Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soupy, Saucy Macaroni

Yeah, yeah, I know a post about macaroni right after holiday baking is a bit of a let down. I know. But follow me on this one. I know I should be wiring about eggnog cheesecake squares and butter basted turkey, but just to tell you the truth, holiday cooking scares me just a touch. I know .. I just wrote about how I love baking for the holidays. So I'm a total flake, I admit it.

Anyway, if you haven't stopped reading yet, let me share with you a very simple, but delicious and comforting meal that feels good going down and will keep you fueled and charged whether it's to get through the holiday rush, or to stay up later on January 2nd when you've realized that all the work you brought home to do over the holidays has just sat in your bag untouched since December 17th. Right...

We had this meal right around the start of the holidays when we needed something yummy, healthy and comforting to have on a cold night. I had plans for lots of holiday baking and making homemade decorations. In short, I needed to be energized, and this dish did just that. It's not a cheesy, rich, baked macaroni dish. Quite the contrary. The macaroni bakes in a very brothy, light tomato and vegetable mixture and is topped with crispy breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. The secret here is homemade vegetable stock and a little patience. It's not fancy or authentic. In fact, the macaroni isn't even "el dente" -- its slightly overcooked because it's been baked in the soupy sauce, but don't let that fool you. It's comforting, delicious and a tradition in the making. I think I'll make it a tradition to have this baked macaroni dish on the first day of my holidays. Yes! Tradition set.

Brothy Macaroni and Veggies

1 cup of uncooked macaroni
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3-4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (or you could you a small can on tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste
1 small sprig of thyme (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
3-4 basil leaves, chopped (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
a bit of grated mozzarella cheese

1. Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water until almost tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In an oven proof pot, sweat the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. If you're using dried herbs, add them now. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes,

3. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down and the juices start getting sticky. Add the broth and give it a good stir, making sure to pick up all the yummy bits that may of gotten stuck to the pot. If you're using fresh herbs, add them now.

4. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer until the liquid has a reduced a little. Add in the macaroni. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until the top is nice and golden brown and the liquid has further reduced.

5. Remove from the oven and serve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Baking!

I love baking any time of the year, but baking around the holidays gives me an excuse to 1: do lots of it! 2: make special things that take more time then usual and 3: give them away. If you need last minute host/hostess gifts, or even an extra something special to give to your friends and loved ones, baking something yummy to give away never fails to please. Home made treats show that you've put your love and time into the gift -- something you cannot get at the mall (btw: I'm pleased announce that this holiday season, I haven't set foot once inside a mall!).

I did some experiment with my baked goods and branched out from my usual brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I tried my hand at making biscotti, guided by Joy the Baker. I made this one, but included cranberries, nixed the nuts and tried to flavour it with this awesome spicy, cocoa black tea. The tea flavour got lost a bit, but the cookies were perfect in every other way. I also made the cinnamon sugar biscotti which were also a great hit. These get extra points because the first recipes is butter-free but still delicious!

I also found an awesome cardamom(!!!) cookie over at Rhymes with Vegan. This cookie is chewy and spicy, and best served warm. The hit of orange juice and zest really makes it special. These get extra points for being vegan and extra delicious.

Last but not least, I made chocolate lavender shortbread as a yummy reminder of my lavender experiment this summer. I used a fully tablespoon of dried lavender and good quality cocoa powder. I totally wish I could send some to Blackcurrent. These get extra points for being chocolately and decadent.

Ok! enough talk! Go bake something!!

Coffee Update:

Crafted by Te Aro: two moccacinos and a double americano enjoyed with a lemon ginger scone and a vegan peanut butter square

Ground Level Cafe: two cappucinos and a double americano -- huge space and they sell used books too!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Local Things

I never thought much about local produce and food politics when I was growing up. I got a little taste of it in university, but it wasn't until I started cooking for myself, that I was fully introduced to the world of local eating. That being said, I'm not that good at it, especially during this time of the year. I try my best, but there are just some things that are hard to live without, like oranges, lemons, chocolate, coffee ... ok so I'm not going to list them all because it would be too embarrassing. Veggies, apples, pears, berries definitely and most recently poultry and yogurt .. those I can handle. But local citrus doesn't exist here in the Tdot and I can't imagine my smoothie without that orangey tang, or my curry without that lemon-lime spark.

