Month: March 2013

Mid-East Feast (Roasted Squash with Cardamom)

Walking through the Plateau in Montreal on a friday night is always a new adventure. I love to immerse myself in the hubbub – which exists in large part thanks to the plethora of ethnic restaurants, trendy cafes and re-vapmed dive bars that line the streets. Whichever side of the world you’re from, you’re guaranteed to find a restaurant in this city that has what you’re looking for. And, if you’re in the mood to try new things, you will never be short on options.

Many people have voiced to me in the past their discontent with my vegetarianism (whether directly or indirectly) as it is an “inconvenience” to have to cater to my needs. To that sentiment I say, “Ha!” Being a vegetarian should never be viewed as limiting – it should instead be viewed as exciting: an excuse to get creative and try new food! I was quite excited when a friend suggested that we check out this funky looking place on Duluth, Khyber Pass, an Afghan restaurant with a number of  appealing meat-free menu items.

The food itself was similar to many of the middle-eastern dishes that I’ve tried before – looking around, I spotted many different rices and stews, I noted the common use of onions, tomatoes and legumes. What stood out to me however was the combination of spices and flavours. I immediately recognized the unique taste of cardamom in my main dish – and I absolutely loved it. I’ve only ever used cardamom in teas or in desserts before, never in anything savory. What a fantastic spice! The flavour complimented the sweet earthy squash, balanced out with the acidity of tomato, and softened with a hint of yogourt. I just HAD to re-create this dish at home. And I did – with great simplicity and success.

Roasted Butternut Squash 
with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Cardamom
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
1 medium butternut squash, cubed (about 3 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup basic tomato sauce*
2 tbsp real maple syrup
3 tsp cardamom powder / ground cardamom

for the garnish (optional)
1 tbsp plain yogourt
Roasted squash seeds

how to do it
Peel and cube squash, removing seeds. (Set seeds aside if roasting). Toss squash with olive oil. Wrap squash in parchment paper {How to: Cut double the length of parchment paper you’d need to line a 8×8” Pyrex dish. Place parchment in middle of dish and place squash inside. Fold paper over so that the squash is covered (the idea is not to let any of the squash be exposed.)} Poke holes in the parchment. Bake at 385F for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce, cardamom and maple syrup. Once cooked, remove squash from parchment and place directly into pyrex dish while still hot. Coat with tomato sauce mixture. Return to oven uncovered and bake for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with yogourt and roasted squash seeds. Enjoy!

*For the tomato sauce, you can make your own, or shortcut and use some good quality store-bought. I used Classico Tomato and Basil and it tasted wonderful. To make your own tomato sauce, scroll to the bottom of the following post: Drunken Tomato Sauce


Spring Cleanse

Spring is in the air, and I’ve decided that there is no better time than now to do some spring-cleaning-of-my-body. I’ll be doing this not by dieting, but by incorporating more healthy, nutrient-packed meals and snacks. I decided to start this off by taking a dive into my vegetable bin… which is when I discovered some vegetables and fruits that were looking a little less than savoury edible. Carrots growing roots, apples so wilted they could go undercover as prunes, and some oranges that resembled a fat old lady’s butt cheeks much more so than any citrus fruit I’ve ever seen. Thing is, I absolutely despise wasting food. Brilliant-idea-alert: Now is the perfect time to dust off my trusty juicer and get juicing!

Here is what I came up with:

revitalizing carrot, ginger and orange

 invigorating beet, apple and lime

Carrot-Ginger-Orange: Two oranges, peeled. 5 Carrots. 1 inch cube ginger.
Apple-Beet-Lime: 4 apples. 2 medium beets. 1 lime.

Juicing for more? Click the following link to see my past juice post with tons more recipes and inspiration. Enjoy!

Devilishly Good (Devilled Eggs)

January, 1998.
A monday morning I’ll never forget. Seated at the breakfast table next to my brother, sleep in our eyes and tangles in our hair, well-rested, but groggy and grumpy, as most children who are returning to school from a two-week break might be. Our cheerful mother sliding scrambled eggs onto our plates, humming along to the radio commercial song, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Wonderful it would be, about 2 minutes later.

“7 O’clock CJAD News time
The PSBGM has announced the closure of the following schools…”

Our eyes suddenly opened wide, as my brother and I jumped from our seats, shoving each other out of the way to attempt to push our ears as close as humanly possible to the speaker.

“Cross your fingers!”
“Wasting your time, your school never closes!”
“Shhhh! Maybe today!”
“Eat your eggs!”

my backyard, this morning

We glanced outside at the glistening tree branches covered in ice. Maybe today. I cross my fingers as hard as I can behind my back, pressing them into my spine, and close my eyes tightly. Riverdale, say Riverdale! We turn our attention back to the radio.

