, as she does her best work when left to her own devices. I don't think she measured anything, and it was damn good. It is a very light tasting hummus. Taking the oil and tahini out does change the texture, but it was fantastic on my sandwich of whole wheat pita, mushrooms, tomato and avocado with lots of pepper. She had hers with toasted pita wedges. YUM!

Should take a second to note, be careful when buying whole wheat pita. READ INGREDIENTS! I thought the one I always purchased was fine until I read the ingredients and found out there was white flour in it. YUCK! Unlike bread loaves, pita does not usually say the percentage whole wheat and it is easy to assume that it's 100% when it isn't.

Now tonight we are having a favourite, and I am so friggin' excited. I can smell it cooking now. Mexican Lasagna (photos of the process included)! If you love mexican food, then try this. If you have kids, then try this. Just try this!!

Another thing to get used to is frying vegetables without oil. It actually works really well. Just put the water in the pan and add the onions or whatever, and sauté as usual. Add water as it evaporates. It gives the food a nice flavour to do it this way because it makes a quite flavourful brothy base. I think I prefer it this way. Who knew!

On to tomorrow.

~ Denise

30 Days of Whole Food

This is our second attempt at this and we realized that we missed a big and fun opportunity last time. With all of the questions we received, we wondered why the heck we hadn't blogged the entire process? Sometimes we get by on our looks.

One of the reasons we decided to do this is that we watched the amazing documentary 'Forks Over Knives'. For us, the evidence presented was incontrovertible. In the midst of the backlash that has happened, I have read a lot of the criticism, but nothing has managed to debunk for me the entire and vast amount of data presented. And don't get me started about the individuals in the film! There is no denying their improved health. I want to be one of them. And I hope everyone I love watches this, especially if you are worried about heart disease or cancer.

So here we go, embarking on a whole foods plant based diet. We haven't been eating meat or dairy anyway, so one of the questions we got was 'what changes do you really need to make?'  Well, here is a bit of what is meant by this program.

- no processed food
- no refined sugar (think instead of maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup)
- no white flour, white pasta or white rice
- lots of whole grains (for us mainly brown rice and quinoa)
- lots of beans and legumes (black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chick peas ... YUM)
- no / low oil
- lots and lots of veggies and fruit

Tofu, seitan and tempeh are also ok, but the protein is mainly from the beans and legumes. I am personally holding on to my Sriracha sauce. It has sugar in it but damn I love it and frankly I think you use so little in a serving that it can't be awful. It may sound restrictive, but if this blog shows anything I hope it shows that there is so much AMAZING food and you don't have to feel like you are suffering. It is a change of habits, and that is hard, but it's also exciting to find so much new food and feel so amazing!

Gratuitous cute-cat pic to illustrate health and wellness:
~ Denise

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kale Krazy

If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be drooling over, dreaming of, and planning to put kale into everything, I'd have said you were nuts. Well, I was nuts for not loving kale.

As I'm typing this, there is kale on the (don't judge me) 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' show. Weird.

Getting kale is hard at our grocery store. It seems everyone is loving on the delish kale. Denise and I will plan meals at work and say 'and if there is kale, we'll have this, if no kale, this will be our backup meal'. Sometimes by the time we get to the store, all the kale is gone, as we work nights. We have had more than one temper tantrum n the produce section lately.

Our new favorite meal is the pasta with white sauce, and kale! We just add it in in the last 10 minutes of the cooking time of the white sauce. (And we usually leave out the Gardein chicken breasts. YUM!! ~ Denise)

Hug and enjoy some kale today.

- Melina. :D

Monday, 27 February 2012

I Can't Believe It's Black Beans!

Ok, Denise is a good cook, but as you regular bloggies know I don't let D in my kitchen often. But damn, that girl can come up with some ideas. Like today, we where having the dreaded 'what are we gonna have for supper' conversation. She suggested black bean burritos. I frankly thought she was full of it, but I agreed, as I didn't have any better ideas, so I said sure.

So, it was friggin' fantastic. I feel like a tool because it was soooooooooooo good. It's is now going to be in regular rotation.

Black Bean Burritos

In a pan, sauté a crap load of veggies. We used onion, garlic, jalapeño, mushrooms, zucchini, sweet pepper and added half a can of black beans, some sea salt and some homemade taco spice. I sautéed on medium heat for about ten minutes.

Warm some tortillas, slap on some of the bean and veggies, and we topped them with a crap load of fresh guacamole. Denise added some salsa and I added some taco sauce. It was amazing!!!

Denise has awesome brains. Seriously. Try it. So good. Thanks D!

-Melina : D

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hungry Girl Lunch

Starting last night, I have been a bottomless pit. Ladies, you know when TOM visits and it feels like you have a hollow leg? Luckily I had no junk food on the premises or it could have gotten ugly.

When lunchtime came around I wanted something more substantial and full of protein than my usual fare. After last night's visit to Planet Organic we had a package of tempeh to play with.

For those of you who have never tried tempeh, trust me you are missing out. It is made with a process of fermenting soy beans, something that may not sound appetizing but is surprisingly delightful. The taste is kind of nutty, and the texture is slightly more toothsome than a bean. Really, there is nothing to compare it to, so just try it.

In order to soften it before cooking, I generally steam it.

Tempeh-tastic Salad

1 Pkg of unflavoured tempeh
1 med dill pickle, minced
1/4 of a small onion, minced
2 short stalks of celery, chopped
salt and a generous amount of pepper

This is a recipe that is very much 'to taste'. Add more or less of any of the ingredients as you go.

