Monday, March 23, 2015

The Sweetest Potato (Vegan Quinoa & Chard Stuffed Sweet Potatoes)




When a "Let's empty out the fridge and cook all the things," dish becomes a "Let's definitely make this again, like, all the time," kind of meal, I know it's time to blog.

This is one of those amazingly delicious get-your-omnivore-friends-to-love-vegan-food recipes. Seriously, this stuff tastes like love and comfort. A hearty, healthy, nutritional powerhouse, stuffed into a cute little potato package! You don't even have to mention to anyone that it's vegan, because really, they don't even need to know that no animals were harmed in the making of this meal. They don't even need to know that this is good for them. They don't even need to know that it contains complete protein and is full of vitamins. Nope, they just need to eat it. And then, when they're all done, you can casually fill them in. Oh, what's that? You loved it? You want more? You can't get over how creamy the sauce was? Yeah. Oh, bee tee dubs, it was vegan and naturally gluten-free!

And now, for the love of sweet potatoes everywhere, I present to you my 100th recipe!

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Quinoa & Swiss Chard
an original vegan recipe by allison sklar 

ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked to package directions
1 handful of chopped greens (I used swiss chard)
1 handful of chopped brussels sprouts (or cabbage)
4-5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of your favourite mixed all-purpose seasoning. (I like to use a Jamaican jerk seasoning because it's tasty, but any spice mix that you have on hand will work!) 

Quick spicy vegan mayo: 2 tbsp Vegenaise Original + 1 tsp Sriracha

method
Roast your potatoes, wrapped in foil, in the oven for about 45 mins at 400F. When they're ready, take them out, cut them in half and scoop out as much flesh as you can, trying not to break the skin. Sautée the greens and cabbage in some oil, once they are bright in colour, add in your quinoa and stir. Add your chopped potato. Add your spices. Scoop it all back into your potato. If they need to be re-warmed (mine did, because I made them in advance!) put them back in the oven at 350 for about 15 mins. Serve hot, drizzled with spicy vegan mayo.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I got 99 posts, but a meat sauce ain't one! (Vegan "Meat" Sauce with Lentils)


You guys! This is my 99th post! Are you as excited as I am? Well, you should be. Because this is by far the best of the best. I mean, this is some real stick-to-your-ribs, blow-your-socks-off, even-ravenous-carnivores-will-love-it saucy sauce. Even my boyfriend, the lover of all things meat, declared this sauce to be "so meaty!"

Do you need any more reasons to make this right now? Really? Alright. Here are 10 reasons you should make this sauce: It's hearty. It's tasty. It's spicy. It's easy. It's healthy. It's vegan. Low sodium. Soy-free. Gluten-free. No added sugar. And, for all of those worried about protein intake, it's an excellent source of the good stuff!

Serious winning all around.



One of my favourite things about this sauce is how quick and easy the process is. Chop up your ingredients, toss 'em into your slow cooker, set it, and forget it! Let your kitchen, and your house, smell like you've been slaving over the stove all day (when really, you've just been doing other important things, like catching up on some Netflix.)

Ok, ok. I'll spare you more blab and just get right to the recipe - so that you can get right to it and cook!

Hearty Vegan Slow Cooked "Meat" Sauce
with lentils, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes
a.k.a AWESOME SAUCE
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown or green lentils (dried)
1 large can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with liquid
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped pitted mammoth green olives
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small green chile peppers (or more, if you like a spicy sauce!)
1 tbsp Jamaican jerk seasoning mix (or a mix 1/2 tbsp paprika (not smoked), and 1/2 tbsp herbes de province)

method
Mix all ingredients together in slow cooker. Set on high for 3 hours. Remove lid, stir. If you notice it is starting to become too dry, add a few tbsp of water until desired consistency is reached. Return lid to pot and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 hours. Lentils will be tender and sauce will darken in colour.

Ways to serve it

  • On top of pasta
  • Mixed in with rice
  • On bread (as bruschetta)
  • With a spoon

















Monday, March 2, 2015

A taste of the CaribBEAN (Habichuelas Con Dulce)


Being vegetarian often encourages me to explore new flavours, new textures, and new colour combinations. I'm inspired by exotic dishes, and I love to try new things. If I see a vegetable, a grain, a bean or a fruit that I've never tasted, I'm likely to bring it home and experiment. The same goes for interesting, out-of-the-ordinary recipes. For those of you with a limited food-comfort zone, I encourage you to step outside of the box for a few moments and open up your palates to this amazing dessert. The flavours sound unusual, but that is exactly what drew me to it.

