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

Wilted Greens & Wheat Berry Salad


wiltedgrainsalad

Another quick-ish meal that’ll get you going, keep you full and make you forget about needing meat to complete a meal.  I’m a junky of all things green and grainy, so I’ve been into wheat berries lately. A super grain, and not too carby of a carb, they’re chewy, firm pods of whole food goodness. Plus, if you can boil water, they’re pretty much a cinch to cook.

The wheat berries are easily cooked in advance and stored for up to a week in a sealed container. They can also be subbed for quinoa for a gluten-free option.

WILTED GREENS + WHEAT BERRY SALAD WITH MIXED MUSHROOMS

4 Cups Mixed Mushrooms, sliced – I used Shiitake, and crimini
1 Cup Soft Wheat Berries
Zest + Juice of One Lemon
6 Cups Assorted Field Greens, Spinach & Arugula, or any combination you have and like
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped (optional – if you’re one of those people:)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil, divided
Salt + Pepper, to your taste

Soak the wheat berries for 20 -30 minutes. Rinse the wheat berries well and drain.
Boil 3 cups of lightly salted water and add the wheat berries. reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes for doneness and if your water has been absorbed. (If it almost has and the berries aren’t quite tender, reduce the heat to medium-low and finish your cooking time.)
Pick over and wash your greens, spin to dry.
Heat a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Remove from heat, then add the parsley and cilantro.
Fluff the wheat berries with a fork, add the lemon juice, mushrooms, remaining oil and toss to combine.
Divide the greens between 4 servings and top with the wheat berries, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

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.

Holiday Leftover Gnocchi


Ok, so nothing was really left over. Having had been lucky enough to serve up two Thanksgiving dinners, I was still looking for more. One scoopful of my butternut squash & spinach casserole wasn’t enough, but not having another lucky table of thirteen tonight, I wasn’t about to serve it again. Besides, I, even me, haven’t been craving over-time in the kitchen, so I wanted something quick.

GNOCCHI WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SPINACH

2 Tablespoons Olive OIl
2 Cups Butternut Squash, diced, 1/2″ cube
3/4 Cup Water
2 Cup Baby Spinach Leaves
1Lb (500g) Gnocchi, store bought (I know, but after a weekend of feast creating 75 seconds of cooking can be a very good thing.)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme, stem removed
1 Clove Garlic, finely minced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Peel and cube the squash and add it to a large sauté pan with the 3/4 cups of water.
Over high heat, bring the water to a boil and stir frequently.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Once the water is gone, add about half of the oil and reduce the heat slightly to medium high.
Add the minced garlic and continue to toss often until the butternut squash is golden and tender.
Add the spinach to the squash and sauté until wilted. Add herbs, tossing to combine.
Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes or until it begins to float (as per package directions.)
Drain and add to the spinach and squash.
Sprinkle over salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2-3.

Baby Spinach Greens With Grilled Pears and Caramalized Onion Dressing


Of course this time of year just about any spring greens from the market will be great, but baby spinach is something I always have on hand.
Where it’s not exactly your throw it together tossed salad, the onions are pretty much low maintenance to caramelize and this dressing is worth the wait.


CARAMELIZED ONION DRESSING

1 Onion, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
Pinch Salt
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Turn heat to medium. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sliced onion to a sauté pan. Once they begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low, toss and add salt.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, sticky and golden; 20-30 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce slightly, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool.
Add onions along with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, maple syrup and water to a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. (If your onion was large and you find that the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add more water about 1 tablespoon at a time to thin.)
Taste and add additional salt if desired.
Serve from a squirt bottle, if you have one

Preheat the grill to medium.
Slice 2 bartlett pears into wedges and lay onto the grill, cooking for about 1 minute.
For the fancy-schmancy grill marks, rotate the pear slices 1 quarter turn, cooking for another minute.
Flip and repeat for the other side. Pears should be hot but not cooked through.
Toss greens, adding a handful of walnuts and dried cranberries. Top with the grilled pears and drizzle over prepared dressing.

Palak Paneer Phyllo Triangles


Perfect for using up left overs on just on their own, these little triangles make a great appetizer or side for a soup.

It took me a while to dig into Palak Paneer, the Indian creamed spinach with homemade cheese.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine returned from an extended stay in India and reintroduced me to a few more traditional dishes, that I realized spinach is a very welcomed side to a spicy curry.
Of course for a vegan version, I make my “paneer” from a diced, fried, firm silken tofu which is soft and mildly flavoured, like the paneer which satisfied my cheese knowing tongue.

For the triangles I add just a little more to the flavour combination with minced red bell pepper and some fresh basil.

PALAK PANEER

5-6 Cups packed Spinach
1 Cup packed arugula (optional)
1/2 Package firm silken tofu
1 Medium Sized Onion, minced
2-3 Bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Minced Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Green chili paste
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
5-6 Large Basil Leaves, finely chopped
Vegetable oil as required

12 Sheets of Phyllo DoughMix ginger and garlic into a paste, add green chilli paste and water to combine.
Add the spinach and arugula to a large pan with a fitted lit.
Pour the ginger-garlic-chili liquid over the rinsed spinach and arugula.
Cover and steam for about 7-8 minutes.
Cool slightly and drain excess liquid.
Cut tofu into 1/2″ cubes.
Heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of a sauté pan. Fry the tofu pieces over a medium heat till they are slightly browned.
Remove tofu with a slotted spoon and continue to drain tofu on paper and set the aside.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from sauté pan. Fry bay leaves and cumin seeds. Add chopped onion. Sauté until the onions become tender.
Add salt, pepper, and garam masala. Stir well.
Remove bay leaves then add onions along with the spinach to a food processor.
Purée, adding tablespoonfuls of water as necessary until smooth.
Transfer spinach mixture to a bowl and stir in tofu, basil and red peppers.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Lay one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board and brush it lightly with oil.
Carefully lay another sheet on top of the first then cut into 3 strips, lengthwise.
Cover the remaining sheets with a dampened cloth to keep them from drying.
Scoop a heaping tablespoonful of the prepared spinach mixture onto the end of one of the cut strips.
Fold over once to cover then flip the left corner up and over to form a triangle.
Continue to fold the straight ends over to keep the triangle shape, finishing the length of the phyllo.
With a moistened finger, wet the last edge of the phyllo to seal.
Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets, cutting them into strips, filling then folding over into triangles.
Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Makes 18 triangles.