Monthly Archives: June 2013

Guacamole. (Vegan)

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Guacamole is awesome. Here is how I make it.  What else is there to say?

You will need:

A large container or bowl

A small bowl

A moderately sharp knife

A fork

A spoon

A cutting board

Ingredients:

2 avocados that have been in the fridge for a few hours

1/4  of an onion – for a mild onion flavour a sweet onion or red onion but I use yellow onion

1-2 cloves of garlic

1 Roma tomato ( about 1.5 inches in diameter – ish)

a squeeze of lime juice or lemon juice ( fresh or fresh from a bottle)

a dash  or two of Louisiana hot sauce – or some jalapeno pepper to taste

a pinch of salt

(and you can add fresh cilantro if you have it right before serving)

water and a little vinegar or another good squeeze of lemon juice

 

Okay my first step is to cut up the garlic. Squish it by covering it  with the side of your knife and taking the heel of your hand and putting some weight on it.  Then chop it up as small as you can.

Then chop up the onion reasonably small. If you are like me and get a really bad crying/stinging/practically blinding reaction to cutting onions – I can suggest  putting your cutting board across an empty, cold, stove and turn the fan hood on high and then chop.  I know there are other ways – but I can never remember to put an onion in the freezer the night before etc.

Take the chopped onion and garlic and toss it into  your small bowl with about a cup of cold water with few tablespoons (a good splash) of white vinegar and let it soak for a half hour  or if you forget about it or go out a couple of hours – this takes the sharpness and bite out of the raw onion and garlic (thanks Maeve!):

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When you are ready toss the onion and garlic into your large bowl or container.

Then chop your Roma tomato and toss it into your container.

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Then get your ripe avocado – the skin will be black and the only way I know to test the ideal ripeness of an avocado is to squeeze it. It should squish a little. If it doesn’t then leave it on the counter for a day or a couple of days – it will ripen. Just be patient.

Okay so you have a ripe avocado.  Cut around it length-wise (around the pit)  and then grab one half of the avocado and twist it to release that side from the pit.  Then scoop out the pit form the other side with a spoon  or – please ignore this if you are not very experienced or uncomfortable with knives –  put down the avocado on the counter and stick the knife into the pit and twist it out.

Then either scoop out the yummy green flesh with your spoon and chop on your cutting board OR  use the trick I learned from cutting up mangos : take your knife and slice into the green flesh down to the skin of the avocado (see first picture – this is why the moderately or even dull knife- in a grid pattern, and then turn the avocado  45 degrees and do another grid pattern.  Then scoop out the avocado into the container with the other chopped ingredients- all chopped with less squishy mess!

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Now add a dash of lime or lemon, a pinch of salt, and a dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce (I have tried siracha but it isn’t as good in this). or you can use a little fresh jalapeño if you like ( be careful when chopping ( use gloves and do not touch your face).

And stir and taste 🙂  Voila!  You have guacamole – which will last in the fridge for about a week!

If you have fresh cilantro you can add it before serving.  But it is just as good without.

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The Frustration of Food Allergies

IMG_0129I am generally pretty easy going about my food allergies – even though I have soo many.  Why spit into the wind?    Feeling sorry for myself or having a tantrum will just take up my time and energy and I’ll still be me with the same immune system.  But sometimes things happen that frustrate  and disappoint me – like today- and I need a little rant.

Today I got a package in the mail from Vega – a good choice for no dairy- no egg products. Thank you veganism. I ordered some vegan protein powder and they had a deal where if you buy a certain amount they give you a free water bottle and a bunch of samples. I was excited to try some new things. woo free stuff woo!  So I tear open the box and take out my cool new bottle and excitedly go through my free stuff and out of 11 free sample pouches – 8 might kill me. !)@#*$@#(&$@(#$&@(#&$!(@*#!!!

I do my best to read labels and read menus carefully and plan ahead and look at websites and recipes and know what is in things and mention relevant allergies at restaurants (depending on the cuisine). But sometimes it doesn’t work. And sometimes I have to send things back and sometimes I have to give away my free stuff to my roomie because I just don’t know if “natural raspberry” flavour is going to land me in the hospital.

And that kind of thing is everywhere. Everything lately is berry flavoured or has berries in it or is covered in berries or berry sauces. Or has berry flavouring not labelled or or listed on the menu. ( this also happens to me with sesame seeds  – I don’t get it – they aren’t that pretty, and they don’t have that much flavour but they are scattered all over everything and no one ever thinks to list – encrusted or sprinkled or doused with sesame seeds on a menu!)