Recently, my best friend took a work trip down to San Fransisco and in between presenting, note-taking and mingling with professional peers, she took a little time to explore the farmer's market. Upon returning, she described to me something that we would never have here in Toronto: local persimmons. Wow. That's almost as good as getting a local lemon. I HAVE to visit San Fran.

Have you ever had persimmons? It's hard to describe the taste. They're just sweet, and fruity and delicious. I have great memories of eating persimmons as a kid, waiting for them to be smooshy and ripe, and then just eating the pulp like pudding. It was a real treat. Now that I'm all grown up, I kind of prefer the firmer kind of persimmon, the kind that you peel and cut up and snack on. To me, it's best when the flesh has just a little bit of give. Awhile ago when I came home, I found two little persimmons perched on my kitchen counter. I instantly remembered seeing a beautiful, easy recipe for a yummy-looking loaf/quick bread over at Joy the Baker, and I knew I had to try it.

I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit my needs, and baked them up in mini muffin tins instead of a loaf pan. The results were sweet, spicy, warm, wholesome, tender and just plain good. A perfect way to brighten up your streetcar ride home, or make your friend's morning before a dreaded meeting. I think persimmons are still around for a little bit longer, so it's still not too late. And if you're in San Fran, savour the local loveliness and think of those of us up here in TO, who can only dream of local persimmons.

Spiced Persimmon Mufiins
adapted from Joy the Baker makes 24 mini muffins, or one loaf

2 persimmons, peeled, chopped and pulsed until pulpy in a blender or chopper
1/2 an apple, grated
1/2 cup of oats
1/4 cup of skim milk yogurt
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
a big pinch of cinnamon
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder

1. Combine the oats, yogurt and milk in a large bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes (now would be a good time to grate your apple and pulse your persimmons!)

2. Into the oat mixture, add the brown sugar, oil, egg and ginger. Mix to combine.

3. Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir until just combined.

4. Spoon the mixture into prepared mini muffin pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Homey and Hearty Lentil Casserole

Winter has definitely arrived. Never mind this waiting for December 21 when it becomes official. It's here. My many layers of clothing, silly-looking but warm hat and puffy man jacket already make it official. And although I love winter, and snow hikes and blustery days spent inside baking and winter walks during those deceptively chilly but sunny days, I have to admit that I don't like the cold. It seeps into my bones and plants a chill that is so hard to get rid of that I feel like either staying under a hot shower for hours or putting on three sweaters and never leaving the house. A colleague at work this week mentioned that for the holidays, he was taking his family to visit friends north of Thunder Bay, where they would go ice fishing, soak in a hot tub and then roll around in the snow in an "authentic Canadian tradition." (I won't even GO there with how loaded those words are!) I was cold for the whole morning thinking about this. Some Canadian, eh?

So how do I take away the cold? Coffee helps. Lots of coffee and tea in never-ending quantities and merino wool socks on my feet ... and a nice, homey, hearty and healthy meal, like this lentil and walnut casserole. We got the idea to make this dish when we saw it on a menu at a restaurant. Although we didn't order it, it stayed in our minds and we had to try to create it in our kitchen. I can't say enough good things about this casserole. It's definitely flavourful and tasty -- my Mom even thought there was meat in it! And it's completely vegetarian, very healthy and the perfect meal to cook and enjoy on a cold winter day. It's creamy without cream, filling but not heavy and has just enough spark from the dried and fresh herbs to take comfort food to a new level. It does take some time prepare and will take up several pots and pans in the kitchen, but if you've got a whole afternoon of warming up to do like we did, it shouldn't be a problem. Just put your favourite CD on, pour yourself another cup of tea, and dive into this recipe.

Lentil Walnut Casserole
adapted from

3/4 cup of dried red lentil, rinsed thoroughly
1.5 cups of vegetable broth

1/2 a sweet onion, diced finely
1 garlic clove, minced
a handful of chopped cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of oats
1 egg
1 teaspoon of honey mustard
a splash each of Worcestershire sauce and dark soy
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh sage (or used 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese

1. Cook the lentils in the vegetable broth for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid is gone and the lentils are tender but have not yet disintegrated. Set aside.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the mushrooms in a splash of olive oil until they start to get nice and brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the lentils and mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients except the cheese, and give it a nice big stir. Pour this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the cheese on top.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, then turn on the broiler and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese gets brown and bubbly.

