Being Jewish, Chinese food is pretty much a staple in my diet. In recent years, however, I started to find myself sensitive to the additives that many Asian restaurants use in their vegetable dishes. I knew that this meant it was time to get back into the kitchen and cook up new vegan versions of my old meaty favourites. Last week, I shared some delicious honey-garlic eggplant. Today, I introduce to you this tangy sweet & spicy cauliflower. The two dishes would be lovely served together, over some nice sticky calrose rice. A deliciously healthy spin on take-out, that's baked instead of fried. Win-win. 

Vegan Szechuan-Style Sticky Cauliflower
recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

ingredients
  • 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions (for garnish)
instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line large baking tray with parchment paper
Combine water and cornstarch in large bowl. Whisk until homogenous.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients and whisk until it comes together.
Toss cauliflower into sauce mixture making sure it is well coated. 
Place evenly on baking tray, pouring remaining sauce on top. 
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until sauce has darkened and slightly reduced.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. 





After a wet summer followed by a bizarrely hot September, the Fall season is finally here in all it's cozy-knits-and-pumpkin-spiced glory. Colourful leaves adorn the trees as the crispy fallen ones crunch underneath our feet. Autumnal produce is abundant at the markets, with overflowing baskets of pumpkins, a variety of squash (both edible and decorative) and the most lovely cornucopia of root vegetables.


Acorn squash has always been one of my favourite gourds. It's nice and sweet, and it comes in the perfect size to use as a vessel for stuffing. Though I am a fan of many grains, it's the super-seed quinoa that is often the star in my stuffed veggies. (Like THESE mind-blowingly delicious stuffed sweet potatoes or THESE ridiculously tasty mushrooms.) Quinoa is a wonderful little superfood that is quick-cooking, easy to season, and full of vegan protein and fibre. Add some baby kale and you've got two superfoods stuffed inside of another - making this a dish that tastes as good as it makes you feel.


This vegan meal is nice and filling without being heavy, and it's spiced just right to make the house smell like an autumnal wonderland. As always, I'll keep the blah-blah short and get straight to the good stuff - here is my super easy superfood recipe!


Superfood Stuffed Squash
with roasted garlic quinoa, baby kale, & spinach

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

ingredients

1 large acorn squash
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 small onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup baby kale
1/2 cup baby spinach

instructions

Combine baby kale and spinach and set aside.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut acorn squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.
Drizzle evenly with honey and liquid smoke.
Fill the cavity of the squash with chopped onion and whole garlic cloves.
Drizzle with oil.
Turn filled squash upside down onto baking sheet.
Bake at 400F for 1 hour.

While squash is baking, prepare quinoa on stovetop by combining 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Set aside.

Once squash is done cooking, carefully invert. Place empty squash halves onto serving plates.
Combine roasted onion mixture with quinoa & half of greens mixture.
Divide mixture evenly and place it back into the squash cavity.

Serve garnished with remaining greens, with freshly ground pepper, to taste.


















This is THE blog that will show you how to make the BEST vegan honey garlic sauce. You know what, make that the BEST honey garlic sauce, ever. Point finale. (Bonus points for being vegan!)
When you're craving Chinese style food, without the added MSG or questionable ingredients that many restaurants or prepared meals contain, THIS should become your go-to sauce recipe. I used to rely on the trusty honey-garlic in a bottle, until I realized that I could make my own - tastier, healthier, and at a fraction of the price of the stuff in a jar. The secret ingredient? Molasses. It gives the sauce that low-and-slow-cooked taste, without the lengthy process of actually slow cooking. Mix it with a bit of tamari, a lot of garlic, and a squirt of hot sauce (or a pinch of chili powder) and BAM! The most delicious Asian style sauce this side of the equator.


I made an eggplant and mushroom sauté, which, sauce aside, is also amazingly delicious, with a beautiful texture to satisfy my husband's meat-tooth. Alright, I've heard it before - GET TO THE RECIPE ALREADY! Without further adieu - here it is. Note that this would be perfect on nearly any kind of vegetable, as it's quite versatile. Can't wait to try it on carrots next!


Honey Garlic Eggplant
with Tofu and Mushrooms
naturally vegan and gluten free
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Quick Vegan Honey Garlic Sauce
INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp Sriracha (more, or less, to desired spice level!)
8 garlic cloves, shredded with a Microplane (or cheese grater)
1/2 cup warm water

INSTRUCTIONS
Whisk all ingredients together until homogenous. Set aside.
Note: Can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Eggplant and Mushroom Stir-Fry
INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other cooking oil)
3 small eggplants, sliced into rounds
2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used a variety - Oyster, Shitake & Cremini to acheive different textures, but regular ol' white mushrooms will do!)
1/2 block firm silken tofu
1/2 to 3/4 cup Quick Vegan Honey Garlic Sauce

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat oil in wide-bottomed saucepan. Reduce heat to medium. Place eggplant rounds in pan and allow to brown, flipping after a few minutes. (You may have to do this in batches, with a little more oil, depending on how large your eggplants are!) Once eggplant is soft, remove from pan and set aside. Sautée mushrooms until softened. Return eggplant to pan. Add tofu and sauce, stirring gently until everything is coated. Heat for another five minutes.

