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Pumpkin Falafel + Fall Nourish Bowl

October 14, 2016

Finally, a post with some more colourful food! I've had too many baking recipes lately and not enough vegetables.

A friend of my grandmother's is a goldsmith, and Graham and I have started learning how to make jewellery from her. I think I'm more interested in it than him, but he's really good at it. He made an engagement ring for me and even though we picked out the stone and design together, and I was there when he was making it, he won't let me see it now that it's finished, ha. I'm really enjoying learning though and it feels good to be making something more tangible again since I haven't found a pottery studio here yet. But, on that note, there is a well-known potter in the town Omi lives in and we're going to go see a firing there on Wednesday (apparently that town is just packed with artists, who knew) and I'm so excited. It's a type of kiln I studied in university but never thought I'd see in action, and it'll be so cool to see how it works and how the pieces turn out. 

I know that I make things all the time, in the kitchen, or through photography, but it's a little bit different to make something that I can hold in my hands and that's going to last longer than a day or two. I've also been doing pottery for six years now and I don't want to get out of the habit and forget how to make a bowl or something. I don't have any props here either so it'll be good to make a few things to include in pictures.

Okay so last time I tried to make pear sauce I got distracted and somehow burnt a pot of pears with about five inches of water to a blackened, disgusting crisp and almost destroyed the pot they were in. I am trying again now and almost burnt a second pot (whoops) but saved it just in time. What's up, pears? They're so sneaky. I might stick to apple sauce after this. It's either that or actually pay attention to what I'm cooking.

We also picked another big basket of apples today - if you live in the northern hemisphere, you should be able to get almost all of the ingredients for this bowl locally right now. Apples, potatoes, beets, and pumpkin are all cheap and easy to find at this time of year, and they taste the best now too. Nourish/buddha/abundance bowls are one of my favourite things to make, especially in the cooler months, and they're packed with healthy, great tasting nutrition. I like to use a mix of cooked and raw ingredients but generally stick to more cooked when it's chilly out, and more patties instead of dressed lentils or chickpeas.

These aren't quite falafel, but that's what I'm calling them. I've added fresh turmeric in this recipe (you can use dried, though), ginger, apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, and oats. Falafel is usually fried but I love baking them to get a crispy outer crust without using so much oil. Think of it as an autumn inspired chickpea patty, with plenty of warming spices and lots of flu-fighting ingredients.

This recipe uses soaked chickpeas instead of canned and I really recommend that you stick to that instead of using a big old can of beans. I promise that, if you soak them for the full 24 hours, that you won't have the side effects that you're thinking of (magical fruit...) and the texture is a million times better. These tend to get a little soggy with canned chickpeas, and dried are healthier and more budget friendly anyway. I'm all about low cost high nutrition food lately because we recently moved and neither of us have jobs yet - this meal definitely fits the bill. 

Feel free to change out some of the ingredients included in the bowl of you prefer something different, like sweet potatoes for the regular potatoes or another root vegetable if you hate beets. I just chose some of my favourites. The potatoes and beets need to go into the oven a few minutes before the falafel if you're making it all at once, so keep that in mind. The falafel is great not in a bowl, too, so you could have it in a more traditional pita, maybe, or as part of a salad. I paired them with a tahini and apple cider vinegar dip and it was surprisingly good - I used to be big on garlic yogurt for falafel but since yogurt is no longer part of my diet, this was a great substitute. Don't omit the apple, it's perfect with the spicy, pumpkin-y falafel.

Pumpkin Falafel + Fall Nourish Bowl
Makes about 20 falafel patties and two nourish bowls

Pumpkin Falafel
1 1/2 cups roasted butternut squash*
1 medium onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
3 cm piece ginger
2 cm piece turmeric*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours beforehand*

Preheat your oven to 200C / 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the butternut squash into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it's pureed. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and spices, and pulse until finely chopped and incorporated. Add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, tahini, oats, and chickpeas, and pulse again until the chickpeas are broken down into mostly small pieces (the occasional whole chickpea is fine) and you have a mixture that holds together when pressed.

Form ping-pong sized balls of falafel and place about 3 cm apart on the baking sheet. You may need to wet your hands every once in a while to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers. Bake at 200C for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Serve hot, or leave to cool completely on a cooling rack and then keep them in the fridge for up to three days. They're best fresh and pretty good cold, but tend to dry out a little when they're reheated, so I suggest eating leftovers cold in a wrap or pita.

Fall Nourish Bowl
2 medium beets
2 medium yellow-flesh potatoes
1 avocado, sliced
1 apple, sliced
6-8 pumpkin falafel
2 scoops tahini dip
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F and line a baking sheet with paper.

