Baked falafel with lemon-garlic tahini sauce

Falafel

There is a Lebanese restaurant in town that makes the best falafel. They’re crispy crunchy on the outside and cakelike and tender inside. They’re also deep fried. Oh oh!

These falafel are lightened up by baking them and they’re quick and easy to make. The hardest part will be waiting for them to finish baking.

I love these falafel drizzled with a garlicky lemon tahini dressing and served on a bed of greens with tomatoes and avocado. Cucumber, onion and olives are other great, traditional additions. Falafel are often served inside pita bread too.

You’ll need a food processor for this recipe .

Ingredients for the falafel

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (one 15 oz can drained and rinsed)

2 cloves garlic

½ onion chopped roughly (it’s going in a food processor)

1 tsp cumin

1-2 tsp coriander (depending on your taste)

1/4 tsp cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce

¼ tsp smoky paprika (optional – I just love the taste it adds)

¼ cup fresh parsley

½ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon juice (about ¼ of a lemon)

1 Tbsp regular or chickpea flour (optional but helps to keep the dough thick and dry)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Put all your ingredients in a food processor and pulse together until you have a thick dough. You may need to scrape down the sides occasionally to get everything incorporated and you may need to add a bit of water to get everything to bind together, but you do not want an overly wet dough and it’s okay to have some lumps and bumps in your dough too (I call this aesthetic “authentic”, “homemade” and even “rustic”.).

Take about 2 tablespoons of dough in your hand and roll it into a ball. Place on the cookie sheet. You can press the ball a bit flat to make a patty or you can mark with a fork as I have done here (similar to what one does making gnocchi). The patty shape is great if you’re going to eat the falafel inside a pita.

Bake for 15 minutes then turn the balls/patties over and bake for another 10 minutes. They should have a nice golden outside and tender, moist inside.

Ingredients for the lemon-garlic tahini sauce

1/3 cup hot water

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 clove garlic minced

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Juice of half a lemon

¼ cup tahini

Directions

Mix everything together in a small glass or bowl. Whisk until well blended and spoon over the falafel.

 

Chocolate walnut loaf

chocolateloaf

Ah, chocolate. I love it. This beautiful loaf is straightforward, unpretentious and delicious. The recipe is from the cookbook “How it all Vegan” by Barnard/Kramer.

My only changes simplify some of the measurements (do you really need to count out 7 tablespoons of oil when it ½ cup will do the trick?) and to add ½ a cup of vegan chocolate chips, because where chocolate is concerned, more is more.

Ingredients

1 cup plant-based milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp ground flax or chia seeds

6 Tbsp water

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

¾ to 1 cup sugar (make sure you use unbleached or raw sugar, for a vegan cake)*

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ cup oil ( I use melted oil but you could use any flavourless oil)

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch loaf pan. Have your pan and your oven ready to go. Once you’ve mixed your batter and the vinegar hits the baking soda and baking powder, the leavening action starts happening and you want this baby in the oven!

Mix the milk, water, vinegar and flax or chia seeds in a small bowl. In a larger bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Yes –sift. I am a lazy baker but sifting here is a good idea so you don’t end up with weird, white salty bursts of unincorporated baking soda or baking powder in your finished loaf. Stir these dry ingredients together, then stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Add the milk/water mixture, the vanilla and the oil to the dry ingredients and mix together until you have a  sticky batter. Do not beat or over stir. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes. I needed the full 55 minutes in a convection oven.

Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes before removing it from the pan and slicing it.

*What’s the deal with white sugar? About 60% of white sugar produced in North America is whitened by filtering the unrefined sugar through charred animal bones. Ugh. This process doesn’t have to be noted on the sugar packaging. So unless you find white sugar that’s specifically labelled vegan, you’re better off going with unrefined or raw sugar. The taste is exactly the same except you know… no animal bones.

Chickpea mini muffins with lemon tahini sauce

ChickpeaMuffins

These little cuties are savoury and satisfying. I love them served on a bed of millet with lemon tahini sauce and a big side salad.

The original recipe is from Esther’s Kitchen (Esther being the Wonder Pig). I have made a few alterations and embellishments to the original recipe to amp up the flavour because that’s how I like it. Feel free to leave out any of the seasonings –the herbs, garlic, shallot/green onion or salt as you prefer…. But why? Why?

You can eat these muffins hot or cold, they’re portable so they make a great snack or breakfast on the go, and they’re easy and affordable. What’s not to love?

