Chilly weather means soup is on the menu… when I bother making it. I love soup but can definitely get repetitive in my soup making. Sometimes working all day then throwing together anything other than a “this-and-that’ dinner isn’t really on the radar. Continue reading
While getting over the flu, I’m always craving those warming comfort foods. One of them is something my mom used to make when we were kids, and to be honest, I’m not really sure what it was. All I remember was a creamy sauce with a hint of mushrooms, served over no-yolk noodles. There were peas in there, too, along with chicken (which, though I wasn’t a vegan until I was older, never liked).
I wanted to create a similar sauce and incorporate what I had in my fridge. I also was a little pasta’d out (I was eating it for a couple of days which ridden with the flu, and, let’s be honest, since it didn’t stay down, I’m a little turned off of it for a while). Continue reading
Well, it got pretty darn chilly today! We went from a warm week to unseasonably cool temperatures. This morning I opted to go for a bike ride but I soon learned I need some proper cool weather cycling clothes!
I spent the day working, studying, and baking a wonderfully homey apple cake with a cider sauce. It’s definitely making its way into my second cookbook (and if you want to be a tester for it, let me know).
Last year, I wrote an article for the Standard on squash. I’ve never really liked squash and wanted to figure out ways to love it! It turns out I do love it… specifically in these recipes.
I love anything Thai curry, and the macaroni bake is reminiscent of a good ol’ baked mac and cheese. The stuffed squash makes a perfect, but simple, side dish.
Here’s the article, published in the Standard in the fall of 2010.
Chances are, someone has told you how “picky” they are. “I don’t like vegetables,” they’ll tell you, turning up their nose, further indicating their distaste. “They just don’t taste good.”
Although these veg-defiant words tug at my veg-loving heartstrings, my brain knows better. I’m convinced that if you “don’t like vegetables,” you just haven’t been properly introduced to the culinary techniques that accentuate their flavour. While “boiled spinach” doesn’t sound like an outright appealing side dish, a creamy caramelized onion spinach dip with freshly toasted pita bread sounds like an appetizer sure to please.
Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. There is a vegetable (although technically a fruit) that I don’t readily consume. The thought of choosing it for my weekly menu seldom comes to mind. It’s not that I dislike it. But I don’t love it, either. Sorry, squash, but roasting you in the oven with herbs and spice just doesn’t please my palate.
Until now. See, I thought I would sacrifice my stomach for a few weeks of squash sampling. I made it my mission this year to love squash. Something about its rich beta-carotene flesh beckoned me. “Try me. You’ll like me.” Like luring me with its lusciousness, it knew it could sell me. And it did … for good reason.
Not only have I learned how to make it taste outright delicious, it also has so many nutritional benefits that you’ll want to make it part of your daily rotation while it’s still in season. Squash is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which help neutralize dangerous free radicals and fight cell damage, which can decrease the chances of inflammation and cancer. It also delivers a healthy dose of fibre, with about 6 grams per one cup (250 ml) cooked, along with about 32% of your daily vitamin C needs.
But that’s not all. Like carrots, it is the orange flesh of squash that has the health benefits to highlight. Caroteniods — and in this case, beta-carotene — has been shown to protect against heart disease. Our body automatically converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which has also been linked to fighting breast cancer and macular degeneration, and supporting lung development in newborns.
It’s also a very good source of potassium and manganese. Potassium helps our muscles and nerves properly function and maintains the proper electrolyte and acid-base balance in our bodies. It also helps keep high blood pressure at bay. Manganese, on the other hand, helps our body utilize many nutrients, keeps our bones strong and healthy, and promotes proper thyroid function.
And I’ve since learned, squash tastes great, too. The proof lies in the preparation. With the right tools, ingredients, and a creativity to cook them, you’ll like the vegetables that once turned up your nose. The secret to loving squash, I found, is simple: don’t roast it, don’t steam it, don’t mash it. But even more important, don’t just sneak it into something else and call it a day. Make it the main event, letting its flavour shine right through.
Like a contestant on Iron Chef, I experimented with highlighting this malicious marrow and not taking the easy route by pureeing it into a muffin batter or hiding it in a pot pie. Instead, I used my favourite ingredients to bring forth a flavour that I never knew existed. The combination of creamy coconut milk with spicy curry paste brings butternut squash to a whole new level. Nutty cashew butter and whole grain macaroni makes for a buttercup casserole that I’ll make again and again. Roasted garlic, fresh thyme and crunchy hemp seeds deliver a delicate flavour to delicata. And a shortbread base with buttery pecans brings a whole new meaning to a pumpkin dessert. The best part? They are all super easy.
This is squash, uncensored. And you’re going to love it.
Thai Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup
So simple, so delicious. Roast the squash in advance for a soup that comes together in under half an hour. If you love spicy foods, add as much curry paste as you can handle.
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 small onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 medium butternut squash, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
4 to 6 cups water
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 14 ounce (398 ml) can lite organic coconut milk
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and let cook an additional one to two minutes, until fragrant.
