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Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Hello my lovelies!

Life has taken precedence over writing over the past few months and though I haven't been posting lately, I certainly have many recipes and stories to share with you in the New Year!

ATM and I took a trip to Europe this Fall and I have lots of vegan tips for Vegan Euro Travelers!  We have also been renovating our house (meaning a brand-spankin' new kitchen to create more V.V. love!) and it is being completed just in time for my lovely Dad and StepMama's Christmas visit!  I have been living off of my coconut curry noodle soup recipe, cooked in a tiny pot on a two-burner hot-plate and while I am excited over the notion of a fully functional kitchen, I will most likely keep chowing down on the same noodle soup!

Over the holiday's, many herbivores can feel left out of the feasting, but this is so NOT necessary!!!  Here are some of my fave V.V. recipes that are perfect for this indulgent season:

Some lovely appies for your next holiday cocktail party might include Phylo Wrapped Asparagus with a creamy Lemon Aioli or French Lentil Pate.  For New Year's Eve this year, ATM and I are throwing a big party and yours truly will be serving up vegan tapas to our guests!

For an elegant, meat-less entree, try my Homemade Tofurkey with Wild Mushroom Sage Stuffing and Vegan Gravy, a delish and hearty Vegan Coq au Vin, Sunflower Crusted Seitan au Jus with Garlic Smashed Potatoes, or for something a little different, Cauliflower Steaks with a creamy Cauliflower Puree

I've never been much for sweets but for me the Holiday's seem incomplete without Vegan Irish Cream Liquor, in abundance!!!

I wish you and your loved ones all the best this season and look forward to sharing more vegan recipes and compassion with you in 2013!


Vivacious Vegan


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vegan Dill Pickle Soup

Hey Sweetums!

It's getting chilly willy in Winnipeg so I figured it is time for yet another Vivacious Vegan soup recipe!  Today, I would like to share a super yummy soup that ATM and I had a version of at a little restaurant just outside of Edmonton.  It was an Italian restaurant, so we were a little weird-ed out when our server informed us that the soup of the day was Dill Pickle.  ATM, a serious pickle lover, ordered it and fell in love.  I became determined to make a vegan version as soon as we got home and it will definitely be on regular rotation during the colder months in our home!  I know it probably sounds a little strange, but it is basically potato soup with pickle brine, pickle chunks and fresh dill.  It tastes just like dill pickle flavored potato chips!

Vegan Dill Pickle Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 cups (about 6 medium sized) Yukon Gold  potatoes, scrubbed and diced (you can use whatever potatoes you have, goldies are my fave <3 )
- 6 cups veggie stock (or water with 3 tbsp tamari soy sauce)
- 1/2 cup pickle brine (from the pickle jar!)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup chopped dill pickles
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill (or 2 tbsp dried) plus a few extra sprigs for a garnish
- S&P

In your fave soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant (about two minutes).  

Add the potatoes and saute for ten minutes, stirring often.  Add the veggie stock or water and bring the whole shebang to a boil over high heat.  

Once the soup has reached it's boiling point, drop that heat to medium and simmer until you can easily smush a potato chunk on the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes or so.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree everything to silky smoothness with an immersion blender.  Add the pickle brine, nutritional yeast, chopped pickles and dill and blitz with the immersion blender until everything is well combined, but there are still some chunks of pickle love left.  Return the pot to low heat and simmer for ten to twenty minutes to let the flavors become BFF's.  Taste, and season with S&P.  

Serve and snuggle!



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Red Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Cherry Tomatoes and Herbs

Hey Babes!

          It's time to admit it.  Summer is coming to an end.  I know this because the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes are back (which are tragically not vegan - order a soy Cinnamon Dolce latte instead, you'll still feel the cinnamony love).  Before things get too chilly, make the most of the last summer tomatoes and try this awesome salad recipe out!  I whipped it up in a hurry to bring to my darling friend Kerri's BBQ and it was a HIT! 

If you love quinoa, you will REALLY love it's scarlet sister, Ms. Red Quinoa.  It still has the bran on it (kinda like the difference between white and brown rice) and is chewier in texture and even nuttier in flavor.  I love it and I know you will too!  

