Acceptance. Autumn is the season where we go home.
There are blankets, hot beverages to wrap your little fingers around, old sweaters, all of those warming foods that remind us of our childhood or ones that just make us feel good. Everything seems like a joyous reunion; the biggest hugs, the wide smiles that say “HIIII!” when you come near, the familiar notebooks with the blank pages, your favourite scarf comes out of the closet, the light is friendlier at any given moment of the day… There is intent and warmth in every move.
There are more inclinations to bring us into the kitchen, that beating heart of pure goodness and love. There’s stock to be made for soup, squash and roots to be roasted, more languid breakfasts to be had with the ones you like to hold close. The food takes a bit longer and we never mind. Steam rises and falls out of heavy pots. The dog cuddles in a blanket on the warm spot beneath the oven. Slower time, coziness, that intimacy with all of our surroundings. It’s here, it’s here.
People always say that time slows down in the summer and really, I couldn’t disagree more. I feel like we’re always shipping off here and there for whatever excursion or event from June to August. Fall is a return to comfort in routine and more simplified time spent in each other’s company. It is dependable. The leaves turn like clockwork and we turn into each other around the table, under a wooly blanket, across the classroom, wherever we may be. It is the season that brings all of our communities into focus.
So I wanted to make a salad. A warm one with hearty greens and sticky balsamic roasted beets. Some quinoa fills it all out and the pecorino gives a salty bite. You toss the whole mess of it with a muscovado sugar-tweaked balsamic and oil mix that sloshes around the beets while they roast away. There was a version of this in the latest Donna Hay magazine and I was pretty jazzed to even conceive of all my favourite things in one bowl. Party time!
warm kale salad with quinoa + balsamic roasted beets
Inspired by Donna Hay Magazine, Winter 2012 issue
notes: You could use chard or actual beet greens for the salad as well. If you only have access to bigger beets, just cut them into quarters or sixths pre-roasting. Some crunchy, toasted hazelnuts would be a nice garnish here too.
2 bunches of baby beets (about 12 beets total), scrubbed and trimmed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tbsp grape seed oil
salt and pepper
kale + salad:
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 bunch of curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp grape seed oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper
handful of pecorino shavings (parm or grana padano would be great too)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the trimmed beets in a 2 inch deep ceramic or glass dish. Pour the balsamic vinegar and grape seed oil in. SPrinkle the muscovado sugar, salt and pepper around the beets. Cover dish with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the beets up a bit and continue to roast, uncovered, for 20 more minutes. They should be quite tender. Remove from the oven and allow dish to cool.
In a small saucepan, place the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup of water. Add a pinch of salt. Place pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is mostly cooked and the little tails start to pop out. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large soup pot, heat the 2 tbsp of grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and smoked paprika. Stir around until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa, a splash of water and half of the kale. Stir around until kale begins to wilt a bit. Add the remaining kale, season with salt and pepper and keep stirring. The kale should all be slightly wilted, but still firm. Take off the heat and transfer kale and quinoa mixture to your serving bowl.
Arrange roasted beets on top of the greens and quinoa. Drizzle salad with the balsamic cooking liquid in the pan (there should be about 1/4 cup of it left). Scatter the pecorino shavings on top and serve.
Guys, I’m kind of sniffly and head-full-of-gross-stuff this week, so a posting of my contribution for the Toronto Vegetarian Association October newsletter will have to do. And by “will have to do,” I actually mean “is an unbelievably awesome addition that you’ll love.” Added bonus: I’ve linked to a few of my Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes at the end for all of you Canadians celebrating this weekend. Big hearts to you all.
Have you tried a dirty chai? I’m a recent convert to this indulgent drink. It’s a cinnamon-y and creamy chai latte with a shot of espresso added. This drink has MY JAM written all over it. It’s complex, warming, lightly sweet, still spicy and shot through with caffeine for good measure. This could be easy enough to produce at home with a batch of homemade chai concentrate, some strong coffee and the milk of your choice. Heat it all up together and get cozy.
Once I’m jazzed on something I usually can’t leave it alone, so naturally I had to make a pancake version of this beverage (NATURALLY). Truth: I tried to make waffles first, but it was one of the messiest waffle failures of my life. The batter itself is hearty with spelt flour and strong with coffee, spice and vanilla. Best part: I decided to blanket them in a cranberry compote tweaked with maple syrup. It adds a sweet-tart dimension that fits these little cakes so well. So much fall on one plate. Perhaps a lovely Thanksgiving brunch option for my country peeps? You could swap in some leftover cranberry sauce instead of making up a whole batch of separate compote if you like.
