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Wedding Vows, Exotic Spices and Slow Cookers

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Wow, what a crazy month! April was a complete whirlwind with the end of school, finals and our crazy two month planned wedding! Everything worked out amazing and the ceremony and the dinner after were wonderful. I got to hang out with the fam and my new in-laws who are also amazing. Now things are getting back to normal post-honeymoon and I’m still on vacation! No school until next week! Woo! Well, school has started but I haven’t found the time to blog until now. So,here I go!

Flowers at Granville Island

Flowers at Granville Island

 

I have some food related plans for the summer including perfecting pizza dough (wedding gift pizza stone!), making doughnuts, fondue experiments (wedding gift fondue set!) and getting into my cookbooks! I just reorganized all the books in the house which took all day with bookshelves in three rooms and they are in some semblance of order now; fiction, mystery, science fiction and crime fiction alphabetized. I still have to work on the non-fiction though, at hour five of the organizationathon they just got shoved in.

But as far as the cookbooks are concerned, the top of my list is my bread one (Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads) and like every other food blogger on the planet, Jerusalem! I have already made a few items but have barely cracked this beautiful ode to Middle Eastern cooking! I have been interested in that region’s cooking for a long time so I am loving the book so far.

Sunset on Harrison Lake during the honeymoon

Sunset on Harrison Lake during the honeymoon

My new obsession is za’atar, the spice mix used throughout the book. I got it for a specific recipe and have been putting it on everything! After searching for it at a few grocery stores, I found it a great middle eastern store on Main st called Yek O Yek (to the Vancouverites out there, if you haven’t been there, go now!). I should have just gone there in the first place. They had several sizes of containers of the spice which is mix of several dried herbs including varieties of thyme, oregano and sumac. I got a big container for five bucks and I’m so glad I went for the big size because it’s almost gone! It is great on rice, tossed on salad, mixed with breadcrumbs and crusted on tofu, stirfries and my most recent indulgence on hot buttered popcorn! It would also be yum mixed with plain yogurt for a dip or in a hearty stew or soup! I love it! So when, I started this post a few weeks ago, I was going to post a za’atar inspired recipe but unfortunately I’ve used up almost all of it so that recipe will have to wait.

The view from our room!

The view from the beach!

 

But I do have a couple of other ideas up my sleeve. The other day me and the man were window shopping and I saw a very cheap cookbook, Now, I have a fair amount of cookbooks but I don’t buy them very often (before Jerusalem it had been a long while). I prefer to get them out of the library and use them more for inspiration than for actual recipes. But when I saw this book, I knew I would be able to get some real use out of it. It’s called “Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker” by Robin Robertson and it has a million (well, 200) ideas!

My husband bought a slow cooker a couple of years ago and I can think of tons of meat based recipes to make in it, but when I though about veggie stuff, I was like, chili….Then I was out of ideas! This cookbook has essentially blown my mind with recipes for things I never would have associated with slow cookers. How about cake? Dips? Bread? There’s recipes for all this stuff and it’s all vegan! I dove in and have a couple recipes inspired by some in the book.

They’re not all winners and some have a bit of a 70’s vibe but hey, I like the 70’s, I like the nightlife, I like to boogie, on the disco rooooound! Anyway, I used some recipes from the book as the inspiration for these but tweaked them a bit. Now, bear in mind, your slow cooker may be a bit different than mine so you might need to keep an eye on things (for the cake anyway).

Vegan (fat-free) Apple Spice Cake (adapted from “Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker”)

Apple Spice Cake (sorry about the lighting)

Apple Spice Cake (sorry about the lighting)

1 3.4 c. all purpose flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground ginger

1/4 t ground cardamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t ground allspice

3/4 c. brown sugar

1/3 c. soy milk

3/4 c. applesauce (I used unsweetened but it’s up to you)

1 t vanilla

2 apples, peeled and diced

2 T marmalade (I used ginger but again any type will work)

confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

-Line your slow cooker with a double layer of parchment paper

-combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and the wet (except the diced apples) in another

-mix together (the batter will be pretty thick)

-press into cooker, spreading evenly and top with diced apples. Place a tea towel over the cooker (with the lid on) and cook on high for two hours, check for doneness after an hour and a half. Lift out the cake when down and sprinkle with sugar! It’s nice and spicy (with flavour not heat) and would be good with coffee or for breakfast or just for snacking!

