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.

Holiday Book Reviews – Made In India

Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon

I received a review copy of Made In India from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

A few weeks ago, I found myself discussing authenticity in cuisine with a group of restaurant aficionados. We agreed that trying to match your experience of a far away place to its local interpretation is pointless. What matters is how the chef translates that cuisine using the best of what’s available locally.

What doesn’t often get discussed is authenticity in the home kitchen. Many of us associate world cuisine with the dishes we find in our favourite restaurants, rather than the dishes you’d find served around a kitchen table.

Meera Sodha‘s Made In India is an antidote to that, sharing her family’s treasured recipes alongside dishes she’s brought back from her travels in India.

And as the title suggests, she doesn’t fall into the trap of the well-travelled restaurant critic, either. These dishes are rooted in India, but they were perfected in her family’s English kitchen, picking up flavours and ingredients from their migration from Gujurat, through Kenya and Uganda, and into Lincolnshire.

So, there are recipes for a kedgeree using British smoked haddock, Ugandan-Gujurati dishes like mashed plantains with Indian spices, and techniques from the vegetarian traditions of Gujarati applied to meat and fish. This book is a product of a living, evolving cuisine.

It’s also a powerful tool for understanding the ingredients and techniques of Indian cooking. The back of the book includes a thorough guide to Indian ingredients with descriptions that are a pleasure to read. There are useful sections for meal-planning, leftovers, and trouble-shooting. Sodha includes a guest essay on wine pairings, too. Throughout the book she provides more detailed instructions, like her guide to making samosas that includes step-by-step photos.

She also does two things I’d like to see in every cookbook. First, there is an alternative contents page that lists recipes best suited to a number of categories, like party food, gluten-free, and foods for freezing. Then, in her weights and measures section, she clearly defines what she means when she calls for quantities like one large onion or the juice of one lemon (it’s 200 grams and 1/4 cup respectively). This last inclusion would solve the headaches of every home cook who has brought home a softball-sized onion or an heirloom tomato.

All of these things are designed to help you get cooking. Made In India is full of delicious recipes, but so are many other cookbooks that only get pulled off the shelf for bedtime reading. Meera Sodha wants you to keep the book in your kitchen, unintimidated by ingredients, techniques, or planning. My copy hasn’t hit the shelf yet.

Cauliflower close up

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CUMIN, TURMERIC, AND LEMON

Masala phool kobi

Cauliflower is a hero of the Indian vegetable world, but its fate doesn’t just lie in an aloo gobi. Roast it with just a few spices and you’ll have a vegetable you hardly recognize. At home, left to my own devices, I would eat it like this all the time. It’s addictive to eat by itself but also goes really well with lamb curries, in salads, and with kebabs.

Serves 4

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (around 1 ¼ pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two oven trays with foil and bring a deep-sided pan of water to a boil.

Wash the cauliflower, pull off the leaves from around the side, and discard. Break the cauliflower into small, fairly evenly sized florets using your hands and put to one side.

Put the cauliflower into the saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain really well. Let it dry for around 5 minutes in its own steam; if it is waterlogged it won’t crisp up nicely in the oven.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin along with the salt, then add the chili powder and turmeric, followed by the oil. Mix it all together really well. Lay the cauliflower out onto the trays in one layer and drizzle the spicy oil over it. Make sure the cauliflower is well coated, then put the trays in the oven for around 30 minutes, shaking them every 10 minutes or so to ensure the florets roast and brown evenly. If they start to burn, loosely cover them with foil.

Put the roasted cauliflower in a dish or bowl, and squeeze the lemon over the top before serving.

This dish disappears very quickly. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest doubling or tripling the recipe, because it will fast become the focus of the meal. My partner is usually very measured in his feedback on dishes I make for the blog. When he tried this one, though, all I heard were variations on, “This is so good. Oh, this is really good.” Once he finished, his only comment was, “Can we have this again tomorrow?”

Luckily, this is a simple dish to put together and one that can happily roast away in the oven while you’re preparing the rest of your meal stovetop. It’s also going to become part of our afternoon snack repertoire. I’d take a bowl of this over popcorn any day. It’s crispy, tender, spicy, and tart all at once.