I’ll be sipping some ginger tea over here and snuggling in with this book (finally got around to reading it) while I rest up a bit. Oh and here’s a shorter autumnal reading suggestion from the good people at McSweeney’s (salty language warning). Make some pancakes and have a cozy and warm Thanksgiving friends. I’ll be back with something more ambitious next week :)
dirty chai pancakes with cranberry + vanilla compote
notes: I call for coffee extract, but ground coffee is just fine. Grounds give off a more intense flavour for sure, but they definitely get the job done (and leave beautiful little dark brown flecks in the batter). I would adjust the amount if you’re using ground espresso, like down to a teaspoon and half? If anyone tries it, I’d love to know how that goes. Also, if they sell that fancy cultured coconut milk at your local grocery store, you can use 1 1/3 cups of that and skip the whole vinegar-curdling-the-milk step.
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup (+ extra for serving if you like)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I use the So Delicious brand Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
¾ cup whole spelt flour
½ cup light spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp coffee extract OR 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp melted coconut oil + extra for cooking pancakes
1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the compote: place the cranberries, water and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Add water as needed to keep the sauce moist. Mash the cranberries up here and there with the back of a wooden spoon to get a saucy consistency. Once you have a slightly wet, jammy texture, add the vanilla extract. Stir up the compote one more time and remove from the heat. Set aside.
Combine the non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. Stir lightly and set aside to curdle for at least 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground coffee, cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. Stir to combine. Add the curdled non-dairy milk, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Stir gently to combine, taking care not to over mix.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush the pan with melted coconut oil. Drop 1/3 cup measures of the pancake batter into the pan. Allow the first side to cook for 1 to 11/2 minutes, or until bubbles pop on the surface and the edges appear dry and lightly browned. Flip the pancakes over and cook for another minute. Remove pancakes and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve pancakes with cranberry compote spooned over the top and extra maple syrup if you like.
This gluten free cookie recipe has lowbrow-inspired roots despite its sophisticated looks and healthy-happy ingredients. Sort of shamefully lowbrow. Confession time is upon us. Deep breath.
We took a trip over to the USA last week (I live super close to an American border crossing-hey neighbours!) and brought back a certain brand of cookies, featuring certain little worker elves occupying a suspiciously chocolate-equipped treehouse/cookie factory. These were tagging along with some bottles of my favourite kombucha to keep it all in balance of course. Anyway these cookies were good. Too good. Thick cut graham-like crackers covered in fudge-y chocolate. Very simple goodness flavour-wise that unfortunately DID NOT translate to a simple ingredients list. Hydrogenated whatnots, probably 5 forms of sugar, the white flour, preservatives etc. Oy. And I ate how many? Too many.
Since I’m not one to dwell on less-than-virtuous eating incidents (I eat for pleasure first and always), I started dreaming up a healthier version of this crack-cookie as it were. There would be coconut oil for fat, hazelnuts for body (and to give off a bit of a nutella vibe), wholesome sweeteners, healthy garnishes for fun deliciousness and the like.
And it all worked out! I made my own hazelnut and coconut flour/meal in the blender and threw the dough together in the food processor. You could grind the flour in the food processor too, saving yourself some extra dishes/appliance usage. When grinding the nuts/coconut, you’e looking for the consistency of almond meal. A few stops short of nut butter does the trick. It should hold together when you pinch it, but still feel dry.
The dough will actually seem like a failure right from the outset. You’ll wonder how this sticky goop will become cookies-cookies that will actually be pleasant enough to eat at that. Flatten it out, stick it in the oven, maybe cross your fingers a bit and whoa! Spiced vanilla hazelnutty-molasses goodness that will take a bath in chocolate and get all smothered in sea salt, chopped nuts and cacao nibs. Oh. Yes. Protein, healthy fat, grain-free, sugar-free, satiating, vegan, tasty pretties… all that good stuff for wholesome, fancy-lady tea time. Sorry sweet little elves. Today, I win.
chocolate covered hazelnut grahams
serves: makes around 12 or more
notes: These will not taste exactly like graham crackers! They’re a bit more pillowy, nutty and complex. Having said that, these would be amazing with a smooshy, molten marshmallow on top.
1 cup + 2 tbsp hazelnut flour (roughly 1 cup of nuts ground in the food processor)
1/4 cup ground coconut meal (throw it in with the hazelnuts to make life easy)
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave, brown rice syrup etc)
scant 3 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature to cool (it should be soft, slightly cool, but not at all liquid)
1.5 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp non-dairy milk
splash of vanilla extract
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped from a bar)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil
flaky sea salt
etc (crushed lavender buds would be dope)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
After you’ve processed the hazelnuts and coconut, add the arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt. Pulse a couple times to combine.
Add the maple syrup, molasses, coconut oil, non-dairy milk and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Place the lid back on and pulse until the dough starts to form a solid mass. If it isn’t clumping together, add hazelnut or coconut meal in tablespoon increments until it starts forming a ball as you pulse the machine.
