Kale Pesto (Vegan, Gluten-Free and Soy-Free)

Spring is for green food. I mean, hopefully every day has something green, but the spring is especially the time for green food. My husband is allergic to basil, but in a truly amazing twist of fate, he is not allergic to pine nuts! Most of his allergies strike us as a great and winding mystery, but in this case, it’s so surprising that pine nuts are safe. Here comes the need for a kale pesto! It’s not entirely unfamiliar and has a very clean flavour.

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Makes 2 cups

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or less
Salt, to taste

Clean up your kale by removing the thick stems and washing it. I generally run my hand along the stem and pull it towards me. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium, being careful not to burn them; you just want a little colour. Combine the kale, pine nuts and nutritional yeast in a food processor and pulse a few times to start breaking the kale down. Add the lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and turn the processor on. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until the mixture is smooth and (!!) pesto-like. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like. Serve on anything.

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French Country Vegetable Soup for Two (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free and Oil-Free)

In my quest to make quick and easy dinner recipes in small portions, I’ve taken to testing them out in the day in between my other activities. This helps ensure they are really low-prep. This soup is inspired by Amy’s Kitchen’s French Country soup but is lighter in consistency and richer in herb flavour.

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Ready to go in half an hour! The ingredients are really flexible, so add or subtract as you see fit. You want to add a potato or a handful or rice, go ahead! Red pepper or fresh basil? Do it! Soup is fun and easy!

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Soup

1 cup white beans (any kind you like, really)
540 ml canned tomatoes (diced, whole, stewed, anything)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon lavender (if your herbs de Provence does not contain it)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons dried chanterelle mushrooms, re-hydrated according to package directions.
1 litre of water
Handful of leafy greens, your choice (optional)
Black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients, except the leafy greens and black pepper, in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for fifteen minutes, or as long as you have! Just as you’re ready to eat, toss the leafy greens into the soup, taste for seasonings and serve hot.

Easiest Buckwheat Waffles (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I wanted to create a gluten free waffle for folks who can’t eat gluten to enjoy but more than that – an easy waffle anyone can make for themselves or their gluten-free friends. Buckwheat flour is widely available and makes for fantastic crepes, pancakes and now waffles!

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I never feel great after eating pancakes and they’re a lot of work when you don’t have a griddle, so they automatically become the main. I stopped making them when I stopped eating gluten. The problem is, I really love a bit of something sweet alongside a full breakfast. Enter the waffle – mix, pour and forget! I whipped these together in less than 15 minutes! They’re perfectly crispy on the outside and unbelievably fluffy on the inside. They reheat perfectly in the toaster.

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Makes 8-1/2 cup waffles

2 cups buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground flax + 1/3 cup water, mixed to form a gel
2 cups non-dairy milk (plain or vanilla)
1/2 cup canola oil (or melted non-dairy margarine)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Create a well and add the wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. Turn on the waffle maker. You’ll want a thick batter, but you can thin it out with a little more non-dairy milk before cooking. Cook each 1/2 cup waffle for about 5 minutes. Serve with maple syrup or whatever you like.

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Split Pea Soup for Two (Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-Free)

People like soup. People like soup but not necessarily enough to make a dozen servings. Here I come in with my new life-saving series on soups for two! Soup is a really fantastic vehicle for learning how to cook because it is very forgiving and easy to cover up your mistakes. You can learn what flavours go together and what combinations you like best. Texture is not an especially big worry since you can choose from broth-y, stew-y or blended. Honestly, I think it’s the best method to learn how to cook intuitively with.

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I’m starting with pea soup because oh, my goodness! split peas are easy to make delicious. My mom made pea soup a lot when I was a kid but I hadn’t grown into liking the little pulses just yet. I regret that now.

Fast, easy and cheap, you’re going to love this soup.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes, mostly idle

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 leek, green part, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 inner stalks celery, diced, green leaves included
1 large clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup diced rutabaga (optional, was a 1/4 of a large one)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon savoury
1 bay leaf
1 cup split peas (green or yellow)
2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste

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Chop all your vegetables (or buy a pre-cut mix!). Heat the oil in a medium sized pot, over medium high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, sprinkle with salt and let them begin to sweat, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables have begun to release their water, add the spices and cook for an additional minute. Add the split peas, stock and water and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium- low and let the soup  mingle at a low boil for 20 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent any sticking. The soup is ready when the peas and rutabagas are soft and most of the liquid has disappeared. Check for seasonings and serve any way you like.

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If you’re keeping a serving in the fridge, make note that pulses will continue to absorb water and you may want to reheat with a little extra liquid.

