Rye boule and tomato-lentil soup with brown rice

Woke up to snow again this morning and when I got them out the door, the very excited kids crawled through the snow on their way to school. No wonder snow pants rarely last a whole season!

Rye and whole wheat bread

In this chilly November weather when our bones aren’t quite used to bundling up against the snow and wind, I crave rye bread. This bread was made with whole wheat flour, rye flour and all purpose flour, salt and water. Simple and good with a few flax seeds sprinkled over the top.

I didn’t give it time to ferment on the counter like I did with the baguettes last time but this loaf gets its flavour from the flours I used. I did leave it to rise for about three hours before shaping the loaf while preheating the oven and the pizza stone.

I wanted to have nice bread for tomorrow morning’s peanut butter and jam on toast but I doubt it will last until the morning – I may have to make another loaf. I made it using the technique in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The website is healthybreadinfive.com.

The technique involves mixing a full bowl of dough, letting it rise for the initial period and then pulling out the amount I need to make a loaf and putting the rest of the bread dough in the fridge.

Over the week, the dough in the fridge develops a sourdough flavour and I can make another loaf whenever I want. I just have to shape it and let it warm on the counter while the oven and pizza stone preheat and then bake it for 30 minutes. With this method, it’s easy to have fresh bread that tastes amazing.

Rye and whole wheat bread with flax seeds

To eat with this whole wheat rye bread, I’ve made Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice. The recipe is from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Healthiest Region Under the Sun. I’ve left out the scallions (the kids won’t eat them) and the celery so it’s a very simple recipe of carrots, garlic, lentils, brown rice, vegetable broth and canned tomatoes with dried thyme and a bay leaf.

I cooked the carrots and garlic in olive oil until softened. Then I added the remaining ingredients and simmered for 50 minutes. My son’s not always keen on things that include tomatoes in the broth but I think he’ll like this soup since it’s so simple. The carrots are from a local farm and are very sweet.

Lentil soup with bread

It’s a hearty, chunky soup – he probably won’t eat the tomatoes but I’ll give him a chance to enjoy it as is even if it means there will be some whining at dinner. The lentils offer a good source of protein and dietary fibre and the brown rice makes it even more satisfying.

Tomato-Lentil Soup

I love to include big chunks of the vegetables that they love so when they first sit down to a dinner, they see something inviting and dig in. This helps them overlook the less desirable ingredients they may be more skeptical about (the tomatoes).

My son prefers to eat only cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden – I get it. They’re delicious and winter tomatoes just aren’t the same. If only it were August year-round!

I’ll get them to taste the soup before I let them eat their bread. If I don’t watch them, they’ll eat three pieces of bread and be too full to eat their soup. Can’t blame them – the bread is super delicious! But I know once they taste the soup, it will go down nicely.

Hearty soup served with bread

Orange layered cake with vanilla buttercream icing

It’s my husband’s birthday today so I wanted to make an extra special cake in his favourite flavour – orange.

Vegan orange cake
Orange infused cake with vanilla buttercream icing.

He likes light, fresh flavours – nothing too complicated or fancy. This cake is based on the Light Lemon Bundt Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The original lemon is one of my favourites – I make it in the summer when I crave everything lemon. But this cake was not for me and I had a nice bowl full of juicy oranges begging to be used.

I paired the orange cake with the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from my trusty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. It’s a perfectly simple icing that I use all the time.

four layer cake

I wanted this cake to be extra special so I doubled the recipe to make four layers.

Orange layered cake

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons egg replacer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup freshly orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons orange extract
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together. In a stand mixer, mix the egg replacer with the water on medium speed. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well. Combine with the dry ingredients. Divide into four round cake pans and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vegan orange birthday cake

The orange flavour of the cake was divine. Juicing the oranges made all the difference to the flavour too, I think.

I’m not the most patient cake decorator and the cake and icing together are sweet enough so I prefer a fresh fruit topping. I sliced an orange thinly and arranged the rounds on the top of the cake.

Vegan orange birthday cake

I could use some fresh cake decorating ideas – any ideas? Let me know how you decorate your cakes.

Fresh rye baguettes

vegan rye baguettes
Delicious with vegan butter or peanut butter and jam.

