I find that getting back from New York is always a bit heavy. I have a hard time psyching myself up to leave and get back home (aside from reveling in the thought of sleeping in my own bed). Packing up some new acquisitions into our bags was a little fun (especially the stuffed paper bag of Milk Bar treats and this incredibly awesome little innovation). Walking to the subway from the hotel is always a little sad, seeing all the buildings and shops waking up and buzzing in the morning, knowing you’ll be away from it so soon. We went in and out of sleepiness on the long subway ride to the airport, heads resting on our bags. We sipped coffee together in the bustling airport pretty quietly, watching the travelers hurry by. Rain droplets streamed horizontally across the window during takeoff, grey and rainy city falling away behind us. Home feels a bit different. There’s more purpose and inspiration in the every day, ultimately great things.
One thing I really looked forward to while we were making our way back home (cozy comfy bed aside) was a giant heap of vegetables. We ate pretty amazingly on this trip. We went to all of our favourites, had a really special dinner here, tried the brand new NY outpost of this restaurant, so many treats, delicious coffee from Mud Truck, INSANE cocktails at Booker & Dax and completely fabulous potluck contributions from so many inspirational women at Veronica‘s rooftop oasis. In sum: we ate great food. Probably too much of it. Like probably-definitely.
I originally developed this chard salad rolls recipe for the Toronto Vegetarian Association (their website here), a pretty rad volunteer-driven organization. I look forward to their Veg Fest on the waterfront in September every year. Lots of goodness and wonderful people, gorgeous scenery, it’s perfect. If you would like to read some accompanying nutrition facts about chard, you can read my little contribution right over here. I love using greens as a wrap for all kinds of things. In this version, I give you a few ideas for fillings and a BOMB mango dipping sauce for dunking. It’s like dipping a tidy salad into fresh, sweet, lightly spiced mango goodness, something totally called for after 5 days of indulgence for me.
raw chard salad rolls with spicy mango dipping sauce
notes: If you don’t have access to chard, collard or boston lettuce leaves work wonders in the same application. In the event that you are transporting these (say for a summer picnic), I would recommend stabbing each one with a little toothpick to keep them together since chard lacks the natural “glue” of rice paper rolls.
6-8 leaves of chard (depending on how big they are)
3 cups finely julienned/sliced fruits and vegetables such as:
3-4 sprigs-worth of mild fresh herb leaves such as:
-basil (regular or thai)
spicy mango sauce:
1 cup diced, ripe mango (or nectarine! or peach!)
juice from 1 lime
1 small jalapeno, veins and seeds removed
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
1 tsp nama shoyu or tamari soy sauce
¼ cup filtered water
Cut the stems out of the chard leaves: With a paring knife, carefully cut around the stem, on both sides, up to about the halfway point in the leaf. Repeat with other leaves.
Lay the cut leaf on a cutting board. It should look like the top half of the leaf has two little legs sticking out from under it. Cross one of the “legs” over the other one to form a unified oval-shaped “wrap.”
Place a good handful of julienned vegetables/sprouts onto the center of the oval-shaped leaf. Garnish with a few herb leaves. Carefully wrap the chard around the vegetables, starting with the crossed over/overlapped leaves end and working your way up. Once you’ve reached the end, place the roll seam side down onto your serving plate. repeat with remaining chard and vegetables/herbs.
Make the sauce: Combine all of the mango sauce ingredients in a blender. Turn the blender on to medium-high and puree the mixture. Once smooth and slightly watery, stop the blender. Taste for seasoning. Place sauce into a bowl and serve with the chard spring rolls.
Sometimes there are these tiny clues in the every day that let you in on something really, really big. I love going on long drives with my love in the summer, in any season really. We laugh about everything, talk on some real grit stuff, enjoy the silence when it arises, simultaneously get outraged at some bad driving in the next lane over, relax and sip on coffee when it’s back to normal again. It’s a transition period to the next thing/destination, but it’s totally premium together-time if you ask me.
Best of all, Mark knows what I want to listen to as soon as we settle in to get everything moving on. He has a certain intuition and a breadth of musical awareness that keeps me happy wherever we go. Sometimes it’s dance hall, or it’s Midnight Marauders (my go-to summer driving album of choice), some stand up for a really long drive is usually called for, he’ll never EVER go wrong with Bruce (and he knows this), Talking Heads when it’s late… Those sweet and perfect little selections reflect the ridiculous-good harmony I feel every day in our life. It all works just right every time. Happy, silly, smily-faced gal right here.
