Sunday, June 23, 2013

This Girl's Urban Garden: What's Growing on my Deck

Summer has taken its sweet slow time arriving this year but it's finally really hot outside. I mean gross hot ... I love it.  I'm sure my urban garden is loving it also.  Here are just a few things I am growing this year:

 Red Pepper: Starter plants courtesy of Sosnicki Organics

I again bought starter plants for all of my herbs but immediately moved them into bigger containers and they grew bigger so quickly!

Lemon Thyme.


Sage

Cherry belle Radishes ... which by this point I have already harvested half.

Basil ... which will go great with my tomatoes!

 Cherry tomato (one of three tomato plants)

Black Beauty Eggplant. My first time ever growing it, I really hope it produces something.

 Black beans, which will have to be trellised to encourage upwards growth.

Just a few of the many, many greens I am growing, including kale, lettuce and ...

Arugula!

Zucchini


My harvested radishes ... gorgeous!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just for Fun! Rainbow Cake

This is what happens when you have a week-day off, have finished all your errands and are craving something sweet to eat: rainbow cake!

Basic Vanilla Cake
Recipe from Allrecipes.ca

Ingredients
1 cup plain soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract 

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
  2. Grease and flour an 8x8-inch baking dish, or any small round baking dish.  I used two dishes to speed up the process.
  3. Stir soy milk and vinegar together in a large glass measuring cup.
  4. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
  5. Briskly mix canola oil, water, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and almond extract into soy milk mixture.
  6. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until batter is lump-free.
  7. Divide batter into three different bowls (about 1 1/4 cup each bowl).  Add food coloring to each bowl, one red, one orange and one yellow. Mix color into batter.
  8. Pour one colored batter at a time into the prepared baking dish.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or about 16-18 minutes.
  10. Repeat for each colored batter.
  11. Once each layer of the cake is cooked, remove from baking dish and allow to cool down completely on a cooling rack before icing. 
  1. While the cake is baking, divide the buttercream icing you will be using into six separate bowls, about 2/3 cup each.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl, one of each rainbow colour again. Mix the colour into the icing until well combined.
To make all six colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) I had to double the recipe.

Once each layer of the cake is baked and completely cooled down, start adding the icing and layering the rainbow. I started with red on the bottom.

Here are the layers added together, with icing, and before adding the chocolate ganache:


Chocolate Ganache
Recipe from About.com

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
2 1/2 cups dark dairy-free chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over low-heat, combine the soymilk and chocolate chips.  Stirring frequently, cook until the mixture is well combined and the chocolate has a glossy finish.  Remove the ganache from the stove.  Use while still warm or slightly cooled.

Slowly drizzle the ganache, full spoonfuls at a time over the finished cake until it is completely covered.

My completed cake looks like a huge donut!


Mmm ... donut rainbow-cake!

  
Delicious!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Brunch: Banana Pancakes


Sometimes the simple pleasures in life are all you need.  For example, Sunday brunch.  After a long, hard work week sometimes there is nothing better then looking forward to sleeping in late and waking up in time for Sunday brunch.  I think I can make a habit of this ... sleeping in, Sunday brunch ... yep, that sounds good. Who's with me?

So, here is your first Sunday brunch meal suggestion: Banana pancakes!  I made these so long ago that I forgot the recipe...oops.  Never fear, I found a very easy to do vegan banana pancake recipe (I slightly altered it) for you to try, from Now Stir It Up:

Vegan Banana Pancakes
  • 1 1/2 cups organic all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup pureed bananas (1 large or 2 small)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3 Tbsp canola OR coconut oil

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder.
  2. Mix in the bananas puree and almond milk.  Stir until well combined.
  3. Allow the pancake batter to sit for about 5 minutes before using.
  4. Heat a large skillet with 1-2 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat.
  5. Once the pan is hot add about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.
  6. Cook until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pancake and then flip to cook both sides evenly, for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  7. Serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit like sliced bananas, and/or dust with powdered sugar.



Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Seed-Starting Part 2: Seedlings Saturday


It may be cold outside but that isn't going my stop these new seedlings from springing up.  Just a few more weeks now (I hope) before the warm weather arrives and they will be ready for the outdoors!

Once these seeds begin to sprout, the next step is to give them light ... and a new home, that is, a bigger home to spread their roots.


Some supplies you will need to transfer your two inch sprouts include:

- small to medium size pots
- seedling and/or potting soil
- labels
- water
- fertilizer (optional, but most helpful in improving their health)



Since I started my seedlings using egg cartons and packaging shells, I had to make sure the roots would have to grow. They are not strong enough to break through the shells, so it's very important to carefully break the shells apart before placing the seedlings in a new container.


Top off with more soil ...


 ... And sit your newly potted seedlings in the light.  Constant light would be best, to achieve this you can use  artificial lighting. In my case, I wanted to save money (and energy), and fortunately I'm lucky enough to have about 12-14 hours of sunlight shining through my large kitchen window.

 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Apple Pie on a Sunday Afternoon

For all the baking I've done over the years I realized it was high time I made an apple pie, which up until recently, I never had, at least not in a long time!

I used a recipe for cherry pie but adapted it to use apples and voila, the best freakin' homemade apple pie I I could have made.


Apple Pie
Adapted recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky

For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp vegan margarine
8 tbsp vegan shortening
6 tbsp ice water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the filling
4-5 cups peeled and chopped apples
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt.  Mix in the sugar.

2. Add half the margarine and shortening by the spoonfuls, cutting it into the flour mix with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it appears pebbly. Add the remaining margarine and shortening to the flour mix. 

3. In a cup mix together the water and cider vinegar.  Add the liquid mixture to the flour mix by the spoonfuls, gently mixing it in.

4. Knead the dough and add more water as needed.  You won't need much until it gets doughy enough and stays put together to work with.

5. Divide the dough in to two, rolling each half into a ball then press each one into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F.

7. In a large mixing bowl mix together apples, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Set aside.

8. Prepare the pie plate with one half of the dough.  Add the filling.

9. Cover the apple filling with cut-out pieces of the other dough half.  I used a cookie cutter to create stars and circles but you can use any shape, or simple strips.

10. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

11. Place pie on cooling rack to cool down for about half an hour before serving.



Enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seed-Starting Part 1: Seedy Saturday


This past weekend we enjoyed Spring-like temperatures and celebrated Seedy Saturday at Evergreen Brickworks. As the weather warmed up everyone around the market was getting pumped and eager to start their Summer gardens, myself included.  I even gave myself a head start and bought seeds and the right soil early so that I could collect all the supplies I needed to start my seedlings sooner.   This year, as always, I like to find greener ways to start my seeds, which would not only be environmentally friendly but would also save me money.


Some easy-to-find and recycable supplies you can use to start your seedlings include:
  • Egg cartons, tomato or avocado cartons (the purple stuff in the picture above)
  • Plastic trays from previous year seedlings
  • Spinach/salad plastic containers
  • Newspapers
  • Egg shells (optional)
What you may need to buy:
  • Seeds (if you don't save your seeds from the previous year's crops)
  • Seedling soil
  • Plastic wrap (to cover the starters before they sprout)
Once you have all the supplies you need it's just a matter of figuring out what needs to be started when.  This weekend I started tomatoes (a bit early), peppers, eggplant, and a variety of herbs.  To find out when you need to start your plants check out Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture and Food website.

Essentially, when starting your seedlings you want to create a little "greenhouse" more or less.  Covering the soil/seeds with plastic wrap, leaving a few gaps for air, will keep moisture and heat in to help them germinate quicker.

Most importantly, label your starters! Once the seedlings spring up they will all look very alike and it would be near impossible to tell them apart until they reached maturity.

Another great option for creating a mini "greenhouse" would be to use a salad container.  In this case, I drilled holes on the lid to allow air/oxygen to pass through to the soil and seeds, also important.


And if you're really lucky, after just a few days you will see a few seedlings pop up!  Once they do appear they will of course need light.  Place your seedlings in a sunny spot where they will get at least 10-12 hours of light or more if possible.  Natural sunlight can be unpredictable so some people will add a light to the seedlings to aid consistent growth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coconut Everything!

I decided that I pretty much love anything coconut soup now and that this new recipe will be added to my repertoire of favourites.  It is delicious, sweet and spicy - can't go wrong with that!

Red Lentil Coconut Soup
Original recipe from Scaling Back, I altered my recipe a bit here ...

  • 2 cups red split lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh peeled and minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 400ml can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 15oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Fresh cilantro & lime wedges to garnish (optional)
1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pan and add the onion and bell pepper, cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.

2. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, and tomato paste then continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes or until the mixture is fragrant and browned.

3. Add the water, coconut milk, lentils and chickpeas and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are softened to your liking.  Add the lime juice at the end of cooking.

4.  Add salt or more lime juice if desired depending on your taste.

5. Serve each soup bowl topped with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro and lime wedges on the side.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

'Girls Night Out' Made In

Planning a girls night out? Why not make it a day in instead.  As I get older I'm learning to appreciate the importance of affordability, relaxation, great company, and fine wine.  So, instead of a late night out clubbing with friends in a crowded bar, over loud music, I decided to make it a Girl's Day In!  A quiet Sunday afternoon brunch to catch up properly, enjoy each others company and manicures.  One of my favourite parts of party planning is making a delicious, healthy spread, including ...

Fresh sliced red and yellow peppers with homemade hummus.


Mini organic whole wheat sandwiches with vegan dill mayo and cucumber, and vegan "turkey & cheeze" with spicy salsa.


Fresh Sunday afternoon orange juice or fruit cocktails: orange juice, pomegranate juice, soda water, vodka, and fresh orange slices.


My Sunday brunch buffet table setup: dishes, cutlery, hummus & crackers, peppers & hummus, veggies, salad, sandwiches, fresh fruit, and a drink station.


Curry Dill Hummus
1-2 cups of cooked (canned is fine) chickpeas
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup of freshly squeeze lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini sauce
1 tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor, mix together until well blended.  Add more or less water to the hummus depending on your consistency preference.  Serve immediately or chilled.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mike's Birthday Balloons Revisited



Last year for my boyfriend's 30th birthday I surprised him with 30 balloons, each one blown up, stringed and tied to each string a photo of him.  Believe it or not I saved all of those balloons because I just didn't have the heart to toss them, especially since they weren't as biodegradable as I had hoped!

So, this year I decided to make something good out of them.  I made a 31 balloon birthday card for his birthday this year.  I was able to reuse the balloons and make it a gift for him - again!  The next step would be to frame it or add it to a scrap book.  Any other suggestions? I'd love to hear them.


Mike loved the birthday card and his birthday surprise visit to the Ontario Science Centre.


Happy Birthday Mikey!
Love you!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy ... but Happy New Year!


First off, HAPPY 2013 TO EVERYONE!  I hope this year will be the greatest yet for everyone.  For me, it's been a non-stop year so far.  Leading up to 2013 it was especially busy and doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.  From holiday parties, family gatherings, friendly visits, a new job, and many new year's revolutions I hope to achieve, it's been difficult to find the motivation or even the time to sit down and write something - anything!

So, for now I wish everyone health, happiness and the Eco-friendliest year yet to come.  For myself, I hope to create and cook up more delightful meals this year and to share them here.  I also hope to achieve some personal goals - getting finances in order, buying a home (a farm preferably), maybe even starting a family, spending more time with friends and family, and of course, more traveling!

Okay, so somewhere in my ambitious schedule I do hope to find the time to write. Until then ... make this year great!

xo
SL

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