Straight up: I’ve overextended myself this holiday season. Oh, you too? I think it’s safe to say that we could all use a milkshake and a pat on the back right about now. Emotions run high and the frantic aspect of it all doesn’t seem to offer any relief (like when I overheard a bundled up elderly woman kindly asking where the chocolates were at Target the other night—cried. Like big time.) Something frothy and sweet, and maybe just a little assurance that all of our efforts are worth it could certainly help in some way. This is true in the busyness of life in a general sense; not just the month of December.
So I’m here to help with a simple little treat and a virtual high five for all the things you got goin’ on–the multiple shopping lists, the handmade hostess gifts, conveying sentiment in a way that feels just right, making the best cheeseboard ever, hitting that high note in “silent night,” flooding your sugar cookie cutouts with precision, foraging for decorative twigs to tie on your packages, planning a perfect Christmas morning breakfast, strategizing your boxing day scores well in advance, working in some time to partake in Beyoncé’s “visual experience” (you got to), shovelling the driveway like a boss, buying enough dog food to make it over the obligatory 3 day holiday retail closure, syncing your twinkle lights up to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, giving up and realizing that just telling someone how grateful you are for their light and a big hug is probably more than enough… I know that you got all of this on lock.
I’ve got mad faith in the healing properties of a chocolate shake, like a magical salve for your entire being. My little version here has an earl grey-steeped almond milk that totally brings it, and some premium vanilla from vegan baking pro/total sweetheart Ashlae. I add a little citrus zest to the milk to really enhance the bergamot in the tea. Since I went the extra step on the steep + chill earl grey milk move, I rely on some particularly good chocolate ice cream from the people at Luna & Larry’s to make this come together quickly. If you have time to make your own, this recipe without the hazelnuts would be just right.
Anyway, short and sweet today. I probably won’t be back with a post until the new year (but I’ll still be doing stuff on Instagram, Twitter + Pinterest, no doubt). Once I get through all of the things, I’ll be taking a couple days to just chill the most. Hope you all have a restorative and full holiday. Sending my big hugs for the start of 2014 too. It’s gonna be a big one, I can feel it :) Thanks as always for your love and kindness here. xo
vegan earl grey chocolate shakes
serves: 4 small servings or 2 very adult portions
notes: I like to blend a shake with ice to get it super frothy, but this is personal preference. Leave it out if you want a smoother kind of feel.
1 1/2 cups almond milk (I used unsweetened)
3-4 earl grey tea bags, or 4 tsp loose leaf earl grey tea
strip of orange zest
splash of maple syrup (if you used unsweetened almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 scoops of non-dairy chocolate ice cream
big handful of ice (optional)
shaved dark chocolate
In a small saucepan, bring the almond milk, tea, and orange zest to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and cool the mixture completely in the fridge (or place the pot in some snow if you have it in your area–worked like a charm for me).
In a blender combine the earl grey milk, maple syrup, vanilla, chocolate ice cream, and ice. Blend on high for a minute or so, or until you have a creamy, smooth and homogenous mixture. Pour it out into glasses and serve with coconut whip and shaved chocolate if you like. Enjoy immediately.
Hypothetically speaking, if I had some sort of restaurant or space that served food to people that were A) willing to hang out with me and B) willing to pay for it, I would serve a version of this–on a big wooden board with lots of pickled veg, warm olives, a pot of mustard, really good bread, maybe some radishes and other crunchy roots. I could pair it with some other little veg-based charcuterie-ish concoction (I’ve been working on a few). There would always be a broth-y soup AND a puréed one with baller garnishes. There would be solid brown liquor representation and homemade, super warm-spicy ginger beer on draft. And salads that totally wouldn’t suck. Eggplant bacon + avocado BLT’s (working on that one too). Oh, and vegan earl grey chocolate milk shakes, some cozy bench seats, not-too-heavy, but just-heavy-enough silverware…
I might have got a little carried away there, but you get the idea. I like that rustic, all hands in, no fussin’ around kinda vibe implied by charcuterie/cheese boards. The preparation requires a bit of forethought, but the result is worth it. You get a variety of goods that are easy to present/enjoy with people you like. Obviously these sorts of things are traditionally made with meat. The potential for variety in flavour and texture is kind of exciting when you think about vegetables in this context though. My inspiration came from rillettes, which is generally prepared by slowly cooking cuts of salted pork (or other meats, sometimes fish etc.) in fat until soft. From here, the cooked meat is raked and mixed with the fat until a paste begins to form. The sheer amount of fat is what sets the mixture and allows it to keep for a while.
