Browsing Tag:

vegetarian

Cooking

Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup Recipe

vegetables for Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler. Sweaters are coming out of their storage bins, light ones first. The heavy wool ones will come later. The rain jackets are hung in the front closet. Rain boots are placed in the hallway near the door. Autumn is coming.

Cooler weather also means new menus. So, I’m filling my pantry and freezer with new ingredients for these approaching autumn days: pasta for comforting macaroni and cheese and hearty lasagna, beans for chili and soups, and dried fruit, nuts and a multitude of flours for baking – cookies, squares and pies. And I’m filling my downstairs freezer with big containers of soup stock.

Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup
This Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup is a perfect seguay into our autumn menus. The earthy onions, carrots and lentils remind us of the approaching coolness, while the flavour of the sweet apricots tug at the memory of the summer weather that hasn’t completely ended.

Apricots have always been very special in Armenia, as their scientific name, Prunus Armeniaca, or Armenian prunes, shows. They have grown in Armenia for many centuries. A recent dig at an ancient village found apricot cores that were over 3,000 years old!

So, it goes without saying, that Armenians use apricots in many of their dishes.. During apricot season, women make jams, marmalades, even homemade apricot vodka. After the season has ended, apricots are places on balconies and rooftops to dry in the sun to be used whole or made into apricot leather. Armenians want their precious apricots to last until the next season.

This soup is very tasty and also very nutritious. This soup provides an excellent source of iron, protein, folate, B vitamins, Vitamins A and C as well as potassium. Not bad for one bowl of soup.

You can use store bought of homemade vegetable stock. If you want to make your own vegetable stock, you can find my recipe here.

If anyone had any doubts about vegan food – whether it’s tasty, nutritious or filling – one bowl of this soup would settle that argument. I hope you enjoy my Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup.

Enjoy!

Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6 Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots (200 grams), peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup apricots, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2/3 cup red lentils, washed
  • 1 litre vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • a handful of parsley, chopped

Instructions

1

Saute the onions and carrots. When almost soft, add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2

Add apricots and cumin powder and cook until aromatic.

3

Add tomato puree.

4

Then add the lentils, vegetable broth and thyme.

5

Bring the soup up to a boil, and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

6

Take the soup off the heat. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

7

Either blitz half of the soup in the blender, or use a hand held mixer, and blitz a bit, but make sure it's not entirely pureed.

8

Serve in bowls with parsley sprinkled on top.

 

 

 

Preserves

Strawberry Lime Elderflower Granita Recipe

strawberry lime elderflower granita

Wow! I’m not sure what the weather is like where you’re living, but the forecast for tomorrow in Ottawa is 40 degrees C.  That’s hot, hot, hot! And the best way for me to stay cool in hot, humid weather is by eating fruity frozen desserts.

This Strawberry Lime Elderflower Granita is so perfect for cooling down in the heat. Granita is a frozen mixture of fruit, sugar, water. It is the simplest frozen dessert you can make. And it’s a great dessert to make with your kids.

Granita is similar to sorbet but is made without an ice cream machine. The ice crystals that form are large and coarse and will be crunchy when you take a bite, but seconds later the granita will just melt away in your mouth. Divine.

To make granita, simply puree some fruit, water, sugar and any extra flavouring you may want to use, in a blender. Pour it into a shallow tray and place in the freezer. Check on it after an hour, and if it has begun to freeze, start breaking up the crystals with a fork. Place it back in the freezer for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat this process until it is all frozen and flaky.

There are many ways to enjoy granita. Of course, you can eat it plain in a bowl. You could also have it layered with whipped cream in a parfait glass. Some people also enjoy it spooned overtop of yogurt.

 

strawberries for strawberry lime elderflower granita

Strawberries have always been very symbolic of summer and a perfect fruit to use in granitas. But now with day-neutral strawberries, we can buy local strawberries until the frost hits! Yay!

 

strawberies and limes for strawberry lime elderflower granita

Strawberries and limes go amazingly well together.

strawberies and limes and elderflower liqueur for strawberry lime elderflower granita

And when you add a few drops of Elderflower Liqueur…the flavour is heavenly.

There are so many fruits you could use in granita: blueberry, melon, watermelon, raspberry, blackberry, mango, or espresso coffee…. or mix them up and come up with your own flavour. The possibilities are endless.

Strawberry Lime Elderflower Granita

Print Recipe
Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 kg strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 150 grams icing sugar
  • 1/2 lime juice and zest
  • 1 ounce of elderflower liqueur (optional)
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

1

Mix strawberries and icing sugar. Let sit one hour.

2

Place strawberry sugar mixture into a blender. Add lime juice, lime zest, water and elderflower liqueur (if using). Blitz on high until a smooth puree is formed.

3

Strain mixture through one layer of cheesecloth to remove seeds.

4

Pour mixture into a rectangular shallow container and cover with lid. Place in freezer.

5

After one hour, check mixture. If ice crystals have started to form, rake a fork through the crystals to break them up somewhat. You don't want the tray to freeze into a giant ice cube. Keep checking every 30 to 45 minutes and continue to break up the frozen parts with a fork.

6

When it's ready, the tray will be filled with fluffy ice crystals.

7

Enjoy on it's own, or layered with whipped cream, or overtop of yogurt.

