Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gingerbread Pecan Biscotti

Gingerbread Pecan Biscotti

As the light was dying in the sky, I scrambled to get my pecan challenge recipe complete, photographed and posted for today.  (I was slightly delayed by my immersion in Jane Austen's Persuasion and had to tear myself away!)  I found this recipe on, a great website I had forgotten about until a Google search for "pecans","biscotti" and "vegan" brought it to my attention again after many months.  The spice levels seemed quite intense and unbelievably I actually had all the ingredients in my pantry, including candied ginger!  Wow!

I followed the instructions to a tee (okay, minus the parchment paper) and was pleased with my first attempt at biscotti making.  The house was filled with the scent of ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.   I'm not sure that these are too kid-friendly, the spice level is quite high and the hunks of crystallized ginger and pecans may not appeal to young palates but it makes a nice change of pace from chocolate cake.   Another perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea!

To see the other pecan dishes made by two of my blogging buddies have a peek at:

Farrah's blog - Carrot Top Vegan
Hilda's blog - The Triumph of the Lentil

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup and Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits

Spicy African Peanut Soup

I am happy to report that after a quick flip through Sara Matheny's new book Peas and Thank-You, I'm looking forward to trying many of the recipes.  This weekend we had visitors and I attempted to make the Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup.  Unfortunately, after a few hours in the slow cooker and just minutes before our guests were due to arrive for lunch, I noticed the soup was not even partially cooked.  I ended up throwing the whole thing into a pot on the stove and (accidentally) boiling the heck out of it.  Thankfully, nobody else seemed to detect the slightly burned at the bottom taste.  The soup had great flavours - smoky and savory with a touch of sweetness.  I didn't think it was particularly spicy as the name suggests.  The texture was stick to your ribs thick.  I made home-made biscuits to accompany the soup and my guests seemed very happy with the meal.     

Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits.  

¾ cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening or vegan margarine
2 tablespoons maple syrup


Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a small bowl add the vinegar to the soy milk and stir.  It will curdle.
Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut the Earth Balance into small chunks and using a fork or pastry cutter, blend it into the dry ingredients until the mixture breaks down into fine particles.  You can also use your hands to squish it all together and squeeze the flour into the Earth Balance bits.
Stir the maple syrup into the soy milk and add to the dry mixture.  Stir until the particles cling together. Turn out onto a floured bread board or countertop and knead for 1 to 2 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Add more flour as needed if the dough is sticky.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut into rounds (you can use a drinking glass), place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Vision for the World - A Reading Manifesto

Warning; this is a very long story, it's personal and it's not about food.  Feel free to stop reading if you're passing through as part of Vegan Mofo.  I am posting this here on my food blog because it's the publishing space I have available.  

Life is not linear but I will try to make sense of a long and winding road.  As a few of you may know, I've been struggling to implement some ideas out in the world.   It all started with the thought that I needed to help my family.  This is not a bad thing, but what I noticed is that when trying to source great ideas while coming from an inner place or feeling of "lack" and "need", all of my thoughts and decisions were based in fear and anxiety.  Not very inspirational or productive.  It kept me mired there in the mental muck for quite a time.

So, I began to make lists and notes, writing out and exploring my interests.  I've always considered myself to be a bit of a dabbler, interested in a lot of seemingly unconnected and diverse things.  As I dug into this process, I began to see clues embedded in the activities that I've been involved in for the last few years, apart from mothering.  I deconstructed these activities by asking myself questions about what made them important or fulfilling.  Personal values began to emerge from the answers to these questions.  I value friendship, community, connection, compassion, creativity, learning and diversity among other things.  This is what I'm all about and I now had the beginning of something.  But what?

Let me back-track a for a minute and tell you that one of my first Aha moments in this process came this past summer when our friends Patty, Chris and their son Biko paid us a visit from Washington D.C.  Patty is my oldest and dearest friend in the world and we had a conversation where I shared my ideas about a project I was working on at the time.  The discussion was a huge revelation to me.  I realized that my world was too small, that my focus was too narrow and that I needed and craved MORE conversations with wonderful people like these.  Conversations that produced new avenues of thought, from people who were experts in other areas, who could bring their experience to bear on my situation.  I was starving for conversational nourishment and stimulation.  I felt like a mama bear coming out of her cave after years.  