So yeah! Not entirely my thing, but sub in some broccoli + hella good extra virgin olive oil in for the off cuts + pork fat? Count me in. Ina Garten is kind of my queen when it comes to entertaining basics and her grainy mustard roasted potatoes are pretty much the best. I love broccoli with the sharp zing of a mustard-y vinaigrette, so I thought I could intensify that flavour union by taking my home girl Ina’s approach. I threw in a leek with the roasting broccoli to get some sweeter, caramelized qualities. Once everything’s soft, it goes for a whirl in the food processor with lemon, tons of olive oil, a little extra mustard, salt, pepper and some parmesan/nutritional yeast. I’ve tried this with both cheesy options, and can honestly tell you that they are equally good.
I save a bit of of the lightly blitzed vegetables to garnish this pâté of sorts and then pour a nice cap of EVEN MORE olive oil on top. This creates a textural thing and helps to preserve the brilliant green. I worked for a chef that grumbled to me once about a certain/uncertain cook at the restaurant making a batch of vinaigrette with all extra virgin olive oil and then storing it in the fridge overnight. The one litre container of it was solid and obviously not fit for immediate usage upon our realization at lunch the next day. Cool thing though? That approach gives this riff on rillettes the solid heft we’re looking for. Someone else’s mistakes = my vegetarian charcuterie success. Anyway, this recipe is pretty easy, has normal/everyday ingredients and comes together pretty fast (minus chill time). Be a holiday hero to your plant-y friends. C’mon, do it.
Also! I’ve been making some stuff in other places lately. Here’s a little rundown with links: sweet potato chips AND homemade pumpkin spice lattes for Food 52, vegan + wholesome eggnog over at The Chalkboard and some GF + vegan maple chai jammer cookies for a little sweets fête at Daily Candy. More to come too–holidays hip hip! :)
mustard roasted broccoli pâté with leeks + lemon
serves: makes about 1/2 a litre
notes: If you’re opting for the vegan version with nutritional yeast, you will need a bit more olive oil in the mix to achieve that extra moistness and go a bit heavier with the salt too.
3 cups broccoli florets
1 leek, white + light green parts only, rough chopped
1 tbsp heat-tolerant oil, such as grapeseed
1 tbsp + 2 tsp grainy mustard, divided
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
salt + pepper
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 – 1 1/2 tsbp lemon juice
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese OR 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for the top
flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the broccoli florets and leeks with the heat tolerant oil, 1 tbsp of mustard, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Once everything is coated, spread the mixture out on the baking sheet. Roast the vegetables until lightly browned and tender, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor. Pulse the mixture until the broccoli is finely chopped. Scoop up a spoonful to garnish the tops of your rillettes with. To the food processor, add the remaining mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan/nutritional yeast. Pulse until everything is combined. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil in through the feed tube. Continue to run the motor until you have a smooth, lightly chunky paste. Remove the bowl from the food processor and check the mixture for seasoning and adjust.
Scrape the rillettes mixture into your serving vessel and scatter the reserved fine chopped broccoli bits over the top, Pour a solid layer of more extra virgin olive oil on top. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or until the rillettes + oil layer are mostly solid.
Sprinkle a bit of flaky sea salt on top of the rillettes before you serve it with sliced bread, olives, pickles, vegetables etc.
Do you get in those traps where you tell yourself (and everyone within a decent listening radius) that you’re soooo busy, but you’re also like, perpetually stuck in highly sneaky, time-wasting downward spirals? The end of the year brings a lot of heavy, life-y things into the foreground. How did we grow and change? What can I do differently? How can we make it easier? Add to that the million tasks, work, the gift guides, the merry-making… I think it’s easy to feel suffocated by your own life this time of year. Obviously some perspective plays into that, but you know what I mean.