5. Remove from the oven and serve with a green salad or steamed vegetables.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Peanut Butter + Fruit Part 3: The Finale

Yes, I have waited too long to show you the Peanut Butter + Fruit Finale. Way too long. But all that peanut buttery goodness had to be broken up a little, you know? Although I don't believe that there's anything such as too much peanut butter. This combination isn't classic by any means, but the end result is fabulous, wholesome and unique. Introducing: cranberry peanut butter bars. Since discovering a new love of playing with fresh cranberries and reading this post about raspberry yogurt bars, I knew I needed to try bar-making for myself.

The combination of cranberry and peanut butter don't seem like an obvious match, but they really are. The peanut butter is added to the crust of the bar and, when mixed with honey, provides a lovely, smooth background for the tart, mouth-puckering cranberries. It definitely wakes up your taste buds in the late afternoon when you're about to crash, or on a rainy Sunday when all you can muster is curling up on the couch with endless cups of herbal tea and a favourite CD set to loop. I could have definitely used the company of these bars this week to chase away the blues that came on after a late night at work and no one hug away the stress of the day (my lovely love was away this week visiting family). Baked goods give nice hugs too, especially when they're wholesome and healthy, which is exactly what these bars are.

End your weekend on a high note and bake these little bars. You'll be glad you did on Wednesday when you want it to be Friday. Happy work week!

Peanut Butter Cranberry Bars
inspired by apples and almonds

3 tablespoons of honey
1/4 cup of natural peanut butter
1/4 cup of skim milk yogurt
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of fresh cranberries

1. Whisk together the honey, peanut butter and yogurt until smooth. Sift in the flour, salt, baking soda and stir. Add the oatmeal and mix well until a soft dough forms.

2. Spread half the dough out onto a square or round baking pan. Sprinkle over the cranberries. Crumble the rest of the dough over the cranberries.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the dough on top has spread out nicely, turned golden brown and the cranberries have burst and begun to bubble. Cool and slice into wedges or bars.

Coffee Update!
We've slowed down due to incredibly busy schedules and chilly weather, but we'll make it!

F'Coffee: americano, 2 cappucinos and breakfast bagel and a f'cookie
Moonbeam Coffee Co: double americano, cappuccino and French caramel flavoured drip coffee + beans to go!
Merchants of Green Coffee: soy latte and 2 very strong cappucinos with a chocolately-caramely-nutty bar, enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon
I Deal Coffee on Kensington: 2 cappuccinos and a latte on one of the our very first frosty, wind chill nights

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkiny Goodness

Ok, let's be truthful: How many of you use canned goods out of convenience, laziness or thriftiness? No matter how I try to justify the health benefits, I often find myself opening up that can of chickpeas or black beans instead of planning ahead and soaking up some try ones, or turning to canned tomatoes when I need a quick pasta sauce. I'm guilty, and I'm sure a lot of you are as well. We do our best, but sometimes, the can just wins over.

Not this time! And this is serious -- we're talking homemade pumpkin puree! Yup, pumpkin puree. Before this year, I had never really worked with pumpkin too much. I had tried pumpkin pie, but I'd never really got my hands dirty with the seeds, or waited patiently for it to roast in the oven. So, when I saw that the local market was selling little sugar pumpkins at 2 for $1.49, I knew my time with pumpkin was about to begin. And it has been a most delicious journey. After splitting, gutting and roasting the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven with a splash of water, I was left with the most fresh-tasting pumpkiny goodness you could imagine. A quick buzz in the blender and it was good to go. I have made pumpkin loaf, pumpkin and black bean soup ... and these yummy pumpkin cookies. Not only are they chewy, sweet, spicy little packages of autumn, but they're healthy and vegan. What more could you want out of a cookie?

But I warn you: these cookies are not dessert-y. If you're not into cookies packed with seeds, dried fruits and that nuttiness of whole wheat flour, then you're going to be disappointed, because they definitely taste healthy .. in a good way .. in a very very good way. I only made a little tweak to the original recipe to reduce the amount of oil and also replacing the molasses for maple syrup (which I have come into an abundance of just recently). A cookie or two definitely helped to pick up my energy level after a morning of parent-teacher interviews, and the process of baking them helped me to relax and ease into my semi-long weekend. You should go ahead and bake up a batch while we're all still in pumpkin mode.

