Saturday, October 22, 2011


Mmmmm. Melt in your mouth, smooth and hazel-nutty, chocolately and rich.  But store-bought nutella is not that great for you: the first two ingredients? Sugar and modified palm oil.

This version is less sweet, and much healthier. Next time, I'm going to make it with all dark chocolate. What to do with a whole jar? The nutella website has a idea: make banana bread, and swirl a 1/2 a cup into the batter before you bake it.

Soon, you too will be standing in front of your refrigerator at one in the morning, eating this straight from the jar with your finger.

Homemade Nutella

1 1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup almonds
1 3/4 whole milk
7/8 cup powdered whole milk
3 tbsp honey
6 oz dark chocolate
5 oz milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until toasted, stirring once or twice.

Put the nuts in a clean towel, fold the towel over, and rub them until most of the skins come off the hazelnuts. Put the hazelnuts and almonds in a food processor, and pulse until you have a fine, fine grind.

Heat the milk, honey and milk powder over medium heat, whisking until all the milk powder is dissolved. Pour mixture into the food processor and pulse to combine.

Melt the dark and milk chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. (Alternately, you could chop up the chocolate and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until it's melted.) Add melted chocolate to the food processor, and pulse to combine. The nutella will be very runny - don't worry, it will get much more solid after a few hours in the fridge.

Store the nutella in a jar in the fridge for up to a week (since it contains fresh milk products). You could also freeze some of it, if you don't want to eat it all in one week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

delicious dumplings

As we were eating our dumplings, my boyfriend (who grew up eating a lot of traditional chinese food) turned to me and said 'this is the first real chinese dish you've made.' Seriously? Five years later, and this is the only chinese dish I've accomplished? But when I think about, I tend to veer towards Japanese recipes (miso soups, sushi) or Thai (curry, noodles, anything with coconut milk). Maybe, subconsciously, I knew my cooking probably wouldn't measure up to a) his mom's, or b) all those delicious, authentic chinese restaurants we go to. 

Time to give it a try. I used a combination of these two recipes (Golden Pot Stickers from 101 Cookbooks
and Pork Pot Stickers from Epicurious), and made dumplings. 

And yes, this is a vegetarian blog, and I'm definitely a vegetarian, however, since I think the way to every person's heart is through their stomach, I have learned to cook meat. Better than a lot of meat eaters I know. This is a great example of a dish that has a meat and meatless version. I make things like this all the time - pizza, chili, soup, curry - dishes where almost every ingredient is the same, except for the pork/mushrooms, or beef/tempeh, or chicken/tofu. You get the idea.
 So delicious. So easy. So authentic. Almost as good as his Mom's. Success.

Vegetarian Dumplings and Not-so-vegetarian Dumplings
(Makes about 30 dumplings each. Freeze some filling for later, the wrappers keep up to a month in the fridge. Or, assemble a bunch and freeze some for later).

Split pea filling:

1 cup dried split peas
1/2 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 minced green onion

Combine split peas and 1 cup of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until split peas are cooked. Puree the peas in a food processor. Add all other ingredients to food processor, and pulse to combine.

Pork filling:
1/2 lb ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup finely chopped cabbage

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 minced green onion

Stir all ingredients in a bowl. That's it.

Assembling and cooking the Dumplings:
Dumpling wrappers (in most asian grocery stores, just like wonton wrappers, but circular)
bowl of water
flour for dusting
oil for frying (not olive oil, something that can stand a higher heat, like grape seed)

Dust a work area with flour (the more flour you get on the bottom of each dumpling, the crispier they'll be). Separate out a bunch of dumpling wrappers (better to do this now before your hands get all gooey and sticky). Hold a wrapper in your hand, and add a small spoonful of filling. Dip a finger in water, and wet the edges of the wrapper. Fold one side over to the other, and seal the edges, pinching as you go to make little pleats. Put the finished dumplings on a plate. Continue until you get tired of making them, or you use up all you filling.

Heat a pan with a few tbsp of oil at a fairly high heat. Add one layer of dumplings, and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until the bottoms are crispy and browned. Add a 1/3 cup of water to the pan and cover. Let the dumplings steam for about 5 minutes, until all the water has evaporated. Continue with the next batch.

Eat! You can dip them in plain old soy sauce, or make this delicious dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sriracha sauce

Combine in a bowl. Dip away!


When I think of thanksgiving, I think of sage, walnuts, maple syrup, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and apples. Inevitably, all these flavours made their way into my thanksgiving meal in some form or another.

Here's a thanksgiving wrap up:

(because these recipes should make there appearance more often than once a year)

maple brussel sprouts
sweet potato casserole
cranberry and apple stuffing
mushroom gravy
rosemary and lemon chicken

Wait, chicken? Aren't I a vegetarian? Yes, yes, and that includes not eating chicken (despite what many grandmothers may think, chicken is included the 'meat' category). I may be a vegetarian, but I'm not succeeding in brainwashing those I love. I believe in making loved ones delicious food they enjoy, and if that means roasting a chicken (a free range organic chicken, of course), then so be it. And that chicken might as well get the royal treatment, with lemon, rosemary, onions, sage and a bed of root vegetables. (And a 'Taps' send off when it went into the oven. I think my boyfriend was mocking me, but it was kind of sweet.)

pies galore

I don't know what possessed me, but I made two pies for thanksgiving. One of the savoury persuasion, out of the pages of Food and Drink (that glossy LCBO magazine everyone drools over), and one sweet one, from 101 Cookbooks.