My interest in this dish came earlier this week, when a challenge was posted in one of the Facebook groups that I belong to. The moderator suggested that during the month of March, members should each cook some type of Caribbean style food, and should share pictures and recipes with the group. As the week unfolded, I watched as members shared photos of some really interesting creations, from drinks to starters to mains. That's when I decided to hop on board the bandwagon and make something of my own.



Being a pastry chef, I immediately began researching desserts. Because I mean, what's a meal without a proper dessert, amirite? I stumbled upon a site where someone listed their ten favourite Caribbean treats, Habichuelas Con Dulce being one of them. "Sweet beans?" I thought. Sweet! Beans!

I just happened to have some cooked kidney beans leftover from earlier this week, as well as some left over coconut milk in the fridge. Perfect! A way to try something new and use up my scraps. So, let's get onto it, shall we? Oh, for the record, the original recipes that I searched up all call for condensed milk, or evaporated milk mixed with coconut milk. I decided instead to use only the coconut milk, making this recipe completely vegan, and completely delicious.

Habichuelas Con Dulce
an original vegan recipe by allison sklar. inspired by El Mejornido.

ingredients 
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned, rinsed) red kidney beans
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 1 medium sweet potato)
3 cups water
1 tsp cinnamon or 1 small cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
3 cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground)
250 ml full fat coconut milk
2 tsp coconut oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins

method
Bring water with cinnamon stick, cloves and anise to a boil.
Add sweet potato, cooking 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove cinnamon stick, cloves and anise. (Very important!!!)
Transfer liquid and potatoes to blender, add beans. (Keep saucepan aside)
Purée mixture until completely smooth.
In saucepan, add raisins, coconut oil, coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, whisking frequently. Slowly incorporate bean and potato mixture into milk. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is homogenous and raisins are plump.

Serve with shredded coconut and bananas if desired.
Enjoy hot or cold!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Get Green! (Asparagus, Fava Bean & Snap Pea Salad)


Here's a great, super fast, super easy vegan meal packed with flavour, packed with protein, packed with nutrients, and oh-so-green! I found some beautiful asparagus this week at my local grocer (nice, thin stalks & bright green in colour, which is what you should look for when choosing asparagus!) Inspired by Ottolenghi's newest book, Plenty More, and whatever else I had on hand, I came up with this. This salad is on the hearty side, which means that you can enjoy it on it's own, or as a stellar side dish. If you don't have all the ingredients on hand, don't worry! I've put some substitution ideas in parentheses just for you.

Asparagus, Fava Bean & Snap Pea Salad 
inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More 

ingredients
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off, roughly chopped
2 cups snap peas, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked, frozen, or canned fava beans (edamame works well, too!)
1 medium avocado
1 handful chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley if you prefer!)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp tahini (or dijon mustard)
1 tsp agave (or honey)
1 tsp harissa paste (or sriracha)
1 tsp ground corriander seed
pinch of chilli flakes
cracked black pepper
sea salt

Blanch asparagus, beans and snap peas in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and place into colander. Run under cold water to cool. Place into large salad bowl. Top with chopped avocado and cilantro. Whisk dressing ingredients together. Toss to coat.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

You Want This (Spiced Pepita Cake with Chocolate)


I proudly present to you my latest creation obsession, Spiced Pepita Cake! Now, you may be wondering, "Pepita cake? Why would I want that?" Trust me, you want this. Just imagine ooey gooey chocolate that melts in your mouth with every bite. Now, imagine that chocolate wrapped in fluffy cake that's sweet and salty and the slightest bit savoury. I'm telling you, you want this. 

Not quite sold? Let me ask you a few questions. 

1. Do you like cake?
2. Do you like chocolate?
3. Do you like easy recipes?
4. Do you like things that are delicious?

If you've answered yes to any of the above,  you want this.



