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It was an unexpected surprise, to hear my mom suggest driving up for the weekend along with my sister, carrying pantry reinforcements of cocoa powder, vanilla extract, organic beer, sprinkles, and BC golden syrup!  Easter obviously isn’t an epic day on my calendar, but it is gorgeous to celebrate anything with family, and so I made a ton of fresh summer rolls with two kinds of dipping sauce to remedy whatever fast food travesty they’d had to eat on the drive to my place.  Which totally worked!  And I made lime & poppyseed cupcakes, filled and topped with mango compote and swirled with vanilla frosting, and star sprinkles on top, because hey, it’s the time of year for excess sugar and pastel colours, I think.  So yummy!  I think they’re actually improving with age, too, flavours melding… I had one for breakfast today, shhhh! :D
We also hit that store with the crazy sales, whereupon we filled our recyclable plastic bags full of fresh udon packets and coconut cream powder and nori seaweed AND these beautiful little herbal tangerine candies I found.  All for a dollar!  I like the tin especially.
Brunch at Aux Vivres, which makes maybe only my third time there, ever.  The hot spot vegan spot of hot vegan dining, and I’ve barely gone —  I know!  Anyway, I got to see their take on a vegan brunch plate, which my sister ordered, piled high with melt-in-your-mouth tofu scramble (they use medium firm and load it with nooch), maple-y tempeh bacon strips, sweet potato fries, an excellent salad with dressing I forgot to identify, and cornbread with jalapeno in it.  Yum!  Not to mention pretty as a painting if anyone ever wanted their breakfast to cheer them up with sheer resemblance to flowers alone.

Mom ordered the chickpea masala on fresh chapati with apple chutney inside – this one I’ve had before and it is sweet slurpy savoury delicious, as well as MORE than enough food for two people, with a salad alongside.  If you’re ever so devoid of protein that only a total refuel will do, order this thing and you’ll be set like superman!

And I?  I was the lucky one.  At the bottom of the menu I spotted a new item, something special… a Montreal smoked meat seitan sandwich, piled all high up with mustard, mayo, pickles and creamy coleslaw on the side… OMG.  It was *crazily* like the roast beef sandwiches I used to eat sometimes, *utterly* delicious, *such* a treat.  The bread was soft and awesome, too.  I think the neatest thing was pulling the second half out of the fridge the next day and almost feeling like I was in my teens again, just eating any old thing I found around. :p

Witness the lovvvvve!!!  They done seitan right, they did…. really soft and spiced perfectly.

cake!  only slightly dented after a trip in a to-go tray 
And!  Should I mention some huge news?  If anyone remembers my old roommate and vegan chef extraordinaire P, well… she’s moved back to the city and become… the primary baker at Aux Vivres!  The whole pastry counter – that’s her!  So I had to sample a massive decadent slice of chocolate apple cake.  Don’t let the apple thing steer you wrong on this cake, either, it is dense and rich and iced with an epic ganache, studded with just enough apple to make the flavour nuanced, with a raspberry sauce served on the side… you should go for this.  Or for any of the desserts!  I am certainly going back to sample other things, I consider it my duty as a friend.   To eat… sugar and chocolate.  My duty!!  As a friend!!  WEll, it is.  :D

Anyone who knew me in my omni days knows that I practically lived off of chicken shawarmas. Being from Ottawa, that’s not too surprising — we have a billion shawarma shops and most of them are mind-blowingly good. There’s even a (sadly defunct) blog devoted to reviewing them all! Basically, it’s a middle eastern wrap sandwich on chewy, paper thin flatbread layers, with slow grilled chicken, hummous, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, yogurt sauce, garlic mayonnaise, and most importantly – pickled pink turnips.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve waxed poetic about those turnips before. Actually I’m almost positive I have. So holy cow was I over the moon to find out how EASY they are to make!! It goes like so:

Pickled Pink Turnips for Pitas (or Torshi Left)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup white vinegar
– 1 cup water
– 2 tbsp salt
– 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
– 2 lb. of turnip (I used one a little bigger than a softball)
– 1 small beet
– celery leaves (optional)

What You Do:

1. Cut the ends off of the beet and turnips and boil for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the water and peel.

2. Slice the beet and cut the turnip into french fry sticks, and put those in a big clean jar with the garlic and celery leaves.

3. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil to dissolve, then pour it over the vegetables. Seal and leave it on the counter for ten days, then refridgerate. (*ahem* – I tore through half of them in the first night, soooooo…… :D)

4. Load up a big fat sandwich with garlic mayo, falafel, vegetables fixins’ and some of those beautiful pickles and enjoy! I swear it’s worth the three minutes of effort – it takes falafel to the moon and back, they’re so awesome.

And look at that! Cabbage rolls, but would you believe that they were probably the most delicate and refreshing thing I’ve had all summer? I went from this recipe, made a few minor adjustments, and was sooooo happy with the results, it was worth every bit of wrestling with a boiling hot cabbage and more than a few dirty pots and pans.

Orphaned Greek Cabbage Rolls with Fresh Herbs (or Lahanodolmathes Orphana)

Ingredients:
– 30 cabbage leaves (one huge head cabbage)
– 3 cups of cooked rice
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 3 ripe medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used 1 tomato and 2 tbsps of tomato paste)
– 2/3 cup finely chopped zucchini
– 1 rounded tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
– 1 rounded tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
– 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1 cup vegetable broth
– 1-2 tbsp Earth Balance
– juice of one lemon

What To Do:

1. Combine onion, rice, tomatoes, zucchini, dill, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil in a bowl.

2. Remove the core of the cabbage, and stick a large fork into the center. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and immerse the cabbage, leaving the fork in. When the outer leaves turn bright green, remove using the fork and remove softened leaves. Return to pot and repeat until all cabbage leaves have been removed.

3. Use a sharp knife to trim the thick part of the stem off of the leaves (this will make it easier to roll). For large rolls, place a 3-4 tablespoons of filling 1 inch from the thick end of the cabbage leaf. Fold the bottom over the filling, fold the sides in, and roll up. Place in a large baking dish. Repeat with all the leaves and filling.

4. Dot with margarine, and bake covered at 375 for 1 hour. Pour the lemon juice over the rolls 20 minutes before they’re done baking. Serve warm, room temperature, or – best of all – cold from the fridge.

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