This is going to be a two recipe post! Making up for lost time. So, I am an oatmeal lover and love steel cut oats. The only thing is,they take about half an hour so sometime I don’t have time in the morning. Enter the slow cooker, you just have to get it together the night before and you will wak up to a hot breakfast and a delicious smelling kitchen. So, this was also inspired by the slow cooker cookbook and by finding a can of cranberry sauce left over from Christmas! You may be in the same boat so use up your leftover canned fruit, I think any type would work, maybe peaches or pears too!

Apple-Cranberry Slow Cooked Steel Cut Oats

1 3/4 c. steel cut oats

1 can cranberry sauce

5 c. water

2 peeled, diced apples

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground cardamon

1 t vanilla

1/3 c, brown sugar

-spray the inside of the cooker (this was a sticky one because I didn’t spray mine!)

-combine everything in the cooker, give a little stir and set it for low for eight hours. That’s it! So easy.

It’s not super sweet so you can add more sugar when it’s done if you want. Hopefully these recipes will get you dragging out those slow cookers from the cupboard and looking at them in a different light. So, more on za’atar next time!

Triumph of the Bun

Hallowe’en Mask

I am very excited right now! The dream of many years has come true. I have made steamed buns! Hurrah! Chinese cooking is something that has always fascinated me and there’s nothing I like better than heading down to T & T (a large chinese supermarket) or any little Chinese grocery or vegetable market and just browsing and trying new things. Somethings are successful (rich sheet rolls) and some are not (weird yam noodles that taste like solid water). When I was cooking professionally I wanted to work at a Chinese place, preferably a Buddhist one but there was always a language barrier that prevented me from doing so. I’ve wanted to learn about Chinese baking and dim sum but wasn’t sure how as the cooking classes I have been able to locate were taught in Cantonese. There’s always cookbooks but I was a bit intimidated to take on yeasted items  without actually seeing someone do it. (I guess I could look on the internet! Oh well) The point is, I made steamed buns.

Pre-Steamed Buns

What I really wanted twas to have a BBQ bun that was vegetarian. Store bought veggie steamed buns are great but the fillings can be a bit bland and even though I haven’t eaten them in years I remember the great flavour of the BBQ pork buns. So I used the steamed bun recipe from Saveur but did my own filling with the aim of recreating BBQ pork without the meat. I think I succeeded and I hope everyone agrees!

It’s Hallowe’en today so I figured I’d put up a photo of my pumpkin! Have a spooky day!

Haunted Graveyard Pumpkin

 

 

 

BBQ “Pork” Steamed Buns or Char Siu Bao

Equipment:

stand up mixer

bamboo steam baskets with lids (you could jerry rig something with a regular steamer but it’s easier with the bamboo ones)

parchment paper

The Bun (adapted from Saveur magazine)

3 1/2 C flour

1 t baking powder

1 t instant yeast

1 T sugar

2 T veg shortening, diced

-combine yeast with 1 1/4 C water (115  degrees) until foamy about 10 minutes

-make sure the water isn’t too hot (unlike what I did the first few times! Oops, I killed the yeast.)

-combine the dry ingredients in a standup mixer with a paddle attachment

-add the yeast and combine at low speed

-add the shortening one piece at a time

-i kept the speed at low-med for about five minutes until it forms a ball

-cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise for two hours

Green Onions

The Filling

you can do this while the dough is rising

1/2 t Chinese 5 spice powder

1.5 T molasses

3 T brown sugar

20 oz canned tomato

1 T minced garlic

1 T minced ginger

2 green onions, diced

1 lb firm or extra firm tofu

4 king oyster mushrooms, small diced

2 t minced garlic

-combine the  first seven ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer on low heat for 45 min-1 hour

-puree in blender (be careful) add salt and pepper to taste

-saute the mushrooms and 2 t garlic for 3-4 min

-drain liquid from pan, add crumbled tofu

-saute 2-3 minutes

-add sauce and combine to throughly coat

-let the filling cool to room temp (I didn’t do this and it would have been a lot easier if I had)

Once the Dough Has Risen!

