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.

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.

Gingered Peach Shortbread Bars


You think I would have learned after my adventure with a basket of peaches last year. Yet, here I go again with another overflow of peaches and posts.

I like peaches, I really do. Sweet and juicy, the fuzz is a bit much for me after a bit, but fragrant and so completely summer, none the less.

With the smell of my last basket of peaches wafting throughout the dining room, I knew that this last layer had ripened to perfection. With simplicity and inspiration… and a need for sweetness during 3 o’clock coffee, this peachy goodness found it’s way to our plates.

& With a few left in the basket on this eve of back to school, perhaps a new trend will develop?
Fuzzy, juicy and local peach for the teacher? Or will it be the jam?

PEACH SHORTBREAD BARS

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
1/3 Cup Confectioners Sugar
3/4 Cup Vegetable Shortening, frozen or very cold, broken into pieces
Pinch Cinnamon

5 Peaches, about 2 cups chopped
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Freshly Grated Ginger

Crumb Topping
1/2 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Earth Balance (Butter)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the flour, corn starch, confectioners sugar, shortening and cinnamon together in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse crumb which can be molded when pinched.
Press the dough into an 8″x8″ square baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes or until just golden around the edges.
Remove and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, halve the peaches to remove the stone then quarter before adding to a sauce pan.
Cover the peaches with the sugar and cook over a medium heat to release their juices and loosen the skins.
Remove the skins and discard if able and desired.
Mash the peaches with a potato masher, fork or hand held blender to roughly purée.
Add the grated ginger and sprinkle over the additional 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, stirring well.
Return to a rolling simmer, continuing to cook until thickened.
Cool while you combine the crumb topping.
In a small bowl mix together the 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup Earth Balance with a fork until everything is evenly combined, moist and crumbly.
Pour the peaches over the prepared shortbread and sprinkle over topping.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Fantabulous Summer Pea Ravioli


I like peas, actually, I figure most people do, so I can’t help but get a little giddy & nostalgic when I see the flooding piles of pea pods carefully anchored in the farmer’s crates at market.

They’re crisp, green, a little dusty but ever so perfect.

I always seem to strangely imagine a large shady porch, so perfect for sitting, chatting and watching the clothes blow in the line from the warmest summer breezes.
A big bowl is handy for catching the just cracked and tossed pods with another for rolling the fresh, young peas into.

As I bring my “fantasy” into realization, (sans a shady anything, big bowl or even laundry) I discover that shelling peas loses it’s glint after, say, about the eighth one.

But they are good. Damn, they are good. I don’t want to even cook them, just crack and roll them into my salivating jaws and realize that is a much better than any summer pea fantasy.

I rarely do more than steam peas and blob a knub of butter on them. I’m not a mint or little pearl onion kind of gal. However I got this idea for a recipe to repackage these newly podded peas to, you know, share with friends and I just had to give it a try.

SUMMER PEA RAVIOLI

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Leek, white and very light green parts only, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Cups Green Peas, shelled
1 1/2 Cups Water
1 Tablespoon Dry Vermouth
1 1/2 teaspoons Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

SOY RICOTTA
1 Cup Soy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Salt

HOMEMADE PASTA
1/2 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/2 Cup Semolina Flour
1/3 Cup Hot Water
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

To make the pasta, combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor.
With the motor running add the the oil, then, in a steady stream, add the hot water.
Continue to process. When the dough comes together, stop adding any water, if any remains. (Otherwise if your dough hasn’t come together once all water has been added, drizzle over more hot water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it does.)
Remove the dough from the food processor and quickly knead together to form a ball. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Quarter and cover the dough and let it rest until ready to use.
To prepare the peas, heat the oil in a large sauté pan.
Add the chopped leek and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, then add the vermouth.
Add to it, the peas, water, herbs, salt and pepper.
Meanwhile combine the soy milk, lemon juice and salt in a non-reactive bowl.
Allow it to sit while you continue with the peas.
Simmer to blanch the peas and reduce the water by about half.
Then, drain the curdled soy milk through a mesh sieve or cheesecloth and leave it to remove as much liquid as possible.
Purée the peas in a food processor on high or through a food mill.
Layer a colander over a mesh sieve which has been placed over a bowl.
Push the mixture through the colander and let what remains in the sieve to remove excess liquid.
Reserve the liquid in the bowl for the sauce.
Prepare the pasta, which has been divided into four, then roll it out into thin sheets.
Combine the pea purée with the soy ricotta.
Dot the pea purée by the teaspoonful along the first sheet of pasta.

With a water and a pastry brush, dampen the edges around the purée.
Lay another pasta sheet on top and with your fingertips, push out any air and seal the edges around each, soon to be ravioli.
With a roller, or ravioli cutter, cut out each piece.
Repeat with the two remaining sheets of pasta and pea purée.

