My Birthday Part 2: Wild Rice

Check out My Birthday Part 1: Vancouver Veg Fest 2013.

After our day at Veg Fest and downtown Vancouver, Jem and I headed to the New Westminster Quay for a family dinner at my current favourite restaurant, Wild Rice. Wild Rice has two locations in the lower mainland, in New West and downtown Vancouver, serving what they call modern Chinese cuisine with “ingredients that are local, seasonal, and sustainable” (from the website). While the restaurants are not completely vegan, about half of the lunch and dinner menus are vegan, or can easily be made vegan, and these items are clearly marked with a ‘V’ on both the online and in-restaurant menus. There is also always at least one vegan dessert at each location.

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My Mom and Gramma. Love those high ceilings and open concept!

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My beautiful sister Ally. Love all that natural light coming through!

Both locations are really nice, but have quite different feels. The downtown location is a long skinny room with dark furnishings. It feels more fancy than the New West location. The New West location feels much more open and roomy, lots of natural elements, and best of all, one whole wall is made of glass doors looking out across the Fraser River (which are sometimes completely open to the outdoor patio seating). Also, this location is right on the boardwalk of the New West Quay, so its perfect for taking a post-dinner stroll along the water. The downtown location is open for dinner and the New West location is open for both lunch and dinner. The menus at both locations share some items, but are mostly unique.

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I’ve been to Wild Rice twice before, once to each location, and I knew it would be the perfect place to have a birthday dinner with my omnivore family. As much as I love supporting all-vegan businesses, a place with non-vegan food and clearly marked vegan options is much better suited to dining with a bunch of omnivores (including a few that are very unadventurous eaters). Most of the dishes are made for sharing so the portion sizes are quite large. If you aren’t sharing a dish you will most likely end up with leftovers. For example, this time around I had the Spicy Green Beans and Mushroom Risotto with Chili Tofu and I got three small meals out of it. Although if I hadn’t eaten so much food all day at VegFest, that probably would have been down to two good size meals.

Now lets talk food! I only took photos of the vegan food that we ordered, but I’m told that the other dishes were all thoroughly enjoyed as well.

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Seasonal Vegetable Spring Rolls. They were arranged much nicer than this but my 3-year-old nephew had already rearranged them. I love these spring rolls! I’ve tried them once at each location and they were fantastic both times. Very fresh tasting and not at all greasy like some spring rolls can be.

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Spicy Green Beans. I’ve also tried these twice and love them! They are crunchy and fresh, with a delicious spicy, sweet, sesame sauce. Totally addictive!

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Mixed Mushroom and Truffle Risotto with added Chili Tofu. I actually think this was the first time I’ve ever had risotto at a restaurant and it was great! Not my favourite entree that I’ve had, but I did really enjoy it and am glad I tried it. Definitely vegan comfort food.

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Thai Green Curry with added Chili Tofu. You can’t tell but there is rice and a lot of vegetables hidden under there. Jem and Dan ordered this and really enjoyed it. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get a taste. I’ll probably be trying this dish next time.

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As I said, this was the third time I’ve been to Wild Rice and all the food I’ve tried has been awesome. The Chinese influence is very evident, but the heavy greasy food that can be prominent in Chinese restaurants is nowhere to be found. Instead the freshness and flavours of the ingredients really stand out. Last time I was at the New West location I had the Spicy Tofu Kung Po (it’s on the menu as Spicy Chicken Kung Po but as it says, you can easily substitute the chicken with tofu) and it was amazing! Rice noodles, vegetables, and tofu in a creamy peanut sauce with just the right amount of heat.

Jem and I have eaten once at the downtown location and, along with the spring rolls mentioned earlier, shared the Mapo Doufu, Chinatown Sweep, and the Chocolate and Taro Spring Rolls. The Mapo Doufo (smoked tofu, eggplant, and other vegetables served with rice and chili jam) was fantastic and we’ve tried multiple times to replicate the flavours of the dish at home. The Chinatown Sweep is a basic mixed vegetable chow main, that was also very delicious. The Chocolate and Taro Spring Rolls were insanely good! Crunchy outsidehe Chinatown Sweep was a basic mixed vegetable chow main, that was also very delicious.

