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.

Tofu & Chickpea Tagine


Ever wonder what came of those preserved lemons? Or just what to do with them?
Now that I’m detoxing and the only fruits allowed are lemons and bananas. I couldn’t have been happier now that I’ve made them. One of the key ingredients in several Moroccan dishes, these mellowed lemons add just the perfect flavour, lifting something that could have been heavy to a fresh new height.

Since this was the first meal that I would be making for visitors while I’ve been on the detox I was obviously compelled to be sure it wasn’t boring. The last thing I wanted was to showcase the potential dark side of a detox. Really, the truth be told, I’ve been having a great time being challenged to get creative in the kitchen again and I wanted it to show. This lively dinner, with it’s combination of spices and the lemon certainly didn’t disappoint.

TOFU & CHICKPEA TAGINE

1 Block Extra Firm Tofu, pressed to remove excess liquid
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 scant teaspoon Sea Salt
1 scant Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, well chopped
1 Large Onion, sliced
1 – 540ml/19oz Can Chickpeas, rinsed
1 – 540ml/19oz Can White Kidney Beans, rinsed
1 1/2 Preserved Lemons, rind only – rinsed
1 1/2 Cups water

Press the tofu between two plates to remove execss liquid. Then, slice into 1 inch (2cm) cubes.
Combine the olive oil, spices, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cubed tofu and toss to coat. Cover and let it sit to marinade for at least one hour.

Heat a large sauté pan and fry the tofu over a medium-high heat until it is dry and beginning to crisp.
Remove from the pan and add the sliced onions to cook being sure to soak up any remaining bits of the marinade.
Rinse and remove the pulp from the preserved lemons. Dice the peel and add, along with both the onions and the tofu, to a large pot. Add the rinsed chickpeas and settle over a moderate heat.
In a separate bowl add the white kidney beans and the water. Using a potato masher, crush the beans, then add to the other ingredients, stirring well to combine.
Heat through, adjust seasoning where necessary.
Serve over a chewy brown rice, couscous (if not detoxing) or quinoa with a handful of extra cilantro.

Serves 6 – 8

The New Vegan Frontier


I had this realization at the grocery store the other day. It’s something I’ve obviously not given enough thought. I mean, I know why people have food restrictions and I know that there are many reasons. There are people in my family are allergic to wheat and dairy and a large reason because of that is why this site exists. I’m fairly conscientious but never though, have I gone out and so rigorously read every ingredient that went into my shopping basket. What was once simple shopping took an hour and a half.

I’m aware of the easiest ways to healthier eating and that’s making everything yourself. But after this experience, I couldn’t believe it more true. The sneaky binders and unfortunate ingredients that “deprive” those of a delicious waffle. After a few let downs there was excitement. I’d find new produce or the wheat-free, gluten-free, yeast-free bread that will remain nameless to excite me into a tizzy. I was about ready to start this detoxing cleanse.

My biggest splurge was to finally buy a rice cooker. I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t done this earlier and now it sits happily along sit my Kitchen Aid as one of my favourite appliances. Shameful to admit, I’ve never been a stellar rice steamer myself. Iffy at best, I’d cross my fingers and hope not to burn it on the bottom or lift the lid early exposing a soggy mess. Amazing that this basic food is one of my favourites and when cooked right, tastes like a delicacy to me. Naturally, I was inspired and created one of my first meals for the detox as a rice bowl.

Totally versatile, starting with a mix of brown and wild rice, I added many of my grocery shop finds; broccolini, roasted squash, pea shoots and bean sprouts. To it was a great maple baked tofu with a great tahini sauce to liven it up.

Maybe this won’t be so bad?

MAPLE TOFU AND TAHINI RICE BOWL

4 cups Cooked Brown & Wild Rice, or whatever you have that you think is nice
1 Acorn Squash, seeded & sliced
1 Block Extra Firm (organic) Tofu, halved and sliced about 1/4″ thick
Handful Each of Pea Shoots, Sprouts, Broccolini & Frozen Green peas
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil,
Safflower Oil for frying

SESAME TAHINI SAUCE

1/4 cup tahini
3 Tablespoons Water
3 tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
1/4 cup  Lemon Juice
Pinch of Salt to taste

Make the dressing by whisking together the tahini and hot water to thin. Add the lemon  juice, sesame oil and sprinkling of salt.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly drizzle 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a baking dish. Lay your sliced squash evenly and flip to coat in the oil.
Bake for about 15-20mins, then flip and return to the oven to continue roasting on the other side for another 15 minutes or until soft and golden. Remove from pan and lightly sprinkle over salt and pepper.
While the squash is roasting, heat a thin layer of the safflower oil in a large pan for frying.
Once the oil is hot, add the tofu slices and brown on both sides.
Remove and drain on towels.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF.
Using the roasting pan for the squash, add the tofu and evenly pour over the maple syrup, tossing to coat on both sides.
Bake the tofu for about a 1/2 hour, flipping half way through, until it is browned and slightly crisped.
Cook your rice, as per your usually methods. 2C dry rice with about double the water, usually does it for me.
Scoop the cooked rice into a nice, big bowl and to it, stir in the broccolini and frozen green peas

Serve rice family style or into individual bowls, topping with tofu, slices of squash and a handful of shoots and sprouts.
Drizzle over the tahini dressing. Taste and add more salt and freshly ground pepper, if needed.

