Saturday, November 27, 2010
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
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
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
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.
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
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.