At the time I knew something important had shifted inside me.  I made a decision to begin reaching out for more contact with the people already in my life and those to come.  I didn't have to figure it all out by myself.  People were out there, some of them actually cared about me and wanted to help!

Okay, now back to our present day story.  In case you don't already know this about me I'm a bit of a bookworm.  One of the things I've been involved in for the last few years is a community called Goodreads.  It's basically a social networking site for readers and authors with a huge database of books.   Each user has a profile and can set up virtual bookshelves, public or private.  Just discovering this was enough to keep me busy for quite a while.  I cataloged all the books I could remember reading (why didn't I keep notes?) along with rating and reviewing quite a few.  It felt like heaven for a list freak like me!  It wasn't too long before I started to make friends from all over the world who shared my love of reading and conversation.  The site is very user friendly and interactive, allowing you to comment on other people's reviews and host discussion groups, etc   I had joined several of these groups but had not found my home and so two years ago decided to start my own.

I named the group Comfort Reads. My intention was and still is to welcome readers of all genres who share the pleasure of a good book to relax with and who also enjoy learning from many sources.  Book snobbery is not what we're about.  Reading has never been a chore for me.  My whole life it's brought me comfort and joy, understanding and appreciation for others.  I can bridge the gap between cultures by mentally and emotionally walking a day in the life of someone else's shoes. Allowing myself to be lost in the narrative voice of someone completely different.  I've been thrilled, inspired, moved and engaged and in some tough moments, books have kept me from feeling alone in the world.

The Comfort Reads membership has steadily grown and there are now over 1000 members.  I am thrilled and happy to welcome each new reader who joins us as does my ever helpful co-moderator Lisa.  The community is kind, fun, responsive and supportive.  Our daily chat thread is a great place to say hello and connect.  We have threads where members may suggest or recommend all types of books they've enjoyed.  We talk about our current reads even if they're not "comfort reads".  Friendships have been formed among members from all over the world.  The people are simply amazing.  I am organizing a reader convention for this community which has been dubbed "ComfyCon" and will be held in Toronto, October 2012.  I look forward to deepening friendships in real life that have been formed online.

This past year, my friend Lisa and I started a Vegan Cooking and Cookbooks group also hosted on Goodreads that has tons of beautiful and compassionate people.  They inspire me every day and the community is so supportive and fun.  I feel blessed with the new friends that have come into my life as a result of both groups.  

Inspired by the potential of these two communities and what I have seen grow, I birthed an idea.  To create an organization of readers with a purpose that manifests my core values.  I'm going to share my vision, mission and goals for that organization now.  This is somewhat of a work in progress (except for the vision) but you will get the idea.


A connected, creative and compassionate world


Our mission is to connect people through their passion for reading.  Building relationships and communities that foster a culture of friendship, diversity and life-long learning.

  • To encourage and foster friendship and international understanding
  • To promote reading as a bridge to peace, kindness and compassion for all cultures, creatures and the environment
  • To build a world-wide community of enthusiastic readers 
  • To promote the idea that reading can bring comfort and alleviate feelings of isolation – that reading other people’s stories and experiences is uplifting and humanizing
  • To promote and share the joy that comes through reading, discussion and life-long learning 
  • To support local and international outreach to encourage reading
  • To celebrate the written word and story-telling in all its forms
  • To encourage writing and reading as a way to express, explore and understand oneself and others
  • To support and promote responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources
  • To support organizations that protect old growth forests and promote the use of environmentally responsible alternatives in publishing                   

While I am inspired by my idea, one of the questions that plagues me is how best to implement this vision, this mission and these goals?  My intention is to form a membership organization, because people working together can do powerful things.  And I love people.  I love connecting people to each other, meeting people and talking to people.  Every conversation I have confirms this belief.  I am one person and my work has already started but I would like to christen this organization with a name that speaks to the values above.  

