Pumpkin zucchini bread

PumpkinbreadI make this bread or variations of it almost every week to have for breakfast. This is a quick bread, but it’s not sweet. It’s intended to be eaten with a nut butter or nut cheese.

This bread is super simple to make and versatile. I’ve substituted applesauce or mashed banana for the pumpkin and mixed up what other fruits and nuts I add. Use your imagination; just don’t mess with the chemistry – the basic mix of flours, baking soda and milk!

Lately I’ve been adding chickpea flour (a/k/a besan or gram flour) to amp up the protein content.

Ingredients

Dry ingredients

2/3 cup regular flour

1/3 cup chickpea flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

1 Tbsp pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1 Tbsp raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp cloves

Wet ingredients

1 cup plant milk

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup molasses

½ – 2/3 cup pureed fruit (in this case pumpkin, but try apple sauce or mashed banana)

½ cup fresh fruit (e.g. here I used grated zucchini, but try berries, diced apples or pears etc)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.

In a smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate but no need to mix well. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. A fork inserted in the loaf should come out clean.

TIP: Pumpkin tends to come in big cans. I dole out 1/2 cup portions of pumpkin in freezer bags and store it in the freezer for up to 4 months. This way, you waste nothing and always have pumpkin when you need it. Ditto zucchini – that grated zucchini in this loaf is from September’s harvest.

Mushroom barley soup

MushroomBarleySoupI get a cheap thrill fooling non-vegans into thinking they’re eating meat.

This soup is as savoury and dark as any beef broth. However, in this case the beef is still very much alive enjoying his or her life happy in a field somewhere.

My recipe is based on an ancient Moosewood cookbook, but with my own riff to make it more flavourful and less laborious.

Ingredients

300 g sliced mushrooms (about ¾ of a pound)

2/3 cup dried mushrooms – any kind. I buy them in a huge bag for very cheap at a Chinese grocery and use them for making stocks

3 cups water

3 cups vegetable broth

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions diced

3 cloves garlic minced

2 ribs celery diced

2 medium carrots diced

2/3 cup dried barley

1 Tbsp tomato paste (you can freeze leftover tomato paste in 1 Tbsp portions and keep it in a freezer bag so you always have tomato paste for recipes like this)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup cheap red wine or sherry or port (I always keep cheap port – so cheap it comes in a plastic bottle! – for cooking and marinating)

Directions

In a large pot bring the vegetable broth and the water to a boil. Break up your dried mushrooms into fingertip sized pieces and place in the boiling stock/water. Simmer for 15 minutes and remove the pot from the heat.

In the meantime in a stock pot, dice up and slice your other veggies. Saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots until the onions are translucent – about 5 minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their juices. I like to cook this right down so some of the mushrooms start to brown a bit. Add the dried mushrooms/stock/water mixture and an additional 1 cup of water and all the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and enjoy!

Beet, quinoa and kale salad

BeetKaleQuinoaSalad

I love the Thug Kitchen cookbook but, like all cookbooks, I find they are often unnecessarily labour intensive. I guess I’m a lazy-ass thug.

Here’s my lazy version of their beet and quinoa salad.

Ingredients

4-5 medium beets

2 cups kale washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

½ cup uncooked quinoa

Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)

2 green onions washed and sliced

2 clementine oranges peeled and segmented (optional)

2 Tbsp fresh dill or fresh parsley

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (I used about ¼ tsp each)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions

TIP: I recommend cooking the beets and quinoa the day before so they are nice and cool. If you put hot quinoa or beets on the kale, it’ll wilt.

Cook the quinoa by rinsing it in a mesh strainer and then putting it in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer covered with a lid for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

How to peel and cook beets easily

Slice the tops and bottoms off the beets. Place them in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 20 minutes. A fork will go in easily when they are cooked. Remove the beets from the heat and drain the water. Cover with cold water and let the beets sit for a few minutes. You want the beets to be cool enough to handle.

If you’re making the beets the night before, just drain off the water, put the lid on the pot and put the pot in the fridge.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove from the water and slip off the skins with your fingers. Slice the beets and place in a large bowl.