Red Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Cherry Tomatoes and Herbs
- 2 cups cooked red quinoa, cooled to room temp (white would be just dandy too)
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
- 1 pint red cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups, if you're getting them from the garden and not the grocery store)
- 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
-  10 to 12 handfuls of organic baby greens
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped mint
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped basil
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
for the vinaigrette:
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard 
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- S&P
Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar.  Screw on the lid.  SHAKE IT BABY!  Taste and season with S&P.  Wasn't that easy?

In a large bowl, layer in your salad greens, quinoa, chickpeas, tomatoes, herbs and scallions.  If you are bringing in to a BBQ, the salad will travel well this way.  When you are ready to serve, drizzle your dressing over the salad and gently toss until everything has a nice gloss.  Turn out onto a serving platter and enjoy with friends or take the bowl and a fork, find a secret hiding place and eat the whole thing yourself. . .



Monday, September 3, 2012

Vegan Abby and Brittany Theme Party!

Happy September!

ATM and I like to joke that we are joined at the hip, so when we found out that "Abby and Brittany" was premiering on TLC last Tuesday, we decided to throw a party!  The show is a series based on a TLC documentary about twin sisters' Abby and Brittany Hensel, who have conjoined bodies but each have a separate head.  As our excitement for the premiere grew, so did our wacky ideas for the party.  

While on a hot date at Tre Visi (noshing on Pasta Puttanesca - hold the anchovies - with gluten-free farfalle), ATM and I decided that themed vegan appetizers were absolutely necessary.  How the heck do you make themed vegan appetizers for a two-headed sister party?  Had we lost our minds?  Had we gone too far?  

Before we start coming off like total jerks, I should note that we have nothing but admiration and respect for Abby and Brittany!  They live a life that is unimaginable to most people and they thrive.  They seriously kick ass at life!  They are a very inspiring pair and ATM and I as well as our cocktail party guests remain huge fans :)

Back to the themed appies:  It was a lot harder to come up with themed snacks than I thought.  I ended up making a crudites platter with some Abby and Brittany's made out of veggies, served with my vegan ranch dip as well as 'Abby and Brittany in a Blanket' (two vegan hot dog slices wrapped in crescent roll dough and baked) served with maple mustard dip.  ATM's auntie and I made some very cute Abby and Brittany's out of fruit as well.  

We had a blast at the party and loved, loved, LOVED the show!!!


Vivacious Vegan

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raw Vegan Oatmeal Hemp Macadamia Cookies

Happy Wednesday Sweeties!

Today I am offering a hump day treat that is as delicious as it is healthful.  ATM and I were craving a little something sweet after dinner last night so with a dash of this and a pinch of that, I whipped up these adorable and yummy-licious raw cookies!  I love learning about raw foodism, and while I find eating 100% raw doesn't work for my body, I try to consume as much food in it's natural raw state as I can.  Raw food is so nutrient dense and full of enzymes that are destroyed through the cooking process so your body a favor and try to incorporate more raw goodness into your daily diet!  I throw two big handfuls of raw organic baby spinach into my morning smoothie and it gives me and instant POW of energy and positivity - no kidding! 

And since we're on the topic of changes to the diet that do a body good, I have been steering clear of gluten for a few months and I must say, I feel FANTASTIC!!!  I have way more energy, my skin has cleared up (V.V. is prone to hormonal acne, blahhhh), I am rarely bloated and my weight is super easy to maintain (which is good news for a lazy bones like me!).  Every now and then, when ATM and I go out for dinner with her family to Santa Lucia's on North Main St, I do indulge in their spaghetti with marinara sauce. . . but otherwise I am G-FREE babes, and feeling amazing :)  Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains like spelt, barley and rye.  Some people are very, very allergic to these proteins and can become terribly ill when they consume them.  Obvs, if this sounds like something you are experiencing, give your doc a call, okay honey?  

Okay, enough diet pep talk.  But before I get to the recipe, I just want to emphasize that diet is all about eating in the way that makes you feel your best!  It is a very subjective and personal thing, what works for Suzie might not work for Sherman, so listen to your body and do what is best for you!  For me, choosing a plant based diet is not only good for my body, but good for my animal friends, the Earth, and human kind, and that's something I feel wonderful about every day <3 

Now on to the eats!