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Tots

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I’ve taken a cauliflower tot recipe (from a shamefully named website)  and twisted it to suit my needs. The cauliflower gives it the tot (potato gem, spud puppy) texture, while a host of other ingredients gives it a savoury edge that makes these oh so irresistible! They are definitely a favourite around here. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack!
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Makes about 50 tots

Half a large head cauliflower, florets removed, steamed and then finely chopped
1 cup mashed sweet potato (2 medium sized)
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup vegan cheddar shreds (I used Daiya with great success)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few sprinkles freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil, for baking

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set cauliflower to steam for 4 minutes. Once steamed, let sit until cool enough to handle. Tun your knife through the florets until you have crumbly bits of cauliflower and no large chunks left. Nothing fussy, just relatively small. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, parsley and onion. Add cauliflower. Add remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir until combined. The tot mixture will look looser than it is but a small amount of pressure should get them to hold together. To form tots, use two spoons, your hands or a small ice cream scoop. Place on the baking sheet, drizzle with oil and bake for 40 minutes, turning over 20 minutes in. Serve warm with your favourite dipping sauce. I’ve used Sriracha and pesto Veganaise.

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Copycat Dragon Bowl

All right. There’s this yuppie vegan restaurant in Montreal; It’s always very busy and they run a very tight ship. Their immensely popular Dragon Sauce is a rite of passage for anyone living or visiting this interesting island. I’ve seen one or two copycat recipes online but let me tell you – they vastly overestimate the quality of ingredients that make up this delectable sauce. I suppose because it’s vegan, served over healthy ingredients and chockful of nutritional yeast, they go out on a limb and guess it has maple syrup and a whole host of other expensive items. Nah, I’m here to tell you as someone who knows someone who worked there and someone who has worked in industrial sized kitchens – that is not the case.

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What it is is sweet, tangy and full of rich umami flavour. This is a quick sauce to whiz up and what you put it over is up to you, but this is my no-fail suggestion for your first tries.  The most skilled part of the preparation is the tofu and I’ll guide you right through that. This is very satisfying while remaining fresh and not too heavy on your stomach. It’s absolutely a stunner, too. Sure to impress with very little effort.

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Dragon Sauce

Covers at least 4 brown rice bowls

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup  granulated sugar (yep, sorry to break it to you, this sauce is made with copious amounts of sugar)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until thickened. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients for the balance you like (more salty, sour, etc).

Golden Brown Tofu

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1 lb firm tofu, 12 equal slices (quartered, then each quarter into thirds)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high. Add tofu slices, laying them all flat. Sprinkle with garlic salt and let tofu brown on each side, for about ten minutes.

Dragon Bowl Ingredients

Brown rice
Steamed broccoli
Sliced radishes
Shredded carrots and beets
Romaine lettuce

Assemble as you like. Let your imagination run wild: you can add anything you want to this bowl. Smother with as much sauce as you like. Eat often.

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Light and Easy Beet Soup

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Let’s make this post a story about my good friend, Jason. Jason is a witty conversationalist, a cataclysm of energy and all-around wicked awesome person. We met about eight years ago when I started working at Starbucks in Winnipeg. He was awkward but beyond that, the most amazing person to pass any time with. After he moved to Montreal to get his masters in English, we kept in touch. Well, I say kept in touch but what I really mean is I crashed on his floor diagonally when I visited Montreal because his room was too small for me to fit any other way.

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I spent the majority of my twenties in a passionless relationship, but a dream of mine had always been to live in Montreal in an apartment with my two best friends – Kyle and Jason. Once I finally had the courage to make the move to Montreal on my own, that dream came true. It was a brilliant 30 days. Unfortunately on that 30th day, my friend Kyle passed away in his sleep. I guess you might say Jason and I have been through hell together and here we still are. 

I’m giving Jason some cooking and grocery shopping lessons to help him have more time and money to devote to his music. He loves beets. I make the easiest and most refreshing beet so
up I could make for him. There will be a series of recipes that follow the same bare-bones approach to cooking and I hope someone else out there might benefit from them!

Perfect with some crackers and crudités on the side. You might also consider adding some kidney beans for extra oomph, but my husband is allergic and they hurt my tummy, so I left them out. Are there fancier soup recipes? Yes. This is a base for you to learn how to cook intuitively. Or, I suppose a base for Jason to learn. You can do it, too.

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Serves 6 very comfortably

1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large beets and their greens, peeled and chopped, greens set aside
1 tomato, chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 small rutabaga or turnip, peeled and chopped
2 cups shredded green cabbage
Salt and black pepper, to taste

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In a large stock pot, combine onions, carrots, celery, garlic, beets, tomato, vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. Add the herbs and tomato paste. Let simmer for as long as you have, no less than half and hour. When gearing up to serve dinner, add the cabbage, rutabaga and beet greens. You don’t want these to simmer for too long or the broth will become overly bitter. Once the rutabaga is soft, your soup is good to go. Told you it was easy. Taste for seasoning, adjust and serve.

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