Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Crab" Cakes with Green Tartar Sauce (Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

 
I used to really enjoy deep fried and greasy meals like Fish N Chips, and crab cakes with remoulade or tartar sauce. I don't eat fish anymore, but as a vegan I wanted to create something comparable to crab cakes to enjoy. I have seen many recipes for vegan crab cakes using hearts of palm but I had another idea -- artichokes and chickpeas...

The inspiration for these comes from the classic vegan fake tuna salad recipe -- smashed chickpeas. I love the tuna-like flavour and texture of smashed chickpea salad and I thought it would work really nicely in this recipe. What I didn't want was for these cakes to be too dry or too firm, which can happen with chickpeas. Crab cakes have a lovely soft interior and crunchy exterior...So do my little vegan cakes.
 
Despite their crispy crunchy and golden exterior these vegan crab cakes are neither breaded nor fried. This is just the end result of baking my "crab" patties. Its almost magic...I created this texture by combining grated zucchini with chickpeas and artichokes (I steamed frozen artichoke hearts) in my food processor. Pulse pulse pulse and you get a chunky mixture you can use to hand-form delicate fishy patties. All the happens next is you bake the cakes in a roaring hot oven to get a crispy exterior and soft interior. Easy.
 
What crab cake would be complete without a creamy sauce for dipping? 
 
For dips I used some delicious organic ketchup and my own Green Tartar Sauce. This tartar sauce is a little unconventional and slightly healthier than ordinary tartar sauce. It is a delightful combination of avocado, soy-free vegan mayo, dill, garlic and chopped pickles. So delicious. You need to try this recipe.

The vegan crab cakes themselves are quite low in fat if you are on a low fat diet. The whole batch uses only 2 tsps of olive oil. The dip is obviously not fat free but feel free to just use ketchup instead, they'll still taste delicious.

 
For the Vegan Crab Cakes:
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 zucchini roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cooked artichoke hearts (not preserved, I used frozen and steamed them)
  • 1 tsp dulse or kelp flakes
  • 2-3 tsp evoo
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.5 tsp dried dill
  • squeeze of lemon or orange juice
  • big pinch of salt (I used pink salt but sea salt is a good alternative)
Add everything to a food processor and pulse until you have mixture that resembles chunky tuna salad. Form into little patties and bake in a 400F oven until lightly brown on top. Very carefully flip them over one by one and return to the oven to brown well on both sides. Serve with organic ketchup and Green Tartar Sauce (recipe follows).
Green Tartar Sauce:
  • 1 small ripe avocado, mashed until smooth
  • 2 tbsp soy-free vegenaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 0.5 of a dill pickle, chopped finely
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp evoo
  • 1 tsp orange juice or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water

Add all ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well. Use as tartar sauce for your vegan crab cakes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Healthy Key Lime Pie


Spring. Living in Canada, you come to truly adore the changing of the seasons. Its f#$%in cold for a big chunk of the year so when grass peeks its way out from under the snow, people break out their flip flops. I wish I was joking. Generally with the first signs of Spring (a few days above zero, a day above 10 degrees (!), sunshine) people dress as if Spring is in full swing. It can be a little ridiculous, but also encouraging in a weird way. Think t-shirts in 5 degree weather...Me, I bake.

Today was a beautiful day, Saturday, and I spent it working from home -- a familiar story these days. By "working" I mean working for my clients and working on this blog. I have to be honest, I have been slacking a little with Baking Backwards. I take food photos weekly for one of my clients now for their social accounts and by the time I take a moment to shoot my own creations I'm tapped out of inspiration and my photos start to look just "ok" -- not great to me. When I woke up today I went for a run and committed to the idea that I would come home, bake something crazy and try my best to at least style the photos. Amazingly I did it!



 I am a big fan of moody food photography. I love black backdrops and bright food paired together in gloomy lighting. Hence, today's photos. Have ever heard of Linda Lomelino? I really love her food photography style. Everything she shoots looks so elegant and mysterious, not to mention delicious as f#$%.


My pie today was a bit of a tricky subject. I feel like the lovely mellow green colour of the filling was lost by my camera. It really is a pastel green but not as faint as it appears in these photos. You'll have to make this delicious pie to see for yourself!



