dark chocolate espresso scones (vegan) – The First Mess
Before I tell you about these cozy vegan scones (based on my favourite spelt scone recipe), all flecked with ground espresso and shards of dark chocolate, I want to talk about small changes. Oh, and big, unexpected outcomes. Simple and serious pleasures that result from small and mindful movements.
Up until a month ago, this was a typical morning for me: dog busts through the door, jumps on the bed, starts relentlessly licking my face and whimpering excitedly. It’s cute, but I scrunch my face up and tell her to seriously quit it. Feeling super groggy and on the edge of barely-rested, I reluctantly get out of my warm bed. The floor is harshly cold. The super regimented movements of coffee production come next. A firm “nah” to a tall glass of water to hydrate my probably parched body–clambering for a giant cup of caffeine is at the top of my list. IT IS the list. And I live and die by the list. Once a piping hot sixteen ounces of dark roast are at my fingertips, I’ll watch the news or putter about on the computer, doing absolutely nothing in particular for way too long. Non-productivity reigns, still groggy/miserable, bound by caffeine’s chains, no breakfast to speak of quite yet… Ready to face the day? Ah, I guess I could rig something up…
I took coffee out of the equation and my world basically turned upside down.
Pup still comes crashing in all excited (and I couldn’t be happier about that), but now I feel seriously rested, like to the core. I remember to put on wooly socks. I have a bit of an early-morning-super-glow-y stride into the kitchen and get the tea kettle working. The first cup is always herbal, something with lavender or chamomile to keep the blissed-out-calm-upon-waking thing going. I get to look at the winter scenes out the kitchen window while I wait for the bubbles. Then I read a book (this one currently) and, for lack of a better descriptive phrase, I chill the most. Next, I move to some earl or lady grey, all filled out with some warm, vanilla scented almond or cashew milk, I start to get ready for the day ahead, actually eat a balanced breakfast, think about the many other delicious cups of tea I’ll probably consume… you get the idea. Different beverage = better life.
I still try to have one really good coffee on a day off–it’s one of my favourite things to do with my man, actually. And I’m not saying that cutting down coffee consumption is for everyone or that it will just solve your life’s problems. It very simply worked for me within the context that I needed it to. I knew that my morning routine wasn’t contributing anything actually good to my existence overall. Initially, I just hated feeling weakened by one, small habit; that I needed coffee to be somewhat agreeable towards other beings in the am. It was an issue of control, no doubt. I changed that one small thing and life kind of spilled and tumbled forward to a more abundant daily disposition. Stillness is more easily arrived at and I’m not a completely terrible person in the early hours anymore. Many wins.
Since tea is more my pace these days, I thought I’d make you something wholesome, but indulgent, to go with a calming brew. I’ve made this spelt scone recipe many times, always changing up the add-ins and aromatics based on the season and my own cravings. I used to love one in particular from a local bakery with ground espresso and big, dark chocolate pieces. I decided that a homemade version was needed, a coffee flecked indulgence that plays nice with tea. I had a dark bar of chocolate infused with espresso in my pantry that had to be used in this one glorious purpose. I thinned out my basic coconut cream recipe for a nice, fatty and sweet dollop of goodness to compliment the hearty structure and strong flavour of the scone. A dab of sour-sweet raspberry jam finishes this out nicely. Luxe breakfast or sweet snack, this part is up to you.
vegan dark chocolate + espresso spelt scones
Lightly adapted from the Babycakes NYC Cookbook
serves: makes 6-8
notes: I use a combination of whole and light spelt flour, but I’ve also made it with 100% of one or the other and it worked out great.
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup light spelt flour
1/2 tbsp ground espresso or coffee
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup melted coconut oil + extra for brushing
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
50 grams of dark chocolate (this was 1/2 a standard bar for me), roughly chopped
slightly thinned out coconut cream (recipe here)
jam of choice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the whole and light spelt flour, ground espresso, sea salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine. To the flour mixture, add the melted coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Stir until a very crumbly/dry batter forms. Add the hot water to the mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped dark chocolate until evenly mixed throughout the batter.
