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Colourful Early Summer Salad

June 13, 2017

The title for this recipe could easily stretch for miles - salad with roasted rhubarb, garlic rye sourdough croutons, vegan labneh balls, blueberries, lemon dressing, and so on. They're all important players in this major meal of a salad. You know it's good when you want to steal all the bits and pieces before they reach the salad (those croutons). Graham and I happily ate the whole bowl-full for lunch, and normally he only grudgingly eats salad. It is a bit of work to make all the different elements, but it's mostly a bit of chopping which you'd be doing for any other salad anyway. And you're going to want those croutons. We were both sneaking all the end bits of croutons right off the pan when I was trying to take pictures, they're so good.

I chose mâche lettuce (feldsalat in German) for this recipe mostly because it's my favourite type of salad green, but I also think it holds up well in the salad despite the delicate nature of the leaves. You should be able to find it at this time of year. Here in Germany and elsewhere in northwestern Europe, it's available through the winter and spring as a colder-weather green. Mâche has three times as much vitamin C as regular lettuce, and it's higher in other nutrients as well. But really, this salad is all about the toppings. If you don't want to make and roll the labneh balls from scratch, you can use a soft goat cheese (if you eat cheese) or substitute dollops of your favourite thick yogurt. The creaminess they add takes everything over the top so I recommend taking the extra time to make them, and you'll have leftover labneh to use elsewhere. You can also use a gluten-free bread instead of rye if you're intolerant but all in all this is a pretty allergy friendly dish. I used this bread recipe (my go-to bread, but I sub 1/2 cup sourdough starter for the yeast now) but you can use a store-bought dark rye or other type of sourdough.

Salad should never be boring, and this is proof! Give me hearty, exciting salads every day of the week and I'm a happy camper. And, I mean, bread. In salad.

Colourful Late Spring Salad
Serves 2-4, as a meal or side

Base Salad

125 grams (about 4 cups) mâche lettuce

1 cup cooked french lentils
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Place all of the ingredients into a large serving bowl, in the order listed. Top with the roasted rhubarb, croutons, and labneh, then finish with the lemon dressing. Serve immediately.

Honey Roasted Rhubarb

2 stalks rhubarb, sliced

1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix to coat the rhubarb with honey, and then bake for about ten minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and beginning to caramelise.

Garlic Rye Croutons

2 thick slices (3 cm) rye sourdough, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the bread onto the pan and then add the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Use your hands to work the oil into the bread, squeezing as you mix the ingredients. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Labneh Balls

To make the labneh, follow this recipe (it will take at least a day to thicken). Take small spoonfuls from the finished product and gently roll them with your hands into balls. Make as many as you like for the salad, but I recommend between 10-15.

Honey Lemon Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of one lemon, about 1/4-1/3 cup
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place all of the ingredients into a small jar and shake until fully combined. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week, but you shouldn't have leftovers.

Strawberry Elderflower Scone Cake

June 09, 2017

I didn't really plan to post this recipe. We try to go on walks or bike rides every evening when the weather is nice, and we were biking through a park near our house when I found what I thought was elderflower. I asked to make sure that I wasn't picking some horribly poisonous plant (Sophie's advice was to look for bugs collecting around the flowers and a strong sweet scent), then went back the next evening to pick some more to use in a recipe. Turns out elderflower should be used right after it's picked. Most of it wilted completely overnight, so I cut some more from a tree across the street, hah. If you've ever eaten lilacs, elderflower has a similar citrus/floral flavour. It's pleasant in small amounts but I think it could easily become overpowering.

In this case, some elderflower is used in the giant scone that makes up the cake, and a little more is sprinkled on each layer for a subtle floral taste. I loved it, and I recommend seeking some out to try in this recipe (just make sure you don't pick the wrong plant). It's not absolutely necessary if you can't find it, and the cake will be delicious without it, but perhaps not quite as pretty. White lilac blossoms would be beautiful and just as tasty if you don't have elderflower.