Fruity Pumpkin Cookies
adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

1/3 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries
splash of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup of large flake oats
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 cup of raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

1. In a small saucepan, cook the cranberries in water until they pop and start to break down. Turn off the heat and smash with a fork.

2. Whisk together the cooked cranberries, pumpkin, sugar, oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and spices and stir.

3. Add the oatmeal, raisins and pumpkin seeds and give it one final mix.

4. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough on a sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops get a little bit brown. Savour that pumpkiny goodness!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

La Belle Verte

L’Automne me parle. Elle me chuchote dans l’oreille, en disant: Au revoir … au revoir .. à l’année prochaine. Pour la plupart, je ne peux pas l’entendre, elle parle si doucement. Les après-midis sont toujours ensoleillés, je ne dois que porter ma tuque après le couché du soleil. Le vent est toujours doux et frais, et les feuilles sont encore colorés…les belles rouges, oranges et jaunes de l’Automne. Mais .. mais .. son départ est là. Son au revoir reste dans mon esprit comme un rêve dont je n’arrive pas à rappeler tous les détails. Elle me chuchote à l’aube, quand l’air est froid et glacé. Elle berce le soleil beaucoup plus tôt que d’habitude, et elle me suggère avec un tout petit frisson, que je devrais porter mes bas et attacher ma tuque.

L’Automne, je vous aime, et pourtant, vous restez seulement quelques courts mois. Je voudrais vous garder dans mon esprit, même quand la neige de l’Hiver me chatouille le nez, même quand la pluie de Printemps me mouille les cheveux, et même quand la chaleur de l’Été me crie d’enlever mon chandail ..

Mais enfin, le cycle de saisons doit prendre place, et je ne peux que penser aux après-midi de l’automne parfaits, ceux qui sont passés en marchant avec mon amour, en prenant un café lentement, un en particulier passé juste à l’autre côté de la capitale de notre pays, à la ville étrange et charmante de Gatineau. On a marché pour une belle demi-heure, suivant les rues cycliques qui semblent n’emmener qu’aux bâtiments gouvernementales gris et sérieux et bien trop officiels pour un petit séjour en Octobre. Mais, en tournant un coin final, on est arrivé soudain au milieu du centre-ville. Encore, étrange et charmant, pas comme les centres-villes de ma connaissance, ce centre-ville était entouré de maisons résidentielles, et ce centre-ville était solennelle et silencieux. On a dîné chez un petit resto vegan : La Belle Verte. C’est là où j’ai fait connaissance du foncé et feuillu chou frisé (kale en anglais). Ce légume je n’ai jamais goûté auparavant, et maintenant, je l’en suis toute intoxiquée. Mon amour a commandé une spécialité : La Belle Verte, qui est composé des pâtes (faites à la maison de blé entier), des légumes (carottes, choux frisé, brocoli et haricots) et une sauce au choix (il a choisi la sauce épicée aux arachides). Moi, j’ai choisi le cari aux légumes avec du riz, encore servis avec les mêmes légumes délicieux. Le cari était doux et savoureux, mais c’était le chou frisé qui, pour moi, a fait ce repas mémorable. Un simple légume, oui, mais quand je l’ai goûté, c’était l’Automne qui me vient à l’esprit.

Maintenant que mon beau séjour est fini il y a un long moi, et le vent de l’Hiver m’embrasse furtivement pendant les sombres matins, et les soirées tardifs, je cherche à augmenté ces belles souvenirs pour me couvrir avec tous ses chaleurs de l’Automne. C’est certainement les goûts de l’automne qui sont les plus réconfortants, et parmi les pommes, les citrouilles, la cannelle et les canneberges, je cuis le chou frisé. Non, je n’ai pas essayé à refaire les repas de La Belle Verte (mais je l’en veux bien). Ailleurs, j’ai fait un simple dîner de pois de chiches assaisonnés avec le gingembre et les autres saveurs asiatiques et le chou frisé blanchi. Très simple, mais délicieux, et certainement un repas qui emmène mes souvenirs de Gatineau au devant de mon esprit.

Simple Chickpeas and Kale
serves 2

a small bunch of kale, stems removed
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon of olive oil
a small chunk of ginger
a splash each of dark soy, light soy and sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
black pepper to taste

1. Blanch the kale in salted, boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove, drain and roughly chop. Divide between two bowls.

