Gluten-free salted chocolate cookies

Gluten-Free and Vegan Salted Chocolate Cookies | A Dash of Compassion

It’s been a little dusty around here lately.

Back in January, I mentioned our big plans to renovate the kitchen this year. Since then, we’ve been in talks with a local design-build group to help us create a functional, open-space kitchen design by removing the wall between our kitchen and dining room. I envisioned bright white cabinets that extend to the ceiling, shiny new appliances and a long island. We had an engineer in to confirm the wall we want to remove isn’t structural, and I’ve been consumed with design decisions like cabinet styles, appliance brands and hardware.

Fast forward nine months and here we are, in the midst of renovation chaos. My hubby took on the demolition—he loves to smash things and it saved us a ton of money—and we’ve got electricians and plumbers coming in and out, while my three cats hang out in the basement wondering what the bleep is going on above them.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Salted Chocolate Cookies | A Dash of Compassion

They haven’t been too lonely down there, since I’ve set up a makeshift kitchen in the basement so I wouldn’t be completely out of sorts for the next few months. While I’m down there, they perch on top of the cardboard boxes–as if they’re protecting my precious kitchen treasures–and watch me stir together my breakfast oats or chop veggies for salad (luckily we were able to fit the old fridge down there so I had somewhere to store my produce).

I don’t think I could survive this reno if it wasn’t for my small, counter-top appliances that can be used outside of the kitchen. It’s been pretty easy to blend together a smoothie in my Blendtec or whip up a batch of hummus in my food processor. And luckily, Breville generously sent me a Smart Oven Pro to experiment with, and so far I can honestly say it’s been a lifesaver.

The Book of Veganish is here + a giveaway!

Veganish-collage-550x724

I’m super excited that The Book of Veganish officially hits store shelves today! This book was a team project between New York Times bestselling authors Kathy Freston (of Veganist) and Rachel Cohn, Robin Robertson as the recipe creator, and me as food photographer. I’m so happy I got to be a part of it!

Kathy and Rachel are ahead of the game with this book—they know more and more young adults are becoming curious about the vegan lifestyle and that this new and upcoming generation is bound to do better, so they set out to create the ultimate beginner’s toolkit for exploring a plant-based lifestyle.

The Book of Veganish info and giveway! | A Dash of Compassion

Although I’m years beyond the “young adult” category, this book is a light-hearted and fun read. It really is the ultimate guide for anyone–at any age—interested in the why and how of moving away from eating animals, whether it’s to rock your body, or because you’re concerned about the environment, or the idea of eating animals isn’t sitting well with you these days. The info is presented in simple, non-pretentious language, and it’s anything but preachy. Kathy coined the term “veganish” to emphasize that turning away from eating animals is a process, and it’s all about doing the best you can. I absolutely love that, because when it comes down to it, this lifestyle is about intention, not perfection. The book is jam-packed with encouragement and love and easy-to-understand research that will help to inform the journey.

The book also includes 70 crazy delicious and ridiculously simple recipes (I know they’re good because I made them all!) and 60+ photos by me. Beyond the recipes and super helpful advice about the whys and hows of this lifestyle, Kathy also offers awesome suggestions for grocery shopping, meal planning, and veganizing dishes.

Want to win yourself a copy? Thanks to Avery Books, I have a copy to give away to one lucky ADC reader. The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US. Use the widget below to enter and I’ll choose a random winner on Tuesday, September 13, 2016. Good luck!

Jackie’s scramble burrito bowl

Scramble Burrito Bowl | A Dash of Compassion

If I had to pick just one type of meal to live on for the rest of my life, it would likely be some type of plant-packed bowl. Although I don’t often share photos on Instagram of my evening meals, you can bet that 99.9% of the time I’m eating a bowl of greens, topped with quinoa, lentils, broccoli, carrots, green peas or other veggies, along with a side of hummus and kimchi. Now that is my kind of meal.

Often simple, and always nourishing, vegan bowls are where it’s at these days, as many bloggers are professing their love for these one-dish meals.

Vegan Bowl Attack! review and recipe | A Dash of Compassion

Lucky for us, my friend Jackie Sobon of the popular Vegan Yack Attack blog recently published her first cookbook—and it’s all about bowls! Inside you’ll find more than 100 one-dish, plant-based bowls that are sure to please any appetite.

Within the book’s seven chapters, Jackie shares recipes for breakfast bowls, lil’ snack bowls, soup and salad bowls, entrée bowls, dessert bowls, and bowl essentials (sauces, spreads, dips and drizzles). She covers a wide spectrum of unique and traditional dishes, taking inspiration from an array of culinary styles and ethnic cuisines.

When it comes to the recipes themselves, the options are endless. We’re talking peanut butter pretzel oatmeal, spicy sushi bowl, Buffalo jackfruit dip, mezze fusion bowl, cookies ‘n’ cream dip, and no-bake cherry cheesecake, among many others. (Are you hungry yet?)

Raspberry-oatmeal breakfast wedges

Raspberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Wedges | A Dash of Compassion

“Let’s get this thing started!” is what I want to yell from the rooftops. I am a little antsy to finalize design plans for our upcoming kitchen reno so that it can get started… and get finished.

But alas, there are still decisions to be made and cabinets and other items to be ordered. Who knew these things need to be finalized and ordered a whole month before we even begin construction? Lesson one of #mykitchenreno: Be patient, Nicole.

Raspberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Wedges | A Dash of Compassion

We had an engineer in a couple of weeks ago to confirm the wall we want to remove between the kitchen and dining room is not a load-bearing wall. Thank the structural gods that this is the case, otherwise we would have had to add on several more weeks (months?) and a boatload of cash to deal with city permits, engineer designs, steel beams, and who-knows-what-else.

That’s one big plus so far, but I can’t help but worry about what sort of issues we’ll encounter once we start demo—plumbing, electrical, wonky ceiling bulkheads to deal with, and whatever other issues are typical of a house that was built in the early 1900s. Before I become a complete stress case, I’m going to keep enjoying the fact that I have a working kitchen currently and reminding myself of the end goal of the reno so I don’t overthink every last detail. If there’s one thing previous home renos have taught me, it’s to not make yourself crazy over all the worst-case scenarios before things even begin. Lots of people survive big home renos, and I will too. (I think. I hope.)

My favourite taco salad with spicy lentils and easy vegan cheese sauce

Taco Salad with Spicy Lentils and Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce | A Dash of Compassion

Earlier this year, I made a pretty bold statement about how much I despise new year resolutions. Instead, I shared with you a number of items on my most recent list of ongoing goals (that have nothing at all to do with losing weight or giving up a bad habit). Actually, most things on that list focused on an upcoming major home renovation: the kitchen. In the last few months we’ve had some progress on the planning front—we’ve found what seems to be a decent design-build firm to take on the project, bought a new range (my hubby found an amazing deal on a Wolf; lucky me!), decided on a layout and general design, and had an engineer in to assess the wall we’re planning on removing.

All exciting stuff, sure, but I must say: I’m scared to death, and a little (no, A LOT) nervous about the idea of giving up my kitchen for who-knows-how-long.

Taco Salad with Spicy Lentils and Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce | A Dash of Compassion

For someone who is so used to DIYing in the kitchen and making the majority of my meals at home and from scratch, I can’t stand the thought of eating out as much as we will need to because we won’t have the appliances or capacity to do otherwise. I’m sure most people would love the thought of having someone else make their meals for months, but not me. I have this thing where I want to know exactly what’s in my food and who’s been touching it.

So what’s a girl to do? Make as many of my favourite meals as I can before the dreaded demo day is here.