Friday, June 26, 2009

Just Add Spirit!

Strike Averted! The deadline was extended and thanks to an amazing bargaining team, we got an awesome contract. No complaints whatsoever. To celebrate, let's have a cocktail party!

LCBO's last promotion was spirits & cocktails.

They published this nifty little cocktail recipe book, so I had to make some of them. It was all for work of course, so I can offer better customer service Smileys Here are some of the drinks we tried. If you'd like to try some of these, click the picture of the recipe, it should enlarge for you. (Bear in mind, these were made and tasted over the course of a few weeks, not all in one day!)

First up - Whiskey Sour. This is a simple, classic drink.

I loves me some rye, so this was the first drink we tried. Delicious!

This one sounded interesting. Blueberries were on sale, so this one was next.

This is a terrific summer drink. So refreshing!

Jamaican Mule - a twist on the famous Moscow Mule only this time using rum instead of vodka.

Quite a nice tasting cocktail.

Berry Batida

Very fruity! This tasted like juice. There was a demo in my store and the girl making this drink used frozen berries. I used fresh.

Golden Sunrise which is basically a Tequila Sunrise.

This picture isn't very good. The drink on the right is unmixed so you can see the grenadine on the bottom. The colour bleeds a bit up into the juice hence the name sunrise. The drink on the left has been mixed - cool colour!

Spiced Daiquiri. The recipe called for Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, but I used this -

I much prefer Sailor Jerry. It's one of my new favorite spirits. It is really yummy.

What a refreshing, flavourful cocktail. This was my second favourite from the book.

Tangerine Sidecar

There are many variations of the classic drink. I very much liked this one.

The Lychee Buck was my favourite of all of the drinks I made from this book.

Again, a twist on the Gin Buck, this added lychee liqueur for a fabulous flavour combination. Very delicious.

With summer's heat upon us, cocktails are a great refresher after a hard work day or to sip in the backyard while lounging on the weekend. I hope you'll try one or all of these. Cheers!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh, The Goodies I Got!

OK. We know that the population of the US is approx. 9 times greater than that of Canada. Some research says that 2.8% of the population is veg*n, some studies say as much as 4%. Let's go middle ground & assume that vegetarians make up 3.5% of the general population, in both countries. Based on that fact, the buying power of vegetarians in the US a whopping 10.6 million. In Canada, a measly 1.1 million. Therefore, American veg*ns have many, many more products to choose from. Those of you living in the USA are so lucky to have such kick-ass veg selections. Some of which I brought back home with me.
Up first - burgers!

I can easily find Amy's Texas Style burgers, but rarely Amy's Chicago Style burgers. As for the others pictured here, not in Canada. We used to have Lightlife and Boca, but they packed up and left. :o( Gardenburger sells 3 or 4 varieties here, but not these ones.

Although I like a veggie burger that resembles a hamburger, I also like some non-hamburger-type varieties. One store I was at had a discontinuation sale on the Chik'n Grill and had them priced at $1.69 a box! Needless to say, I bought a few of those. I also searched and searched for Gardenburger's "Meat"loaf, but didn't find any.

These are new to me. The only ones I've tried so far are the Ginger Teriyaki Veggie Cakes. They were quite nice. They looked really small, so I made two, but could only eat one. They are very filling, so be warned. I'm excited to try the other two.

Yea, I'm Canadian and yea, I like bacon. Stereotypical, but it's true. (I also like donuts, maple anything & hockey. hehe! Beer, not so much) Anyway, my bacon now is cruelty free. Try to find a decent bacon replacement here. All we have are Yves strips or "Canadian style" and I don't really like either one. Smart Bacon does in a pinch, but man - Morningstar Farms is by far the best. I have these in sandwiches and on their own alongside my pancakes. I like these even better than bacon!

We are total Riblets addicts. There is NOTHING here that compares. Not even close. On this trip, we scoured all the grocery stores and couldn't find any Riblets. OH NO!!!** I did see some Morningstar Farms ones. They are NEW! so the box says, so I got those - boxes & boxes of them and prayed that they would be as good as Gardenburgers.

They are eerily similar, even the sauce. I still have some Riblets in the freezer, so maybe a taste-off is in order. I also saw a large NEW! on a box for Italian Sausage. Thankfully, Tofurky sausages are available in Canada, and I've tried Boca's version in the past. The Boca ones were OK and I usually use them as a component in a recipe rather than just grilled on a bun. We haven't tried Morningstar yet.

Most days, my work lunches consist of leftovers from dinner or something I cook up specifically for lunches. Sometimes I'm lazy and just make a sandwich. Sometimes I'm super lazy and grab a frozen dinner from the freezer. I bought some of these just for some variety.