Serve over your favourite rice, garnished with flat-leaf parsley.



Shepherd's pie and I - we... well, we don't have a very good history. And by not very good, I mean quite horrible. I'm talking PTSD triggered by the words alone.

(Literally anyone around me): "Shepherd's Pie."
Me: (Flashback) Cue the image of my 10-year old self, crying and *welp* vomiting at the kitchen table.

It was a mix of really not liking ground beef, (my parents supported me when I came out as a vegetarian a couple of years later), not really liking potatoes, and REALLY not liking that they were taking something that I loved (corn) and somehow turning it vile and unpalatable.



Fast-forward twenty something years, and my husband tells me that he would like me to make one of his favourite meals, which happens to be... you guessed it... Shepherd's pie. I freeze. My heart starts to palpitate. Sweat covers my body. *Gulp* I can do this. I can conquer this fear.

I started out by replacing the things that I hate with the things that I love: regular potatoes with sweet potatoes, and ground beef with Dupuy lentils and sautéed mushrooms. The corn, well, it's still corn, because I still love it. Full disclosure: I was still quite reluctant to take my first bite, as the idea of eating anything resembling Shepherd's pie still made my palms sweaty.



Lo and behold, it was damn delicious.

I definitely added butter to my mashed sweet potatoes, but if you're keeping this vegan, a little olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt will do in it's place. The rest is entirely vegan and so hearty that my meat-loving husband insisted that I "write this down and make this again. All the time."

TIME SAVING TIPS
  • Substitute dry lentils for canned (make sure to drain and rinse!) 
  • Substitute homemade BBQ sauce for store-bought
  • Prepare potatoes and lentils the day before assembly


Vegan Shepherd's Pie
with Lentils, Mushrooms and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
an original recipe by allison sklar

ORGANIZATIONAL TIP: As lentils and potatoes both take a long time to cook, I like to prepare them the day before. You can organize yourself with the lentils on one burner at the same time as the potatoes are on the other. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and it's all ready to assemble the next day!

ingredients

682g (2 cans) corn niblets, drained
1/4 cup fried onions (You can find these at Costco, or in the salad section of any large grocery store.)

potatoes
1 kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed
6 cups water
100ml olive oil or butter
6 tbsp honey or date molasses
1/4 tsp salt (if not using butter)

lentils
2 cups Dupuy (brown or green) lentils, cooked*
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 onions, diced
2 packages mushrooms, diced
1 bulb garlic (about 16 cloves), half diced, half shredded

homemade smoky BBQ sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp hot sauce (such as Frank's)
2 tsp molasses
a few drops liquid smoke
pinch salt & freshly ground pepper

POTATO LAYER
Bring potatoes, water, honey (or molasses) and butter (or olive oil) to a boil. Cover and continue cooking over medium heat until much of the water has been absorbed and the potatoes are nice and soft, about 40 minutes. Do not drain. Mash with a potato masher, or transfer to a food processor for an even smoother result.

LENTIL LAYER
Mix all sauce ingredients together & set aside. In large saucepan, heat oil on high heat. After about two minutes, reduce heat to medium and add onions (they should sizzle!). Stir once or twice with a heatproof or wooden spatula. Once onions begin to become translucent, add mushrooms and garlic. (After this, stir only once or twice. Do not stir too much as the mushrooms will lose their water and become boiled rather than sautéed!) Allow everything to become slightly golden, about 10 minutes.
Add lentils and BBQ sauce and stir to combine.

ASSEMBLY
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spread lentil mixture evenly into greased 9x13 baking dish.
Top with corn kernels.
Top with mashed sweet potato.
Sprinkle on fried onions & ground black pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes, until tops are golden brown.


*To cook lentils from dry: rinse under cold running water and remove any visible stones or rocks.
In medium saucepan, bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until lentils are tender and water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.






Berry season is STILL here! Seriously, have you been to the markets lately? What a colourful abundance of local produce. My senses tingle each time I walk through.

So, I have to start this off by telling you that this recipe is better than strawberry crumble. No, seriously. Like ten times better. I know,  I know, it's quite hard to believe that  anything can actually be better than strawberry crumble - that is, until you realize that there is a way for your crumble to be HAND-HELD. Summer dessert goldmine.



With one of the wettest summers on record thus far, it's hard to believe that it is actually August 20th. With all the chilly, gloomy weather and a longer than usual school year (for me), our wedding day snuck up on us quickly. After a week of baking, cooking, and crafting, we managed to pull off feeding and entertaining just over 40 people in my dad's quaint suburban backyard. We quickly ventured off to Iceland afterward, then to New York City - you know, for some contrast.


Needless to say, I hadn't found a moment to sit down and blog until now.

I collaborated with Stokes at the end of June and developed this recipe in celebration of strawberry season. Thanks to our wet wet summer, strawberries are still in abundance at the local markets. This is definitely one of my absolute favourite dessert recipes of all time, so I've decided it's time to share it with you. I served a raspberry version of these crumble bars (along with 10 other desserts) at our little reception last month - and, oh boy, they were a hit!


With back-to-school season upon us, we're ever so quickly going back to the daily scramble - so pack one of these in each of your childrens' lunch boxes, or, in your own, to brighten up anyone's day. Or, make the most of the last of summer BBQ parties, and bring these along to your next potluck and really impress your friends.


