Beans, Beans. They’re Good…


We all know the rhyme. Even my kids refuse to take them for lunch at school and I don’t blame them. It’s because of the curse that I refused to go near them throughout my entire teenage years.

Quite possibly just a myth, we all got over it with this latest batch. I’ve tried the classic Boston version and never one to be too much into the tomatoey version, I’ve always been partial to the sweet Canadian maple variety.
However, I’m getting BPA picky and costofevenacanofbeans choosy, so I ventured out for another home try.

At literally pennies for a cup of beans, dried are so the way to go for so many reasons. Cheap yes, but they really aren’t as intimidating as one would think. After simply soaking them in water, in the same pot I would later cook them in, they were tender and ready to go into the crockpot in about the same time as it took me to prep and get everything else together!

GREAT WHITE NORTHERN BEANS

3 Cups Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight
1 1/2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Small Onion, finely diced (about 1/2 Cup)
1 Apple, peeled and finely diced (about 1 Cup)
1 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
2 – 3 Cups Water, reserved from the beans

Once the beans have soaked overnight, make sure they still have about 3 inches of water covering them and bring them to a boil in a large stockpot for about 55 minutes or until just tender.
Meanwhile heat the crockpot to high. Add the oil diced onion and apple. Cover and let it begin to cook and soften.
Measure off the ketchup in a large, pourable measuring cup.
Add the mustard, salt, brown sugar and vinegar, stirring to combine.
Once the beans are soft, drain, reserving the liquid.
Add the beans to the crockpot along with the onion and apple.
Pour over the prepared ingredients and the maple syrup.
Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved bean water and stir to combine well.
Cook on high heat setting for about 5 hours or low for 8 hours until beans are quite soft and very flavourful.
Add more liquid as necessary and adjust salt to taste.

Sheppard’s Pie


Usually I’d be eating something like this in the dead of winter not the first of Spring.
I’ve been doing my best to enjoy a salad every day, plus, just posted about digging up those Sunchokes, for goodness sake!
But it’s snowing!! Not a lot, but too much. It’s cold and dreary and it’s not supposed to be spring again until Thursday.
I’ve had to go back into the storage and dig out the surrendered mittens and while I was there, I couldn’t help but stumble upon the big pot and and idea.
Sweaters = Comfort Food.
If I have to endure this never ending flurry of winter, then I’m getting a few of my favourite things out of it in the process.
…And one of them would certainly be this.

VEGAN SHEPPARD’S PIE

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 340g Package Veggie Ground Round OR 1 1/2 Cups Chopped, Prepared Seitan
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Cup Button or Crimini Mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth or Water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

About 4 Large (Russet) Potatoes, peeled and diced
Soy milk and vegan butter for mashing

A few big handfuls (1 heaping cup) of Frozen English Green Peas

Heat the oil in a large stock pot and add the chopped onion.
Stir the onion frequently until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ground soy, herbs and mushrooms, if using.
Stir to incorporate, then cover everything with the vegetable stock. Heat to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook gently for about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle over the arrowroot and stir it in well with a fork. Remove from the heat to thicken.
Taste, adding salt and pepper, if desired. (My ground soy came seasoned, so I completely skipped this part.)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. (If you’re eating now… this can be made in advance and frozen, covered, for later.)
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes, drain and mash (and season as you normally would with soy milk or the like etc.) until you get a smooth consistency.
To assemble, use a deep casserole pot, which preferably has a lid. First add the prepared soy mince, then top evenly with the frozen peas. Finally dot the top with the mashed potatoes and smooth with a spatula.
Cover and heat in the oven for about 20 – 30 minutes. The gravy sides should start to bubble around the edges.
Uncover for the last 10 minutes in the oven if you’d like a browner, crisper top.

Maple Syrup


When I was a kid I used to spend every school holiday up with my grandparents. They lived at the “cottage”, but to a kid it was paradise, specially for a city kid. They had killer tobogganing hills, skating, snowmobiles and nature as far as the eye could see. I was allowed to play with fire, build stuff and wander in the woods but best of all, every March Break, my Grampa would tap his maple trees and start collecting sap.

