Category Archives: Spunky Recipes

The Revolution: How to Eat an Apple

While Canada is being reminded of why we are called “The Great White North” (Winter is my favourite season! 🙂 ), I was faced with a dilemma that led to an epiphany. The dilemma: after a tough workout at the gym, how was I to eat my pre-post-workout snack on my 60min walk home in -40dC weather? The idea of taking off my (double) gloves to hold the core while I searched for a garbage can was unappealing, to say the least. This dilemma led to the epiphany: How to Eat an Apple. Throw away the apple-eating rulebook, and change your life forever!

Steps:

1)      Hold the apple in your hand by the stem (or cradle it in your gloves), so that the “eye” is facing you

2)      Bite directly over the “eye”

3)      Eat the apple however you like, doing your best not to drop it (applicable for the double glove system). Whenever you take a bite in the centre, make sure you have a good amount of apple flesh. This way you won’t notice the core!

4)      When you come across seeds, spit them out like watermelon seeds. A fun game is the “distance challenge”.

5)      Discard the stem (again, with the double glove situation, once I had to eat the stem then spit it out like the seeds. This works too!)

Waste not, want not. And your hands stay roasty toasty! I’ve been cooking up some amazing dishes this winter, but this discovery is currently my number one. Mind blown. And as an added bonus, when it’s -40dC the apple is more like an applecicle. Delicious!


Lebanese Falafel

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

I am addicted to falafel. I judge a city by it’s falafel offerings, and can be quite picky. I have lived in two cities with sub-standard falafel, and during that time I honed in on the craft of making my own and demanded that my first meal back in my hometown was falafel. I am a walking example of the Canadian fusion girl: craving Middle Eastern cuisine with the physique of a Scandinavian.

I have tried many versions of this staple, making an effort to write down every tweak and change. Some batches were fit only for the garbage; some made me yearn for the sub-standard offerings. But through dedication and perseverance, I found The Falafel Recipe. The trick: do not cook the beans. This is true throughout the Middle East: In Lebanon and Israel, chickpeas are used. In Egypt, the chickpeas are replaced with fava beans or a combination of fava beans and chick peas (I call this garfava, because it’s fun to say). To make the falafel more Egyptian, the amount of fresh herbs should be doubled, to the point where the falafel looks green. Of course, you could also use a green such as spinach or Swiss chard to get the same effect. Lebanese falafel is the “Canadian” version of Egyptian and Israeli: enough fresh herbs for significant speckles of green, but enough cumin and spice to remind you of Israeli falafel. The uncooked beans give you the classic falafel texture. Not smooth, but grainy (about the size of uncooked quinoa seeds), with a firm bite. For a true classic version, these should be deep fried or pan fried, but I am well aware of my kitchen limitations, and know that hot oil and a stove is a recipe for disaster. Baking is much safer 🙂

To serve these falafels, I have made the traditional falafel pita, made a deconstructed pita including a cucumber-tomato salad and tahini-lemon dressing (1:1 for tahini to lemon juice, mixed well. Add water for consistency as necessary, and some cayenne for spice) and pickled red onions, and eat them plain as snacks. These are by far the best falafels I have ever tasted, and well worth the cravings! (Note: I have not travelled to Israel, Lebanon, or Egypt. But when I do, one of my first stops will be a falafel stand!) Simple, easy, minimal dishes, freezer-friendly, and delicious, these falafels are worth their exalted status in my kitchen.

 

Lebanese Falafel

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water

1 small onion, chopped OR ½ cup chives, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. salt, or to taste

 

Directions:

1)      Drain soaked chickpeas. Rinse well and set aside.

2)      In food processor, add all ingredients. Process until reaches a consistency between couscous and hummus. *Note: Depending on the size of the food processor, may have to do this in batches

3)      Place 2 tbsp. of mixture in your hand, and roll into a ball. Place falafel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until no mixture left.

4)      Bake at 350oF for 20min. Carefully flip over falafel and bake an additional 10-15min, until falafel golden brown.

5)      Serve as a deconstructed falafel pita, as a topping for a salad, or plain!

 


Truffle Mania!

These past three months have been the most challenging three months of my life. They say bad things come in threes, and I believe that holds true for multiples of three as well. However, through sheer grit and determination, perseverance, and strength of will, I have survived. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Helping me these past months were these truffles. Very easy to make, they are no-bake little treats of bliss for when you need a pick me up. I went through a truffle phase after this, with a different combination entering the food processor every time. Here are two that I tweaked repeatedly until they were perfect. Carrot cake or Chocolate Maca – your choice. Enjoy!

