Sunday Night Soup

I looked in the fridge tonight, which is a bit bare at the moment, and saw some lovely local corn that needed a home. A glance in the veggie drawer revealed the makings of soup, which may be a bit much on a hot day, but a nice clear broth with fresh summer veggies seemed right.

I sauteed the onions, celery and carrots in a bit of olive oil, added in 2 handfuls of red lentils for a bit of protein, and got them glossy in the oil. In went 6 cups of water and a healthy sprinkle (1-2 tsp.) of Vegeta (the MSG free kind); chicken or vegetable stock would work too. After about 10 minutes, the veggies and lentils had soften up and I added the corn (cut off the cobs), some canned diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of parsley. That simmered for about 10 minutes, and combined into a wonderfully simple pot of summer flavours. Two bowlfuls for dinner were just the ticket.

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Simple Summer Fun: Lemon-Limeade Concentrate

For the first time in my life, I have a Costco membership. I’ve always resisted, having no storage space and only 2 people to buy groceries for. But due to some tire problems on a roadtrip, and Costco saving the day, I found myself back at home for another long hot month of summer with a membership card burning a hole in my pocket.

Last night, on our inaugural grocery shop, I came across a mammoth bag of lemons and limes. They were just so pretty and happy, all jumbled up in their bag. Sunny yellow and tropical green, singing a siren song about homemade lemon-limeade. And I couldn’t resist, even though there were about 20 fruit in the bag (which is kind of an insane number when you have no firm citrus plans). But it was a good impulse buy, as I recently acquired an amazing citrus press from Crate & Barrel (an impulse buy on my roadtrip). So all this following-of-citrus-gut-instincts came to fruition (literally) in my kitchen this evening.

About 20 minutes of squeezing and squashing 5 lemons and 5 limes yielded 1.5 cups of lemon-lime juice. Mix this with 3.5 cups simple syrup (2 parts water, 1.5 parts white sugar, heated to boiling and then cooled), and you’ll have a mason jar full of concentrate, just ready for mixing with still or sparkling water any time you fancy a refreshing summer drink.

I mixed around 1 part of the concentrate with 2 parts water, threw in a handful of ice, and the drink had the perfect sweet-tart ratio you expect, with a hint of lime with the lemoniness. I declare this citrus indulgence a firm success.

Marvelous Mediterranean Dips

From left: Baba Ganoush, Tzatziki and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.

Last week, we hosted a fantastic wine party, some final festivities of the holiday season. We host 2 or 3 of these a year, and each time I knock myself out planning a feast of a spread, and overheat the guests and the kitchen by making fresh baked munchies. So this time around, with about 15 people RSVP’d, I thought I’d better come up with a no-bake solution. Less stress for me, better temperature for all!

I try to keep things home made, fresh, and somewhat healthy, so some dips that could go with veggies and pita sprang to mind. We had been eating store bought Baba Ganoush over the holidays, which is full of mayo and sour cream, and is nothing like the real thing. So I thought I would try making it myself- how hard could something with about 6 ingredients be, anyways? And, once you’ve got the Baba ingredients going, you might as well swap the eggplant for chickpeas and make Hummus, or swap those two out for some greek yogurt and cucumber and make Tzatziki!

These dips are a dream- easy, healthy, pretty cheap, and people will be wowed that you made them yourself. You just need a blender and a little patience. The guests devoured them, especially the Baba, that was the first to go. The pita disappeared pretty quickly, so make sure you’ve gots lots on hand. Next time I think I might toast some and make pita chips too. I think these will be a staple in my entertaining repertoire, because I actually got to relax and enjoy the party this time around. Nothing to keep an eye on, just put out your spread, uncork some wine, and let the party happen!

