Sugar Saturday – Let me eat cake!

I’m giving up Lent for cake.
Into everyone’s life a little cake must fall; especially on one’s birthday weekend. With my birthright of self-indulgence coming up soon I have decided to forgo my ‘Lent’ challenge for the weekend and bring back the sugar!

Because life is a little sweeter with some sugar in it. Indulge sensibly.

The cake gluttony starts with a chocolate cupcake with Irish cream icing and sugar shamrock on top. It continues tomorrow with a vanilla cupcake and pistachio icing and then culminates in my homemade chocolate stout cake with Irish cream icing and matcha white chocolate shamrock to be eaten on my actual birthday.

Cupcakes are amongst the perfect indulgence food. They can be bite-size or large while still remaining an individual portion. Some portions, though, are excessively large with an extraordinary amount of buttercream icing. I would argue that these are actually two servings of one serving for two people.

Cupcakes allow for a lot of creativity in flavours, are quick and easy to make and loved by just about everyone. Here are some healthy cupcake tips:

  • It takes less than one hour to make cupcakes from scratch. Allow around 15 minutes to measure and mix ingredients and about 20 minutes to bake. Let cupcakes cool at least 5 minutes in the baking pan before removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Buttercream icing can be made while cupcakes are baking. Make sure the butter/vegan buttery spread is soft when you are ready to mix with the icing sugar,  flavouring (eg. vanilla; citrus zest; peppermint extract) and liquid (eg. milk-dairy/non-dairy; alcohol; orange juice). Before icing the cupcakes, make sure they are completely cooled.
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients separately. When combining, mix until batter is uniform. Be careful not to over mix as it will cause the cupcake to be dense and bread-like.
  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature so they will combine better.
  • You can usually reduce the sugar amount by one-third for a lower sugar cupcake. Texture and taste-wise the cupcakes still turn out fine.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour for a little extra fibre. Anything that helps slow down the blood sugar spike is a welcome thing. And speaking of fibre…
  • Balance the sugar with a generous serving of greens and beans. As always indulging sensibly means treating yourself occasionally with small portions and counter balancing with a healthy diet.

For cupcake fanatics in Toronto, check out Prairie Girl bakery.

I dream of Crave! What started it all for me was Crave cupcakes. So popular they have branched out from their originating city of Calgary. People in Edmonton, Alberta and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan can also satisfy their cupcake ‘Cravings’ locally.

And my go-to cookbook for vegan cupcakes: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

What’s your favourite cupcake flavour, shop or recipe?


Meatless Monday – Bowled over

Bowls aren’t just for soup anymore. The Buddha bowl, often called a hippie bowl, has become popular in all its incarnations. It consists of a colourful array of macronutrients* in a single vessel and can be made to suit a morning, afternoon or evening meal.  Simply combine an assortment of grains, vegetables and protein.

*carbohydrates: rice, quinoa, pasta, vegetables, fruit

*protein: beans, tofu, nuts, eggs

*fat: nut butter, cheese, avocado, vegetable oil, coconut cream

For breakfast, try a smoothie bowl filled with a creamy base (yoghurt; banana blended with nut/coconut milk), fruit and topped with chia seeds, nuts and granola/muesli.

For an afternoon meal, try a deconstructed falafel bowl filled with falafel balls, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, pita chips and covered in a tahini sauce.

For an evening meal, try a burrito bowl filled with avocado, quinoa/rice, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), black beans, sweet peppers, onions, corn, cheese and dressed with salsa.

Other delightful combinations are:

  • broccoli, sesame seed and oil, bok choy, mushroom, sweet pepper, tofu, brown rice
  • roasted eggplant, cauliflower, sweet pepper and carrots with chickpeas, couscous and a tahini dressing
  • sweet potato, kale, beets, lentils, quinoa with a lemon dressing

This week take the Buddha bowl challenge! Starting today and ending on Sunday have at least one Buddha bowl meal. Search the Internet for recipes and inspiration.

Meatless Monday – Kitchen staples

Every pantry has some food items that are always in stock. They are ideal to buy in bulk and when running low are quickly replenished. Here are a few staple items for the vegetarian/vegan kitchen.

  • brown rice: Can be used as a side dish or basis for a main dish. It adds protein and fibre to any meal. I prefer to buy brown rice already sprouted.
  • quinoa: Same use as rice and is also a complete protein. Quinoa also cooks quicker than rice. Make sure to rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking. Sprouting quinoa at home can be done in 1-2 days.
  • beans, canned and dry. For quick meal prep, use canned. If you have more time, use dry. Dry beans require a long soaking time (even longer if you are sprouting them) and cooking time. They are then perfect for stews and soups that also require a long cooking time.
  • nuts and nut butter. With protein and essential fats, nuts and nut butters make an ideal snack, sandwich spread, salad topped and dip/dressing.
  • frozen berries: For we of the north who don’t have access to in season and quality fresh fruit year-round, frozen berries are a suitable alternative. They often retain much of their phytonutrients and can be easily added to muffins and smoothies.
  • frozen vegetables: Vegetables are preferable when purchased raw but it is not always possible to go to the grocery store every other day to get them. I usually have spinach, broccoli and butternut squash on hand. Spinach is my green component for the day and easily added to any dish I’m preparing. Broccoli cooks quickly and goes great with my brown rice and tofu for that classic vegetarian combination. Frozen butternut squash is chopped and ready to go into soups, the steamer or the oven for roasting. Purée steamed butternut squash and use in baked goods or pancakes!
  • oats: These can be made into cereal, added to baked goods or used in veggie burgers/balls as a tasty binding agent.
  • bread: I love my bread and my kitchen is never complete without it. In fact my life isn’t complete without it! Always have some fresh bread on hand and keep some sliced loaves in the freezer for toast or for thawing later after you have run out of the fresh stuff.
  • chocolate: Speaking of life, what about life-giving cacao? Whether it’s powdered or raw, in nibs or as pieces, chocolate can be made into beverages, added to sweet or savoury dishes and of course be eaten on its own.
  • onions and garlic: Most meals are complemented by the addition of onions and garlic. They form the flavour base for just about every savoury dish known to plant-eating kind. (Unless you are Jain or Buddhist.)
  • nutritional yeast: Like the ‘b’ word for carnivores, nutritional yeast makes everything taste better. It adds a slightly cheesy salted fermented taste that gives food that elusive umami quality. Cook it, bake it or sprinkle it raw.