*Notes* For freezing, the best method I have come up with is placing the truffles on a baking sheet and freezing them individually. Once frozen, I store them in Ziploc bags. If you skip the individual freeze step they still work, but sometimes they stick together in the bag.

I have added gluten free and nut free options for these recipes. I’ve tried them all, and these are the combinations with the best success. I actually prefer the gluten free truffles, as sometimes where I get my gluten free oats they are out of stock. But they always have quinoa flakes!

The Maca powder is a splurge item. It adds a carmel flavour to the truffles, and also assists in cell repair. Perfect for stress! I bought my bag of Maca powder at the health food store for $9 2 years ago – a little goes a very long way! If you don’t have any, omit the maca and have chocolate truffles instead 🙂

Carrot Cake Truffles

1 ½ cups carrots, grated

12 dates, soaked in ½ cup water

1 cup oats (Certified Gluten Free if req. Substitutions that are fantastic: Quinoa flakes, millet flakes, or buckwheat flakes)

¼ cup coconut flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1” piece ginger, roughly chopped

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cardamom

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:

1)      In food processor, grate carrots. Remove and set aside.

2)      In food processor, puree dates until paste forms, adding soaking water as required.

3)      Add oats, coconut flour, salt, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and lemon juice. Puree until well blended.

4)      Add 1 cup grated carrot and puree until smooth.

5)      Add remaining carrots and pulse to combine.

6)      Shape into 1 tbsp. truffles. (I just scooped and froze, but if you want to be fancy, roll them into balls) Freeze until ready to eat!

7)      Optional: These thaw quite quickly and become a bit mushy. To serve on dessert tray, bake at 375oF for 10min.

Makes 34 truffles

Chocolate Almond Maca Truffles 

1 cup oats (Certified Gluten Free if req. Substitutions that are fantastic: Quinoa flakes, millet flakes, or buckwheat flakes)

1 cup raw almonds (To make nut free, use raw sunflower seeds. Decadent nut free truffles – dry toast the sunflower seeds on medium heat in a sauce pan until golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool in a bowl)

2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder

½ tbsp. maca powder

7 dried dates, soaked in ¼ cup water

1 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

Cinnamon, nutmeg to taste 

Variations: add instant coffee, cardamom, and/or cayenne

 Directions:

1)      In small measuring cup, soak dates in ¼ cup water and vanilla.

2)      In food processor, pulse ¾ cup oats until a flour

3)      Add almonds. Pulse until mealy in texture

4)      Add date mixture. Pulse until dates pureed.

5)      Add all remaining ingredients. Puree until dough forms, adding water as necessary

6)      Shape into 1 tbsp. truffles (Again, if you want to be fancy, roll them into balls). Freeze until ready to eat! 

Makes 28 truffles


Roasted Tomato and Root Vegetable Soup

You'll never look at tomato soup the same way again

You’ll never look at tomato soup the same way again

This is not the Tomato Soup of your childhood. There is no Campbell’s product anywhere (unless you have a painting of the Andy Warhol soup can in your kitchen), and cream is not involved. More importantly, nothing is pureed. What this soup is however, is a roasted tomato bowl of pure bliss. Simple, fresh flavours highlighted by roasting and completely addicting.

This soup was first born in my ongoing growth in the kitchen to try and overcome my childhood aversions – tomato soup in this case. Clearly, I strayed a bit. From the market I got a giant bag of plum tomatoes, as well as the seasonal root vegetables of rutabaga, kohlrabi, and beets. Inspired by a tomato soup recipe in Eric Tucker’s Millennium cookbook and my ciambotta recipe, I set out experimenting. The end result is a soup that is quite possibly the recipe of Fall 2013. The roasted tomatoes add such depth and flavour to the soup it’s surprising. Roasted garlic is never a bad thing, and roasting the onions is an optional but highly recommended step. The beets add a gorgeous deep red hue to the soup, making the bowl look even more ‘tomatoey’. The rutabaga and kohlrabi add some nice contrast in both colour and crunch, and the swiss chard at the end looks like bright green ribbons. The root vegetables used here could be completely interchangeable, depending on your preference. Parsnips, turnips, potatoes … anything. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition to the soup. The roasted vegetables are helped along with some fresh thyme, rosemary, fennel, and oregano. A splash of balsamic at the end for some acid, and you’re ready to slurp. The best part is that the soup almost cooks itself. The roasting does all the hard work – you just have to throw it all together in a pot after and let the flavours marry.

