"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine."
- Hippocrates

July 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies

Finding that perfect cookie recipe can lead to a lifelong search. I know I've never been completely content with most recipes I've tried...they were always too thin, too sweet, too hard or too dry. And when I removed the eggs and dairy components, I figured it would be even harder to find the perfect cookie!

Well, wasn't I surprised when these unsuspecting recipes resulted in perfect cookies! Really, it's true! They both have the perfect texture - thick and chewy; and taste amazing - not too sweet but with a lot of peanut butter and chocolaty flavour!

Although I wouldn't call these cookies "healthy", they are a "healthier" version of the standard cookie recipe, using only minimal sugar and maple syrup :) Both cookies will work well with whole wheat flour...and if you'd like to make a wheat-free version, you can substitute spelt flower - just add an extra 1/4 cup!

What else can I say to convince you to try these babies!? I mean, they're cookies!! But if you need an extra vote of confidence - I'll tell you that I'm currently on vacation right now, visiting family out East. We arrived here on Sunday evening with a double batch of both cookies, since then I've made another two double batches of the chocolate chip cookies...it's only Friday people!! Believe me, you (and your guests) will love them!!

TIP! - Once your cookies have cooled, tear up a couple pieces of bread and put them in the container with your cookies. This will guarantee soft and chewy cookies everytime!!

Peanut "Better" Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup + 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses (adds a buttery flavour, but not critical)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp canola oil

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, stir until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the 1/2 cup peanut butter with maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, stir through, as it is coming together, stir in the remaining peanut butter (leaving bits of peanut butter throughout the batter).
- Lightly roll spoonfuls of the batter into a ball and place on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or lightly greased), press with the tines of a fork.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes, until just golden (I usually only need 9 minutes). Immediately (to prevent overcooking) remove from baking tray and place on a cooling rack.

Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 - 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil (a little generous)
1/3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (most are non-dairy actually!)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, stir until well combined. Add chocolate chips and stir well.
- In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, stir through until just well combined (do not overmix).
- Place spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or lightly greased) - you may need to lightly roll the batter so that it sticks together well, then lightly flatten.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes, until just golden (I usually only need 9 minutes). Immediately (to prevent overcooking) remove from baking tray on to a cooling rack.


Both recipes are from Dreena Burton's Vive le Vegan!

July 21, 2010

Creamy Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

Ok...I know it's summer, and people don't typically think of eating a steaming bowl of creamy soup when it's hot and sunny outside. But hey, like everyone else, I go to work everyday and soup has always been a tried and true staple for my weekday lunches. And it's always nice to have a couple servings of soup lying around in the freezer for those nights when cooking something for dinner sounds like torture!

A few weeks back we visited the farmers market here in Ottawa and I got so excited by all the fresh greens available!! I decided to buy a bunch of broccoli and spinach, not knowing yet what I was going to do with them.

At home, I found a recipe for a creamy broccoli and spinach soup and that was that! The recipe however, called for milk as the creamy base so I decided to use coconut milk instead. I also added some red lentils to add additional thickness and to boost the protein and fiber content of the soup. The result was fantastic!! This creamy soup is now one of our favourites! As can be expected - the coconut milk is the real star here...but if you'd like to reduce the fat content, feel free to use light coconut milk, or just reduce the amount and compensate with more veggie stock.

Pair this soup with some whole grain crusty bread for a filling and complete meal. Feel free to play with garnishes as well, I've used sunflower seeds here, but you could use any nut/seed really, or croutons, or fresh herbs, or crackers... you get my point!

Eating a big steaming bowl of greens will make anyone feel healthy - thereby making that sweet treat you've been craving all day a guilt-free dessert!

1 onion, chopped roughly
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red lentils
12 oz broccoli (about 4 cups) cut into florets
8 oz fresh spinach, packed (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pepper to taste

- Saute onion and garlic in oil until lightly cooked - about 5-7 min.
- Add red lentils and cook 1-2 min
- Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for a few minutes to get the lentils cooking.
- Add broccoli and simmer until broccoli and lentils are tender - about 10-15 min depending on size of florets
- When broccoli is fork tender, add spinach, coconut milk, nutmeg and pepper. Cook spinach for 2-3 minutes until wilted.
- Use a blender to blend soup (really well) in batches until all the soup is smooth.


This recipe was heavily adapted from Susannah Blake's 500 Soups: The Only Soup Compendium You'll Ever Need

July 16, 2010

Fresh Basil Pesto and Tomato Brushetta

When I first cut out eating dairy, I had a few moments of mourning for all my former favourites that were now off-limits. But, happily, as I've come to discover, there's ALMOST ALWAYS a comparable (or better) version of these foods available without meat, eggs or dairy.

One of my former favourites is basil pesto - with it's creamy texture made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and most importantly - the cheese! Well, when I tried this recipe I was shocked... it was the perfect pesto! The creamy, buttery texture is thanks to the blended cashew nuts! And there's a great fresh flavour that's achieved by the basil-lemon combination too!

As a side-dish, jazz up your garlic bread routine by making simple, yet oh-so-yummy and fresh, brushetta! I got this recipe a long time ago while dining with the chef at a former restaurant in Halifax. He told me the secret ingredient to good brushetta - balsamic vinegar! Ok, maybe it's not so secret, but it was certainly news to me at the time! Below is my rough version of what he served us that night.

Take advantage of the summer produce at it's peak - find fresh basil and tomatoes at your local farmer's market, or even better, your own garden!

Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto
Serves 3-4

1 large clove garlic
3 to 3 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 cup + 1-2 tbsp raw cashews
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1/2 to 3/4 lb (225g-340g) dry pasta of choice
olive oil for finishing

- In a food processor, combine garlic, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, oil, and water, and puree until fairly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cashews and basil and puree until smooth, again, scraping down bowl.
- Toss cooked pasta with pesto. If it's too dry, add some water, 1 tbsp at a time.
- Season with additional salt and fresh pepper, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe is from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating

Make a double batch of this pesto and freeze it for another meal. Just lightly spray an ice cube tray with oil,
fill each compartment with pesto, then put in the freezer until completely frozen. Once frozen, remove squares from tray and store in a freezer bag (for about 6 months). A serving for two people would be 3-4 squares, depending on how much pesto you like.

Other great uses for pesto:
- Pesto is delicious as a sandwich spread and as a layer in an appetizer dip.
- Pesto mixed with olive oil makes a fabulous salad dressing, especially for pasta salads. It can be stirred into rice or mashed potatoes, or mixed into hot vegetables.
- Make pesto pizza by spreading pesto on pizza crust instead of tomato sauce. Cover with sun dried tomatoes, other veggies and/or crushed pine nuts - OR - drop a few dollops of pesto right on top of the tomato sauce!

Fresh Tomato-Basil Brushetta
Serves 4-6

2 large ripe tomatoes (or 4 Roma tomatoes), diced into small cubes
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh basil (depending on your affinity for basil), chopped finely
1 1/2 tbsp red onion, chopped very finely
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (toast at 400 for about 5 min - tossing frequently)
salt and fresh pepper to taste

- Toast pine nuts.
- Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Serve on toasted crusty bread (or garlic bread), either cold on the side with a spoon or warmed up slightly in the oven until heated through.