I’ve been a bit of a busy bee lately, but I wanted to give you something good and easy this week. The kind of thing you can just jump into with no reservations, using whatever you have. That is the heart of cooking for most of us, right?
This warm rice bowl with chard, avocado, almonds and unbelievably good (+ super easy) ginger miso gravy is synonymous with my solo, city living days. I was in school full time studying nutrition and culinary arts, had 2 jobs, volunteered at a community food centre’s after school program, helped with school functions constantly, worked a line shift 3 times a week for my internship at a high end vegan restaurant AND managed to fit in a shred of a social life. I would come home and wilt onto the couch, gazing towards the kitchen of my teeny bachelor apartment thinking about what I could possibly motivate myself to make.
More often than not, the prospect of this meal lifted my tired body over to the stove: warm brown rice or quinoa with a mix of steamed/raw/leftover roasted vegetables, some kind of sauce/vinaigrette and crunchy topping things. Here’s why: I could always have cooked grains around pretty easily, I made sure my fridge had a good selection of veggies (my school was right by an awesome market–huge help) and when I had a spare 2 minutes I would make a batch of some kind of sauce/dressing in my blender for the week. I learned how to prepare myself/ just have good ingredients around and whoa, my body thanked me for it big time. Twenty minutes of jumping around the kitchen and back on the couch watching Curb Your Enthusiasm with a giant bowl of goodness? Happiest girl.
The vegetables and grains are always interchangeable but a good sauce is so key. This gravy is fresh with ginger and lemongrass, bright with lemon, a fragrant hit of coconut oil, there’s a bit of chili paste to keep it interesting and the miso makes it salty and perfect. I generally always have vegetable stock on hand for cooler weather meals because it makes an appearance in soups, pots of beans, mushroom sautes, curries and wonderful warm sauces like this. They sell decent quality tetra-packed versions so even if you don’t have time to make it, there’s an alternative for you.
I’ve given you a miso-ish gravy recipe before (with mushrooms, white beans and SWEET POTATO BISCUITS, guh I know), but this version is a million times easier. No blending, super straightforward, chop, pour, whisk, strain (optional) and go. It calls for spelt flour too, but if you don’t eat gluten, you could use a teaspoon of arrowroot powder in its place.
warm veggie rice bowl with ginger miso gravy
notes: I reach for light miso because that’s what I have, but I imagine darker, stronger varieties would be so good here. Also, the lemongrass is certainly optional. There’s plenty of freshness happening with the fresh lemon juice and ginger.
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp agave nectar/maple syrup/honey
1 tsp chili paste (or sriracha)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
2 inch piece of lemongrass, bashed up with the back of your knife
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp light miso
1 tbsp spelt flour
2 tbsp water
bowl (just what I used for this one–use whatever you have/like):
1 heaped cup cooked rice, warm (I used a mix of brown basmati and black rice = purple rice!)
handful of string beans or broad beans, trimmed
3 chard leaves, stems removed and chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small carrot, peeled into ribbons
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 avocado, sliced
Make the gravy: Combine all of the gravy ingredients except the miso, spelt flour and water in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Stir the miso, spelt flour and water together until most lumps are dissolved. Add this slurry to the pot and whisk. Let the gravy simmer and whisk it here and there until it has noticeably thickened, about 3 minutes. Strain the gravy with a fine sieve if you like (but definitely remove the lemongrass stalk). Return gravy to the small pot, cover and put keep warm.
Set a medium pot with an inch of water over medium heat and cover. Place the string/broad beans in steamer basket. Once the water is boiling, put the steamer basket in and cover. Cook until beans are crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped chard and cover again. Steam greens until wilted slightly, about 1 minute.
Place the cooked rice in a serving bowl. Top with the steamed greens and beans, bell pepper, carrot, green onion, avocado, almonds and hemp seeds. Give the gravy a quick whisk (just in case some lumps form) and pour it over the veggies and rice. Serve warm.
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.