September 18, 2014

Summer Recap

Somehow another month has passed without a blog post or recipe to share with you, but I'm going to try to make it up with some new recipes starting next week! I made a big batch of soup this week that I'll be sharing here soon, and I hope to start making some pumpkin treats this weekend too!

In the meantime, I thought I would do a post about what I've been eating over the summer - even though I didn't spend as much time cooking or developing my own recipes, I still enjoyed lots of good food!

A lot of my meals were super simple dinners that I could throw together quickly as I was so busy working on my dissertation. I ate a lot of toast with various toppings like avocado or sliced radishes with butter or hummus, and I loved eating fresh tomato and basil sandwiches. I also added a cob of corn to my meals whenever I found local corn at the grocery store!

Near the beginning of the summer, I made a big batch of veggie burgers at my parents' house so that I could pull one out of the freezer any time I was there for dinner and needed a vegetarian option. I loved the flavour and texture of these BBQ chickpea burgers from Oh She Glows, and they made the perfect summer meal with a side of potato or pasta salad!

I always love eating panzanella in the summertime. I usually stick to traditional combinations of ingredients like tomatoes, cucumber, basil and sometimes cheese, but I really liked this fruity variation with strawberries and cantaloupe that I threw together!

On the right is a pasta salad that I made twice this summer - it's a variation of this recipe from the blog archives, but with some changes to the veggies (like corn instead of peas and extra zucchini and cucumber) and I left out the tofu and walnuts. My favourite part of this salad is the creamy lemony basil dressing!

For other quick and easy meals, I made pasta with avocado sauce (pictured on the right), following this recipe from Oh She Glows, and zucchini noodles with a sauce I whipped together using hummus (on the left). I didn't use my spiralizer as much this summer compared to last year, but I still love "zoodles"!

For Canada Day in July, I brought these red and white cream cheese-stuffed strawberries to a party and while they got pretty messy on the trip there, they were still a hit! I can't remember the exact recipe I followed, but this one from The Comfort of Cooking is a good example!

I managed to break out my ice cream maker once over the summer to make this chocolate stout ice cream. I followed a recipe from The Beeroness, but with a few minor changes (I reduced the sugar, left out the toasted coconut, and added a bit of arrowroot powder to thicken it). I thought it had just the right balance of chocolate and beer flavours, and I loved how it stayed creamy rather than turning icy in the freezer like other vegan ice creams tend to do.

Other than my homemade ice cream, I ate a lot of delicious ice cream treats over the summer, from countless bowls of self-serve frozen yogurt, to an amazing lemon meringue pie cone, to a couple of treats that I haven't had in ages - a cookies and cream milkshake and an ice cream float!

I also visited food trucks a few times over the summer, as my city has developed a pretty good food truck culture over the past couple of years. It's usually hard to find vegetarian options, but I loved this kale salad and flatbread with brie and peach chutney!

Finally, I also enjoyed many meals out at restaurants over the summer. Our patio weather seemed a bit limited this year, but I still tried to enjoy eating out on patios as much as I could!  Pictured above clockwise is some halloumi and fried zucchini crostini, caramelized onion grilled cheese, a tofu sofritas burrito bowl from my very first visit to Chipotle, and more Mexican food with tacos, chips, and guacamole.

Hope you all had nice relaxing summers and are ready for all the exciting things that come with fall, like pumpkin, soups, and Thanksgiving food!  Personally, I wouldn't mind a few more weeks of sunshine and warm weather though ;)

August 19, 2014

Roasted Strawberry & Goat Cheese Crostini

Yikes, how has it been over a month since my last post? Sorry I haven't been around here in awhile, but life has been pretty busy lately with trying to finish my degree and helping to plan my sister's wedding, and as much as I wanted to keep up with my blog, I just haven't had the time.

While I expect to still be busy over the next couple weeks, I wanted to at least squeeze in a quick recipe to say that I'm still here, for anyone who might still be reading!

I actually made this recipe at the end of July for a strawberry-themed potluck, and I wasn't planning on sharing it on my blog but it turned out so tasty that I changed my mind!

When I was trying to think of a strawberry recipe that I could make for the potluck, I remembered this roasted strawberry, basil and goat cheese crostini from Confections of a Foodie Bride that I had made once and loved. I took that idea but changed things up a bit this time, adding some lemon flavoured greek yogurt to the goat cheese to make a super creamy and lemony spread. Instead of making a basil syrup or using fresh basil as a garnish, I added some basil to the goat cheese mixture instead.

