Friday, 31 October 2008

Goodbye VeganMoFo

Its been fun. It was nice seeing you again. Thanks for the great memories - and all the great blog posts!

I didn't post every day, but I got my 20 so by the rules of the game its been a success. I know I slacked off a little at the end, but in my defense I have been sick, and I cracked that tooth, and sometimes you just get caught up in life IRL, you know.

I am planning to do the "Rice with every meal for 7 days" challenge that was alluded to right at the beginning of VeganMoFo, but I won't be starting it until my teeth have settled down a little more. I have a temporary fix in, but have 2 that will need surgical extraction - scheduled for the end of November - so am eating a lot of soft foods and soup! If anyone is interested in doing the whole rice thing with me, email me ( and I'll put some rules together and set a start date.

Now that its all over - Begs the question - whatever will I do for next years Vegan Month of Food?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I Love: Experimenting and Creating

If you've visited this site (or my previous one) you'll notice I like to create stuff and post up my own recipes. I thought I'd use this post as a simplistic insight into the process I got through when making stuff up. Sometimes you get it right, and the flavours work first time and need no re-making or adjusting. That's equal quantity luck and good judgement I think. Sometimes things need a little more work for me to get them to a point were I'm happy enough to share a recipe.

My example is going to be taking this recipe from yesterday - which is itself a veganisation of a traditional English dessert and an old family favourite (due to an abundantly producing almond tree in one of the places we lived growing up) - Bakewell Tart. We only ever had big ones cut into slices, as per my post yesterday, and I wanted to use the flavours of the tart in a smaller format, and with less sugar as the big tart is super sweet.

Trial 1.
No photos of this one I'm afraid, but it involved making a smaller version of the pie with a little less sugar in muffin tins - pie crust and all. They were good, but after making then I thought I'd really prefer it without the crust as a more muffin type thing. (You all know I love muffins!) So on to...

Trial 2.
I rejigged the recipe using a muffin recipe I already had and knew worked as the base for volumes of ingredients. I thought to put a little batter on the bottom of the tins, add a spoon of jam and then top with the batter, as in this picture. It worked, in that it tasted how I wanted it too taste, if a little too sweet still, but the jam went everywhere and wasn't as ascetically pleasing and easy to eat as I'd hoped. So, I went back to the proverbial drawing board for...

Trial 3.
This time I had the idea to put the jam into a bottom layer (and use it as the sweetener to loose some of the sugar) and top it with a super almond batter layer. Like this - and it worked, tasted more like I was aiming for as it was a little less sweet, though maybe a little too much less to be honest. The mix ended up a little dry so....

Trial 4.
I rejigged the liquid a little so the batter would be slightly less dry, and increased the jam for the bottom layer to be more jammy and a little sweeter and here we have it -
Bakewell Muffins
Makes 12

Mix 1.
½ C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ C Plain Flour
½ C ground Almonds
2 T Cornstarch
1 t Baking Powder
¼ t Salt
6 T Raspberry Jam
2 T Oil
½ C +1 T Soy Milk
¼ C Soft Tofu
½ t Vanilla Essence

Mix 2.
½ C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ C Plain Flour
½ C ground Almonds
2 T Cornstarch
1 t Baking Powder
¼ t Salt
1/4 C Sugar
1/3 C Flaked Almonds
2 T Oil
½ C + 3 T Soy Milk
¼ C Soft Tofu
½ t Almond Essence

Topping -
½ C Icing Sugar
¼ t Almond essence
2 t Water
¼ Flaked Almonds

Preheat oven to 375F and prepare muffin tins.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, almonds, cornstarch, baking powder and salt from mix 1.
In a separate medium bowl whisk together the flours, almonds, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar from mix 2. Toss in the flaked almonds to coat.
Using a whisk (beater / blender) and a small bowl mix together the oil, soymilk, tofu and essence from mix 2. Hold to one side.
Using a whisk, handheld beater or blender, in a small bowl mix together the jam, oil, soymilk, tofu and essence from mix 1. Pour liquid mix 1 into the dry ingredients 1 and mix to just combine. Spoon the batter mixture into the bottom of each muffin hole.
Pour liquid mix 2 into the dry ingredients 2 and mix to just combine. Spoon the batter on top of the batter from mix one in the tins.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until tests done.
While in the oven prepare the topping – mix together the icing sugar, essence and water until smooth.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Carefully remove each muffin from the tins and place on cooling rack.
While still warm, spoon 1 t of the topping mix onto the top of each muffin and place 1 t of the flaked almonds on top of this. Allow to cool completely.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I Love: Nuts and Seeds

and nut / seed butters!

