Category Archives: Food, home + garden

Spinach in bowls

Spinach gomae

Spinach gomae

Serves 4-6
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Allergy Soy, Tree Nuts
Dietary Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer, Dips, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish, Snack, Starter
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
My mouth is watering just writing about making this spinachy goodness!

Ingredients

  • 600g clean spinach
  • 60ml peanut butter (I prefer natural PB, but just use what you have (smooth, chunky))
  • 15ml tahini
  • 30-45ml rice vinegar (or mirin) (depending on how vinegary you like things)
  • 30ml soy sauce or tamari (tamari for gluten-free)
  • 15-20ml sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, honey, etc., but no artificial sugar)
  • 15-45ml warm water
  • 45g toasted sesame seeds for topping

Directions

Step 1 Wilt the spinach in a steamer or add a couple of centimetres of water to a pot. Stuff that spinach in. It will wilt in only a couple of minutes, so watch it carefully so it doesn't get mushy. (No one likes mushy vegetables.)

Tip into a colander and let it cool.
Step 2 In a blender, hand-held blender or food processor, blend together the peanut butter, tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and a bit of the water (add more if needed for a pourable, but thick consistency). Taste. Adjust.

Keep at room temperature until your spinach is ready to wear the glorious sauce.
Step 3
Drain. Drain. Squish and drain. Use a colander, time and your hands. Get squishy with it. Trust me…you'll want this to be as un-watery as possible.

Then form it into balls about the size of an orange and set them in little bowls. I love little bowls!

Pop them into the fridge to set for about 30-60 minutes.
Spinach in bowls
Step 4 Pour over the sauce and top with the toasted sesame seeds.

Devour. You can most certainly try to eat this with chopsticks, but I bet you can't get it in your mouth fast enough…just fork it!

*I forgot to take a photo the last time...I was too busy inhaling the gomae. I'll add one some other time.
Step 5
Nutrition information - click on image to enlarge.
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miso gravy, yam fries, homemade veggie burger

Miso Hungry Gravy

Miso Hungry Gravy

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Allergy Soy
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Dips, Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish, Snack
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Miso Hungry Gravy - A taste-worthy, creamy gravy that even non-vegetarians love! This is my go-to substitute for gravy in any recipe or meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter (margarine, ghee or other substitute)
  • 1/4 cup onion (chopped)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup flour (gram/besan, whole wheat, white or other substitute)
  • 3-5 tablespoons miso (Any variety of miso will do, although I prefer barley. Use more or less miso to your taste.)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2-4 tablespoons soy sauce (light, dark, regular or substitute (to taste))
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch ((if necessary, to thicken the gravy))
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon hot water ((with the cornstarch, if necessary, to thicken the gravy))

Note

This recipe was inspired by my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Calgary (I think it's probably the ONLY vegetarian restaurant), The Coup. I've been telling friends for quite some time that I'd post my version of the miso gravy that we have all so hastily devoured when I lived in Calgary. So, enjoy…

Directions

Step 1 Melt butter on low to medium heat.
Step 2 Chop onion. Later, we'll blend everything, so it doesn't matter the size here unless you don't have an immersion blender. If you do not have one, then mince the onions.

Add to butter, let cook for about three minutes or less, then add the garlic (also minced, if you're not using an immersion blender).

Cook until the onion is translucent. Do not let the onion and garlic brown.
Step 3 Add flour, whisk or stir. Cook for another minute.
Step 4 Add veg stock, miso and soy sauce. Bring to low boil. Turn heat to simmer.
Step 5 Add nutritional yeast flakes, (salt) + pepper and taste. Stir and adjust as necessary.
Step 6 If the gravy is not thick enough for you, whisk together the cornstarch and hot water in separate bowl: add a bit at a time to the gravy and stir until desired consistency.
Step 7 If you have an immersion blender, whir up the gravy. Taste again and adjust flavour.
Step 8
Nutrition information. Click on the image and it will be easier to read. Magic.
Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 17.08.57

Miso Hungry Gravy pictured here with Sweet Potato Fries and a homemade veggie burger (recipe to come soon).

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried and roasted butternut squash soup

Curried and roasted butternut squash soup

Serves 4-6
Cook time 45 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer, Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish, Soup, Starter
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (average to above-average size)
  • 1 head garlic (or adjusted to your taste (peas loves garlic))
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup water (optional)
  • 2-3 cups veg broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or to taste)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • ½ - ¾ tablespoon curry powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh, chopped ginger (or ground, dried ginger ¼ T)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt + pepper (to taste)

Directions

Step 1 Split butternut squash in half —lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and squash guts. Lay cut side down in baking dish.

