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Archive for November, 2010

Pear Butter

As I’ve mentioned before, breakfast is my favourite meal. I think part of that stems from my deeply seeded carb love…breakfast is full of healthy and not-so-healthy but utterly fantastic carbs. I know it’s a simple option, but toast with a fruit or nut spread is one of the easiest ways to ensure I start the day nourished and in a chipper mood. The latter is very, very important to anyone who has spent any time at all with me in the first hours after I wake up!

I have only experimented a little with fruit butters. A few years back, a friend bought me a small jar of pumpkin butter and, with that first fruit butter experience, I was hooked. A few months later, I had a pot on the stove simmering away with freshly picked apples for applesauce. I went to bed. But I didn’t turn off the stove. In the morning, I had apple butter. Alright, I know it was unintentional apple butter; but, unintentional apple butter is just as delicious, I assure you! And, man, was it easy to make!!

I figured this time around I would try my hand at intentional pear butter. I had some lovely Bartlett pears and just enough citrus to add a little zest and juice for some zing so I set out. A short while later, I had a thick, deep burgundy hued spread that would be quickly devoured on crisp slices of crusty French bread with a smear of Earth Balance. A more perfect breakfast could not be had!

As a note, the following recipe makes a very small amount of pear butter…maybe 1/4 cup worth. Feel free to double, triple, etc…to have a larger yield.

Pear Butter

-3 medium-sized pears, peeled, cored, and chopped

-2 T. water

-3/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. orange zest, finely diced

-pinch freshly grated nutmeg

-pinch allspice

-1 T. orange juice

Combine pears and water in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Simmer, uncovered, till pears are soft, about 20-30 minutes. Mash the pears.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat, stirring often, until mixture reduces down and thickens. You want it to be about the consistency of thick caramel. This could take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on the desired thickness. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Look at that noodle-goodness up there. See the browned breadcrumb topping? Note the chopped veggie hot dogs. Can you almost taste the rich, creamy, cheesy sauce?

When the weather is damp and cold, I find myself craving mac and cheese. Not that awful flourescent orange boxed mess; but, the mac and cheese that Mom used to make. That mac and cheese had substance, didn’t it? Less nutritionally void than it’s Kraft cousin, homemade mac and cheese is far superior in taste and texture and appearance. Now, naturally, there is absolutely no cheese (or any other dairy) in the version pictured above. It is a fairly standard vegan mac and cheese recipe, abundant with nutritional yeast and dressed up for the occasion with chopped Yves veggie dogs.

The veggie dog addition was Husband’s idea. When Husband and I are feeling too lazy to worry about dinner, we’ll stop by the grocery store on the way home from work and grab a package of veggie dogs and some buns. The problem is, doing that could land you in an endless veggie dog cycle. The veggie dogs come in packages of 12 and the buns come in packages of 8 (the packages of 12 buns at our grocery store aren’t vegan-friendly). So, you get your hot dog fix, and you’re left with 4 extra hot dogs. Well, you just run to the store and grab more buns…now you have a surplus of 4 buns…well, back to the store for more hot dogs…and so on for eternity. I desperately needed to break that cycle so Husband asked me to make mac and cheese and add the excess hot dogs to it. Brilliant! It’s one of those culinary tricks that our generation’s very intelligent mothers put into practice in our childhood; but, we’ve all forgotten since.

What a nostalgic dinner! A bite of the mac and cheese with a piece of veggie dog in it immediately transported me back in time to 1988, when I’d sit on the living room floor in front of the tv watching cartoons (or You Can’t Do That On Television.) The best part is the crispy topping. It plays really well against the creamy noodle base.

I’m not including a recipe because there are about nine billion recipes already online. I use an amalgamation of about five different ones, adding and taking away flavourings to suit my tastes. Try one out and see if you don’t get transported back in time to your childhood; just don’t expect a flavour like you would get out of boxed macaroni and cheese dinners. This is much better!

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Being a self-proclaimed banana fiend, I eat my fair share of banana baked goods. The thing is, though, that every time I come across a banana recipe, I have a mini battle inside: part of me is super excited and can’t wait to try it and the other part of me is very meh about the whole idea of trying it because what if it isn’t as good as the last banana recipe? It’s a hard life…

Anyway, Husband ran out of the cold cereal he usually takes to work for breakfast and I promised him muffins. I had a rather large amount of black-ripe bananas in the freezer so I set about the daunting task of choosing a new banana muffin recipe to try. I settled on one from Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan! called Wolffie’s Banana Blueberry Muffins. Sarah’s write-up promised it wasn’t just another banana muffin recipe and the ingredient list was intriguing: cinnamon! ginger! molasses!

