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Punjabi Quesadillas

We had the pleasure of having the two Megans over for dinner last night and I thought it would be a good time to try out these quesadillas that I discovered on the Food Network last week. I saw an episode of The Spice Goddess which featured Punjabi Quesadillas. Her version used chicken and yogurt but I’m going to change that up a bit and make mine with black beans and brown rice tortillas. I think they were a hit and I’m going to have the leftovers for breakfast…

Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: approximately 15-20 minutes

grapeseed oil to brush tortillas and saute (you can also use olive oil)
1 398 ml tin black beans
1/2 large red onion
3 cloves or more minced garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp Spanish paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp garam masala
Daiya mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 cup)
6 brown rice tortillas (1 pkg)
sea salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil in a pan.

Chop the onion and mince the garlic and saute with the fresh ginger until tender. Add the spices.

When the aromas have been released by the heat, add the black beans.

Add a little cold water to the pan (about 1/3 cup). Cook, stirring until the mixture is well combined. The mixture should be moist. You can add a little bit more water if it’s too dry. Season with sea salt to taste.

Brush one side of the tortillas with grapeseed oil and place oil side down on a cookie sheets. Sprinkle a little cheese (how much cheese you use is really up to you). Spread the black bean mixture on top of the cheese.

Spread right to the edges of the tortilla. Sprinkle a little more cheese.

Top each with another tortilla and lightly brush some olive oil on the top.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes).

Serve with salad. I’ve served these with an avocado salad with citrus dressing.


Quinoa Salad

My friend Megan…

… loves my quinoa salad and suggested we make it for the blog.  What a coincidence that my other friend Jill asked me for some quinoa ideas just the other day!  I originally got this recipe from my other friend Maya, and I’ve changed it slightly for nutritional value as her version used cous cous.  Feel free to try your own favourite vegetables in this salad – there really are no rules! I will mention the kalamata olives really add to this dish, the salty brine really cuts the richness of the nut hummus.  This salad is packed with protein so you can use it as a main lunch course (as I will be doing this week!).  Alternately it can be used as a side dish.

Serves:  8
Preparation Time:  15 minutes

1 1/2 cups quinoa (you can use any kind of quinoa, red or white)
1 small zucchini cut into half moons
2/3 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
2 green onions, finely sliced

for the nut hummus:

1 cup almonds, soaked overnight
1 cup hazelnuts, soaked overnight (you can use any combination of nuts)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive, hemp or flax oil
5 gloves or more of garlic
pinch of cumin
cold water to blend (if necessary)

Quinoa is a very easy grain to cook and it’s packed with protein.  Quinoa is cooked with two parts water to one part quinoa.

Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to minimum, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Check to make sure that the water has cooked off and let stand for a few minutes before serving.  In this case, I am going to let stand until cool as I’m making a cold salad.

To make the nut hummus, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth, or as Davis says, “cookie dough consistency”.

Cut the vegetables.  I usually cut my tomatoes and olives in half lengthwise and my zucchini into half moons.

Toss the vegetables into the cold quinoa and start to add the nut hummus in small amounts.  How much you add is really up to you.  I have used the entire batch with this amount of grain and vegetables.

Serve cold.  Enjoy Jill!

No Cow Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been sick all week and after a long day of work with my head pounding and my eyes feeling like they’d been in front of a computer for 9 hours….I wanted a little comfort food.
This is really easy to make and was in a bowl, on the couch, in front of the TV within minutes.

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 2
Cooking Time: 15

8 ounces brown rice (or other wheat free pasta) macaroni
3 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons vegan butter
2 cups unsweetened rice milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika

1 tbsp spelt flour
rice milk to make slurry (about 1/4 cup)

Boil enough water to accommodate your pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the bag.  Drain, rinse and set aside (while the pasta is cooking, I start my sauce so the draining will actually come near to the end of the making of the sauce).

In a separate pot, melt the butter.
Add the black pepper, paprika and nutritional yeast and stir until blended.

