Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Carrot Raisin Hermits

Have you ever picked up the phone to call somebody when suddenly it starts ringing, and lo and behold, that very same person is calling you?

This type of thing happens eerily often to me and my mother. So when she came to visit me last week for a post-workout coffee, I wasn't all that surprised when she turned up at my door with a container full of freshly baked carrot cookies just as I finished pulling a batch of almost the exact same thing out of my oven. 

We promptly turned our coffee date into a serious scientific experiment, comparing all possible differences and similarities in our cookies. Our recipes were fairly similar, and overall, we couldn't pick a winner. We did agree that the recipe works well with gluten-free flour (yay!), and that Turkish sultanas were our favourite raisin for the job.

Carrot Raisin Hermits
Inspired by Oh She Glows

makes about 24 small hermits

1 cup all-purpose gluten free baking flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup regular or large-flake oats (certified gluten free if needed)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp cashew butter (or increase coconut oil to 3 tbsp)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp chia seeds (mix with 3 tbsp water and let sit 5 mins)
1 cup grated or shredded carrots
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup turkish sultanas (or any other type of raisin)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix chia seeds with 3 tbsp water and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients (first 6 ingredients) in a large bowl. If needed, heat coconut oil until soft or liquid. Then in a medium sized bowl, whisk coconut oil together with the cashew butter. Add maple syrup, vanilla extract, and chia mixture and whisk until well-combined. Add this to the dry ingredients along with the carrots, coconut flakes and raisins, and mix gently until just combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto the sheet. The hermits should not spread much while baking, so feel free to space them closely.

Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes, or until the undersides of the hermits are golden brown.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Quinoa with Caramelized Peaches

My time in Germany is quickly coming to an end. I've been travelling around the country for the past few weeks, trying to soak up as much summer as possible before I return to Canada for my spectacular sister's wonderful wedding. Why is she so spectacular, and why will this wedding be so wonderful? Well, because she's my sister and she's marrying a great guy of course! But alas, this is not the only reason I am so excited for the upcoming nuptials.

My sister and I have both had stomach problems for pretty much our whole lives. As is the case for almost everyone I know, it's been a long struggle to identify which foods are making us sick, and to find a way of eating that leaves us feeling full, energized, and most importantly, pain-free. Both of us began to see huge improvements when we adopted a whole-foods based diet, if not only for the reason that it is much easier to identify a single trigger food when you know exactly what's going into your meal. From there, my sister followed her path to becoming gluten-free, while I meandered down another road to eventually find the wonderful world of veganism (which makes not only my stomach happy, but my head and heart as well).

I don't get to see my sister very often, but when I do get the chance to share a meal with her, it's always a fun experience. It usually begins with a phone call along the lines of "So, I'm going to make x, if I replace y with a, then z with b, then add a little c, that should work for both of us, eh?" While it may sound like a bit of an ordeal, for us it is great fun. It gives us a challenge and a chance to experiment, but the best part is that I know we will get to sit down to a delicious (most of the time) meal in complete peace. Neither of us have to worry about feeling sick or having to refuse foods made with ingredients we don't eat, allowing us to bask stress-free in our quality sister time.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised to discover that my sister had arranged with her caterer to have a vegan option available at her wedding, but I definitely did a little dance in my lobby when I ripped open my invitation and saw Vegan printed as a dinner option, right there along with the "normal" choices! Not only did my sister go out of her way to make sure that I would have a great meal on her special day, but she made the choice available to every guest. With both families being "meat and potatoes" people, she didn't expect anybody else to check the vegan box, but while sorting through her RSVP's, she found three others requesting vegan meals!

I am just filled with happiness knowing that I'll be able to able to sit next to my sister, eat everything in front of me, and not for one second have to worry about feeling sick, going hungry, or being an inconvenience to anyone. I am looking forward to meeting the other "vegan-box-checkers", and I am so proud of my sister for wedging a little (if maybe unintended) piece of activism into her wedding day.

Before I can get to all that, I need to get through my last week in Germany. This means wrapping up a couple projects I've been working on, picking out gifts to bring back, and of course, clearing out my kitchen cupboards. I now start each day by staring at the odd assortment of food I have left and wondering what I can possibly come up with to eat. Can I make something using a bag of quinoa, a few sad-looking peaches, and a handful of raisins? Well, it turns out yes!

Since the peaches were a little on the withered side, I thought it might be nice to bring out what flavour they had left by caramelizing them with some coconut oil and maple syrup. Wow, am I sure glad I did! If you have any sub-par peaches hanging around, I strongly suggest giving this method a try.

Cinnamon Raisin Quinoa with Caramelized Peaches

makes 1 large serving

1 large peach, peeled and sliced
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
splash vanilla extract
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used a rice/soy blend)
2 tbsp raisins
extra non-dairy milk and maple syrup for serving

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add peach slices and maple syrup; sauté until peaches begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add quinoa, chia seeds, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, soy milk and raisins. Stir well until combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Depending on the juiciness of your peach, you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water near the end of cooking if the mixture seems dry.