These bars keep well in the fridge for up to a week - though after a while, you may notice the crust getting a little soft as the liquid from the berries begins to soak in - so, they really are best eaten within a couple of days. (Also, once you have a taste, I highly doubt there will be many leftovers.)


One last warning: these bars are highly addictive.
But, there IS a kilo of fruit in there, so it's healthy, right?

Strawberry Pie Squares
an original recipe by allison sklar 

Ingredients

Crust & Crumble
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
Filling
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1kg chopped (frozen or fresh) strawberries or whole raspberries or whole blueberries
Instructions
Preheat oven to 375F. 
  1. Combine butter, brown sugar and flour in a food processor and pulse until crumbly texture forms.
  2. Add oats and pulse a few more times, until mixture begins to stick together.
  3. Press two thirds of the dough onto the bottom of a parchment-lined 9''x13" baking pan.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs together with cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice and zest.
  5. Toss berries into egg mixture.
  6. Place berry mix on top of crust.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining crumble mixture.
  8. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, or until top is golden.
  9. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing it, uncovered, in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.
  10. Once they are firmly chilled (it’s worth the wait), cut into squares & serve!




Two summers ago, we took a gastronomic road trip down to the Southern States. From Montreal to New Orleans, we stopped many places along the way with one main goal: EAT ALL THE FOOD. I could go on for hours listing all  delicious memories - from fried oysters, to breakfast Po'boys, to "three-vegetable-plate" made up of mac&cheese, potato salad, and beans... But it is one particular appetizer at the Four Way Diner in Memphis that now holds a special place in my arteries heart. I've always been a fan of bite-sized anything, so it's no wonder that I'd easily fall in love with sweet and smoky hush puppies. Served alongside the most delicious sweet and savoury whipped butter... I was instantly hooked. 

Upon our return, I decided to re-create a lighter, slightly healthier version of these delicious poppable treats. I knew I had saved a similar recipe a while back, and sure enough, when I went through my piles of ripped-out magazine pages, I found exactly what I was looking for. (Thanks for always being on-point, Châtelaine!

Since these are oven-baked, they're more of a cornbread-hushpuppy hybrid - to replace the smoky flavour obtained by frying, I opted for a little sprinkle of smoked paprika, as well as a little smoked cheddar (or gouda!) for an extra kick. Jalapeños just felt natural, so of course, I added a few as the original recipe suggested. 




Whipped Sweet & Savoury Butter 
(scroll down to find the smoky baked hush puppies recipe!)

This fluffy, spreadable butter is slightly sweetened with natural maple syrup, and gets a little savoury kick from fresh chives. If you can't find chives, finely chopped green onions will work equally well. Whipped butter can be prepared in advance and left in a sealed container at room temperature for up to five days. (You can also refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks, making sure that it is taken out at least two hours before serving to let it soften up again.) 

Ingredients
250g salted or semi-salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup table cream (10% or 15%)
3 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Prepare the whipped butter: In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed for about 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. (Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl at least twice during this process!)
Add maple syrup, milk and chives. Beat again on lowest speed for about two minutes, or until combined. Slowly increase speed and beat once more for 2 minutes on high. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days. 

Oven Baked Hush Puppies (Baked Mini Cornbread)

Ingredients
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 diced jalapeno (fresh or pickled)
1/4 cup grated smoked cheddar
1/4 cup grated smoked gouda
1/2 cup canned sweet corn kernels (drained)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup whole milk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425F. Butter two 12-count mini-muffin pans. (Alternately, you can use non-stick paper liners.)
In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and jalapeños
Stir in cheeses and corn kernels. 
Beat egg, melted butter and milk in a small bowl. 
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in your egg & milk mixture. 
Stir until just until combined. 
Use a miniature ice cream scoop to fill your well-oiled tins.
Bake until golden, 10 to 12 min. Serve warm, with whipped sweet chive butter. 

A while back, my Instagram pretty much blew up over my vegan quinoa-stuffed sweet potato. well, it's been two years, so I think it's time for a twist. Say hello to what's sure to be a crowd-pleasing favorite, for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. Hands up for these sexy stuffed sweet potatoes with curried chickpeas & caramelized onions. Oh, and did I mention that they only have SIX INGREDIENTS?! Yeah. I know. I win at life.

Anyone who's made caramelized onions before knows what a time consuming process it can be. NOT ANYMORE! Thanks to the Food Lab, I learnt a couple of quick hacks to make onions caramelize faster.

Caramelized onion hack number 1 - use high heat.
Caramelized onion hack number 2 - add sugar.
Caramelized onion hack number 3 - a sprinkle of baking soda!

I tried a combination of the three, and I had deliciously brown onions in under 15 minutes. A note: especially if you're cooking on high heat, you'll want to add some water after about five mins (a couple of tbsp will do) and use a wooden spatula to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (this step is called de-glazing, by the way, so now you can tell people that you know how to deglaze a pan!)

Now, on to the six-ingredient easy recipe!

Oh, a word of warning: this plant-based superfood meal will have people wanting seconds. And maybe thirds. So just keep that in mind when you're prepping.