Cooking

Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade for BBQ

cubes of tofu marinating in orange soy honey tofu marinade

 

Like most families, we love to barbecue on the weekends. But sometimes I get tired of eating so much meat. My husband suggested we try marinating and grilling tofu on the barbecue. So, I came up with this Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade for the Barbecue. It’s really good – I think you’ll like it. It has sweetness from the orange juice and honey, saltiness from the soy and lots of extra flavour bits like ginger, garlic. Yum!

Tofu, for those of you who are not familiar is made from coagulated soy milk. It has been made for thousands of years beginning in China. The story goes that a cook once accidentally curdled some soy milk and … tofu was born.

Tofu is fantastic for soaking up flavours of sauces and marinades. Which is why this marinade works so well with tofu. All the flavours of orange, soy, honey, ginger, and sesame oil soak right into the porous soy cubes. This marinade also works in stir-fries as a sauce with chicken or tofu if you do not barbecue, or it’s raining or it’s wintertime. Just use with your favourite stir-fry combination. Or keep checking my website, and I’ll try and post a recipe soon!

Tofu is a super healthy meat alternative. In a 100 gram serving (about 1/2 a cup) there are 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 8.2 grams of protein and about 350 mg of calcium, which is about 20% of our daily needs. When compared with chicken or steak, it is much lower in calories and much higher in calcium. It is lower in protein than chicken or steak, but one serving is ample enough.

grilled tofu with orange soy honey marinade

The tofu caramelizes to a lovely golden brown on the barbeque. It’s very difficult to cook it this way on the stovetop, which makes barbequing that much more exciting!

Before you begin making this dish, you should press the tofu to remove any extra liquid. When pressed, the tofu is less apt to fall apart on the barbeque. Place the tofu in a shallow bowl and cover by a small plate. Place a weight on top of the plate. You could use a can of tomatoes, a small bag of sugar, anything that weighs about 1 kg. Leave the tofu like that for about 60 minutes. Drain away the liquid, then place the pressed tofu in a container with the Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade to soak up all those yummy flavours.

Barbecue on a medium heat until golden brown all over, turning often. Brush on additional marinade as it cooks.

Enjoy!

Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade for BBQ

Print Recipe
Serves: 6 Cooking Time: 15-20

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 450 g container of tofu

Instructions

1

Press tofu to remove extra liquid. Place tofu in a shallow bowl. Place a small plate on top. On top of the plate, place an object that weighs about 1 kg (large can of tomatoes, small bag of sugar etc.). Leave for about 60 minutes.

2

Drain away extra liquid.

3

Chop the garlic and ginger finely.

4

Add all other ingredients into microwavable bowl.

5

Place in microwave for about 30 seconds, until the honey and orange juice concentrate are melted.

6

Stir all ingredients together.

7

Pour over tofu.

8

Place in refrigerator for about 2-3 hours.

9

Grill on medium heat on barbeque. Baste with extra marinade.

10

Turn tofu a few times until each cube is a nice golden brown.

Cooking

Lemony Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad Recipe

greek horiatiki pasta salad in a bowl

This Lemony Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad fits the bill for a meal anywhere, anytime., especially picnics. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I love picnic food and this salad is perfect for a picnic at the beach, in a park or on a mountain hike. Of course, it is also a treat as a packed lunch during the week. Chock full of veg, crispy red onion, briny black olives, salty feta, tangy tomatoes and vinaigrette infused pasta, this salad is sure to have your family reaching for more!

greek horiatiki pasta salad
This Lemony Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad is also perfect as it solves the question: pasta? or salad? So, with this easy to pull-together meal, you get both.

My friend, Bonnie, and I visited Greece many years ago during our year long adventure. You can read more about our travels here. I had chosen Greece as the warm place that I wanted to spend my always cold January birthday. I can still recall the briny olives, the creamy, salty feta and the anise scented bread that we ate there at many outdoor cafes.

greek horiatiki pasta salad in a bowl

Feta cheese is a very important component of greek food. And this Lemony Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad is loaded with feta. While we were in Greece, we worked at an orange orchard picking oranges to make some money so we could continue travelling. We would walk over to the orange orchards in the morning. We worked alongside local greek women. Everyday they would bring homemade greek bread and big hunks of creamy, salty sheep’s milk feta cheese for lunch, as well as bottles of red wine. Heavenly! And so kind!

There are many different types of feta cheese available in Canada and other countries around the world. It’s very difficult to get true greek feta cheese outside of Greece as they just don’t produce enough. Head over here, if you would like to read up on the various types and what makes them different.

I’ve included a really handy tip in this recipe for people like myself who enjoy onions, but just wish they were a little milder. If you soak diced red onions for ten minutes in boiling water, it removes the strong, bitter onion flavour, but maintains the crunch and the sweeter milder flavour of onions. I love this technique. This is a trick I learned from Emiko Davies in her cookbook Florence, by Emik0 Davies. 

This salad really comes together in a snap. While the pasta is cooking, you can slice the tomatoes, cube the cucumbers, crumble the feta and drain the olives. After you have drained the pasta, pour in the lovely veg, drizzle on the vinaigrette and lunch is ready!

You can eat this salad slightly warm or at room temperature.

Kali Orexi!!

Lemony Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6 Cooking Time: 15-20

Ingredients

  • 250 grams pasta
  • 200 grams cucumbers, cubed
  • 50 grams black olives, sliced and drained
  • 150 grams cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 200 grams feta cheese
  • 50 grams red onions, chopped fine (soaked in boiled water for 10 minutes)
  • Vinaigrette
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

1

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

2

As pasta is cooking, cube the cucumbers, drain the black olives, slice the cherry tomatoes.