2. In a saucepan, heat the oil and ginger over high heat until things get toasty and fragrant. Add the chickpeas, soy sauces, coriander and sesame seed oil and toss around. Add black pepper and cook until the sauces turn syrupy.

3. Pour the chickpeas over the kale and serve immediately.

4. Au revoir L’Autonme. À l’année prochaine!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shhhhhh! Don't Sink my Souffle!

Have you ever made souffle? Sweet or savoury? Until just recently, I had never entertained the idea of even eating it, much less making it. In my mind, souffle was a trick: it seemed all light and fluffy, but it was like a croissant -- layered with a heaviness that would make you feel slumpy and lethargic all day. NOT true. I eat my own words. Souffle is not a trick, and it really IS light and fluffy in the whole sense of the words.

Whenever I've seen TV chefs make souffle, there's always gallons of cream, tons of cheese and too many eggs to count. That's what turned me off. But little did I know! You can make a gorgeous souffle with just 2 eggs and it will taste amazing even if there's no cheese, cream or butter. Amazing! You want to know another souffle myth that I've debunked? You DON'T have to tip-toe around your kitchen! Ever see or hear people talk about whispering and tip-toeing when there's a souffle in the oven for fear that it will sink? Well, here's news. First, some souffles just don't rise that much. They rise, but not overly so. Second, even if you're the best chef in the world, you souffle is bound to fall just a touch right when it comes out of the oven. Note: that does NOT mean that it sank. And last, I wasn't particularly quiet around the kitchen, and our souffles rose just fine, thank you very much.

We made a broccoli and walnut souffle the first night. The next, we made a broccoli and cheese one, and then we made one with roasted squash. The method was simple: Make a pureed (or almost pureed!) mixture of vegetables, plus whatever flavourings you want (in our case it was walnuts or cheese) and mix it in with egg yolks and yogurt. Fold that into your whipped egg whites and you're ready for the oven. Totally easy, even for a week night.

Souffle tips? It's all in the eggs. Don't over beat your egg whites; stop when the peaks stand up on their own. And when you're putting the mixture together, fold, don't stir. Be gentle. I've heard and read that you should grease your ramekins and then coat them in bread crumbs so that the souffle can climb. I'm sure it works, but we forgot (oops!) and our souffles still climbed up nicely. The most important part, was that they were delicious. Very light, fluffy, totally flavourful and filling. Don't be scared. Make souffle today!

Broccoli and Walnut Souffle

adapted from Super Cookery Potatoes & Vegetables page 412.
serves two

half a head of brocoli
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoon of yogurt

1. Cut the broccoli in florets and blanch in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, sautee the onions in olive until soft and fragrant. Add the dried oregano and salt and pepper.

3. Place the onions, brocoli, walnuts and broth in a food processor or mini chopper and pulse until you get a chunky puree.

4. Beat the egg yolks and yogurt together until combined. Add in the broccoli mixture and mix well. Set aside.

5. Beat the egg whites until you see stiff peaks. Add a third of the broccoli mixture to the whites and fold gently until combined. Repeat until everything is combined.

6. Pour the mixture into ramekins (our mixture fit into three very small ones) and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until your souffles have puffed up and the tops are golden. Do NOT open the oven before it's time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Chocolate Kick

Sometimes, when you're feeling down, or just a little un-energized, you need a little kick. I'm not sure what got into my system this week, but despite the post-Halloween sugar fix that the children were on, I just couldn't seem to keep from yawning every five minutes. Usually when the students have lots of energy, it makes me have lots of energy. Not this week. I nearly fell asleep in the middle of a class.

It's during weeks like this where I need a serious kick. Coffee would do it, but we've already been over the coffee days. After my Second Cup fun on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday felt like an eternity of caffeine headaches, dropping eyelids and overall sluggishness. Don't get my started on Monday. Usually my weekend coffees are enough to carry me on Monday, but not this week. I crashed on the couch at 8:00pm after nodding off during my prep periods all day.

Not fun. I could have used a serious kick .. a chocolate kick, to be specific. Nothing too ooey-gooey and sticky, nothing too sugary .. just some serious chocolate to get my engine running properly again. For starters, I could have made this cocoa banana millet porridge for breakfast. That would have set me on the right path. The millet is so unique in flavour -- very rich and nutty and wholesome. The banana provides just the right amount of sweetness to round out that deep, dark cocoa flavour. I wouldn't have been yawning on this breakfast, and it would definitely have kept me going until lunch. Millet is incredibly filling!

