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asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus, nettle, and shiitake pizza

Real talk: this was a spur of the moment post, which is not usually how I roll. I have a few ideas sketched out for this month, but as this week was rolling along I wasn’t feeling motivated to work on any of them. But it just sort of happened organically, one of those situations where what I have in the fridge also happens to be seasonal and also jives with a bookmarked recipe I’ve been meaning to try out.

We’ve been picking up asparagus the past few weeks at the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market because I really can’t get enough of it, plus it’s such a short season that we might as well eat it while it’s at its peak. The last time we were there, I noticed that the first stall we passed on our way was selling nettles. I’ve seen and heard of them before, but had never used them. I struck up a conversation with the woman running the stall, who gave me very clear instructions on how to safely handle and prepare them to remove the sting, and lots of suggestions for what to use them in. You can’t eat nettles in their raw form since they will cause an unpleasant burning (thus: stinging nettles) on contact with your skin, and cooking removes this property. I bought a bunch of nettles at the market last week and just blanched all of it at once for sake of ease, then put it in the fridge to use this week. Once they are cooked they are pretty mild in flavour, and so most often it is suggested to just swap them in wherever one might use spinach.

I had also recently taken out Sarah Owens’ book ‘Sourdough’ from the library, and wanted to make everything from it. If you bake a lot of bread and are looking for other ways to use your sourdough starter, this book is a great resource for making all sorts of seasonal baked goods. I’ve been on the hunt for a a good low maintenance pizza dough recipe, and hers seemed almost too easy that I had my doubts about how it would go. It handled beautifully and the crust came out perfectly in my opinion, so we will definitely be using that as our go-to recipe. As long as you keep your starter on the counter, you can have pizza the next night, which is ideal if you need a fast weeknight dinner.

This pizza was also inspired by Sarah Minnick who tosses up the most beautiful and seasonal pies on the internet. My apologies for the lack of precise measurements for the ingredients, but really: who measures out pizza toppings?

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

 

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus nettle shiitake pizza

asparagus, nettle, and shiitake pizza (vegetarian)

makes 1 10″ pizza

1 batch pizza dough (my current favourite is from ‘Sourdough’ by Sarah Owens)
olive oil
salt
3 small-medium asparagus spears, very thinly sliced on a sharp bias
a handful of blanched nettles (see notes)
a handful of shiitake mushrooms (4 or 5), sliced in half
1/2-2/3 cup grated mozzarella (I used a goat’s milk variety)
2 tablespoons basil oil/pesto
a pinch of chili flakes
a couple teaspoons of minced chives, plus the blossoms
flakey salt

Preheat oven to 550F convection with a pizza stone on a middle/upper rack. Heat a small pan over medium with oil, and saute the asparagus with a pinch of salt for 2-3 minutes, until they are slightly tender but still bright green. Remove from the pan then saute the mushrooms in oil until they get a bit of colour (4-5 minutes), then season with salt and remove from the pan.

On a well floured counter, shape pizza dough into roughly a 10″ round by gently pressing from the centre outwards, or by lifting it onto your knuckles and rotating in a circle. Place on either a piece of parchment, or a peel dusted generously with cornmeal and flour, and give it a little shimmy to make sure it will slide off the peel when you’re ready to bake. Spread the pesto/oil on the dough, leaving a small rim around the edge. Sprinkle on most of the cheese, followed by the asparagus, nettles and shiitakes. Add the rest of the cheese and a pinch of chilies. Quickly slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake for 8-9 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust has browned nicely. Finish with the chives and a pinch of flakey salt.

Notes:

Cooking the nettles: using gloves or plastic bags over your hands, remove the leaves from the stems, and drop them in a pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and put in an ice bath, then lay out to dry a bit on a towel, and refrigerate. Use anywhere you would use spinach.

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

raspberry rhubarb buckle

Normally this is the time of year when I’m so ready to bust out of my winter cocoon and flip on the extroverted switch. Usually I’m feeling so prepared to go out and socialize after months of hibernating, to host a BBQ, and plan some fun summery adventures. But I haven’t hit that mode yet. For the past while I’ve been more focused on looking inward rather than outward, trying to figure out how to feel healthier and happier.

