Monday, November 28, 2011

coconut vanilla tapioca

Cooking with whole vanilla beans takes everything up a notch. It's like any of those premium, flavourful ingredients: truffle oil, saffron, maldon sea salt - it suddenly makes everything taste like a million bucks. I used a mix of cream, coconut milk and almond milk because that was what I had in my fridge; the cream adds some richness, but you can omit it for a vegan version - just use more coconut or almond milk.

Also, I found that making your own jam means you need to be more creative with it - it's time to move beyond peanut butter and jam sandwiches. A less sugary jam like this strawberry and rhubarb one makes a lovely topping for all kinds of desserts.

coconut vanilla tapioca

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup almond milk
1 vanilla bean
1/3 cup large tapioca pearls (larger than minute tapioca, smaller than the bubble tea ones)
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Simmer milks and cream in a saucepan. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into milk/cream, then throw in bean too. After the milk has infused for 5 minutes, add tapioca, sugar and salt. Cook on low heat, stirring often for 15 to 20 minutes. Add a bit more milk if it dries out before the tapioca is cooked through. Remove the vanilla bean.

Serve hot or cold, with some jam on top.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the last of the bike rides

After one too many ice falls, I'm going to be putting away my bike as soon as the snow hits the ground. I know, lame. I have lots of respect for all season bikers, but I just don't have the perseverance to join their ranks. Here's some beautiful art I found on my bike ride this morning. (It seems the Don Valley bike path has yet to be attacked by Rob Ford's war on graffiti.)  

(I suspect there's a feral cat colony down here - right below the cat graffiti, beside a hole under the fence, there's usually an empty plastic bowl with cat chow scattered around on the ground. I've only ever seen one cat, but those guys are excellent at hiding.)

st. lawrence market

Where else can you get birch syrup, blood oranges, a kettle shaped like a camel, pink sea salt, New Zeland honey, Montreal-style bagels, honey crisp apples, dutch liquorice, balsamic-fig mustard and apple bananas (yes, apple bananas)?

The Market. Which market? The oldest one in the city, of course! For over 200 years, there's been a market at the corner of Front and Jarvis. The lake use to reach right up to the back, and boats would unload goods directly into the market.

My favourite things to buy:

Koslik's maple mustard (try it on grilled cheese)
Future Bakery's market bread (soft with a crunchy, french style crust)
Buster's halibut sandwich (the best fish sandwich in Toronto, I have dreams about these)
chalk liquorice at Domino's in the basement (my Dutch addiction from when I worked at a candy store)
Stonemill Bakery's chocolate-marzipan croisant (fresh from the oven, almonds and chocolate, what could be better?)

And of course, all the delicious, seasonal produce in the North Market. This week: acorn and butternut squashes, brussels sprouts, nantes carrots, liberty apples and cabbage.

Saturday is not for the faint of heart - come prepared with bags, and get ready for huge crowds. However, this is the only day the North Market is open (5am to 1pm), where a plethora of Ontario produce, meat, honey and breads can be found. During the week, (Tuesday to Sat, 9am to 7), the South Market has stalls from around the world, and the crowds are much more manageable.

Go! What are you waiting for! Be prepared for the most delicious food experience ever.

(And, pick up some of these heirloom potatoes - the most beautiful colours.)

pear raspberry crumble

Crumble is my go-to dessert, because the ingredients are always in my house. Fruit? Check. Oats, flour and sugar? Check. Butter? Definitely check. This is a recipe for last minute dinners, unexpected house guests, and middle of the night cravings.

Pear and raspberry crumble

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter (or grape seed oil for a vegan version)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 cups raspberries
4 or 5 pears, chopped in 1 to 2 in chunks
(don't worry about peeling them)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, oats, sugar, butter, walnuts, cinnamon and salt in a food processor. Pulse until combined. In a greased baking dish, combine raspberries, pears, sugar and cinnamon. Toss to combine. Spread topping mixture over top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until top is crispy, and fruit is cooked through.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

revisiting old recipes

Last week I made these, Cranberry orange spelt muffins, back from the first recipe I posted on this blog.

It's nice to go back and look at old recipes - sometimes you'll discover a gem you completely forgot about. I love looking though my mom's recipe box - complete with handwritten recipes from my grandma's kitchen, back in the Prairies in the 50s'. Another idea is keeping a recipe notebook - write down notes about meals to try, cookbooks to read and best loved recipes you will make again. 

I organized all my recipes from this blog, have a look at the link at the top of the page!

raspberry flax pancakes

This recipe is from Moosewood Kitchen's latest cookbook, Cooking for Health. I modified them a bit, only because the recipe called for 2 eggs, and I only had one. I substituted half a mashed banana, and I really like the slight banana flavour. Feel free to add a different fruit other that raspberries, or some spices like cinnamon. If you like sweeter pancakes, you might want to add a few teaspoons of sugar to the batter.

This makes about 15 small pancakes, so if you feel that's too many, just freeze some - cook all the pancakes, and once they're cooled, freeze them in zip locks, separated by parchment paper. Put the frozen pancakes directly into the oven or toaster oven to heat them up before eating.