Making bread from scratch is simple as long as you have time and patience. Old techniques of kneading and shaping are over-rated. This bread took five minutes of mixing, a minute to shape and the rest was down time – letting the bread do its own thing. The result is a light, airy loaf.

I learned this technique for making artisan bread in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. No kneading required, just mix the ingredients and avoid over handling it.

The first rise is much longer – this is when the flavour develops. When it’s time to bake the loaves, you have to be careful not to disturb the air pockets that have developed as it was rising. Simply shape the dough into the desired shape (long baguettes or oval loaves) and let it rest while the oven warms.

My kids haven’t had many opportunities to eat white bread – so they don’t expect it. And when I make bread from scratch, it’s an opportunity to enrich it. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, oatmeal and anything along those lines will make it into the dough.

Enriched loaves are great. The only sandwich my son will eat at school is hummus and cucumber so it’s nice to have some variety in the bread I use.

But sometimes I want to make loaves that are super light and full of air pockets. Not quite white bread but very close. These loaves turned out perfectly.

Light rye baguettes

Patience is required. I made the dough for this bread yesterday and let it sit undisturbed for almost 24 hours.

  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon traditional yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water

Mix the dry ingredients together and add the water. Once all the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough, cover the bowl loosely and leave it to rise at room temperature.

About 24 hours later, pulled the dough out onto a floured surface, divide it in half and gently shape them into two long loaves being careful not to puncture any air pockets that had formed.

Preheat a pizza stone in the oven at 450. Give it about an hour to ensure it is heated through. Once the oven and pizza stone are nice and hot, gently transfer the two loaves onto the stone, brush the top with water and bake them for a half an hour.

Rye Baguette
The baguette has a crispy crust and plenty of air pockets.

The loaves have a tough, crunchy crust and a soft interior. Because they were left on the counter for a day, they developed a mildly sour flavour to it. Bread like this doesn’t last long, which is a good thing because it doesn’t take long to get hard. It’s best if it’s eaten in a day.

If, by any chance, it lasts longer than a day or two, use the leftovers to make breadcrumbs.

Oatmeal raisin cookies with friends

The kids had friends over this afternoon and when hunger hit, I fuelled the fun with an easy classic – oatmeal raisin cookies. The whole batch was gobbled down in no time.

vegan oatmeal raisin cookies
These cookies are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside and packed with oatmeal and raisins.

These cookies are based on the Banana Everything Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats. The original cookies have a banana base with plenty of chocolate chips, oatmeal and walnuts – they cook up gooey and irresistible.

I make oatmeal cookies regularly since the oatmeal makes for a hearty cookie packed with extra nutrition to back up the sugar kick. If there’s a little something healthy, like oatmeal, nuts or dried fruit in the cookies, I’m okay with the kids indulging.

I went to make these trusty Banana Everything Cookies today when the kids asked for a snack and I realized I didn’t have anything on hand for the crew. But we were out of chocolate chips and the kids weren’t so keen on walnuts so I decided to swap the chocolate chips for raisins and leave out the walnuts completely (something I have to do regularly since the kids’ school is nut free). Sometimes I’ll swap the nuts for seeds since there’s no allergies in the school to pumpkin seeds and they provide the extra protein and fat the kids need at snack time but when I’m cooking for other people’s kids, I stick to the basics to ensure they go over well.

Vegan oatmeal raisin cookie
Very gooey oatmeal cookie held together with banana goodness.

I knew the chocolate chips would go over well with the kids – but I’m glad to say the raisins were a hit too. They were crispy on the outside with a gooey banana-flavoured interior and a classic raisin pairing. Like most oatmeal raisin recipes, there was a sprinkling of cinnamon included.

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

This recipe book includes 100 cookies from brownies to chocolate chip and everything in-between. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a special book with lots of cookies options. It includes gluten-free cookies as well.

What’s your go-to playdate snack?

Six vegan cookbooks for your wish list

vegan cookbooks
A well-used stack of books.

Without a well-stocked bookshelf in my kitchen, dinner wouldn’t happen most days. Unlike people who have developed family-favourite recipes that they rely on weekly to nourish the family, without some spark of inspiration or craving to fill, I couldn’t be bothered to cook. What’s for dinner? I don’t know!

When I don’t know what to make for dinner, or breakfast or whatever, I’ll browse my cookbooks for a spark of inspiration. And because of the visual nature of social media, there are so many high quality vegan cookbooks out there. And I do find them irresistible.