Grease a 1/3 cup measuring cup and fill it with portions of the dough. Drop the portions onto the parchment lined sheet, giving each an inch or so of space. Brush the tops with melted coconut oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 13-14 minutes, flipping the sheet around at the halfway mark. Allow scones to cool slightly before serving with coconut cream and jam.
mushroom and stout pot pies w/ sweet potato crusts (vegan) – The First Mess
I decided that I wanted this year to be challenging and adventurous. Those are the only concepts/freeform goals that I’m taping up in the most visible spot of my mind for the time. Nothing quantifiable. Just things to work on and places to go–these goals can be rather expansive once you lay into them, which could explain why I’m telling you about my year two thousand and thirteen (wowzer, I know) goals on January 30th. Late to the party again, but totally fine with it this time. The extra consideration and space offered substance to those airy ideals.
Mark and I planned our first adventure of the year two days ago (just a little road trip–comin’ for you, America) and I started a bit of a challenge exactly yesterday. It’s a small and big undertaking at the same time. Up until a couple years ago, I ate strictly vegan foods. I gave up that way of living rather slowly when I moved away from the city, still maintaining a mostly plant-based diet, sure, but allowing for a bit more flexibility. Towards the end, I had qualms about the lifestyle, wondering if it was strictly a choice for the privileged. Why shouldn’t I be grateful for any form of wholesome food that came my way, animal-sourced or not? How a vegan diet, or any way of eating, aligns with or directly contradicts the ways of accessibility is varied across time, place and the community of people that surround.
I will say that eschewing animal-based products did bring an overall lightness in everyday being to my own life. My energy was even and good, perfect stillness in sleep, a freed mind in certain heady ways, lots of vegetables–undeniably good living on the whole. Slipping into some decidedly omni ways has more often than not felt like a denial of a truer nature to me. Rules and labels are not a part of my world and I certainly don’t conceive of anything spanning eternity, but a certain recognition has welled up within. I always do what feels right, based in thought or bodily intuition. In this particular moment, going back to that lightness is what I want most. There is that twinge of fear–of deprivation and judgment, but fear becomes a nonentity when you decide to take on exactly what you want with purpose.
And in the vein of intention and purpose, I made you these stout pot pies. I wanted to offer up something of this nature for a while, trying them with biscuit-y toppings and the like. This one is easily the best version so far. I basically filled out the mushrooms with all of the dark and more potent ingredients I had that would work together. There’s the mushrooms, all cooked down to a messy and unctuous jumble, leeks, shallots, garlic, thyme, stout, tamari, balsamic vinegar and bits of olives for a fruity-salty hit. The sweet potatoes get just the right amount of crispness from a visit in the oven and help to sop up the goodness below. It’s very hearty, peak-winter fare to see us through it all.
mushroom + stout pot pies with sweet potato crusts
serves: 4-6 (depending on how hearty you want the serving to be, what else you’re eating etc.)
notes: I think it’s important to use a stout that you would normally drink on its own for this. If you don’t like it in the glass, the taste of it reduced down will not appeal to you either. Feel free to use a mix of red wine and vegetable stock in place of the stout if you like (like 1/4 cup red wine + 3/4 cup vegetable stock). I would skip the balsamic vinegar or drastically reduce the amount to a tiny splash if you go the red wine route though. There should be enough acidity from the reduction of the wine.
3 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil + extra for greasing, divided
2 shallots, fine dice
1 leek (white part only), chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed + extra for garnish
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 lbs mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portobello + shiitake), trimmed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp spelt OR wholewheat flour (or GF flour/flour blend of choice–I’ve read that sorghum flour is great for thickening sauces)
1 cup stout or other dark, heavy beer
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed + chopped
1-2 small sweet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 4-6 ramekins with grapeseed oil and set on a baking sheet.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add the leeks and all but a 1/2 tsp of the thyme to the pot and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste to the pot. Saute until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot all at once. Cook mushrooms until tender and glistening, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often and adding a bit of liquid or extra oil if necessary. Sprinkle the flour over top of the mushrooms. Stir and cook out the raw flavour of the flour for about a minute.
