October 09, 2014

Cauliflower Pumpkin Mash

Time still seems to be flying by for me lately, and somehow Canadian Thanksgiving has crept up so fast that it's only a few days away! I haven't even thought of any recipes or dishes that I could contribute to our family's meal this weekend, but I'm sure that it will be delicious no matter what!

I don't usually post side dish recipes on my blog because I tend to make one-dish meals for myself, but Thanksgiving for a vegetarian is the perfect opportunity to make a meal out of a bunch of side dishes, so I thought today's recipe would fit in perfectly with the upcoming holiday!

While I love regular mashed potatoes, I also like trying different versions of mashed vegetables, like this mashed rutabaga and this beet-parsnip mash I've made in the past.

This variation uses a mix of cauliflower and pureed pumpkin as the base of the mash, and since neither of those ingredients are particularly flavourful on their own, I added lots of extra herbs and spices like garlic, thyme, nutmeg, some cayenne for a bit of spice, and nutritional yeast to add a cheesy dimension.

I loved how fluffy and creamy this was, and while I was perfectly happy eating it on it's own, it also worked really well as a topping for thick and hearty slices of bread - I ate mine with my leftover pumpkin beer bread, which paired together nicely!

I hope my Canadian readers have a great long weekend filled with food, family, and relaxing! I plan on stuffing myself with veggies and pumpkin pie :)

Cauliflower Pumpkin Mash

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup canned pureed pumpkin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp plain yogurt (optional)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne (optional, for a spicier mash)
Ground pepper

Bring a medium pot of water (filled a couple of inches high) to a boil over medium-high heat. Place cauliflower pieces in a steamer basket and place the steamer in the pot. Steam, covered, for about 10 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat and let cool until safe to handle.

Place cauliflower and all remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until everything is pureed (you can leave it a bit chunky if you like). Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Serve as a side dish or on top of toast. 

Makes about 4 side servings

October 02, 2014

Pumpkin Amaranth Beer Bread

Now that we're into October, I'm excited to share my first pumpkin recipe of the year with you! I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm one of those people who gets a bit obsessed with everything pumpkin related as soon as the weather starts getting cooler every year - I always look forward to pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones and muffins, and pumpkin beer!

Last year, I made a variety of pumpkin based treats, but the one that didn't quite turn out was a pumpkin beer bread. I realized what my mistake was though (using a beer that was too strong and dark), so this year I was determined to try another beer bread.

I love beer bread because it's so simple to make, not to mention super fun watching the mixture bubble and fizz when you add the beer! I also like how versatile it is since it's like a cross between bread and a loaf cake - you can eat it plain or buttered, toasted or fresh, with savory or sweet toppings, as a side to soup or on its own for breakfast.

This particular recipe has lots of spices in it, a generous portion of pumpkin puree, and some maple syrup for a bit of sweetness to balance the bitterness of the beer. This time, I used a lighter blonde ale for the beer, but a light pumpkin beer would work really well too!

I also wanted to add a bit of texture to my loaf by mixing in a grain like quinoa or millet. Unfortunately, I didn't have either of those in my pantry, but I did have some amaranth so I decided to incorporate it instead. Rather than using it dry though, I popped the seeds first so that it puffed up like popcorn. If you've never tried popped amaranth before, there are some helpful tutorials on other blogs such as Edible Perspective.

The amaranth wasn't very noticeable in the baked loaf, but you could see some light speckles throughout and it added a hint of nutty flavour, not to mention a boost of nutrition since amaranth is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins.

I enjoyed most of this bread with Earth Balance coconut spread, but I also ate some with a delicious pumpkin mash which I'll be sharing on the blog next week!

Pumpkin Amaranth Beer Bread
Adapted from various sources, including Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes and Averie Cooks

1/4 cup dry amaranth grain (about 1 cup popped)
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp molasses (I used blackstrap molasses)
1/2 tsp maple extract (optional, for more of a maple flavour)
12 oz bottle of light beer (I used a blonde ale)

Preheat oven to 375⁰F. Prepare a loaf pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper (optional) and spraying with cooking spray.