But there are a few that I return to repeatedly because they fill a need. These are the six most well-used books on my shelf. If you’re vegan cooking is missing a little je-ne-sais-quoi, you may find it in one of these books. If you’re new to vegan cooking or just want to use less animal products in your kitchen, these books are great.

I’ll list them according to how long I’ve had them.

The Joy of Vegan Baking

This was one of my first vegan cookbooks and I still rely on it for traditional baking. It’s my go-to book for cornbread, applesauce, pudding, pretzels and hot chocolate to name a few. It has such a range of recipes that all turn out great. Caramel popcorn – check. Cinnamon rolls – check. Fruit crumbles – check. There’s a great variety of sweets in this book and it’s very well written.

The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

I’ve had this book forever. I used to make all the fancy cupcakes when my husband and I were DINKs (double-income-no-kids). Those were the good old days when we ate well! Then we went through the birthday cupcake stage when I only made the vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing with sprinkles. But now my kids are older and my daughter is interested in the more complicated cupcakes – she had the Chocolate Cherry Creme Cupcakes at her sleepover this year with saucy little cherries dripping all over. Divine!

If you have a sweet tooth or live with kids, this is a great book to have. I can whip those vanilla cupcakes up in no time at all!

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

Vegan Italiano

I’ve mentioned this one before in this blog. It’s my go-to for a quick pizza dough. But it’s so much more. This book’s focus is on classic Italian recipes that happen to be vegan so there’s no tofu or fake cheese. It’s authentic Italian food. I use it most in late summer when the garden is bursting with tomatoes and zucchini, the basil has to be eaten and all the freshest ingredients are cheap at the farm.

Vegan Italiano: Meat-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free Dishes from Sun-Drenched Italy

The 30-minute Vegan’s Taste of the East

I bought this book when I started commuting daily and I knew dinners would be rushed. It reliably provides dinner ideas that take less than 30 minutes to cook. That’s a life-saver for me. When I’m working from home, I love throwing ingredients into the oven and letting them roast or bake while I go back to work. But when I’m at the office, I want a good meal fast.

The 30-minute Vegan has a few different books and I have a few but I love this one because I love Asian food. It includes easy and quick meals with the flavours of India, Thailand, China, Japan and fusion recipes that are great too. And as I’ve said before, these books are also great because they offer suggestions for variations too (like: if your kids don’t like tempeh, use tofu – and here’s how). It was this book that taught me that you can just marinate tofu for 5 minutes if that’s all the time you have and then throw it in the over for 20 while you make the rest of your meal. It offers great solutions for when I’m overtired and in a hurry.

The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East: 150 Asian-Inspired Recipes–from Soba Noodles to Summer Rolls

The homemade vegan pantry

When I bought this book, I didn’t think I’d use it much. I already had Myoko Schinner’s artisan cheese cookbook. But I couldn’t get the thought of making my own mustard, mayo and yoghurt out of my mind. It seemed so indulgent and I knew the only way to move on from this nagging need was to just buy the book.

I’m glad I did. I made a lot of mustard. And that’s great. But I also came to rely on this book to make great meat alternatives. The veggie burger recipe stocks my freezer with burgers that don’t fall apart in the cooler when we go camping. The vegan wings are divine and the fake pork is perfectly paired with Chinese-inspired meals. The recipes require an investment of time but provide an abundance of servings so they can be frozen. With this book, my vegan pantry is stocked with high quality vegan foods.

This book is a great resource for learning techniques that really improve the quality of food and ingredients I use.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen

I love Indian food but I was never good at making it at home. This book changed all that. I can now make delicious pakoras, dals and curries. And I can control the spiciness so the kids will eat dinner.

Many of Richa’s recipes involve a spice mix or sauce that is cooked separately and added to the dal or curry at the end. So I’ll take out the kids’ portion and then add the flavour. It’s like making two dinners at the same time (which I’ll do sometimes because I like a spicy curry to serve alongside the kid-friendly version).

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook

I have other books that I love because they make me laugh, the photos are amazing or they’re new and exciting but these are the six books that have really earned their food stains and broken spines.

What about you? What are your favourite cookbooks?