I, of course, made a few changes…I increased the amount of ginger in the original recipe, I added a banana for extra banana-y goodness (and because I had so many lying around that needed to be used), I substituted frozen whole cranberries for the blueberries and added a handful of chopped walnuts. They were perfection in a hand-held medium. I devoured my first one, still hot and steamy from the oven and it made me feel more complete as a person. I brought a few over to my sis- and bro-in-law and the majority of them were consumed before my poor brother-in-law even came home from work. My sis-in-law swears it’s the cranberries that make the difference. I think it’s a cranberry-ginger combo. Either way, amazing!

If you haven’t tried these muffins, do so! Get your hands on a copy of the book and make this recipe the first you try. Moist, light, slightly caramel-y (from the molasses), and bursting with fruit flavour, these muffins should be on every breakfast table in North America.

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Pizza is, without a doubt, Husband’s favourite thing to eat. If I let him, he would absolutely eat pizza for at least one meal every single day. He likes basically any kind of pizza, although he tends to prefer thick, puffy crusts over crispy, thin crusts. I, however, am exactly the opposite. On the very rare occasion that I will eat pizza, I only want a thin, crispy crust. Oh, and not to heavy on the sauce. And make sure the toppings are evenly distributed on the surface of the dough. Oh, and about the toppings, I really would rather have more than three toppings on a pizza-why does that cost more? You know what? I’ll just make my own…

EDIT: My apologies for any offense this post may have caused. What I should have said is that the recipe I use for bannock comes from an old Boy Scout manual my father has. Bannock originated as a Gaelic and Native food, with slight variations to the recipe and preparation depending on where in the world it is being prepared. My grandmother was Metis and I imagine that is how my father received his introduction to the bread but she died long before I could ask her. Again, no offense was made. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Happy cooking!

Hello bannock crust and cashew ricotta! For those not in the know, bannock is an old Boy Scout recipe for bread that you can make with just a few simple ingredients over a fire. My Dad taught us to make it as kids and my family has been enjoying bannock since I was a very little girl. When Husband and I started living together, I taught him the recipe and he’s been hooked since. In fact, we make it so often in our household that Husband can make it from scratch without ever referring to the recipe card.

But back to the pizza! When I decide to make it, I usually go all out and make a few different kinds with fun themes like perogi pizza (an idea I borrowed from a local pizza joint and adapted to suit my vegan diet) and I always have at least one pizza with (the prerequisite) pineapple as a topping. That is, until this past weekend.

We decided to make pizza as a dinner treat and I had no pineapple in the house (sacrilege!) and had to think on the fly. I had already whipped up a delicious batch of cashew ricotta and was replacing the traditional tomato sauce with good quality olive oil. I even made a log of Seitan O’Greatness for the occasion. Sliced thin and layered on pizza, it has that hearty sausage flavour and feel. After a quick look in the fridge, we settled on green olives and cremini mushrooms to round out our toppings.

If every pizza was like this one, I’d probably be just like Husband. It was perfect…the crust was dense and crisp, the olive oil gave richness, the cashew ricotta was smooth and creamy and tangy with subtle herb flavour, the seitan was chewy and spicy, and the mushrooms and olives added great texture and all-important saltiness.

Bannock (altered for use as pizza crust)

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1 T. vegetable oil/shortening

-2 tsp. baking powder

-1/4 to 1/2 cup water (start with 1/4 cup and add by the tablespoon as needed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Add the oil/shortening and knead it in with your fingers. Add the water and knead that in until the dough holds together. Shape into a ball and then press it onto a baking sheet to form a 1/4″ thick oblong. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add sauce and toppings and then continue to bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges of the crust are slightly browned and crisp.

Cashew Ricotta

-2/3 cup raw cashews

-1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled

-1/4 cup white wine vinegar

-2 T. olive oil

-2 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

-1 tsp. salt

-1 tsp. basil

-1-2 T. water, if needed to smooth out the “cheese”

Grind the cashews in a blender/food processor for a few seconds to break them up. Add the remainder of the ingredients, except water, and blend till smooth. Add the water as needed if the “cheese” is too thick or chunky. Chill for one hour before using.

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