All of the things have been veering on the edge of completely-out-of-my-control lately, so every night before I go to bed, I make a list of things I have to accomplish the next day (FYI: surprisingly effective strategy for getting a good night’s sleep) (Also, magnesium is some good shit). There’s the normal work stuff on those lists, but there’s also things like”remember to put chia seeds on the oatmeal,” and “eat some vegetables before work,” or “drink at least 3 litres of water,” and my fave: “pause and stretch before getting out of bed.” Cool thing? Silly as those reminders seem, I actually accomplish those little bits. The list makes for some structured intent on the wellness front–less of a wishy-washy, completely distant goal. It’s all right there in a quantified or qualified sense under a bolded date in capital letters.
So the legit work seems to follow along when I’m penciling out my stretches and veggie snacks. You know how they would strategically schedule nap and snack times in kindergarten? I guess there’s some wisdom there. I’ve been so contentedly living by the list that I’m experiencing pre-emptive relaxation guilt over our upcoming 48 hour sojourn in Denver this weekend. This also happened last Sunday when we took a little drive into the city to see a friend for a leisurely brunch. On the way there, my head was muddied with ideas of things I should have been doing instead of taking an entire day away from it all. Once I had that warm coffee cup in my hand, I stopped thinking about maximizing any renovation productivity, ingredients I had to buy for whatever shoot, or how my holiday work schedule could translate into any remote concept of free time. The meal and the gathering around it put me in the moment and brought some sense of relief. I think we all look for that in certain ways–whether it’s from a long day at work, unforeseen challenges in day-to-day being, the effing deluge of Black Friday emails, those self-imposed trappings of guilt, or obsessive list-making. Relief is release, however you arrive to it.
I decided to throw together this little warm-spiced fruit deal for our brunch gathering and I was so pleased with how it turned out–actually one of the better, simpler things I’ve made in a while. I just had this loose idea for a particularly pretty winter fruit salad with pine-y rosemary, cinnamon, vanilla rooibos tea, a good hit of maple and cool mint. The different bits of citrus and pomegranate are all juicy and tart, the persimmon is soft and delicately sweet, and I like to use bosc pears for a lightly crisp bite. The woodsy sweetness from the syrup helps to veer this dish away from being a simple bowl of fruit, which I generally love to serve alongside a traditional dessert at a dinner get-together anyway, just so that the option to go lightly is there for anyone in need.
festive fruit w/ rosemary + vanilla rooibos syrup
serves: 6 – 8, depending on what else you’re serving
notes: I don’t think a persimmon needs to border on rotten to be ripe. If you’re holding it, it should have the mush factor of a lightly worked-in hackie sack. Also, my favourite vanilla rooibos of EVER is by Mariage Frères (and it comes loose or pre-bagged).
1/4 cup maple syrup
big splash of water
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla rooibos tea
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 ripe persimmons, sliced
1 grapefruit, peeled + segmented
2-3 satsumas or clementines, peeled + segmented
1 pomelo, peeled + segmented
2 bosc pears, cored + sliced
1 pomegrante’s worth of seeds/arils—>Life Hacker comes through with a (EFFIN LONG) tutorial
juice of 1 lime
handful of seeds (I used sesame + pumpkin)
1 sprig of mint, leaves sliced fine
In a small saucepan, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Put it over medium heat and bring it to a simmer, swirling the contents here and there. Once it’s boiling a bit, take it off the heat and set aside. Allow it all to steep for a good 10 minutes or so.
While the syrup is steeping, peel and chop all of your salad ingredients. Throw them all into a large serving bowl, reserving a bit of the mint and seeds for the top. Toss everything in the lime juice. Strain the syrup in a fine mesh strainer right over the bowl of fruit. Toss it all together and garnish with the leftover mint and seeds. Serve it up right away.