Other things that make me smile: a delicious and ample iced tea supply to keep me hydrated all the way through to Labour Day. It’s mega refreshment for sunny days on end. I hope you all love it as much as I do. That soft clinking of ice cubes lazily floating around in some home brew is synonymous with summer for me.
The essential formula I go with is as follows: tea (black, green, herbal or my fave-rooibos) + herbs/spices + citrus juice of some kind + fresh fruit if you feel it + appropriate chilling time (+booze if you wanna get tore up crazy). That’s it. I’ve offered up three fairly choice recipes but this technique is up for plenty of variation and wildness on your part.
One more thing: with at-home iced tea making you can go the hot or cold-brewed route (I’ve included instructions below). They both require the same amount of tea when all is said and done. Cold brewing results in a more clarified beverage with more subtle nuances taste-wise. I love this method if I’m using green tea. If you need iced tea immediately, the hot method is gonna be your jam: brew, sweeten, add ice and go.
homemade healthy iced tea formula + hot and cold brewing methods
serves: makes 1 litre (32 oz.)
notes: I’ve included a basic frame of ingredients, 3 specific recipes and hot + cold brewing methods for your convenience :)
6 tsp loose leaf tea OR 5-6 tea bags
fresh herbs, fruit & whole spices if using
water (amount depends on method used)
1/4 – 1/2 cup citrus juice of your choosing
1/4 – 1/3 cup liquid sweetener (agave nectar, raw honey, maple syrup, simple syrup etc)
ice (if using hot-brew method)
RECIPE 1: strawberry vanilla bean rooibos iced tea
Rooibos is like nature’s gatorade (electrolytes!), so I love sipping on this when the heat rises.
6 tsp rooibos tea or 5-6 rooibos tea bags
4 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 vanilla bean pod (I save the leftover pods when I bake with the seeds)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup agave nectar (I like light agave here)
RECIPE 2: iced green tea with lemongrass, mint and lime
So fresh, light caffeine and all the antioxidants/good stuff you love about green tea.
6 tsp green tea leaves or 5-6 tea bags
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut in half and bashed up with the back of your knife
2 sprigs of mint, leaves removed
juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup raw honey
RECIPE 3: not-super-sweet sweet tea with orange and spice
My man’s insane love of Southern-style sweet tea finds its healthy match right here (adapted from Bryant Terry’s amazing recipe in this book).
6 tsp ceylon orange pekoe tea or 5-6 tea bags
1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup dark agave nectar
HOT BREWING METHOD:
1. Place tea, fruit, herbs/whole spices in a non-reactive pitcher
2. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over top
3. Add citrus juice and sweetener, stir to combine
4. Brew (2 minutes for green tea, 3-5 minutes for black tea, 5+ minutes for herbal or rooibos teas)
5. Strain out tea and herbs/whole spices
6. Return brewed and sweetened tea to the pitcher
7. Top up to 1 litres-worth with ice
8. Stir to rapidly chill and enjoy!
COLD BREWING METHOD:
1. Place tea, fruit, herbs/whole spices in a non-reactive pitcher
2. Top up to 1 litres-worth with filtered water
3. Cover and leave in the fridge to brew slowly overnight
4. Strain out tea and herbs/whole spices in the morning
5. Return brewed tea to the pitcher
6. If using honey or maple syrup, dissolve it in 1/4 cup boiling water before adding to brewed tea to sweeten. Any other liquid sweetener should dissolve just fine in the cold tea (like agave or simple syrup).
7. Add citrus juice, stir to combine and enjoy!
The celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday translates to a long weekend, big time summer kickoff around here. Families will go up north to the cottages for the first time this year, barbecues in backyards are prevalent, hikes, fireworks, cold patio beers and other libations abound, commemorative mugs with pictures of the Queen adorn the gift shop windows in my town; happy feelings. The warmth, sun, singing birds and lovely breezes draw us all outdoors, ready to enjoy each other’s company and stay in that precious light, later and later into the evening.