Ever since I’ve been about 10, I’ve wanted to learn the process from start to finish however the call back to school usually had other plans taking me away from the best part, the final product.

Now with years gone by, Grampa had put the maple gear into storage.
I have my own kids, flexibility and a food blog. It may have taken a few years of urging, but Greatest Grampa, how he’s now referred, dusted off the sap buckets and handed down one of the most awesomest candy thermometers I’ve ever seen.

In playing the role of Mom, I was able to take the kids out of school a few days before the break to head up north. The weather was ideal, so after packing too many clothes and boots for the changing of the seasons, we were off for our my long awaited visit with Greatest Nana and Greatest Grampa.

We were eagerly greeted by my Grandparents with scrubbed buckets and boots on. The weather had been cold the night before but was warming up nicely in the soon to be spring sunshine; ideal weather to get the sap running…

Since there aren’t any leaves, we were amazed at the knowledge and accuracy my grandfather, whom I’ve always thought was a genius anyway, was able to identify the Sugar Maples from the at least twenty varieties of trees he has growing in his quite diverse forest. With a drill and a spiel, we tapped the trees and hung the buckets, which were quickly chiming off a delicate symphony of drips into the galvanized pails below.

Next, we had to wait. Greatest Grampa had only brought down ten buckets, but after listening to the rapid drips of sap filling our buckets, we had caught the bug. We found water jugs and ice cream pails, you name it. If we could drill a hole into the side of it, it was soon hanging from a tree. All in all we doubled our collection and headed off to the local Maple Syrup Festival to pass the time. The kids saw, and tasted what was about to come their way.

By the end of the second day we’d collected enough sap to begin our first boil.

Sap is mostly water, so it takes about 40 times the sap to make one part syrup.
Thinking it had to by much more complicated than it was, I was sure that there had to be more to it when we were told that we “Just cook it.” I will cook just about anything and so we continued onward this adventure in syrup making. We were given a large soldered pan, which I’m sure my Grampa must have manufactured himself all those years ago.

When we started the cooking process, we realized we were soon referring to the boiling sap as, “Our Baby”. How precious it became as we watched our heavy sap just evaporate into the air. Slowly but surly it cooked down, only to be replenished by more sap until the last liter of the batch had been added. Shadowed through the bright sunshine we watched as the nearly clear liquid gave way to a light mapley shade of amber. The smell of cooking sap is amazing. The sweet steam warming our chilled cheeks, faintly reminded me of Shrove Tuesdays past. Finally we tasted, pondered and, of course, tasted some more.
Once we had deemed it worthy, we packed a sips worth into a cup and trotted up from the cottage, through the bush to Greatest Grampa’s house in the forest.

Anxious. “Maybe a little underdone.” We were told. But better under than over, as we learned. Apparently syrup is quite forgiving… phew.

Of course, pancakes were made to celebrate. Certainly a sweet success.

Best Vegan Visitor Recipes of 2008


ytd2008

JANUARY

The citrus obsessed that I am decided away with diets and and that pink grapefruits were way underused:
Red Grapefruit Curd Filled Donuts

Every winter likes the cold and every winter I battle it with something extra warm:
Creamless Potato Leek Soup


FEBRUARY

This Chili continued to warm + what would the Superbowl be without it’s tailgate chili?
Superbowl of Chili

And this was just goood:
Cape Gooseberry & Raspberry Clafouti


MARCH

Daring Baker’s sent me the perfect gift. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for my own birthday cake:
Perfect Party Cake

A March break get-away might have almost gotten me trapped by a snowstorm, but it was Montréal. I was hardly complaining:
Maple Madeleines


APRIL

It’s my daughter’s birthday in April and it just wouldn’t be tradition if she didn’t get her “Favourite Things Dinner”.  She’s six, I’ll give you one guess what her favourite thing is to eat:
Cheeseless Macaroni n’ Cheese