I was thinking that I'd make little strawberry shortcake scones with elderflower, but remembered that I still haven't made a damn biscuit cutter, so I shaped one big scone to see how it'd turn out. Turns out a giant scone cake is 1. much easier than cutting scones, and 2. very, very pretty. I imagined serving it at a baby shower or spring dinner party (as if I ever have dinner parties), but it's also so simple that you can make it any time. The dough is made mostly in a food processor, the ingredient list is short and sweet, and since you don't have to cut individual scones, it comes together quickly. You don't need to roll or fold anything either. In terms of prep time, just remember that a can of coconut milk needs to go in the fridge the day before making the coconut whipped cream. There's just a small amount of (coconut) sugar in the whole cake, but using fresh seasonal strawberries makes it sweet enough without being cloying. 

If you'd like, you can make the different elements of the cake a day in advance, and then assemble it right before serving. If you assemble it too early it won't be as good - the cream may soak into the scone and make it too soft, and it's not as nice after it's been sitting in the fridge, even for a few hours.  It's a snap to assemble in just a few minutes as it doesn't need to look perfect. Don't let the fancy picture styling fool you, I put this cake together in about five minutes. It's all the junk around it that took time.

Strawberry Elderflower Scone Cake
Makes a 20cm cake, or serves 8-10 people

Elderflower Lemon Scone

2 cups light spelt flour, or a combination of light and whole spelt*
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup solid coconut oil*
3/4 cup coconut milk*
2 tablespoons elderflower blossoms*
Zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, arrowroot, vanilla, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Blend to combine, and then add the coconut oil. Pulse until the coconut oil is cut into small pieces and the mixture looks slightly sandy. 

Move the flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, elderflower blossoms, and lemon zest. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. The dough will be a little wetter than scone dough usually is, but that's normal. 

Take the dough out of the bowl and use your hands to form a rough ball, then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Press down with your hands to make a circle of dough that's about 5cm high. Use a light hand to keep the coconut oil from melting.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden in colour. Let the scone cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before gently placing it on a rack to cool completely. It will be delicate while it's still warm. 

Once it's cool, cut it in half with a serrated knife. Use about half of the whipped cream and 1 cup of strawberries as filling in the centre, and sprinkle some more elderflower blossoms over it. Place the other half of the scone on top and then add the remaining cream and strawberries. Top with extra blossoms, and serve right away.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full-fat coconut milk (355 ml), chilled for at least 24 hours
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder

Scoop the hardened cream from the can, leaving any remaining water (use this in smoothies). Add it to a mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla, then whip with an electric beater at a high speed until peaks form and it looks like whipped cream. Use immediately (it can harden again if refrigerated for longer than about half an hour). 

Strawberry Topping

500 grams ripe strawberries (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

Wash the strawberries and remove the greens. Cut them in halves or quarters, depending on how big they are. Place the berries in a bowl with the honey and stir until they're coated. 

1. Since this is a dessert, I wouldn't use more than half whole spelt flour. I use a similar base recipe for biscuits with whole spelt, but it will be a little tougher than if you just use light spelt.
2. If your kitchen is very warm and your coconut oil has melted, measure out the 1/4 cup and spread it out onto parchment and pop it in the freezer for about ten minutes.
3. Mix a little bit of the water from the canned coconut milk in with the cream to get the same consistency of whipping cream for your coconut milk in this recipe. 
4. I used one head of elderflower blossoms to get 2 tablespoons. 

• If you don't have a food processor, you can cut the coconut oil in with a pastry cutter or two knives, but using knives is deeply frustrating.
• Make sure to use a type of coconut milk that doesn't have added thickeners for the best results (in both the scone and the whipped cream). Some people swear by aroy-d brand, and I generally find that less expensive varieties work better. I use the denns brand here in Germany and it always works perfectly.
• Always look for small, deep red strawberries. Smaller ones are sweeter than their large counterparts.