This is something that I would make for me and me alone. My man isn’t a lover of mushrooms and seriously? How is it that none of my peeps see the gloriousness of the things-on-toast meal?! It’s a dish that lets me doctor up what I have by employing some other things that I have when there’s a golden pocket of me-time available. A thoughtful and meditative slap-dash, if you will.
I’m generally into this tray-lunch thing as of late. I roast a bunch of things with herbs, lemon, spice, or whatever’s around. Sometimes I transfer the goods to a bowl. Sometimes I eat right from the tray. It’s warm and I get to make some time for myself over it, while I bounce between the renovation duties, freelance work, emails, actual scheduled work, and tiniest fibre-like shreds of free time. I’ve never been “too busy to cook.” Maybe that’s obvious? When the world is spinning, I tend to go inward a bit and cooking helps. When I lived alone, I happily enjoyed a lot of solitary meals, but always looked forward to my post-school life where dining companions would surely be infinite and constant. My current schedule varies from the rest of my world’s seemingly unanimous 9-5, so yep. Still plenty of solo late lunches scarfed at 3 pm right before my shift starts on any given Saturday.
I’ve even been waking up earlier to cook alone too. I’m on this steel-cut oat porridge thing that demands a little extra time, which is kind of immediately annoying, but ultimately for the best. I sip a warm drink and stir, focused on that one thing. I don’t have the headspace for a large batch that can be pre-portioned and reheated throughout the week, and that’s honestly fine. The sleepy straining of tired eyes eventually fades, and I find there’s more strength for all of the things that need doing.
So this is a bit of a deluxe, but still completely simple, flying solo kinda meal (although I did design the recipe for two servings since it’s probably a bit more practical for most). Fun fact: the first restaurant family meal I ever enjoyed as an actual cook was a fancied-up version of mushrooms on toast. I remember being a bit rattled, sweaty, and slightly anxious when I sat down to the plate after service. It was calming in all of the predictable ways though. Holiday wildness is officially on us now, so it seems even more important to take advantage of those peaceful and simple moments. Seize them by putting the good stuff on toast, people :)
rosemary mushroom + chickpea ragoût on toast
notes: Any mix of sliced mushrooms is totally excellent. I love shiitakes, but I’m also not a millionaire, so I mix them half and half with creminis. Also, before I add the vegetable stock, I simmer it with the mushroom stems for a little bit–like 15 minutes or so. It’s just to intensify the mushroom flavour.
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 shallot, fine dice
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves chopped fine
10 ounces/heaped half pound mixed mushrooms, stems removed + caps sliced
splash of sherry vinegar
1 tsp tomato paste
1-2 tsp vegetarian worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand is my fave)
scant cup of cooked chickpeas
1 cup vegetable stock
big splash of unsweetened non-dairy milk, something rich like cashew or coconut is preferable
1 tsp arrowroot powder (or non-GMO + organic cornstarch if you’re cool with it)
salt + pepper
2 thick slices of good bread
Heat the grapeseed oil in a large sautè or sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir. Once those are a bit fragrant, add the rosemary. Sauté until the shallots are really translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan and stir them around. Add the sherry vinegar, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, and chickpeas and stir. Once the mushrooms have started softening just a bit, about 3 minutes, add the stock. Stir everything up and simmer until the liquid has reduced by a third and the mushrooms are quite soft. Add the splash of non-dairy milk and stir. Season the whole thing to taste. In a small bowl, combine the arrowroot with a little bit of the liquid from the pot. Make a little slurry and then add it back in to the pot. Simmer until lightly thickened. Keep warm.
Toast or grill the pieces of toast. Lay them in shallow bowls. Ladle the mushroom and chickpea ragoût on top. Finish with a bit more black pepper. Serve hot.
The discussion of poutine came up at work the other night because, yep, there was poutine for staff meal (and a giant salad so just relax a bit there). My coworker was telling me how she had recounted a story to some classmates at the yoga studio that she frequents. There was a visit to a local place that specialized in the ubiquitous Canadian calorie bomb. And then at the end of her story, sort of predictably, her peeps at the studio were grossed out by her totally personal food choice. Then I got home that night and saw this tweet from my friend, kindly asking for a halt to the same form of judgement. Funny how the universe always finds a way to communicate the fierceness of your own thoughts.