These are another one of those things which work in a sweet or a savoury setting. Or, to be honest as a snack all on their own. I was originally going to do nuts and seeds separately but got a little bit lost which was a nut and which a seed, and didn't want to get all trapped with botanical correctness yet again. And lets not even mention the peanut!

Here's a quick list of nuts and seeds, in no particular order, I often have and use -

Flax : Hemp : Chia (aka Salba) : Sesame (and Tahini) : Poppy : Sunflower : Pumpkin : Hazelnut : Pecan : Walnut : Macadamia : Peanut : Cashew : Brazil : Pinenut : Pistachio : Almond :

So, in that lot you'd think I could find something for everyone! and something for each use! I especially like baking with ground nuts as I get the girls to eat them without them even knowing. For some reason they have this aversion to eating nuts, and there's no danger of allergy for them.

Here's a recipe I have shared before, though I think it was on the other blog a while ago. I'm currently working on converting the tastes in this pie to a muffin! Trial number one was the right taste, but ascetically not so pleasing, so on to trial two!

Bakewell Tart

1 X 9” Unbaked Pie Shell*
¼ C Raspberry Jam
¼ C Vegan Margarine (at room temp)
1/3 C Sugar
1 pkt (ours are 350gm or so) Firm Silken Tofu
½ t Almond Essence
1 C Ground Almonds
¼ C Cornstarch
1 C Flaked Almonds

1 C Icing Sugar
½ t Almond Essence
1 ½ T Cold Water
Flaked Almonds to decorate as required

Preheat oven to 400F
Spread Raspberry Jam on base of pie shell with the back of a spoon.
Cream marg and sugar until light and fluffy. I use a whisk as I’m using this for the next steps too.
Add in the silken tofu and almond essence, and whisk until well combined.
Add the ground almonds and cornstarch, again whisk to fully combine.
Fold in the flaked almonds then spoon into pie shell on top of the jam.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until starting to lightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
While baking, mix together the icing sugar, almond essence and water to form a smooth paste.
Pour the icing mix over the pie while still warm. Sprinkle top with more flaked almonds. Allow to cool fully.
Serve with fresh raspberries if you have them.

* I’ve used the recipes from both Vegan Lunchbox and Veganomicon with success, as well as made up ones of my own, and store bought vegan ones. Whatever you have or feel up to doing. -

Monday, 27 October 2008

I Love:CookBooks

Here's a sample of the vegan ones I have - photo taken of the ones I keep besides my microwave. I have another shelf with my less used vegan ones, my non vegan ones, and also my non recipe food books (Becoming Vegan and the like). I have some books out on loan at the moment too! A friend has discovered she has a dairy allergy so I've lent her some vegan cookbooks so she'll be able to have baked goods and scrambled tofu!

I also often borrow cookbooks from the Library, often vegan ones I've seen mentioned favourably in forums, or ones I may want to buy. I like to take put non vegan books too, and get ideas and inspiration for creating dishes, flavour combinations, what have you. I love browsing bookstores too (and kitchen supply stores, and grocery stores but those are separate topics for love) and could spend hours, if I ever had spare hours to spend.

I'm going to mention in this post that I also love cookbooks that haven't been published yet, and being a tester for Isa's (the PPK) forthcoming Brunch book, and the Cookie one she is writing with Terry. I can recommend both already so if you love Breakfast (and who doesn't) - go and preorder!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I'm Sorry MoFo!

I've got loads more MoFo love to share, I do, promise.

I've got a bunch of ideas for posts which have yet to see the light of day, and I hope they will before the end of VeganMoFo, but I have been both too busy with running around after the children, (birthday parties anyone?) and not feeling well.