Pour the stout into the pot, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until liquid is reduced slightly. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olives and chopped parsley. Season the mixture to taste.
Divide the mushroom mixture among 4-6 ramekins. Layer the sweet potato slices on top, overlapping the circles as you go. There should be 2 solid layers of sweet potatoes on top of the mushrooms. Brush the top of the sweet potato slices with the remaining oil, season the slices with salt, pepper and remaining chopped thyme. Bake pot pies for 30-35 minutes, or until mushroom mixture is bubbling and the sweet potatoes are browned and lightly crispy on the edges. Serve hot.
I like muffins, I do. I can truthfully say that I’ve turned down invitations to go for a beer with friends in favor of cooking up a dozen. Actually heard over the phone in the background: “What, is she 80 years old?!” It was worth it.
I always gravitate towards the crumble topped, glazed or chocolate flecked varieties out of habit though… because it’s like eating a piece of cake. A piece of cake that you can sometimes have with a hot drink and call it breakfast. Oh, and healthy muffins are generally terrible. Like, more terrible than mornings pre-coffee. I wanted this to be different in a real way.
Here’s the thing. It’s hard to make a homemade, legitimately healthy muffin that tastes AMAZING + looks completely beautiful. I have high expectations in a general way. Brown, dome-y cake things are not always tasty and are definitely not inherently glamorous. I wanted it to be real good on all fronts for your health. Sometimes I irrationally worry about offering up recipes for more humble fare here. A muffin is not the most totally unique snowflake-kind of thing to post on a food blog, but it is decidedly everyday and approachable. I am slowly learning that this is enough.
When I lived in the city, I used to pop into the nearby Whole Foods from time to time for a matcha tea and one of their lovely vegan muffins. But it wasn’t entirely muffin-like! They baked them in petite bundt pans and put a sweet little glaze on top. The ingredients were all health-supporting for sure and the small hit of glaze brought it back into light indulgence territory. The idea was to emulate the overall feel of their muffin and fill the recipe out with things I really love.
I went to work, consulted with a new and wonderful book, and here we are. It’s a beauty, I assure you. It’s key to go wild with flavour-y things when undertaking more health-centric, vegan baking. The spices, the vanilla, the add-ins; they all work together to make a non buttered + egged treat so delicious. If I’m vegan-izing/health-ing something up, I generally double the vanilla specified, use spices and citrus zest with abandon, and reach for flavourful fats like nut butters or coconut oil as an overall strategy. Also, stirring the batter gently until just incorporated is key for a nice texture. You could apply that principle to any muffin recipe, but especially here with the inclusion of 100% whole grain flour.
In this particular breakfast marvel, I’ve used hearty spelt flour, almond meal, chia and flax seeds, warming spices, tropical coconut oil + vanilla (still savoring the bottle miss Ashlae sent me), walnuts, tart dried cranberries, coconut palm sugar, a smidge of banana to amp up the natural sweetness and some frozen Ontario blueberries stirred in to remind us of summer’s gifts. I topped them off with a zesty clementine glaze for an inviting hit of freshness. These would be perfect for a weekend brunch at home. Your grandma would be so proud of you for baking these on a Saturday night, just a thought :)
antioxidant power muffins + clementine glaze
adapted from Dr. Weil’s True Food
serves: makes 7-8 little bundts or 12 normal muffins
notes: If you eat them, feel free to replace the mashed banana with 2 beaten eggs to avoid any trace of banana-ness. Also! I know if you’re high on health, you might want to turn your nose up at the glaze portion. I found it pretty crucial to the whole experience. This batter isn’t terribly sweet, so the glaze has a rather serious function in the grand scheme (way serious).