Although I failed to conquer my tomato soup aversion from my childhood, in the process I’ve discovered the tomato soup recipe of the year, and one that I will be making again and again!

 

Roasted Tomato and Root Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion, cut into ⅛ ‘moons’

1 bulb garlic, top cut off and loose skin removed

27 small plum tomatoes, halved (~10¾ cup)

2 medium beets, cut into ¼” cubes

1 rutabaga, cut into ¼” cubes*

2 kohlrabi, cut into ¼” cubes*

½ tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

12 cups water, as necessary

1 tsp. dried thyme OR 1 tbsp. fresh

½ tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

4 cups swiss chard, chiffonade

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

*Root vegetables should amount to ~3 cups. Seasonal pickings!

Directions:

1) Line a 9”x13” baking pan and two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (*Note* If you don’t have parchment, spray your pan and trays with a lot of oil. The caramelization is what gives the vegetables flavour, but it’ll also guarantee hours scrubbing the pan if you forget either to line or oil the pans!)

2) In baking pan add onion, garlic, beets, and root vegetables.

3) On cookie trays, lay the halved tomatoes skin side down in a single layer.

4) Sprinkle all vegetables with pepper.

5) Roast all vegetables at 425oF for 40-45min, flipping the pans halfway.

6) Once vegetables are roasted, cut onion, garlic, and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.

7) In large stockpot, add roasted onion and garlic, apple cider vinegar, and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and let simmer ~5min.

8) Add root vegetables, all remaining herbs and spices, and 8 cups of water. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer ~10 min.

9) Add roasted tomatoes. Gently pour 4 cups of water over baking trays, and tip trays into the stockpot – we want the roasted juices! Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer ~15min.

10) Add swiss chard and balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook until chard bright green and wilted, ~5min.

11) Serve!


Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

Ma-Po Eggplant Tofu Stew

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew, served with a fresh Japanese Turnip Pickle

It started with the turnips. Japanese turnips, fresh from the garden. This inspired me to use the fermented black beans, which I picked up at an Asian grocery store on a whim one (+) year ago. Sometimes my food-association astounds me. The fermented black beans led me to the question: “What do I do with these?”. Apparently not a whole lot that I could find. It is however the main ingredient of Doubanjiang, a Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. Doubanjiang is also the star ingredient for Ma Po Tofu, a spicy wok tofu dish from the Sichuan province. And thus the dish was born! To add to the difficulty, I could not find a recipe for Doubanjiang, as apparently it is much more sane common to use the pre-made sauce. Doubanjiang is also called toban djan, lado ban jiang, or Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. After much searching, I found a base recipe that looked to match the ingredient label of a common pre-made sauce. The end result of this inspiration was a spicy hot-and-sour soup alternative that is addictive and delicious. Sometimes my crazy food-association games turn out better than even I could dream of!

As I do not own a wok, I didn’t want to compromise my first Ma Po Tofu experience with sub-par equipment, so I turned the concept into a stew. To help this I added eggplant and bok choy, with the final result of a spicy hot and sour soup type dish. The results were amazing. It will warm your soul, tickle your taste buds, and clear your sinuses. The soft tofu is almost unnoticeable (a concern for me and my texture issues). The eggplant and dried mushrooms add some texture, the greens colour, and the consommé (fancy word for clear broth) is absolutely divine. It will trick anybody into thinking that you slaved over a hot stove for hours building complex flavour, instead of the 45min. that it takes. I served the stew with a quick turnip pickle, to highlight the turnip inspiration. The robust flavour is due to the homemade Doubanjiang, and the fermented black beans. Of course, you can use the bought sauce – I’m sure it’d be just as delicious, and perhaps even more true to the Ma Po Tofu inspiration.

The Doubanjiang took less than 15min. to make, and most of that was rinsing the black beans. The black beans are fermented in salt, and right out of the package they’re like eating a salt lick. Make sure you rinse them very very well! The amount of Thai chilis seem excessive for only 2/3 cup of sauce, but if you think of the sauce as a spicy soy sauce, its more reasonable. I didn’t have the yellow rice wine or the dark rice vinegar, so I googled “appropriate” substitutions more common in my kitchen. Next time I will try to make the recipe as written, but this version was fantastic. The sauce itself was like a spicy vinegar soy sauce which was quite thick. I am not in the habit of having pre-made stir fry sauces on hand, but I am assuming this’d be fantastic with a quick Asian vegetable stir-fry. I tailored the recipe to use the full amount in the stew, and it was perfect!

