Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tofu Spring Rolls

how I roll (snort!)

Another hot-weather recipe, as promised! These rolls are so delicious that I often forget how labour intensive they can be. Like those ladies who say you forget how painful giving birth is after it's all over and you have your lovely child in your arms (though I'm told by friends who have actually given birth that this whole "forgetting the pain" thing is a myth). When I hold these lovely spring rolls in my arms I forget about the number of times I accidently dropped the rice paper on the floor, or burned my fingers because they were just out of the water, or swore like a sailor when yet another roll's innards split through its wrapping. I forget how long they take to make when you are hungry already, and how many dishes and kitchen implements end up dirty at the end of it all. Because they are THAT DELICIOUS!


I got this contraption that was supposed to cut down on some of the work involved with the spring rolls, namely the part where I'd cook each wrapper one at a time in a shallow saucepan of boiling water. These plastic plates are the same size as the rice paper wrappers and they are made out of a thick mesh that allows water to get through. You stack them all up with rice paper wrappers in between each one and then you put them all in the water at the same time. The confusing part was how to get them in and out of the water. I'd assumed they came with some kind of lowering apparatus, but this wasn't the case. They do have a holder, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how it is useful. I ended up just using my big barbecue tongs to plunge the plates into the water and fish them out again a minute later. It took me two tries to get it right. I cooked the first batch for too long and they turned to mush, but the second batch were useable and I was able to get a whole bunch of spring rolls done.

spring roll inards

This is more of a how-to than a recipe because there isn't a lot of cooking involved once you master the rice paper business. I am certainly no expert at rolling them and tend to just muddle through until they seem spring roll-ish. I'm sure there are some helpful tutorials on You Tube or something, but I learned to cook in the nineties, so I'm hard wired to muddle through without internet video assistance.

Basically, I sauteed small squares of tofu in sesame oil and splashed them with soy sauce. I chopped up a cucumber and picked a bunch of basil and cilantro from my garden. I used to make these with slices of mango in them as well, but the Man of Science has this thing about fruit in savory dishes, so I left the mango out to appease him. Mint also goes nicely in these, as do sesame seeds. Crunchy! Yum!

Once the wraps were successfully cooked, I plopped a bunch of each ingredient in the centre of each wrap and rolled them up to the best of my ability. We ate them dipped in Sri Racha hot sauce, along with some tempura asparagus and avacado maki rolls. Heavenly.

spring roll


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Breakfast Shake

shake it

Another liquid-based post from yours truly. I can't help it! This heat makes me not want to eat solid food. Not that I'm complaining. I was wishing for this weather way back when it was snowy and horrible in the middle of the winter. That's the thing about living in a place with intense seasons. I always appreciate one weather extreme by remembering its opposite.

So yeah, no solid food for now, just cool drinks. This one isn't boozey, though, which is good because, call me square, but I really don't think anyone should have a big glass of booze for a weekday breakfast. This time, I'm sharing one of my morning shake recipes. I could have these three times a day if my budget permitted. Instead, I just start each day with one.

I started adding greens to my shakes only recently, after reading about fifty other food bloggers insisting that you really can't taste the greens. Well, number me 51, folks, because it's true. You can't taste a few leaves of spinach or chard mixed in with a bunch of berries and bananas and almond milk. I swear it.


Summer Breakfast Shake

1 big (or 2 medium sized) leaves of swiss chard
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1 1/4 cup of vanilla almond milk

Rip the greens up into small pieces and then put them in your blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend it like crazy, especially if, like me, you want to gag when you come up with a mouthful of frozen banana lumps or a chunk of leafy chard.

Some Notes:

- I find that spinach blends in a bit better than chard, but I happen to have chard on hand right now so it's been what I've been using.

- I have an excellent blender. The Man of Science got it for me for Christmas one year. It's made by Breville and it is tall and skinny and looks a bit like a blender version of Homestar Runner. It actually has a "Smoothie" setting that alternates pulsing and blending to ensure that your smoothie is chunk-free. Genius!

- I freeze all of my berries for shakes as well because I like the shakes to be super thick and cold. Especially on steamy days like today.