Cut up the tempeh into chunks and steam for roughly 5 minutes to soften. While this is steaming, do the cutting of pickle, onion and celery and throw in a bowl.

Once the tempeh is softened, crumble it up into the same bowl. Add vegenaise, as much as you like (some like it creamier than others). Mix it up, arrange on plate with some veggies and Bob's your uncle! Really filling. I have decided not to eat my way through the cupboards anymore. Until next month, of course.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Birthday Bash, Part 1

Birthday Blog *** Denise

So, Denise's birthday is tomorrow (February 11th y'all! - Denise), but decided to celebrate today, as we don't want to start the work week feeling crappy from all the sugar and processed food we are gonna eat for the birthday dinner and dessert.

She wanted 'The Kind Diet' Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie, though we make it with cashew butter, because Denise is allergic to peanuts (I didn't want Suicide Pie - Denise).

For the dinner, it took her a long while to decide, but went with my lasagna. There is no recipe per se, but I'll tell you how I made this amazing ( if I may say so myself) dish.

Lovely Lasagna (Ooey Gooey Cheesy Lasagna is my name for it - Denise)

- lasagna noodles
- pasta sauce
- canned tomatoes
- 2 onions, diced and divided in half
- 7 garlic cloves, minced and divided in half
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 package veggie ground round *opitional
- 1 package firm tofu
- 1 container tofutti cream cheese
- 1 tsp sea salt
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 packages Daiya, one mozzarella and one cheddar

In a medium pan, sauté half the onion and garlic and veggie ground round with the canola oil. When ground round is mostly cooked, add the sautéed mixture to a large bowl and add pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and spices. Stir it up and set aside.

In a food processor, add tofu, cream cheese, salt, the other half of the onion and garlic, water and lemon juice. Puree till smooth-ish.

Ok, time to assemble.

In a 13 x 9" pan, I like to line mine with parchment paper, as clean up is quicker.

Pop in a single layer of noodles. I use no cook noodles, cuz I don't have time. Then cover over with tomato mixture, then a layer of the tofu mixture and then 1/2 the Daiya. I use half of each.

Then another layer of noodles, more tomato mixture and then tofu layer. Add the last of the cheese. I add a bit of water in each of the corners of the pan, just a bit, to ensure the noodles are cooked.

Bake in oven for about 60 minutes at 350* degrees.

So good!

Denise enjoyed the meal a lot. She kept swearing, a good sign I'd say. (Oh my Fu**, so good - Denise)

What am I gonna have next week? We'll see... (She failed to mention her birthday is the 15th. It's our birthday season! - Denise)

- Melina.  :D

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Forks Over Knives

Just saw the documentary 'Forks Over Knives', something that I should have seen ages ago. We've all heard of the celebrities who have decided to opt for a whole food, plant based diet after seeing the film - Eliza Dushku, Ozzy Osbourne, Russell Brand, Carrie Ann Inaba to name a few. Of course I was thrilled to hear this, but I guess I wondered what the film could do for me. After all, I'm already vegan, right? Sometimes it's easy to forget the basics.

I should point out that we have really busy lives. Work, Etsy shop, I write and Melina is trying to get back to painting. We sometimes find ourselves falling back on quick and easy and processed, simply due to lack of time.

Food should and can be healing. The evidence is there though many choose not to see it, and this documentary makes it impossible to ignore.  It is not an animal rights film. It is about nutrition, about lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. About reversing illness and using food to heal. The whole food and plant based diet is the way to do it.

As a vegan I knew this but had gotten away from the whole food idea. I eat mostly OK, but could do a lot better. From now on the focus is on whole grains and veggies, legumes, fruit. When eating that way I felt the best I have in my life. I am excited to get back to that. And thrilled with all of the recipes I am going to try. :)

~ Denise

Well, what she said really. I love my sugars. Luckily, I love fruit too.

- Melina  : D

Sunday, 22 January 2012

For the Love of Eggplant

Let's review. We love curry. If you've been paying attention you may know this. What you may not know, as it is a recent discovery for us, is how much we love eggplant. A year ago, all I knew about eggplant was that I liked the colour a whole lot.

As an aside, why are all vegetables called 'red' really purple?  'Red' onion, 'red' cabbage. Think about it and marvel.

Eggplant Curry

- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups mushrooms, cut up
- 1 large eggplant, peeled, cubed and soak in water
- package Gardien beef tips (opitional)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp garham Marsala
- 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 cups basmati rice

Cook basmati rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, put olive oil in large pot, heat on medium low heat. Add onion, and sauté till beginning to brown. If using Gardien, put on with the onion, so both are browned.

Add garlic, cook about a minute, then add mushrooms and eggplant. Both will cook down. Add salt and spices, spice to taste, I just put what I used in this dish. And Denise likes it spicy, and I like it not too, too hot. This combo seems to work.

I usually simmer about 10-15 minutes on low heat. Then the rice should be about done too.

Serve curry over rice. Yay! You just cooked with eggplant! Look at you. Now go brag to your friends.

- Melina  : D

So eggplant. It's a scary vegetable. Had no idea what to do with it. It wasn't until our friend Janis, who spent much time in China and Hong Kong and came home with 2 of the cutest kids ever, gave us a tip that we dared experiment. You see, eggplant absorbs a lot of oil when it's cooked. Then it can get all slimy and icky. Eww. The greatest trick is to soak the cut eggplant in water first! GENIUS! Then it repels any oil used in cooking.

I want to find a million things to do with eggplant. Right now our favourite is this 'Beefless Tips and Eggplant Curry'. If you have feared the eggplant, or even if you haven't, you must try it. It is AMAZING!

Take it away Melina! 

~ Denise