Spring and weeds. If you can’t beat ’em, EAT them:
Warm New Potato & Dandelion Salad

After breaking out the BBQ for the first grill of the season, I discovered one of the best soups ever with the leftovers:
Cedar Smoked Asparagus Soup


MAY

A peanut butter cookie bomb became one of my favourite desserts:
Peanut Butter Caramel Tarts

Mother’s Day brunch wouldn’t be complete without cake. And what better one than this coffee cake developed from my Nana’s own recipe box:
Also Goes Great With Tea Coffee Cake

JUNE

Squeaking it in for the last of the school year. I couldn’t resist buying more snacks for lunches, so I replicated them instead (even though I was made fun of for it):
Chewy Nut-Free Granola Bars

Getting sick of watching countless sandwich crusts go to waste, I came up with a solution. I saved the crusts and made bread pudding. Waste Not:
Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding
JULY

Summer’s in full swing with heat beaters and last minute evening parties. I took full advantage of the garden’s offerings with these easy recipes:
Rose Infused Strawberry Sorbet
Scape Salsa Verde Potato Salad
AUGUST

This was time consuming, but boy it was good:
Summer Pea Ravioli

The cherries were awesome this year, sweet and almost never ending. When I *almost* became tired of spitting pits, I decided I could finally bake with cherries more instead:
Cherry Streusel Muffins
SEPTEMBER

One of my favourite times of year. You know it, when there are too many tomatoes to eat at once. Never a fan of it as a kid, still I tried my own swing at it and will forever be changing my tune about tomato soup:
Heirloom Tomato Soup

Tree-fruit season YAY:
Gingered Peach Shortbread Bars
OCTOBER
Have I not yet mentioned how much I like autumn and the tree fruit? This was so easy, especially when tearing through a freshly picked bag of apples before our vacation:
Apple Upside-down Cake

Super good, super easy and quick autumn-y gnocchi with one of my most favourite flavour combinations:
Gnocchi with Butternut Squash & Spinach
NOVEMBER

Move over Charlie Brown, I’m the pumpkin patch junky. Never fails, ever November I find myself with, well, enough pumpkins to last me until next Halloween. This year I FINALLY made this:
Maple Pumpkin Butter

Everyone needs a quick go-to recipe to use up those browning bananas, and this one is it for us:
Ultra-Quick Banana Bread
DECEMBER

I took a scoop of that long over due pumpkin butter and added it to my favourite brownie batter. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?:
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Honestly one of the best gingerbread men I’ve ever bitten the head off of:
Classic Gingerbread Cookies

Wow. What a year! Wishing you and yours the happiest 2009!

Countdown To Christmas: Dinner


Dinner, oh dinner.
Yeah, this is the big one. It’s also the one that by experience has proven that planning ahead, pop it in the oven kind of dinners are waaaay more enjoyable than missing out on events while slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, there really are so many relatively quick and impressive recipe options to choose from, so I can watch the yule log burn on the Apple tv and sip wine while I build some new lego…  (or play with cooking show Barbie – Shhhhhh.)

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without mashed potatoes. And although I’m sure you know how to make those, I’ve added a little roasted garlic to these. Not only does it make them extra good, it’s going to match up the rest of the dishes served.

Next are steamed green beans, because you can’t go wrong with those. I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t like them… even the picky seats at the kiddie table!

To balance things out, I just wouldn’t be a mother if I didn’t serve brussels sprouts. Actually, these are the one vegetables I was made to sit and stare at as a child but thankfully, I’ve learned to cook them properly. The trick is to under cook them, there the secret’s out – now stand back and watch and the hoards make way in the produce aisle! Briefly roasted with oil, then tossed with rosemary and a little of the dinner’s themed garlic seemed utterly delicious!

