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Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to Make Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a tricky dish to make. I've tried to make it many times, many variations of ingredients, sometimes changing as little as 1 ingredient or method at a time, akin to a science experiment. There were many failures: undercooked noodles, overcooked mushy noodles, not the right combination of flavour, etc, etc.

Yesterday, I finally created Pad Thai that I am actually proud to call Pad Thai. I'll outline the tricks and tips along the way, so you don't have to go through countless bags of banh pho noodles as I have.


1/4 pack of banh pho rice noodles (I prefer the thinner width noodles; usually the package contains 2 bundles of noodles, I made 1 of them, but only used about half of that)
1 garlic clove
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup of firm or medium-firm tofu
1 shallot
1/2 cup Chinese chives
 1/2 cup bean sprouts
3 heaping teaspoons tamarind sauce
4 teaspoons soy sauce (or vegetarian fish sauce if you can find it)
2 sort of heaping teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek (chilli sauce, the less ingredients the better, you can see the flakes as well) 
3 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons crushed peanuts

Yield: approximately 2 servings. (or just 1 if you eat very large servings) 


1. Soak the noodles in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. They should be a bit hard to the touch (so not cooked yet) but be able to bend (ie not retain their package shape). Tip: It is super important that you DO NOT use boiling water, as this over softens the noodles and you could end up with a rather nasty, mushy mess later.

2. Take your half of block of tofu, wrap it in an absorbent paper towel, place it on a plate or cutting board and place something flat, but heavy right on top. This squeezes out the excess water, so that it can fry better in the pan. (f you want smaller bits of breakable tofu resembling egg in your Pad Thai, you can use medium-soft tofu (still squeeze the water) and cook it akin to scrambled eggs, breaking it up into little pieces untill they all turn golden. If using firm tofu, cut into small cubes and fry till golden brown in a large flat skillet (Having a large flat surface is important for cooking Pad Thai evenly, you will understand why in Step 4) on medium-high heat.

3. While the tofu is turning golden (a minute or 2 on each side), finely dice the garlic and shallot, and cut the chives in 1.5-2 inch long strands. In a bowl, mix the tamarind, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sambal Oelek in a bowl to make the sauce.  Tip: mixing the sauce before hand ensures you can adjust it to your own tastebuds, and will evenly coat the noodles, as opposed to throwing in the ingredients in a hot pan, and hope they meld together in the right taste.

4. When the tofu is cooked you can either push it to the side of the pan, or temporarily remove it from the pan (I pushed mine to the side). Turn the heat to low-medium and add the garlic and shallots, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn, as this would create a bitter taste. When they are cooked (a min or 2), push these to the side as well and add your noodles.  

Tip: depending on how large your skillet it, add noodles just enough to cover your cooking surface, do not pile it on top like a pyramid. If your skillet is too small, you can always cook the noodles in 2 batches, but putting all the noodles in at once if your skillet is too small will RUIN your Pad Thai. I learned this the hard way, thinking I was supposed to use a wok for Pad Thai, or always putting heaps of noodles in the skillet, being left with gross Pad Thai as the aftermath.

After you add the noodles on low-medium heat, add 2-3 tablespoons of water and let noodles soften up a bit more from their firmness.

5, Add Pad Thai sauce and using a flat spatula, swirl the noodles in circles. If you have 2 flat spatulas, use them to flip over the noodles, so that they cook on both sides (I would not recommend thongs).  Add chives and bean sprouts, and cook for another 2 minutes, mixing in evenly all the tofu, garlic and shallots that were pushed to the side. Serve with a sprinkle of crushes peanuts on top.

I was too hungry to set up a nice bowl and spend 20 minutes photographing it, so I just took a photo of the noodles in the pan. (I didn't have shallots, chives or peanuts on hand, so that's why you might not see it in there, but I usually add those)

Have you ever attempted to make Pad Thai?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tomato Lentil Stew Recipe

Prior to researching more about lentils, I used to think of them as an exotic legume, popular in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes that I savoured so far. Well little did I know, Canada just happens to be the largest producer of lentils in the world, followed by India and Turkey.

