green pea and mint spread

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First comes asparagus, then garlic scapes, then green peas, and then you know that summer has really, truly arrived. For me, the challenge with fresh peas is to not eat too many while shucking; there tends to be a bit of a ‘one for me, one for the pot’ approach that often makes it difficult to gather enough for the recipe. This spread is a wonderful way to highlight fresh peas when they’re at their peak in June and July. The almond butter adds a little bulk and a nice nutty hint, and then mint brightens everything up. If you’re not up for shucking, frozen peas will do, but I promise it’s worth the work to use fresh!

2 cups shelled fresh green peas, or frozen peas (NOT canned)
1 bunch fresh mint, washed and dried
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp whole almond butter
salt, black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
water, if needed

Bring water to a boil in small pot. Add peas. The cooking time will depend on whether you’re using fresh or frozen. Peas should be fully cooked, but not overcooked or they will go mushy. When ready, drain peas and allow to cool to room temperature.

Add peas, a handful of mint leaves, almond butter, and garlic to food processor. Start with a small amount of mint and then adjust as you go. You can always add more, so best not to overdo it in the beginning. Process until you have a smooth paste. It should be fairly thick, but soft enough to spread. Adjust consistency with a little water if too dry. Add cayenne pepper, black pepper, more mint leaves and salt to taste.

Serve with crispy multigrain crackers or fresh baguette.

This spread can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It should keep for 2-3 days.

baked apples with oatmeal almond coconut crumble

AppleCrisp

I have memories from my early double-digit days, when I was no longer a kid but also not yet officially a teen, of watching The Wonderful World of Disney on a Sunday night while enjoying warm apple crisp. Truth be told, I am not sure if this exact scenario only happened once, or if there were many Sundays like this. Either way, the apple crisp memory lingers, and whenever I enjoy soft cinnamon-scented apples with a toasted crispy oat topping, I am taken back to that Sunday night.

On a recent visit to see some friends in the Laurentians region of Quebec, there was a request for apple crisp. It was a Monday night, but that didn’t seem like a reason to hold back. My girlfriend suggested a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which turned out to be an absolutely delicious recommendation. And much like the original recipe suggests, we did enjoy it for breakfast as much as for dessert! I made a couple of modifications to accommodate a dairy-free diner, and to take advantage of the stash of Quebec maple syrup that our hosts had in the house. So, as a result, this version is vegan-friendly. But you could always use butter instead of Earth Balance, and use honey instead of maple syrup (as the Smitten Kitchen recipe does).

MAKES 8 SERVINGS

6 medium-size apples, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
8 tbsp (1/2 cup) Earth Balance spread
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup flour
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a baking dish, mix apple pieces with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat. I find it easiest to just get in there with my hands to mix it all around.

In a small saucepan, melt the Earth Balance with the maple syrup. Stir in the flour and oats until the liquid is absorbed and it starts to hold together. Add the almonds and coconut and give it another good stir. Spread over the apples, covering the entire top of the baking dish.

Bake at 400F for 45 to 55 minutes. The apples should be tender when pierced with a fork and you should see bubbles around the edge of the dish. If the crumble top begins to get too brown, cover with tin foil. A few minutes before you are ready to serve, remove the foil to allow top to crisp up.

Serve straight up, or with a scoop of your favourite dairy or non-dairy treat – whip cream, vanilla ice cream, coconut soy frozen dessert.

Cool leftovers (if there are any) to room temperature and then store in the fridge for breakfast the next morning.

pumpkin loaf

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This all started with a can of pumpkin that I inherited when I cleaned out a friend’s pantry. In my search for an interesting twist on pumpkin muffins, I came across a dairy-free, egg-free pumpkin loaf recipe on Food52. Intrigued by the magic of how this could possibly work without some kind of binder, I gave it a go. What a wonderful discovery! This loaf is moist, airy, with a good a hint of spice, and it’s a great base for incorporating your favourite flavour additions – raisins, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chunks. I have adjusted the original recipe to use a 15oz can of pumpkin puree, and to bake it as three mini loaves. Enjoy it for breakfast with some almond butter or whipped cream cheese, or as an afternoon snack. Wrap it well, and it will stay moist for a few days, so you can enjoy it alongside your Thanksgiving leftovers.

MAKES 3 SMALL LOAVES

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 15-ounce (425g) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup total per mini loaf pumpkin seeds, walnuts, raisins, or chocolate chunks

Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oil and pumpkin puree. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well combined. This makes a fairly dry dough, so keep stirring until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add pumpkin seeds, walnuts, raisins, or chocolate chips, if using. To make three different mini loaves, divide the batter into three small bowls and then add your favourite flavour additions to each.

Transfer to three lightly greased loaf pans. Smooth the top of each loaf with a spatula. Bake at 325F for approximately 50 minutes. Loaves should be springy and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.

Chickpea magazine winter 2013 issue

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I am very excited to be a contributor to the Winter 2013 issue of Chickpea Magazine, a vegan quarterly that I think appeals to vegans and open-minded omnivores equally well. If you’re ready to embrace winter in all its chilly glory, then hopefully you’ll grab some friends and get outside with the goodies in my Winter Picnic article. You can preview the issue online or grab a copy from the shop (print and digital options available).

