Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Black Bean Veggie Burger For One

This veggie burger recipe is perfect for when you need to whip up a quick meal for one or two people. It only requires a few ingredients that you probably have on hand right now, and you can customize the burger to suit your tastes or what ingredients you have by changing up the spices and seasonings in the recipe. I have also tried a combination of fava beans, quick oats, paprika, lemon pepper, dried parsley, and salt that tasted great and had a bit more texture.

I think this recipe would definitely come in handy if you have or are a vegetarian or vegan at a BBQ this summer and don't want to make a huge batch of veggie burgers just for one person. It makes one hearty, nutritious burger that tastes great and takes no time at all to prepare. I usually double or triple the recipe to have a few on hand for quick weeknight meals!


3/4 cup canned or cooked black beans
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour or quick oats - You can substitute any type of flour 
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash of hot sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. water


In a small bowl, mash the beans with a fork until smooth with some chunks. Add in the flour/oats and all seasonings and mix. Add in the water 1/2 Tbsp. at a time until you reach a gummy, sticky consistency. The mixture should remain pretty thick and you may not need to use all of the water.

Shape into a burger patty using your hands. Cook on a greased frying pan or griddle over medium heat for 5 minutes each side, or until the outside is crispy. Enjoy on a bun, on top of a salad, or as a vegetarian main dish with sides.

*Recipe inspired by My Little Celebration

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry Raspberry Sour Cream Pie

I made this sour cream strawberry raspberry pie as a special request from some of my friends, one in particular who said this was her favourite pie ever! I can understand why it is her favourite because this pie is absolutely delicious and such a great way to enjoy fresh summer fruit. The filling is thick and creamy without being overly heavy, and it is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. The brown sugar crumble topping is the perfect way to finish off each slice. Since the pie filling is like a custard, the slices do not hold their shape well and are a bit runny when cut, but taste wins over appearance in my books any day! The original recipe for this pie used strawberries and rhubarb, but I could not find any rhubarb at the grocery store so I substituted it with raspberries instead. Feel free to swap in rhubarb if you have some.


1 unbaked 9" pie crust - Use my perfect pie crust recipe for a great homemade pie crust!
3 cups sliced strawberries - If using frozen berries, then thaw beforehand
2 cups raspberries
1 cup sour cream - If you don't have sour cream you can substitute plain yogurt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. corn starch

Crumble Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange the sliced strawberries on the bottom of the unbaked pie crust.

Arrange the raspberries over top of the strawberries.

Mix the white sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and corn starch together in a small bowl, then stir into the sour cream until it is smooth. Pour this mixture evenly over the fruit.

For the crumble topping, combine the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl, then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the mixture is crumbly and no large chunks of butter remain. Sprinkle evenly over top of the pie.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes on a bottom oven rack, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F, move pie to the middle rack, and continue to bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the pie crust is golden brown. Depending on your oven, you may just want to keep the pie on the bottom oven rack or a lower rack so that the crust bakes all the way through. I find with my oven I have to do this because the filling is so liquid-y that the middle of the pie crust will still be a little raw if I just keep it in the middle rack. If the crumble topping begins to get too brown then cover it with a piece of aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time. Cool on a wire rack, then chill for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

I wasn't able to get a nice picture of a slice of this pie before my friends devoured it! Here was the last lonely piece of pie in the pie plate that I managed to get a photo of. As you can see the filling does not hold together very well when you cut into the pie, but I can guarantee you that people will love it anyway and it will be gone in about 20 minutes.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

The Perfect Pie Crust

A few months ago a took a pie making class and learned how to make the perfect, basic pie crust that comes out delicious every time. This recipe is so easy to make and comes together in about 20 minutes.  It definitely conquered my fear of making a homemade pie crust from scratch! It's buttery, light, and flaky, and it makes a great base for sweet or savoury pies, quiches, tarts, or turnovers. The best part about this recipe is that it makes enough dough for 4-5 pie crusts, so you can store your leftover dough in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to whip up your next pie and save yourself some time!

Now let's make some pie...


