Before I tell you about these cozy vegan scones (based on my favourite spelt scone recipe), all flecked with ground espresso and shards of dark chocolate, I want to talk about small changes. Oh, and big, unexpected outcomes. Simple and serious pleasures that result from small and mindful movements.
Up until a month ago, this was a typical morning for me: dog busts through the door, jumps on the bed, starts relentlessly licking my face and whimpering excitedly. It’s cute, but I scrunch my face up and tell her to seriously quit it. Feeling super groggy and on the edge of barely-rested, I reluctantly get out of my warm bed. The floor is harshly cold. The super regimented movements of coffee production come next. A firm “nah” to a tall glass of water to hydrate my probably parched body–clambering for a giant cup of caffeine is at the top of my list. IT IS the list. And I live and die by the list. Once a piping hot sixteen ounces of dark roast are at my fingertips, I’ll watch the news or putter about on the computer, doing absolutely nothing in particular for way too long. Non-productivity reigns, still groggy/miserable, bound by caffeine’s chains, no breakfast to speak of quite yet… Ready to face the day? Ah, I guess I could rig something up…
I took coffee out of the equation and my world basically turned upside down.
Pup still comes crashing in all excited (and I couldn’t be happier about that), but now I feel seriously rested, like to the core. I remember to put on wooly socks. I have a bit of an early-morning-super-glow-y stride into the kitchen and get the tea kettle working. The first cup is always herbal, something with lavender or chamomile to keep the blissed-out-calm-upon-waking thing going. I get to look at the winter scenes out the kitchen window while I wait for the bubbles. Then I read a book (this one currently) and, for lack of a better descriptive phrase, I chill the most. Next, I move to some earl or lady grey, all filled out with some warm, vanilla scented almond or cashew milk, I start to get ready for the day ahead, actually eat a balanced breakfast, think about the many other delicious cups of tea I’ll probably consume… you get the idea. Different beverage = better life.
I still try to have one really good coffee on a day off–it’s one of my favourite things to do with my man, actually. And I’m not saying that cutting down coffee consumption is for everyone or that it will just solve your life’s problems. It very simply worked for me within the context that I needed it to. I knew that my morning routine wasn’t contributing anything actually good to my existence overall. Initially, I just hated feeling weakened by one, small habit; that I needed coffee to be somewhat agreeable towards other beings in the am. It was an issue of control, no doubt. I changed that one small thing and life kind of spilled and tumbled forward to a more abundant daily disposition. Stillness is more easily arrived at and I’m not a completely terrible person in the early hours anymore. Many wins.
Since tea is more my pace these days, I thought I’d make you something wholesome, but indulgent, to go with a calming brew. I’ve made this spelt scone recipe many times, always changing up the add-ins and aromatics based on the season and my own cravings. I used to love one in particular from a local bakery with ground espresso and big, dark chocolate pieces. I decided that a homemade version was needed, a coffee flecked indulgence that plays nice with tea. I had a dark bar of chocolate infused with espresso in my pantry that had to be used in this one glorious purpose. I thinned out my basic coconut cream recipe for a nice, fatty and sweet dollop of goodness to compliment the hearty structure and strong flavour of the scone. A dab of sour-sweet raspberry jam finishes this out nicely. Luxe breakfast or sweet snack, this part is up to you.
vegan dark chocolate + espresso spelt scones
Lightly adapted from the Babycakes NYC Cookbook
serves: makes 6-8
notes: I use a combination of whole and light spelt flour, but I’ve also made it with 100% of one or the other and it worked out great.
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup light spelt flour
1/2 tbsp ground espresso or coffee
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup melted coconut oil + extra for brushing
1/3 cup agave nectar (or maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
50 grams of dark chocolate (this was 1/2 a standard bar for me), roughly chopped
slightly thinned out coconut cream (recipe here)
jam of choice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the whole and light spelt flour, ground espresso, sea salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine. To the flour mixture, add the melted coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Stir until a very crumbly/dry batter forms. Add the hot water to the mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped dark chocolate until evenly mixed throughout the batter.
Grease a 1/3 cup measuring cup and fill it with portions of the dough. Drop the portions onto the parchment lined sheet, giving each an inch or so of space. Brush the tops with melted coconut oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 13-14 minutes, flipping the sheet around at the halfway mark. Allow scones to cool slightly before serving with coconut cream and jam.
