Monday, May 26, 2014

Vegan Sausage and Pepper Pasta

I'm always looking for ways to make meals healthier, and sausages are one of the things that I like but that really need an update.  I usually cut one up into smaller pieces so that it flavours the entire dish without adding a ton of calories or unhealthy fat.  However, this vegan gluten-free sausage is a great way to get the flavour in a much healthier way.  It is based on a recipe by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl and is a bit like a falafel.  If you don't want a vegan sausage or don't have the time to make them, you can still make the pasta dish with a bit of regular Italian sausage.

After going to three stores to find basil, I struck out and opted for fresh oregano, but I would definitely use basil, if possible.

You will need cheese cloth and kitchen string to make the sausages.

Makes 5 sausages.  Pasta serves two as a main course (uses two of the sausages).

Sausage Ingredients:

1/2 cup ready-to-eat sundried tomatoes
3/4 cup toasted cashews
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 small red chili, seeded and chopped
6 unsulphured dried apricots
1/2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp shiro miso (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tsp oregano

1 cup brown rice flour
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds or ground chia seeds

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

4 1//2 cups vegetable stock

1 Tbsp olive oil, for frying


1. In a food processor, pulse together the first 11 ingredients.

2. Add the next three ingredients and pulse until completely combined.

3. Add the olive oil and the water and pulse until mixture forms a dough ball.

4. Separate into five equal portions and roll into sausage shapes.  Wrap in cheese cloth and tie each end with kitchen string.

5. Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a large frying pan and simmer the sausages for 45 minutes, turning half-way through.

6. Remove the cheese cloth by cutting off the ends.  Then, fry the sausages in olive oil until they are brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

7. If you are making the pasta, do so while the sausages are frying.  If you have leftovers, cool and freeze them.

Pasta Ingredients:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
8 cocktail tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped or torn
salt, pepper
fresh parmesan (optional)

1/2 lb short pasta


1. Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.  Start the rest of the recipe while the water comes to a boil.  When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and red pepper flakes.

3. Add the onion, peppers and a bit of salt to the oil and sauté until the peppers are just tender.

4. When there is about 3 minutes left in the cooking time of the pasta, add the garlic and tomatoes.

5. Add the cooked pasta to the peppers and toss to coat.  Add black pepper as desired.  Add slices sausage.  Serve topped with basil and parmesan (optional). Enjoy!

** If you would like a saucier pasta, you can use a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of the fresh tomatoes.

Shopping Tips:

1. Rice flour and xanthan gum (pronounced zanthan) can be purchased at an organic or health food store.

2. So can unsulphured dried apricots.  If you can't find them, though, just use regular ones.

3. When they are in season, you can find many different colours of peppers at the Farmers Market or Italian Store.  Try different combinations.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crunchy Baked Strawberry and Rhubarb Oatmeal

This recipe is adapted from one in Vegetarian Everyday by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl.  I call for this to be prepared the night before, in fact, the first time I made it, I took it to a breakfast potluck at work.  But, in a real pinch, it can be made the morning of.  It definitely benefits from sitting, though.  It can also easily be made vegan if you substitute almond milk and a flax or chia egg*.  If you use gluten-free oats, it is also a filling gluten-free breakfast.  One more option: If you pair it with ice cream, you can eat it for dessert!

Serves 4 - 6.


2 stalks rhubarb, sliced
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
21/4 cups milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, depending on your preference
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup flaked coconut, pieces as large as you can find (I use dehydrated flakes)


The night before you want to eat this...

1. Place the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5 - 7 minutes. Chop to large chunks.

2. Place the sliced rhubarb and strawberries in a large round baking dish.

3. In a bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon.  Spread on top of the fruit.

4. In the same, now empty bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Pour on top of the oats, making sure everything is soaked.  Cover and refrigerate.

5. In the morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Combine the coconut oil, nuts, and maple syrup.  Spread on top of the oats.

7. Bake oatmeal for 40 - 50 minutes.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with yogurt, if you wish.  Enjoy!

*Vegan Egg:

For an egg alternative with no sacrificing in taste, combine 2 Tbsp chia seeds or ground flax seeds with 1/3 cup of water.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  This will replace the two eggs in the recipe.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Warm Halloumi Salad

Several years ago when we lived in England, Scott discovered donair kebabs (pronounced donner  kebahbs, for some reason).  These are not kebabs as we Canadians know them, but are actually donairs.  At the time, I was a fish-eating vegetarian (otherwise know as a pescetarian) and couldn't eat the meat donairs that he was eating; however, there was one little Lebanese shop down the street from us that served vegetarian halloumi donair kebabs.  I had never heard of halloumi before, but it is a wonderfully mild cheese that you can grill because it doesn't melt.  Depending on the kind you buy, it can be a bit salty and might need to be rinsed, but otherwise it is a great addition to many savoury meals.  This recipe is a healthy way to incorporate halloumi into a warm salad that makes a very filling meal.

