30 November, 2011

Dairy Free Cheesy Wild Rice Soup

Growing up in Minnesota I have fond memories of many, many wild rice dishes that I have become obsessed with over the years.  Wild Rice Casserole, Wild Rice Stuffing, Wild Rice Soup, Wild Rice Bread...yeah, my mom makes Wild Rice Bread ya'll...believe it!  But the ONE dish I listed that gets made ALL through the cold season (and sometimes canned for the pantry shelves for later) is Wild Rice Soup.  If you know me at all, you know I don't do dairy and my Sprout just can't.  I can handle it if it is organic, but the Sprout can't.  This requires me to get craftier and craftier so he can enjoy some of the same traditional dishes I had when I was growing up.  This dish takes a while, so lets get started.

Dairy Free Cheesy Wild Rice Soup
1 1/2 c. wild rice
8 c. unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp. celery seed OR 1 c. diced celery
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium sweet onion, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh minced garlic OR 1/4 tsp. dehydrated minced garlic
1 lb. ground chicken or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
5 strips of bacon
1 can organic mushroom pieces, drained
1/2 c. unsweetened soy milk
1 16 oz pkg of American flavored soy cheese slices
fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt
cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prep all your vegetables first.  Dice the bell peppers, onion, celery (if you are using fresh celery) and drain your mushrooms now.  Toss it all in a bowl together while you wait for the bacon grease.  If you decided to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts slice those now.  Make sure they are in small soup sized pieces, about 1 inch (they'll shrink when they cook).

In a large roaster pan add your wild rice and 4 c. of the chicken stock then set it aside.  Fry your bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp.  Remove cooked bacon with a fork to a plate with a paper towel on it and allow it to cool 5 minutes.  In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, saute your veggies in the bacon grease making sure they all sweat their juices (about 8 minutes).  Stir them frequently.  When they are finished turn them into the roaster pan.  In the same pan fry your chicken.  Throw it in there and let it start to cook.  While it is cooking, use kitchen shears to snip the bacon strips into the pan.  Stir the bacon into the chicken after a couple strips go in.  Make sure the ground chicken is really crumbled into small pieces.  When the chicken is completely cooked add the chicken/bacon mixture to the roaster pan.  Stir everything together very well.  Shake the pan a bit to level out the contents.  Bake in the oven uncovered for 1 hour or until the wild rice "pops" (opens).

When there is about 10 minutes left on the timer add the remaining 4 c. of chicken stock to a large pot turn the burner onto medium-high heat.  While that is heating up take all your slices of soy cheese out of their packaging and rip each slice into four pieces and throw it into a microwavable glass dish with your 1/2 c. unsweetened soy milk.  Microwave in 1 minute bursts until you can easily stir the cheese into the milk and it becomes creamy.  It usually takes less than 3 minutes.  Don't worry if your cheese LOOKS lumpy even after the 3 minutes.  When you add it to the stock and it cooks those lumps will go away after about 30 minutes and you get a nice creamy, smooth sauce.  If it resembles more of a broth even after there are no more lumps feel free to thicken it to your preferred consistency using equal amounts of corn starch to cold water (1 tsp. cornstarch for 1 tsp. cold water).  I like my wild rice soup goop thick, like a stew.  So I went 4 tsp. cornstarch and 4 tsp. cold water.

Once any lumps have worked themselves out, turn the heat down to low, just enough heat to keep it warm but not boiling for any reason anymore.  Now...TASTE it.  Does it need salt and pepper?  Add it now to taste.  Let this cook on the stove for about an hour so the flavors from the rice mixture marry.

Serve with a crusty bread, I used a simple baguette and some vegan buttery spread.

*Depending on how thick you like your soup will depend on how much of the rice mixture you put in the pot.  I thought it was starting to get a little heavy on the rice mixture after a while so I ended up freezing about 3 cups of it.  But I used it a couple weeks later in my Cornbread Minnesota Wild Rice Cranberry Stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you don't mind it being more like a stew in terms of amount of food in your goop, use it all.  Make it your own!! 

25 November, 2011

Special Order....

I did something I haven't done in a while...I decided where I was going for dinner BEFORE lunch.  I wasn't in the mood to blow a huge wad of money on dinner and I didn't wanna spend hours dining tonight.  I was starving to boot....it makes for an impatient eater.  The Sprout was awake, the Mister was done with work; we went and picked him up and got to it.  Hintonburger...here we come....

 I drove right by it at first.  It is tucked away from the curb a bit down there on Wellington, I did a quick u-turn and we were there.  From the outside it reminded me of ice fishing shanties on lakes in Minnesota.  When you go in...that's about how warm it is too!  I didn't mind too terribly much, but it was noticeable.  I looked at their menu before I went because the dinner hour in Ottawa is kinda sketchy.  Some places you go, if you don't know what you want when you walk in you're in there for 1.5-2 hours minimum if you don't roll in until 5:30pm.  We arrived at 5 and they had half our order before we showed.  I called ahead to ask them if there was refined sugar in their chili sauce because I REALLY wanted a chili cheese burger and onion rings.  I was bummed when they told me there was in fact sugar in their chili sauce.  But....the more I probed the better my dinner became.  By the time my phone call was over the Sprout and I had pure unadulterated hamburger patties waiting for us down at Hintonburger...all we needed to do was show up.  Truly awesome!