“…Cartier Adult Ed Centre, Hudson High School, Westpark Element…”

“Sucker! I’m off!” My brother jumps as high as if he were about to slam dunk a basketball. The list goes on, and then abruptly ends. They didn’t say my school’s name. Of course. I slowly drag myself back to the table, an exaggerated sour look on my face. Disheartened, I scoop the rest of my eggs into my mouth, my pout growing bigger with each bite.

As I scraped the remaniants of my plate into the trash, I listened haphazardly to the news.“A few more schools to add to our list.” The ice outside began to grow seemingly thicker as the pellets clanged down on our window.

The next five words out of the radio announcer’s mouth came to me as a complete shock. “Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds.”

This is the story of the first and the last time that I ever got to experience the joy of a snow day. That snow day ended up lasting 2 weeks, and was dubbed Ice Storm ’98. Shortly after this excited morning, our power went out. For the next few days, we crammed into my grandmother’s two-bedroom apartment along with my 6 other cousins. We buried our meat in the snow to preserve it, and we lit more candles than the St Joseph’s Oratory. All in all, this storm taught me that there really had to be a MASSIVE amount of bad weather and power outages to truly merit a Snow Day.

And then, today happened. 
And it was the most joyous wake-up call I’ve ever received. 

Because this time, I’m getting paid for it.

An unexpected day off is the perfect time to make a breakfast reminiscent of my childhood: devilled eggs.

Devilled Eggs
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
3 eggs
1 tbsp prepared ranch or ceasar salad dressing (or mayonnaise)
1 chopped green onion (optional)
Paprika, salt & pepper to taste

how to do it
Hard-boil your eggs. (Boil 4 cups of water, then spoon the egg gently (with it’s shell and all!) into the boiling water. Lower heat to med-low, cover, and simmer for 6 minutes.) 
Remove from heat and run under cold water to peel off the shells. 
Pat eggs dry with paper towel. 
Slice eggs in half, lengthwise. 
Use a small spoon to gently transfer yolks into a bowl. 
Mash yolk with dressing until creamy consistency is reached. (Additional dressing (or mayo) will yield a creamier consistency). Mix in green onion.
Spoon yolk mixture evenly back into egg whites. 
Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. 
Serve immediately. 

NOTE: I recommend that if this is the first time you’re doing this, add an extra egg into the pot, just in case you get stuck with one that cracks or breaks during preparation. 

Winter Blues (Blueberry Pie Squares)

As of late, I’ve been wondering why it is that in the spring, I am more compelled to clean house and re-arrange my life. Maybe it’s the sense of re-generation, offered by the budding trees, that pushes a need to re-arrange my furniture. Maybe it’s got something to do with the extra boost of energy, provided by the extra sunlight hours, that makes me feel as though 6:00am is the perfect time to thoroughly dust my (bookless) bookshelf.

Or, maybe it’s got nothing really to do with the coming of spring, but more to do with the end of winter – a cause for celebration. But what’s a girl to do when it’s time to celebrate, but her friends all live in the suburbs and don’t like coming downtown? Well, celebration then comes in the form of a solitary glass of wine, accompanied by some housecleaning. And some baking. Ok, lots of baking. Because, well, I’m in my 20s, and I’ve got to live it up while I can!

While cleaning, I noticed a few pints of blueberries in my fridge that had seen better days. They hadn’t reached that inexplicable mouldy-immediately-after-purchase stage, but were looking a little sad. If blueberries could frown, well, they were definitely doing that. Though I was really feeling like blueberry pie, I was also really not feeling like rolling out any dough. So I got to thinking. Maybe I should just make date squares, and toss the berries. You see, I’ve been on a date-square binge the past few weeks, and though I like to try and pull myself out of these baking ruts that I get into, date squares are just SO good, I couldn’t bare to NOT make them again.

And then, it hit me. This was the moment in my life when my brain made the most beautiful of all food babies:

Blueberry. Pie. Squares.

Imagine this: date-square-meets-blueberry-pie-plus-brown-sugar. Melt-in-your-mouth-warm-your-heart-goodness. Oh. My. Goodness.

Oh, and yes, they are as tasty as they sound.

Blueberry Pie Squares

what you’ll need
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened, cut into cubes
3/4 cup brown sugar

500ml blueberries (3 containers)
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup water

how to do it
On stovetop, cook blueberries, water, lemon juice and sugar, stirring frequently, until a jammy consistency starts to form (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and bring to room temperature. Mixture will thicken upon cooling. Meanwhile, in stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine butter, oats, flour and brown sugar. Mix on low speed until crumbly consistency starts to form. Line 9” pan with parchment paper. Press half of mixture into pan. Spoon blueberry mixture over top. Cover with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Cut into squares. Extra delicious if served warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top!