And now, I present to you...


easy six ingredient
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
with Caramelized Onion & Chickpea Curry
vegan recipe by allison sklar


ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
1 can chickpeas
1 vidalia or spanish onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp curry spice mix* (see below for homemade curry spice mix recipe!)

water, as needed
optional: sriracha sauce & chopped chives, to garnish

instructions
Preheat oven to 425F. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for one hour, or until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Heat oil in medium saucepan or dutch oven.
Add onions (listen for the sizzle!)
Add sugar after about 2 minutes. Stir.
After 5 minutes, add water and deglaze (see note above!)
Continue cooking until onions are golden brown. De-glaze every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning, and to increase delicious yummy-brown-bit flavour.
Once onions are caramelized, add drained chickpeas & stir. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Add curry spice & stir. Continue to simmer over low heat while you prepare the potatoes.

Prepare the potatoes: cut a slit at the top of each potato and hollow out about 3/4 of the flesh. Cut flesh into small pieces and add to chickpea mixture. Stir mixture and spoon into hollowed potato skins. Serve with sriracha and chopped chives, if desired.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
**HOMEMADE CURRY SPICE MIX**
1 tsp corriander seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed 
2 tsp dehydrated onion
1/4 tsp fenugreek
1/4 tsp anise or fennel seed
1/2 tsp turmeric

Crush all spices together with mortar and pestle until well ground.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -









Today I've come to the realization that, while I've been blogging for about eight years now, I haven't yet shared with you my easy lentil curry recipe. I've shared lentil recipes (here and here!) And I've share curry recipes (here and here!) But never a lentil curry! Indian curries, from all regions, are one of my favourite things to cook. They're easy, often involving only one pot. They're full of protein, extremely flavourful, perfectly satiating, and never too heavy - making them excellent vegan or vegetarian options. Indian food newbie? Please note that Indian food is SO much more than butter chicken!

This particular curry recipe differs from my others as it is slightly more liquid. It is a hearty soup/stew like meal that tastes even better the next day - making it a perfect addition to your weekday meal prep lineup. You may soak your lentils overnight - but cook them long enough and it really isn't necessary. I used dupuy lentils, but beluga (black) lentils would work equally well. 


Thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I discovered the magic of monter au beurre: literally bringing to life (lifting) with butter. And you know what? You can also monter au coco - lift it up with coconut cream and keep it vegan. (Because in my world, there's ALWAYS a vegan option!) All this means is that you'll add your butter and/or cream at the very end - right before serving. The flavour explosion that happens at this moment is unreal. My butter-chicken loving boyfriend was an instant convert.

Note - as stated in some of my previous curry posts - curry is NOT a spice. I repeat: CURRY. IS. NOT. A. SPICE. That yellow powder that you buy at the supermarket is a spice blend - often with added preservatives that you really don't need in your food. You're much better off using individual spices as done in this recipe. This vegetarian curry combines a lovely mix of onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, anise, coriander, turmeric & cinnamon. Finish it off with a little butter (or coconut cream to keep it vegan) for a little je-ne-sais-quoi-melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.

Butter Lentil Curry
adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Punjabi Style Lentils

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic-ginger paste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1/4 tsp anise or fennel seed
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 finely chopped àrbol chile pepper (more, to taste)
1 cup dried dupuy lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
4 tsp salted butter (or coconut cream)
4 tsp heavy cream (optional)

METHOD
Heat oil in dutch oven or large saucepan. Sautée onions over medium heat until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium & add cumin seeds, garlic-ginger paste. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, fennel/anise, turmeric, cinnamon & chile. Cook for another 5 minutes, until mixture starts to bubble. Add lentils & water. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for one hour. Remove lid. Add salt & more chile to taste. Add cilantro, butter & cream (if using) and stir gently. Serve immediately, with more cream on top if desired. Serves 4. 





Polenta! What IS it, exactly? Please, forget that weird looking tube version that you'll sometimes find in the International aisle at the store. You can easily make your own polenta at home in a matter of minutes. MINUTES! Polenta is creamy cooked cornmeal - very similar to Southern grits. Think savoury cream of wheat - but made of corn. It's incredibly versatile, as it takes on the flavour of whatever you decide to spice it with. Many recipes will tell you to load it with cheese, but I thought I'd make it lighter & change it up with a bit of mediterranean flair. Polenta without cheese?! TRUST ME. The combination of tangy yogurt, zingy sumac, bright turmeric & deliciously potent tarragon will take your tastebuds to new heights.

Creamy Spiced Polenta with Tarragon Mushrooms
an original recipe by allison sklar

For the polenta
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup instant polenta*
2 tsp sumac**
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsweetened greek or balkan yogurt

For the mushrooms
4 cups white and/or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp cooking oil (canola, vegetable, etc)
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

* Looking for Instant Polenta? Click here if you're in the U.S.A. and here if you're in Canada. 
** Looking for sumac? Click here if you're in the U.S.A. or here if you're in Canada. 

Method
In a large pan, heat oil. Add mushrooms and reduce heat to medium, sautéeing (without moving around too much) for about 15 minutes, until they have reduced. Add tarragon & sumac. Set aside and keep warm.

