Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Sauce


I know that some people are sworn devotees of the canned cranberry sauce when it comes to their holiday meals, but if you've never made your own cranberry sauce before then you are really missing out! This recipe is ridiculously simple and fast, and makes a delicious sauce that you can use any time of year. Besides the obvious turkey pairing, try it on pork, as a spread for toast or muffins, or as a topping for oatmeal, yogurt, or ice cream.

Ingredients:

1 and 3/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional) - This gives the sauce a little extra tanginess and bold flavour

Directions:

In a small pot over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, water, and sea salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has thickened, taste test and add the balsamic vinegar if desired. Serve warm or chilled and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


*Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows

Cranberry Almond Couscous with Maple Balsamic Dressing

 

For such a long and fancy-sounding title, this recipe is actually very easy to make and tastes absolutely incredible! The different flavours and textures of the couscous, toasted nuts, dried cranberries, and sweet and tangy dressing combine beautifully to create a filling yet light side or main dish. I brought this to a potluck dinner a little while back and it was happily devoured by my friends. The maple balsamic dressing can also be used as a glaze or marinade for tofu, chicken, or salmon, or as a dressing for salad or roasted vegetables.

Maple Balsamic Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. tahini (optional)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Pinch of salt and pepper

Couscous Ingredients:
6 cups prepared Israeli or pearl couscous - This type of couscous is larger, chewier, and heartier than the other varieties of couscous. 
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Directions:

Prepare the maple balsamic dressing by combining the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, tahini, garlic, salt and pepper in a lidded jar or small blender. Shake or pulse until blended, and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the couscous.

I used this brand of couscous that I found at Costco. It is a mix of whole wheat Israeli couscous, red and green orzo pasta, split dried garbonzo beans, and red quinoa. It's delicious!

Prepare the couscous according to the package directions for a yield of 6 cups when cooked. During the last few minutes of cooking time, add in the dried cranberries so they can absorb some of the liquid and plump up a bit. Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds and toast them in a large skillet over medium heat for approx. 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Once you remove the couscous from the heat, stir in the toasted almonds.

Allow the couscous to cool slightly, then pour in the prepared maple balsamic dressing and stir until it is evenly coated. Serve hot or cold. I've enjoyed this recipe as a main dish, a side dish, and mixed into a salad of fresh greens.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vegan Tofu "Turkey"

 

Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since becoming a vegetarian I have usually bought a Tofurkey holiday roast to eat at my family's big holiday meal. They are delicious and have a remarkably similar flavour and texture to real turkey, plus the stuffing and gravy that it comes with are amazing as well! I really can't recommend Tofurkey products enough for individuals who are just transitioning into a vegetarian or vegan diet, or who don't have a lot of time or interest for cooking up something themselves from scratch. This year, I decided to try something different for our Christmas dinner by finally making my own, homemade tofu "turkey". It has been on my baking/cooking bucket list for quite a while, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to experiment and come up with something tasty, satisfying, healthy, and easy to make! I compiled a lot of different ideas and methods for making a homemade tofu turkey that I found through various websites and other recipes, to create my own recipe that is very simple and uses the exact same ingredients that you would probably use for a regular turkey - which is great if you're also sharing the kitchen with the rest of your omnivorous family.

This tofu turkey isn't quite the same as the Tofurkey brand, since it only uses tofu as the main ingredient, without any added textured soy protein or wheat gluten. The main difference is that the texture is still very tofu-like, and doesn't imitate the texture of meat. While this may be disappointing if you are looking for more of a meat texture substitute, it is a big bonus if you just want to keep things simple with minimal ingredients and a less labour-intensive recipe. I really don't mind the texture of tofu so this wasn't a problem for me, and if you use extra firm tofu and press as much water as possible out of it, then it will not have the mushy or spongy texture that many people tend to dislike. The flavour of the tofu, on the other hand, is absolutely delicious and really mimics all the seasonings used in a real turkey! The outside gets crispy and browned thanks to the savoury marinade that it is basted with, while the inside stays moist but firm. Allowing the tofu to absorb an array of poultry seasonings overnight ensures that it is saturated with flavour and smells absolutely delicious while baking in the oven. My family kept coming into the kitchen and asking what I was cooking because it smelled so good! Once it is sliced up and covered in cranberry sauce or vegetarian gravy it even looks like the real thing, so overall this really is a winning recipe.

