Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hearty Smoked Tofu and Chard Casserole with Millet Topping

It's snowed yesterday. A wonderful, blowy, billowing snow that didn't last too long, but just long enough to me me feel like winter is saying hello. The sky is clear and the air is frosty and chilly and it's the perfect day for a winter adventure, even if it's just a small one. We have somewhat of a winter tradition of warming up during our winter walks with Tim Horton's hot chocolate. I love summer and fall, but I also love winter and everything that comes with it.

I'm all for snuggly, pj days spent watching movies and drinking endless cups of hot drinks, but winter adventures get my blood flowing and bring all the cool, crisp oxygen to my brain -- something that helps me stay focused at work and happy at home. But after winter adventures, it's always nice to warm up to something hearty and comforting when supper time rolls around. This nice casserole fits the bill perfectly. It's filled with hearty winter greens, red lentils, smoked tofu (although you could use any firm tofu) and a unique, creamy and crunchy millet topping. It's kind of like a vegan shepherd's pie -- the kind of stick-to-your-ribs meal that reminds you of all the good things winter has to offer.  It's also the kind of relaxing meal that you can make while the wind howls at your balcony door and you sing along with your favourite album -- lots of chopping and stirring, nothing too complicated.

If you've never cooked millet before, it's pretty easy. I used a 1-2 millet-water ratio, but for a real flavour kick, use some veggie stock instead. Some people like to toast their millet in a dry pan before adding the water, which is totally cool as well. Once the millet is made, the rest of the recipe comes together in a snap. It's made even easier if you have a dutch oven that can go directly from the stove-top to the oven. But if you don't, it's no sweat. Just transfer your beautiful stew to a casserole dish, top with the millet crust and pop under the broiler. And if you can't find smoked tofu, just use regular firm tofu and add a nice sprinkling of sweet smoked paprika. It's a meal that you can make on Sunday and enjoy all snowy week long.

Smoked Tofu and Chard Casserole with Millet Topping
adapted from Project Foodie
serves 4-5, generously

1/2 cup of millet
1 cup of water or stock
1 teaspoon of olive oil

3 small carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small bunch of swiss chard, stems diced, leaves cut into ribbons
1/3 cup of red lentils, rinsed well
4-6 ounces of smoked of regular tofu, cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
2 cups of vegetable stock

1. In small pot, bring water and millet to boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the millet has absorbed all the liquid. Set aside.

2. In a large pot of dutch oven, sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until they start to soften and become fragrant. Add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, chard stems and stir well. Add salt, pepper and herbes to provence. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the lentils, and vegetable stock and stir well. Cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the stew cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils start to break down and the vegetables start to soften.

4. Add the chard leaves and tofu. Stir well. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, uncovered to let the liquid reduce a little more. Stir in the soy sauce and taste. Adjust seasoning as desired.

5. Turn off the heat. If you're not using a dutch oven, pour your stew out into a large casserole dish (try to choose one that's more deep and not too wide). Spoon the cooked millet on top of the stew. Drizzle with olive oil.

6. Put your casserole under the broiler for about 5-6 minutes, or until you see a nice brown crust. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin Everything!

It's that time again when the blog world is flooded with pumpkin posts, and I'm not going to try to be different. Let's go with the flow. Pumpkin everything! Well... I actually used golden hubbard squash for these muffins.  Golden Hubbard Squash everything! No. That doesn't have the same ring to it. Pumpkin everything!

I first came across the golden hubbard squash at the advice of a friend and colleague, whose mom used to make pumpkin pie with hubbard squash because it simply was sweeter and more flavourful than a regular pumpkin. And I can't disagree. Regular pumpkin is perfect for soups and stews, but when I'm baking, the golden hubbard or golden nugget squash is hard to beat.

These muffins are very quick to make, provided that you already have your squash roasted and pureed. In pinch, go ahead and used canned pumpkin puree, but I urge you to give the golden hubbard squash a try, just once this season. You won't be disappointed. A large handful of dried cranberries add a nice burst of tangy flavour. I used fresh Ontario cranberries from the farmer's market when I made these the first time, and they were also lovely. Chopped fresh apple would be a great addition as well. But what makes these muffins special is the pumpkin seed butter. It lends a rich, nutty, hearty flavour to the muffins and combined with the spelt flour and ground flax seeds, you have a protein-packed, energy-filled snack to look forward to in the middle of your day.

The original recipe called for peanut butter which I'm sure is delicious as well, but while I'm a definite peanut butter addict, I would strongly recommend making that trip to the health food store to pick up pumpkin seed butter. The flavour is just too unique to substitute. And despite being vegan, these muffins baked up light and fluffy and held together perfectly.

It's a chilly day out there today which is making me believe all the rumors about winter arriving early. Bake up a batch of these muffins and they will definitely warm up your day.

Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
adapted from Crazy for Crust
makes 12 medium-sized muffins

2/3 cup of pureed squash

1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of ground flax + 3 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup of pumpkin seed butter
2 tablespoons of soy milk + 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar
1 cup of spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1. In a large bowl, combine the squash, sugar, flax, water, pumpkin seed butter, soy milk and vinegar. Stir well to combined.

2. Sift in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Gently mix until just combined. Stir in the dried cranberries.

3. Spoon the mixture (it will be very thick) into lined muffin tins and bake in at 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.