Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's (Sort Of) Spring Time So Let's Make A Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

brown sugar topping

When I was a kid, my mom made (let?) me watch some movie on TV that featured a bunch of children stuck on a planet where all it did was rain. It rained and stormed every minutes of every day except for one day of the year when it was all sunny and gorgeous and flowers bloomed. Of course the kids in the movie locked some unpopular kid in a closet so he missed the day of sun. Then they felt bad and gave him all the flowers they'd picked when they were out frolicking and stocking up on vitamin D. Which doesn't make up for squat, if you ask me.

My point is, this spring has been like that movie. And Saturday was our one day of glorious sunshiney warmth. I hope you all enjoyed it and didn't accidentally get locked in a closet but some jerky kids. Me, I got on my bike and went to the Main Farmers' Market. And came home with some rhubarb.

rhubarb and strawberries

Luckily I had some strawberries in the fridge that were about twelve seconds from becoming rotten, so I started poking around on the internet for recipes that I might be able to adapt to my purposes. I came across this one on the Foodland Ontario site. I love the Foodland Ontario site. Their recipes are usually easy to follow and always feature produce that is available to me, seeing as I am an Ontario lady. My only problem with this recipe is that it uses apples as the second fruit. This is mystifying because most apples are not in season at the same time as rhubarb. Though the recipe only calls for apple sauce, not fresh apples, so maybe someone thought of that. Anyway, I was happy to mess with the recipe to not only veganize it, but also to work in my strawberries.

Rhubarb Strawberry Cake

I was wary of the recipe for a few reasons while I was making it. Number one, the dough was kind of liquidy. Number two, it seemed like there was an awful lot of rhubarb in the mix. And number three, I had no idea how the layer of brown sugar would behave after it was sprinkled on the batter. Would it melt? Disappear? Turn into something inedibly crunchy?

Turns out I had no need to worry. The final product was sweet without being achingly sugary, moist without falling apart, and fruity without edging into the territory of rhubarb overload. Rhubarb gets all creamy when you bake it and that totally delights me. You'll probably like it, too. If the sun ever shines again, get yourself some rhubarb at the market and get baking.

Rhubarb Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Rhubarb Cake (adapted from Foodland Ontario)


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup light spelt flour
3/4 cup unrefined white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp hot water
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/3 cup melted margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup strawberries, chopped


2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease (or line with parchment) a regular sized loaf pan.

Mix topping ingredients together and set aside.

Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. Stir in white sugar.

Mix flax, water, soymilk, margarine, and vanilla. Stir well.

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Don't over mix.

Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, top with brown sugar mixture.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Some Notes:

-I doubled this recipe when I made it and it worked like a charm. What's better than one cake? Two cakes!

-The topping will maybe melt into one brown layer and look a little weird. You can crack it with the back of a spoon to make it look more appetizing.

-Here is a picture of Oreo with a big leaf caught in his beard.

leaf beard

You're welcome.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Business Time

grow your own food

No recipe posts this week because I am awash with non-blog business that is dominating my schedule. Yikes! When did everyone start leaving their winter hibernation? I'm not prepared for this.

Just in case you missed the big old ad in the sidebar, I want you all to know that I'm teaching an Urban Vegetable Gardening For Beginners class at Flock Boutique in Westboro tomorrow night from 7-9 PM. The registration fee is $30 and that gets you into the course, plus a zine of garden tips and a packet of seeds. There are still a few spaces left and you can reserve yours by calling Flock at 613 6950834 or you can e-mail them at

For you who are not in Ottawa, I'm considering making this same class into an e-course that people all over the place could sign up for. If you'd be interested in something like that, please comment here or send me an e-mail. If I get enough interest, I'll plow (heh!) ahead with the idea.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Bakery Fun

at Auntie Loo's

"Are you a morning person?" Mandi asked me when I knocked on the door of Auntie Loo's Treats yesterday morning at 7:30 AM. I told her I was. "Good," she said, "Because some people find me really annoying." I was there to watch and offer help while she made the first bakery batch of my dark chocolate almond cupcakes. All I ended up doing was measuring almond milk and taking photos with my phone. She didn't need much help at all! But I loved being up and at the bakery first thing early in the morning. What a great way to start the day. And now, for a limited time, you can get cupcakes made from my very own recipe at Auntie Loo's storefront on Bronson and at the Herb and Spice. If you are in Ottawa and you get to try one, please let me know if you like it!