I tried the Enchilada Pie the last trip and I thought it was pretty good for a frozen entree. Then I saw Kashi has frozen dinners. Black Bean Mango sounds amazing, doesn't it? I just hope it tastes as good as it sounds.

Mmmm-mmmm! I loves me some Quorn! This originated in the UK I believe and has spread to other countries, but not to Canada dammit! Quorn makes a terrific replacement for chicken in recipes and gives a different texture from tofu. The roast helps solve the Christmas & Thanksgiving issue, the naked cutlets are great for pretty much anything and the tenders are in chunk form. Great for Quorn salad sandwiches, stir-fries, pasta dishes, etc. It's nicely flavoured too.

For super convenience, breaded patties & cutlets. The patties are nice in a bun with lettuce & "mayo". The cutlets are perfect for those nights when I come home and don't feel like cooking at all. Throw a couple of potatoes in the oven along with the cutlets, salad or veggies on the side and dinner is served!

Of course, we like to have junky finger foods for game night.

I freakin' love those corn dogs! No condiments necessary - I like them as is. The Buffalo Wings are sometimes a little too spicy for me, but some plum sauce for dipping helps to cut the heat and they are very tasty.

On one trip I found these Smart Stuffers with the cranberry stuffing and I took them to a Christmas dinner for my "main" option. I thought they were really good. Au Naturel used to make a veggie version of Cordon Bleu and a Broccoli & Cheez, but I haven't been able to find them for a long, long time. Imagine my excitement when I saw those 2 varieties available in Smart Stuffers! My only regret....I should have bought more than just one package of each. Dammit!

Of course I had to stock up on Fire Roasted Tomatoes. I have a few cans of crushed still in my pantry cupboard, so I grabbed a few more of the diced. Why bother chopping tomatoes when it's already done for you? And these Bush's Beans...OMG! Sooooo, good! Growing up on the east coast, I had more than my fair share of beans. I love 'em! I always preferred the variety with molasses, but those ones seem to only come with pork. Boooo! Beans with Tomato sauce are meat free, but I don't like those. I like a sweet sauce. Bush's to the rescue. These remind me of the beans I used to eat as a kid. Great for "beans & wiener" cravings. I know, I know. The sophistication of my tastes is astounding.

On the advice of Karen, I bought some Cracklin' Oat Bran. I should have gotten more. This box is history. United States and Canada both have these huge, long grocery store aisles loaded top to bottom with boxes & boxes of cereal. I guess we're a couple of countries full of cereal lovers. I will confess, when I was single, there were days when I'd come home to my bachelorette pad, pooped and just not in the mood to whip up a meal for one, so I'd have cereal, a la Jerry Seinfeld. Maybe not the most nutritious meal ever, but I could have had worse.

The hempmilk I picked up because I was in an optimistic mood that day. I've heard good things about hempmilk, but the brand I tried was one of the most disgusting things ever made. Living Harvest brand is one I see showcased on blogs, so I'm hoping it's good. I've yet to see it in any stores near me. Even though I'm a little apprehensive, I'm willing to try it. As of yet, I haven't opened the carton, but one of these days I'll get brave and I'll let you know the results.

Ah, Tings. Again, another product I've heard about over & over, but have never been able to find. Even this bag took a bit of searching. I haven't opened it yet and I really don't know what to expect. It will be an exciting adventure in snacking.

I've found a couple of brands of meatless chicken-flavoured bouillon cubes at my local grocery store that are pretty good, but trying to find a decent, flavourful "beef" one has been a bit of a struggle. I've heard of this one from fellow veggies in the US so I'm going to give it a try. Once we get back into the cool weather and soups & stews are mainstays, I'll crack this puppy open.

I mentioned in another post a long time ago, about Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. When I was young, I'd go visit my grandparents in the summer. My grandfather always made cinnamon rolls for me with orange icing. These have long disappeared around these parts. The only variety available to me now is with white icing. So, whenever I'm shopping in the States, I grab one or two tins of the rolls with orange icing.

Oh how I love these! Total fat & sugar, and totally delicious. Everytime I have these, I think of my grandfather. I think Jim & I devoured all of these in a day and a half.

We also got Simon some treats which he talked about in his post here. Some other randoms that we grabbed....Jim got more cheese in a can (who knows....), some Hershey bars, Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies, I bought some Agave that I thought was a steal at $3.99. I pay $7.99 here. When I compared the bottles, the one I usually get is twice the size. Ah well, I needed it anyway. I also got some Diet Mountain Dew.* It made an appearance around here a few years ago and I was buying it for about 6 months, then it disappeared. Weird! So I got 2 cases. It doesn't really taste the same, but it's good enough. I've heard that Mountain Dew in the US contains caffeine while Mountain Dew in Canada doesn't. Why can't they just make it the same everywhere. This was a discussion going on for a while about Oreo cookies. Some places they're vegan and some places they're not. My Oreos are vegan, while Chips Ahoy! uses LARD!? That's something new, so proof that label reading is a never ending chore.

