Friday, July 30, 2010

a trip to tobermory part 1

Congratulations to the winner, Angela, and runner's up, Emma and Thereasa, of Heathy's Raw Vegan Dessert Challenge: Summer Party Parfait! Such beautiful entries infused with love and creativity, always so inspiring. Many thanks to Heather for yet another fun dessert challenge - can't wait for the next one!

As some of you may know, I've just returned from a few days visiting Tobermory, the infamous town at the tip of the Bruce Penninsula here in Ontario. I had visited here a few years ago, but made the latest trek with my man, who has been curious about the place for quite some time now. While it is no easy feat to travel to Tobermory from my neck of the woods (it can take over four hours), it is definitely worth the drive time and kilometers.

What I found absolutely fascinating is that, being at the very tip of the Bruce Penninsula, Tobermory is right in between Lake Huron (on it's left) and the Georgian Bay (on it's right). This is what we silly academics would call an interstital space, an area located directly in between two other destinations. Yes, I know - I couldn't switch of my mind entirely during the trip, but we did catch up on some much needed rest, relaxation, and fun! Here is a recap of some of the trip highlights:

On the way up to Tobermory, we stopped at a Farmer's Market in Brampton, where I had my very first taste of kohlrabi - such an interesting flavour, sort of a cross between  a radish and cabbage.

Getting so close to Tobermory, I wanted to stop in at this cute bakery I had visited before. Harvest Moon Organic Bakery and Sculpture Gardens is located in Lion's Head, Ontario, and features "awesome pies and breads, artisan desserts and pastries, wheat free and low sugar options, sculpture gardens and walks." While I didn't see any raw dessert options while I was there, the baked goods looked quite impressive. I highly recommend checking out the nature walk and sculpture gardens around the premises - really interesting architecture and art pieces:

the bakery, a building on the main grounds

another building, to the right of the bakery

there are many different nature walks and paths to choose from

one of the sculptures in the garden - great chair!

a hidden nature sculpture

the main house - I can imagine Carmella and Don 
might live in a house like this!

More Tobermory musing to follow - stay tuned for more piccies and stories!

Friday, July 23, 2010

raw summer party parfait entry

Another Heather Pace raw dessert challenge is underway, the Summer Party Parfait, and I just had to get "my parfait on," as she says :) For this challenge, I wanted to experiment with different  ingredients that, at first thought, might not be the most obvious combination. I also wanted to have an interesting concept behind the two parfaits (I think this speaks back to my arts background, particularly in the area conceptual art, where the concept of a piece of art is regarded as being the most important part of the work, rather than the actual object). Who knew you could have a crash course in conceptual art whilst perusing this blog post about summer parfaits! Here is a little explanation of the the "concept" I was working with for my parfait.

Niagara is full of different varieties of trees, wildlife, and waterfalls:

me in the kitchie last summer

Over the next few days, I am headed to Tobermory for a mini-vacation. I'm hoping to take in all of the sights and sounds of the area. For those of you who are not familiar with Tobermory, the area is located at the very tip of the Bruce Penninsula in Ontario. What's interesting, is that the Bruce Trail, which ends in the Bruce Penninsula in Tobermory, runs through Niagara to Queenston. Many people make the trek from this area on the Bruce Trail all the way to Tobermory; it is amazing how the trail runs so far. Although I won't be travelling this route to Tobermory (at least, not this time), I'm amazed at how there is an interconnectedness between my present space and a future experience I am about to embark upon. Hence, the name I've bestowed upon this little creation of mine:

"from the Twenty Valley to Tobermory" parfait

For the first parfait, I made a Mango Cream base (using mango instead of strawberries, I think this switch is within the contest guidelines), and combined this with the Orange-Goji crunch topping (yum!) and some uber-delicate, hand-picked wild black raspberries. I layered the raspberries with the crunch topping, followed by the mango cream, and then repeated until the parfait glass was full to the brim. Lastly, I topped the parfait with some more raspberries, the crunch topping, and a Nasturtium.

