Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One-bowl Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Muffins

I've made this recipe three times in one week, which is a reflection of how scrumptious it is (it disappears quickly!) and how much zucchini I have had these last few weeks.

The thing with this recipe is that it is one bowl, contains no milk or eggs (therefore, vegan), and can be made in minutes.

If you find yourself with a big ol' zucchini, give this recipe a whirl. You won't regret it.

Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Muffins
If you need these to be vegan, use dairy-free chocolate chips, like Enjoy Life brand. The amount of water and oil you use in step 3 is dependent on moisture in zucchini and amount of oil you want to use. The liquids should total 1/4 cup or slightly more. Keep stirring until it just comes together without adding too much water.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (sub up to 1/2 cup whole wheat if desired)
1/4 cup cocoa, dutch-processed is best
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

3. Make a well in the flour mixture and add:
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2-4 tbsp vegetable oil (I use avocado or another neutral oil)
2-4 tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla
4. Stir together the mixture until combined, it may take a few minutes. Add 1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer 1/4 cup mini chips).

5. Pour into greased or lined 8"x 8" glass baking dish or into large lined muffin cups. Bake for approximately 40 minutes for the cake or about 25 minutes for muffins. Serve with a tall, cold glass of almond milk!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to eat roses (yes, you can!)

It's true. 
You can eat roses.
That said, you may not want to eat them all. 

Here are some tips on selecting roses to eat:

1. Do NOT eat roses from stores. Unless they are certified organic, but I have never seen this offered where I live.
2. Eat roses from wild places, from your organic garden, or from friends' gardens where there is no history of chemical sprays or fertilizers.

3. Eat roses that smell good. Smells good= tastes good. Most roses nowadays are bred for looks and not scent. Wild roses generally have stronger scents. If you want to buy a rose bush, inhale deeply and go for a heritage flower with a strong scent.

Tips on eating roses:

1. They are great fresh, chopped finely on salads, sprinkled on ice cream, stirred into a premade berry jam, or stirred into yogurt. Anything really. 

2. Dried, they can be used in baked goods like shortbread, used as confetti on cakes and cookies, a small amount whirled with sugar for a floral sugar for tea or for topping sugar cookies or scones. They can also be crumbled into tea or herbal infusions.

3. Make a syrup to dilute with fizzy water for a rose soda, drizzle on cakes, pancakes or stirred into iced black tea.

2 cups water
2 cups organic rose petals 
2 cups white sugar

Bring water and rose petals to a boil. Reduce heat and let steep for at least 1/2 hour or overnight. Strain, pressing out all moisture possible. Warm infusion and add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Bottle and refrigerate for up to 1-2 weeks, freeze for longer use (it will lose some potency, but not all).

4. They make a great tea! Just crumble dried or fresh rose petals into a cup or pot and add a tiny bit of grated ginger or a few herbs from the garden (mint, lemon balm, lavender are all nice). Steep for a few minutes, strain and add a touch of honey if desired.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vegan Thai Green Curry

Use up leftovers and do not let food go to waste. My mantra for starting 2017. 

It means lots of weird and wonderful meals lately. Namely throwing everything from last night's dinner: potatoes, peas, cabbage and carrots into the frying pan to make Bubble and Squeak. And the famous: everything-but-the-kitchen sink pasta. It also means trying to find simple recipes to use up whatever vegetables are lingering in the fridge. Sure there is always soup but I crave something different.

This was it. Inspiration was on the container of the Thai Green Curry paste that I was fingering at the store. I worried my kids wouldn't eat it, but I took a chance. They ate it. But I loved it. It has come into the meal rotation in the last few weeks. It is so easy to have a little jar on hand, some coconut milk and make a substantial dinner. And I also love that I can prep the vegetables ahead of time and have them ready to throw dinner together quickly.
Here is my version of a simple Thai Green Curry to use up those vegetables in the fridge. I don't use fish sauce, just a little mirin or rice vinegar. And other than the little jar of green curry paste and coconut milk, just use what you have. 

Vegan Thai Green Curry
Serves 4
You will need about 6- 8 cups of roughly chopped mixed vegetables. Serve over cooked long-grain rice. I tend to go gentle on the curry paste when cooking for the kids and I leave out the ginger...adding it only to my portion at the end because I love it.