I know the holidays can be a bit of a stressful time for everyone, with lots of people to visit, gifts to buy, and food to make, and I know it can be an especially stressful time for vegetarians and vegans because many North American holiday food traditions revolve around largely animal-product filled meals and treats. Hopefully this and some of my other recipes can ensure that all dietary and lifestyle choices are satisfied and leave the table with a happy tastebuds and a full belly! It is my sincerest wish that all of the individuals who read my blog, whatever you celebrate and whatever you choose to put on your plate, have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and especially good food!

Ingredients:

2 blocks extra firm or firm tofu, pressed and drained
3 tsp. poultry seasoning - If you don't have poultry seasoning then use a combination of dried thyme, rosemary, and sage 
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Basting Marinade:

3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil - If you don't have sesame oil on hand you can just add more olive oil

Directions:

1-2 day/nights before: Remove the tofu from the packaging and place the blocks on a large dinner plate. Place another large plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a heavy object (see pictures). Leave this for 4-6 hours to press the excess liquid out of the tofu, draining the water that has collected on the bottom plate a once or twice as it accumulates.

After the tofu has been pressed, add the blocks into a food processor along with the poultry seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Pulse until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. If you don't have a food processor you can try this in a blender, but you may have to do it in multiple, smaller batches to get it evenly blended and smooth. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings until it is flavourful enough for you.

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. I used two mini loaf pans instead of one big one to make two separate tofu turkeys for different meals on different days, so feel free to do the same if you don't want to make one large one all at once.

Spread the tofu mixture into the loaf pan(s) and pack it down firmly using the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap so that it is directly pressing onto the tofu. 

Place a heavy object such as a full can or bottle on top of the tofu to help press it solid and firm. Refrigerate the loaf overnight to allow the tofu to absorb all the seasonings and get firmer.


The day of: Once the tofu has been refrigerated for 1-2 days, it is going to be flavourful and ready to bake! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the basting marinade by stirring together the soy sauce, orange juice, olive oil, and sesame oil in a small bowl. 

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap from the tofu in the loaf pan. Invert the loaf pan onto a baking sheet, cake pan, pie plate, or into a larger loaf pan. You may need to gently pull it out of the loaf pan by using the plastic wrap as handles if it doesn't come out easily on its own. Carefully remove the remaining plastic wrap from the tofu. 

Brush the outside of the tofu with the prepared marinade, using a pastry brush or by just spooning it over the top. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush the tofu with more of the basting marinade, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for 1 hour. Brush the tofu with the basting marinade a few more times as it bakes. The outside of the tofu will become browned and cracked, and your kitchen will smell fantastic!

Once the tofu has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes. Slice using a serrated knife and serve with vegetarian gravy or cranberry sauce! This is also delicious served in salads or sandwiches, hot or cold. Store leftover tofu turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and reheat the microwave as needed. 

This recipe serves 5-8, depending on how large the servings are.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan, inspired by Chef In You

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nuts & Bolts Snack Mix


If you would like to know the most addicting snack around then look no further! Salty, crunchy, nutty, and flavourful - this snack mix is all those things in one delicious bowl. It's perfect to have on hand for guests to munch on at any party, and also makes a great holiday gift.

Ingredients:

3 cups Rice Chex or Crispix
3 cups Shreddies or wheat square cereal
3 and 1/4 cups Cheerios - I used Multigrain Cheerios in this batch but regular or even Honey Nut work great too.
2 cups pretzel sticks
2 cups (~300g) mixed nuts - I used a tin of mixed cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, and pecans. Peanuts also work great.
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4-1/2 tsp. hot sauce - I used Frank's Red Hot but use Tabasco if you have that.
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Dump the Rice Chex, Shreddies, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, and mixed nuts into a very large bowl. 

In a small bowl, stir together the canola oil, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, garlic, seasoning salt, and onion powder. Dip a piece of cereal into this seasoning mixture to taste and then adjust the seasonings to your preference. 

Pour the seasoning mixture into the large bowl with the cereals and stir with a large spoon to evenly coat everything. Transfer the mixture onto two large baking sheets.

Bake for 1 hour and 15-20 minutes on the two middle oven racks, stirring every 15 minutes so that everything is evenly browned. Once the mix is crispy and lightly browned it is ready. 

Allow it to cool on the baking sheets on wire racks. Store the mix in an airtight container or plastic bag. Enjoy snacking!


