Corn and Zucchini Fritters

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I had a fridge full of ears of corn and wanted to try something different with them. The word FRITTER just kind of appeared in my mind, which is weird because I had literally never made any kind of fritter before. I did a bit of reading online to get a sense of what to do (though I was really surprised at the variation in recipes; some with flour, some without, some with liquid, some without….). Then I just kind of went for it and was so pleasantly surprised at how well these turned out. I whipped up a quick avocado dipping cream to go with them. I think these delicious and very easy fritters will become a regular menu item!

I’m sure these would lend themselves to lots of variations, especially with different fresh herbs or seasonings. I used chickpea flour mainly because I’ve been wanting to try working with it, but I think almost any flour would work pretty well (Note: depending on which flour you use, they might not be gluten-free anymore).

roasted corn

To roast corn on the cob, remove the outer husks so that a few leaves remain covering the corn and cook in oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until done.

Yield: about 10 fritters

  • Kernels removed from two cobs of roasted corn (see above), or use 1.5 cups canned or frozen
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 handful chives, chopped
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (would probably work with other flours too!)
  • ½ cup water
  • Tabasco to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Coconut oil for frying

Add corn, grated zucchini, chives, and flour to a mixing bowl and combine well. Add a few dashes (or more!) of Tabasco, then start adding the water gradually while stirring the mixture. You may need a little more or less than half a cup; just aim for everything to be moistened into a batter that will at least sort of stick together when you scoop some up with a spoon.

Fritter batter

Heat about a teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat (about 6) in a nonstick frying pan. Drop large spoonfuls of the corn mixture into the pan, using the back of the spoon or a spatula to flatten them out a bit. Cook until golden on one side, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue to fry until cooked through. Add another teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan for each new batch. Place finished fritters on a paper towel until ready to serve.

Fritters cooking

Serve with the avocado cream or with hot sauce, chutney, or vegan sour cream.

For the avocado cream:

  • 1 avocado
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ cup of nondairy milk (just enough milk to get it all to purée to your desired consistency).
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small handful of chopped cilantro

Add all ingredients except chopped cilantro to a high-speed blender. Blend, then fold in chopped cilantro.

Favourite Recipes: Vegan Mac and Cheese

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This recipe from Fine Tune Pilates is touted as the best ever, and I have to agree.  I tried four or five different vegan mac and cheese recipes before finding this one, and it is by far the best I’ve had.  Plus it’s easy to make, and uses sweet potato as the sauce base, allowing you to sneak an extra veggie into this yummy pasta dish.  I make this dish regularly; R and I both love it.

I do make a couple of modifications from the original recipe.  First, I do not add whole sunflower seeds (though I do use them in the sauce).  Also, I use more kale than the recipe calls for; about twice as much.

More significantly, after preparing the recipe as written, I pour the whole thing into a casserole dish, top it with panko or breadcrumbs, top the crumbs with lots of tiny dots of vegan margarine, and bake it for about 25 minutes.  The crumbs add nice texture to the finished dish.  I like to eat it with ketchup (much to R’s chagrin), but it’s also great with just some fresh ground pepper, or even hot sauce.  Delicious!

Mushroom Risotto

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Before I had ever tried making risotto, I had an idea that it was very challenging and only for experienced cooks.  I don’t know where I got that idea, but it was wrong.  Making rich, flavourful risotto is actually very easy; all it takes is some patience and a willingness to babysit the pan for a while.  It’s a great dish to prepare while working on something on the counter, like making a big salad.  You stir the risotto, you chop some veggies, stir, chop, stir, chop, etc.

If you haven’t made risotto before, try this recipe.  It’s easy and so delicious, you’ll be hooked.  I can practically guarantee you’ll start making it (and trying variations) regularly.

Important:  You need to get Arborio rice in order to make risotto.  Don’t bother trying it with any other type of rice; it’ll end in heartache!

Yield: About 4-5 cups of risotto; 4-6 servings

  • 4 cups vegetable stock (you’ll end up using between 3 and 4 cups)
  • 5 large portobello mushrooms, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1.5 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (it won’t work with other types of rice!)
  • ½ cup red wine (or you can use white)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan parmesan (optional)

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms.  While the mushrooms are cooking, put the vegetable stock in a pot over high heat.  Just before it boils, turn off the heat but leave the pot on the hot burner to keep the stock very warm.  Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are done: tender and juicy.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary and then add the onions.  Stir and cook until they are translucent.  Reduce heat to just below medium and add the dry rice.  Brown the rice a bit, being sure to keep scraping the pan to prevent it from sticking.  Add the wine, and stir the rice until the wine is absorbed (this will happen pretty quickly).