Sodha suggests pairing it with a lamb dish or kebabs, but there are plenty of possibilities for a vegetarian or vegan meal, too. My preference is to serve it with a curry or rice dish, but you could also serve it as part of a small plates meal, using some of the recipes from the starters or sides chapters – a table laden with Sodha’s spiced potato tikki, papadum chaat, fire-smoked eggplants, spicy chapati wraps, Jaipur slaw, and this cauliflower would make for a great evening with friends.

MadeinIndia

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Made In India to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Made In India*

So good it's all gone

Gift Giver’s Guide: For flavour hunter, the week night chef, the traveller come home, and the pantry filler.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s a walk on the wild side.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 7 X 6 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Have you checked out the rest of my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways here and enter until December 17th.

Holiday Book Reviews – DIY Vegan

I received a review copy of DIY Vegan from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

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It’s getting ever easier to follow a vegan diet, even outside major centres. The same can be said for gluten-free eating. Clear labelling, the removal of unnecessary fillers, switching to vegan and gluten-free ingredients where possible – the food industry has adapted to the growing awareness and popularity of these diets.

At the same time, the vegan and gluten-free processed food industries have exploded. There are growing sections in cereal aisles, frozen food and dairy cases, and snack and condiment aisles. This is a mixed blessing. As nice as it is to have more options, these processed foods are not any more healthy than their conventional equivalents.

Then, there’s the expense. There is a premium on vegan and gluten-free products, even for single-ingredient staples. This can be partly explained by the scale of the markets for these products, but unfortunately, a large part of the cost can be attributed to the growing popularity of vegan and gluten-free eating. Once the word diet comes up, so does the price, just as it did with low-carb and low-fat products in the past.

The difference, of course, is motivation. People eat vegan for reasons of health and ethics, while many people who follow a gluten-free diet do so because they must – celiac disease is not a choice.

So, what to do? Many people are finding the solutions in their own kitchens, relying on whole foods and homemade. That can seem like a sentence to an unvaried diet, or a daunting program of food preparation.

As Nicole Axworthy and Lisa Pitman show us in their new cookbook, DIY Vegan, neither of these scenarios is inevitable.

They have been experimenting with making their own pantry staples for years, posting the results on their blogs, A Dash of Compassion and Vegan Culinary Crusade. After two forays into e-cookbooks, they’ve brought their favourite recipes for staples into print.

You can fill your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and even your spice rack with healthy alternatives to the mixes, sauces, and packaged foods you pay such a premium for in the grocery store. It’s cheaper, uses less packaging, and contains far fewer fillers, sweeteners, and preservatives than store-bought foods.

DIY pantry ideas often stop at spice mixes, preserves, and condiments, but this book walks you through making your own base ingredients and mixes all the way to recipes for meals, snacks, and treats that can be stored and pulled out when you need food fast.

They’ve also included a sample schedule of when you’d typically plan to make more of those staples, from things you’ll likely make weekly to staples you’d mix up twice a year. Each section starts simple, then branches into more complex tasks, interspersed with recipes that use the staples the chapter covers. All of this makes stocking your pantry from scratch less daunting. After all, once you’ve made your own non-dairy milk, it’s not that much more difficult to put together your own butter substitute. Then, what’s stopping you from trying to make your own simple cheeses? Suddenly, making a vegan version of a Classic Cheese Ball doesn’t seem like a big deal.

This follows through their chapters on cereals and snacks, spreads and sauces, and desserts. But, it’s the chapter on homemade mixes that’s truly inspired.

So often, the biggest obstacle to cooking is getting started. It’s the reason convenience foods have such an enormous share of the market. DIY Vegan recognizes that and provides recipes for dry mixes, seasonings, spice pastes, and even drink bases that will make homemade seem simple. Their Mac & Cheese Sauce Mix will keep you away from the boxed stuff forever – it’s cheaper and healthier by far. The DIY Vegan pantry includes containers of pizza dough mix (including a gluten-free version), muffin mix, cake and cookie mixes, and more. Spending a little time on a Wednesday evening or Saturday morning mixing these up isn’t a bad investment of time if it means homemade pizza, muffins, and cake more often.