I've been reading all about non-profits, social enterprises, and regular companies that make a difference in the world.  I tell myself there is no hurry to decide - just start Lee!  I flit back and forth between all three models trying to understand what will do the most good for all of us.  My goals are in line with a non-profit but the form and bureaucracy does not thrill me or feel dynamic.  Where do I fit in?  I'm a human being who wants to create something wonderful, show my daughter what's possible, live a life of purpose, and help support my family at the same time.    

Now that I have unleashed myself, the ideas are coming fast and furious but I want to get into action.  I am not the most patient of people.  I am full of energy and passion for this project and it's driving me hard.  I don't sleep much.

I have a vision for a connected, creative and compassionate world.  I have a ton of project ideas that are manifestations of that vision but right now I'm running with this one.  If you would like to join me, understand what I'm trying to accomplish and have managed to read this far.  I'm asking for your help. This is what I need and this is what you can do.

1.  Be my business mentor. If you have experience in any field (marketing, strategic planning, financial stuff etc.) I need coaching and support in order to execute my plans.  I'm a hard worker and am learning as fast as I can but I could use some support and guidance.  

2.  I need partners, sponsors or friends to support and join this fledgling organization (as yet unnamed).    

3.  If we are not already connected, find me on Linked In, Google+ or

4.  Leave a supportive suggestion, some feedback or a name idea below in the comments

5.  Email me privately with any or all of the above at

6.  Donate any amount to help me start-up and work towards my goals.  I need a website, a logo and a few other things to begin operating.  There is a button in the sidebar on the right, below my photo, where you can do that.  Thank-you kindly.   

I would like to thank my friends, old and new, for listening to me natter on rather incoherently over the last few months.  Your ears and eyes allowed me to process my thoughts and  I am finally outing myself completely now, with the whole story.  Big, fat hugs to you all.  I won't name you because I'm bound to forget one person and that would be unforgivable   

And I thank Lisa PetrilliGini Dietrich, Valeria Maltoni and Deborah Ivanoff for being women in business that have inspired and resonated with me.  


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Tis the season for all things pumpkin!  Okay, so I had this giant tin of pumpkin in my fridge left over from making the Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares the other day and figured I better use it up pronto.  Silly me, I adapted a recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and didn't write any notes because honestly, I thought it might not turn out.  And I didn't measure the pumpkin at all, I just dumped the remainder of the can in the bowl.  Of course the loaves came out of the oven and were perfect, not too sweet and a great snack with a cup of tea.  So, here goes.

Pumpkin Bread

3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/3 cup canola oil
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil two loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix flax seeds and water together until creamy.  Add the sugar, pumpkin and oil to the flax mixture and stir until well blended.  In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine but do not over mix.  
Spoon the batter into the loaf pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaves cool for about 20 minutes before removing them from the pans.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

It's pumpkin post day for a me and a few of my awesome buddies from the Vegan Cooking and Cookbooks group on Goodreads!   We are all posting pumpkin recipes and I have chosen these easy, moist and delicious squares that I wish I could take the credit for but actually found at another blog here.  I've altered the recipe somewhat, reducing the sugar by a third and adding my own mix of spices.  I've never purchased premixed pumpkin pie spice so I just Googled what was in it and added the amounts I wanted.  This recipe was really fast to put together and I was excited to try the peanut butter-pumpkin combination.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8x8 or 9x9 square cake pan with foil and spray with oil.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together all ingredients until well mixed.  Pat down into pan and bake for 25 minutes.   Let them cool in the pan before you attempt to remove and slice.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vegan Popover Muffins - An Interesting Experiment

Vegan Popover Muffins

I've been wanting to make vegan popovers forever!   I made traditional popovers for the first time a few years ago to serve at a mother daughter tea-party and ever since, I've nursed the idea in the back of my mind.  The originals tasted quite egg-y and here I've used chick-pea flour instead of eggs.

This recipe is adapted from one posted on the PPK forums combined with another recipe I found on the web.  As you can see from the photo, they came out looking more like sunken muffins.  When I checked on them half way through they were nicely domed but - oops maybe I shouldn't have opened the oven because they sank.  The insides were very moist and the outsides fairly crisp.  There were no large air pockets but several small ones distributed throughout.  I think they must be eaten with jam or something sweet because on their own I don't find them super appealing.  I would rate this experiment as semi-successful because while they didn't look like a traditional popover, they still taste pretty good and I liked the contrast between the inner softness and the outer crispness.  I would love to hear about anyone else's experience with this type of recipe. Please let me know in the comments if you've found a good one.  