Today's recipe is as tasty as it is healthy. Its full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, vegan protein, and good fats. The pie filling has two super healthy hidden ingredients -- avocado and...CAULIFLOWER! Yes, cauliflower. Strange sounding I know, but trust me this filling is so creamy and delicious. The crust is very healthy as well featuring whole buckwheat groats, raw cacao powder, dates, figs, olive oil and coconut oil. The whole dessert is naturally sweetened with dried fruit, stevia and maple syrup. No refined sugar for me. It is creamy as hell but totally vegan. The healthy shortcrust is chewy, chocolatey and very sturdy meaning you can eat it out of your hand instead of needing a plate.




If you like key lime pie but are looking for a healthy alternative, this recipe is for you. No guilt required at all.

HEALTHY KEY LIME PIE WITH CHOCOLATE CRUST
Chocolate Crust:
  • 1 cup raw buckwheat
  • 3-4 dried figs
  • 3-4 medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of stevia or a couple drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1/4 cup water
Add everything but water to food processor and pulse till evenly crumbly. Add water, just enough to moisten the dough and blend. Wet your hands and press the dough into a short crust pie dish. Bake in a 400 F oven until firm.

Key Lime Filling:
  • 2.5 cups steamed and cooled cauliflower florets
  • 1/2-2/3cup fresh lime juice
  • Big pinch of pink salt
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 1.5cup ripe avocado flesh, not mashed
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp liquid sweetener (I used raw honey because I consume it but if you are a strict vegan substitute agave or coconut nectar or brown rice syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Puree everything until totally smooth. Taste!!! Add extra stevia as you need it to sweeten it to your taste. Spread into baked shell evenly. Chill in the freezer for 1-2 hours then store in the fridge. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)


Growing up I ate a lot of mac and cheese. I mean A LOT. It was possibly my favourite meal ever. I am well aware that mac and cheese can mean many different things to different people -- from a neon orange creation out of a box to a truffle laced creamy taste sensation at a fancy restaurant -- and everything in between, I'm sure. Today's recipe is a veganized version of my favourite mac and cheese interpretation -- my mom's baked mac and cheese. 

My mom does not cook often. She doesn't really enjoy it. My dad loves to cook so he made most of my meals as a kid. My mom made a lot of sandwiches, delicious holiday meals and a few key dinners like old school mac and cheese. The kind that's crispy on top, uses big noodles (fussilli or penne with no macaroni in sight), real cheese, milk...the works. Though my mom rarely cooked dinner, it was meals like her mac and cheese that I associate with my childhood. Definitely my favourite meal as a kid. 




As a grown up, I no longer consume dairy products (I am mostly vegan and I am lactose intolerant now). I do however miss the flavour and texture of real cheese. 

You may have noticed I have recently created many cheesy vegan dishes like this lasagna, this pizza, and this burger pizza...What can I say, old habits die hard. I have made many vegan "cheeses" over the years, some good some terrible. Today's recipe doesn't exactly involve one. I made this mac and cheese recipe for me and my husband last weekend on a whim. All last week I had been really enjoying a cauliflower puree (created to mimic the taste and texture of ricotta cheese) on everything from zucchini noodles to homemade pizza. It really worked with everything. It worked so well that I decided to add some sweet potato into the mix to achieve a cheddar colour and bake it with pasta. I'm so glad I did.



This is the best vegan mac and cheese I have ever made to date. It reminds me so much of my mom's real mac and cheese in flavour and texture. Best of all its vegan, gluten-free, loaded with vegetables and fairly low in fat. I attribute the stickiness of the cheese sauce to the pasta water I added to it to make everything hold together better, don't skip the step! 



The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)
  • 1 bag rotini or penne or rigatoni (brown rice pasta)
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tbsp evoo
Cheesy Sauce:
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato
  • 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 cup water or non dairy milk (unsweetened plain!)
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp or more garlic powder
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Black pepper (optional)
Boil you pasta in salted water with a dash of oil and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water after the water goes cloudy.  Cook the pasta till all dente (not soft because its going in the oven). Strain and set aside.


Steam your vegetables together until soft. Add to a blender along with other sauce ingredients and puree until totally smooth and creamy. Add more milk or water if necessary and be careful to stop and scrape the sides and blend to ensure its all smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Pour your noodles and the rest of the sauce into a big pot along with your al dente pasta and stir together well. Preheat oven to 430F and scrape your pasta into a parchment paper lined lasagne pan, spread out to the sides evenly. Make topping.


