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AvocadoHollandaise_First

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Elliott of Not Quite Nigella, in Toronto. We’ve been following each other for four years now and when we met in person it was like we’d known one another for ever. I wanted to do something special with her so I contacted an acquaintance who produces several Food Network Canada shows and she made it happen – we spent the morning on the set of Chopped Canada, Season 3. But you’ll just have to wait to hear all about it in the new year (don’t worry, it’ll be here before you know it!).

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Lorraine was in Toronto with the Canadian Tourism Commission and made a special request to come to Toronto to meet me! I was flattered beyond belief. For Lunch, we met up with my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles & Ponytales) and a new friend, Trudy Bloem, a Personal Chef from Ottawa (the DIL of a lovely neighbour) at one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Bar Mercurio. We shared a number of tasty dishes that I’m sure Lorraine will blog about. The CTC sure kept her busy and she saw many of the Food significant parts of TO, but not everything so I’ve invited her back! And one of these days, we’ll travel to Australia to visit her (and Charlie, Maureen & Liz)!

Lorraine wasn’t the first positive experience with an Aussie I’ve ever had, after all there was the “gravy boat incident”.

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was trying to finish off some stray pieces to our wedding China. I checked our local supplier and as I suspected it was unaffordable, so I checked eBay. I’ve purchased many things over the years from eBay and my experiences have always been exceptional. I found the exact gravy boat, you guessed it, in Australia. It was a young couple recently married and for some strange reason were given a gravy boat to a set that they didn’t want, so she was selling it for a very reasonable price on eBay. I contacted her to make sure she would ship it to Canada and she said she would. She was not registered on PayPal so she asked for a money order. No problem, but I needed an address. She gave me an address and off we went to get a money order. We don’t often need money orders so we were inexperienced (this will make sense later in the story). The money order was mailed and we waited. And waited. Weeks went by and the girl didn’t receive it. I called the post office and asked how long a letter from Toronto should take to travel to Australia and they said six to eight weeks. So we waited in the meantime corresponding with said girl almost weekly. At 10 weeks she still hadn’t received the money order but she was tired of the game so she said she would mail the gravy boat to me anyway and hope to receive the money order. I felt bad about it, so we got another money order but when we went to cancel the first one, we discovered that we had included the receipt in the original envelope so we couldn’t cancel it (read inexperienced)! I bit the bullet and got another money order anyway (still marginally cheaper than buying the gravy boat in Toronto). I wanted to make sure I had her correct address so I asked her to confirm. You guessed it, she had given me the wrong address the first time (sweet girl but…) so the new money order was mailed and within a week the gravy boat arrived! Then two days later the girl wrote to say the second money order arrived and that she would destroy the first one if it ever arrived. I’m not kidding you, a day later we received back the first money order (with receipt) marked “unknown address, return to sender”! This drama took over three months! We were able to get a refund with the original money order, I got a deal on the gravy boat and a great story out of it! Do you have any cool stories like this? Share in the comments.

If I were serving this avocado hollandaise at home, I would have definitely used the Australian gravy boat, but I served it at the cottage for a tasty vegetarian breakfast!

Ready4Hike_6259

It’s still quite buggy in Canada’s north so we were well prepared with our bug shirts!

Vegan Avocado ‘Hollandaise’ Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup of ‘hollandaise’ sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 small very ripe avocados
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Purée everything together until very smooth adding water until desired consistency is achieved, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This is a much ‘lighter’ feeling sauce than the traditional eggyolk-butter-based version.
  • I didn’t want to add more lemon juice as I feared it might make the sauce bitter so instead I added a teaspoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of Dijon, it was a flavourful sauce.
  • Add only as much water to the sauce to achieve the consistency that you want. I wanted mine pourable and I almost used the entire 3/4 cup, just a hair less.
AvocadoHollanadaise

I served this on Asparagus and Spinach bennies one weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 1.42.27 PM

This is 1/4 of the total yield of sauce

This is traditional Hollandaise Sauce made with 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of unsalted butter. Although the calories are fewer than the avocado version, take a look at the fat and cholesterol!

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LemonSquares_4249

If I hadn’t said these were Vagen, you wouldn’t have known.

 

These chewy lemon squares are a family favourite that I’ve been making for years. To be honest, I’ll probably make the vegan version from now own, these were THAT good. As per the non-vegan version, these are very lemony, so you must LOVE lemon.