One of my most favourite sides I’ve made almost too many times to count. Popular around Thanksgiving, yet I haven’t made it for Christmas. Combine two of my favourites, it’s a creamy spinach and squash gratin.

The main attraction? Another relatively easy but impressive dish. Adapted from Gourmet’s November issue. This mushroom spinach pie has a little something for everyone with earthy mushrooms, spinach, walnuts and, of course, roasted garlic.

My favourite part? The pie seriously took me about six minutes to make it but it can be made hours in advance.

This dinner will serve 4- 6.

SIMPLE ROASTED GARLIC

3 Bulbs Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut the tops from each bulb and peel the outermost layers of papery skin from the garlic.
Coat each bulb well with the olive oil and roast for 30 – 35 minutes, until each bulb is soft, sticky and golden brown. Adding more oil or cover with foil, if necessary to avoid drying and over-browning.

ROASTED GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Bulb Roasted Garlic
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt, or to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Using a pressure cooker or traditional stove top method, boil the potatoes until soft.
Drain then mash by hand, those little lumps and bits are good.
Squeeze the cooled garlic from the skin into a bowl and mash with a fork.
Add the garlic, oil, continuing to mash until fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH + SPINACH GRATIN

This recipe can be made days ahead, up to the point of adding the crumb topping, which can be done while reheating.

1 Small Butternut Squash
1/2  Bulb Roasted Garlic, about 2 Tablespoons mashed
6 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves, packed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk, or unsweetened soy milk will do
1/2 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
1/8 teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Salt, scant
1/4 teaspoon Pepper, to your liking
2 Slices Whole Wheat bread
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crumbled – optional

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly spray a casserole dish with oil.
Sauté the spinach in the olive oil. Once wilted, remove with a squeeze and discard any extra liquid.
Slice the neck of the squash in to 1/4″ rounds. Remove the skin from the edge and evenly layer the bottom the casserole dish.
Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and pepper.
Top with sautéed spinach, nutmeg, another sprinkling of salt and pepper, then evenly dot with the roasted garlic.
Add another layer of squash to cover in an even layer, sprinkling over another pinch of the salt and pepper.
Combine the almond milk with the arrowroot powder and pour over the squash.
Tightly cover with foil and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile toast the bread slices to dry out completely. Either add to a food processor or chop finely by hand.
Add the butter and rosemary to the crumbs, mixing evenly.
Top the baked squash with the crumb mixture. Return it to the oven and continue to bake uncovered for about 10 minutes or until brown and crusty.

MUSHROOM SPINACH + WALNUT PIE

2 (397g) Packages Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Cups Sliced Mushrooms, I used crimini, but I’m doing shiitake for the next one.
8 Cups Baby Spinach, packed
1/4 Cup Walnuts, chopped
1 Bulb Roasted Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crumbled
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft and browned.
Remove the mushrooms to cool.
Add the remaining oil and sauté the spinach leaves. Squeeze over the bulb of roasted garlic and stir.
While the spinach wilts and the mushrooms cool, roll out the first package of dough into about a 12″x8″ rectangle.
Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Top the dough with the mushrooms, then the wilted spinach.
Sprinkle over salt, pepper, rosemary and chopped walnuts.
Roll out the remaining dough to top the pie, crimping and tucking the edges under.
Lightly score the top with a sharp blade, occasionally piercing for steam vents.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and crisp.

Vote For Me & Your Favourite Party Food


I have to say that I was not only pleasantly surprised but pretty proud that vegan choices are shortlisted over at the Marx Holiday Party Food Contest.
I was contacted last night and told that my recipes had made the finals, just in time for everyone’s last Holiday weekend of food prep! Finally, I think that it’s so great that options are out there for vegans and other Holiday guests with allergies or diet restrictions. Plus with a grand prize of $400, we could see some really fancy truffle recipes in the new year! Yum!

Since it’s the season of giving, please go and vote for me. For every vote that I get, no matter the outcome, I will be donating double that in a dollar amount to our city food bank.