Sweet & Spicy Orange Cauliflower “Chicken”

In the plant-based world, cauliflower is a great stand-in for Buffalo chicken wings and it really does that job well. It’s also a fantastic alternative to Asian-style chicken stir-fries. I love Orange Chicken and this version does not disappoint. What’s better? No oil (apart from a smidge of sesame oil for flavour, not frying. You may leave it out to be totally oil-free). I think the orange zest knocks it out of the park.

 

Sweet & Spicy Orange Cauliflower "Chicken"

Fresh take on Asian Chicken using cauliflower and fresh orange juice.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Chinese

Ingredients
  

For the Batter

  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat, all-purpose or gluten free as preferred)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 head cauliflower Medium size

For the Sauce

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes If you like it super spicy add 1/2 tsp or more to your taste.
  • 1 cup orange juice, freshly-squeezed if possible
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar OR date syrup OR maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce OR tamari OR liquid or coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water

Garnish

  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Step 1 - Batter the cauliflower florets

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, garlic and onion powder, then slowly whisk in water to make a smooth batter
  • Rinse cauliflower and break up into florets
  • Option 1 - "Shake and Bake" technique: Pour batter into a plastic produce type of bag . Add cauliflower florets to bag and shake until all are coated with batter. Pour breadcrumbs into second bag, followed by battered florets and shake again until florets are coated in breadcrumbs
  • Option 2 - If you do not like the "shake and bake" technique or prefer not to use plastic, feel free to have batter in one bowl and crumbs in second bowl. Dip cauliflower in batter, shake off excess, then dip in crumbs and shake off excess
  • Lay crumb-coated cauliflower florets on parchment lined baking sheet, making sure they are not touching
  • Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy, flipping florets after first 15 minutes

Step 2 - The Sauce

  • While the cauliflower is almost done baking, heat a large stir-fry pan and add all sauce ingredients except the cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, and cook for a minute or two.
  • Mix the cornstarch and water to combine, and then add to the pan. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens. This should just take a few minutes.
  • Add baked cauliflower florets to sauce and mix in very well until all florets are coated
  • Serve with brown or white rice, or any other grain you may prefer. Garnish with thinly-sliced green onions and sesame seeds.
  • NB: If you like a LOT of sauce, simply double the sauce recipe.
Keyword Asian, Cauliflower, Oil-free, Vegan

Simple Oil-Free Vegetable Broth / Stock

Photo by Bluebird Provisions on Unsplash

Vegetable broth is a staple in so many recipes. I have tried using the Tetrapaks or canned versions and to me, they are completely lacking in flavour. The bouillion-cube version is so high in sodium it is almost unpalatable, especially for those who are watching sugar and sodium intake.  

It is really so simple to make a healthy homemade broth. It is such a good way to use up veggies that are soon to “expire” in your fridge, plus you can assuage your guilt about food waste as well! 

I don’t have a tried-and-true recipe because each broth I make is totally different depending on what is in season, what is in my fridge and what is in my garden.  Here are some basics:

My 3-layer system for making the best broth (This IS practically fool proof)

BASE LAYER:  

Aromatics (one or more of the following): Onions, Shallots, Leeks, Garlic, Ginger PLUS carrots, celery. Dice them up. Add enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

Whole spices: pepper, allspice, bay leaf  (For those who have no problem with sodium, you may add some good quality salt here as well. Not too much. Just enough to brighten flavour)

Heat a stock pot or big soup pot to Medium-High. To keep it oil-free, put a few tablespoons of water and add your aromatics. Stir-fry until softened and fragrant. Keep adding 1 tbsp of water whenever things get too dry.

MIDDLE LAYER: 

Add other vegetables, roughly chopped, especially: Greens (kale, spinach or collards), Fennel, Mushrooms (fresh or dried), Parsnips, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Broccoli or Cauliflower, Zucchini, Squash, Green Beans, Cabbage (Red or Green), Brussels Sprouts, or any others that you love. (I would not include beets because of the red colour, but you can definitely add this broth to borscht with beets in a separate recipe.)  Any combination of veggies works. You may also add dried herbs at this point: dried oregano, basil, marjoram or dill if you like.

To Prep: Roughly chop.  You don’t have to be precise as you will be straining the stock, so no need for the perfect dice. 

