Category: healthy

Buckwheat Pancakes – Gluten Free!

I’d like to introduce to you a humble little superfood that may already be hiding in your pantry. It’s a little seed that is often mistaken as a grain, and goes by a few different names. Soba. Kasha. Groats. Yes, as you may have already guessed, I’m talking about buckwheat.

I call it a superfood, as it’s got quite an impressive nutritional profile. Low glycemic, high in protein, rich in amino acids, naturally gluten-free, this little seed is super versatile and can easily be prepared in many different ways. With a slightly nutty flavour that is enhanced when roasted, you can grind it into a flour and incorporate it into your desserts. You can sprinkle the raw groats over ice cream for a delicious little crunch. You can enjoy buckwheat in smoothies, as a breakfast cereal, as noodles (known as soba), or, my personal favourite, as a stack of delicious pancakes. Even Oprah praises buckwheat for it’s unique health-promoting properties. 
Buckwheat is the new quinoa. 
(People just don’t know it yet.)

I now present to you easy-peasy flourless buckwheat pancakes, made with few ingredients and a whole lot of love. I served them with a scoop of chai-chia pudding for an added protein and flavour boost, and garnished with some fieldberries for a little pop of colour. I used coconut oil in the pan (a little goes a long way), which added a touch of extra sweetness. All in all, these babies were absolutely delish, and the two of us ate every last bite!

Gluten-Free, Flourless, High Protein
Buckwheat Pancakes
an original recipe by allison sklar

Ingredients
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch fine sea salt
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp agave or real maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil

Method
In a high powered blender, food processor, or coffee grinder, grind groats into a fine flour.
Mix flour with baking powder & salt. Whisk in buttermilk, syrup & egg. Mixture will be bubbly!

Heat oil over medium heat in large frying pan.

Scoop about 2 tbsp of batter at a time into the pan, more or less depending on the size of the pancakes that you prefer. Flip when pancake starts to bubble – these cook quickly, so do not leave them unattended! You may have to lower the heat to med-low after a couple of batches.

Serve with fruit, maple syrup & chia pudding.

Find my chia pudding recipe here!

Home Remedies (Sumac Lemonade)

Sumac! Fresh Sumac! You know, that zesty, unusual spice that gives Za’atar it’s tang and adds a middle eastern flair to roasted veggies? Excitement poured over me when I found out that I was going to be receiving some fresh sumac in my Lufa produce basket last week. I’ve never even seen fresh sumac before. I had no idea that it would arrive as a fluffy, barby, vividly red cluster of… stuff. My first thought upon examining the bright bouquet: how do I use this? Unsure of which part of the fuzzy berries could be turned into the sweet, lemony herb that I’ve only ever seen dried and crushed, I turned to my trusty friend, the internet. Internet, o internet, inform me, o wise one! 
During my search, I learned that Sumac has been used in ancient herbal medicine for centuries, aiding in the prevention and treatment of various ailments, from chest congestion to stomach upsets. Well, this is just perfect timing, I thought, as I just happen to be suffering from what seems to be the world’s longest bout of fever and joint aches. Also probably a good tonic to give the boy to sip on to prevent catching this dreadful flu. 
Influenza, be damned! I will sumac you right in the face!  
Now, let’s get back to the “how?”
Having only eaten sumac in savoury dishes, I would never have thought to use the spice in a beverage of any kind. That is, until I stumbled upon a blog that suggested that I make Sumac-aide! (Also known as cold sumac tea, sumac lemonade, or sumacaide… depending on who you ask!) This lemony fresh tonic is super easy, and super tasty! How to do it? Soak fresh berries in cold water. Strain. And drink. That’s it? That’s it! How perfect is that? Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few slices of ginger for some extra immune-boosting power, and extra tasty flavour. 
Sumac Lemonade
4 cups cool water
2-3 clusters fresh red sumac berries
juice from 1 lemon (optional)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (optional)
Roughly break up sumac clusters. In a large bowl, combine water, sumac and ginger and let steep for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Strain though very fine tea strainer or cheesecloth. Add freshly squeezed lemon and ice cubes just before serving. 

