Monday, May 28, 2018

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

This gluten free, vegan red Thai curry is packed with veggies and soy protein, all flavoured to the hilt with coconut milk, garlic, ginger and red curry paste.

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

I'm going to preface this with a "wow, it's been a long time since I've posted". I keep meaning to, really, but as we all know that thing called life gets in the way all too often. This time of the year is always packed for us teachers, between report cards, trips, tournaments and plays, and with a new semester of university upon me the workload is just as high.

On a serious note, my health has (again) been up and down so days when I could be writing, editing photos, etc I was sleeping or watching TV with glazed-over eyes. If I haven't mentioned it before on here, I've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which affects both my joints (especially those in my feet and shoulders) but the connective tissues and digestive system. As a result, my legs and feet swell up like balloons and I threw out both my shoulders in a period of 3 weeks - one time putting on a coat, the second warming up in a gym class. I can take solace in the fact that this autoimmune condition is likely the cause of all my stomach and digestive issues, and my skin definitely responds well to a gluten free, mostly vegan diet (I have fish on occasion), so I'm not simply one of the freaks of nature. Well, I am, but now I'm an explainable freak! The drug trials I'm on do take their toll on my energy though - they're immunosuppressants so I do get sick more easily and have to watch myself, especially around the kids. Lots of handwashing! I do have to thank my lucky stars that (at least for now) the Ontario government has a program in place to cover the absurd cost of the medication, because otherwise I would be 120% out of luck!

One thing I haven't stopped doing, though, is getting into the kitchen any chance I can. Not only have I spent the last few weeks pulling Medieval and Egyptian recipes for two of our school plays, but I decided to take on a version of "The Grey Stuff" from Beauty and The Beast for the third play as well. As with last year, making recipes for school events is never a small feat - often it means scaling things up 3-4 times (in the case of "The Grey Stuff" we had to make enough for 120 people!). I'm in the process of purchasing ingredients and within a few weeks you should be seeing some Instagram posts on the subject, so stay tuned.

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

At home, weekly lunch prep for Mom continues, and knowing her penchant for Thai style food I knew it was time to make her another curry. I was inspired by a recipe for dumpling filling found on Healthy Nibbles and Bits and decided that rather than mess around with trying to beautifully fold a billion dumplings, I would toss the curry over rice and call it a day. We love our veggies here, and with cabbage being perpetually cheap and common, not to mention a great bulking agent, It was a perfect choice. Being a red curry, I capitalized on colour and used red bell peppers as well. For protein, I used TVP, one of our staples here since it is so versatile. Everything came together quite quickly and (as with most curries) tasted better the day after. Even reheated from frozen, my mom declared that it was definitely on the hit list - and it must have been since I've made it three times already! I used tamari since its what I had, but if you don't have gluten issues use standard soy sauce. Don't skip on the veggie sautee time either, and definitely use a big pot - that cabbage is bulky before it cooks down!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

District 13 Bread #BreadBakers

Two loaves of multigrain bread are made with no refined sugar and packed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds for good measure. You won't "hunger" after this!

District 13 Bread

I have a confession: I am a horrible 30-something when it comes to keeping current with TV and movies. I completely lack the ability to focus on something as long as a typical feature film (my brain is just too busy with everything else these days) and I miss too many weekly serials to really get involved with their plots - exceptions being The Good Doctor and Law & Order SVU which always seem to fit with my schedule. Since the bulk of my day is reading for school, when it comes to decompressing books are not high on my list these days either. So it should not come as a surprise that I have not read, nor seen, The Hunger Games. It's not that I think the franchise sucks - I like to reserve judgement until I actually experience something like Waiakea volcanic water - but I haven't had the time or willpower to devote to the series. Perhaps when I finish school... in 2021...

District 13 Bread DoughAnyways, just because I haven't experienced the original stories doesn't mean I haven't been able to connect with the food in the books. I had borrowed an e-copy of The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games from the library and the recipe for "District 13 Bread" caught my eye. I know that the land of the Hunger Games is supposed to be rather spartan and generally horrible, but the composition of the loaves definitely appealed to me and my chief bread-eater at home, so I couldn't wait to make them. Dense and low-rising, the dough is filled with hearty, rustic grains you don't normally see in today's storebought loaves: buckwheat, barley, rye and oats make up a good chunk of the volume, while ground flax adds body and a great nuttiness as well as helping keep the loaf moist and tender. As if that's not enough, soaked barley, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds get kneaded in too, each lending their own bite to the bread. The finished loaves aren't sweet (even with the molasses and honey in them), and are delicious alongside soup or stew as well as lightly toasted and smeared with butter or (my longtime favourite) cream cheese and cherry jam. The best part is that a small slice is plenty filling, so you won't get the refined-carb crash an hour after breakfast, nor will you feel bloated or weighed down with 6 ounces of bagel with schmear on your stomach. Not that a good (Montreal style) bagel and schmear isn't warranted some days... but this is perfect working-day food that tastes so much better than the supermarket stuff, not to mention you know what's in it!

