Archive for Author Rebecca Coleman

Gluten Free Baguette

Whether you are full-on celiac, or just gluten-sensitive, one of the most difficult things about giving up wheat is finding alternatives for baking.

Sure, there are gluten-free bakeries in town, and for the most part, they do a pretty good job. I find that most stuff at the supermarket level is not that great–mixes and pre-packaged gluten free items tend to be chalky and tasteless.

gluten free Baguette

Gluten-free baking is also a big challenge. You can’t just sub out your flour cup-for-cup with say, rice flour. It will look and taste horrible. You can buy a gluten-free baking mix, and that will probably work for most things. I like the one from Cloud 9 (which is available at Costco).

My friend, Amanda Lynne, who has been gluten-free for years (she has more allergies than almost anyone I know), shared this recipe with me, and trust me, once you make it, you will want to buy her a (gluten-free) beer.

Baguette, even gluten-full, is something I have worked a lot on, without feeling like I’ve ever really mastered it. But this recipe has it all: it’s easy, and it works. It creates light, fluffy baguette with a crispy crust. No rising. And it’s gluten-free.

Now, I just have to say one thing before I get to the recipe. If you are a gluten-eater (like me), you may find the taste of this a little different. Not bad. Just different. If you are gluten-free, you will love it.

I sourced my ingredients from Kitsilano Natural Foods on Broadway. They have a wide selection of Dan-d-Mart and WestPoint Naturals pre-packaged bulk items. I’ve also seen these items at The Gourmet Warehouse.

gluten free Baguette

Gluten Free Baguette

(recipe courtesy of Amanda Lynne Ballard)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon guar gum
  • 1½ Tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 cup warm water (105 – 115 degrees) divided

Method:

  1. Proof the yeast. In a small bowl, place 1/2 cup of warm (not hot) water. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice the water goes cloudy as the yeast dissolves and begins to grow. You can add a pinch of sugar to this if you like.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Beat together the olive oil and egg whites and then add them to the flour mixture. Mix to incorporate with a whisk, a hand-mixer, or you can make this in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  4. Add the vinegar and the 1/2 cup of water which contains the yeast to the dough. Beat, adding the remaining water if needed to make a soft dough.
  5. Form the dough into logs. The dough will be quite soft, and could be a bit difficult to work with. I found that by greasing my hands with olive oil, I was able to better shape it. I made mine on my Baguette Pan, but if you don’t have one, just use a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  6. If you like, you can brush the top with beaten egg white.
  7. Use a sharp knife to cut several slits in the top of each loaf.
  8. Place the pan in a cold oven on a middle rack. Turn the oven on to 425 degrees and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
  9. Cool the loaves on a wire wrack before slicing.

Apple Donuts

Last week, I talked about my fave donut places in Vancouver. If you’re a big donut fan, though, you can also make them at home. I got these cool Donut Pans from Amazon that I use to bake donuts all the time.

These donuts, though, are donuts of a different kind.

A few years back, I was in Penticton to speak at the very first Eat, Drink, Tweet Conference. One night, after the learnin’ was done, we all headed over to Summerland, a short drive out of Pentiction, along the road that leads to Kelowna. We all had dinner at at place called Local Lounge. I’ve been back to Local a few times since then, and the food has always been astonishing. They use local, fresh ingredients, and the result is magical.

apple donuts

For dessert that night, I had something I’d never even considered before: an apple donut. Now, this wasn’t a round-shaped pastry with some chopped apple inside. This was an actual apple, cut into a ring, battered, and deep-fried.

Well, it was a bit of an eye-opener. The apple is cooked enough so that it’s warm and juicy, but not cooked so much that it’s mushy. There is that warm, crispy outer coating, only enhanced, in this case, by a dusting of sugar and cinnamon.

You really need to serve these warm, straight from the pan. They would be amazing with a little ice cream and caramel sauce on the side.