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Icing


Cinnamon buns are one of my absolute favourite treats to eat and to make! I know it's not everyone's favourite thing to do, but I love kneading bread dough, and knowing that it will soon fill my house with the smell of homemade bread and cinnamon makes it even better. My love for cinnamon buns was definitely passed down from my father, who is a cinnamon bun fiend. I made a double batch of these for the whole family as soon as I got home from university for the holiday break and in three days we have gone from three big pans of them to one, so I would say that they were well received! The dough is super light and flaky, and bursting with lots of ooey, gooey cinnamon sugar. The drizzle of cream cheese icing provides the perfect tangy and sweet finish. The entire recipe itself takes only a little over an hour from start to finish, so you don't need to spend hours in the kitchen waiting for your dough to rise. These also freeze very well, so if you double the batch you can wrap and freeze a whole pan to heat up and serve later.

I know it is a big tradition for many family's to have cinnamon buns on Christmas morning - so if you are looking for a good recipe to make this year then I would definitely recommend these ones! If you are planning to make these for Christmas morning and don't want to be fussing with a recipe as soon as you wake up, then you could make them the night before and leave them in the fridge to do a cool rise, and simply pop them in the oven to bake in the morning.

Dough Ingredients:

3/4 cup 2% milk
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine, room temperature
3 and 1/4 cups white bread flour, divided use - You can use all-purpose flour if you don't have bread flour on hand
1 package instant yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
1 large egg

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine, softened but not melted - You could also use butter here, but I find that using margarine for the cinnamon bun filling makes the dough more flaky and light and keeps the filling more gooey, because butter gets absorbed into the dough too easily while baking.

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:
This will make enough to generously top your cinnamon buns, but double this recipe if you like them with lots and lots of cream cheese icing!

2-3 Tbsp. cream cheese, room temperature - Use more or less depending on how sweet or tangy you want the icing to be
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/2 heaping cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk

Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is melted. Set aside and allow this mixture to cool until it is lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your electric mixer with the dough hook attachment on, mix together 2 and 1/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt until combined. Stir in the water, egg, and milk mixture and continue to mix until incorporated. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, into the bowl, stirring well after each addition. When the dough just starts to come together, turn it onto a floured surface and knead it until it is very smooth and not sticky, 5-10 minutes. If you find the dough too sticky and hard to work with then just flour a little bit at a time. 

Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a hot, damp tea towel. Allow it to rest in a warm, draft-free place for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and softened margarine until well combined and smooth.

 With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough onto a floured surface until it is a 12x9" rectangle. Spread the prepared filling mixture evenly over the dough.

Tightly roll up the dough into a log, starting to roll at the widest edge of the rectangle. Pinch the seam together to seal it. 

With a serrated knife, evenly cut the dough log into 10 or 12 rolls. 

Lightly grease a rectangular pan or two round pans with butter or margarine. Place the rolls cut side up into the prepared pans, leaving a few inches of space between each roll to allow for expansion during their second rise and baking. Cover with a tea towel and let the cinnamon buns rise in a warm area until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes. If your kitchen is drafty or cold, you can turn your oven on for a few minutes just until it gets a little bit warm inside, then place the covered pans in the oven with the door slightly ajar. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the cinnamon buns have finished rising, bake them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. To test for doneness, insert a butter knife into the centre of one cinnamon bun and check if the dough has baked all the way through. 

While they are baking, prepare the cream cheese icing by creaming together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer in a medium bowl. Add in the vanilla, icing sugar and milk, and continue to mix until smooth. Adjust the consistency of the icing by adding in more milk to make it thinner or more icing sugar to make it thicker. 

Once the cinnamon buns come out of the oven, allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes, then drizzle the prepared icing over them using a spoon or a butter knife. 

Store cinnamon buns covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can also wrap them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to freeze. I highly recommend serving them warm!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pistachio Shortbread Christmas Cookies


Shortbread cookies always remind me of Christmas since both of my grandmas have baked them every year that I can remember. They are a staple at any cookie exchange or holiday dessert table! For this reason, I usually only think to make them during the holiday season - and it's probably a good thing because they are so melt-in-your-mouth delicious it is too hard to resist eating half a batch in one sitting! These cookies are my take on traditional shortbread cookies, made super festive by using green pistachio pudding mix and a sprinkle of red coloured sugar (because no one can make the originals better than grandma!). The texture is just what you would expect from a buttery shortbread, with a hint of pistachio flavour. 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix (4 serving size)
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Red coloured sugar crystals or red sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and pistachio pudding mix with an electric mixer or wooden spoon, until smooth. Gradually mix in the flour, adding about 1/4 cup at a time, until combined. You may need to use your hands to fully incorporate all of the flour.

