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Sugar-free, Gluten-free, and Yeast-free? Seriously?

June 25, 2011

There’s going to be some very big changes coming here to Epicurvegan HQ.

In early February this year, I was diagnosed with severe candidiasis by my naturopathic doctor. I’ve had a problem with candida to some degree or another since I was in my early teens. This is likely due to the numerous rounds of antibiotics I was put on as a child. Antibiotics are known to trigger an overgrowth of candida in my body by killing off the various intestinal flora that, in most people, keeps candida albicans from proliferating.

Although I have been experiencing candida-related symptoms for most of my life, it’s only the last two years during which I’ve begun to experience secondary illnesses as a result of candida overgrowth, such as thyroid failure. Acid reflux, which I have also had since I was a teenager, has worsened. And I’ve also experienced severe fatigue, loss of memory, inability to focus, new food sensitivities, and other health concerns that at times leave me feeling almost unable to cope with daily life.

Since February, I have been ignoring my doctor’s advice to switch to a diet that excludes all sugars, yeasts, and grains containing gluten. It seemed like too much of a daunting task for me to take on, and so I’ve continued to eat as I’ve wished. Until now.

I’m not okay with living my life, as young as I am, feeling so unwell all the time. Being healthy again may mean permanently cutting a lot of things out of my diet, but if that’s all it takes to stop feeling decades older than I am then perhaps that’s not so bad of a solution.

The reason why I’m sharing this is because there may be other vegans like me who come across this blog in their search for solutions to their own issues with candida. There might be a lot of vegan blogs on the Internet, and quite a few of them gluten-free or sugar-free. Not too many of them, however, talk about excluding gluten, sugar and yeast.

From now on I’ll be attempting to chronicle, in the best way I can, my experiences as a vegan eating a diet free of sugar, gluten, and yeast. Hopefully along the way I’ll discover delicious recipes to share and maybe even offer some support to those of you find yourselves on the same path as I am.

Edible Flours Grand Opening

April 16, 2011

Vancouver’s first all-vegan retail bakery has finally opened it’s doors to the hordes of hungry vegans and non-vegans that have been waiting weeks for a taste of their fine treats.

And, as threatened promised, I was the first one to show up this morning, and I did indeed press my face to the glass as I patiently waited for 10 a.m. to come along.

Let me assure you, the bakery’s treats are as good as they look in the following photos. And, if you happen to be in or around Vancouver, you’d be well advised to get yourself there as fast as you can. If you so desire, they have decently priced coffee and tea available, as well as agave to sweeten the whole deal.

Edible Flours Natural Vegan Bakery
2280 West Broadway, between Vine Street and Yew Street
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Inside Edible Flours

Inside Edible Flours - Entrance and bakery counter

Inside Edible Flours - Seating area

Inside Edible Flours - Seating area

Bakery case - Edible Flours

The bakery case

Edible Flours chocolates by Chocolate Arts

Edible Flours chocolates by Chocolate Arts

The take home box

The take home box

The booty!

The booty!

Chocolate and vanilla maple-glazed donuts (not gluten-free)

Chocolate and vanilla maple-glazed donuts (not gluten-free)

Strawberry scone (not gluten free)

Strawberry scone (not gluten-free)

Basic chocolate cupcake (front; not gluten-free)

Basic chocolate cupcake (front; not gluten-free)

Gluten-free cupcakes (vanilla, right; chocolate, left)

Gluten-free cupcakes (vanilla, right; chocolate, left)

Cookies, from left: thumbprint cookie, gluten-free chocolate chip, (back) oatmeal-raisin.

Cookies, from left: thumbprint cookie, gluten-free chocolate chip, (back) oatmeal-raisin

Chocolates (front: chai crisp; back left: raspberry truffle; back right: peanut butter)

Chocolates (front: chai crisp; back left: raspberry truffle; back right: peanut butter)

Vegan Food Friday: Great Fakespectations

March 18, 2011
Fauxlet-o-Phish - Christa Trueman

Fauxlet-o-Phish, courtesy of Christa Trueman

Oh yes indeedy, kids, weep with joy because that heavenly creation above is 100% vegan.  And – hold on to your undies – it’s even gluten-free! *cue spontaneous happy dance*

When it comes to mock meat substitutes, I’m of the opinion that I’m not looking to replace anything, I’m just interested in trying more tasty food.  However, I’m not a big fan of really realistic substitutes.  They give me the shivers.  But there are some pretty damn tasty and amazing recipes out there, and I’m certainly not one to turn down my nose at them. Whatever your taste in food, check out these great fakes.  I’m willing to bet more than a few of them will have you eagerly planning your dinner tonight.