This cold is hanging around, and is now in my sinuses, so right now I'm a bit of a snot factory. (TMI?)

I have been cooking but nothing too hard, still on soft food only - due to the tooth situation - I have a dentist appointment for later this week so that will get that fixed.

Again, I'm sorry, but I have done my 20 for VeganMoFo already so anything from now is just gravy - right?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

I Love: Other Fruits too

You may not know that as a teenager I spent a year living in Thailand (Bangkok) as an AFS exchange student. Well, you do now. I have loads of very fond food memories from that time, as believe you me, Thai people live to eat not the other way around. When it comes to fruit, there's so much variety available, and its all (or it was, way back in 1988) so very cheap! Alot of these tropical fruits are now widely available, but at the time they were new to me.
I used to really enjoy buying pineapple (especially the "Phuket pineapple" variety) from street vendors (by this time I had a cast iron stomach) and it would come with a packet of salt / chili mix to dip it into. The sweetness of the pineapple went ever so well with the salt, for ages after I came home I'd still eat pineapple that way.
The host family I lived with had a Mango tree in the backyard and when it was mango season all the males would take turns climbing up to fetch them down. Only the boys did this as the tree was protected by fire ants - you know the ones that give you super nasty bites - so they didn't let he girls climb up. Fine with me. Us girls just gorged ourselves on fresh mango! My sister once said that mango "tastes like a cross between carrot and peach", and she's right, it does, but in a very good way.
Other Tropical delights I tried and loved include Rambutan, Lychee, Mangosteen, all of which are gaining in popularity and taste so much better fresh than canned! However, I never much took to Durian, as I couldn't get passed the smell. My host sister loved them!
I also love melons, not so much Watermelon (due in part I think to 2 summers spent picking them!) but most definitely Rock Melon (aka more commonly here as Cantaloupe) and Honeydew (the green ones). R shares this love and we can devour a Rock Melon between us in 1 sitting!
Then there's grapes, papaya, feijoa, tamarillo, banana, guave, dates, figs, passionfruit, oh my. I've never seen either feijoa or tamarillo in the stores here, we had trees in the garden of one of the houses we grew up in, in New Zealand.
I have no recipes to share today, and any pictures would be stolen from the interwebs anyway. Just stories of my love today!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I Love: Tree Fruits

At this time of year its all about apples! The girls prefer Granny Smith, I love Ambrosia (and Fuji) and H likes a good Gala, so we often have 3 types of apples in the fridge! Best thing to do with them is Apple Crumble and Custard (or Ice cream)!
Apple Crumble
Serves 4

2 Tart Apples – eg Granny Smith, peeled, cored and chopped in 1 cm square
½ C unsweetened Applesauce
1 Dessert Apple – eg Ambrosia, Gala, Cameo, peeled, cored and chopped as Tart Apple
½ T Cloves
½ C Flour – Plain or Whole Wheat Pastry or combination
1 t Baking Powder
½ t Cinnamon
¼ C Brown Sugar
½ C Rolled Oats
¼ C Margarine
1 T Applesauce

Cook your Tart Apples by placing in a pot and just covering with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix the cooked tart apples, the applesauce, dessert apple and cloves and place in the bottom of a deep oven proof baking dish.
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and oats. Rub in the margarine and applesauce to a breadcrumbs consistency. Spoon on top of the apple mixture.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until top nicely browned and apple mixture bubbling.
Serve with custard, ice cream or soy creamer.
I also love you, pears and nashi, so don't feel left out. You just cost more so I don't buy you as often.

In Summer I must admit to being in love with fresh cherries! Peaches, nectarines and apricots I enjoy, but those cherries.... This year the Okanagan (where our stone fruit comes from here in BC) had a not so hot growing season so the prices for these were all really high, so they were definitely a treat. My cousins in the UK (Faversham in Kent - Hi Sue) have a cherry tree in their back yard and I remember being there in cherry season one summer a few (well quite a few now as it was pre children) years back and stuffing myself silly. Good times.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

I Love: Berries

While I'm loving fruit, I want to say a few words in praise of the humble berry. In whichever guise - Blackberry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry, I love them all! Baked into muffins, in smoothies, made into pie, eaten out of hand they are so good! and the frozen ones work just as well as fresh for lots of things (except for maybe strawberries as they do tend to get watery when frozen and thawed) so they are good to go year round.