This seasonal shift brings me to salads and other cooler preparations for food. I still love a piece of sticky, barbecued tofu or tempeh, a pizza cooked on a hot grill, a summery sauteed succotash, lightly charred veggies and the like, but ultimately I find myself craving salad-y things and cool, tossed together items more often. Enter my secret, hardly-ever-indulged-in love of broccoli salad. You know the one I’m talking about. It has sunflower seeds, raisins, cheddar, other add-ins and a good amount of mayonnaise. I used to work at a gourmet foods kind of place that made a version with cooked up cavena nuda (an oat-based rice sourced from the Canadian prairies). I had to literally fight myself from grabbing a bite every time I looked at it in the deliciously well-stocked to-go counter. I never felt exactly stellar after consuming it, but the combination of crisp broccoli, creamy dressing and crunchy add ins was pretty bang on to me. A wholesome, home spun version was long overdue in my life.
Another note on salad eating: the default mode of extra flesh-baring in the summertime has me gravitating towards raw foods for sure. A lot of cold weather butt-sitting has been, ahem, brought to my attention lately in some form or another. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crazy happy with life, feel pretty good and still fit into my jean shorts from last summer just fine. But sometimes when a gal slips into a little light dress for the first time and notices the dramatically bright white glow emitting from her (somehow less muscular-seeming) calves, she can’t help but get hell bent on some overall health improvement. A little time spent in the sun (vitamin D woop!) and a few salads later, all’s gonna be fine I’m sure of it.
So I give you a big bowl of broccoli. Yes! With crunchy soaked/sprouted wild rice, toasted salty sunflower seeds (you could use raw if you want to maintain an overall raw preparation), the very traditional golden raisins (you bet), and chive blossoms. The dressing is the best part though. It’s super creamy with avocado, full of basil, healthy fats and citrus-y goodness. I could eat it straight up with a spoon, no problem. The sprouted rice (technically a grass; not a grain) provides some complex carbs, protein, B vitamins, folic acid, and very delicious crunch. It won’t have the same texture as cooked rice, but I think you’ll be fine with that once you enjoy it here. I actually wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the idea of eating the whole recipe for this salad in a day. It would certainly be a fantastic barbecue potluck contribution to sway the steak eaters over to the plant enthusiast side. It’s one of those “Ha! We actually DO eat cool and exciting stuff, suckers!” kind of dishes. Also feel free to add “And check out how toned and tan my calves are!” for good measure.
broccoli salad with sprouted wild rice and citrusy avocado & basil dressing
special equipment: a blender for the dressing
notes: I simply sprouted the rice by soaking it for a day or so, changing the water 3-4 times. The shot above (with the rice in the sieve) shows what stage it should be at. This recipe will make more than enough dressing for the salad–not exactly the worst problem in the world. Don’t have chive blossoms? Just use actual chives or finely minced shallots/red onion/green onion.
1 medium, ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 small jalapeno, seeds and veins removed (optional)
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
salt and pepper
3 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 bunch of broccoli, large woody stems removed
1/2 cup wild rice, soaked, sprouted and drained
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
6-7 chive blossoms, broken up into smaller pieces/petals
Make the dressing: Combine all of the dressing ingredients except for the basil and oil in a blender. Blend on medium-high speed until a smooth and creamy mixture is achieved. You may have to stop the motor and push the avocado down a couple times. Add the basil leaves and oil to the blender pitcher. Put the lid on and slowly bring the speed up to medium-high. Once you have a creamy consistency similar to mayonnaise, you’re set. It should taste sweet, tangy and rich. Adjust seasoning to your liking and set aside.
Chop the broccoli into very small florets. They shouldn’t be bigger than the end of your thumb (see photo above). Place florets into a large bowl with the sprouted rice, raisins and sunflower seeds. Pour about 3/4 of the dressing over the broccoli mixture. Give the salad a good seasoning with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Place salad into your serving bowl of choice. Garnish with chive blossoms and a sprig of basil if you like.