Raw Vegan Oatmeal Hemp Macadamia Cookies
- 2 cups oats (make sure they are uncontaminated if you have a serious gluten allergy)
- 1/2 cup hemp hearts
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup raw agave syrup (or maple syrup)
- 1/2 cup raw macadamia nut butter (you could use any nut or seed butter!)   
- pinch sea salt

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together.  It should stick together easily but still be slightly dry.  If you find the mixture is too crumbly, add a little more nut butter.  If you find it is too sticky, add a spoonful of oats at a time until you get the right consistency.  Scoop out a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll into little balls then place them on a lined cookie sheet and flatten them slightly into a cookie shape.

Chill the cookies in the fridge for an hour and then NOSH!  

The addition of some cacao nibs and chopped, dried cherries would be so good!



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy Vegan Soy Yogurt

Hey Friends!

I love soy yogurt.  I eat it topped with berries, I eat it in my granola, I eat it atop a spicy curry, I eat it when I'm in a hurry, I would eat it in a boat, I would eat it with a goat. . . you get the idea.  I'll tell ya one thing I don't love about soy yogurt:  It is expensive.  Today I would like to share with you a super simple recipe for soy yogurt that I whipped up the other day for brekkie.  ATM wasn't a fan, but I think she was turned off by the 'soy-ish' flavour.  Wussie.   

NOTE:  Technically, this isn't really a true 'yogurt' in the sense that it isn't cultured.  I don't see why you couldn't just stir in the contents of a pro-biotic capsule or two?  Would that be weird?  If any of you cats try it, let me know how it turns out!  

Easy Vegan Soy Yogurt
- 2 454g pkgs silken tofu
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp agave syrup (add an extra tbsp if you like it sweet, sweetie!)
- juice of 1 lemon (and zest if you wanna amp up the lemon flavour!)
- pinch salt

Put all ingredients into a blender.  Blend until silky smooth.  You can also use an immersion blender.  Put into a glass or plastic container with a lid and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour to chill out.  

Hey!  Why not try these variations???
-Omit the agave and add 2 tbsp of your favorite fruit preserves

-Add 2 tbsp organic cocoa powder

- Replace the agave with maple syrup and add a sprinkle of cinnamon

- Replace the lemon juice with lime juice and add lime zest and toasted, unsweetened coconut

Happy noshing <3


Vivacious Vegan


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vegan Cucumbers in Coconut Milk

Hey Babes <3

Today I would like to share a recipe with you that blew my mind!  Thanks to some inspiration from Bon Appetit magazine, I dared to prepare a beautiful Summer vegetable in a way I had never dreamed and honey, I am HOOKED!  I have only ever eaten cucumbers in their raw form, and while I love them just the way they are, cooking cukes takes them to a whole new level of amazing.  In this Thai dish, they are tender, juicy, and still retain their 'coolness' amidst a spicy, creamy coconut sauce.  This recipe should serve four, but ATM and I managed to gobble up the entire batch, little piggies that we are. . .  without further ado, here come the eats!

Cucumbers in Coconut Milk
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 large English cucumber, washed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4" slices
- 2 Thai chiles, thinly sliced, make sure you wash your hands immediately after handling chiles!!
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced, divide the white parts from the green parts in two piles
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tsp agave syrup
- a large handful of cilantro, chopped
- juice from 1 lime
- S&P

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the cucumber and saute for a minute or two.  Sprinkle with S&P.  Add the chiles, tomatoes, white parts of the scallions, and garlic and cook until the veggies get all tender.

Add the coconut milk and agave syrup and simmer for five minutes or so, until the cucumbers are soft.  Stir in the cilantro and lime juice and season with S&P to taste.  

Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!



Monday, July 23, 2012

Vegan Santa Fe Salad

Hey Lovelies!

Whoa!  Is it really the last full week of July already?

How has your Summer been going?  I hope you have been enjoying the blissfully long, hot days of the season and that you have been wearing sunscreen!  V.V. has been slathering herself in Green Beaver and stuffing her face at Summer festivals across the Prairies: had delish chocolate hemp iced lattes every morning at Winnipeg FolkFest from Jonnie's Sticky Buns (Please check them out!  They have insane vegan cinny buns and gluten free buns too!); also at FolkFest, I wolfed down yummy vegan hot dogs from Mondragon right before the Bahamas concert (Please check him out, too!  Amazing singer/songwriter/guitar player!); and ATM and I checked out the Taste of Edmonton Festival and noshed on outrageously yummy vegan eats from Padmandi last week.