When we walked in all I had to do was tell them my name and our food was started.  I picked my toppings for my Wellington burger....cheese, onion, banana peppers, lettuce and mustard.  We ordered a large side of onion rings to share, and I made sure the Sprout had mustard and onion on his Armstrong.  My Mister figured his out and we were on our way.  It was 5:05 and we were the only people in the place.

Not that there was much room to begin with...but with no competition we went for the booth.  Either way, I could get used to eating with no noise from the huge crowds that we've been experiencing at other eateries.  Of course other people starting filing in by 5:15 but it didn't really ever fill up.  A lot of phone orders were being taken and people were coming in to pick up their stuff and go.

 Our food was up and hot....for the moment.  It was so cold in there that the heat didn't last long on the food...but neither did the FOOD!  We said a prayer and dug right in.  The Sprout and I were both devouring the rings like there was no tomorrow.  They WERE fabulous.  My burger was pretty dang good, hand formed and all.  It was as good as if I had made it myself...and nothin' like McDonalds.  Thank goodness!  It was real meat, no fillers.  The bun was crisped a bit on the grill and soft on the inside, my lettuce was fresh and my banana peppers gave my mouth just the right amount of tingle.  I have to admit...a 6 oz. burger with fixin's and 1/3 of an order of onion rings was a bit much for me.  Next time I'll order an Armstrong.  At just 4 oz. that would probably help me be a little more comfortable after my gorge. 

Hintonburger isn't much to look at...outside or inside, and they don't pretend that they do either which is good.  But they DO have it where it counts, their FOOD.  Just honest, good food at a great price.  So...if you're in the mood for a great burger and onion rings...and stellar service when called to task, head to Hintonburger down in Parkdale.  Heck...hit 'em up on Friday and Saturday and they'll bring the food right to YA!  That's right...they have started delivery!  Give them a call for more details.  613-724-4676  And as always, lemme know how you like the food... 

Hintonburger on Urbanspoon

24 November, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Thanksgiving Day is HERE!  Let me start out by sharing a couple things I am thankful for...  

My husband is HOME this year...  We haven't been together for Thanksgiving since 2008.  I feel SO blessed that he is home and we are going to be able to celebrate together.

Our son....  He is healthy, strong and his height of intelligence astounds me everyday.  It is such a blessing to watch him learn and understand....and love.  He gives kisses...I'm one happy Momma!

We have food...  The two days leading up to this I have spent a lot of time going up and down my stairs to our food pantry shelves in the basement...grabbing extra pecans, corn starch and mushrooms...etc.  I never go down there without looking at the shelves and thinking how BLESSED we are to have what we do.  

We are warm...  It started snowing Tuesday night here in Ottawa, that makes for a cold house when you can't afford to turn the heat on.  We're blessed with my husband's employment and all the things it provides for us.

My body hurts...  All it means to me is that I am still blessed to have use of it and it was worth getting up in the morning because I was able to be productive.

All that was left for today was Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Awesome Gravy, Vegan Dinner Rolls and cook the Turkey Roulade and Vegan Green Bean Casserole.  Let's get to it!

Vegan Soft Dinner Rolls
1 1/4 c. warm water, 110 degrees NO higher
2 T. olive oil
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 1/4 tsp. instant or rapid rise yeast
1/2 c. potato flakes OR 1/4 c. prepared mashed potatoes
3 c. flour, plus more for kneading
vegan buttery spread

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Grease a medium sized bowl for your bread to rise in.  In a large mixing bowl combine water, oil, yeast and sugar.  Whisk together well.  Add in potato flakes/potatoes and salt.  Whisk until potatoes are well dissolved.  Add in 1 c. of the flour.  Whisk until it resembles pancake batter.  TURN THE OVEN OFF NOW.  Add in the remaining two cups of flour and incorporate with a wooden spoon.  When it looks more like biscuit dough, get rid of the spoon and work it with your hands.  Knead the dough on the counter until it is no longer sticky.  When it is smooth put dough ball into greased bowl and cover with a cheese cloth or large kitchen towel.  Let it rise in the oven for 45 minutes.  While it is rising, grease a cake pan or what ever you plan on baking them in.  When time is up divide the dough into 3 sections.  Divide each of those sections in to 4 balls of dough.  Roll them into balls and stick them in the greased baking pan.  Allow them to rise in the oven until they are doubled in size...this can take up to 2 hours.

Remove from oven when they have doubled in size.  Turn oven back on and preheat it to 400 degrees.  DO NOT put them in the oven until the temperature is at 400.  When it is at temperature bake them for 7 1/2 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees (so the rolls that were at the back of the oven are now at the front) and bake the rolls for another 7 1/2 minutes OR until tops are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap on the top of the rolls.  Remove from oven and set on cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan to cool completely.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole
1 recipe of Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup
3 cans of unsalted cut green beans, drained OR 5 cups fresh, tipped and cut in half
1/2 c. soy creamer
2 T. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 c. fried onions
1/4 c. dehydrated onion
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Take your vegan cream of mushroom soup that you made yesterday out of the fridge.  Let it warm up a bit...close to room temperature.  Clean it out of the container into a medium sized bowl with a spatula.  Whisk in soy sauce, soy creamer, dehydrated onion and black pepper.  When all is incorporated well, add in your beans.  Coat them thoroughly.  Pour into a casserole dish that has a lid.  Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on.  Remove from oven add on your fried onions and return to the oven to bake for 5 more minutes or until the onions start to turn golden brown.  Keep in a warm oven...180 degrees, no higher.