I get that the trend right now is gluten-free, and peanut free, but not dairy free or egg free  etc. And that berries are a big thing/superfood/health food etc.  And many of the things that I have allergies to I remember being super yummy. I get it. – berries are yummy and good for you ( not me).  It is just really frustrating some days to look forward to something  – and doing my utmost to make sure that I will be able to eat or drink what I’m getting and then get the plate or open the box and find that I just can’t.

This is a big reason why I learned to cook and bake. Which is definitely a bright side to my history of food allergies.

But, well, sometimes it sucks to be the gal who has bring her own food on the plane, or to every free lunch event, and interrogate the wait staff or short order cook or has to send things back at a restaurant. And yes I know some of you might wonder why I wouldn’t just make sure I list all my allergies to waiters and here is the answer: when your list of things that might make you very sick/might kill you gets up to 8 or more items the staff at restaurants get really freaked out, hover a lot and tell me can’t guarantee anything. (Plus there is very little point of going to get a lamb gyro and mentioning that I shouldn’t eat raspberries).  And I know no restaurant can really guarantee that there aren’t traces of all sort of things in the food. I get it.  It’s always a risk for anyone to eat out. ( Seriously,if you want to freak yourself spend an hour on the internet searching bugs in food or risks of restaurant eating. ) And I’m super lucky in that very small amounts won’t do much at all.  It’s just disappointing and frustrating sometimes: To order steamed rice and pick seeds out of it ;or go to a party and see lots of healthy choices like hummus  and 7 grain crackers and rice chips and know that the only healthy choice in the room for me is the plain potato chips; Or open a box of cool samples and have 9 out of 11 of them have berry in the title or even worse have a berry I have no problem with in the title but to look at the label and see that they have put a bunch of flavourings from a bunch of other berries I can’t have.   😦

Ahh well. At least I’m not allergic to cocoa or carob….yet. Knock on wood.

More Art from Me….

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I did a post a few weeks back about the final project I did for my most recent painting class a few months ago. Several years ago I also took drawing and all sort of wonderful classes while doing a certificate in Fine Art Techinques at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

At the time I began classes I was struggling with an illness and was unable to do many of the things that I loved doing previously. But I had always wanted to take art and it was something I could do. So I took one class and my first teacher was so supportive and told me I actually had talent and should continue to so signed up for the certificate. I can honestly say that art helped me stay sane while cooped up.  If you have never taken a class or painted a painting or done a drawing since grade school – but you would like to – you are where I was back then. I encourage you to take the leap you never know what might come of it.

Here are some pics of some of the work I did during and since my time at Emily Carr:etc 149
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Vegan à la mode: Vancouver’s Best Pie

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Are you a pie person or a cake person?  That is the question.   Personally I lean towards cake. And not cheesecake – New York cheesecake is pie ,  European style cheesecake can be cake but isn’t always but I digress…..  I may not be on the pie side of the aisle but the pie at Aphrodite’s Cafe and Pie Shop? That I will trek all the way the Kitsilano for – even on a rainy day.

Most pies are difficult for those of us who don’t eat dairy or eggs and a la mode is out of the question but at Aphrodite’s it’s not  a problem. Everyday, they have a list of Vegan – friendly pies ( that are also wheat and gluten free) and they have soy and even coconut “ice creams” to scoop on top.  Personally my favourite combo is peach pie with vanilla coconut ice cream,

Today their list of Vegan pies ( that you can also order as full pies to take home):

  • Apple
  • Blackberry Apple
  • Raspberry Rhubarb
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Blueberry
  • Cherry

They have a pie and chai special too that I recommend – $ 10.25 for you vegans.   PS the earlier you get there the better especially on the weekend – you don’t want to miss out on your favourite!

If you want to have lunch or dinner -before the pie or after what ever floats your boat – they have a pretty amazing vegan chili and I have heard great things about their vegan mac and cheese ( unfortunately I haven’t been able to try it because I have a sesame allergy 😦 ).  They also have vegan Sunday brunch options!  Now I have to go there for brunch  – and apparently this –  “vegan, gluten-free Dark Chocolate Almond Torte – rated top Vegan Dessert in the city by Vancouver magazine!”   Why haven’t I tried this ?!?!

I have to plan another visit to Aphrodite’s. Did I mention they are organic. Yup. Organic all the way.
Aphrodite’s is at 3598 W 4th Ave, Vancouver.

http://www.organiccafe.ca/  – they have an online pie order form 🙂

PS While you are in the area U Paint I fire is a very cool place down on 4th (I’ll  tell you about it this week) and  Banyen books is always worth a look.

Guten Appetit!

* photo courtesy of http://aphrodites.foodpages.ca/

Vancouver Vegan High Tea!!! By Request @ La Petite Cuillère

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I am always on the lookout for great tea.  I love tea it’s one of my little eccentricities I guess. I usually have at least 15-20 different tea selections around my house at any given time. 