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I decided that I wanted this year to be challenging and adventurous. Those are the only concepts/freeform goals that I’m taping up in the most visible spot of my mind for the time. Nothing quantifiable. Just things to work on and places to go–these goals can be rather expansive once you lay into them, which could explain why I’m telling you about my year two thousand and thirteen (wowzer, I know) goals on January 30th. Late to the party again, but totally fine with it this time. The extra consideration and space offered substance to those airy ideals.
Mark and I planned our first adventure of the year two days ago (just a little road trip–comin’ for you, America) and I started a bit of a challenge exactly yesterday. It’s a small and big undertaking at the same time. Up until a couple years ago, I ate strictly vegan foods. I gave up that way of living rather slowly when I moved away from the city, still maintaining a mostly plant-based diet, sure, but allowing for a bit more flexibility. Towards the end, I had qualms about the lifestyle, wondering if it was strictly a choice for the privileged. Why shouldn’t I be grateful for any form of wholesome food that came my way, animal-sourced or not? How a vegan diet, or any way of eating, aligns with or directly contradicts the ways of accessibility is varied across time, place and the community of people that surround.
I will say that eschewing animal-based products did bring an overall lightness in everyday being to my own life. My energy was even and good, perfect stillness in sleep, a freed mind in certain heady ways, lots of vegetables–undeniably good living on the whole. Slipping into some decidedly omni ways has more often than not felt like a denial of a truer nature to me. Rules and labels are not a part of my world and I certainly don’t conceive of anything spanning eternity, but a certain recognition has welled up within. I always do what feels right, based in thought or bodily intuition. In this particular moment, going back to that lightness is what I want most. There is that twinge of fear–of deprivation and judgment, but fear becomes a nonentity when you decide to take on exactly what you want with purpose.
And in the vein of intention and purpose, I made you these pot pies. I wanted to offer up something of this nature for a while, trying them with biscuit-y toppings and the like. This one is easily the best version so far. I basically filled out the mushrooms with all of the dark and more potent ingredients I had that would work together. There’s the mushrooms, all cooked down to a messy and unctuous jumble, leeks, shallots, garlic, thyme, stout, tamari, balsamic vinegar and bits of olives for a fruity-salty hit. The sweet potatoes get just the right amount of crispness from a visit in the oven and help to sop up the goodness below. It’s very hearty, peak-winter fare to see us through it all.
mushroom + stout pot pies with sweet potato crusts
serves: 4-6 (depending on how hearty you want the serving to be, what else you’re eating etc.)
notes: I think it’s important to use a stout that you would normally drink on its own for this. If you don’t like it in the glass, the taste of it reduced down will not appeal to you either. Feel free to use a mix of red wine and vegetable stock in place of the stout if you like (like 1/2 cup red wine + 3/4 cup vegetable stock). I would skip the balsamic vinegar or drastically reduce the amount to a tiny splash if you go the red wine route though. There should be enough acidity from the reduction of the wine.
3 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil + extra for greasing, divided
2 shallots, fine dice
1 leek (white part only), chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed + extra for garnish
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 lbs mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portobello + shiitake), trimmed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp spelt OR wholewheat flour (or GF flour/flour blend of choice–I’ve read that sorghum flour is great for thickening sauces)
1 cup stout or other dark, heavy beer
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed + chopped
1-2 small sweet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 4-6 ramekins with grapeseed oil and set on a baking sheet.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add the leeks and all but a 1/2 tsp of the thyme to the pot and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste to the pot. Saute until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot all at once. Cook mushrooms until tender and glistening, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often and adding a bit of liquid or extra oil if necessary. Sprinkle the flour over top of the mushrooms. Stir and cook out the raw flavour of the flour for about a minute.
Pour the stout into the pot, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until liquid is reduced slightly. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olives and chopped parsley. Season the mixture to taste.
Divide the mushroom mixture among 4-6 ramekins. Layer the sweet potato slices on top, overlapping the circles as you go. There should be 2 solid layers of sweet potatoes on top of the mushrooms. Brush the top of the sweet potato slices with the remaining oil, season the slices with salt, pepper and remaining chopped thyme. Bake pot pies for 30-35 minutes, or until mushroom mixture is bubbling and the sweet potatoes are browned and lightly crispy on the edges. Serve hot.
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It felt like it had been a while, so I made you a salad. With fragrant za’atar roasted carrots, curly + gorgeous frisée, blood orange dressing, avocado and some raw and vegan cashew labneh on the side. Yes! That delightfully thick middle eastern yogurt-cheese that brings the dreaminess to every food it touches–all plant based and vibed out for your enjoyment. I’m so excited to share this one with you.
