Goodbye 2020! Grateful for this brand new year.

A few months ago, I told myself I would blog more regularly. I downloaded a schedule where I could slot in timely topics on a weekly basis and then I stared at it, completely uninspired. It  has been this way for weeks now. Is it COVID fatigue leading to writer’s block, or depression? Or is it just me, disappointed with how things have been working out in terms of my whole-food plant-based lifestyle because I have been less than perfect?

My sister-in-law says that you can’t take breaks from a lifestyle and she is right. COVID is no excuse for making repeated trips to the fridge even if it is only steps away from my home office. The holidays are no excuse to throw caution to the wind and start pouring cocktails and inhaling cookies. 

My daughters often justify reckless choices by shouting out “YOLO!!” (You Only Live Once) and sometimes I have to hand it to them, especially during a pandemic where lives are at risk every day and we just don’t know what the future will hold. 

I guess the trick is to walk slowly and carefully on that thin high-wire, finding the elusive “balance”.  I need to work more on reigning in the impulsive part of me that acts quickly and with reckless abandon – whether it’s with regard to eating, buying things on Amazon or staying up until 2 am reading when I know I have an early morning ahead. 

This sounds a lot like where I was last year at this time, and probably the year before that as well. Since Facebook began “On This Day” flashbacks, I have noted that “on this day” I am often doing or thinking exactly the same thing I was thinking or doing five or 10 years ago. Rinse. Repeat. Nothing changes, if nothing changes. 

None of this sounds very positive, does it? But it is. This is me switching things up. Recognizing that I am a self-indulgent sloth (adorable as they are)  who seems to take decades to progress, heigh-ho, onward we go. I am deciding to not berate myself for less-than-stellar past choices and to take the promise of this sparkling new year to move forward in the best way I can – with forgiveness, love and compassion.

The first steps for 2021 are to remind myself what I am doing and why I am doing it. A little motivational kickstart, but also keeping it realistic.

  1. Nutrition – For me, for the animals, for the planet. Continue eating a whole-food plant-based diet in order to lose weight and regain health, particularly to reverse Type 2 diabetes. While I try to limit salt, sugar and oil, I find that eliminating them completely is a huge challenge for me and will work more diligently to that end. I also wish to help others who are interested in moving towards plant-based eating. 
  2. Exercise – this goes hand-in-hand with nutrition and is non-negotiable. Daily movement, whether walking, hiking, jumping on the mini-trampoline, dancing, doing video aerobics, using the stair-stepper, lifting weights – it doesn’t matter what – just do itEvery day.
  3. Meditation – I need to do this to calm my mind, reduce stress and lower harmful cortisol levels. For me meditation comes in many forms: walking in nature, cooking, music, or yoga.  I need to grow my practice and make time to meditate every day.
  4. Gratitude – Appreciate and give thanks every day. Show compassion and kindness to others always.

Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

Soup is the Song of the Hearth..and the Home.

LOUIS PULLIG De GOUY – the soup book (1949)

Nothing brings me as much comfort as a simmering pot of soup on the stove. As the days get shorter and darker and colder, my yen for salad wanes and I reach for the big pot again and again. 

On the menu today, roasted buttercup squash soup, fragrant with spices from India with a hint of creamy coconut.

Buttercup seems a bit more dense and sweeter than butternut after roasting, ideal for a curried soup. Its brilliant golden-orange flesh not only adds a gorgeous hue but is a great source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and fiber. 

So let the wind howl and watch the rain turn into sleet, then snow. This soup will keep you warm and toasty inside. 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

This delicious creamy soup strikes a perfect balance between sweet and spicy!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine East Asian flavours
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 buttercup squash, roasted
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder Shan curry powder is one type that works well
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 small dried red chili peppers (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk, light or regular
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Pre heat oven to 400 F
  • Cut 1 buttercup squash in half and scoop out seeds (which are excellent toasted on their own)
  • Roast squash cut-side down on parchment-lined baking sheet until fork-tender (approximately 30-40 minutes)
  • Let cool, then scoop the baked flesh from the skin and set aside (compost skin)
  • In soup pot on medium heat, saute diced onions, garlic and ginger until softened (if avoiding oil, saute in water or broth)
  • Stir in curry powder and garam masala until fragrant (it's quick, don't let it burn)
  • Add 4cups vegetable broth ( or water with low-sodium vegetable boullion powder)
  • Stir in roasted squash - if too thick, add an additional cup of broth or water
  • Add dried chili peppers if including
  • Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove chili peppers if using
  • Stir in coconut milk
  • With immersion blender, blend until velvety smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree in small batches in regular or high-speed blender with vented lid.
  • Taste and adjust spices to your liking
  • Serve, garnished with a sprig of cilantro or a few toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds or a light sprinkle of cinnamon
Keyword Autumn, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Cauliflower, Potato & Bean Soup

