2017 Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

An icy intersection

It’s been quite a year so far, hasn’t it? Vancouver came sliding into 2017 on a tide of ice, but the year seems to resemble much more dynamic weather so far. Here are some of the things contributing to the first twenty days’ whirlwind, along with a few things that may help ground you as 2017 continues to bluster.

Political Shifts

Canadians were looking south today, as a new President takes the U.S. in a drastically different direction. Canada, huge in area but small in population, is particularly dependent on trade with our next-door neighbour for much of our economic well-being. So it comes as no surprise that Canadians will be marching in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, including in Vancouver.

With Canada’s Conservative Party leadership contest sounding many of the notes that defined the U.S. Presidential race, it might be time to look at how our understanding of political divides needs to change. This New Statesman piece is centred on British realities, but these divisions seem to be holding true in many Western democracies.

Bloggers Get Real

I know I’m not the only one who wishes they could still run to The Toast in times like these, but sites like The Establishment and The Belle Jar are helping to salve the loss. (I’d love to hear your about your favourite feminist/literary/pop culture/smart writing sites, too, if you’d like to share.)

Speaking up has become the topic of much debate in the food-blogging sphere, as Dianne Jacob explores in a piece that uses posts by Lindsay Ostrom and Molly Wizenberg as a jumping off point for questions about the risks and benefits of radical honesty in a niche that is often constrained by a perceived need to please everyone.

Cooking It Out

As important as it is to stand up and be counted, to keep abreast of world events, and to communicate our personal realities deeply with one another, sometimes it’s good to find relief in the arts and in some more homey pursuits like cooking.

There’s a new opportunity to cook the stress away coming up next month. The fabulous Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is reconvening The Cottage Cooking Club for a six-month journey through River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers.

Or you could drown your sorrows in indulgences like Dine Out Vancouver or the Hot Chocolate Festival, to recharge for the next round of fate’s slings and arrows.

Advertisements

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2016

img_6543

Like a horse as it nears the barn, I seem to be speeding through recipes as we reach the end of our time with River Cottage Veg in this group. This month, I managed seven recipes, two of which were ones I’d missed when they’d come up in previous months’ selections.

It’s made for a delicious March.

Nachos with refried beans

img_6544

There are as many recipes for refried beans as there are cooks that make them. Hugh’s version is a pantry cupboard wonder, using things I always have on hand. I like the chunky texture, the gentle heat from the fresh red chile and hot smoked paprika, the smooth taste of the cannellini (or borlotti) beans, and the use of grated fresh tomato. I made this twice – once with cannellini beans and once with borlotti and they were equally good. My only change to the recipe was to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste along with the fresh tomatoes. That might not be necessary at the height of summer, when tomatoes are at their best, but it really helped bring the flavours together for this late winter version.

As for the nachos, I made a vegan version and a conventional one. I have two small ceramic baking dishes that are about the same size – one got lashings of old cheddar cheese and the other got a generous sprinkling of Daiya cheddar shreds. We finished them off with sour cream (vegan and conventional – it’s our version of his and hers) and some of Hugh’s lemony guacamole.

Lemony guacamole

img_6568

This recipe was tackled way back in May of 2014, for our very first Cottage Cooking Club round of posting.

Kevin’s a bit miffed that I overlooked this recipe until almost the very last post for this cookbook – it would have become a staple in our kitchen much sooner, if I hadn’t.

It relies on lemon, cilantro, and fresh red chile to complement the avocado. I skipped adding oil, as it seemed unnecessary, and threw a bit of chopped red onion into the mix. It was perfect with our nachos and adds great flavour as a sandwich spread, too.

The vegiflette toastie

img_6636

This one was just for me – I couldn’t resist putting aside a few of the baby potatoes we’d had for dinner so that I could have this toastie for an indulgent Saturday lunch. The topping consists of sliced potatoes heated with a little wilted endive and some heavy cream and I would have enjoyed this if the sandwich had stopped there. The final step is to melt some cheese on top (old cheddar, in this case) and it made the dish absolutely perfect for a rainy day. It was more of a knife and fork affair with the split baguette I used, but that was fine. Not every sandwich needs to be portable.

