Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to make your own canned pureed pumpkin

Pumpkin recipes are crawling out of the woodwork and some ask for canned pumpkin. Although convenient, it's not exactly easy to find in the Montreal area. You can easily make your own and it's really as simple as using your microwave OR steamer.

Essentially, you can use any (except spaghetti squash) type of squash to make the puree, or even sweet potato. Just slice the squash in two, remove the seeds, peel off the skin and cube into 2 cm cubes. Make them smaller if you are in a hurry. Steam until fork tender, usually 10 minutes on the oven or in small batches in the microwave 2 to 4 minutes.

Once your squash is tender, throw it in the blender – careful, it's hot – and blend until pureed. You can spice it up with some ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg for that pumpkin spice goodness.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Bagels: a surprisingly great source of iron

Bagels are a Montreal institution, and a frequent breakfast choice for me as of late. St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel are famous for their round slightly sweet and chewy texture. I firmly believe the only good bagels are the ones from Montreal. The ones I've had outside of Montreal, or at Tim Hortons for that matter, have been disappointing cakey messes.

I've been eating a whole lot of the all dressed bagels lately (onion, garlic, caraway, sesame seeds , poppy seeds and salt). Did you know that one bagel served a whopping 25% of the daily recommended intake of iron? Yum!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vegan 3 Mushroom Stew with Tofu, Squash and Spinach

I was in the mood for a stew on this first official day of fall so I looked into my pantry and improvised a concoction that turned out great. It was a LOT of stew so you might want to cut back in quantities... I served it with brown rice and some baguette.

I used:

2 packs of large white button mushrooms, quartered
2 large portobello mushroom tops, cubed
1/2 cup dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted in 2 cups of water
4 small red onions, quartered
6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 cups of cubed potatoes - skins washed but not peeled
4 cups of peeled hubbard squash (about half a medium one)
4 bay leaves
1 package of tofu, cubed
1 package fresh spinach, washed
1 can of crushed seasoned tomatoes
1 liter of vegetable stock
1/4 cup no salt seasoning (Costco brand)
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Braggs (soy sauce) to taste
Olive oil, enough to coat a large dutch oven or cast iron pot - make it big!

In the large dutch oven, coat the bottom of the pan with enough olive oil. Turn on the heat and cook the onions until translucent. Add in garlic and stir. Add in cumin, turmeric, mustard, peppercorns, bay leaves and give it a quick stir. Add in the mushrooms, including the reconstituting mushroom water and cook mushrooms down to about half their size. Add in the remainder of the ingredients except Braggs and simmer for an hour. Taste the stew and add in Braggs as necessary.

This recipe freezes well and am willing to bet tastes even better the second day.

The vegan brown rice crispies squares recipe

I posted this recipe two years go, but I believe it deserves repeating as it is the best snack recipe ever. It's completely vegan, no marshmallows, no dairy, nada. It uses brown rice syrup and peanut butter as the sticky setting to make the squares.




1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
4 cups of puffed brown rice cereal

Mix all the ingredients except for the cereal in a large bowl. Add in the cereal and mix with wet hands until well coated. Press the mixture in a well oiled pan and refrigerate to harden or you can bake it at 350F for 30 minutes. Both methods will set. Enjoy!

They freeze well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Horray for Autumn! Squashes Abound!

Autumn is right around the corner and in Quebec, it's prime squash harvest season.

It's one of my favorite vegetables to work with. It can be used the same way you would use potato, carrots, or any other starchy root vegetable. Every part of it can be used, the skin in broth, the flesh in a miscellany of dishes and the seeds as a snack or topping to your salads.

My favorite squashes: kabocha, butternut, buttercup and Aladdin's turban. All of them have a deep orange sweet flesh that's rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins and trace minerals. Butternut is the easiest to peel, with a regular peeler doing the job. Otherwise, I like to use my cleaver to just split the squash in two and then slice off the flesh, inch by inch around. Make sure you save the seeds. They are always wonderful roasted and seasoned.

You can thinly slice your peeled squash and rub the slices with olive oil and a bit of salt . Roast on a cookie sheet, on a single layer for 30 minutes at 350F.

Alternatively, I like making a squash and spinach bake with cubed (1cm cubes) squash, wilted spinach and Parmesan cheese (feel free to substitute with nutritional yeast), and also baked at 350F for 30 minutes.

I also make a great soup with squash, sweet potato, some curry, turmeric and onion. Just cook until tender in vegetable broth - enough to cover. Throw in some red lentils if you want some extra protein and fiber in there.

As for the seeds, some squashes throw in more pith than others so cleaning the seeds is crucial if you want to roast them without getting mushy. Drying them can be challenging so leaving them out on a cookie sheet for an hour should get most of the surface moisture out. Then toss them with a bit of oil (olive or sunflower) and spices. My favorite: smoked paprika, maple syrup (just a spoonful) and chili pepper. Roast at 400F for a few minutes and make sure you watch the seeds. They can burn in a moment's time. Usually 5-10 minutes does the trick.

Enjoy the harvest!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pasta Bakes : Great Opportunites for More Veggies

Sorry kiddies, but this is not a vegan recipe. It's got cheese... Lots of it.

I love my pasta bakes. It's comfort food at it's best. I had read in a magazine or somewhere online that throwing in spinach in your pasta's cooking water was an easy way to boost the health benefits without the extra trouble. It totally worked. I just threw in a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach at the last 5 minutes of cooking and drained my pasta as usual. The spinach did not drain through the sieve but rather stuck on the pasta. I pan fried 2 cups of sliced button mushrooms and 1 diced onion to throw in with the whole wheat penne and spinach. I added in 6 cups of hot marinara sauce, and topped with 1 cup of grated rennet free organic cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Broiled to melt the cheeses.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Lazy labor day weekend - spinach salads

I've been pretty lax about blogging these days, sorry about that folks. I'm savoring the last days of what is the wettest and coldest summer in Montreal I've ever lived through. We've had two weeks of weather and the rest is pretty much a wash.

I've been experimenting quite a bit with salads focusing on spinach. Here's a few recipes for you to try:

Strawberry Spinach Salad:

  • 1 bag of washed spinach
  • 1 pint of strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Dressing: equal parts red wine vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil - salt and pepper to taste.
Place the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the dressing separately and add in enough to cover but not drown the salad. Serve immediately.

Spinach, Egg and Mushroom Salad in Honey Dijon Dressing

  • 1 bag of washed spinach
  • 1 pint of sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and sliced ( I use locally produced free range, organic eggs)
  • 1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Dressing: 2 tbs olive oil, 2 tbs apple cider vinegar, 1 tbs honey (organic), 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
Place the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing separately and add into salad. Serve immediately.