3

Soak the red onion in boiling water for 10 minutes. This maintains the crunch of the red onion, but removes the strong onion flavour. Omit if you prefer a strong onion taste.

4

Mix together vinaigrette.

Notes

This recipe will serve about 4 people. If you have some big eaters or soccer players in your family, or really like having leftovers for lunches, please double this recipe.

 

Preserves

Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherry-Galliano Swirl

honey vanilla ice cream with cherry galliano swirl in waffle cups
With all this hot weather we’ve been having, all I want to eat is ice cream. I just want to sit in a floaty chair in the pool and eat a big frosty bowl of ice cream – summer at it’s finest.

So, when I bought my annual 20 pound bucket of sour cherries awhile ago from our local supermarket, ice cream was the first thing that I thought of to make. This combination of Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherry-Galliano Swirl is so perfect on a hot summer day!

When we were little, my sister and I always chose the wildest flavours of ice cream we could find. We had a favourite ice cream parlour, Donna’s Lunch in Burford, Ontario, which was on the way to our grandmother’s house. We loved going there and were always excited to see what new flavours she would have.

Everyone one else in our family ordered the traditional vanilla, strawberry or chocolate flavours. But Ruth and I loved the craziest, at the time, of flavours: bubble gum, cotton candy, blueberry swirl and our favourite to this day, tiger tail.

A few wild flavours that I’ve seen in Ottawa lately are: Hong Kong Milk Tea, Fruit Loops Cereal Milk from Moo Shu Ice Cream Shop; Unicorn and Pink Grapefruit from The Beachconers Microcreamery; and Ferrero Rocher and Raffaelo + Coconut from Stella Luna Gelato Shop. It seems like when it comes to ice cream, anything goes.

 

honey-vanilla-ice-cream-with-cherry-galliano-swirl

The Galliano in this recipe is optional, but really boosts the flavour. Galliano is a vanilla flavour liqueur. It was originally produced in 1896 in Tuscany, Italy by a local distiller named Arturo Vaccari. He named this liqueur after Giuseppe Galliano, an italian hero of the First Italo-Ethiopian War.

If you don’t have Galliano you could substitute it with brandy or another vanilla liqueur, or just leave it out. It will still taste amazing.

What’s your favourite flavour?

Enjoy

Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherry-Galliano Swirl

Print Recipe
Serves: 8-10 Cooking Time: 15-20

Ingredients

  • For the Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Cherry-Galliano Swirl
  • 140 grams sour cherries, pitted
  • 20 grams sugar
  • 2 T Galliano

Instructions

1

Heat 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk together with the honey until warm and honey is melted. You can do this on the stove top or in the microwave. Don't get the milk too hot to avoid forming a skin on top of the liquid.

2

Place the mixture in a container in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, until it is very cold.

3

After it is cold, add the remaining 1 cup of cream.

4

Place in your ice cream maker and follow instructions.

5

For the swirl, heat the cherries and sugar until the sugar is dissolved thoroughly. This can also be done in the microwave or on top of the stove.

6

Place this mixture in a container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight until cold.

7

When the cherry/sugar mixture is cold, blitz in your food processor or blender until the cherries are very finely chopped. Add the galliano.

8

Pour churned ice cream into a rectangular or square container that can go in the freezer.

9

Pour the cold Cherry-Galliano mixture in two lines on top of the soft ice cream. Draw figure eights through the cherry and ice cream to create a swirly pattern. Do this until the cherries are swirled throughout the ice cream. If you do it too much, you will have less of a swirl, but the ice cream will still taste amazing.

10

Place in freezer for several hours or preferably overnight. Serve in a bowl, cone or waffle bowls.

11

Enjoy!

 

 

Cooking

Mango and Coconut Porridge Recipe

bowl of porridge with mango and coconut

I love oats. They are probably my favourite grain. I love them in bread, muffins, cookies as well as cooked for breakfast. If you browse through my blog, you’re going to find a lot of recipes using oats.

I especially love oats for breakfast. I think they make the most healthiest and filling breakfasts whether they are in granola or this recipe for porridge.When I make porridge, I don’t add any sweeteners. Instead I love to pile in loads of fruit. I use fresh fruit and berries in the summer, but in the winter when it’s hard to find fresh fruit or they are super expensive, I use frozen fruit.

My usual mix of fruit is mango, blueberry and sweet cherries, but one day I only had mango.  So, I just used what I had and couldn’t believe how perfectly mango goes with oats. Who would have guessed? Traditional porridge is usually cooked with raisins and brown sugar and served with an extra splash of maple syrup. But the smooth sweet flavour of tropical mango balances so well with nutty tasting oats, it’s like they were meant to go together. And forget the added sweetener: mangoes are so naturally sweet, you won’t need any.

Different Types of Oats

Steel-Cut: These are also known as Irish or Scottish Oats and are the closest to their original grain form. The oat kernel is cut one or two times to help it cook. Cooking steel-cut oats can take between 15-60 minutes. They are nutty, chewy and very nutritious.

Rolled Oats: Whole Oats are toasted, hulled, steamed and then flattened with giant rollers. Rolled oats take about 15-20 minutes to cook.

Quick Cooking Oats: These are similar to rolled oats, but have been cut before being steamed and flattened so they cook quicker. Try sprinkling some in muffins or pancake batter to add an extra texture.