Dressed Puy lentils

img_6652

I make Hugh’s lentils, with their mustardy dressing, at least once a week. We stir them into bowls of roasted potatoes, wilted greens, freshly roasted or steamed vegetables, cold salads, or grains hot or cold. These become one bowl lunches or side dishes at dinner.

There are plenty of other ways to dress lentils, but don’t you find you look back on a period of time and remember a dish or two that kept coming up over and over? It’s been that way with these lentils this winter. It’s not repetition so much as punctuation.

Roasted new potatoes with harissa

img_6650

We ate our lentils with these potatoes one night, but it took several tries. The first step in making these is to roast the potatoes with salt and pepper. I usually roast potatoes with herbs and garlic, or onion, or spices – it depends on what I’m serving. These come out of the oven with the more-ish quality of French fries. And we discovered, salt and pepper potatoes go so well with Hugh’s lentils, that you might forget to add harissa altogether. Twice.

With the harissa, they’re good, but honestly, not as good as the plain potatoes. I love harissa as a condiment for soups, stews, and other dishes with a Middle Eastern bent, but I think in this dish, it’s a little wasted.

Vegetable biryani

img_6607

I wish I could say we loved this one, but we only liked it. We probably won’t be repeating this version of biryani, but I was especially appreciative of the flavour the brown onions brought to the dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

img_6541

Finally, there’s a treat that came up in the rotation in November of 2014. I had some beautiful crème fraîche and cultured butter on hand, that I was reviewing for another post earlier this month. This recipe seemed like a perfect way to enjoy it.

I made these potatoes two ways – a vegan version for Kevin, with vegan sour cream, Earth Balance, and Daiya cheddar shreds, and a conventional version for me, with crème fraîche, cultured butter, and old cheddar.

We won’t be having these often, but not because we don’t like them. We loved them. They’re just an indulgence that should be an occasional treat. Although, you can put spinach in them – that makes them good for you, doesn’t it?

As I said, it was a delicious month. I’m looking forward to what April brings.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2016

img_6469

What do you turn to when you’re trying to get through the last weeks of winter eating? Before the celebration of rhubarb and asparagus, radishes and new potatoes, how do you make the last of the cold weather staples more interesting?

I love dried mushrooms (especially porcini), citrus fruits, and the herbs that grow year-round in my garden. Along with pulses, winter greens, and high quality canned or frozen goods, they make these weeks of waiting for new growth bearable. Actually, with a little attention to detail, our meals are rich and delicious.

Potatoes and “Deconstructed Pesto”

img_6391

This potato dish is a good example. The basil and lemon were imported, but everything else was local. We roast vegetables often, usually with rosemary and thyme from the back yard. This variation was a treat, especially with shredded Daiya vegan mozzarella. It would have been equally good with a vegan Parmesan (DIY Vegan‘s Garlic Parmesan Shaker is a good place to start, if you’re interested). It’s nice to know that we can have cheesy goodness that satisfies both the vegan and non-vegan members of our household.

White Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Red Onions

img_6497

Though tomatoes are best in the summertime, I don’t always say no to the hothouse cherry and grape tomatoes that can be found alongside greenhouse-grown peppers at the fresh markets. It’s hard to turn down jewel-toned vegetables consistently in the name of seasonal eating, isn’t it? Especially when they’re a component of a treat like this. Creamy cannellini beans, tomatoes, and parsley in a lemony mustard dressing. A simple side or healthy winter lunch that’s bright on the tongue and cheerful on the plate.

Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

img_6480

This wasn’t a pick for this month, but one I missed when it came up in the rotation for August, 2015. I couldn’t resist catching up on it this month. As I said at the beginning of the post, I love using dried porcini mushrooms throughout the winter. They make their own stock when you rehydrate them and they lend a rich, meaty undertone to soups and stews. I also keep organic frozen spinach on hand, so when the greens at the market were underwhelming, I pulled some out for this soup. With extra chickpeas and plum tomatoes, it was a truly hearty soup. Next time, I’ll add some sautéed fresh mushrooms, too. Rainy February days call for stick-to-your-ribs fare, don’t you think? This one didn’t need any cheese, vegan or otherwise – it was perfect on its own. It’s also one that can be varied throughout all the seasons, which we’ll certainly be doing.

img_6464

The weather’s warming up here, though there’s still lots of rain. I can’t believe we’ve only got two more months’ worth of recipes before The Cottage Cooking Club moves on to two more River Cottage cookbooks!

