Friday, February 27, 2009

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I finally borrowed Veganomicon from the library! It's an awesome vegan cookbook; beautifully designed, clear and conversational. And, the whole thing is available on Google Books! Anyway, here's the first recipe (of many) that I tried out, with a few minor changes. It's wheat free, and obviously, vegan. Don't let this turn you off - I brought them to school and fed them to a bunch of non-vegans with no complaints. Actually no complaints AND enjoyment and delight! (Although dancers are pretty much always eating, you can feed them anything sweet and free and they will be happy.)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (wheat-free chocolate chip cookies in Veganomicon)

1 1/2 cups oat flour (just throw some rolled oats in a blender or food processor)
1/4 cup oatmeal (I added this for some extra texture)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup soy milk (or rice or almond or chocolate soy milk - that's what I used)
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (try a flavored chocolate - orange or mint)

Preheat your oven to 375 (my oven is a little over-excited, I turned it down to 350, but I don't have a thermometer to check the real temperature). Whisk together the oat flour, oats, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the flax seeds and soy milk. Add both sugars, canola oil and vanilla and whisk until the oil in emulsified, about 1 minute. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, then fold in the chocolate chunks. Spoon tablespoons of batter onto a slightly greased sheet - be sure to leave at least 1 1/2 inches between the cookies - they spread! Bake for 8-10 minutes, then let them cool a bit on the sheet. Don't let them completely cool on the sheet though! My first batch glued themselves to the sheet.

I used Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Mint, but you could use any dark chocolate bar well-chopped. My next batch will be with Cocoa Camino's Dark Orange, maybe with some pecans thrown in. Can you tell I'm a big fan of dark chocolate? Sorry for the lack of picture - they were gone too fast to photograph!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

seedy excitement

(Sad, sad kale, but still putting new leaves out after being abandoned in december. Kale is a biennial, so I'm hoping it will come back to life with new vigor when it comes out of its deep freeze.)

Last Thursday I was wandering around Dufferin Grove Market, picking up some sprouts and carrots, when I happened upon a beautiful oasis (in the form of a seed display set up by Urban Harvest). I completely forgot they were going to be at the market this week, and was SO excited. I'm sure my friends will mock me at the excitement I felt to see rows and rows of growing possibilities, but after I started my first full-size garden last year, I really just can't wait to get back outside and dig my hands into the dirt. The only thing that gets me through the dreary, dreary Toronto January-March hump is dreaming about new varieties of winter squash and lima beans. Especially when all that beautiful white snow has turned into frozen grey banks filled with cigarette butts. Spring is less than a month away! Soon my garden will look like this again:

(salad greens from last year's garden) 

Here's the seeds I picked up:

Cape Gooseberries - I've never even eaten gooseberries, so this will be a surprise! They're a member of the tomato family, have husks, and look kind of like tomatillos

Hearts of Gold Melon - a heirloom from 1895, with 1kg fruit

Christmas Lima Bean - I only bought this because the woman selling them told me to. She had me hooked on "tastes chestnutty and has the texture of baked potatoes." Heirloom from 1840. I needed something to replace my Kentucky Pole Wonder Beans from last year - which were ok, but not my favorite.

Marketmore Cucumber - dependable. I haven't grown cukes before, but the butternut squash last year was so easy, I can't wait for more vining plants.

Tatsoi - a green with an interesting name! use it in salads, or by itself.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato - the possible precursor of the modern day tomato! tall vines, many tomatoes - apparently they taste like raspberries. I will get back to you on that. You hear about this tomato everywhere, and I can't wait to start it off in a few weeks. Dates to 1889!

New England Pie Pumpkin - I have recipes already planned for these babies: some gluten-free pumpkin waffles, a delicious pumpkin loaf my mom made me last year, and some of those nifty pumpkin-as-soup-tureen recipes. You cook the soup/stew right in the pumpkin! From 1860.

Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Peas - Don't heirlooms just have the best names? Seriously, they can make the vegetable-hater just want to give it a try. Mammoth melting? Who wouldn't want to plant these? My peas were not the most productive last year, but I have my fingers crossed.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

goodbye wheat, hello potatoes

I'm branching out into the wheat-free world after finally figuring out that I'm intolerant to the stuff. But life looks fine on the other side! At Dufferin Grove's Thursday organic market I found sweet potato bread (ooh!) made with rice flour and a tasty kamut and spelt bread (delicious and hearty).

The other day I was complaining to my boyfriend about how I keep forgetting about these delicious recipies; you know how you make pizza dough for 3 or 4 months and then forget about pizza for a year? So tonight I pulled out a recipe I hadn't made in ages. I'm sure every vegetarian slightly interested in cooking has at least one of Mollie Katzen's/Moosewood Collective's cookbooks in their kitchen; I know I have three or four hanging around. But the one that gets the most milage is definately The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Mollie's section on quiches is great - tonight I broke out the mashed potato crust. 1o times healthier, ten times tastier than your average pie crust. Here it is.

3 average sized potatoes
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
salt and pepper

Quarter and cook potatoes (don't bother peeling them, unless they're not organic - potatoes have high levels of pesticide residues on their skins). Mash them with the butter, salt and pepper and raw minced onion. Press the mashed potatoes into a greased pie plate. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, brushing with oil halfway through.