Add the rice milk and over medium heat bring the mixture close to boil.
At this point, I add the cheese.

Daiya cheese is brilliant. It is soy free, and tastes and acts just like real cheese from stretch to melt….this stuff is the best!
In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I should make a whole batch of this recipe as I was home alone and I didn’t know it it would reheat well (as many non dairy cheeses don’t). I remember my brother eating the glutinous, starchy, sticky, Kraft dinner leftovers as a kid and I didn’t know if my cold recipe would come back to life….but Daiya is amazing. Reheated the next day this creamy mix came back just as if it had never cooled down.

Stir constantly as the cheese is melting.

This will take a few minutes, so as I am doing this, I also make a spelt flour slurry in a cup to thicken the sauce a bit.  Take your flour and add a bit of rice milk to it, just enough to make a paste.  When that paste is smooth, add a little more rice milk and keep stirring until its smooth again.  Continue this process until you have a slurry mixture of rice milk and flour that is the consistency of runny wallpaper paste.

Add a bit of the melted cheese mixture into the slurry and stir until combined.  Add a bit more.  Continue to add until the cup is full and then add the slurry mixture back into your sauce (this insures that the flour mix does not heat up too quickly).  Stir until combined and remove from heat.  Continue to stir for a few more minutes.   The thing with spelt flour vs. wheat flour is that spelt is not friendly with heat.  Normally to make this sauce with all purpose flour,  I would have made a roux at the beginning of the process, added my milk and thickened the sauce that way, however this would mean that the spelt flour would be over heat too long and it would not do its thickening job.  This is why I do it at the end.

Taste the sauce to make sure the flour taste has cooked off.  Season with salt more pepper if desired (the Daiya cheese has a fairly strong cheesy taste so this isn’t always necessary).

Add your cheese sauce to your noodles and stir until combined.  You want to make sure you cover each noodle with sauce and that the tubes fill up with cheesy goodness!

Dish into bowls and enjoy.

Thanksgiving Nut Roast

I searched a long time for an alternative to the classic Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Last year I threw out the idea of Tofurkey and found a little gem on the Peta website. This recipe can be slightly time consuming as the roast has two parts: the roast itself plus a middle layer of stuffing. The stuffing also works really well on it’s own, so feel free to make extra!
Can you believe that this recipe has been around since 1994? I’ve changed it a little here, reducing the amount of fat from the original version. I think the nuts make this dish rich enough. The recipe freezes well, so if you can’t get through a whole pan you can divide it up into individual dinners and save for a day when you just don’t feel like cooking. Because of the slightly longer preparation time on this dish, rather than halving the recipe, I recommend this.

Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 35 minutes

The Roast:
two tablespoons oil or margarine
2 large onions, chopped fine
5 cloves (or an entire bulb) garlic, minced
2 cups raw cashews
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup gluten free bread. (I used buckwheat bread in this case. There are several on the market available at the local grocer such as Donald’s Market)
3/4 cup soup stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

The Stuffing:
3 cups bread cubes, toasted
two tablespoons margarine, melted but not hot
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely-chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon sage
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste:

  • the stuffing makes more than will fit in your pan, so I put the extra into a small oven safe container, cover with tinfoil and bake along side the nut loaf.

To make the roast, cook the onion and garlic in the oil or margarine until tender, and remove from the heat.

Chop the cashews by hand or in a food processor; cut up the bread as well.

Add the cashews and bread to the onion, then add the vegetable stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice.

Put half of this mixture into a small, greased loaf pan (or line a regular loaf pan with parchment paper).

Mix together all the ingredients from the stuffing list.

Put the mixture on top of the stuff in the loaf pan (an equal amount to the bottom layer that is already in the pan). Add the rest of the first mixture on top of the stuffing so that there are three layers of food in the pan.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes. The top should be browned.

Let the roast cool for a few minutes, then turn the pan over and serve the roast on a plate (or simply serve it out of the pan). Serve with gravy if desired, keeping in mind that it is a very rich dish.