5 cups all-purpose flour
1 lb. unsalted butter (4 cups or 2 blocks), slightly cold or at room temperature - I am not a fan of using shortening in baked goods as I find it bland and greasy, and I would rather use all natural butter. 
2 tsp. salt - If you use salted butter then omit the salt from the recipe
1 egg, plus enough cold water to make 1 cup

Step 1: Crack your egg into a liquid measuring cup and whisk until it is beaten. Add enough cold water into the liquid measure until it reaches 1 cup. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Step 2: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut your butter blocks into smaller cubes and add them to the flour.

Step 3: Cut together the flour and butter with a pastry cutter or two butter knives, until the mixture is crumbly. There should be no large chunks of butter remaining. You may find it easier to use your hands to break down larger chunks of butter and feel when the mixture is crumbly, just make sure they are not too warm that they start to melt the butter.

This is what the finished flour and butter mixture should look like.

Step 4: Make a well in the flour/butter to add in the liquid. By making a well in the dry ingredients to add the liquid ingredients into, you increase the surface area and shorten the time it takes to mix the two together. This is especially important when making pastry because you don't want to overmix it.

Step 5: Pour the egg/water mixture into the flour/butter. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until a wet dough is formed.

Step 6: Use your hands to continue mixing together the dry and wet ingredients until it just comes together loosley. Don't knead like you would a bread dough, just gently "wipe" up the egg/water with the dough. If it is too dry, then add in a tiny bit more cold water.

Step 7: Take out one small grapefruit-size ball of dough per pie crust. This recipe will make enough dough for 4-5 pie crusts.

Step 8: Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight before rolling out for a crust. If you aren't planning on making a pie right away, and to store the extra balls of dough, then place the plastic-wrapped balls in a freezer bag, or already rolled out into a pie plate, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost the dough completely before using.

Step 9: Sprinkle flour generously over your counter or work surface and rolling pin. I like to use a marble rolling pin because the dough doesn't stick as much to it and it's really heavy so it makes rolling easier. Place the chilled dough onto the surface and lightly dust with flour.

Step 10: Gently roll out the dough in an up-and-down motion. Flip and lightly flour the other side, then roll out again. You should be able to see streaks of butter in the dough at this point.

During this step you can also add some extra flavouring to your dough depending on the pie recipe you will be making with it. You can flavour pie dough for a sweet pie with finely zested lemon or orange rind, cocoa powder, cinnamon, or icing sugar, and for a savoury pie you could use basil, dill, cracked black pepper, finely grated parmesan cheese, etc. Simply sprinkle 1-2 tsp. of your desired flavouring/seasoning evenly onto the pie dough while you are rolling out and it will become incorporated into the dough.

Step 11: Fold up the dough into thirds. This will help to achieve a light and flaky pie crust by making layers of butter and flour in your dough. Lightly flour and roll out the folded dough again, and repeat the folding into thirds process 2-3 times in total.

Step 12: After all the rolling the pie dough should be light and thin, but strong. It should feel like cloth when you pick it up and hold it in your hands and there should be no large streaks of butter left in it. Roll it out in a big enough, circular piece so that it will fit into your pie plate. I usually put my pie plate onto the dough to measure. The dough should be at least a 2-3 inches bigger than the pie plate.

Step 13: Place your rolled out dough into your pie plate, pressing it evenly into the seams. There should be a 2-3 inch overhang of dough all around the pie plate. If there is extra dough overhang then just gently trim it off with a butter knife. If the dough is uneven or there isn't enough overhang in places, then use extra dough and patch it onto those spots by brushing each piece with a glue of whisked egg and water and pressing it on. I like using glass pie plates because it allows you to watch the crust as it bakes and check for an even golden brown.

Step 14: If you are making a single crust pie - one that doesn't have a top crust - then you will have to finish the edges of the crust now. If you were making a double crust pie then you would leave the overhang to be attached to the top pie crust. I was making a single crust pie with this crust, so to finish you use a pastry brush to brush a glue of whisked egg and water around the edge of the pie crust, on the side that is touching the pie plate (pictured). Fold the overhanging pie dough under (towards the outer edge of the pie plate) so that a smooth edge is formed. 