Scoop the butternut squash into the pot. Stir to mix with the onion mixture, mixing well. Stir in the curry paste, salt, and top with water. Mix well until the curry paste has dissolved. You want just enough water to not quite cover the squash. Add the maple syrup. Mix well. Mash with a fork until almost smooth.
Cover and let simmer about 15 minutes. Remove lid and add the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, insert the blender and puree until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer batches of the soup into a blender or food processor (tip: leave the lid ajar to prevent the heat from breaking the glass or plastic). Season with salt to taste. Add additional curry paste if you like it really spicy.
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Baked Buttercup Macaroni
This baked casserole is reminiscent of mac-and-cheese, with a rich, nutty sauce encasing hearty macaroni and a crispy topping. Serve alongside sauted rapini or kale, and a few scoops of homemade cranberry sauce.
2 cups dry organic brown rice macaroni (Tinkyada)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium buttercup squash, roasted, seeded and peeled (about 2 cups (480mL) mashed)
1/4 cup ( cashew butter
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon sweet rice flour
3/4 teaspoon ground sage
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons water or nondairy milk (as needed)
3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons flaxmeal
Cook the macaroni to al dente, according to the package directions. Drain well. Use one tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil to grease a 9-inch square glass baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Heat the remaining oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook on medium-low heat, stirring often, until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the squash, cashew butter, nutritional yeast, sweet rice flour, sage, garlic powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper into a food processor. Process until smooth, adding water or milk if the mixture is very thick. It should be about the consistency of a thick sauce.
In a small bowl, stir together the pecans and flaxmeal.
Add the macaroni to the prepared dish. Mix with the squash mixture. Top with the pecan/flax mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp on top. Let cool five minutes before serving.
Twice Baked Stuffed Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is also known as sweet potato squash, for its flavour similar to our favourite sweet spud. Use this as a base recipe for your favourite herbs and spices.
2 small delicata squash
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 to 5 cloves garlic, halved
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 teaspoons hemp seeds
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Use two tablespoons (30 ml) of the oil to brush each half with. Divide the garlic in each of the cavities. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in until tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, use the remaining oil to sauté the shallots. Set aside. When squash is finished baking, remove the garlic and set aside. Use a spoon to carefully remove the innards from the squash, leaving a thin layer inside two of the shells (you will only be using two of them). Place the innards in a bowl. Mix with shallots, nutritional yeast and thyme. Taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper if desired.
If you like it garlicky, finely chop the reserved garlic (or a portion of it) and add it to the mix. Spoon the mixture back into the two squash shells that have the thin layer. Discard the other two.
Sprinkle with hemp seeds. Return to oven and bake until innards are firm and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve with fresh lemon.
The awesome thing about being a vegan is that it’s always delicious.
Even if you throw the wrong ingredients together, sample a new recipe, or are just having fun in the kitchen, it’s always delicious.
The thing is, you can’t really go wrong with fresh, whole delicious foods.
(Frankly, the key here is that it is delicious.) Continue reading
I haven’t had much time to update but have been making a slew of goodness.
Among them, a Cinnamon Swirl Sweet Potato Bread (to be in the cookbook).
On the weekend I celebrated my birthday.
I made fantastic stuffed peppers on a whim, my favourite warm tahini salad, and a boston cream pie: two marble cakes stuffed with vanilla pudding and topped with chocolate ganache (all gluten-free and vegan, of course).
Coconut milk replaces traditional heavy cream in this veganized variation. Not a coconut lover? Not to worry, the coconut is dominated by the roasted garlic.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 (14oz.) can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least 24 hours
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bulb roasted garlic*
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
1 lb (454g) fettuccine, cooked Continue reading
A few months ago, we celebrated National Chocolate Day (really, we did). To commemorate the occasion, I wrote my Standard article on chocolate and how wonderful it is.
I can’t lie, I love chocolate.
Maybe it’s because I have a dairy allergy, so my chocolate options are limited.
Maybe it’s because of an addiction.
Maybe it’s because of an affinity I share for it with my mother, who quite possibly gave me the cocoa-loving gene.
Or maybe it’s because it’s just really, really good.
For the article, I made a myriad of chocolate-inspired dishes, including a version of a mole that since then, have not made again but could not escape from. I thought about it a lot. I think about it a lot.
Today I lacked many of the ingredients, and I wanted more vegetables. I threw in some corn, collard greens, green beans, zucchini, only had white mushrooms and was missing cloves. I also didn’t have any corn tortillas but added a few heaping tablespoons of cornmeal to make up the difference. Oh, I added some extra-firm crumbled tofu to round it out.
Here, though, is the original recipe and check out the article for other delicious cocoa-inspired dishes!
Mexican Mushroom Mole with Cilantro Lime Rice
Based on a classic Mexican mole sauce this version includes mushrooms as the main event and is served alongside flavourful rice.
