Saturday, October 29, 2011


Help! I'm buried under report cards. I want to be having brunch on a sunny window seat with two of my favourite people, or sipping coffee and reading at the cafe down the street, or riding my bike through the fall colours of High Park, or taking a walk in the market and buying 5 different kinds of apples and a pumpkin ... but I'm not.

I'm stuck at home working on this beautiful weekend. Even as I type this I'm feeling guilty for not typing progress report comments instead. So enough! Go make this PBJ quick bread. It's sweet and peanut buttery and comforting and it will make your house smell like a bakery. The recipe is from Celine at have cake, will travel.

I have cake. I wish I were travelling ...

PBJ Quickbread
adapted from have cake will travel

3/4 cup of soy milk
6 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
1/4 cup of strawberry jam
juice of half a small lemon
a splash of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 cup of oats
1/3 cup of whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy milk, peanbut butter, jam, lemon juice, vanilla and brown sugar. Whisk it really good until everything is nicely combined and smooth.

2. Sift in the flour and baking powder and soda. Add the oats and give it a good mix.

3. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden brown and your house smells likes heaven.

4. Wouldn't this be great sliced and topped with bananas? Or Nutella?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Need Colour

This past few days have been a bit grey and gloomy. The autumn chill has definitely set in, but instead of crisp, sunny, sweater weather, we're getting an icy drizzle and overcast skies. I know it comes with the seasons, but sometimes, you need a bit of help to keep a smile on your face. Coffee helps. Celebration adventures with loved ones help a lot. And colourful food -- for sure!

This quinoa dish definitely has many colours, enough to pick you up on a gloomy, drizzly weekend. It's inspired by a quinoa chowder from a book that my nest friend gifted me with for my 30th birthday that just past. It's a book dedicated to quinoa! I already want to make everything. But this was the first recipe that caught my eye. It's a simple stewy dish with lots of colourful vegetables -- yes, there's STILL fresh corn in the market and super ripe peppers if you hurry. And of course, I couldn't pass up this beautiful bunch of rainbow chard. My own chardlings from our balcony box gave me one last little bunch as well.

This dish is easy to put together, very healthy and definitely flavourful. It's comforting when served hot, but as it sits overnight, the quinoa kind of soaks up all the liquid and becomes kind of salad-like. It's also great cold, but feel free to add a splash of water or broth when re-heating to bring it back to it's chill-chasing stewy goodness. Keep warm and dry!

Quinoa Vegetable Stew
adapted from Quinoa: the everyday superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cobs of corn, kernals removed
half a small bunch of rainbow chard, stalks diced, leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 cup of quinoa, rinsed well (I used red)
zest and juice of a lime
2-3 cups of vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste.

1. In a large pot, cook the onions, carrots, celery, pepper and chard stalks for about 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and starting to soften. Season and add the lime zest, cumin and smoked paprika.

2. Mix and cook for a minute or so, so the spices can toast. Add the lime juice and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the corn, quinoa and vegetable broth. Stir well.

3. Bring the stew up to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender.

4. Remove the lid and add the chard leaves. Stir and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Enjoy with crusty bread or all by itself.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Impromtu Thing: close but not quite is good enough for me!

I promised a more seasonal and festive post-- a more thought out and interesting one too, but amidst a super busy time at work, this is the best I can come up with: Pumpkin Pie Bars. Technically, I could have baked it in a pie dish and called it pumpkin pie, but I think they work better as bars. Let's discuss.

My family is traditional in some ways, not so in others. There wasn't a turkey in sight on Thanksgiving weekend; instead there were lots of greasy fried noodles and rice, malaysian style curry and chicken and baby bok choys with soy. My offerings to the gathering were simple: a quinoa and swiss chard stew that turned into more of a salad (recipe coming soon!) and a vegan apple and cranberry crisp (just apples cranberries, a touch of sugar and lemon juice and that beautiful spelt crisp topping), which I thought my parents' old-fashioned guests wouldn't care too much for but surprisingly loved. Let's not talk about my dream Thanksgiving dinner -- it would definitely not include greasy Chinese food. But anyway, my sister mentioned that her beloved would be making pumpkin pie for the gathering, so I resisted the urge to bake up something spicy and cinnamon-y with my mound of roasted pumpkin. Turns out, he didn't have time to make the pie and so Thanksgiving was pumpkin pie-less. Shame on us.