Add the quinoa, kale, green onions, parsley and/or dill and clementines, if using, to the bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard and toss everything together. Serve up and enjoy!

A vegan shepherd’s pie to die for… except no one actually does

ShepherdsPie

I have always loved shepherd’s pie. It’s a gorgeous, classic comfort food. Now here’s a version that’s just as delicious as the original AND vegan.

While the ingredients list and steps may seem long, I promise this is a simple recipe that will make you feel like a gourmet when it’s done.

My next door neighbour, a venerable German lady and an excellent cook, came by to sample the dish and declared it to be buttery and sinful. I couldn’t ask for higher praise.

Ingredients

For the mashed potatoes

4-5 potatoes. I use Yukon Gold or any white fleshed potato. Scrub them well, remove any eyes, all or some of the skin and then dice.

1 white turnip peeled and diced. Trust me on this – the turnip gives the buttery flavour to the potatoes.

3 Tbsp vegan margarine

1/3 to ½ cup unsweetened soy or almond milk

Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling

½ cup beluga (black) lentils or any kind of lentils except red lentils, which get mushy.

3 stalks celery sliced

1 small onion diced

2 carrots sliced

1 parsnip sliced (if you don’t like parsnips, then just go with 3 carrots)

2 cups mushrooms sliced (I used cremini)

½ cup green peas (I used frozen)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cups vegetable broth

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tsp fresh thyme (or go w/ dried if that is what you have, but use only ½ teaspoon)

1 Tsp fresh sage (or go w/ dried if that is what you have, but use only ½ teaspoon)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (make sure your brand is vegan. I used Lea and Perrins)

A splash of red wine (about ¼ cup)

I Tbsp flour or arrowroot (for thickening the sauce)

1 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

Directions

Boil the cubed potatoes and turnip together until they are soft. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Drain off the water. Add the margarine and milk and mash everything together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Put the lentils in a small pot with one cup of water. Put a lid on the pot and bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet or large pot (you want a wide based vessel), sauté the onion, celery, carrot and parsnip in the olive oil. Sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and sauté some more until the mushrooms have released their liquid.

Add the tomato paste, flour, wine and half the broth. Stir well so the flour and tomato paste are blended well in the broth. Add the remaining broth, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cooked lentils and peas and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced by about half. This will take about 15 minutes.

When the filling is ready, pour it into a very large pie dish or other casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and place under the broiler for 10 minutes until the potatoes are golden.

Dig in and enjoy!

Black bean and butternut squash chili – a bowl of happy

blackbeansquashchili

Meet my new favourite chili recipe. It’s pretty, spicy, satisfying, full of happy little black beans that are simultaneously chewy yet creamy and just a big old bowl o’ yumminess. This recipe is perfect for this time of year too when squashes prevail. If you don’t have a butternut squash, you could use any winter squash, except spaghetti squash, which is the wrong texture.

Ingredients

1 medium onion chopped

2 red bell peppers chopped

About 3-4 cups cubed butternut squash – (a small squash of about 1 ½ pounds)

4 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 -2 Tbsp chipotle pepper in adobo chopped. I chopped in 2 of the peppers because I like the heat.

1 bay leaf

½ tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp oregano

1 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp cider vinegar

1 19oz can diced tomatoes

2 cans black beans drained and rinsed (that’s 3 cups if you cook your beans from scratch)

2 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Wash the squash and pierce it a few times. Microwave it for 6 minutes to make it soft enough to easily cut and peel. When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds which are in the bulbous end of the squash. Peel the squash and cut in cubes. If this is daunting to you, go ahead and buy a bag of already peeled, seeded and cubed frozen butternut squash. No one will judge and it’s good to eat your veggies!

In a very large pot, sauté the garlic, onion and peppers in the olive oil. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir together. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes and then remove the lid and simmer for another 30 minutes (for 1 hour total), stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce and you’ll have a perfect chili. Yes, it’s that easy.

This dish makes 4-6 servings and freezes well. It’s great with sliced avocado.

Mushroom stroganoff…. the Russian revolution of good taste continues

Stroganoff

One of the first meals I ever made was for a dinner party my much-older sister was hosting. I was 11. She was having friends from university over and asked me to cook beef stroganoff. It was one of the most heart-stopping (literally – beef, butter, sour cream, egg noodles) dishes I’ve ever made. And so good.