I serve Nut Roast with roasted potatoes, roasted beets, brussel sprouts and mushroom gravy. Try your favourite traditional Thanksgiving side dishes with this main feature!

Pumpkin Pie

This is by far my most favourite dessert in the WORLD. Actually, I eat this stuff for breakfast – dessert, smezert! It was top priority to devise a no-soy, no-wheat version of this bad boy. The recipe this year is slightly different as my previous version contained refined sugar in the crust and brown sugar in the filling. I hope you enjoy this new and guiltless version! Happy Holidays!

Yields: 1 9″ pie
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes

1 9″ wheat free pie crust (see my recipe under desserts)
1 398ml organic pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp coconut oil (or you can use Earth Balance)
2 tbsp spelt flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
3 tbsp light organic molasses (not back strap – it is too strong)
3 tbsp agave or maple syrup
1/3 cup Egg Replacer

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a high speed blender, blend together the egg replacer, the spelt flour, and the coconut milk until thick and creamy. Make sure you use a spoon to check that there is no dry ingredients left in the corners of the bottom of the blender when the blender is not running.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and gently heat until the coconut oil has melted. Remove the mixture from the heat source.

While whisking the pumpkin mixture, begin to add the egg replacer and continue to whisk until it’s completely blended.

Pour the pie filling into the unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 and cook for 30 more minutes. This pie will rise slightly while cooking but will settle when removed it from the oven. You will notice the surface start to crack slightly and this is a good indication that the pie is ready. You will also notice that as you remove the pie from the oven is it quite “jiggly”. Don’t be alarmed, it is indeed done cooking and it will firm as it cools.

Let the pie cool completely before serving or chilling. This pie will stay soft until it cools completely and is best served chilled so that it’s easy to cut. You can keep it in the fridge for up to a week, but I guarantee it won’t last that long!

Flaky Pie Crust

This recipe comes straight from the book “The Joy of Vegan Baking” by Colleen Patrick-Coudreau.  It makes enough for two cursts.  You can freeze the other half in a ball to be thawed and used at a later date, or as I do, I buy the tin pie plates and make extra, freezing the crusts that I don’t need until a later date (it saves time and headache when you need a pie crust in a pinch!

I don’t have pictures for this one as of yet, because I had crusts stored in my freezer and I’ll be using one of those for the pumpkin pie recipe.  When I run out of crusts, I’ll post some pictures to go along with the recipe, but in the meantime, here are the instructions:

Yield:  2 9″ pie crusts
Prep Time:  45 minutes
Bake Time:  will depend on the type of pie

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortning
1/2 cup non-dairy butter
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp ice water.

This can be made by hand or using a food processor and the latter is much easier.  Make sure you don’t overprocess the ingredients, which could make for a tough inedible crust.  Follow the directions and you should have no problems.

Prior to beginning, make sure all the ingredients are cold.  You can put everything in the freezer about 30 minutes prior to preparing.  When  you put everything in there, you can measure out more than the 1/3 cup of water, just in case you need a little extra.

Cut the shortening and butter up in to 1/2″ chunks prior to freezing it, so you have to fuss with it as little as possible once frozen.  The reason for this is that you want the fat to stay as cold as possible, and the more you handle it, the more it will warm up.

Combine the flour, agave and salt in the food processor and process for 10 seconds.  Scatter the (already cut up) shortening over the dry ingredients and pulse in 1 to 2 second bursts until most of the fat is the size of small peas.  With the machine turned off, slowly drizzle the ice water over the top.  Pulse until no dry patches remain and the dough begins to clump into small balls.

Try to press the dough together with your fingers.  If it does not hold together, sprinkle on a bit more ice water and pulse again.  Don’t allow the dough to gather into a single mass during processing.  You want the dough to hold together, but you want the dough to remain rough (not smooth like pizza dough).  Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round flat disk and wrap tightly in plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to several days before rolling.  The dough can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 6 months.  Thaw completely before rolling.