Turkey Roulade
1 tsp. bacon grease
4 T.  vegan buttery spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Blend the bacon grease and butter together with either a fork or your finger.  Rub it all over your hands and massage the your turkey roll on ALL sides.  Return to foil, pack it tight around the roll again and cook it in the oven for 3.5 hours OR when the internal temperature is 175 degrees.  Open foil long enough to pour the drippings into your gravy pan.  Return to foil and let the meat rest until ready to serve.  Keep in a warm oven with your Vegan Green Bean Casserole.

Vegan Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
12 smallish potatoes, peeled and cut uniformly
6 c. water
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. soy cream
6 T. vegan buttery spread, cut into 1 T. pats

In a large pot boil your potatoes with sea salt in the water until they are forkable; about 10 minutes of a rolling boil.  When they are finished cooking, drain the water out.  In the same pot that your potatoes are in toss in your 6 T. pats of butter.  Using a hand mixer, blend butter and potatoes together.  If they are a consistency you like...leave 'em alone.  If you want them creamier, slowly drizzle in your soy cream while you run the hand mixer.  Stop when they get to your desired creaminess.  Put them into the serving bowl you'll be using...toss them in the warm oven to keep your turkey and casserole company until you're ready to eat.

Awesome Gravy!
4 T. bacon grease
3 T. vegan buttery spread
6 T. flour OR 6 T. cornstarch mixed with 6 T. of cold water
1 32 oz container of turkey STOCK (not broth)
roulade drippings

In a large saucepan melt together your butter, roulade drippings and bacon grease.  Toss in your 6 T. of flour and whisk it until it resembles a paste.  Slowly add in turkey stock until it is the desired consistency...some like their gravy thick...some like it thin.  The more stock you add, the thinner it will become of course.  If you opt for the cornstarch version of gravy it will be more translucent and closer to the color of the turkey stock itself.  For that melt the butter, bacon grease, roulade drippings and turkey stock in a medium sized sauce pan.  Mix cornstarch with water and slowly add it into the saucepan AFTER the contents have started to boil.  Make sure you do this slowly so you don't make the gravy thicker than you want it.  Make sure you let the starch boil into the stock before adding more.  You will know that it has dissolved completely when it loses the whiteness of the starch after each addition.

When the gravy is done....the feast is ON!!

Thank you so much for joining me on my cooking marathon for what was one of the best Thanksgivings I have had in years!  My Mister is home from the desert, our son is healthy & strong, we have plenty of food, a roof over our heads and we are blessed and watched over by our Lord; we know the reality of His hand being upon us in our daily lives.  We hope that you are able to celebrate the same things in your life this year and every year.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Cornbread Minnesota Wild Rice Cranberry Stuffing

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Turkey Roulade, unsliced

Awesome Gravy!

Vegan Dinner Rolls

Give Thanks

Pie Tartlets
Blueberry & Pumpkin
Lemon Curd & Pecan with Powdered Sugar dusting

23 November, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep, Day 2

Since the day BEFORE Thanksgiving is always the most hectic, be prepared to spend a little more time in the kitchen today.  My day started a might bit early in the kitchen...8 am rather than 9 am like yesterday.  I just finished ALL my work for today a couple minutes ago, 2:30 pm.  Either way, I accomplished everything I needed today and I still have time to go out and play in the new fallen snow with my Mister and the Sprout...  Let's get to it!

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup
10 oz. can organic mushrooms, reserve juice
3 T. vegan buttery spread
6 T. flour
1/4 c. soy creamer

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat melt butter until just before sizzling.  Toss in flour quickly mix with a whisk, remove from heat when butter and flour begin to become a paste.  Make sure you whisk butter and flour together completely.  In small spurts of 1 T. at a time, begin whisking in the mushroom juice from the can.  Keep doing this until you have added all the mushroom juice to the pan and it is whisked in thoroughly.  Add the creamer in small bursts at a time, whisking after each addition.  If you don't like how thick it is, add more creamer.  But keep in mind when you make the casserole goop you will be adding MORE cream, soy sauce, etc.  Having it slightly thick NOW isn't an issue.  Allow to cool to room temperature and put in a airtight container until tomorrow.

*Note:  Make sure whatever you use for mushrooms are organic.  If you try to make this with fresh mushrooms make sure you have enough and that you know how to sweat these out.  I don't even mess with fresh when it comes to something like this.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. organic brown cane sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 c. soy creamer
2 eggs

Whisk together pumpkin and sugar until thoroughly combined.  Add in all the spices at once, followed by the eggs and creamer.  Whisk together.  Put in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to fill your tartlet cups.

Pecan Pie Filling
2 T. vegan butter spread, melted
3/4 c. organic brown cane sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. crushed pecans

Melt butter in the microwave on low.  Stir in sugar, vanilla and egg until thoroughly mixed.  Add crushed pecans, blend well.  Put in an airtight container inside the fridge until you're ready to fill your tartlet cups.  *After these have baked and cooled COMPLETELY, dust them lightly with organic powdered cane sugar before serving.