M prefers Raspberries, and when she was a baby in Scotland she'd eat them straight off the vine in H's Aunts' garden! So very cute.

R loves to go Blackberry picking in the late summer, well to be honest, I brave the thorns to pick and she scarfs them all. Blackberry juice dripping down her chin.

H likes Blueberries baked into muffins - like these. Here's another Blueberry Muffin recipe for you! Banana Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12

2/3 C Soymilk
1 t Apple Cider Vinegar
2 medium Bananas – well mashed
¼ C Oil
1 T Blackstrap Molasses
1 t Vanilla Essence
½ C WW Flour
½ C Plain Flour
1 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 T Baking Powder
½ t Baking Soda
1 t Cinnamon
½ t Salt
2/3 C Sugar
2 T Wheat Germ
1 C fresh or frozen Blueberries

Preheat oven to 400F and prepare your muffin tins.
In a large bowl combine the soymilk and ACV. Allow to curdle.
Add to the soymilk mix the banana, oil, molasses and vanilla, mix well.
Sift in the remaining ingredients (except blueberries) and mix to just combine.
Fold in the blueberries.
Spoon mix into muffin tins and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until tests done.
Cool in tray 5 minutes before transferring to rack.

Strawberries in Scones are pretty good too!

Speaking of Strawberries the best ever ones I have ever eaten are Scottish Strawberries, grown outdoors. The season (as you can imagine) is so incredibly short, and the fruit is super expensive, but OMG, the fruit is so sweet you'd swear they'd been sugared first. I'd buy my 5 pound punnet (that's 5 pounds as in $10 not 5lb) and scoff the lot without sharing with anyone. So very good!

Monday, 20 October 2008

I Love: Citrus Fruit

Oranges and Lemons (say the bells of St Clements) - and Limes, Grapefruit and Satsuma type oranges. Yum.

I love how the zest and the juice can be used in cooking, and that the juice can be drunk- obviously seeing as it is juice!- and that said zests and juice are equally at home in sweet desserts and savoury dishes. In fact a little citrus zest and / or juice can elevate all sorts of recipes to the sublime!

I do have recipes, but no pictures today and I hate posting the recipes with no visual aids so I'm not going to. Sorry. and the picture above is from Wikipedia.

I haven't made a lot the last couple of days seeing as at one of the birthday parties on Saturday I broke a filling, so now have an empty (and quite sore) tooth. I have a dentist appointment for next week, but until then Its going to be soup and mashed up stuff for me I think!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

I Love: Kiwifruit

OK. I want to get something straight right off the bat here. This - is a Kiwi, and this - is a Kiwifruit.
Do you see the difference? This - is not, as my local F&V store and most of the people I meet here would have you think, a kiwi, and this - is not a KiwiBird. That would be me.
Are we on the same page with this them?
Kiwi - a small brown, flightless, endagered bird.
Kiwifruit - a small fuzzy brown skinned, green fleshed fruit.
I don't see why this is so confusing. (Are there any other New Zealanders living in North America annoyed by this? or is it just me. I have my suspicions it is the latter, but anyway.)

Growing up we lived for a while right next door to a Kiwifruit orchard, and the guy who owned it had a small pack house, so every May school holidays, once we were old enough, we were put to work. We'd both pick and pack the hairy little fruits, picking from after the dew cleared in the mornings, and doing that late shift in the pack house.

Its hard work, picking kiwifruit, as you wear these huge bucket type aprons, and walk under the vines, so you are being pulled down by the weight of the fruit you have picked as you are stretching upwards to pick more. Kiwifruit for export are picked unripe (as if you've ever bought any outside of New Zealand you'd know) but you still have to wear gloves so as not to damage them. There are on occasion ripe fruit on the vines and those are either left or discarded, or for the first few days of picking, eaten. After that you're sick to the back teeth of the buggers and can't stand the look of them, let alone wanting to eat any!