Next on my Summer eating itinerary is Folklorama, but alas, it's not for another few weeks.  Until then, I will be left to my own devices in the kitchen. . .

On a sweltering hot day last week, unable to bring myself to turn on the stove, I made myself a beautiful, colourful, flavorful salad with some gorgeous Summer produce.  Summer is the season when fruits and veggies are in their PRIME so take advantage and enjoy them while their flavour is top notch!  This salad serves one or two hungry, hungry hippos as a main or maybe four or so as a side.  Double the recipe and bring it to the next backyard BBQ you go to!

Santa Fe Salad
-Four or five big hand fulls of organic baby spinach
- Three or four hand fulls of organic romaine, chopped into bite sized pieces OR you can use a few hand fulls of organic 'spring greens' 
- 1 ear of fresh corn, husks and silk removed  
- 1 large, ripe avocado, diced
-1 large, ripe tomato, diced
-1/4 cup medjool dates, diced (you can use dried figs or raisins too)
- 1/2 cup cooked black beans (if they are the canned variety, rinse 'em well!)
-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
-5 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
-1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
-1 tbsp fresh lime juice
-1 tsp agave syrup
-1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- a few dashes of your fave hot sauce
-a pinch cinnamon (trust me)

If you happen to know how to use a barbeque:  Brush the ear of corn with some olive oil and season with a little S&P and maybe some cayenne pepper if you like a little spice.  Grill the corn on the BBQ on high heat, turning every few minutes until it has lovely grill marks all over it.  

If you are afraid of the BBQ (you're not alone) or do not have access to one:  Rub down the corn in the same manner as above with oil S&P and cayenne, if using, and sear it in a hot cast iron skillet until it has some nice brown colour on it on all sides.

Stand the corn up, flat end down, in a large bowl.  Holding the top of the corn with one hand, use a knife in the other to slice off the kernels, starting at the top and sawing downwards.      

Let's make some dressing, shall we?

Whisk the dressing ingredients together vigorously.  Taste, season with S&P, taste again.  Re season if necessary.  Set aside.

And now for the main attraction. . .
Your corn kernels should be sitting in a large bowl, large enough for some serious salad tossing. . . so let's go!  Add all other salad ingredients to the bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing and gently toss (you don't want to squish the avocados/beans/tomatoes into a big mush pile!) until everything is well covered with dressing.  

If you want the salad to look pretty and plated instead of tossed, mix your greens together in a large bowl with half the dressing, set on a plate, top with remaining salad ingredients to your liking and drizzle with the rest of the dressing.

If you're feeling a little naughty, or craving a little crunch, top the salad with crushed corn tortilla chips.  I love La Cocina tortilla chips.  They are paper thin, salty, addictive, and made right here in Manitoba <3

I have lots more yummy recipes to share before the Summer is up. . . until then, stay cool babes!




Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegan Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Aioli

Happy Spring!!!

V.V. has been slacking on posting lately but with good reason!  The memory card from my camera got lost (which was full of beautiful photo's of Vivacious Vegan FOOD PORN!), ATM and I moved out of our beautiful apartment (not by choice, the building is being turned into condos :( ) and are waiting to move into her house and begin renovating (new kitchen - yippee!!!), and I have two disposable cameras full of lovely pics to post with yummy vegan recipes. . . once I get them developed!   

In Winnipeg, the Spring has certainly come in like a lion (kind of like the MGM lion at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz - sort of shocking when you aren't expecting it). I love Spring! The longer daylight hours, the puddles, the warmer temperatures and also the change in my diet from the heavy, comforting, winter fare to a lighter more colourful palate of beautiful Spring veggies!

Asparagus season is at it's peak in Spring time, which means it's plentiful and inexpensive! I like fresh, in-season asparagus sauteed or grilled with a touch of good extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a touch of salt and pepper. So simple, so delicious :)  It's even wonderful sliced thinly and served raw with a light mustard vinaigrette, tossed with a little baby arugula and paper thin radish slices, maybe some minced chives while you're at it. . . I feel some inspiration for a new blog post coming on. . . !