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2-4 cloves garlic (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions

  1. Roast the eggplant at 400F for 30 minutes. You can fire roast it first if you have a gas stove, just place it on the burner and turn occasionally for 5 minutes. Make sure to poke some holes in your eggplant before you roast it. You can also roast your garlic at the same time, if you would like it be more mellow and sweet.
  2. Place the cooked eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. This will soften the skin, and it will peel off very easily. Remove the stem, give the eggplant innards a rough chop and place in a blender.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil overtop and a pinch of paprika for garnish.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, water half drained
  • 1 red pepper, roasted
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions

  1. Fire roast the red pepper if you have a gas stove, just place it on the burner and turn occasionally for 5 minutes. Place the blackened pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. This will soften the skin, and it will peel off very easily, remove the stem and seeds and give it a rough chop. You can also use store bought roasted red peppers.
  2. Start by blending the chickpeas a little at a time, the liquid from the can and the lemon juice will help. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping the sides down and stirring as needed to get everything blended.
  3. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil overtop and a pinch of red pepper flakes for garnish.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh chopped mint
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper or mint.

The 3 dips joined a mountain of crackers, cheese, chocolate, fruit and other treats. Thanks to everyone who brought something to add to the deliciousness. We’ll have to outdo ourselves next time, which could be hard. But I’m willing to try if you are!

The full spread- wish I could eat like this all the time!

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

This is time of year when most of us feel guilty, overindulged and a bit slothful. We make a return to work, and the gym, and the grocery store, hoping for a better year. If you are someone who manages to remain virtuous all year, this post is not for you. But if you are someone who lets it all hang out at the holidays, and is now looking for redemption, read on.

It’s really cold out right now, the kind of weather that makes frost on your eyelashes and tests your car battery, and always makes me want soup. I borrowed a friend’s Chez Piggy cookbook a while back, and have been eyeing its soup section ever since. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes, because tonight’s experiment was fantastic.

For those looking to up the taste, but not the calories, this is a great soup; definitely hearty enough to be a meal on its own. Lots of protein and fiber from the lentils, some good fats from the olive oil and coconut milk, and vitamins from the veggies. A perfect winter warm up that leaves you feeling satisfied and maybe even a little self-righteous.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

Based on Curry Red Lentil Soup from the Chez Piggy Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can light coconut milk

Directions

  1. Saute the onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger in the olive oil until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the spices and cook one more minute. Add the lentils and coat them in the oil.
  3. Add in the vegetable stock and coconut milk, bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

I love a creamy, dairy based dessert. Since I can’t eat dairy anymore (or at least now seriously limit my intake), I often feel left out at dessert time, or end up cheating so as not to disappoint a host- or myself.

When I saw a chocolate pudding pie recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen, a tasty vegan blog, I had to give it a go. I made a few changes, which I think made the recipe even better, but I thank the brilliant IsaChandra of PPK for giving me a starting point.

This pie is so chocolatey and creamy, and the coconut milk so undetectable, that anyone will love it. I fed it to a crowd a few months ago at a bbq, and every piece but one disappeared- I didn’t let the dairy free secret out of the bag. I really think the oreo crumb crust perfects the recipe.

Ingredients

Crust
1 1/2 cups oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup vegan margarine (or butter), melted

Filling
750 ml canned coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch of salt

Topping
Cool Whip, whipped cream or other whipped topping

Directions

1. Mix melted butter and oreo crumbs together in a pie pan, press them into the pan to form the crust.

2. Bake the crust at 350F for 10 minutes.

3. Combine a small amount of the coconut milk and all of the cornstarch in a medium saucepan, whisk to mix. Alternately, shaking them together in a small jar works well to get rid of any lumps.

4. Add in the rest of the coconut milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk to combine.

5. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking. Once boiled, lower the heat to simmer, and whisk until it thickens, around 5 minutes.

6. Once thickened, stir in chocolate chips and vanilla, stir until the chocolate chips melt and everything is combined.

7. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. If the mixture has any cocoa or cornstarch lumps, pour it through a fine mesh sieve and your pudding will be silky smooth.

Cool the pie in the fridge, and place plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. It will take 2-3 hours to set. Before serving, smooth on some Cool Whip or other topping, and decorate with berries or chocolate shavings if you desire.

Cinnamon and Sugar Doughnuts

Freshly deep fried and sugared doughnuts.