First, to pop the amaranth, place a medium sized pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Add a small amount of amaranth (about 1 tbsp) to the pot and heat until it starts to pop. Once it starts popping, cover pot with a lid and shake frequently until it stops popping. Immediately transfer popped amaranth to a bowl. Continue in small batches until all the amaranth has been popped. Note: You will likely need to throw out your first batch or two, as it won’t pop properly. Mine didn’t start going until the third attempt!

In a large bowl, add the flours, baking powder, spices, and salt. Whisk to mix thoroughly. Whisk in the popped amaranth.

In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, maple syrup, oil, molasses, and maple extract. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir a few times. Pour in the beer and stir gently just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes (I baked mine for 60 minutes just to be sure it was cooked all the way through – this could depend on your oven and the size of your loaf pan). Remove and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 1 loaf.  *Note: After a couple of days, I stored my leftovers, pre-sliced and wrapped well, in the freezer and defrosted slices when I wanted a piece.

September 23, 2014

Vegetarian Borscht

When the colder temperatures hit this month, all I wanted to eat for dinner was a big bowl of comforting soup with fresh bread.

Since I had a huge head of green cabbage sitting in my fridge and local beets are in season, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a soup I've always wanted to make - borscht!

Rather than sticking with a traditional borscht, I made more of a vegetable stew with beets, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower. And since I was using a vegetable broth instead of beef broth, I tried to make it extra flavourful by cooking some onion, garlic and ginger first, and adding lots of spices and herbs like caraway, cumin, coriander, thyme, and bay leaves.

A bit of plain yogurt or sour cream works perfectly as a topping for this soup, and if I had some fresh dill, I would have added that as a garnish as well. 

For a healthy broth-based vegetable soup, I thought this was actually really tasty and I didn't mind eating it for both lunch and dinner several days in a row, since it made such a big batch! Plus, how can you not enjoy eating something with such a pretty colour!

Vegetarian Borscht
Adapted from Canadian Living 

1 tbsp oil or butter (I used Earth Balance coconut spread)
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 small yellow potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1.5 lbs beets (I used three large ones), stems removed, peeled and diced
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
5 cups shredded green cabbage
1.5 tsp salt
Ground pepper
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth (1 container)
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp agave nectar
3 tbsp white vinegar
Plain yogurt or sour cream for serving (optional)
Fresh dill for serving (optional)

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil or butter. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, caraway, cumin, coriander, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes (until the onion begins to soften).

Add the potatoes, carrot, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, salt, and some freshly ground pepper to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock, water, and bay leaves and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, partially cover with a lid, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

Remove pot from heat. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the agave and vinegar. Serve hot, topped with plain yogurt and a handful of chopped fresh dill if desired. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings

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

June 17, 2014

Thai Peanut Cucumber Cups

This week is especially hot and humid here in Ontario, and when the weather is this warm, all I want for dinner is cold and refreshing meals, like chilled soups and salads full of fresh veggies. 

Of course, veggies can get a bit boring sometimes, so it helps to turn them into something more exciting, like these Thai peanut cucumber cups that I made as an appetizer last week!

The inspiration for these came from Courtney of The Fig Tree blog, who posted these peanut satay celery sticks a while back. I thought the idea of filling celery sticks with a peanut sauce, carrots, and sesame seeds sounded so creative!  I'm not a huge fan of celery though, and I knew that cucumbers go well with cold peanut noodle dishes, so I thought cucumber cups would work really well as a base instead.

I've actually made cucumber cup appetizers before and they're always a hit, but I usually fill them with hummus or tzatziki, so this was a fun twist! If you've never seen this idea before, you just slice your cucumber and then scoop out some of the middle so that you have a nice little cup to fill with sauce, and then you can add whatever toppings you like too. 

