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Archive for February, 2010

Lately, my mind has been pre-occupied with thoughts of the pretty little plates my mother-in-law picked up for me at a thrift store. They have a great shape and the most beautiful pink orchid painted on them and I’ve been wondering what I could shoot on them.

Originally, I’d planned on pistachio wafers…delicate, lacy crisps in that characteristic shade of green against the white plate, complemented by the pinks in the flower. However, that was a no-go because I had forgotten to pick up pistachios on my last grocery trip and, alas, it was -26 degrees Celsius with the windchill today and I was going absolutely nowhere I didn’t have to.

I looked around the kitchen for inspiration and it hit me…banana bread! But, not the cakey, sweet, almost dessert-like café offering: a much more nutritious bread…with very little sugar and fat, something you wouldn’t feel guilty about the second you stopped chewing.  Something my mother would call “wholesome”.

To be honest, I had a much clearer idea of how I wanted it to photograph than I did about how it should taste. I set the oven to preheating, greased and floured a small cake pan, and whipped out my trusty wooden spoon.

I was so pleased with the result…both the bread and the photo! Doesn’t it make you think you’ve just glanced down from your book at a cozy little café to see that the server refilled your cup and brought you a piece of that banana bread you’ve been eyeing in the cascade display case?

Banana Bread

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup spelt flour

-1/2 cup sugar

-1 tsp. baking soda

-pinch of salt

-1/4 cup whole flax seeds

-1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

-2 T. ground flax mixed with 1/4 cup + 2 T. water

-3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a loaf pan or small rectangular cake pan. Set aside.

Stir together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into the pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool and slice as desired.

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Pasta Alfrenara

Just look at that lovely arrangement of ingredients. Only something truly wonderful could come from that collection. Way back during Vegan Mofo, I was perusing posts and got stuck on this one.

It sounded so marvelous. I filed it away and promptly forgot about it until last week. When I stumbled across the recipe again, I got more excited to try it than I had the first time and immediately put the dish on the top of my “To Try” list.

The very first dish I ever made for my family was fettuccine Alfredo. Believe it or not, I used to hate cooking. I always loved to bake; but, my poor Mother just couldn’t convince me to cook anything savoury. Then, just as I started dated Husband, I suddenly became interested in learning how to cook. I think I knew then that I’d spend the rest of my life feeding this man and wanted to impress him right away. So, I started to experiment in the kitchen…using my parents and siblings as guinea pigs.

I loved pasta, I loved anything creamy and I was really surprised at how simple Alfredo looked so I dove into it. I’m so glad it was my first dish because it worked out perfectly and really encouraged me to stay in the kitchen, barefoot and…whisking.

When I went vegan, I shed a figurative tear for Alfredo, assuming that a faux cream could never truly match the real thing in that particular sauce. Enter raw cashews! I am eternally amazed at the power of raw nuts. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am by the velvety texture of perfectly ground nuts in a sauce or soup or dip. I’ll never miss Alfredo again!

As for this particular dish…pure bliss. It is so fragrant and luxurious and just heavenly. I believe it may be a recent favourite for Husband and myself. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have the recipe tattooed on my left forearm…I’m only half-kidding.

I didn’t take a picture of the finished product…the light had fallen by the time it was finished and to be truthful, the combo of the creamy sauce and the spinach noodles I served with it was a little less than picturesque. Don’t let that sway you away from trying it, though…it really was such an impressive pasta dish.

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This dish really surprised me. I started out knowing only that I needed to use the package of bean sprouts in the fridge before they wandered off on their own, dejected and disgusted.

In my head, I started concentrating on the aromas I was hoping for in a Tuesday evening dinner. I started to salivate a little at the prospect of a pungent miso-based marinade and the toothsome chew of broiled squares of tofu. Alright, start that brick of spongy goodness pressing!

I thought of the wonderful aroma and bite to ginger and pulled that out of the pantry, knowing it would join the miso that would be soaking into the tofu.

I needed a little colour on my plate to contrast the beige of the sprouts and tofu and couldn’t keep carrot coins out of my mind. I started peeling, imagining how they were going to taste next to the tofu and sprouts…still a little crunchy…and…slightly glazed in a blood orange sauce! It hit me like a tonne of bricks…MUST MAKE BLOOD ORANGE SAUCE!!

Just like that, my (somewhat scattered) mind developed a complete plan for a really simple, completely healthy, and superbly delicious dinner.