Semi-Guilty Pleasures (Baked Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze)

And so, it begins.

Pastry school, that is!

Courses began this week, and so far we’ve learned some introductory basics on health and safety measures, as well as basic sanitation practices. Many of the unsettling facts made me happy to be vegetarian – a life choice that made me feel almost safe, until I learned that one of the worst outbreaks of botulism came from an infected jar of mushrooms, of all things. Still, the majority of contaminated food items are ones of animal origin, (poultry, beef, dairy, eggs) so vegans, you’re generally in the clear. I say generally, because there are still certain precautions that should be taken, especially when dealing with low-acidity canned foods, and unwashed fresh produce. I’ll be posting more about good hygiene practices in the weeks to come, once I’ve obtained my MAPAQ certification. 

I’m quite excited for today, as we get to go into the Pastry Lab (the name itself excites me!) where we will be learning about basic ingredients, measurement and weight. Every ingredient in classic French pastry is measured by weight (grams and millilitres), instead of measured by volume (teaspoons and cups). This allows for the most accurate reproductions of recipes, as measurement by volume is often skewed due to air pockets. In the future, as I blog certain pastry recipes, I’ll offer approximate conversions from volume to weight, for those of you who prefer one method over the other.

Alright, time for the sweet stuff… Drum roll please…
I introduce to you, the deliciously moist, sweet on the outside, fluffy on the inside, ultimate home baked donut! I won’t go as far as to say that these little babies are healthy, because, well, they are coated in sugar and then rolled in even more of the powdery white delight, but they are healthier than your average donut shop donut, as they’re baked instead of fried. They’re also far tastier, more wholesome, and it doesn’t get fresher than straight out of the oven! You can opt out of the sugar dusting part, though personally, I found that the sugar coating kept them fresher longer, and added a mighty fine taste to them.

Baked Doughnuts (& donut holes!)
recipe adapted from Châtelaine magazine, February 2014 issue.

Note: the original recipe calls for regular milk and butter, but I’ve replaced them with equal quantities soy milk and vegetable shortening (I used Crisco brand). If you want to make this completely vegan, simply substitute the egg with egg replacer. Voila! Doughnuts for everyone. Mmm.

Side Note: There are two spellings of donut (doughnut), and I’ll use both, as you’ll notice, throughout this post. They’re both correct. I’m just really indecisive over which one I prefer.

what you’ll need
1 cup soy milk
8g packet instant yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted
1 egg (or equal amount egg replacer)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
5 tbsp water

vegetable or olive oil (cooking spray works fine)
stand mixer with dough hook attachment

how to do it
warm soy milk on stovetop or in microwave. Do not boil! Add yeast and whisk. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Let stand about 10 minutes. Add granulated sugar, shortening, egg, vanilla and salt to yeast mixture and beat until combined. Remove paddle and affix dough hook to stand mixer. Gradually add flour, increasing speed until dough forms a ball and pulls cleanly away from the bowl.

Transfer dough into oiled bowl. Lightly oil top of dough and cover with damp tea towel. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Roll dough onto floured surface until 1/2 inch thick. Do not roll any thinner than this, or your doughnuts will become cookies, as I discovered in my first batch! Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut rounds out of dough, and a 1 inch cookie cutter to cut holes out of the middles. Pat together excess dough and roll into 1 inch balls, to make doughnut holes. Place on parchment-paper lined baking sheets and cover with damp tea towels. Allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon.

Once 45 minutes has passed, Preheat oven to 350F.
Dip donuts and roll donut holes in sugar & cinnamon mixture.

Bake in preheated oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, or until centers are golden.
Remove from oven and cool immediately on cooling rack.

GLAZE AND POWDER TIME!
Give your donuts a delicious glaze by mixing 1/4 cup water with 2 cups icing sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon. Dunk cooled donuts into glaze mixture. Reserve last cup of icing sugar in separate bowl, and roll sticky donuts in powdered sugar until fully coated. Donuts are best eaten immediately, but keep well at room temperature for about 2 days.

Final Note: this recipe looks lengthy, but it’s totally worth the time, and it’s not difficult at all, just requires a wee bit of patience. Give it a go – impress your friends and family! Or, just make them and then eat them all to yourself while watching the entire 3rd season of Community… whatever works for you.