I know last week I was talking about baking on a Saturday night like the old lady I can sometimes be, but please rest assured that I am somewhat versed in the ways of wildin’ out. When the lovely Elenore from Earthsprout emailed me and a bunch of wonderful bloggers about a week-long party put on by her and Sarah of My New Roots, all centered on fermented foods, I started to think about the possibilities for some outright uninhibited adventures in my kitchen.
As a practice, fermentation is a fun thing to acquaint your vegetables, nuts, beans etc with. It brings a whole new dimension of flavour and as a bonus: it’s rather empowering to do it all yourself/witness nature just doing its thing. Kimchi, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, wine, beer, kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, yogurt… all of those tasty things are crawling with make-your-belly-happy bacteria. If you want to read a little more about fermented goodies for your health, check out Elenore and Sarah‘s posts. It’s time to populate the gut!
I’ve made kimchi, sourdough and sauerkraut a bunch of times (nerd alert! I even gave a sauerkraut making demo to a bunch of students at the culinary school I attended with one of those wrap-around-the-head-mics), but I wanted to try something a bit different. I love having a batch of cashew cream on hand for savoury applications. I started thinking about making it into yogurt… and then making the homemade cashew yogurt into labneh–that amazing drained yogurt that is so thick, tart and perfect in the corner of a mezze plate.
So I tried a batch with foggy expectations and was so excited when it turned out on the first go. I let the cashew cream come alive in a warm place for a full 36 hours for the yogurt stage. It got properly sour, so I set to work on draining it for the labneh treatment. The results were so thick and creamy, the rich taste of cashews coming through in a pleasant and fatty way, all punctuated by a big squeeze of lemon juice. Rather indulgent.
The rest of this winter salad is a breeze to scheme up. I roasted some pretty heirloom carrots in za’atar, that pungent, sharp and warm middle eastern spice blend (although it is based in the cultivation of dried and powdered za’atar bushes that grow wild in mountainous regions of the middle east), tossed them with some frisée for a whisper of bitterness, and a light blood orange and olive oil dressing, Some creamy avocado and a scoop of the cashew labneh complete the plate. This salad = pure wildin’ out. Go crazy with it, friends :)
za’atar roasted carrot salad with frisée, blood orange dressing + vegan cashew labneh
notes: If you can’t be bothered to make some cashew-based labneh at home (takes 2-3 full days), feel free to drain 1 cup of your favourite plain yogurt (goat, coconut, sheep, soy, cow etc) overnight with the juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of salt (don’t stir it up!). A nice spoonful of Greek-style yogurt or Icelandic skyr would be great too.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
scant 1/2 cup water
pinch of sea salt
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 lb carrots, washed + trimmed
2 tsp za’atar
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 head of frisée, cored, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
juice of 1 blood orange
1 ripe avocado
salt + pepper
Start by making the cashew yogurt: combine the cashews and water in the pitcher of a blender. Blend on high for a few minutes, scraping the sides down here and there. Purée the cashews and scant 1/2 cup of water until a smooth paste forms.
Scrape the cashew cream into a sterilized jar. Cover the jar with a couple layers of cheese cloth and secure it at the top with a rubber band. Set the jar in a warm spot (not too warm) for 24-36 hours or until the mix has started to sour. I put my jar in the boiler room of the house and it was ready almost two days later. Check it every 5-8 hours if you can. There should be some separation happening in the jar. If you see any mold on the surface, throw it out and start again.
Make the yogurt into labneh: Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with a paper towel or coffee filter. Scrape the cashew yogurt into the paper towel lined strainer. Squeeze the lemon over top and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Don’t stir it in! Cover the bowl and strainer with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The resulting labneh should be quite thick and it should have indentations from the paper towel. It is now ready to eat.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the carrots into 2-3 inch lenths, then cut those lengths into halves or quarters–depending on the thickness of your carrots. Toss the carrot batons with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the za-atar, salt and pepper. Arrange them on a large baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. They should be lightly browned and tender. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
While the carrots are roasting and cooling, trim up the frisée and place it in a large bowl. Peel and pit the avocado, cut it into quarters and set aside.
Add the roasted carrots to the frisée. Squeeze the blood orange over top and add the remaining extra virgin olive oil to the salad. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste and toss it all together. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Add a quarter of the avocado and a dollop of labneh to each plate. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the labneh and give it a finishing sprinkle of za’atar if you like.
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