p.s. I know it's a total joke to call these posts "Wordless Wednesday".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Joy of Cookies: Basic Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies

You know what I love? I love Parks and Recreation. Yes, that's right. I love a television show. Don't worry, the Man of Science knows, and he's cool with it. In fact, this random expression of love is related directly to the fact that he came home on Friday with the Season Two DVDs for us to watch together. And now that we're about seven episodes in, I am even more confident in my love. It is probably my favourite show on TV right now. And not just because I'm personally like, 75% Leslie Knope.

You know what Leslie Knope loves? Sweets. Waffles, whipped cream, chocolate, and probably, though I don't remember seeing it mentioned specifically in any of the episodes, cookies. And since Leslie is a bit of a traditionalist, she'd probably really dig these classic chocolate chip cookies, a veganized recipe from my grandmother's copy of Joy of Cooking.

Joy of Cooking

My mom brought the cookbook over to me a little while ago, thinking I might like to add it to my collection. I accepted it, but didn't think it would be something I'd spend a lot of time looking at. But, it turns out it is kind of useful. Especially for basic baking recipes. I used it as a guideline for the apple pie I made a few weeks ago. And of course there is a perfect basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The other cool thing about having this particular copy of the book is that my grandmother occasionally made notes about recipes, so flipping through the book is like getting to hang out with her for brief flashes of time. Which is great because my grandmother was a great lady and I miss her a lot.

Grannie's notes

If you are in the market for an easy, basic, chocolate chip cookie recipe (and who wouldn't be, really?) here is my veganized version of the Joy of Cooking chocolate chip drop cookies recipe. This makes a really chewy, rich cookie that would probably be a great thing to feed any of those people in your life who still haven't figured out that vegan baked goods can be just as awesome as their animal-producty counterparts.

cookies and tea

Vegan Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional! Like garlic!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease two baking sheets.

Cream shortening with sugars and stir in flax mixture and vanilla.

Sift in flour, salt, and baking soda.

Fold in chocolate chips and nuts if you're using them.

(If batter is too dry, add water (one tablespoon at a time) until it forms a dough that holds together but isn't sticky.)

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of batter onto cookie sheets. No need to flatten them, they'll do that on their own.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Makes approximately two dozen cookies.

chocolate chip cookies

Some Notes:

-Are you dying to try my award winning cupcakes? Too lazy to make them yourself? Physically located in or around the Ottawa area? Well, you are in luck! I met with Super Baker Mandi Loo last week to discuss how exactly her bakery is going to distribute my cupcakes (which is part of my prize for getting first place) and it seems that this very week there will likely be some for sale in store (and at some of the places where the bakery distributes their goodies)! I will be up bright and early at least once this week to go help out with the mass-production of my recipe at the bakery. Fun! More information to follow.

-Did anyone else see the Top Chef Masters episode two weeks ago where Chef Suvir Saran (a vegetarian who cooks non-vegetarian food) gave a kind of ill-placed anti-meat speech right before he served his veggie burger? It made me cringe, frankly. Not because I didn't agree with him, but because I could tell that he was not going to convince anyone in the dining room that eating meat wasn't a good idea. There is a time and place for vegetarian rhetoric, and whoa, that was not it. It's those kind of diatribes that give vegetarians a bad name. I was sad too, because I really liked him a lot up to that point. He was hilarious most of the time he was on camera.