For these, I filled the cucumber cups with a thick peanut sauce, then sprinkled sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, and shredded carrot on top of each one (see above picture for a visual of the process). Everything comes together into one bite that's creamy, crunchy, a bit spicy, and refreshing all at once!

I shared these with a group of friends and everyone loved them, so I'm sure I'll be making them again whenever I need a light, veggie-based appetizer - which will probably be often this summer!

Thai Peanut Cucumber Cups
Inspired by The Fig Tree and Vegetarian Times

1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tsp sweet chile sauce
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of ground ginger (or fresh ginger, I just didn't have any!)
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp water
1 English cucumber
~1/3 cup shredded carrot
Sesame seeds
Chopped peanuts

To make the peanut sauce, stir together the peanut butter, chile sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the water to thin out a bit. Set aside or store in the fridge until needed.

Slice the cucumber into pieces about 1 inch thick. Use a melon baller or a ½ tsp measure to scoop out the middle seedy portion of each slice – don’t go all the way through, you still want a bit of cucumber at the bottom of each cup!

Lay out cucumber cups on a plate or serving dish. Spoon the peanut sauce into each cup (I just estimated how much to put in – you want a round mound in the middle of each cup but not too much that it overflows). 

Sprinkle a bit of sesame seeds on top of the peanut sauce in each cup, followed by a bit of shredded carrot and crushed peanuts – it might help to do the peanuts first so they stick to the peanut butter, then finish with the carrots, but the order doesn’t really matter!

Refrigerated finished cucumber cups until serving time.

Makes enough for about 20-22 cups.

June 11, 2014

Rhubarb, Brie & Arugula Quesadillas

Every year around this time, I go a little overboard trying to come up different ways of using rhubarb, whether its in savory dishes, baked goods, sauces and condiments, or desserts (check out last year's roundup of rhubarb recipes!). Rhubarb is probably one of my favourite ingredients, and since it's only available for a short time every year, I try to make the most of it!

This year so far, I've made curried lentils with rhubarb chutney, a sweet rhubarb compote, strawberry-rhubarb scones, and these quesadillas!

I was inspired by a recipe for honeyed rhubarb and brie paninis that I saw on The Miniature Moose blog. I thought the combination of rhubarb with creamy brie cheese sounded like the perfect idea for a sandwich, but then I thought of turning it into quesadillas instead.

I kept the ingredients pretty simple, so all you need is what you see above - tortillas, brie cheese, a rhubarb mixture that you make by cooking down rhubarb with some maple syrup on the stovetop, and some arugula to add a bit more substance to the filling and a bit of bite to cut down on the sweetness.

I was trying to come up with something else to make these extra special, like another ingredient for the filling, or some kind of salsa to serve them with, but it turned out that nothing else was needed - these were simple but perfect that way!

I loved the combination of the slightly melted creamy brie with the tart rhubarb sauce. These were nice and soft quesadillas - the kind you can pick up and fold over like a pizza slice without anything falling out!

I did have a bit of leftover rhubarb filling that I spooned on top of some of the quesadillas which worked well as a "salsa", but I liked them just as much plain too.

Hopefully I'll have more rhubarb recipes to share with you before it's all gone!

Rhubarb, Brie & Arugula Quesadillas
Inspired by The Miniature Moose
*Note: these are approximate amounts - use as much cheese and arugula as you like, and make however many quesadillas as you can with the amount of rhubarb sauce!

2 cups diced rhubarb
2 tbsp water
1.5 tbsp pure maple syrup
~4 whole wheat tortillas
Brie cheese, sliced

Place rhubarb, water, and maple syrup in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Once simmering, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Continue to simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb has broken down and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out any remaining liquid if desired.