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By the way, I recently entered a contest put on by the BC Ambrosia Apples people. They are giving away a fantastic trip to the Okanagan, which includes a three-night stay in Summerland at the Summerland Waterfront Resort, a $100 gift certificate towards any service at the spa, a gift certificate for $100 at Local Lounge (so you can try their apple donuts for yourself), an Okanagan Crush Pad VIP wine tour and tasting, and $500 spending money. You just need to take a picture of how you enjoy your BC Ambrosia apples, and submit it here. I hope I win, but if I don’t, I hope YOU win!

Okanagan Crush Pad

Okanagan Crush Pad

Okay. Now for the recipe. By the way, this is based on a traditional Dutch donut, that is normally served on New Years Eve, called Appelflappen.

apple donuts

Apple Ring Donuts

  • 2 large BC Ambrosia apples
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavouring (optional)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, mixed with 1 tbsp cinnamon (for coating)

Method:

  1. Cut the apples into rings, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. You can leave the peels on. Using a small, round cookie cutter or apple corer, cut out the core of the apple, making a donut-shaped ring.
  2. In a large, flat-bottomed bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. In  separate bowl, beat the wet ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry, and stir until combined.
  4. In a heavy, flat-bottomed pot or frying pan (I used my cast iron), heat about 1/2″ of a neutral oil, like sunflower or vegetable. Coconut would also work. When the oil is shimmering and hot (you can test it if you like, with a little drop of batter), dip the apple slices into the batter, then pick them up with a fork and allow the excess to drip off. Carefully place them in the hot oil, away from you. Allow them to cook for about 3 minutes, until golden, and then flip and cook them on the other side.
  5. Meanwhile, put the sugar/cinnamon mixture in a brown paper bag. Take the donuts out of the hot pan, and drop them immediately into the cinnamon/sugar mixture, and shake the bag well to coat. Allow to cool slightly, and then eat them right away! They are no good left over.

Vancouver’s Best Donuts

Before we get to the business at hand, let’s have a moment to discuss donut versus doughnut. The proper, real, official word is doughnut, but modern lexicon writes donut more often than not. It’s a word that’s been heavily influenced by America, Homer Simpson, and laziness–who needs to write those three extra letters?

No matter how you spell it, the donut is a delicious treat. Yeasted dough, sweet and flavoured, is dropped into hot oil, where it puffs up, and creates a beautiful, golden-brown crust. Then, the donut becomes like a blank canvas to the donut-creators wishes, taking on whatever glazes, fillings, or toppings the creator can imagine.

Here’s where to find Vancouver’s best donuts. I’ve been to them all.

Outpost Mini Donuts–Steveston

outpost mini donuts

It’s not easy to find. Tucked away in a tiny (but adorable) shop on a side-street in Steveston, you will find Outpost Mini Donuts. Now, what makes them special is that they do only, and nothing but, mini-donuts. These are not your PNE mini donuts (which, to be fair, are really in a whole category of their own). Nope, these mini-d’s come with a variety of interesting and delicious toppings, and are served in a paper cone. Regular flavours include Vanilla Bean Icing with sprinkles, and (our fave) Maple Icing with sprinkles. They also have seasonal choices, like lemon or blueberry. Pair your cone ‘o’ donuts with a stroll on the Steveston Boardwalk–it’s an incredibly charming little town.

Lucky’s Doughnuts–Kitsilano and Main St

lucky's doughnuts

When Lucky’s and Parallel 49 Coffee conspired together to open up a shop at Main and 13th a few years back, this city hit the jackpot. Never has there been a more perfect pairing. I’ve been a huge fan of Parallel 49 since forever, and now you can dunk a donut in your perfect pour-over. These are grown-up donuts. Elegant. Everything here is made “slow,” from scratch, even the jams and fillings. The donuts are classics: I almost never recommend trying a plain donut, but honestly, at Lucky’s The Classic Old Fashioned is probably the way to go, although their apple fritter and the PB & J also rock. My favourite thing to order here, though, is not a donut, but their beignets. Warm, coated in powdered sugar, and accompanied by three sauces, they immediately transport you to New Orleans.