1 cup whole spelt flour
1/4 cup almond meal (or use more spelt if you like)
1 1/3 cups ground flax + chia seeds (or go with pure flax or pure chia)
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of fine sea salt
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 tbsp melted coconut oil + extra for greasing
1 3/4 cups milk of your choice (I used almond)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (or fresh if they’re in season)
3/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
2 tbsp cacao nibs
juice and zest of 1 clementine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease your mini bundt or muffin tins and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, almond meal, flax + chia seeds, coconut sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger and salt.
Mash the banana in a separate medium bowl. Make sure it is fairly smooth. To the banana, add the coconut oil, milk and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
Scrape the banana and milk mixture into the dry indredients (flour, ground flax etc). Gently fold the batter until it is just combined/there are no more dry bits of flour. Add the blueberries, dried cranberries, walnuts, and cacao nibs and gently fold them into the batter until evenly distributed. The batter should be quite thick at this point.
Fill the muffin cups/bundts with the batter to 3/4 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean and muffins bounce back when you press your finger onto the tops. Cool the pans on a wire rack completely before turning out onto a plate.
While muffins are baking/cooling, make the glaze: whisk the clementine zest, juice and powdered sugar together until smooth. Apply glaze to the tops of completely cooled muffins.
I say this about so many things, but winter citrus is certain proof that we are loved in this world. January brings us to more hours spent in darkness. The sun is elusive on most days, giving way to shades of mud and blinding white. On winter drives through all of the sleepy orchards, there’s an illusion of hollow space, that the rows of black and empty branches cross each other forever and for no reason, that your breath could escape and go on. A cloudy and warm gasp would lift from your mouth, drifting over the fields searching listlessly for another of its kind. Stepping outside invites the bizarrely comforting act of bundling yourself up to face the world. Promises of impending greatness well up and wait. By the end of March, I’m on my knees for a release from the extremity of it, the spatial restlessness and cold grey, the bleak landscape that seems to dwell within.
Then there are splendid and simple moments, ones of clarity. Cutting into any one of the satsumas, lemons, blood oranges, grapefruits, or tangerines, taking a second to revel in the brightness, is one of those moments. Vivid colour, the intensely perfumed oil in the skin, all succulent with tart sweetness, the symmetry within the shapes–all reminders of the warmth in the design of this world. The core of life still glows and we are assured at the very sight of those neon orbs that vibrate with the sun and earth’s strength.
Something unusual to wake up my winter-dulled sensibilities was bubbling away in my mind and it had to be a chop, a shred, a seasoning from up high, toss toss toss and a fast sear away. Quick. Jude Blereau’s orange pan-glazed tempeh (first seen on 101 Cookbooks for me) is one of my favourite ways to utilize citrus in an upfront and savoury sort of way. I swap out the coriander for some ground ancho chilies in pursuit of heat, but otherwise keep it to the letter and simple. Have you tried tempeh before? That fermented, probiotic and protein-heavy vegan wonder food? The texture is toothsome. The flavour is nutty, hinting at mushrooms and damp, forest floor kind of qualities. It has roots in Indonesian cuisine and stands in beautifully for tofu and animal proteins.
Right here, it goes for a bit of a sear and a sloshy glaze of maple, ancho and soy infused orange juice. I thought of it as the foundation of a taco with a slaw saturated in grapefruit juice and flecked with fresh mint. Grapefruit gets on beautifully with creamy and mild avocado, so that became the crucial third component. A little frivolous tangle of sprouts on top felt fine in the moment. Finishing squeezes of lime are available for even more freshness. The combination is nicely jarring and it brings the world a bit closer, what with the participatory nature of taco get-togethers. The gathering, assembly and communal eating seems to put us all into the light a little more.
orange + ancho braised tempeh tacos with ruby grapefruit slaw
notes: I used an all-soy variety of tempeh for this, but there are many varieties with brown rice and other grains thrown into the mix that are great. Also, as previously mentioned, I subbed in ancho powder + cayenne for the coriander in Jude’s recipe. You could go so many ways with it though.
