Thursday, February 23, 2012

Family day Breakfast of Champions

I love those days when you can sleep in and still make time in the morning to make a hearty and decent breakfast or brunch for yourself and the family.  I recently had one of those mornings for Family Day, celebrated on Monday in Canada, and I took full advantage of it.

I decided to make a restaurant-style full brunch meal with all the fixings including baked beans and home fries.  The only difference is that this breakfast was 100% vegan and mostly made from organic ingredients. It just goes to show you that you really can have your "eggs and bacon" but in a healthier form.

This breakfast is also packed with protein from the sunflower sprouts to the seitan stripes, nearly everything in this meal (minus the potatoes) has some form of protein in it.

On the Menu:
(clockwise from the top)

Healthy 12-grain toast with Earth Balance butter.

Amy's Kitchen vegetarian baked beans.

Homemade tofu scramble with fresh leeks from Sosnicki Organics Added to the recipe include salt, pepper, paprika, and sage spices with a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast, tarmi and one teaspoon of tamari for colouring.  Mix all ingredients together with a 16 ounce package of organic tofu, crumbled into bite-size pieces.  Add everything to a lightly oiled pan and cook for about 8-10minues.

Homemade homes fries, made with fresh potatoes from Sosnicki Organics.  Wash potatoes with skin left on and chop into cubes.  Pan-fry for a bout 15-20 minutes in coconut oil.  Add salt and pepper.

Cooked seitan crumble turned into "sausage" stripes, pan-fried for about 5 minutes on each side.

Fresh Sunflower sprouts from Kind Organics.

Freshly brewed organic, fair-trade coffee with almond milk and agave nectar to sweeten.

Makes a lovely Sunday Brunch meal!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Weekend at the Market

Last weekend the Evergreen Farmer's market celebrated Valentine's day with friends, family and the many wonderful farmers and vendors that make the market possible.  There wasn't a moment I didn't enjoy at the market that day, from helping out with Hands in the Bowl to making alfajores, it was a wonderful day to be a volunteer.

Apple and Beet salad from Hands in the Bowl class for kids

Hands in the Bowl is a lovely weekend program for children ages 4-7, and their parents, that teaches them what they can make with local, seasonal ingredients and all the nutritional benefits they offer.

There are still two weekends left in February to participate! So check it out, Saturdays from 9-10am at Evergreen Farmer's market.

"Candy cane" beets.  Beauty!

Emily whisking away, making the delicious salad dressing.

Salad ingredients: Fresh greens, shredded beets, shredded carrots, chopped apples, and dressing.

Also on the menu today: alfajores!  These were made fresh for all of our wonderful vendors.  As a baker, this was one of my most favourite tasks of the day.

Adding the creamy caramel to the alfajores.

Heart alfajores  for Valentine's

So if being warm and cozy indoors isn't your thing, Evergreen does offer some fun activities outdoors at Chimney court.  For example, to warm up, make your own soup or hot chocolate over an open fire.

And bowl making!
Old school style - a large piece of week, fire and a stick.
Giving the fire oxygen to keep it burning.
Other fun outdoor activities available at Evergreen include free public skating every Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays! Bring the whole family, strap on your skates, and enjoy the cool outdoors, and be part of a wonderful community.

The root vegetable for this week: Potatoes ... and my seasonal vegetable accompaniment: Red Cabbage

Original recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes

1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chopped leeks
36 oz. (about 3 cups) russet potatoes, srubbed clean and cubed
4 cups shredded red or green cabbage
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance is a good brand)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, grated
2 recipes Seitan Bacon Crumbles (see below)

1. In a large-size saucepan, combine the oil and leeks.  Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.
2. Stir in the potatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 12 minutes.
3. Add the cabbage to the boiling pot of potatoes and cook for another 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
4. Drain, and return to the saucepan.
5. Add the milk, butter, nutmeg, pepper, salt, and garlic.  Mash until the potatoes reach the desired consistency.
6. Stir in the "bacon" crumbles.  Serve hot.

Leeks from Sosnicki Farms

Red Cabbage from Sosnicki Farms
The above re-cipe was topped off with the easiest, quickest, tastiest mock meat you will ever make

Seitan "bacon" crumble
Recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (I omitted it and it still tasted great)
1 tsp ketchup
1 tbsp peanut oil (or sesame oil)
2 tbsp filtered water

1. In a medium-size bowl, combine the wheat gluten and yeast.
2. Stir in the syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke, ketchup, oil, and water.  Use your fingertips to crumble.
3. Fry in a large-size saucepan over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes or until browned up.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eating Local in Ontario: Root Vegetables

Recently I joined the wonderful Evergreen team as a Farmer's Friend volunteer.  The market, open on Saturdays, is a great place to feel like you're part of a community and to learn more about eating healthy, local, organic, seasonal food.  Since starting, I've already discovered vegetables that I never knew of or considered eating before. For example, celeriac (aka celery root), something I honestly had never heard of before but now love!

Celeriac is considered a root vegetable that looks nothing like celery but smells and taste very much like it ... and it's delicious!

Celeriac (aka Celery Root) ... yep, it's that weird looking
What are root vegetables?

The term "root" clearly gives it away meaning vegetables that grow underground.  Essentially, the part that you eat is the root, like carrots, potatoes, turnips or onion.  In Ontario, many root vegetables are in season during the colder or Winter months.  So, this year I decided that I am going to try my very best to eat local, in-season food as much as possible.

What's in season for February (in Ontario)?

Here's a list what I realistically can eat (or probably will eat) during the month of February:

Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celeriac, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Potatoes, Rutabaga, Sprouts, Squash, Sweet potato, Apples, Rhubarb

I am very happy to say that I can actually find all of these fine vegetables, fruit and more at Evergreen Farmer's Market.

Why is eating local so important anyway?

Perhaps first, the better question to answer is, what does eating locally mean? Eating locally simply means  buy food that is produced, grown,or raised as close to your home as possible, including fruits, vegetables and even meat, eggs, and dairy. This is why Farmer's markets are perfect because the farmers come to you,  making buying locally easier then ever.

The health benefits to eating local organic products ...
  • Local organic food is fresher and requires little to no preservatives, which makes it healthier for you because it has no added chemicals or pesticides
  •  Local organic food is more nutrient dense
  • When you focus on eating more organic whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds you will actually eat much less because the nutrient-dense food will leave you feeling more satisfied
  • People who eat rich organic whole foods reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and even lower your blood pressure and cholestoral
  • At the end of the day, it just tastes way better!

The environment benefits to eating local organic products ...
  • Reducing food miles helps reduce the amount of oil that is used up in transporting foods from afar.  This in turn reduces your own carbon footprint in a big way
  • You help reduce wasteful plastic, paper and other non-recyclable materials that go into food processing and packaging
  • Most local or smaller farms don't use chemicals and grow organic produce. When shopping at the market be sure to ask what their process is

How the farmers and community benefit when you buy local organic products ...
  • By buying direct from farmers you cut out the middleman (i.e. food manufacturers)
  • Money goes directly to farmers and back into the land, which supports the local economy
  • You help endangered species from being harmed or killed from dangerous pesticides 

Tips to help get you started on eating local, organic food:
  1. Do your research and learn what fruits and vegetables are in season in your area.
  2. Visit your local farmers' markets as often as you can to get as much fresh food as you can.
  3. Buy in season and try canning your food yourself to enjoy out of season food when you want it.
  4. Find great healthy recipes online to help get you cooking more at home.
  5. When buying your food always read the labels, all labels to know where it's coming from and to know exactly what's in it.
  6. When shopping, ask yourself, can I find this locally? If you can, buy local to support your local farmers, growers and culinary craftsmen.
  7. Start by replacing just a couple of meals a week or one meal a day made with local, fresh products
  8. If possible, start your own vegetable garden.  There is nothing more rewarding then growing, picking, washing, and cooking your own food
  9. Can't grow your own? Can't make it to the market? Try joining your a local CSA program and get fresh, seasonal food delivered right to your door
  10. Eating local, organic food is one of the healthiest ways to live and helps the environment in a big way! 

The root vegetable for this week: Celeriac (aka Celery Root)

Braised Celery Root with Chickpeas and Saffron

Recipe from Vegetarian Times

Grated Carrot & Celery Root Salad with Hemp Seeds 

 Original recipe from Vegetarian Times

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup celery root, peeled and grated
  • 1 leek, chopped (about 1/4 - 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup shelled hemp seed
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp. hemp seed or sesame oil
1. Mix the carrots, celery root and leeks together in a medium bowl.  Add the hemp seeds, mixing well.

2. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

3. Add dressing to the mixture and toss to coat.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Best 30th Birthday Gift for the Best Boyfriend

I always thought of myself as a creative person.  And granted, although I still believe I am, I often wonder to myself: how did I ever live without pinterest!  Okay, so perhaps that sounds a little silly.  Of course I can live without this website and I could definitely live without most websites like, facebook, twitter, even Linked In. But I really, really love pinterest, it’s my favourite social networking site to date. It’s every visual learner’s wet dream.  It’s where creative ideas come together to be seen.

So, why do I love this website so much? From it I found this very sweet birthday idea, which I did for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday this year.

The Idea: Fill 30 balloons with helium and attach a ribbon with a photo for each year of the person’s life at the end of the balloon.  Gather them all together (I used the bed for photo support) in any room in your house and wait for the birthday surprise.

I couldn't have done this without the help of his mother, who sent me all of the adorable photos. I took each one, cropped it and then affixed it onto white paper to make it look like a Polaroid picture.  The last step: number each photo.  An optional step: add a message on the back of each photo.

I was just gushing flipping through each one, such a cutie!

So serious but adorable, at Disney world.

This was one my favourite photos. How perfect! A father/son photo of them fishing ... well, actually not fishing (I learned afterward from Mike) they were only pretending to have caught that fish (funny story).

I made sure to have as many different coloured balloons as possible.  They looked so pretty in the light I didn't want to move them.

Tools you will need
  • 30 balloons - any colour, all colours
  • 30 long pieces of ribbon
  • 30 photos, numbered and with an optional message on the back of each
  • Helium tank that can fill at least 30-35 balloons (I rented mine from It's my Party!)

The very happy birthday boy looking at his pictures and reading the messages.

My only dilemma throughout this gift making process, something that weighed on my mind quite a bit before I got started was: are balloons recyclable? With this being a green blog and all I of course had to acknowledge that question and do some research.  The answer was better then imagined.  Latex balloons (which are what I used here) are biodegradable (even better), meaning they can be broken down and composted. This is a good news seeing as I still have 30+ balloons floating around my house to dispose of.

And for dessert, his favourite: apple crumble!

Oatmeal Cookie-Topped Apple Crumble
Recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes, p.410

For the Apples:
4 apples, an flavour of your choice, unpeeled, cored and cubed
1 tbsp whole pastry flour
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
3 tbsp apple juice

For the Topping:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp creamy natural peanut butter
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp plain almond milk
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper
3. To make the apples: Combine the apples, flour, syrup, and juice in the baking dish and stir to coat
4. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
5. To make the topping: Whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl
6. In a small-size bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, oil, milk, sugar, and vanilla until emulsified.
7. Stir the wet ingredients with the dry.
8. Remove the foil: crumble the cookie dough evenly on top of the apples.
9. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the cookie topping is golden brown and cooked through.
10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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