That feeling lingers to this day to be honest. I'll want to eat new season kiwifruit really bad, buy some, devour the first few, and then find that its enough. My kiwifruit ripen beyond help and I don't buy them for another year! (Hint for those of you who don't have this problem: To ripen them quickly place in a paper bag with an apple, or a banana.) They're not the easiest things to bake with - they have an enzyme like fresh pineapple which doesn't work well with baking powder / soda, so its best to cook them before using in baking. You can make very nice jam from them, not that I have ever done that.

Depending on where in the world you live you'll find kiwifruit from not only New Zealand, but commonly Italy and Chile too. Needless to say I only buy ones from NZ, carbon footprint be damned in this instance.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

I Love: Taking a blogging day off!

I'm not doing a proper blog today. I've got this stinking cold which I need to get rid of, my period, 2 dance classes and 3 birthday parties to go to with the children. My day is full enough!

Blogging days off are a good thing too - they stop the bloggers from getting burnt out, and having to struggle for ideas to fill the space. They also keep the readers guessing and wanting more!

Friday, 17 October 2008

I Love: Ethnic Cuisines

I love trying new restaurants, especially different ethnic ones, but we don't eat out much for a few reasons;
1. I prefer to cook at home,
2. Arranging babysitters,
3. Financial considerations,
4. Time and work restraints, and
5. Decent places near here we can both agree on trying.

So if there is a cuisine type I'd like to try I often will scour the interwebs and my cookbooks for recipes to make at home to see if we like it before we'd go out to eat. Luckily, there are loads of resources for this out there!

If you're interested in trying something new - this site is one of the best on the web for ethnic-y type recipes. I often use the Ethiopian recipes from here! and this book - is also a great resource for easy to make recipes.

I love trying new things, and flavours from new places. This is something I've really got into since becoming vegan, expanding my food world, not shrinking it as people often assume. There are so many regional foods which are already vegan, or easy to make so, and often easy to make! I've often blogged in the past about my experiments with ethnic cuisines - Japanese, Ethiopian, Thai, Mexican for example, and I look forward to trying lots more stuff in the future. Yum.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

I Love: BBQ

Its something that just screams "SUMMER" at you, and I'm sorely missing summer right about now. The weather has been decidedly autumnal since October showed its face, even the days when its has been fine have been just far too chilly to risk braving the outdoors to cook in the evenings.

People often wonder what I barbecue, apart from store bought veggie burgers or hot dogs that is, and while we do bbq them on occasion, its often more about the veggies. So on our barbecue you'll often find -
- Sliced garlic stuffed into potatoes, wrapped in foil

- Corn on the cob, wrapped in tin foil with a little marg
- Blanched asparagus getting all lovely and caramelised
- Zucchini spears, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
- Portobello Mushrooms, slathered in this bbq sauce - like this
- Homemade burgers (I make a great seitan burger, and a fantastic mixed seed one if I do say so)
Just have to get through the long cold winter until its BBQ time again!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

I Love: Baking

If you've read my blog at all you'll know this! When I'm blogging regularly, I must blog at least once a week about baking I've done. There's just something magical about mixing together a bunch of ingredients, popping whatever you've made in the oven, and having something tasty ready to share
in just a little while.
and I'm not the only one! Check out this post at Kittens gone Lentil for proof!

Believe me when I tell you that I bake alot more than I blog too! Some of its requests from the girls (they often want to "help" make cookies), or stuff for breakfast (I made Cinnamon Rolls Thanksgiving morning and neglected to take a picture) and sometimes I bake to give as gifts. I often share any baking I've done with the girls' teachers - I know its not much but I hope it tells them how appreciated they really are.

Last Christmas I made about 4 batches of these beauties and gave them to family, M's teachers and friends as edible Christmas gifts. I'm thinking of doing the same next year too! I posted the recipe at the time but here it is again!