The strawberries are roasted in the oven with maple syrup and balsamic so they get nice and sweet and juicy. Since I was making this ahead of time, I combined both components (the goat cheese-yogurt spread and the strawberries) into one dip that I spooned onto slices of bread (pictured above). For a prettier presentation, you could keep the components separate and assemble individual crostini pieces to serve instead (which I did with one piece for photo purposes before taking the rest to the potluck!).

This almost tastes more like a dessert than an appetizer with the sweet strawberries, their juices and the yogurt, but I'm a fan of using fruit in my meals, so I loved this! If you did want to serve this as a dessert though, I think it would work well spread onto graham crackers or cinnamon sugar pita chips too!

Roasted Strawberry & Goat Cheese Crostini
Inspired by Confections of a Foodie Bride

2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp balsamic
1 113g package plain goat cheese
2 100g containers lemon greek yogurt
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Baguette or crackers for serving

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Place strawberries in a baking dish and toss with the maple syrup and balsamic. Roast in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the strawberries are soft. Remove from oven and let cool. 

Meanwhile, mix together the goat cheese, yogurt, and basil in a small bowl until smooth. 

Option 1: Transfer the goat cheese mixture to a shallow bowl or container and smooth out into an even layer. Top with the roasted strawberries (you can add some of the leftover juices if you like, but I left most of the liquid behind). Cover and refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, slice a baguette (you can toast it first in the oven if you prefer, but I just left mine untoasted and it was good that way too) and serve as a dip to spread onto slices.

Option 2: Slice your baguette and toast in the oven if desired. Spread some of the goat cheese mixture onto each slice and top with a spoonful of the strawberries.

Option 2 is a prettier presentation but both ways taste equally delicious!

July 15, 2014

Cherry Blueberry Bran Muffins

Hope you're not sick of cherry season yet, because I've got another cherry recipe to share with you today! After making my roasted cherry brownies, I still some more cherries to use up, so I thought they would be the perfect addition to some healthy breakfast muffins.

I'd had my eye on a recipe for blackberry bran muffins from the Straight From the Earth cookbook, so I used that recipe as my inspiration for these cherry blueberry muffins!

Besides using different fruits, I made a few other minor changes to the recipe, including the method of mixing the ingredients, and reducing the sugar a bit. I also added a touch of maple extract to add a bit more sweetness along with the fruit.

The bran was definitely the dominant flavour in these, so if you like bran muffins, you will love the flavour and texture of these muffins.

I liked how they tasted a bit nutty, they weren't too sweet, and they were just dense and hearty enough without being too filling. Of course, my favourite part was all the blueberries and cherries in every bite!

While bran muffins may not be the most popular muffin on the block, I ended up liking them a lot more than I was expecting to! And besides, if I'm going to eat a muffin for breakfast, I want it to still be somewhat nutritious, so I can feel good about eating one of these in the morning - my only complaint was that they were a little on the small side, but they still make a great addition to a smoothie or yogurt!

Cherry Blueberry Bran Muffins
Adapted from Straight From the Earth cookbook, as seen here

1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
2 tbsp ground flax
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups wheat bran
1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (can substitute another oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cherries (pit removed)
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the almond milk and vinegar and let sit for 5-10 minutes. In a separate small bowl, stir together the flax and water and let sit 5-10 minutes as well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat bran, flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add the sugar, applesauce, oil, and extracts to the almond milk mixture and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add the flax mixture and stir again. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the cherries and blueberries.

Divide batter into muffin cups, then bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, until the muffins feel firm on top and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing muffins and transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 12 small muffins.

July 09, 2014

Vegan Roasted Cherry Brownies

This past weekend, I brought home a couple of containers of fresh local cherries from the market and immediately started thinking of ways to use them (besides just eating them on their own!).

I'm not sure why, but whenever I think about cherry recipes, I always want to pair them with chocolate - it's one of those combos that just goes together so well! So after enjoying a chocolate coffee cherry smoothie for breakfast on Sunday, I decided to make cherry brownies as a treat that I could bring into work the next day.

Since I'm not usually the biggest fan of chocolatey desserts myself, I don't have a lot of experience making brownies. Luckily, some of the experts on vegan baking in the blogging world have already perfected their own brownie recipes that I was able to use as guides!