It’s also a book of solutions, especially for households that include vegan and gluten-free eaters, as mine does. Lemon curd, Worcestershire Sauce, and vegan sour cream are only a few of the things that can be hard to find or make, or extra expensive to buy. I’m looking forward to making a lemon curd topped version of their vanilla cheesecake recipe.

I’m also thinking about investing in some more mason jars. Their cereal recipes alone have claimed my extras already. I’ve been given permission to share one of these with you, for a cereal that will have you baking triple and quadruple batches.

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CINNAMON TOAST CEREAL

Makes 5 cups

Fold down the corner of this page. If you love cinnamon-flavored cereal as much as we do, you’re going to want to come back to this recipe a lot. Think of it as a template for your perfect breakfast bowl. Bake the cereal while you make yourself a cup of coffee or squeeze some fresh juice, pour the cereal into a large bowl and add whatever toppings you have on hand—a sprinkle of hemp hearts and a few slices of banana, or goji berries and pecans and a splash of almond milk—and take pleasure in the fact that you can make cereal that’s better than the boxed stuff.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed brown rice cereal
  • 2 cups puffed quinoa
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Optional add-ins: sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the puffed brown rice, puffed quinoa, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until all the cereal is coated.
  3. Spread the cereal evenly over the prepared pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until dry to the touch, stirring halfway through. Let cool completely. Mix in the optional add-ins, if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 month.

The only difficult part of this recipe might be sourcing the puffed quinoa, for some. I have a health food store nearby, but a store with a big bulk department or one that specializes in gluten-free ingredients and flours would also carry it.

This was as simple as melting the coconut oil and mixing all the ingredients together. The cereal baked beautifully and is delicious on its own or with whatever mix-ins or fresh fruits you prefer. It’s nice to mix it with another kind of cereal, too, as my partner found.

The maple syrup sweetens the cereal just enough to enhance the cinnamon’s flavour, without the cloying sweetness that many commercial cereals have. The sea salt is an especially nice touch, playing against the flavours of the cinnamon and the syrup. I keep eating it right out of the jar, so we have to put it away and take it out only at breakfast time. The cereal keeps for a month, but I can’t imagine that’s information anyone would need, unless they’re making multiple batches. This cereal disappears embarrassingly fast.

The recipe is typical of Axworthy and Pitman’s recipes – it’s clear and concise, without skipping steps. Their serving suggestions are great and they always provide gluten-free alternatives for recipes that aren’t naturally gluten-free.

The recipes serve as inspiration, too. Once you know how easy it is to make your own cereal at home, you’ll want to try making ones with your favourite ingredients and flavours.

DIYVegan

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of DIY Vegan to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of DIY Vegan*

This book is going to be well-used in our kitchen. But, it’s especially useful at this time of year. So many of the recipes would make great gifts. Even the omnivores in your life wouldn’t say no to Maple-Masala Mustard or Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. And a jar of gluten-free banana-walnut muffin mix, with baking instructions, can make holiday breakfast at the family’s place a whole lot easier.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the preparer, the experimenter, the explorer, and the beginner

Come back next week for a review of a book full of spice and comfort.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 9 X 4 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Cottage Cooking Club – November 2015

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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 

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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

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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.

Holiday Book Reviews – Decolonize Your Diet

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I received a review copy of Decolonize Your Diet from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Decolonize Your Diet is a cookbook, but it is also a history, an exploration of food as medicine, and above all, a counter to the colonialism that runs through the food cultures of the Americas. It’s a reclamation of a food heritage by two Mexican-Americans, in the context of where they live and eat.

The book challenges the limits of what many of us in Canada and the States believe Mexican food to be, identifying indigenous ingredients and those introduced from elsewhere. The recipes spring from Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel’s heritage and from their exploration of the health benefits of the Meso-American diet.

The recipes themselves range from simple and comforting to dinner party fare. They include traditional recipes and contemporary vegetarian meals that incorporate heritage indigenous plants. There are recipes for stocking your refrigerator with salsas, flavoured vinegars, hot sauces, and other condiments. Another chapter covers pantry ingredients, equipment, techniques, and base recipes.

