Tag Archives: vegetarian

Making Peace with Peach Muffins

One thing about moving is that with new apartments also come new neighbours. I’m not sure if it’s us or if we just have really bad luck. But for some reason we’ve had to deal with some really unpleasant neighbours.
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I’d like to think that Christoph and I are pretty nice and friendly people. But for some odd reason we always seem to have neighbours that dislike us. And they show their distaste for us by leaving their garbage in front of our apartment door or throwing their dug up weeds onto our patio when they think we’re not looking. That’s only half of it. I’m not sure what we’ve done to incur the wrath of our neighbours but it’s starting to make me think that it’s us. Or maybe it’s me.
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Anyhow, it’s the end of summer now and every corner store and farmer’s market is over flowing with peaches. So, when I see fresh ripe peaches I have a tendency to buy way more than I know what to do with. This time around, I decided to use them up in a muffin recipe. Together with sour cream, corn meal, and cardamom for added spice I came up with a lightly sweetened breakfast muffin. For a minute there I had the idea of using these muffins as a peace offering to our neighbours. Unfortunately, I’m not THAT nice and I’ll just enjoy my muffins alone.
 
Peach Cardamom Corn Bread Muffins
Makes about 18 regular sized muffins
 
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup golden brown sugar to 3/4 cup for sweeter muffins
1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 melted salted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup diced peaches plus more for topping
 
Preheat oven to 400˚F
 
Line a muffin tin with muffin liners, you’ll get approximately 18 muffins.

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. In a mixing jug or small bowl, whisk the sour cream into the milk and add the vanilla, and melted butter. With a wooden spoon, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until lightly combined. Gently fold in the diced peaches. Slice up a few more peaches to get 18 wedges.

Portion the muffin mix between the muffin liners, filling up to approximately 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a peach wedge. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden.
 
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End of Winter Cranberry Chocolate Buns

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Winter is finally starting to let up over here in Toronto. There are still a few patches of snow here and there but for the most part the weather is warming up and I can finally stop wearing my heavy winter boots! This winter has been the longest and coldest I can remember in a long time. Ice storms, -40˚C days, and countless extreme cold weather warnings. This past Christmas we dealt with about a week of power outages across the city. Mine lasted from the night of my Birthday up until the day after Christmas. I sadly remember sitting in a slump in my frozen living room, wearing 5 layers of clothing, on Christmas day crying “This is the worst Christmas ever, I hate Rob Ford”. Yeah, I blame it on Rob Ford.

So, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever been so excited for summer to come. With its hot days, going to the beach, walking around Toronto’s different neighbourhoods, biking around the island, sitting out on patios, going to farmer’s markets, and hopefully some gardening. That is what I’m looking forward to this summer.

But for now, since it is still a little chilly outside, I like to warm up with some tea or coffee and something warm to eat. These buns are a nice way to use up some frozen cranberries that most people have lying around after their winter season. The combination of tart cranberries and the sweet dark chocolate makes for a nice contrast. This recipe comes from one of my all time favourite books: Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is a wonderful book that I was lucky enough to get for half price about 10 years ago in a small book shop in downtown Toronto. It is filled with wonderful recipes for buns, bread, tarts, cakes, and small pastries from their travels around the world. As well, each recipe comes with its own story from their travels or interesting backgrounds of where the food came from. It’s probably one of my favourite books just because of that. Who doesn’t love to read stories about the food they’re just about to make?

However, I did not follow the recipe exactly but instead made these little buns vegan by swapping the dairy products for vegan alternatives and omitting the egg from the original recipe. They’re just as delicious as the originals but maybe just a little bit better for the world.

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Cranberry Chocolate Sweet Buns (vegan)
Makes 1 loaf of 8 rolls (can be easily doubled)
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

1 cup almond milk, heated until lukewarm
1 tsp active dry yeast
About 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp and a little more
1 tbsp sugar of your choice (caster, coconut, brown, etc.)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, chilled
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 tbsp of almond milk or melted margarine for topping
2 tbsp coarse sugar for sprinkling

Lightly grease one 9×5 inch loaf pan with vegan margarine.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, pour in warm almond milk and stir in yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour. Add margarine, in pieces, sugar, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add 1 more cup of flour and stir in until fully incorporated. Now add in the chilled chocolate and cranberries with 1/4 cup more flour. Mix until incorporated. If not using a stand mixer, turn out onto a very well floured surface an knead gently, incorporate more flour until the dough is only slightly sticky. If using a stand mixer, just follow the kneading process and incorporate more flour until it is only slightly sticky.