At this point you should also add water – enough to cover all of your veggies, plus an inch or two. I sometimes add 1/2 to 1 cup of Mott’s Low Sodium Garden Cocktail which adds a little something to the flavour.

Bring to a boil, then immediately lower to simmer, for at least one hour. 

TOP LAYER:

Once your veggies are softened, add additional fresh herbs and spices. Fresh oregano, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, sage, dill – whichever ones you love. Also, freshly ground pepper. If you are avoiding salt, herbs are the way to go to infuse big flavour. Herbs should be added at the last possible moment. 

Turn off heat. Let the broth sit for at least one hour (or longer, or in the fridge until the next day). Then pour through colander/seive over another pot. Compost the veggies. The stock is ready to go! You may store it in 1L jars in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, or freeze in freezer-safe ziploc bags for several months. The broth usually is a golden brown colour and has a deep, complex taste that compliments any savoury dish. I use this broth in so many recipes, often replacing water. It adds a ton of flavour!

Fermenting 101 – Sauerkraut

   

The importance of gut health is finally getting the attention it deserves. Trillions of bacteria and micro-organisms make up the microbiome in our gut. Studies show that these little guys play a critical role in maintaining health by aiding in digestion and strengthening the immune system.  They keep the bad bugs at bay – dangerous bacteria like Campylobacter or Clostridium difficile (C.Diff), which can cause serious illness.

So many of today’s health issues may be traced to what’s going on inside the gut. Poor diet, illness, stress, antibiotics, and environmental toxins disrupt the ecology of the microbiome, which puts it into a  “dysbiotic” state. When the system is out of whack, it shows up in different ways:  obesity, type-2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, and colon cancer (), periodontal disease and dental decay (), atherosclerosis and endocarditis (), anxiety, and depression (). 

It’s crucial to bring the good bacteria back in to rebalance the microbiome and get it back to work as it should. (Guess why fecal transplants work?) Naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh do exactly this – they reintroduce good bacteria – the probiotics – to help diversify and “feed” the helpful flora in our gut.

One of the easiest foods to ferment for beginners is cabbage. The end result, sauerkraut, is the perfect introduction of beneficial bacteria into the microbiome. 

Equipment

My family has been making sauerkraut for decades. I inherited a vintage cabbage shredder from my parents, at least 60 years old. It came from Poland, travelling in a trunk on the Stefan Batory in the mid-1950s.   It continues to shred today and will always remain a family heirloom. I recently discovered newer versions, handmade in Poland and distributed by a company out of British Columbia – https://cabbageshredder.com/.  

New shredder has arrived, but I will never part with the vintage one!

Using a regular mandolin works fine for small batches, but these big shredders make short work of cutting a whole head of cabbage in minutes, in the perfect, classic, consistency for the best fermented sauerkraut.  A food processor isn’t ideal. When I tested using a Cuisinart, the shreds were a bit too short and thick for my liking, but if that’s all you have, it will still ferment just fine.

You will also need a large bowl for mixing the cabbage with the salt. I use a giant salad bowl I found at IKEA. A stock pot could work too.

Next is the fermenting vessel. Back in the day, my parents used a wooden barrel, making enough sauerkraut to last the whole winter and then some. Smaller ceramic crocks with weighted plates are wonderful alternatives. They come in different sizes and although a bit pricey, should last a lifetime. Although I pine for one of those, it is completely unnecessary and you can make your sauerkraut in a mason jar. 

A 1 Litre / 1 Quart mason jar is probably the smallest size to use and this is big enough for one medium head of shredded cabbage. A large head will fill at least two jars, or alternatively,  one bigger 2L jar.

I use weighted glass disks to keep my cabbage submerged (to avoid mold), but if you don’t have these, you can use a folded cabbage leaf packed at the top before you screw on the lid. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large head of cabbage
  • 1-3 carrots, peeled (depending on size and your own preference) 
  • Non-iodized sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

Sterilize Jars:

Wash and sterilize your jar(s) using one of these options:

  • In your dishwasher on sterilize cycle 
  • In your oven – heat to 275 F for at least 20 minutes
  • In your microwave – place wet jars in the microwave for 60 seconds on high. 
  • Boil lids for 5 minutes or use new ones.