Begin adding the warm broth to the rice, one ladle at a time.  Stir frequently, and as soon as the rice starts to stick, add another ladle of broth.  Continue this process until the rice is cooked al dente.  (Probably between 15 and 25 minutes).

Add the mushrooms to the rice and mix well to incorporate.  If you have any vegan parmesan on hand, add some of that too.  Serve warm with a salad for a hearty and delicious dinner.

Note: You could substitute lots of other veggies for the mushrooms.  Try asparagus! Gently steam it until just done, and add it back to the risotto at the end.

Vegan Poutine!

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Have you made vegan poutine yet?  If not, you better get to it ASAP.

I am actually new to the poutine scene.  I hated gravy growing up, and it wasn’t until I was an adult (and eating a vegan diet) that I was open-minded enough to give it another chance.  So, my first poutine ever was about six months ago at Poutini’s (they make a vegan one!).  It was amazing!  What was I thinking all that time with all the gravy-hate?  As an aside, I’m not usually a fan of Daiya cheese, but I find that in dishes that are very hot and ensure that the Daiya is melted and well-incorporated (like when it’s covered with gravy!) it actually works well and provides quite a cheesy experience.

For this very quick dinner I used frozen shoestring/julienne french fries, cooked until crisp, cheddar-style Daiya (though R informs me that mozza-style would have been more appropriate for poutine; I’m still learning!), and this vegan gravy that is made of pantry staples and easy to prepare.

I paired this bowl of melty yumminess with a kale salad to round out dinner, but the nice thing about the vegan poutine is that it’s not all that unhealthy, having shed the traditional saturated/animal fats.

So… what are you waiting for??

Favourite Recipes: Cheesy-Squashy Stuffed Pasta Shells

Stuffed Pasta Shells closeup

This recipe from Luminous Vegans is one of my favourites of all time.  These pasta shells are stuffed with a mixture of cashew cheese, roasted squash, and fresh herbs, and will completely blow your mind.  They are that good.  I’ve made them to rave reviews for a few different family members.  Everyone says they can’t believe there’s no “real” cheese in them.  They are so creamy and rich…. Seriously.  Make them.

I follow the recipe for the cashew cheese exactly, but I put about ¾ of the batch into the shell filing, rather than the ½ cup suggested.  I bet you could put it all in and it would be great too, I just like to keep a little bit to put on sandwiches so I hold some back.  I use jarred roasted garlic pasta sauce on top.

This recipe is a keeper!

Hearty Traditional-Style Stew with Jackfruit

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This traditional-style stew is extremely healthy, low in fat, packed with good stuff and will comfort and warm you like a big, soft blanket.  Wine-soaked jackfruit replaces the traditional beef and big chucks of root vegetables are perfectly softened by the thick, delicious gravy.  A perfect dish to warm up on a fall evening.

Jackfruit are huge, spiky, intimidating things, and until recently my experience with them was limited to some jackfruit juice years ago and more recently, ogling the whole fruits at the produce stands in Chinatown.  However, since being floored by the jackfruit tacos at Hot Beans in Toronto, the mysterious fruit has really been on my mind.  If I hadn’t been in an all-vegan establishment, I would have honestly though I had been served meat tacos.  The texture was fascinating.  I knew right away after that taco experience that I needed to incorporate jackfruit into my own cooking.

A bit of reading online revealed that in south Asian countries, jackfruit is sometimes called “vegetable meat” and is commonly used in vegetarian cuisine.  I also learned that if you’re planning to use jackfruit in savory cooking, it’s very important to learn the difference between the two types of canned fruit available.  The ripe, sweet fruit packed in syrup is not suitable for this purpose; you need to get young, green, unripe jackfruit packed in brine.  At my local No Frills, they only had the sweet stuff.  I found the young-in-brine fruit at an Asian grocery and bought a few cans to experiment with.

ImageI’ve been meaning to make a traditional-style stew (“like Mom used to make”) for a while, and had been planning to use seitan in it.  I’m not always the biggest fan of seitan, so it was taking me a while to get around to making the stew.  Then, lightbulb!  I’ll use the jackfruit!  After some consultation with my mom, I came up with this stew and it was perfect; so much like the stew I ate as an omnivorous child.

Yield: a really big pot of stew.

