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) ::