Let jars and lids cool before filling.

Shred:

  • Remove and rinse the outer leaves of the cabbage. Set them aside.
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters for shredding
  • Shred using cabbage shredder or mandolin into a large bowl or stock pot. Be very careful as you get close to the ends. The blades are extremely sharp!

  • Peel and shred the carrots using the large holes in regular box grater. Add to cabbage.

 

Salt:

  • Add approximately 1 measured tablespoon salt for every 1.5 lbs of cabbage. It should taste salty, but not gross. If you don’t add enough salt, you may get mold and soft (not crisp) sauerkraut. Too much salt will inhibit fermentation and will also taste bad.
  • To be more precise, use a digital scale to weigh the shredded vegetables and use the 2% guideline. Multiply the weight in grams by .02 ( 2%) to get the required amount of salt in grams. 900 grams of vegetables would require 18 grams of salt. In my real life example, my very large head of cabbage/3 carrot mixture weighed 2283 g (X .02) = 45.6 g of salt, which, after weighing, I measured as 4 flat tablespoons.

Mix, Squeeze and Pack into Jars:

  • Mix the carrots and cabbage until the carrots are well distributed. Squeeze and toss the mixture with your hands for several minutes. This breaks down the cell walls so the cabbage can release its liquid. The volume will reduce a fair bit as the liquid is released. If it drips when you squeeze it, it is ready to be packed into the clean jar(s). 

Pack the squeezed cabbage mixture into the jar firmly to eliminate any air pockets. Push it down super hard. For the 1L jar, it may be difficult to fit your hand in to pack it down, so you may wish to use the pestle from a mortar & pestle, or the handle of your potato masher or other kitchen tool. Keep filling and packing until you near the top of the jar.

The cabbage must be submerged under the liquid. Top this with one of the large outer cabbage leaves removed earlier, folded to fit into the top of the jar. Alternatively, use a glass weight. This air-lock keeps the oxygen out which helps to keep mold and slime from forming. (Please note if you purchase the weights, they come in two sizes – for both regular or wide-mouth jars.)

Screw the lid onto the jar and place jar out of direct sunlight. I leave mine in a corner on the kitchen counter. Please note that the fermentation process creates carbon dioxide, so for the first few days in particular, make sure to “burp” the jar, loosening the lid briefly to let the gas out. It’s a good idea to keep your jar on a plate or tray, as the liquid sometimes seeps out a bit as it starts fermenting.

Warning

Fermenting cabbage has a natural, gassy smell. Bubbles rising in the jar mean it’s working. A little bit of a white film on top is nothing to worry about. BUT if you see black, green or grey mold or if the smell is unbearably bad, something has gone wrong. To be safe, dispose of it and start a new batch. 

Ferment Time

Fermentation speed depends on temperature. If it’s warm, it will ferment faster or vice-versa. Taste is the next variable as some prefer a light ferment, while others (like me) prefer a more sour, acidic flavour. You can start tasting after a week, but it’s safe to leave it for up to a month or even longer, tasting a little every once in a while. When it tastes good, refrigerate to slow any additional fermentation. The last batch I made was perfect after exactly one month on the counter.

Recipes and suggestions on how to use sauerkraut to follow soon! 

Enjoy!  

 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

Soup is the Song of the Hearth..and the Home.

LOUIS PULLIG De GOUY – the soup book (1949)

Nothing brings me as much comfort as a simmering pot of soup on the stove. As the days get shorter and darker and colder, my yen for salad wanes and I reach for the big pot again and again. 

On the menu today, roasted buttercup squash soup, fragrant with spices from India with a hint of creamy coconut.

Buttercup seems a bit more dense and sweeter than butternut after roasting, ideal for a curried soup. Its brilliant golden-orange flesh not only adds a gorgeous hue but is a great source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and fiber. 