Last week, I stumbled upon a sumptuous wild raspberry patch (there are a plethora of interesting hiking trails). This little endeavor took me back to my childhood; I loved eating raspberries in the wild (still do!). After picking the berries for my parfait, I left my 'harvest' in the fridge for a few days, which softened the berries, perfect for layering in the parfait:

part of the Bruce Trail

To marry the hues of the Mango Cream, the nasturtium is a really fun edible flower:

the softness of this photo reminds me of an Impressionist painting

For my additions to the recipes, I used the mango and the wild raspberries. I also used maple syrup as my sweetener (another Canadian element). The mango is definitely a tropical influence, and with tropical representing a far distance from me, I thought it would stand as a nice symbol for my pending trip away from home. The wild black raspberries symbolize the freedom one can feel on an adventure (wild = free!). The flavor combination of the ingredients was really refreshing, and definitely made me think of summer.

A summer storm was brewing when I took the photos of the parfait; you can see some drops of rain on the flowers:

And there you have it - my entry for Heathy Pace's Raw Vegan Dessert Challenge: Summer Party Parfait. Many thanks to Heather for hosting another fabulous contest; they really inspire me to try different recipes and use fun ingredient combinatios. A perfect mixture of sweetness and light! I'm so inspired by all of the wonderful parfait posts by you wonderful ladies out there as well; keep them coming!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

summer Superstore cooking classes

I've had the wonderful opportunity to teach a few more cooking classes over the past two months at two Superstore locations in the Niagara region. These classes were such a success, thanks to the wonderful crowd and delicious raw and vegan recipes enjoyed by all!

moi, coddling an avocado truffle

avocado truffle wedges; look like eggies.

First, a quick review of a class I taught at the St. Catharines location towards the end of June. This class featured recipes I shared in a previous post here. A smaller crowd, this group was just so much fun. Everyone really enjoyed the avocado truffles, bean salad, and fruit salad:

 a smaller crowd, but just as much fun!

Next up, I'd like to give a review of some of the delicious recipes we had the chance to make (and taste) over the last two weeks (I taught the same recipes for two separate classes at different locations). For these classes, I was inspired to come up with some recipes that used local produce and ingredients. Here is an excerpt from the in-class recipe handout: "these recipes use fresh cherries as well as different ingredients such as quinoa and agave syrup, proving that you can combine local and global ingredients in a wonderful evening meal."

The first recipe was a Moroccan Quinoa and Cherry-Carrot Salad. While the quinoa is not technically raw, you can easily omit the quinoa and prepare this as a raw cherry-carrot salad. You can also use dried or fresh cherries, depending on your preference (we used dried - yum, so sweet!):

Moroccan Quinoa and Cherry Carrot Salad
Serves 4-5

This is a great cold salad recipe combining Moroccan spices with carrots and quinoa. More of a seed than a grain, quinoa is high in protein, and has a delightful fluffy texture. Serve as a side salad or main dish with greens and sliced avocado at a summer evening get-together.

1 cup white or red quinoa, rinsed in a colander
¼ cup shelled pistachios
6-7 large carrots, peeled
¼ - ½ cup dried or halved, fresh cherries
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 avocado, to garnish
mixed greens

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a colander to remove saponin (bitter resin-like coating). Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add quinoa and cook for 20-30 minutes (until the quinoa has expanded and become fluffy in taste and texture). Can  cook quinoa in a rice steamer as well. Set aside to cool.

Process carrots in a food processor with either an ‘s’ blade or grater blade. Set contents aside in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Slowly add olive oil.

Add pistachios, cherries, and cilantro to carrots. Toss with dressing to combine. Serve with sliced avocado atop a bed of mixed greens. Salad will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

This salad proved to be a huge hit with both classes, so much so that a friend of mine, Keri, made the salad at home and took a delightful photo of the results (as well as posted the recipe on her wonderful blog, Diary of a Dandelion Diva - love the title!). I was so pleased she enjoyed the recipe - see Keri's creation below:

Now, we couldn't have recipes calling for cherries without some sort of raw dessert! A simple introduction to some of the basics of raw food desserts, these Delectable Cherry Vanilla Tarts demonstrates a basic raw and vegan nut crust and a whipped cream filling. Although there are a few steps to this recipe, it is incredibly straightforward, fun, and creative. These tarts combine the refreshing taste of raw food desserts with simple, flavorful ingredients. Makes for a delightful after-dinner dessert. Enjoy!

