Monday, 30 July 2012

Dark Chocolate Almond Pancakes

This weekend I was in the mood for something a little more decadent. Well to be honest, I was in the mood for some chocolate cake. But since I don't have an oven in my german apartment, and since it was so hot outside that I probably wouldn't want to turn it on even if I did, my thoughts naturally turned to pancakes.

Come to think of it, when do my thoughts not turn to pancakes?

I may have a problem.

But, Sunday morning, my only problem was that I could not cram these beauties into my face quickly enough. These pancakes are definitely rich, so I decided to make them small and slightly crispy. I then layered them with ripe bananas, topped them with some raw cacao nibs, and drizzled them with a maple almond coffee sauce.

I think it's safe to say that my craving for chocolate cake won't return for at least a couple days.

Dark Chocolate Almond Pancakes

Makes 1 giant serving (and maybe some leftovers for an afternoon chocolate craving)

1/3 cup whole grain spelt flour
4 tsp cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup soy milk or almond milk
1 tbsp natural almond butter
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/8 tsp almond extract)

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to remove any lumps in the cacao powder.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine wet ingredients and whisk until almond butter is well incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk well.  Let the batter sit for at least 10 minutes.

While the batter sits, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour batter into 3" pancakes (the batter will be fairly thin, so small pancakes work well).

Layer pancakes with slices of ripe banana, sprinkle with raw a cacao nibs, and top with warm maple almond coffee sauce (recipe below). Serve immediately.

Maple Almond Coffee Sauce

1 tbsp natural almond butter
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1-3 tbsp strong coffee or espresso

Combine almond butter and maple syrup and mix until smooth. Add coffee, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved. The amount needed will really depend on the consistency of your almond butter, and on how thick you would like the sauce to be. Serve warm over pancakes, crepes, or fresh fruit.

PS - Sorry for the very strange background, my chocolate craving fully overrode my ability to think clearly when taking these pictures. Can you tell what it is?

Or should I say, where it is?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Crepe Creations

When I was growing up, every summer my mother would take us to the berry farm to spend the morning picking (or in my case, eating) fresh strawberries in the sunshine. When we got home, she would fire up the stove and we would spend the rest of the day eating our precious little jewels served over crepes with whipped cream. 

While pancakes are still by far my favourite breakfast food, and were a staple in our house growing up, I believe there is a time and place for crepes as well. Perhaps it is due to these memories of strawberry-picking, but I feel that nothing showcases a batch of ripe, freshly-picked fruit quite like crepes.

So, when I came home from the market this weekend with a basket of local red currants (Johanesbeeren) and a bag of ripe nectarines, it seemed the perfect time to try my hand at making some crepes. Of course this time they are vegan crepes, and are smothered in soy yogurt instead of whipped cream, but it definitely had the same effect. 

Sorry pancakes, but you may be seeing a little less of me until the farmer's market closes!

Blank Slate Crepes

makes 1 giant serving

3/4 cup soymilk or almond milk
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (1/2 tsp if using German Backpulver)
1/8 tsp salt

Warm soymilk until at least room temperature (this will stop the coconut oil from clumping). Add maple syrup and coconut oil and whisk until frothy. In a seperate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

Heat a large skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. When hot, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to spread evenly. When bubbles appear throughout the crepe and it releases from the pan, flip with a spatula and let cook for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer crepe to a large plate and roll up. Repeat with remaining batter.

Top crepe rolls with soy yogurt and fruit and enjoy immediately. 

For the crepes here, I used lime soy yogurt, which is one of my new-to-me German obsessions, but plain or vanilla would work equally well.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pan-fried Tofu Triangles

Most nights you will find me eating dinner out of my favourite bowl with just a fork. I love meals where all the ingredients mix together, combining flavours and textures to make every bite equally perfect.

Part of this is definitely due to sheer laziness. I love to take my giant bowl of dinner and curl up on the couch or lounge on my balcony while I eat, and packing up leftovers is SO much easier when you only need to find one container.

Every so often though, it feels really nice to eat at the table, off of a plate, and with a proper fork and knife. If you're in that kind of a mood, then I highly recommend these tofu triangles. Pair it with crisp green beans and roasted sweet potatoes and you've got yourself a classy and traditional "meat and potatoes" kind of dinner.

Pan-fried Tofu Triangles

makes 4 servings

1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
2 tbsp olive oil, for frying (or less if using a non-stick pan)
2 tbsp light tamari or soy sauce
4 tsp sweet grainy mustard
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper)

Slice tofu widthwise into 8 rectangles, and then slice each rectangle diagonally to make 16 triangles. 

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. While the pan is heating, combine the remaining ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix well. Add tofu triangles to the sauce mixture and turn to coat. 

Place tofu in the hot pan, making sure there is room between each piece. Flip slices after about 5 minutes, or when well-browned. After both sides are seared, turn down heat to low and fry tofu for another 5-10 minutes, until the corners are crispy. If you like your tofu really firm and chewy (like I do), feel free to leave them in the pan for an extra few minutes.