Serves 4-6.

Little Bit of This; Summer Meal Salad


Something wonderful about summer and forgetting about dinner.
An abundance of fresh food everywhere, leftovers from the weekend BBQ and a handful of herbs can create a quick, satisfying and remarkable dinner.

After grilling corn and attempting a sweet chili lime glaze recipe to serve up, I had one cob left over and a recipe that still needs a bit of tweaking for my tastes. I trimmed the cob of the kernels and, since it was already a little seasoned, I had a salad in mind. Dinner also left over a roasted red pepper, which was easy enough to dice, toss in a little handful of the bolting cilantro and I had a flavour direction for something.

For our next days lunch, I still needed a bit of protein and a bit of everything in between, so I grabbed for the quinoa. It’s quick cooking, so it gave me just the right amount of time I needed to toss together a dressing. Tossed together with a couple of handfuls of my favourite baby spinach and this salad was ultra quick, summery and so tasty.

SUMMER CORN & QUINOA SALAD

1 Cob of Corn, preferably grilled, shucked
1 Sweet Red Bell Pepper, roasted with the skin removed
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, packed, finely chopped
1 Cup Quinoa
2 Handfuls Baby Spinach Leaves, about 2 cups

DRESSING

Juice of One Lime
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander Seeds
1/8 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Whisper of Cayenne Pepper (less than a pinch)

Rinse the quinoa well and leave it to soak in a mesh colander for about 3 minutes.
Combine the drained quinoa with 2 cups of boiling water in a medium saucepan.
Cover and reduce to a simmer for about 7 minutes.
Lift the lid and check in on the quinoa. The water should be mostly absorbed and appear fluffy. If not, cover again and continue to cook for a couple of minutes more.
Once the water has been absorbed, fluff with a fork and leave it to cool while you prepare the remainder of the salad.
Skin, seed and dice the red pepper, added it to the shucked corn, in a large bowl.
Rinse, dry and finely chop the cilantro, adding it to the corn and peppers.
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the lime juice, and oil. Add the cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and cayenne. Mix well.
Measure out 2 cups of the cooked quinoa and add it along with the baby spinach to the corn mixture, stirring to combine.
Pour over the dressing. Toss to coat, but be gentle not to overly bruise the spinach leaves.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.*
Turn out to a platter to serve.

*If going vegetarian, about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta will make the salad sing.

Cape Gooseberry & Raspberry Clafouti


Being indigenous to South American countries like Columbia, Physalis doesn’t exactly fit into the local food movement around here. However, they are in season right now.

Physalis, or Cape Gooseberries, come naturally wrapped, giving them a shelf life of over a month or more. Described as a cross between sweet cherry tomato and pineapple flavours, the Cape Gooseberry actually isn’t a gooseberry at all. In fact, it’s about the closest to the tomato, coming from the nightshade family.

An interesting combination of tart and sweet, they are a perfect and versatile match for desserts, preserves, salads or savoury dishes.

From the moment I saw my little package of Cape Gooseberries, it was destined for my grocery cart and clafouti. Most typically toped with cherries, clafouti is a French baked custard that’s super simple to make and rustic yet elegant to present.

Having not baked with Cape Gooseberries before, I still wasn’t so brave as to go it alone to tempt my clafouti solo. I opted to pair the Gooseberries with a handful of raspberries, which turned out to be a tasty choice. Both seedy, a bit tart but sweet, they balanced really well.

So well, my vegan friends thought I might just have been pulling a fast one this time.

CAPE GOOSEBERRY & RASPBERRY CLAFOUTI

1/2 Package Firm Silken Tofu, about 210g
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Cup Soy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Brandy
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Pint Cape Gooseberries, about 1/2 cups halved
1/2 Cup Raspberries, fresh or frozen
2 Tablespoons Demerra Sugar

Combine the soy milk, lemon juice and brandy; Stir and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
In a food processor, blend the tofu until very smooth
Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to blend.
Pour in the soy milk mixture into the tofu.
Sift the flour and baking powder and add just to combine.
Pour the batter into a cast iron skillet, soufflé or oval baking dish.
Evenly top with fruit.
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until the edges are browned and the center is set.
Cool and dust with confectioners sugar.

Vegan Pumpkin Manicotti


Thrusting from a vacation back into the continual chill known as November in my part of the world, rejolted my need for hibernation.

Part of this ritual naturally consists of no longer wanting to venture outside for long walks along the beach or having bird like meals made up of crunchy vegetables. Rib sticking, hearty, soft and warm is what I crave, and so what if all I want to do is have a nap afterward?

With my onslaught of deliciously sweet pumpkins awaiting my arrival, I’ve made my share of sweet treats. If anything, I’ve noticed from my humble, hearty gourds is that, as wonderful as pumpkin is with sugar and nutmeg, they go fantastically well with the acidic punch of a tomato. So in meeting my hibernation qualifications, I concocted this little twist on a traditional cheese stuffed manicotti.

So, after a bit of an absence, I’m about to check in with Ruth and my other Presto Pasta lover’s to see about the transition from salads to soups and sauces. I’m positive the round-up of dishes will be rib stickingly delicious, as usual.


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