Wash and slice the beets and potatoes in 1 cm slices. Drizzle some heat-safe oil and sprinkle some salt over them and turn a couple of times to coat. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden. 

To assemble the bowls, place half of the ingredients in each bowl, top with the dip, and drop a few pomegranate arils onto each one if you're using them.

Tahini Mustard Dip
1/4 cup tahini paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey/maple syrup (see warning)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients except for the honey until combined. Then add the honey and stir until it's just incorporated. 

If you mix for too long with the honey, the dip will no longer be smooth as liquid sweetener will cause seed and nut pastes to solidify (you can see in the pictures that I stirred just a little too long). It won't taste different, it just won't look as appealing.

1. To roast the squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves cut side down on a paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 175C / 350F for about an hour, or until easily pierced with a fork. Scoop out the required amount for this recipe and either freeze the rest or use it for another recipe.
2. If you can't get fresh turmeric, you can omit it or substitute 1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric.
3. I usually put the chickpeas in water when I'm making dinner the day before so I don't forget. 

Cinnamon Hazelnut Granola

October 06, 2016

I bought a big bag of whole hazelnuts at the market a few days ago. I thought it might be less expensive to buy them still in the shell and then crack them myself - turns out the hassle is not worth the tiny savings (since you're also paying for the weight of the shells). It took Graham and I over an hour to shell a kilogram, and I ended up with just enough for this recipe and snacking. I recruited him after my hands starting hurting, ha. 

This is another recipe that was made with minimal pantry ingredients, with the exception of the hazelnuts. Including the spices it has just seven ingredients. If you like crispy, clustered granola, this is for you - the chia seeds and coconut oil help the granola form into clusters, and it stays crunchy for a long time. It's not particularly sweet but I think the cinnamon helps to make it seem a little sweeter than it really is. The maple syrup, cinnamon, and hazelnuts go really well together and taste like autumn. 

I made baked apples and topped them with this granola and some grated dark chocolate and it was excellent, so I recommend trying that if you try this granola. The apples I have from my omi's trees exploded in the oven so I decided against taking pictures, but all you have to do is wash and core a couple of apples and bake them until they can be easily pierced with a fork. We had them with the granola for breakfast a few times and it was perfect. I convinced omi that baked apples can be a breakfast food despite her arguments against it, but she ate it. She was skeptical at first, and then she polished off two whole baked apples. For breakfast. Scandalous.

Otherwise, granola is granola and you can eat it with your favourite milk, yogurt, fruit, or just plain. I love this granola with some oat milk (my new go-to) for breakfast or as a midday snack. This recipe is naturally gluten free and vegan. I have tried it with honey in place of the maple syrup and found it too sticky and sweet, so I don't recommend it.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Granola
Makes about 4 cups  / 1 litre

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, hazelnuts, chia, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour the coconut oil and maple syrup into the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands (hands are best) until the oat mixture is fully coated.

Place the granola mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until it turns golden and doesn't feel sticky when touched.

Cool the granola completely in the pan before removing and storing in a sealed jar or container for up to a month in the refrigerator. 

Easy Overnight Dark Rye Bread

September 30, 2016

I love overnight bread. It's much easier to make than normal homemade bread, without any kneading necessary - you just mix everything together in a bowl, let it sit overnight, and then bake it in the morning. The thing is that it's usually baked in a dutch oven or lidded ceramic dish and involves some  dough folding and sitting in a tea towel in the morning after it's risen overnight, which I find detracts a bit from the simplicity of the method. 

This recipe is a little bit different. It's about as hands-off as you can get from bread making (other than picking up a loaf at the store and pretending you made it). The only thing you need is a few minutes to mix everything, and the bread does all the work on its own. This does require at least 12 hours of rising time, though, so I recommend that you make it in the early evening as opposed to right before bed. The dough rises a second time in the pan you bake it in, so you don't need to worry about proper folding technique or anything like that. All you have to do is mix it the night before, dump it in a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no folding, no special equipment. Despite the lack of work that goes into this bread, the crust is surprisingly crispy, and the inside of the loaf is soft and tender. This bread lasts longer than other homemade breads, and it keeps for at least a week sitting on the counter, wrapped well. 

If you're familiar with traditional dark rye, this tastes just like it. If you've never had it before, dark rye is a commonly eaten bread in northern Europe and Scandinavia. I live less than an hour from the north sea now and just a couple of hours from Denmark, so the food here is very similar to Scandinavian food. The bread is quite dense and filling, and its flavour is reminiscent of sourdough because of the long rising time. It's often eaten as a breakfast bread with different spreads or used for sandwiches, usually open-faced. I happily eat it for breakfast or as a midday snack with some peanut butter or jam, and Graham will eat half a loaf in a day. The dark colour comes from a little bit of cocoa powder and whole grain flours.