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2016

img_6298

Oh, January, you are the month of good intentions. This post represents one of mine – since I was so tardy posting last month’s CCC entry, I thought I’d post early this time around.

Late winter can start to feel like a march through a string of lacklustre meals until spring’s vegetables rescue us, but meals with warm spices and good quality canned or frozen vegetables can cure that ennui. These meals are certainly perking us up this week.

Curried red lentil soup

Lentil Soup

This soup caused a schism in the household. I gave Kevin a taster bowl of the soup when I’d first puréed it. While he ate it in the living room, I decided it needed a bit more liquid and a creamy element. So, I added a can of light coconut milk and re-adjusted the spices. Meanwhile, he thought it was thick, rich and perfect. Oops! I suppose it’s good to know it works both ways.

This soup is a variation on the Curried Sweet Potato Soup the group tackled in December, 2014. It trades out sweet potatoes for lentils and limes for lemons, while adding some carrot and celery for a little more veggie fortification. Kevin isn’t a sweet potato or yam fan, so this version was a much bigger hit for him than the original.

I was out of garam masala, so I ground another batch. There’s nothing better than cooking with freshly ground spices, is there?

This soup will last us through the week’s lunches and the flavours are so deep, there’s no chance of getting bored. Especially since I’m thinking about baking some biscuits tomorrow, which will be perfect for dipping.

Next time I make this, I’ll leave it thicker, skipping the purée and the coconut milk and serving it over rice. I think that version will mend the rift.

Chickpeas with cumin and spinach

Chickpea Curry

Most of the time, committee meeting nights are for leftovers or meals I’ve cooked and portioned for the freezer. Tonight, though, I was able to put together dinner from scratch in about the same amount of time it would have taken to prepare a pre-cooked meal. Even better, it used staples from my kitchen counter, pantry, and freezer. Paired with some basmati rice, this was practically a fifteen-minute meal. I’m slow though, so it took 20-25 minutes.

Chickpeas and spinach, seasoned with lemon, is the ne plus ultra of quick meals for Kevin, so this dish was right up his alley. Adding tomatoes, cumin, onion, and garlic was like a deluxe upgrade of a simple meal.

I was thrilled to put together a filling and flavourful meal before I had to run out the door. Kevin’s thrilled that there are leftovers for tomorrow. Since I have (yet another) meeting, I’m glad we’re covered.

If I manage to fit in any more of this month’s CCC selections, I’ll post an update. For now, I’m feeling rather happy that I’m writing about food that’s still available to me for meals this week.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – December 2015

December

This is the week of getting back to normal, so I know I’m not alone in asking you: How were your holidays? Mine were busy and bright, full of food and cheer.

Predictably, I got sick after the holidays, so I’m only now posting my Cottage Cooking Club selections from last month. Since they’re both quite light and healthy, let’s say they’re crossing the boundary from feasting to simply eating well.

Mushroom “Stoup”

Soup

This soup doesn’t set out to be light, but is meant to be almost a stew. It’s jam-packed with porcini and button mushrooms and includes an option for dumplings, which will absorb all the extra liquid, making it thick and rich.

I opted to skip the dumplings. I can make them gluten-free, but Kevin is not a fan of dumplings, so I decided to make a few changes. I halved the amount of porcini mushrooms, as December is an expensive month and I was splurging elsewhere. I added in extra button mushrooms, instead. I also skipped the fresh dill and added some savoury I’d dried from the garden. I used Earth Balance in place of butter, but next time I think I’ll just stick with olive oil. I didn’t like the way the Earth Balance behaved in the soup, never quite incorporating completely.

So, my version was a gluten-free, vegan, slightly soupier one. And it was a huge hit. I made a full recipe and froze half of it. I had to take one of the containers of frozen soup out of the freezer only two days later. I’ll likely have to take the other one out as soon as Kevin reads this post.

I’ll be making this one regularly.