Vegan Popover Muffins

1 1/14 cups flour
3 Tablespoons chickpea/garbanzo flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda
pinch turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups soy-milk
1/3 water
1/2 package silken tofu (mori-nu vacuum pack)
2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a muffin or popover tin.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add tofu, water, Earth Balance and soy milk to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the wet to the dry mixture and stir until thick and smooth.
Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn down heat to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes.    Serve warm with jam.   Yields 12 popovers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

White Bean - Red Pepper Dip

White Bean - Red Pepper Dip

I know this looks like another sandwich but peeping out from under the tomato is a quick and easy bean dip.   I hadn’t planned on a theme for Vegan Mofo but one seems to be presenting itself – food for people who have minimal time to cook!  Normally, I would love spending hours puttering around the kitchen, reading my cookbooks and browsing online for new recipes but lately other projects have been occupying my time.  This dip is great for sandwiches or simply slathered on a piece of toast or baguette.  

Red Pepper-White Bean Spread

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red pepper, choppd
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the red pepper and garlic in the olive oil for two to three minutes on medium high.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  In a food processor, blend remaining ingredients, scraping down the sides once or twice.   Add the red pepper, garlic and olive oil to the bean mixture in the processor and blend until incorporated.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Lemony Birthday Cake

Lemony Birthday Cake

On my last birthday, I made myself a lemon cake with lemon butter cream icing.  At the time, I didn't post the recipe because I thought it needed a little work.  I am not an expert baker and the cake was fairly dense.  It's more of a homey-style kind of cake instead of the lightness you might associate with a traditional lemon sponge cake but the delicious icing made everything right.  It still could use some work but in honor of Vegan Mofo, I'm going to post it as is and hope that it's good enough.

My daughter decorated the top with raspberries for me! 

Lee’s Lemony Birthday Cake

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2/3 cup oil (I used coconut oil and canola oil)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 2 nine inch round baking pans.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.   Combine soy milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and oil.  Add wet ingredients with the dry, combining until well mixed.   Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

½ cup Earth Balance
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (one lemon)
1 tsp vanilla

Cream Earth Balance with electric beater until soft, add in icing sugar 1 cup at at time.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla before the last cup of icing sugar and beat until fluffy.  

Actually, this amount of icing just barely covered my cake so you might want to make a little more icing.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

One of the best things about being vegan is the shift in perception regarding vegetables that were previously and unfairly maligned or even completely undiscovered.  When you stop focusing on animal products and start exploring the big, wide, world of plant foods out there, it's really incredible what you can find that's been right under your nose all the time.  I'm talking about Brussels Sprouts, a vegetable that in our house, used to make an appearance once or twice a year around holiday time and usually boiled to within an inch of their poor wee lives.  Not very appetizing.  When I started to see recipes in my vegan cookbooks for roasted Brussels Sprouts, I was a little doubtful at first but decided to take the plunge.  Honestly, roasting them is quite simple and they are transformed into yummy bite sized morsels, tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.  We make these on a fairly regular basis and they're so tasty they get eaten out of the pan like candy.  

There are loads of recipes on the web but the way I usually do it is by trimming the ends off, slicing them in half and then tossing them in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  You have to watch them near the end to make sure they don't burn.  I think it usually takes about half an hour.  Tonight I wasn't paying enough attention and the bottom pan got a little burnt.  If anyone has any tasty additions or variations, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash - before being mashed

This recipe is inspired by an Egyptian breakfast dish made from mashed fava beans and traditionally eaten with pita bread.  I've never had the original but came across a recipe on All Recipes that sounded simple and interesting.  I was a little unsure about the directions and an ingredient or two seemed to be missing so decided to do my own little riff on ful mudames.  I love discovering new comfort food that's delicious and healthy and this was my first time cooking with fava beans. I wasn't disappointed, the combination of cumin and lemon give this dish a wonderful, warm tanginess that will have you scraping the bowl clean with the last bit of pita (or any flatbread).  