Crunchy Topping:
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved 1/4 cup sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 tomato, chopped small
  • Evoo

Add everything but tomato, evoo and paprika to a blender and pulse to make a rough thick paste. Add in dollops on top of your noodles and spread out like you would spread frosting. Arrange tomato pieces evenly on top and drizzle with a tbsp of evoo. Sprinkle the whole dish with a little paprika. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes then broil (watching to ensure it doesn't burn) for a couple minutes to get a slightly crispy top. Serve with hot sauce or sriracha or ketchup...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tandoori Cauliflower Wraps


Crunchy, spicy and creamy savoury wraps. So delicious and the perfect healthy meal or snack when you have some time in the kitchen and you aren't wearing white...more on that in a bit though. This recipe is one to remember -- easy to make and a little exotic. 

It all begins with cauliflower, roasted to crisp perfection in a hot oven. It then takes a bath in a vibrant orange coloured,sweet, sour, fiery and creamy coconut-yogurt sauce that's brimming with exotic Indian spices like cumin, coriander, garlic, cardamom, chili, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika. Another trip to the oven with the broil setting makes the bites sticky, sweet and smoky. Irresistible. The awesome cauliflower bites are then loaded into cabbage cups along with a hot and tangy avocado mash, more vegan yogurt, and some red hot for extra kick. 


WARNING: Wear a bib and have some napkins on hand -- this s#$& gets messy as f#$%. Who doesn't love a hot mess though?
 
These wraps are full of healthy vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, avocado), fibre, probiotics (coconut yogurt), antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory spices (all hail turmeric). The ingredients are affordable and not hard to find (grab a tandoori spice mix if you don't have the spices I use instead already). These wraps are also gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, soy-free, nut-free and rockin'. Just sayin'.

 

MAKE THESE WRAPS. You know you want to.


TANDOORI CAULIFLOWER WRAPS

Crispy Cauliflower Bites
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped up into florets
Arrange on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in 430F oven until crisp.

Tandoori Sauce:
  • 1 cup vegan coconut milk yogurt
  • 2 tbsp neutral tasting oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Black pepper
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1-2 tbsp maple or rice syrup or coconut nectar
  • A few dashes hot sauce or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Whisk all sauce ingredients together. Set aside while cauliflower cooks. When cauliflower is crisp, remove from oven and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add sauce and toss to coat. Scrape back onto parchment paper and spread out evenly. Turn oven up to broil and cook until everything gets sticky but not burnt. Remove from oven.

Avocado Smash
  • 1 ripe avocado, flesh of
  • Pinch pink salt
  • a few dashes red hot
Mash everything together until smooth. Set aside.

Cabbage Wraps:
  • 3-4 Savoy cabbage leaves, washed and patted dry
  • Cooked tandoori cauliflower
  • Avocado smash
  • Red hot or Hot Mango Chutney
  • Coconut milk yogurt
Divide your avocado mash between the cabbage leaves evenly. Then top with equal amounts of the tandoori cauliflower. Add a dollop of coconut yogurt to each wrap and a dash of red  hot or chutney. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Taste Guru: Review and Giveaway!


I was recently sent a box full of gluten free surprises by the nice folks at Taste Guru. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, they are a cool American company that sells monthly boxes of gluten free products through a subscription service. Food lovers subscribe for a box of  new products to try each month, all totally gluten free. When they contacted me to do a review and giveaway I was happy to take this cool service for a spin.

I received my box within two weeks of registering for the service. It was a reasonable sized haul (for something being mailed from another country!), shoebox size, and packed with products, 99% of which I'd never tried or even encountered in Canada. I should note, a few of the products I was sent were not vegan so I didn't try everything myself and my husband had a few in my stead. 

Rather than tell you the details of what I got exactly (it changes monthly), head over to their site to view a sample box. Everything was pretty fun, think health-conscious gluten-free comfort food mixes (vegan pancake mix) and basics (organic white grits) and prepared items (protein bars and granola).

I would rate my experience with Taste Guru as really enjoyable. Their staff is so friendly and I received some fun items I will be making use of (ahem -- vegan gluten free multi-grain pancake mix!) and my husband got to enjoy some healthy snacks like healthy gourmet granola and energy bars. 