So let the wind howl and watch the rain turn into sleet, then snow. This soup will keep you warm and toasty inside. 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

This delicious creamy soup strikes a perfect balance between sweet and spicy!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine East Asian flavours
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 buttercup squash, roasted
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder Shan curry powder is one type that works well
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 small dried red chili peppers (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk, light or regular
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Pre heat oven to 400 F
  • Cut 1 buttercup squash in half and scoop out seeds (which are excellent toasted on their own)
  • Roast squash cut-side down on parchment-lined baking sheet until fork-tender (approximately 30-40 minutes)
  • Let cool, then scoop the baked flesh from the skin and set aside (compost skin)
  • In soup pot on medium heat, saute diced onions, garlic and ginger until softened (if avoiding oil, saute in water or broth)
  • Stir in curry powder and garam masala until fragrant (it's quick, don't let it burn)
  • Add 4cups vegetable broth ( or water with low-sodium vegetable boullion powder)
  • Stir in roasted squash - if too thick, add an additional cup of broth or water
  • Add dried chili peppers if including
  • Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove chili peppers if using
  • Stir in coconut milk
  • With immersion blender, blend until velvety smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree in small batches in regular or high-speed blender with vented lid.
  • Taste and adjust spices to your liking
  • Serve, garnished with a sprig of cilantro or a few toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds or a light sprinkle of cinnamon
Keyword Autumn, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Cauliflower, Potato & Bean Soup

Just in time to take the chill off, a nice comforting bowl of warm soup, chock full of cauliflower, white beans, barley and potatoes. Slivered collard leaves (or alternatively kale, or Swiss Chard) add a little extra “green” nutrition. This tasty soup is chunky and filling, low in calories, and very high in fibre and Vitamins A and C plus iron.  To keep calories down, sauté the veggies in a bit of water rather than oil — you won’t miss it. While the recipe does make a big pot, leftovers taste even better the next day or you can freeze individual portions for later.

Cauliflower, Bean and Potato Soup

A comforting bowl of chunky soup that will warm you and fill you up!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 140 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 8 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
  • 1/2 cup dried barley
  • 1 19 oz can white kidney beans (Cannellini), no salt added
  • 1/2 cup strained tomatoes (passatta) - optional
  • 2 cups cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp ground pepper (or 10 twists of the grinder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large potato, diced in large chunks
  • 3 collard (or kale or Swiss Chard) leaves, stems removed and leaves sliced very thinly Tip: Roll the leaves up into a tight cigar and then thinly slice across. If the slivers are too long, chop once again sideways to shorten them.
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, with a little extra left to garnish

Instructions
 

Instructions

  • Heat large soup pot on medium heat until a drop of water sizzles. Pour in a splash of water
  • Saute onions, carrots, parsnip, celery and garlic, splashing in a bit more water if it starts to dry out
  • Once fragrant, add vegetable broth, cabbage, barley, beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes and spices
  • Bring to a boil, then stir in collard greens
  • Lower heat to low simmer and cook covered, stirring occasionally until potatoes are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes). If the soup gets too thick, add 1 cup of water to simmering stock
  • Once done, stir half cup parsley into soup
  • Taste and adjust any spices
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little extra parsley
Keyword Autumn, High-Fiber, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Changing one taste bud at a time

Autumn energizes me, with her crisp sunny days and cool nights, such a welcome change from summer’s sweltering heat. Now we are heading into winter and a sort of settling in. 

Except that in our area, the pandemic is rearing its ugly head in a second wave.  We know co-morbidities put some of us at higher risk for complications from COVID-19:  diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer. I have  some of these. For me, weight loss and healing my body with the best possible nutrition are my primary goals. I’d like to kick Type 2 diabetes and potential heart disease out the door forever. 

I know that a plant-based lifestyle is not a panacea. It will not cure everything and it certainly won’t prevent me from contracting the virus. It can, however, give my body a bit more of a fighting chance. Nutrition is an extremely powerful thing.  Studies show that a plant-based diet reduces inflammation and feeds the gut microbiome which is directly connected to a stronger immune system.  Antioxidants defend cells from attack and plants are full of flavonoids, powerful antioxidant agents. For people who are compromised, like me, that is nothing but good news. Is it real? Will it help? I can only hope so.