I have to tell you, the raw food experiment didn’t go well for me and there was no way I was forcing myself to carry it out over a whole month on principle alone. It’s not like I was half-assing it either (totally gave it the full ass) (had to). My body and boots, firmly planted in the cool grey of November in southern Ontario, were not adapting. There were bouts of lightheadedness, shivering despite wearing two sweaters, so much bloat, breakouts, constant hunger despite constant eating, and, most importantly, things that would normally just roll off my back became completely emotional huge deals. A good example: normally I would relish any opportunity to smash up something that causes me grief, but in the midst of clearing out the gross old plaster in our kitchen, I had to leave the room and then later cry my eyes out to Mark about how we would never, ever, EVER live there happily. I can be easily defeated sometimes, but this was shaking me to the core. In that moment, I knew some truer part of me, the part that sees and knows, was being denied.
When I went to the internet with my concerns (pro tip: if you want to keep your sanity, don’t ever do that), I read so many things that went along these lines: “Your body is just purging all of the evil things from the total misery that was your pre-raw life. It’s detoxifying, It’s AMAAAZING. Purification process!!! Etc.” I would never suggest that these well-meaning people are wrong, but as soon as a pile of rubble and some extra hours spent with a pry bar forced me into a crumpled shell of my former self, any concerns for vibrance and purity washed away real quick.
The admission of it here was weighing on me heavily though–the enthusiasm I shared early on, the acknowledgement that I’m extremely fortunate to have access to enough food if I’m perpetually hungry, the ridiculousness of going into it in the early stages of Canadian winter. When you’re privileged enough to have it regularly, your food choices become a belief system on some level and this one seemed too objectionable once I had some distance from it. In sum: I was worried what people would think, which is hilarious because when my coworker friend told me about that judgement-heavy moment at her yoga studio, my knee-jerk reaction was “OH FUCK THAT.”
So there’s all of that and yep. I’m feeling a lot better–the much needed warmth has returned to my bones, there’s satiation with less it seems and there’s that old tenacity creeping up in the challenging moments again. Since we could all use some of that good energy that buzzes in a low and warm kind of way, whatever our food/life choices, I thought I would share this everyday recipe with you. It’s a nice hot drink for morning calm, or any time you need it really. The base of it is any nut/seed/grain-based milk, maca powder, something to sweeten it up and a touch of raw cacao and cinnamon for my personal taste. Maca comes from a Peruvian root vegetable and it has a bit of a butterscotch-y/malt/sweet potato thing going on flavour-wise. I find it really does deliver in terms of an energy boost, but it’s less of a jolt than caffeine.
Sometimes after a cup of it, I’ll feel a little impulse to stretch out to the very tips of my toes and fingers and just breathe a little life into every inch of myself. It’s restoring/life-giving without being over the top, which I love. Anyway, I hope you’ll give it a go. I’ve seen maca in grocery + health food stores, bulk shops, and on Arrested Development, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you’re curious. Lastly, since I’ve been talking about house stuff with such frequency, I thought I’d include a couple little snaps I took the other day in this post (below). They definitely have a “in progress” kind of feel, which is true to life in all the ways you could imagine.
Sending all my good energy this week :)
my good energy drink
notes: There’s so many options for add-ins with this. I chose a teaspoon of raw cacao powder and a star anise pod, but you could reach for fresh ginger juice, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, vanilla etc etc.
10 ounces milk of your choice, unsweetened is preferable (I did a mix of coconut and almond)
2 tsp maca powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon + extra for dusting if you like
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp raw cacao powder
1-2 star anise pods (so, so optional)
I start this drink by blending everything in an upright blender (except the star anise if you’re using it) to get all the powdery bits incorporated. Then I gently heat in a small saucepan over medium heat (with the star anise) until it’s really simmering. You could easily skip the blending step and just whisk the mixture lightly while it’s heating. Drink it warm with a dusting of cinnamon.