Gingerbread Muffins Or Mini Loaves
Makes 12 muffins – 8 loaves

1 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 ½ C Plain Flour
2 T Cornstarch
1 t Baking Powder
1 ½ t Baking Soda
¼ t Salt
1 ½ t Ground Ginger
1 t Cinnamon
1/3 C Oil
½ C Soft Brown Sugar
1/3 C Maple Syrup
2/3 C Molasses
1 T Grated Fresh Ginger
1 C Soymilk
½ C Crystalised Ginger – finely chopped **
Turbinado Sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375F and prepare your muffin tins.
In a separate large bowl, sift together the flours through cinnamon.
In a large bowl whisk together the oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, soymilk and grated ginger until smooth.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to just combined.
Fold in the crystalised ginger.
Spoon mix into muffin tins and sprinkles tops with a little turbinado sugar.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until tests done. Cool in trays for 5 minutes before turning onto racks.

** Leave this out if you don't like it, I did in one batch for R as she loved them without it.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

I Love: Chocolate

Always have, always will, I guess. Not much more to be said about that.

I love it plain - even really dark, bitter cooking chocolate, in baking and desserts, added to chili, pretty much however you use it, though to be completely honest, and this may sound a little strange, I can't stand chocolate ice cream.

Monday, 13 October 2008

I Love: Celebrations

First lets get the greeting of the day out of the way - Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!
I Love celebration days as it gives you the perfect excuse to go mad with food! To make things you'd not normally make, and loads of it, and then follow it all up with a totally decedent (pumpkin pie or other) seasonal dessert.

Be it thanksgiving, Christmas (or other religious feast days), birthdays or whatever, celebrations are where foods can really shine and dispel all the worries about "what do you eat?", and show that vegan food can be as decadent and fattening and filling as anything else anyone else may make. No leaves and twigs around today.

I know the celebration days can be stressful, what with all that family around, who may or may not be supportive or your food / lifestyle choices (which is something for another day) and it is a pain for the cook, who with the best preparation in the word still ends up spending a great part of the day slaving in the kitchen, but I feel there's something so very satisfying in making something a bit special or the people you love and sharing it together.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner last night, I re-made the Maple Ginger Roasted Root Veg tester recipe (as featured here) , roasted some potatoes in the same oven, stir fried some greens and had some lovely bread, followed by this fantastic Sweet Potato Pie. I didn't do a big centre piece replace the meat thing, and it was enough without it. As I promised the other day - here is my Sweet Potato Pie recipe. I often make the pie crust but cheated this time and used store bought as I also made a Chocolate Pie for the girls.

Sweet Potato Pie
Makes 1 9” Pie

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes
1 X 9” Unbaked Sweet Pie Crust
1 350gm pkt Firm Silken Tofu
1/3 C Soy Creamer
3 T Soft Brown Sugar
1 T Blackstrap Molasses
3 T Maple Syrup
2 1/2 t Pie Spice *
1 t Vanilla Extract
¼ t Salt
2 ½ T Cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400F. Prick the sweet potatoes, place on baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for an hour until soft. Remove from oven, allow to cool, peel, scoop out the flesh and roughly mash. (I often do this the day before if I’m using the oven for something else to save time on the day.)
Place sweet potato flesh and all other ingredients except the pie crust in a food processor and blend until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as required. Spoon into pie crust and smooth the top.
Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue to bake for a further 40 – 45 minutes until top in centre is just firmed. Allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating at least an hour prior to serving.

* In New Zealand this would be called Mixed Spice so maybe you’ll find it as that.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

I Love: Soup

I got this book out of the library last week, and I think I made every soup recipe from it, they all appealed to me. I only took photos of one (which I used in this post) so nothing fantastic to share there. We ate soup every day until H had enough and gave me the "enough soup already!" look.
I think I love soup because its one of those things you can easily cook instinctively, which is how I tend to work. Have you seen the Disney movie "Ratatouille"? and that scene where the mouse runs on the shelf over the soup pot and just starts throwing stuff in based on what he smells and tastes? I cook soup a little like that when I'm not trying to follow someone else's recipe. (I say try to follow because I do find it hard not to be drawn off into a tangent sometimes.)