1 batch orange pan glazed tempeh (recipe link), subbing ancho powder for the coriander
ruby grapefruit slaw:
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small carrot, grated or peeled into ribbons (I used a funky white, heirloom one)
juice of 1 grapefruit + I cut up a few sections of it for visual/textural interest in the slaw
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 green onions, sliced finely
4 sprigs of mint, leaves sliced finely
salt and pepper
corn tortillas, warmed
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted + sliced
handfuls of sprouts (I had pea shoots around)
sriracha or other hot sauce
Prepare the slaw: combine all slaw ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.
Dice and warm all of the assembly components and set aside.
Prepare tempeh according to directions. Serve hot with other taco accoutrements.
Happy new year to you! Sending all of my big hugs. The time for personal betterment is upon us (as always). But first, some soup.
A snow storm drove us indoors right in the midst of holiday time, so I’ve been going hard with the nesting/self care thing. I love to make a vegetable-heavy soup with miso, shoyu/tamari and ginger when I feel a bit off, whether I’m hungover or just generally space-y. The steamy ritual of it brings me back to earth and offers a bit of reconnection. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; just whatever vegetables you have around, a nice broth and some quiet time to enjoy. A version of it was my breakfast of choice for a while, a blast of perfect silence to get the day rolling.
This particular version follows the theme of intense nourishment. I took every immune-boosting, deep-warming, feel good vibe-inducing ingredient I had and put it into this healthy and delicious bowl of love. You get to hold your head over the pot of fragrant broth while it simmers and deepens in flavour. I’m pretty fond of these pour-over style soups. Get the broth crazy hot, splash it around some finely cut vegetables/precooked noodles etc, and instant comfort is yours for the moment. If you batch-cook some broth, tasty and fortifying lunches are a cinch throughout the week.
There’s a lot going on in the pot and I’m confident that some ingredients can be substituted/left out altogether and you’ll still wind up with something tasty and soothing–very much a freestyle kind of effort. I used shiitake mushrooms (stems + caps), ginger, lemongrass, chilies, miso, tamari, cilantro (stems + leaves), thyme and some other aromatics. Pour that potent and mega hot broth over a tangle of vegetable shreds, garnish with sprouts and herbs, a squeeze of lime, some drops of sesame oil, maybe a dab of sriracha swirled into the mix. The process of it leads to a surprisingly heady food-life experience. Simmer, chop, pour, garnish, breathe it in, spoon lifted, instant calm.
Once you get into it, slurping everything up gives you a lightly sweaty flash of food-induced warmth that feels so good. It’s that deeply restorative, whole body satiation that snaps everything into focus and makes you feel ready. Nourishment and power in the palm of your hands. 2013, bring it.
a magic healing soup
notes: Whatever vegetables you decide to use, make sure they’re sliced up rather finely. You’re depending on the heat of the broth to soften them up, so rustic chunkiness is less desirable in this recipe. A vegetable peeler, which is what I used to make the strands of broccoli stems, is very helpful with achieving fine-ness.
1 five inch piece of lemongrass, bashed up with the back of your knife
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 onion, quartered
4-5 shiitake mushroom stems (slice the caps for the soup)
1 three inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 chili, sliced in half
4-5 sprigs thyme
handful of cilantro stems (save the leaves)
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 tsp miso (add at the end of simmering time to preserve nutrients)
1-1.5 cups finely sliced vegetables per person (I used carrots, snow peas, broccoli stems and the shiitake caps)
sliced green onions
sprouts (I had pea shoots)
toasted sesame oil
Make the broth: combine all of the broth ingredients except for the miso in a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat. Pour 5 cups of water over top. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour or so (or longer if you want a more concentrated stock). Strain the broth and return it to the pot. Keep the broth hot. Add miso to the pot and stir right before serving
While broth is simmering, you can slice up the vegetables and garnishes.
Arrange vegetables in serving bowls. Pour/ladle hot broth over top. Stir it up a bit. Garnish as you like with herbs, sprouts, sriracha etc.