Instant: These oats cook very quick. They are cut, pre-cooked, dried, steamed and flattened. They cook super fast, but because they’re been processed so much a lot of their nutrition has been lost.

Oat Flour: You can make oat flour by putting rolled oats in a blender or food processor. They add a nutty flavour to baked goods, as well as making them more moist and crumbly. You can substitute up to 30% of flour in a recipe with oat flour. Try it the next time you bake some muffins and see how you like it.

Oat Bran: This comes from the outer layer of the oat kernel. Whole Oats always contain oat bran, quick cooking or instant oats do not contain oat bran as it has been removed. Oat bran is high in fibre and is often eaten as a hotel cereal, sprinkled on cold cereal or added to bread, cookies and muffins for extra fibre.

Not only are oats delicious they are also super healthy. If you are also an oat lover, here are some cool nutrition facts about oats:

  • oats are low in calories and they slow digestion which helps you feel full longer.
  • 1/2 cup of oats has 150 calories, 5 g of protein, 27 g of carbs, 2 grams of fat and 4 grams of fibre.
  • oats help prevent constipation as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
  • dietary fibres in oats decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL)
  • oats contain enterolactone and other plant lignans which protect against heart disease.
  • according to the American Cancer Society, lignan in oats also helps reduce the chances of hormone related cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.

Enjoy cooking and baking with oats!

If you enjoy oats as much as I do, here is some additional reading:

A BBC Podcast on Oats

Stoats: A company focused on Oats

Baking with Oats

 

bol of porridge with mango and coconut

Mango and Coconut Porridge

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 Cooking Time: 5-8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Whole Oats
  • 1 cup Water
  • Milk (or milk alternative)
  • Mangoes
  • Unsweeneted Shredded Coconut (toasted)

Instructions

1

Toast coconut in a dry pan for a few minutes until golden.

2

Add 1/4 cup whole oats to pot and add 1 cup of water.

3

Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 5-8 minutes until oats are soft.

4

Add about 1/4 cup of milk or milk alternative. (optional).

 

Baking

Irish Oat Soda Bread Recipe

irish soda bread
Irish Oat Soda bread is an amazing bread to make. You can make it so fast. It’s great for beginners or even experienced bakers who want some fresh baked bread on the table in under an hour. The first time I made soda bread I couldn’t believe how quick it was ready.

Irish Oat Soda bread can be made quickly because it is leavened with baking soda, not with yeast like most breads. When mixed with an acidic ingredient, in this case the buttermilk, the combination of the baking soda and acid produces carbon dioxide after it is exposed to heat.

When baking with baking soda, it is important to measure accurately. Too much baking soda and your batter will rise too much and then collapse. Also, using too much baking soda, or baking without an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, yogurt, brown sugar, molasses, chocolate and cocoa will make your baked goods taste soapy. This happens because the baking soda doesn’t have anything to react with  and will break down to produce sodium carbonate which is very alkaline and makes your baking taste soapy.  Too little baking soda will produce a flat and dense product. So, measure accurately and always double check that there is an acidic ingredient in the recipe to react with the baking soda.

soda bread with honey pot and butter

Cutting an X or cross across the top of the bread allows the center of the loaf to cook properly as it’s such a thick loaf and rises and bakes ratherly quickly.

I love the dense earthy aroma of the wheat and oats and the smooth and tangy flavour of the buttermilk. Since soda bread is made from very basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk (or buttermilk) it’s easy to whip up on the spur of the moment. In this recipe I’ve added butter, but some recipes leave that out. You can also add raisins or caraway seed, but traditionally, it is just those three basic ingredients.

Originally, soda bread was made regularly in Irish farming households.  Unlike families in England, who would buy their bread from local bakeries, many Irish families lived in isolated farmhouses, far from any shops, so everyone had to do their own baking.  The introduction of baking soda around 1840 provided poor Irish families with a means to make delicious bread as often as they wanted and for a very low cost.  Homes in Ireland did not have ovens, only open hearths. So the bread was cooked on griddles over aromatic turf fires. The bread would be tender and dense with a nice thick crust and was eaten every night for dinner.

soda bread with honey

Soda bread is made all over Ireland but each region makes it differently.  In the north, it is flattened into a disk,  cut into 4 equal sized wedges and then cooked on a griddle. These are also called Soda Farls. The word, farl, comes from the scottish word, fardell, meaning  a fourth. In the south, it is shaped into a thick round disk and the top is scored deeply with a large X or a cross.

Here are some Soda Bread Secrets as recommended by Colman Andrews in The Country Cooking of Ireland.

  • Use irish flour if possible as it’s a soft flour. if you don’t have access to any, (like me), use pastry flour that is stone ground, organic and fresh.
  • Sift your flour, or atleast make sure there are not any lumps.
  • Use cold buttermilk, not warm as you would with yeasted breads. Warm milk will activate the baking soda too early and prevent it from rising in the oven.
  • Use a very light kneading if you must – but not kneading at all is the best.
  • It is better to overbake your Irish Soda Bread than underbake it. Just don’t burn your bread!
  • Soda bread is best eaten within 24 hours or so.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

soda bread with honey pot and butter

Irish Soda Bread with Oats

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached white pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup whole oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk, cold and cut into small cubes

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2

Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Stir to combine thoroughly.

3

Add the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter. You can also use your hands to quickly mix the butter into the flour, until the butter is pea sized and coated with flour.