Remove from heat, add a splash of milk and a drizzle of maple syrup and serve hot. Feel free to add other toppings; I think pecans would be great.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Lemon Fig Bars

Do you ever mysteriously have a craving some something you've never actually eaten? Or maybe for some long forgotten treat you haven't had in ages? By all logical arguments you have no memory of this food's taste, texture or smell, but somehow you still find yourself dreaming of it?

No? Just me? Well, that's ok. I'll embrace this particular peculiarity of mine if it means that I get to eat some fantastic treats like these!

I honestly cannot remember ever having a Fig Newton. Sure, I have memories of them being around, of seeing them in the store and watching my family eat them, but I'm not sure if I ever joined in. I was a very picky child, and I'm sure I turned my nose up at them if there were any other goodies being offered, but in the absence of an alternative I must have at least once given in and tried one. I mean, who's going to say no to a snack?

So it struck me as very odd when this spring I began to have sudden cravings for Fig Newtons. Of course I wasn't about to run to the store and buy the actual cookies, filled with processed sugar and other nasty things, so my craving continued.

I came across Rawified's recipe and decided that now was the time to finally give in to my mysterious craving.

Now of course, since I really can't claim to know what a true Fig Newton tastes like, I have decided that my imaginary treats come with a hefty kick of lemon. I know this is not traditional, but I am a sucker for anything sour, and I think this combination really works.

I should warn you though that these bad boys are TART, so if you are looking for something a little more mellow, please feel free to reduce the amount of lemon zest, and replace some of the juice with water (or even maple syrup).

These bars don't qualify as a true raw food, since I am using traditional oats and maple syrup, but of course you can replace these with raw oats and a raw sweetener if you'd like.

No-Bake Lemon Fig Bars

Fills a 5x7 inch pan; it's up to you how many servings that makes!

adapted from Rawified's Raw Fig Newtons

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup almonds (or pre-ground almonds)
pinch salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp maple syrup
8 large dried figs (approximately 1 packed cup)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water (more if needed)

In a food-processor, blend oats, flax seeds and almonds until coarsely ground (you can continue to a finer grind if you'd like, but be careful not to over-process the almonds). Add salt and lemon zest and pulse until combined. Add maple syrup and mix until a thick dough forms.

Line a baking dish or tart pan with wax paper or plastic wrap (I used a 5x7 inch baking pan, and this produced nice, thick bars). Spread about 2/3 of the dough into the pan, and press down firmly (If the dough sticks, try rubbing a little coconut oil onto your fingers and/or the pan).

Without bothering to rinse out the food processor, remove the stems from your figs and toss them in. Add lemon juice and blend until a paste forms, adding water as needed. Spread the fig filling over the crust and smooth out. Crumble the remaining dough on top, and press it down into the filling.

Cover the bars and let chill in the fridge for at least a couple hours. Slice into individual squares and enjoy!

The bars will keep nicely in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 days; however, mine were eaten long before that.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Broccoli Beliefs

In an attempt to get some actual work done at the office, I have been trying to pack healthy and filling lunches to bring with me each day. It is always difficult for me to stay focused and on track with my research during the summer months, and this year the extra distractions of being in a new country have made it nearly impossible. My hope is that by rewarding myself with delicious lunches, I will be able to persuade myself to stay in the office a little bit longer each day, and hopefully get a more accomplished.

Well, to be honest, it's not working so well. I have nobody to blame but myself, and well, maybe the sunshine. It is time to pull out the big guns.

For some reason, I have always believed that broccoli can cure all evils. Broccoli has magical powers, and can always be depended on in a time of need. So much so, that when I felt myself getting sick right before exams last year, my first response was to run to the grocery store and buy a 2 kg bag of broccoli florets. Seriously, it is my saviour. 

Feeling a cold coming on? Broccoli.

Have no energy? Broccoli.

Can't concentrate? Broccoli.

Don't understand a single word of the paper your supervisor asked you to read? Broccoli. (Hey, it's worth a try!)

So, putting this all together, I give you, my bring-to-work broccoli salad. 

Depending on your own personal broccoli beliefs, this salad can be made with either raw or lightly steamed broccoli. I've tried it both way, and I have to say I prefer it steamed. Also, feel free to use your favourite type of lentils (or whatever you happen to have on hand). I like french lentils because they hold their shape well when cooked. 

Broccoli, Lentil & Rice salad

The dressing recipe is adapted from Kathy's wonderful sweet tahini dressing at Healthy Happy Life.

1 large head broccoli*
1 can french lentils (or 1 1/2 cups cooked french lentils)
2 cups cooked whole grain brown rice

2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt, to taste

Chop broccoli into small pieces, including stem (peel first if tough). If desired, steam broccoli pieces just until vibrant green, and then chill in the refrigerator. 

In a large bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until well-combined. Add broccoli, lentils, and rice to the bowl; toss to coat and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Pack up a container of salad, bring it to the office, and have a productive day!

Do you believe in the magical powers of broccoli? 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

It is too hot for oatmeal. It is even too hot for pancakes (gasp!). In fact, it is so hot in my apartment right now that I refuse to turn on my stove while the sun is shining. Instead, I am spending the long sunny days strolling downtown or reading in the shade. But what to do about breakfast?