This dish is sure to impress. Different and exotic, it is one I will be making again!

 

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

4 dried flower mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

⅔ cup doubanjiang sauce (lado ban jiang, toban djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

4 cups eggplant, diced into ½” cubes (1 med.)

350g. soft tofu, drained and diced into ½” cubes

4+ cups water

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cups bok choy, chopped

2 tbsp. Sriracha

4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) In small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1” boiling water. Let soak for 30min., until soft.

2) In large pot, sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. of water on high, stirring frequently. Sauté until garlic slightly brown.

3) Stir in doubanjiang. Sauté for 1min.

4) Add the eggplant, stir. Cover and sauté until eggplant begins to get soft, approx. 5min. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

5) Add tofu and water. Stir very gently, so as to not break the tofu. Bring to a low boil.

6) Drain the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces.

7) Add the sliced mushrooms and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until eggplant tender, approx. 10min.

8) Add the bok choy and Sriracha. Stir and bring to a simmer.

9) Turn off heat, stir in scallions.

10) Serve with rice or Asian noodles of choice.

 

Doubanjiang Sauce (Lado Ban Jiang, Toban Djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

10 fresh red Thai chilis, minced

⅓ cup fermented black beans

1 tbsp. yellow rice wine (sub: gin, white wine; I used rice vinegar)

2 tsp. dark rice vinegar (sub: balsamic vinegar)

½ tsp. Sucanet

Directions:

1) With a fine mesh strainer, rinse the black beans really well, to remove all excess salt.

2) In small saucepan, sauté chilis and black beans in 2 tbsp. water on medium-low until fragrant, approx. 2-3min.

3) Add rice wine and rice vinegar. Simmer 3min. Add water as necessary for consistency.

4) Stir in Sucanet and remove from heat. Let cool completely

5) Store in mason jar in fridge: will keep for 3 weeks

Makes ⅔ cups of sauce


Spicy Sour Chickpea Curry

Spicy Sour Chana Curry

Sometimes indecision can be a good thing. I entered the battle zone kitchen knowing only one thing: I wanted curry. Spicy? Tangy? Sour? Tomato based? Coconut milk based? All these questions flew through my mind as I assembled the curry vegetables. I quickly discovered that I had no tomatoes or coconut milk, so those options were out. But for flavour … I decided in the end to not make a decision. Thus, spicy sour chickpea curry was born!

The curry mixture is based off of this Spicy Squash Curry recipe that I’ve made in the past. The legume of choice was chickpeas for their meaty texture. The vegetables were inspired by my CSA of the week: eggplant, zucchini, the first cherry tomatoes and red peppers of the season, and swiss chard. I found some mushrooms in the fridge so they got added to the pot as well. The end result was better than I could have imagined, and exactly what I wanted! The curry is spicy from the hot peppers and chili powder, but it’s very tangy as well with both asafetida and amchoor (mango powder). The whole fenugreek and cumin seeds add depth, coriander for the ‘common’ curry binder, and turmeric to finish it off. The end result is a complex, unique flavour profile that is as spontaneous as the method of the recipe making! Definitely a crowd pleaser with its mixture of spicy and sour, and one that I will turn to time and time again the next time I am paralyzed by indecision. Enjoy!

Spicy Sour Chickpea Curry

*Note* It goes without saying that you can add or omit anything on this list to satisfy your own urges at the time. This is the version that I made, and it hit the spot! There is no substitution for mango powder in this recipe. It adds a unique tang to the dish, and is worth hunting out at an Indian market (my sample size has lasted me 2 years and counting). If absolutely necessary, I believe that 1 tbsp. of tamarind concentrate may result in the same tangy-sour notes, but this substitution is (as of yet) untested.

1 tbsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. fennel seeds

½ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. paprika

2 tsp. oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

pinch of asafetidia

½ tsp. fenugreek seeds

4 whole dried red chilis, to taste

¼ tsp. salt, to taste

1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

 

1 medium eggplant, cut into ½” moons (approx. 4 cups)

1 large zucchini, cut into ½” moons (approx. 4 cups)

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces (scant 1 cup)

3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 (19oz. cans chickpeas, or 1 cup dried chickpeas, pre-cooked)

1 bunch swiss chard, roughly chopped (approx. 4 cups)

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp. amchoor (mango powder)

 

Directions:

1) In a small bowl (or large measuring cup) mix together the ground coriander, fennel seed, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, and ¼ cup water to make a paste.