Today's recipe is a classic appetizer application for asparagus spears, wrapped in phyllo dough and baked. It's an elegant dish perfect for s Spring time tea party. The lemon 'aioli' dip adds a bright, zingy, creaminess and an extra tough of elegance. Plus, the whole thing is SUPER simple and sure to impress!

Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Aioli
for the asparagus:
- 24 asparagus spears, all about the same thickness
- 12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed, cut in half lengthwise and covered with a damp tea towel
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, or Earth Balance, or veg oil
- 1 cup fine bread crumbs
for the aioli:
- 1 cup vegan mayo (I vote Vegenaise - SERIOUSLY good)
- zest and juice of one lemon (zest before juicing using a fine grater and make sure you wash the lemon really well first!)
- 1 minced garlic clove

Start by making the aioli so the flavours have a chance to become BFF's.  Simply mix together the vegan mayo, lemon zest and juice and minced garlic.  Et voila!  You can add in some minced fresh herbs like parsley or basil for a fresh, pretty touch.

To prep the asparagus spears, ensure they are washed thoroughly.  The ends of asparagus tend to be too woody and fibrous to eat so to take the end off at just the right spot, simply hold the middle of the stalk between your thumb and index finger in one hand and the end of the stalk in the aforementioned fingers of your opposite and hand bend the spear until it snaps.  It will have broken at the perfect spot :) 

Blanch the asparagus spears in boiling water for 1 - 2 minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Pat the stalks dry with a clean tea towel.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and oil a baking sheet with your choice of grease. 

To assemble, brush a half sheet of phyllo with a pastry brush dipped in melted coconut oil, or Earth Balance or whatever you choose, sprinkle with a light coating of breadcrumbs.  Place an asparagus stem at one end of the phyllo, with the pretty tip hanging over the edge, roll up tightly, brush the outside with a little extra oil and place on the prepared baking sheet. 

Repeat with all the asparagus spears.

Bake the asparagus for about 15 min, or until the phyllo pastry is golden brown.

Serve the phyllo wrapped asparagus on a platter with the lemon aioli <3


Vivacious Vegan  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Curry Coconut Noodle Soup

Hey Gorgeous Ones!

  V.V. is a soup FREAK (or maybe I just love one pot cooking. . .lazy bones. . .) so today I would like to share a recipe for a soup that is perfect for Spring: colourful, bright and spicy in flavor, with a serious kick to put some spring in your step (sorry, I couldn't resist the seasonal pun)!

  I use a blend of yellow and green curry pastes (is that even allowed?) because while I love the fresh, lemongrass/lime leaf flavor of green curry, I find it much, much, MUCH too spicy to use on it's own in this recipe.  Yellow curry would be just fine on it's own if you want a nice mild soup and even red curry paste is cool too.  Use whatever ratio of curry pastes to suit your taste, but V.V. will strongly caution you about using exclusively green curry (unless your tongue and digestive tract are lined with asbestos. . .it's HOT. . .or maybe I'm just a wuss!).

Curry Coconut Noodle Soup
-1 pkg rice noodles
-1 tbsp veg oil
-5 tbsp curry paste, your call on the ratio, I use 3 tbsp yellow curry paste and 2 tbsp green curry paste and while the soup definitely has a kick to it, it wont burn your face off.
-4 cups veggie stock (or 4 cups water and some veggie bouillon cubes - staples in the V.V. kitchen!)
-1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
-1 can coconut milk
-juice of half a lemon
-your choice of garnishes: chopped basil, cilantro, spring onion, diced tofu, julienned cucumber, carrot, mango or red bell pepper, steamed cauliflour florets - whatever your little heart desires!

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions.  Drain and rinse the noodles in cold water, then toss them with a bit of veg oil so they don't get too sticky icky and set aside.

In your fave soup pot, heat the veg oil over medium heat.  Cook the curry paste for a minute or two, until your kitchen becomes filled with the frangrant, exotic, scent of curry deliciousness. 

Add the stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil on high heat.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and whisk in the coconut milk.  Simmer for ten minutes so the flavors become BFF's.

Add the lemon juice, taste the broth and season with S&P.