Rhubarb Chia Pudding

June 05, 2017

This is a really simple seasonal recipe and even though part of me doesn't want to use my now rarer (because I have to buy it) (which is the worst) rhubarb for a recipe like this, I can't seem to stop making it. For me, it's a necessity to combine fruit with otherwise boring-as-hell chia pudding. I know there are people who swear by it and eat it every day, but I just can't bring myself to eat plain, seedy mush without anything fun in it. BUT as a fruit on the bottom treat, with one of my all-time favourites, rhubarb, I want to eat it every damn day. As an added bonus, this is made with coconut milk, because any other milk is watery and bland in chia pudding. Make sure you get some rhubarb mixed in with every bite.

This recipe is so easy that I don't really need to talk about it much. You can use any type of fruit you like in the base if you don't have/don't like rhubarb. Strawberries, or any berries, would be great. So would plums (yes) and other stone fruits. If you live in the southern hemisphere, you could switch out the lemon zest for cinnamon and use apples or pears. To get the pretty darker red colour of the rhubarb compote, either make sure to use rhubarb that's red on both the outside and inside, or add some frozen raspberries when it's cooking.

I make the two components separately, and then assemble it right before eating so that the chia pudding doesn't turn watery from the rhubarb. The rhubarb compote will keep in the fridge for a week or two, and the chia pudding for 3-4 days. The recipe is for a smaller batch, but you can easily double or triple it keep it in the fridge for a few days so you have a snack ready whenever you need it.  Keep in mind that the rhubarb compote has to be made the night beforehand to allow it to cool before serving (I've made that mistake, warm chia pudding is the worst). We all know the health benefits of chia, and there are plenty of healthy fats in this treat to help with healthy skin, shiny hair, and increased energy. 

Rhubarb Chia Pudding
Serves 2

Coconut chia pudding

1 cup coconut milk*
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
Zest of a lemon

In a container or jar, combine all of the ingredients and whisk together with a fork. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and mix it again before serving.

Rhubarb compote

3 stalks rhubarb (about 1 cup) chopped
2 tablespoons water
1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, to taste

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat on medium. Simmer until the rhubarb is soft, about 5-10 minutes. You can blend it with an immersion blender to make it smoother if you'd like. Cool completely before adding to the chia pudding.

1. Don't use the coconut cream from the top of a can - either use lower fat coconut milk, or combine some of the water with the cream to make a thinner milk, the consistency of whipping cream.

Rhubarb Streusel Cake

May 31, 2017

This is a cake I've been making since I was about ten years old. It's a family favourite. My omi requests it whenever rhubarb is in season, my great-grandmother made it often, and my mom taught me when I was little. She used to ask me to sprinkle the streusel on the cake and I would sneak bits of it every time, and then steal whichever bits of streusel I thought wouldn't be missed while the cake was cooling on the counter. I love streusel so much that I used to mix little bowls of it to eat plain after school sometimes, hah. If you're not sure what it is, it's just another word for the crumble topping (Rhabarber Streuselkuchen in German). 

Rhubarb streusel cake is very popular in Germany in the springtime and I've always made it with the first rhubarb from our garden. This year I had to buy rhubarb, which made me irrationally angry, but it's still a treat to use some of the first fresh produce of the season. If you don't like rhubarb, you heathen, the base recipe can be used with any number of fruits. Apple, plum - as in this recipe from my friend Sophie - and berry are all great options, but you can use almost any fruit. This is a healthier vegan version of the traditional German recipe made with whole food ingredients like spelt flour and coconut oil. 

The base is a yeasted dough. If you're a little worried about working with yeast, just try it! I encourage you to try with a sweetbread like this first, as I find them generally easier to work with than other breads (the dough is a little more forgiving in my opinion) and you don't have to worry about shaping it. The dough is mixed, kneaded, and then after it rises you just press it down with your hands into the sheet pan instead of rolling. If you have a stand mixer you can use it to knead the dough. If you're doing it by hand, like I did, it'll take about ten minutes of active kneading time. I used fresh yeast for this particular cake because it's more common here, but I've made it with dry yeast in the past with no issues. 

The cake is huge so either plan to eat a lot of cake yourself, bring it to a party, or invite some friends over for Kaffee und Kuchen and share (my omi came over and ate five pieces). It fills a standard German baking sheet which is a bit larger than Canadian/American ones, but you can just use your biggest baking sheet and have a slightly thicker cake. It's best on the day it's made, but not bad on day two - the streusel tends to get a little soft after it's been sitting. And remember that this is pretty much bread and fruit, so it's perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast. 

