Category: spice

#PSL (Vegan Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte)

Well, folks. I did it. I went and made a homemade vegan Pumpkin Spice Latté.
Move over, coffee shops! Move over, Starbucks! This latté is the real deal.

No, but seriously. Real pumpkin. Real spices. Real coffee. It all makes for real good stuff!
I must mention that none of this would be possible without the great people over at Café Santo Domingo, who recently sent me some incredibly delicious coffee. It made for a wonderfully robust base for this delightfully satisfying little PSL. (Or maybe it should be a PSSL. Or a VPSSL?)

How cute is that mug? Joe from Café Santo Domingo sent me a set of them with matching saucers, along with some truly awesome beans and grounds. Seriously, you guys rock! The beans are SO tasty that I’ve gone ahead and made some dark-chocolate covered coffee beans with them to keep on hand as a quick snack, a great little afternoon pick-me-up. I would have included a photo, but the boy can’t stop eating them all up!

A few other exciting things

For those of you following my story, I have almost completed my studies in Professional Pastry, and I am looking forward to many new adventures come January. I have started to offer custom cakes and sweets, and I am in the process of creating an online portfolio attached to this blog. I will soon cater sweets for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, or any other occasion (like, say, a girls night in!) where you may desire some custom goodies. Oh, and yes, I do vegan desserts like a champ!

On an unrelated, but very exciting note, I am pleased to announce that I will once again be participating in the 4th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) hosted by The Little Kitchen and Love & Olive Oil. I can’t wait to receive my matches and see what kind of incredible edibles will be delivered to my doorstep in the coming weeks! SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!

Oh, right, so I guess by now you’re probably all like, “That’s nice, but I WANT ME A PSL!” Alright, alright, don’t get your legwarmers in a bunch. Here it is, without further adieu… The one, the only, the real, vegan pumpkin spice latte. Or, if you prefer, the Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte. Whatever you want to call it, just make it, then sit back and drink it!

Caution: this latte is extremely addictive!

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latté (from scratch!)
an original recipe by allison sklar           yields: 3 lattés


what you’ll need 
(ingredients)

2.5 cups soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1.5 tbsp pumpkin purée
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp clove
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla)
1 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar (more or less, to taste)

1 cup freshly brewed coffee

how to do it
(method)

Combine all ingredients except coffee. Whisk well. Simmer in small saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Whisk. Reduce temperature to very low. Simmer about 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture begins to reduce. Combine milk mixture with coffee. Use a hand frother to create some foam on top. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and nutmeg and serve immediately.



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Roasting Season (Roasted Pear, Spiced Pecan & Blue Cheese Salad)

The autumn leaves, vibrant and warm not long ago, seem to be turning dull and brown faster than the temperatures are dropping. There is a place, however, that is brighter than ever at this time of year. Adorned with rich autumnal hues, brimming with the season’s best squash, tubers and root vegetables, you can count on your local farmer’s market stands to bring some vibrancy back into your day. Behind the stands, stacks of mason jars line the walls, adjacent to pies overflowing with seasonal fruits. An intoxicating smell of mulling spice is in the air… Suddenly, when you’re here, the word autumn becomes synonymous with comfort. 

Trading flowy dresses for chunky cable knits, replacing bonfires with fireplaces, comfort is the word of the season – especially when it comes to our meals.
Is it possible for a salad to be a comfort food?
Don’t dismiss the idea just yet. Enter caramelized pears, spiced pecans, and blue cheese. Cheese is always comforting. (Unless you’re vegan. Horrah for Daiya shreds!) 
Toss these three things with a head of lettuce and voila! Autumn gourmet – comfort salad. 
So sit back, pull up your legwarmers, and breathe in that oddly comforting, subtle smell of burning insects of seasons’ past as you turn on your electric heater for the first time. And then, enjoy this salad. Let it warm your body and your soul. 
Or at least just your body. 
Or, eat it cold if you prefer.
You know, you should just eat this no matter what. 
Like now. 
Trust me.
Caramelized Pear, Spiced Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad 
an original recipe by allison sklar 
what you’ll need
1 head boston lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 medium sized just-ripe pears (fruit should be firm)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar 
Pinch sea salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 egg white
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika 
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mayo or vegan mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar 
how to do it

Roast your pecans
Preheat oven to 300F. Toss pecans with beaten eggwhite in a medium bowl. In seperate bowl, mix all of the spices together. Toss coated pecans with spice mixture. Spread evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. While pecans are roasting, prepare your pears.

Beware: your house is going to smell amazing.

PrePEAR (oh come on, you laughed.)
Slice pears into about 6 sections each. Remove seeds and stem. In a microwave safe bowl (or on the stovetop) melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk in salt. Toss pears with butter/sugar mixture.
Lay evenly on parchment lined sheet. Once pecans are done, turn oven up to 325F. Roast pears for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown.

While pears are roasting, prepare dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking until smooth. Toss finished pears with chopped lettuce and pecans. Top with cheese and drizzle with dressing.

