Saturday, 30 May 2015

Simmering into Summer

With the warm weather upon us, it really feels like summer these days. And although we're enjoying seasonal local food (love, love, love) every now and then I get a hankering for a slow cooker comfort food meal, like a simple dal.

I reached for my "Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker" for one such recipe. I looked for the recipe on the internet to include in this post, but instead found many more mouth watering dals which I will definitely make down the road. The recipe for this one is included below.

It was quick and easy to out together. Paired with some brown rice and seasonal vegetables, it was a perfect weekend dinner.

Easiest way to grate ginger? Little food chopper- works every time.

Assortment of spices- turmeric, cardamon, cayenne, cumin, coriander... yum.

Rather than sautéing in oil, just add the onion to the water and either microwave covered for a minute, or sauté on the stovetop until onion is soft.

Red and brown lentils. I used brown rice, but other rices would be nice too.

I used vegetable broth instead of water to give more flavour.

Recipe for Two-Lentil Dal from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson

2 tsp olive oil (opt)
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cayenne pepper
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
4 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly cooked basmati rice, for serving
3 tbs. minced fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley for garnish.

Heat oil in medium skillet, over medium high heat and sauté onion for about 5 minutes until softened. Add all spices except salt and pepper and stir for about 30 seconds. Alternatively omit the oil, and sauté these ingredients in a few tablespoons of water or combine them in a microwave safe bowl wit a little water, cover and microwave for 1 minute.

Transfer the onion and spice mixture to the slow cooker and add the red and brown lentils, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or less). Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve over rice, with a sprinkling of cilantro.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Fast Track Salads

My husband and I try to eat a big salad each day- they're full of so much goodness and they are really satisfying, especially in the warmer weather.  But they can take time to make and if I don't plan ahead, I'm not always enthused about making one on the spot. I like being in the kitchen, but not all the time...

One way to make fast salads is to use a food processor. I love this appliance. It makes short work of a lot of recipes and salads are no exception.

Today, I made 2 different salads, because it is more time efficient to make more than one- for us anyway. I used vegetables that are sturdy and will last a day or two in the fridge. So grated cabbage, broccoli  spears, carrots, kale (or chopped by hand) - all work well as the base. I wouldn't use softer lettuces like mesclun mix, leaf or boston lettuce as they will wilt and go soggy unless eaten right away.

Then change the blade setting to slice, and add anything else you like- cucumber, radishes, peppers, green onions etc. Grape tomatoes are best sliced by hand.

Toppings can include fresh or frozen peas, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, avocado, sprouts, beans, feta cheese- you name it.

These are super salads and they really take no time at all. It's so worth it!

Note: I find it best to layer the salads, and not toss, as the the smaller veggies will get lost on the bottom.
If using kale, remove the tough centre stem. This can be done easily by holding the stem pointing up, with one hand. Keep holding it and with the other hand, hold the stem firmly at the base of the leaf, and run your fingers  down the entire length of the stem, stripping the leaves off. They should separate easily.
If using broccoli spears, use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough outer skin. The stem will now be very tender -and full of nutrition!

Grated carrot, red cabbage and broccoli stems

Dinosaur kale works well in salads, but other kales do too.

Voila- 2 great salads made in about 15 minutes! A good healthy lunch with protein too.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Good Food...Good Friends (Session 1&2)

A few weeks while cooking in my kitchen (a most favourite past time) I thought "wouldn't it be fun to get some friends together and cook for an afternoon?" Answer was "yes- let's give it a go!"

So I put a message on Facebook, had some positive feedback from my health foodie friends and planned a date.

We've had two sessions so far, and it's been super fun. I'm learning a lot, and laughing a lot, so I would say those are two great ingredients for success!
And the best part is that we sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labour, and leftovers to share with lucky family members.

In the first session we made Raw Power Salad (from the blog Daily Bites)

And Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos (from the cookbook- Thug Kitchen)
Note: Instead of tortillas, I used young tender collard leaves. Delicious!

In session two we made Raw Rainbow Pad Thai (from the cookbook- Oh She Glows)

Mung Bean Falafels from 'Chef Milena'!

And an AMAZING dessert- Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding, also from 'Chef Milena'!

And an all time favourite: Raw Energy Balls (from the cookbook Whole Nutrition Cookbook)

Raw Energy Balls (from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)

1 cup raw almonds or walnuts
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup raisins
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup raw almond butter 
shredded organic coconut
In a food processor fitted with the “s” blade grind the almonds until finely ground. Add the dates, raisins, and spices. Grind to a fine meal. Add the almond butter, process again until thoroughly mixed.
Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut. Store in a sealed container on the counter for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Can't wait to see what's cooking next... Stayed tuned!