-turn out the dough and knead for 5 minutes

-divide the dough into 8 or 16 depending on how big you want your buns!

-shape into a ball and flatten a bit, place 1 1/5 T or 3-4 T depending on how big they are in the middle and pinch closed

-cut the parchment into little circles or squares and place bun seam side down on the paper, cut in a cross to let steam escape

-place in steamer, cover with lid

-put some water in a wok and get it steaming, put in steamer and cook 12-15 minutes until the buns are cooked and puffed

-enjoy!

Buns

 

Summer, It’s “Bean” Fun!

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The Ferris Wheel

Sorry about the fail on posting some salad recipes last week; work and school preparations left me a little wiped out. Speaking of school, ewww! Although I am excited to get back to it I didn’t think my four month break would go by so fast. This summer has been pretty awesome and I expect it to stay warm through September. Do you hear me weather? (shakes fist at sky).

One summer event I try not to miss is the old PNE. There’s something about the permeating smell of fried foods and spun sugar mixed with farm animals and screaming children that I just can’t do without. It didn’t disappoint this year! I got to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair!!! His real chair from the original Star Trek!!! Sorry to let my nerd out but it was amazing!!! My boyfriend was even luckier because he actually got to meet Data and Troi from TNG (Star Trek The Next Generation for the non-nerds reading this). I am seething with jealousy but am thrilled for him!  But I digress, as summer winds down I wanted to think of some way to keep it happening food wise.

Classic Fair Fare! (sorry about the pun)

Mexican inspired dishes come to mind so I thought I’d share a super easy and quick recipe for some healthy and vegan dip!

Black Bean Chipotle Dip with Pita Chips

2 pita pockets

1 can black beans (540 ml) drained (reserve liquid) and rinsed

1 1/2 T chopped cilantro

2-3 T canned chipotle in adobo sauce

1/3 lemon wedge, juiced

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 salt (plus more to sprinkle on chips)

oil (to drizzle or spray)

-plain greek style yogurt (optional)

-put oven on broil and cut the pitas into eighths, separating the pockets so you have 16 triangular chips for each pocket (I find it easiest to use kitchen scissors)

-lay in single layer on baking sheets

-drizzle oil or use oil spray on chips  and sprinkle with salt

-place under the broiler for 2-5 minutes, you will probably have to check them every 30 seconds or so after the first two minutes. The length of time will vary depending on your oven. Keep a close watch as these chips go from done to burnt quickly!

-combine all the ingredients plus 2 T of the reserved bean liquid in a bowl and blend with a hand blender or a food processor if you have one

-top with some plain yogurt (or not if you want to stay vegan) and some more cilantro and enjoy!

Hopefully these spicy summer flavours will help the warm days stay a little longer! You could also use this in a 7 layer dip for added yum. Or have a dip party with my yam dip and my guacamole!

Be a tourist!

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Granville Island Market

I guess the longer title for this post should read, be a tourist in your own city. Vancouver has  a lot to offer, great restaurants, beautiful beaches, hiking close by, farmers markets, awesome shopping and a young happening art scene. Vancity has a bunch of different neighbourhoods to explore and I am lucky enough to live with in walking distance of a bunch of different ones. One locally loved hot spot that is also a major tourist destination is Granville Island Market. Located under the Granville street bridge and jutting out into False Creek the market can be reached walking, biking, driving or even by water taxi. I can take the seawall for the scenic route or just head down to Granville for a more direct but noisier walk. I don’t go longer than a month without checking out the market. Exotic fruit? Check. Amazing florists? Check. Crazy cheese and deli selection? Check. Amazing bakeries and pastries? Oh yes and chocolate, wine, coffee, local crafts and in the summer months world class buskers and performers scattered around the market buildings.