The headnotes for the recipes might share history, health benefits, or politics, alongside serving suggestions and flavour descriptions. But the recipes are playful, meant to encourage creativity in cooking healthy foods. There’s an emphasis on eating what is local, fresh, organic, and available and the authors encourage cooks to adapt their recipes.

For many of us, that playfulness could be satisfied for a long while just by exploring the flavours and techniques shared in this cookbook. You might start out with a simple recipe like their Old School Pinto Beans, then find yourself sourcing cone piloncillo and queso Oaxaca to complement your homemade corn tortillas in their recipe for pumpkin mole enmoladas.

I’ve been given permission to share a recipe with you, for a simple and earthy lentil soup that is full of flavour.

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Abuelitas’ Lentil Soup

Authors

Lentils are not indigenous to the Americas, but both of our grandmothers (abuelitas) made delicious and soul-warming sopa de lentejas. We flavor our soup with yerbaníz (also called “grandmother plant”), which has many medicinal properties, including being good for respiratory conditions and soothing to the stomach. The final squeeze of lemon sends the iron from the lentils to your body and adds brightness to the flavor.

Makes 6 servings

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2–3 jalapenos, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bunch green Swiss chard, stems diced, leaves cut into thin ribbons
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups (2 L) vegetable stock or water
2 cups (500 mL) brown lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh yerbaníz or 1 tbsp dried yerbaníz or 2 tsp dried French tarragon
2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground (optional)
juice of 1–2 lemons, to taste

In a large pot on medium high heat, sauté onions in oil until lightly browned, about 7–8 minutes. Add jalapeño, carrots, and chard stems and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add garlic and freshly ground pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, and yerbaníz. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Reduce heat, and cook at a slow simmer until lentils are barely tender, about 25 minutes. Add salt, chard leaves, and cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add ground chia seeds, cover partially, and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice until soup has a nice balance of flavors.

RECIPE CREDIT: Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing by Luz Calvo & Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.

PHOTOGRAPHS, PROP STYLING & FOOD STYLING CREDITS: Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography foodiephotography.com

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, substituting kale for Swiss chard and a mix of marjoram, thyme, and oregano for yerbaníz. I skipped the ground chia seed, as the soup seemed thick and rich enough without it. It’s a filling soup that was welcome in the cold weather we’ve been having here. The flavour is beautifully balanced, with the subtle heat from the jalapeños and the sweet acid of the lemon being especially welcome notes against the earthiness of the lentils. Unlike many soups, it didn’t have me reaching for bread or cheese to complete it. It’s sufficient and satisfying just as it is.

DecolonizeYourDiet

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of Decolonize Your Diet to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Decolonize Your Diet*

Many peoples, especially communities of colour and indigenous communities, are reclaiming their food heritage alongside their cultures and histories. In a time when the importance of healthy, whole foods is being recognized, along with food systems that promote sustainability and biodiversity, the work of this book’s authors is timely. They stand with people like Bryant Terry and Michael Twitty, and organizations like Vancouver Island’s Indigenous Food Network, documenting and expanding the food histories of this continent beyond the colonial narrative.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For anyone who wants to eat in concert with the the foods indigenous to this continent, but especially for First Nations and Latinx people who want to eat closer to their roots.

Come back next week for a review of a book that will fill your pantry with vegan goodness.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 6 X 8 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

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I received a review copy of True to Your Roots from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who loves root vegetables, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized I haven’t made the most of them. There’s a whole world of recipes beyond mashed potatoes, roasted roots, or even celery root purée.

I’ve been trying to correct that over the last while, discovering that sunchokes are fantastic whether they’re roasted or puréed in a soup, roasting radishes or shaving them paper thin onto baguettes thick with butter, shredding beets and carrots for hippie salads or baking them into cakes.

I’ve also been turning to cookbooks for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More are favourites and include ideas for working with root vegetables, as does Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. But Carla Kelly’s True to Your Roots focuses directly on root vegetables, providing a variety and creativity that’s usually reserved for showier fruits and vegetables. It’s also a vegan cookbook.