What I like best about this service is that every month you get a surprise delivery of new products to try. I love finding a new gluten-free product to test out when I go shopping at my local health food store. This is so much more than that because you get 7-10 products every month mailed to you!

If you like surprises, Taste Guru is for you. If you don't, they may not be. I do so I am a fan for sure! If you want to expand your gluten-free product horizons with Taste Guru, be sure to enter our giveaway today by clicking the link below and entering according to the entry guidelines! You could win a Taste Guru box ($24 value) delivered to your door! 

Enter the giveaway contest by March 30th. This giveaway is for contestants with addresses in the United States and Canada only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brownie Pudding Cake with Toffee Frosting (vegan, gluten-free)


I love cake. If you read this blog you probably already know that about me. 

I have a lot of cake memories too. Take for example, the double chocolate fudge and Smarties cake my childhood best friend's mom made without fail for every birthday (and every family member). Or the banana chocolate chip cake my best friends and I went for religiously at 4am after dancing in our early 20s. These days I try to make sure the cakes I consume are delicious but also moderately healthy, vegan and gluten-free. Sometimes this seems like an impossibility. If you feel like this too, you're in luck. Today's recipe ticks all the right boxes and tastes awesome. Just ask my husband who ate 3/4 of this cake in an hour...




I do not always eat vegan, though I try to 99% of the time. But when it comes to the desserts I make I do my best to make them vegan every time. Why? Because the only ingredients that hold the majority of  desserts back from being vegan are eggs, milk and gelatin -- and there are several healthy and affordable vegan substitutes for all of them. So why not be kind to our animal friends? I'm not shaming anyone here, its just my rationale. 

Back to this cake. This spongy, pudding-like, brownie-inspired chocolate cake. Its as healthy as can be and gluten free, but tastes decadent. It features sweet potato, buckwheat, raw cacao and virgin coconut oil. Its naturally sweetened with maple and stevia. What's not to love?

Then there's the toffee frosting? Made mostly of dates, rice syrup and coconut oil -- this frosting is a healthy alternative to icing sugar-based icings and tastes sweet and sinful. You've got to try it!

If you're in cake kind of mood but want to make it guilt and gluten-free, this one's for you!

Brownie Pudding Cake:
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and steamed till soft
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4-1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 1/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp brown rice syrup or raw honey (yes, I know that honey is not vegan)
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-1.5 cups buckwheat flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Puree all the ingredients together until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness with more stevia as you need it, stirring and tasting as you add it little by little (the taste should be sweet but not sickly sweet). Pour into a parchment paper lined square cake pan. Spread out to sides. Bake in the center of the oven until semi firm to the touch with a slight spring back.

Let cool then frost with Toffee Frosting (recipe below).

Toffee Frosting:
  • 5 large soft medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk powder
Puree till smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using. Use as frosting.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vegetable Sandwich Adventures: Part 1


What do you mean you don't eat bread?

Sound familiar? I have more or less abandoned bread. The less being that I occasionally make myself some healthy gluten-free bread, but most of the time I just can't be bothered. Why? Well, most gluten free bread on the market...sucks. Sucks a lot. Like wow.

I am and have always been a bread lover. I used to save my money for artisanal loaves from small bakeries wherever I was living (Toronto, Edinburgh, London...). I'd eat bread with almost every meal...every day. It was love. Until it wasn't. Bread and me have a twisted relationship now thanks to my gluten-intolerance. Once I realized I had to stop eating wheat I didn't know what to do about my bread obsession. I tried a few commercial gluten-free breads but they were dry, bland and as dense a brick. They were also full of what I consider questionable ingredients like gums, stabilizers and cornstarch or tapioca starch. These ingredients always upset my stomach so I generally steer clear. I tried making my own bread and had some good results but more for cakey breads like soda breads. I admit, I haven't tried to make a yeasted gluten-free loaf yet, but I'm sure I will this year.


Sandwiches were a childhood favourite for me.When I was eight I started making my own lunch at home with friends and I dabbled in fancy sandwiches. I would make pretty intense stacks of meat, cheese, tomatoes, mayo and on and on... Sometimes they were simply cucumber, tomato, salt and mayo.  As a teenager my Dad and I bonded over our love of sandwiches. We would go out for lunch in search of the best we could find. In short, I LOVED good sandwiches with perfectly toasted bread slices. 