Bring water to a boil. Gently stream in polenta and whisk constantly. Reduce heat and continue to whisk gently until mixture thickens (about 5 minutes). Add sumac, turmeric, paprika, salt and yogourt. Spoon into bowls and serve with mushrooms on top, sprinkled with additional sumac and fresh coriander/cilantro.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, meaning that (at no cost to you!) you'll be helping to sponsor my blog if you purchase something after clicking on them! Win-win!)

HOLY FLAVOUR EXPLOSION.
I had to start this off in CAPS LOCK to express my excitement. Not only was this pasta dish quick and easy to make, but it was blow-your-mind-tasty. It's one of those I-can't-believe-it's-vegan dishes that you can serve to your friends and be like, oh, this little thing, it's so simple, no biggie! Stop what you're doing and make this now. 

Ingredient substitutions? We got you covered! Don't like sundried tomatoes? Add fresh ones instead! Don't like olives? Exchange them for chopped macadamia nuts or pumpkin seeds! Don't have green beans? Use asparagus! See? No reason why you can't make this, like, right now. 

Ingredients
2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (for cooking)
125g (4oz) dry or fresh tagliatelle (or any other long flat pasta, such as fettuccine)
200g fresh green beans
2 medium zucchini (courgettes), cut into strips
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
1/4 cup chopped olives
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
zest from one lemon
6 cloves of garlic
cracked black pepper, to taste
optional: 1/4 cup grated fresh parmiggiano reggiano or grana padano*

Method
Prepare your veggies and have everything ready before starting. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you're waiting, oil a cast iron or carbon steel pan. Get it really hot and drop in your beans and zucchini. Turn the heat down as they sizzle. 

Once your pasta water is boiling, put your pasta in and put a 6 min timer so you don't overcook it. 

Go back to your veggies and move around with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all those toasty bits of flavour are incorporated into the mix. 
Toss in your chopped sun-dried tomatoes and olives. 

Grate garlic and lemon over the whole mix. Add frozen peas and mix until just defrosted and warmed up. Drain your pasta once it's ready (set aside if it's ready before the veggies!) 

Toss everything together and add some black pepper. Add frozen peas at the end, just before you add your drained pasta.


*If you're vegan, omit this ingredient as it isn't absolutely necessary! 

Hello readers! As you've likely noticed, I've been on quite the soup kick this winter. Easy, quick and satisfying - and a great way to use up produce that's on it's way out. Now that Spring is (ever so slowly) peeking it's head around the corner, it's time to cool things down as the weather warms up. You should expect a few refreshing breakfast-related posts to come your way - starting today with my absolute favourite vegan granola. 


The original recipe came to me via my best friend over at Bites Of Sweetness, and I've been hooked ever since. Never go back to store-bought granola again. Keep it simple with wholesome ingredients, no fillers or preservatives. One of the many things that I love about this recipe is it's versatility. You can change up your nuts, seeds, fruits, and spices as you wish.



EASY HOMEMADE VEGAN GRANOLA VARIETIES

PUMPKIN CHAI GRANOLA
Use pumpkin seeds instead of nuts. Add 1 tsp nutmeg & 1/4 tsp clove.

LEMON POPPY GRANOLA
Omit the cinnamon and dried fruits. Add the zest and juice from one lemon. Add 1 tbsp poppy seeds.

GINGER ZINGER GRANOLA
Instead of dried fruits, add chopped candied ginger.

CHERRY ALMOND GRANOLA
Use almonds for nuts, and dried cherries for fruits. Add 1 tsp almond extract to wet ingredients.

CHOCOLATE GRANOLA
If you're looking for my delicious chocolate granola, click here!


Best Ever Homemade Granola (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
recipe by allison sklar, adapted from lisa terziyan @bitesofsweetness


Ingredients
4 cups large rolled oats
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts, or whole seeds (My favorites are almonds and pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup unsweetened (unsulphured) coconut flakes
4 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp natural vanilla extract or 1 tsp almond extract
1 cup mixed chopped dried fruit (dates, raisins, etc)

100g unrefined coconut oil
90g honey, agave, or maple syrup


Method

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two rimmed half sheet pans with parchment paper.

Mix together all the dry ingredients (EXCEPT for the dried fruit) in a large bowl. In the microwave, or on the stove, melt the coconut oil, honey and vanilla together in a small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix everything until thoroughly coated. Separate onto the two small baking sheets (or one full-sized sheet pan) and bake for about 20 mins.
Take the trays out and add the dried fruit, incorporating with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Continue baking for another 15 mins. (Set a timer and be careful not to over-bake!) The oats & coconut should be starting to brown. 
NOTE: It might not seem crisp when you first take it out, but don't fret - it will firm up once it cools. Leave it to cool down COMPLETELY (so that it can do it's thing and get all crispy crunchy!) and then break it down by hand into clusters. 
Store in an airtight container up to a month.

Too often, I find celery in my fridge that's looking past it's prime. Wilty, limp, not so green. Sometimes, I'll chop it, freeze it, and save it for vegetable stock. However, if you're freezer is looking as full as mine is I've got a delicious solution for you: soup it up! It's amazing how a bunch of sad, lifeless veggies can come together in a pot and create a comforting creamy soup, with only a few minutes of preparation, and very little hands-on time. Looking to reduce fat and salt in your diet? Sautée the veggies in low-sodium veg broth instead of oil - they're going to be super tasty, and you won't miss the fat. What's more, celery is naturally salty, so you don't need to add any extra to this delicious potage. A note: don't worry about the beauty of your veggie dice here: everything gets puréed at the end, so you won't see the difference!