Delectable Cherry Vanilla Tarts

Tart Shell:
2 cups nuts (I used almonds)
1 cups dates, pitted
1 tbsp cold water

Whipped Cream Filling:
1 cup cashews
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup (or maple syrup)
1 tbsp water
a few pitted cherries (optional - for a pink cream filling!)

1 cup fresh cherries with stems intact (or 6-12, depending on number of tarts)
fresh mint leaves

Line either a small muffin tin or tartlet tins with plastic wrap and set aside. Grind the nuts and dates together in a food processor, adding water to thicken. Press 1-2 tablespoons worth of the mixture in each of the tart forms to make an even crust. Put the tart forms in the fridge or freezer to harden for at least 30 minutes.

Place cashews in a blender, adding water, sweetener, cherries, and vanilla extract and blend to a smooth consistency. Put aside in a bowl. Remove the tart forms from the freezer, take them carefully out of the tart form and remove the plastic wrap.

Fill each of the tarts with some of the cashew cream and set in the refrigerator to chill and harden. Arrange the cherries on top of each of the tarts. Use a few fresh mint leaves as garnish. Will keep 2 days in the fridge.

the Grimsby class

the St. Catharines class

These classes were so much fun, and a few close friends of mine even attended, which was wonderful and supportive. For those of you in the area, my next class is at the St. Catharines location on August 10th; anyone is welcome to attend!

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your day, and remember to enter Heathy's Raw Parfait Challenge - 3 days left! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

a trip to rawlicious with the girlies

Hey dolls! Hope you are enjoying these first few, balmy (and humid) days of July. I had the most wonderful Monday yesterday, and was fortunate to spend it with an amazing group of wonderful raw foodies; I cannot wait to share this post with you all!

To coincide with Ms. Heather Pace's (of Sweetly Raw fame) recent trip to Toronto, Nelly (From Nelly...With Love) organized an awesome raw food meet-up between some Toronto area raw food bloggers, Camille from Raw Candy, Lisa from The Vegan Cookbook Critic, Kristin from Balance is Beauty, and Kelli from Animal Friendly Eating.  In fact, Kelli even made the ten hour drive from her hometown in New Jersey to Toronto to stay with Nelly and Heather on Friday, and meet up with the rest of us on Monday. The setting for our get-together was Rawlicious, an amazing raw vegan restaurant in Toronto, located at 3092 Dundas St. West. This was my first time to Rawlicious; I had been wanting to check it out for quite some time now. I was thrilled that it would coincide with our fun blogger get-together (or convention, as I called it ;). Our party was reserved for the back room, which features a long table with pillows on the floor. Such a comfortable atmosphere.

After many months of reading fantastic blog posts and recipes from these fabulous ladies, it was an honor to meet everyone in person. Camille and I were the first to arrive for the 2pm lunch get-together, and one of the first things we talked about was how much of a surreal experience it is to first meet people you 'know' from the blogosphere (turns out that Camille and I also know some similar people as well - talk about a small world! Shortly thereafter, Nelly, Heather, and Kelli arrived, followed by Kristen and Lisa. It is so wonderful to meet such like-minded people, many of whom live in the Toronto area. We all exchanged pleasantries, and the conversation just started to flow. These ladies are absolutely lovely, and we all became instant friends!

To go along with our great chats, we simply had to sample the menu. After some deliberation (how to choose just a few items!?), we opted to share two orders of the Nachos with Guacamole, Salsa, and 'Sour Cream' (I'm assuming it was made with cashews) and a side of Green Olives, along with an order of Spring Rolls wrapped in Rice Paper (the only non-raw ingredient on the menu) with a Pad Thai dipping sauce.

Once the food arrived, a barrage of cameras basically leaped out of our purses and we all started to take pictures of the food for our respective blogs. Multiple flashes abounded! Finally, I wasn't the only one photographing my food in a public restaurant - talk about like minded people :) We all got a real kick out of our similarity.

 Heather gets ready for a nice shot...

...while Kelli goes in for the close-up

I really enjoyed the Nachos, as they were just the right combination of spicy and savoury flavours. I think I preferred them over the Spring Rolls, as they were a little more satiating.

Kelli and I wanted to try similar dishes, so we decided to split an order of the Pine Nut-Currant-and Olive Salad with Tangy Citrus Dressing, with an order of the Pad Thai. While I was never a huge fan of SAD Pad Thai (I think I've only had it once in my lifetime), I was curious to try the kelp noodles that comprise half of the noodle base (the other is zucchini). I really enjoyed both options; the salad was just the right amount of dressing, sweets and fats, and the Pad Thai was fulfilling, but not too heavy.  I ate both of them with chopsticks, and it was lovely!

the Rawlicious Pad Thai

Kelli and I used the Nacho Platters to divy up our meal :)

The other ladies ordered some fabulous fare; Camille decided on a Caesar-Collard Wrap with Side Salad, as did Nelly. Both Kristen and Heather ordered a Caesar Salad, and Lisa had a Garden Salad.

Camille's Collard Wrap in behind the Pad Thai

After we finished our mains, we wandered out into the main area and looked into some dessert options (our meet-up would not have been complete without desssert!). Rawlicious makes different desserts daily; some of the items were Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Brownie Truffles, Pecan Pie, and Blueberry Cheesecake.

the open concept prep area at Rawlicious

the front interior

the left side window 'booth': lovely

the dessert fridge

 Nelly and Heather deliberate; what to choose?!

We decided on a few desserts to share around the table. I ordered a delicious Coconut Macaroon, while some of the other girls ordered a Chocolate Brownie Truffle with a creamy centre. Camille had a slice of the Blueberry Cheesecake which was quite delicious; very light filling with hints of blueberry, topped with a blueberry sauce/coolis. Uhhh..yum!

 Coconut Macaroon and Choccie Truffle - mmm!

If that wasn't enough for dessert, Nelly bestowed upon me the most sumptuously decadent Moonpies I have ever had. A caramel flavoured moonie, these were absolutely fantastic. This girl is a dessert diva for sure! On top of this wonderful little gift, Heather gave each of us ladies some of her amazing SweetlyRaw Choccies; a selection of her infamous raw choccie 'Turtles' and a wonderful Fruit and Nut Choccie 'Bar' with Maple Sugar. I saved these two, as I was so satisified from my dessert and sampling the Moonpie, but I couldn't wait to eat them with brekkie this morning (Heather, these were so incredibly delicious - love the goji berries in the Bar, and the Maple Sugar is just wonderful with the cacao). Thank you so much to you two ladies for the delicious treats:

Nelly's Moonpies, and Heather's SweetlyRaw Turtles and 
Maple Sugar/Fruit and Nut Bar - pour moi?! :)
 Heather 'raffled' off one of her Fruit and Choccie Nut Bars, and the lucky winner was Kristin!

Before we said our goodbyes, we posed around the front sitting area for some photos. It was such a thirll to sit with Heather for this photo; she is one half of the reason for me becoming more interested in the raw food lifestyle (the other half being Carmella of The Sunny Raw Kitchen). Without these two fabulous Canadian raw foodies and their equally impressive blogs, I might never have made the switch to more raw foods in my diet a year and a half ago. I am so grateful to these girls, and am always inspired by Heather's raw dessert creations on her blog:
Heather and Marlie:
two Canadian raw foodies posing for a piccie

Truly, words cannot describe how much fun we had on Monday afternoon. I'm always amazed and the raw food and vegan blogging phenomenon, and this meeting really emphasized my perspective. Not only are we ladies similar in age, but most of us are Canadian as well. I think blogs are a fantastic way to bring like-minded people with similar interested together, and I feel so fortunate and blessed to have spent time with these wonderful ladies. I'm really looking forward to more get-togethers in the near future. Thank you to everyone for a wonderful afternoon. 

Happy Blogging!