Place dough into a bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch down. Cut into 8 equal sized pieces. Lightly grease the palm of your hand and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball beside each other into the greased loaf pan. Cover the pan with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes while you preheat your oven.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and place rack in the middle.

Once buns have risen, lightly brush with almond milk or melted margarine and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

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Strawberry Shortcake, not just for Dessert

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It’s been a while.

The past 7 months has been a busy time for me. Starting a new job, moving to a new place, and of course school. It was a stressful time for me to say the least.

Unfortunately, within those 7 months I really let go of my healthy eating habits and started to eat a lot of processed foods. It’s hard to plan and cook meals when you’re so busy with other things and I probably had a lot more instant ramen noodles and Korean Chocopies than I’d like to admit. However, it’s no excuse for poor eating habits since I know a lot of people manage to eat healthy while leading busy lives.

Hopefully getting back into the blog will help me with getting back on track!

For this post I decided to health-ify strawberry shortcake, a common dessert that’s full of fat, processed sugar, and gluten. My version, however, has none of these things. The biscuits are gluten free, sugar free, and sweetened with apples and blackberries. While the whipped cream is replaced with greek yoghurt and out of season strawberries are improved with a little vanilla and maple syrup. It’s delicious, in it’s own healthy way, without making you feel guilty and without making you feel like you need to take a nap.

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Healthy Strawberry Shortcake (gluten free, low sugar)
Makes 5 servings

Scones (gluten free, sugar free)
Makes 5 scones
Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories Apple and Oat Biscuits

100g Oat Flour, made from ground oats
75g Light Buckwheat Flour
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp organic coconut oil, hard, and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened, greek yoghurt
1/4 cup organic homo milk
1 small apple shredded
About 10 blackberries, chopped roughly

Preheat oven to 425˚F

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in coconut oil and using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the oil until it is evenly distributed in small pieces. Add in the rest of the ingredients except blackberries and bring into a dough. If too sticky add more flour and if too dry add more milk. Gently fold in the blackberries. Lightly dust your work surface with buckwheat flour and pat out evenly to about an inch thick. Cut into squares with a knife or whatever shape you like. Lightly score the top of the biscuits from corner to corner.

Bake on a parchment lined sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and crisp and the inside is slightly moist.

Strawberry Compote
Makes about 1 cup of compote

1 1/2 cups of ripe strawberries, chopped
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of lemon juice (optional)

In a small saucepan, cook strawberries and syrup on medium low heat until thick and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Add vanilla and lemon juice.

Yoghurt “Cream”
Makes 1 cup

1 cup of plain, unsweetened Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp of maple syrup
1/4 tsp of vanilla

Mix ingredients together and keep refrigerated

To assemble the shortcake, break biscuits into triangles and layer with cream and compote. The biscuits are best served warm with the cold cream and warm compote.

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Summer Sweet Fry Salad

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Lately I’ve been noticing how expensive it is to go out and eat. Here in Toronto it seems to be common place that a regular salad will cost you anywhere from $9 for a plain garden salad all the way up to $20 for a “fancy” one. Really? $20 for some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and maybe some sort of protein. It’s really quite amazing how much food is marked up in restaurants compared to how much you can make it for at home. But, I’m not really complaining since I do know how much labour costs and everything else that goes into running a restaurant costs. After all, you’re not really just paying for the food when you go to a restaurant. There’s the service, ambiance, experience, etc.

However, just yesterday I went for afternoon tea with my sister in one of the “high end” areas of Toronto. I put high end in quotes because I really just think all the people that frequent those places just like to pretend they’re high end and better than everyone else. They’re not.