Now for the filling. So you have your crust. Next you need a layer of cheese. Usually I go for volume, not flavor - just some average grated mozza or cheddar. You need enough to cover the bottom, creating a layer protective fattiness between the crust and egg. Tonight I tried something new - a tangy sheep's milk cheese from Dufferin Grove.

Next- the vegetables! The possibilities are endless. Some of my favorites - spinach sauteed with onion, nutmeg and dry mustard; tomatoes and fresh herbs, mushrooms (only when my mycophobic boyfriend isn't around); and today, red swiss chard with onions and garlic.

Finally, your custard: 3 eggs and one cup of milk/yogurt/sour cream/any combo of the three.

Sprinkle with a little paprika, bake it at 375 for 35-40 minutes, then let it rest 5 minutes before cutting. Mmmm, wheat free quiche.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

granola, the staple of breakfast

I'm an oatmeal person. Steel cut, quick cooking, large flake, instant; with apples, bananas, soy milk, raisins, dates, chocolate chips, brown sugar, maple syrup... you get the idea. I will (most mornings) get up a half hour early just to make it, and I will keep doing this until I finally get that slow cooker I've been dreaming of - March 21 is my birthday, by the way.
On those mornings I can't drag myself out of bed, granola is a great stand-in. But it's SO overpriced, and usually filled with extra oil and not enough nuts and fruit. The solution: make some! Here's one of my favorite recipes. It's so delicious, it barely lasts a week in my kitchen. It's wonderful with soy milk or yogurt, covered in some organic bananas or peaches. Or, use it in baked apples or as a crumble topping.
Granola with many options:

1/4 cup juice (apple, orange, mango, whatever)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup nut or seed butter (tahini, almond, sunflower, plain old peanut)
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups large flake oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup nuts (again, whatever you want)
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots, dates)

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together juice, honey or maple syrup, nut butter and vanilla. If your nut butter is lumpy, heat the mixture a little to help it get together. Set aside. Grease 2 9 x 13 pans, and spread oats and nuts evenly between the two. Pour the liquid over top of the oats and stir everything together. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. This recipe is touchy because of the honey and juice - one second it can be fine, the next it's burnt. It's best to stay in the kitchen and make something else while you keep an eye on it. After it's golden brown and out of the oven, stir in the dried fruit and let it cool before storing in a sealed container.

Try different combos! The one in the picture is orange/honey/walnut/raisin. Other options? Apple/maple/pecan/apricot! The possibilities are endless. You could also throw in some shredded coconut, wheat germ, flax, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

in search of nature at yonge + dundas

Going to school on one of the most unimaginative, tree-less campuses in Canada can be a depressing experience, especially when it comes to green spaces. A four block radius of the Ryerson Theatre School reveals four food courts, three malls, thirty-seven Tim Horton's (more or less), twenty-seven buildings with ten or more stories and... seven trees? The closest we get to nature is that time last October when a hawk had its nest on roof of a nearby apartment building. As I walked past the skating rink on the way to class last October, I saw a crowd of students watching the hawk rip apart a pigeon on the top of that giant rock. Ah, nature.
However, only two blocks east, among the marginalized and destitute, lies Allan Gardens, sadly forgotten but not completely ignored. It's a really beautiful collection of buildings - it reminds me of parasols and Victorian dresses, and when you look up the history of the gardens, it gets even more interesting. William Allan, one of the first settlers of Toronto, built his house - "Moss Park"- on the land that now houses Allan Gardens. But the gardens are actually named after his son, George William Allan (who was president of the Toronto Horticulture Society and mayor of Toronto). George Allan gave the donated the property to the city, and it was named after him when he died in 1901. The original pavilion burned down a year later, and the present palm house was built in 1909, making this year its 100th birthday!

You can find more info on Allan Gardens here and here, including some old photos. And, if you feel like playing librarian/detective, Toronto Archives has tons of old photos... none of which are available online, unfortunately. (But the Archives site does have 1,000's of photos of Toronto dating back to the 1800s.) The greenhouses are sadly empty, save for some business workers on their lunch, the odd homeless person looking for a warm break from the winter weather and a handful of gardeners. Last time I was there I asked one of the gardeners what happened to all the big, old goldfish I remembered in the ponds. He replied, "Raccoons - they break in through the heat vent. A few months ago I came in in to find them high up in the branches of the palms over there, gutting the fish." Just like the hawk, even in the most man-made environments, certain animals still manage to carve their own niche and thrive in the inner city.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

winter garden dreams

This out-of-character Spring weather has me dreaming about gardening... ripe tomatoes, fresh kale, cilantro straight from my backyard. Last year was my first attempt at gardening, and I can't wait for this year; new heirloom varieties to try, more of the delicious butternut squash - from the seeds I saved from last year! Anyway, since this weather certainly won't last, the only thing to do is start planning, and I'm looking forward to attending my first Seedy Saturday, an annual gardening fair and seed exchange run by the Toronto Community Gardening Network. This years, it's being held at the new Wychwood barns on February 28th, 2-6 pm. Last year, I got most of my seeds from Urban Harvest, who I discovered at a booth at Canada Blooms. Just looking at the names is exciting and intriguing: Sweet Mammoth Basil, Atomic Red Carrot, Dinosaur Kale. I can't wait to put on my mud-caked keds and get covered in dirt.