Whenever my dad is in town, a trip to the market is a necessity. We gather bread, cheese (horseradish cheddar and St.Agur blue from Oyama,deli) marinated artichokes, humus (from Duso’s), olives, pate (for my dad) and a couple of giant lattes, nab a table and spread out our feast. Talk comes to a minimum as we concentrate on filling our faces. Although the summer crowds can be overwhelming, forge your way through and be prepared to get lost and disoriented by the overload of pyramids of fruit and glassed in displays of fresh pasta.

I went there yesterday with my mom and discovered a new store that has a wall of olive oil and vinegars infused with fruits and herbs, you take an empty bottle and fill it with what ever you like. As I’m typing this I just realized that I could mix the oil and vinegar right there, instant dressing. There was also a row of French fruit infused vinegars that I am going to have to indulge in. The apricot was an amazing saturated peachy orange colour, just dying to be made into a yum dressing. Anyway, I thought I would post some pics I’ve taken there in the past and put them up. I’ll be putting up some salad recipes next week!

Fruits and Veg

Exotic Blooms

Cheese Time!

Beets Etc

Terra Breads’ Apple and Rosemary Focaccia (pre-eating)

Organic Produce

Enchiladas!

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The first day of summer was officially yesterday and so far the weather is cooperating. I made some delish enchiladas a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to post the recipe but things got a litle hectic. Last week  I had to say goodbye to my little kitty friend, Xena. She has been my pal for almost eighteen years and I miss her a lot. Who will sneak attack me now? She is my avatar on wordpress so she will always be around but there is definitely a meow shaped hole in me right now. 

I didn’t take any pictures of the enchiladas unfortunately, partly because they didn’t last long and partly because enchiladas aren’t exactly the most photogenic food! So, here’s the recipe, it’s actually vegan but you could add cheese for the last 10-15 minutes of baking if you want. You could also top it with sour cream or plain greek yogurt or guacamole (which goes with everything as far as I’m concerned).

Enchiladas

1 onion (small diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 habanero (minced) omit if you like less spice

1 lb firm tofu (crumbled)

3 C brown rice (cooked)

1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomato

3 C tomato sauce

2 T ground cumin

1 T paprika

1 T brown sugar

salt and pepper

10 flour torillas

parchment paper, casserole dish, foil or a lid

-preheat oven to 400

-saute onion, garlic and habanero 2-3 minutes

-add crumbled tofu and 1/2 T cumin, salt and pepper

-continue sauteing 2-3 minutes until well mixed, set aside

-combine tofu mixture with cooked rice and black beans in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper

-combine crushed tomato with sauce and remaining spices (I did this sauce on the fly and you may prefer using a canned enchilada sauce as the base, all I had on hand was spaghetti sauce so that’s what I used)

-place 1/2 C rice/tofu mixture on each tortilla and wrap, place wraps seam side down in parchemnt lined dish and pour sauce over. Make sure some sauce gets inbetween as well

-cover with foil and bake 45 minutes (if you’d like to add cheese, uncover and top for the last 10 minutes of baking)

Enjoy! This is a great way to introduce some brown rice into your diet if you don’t eat it much or are afraid the family or whoever might not like it. It’s also a good vegan meal, I guarantee no one will even notice the lack of dairy.

Evil Kenevil and Shakshuka

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Don’t worry if my title doesn’t make a lot of sense. All will be revealed. spring has finally sprung in Vancity and one’s thoughts turn to bike riding in the sunshine. My bike has been out of commssion for awhile and (get ready to be shocked) I didn’t have a helmet. It’s true, I’ve been risking brain and limb and a ticket by riding with a naked noggin for years. So I decided to fork out the bucks and get a helmet. Nowadays there are a lot of helmet options, unlike the alien-head only ones of my youth. I lucked out at the bike shop (where they fixed my tire and spokes and straightened my bars) and found a sweet Evil Keneivel style helmet in L/XL to fit my oversize bean.