Why are lentils so good for you, what's the big deal you ask? Well, let's look at the nutritional information for 1 cup of lentils, boiled without salt, according to

Dietary Fibre 16g or 63% of DV (Daily Value)
Protein 18 g (your daily value depends on a variety of factors such as age, sex, weight. My daily require intake is about 46 g of protein)
Iron 37%
Folate 90%
Potassium 21%
Phosphorous 36%
Manganese 49%

For the complete nutritional breakdown, here's the link


1/2 medium white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup sliced carrots
1/2 of 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (1/2 of 798 ml or 28 oz)
1 cup dried red lentils
3 cups water
1 veggie stock cube
3 kale leaves
pinch of basil
pinch oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp olive oil


1. Finely dice onions and garlic, and quickly sautee in a deep pot over medium-heat. After you see the onion becoming translucent or more see-through, add in sliced carrots (I sliced mine in rounds).

2. After a minute or two when you see the carrots be a bit more cooked giving off that yellowish hue rather than their bold orange, add in the crushed tomato, the water, the lentils and the veggie cube. Let it simmer on low medium heat for at least 10-15 minutes.

3. Try tasting the lentils to see if they're ready, if they're too crunchy that you can't chew them (akin to uncooked rice) then it needs to simmer a bit longer. Rip up the kale leaves in bite size pieces and gently stir them in the stew. Add spices and cook them in for a minute or two to flavour the stew.

4. Serve warm and garnish with your favourite green, or what you have on hand (I did basil leaves).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade

Trying to keep cool during this crazy heat? Here's a lemonade idea to try!

half a lemon
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1 1/2 cup water

5 mint leaves
1 raspberry
1 toothpick 

1. Find your favourite glass. If the glass isn't big enough to fit a small whisk to crush up the raspberries, you can make the drink in a bowl and then transfer it over to your glass.

2. Squeeze half of a lemon into your glass or bowl. (You can hold your hand underneath to catch the seeds.) Add the water and the raspberries and crush them using a whisk. Stir well, add ice cubes if desired and add sugar or agave syrup if you would like yours sweetened.

3. For the garnish stack the mint leaves on top of each other and puncture them close to the stem with 1 toothpick. Then fan out the leaves so it almost looks like a flower, and gently pierce the raspberry on top. You can lean this garnish against the rim of the glass or you can also attach it to a lemon slice garnish that sits nicely on the rim of the glass.

 What beverages do you like during hot days?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Truth About My Raw Challenge

It's been a long and arduous seven day raw challenge. If you're reading this blog for the first time, I am vegan and went on a 90% raw challenge for a week. It is by far probably the most difficult quest I've taken in a while. I personally found that preparing raw meals is either a) very EASY and quick or b) a long process of soaking/dehydrating/prepping foods.

Perhaps you're wondering, why would anyone want to do this? I personally thrive on challenges, so initial boredom sparked the idea, combined by reading everyone's fabulous story of going raw. (from increased energy to weight loss) I monitored three things: mood, energy and weight.

The toughest day was day number one. Having drank coffee and tea the previous week, I had a small lingering headache the first day, and felt sort of odd, like I was hungry all the time. I soon realized that in the beginning, this feeling is absolutely normal. Although I was eating the same sized portions I always do, I realized this was a mistake, as it was not enough calories for my body. So for the most part, I found I could eat more while doing the raw challenge.

I expected my energy to be faint and weak. I felt like that for the first day, but for the rest of the time, I felt a natural bounce of energy...most of the time I had too much of it and didn't quite know what to do with it. To my friends' surprise who thought I was hopped up on coffee, I was still a bundle of energy in the late hours of the night, so I started relaxing a good half an hour before bed to actually fall asleep.

The last part of my monitoring was my weight. I lost about 3 pounds during the week and felt really good. Most days when I would weigh myself, I would be the same weight in the morning as in the evening, and prior to this, the fluctuation would be about 5 pounds. So hoozah for shedding a few pounds!

