vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

barley millet breakfast bowl

i’m not much of a breakfast person. when i get up, all i want is coffee. my eyes don’t work. playing with fire or knives would be a bad idea.

what i do find though, is if there is something available, i’m more likely to eat it. i guess i could have made a long story short and just said, i’m lazy in the morning, which is true, and i’ll freely admit it. so when i’m full of energy at night, i’ll make a few breakfasty-type things to have on hand, like cooked grains.

millet is an underused little seed that i love! it’s nutty and crunchy, easy to prepare, and makes a tasty addition to this breakfast bowl.

i had some leftover barley after making this. you can use quinoa, wheat berries, kasha, whatever you’re feeling.

barley millet breakfast bowl

vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

1/2 cup millet
1 cup water
1/2 cup cooked barley
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 banana, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup toasted almonds*
1/2 cup almond milk

place the millet in a small saucepan and heat to medium, shaking the pan to toast the millet. the grains will start to pop and when they just start to give off a bit of smoke, are turning golden, and smell toasty, carefully add the water (carefully Рit will sputter and spit at you). Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat off. Allow to stand for 20 minutes, or until millet has absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool completely. stir in maple syrup.

for each bowl, place 1/4 of the millet and 1/4 of the barley. top with 1.4 of the bananas and berries, and sprinkle with almonds. pour over a little almond milk, and drizzle with a little more maple syrup, if you like it a little sweeter.

*i used whole, unblanched, raw almonds and chopped them roughly before toasting in a dry pan.

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lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

over the years i’ve spent cooking and writing, i’ve become quite accustomed to the idea of easy eating. that means having a few good things on hand that work in multiple ways, are simple to make and taste good without having to try too hard. marinated mushrooms are one of my standbys.

i make these little lemon pepper marinated mushrooms and keep them in a jar for a few days, to enjoy alongside some good bread, some antipasto ingredients, or to toss into a bean salad or eat with cheese and crackers.

years ago, my grandfather gave me his recipe for marinated mushrooms, and so this is a version of his. i remember there was usually a bowl of them on the table at my grandparents’ house when we went for dinner, and how i always asked if i could fill it, so i could sneak a few in the kitchen. it’s hard to eat just one!

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

1/2 cup olive oil (doesn’t need to be the good stuff for this)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (a little coarse is best for this)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound small, very fresh button mushrooms

place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, gently stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon. turn heat off, and allow the mushrooms to steep in the marinade until they are completely cooled. pack into a 1L glass mason jar, pour the marinade over, and refrigerate.

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french walnut cake

french carrot cake

quite often, i write the blog while eating what i’ve made. right now is one of those times. cake, coffee, and writing seem to go together just right.

i call this french, because it is loosely based on the lovely and traditional french perigord walnut cake, but with the addition of shredded carrots.

it mixes up in one bowl, and needs no further adornment than a good drizzle of honey at the end.

it’s nice enough for company, but simple enough to make just because you feel like some cake. slice and eat with coffee. enjoying at breakfast time would not be the weirdest idea.

Walnut Cake 2

french walnut cake

1 cup walnuts, ground very fine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold coffee
1 large carrot, grated
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey

heat oven to 350f. butter a 9″ round cake pan, line with parchment, then butter the parchment.

in a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, flour, baking soda, and salt. in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. add the coffee, carrot, and melted butter, and whisk to combine. add the dry ingredients, all at once, and mix together quickly with rubber spatula. batter will be runny. scrape into prepared pan. bake for 50 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. if needed, bake 5-10 minutes more. remove from oven an cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

turn out onto a plate and spread the honey over the top. cool completely, then slice.

makes 8 servings.

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chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

chickpea burger

sometimes, what you want is a burger. and burgers can be made from anything, really, so a burger made from chickpeas, is every bit a burger. meat does not hold a monopoly on burgers!

vegetarian burgers come in so many incarnations. this one is not a meat substitute. it’s made with chickpeas, flavoured with garlic and herbs, and is almost like a fritter, so it holds together when you cook it. it’s a bit wet, so use floured hands to shape them.

it’s smeared with a smoky feta and red pepper spread, and piled with greens and avocado on a handmade brioche bun. le yum.

if you have a flat-top or a non-stick pan, use it for this recipe, and you’ll be happy, not swearing.

you can make these up and fry them in advance, up to 2 days, then reheat on a sheet pan. yay! we love do-aheads…

chickpea burger

chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

makes 4

1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and fresh pepper
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 tbsp, mint leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 thai chili, roughly chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil for frying

place the drained chickpeas, a dash of salt and a few grindings of pepper, the garlic, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, green onions, and thai chili. blitz a few times to break up the chickpeas so that some are mashed but some chunks remain. add the egg and butter and pulse a few times to combine. turn out into a bowl. mix together the flour and baking powder and stir into chickpea mixture. chill completely.