2-3 tbsp green curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand, other brands may need more or less curry)
1 can full fat coconut milk (don't even try low fat)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp mirin or rice vinegar (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil or other neutral-flavoured oil
2-3 shallots, or a very small diced or mild onion
handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/2 cauliflower, chopped into big florets
1/4 cabbage, chopped
handful of nugget potatoes or a few yukon gold potatoes, chopped
1 package of pressed or firm tofu, cut into cubes
small knob of fresh ginger, finely sliced into slivers (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, combine green curry paste, can of coconut milk, brown sugar, salt and mirin or rice vinegar. Heat over medium heat, whisk until combined.
2. In a large wok or pot, saute the shallots in oil over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add potatoes, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage or whatever vegetables you have. Toss quickly for a few minutes. Add 1 cup water. Cover and cook for a few minutes. Stir a few times. Add tofu and coconut curry. Cover and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender. Ginger can be added in the last few minutes if desired. 
3. Serve over cooked rice.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quick-toasted Maple Sunflower Seeds

I almost grabbed a salad mix kit this week.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. I do it sometimes. It's just so overpriced for what you actually get in those kits (about a handful of salad with a bunch of delicious crunchy and salty toppings). The one I almost grabbed had maple sunflower seeds in it. I realized that I have sunflower seeds in the pantry that needed using up and well, if I invested a few minutes of time, I too could have some maple sunflower seeds on my salad at home and save myself some money.

But I made the first batch and I began eating them by the handful. I was not feeling any shame since they are completely healthy and satisfy my need for crunchy, salty and sweet all in one bite. And they are super high in fibre, protein and iron. And my doctor did say I had to increase my iron consumption...

I had to quickly make more because that batch was most certainly not making it to the salad.

I present the most delicious and perfect snack...which can also be used on salads. If they make it past the cooling stage. Good luck with that.

Quick-toasted Maple Sunflower Seeds
I love using my Le Crueset enamelled cast iron frying pan for sugar work, but any non-stick pan would work with a slight adjustment in temperature to reduce risk of burning. I didn't want to double the recipe given the small pan I had to work with but bigger frying pans should accommodate a double recipe.

1 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp maple syrup

1. Preheat frying pan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, while assembling ingredients.
2. Add sunflower seeds to pan and toast for about 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until light golden brown.
3. Add remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, for another 4 minutes or so, until the seeds are toasting more but not burning (if it smells burnt, remove from heat immediately).
4. Spread seeds onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool for several minutes.
5. When cool, you may break into smaller pieces if desired. Store in sealed container.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Easy Vegan Split Pea Soup

It is the beginning of a new year and the resolutions are being tossed about...in a somewhat hushed tone in case I don't accomplish them.

But I forge on and say it aloud: I'm not buying anything this month. Silence. Did I really say that out loud? I did. Now I really have to do it. Gulp.

My resolution is to cut out any extraneous spending this month. Except food and grocery items. We need to eat, right? And unlike the peak of summer, there is no chance of living off the land right now. The shockingly-perky thyme, meagre rosemary plant, sprouting garlic, and rather sad-looking kale are all currently covered in snow.

But even then, I am wondering...could we do like my friend who lived in the Yukon and only grocery shop once a month? And what counts as essential items? Cleaning products? Contact solution? (Luckily I found a hidden bottle!) What about birthday gifts? Kid bribes? Too many things to consider.

It may just be more about reducing consumption. Try and use what we have. This means cleaning out cupboards, not hitting the store every time I think I need something, making do. It might mean I need to beg, borrow, or google some random DIY stuff. But that stuff never works anyways, so I will make do.

In addition to cutting spending, I will be hitting the pantry hard this month: using up the random varieties of rice, lentils, and beans that have sat forlorn on the back shelf. Risotto rice, wild rice, brown short-grain rice, white basmati rice, sushi rice...the list goes on. Seriously, how do I have this many varieties?!? And trying to get to the bottom of that freezer. I think it may need defrosting?

