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.

Rhubarb Compote


It’s springtime, and even though I might have a bad back, I’m a die-hard gardener.
Some of the most simple and rewarding treasures of a garden are the ones taken for granted. Possibly because they are so easy to grow they are often over-stepped. Take rhubarb, it’s one of the first things up and it doesn’t need any tinkering, thank goodness it’s so big and bright I get a red reminder to pick some and make something like this for breakfast. Although, I’m sure if you have leftovers, rhubarb is one of those great flavours that can pair really from sweet to savoury. Give it a try. Today I did with breakfast!

RHUBARB COMPOTE

2 Cups Chopped Rhubarb Stalks
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
4-5 Cardamom Pods
Small 1/2″ nub of Ginger, peeled and minced
Juice and Peel of one Tangelo (of course you could use an orange)
Pinch of salt

Add rhubarb, sugar, water and cardamom pods to a medium sized saucepan and bring it to a simmer.
Scrub your tangelo, then using a vegetable peeler, remove the outmost peel, leaving the bitter pith.
Add the juice, peel and a pinch of salt to the rhubarb and return it to a boil.
Reduce it to a rolling simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, but not mushy and the liquid has reduced and thickened.
Set aside to cool then remove the cardamom pods, and the peels, if desired.

Jerusalem Artichoke Chips


It’s April and finally graced with a nice day which was missing the typical showers.
I got excited and took to my garden to harvest the first of my fruits of labour.
(Well, some baby carrots were first, but they weren\’t exactly, you know, edible.)

The first things to come from gardens are often the last to go in. Things in the fall like garlic and these, Jerusalem Artichokes.

Also known as Sunchokes, they are tubers from the Sunflower family. They are quite hardy and easy to grow. Perfect raw or cooked they are an overlooked superfood. With lots of vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium, Jerusalem artichokes contain are also a very good source of iron. The taste is similar to that of a water chestnut or a potato, which makes it perfect for sautéing, soups and what I\’ve just discovered — chips!

Easy to make, all they need is a good scrubbing and a thin slice.
Heat a few inches of a versatile oil (I used Safflower) to 350ºF in a large saucepan. Working in batches, begin adding the sliced Jerusalem Artichokes. With a slotted spoon, occasionally flip them, cooking until they are lightly browned and crisp. Drain and cool on a paper towel.

I served mine with a quick mix up of \”Veganaise\” with a pinch of dried thyme and fresh lemon zest.

Know what? Even the kids ate them! How about that?

Beautiful Restrictions


I was recently invited to attend a wedding celebration for good friends of ours.
Ecstatic, we did the usual most people do to prepare; plan a gift, get a new outfit, a hair do…
but you see I also had the pleasure of being asked to cater.

For the small gathering, I was asked to bring the desserts, only there were a few little catches.
Being vegan was a given, so any baked goods were to be egg and dairy free, but add a few more allergies and the offerings now needed to be gluten and nut-free too.

I am a girl who loves a challenge. And this day was to be all about love, wasn’t it?

I wanted to have a few selections, so I opted for small, and the mother of the groom suggested that it would be great if we didn’t need to cut cakes or fumble with too much extra cutlery. Small and quaint, that was the goal.

With weeks of research in, I gave myself two days to prep and begin baking. Thankfully, I had a Daring Baker deadline looming, and, like always, I figured it would fit into what was going on in my life this month.

Of course, ever since a botched my daughter’s first birthday cake, I’ve always seemed to find gluten-free baking a little daunting.
Since that day, of any research I could muster, I’ve realized that it take a good number of replacement  flours to create a good combination. Different flours do different things. Some are starchier, heavier and most create a much drier batter than you might be used to. Considering this, I thought I’d create a bit of a safety net by combining my little cakes with a touch of fruit.
That and I put together a few recipes, you know, just in case.

CARAMEL APPLE GATEAU TATIN

1/4 Cup White Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Flour
3 Tablespoons Spelt Flour*
2 Tablespoons Cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
1/4 Cup Hot Water
1/3 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

5-6 Firm Apples, I used Empire
2 Tablespoons Butter, vegan
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Apple Juice

*To go gluten-free, substitute the spelt for 3 Tablespoons of rice flour.

Peel and slice the apples 1/4″ thick.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, then shake over the sugar.
Once the sugar has begun to melt and bubble, add the apples in an even layer.
Cook until the apples are tender, then add the apple juice, stirring to incorporate. Coat the apples well before removing from the heat to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the flours. (If not going gluten-free, 3/4 cup of an unbleached AP, may be substituted.)
Add the cornmeal and baking powder and sift together.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut oil and the sugar with a stand or hand mixer until well combined.
Mix the ground flax and the water, then add it and the vanilla to the sugar mixture.
Alternate adding the flours and the soy milk until everything has been added.
Spoon about 3 slices of apples, along with a little “caramel” into a oil sprayed miniature muffin tin.
Next drop the batter, by the tablespoonful, over the apples then bake for 18-20 minutes.
Cool slightly, then gently run a knife around the edges to release the cakes.

If desired, garnish with dried apple chips.
To make, thinly slice one apple with a mandoline. Squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Drop onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and leave in a 200ºF oven for at least 2 hours or until crisp.

Quinoa & Mixed Grain Breakfast


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There’s a way to make oatmeal “healthier”?
It took me a couple of days, but I realized that the rice cooker makes more than, well, rice.

With the cold weather just about everyone’s been having lately, there’s been a lot of oatmeal filling the bowls around here. Since it’s the weekend, to keep things a little different, I tried a combination of quinoa and mixed grains like; cracked rye, flax and Irish oats. Fancied up with maple caramelized banana and it almost made for a showy brunch option instead of a detox meal.

MIXED GRAIN PORRIDGE WITH CARAMELIZED BANANAS

1/2 Cup Red Quinoa, very well rinsed
1/4 Cup Irish Oats, Steel Cut
1/4 Cup Cracked Rye
3 Tablespoons Flax Seed
2 1/3 Cups Water
Pinch Salt

2 Bananas
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup

Rinse the quinoa well and add it along with the other grains to your rice cooker or a large saucepan.
Add the water and the pinch of salt. For the rice cooker, follow the manufacturers directions (which is turn it on) and for the stovetop version, heat to a boil then reduce to a simmer over a low heat.
Stir, then cover until the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender; about 15 minutes. Stir to fluff when done.
Meanwhile, slice the bananas about 1/4″ thick on the diagonal and heat along with the maple syrup in a frying pan, over a medium-high heat.
Maple syrup will reduce and thicken. Flip bananas to cook and coat with the syrup on both sides.

Serve bananas over the prepared porridge with a splash of soy milk.

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