Tag: cooking

Pepperoni Pizza

Anya wants to eat pepperoni pizza, but without the meat. I’ve seen a few vegan pepperoni products for sale, but they all look quite unappetizing, they include all sorts of crazy ingredients, and they’re super expensive. So I set out to find a veggie pepperoni recipe online. Took a lot of searching, but I found a recipe that looked promising. I made it with half the lowest amount of red pepper flakes. It was so hot, the stuff was inedible. Great taste, but a total waste. Also, the recipe didn’t indicate what type of extra-firm tofu to use. I happened to have some of the not silken sort, so I used that. So we had an oddly textured burning hot pepperoni (and I had to add a good bit of liquid to form anything even approaching a paste). I’ve been wanting to make it again without the pepper flakes and try silk tofu instead.

I tried it again tonight, modifying the recipe

  • 10 ounces extra-firm silken tofu
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp Tellicherry peppercorn
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, split into two 1/2 teaspoon portions
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 star anise seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a stone mortar, crush the garlic cloves. Add the sea salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, one half teaspoon of fennel seeds, and anise seeds. Grind to form a powder. Add sugar and smoked paprika, and blend together.

In a food processor, blend the tofu until it is creamy. Add the spice mixture, one tablespoon at a time, and blend until combined. Once it has enough flavour for you, store the remaining spice mixture (I used about half of the spice blend).

Spread the tofu on a lined baking sheet. You can spread separate little sections, cut it like the linked recipe, or just make one big chunk that you break up before using. Either way, bake for 10-15 minutes. Mmmmm! This tastes good, the texture is great … we made vegetarian pepperoni!!!

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon of vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced onion greens


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt butter and combine with buttermilk. Mash garlic cloves and mix into milk/butter.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cayenne.

Add cheddar cheese and onion greens, stir to combine.

Add buttermilk and stir until moistened.

Use 1/4 cup measuring cup to form biscuits and place onto silicon baking sheet lined tray.

Bake for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Quick Meals

Here are a lot of ways I’ve found to make “real food” without spending hours each day making dinner. I don’t always follow my very good advice, so I thought writing them out would keep these tips in my mind when I plan meals.

Planning meals in the first place is a great time saver – no time wasted trying to figure out what can be made from ingredients on hand, and less wasted food because you have a use for everything you buy. Plus grocery shopping is finding specific items and purchasing them, not wandering through the store picking anything that looks good.

I generally cook more than we need and have “left overs” for lunch the next day. That may mean exactly the same thing as dinner or it may mean dinner became a main ingredient in lunch. Quiche turns into egg salad for a sandwich, or chili is used in a taco salad.

Freezer meals are a big time saver for me – the basic idea is that you prep a dozen meals after picking up groceries (dicing, measuring) and put it all into glass freezer containers or freezer bags. It’s a lot of work one day (and a lot of shopping, but that’s a big money saver too since I buy stuff when it’s on sale) but a few hours one day make a lot of quick low-effort meals in the future. You toss everything into the crock pot, add some sort of liquid, and let it cook all day. Or you toss everything into a pressure cooker, add a little bit of liquid, and cook it for 20 minutes or so.

For things that don’t cook well in a pressure cooker or crock pot, make a big batch of stuff and freeze half (or more) of it. When I make a lasagna, I usually make three meals worth. Two for the freezer, one to eat that night. The frozen ones take a while to bake (let them thaw in the fridge that day), but it’s hands-off doing-something-else time. Homemade ravioli, vareniki, or piroshki are a time-consuming meal to make on a weekend afternoon/evening, but the ones that get frozen are a super quick weekday meal.

Big salads – if you’re making freezer meals anyway, more dicing and chopping isn’t a big deal. Store chopped foods in glass containers in the fridge. There are recipes for pre-made salads in a jar that stay fresh all week too. You can get a lot of different flavours by using different ingredients and spice blends. I’ll throw in tinned corn, artichoke hearts, olives. Add some pickled green beans or banana peppers. For people who eat meat, I’ll add some diced ham, shredded chicken, grilled steak (basically whatever meat is left over previous meals). For those who don’t, I’ll add black beans or garbanzo beans (another great use for the pressure cooker – I buy super cheap dry beans and cook enough for the week). Add sliced almonds, dried cranberries, walnuts, diced apple, or pomegranate seeds to add some extra crunch. If you have bread going stale, you can cube it up and toast it for homemade croutons.