Place whole head of garlic or break into cloves —leaving the skin on. Put that in the baking dish.

Seed the pepper and cut in half or into quarters. Pop that in the same pan.

Cut onion into quarters and it goes in the pan too.

Add water (optional) to the pan or line with baking paper. I find adding the water speeds up the baking time and helps steam the squash. Some people don't like adding water and prefer baking paper or covering the bottom of the baking dish with olive oil.

Bake at 225°C for about 35-40 minutes. Poke the squash with a fork, if it's done, the fork will glide into the flesh easily.
Step 2 Skin the squash and garlic. Add all ingredients to a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Add enough broth according to how thin/thick you want the soup —you can add a bit at a time and check consistency after the next step and add more if needed.
Step 3 Let your soup come to a low boil, then put heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
Step 4 Get your immersion blender* out and whir up your soup. I don't make a complete puree, I usually leave a few chunky bits.

*You can use a countertop blender, but be very careful. Using this method you should allow the soup to cool down considerably before blending as the heat under the lid produces steam which could pop the lid off, make a mess and possibly scald you. Not pretty or fun. Then you have to heat the soup up again if you make it past this stage successfully.
Step 5 Taste. Alter flavour and/or alter consistency.
Step 6
Serve with a red pepper coulis and Greek yoghurt swirl, homemade chunky croutons, zest of lime and swirl of Greek yoghurt, pumpkin seeds or a combination of any or all of these suggestions or none at all.

Shown here with homemade cheesy, garlic toast.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Step 7 Put it in your tummy...yum.
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Cauliflower pizza base, low-carb pizza

In trying to get healthier and perhaps stave off migraines, I’ve been trying to cook healthier foods that decrease carbs and increase all sorts of other wonderful vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

I’m never going to stop eating pizza because it combines many favourite things: cheese, fresh veg and herbs and bread. But since bread is a nasty vehicle for carbs, I’ve adapted this low carb, nutritious pizza crust from The Londoner.

You could make a pizza that will feed two people depending on their hunger level or you could add a light salad to round out the meal.

INGREDIENTS

• 1 small cauliflower or about 2 ½ cups grated
• ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
• ¼ cup grated mozzarella
• 2 tsps fresh oregano, chopped
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• Egg replacer for one egg or use an egg if you’re so inclined
• Salt & pepper
• olive oil, for spraying

TOPPINGS
• tomato-based pizza sauce, white pizza sauce, pesto or any other first layer your heart desires
• the rest is up to you: spinach, red pepper, chilis, mushrooms, feta, pineapple, pine nuts, more
oregano, olives, etc. (you know how pizza works!).
• more mozzarella and parmesan Or anything else you want to top your pizza with…or not.

Pre-heat your oven to 220°C/430°F. And preferably add your baking tray or pizza stone to also get warmed up.

Using a food processor on short spurts chop up the cauliflower until it’s rice-like. Alternatively, you can use a hand grater, but be careful!

Cover and pop in the microwave for 4-6 minutes, depending on your microwave. It will smell like cooked cauliflower and will no longer be raw, but also not fully cooked.

Transfer to a small-meshed sieve and let the water drain out. I added a weight to the top to help squish more water out. Let the cauliflower cool down. Then, to make absolutely sure you’ve drained all of the water you can press the back of a big spoon into the cauliflower. The original recipe drains out excess water by placing the cooked cauliflower in a teatowel. Either method works, both have drawbacks in terms of messiness.

Add your grated cheeses to a mixing bowl. Then, add the fresh oregano, egg replacer and cauliflower. Mix it all up. Yum.

Layout a sheet of baking paper on a counter or cutting board and spray/sprinkle it with a bit of olive oil. Shape your cauliflower ‘dough’ into a pizza-like circle.

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Get that pre-heated tray/stone from the oven and carefully place the crust onto the pan. Pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes or until it looks like the top, right photo. Golden.

Add your pizza sauce base and all your ingredients, top with mozzarella and parmesan mix (if you wish). Back into the oven for another 10 minutes or until it looks done. You know.

Now, my first attempt (above) tasted incredibly delicious. You can’t get all handsy with this ‘pizza’ because the base is just not sturdy enough, so get your forkin’ knives out and plunge right into that deliciousness. I loved it and will make it again, but I have some changes in mind.

