Archive for January, 2012

Links I like (January)


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Sunday musings

Today I’m going to bake this delicious looking Peanut butter banana bread from Joy the baker.

Then I am going to make one of my favourite soups with a twist – Green soup with ginger!  This is a recipe from Love Soup.  A go-to cookbook in January especially after the week we have experienced here in Ottawa. Today, it is -10 and it feels warm!   Anna Thomas explains her process for making the soup here.

Also, if you are looking for something to do tomorrow night this looks interesting. The Ottawa Public Library (Main branch) is hosting the authors of All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming. They are talking about the book and their experiences farming organically in BC.  Check out their company website and if you have time check them out at OPL.

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Here is my vegan version of my shepherd’s pie.

A couple of notes if you decide to try this recipe. The recipe calls for black beluga lentils because that’s what I had on hand to make this but you could easily substitute du puy lentils (french green).  The mushroom gravy is not necessary – I often make this dish without but sometimes you just want some extra fat to up the comfort factor.  You need a large rectangle glass baking dish to make this in.

Veggie Shepherd’s pie (Vegan version)

1/2 c wild rice

1 1/2 c black beluga lentils

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 bay leaves

1 carrot

3 lbs. potatoes (about 6-7 large potatoes)

1 lbs. mushrooms (button, cremini)

1/4 c dried porcini mushrooms (about 6 or 7 dried)

1 tbsp. of olive oil

fresh or dried thyme to taste

1/2 c frozen peas

½ c soy milk* optional — you can also use the cooking water

1 tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth balance brand)

1/2 package of mushroom gravy (vegan)

Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

  1. Make your wild rice.  Rinse the rice and then stir it into a cup and a half of boiling water.  Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let soak in the same water, covered for 1 hour.  Drain.  Stir rice into 1 1/2 c of fresh boiling water.  Let simmer for 25-35 minutes.  Drain.  While making the rice – prepare the other parts of the shepherd’s pie.
  2. Check your lentils for stones and rinse the dust off them.
  3. Put them in pot with 3.5 cups of cold fresh water.  Cover and bring the water to a boil.
  4. While waiting for the water to boil prepare your aromatics.  Quarter the onion.  Finely chop the carrots and peel the garlic cloves.  Once the water has boiled, add these to the lentils, plus the bay leaves and turn the heat to simmer.  Cook for around 25 minutes.  You want your lentils to be firm and not mushy.
  5. As the lentils cook prepare the potatoes.  Basically if you already know how to mash potatoes this step will be very easy for you. Peel the potatoes.  (Note:  if you have organic potatoes no need to peel them – I love the rustic look of the potato skins in a mash.)  Chop the potatoes into small pieces roughly the same size.   In a large pot add enough cold water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil (turn down to a simmer once they have reached a boiling point).
  6. As this point your lentils should be finished.  Drain, and if you want you can reserve the liquid to use for stock at some future date.  Remove the onion, garlic and bay leaves.  Don’t worry if you can’t remove all the onion – some small pieces in the lentils won’t hurt.  Season with some freshly ground pepper.
  7. If your potatoes are ready drain the boiling water and leave them in their cooking pot until you are ready to mash them.
  8. Prepare your mushrooms.  Soak your dried mushrooms in warm water as directed.  Slice the button mushrooms and leave some pieces in quarters.  Once the dried mushrooms are soaked – slice into bite sized pieces.  Warm the oil in a frying pan and add all the mushrooms – you want to cook them just until they lose some of their juices.
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. Now prep your base.   Add the lentils, mushrooms, frozen peas and wild rice.  Mix together.
  11. Drain the water from your potatoes if you have not already done so.  Mash them with the soy milk and margarine.
  12. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the base mixture.
  13. Cook for 20 minutes in your pre-heated oven. While it is cooking prepare your mushroom gravy if using.
  14. Remove from oven and spread mushroom gravy over the top.

Serve with: rapini with garlic and chili peppers.

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January looks like a great month to be a foodie in Ottawa — look at all these great events coming up:

Ottawa magazine has put together a mini food-festival called “WinterBites!”  A number of Ottawa area restaurants are offering set dinner menus for $40 or try a luch menu for $20!  Check out menus here.  Runs until the 28th of January.

Winterlude does not officially start until February but there are some food and drink related events near the end of this month.

Mill Street Pub should be opening at the end of this month.  According to their Facebook page – they just finished brewing their first batch of beer here in Ottawa!

Festibière d’hiver/Winter beerfest — Mike and I rarely cross the river into Quebec but for a festival like this I think we should make an exception.  I heard great things about the summer festival.  More information on Facebook.

Also — January is a good time to buy your tickets to the Celebrity chef cook-off in March.

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Cookbook review: Quinoa 365

Raspberry cream cheese muffins

This past weekend, we held our second potluck for our book club.  For these potlucks a group of us get together and cook various recipes out of a pre-selected cookbook.  This time we selected, Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming.