Miso Ginger Tofu

-1 pkg. firm tofu, drained and pressed for 2 hours

-1/2 cup vegetable stock

-1 T. white miso paste

-1 T. rice vinegar

-2 tsp. brown sugar

-1 clove garlic, pressed

-1 tsp. fresh grated ginger

-1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes

Chop the tofu into 1″ squares roughly 1/4″ thick. Whisk together all other ingredients in a wide shallow dish. Layer the tofu in the dish, being sure to cover completely with the marinade. Cover and marinade 1 hour. Flip, re-cover and marinade 1 more hour.

Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and place tofu pieces on the foil. Broil for 7 minutes; flip, broil another 5-7 minutes.

While tofu is broiling, prepare stir fry.

Bean Sprout Stir Fry

500 gram package of bean sprouts

-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins

-juice from 2 blood oranges

-1/4 tsp. sesame oil

-1 T. agave

-2 T. rice vinegar

Lightly steam the carrots until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Set aside. Dry sauté the sprouts in a large skillet or wok over medium heat till crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Stir together remaining ingredients till smooth. Add the carrots to the sprouts. Stir in the blood orange sauce and let it cook down to glaze the vegetables a little, about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with the tofu squares.

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…a childhood favourite, right?! I used to love the red-and-white-canned version of this soup as a kid. I really couldn’t get enough of it: a giant bowl with steam rising, the surface heavily sprinkled with pepper and my chubby little fingers scooping the mushroom pieces out with a saltine. Mmmmm…..I get all fuzzy inside just thinking about how many cozy lunches I had with trusty ole cream of mushroom to keep me company!

The other day, I was reminded of my old love affair when I was visiting my sister. Mr brother-in-law was eating a bowl of soup and mentioned it just wasn’t the same without the saltines to break into it and like a flash, I could picture a steaming bowl before me. I just had to make some soup.

The very next day, I stomped into the kitchen determined not to come out until I had a steaming bowl of cream of mushroom soup with me. I made this recipe up as I went along, jotting little notes on my heavily stained recipe notebook as I stirred and chopped. It was amazing!

Certainly, it wasn’t anything like that canned variety but the thick, creamy mushroom soup was exactly what I wanted. I didn’t even share! Husband had one spoonful from the entire pot; the rest was mine!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 lb. mushrooms, diced (I used a combination of white button and cremini. I wanted mild tasting mushrooms for this soup but you could definitely substitute an equal amount of your favourite mushroom)

-1 T. fresh lemon juice

-4 T. vegan margarine

-2 small shallots, diced

-1 tsp. dried thyme

-1 bay leaf

-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

-4 T. all-purpose flour

-4 cups mushroom stock

-1 cup plain soymilk

Sprinkle the lemon juice over the mushrooms and toss gently. Set aside.

Melt the margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté till slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally,  10-15 minutes, until the mushroom liquid evaporates. Season with the pepper (and salt if you wish. My stock was pre-salted; so, I didn’t need any extra salt).

Sift in the flour and cook and stir for 2 minutes, making sure the flour is incorporated completely with the mushrooms. Gently whisk in the stock.

Bring the soup to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the soymilk, simmer an additional 10 minutes, making sure it does not come back to a boil. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

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Dinner this evening was a protein-rich, nutrient-dense rainbow of a salad. It was light yet filling, texturally-interesting and beautiful. The ingredients were a little unexpected; but, they complimented each other nicely.

I’ve been craving kale something fierce as of late and have had a hard time considering a meal complete without it. It was wonderful in this salad…just slightly blanched to take away the bitter edge and soften it a little. And, it really absorbed the dressing so that every bite of kale was accompanied with a wonderful tang of mustard and just a touch of heat.

Citrus-Kale Quinoa Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing

3/4 cup quinoa

-1.5 cups water

-1 small bunch kale, roughly chopped

-1 red bell pepper, chopped

-1 small red grapefruit, peeled and suprèmed

-1 small orange, peeled and suprèmed

-1/4 cup dried blueberries

-1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

Combine water and quinoa in a medium pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and cool completely.

Meanwhile, bring another pot of water to a gentle boil. Drop in the kale and blanch for 30 seconds to one minute. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Once the quinoa is completely cooled, gently stir together all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Spicy Mustard Dressing

-3 T. orange juice

-1 T. spicy mustard

-2 T. oil

-salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together all ingredients till well blended. Toss with the salad. Serve.

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