Spicy Carrot and Chickpea Pita Pocket

Carrots

This dish is a tasty antidote to all that Christmas eating. I used gluten-free corn tortillas in place of the pita pockets, which worked very well. As much as I enjoyed this, I kept thinking I’d like to take all the components and transform them into a stew, perhaps with some potatoes for heft. I loved the combination of cumin, hot smoked paprika, and orange with carrots, but craved it in a more bowl-friendly form.

I hope everyone had a good month or so of cheer. I’m looking forward to reading all of the Cottage Cooks’ posts.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – November 2015

IMG_5951

November was a busy month. I was home and away, out many evenings, catching up during the day. It felt like holiday celebration and fiscal year end all wrapped up together. I’m happy that December will be a quieter month, with some holiday fun and celebration along the way.

Amidst everything that was going on, I managed to make two CCC recipes in November and they were both delicious.

Parsnip and Ginger Soup 

IMG_5958

I’ve been filling the freezer with containers full of one or two servings of soup. I love making soup in cold weather, in big batches. It’s satisfying on the day it’s made, then the flavours develop over a day or two, making it even more delicious. I always try to put some away, though, for those days when it’s wet and miserable and I’m too cold and tired to cook from scratch. Those days, soup isn’t just satisfying, it’s sustaining.

This soup will be perfect for those days. It’s filling and spicy, fragrant with ginger and cardamom. The parsnips retain a little of their sharpness, which works in this soup. I froze some without adding any milk, the final step in the recipe, as soup freezes much better without it. I added a little almond milk to the soup we ate, to keep things vegan, then sprinkled a few toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

Even though I said the sharpness of the parsnips works in this soup, I’ll roast them the next time I make this. I think the caramelized sweetness of roasted parsnips would put this soup over the top for me.

Roasted New Potatoes with Two Mojo Sauces

IMG_5939

We roast potatoes all the time, tossed in olive oil, herbs and spices, with cloves of garlic along for the ride. What we don’t do very often is make roasted potatoes the focus of an appetizer.

That’s a mistake I’m happy to have corrected. These potatoes are parboiled, then roasted tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I’d skip the boil next time, just because I love the crust that simply roasted potatoes develop.) Then, they’re served with two Canary Island inspired dipping sauces.

The first sauce,mojo cilantro, is garlicky and vegetal, creamy without any added dairy. It’s good enough that I’ll make it again, but it wasn’t the star of the show. That was the mojo picón. I roasted and peeled red bell peppers for this one and it was worth the effort. With hot chiles, cumin, and smoked paprika rounding out the flavours, this sauce is hard to stop eating. We should have roasted more potatoes.

Here’s to the start of a wonderful holiday season! I’m looking forward to reading all the CCC cooks’ posts.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Have you checked out my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways (as they go live) here.

Cottage Cooking Club – October 2015

IMG_5548

This month’s theme for the Cottage Cooking Club is Oktoberfest. I didn’t make it to any Oktoberfest celebrations this year, but as you can see, I did enjoy a seasonal pumpkin lager. I also enjoyed all the harvest vegetables. Thanks to El Niño, the produce stands are full of a variety of early to late autumn produce, which makes delicious eating easy.

Along the way, I prepared two of this month’s CCC selections and both were wonderful.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

IMG_5480

You know a recipe is a keeper if you’re being asked to make it again as soon as it’s gone. This curry lasted us three meals and kept getting better each day.

It’s also a healthy dish, full of fresh garlic, onion, and ginger, with spices like tumeric and cumin – all things that are being touted as immune boosters. There’s only a little fat in it and it’s vegan to boot.

We’ll be having this dish whenever cauliflower looks good at the market.

Roasted Parsnip, Green Lentil, and Spinach

IMG_5547

The recipe in the book uses watercress, but it’s something that I find can be elusive around here. It’s one of those things I try to buy when I see it, as I never know when I’ll run across it again. This month was not a lucky one for me when it came to watercress, so I used wilted spinach in its place. The only other deviation from the recipe I made was to dice some of the onion cooked with the lentils and mix it back in, along with the dressing. It’s a trick I learned from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s dressed lentils are another favourite from this book. The lemon and mustard dressing suits lentilles du Puy perfectly and pairs well with the wilted spinach and roasted parsnips, too. Ah, I thought of another change I made – to make the dressing vegan, I substituted a little sugar for the honey.