Also, try using whole wheat pastry flour, also called soft whole wheat flour. It's a great flour to use in cookies and sweet baked things, and really makes a difference in the texture of the pancakes.

raspberry flax pancakes

1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1/2 mashed banana
1 cup full fat yogurt
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

zest from one orange
1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries

Grind oatmeal and flax seeds in a food processor, until it's the texture of cornmeal. Combine all dry ingredient in a bowl, and whisk together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, banana, yogurt, oil, water, vanilla and zest. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and stir until just combined. Finally, stir in raspberries.

Cook on a griddle, about 2 minutes on each side. Serve with butter, fruit and maple syrup.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

crumbly oatmeal and herb quiche crust

You know when you get to the end of a loaf of sandwich bread? Those two end pieces that are left in the bag, that no one wants to eat? Make bread crumbs out of them. In fact, if you're like me, and you keep your bread in the freezer, just keep a bag for the butt ends of loaves, then toast them all up at once every few months.

Toast them, tear them up, and throw them in the food processor. Voila, bread crumbs.

Here's my favourite quiche recipe. This is from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a vegetarian cookbook classic by Mollie Katzen. Quiche is amazing, because you can use any combination of cheese, vegetables and crust. I've made pastry crusts, mashed potato crusts, and nut crusts. But this one is by far the easiest and tastiest.

You know what else? Quiche is good anytime of the day - it's eggy, so you can eat if for breakfast, it's awesome for lunch, cold with a salad, and it's definitely acceptable as a dinner, with a side of vegetables and grains.

And although I have never tried it, I hear vegan quiche can be delicious. Here's a Vegan quiche from Oprah, or 101 Cookbooks Spinach Mushroom Quiche, both made with tofu instead of eggs.

crumbly oatmeal and herb crust
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 rolled oats
pinch salt
a few tsp of dried herbs (thyme, marjoram, oregano)
1/2 cup melted butter or grape seed oil

Mix all dry ingredients. Drizzle butter or oil over top, and stir to combine. Press into a pie plate, and pre-bake for 10 minutes at 350. When it's done, turn the oven up to 375 for the quiche

the quiche formula
1 cup cheese, grated or crumbled
3 eggs
1 cup milk (unsweetened almond or soy will work fine)

Take your cooked crust, and spread your cheese around the bottom of the crust. The fat in the cheese will help create a barrier between the crust and veggies that will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Now, get creative - you have your crust and cheese, now you need some veggies. Here's some ideas:

Sautéed spinach, nutmeg, and caramelized onions
Grated carrots and parsnips, sautéed with leeks
Roasted peppers and garlic
Steamed asparagus with fresh herbs

Whatever vegetable filling you choose, you don't want a lot of moisture. Spread you vegetables on top of the cheese.

Finally, the custard. Beat together egg and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard over the vegetables. Finally, sprinkle some paprika over the custard. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, until egg is set. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

oatmeal with caramelized bananas

There's something about cooking bananas that makes them sing. They develop a sweet, complex flavour that's totally different than fresh bananas, and they make a plain old bowl of oatmeal so much more exciting. Make these bananas as a topping for  all sort of things: pancakes, waffles, tapioca or rice pudding.

oatmeal with caramelized bananas
(one serving)

1/3 cup large flake oats
1 cup almond, rice or soy milk
pinch of salt
handful of chopped walnuts

1 tbsp butter or grapeseed oil
1 banana, sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 or 2 tbsp maple syrup

Combine oats, milk, salt and walnuts in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until cooked (about 10 minutes). In a pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sliced bananas, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Add cinnamon and maple syrup, and stir to combine.

Serve oatmeal with some cold milk, topped with bananas. Sprinkle on some walnuts for extra crunch.

maple mustard salad dressing

Ends of jars are so exciting. And useful. Every time I hit the end of a jar, whether it's jam, peanut butter, mustard or honey, I make some sort of sauce or dressing. I get to please two parts of my personality: the thrifty, 1930's side that hates throwing out food, and the messy, lazy side that hates doing extra dishes.

A peanut butter jar becomes the basis for a spicy thai peanut sauce, honey or jam becomes a bright, delicious salad dressing. Pour everything in the jar, shake, and you're done.

Here's a mustard one.

Maple mustard salad dressing

1 almost empty mustard jar (just a few teaspoons left)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
salt and pepper

Add everything to the jar, shake, and pour over greens. You can also make this in any jar, with a few teaspoons of mustard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

purple coleslaw

In the Salvadorian stores in Kenzington Market, if you head to the back on the weekends, there are women, working out of tiny, tiny makeshift kitchens, making pupusas. The best pupusas in Toronto. They come in pairs, filled with beans and cheese, with a side of vinegary slaw, in a tiny plastic bag, of course.

In North America, coleslaw is often a creamy, bland mess of cabbage and mayonnaise. In South America, coleslaw usually comes in the form of Curdita, a vinaigrette based salad, with cabbage, jalepeneo and a hint of Mexican oregano.