Step 15: Finish the pie crust by crimping the edges to your liking. I just used my thumb and two fingers to press all the way around the pie crust to create a ripple. You could use the tines of a fork and just press all along the edges of the pie, or leave it without any crimping for a more rustic look. You want the crust to be inside the pie plate and not overhanging the edges too much otherwise it will cook too fast and you will end up with burnt pie crust edges.

Now you're ready to fill and bake your pie using a recipe of your choice!

*Recipe from Jennifer Babcock

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwiches

These sandwiches are so delicious! They have the creamy yet chunky texture of egg or potato salad, but instead of all the mayonnaise traditionally used in those salads, this one uses the creaminess of avocados! You could eat the sandwich filling on its own, between two slices of bread, in a pita, or as a dip. It is best to eat it the day you make it because the avocado will begin to brown.


1 540mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large ripe avocado
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dill 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread of your choice, lightly toasted
Lettuce, spinach, or sprouts


Drain and rinse the canned chickpeas, then blot them dry with a paper towel or clean dish cloth. In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork, potato masher, or pastry cutter. Add the avocado and continue to mash until the mixture is still a little bit chunky. Add in the celery, green onion, lemon juice, and dill. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. 

Spread the sandwich filling between the slices of bread, and top with lettuce or spinach if desired. This recipe should make 3-4 sandwiches. It should be used immediately as the avocado will begin to brown, but you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I made these bars as a pick-me-up for a sick friend who was in need of some comfort food. There's nothing like fresh, homemade cookies to cure any sickness! Even though these are bars, they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside - just like all good cookies should be.


1/4 cup gluten free all-purpose baking flour - I used Bob's Red Mill all-purpose baking blend; feel free to substitute regular all-purpose flour if you don't need these to be gluten free
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
 3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8x8" baking pan with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in the peanut butter, then the egg and vanilla extract until well combined.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Add in the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed.

Spread the dough into the prepared pan evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate for 30-60 minutes until the bars harden. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, June 11, 2012


Guacamole is  a creamy, flavourful sauce that dates back to the Aztecs and is very common in Mexican cuisine. It is made primarily of avocado, with various additions depending on the region of Mexico where the guacamole is made.

Guacamole also happens to be one of my favourite foods ever - I could eat it by the bucketful! I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last Christmas with my family and before every meal we had fresh guacamole that was made tableside in a traditional molcajete. A molcajete is the traditional Mexican stone mortar and pestle used for making guacamole and salsa. They are still handmade in Mexico today – you can find them at specialty stores or just use a regular mortar and pestle. 

So what purpose does the molcajete serve? Since vegetables pack their flavour inside their cells, you've got to break down cell walls either by cooking, grinding, or chewing to access that flavour. If you just chop and incorporate these vegetables and herbs directly into the guacamole, you won’t be getting the best flavour possible. By releasing the flavour compounds by crushing them before you add the avocado and begin to chew you are guaranteed to have the most authentic, and flavourful guacamole that will transport you to Mexico! If you don’t have a molcajete or mortar and pestle then the modern day piece of equipment to use would be a food processor.


4 ripe avocadosThe Hass avocado is the preferred type of avocado for making guacamole and the most widely available in grocery stores. The prime season for avocados is late winter/early spring, but they are available in grocery stores year round.

1 small white onion, roughly chopped - In Mexico the most commonly used onion is the white onion. Unlike the yellow, red or purple, the white onion is not sweet and has a pure hot flavor.

1 Serrano chile, roughly chopped –  The serrano chile (along with the jalapeno) is the most common chile in Mexico. It is a level above jalapeno peppers in heat, but if you can’t find one then feel free to substitute with a jalapeno. You should wear gloves when chopping the chile and make sure there are no large chunks before adding it to your guacamole.

1/2 cup picked cilantro leaves, finely chopped, divided

1-2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp juice, from two limes 

2 tomatoes, finely chopped - Select ripe but still firm red tomatoes. If tomatoes are not in season then you may want to purchase Italian or plum style for the most flavour. 