This recipe is a heavily adapted version of chef Rick Bayless' Mexican Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Seed Cake. While Rick uses Mexican chocolate, I used dark baking chocolate and I added some of my own spices into the batter. I also subbed out the butter for Earth Balance Spread, and I added in some sunflower seeds to the mix. Now, without further adieu... The one, the only...

Spiced Pepita Cake with Chocolate
makes one 8" cake, recipe adapted from Food and Wine

ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
250ml Earth Balance Spread (or butter)
3 eggs
1 tbsp tequila
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground anise (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper 
pinch black pepper
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter & flour an 8" round cake pan. (I also like to put a parchment circle at the bottom of mine!) Sprinkle 1/4 cup of seeds + 2 tbsp of sugar directly into pan. In food processor (Robot Coupe), pulse the remaining seeds with sugar until sandy. Add eggs, shortening, tequila and pulse until homogenous. Add dark chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add all dry ingredients and pulse again slowly, but do not overmix! Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and cake tester (toothpick) inserted in centre comes out clean. 

Once cake is slightly cooled, invert to serve. 
Dust with powdered sugar and more cinnamon if desired. 






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo (Buffalo Style Tofu with Homemade Ranch Dressing)


Fun fact: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a grammatically correct sentence in the English language. Wait! Before you go and fact-check that, make some of this deliciousness. This recipe is my vegetarian version of buffalo wings. You thought it couldn't be done? Well it can! And it's healthy. And it's delicious. And it's perfect. 

Vegetarians coming to your Superbowl party? PERFECT. 
Vegetarian yourself? PERFECT. 
Like spicy delicious meals? PERFECT. 

Everything about this meal is perfect. Even my super carnivorous boyfriend said, "you HAVE to make this again." Win all around! Also, it really doesn't take long to prepare, which is awesome if, you know, you're super hungry. Seriously, this meal hits the spot. A little spicy, a little creamy, a little sweet, a whole lot of flavour! 

Pairs well with cold beer and good company.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Buffalo Tofu with Mushrooms
an original recipe by allison sklar
time needed: 15 to 20 minutes, plus marinating. 
serves 2. 

ingredients
1/2 package firm tofu, cut into strips (or 3cm cubes)
1 cup whole button mushrooms, or sliced white mushrooms
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Original
1 tsp white vinegar

1/4 cup mayonnaise**
1/4 cup plain yogourt**
1 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
pinch salt
1 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp granulated sugar 
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce 
generous amount cracked black pepper
dash hot sauce

2 cups mixed greens (radicchio, arugula, baby kale, spinach)
1/4 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled

**VEGAN OPTION: Replace may & yogurt with Vegenaise Original, or another vegan mayo & omit cheese. 

how to do it
Marinate tofu for a few hours or overnight in a ziplock bag, air sealed, with ketchup, vinegar and Franks. Mix all dressing ingredients together and set aside. 

Heat a few tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop tofu into pan with juices. Pan fry about 5 minutes,  then add mushrooms. Continue to cook, turning tofu occasionally, until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Do not leave unattended. 

Arrange mixed greens in bowls, drizzle with half of the dressing. Place tofu mixture on top. Top with remaining dressing and cheese crumbles. Eat hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Roasted Eggplant Falafel with Spicy Yogurt Sauce


Alright, so I have a confession to make. This dish actually started out as an italian-style meatless meatball dish. It was supposed to be covered in tomato sauce and smothered in cheese and served on top of a plate of spaghetti. But, with an ice storm a brewin' outside, I did not feel safe venturing out to get the handful of ingredients that I was missing. So, I decided to just make a few changes and use whatever I had on hand. Basil became cilantro. Beans became chickpeas. And then, somewhere along substitution road, my meatless meatballs in tomato sauce became meatless falafel in yogourt sauce. Let me tell you, whatever you want to call them, these little babies are 100% pure deliciousness.
  

Just a few things to note before you go off and make this. You MUST roast the eggplant the whole way through. No if's and's or but's, the roasted eggplant has a flavour and texture that is crucial to the texture of the final product.  Also, the chickpeas are what give it that distinct falafel taste, so if you decide to sub them for something else, you're going to have a very different little ball! Oh, and be sure to use greek yogourt (I prefer to use 2% as it's creamy but still low in fat, but you can use any % that you like.) Vegan? No fret! Omit the yogourt sauce and replace it with some red hot sauce instead. Alright, let's get ballin'!


