Barley Risotto


Returning with something super simple but so delicious.
When first sampling plant-based, I found it easier sticking to familiar things that were already in the pantry. While on the search for various grains to keep things interesting,
I remembered barley.

My mom used to use it in many of her soups when I was a kid. This, of course, makes it an easy favourite for me. It’s hearty and slightly chewy. It’s soft, warm and filling, making it a perfect, but overlooked addition to so many dishes in the winter.

Treating it like a risotto, is a great way to flavour the barley. And in this case keeping it open to so many different flavour variations. It’s no secret that I love spinach, so pair that with some sautéed mushrooms and even a pan fried tofu and this becomes a perfectly satisfying, affordable and easy winter weekday dinner.

BARLEY RISOTTO

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Shallots, minced
1 Cup Pearl Barley
3 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
Sprig Thyme, stem removed
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, adding the minced shallots to sweat.
Add the barley stirring well to coat with oil and lightly toast.
Cover with all of this liquid at once. Once the mixture begins to lightly simmer, stir and reduce the heat to maintain.
Add thyme leaves.
Stir occasionally until broth is mostly absorbed and barley is tender. (If more liquid is needed add 1/2 cup water.)
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the Spinach & Mushroom Topping

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
1 Cup Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
4 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves, packed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil and add the garlic and mushrooms.
Sauté over a medium high heat until mushrooms begin to brown.
Add the spinach, turning regularly to wilt.
Serve hot over top of prepared barley.

Serves 2

Whole Garden Gnocchi


Who knew I could feed myself from a front yard garden alone? Other than the flour, I grew everything for this dish in my small, urban yard; potatoes, garlic, chard, tomatoes and squash.

I may have mentioned my front yard transformation last spring. With the help of a great neighbour, a dumping of dirt, a seed catalogue and some eager kids, we transferred lawn into an edible space.

Less the brussels sprouts and the chard, most of the garden now harvested. There were the three varieties of potatoes; Peruvian Reds, Blue and Russian Fingerlings, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, sweet Yellow Pear Tomatoes just for this dish alone. (It doesn’t even hint at the edamame, peas, beans, beets, asparagus, blueberries, herbs, okra, cabbages, zucchini, pumpkins… corn… wow!)

After digging up a surplus of potatoes, I needed a few ideas on what to do with them. With BBQ season pretty much a thing of the past, potato salad wasn’t topping my list as much as the gnocchi. Besides, I just had to when I saw the light pinkiness of the potatoes and the great texture that was perfect for such a thing.

Feeding yourself all on your own, that’s local.
Now, that’s something to be thankful for!

PERUVIAN PINK POTATO GNOCCHI

1Lb Potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (you can use other starchy potatoes, like Russetts as well)
1 Cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for rolling.
1/4 teaspoon Salt

In a large bowl, finely mash the cooked potatoes so they are lump free.
Add the salt and half of the flour then add 1/4 cup at a time stirring to combine and bring everything together in a smooth dough. You may not need it all.
Depending on your work surface, third or quarter the dough. Take one piece and cover remaining pieces.
Roll the dough into long “snakes” and cut into 1″ pieces.
Roll each piece off the back of a floured fork and repeat finishing all of the dough.
Drop into salted boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float; about 3 – 4 minutes.

While the gnocchi were boiling I made the “sauce” of tomatoes, chard, squash and garlic.
I cubed the peeled, cleaned squash and sautéed it, covered in a large, lightly oiled pan. Once the pieces began to soften, I removed the lid to let the stem escape and pieces brown.
I added two cloves of finely chopped garlic and the chard to cook for another two minutes.
Once the chard had wilted, I added 1 cup of sliced yellow pear tomatoes, salt, pepper and a palmful of chopped basil.
Simple and delicious.

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.

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.

Thankful For Thanksgiving


So it’s here. The big Thanksgiving week!
It really is my favorite Holiday. I love it so much, I just can’t believe we get it twice.

Like so many, I started out getting stressed on what to make, but really, staying seasonal makes it so much easier. Creating a vegan Thanksgiving menu isn’t too tough. The vegetable sides are obviously covered. It’s just the amount of choice out there, but I think if you go by what you like and what you think your guests will enjoy, everything will be a hit.

crop_cranberries1

As for the main dish, these are usually saved for Christmas, but I couldn’t resist the over-sized monster of a cabbage at the market a few weeks back for this version of my mother’s cabbage rolls.

Golabki is the Polish version of stuffed cabbage. A popular Eastern European dish, it’s the topping of puréed tomatoes that gives it the distinction.

My Mom’s recipe has a good ratio of rice to meat. Keeping that in mind, after adding a good mixture of wild, short and long rices with a package of veggie ground round, I loaded up on the veggies. Since it’s Thanksgiving, I kept it harvesty and of course, I couldn’t have been without one of my pumpkins from my collection. This time it was a little Sweet Dumpling Squash. The size is a perfect amount with one and the flavor is amazing. And according to the sign posted at the patch, “This one might even change a squash hater’s mind forever.”