I start with a basic idea of what I think will work based on what I feel like eating and take it from there, using starting with a saute of onions / garlic (sometimes even a full mirepoix) adding veggies, herbs and spices, stock, lentils or beans, grains - whatever takes my fancy. I had to start writing the recipes down because if I didn't and they were good I couldn't recreate it another time!! I do love soup!

Here's a hearty autumnal soup for you! Sticks to your ribs and fills you up completely.
Scotchless Broth
Serves 4 as main type soup

½ C Pearl Barley – soaked overnight
½ C Split Green Peas – soaked overnight
1 Onion – finely chopped
1 Celery – finely chopped
1 Leek, trimmed – finely chopped
1 Bayleaf
6 C Mushroom Stock
2 t Marmite
1 t Liquid Smoke
2 T Soy Sauce
1 C Turnip, 1 cm cubes (1)
1 C Swede (Rutabaga, Brown Turnip), 1 cm cubes (1/2)
1 C Carrot, 1 cm cubes (2)
¼ C Parsley – finely chopped
3 C Water
1 C Frozen Peas
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse both the soaked peas and barley. Allow to drain.
In a large soup pot sauté the onion, celery and leek over medium heat for 10 minutes until soft.
Add in the split peas and barley, along with the bayleaf, stock, marmite, liquid smoke and soy sauce. Bring to the boil, and cook at a low boil for 20 minutes.
Add in the turnip, swede, carrot, parsley and water. Cook a further 25 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Lastly add in the frozen peas, season to taste and cook a further 5 – 10 minutes until peas are done.
Remove bayleaf prior to serving.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

I Love: Root Vegetables

These guys are great, and now that it is Autumn, fresh produce is finding its way into the stores! Storage stuff is fine, but its when you get the fresh stuff that you can really appreciate how sweet these guys can be. I love to bake them, roast them, make them into soup, muffins, pies (I'll share a Sweet Potato Pie recipe over the weekend as I'm making it for Thanksgiving) and mash them up!

I've included tubers as well as root vegetables in this love post, as they all grow under the ground at the bottom of the plants. So don't get all botanically technical on me here. (Dad, I'm talking to you) So lets go through some of them shall we?

I was never much of a potato fan when I was younger, but now I love them. Baked always seemed boring to me before but now, I see possibilities! The different varieties give you so much choice - fluffy fleshed, firm fleshed even purple. Big or little, boiled, mashed, baked, roasted or fried - meals are built around the potato.

Sweet Potato / Yam / Kumara
OK, basically you get orange fleshed and pale fleshed sweet potatoes. There's this whole North American thing where the orange sweet potatoes are called yams in some places and not in others, and vice versa with the pale fleshed ones, so I just call them all sweet potatoes and specify which colour flesh I mean! Usually the orange fleshed I would also call Kumara, being that I am from New Zealand, and this is what I mean when I think of a yam. Not that I've ever seen them in the stores here. Its all too confusing. I love the orange fleshed suckers the best, as they make wonderful soups and can be easily used for sweet baked goods like the pie I mentioned before and in muffins!
Beet / Beetroot
Here in North America they're called beets, but I still refer to them as beetroot which is what we call them in New Zealand. I love the little ones roasted they are so sweet cooked this way! Also good grated into salads (yes, raw) and made into a bright soup. Not keen on the pickled, canned stuff you can get. Beware the Beetroot pee if you have this genetic quirk!

I love these guys roasted, or made into chips / oven fries. They are sweet tasting, but a grown up taste I think as I only started appreciating them a decade or so ago. If you're not a parsnip fan or have never tried them - peel, slice into coins, toss in a little olive oil, with a smidgen of salt / pepper and a drop of maple syrup and roast at 400F for about 30 minutes. Delicious!

Apparently the most popular vegetable int eh world. My kids love them raw, and won't eat them cooked, and to be honest I can see what they mean, I'm not overly fond of them plain boiled either. Roast them, or made into soup their sweetness shines and I could have them every day!