I’m not vegan, but I’ve striven to make the majority of my meals vegetarian or vegan for most of my adult life. When you’re trying to eat more meatless meals, it can be frustrating to find recipes for vegetable soups, mains, or side dishes relying heavily on meat stocks, eggs, or dairy. Until fairly recently, it was also hard to find vegan recipes that moved beyond a 1970’s palate. True to Your Roots solves both problems.

This is Carla Kelly‘s fourth cookbook – so far, she’s created vegan handbooks to bake sales, slow-cooking, and picnics. This book’s focus on a class of ingredient gives Kelly the freedom to roam across meals, cuisines, and techniques. She includes flavours from across the globe, while providing a range of familiar recipes alongside ones that twist expectations or go in entirely new directions.

I especially appreciate her guides to using vegetables that are often unfamiliar to home cooks in Canada and the U.S. It’s important to know that yuca and tropical yams should never be eaten before they’re fully cooked and it’s useful to know that horseradish is at its best when used shortly after being grated.

Kelly’s recipes go beyond root vegetables’ reputation as heavy, calorie-laden, comfort food material, but there are definitely comforting dishes included in the mix. Her potato biscuits are fluffy and satisfying, her burgers are substantial and flavourful, her soups are rich and homey. I couldn’t resist sharing her twist on a comfort food favourite of mine. Now, I’m thinking about mashing more potatoes just so I can make it again.

KALECANNON & AVOCADO

(gluten-free)

Kalecannon

This is my take on the traditional Irish colcannon. Adding avocado may seem strange, but it’s really yummy and gives a creamy richness to the dish. (If you’re not a fan, simply leave it out.)

Makes 2 servings

 

 

1 tsp neutral-flavored oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded kale
1 cup (250 mL) leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large frying pan on medium, heat oil and saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add kale, cover, and steam for 3–5 minutes, until bright green and tender.

Add potatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until just lightly browned, stirring so potatoes don’t stick or burn. Remove from heat and stir in avocado. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Next time you have mashed potatoes for dinner, cook extra so you’ll be ready to make this dish the next day.

RECIPE CREDIT: True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You by Carla Kelly. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography

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I served the kalecannon with stuffed portabella mushrooms, which made a complete and filling meal. The twist of using kale in place of cabbage brings freshness to a familiar dish, while the addition of avocado makes it creamier and richer than dairy ever could. The avocado didn’t overwhelm the other flavours, as I’d feared. Instead, it subtly melded all the flavours together.

I had some left over, which I heated up in a frying pan the next day. I think I liked it even better – the extra caramelization of the potatoes was especially nice.

TrueToYourRoots

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of True to Your Roots to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of True to Your Roots*

I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of what this book has to offer. I’m looking forward to trying condiments enriched with root vegetables (Sesame Horseradish Dipping Sauce), world cuisine favourites reimagined (Yuca Empanadas with Avocado, Plantain & Black Beans), and familiar foods with a twist (Celeriac Brownies).

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the root lover, the root-nostic, the root-phobic, and anyone who wants to eat closer to the earth.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s full of pockets of goodness.

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Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

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One of the nicest parts of autumn has become recipe sampling for my annual Holiday Cookbook Review series. I’ve been digging into this year’s selections for a while now and I love how the range of what I cook expands, as I learn from each of them. They also inspire me to get more creative on my own, dreaming up accompaniments for some of the recipes I try, based on what’s in the pantry and at the fresh markets.

These portabella mushrooms are a good example. I was looking for something to serve with Carla Kelly’s Kalecannon, from her new cookbook, True to Your Roots. There were some beautiful portabellas in the store where I picked up the ingredients I needed for her dish. I chose some vegetables that would make a nice filling, picked up some Daiya shredded vegan Mozzarella, and seasoned the dish much as my Irish grandmother would her Sunday roast. Well, I’m not sure she would have added chili flakes, but they were a nice addition.

Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4 portabella mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) rosemary
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme
a pinch of chili flakes
1 small zucchini, coarsely diced
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely diced
1 small tomato, coarsely diced
salt and pepper
Shredded vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Clean and trim the mushrooms. If the stems are particularly large, I remove them and dice them with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.

Put the cleaned mushrooms on the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat, add a pinch or two of salt, then cook the onion and garlic until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the rosemary, thyme, and chili flakes, then stir for a minute or so.

Add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, and diced mushroom (if using) and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

When the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, divide the filling equally between them and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.

Sprinkle the shredded vegan cheese on each of the filled mushrooms – I like to be generous. Bake for 5 minutes more, or until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.

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You’ll note that you get a preview of the Kalecannon from True to Your Roots in the photo above, which I’ll be telling you all about on Thursday. It’s the first of seven weeks of cookbook reviews that will help you cross some names off your gift list, right up until the last minute.

Even better, I’ll be hosting giveaways for five of the seven books, so you could end up with a gift of your own.

Cottage Cooking Club – October 2015

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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

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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

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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.

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites – An Avo Showdown Recipe

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One of the nicest parts of blogging for me is when the two lenses of my blog, food and community, converge. It’s not a rare occurrence, either – food and community go hand-in-hand.

There are a lot of organizations that connect food bloggers these days – Food Bloggers of Canada, food blogger savvy marketing companies, Meetups, and more. It means I’ve had the opportunity to meet other local bloggers and it’s often in the context of a fun event.

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This summer, I got to do just that, courtesy of Town Hall Brands and Avocados from Mexico.

They organized an Avo Showdown and local bloggers brought their best original avocado recipes to the competition.

I spent some time recipe-testing, consulting my copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for avocado-friendly pairings, and came up with an avocado and coconut cream spread, paired with jalapeño jam and a cucumber and fennel salad. I presented it on Vancouver-favourite, Raincoast Crisps, for two reasons: they’re delicious and I thought they’d hold up well to the very long wait between assembly and presentation to the judges.

  

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites

Serves a crowd

Fennel Crunch:
  • 5 grams red onions, finely diced and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes
  • 50 grams fennel ( ½ small bulb), excluding fronds, finely diced
  • 50 grams cucumber, peeled, quartered & cored, finely diced
Lime Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Avocado Cream:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
To Finish:
  • jalapeño jam, store-bought or homemade (I use Camilla Wynne’s recipe)
  • crackers, crostini or rice crackers
  • cilantro (optional)

Prepare the Fennel Crunch and Lime Vinaigrette. Toss the Fennel Crunch in 2 -3 tbsp of the vinaigrette, check for seasoning, and refrigerate.

Halve the avocados, remove the seed, and scoop the meat into the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture is smooth, thick, and free of lumps. Check for seasoning, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble, scoop a small quantity of the dressed Fennel Crunch onto the crackers or crostini. Spoon or pipe ½ – 1 tsp. of the Avocado Cream on top. Add a small quantity of jalapeño jam to either side of the Avocado Cream. Garnish with another small sprinkle of Fennel Crunch or a shower of chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Tips: For a gluten-free version, use rice crackers, gluten-free crostini, or even slices of cucumber. This recipe is suitable for vegan or vegetarian eaters.

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My dish was a hit with my family and with a few of the judges, so I’m happy. (Of course the happiest bunch of all were the night’s winners, as you can see in the photo above.)

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The evening was the best reward, anyway. We were treated to mountains of delicious appetizers prepared by the students at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, along with a demonstration of an avocado-shrimp spring roll by PICA’s Executive Culinary Chef Instructor, Darren Clay. (It was fun working in a commercial kitchen alongside fellow bloggers.)

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This was followed up by a demonstration of an Alligator Fizz by Justin Darnes, of Drinks Undressed and prestigious bars around the world and here in Vancouver.

By the time we got to taste each other’s dishes (nineteen in all), we were already a little full. But, they were all so delicious, we managed. And on our way out the door, we got a bag of avocado goodies to take home.

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A wonderful evening all around.

I was given an invitation to the Avo Showdown by Town Hall Brands, along with a small gift bag, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

Cottage Cooking Club – September 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.