And why not make two pies? They keep excellently in the fridge, and I'm still finishing them off, a week later. Here's the savoury one - Mushroom and Squash Pie with a Cheddar Cheese Crust. It took a long time to make, but if you're trying to impress someone, go for it! Spend your time cutting out intricate pastry oak leaves! It tastes delicious, especially the flaky, cheddar filled crust.

The sweet one was equally delicious, but didn't make it into any photos - a Maple Buttermilk Pie. Think custard, maple syrup, and a hint of lemon.


The sun has a different quality in each season. Summer sun is hot, direct and bright, for sunglasses and sunscreen. Winter sunshine is harsh and blinding, reflecting off snow. Spring sunshine cuts through winter chills and promises new things.

Then there's my favourite - fall sun is nostalgic, gentle and lazy. It calls for sweaters, hot chocolate and crunchy apples. It's also the best kind for long naps in bed with cats.

Friday, October 7, 2011

kale and oregano pesto

Around this time in the fall, I realize I should have been using my fresh herbs far more than I have been, because now they are all going to die, and it's going to be a long winter.

Sigh. Hindsight is 20/20.

This is an attempt to recreate that awesome pesto made by Sunflower Kitchen (you know that brand, the one that makes the best spicy hummus and delicious zesty pesto). This is almost as good. Play around with the amounts until you get the flavour you like.

Kale and Oregano Pesto

2 cups chopped kale
1 cup fresh oregano
about 1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 garlic cloves

Combine everything except the olive oil in a food processor. While it's turned on, add the oil in a slow stream. Add a few tablespoons of water if it's not runny enough. Store it in the fridge for a few weeks - a layer of olive oil on the surface will keep it from discolouring.


This isn't a post about a recipe or a food. It's about smells. One of those beautiful fall days last week, I packed some snacks, dressed up in some bike gear, oiled my chain and headed out on a long bike ride - from the beaches out to Port Credit.
I was trying to accomplish a century - and not even a real century at that. Riding a century is biking 100 miles in one day, but I decided on the easier metric version for a start.
 Instead of a day of delicious food, this was a day of delicious and not so delicious smells: coffee beans at Mercury where I stopped to say hello to a friend, bread from the Weston bakery all along Queen East, barbecue from a school picnic in the beaches, sewage from Ashbridges Bay, burning sugar from the Redpath factory, seaweed and fish by the waters edge, and underneath it all, the crisp fall smell that says you're soon going to need more than a sweater.
I came home in one piece. It really wasn't that hard. Four and a half hours later, all I really wanted was a bath. Oh, and, I forgot to put my odometer back on after a stop at the library, but I swear, it was 100 kilometres.

Spiked Olive Oil

Not spiked with booze, but with flavour! This is adapted from 101 Cookbook's Magic Sauce. And by adapted, I mean I was missing ingredients, so I substituted others. Flavoured olive oil is a great start or finish to any meal - you can use it to start off whatever you're making (eggs, sautéed vegetables, croutons), or finish off a meal by drizzling it on top. Any herbs, spices or flavourings can be added to olive oil to spruce it up; try keeping a jar in your fridge.

Spiked Olive Oil

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp each fresh rosemary, sage and oregano
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 tbsp paprika
1 crumbled bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Gently heat the olive oil on medium heat. Finely chop the herbs. Remove the oil from the heat, and stir in all other ingredients. Store in the fridge for a few weeks.

 Here it is, in its element, finishing off a poached egg with kale and caramelized onions.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

taking the plunge... into canning!

I went to Chinatown, bought a 20 litre stainless steel pot, and took the plunge into jam making. (The pot was for water-processing the jars, a method that seals the jars so you can store them on the shelf indefinitely, instead of filling up your freezer or fridge).

This year's jam recipes:

Peach Butter
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Peach-Raspberry Jam
Raspberry Curd
Blueberry Freezer Jam

I would recommend Food in Jars for all things canning related. My favourite recipes of the bunch were both from this website - a slow cooked Peach Butter, and a perfect Strawberry-rhubarb jam that was not too sweet, with just enough sugar to balance the tartness of the rhubarb. You can also get good information at the Certo and Bernardin websites (brands of pectin), however, most of their recipes have lots and lots of sugar.

Benefits of making your own jam: imagine opening a jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam, the taste of summer in the dead of winter, the adorable little jars lined up on your shelf. Also, as soon as you start canning, everyone else you know who cans will trade with you! I've already acquired pickles and peach spice jam.

This year I conquered jam, next year, pickles and tomatoes. Also, next year, when I have a larger canning budget, I will definitely invest in some tongs for lifting jars out of the boiling water. I would not recommend trying to lift large, boiling hot mason jars out of a giant vat of bubbling water with spatulas and oven mitts. It can be done! But tongs would have made it easier.

fall flavours

My favourite berry cobbler, with cornmeal and almonds. 

Slow-cooked peach butter on toast. 

Butter makes everything taste better, especially popcorn. 

Iced coffees are turning into lattes, with cinnamon, of course.  

The mint is going to seed, time to dry it for tea.  

Last of the tomatoes.