Just to recap, a whole-food plant based diet means:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Avoiding packaged and processed foods, caffeine, alcohol
  • Avoiding animal products: meat, fish, shellfish, dairy
  • SOS version (for additional health benefits) means avoiding salt, oil and sugar 

A foodie at heart, when I started this I went through a period of mourning. In fact, I may still be mourning a bit. I was famous for my white chocolate cheesecake and boeuf bourguignon.  Would I long for lasagna? BBQ? I fell off the 100% plant-based wagon countless times with this mindset and kept starting over again and again. Then I committed and when i made that decision, it took. I will not eat meat or dairy or seafood. It has become so much easier since that proclamation. Cooking is still an adventure, even more fun and creative. I still have kitchen disasters but also thrilling wins. 

It is a process. My taste buds were used to huge hits of salt, sugar and fat, so at first, everything tasted bland. Unless perfectly ripe, fruit tasted sour. Learning to sauté without oil was scary until I started to experiment using broth or water or cooking wine instead. Herbs and spices are more amazing than ever. Berbere anyone? Neat tricks like making whipped cream out of aquafaba (aka bean water) still blows me away.

After two weeks of honest effort, the magic happens. Taste buds change. They literally change – taste cells are continually renewed in adults, with an average lifespan of 10-14 days. Cravings subside. Bite into a peach and it is the sweetest thing on Earth. The produce aisle or farmer’s market becomes a favourite hangout and the world of vegetables, mushrooms, beans and grains becomes an intriguing place.  Curries and stews and soups, oh my!  Accidentally tasting something enjoyed from the past, say, a bite of KFC or a sub or a donut,  will be shocking — so salty or cloyingly sweet as to be inedible. How have we, as a society, moved so far away from eating real food? 

Here is Mother Nature’s version of whole-food plant-based candy. Medjool dates have a sweet and sticky texture that resembles caramel.  When coupled with nut butter and a little cacao dust, they are great stand-ins for Hallowe’en size Snickers bar.  Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth with zero added fat or sugar. 

“Date Night” Candy

Take two Medjool dates and slice length-wise into halves

Fill each half with pure almond, peanut or any nut butter (ie/ nut butter with no additives).   If  allergic to nuts you can use sunflower seed butter.

Top each filled half with chopped nuts, cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, shredded coconut, or a dab of fruit butter or fruit jelly

Dust with cocoa powder

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Deli-style Polish dill pickles

green cucumber lot

There is no better cucumber than a pickling cucumber. Crisp and freshly-scented, they grow well in our gardens and love to perk up our salads.  Sadly, they are only here for a short while, soon replaced by imported field cucumbers and long, plastic-wrapped English cucumbers – OK, but not the same. 

As summer ends, gigantic bundles of dill show up in buckets beside baskets of these little cucumbers at the farmer’s market. Time for pickling!

For my Polish parents, this was non-negotiable. Didn’t everyone ferment jars of pickles at this time of year? Once sour, they lived in a big cloudy jar in the refrigerator or the cold-cellar, served up as quartered spears alongside open-faced sandwiches on buttered rye, topped with ham or salami, a dab of mustard, tomato slice and some diced green onion on top “for decoration”. Whenever I smell dill, I’m back at their table.

The difference between the pickles found on store shelves and deli-style Polish dill pickles (also known as Kosher dills) are that regular store pickles get their flavour from a vinegar spice-and-brine solution with which they are canned. 

Polish dills are fermented in jars (or barrels if you’re into volume) in a brine solution, but no vinegar and they are never sealed. Once they have reached the right consistency, they go straight in the fridge. They are never sweet, but tangy and garlicky, adding an eye-squinting sizzle to your sandwich or snack. They are alive.

Fermentation is an age-old process to preserve food while also enhancing its nutrition to feed your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. A healthy microbiome means a stronger immune system with far-reaching health benefits.

Instruction:

Steps to make  a 1 quart / 1 litre mason jar of pickles (note – you may easily double, just by doubling ingredients, which I did for photos here. I made 2 L)

Sterilize – you don’t want the bad bacteria joining your good bacteria.