Just in time to take the chill off, a nice comforting bowl of warm soup, chock full of cauliflower, white beans, barley and potatoes. Slivered collard leaves (or alternatively kale, or Swiss Chard) add a little extra “green” nutrition. This tasty soup is chunky and filling, low in calories, and very high in fibre and Vitamins A and C plus iron.  To keep calories down, sauté the veggies in a bit of water rather than oil — you won’t miss it. While the recipe does make a big pot, leftovers taste even better the next day or you can freeze individual portions for later.

Cauliflower, Bean and Potato Soup

A comforting bowl of chunky soup that will warm you and fill you up!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 140 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 8 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
  • 1/2 cup dried barley
  • 1 19 oz can white kidney beans (Cannellini), no salt added
  • 1/2 cup strained tomatoes (passatta) - optional
  • 2 cups cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp ground pepper (or 10 twists of the grinder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large potato, diced in large chunks
  • 3 collard (or kale or Swiss Chard) leaves, stems removed and leaves sliced very thinly Tip: Roll the leaves up into a tight cigar and then thinly slice across. If the slivers are too long, chop once again sideways to shorten them.
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, with a little extra left to garnish

Instructions
 

Instructions

  • Heat large soup pot on medium heat until a drop of water sizzles. Pour in a splash of water
  • Saute onions, carrots, parsnip, celery and garlic, splashing in a bit more water if it starts to dry out
  • Once fragrant, add vegetable broth, cabbage, barley, beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes and spices
  • Bring to a boil, then stir in collard greens
  • Lower heat to low simmer and cook covered, stirring occasionally until potatoes are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes). If the soup gets too thick, add 1 cup of water to simmering stock
  • Once done, stir half cup parsley into soup
  • Taste and adjust any spices
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little extra parsley
Keyword Autumn, High-Fiber, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Changing one taste bud at a time

Autumn energizes me, with her crisp sunny days and cool nights, such a welcome change from summer’s sweltering heat. Now we are heading into winter and a sort of settling in. 

Except that in our area, the pandemic is rearing its ugly head in a second wave.  We know co-morbidities put some of us at higher risk for complications from COVID-19:  diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer. I have  some of these. For me, weight loss and healing my body with the best possible nutrition are my primary goals. I’d like to kick Type 2 diabetes and potential heart disease out the door forever. 

I know that a plant-based lifestyle is not a panacea. It will not cure everything and it certainly won’t prevent me from contracting the virus. It can, however, give my body a bit more of a fighting chance. Nutrition is an extremely powerful thing.  Studies show that a plant-based diet reduces inflammation and feeds the gut microbiome which is directly connected to a stronger immune system.  Antioxidants defend cells from attack and plants are full of flavonoids, powerful antioxidant agents. For people who are compromised, like me, that is nothing but good news. Is it real? Will it help? I can only hope so.

Just to recap, a whole-food plant based diet means:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Avoiding packaged and processed foods, caffeine, alcohol
  • Avoiding animal products: meat, fish, shellfish, dairy
  • SOS version (for additional health benefits) means avoiding salt, oil and sugar 

A foodie at heart, when I started this I went through a period of mourning. In fact, I may still be mourning a bit. I was famous for my white chocolate cheesecake and boeuf bourguignon.  Would I long for lasagna? BBQ? I fell off the 100% plant-based wagon countless times with this mindset and kept starting over again and again. Then I committed and when i made that decision, it took. I will not eat meat or dairy or seafood. It has become so much easier since that proclamation. Cooking is still an adventure, even more fun and creative. I still have kitchen disasters but also thrilling wins. 