Creamy Celery Soup (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Ingredients
2 small onions, roughly diced
2 tbsp olive oil or 4 tbsp vegetable broth (for sautéeing)
1 bunch celery (about 8 to 10 stalks) chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly diced
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 handful fresh parsley
Black pepper, to taste

Method
Heat oil (or broth, if using) in large deep saucepan or dutch oven.
Add onions (they should sizzle!). Cook until translucent, moving around with a wood spoon or spatula.
Add celery and potatoes.
Pour in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add parsley and black pepper. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Pour mixture into high powered blender, or use hand blender to purée mixture.
Return to saucepan and cook over low heat another 10 to 15 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Soup will continue to reduce as it cooks.






Before I get into this - let me just say that these are not your grandfather's pickled eggs. I used to find the sheer idea of pickled eggs absolutely repulsive. That is, until my boyfriend decided to make these and I (reluctantly) tasted one. I must add that I'm not that much into pickles, and I'm really not into eggs -- but I am certainly into curry. Holy wow, this is some next-level food.

Also, how BEAUTIFUL are they!? I mean come on. That colour! This was my first time experimenting with dark and moody food photography, and I must say that I am impressed. It definitely helps to have a beautiful subject. When we decided to throw some green beans in at the last minute, as the boy is crazy about all things pickled, I was extra happy about the colour contrast that they created.

- eggs before their turmeric bath -

Curried Pickled Eggs

ingredients

1 dozen eggs
3 cups vinegar
1 cup water
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp corriander seed

2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tbsp whole peppercorns

Bring a wide pot of water to a boil. Gently place eggs in water, careful not to crack them. Cover and remove from heat. After 10 minutes, run under cold water and peel. Place into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.

With a mortar and pestle, roughly crush onion, cumin & corrainder together. Pour vinegar and water into a medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar & spices. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Pour over eggs & refrigerate for 24 hours. Eggs will be ready after 24 hours, and can be kept up to a month, their flavour becoming more prominent with age. Delicious served in a big bowl of ramen!

Today, you're in for a serious treat.

Thanks to another wonderful collab with Stokes Stores, I'm sharing one of my secret recipes from Savoury Sweets BakeryThis cake is rich, it's chocolatey, and it's got Irish stout beer in it - making it the perfect way to celebrate St Patrick's day!


This cake comes together in one large bowl and requires nothing but some measuring cups & spoons & a standard metal whisk. Note: do not substitute any ingredients. Baking, unlike cooking, is a science. This cake requires real buttermilk & real beer in order for a physical reaction to occur. These ingredients together help in creating a fluffy, slightly dense crumb. Vegetable oil is my oil of choice for baking as it has a neutral flavour and keeps the cake moist. Though you may taste the beer in the batter, the final product only has a hint of stout, but a whole lot of complex chocolate flavour.


Four Layer Chocolate Stout Cake 

Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Irish Stout beer (such as Guinness)
2 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour

Method
Use butter or margarine to generously grease four 8" cake pans. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to place on the bottom of each. (Don't skip this step, or you'll have a messy time removing them from the pan once they're cool!)

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil & beer. Add sugar & eggs, whisking until homogenous. Whisk in sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add flour, a little at a time, whisking slowly after each addition. Only mix until flour is combined - do not over-mix!

Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool. Remove from pans, wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to freezer for an hour.
Make ahead tip: You can bake and freeze up to 3 weeks in advance.

Molasses Buttercream

454g butter
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp fancy molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

In an electric stand mixer, paddle 454g of butter until fluffy, intermittently scraping down the sides. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes on medium-high speed. Your butter will turn a very pale, nearly white colour, and will increase in volume as you add air into it. Add the sugar, a little at a time, mixing on low with each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, add the molasses and vanilla. Beat on high for 2 more minutes, until everything is well combined and buttercream is fluffy.

ASSEMBLY & DECORATING TIPS




The easiest way to assemble a cake is to use the "naked cake" method.

PRO TIP: Use a carboard cake board that is 2" larger than your cake. Place this underneath your cake for easier clean up and transport.  Put a little dollop of cream underneath the bottom of the cake to secure it to the board/tray so that it doesn't move around as your decorate. 

Place one chilled layer of cake on your board or on your serving tray. With a spatula, scoop a generous amount of buttercream onto the layer. Smooth it out with a decorator's spatula or a butter knife. Top with second layer & repeat. Once you reach the top, smooth buttercream over the surface. Voila! Serve as is - a beautiful, naked cake - right on trend!

Feeling rather festive? Let's make it green using my watercolour effect!

Smooth out the sides of the cake with a flat spatula. Use some green food dye to tint the rest of the buttercream, but do not mix it in completely - allow streaks, these are good! Spread it carefully onto the sides of the cake, smoothing once the entire cake is covered.

Decorate with green sprinkles, if desired.

PRO TIP: For extra smooth sides, run a butter knife under hot water and run it lightly over the frosted edges. 