You may be wondering what I ate that was raw for 7 days and 7 nights, here's a list of examples:

-green salads
-tomato salad
-fruit salads
-raw almond milk
-lettuce wraps (I like to call them fresh wraps)
-zucchini/carrot noodles, thanks to my handy dandy Saladacco
-cucumber sandwiched with guacamole
-Thai fresh rolls
-dehydrated flax chips with avocado and tomato on top
-kale chips
-raw cashew coconut ice cream
-raw chocolate almond cake
-almond "feta" cheese
-kelp noodles with pesto sauce (for the whole bag of kelp noodles, it's only 18 calories...18!!!)
-beet rawvioli (variation of this recipe)

...and yes, I slipped and had a cooked meal once, but that's besides the point.

What else did I learn from taking on the raw challenge? I realized I overeat at most of my meals...I think it's due to carbs and some processed goodies which trick my body into thinking I am receiving food full of nutrients, when in fact, I am not. Thus said, I am going to increase my intake of raw foods to about 50%. For example, if I will have "insert delicious cooked food here", I will make sure 50% of the plate is raw, like salad.

I also realized that if I want to keep up being fit, there will be no more excessive chips and cookies and coffee much to my chagrin (except for the occasional one of course) because most of the time it's too much fat and calories with not enough nutritional value. I had cut junk food out long time ago, but it sneaked its way back into my diet, it has the tendency to do that, y'know? Sneaky hobbitses..

Lesson #3, no more eating late at night, ideally no eating after 7-8 pm. For some people, this may be second nature, but for myself and my odd schedule most of the year, this will probably be quite difficult. Alas, unless I'm going to mad exercise for hours after eating late at night, some of that food may just become stored on my body, and I don't want that.

Last but not least, incorporating daily exercise is something that I will continually strive for. Ideally 30 min to 2 hours, but sometimes, I will just have to charm time into my lap, as time is pinched in busy schedules. But exercise is something I have to make time for, for my health and continuing to enjoy life as I get older.

A big thank you goes out to one of my best friends who did the challenge with me, you rock buddy!

What do you think of a raw challenge or vegan raw foodism in general? Leave a comment below!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Raw Day 1

The first day of the raw challenge went pretty well. For those interested in what the hell I ate for the day, here's what I had: a fruit smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch (with fresh lettuce from the garden might I add) and kelp noodles (only 18 calories for the ENTIRE package) with sweet asian almond sauce and fresh kale for dinner.

I felt like I had a lot of energy the whole day, although I had a tiny headache that lingered throughout the day, due to the lack of coffee, methinks. Since I had an extra long day at work, I felt mentally exhausted, but my body was surprisingly energetic. As for the weight, I weighed the same in the evening as I did in the morning, which NEVER happens. By the end of the night, I always end up weighing 4-5 pounds more due to the food and what I drink throughout the day.

Not knowing what to do with all the energy I had, I decided to test out my dehydrator that I received for my birthday a while ago. I made flax crackers and kale chips. 

Raw Flax Crackers Recipe  


1 1/2 cups flaxseed
3 cups water
3 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos

1. Add flax seeds and the water in a large bowl and let sit for an hour too. The mixture then becomes a gelatinous goo (sounds gross, I know), to which you can add some Braggs Amino Soy Sauce. I didn't add any spices because I was feeling simple at the time, but you sure can!

2. Line the dehydrator trays with brown parchment paper, and spread an even layer about 1/8 inch thick across the dehydrator sheet. 

3. Dry for 8-12 hours at 110 Farenheit.

 What do with your raw flaxseed crackers? One way I found them delicious is with a slice of avocado on top, a few fresh lemon juice drops, a pinch of chilli powder, with a thin slice of tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper. 

Have you ever tried raw flaxseed crackers before? What did you think? Share your thoughts below! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Make Vegan Minestrone Soup

I've been rather sick the past couple of days with a summer cold. Since this is my last day before my raw challenge starts tomorrow, I figured I'd treat myself to one last supper kind of thing.

That being said, I am making minestrone soup for lunch today. It's a thick hearty Italian soup, full of vegetables and kidney beans. It's stewing on the stove right now and although I can't smell anything because I'm still sick, it looks absolutely scrummy!