Part of that has materialized in a lot of cleaning and organizing around the house (I guess that’s why they call it spring cleaning?). I can’t feel relaxed if our house seems cluttered or messy, which maybe is a reflection of how my brain feels most of the time; it makes sense that there would be a connection between our physical surroundings and mental/emotional state. So before I can address my cluttered/busy brain, I address what’s in front of me, because making a to-do list of chores is infinitely easier than resolving the stresses in one’s mind. I think it’s a sense of control, like if everything else is running smoothly I can start to address the other stuff. So I pull things out of the fridge and meticulously clean the drawers; grabbing things out of that closet full of random crap and sorting into keep/donate/recycle/trash piles; vacuum, throw on some laundry, start meal prepping.. and when I feel accomplished, I sit down in the quiet and think, ‘What next?’

On a more personal level, I’ve been slightly tweaking how I eat, trying to use my gym membership more (but my motivation comes and goes), and more recently I’ve been getting into the groove of meditating. I used to get together with a handful of co-workers a few years back to listen to a meditation for about 20 minutes, whenever we could coordinate a time that worked. I always felt so calm after, but I could never manage to do it on my own. Every once in a while when I was a little high strung Luke would play one for me as we were going to sleep, and I’m now determined to make it a nightly routine without forcing it too hard. As I post this I’m on day, or night rather, 24 of meditating. I’m going to stop counting soon, mostly so I don’t feel guilty if I skip a night, but also because the goal isn’t about a number, but regaining the feeling of calm in my mind.

While I don’t find it easy to calm my mind every night, I’m at least finding comfort in my nightly routine: tea and magnesium, read my book, then meditate. Some nights it’s more effective than others, but I still feel encouraged to keep trying. If you have any relaxing nighttime routines that you love, let me know! 

ps the app that I love the most is  Headspace, and I just keep replaying the free 10-day guide over again. I have also used Insight Timer and like it as well for the wide variety, and that it keeps a record of your meditations.

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

vegan raspberry rhubarb buckle cake

raspberry rhubarb buckle (vegetarian, vegan)

serves 8-10

1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground white chia seed + 3 tablespoons warm water
1 cup non dairy milk, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons orange blossom water
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup diced rhubarb
1 cup raspberries

streusel topping

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F convection (or 350 regular).

Streusel: Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl until it feels like wet sand.

Cake: Lightly grease a 10″ cast iron skillet. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the coconut oil and sugar until combined, then add the chia mixture, followed by the milk and orange blossom water. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. With the machine on a low or stir setting, slowly add the flour. When it’s mostly incorporated turn off the machine. Pour into the greased pan, then evenly scatter the fruit over the batter, followed by the streusel. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Notes:

I found this cake to be the perfect slightly sweet breakfast treat for me, especially with the streusel topping, but if you want more of a dessert sweetness you can up the sugar in the cake to 3/4 cup.

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

everything bagel fattoush with fava beans

As a result of our continued eagerness to spend time outside, we grilled our dinner on the deck one night last week, each wrapped in a blanket huddled next to the BBQ. The weather here hasn’t been terribly chilly, but after spending so much time soaking up the sun on vacation I became accustomed to walking around in birks and shorts, no sweaters in sight. I can’t wait to sit on the deck with a cold radler, eat dinner straight off the grill, and relax while the warm sun fades to dusk and my new twinkly patio lights blend in with the starry night.

This recipe came about as an attempt to use up a few things that have been lingering in the fridge a little bit too long. Even though I had used them for a few recipes, I still had leftover turnip, radishes, and half a pomegranate counting down the days til their demise. Rounded out by the sourdough bagels I had stashed in the freezer and the ever abundant mint and lemon balm in our backyard, I pretty much had the makings of a salad. We always have cucumbers around for sandwiches, salads, and hummus dipping, and who doesn’t have some fresh herbs slowly wilting in their fridge? 