For my brownie base, I mostly followed Oh She Glows' recipe (also in her cookbook that I own), with some of these tips from Edible Perspective, except that I used a mix of oat flour and all purpose flours instead of almond meal, so mine are not gluten-free.

Instead of just adding the cherries as is to the batter, I was inspired by Annie's Eats to roast them first with a bit of maple syrup so they were nice and sweet and juicy!

While my coworkers could still tell that these were a "healthier" brownie (or maybe they just guessed because they know me and my baking by now), I loved how they turned out!

They held together well (a problem with vegan brownies I've tried in the past), and they were definitely chewy and fudgy in a stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of way, with just the right amount of chocolate flavour. I also thought the roasted cherries were the perfect addition to add some extra sweetness and cut the richness of the brownies a bit.

I've still got some cherries leftover, so if you have any other favourite cherry recipes or ideas that I can use, feel free to let me know!

Vegan Roasted Cherry Brownies
Adapted from Oh She Glows, Edible Perspective, and Annie's Eats

1 cup (heaping) fresh cherries
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1.5 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water
1 1/3 cups oat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
100g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 1 Lindt bar), or ½ cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup sugar*
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tbsp instant coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 450°F. Slice the cherries in half and remove the pit (or use a cherry pitter). Places halved cherries in a small baking pan and toss with the maple syrup. Roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until they start to release their juices. Remove and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Mix flax and water in a small bowl and set aside to thicken (I find it helps to let it sit in the fridge until all the water is absorbed).

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, all purpose flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil, either in the microwave or over a double boiler on the stove. Add the sugar (*I followed Ashley's tip to grind it in the blender first so it's more powdery), almond milk, instant coffee, vanilla extract, and the flax mixture to the melted chocolate and stir well to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated (batter will be very thick and dry). Fold in the roasted cherries (with their juices) and the remaining chocolate chips.

Pour batter into an 8x8 or 9x9 pan (I used an 8x8) lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 30-37 minutes, until the edges have hardened and the surface is just barely firm (I baked mine for 35 minutes). Remove and let cool in the pan for at least 30-45 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to cool completely (you can remove brownies from the pan first and transfer to a wire rack). Once completely cooled, slice into pieces.

Makes 20-25 small brownies 

June 25, 2014

Chilled Zucchini Avocado Soup

Lately when I come home to my hot and humid apartment, the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove and add even more heat to my place, so refreshing no-bake meals are definitely needed!

This week, I decided that I wanted to make a chilled soup - one of my favourite things to eat in the summertime (and if you check the soup category in my Recipe Index, you'll find quite a few chilled ones there!).

I had a nice zucchini from the market sitting in my fridge, so I used that as my inspiration for this chilled zucchini avocado soup. While this is a no-bake recipe, it does require a bit of cooking on the stovetop first to saute some garlic and green onion, and get the zucchini nice and tender so that it will blend easily.

To make the soup extra creamy, I added an avocado and some plain yogurt which get blended up with the zucchini mixture until smooth. Finally, some fresh basil, lemon juice and a dash of cumin add even more layers of flavour to highlight the zucchini.

I loved how easy this was to whip up - I made it on a day when I got home late from the gym and then grocery shopping and I wanted dinner to be ready quickly, which it was!

The only hard part is waiting for it to chill, but you could definitely eat it warm if you like too. I actually ate it warm the first night and really enjoyed it that way, and then had the leftovers chilled, which was even more tasty and super refreshing!

This is also a very adaptable recipe, so feel free to add other herbs or veggies to the soup or as garnishes - some sliced radish, cucumber, or tomato would probably work well stirred in if you like extra texture in your soup!

Chilled Zucchini Avocado Soup
Partly inspired by this recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
~4 green onions (about half a bunch), sliced
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups water or vegetable stock (I used water)
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil (can substitute another herb)
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
Ground pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and green onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the water. Bring to a boil, cover pot and simmer for about 5 minutes, until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Pour contents of the pot into a blender (I did it in just one batch but you could do two batches if your liquid is still very hot to avoid it exploding!). Blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until chilled.

Serve warm or chilled, with extra yogurt and basil on top if desired. (Note: the soup might thicken up after sitting in the fridge, so feel free to add extra water to thin it out if you prefer).

Makes 2-3 servings


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