The first recipe of the year uses the split peas that were sitting in the pantry. And this soup is pretty simple to make, nourishing, and well, it's cheap. I have been making this since my basement-living university days, and pretty much have it memorized, so it's a keeper.

Easy Vegan Split Pea Soup 
Serves 4-6
Easily customizable if you have some carnivores in the house: add bits of chopped ham or bacon at the end. Soak the split peas for a few hours if you remember. If you forget, like I do, just rinse them a few times and then pour hot water over them while prepping the soup, then drain and proceed.
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 bay leaf, optional
1/2- 1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups split peas, soaked, rinsed and picked over
8 cups vegetable bouillon, broth or just water
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and stir occasionally until partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add bay leaf and thyme and stir again.
2. Add rinsed split peas and broth or water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat to low and cook for at least one hour, again, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn. Season to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Easy Homemade Granola

Granola is great for gifting.

It’s naturally gluten-free, and it can be made without nuts or refined sugar, so it is perfect for everyone on your gift-giving list. And each batch (or portion of a batch) can be completely customized, tailored to your recipient's favourite flavours; thus, making it a bespoke and special granola.

Whether eaten by hand, served up with milk, yogurt or ice cream, granola will find a loving home wherever it goes.

Go ahead, give the gift of granola. For your friends or, more importantly, for yourself. Because this might be too good to share...

Easy Homemade Granola
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

5 cups old-fashioned oats (buy a certified gluten-free brand for those with a gluten allergy)
½ cup coconut oil or vegetable oil
½ cup maple syrup or honey
3 teaspoons vanilla & 1 teaspoon almond extract (or 4 teaspoons vanilla)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup seeds or chopped nuts (pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)

1. Whisk together all wet ingredients in a large bowl, stir in oats. Press onto parchment-lined baking sheet and Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
2. Let cool for about 30 minutes, before breaking it up and adding customizable add-ins.
3. Package in jars with lids or in clear plastic bags. Label and give.

Customizable add-ins:

Chocolate-coconut: Omit seeds or nuts. Use coconut oil. Add toasted coconut flakes and chocolate chips or chunks to cooled granola.

Cranberry-almond: Use almond extract and almonds in baked portion. Add dried cranberries to cooled granola.

Tropical: Omit seeds. Use coconut oil. Add toasted coconut flakes, diced dried pineapple and a bit of chopped crystallized ginger to cooled granola. Optional: white chocolate chunks.

Nutella-ish: Use coconut oil, use 2 tsp almond extract and 2 tsp vanilla, and chopped hazelnuts in baked portion. Add chocolate chips or chunks to cooled granola.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Easy Greek almond cookies (gluten-free & vegan)

I was searching for an easy cookie to go with a Greek-themed menu for a community kitchen. This one fit the bill- simple ingredients, easy to make and easy to produce a large quantity for participants to take some home.

These are a cross between a cookie and a candy, so delectably chewy and with just a hint of orange. These would be a great Christmas cookie too. The snow-capped peaks and the orange-flavour would be so perfect.

I have made these cookies with different groups now and have had slight variations on this cookie based the almond flour we used, the hand that measures and the hand that stirs the pot. Sometimes thick and chewy, sometimes thin and crisp. Every way we made them, they were always delicious. But I do have to say, these are really at their best the day they are made. If you were serving them after that, I would slightly warm them for guests. But here I am eating one a week after making them, and they are still yummy straight from the jar.

Naturally gluten-free, egg-free, vegan and simple to make: what are you waiting for? These are great for everyone!

Easy Amygdalota Cookies- Greek Almond Cookies (egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan)
Adapted from greekboston.com
This recipe makes a thick, sticky dough that can be thinned with slightly more water for a cookie that spreads a bit more, resulting in a thinner, crisp cookie.
Makes about 18 cookies

2 cups almond flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp orange extract or flavouring
*optional but recommended: icing sugar or confectioner's sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until all ingredients come together (just wait, it will look dry but eventually the sugar will begin to melt), and no moisture remains, about 5 minutes or so. It will have the consistency of play dough.

3. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving only a little bit of room for them to spread. Leave in heaping scoops if you want them rounded or press down gently with palm.

4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until cookies spread and are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
5. Dust with icing sugar if desired.