My Birthday Part 1: Veg Fest Vancouver

My birthday was last weekend and it was a lovely day full of friends, family, and a tonne of awesome vegan food! The 3rd annual Veg Fest Vancouver just happened to fall on my birthday this year, so of course Jem and I had to check it out! I took the opportunity to try a bunch of food from companies and places I’ve never tried before. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot to share with you!

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First up, we shared a plate of vegetable pakoras from the food truck Varinicey Pakoras (pronounced ‘very nice ee’). We got the Original which included carrots, yams, kale, and swiss chard. These were delicious, and the sweet mango chutney and spicy pickles were really nice additions. They also serve a few different varieties of pakoras, a mango coconut smoothie, and fresh chai tea with almond milk. Except for the yogurt-based raita, everything is vegan and gluten-free.

Next, we couldn’t resist buying a couple caramels from In The Oven. We choose the coconut and the dark chocolate coffee flavours. We shared the coconut one right away and I had the dark chocolate coffee one for dessert that night. They were both pretty amazing! Very sweet, so not something I would eat often, but a really nice treat.

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After meeting up with some friends, we headed to the Loving Hut Express food truck for lunch. I was looking forward to trying the Crispy Chick’n Burger I’ve heard raves about, but it was all sold out by the time our turn came. Instead, Jem and I both got the Bacon Cheese Burger (all vegan, like everything on the truck), piled high with crispy bacon, cheese sauce, mayo, tomato, red onion, and lettuce. We waited about 30 minutes for our burgers and it was well worth it! The burgers were so big we could barely finish them, but I can honestly say it was one of the best (and messiest) veggie burgers I’ve ever had! And I’m pretty sure everyone in our group, even the non-vegans, enjoyed theirs just as much.

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Later on, after some more exploring of Veg Fest, Jem bought me a birthday cupcake from Fairy Cakes, since I wouldn’t be having a birthday cake later on. I choose the chocolate lime cupcake. Jem had a chocolate raspberry one, and our friend David also had the lime one. I’m not usually big on bought cake or cupcakes, because normally find them too sweet for my tastes, but these weren’t overly sweet. The lime flavour wasn’t really prominent but the cupcake was very moist and delicious!

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All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Veg Fest Vancouver! It is a free outdoor festival, which took over three blocks of Vancouver’s Granville Street on July 27th. In addition to vegan food vendors, there were also tables for many animal protection organizations and other vegan-friendly local businesses, many with free samples and items for sale. This was my first time at the festival and I would definitely go again. It was really nice to see so many great vegan and local vendors in the same place, giving us a chance to easily try a variety of things from many different places. I also really liked that the set-up of the festival along Granville street, and the fact that it was free, left us free to wander in and out of the festival area throughout the day.

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Check out My Birthday Part 2: Wild Rice.
After our day at Veg Fest and exploring downtown Vancouver a bit, we headed to the New Westminster Quay for a family dinner at the amazing and vegan-friendly Wild Rice. It’s a good thing we were walking around the whole day, otherwise I don’t think we would’ve had any room to enjoy dinner!

Raw Vegan High Tea at Indigo Food Cafe

Jem and I recently enjoyed a day of exploring in Vancouver (like being tourists close to home, for us Surryites) and decided to make raw vegan high tea at Indigo Food Cafe one of the stops along our way. I was very excited to discover the existence of vegan high tea somewhat close to home and I’ve been quite eager to try it.

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Indigo Food Cafe is a cozy little place in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, owned by chef Lovena Galyide and her daughter Kat Galaida. It’s eclectic mix of decor, including antique-style sewing tables, brightly painted chairs, a 3D green lizard on the wall, and hanging framed photos of animals makes for a cute, casual, and charming atmosphere. I also loved that on a hot sunny day the front window provided enough light that the inside lights weren’t turned on, and the front entrance was kept open.

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Our choice of organic fair-trade loose leaf tea, I had Green Rooibos and Jem chose Pear Sencha, came in cute little coloured personal tea-pots and our food came beautifully displayed on a 3-tier glass serving tray. It honestly looked so good all together, that I was cautious at first to eat anything and ruin the display, but of course I eventually dug in. The hardest part was deciding what to try first!