As for the cabbage, I don’t tend to eat them, unless red and in a salad, or stuffed and rolled, like these. Either way if the cabbage is green and it’s autumn, it goes in a big bag and into the deep freeze until called upon for important occasions like this. Now, I’ve heard all the ways to cook various cabbage rolls, in fact, so has my mother. I’m not sure where she discovered it, but we’ve never looked back on freezing for cabbage roll preparation. Although it’s about overnight to thaw, it’s got to be one of the easiest ways to help you to prepare them. The freezing acts like boiling/steaming and once it’s thawed it’s soft and simple to core. Simply core it and peel off the outer most leaves. Keep the tougher, darker ones for lining your roasting pan, it’ll add flavor and help with clean up time too! Do this while the rice is cooking and it makes this once time consuming recipe a snap.

VEGAN HARVEST CABBAGE ROLLS (Golabki)

Large Green Cabbage, frozen whole then thawed overnight
4 Cups Cooked Mixed Rice, I used 1 1/2 Cups dry long and short grain brown and wild rice
1/3 Cup Orange Bell Pepper, diced – about 1/2 a pepper
1/3 Cup Celery (1 Stalk,leaves included), finely diced
1/3 Cup Onion, diced – about 1 small
1 Lb Package Veggie Ground Round, or about 2 Cups reconstituted TVP or finely chopped seitan
2 Cups Squash, peeled and seeded, diced 1/2″ – I used one whole Sweet Dumpling Squash, acorn would also taste good
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tamari
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

1 – 28 oz Jar of Sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1 – 28 oz Jar Tomato Purée

Begin to prepare one day ahead by removing the cabbage from the freezer to thaw. Otherwise, it may be cored fresh then steamed until soft and the leaves are cool and pliable to remove.

Cook the rice to it’s package directions.
While it is cooking, dice the pepper, celery and onion.
Peel and seed the squash. Dice it into 1/2″ cubes and add them to the other vegetables.
Line a large roasting pan with the outer most leaves from the cored cabbage. Once you’ve reached the more tender leaves, begin to carefully set them aside, trimming any tougher areas.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Fluff the cooked rice and add the ground round and prepared vegetables along with the minced garlic, olive oil, tamari, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Taste, if necessary to adjust seasoning.
On a large, flat surface, lay your first cabbage leaf with the “stem” towards you. Place a large spoonful of the stuffing into the natural curl. Begin to roll the leaf away from you once, then tuck in both sides before continuing to roll the stuffing snugly in the cabbage.
Put your roll into the prepared roasting pan and repeat, lining the pan with the cabbage rolls in a even, tight row, tucking them in on the side to create an even layer. Begin a second layer with the smaller rolled leaves, as necessary until all of the stuffing has been used up. Reserve any remaining cabbage leaves.
Pour the tomato purée over the cabbage rolls and top with the sauerkraut, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a layer of any reserved cabbage leaves.
Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the cabbage is tender and the squash is soft.
Best served with sour cream or yogurt and good dollop of mashed potatoes.

Cabbage rolls freeze well.

Blogging Martha …and Pumpkins


So did everyone get a chance to watch Martha yesterday??
Not only was is it the start of her new season, yesterday she featured blogging; a few of them that we know and love I might add.
First up there was an intro to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, then a great segment with fellow food photographer and blogger Matt Armendiaz from Matt Bites. Matt was lucky enough to get a book writing suggestion from Martha herself all while mixing it up with her and the Kitchen Aid.

How wonderful to see a full hour devoted to the beauty of the blog. I’m guessing Martha is into hers, as it’s not only updated regularly, but she was dying to know everyone’s monthly stats and income draw. It was darling. Really.

Anyhow, what was really great was getting to see Martha and her old pal, Margaret, who’s site A Way To Garden, I’m already addicted to. Margaret used to be the garden the then the editorial director at MSL, so she knows a thing or two about gardening. Not only is Margaret’s site a naturally good read, she’s offered personal tips and suggestions on how to plant corn and why it is that mine is the only garden that doesn’t produce copious amounts of zucchini. (I finally did get ONE, by the way!!) A Way to Garden, along with Deb and the gals at Dinner Tonight have been hosting some weekly round ups of seasonal veggie dishes and today is one of my absolute favourites; pumpkin.

If you’ve ever read my other blog, Food+Photography, you’d see the fascination, lust I have over pumpkins. Every fall I buy too many and try to squeeze the space in my yard to grow some of my own every year.
That being said, I have three plants from the seeds of last year; Marina Di Choggia, a Rouge Vif D’Etamps and my favourite Galeux d’Eysine. So far, I’ve been enjoying their flowers along with the bees, but I think I’ll be heading back to the pumpkin patch in a couple of weekends – at least something grew…

To join into the fun, here are a few of my pumpkin favourites from this site:

MARINA DI CHIOGGIA GNOCCHI

PUMPKIN PIE POPPERS

PUMPKIN & MUSHROOM RISOTTO

PUMPKIN MANICOTTI

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY TEACAKES


SAVORY PUMPKIN TART