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

vegan bagel fattoush with fava beans

everything bagel fattoush with fava beans (vegetarian, vegan)

serves 4 as a side

1 everything bagel, preferably sourdough
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 turnip, sliced very thinly
1 winter radish, sliced very thinly
2 baby cucumbers, sliced thinly
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup cooked fava beans
a few handfuls of green lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
roughly torn herbs: parsley (1/4 cup), mint (2 tablespoons), lemon balm (1 tablespoon)
salt
optional: yogurt

dressing:

1 teaspoon sumac, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic, microplaned
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Toast the bagel, then tear into 1 inch pieces and drizzle with the teaspoon of olive oil. Add all the dressing ingredients to a small jar with a lid, then shake vigorously to combine. Layer the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing (you may not need all the dressing). A smear of yogurt on each plate when serving would make a welcome addition.

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

artichoke and leek penne with ricotta

Seems the April showers are a bit delayed this year, but I really don’t mind. I love the gloomy grey skies, getting to wear big boots and my bright yellow rain jacket, and how fresh all the rain makes the air feel. Plus it definitely helped our garden along: I came back from a week-long family vacation in the Dominican Republic only to discover some giant rhubarb, loads of mint and lemon balm, and some asparagus and garlic sprouting out of the earth!

There still isn’t much in the way of local produce yet, but the few ingredients for this meal feel fresh and bright like a spring meal should. The bright pops of colour from asparagus and arugula mimic our surroundings, the greenery slowly emerging from its winter hibernation. We are definitely looking forward to more abundant farmers’ markets and the (small) bounty that awaits us in our very own backyard. Happy spring time friends!

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

vegan artichoke penne with leeks and ricotta

artichoke and leek penne with ricotta (vegetarian, vegan)

serves 2

380 g whole grain penne
salt
6 asparagus stalks, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
4 artichoke hearts, halved and sliced
1/2 large leek, sliced into half moons (about 1/2 cup loosely packed)
1/4 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1/2 batch almond ricotta (see below)
1 tsp lemon zest
handful of arugula

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, then add the penne. About one minute before the pasta is ready, add the asparagus to the pot. Cook for one minute, then drain and reserve about 1 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the artichokes and leeks with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5-6 minutes until the leeks have softened slightly. Add the white wine, and continue to cook until mostly reduced. Add the ricotta, drained pasta, asparagus, and lemon zest, stirring to coat. Add the pasta water until it becomes saucy and coats every noodle (I added about 1/2 – 2/3 cup). Add the arugula and stir through, adding more salt if needed. Divide between 2 plates.

Almond ricotta (barely adapted from hot for food blog)

1 cup blanched almonds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white/mild miso
1/3 cup water

Blend ingredients in a high speed blender until almost smooth and no big chunks of almond remain.

Notes:

Feel free to use a regular dairy ricotta if that suits you.

You only need half of the ricotta from the recipe above; use the extras for some bruschetta!

spring-y filo quiche

Well, it seems that spring is finally upon us. The days are slowly getting warmer and longer, and more people are spending time outside. Downtown has been filled with people the past couple weekends, and I’ve noticed a number of people in my neighbourhood outside getting their yards and gardens ready to plant once more. People are so eager to reacquaint themselves with the outdoors, buzzing with the sight of flowers at the market, the promise of BBQ season on the horizon, and to see friends they may have seen infrequently due to extreme hibernation (that would be me).

As we start to spend more time outdoors, it generally means wanting to spend a wee bit less time indoors standing over the stove. This quiche is perfect if you’re feeling too lazy to fuss around with pastry (or forgot to make it the day before). It comes together quickly and makes an attractive centrepiece for a brunch with family and friends. Even though it’s still early and there isn’t much in the way of fresh local produce yet (except storage crops like celery root, beets, rutabagas, and turnips), you can still pull together a nice and homey, flavourful quiche. ps this a great way to use up herbs that aren’t looking so lush anymore 😉 

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

springy filo quiche dairy free

spring-y filo quiche (vegetarian)

serves 4-6

olive oil
1 small turnip, shredded (about 1 cup)
3 scallions, thinly sliced (whites and greens separate)
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
3/4 cup frozen spinach (or turnip greens if you have them)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped coriander
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup non dairy cream (see note below)
3-4 tablespoons sheep’s milk feta
salt and pepper
4 sheets filo paper, defrosted

Preheat the oven to 350F convection (375 regular). Heat a splash of oil over medium low heat. Add the turnip with a pinch of salt and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Add the garlic, white parts of the scallions, chili flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach/turnip greens, cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl with the cream, parsley, green parts of the scallions, feta, salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir through the cooled sauteed veg from above.