Our tray was filled with kale chips, stuffed buckwheat crepes, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed tomatoes, raw pizza, coconut yogurt with berries and raw granola, chocolate ganache, lemon-goji truffles, mini berries cheesecake, and mini coconut cream pies, one of each item for each of us. Jem and I took our time and savoured everything, but I think we were both pretty full about half-way through. All together, all those little bites added up to quite a lot of food!

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Love those little tea pots and pretty dishes!

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Excited for high tea!

We both thoroughly enjoyed everything that was included in our high tea! Jem’s favourite was the raw pizza, but she commented (pretty much the best compliment a raw/vegan cook/chef can get from an omnivore) that she “wasn’t aware that I was eating vegan or raw food, it was just really good food”.

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Raw pizza bite.

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Tomato stuffed with macadamia cheese, with marinated mushroom, and a sprout.

I really don’t think I could choose a favourite, though the raw pizza and the coconut yogurt bowl were definitely standouts. The pizza crust had awesome taste and texture, and was perfectly balanced by the zucchini, tomato, and garlicky cheese sauce on top. I also loved every little bite of the home-made coconut yogurt, full of fresh berries, and covered in crunchy raw granola, and wanted to keep on eating it when my little bowl was empty.

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Enjoying a lemon-goji truffle.

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From the top right: mini berries cheesecake, chocolate ganache, and mini coconut cream pie.

And let’s not forget about the desserts! They were all amazing! The chocolate ganache was rich, creamy, with intense chocolate flavour, just as great chocolate ganache should be. The lemon-goji truffles, had a bright refreshing lemon flavour and were perfectly chewy. The berry cheesecake was a little soft from the heat by the time I ate it, so it was more like rich berry pudding, but it was delicious. And last, but not least, the mini coconut cream pie was delightfully cool and creamy.

This was the first time that I’ve ever been to Indigo and I think the high tea was the perfect way to start, as you get a wide variety of both savoury and sweet bites, most of which are also available as larger versions on the regular menu. The menu is mostly raw and gluten free, with a few cooked dishes including perigees (both savoury and dessert ones) and cabbage rolls, obviously an ode to Galyide’s Ukrainian heritage. I would definitely go back for the high tea again, and would also love to try some other things on the menu.

Raw vegan High tea at Indigo Food Cafe is available through reservation only. The cost of $27 per person includes your choice of organic fair-trade loose leaf tea and a variety of both sweet and savoury bites, around ten different items per person. More information on high tea, as well as the complete menu, and info for raw food classes is available on the website.

I’d highly recommend checking out Indigo Food Cafe if you are in the Vancouver area.

Also, just a heads up that you can now find my restaurant reviews in the ‘Dining Out‘ page under the menu heading ‘Reviews’. I’ve also created a new Pinterest board called “Vegan in Vancouver” where I’ll be sharing photos of vegan food I eat out, as well as links to my reviews.

Dark Chocolate S’mores Brownies

I just got home yesterday from a lovely week of camping with the family. It’s really amazing what a road trip, a change of scenery (forest!), and some campfire time can do! Even with the lack of sleep over the past week and a few too many treats, I’ve come back feeling really energized and eager to get some things done I’ve been putting off.

Anyway, all those nights sitting around the campfire watching my family enjoying s’mores (while I happily sipped my tea and munched on Oreos or dark chocolate), reminded me of this recipe for Dark Chocolate S’mores Brownies that I made a few months ago. I’ve never really liked marshmallows or s’mores but when I received a bag of Dandies in a package from the Canadian Vegan Food Swap, I was curious to try out some recipes with them, and this is one of the things I came up with.

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With a few tweaks, I used this Dark Chocolate Brownie recipe as the base for my brownies. I knew the addition of chocolate chips, marshmallows, and cookies would mean a lot of sugar, so I wanted to start with a brownie base that was on the healthier side. These ones are quite low in sugar for a brownie, use whole grain flour, and are oil free. Even if you don’t wish to make S’mores Brownies (though really, why wouldn’t you?) I’d still recommend trying this brownie recipe.