The secret to rolling out pasty dough is that you’re not rolling it!  It’s more like you are using the rolling pin to press it out from the middle so it naturally extends outwards.

Start by clearing a large work surface, as you will need a lot of room.  You can roll dough on top of a pastry board or directly on a clean countertop.  If the dough has been chilled for longer than 30 minutes, let it stand at room temperature until it feels pliable enough to roll.

Flour the work surface (just enough so the dough will not stick.  Too much flour can toughen the dough, but you don’t want the dough to stick to the work surface either).  Place the dough in the center of the floured surface and flour the top of the dough as well.  I also sprinke my rolling pin with a bit of flour.  With uniform pressure on the pin, roll the dough from the center, out in all directions, stopping just short of the edge.

To keep the dough in a circular shape, each stroke should be made in the opposite direction from the one that preceded it.  You can do this by rotating the dough itself rather than by moving the pin.  Periodically, make sure the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface by sliding your hand or pastry scraper beneath it and sprinkle some flour on the counter if necessary.

Don’t worry if you see cracks and splits; all of these can be easily mended by just pushing the dough together with your fingers.  If a spot re-opens, your dough may be too dry.  Dab the edges of the split with cold water to “glue” it back together.

Roll the dough 3 to 4 inches wider than your pan so that you will have plenty of dough for covering the entire pan and for creating a rim.  (Place your pan upside down in the center of the dough to calculate the width.)

To transfer the dough, roll it loosely around the pin, center the pin over the pan, and then unroll the dough into the pan.  You can also just fold the dough in half or in quarters, place it in the pan, and unfold it to cover the pan.

Patch any holes or cracks with dough scraps by first lightly moistening the scraps with cold water.  When the dough completely covers the pan, trim the edges with scissors, leaving an overhang of 3/4″ around all the sides of the pan.

To relax the dough and avoid shrinkage when baking, chill the crust for 30 minutes before baking.  You can chill up to 24 hours.

Creamy Green Soup

I discovered a local vegan café on Commercial Drive last fall and tested their “green” soup – which wasn’t so green after sitting on an element all morning. I was annoyed with how much I paid, and even more annoyed when I tasted it! And so my mission to devise the tastiest green soup commenced. It didn’t take long and I think you’ll agree that the creamy, cheesy flavours in this green soup are the perfect balance of satisfaction. Jason asked for this one this week. Ask, and you shall receive, on the conditions there is no talking during Supernatural!

Servings:  6
Prep Time:  5 minutes:
Cook Time:  30 minutes

1 tbsp grapeseed oil for sautéing
600 grams frozen spinach (or 6 cups fresh spinach) *see note
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups vegetable stock **see note
1 398 ml can coconut milk
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste

*if you are using fresh spinach, remove the stems and rinse the leaves thoroughly as they can often have sand trapped between them. Add to the recipe as you would frozen spinach.
**of course the best stock to use would be one that you’ve roasted and deglazed yourself, however that is not always an option based on time. I keep stock cubes on hand (make sure you buy the low sodium, no MSG organic brands – you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away). You can also buy pre-made organic stock in tetra packs at the market. Use what you need and freeze the rest until later.

Chop the garlic and onion.
In a large pot, heat the grapeseed oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent.
Open and drain off any excess water from the frozen spinach. Add to the onion mixture and heat through (about 2 minutes).

Add the vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a mild simmer and remove from the heat.
Transfer the spinach mixture from the pot to a high speed blender. Be very careful when pouring out the hot mixture.
Secure the lid (you don’t want to burn yourself with hot soup splatter) and blend on high until smooth.
Return the blended soup to the pot and cook over medium heat until the soup begins to simmer.
Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper.
I eat this soup as a light dinner with vegan gyoza dumplings on the side (which can be purchased from your local market in the freezer section). This soup would also make a great accompaniment to a veggie burger or fresh falafel. The ideas are limitless!