But high tea has always been something that was not on the menu due to my food allergies. Finding a high tea service that doesn’t include dairy or eggs but is still traditional is like finding a weeping willow tree in the desert.

But some times you come across the best things by accident. As I did with La Petite Cuillère  at 55 Kingsway Street, Vancouver.

After my voice lessons one day I was headed for the bus to Main Street station and passed by a sign that announce Vegan cupcakes!  A very exciting find – I popped in and it was the loveliest place: filled with cozy armchairs, and dining tables, and patterned tablecloths and those old English china tea cups painted with roses and violets – just like it would be at your imaginary English Grandmother’s house!

Don’t be fooled – the name is French – but It’s most definitely an English tea house.

That first time I had a lovely cup of  Earl grey cream and a yummy cupcake and noted down my voice exercises for the week.

I ended up popping in quite often and getting to know the owners a little – who have always been so friendly and wonderful and knowledgeable about their teas and have always been interested in feedback about their vegan offerings.

Then when we were trying to think of something fun to do to get a group of my old room-mates together I thought – high tea!  ( I’m not the only tea nerd in the group.)  So I emailed La Petite Cuillère and asked if it was possible to put together a vegan high tea for me. And they said yes!

So the girls and I met for a high tea on a lovely early spring Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful. And the prices are soooooooo good.  High tea in the this town, and in my former haunt of Victoria, BC is scandalously expensive – $40 to 50 dollars is totally normal.  High tea at La Petite Cuillère  is two tiers of yummy treats – “A selection of two miniature sweets, two finger sandwiches, one miniature scone, fruit preserves, and Devonshire cream. Served on authentic English bone china with your choice of tea from our premium loose leaf tea selection. (Available Friday through Sunday)”  for $13.75  or for a larger afternoon tea with even more on three tiers for $24.50.  I got the Afternoon tea option last time I was there but I think in the future I would go for the high tea option – it seems like the best deal, and more than enough food and treats for me.

Of course the vegan high tea and the regular high tea have differences of course but I was very pleased with what I got in comparison with my table-mates.

As for the tea choices I suggest the Earl Gray Cream and the Darling Darjeeling and the Mango Green tea and the Coconut Rooibos Chai.

Go there. It’s a great place. Vegan friendly and everyone friendly – the staff and owners are delightful. Make sure to make reservations for high tea on the weekend as they are usually very busy!!   AND YOU MUST REQUEST A VEGAN OPTION WHEN YOU MAKE RESERVATIONS! You can find them on Facebook and at their website http://www.lapetitecuillere.ca/ and at 55 Kingsway, Vancouver.

*photos courtesy of their website – as my photos all have faces in them.

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My Balcony Garden Salad!

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The above pic is of the first day after I planted my new little balcony vegetable garden this spring – May 1 to be exact. I have never had my own garden before so I didn’t know what to expect. ( Maybe the same drudgery as weeding was when I was a kid)  But it has been such a joy! I tend and thin and water and things grew! Yummy things that are helpful in the kitchen.  Its has been so much fun to watch thing grow and grow and I have added even more new pots this past month!

These pic document my lettuce pot from dirt and seeds to my first salad from the garden a few weeks ago – since then there has been 5 or 6 more big plates of salad.  😀

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Under the influence: Pacific Breeze Winery Tour and Tasting

IMG_0126Last year I took a chance on a one of those group coupon deals for a wine tasting in New Westminster, BC so I could take my Mom out and have some fun. (We have previously had great fun at Vancouver’s amazing and wonderful HOPSCOTCH Festival!)  And several weeks ago for Mothers’s Day we finally went.

I had my doubts, and so did my Mom, about an urban winery in New Westminster:  there are no vineyards in Metro Vancouver; one must drive a few hours or take a ferry to get near the prime wine country; and both of us had spent a great deal of time in New West and didn’t think it very likely that we would have not noticed a large winery in the area.  But why not go and see what it is about and taste some wine.

Some high quality, delicious, remarkable wine.

I am not a connoisseur of wine by any means. I have a glass maybe once a month. But I do like to to read: to read about how things are made and to read about history. And wine is one of those things that comes up a lot in history. (Hungary’s famous Tokaj (Tokay) wine was used as an overture to create and keep allies: Louis the XIV was given Tokaj wine by the new Prine of a newly independent Hungary in 1686 in order to gain his alliance. He adored it and served it at the French court dubbing it “Vinum Regnum – Rex Vinorum” -the king of wines and the wine of kings; and Emperor Franz Josef sent Queen Victoria one bottle for every month she lived.  And once when I was a history major in university I had one of those 3 o’clock in the morning epiphanies that most of the major decisions by the major player in history were made under the influence of alcohol, and often lots of it.  But I digress.