Oven Baked Chickpea Falafel Bites

I have to admit, appetizers are not my forte. I love eating them, but not making them. I always seem to end up with a mediocure dip of some kind, or my default favourite- cheese and crackers.

So when I was searching for one to take to a potluck, I went to my newest favourite cookbook, "Oh She Glows" by Angela Liddon. This girl is good. I can depend on her recipes even if it's the first time I make them- and take them- to a potluck!

This one did not disappoint. It does take some time to  prep, but it goes fairly quickly because she uses the food processor (another reason I love her.)

I used Boston lettuce- the smaller leaves make perfect little cups. It's an attractive presentation, and easy to eat- even with the salsa and tahini dressing on top.

A definite favourite I will make again..and highly recommend.

Here's the link to the recipe:

Monday, 25 May 2015

Another Winner: Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Seed Croquettes

Dear friends of mine have just put up their house for sale, so planning and preparing a nutritous dinner is not a big priority for the time being, especially when they never know when they have exit for a showing- pronto!

So I offered to prepare them a simple dinner, easy to reheat anytime. I made these from Dreena Burton's "Let Them Eat Vegan, a cookbook that is definitely on my top five!

Her recipes do take time, but the taste reflects the care that is put into the recipe, and I appreciate this more than rushing to put something mediocre on the table.

This one is called Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Seed Croquettes with Pumpkin Seed Chipotle Cream (even saying it is a mouthful!)

Give yourself some time to make it, as it requires cooked quinoa and sweet potato. But when I sampled it before moulding it into paddies, I could barely stop eating it. REALLY good.
I baked the croquettes after cooling them and they were firm enough to remove from the pan easily.

Along with the lentil walnut burgers I prepared in the last post, and a simple salad- dinner is ready to go..
Oh, and of course a little dessert to finish.. Raw Energy Balls from an earlier post.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Seed Croquettes

Pumpkin Seed Chipotle Cream 

The link to these outstanding recipes:

Raw Energy Balls

Raw Energy Balls (from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)
1 cup raw almonds or walnuts

1 cup medjool dates, pitted

¼ cup raisins
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup raw almond butter
shredded organic coconut
In a food processor fitted with the “s” blade grind the almonds until finely ground. Add the dates, raisins, and spices. Grind to a fine meal. Add the almond butter, process again until thoroughly mixed.
Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut. Store in a sealed container on the counter for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Lentil Walnut Burgers

I made these tonight from Dreen Burton's "Let Them Eat Vegan" book. Delicious! The walnuts and apple really add a nice touch. Rather than frying, I baked them @ 350 degrees, for about 20 minutes and they kept their shape nicely.
 Excellent with a salad on a warm spring evening,  sitting on the deck listening to the birds...

 Into the oven they go..

 Out of the oven they come...

 Nice simple kale salad...

And dinner is served!

Here's the link to the recipe:

Friday, 22 May 2015

Comfort Food at its Very Best

My mom was the best cook I've ever known- and will ever know.

I can't begin to tell you how good Mom's food tasted- there are no words. This was comfort food at its very best. Chicken soup, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, her special salmon rice and green bean dish-she could even make a tuna casserole taste like heaven. The smell of our dinner on a Sunday afternoon would drive me wild. Each summer she would get a whole mess of perch from the lake, bread them and take out an enormous pan and fry those babies up in an obscene amount of lard and butter! I still remember that first taste of summer, how they melted in my mouth. When I was a teenager, and I liked a boy, I would invite him over for dinner because I knew if he had one meal at our house, he would be back for more (and my husband is proof of that)!

Mom's baking was in a league of its own. She could make the fanciest desserts like the best of them, but what we all loved the most was to be offered the simple treats when we came for a visit- her peanut butter cookies, her brownies, her dates squares.. And pies? Oh my goodness- no one made pies like Mom. Apple, cherry, peach- you name it- they were perfection.

When I'm in the kitchen cooking, I often think of Mom and try to remember what she would tell me. "Never scoop the flour out of the bag with a measuring cup. Always spoon it in, and carefully level it when it's full". Yesterday as I was getting ready to make bread, I was in a hurry and was tempted just to try it the easy way. But with her words speaking to me- loud and clear- I painstakingly  did the right way, smiling all the while.