The #BreadBakers are making BREAD WITH SEEDS this month, and I can't wait to see everyone's creations! #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to


District 13 Bread

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Vegan Churros

These crisp-chewy churros are baked - not fried - and coated head to toe in cinnamon sugar. Even better? They're vegan and nut free!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! While I've never been to Mexico (it's on the bucket list) I do appreciate "real" Mexican food when I can get it. The one exception that I will always make is guacamole - don't hate me, but I can't stand avocado in any form (except perhaps as a cookie or brownie). Mole, arroz negro, cajeta or fideos though- those are fair game, especially when paired with the gorgeous fresh fruit that is so abundant there. One of my all time favourite treats is the churro, and growing up there was a Mexican bakery near the mall that made them in a few different styles. The "basic" sticks, simply coated in cinnamon-sugar, were perfect for on-the-go munching and were never greasy or prone to weighing you down. For more immediate enjoyment, they served the sticks filled with either jam, dulce de leche or Nutella - if that isn't Heaven on a plate, I don't know what is. They had dipping sticks too for the rich, thick hot chocolate, all alongside some of the best, freshest tasting smoothies I ever had. 

Fast forward 20 years and I'm now making them with my Home Ec classes. Churros are, in their very essence, an extruded sweet-ish choux paste, and while they are usually fried to delicious golden perfection, I have a deep-seated fear of deep frying and opted to try a baked version. One of the cardinal rules about choux dough is that it is so temperamental in poor weather, and our egg-and-dairy originals fell flat and doughy by the time I got them into the oven. Not having any extra eggs on hand, I quickly scoured the 'Net for a way to approximate the recipe without the key ingredient (ludicrous, I know, but it was 8PM and I didn't feel like going to the store). Finally, armed with a few well-reviewed recipes, I concocted a slightly modified version of Nature's Emporium's. I didn't need to keep things gluten free, so regular flour fit the bill just fine, and I added a touch of nutmeg for that doughnutty flavour.

Vegan Churros

Out of the oven and rolled in that classic cinnamon sugar, these tasted amazing, and the dough smelled a heck of a lot better than the standard choux paste I'm used to (I can't stand the smell of eggs). These held up to storage a bit better than their pastry cousins as well, keeping crisp for at least a day. I would suggest, should storage be your aim, refrigerating or freezing these "naked", then reheating and sugar-coating them as needed. Of course, a caramel or chocolate dunk is purely optional, although delicious!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

This is hands-down my favourite vanilla frosting recipe - it is decadently butter-rich, not too sweet and is stable enough to stand out at a party for a few hours without melting. My picky sister gave it her seal of approval too!

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

While I'm no professional, making cakes is something I really enjoy doing. The cake recipe itself is probably the most nervewracking part of the experience, since without a well-done (and tasty) base, no amount of frosting or chocolate in the world is making that dessert a hit. Case in point: this year my mom asked for red velvet cake, one of her (and my) favourites. I had a few recipes in my arsenal, but I wasn't 100% happy with them, especially since I knew they'd have to stand up to a fairly hefty frosting a long decorating process. I turned instead to a recipe I had bookmarked for a while - Alton Brown's, which stated it made 3 layers (precisely what I needed). Imagine my surprise when the batter barely made one layer, was definitely not the red shown on the TV or online, and while it was tasty in its own right, it was not red velvet. I couldn't bear to throw it out, so that dense, super-moist layer became the bottom of my stack while a half-batch of the Waldorf Astoria recipe perched on top. 

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Since the cake was not going to be my crowning achievement this year, I set about making a killer frosting. I knew I wanted to make a cream cheese style frosting (cream cheese frosting is my favourite) but I also knew it couldn't be one that screamed cream cheese, since the crowd is a divided group on the subject. The one person I didn't even try to impress was my sister - she is traditionally a canned chocolate frosting-or-die girl, and has the palate of a well trained connoisseur when it comes to tasting "anomalies" in her food. 

With my parameters set, I started modifying my go-to cream cheese frosting, adding more (and better quality) butter and less cream cheese until I had something undeniably rich and decadent with enough tang to offset the sweetness of the cake without giving away the cream cheese. It spread beautifully at room temperature and set well in the fridge without becoming rock hard, and even avoided the super-saccharine flavour of most decorating frostings when I stiffened it with extra icing sugar. I tinted it dark red for the lettering and Russian tip flowers and the colour stayed true. The flavour was incomparable though - to the extent that my sister complimented it, and asked for me to make it again for her birthday cake! If that's not prime testimony, I don't know what is.

As for the rest of the decorations, I guess you can say I was in a "Beauty and the Beast" frame of mind (one of our classes is doing the play this year and I'm immersed in the song and dance a lot). I decided on a "mirror" theme with silver spray for the "glass" and dark chocolate filigree with gold flecks for the "frame". The final touch was a chocolate line-work rose. Delicate, delicious, and chocolate... all the chocolate!

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Do you make birthday cakes at home? What's your favourite recipe?