Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dandelion Mocha

I love dandelions. 


Yes, I sometimes pull them up in my yard but its only because I want to eat them. I like saving some for the bees but I'd pull them up for this warm dandelion salad with fried shallots or for garden greens pakoras. I know not everyone appreciates this abundant green found everywhere, after my mother refused to eat them. But she has started eating kale from my garden. Small steps.

When a friend gave us Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, it started a whole new obsession with how to use the dandelion in different ways. 

I knew dandelion was beneficial to health, it being green and all, but I didn't realize all the benefits of the roots. The root is considered a liver tonic or "blood purifier". The bitter compounds help with digestion.

Ms. Gladstar's recipe for Dandelion Mocha had me making sure I was pulling the whole plant up, with all the root bits!,  for making this delicious warming drink after making a salad with the greens.

Spring time is a great time to harvest fresh, tender dandelion greens to use in the kitchen. And yes, the roots can be used, but it is a process. A process only undertaken by the most dedicated of dandelion-lovers. 

From the dozens of plants I pulled, soaked, chopped, roasted, ground, I had about 2 tablespoons of root powder. Hmm. I love the fact that my dandelions were organic and local but this was far too much work for so little reward.

Then I found this tea. Organic Roasted Dandelion Root! 

Not only is it organic, but it comes with little words of affirmation for your day. Yep, so worth the purchase. 
You can definitely drink this just as a tea to reap the benefits of dandelion root. But it is so much more delicious in a "mocha" form. This can be a substitute for coffee but really, it is a delicious drink in its own right.

My children love it- it is slightly chocolatey and it is also has the shock value of being made of a weed! 

I highly recommend Rosemary's book if you are interested in dabbling in growing, harvesting or just learning more and using medicinal herbs.

Dandelion Mocha
Serves 2
Inspired by Rosemary Gladstar's recipe in her book. She suggests this as an alternative to coffee or doing half coffee and half mocha to adjust to caffeine-free.

2 dandelion root tea bags
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup milk (dairy or almond milk)
1 tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup or sweetener of choice (I sometimes use some stevia)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Pour boiling water over the dandelion tea bags in a small tea pot. Cover and let steep for at least 10 minutes.
2. While tea is steeping, warm milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, add cocoa, sweetener, cinnamon and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and hot.
3. Pour tea into saucepan and whisk. Taste and adjust for desired sweetness. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pepper Garlic Stirfry

When I asked participants what they wanted to learn at our community kitchen, one of the responses was a stirfry that doesn't use jarred sauces and is flavourful.

Easy enough. 

At home I make them often to use up the end of the week's vegetables. 

The only problem is I don't usually follow a recipe, so I needed to document.  I came home determined to document my stirfry recipe.

It turns out this version was declared the "best ever" by one of my regulars at the dinner table. 

This is by far the highest praise I can ever hope to attain. 

Pepper Garlic Vegetable Tofu Stirfry
This recipe is easily adapted to the vegetables and protein you have on hand. This equation works with about 4-6 cups of raw vegetables to this quantity of sauce. Serve over cooked rice or noodles.

My standard formula consists of:

Protein + Onion + Green Veg + Colourful Veg + Homemade Sauce + Some Crunchy Topping

You can use almost anything you have in the fridge, here are some examples:

Protein: pressed tofu, chicken or beef 
Onion: yellow, white, or green (use white & green parts)
Substantial Green veg: a good amount of broccoli, bok choy or gai lan
Colourful veg: bell peppers, carrots, celery, mushrooms, frozen peas or edamame
Crunchy topping: cashews, almonds, sesame seeds

Pepper Garlic Stirfry Sauce
Mix together the following ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl with a fork until smooth:

1/4 cup soy sauce 
3/4 cup water 
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (mild) or more, to taste 
Optional: 1 tsp fresh minced ginger

1. Using paper towel, pat dry the pressed tofu. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dice into 1" cubes. 

2. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil (anything but olive oil!) in wok or frying pan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. 

3. Add tofu and cook, tossing often, until cubes are slightly golden. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and stir. Remove to a bowl.

4. Into same pan, add another tablespoon of oil, then add firmest vegetables first (onions, carrots, etc.), cook for a few minutes, tossing often, then add the remaining vegetables and cook until crisp-tender. Add tofu back to pan.

5. Pour mixed sauce ingredients over hot vegetables and tofu. Continue to stir and cook until sauce is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

6. Sprinkle with crunchy nuts or seeds or serve at table with hot rice or noodles. 

Equipment recommendation: 
I am sure you can use any frypan here (except non-stick since no one wants to use those on high heat! or really any heat for that matter...) but I love my carbon steel wok. It has a flat bottom, sloped sides and a helper handle. I can't imagine life without it. You need to wash them well when you get it home (apparently it is coated in thick, non-edible industrial oil to transport and store so it doesn't rust before getting to consumer). Proceed to season it like a cast iron pan before using. But it is true love after that! For some wok care tips, see this article.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vegan Quinoa Chili

It's the beginning of a new year. 