One of my favourite treats was Mom's date squares. This week I made a version of them (from Ann Lindsay's cookbook) for a dear group of friends, and we enjoyed them immensely. Tonight I'm making them for my husband's birthday, instead of a cake as they are his favourite too.

Wanted to share this recipe with you as well. Enjoy.

Best-Ever Date Squares
500 ml (2 cups) packed chopped pitted dates
250 ml (1 cup) cold coffee (* I substituted water for some of the coffee because I served them in the evening)
30 ml (2 tbsp) packed brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of half an orange
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

300 ml (1-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
150 ml (2/3 cup) butter
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) rolled oats
175 ml (3/4 cup) lightly packed brown sugar (*I used 1/2 cup)

METHOD: In a small saucepan, combine dates, coffee, brown sugar and orange rind; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until soft enough to mash and consistency of jam (runny, but easy to spread), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in orange and lemon juices. Let cool.

Crumb Mixture: In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until size of small peas. Stir in rolled oats and sugar.
Press half of crumb mixture firmly into lightly greased 2.5-l (9-in.) square cake pan. Spread date mixture evenly over crumb mixture. Top with remaining crumbs, pressing lightly. 

Bake in 160 C (325 F) oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool in pan. Cut into squares.

 Makes 25 squares. Source: Smart Cooking:
Source: 10th Anniversary Edition, by Anne Lindsay (Macmillan Canada)/CP

Fab Cakes with Smarter Tarter Sauce.

I made this recipe tonight. It does take a fair bit of time to prepare but I appreciate the effort Dreena Burton goes to to elevate her recipes with the proper seasonings and other ingredients. Not a big fan of tempeh, but these were delicious!!

From Dreena Burton's book "Let Them Eat Vegan!"   

Served with a kale salad, this was a perfect weeknight meal.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Our Foraging Feast!

 In my last post I wrote about our delightful foraging adventure yesterday with guide Peter Blush, from Puck's Plenty. (

Upon arriving home mid afternoon- and guests scheduled to arrive for dinner (!)  I made a snap decision to switch direction with my meal plan and go with a foraging theme. I knew I could be taking a bit of a gamble, but I couldn't resist!

So after piling all our forested treasures on the counter, I got to work right away. Peter gave us lots of tips on how to prepare the edibles, and I decided to keep it simple and let the food speak for itself.

I still can't believe we made the whole meal in such little time, but we were so pumped it was really fun!

Dinner is Served..

To supplement some of the conventional foods (such as glazed salmon on the grill, quinoa, baby carrots and my favourite no bake brownies for dessert) I  added our following finds in the menu:

~Homemade hummus with day lily stems
~Wild leek and potato soup from the Puck's Plenty website
~A big salad including wild leek greens, spotted trout leaves, and day lily stems, garnished with garlic mustard and a few violas.
~A side dish of fiddleheads, blanched quickly and sautéed with garlic and finished with lemon juice.
~Assorted greens such as wild leek, spotted trout, and marsh marigolds.
~Sliced pheasant back mushroom, sautéed in butter as a side dish.
~Nettle tea with dessert

It truly was a fantastic foraging feast. Bon Appetit!

Homemade hummus with day lily stems. Delicious!

Big tossed salad with spotted trout leaves, day lily stems, and garnished with garlic mustard and violas. Dressed with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Fresh, crisp and light. 

Fiddleheads: Start with tightly woven centres and wash well, rubbing off any of the brown debris. Leave a very short stem. 

Blanch for 5 minutes.

Saute garlic lightly in olive oil.

Add the fiddleheads and sauté until tender, but not mushy.

Add a pat of butter and drizzle lemon juice on top. Heavently!

This wasn't part of dinner last night, but my husband cooked some up for breakfast. He said they go fantastic with eggs!

Wild Leek and Potato Soup:
Washing the leeks is relatively easy, the outer dirty skin slides right off, with  a little rubbing under the water.

See what I mean? :)

Separate the bulbs from the greens and slice them.

Dice the potatoes and slice the greens. 

Saute the leek bulbs lightly in some olive oil.

Add vegetable broth and cook until potatoes are soft. Throw in the greens and continue cooking for about 4 more minutes. Puree until smooth. You can add some cream, but I found it was rich enough without it.

Add some chopped chives as a garnish.

Pheasant back mushrooms, sliced razor thin and sautéed in butter.

Greens lightly steamed, adding butter and lemon to finish.

Nettle tea- fragrant and light tasting. A perfect drink with the desset below!

The wild lilacs were a perfect centre piece too!