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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Through the ages, the Prophecy told us that the Spice will Rise!

Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa

Pumpkin Spice - two words that now quintessentially bring up the amber and golden warm hues of Autumn, if not another name for the season itself, with pumpkin-flavoured drinks, snacks and even home decor items - candles, potpourri, fragrance diffusers, you name it - sprouting at every street corner. I cannot help but wonder whether the love for this spice has grown to be just another trend. Even shop decors are made to evoke the alluring aroma. Is there such a thing as pumpkin spice overdose? This sweet mellow warm spice seem to be pushing season boundaries by emerging earlier every year. But would we reach a point where pumpkin spice would merely be just another plain old flavour like vanilla?

As a kid, I have never known pumpkin spice. Being born and raised in a tropical island with only one and a half seasons - Summer and summery-Winter - this spice was uncommon and does not evoke any childhood memories related to pumpkin. As a matter of fact, the orange-skinned pumpkin is an uncommon vegetable in Mauritius. We only have the thick dark-green-skinned variety that is mostly used in savoury dishes, the flesh being a lot less sweet. So, pumpkin-spiced-anything is a relatively new thing for me, and me being a foodie, I feel drawn by curiosity more than anything else. With a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, I would tend to use this spice more in savoury dishes like biryanis or kalias although I do think it will work well in a halwa recipe.

That all said, imagine my delightful intrigue when I had the chance to have a taste of the So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk that was delivered to my door, along with two other flavours - Mint Chocolate and Nog.

So Delicious Flavoured Coconut Milk

So Delicious produces a range of products that are mostly coconut-milk-based. Since my local store only carries a few of their icecreams that contain carrageenan, I do not tend to buy this brand as often. But because of people's concerns over this red seaweed, the company is doing a lot of effort to replace carrageenan from their products. They already have a range of coconut milks that are carrageenan-free and I can't wait for all the rest to become carrageenan-free too; I'll be able to stock up on great icecreams when I make the trip to the health store once a month!

Back to our flavoured milks, the Mint Chocolate and Nog are still awaiting the taste test, since all the drinks in this range can conveniently be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf. But as for the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk, I have taken my time and tried it in a few ways - as a drink on its own (hot, room temperature and cold), mixed with other ingredients (tea, coffee, hot chocolate and smoothies) and in recipes.

The first thing I noticed - when I had it at room temperature right after I opened the box - is that it is a tad bit too sweet for my taste. But, mind you, this is just me because Boyfriendlovlie did not find it too sweet (he takes two sugars in his tea and I take none in mine!). In general, I don't like sweet milk unless it is really cold. So, for that reason, I found that it tasted a lot better once very chilled. Indeed, I much preferred it cold. The second thing to note is the consistency which is quite thick. On its own, I can hardly manage to drink more than 1/4 cup. This isn't a bad thing though since you can dilute it with plain coconut milk/water, another non-dairy milk or even ice cubes if you are having it cold.

So Delicious Flavoured Coconut Milk

In other beverages, I much preferred it in coffee and hot chocolate than in tea, one of the reasons being, like I said, I don't take sugar in my tea but I do take a little in coffee and hot chocolate. In coffee and hot chocolate, this pumpkin spice drink does what it's suppose to do - make you feel all mellow and fuzzy inside, just wanting to curl up on the sofa with a good book or some crochet project (in my case).

The smoothie test turned out great with ingredients like raw butternut squash, banana, apple/ripe pear, a pinch of cocoa powder and a dash of cinnamon.

To use it in a food recipe, I tweaked my old halwa recipe, which is my favourite kind of halwa, and made a Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa; I didn't have enough carrots to make a 100% carrot one but I did have half a butternut squash and about a cup of cooked spaghetti squash leftover in the fridge for a good week now. If you don't have the squashes, go ahead and just replace them with carrots in the same amount as in the recipe.

After making this halwa, I must say that this So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Drink has won me over. I admit to having been conquered by the Spice! Just this once, this year: the Spice is with me!

Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa

Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa (a sweet dessert recipe)

Ingredients (serves 2)
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed (or half of a medium squash)
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1 medium carrot, grated
5 - 6 cardamon pods
2 - 3 Brazil nuts, ground (or about 1/4 cup ground almond. I am only using Brazil nuts because I am less allergic to them.)
2/3 cup So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Raisins and nuts for garnish

  • In a thick bottom or non-stick pan, add sugar along with 2 tablespoons of water. Do not stir with a spoon but just let it heat and melt until sugar turns into a thick caramel syrup and starts to slightly bubble. You may grab the pan itself and tilt it to gently swirl the sugar around, helping it to melt.
  • At this point, add all the vegetables along with the cardamon pods. Stir and mix well with the syrup. Then cover and let cook on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water if it is drying up too fast.
  • After 15 minutes, the butternut squash would have soften enough. Mash them and let cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Next add the coconut milk and add the ground Brazil nuts (or almond). Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir. Increase the heat and allow the liquid to reduce. The halwa should look like a thick paste.
  • Lastly, add the coconut oil. Stir and mix well and turn off heat.

Halwa can be eaten warm or cold in bowls. They can be placed in a square dish, refrigerated then cut into squares. Garnish with raisins and nuts when serving.

Enjoy a little halwa treat this Fall and may the Spice be with you! Have you tried any of the So Delicious seasonal range yet? Share your thoughts and stay tuned for a review of the other two flavours: Mint Chocolate and Nog.

Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa

"Through the ages, the Prophecy told us that the Spice will Rise!"