GF= Gluten-free

Fauxlet-o-Phish (just like the heinous McD’s fillet-o-fish you might remember) (GF)

Seitan’s Wings

BBQ “Ribs”  (an all-time favourite in my house)

Veggie Lunch Meat

Chicken-ish Seitan Cutlets (even better than the real thing, baby)

Spicy Italian Vegetarian Sausages (a very well-known recipe ’round the Nets)

Crispy Crunchy Stuffed Tofu (think of the possibilities – tofu cordon bleu, anyone?) (GF option)

Tempeh Wingz (another very well known recipe, which can also be made with tofu or seitan)

General Tso’s Tofu (a veggie riff on the un-vegan General Tso’s chicken) (GF option)

Salt & Pepper Tofu (GF option)

Coconut-Tamarind Fauxsage and Ginger Hoisin Fauxsage

Tofu fries (okay, so not a mock meat thingie, but still really damn good) (GF)

Frikadellen (German vegan “beef” patties)

Toffalo Hot Wings (YUM.)

Burger Rollups (there are no words…)

Vegan Tempeh Wellington

Beer Battered Tofufish

Vegan Hot and Sour Soup with Fresh Shiitakes and Vermicelli Noodles

March 14, 2011

Vegan Hot and Sour Soup with Fresh Shiitakes and Vermicelli Noodles

Although I am not much of a soup person, two soups I’ve always adored are Thai Tom Yum Goong and Cantonese Hot and Sour Soup, known in pinyin as Suan La Tang.  As a kid, the first time I tasted Tom Yum Goong it was love, and Suan La Tang was also an instant winner.  Ever since then I’ve been a fan of these piping hot soups with their combination of sour, savoury, and spicy flavours that never fail to thrill my taste buds.

My rendition of the soup below is a combination of some of my favourite aspects of both soups, minus the shrimp paste that usually accompanies Tom Yum Goong and the egg threads traditionally included in Suan La TangTom Yum Goong can also include ingredients such kaffir lime leaves and galangal.  Although I haven’t included these two ingredients in this recipe, I hope to give them a try sometime, as I think they could help create unusual, subtle flavours in the soup.  I’ve also included Japanese and Malaysian elements in this soup via the seasoned sushi vinegar and the vermicelli noodles, which are usually found in soups like Malaysian laksas.

Ingredients

12 cups imitation chicken broth (I used Nutrimax Natural Foods vegetarian chicken soup base)
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh carrot, sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
1-8oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1-8oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
1-14oz. can sliced miniature corn, drained
2/3 cup seasoned sushi vinegar (I used the Marukan brand)
1/4 cup black sesame oil (or just use toasted sesame oil)
1/2 cup Braggs
3 tbsp tapioca starch
5 tsp chili-garlic paste (not sriracha, but the coarser paste that comes in a jar)
2 handfuls brown rice vermicelli, broken in half (about 30 grams)
175 g. extra firm pressed tofu, sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
4 cups thinly sliced baby bok choy
2 whole green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

1. In a large pot, combine the broth, mushrooms, carrot, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and corn. Bring the broth mixture to a boil over high heat. Once the broth has begun to boil, immediately reduce the heat to medium-high and let it cook for three minutes.

2.  While you’re waiting for the soup to cook, combine the vinegar, sesame oil, Braggs, and chili-garlic paste in a bowl. Mix to combine, then add the tapioca starch and mix thoroughly to dissolve the starch.

3. Add the vermicelli noodles to the soup and let it cook another two minutes.  Then add the tofu, bok choy, and green onions, cooking the soup a further two minutes.

4. Next, add the tapioca starch mixture, gently stirring the soup continuously as you add it, being careful not to break up the tofu.  Cook the soup another two minutes, then remove from heat.  Serve immediately.

Makes 9 large servings.