I've included a whole paragraph of tips at the bottom of the post, so if you're new to this type of recipe, I recommend reading them before starting. It seems like a very long, involved recipe, but there's not very much active time - I just wanted to give plenty of instruction so that the recipe turns out well for everyone. 

Rhubarb Streusel Cake
Makes one very large cake (over 40cm) or two smaller cakes

Cake base

1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, oat, thin coconut)
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
20 grams fresh yeast (1/2 of a cube) or 2 teaspoons dry yeast
3 1/2 to 4 cups light spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cardamom pod, crushed (optional)

Place the milk, maple syrup, and coconut oil to a small saucepan and heat on low until the coconut oil is melted and the mixture is just warm to the touch. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and crumble/sprinkle the yeast over it. Let this sit for 15 minutes, or until it is bubbling or foaming, before adding the remaining ingredients.

Add 1 cup of flour, along with the vanilla, salt, and cardamom to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Stir in another 1 cup of flour, then start adding it in 1/2 cup increments, stirring to fully incorporate between each addition. Once it becomes too difficult to stir, generously flour a large surface (your countertop) and turn the dough out to knead it. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Grease a large mixing bowl and place the finished dough in it to rise. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place it in a warm place, like your oven with the light on, for about 1.5-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones) with parchment paper. Gently punch the dough down and then place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Use your hands to press the dough into the pan, going from the centre to the edges, until it is about the same thickness throughout. Cover this with a tea towel again to rise slightly while you cut the rhubarb and prepare the streusel.

Add the rhubarb in an even layer over the cake, then top with the streusel, going right into the corners. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges of the cake are golden. Remove from the oven and let it cool before serving. Serve with coconut whipped cream or yogurt.

Rhubarb Topping

3 cups rhubarb, chopped, or around 7 stalks
Juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

Coarsely chop the rhubarb and place it into a bowl with the lemon juice and maple syrup. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to coat the fruit, then add it to the cake.


1 cup light spelt flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil*
1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
Pinch sea salt

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and use your hands to squeeze the ingredients together until a crumbly mixture forms. Sprinkle over the rhubarb onto the cake in an even or chunky layer.

• If your milk mixture gets too warm, pour it into the bowl and let it cool before adding the yeast. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast.
If you mix your yeast into the liquids and it doesn't bubble, your yeast is dead and you probably need to buy a new pack.
• The amount of flour is given as a range because it depends on the humidity of you home. The end goal is a soft dough that just barely sticks to your hands, so add the amount of flour needed for that.
• It took my dough 2 hours to rise fully. Make sure you give it enough time, but it might not need a full 2 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is.
• Don't worry if the dough is slightly uneven when you press it into the pan, it won't really make a difference in the finished product. Try to avoid extreme differences in thickness.
• I like my streusel to be a little chunky. If you prefer a more even, lighter crumble, just make the pieces smaller than I did when you add them to the cake.
• There's no need to peel the rhubarb for this recipe. Adding a tiny bit of lemon and sweetener isn't completely necessary, but really improves the taste of the fruit.
• Your streusel might be a little more or less crumbly depending on your flour, how dry your sugar is, and the humidity. If it's too wet, it usually needs more flour. If it's holding together but not really crumbling, add more sugar. If it's too dry then sparingly add more oil. Add small amounts until you get the consistency you want.

1. My coconut oil was fairly soft. If yours is very hard, using your hands to mix the streusel will heat the oil slightly and make it easier to incorporate.
2. If you choose to use a different fruit, still add the lemon juice and maple syrup.

If you have any questions, or if you make this cake, please let me know in the comments!