It is a process. My taste buds were used to huge hits of salt, sugar and fat, so at first, everything tasted bland. Unless perfectly ripe, fruit tasted sour. Learning to sauté without oil was scary until I started to experiment using broth or water or cooking wine instead. Herbs and spices are more amazing than ever. Berbere anyone? Neat tricks like making whipped cream out of aquafaba (aka bean water) still blows me away.

After two weeks of honest effort, the magic happens. Taste buds change. They literally change – taste cells are continually renewed in adults, with an average lifespan of 10-14 days. Cravings subside. Bite into a peach and it is the sweetest thing on Earth. The produce aisle or farmer’s market becomes a favourite hangout and the world of vegetables, mushrooms, beans and grains becomes an intriguing place.  Curries and stews and soups, oh my!  Accidentally tasting something enjoyed from the past, say, a bite of KFC or a sub or a donut,  will be shocking — so salty or cloyingly sweet as to be inedible. How have we, as a society, moved so far away from eating real food? 

Here is Mother Nature’s version of whole-food plant-based candy. Medjool dates have a sweet and sticky texture that resembles caramel.  When coupled with nut butter and a little cacao dust, they are great stand-ins for Hallowe’en size Snickers bar.  Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth with zero added fat or sugar. 

“Date Night” Candy

Take two Medjool dates and slice length-wise into halves

Fill each half with pure almond, peanut or any nut butter (ie/ nut butter with no additives).   If  allergic to nuts you can use sunflower seed butter.

Top each filled half with chopped nuts, cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, shredded coconut, or a dab of fruit butter or fruit jelly

Dust with cocoa powder

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Fiber Fueled Challenge

 

I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m out walking, most of them focused on health and wellness. When I heard renowned gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (“Dr. B”) speak about the importance of fiber in our diets, I immediately ordered his book, Fiber Fueled.  

Backed by science, Dr. B. challenges elimination diets like Keto and Paleo, which he says may be hazardous to our health. It turns out that gut health may be the most important thing we need to worry about and the best way to build a healthy gut microbiome is to eat a lot of fiber. Fiber helps our gut microbes to create short-chain fatty acids that are essential to our health, proven to promote weight loss, repair leaky gut, optimize the immune system, reduce food sensitivities, lower cholesterol, reverse type 2 diabetes, improve brain function and even protect against cancer. 

Of course, fiber comes from plants – fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes. A diversity of plants is essential for ideal gut flora. Dr. B says we should be eating at least 30 different plant foods per week.

He also promotes F GOALS – essential foods you should try to incorporate daily in order to build a healthy gut:

F – Fruits and Fermented foods

G– Greens and whole grains

O – Omega 3 super seeds: chia, hemp, flax

A–  Aromatics: onions, garlic, leeks  (Dr. B suggest you “chop and stop”  ie/  chop your aromatics and let them sit for 10 minutes before using in recipes, in order for the healing enzyme allicin to form.)

L – Legumes

S – Sulforaphane – this is a natural plant compound found in many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Also under S category: seaweed and ‘shrooms

My plant-based challenge to each of you is to try to include 30 or more different plant foods in your diet over the next 7 days. 

Click on photo below to order Fiber Fueled from Amazon.

 

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Deli-style Polish dill pickles

green cucumber lot

There is no better cucumber than a pickling cucumber. Crisp and freshly-scented, they grow well in our gardens and love to perk up our salads.  Sadly, they are only here for a short while, soon replaced by imported field cucumbers and long, plastic-wrapped English cucumbers – OK, but not the same. 

As summer ends, gigantic bundles of dill show up in buckets beside baskets of these little cucumbers at the farmer’s market. Time for pickling!

For my Polish parents, this was non-negotiable. Didn’t everyone ferment jars of pickles at this time of year? Once sour, they lived in a big cloudy jar in the refrigerator or the cold-cellar, served up as quartered spears alongside open-faced sandwiches on buttered rye, topped with ham or salami, a dab of mustard, tomato slice and some diced green onion on top “for decoration”. Whenever I smell dill, I’m back at their table.

The difference between the pickles found on store shelves and deli-style Polish dill pickles (also known as Kosher dills) are that regular store pickles get their flavour from a vinegar spice-and-brine solution with which they are canned. 