Spice Up Your Life (Spicy Lentil Stew)

So I’ve had this can of chiles that’s been sitting in my pantry since Thanksgiving weekend. “Use us! Use us,” They would chirp every once in a while, while I re-arranged my cabinets. I bought them on a whim, not quite sure what I was going to use them for, nor quite sure what they would even taste like. They’ve made the move from shelf to shelf, to the front, to the back, to the left… alright, before I get all Beyonce up in here… they’ve basically been the most challenging food item I’ve ever bought.

But why? I love the addition of chile peppers in soups, stews, and especially in Indian meals, which I’ve grown an intense fondness for in recent months. So what was holding me back from tossing the contents of this little can into my own cooking? I’ll never really know. Perhaps it was fear that they would be too… (insert unpleasantry here). Too hot. Too bland. Too processed. Too tinny. Too salty. However, much to my delight, they aren’t any of those things! These little babies are the secret ingredient in the best-lentils-I’ve-ever-made, and they will possibly serve as the hidden gem in the meals I’ll be making in the chilly days to come.

So, without further adieu, here’s a dish that will warm you on a wintery evening: a combination of hearty lentils to fill you up, sweet bell peppers and earthy greens to add some balance, and smoky heat to warm your soul. Pairs perfectly with a pint of stout, dark or amber ale, or, compliment it nicely by sipping on some smoky whiskey between bites.

(Best Ever) Spicy Lentil Stew
oh hey! it’s vegan! – an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
2 whole chiles in adobo sauce, diced
1 tsp of adobo sauce ( ^ from can)
1 cup brown lentils, soaked (not canned)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 cup spinach*, chopped
3/4 cup vegetable broth (or ale)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt

*note: you may substitute kale or collard greens for a more earthy flavour.

how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine lentils, spinach, cilantro and bell pepper in a casserole dish. Toss with spices and adobo sauce. Pour broth over the entire mixture. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring once, about half way. Best served over cooked basmati rice with a dollop of yogourt. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a pinch of smoked paprika.

Classy Lassi (Vegan Mango Chai Lassi)

One of my favourite little sandwich shops in Montreal, the Green Panther, makes this undeniably addictive smoothie called a Mango Chai Lassi. 
They blend tangy mangoes with coconut milk and chai spices, sweetening the whole thing with dates, for a creamy, dreamy mango experience. The addition of chai spices take an otherwise summery drink and turn it into something robust enough for a nippy winter morning. Inspired by this, as well as by my brand new toy (my Vitamix pro 350 blender), I decided to test out m own take on this newly found fave. 
Vegan Mango Chai Lassi
Inspired by Green Panther, Montreal
what you’ll need
1 cup fresh or frozen mangoes, cubed
1 cup soy or almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup mango (or other tropical) juice
4 pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp grated ginger (use fresh ginger if you like a little zing, or dried if you prefer a more mellow taste)
how to do it
Place all items in a blender. Blend until smooth. Stores well in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Savouring Summer (Sweet Potato Salad with Maple)

As I sit in the beaming afternoon sun, squinting to see my computer screen, sweating as if I’d just been to the gym for hours, one might see me and wonder why I don’t just go inside. The answer is simple: I’m trying my absolute hardest to absorb as much as I can of the last weeks of summer. Treating each day as if it is a mirage, knowing well that a Canadian summer is but a fleeting train filled with sunshine and happiness, I’m making a solid point to be outdoors as much as possible. Unlike many, I don’t complain that it’s 30 degrees C outside. I don’t complain that it’s humid. I don’t complain that I’m sticky and my skin is glistening with sweat. No, I don’t complain. Instead, I embrace it. I know fair well that in less than three months, the temperatures will dip to a number colder than the inside of my freezer, and I’ll be praying for these dog days to return. 
In the spirit of all things summer, I’ve been eating tons of salad. This afternoon, I decided that I should make something different than my usual spinach and whatever-is-around mixture. Opening my vegetable bin for inspiration, I spotted an almost forgotten sweet potato. Out of the corner of my eye, I also spotted my shiny new jar of Vegenaise. 
Sweet potato salad? 
Is that even a thing? 
It is now! (And is it EVER!)

Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Dressing (VEGAN!)
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and cubed
2 hot (or mild) cubanelle peppers (one large bell pepper would work too.)
2 lebanese cucumbers (1 regular cucumber would also work)
handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp Vegenaise
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch salt & pepper
Cook sweet potato as desired – I use the microwave to save on time, but I recommend chopping into cubes and boiling until desired tenderness is reached. Cool potatoes (to room temperature or colder.) Dice cucumbers and peppers. Combine with potatoes. In a seperate bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients. Toss dressing with salad and chopped cilantro. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.
Serve cold. 
Tip: For a more traditional “potato salad” flavour, add 1/2 cup of sweet corn kernels and 1/2 cup of chopped pickles, if desired.

The Un-Burger (Roasted Portobello Burger with Sprouted Seeds & Avocado)

Summertime – a season that is synonymous with renewal and resetting. School is out, and, if you’re lucky, work has slowed down. The sun shines more often, casting an upbeat vibe that engulfs the entire city. The winter doldrums have passed, and it is time to come out of hibernation and dive into new ventures and discoveries. Days are longer, skirts are shorter, smiles are wider. Tucked away is the crock-pot, and rolled out is the Barbecue. Food is lighter, and refreshment is at the top of the priority list. What better way to refresh and renew than to eat live, raw vegan food? Now, I’m not talking about a 100% raw diet. While that might appeal to some, it is certainly not for all (for many different reasons that I won’t get into here.) However, incorporating more raw vegan components into your daily diet is almost certain to make you feel pretty darn good.

Eating live food is a stepping stone to hitting that refresh button on your body. Some benefits of eating raw: raw food is cool. Not hipster-cool, but literally cool – temperature wise! Eating cool foods more often is said to reduce inflammation in the body and reduce stomach irritations. Furthermore, many raw foods are known to contain certain good-for-you enzymes that are lost in cooking. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about raw diets, and a lot of bias, as there often is in the agricultural industry. However, as with anything, in moderation, there are definitely benefits to eating this way.

My first experience with full-out raw vegan was at a restaurant earlier this week called Crudessence. What intrigues and attracts me the most to this dietary choice is the incredible creativity that goes into preparing such meals. For example, I went in asking myself, what would a “wrap” possibly be made out of? Seaweed and rice paper! Well of COURSE that stuff is raw – but I never thought of it that way before. This experienced opened me up to trying even more new things. I started sprouting my own seeds. I tasted nutritional yeast (surprisingly delicious, slightly reminiscent of tempura flakes). And, I made quite a few rice paper and seaweed wraps.

And then, I made this: The Un-burger. Now, it is not completely raw, as I roasted the mushrooms. (Portobellos should not really be eaten raw due to possible carcinogens that are killed in the cooking process. Which brings me back to the point of how a 100% raw diet is not ideal.) In making this, I found a place to incorporate both my sprouted beans AND my nutritional yeast. Ok, and I added some Veganase. So I guess this isn’t REALLY all that raw at all… BUT it is vegan. And it is DE-LI-CIOUS.
Make it and see for yourself!

Roasted Portobello Burger with Sprouted Seeds & Avocado
note: I sprouted my own seeds for this. Very easy, and very tasty. So much fresher than the sprouts that come already packaged at the store! I use the hemp sprouting bag as I find it’s the quickest method, and it yields the best results. For more information about sprouting, visit Sproutman’s website, full of useful tips and tricks! 

what you’ll need
for the burgers:
2 portobello caps
2 tsp grapeseed or olive oil
pinch salt, freshly ground pepper
for the topping:
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup arugula (aka roquette/rocket)
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, but delicious!)
1/4 cup sprouted seeds/beans
2 tbsp Vegenaise or mayonaise

how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F. Rub portobellos with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in parchment (creating a papillote) and place in shallow baking dish. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached. Toss beans, avocado and nutritional yeast together. Divide greens over two plates and place burgers on top. Spread each burger with Vegenaise/mayo and top with mixture.
Eat and enjoy!