Stuffed mushrooms prepared by Carli

This book seemed to be everywhere this past year. Costco was selling it, random co-workers recommended it to me and tonnes of blogs reviewed it.  As we discussed at the potluck, these authors published this book at the right time and place – it seems they tapped into something that was brewing under the surface for a while now.  The book was so popular at the library I was afraid that we wouldn’t all have a chance to look at the cookbook before the potluck (luckily the library ordered an extra 30 copies or so).  At the potluck we tried to decide why this would be so popular – because many recipes are gluten-free?  Because eating whole grains has suddenly becoming trendy?  Or maybe it’s the idea that cooking healthy is as simple as including one more ingredient in your regular food?  We  settled on this last idea – many of the recipes ask you to add a couple of tablespoons of quinoa instead of building a whole meal around it.  Which actually worked for our potluck.  Beforehand I worried we would be eating quinoa in every dish and maybe that would get a bit boring.  But actually, this potluck was more a meal than an all-you can eat buffet – there were appetizers, a soup, entrees and then desserts.  And, all of the dishes were delicious.  So if you are looking to add more quinoa to your diet, pick up this book.

Quinoa tabbouleh by Sarah

Vegan "Cheeseball" cooked by Brigitte

What I liked about this cookbook:

  • This is the type of book that I could give to my mom with confidence that she would use it. Besides the occasional recipe that asks for quinoa flour, most of the recipes call for readily available ingredients and the recipes are easy to cook for people who are used to “meat and potato” meals.
  • The recipes worked. They did not require a lot tweaking to get the tastes right – the testers did a great job with this cookbook!

What I disliked:

  • As a vegetarian I already tend to eat a lot of quinoa so I was hoping for inventive ways to incorporate more of this food into my diet.  There are some great recipes in this book but nothing earth shattering in terms of innovation.
  • A lot of the dishes called for low-fat products (sour cream, cheese, etc.) — great if you are trying to be healthy but most of time I would rather eat full fat to get a better flavour.

Stuffed shells prepared by Julie

Tasty tuna casserole prepared by Angela

Recommended to borrow from your library or to purchase if you are looking to incorporate more quinoa into your diet.

Title: Quinoa 365 : the everyday superfood

Authors: Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

Publisher: Whitecap, c2010.

ISBN: 9781552859940

Carmel Apple Cheesecake prepared by Chris

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Holiday celebrations

Mike and I celebrated the holidays in BC this year. Spending time with Mike’s family is always a lot of fun – we eat lots of chocolate, Mike’s mom makes us eggnog and we open our presents Christmas eve!  Mike’s hometown, Creston, is in the interior of the province and is a bit isolated.  So, while resting and relaxing we took full advantage of the local craft brewing scene.  We tried a few breweries and a couple of wineries

  1. Nelson brewing company – we tried the After dark and the Blackheart Oatmeal stout.  Usually I am not a fan of dark beers but these were pretty sweet.  Plus they were made with organic ingredients!
  2. Fernie brewing company – we tried their Sap Sucker – maple porter and their What the huck – huckleberry wheat.  The huckleberry wheat was too sweet for my taste but the maple porter hit all the right notes.
  3. Dead frog brewery – from Vancouver but we couldn’t resist the name Christmas Beeracle – it was pretty tasty.

We also tried some wine from two local wineries:  Skimmerhorn winery and Ballie-Grohman winery –both were amazing.

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A few weeks ago I was flipping through Anna Thomas’ Love Soup to find some soup recipes for the winter months.  Near the back of the book I saw an entry for Parmesan and fennel biscotti.  I was intrigued.  The recipe looked delicious but I wondered if I could substitute the fennel for something else.  In the fall I had made a trio of savoury muffins and I thought about pairing parmesan and garlic instead.  Or if I was really ambitious I could make biscotti in each flavour like the muffins!  I started make my plan but with everything I was buying for holiday baking I decided just one flavour combination would be enough:  walnut and rosemary.  These biscotti were delicious – great with a sharp cheddar cheese and a nice glass of red wine.  We actually ended up eating most of these with soup or as an appetizer.  Not exactly a cookie but nice to have around the house to snack on.

Walnut-Rosemary Biscotti

(Inspired by Anna Thomas’ Parmesan and Fennel Biscotti in Love Soup)

  • 2 c unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted (plus some for the kneading surface for example a cutting board)
  • 1/3 c masa harina
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 to 4 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, removed from stem (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  Prepare your kneading surface by lightly flouring it.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients:  flour, masa harina, salt, pepper, baking powder and baking soda.  Whisk these together.  Using a fork stir in the rosemary and walnuts.

In a small bowl use the same fork to beat together the eggs and the buttermilk.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir together with your fork until a crumbly dough forms.  You may need to use your hands to get it to stick together.  Now transfer the dough to your floured surface and knead it into a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Remove 1/3 of the dough and leave the remaining dough wrapped in plastic.  Roll the dough into a log about and inch wide and place on your baking sheet.  Flatten the top using your fingers.

Don't worry if they are not even -- you'll be slicing them into smaller pieces for the second baking stage.

Repeat with another third of the dough and leave about two inches between the logs.  Repeat with the last 1/3 of the dough.  Bake for 20 minutes.  They will have a nice golden brown hue.

The golden brown hue you will see after the first baking.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  They must cool for at least 30 minutes.  Don’t rush this step!  In the meantime, lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with fresh parchment paper.

Using a bread knife, slice the baked logs about a 1/4 inch thick.  Place the slices on the baking sheets and bake for 35 minutes.  You don’t really need to leave any room since the biscotti will not be expanding anymore.  After the 35 minutes is up flip the slices and then bake another 35 minutes.  The biscotti will be crisp and dry.

This is the biscotti before their second baking. After the second baking the cookies will be more brown and the edges will be crisp.

Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Biscotti will keep for a couple of weeks in an air-tight container.

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