Fresh bread takes hours to make, but the dough can be frozen. Frozen dough and pre-chopped foods turns pizza into a quick weeknight meal. Pizza is a single rise dough. Mix it up, freeze it. When you’re ready to use it, take it out and put the frozen lump in a large bowl & cover with clingfilm. Let it sit on the counter all day to thaw and rise. When you get home, everyone spreads their dough out on a small pizza stone (yeah, I know that’s not the right way to use a pizza stone), spreads some sauce (I freeze tomato sauces in the autumn when we’re harvesting tomatoes, so a container of that thaws in the fridge all day too), adds their toppings and cheese. Then I bake them for eight to ten minutes @ 550F (highest oven temp I’ve got).

Bread dough I freeze without shaping it. You *can* shape the dough first, but my thawed & risen loaves never turn out right. They’re all funky, misshapen, and partially collapsed. So I thaw & rise my dough lump during the day, shape the loaf when I get home, and then have to wait an hour to bake it. Perfect if you want a fresh loaf to make sandwiches for lunch the next day, fine if it’s going to take an hour and a half to cook dinner anyway, but not so useful for a quick dinner after soccer practice.

Quick breads work for dinner rolls though – I make a lot of my own mixes. Take all of the dry ingredients, measure them out, and mix them together. I store them in canning jars & have a tag with the liquid ingredients needed as well as the cooking time/temp. Making dinner rolls means preheating the oven, dumping a jar of biscuit mix into a bowl, adding some amount of water (I’ve got buttermilk powder from King Arthur Flour that’s great for making buttermilk biscuits) or milk, adding some oil, mixing, maybe some extra add-in like shredded cheddar or diced onion greens, shaping, and baking for about 20 minutes. About 30 minutes to have fresh bread, 20 of which is spent setting the table and getting the crock pot meal into bowls and on the table while they cook.

Sandwiches are a quick meal – egg salad, tuna salad – sometimes I make them with avocado or yogurt instead of mayo. Add some sweet curry powder to the yogurt/mayo for a different flavor. You can use large romaine leaves instead of bread for a salad instead of a sandwich. Use tortillas to turn sandwiches into wraps. Use pitas for pocket sandwiches. Grilled cheese – all sorts of different cheeses, I go with whatever is on sale in the fancy cheese section. That spinach artichoke dip that was everywhere for a while makes an interesting sandwich filling too – I about triple the veggie component so we aren’t eating a pound of cream cheese with a speck of spinach in it. Add a little sausage for the meat eater, the rest of us eat just fresh warm French bread with reheated dip.

And one of my favorite summertime meals – grilled everything 🙂 Marinade whatever protein in a glass container overnight, marinade veggies overnight in foil packets, wrap some yams or potatoes in foil. Veggie marinade: oil/vinegar mixture infused with various herbs (think oil/vinegar type salad dressings), garlic infused olive oil, soy & honey, honey & lemon, balsamic vinegar, brown butter & vinegar. In a foil packet, veggies steam in their own water so sometimes I’ll just sprinkle on some spices (I get different spice blends from Penzey’s – sweet curry, zatar, mural of flavor, northwoods, southwest). Yams and potatoes can be partially sliced and spiced. Or thinly slice apples and insert them between the slices in a yam.


Brownie Recipe


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large cold eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Set up a double boiler with barely simmering water. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the double boiler. Stir mixture occasionally until the butter has melted and mixture is quite warm and looks a bit like chocolate.

Remove the bowl from heat and set aside for 3 to 5 minutes to cool slightly. Stir in vanilla with a spatula. Then, add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks shiny and well blended, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, stirring until fully incorporated between additions, then vigorously beat with a spatula for an additional 50 strokes.

Pour batter into prepared pan, then drop spoonfuls of peanut butter into the batter. With a knife, swirl the peanut butter into the batter.

Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out almost clean (you want it to be a little moist with batter). Cool completely then remove from pan. Cut and serve.

5th Birthday Cake

I made a cake with red beets for Anya’s birthday cake. I roasted the beets instead of boiling them. Then replaced the espresso with beet juice (mostly because I had it in the pan after roasting the beets). Finally I used 7 oz of carob chips along with three tablespoons of a triple cocoa powder blend. To make it a little fancier, I made a small layer cake with the mascarpone between the layers.

I covered the cake with a stabilized whipped cream flavoured with raspberry and added fresh raspberries to to the top. The cake what what I imagined a red velvet cake was before it became white cake with red dye – a deep reddish brown colour. Very moist and dense in spite of the whipped egg whites folded into it.

Raspberry Whip Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup fresh raspberry purée (seeds strained out)
1 packet unflavoured gelatin
2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Dissolve gelatin in the raspberry purée.

Begin whipping the cream in a stand mixer. Slowly add in the sugar. Leave the mixer run and heat up the gelatin per instructions. Allow to cool a bit but don’t let it set. Drizzle raspberry mixture into cream and continue whipping to the soft peak state.

Since I was using this as a cake ‘frosting’, I immediately applied it to the cake and allowed it to set on the cake. Before the gelatin set:

After gelatin has set:

One Pot Kale and Pasta Dish

I love this pasta recipe – the original, from Cook’s Country, includes a pound of sausage and uses chicken stock in lieu of vegetable stock. The kale reminds me of brewing beer — how long the hops boils informs what type of fragrance / flavour it imparts in the beer. Added at the beginning and boiled for near sixty minutes, you get bittering flavors without aromas. Added near the end of the boil, you get aroma without bitters. Here you add some kale at the beginning of your ‘boil’ and reserve some kale to remain a little firmer.

I use a mise en place technique when cooking this recipe. Watch any TV chef and they’ve got pre-measured and pre-chopped ingredients in little bowls. When the recipe step says to sauté the onions, they dump the ready-to-go onion bits into the pan. This process speeds up filming – they aren’t paying three dozen people per hour to record the chef chopping an onion, dicing carrots, and measuring out six cups only to edit those bits out later. But professional chefs use a similar technique to organize the cooking process. It also makes the cooking process more relaxed – you aren’t trying to chop your kale while stirring to keep the onions from scorching.

Putting each component into its own little bowl like a TV chef looks cool but it makes a LOT of extra dishes! I have little piles of chopped veggies around the cutting board. Large volume components that aren’t dangerous uncooked (i.e. the kale here), I put in one of the bowls I’ll use to serve dinner. If my meal has a few flakes of uncooked kale and Anya has a few extra shreds of Parmesan cheese … not the end of the world. Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, remain in the strainer. Pasta bag opened but sitting upright on the counter.

Cook’s Country One Pot Sausage, Kale and White Bean – Vegetarian Modification


2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 roasted garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian spices
6 cups vegetable stock
16 oz orecchiette
12 oz chopped kale
1 oz Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper


1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and beans and cook until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and half of the kale. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 8 minutes. Add remaining kale on top of pasta, without stirring, and continue to cook until kale is just tender, about 4 more minutes.

3. Stir to incorporate kale into pasta. Simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is cooked, 4 to 8 more minutes. Off the heat, stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Broccoli cheddar soup is great on a cold winter day (especially when everyone’s coming down with a cold).


1 medium sweet onion
3 cloves roasted garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch hot pepper flakes
3 cups stock
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups shredded broccoli stems
1 cup shredded carrots
14 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

Dice onion. Melt 1t butter in a cast iron dutch oven (big, heavy pot) using medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Mush the garlic and add to cooked onions. Sauté for 30 seconds, then remove from pan.

Add remaining butter to pan and melt, then stir in flour and hot pepper flakes. Stirring constantly, cook a medium roux. Slowly stir in stock and milk. Add salt, pepper, and paprika. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

Return onion and garlic to the pot, add broccoli and carrots. Simmer for twenty minutes – broccoli should be cooked but not mushy. Slowly stir in cheddar and allow to melt.

This is good served alone, but it is amazing served in bread bowls!

Random tip – roast garlic and caramelized onions keep well in the freezer. Whenever you have almost dodgy onions or garlic (especially if you grow your own and have a big harvest that cannot be used quickly enough), cooking and freezing them is a great way to avoid food waste and have these ingredients available quickly (i.e. you’re not surfing the internet for bad tips on how to speed up caramelizing onions).

For roasted garlic – when you’re cooking something else, drizzle olive oil on the garlic, wrap in aluminium foil, and toss it in the oven along with whatever else you are cooking. You can even turn the oven off and let the garlic continue to roast as the oven cools off.

Caramelized onions aren’t quite as easy – probably need to dirty a new pan (although I’ve cooked onions for a dish and re-used the pan to caramelize a bunch of onions) and they need to be sliced (a food slicer makes a quick job of this step). Plus you need to give them a stir every now and then. But if you’re already standing at the cooktop making dinner … watching an extra pan isn’t a big effort.

Coconut Shrimp

I hate sweetened coconut shreds. I don’t know if it is the propylene glycol or sodium metabisulfite, but there is an odd chemical taste to the stuff. When I happened across a recipe for making coconut shrimp at home, I was hesitant to try it. A lot of flavors get lost in cooking – I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get citrus hop flavours to come through in beer battered fried fish, and purposed a terrible tasting six-pack from Rogue for fish and chips because none of the off flavours are present in the finished meal. But I didn’t want to chance enduring that strange sweetened coconut taste. But you can make your own sweetened coconut shreds. I happen to have big flakes of dried coconut, so the first step is to run them through the food processor long enough to have small flakes. Measure the small flakes – I had two cups. Take an equal volume of water (here’s where the measurement gets funky – I used the dry measuring cup for the water so I don’t mean “1 cup of water per cup of small coconut flakes” as properly measured). Boil the water in a large saute pan, then add sugar until no more dissolves. Then stir in the coconut flakes. Reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed/evaporated. Voila, sweetened coconut bits. Edible ones!

Put a cup of flour in a bowl, and add about 1/4 t each of salt and pepper.

Put a few eggs into a second bowl, add a pinch of salt.

In a third bowl, mix a 1:1 ratio of panko bread crumbs and sweetened coconut flakes. Mix to combine.

Using thawed, peeled, deveined shrimp – lightly coat a shrimp in flour, then dip in egg. Place shrimp into the panko/coconut mixture, spoon mixture over shrimp, and lightly press. Gently remove shrimp from the pile and drop into hot oil to cook. Repeat, again and again and again 🙂 Remove when the shrimp float and have turned golden. (You may not want to use the largest shrimp you can find as the coating may get overcooked before the shrimp is done.)


Peppermint Recipes

I wanted to make peppermint bark this year … so I’ve got a bunch of peppermint extract to use. Now I’m hunting peppermint recipes!

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Equal amounts dark and white chocolate
Peppermint extract (~1/2 teaspoon per pound of chocolates)

Melt dark chocolate, mix in half of the peppermint extract, pour onto a lined baking tray and allow to set.
Melt white chocolate, mix in peppermint extract, pour onto dark chocolate. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane bits if desired. Score and allow to set.
Break into pieces.

“Shamrock” Shake

3 cups vanilla ice cream
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Blend all together. You could add green food coloring or spinach to turn it green. Serve w. whipped cream & cherry.

Peppermint Patties
7.5 cups powdered sugar (34 oz)
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 T coconut oil
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1.5 lbs chocolate, copped

In a large bowl, beat together sugar, milk, corn syrup, coconut oil, and peppermint on a low speed. Shape the dough into two round circles, cover in plastic, refrigerate for an hour.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on silicon rolling mat. Roll out to about 1/4″ thick and cut with ~2″ cutter. Place cut pieces on baking sheet and freeze overnight.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Using a fork, dip each patty into the chocolate then set on parchment lined baking sheets.

Maple Custard Tart

I’ve seen custard tarts topped with apple “roses” and wanted to make something similar for our Christmas dessert. Since we made our own maple syrup this year, I wanted to use a maple custard. We had a big bag of walnuts, so I used those for the crust.

Maple Custard:

  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3T corn starch
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1/4t sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler (or a metal bowl on top of a pot). Select a medium heat (‘4’ on my cooktop). Whisking constantly, heat custard until it thickens. Remove from heat, cover with cling film, and refrigerate.

Walnut Cookie Crust:

  • 1.5 cup pulverized walnut pieces
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4t sea salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2T sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put walnuts into a food processor and pulverize – not just powdered, some 1/8″ pieces should remain.
Measure 1.5 cups of pulverized walnuts. Combine with flour, salt, and sugar.
Melt butter. Using a fork, cut the melted butter into the dry ingredients. Add egg whites and cut together until evenly moist.
Press dough to the bottom of a pie or tart plate (can be lined with parchment – makes removing the pie a LOT easier). Cook for 15 minutes. Crust should be crunchy and brown.

Apple Roses:

  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

The instructions used a mandolin to slice the apples, I used a spiral food slicer. Worked well. Combine orange juice, butter, and sugar in a bowl and mix. Gently stir in apple pieces so they are covered. Let sit for 10 minutes.

To assemble – spread custard into cooled pie crust. Curl apple slices around themselves to make rose shapes and gently press into custard.