Monday, June 22, 2009

(Ain't No Cure For The) Summertime Booze


it was only a matter of time before we broke out the booze around here. Ottawa temperatures shot up this weekend, to conveniently coincide with the first day of summer. And what did the first day of summer mean in the It Ain't Meat, Babe kitchen?


Do you know about Pimm's? I didn't, until it showed up on a few blogs and in a few conversations all at once. My family is British, and my mom has been known to break out the scones for a Wimbledon breakfast now and again, but somehow the ritual of Pimm's as a drink to welcome summer had escaped my attention.

Most commonly mixed with fruit and lemonade, Pimm's No. 1 Cup (the only variety available around here) makes for a refreshing hot weather boozey drink. For my mix I toned down the sugar of the lemonade by mixing it with club soda. It ended up being fizzy and lovely and the perfect home-from-work-on-a-hot-day drink. And good news: Pimm's is "suitable for vegetarians" and the company says that no animal products are used in the manufacturing process. So drink up, vegans!


Summertime Booze

1/2 cup club soda
1/4 cup lemonade
1/4 cup Pimm's No. 1 Cup
3 slices of English Cucumber
1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Mix it all together and enjoy!


Some Notes:

-Speaking of hot weather consumables, I am on a big hunt for the popsicle moulds of my youth. They were translucent white moulds with red sticks, made out of sturdy, thick plastic and they worked so well. All the moulds I've found since then have been really poor quality. They've shattered, warped, leaked, and all manner of other unpleasant things. Does anyone else who grew up in the 70's remember these particular popsicle moulds? My Mom can't remember what brand they were.

- I'll have at least one more hot weather food post up this week so stay tuned!

- The best way to freeze raspberries so they don't turn into one big clump is to wash them and then lay them all out on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for an hour or so, and then take the berries off the sheet and put them in a container in the fridge. This seems to work with whatever berries you choose and even when I am feeling lazy and don't want to go to the trouble, I do it anyway because it makes things so much easier in the long run.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garden Chives

roasted potatoes et al

Well! Welcome to everyone who came (and is still coming!) from StumbleUpon. Holy! Nothing like seeing your site visits rocket up to almost three times their usual numbers. And on a Saturday no less. Thank you StumbleUpon reviewer. I don't totally understand how the site works, but if it brings more people here looking for delicious food, I'm all for it.

Now that the season of eating local is here, I am attempting to eat VERY local by using whatever my garden is producing whenever I get the chance. And since the herbs are growing like mad these days, I have been working them into recipes whenever possible. Most of the herbs I planted were ones that I use on a regular basis, since it seems a little silly to grow food that won't get eaten. Chives were the exception to this rule. I don't think I've ever bought chives in my life. I only planted them for their alleged bug-repelling properties. They seem to be doing that job fairly well so far, but they are also growing in a way that is just one step away from out of control. I figured I'd better figure out a use for them, and soon.

So when I got these lovely red Ontario potatoes, I figured I'd roast them up with some chives and garlic and salt. It seemed like it would be hard to go wrong with potatoes + herbs + garlic + salt. And boy, was I right. These were delicious. Simple and local and perfect as a side dish.

potatoes and chives

5 medium sized red potatoes, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
as many chives as you've got (I used a bunch that fit in the circle that your index finger and thumb make)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp salt (or kosher salt if you have it)
black pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat potatoes.

Let sit for five or ten minutes to let the potatoes soak up the oil.

Spread potatoes evenly on a large cookie sheet.

Roast at 500 degrees for about half an hour, turning every ten minutes.

Some Notes:

-Oh hooray! Top Chef is back on! I don't care if it is Top Chef "Masters" instead of the regular Top Chef, or that none of the regular judges are there, or that there will be new contestants every week. It still gives me the same warm feelings as the regular series.

-Right, uh, back to the recipe. We ate these potatoes with grilled tofu (in Mustard Marinade) and some lovely Ontario asparagus. I was worried about the meal not being filling due to lack of grains, but I shouldn't have worried. Those potatoes kept me satisfied until bedtime.