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I've got my personal Chef at home: Low-fat Stir-fried Vegetable Spaghetti recipe ♥

Stir Fried Vegetable Spaghetti, vegan/vegetarian recipe

Have I ever mentioned that Boyfriendlovlie is quite a great cook? After blogging for so long, I am quite surprised that I have never blogged about and praised Boyfriendlovlie's culinary skills. Mind you though, when we first met, more than a decade ago, he could barely even cut vegetables, let alone cooking. I remember his first attempt, which was way back during our pre-vegan days, at trying to cook me something. He made a big fry-up with meat burgers, sausages and potato chips. At that time he really thought he was going to impress me. Bless him. I did appreciate the gesture but it was just not my type of food even before going vegan. So, gradually he made the effort of learning how to cook real food and he can now master vegan curries, bechamels, pasta dishes, noodle dishes, rice dishes, soups and not forgetting delicious low-fat stir fries.

Quite candidly, I must admit that a spaghetti stir-fry is one dish that he masters better than I do. He makes it fried-noodle-style; I guess it may be because chow mein is one of his favourite food. We use spaghetti instead of noodles because we can never find a good quality Chinese-style noodle brand (that is also healthy). I am always concerned of the wax coating and the unwaxed noodles just turn to mush in a stir-fry. Homemade noodles is probably the way to go but I can never get to it; sadly, the pasta machine just sits in the cupboard.

For now, let's just sit back and enjoy this cooking demo of a low-fat Stir-fried Vegetable Spaghetti from my personal Chef at home (aka Boyfriendlovlie).

Stir-fried Vegetable Spaghetti
Ingredients (serves 2)

250 g dry spaghetti

1 inch ginger, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon minced ginger)
2 carrots
1 cup (or a handful) snow peas (mange-tout)
1/2 broccoli head
1 cup bean sprouts
6 - 7 fresh mushrooms
5 stems kale
1-2 stems scallions

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons jerk/bbq sauce
1 - 2 tablespoons shoyu soy sauce
1 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Black pepper and salt to taste

  • Bring a large pan of water to boil. Break spaghetti in half and boil until al dente. When spaghetti is cooked, drain water. Run cold water in the spaghetti, then drain again. (Running cold water in the spaghetti prevents it from sticking to one another until we are ready to use it). Set spaghetti aside.
  • Meanwhile, prepare vegetables: cut the broccoli into florets, cut the carrots into julienne (or thin strips), remove the strings from the snow peas, wash mushroom thoroughly then slice them.
  • Remove the middle stem from the kale, then cut the leaves into thin ribbons. Chop the scallions. Wash the bean sprouts and keep aside.
  • Once all vegetables are prepare, begin sauteing them by starting with the carrots.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil, in a deep large non-stick fry pan or wok. Add in the carrots. Saute for a couple of minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Next add in the broccoli pieces. No need to add any more oil. You can add a little water. Saute for 4 - 5 minutes then add the snow peas and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Next add the mushrooms. You may add a little teriyaki and bbq sauce. Stir and cook for 5 - 6 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Next add in the kale with a little water. Let cook until slightly wilted. Remove and set aside.
  • Now add all the pre-cooked veggies (carrots, broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms and kale) back into the frying pan. (You may turn off the heat at this point so that the vegetables do not overcook). Add the bean sprouts. Stir and mix all the veggies. Then remove and set aside.
  • Now heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the frying pan, add in the chopped ginger. Let cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the cook spaghetti.
  • Add the sauces: teriyaki, bbq, soy sauce and maple syrup. Stir and mix well. Add the lemon juice.
  • Next add all the pre-cooked vegetables back in and give everything a good stir. Taste and adjust salt & pepper. Cook for about a minute or so. Then, turn off heat.
  • It is best to serve straight-away as reheating may overcook the vegetables.
  • Garnish with the scallions and enjoy with your favourite hot sauce!
If you are cooking this in advance then I suggest you under cook the vegetables then when reheating the vegetables will be just right.

So, I do hope you've enjoy this recipe. Leave a dodo love (comment) for Boyfriendlovlie if you've enjoyed his recipe and cooking demo! A la prochaine!

Stir Fried Vegetable Spaghetti, vegan/vegetarian recipe

Friday, 17 October 2014

As Fit As Popcorn Can Get!

Popcorn Indiana Review

When it comes to vegan snacks, it can become quite a challenge in my case with my nuts-and-seeds allergy. While I do often make my own tasty homemade snacks, sometimes I just want the convenience of a store-bought one. So, when Popcorn Indiana offered to send on a sample of their popcorn for my review, I just couldn't refuse. Now, not all of their popcorn range is vegan but they do have a few varieties that are. But what really caught my attention is that Popcorn Indiana uses only non-GMO corn. I rarely ever buy even fresh corn, let alone popcorn, on this part of the planet namely because I cannot be sure they are non-GMO.
So, when I received a bag of Popcorn Indiana in the Fit range that was non-GMO, I was pretty excited.

Popcorn Indiana Review

As the name suggests, the Fit range has lower fat content with only 37 calories per cup.

Popcorn Indiana Review

This won my heart! Not only was this popcorn tastier and lighter than a few other brands I've tried before but it was also low in fat calories. And that's a big plus for me.

Popcorn Indiana Review

Well, I was happy to find out that this brand was available at my local grocery store. Quite a few packs have landed in my shopping cart. However, I guess I've been munching on these tasty fluffs a little too much; popcorn can be quite damaging to teeth if the bits of shell get stuck in between. I have learnt my lesson (or maybe not quite): too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Well, not too bad though. Happy munching if you find some Popcorn Indiana on your way. I am hoping they will introduce some more vegan options in other flavours.

Popcorn Indiana Review

Disclosure: All opinions are my own. I received the above mentioned product for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received from Popcorn Indiana for the review.

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