4

Add the cold buttermilk. Mix quickly.

5

Sprinkle your table with some flour. Place the soft sticky dough on the flour and quickly shape into a loaf about 6 inches across.

6

Cut an X on the surface of the dough. No more than 1/2 an inch.

7

Bake on parchment paper on a baking tray for 20-25 minutes.

8

Let cool slightly on a baking rack.

adapted slightly from The Gourmet Cookbook

 

 

Baking

Alevropita Feta Tart Recipe

Alevropita in tray

Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines. I was lucky enough to visit Greece many years ago. Of course, it’s the food that I remember particularly well: sitting in outdoor cafes sipping espresso coffee in the tiniest cups, nibbling on appetizers of anise scented greek bread, dipped in the best olive oil I had ever tasted alongside small bowls of the blackest olives and the most creamy tangy feta cheese with a big glass of red wine. Pure heaven.

When I’m feeling nostalgic for the time we spent in Greece, I like to prepare a Greek dish at home, like a simple greek salad or this Alevropita feta tart.

Alevropita close-up

To make this dish really shine, try to buy the best feta that you can. I don’t know about you, but in my grocery store there is a wide variety of different feta cheeses to choose from.  And I’m never sure which one to buy. As I was writing this post, I thought I would do a bit of feta cheese research and let everyone know a bit about this amazing cheese..

There are many different types of feta available in grocery and specialty cheese shops. I’ll start with Greek feta, as that’s where it all began.

Greek feta was actually granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the EU in 2005. So, the only place in the world to buy true genuine Greek feta cheese is Greece.

In 2005, the EU’s highest court set very strict specifications for making and selling feta cheese. Genuine Greek feta cheese can only be made in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessalia, Mainland Greece, the Peloponnese peninsula and the Island of Lesvos. Feta cheese is made with sheep and goat’s milk and where the animals graze affects the taste of their milk. This in turn affects the flavour profile of the cheese. If feta is made from sheep and goats that graze in a different geographical region, the flavour of the milk would be different and so would the cheese.

True feta can be made with either 100% sheep’s milk or as much as 30% goat’s milk, but not higher.  Also, the average composition must be 52.9% moisture, 26.2% fat, 16.7 % proteins, 2.9% salt and 4.4% pH.

You can still buy feta cheese in the EU, outside of Greece, but any other country in the EU must label it feta-style chesese, or some such label. Outside of Greece there are no specifications for this cheese which can be produced using whatever percentage of sheep, goat or even cow’s milk that they prefer.

Greek feta is salty and tangy with a bit of a lemony flavour. It can be dry and crumbly or rich and creamy depending on how much goat’s milk is in it. The more goat’s milk, the more crumbly it is. It is made using the slower traditional method, not the ultrafiltration method which is used in Denmark. Not very much Greek Feta is exported, there just isn’t enough of it to go around.

Even though the origins of feta cheese began in Greece, you can still buy some wonderful tasting feta cheeses that are made around the globe. Here are a few.

Bulgarian Feta: This is made with sheep’s milk and a yogurt culture. It has a very tangy flavour.

Israeli Feta: This is a full-flavoured, creamy and not overly salty feta. It is usually made from sheep’s milk.

French Feta: This is often made with sheep’s milk. It is mild and creamy. Some feta in France is made with goat’s milk and is usually drier and more tangy.

Danish Feta: This is made from cow’s milk. It has a milder flavour and a creamier texture compared to other feta cheeses. It is made using the ultrafiltration method. This method is used to speed up cheese making. It produces a cheese that is smooth, creamy and closed (no openings between the curds).

Australian Feta: This is usually made from cow’s milk. The texture and flavour can vary. It usually tastes in between salty greek feta and a creamy feta.

American Feta: This is made from sheep, goat or even cow’s milk. It is usually tangy and crumbly.

If you can’t find greek feta cheese in your shop, but want to get one that is as close to genuine feta as possible, the following are some tips for finding a good feta.

 

Tips on Choosing Feta Cheese

Ingredients: Feta should be made with only sheep’s milk or with some goat’s milk, rennet and salt. Never cow’s milk.

Tasting: If you buy your feta from a cheese shop ask the sales clerk if you can taste some feta. Feta should taste tangy and salty and have a lovely rich aroma. It should not taste sour, bitter or have no taste at all. These are signs that it is old. Feta comes in 3 different textures; hard, medium-hard and soft. Choose the one you like best.

Colour: Feta should be white. If it is a bit yellowish, then it’s been out of the brine for too long and has dried out a bit and become sour.

Holes: Feta cheese should have a few small holes on the surface. This shows that the feta was made in the traditional way with slow even turning and draining.

If feta is too salty for you, rinse it with plain water and then soak a piece of feta in some milk for 1-3 hours, or overnight. Then drain and store in plain water.

Nutritionally, feta cheese is lower in fat and calories than cheddar or parmesan. However it is high in sodium. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, feta cheese probably isn’t a good choice for you. Feta has twice the amount of sodium than cheddar cheese. An ounce of feta has 300 mg of sodium vs 170 mg in cheddar. It also has 75 calories, 1 gram carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 6 grams of fat (4.2 grams of saturated fat).

Ok, now that you know a few things about feta cheese, you’ll be ready to make this delicious feta tart. Make sure you use really good tasting feta, as that’s the primary flavour in this tart. The other strong feature of this tart is the crispy crust. Make sure that you preheat your oven with the baking pan inside, so that the pan gets really hot. This is what makes the tart crisp.