My transition to allergy free eating has been anything but smooth; just full of temptations and slip ups and angst over treats I can’t eat. It is really challenging to eat out and be social when dairy and eggs are off the menu, they seem to show up everywhere I go.

My approach to most problems is to figure out how to solve them quickly, and so recently, I bought a vegan cookbook and an allergy free baking book. I figure that if I can create the treats I crave, it’s win-win: no cheating and no feeling deprived. I’ve also started feeding my experiments to ordinary folk, and the feedback to date is tasty.

I’ve never made doughnuts, or even thought about it, but when I opened the Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, the cinnamon doughnuts caught my eye. Tim Horton’s recently stopped making my favourite cinnamon doughnut, and I shouldn’t be eating at Tim’s even if they hadn’t, so this was very exciting.

Kevin was game to put ourselves in peril and do some deep frying, and away we went. You definitely need two people for this adventure, there’s so much to do and an assembly line works best.

These doughnuts are soft and cinnamon-y, but not too sweet. I think they give Tim’s a run for the money. I brought them to girls night and the last one got fought over.

Three big tips I discovered:

1. Do not knead the dough very much, or it will make really dense doughnuts. Just bring the dough together, and don’t worry if the doughnuts look a bit cracked once they hit the oil. They’ll be the perfect texture.

2. Make sure the dough is rolled out fairly thin before you cut out the circles. 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch maximum to keep them from being too dense our doughy.

3. They only need 1-2 minutes per side in the oil, don’t be afraid to take them out when they are still light brown in colour.

The recipe below is egg and dairy free, but could be adapted with butter instead of margarine and milk instead of soy milk if you prefer.

Cutting them out with a tumbler for the large circle and a water bottle cap for the small circle.

Cinnamon and Sugar Doughnuts

Adapted from the Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book

Ingredients

  • 4.5 to 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • Canola oil for deep frying
  • Extra cinnamon and sugar for coating the doughnuts: 1/2 cup sugar to 2 tsp. cinnamon

Don't crowd the pot to ensure even cooking.

Directions

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and combine all the wet ingredients, except the soy milk, in a larger bowl.
  2. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the soy milk to the wet ingredients, stirring gently. Alternate both until a not too sticky dough forms. Add more flour if needed.
  3. Just mix it until combined, do not over stir or knead. Take 1/4 of the dough and transfer to a floured board or counter.
  4. Roll out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.
  5. Use a doughnut cutter, or 2 circles to cut out the doughnuts. I used a large glass tumbler for the outside and a small water bottle cap for the inside.
  6. Repeat the process until you have 12 to 16 doughnuts. Do not re-roll the scraps, they will make tough, dense doughnuts.
  7. Once the doughnuts are underway, pour 2-3 inches of canola oil in a large pot. Heat the oil on the stove until it reaches 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, wait until the oil shimmers and a wooden spoon causes bubbles when inserted into the oil.
  8. When your oil is ready, transfer 3-4 doughnuts to the pot. They should bubble and float around the pot.
  9. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side, remove just before they become golden brown.
  10. Immediately roll them in the cinnamon and sugar. You can shake them in the coating in a paper bag, which I found easier than rolling.

The doughnuts are ready to go once they cool a bit, and will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Vanilla Frozen Delight

My first foray into the world of allergy-free desserts comes courtesy of the realm of vegan treats. I found this recipe recently, which has only 6 ingredients, and was described as the vegan version of Cool Whip. I have a secret, shameful love for Cool Whip, so I decided this would be an easy start.

I have to say that both Kevin and I disagreed with the whipped topping comparison, as this dessert is not really fluffy or light. I don’t really know how one would achieve the consistency of Cool Whip without chemicals and an industrial kitchen. However, when you consider this dessert on its own and forget the ill-fitting comparison, it’s decent. I would compare it more to a custard ice cream, and I think the variations could be endless…chocolate…berry…citrus…you get the point.

All you have to do is pop all the ingredients in a blender, freeze the mixture a few hours in an air tight container, and then scoop out your finished dessert. Garnish artfully, and ta-da! Experiment number 1 was too easy.