For the non-Vegan version, please click here.

Vegan Lemon Squares

LemonSquares_4252

Chewy and lemony all at the same time.

 

Original recipe adapted from Company’s Coming, Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 9″ x 9″

Ingredients for Shortbread Crust:

  • 1  1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

Directions for Shortbread Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177°C). Line a 9″ x 9″ square pan with parchment (it makes it easier to lift out to cut).
  2. Crumble the margarine and coconut oil into the flour, sugar until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal; blades).
  3. Press into a prepared 9×9 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Ingredients for Chewy Lemon Topping:

  • 2 vegan eggs (I used this recipe: 2 tbsp ground flax seeds + 6 tbsp warm water (whisk together and allow to sit for 5 minutes))
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon oil
  • 6 drops yellow food colouring (optional)

Directions for Chewy Lemon Topping:

  1. Stir together all of the ingredients. (I successfully left this on the counter while the shortbread pastry was baking and it seemed to thicken even more!)
  2. Spread over shortbread base evenly. Bake at 350° F (177° C) for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Lift out of the pan using the handy parchment. Cool and cut into squares, or bars. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I was concerned that the flax would impart a flavour but the coconut and lemon flavourings were enough to mask it. To be honest, you can’t tell that these are Vegan.
  • You can use other Vegan egg alternatives, I just can’t predict how this recipe will behave with them. The blog I linked it to explains real egg behaviour in baking very well so you can make informed decisions on alternatives.

LemonSquares

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We’re buried in the chaos of the Christmas holidays and on Wednesday and Thursday we were buried in snow! This was our first real accumulated snow fall and the first has always been my favourite kind — the virgin snow delicately covering our urban landscape like a thick, fluffy duvet. It’s really a perfect backdrop for Christmas and with the company party coming up tomorrow, it’s perfect timing. Hopefully the city mess and dirt will keep at bay so the snow remains perfect for one more day.

Mushrooms have always been a huge favourite at our house, be it fresh, plain button mushrooms or fresh, wild mushrooms like shiitake, portobello, king or cremini, we even have a few recipes for the specialty dried variety. But for this special recipe, I chose fresh wild mushrooms.

I created this vegan recipe (to be enjoyed by all) because I wanted to show-case oven roasting mushrooms because it’s a technique that is relatively new to me (oven roasting vegetables is not new, just oven roasting mushrooms). Oven-roasting mushrooms brings out their sweetness and subdues the strong earthiness that some wild varieties have. Toss in finely chopped, fresh garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from our neighbour’s father’s olive grove in Greece and these tasty fungi make a mouth-watering filling for these classy little tarts. By adding a bit of puréed red lentils AND puréed roasted cauliflower and celeriac mash put these gems over the top flavour-wise and adding a lovely creamy texture that glides into your mouth like a velvet cape.

This is the FLAKIEST pastry EVER!

This is the FLAKIEST pastry EVER!

Vegan Mushroom Tarts

A Kitcheninspirations original recipe.

Makes about 36 little tarts

Ingredients:

  • 600 g variety of wild mushrooms (I used  a combo of white, King, Portobello and Shiitake
  • 20 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 50 mL EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup red lentil purée (click here for recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower and celery root mash (click here for recipe)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450° F (232° F)
  2. Toss roughly chopped mushrooms in garlic, EVOO and salt. Spread out in a large roasting pan  and roast for about 20 minutes or until the released liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are roasted golden. Turn often so the mushrooms don’t stick to the pan.
  3. Cool.
  4. Add mushrooms to a food processor and process until all are relatively small bits. Fold in the red lentil purée and the cauliflower and celery root mash. Season to taste.
  5. You may freeze the mushroom filling at this point to use later. To use later, defrost first.
  6. Fill the baked pastry cups with the mushrooms and reheat at 200° F  (93° C) for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

Vegan Thyme Pastry Cups

Vegan tart pastry recipe from Vegan Baking with minor alterations. The links below for vegan butter and shortening are included in case you feel like experimenting. (This is an EXCELLENT Vegan blog with a lot of instruction and science behind the madness).