Swede / Rutabaga / Brown Turnip
I call 'em Swedes, being that is what we call them in NZ, and the UK. I have no idea what they call them in Sweden, Rutabaga is what they get called in lots of North America, though in the shops here its more likely to be "Brown Turnip" - which is what they look like I suppose. These guys are the "Neeps" part of "Haggis, Neeps and Tatties" the traditional Scottish Burns Supper, as posted many times by me in the past. Not my favourite and best of all these guys, but I like them as one in a roast root veg medley and in soup.
I find turnips to be hit or miss, even when they are fresh season, often they are woody, and the centers fibrous. I use them as I do swedes when I want another taste in a mix, or to add body to a soup. Made famous in the children's story about the Very Enormous Turnip - "..and they pulled and they pulled and they pulled" (what do you mean you've never heard it??)

Here's a photo of a lovely Maple Ginger Roast Root Vegetable Medley - a tester one for Isa at the PPK's brunch book that I made for with dinner last night.

Friday, 10 October 2008

I Love: Vegetables which are really Fruit

In order for me to be bc (botanically correct) I can't really call these guys vegetables, though that is how they are used. Ever had a tomato, an avocado or a pepper in your fruit salad? OK, I do use the avocado in desserts (Chocolate Pie being a case in point - see the recipe below) and sweet muffins, but I use sweet potatoes and pumpkins in them too, and they aren't used as fruits either.

Botanical correctness aside, there's so much you can do with tomatoes and peppers, other than eating them raw which in itself is pretty yummy, (unless you have a hot type not sweet bell pepper!!) Stuff and bake them, make all sorts of Mexican dishes (and throw in some guacamole!), use these as pizza toppings, make them into pasta sauces and spreads, roast them to intensify their natural sweetness, toss with other vegetables, I've done them all!
I really do like these vegetables, or to be bc - fruits, excepting one - the only vegetable I really don't like - I'm sorry Eggplant, even when you use your posh name, Aubergine, I just don't like you. But don't be too sad that I don't love you, as I know someone who does! as you can see by all the recipes she has posted featuring you!
and as promised above - Chocolate Pie

1 X 9” pie crust
2 large soft Avocado
1 T Lemon Juice
1 pkt soft / silken tofu
2 C Semi Sweet Vegan Chocolate chips
2 T Choc Soy Milk (or plain)
1 T Vanilla
1 T Maple Syrup

Using your blender or food processor, blend together the avocado, lemon juice and tofu until very smooth and lump free.
In either a double boiler or microwave (taking care with this) melt together the chocolate chips, soy milk, vanilla and maple syrup.
Add the melted chocolate mix to the food processor and blend into the avocado / tofu mix.
Pour into the prepared pie crust and chill overnight.

Decorate top with chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or as desired. Serve plain or with vegan ice cream.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

I Love: Green Leafy Vegetables

and green but not so leafy too.

When you talk about greens most people think of salad - and while I love a good salad, and for a while I was super into them, I've gone off them a little lately, maybe its the season change, but I'm really loving cooked greens at the moment. I haven't gone as far as making Lettuce Soup (and yes one of my cookbooks has a recipe for that) but I am adding them all over the place.

So, to be specific - I love Kale-Spinach-Broccoli-Asparagus-Swiss chard-Cabbage-Brussel Sprouts-Bok choy-and I'm sure I've left some out! As a not so interesting side note, Swiss Chard in New Zealand is often called Silver Beet.

Now for a few photos showing how I've used leafy (and not so leafy) greens over the past few days. This soup, the Sicilian White Bean and Tomato Soup from Fresh @ Home by Ruth Tal, incorporates leafy greens (meant to be spinach but I subbed red chard) and is delicious! They are too versatile.
I had a Broccoli and Chickpea Curry for lunch the other day. Another really tasty way to get some greens.
One of my favourite ways to have greens is with this Tahini Sauce - its so very simple and so very good. Pictured with Bangers (based on Julie's recipe) & Mash. Recipe for the sauce is below so you can spoil your greens too!
Tahini Sauce

1 T Tahini
1 T Lemon Juice
1 T Dijon Mustard
½ T Cornstarch
2 T Nutritional Yeast
¼ t Onion Powder
¼ t Garlic Powder
¼ t Black Pepper
2 T Water

Mix all ingredients until smooth.Stir into cooked greens and heat lightly to thicken