  • Put jars in dishwasher sterilizing cycle
  • OR wash with regular dish soap and water and place in oven at 110°C (230°F) for 15 minutes. Remove and cool. 
  • Boil the lids in a pot of water for minimum 5 minutes and allow to air dry on a rack or clean towel

Ingredients to make 1 Quart / 1 Litre

  • 1 pound/500 grams of unwaxed pickling cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 tbsp non-iodized sea salt, Kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 cups non-chlorinated water (preferably filtered or spring)
  • 1-2 heads fresh-flowering dill (the big flower-head on the dill plant)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 or 2 horseradish or fresh grape leaves (optional – for extra crunchiness)

Process

  • Thoroughly wash the cucumbers. If they are not fresh off the vine, soak them in cold water for 30 – 60 minutes
  • Dissolve salt into non-chlorinated water. If you are using tap water, boil the salt with water, mix well and allow to cool
  • Into your sterile jar, place a big fresh dill flower on the bottom, plus one horseradish or grape leaf if using
  • Pack your pickles tightly into jar, lining them up against the sides and filling gaps as you go, until  you reach the top
  • Stuff extra dill florets in any spaces, and add 1 clove sliced garlic pieces and 2 whole cloves among the pickles
  • Pour the brine in to cover all cucumbers, spices, garlic and make sure everything is submerged.
  • You may wish to use a weight like this to hold everything down

Ferment

  • Leave the pickles until the colour turns from bright green to army green 
  • It is important to “burp” the jars every day for the first few days since carbon dioxide forms as the ferment begins. Little bubbles will rise to the top. That’s a good thing! Just loosen the lid to let the gas escape.
  • The speed at which sourness develops depends on temperature – much faster if it’s hot and humid; a bit longer in cooler temps – so the time frame may range from 4 days to 2 weeks.
  • Taste one every so often until they’re how you like them
  • If white scum appears on the surface, don’t panic. Just skim it off. That’s not a problem at all. If it is black or smells bad, compost your pickles and start over.
  • Pickles should be crispy, sour and infused with garlic and dill flavour. If they ferment too long, they may get a bit soft
  • If you feel you’re at the right texture, place in fridge to stop ferment and enjoy for up to 6 months. Seriously. They can last that long. But they never do.

Ready to Eat!

Resources:

 

The guru of the modern fermentation movement is Sandor Katz.  His book The Art of Fermentation – An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World is referred to as the Bible on this topic.

 

 

He does have a lighter volume, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Cultured Food, that is a bit more accessible with short descriptions and more conventional recipes. Highly recommend. 

 

 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a tiny commission from qualifying purchases of books or items. This does not increase your price at all. I never list or recommend anything I don’t own or use myself.

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

 

Autumn is here and we are seeing winter squash and pumpkins in all of their glorious hues of green, yellow and orange. The striped delicata squash is among my favourites.  “Delicata” because its skin is delicate, becoming soft and completely edible after roasting. The seeds are good to eat as well.

With this simple recipe (inspired by Forks Over Knives magazine) I decided to roast and eat some rings plain and some filled with a little bit extra. Creativity comes with the additions. You can rub any spice you like on top of the rings: cumin, paprika, cinnamon, curry powder, chili powder, etc. Once roasted, I would not skip the last step, which is brushing on a little maple syrup because it creates a lovely glaze over your selected spices, whether sweet or savoury. 

Nutritionally speaking, delicata is high in fibre, Vitamins A & C, manganese, potassium and magnesium. 1 cup has about 85 calories.

Fillings can be anything you like to eat:

Savoury:  rice & beans, quinoa with chopped peppers, stuffing, mashed potatoes, succotash, garlicky greens, corn, couscous, mushrooms, the sky is the limit.

Sweet fillings:   diced pears, mango or pineapple salsa, apples, raisins & rice

In this batch, I made a garlicky broccolini mixture (water sauteed onion, garlic, chopped broccolini, topped with a sprinkle of tamari and sesame seeds). The sweet ones were filled with a pear-cranberry compote.

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

Creamy, rich, versatile squash rings that work as an appetizer, side or main. Eat them plain or fill them up!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Delicata Squash
  • Your Favourite Spices Cinnamon, Paprika, Cumin, Curry Powder, etc.
  • Your Favourite Fillings Stuffing, rice-and-beans,succotash, other veggies, fruit salsas or compotes
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Scrub the squash clean under running water
  • Cut off a thin slice at each end of the squash
  • Cut the remaining squash into 1-inch rings
  • Remove seeds from each ring with a teaspoon
  • Place rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Sprinkle desired spice on top of each ring, or leave plain if preferred
  • Place in oven for 15 minutes
  • Turn the slices over, then roast for an additional 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and turn over one last time, brushing each ring with maple syrup
  • Put back in oven for additional 5 minutes
  • Remove from oven and add any desired fillings
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Fillings are optional and you can put in whatever your heart desires.
  • In my rings above, I filled my savoury rings with a broccolini/onion/garlic mixture which I water-sauteed and sprinkled with tamari and sesame seeds
  • The sweet rings were filled with a pear-cranberry compote that I made when I had too many ripe pears
Keyword Autumn, Oil-free, Vegan