Roasted Eggplant Falafel with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
An original recipe by Allison Sklar. Inspired by Meatless Meatballs, Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015.

ingredients
(for the vegan falafel)

1 large eggplant, roasted
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed & drained)
1 clove garlic, mashed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup soy or nut milk
2 tbsp ground chia or flax seeds
1 tsp chili flakes
pinch salt & pepper

(for the yogurt sauce)
1 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable juice
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp harissa paste 
handful chopped fresh cilantro

Begin by roasting your eggplant. Preheat oven to 375F. Place whole eggplant on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Prick eggplant with fork all over. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it looks wilted on the outside and is soft enough to slice easily with a knife. Let eggplant cool, about 15 to 20 minutes, before using. 

Meanwhile, prepare the broth for the yogurt sauce. In a small saucepan, combine spices and harissa paste. Toast on medium low heat until fragrant (2 to 4 minutes), moving it all around with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add vegetable juice & cilantro and whisk. Continue whisking intermittently on low heat until mixture reduces, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. (You may transfer to fridge once it's cool enough!)

While the mixture is cooling, prepare your "chia egg." (This is your binding agent!) Combine milk with chia seeds and let sit for about 10 minutes, until mixture is slightly gelatinous. 

Now, it's time to make the falafel! Mash chickpeas very well with a fork. Mix together with breadcrumbs, cilantro and garlic. Once the eggplant is roasted and cooled, scoop out the inside, discarding the skin. Mash as well as you can, and incorporate it into the breadcrumb mixture. Add in the chia egg, and use your hands to bring it all together. 

Roll into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden on the outside. 

Combine cooled broth with yogourt, mixing well. 

Serve hot falafel with cool yogourt sauce. Use more fresh cilantro to garnish if desired. 

NOTE: Short on time? No fret! Here are a couple of suggestions...
You can roast the eggplant the day before. 
You can skip the broth part of the yogurt sauce if you want to, and instead, just mix yogourt with a couple of tsp of harissa or sriracha! Instant spicy yogurt!








Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014


photo credit: http://thebrunettebaker.blogspot.ca/

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. That's right, it's time for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) 2014! I can't believe it's already the 4th edition of this amazing Secret-Santa style trade. The tastiest, sweetest gift exchange I've ever been a part of, the fbcookieswap is this awesome idea where food bloggers send each other cookies through the mail. Organized and facilitated by the brains behind Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchn, the swap brings together over 500 talented foodies each year to share love and joy through cookies. Added bonus - it's all for charity! To learn more, visit www.fbcookieswap.com, or search the hashtag #fbcookieswap on twitter or instagram.

So, what did I make? Every year, I try to make something original, using flavours that go above and beyond the traditional. It being winter and all, I've been on a chai kick lately. Inspired by my favourite tea, I made some melt-in-your-mouth, sweet and salty and oh so perfectly spiced Cardamom and Anise shortbread thins. 

Hello, delicious!

I hope my recipients enjoyed them as much as I did, because let me tell you, I enjoyed them. Even my boyfriend, a self-proclaimed shortbread hater, liked them. (And that says a lot!) 


One of our teachers at Pastry school suggests that the rule of thumb for cookies is that they are made small. And I mean small! No more than 10 to 12 grams each. Why? His reasoning is that people like to get more for their money. (My reasoning is that it's more fun to eat something that's bite-sized!) It's important to note that shortbread has a tendency to be pasty in the mouth if you have too much at once, so make sure to keep these cookies thin, rolled out to less than a quarter of an inch high. I used a scalloped round 1" cutter to shape them, but feel free to get creative and use whatever cutters you have on hand. Remember to keep cookies of the same size together on the same baking tray, because smaller ones will cook faster!

Happy baking, and happy holidays!

Simple Shortbread with Cardamom and Anise
adapted from Châtelaine magazine, December 2014

ingredients
1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 tsp ground anise seed
3 tsp ground cardamom

Salted cinnamon sugar: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon & a pinch of salt, for dusting

method
Mix together dusting ingredients and set aside.
Using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Stop the mixer and add in flour, salt and spices.
Mix on low speed just until blended. (Do not overmix!)
Form dough into a ball and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a few baking trays with parchment paper.
Roll dough out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Sprinkle with salted cinnamon sugar.
Place cookies onto lined baking sheets and bake in preheated oven, 10 minutes or until very lightly golden. Let cookies cool on cooling rack before eating!