Cut one hot pink stalk. Dip the fresh-cut end into a bowl of sugar and take a bite. There’s an initial damp, crunch sensation, similar to celery, with a bit more heft. Then it starts: the eyes begin to wince automatically, cheeks sucking in, slight head tilt to absorb it all. There’s a little joyful, granular shock of sweet sugar before the tongue returns to the roof of the month, trying to minimize the impact once more before it’s over. Sour. Delightfully, face-suckingly sour. The crunch, the unmistakable colour, the flavour unlike anything else in the plant world: an immediate fresh fruit impression with a thick, and heady sourness that stands up to all kinds of sweet. It refuses to go quietly; not under an enthusiastic dip in sugar, a thick blanket of oat crumble, buttery pastry, or eggy custard warm with tropical vanilla. Rhubarb remains with its strong character intact. It is such a unique, natural treasure to behold in springtime when deep pink crowns of it emerge in backyards, as if overnight.
A fruit fool is a rustically pretty, non-fussy, super English dessert (it dates back to the 16th century!). It very simply consists of sweetened and stewed/cooked and pureed fruit with whipped 35% cream and usually a little crunchy/biscuit-y something for textural contrast. The first time I saw one was years ago in this beautiful book by Jamie Oliver. Just the sheer name of it was calling to me. A speedy rhubarb fool. Pull it out of the garden, throw it together, chopped rhubarb and vanilla bean in the pot, whip the cream, delicately fold fold fold; all on a lark. Homey, charmingly clumsy, gorgeous pink and comforting.
I went a fairly non-traditional route with the cream component, subbing chilled and whipped coconut milk (favourite thing right now) with honey and vanilla bean. Since I went a bit crazy in that regard, I thought I would work some cardamom, ginger and orange into the rhubarb itself. A magical sprinkling of pistachios on top brings this exotic treat full circle. The rhubarb never hides under it all. A gaze at the shocking pink contrast, little sour pinch on your tongue to say hello. It’s perfect for grey spring days, something to savour now and keep as a reminder of the treasures to come while you sink your feet into the green grass and suck your cheeks together.
a rhubarb fool with vanilla coconut cream
notes: When you’re extracting the top “cream” layer from the can of coconut milk, be extra careful to not grab any of the coconut water with your spoon. Some chopped strawberries would be a lovely addition to the compote if they’re available in your area. Crumbled ginger snaps would be a fantastic topping/garnish option instead of pistachios.
1 lb rhubarb, pink and light pink parts chopped
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup agave nectar or raw honey, maple syrup etc. (or more if you like, I went kind of tart here)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
vanilla coconut cream:
2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
3 tbsp maple syrup or powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds removed–or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
handful of roasted pistachios, shelled and chopped (optional)
Combine the chopped rhubarb, orange juice, agave nectar, cardamom and ginger in a large saute pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture until the rhubarb starts breaking down and the consistency is slightly jammy and compote-like, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
Make the cream: Remove the top layer of solid cream from the cans of coconut milk, carefully avoiding the water at the bottom of the can (reserve this for smoothies). Place the cream into a small bowl. Add the maple syrup/powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Mix with a hand mixer on medium-high speed, stopping and scraping down here and there. Mix until a lightly stiff, whipped cream-like consistency is achieved. Wrap and set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
To serve: Place about half a cup of the cooled rhubarb compote in each serving dish. Top each rhubarb fool with a dollop of the vanilla coconut cream and a sprinkle of pistachios.
I come from a long line of tough brauds, no question. The inclination to cook, do more physical work, stay constantly busy, and get my hands dirty has never been a mystery to me. My grandmother turns the ripe old age of 89 this month and continues to work 5 days a week. I still can’t fully comprehend that. I remember my Nana as the most feisty, resourceful, don’t-take-any-shit type of woman I’ve ever known. I didn’t appreciate her tenacity so much when she was with us, but now I try to emulate that very quality she held up high so often. I miss her quips and thoughtfulness, always in a perfect balance.
My mother definitely follows suit with the theme of tough ladies here. A day of luxury with manicures, brunch and tea? No thanks. She’d rather tackle a gardening or building project and actually get something done with her time. We were at a bookstore recently and I pointed to a table they had set up under a pastel banner that said “Treat Mom,” or something of that ilk, huge smirk on my face knowing what the reaction would be. There were delicately tasseled blankets, various types of flowery bubble bath, semi-trashy novels, glossy hardcover biographies of 50’s starlets, striped canvas totes for leisurely trips to the beach, scented beeswax candles, rose-hued lip balms etc. She just scoffed at the whole thing in a lighthearted way, and I was laughing along with her. Not to say that curling up with a new book in a lovely blanket with rosy-glossy lips is preposterous. It just doesn’t exactly embody the ultimate treat for ladies like us. A rare native plant for her massive, immaculate gardens or perhaps a shiny new electric drill? Now you’re getting close.