Make sure you have your oven mitts nearby for taking the empty pan out of the oven and be very careful not to touch the pan with your bare hands. It’s hot!!!

This recipe for Alevropita Feta Tart is very quick to make as the base is made from a batter so there is no rising involved. Yay! The feta cheese will not melt and spread, but will brown nicely in the oven. The salty tangy feta cheese paired with the eggy crispy crust is such a delicious combination. This tart will soon become a family favourite.

 

 

 

alevropita close-up

 

And the crust gets nicely browned and crispy.

Alevropita close-up

 

It is delicious with soup, or greek salad, or even with a pasta dish.

Alevropita close-up

Here are some fun links for additional information about feta cheese and greek culture:

How traditional feta cheese is made

How to make homemade feta

If you are interested in learning more about Greek culture, check out one of these Greek Festivals.

Greek Festival in Vancouver

Greek Festival in Toronto

Greek Festival in Ottawa

Greek Festival in Montreal

Greek Festival in Halifax

Alevropita Feta Tart

Print Recipe
Serves: 12-16 Cooking Time: 20

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp rum
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 10 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, cut into very small cubes
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 500 °. Place an 18" X 13" X 1" rimmed baking pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat up.

2

Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, rum, eggs and 1 cup water in a medium size bowl.

3

In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder.

4

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.

5

With oven mitts, remove the baking pan from the oven. Brush the 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the hot pan with a silicone brush.

6

Pour the batter over the pan and smooth out evenly with a spatula.

7

Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly over the batter.

8

Sprinkle the top evenly with the small cubes of butter.

9

Grind some pepper over the top. Use as much or as little as you like.

10

Bake the tart for 20 minutes, rotating after about 10 minutes.

11

It is done when the cheese and the crust is golden brown and the edges look crunchy.

12

Cool slightly before slicing and serving. Best served immediately.

Adapted slightly from Saveur’s Epiran Feta Tart

Cooking

Vegetable Stock Recipe

 

 

vegetable stock in a jar with fresh herbs

I love making soup, especially in the winter. But to make a soup with lots of flavour, I like to make sure that I have a good hearty homemade stock in my freezer. Homemade stock to me is the best: it’s fresh tasting, you have complete control over the flavours as well as seasoning, especially the salt and it’s quick and inexpensive to make. Store bought stock has way too much sodium and too little flavour. The best stock to make, in my opinion, is vegetable stock. I stopped making chicken stock a few years ago. I find it too strong, too oily, too overpowering. So now I only make vegetable stock.

Vegetable stocks are super fast and easy to make. You can use any mild flavoured vegetable but the main ingredients that I use are carrots, onions, celery and a few herbs. And I bet most people have those ingredients in your pantry/refrigerator most of the time. You could also use tomatoes, leeks, and mushrooms. Try to use the same amount of each vegetable so that the stock has a balanced flavour.  Add some fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil or thyme to brighten the flavour profile of your stock.  I don’t add any salt or pepper to the stock as I prefer to add seasoning to the final dish.

This recipe is the one I use time and time again whenever I make a batch of homemade soup – even if the soup has beef or chicken in it, I still use a vegetable stock. This is the stock I use when I make Lemon Ginger Carrot Soup or Cheddar Cheese and Apple Cider Soup.

 

raw-chopped vegetables

Vegetable Stock is super easy to make yourself. You can make a quick batch of stock with ingredients that you most likely have on hand. Here is a list of tips when making homemade vegetable stock:

  • use mild flavoured vegetables such as onions, leeks, scallions, carrots, celery
  • you can also use tomatoes, mushrooms or fennel
  • do not use rutabaga, potato or sweet potato as it will create a gummy texture
  • you can add in some mild herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil or parsley
  • do not use garlic unless you are making the stock for a specific recipe (or enjoy garlic in all your soups)
  • you can scrub the vegetables to remove any loose dirt, but do not need to peel (unless you would like to)
  • you can roast the vegetables in the oven for a deeper and more flavorsome stock, or brown in a pan until golden
  • simmer the vegetables in a small amount of water (just covering the vegetables) for a deep, rich flavour
  • simmer for anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour. Whatever suits your schedule.

vegetables-sauteeing-in-pan.

Brown the vegetables before simmering them in water until they have some good colour on them, as in the photo above. Browning the vegetables gives the stock a richer flavour and colour. However, if you are short on time, you can leave out this step. Just dump the prepped vegetables into a pot, add some water and simmer for 20 minutes to one hour, depending on your schedule.

After you are done simmering, strain the vegetables into another pot. Let the broth cool down to room temperature. This may take 1-2 hours. Then ladle into containers. Label the containers with the name and date. If you are storing your stock in the refrigerator, use within a couple of days.

Soup stock also freezes really well. I usually freeze my stock in various sized containers: a 3-cup container for soup, as well as a couple of 1/2 to 1 cup containers to add to sauces. You can also freeze some in ice cube trays if you want smaller amounts. If you freeze any in ice cube trays, once the stock is frozen, place the little frozen cubes of vegetable stock in a ziplock bag (remember to label the bag – I have found many unlabelled items in my freezer and had no idea what they were or how long they had been there).  Use the frozen stock within 3 months.