Heat two large skillets on medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Lay out tortillas and place slices of brie cheese on one half of each tortilla. Top cheese with a 2-3 tablespoons of the rhubarb mixture per tortilla (I just estimated how much to put on). Place a large handful of arugula on top, then fold each tortilla in half. Place two tortillas in each skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes, pressing down lightly with a spatula, until lightly browned. Carefully flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cut each tortilla in half for smaller wedges.

Serve warm. Feel free to top with additional rhubarb sauce if you have any leftover.

Serves 2-3.

June 04, 2014

Blueberry Banana Snack Cake

I can't believe it's already June, but I'm so excited because that means not only will summer officially begin this month, but local summer fruits and veggies will be here soon too! I only just had my first rhubarb treats this past weekend (a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie that my sister made, and a rhubarb sauce that I made to eat on toast and in yogurt), and I can't wait for strawberries to arrive next!

Two years ago, I made a healthy strawberry banana snack cake that I really loved, so when I was looking through my old recipes for inspiration the other day, I wanted to try that cake out again.

This time, since local strawberries weren't available yet, I decided to use blueberries instead. I made a couple of other small changes to the recipe, like replacing the spelt flour with oat flour for a slightly different flavour and texture, adding cinnamon, a bit of lemon juice and zest, and a touch of coconut oil, and leaving out the nuts and extra sugar to make this cake less sweet.

I had mentioned in my original post that I thought blueberries would work well in this cake, and now I can say for sure that they do!

I loved the way all the fruit bursts after baking, and the blueberries paired perfectly with the coconut and banana flavours. I also love the chewy, dense texture of this cake, and how light it tastes at the same time - so you can easily eat a couple pieces for a mid-morning or afternoon snack!

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm still getting used to a new oven, so my cake browned just a tad too much even at the minimum baking time. Just be sure to keep an eye on yours, and in the meantime I'll have to test my oven temperature!

Blueberry Banana Snack Cake
Adapted from my previous recipe for Strawberry Banana Snack Cake

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour (I ground my own rolled oats in the blender)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe medium-sized bananas, mashed
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup*
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

*Note: You may want to add an extra 2 tbsp of sugar or cane sugar if you prefer a sweeter cake. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flours through to salt). In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients (mashed banana through to vanilla extract).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 35-45 minutes, until the sides start to brown and pull away from the pan, the top feels firm, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling before cutting into squares.

Makes about 16 squares. 

May 29, 2014

Roasted Veggie Spaghetti with Balsamic & Basil

This past week has been a bit crazy for me, as I've had to pack up over three years worth of my belongings and move into a new place (I know three years isn't that long, but somehow I've accumulated a lot of stuff - mostly junk haha). Not surprisingly, I've been relying on quick and easy meals that don't involve much cooking to get me through the process!

Now that I'm finally settled into my new place, I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine and testing out my new kitchen!  Although I'm not sure how my baking is going to turn out with a stove that currently only has one oven rack that appears to be stuck in the lower half of the oven...

The first actual meal that I cooked for myself after moving in was this simple summery pasta dish of thin spaghettini noodles tossed with a variety of colourful roasted veggies and balsamic vinegar, and topped with some fresh basil.

This dish was inspired by a recipe from the cookbook Appetite for Reduction, which used fusilli pasta and a slightly different mix of vegetables (I left out the yellow squash and added spinach and basil). The original recipe was called a pasta primavera, but to me primavera usually implies pasta with veggies in a creamy white sauce, and this dish is quite different!

Instead of adding a sauce, the vegetables are simply roasted until tender with lots of herbs and garlic, then tossed with the noodles in balsamic vinegar for a nice light meal that really highlighted the veggies - perfect for summer evenings!

The basil was a nice addition, and feel free to add other toppings you like, such as parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, or maybe even a touch of pesto!