Vegan Chocolate Pudding Cookies with White Chocolate and Marshmallows

March 13, 2011

Vegan Chcolate Pudding Cookies with white chocolate and marshmallowsI don’t quite remember how I found the original recipe for these cookies.  This was probably because I was so stunned by the awesome possibility of making them vegan that all I could do was remember to send myself the link to them.

There were a couple of hurdles to making these cookies, although nothing so daunting that they can’t be done at all.  I know somewhere in the veganverse there exists peanut butter chips but they don’t seem to exist locally.  So, I used vegan white chocolate chips in lieu of the peanut butter chips.  The local vegan shop, Karmavore, used to have them available, and many online vegan shops sell them as well, though you could go the less expensive route and use dark chocolate chips instead.

Then there’s the powdered vegan pudding mix.  Strangely, I had no luck finding any that didn’t cost a small fortune or wasn’t made of just a few simple ingredients I already had at home.  So I used this recipe to create my own pudding mix and just left out the powdered milk (it really makes no difference to leave it out since you’ll be putting the mix into the cookies anyway).

I used Dandies marshmallows in these cookies, which, it seems, are more widely available that they were before.  If you happen to live in a place where they aren’t so accessible, you can order them online from many vegan shops.  The Sweet and Sara marshmallows are also an alternative if you can get them, or you can get really experimental and give making your own marshmallows a try.

I made these cookies for a vegan bake sale held last week at Radha Yoga and Eatery, and they were really popular (but what isn’t popular at a vegan bake sale?).  If the looks on the faces of anyone who ate them is anything to go by, then you might need to make these decadent, gooey cookies right this minute.  They’re the best right out of the oven, though they take on a really great chewiness when completely cooled.

Ingredients

1 cup margarine (I used two Earth Balance buttery sticks), softened
1/2 cup unbleached cane sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
Ener-G egg replacer, enough for two eggs (or whatever egg replacer you prefer to use)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 oz chocolate pudding mix (get a simple pudding recipe here)
1 3/4 cups vegan white chocolate chips
1 bag Dandies vegan marshmallows, each marshmallow cut into halves (need 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

1. Preheat oven your oven to 350°F.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the softened butter, about 2 minutes.  Add both sugars and beat another 2 minutes until the mixture is fluffy.

4. Add in the egg replacer and the vanilla extract, beating another minute until the liquid is combined.

5. Using a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips and marshmallows, and mix well to combine.

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until all of the flour is combined.  Then add the chocolate chips and the marshmallows, and mix to just combine everything.

7. Using a small ice cream scoop, tablespoon measure, or a large soup spoon, scoop up about 2 tbsp of cookie dough and place it on the baking sheet,  making sure to keep about 2″ of space around each cookie (they will most definitely spread).

8.  Place your baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes.

9. If after coming out of the oven you find the marshmallows have spread out a lot, use the tip of a spoon to gently nudge the melted goo back into place around the cookie.

10. Let the cookies cool for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack – they’ll  be a fragile until they firm up a bit through cooling.

11. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or up to 5 days in the fridge.

Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies (depending on the size of your cookie scoop)

Vegan Food Friday: Feelin’ Soupy

March 11, 2011
BBQ Lentil and Baked Sweet Potato Soup

BBQ Lentil & Baked Sweet Potato Soup by sweetbeetandgreenbean - Flickr CC-A licensed

Preface:  I started writing this post a few days ago, before the earthquake in Japan happened last night.  My focus on soup feels trivial compared to the devastation in Japan, and my tummy’s all in knots thinking about everyone affected by the disaster and those people in areas still under tsunami warnings.  Living in an earthquake zone, almost daily I am reminded that the “big one”, like the earthquake in Japan, could hit.  I have a lot of latent fear about an earthquake as big as Japan’s happening here because it’s not a question of if, but when.  My heart goes out to everyone who’s been impacted by the earthquake.  If you’d like to help out, in any way you can, aid organizations to contact are the Canadian Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, the American Red Cross, Animal Refuge Kansai, Okanawan-American Animal Rescue SocietyHuman Society of the United States, and the SPCA International.

* * * * * * * * * *

After the bake sale craziness of the last few days (hence my absence here), I have become just as much of a puddin’ as some of the cookies I made.  Mind you, it’s not any of the weight gain that bothers me.  Rather, it’s that my tummy is mighty upset with me and I really need a break from all the sugar.