On another note, I made my fig and hazelnut cake today for some students at a jewellery making workshop, and it went over really well. I changed the figs out for halved apples and added cinnamon to the batter. I also made a deal with the owner of the studio, one of my grandmother's friends, to teach me jewellery making in exchange for catering when she has groups of people there for courses or exhibition openings. She's an absolutely incredible artist and jeweller. You can see some of her more recent artwork here - the focus of this work was on forced migration during the second world war, which is also reflective of the current refugee crisis. 

Easy Overnight Dark Rye Bread
Makes one large loaf 

3 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast or a pea-sized piece of fresh yeast
2 cups room temperature water
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey

In a large bowl, combine the spelt, rye, oats, cocoa, and salt. Add the dry yeast to the dry ingredients as well if that's what you're using.

If you're using fresh yeast, stir it into the water with a fork to dissolve it before adding it to the flour mixture. Add the water and maple syrup/honey to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough will seem wet and shaggy looking, but that's good. Cover the bowl with a lid, cutting board, or plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-15 hours at room temperature. It will at least double in size during this time.

In the morning, grease* a 30 cm / 12 inch bread pan or line it with paper. Scrape the dough into the pan, and then press it down evenly with wet hands. Sprinkle flour overtop and cover with a clean dish towel. Let the dough sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.

Heat the oven to 200C / 400F. Once the oven is hot, place the bread on a middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. The crust will be hard and sound hollow when tapped once the bread is done baking. Remove it from the oven and place the pan on a metal rack to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely. The loaf will keep well for a week at room temperature, stored in a bag or plastic wrap.

If you grease the pan, it might seem like your bread is stuck to it. Don't worry, it's likely that just the very top of the loaf is sticking slightly to the very top of the pan (where it might not have been greased) and all you have to do is gently lift with your fingers or a butterknife. The bread should pop out of the pan easily if you pull the sides slightly and tap on the bottom. I've made this bread several times and haven't had any problems getting it out of the pan.

P.S. After realizing that the scale in my kitchen is definitely way off, I've decided to postpone including metric measurements in my recipes for now until I get a proper scale again, but they will be added soon. Sorry! 

Fig & Hazelnut Cake

September 27, 2016

I'm writing this from my computer! If you remember from my last post, my computer was still in customs three weeks after shipping it from Canada. My uncle works in customs and helped me to finally get it without having to pay the 20% fee for importing electronics (since it was my property anyway and not new). It's so nice to be able to work on the big screen again, and very reassuring that it wasn't destroyed on the trip over here, which is almost definitely because of my friend Sarah's marvellous packing skills. 

I made a hazelnut and rhubarb cake in the spring, much like this one, but I've improved the recipe since and decided to share it now with some fall produce. I'd never had fresh figs before we moved here because they weren't available at home. I also found some fresh turmeric here so look for a recipe with that soon, too. Turns out fresh figs are pretty great, and perfect for this cake with the combination of hazelnuts, caramel-like coconut sugar, and olive oil.  If you can't get fresh figs, though, the base cake is delicious on its own, and I would top it with sliced apples, pears, or stone fruits. The cake itself isn't particularly sweet but the ground hazelnuts make it quite rich and it's certainly a dessert. It's gently spiced with a hint of cardamom and vanilla for warm fall flavours. This recipe is vegan, but without any special binding agents, and I promise that no one would notice if you didn't tell them, so it's perfect to bring to get-togethers or serve to hard-to-please guests.

The abundance of food here is shocking - my parents have a farm at home with fruit trees, but because the climate is so harsh, there just isn't as much variety. We went to my uncle's house a few days ago and picked three different types of apples and two types of pears, I have grapes from a friend of Omi's, and there are quince, pear, apple, and hazelnut trees all growing in Omi's yard. They're just there and no one thinks anything of it. Graham and I found a whole bunch of wild blackberries a few days ago, and there are rose hips and nettle growing everywhere. It's not that there aren't wild foods or fruit trees in Manitoba, there are - I think that it's because the area I lived in was so full of large-scale agriculture that a lot of it had been destroyed, and then in wilderness zones the animals eat it before we can get to it, or I don't want to take too much food from the bears and other animals because the winters are so cold. I feel the same kind of awe every time I visit British Columbia, which has a very similar climate to northern Germany. 

I have big plans for all of this produce (and my aunt's juicer). 

