Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vegan Dishes All Over the Globe!

Vegan Wanderlust created this fantastic directory of vegan foods around the globe! When I read "from every country, a-z", I of course had to make sure Armenia was mentioned--and it was!

Although I wish all of the submissions were actual vegan-by-default foods rather than substitute dishes, it is still a good reference to keep on hand for those who travel with food on their minds :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Լոլիկ/Վարունգ (Tomato/Cucumber) Salad!

Everyone and their mothers know of the standard tomato/cucumber summer salad. When tomatoes are in season and actually taste good, this salad is in my house all day every day.

We call it the լոլիկ/վարունգ (lolig/varunk) salata/salad around these parts, and it basically holds the same ingredients, only with some minor things being changed every now and then. It is great on its own, or can compliment any meal.

So when my good friend Shaghig came over for the day, I made this salad for us to eat. She loved it and even though I know what I made is very typical in terms of the usual recipe, I mentally noted I could be pretentious about this too. A few days later, Shaghig messaged me to ask what the ingredients were in "that amazing Vahe Jingalian* salad" I made.

Double-take to the extreme. This salad can be called a summer salad, լոլիկ/վարունգ salata, tomato/cucumber salad, but I had no idea what she meant by saying Vahe Jingalian. I confirmed she was talking about the same one I had made, and I sent her the recipe. The next time I saw her, she said it again, and I asked her why she was calling it that, and if there was a weird Lebanese-Armenian meaning behind it. Shaghig put my curiosity to rest and said, "I knew a guy named Vahe Jingalian. He was tall like a cucumber and spoke as if he had a tomato in his mouth."

From that day forth (like four days ago) it was forever decided that this salad would officially be referred to as "The Vahe Jingalian Salad". I don't know you Vahe Jingalian, but I can already tell we would become best friends forever, so this blog post is dedicated to you (and Shaghig of course).
What you need:
-A few in season and plump tomatoes
-Spring onions or half a large yellow onion
-3-4 cucumbers! The ones with pimples on them meant for pickling
-Half a juicy lemon or red wine vinegar
-Olive oil
-Mint leaves or dried mint
-Fresh parsley (optional)
-Zeytoun (olives) - optional but just do it
-Cut the delicious tomatoes up real nice in cubic pieces.
-You must cut the onions next. My mom taught me this so do it in this order or she will come after you if you don't. Once you cut them, mix them with the tomatoes right away and add a little salt. The salt makes the onions calm down in taste, and keeps the tomatoes from becoming too watery.
-Chop the cucumbers in quarters.
-Add the fresh or dry mint (I say any amount is not enough but put as much as you please I guess) and a few sprigs of chopped up parsley.
-Add the lemon or a few TBSPs of red wine vinegar, and olive oil.
-Throw in some pitted or not pitted kalamata olives.
Done! Simple, easy, refreshing, and delicious. Oh, Vahe Jingalian, wherever you are, I can only hope all of these traits are applicable to you as well.
*Name may have been slightly altered to avoid offending Mr. Vahe Jingalian, although being associated with this salad should really be a compliment.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Vegan Banana Ice Cream!

Dudes, it is hot. I am in Canada for the summer, and while I constantly remind myself the weather is nothing like that of Yerevan right now (my poor friends), there is no denying that it is still upper-lip sweat-inducing hot.
This is my soul mate for I also have a flip phone & take my anger out on sweat
There are many ways people can try to fight the heat--whether its by jumping in any and every body of water they find, living life in an air-conditioned cafe or in front of a non-stop fan, or of course consuming ice cream all day every day.

This post is about the last option. I have always loved ice cream and it quickly became my favourite dessert. No matter how full you are, if you have even a little bit of a sweet tooth that needs to be dealt with, ice cream is always perfect. When I went vegan, on top of assuming I was going to miss out on most of my favourite foods (plot twist: I didn't), I also mentally said good bye to my dear ice cream, not yet knowing about the many dairy-free alternatives out there, my favourite being anything made with coconut milk.

As I was soon reunited with ice cream, and began having an interest in cooking and making alternatives myself, of course vegan ice cream was on the top of my list. There are lots of options available, including ones that do not require you to have an ice cream maker--and that is the kind I want to focus on. Quick, easy, delicious, refreshing, vegan, and only requires one appliance. Done.

I've always heard about bananas being great ice cream substitutes, and a few times I had frozen some chopped up pieces to find they do become super creamy and delicious, but I never actually made ice cream with them.

Then I saw this post on this Facebook group, and decided it was time. A couple friends and I were set to finally watch a sad movie we had been meaning to watch together for years called Mayreeg, whose main star Omar Sharif has sadly passed away recently, and we thought a little ice cream post-sad movie seemed like a good idea. It was. I made a very basic version of this recipe and it was incredibly creamy and delicious, but recipes like this are always meant to be experimented with, with additional flavours added or little kicks to personalize it.

I wanted to make an ice cream version of an almond butter-based smoothie I tried once, and therefore used some dates, almond butter, cinnamon and some soy milk as I'm not fancy enough to have coconut milk just lying around. One day.

The only thing you have to do in advance for this recipe is freeze a few bananas. All you need for this part are a few bananas, a knife and a ziploc bag:
Next you just cut the bananas into smaller pieces so when they freeze it is easier to process them:
Then simply add the cut up pieces into the ziploc bag, making sure to close it properly and keep it in the freezer until they are frozen. While this only takes a few hours, you can always keep some in the freezer so that when the urge strikes to make banana ice cream, the "longest" part is already over.
Once your bananas are frozen, the next step is super easy and quick as long as you have a food processor or blender, so you can enjoy your banana ice cream in no time! Once my bananas were ready, I organized all of the other ingredients I wanted to add--as you can see below. Always learn from my mistakes my blog-babies and remember to let the bananas defrost for a few minutes before putting them in the food processor. I forgot to do that and regret that even as I write this.
After a few minutes, add your bananas to the food processor or blender, and add all of your dry ingredients. In my case, it was a few dates, coconut flakes, cinnamon and almond butter.
Next just begin processing the mix. If you were patient and allowed the bananas to defrost unlike me, this will be super quick and easy, and you can even avoid adding any liquid. In this case, I added some soy milk gradually to keep everything running smoothly.
Done! I added most of the ice cream to a glass container to keep in the freezer and had the remaining right on the spot with some extra cinnamon and flax seed powder sprinkled on top. I then followed every single family member who was unfortunately home until they would try it, compliment it, and I could say (yell) "IT'S VEGAN!" to them. Muahaha.
Absolutely refreshing, creamy beyond words, and delicious. Much healthier than any store bought ice cream as the only sweeteners are the bananas themselves and the dates, the latter of which of course has some fibre to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Adding some flax seed powder at the end adds some more fibre as well as EFAs, and the cinnamon adds nice flavour while also helping in regulating blood sugar levels. I actually think the dates are not 100% necessary as the bananas are quite sweet, but one or two can still be fine. I look forward to trying this with different spices as well as adding some different fruits with the banana to make it taste like a sorbet! The possibilities are endless!