One of the things I’ve been reading up on for the last couple of months is the vegan diet and lifestyle. I have a new friend who walks the walk and she’s been sharing all kinds of new food ideas and information with me. While I certainly admire her conviction, personally I don’t have the discipline to keep it up. But, I do like vegetarian meals and have been enjoying the experimenting enormously.

Honestly, I would encourage everyone to try a vegan-day at lest once. The best way I can think to describe it is that it’s a very clean way of eating. Not just in the ethical sense, but in the way you physically feel when you’ve had a balanced vegan meal. The fear for me was that I’d be hungry again an hour later, but good veggie proteins and heavy greens (Kale, Swiss Chard, Bok Choy, Spinach etc.) actually stay with you a long time and don’t leave you feeling heavy or greasy the way a lot of meaty meals can.

Last weekend I prepared my first ever vegan birthday dinner! Complete with dark chocolate vegan cupcakes, (which I would make over most of my usual cake recipes now. I thought they’d be dry but they were nice, moist and spongy). It took a bit of reading on substitutions, but overall I think it came out really well. We had grilled Tempeh steaks marinated in a five-spice, ginger, olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix. (One I usually use for preparing BBQ pork, but it worked.) Served with a rosemary dijon sauce, (substituting dairy cream for soy cream, which is also surprisingly good in coffee). Sauteed Kale and a butternut squash risotto, (veggie broth instead of chicken stock, almond milk instead of dairy, no cheese but still lots of wine!).

We had a hot and sour soup appetizer, which was the recipe I liked the most and there was lots left over for lunches. I found it on the Veggie Guy blog and made a few alterations to personal taste, but I thought it was worth sharing. It’s very warm and comforting to have on these snowy days we’ve been having.

Veggie Hot and Sour Soup

8 oz. sliced mushrooms (white button mushrooms, cremini, portobella, straw mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms)
1 package (16 oz) extra firm tofu, drained and sliced into 1/4 ” x 1/2″ strips
1 bunch scallions
1 carrot, grated (I used a couple of hand fulls of organic “carrot slaw” mix. It’s pre-sliced carrots and broccoli stalks, nice for flavour variety)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 oz. ginger, grated
4 cans vegetable broth (or 2 900ml cartons)
2 cups water
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili sauce (hot or sweet, to taste)

Pour water, vegetable broth, rice vinegar, white vinegar in a stock pot or large soup pot on medium high heat. Stir frequently until liquid starts to boil.

Chop scallions, add to liquid, saving some of the green part for garnish. Add remainder of ingredients and cover. If you like a thicker soup, 2tbsp of cornstarch was originally part of the recipe, but I like the clear broth.)

Heat for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with remaining scallions.