Grab a sheet of filo, gently brush the edges with olive oil, and place it in a pie plate. Continue doing this with the remaining sheets, laying each at a 45 degree angle to the previous so they overlap equally. Add the filling to the pan, then gently start folding over the excess filo. Gently brush on a bit more oil then finish with a pinch of salt, and place into the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on the quiche, and lower the temperature 25 degrees if the filo is browning too quickly and the filling isn’t set.

Notes:

For the cream I blended up 1/2 cup cashews + 1 cup water. I made this in order to have something that was a bit closer to the consistency of heavy cream than milk for a bit of richness, BUT you can use any non dairy milk you like.

I found it helpful to bake the quiche on a baking stone to ensure the bottom got a bit crispier.

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

pistachio date olive oil loaf

We have recently been getting into a good stride with meal planning. It’s something we’ve tried off and on for a while but it never really picked up momentum until now. It’s such a game changer, seriously. Even if we don’t follow the plan to a T (cause you know, life happens), it’s still made our lives a heck of a lot easier.

I’ve started batch cooking a grain and a pulse/legume/bean/whatever at the beginning of the week, as well as making granola, yogurt, and date energy bites on an as-needed basis. This planning has also streamlined our grocery list and helped to trim our grocery bills and food waste –> double happy dance. It also means my cooking is slowly but steadily improving, and that we are covering a lot of territory in our cookbook collection. Often times we will each grab a couple cookbooks, sit down at the kitchen table, and bookmark a few things we each want that week. This totally prevents a cooking rut: a wide array of spices and a couple different cooking techniques can transform the same food into completely different meals, which feels so exciting (#nerd).

Yes, meal planning and prepping take some forethought. But some of it is hands off: cooking beans and grains does not require much attention, you could watch tv at the same time. It gets easier as you figure out a rhythm for batch cooking, as well as a rhythm for your week: have a couple easy go-to recipes that will round out a meal (we often have a greek salad hanging out in the fridge) for nights when you’re pressed for time, and plan the more in depth recipes for when you have a bit more time on your hands. Even an in depth recipe can come together more quickly if you prep some of it earlier in the week.

This olive oil quick bread comes together pretty quickly, so you can have a not too sweet and sorta wholesome snack with your coffee/tea, and not spend money on muffins at your favourite cafe every morning. One of the cookbooks we use most frequently is Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi, and the combination of dates, pistachios, olive oil, and preserved lemon reminds me of the book. If you don’t have preserved lemon, just leave it out and feel free to add in some zest in its place; it won’t be the same, but you’ll still get some brightness from the lemon.

p.s. The thought just occurred to me as I’m about to hit ‘publish’ that steeping a pinch of saffron in hot water then stirring it into the yogurt would take this over the top.

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

vegan pistachio olive oil loaf

pistachio date olive oil loaf (vegan)

adapted from this recipe

1 cup whole spelt flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons ground chia seed + 6 tablespoons water, mixed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3-3/4 cup sugar (see notes below)
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup preserved lemon, rinsed + deseeded then chopped small
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
3/4 cup dates, roughly chopped

to serve: yogurt, pomegranate molasses

Preheat the oven to 350F, and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Whisk the chia through preserved lemon together in another medium bowl. Add the dry to the wet and stir gently. When almost combined add the pistachios and dates and stir through. Pour into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave the loaf in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing.

Notes:

Definitely opt for a fruity olive oil, and make sure that it’s one you enjoy because the flavour really comes through in the loaf.

This loaf is not exactly in the dessert territory of sweetness. I tested the loaf with varying amounts of sugar, and either of the above will work fine. I opted for a barely sweet version that makes for a good accompaniment to breakfast or afternoon tea, but if you’re looking for more of a sweet treat go for 3/4 – 1 cup.