 Tartlet Dough
1/2 c. vegan buttery spread, room temperature
3 oz. soy cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. flour, plus 1/4 c. flour
bowl of flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if you have convection, use it for baking these)

Cream together butter and soy cream cheese completely.  Add in flour and mix until thoroughly blended.  Dough should not be sticky anymore, it should feel like playdough and be easy to work with.  Make 1 inch sized balls and toss a ball into each of the wells of a mini tart tin.  There should be 24 wells in each pan.  This recipe makes 1 24 welled tin.  I doubled this recipe for my purposes today.  You will need a Pampered Chef Mini-Tart Shaper to flatten your balls or something like it.  Before flattening, stick the tart shaper into the bowl of dough a couple times, then into a small bowl with your 1/4 c, of flour.  Every time you shape a tart, dip your shaper back into the flour; this prevents the shaper from sticking.  When you flatten the dough balls make sure that you flatten them evenly so they have the proper room for pie filling.  The dough will rise up the side of the tart shaper a fair amount.  Don't be scared.  If it feels like the dough won't let go of the tart shaper twist it while pulling up.  Works for me every time.

To make the tartlets take your Lemon Curd, Bluberry, Pumpkin and Pecan pie fillings out of the fridge.  Fill each tart well 3/4 of the way, leaving room for expansion.  ESPECIALLY for the pumpkin and pecan fillings as well as the lemon curd.  Don't worry if anything overflows, it removes easily from the non-stick mini tart pans.  When you are ready, shut these babies up in the oven for 25 minutes or until the crust edges are golden brown.  Remove to cooling rack.  When COMPLETELY cool (I am waiting until Thanksgiving Day), dust the pecan and lemon tarts with organic powdered cane sugar.  I am making some whipped soy cream tomorrow for the pumpkin and blueberry tarts...watch for that post tomorrow!

Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole
1 1/2 c. wild rice
8 c. unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp. celery seed OR 1 c. diced celery
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium sweet onion, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh minced garlic OR 1/4 tsp. dehydrated minced garlic
1 lb. ground turkey
5 strips of bacon
1 can organic mushroom pieces, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prep all your vegetables first.  Dice the bell peppers, onion, celery (if you are using fresh celery) and drain your mushrooms now.  Toss it all in a bowl together while you wait for the bacon grease.

In a large roaster pan add your wild rice and 4 c. of the chicken stock then set it aside.  Fry your bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp.  Remove cooked bacon with a fork to a plate with a paper towel on it and allow it to cool 5 minutes.  In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, saute your veggies in the bacon grease making sure they all sweat their juices (about 8 minutes).  Stir them frequently.  When they are finished turn them into the roaster pan.  In the same pan fry your ground turkey.  Throw it in there and let it start to cook.  While it is cooking, use kitchen shears to snip the bacon strips into the pan.  Stir the bacon into the turkey after a couple strips go in.  Make sure the ground turkey is really crumbled into small pieces.  When the turkey is completely cooked add the turkey/bacon mixture to the roaster pan.  Stir everything together very well.  Shake the pan a bit to level out the contents.  Bake in the oven uncovered for 1 hour or until the wild rice "pops" (opens).

This makes quite a bit of casserole.  For the stuffing you'll only need 2 cups.  The fabulous thing is it freezes SO well.  Save the rest for soup!  My Dairy-Free Cheesy Wild Rice Soup recipe will be up November 30th and this casserole is my main ingredient for that soup.  Yummy!

Cornbread Stuffing Completed
3 T. vegan buttery spread
2 c. organic turkey STOCK (don't use broth...ick)
1/2 c. dehydrated cranberry
2 c. Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole
4 c. seasoned cornbread stuffing cubes

Microwave about 1 c. of turkey stock just until it begins to boil.  Toss in your dehydrated cranberries.  This will help reconstitute them a bit so they don't dry out your stuffing by stealing moisture from your cornbread.  Allow to steep in the stock for 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove cranberries and set them aside in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the turkey stock from the cranberries into a glass measuring cup, bring the level of stock up to the 2 c. mark.  In a small saucepan heat butter and stock together until just boiling.  Remove from heat and stir in seasoned cornbread cubes.  Your cornbread WILL start to break down.  That is okay, you won't be able to roll this in your turkey breast very easily if you have huge cubes that don't break down.  Once all the cornbread is moistened, you are ready to put this together.  Add the cornbread to the cranberry and add your 2 c. of wild rice casserole.  Mix together well.  Set aside for rolling the turkey.

Turkey Roulade
1 large turkey breast, deboned
I recipe of Cornbread stuffing
fresh cracked black pepper
fresh cracked sea salt
kitchen twine
10 toothpicks
kitchen shears
large sheet of tin foil

When I say "1 large turkey breast, deboned" what I mean is most supermarkets will have not been able to move their over abundance of turkeys that they ordered for the holiday.  When you go to the meat case sometimes you'll notice an inordinate amount of legs, thighs and breasts of turkey rather than whole turkeys.  Sometimes a butcher will remove all of the while meat of the turkey in one fell swoop.  It will be sold tied up into a roll and just be called "turkey breast, deboned"....but what it really is is MAGIC in plastic wrap!  When it is unrolled it will look almost like a long flap of meat.  The outer skin will still be on it as well which helps with creating juices for your "Awesome Gravy" tomorrow.  