The idea of za'atar pizza came to me one evening when I was craving both a pizza and a za'atar. I opted at first for za'atar, as it's faster, it was late, and I was feeling rather lazy. I mean, Wednesday night at 7pm isn't exactly the optimal time to start making a pizza dough, you know? I looked over at my package of already made pitas, and glanced at my beautiful pizza stone. Queue overhead lightbulb! That was the moment that Za'atar Pita Pizza was born.

The idea is quite simple, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. Minimal prep, minimal clean up. Spread on the za'atar, chop up a couple of veggies, crumble some goat cheese, set my pita on a pizza stone and heat it up until the toppings are nice and warm and the cheese is melty. Homemade delicious pizza, with mediterranean flair, in less time than it takes for delivery? Sold!

Pita bread notes: 
This works best with a thick pita bread (also called pitta, or flatbread depending on where you live!) The ones that I buy are either called lebanese-style or greek-style. The paper-thin "regular" pitas don't work as well as they end up getting quite brittle and then soggy in the middle. If you can't find specialty pita, na'an bread will work equally well. You can easily find na'an at any Provigo/Loblaws/City Market if you're in Canada, or at Trader Joe's if you're in the U.S.

Topping notes:
Feel free to mix and match your toppings. I like olives & radishes on mine, but maybe you prefer bell peppers & onions. Use what you have on hand - keep it simple and easy!

LOVE sumac & za'atar? Check out some of my other deliciously sumac-y recipes.



Za'atar Pita Pizzas
makes two small pizzas

Ingredients
2 thick-ish pita breads or na'an breads (see note above)
4 tbsp za'atar spice blend*
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (omit if you're keeping it vegan!)
handful chopped kalamata olives
4 thinly sliced radishes
handful fresh arugula

*Homemade Za'atar Spice Blend
3 tbsp dried sumac
4 tbsp fresh or 3 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Method
Preheat oven to 375F. Combine za'atar spice mix and olive oil in small bowl. Spread evenly onto pita breads. Top with all toppings except for arugula. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet (or on preheated pizza stone, if you wanna get all fancy up in here). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until cheese begins to melt and crust begins to turn golden. Remove from oven, top with arugula & serve hot.


match my style :: plates (stokes) :: pizza stone (sparqhome) ::



Many posts ago, I shared my recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latté that was knock-your-socks off amazeballs. Well, what if I told you that I've found a way to make it even better? After much research (a.k.a., drinking many lattés) I've come to the conclusion that Starbucks' secrets are the following: a whole lot of foam, and a delicious array of flavour syrups.

Now, you can have both of these, easily.

First off, let's talk a bit about the foam. A latté just isn't a latté without a fluffy pillow of foam piled high on top. Well, thanks to my latest collaboration with Stokes, I have discovered the holy grail of pillowy foam makers. This compact countertop machine heats and froths milk in seconds! Seconds! I've owned it all of 4 days, and I'm already addicted.

A note about soy froth: soy milk will not froth up like regular milk - UNLESS you're using a special formula made for frothers. Luckily, this stuff exists in Canada - you just have to know what to look for. Soy Nice has three options: Barrista Blend, Soy Nice for Coffee Original and Soy Nice for Coffee - Vanilla. If you want froth, these are your best buds. After a LOT of experimenting, these were the only non-dairy products that we found that behaved like regular milk does. Note: I have not been paid for this review - this is my 100% honest opinion. (But, hey, Soy Nice, if you're reading, I wouldn't mind some free stuff *wink wink!*)



Now, about those syrups. Sure, you can go out and find flavouring syrups and spend tons of money for a bottle of sugar and artificial flavouring... OR you can make your very own at home in under 15 minutes. Yes, you! The best part is that there's nothing artificial about it - just a couple of simple natural ingredients that you probably have lying around in your pantry, just waiting to become the star in tomorrow morning's cup of joe.

Now you just have to decide: coffee or tea? Cinnamon or lavender? Or, just be like me and have one in the morning, and one at night. Enjoy!

Flavour Syrup Recipes

Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)

Lavender Syrup 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lavender flowers

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved. Strain & transfer unused portions to a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.

Cinnamon Bun Latté
Make this tasty treat even more indulgent by topping with whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream if you're keeping it vegan) & drizzle with extra cinnamon syrup.

ingredients
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee (or 1/3 cup espresso)
3/4 cup milk, or Soy Creamer (not soy milk - see note above!)
2 tsp cinnamon syrup (or more, to taste!)
sprinkle cinnamon, for garnish

method
Pour coffee into a large mug and stir in syrup. Pour milk into frother (it should reach the lowest fill line) and turn on the heat setting. Allow to heat, and froth. Pour hot milk & froth over coffee. Use a small spoon to remove extra froth. Garnish with additional cinnamon or a cinnamon stick. Serve hot.

Vanilla Rooibos Latté with Lavender
The perfect evening drink with soothing lavender and naturally caffeine-free rooibos tea.

ingredients
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup soy creamer
2 rooibos tea bags
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 tsp lavender syrup
lavender petals, for garnish

method
Bring soy milk to a simmer with tea bags, syrup, and vanilla bean inside. Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, froth soy creamer. Transfer to a mug & top with creamer and extra lavender flowers for garnish.