Lee’s Donuts–Granville Island

If I could only describe Lee’s with one word, that word would be old school. Okay, so that’s two words, but you get the idea, right? Lee’s has been in business on Granville Island for 36 years. Thirty-six! Owned by the same guy, not shockingly named Lee, every day they churn out hundreds of delicious, warm, glazed donuts. This is a classic donut. Light and fluffy and warm and sweet. They are like what I imagine clouds would taste like if you cut them into rings, deep-fried them, and sugar-glazed them.

Honey’s Donuts–Deep Cove

IMG_6071

Like Steveston, Deep Cove is a charming little town that I sometimes like to escape to. I love the drive out there, and arriving in the Cove always feels like an exhale. After an afternoon of hiking, walking, or kayaking, you’ll want to reward yourself with a donut from Honey’s. There’s always a line. But there’s a reason for that. Honey’s donuts are tall. In fact, it’s a bit of a challenge to get your mouth around one. They are cakier, heavier than some other donuts, but still delicious. Our fave was the maple-glazed, with bacon. Even if you skip the hike, a drive to Deep Cove for a donut is completely justified.

Cartem’s Donuterie–Downtown

For my money, Cartem’s serves the best donuts in town. Cartem’s has become the place I go to celebrate anything: first day of school, last day of school, getting all the laundry done… The sheer creativity that owner Jordan Cash and chef Rajesh Narine bring to their work puts them on top. Here, you’ll find seasonally-inspired creations that are only available for a short time (today, for example, they are serving up a special donut for Chinese New Year), but every day creativity rules, here, as well. Michael’s fave is the Whiskey Bacon, and my fave is the Honey-Parmesian. I know it sounds weird to put cheese on a donut, but it’s magic. They also have daily vegan and gluten-free choices, which I don’t believe any of the other donut shops in the city have. You really need to check them out.

Where’s your fave donut join in Vancity? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below.

The Keg: Winter Grill & $100 Giveaway

I really feel like I should be writing something here like “oh, winter… it feels like it will go on forever…” And, if you are in an area of Canada east of me, that is likely how you feel right now. Buried in snow and minuses.

However, here in Vancouver, signs of spring abound. There are cherry blossoms, crocuses, and our temps are in the double-digits. Apologies to the rest of Canada.

Wherever you are in the great white north, however, I’m pretty sure a good steak dinner wouldn’t go awry.

the keg winter grill stuffed filet

Michael and I got to get a taste (literally) of a new winter promotion that The Keg has on right now, until March 29. It’s called Winter Grill, and it’s all about comfort food. The night we went (to the Yaletown location) it really was a miserable, rainy, Vancouver winter night. The kind of night where you just want to hibernate and carb-load, with a really nice glass of red wine.

Instead, we hibernated in one of the warm and cozy booths at the Keg, and got our steak (with a side of tasty carbs) on.

the keg calamari

There are four menu options on The Keg Winter Grill menu:

Rib Steak for Two (or more) is a 30 ounce (!!) hearty bone-in rib steak, grilled to perfection and served with sautéed field mushrooms. You’ll want to bring several hungry men with you to make short work of this one. Then, there’s the more dainty Keg Stuffed Fillet. It’s a 7 oz fillet, butterflied, and filled with with slices of capocollo, dates, jalapeños and feta cheese. I know that sounds like a strange combination, but it’s really delicious. It’s a tiny bit sweet, salty, and spicy in every bite, and the entire thing is snuggled in a blanket of applewood smoked bacon. Where can I get an applewood smoked bacon blanket?? Next up, you could choose the Kansas City Strip, a 13 oz,  tender, bone-in (bones mean flavour!) New York striploin grilled to your specification. Finally, there’s the Blackened Manhattan, a kind of cajun-style 7 oz steak, coated with select herbs and spices and finished with herb butter. Each of the steaks comes with your choice of potato, or rice, and mixed vegetables, and you can even add on a sauce, like whiskey peppercorn.

I’m not a huge meat-eater, but I finished the entire filet, and I especially loved the twice-baked potato with bacon, the inside of which had the same texture as a cloud. I have no idea how the Keg gets their mashed potatoes so light and fluffy, but I sure would like to bribe one of the kitchen staff for that secret!

the keg caesar salad

Your meal will get started with a loaf of The Keg’s world-famous bread. It comes with a couple different kinds of butter–one is plain, but the other has cheese and bacon in it. It is so unbelievably delicious. Really the epitome of “bacon makes everything better.”

The Keg Winter Grill menu also includes one starter, Lobster Bisque, but of course you can order whatever you like on the menu, as well, including dessert. In fact, I think I have to insist that you order dessert.

I’m giving away a $100 gift certificate to The Keg to one lucky reader, so you can try out The Winter Grill menu for yourself (or anything else that tickles your fancy on The Keg’s menu).

new york cheesecake

To enter this contest:

Comment below and let me know what your favourite thing at The Keg is to eat (or if you’ve never eaten there, what you want to try). This contest is open to all residents of Canada. I will choose a winner at random on Friday, February 27, and your gift card will be mailed to you.

For an additional entry into the contest, tweet the following:

Good luck! And I wish the rest of Canada warm temperatures and an early spring.

A special shoutout to the staff at The Keg Yaletown. The service was exemplary. 

Lentil Cassoulet with Baked Egg

One of the reasons I love trying new restaurants is because I love being challenged. I regularly go into a place I’ve never been before and ask “what is the most daring thing on the menu?” and order that. I’ve yet to have the hot chocolate with crickets at Mink, but I’ve made some delightfully surprising discoveries this way, like the Chicken Fried Gator at Chewies, or the Octopus Chips at the now-defunct Bonita.

A couple weeks back, I had a dish similar to this one at Left Bank for brunch. Lentils are not often thought of as a breakfast or brunch food, and this dish really would be good any time of the day. But it does have an egg, so for me, that puts it in the breakfast/brunch category.

IMG_6084

 

There are two components to this dish. The first is the lentil cassoulet. It’s simple, but flavourful. The main challenge of this component is time: the lentils need to braise for a while to become soft enough, and to pick up all the yummy savouriness of the mirepoix and the herbs.

The second challenge of this dish is the timing of the eggs. Now, it’s not super hard to make a runny egg if you’re doing sunny-side up. It gets exponentially harder when the egg is in its shell, or if you are poaching it, because the yolk is hidden under the white, and it becomes more challenging to tell when it’s the right doneness. You want the yolk to still be runny, because it creates a kind of built-in sauce when you cut into the cassoulet.

But if you can get it all right, the end result is both rustic and sophisticated, in a French country kind of way. No matter how you slice it, it’s comfort food through and through.

I specifically set out to make this vegetarian, but I think it would be delicious if you fried chopped bacon in the pan instead of using oil and butter to cook the vegetables in before adding the lentils. The bacon would give the lentils a lovely, smokey flavour, and really, what goes better with eggs than some bacon?

lentil cassoulet with baked egg

Lentil Cassoulet with Baked Egg

(gluten free, vegetarian)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup dried lentils, either french or beluga (as I used here)
  • 2 cups (plus more) good quality vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 medium carrot, diced fine
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced fine
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • eggs

Method: 

  1. Wash the lentils and strain them.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter and olive oil together, and then add the onion, carrot and celery. Season, and then sweat the vegetables out for about 5-10 minutes, until they are fragrant, and starting to soften. Add the garlic and stir well, just a minute or two. Now add the lentils, stir and coat them well in the vegetables and oil. Drop in the bay leaf and thyme.
  3. Add the wine and tomato paste, and stir well. Now add vegetable stock, a few ladlefuls at a time, until the lentils are covered in stock. Allow it to come up to a simmer, and then cover loosely and allow to braise. All together, this step will probably take about an hour. Stir them occasionally, and check to see that they have not boiled dry. When they start to look dry, add some more stock. Cook until the lentils are soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Remove bay leaf and thyme twigs, and allow to cool.
  5. Place a large spoonful of cassoulet in a ramekin. Push the lentils up the side to make a kind of nest for the egg. Break and egg in the middle of the nest, and then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny.
  6. If desired, garnish with chopped scallions, then finish with smoked salt or truffle salt, and serve.