Pinch of 1-2 Tbsp. worth of dough and roll into balls. Place them on the prepared cookie sheets and gently flatten with the heel of your hand. Sprinkle the red sugar or sprinkles on top of each cookie, gently pressing them into the dough so they stick on.

Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies turns light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze very well!

*Brooke McMillan

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kale Chips


Kale seems to be the leafy green that is all the rage right now, popping up in recipes all over the place. Personally I couldn't be happier about this because not only is kale delicious prepared in many different ways, it is also full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants! I went into more detail about the health benefits of kale in my green smoothie recipe here. One of my favourite ways to enjoy kale is turning it into crispy kale chips. They are great for healthy snacking, and for sprinkling on top of salads and soups for added crunch. They can be outrageously expensive to buy already made, so I prefer to make my own since it is so simple and cheap. You can customize the flavour of your kale chips by adding in any spices you have on hand. I also have a recipe for cheesy vegan kale chips that I highly recommend.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch of kale, washed and de-stemmed
2-3 tsp. olive oil
Sprinkle of Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. You can also line them with foil but the kale chips may get stuck onto it during baking and be harder to remove.

Remove the kale leaves from the thick centre stems. Discard the stems and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place the pieces in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt until evenly coated. Evenly spread the kale pieces onto the prepared baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the kale is crispy. Watch them carefully in the last few minutes so that they don't burn. Remove from the baking sheets and enjoy immediately for maximum crispiness! 



*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins


These muffins are my ultimate comfort food because they combine three of my favourite things: peanut butter, bananas, and chocolate. I made a big batch to share with my soccer team and all my friends during final exam week so hopefully it gave them some comfort too! The muffins are very big and fluffy, but super moist thanks to the addition of peanut butter. Studying is a little bit more bearable with a batch of these fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup buttermilk - Make your own by combining 1 Tbsp. vinegar with enough milk to make 1 cup and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
3/4 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line or grease two 12-cup muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In a separate, large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, buttermilk, peanut butter, oil, vanilla, and egg. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Fill the prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the tins on a wire rack for 3-5 minutes before removing from the tins to finish cooling completely. Enjoy!



*Recipe adapted from The Crepes of Wrath

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Crock Pot Applesauce

 

I recently bought a huge bag of slightly bruised apples for 50% off at the grocery store and now have enough applesauce to last me for snacking all through final exams this upcoming week. I always love finding discounted apples and bananas at the grocery store because even though they are no longer the best for eating, they are perfect for baking with! Instead of making a pie or an apple crisp like I usually would, I decided to make a homemade version of one of my favourite snacks. I love eating applesauce on its own, using it as a topping for toast or oatmeal, and adding it into my granola or plain yogurt. Making your own applesauce is so easy with the help of a crock pot, since all you need to do is throw all the ingredients inside then forget about it for a few hours until your nose tells you that there is something delicious waiting for you to dig in! I also added some fresh cranberries into this applesauce, but feel free to leave them out if you don't have any on hand. With the cranberries added in this would make a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce for a holiday meal.

Ingredients:

5-7 large apples, peeled - I used a mixture of Gala and Spartan. You can also leave the apple peels on if you plan on blending the applesauce with an immersion blender to smooth it out once it is cooked
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries - These are optional but they add lots of flavour and give the applesauce a nice pink colour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger - This is another optional add-in but it compliments the cinnamon and nutmeg very well
5 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup - If you don't have maple syrup or don't want a hint of maple flavour in your applesauce them you can substitute with brown or white sugar instead

Directions:

Peel the apples, then chop them into small chunks. Place them in the crock pot with the cranberries. Don't worry about thawing the cranberries first if you are using frozen.

Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and water and stir to mix everything together.

Cook on high for about 3-4 hours, or until the apples are very soft and mushy. Mash the apples in the crock pot using a large spoon or potato masher, until it is the consistency you want. If you would like very smooth applesauce then you may want to use an immersion blender or transfer the applesauce to a blender and puree on low.

Once the apples are mashed, stir in the maple syrup. Taste and adjust the sweetness and other flavours to your preference. Depending on how tart the cranberries are you may want to use a bit more sweetener. 

Store the prepared applesauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy warm or cold.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan