Absences and Pumpkin Pie

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So, here is an apology pie for disappearing for two months. The fact of the matter is it turns out planning a wedding, starting several new teaching contracts and still having time to audition, eat, sleep and do other basic human necessities took up every waking hour of my life. When people asked me in the year leading up to my wedding if I found planning a wedding stressful I would say no. I would tell them that I have bartended many weddings and so I knew what was needed for the wedding to happen. Then the month before the wedding suddenly all the stress hit me across the head like a 2×4. It was go time and there was no time to delay. The good news is the wedding was beautiful and amazing and better than I could have hoped (OMG I’m married!!!) the other good news is, now that it’s over I have time to have a life again. I promise to share pictures once I get the official photographs.

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I did bake all the desserts for the wedding with the help of my mum. We baked 96 cupcakes, 3 apple pies, 3 apple crisps, 2 spice cakes and I baked my wedding cake (a double layer chocolate and vanilla oreo cake with vanilla buttercream frosting) We had a bbq buffet for dinner, using HD Events Catering who were absolutely incredible, seriously book them for your next event! My friends bartended, another friend was our photographer, another drove the bus, a friend’s boyfriend dj’d it was a true labour of love. I still smile hugely and feel giddy when I think about it.

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But now we’re back in the real world (honeymoon happening in January!) and so it’s time for real world things like Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie. My mum always bakes a killer vegan pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner, but seeing as we had gotten married the weekend before Thanksgiving my parents decided to forgo our annual friends and family Thanksgiving dinner. This left me pumpkin pie-less. Which meant I had to make one on my own. I used the filling recipe from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, it’s really good but I think the one my Mum uses is just a shade better (no offense to Chloe). I used my Mum’s pie crust because it is by far the best pie crust out there and whipped up a batch of homemade coconut whipped cream to really seal the deal.

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So whip up a pumpkin pie because it is really fall now, the leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping and pumpkins are popping up everywhere. If you’re American you have plenty of time to test this recipe out before bringing it to your own Thanksgiving at the end of November!

Pie Crust

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbl shortening
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbl cold water

Directions

Cut the shortening into the flour until it is well combined, add the salt, add the water a tablespoon at a time and kneed with your hands until the desired consistency is reached.

Roll the dough out and carefully place it in a greased pie tin.

Filling

  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cups canned coconut milk (mixed well)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tbl cornstarch
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

In a blender or the bowl of your standmixer combine all the ingredients together.

Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Bake for 60min.

Allow to cool and the refrigerate for at least four hours.

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Lemon Meringue Pie and a Triumphant Return

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I’m finally back and baking. Despite the fact that it has been over 40 celsius the past couple of days with the humidity (that’s about 104 fahrenheit for the Americans) I finally had a day to do nothing and so I committed to making this pie. I am so, so happy that I did. I am in absolute awe of the power of chickpea brine! I’m not going to lie to you guys, I really did not believe that this would work. I thought it was too good to be true! How could it be possible that the liquid from a can of chickpeas could make a fluffy, sticky, sweet merengue? I am here to tell you it is 100% real and 100% delicious.

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Above is an action shot of my standmixer going to town on some chickpea merengue. I did a lot of research before attempting it myself. The two blogs that I found the most helpful on the subject were It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken and The Pancake Princess. They had really good tips on what you need to do to create the fluffy meringue of your dreams. First? You need to buy chickpeas with no added salt. Check those labels! Most brands add salt I ended up buying blue label at Loblaws because it was the only ones I could find without salt added. Sam at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken explains that the brine with added salt retains a bit of the chickpea flavour. Second most important thing? You need to reduce the brine. Reducing it just means you need to bring it a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 15min. This will intensify it. Third? You need to be patient and put it in the fridge to cool down before use. If you’re making it to top a lemon meringue pie then it’s no hardship, you let it cool while you assemble your pie.

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We know how to make pie of course. I used the lemon curd filling from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts and a basic pie crust recipe. The real thing we’re focusing on is the magical meringue here. So what you’re going to do is take your chickpea brine which is nice and chilled from the fridge and put it in the bowl of your stand mixer. You’re going to add a 1/2 tsp of vanilla and a 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and you are going to put that stand mixer on high and watch it go. I kept waiting for it to start forming peaks before adding the sugar, it won’t form peaks until you add the sugar. However letting it whip for a while until it is nice and foamy is a good idea. Once it is super foamy start to add your 1/2 cup of sugar a little bit at a time. Very slowly. You will see the creaminess starting and the peaks starting! Once you have emptied that half cup of sugar into your meringue be patient lower the speed a little bit and let it keep on whipping. You need to keep whipping until you achieve stiff peaks. You cannot get impatient with this, not if you want a proper merengue. If you look at the picture above you will see that when I take the beater away the peak stands up straight. That’s what I mean by stiff peaks. Periodically stop the stand mixer, lower the bowl and pull out the beater, if the peak flops over it is still too soft.

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To get that lovely delightful golden cast I used the broiler as suggested by the Pancake Princess. I baked my crust, then baked the pie with the lemon curd in it, then I pre-heated the broiler to 575 I carefully placed the pie inside and left the door open so that I could see it. I rotated the pie around every few seconds. It was probably in there for not even a full minute. It will burn SO FAST. You really cannot let your mind or eye wander for even a second.

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Then when all of that is done you need to let it chill in the fridge for about three hours before you eat it. This pie is not for busy days. This pie is for slow living summer days, the kind of days where you just want to sit in the shade and sip on iced tea and eat cold pie. The kind of day where you have all the time in the world to obsess over the perfect golden cast on your meringue.

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Once it’s chilled you can sit back and relax and feel like you’ve accomplished something that day. You made a completely vegan lemon meringue pie! You took something as innocuous as bean water and made it into something decadent and delicious! You are a magician! I’ve got lots of thoughts on what else I can do with this magical creation so stay tuned!

Aquafaba (bean water) Meringue

  • 1 15oz can of chickpea brine
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Pie Crust

  • 1/3 cup and 1 tbl shortening
  • 1 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbl cold water

Lemon Curd Filling

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 6 tbl cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbl lemon zest

Directions

Bring the chickpea brine to a boil and then lower the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 15min. Allow to cool and then place in the fridge to chill.

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a pie plate.

In a bowl cut the shortening into the flour until it is in pea size balls, add the salt and cold water and mix with a fork. On a well floured surface roll out the dough, place the crust in the prepared pie plate and trim any excess. Bake the crust for 10min.

While the crust is baking combine 1/2 the soy milk with the cornstarch and flour in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan bring the other 1/2 of the soy milk to a boil and add the sugar and lemon juice. When the sugar has dissolved slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk continuously (you really can’t stop whisking unless you want a lumpy curd) until a thick pudding like consistency is created. This will take awhile. Stir in the lemon zest.

Pour the curd into the baked crust and bake for an additional 15min.

While the pie is baking take your chilled chickpea brine from the fridge and pour into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the vanilla and cream of tartar beat until extremely foamy. Slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until stiff peaks are achieved.

Preheat the broiler to 575 and spoon the meringue onto the prepared pie. Place the pie in the broiler with the door open, using oven mitts rotate the pie every few seconds until the desired golden crispiness is achieved. Be VERY careful or it will burn!

Chill in the fridge for four hours to overnight.

Eat!

Strawberry Shortbread Crumble Bars

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Do you ever have an ingredient and you know what you want to do with it, you look through your cookbooks and scour pinterest, and you can’t find the recipe you want anywhere? No? Just me. Well that’s what happened with these babies. To be fair I found lot’s of recipes for strawberry bars, but all of those recipes involved eggs and I was out of egg replacer. However, I’m glad because I’m fairly certain these turned out wayyyy better than trying to adapt an egg heavy recipe.

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I had a whole lot of strawberries sitting in my fridge waiting to be eaten, strawberries that were getting a little mushy and close to the end of their life. Strawberries you don’t particularly want to eat on their own, but are perfect to be baked into something! I find fruit that’s a little too mushy, a little too old the best for baking. So, I got into my head I was going to make some kind of bars with them. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. All the non-vegan recipes were filled with eggs and all the vegan recipes were healthy strawberry bars. I was not in the mood for healthy. I was in the mood for flaky, buttery, salty and sweet. So these were born!

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This is the most ridiculously easy recipe. It took no time at all to throw together. I tossed them together and baked them in less than an hour. Not bad to get sweet, flaky goodness in that amount of time. I cut them into big bars and brought them to coworkers who ate them up in no time. I can’t believe it’s vegan is a compliment I often get and something I always take as the highest praise!

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I wish I could say that I made this with strawberries from my garden . . . but that wouldn’t be the truth. My little planter is only producing a couple of strawberries at a time. Definitely not enough for a dessert. However, my favourite farmer’s market is happening today and I plan on going and buying a whole bunch of fresh berries!

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Make yourself some delicious bars in no time at all! Great to bring to any long weekend barbecues you might be attending!

Shortbread Crust

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350, lay parchment paper down in a 9×9 pan

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender

Place half the shortbread in the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer

Strawberry Filling

2 cups chopped and washed strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

Directions

In a bowl mix together the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch.

Pour over the prepared crust

Crumble the remaining shortbread on top

Bake for 30-35min or until the topping is golden

Betty Crocker’s Rhubarb Crisp

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Guys, rhubarb crisp does not photograph super well. It’s one of those desserts that tastes amazing but doesn’t necessarily look the best. It’s a bit of a mess, crispy bits of sugar floating on top, big chunks of rhubarb sweet and tangy, all tossed together in a pan. My parents gave me some more rhubarb from the garden and so I had to make this rhubarb crisp recipe.

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This is Betty Crocker’s rhubarb crisp. In my parent’s kitchen there is a worn, stained, falling apart copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. Guys, Betty Crocker knows what’s up. I also love that this recipe included instructions on how to bake it in the oven and how to make it in the microwave. That’s how you know this book is the OG. It’s from a time when people would use their microwave for cooking not just for re-heating leftovers! A simpler time before we read all the articles about how microwaves (and everything else) gives you cancer.

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Speaking of simple things, I’ve got a ripening strawberry! Little things make me happy. I’ve turned my backyard into a riot of colours and different flowers, herbs, vegetables and strawberries! I often think I belong somewhere where the warm weather lasts longer, the happiness I feel sitting in my backyard in the sunshine surrounded by life is unparalleled. Too bad I love Canada too much to ever leave.

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I’m excited by all the blossoms on my tomato plants that promise to become tomatoes in the not too distant future.

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I’ve got lettuce growing alongside wildflowers I planted last year. I can’t wait to harvest some for a fresh salad. There’s a house near me that has a beautiful peony bush that droops onto the sidewalk. I desperately want to cut some blossoms every time I walk by, I stop myself. Partly because I don’t want to anger my neighbour and partly because it makes me think of the original Rapunzel story, and what happens when you steal plants from your neighbour’s garden!

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Now back to this crisp. Betty Crocker doesn’t put oats in her crisps. Oh no she doesn’t. Betty uses flour and sugar and some cinnamon. Keep it simple, keep it delicious. Betty knows what she’s doing. Crisps are so easy to make, way less labour intensive compared to pie! What are you all doing to suck all the joy out of summer? I’m trying to plan day trips, beach trips, cottage trips, working outside whenever possible. Blasting country music in the car when I drive, eating lots of fresh produce. Hooray for summer!

Rhubarb Crisp

  • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb cut up (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (depending on how tart the rhubarb is)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup vegan margarine

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350

Place rhubarb in an ungreased glass pan and sprinkle with salt

Mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the margarine and stir until the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle over the rhubarb.

Bake for 40-50min until the topping is golden brown.

Rhubarb Pie

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Summertime is pie time. Summertime means that there is fresh fruit just waiting to be baked into pie. I mean the fall is also pie time, but summer is berry pie and rhubarb pie time! This rhubarb pie was made from rhubarb in my parent’s backyard. This rhubarb doesn’t need strawberries, it’s good enough to get it’s very own pie.

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There is soooo much rhubarb in my Dad’s backyard. Going to my parent’s house in the summer always means coming home with fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden. I knew I had to pick some fresh rhubarb and get to baking. Sadly, my attempt to transplant some rhubarb to my garden last year did not pan out. Maybe this year? Or perhaps it’s too late for me to transplant it now. Either way, I can always go to my parents and get more!

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It took me awhile to get up the energy to make this pie. Not because it is in any way difficult, just because I wasn’t in the mood to make pie crust. Don’t know why. I just sat in my kitchen looking at things on pinterest for like half an hour before finally snapping out of it and getting to work on this pie. Boy am I glad I did. I love rhubarb so very much. It’s such a perfect sweet and tangy combination. Raw rhubarb dipped in sugar is just as delicious as cooked rhubarb in pie and crisps. This pie actually was so easy to make and took no time at all.

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Obviously I baked this pie at night since there are no full pie pictures. The artificial light in my house is awful for photography. I only ever use natural light to take pictures. The result of that is that I end up with no full pie pictures if I bake at night. There’s no way I can pull a hot pie out of the oven and not cut into it. Do people with that kind of self control exist? Who are you? What kind of meditation do you use to stop yourself from eating fresh baked goods?

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The other great thing about this pie? No peeling! With peach and apple pies you have to peel and cut all your fruit. With rhubarb pie you just have to chop up the rhubarb! So much easier. Summer is really, truly here. My garden is planted and growing and all I want to do is be outside at all times, bake pies and hang out at farmer’s markets. Enjoy this rhubarb pie to kick off your summer!

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Rhubarb Pie

Pie crust (recipe found here)

Filling

  • 5 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbl flour
  • 1 tbl vegan margarine

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 450

Grease a pie pan and place half the rolled dough in the pie plate

Combine the ingredients for the filling and pour into the prepared pie crust.

Take the tablespoon of vegan margarine and split it up placing bits of it all over the pie filling.

Top with the remaining rolled out pie crust. Pinch the edges to create a crust trimming excess dough. Cut holes in the top of the pie with a knife.

Bake for 15min. After 15min turn heat down to 350 and bake for the remaining 45min.

Allow to cool and for the filling to set before serving.

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

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See that bit of white peaking out? Ya, that’s an oreo. I stuffed brownies with oreos and it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. My fiancé wanted me to bake those oreo stuffed cream cheese chocolate chip cookies (recipe here) but I wanted to try something new. Nothing too difficult, since we are getting summertime temperatures over here and extended time with the oven on in a steamy kitchen is not the greatest. I needed something I could make with just one bowl. I wanted chocolate so obviously you can’t get more chocolatey than brownies and the fiancé wanted something oreo stuffed.

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Voila! Oreo stuffed brownies. These are regular oreos they just happen to have little stanley cups on them. The irony of stanley cup oreos in Toronto is not lost on me.

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I lay down the first layer of batter in the greased pan lay out my oreos and then poured the remaining batter over top. The cookies basically melted inside the batter giving these brownies a super gooey consistency. You can’t go wrong with a good fudgey gooey brownie. No matter what time of year it is!

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These brownies get nice and crispy on top and keep the gooey goodness going underneath. A perfect pairing.

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Up top it looks like just a regular old brownie but when you bite into it you get all the oreo cookie excitement inside. My brother in law was over yesterday and let’s just say that when I came home the brownie pan was nearly empty. Clearly they were a hit. I’m on the hunt for more simple but delicious recipes I can make this summer. I don’t have the same patience or desire to be in the kitchen in the summertime. On a sunny warm day I want to spend every possible moment outside. I tend to make lots of cookies, things that don’t take a long time. Meals too tend to be simpler, lighter. I can’t believe that it’s June next week! I cannot wait for my first cottage trip of the summer, to swim in the lake, lay in the sun, go for boat rides! It’s my favourite time of the year!

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Oreo Stuffed Brownies

Brownie recipe from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts

  • 3/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbl pure vanilla extract
  • about 9 oreo cookies

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×14″ pan

In a sauce pan heat the vegan margarine and chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the margarine/chocolate chip mixture.

The dough should be crumbly.

Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mix on medium high until smooth.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, place whole cookies evenly spaced across the batter, pour the remaining batter over top making sure to cover all the cookies.

Bake for 45min. The brownies should still be gooey when you take them out. Allow to rest for 10min before cutting.

Sweet Olenka’s – Vegan Ice Cream Paradise

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So I know that I touched on Sweet Olenka’s and all it’s amazing vegan ice cream before. I did a quick little write up included in my favourite vegan places in Toronto (which you can read here) but I think they really truly deserve their own post. Sweet Olenka’s has made all of my childhood dreams come true. Seriously. If you had told little girl Sarah that one day she could go to a place and choose from multiple flavours of ice cream (not sorbet, we can all agree that it is not the same thing) or an ice cream bar, or an ice cream sandwich, or order an ice cream cake. If you had told little girl Sarah that she could do all of those things and eat all of those things, she would have thought you were crazy. Pictured above is their salted caramel ice cream sandwich. It is incredible. So incredible that I’ve bought one the last two days and am seriously considering stopping by again to get one.

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Now the most important thing for an ice cream shop to have is of course good ice cream. Sweet Olenka’s makes coconut milk ice cream (as well as regular ice cream for your dairy consuming friends) They have a constantly rotating list and never less than six different vegan flavours to choose from. Pictured above is cookie dough which might be my all time favourite. Although it’s hard to choose between cookie dough, salted caramel, birthday cake, cookies and cream . . . so many incredible options. It is no exaggeration when I say that I go here on a weekly basis. Once the weather warms up I am always there, even in the icy cold winter I’ve been known to pop in on a fairly regular basis (no line ups in the winter!)

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I think that the best option in the winter is to go in and buy pints of ice cream to bring home, that way you have to venture out into the cold less. They have a freezer filled with pre-packaged ice cream and you can ask them to package up any flavour you fancy. It’s a bit dangerous having a freezer filled with incredible ice cream so proceed with caution.

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And if you’re really in the mood to celebrate you can pre-order a vegan ice cream cake. I’ve tried the s’mores cake and the cookies n’ cream. I must say that the s’mores one really takes the cake (thank-you, thank-you, I’ll see myself out.)  They also have vegan chocolates, vegan cakesters (basically giant cupcakes) and other vegan treats. I feel so lucky to have so many food options now that just a few years ago would have been laughable. I am absolutely obsessed with this place and if you are lucky enough to visit my fair city you must check them out. You can find their website at http://www.sweetolenkas.ca