Resolutions are to be made. Often mine involve food. I can't help it.

Eat more vegan food. Eat more vegetables. Save money on groceries. Don't get stuck in food ruts. Eat things that the kids won't necessarily eat (they will grow to like it). Try new foods, new recipes. Grow more food. Focus on family, not meal preparation. But in all this- Simplify.

In this spirit, I share a recipe that I found here and have made many times this season. I have shared it many times and it hits almost all my resolutions (with the exception of exercise!)

It is vegan, simple, can be prepared in minutes, hits all our nutritional needs and can be modified to make it exciting to your tastebuds.

People who know me well are likely shocked that I have posted a recipe with mushrooms, but here they fall into the backdrop, with the stars being the quinoa and beans. Mushrooms? My resolution to try things I don't usually make. 

I hope you also try new things and find happiness in simplicity in this coming year.

Happy New Year, Happy New Eats!

Vegan Quinoa Chili
Serves 4-6
This recipe is so simple, yet so perfect. We find the perfect amount of spice when we remove the seeds from the jalapeño, but if you love heat, add some of the seeds. Cayenne pepper makes a perfect substitute for jalapeños in a pinch. 
A delicious accompaniment are these cornbread muffins.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups rinsed and chopped button or cremini mushrooms (one small package)
2 medium onions, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 tbsp chili powder
1 can (796 ml) diced tomatoes (about 3 cups homemade processed peeled & diced tomatoes)
1 can (540 ml) mixed beans (about 2 cups cooked beans, or 1 small can black beans & 1 small can white beans)
1/2 cup quinoa

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions for about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5-8 minutes.
2. Stir in jalapeño (or cayenne) and chill powder, cook 1 minute longer, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes with juices, beans and quinoa and 1 cup water.
3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Season with salt and pepper if desired (not needed if using salted tomatoes and beans).
4. Optional (vegetarian) garnishes include: plain yogurt, grated cheese, or chopped cilantro.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Healthy Date Energy Balls or Truffles

There are tons of recipes online for raw food enthusiasts when it comes to power balls, energy balls, or date rolls.

I've cursed pinterest and those health freaks who screw with recipes. I have had to dump a processor full of decent ingredients into the compost, that did not magically transform as stated. But sometimes the fact is that they are just too nutty, too sweet, or too...healthy. 

After trying many and posting some that I have enjoyed, (like these rich Raw Chocolate Macaroons for a treat and these healthy Power Orbs for the post-Christmas recovery), I've found a middle ground.

It's been hard working on perfecting a recipe that is healthy but also satisfies my sweet tooth. I've tried perhaps too many lately, playing with the two above recipes. 

I'm not a raw food enthusiast, nor am I vegan, but I do love these raw food delights. They are so easy to make- provided you have a food processor. Within minutes, you can whizz your way to a decent batch of power-packed balls.

No oven, no sugar, no gluten. 

And suitable for all of those visitors to your Christmas over the holidays- the raw food adheree (not a real word, I know), the vegan, the vegetarian, and all the other halfways, and full-ons, in your circle.

Its main function is to give me a shot of energy mid-day when I really want coffee, chocolate, or anything else I can get my hands on. This time of year it also prevents me from eating all the goodies I've been creating for friends and family. 

Enjoy this little bite of healthy deliciousness. It is just right for snacking or giving.

Healthy Date Energy Balls (Snowballs or Truffles)

Makes about 30
For softer, sweeter results use Medjool dates. Other dates are perfectly fine but are generally drier and may require another tablespoon of coconut oil in the recipe, they will result in a firmer truffle. These are fantastic without any topping at all, but can be enhanced by rolling in coconut or melted chocolate. For raw diets: make naked or coated snowballs. 

2 cups pitted, unsulphured whole dates 
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond flour or ground almonds
2 tbsp cocoa (dutch-processed is best here)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey for non-vegans)
1 tsp vanilla
optional: 2 tbsp chia seeds

For snowballs:
Additional 1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
For truffles:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (non-dairy for vegans)
1 tsp coconut oil

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until no large bits of date remain. This should take about a minute or two.
2. Using a small disher/ice cream scoop or teaspoon, scoop into balls and finish rolling by hand.
3. Place on lined baking sheet. 

For snowballs: roll in 1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut.
For truffles: refrigerate or freeze for several minutes. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in microwave for about a minute, stir to dissolve remaining chocolate bits. Using 2 teaspoons, roll balls in chocolate and return to lined baking sheet. 

4. Refrigerate or freeze until firm. Store in container or plastic bag in fridge or freezer. Best served cold.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dairy-free Blender Chocolate Pudding

Let's just say that I liked Mark Bittman. 

Not only does he write about topics I am passionate about- agriculture, health, and environment, he also happens to be the leading food columnist for The New York Times

He is also the author of some rather stellar cookbooks- the How to Cook Everything series looks to be the 'Joy of Cooking' for this century- quick and healthy is his focus. 

Which is why I currently love him. 