Serves two as a main or four as a side.


3/4 cup whole grains (spelt, wheat berries, farro)
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
1 large or 2 small leeks, cleaned and sliced into half moons
1 tbsp ready-to-eat sun-dried tomatoes (or packed in oil)
6 kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 clamshell of baby spinach, chard, kale
juice of half of one lemon
1 tsp honey
4 1/4 inch slices of halloumi
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp fresh basil


1. Cook whole grains ahead of time.  Most will need to be soaked overnight.  I used spelt for this recipe.  Because I forgot to soak it, I poured boiling water over it and let it sit for two hours, did the same thing again, and then cooked it for about 25 minutes.  However, it can take up to 60 minutes of cooking time.  For that reason, it is always easier to cook whole grains ahead of time and then throw them into boiling water for 30 seconds when you need them.  You can even freeze them and then throw them in the pot, frozen, when you need them.

2. In a dry medium pan, toast pine nuts.  Keep an eye on them.  You want them to be brown, but they burn quickly.  Set aside to cool.

3. In the same pan, sauté oil, red pepper flakes, and leeks until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes, olives, garlic, and basil.  Slice the halloumi and rinse, if needed.

5. When the leeks are tender, add the garlic and baby spinach.  Continue cooking until the spinach has wilted.  Add in the lemon juice, honey, and a bit more oil, if needed.  Add pepper but do not add salt as the olives and haloumi are both salty.

6. Add the cooked spelt to the leeks and spinach.  Toss to coat with the dressing in the pan.  Add in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and set aside.

7. Heat a small pan.  Brush both sides of the halloumi with oil and sprinkle each piece with the Italian seasoning.  Grill the cheese in the hot pan on both sides until it is brown.  Place on top of the salad and top with fresh basil.  Enjoy!

This salad is great warm, cold, or room temperature although the cheese is best served hot.

Shopping Tips:

1. Halloumi is not sold in all grocery stores.  It is sold at Superstore as "halloom".  This is what I buy as it is not as salty as the haloumi that I have bought from specialty stores in the past.  They also sell a herbed version if you do not have Italian seasoning.

2. I buy the plastic clamshells of mixed baby spinach, chard, and kale, but if you can only get spinach, that's perfectly fine.

3. Whole grains are becoming more available, but I make a special trip to the organic store to buy them in bulk.  I then store them in 1L canning jars.  If you are going to use them quickly, you can store them in the pantry, otherwise, you can keep them in the freezer to keep them from going rancid. The same goes for nuts.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Perogy Bites

Every August, I go to the Heritage Festival in Edmonton where there are more than one hundred tents representing cuisines from all over the world.  I am ashamed to admit it, but each year I make a bee-line for the Ukrainian tent so that I can eat pierogies.  Why would I go to such a wonderful event and focus on pierogies, which I can get any day of the year?  Because I feel guilty eating them normally.  Full of white flour, cheese, butter, and potato, they are not exactly the healthiest dumplings on the planet.  I have been searching for a way to make them a bit healthier, and I've finally done it.  The greatest thing about these perogy bites is that they can be an appetizer or a meal, and if you leave off the bacon (or substitute it with coconut bacon), they are even vegan!  But don't worry, they taste just like pierogies - maybe even better - they are a cross between perogies, a baked potato, and chips.  To make this easier, make the cheesy cream a day ahead.

Makes 20 - 24 pierogie bites.


Cheesy Cream:
1 cup plain, raw cashews (soak in water overnight, or at least 4 hours)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp onion powder
pinch cayenne pepper

1 long, skinny russet potato
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions
2 green onions
1 rasher of bacon (optional)


1. To make the Cheesy Cream, drain and rinse the cashews and then combine them with the water, nutritional yeast, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in a blender or bullet.  Blend until a smooth paste results, about 3 - 5 minutes.  Refrigerate until cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Slice the unpeeled potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds.  brush them with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and then bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 30 - 35 minutes, turning over halfway through.

3. Slice the onions into half-moon slices and sauté in the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat until they are caramelized and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

4. Slice the green onions into very thin slices, including the green bits.  If you are using the bacon, slice it into bits, and fry in a small dry pan until it is crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Set aside.

5. When the potatoes and onions are ready, assemble the bites.  On top of each potato round, smother about 1 tsp Cheesy Cream, add some caramelized onions, green onion, and bacon pieces, if using.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Russet potatoes are also called baking potatoes.  They are the ones with the scabby skin that look dirty, even when they are not.

2. Nutritional yeast is not yeast, but is a by-product of molasses.  It is an important source of vitamin B12, and it looks like yellow flakes.  See this recipe for a picture.  It smells like the cheese package in KD.  It can usually be found in the organic section of the grocery store, usually in the bulk bin.  Try sprinkling it on your popcorn for a cheesy alternative...

That's it.  Don't be scared by the planning required to make this recipe.  It comes together really easily.  If you can make perogies, you can make this recipe!