Cook the ravioli in a large pot of rapidly boiling water for about 2-3 minutes or until they all float.
Meanwhile, melt knub of (vegan) butter, about 2 tablespoons and add about 1/2 cup of the reserved, strained pea liquid to heat. Once it’s simmering add 2 tablespoons of vermouth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Continue to simmer until the ravioli is done.
Remove with the ravioli from the water with a slotted spoon.
To plate, evenly spoon the sauce in the center of four plates and top with ravioli.
Garnish with fresh pea shoots and cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4.

Rose Infused Strawberry Sorbet


Surrounded by strawberry season, I over thoughtfully tired my search for something outstanding and creative to present for more than just shortcake post of yesteryear.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, strawberry shortcake is such a classic it’s even got a scented doll named after it — I just wanted more. Unconventional combinations like balsamic, basil and black pepper have been surfacing for some time. and recently, I was confronted with a pastry chef’s attempt at combining all three. Not something I wanted to re-create, unfortunately.

I could have almost come full circle with homage to most people’s Nanas’ Summer Strawberry Pie but let me tell you, it’s been so hot and muggy these past couple of days, just the idea of boiling water made me want to sweat.

Naturally in this heat, only Yours Truly would hit the strawberry patch at high noon. There’s something pretty spectacular about sneaking a warm, so perfectly ripe summer strawberry. Even tasting like the homemade jam it will soon become, I couldn’t help imagining a slip n’ slide ride to get my overheated self back to the stifling car.

I’ve guessed that my designated, appropriately red, strawberry picking bucket can hold about 10 or so pounds of berries. We like the berries, but whatever can’t get consumed by the masses within a couple of days by the periodical snack or stuffed crêpes for breakfast, will end up hulled and frozen on parchment for bagging and later enjoyment.

To my delight, I found that a medium Ziploc bag holds about 1 Lb of frozen berries. Perfect for making one of the tastiest and simplest strawberry treats concocted to sooth the heat. Really. Don’t let the rose syrup be your deal breaker, it’s really quite easy as long as you can get your hand on a rose. It’s a wonderful combination that’s tips this sorbet over the edge of great and frozen berries are everywhere, so you don’t even have to pick and hull them yourself.

ROSE INFUSED STRAWBERRY SORBET

1 Lb Frozen Strawberries
3/4 Cup Rose Syrup

Add strawberries to food processor, pulsing at first to chop. Scrape sides with a spatula.
With the motor running, add the rose syrup through the feed tube, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary, blending until smooth.

If not serving immediately,  transfer sorbet into a low sided container, cover tightly and freeze.

Waste Not.


Have a kid who won’t eat crusts? I do. So instead of having it continuously irritate me, I’ve decided to please both parties.

I was inspired after reading this New York Times article about wasted food. Where I’m really happy I live in an area which makes us separate so they can collect our organic waste, I was still annoyed at the pile of crusts at the end of most every lunch.
Determined to end the fight but win the battle, I started cutting the crusts from my Darling’s cucumber sandwiches. This little princess must have thought she’d died and gone to heaven, but dare she know that I was storing the crusts in the freezer and watching them accumulate.

Knowing they wouldn’t go bad in the freezer, like the brown bananas, and vegetable scraps before them, they were ready and on hand for anything I might be ready for like, crumbs, croutons or bread pudding.

Bread pudding that her highness had little trouble polishing off for dessert.

Now I just have to plan for those cherry pits.
For other great grocery money saving tips, check out the article put together over at Everyday Food.

CHERRY CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING

4oz Semi Sweet Chocolate, roughly chopped
2 Cups Bread (Crusts), any kind, whole wheat, flax, oat, just be sure it’s at least a day old and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Brandy
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder, cornstarch will work as a substitute
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Fresh Cherries, pitted & roughly chopped – dried may be substituted when out of season
3 Tablespoons Cocoa Nibs, very optional but quite delicious

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cube the bread and set aside in a large bowl.
Melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (or in a double boiler), stirring occasionally until smooth.
Measure milk in a pourable measuring cup.
Add the vanilla, brandy, sugar, salt and arrowroot powder, stirring well to incorporate and dissolve the arrowroot powder.
Pit the cherries, I used the flat side of my chef’s knife to pop the cherry open and the pit little more than a flick from your fingertips.
Roughly chop the cherries, reserving as much of the juice as possible.
Pour the milk mixture over the cubed bread, then add the cherries and their juice along with the cocoa nibs, if using.
Toss well to coat the bread and to soak up the liquid.
Drizzle over the melted chocolate, stirring well to combine.
Pour mixture into a short baking dish or divide between 4 – 1 cup ramekins.
Bake for 15 minutes.

Best served warm and with just about any ice cream you like.