Divide the noodles and garnishes amongst some soup bowls and ladle the gorgeous broth over them. 

Seriously, how easy was that?



Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan-ize Delivery Pizza and Tofu Feta Recipe!

Monday Monday. . .So good to me. . .

Hey hunnie bunnies!

I am a pizza fanatic.  I could eat it for every meal of the day!  I make it all the time at home but sometimes (particularly in the wee small hours of the morning apres a crazy night out) I just have to have delivery pizza.  For Winnipeggers, late-night pies are as easy to acquire as dialing the number '2' seven times (Pizza Hotline, anyone?) but regardless of your locale, you can vegan-ize delivery pizza no problem!

Simply order a vegetarian pizza with no cheese (at which point the order taker may repeat 'no cheese?!' as if you've lost your mind) maybe double sauce if you're a saucy gal like me, and add on whatever extra vegetarian toppings you like.  Extra spinach, spicy eggplant, garlic, banana peppers, pineapple, artichoke hearts, olives, bell peppers - whatever you like/they offer! 

Once your pizza arrives, you can add a little extra flare by drizzling it with extra virgin olive oil, maybe a few drops of balsamic vinegar, fresh basil or a sprinkle of dried oregano, some vegan cheeze (if you use vegan cheeze, then just broil it a little to make it melty), some white or black beans, toasted pine nuts, a pinch of chili flakes and some chopped sun dried tomatoes - again, whatever your heart desires!  My new fave is to top the 'za with some home made crumbled tofu feta and give it a little drizzle of olive oil before broiling it for a minute or two.  Tofu feta is DELISH and so easy to make.  Add it to salads, wraps, bruschetta, pasta dishes, vegan chili, the possibilities end only with your imagination :)

Tofu Feta
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cubed or roughly crumbled
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp shoyu
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp oregano

- 1/2 - 1 tsp salt (start with 1/2 tsp then season to taste, real feta is quite salty)
- fresh group peppa

Whisk together all ingredients except tofu in a glass dish.  Add the tofu and toss to coat.  Let the tofu marinate for at LEAST an hour, tossing every now and then.  Taste and season accordingly.  The tofu and marinade can be stored together in a sealed container in the fridge for 3 - 4 days and the flavour will intensify, woo hoo!

Happy noshing <3



Friday, February 10, 2012

Vivacious Vegan Cuba Vacation Survival Guide!

Hey My Loves!

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, I feel like I haven't been in the kitchen much these days.  I have  been in Cuba however!  It was V.V.'s first trip to the beautiful tropical paradise, stayed in Varadero, and I absolutely loved it!  The water is azure, the sand is powdered sugar white, the sun is always shining, the rum is ever flowing and best of all, the Cuban people are absolutely fantastic - so warm and kind and absolutely awesome.  I plan to go back ASAP! 

One thing I will say that wasn't exactly outstanding was the cuisine. . . mainly because I am vegan, partially because most Cuban resorts just don't really serve amazing food (the main reason for this being, that because Cuba is communist and food is rationed, food goes to the Cuban people FIRST and then what is left goes to the resorts - and that's exactly how it should be, in V.V.'s opinion).
The national dish of Cuba is Moros y Christianos aka Moors and Christians aka black beans and white rice - sounds veg friendly enough - but it is often cooked with lard and often contains pork so that was pretty much a no go (I was  able to find a vegan version of this dish ONCE-  just plain white rice, black beans and some chopped green bell pepper and red onion.  Quite tasty!). 

Pretty much every veggie dish I came upon at the resort had either meat in it or loads of butter, but I managed to find something vegan to eat at every meal!  For brekkie, I stuck to the amazing fresh fruits of the island, fresh squeezed orange juice and sometimes toast with macadamia nut butter that I brought along myself.  The resort we stayed at had a pizza guy in the beachside restaurant who made pizzas to order all day long.  He was my hero.  He made over 500 little pizzas a day!  I ordered my lunch pizzas with all the vegetables (including the corn?) and asked for it to be 'sin queso, por favor!' (without cheese).  In the evenings there was a pasta bar where you could order your pasta dish any way you liked it.  I told the pasta guy very sweetly, 'soy vegetariana' (i'm vegetarian) and he double scrubbed the pasta pan to make sure there were no straggly meat scraps.   