divide into 4 portions (you can make them smaller and divide into 6 if you wish). use floured hands to form into balls, and flatten slightly. heat a flat-top griddle or non-stick pan to high. brush with canola oil. place burgers on hot griddle, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden and firm.

serve on split, toasted buns with tomato slices, avocado, and smoky red pepper spread.

smoky red pepper spread

1 red pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, broken up
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp. plain, natural yogurt

char the pepper over a gas flame, on the grill, or under the broiler, until blackened and blistered on all sides. place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely. use a paper towel to rub off the skin. pop the pepper open and remove the seeds. don’t rinse the pepper! place in the bowl of a food processor with the feta and the paprika. process until smooth-ish. add the yogurt, 1 tbsp at a time, until mixture is spreadable. add lemon juice. scrape into a covered container and chill.

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fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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laotian vegan barley bowl

laotian vegan barley bowl

back in the 90’s, i saw an episode of the excellent cooking show, taste, where David Rosengarten made larb, the minced meat salad of laos. ever since, i’ve wanted to create a vegan version of this fresh and flavourful salad, and by george, i think i’ve done it. the combination of clean flavours from the vegetables and herbs, combined with the barley and a zippy dressing, is outstanding. every time i make this and eat it, i’m amazed at how good it is. i just have to share it with you!

i sometimes make this with veggie ground round, and it works great if you a craving something “meaty”. but i don’t want to eat a lot of processed fake meat, so i started making it with barley. it absorbs the flavours so well and makes a satisfying meal of this salad.

check out the hands-off method of cooking barley too.

vegan larb 1

laotian vegan barley bowl

3/4 cup uncooked barley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 thai chili, thinly sliced (or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup each torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
4 cups torn lettuces, greens, kale, or sprouts, or a mixture
1 tbsp toasted rice powder*
2 tbsp toasted cashews or peanuts, chopped


1 tsp. almond butter
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

place barley in a medium saucepot and cover with 2 inches of water. bring to a full boil. turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour (you can do this the night before too). you should have about 1 1/2 cups barley.

make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. thin with a small amount of warm water so it is drizzle-able.

in a medium pan, heat the canola or peanut oil. add the garlic and chilis and cook for a few seconds. add the barley, sugar, tamari, and lime juice. remove from heat and dump into a large bowl. add the onions and peppers and toss. allow to cool to room temperature, then add the torn herbs. taste and add salt and pepper.

divide the greens among large salad plates. top with barley mixture, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with the toasted rice powder and toasted nuts.

*tip: toasted rice powder is available at asian markets, or you can make your own by toasting 2 tbsp. white rice in a dry pan until golden, then buzzing in a spice grinder

*tip: for a hands-on appetizer, use romaine lettuce cups and fill with filling. use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

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handmade brioche burger buns


i think these may be the perfect burger buns. most commercial buns are as far from real bread as you can imagine, and usually full of too much sugar, salt, and preservatives. these are soft and airy and not too large, so you can achieve the perfect burger/bun ratio, and you know exactly what you’re putting in them.

these handmade brioche buns are extremely quick and easy to make. don’t be intimidated! once you’ve made them once, you will be so proud that you did this, you will never buy buns again.

this recipe makes 2 dozen good sized rolls. weigh your ingredients and the rolls themselves for accuracy. today i used poppyseeds, but i often use sesame seeds too. freeze while warm, or use leftovers for bread pudding.

i think the pure white AGA would bake these up beautifully, don’t you? ūüôā sigh…

handmade brioche burger buns

400 ml milk
75 g sugar
7 eggs, lightly beaten
20g yeast
1 kg flour
10g sea salt
250g soft butter

1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. cream or milk
1/2 cup poppy seeds or sesame seeds

line 2 large baking sheets with parchments sheets or silpats.

heat the milk to hand-hot and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. add the sugar and the yeast and mix well. stir in the eggs and then add the flour and the salt. mix on medium speed until a smooth but sticky dough forms. add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated, then mix for 2 minutes.

using a dough scraper, turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured surface. use the scraper to slice off pieces of dough, each measuring 80g (the piece will be a bit larger than a large egg) the dough will be very sticky, you may think too sticky, but don’t panic, it will all work out.

allow the dough balls to sit for a few minutes, then with very lightly floured hands, roll into balls. place 12 to a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds. allow to proof (rise) for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 450f. place buns in the oven gently, so they don’t deflate. bake buns for 5 minutes, then rotate pans, reduce heat to 350f, and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden and puffed. cool on racks.

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spicy red lentil soup

a very quick, simple red lentil soup that’s rich and full of warm spicy flavour. i do all the vegetables in the food processor for ease.

a blitz of the finished soup in the blender makes for a silky finish, but it’s not essential.


spicy red lentil soup

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or vegetable stock
6 plum tomatoes, mashed, with their juices (i use my hands and squish them in a bowl)
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 tsp. sea salt
Fresh pepper
juice of 1 lemon

in a large pot heat the oil to medium. add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. cover and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. add the lentils, stock or water, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently at the end, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes. taste, and check seasoning. finish with a squeeze of lemon. puree soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and if you like, garnish with a swirl of natural yogurt and cilantro leaves.