You might wonder why the hell the recipe has rice in it, but no pasta. Like a lot of people I know, I have always had minestrone soup with pasta...but when I asked one of my best friends who is Italian, she said the authentic recipe usually uses rice. After reading a bit online about minestrone soup and the history of it, it seems that different regions in Italy use different ingredients for minestrone. Although the base is the same, some use pasta, some use rice, and some use more vegetables, while others add meat or bones to flavour the soup.

Now, I've never lived in Italy, so I can't claim this recipe is truly authentic Italian, but I can say that this recipe is totally delicious! (even my mother agrees, and she usually prefers meat in most of her dishes)

 If you feel like making yourself some minestrone soup, here's the recipe!

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
5 tomatoes, diced or blended
1 veggie cube (I use Go BIO!)
2 cups of water
3 tablespoons of rice
1/2 can of kidney beans (28 oz can)
1/2 teaspoon of basil
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of sage
1/2 teaspoon of savory
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of olive oil
shake of freshly cracked black pepper

1.Find a deep pot that is also non-stick, add the olive oil and heat it to about medium heat. Sautee the onions and garlic with the black pepper, and quickly add the carrot and celery.

2. Add 2 cups of water with the veggie cube and also add in the blended tomatoes. Add the kidney beans and rice and let the soup simmer on low-medium heat for 15 minutes but keeping an eye on it so you don't overcook the vegetables.

3.  Add in all the spices and let soup cook for another few minutes. Remove from the stove and serve hot or warm. The reason I say add in the spices towards the end is because if you add them in the beginning of cooking, they tend to lose their flavour and distinct aroma.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Raw Vegan 7 Day Challenge

I may or may not have hinted at the fact that I have been preparing for my raw, vegan 7 day challenge with one of my best friends. In my preparation of going 90% raw for 7 days, I've gotten reacquainted with salad, smoothies, and met a couple of new and raw dishes such as: zucchini rawsta, raw buddha bowl, fresh wrap, vanilla cheesecake, raw almond milk and chocolate raspberry cake. I've increased my raw intake of veggies and fruits to about 50% of every meal I have and have tried to stay away from over-eating nuts and dried fruit (I read from others' experiences that when they snacked on nuts and dried fruit, they still felt hungry, kept eating and thus gained extra weight)

I've also identified 3 things I want to monitor during raw week: energy levels, weight and overall mood. Although 7 days is a quite short time to see the long term benefits of going raw, it's an idea that I personally have to take one step at a time. I've also done some research about what is raw or not according to other raw foodists, nutritionists, etc. and here is a list I came up with:

Raw Maybe Not Raw
Fresh Fruits Nutritional Yeast Frozen veggies
Fresh Veggies Unfiltered cold pressed organic olive oil Anything canned
Sprouted Grains/Legumes Braggs amino soy sauce Regular nuts/fruits
Raw Agave Syrup Tea brewed in low temp Oils/Vinegars
Raw Apple Cider Vinegarp Vanilla bean Maple Syrup
Non-Dairy Milk from scratch Sundried tomato Coffee/Tea
Raw Cocoa Powder Spices Vanilla Extract/Cocoa Powder
Raw Nuts/Dried Fruits

I will try and keep my focus on vegetables, fruits and grains, while eating less of nuts and dried fruits. Since I will be eating about 90% raw starting Monday, the other other 10% will be an allowance for foods it might be hard to let go of right now (no not cooked food!) but ingredients such as nutritional yeast, oils, maple syrup, coconut oil, etc.

I'd have to say one of the hardest things I will have to abstain from will be coffee, and as far as I've read, tea isn't quite raw either. I'm not sure how true this is, but I read that the tea inside teabags or even looseleaf tea gets heated above 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) when it is processed and packaged. The only way to truly get raw tea is grow your own herbs and let them steep in water in the sun, some call this Sun Tea. I do have mint in my garden, so I will try that out, but I may slip tea in the 10% of not raw category.