Sometimes, you have a carton of milk in the fridge, and you truly believe that that carton is full. You start making a recipe, then, when it's time to add the milk in, you realize that somebody put it back in the fridge with nothing left inside. Even if that somebody who left the one drop of milk in the carton is you... you now have a problem: what to substitute in your already started recipe? Buttermilk in a roux? BUTTERMILK. IN. A. ROUX. Why haven't I thought of this before? It's deliciously cheesy tasting and low-fat at the same time. Win-win.

This recipe started out with a couple of sweet potatoes that absolutely needed to be used up, and my discovery of a big jar of macaroni at the back of my cabinet. A little roux, some spices, a little bit of green onion, and we're in business. Sweet potato macaroni and cheese - what are you waiting for?!


Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson

ingredients
500g peeled and cubed sweet potato
1 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
6 chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

buttermilk sauce ingredients
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp dehydrated onion
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp black pepper (or more, to taste)

Method
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with chopped sweet potato inside.
Cook for about 10 minutes, until tender enough to mash.
Drain & transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Roughly mash until broken down. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth - lumps are fine!
Fill the pot back up with water and bring to another boil. Add pasta and cook about 6 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and toss with sweet potato.
While you wait for the pasta water to boil, begin the buttermilk sauce by melting butter over medium heat, then whisk in flour.
Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.
Add dehydrated onion, paprika, smoked paprika, mustard & pepper.
Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking frequently.
Once the sauce has thickened, pour over sweet potato and macaroni mixture.
Stir in green onions.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Transfer to oven safe dish (or multiple small oven-safe dishes for single-serve possibilities!)
Top with shredded cheese and extra green onions.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until cheese on top has melted.
Serve hot!









Living in Montreal, we have the privilege of shopping at a variety of different markets from all over the world, all within a 60km radius. From Lebanon to China to the Caribbean to Russia, there is a little corner for everyone, and every food. It's truly heavenly for foodies like me - having a chance to discover new foods each time I go to the grocery store. This week, I discovered Markouk (Markook) bread - an unleavened wheaty delight. (Available at Adonis for all of you Montrealers!) It's perfect for wrapping sandwiches, or eaten on it's own with nothing but honey & labneh. Alternatively called Shrak, this flatbread is similar to an extremely thin whole wheat pita, and popular throughout the Middle East.

I rarely have labneh on hand, but I do always keep some Balkan yogurt around. Inspired by za'atar pitas (my favourite way to eat bread!), I decided to put together a sumac-laced yogurt spread. Tossed together some mushrooms and chickpeas, and within 20 minutes, I had myself a fantastic dinner bursting with colour and flavour.


Savoury Yogurt Spread with Sumac & Dill
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients
1 cup greek or full-fat Balkan yogurt
1/2 tbsp sumac
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp dill seed (or 3 tsp chopped fresh dill)

method
Mix all ingredients together and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.
May be made in advance and stored in the fridge up to 5 days.

Flatbread (Markouk) Sandwiches with
Chickpeas, Mushrooms & Arugula
original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
454g (1lb) fresh white or cremini mushrooms
2 tsp dried tarragon (or 4 tsp fresh)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup baby arugula (rocket)
2 tbsp grapeseed, vegetable, or canola oil

1 large markouk bread, or two small pitas
Extra arugula, for garnish

method
Heat oil for one minute over medium high. Roughly chop mushrooms and toss into pan. They should sizzle when they hit it. Stir once, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking, undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, until mushrooms begin to shrink. Add chickpeas & spices. Stir. Continue cooking over medium heat until chickpeas start to have golden spots. Add arugula & cilantro and cook until wilted.

Cut markouk in half. Spread each folded half of markouk (or pitas) with yogurt mixture.
Top with chickpea mix & handfuls of fresh arugula.
Enjoy hot.


If you've been following this blog for a while, you've likely noticed that I absolutely love cooking with eggplant. I've showed you how to make it into curry, how to roast it with za'atar & chickpeas, how to make eggplant relish and even how to bake some easy eggplant falafel. But, for some reason, I haven't shared my easiest eggplant recipe ever. And when I say easy, I mean it: Roast it, scoop it, spice it, blend it, and babaganoush, you're done!



Ah, babaganoush - fun to say, delicious to eat! This creamy aubergine concoction can be enjoyed as a dip, spread onto a sandwich, or eaten straight up with a spoon. A staple in most Jewish and/or Middle Eastern households, you'll often find Babs hanging out next to it's chickpea cousin, hummus. Serve it with pita (or pita chips!) and you'll wonder how it's possible that you ate a whole eggplant in one sitting (because, well, you will.)


4 Ingredient Babaganoush
Unlike traditional recipes, this babaganoush is made without tahini, but still yields a supremely creamy result when using a high-powered blender.

ingredients
One large eggplant
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp Bombetta or Sambal Olek 
2 tsp each sesame seeds & sumac

method
Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking tray with parchment. Cut eggplant in half and brush with oil. (Note: eggplant will act as a sponge, this is normal!)
Place flesh side down and roast for 40 minutes or until skin is wilted.
Allow to cool about 15 minutes, or until you're able to hold it in your hand.
Scoop out flesh into a blender or food processor.
Add chili sauce.
Pulse until smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and stir in sumac & sesame.
Serve warm or cold.
Enjoy!