For the mole:
1/2 cup (75 g) almonds, chopped
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
2 Tbsp. (30 g) sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. (30 g) chili powder
1 tsp (5 g) ground cinnamon
1 tsp (5 g) coriander
3/4 tsp (3 g) ground cumin
1/4 tsp (2 g) ground cloves
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups (about 21/2 lbs) sliced cremini mushrooms
4 large portabello mushrooms, chopped
2 large bell peppers, chopped
1/3 cup (55 g) raisins
1 28-ounce can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. (30 g) cocoa powder
about 1 cup (250 ml) water
In a large skillet over medium heat, place the almonds, tortilla pieces and sesame seeds. Toast for about two minutes until fragrant and starting to brown, careful not to burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a food processor and add all spices, pulsing until mixture is ground. Set aside.
In the same skillet, sauté the onion in the oil until translucent, about six minutes. Add the garlic, stirring until fragrant, then add the mushrooms and peppers. Continue to cook on medium until all vegetables are cooked. Add raisins and tomatoes, stirring to combine.
Pour in cocoa and add water, a little at a time as the mixture thickens. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for eight-10 minutes, until sauce is thickened. If it’s getting too thick, add a little more water.
For the rice:
2 cups (370 g) long grain brown rice
1 Tbsp. (15 g) ground cumin
2 tsp (10 g) onion powder
1 tsp (5 g) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 g) dried oregano
1/2– 1 tsp (2-5 g) cayenne pepper (optional)
2 limes, juiced
zest of 1 lime
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Rinse the rice with cool water. Combine the rice and spices and cook rice according to package directions. When finished, stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro, adding salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Serve with mole.
Makes six servings.
With March Break on its way in, it’s fun to engage the kids in some hands-on activities. My most recent article in the Standard featured just that: KID approved (March Break: Cooking together with your kids is fun and (shhh!) educational, too) was featured the Wednesday before March Break, getting your kids started in the kitchen.
The article featured a “Cheezy” Fondue with Roasted Vegetables, Tempeh Sloppy Joes, and Super Simple Breakfast Bars.
There are a couple of things that I could go without in my kitchen, but a few that I really bask in. I don’t buy too many gadgets, but I do own a couple of things that I really recommend.
One thing is an immersion blender. I love this power stick and I use it nearly every day. I can’t imagine eating a pureed soup and putting it all in the blender or food processor to make it silky smooth. Furthermore, I’d prefer not to risk breaking either of the appliances to give it a try.
This particular one that I own comes with a mini-chopper, and I am pleased to say that is a handy addition. Whilst it’s not as powerful as a food processor or blender, it does a great job for smaller feats, such as chopped nuts or making pesto (two particular concoctions I frequent it for.)
That all being said, I threw together a simple soup that, like most, tasted better a day later but was warming and deviated from another soup I’ve been making quite often.
Roasted Pepper-Tomato Soup
1 large white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Seasoning of choice (sage, thyme, basil, parsley, fresh ground black pepper and salt)
1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
2 large red peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped*
1/2 box Mori-Nu Extra-Firm Lite Silken Tofu
a squeeze of agave nectar
In a large saucepan, heat a little oil and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic, and stir about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in spices, and stir for about 1 minute, until fragrant, also.
Add tomatoes, water and peppers (you can add more at the end if it’s not your preferred consistency). Cover and let simmer about 15 minutes minimum, to let flavours expand (but, like others, this can be made in a pinch but better the next day).
Add tofu, then puree all ingredients until smooth. Stir in agave nectar, just about a teaspoon or so, to cut the acidity.
*To roast peppers, core and slice in four flat pieces. Broil until the skins are black, then wrap securely for about 10 minutes to steam, in order to easily remove the skins.
I enjoyed this one day with nori rolls, spread with hummus and stuffed with baby spinach, roma tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and pan-fried mushrooms. This is my absolute favourite hummus.
Roasted Garlic Hummus
This hummus highlights roasted garlic and has a really mellow flavour. If you like more garlic, roast another half a bulb. I love the pungency of raw tahini, but you can use roasted if you’d like.
1 large head of garlic
1 (14oz.) can chickpeas (I use unsalted, so adjust salt accordingly), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons raw or roasted tahini
1/4 cup or so of warm water
juice of one lemon
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
To roast the garlic, preheat oven to 375F. Cut just the very tops off of the garlic bulb, so the tops of most of the cloves peek through. Wrap in aluminum foil, and roast in oven for 1 hour. Remove and let cool.
When it’s finished, use your hands and fingers to squeeze the roasted garlic into your food processor. Add all of the remaining ingredients, and process until smooth. You can add more cumin, cayenne, salt to taste, but I like to let it mellow and sample right before serving.
Re-testing more cookbook recipes, I was pleased to enjoy the hummus again, spread on a gluten-free, vegan pita pocket, and I am really excited about the consistency (both in taste and in coming out perfectly each time!) of these. They kept well for a couple days without freezing, and didn’t dry out over night in the fridge to take them to work the next day.
And the soup? It re-accompanied two re-tested crackers the following day.
I am looking increasingly forward with each positive experience in my kitchen, and love every second.
Thank goodness for the weather, with its baking-promoting demeanor, I love spending time with my kitchen.