-This week I get to see shows by both Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings AND The Tranzmitors. I'll get no sleep, but it will be worth it. Except maybe to the Man of Science who has to deal with me when I'm cranky and sleep deprived the next day.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Election Blues

Ottawa <3

This has nothing to do with food, but I'm bummed about the results of yesterday's federal election. I walk past the parliament buildings in this photo all the time and I like to feel a sense of peace and hope when it comes to my home country. I'm having a hard time feeling that right now. I hope it comes back eventually.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's All Right Ma, I'm Only Baking: Dark Chocolate Almond Cupcakes


When I heard that Ottawa's Veg Fest was hosting a cupcake competition for amateur bakers I was all over it. I signed myself up right away. "Fun!" I thought. "Cupcakes!"

Fast forward to this past Friday. I'd had some help from my friend Krishna, who loaned me her frosting bag and cupcake carrier and gave me icing advice. I felt ready to create The Cupcake of Champions. I spent the afternoon baking two dozen cupcakes. One batch of raspberry lemon and one of peanut butter banana.

The raspberry lemon came out sticky and flat. And they were a terrible, Pepto Bismol-ish colour. Ugh. The peanut butter banana ones were tasty but really, they were muffins. If it looks like a muffin and tastes like a muffin, well, it's a muffin. I love muffins, but this was not a muffin contest. Maybe I can say muffin a few more times before the end of this paragraph. Muffin, muffin, muffin. Anyway, the point is, I was seriously regretting signing up for the contest and feeling like a big baking failure. Blargh.

recipe of old

So on Saturday I decided to bake something that I knew would work. I have a time honoured chocolate cake recipe that has never done me wrong. I added extra cocoa powder and I took a slight risk by replacing some of the flour with almond meal. I also added some almond extract to the batter. I made a basic buttercream frosting and flavoured it with cocoa powder and more almond extract. And hence, dark chocolate almond cupcakes were born.

This morning I got up early to ice my cupcakes using my borrowed pastry bag and nozzle. For those of you who've never done this before, it is certainly not as easy as it looks on television. Luckily I was also topping the cakes with toasted sliced almonds, which hid any flaws in my piping.

cards for judges

I tucked my cupcakes safely in the carrier and made my (slightly nervous) way over to Veg Fest. After I'd dropped off my cupcakes, I went to help my friend Lisa sell books at the Octopus Books table. It worked out well for both of us. Lisa got help managing the table and I got to stay busy and sell books, which is something I miss doing since I stopped working at Octopus years ago. Lisa was happy that I knew a lot about the vegan cookbooks we had at the table and I spent a lot of time chatting with people about which cookbook was most suited for their needs and recommending specific recipes out of the books I had at home.

I did manage to get a peek into the cupcake judging room at one point and found out that my cupcakes had made it into the top ten! Since that was the goal I'd set for myself I was quite pleased. The festival got busier and busier and I was too busy talking to people about cookbooks to worry much about the final results of the judging.

Octopus Books table

At 2:30 they announced the runner up and the winner. I wandered over to hear the results. And guess what?


I won the whole thing! I got a giant bag of vegan products, mostly chocolate and baking supplies from Cocoa Camino, but also some samples from Vega and a few gift certificates. And, even better, Auntie Loo's Treats is going to be making my cupcake and selling it at their bakery and through their distributors for a limited time. Can you imagine? It excites me to no end. I've hit the cupcake big time. And now here's the recipe so you can hit the big time too, in the privacy of your own home.

(Award winning!) chocolate cupcake

Dark Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk soured with 1 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease muffin tins (or fill with paper liners).

Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add flax and water mixture and both extracts.

Alternately add dry ingredients and soured almond milk to margarine mixture, stirring until smooth.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one cupcake comes out clean.

Makes a dozen large cupcakes, but I wanted mine to be slightly smaller so I was able to make 16 total.

Chocolate Almond Frosting

1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 cup vegan shortening
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp almond milk
approximately 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

Preferably with an electric mixer, combine the margarine and shortening, then add all other ingredients. If more cocoa is needed to make the icing the colour and flavour of your dreams, then go for it. Top with toasted almonds.

cupcake tray

So, needless to say it has been quite a weekend. Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go take 100 naps.