Category: winter

#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.



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

Petits Délices (vanilla pots de creme with brown sugar caramel)


Mouth watering. Impressive. Unbelievably simple. Creamy. Refreshing. Amazing. 
Need more adjectives? Try out the recipe and come up with your own! Thanks to Lisa over at Bites of Sweetness for her inspiration. 

Vanilla Pots-de-Creme
with Brown Sugar Caramel

what you’ll need
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
seeds from one vanilla bean (optional, but worth it)
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp water
 how to do it
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, honey and vanilla until thickened. Slowly pour the warm cream into the yolks while whisking to temper the yolks. Continue pouring a little at a time until well blended, then transfer to a large measuring cup.
Evenly pour the mixture into ramekins, place in a deep roasting pan and fill the pan half way up the sides of the ramekins with water. Bake for 30-35 minutes until they are only a little wobbly (only one or two ripples when you shake the pan.)
Leave to cool in pan, then remove ramekins and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. If refrigerating longer, allow to fully cool and then cover with plastic wrap.
Caramel sauce: Heat brown sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Stir often with a heatproof spatula until desired consistency is reached. Pour over cooled pots-de-creme and serve. 

Just Beet It (Roasted Beets with Dill)

Ahhh, December!

No, I don’t ski. And no, I don’t like the cold. I don’t even celebrate Christmas (Well, not technically. Though the tree in my living room would beg to differ.) Typical joys of the season aside, I am personally excited by December because it means that roasting season is in full swing!

Now, many of you omnivores may be asking, well, what on earth can a silly vegetarian possibly be roasting… vegetables? You bet! But not just any stand alone boring veggies – for the sake of bored tastebuds everywhere, I like to be creative.

My inspiration for this dish came in three parts:
(A) I have a massive bunch of leftover dill in the fridge.
(B) I’ve been on a Greek yogourt kick obsession lately.
(C) Two weeks ago, I purchased ten pound bag of beets. My father claimed I’d never eat them all.

Challenge? Accepted.

Though the photo above has an eerie resemblance to raw meat in a dish, no animals were harmed in the making of these delectable roasted beets with yogourt and dill sauce. Simple. Pretty. Filling. Perfect dish to pair with whatever else your little roasting heart desires, or enjoy them all on their own.

Nutrition Facts: If you’ve never eaten beets before, don’t fret! This is your chance to try them in all their glory. Much healthier than the sodium-laden pickled variety, roasted beets scream healthfood!  Not only are beets fibre rich, they are nutrient dense as well! The pigments that give beets their rich color are called betalains and are a unique phytonutrient.* They are known to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The consumption of beets is also known to be beneficial to the bloodstream due to their high iron content. What’s more, this dish has an unexpected nutritional benefit: loads of protein from the greek yogourt – a whopping 10g per serving!

Well, what are you waiting for? Beet it!

Roasted Beets with Yogourt Sauce
original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
4 medium to large beets, greens removed
1 cup non-fat plain greek yogourt
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tbsp old fashioned grainy mustard**

how to do it
Heat oven to 425F. Wrap each beet in foil. Place on middle oven rack. Roast for 60 minutes. Remove from oven with protective glove – open up foil enough to let beets cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogourt, dill and mustard.  Cover and refridgerate until ready to use.
Once beets are cool enough to handle (about 30 minutes), remove from foil and slice into wedges. Toss with yogourt mixture and salt. Can be served warm or chilled.

* for more info on beet nutrients, click here
**if unavailable, substitute dijon

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.