Enjoy!



Friday, November 7, 2014

Home Remedies (Sumac Lemonade)




Sumac! Fresh Sumac! You know, that zesty, unusual spice that gives Za'atar it's tang and adds a middle eastern flair to roasted veggies? Excitement poured over me when I found out that I was going to be receiving some fresh sumac in my Lufa produce basket last week. I've never even seen fresh sumac before. I had no idea that it would arrive as a fluffy, barby, vividly red cluster of... stuff. My first thought upon examining the bright bouquet: how do I use this? Unsure of which part of the fuzzy berries could be turned into the sweet, lemony herb that I've only ever seen dried and crushed, I turned to my trusty friend, the internet. Internet, o internet, inform me, o wise one! 

During my search, I learned that Sumac has been used in ancient herbal medicine for centuries, aiding in the prevention and treatment of various ailments, from chest congestion to stomach upsets. Well, this is just perfect timing, I thought, as I just happen to be suffering from what seems to be the world's longest bout of fever and joint aches. Also probably a good tonic to give the boy to sip on to prevent catching this dreadful flu. 

Influenza, be damned! I will sumac you right in the face!  

Now, let's get back to the "how?"

Having only eaten sumac in savoury dishes, I would never have thought to use the spice in a beverage of any kind. That is, until I stumbled upon a blog that suggested that I make Sumac-aide! (Also known as cold sumac tea, sumac lemonade, or sumacaide... depending on who you ask!) This lemony fresh tonic is super easy, and super tasty! How to do it? Soak fresh berries in cold water. Strain. And drink. That's it? That's it! How perfect is that? Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few slices of ginger for some extra immune-boosting power, and extra tasty flavour. 

Sumac Lemonade

4 cups cool water
2-3 clusters fresh red sumac berries
juice from 1 lemon (optional)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (optional)

Roughly break up sumac clusters. In a large bowl, combine water, sumac and ginger and let steep for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Strain though very fine tea strainer or cheesecloth. Add freshly squeezed lemon and ice cubes just before serving. 




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#PSL (Vegan Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte)


Well, folks. I did it. I went and made a homemade vegan Pumpkin Spice Latté.
Move over, coffee shops! Move over, Starbucks! This latté is the real deal.

No, but seriously. Real pumpkin. Real spices. Real coffee. It all makes for real good stuff!
I must mention that none of this would be possible without the great people over at Café Santo Domingo, who recently sent me some incredibly delicious coffee. It made for a wonderfully robust base for this delightfully satisfying little PSL. (Or maybe it should be a PSSL. Or a VPSSL?)


How cute is that mug? Joe from Café Santo Domingo sent me a set of them with matching saucers, along with some truly awesome beans and grounds. Seriously, you guys rock! The beans are SO tasty that I've gone ahead and made some dark-chocolate covered coffee beans with them to keep on hand as a quick snack, a great little afternoon pick-me-up. I would have included a photo, but the boy can't stop eating them all up!

A few other exciting things

For those of you following my story, I have almost completed my studies in Professional Pastry, and I am looking forward to many new adventures come January. I have started to offer custom cakes and sweets, and I am in the process of creating an online portfolio attached to this blog. I will soon cater sweets for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, or any other occasion (like, say, a girls night in!) where you may desire some custom goodies. Oh, and yes, I do vegan desserts like a champ!

On an unrelated, but very exciting note, I am pleased to announce that I will once again be participating in the 4th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) hosted by The Little Kitchen and Love & Olive Oil. I can't wait to receive my matches and see what kind of incredible edibles will be delivered to my doorstep in the coming weeks! SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!

Oh, right, so I guess by now you're probably all like, "That's nice, but I WANT ME A PSL!" Alright, alright, don't get your legwarmers in a bunch. Here it is, without further adieu... The one, the only, the real, vegan pumpkin spice latte. Or, if you prefer, the Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte. Whatever you want to call it, just make it, then sit back and drink it!

Caution: this latte is extremely addictive!