Savoury Herb Quinoa Pancakes from "Vegetarian Heartland"

May 29, 2017

Day to day, I don't really experience a lot of homesickness. But every once in a while I'll have really strong waves of homesickness that stop me in my tracks - usually if I smell something that reminds me of home, or if we visit a place that looks like Manitoba (that happened a lot when I was in Sweden a few weeks ago), or if there's an especially nice sunset. People often overlook the beauty of central Canada. Manitoba is sometimes referred to as a 'gap province', meaning there's nothing worth seeing as you drive through or fly over. The cities are admittedly pretty dirty and ugly, but there's so much beauty to be found in the parks and around the many, many lakes. So I do miss home. 

Vegetarian Heartland brought those feelings to the surface in many ways. Even though Bloomington, where Shelly lives, is about 1200km from my hometown, her pictures look like home.  Her new book is full of stunning photographs of the midwestern United States, where Shelly's from, and categorized by season and adventures within the seasons. Along with the four seasons, chapters are organized into sections like Farmers' Market Day, Road Trip, Fruit Picking, and Playing in the Snow. I love it. It's the perfect cookbook for people who love to be outside, eat with the seasons, and like comfort food in general. Shelly focuses on foods inspired by her home, and the result is a book that's packed with healthier vegetarian twists on classic midwestern dishes. It absolutely challenges any lingering misconceptions people still have about vegetarians just eating salad all the time. With a full 100 well thought-out and beautifully photographed recipes, it's definitely worth adding to your kitchen library. 

This isn't a vegan book, but plenty of the dairy could be replaced with things like alternative milks or yogurt, and sometimes coconut oil. Not too many recipes use eggs. I think it's a really approachable book for people who are new to vegetarianism, or interested in trying more plant-based meals, but also exciting for long-time vegetarians. I'll be gifting copies to a bunch of non-vegetarian family members and I'm sure everyone will love it. I think even my company's coming loving aunt would like this book, and most of her cookbooks are those small-town recipe collection books (do other places have those?) that are usually made to support a community centre or hockey rink. 

Here's a sample of recipes from Vegetarian Heartland:

• Savoury Vegetable Cobbler with Herb Drop Biscuits
• Green Salad with Savoury Granola and Avocado-Lime Dressing
• Burnt Honey and Herby Citrus Soda
• Raspberry Hazelnut Pancakes
• Coffee Crunch Chocolate Ice Cream with Bourbon Fudge Ripple (!)
• Spelt Crêpes Stuffed with Spiced Pumpkin, Apple, & Onions
• Deep Dish Persimmon Pudding Pie
• Tahini and Cocoa Breakfast Shake
• Vegan Wild Rice and Potato Chowder

Today I'm sharing this savoury quinoa pancake recipe from the book, which comes from the "Brunch Potluck" chapter in the spring section. I paired it with the Lemon-Pea Pesto from the Ricotta Spätzle recipe, page 41. I made the pancakes for lunch a couple of days ago with some leftover quinoa and we loved them. They remind me a little bit of biscuits. The description above the recipe says to switch up the herbs and spices in the recipe to whatever you're feeling, so I chose dill and sumac to go with the pea pesto - see my notes at the bottom of the recipe to see what I changed.

This recipe is lightly adapted from Vegetarian Heartland: Recipes for Life's Adventures. Copyright © 2017 by Shelly Westerhausen. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books LLC. 

Savoury Herb Quinoa Pancakes 
Serves 4

280 grams / 2 cups whole spelt flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground sumac*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill*
120 grams / 1 cup cooked quinoa
360 ml / 1 1/2 cups oat milk*
60 ml / 1/4 cup olive oil or melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, and sumac. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the herbs, quinoa, milk, and olive oil into the centre. Gradually stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until a thick batter forms. 

Preheat the oven to 95C (200F). Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add just enough coconut oil to coat the pan. Working in batches, ladle 1/4 cup (60ml) scoops of batter into the pan and cook until the bottoms are browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides until browned and cooked through, 2-3 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining pancakes.

Divide among plates, top with yogurt (and pesto!), and serve warm.

1. The recipe calls for whole wheat, all-purpose, or spelt flour.
2. The original recipe calls for paprika, not sumac - I think another great combo would be to use turmeric and add cilantro as the herb.
3. Use 2 tablespoons fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon dry - Shelly recommends sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, or oregano.
4. I substituted oat milk for whole dairy milk.