Here’s a mushroom stroganoff that’s cleaned up its act and yet is as creamy, rich and satisfying as my original dish. My recipe is heavily based on the one by Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Note – you do have to do some prepping at least 2 hours before you want to start cooking because the cashews need to soak and the tofu needs to marinade.

Ingredients

225g / 8 ounces of fusilli or rotini pasta

¾ cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours

1½ cups vegetable or mushroom broth

12 ounce package tofu

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp red cooking sherry

3 Tbsp A-1 sauce

1 tsp salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon smoky paprika

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 cloves garlic, minced

225g cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about ½ pound)

1 tsp dried thyme

½ cup dry white wine

2 Tbsp tomato paste
Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Make the tofu

To make the tofu, cut the block into 8 equal slices. Place on a clean, lint-free towel and cover with another towel and press to squeeze out the liquid. Use the whole flat of your hand and press evenly.

Place the tofu in a shallow dish. It’s okay if the tofu is stacked in 2 layers.

In a small bowl or glass mix 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp cooking sherry and 1 Tbsp  A-1 sauce. Pour over the tofu and place the dish in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

When the tofu has marinated, place it on a small baking sheet in a single layer. Pour any remaining marinade over it. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. When it’s done, remove from the oven, let cool a bit and then cut into bite-size strips.

Make the sauce

Place the soaked, drained cashews, the broth, 2 Tbsp A-1 sauce, the balsamic vinegar and the salt and pepper in a blender and blend until you have a creamy sauce. Set aside.

In a large pan or pot (you want a nice wide bottom on the vessel for sautéing… if your bottom is nice and wide too, well that’s just fine!), heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until they’re translucent. Add the thyme and paprika and heat through.

Add the mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms release their liquid and then start to brown. This can take about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and wine and stir. Then add the cashew-based sauce and heat through. You might want to let the dish simmer for a few minutes to let it thicken though my sauce was already very thick. Add the sliced tofu and mix to combine

Serve over the pasta. Tell your friends you’re having stroganoff. Offer to share…. Enjoy!

Squash and coconut soup – spicy, exotic and velvety

CoconutSquashSoup

I receive a weekly produce box from a local farmers’ co-op. Every week is a surprise; we get whatever is in season and ready for harvest. As the season passes from June to November, we move from strawberries and rhubarb and endless lettuce to cabbages, apples, potatoes and squashes. And squashes. And squashes.

So, I made up a huge pot of this soup to share with my neighbours and to enjoy myself. The soup is flavourful and with a touch of heat from chilis. The coconut milk makes it velvety and creamy. I think this is the best soup I’ve ever made.

Ingredients

4 cups of uncooked yellow-fleshed squash – butternut, delicata, spaghetti, buttercup – whatever you have or prefer.

2 cups of peeled, diced sweet potato and carrots. I used 1 medium sweet potato and 2 carrots.

1 large white onion diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 red chili pepper – minced but don’t remove the seeds; they provide nice heat

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 can coconut milk (approximate 500 ml or 2 cups – it’s okay if it’s a bit more or less)

6 cups of vegetable broth

1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Directions

TIP: True to their name, delicata squash are delicate and don’t travel well so you probably won’t find them in a large grocery store. However, they are a wonderful, mild, thin-skinned squash that you can cook simply by removing the seeds – no peeling required.

To easily remove the flesh of other, firmer squashes, pierce the whole squash a few times with a knife (this allows steam to escape) and microwave the vegetable for 4 – 6 minutes. That should be enough to soften the squash and make it easy to cut open, deseed, peel and dice.

Sauté the onion, garlic and chili in the oil until just soft. Add the curry powder, ginger and cumin and stir through to heat the spices. Add the ground black pepper, broth, squash, carrot and sweet potato and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. You want all the vegetables soft enough that they will be blend-able. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the vegetables and broth.

Once you have a smooth mixture, stir in the maple syrup and taste. Add salt if necessary. Add the coconut milk and stir.

Get a BIG bowl and a BIG spoon and enjoy!

This recipe makes about 9 cups of soup. Mmmm.