Note: the original recipe called for parsley but I have used cilantro because I love it.  I think garlic would be good too but I left it out for personal reasons.  I first smashed the beans the old-fashioned way with a fork but then decided I wanted to pop the whole thing in the food processor to see the difference.  I liked the flavour of the more blended but still slightly chunky version better.  

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1 tsp cumin
1 large tomato diced
1 can fava beans (reserve liquid)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

In a large non-stick frying pan, on medium-high heat, cook the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the cumin, red pepper and tomato and cook, stirring, for approximately 5 minutes.   Add the beans, lemon juice, cilantro, salt and pepper along with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved bean liquid.  Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes until the flavours have combined.  Smash the beans with a fork or pulse in a food processor until you are satisfied with the consistency.   Eat with flat bread of your choice.

Totally Yum!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apple Crisp - Vegan Mofo Day 2

Apples are beautiful!  
Apple Crisp

On the menu today is something I haven't made for a long time but is one of my favourite fall desserts - Apple Crisp!  And it's the perfect day, rainy and cool,  to curl up with a bowl of warm apple yum, a cup of tea and a good book.

As you can see from the photo, I am practicing thriftiness by using up my daughter's half eaten apples.  I hope that doesn't gross everyone out but it breaks my heart to toss out food that with a little creative paring, is perfectly usable in a dish such as this.  I was worried that my remaining one cup of oats would not be enough to create a topping but it seems to be the perfect amount.  I forgot to count the apples and grease the pan but it turned out okay, just a little sticky.  Thank goodness I snapped those apple shots!  As far as I'm concerned even a couple more wouldn't be a bad thing but I used what we had.  Many people enjoy this dessert paired with ice-cream but I like it fine just plain.

Apple Crisp

9-10 apples, cored, sliced and diced
juice from half a lemon
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-1/2 cup Earth Balance

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Toss your cored and diced apples in the lemon juice while your preparing the crisp topping.

Mix together in a medium sized bowl the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and add to the other dry ingredients.  Use your fingers to squish everything together until you get small clumps or large crumbs of topping.  See mine here to the right.

Bake for approximately one hour or until the top is brown and and the apples are tender.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grilled Cheese Comfort - Vegan Mofo Day 1

Grilled Cheese and Tempeh Bacon

Today is the first day of Vegan Mofo; the vegan month of food celebrated by hundreds of bloggers around the globe. If you want to see and read about some fantastic food that's cruelty free, delicious and good for you and the planet then check out the extensive list of bloggers at Mofo headquarters.  I committed myself to participating a couple of weeks ago, and now find myself desperately searching for something to make, as the sun goes down.  In the last two weeks, life suddenly turned topsy turvy or maybe I should just say my brain is undergoing a revolution.  I'm in the process of developing a few ideas that will change the direction of my days and I'm feeling the pressure of too much on my plate.  It is great to be completely in the zone, immersed in learning about something new.  Strangely, right at the time I'm required to write about food every day, (something I would normally be thrilled to do) all my attention has temporarily shifted away from food which is pretty much unheard of for me.  I would be extremely disappointed in myself if I got kicked out of Vegan Mofo for failing to post so I'll do my best in the coming weeks and we'll see what I can pull out of my hat while under pressure.

Today I'm going to share one of my favourite sandwiches.  We can't all be cooking up fabulous creations every day like my friend Betsy DiJulio of the Blooming Platter who really puts me to shame. :-)   Really, my true fave is a simple vegan grilled cheese with pickles and ketchup.  Today, I'll make something slightly more balanced and throw in a few slices of tempeh bacon and tomato along with that perfectly melted, gooey, vegan cheese.  Okay, I had to scratch the tomatoes, they weren't ripe.  And I guess pickles don't really count as vegetables?  To make up for it I made a delicious banana-berry smoothy to go with this comforting snack.  

This reminds me that there are quite a few vegan cookbooks devoted to comfort food, one of the most recent being Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul.  I have not read it or even cracked the cover but would love to get my hands on a copy, it appears to have stellar reviews.   Okay everyone, get out there, get inspired and help change the world with the food on your plate even if it's just a sandwich!

Tempeh bacon which my local grocery store carries!