Ingredients for the muffins

Makes 12 mini muffins

2 cups of chickpea flour – also called besan or gram flour

2 cloves garlic minced

2 shallots diced OR 3 green onions chopped

1 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped

1 Tbsp fresh dill chopped

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 cup water

Directions

Heat the oven to 400F. Grease a mini muffin tin.

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until everything is incorporated and moist. Spoon into the muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. The muffins should be golden on top when they’re done.

Ingredients for the lemon tahini sauce

1/3 cup hot water

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup tahini

Directions

Mix everything together in a small glass or bowl. Whisk until well blended and spoon over the muffins.

 

Happy cows’ French onion soup

Fr.OnionSoup

Makes 3 servings

French onion soup… who doesn’t love this gooey, cheesey, savoury bowl of deliciousness?

Cows and cardiologists, that’s who. The original recipe is made with beef broth, cheese and butter.

My vegan version has all the flavour, heartiness and cheesy yum of the original recipe AND it keeps our bovine pals and your arteries happy.

While I’m not a big fan of packaged foods, I have to give a big shout out to Daiya for making an excellent product that tastes and acts like cheese. In this recipe, the shredded Daiya mozzarella and smoked Gouda flavoured products even give the broth the delightful creaminess I loved in the original recipe.

Big bonus – in just 45 minutes you will go from a bag of onions to a bowl of this soup. Half that time involves ignoring the soup pot while it simmers. It doesn’t get much easier!

Ingredients

4 cups vegetable broth

2 large onions, peeled, quartered and cut into thin slices.

2 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp sugar (even brown sugar is fine)

1 ½ Tbsp vegan margarine

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp sherry (optional)

1 Tbsp A-1 Sauce (a/k/a brown sauce)

1 Tbsp soya sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

3 slices stale bread (I use Ezekiel bread)

1 – 1 ½ cups shredded Daiya cheese or other vegan cheese that melts when heated

Directions

In a large pot, melt the margarine. Add the onions, garlic and sugar and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes until they start turning golden. Add all the other ingredients except the bread and Daiya cheese and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 25 minutes. Fish out the bay leaf and the twig of thyme, if using.

Ladle the soup into three ovenproof bowls. Add a slice of bread to each bowl and sprinkle with a third of the shredded Daiya. Place the bowls in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and turning golden.

Serve up and enjoy!

Indian chili – no fail, tasty and a bit different

IndianChili

This is one of the easiest and fastest recipes ever and pretty much no-fail. The taste is familiar but with an eastern twist that’s flavourful and fun. As with most chilis and tomato-based dishes, this dish is even better the next day and freezes well. Serve it over rice or naan bread.

Ingredients

3 cups of beans (that’s two 15-ounce cans). DO NOT DRAIN. If you’re using freshly cooked beans, then you’ll want to add about ½ cup water to the chili pot.

I used red kidney beans and great northern beans, because that’s what was in the pantry. You could go all white kidney bean, navy bean, black bean, all red kidney bean or even a mixed bean. Whatever suits you.

398 ml (10 ounces) can tomato sauce

1 tomato diced. I used one red and one yellow “cocktail” tomato – they are sized somewhere between a regular tomato and a cherry tomato. You want about ½ cup of diced tomato.

1 onion diced

1 jalapeno pepper minced

2-3 cloves garlic

1 thumb size piece of ginger root, peeled and grated. You’ll have a heaping tablespoon of grated ginger

1 Tbsp olive or coconut oil

1 cup of chopped spinach or kale – optional but nice for greenery

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp cayenne

Directions

Put the oil, onion, garlic, jalapeno and ginger in a pot and sauté the ingredients over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomato, tomato sauce, salt and spices and cook for about another 3 minutes or so. Add the beans (and water if using). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and let simmer for about 10 minutes uncovered. Stir in the kale or spinach, if using.

Serve with rice or naan. Enjoy!

Chestnut cookies with almond drizzle

ChestnutCookies

I love chestnuts and eat them throughout the fall and winter. They work in savoury dishes such as my stuffed acorn squash and in sweet dishes, like these cookies.

Roasting your own chestnuts is charming and also dangerous and labour intensive – a lot like dating. So I buy my chestnuts already roasted. You can find these chestnuts in 100 gram bags at grocery stores and even the dollar store. Aurora is one well known brand.

These cookies are not too sweet and dangerously addictive.