I could have also used a slice of this vegan chocolate cake at around 3:00pm when I'm getting ready for my last class, but wishing it were bedtime. This cake is incredibly easy to make, has a wonderful, tender crumb and it's vegan! I first had it when my love made it for me for my birthday, in a heart shaped pan and topped with a vegan chocolate glaze. But for everyday snacking, just bake it up in a loaf pan and slice away. We didn't fiddle too much with the recipe, except for using whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour. It's light, chocolatey and guaranteed to give you a nice kick when you need it.

Oooh chocolate. I needed you this week. I'll never forget about you again!

Cocoa Banana Millet Porridge

1/4 cup of millet
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of almond milk
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
a splash of vanilla
1/2 a banana, chopped
1 teaspoon of almond butter
a handful of frozen sour cherries (if you have them!)

1. Toast the millet in a dry saucepan for about 2-3 minutes, or until it starts popping and smelling toasty. Add the water and almond milk and bring to a soft boil. Add the chopped banana and stir.

2. Turn the heat down, cover the pot and let it cook for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is soaked up.

3. Stir in the honey, cocoa powder, vanilla, frozen cherries and almond butter and cook uncovered for about 3 minutes until the liquid thickens a little.

4. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Colcannon, a new way

Calm yourselves: I did not use these to make dinner.. although that would be kinda cool, considering that it's Halloween soon. Yup, you guessed it. These were part of Halloween plan. Specifics? Borrowed from my scientist sister, used by 13-year-olds, one pretending to be a mad scientist, another the victim with her eyes and mouth sewn closed. Yeah, I need a life.

This week was incredibly crazy. We had taken a little mini-vacation to Ottawa leaving on a Friday night and returning on a Sunday evening. After walking in the sunny crisp autumn air, enjoying the beautiful fall colours, sampling Ottawa's coffee and eating at the most incredible vegan restaurant in the hidden downtown of Gatineau on the Quebec side, reality bit me on Monday. Halloween preparations at school. Oh. My.. I won't continue. Despite the stress, all went well, but I'm exhausted.

After a crazy week of eating cleverly defrosted leftovers in between baking these muffins for the bake sale and these healthy oatmeal cookies to give away instead of candy (yeah yeah .. but you know, the kids liked them!!), and trekking all the way up to the UPS pick-up centre near York University (don't EVER send or receive anything from UPS) it was time for some cooking. And it was comfort food that we were both craving. Calm yourselves. I did not eat peanut butter for dinner .. although I thought about it. Instead, we made a comforting dish of potatoes and cabbage -- our very own version of colcannon. Traditionally, colcannon is just mashed potatoes with boiled cabbage mixed in. At Halloween, it was served with small coins in the middle as prizes. We skipped that part ... I was all Halloweened out! But we did fancy it up a little by using red cabbage and adding a beautifully smooth aged cheddar studded with caraway seeds. We also baked it in the oven for bit to the let the cheese get brown and bubbly. Yum! Very comforting and just what we needed to erase week of stress.

Happy Halloween!

Fancied Colcannon

makes 2 large servings

2 medium white potatoes
1 tablespoon of cream or milk
1 cup of shredded red cabbage
a small chunk of crumbled aged cheddar with caraway (or just sprinkle in some caraway seeds)
1 tablespoon of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until mashable. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Add the cream/milk and mash until desired consistency (we liked a bit of lumps!).

2. Blanch the cabbage for about 2-3 minutes, or until the colour just starts to fade a bit. Add to the mashed potatoes. Crumble in half the cheese and stir. Season to taste.

3. Pour the mixture into a cake pan and top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Put under the broiler for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Coffee Update (it's been a while!)

Cafe 260: double americano, mochacinno and banana chocolate latte (!)
Bisogno Espresso Bar: cappuccino, vanilla soy latte and drip coffee (they steamed my cream!)
I Deal Coffee (Ossington): rooibos tea, drip coffee and cappucino
T.A.N. Coffee: vanilla tea latte with almond milk (!), mochacinno and vanilla soy latte (so good!)
Cafe Novo: soy latte, cappuccino and latte au miel with almond milk (sooooooooo delicious!) enjoyed in the sun with a chococlate truffle brownie and meringues (proceeds going to charity)