Roasted Veggie Spaghetti with Balsamic & Basil
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1/2 bunch asparagus
1 large zucchini
1 small red onion
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper (I recommend orange, red, or yellow)
4-6 cloves garlic (4 large or 6 smaller)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme or basil (I used basil because I didn’t have thyme)
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb spaghettini (or another pasta)
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A few handfuls of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Prepare the veggies: snap the woody ends off the asparagus and slice the stalks into smaller pieces (3-4 pieces per stalk). Slice the zucchini into half-inch slices. Peel the onion and cut in half, then slice each half into thin slices. Cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds and core, and thinly slice. Peel the garlic and cut into thin slices as well.

Divide the veggies among the baking pans and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle the dried herbs over top and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove pans and give the veggies a toss. Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes, until tender and browned.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain.

Add the pasta and roasted veggies to a large bowl. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts. Add balsamic vinegar and toss well to mix. Divide into serving bowls, top with some fresh basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. You might want to add another drizzle of balsamic vinegar as well.

Makes 4 servings.

May 21, 2014

Hearts of Palm, Orange & Avocado Salad

I mentioned in my last post that I recently got two new vegan cookbooks as a gift, and I couldn't wait to try the recipes in Straight from the Earth.

One recipe that stood out that I decided to try my take on first was the grilled hearts of palm salad with grapefruit and avocado. I love the combination of avocado with citrus fruits, and I've been wanting to try hearts of palm for awhile so I was excited to try this!

I'm not a huge fan of grapefruit though, so I decided to use orange instead, which I thought worked really well as a substitute. I had to try a couple of stores before I found canned hearts of palm, but I was glad I managed to get them because I loved their unique taste and texture!

If you've never had hearts of palm, it's a vegetable that actually comes from a palm tree, and I would describe them as having a similar texture as artichokes, but with a milder flavour somewhat like water chestnuts.

The original recipe called for grilling the sliced hearts of palm, but I just sauteed them in a pan and that worked fine too! For the dressing, I modified it to have much less oil and I added some dijon and a bit more orange zest. I also added a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds to my salad for a little bit of crunch.

This was such a fresh tasting salad that would be perfect to eat on a warm summer night. I loved the combination of buttery, creamy avocado slices with the juicy oranges and the warm hearts of palm. The dressing was nice and light and tangy, and you can use whatever greens you like as the base - the original recipe called for arugula but I used baby spinach instead.

I hope to try more recipes from this cookbook soon, and if you've tried any that you recommend, please feel free to share in the comments!

Hearts of Palm, Orange & Avocado Salad
Adapted from Straight from the Earth

2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp agave
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp orange zest
Salt and pepper to taste

1 seedless orange (*Note: you will need the zest first for the dressing before you slice it)
1 14oz can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 ripe avocado
Baby spinach or other baby greens

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl (or place in a bowl with a lid and then shake to mix). Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Use a knife to slice the peel off the orange. Carefully slice the orange into thin segments and set aside. Slice the hearts of palm in half lengthwise and let dry out a bit on paper towels.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toast the pumpkin seeds just until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl. Add olive oil to the pan, then place the hearts of palm flat side down. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned, then flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.

Cut avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out the two halves. Slice each half lengthwise into thin pieces.

Place desired amount of spinach or greens in a bowl and drizzle some of the dressing over top. Toss well to mix, then lay out greens on plates. Top plates with the sliced avocado, oranges, hearts of palm, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle more dressing over top if desired.

Makes 2 large servings or 4 small servings.

May 14, 2014

Recipe Round Up: Spring 2014

With our Mothers Day brunch and dinner this past weekend, and a month or two worth of other treats and snacks that I've made from other blogs, I thought it was time for another recipe round up to share some of kitchen successes I've had lately!

For my birthday last month, my sister Natalie got me a couple of new cookbooks that she knew would be exactly my style - the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon (mine is the Canadian cover), and Straight from the Earth by mother-daughter duo Myra and Marea Goodman.

I knew I wanted my own copy of the Oh She Glows book after seeing so many other bloggers rave about the recipes, and I know from my own experience that Angela's recipes are not only healthy but they always turn out well!