Enjoy!

 

mumbai-street-vendor-tawa-pulao

10 countries I would love to cook with the locals

INDIA (I could very well just list India 10 times!)

Indian vegetarian meal

I don’t recall the first time I ate Indian food, but I know how much of an impression it made on me. All of those unique spice combinations that I had never eaten before —cinnamon, garam masala, asafoetida/hing (Indian garlic), turmeric— and new textures, like paneer and dahl. And the naan bread! Oh, that bread!! When I eat Indian food, I am in a euphoric, utopic state of mind. I am so happy when I’m eating this food. Vegetable Korma, palak paneer, samosa, paneer butter masala, chana masala, bhindi bhaji…I could go on forever.

India is my number one choice for wanting to cook in another country —street carts, restaurants, homes…anywhere, please!

MEXICO

Mexican vegetarian

Three words: chili con queso. Okay, there’s more to Mexican cuisine than a big bowl of dip-able, hot cheese. There’s refried beans (no pork), tacos,salads, enchiladas, mole sauce, salsa verde, pico de gallo, quesadillas, guacamole, chilli rellenos, burritos… You can successfully eat as a vegetarian in Mexico!

I imagine cooking with the locals there while doing a little dancing-in-place, laughing, stirring pots of beans, flipping quesadillas, mixing spices, grating cheese and making a lot of stick-to-your-insides, homemade yumminess.

ITALY

Mmmmmm…pasta

How could anyone not want to cook with the locals in Italy?! Drinking wine, sloshing around the olive tins, singing, laughing, layering foods, tossing linguini with sauce, making pasta, more wine, toasting bread…

I think my Italian-cooking skills are pretty good, but I am quite sure (and don’t mind admitting) that anything I already know about Italian cooking would be thrown right out the window. That’s okay! Teach me! teach me! Let me taste the difference in olive oils. Show me how to make tomato sauce from scratch. Feed me samples of cheese!

GREECE + LEBANON

Colours and layers

So many of the same ingredients and flavours between these two countries, I thought I’d just teem them up. I think the best ingredient is tahini. I love it in so many recipes and it is good for you! I love spanikopita, tiropita, (just) pita, the heavy use of pomegranate and other fresh ingredients, olives, baba ganoush, hummus, tabbouli salad, Greek salad, fatyre, feta, samosa, baklava, dolmades, falafel…

I think this is another area where meat is quite prevalent in meals, but it doesn’t have to be. You can eat well as a vegetarian —and with great variety!

THAILAND

Noodle bowl – always welcome

Again, it’s a whole new mouthful of different spices, like sweet basil, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, chilis, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, coriander, lemon basil !  I love pad thai, nasi goreng, spring rolls, green coconut curry, noodle bowls…

I also love eating with chopsticks! No matter how adept you are at eating with chopsticks they still cause you to slow down when you’re eating –to savour and appreciate what you’re eating. Maybe engage in conversation while you’re trying to scoop up a slippery mushroom!

JAPAN

Gyoza!

Miso is one of my favourite ingredients out of Japan, it is so versatile and very nutritional! Rice vinegar is another favourite of mine and also panko! I can’t believe how much I use panko I use even for non-Japanese meals.

Gyoza, spinach gomae, tempura, edamame, veg sushi rolls (especially with avocado!). I picture myself in Japan learning from a mild-mannered, but sassy cook who loves cooking vegetarian meals. I see hundreds of ingredients surrounding me that I have never seen before and cooking apparatus and utensils that I’ve never used. I think great patience comes with cooking Japanese meals. I don’t know why I don’t try more often. I think I’ll go make some gomae!

INDIA

(sorry, I had to mention it again…but just look at all of these vegetables, spices and colours and imagine the aroma!)

Market

Sacks of spices and lentils and nuts = heaven

I don’t know how one thing equated to another, but at 21, I got my nose pierced as a vow to myself that I would one day spend time (week or months, not days) in India. Devouring the food, meeting the people, wandering through the streets, riding through the countryside,  listening to music, petting cows, going to the markets and learning to cook all of those incredible dishes that haunted me for so long. I have since cooked a lot of Indian meals, from cookbooks, of course, but I still want to sidle up next to a master and cook my heart out. For some reason, I picture myself outdoors, surrounded by sacks of brightly-coloured spice sacks, vibrant vegetables, mounds of grains and lentils, voices everywhere and laughter. It also makes me cry thinking it may never happen. But I want to make it happen…some day. I would like to keep one promise to myself.

