Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

It’s starting to feel like Autumn here in Montreal and the end of summer harvest is in full swing. Tomatoes are selling off at the market for a fraction of what they normally cost, and bright bushels of beets are stacked row on row in front of fruiteries at every corner, tempting passersby with thoughts of warm borchts and savoury-sweet grilled beet salads. This recipe brings together the two in an unusual pairing that I am sure you will find as addictive as we do. It might seem odd, and I get it- beets and tomatoes, why would you do that? But trust me when I tell you, this recipe is so easy, healthy, cheap, and look at that colour! You are going to fall in love.

Bisque is traditionally thickened with a starch, such as rice or potatoes, before being strained and enriched with cream. In this case, I used raw sunflower seeds. They add the perfect creaminess and their subtle flavour is ideal for light vegetable purees such as this. We can thank the sunflower seeds for the pink colour, too! You could omit them, or substitute a starch as with a traditional bisque, or any unsweetened, neutral flavour plant cream will do. You can change the colour of the bisque to a lovely golden orange by using golden beets and tomatoes instead. This recipe requires no pot, just a slow roast in the oven and a trip through the blender. Go ahead and bake yourself some bread or pumpkin muffins while the oven is hot and the veggies are roasting. It’s that time of year!

It's also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

It’s also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 large, flavourful tomatoes, cored
2 medium beets, peeled and sliced fine
2 small cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw
4 cups good vegetable stock, home made leek stock if possible
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp salt
Pink or white pepper, or plain black pepper if that’s all you have

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of tinfoil

2) Arrange vegetables in the foil, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with half the salt. Cover with another sheet of foil, folding the edges together carefully to seal. Place in oven and bake approximately one hour, until beets are tender.

3) Meanwhile, puree the sunflower seeds in one cup of the broth until perfectly smooth and not at all gritty. This may take several minutes, just give your blender breaks as needed.

4) When cooked, add the vegetables from the foil pouch to the sunflower puree with all their juices. Puree until completely smooth, slowly adding the water and scraping the sides as needed. Add remaining salt and pepper to taste. Bon appetit!

Vegan Hot Dog Casserole

So this is a combo weird food/comfort food/food from your childhood post. Be forewarned, if you are a whole-foods, healthy-eating kind of person, this post may horrify you. When I was a kid, I distinctly recall having two meals for dinner; bacon and eggs, and hot dog hash. Hot dog hash was a one-dish meal with chopped hot dogs, friend potatoes, and frozen mixed veggies. Smother with ketchup and you’re good to go. I think it falls into the category of hot dog casseroles, which generally include a can of chili or beans and cheese baked on top, in addition to the hash browns and hot dogs. It usually doesn’t have any veg at all. Liberal use of ketchup is generally encouraged, though. In the 1980’s, feeding your children like this wasn’t considered tantamount to child abuse. No one would get nasty notes home because their leftovers in their thermos didn’t include enough grains. Ketchup was even classified as a serving of fruit or vegetable!

One beautiful bowl of childhood memories

One beautiful bowl of childhood memories

In this recreation, I used veggie dogs and tater tots as my base, cause anything deep fried twice is going to be delicious. You can also make your tots in the oven, though, just follow the package directions. I’m hoping someone out there who came from the era of casserole dinners gets a kick out of this.

Hot Dog Casserole

6 veggie dogs, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 bag tater tots
1.5 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 bag daiya shreds

1) Start by cooking your tater tots either in the deep fryer or in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 even if you are deep frying your tots

2) As your tots are cooking, boil a small pot of water with your frozen mixed veg for about 3 minutes. At the last moment, add the hot dog slices, then drain.

3) Arrange tater tots, hot dogs and veggies in a baking dish. Top with daiya shreds and bake 5 minutes, til just melted. Bon appetite!

Maple Coconut Granola

Granola is a contentious food. Associated with crunchy hippies and health nuts, it gets a bad reputation for tasting like grass. It’s also tends to be hard to chew, full of hard chunks of ancient raisins and fibrous grains. Who has patience for hard-to-eat food in the morning? Because of all this, people tend to forget that granola can be so full of delicious things that it tastes more like a dessert than a breakfast food. If you don’t believe me, try the Coconut Yogurt Parfait at Resonance Cafe. Thick, creamy yogurt with sweet almond granola and fruit preserves. They include it in their breakfast menu, but I order it as desert- usually to share, because it’s so filling after a meal. Resonance is my favourite cafe in the city- all vegan, delicious and affordable food, plus they double as a jazz club at night. You’ll definitely be hearing more about it this month.