-In other garden news, my squash plants seem to have made a comeback which makes me very happy. All the other plants are doing well except the beets and carrots that I tried to grow from seed. Either my seeds were no good, or some animal or other stole all the seeds. Ah well. I did promise myself that this first garden year would be more about buying plants and keeping them alive than growing them from seed. That will be tackled more competently next year.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pecan Blueberry Muffins

pecan blueberry muffins

These muffins are a severely altered version of some muffins from a cookbook my mother had when I was growing up. It contained only muffin recipes. And I'm sure the title involved some kind of muffin pun, but I can't remember what it was called. The recipe came together beautifully, and they froze well and became a nice week-later surprise for me when I was feeling hungry after a run. They also turned out to be rather gigantic, and the Man of Science and I spent a few days splitting them for dessert or snacks.

Using applesauce as a substitute for eggs is something I've been doing for all my vegan baking life. It is cheap, fairly fail-safe, and makes baked goods not dry out as fast. (That clumsy sentence was brought to you by my desire to avoid using the word "moist") The applesauce I used in this recipe was made and preserved by my friend Kat who you may remember from such blog entries as this one. Her applesauce rules, but if you aren't lucky enough to be her friend, whatever applesauce you have will work just fine.

Kat's applesauce

Pecan Blueberry Muffins

For the topping:
1/4 cup spelt flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 cup chopped pecans

For the muffins:
2 cups spelt flour
2 cups regular flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons each cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine all topping ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients for muffins.

In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry and stir until just mixed.

Fold in blueberries. Don't stir them too much or they'll bleed and your muffins will get all blue.

Fill muffin tins up with batter and cover tops completely with topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Some Notes:

-Holy crap, CBC Radio One was a vegetarian/vegan foodlover's nightmare today. First, Ontario Today had a phone in about Foie Gras, with an evasive restaurateur laying on thick about his charming neighbourhood bistro and ignoring the host's questions about how he manages to enjoy eating "delicacies" that are created as a result of extreme animal torture. I am pretty relaxed about other people's meat consumption (I don't condone it, obviously, but I never got anywhere fighting with people about it), but when I hear people singing the praises of food that is made by force-feeding ducks and geese with metal tubes rammed down their throats, I just don't understand how anyone could decide that eating that is somehow a good decision.

-And THEN I somehow ended up listening to The Point where the host and guests were discussing if the fact that some Ottawa restaurants (Beckta and Whalesbone) are starting to grow their own food in nearby gardens is "going too far." Going too far? How so? Too far towards ecologically produced and better tasting food? Too far towards understanding and appreciating what actually goes into food production? That show is the worst when it comes to creating fake "issues" about things that are not offending anyone.

-The wonderfully creepy doll in the background of the applesauce photo was made by my 13 year old friend Brigid who is creative and talented when it comes to making cool, spooky stuff. She was one of the kids I worked with when I ran an after school program years ago and she was never happier than when I let her spend a whole day in front of a pile of fabric scraps, craft supplies, and multiple glue guns.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Mustard Marinade for Barbecued Tofu

barbecue tofu and israeli couscous

The Man of Science and I drove to Merrickville recently to have lunch with my parents. We were celebrating my mother's birthday at a cute, vegetarian-friendly cafe just off the town's Main Street. On the way, I noticed that one of the highway signs announcing Merrickville's tourist attractions gave top billing to something called "Mrs. McGarrigale's Fine Mustard". Mustard? This is what Merrickville has to offer?

After lunch and a futile search for a quilt fabric shop that had gone out of business the Man of Science turned to me and said, "Okay. Let's go get mustard."

He is a mustard fan, you see. And once we were inside the store I understood why it deserved highway advertising. Not only were there about a million varieties of mustard for sale, but the rest of the store was packed with great kitchen equipment, specialty foods, and cute tea cups that the MoS said I wasn't allowed to buy unless I got rid of some of the tea cups that are already littering our kitchen and repeatedly falling on his head when he opens the cupboard.