ETHIOPIA 

bayenetu

It can tend to be on the meaty side, but ask for bayenetu, a collection of meat-free portions. Their vegetarian fare is very tasty, very interesting, not too spicy, but spicy enough. Interesting concoctions of spices like korarima (Ethiopian cardamom), chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek. And it’s a meal you share with your table mates  —like really share and you eat with your hands. How is that not fun!?!  Go easy on the bubbly pancakes (injera) though, they can fill you up very quickly!

CANADA

Salads with unique dressings

Because Canada is so multicultural, there isn’t really Canadian food (except for poutine, maple syrup, Nanaimo Bars and dill pickle chips), but they have managed to conjure up incredible vegetarian meals in some unexpected places. I’ve had tofu scramble, miso gravy with yam wedges, noodle bowls, fusion meals from all sorts of country-combinations and I’ve never been bored with experimenting with all of the ingredients readily available in big, multicultural cities!

 

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New inhabitants in the shed

UPDATE 30 August 2014: I’m leaving the original post as is, but I’m updating it in case anyone else ever finds hedgehogs like I did.

If you find a mother with her hoglets (baby hedgehogs) and they are not in any danger…LEAVE THEM ALONE. Don’t move them or add anything to their environment. Just replace anything you moved and leave them alone. I made the mistake of trying to make things ‘better’ for the ones I found and in turn made things worse.

After I had moved the hoglets and the mother and returned to check on them, I saw the mama was gone. I thought she left to get food. Every time I returned to check, she wasn’t there. I read up on hedgehogs and discovered that if their habitat is removed or altered the mother could turn on her babies, eat them or leave. Well, my one turned out to be a deadbeat mom. Left. Never came back.

I took all of the barricades down. Eventually two of the hedgehogs started to venture away from the bamboo nest…returning…leaving. I checked on the three a few times before bed. Still no mama.

This morning, one hedgehog was still left in the bamboo. My heart sank. I thought he had died. Nope. But very weak, not moving.

I screwed up so badly. The mom left, but it was might fault.

She was so weak. We phoned animal rescue. They were coming, but it would take a few hours. Crap!

I gathered up the little spiky tennis ball, made a comfy nest in a box and spent the next few hours trying to get the little munchkin to eat a raspberry, mushed banana, some egg and water.

She let me pick her up. I thought that was not a good sign, seeing as how before she was all puffy and snuffly with me. Making a reverse-hiss noise and breathing out fast, while extending its little spikes. But she was sooooo cold. She warmed up in my hand and started drinking small amounts of water from an eyedropper.

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I took care of her until the dierenambulance (animal ambulance) came to pick her up. She will be in good hands and live out her life in a hedgehog sanctuary. Apparently, there are more and more hedgehog deaths related to roads and animal attacks, so she will be protected, fed and loved with a bunch of other hedgehogs.

——————————

The dogs were barking at the shed. Something was exciting them. Something was in there. I had to check it out.

We never use this shed…except for some storage items. At first this was all I saw.

What’s under the tarp?!

This is how I found the little hedgehogs. They were living under a HUGE tarp that was in one of our sheds. I was kind of afraid that they would get trapped inside because the tarp is so big and has a lot of folds and tucks. Plus, I didn't want the dogs to get at them.

This is how I found the little hedgehogs. They were living under a HUGE tarp that was in one of our sheds. I was kind of afraid that they would get trapped inside because the tarp is so big and has a lot of folds and tucks. Plus, I didn’t want the dogs to get at them.

So, I temporarily transferred the hedehogs to a comfy-lined box.

So, I temporarily transferred the hedehogs to a comfy-lined box.

Here are some close-ups:

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Cute, hey?! I’ve checked on them since. It looks like mama hedgehog has gone to search for food. I hope I didn’t disrupt their sleep too much. I put some slugs and worms in a tray for them, but they may wriggle away.

Their new digs…

After barricading off part of the shed (so the dogs can't get to them), I placed a lot of bamboo in a nice dark corner for them. Hopefully, they like the new digs, but the tarp is still there so they can always move back there..

After barricading off part of the shed (so the dogs can’t get to them), I placed a lot of bamboo in a nice dark corner for them. Hopefully, they like the new digs, but the tarp is still there so they can always move back there..