  • For the jackfruit:
  • 2 cans *young jackfruit in brine* (see note above)
  • 1.5 cups red wine
  • ~1/2 cup flour (maybe more)
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking oil appropriate for medium-high heat (i.e. not olive oil; I use canola)
  • For the base:
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 smallish or 2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped to same size as celery
  • 6-10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (or more, as you like)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • Root veggies:
  • 4 red potatoes
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 1 turnip
  • 4 carrots
  • *All root veggies peeled and cut into large pieces.  You can use any stew-y veggies that you like.  I used about six cups total.*

Drain the jackfruit and press the pieces between the backs of two plates to squeeze as much liquid out as possible.  If you like, you can trim some of the core (the more dense/solid part) off the chunks (this part doesn’t end up with as meaty a texture, but I didn’t mind and used the whole pieces).  Place the fruit in a shallow dish and cover with the red wine.  Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.  Drain and reserve ½ cup of red wine.

ImageHeat a large heavy stockpot to med-high heat and add a good amount of oil.  Season the fruit with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.  Using tongs, carefully add the jackfruit to the pot and sear for about 2 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning, then flip and give another minute or two on the second side.  You may need to add more oil as you go along.  Remove the fruit, turn the heat down to medium, and add more oil if needed to prepare the stew base.

ImageAdd the onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic to the pot over medium heat.  Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.  Add all remaining base ingredients (I suggest starting will 2 cups of broth and adding more as needed while the stew cooks), plus the reserved wine, and stir well.  Add the root vegetables and the jackfruit.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let the stew cook uncovered to reduce for about 45 minutes before the next step.  Use a rubber spatula to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally to make sure things don’t get stuck.

ImageOnce everything has been cooking for a while, it’s time to pull the jackfruit back out of the stew (I know, it’s messy, but the end result is worth it).  Dig around in the stew and use tongs to remove all the big jackfruit pieces and place them on a large cutting board.  Mash the fruit with a fork.  If you kept the core bits in, you’ll need to push down harder to mash them.  (See photo for how it should look at this point).   Some seeds with probably pop out at this point (they look exactly like garlic cloves!).  Just give them a quick mash; no need to remove them.  Return the jackfruit to the stew (don’t worry, you won’t need to take it out again).

ImageSimmer the stew for another hour at least, until the big root vegetables are soft.  You may need to add more broth, depending on how much the liquid reduced previously.

That’s it!  The reward for your hard work is a giant pot of delicious, warming stew that will taste even better the next day.  I imagine you could freeze some, but it’s so delicious that R and I ate the whole pot within a couple of days, so I can’t attest to its freezability.  Serve with warm crusty bread.

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Vegan Jalapeño Meatballs

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These spicy little beauties are a great way to elevate the classic go-to vegan dinner of pasta and tomato sauce.  Crisp on the outside and yielding on the inside, they’re packed with flavour and totally addictive.  (Try not to eat them all out of the pan before they hit the table!)

I’ve been wanting to try making (no)meatballs for a while now.  Since I stopped adding it to Mexican dishes, the Yves Meatless Ground Round in my freezer has been looking lonely.  So, after reading up a bit on vegan and nonvegan meatball recipes, I got a bit of a sense of the basics and decided to give it a try.  The jalapeño on my windowsill begged to be included, and I can never say no to hot peppers.

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Yields 4 servings

  •  1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons hot water
  • ½ large Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • Cooking oil (I use canola)
  • 1 good-sized jalapeño pepper (see below for prep)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package veggie ground round (I like Yves)
  • 1 tablespoon each dried basil and oregano
  • ¼-1/3 cup breadcrumbs (if you don’t have any on hand, toast a bread heel then whir it in the food processor)
  • ¾ tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the flax and water to make a flax egg; give it a stir and let it sit for a few minutes to gel.

Heat some oil over medium heat in a skillet and add the onion.  Let it get cooking while you finely chop the jalapeno.  If you’re a bit hesistant about spicy food, remove the seeds and membranes and discard, keeping only the green flesh.  For a spicier dish, keep the seeds and membranes and chop the whole thing.  Be careful to avoid touching any cut surfaces with your fingers.  Add the jalapeno and the garlic to the pan.  Stir every minute or two until the onion is translucent and very soft, then remove from heat.

Crumble the ground round into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the onion mixture (making sure it’s cool enough to handle) and all other ingredients, starting with a ¼ cup breadcrumbs and adding a bit more if needed.  Mix well with your hands, really smushing it all together.

When forming the balls, keep in mind that small is better.  In order to ensure to that they cook through, keep them to about inch in diameter.  I used a ½ tablespoon hemispherical spoon to form them and it worked well.  Make sure the balls are well formed and packed.

Heat the pan back up to med-low heat and add a generous amount of cooking oil.  Add the meatballs.  The key to cooking them evenly is frequently shaking the pan to roll them around (if they aren’t rolling adequately, gently turn them with a rubber spatula).  They need to cook slowly to firm up the centre; at least 15 minutes.  When they are nicely browned on all sides, they should be done.

Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, or skip the pasta and just dip them in marinara or hot sauce.

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