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. Read More
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. Read More
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! Read More
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). Read More
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
chickpea walnut and pomegranate stew (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free)
inspired by this recipe
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
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.
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.
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 and lentil pot pie with olive oil biscuits (vegetarian, vegan)
(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)
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon 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 or water
salt and pepper
1/3 cup / 50 g whole wheat flour
2/3 cup / 100 g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon 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 7-8 minutes), add the garlic, thyme and chilies.
Cook for 4 minutes then add the miso, tomato paste and lentils, stirring to coat, then add the flour and stir through. Add 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 the cooked mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste (how much salt you need will depend on how salty your veg stock is). 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 (this will keep the biscuits light and fluffy). 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 6-7 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.
You could also brush melted non-dairy butter on top of the biscuits which would probably give a more toasty brown crust.
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!
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.
Here is my little tip on how to survive the winter: bake.
All the time.
Savour that rush of heat leaving the oven when you pull out a tray of cookies. Revel in the aroma of freshly baked bread filling your kitchen. Not only will you be rewarded with the heat generated by your baking venture, but also the warm (hehe) gratitude of your friends/family/coworkers when you start showing up with a buffet of baked goods.
Another method for tackling the trials of winter is the pursuit of hygge (pronounced hoo-guh), of which the entire internet seems to be obsessed. Simply put, it’s the Danish lifestyle notion of coziness or well-being. And no wonder there’s such a frenzy: who isn’t looking for the silver lining in the bitter cold days of February? Danish winters are known for being especially dark and long, so if anybody knows how to endure this time of year, it’s the Danes (also pretty sure they’re ranked the happiest nation in the world, so…).
So what’s the secret to capturing the elusive hygge? How do we conquer winter once and for all? Well, the good news is that you don’t need to buy expensive stuff or plan anything elaborate to experience hygge. It can be as simple as sipping hot chocolate under a thick blanket, sharing wine and stories with friends over dinner, lighting some candles and having a bath, or baking something delicious to have with your morning coffee.
chocolate scones with coffee + cardamom (vegan)
makes 8 scones
1 cup / 135 g all purpose flour
1 cup / 140 g white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup / 60 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
4 teaspoons finely ground espresso
1/2 cup coconut oil, cold
3/4 cup / 120 g roughly chopped chocolate
3/4 cup +1 tablespoon / 195 ml non-dairy milk, plus more for brushing
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
turbinado sugar for sprinkling
optional glaze: 2 tablespoons coconut butter, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons non dairy milk
Preheat oven to 375F fan (400 regular). Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Grate the coconut oil on a box grater with the larger holes and gently stir through the dry mix. Stir through the chopped chocolate. Make a well in the middle then add the cream and vanilla, folding it through and mixing just until combined (it should be a bit shaggy and sticky, but not wet). Scrape the dough onto the counter top, then form into a circle and cut into 8 pieces. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving some space in between the scones, and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the freezer, brush with a little bit milk, top each scone with a pinch of turbinado sugar, and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden.
For the glaze: melt the coconut butter in a small bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and milk and whisk to combine.