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!

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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

Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

This is what I make when I need a vegan, gluten-free bread. It’s healthy, delicious, and easy to make once you’ve done it a couple of times. It’s adapted from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around The World, which is a great book all around. I found her recipe was way too wet for me… This may be because wherever she is cooking, they don’t have as high humidity as we do here in Montreal. Therefore, if you are in a place like Edmonton where there is no humidity, you might need to add up to a half cup more liquid! Start with less, though. The bread should be firm, moist, with a consistent crumb throughout, no sagging in the middle, a nice brown, crisp crust and delicious flavour. I slice it when cooled and keep it in the freezer, toasting it as needed. But if you keep it on the counter, that should be fine too. Let me know how it goes!

 

Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

400g/ 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
65g/ 1/2 cup corn or tapioca starch
18g/ 1 tbsp powdered or 4 tbsp whole psyllium husk (just make sure you get 18g total)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
20g/ 2 1/2 packs yeast
50g/ 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups warm unsweetened almond or soy milk, divided
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water, divided (see note above)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
12g/ 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
sesame and poppyseeds for the top

1) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, starch, baking powder and salt

2) In a large bowl, whisk the yeast, 1 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, and sugar

3) In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together with a fork 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, oil, chia, and psyllium

4) Add the dry ingredients and the contents of the liquid measuring cup into the yeast mixture. Stir together about 5 minutes by hand, or 1-2 with a handheld mixer. Cover the bowl with saran wrap

5) Have a glass of wine and read a book for an hour

6) Punch down the dough, then transfer to an oiled, parchment-lined standard-sized loaf pan. Top with plenty of seeds and pierce all the way through the center

7) Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit in the hot oven for 30 minutes. Test with a knife through the center- moisture is ok, smears of dough are not.Let cool on the counter another 20 minutes before removing from the pan and allowing to cool completely before cutting into it. Enjoy with some more of that wine you opened. If you don’t eat it all, you can store the rest in an airtight container in the freezer. 

Pho/Air-boat street food/etc.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

When I was in my undergrad, I took a bunch of courses in the evening. There were two reasons for this, mainly that I refused to take morning classes, but also because the part-time studies department’s Philosophy classes tended to be more interesting. In those cool in-between months after the term started but before Winter came, I often failed to dress appropriately for the weather and would find myself shivering alone in the corridors waiting for evening classes to begin while sometimes falling asleep over my readings. It was at this time that I would get one of two things: a coffee and a chocolate chip oatmeal muffin from the only cafe that remained open for the night students, or a steaming-hot Styrofoam bowl of Pho from the little Asian vendor in the cafeteria.

I always asked for the vegetarian Pho, even before I was vegan, because it seemed like a much better deal- you got so many veggies! Tender-crisp bok choy, slivers of nappa cabbage, whole petals of oyster mushrooms, sprouts, carrots, peppers, and tofu, all in a fragrant broth with warming anise, clove, and black pepper. The whole thing was topped with a mountain of Thai basil and cilantro, and finally a wedge of lime. It was more expensive than the coffee and muffin, and while it had no chocolate in it, it was still the superior choice.

There is some controversy over whether Pho is related to pot-au-feu, the dish common to the French invaders of Vietnam. Westerners like to think of Pho as a fusion food. I think it’s more likely that the French simply assumed that their culture was the epitome of Culture, and thus interpreted the native Vietnamese dish in the only way their fragile egos could manage- as an approximation of the more familiar pot-au-feu. There is something decidedly un-French about traditional Pho as well, namely the way it was vended. No white linen table cloths, wine, or candles. Just hot street food, prepared with taste, nourishment, and efficiency in mind.

Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who shouldered mobile kitchens on carrying poles (gánh phở). From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Pho vendors kept their heads warm with distinctive, disheveled felt hats called mũ phở. (thank you Wikipedia)

I wonder if the Chinese food boat scene from The Fifth Element is at all related to the history of Pho? Some days, especially when it’s cold, I wish for certain conveniences out of sci fi like travelling Pho air-boats or teleportation.

It may be too early for you folks south of the border to be thinking of hot soups as an ideal comfort food, but here in the Great White North the nights have been getting quite chilly, and ominously gray skies have brought portents of Autumn and frost. Unless you have a magical Pho Boat coming your way, this recipe is the best thing to keep the chill out.

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind...

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind…

It took me a while to figure out how to make a good vegan Pho, and the trick is to take your time to treat the veggies right, and not worry too much about being traditional. This is your Pho, make it how you like it.

  1. Take a couple big yellow onions, peel the outer layer and halve them lengthwise. Cut a 5-inch stem of ginger root lengthwise. Blacken the outer layer both over a flame (broiler/element/blowtorch). Rinse away any flakes of char and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop five large, peeled carrots, and a couple cups of mushroom stems (any kind, preferably belonging to the caps you’ll use in the soup) and roast them in a pot with coconut oil until beginning to brown. This will take a bit of time, but keep an eye on it and have a beer to keep you occupied.
  3. Add to the carrots and mushrooms a couple of star anise, a couple of whole cloves, a 4-inch stick of cinnamon, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, a three-inch strip of kombu and several black peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the onion and ginger, then about 5-6 cups of low- or no-salt mushroom or vegetable broth- enough to cover with an inch or two to spare.
  4. Simmer until reduced by 1/3, then add a tablespoon or two of good tamari and/or vegan fish sauce. Strain well through a fine sieve. This broth can be kept in the fridge or frozen until ready to use.
  5. Cook medium flat rice noodles til tender. Add to big bowls of freshly-boiled broth.
  6. Prepare vegetables. Firm tofu, mixed fresh or dried/re-hydrated mushroom caps, tender greens, snow peas and peppers can be sauteed ever so lightly, then divided among individual bowls.
  7. Toppings should be served on the side, to be added with chopsticks to the bowls by diners. Scallions and red chilies finely sliced on the bias, whole cilantro and Thai basil leaves, wedges of lime and bean sprouts. Vegetarian hoisin, chili-garlic paste/sriracha, and seasoned rice vinegar should be offered as well.