Habibi’s Dips Giveaway!

Okay, so we’re well into the new year. How are your healthy new year’s resolutions coming along?

This coming weekend will no doubt be a great reason for us all to eat our body weight in chocolate, and not feel guilty for it, but let’s talk healthy options, anyways, for both before and after.

habibis hummus vegetables

It’s worthy to note that dark chocolate really is good for you–so you shouldn’t feel guilty eating that anyway. It really is the world’s most perfect food. But the world’s second most perfect food, for me, is hummus.

It’s kind of amazing. It’s made from chickpeas, which are a wonderful, inexpensive and vegetarian source of protein. And it’s really a blank slate. Hummus is creamy, and you can use it in a ton of ways. You can also add all kinds of spices and flavourings to it, and it will take those flavours on, changing its profile from spicy to sweet to daring.

The nice folks at Habibi’s (which is a local manufacturer of Hummus), sent me a ton of their stuff, and I’ve been scarfing it down every which way. They have a wide variety of flavour options, and they also sell baba ganoush (a wonderful, smoky-tasting roasted eggplant dip/spread) and tzatziki (a cooling yogurt-based dip with lemon and dill), as well as tahini (a sesame seed paste).

habibis hummus

I’ve been making wraps with my hummus: you just schmear a bunch of it on a tortilla, add whatever vegetables turn you on (shredded carrots, lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, I also like to throw in some olives), wrap it up, and off you go. I have also been taking some time on the weekend to prep vegetables, and then I put them in containers that have a side separate container for the hummus. You could also do this in a mason jar: you just put the hummus in the bottom of the jar, and then load it up with veggies, standing vertically. These make great grab-and-go snacks.

I’m giving away a gift basket of Habibi’s Dips, worth $30. You’ll get to sample all of their different flavours.

Photo 2015-01-28, 1 38 32 PM

To enter, comment below and answer one of the two following questions: 

  • What’s your favourite way to enjoy hummus? 
  • What flavour of Habibi’s are you most excited to try? 

You can get an extra contest entry by tweeting: 

You must reside in the Lower Mainland. I’ll draw one person at random at the end of day on Monday, February 16.

Good luck!! May the odds be ever in your favour.

 

Best Chocolate Recipes For Valentine’s Day

I am a big fan of homemade gifts. Every year, I make up dozens of cookies of at Christmas to give to friends and family. If it’s your birthday, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get something homemade and fattening from me.

Valentine’s Day is no exception. I have been accused of trying to make my sweeties fat in the past, and I am most likely guilty. I can’t help it–if I like you, I want to make you yummy things. It’s just my way of showing I care.

best chocolate recipes for valentines day including gluten free and vegan

I went back through my recipe archive and pulled for you all of my favourite chocolate recipes, including ones that are vegan and gluten-free. There’s something here for everyone.

Have some fun making something nice for your sweetie. And remember–only you can add the secret ingredient… love. Awww.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take an insulin shot. I might die from all this sweetness.

Best Chocolate Recipes for Valentine’s Day

 

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (chocolate and bacon in a bed of soft cookie dough…)

Chocolate Souffle (so easy a 10-yr-old could make it!)

Chocolate Beer Cake (let’s just say my sweetie flipped for this one)

Decadent Chocolate Brownies Made with Wine (chocolate and red wine? Hells to the yes)

Miniature Brownies for Valentine’s Day (my fave recipe of all time–I make this one every year, it’s my go-to)

 

Vegan

Chocolate Donuts with Salted Caramel Glaze

Fudgy Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

 

Gluten Free

Gluten-free Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten-free Fudgey Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Valentine’s Day is coming, and I have a post for you later this week that rounds up all my favourite chocolate recipes.

But this. This is the ultimate Valentine’s Day treat to make for your (non-vegetarian) sweetie.

bacon chocolate chip cookies

First of all, bacon belongs in the same magical category as unicorns and sriracha (in fact, there’s a fun blog called Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries. Read it). I have often said I could happily give up meat and be a true vegetarian…. if it weren’t for bacon.