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brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake. it sounds like i took a bunch of whatever i had in the kitchen and made a cake out of it, doesn’t it? oh, wait…

i rounded up the ingredients, cornmeal…yogurt…limes…i thought, how can i bring these all together into a cohesive whole? the brown butter was the key, adding a lovely toasty, caramely note that complements the cornmeal, and balancing out the acid in the limes and the yogurt.

luckily this worked on the first try¬†despite not having one of these.¬†¬† i would suggest eating in within a day or so, when it’s supremely fresh. you could easily make this in a loaf pan, but i wanted to use the lovely violet cake plate from dis-a-ray¬†that my special brit friend gave me for my birthday. he’s very thoughtful that way, and was very excited it said “made in england”. ¬†or maybe he knew i would immediately make a cake to go on it. either way, we ate it up with a pot of earl grey and it was delicious.

keep a close eye when browning the butter. it doesn’t take long to go from brown butter to burnt butter.

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp lime zest
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar

for the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the drizzle:

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest

preheat oven to 350f. grease a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment. grease the parchment and set pan aside.

in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. cook slowly, swirling the pan and watching for the butter to change colour from pale straw to a light butterscotch colour. ¬†when it’s just aproaching a deep amber colour, and smells like toasted nuts, remove from heat and swirl a few times. set aside to cool slightly.

in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the brown sugar. whisking does a great job of breaking up the lumps in the sugar.

when the butter is cooled, whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and zest. pour all at once into dry ingredients and mix well, but do not beat.

pour into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until dry when tested with a toothpick.

meanwhile, make the glaze. heat the 1/3 cup lime juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar until sugar is melted. pour over warm cake, then cool cake completely.

when cool, mix the icing sugar with the 2 tbsp. lime juice and blend well. drizzle over cake, and sprinkle on the remaining zest. allow glaze to set before serving.


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wild garlic mustard pesto

wild garlic mustard pesto

ever since I was little, i’ve foraged for wild food.¬† as a kid it was raspberries by the roadside on cottage weekends. when i got my own place in toronto, there was an apple tree along taylor creek trail in east york i would pick from every fall. one year as i filled my basket, a troop of fire ants protecting their territory ascended my ankles. i wonder what the passing in-line skaters thought of the loopy chick in a dress, picking apples and madly jumping around in extreme pain. if you forage, you get used to the weird looks of curious onlookers. twenty years on, i wonder if that tree is still there, and if someone else is enjoying its gifts.

i’ve moved a few times since then, and every new place reveals new treasures to be found. around the corner is a giant mulberry tree, largely untouched by anyone. there are ramps and fiddleheads in the nearby woods. my current property is shaded by large maples and the side yard is decidedly forest-like. as a result, its a hotbed of garlic mustard.

garlic mustard is an invasive plant that grows everywhere. ¬†in marshy parklands, along waterways, and possibly right your garden. it spreads like wildfire, but the good news is, it’s an edible and useful plant. in the 19th century, traveling Brits brought garlic mustard here to use as a medicinal plant-it is very high in vitamins a and c. ¬†it has an aroma like garlic and a bracing, peppery taste. ¬†add leaves fresh to salads, mixing with other greens, or steam lightly and use as you would arugula or spinach. ¬†if you think you’ve found some, crush a leaf in your fingers and check for a garlic/onion scent.

i harvest this every year by cutting handfuls of stems and leaves. do this before they flower, then dig up the whole plant and throw it on the compost pile, if you happen to have it growing in your garden. the taproot is also edible.

when foraging in the wild, i’m always careful not to take too much of any one thing. in the case of garlic mustard, that rule goes out the window. as with most non-indigenous species, it wreaks havoc with the natural landscape, choking out native plants and taking much needed resources from other slower-growing plants with it‚Äôs rapid, rambling growth habit. ¬†harvesting the whole plant, taproot and all, will prevent it spreading to other areas, so go crazy.

so many plants that we consider weeds or pests are useful, and valuable. in the time before the lettuces are putting forth good yields, a handful of foraged greens means salad for dinner. and long before the basil is big enough to harvest, we can have pesto.

wild garlic mustard pesto

garlic mustard pesto

4  packed cups garlic mustard leaves and stems, washed and spun dry.
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts or almonds
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

in a food processor or blender, roughly chop garlic mustard, basil, garlic, cheese, nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in enough olive oil to make a smooth paste, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.  Spoon into a clean jar and use within three days, or freeze for one month.

Serve tossed with hot long pasta (linguine or spaghettini works well), grilled in a sandwich with buffalo mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes, or use as a dip for crusty bread before dinner.

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