Untie your turkey breast and unroll it across your cutting board.  Take note which is the thicker end (sometimes they aren't even), that is the end you want to END your roll on.  Also...make sure that the direction there is the most length to is horizontal in front of you.  Now, start spooning on your cornbread stuffing as close to the thinner end of the turkey breast as you can.  Really mash it into the turkey.  This will make this sucker easier to roll in a couple minutes.  Load it on there until you get to the thick end of the breast.  Stop with the stuffing about 1 inch from that edge.  This will make meat to meat contact and a nicer, tighter roll for presentation (if you care about that part).  Time to roll.  From the thin end, start rolling your turkey breast towards the other end, making sure you press firmly but not too firmly...you don't wanna squish out all your stuffing.  If you mess up, don't be afraid to unroll it at begin again.  No one is gonna know, and I am sure the turkey will forgive you.

Once you have it rolled up, grab your tooth picks and stick them in the end flap through to the rest of the roll.  Leave enough toothpick sticking out so you can pull them out before roasting your turkey tomorrow.  Once the turkey is secure enough that you can stop holding onto it, grab your twine and tie it up.  You can either do this with several separate strings of twine or one continuous piece that you wrap around and around.  Either way gets the job done.  When you are done with the twine you can leave the toothpicks in or take them out.  I took mine out.  When you're ready, salt and pepper whatever side of the turkey roll is facing you.  Move turkey roll to foil, seasoned side DOWN and salt and pepper the side now facing you.  Tightly wrap in the foil and keep in the fridge over night.  Refrigerating the meat rolled up like that a day before will also help the meat to hold its rolled shape when it is baking the next day.

Whew!  Everyone still with me?  Good!  Tomorrow is THE day...  Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Awesome Gravy, Soft Vegan Dinner Rolls, Vegan Green Bean Casserole gets thrown together and tossed in the oven...and then the Thanksgiving Feast is ON!  Can't wait to meet you here tomorrow...  Spreading this work out over 3 days makes it SO much more enjoyable for me.  I hope it does for you and your family this year as well!

22 November, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep, Day 1

Most people that attempt to do Thanksgiving dinner on their own know that for sanity's sake, spreading the duties of the meal over as many days possible makes for a more enjoyable feasting day.  As such, I thought I'd share with you what my holiday is like this year.

The menu I have created consists of Turkey Roulades (Turkey breast with a bacon layer then Cornbread Minnesota Wild Rice Cranberry Stuffing rolled up so when you slice it up, the slices look like pinwheels of fabulousness), Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Awesome Gravy (yes, that is its name), Vegan Green Bean Casserole, Vegan Dinner Rolls and Pie Tarlets (flavors include Pumpkin, Lemon, Blueberry & Pecan).  Are you drooling yet?  I am...

Let's get started...

Vegan Lemon Curd
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
2 1/2 tsp. egg replacer or corn starch (either one works)
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
2 T. vegan buttery spread
1/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of sea salt

In a bowl stir together sugar and egg replacer/corn starch; set aside.  Heat lemon juice and zest.  Just before boiling add in the sugar mixture.  Allow to boil until temperature reaches 170 degrees on digital thermometer.  When you stir it with a spatula it will make trails behind the wake of the spatula, they will disappear again.  This process takes about 3 minutes from the time it begins to boil.  Remove from heat and add in your butter, vanilla & sea salt.  Allow it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for later use.  *After the curd has baked in the tart dough and COMPLETELY cooled over night, dust with a small amount of organic powdered cane sugar.

Soured Unsweetened Soy 
1 T. white vinegar
unsweetened soy milk

Put 1 T. of vinegar into a glass measuring container and add milk to line of desired amount.  Stir every minute for 5 minutes.  You are ready to use it.  This replaces buttermilk in ANY recipe and you can do this to dairy milk with the same result if you don't have buttermilk in the house.

Cornbread Stuffing
To make cornbread, either follow recipe below or use a store bought box.
4 T. vegan buttery spread, melted plus more for greasing pan
4 tsp. egg replacer
2 2/3 c. soured unsweetened soy milk
2 c. cornmeal
2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. organic cane sugar
1 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan.  Flour only the bottom of the pan.  Beat eggs in a medium sized bowl; whisk in soured soy milk.  In a separate larger bowl whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and sea salt together. Push dry ingredients up sides of bowl to make a well, then pour egg and milk mixture into well and stir with whisk until just combined; stir in melted butter.  Pour into pan and bake until top is golden brown and edges have pulled away from the pan.  This can take up to 40 minutes, but check with a toothpick to be sure.  Leave on a wire rack to cool for an hour.

After cornbread is cool cut the whole pan into 1 inch cubes and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Stuffing Seasoning
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. savory
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Mix in a small ramekin until well blended.  Stores in airtight container for up to 6 months.

Flavoring the Cornbread Cubes

6 c. cornbread cubes
1 recipe of stuffing seasoning

Preheat oven to 175 degrees (use convection setting if you have it, it will get them extra dry)

Pour 1 recipe of stuffing seasoning over 6 cups of cornbread cubes and G-E-N-T-L-Y fold seasonings into the cornbread cubes with a large wooden spoon.  Pour onto a foil lined cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 1 hour, turning the cubes every 10 minutes.  When 1 hour has passed.  Turn oven off and leave in the oven for an additional hour.