Enjoy!

Waste Not, Want More (Roasted Spicy Squash Seeds)

Over recent years, I’ve come to notice that my vegetarian lifestyle is often accompanied with a heightened sense of consciousness in relation to environmental and health issues. I am more aware of what I put into my body, and I am more aware about the amount of waste that I produce. Suffice to say, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the occasional processed food item. I do. I am just aware now that these are not the healthiest of options, so I opt for moderation over deprivation. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t buy anything in a package – I will. I just try to re-use as much as possible. notice how I didn’t say “Recycle”… because I’ve also learned that tossing paper and plastic into blue bins doesn’t do much to save the planet.

So, what do I re-use? First off, I opt for glass jars over plastic whenever possible – because once the food inside them is done, they’re washable and re-usable, even heatable… a chemical-free alternative to leeching plastic lunch containers. As for the things that come in plastic that I can’t live without – yogourt containers, for example – I bring the empties to the art teacher at my school so that she can use them for projects in class, as well as holders for art supplies.

And then, there’s my food. I like to throw away as little food waste as possible. Unfortunately, my area doesn’t have a composting program, and living in a small top floor apartment, it’s just not an option for me to be doing on my own. So, I reduce the amount of waste that I produce in the first place. I do this by buying less groceries, more often. I’ve been told that it’s the “European” way of shopping, and whether it is or not, I’ve come to find that it’s the best way to eat. The benefits of buying a little at a time (instead of one big grocery order): Foods are fresher, I get more exercise with bi-weekly walks to the market, I save money, and I waste less. Tips for anyone who’d like to try this – keep essentials on hand such as oils, vinegar, seasonings and grains. Buy one or two vegetable items at a time, and use it all up for a meal or two. To save even more money: buy what’s on sale each week – this will also encourage you to eat a bigger variety of veggies and fruits.

Ok, so what does this all have to do with the mouth watering picture above, you ask? My waste-not methods encouraged me to use up every inch of my winter squash after I made this (or this, or this…). I couldn’t bear to throw out all the lovely little seeds! Inspired by watching my mother roast pumpkin seeds every halloween, I decided to roast these baby versions of them and see what came out. Oh. My. Goodness. Heaven in a handful. The best part – you can eat the shell. Warning – these are very addictive.

Roasted Spicy Squash Seeds
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
seeds from a fresh winter squash (butternut or acorn squash seeds work best)
1 tbsp grapeseed or light olive oil
1 tbsp Montreal Steak Spice*

* if you can’t find this in your area, you can order some on Amazon, or make your own with a recipe here
If you’ve never had this spice mix before, get ready to be introduced to your favorite seasoning mix ever. I put this on everything from sweet potato fries to avocado salads to tuna sandwiches!

how to do it
Preheat oven to 300F. (I do this in a convection/toaster oven for faster results.)
Rinse the seeds, removing any squash goop, and pat dry with paper towel. In a small bowl, mix seeds with oil and spice, coating evenly. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 12 minutes (if in toaster oven, 4 to 8 minutes), or until golden. I highly recommend to turn your oven light on and check on these often. Every oven is different and it is possible to burn these very quickly. When the seeds change colour (brownish gold), they’re ready. 

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

Winter Sparkle (Molasses Cookies)

Spice and sparkle: two things that my winter cannot be complete without. I’m not talking spice in the form of cayenne & capsicum. I’m talking cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. Whether you’ve got lattes-a-brewin’ or cookies-a-bakin’, nothing beats the cold weather comfort derived from something warm and spiced. The fragrances alone are enough to entice you to curl up under a blanket in front of a fireplace (or radiator) with your favourite person (or book) occasionally glancing outside to appreciate the aesthetics of the season. While this festive time consistently inspires twinkling lights, glittery greeting cards and sequinned attire, Winter’s ultimate shine comes from that iridescent sparkle that only truly occurs for a precious few moments as the sun rises over the blanket of an overnight snowfall. 
If only I could have something that was both sparkled and spiced…

Oh! That’s right. I can. These cookies. Molasses, cardamom and cinnamon come together to produce this chewy delicious magic. The sparkle comes from rolling the dough in raw sugar just before baking. As they stay soft and chewy for many days after baking, these make the perfect edible gift for that hard-to-shop for person on your list.  Or, you know, for yourself!

Spiced Molasses Cookies
inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2011

what you’ll need
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½  teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat free)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup raw or sanding sugar 


how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F and position rack in centre. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
Combine all dry ingredients and set aside. On medium speed of electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and shortening until light and creamy, about a minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula. Add in egg, molasses and vanilla, beating on low just until blended. With spatula, fold in dry ingredients just until combined. Using a tablespoon measure, grab dough, 1 tbsp at a time and roll into a ball. Drop the ball into the bowl of raw sugar to coat. Place on baking sheet, leaving some space in between, and pressing down very lightly on each one. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cookies will be very soft immediately out of the oven. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from sheet. 
Tip: for best results, chill dough for about 10 -15 minutes in fridge before baking.