Anyway, my point is, I’ve been for afternoon tea a few times before at a bunch of different tea rooms and I’d say that this was one of my worst experiences. You’d think that $100 would get you some nicely prepared sandwiches, some properly brewed tea, and hopefully some really great service. Unfortunately, the service and the quality of the food was incredibly similar to the whole vibe I get from that area in general.

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So, back to salad.

I don’t have much of a recipe today but this is just a salad that I like to eat when I want something filling with lots of different textures, flavours, and colours. It’s a really good meal for a hot summer day when the thought of eating hot food makes you break into a sweat. I never really make it the same way every time but I try to keep a few main ingredients such as sweet potatoes, pecans, and apples in there and then add whatever else I have on hand at the time.

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Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pecan salad
Makes 1 large salad (approximately)

About 2 cups of mixed lettuce greens (spring mix)
Sweet potato fries (recipe below)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 a medium apple (something crisp such as a honey crisp works well), sliced
small handful of bocconcini cheese or about 2 tbsp of goat’s cheese, chopped or crumbled
about 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
good aged balsamic vinegar, about 2 tbsp
extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tbsp

First prepare the sweet potato fries. Lay out the greens on a plate and top with fries, apples, etc. drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or top with your favourite dressing. I like this Wild Ginger one from Fresh Restaurants.

Note: this is just a rough recipe and the amounts aren’t exact. Feel free to add more, less, or omit or add ingredients.

Sweet potato fries
1/2 medium caribbean sweet potato (the one with a reddish skin and yellow/white on the inside)
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil or any other high heat cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash and cut the sweet potato into about 1cm x 1cm x 10cm pieces. Melt the coconut oil in a large bowl and toss the fries in the oil. Lay out evenly onto the tray and bake for 15 minutes and then flip the fries and bake for about another 15 minutes or until golden.

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Lemon Basil Granita

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I know, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and yes I feel bad. I swear I had a whole post planned out for last week and it was going to be awesome, I could picture it in my head. I was going to post a step by step on how to make a layered vegan chocolate raspberry cake with moulded chocolate sides, chocolate ganache, raspberry preserves, and a chocolate plaque on top. But, somehow even after successfully making multiple layered cakes and actually learning how to make cakes in school I managed to create this. Seriously, right?! The cake was for Christoph’s birthday and how much did he eat? Half a slice. Yes, half a slice. He doesn’t like sweet things. Weirdo.

Don’t worry though, the cake didn’t go to waste. My aunt ended up taking it away to feed the poor. Hopefully they didn’t reject it like everyone else did.

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So instead of my failed attempt at making a vegan layer cake I decided to post a recipe that’s easy, delicious, and dependable. Granita is a great dessert for a hot summer day since it’s light, refreshing, tangy, and sweet; if you’ve never had it before it’s like an italian version of shaved ice but much less sweet and probably a little healthier for you. It takes a bit of planning before hand but you really only need 3 ingredients for this dessert and a bit of time. The original recipe doesn’t call for basil but since I had some on hand I thought it would be a nice addition. It actually adds a great herbal quality to the granita and makes it just a little more interesting.

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Lemon Basil Granita
Makes about 4 (1/2 cup) servings
Adapted slightly from Gourmet Magazine

3 large lemons
1 cup filtered water
scant 1/2 cup of caster sugar*
1/4 cup basil leaves and stems, torn

Using a peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long strips. The night before you wish to serve the granita, heat the water and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer the sugar syrup into a heat proof bowl and stir in the lemon zest and basil. Cover and chill overnight.

The next day, strain out the zest and basil and add in 1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a large flat bowl. I used a large flat metal bowl but a pyrex baking dish would also work. Place the mix into the freezer and after about 45 minutes stir with a fork to incorporate the ice crystals that form. Keep doing this about every 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is evenly frozen and looks like crushed ice. About 4 to 5 hours.

Once you serve it, make sure to eat it immediately as it melts very quickly.

*You could probably substitute the caster sugar with something healthier such as concentrated fruit juice, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. Just make sure to adjust the quantity of sugar and taste the mixture before freezing.

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