Polish dills are fermented in jars (or barrels if you’re into volume) in a brine solution, but no vinegar and they are never sealed. Once they have reached the right consistency, they go straight in the fridge. They are never sweet, but tangy and garlicky, adding an eye-squinting sizzle to your sandwich or snack. They are alive.

Fermentation is an age-old process to preserve food while also enhancing its nutrition to feed your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. A healthy microbiome means a stronger immune system with far-reaching health benefits.

Instruction:

Steps to make  a 1 quart / 1 litre mason jar of pickles (note – you may easily double, just by doubling ingredients, which I did for photos here. I made 2 L)

Sterilize – you don’t want the bad bacteria joining your good bacteria.

  • Put jars in dishwasher sterilizing cycle
  • OR wash with regular dish soap and water and place in oven at 110°C (230°F) for 15 minutes. Remove and cool. 
  • Boil the lids in a pot of water for minimum 5 minutes and allow to air dry on a rack or clean towel

Ingredients to make 1 Quart / 1 Litre

  • 1 pound/500 grams of unwaxed pickling cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 tbsp non-iodized sea salt, Kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 cups non-chlorinated water (preferably filtered or spring)
  • 1-2 heads fresh-flowering dill (the big flower-head on the dill plant)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 or 2 horseradish or fresh grape leaves (optional – for extra crunchiness)

Process

  • Thoroughly wash the cucumbers. If they are not fresh off the vine, soak them in cold water for 30 – 60 minutes
  • Dissolve salt into non-chlorinated water. If you are using tap water, boil the salt with water, mix well and allow to cool
  • Into your sterile jar, place a big fresh dill flower on the bottom, plus one horseradish or grape leaf if using
  • Pack your pickles tightly into jar, lining them up against the sides and filling gaps as you go, until  you reach the top
  • Stuff extra dill florets in any spaces, and add 1 clove sliced garlic pieces and 2 whole cloves among the pickles
  • Pour the brine in to cover all cucumbers, spices, garlic and make sure everything is submerged.
  • You may wish to use a weight like this to hold everything down

Ferment

  • Leave the pickles until the colour turns from bright green to army green 
  • It is important to “burp” the jars every day for the first few days since carbon dioxide forms as the ferment begins. Little bubbles will rise to the top. That’s a good thing! Just loosen the lid to let the gas escape.
  • The speed at which sourness develops depends on temperature – much faster if it’s hot and humid; a bit longer in cooler temps – so the time frame may range from 4 days to 2 weeks.
  • Taste one every so often until they’re how you like them
  • If white scum appears on the surface, don’t panic. Just skim it off. That’s not a problem at all. If it is black or smells bad, compost your pickles and start over.
  • Pickles should be crispy, sour and infused with garlic and dill flavour. If they ferment too long, they may get a bit soft
  • If you feel you’re at the right texture, place in fridge to stop ferment and enjoy for up to 6 months. Seriously. They can last that long. But they never do.

Ready to Eat!

Resources:

 

The guru of the modern fermentation movement is Sandor Katz.  His book The Art of Fermentation – An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World is referred to as the Bible on this topic.

 

 

He does have a lighter volume, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Cultured Food, that is a bit more accessible with short descriptions and more conventional recipes. Highly recommend. 

 

 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a tiny commission from qualifying purchases of books or items. This does not increase your price at all. I never list or recommend anything I don’t own or use myself.

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

 

Autumn is here and we are seeing winter squash and pumpkins in all of their glorious hues of green, yellow and orange. The striped delicata squash is among my favourites.  “Delicata” because its skin is delicate, becoming soft and completely edible after roasting. The seeds are good to eat as well.

With this simple recipe (inspired by Forks Over Knives magazine) I decided to roast and eat some rings plain and some filled with a little bit extra. Creativity comes with the additions. You can rub any spice you like on top of the rings: cumin, paprika, cinnamon, curry powder, chili powder, etc. Once roasted, I would not skip the last step, which is brushing on a little maple syrup because it creates a lovely glaze over your selected spices, whether sweet or savoury. 

Nutritionally speaking, delicata is high in fibre, Vitamins A & C, manganese, potassium and magnesium. 1 cup has about 85 calories.