Blueberry Pie Filling
6 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen now thawed
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 T. cornstarch
2 T. vegan buttery spread

In a small bowl mix together sugar and cornstarch; set aside.  In a medium to large size saucepan pour in blueberries and juice from bag if you used frozen.  If using fresh, cut 2 c. of the blueberries in half to release juices.  Mix sugar mixture with blueberries, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Let it stand in pan for 30 minutes to allow berries to release their juices.  Turn heat on to medium and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and add butter.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.

NOW....all this prep only took me from 9am until about 12:30pm when it was time for the Sprout to go have his nap.  3 1/2 hours of prep today...even less work I have to do tomorrow.  Tomorrow I make the Vegan Tartlets, Vegan Cream of Mushroom goop for my Vegan Green Bean Casserole, finish the Cornbread Stuffing with the addition of the Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole & Cranberry to the mix, and I will roll my Turkey Roulade and tie it up tomorrow as well.  This leaves me with making mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls and quickly (very easy...you've made it) throwing everything together and baking the Vegan Green Bean Casserole.  Keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow's recipes, pictures will be posted on Thanksgiving Day of the whole feast!  Can't wait...

18 November, 2011

Fabulousness In a Bowl

Ask me how many times I have been told "Oh...it is the BEST place in town for _____!!" (you fill in the blank).  Just ask me...  Ask me how many times a chef has told me that ALL his dishes are the BEST thing on the menu.  The answer to both of those questions is...nearly every time.  Almost every time I get a recommendation for a restaurant someone has characterized it as the best of...something.  Last night I went to a place in Kanata that was "the BEST Vietnamese" an acquaintance of mine has ever had.  I couldn't argue...and still can't even after having gone there for two reasons...as experienced with food as I am I've never eaten somewhere that was authentic Vietnamese and because of that I have nothing else in town to compare it to.  Makes it hard on a gal to be accurate.  

Every time I have had Vietnamese or Korean it has been at some "Asian Fusion" type restaurant where their menu couldn't be typified into any certain Asian category...not Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese...their menus featured some of each.  Fast forward to moving from the U.S. to Canada...  You have all of those countries represented and MORE!  Either way we were on our way to Ox Head in Kanata, the "BEST" place in "all of Ottawa" for Vietnamese.

 We arrived just a bit before the dinner hour which didn't end up making much of a difference here.  People were coming in and out all night for phone orders and to dine in while we were there.  The way things work is you walk in, pick a table, look through the menu and write your own order ticket and take it to the front counter.  We didn't know that until we were ready to order our main entrees.  Oops...  The manager came to our table with some tea and I asked him what he would recommend to someone who has never had Vietnamese.  I already knew he was going to recommend pho (pronounced "fa") because everyone does, but I was more interested in some of their Vietnamese specialty dishes.  We placed an order for a large serving of some deep fried spring rolls with fish sauce and we went to work figuring out what we wanted for our entrees.

The flavor of the tea was just okay, it didn't knock my socks off...but I really appreciated having something warm to drink now that the first flurries have landed in Ottawa.  It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted.  I knew I was in the mood for spice (as per usual) and I wanted something that wasn't too heavy but would still keep me feeling full for a while after dinner.  Sometimes when I eat Chinese...I am hungry less than an hour afterward.  I flipped back and forth between pho and their specialty page.  I finally settled on Stir-Fried Beef with Lemongrass on Vermicelli.  That is served with julienned lettuce, cucumber, and onion; bean sprouts, peanuts and their fish sauce.  It sounded like a substantial amount of food.  The hostess brought our spring rolls to the table and the order for our main entrees went in.  

Deep Fried Crispy Spring Rolls w/ Fish Sauce

We said our prayer and got the Sprout to eating.  These came out piping hot so I picked them apart for him...they were even too hot for me to start with.  But that just gave me time to look around.  Really, there wasn't much to see.  Ox Head isn't that large of a place; it is kinda medium for eat-in size.  But they make the most of their space for sure.

When I got back to the table the spring rolls were cool enough for me to eat.  They were surprisingly delicious.  I say surprising because when you pick them up you are immediately inundated with oil...even the Sprout was holding his hands out asking for napkins.  But...you dip those rolls in that fish sauce and BAM...greasy gone and only yummy remains.  They were pretty darn awesome.  Crispy on the outside and savory on the inside; every bite was as good as the last.  The hostess came with our main entrees just a couple minutes after this.

Stir-Fried Beef w/ Lemongrass on Vermicelli

It smelled amazing!  I could SMELL the spice in it...this was gonna be great!  I sticked right in to the bottom to grab some noodles to go with my meat and veggies; it is always nice to get a little of everything in the first bite.  It was fabulous!  The meat was juicy and tender, all the vegetables were cooked until they were just starting to be tender and the noodles were perfect.  I wasn't used to having my cold salad served in the same bowl as my hot entree, but there is a first time for everything.  The salad was definitely made from fresh ingredients, especially the bean sprouts.  I'm pretty picky about my sprouts...ANY sign of brown on them and I get spastic.  Their sprouts were wonderfully bright, crisp and the whitish yellow color they should have been.  I didn't feel like I needed the fish sauce to make this dish any better, it held its own.  It was filling without being heavy, just like I wanted.