A few weeks back I was browsing for food online and came across someone using a large zucchini to make "bread" slices for a sandwich. The idea seemed so genius to me! They cut their oversized zucchini into two flat rectangles and made a rectangular sandwich with some tomato and cucumber. Enter my weird brain. As I reflected on what I saw I thought, "Why make a flat sandwich when you can make a dome to squeeze in even more fillings?!" So that's just what I did, and it was glorious.


Rather than a flat sandwich, I think of my Vegetable Sandwiches as Hoagies. You know, subs. They are long and narrow with a domed top. The top and bottom piece of bread is gutted by hand after baking to accommodate lots of fillings and keep things in place while you eat.


Unlike the sandwich I saw online, I decided to step up my fillings game. I wanted more than just raw veg and dressing (this isn't a salad!), I wanted "meat", "cheese", a spread or two and some crisp raw veg. But I also wanted to keep my sandwich totally vegan.


For the "meat" layer I made two types of "cold cuts". The first is Carrot Meat, the second is Beet Meat! Once sandwiched, its eery how real these vegan soy-free "cold cuts" look. For cheese I made "Yam Cheese Slices". These taste more like yams than cheese but they look a little like the white cheese slices you get at Mr. Sub or Subway. I made an avocado spread for creaminess and also added some soy-free vegenaise for tang and a mayo taste. For fresh veg I opted for sliced tomato, sliced cucumber and some finely chopped swiss chard (lettuce). 


These Vegetable Sandwiches were so good and you don't need to feel guilty at all about eating all 4 by yourself! I recommend them highly for kids who don't like vegetables.

So, you don't eat bread? What about sandwiches? :)

PS: This is just part 1. There are more crazy vegetable sandwich creations to come!


VEGETABLE SANDWICHES

ZUCCHINI BREAD:
  • 2 jumbo size zucchinis

Peel your zucchinis. Slice them in half lengthwise. Select the slice you want to be the bottom half of your sandwich and slice a little off the round side to make it sit flat. Grab a sharp spoon. Scrape out (gently) the soft seedy center flesh of the zucchini (from the original flat side of the pieces to make a divet so extra fillings can fit in between the slices.) Match top piece of "bread" with bottom and then divide into two "buns". (widthwise) Set aside.

AVOCADO SPREAD:
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tsp evoo
  • pinch pink salt
  • fresh black pepper or chili pepper
  • Small squeeze of lemon or lime juice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • dash garlic powder or cumin
Mash all ingredients together until very smooth. Refrigerate.

CARROT AND BEET MEAT:
  • 2 carrots (yellow or white or red), peeled then sliced thinly lengthwise with a cheese slicer or mandolin
  • 2 beets (red or chiogga), peeled then sliced thinly lengthwise with a cheese slicer or mandolin
  • 2 tsp evoo
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add your beet slices with half the seasonings and toss to coat. Spread out evenly. 

Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Add your carrot slices with half the seasonings and toss to coat. Spread out evenly.

Bake together with the CHEESE (see below) until the slices are bendy and cooked but not browned (10 minutes or less). Remove from the oven. 

YAM CHEESE:
  • 1 japanese yam (purple outside, white inside), peeled then sliced thinly lengthwise with a cheese slicer or mandolin
  • pinch salt
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp evoo (optional) 
  • 1 tbsp nooch or miso paste (I didn't use it but it will make the cheese taste more cheesy)
Line a third baking sheet with parchment paper. Add your yam slices and seasonings and toss to coat. Bake together with the "Meat" until the slices are bendy and cooked but not browned (15 minutes or less). Remove from the oven. 


ASSEMBLY:
  • tomato slices
  • cucumber slices
  • lettuce or chard
  • vegan mayo
  • avocado spread
  • Yam "cheese"
  • Carrot and Beet "meat"
  • Zucchini "bread"
  • OPTIONAL: hot sauce or a vegan tapenade you enjoy for extra flavour (like olive paste or sundried tomato pesto or basil pesto) 
Spread some of your avocado spread and mayo on both slices of your zucchini "buns". Top the bottoms with equal quantities of your Carrot and Beet "meat", and Yam "cheese". Top with cucumber, lettuce and tomato and a drizzle of your tapenade if using. Close your sandwiches and enjoy!