This past year for me, has been a love affair with all things that combine sweet and savoury. When I was in Edmonton a couple months back, I discovered a restaurant that sold chocolate covered bacon. I totes ordered that. And it was gooood.

bacon chocolate collage

So. While bacon and chocolate might seem like strange bedfellows, I’m guessing a few people have said the same about you and your sweetie. So why not bake up a batch of these opposites-attract-in-the-most-delicious-way cookies?

I got this recipe from Angie Quaale, BBQ master and owner of Well Seasoned in Langley. I attended a pork cooking class at Well Seasoned before Christmas, and Angie graciously shared her recipe with us.

These cookies, by the way, made the list of Vancouver Magazine’s 101 things to eat before you die, and if you don’t want to make them yourself, you can order them already constructed from Well Seasoned. Bake them up in the oven, and your sweetie will never know you didn’t do the heavy lifting.

The key to making the recipe is to make sure your bacon is crispy. You want the bacon to add both a salty and a textural element to the otherwise soft cookies. You could also candy your bacon, you know, just to take it up a notch.

My gal Emily (@the_fat_pigs) and Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies: a match made in heaven.

My gal Emily (@the_fat_pigs) and Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies: a match made in heaven.

Angie Quaale’s World Famous Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz chocolate chips

6 slices thick cut Johnston’s bacon – cooked crisp and roughly chopped OR candied (see below. If you are going to candy your bacon, you’ll also need 2/3 cup maple syrup)

Method:

To candy the bacon: Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and bake the bacon for about 15 minutes, until brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and drain well on paper towels. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees, and place back on the pan. Pour over the maple syrup, and turn the bacon to coat well. Bake for 15 minutes, turn, and then bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on parchment paper. Bacon will crisp up as it cools.

For the cookies: 

  1. Cream together butter and sugars until smooth.
  2. Add egg and vanilla and blend in. Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Finally, stir in chocolate chunks and bacon.
  3. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

Angie Quaale will be doing a cooking demo at The Wellness Show on Friday, February 13, at 6 pm. She’ll be making Blackened BC Pork Tenderloin Medallions, Artichoke, Mushroom & Garlic Sauce for Pasta. She’ll also be giving away a couple of seats to one of her cooking classes to those who attend. I’ll be there–hope to see you! 

Mason Jar Veggie Bowls: A Week’s Worth of Healthy Lunches for $20

Last summer, I discovered (insert angel chorus here) Salad in a Jar!

Yep. It’s life-changing. I’ve been setting aside time on the weekends to prep lunches for the week. It’s been a great way to save some green, and eat my greens at the same time.

Well, now that it’s winter, I’m not super interested in salad. I want something warm. Heartier. Warming. But still portable.

mason jar veggie bowls

Can you make a week’s worth of healthy lunches for $20? With the help of some mason jars, you betcha!

There certainly are lots of options, like making a big pot of soup to eat during the week. But I was inspired to go beyond soup and try making a veggie bowl by the new Thug Kitchen Cookbook.

There’s a whole section in there about veggie bowls, and what I noticed was that a veggie bowl is very similar to a salad in a jar–could I adapt the veggie bowl concept to work in a mason jar?

Turns out, you can, quite successfully.

mason jar veggie bowls

Mason Jar Veggie Bowls: 

1: Grains. If you are gluten-free, choose a gluten-free grain. Rice is the standard/fallback, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. Quinoa, buckwheat, barley, millet, kasha, the list goes on and on. I used Farro in my most recent experiment. If you are pressed for time, get one that cooks quickly, in 10-15 minutes. Brown rice, while quite healthy, will take almost an hour to cook. You’ll need about 2 cups of cooked grains for the week. The grain component of your jar should be about 1/3.

2. Protein. I use firm tofu in mine, but you have lots of other options. Leftover chicken or lean beef, even quickly-sauteed shrimp would rock. Vegetarian meat strips or seitan would also work really well. One package of firm tofu was enough for me for the week. You’ll want your protein component to be about 1/4 of your jar.