I made more roasted parsnips than I needed for this dish, as it’s my favourite way to eat them and I wanted leftovers. Which reminds me, I added in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary when I was roasting them – I promise, that’s the last tweak I made to this recipe.

We’ll be repeating this dish, too, though given what I’ve written above, I’m not sure it will ever be exactly the same twice.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – September 2015

IMG_5142

It’s autumn, time for warming meals and bottomless cups of rose-infused lattes (this one’s from Chau Veggie Express).

It’s also harvest time and this month’s Cottage Cooking Club motto is to make the best of what’s seasonal and local. September was a make-up month, so we could choose from any of the recipes that we’ve missed, or revisit a favourite.

I caught up on two recipes this month. They were July picks, but they were perfect for all the garden vegetables that were still at their peak this month.

IMG_5038

Ribollita

I made this early in the month, using some fantastic tomatoes. This is a rich soup, full of vegetables. I used some kale that was the nicest thing at the market the day I made it, but it would have been equally as good with any cruciferous green.

Instead of toasted country bread, I served this with rosemary crostini for me and gluten-free toast rubbed with garlic for Kevin. This soup makes a hearty vegan dinner. We’ll be having it often over the winter.

IMG_5060

Kale and Ricotta Tart

The second dish I made is vegetarian and a dairy-lover’s dream. I used kale (again) in this dish, instead of the beet greens or chard called for in the recipe. It’s all about what’s freshest at the market, right?

I managed to pack a lot of kale in this tart, so it’s definitely health food, regardless of how much ricotta and heavy cream fill the all-butter crust.

Speaking of the crust, it’s not my favourite tart crust to work with and it’s not as pretty as my go-to from Dorie Greenspan, but it’s tender, tastes terrific, and is sturdy enough to contain the filling. It won’t replace my favourite, but I will use it again.

I’ve started testing recipes from the cookbooks I’ll be reviewing in my holiday cookbook series, so I haven’t gotten to as many River Cottage recipes as I’d like. Don’t let that fool you, though. This cookbook is one I’ll be working through and revisiting for a long time to come.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

A Lot of Catching Up to Do

Dahlia

I’ve got a fistful of draft posts awaiting completion, but instead, I’ve been making Periscope videos and commenting on other people’s blogs.

Since French Fridays with Dorie wrapped up, I haven’t been keeping up with my favourite bloggers as well as I’d like. So, I’m going to spend time giving them some comment love this weekend. Would you like to join me?

You can find most of them in this list: French Fridays Folks & Cottage Cooks

If I’m missing someone, let me know in the comments.

I’m going to leave it at that tonight. It’s a long weekend, after all. Have a great Labo(u)r Day!

Cottage Cooking Club – August 2015

IMG_4706

May I say that I’m glad this summer’s coming to an end? We’re expected to get more rain over the weekend than we’ve gotten all summer long. It’s a relief. Drought doesn’t look good on Vancouver. At any rate, autumn is harvest time, so there’s a lot to celebrate. I’m looking forward to cooking with squash and root vegetables again.

In between bouts of languishing in the heat this month, I managed a couple of warm-weather dishes for August’s Cottage Cooking Club.

Tomatoes with Thai Dressing

IMG_4780

I made these at the same time I made Tomatoes with Herbs. It’s hard to know which of these was my favourite. I just know that both are lovely ways to celebrate summer tomatoes. This version, with its Thai flavour profile, would make a nice addition to a rice or noodle bowl, or a side for a coconut curry.

Summer Garden Lentils Niçoise

IMG_4925

I learned to love French green lentils while participating in French Fridays with Dorie. There wasn’t much learning to do, to be honest, as I fell in love with them immediately. I use proper lentilles du Puy on occasion, but the Canada-grown French green lentils that I can buy at my local food co-op are organic and delicious. They’re what I use regularly. Is it wrong to say that I don’t notice the difference? Please don’t tell France.

Okay, so I’m not totally over summer. I’m happy to eat my way through the abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, beet greens, peppers, and everything else that’s on offer right now. Really, I’m just glad it’s finally raining.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.