You’re going to love this one! Let me know what soups you make with this stock!

vegetable stock with onion and herbs

Readings to inspire you to make your own stock:

Everything you need to know about canned and boxed broth.

Store-bought Beef Broth.

 

Vegetable Stock

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 litres Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled or scrubbed and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 parsley branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 thyme sprigs

Instructions

1

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add all the vegetables and herbs.

2

Saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. The more colour that the vegetables get, the more flavour the stock will have.

3

Once they are all nicely coloured, add 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, with the lid half on, for about 30 minutes.

4

Strain out the vegetables. Let the stock cool.

5

Pour into freezable containers. Label the containers with the name and the date.

6

If you will be using the stock within a couple days, store in the refrigerator. Otherwise place in freezer for up to 3 months.


Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Baking

Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies Recipe

mocha-chocolate-chip-cookies-with-red-ribbon

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would post this fantastic recipe for Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies. They are super chocolate-y and the espresso powder gives them a great oomph of flavour. And what could be a better gift for someone than a bunch of cookies all bundled up in red ribbon. These Valentine Day Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies would be a nice surprise in your partner’s lunch box, a sensational gift for your son or daughter’s teacher, or put some out on the table after dinner at home. Sweet Sensation!

I really love cookies. I love them for many different reasons: the endless flavours and varieties, they’re quick to make, they’re not very big but hit the spot without breaking the calorie bank and they are ubiquitous. Every culture makes cookies.

When I was little, my mom only made three types of cookies: sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies with raisins and oatmeal cookies that came from a package (all you had to do was add water and an egg). She never used a timer and always set the oven at 350 ° F. And, unlike my Mum’s Date and Oat Squares, my mom couldn’t finish a chapter of her book in the time it took to bake some cookies. So, we had our fair share of burnt cookies.

There are far too many varieties of cookies out there these days, for me to only make three types of cookies. So, my family is lucky in that way. I love trying new recipes. I made these Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies recently and they were a hit with everyone. They didn’t last long.

It doesn’t take very long to put together a batch of cookies, but, in order to do it properly, you do need to follow a few basic techniques.

  • make sure all of your cookies are the same size (I weigh mine. And most of the cookies that I make weigh between 30-35 grams)
  • use a timer (a kitchen timer, your microwave, your stove or your iphone)
  • cookies are done when they are dry on top and just a hint of golden brown on the bottom (to check if they are ready to come out of the oven, flip one over onto your oven-mitted hand and see if it has turned golden)
  • after you take the cookies out of the oven, place the cookie tray on rack for 1-5 minutes. The cookies will continue to cook. After that time (the recipe usually states how long to cool on the tray) place them directly on a rack to cool. They will firm up quite a bit.
  • almost all cookie doughs freeze very well (before they are baked).
  • I quite often will make some cookie dough, shape it into a flat disc, and freeze until I’m ready to bake the cookies. Let the dough thaw overnight in the fridge and then the next day, form into cookies and bake as usual.
  • You can also shape the cookie dough into cookies and freeze on a flat tray until hard, and then place in a ziplock bag. Bake the cookies from frozen (add 1-2 minutes to baking time).

 

stack of mocha-chocolate-chip-oat-cookies

Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Print Recipe
Serves: 36-40 Cooking Time: 9-10

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cups quick oats
  • 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (dark or semi-sweet)

Instructions

1

Beat softened butter with sugars until light and fluffy.

2

Add eggs one at a time.

3

Dissolve espresso powder in the vanilla. Add to the egg/sugar mixture.

4

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, oats, baking powder and baking soda.

5

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix gently until combined.

6

Stir in chocolate chips

7

Weigh out approximately 35 grams of cookie dough. Roll it into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

8

Baking in 375 ° oven for 9-10 minutes until dry on top and slightly golden underneath.

9

Remove from oven, place on wire rack for 1 minute. Remove cookies from tray and place directly on rack to cool.

10

Makes about 36-40 cookies.

Cooking

Lemon Ginger Carrot Soup Recipe + Tips on how to get your Children to enjoy Soup

carrot lemon soup in bowl on table

This lemon ginger carrot soup is one of the easiest soups to make. Not only does it whip up quick, but the ingredients are items that I usually have on hand: carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, vegetable stock and tomatoes. I always have those items in my fridge. Also, this soup freezes beautifully because it does not contain any dairy ingredients. So, you can easily double the recipe and freeze some for later. The texture is so smooth and silky. And the lemon really pops!

It makes a perfect lunch on a snowy Sunday after you’ve had some fun on the snow or ice – skating, skiing, snowshoeing or tobogganing. There is no end to the fun you can have outside in winter.

carrot lemon soup in bowl near window

Lemon ginger carrot soup is my favourite carrot soup recipe. I have made many variations of carrot soup over the years, but none of them were as satisfying as this one. I love the lemon in the recipe. It seems to lift the flavours and makes the carrots taste less heavy. I always use vegetable stock when making homemade soup. It’s super easy to make yourself and the ingredients are usually items that I have in the fridge.

Most people always think of soup as adult food. It can take awhile for kids to come around to enjoying soup – except maybe chicken noodle. Most kid’s seem to like that one. Perhaps because it’s about the only thing that tastes good when you’re sick. But soup doesn’t only need to be eaten when you’re stick. And you don’t have to be an adult to enjoy soup. Being a parent to two boys, I completely understand the difficulty in trying to get your children to try new foods.  When our boys were little we had all sorts of fun coming up with funny names for new dishes and using other fun strategies to encourage our children to try new dishes.