I've only made one recipe from the book so far - the 15 minute creamy avocado pasta (one that I've made from her blog a few times before as well) and if it's any indication of the quality of the other recipes in the book, then I definitely can't wait to try more!

Another birthday treat that I haven't mentioned on my blog yet was the one I made for myself! Instead of making a cake this year, I opted for miniature "cheesecakes" that I could bring in to the office to share with people. I based the recipe off of Chocolate Covered Katie's greek yogurt cheesecake, except I used a regular (non-vegan) lemon greek yogurt and reduced the sweetener a bit.

Instead of making one large cake, I crumbled the graham cracker base into muffin liners and made individual cups that I baked for about 20-25 minutes. The texture was definitely different than a regular cheesecake, but it got better after one or two days in the fridge and I loved how creamy they were! 

Another recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie's blog that I tried recently was her one-minute coffee cake in a mug (pictured below). I left out the topping and added cinnamon to the batter instead, and I also baked mine in a wider ramekin so it was a bit flatter, but it came out perfectly! I thought it did taste like coffee cake and had a nice texture - hard to believe you can make it so easily just in the microwave!  Topped with some yogurt and a sprinkle of granola, this made a nice light breakfast along with a smoothie. 

I've also been loving the recipes posted by Lauren on her blog Oatmeal with a Fork - she always has new ideas for healthy no-bake treats that I keep bookmarking!

I tried her double layer chocolate cookie bars recently and loved the combination of oat-based cookie dough on top with a cocoa and date layer on the bottom. I made a few changes based on the ingredients I had on hand, including adding some PB2 to the top layer for a bit of a peanut butter flavour which worked well.  

Another healthy treat I made recently was this vegan banana bread chocolate chip snack cake from Ambitious Kitchen. I loved the flavour that the oat flour added (although I substituted half of the oat flour with whole wheat flour), and I thought they had the perfect amount of banana taste. These were nice and light with a touch of richness from the chocolate chips. I would definitely make these again!

I actually made the banana cake for a daytrip with my family that we organized for my dad's birthday. Along with the cake, I also made these no-bake fig newtons because my dad loves figs! I followed this recipe for date newtons by the Pancake Princess, adapted from the blog Rawified (who also made a fig version). The outside is made from ground up nuts, oats, and flax, and the inside is a paste made from dried black mission figs. They were soft and chewy, and pretty rich so you only need a small piece for a healthy snack!

Finally, I wanted to share a few of the recipes that I tried this past weekend for Mother's Day.

For brunch, my sisters and I got together to eat with our parents and we prepared a fun and interactive breakfast buffet!  I set out a couple of kinds of yogurt with a variety of fruits and some granola so that everybody could make their own yogurt parfait, and my sister also made some amazing biscuits that we ate fresh out of the oven with different jams.

My favourite part of the meal though was this no-cook strawberry lemon chia curd from Edible Perspective that I made the night before and let thicken in the fridge overnight (I used all black chia seeds so mine turned out a little darker). It was the perfect addition to both the yogurt parfaits and the biscuits! 

For dinner later on in the day, my sister made a strawberry goat cheese salad topped with chicken, and for a vegetarian option I decided to make some tofu to go with the salad. I followed this recipe for breaded tofu from Divine Healthy Food, making a couple of small changes to the marinade and sauteeing it rather than grilling. I've never made breaded tofu before but I loved how it turned out!

I also made this strawberry focaccia with maple-balsamic caramelized onions and basil from Saveur to go with the meal. The crust came out a little crispier than I wanted, but I loved the topping combination and I thought the leftovers were even better the next day because the crust had softened up a bit. 

It was a great meal overall, complete with rhubarb and lemon custard tarts made by my sister for dessert! You can check out a more detailed post about our Mother's Day meals on my sister Natalie's blog Once Upon a Cutting Board.

Hope you're all enjoying the Spring weather and hopefully I'll be back soon with a new recipe to share!


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