We picked out four mustards, some horseradish, some fair trade Earl Grey tea and some cheese made from whiskey. I must admit I thought how are we going to use up all this mustard? However, it's been fun seeking out and coming up with recipes that involve mustard. Like the aforementioned Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. And this excellent marinade for tofu. Happy barbecue season!

more mustard than two humans need.
(Yes I know three of our four mustard flavours involve booze. You wanna make something of it?)

Mustard Marinade for Barbecued Tofu

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce
1 tsp dill or cilantro, chopped small
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Combine all ingredients and place in a ziploc bag or other sealable container with chunks or "steaks" of tofu. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour, the longer the better.


Some Notes:

-I used squares of tofu placed on skewers to barbecue this batch. That way the tofu chunks had more surface area through which to suck up the marinade.

-We ate the tofu with the incredibly delicious Pearl Couscous With Olives and Roasted Tomatoes from Smitten Kitchen. I veganized the recipe by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and it worked very well. I'd been wanting to try pearl or "Israeli" couscous for a while, but I'd never seen it in the grocery store. Then I ended up stopping at a Loblaws supermarket with a big kosher section and there it was! Moral of the story? Never skip over the kosher section just because you're in a hurry and can't imagine why you'd need specifically kosher food.

-This amount of marinade worked well with a standard one pound block of tofu. If you're making more, double the recipe. If you're not sure how much to make, err on the side of more. It's great as leftovers the next day.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Warm Spring Salad


The base for this salad was some lettuce leaves from MY! OWN! GARDEN! Hooray! Just a few leaves, mind you, but still exciting. Also exciting was the fact that a lot of the ingredients in the salad were Ontario grown, and am I ever happy to be in the season of local eating again.

Also, I have discovered a natural food coop in my new neighbourhood, so score one for Sandy Hill (finally! ;) It is closer to my house than my neighbourhood healthfood store in Centretown was, and as members we get discounts on everything. It's not a huge store, but they have a fairly good variety of organic and natural products, lots of produce, and a big wall of bulk bins. Plus a window full of healthy looking house plants and a big community bulletin board. My latent hippie tendencies are happily awakening. (Shhhh.) The other great thing is that it's called the Sandy Hill People Food Coop because it's an off shoot of the Sandy Hill Pet Food Coop. I like that people require the same designation as animals.

step six

Anyway, this salad is our first local meal of the season, and it is based on the salad that I had in Pembroke at the Saffron Bistro. Mine didn't look as pretty but it was still delicious. I put some goat cheese in at the end, but next time I think I'd just use some tofu ricotta instead.

assembling the salad

Warm Spring Salad

10 or 12 lettuce leaves
1 large potato
4 beets
4 portobello mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
2 tbsp soft goat cheese
a few tablespoons of whatever salad dressing you like. (I used a mustard vinaigrette.)
Olive oil for cooking

Cut beets into quarters and put them in a pot to steam.

Cut potato into long slices, toss in olive oil, and put then in a 425 degree oven to roast.

Toss asparagus portobellos in oil and add to oven. Let roast for ten minutes or so. The portobellos might take a bit longer. When they are collapsed and soft, they are ready.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate, top with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Layer other items on (as pictured above) until you have a full salad.

Some Notes:

-We ate this with some spelt baguette that I'd baked last week and frozen. It ended up being very filling.

-For a more detailed garden update, see my other blog.

-I have now made one recipe from Vegan Brunch and it turned out excellently! I tried the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. The MoS was wary of tempeh, but we were both pleasantly surprised. I think I'll try some muffins today.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pie Fail


I gripe a lot about recipes that fall apart and don't look pretty. When I make a mess of french toast, or crepes, or some kind of complicated dessert, I tend to care more than I should about the way the whole thing looks. Sure, it may taste great, but what good is that if I can't take a pretty picture of it?

I realize this is ridiculous. And I realized it even more when earlier this week I made a pot pie for dinner that looked AWESOME and tasted, well, kind of blah.


I wanted to love this pie. Really. It browned up so nicely and it cut easily into pretty, rustic looking slices. It just didn't taste that great. The filling reminded me of something from a frozen dinner or a lacklustre high school cafeteria meal. So I will not post the recipe here, because I like you people and I don't want to convince you to make something not great.

But please enjoy these lovely photos.