Sunday, February 26, 2012

Light and Fresh, Hearty and Nutty

So I realize that the last few things I've made have been beautiful shades of tan, beige and brown. And today is no better. Let me explain.

Yesterday, I woke up cold. I hate waking up cold. It was also grey outside. A typical February. I also had a baking bug, even though I had just made this beautiful chocolate cherry cake (did I mention that it's vegan and delicious?) for my grandma's 96th birthday. I thought about another chocolate treat, or maybe oatmeal crackers or banana bread, but I wanted something fresh and tangy to shake myself about of these February blues. I also wanted something hearty and toasty to warm the chill that had settled in my bones. Usually tangy and toasty don't go together.

But they did yesterday morning! I made mini-muffins -- a perfect weekend morning treat. I made them with lemon juice and zest, and the goodness of whole wheat flour, toasted almonds and rolled oats. Substantial enough to warm me up and bright enough to wake up my taste buds. They're also vegan (soaked oats make a great binder -- no egg replacers needed!) with only 1 tablespoon of heart healthy olive oil. They have a lovely light and chewy crumb and the toasted chopped almonds give it some nice texture.

So it's brown and beige. So what? It was just the thing I needed to set my weekend straight. No guilt added, to top it off. Go try them. You're welcome.

Vegan Lemon Almond Muffins
makes 24 mini muffins

1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/2 cup of soy or almond milk
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup of natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
3 tablespoons of apple butter (or 2 tablespoons of apple sauce)
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of toasted almonds, chopped

1. Put the lemon zest and juice, oats and soy milk in large bowl. Let it stand for 15 minutes. This would be an ideal time to toast and chop your almonds.

2. Mix in the sugar, olive oil, apple butter or sauce and almond extract.

3. Sift in the flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Stir in the almonds.

4. Spoon of the batter into prepared muffin tins and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on the top and sides.

5. Enjoy! Best served warm with a cup of coffee.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Power Hungry

What do you eat when you're power hungry? Like, I mean totally-exhausted-and-needing-fuel-or -you'll-pass-out-within-the-next-five-minutes hungry? My body must be going through some sort of repair stage because I've felt this hungry twice in the past week. One of those times I was in my classroom getting ready to read a story to 25 little pre-teen monsters during the last period of the day -- a challenge in itself, much less when you're super hungry. I had to settle for cereal, soy milk and another cup of tea.

What I really wanted was this tofu chickpea scramble that I made the other night, when my first power-hunger hit. It has a triple -- yes triple -- dose of protein provided by tofu, chickpeas and a nice drizzle of tahini. It's a simple dish, flavoured with ginger, soy, a little dash of curry powder and a big splash of lime juice. Paired with whole grain red rice and kale, it totally sucker punched my hunger right in the gut. A satisfying, tasty and nutrient-packed meal -- plus it's easy enough for a stressful weeknight: what are you waiting for?

Tofu Chickpea Scramble
adapted from Choosing Raw
serves 2 power hungry people

1/2 cup of your favourite grain (I used red rice. Quinoa or millet would also be fantastic)
1 cup of water or broth
1 bunch of greens -- kale, spinach, chard, collards, even broccoli florettes

1/2 inch bit of ginger
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 cup of cooked chickpeas (canned is fine as well -- just rinse and drain first!)
1 6oz package of firm tofu
1 little drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon of tahini
1 big splash of soy
the juice of a lime

1. Rinse your grain out well and place in a pot. Add your water or broth and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then cook, covered. Times will vary depending on your grain. My red rice take a little bit longer than regular rice. When it's almost done, add in your greens. Cover, and let them steam for about 5ish minutes.

2. In a skillet, sweat the ginger in some olive oil for about 3-4 minutes, until it gets nice and fragrant. Add the curry powder and let it toast for about 1 minute.

3. Crumble in the tofu and give it a good mix. Let the tofu brown for a couple of minutes. If you're using a non-stick pan, you should be fine. If not, you might need to add a touch more oil to make sure things don't get too dry.

4. When the tofu is browned, add the chickpeas, tahini, sesame oil, soy and lime juice. Stir well and let it cook for another few minutes.