2) In large pot, heat oil on medium high. Add the cumin seeds and asafetida. Saute until cumin seeds begin to crack.

3) Add fenugreek seeds and red chilis. Stir.

4) Add the spice paste, salt, ginger, and ¼ cup water. Stir and sauté until fragrant, approx. 2min.

5) Add the eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. Stir, cover, and let steam until eggplant begins to soften, approx. 5min.

6) Add the bell pepper, chickpeas, and 4 cups water. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until eggplant tender, approx. 20min. Add water as necessary to adjust for consistency. (I added about 8-10 cups total)

7) Add the swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, amchoor, and lemon juice. Stir, cover, and cook until greens bright green and slightly wilted. Adjust for seasonings.

8) Serve with rice and/or flatbread of choice.

 


An Ode to Tahini

I am a tahini addict. I love the stuff. Some may shudder at the thought of eating it straight out of the jar, but I consider that on par with peanut butter straight. Heaven. So often tahini is a backup singer in a recipe – unappreciated and unassuming, you only notice when it’s not there. Hummus. Falafel. Fudge. Halva. Dressings and sauces. I am often hesitant to use my favourite ingredient in such applications, as I feel that the list of ingredients and flavour combinations are not up to tahini-standards. And so, to all my fellow tahini-lovers out there, I offer you these three ‘recipes’ (I use the term loosely) that feature tahini as the star. And rightly so!

Tahini-Miso Dressing

This idea originally came from a flip through Veganomicon. As a single cooker, I never ever make salad dressing. Too many mason jars have ended up with interesting bacteria cultures from half-finished dressing. I took the idea of tahini and miso, added my own single-serve ratios, and method from my single-person Asian peanut sauce (taught to me by a former roommate). As the title suggests, this dressing combines tahini with miso, another favourite ingredient. A dash of vinegar or lemon juice for acidity, and you have an amazing dressing for any salad you create.

1 tsp. tahini

1 tsp. miso

1 tsp. white vinegar, lemon or lime juice

1) In a measuring cup, combine all ingredients.

2) Whisk vigorously with a fork, until the vinegar acts as an emulsifier and everything is combined. Adjust viscosity by adding water (1/4 tsp. at a time).

3) Serve!

*This recipe is easily scaled up for the size of your salad. Just keep the 1:1:1 ratio of tahini:miso:vinegar, and you’re set!

Simple Tahini-Sriracha Crudités

Lovely Lovely Vegetables!

Lovely Lovely Vegetables!

I have been known to eat an entire plate of fresh vegetables from the farmers market for lunch. There is nothing wrong with this! And my favourite way to eat these vegetables is with this simple presentation. The tahini and Sriracha are a marriage in heaven, while still letting the vegetables shine through. After all, when you have farmer’s market carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes, you don’t want to wreck that freshness with a heavy dressing.

This isn’t really a recipe, as such. Arrange your raw vegetables of choice on a plate or in a bowl. Drizzle tahini on top (to taste). Finish off with Sriracha. Enjoy!

Tahini + Sriracha. Amazing.

Tahini + Sriracha. Amazing.

Frozen Banana Tahini Molasses Split

As the saying goes, desperation is the Mother of invention. This dessert was born from the need desire to have banana soft serve one summer evening. However, it was also over 40dC, and the frozen bananas were turning into an unappetizing brown mush before even exiting the food processor! Add to this all those extra dishes, and I went the lazy route. Since I have yet to make my banana-date soft serve – this dish is the dessert of the summer!

Similar to the crudités, slice a frozen banana into approx. 1″ long pieces. Split each piece in half, and place the banana pieces flat side-up on a plate. Drizzle tahini overtop of the banana pieces. Follow up with blackstrap molasses. Enjoy!

Tahini + Blackstrap Molasses. A perfect topping for frozen bananas. Divine!

Tahini + Blackstrap Molasses. A perfect topping for frozen bananas. Divine!

I hope these three simple ‘recipes’ featuring tahini bring you as much joy as they do me. Try them out – I can think of no other ingredient that can hold its own with miso, Sriracha, and blackstrap molasses with such delicious results! Oh Tahini, I love you so.


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