Fillings can be anything you like to eat:

Savoury:  rice & beans, quinoa with chopped peppers, stuffing, mashed potatoes, succotash, garlicky greens, corn, couscous, mushrooms, the sky is the limit.

Sweet fillings:   diced pears, mango or pineapple salsa, apples, raisins & rice

In this batch, I made a garlicky broccolini mixture (water sauteed onion, garlic, chopped broccolini, topped with a sprinkle of tamari and sesame seeds). The sweet ones were filled with a pear-cranberry compote.

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

Creamy, rich, versatile squash rings that work as an appetizer, side or main. Eat them plain or fill them up!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Delicata Squash
  • Your Favourite Spices Cinnamon, Paprika, Cumin, Curry Powder, etc.
  • Your Favourite Fillings Stuffing, rice-and-beans,succotash, other veggies, fruit salsas or compotes
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Scrub the squash clean under running water
  • Cut off a thin slice at each end of the squash
  • Cut the remaining squash into 1-inch rings
  • Remove seeds from each ring with a teaspoon
  • Place rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Sprinkle desired spice on top of each ring, or leave plain if preferred
  • Place in oven for 15 minutes
  • Turn the slices over, then roast for an additional 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and turn over one last time, brushing each ring with maple syrup
  • Put back in oven for additional 5 minutes
  • Remove from oven and add any desired fillings
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Fillings are optional and you can put in whatever your heart desires.
  • In my rings above, I filled my savoury rings with a broccolini/onion/garlic mixture which I water-sauteed and sprinkled with tamari and sesame seeds
  • The sweet rings were filled with a pear-cranberry compote that I made when I had too many ripe pears
Keyword Autumn, Oil-free, Vegan

 

Peach Blueberry Oats

 

Summer means fresh, juicy peaches and blueberries that taste better than at any other time of year. This simple little dish is perfect for breakfast, a snack or even to use as a topping on some sweet “nice cream”. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold. Unlike crisp or cobbler, this dish is oil-free and sugar-free, relying on the natural sweetness and juice from the fruit. If you would like it a little sweeter, you can always drizzle a little maple syrup on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Blueberry Oats

Great for breakfast or dessert!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings 4 1/2 cup servings
Calories 195 kcal

Equipment

  • 8 X 8 glass baking dish

Ingredients
  

Ingredients

  • 4+ whole peaches, sliced Slice enough peaches to fully cover bottom of pan
  • 1 dry pint / 551 ml container fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup large flake oats
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water (optional) If your fruit is not super juicy, pour the water over the fruit and oats before baking

Instructions
 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Wash and slice peaches, cutting away from the stone and spread the slices on bottom of an 8 X 8 glass baking dish
  • Evenly spread blueberries on top of the peaches
  • Evenly sprinkle oats on top of the blueberries
  • Very lightly mix with a fork to incorporate oat layer into the fruit a little bit
  • If your fruit is not the juiciest, add the water
  • Dust with cinnamon
  • Place into preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute, then use fork to thoroughly mix the baked fruit and oats together, until the oats are moist with fruit juice
  • Serve hot, warm or cold, on its own or as a topping over "nice" cream.
  • Drizzle with maple syrup if you like it sweeter (optional)

Notes

You may also cook this in the microwave on High for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Stir after cooking.
Keyword Blueberries, Peaches, Summer

Fresh-from-the-Garden Salad with creamy herb dressing (Oil-free, plant-based, vegan)

Once the backyard veggie garden is planted, half the fun and excitement is waiting for the first harvest. The earliest things that I have seen (besides rhubarb) are many of the returning perennials, like sorrel, chives, mint or other herbs, radishes and different varieties of lettuce. 

Fresh Romaine, Arugula, Mint and Dill minutes after harvest and ready to form the backdrop for the Garden Salad

When the lettuce comes in, there is a window of opportunity to eat it before it bolts to flower and the leaves become bitter. Nothing beats this freshly-picked lettuce and other early crops to make a wonderful summer salad. A nice base is a combination of romaine leaves and spicy arugula, with a bit of chopped mint and a little bit of dill. It’s also fun to mix lettuces: leaf lettuce, boston, romaine and sorrel.

Artfully arrange brightly-coloured additions on top of the greens, such as:

  • Radish slices
  • Green onions or chives
  • Diced cucumber
  • Halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin)
  • Edible flowers (zucchini blossoms or nasturtiums)
  • Fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches or nectarines, pears)

Finally, a fresh, creamy oil-free dressing using the herbs from your garden.

Creamy Herb Dressing (Oil-Free)

A bright and delicious dressing or dip using fresh herbs from your garden.
Prep Time 10 mins
Course Dressings and Dips, Salad

Equipment

  • High-Speed Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 10 to 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of at least 3 different herbs in 1/4 cup measures - basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, marjoram, lovage, thyme or mint)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • lemon or lime juice from 1/2 a lemon or lime
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth, drizzled in as required to thin the dressing
  • Salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Soak raw cashews for 10 or 15 minutes
  • Drain cashews and add to high-speed blender, along with all of the herbs, garlic and lemon juice
  • Blend at high speed until creamy consistency is reached. If dressing is too thick, thin with a little water or vegetable broth
  • Season with salt to taste - not too much salt!
  • Drizzle over arranged salads or use as dip for crudités 
  • Will keep in refrigerator for up to a week

Notes

I would not recommend using rosemary or sage here, as their flavour profile is too strong and would overpower the dressing.

 

Vegan Rhubarb Crumble Bars

There is a corner in my backyard that belongs to the rhubarb. Every year when I see the little leaves pop up after the last snow, I know spring has arrived.

Rhubarb is a perennial that is eaten as a fruit, although botanically it is a vegetable. While usually cooked, I remember eating it raw as a child, dipping the long stalks into a bowl of sugar, one dip for every bite. It is very tart – an eye-squinting, mouth-puckering tartness.

A co-star in the classic strawberry-rhubarb pie, it is often paired with strawberries or other sweet fruits in cobblers, crisps, compotes or preserves.

Historically, rhubarb root was used medicinally (as a laxative) in China over 5,000 years ago. It’s use in cooking didn’t start until the 19th century, in Britain. It became wildly popular for use in desserts and wine prior to World War II, then quickly dropped out of favour, most likely due to sugar rationing.  

A word of caution, the leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic due to high concentrations of oxalic acid.  Granted, one would have to eat at least 5 kg for it to be lethal in humans, but best not to test that. Keep pets away from the leaves as well.

Nutritionally, 1 cup of uncooked rhubarb contains 26 calories, 1.1g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 5.5g of carbohydrates, 2.2g of fiber, and 1.3g of sugar.  It is a good source of Vitamins C and K, potassium and manganese. It is surprisingly high in calcium and also a good source of magnesium. 

These vegan rhubarb bars are the perfect compliment of sweet and tart and are lovely with a cup of tea.

Vegan Rhubarb Crumble Bars

The perfect compliment of sweet and tart in a recipe that heralds spring!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Vegan
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Crumble Crust/Topping

  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup vegan butter, cubed eg/ Earth Balance baking sticks

Rhubarb Filling

  • 4 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1 lemon juice and zest
  • 1/2 to 3/ /4 cup sugar adjust sugar to taste, some prefer more tart, others more sweet
  • 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions
 

Crumble / Crust Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8 X 8 pan with parchment paper that overlaps on two opposing sides to make lifting the baked bars out easier
  • In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon
  • Using two forks, blend in the chopped butter cubes until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (Alternately, you can use your fingers to do this, but they will melt the butter a bit more than forks will)
  • Spread 2/3 of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, pressing it down firmly into a crust
  • Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden

Rhubarb filling

  • In a heavy saucepan, combine rhubarb, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently for approximately 10 minutes
  • When the liquid has released and the rhubarb has softened, sprinkle and quickly stir in the cornstarch, stirring constantly until mixture has thickened
  • Turn off heat and let mixture cool briefly.

To assemble:

  • Pour warm rhubarb mixture over baked crust in pan
  • Evenly sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the rhubarb layer
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden and the rhubarb bubbling at the sides.
  • Let cool completely
  • Lift out of pan using the parchment as handles
  • Cut into squares and serve
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months
Keyword Baked Goods, Rhubarb, Spring