If your dates are quite soft and sticky, toss them with a couple teaspoons of flour before adding to the batter to keep them from clumping up together.

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard rolls with roasted red pepper sauce

Lately I’ve been getting my dose of world news from an unexpected place: the gym. I’ve been trying to get into running, so a couple days a week I find myself running in place staring at a TV (best case: watching the CBC, worse case: watching one of apparently a million poker tours).

Throughout the process of piecing together the headlines, sublines, and closed captioning, I’ve become increasingly aware of my minor outbursts while watching the news. And by outbursts, I mean the occasional gasp or very audible “UGH” in disbelief at whatever asinine views or proposals the Trump administration is presenting that day.

His plan to better fund the Department of National Defence (aka build the border wall) in his just-released budget means drastic cuts across the board, most significantly to the Environmental Protection Agency. His budget chief said that climate change efforts are a waste of time. A WASTE OF TIME YOU GUYS. The whole thing is so infuriating, and yet I keep moving. I guess the anger pumps my blood faster and propels me forward. I feel physically and emotionally exhausted afterward, so it turns out that running has become very cathartic for me.

After standing on my feet all day at work followed by anger-fueled running for 30-40 minutes, I’m pretty hungry and don’t want dinner to take all that long. While we definitely tend toward more hands on dinners, these collard rolls fall somewhere in the middle for us in terms of time spent prepping/cooking. I have been getting into the habit of batch cooking a grain at the beginning of the week so we can easily include some whole grains in some lunches and dinners throughout the week. That + this lazy girl’s pseudo-romesco blender sauce make this meal come together much more quickly. While these are in the oven I might throw together a quick salad and chuck a whole sweet potato in the oven for low-key sides.

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard roll with roasted red pepper sauce

spelt collard rolls with roasted red pepper sauce (vegetarian, vegan)

serves 3-4 with additional sides

inspired by these cabbage rolls

2 cups cooked spelt (1 cup raw)
4 collard leaves, ribs removed/trimmed down
1 medium onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 medium carrot, small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 small celeriac, peeled and small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup fennel, small dice (a handful of fronds reserved)
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

2 roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the carrot, celeriac, fennel, and a pinch of salt, then continue to cook for 15-20 minutes until they have softened, adding a splash of water if needed. While the veg is cooking, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch each collard leaf for about 15 seconds then remove and run under cold water or plunge into a bowl of ice water.

After the veg has softened, add the garlic, tomato paste, spices and vinegar to the pan and stir occasionally for 4-5 minutes. Add the reserved fennel fronds, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and add the spelt to the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350F fan (375 regular). Add all the sauce ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Grab the collard rolls and divide the spelt filling between them, and roll them up snugly. Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish, then place the collard rolls in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over top. Cover with a lid or parchment, then bake for 25-30 minutes.

Notes:

To streamline this for a weeknight meal, I recommend cooking the spelt at the beginning of the week when/if you do batch cooking. If you haven’t, here’s how I cook it: soak the spelt the night before in a bowl of cool water. The next day, drain and rinse the spelt, then add to a small pot. Cover with cold water and a pinch of salt, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes until tender, then drain then set aside.

Lentils would make a welcome addition to the rolls for an extra boost of protein

vegan chickpea walnut pomegranate stew

chickpea walnut and pomegranate stew

A favourite past time of mine is reading my favourite food blogs and flipping through our ever-expanding library of cookbooks. I love the glossy photos, learning the story of how a recipe came to be, just completely immersing myself in someone else’s kitchen. I love the insight into other people’s everyday lives, even the seemingly mundane details of what’s in their pantry. I imagine how perfect their lives are, how the light falls perfectly into their kitchens; how they just uncorked some spectacular vintage while an incredible meal is simmering away on the stove; and it’s all captured in an effortless yet perfectly styled Instagram photo.

At which point I proceed to curse the lack of light in our kitchen and living room, the continuous clutter despite the constant organizing and cleaning, and my inability to take a proper freaking picture (ie my major frustration with photographing this stew). Thankfully I have a partner who knows how to be encouraging, but is also able to calmly tell me to get a grip. I’m teaching myself new skills. Some days it feels like the stars align and it comes easily. Other days it’s a considerable struggle for me to style a photo, or string a sentence together out of the tangle of words in my mind.