Lightly spiced red lentils and rice and homemade roti

Kids have small stomachs. So every time they eat something, it takes the place of something else they’ll be turning down. It’s hard to convince kids to eat the healthy food they need to fuel their growth so I do my best to ensure most of the food they eat contributes to a healthy diet.

To this end, I like a hungry kid at dinner time. A hungry kid is more likely to try something new. When the kids have had a snack before dinner, they’re less likely to dig in.

Getting the kids to dig in wasn’t a problem tonight. We had Vegan Richa’s Lightly Spiced Yellow Lentils and Rice from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook. I love this book.

The smell of Indian food is irresistible to me. And Richa makes it attainable in my kitchen – no small feat! Tonight I even attempted her roti recipe!

making roti
Rolling out the rotis.

This was my first time making roti – it’s not authentic because I’m making due with whole wheat flour and all purpose flour as opposed to the flour that is used to make roti in India but Richa’s methodology made excellent rotis that were enjoyed by all.

making roti
The roti puffed up in the heat of the skillet.

The process involved cooking the flattened dough in a very hot skillet. The roti is supposed to puff up like a balloon, according to the instructions. I did manage to get them to puff up a bit – but not evenly. Nevertheless, they were delicious. Maybe I need some practice.

lentils, rice and roti
Lightly Spiced Yellow Lentils and Rice with roti on the side.

Tonight is our busy night with only a short window for eating before heading out for activities. Having a one pot meal like this makes meal prep easy and as long as the flavours are mild, it’s a quick meal for the kids to finish. They used the rotis to scoop up the lentils and rice.

red lentils and rice
The red lentils and rice were mild and delicious.

The lentils and rice are very mild – so I knew the kids would enjoy them. Sometimes I will take my changes on a more flavourful meal but on busy nights, I’m more conservative with my meal choices. This recipe was a good fit.

I followed the recipe with few exceptions. I haven’t been able to find asafetida in the stores in my region – I’m curious to know how it will change the flavours. I omitted the chile (for the kids’ sake) and chopped the onions in large pieces to make it easy to find and pick out for the kids. I didn’t have the petite yellow lentils so I used red lentils.

It was a delicious dinner. At one point, my picky eater said, “My tummy is full but I’m not listening.” He proceeded to finish his third roti! When I asked them how is dinner, they both exclaimed: “Awesome!” High praise indeed!

Focaccia with an eggplant spread and kid-friendly spaghetti

Eggplant spread
Provencal Eggplant Caviar

Dinner tonight is just for me and the kids so I’m making a classic that everyone loves with a little something extra for me.

I love eggplant. I haven’t always – I hadn’t even tasted it until I was a teenager. In high school, I became a vegetarian and started experimenting with recipes. The first time I tried eggplant, it was terrible. I made some kind of casserole that completely ruined eggplant for me.

It wasn’t until I lived in Japan where they would bake the eggplant in a miso sauce that I truly understood how delicious eggplant could be. I haven’t found a good recipe to replicate the eggplant I had there. Any ideas?

As for the kids, my daughter recently came around to liking eggplant but it’s still on my son’s yucky list. That’s okay – he’s still developing his taste!

I got my recipes today from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Healthiest Region Under the Sun. I find Donna Klein’s recipes to be excellent. The eggplant spread is her Provencal Eggplant Caviar (roasted eggplant and onion with olive oil, lemon juice, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar – I left out the raw garlic and cayenne pepper for the kids). And the focaccia is her recipe too (Classic Focaccia with Rosemary, Olive Oil and Coarse Salt).

Classic rosemary focaccia
Classic focaccia made with whole wheat flour, rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.

Kid-friendly spaghetti

The tomato sauce is my own. Recipe as follows:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
Tomato sauce with bell pepper
The orange bell pepper adds a sweetness to the tomato sauce that makes it extra popular with the kids.

I fried the garlic and pepper in the oil until they were browned. I then added the balsamic vinegar to deglaze before adding the rest of the ingredients. I simmered for about 30 minutes. Once it had thickened, I pureed it with my immersion blender to make a smooth sauce – that’s how my kids prefer their tomato sauce.

Pureed tomato sauce
Tomato sauce pureed in the pot.

The kids might not like the eggplant spread but I know they’ll devour the focaccia and spaghetti with tomato sauce.