Here are a few tips that I remember when introducing new foods to children:

  • Never force your child to eat anything that they are not interested in trying (dietitians, nutritionists, family doctors all say this. I can attest to this from personal experience. Which is why you will not find recipes on this blog about squash. Unless someone else writes it.)
  • Put new foods on the table and ask you child if they would like to try some.
  • Don’t get frustrated if they are not keen to try something new, sometimes it can take up to 3 times for a child to start to enjoy a food or even want to try.
  • Have your children help you make dinner. Even for this soup they could: get the carrots out of the fridge, scrub or peel them; get the onions, garlic, lemons and tomatoes ready for you; they could stir the pot on the stove if they are old enough and there is an adult nearby to help; they could chop the carrots, if you’ve shown them how to correctly do that, etc. They could also set the table with bowls (instead of plates – kids get excited about new things).
  • Read some books about cooking and eating. There are a lot of children’s books that centre around food. Quite often reading a book that incorporates cooking and eating can encourage your children to try new things. Here is a list of books you should be able to pick up from your library.  This list only includes books about soup, as that’s what my post is on today. I’ll try to dig up other books for future topics.

 

  • Here is the list:
  • Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
  • Duck Soup by Jackie Urbanovic
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
  • Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel (mexican verison of Stone Soup)
  • Perfect Soup by Lisa Moser
  • Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer
  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
  • Delicious by Helen Cooper
  • There’s a Giraffe in my Soup by Ross Burach
  • Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
  • If you have some space in your backyard, try planting a few vegetables such as carrots, spinach, zucchini or pumpkin. Pumpkin is great fun to grow because it is excellent for making soup as well as using for hallowe’en. Zucchini is also a fantastic vegetable to grow as it’s super easy and even from just a couple of plants, you will have loads of zucchini – and there are so many things you can make from zucchini.  If your backyard isn’t big enough to grow some vegetables, maybe you could share a plot in an allotment garden if you have one nearby. Tons of family fun.

Let me know if any of these tips work out for you. And let me know how your children enjoyed this soup.

In the meantime here are a couple of articles I enjoyed reading on the subject of encouraging healthy eating in children.

Teaching Your Children To Cook

Tips on Encouraging Children to Eat Healthy

Thanks for reading!

 

carrot lemon soup in bowl on blue napkin

 

 

Recipe is adapted from Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon by Epicurious.com.

 

Lemon Ginger Carrot Soup

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 6-7 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

1

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot on medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes.

2

Add ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant 1-2 minutes

3

Add the carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel and saute briefly for about 1 minute.

4

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, put the lid on, but leave an opening, and simmer until the carrots are very soft. This will take about 20-30 minutes.

5

Let the soup cool a little bit. Then puree the soup in batches in the blender until very very smooth. Pour the soup back into the clean pot. Add the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6

Add a bit more stock if soup is too thick.

 

Preserves

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Recipe

roasted red pepper pesto in a bowl

January is a great month to make changes to your daily life. Maybe you want to hit the gym more often, go to the theatre or read more books. This year, I’m going to be cooking a lot more vegetarian and vegan recipes. I’ve been experimenting lately with some different dinner ideas and they have all gone down a treat. This vegan roasted red pepper pesto caught everyone offguard with it’s smoky flavour and heat from the chipotle.

Eating less meat and more vegetables is a much healthier and more economical way of dining. I found this recipe recently in Meatless: More than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes and everyone in the family loved it.

I was a vegetarian for a few years when I was a teenager. Eliminating meat from my diet was easy, but back then, there were not many resources to inspire me to make interesting meatless meals. To make sure that I got enough protein in my diet, I ate a lot of eggs and cheese, and salty sunflower seeds.

Nowadays, there are SO many amazing vegetarian ideas. I love Buddha bowls, vegetarian curries as well as all the wild variations on pesto.  I love the influence that international cuisines bring to vegan and vegetarian dishes. Spices and techniques from Thailand, Vietnam, India or South America really liven up our local veggies. We’re so lucky that international restaurants, recipes and ingredients have become more prevalent.

While I am familiar with vegetarian diets, the vegan diet is new to me, and perhaps to other people as well.

This vegan roasted red pepper pesto is amazing with it’s smoky hot chipotle peppers and nutty almonds. It does have quite a kick to it from the chipotle pepper. If you are serving this to anyone who does not like spicy food,  decrease the chipotle pepper to 1/4 or 1/2 and add an extra half roasted red pepper. It is delicious on pasta, but you could also spread it on crackers, or a bagel or have as a dip with veggies.

roasted red pepper pesto with ingredients on a cutting board

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Print Recipe
Serves: 6 Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large roasted red peppers
  • 1 chopped jarred chipotle chile in adobe
  • 1 chopped small garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

1

Place all the ingredients in the food processor, EXCEPT the olive oil. Pulse a few times until roughly chopped.

2

Add the olive oil and blend until everything is mixed together.

3

Season with salt and pepper.

4

Boil up 450 grams of spaghetti. Follow package instructions for timing.

5

Toss the spaghetti with the pesto.

Notes

To toast the almonds, spread them on a parchment lined baking tray and pop them into a preheated 350 degree C oven. It takes about ten minutes for them to toast.

If  you are interested in further reading on vegan diets, here is some additional reading. Enjoy!

The Vegan Society

History of Veganism