The dessert is creamy, and it’s hard to believe it does not contain dairy. I asked Kevin to guess what was in it, and the only thing he could identify was vanilla. The tofu was so easy to disguise- both in taste and texture.

If you are still set on a cool whip equivalent, the recipe for Rad Whip on Post Punk Kitchen would be worth trying.

Vanilla Frozen Delight

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package Mori-Nu silken tofu (6 oz.)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1.5 cups icing sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1.5 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsbp. lemon juice

Directions

  1. Blend all 6 ingredients together until very smooth, using a food processor or blender. A hand mixer could be used to increase the fluffiness of the mixture.
  2. Freeze in an air tight container for at least 3-4 hours.
  3. Scoop out as an ice cream, or stir and spoon over another dessert as a topping. The mixture will melt easily, so serve quickly.

Happy Days are Here Again

A favourite childhood treat.

After a 2 month blogging hiatus, I am back! May and June hit me with a double take out- my food allergy diagnoses, and a work overload. I was so busy, I didn’t really have the energy to try out new allergy free treats and report back.

But 3 weeks off in Calgary, complete with trips to the mountains, the Stampede, and plenty of time with lovely family and friends, have left me refreshed. And with a suitcase weighed down by my favourite wines! The selection out here is so much better than the LCBO, I can’t help myself when I enter a wine store. I also found a vegan baking cookbook recently, and will have lots of new things to test out in the kitchen.

However, that will have to wait until I return home next week. Until then, I will share a very exciting recent discovery: the fact that Dutch honey cake does not typically contain eggs or dairy! My mom is Dutch, and I have always enjoyed typical comfort foods like honey cake, speculaas (spice cookies), meat croquettes and red cabbage. Today we saw a sign in the neighbourhood that advertised “dutch treats,” so of course we had a check out this new store. I gravitated toward the honey cake section, as that is my absolute favourite, especially the kind with candy on top, and was delighted to discover that Hille brand is largely allergy free, and is even made of rye flour. That’s good for you, right? We’ll just overlook the fact that sugar is the first ingredient.

I’m off to cut a few slices and savour them with a cup of tea….with the aid of a tea towel with windmills on it, naturally.

Rainy Days and Food Allergies

The weather this weekend really matches my mood; rainfall warnings and grey skies go well with newly diagnosed food allergies. It seems ironic that I would turn out to be allergic to eggs and cow’s milk, which ingredients show up more in gourmand cooking?

Weekend breakfasts are feeling pretty sad. I can stick with oatmeal all week, but who can do that 7 days in a row? And now I can’t even have a splash of cream on top to jazz it up. It’s startling (and a bit defeating) how much dairy and eggs show up in products and everyday foods! I realized I couldn’t even put mayo on my bacon and tomato sandwich. What a cruel start to the weekend.

So, my mission today is to find some alternatives. I’m on a hunt for vegenaise, milk substitutes and some goat cheese. A strange turn of events for La Gourmandesse! I’m really not sure what I will bake now, other than wacky cake. I can’t think of any baked goods that don’t call for eggs! Perhaps I will become an involuntary health nut in this process. Just what I’ve always wanted to be.

Blueberry Raspberry Crumble

Berry Crumble

This has to be the easiest dessert I make. We always seem to have frozen fruit hanging around for smoothies, and everything else is waiting in my baking drawer. I don’t really have a recipe, I just like to eyeball things, and it always tastes great. The key is to put the crumble on the top and bottom, so the fruit is sandwiched between layers of sweet buttery oats.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Soften 1 stick of butter in a bowl. Add 2 large spoonfuls of flour, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 or 2 cups rolled oats and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Crumble all ingredients together, if it’s too buttery, add more oats.
  3. Press half the mixture into the bottom of an oven safe dish.
  4. Spread a few cups of frozen berries over this layer.
  5. Sprinkle the last of the oat mixture over the top.
  6. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Simple, comforting, hearty, great for breakfast the next day. This is one dessert I am happy to make again and again.

Beery Crumble