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Dark Chocolate S’mores Brownies
1 tbsp ground chia seeds (or ground flax)
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup Sucanat (or organic brown sugar)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 cup vegan marshmallows (I used Dandies)
1/2 cup crushed vegan graham crackers or ginger snaps

Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly grease a 9’x13′ pan.
In a small dish combine the ground chia with the warm water and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, applesauce, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.
In a separate bowl stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and sea salt.
Whisk the chia mixture into the wet ingredients.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, then stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour about 3/4 of the batter into your prepared pan.
Spread the marshmallows out over the top of the batter, then sprinkle on the crushed cookies.
Drop the remaining batter on top of the cookies and marshmallows, one teaspoon at a time.
Place in oven and bake for 16-20 minutes. Cut the brownies into squares before they are fully cool, otherwise it will be difficult to cut through the marshmallow. I cut mine into 18 pieces.

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These brownies are best enjoyed warm, so that the chocolate chips and the marshmallows are a bit gooey. Enjoy!

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These Dark Chocolate S’mores Brownies were a huge hit. The brownies are super chocolatey, dense, and moist, without being too sweet and the toppings sent them over the top. I had a hard time not eating the whole tray in about 2 days, and when I shared with Jem (just so I wouldn’t eat them all) she loved them. Apparently she had “a brownie experience”!

I’ve shared this post with Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays (6/11/13).

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Frosted Blueberry Cake, Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Almond Chia Pudding

Smoked Tofu Benedict with Mushrooms and Arugula

Last month I posted about the Frosted Blueberry Cake I made for my sisters’ birthday. What I didn’t mention, is that I also made a birthday breakfast for my sister Jem, her fiancé Dan, and myself, as it somehow turned out that we all had the morning off work. Jem loves eggs benedict and will happily eat tofu, so I decided it would be the perfect occasion to try out some vegan ‘eggs’ benedict. I’ve never liked hollandaise sauce, but I had Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s recipe for Hollandaise Sauce (from The Vegan Table) on hand for just such an occasion.

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Our Smoked Tofu Benedict consisted of whole wheat english muffins, arugula, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed slices of Soyganic Smoked Tofu, and Hollandaise Sauce. Dan doesn’t like mushrooms, so had his without.

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Smoked Tofu Benedict with Mushrooms and Arugula
Whole wheat english muffins
Baby arugula
Cremini (or white) mushrooms
Fresh ground black pepper
Smoked tofu (We love Soyganic)
Braggs Liquid Aminos
Hollandaise Sauce

First, slice mushrooms and tofu. I cut the block of tofu in half across the widest side, then cut each piece into 4 slices.
Cut english muffins in half.
Set out all of the ingredients for the hollandaise sauce and set oven to warm (just enough ensure everything stays warm until you are ready to serve).
Make hollandaise sauce and keep covered on the stove at the lowest heat, or place pot in oven to keep warm.
Heat two pans over medium heat. Place mushrooms and a splash of water in one pan and the tofu slices in the other.
If you need to do more than one round of english muffins in the toaster, start now. Place toasted ones on a plate in the oven, until the mushrooms and tofu are done.
Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add fresh ground black pepper if desired.
Cook the tofu slices just a few minutes on each side, until warmed and a little browned. Turn off heat, add a splash of Braggs Liquid Aminos, and move slices around in it.
Assemble your Tofu Benedict, according to the photos below, making sure to stir the hollandaise well before serving.
Enjoy!

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I was super pleased that this breakfast turned out exactly as I’d hoped and I would absolutely make it again. We all thoroughly enjoyed it! The flavours of the smoked tofu, peppery arugula, earthy mushrooms, and hollandaise complemented each other quite well.

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I was also really surprised by how much I like the Hollandaise Sauce. I’m not sure how it compares to non-vegan hollandaise, as I don’t remember what that tastes like, but it was really delicious. I used unsweetened almond milk, and Soy-Free Earth Balance in the recipe.

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This was definitely not the healthiest breakfast, but compared to a standard eggs benedict, WAY better! Not something I’d make all the time but perfect for a weekend brunch or special occasion. Also, pretty easy to make gluten free: just use gluten free bread or bun in place of the english muffin and ensure your smoked tofu is gluten free.