Her days are filled with endless to-dos that always get done because she plugs through and stays motivated to work hard, regardless of the task. I admire that so much. If something is worth doing (and it almost always is), you should do it really well. It’s this unrelenting, guiding mantra that seems to drive her forward. And for all of that, the goodness that she brings into my life, the woman deserves some chocolate once in a while (she actually deserves it every day, truth). I originally planned to make something rhubarb-y this week. Market availability kind of squashed that whole plan, but it’s all the better because chocolate is number one around here, always (PROOF!).
The base recipe for these vegan coconut caramel brownies themselves from here (the fantastic Oh She Glows blog) is already so good, the best I’ve had actually. I added a central layer of coconut milk-based caramel, putting them into mega fudge-y territory, a quality I can never get enough of with brownies. There’s a good amount of (organic evaporated cane) sugar in these, but what is life if you can’t enjoy a little sugar with those you love once in a while, right? Right. C’mon, you know I’m right.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing ladies celebrating. Your strength and care is an inspiration. Love you Mom! X’s, O’s and chocolate forever :)
vegan coconut caramel brownies recipe
brownie recipe super lightly/barely adapted from Oh She Glows
caramel recipe adapted from Baked Explorations (favourite baking resource as of late)
serves: makes an 8×8 pan
notes: Resist the temptation to use all of the caramel! Reserve about 2-3 tbsp from the recipe and set it aside for another use (ahem, to drizzle on top of a cooled brownie with some Luna and Larry’s coconut bliss perhaps?). On top of that, you should refrain from trying to eat them warm (guh, I know it’s hard). These need a solid 3-4 hours to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave nectar etc)
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk
fat pinch of sea salt
1.5 tbsp ground chia seeds (or flax) + 1/4 cup water
heaped 3/4 cup GF flour (an all purpose blend, white or brown rice etc)
1.5 cups almond meal/flour
2 tbsp arrowroot
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (this is just to bring out the chocolaty-ness)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + extra for greasing (in a semi solid/soft state–not melted!)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup natural sugar
1/4 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch pan with coconut oil. Layer 2 pieces of parchment into the pan in opposite directions to line it. Grease the parchment with more coconut oil. Set aside.
Make the caramel: place the sugar, water and maple syrup into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir gently so as not to splash the sugar up on the sides too much. Continue to stir as the mixture starts to bubble and boil. Do not walk away! Once the colour of the mixture turns to medium-dark amber (like the colour of dark maple syrup), remove it from the heat. Pour the coconut milk in slowly. The mixture will bubble up and spit slightly. Start quickly whisking the mixture as soon as you can to achieve a homogenous mix. If there are hardened parts, set the pan back on the burner over low and continue to whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Add a pinch of salt and scrape mixture into a small bowl. Set aside to cool completely. It should thicken up quite a bit (I place the bowl in the fridge to speed this process up).
Whisk together the ground chia seed and water in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
Set a medium saucepan with a couple of inches of water over medium heat. Bring to a light simmer. In a medium, nonreactive bowl, combine the coconut oil and semisweet chocolate. Place bowl over simmering water, ensuring that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk chocolate and oil until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
To the chocolate mixture, add the chia and water mixture (it should be gel-like at this point), natural sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. The batter will seem dry and stiff. Mix until there are no more dry/flour-y spots left in the batter.
Scoop half of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it out as much as you can with a spatula. To thoroughly flatten it,I place a sheet of saran wrap on top of the batter and press on top with my fingers/palms until the surface is even and the bottom of the pan is covered.
Pour all but 3 tbsp of the coconut milk caramel on top of the first layer of batter. Smooth it out to evenly distribute it. Scoop the remaining batter on top of the caramel. Spread it out as best you can, employing the previous spatula and saran wrap technique combo. Place pan into the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove vegan coconut caramel brownies from the oven and cool completely before de-panning and cutting.