*I've been told that diet pop is bad. I know, I know, but I don't have very good teeth, so I try to keep sugars to a minimum. I drink maybe 1 pop a day or 1 every other day, so it's not excessive. Since I switched from regular pop, my check-ups have been cavity-free. I might grow 3 heads, but at least the teeth in those heads will be nice.
**Checked the Gardenburger website - RIBLETS HAVE BEEN DISCONTINUED!!! NOOOOO!!!!!! I also noticed while zipping around the site that some of the addresses in the task bar say Kellogg's do I did some investigating. I found out that in 2007 Kellogg's bought Gardenburger. That explains the whole riblets thing.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's Asparagus Season!

First of all, let me show you what I saw outside when I left work the other day.

A kick-ass garbage unit!

One slot for paper....

One slot for cans & bottles.....

And one for "other stuff".
Nice, eh? I just hope that people will follow the labels and not just be lazy and throw their garbage wherever.

Anyhow, onto the asparagus. It never seems to last very long, so we eat lots of Ontario grown asparagus as soon as it hits the stores. I usually like to roast it in the oven, but since we bought a new bbq grilling basket, we did some on the barbeque.

This was a Saturday night special. Veggie burgers, roasted potatoes and asparagus with GOO (garlic & olive oil), salt, pepper and some shaved Parmesan cheese.

A simpler meal done on a weeknight - Tofurky Kielbasa sausages, asparagus with Goo; then when they came off the grill, I tossed them with some balsamic vinegar. That was really good!

I popped over to Vegan YumYum and found a killer recipe for asparagus.

Chili Almond Asparagus - this is the best! The recipe called for 2 tsp. of red pepper flakes, but I scaled that back to have less heat. Baby mouth, remember? This is so, so delicious! It's fast to whip together and livens up any plate. I highly recommend this. You can find the recipe and Lauren's much nicer photos here.

Several times a year, and I'm sorry I don't know how many, maybe 8 or 9, the LCBO puts out a magazine called Food & Drink. It's complimentary since the cost of advertising covers the cost of producing the magazine. It is available at all LCBO stores and is printed in English and French. It's a terrific magazine and many of the recipes are outstanding. There was one I came across 3 years ago and I make it every spring when asparagus is in season. The recipe calls for penne, but I found this at IKEA and wanted to add some fun to dinner.

Pasta elks!
They are also wholemeal and organic!

This is an uncooked one. Cute, eh?

Here's the finished product. This dish is amazingly good. It's got chick peas, carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, basil, onions, garlic, spinach....sounds delicious, doesn't it? Want the recipe? You can find it here.

The elks held up really well. Almost all of them remained intact and cooked to perfection.

For our wine, I pulled out this. It might seem like a bit of overkill on a light pasta dish, but this particular dish has so much going on, that I thought it could pull it off.

When I pulled out the cork, I was kinda bummed to see a synthetic one. St. Francis is one of the better wineries in Sonoma so I thought they would have used a real cork. A screwcap is an even better option. This wine was still very good. I would definitely recommend it and I would definitely buy it again.

I still had one more bunch of asparagus to use up, so back to Vegan YumYum I went for this dish.
Sesame Soy Curls with Asparagus and Quinoa. I've never seen soy curls but from the descriptions I've read, they sound very similar to a product I've been using for years called So Soya. So Soya comes in small pieces like TVP or in chunks. I re-hydrated the chunks and cut them into strips so it would closer resemble soy curls. This dish is another winner!

The quinoa provided a great base for the other ingredients. I should really cook it more often. We both like it and it's a nutrition powerhouse. If you'd like to try this out for yourself, the recipe is here.

We then had ice cream! I've been dying to try this new coconut milk version from So Delicious. In the US, it's called Purely Decadent. We have Purely Decadent frozen dessert, but the coconut version is called So Delicious. *shrugs* Don't know why. Anyway, I opted for the chocolate flavour and it tasted to me like chocolate/coconut. It was very nice. I didn't tell Jim what it was, so he thought he was getting regular chocolate ice cream. He did notice a difference in the flavour and asked me what it was. He did like it and ate his whole dish.

Since I still eat dairy, this isn't an issue for me, but the container said the product may contain trace amounts of dairy protein. Is this only on the Canadian product? I know a lot of vegans are snapping this up, so I'm wondering if we just resign ourselves to the fact that one cannot be wholly vegan in this world and just do the best one can? If trace amounts of dairy protein are in the frozen dessert one eats, it it OK to buy other products that may contain traces of dairy or egg? Where does one draw the line? I'd love to hear your thoughts.