Fig & Hazelnut Cake
Makes one 26 cm / 10 inch cake

2 cups light spelt flour
1 cup hazelnut meal
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1 cardamom pod, finely ground, or 1/4 teaspoon pre-ground cardamom*
1 1/2 cup oat or nut milk
1/2 cup olive oil
8-9 fresh figs, halved

Preheat the oven to 175 C / 350 F and grease a 26 cm / 10 inch springform pan or line it with paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, and cardamom.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk and oil together until incorporated. Add the milk mixture to the larger bowl and gently whisk to combine the wet ingredients into the dry. Don't over mix.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top by gently dropping the cake tin on the counter to release bubbles. Place the halved figs onto the cake, cut side up. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until golden.

Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the outsides of the pan and cooling completely. You can gently remove the base of the pan once the cake is almost cool. This cake is best at room temperature, but will keep well in the fridge for up to three days.

1. You can substitute the cardamom for 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you can't find it.

Apple & Oat Blackberry Jam Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies

September 21, 2016

Hello from Germany! We’re almost settled now (in other words, I finally got around to doing some laundry) but I still don’t have my computer, and we just got the internet hooked up in our apartment today. My computer, which cost an arm and a leg to ship here, was detained at customs in Frankfurt, so I have no idea when I’ll be getting it. I have piles of work on there so I’m a little worried about that. Apart from that everything has gone well so far with our move.

Our apartment is kind of huge and was clearly decorated by a wealthy older lady (gold/brass accents everywhere) but it has massive windows, a great kitchen, and overall it’s really nice. We’ll only be here until November but until then it’s good to have a home base, and especially a nice bright one. There's a huge ledge in front of the window in the living room and I've been using that for almost all of my pictures so far, since I don't have any backgrounds and hardly any props to use in photos. It's nice limestone, but be forewarned that my pictures are all going to look pretty similar over the next few weeks. 

So far my grandmother has been here almost every day, or we've been at her house in the country. One of the reasons for moving here, the main reason, was to see more of my family, so we're certainly doing that. She doesn't cook much so she's taking advantage of my constant cooking, ha. Yesterday she came over for dinner before choir (adorable) and watched me take pictures of a pasta recipe before we ate. It's the most wonderful thing to be able to see her as part of my daily life. That being said, it's hard not being able to have my mom in my life as much now. It's always difficult to have family in two very different spaces in the world and being so far apart. I think we're going to enjoy our time here, though. 

The first thing I made in our new apartment was a version of these cookies. We didn't have very many groceries, but I had picked some apples at my grandmother's house and wanted to make something out of the sparse pantry (my cupboards are much fuller now). I just had quick-cook oats, a few dates, and a small jar of coconut oil. I've improved the recipe since that first attempt, and haven't been able to stop eating these little breakfast cookies since. I could take or leave my first try, but these are so good. The earlier ones didn't have jam. My godmother makes oodles of jam and gave me some blackberry jam, so  when I tested the recipe again I ended up making thumbprint cookies and filling them with it. 

The ingredients have remained simple and straightforward, and hopefully you have most or all of them already in your house. I tried my hardest to make these without chia, but they just wouldn't hold the thumbprint shape without falling apart and I ended up adding some to make the cookies work. The blackberry jam could be replaced with raspberry if that's easier for you to find, but definitely look for something that isn't extremely sweet or even just make some speedy chia seed jam (definitely go that route if you're looking to keep these free of added sugar). This recipe is naturally gluten-free and made just with oats, as well as being sweetened only with fruit and vegan. 

I'm not sure what kind of apple I used in this recipe, but I imagine any type will work. If you're in the northern hemisphere look for local apples now - they're so much better than the imported ones, and apple trees are all over the place. Get them while they're cheap, since that's also when they taste best!

I'm also switching to include metric measurements/weights in recipes now, so if you prefer to cook and bake that way, the option is here. 

Apple & Oat Blackberry Jam Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies
Makes about one dozen cookies

2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (1/4 tsp if fresh)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large tart apple, shredded*
6 large soft dates (1/2 cup), seeds removed
60 ml / 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

12 teaspoons blackberry jam

Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. 

Place the oats, chia, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Blend the dates in a food processor until a smooth paste forms, then add the milk and oil. Blend again until everything is fully incorporated.

Add the date mixture and the shredded apple to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until the dough sticks together easily. You will likely have to use your hands as it's difficult to mix. 

Form approximately equal balls of dough, about 2 tablespoons per cookie. Place on the cookie sheet (they won't spread so don't worry about leaving too much space between them) and use your thumb to make an indent in the centre of each cookie. You may need to gently push the sides back into place after making the thumbprint. 

Fill each thumbprint with a teaspoon of jam, and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for ten minutes before moving them to a rack to cool completely. Store on the counter for up to three days or in the fridge for a week. 

P.S. My lovely friend Traci of Vanilla and Bean has just released her first e-book! It's all about easy, healthy snacks and I promise that the recipes are delicious (I was one of her testers!) as well as being totally refined sugar free, gluten free, and plant based. You can get the book here