To Eat: Pile on the herbs, sauces, etc. and barely stir them into the piping-hot broth. It will wilt the leaves, while maintaining some of their texture and providing lovely contrast between the spicy/sour/cool/herbal notes of the garnish and the warm/earthy/sweet/savoury notes of the soup.

Bon appetit!

Summer Raw Cleanse and BodyRock

Hello! I’m back after quite a hiatus. In fairness, it was a hiatus that involved a new job, moving across the country and a vacation with the fam. So here I am in sunny Montreal, surrounded by beautiful, tiny, young French girls and I’m feeling the residual effects of Edmonton in my bones. I always become a hermit for the harsh winter, but living where we were, in a basement in suburban Edmonton… I barely left the house if I could avoid it. It was depressing.

I’ve been in Montreal for just over a month now, and if a day goes by without a walk down these old crooked streets I feel like I’m wasting my life away and turn to drink. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But if you knew how good it feels to just exist in this tiny corner of Canada, you’d hate to be trapped indoors by yourself too.

The other great thing about this place is the ample supply of delicious fresh produce everywhere, for totally reasonable prices. The bio (organic) market a block away from my apartment sells produce for better prices than the non-bio produce at the regular grocery store. That, plus the heat and humidity that feel so foreign to my body, are motivating me to eat light. You don’t need to cook tomatoes to death when they taste so good, and the fresh, tender kale is perfect just massaged with a bit of lemon and salt. So, I’m thinking it’s time for a bit of a summer cleanse.

How it works: One week, 80% raw, 95% whole foods, 100%  plant-based diet. 80% raw, because that’s a really reasonable balance of raw to cooked foods to maintain in the summer when produce is abundant, cheap, and tasty. 95% whole foods, cause I’ll use coconut milk occasionally, and oil and salt very moderately- you need fat to absorb nutrients from plants anyway and I don’t have fancy non-stick cookware for my cooked foods. Plus, salt makes food delicious. Also, I’ll throw in a glass of wine or two for good measure. 100% plant-based, because I only eat plants anyways, there’s simply no need to eat anything else! Feel free to join me or try out some of the recipes, and leave a comment if you do- it would be great to hear! I’ll post what I’ve been eating, maybe it will give you some ideas.

In addition I will be doing BodyRock exercises daily. BodyRock offers a free, high intensity, short, daily video workout that’s different from day to day, and can be done in your home with whatever you have on hand. I won’t be doing them in the order they are released, I’ll pick and choose from past workouts, and I will be supplementing them with my usual 20 mins of cardio, stretching and belly dance isolation drills. If you are getting bored with your exercise routine, want a challenge or even if you don’t work out at all and you want to start, try it out! Just do what you can, don’t worry about not being able to make it more than halfway through a set, or doing only half the cardio time. You need to start somewhere, so just listen to your body and work within your limits.

Day 1

Workout- 12 mins BodyRock, 20 mins cardio, 10 mins stretching, 15 flights of stairs, 30 mins drills (do the cardio right after the BodyRock. Trust me, it’s a good idea ;))

Breakfast smoothie with a small banana, frozen blueberries, ground hemp seeds and soy milk.
Post-workout hemp protein shake and some fresh berries.
Mexican salad with romaine, black beans, red peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, cumin and hot sauce.
Raw kale salad with sauteed criminis, tomatoes, red onion
Raw veggies with salsa
Half an orange

Yum yum 🙂

Sick Food

I am sick. Ugh. This leaves me mostly not wanting to cook. Unfortunately, filling my body with pre-made foods, fat, salt and starches might feel good temporarily, but it doesn’t give me the fuel I need to get better. Enter Ye Olde Vegetable Mishmash. Yes, that’s the technical term. It goes something like this:

1) Find vegetables in your fridge and freezer. Anything will do. You aren’t making it to the store any time soon, so use what you have.
2) Chop veg in roughly equal-sized pieces. Add some aromatics and alliums. Leeks, onion, green onion, garlic, shallots, ginger, lemon grass, herbs, etc. Whatever you have on hand.
3) Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add veg in order of cooking time, from firmest to leafiest. You want to add leafy or grassy vegetables at the very end after everything else is done.
4) Finish wish a splash of acid (lemon, lime, cider vinegar, wine), a splash of tamari or a swirl of miso, and some red chili flakes or black pepper. Ta-da!

Have a bowl or two of quinoa or oatmeal with seeds and nuts sometime through the day in addition to this, and you’re set. No more than 15 minutes standing time, tops.

This time with yellow zucchini, red chard, a lone shallot, garlic, and lemon