 

Peach Blueberry Oats

 

Summer means fresh, juicy peaches and blueberries that taste better than at any other time of year. This simple little dish is perfect for breakfast, a snack or even to use as a topping on some sweet “nice cream”. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold. Unlike crisp or cobbler, this dish is oil-free and sugar-free, relying on the natural sweetness and juice from the fruit. If you would like it a little sweeter, you can always drizzle a little maple syrup on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Blueberry Oats

Great for breakfast or dessert!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings 4 1/2 cup servings
Calories 195 kcal

Equipment

  • 8 X 8 glass baking dish

Ingredients
  

Ingredients

  • 4+ whole peaches, sliced Slice enough peaches to fully cover bottom of pan
  • 1 dry pint / 551 ml container fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup large flake oats
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water (optional) If your fruit is not super juicy, pour the water over the fruit and oats before baking

Instructions
 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Wash and slice peaches, cutting away from the stone and spread the slices on bottom of an 8 X 8 glass baking dish
  • Evenly spread blueberries on top of the peaches
  • Evenly sprinkle oats on top of the blueberries
  • Very lightly mix with a fork to incorporate oat layer into the fruit a little bit
  • If your fruit is not the juiciest, add the water
  • Dust with cinnamon
  • Place into preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute, then use fork to thoroughly mix the baked fruit and oats together, until the oats are moist with fruit juice
  • Serve hot, warm or cold, on its own or as a topping over "nice" cream.
  • Drizzle with maple syrup if you like it sweeter (optional)

Notes

You may also cook this in the microwave on High for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Stir after cooking.
Keyword Blueberries, Peaches, Summer

Fresh-from-the-Garden Salad with creamy herb dressing (Oil-free, plant-based, vegan)

Once the backyard veggie garden is planted, half the fun and excitement is waiting for the first harvest. The earliest things that I have seen (besides rhubarb) are many of the returning perennials, like sorrel, chives, mint or other herbs, radishes and different varieties of lettuce. 

Fresh Romaine, Arugula, Mint and Dill minutes after harvest and ready to form the backdrop for the Garden Salad

When the lettuce comes in, there is a window of opportunity to eat it before it bolts to flower and the leaves become bitter. Nothing beats this freshly-picked lettuce and other early crops to make a wonderful summer salad. A nice base is a combination of romaine leaves and spicy arugula, with a bit of chopped mint and a little bit of dill. It’s also fun to mix lettuces: leaf lettuce, boston, romaine and sorrel.

Artfully arrange brightly-coloured additions on top of the greens, such as:

  • Radish slices
  • Green onions or chives
  • Diced cucumber
  • Halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin)
  • Edible flowers (zucchini blossoms or nasturtiums)
  • Fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches or nectarines, pears)

Finally, a fresh, creamy oil-free dressing using the herbs from your garden.

Creamy Herb Dressing (Oil-Free)

A bright and delicious dressing or dip using fresh herbs from your garden.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Course Dressings and Dips, Salad

Equipment

  • High-Speed Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 10 to 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of at least 3 different herbs in 1/4 cup measures - basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, marjoram, lovage, thyme or mint)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • lemon or lime juice from 1/2 a lemon or lime
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth, drizzled in as required to thin the dressing
  • Salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Soak raw cashews for 10 or 15 minutes
  • Drain cashews and add to high-speed blender, along with all of the herbs, garlic and lemon juice
  • Blend at high speed until creamy consistency is reached. If dressing is too thick, thin with a little water or vegetable broth
  • Season with salt to taste - not too much salt!
  • Drizzle over arranged salads or use as dip for crudités 
  • Will keep in refrigerator for up to a week

Notes

I would not recommend using rosemary or sage here, as their flavour profile is too strong and would overpower the dressing.