Ox Head definitely hit it out of the park with my food.  When I walked in and started asking questions and saying I was a flogger...that can get to feel like an enormous amount of pressure to ANY normal person.  The manager was calm, knowledgeable about his menu and seemed very confident during our interaction at the beginning of the night.  When we were leaving and I let him know his food was great, he was very gracious; their service during the meal was spot on.  Behavior like this before, during and after a meal goes a very long way with me.  I can't eat much in one sitting, so the experience as a whole (lighting, service, comfortable seats, noise level...) really makes a huge difference on how I view the experience of the food.  Of course, my bottom line will ALWAYS be how the food tasted, but I am sold.  I totally believe that Ox Head is one of the best places for Vietnamese in Ottawa.  C'mon down to Ox Head in Kanata and check 'em out for yourself.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy your meal!

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14 November, 2011


Before the Christmas baking rush is upon us all I wanted to give my family, friends and followers a little pep talk.  I have found there is no better pep talk than personal experience.  I want everyone to know that every chef has days in the kitchen where things just don't "turn out" like they were meant to.  The other day I was making homemade dairy-free caramels.  I was going to dip them in chocolate, but I never got that far.  I forgot a rule about using soy and things backfired.  First I tried to fix the problem and maintain the goal....caramels.  But even after I attempted to recover the fumble, it just didn't score a touchdown with me.  The caramel wasn't solid enough, it was more like a thick caramel ice cream topping.  

After a couple hours of looking through books and thinking about what I like I decided bars could save this train wreck.  I grabbed my "go to" bar crust recipe and got to work.  The culmination of this bar is 2 different recipes I've used throughout the years and something I made up on the fly, in honor of this giant goober of a mistake I have dubbed these bars "Martha Graham Bars".  Martha Graham was the QUEEN of improvisational dance.  What I did to improvise was what sounded yummy to ME; you can really do anything you want with this recipe.  If you don't have pecans, use walnuts.  If you don't have coconut, skip it.  These weren't meant to be a crisis for me, don't make them one for you either.

Martha Graham Bars

2 c. flour
1 c. organic brown cane sugar
1 c. Earth Balance vegan buttery spread

Caramel filling
1 vanilla bean OR 2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. soy milk
5 T. Earth's Balance vegan buttery spread
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/3 c. organic cane sugar
1/4 c. organic brown rice syrup
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (you can use any kind of nut you like or none at all)

Chocolate layer
1 bag Enjoy Life mega chunks, melted
1 c. Now dehydrated unsweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour and brown sugar, then use the mixer to beat the butter into the sugar mixture; it should look crumbly.  Press it all into the bottom of a 9 x 13 bar or cake pan and bake it for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  When it is done, set aside on a cooling rack. 

For the caramel layer you'll need two separate pots.  The one that you mix the sugar, cornstarch and water in needs to be very large just for the boiling process.  First, if you are using a vanilla bean, cut your bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out the seeds. Combine vanilla bean seeds OR vanilla extract, soy milk, vegan buttery spread, and sea salt in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, cover, remove from heat, and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. 

Next, combine sugar, brown rice syrup, and water in the larger pot over high heat. Bring to boil, frequently swirling pan using the handle (do not stir) until mixture is amber colored and registers 350 degrees on digital thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will foam up pretty high). Return mixture to burner, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramel reaches 248 degrees on digital thermometer.  This might take 3 to 5 minutes.  When it hits 248 remove from heat and throw in your nuts if you are using them.  Pour directly onto your baked crust, pouring evenly from the edges in.  Spread it all the way to the edges of the pan with a rubber spatula; set aside to cool a bit.

In the microwave or on the stove melt down your whole 10 oz bag of Enjoy Life mega chunks.  If you use the microwave use 1 minute bursts and stir between each minute.  When the chocolate is smooth toss in your coconut and stir until the coconut is completely coated in chocolate.  Pour over the caramel layer, from the edges in like you did with the caramel.  Spread to the edges with rubber spatula.  

Allow to cool completely; about 3 hours.  Cut into 2 inch squares, chocolate should no longer be shiny.  Cut a very small square from a corner to test how cool they are.

These are SO rich, you don't really want to eat more than one at a time.  I can't...I've tried.  It is like eating a Nanaimo bar.  You of course won't need a fork when you eat one of these, but I'm just that way.  I hope you enjoy them...and remember that there is ALWAYS a way to save a fumble in the kitchen.  Sometimes the recover ends up being the touchdown that the original play may NEVER have been.  Good luck with your Christmas baking and cooking everyone....if you get stuck, don't be afraid to ask someone for help!  I'm here for ya!

12 November, 2011


I was hangin' out with a bunch of ladies from my church this afternoon learning a variety of things, one of which turned out to be learning how to roll sushi.  I was pretty excited; sushi is one food that I seem to NEVER get sick of.  Learning how to make it myself...HELLO!!!??  What could be better than that?!  Right...not much.  I learned quite a bit in a short time, which I greatly appreciate.  (Thanks Sue!!)  But, I left wanting more.  More sushi I mean...  I asked the woman that was doing the demo with the sushi where to go in town for good Japanese....mistake #1.  Japanese don't go out for Japanese...just like most Indian folk don't go out for Calcutta Biryani.  So, when I asked her she wasn't too sure of good places other than where her kids had gone to and raved about.  I was on my own...

We were headed to the Rideau Center....what was close by?  I went through my "to eat" list and stared at a map for a couple minutes.  Ah HA!  Genji!!  They were just a couple minutes from our final destination.  Score!!