The location is, well, unexpected. Kind of an old industrial mall down by the train tracks with only a couple of other occupants. But when I walked in the door it was a beautiful room with a  wooden bar. The tour at Pacific Breeze began in that first room, the main tasting room where we were poured a generous taste of their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  Yummy! Unoaked, very fresh, fruity, and dry – a great summer wine.   This is not the wine you would associate with a “garage winery.” Then we were taken into the wine making room – which has 5 huge tanks where the wine ferments, the grape “squish-er,” a “de-skinner”  and a small bottling machine. The guide was one of the winemakers and he gave us some information and really welcomed our questions.The best guides are passionate and knowledgeable and he was both. He let us know that their “garage winery” was the product of two home winemakers with 40 years of experience between them and we constantly being asked if their wine was for sale.  He also let us know the origin of the name Pacific Breeze , as all the grapes are sourced from up and down the pacific coast – California, Oregon, Washington , and this year BC. They choose the best regions, and valleys for each varietal they make and they are small so they can order  small amount of the best they can find.  A little bit of many varieties and whatever seems like it had good growing year.   We then tried the Chardonnay which was complex and earthy, but as I’m not a fan of oaked white wine I can’t rave about it. It was complex and high quality but not my thing.

Then we we invited into the cask room – it was the room that I always think of when someone says winery – with about 100  French and American casks stacked  around the edges of the room.

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There was a table set in the centre with chairs for each of us and plates of a variety of high quality cheese and a little meat and crackers for each couple of tasters. Sadly have allergies to dairy, and the crackers were filled with sesame – one of my life threatening allergies. But there was wine so I couldn’t feel too bad for myself. The next wine was their signature Killer Cab, which was impressive. It’s a blend, and to me a good blend it a sign of great skill in wine making – blending just the right wines in the right quantities to get and outstanding result. It was dry and had the great mouth puckering and watering deliciousness that a cab should have.  Then we tried AssaZin. Which is a red Zinfandel. This is not the light white less than 10 dollar Zinfandel I associate with being 19 and having a gossipy night in with my girlfriends.  This is a powerful, deep purple,  mouth puckering  punch to the taste buds. The fruit is less prominent but is in a lovely harmony with the oak. This is a strong bold red but  isn’t heavy or over powering. Personally I like fruity wines and don’t usually go for heavier reds but this was definitely something I would order a glass of.  The next, and final bottle that was opened for us was a 2010 Cabernet Franc. Which was my absolute favourite of the day. It was very bold but the fruit was still in the starring role. It was an incredible wine. So delicious.  With the last three reds, each one was better than the last. But at our end of the table each one was a wow wine. I wouldn’t hesitate to order any of them at a restaurant or buy a bottle as a gift, or to share with friends.

At the tasting table we were invited to ask questions  – I asked quite a few, as is my my way – And we were guided through more intricacies of the wind making process, casking, tasting, filtering etc. And a couple of answers I think are important to share here: Pacific Breeze is not sold by BC liquor stores only private wine stores and at the winery itself, because as a small producer it would take almost 3/4 of what they produce  each year just to give them a small spot on the shelf; and the produce vegan wines- they do not use animal products  in the filtering stage which apparently is common practice and hard to to research or detect what wines use what processes for filtering. So if you are vegan Pacific Breeze is a good choice.

At the end of the tasting, when each of us was warm and our judgement a little impaired, we we invited back to the tasting room to buy any of the wines that were on offer. 🙂

All the wines are corked and will last and age well.

I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc as it is summer time and I’m sure it will delicious to share on a balcony with friends on a summer evening.   And it was one of my two favourites of the tasting.

I was hesitating though because I really did like the Cabernet Franc but in the end my thrifty-ness won out. And I bought the cheaper bottle. And because we were at a tasting got a small discount 🙂    Though all the wines we had tasted were very reasonably priced in the 19.99 to 29.99 range. But a day or two later I was kicking myself and thinking that I really should have bought a bottle of the red instead. But I was stuck with an awesome white -such a terrible first world problem.  I did though write a quick note to the people at the winery thanking them for the great tasting and tour and answering so many of my questions. And I couldn’t help but ask if they still had a few bottles of the Franc around – and they did so – and they were kind enough to put one aside for me to pick up the next weekend and they gave me the tasting discount as well! They were lovely to me – which is so important!

I have good memories of a nice Sunday afternoon tasting with my Mom and I have two bottles laying in my cupboard just waiting for the right occasion.

So if you are nearby Pacific Breeze stop by for a quick taste, and if you see the group coupon – get it and go !

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