Leftover tofu triangles are great served cold over quinoa or in a salad. Look at that, I'm back to one-bowl meals already!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Green Melon Frosty

It's been about a year since I first discovered the glory of green smoothies through the Green Monster Movement, and I haven't looked back since.

Living in Germany this summer has given me the chance to explore a whole new world of fruits and vegetables. Every week I stroll through the farmer's market, drooling over all of its brightly-coloured offerings. I've tried many new-to-me things, such as red currants (Johannesbeeren) and mâche (feldsalat), but I've also noticed that there are some familiar items that somehow just seem to taste better here! The one that really stands out to me is the melon. I've never been a big fan of watermelon, and I have to admit that I usually avoid cantaloupe at all costs, but oh my how things have changed!

In order to celebrate my new-found love of all things melon, I've switched up the classic creamy green smoothie for a crisp, refreshing green melon frosty. The recipe here calls for honeydew melon, but I've tried it with canary melon and futuro melon as well, and all were equally delicious.

Green Melon Frosty

makes 2 servings

2 cups honeydew melon chunks, frozen
1/2 cup tightly packed baby spinach, frozen
1/2 ripe banana, frozen (optional, for sweetness and creaminess)
2 tbsp vegan protein powder (also optional, I use vanilla)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup almond milk, divided

Reserve 1/2 cup almond milk, and blend all other ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Add in remaining almond milk until desired consistency is achieved. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Summer Salad

Summer is the perfect time for salads, for oh so many reasons. First and foremost, the farmer's market is packed with a variety of fresh, crisp greens. Secondly, a brightly-coloured salad is the perfect dish to bring along for a day at the beach or a picnic at the park with friends (as long as you remember to pack forks, and to keep the dressing in a separate container!). Finally, well, let's just say it: bathing suit season can be a little more pleasant with the addition of a few more veggies.

I like to approach salad-making without too many rules. Who says you can't throw in grains, beans, fruit, or even leftover dinner? For this salad, I started with some local mâche and carrots from the farmer's market, threw in some quinoa and chickpeas from the night before, and topped it all off with a bright herb dressing. 

Springtime Salad

makes 2 servings

1 bunch fresh lettuce or greens (I used mâche)
2 medium-sized carrots, julienned
1 cup cooked beet-infused quinoa (or plain cooked quinoa)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup creamy green dressing (see recipe below)

To make beet-infused quinoa, combine 1 part uncooked quinoa, 1 part beet juice and 1 part water in a large pot. Add herbamere or sea salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. For extra beet-iness, add 1chopped cooked beet to quinoa for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve hot as a side-dish, or chill for using in the salad.

If preparing this salad in advance, place quinoa and chickpeas in the bottom of a large container or mason jar. Top with carrots and greens, and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Then when mealtime comes, just pour on the dressing, toss, and serve!

Creamy Green Dressing

makes 4 servings

3 spring onions, roughly chopped (green onions will work as well)
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp white miso
1/2 tsp herbed sea salt
juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup water (as needed)

Combine all ingredients except water in blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Add water, a few tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.

Dressing can be stored covered in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Pancake Possibilities

Pancakes are by far my favourite breakfast food. There are just so many possibilities, beginning with the choice of grain or flour for the pancake base, on to the spices, fruit, or nuts added into the batter, and finally the fresh fruits and sauces to top them off.

I love stacking fluffy pancakes into tall (sometimes leaning) towers of deliciousness, and this basic recipe is great for that. While they are great smothered with pure maple syrup, if you have some fruit (fresh or frozen) lying around, then I highly suggest you stir up this sauce while your pancake batter is resting. It is well worth the extra few minutes of stirring, and all that arm exercise means you can eat twice as many pancakes, right?

The pancake recipe is inspired by Post Punk Kitchen's Fluffy Pillow Pancakes.

Blank Slate Pancakes:

makes one giant serving

1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder (2 tsp if using German backpulver)
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp safflower oil (can be omitted for lighter pancakes)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. If using cold milk, then stir in coconut oil with dry ingredients to break it up. Combine almond milk, flax seeds and vinegar in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until frothy (a couple minutes). Mix in oil and vanilla; add dry ingredients to bowl. Stir until well-combined, and then let sit for at least 10 minutes. Heat large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, pour batter into pan (makes 4 large pancakes). Flip when bubbles appear throughout the pancake.

Serve hot with fresh fruit and maple syrup, or basic berry sauce (recipe below).

Basic Berry-Cherry Sauce:

makes quite a lot of sauce, but I dare you not the eat the leftovers straight out of the pot

2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 cup frozen sweet or sour cherries
2 tbsp maple syrup (to taste, depending on sweetness of fruit)
2 tbsp chia seeds

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer approx. 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened (just about the amount of time your pancake batter needs to sit). Turn off burner and let sauce sit uncovered for a few more minutes, since it will thicken more as it cools. Serve over pancakes, on toast, or mixed into oatmeal.