3. Veggies. You can do these raw, or you can quickly stir fry them. I have used a variety of different things, like yams I’ve baked and cut up, kale, shredded raw carrots, crunchy snow peas, edamame beans, mushrooms, basically whatever you like. The other day, I grabbed a handful of this yummy Superfood Salad I’d picked up from Costco, and stir-fried it quickly, and it went into my jar. You’ll want the biggest proportion in your jar to be veggies–1/3 to 1/2.

4. Sauce. This is where you really get to customize! I have been keeping my simple, by mixing together hoisin sauce and soy sauce (to thin it out). You could do a basic teriyaki type sauce with soy, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and a little cornstarch to thicken. Substitute Tamari to make it gluten-free. I also love a nice peanut sauce: peanut butter, soy sauce, a little heat, a little sugar. Here is a blog post that lists a bunch of different sauces you can play around with. You only need 1-2 tbsp of sauce.

That’s it–once you have all your ingredients, you just need to prep your jars. I used 500 ml wide-mouthed mason jars. Your grains go in the bottom, then your veggies, then the protein on top of that. Pour over a couple tablespoons of sauce, and garnish, if you like, with sesame seeds. Screw the lid on, and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to eat. You can warm this a little in the microwave, if you like, or just eat it cold, straight from the jar.

Happy lunching!

Slow Cookers for the DTES

As a food blogger, I often work closely with PR agencies around the city. They invite me to events, to try new products and restaurants. It’s a great relationship, and it is beneficial for both of us.

I recently had an email from Rachel over at Dunn PR, alerting me to a new project that they are volunteering on. Let me tell you about it.

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Last month, I wrote a post about food deserts, and how tough it is to eat healthy on a tiny budget. Many people who live in the DTES live on a budget of $25 or less a week for their food. As you can imagine, this is a big challenge, and they often can’t get through the week without the help of food banks, or soup kitchens.

Whole Way House is a charitable organization located in the DTES, and they service the residents of an SRO called The Avalon, located at Main and Pender. Whole Way House provides community services, like family dinners, games nights, haircuts, pet therapy, and a community garden.

One of the challenges of living in an SRO is that you have no kitchen. Many residents have a small fridge or maybe a toaster oven or a hot plate. But they don’t have a full, functioning kitchen. Cooking healthy food can be a real challenge.

Whole Way House is partnering up with Chef David Robertson, of The Dirty Apron cooking school, to do crock pot cooking classes for the residents of The Avalon. Slow cookers are the perfect tool for people who live an SRO. You can cook an entire meal in there, start to finish, and you make those meals healthy soups, stews and curries. In addition, they are incredibly safe, and the long cooking process makes most things you make in there quite flavourful and delicious.

Chef Robertson has been a supporter of Whole Way House for a while. He lives in the neighbourhood, and has a friend that works there. In the past, he’s hosted fundraisers for the charity, has offered his Dirty Apron kitchen so they can cook their Christmas turkeys, and and regularly donates leftovers from the cooking school.

“We all have a role to play in the community,” he says, when I interview him in the kitchen classroom at The Dirty Apron. “I see food as a medium to help in the community.”

Whole Way House’s mandate is combat lonliness in the DTES, and create that sense of community, so when they asked him if he would teach a slow cooker cooking class, he said yes.

He will teach the first class on February 29, and it will be a riff on the Boeuf Borgignon recipe in his recently published Dirty Apron Cookbook.

“Stew is perfect for slow cookers,” he says. “It’s rustic, and it doesn’t demand a lot of specialty tools. They basically just need a knife and cutting board.”

The recipe is inexpensive, and can easily feed a number of people. The class will include a shopping list, including how much each item costs.

I took Chef Robertson’s recipe to the Sunshine Market on the DTES and shopped for the ingredients. All together, it cost me under $12.71 to purchase the ingredients (with bacon left over). This recipe will feed 3-4, especially if you include a side dish, like pasta, potatoes or bread.

Here’s the Chef demoing the recipe on a recent episode of Breakfast Television:

How can you help?

UPDATE: the slow cooker cooking class was a big success! Thanks to everyone who donated.

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