It’s rare that I actually crave soup.  I’ve never been much of a fan of the stuff.  I need substance in my food so that I’m not still hungry after I eat, which is what many soups leave me feeling – hungry.  But since I’ve been treating my stomach like a bit of a trash can the last several days, I’m desperately craving simple, wholesome foods like soups and salads.  Because I know so many people who love soup, I thought a recipe round-up of nourishing, hearty soups would be perfect for everyone.

GF = gluten-free

BBQ Lentil and Baked Sweet Potato Soup  (GF)

Rustic Winter Stew with Polenta  (GF)

Green Curry Butternut Squash Bisque  (GF)

Simple Vegan Laksa  (GF)

Vegan Solyanka

Roasted Broccotato Soup with Chickpea Croutons

Ch’eitan Noodle Soup

Vegan Goulash with Portobello Mushrooms  (GF)

Vegan Menudo

Thai Mushroom Soup

Caribbean Sweet Corn Soup  (GF)

Balkh Brown Lentil Soup  (GF)

Dutch Mustard Soup  (GF)

Vegan Plum and Nectarine Galette

March 5, 2011

Plum and Nectarine Galette

Back in the fall of 2007, I was lucky enough to live and work near 4 farmers markets in downtown Toronto.  At one particular market I found luscious, locally grown Victory plums and yellow nectarines.  Until then, I’d eaten fresh plums only twice in my life, and they were the red kind usually found in grocery stores.  Then I ate a Victory plum and thought, “Where these lovelies have been all my life?”

I was in a pie-making kind of mood at the time, though I am terrible at making a proper double pie crust.  So I made a plum and nectarine galette instead.  A galette is a French style of free-form pie crust, perfect for people like me who just can’t get a top crust on a pie without the whole thing falling apart.  It’s supposed to look rustic, as mine certainly did, so it doesn’t have to look “perfect”.  For some reason I can’t quite recall now, I added toasted, finely ground pecans to the dough, which gave it a crispness and richness I hadn’t been expecting. My mister, skeptical of both the nuts and the combination of fruits, wanted seconds before he was done his first slice.

Since it’s not quite time for plums or nectarines yet in Canada, you can use whatever fruit is available.  Or, you tuck this recipe away until late spring or early summer and wait with bated breath for local plums and nectarines.

Crust

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup + 4 tbsp Earth Balance buttery sticks
2 tbsp cold water
1/3 cup toasted pecans, finely ground in a food processor

Filling

Ingredients

2 cups ripe plums, seeded and cut into slices
2 cups ripe nectarines, seeded and cut into slices
3 1/2 tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet or sour your fruit is)
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to just a few degrees below 375°F.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar and cut in the margarine with a fork or pastry cutter until it looks like a pea-sized coarse meal.

3.  Add in the water and mix with hands until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Do not over knead – just mix the dough until it is combined.

4.  Line a cookie sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a clean working surface, patting it into a disc and then rolling it out into a large circle of about 1/5″ thickness. Let the dough rest, covered with a damp but well wrung out tea towel, while you prepare your filling.

5.  Cut the plums and nectarines in half and deseed them. The easiest way to do this is with a knife follow the cleavage line of the fruit from the stem section and cut all around. Gently twist the halves apart. You may have to use the knife to carefully cut around the side with the pit to coax it out of the fruit.

6.  Combine the fruit in a mixing bowl with the cinnamon, sugar and flour and turn gently with a spoon to combine the ingredients.

7.  Remove the tea towel from the dough and gently fold the dough in half, transferring it to the prepared baking sheet.  Once you have it positioned, unfold the dough.

8.  Pile the fruit mixture in the centre of the dough. Gently gather the sides up and over the filling. You may or may not end up with a few cracks around the edges of the galette. Not to worry – simply pinch the dough together or patch it up with a pit of extra dough from the top of the galette. The edges will be rough and will not cover the entire top of the galette, and they’re not supposed to. You may have some of the juice from the filling run out, but this is supposed to be a rustic sort of pie and a little juice will likely come out of little seams anyway.

9.  Place the sheet with the galette in the oven for about 40 minutes, keeping an eye open to make sure it doesn’t burn. When it is done, remove the galette from the oven and let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.