I was a little worried that 5pm might have landed us hip deep in the middle their weekend dinner hour rush, but it turned out that we got in just under the gun.  We were able to be seated right away at a bench/chair combo table (my favorite kind) near to the kitchen.  We have started requesting to be put in a traditionally noisy area in the establishments we dine in so when the Sprout gets to squawking, we aren't disturbing the other guests.  As soon as we were seated I started in on the questions with our waiter, "What are your signature dishes?" and "What would you recommend to someone that has never had Japanese cuisine?".  While we were discussing the menu the hostess came with green tea and 3 little bowls of marinated veggies and squid.

 He was very knowledgeable and had eaten most of the items on the menu, this is VERY helpful when you are trying to decide what to eat.  Some menu's in Japanese restaurants can be quite lengthy, just the sushi choices alone.  I was glad to hear that he had tried so many things.  I wanted to try some of everything, but I'd have burst if I did.  We went with beef maki, gyoza, the Stampede sushi roll and for my entree I ordered Karubi; my Mister went with the Butterfish.  The entrees from the grill all come with house salad, miso soup, stir fried seasonal vegetables and rice.  Quite the spread!  With our order in, I was ready to look around.


It was a really peaceful atmosphere and the Sprout was rare form; we couldn't believe how well he was behaving.  But we're not fools, we knew it couldn't possibly last the whole night.  We put the order in for gyoza and maki long before the entrees so we could start feeding him ASAP.  The beef maki appeared first for the Sprout along with our house salads and miso soups; we prayed and dug right in.
 Beef Maki
                                 House Salad                               Miso Soup

The first thing I sticked into was my house salad.  It was pretty standard as salads go, but for the dressing.  Their dressing was fabulously flavorful and creamy.  We had set the Sprout to work on his maki rolls and he was doing alright until he saw us eating our salads; he decided he wanted to try it.  He LOVED it!  He ended up eating my Mister's whole salad.  It was quite entertaining and gratifying.  Who doesn't want their kid to love veggies?  All the ingredients were obviously fresh, they were crispy, cool and full of flavor.  Our miso was refreshing.  As the Sprout had focused all his efforts on our salads all of the sudden, I didn't feel too guilty reaching over and snagging one of his beef maki rolls.  The green onion, enoki mushroom, asparagus combination in the meat was a perfect balance.  The sauce really was the kiss on the dish.  The beef was succulent and soft; cooked immaculately.  Do I really need to say that I was excited for the rest of our meal??  Didn't think so.  Either way, the gyoza was ready and in front of us.


These gyoza tasted like little pockets of Heaven.  The beef and vegetables inside the soft dumpling were so wonderful!  The meat was so tender that it just melted in my mouth.  The sear on the dumpling was spot on, giving it just a hint of crunch.  We all loved them!  In the middle of my love affair with the appetizers our sushi showed up.  After she placed the platter in front of us, she refilled our green tea cups.  I'd be completely failing as a flogger if I didn't mention that this place is top notch on the service and perfect on attentiveness; not at the table too often nor too little.  It may spoil me for service evaluation at future establishments...

Stampede Roll

I presentation on this roll was beautiful.  Without a doubt, the food here really appeals to ALL your senses.  The rice and the beef were so soft and moist, all of the vegetables were cooked correctly and Genji's Japanese mayo really lent some extra zing to the roll; top it all with some wasabi and ginger peel and just like the beef maki, it is perfection in one bite.  Our Sprout was really diggin' it...I'd say I was surprised but, at this point our son eats such a large variety of foods he ends up loving more than traditional American dishes.  I wasn't really keeping track of how much I was eating...then the entrees made their way to the table.  Again, our cups of green tea were refreshed....fabulous!


I will preface my opinion on this dish with the fact that I am fully aware that this is traditionally a Korean dish.  Moving on...  The first thing I want to address about this dish is the smell....you get this aroma of sweet and savory mixed with a touch of cilantro at first, but then the asparagus smacks you upside the head.  If there was a way to describe the taste "bitter" as a smell, it would be the smell of cooked asparagus.  The truly good news is that it tasted wonderful.  The sear on this meat from the grill intensified the sweetness of the marinade and just really put the natural flavor of the meat on display.  The stir fried vegetables were just lightly seasoned and still tender crisp; the baby carrots' sweetness was just right and the zucchini and broccoli were a hearty carbohydrate component.  It did come with rice, but you didn't really need it.  I of course ate it anyhow...even the rice was top notch.  Flowery aroma and a subtle nutty flavor; there wasn't a single thing I could give negative criticism on with this dish except the smell of the asparagus.  But that is VERY easy to overlook when your tummy is being filled with superb pairings of foods.

I'd eat here again, I'd bring Japanese friends here and I would recommend it to anyone that considers themselves Japanese cuisine experts.  The prices are mid-line for eating downtown but, they may be considered pricy for Asian food.  But, when you take into consideration the quality of the meats, vegetables, rice, tea...soup...do I need to go on??  The prices are more than appropriate.  You get a lot for your money and it is ALL fabulous.  There isn't anything lacking or that makes you feel like you've spent too much for too little.  Heck, I'd go back just for the tea!  With service that is timely, courteous and generous, you really feel like YOU are the main event.  Thank you so much for a wonderful evening Genji!  

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