5. Divide your rice and greens into two bowls. Add your tofu scramble and dig in.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Easy Little "I Love You" Treat

I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. Sure, it's lovely to see the kids at school exchanging Hershey kisses and little pink and red cards, and getting all hyped up on those irresistible-even-to-adults cinnamon heart candies. It's nice. But this year, report cards come out on Valentine's Day, which puts a damper on things, and to make matters worse, where we would have had the Valentine's dance, we have to get ready for parent-teacher interviews instead. Yup, the new reporting schedule kind of bums out Valentine's Day at school, but I'm sure the children will get over, and plus, who needs the drama of 13 years olds "dancing" on Valentine's Day anyway?

That being said, I always take Valentine's Day as an excuse to bake treats for the people I love. I remember one year when I was in university, I woke up early and baked this fudgey chocolate cake from the Canadian Living Cooks show and made a mixed CD for my "valentine" at the time. We ended up arguing about the impending war on terror and I swear I almost called it quits right then and there (my leftist tendencies were obviously unappreciated in that relationship!). Clearly, we weren't meant for each other. And I don't think I've ever baked that cake again.

Now that I've found my real Valentine, I admit that we haven't really celebrated the day in awhile, but baking treats to show love always seems to be on the agenda. And these little polenta madeleines fit the bill perfectly. They're lemony and fruity from the olive oil, and oh so tart and easy to pop into your mouth. You definitely don't need Valentine's day as an excuse to make them, though they are a nice change from the usual rich chocolately things that make their way onto Valentine's day menus. The recipe is simpler and lighter than a traditional madeleine, though I'm sure Marcel Proust would have approved (ok.. I take that back.. I'm not sure.. but Nathalie Sarraute would have for sure!). Don't sweat it if you don't have a special madeleine pan -- a mini-muffin pan will work just fine. If you serve it up with macerated strawberries, it might just pass off as elegant, although I much prefer them with cup of afternoon weekend coffee.

Lemon Polenta Madeleines
from Hot from my Oven
makes 10 baby madeleines and 2 big muffins

1 egg
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
3 tablespoons of yogurt
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 cup of polenta
1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, egg, olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice and zest until thick and ribbony (about 5ish minutes by hand).

3. Add the polenta, sift in the flour and baking soda and mix until just combined. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.

4. Spoon the batter into a prepared pan of your choice and bake in 350 degree oven until light golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean (for the madeleine pan, it only took about 15 minutes).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yummy Falafelness

I love falafel. I love the cuminyness and the heartyness, but I hate the deep fry. A little pan sear I can handle, but not the deep fry. These veggie patties remind me of falafel -- they would probably taste more like falafel if there was a nice hit of fresh parsley and lemon in it, but they still taste great. They're even better with your favourite burger toppings and sided with baked french fries (which we didn't have, but hey, that would've been good).

I've had veggie burgers before -- some really meaty-tasting, some really chewy and tasteless. These patties are tender and flavourful and don't hold together very well, but the taste makes up for it. They're made of chickpeas, broccoli, and quinoa, so they're packed with protein and all kinds of other good stuff. There's a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to hold it together, and I think adding a bit more would have helped it bind more, but I didn't mind the tenderness one bit. They were the perfect light supper, and totally easy to make. Just remember to use a non-stick frying pan, or you could try baking them like the original recipe calls for. Next time, I think I'll try it with black beans and chipotle powder for a little something different. I don't crave burgers often, but I did yesterday, and this really hit the spot; and they're vegan. Bonus!

I might even be brave enough soon to try this meat-y looking beet burger ...

Falafely Veggie Patties
adapted from The Tolerant Vegan

1/3 cup of quinoa, rinsed
1/3 cup of vegetable stock
1/3 cup of water

1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (or use one can)
1 small head or broccoli florets
1 small onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of tahini
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of water or stock
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs

1. First, cook the quinoa in the water and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, stir, and then turn down to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa has puffed and the liquid is all soaked up. Set aside.

2. Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the cumin and cook for another minute or so. Let cool and then put them in a food processor.

3. Blanch your broccoli, and add it to the food processor. Add the quinoa, chickpeas, and tahini. Pulse a few times and then add the stock, a little at a time until the mixture comes together. Don't over blend or you'll get mush.

4. Remove the mixture to a bowl and add the bread crumbs (maybe add another 2 tablespoons if you want a firmer patty), salt and pepper. Give it all a good mix, and then taste. Adjust your seasonings. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes.

5. Shape the mixture into patties -- any size you like! We made a few big ones and lots of tiny baby ones. Brown them in a non-stick frying pan with a bit of olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side.

6. Serve .. however you like! On buns with burger toppings, in a wrap with lettuce and tahini dressing ..