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

During the day, I work as a cook, primarily personal chefing for a small family in Mile End, Montreal. Mile End is a bit like Sesame Street, in that everyone knows everyone else and it’s perfectly reasonable to take a stroll down the street just to stop by local businesses and friend’s houses to say hi on your way home from work. Resonance is in Mile End too, as is Boulangerie Guillaume. Guillaume serves as the baker for many businesses in Mile End, providing bread for Resonance and several small restos in the area. The bakers have a small wooden delivery trike, and early in the morning you can see them peddling along the bike path, basket stacked with row on row of fresh, warm baguette. The sandwich bread at Resonance is provided by Guillaume, perfect squares of thick-cut white bread, perfect for grilling on the panini press. Many mornings, Work Dad will walk over to Guillaume to pick up some fresh bread to serve with coconut-macadamia butter and guava jam. Other days, a quick bowl of cereal is on the menu.

Mmmm granola

Mmmm granola

That is where this granola comes in. Playing to the exotic tastes of my work family, I wanted something with toasted coconut to serve as a quick breakfast to go with fresh mangoes. Brimming with coconut, walnuts and dried fruit, this granola fits the bill perfectly. Large flake oats provide the base and hemp hearts and flax provide added omega 3 fatty acids. I solve the problem of tough, dried-up fruit by presoaking them in hot water before baking. This keeps them much more soft, easier for little mouths to manage. This is the kind of breakfast that will hold you over til lunch. This makes about 8-10 cups of granola, so make it once and you’ll be set for a couple months. I keep a mason jar out for daily use and refill it from an airtight bag int he freezer as needed. Serve it with coconut or almond milk, or maybe coconut yogurt and passion fruit jam.

Soak your dried fruit

Soak your dried fruit

Maple Coconut Granola

3 cups large flake oats
1.5 cups medium shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1) Put on a kettle to boil with a couple cups of water and preheat the oven to 350.

2) Once boiled, pour the hot water over the dried fruits in a small bowl and leave to soak.

3) Toast the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts on a cookie sheet in the hot oven until just barely toasted, about 5 minutes.

4) Stir the oats, coconut, hemp hearts and flax together with the cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

5) Drain the water off the dried fruit and add to the oatmeal mixture along with the toasted nuts and seeds and the maple syrup and coconut oil. Stir well.

6) Spread granola into two large baking pans. Bake in 10 minute intervals, taking the pans out to stir thoroughly between each interval, for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Cool and store in airtight containers in the freezer. Granola keeps in an airtight container on the shelf for 2 weeks.

Delicious grains

Delicious grains

Vegan Mofo 2015: La Vie Montrealaise!

Vegan MoFo 2015 has the cutest banner this year!

Vegan MoFo 2015 has the cutest banner this year!

It’s that time of year again! I am not officially registered, mostly because I spent the last two months helping my four siblings and mother move out of my nana’s house in Toronto, moving myself back into my newly renovated work kitchen, and camping in the woods for 10 days with a gazillion people. I will still post along with MoFo at my usual sporadic pace anyway, just with fewer readers to disappoint!

My theme this year is La Vie Montrealaise. Explore with me all the sweet things that make life in Montreal truly fascinating, beautiful, and heartily weird. I have lived here for 4 years now, and I have a hard time imagining living anywhere else ever again. Follow along with me this month and maybe you’ll see why I’m so smitten.

The verdant hidden terrace of Cafe Santropol captures the quintessential Montreal aesthetic. Combining tiny spaces and small, tightly packed tables with enough height and low light and detail to create intimacy. The perfect place for sipping iced tea and enjoying lunch with someone you want to (re-)connect with. Or some solo reading or journaling. Or maybe grabbing take-out on your way to Tam Tams at Park Mont Royal next door.

The verdant hidden terrace of Cafe Santropol captures the quintessential Montreal aesthetic. Combining tiny spaces and small, tightly packed tables with enough height and low light and detail to create intimacy. The perfect place for sipping iced tea and enjoying lunch with someone you want to (re-)connect with. Or some solo reading or journaling. Or maybe grabbing take-out on your way to Tam Tams at Park Mont Royal next door.