Have you ever tried a raw challenge or do you eat a % raw on a daily basis? What do you enjoy or dislike about it? Share your thoughts below.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

If you want quick cookies and you have some tasty jam on hand, try the recipe below!
1 cup almonds
1 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 jar of your favourite jam
1. Use food processor or something like a Magic Bullet to grind almonds and oats to coarse meal. (not fine like powder, but not as chunky as if you just choped them with a knife.) Add almond and oat coarse meal together with flour in a bowl.
2. Mix maple syrup and oil in a separate bowl, then slowly incorporate mixture into dry ingredients. Make sure it's sticky enough to form into balls, use your own discretion if you need to add more liquid or dry ingredients.
3. Form balls ( size depends if you want bigger cookies or smaller ones), place on baking sheet, then flaten with a large spoon to make them cookie shape. Make sure cookie is thick and then take a teaspoon and press down the middle to create a valley or crater in the middle of the cookie.
4. Freeze cookies for 5 min, this will help them hold their shape when they bake. Spoon adequate amounts of your favourite jam into the crater and bake cookies for 10-15 min at 350 Farenheit, checking regularly so they don't overbrown.

What's your favourite jam that you would use?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sauce Boss: Ginger Lemongrass

Welcome the first post of a little thing I like to call "Sauce Boss". From now on, whatever sauce recipes I post will be filled under this said "Sauce Boss". Where did this name come from? Usually, at the end of every sauce I end up cooking, my significant other and I usually just have one thing to say: "this is the saaaaaaauce-o-boss!"

I think sauces now play a much more important role in my cooking than they ever did before. For example, since tofu by itself is rather bland, IMO it always needs to soak or cook in some excellent sauce for good flavour. That, and I find sauce gives great flavour to numerous meals! (from gravy, to general tso, to blackbean, tahini almond, sweet and spicy, etc)

For Christmas, I received a few vegan cookbooks, one of them called "My Vegan Recipe Journal". It's a nifty little book that gives you a recipe for each category (ie breakfast, sandwiches) and the rest of the pages are blank recipe templates for you to write your recipes in. Considering I usually end up scribbling ingredients on little pieces of scrap paper while I'm cooking, this is a decided improvement. I have a hard time writing down exact ingredients, so hopefully this book will be able to help me out. Have you ever seen your grandmother cook? Notice how they just throw stuff in there and then it ends up tasting amazing and you're possibly wondering "gee Grandma, how'd you do that?"...well, that's exactly how I cook.

This ginger lemongrass sauce goes really well with dumplings (gyoza), wontons, springrolls, and stirfries. 

1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp fresh/jarred, minced/grated ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tbsp hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1/2 cup or less water
1 or 1/2 stalk of fresh lemongrass


1. Saute garlic and ginger with vegetable oil in a small pot.

2. Add soy sauce and sesame oil, stir for a while. Add the water and the lemongrass leaves and let it infuse for 10 minutes.

3. When the lemongrass taste is strong enough for your taste, remove the leaves and the sauce is done.

Have you ever tried ginger lemongrass sauce before?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Easy Peasy

This is a ridiculously easy recipe. I know there's been a trend of simple recipes lately, and that's partially due to an extremely busy schedule and not having as much time as I would like to spend on cooking. Thus, eureka!, the spawn of simple but filling dishes.

I made this the other night, when it was too late to make dinner, but I still wanted something filling that won't leave my stomach empty an hour later and cause me to snack unnecessarily on cookies. (although snacking unnecessarily on cookies may still happen, it would at least not be due to hunger)

I have to fully give credit to this recipe to my grandmother. When I was younger, this was one of my favourite dishes that she used to make all the time beside mashed potatoes and other delicious things. I don't think I've ever been able to replicate it quite the same, as she used fresh peas from her garden, and let's admit it-that can't compete with canned peas. Still, a tasty quick meal nonetheless, these easy peas can probably be ready in about 15 minutes.

1 medium white onion
1 can of green peas
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste


1. Dice onion medium-fine and sautee in the vegetable oil over medium heat.

2. When onions are translucent, add drained peas and stir frequently for a few minutes.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.