Monty inspects the merchandise

Next up, dinner. I decided to make Shakshuka again. Shakshuka is a delicious Middle Eastern dish from Jerusalem that I made last year and got out of (what else?) Saveur magazine. I had most of the ingresients already becasue they are pretty basic and rode my bike to the store to grab the couple I didn’t have on hand. This dish is really versatile and could be served at any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner. I chanegd it a bit from the first time I made it and it turned out awesome. It’s very filling and healthy and spicy!

Shakshuka (adapted from Saveur No.124)

1/2 T olive oil

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 small oniosn small diced

8 garlic gloves minced

1 habernero pepper* minced

1 1.2 T paprika

2 t cumin

salt and pepper to taste

6 organic eggs

-I specified organic eggs because not only are they superior in quality but the chickens are treated humanely. Unlike free-run or free-range, an organic label means the conditions are enforced and checked by the government and (in BC they can also have an SPCA certification that you can see on the carton). I prefer Rabbit River which are also local to my area) Okay, end of spiel.

Eggcitement!

-saute onions, garlic and habernero in olive oil (if you haven’t handled haberneros before: do not touch any part of your body after handling them and wash your hands)- you may need to put on the fan as the habernero can get into the air and make everyone in the vicinity start coughing

Pretty Pretty Peppers!

*haberneros are one of my favourite ways to add heat to dishes, if you haven’t had them before they are extremely spicy. Check out the Scoville Scale to see how they compare to other peppers. However, what I love about haberneros is not just the heat, they impart a real depth and flavour to dishes without the acidity that peppers like jalapeanos have. If you like spicy food you will want to add habeneros to your cooking repetoire. They are pretty cheap (although they are pricy by the pound they weigh next to nothing) the three I bough today cost around fifty cents and they freeze really well, just stick them in a bag. If you can’t find fresh, dried can be used but be warned…the dried are much much spicier, use sparingly until you know how hot they are.

-add the tomatoes plus about 1/3 can water to the onions

-simmer until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes (cover if you don’t want tomato splatter all over your stove)

-stir occasionally and add some salt and pepper

-crack the 6 eggs evely spaced apart into the simmering tomato sauce and cover

-let cook 5 minutes

-baste eggs with a little of the tomato sauce and cook 1 more minute (if you like runnier eggs reduce the cooking time)

-ladle into three bowls (2 eggs each) and serve with pita for dipping

Shakshuka!

Enjoy the yum! The original recipe also garnishes with parley and feta which would probalby be awesome as well. I am pretty sure my next project is going to be Chinese steamed buns which I have wanted to make forever. I just realized the bread book I got for Christmas has a recipe for them. I am so excited!!! I’ll be doing a vegetarian take on a BBQ pork filling so stay tuned!

Day Off Baguette

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School is all done finally, grades in and transcripts sent off! Now it seems I have a little too much time on my hands! Luckliy my favourite magazine has come to the rescue; the latest issue of Saveur is dedicated to baking with “Make This Bread” emblazoned across the title. I decided to give it a go. So I made the four hour baguettes on the cover and they turned out pretty great.

The Finished Product

After a few stalled attempts with the yeast I had on hand (I guess expiry dates do mean something) I bought some new stuff and got going. I always worry that the dough won’t rise enough when I make bread but after the first ten minute dough rest I knew it was going to work. There is nothing like pulling that dough out of the bowl and feeling it come alive under your hands when you knead it! The recipe called for a baking stone which I don’t have so the crust wasn’t quite as crusty as it could have been. My baking sheet worked fine though. You have to add ice cubes to a cast iron pan in the hot oven to create steam so that was fun! I only took pictures of the finished product and I couldn’t get very good light in the kitchen when they were done (it was almost 10). I also couldn’t get the flash to turn off so the pics aren’t quite what I wanted.. On the bright side, my boyfriend gets home around 930 so it was nice to give him some fresh bread when he walked in.

I think I might try making a loaf with a starter next time; I’ve never used one before and have wanted to try it out for a while. There is a bakery in the Black Forest (which I can’t believe is a real place but here’s proof) which has been using the same starter for 500 years which is kind of gross and amazing at the same time. I also think there will be some pizza dough in the near future. Well, this is just a quick post which will hopefully inspire some baking!

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