Actually, my whole family loves him. They think they love me (even more than usual), because a decadent chocolate pudding has made its appearance after dinner several times in the last few weeks. 

It's his chocolate pudding that makes everyone swoon...and lick the last trails of pudding from their bowls. 

I wondered if they'd be so impressed if they knew how easy it was. 

Blender. Bananas. Chocolate Chips. Tofu. Vanilla. A touch of sugar. Whirl. 

If you need a few more details, here they are. My adapted, super simple, chocolate pudding by way of Mark Bittman. (If you haven't found his website yet, check it out here.)

Make it before dinner, enjoy it right after. 

As you lick your bowl clean, you are going to love me. And Mark Bittman.

Dairy-free Blender Chocolate Pudding 
Serves about 6
If your blender isn't high powered, you can divide this in half and make half at a time. 

2 bananas
1 lb (or 349 g) pkg silken tofu
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate (check that they have no dairy if you need dairy-free)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar

1. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or on small, heavy saucepan over low heat. 
2. Combine all ingredients in blender and whirl until smooth. Add sugar to taste. Scrape down sides and whirl again until completely smooth. 
3. Pour into individual dishes. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 
Serve as is, with whipping cream or dairy free coconut cream.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Simple Chicken Souvlaki

This is so simple it barely deserves a blog post.

Except it does because everyone loves it.

The Older Adults Community Kitchen that I lead made this the other day and they were raving it about it. How tender, how flavourful. After remembering how simple this recipe is, I decided it was time to get my daughter in the kitchen to try her hand at this.

We gathered the simple supplies and she got to work- juicing the lemons with my fun squeezing tool, smashing the garlic clove with the bottom of a mug to release its wrapper, crushing said garlic in a nifty press, measuring out the oregano and fork-whisking the marinade together. All simple tasks for an adult used to being in the kitchen- but exceedingly important tasks for kids wanting to learn some basic kitchen skills. 

I love seeing the pride that ensues when the kids help to create a meal. I love the ideas that flow and the creativity that cooking can ignite. 

Tonight it was adding peas to the couscous. She suggested it, thinking it would be a good idea and, of course, she was right. She was in charge.

These small opportunities in the kitchen, building skills and confidence, lead to life-long rewards. I can't wait to see what is ahead for this budding chef.

Simple Chicken Souvlaki
Serves 4
This marinade can be also be tossed on assorted veggies, such as zucchini and bell peppers, before before roasting or barbecuing. To save time, prep a few freezer bags of prepared marinade and chicken and freeze for future meals. For ease of preparation, you can skip cubing the meat and keep them whole. But my daughter would suggest that skewers make this all the more fun. Serve with rice or couscous and a salad or grilled veggies.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced
2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp each: salt & pepper
2 chicken breasts, cubed
Optional: Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes.

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a measuring cup or small bowl (or in a freezer bag).
2. Add cubed chicken and toss to coat in marinade. Let stand for at least 20 minutes at room temperature or for several hours in fridge. 
3. Thread onto skewers and cook on barbecue or broil in oven on foil-lined baking sheet, turning once or twice, until cooked through. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fresh Blueberry Pie

The old, worn sign with "Blueberries" scrawled across it is out, so I pull the car over and greet one of my favourite growers. 

"Freshly picked this morning," he says. His stained hands reveal this truth.

As I glance at the jewel-toned berries, recipes are running through my head. Sprinting, actually. 

Will they grace muffins? Crown a cake? Stud pancakes? Should I try a new recipe? Or just eat fresh by the handfuls?

I choose my baskets and hand over the few dollars that I trade for all this goodness. 

And then I decide, it shall be Auntie Dar's recipe for fresh blueberry pie today. It's simple and reveals the freshness of the perfect berries- all this, while maintaining the appearance of a true dessert.

It's a little too easy to make this one. And you may as well double the recipe at the height of blueberry season, it only comes once a year.

Fresh Blueberry Pie
You can make this with a store bought crust or homemade crust.  

1 pie crust, homemade or store bought, pre-baked and cooled
Fresh blueberries, washed and dried to fill pie shell (approximately 3-4 cups)  

Blueberry Glaze:
Auntie Dar's original recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar, I've had to reduce sugar to 1/2 cup when I was running low on sugar and it works fine. I also try to source GMO-free or organic cornstarch when possible.

1 cup additional fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup water
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice)
2 tbsp cornstarch (or other thickener of choice)
2 tbsp lemon juice 
1. Combine blueberries and water in a small saucepan, bring to just boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain through fine mesh sieve, pressing gently to extract juice (about 1/2 cup) into another small saucepan.(Reserve remaining blueberry pulp for smoothies or yogurt). 
2. Combine sugar and cornstarch; gradually add reserved juice and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly until thick and turns jewel-toned and glaze-like. Cool for several minutes, then add in fresh berries and gently stir to combine.
3. Pour berry mixture into pre-cooked pie shell or graham cracker crust. Refrigerate until set and cooled. Serve with lightly whipped cream or whipped coconut cream.