This is not a traditional curdita recipe, but an amalgamation my favourite elements of coleslaw. It's a delicious, light side to go with tacos, quesadillas or texas pulled pork.

spicy purple coleslaw

1/4 head purple cabbage, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 celery stalk, finely minced
1 green onion, minced
handful of cilantro, minced
1 small jalepineo, minced

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp sugar

Combine all the vegetables in a bowl. You want a really fine grate, for the best texture of salad. No big pieces. Pour over the vinegar and oil, and season with salt, pepper and sugar.


Don't mess around with avocados - there's a simple way to get the pit out of that creamy, ripe flesh. Cut the avocado in half, working around the pit. Twist the two halves apart. Hold the half with the pit in one hand, and firmly chop your knife into the pit. The blade should get stuck in the pit. Twist your knife, and the pit should come out cleanly. Finally, if you want slices, just slice right into the avocado half, right against, but not breaking the skin. Then, use a spoon to scoop out the slices.

2 avocados
a handful of chopped cilantro
1 green onion, minced
dash of cumin
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper

Mash the avocados in a bowl. Add all other ingredients, and mix to combine. Taste for seasonings.

Note: To store guacamole in the fridge for a day or two without it turning brown, just lay a piece of saran wrap right on top of the dip, pressing to get rid of air pockets. It's the oxygen that reacts with the avocado, so if you create a seal, it will stay bright green.

chocolate banana brownies

These are the best brownies ever. Period. And they only have 6 ingredients. In the realm of brownies, they're soft, cake-like, and you can add any flavouring you like. My favourite is banana, which makes these brownies even more moist and delicious. They're originally from the Moosewood cookbook, and here's Heidi's version, over on 101 Cookbooks. I used her suggestion of swirling in the melted chocolate at the last minute, creating a marbled effect - the chocolate swirls are both visually appealing and tasty.

Best Brownies Ever
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

Optional: 1 cup mashed bananas, 2 tsp espresso, 2 tsp orange zest, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 cup cocoa nibs, cinnamon and all spice, 1/2 cup peanut butter.

Preheat oven to 350. Cream softened butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add vanilla, then the flour, stirring until just combined. Add optional flavouring. Spread into a 9x13 pan, lined with parchment paper. Finally, melt chocolate in the microwave, and pour on top of batter. Swirl the chocolate into the batter with your spoon. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until set.

PS - you can use plain old all purpose flour, or you can use whole wheat pastry flour, you won't taste the difference because of all the chocolate and butter.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

vegetable love

What could make this delicious plate of vegetables even more appetizing? (Besides an edible nasturtium garnish, of course.) Something tasty to dip them in!

Lemon and Herb Dip
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs, minced (cilantro, oregano, chives, etc).
salt and pepper

Combine everything in a bowl. Serve with vegetables or crackers.

PS. The secret to eating more vegetables: delicious flavours to enhance them. Homemade salad dressings, dips, flavoured oils. Give your vegetables a little love.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

shortbread + caramel + chocolate

Millionaire bars: think twix bar, but with a shortbread twist on the cookie layer. Apparently these are big in England. Instead of posting a recipe, I'm going to send you to these delicious links. Every recipe is similar, just with different twists on each layer: shortbread bottom, followed by a caramel layer, finished off with chocolate. Enjoy, and give them away, because not only are they super rich (hence the name), they're super addictive.

Blue Eyed Baker's Millionaire's Shortbread
(classic, simple, delicious. the recipe I used for the picture.)
Millionaire Shortbread from Food52
(a fancy version with creme fraise and smoked salt.)
Vegan Millionaire Shortbread
(because everything should have a vegan version. scroll down a bit for the recipe.)
Millionaire Bars from the Food Network
(minimal ingredients. try using a jar of dulche de leche for the caramel.)
Not Without Salt's Twix Bars
(slightly different, same idea. complicated yet impressive.)

fantastic falafel

Cheap, tasty, fast, healthy. This is called the world's easiest falafel recipe on Food52, and it actually lives up to its name. All you need is a food processor. The trick to the recipe is soaking the chickpeas overnight, so don't try and use canned chickpeas, the texture won't turn out right. It seems crazy, soaking the chickpeas, but not cooking them, right? But it works! I haven't tried leaving out the egg, but I'm sure you could replace it with some olive oil and make it vegan.

You can make really small patties, and serve them as appetizers with the tzaztiki as a dip. Or, make larger patties, and serve in a traditional falafel sandwich - in a pita, with some greens, hot sauce, tomatoes and tzaztiki.

Also, these freeze really well. Form the patties, then freeze them, separated by parchment paper. Just leave them out overnight to thaw before frying them.

This recipe makes about 15 small patties.

World's Easiest Falafel

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked over night
1 small onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup mint, washed
1/2 cup cilantro, washed
1 tbsp cumin
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 slice of bread, torn in pieces
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup canola oil, for frying

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except canola oil. Process until there are no chunks left, and you have a smooth paste. Form into small patties. Heat oil in a frying pan, and fry in batches, flipping once, until brown and crispy. Put the falafels on paper towel, to soak up some of the oil.


1 cucumber, in chunks
1 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup mint
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juiced

Rinse out the food processor, and add all ingredients and pulse a few times, just to chop up the cucumber.