Ingredients

Cookies

100 grams roasted chestnuts (about 9-11 chestnuts)

1/3 cup pecans

2 Tbsp flax or chia seeds

6 Tbsp plant-based milk (I use almond)

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ tsp each of ginger and allspice

¾ tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup brown sugar lightly packed

¼ cup melted coconut oil

Almond drizzle

¾ cup icing sugar

½ tsp almond extract

1-2 Tbsp plant based milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl or cup, mix the chia or flax seeds and 6 tablespoons plant milk. Combine to create 2 flax or chia“eggs”. Set aside.

Grind the chestnuts and pecans and 1 tablespoon of the flour in a food processor until you have a mealy consistency.

In a mixing bowl combine the chestnut/pecan mixture with the flour, spices, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. I recommend sifting in the flour, spices and baking powder.

Add the vanilla, oil and “eggs” and mix everything together. I find it’s easiest just to combine everything with my hands. You will have a ball of slightly oily-feeling dough when you’re done.

Pinch off a bit of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a walnut. Place the ball on an ungreased cookie sheet and press the ball down slightly to flatten it. Repeat. You should end up with 24 cookies.

Bake for 6-10 minutes. Let cool.

To make the icing drizzle, combine the 3 ingredients in a small bowl or cup. Start with one tablespoon of milk and add more if needed, but be patient. You’ll feel like the sugar is never going to turn into icing and in a blink of an eye, it will transform.

When the cookies are cooled, use a spoon to drizzle the icing over the cookies. The drizzle will set in about 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Bearing witness to slaughter

Slaughterhouse

Photo by: Rosemary Szponarski

At the end of December I became an animal rights activist.

I attended a slaughterhouse vigil to bear witness to the animals’ last painful minutes alive.

I didn’t understand how bearing witness would matter to animal welfare. Having seen photos of activist holding up signs protesting the slaughter of farmed animals, I thought the point was to help change the minds and hearts of people who were still eating and using animal products.

Bearing witness is more subtle but no less profound. After my vigil I cannot be silent about what happens to farmed animals. I will not stop trying to help them.

A group of about 25 of us met on a cold, wet afternoon outside Conestoga Meat Packers in Breslau, Ontario.

As I reached the gate to the slaughter yard, I heard a pig squeal. The sound was keening, piercing. I moved straight to the transport truck to see the pigs inside. They fell silent as I approached and stuck their noses out the air vents sniffing me. Through my tears I told them that “the world is beautiful and that what is happening is not fair or kind.” I stroked their faces and promised that we couldn’t help them but we would never stop working to make this horror end for other pigs. Those gentle, intelligent animals just minutes from their own death were quiet, but never stopped moving, never stopped shuffling and shifting in their agitation.

We were asked to leave the property and stay behind the marked line on the driveway “so that no one would get hurt.”

A truck loaded with pigs rolled up to the receiving dock to be unloaded.

The endless squeals of the pigs filled the air. They screamed and screamed and screamed in terror and pain as the men unloading them goaded them with electric prods.

The entire truck – an 18 wheeler weighing 80,000 pounds when it’s empty- was rocking back and forth from the violence taking place inside. Hellish, flickering light streamed from the air vents as the men inside the trucks chased and prodded the pigs.

Enraged, I watched and listened and could do nothing, helpless to make the nightmare stop. As soon as one truck was unloaded, another rolled up and the gruesome process started again.

One of the truck drivers casually leaned against a car smoking and watched another worker, prod held high, climb into the truck to move a stubborn or possibly injured pig off the truck. Something was going very wrong because a forklift driver came out and strategically kept moving his vehicle so we couldn’t see what was happening. What did they have to hide? What did they do when there was no one there to see their brutality?

None of the men in the slaughter yard made eye contact with us. I thought, I hoped, it was because somewhere inside themselves they felt shame or grief for what they were doing.

No. This was just a day’s work for them. We were simply annoying.

As the sun set on that cold, muddy slaughter yard where pigs screamed endlessly in trucks that were rocking from the violence inside, a worker strolled up holding the hand of a young child. The man stood talking and smoking with the drivers and handlers and the little boy simply stood and stared at us, then looked at the men, but never once at the trucks. The group in the slaughter yard seemed oblivious to the death and violence all around them.

How will that child escape this numbing, joyless bondage? How can we move to a better future when future generations are being indoctrinated into a lifestyle where pain and violence are considered normal and necessary?

I don’t know. But I won’t stop trying to help the animals… and the little, lost children.

As our cold, sorrowing group disbanded, another truck loaded with frightened pigs for slaughter came rolling out of the gloaming and into the slaughter yard.

NOTE: Every week 24,000 pigs are slaughtered at Conestoga Meat Packers; that’s 1.2 million animals each year in just one slaughterhouse.