Reading other blogs has done so much good for me: it encouraged me to start cooking for myself, it’s given me inspiration to figure out my own style, and has made me (slightly) less self-conscious about sharing something creative with the world. I just came across this post by Ashley of the Blissful Basil called ‘Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, based off of an episode of the same title from Jess Lively’s Podcast The Lively Show. She talks about her insecurities as a blogger, entrepreneurial projects, and her personal health. The point that resonated with me most was this:

“Comparison truly is the thief of joy, and sometimes I go a day or two without checking my social media accounts in an effort to avoid comparison and nip feelings of jealousy in the bud.” 

The old ‘grass is greener’ adage still rings true: it’s so easy to look at these superficial snapshots into other people’s lives and be left feeling unfulfilled or jealous. Looking at other people’s work can be a good source of guidance when trying to improve my own work, but there is definitely a tipping point when that inspiration does more harm (ie negative self talk) than good. I’m taking Ashley’s advice to heart by being proud of what I have accomplished, the progress I’ve made, and appreciate what (and who) is around me.

vegan chickpea walnut pomegranate stew

vegan chickpea walnut pomegranate stew

vegan chickpea walnut pomegranate stew

vegan chickpea walnut pomegranate stew

chickpea walnut and pomegranate stew (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free)

serves 2

inspired by this recipe

olive oil
1 onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
pinch ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon white miso
1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon tamari
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup cooked chickpeas
handful of greens (chard, kale, spinach, whatever)
1/2 cup ground toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
salt

2/3 cup millet + 1 1/3 cups veg stock
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 teaspoon lemon zest
handful of fresh coriander and parsley, chopped

Heat a splash of oil in a small pot over medium low heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes or until softened slightly. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir to coat the onions, allowing to toast for about a minute. Add the miso and tamarind, followed by the stock, carrots, and chickpeas. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for about 10-12 minutes, until the carrots are mostly cooked but still have some bite.

While the stew is simmering add a splash of oil to another small pot over low heat. Add the millet and stir occasionally until you smell it getting toasty. Add the stock, currants, and a pinch of salt, bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover. It should take about 13-15 minutes to cook. Remove from the heat and leave covered. After 5 minutes, fluff it with a fork and stir through the lemon zest and chopped herbs.

Once the carrots are just shy of being finished, add the greens, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-6 minutes until the greens are wilted and the stew has thickened slightly. Season with additional salt as needed, then remove from heat and serve with the millet.

Notes:

This stew would be perfect with pomegranate seeds on top or stirred into the millet, I just couldn’t find any when I was at the grocery store.

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom and lentil stew with olive oil biscuits

I’m finding it a bit startling that it’s already mid-February. It seems like my winter hibernation is flying by. On the one hand, I can’t wait to step outside one morning and remember what it’s like to feel the sun’s warmth, not wear quite so many layers, and stop feeling this constant chill in my bones. I keep thinking about how beautiful our yard looks when everything is in bloom. We are taking turns flipping through the seed catalog, deciding on how to improve on last year’s garden, and we just signed up for our CSA

But truthfully I’m also really savouring this time of year. I know it’s fairly dark and gloomy, and we’re all tired of trudging through the snow and biting winds. I do however love staying inside and watching the snow fall (like the crazy amount we got last Sunday), having hot chocolate and marshmallows, and catching up on reading the ever-growing stack of books beside my bed. Winter for us also means a trip home for the annual family sleigh ride at the farm next to my uncle’s place, so that’s what we are up to today. Happy long weekend friends <3 

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom pot pie with olive oil biscuits

mushroom and lentil pot pie with olive oil biscuits (vegetarian, vegan)

serves 3-4

(about 5) 10 g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup of water, then sliced (keep soaking liquid)
1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups)
1 yellow onion, sliced (1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 tablespoon mild, light miso paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup / 100 g de puy lentils
1 cup dark lager (I used this one)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
2 cups veg stock
salt and pepper

biscuits

1/3 cup / 50 g whole wheat flour
2/3 cup / 100 g all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon non dairy milk + 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 400F fan (425F regular).

