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Cookbook Love Podcast

Writing and publishing my cookbook has been an incredible journey. It was years in the making; required a lot of patience, determination and drive; and taught me so many things about the process, and about myself.

Now that the book is published, and my efforts are focused on promoting it, I can take a step back and really absorb the magnitude of what I did. I wrote a freakin’ cookbook, y’all! A legit 100+ recipe cookbook. With pretty pictures too! Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I’m not one to put myself in the spotlight. An introvert from birth, I’ve always been content to hang back in the shadows, work behind the scenes, do anything to AVOID being noticed. So putting myself out there like this – and then promoting it? That’s HUGE!

My reasons for writing this book were deeply personal. I’m not famous, I don’t expect to get a cooking show or food writing job out of this (although that last option might be fun), and while I’m thrilled that the book has been selling so well, and been supported by so many, even if it didn’t sell a single copy, I’d still be immensely proud of it. Not only did I create a tangible, usable keepsake to pass down to my daughters, I let them see that they can do ANYTHING they want to in this world as long as they believe in themselves. No dream is too big, too far, too unattainable as long as you work hard towards it.

I’ve often been asked why I chose to self-publish this book (see above comment about not being famous…haha!) I think there’s a big misconception in general about self-publishing, and I wanted to share my experience to help debunk some of the myths about self-published books (but are they real books? How do you sell them? Will they look professional? Isn’t it so expensive?) and encourage others who are considering the process to give it a try.

So last week I sat down with Maggie Green of The Green Apron Company. Maggie is a trained chef, licensed and registered dietitian, culinary nutrition expert, food and nutrition writer, recipe developer, and cookbook industry consultant. If it relates to a cookbook or cooking, Maggie’s done it, and she has this great podcast dedicated to all things cookbooks, called Cookbook Love. After hearing about my self-publishing story through Instagram, she invited me to chat with her about my journey and offer some advice to others who are interested in self-publishing and specifically crowdfunding (I successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of my book.)

So, if you’re inclined, here are links to my podcast interview. I hope it inspires the inner cookbook writer in you. (I’ll be back in the corner avoiding the spotlight now!)

Cookbook Love Podcast Interview with Ally Lazare

iTunes: https://apple.co/2L2zmnJ
Stitcher: http://bit.ly/2P9T8mC
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2TWmW4N
Google Play: http://bit.ly/33UgMa4

Featured

Caramelized Kale, Onion & Cheddar Scones

I am hopelessly hooked on these scones. There’s a specialty grocer in my city that has their own in-house bakery and they make a vegan kale & onion scone. I’m not down there often, but when I do, I always buy one (or three…let’s be real here, I’m a carb junkie if ever there was one!)

I was down at said store recently and picked up a scone to eat on the way home, and I got to thinking that I could re-create these to enjoy these any time I wanted. And I also thought (as I do every time I eat them), that there’s one thing missing that would put these over-the-top: cheese.

Having perfected recipes for vegan buttermilk and vegan cheddar scones years ago, I started entertaining the idea of savory scones, and decided this one would be the first test. I highly recommend buying a full head of kale to chop for this, as you want to ensure you get only the leaves and no stems – they are tough and bitter and less enjoyable. Most fresh chopped kale I’ve purchased has both leaves and stem pieces in it, and for the amount of time it took me to pick out the stems and further chop the leaves (you need really small pieces for this recipe), it would have been faster to start with whole kale.

Because this is a savory scone, there’s very little sugar in the dough. The sweetness (which is a great contrast to the salty, savoriness of the overall scone), comes from the caramelization of the onions and kale. As I sauteed them, I used #NoBees Vegan Honey to help the caramelization process and add sweetness to them. If you can’t find vegan honey, you can use agave or maple syrup (though I’d caution to use less maple syrup as you don’t want to impart maple flavor.)

For extra flavor and a shiny, golden crust, brush the tops of the scones with a bit of olive oil (or vegan butter) before popping them in the oven. And make extra – I shared this batch with a friend of mine and she said she is “still dreaming about them” four days later! I know how she feels!

Caramelized Kale, Onion and Cheddar Scones

Ingredients:

4 tbsp olive oil, divided in half

½ large onion, diced

3 cups chopped kale, stems removed

2 tbsp #NoBees Vegan Honey (or agave syrup if you can’t find vegan honey)

1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soy)

1 tbsp lemon juice

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp salt

¾ cup vegan butter, cold

1 cup shredded vegan cheddar

Directions:

Add lemon juice to non-dairy milk and let stand for 5 minutes to curdle slightly.

In a deep pan, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add kale and continue cooking until kale is wilted. Add honey (or agave) and toss to coat.  Continue cooking until lightly caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 425F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Toss in cold butter and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until butter is the size of small peas.

Mix in onion & kale mixture and shredded cheese.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and pour in buttermilk.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until a dough forms.

Using a ⅓ measuring cup, scoop out dough and drop on baking sheet, about 2-3 inches apart. Brush scones with remaining olive oil and bake for 17-20 minutes, or until bottoms are light brown and tops are lightly golden.


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Featured

No Bake Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

With back to school just around the corner, extra curricular activities starting up again, and the general easy-breezy-lazy days of summer fading away, I’m starting to prepare myself for the busy days ahead.  Which, if you’re like me, means a whole lot of running (ok, driving) around shuffling little people to and fro, and constant trips to the grocery store, Walmart, etc., all while still trying to manage a career.

Morning breakfast rush, school lunches, after-school-on-the-way-to <insert activity here> snack – all perfect examples of times where quick, make-ahead, healthy snacks (like these no-bake, low sugar chocolate chip energy bites) are a lifesaver.   

These delicious little bites pack a bunch of protein and energy in a cute little package that stores well, travels well, and is just sweet enough to let the kids think they’re getting a treat.  (Hint: they have the same effect on moms too!)

Best of all, they require no baking; take less than 15 min to make and travel well. They are a staple in our house/lunch box/diaper bag/snack pack.

We keep ours nut-free so that our entire house can enjoy them, and so we can send them to school, but you can easily swap out the NON-nut butter for peanut or almond butter too.

Ingredients:
(makes about 20 bites)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wow butter (or natural unsweetened nut butter of choice)
1/3 cup sticky sweetener of choice (we use Mama Vegan #NoBeesvegan honey but maple syrup or agave works well too)
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
​1/4 cup chia seeds 
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together.
Refrigerate mix for 10-15 min to make it more firm.
Scoop out mix a tbsp at a time and roll into bite size balls.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Vegan Bakery-Style “M&M” Cookies

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with M&M cookies. We had a local bakery that used to make them, and getting one was a huge treat. Theirs were huge, like really huge – and I’m not just saying that because I was a kid and everything seemed big. They were legitimately BIG cookies, with a crispy exterior, chewy interior and tons of M&M candies throughout. It was the perfect cookie.

I discovered recently that my kids have no idea what M&Ms are. It makes sense…my oldest is allergic to dairy and would never have been given any, and my youngest is just discovering the world of candy and doesn’t know many by name. Being that both my kids are also vegan, it’s not like M&Ms are ever on their radar. But one of them asked me recently what my favorite cookie was as a child and of course, I said the “M&M cookie from Bregmans” – which led to a slew of questions about what exactly and M&M cookie was, are they vegan, and can we make some?

I never really need to be asked twice to bake cookies. They are just about my favorite thing in the world to make, and I’ve been obsessed lately with creating the ultimate vegan cookie base. Soft and chewy on the inside, crisp and buttery on the outside, and strong enough to hold a boatload of chocolate chips. After years of trying, I’ve found the perfect recipe. So I decided to test them out with something other than chocolate chips.

During a stroll through a sort-of-local kosher grocery store, I stumbled upon these little chocolate gems. If you’re not familiar, kosher grocery stores (or the kosher section of a regular grocery store) can be a great place to find many accidentally vegan items, since kosher rules do not allow for the mixing of dairy and meat products in their ingredients, or during a meal. Therefore, many kosher baked goods, candies, chocolate and other foods are dairy-free so that they can be served with either meat or dairy dishes. (That being said, “eggs” are something that can pass for either dairy or meat in a kosher scenario, so if you’re vegan and looking at kosher products, always read labels first!)

Anyway, back to these cookies. It’s the second day of a new school year here and also a year of big transitions: my youngest started her first year of french immersion in a new school (her big sister’s school), and my oldest is entering her final year of elementary school and preparing to move to french immersion middle school next year. To celebrate all these big changes, I decided to test out my vegan MM cookie recipe and surprise them after school.

The best part about this recipe is that you DON’T NEED TO CHILL THE DOUGH! You know all those awesome chocolate chip cookie recipes out there that require you to chill the dough for hours (or even – GASP! overnight?) Yeah,no…because when I want a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, the last thing I want to do is have to wait for the dough to “set up”.

This dough recipe comes together in minutes and can go straight from the mixing bowl to the oven, meaning you get delicious, crispy and chewy cookies in very little time. Awesome, right?

The dough is a great base recipe and can be used for M&Ms, or chocolate chips (or any mix-ins really), so definitely keep it handy, even if you don’t have any vegan M&Ms on hand.

Bakers notes:

I used a 1.5 inch ice cream scoop to make these standard size cookies, and baked them for exactly 12 minutes. If you want to make larger cookies, adjust your bake time accordingly.

Cookies will look slightly puffy and underdone on top. This is totally okay.  As the cookies cool, they will flatten out naturally and get that crinkly, bakery-style look


Vegan Bakery Style M&M Cookies

(yield 36 cookies)

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

⅔ cup vegan butter, softened

⅔ cup granulated sugar

⅔ cup light brown sugar

½ cup unsweetened plant-based milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup mini vegan chocolate gems plus extra for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

2. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In large bowl, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.  Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine.

4. Add dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until just combined. Add 1 ¼ cups mini vegan chocolate gems and mix until combined. Using a 1 ½ inch ice cream scoop, drop scoopfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2” spaces between each ball of dough.  You should be able to fit 12 on a sheet. Press additional candy gems into dough for a bakery-style cookie look.

5. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until bottoms are slightly golden.  Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 

**note: Cookies will look slightly puffy and underdone on top. This is totally okay.  As the cookies cool, they will flatten out naturally and get that crinkly, bakery-style look

[sp_recipe]

Orange Almond Biscotti

Clear the decks and put on a pot of good, strong coffee, because you’re going to want to make these biscotti ASAP. I’m not kidding. They are the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy; and are full of almond and orange flavours that are rich enough to balance out a bold coffee, but not overly sweet.

I worked my way through college as a barista in a local coffee chain here that had a version of these biscotti in their cafes, and I ate way more of them than I probably should have, but hey…7 or 8 hours on your feet slingin’ coffee affords you the luxury of a baked treat whose calories can be burned off by your next shift.

I rarely frequent that coffee chain anymore (Starbucks first opened in Toronto a couple of years after I graduated and became my coffee purveyor of choice for the past 20ish years), but I often think of those biscotti. I’ve never been able to find a close replica of them anywhere. And that old coffee chain stopped selling them years ago (before I went vegan and would have to give them up anyway.)

In my newly-launched cookbook, I have a vegan chocolate biscotti recipe, and I’ve been teaching biscotti-making techniques in my recent cooking classes, so I decided it was time to try recreating these elusive orange almond ones from my past. What makes these biscotti stand out from most others is the addition of ground oats. Most traditional versions just use flour, which gives the cookie a smooth, easy bite (especially when dunked in coffee). My version uses coarse ground oats and brown sugar instead of white, which adds a lot of texture and, after the initial outer crust, a chewy, dense center layered with a nutty, citrusy flavour. It’s a deeply satisfying cookie, and I’m super-excited to have them back in my life.

Because I was elbow-deep in dough as I was formulating this recipe, I tasked my nine-year-old daughter with being the official recipe-keeper for this experiment. In my beat up, food-splattered kitchen recipe journal that holds the trials and tribulations of every recipe I’ve ever tested, she dotingly wrote down every ingredient and measurement that I called out, recording not only the pertinent details of this experiment, but also adding her mark to a legacy that will one day be hers. And for that reason, these will always be my favorite biscotti.

Orange Almond Biscotti

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

½ cup coarsely ground oats

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup sliced almonds

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 4 tbsp hot water)

⅓ cup vegan butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk 

1 tsp almond extract

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp orange zest

2 tbsp orange juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

In a large bowl, combine flour, ground oats, baking powder, salt, sliced almonds and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

In a second bowl, add flax eggs, vegan butter, brown sugar, ¼ cup almond milk, almond and vanilla extracts, orange zest and orange juice.  Whisk to combine.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and a dough forms.  It should be a bit sticky. If dough is too dry, add remaining 2 tbsp almond milk. Form dough into a ball and divide in half.

Place one half of the dough onto prepared baking sheet and form into an even log about 1 ½ inches thick. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Transfer to cutting board and cut on the bias into 1 inch thick slices.  Lay each cookie slice on its side on the baking sheet and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes or until edges are golden.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

[sp_recipe]

Copycat Mongolian “Beef”

I grew up in Canada, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the United States. For a number of years I worked with U.S. based companies and spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to cities like New York, Dallas and Atlanta. And of course, I’ve vacationed across America for almost my entire life.

What I always loved about traveling stateside was the exposure to restaurant chains we didn’t have up here (but always saw advertised on TV thanks to US cable feeds). It was a huge treat to go to places like IHOP, TGI Fridays, or Applebees, or my absolute favorite: P.F. Chang’s. A client based in Dallas introduced me to PF Chang’s many years ago and it became a tradition that whenever I came to town, we went there for dinner.

I don’t travel stateside as often as I’d like anymore, and I haven’t been inside a P.F. Chang’s in well over a decade, but I still have fond memories of many of their dishes. Particularly the ones I enjoyed in my pre-vegan days. So I’m embarking on a mission to recreate vegan versions of some of their classic dishes. I’ve started with a staple: Mongolian Beef.

Truthfully, this dish (like many on the menu), are all about the sauce. So I focused on nailing a sweet, sticky, soy glaze with just a trace of heat to tickle the taste buds, and then set about focusing on a protein. I wanted something that was easily available and familiar, and that didn’t require hours of prep. Truthfully, to imitate beef, seitan often works best, but I find that pan-fried seitan can have a soft, chewy texture, and I was going for something a little more dense. And seitan takes time to make. Tempeh and jackfruit didn’t make much sense either, based on their consistencies or their ability to stir fry well, so I chose old reliable: tofu.

I like cooking with extra firm tofu, as it has the least amount of water content in it, and it can stand up to almost any type of heat. What I didn’t want though, was the uniform look of tofu cubes. For this dish, I drained and pressed as much water as I could out of a block of tofu, then gently pulled it apart in random pieces and shapes. The ripped surface edges give the tofu a more realistic look, and crisp up better in a pan. Plus they allow for much more sauce to get in – which is key.

Once the tofu was torn, I pressed it again to get any additional water out, since I was going to dredge them in cornstarch before cooking to get that crispy exterior.

The traditional PF Chang’s version is simply flank steak and garlic green onions, but knowing how my kids feel about anything green, I added red peppers to my version, and used the green onion as a garnish.

The tricks to this dish are high heat and short cooking time. I don’t have a wok, so I used a deep non-stick skillet, which worked just as well. I served this dish with steamed rice, but truthfully it would be amazing with a vegan fried rice or even coconut rice too.

Copycat Vegan Mongolian Beef

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger 

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 cup tamari or gluten free soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

¼ – ½ tsp sriracha

½ large white onion, diced

1 red or green pepper, chopped

1 350g block of extra firm tofu, ripped into small chunks

1/3 cup cornstarch

2 green onions chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tsp oil in a small pan over medium low. Add ginger and garlic and stir just until warm and fragrant, 1 – 2 min. Add soy sauce, water and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  2. Add torn tofu pieces to a large Ziploc or resealable bag and add cornstarch. Shake to coat.  Remove tofu from bag and set aside.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan or wok and heat over medium high heat. Add white and green onions, and red or green pepper and cook until peppers are slightly soft and onion is translucent.
  4. Add remaining oil and tofu pieces. Do not overcrowd the pan – work in 2 batches if your pan isn’t very wide.
  5. Cook tofu, tossing frequently until all sides are browned. Add sauce to pan and cook on medium high heat until hot and bubbly – about 5 minutes.

[sp_recipe]

Frosted Animal Crackers

These are a total trip-down-memory-lane kind of treat. Who didn’t love getting a box of animal crackers as a kid and biting the heads off of lions and tigers and bears? Guaranteed fun…until the box was empty of course.

I love recreating childhood favorites and introducing them to my kids. Having kids with dairy allergies means that many of the sugary, kid-pleasing, nostalgia-invoking treats of my youth are off-limits, so whenever I nail a vegan/allergy-friendly copycat version I get really excited. These cookies are no exception. Cinnamon sugar cookies coated in brightly coloured eggless royal icing and covered in sprinkles – what’s not to love?

Not only are these cookies adorable and delicious, but they are a great way to have some fun in the kitchen with your own kids. Little hands are perfect for cutting out and dipping these miniature treats.

What really makes these cookies stand out (aside from all the sprinkles) is the cookie base. It’s an amazing cinnamon sugar cookie that works well for any type of decorated cookie. I use this cookie base all the time – the boost of cinnamon really gives it a lovely flavor and texture and is just so much more interesting than a plain sugar cookie (not that there’s anything wrong with a good old-fashioned sugar cookie!)

If cookie decorating is your jam, I highly recommend saving the this recipe and using it the next time you’re getting creative in the kitchen. Just double up the bake time for larger cookies.

These cookies are best when the dough has had time to chill and set, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight, so plan ahead on this one. The dough itself takes five minutes to prep, and uses ingredients I guarantee you’ve already got in your pantry and fridge, so get that hand (or stand) mixer ready! We are heading into a long weekend here so I’m stocking my fridge with a double batch of dough so that we can bake our little hearts out.

I found this eggless royal icing mix by Virgin Ice at my local Bulk Barn, but if you can’t find it, I’ve included a great vegan glaze recipe below that works just as well.

I used these mini cookie cutters from Amazon to make animal shapes, and Wilton Gel Food Coloring as it’s best for bright, streak-free colors and is vegan.

Frosted Animal Crackers

Ingredients – cookies:

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

3/4 cup vegan butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup unsweetened soy milk

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Ingredients – glaze icing:

1 ½ cup icing sugar

3-4 tbsp non-dairy milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Wilton gel food color

sprinkles

Directions – cookies:

In a medium size bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and smooth – approx 2 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

Set mixer on low speed and add half the flour mixture and mix to combine.  Then add soy milk, and mix for 1 minute, then add remaining flour mix. If dough is crumbly, add more soy milk, 1 tbsp at a time, until dough comes together.  

Turn dough out onto counter. Divide in half and shape into 2 discs.  Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (overnight is even better).

Preheat oven to 350F.

Once dough is chilled, remove one disc from fridge and place between two floured sheets of parchment paper.  Roll out until ½ inch thick. Cut out shapes and place on parchment lined baking sheets, about 1-2 inches apart.  Gather up remaining dough, re-roll and cut out more cookies. Repeat until all dough is used.  (The dough keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days and freezes well, so you can make half a batch – which still yields about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, and save the other batch for another day.)

Bake for 9 minutes or until bottoms are ever-so-lightly golden.  Let cool completely.

Directions – icing:

If you are using a prepackaged vegan royal icing, mix contents of package with cool water until a shiny, thick-but-pourable glaze forms.  (The package in my picture used ¾ cup water to achieve this consistency.)  

If you don’t have a vegan royal icing mix, you can try this recipe from A Beautiful Mess, or use my glaze icing recipe:

Whisk together icing sugar, unsweetened non-dairy milk and vanilla extract until glaze forms and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It should be thick but slightly pourable.

Separate icing into smaller bowls, one for each color, and add 1-2 drops of Wilton Gel Food Coloring into each bowl and stir to achieve desired color.

One at a time, dip the top of each cookie into the icing, let the excess drip off, then place back on a baking sheet and top with a few sprinkles.  You will want to sprinkle each cookie as you dip it so that the icing is still wet enough to make the sprinkles stick.  

Repeat until all cookies are iced.  Allow icing to harden by placing baking trays in the fridge or letting them sit on the counter at room temperature for a couple of hours.
[sp_recipe]

Summer Bean Salad

I’m really not sure whether to call this a salad, or a dip, or just the most amazing flavour explosion ever to hit your mouth. It’s kind of all three.

Last weekend my cousin Lisa brought this salad to a family BBQ and it was a huge hit. Like we all couldn’t stop scooping it up. At a first glance, it seems like the standard fare; you know, we’re having a bbq/picnic/party and there’s gotta be a bean salad there,…but when you taste it, you realize this isn’t any ordinary bean salad. It is the *perfect* filling for any sort of scoopable chip or cracker. (Or if you’re like me, the perfect spoonful straight up every single time I walk past the refrigerator!)

Of course, it’s a bean salad, so its healthy (yay protein and fibre), but it’s also so darn delicious and versatile. It’s great as a side dish/dip at a party; or as a grab-and-go lunch, or a salad topper or even a bean and veggie wrap. It’s a great make-ahead dish (it gets better the longer it sits) and its really easy to assemble. My cousin gracefully shared her recipe with me, and I’ve spent the week playing around with it before sharing it with y’all. Basically, I’ve kicked up the heat a bit and swapped out one herb for another (hers used cilantro; I opted for flat leaf parsley because I’m so not team cilantro – but it’s okay if you are. We can still be friends.)

So, grab a bowl of this bean salad and I’ll meet you at the Tostitos, k?

Summer Bean Salad

Ingredients:

1 19oz can lentils, drained and rinsed

1 19oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 19oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ red onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced (pith and seeds removed)

1 green onion, chopped

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¾ cup catalina dressing

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours (preferably overnight) before serving.

[sp_recipe]

Spicy Peanut (or Pea-not) Ginger Tofu

I also like to call this “clean out the fridge tofu”, because its the perfect opportunity to make a fabulous dish using all the leftover veggies loitering around your fridge.

This dish is all about the sauce. It’s thick and rich and has the perfect balance of heat, sweet, salty and tart. It’s also really simple and cooks up in under 30 minutes, which is always a win-win in my crazy household.

My littles are picky eaters, so I kept this version simple, using only mushrooms and red peppers (two of the few veggies I can always get my kids to eat), but if it were just for me, I’d have tossed in some baby corns, spinach, bok choy, asparagus, eggplant…pretty much any vegetable I could get my hands on.

This is one of the rare recipes where I actually used peanut butter (we have an allergy in our house so more often than not, wow butter is our go-to for making “nutty” sauces. But since this wasn’t a full family dinner, we went with PB this time.) It’s not a life-threatening allergy, so we are comfortable having peanut butter in the kitchen, but for those who are – or have a family member who is, just swap out the peanut butter for wow butter or sun butter or even tahini.

I love serving this over coconut rice (which cooks up in the time it takes to make this dish), but plain rice or rice noodles work just as well.

Spicy Peanut Ginger Tofu

Ingredients:

1 tsp grated ginger

¼ cup tamari

¼ cup ketchup

½ cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp maple syrup

½ – 1 tsp sriracha (to taste)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 green onions, chopped (whites and greens separated)

½ vidalia onion, diced 

5-6 mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced

1 red pepper, cut in slices

2 cups vegetable stock

1 350g block of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed

Directions:

In  bowl, whisk together ginger, tamari, ketchup, peanut butter, maple syrup and sriracha. Set aside.

In a deep pan, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add the white parts of the green onion and vidalia onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until golden. Add red peppers and cook for 2 minutes.

Add sauce and tofu to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is thick – about 10 minutes.

[sp_recipe]

Summer Corn and Onion Fritters

When people ask me where I learned to cook (or bake), I always say, “Ina taught me.”  (The Ina referring to Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa.) Now of course, this is only partially true; I’ve never really met Ina – although I was lucky enough to see her in person in A Conversation with Ina this past spring for her newest book launch.  But I know Ina.  I’ve watched The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network for over 15 years; memorized all her tricks and studied her techniques.  And I’ve recreated enough of her recipes to really understand her philosophy on cooking.

Like me, she’s a home cook.  She taught herself everything she knows, and in sharing her knowledge on TV, she taught me a lot of what I know.  Of course, there have been other cooking influences in my life.  I was young and single and experimenting in my very own kitchen when Food Network Canada first launched, and immediately became drawn to the likes of Jamie Oliver, Michael Smith, Rachael Ray, Tyler Florence, and of course, Ina. 

My nine-year-old daughter has become hooked on Ina too.  Partially through osmosis (Ina is always on TV when I’m home), and partially because she has a real interest and curiosity about cooking – and baking in particular, and is becoming quite independent in the kitchen.  And she’s quickly learning that almost anything Ina can make, we can make vegan.  (She stresses about the fact that almost all of Ina’s recipes involve copious amounts of butter and milk, which I keep reminding her are really easy to veganize.)

A few weeks ago, we were watching Ina make corn pancakes, using farm-fresh corn on the cob, and the recipe peaked Audrey’s interest.  Normally she won’t eat corn in any way except on the cob, but she really seemed into this recipe and wanted to try it, so I jumped at the chance to get her to eat a vegetable.  Using Ina’s recipe as a guide, I created these vegan Summer Corn and Onion Fritters – and got Audrey in the kitchen to help make them.  We tried two versions: regular and gluten-free.  While both were deliciously flavored, the gluten-free ones definitely need more testing to help keep them together.   I’ll work on that later.  But for now, head out to your local farm and grab some fresh picked corn, because these fritters are summer on a plate!

Summer Corn and Onion Fritters

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups soy milk

2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups cornmeal

½ cup all purpose flour

2 tsp granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 tbsp vegan butter, melted

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Tabasco sauce to taste

3 cups fresh corn, shaved off the cob (about 4 ears)

3 tablespoons diced green onion, whites and greens

2 tbsp grapeseed or light olive oil

2 tbsp vegan butter

Directions:

  1. In a 2 cup measuring glass, make vegan buttermilk by combining soy milk and lemon juice and let stand for 5 min or until slightly curdled
  2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil and hot sauce.  Add corn and diced green onion and stir to combine.
  4. Add corn mixture to dry ingredients and mix together. Be careful not to overmix or your fritters will become tough when cooked.
  5. In a skillet pan on medium heat, combine grapeseed/olive oil and butter and warm until sizzling.  Add corn fritter batter in ¼ cup amounts and press down ever so slightly. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 2 minutes, until both sides are golden brown and the centre of the fritter is firm. Repeat until all batter is used

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Summer Asian Chick’n Salad

This is my on-repeat-all-the-time summer salad.  It hits all the right notes: it’s light, fresh, crispy and tangy, and so satisfying.  

When I was in university, there was this restaurant halfway between my house and school called Dr. Deli and the Salad Queen, and aside from slinging traditional deli sandwiches, they had an extensive salad menu (of course).  I first encountered Chinese Chicken Salad there and immediately became hooked.  It was all in their vinaigrette – it had just the right balance of vinegar and sugar to make it mouth-puckering tart but also sweet and light.  Being a lover of all things pickley, this was right up my alley. And to balance out that strong vinaigrette, they made the salad super simple: crisp light green iceberg lettuce, sweet mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, shredded roasted chicken (obviously we’re doing a workaround on that one now), and a crunchy topping – either puffed crispy vermicelli noodles or crispy fried wonton strips – depending on what they had on hand that day.  It just all worked so beautifully.  Every bite had layers of texture and flavour, and yet was still light and easy.  It was the perfect summer salad.

Summer is (finally, hopefully) here to stay in Toronto and I’m prepping myself for a season of lighter meals, fresher ingredients and simple preparations.  Because as much as I love cooking, hot days + hot ovens do not make me happy. So I’ve been thinking about easy, summer-friendly dishes and this salad came to mind. 

My first challenge was recreating that dressing.  I’m not kidding when I say I’ve tried at least twelve variations on it to find one that was not too oily, or too tart, or had too many ingredients.  It needed to be full of flavour, but clean and simple. Once I had it, the rest was easy.

For the “chicken”, I used Gardein Chick’n strips that I pan-roasted on the stovetop in a little bit of grapeseed oil, fresh cracked pepper and salt.  If you’re gluten-free, you could use Beyond Meat Chick’n Strips instead. 

This is a great salad to customize. You could easily swap some (or all) of the lettuce for napa cabbage, or a mix of napa and red cabbage. You could add cucumbers or celery or carrots to it; swap the mandarins for strawberries…the possibilities are endless.  Or you can go with the classic recipe below. 

Asian Chick’n Salad

Ingredients:

3 tbsp sesame oil

1/4 – 1/3 cup rice vinegar (depending on how tart you like you dressing)

1 ½ tsp tamari (or dark soy sauce)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil

1 225g package vegan chick’n strips

½ tsp fresh cracked pepper

¼ tsp kosher salt

½ head of iceberg lettuce, chopped

1 10 oz can mandarin orange slices, drained

¼ cup sliced almonds

1 cup crunchy wonton strips (or puffed vermicelli noodles for a GF option)

Directions:

In a glass mason jar, combine sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, vegetable oil and sugar.  Seal jar and shake well to combine.  Set aside.

In a deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add frozen chick’n strips and cook to package directions, adding salt and pepper about halfway through.  Remove from pan and allow to cool, patting down strips to remove excess oil.  When cool enough to handle, dice or shred into small chunks.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, mandarin oranges, chick’n pieces and wonton strips.  Drizzle dressing on top and toss to coat.

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Mini Pizza Bites

Food is always more fun when it’s bite-size, right? Teeny-tiny, cute versions of our fave foods always taste better and are so much fun to eat (plus, you can totally eat MORE of them without having to do an extra hour or three of cardio the next day!)

Summer is fast approaching and that means cottage weekends, pool parties, play dates and lots of feed-a-crowd opportunities. The perfect settings for finger-good entertaining, which I happen to be a huge fan of lately. Platters of small bites and easy grab-and-go snacks that everyone can help themselves to mean that I get to spend more time enjoying myself, and less time in the kitchen. Because, truthfully, summers are so short here in Toronto, who wants to spend them in the kitchen?

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s a bunch of store-bought components brought together with a wee bit of prep and baking, so they can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. You will need a couple of trays of silicone ice cube trays for this recipe, so keep that in mind if you’re planning these for an upcoming event. I bought mine from Amazon.ca (they are also available on Amazon.com too). If you’re in a pinch, you could use regular plastic ice cube trays, but be sure to well oil them first as it can be trickier to pop the pizza bites out.

We’re partial to classic {vegan} pepperoni pizza around here, but you can customize these with any combination of your favorite pizza toppings. Any way you stuff them though, they are guaranteed to rock the next play date, pool party or picnic, guaranteed!

Mini Vegan Pizza Bites

Ingredients:

All purpose flour for rolling out dough

15 oz store-bought fresh pizza dough, divided in half.

1/2 cup pizza sauce or marinara sauce

1/3 cup shredded vegan mozzarella

1/4 cup vegan pepperoni, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp pizza seasoning or 1 tsp each dried oregano, basil, thyme

Directions:

Lightly oil and flour one silicone or plastic ice cube tray. Cut pizza dough in half and on a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/8″ thick. Repeat with other half of dough and set aside.

Transfer the first rolled out piece of dough to the ice cube tray and press the dough down into each hole. Fill each hole with approximately 1 teaspoon each of sauce, cheese and pepperoni, being careful not to over-fill the hole.

Cover tray with remaining dough, pressing down sides to seal, and trim any excess dough (save it to use for more pizza bites!)

Freeze for 30 min or refrigerate for 60 min so that the dough can set. (It makes it easier to turn the dough out of the tray)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn out dough onto a parchment-baking sheet and use a small knife or pastry wheel cutter to separate each bite. Turn bites upright and line up on baking sheet. Combine olive oil and pizza seasonings and brush tops of each bite with a bit of oil.

Bake for 15-20 min until golden.

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