Remove the blade and scrape the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place a big sheet of saran wrap on top of the dough and flatten the dough out with a rolling pin. You want it fairly thin, around a 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer the parchment sheet with the dough to a baking sheet large enough to hold it all. Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges are quite brown and dough feels dry. Cool completely.
Cut giant graham into whatever size cookies you like, removing the super brown edges.
Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower it to a simmer and add the chocolate chips, maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted, about 3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.
Line another baking sheet with parchment. Using a small spatula as a chocolate dry-walling tool of sorts, brush the ganache onto the cut grahams. Lay them on the parchment-lined sheet and garnish with whatever you like while they’re still wet. Repeat with remaining grahams. Place in the fridge to set chocolate more rapidly.
Guys, summer isn’t over and I’m going to prove it to you. How? Over a healthy bowl of farro risotto with tons of sweet corn, juicy caramelized tomatoes and fresh herbs. Our garden is exploding with goodness right about now. Pumpkin and apples can just wait.
Much as I love the season of turning leaves, blushing summer fruits and full flavour veggies are at their peak in my little corner of southern Ontario. Time to get virtuous with the resources and do the right thing: eat it all. Pinterest is kind of exploding with pumpkin spice things and braises, hot toddies, pictures of cold mist washing over mountains, wool sweaters, ruggedly handsome dudes in puffer vests, ankle booties and the like. Resistance. Peaches. Iced tea. Summer. Forever.
I won’t deny the cool breeze floating around in the evenings though. This recipe is made for that coolness, that whisper of things to come. It’s a warm and hearty bowl-food kind of recipe that makes you feel good just knowing that it’s going to come about. There is toasty farro stirred in a risotto style with a bunch of summer veg, shallots, a heavy drizzle of white wine and the sweetest, most delicious thing ever: corn stock. Stock made from corn cobs. So simple. So game-changing.
September brings out the “clean it up, get resourceful, and move the hell on” side of me. It’s something fierce. I’ve been working a lot, so spending that precious leisure time in a cloud of clutter was making me somewhat grumpy. It was time to remedy that in a serious way. Along with getting all enterprising and such on those corn cobs, I’ve been on a bit of a clean-up tear.
There was a slight closet purging, major recycling efforts, a pantry consolidation (“Oh neat there’s farro in the back of this cupboard!“), a solemn promise to hold a yard sale (and an equally solemn promise to be more discerning on kitchen and book-related purchases) etc. How have I amassed so much stuff? It’s overwhelming, but I’ve been taking some giant steps, making it all happen and feeling way better. Room to breathe and move around. It feels good, friends. Like a shinier, sparklier, less hindered version of yourself emerging. All that and a bowl of farrotto. Summer can stick around a while longer as far as I’m concerned.
sweet corn and caramelized tomato farrotto
notes: If you don’t want to wait for a homemade corn stock to come into fruition, using a pre-fab vegetable stock should yield some decent results. You could go for the traditional arborio rice if you have a gluten allergy too. Oh, and a pro tip: Have everything at the ready on the counter beside your stove once you’re about to start stirring it all up.
4 cobs of corn, kernels removed and set aside and cobs saved
1 cup of farro, soaked for 30 minutes
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tsp + 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 large shallot, fine dice
1 sprig of thyme, leaves minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 sprig of basil, leaves finely sliced (or dill, parsley, any other leafy herb)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and lightly chopped
optional: big handful of grated pecorino cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the corn cob stock: place the cobs in a large pot. Add a few dices of celery, onion and carrot if you like. Pour 6 cups of water into the pot over the vegetables. Place pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain stock through a sieve. Return stock to the large pot. Keep warm. There should be about 4-5 cups-worth.
While stock is simmering, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place whole grape tomatoes on the paper. Toss tomatoes with the 1 tsp of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned and shriveled. Remove and set aside.
Drain and rinse the farro, trying to remove as much water as possible. Set aside. Start simmering the strained corn cob stock on a back burner.
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and minced thyme. Saute until the shallots are translucent and browning slightly. Add the drained farro. Stir it around until it’s thoroughly coated in oil and starting to smell toasty. Add the wine. It should bubble up quite a bit. Stir the farro around until most of the wine is absorbed.
Add a 1/2 cup of corn stock. Stir the grains around until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process with the stock until the farro is just about cooked. I added about 3 cups of stock (in 6 additions) before I got to this stage. When you bite into a kernel of farro, it should yield to the tooth, but still have a bit of chew.
Add the corn kernels and one more 1/2 cup of stock. Stir vigorously to activate the starch in the corn. Once most of the stock is absorbed and the mixture appears creamy. Add the roasted tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and pecorino (if using). Season with salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.
Serve hot with more chopped basil on top if you like.