In a wide soup pot or oven safe casserole dish, heat a splash of oil over medium high heat. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms (don’t overcrowd the pan) and just let them sit for a couple minutes before stirring. Stir occasionally until they have reduced considerably and are a deep golden brown. Scrape into a bowl, then repeat with the remaining mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are all cooked and set aside, lower the heat to medium low then add a bit more oil and the onions to the pan, stirring occasionally. Once they have softened slightly (about 5 minutes), add the garlic, thyme and chilies. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the miso and tomato paste, flour, and lentils, stirring to coat, followed by the lager, balsamic vinegar, and tamari, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for one minute then add the veg and mushroom stocks along with salt, pepper, and the cooked mushrooms. Cook partially covered until the lentils are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. If you cooked this in a pot, transfer now to an oven safe casserole dish.

Biscuits: whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Add the wet to the dry, and mix with a spatula just until combined. Pull batter onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a circle 1 inch high, and dust lightly with flour. Using a 2 inch biscuit cutter, cut circles in the batter, pushing together the scraps as needed to make 7 biscuits. Place evenly across the top of the mushroom stew. Brush with maple/non-dairy milk mixture, sprinkle on some flaked salt, and place in the oven for 16-18 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown.

vegan chocolate raspberry parfait

bailey’s chocolate mousse + raspberry parfait

I’ve never really been into Valentine’s Day (maybe it’s my aversion to neon pink EVERYTHING), but I definitely have a sweet tooth and eat a little bit of chocolate pretty much every day. If you want to make a decadent treat for your partner, or if you’re simply a chocolate fiend like me, this parfait is for you. All you have to do is blend, layer, then slide these into the fridge and try not to think about them for a couple hours until they are set (a real test of patience, if I do say so myself).

I remember seeing the Bailey’s Almande on Twitter sometime last year. I was super excited that it existed, but I figured it would only be sold in the States and promptly forgot about it. That is, until I went into the LCBO last fall and saw that gorgeous white bottle out of the corner of my eye. I swear I must have looked absolutely goofy with the huge grin on my face. While it’s not quite as creamy as the original (the consistency is more like non-dairy milk), I still think it’s a big deal that this product is now widely available.

Bailey’s was a staple on the brunch table at my Opa’s every Sunday, and that clever guy even started making his own (albeit a slightly boozier version)! When I see the bottle in my fridge, I fondly remember the Sundays spent there, stuffed to the brim, watching either Mr. Bean tapes or Walker Texas Ranger. Fun/dorky fact: my younger brother and I know the theme song from WTR by heart.

ps: I had full intentions of making an actual raspberry sauce with the berries I found in the freezer from last summer. But I got lazy, especially when I saw the jam my pal Jessica and I had so carefully preserved! Raspberry jam + water = the lazy lady’s raspberry sauce!

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

vegan bailey's chocolate raspberry parfait

bailey’s chocolate mousse + raspberry parfait (vegan, gluten free)

serves 2 generous desserts

1 cup / 240 ml non dairy milk
1/4 cup / 50 g dark chocolate chips, chopped
1/3 cup / 45 g cashews
2 tablespoons / 22 g chia seeds
3 tablespoons / 45 ml baileys almande
1 1/2 tablespoons / 11 g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon / 14 g maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

raw vanilla cookie crumble (I just halved the recipe + used blanched almonds)

1/2 cup raspberry jam + 1-2 tablespoons water to thin

coconut whipped cream

Method 1: Bring the almond milk just to a simmer in a small sauce pan. Remove from the heat, then add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir until melted and combined. Add remaining ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add the milk/chocolate mixture, and blend again until smooth.

Method 2: Put everything except the chocolate into the blender and blend until smooth. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, then add to the blender and blend again until smooth.

Pour some of the chocolate mixture into each glass, then put in the freezer for 10 minutes to set up a bit. Divide the jam between the glasses, then return to the freezer for 3 minutes. Divide the remaining chocolate mixture between the glasses and put in the fridge to set for a few hours (preferably overnight). Top with coconut whipped cream and vanilla cookie crumble.