The next day, I kinda craved pumpkin pie. My other half wanted apple crumble -- the old fashioned way, with butter and brown sugar. So I conceded, but I still wanted pumpkin so I thought up a plan. I didn't have enough patience to make a pie crust and I was tired up pumpkin pies that only taste like butter and cinnamon; I wanted to taste pumpkin. What I did was totally impromptu and I wasn't even sure that it would work, but it did. Not quite a pumpkin pie, but close enough for me. The crust is a combination of graham cracker crumbs -- the last that half cup that had been sitting in my cupboard for too long -- spelt flour and canola oil. And the pumpkin custard? Totally experimental. I remembered Michael Smith saying that a bread pudding custard was always standard: 1 egg gets 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of milk. I went for that I hoped for the best. Results? Yummy, creamy, spicy and very pumpkin-y. It's a super soft custard and unlike a firmly set pumpkin pie. The crust? Wholesome tasting, nutty, but a bit tough. But it was close enough and I enjoyed each bite.

Pumpkin Pie Bars
with help from Michael Smith

For the Crust:
1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of spelt flour
1/4 cup of canola oil or melted margarine/butter

For the Filling:
1 cup of roasted pumpkin or pumpkin puree (I roasted my pumpkin but didn't bother to puree it.)
1 cup of soy milk
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 egg
1/4 cup of brown sugar
a splash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of allspice and cardamom
a small pinch of nutmeg

1. Make the crust by mixing the oil into the flour and crumbs with a fork. Press it into a square baking pan. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the filling until everything is smooth and combined. Pour it over the crust.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until the top gets a nice sugary, glaze-y look and the custard is set. Let it cool, and cut into bars.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Behind A Bit ..

I've been behind a bit ... behind a bit in marking, behind a bit in planning, behind a bit in my program .. and behind a bit in sharing this cake and these muffins with you. That's September for me: a bit of a blur. But the long weekend is here and it's time to catch up. I know everyone is posting yummy Thanksgiving (or at my school, it's referred to as Turkey Day) recipes with pumpkins and cranberries and stuffing and turkey. And I'm proud to say that I have a bag of Canadian cranberries and a beautiful sugar pumpkin all ready to be turned into tasty things. I promise a more festive and seasonal post very soon.

For now, I'd love to quickly share with you this very delicious treat -- two of them actually, depending on what you choose. Remember way back when Jacqui at So Good and Tasty made this apple and blackberry pie? Or when kickpleat at Everybody Likes Sandwiches made these blackberry and peach shortbread bars? It was right around the time that Meagan at A Sweet Spoonful was made a cake with fresh corn and raspberries while Heidi at 101 Cookbooks was making a nice berry pie. Summer was merging into fall. Mornings were getting crisper, berries were fading slowly and apples were beginning to show up. I thought I would get to pie-making this summer, but I didn't. Not even a tart. But that's alright. I made great use of the in-between fruits in these apple blackberry muffins / loaf with crisp topping. Let me explain.

I loved loved loved the apple blackberry pie that Jacqui made, so much that I almost -- yes almost got it together and rolled out the crust and everything. But for reasons that are beyond me and none too good, I didn't. I did use the very same fruits: the season's first apples --the ginger gold that obsessed over, and exiting season's last berries. I also used spelt flour and flakes, which gave these treats a very nutty, rich flavour. The muffins were perfect weekday take-to-work-pick-me-up-at-three-o-clock treats, but the loaf was really something special. Moist, fruit-studded, sweet and the crisp topping blew me away. It's something about that spelt ..

Anyway, I was supposed to keep it quick, so here's the recipe. I know that blackberries are gone now, but apples are in full swing. Frozen berries would be totally fine, or you could skip the berries and add another apple. You could even use a few chopped cranberries! Whatever you do, don't skip the spelt!

Apple Blackberry Spelt Muffins / Loaf
makes one small loaf and 12 mini muffins

For the muffins and loaf:

1 cup of spelt flakes
1/2 cup of milk (any kind .. I used soy)
1/4 cup of yogurt
1/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 egg, beaten
1 large apple, grated
1 cup of spelt flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
a large handful of blackberries

For the crisp topping:
*I only put the crisp topping on the loaf, but if you wanted it for the muffins as well, just double

1/4 cup of spelt flakes
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of canola oil

1. Make the topping by mixing together the spelt flakes, flour and sugar until well combine. Add the canola oil and, using a fork, work it into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flakes, milk, yogurt, honey, and canola oil. Let it stand for 10 minutes

3. Add in the beaten egg and grated apples and mix well. Sift in the flour and baking soda and mix until just combined. Carefully mix in the blackberries.

4. Fill your muffin tins with some of the mixture and pour the rest into a loaf pan. Sprinkle your crisp topping over top. Bake in a 350 degree oven. The muffins should only take about 15 minutes. The loaf should take about 45 minutes, or until the topping in a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

5. Let you loaf cool to room temperature before serving. If you try to cut it right away (like I did!), it will be too wet in the middle and you'll think it's not cooked -- but it is! Just be patient and let it rest. Enjoy!