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ¾ cup (161 grams) or 1 ½ sticks cold Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated margarine cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup (108 grams) or 1 stick cold Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 3 Tablespoons cold vodka (believe it or not, I did not have any, so I omitted it)

Directions:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cut in the vegan butter and shortening just like you would a normal butter pastry, keeping it as cold as you can.
  2. Add the cold water and vodka and work lightly until it forms a ball. Make three disks and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap for 30 minutes or overnight (mine was over night).
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  4. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1 mm (1/16″) thick. Cut with your favourite cookie cutter and shape into mini muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  5. Use immediately or freeze until required. No need to defrost before re-heating with filling.

Notes:

  • To help avoid the pastry getting soggy with the filling, I froze the pre-baked pastry and the filling separately and combined and reheated just prior to serving.
  • This pastry is also enough for one 9″ double crust pie. The original recipe serves up a sweet version too. Your should definitely check it out.

 

 

 

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A surprisingly creamy dip

A surprisingly creamy dip

We’re hosting the company Christmas party (the company I write social media content for) and 1/4 of them are vegans and vegetarians! As usual, I really didn’t feel like making two different things so other than 2 fish and 3 meat dishes, everything else is going to be vegan! I’m even testing my skills with some pretty interesting desserts and VEGAN CHEESE! Stay tuned, I’m looking forward to learning to cook gourmet vegan. BTW, thank you to a long-time friend and colleague (and loyal reader) Michela, who offered some excellent suggestions ❤️.

Did you know that purée-ing (with a stick blender) cooked red lentils become so incredibly creamy that it tastes like you’ve added cream or butter to it? It makes an incredible dip and it also could be used as a base for a gluten free, even vegan white sauce! I make a large batch and freeze in an ice cube tray for quick additions to ‘cream’ up a sauce! Recently, we had an incredible cauliflower-lentil ‘Alfredo’ sauce which was TDF! So good. Next time I make it I’ll be sure to jot the ingredients down and actually measure everything!

A few years ago I won the runner-up prize for a photo contest from Roger Mooking (a celebrity chef here in Toronto), the prize was a Crock Pot with a mini heated dip pot. The crock pot croaked last year but the mini dip pot goes on. I don’t know about you, but I have never liked using this unattractive pot on my buffet table, so about a year or so ago I did some testing to see how hot it actually gets and was quite surprised that you could actually cook in it! The temperature gets to around 165F which would be enough to cook meat, but I wouldn’t suggest it. It is however, perfect to make a batch of beans or lentils for dip! I’ve been using it almost every week to make healthy bean or lentil dips. So if you have one sitting on a back shelf gathering dust, bring it out and put it to good use. Put it on before you go to work and when you get home you have a delicious dip or base for a creamy soup or sauce.

Creamy Red Lentil Dip

An original Kitcheninspirations recipe.

Makes about 250 mL (1 cup) of dip

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c red lentils
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to a mini dip crock pot, stir and then cover.
  2. Plug it in (only way to turn it on) and cook for 3-4 hours or when lentils are very soft.
  3. Turn hot cooked lentils into a tall container. Purée using a stick blender until smooth and creamy adding lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

RedLenilDipOvenRoastTomato_3984

These little water crackers were the perfect accompaniment to this cream dip.

Additional Flavours:

  • “Hummus”: to the recipe above, add additional finely chopped fresh garlic at the end as you purée to give it more of a hummus flavour.
  • Curry Dip: omit the lemon juice and toasted sesame oil and add 1/2 tsp curry powder with 2 tbsp coconut milk powder at the purée stage.
  • Oven dried tomato dip: Omit the cumin, coriander, lemon juice and sesame oil. Add to cooked lentils, 1 tbsp chopped oven (or sun dried) tomatoes plus 1 or 2 fresh basil leaves and purée until creamy and smooth.

Notes:

  • Other lentils (like green or du puys) don’t turn out as creamy, I’ve tried them and seriously prefer red.
  • I use granulated garlic (not the same as garlic powder) and dehydrated onions in this recipe because we preferred the end taste over cooking fresh cloves and onions in the mini crock pot. For whatever reason, the mini crock gave the garlic a very unusual flavour.
  • To make a base for ‘cream’ sauce, omit everything but the lentils, water and salt. Purée when cooked, allow to cool and freeze in ice cube tray for future use.
  • Note on December 8: Lentils cook in far less time than the prescribed 3-4 hours, it’s just that I’ve left it on for that length and the result was what I wanted, totally mushy and easily puréed lentils. If you’re around and can unplug the little dip warmer when the lentils are first cooked, then be my guest.

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