As a sneak peek, here is my mulled wine recipe that appears in this issue.

MAKES 5 CUPS

2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
3 whole star anise
10 whole peppercorns
half a sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup Sucanat or cane sugar
1 bottle red wine (use any type that you like… I prefer something with dark fruit flavours, like merlot or cabernet sauvignon)
2 slices of lemon

Combine dry spices and fresh rosemary in a loose-leaf tea sac, tea infuser, or small piece of cheesecloth tied with a piece of kitchen twine. You can snap the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces so that they fit inside your spice pouch.

Pour wine into medium pot. Add spice pouch, Sucanat, and lemon slices.

Bring to a gentle simmer and then turn down to low. You don’t want it to boil or the alcohol will burn off. Stir to ensure Sucanat is fully dissolved. Allow flavours to steep for about 15 minutes. You can keep this on low heat to keep warm until ready to serve.

Remove spice pouch and lemon slices. Ladle into mugs or wine glasses.

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roasted pumpkin seeds

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For the past five years, we have had a standing pumpkin carving soirée with a couple of friends. It’s an evening full of creativity, friendly competition, and much discussion of carving tools and techniques. While my favourite part of the night is seeing our creations lit up for the first time, running a close second is the sound of pumpkin seeds popping in the oven as they toast up for a midnight snack. All the scraping, spooning, and clearing of pumpkin goop is well worth it. This year I added a dash of smoked paprika and a very light dusting of cayenne pepper. You can’t go wrong with the classic olive oil and sea salt combo, but the paprika adds some nice colour while the cayenne gives that little hit of heat.

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Thoroughly wash and dry the pumpkin seeds. Spread out on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, as well as any other seasonings of your choice. Mix to coat.

Toast for 15 minutes. Stir. Toast for another 10-15 minutes. Check to see if the seeds are as crunchy as you would like. If not, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes of so until the seeds are fully dry and have a nice crisp bite. Store in an airtight container or bag for a few days (if they make it that long…they disappear pretty quickly in our household).

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cranberry relish

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This raw cranberry relish is a fresh alternative to cranberry jelly or store-bought canned cranberries. The recipe originated with my great-grandmother, but has become known as ‘Momma Coop’s cranberries’, named after my mom. After a big turkey meal shared with friends and family, there is usually at least one request for the recipe. And I’ve had guests take some home with their leftovers and enjoy it with yogurt for breakfast the next morning. It is a great addition to a festive feast, however you like to enjoy it.

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 large seedless orange
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup orange liqueur like Grand Marnier
½ tsp ground cloves

You want to use the outer rind and the inner fruit of the orange, not the white pith that is bitter. Here is a helpful video on how to zest and section an orange. They show a grapefruit in the video, but the techniques work for an orange too.

Zest the orange using a microplane to remove the outer orange rind. Transfer zest to food processor. Cut around the outside of the orange to remove the white pith from the fruit. Then section the orange to remove fruit segments by cutting the membrane on both sides. The juicy fruit pieces should release easily. Discard membrane and white pith. Transfer orange segments to food processor.

Add cranberries, liqueur, cloves and 3/4 of the cup of sugar to the food processor.

Pulse until you have a coarse relish and the mixture is evenly blended. Taste for sweetness and add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar as needed. The total sugar needed will depend on how naturally sweet your orange and cranberries are.

Transfer to a glass storage container and refrigerate.  Make one to two days ahead in order to allow the flavours to meld and to allow the relish to develop its beautifully cranberry colour.

This relish keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and is great with holiday leftovers.

almond butter oatmeal cookies

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These vegan cookies have been a hit with my omnivorous friends. Not because they are impressed that a vegan cookie could ‘actually taste good’, but because these cookies actually taste good. Enjoy one for breakfast with a double espresso, pack one in your purse for an afternoon snack, or brew up a cup of cinnamon tea and enjoy after dinner.

MAKES 12-15 COOKIES

2 tbsp raw whole flax seeds, ground
6 tbsp water
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup Sucanat (or dark brown sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup almond butter (all-natural, no sugar added)
1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins (or a combination of the two)

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

Start by making your flax meal binder – this is what replaces eggs in a traditional cookie recipe. Grind flax seeds – a spice grinder, Magic Bullet, or mortar and pestle will do the job. Add the water to the ground flax seeds and whisk together. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Combine all dry ingredients. Add almond butter and stir well to blend into a dry dough. Add the chilled ground flax seed mixture. Stir until dough comes together. Mix in the dried fruit. Cover bowl and let the dough rest in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours (sometimes I don’t let the dough rest and the cookies turn out just fine, but the dough is easier to work with after being chilled).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using your hands, roll dough into balls, about the size of a ping-pong ball. The dough may be a little sticky, so you might need to rinse your hands and then roll out the rest of the cookies. Gently press balls onto baking sheet to flatten into round cookies.

Bake for 18-20 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. These need to set up on the cookie sheet as they cool. Store in an airtight container or bag for up to four days.