Corn tortilla chips for serving 


Place onion, chile, half of cilantro leaves, and salt in a mortar and pestle. Pound into a fine paste. Alternatively, you could combine onion, chili, half of the cilantro, salt, and half of lime juice in a food processor and process until a smooth paste is formed, scraping down the sides as needed.

Split your avocados in half by cutting lengthwise all the way around. Remove and discard the pit, and spoon out the flesh into a medium bowl. Roughly mash in the bowl with a fork. 
Add the onion/chili puree, remaining cilantro leaves, chopped tomatoes, and half of the lime juice to the bowl of mashed avocados. Gently fold to combine. Season to taste with more salt and lime juice. 

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately with warm tortilla chips.
Yield: Serves 8 as an appetizer, or 4 if you love huge portions of guacamole like my family and I do!

Preserve leftover guacamole by placing a double layer of plastic wrap directly over the surface and refrigerating for no longer than 24 hours for best quality. Once you've got your avocado mashed oxygen and enzymes immediately start turning the exposed flesh brown. Though there are a few old-wives tales claiming that throwing the pit into the bowl or adding lemon/lime juice will help prevent this from happening, neither is true and the avocado will brown at the same rate. The only way to prevent browning from happening is to prevent contact with oxygen. 

If you have a leftover avocado from a different recipe that hasn’t been mashed already, there are a few ways to keep it from browning. Plastic wrap works temporarily, but it is oxygen-permeable so avocados won’t last more than about 8 hours before starting to brown. If you have half an avocado with a smooth face, you can rub it will oil and place it face down on an oiled plate. If you have ¾ or ¼ of an avocado, then you can store the avocado pieces in a plastic container filled with water in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Since avocado is so dense and high in fact, water is slow to penetrate it. You can also freeze avocado halves by wrapping them in plastic and placing them in a freezer bag.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

P.S. Check out this handy guide for determining avocado ripeness I discovered! This will be so helpful in the grocery store when shopping for perfectly ripe avocados, or at home when you're trying to decide whether or not it's time to cut into your avocados.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Black Bean Dipping Sauce

These salad rolls are a popular Vietnamese dish that usually contain an assortment of vegetables, rice vermicelli noodles, chicken, pork or shrimp, and fresh herbs rolled in a rice paper wrapper. I made these salad rolls vegetarian, but feel free to add strips of cooked meat or tofu if you'd like more protein. The rolls themselves are fresh and colourful, and full of different textures. They are very easy to make but can be a little time consuming if you are making a lot, so invite some friends over to help you and then enjoy some salad rolls together!


Rice vermicelli noodles
Romaine lettuce, torn into small strips
Cucumber, seeds removed, and cut into thin strips
Julienned carrots - I used prepackaged carrot slaw
Red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
Fresh basil leaves, torn into very thin strips or left whole - If you're not a huge fan of basil you can substitute cilantro or just leave out the fresh herbs altogether as they can be an overwhelming flavour
Rice paper wrappers

Black Bean Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. black bean sauce - You can substitute the black bean sauce with hoisin sauce if that's what you have on hand or what you prefer
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup or agave
1-2 tsp. ground ginger (adjust to your taste preference)
1 tsp. corn starch


Prepare the black bean dipping sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together until thoroughly combined. Heat for 30-60 seconds in the microwave and whisk again.

Prepare the vermicelli noodles according to the package directions. You'll only need about 1/2 of the package so set aside half either before or after cooking for other uses. Add half of the prepared black bean dipping sauce to the vermicelli noodles and stir gently to coat.

To make your rolls, fill a shallow pan with hot water, arrange your filling ingredients nearby, and have two empty plates ready - one for rolling and one to place the finished rolls on. 

Begin by gently submerging a rice paper wrapper into the hot water for 20-30 seconds, until it is soft and pliable. Carefully transfer it from the water onto one of the plates. 

Arrange your filling ingredients in the middle of the wrapper.

 Fold up your roll by folding over one side, then the other, then rolling up from the bottom. The dampness of the roll will make it stick together. It may take a few rolls before you get the technique down.

Place the finished rolls on the other plate. Continue rolling until you have as many rolls as you would like or until your ingredients are used up.

Serve with extra black bean sauce for dipping. Store extra rolls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan