photo credit: http://thebrunettebaker.blogspot.ca/

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. That's right, it's time for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) 2014! I can't believe it's already the 4th edition of this amazing Secret-Santa style trade. The tastiest, sweetest gift exchange I've ever been a part of, the fbcookieswap is this awesome idea where food bloggers send each other cookies through the mail. Organized and facilitated by the brains behind Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchn, the swap brings together over 500 talented foodies each year to share love and joy through cookies. Added bonus - it's all for charity! To learn more, visit www.fbcookieswap.com, or search the hashtag #fbcookieswap on twitter or instagram.

So, what did I make? Every year, I try to make something original, using flavours that go above and beyond the traditional. It being winter and all, I've been on a chai kick lately. Inspired by my favourite tea, I made some melt-in-your-mouth, sweet and salty and oh so perfectly spiced Cardamom and Anise shortbread thins. 

Hello, delicious!

I hope my recipients enjoyed them as much as I did, because let me tell you, I enjoyed them. Even my boyfriend, a self-proclaimed shortbread hater, liked them. (And that says a lot!) 


One of our teachers at Pastry school suggests that the rule of thumb for cookies is that they are made small. And I mean small! No more than 10 to 12 grams each. Why? His reasoning is that people like to get more for their money. (My reasoning is that it's more fun to eat something that's bite-sized!) It's important to note that shortbread has a tendency to be pasty in the mouth if you have too much at once, so make sure to keep these cookies thin, rolled out to less than a quarter of an inch high. I used a scalloped round 1" cutter to shape them, but feel free to get creative and use whatever cutters you have on hand. Remember to keep cookies of the same size together on the same baking tray, because smaller ones will cook faster!

Happy baking, and happy holidays!

Simple Shortbread with Cardamom and Anise
adapted from Châtelaine magazine, December 2014

ingredients
1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 tsp ground anise seed
3 tsp ground cardamom

Salted cinnamon sugar: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon & a pinch of salt, for dusting

method
Mix together dusting ingredients and set aside.
Using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Stop the mixer and add in flour, salt and spices.
Mix on low speed just until blended. (Do not overmix!)
Form dough into a ball and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a few baking trays with parchment paper.
Roll dough out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Sprinkle with salted cinnamon sugar.
Place cookies onto lined baking sheets and bake in preheated oven, 10 minutes or until very lightly golden. Let cookies cool on cooling rack before eating!

Enjoy!






Sumac! Fresh Sumac! You know, that zesty, unusual spice that gives Za'atar it's tang and adds a middle eastern flair to roasted veggies? Excitement poured over me when I found out that I was going to be receiving some fresh sumac in my Lufa produce basket last week. I've never even seen fresh sumac before. I had no idea that it would arrive as a fluffy, barby, vividly red cluster of... stuff. My first thought upon examining the bright bouquet: how do I use this? Unsure of which part of the fuzzy berries could be turned into the sweet, lemony herb that I've only ever seen dried and crushed, I turned to my trusty friend, the internet. Internet, o internet, inform me, o wise one! 

During my search, I learned that Sumac has been used in ancient herbal medicine for centuries, aiding in the prevention and treatment of various ailments, from chest congestion to stomach upsets. Well, this is just perfect timing, I thought, as I just happen to be suffering from what seems to be the world's longest bout of fever and joint aches. Also probably a good tonic to give the boy to sip on to prevent catching this dreadful flu. 

Influenza, be damned! I will sumac you right in the face!  

Now, let's get back to the "how?"

Having only eaten sumac in savoury dishes, I would never have thought to use the spice in a beverage of any kind. That is, until I stumbled upon a blog that suggested that I make Sumac-aide! (Also known as cold sumac tea, sumac lemonade, or sumacaide... depending on who you ask!) This lemony fresh tonic is super easy, and super tasty! How to do it? Soak fresh berries in cold water. Strain. And drink. That's it? That's it! How perfect is that? Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few slices of ginger for some extra immune-boosting power, and extra tasty flavour. 

Sumac Lemonade

4 cups cool water
2-3 clusters fresh red sumac berries
juice from 1 lemon (optional)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (optional)

Roughly break up sumac clusters. In a large bowl, combine water, sumac and ginger and let steep for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Strain though very fine tea strainer or cheesecloth. Add freshly squeezed lemon and ice cubes just before serving. 





Well, folks. I did it. I went and made a homemade vegan Pumpkin Spice Latté.
Move over, coffee shops! Move over, Starbucks! This latté is the real deal.

No, but seriously. Real pumpkin. Real spices. Real coffee. It all makes for real good stuff!
I must mention that none of this would be possible without the great people over at Café Santo Domingo, who recently sent me some incredibly delicious coffee. It made for a wonderfully robust base for this delightfully satisfying little PSL. (Or maybe it should be a PSSL. Or a VPSSL?)


How cute is that mug? Joe from Café Santo Domingo sent me a set of them with matching saucers, along with some truly awesome beans and grounds. Seriously, you guys rock! The beans are SO tasty that I've gone ahead and made some dark-chocolate covered coffee beans with them to keep on hand as a quick snack, a great little afternoon pick-me-up. I would have included a photo, but the boy can't stop eating them all up!

A few other exciting things

For those of you following my story, I have almost completed my studies in Professional Pastry, and I am looking forward to many new adventures come January. I have started to offer custom cakes and sweets, and I am in the process of creating an online portfolio attached to this blog. I will soon cater sweets for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, or any other occasion (like, say, a girls night in!) where you may desire some custom goodies. Oh, and yes, I do vegan desserts like a champ!

On an unrelated, but very exciting note, I am pleased to announce that I will once again be participating in the 4th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) hosted by The Little Kitchen and Love & Olive Oil. I can't wait to receive my matches and see what kind of incredible edibles will be delivered to my doorstep in the coming weeks! SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!

Oh, right, so I guess by now you're probably all like, "That's nice, but I WANT ME A PSL!" Alright, alright, don't get your legwarmers in a bunch. Here it is, without further adieu... The one, the only, the real, vegan pumpkin spice latte. Or, if you prefer, the Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte. Whatever you want to call it, just make it, then sit back and drink it!

Caution: this latte is extremely addictive!


Even though the weather might say otherwise, apple season is in full bloom! Never having been a traditional apple pie kind of girl, I've always enjoyed showcasing my freshly picked apples in something slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Whether it is my go-to German apple cake, or cinnamon and spice apple sauce, apple desserts are the epitome of fall comfort food. When I saw that Canadian Living's October issue was going to feature the "Ultimate Tarte Tatin", I knew that I had to try it out!

This exquisite tart combines warm skillet apples with a buttery, salty caramel and a melt-in-your-mouth flaky pastry shell. Oh, even writing this description makes my mouth water! A word of warning: make sure to invite someone over when you make this, because you will eat the entire thing in one sitting.



Some tips from the pastry kitchen:

Do NOT overwork your dough. It will come together crumbly, and that's good! If you work it too much, you may end up making a dough that is tough and chewy, missing out on the flaky, delicate texture that it is meant to have.

DO chill your dough before rolling it out.

DO flour your work surface. And your rolling pin.

DO use granny smith apples as suggested. I made the mistake of using another variety and they nearly turned into apple sauce. While it will still be tasty, you won't end up with the prettiest of tarts.

DO make this recipe, and do enjoy yourself! Though it takes a little while to complete, it is very, very worth it.

Oh, and a nifty bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!
To get the full recipe, visit Canadian Living's website here.






Being vegetarian for over 10 years, I often get asked "but where do you get your protein?"
There are so many plant-based significant sources of protein out there, many of which you're probably already eating. (Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, peas, spinach, broccoli, just to name a few.) Quinoa is among those plant-based sources, and it is a little powerhouse. Quinoa is even more versatile than rice, quick and easy to cook, and contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs for growth and repair. You can eat it sweet like porridge, savoury like rice, or go somewhere in between, like this pretty pink salad.

Watermelon + Beets: a tantalizingly refreshing combo that looks as wonderful as it tastes. The earthiness of the beets balance the sweetness of the watermelon, and the textures compliment each other beautifully. I convinced the boy to hop on the pink salad bandwagon with me, and we were both hooked. Imagine my surprise when came home after work one afternoon, about to rush over to school, when I was greeted by the loveliest smile and a hands that were holding a watermelon and beet salad, ready to go. Only this time, it wasn't only watermelon and beets. No, my wonderful man took it up a notch, and invited quinoa and figs to join the party. With some avocado placed delicately on top, Josh had turned a side salad into a full blown vegan meal. I couldn't be prouder!

I'll keep this post short and sweet, so you can get right on to the market and pick yourself up a nice juicy watermelon to make this salad tonight. I'll share the recipe, you share the love!

Happy August!

Quinoa with Watermelon and Beets

2 cups watermelon, cubed
4 small beets, boiled until tender, cooled and cubed
1 cup cucumber, cubed
1 cup cooked, cooled quinoa
Handful of dried figs, chopped
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 avocado, sliced

Combine all ingredients, except avocado, and toss gently. Garnish with avocado slices. Sprinkle with pistachios or hemp seeds for an extra protein boost!








Pop quiz! What takes under 10 minutes to prep but looks and tastes like heaven? Answer: a cheese plate! Perfect for entertaining in the hot months, when you don't want to be slaving over the stove for hours, cheese plates make the perfect centerpiece at a gathering or a party. When done properly, with a little variety, a cheese plate can be a stand alone meal. The boy and I usually make a cheese plate by having one of each type of cheese: soft, semi soft, firm, goat and something crumbly like blue. We like to round it out by adding crudités, dried fruits and olives and serving alongside assorted bread and crackers. Recently, we were trying to figure out what else we could add that would be simple, quick and that would compliment the cheese but also fit on a cracker. That same evening, a special package arrived in the mail, and we knew exactly what we were having for dinner.


The awesome people over at Rio Mare sent us a few samples of their light tuna in olive oil. Arriving in it's iconic bright pink tin, I was excited to try it for the first time. We've always purchased generic tuna in water, thinking that oil might make it too rich, too greasy or too fatty. Lo and behold, we were wrong: olive oil makes tuna taste absolutely delicious! A product of Italy, Rio Mare uses only the good stuff. The ingredients list nothing but fish, olive oil and salt. No fillers, no preservatives, no bi-products. What a perfect addition to our cheese plate! I loved it so much that I went on a tuna binge for the next couple of days, making me realize just how versatile tuna can be. I stuffed an avocado with it. I had it in mac and cheese. I had it in a grilled cheese. I had a mac and cheese tuna grilled cheese... I even ate it straight out of the can as a nighttime snack. Along with the samples, I received a little recipe booklet with ideas such as warm farro salad with tuna, tuna and hardboiled egg salad, and a couple of tuna and pasta dishes. Tuna fan? You can find even more recipes and inspiration on Rio Mare's website here!

You're probably all like "Mac and Cheese Tuna Grilled Cheese? I want that!" Alright, pescetarians and omnivores, rejoice! I now present to you mind blowing. taste bud exploding, ooey gooey delicousness. Oh, by the way, I would have included a better photo, but with food this good, I was too excited to eat it that I didn't have a chance!



Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Tuna 
and spicy avocado sauce
an original recipe by allison sklar

Serves 2

1/2 cup cooked macaroni
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup shredded gruyere
4 slices thick-sliced (country) bread
2 tbsp mayo
1 can Rio Mare Tuna in olive oil

dipping sauce:
1 avocado, mashed
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tbsp mayo

Mash avocado, combine with sriracha and mayo. Set aside. Combine cheese with macaroni and tuna in small saucepan on low to medium heat. Spread mayo on one side of bread slices. Begin to heat bread, mayo side down, in skillet or frypan on low to medium heat. Once bread is heated and cheese begins to melt, transfer scoops of mac and cheese mixture inside bread and sandwich together, flipping intermittently. Serve with avocado dipping sauce.







When it comes to summertime desserts, I tend to opt for all things simple and refreshing. Fruits are often the star, especially when they're fresh and local. So, when I got my hands on a giant container of juicy blueberries last weekend, I knew that I had to make them into something special. In an act of perfect timing, I got the chance to sneak a peak at Canadian Living's August cover recipe - a deliciously comforting blueberry cobbler.


If blueberry pie and cornbread got together and had a baby, this dessert would be their offspring! When a crispy, crumbly topping sits on top of a mountain of sweet blueberries, it’s a challenge not to devour it straight out of the oven. Not only does this comfort food taste as incredible as it smells, but it’s super satisfying to crack through the cobbler crust with your spoon for that very first bite!

You can whip yourself up one of these babies at home in no time flat, just follow the link below to take you to the original recipe on Canadian Living's website.

Tip: top with a dollop of ice cream for an extra summery touch!

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking-and-desserts/recipe/blueberry-cornmeal-cobbler









With summer in full swing, I find myself craving all things light and refreshing. All the most delicious local produce is in season right now, and I've been stocking up on berries, leafy greens and whatever else the market has to offer each week. Though I haven't used my stove at home in what seems like ages (for fear that it might add to the smouldering heat wave that is just now starting to dissipate), I decided to turn on my oven today to make something that I've been craving for a while - stuffed mushrooms. I wanted to serve something a little bit fancy pants to munch on while we sat and enjoyed my beau's homemade Bloody Caesars. (For all of you Non-Canadians, a Caesar is like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato instead of Tomato, and with about 10x the flavour.)



Holy cow, did I ever impress myself tonight. Not that stuffed mushrooms are compliqué or anything. Completely the opposite actually, they're ultra simple. But I made a vegan version that is just ah-mah-zing. And, let me tell you, the boy wasn't even able to tell the difference!


I made two versions, so for those of you who are all like "but I need me some cheese!", I've got you covered. But I urge, urge, urge you to try the vegan ones. The creaminess, the flavour, the explosion of deliciousness in the mouth. Ok, ok, enough with my foodgasm, I'll get straight to the recipes. 



What better way to test out our new BBQ than by grilling… peaches?! No but seriously. That's exactly what we did last weekend. An unexpectedly delicious combination, the charred brown sugar and butter coating resulted in an explosion of flavour. We got so excited about it that we started grilling other fruits too. We tried out some pineapple, and I can't wait to try grilling bananas next. I'm telling you, if you haven't tasted grilled fruit yet, you really haven't lived. Tossed into a fish taco, cubed up in a salad, on little toothpicks with cheese... the BBQ takes fruit to a whole new level! 

Alright, let's get back to the peaches. So imagine this. Smoky sweet peaches. On top of vanilla ice cream. Drizzled with warm raspberry syrup. Topped off with fresh berries and a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds.

Yeah. You know you want it. 

This über summery dessert would look super cute all layered up in a mason jar, but I opted to serve it in crystal wine glasses instead, putting a fancy twist on a casual sundae. What a hit! I threw on a dollop of fresh whipped chantilly cream (I couldn't help myself), and a dash of cinnamon. Perfection in a glass. 


Now now, I can't take all the credit. Though the cinnamon was my idea, the whole recipe actually comes from Canadian Living's wonderful July issue, on newsstands today! But just for you, loyal readers, I'll include a link to the recipe below so that you can try it out yourself. It's quick and easy, and looks as fab as it tastes. Throwing together a last minute brunch and don't have time to make the raspberry syrup? Don't fret. Some store bought jam would work in it's place! Oh, and take my advice, top it with a dash of cinnamon. It brings all the flavours together so nicely. 

Peach pit removal tip: to remove peaches from the pits, slice down the middle and twist while the skins are still on. If your peaches are ripe enough, the pit should come out without much fuss! 

For the full recipe, click here. 





As you may have read in a few previous posts, the boy and I have recently signed up to receive weekly produce baskets from Lufa Farms. We've been delighted so far - fresh, organic seasonal vegetables produced on local rooftop farms, delivered each Wednesday to a pick up point that is close to home. We love customizing our basket each week, choosing from the many different heirloom varieties of tomatoes, the vast array of seasonal vegetables, and our favourite organic, locally produced pantry staples. Eating local has encouraged us to go outside of our ordinary vegetable realm and try new things. From jerusalem artichokes to fiddleheads, our plates have never been bursting with such a variety of flavour.



Last week, I had my first taste of "spring garlic," also known as garlic scape. It's this green shoot that looks just like a green onion, only the taste is 100% garlic! I started out by adding it into my sweet potato salad for a deliciously unexpected twist. This week, I paired the scape with a beautiful purple eggplant and roasted it into something superb. 


Now, let me tell you, I am NOT usually an eggplant fan. Neither is the boy for that matter. He actually asked me not to feed it to him. And I understand the sentiment. I usually find the texture gooey and the flavour null. However, I've seen so many recipes in my various middle eastern cookbooks that look absolutely mouth watering. 



When the boy saw the bright purple aubergine peeking it's head out of our basket, he looked at me confused and asked, "ugh... really? why?" I simply replied with a shoulder shrug and a "why not?" Later that evening, I harvested some herbs from my balcony garden and I made the most delicious za'atar laced chickpea dish that I've ever had. My proudest moment? When the boy devoured it. He exclaimed, "Wow! That stuff was great! What was in there?" to which I ever so coyly replied, "Eggplant." 



It's playoff hockey season and Montrealers have a serious case of Habs fever. The boy and I decided that the best way to celebrate would be to invite a few friends over, make some crowd pleasing food and watch the games all together on our big projector screen. Big games mean big appetites, and what better way to satisfy my meat-loving friends than with some fall off the bone ribs? Canadian Living's June cover recipe made this rib-cooking amateur look like a grilling pro! I doubled the marinade and used the excess to make myself some tofu, and let me tell you, there was some massive flavour explosion going on in there!

Get the full recipe here!
See this post on Canadian Living's website here!
       





Three things happened this week that led up to the creation of this drink.

1 - We received a ubiquitous amount of cucumbers in our Lufa basket.
2 - A friend gave me a bag of Cool Cucumber flavoured David's Tea. 
3 - Josh brought home a bottle of Hendrick's gin to celebrate the long weekend.

While chatting over a freshly brewed pot of the tea, we both concluded that it would pair marvellously with gin. I'm quite the novice at making cocktails (read: I've never actually made one), but I was inclined to test this one out - with a little help from the boy, of course.


"Could you make a cucumber foam to go on top?" he asked, bright eyed.

I wasn't quite sure what I'd do to make such a thing, but the first idea that came to mind was to use egg whites. Seeing as I've been mastering meringue techniques at school, I thought that this could would work out nicely. I opted to first test it out using a Swiss meringue, mostly because it's easy to prepare, but also because I find it to be a little less stiff than the Italian version. While Italian meringue holds well in a buttercream, I wanted something that would break up into foam once mixed into my drink.

A juiced cucumber, three egg whites and a dash of sugar later, cucumber meringue was born. It broke down into a foam exactly as I'd hoped for. Even once it was stirred into the drink, a significant amount remained floating on top, creating a rather elegant presentation.



To fancy it up even more, we mixed the leftover juicing pulp with a little bit of water to make cucumber ice cubes.

Note: vegans / egg intolerant peeps: a little bit of frothed soy or almond milk would work in place of the meringue. Add a couple of drops of agave nectar to the tea, adjusting to your preferred level of sweetness.

G & Tea
an original recipe by allison sklar (with help from josh m. elkin)

what you'll need
4 cups boiling water
4 tbsp David's Tea Cool Cucumber tea

4 oz Hendrick's Gin

42 grams egg whites
66 grams sugar
8 grams light/white corn syrup

2 medium-sized cucumbers

how to do it
Steep tea in water for about 3 minutes. Remove tea leaves and refrigerate until cool.

Juice one cucumber and set aside, reserving juice pulp.

Mix juice pulp with about 1/4 cup water and divide among ice cube tray. Freeze.

Meanwhile, over a bain marie, prepare egg whites, sugar and invert sugar. Heat, stirring continuously, until sugar is dissolved. Do NOT overheat, or your eggs will cook! Transfer to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until stiff peaks form (note: when beating egg whites, peaks are different than when beating cream. stiff egg whites are similar to medium peaks in whipped creams). Pour in cucumber juice and continue beating on medium-low speed.

Stir gin into cooled tea.

Assemble drinks: Thinly slice remaining cucumber, placing a few slices at the bottom of 4 glasses. Add cucumber ice cubes. Pour tea & gin mixture on top, leaving 1/2 an inch for foam. Spoon meringue mixture into glasses and stir gently, until meringue breaks up into foam. Garnish with basil leaf, if desired.

Serves 4.











Monday: walking on the mountain while wearing a cute summer dress and sandals.
Tuesday: cleaning the snow off my car while wearing a winter coat, mittens and boots.

Ah, a  common Montreal "spring".  

With our weather being quite literally bipolar, it's hard enough knowing which tires we should have on, let alone what kind of meals we should be preparing. Light and healthy, or hearty and comforting? Sweet and tangy or salty and savory? Seeing as I'm as indecisive as Mother Nature, I want a meal that satisfies all of the above.

Canadian Living's May cover recipe features deliciously savoury chicken (or tofu!) on a bed of peppery cabbage and sweet fennel, tossed together with a comforting dressing (hello honey mustard!) and topped with bright segments of tangy orange. Yes, it is possible to have it all! 

I enjoyed this dressing so much that I ended up making a double batch of it. I used it as a dip for fresh veggies the next day, and I used the last little bit as a sandwich spread. Using a grainy mustard gave it a nice kick. Also to note: I only have Vegenaise in my fridge, and it worked in the place of mayo. If you want to make this fully vegan, sub some agave for the honey, and you're all set. 

If you're going the tofu route, use the same quantity as you would chicken, and cut it into strips. I suggest you double, or even triple, the dressing and marinate the tofu in it about an hour before for ultimate flavour. Pan-fry until browned and sprinkle with sesame. For the complete recipe, (salad, dressing, chicken and all!) click here: Canadian Living: Sesame Chicken and Orange Salad

FEATURED!
This post is featured on Canadian Living's website this month! See it here:



Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! "No problem," said my easygoing guest. "Just dip it in chocolate and we'll eat it later!"

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 - use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you'll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think "Christmas," but you don't really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you've got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself - it makes a great snack when you're torn between salty and sweet - that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.


I received some delicious homework this week: 

Make a pie. 
Rules? Carte blanche. Do as you wish. Make it interesting.

Challenge accepted!

I decided to take this opportunity to make a raw, vegan, gluten-free dessert. I’ve seen the raw food movement really begin to shine in the past couple of years with the appearance of raw vegan restaurants, quite a few beautiful food blogs, and raw cookbooks. Though it hasn’t gone mainstream just yet (many of my peers had never heard of it), popularity has grown among the foodie community. Search #raw or #rawfood on Instagram or Pinterest, and you’ll see what I mean.

Why raw? Why not! The first thing that attracted me to raw food – the simple fact that it’s a new type of cuisine – which means a whole new world of meals and desserts to try. As an added bonus, the health benefits of adding raw plant-based foods to your diet are countless. The dishes themselves, when prepared properly, can satisfy any craving, from light to hearty, savory to sweet. The majority of the recipes that I’ve seen have been vegan – perfect for me – and are chock full of veggies and fruits. And, if you’re wondering, “what about protein?” Trust me, there is a ton of it. As with many vegan dishes, protein comes from nuts and seeds, and soaked and sprouted grains.

In many raw recipes, nuts and seeds are used in ways that I’d never thought of before, and this really intrigued me. For instance, I’ve seen recipes that involved fermenting wheatberries to create rejeuvelac, then combining them with blended raw cashews to make a savory cheese-type spread. Sunflower seeds and pepitas are ground and pressed together and then dried out to create crackers. My ultimate WOW moment? When I discovered that I could make a whipped cream out of cashews.

Sold.
I decided that I needed to try it out asap.


So I experimented, and then experimented some more. And I came up with the creamiest non-dairy cream I’ve ever had. My favorite part was that it didn’t have that dreaded soy-aftertaste, unlike most of the non-dairy “cream” products that I’ve tried in the past.

Oh, and the WOW factor of this pie is off the charts. 
Seriously. I brought this to my pastry student friends and it disappeared in seconds. In a room full of pies, the raw vegan one disappeared first.

You want to impress (insert name of anyone here)? Make this. 
Don't tell them what it is right away. Just tell them it's pie. 
Let them taste it.
Then tell them how there's no processed sugar in it. 
Then tell them that it's vegan.
Then tell them that it's gluten-free. 
Then tell them that it's raw. 
Then tell them yes, they can have seconds. 


Springtime peeked it's shy little head out to say hello to us Montrealers this week, and I instantly felt excited & inspired. There's just something about warm weather and sunshine that get me into a crafty mood. Quite a good time to be feeling creative, as I've had a lot of decorating to do recently: we've officially moved into our new apartment! The perfect way to settle in? A good old-fashioned Sunday Brunch!

Though bagels and lox are generally my choice brunch food, I decided to make something a little more decadent this time. Introducing Oven Baked French Toast, and her bff, Caramel Sauce. Make this for your next brunch if you're looking for a dish that is surprisingly quick & easy, and as eye-catching as it is tasty. Bonus: the air will fill with a warm, sweet aroma as your guests arrive.

This is a decadent, salty-meets-sweet, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast - definitely weekend food! Tip: to make it extra yummy, you can prepare it the night before so the bread really gets some time to soak up the eggy goodness. This is also a perfect way to use up some stale bread you have lying around - once it soaks up the egg mixture, it'll come right back to life!


Being a student in pastry school means exactly what you'd imagine: that I get to spend 8 hours a day in a kitchen, making delicious pastry. It also unfortunately means that I'm no longer home on weeknights, so weekend dinners with the boy have become an extra special affair.

I decided that the best way to toast to our new home was to make some kind of stellar springtime-inspired dessert. My favourite seasonal combo? Strawberries, rhubarb and cream. But how could I take these three ingredients and turn them into something dazzling? Easily! Whip up some custard, chop up a pound cake, and layer it all into a trifle, just like the one on the cover of Canadian Living's April issue. Lacking a trifle dish? No worries! A big glass bowl propped up on a cake stand will work well. Or, be super resourceful and scoop them into tall drinking glasses. The colourful, layered presentation remains intact, and each person gets their own individual serving. Brilliant, right?

Canadian Living suggests using a pound cake, which is easy to find at any grocery store, but also very easy to make at home. Coincidentally, we recently spent an entire class making various pound cakes, so I've become quite the pro. (I've included a simple recipe below!)

I love the versatility of the pound cake - you can add virtually any flavour to it, and one simple recipe can yield a different flavoured cake every time you bake one. The pound cake manages to retain it's form nicely when soaked in the tangy rhubarb sauce, and it's dense texture compliments the airy cream and the velvety custard.



Recently, I announced to my roommates that after two wonderful years here, I'll be leaving them very soon to go on and live new life adventures with the boy. The one request that I received: "Could you please cook up one last big meal... with meat?"

(Note: vegan recipe still included! Scroll to the last paragraph.)





I'm never one to say no to a kitchen request. However, it's been quite a while since I've cooked any sort of animal product, and I drew a complete blank when I tried to think of recipes that I could make for my little meat lovers. Conveniently, the March issue of Canadian Living features a simple greek-style pork tenderloin on the cover - so I was quite excited when I was asked to test out the recipe at home! 

Well, this meal definitely hit the spot: my perfectly plated servings were gobbled up in the blink of an eye. My favourite part of the meal - the dipping sauce - had me guiltily proudly licking my fingers at the table. A homemade tzaziki-style dip made with fat-free greek yogurt, I doubled the amount that I made and, still, no leftovers. (The boy loves his sauces!) A quick note to enhance the flavours: make your sauce ahead of time and let it marinate for a little while in the fridge. The garlic will infuse the yogurt for a more intense taste. I also added a little s&p just before serving.

Vegetarians and vegans: fret not! There is a delicious meal for you in here as well. Double the amount of veggies that the recipe calls for. Cook them in a separate pan, using vegetable broth in the place of chicken broth. Thanks to the starchy sweet potato, the vegetables on their own make a colourful, filling meal. As for the yogurt sauce, it is a-mah-zing on top of the veggies, so for vegans, I suggest that you make it with some unsweetened cultured soy. Round it all out by serving it on top of some of your favorite steamed rice.

Get the whole original recipe over at Canadian Living!

And so, it begins.
Pastry school, that is!




Courses began this week, and so far we've learned some introductory basics on health and safety measures, as well as basic sanitation practices. Many of the unsettling facts made me happy to be vegetarian - a life choice that made me feel almost safe, until I learned that one of the worst outbreaks of botulism came from an infected jar of mushrooms, of all things. Still, the majority of contaminated food items are ones of animal origin, (poultry, beef, dairy, eggs) so vegans, you're generally in the clear. I say generally, because there are still certain precautions that should be taken, especially when dealing with low-acidity canned foods, and unwashed fresh produce. I'll be posting more about good hygiene practices in the weeks to come, once I've obtained my MAPAQ certification. 

I'm quite excited for today, as we get to go into the Pastry Lab (the name itself excites me!) where we will be learning about basic ingredients, measurement and weight. Every ingredient in classic French pastry is measured by weight (grams and millilitres), instead of measured by volume (teaspoons and cups). This allows for the most accurate reproductions of recipes, as measurement by volume is often skewed due to air pockets. In the future, as I blog certain pastry recipes, I'll offer approximate conversions from volume to weight, for those of you who prefer one method over the other.





Alright, time for the sweet stuff... Drum roll please...
I introduce to you, the deliciously moist, sweet on the outside, fluffy on the inside, ultimate home baked donut! I won't go as far as to say that these little babies are healthy, because, well, they are coated in sugar and then rolled in even more of the powdery white delight, but they are healthier than your average donut shop donut, as they're baked instead of fried. They're also far tastier, more wholesome, and it doesn't get fresher than straight out of the oven! You can opt out of the sugar dusting part, though personally, I found that the sugar coating kept them fresher longer, and added a mighty fine taste to them.



So I've had this can of chiles that's been sitting in my pantry since Thanksgiving weekend. "Use us! Use us," They would chirp every once in a while, while I re-arranged my cabinets. I bought them on a whim, not quite sure what I was going to use them for, nor quite sure what they would even taste like. They've made the move from shelf to shelf, to the front, to the back, to the left... alright, before I get all Beyonce up in here... they've basically been the most challenging food item I've ever bought.

But why? I love the addition of chile peppers in soups, stews, and especially in Indian meals, which I've grown an intense fondness for in recent months. So what was holding me back from tossing the contents of this little can into my own cooking? I'll never really know. Perhaps it was fear that they would be too... (insert unpleasantry here). Too hot. Too bland. Too processed. Too tinny. Too salty. However, much to my delight, they aren't any of those things! These little babies are the secret ingredient in the best-lentils-I've-ever-made, and they will possibly serve as the hidden gem in the meals I'll be making in the chilly days to come.

So, without further adieu, here's a dish that will warm you on a wintery evening: a combination of hearty lentils to fill you up, sweet bell peppers and earthy greens to add some balance, and smoky heat to warm your soul. Pairs perfectly with a pint of stout, dark or amber ale, or, compliment it nicely by sipping on some smoky whiskey between bites.