Luckily, I had a little bit of forethought this week. During the (relatively) cool evening last night I prepared a batch of creamy, dreamy coconut quinoa and packed it up in the fridge. So, come morning, all I had to do was cut up some fresh fruit, add a splash of coconut milk and a touch of maple syrup, and voila!

Of course if you aren't living in an oven, this breakfast quinoa is equally delicious served warm, right out of the pot. For an extra treat, you can heat up the additional coconut milk before serving.
The local nectarines and raspberries are amazingly flavourful and juicy right now. I love the way that these two fruits complement each other, and it seems so fitting that they ripen and flood the market at almost exactly the same time of year. It's like they were destined to be friends in my breakfast bowl! 

While I usually like to buy my fruit and vegetables at the farmer's market, I still check the organic produce section of my supermarket for good deals every time I am there . So when I saw a cute little basket of kiwi fruit begging to be taken home, I couldn't resist. I figured they would get along nicely with the others.

Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

makes 2 servings

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup coconut milk (the canned kind)
2/3 cup water
pinch sea salt
1 tbsp chia seeds
fresh fruit, maple syrup and extra coconut milk for serving

In a medium-sized pot, add quinoa, coconut milk and water. Mix together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer approximately 10 minutes, or until liquid is noticeably reduced. Stir in chia seeds (add a little more water if needed) and continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. 

Transfer quinoa to a container, cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, spoon half of the quinoa into a bowl and top with coconut milk, maple syrup (if desired), and fresh fruit.


Of course, I had to completely demolish my beautiful rainbow before digging into the bowl. How else would I be able to get a little bit of each colour into every bite?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Dark Chocolate Almond Pancakes

This weekend I was in the mood for something a little more decadent. Well to be honest, I was in the mood for some chocolate cake. But since I don't have an oven in my german apartment, and since it was so hot outside that I probably wouldn't want to turn it on even if I did, my thoughts naturally turned to pancakes.

Come to think of it, when do my thoughts not turn to pancakes?

I may have a problem.

But, Sunday morning, my only problem was that I could not cram these beauties into my face quickly enough. These pancakes are definitely rich, so I decided to make them small and slightly crispy. I then layered them with ripe bananas, topped them with some raw cacao nibs, and drizzled them with a maple almond coffee sauce.

I think it's safe to say that my craving for chocolate cake won't return for at least a couple days.

Dark Chocolate Almond Pancakes

Makes 1 giant serving (and maybe some leftovers for an afternoon chocolate craving)

1/3 cup whole grain spelt flour
4 tsp cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup soy milk or almond milk
1 tbsp natural almond butter
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/8 tsp almond extract)

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to remove any lumps in the cacao powder.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine wet ingredients and whisk until almond butter is well incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk well.  Let the batter sit for at least 10 minutes.

While the batter sits, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour batter into 3" pancakes (the batter will be fairly thin, so small pancakes work well).

Layer pancakes with slices of ripe banana, sprinkle with raw a cacao nibs, and top with warm maple almond coffee sauce (recipe below). Serve immediately.

Maple Almond Coffee Sauce

1 tbsp natural almond butter
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1-3 tbsp strong coffee or espresso

Combine almond butter and maple syrup and mix until smooth. Add coffee, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved. The amount needed will really depend on the consistency of your almond butter, and on how thick you would like the sauce to be. Serve warm over pancakes, crepes, or fresh fruit.

PS - Sorry for the very strange background, my chocolate craving fully overrode my ability to think clearly when taking these pictures. Can you tell what it is?

Or should I say, where it is?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Crepe Creations

When I was growing up, every summer my mother would take us to the berry farm to spend the morning picking (or in my case, eating) fresh strawberries in the sunshine. When we got home, she would fire up the stove and we would spend the rest of the day eating our precious little jewels served over crepes with whipped cream. 

While pancakes are still by far my favourite breakfast food, and were a staple in our house growing up, I believe there is a time and place for crepes as well. Perhaps it is due to these memories of strawberry-picking, but I feel that nothing showcases a batch of ripe, freshly-picked fruit quite like crepes.

So, when I came home from the market this weekend with a basket of local red currants (Johanesbeeren) and a bag of ripe nectarines, it seemed the perfect time to try my hand at making some crepes. Of course this time they are vegan crepes, and are smothered in soy yogurt instead of whipped cream, but it definitely had the same effect. 

Sorry pancakes, but you may be seeing a little less of me until the farmer's market closes!

Blank Slate Crepes

makes 1 giant serving

3/4 cup soymilk or almond milk
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (1/2 tsp if using German Backpulver)
1/8 tsp salt

Warm soymilk until at least room temperature (this will stop the coconut oil from clumping). Add maple syrup and coconut oil and whisk until frothy. In a seperate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

Heat a large skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. When hot, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to spread evenly. When bubbles appear throughout the crepe and it releases from the pan, flip with a spatula and let cook for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer crepe to a large plate and roll up. Repeat with remaining batter.

Top crepe rolls with soy yogurt and fruit and enjoy immediately. 

For the crepes here, I used lime soy yogurt, which is one of my new-to-me German obsessions, but plain or vanilla would work equally well.