Sidenote: You may have noticed Jem’s name popping up a lot in the past few months, and its because as of January, we are now living in the same house again. It’s so nice to have someone around that’s willing to eat my vegan food and join me in my cooking and baking adventures, so I’ve been taking full advantage. 🙂

I’ve shared this with Healthy Vegan Friday #44 and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday (6/11/13).

Have you made a memorable vegan meal for a special occasion?

Have you tried any vegan benedict recipes?

Frosted Blueberry Cake: MMAZ #30

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For this week’s Meatless Monday from A-Z the mission is to cook a recipe that features blueberries. I haven’t made any of the recipes yet from last week’s Create with Blueberries linkup, but I did make this gorgeous Frosted Blueberry Cake from Healthy Happy Life.

For the past couple of years I’ve volunteered to make the birthday cakes (one for each sister) for my sisters’ birthday. Birthdays are a great excuse to try out a sweeter-than-usual dessert that I’ve been eyeing, and doing the baking, guarantees I’ll actually be able to eat something come dessert time. This year I couldn’t pass up Jem’s request for this Frosted Blueberry Cake.

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What I really love about this cake is that the actual cake is not too sweet, and pretty darn healthy. The flax, oats, applesauce, blueberries, and walnuts do the double duty of making the cake taste great, and providing some actual nutrients, instead of just empty calories. Without the frosting, this cake is more like a snack-cake than a true dessert, but as soon as you add the amazing coconut frosting, it is elevated to a beautiful dessert, perfect for any occasion. And the frosting really is amazing!

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I did make a couple of minor changes to the original recipe:
– I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. I rarely even buy all purpose flour anymore, and I’m always pleased with the results I get using whole wheat flour. As usual, when substituting whole wheat flour, I just had to add an extra little splash of nondairy milk when mixing the wet and dry together.
– I used ground flaxseeds.
– I choose to use coconut sugar.
– I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk in place of the soy milk.
– I couldn’t find any fresh blueberries, so I used frozen blueberries in the cake, and fresh raspberries for decorating.

In regards to the options listed in the original recipe, I used almond extract, I didn’t use any cinnamon, and I used walnuts.

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We really enjoyed this cake, and I will absolutely be using both the cake recipe and the frosting recipe again!

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I’ve shared this post with Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 4/23/13.

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Veganomicon’s Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Jem and I whipped up a batch of these Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies recently for a last-minute evening treat and they were fantastic! This recipe is another one from Veganomicon that I’ve just tried for the first time. I love Veganomicon, and I love the fact that after almost a year and a half on my shelf, I still keep discovering new things within it’s pages.

As it says in the book, “these cookies couldn’t be any easier to make, unless you had someone else make them for you” (Veganomicon, Moskowitz and Romero, p. 237). Even with the extra step of processing some oats into oat flour, this recipe was very quick and easy to throw together. I will say that, while the tip included in the recipe suggests using a blender or food processor for making oat flour, I wouldn’t attempt it with a blender unless you have a very high-powered one. I used my blender and it was not very successful. I will be using my food processor next time.

The only change that we made to the original recipe was with the sugar. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Since I prefer my chocolate chip cookies not very sweet (I find the chocolate chips provide more than enough sugar) and I only had sucanat on hand, we just used 1/2 cup of sucanat. Personally, I could lower this even more  next time, perhaps to 1/3 cup.

I also wanted to mention that I was surprised that this recipe actually made the exact amount (18) of cookies stated. Maybe I’m just not good at following recipes, but always find that cookie recipes almost always make far less cookies than the states yield suggests.

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Anyway, Jem and I had some of these Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies with our evening tea and they were delicious! The oat flour gave them a really great taste and texture. Also, they are chocolate chip cookies. Hard to go wrong there.

If you are going to make this recipe (and you really should) I wouldn’t suggest doubling it unless you are making them for a crowd. These cookies were still good the next day, but absolutely at their best fresh from the oven! And, they are so easy that you’ll have no problem making them all the time if that’s what you need to do!

Lucky you, in addition to Veganomicon, this recipe can also be found at the Post Punk Kitchen. Happy baking!

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Almond Joy Cookie Bars
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