The very best meal we had was in a local restaurant reccomended to us by the consierge at our hotel.  Meson del Quixote is high on a hill over-looking the ocean and serves up amazing Cuban/Spanish cuisine.  They also had a fabulous musical trio playing music all night long :)  Instead of putting plain bread on our table, they put a basket full of crisp, feather-light bread that had been gently rubbed with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic which I can only guess was their version of the Spanish dish Pan con Tomate.  They had paella on the menu as well but they were all meat and seafood versions, so when we asked our waiter Jose what he reccomended for vegetarians, he offered to create a paella dish without any meat and topped with sauteed veggies just for us!  It was a very memorable and wonderful evening :) 

Here are some quick tips I can suggest if you are vacationing in beautiful Cuba soon:

Tip #1:  TIP, TIP, TIP!  The average salary of a Cuban person is around $20 Canadian dollars a month.  I hear a lot of people say that they don't tip until the end of their stay in Cuba but I am POSITIVE that continually tipping will give you much better service (we tipped for every drink and every meal, even though it was all-inclusive, and we rarely had to wait for drinks at the bar) and the people are so, so grateful for the extra cash.  Especially as a vegan in a country where 'vegan' is a generally non-existant term, and asking for special requests and being pains in the tushie: TIP!!!!

Tip #2:  Bring little gifties for the Cuban people.  Little travel size toiletries, toys, candy, books, clothes you don't wear anymore, jewelery you dont wear anymore (Cuban women have the most beautiful hair and it is always styled and often adorned - ATM's Mama left some necklaces from the dollar store as a gift for their maid and the next day she was wearing them in her gorgeous hair!) are all very expensive and hard to come by in Cuba.  We left little treats as well as a tip for our maid, Wendy, every day and she always wrote us such sweet thank-you notes!  Even if the person you give these items to can't use them, they can trade them or find someone who CAN use them. 

Tip #3:  Learn your P's and Q's in Spanish as well as what non-vegan foods you do not want in your tummy.  "Por Favor" - Please, "Gracias" - Thank-You, "De Nada" - You're Welcome, "Soy Vegetariana" - I'm vegetarian, "Sin queso, mantequilla, leche, huevos, carne, manteca, pollo, y pescado."  - Without (sin means without, con means with) cheese, butter, milk, eggs, meat, lard, chicken and fish.  Hopefully 'soy vegetariano' will suffice, and maybe a 'tengo allergia de la leche' (I have an allergy to milk, maybe not true but whaaaaateva). 
We also found out that fruit names have alternate meanings in Cuban Spanish: If you refer to someone (of either sex) as a 'mango' you are saying they are sexy and if you ask someone for  'papaya'. . .if you are hoping for the fruit, ask for 'fruta bomba', because papaya is slang for a gals lady-bits. . .unless of course, that's what you were after in the first place!  He he he. . .

Tip #4:  If you get the opportunity, go visit Havana.  It is the capital city of Cuba and it is a beautiful place, rich in history and culture.  When ATM and I go back, I most certainly want to stay overnight in the famous Hotel Nacional or maybe a couple of nights in a little boutique hotel, converted from a coloniel home.

Tip #5:  The white paper cones that you see people selling are usually either roasted, salted peanuts or banana chips.  BUY & EAT THEM IN LARGE QUANTITIES!!!!!!

Tip #6:  Eat a fresh, young coconut.  At our resort, I chatted up the towel guy at the pool to find out how to get a coconut.  He called over his buddy the gardiner who hacked open fresh, young coconuts with a machete for just 1CUC per coconut.  You can drink the delicious, nourishing coconut water and then scoop out the yummy, jelly-like insides for a truely tropical treat!

Tip #7:  Travel equipped with some vegan snacks and condiments.  Instant miso soup, protien bars, hot sauce (the food can be a little bland), nut butter, soy jerky, trail mix, whatever you like to snack on.  Find out if your hotel room has a mini fridge before you bring anything perishable!

Tip #8:  Have an amazing time!

I'll write again soon, I have an updated version of my Vegan Benedict, a DELISH and quick curry noodle soup, a way to dress up delivery pizza and some YUM appies!


Vivacious Vegan