Tag Archives: fruit

Luscious Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Mousse

Oh, you better believe I was skeptical about this one. I never pass on chocolate, but c’mon… chocolate tofu? Ew, I dunno. I’ve never been a big fan of tofu or soy products, but exploring Eastern cuisines helped me to accept it and occasionally enjoy it. Now, I’m learning to cook with it. Welcome to my kitchen, tofu.

vegan chocolate raspberry mousse dessert

There are no eggs, cream, or butter in this dessert, yet it is fluffy, creamy, and quite pleasant on the palate. Maple syrup is the primary sweetener (use the real thing), along with raspberry jam and some melted chocolate to make it extra rich. Seriously, if you don’t tellem it’s tofu no one will guess.

Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Mousse

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS Cocoa
  • 1/2 C (melted & cool) Chocolate Chips
  • Dash of Almond Extract
  • 2 300ml packs of SOFT TOFU (about a pound)
  • 3 TBS Raspberry Jam
  • 3-4 TBS Maple Syrup
  • Fresh Raspberries

Let the tofu come to room temperature. Gently melt the chocolate chips (use very low heat or microwave) then blend in the olive oil and cocoa powder. Set aside to cool.

Whip the tofu, raspberry jam, almond extract, and maple syrup until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate mixture and a big handful of fresh raspberries. Chill thoroughly before serving.

*NOTE: This makes yummy frozen popcicles!

Rainer Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis ~ I’ve heard the name tossed about on food TV frequently the past few days, and today it was all I could think about when I saw a stack of beautiful, blushy Rainer cherries at a Granville Island produce stand. This French dessert can be made with any stone fruit (think peaches, plums, apricots) or even with berries, but the classic version from the Limosin region of France uses black cherries.

Rainer Cherry Clafoutis with vanilla ice cream and cherry sauce.

Technically, a clafoutis using anything other than black cherries is a flaugnarde, so says the intertoobs, and in traditional recipies, cherry pits are not removed before baking. Leaving the pits is said to enhance flavour, but I didn’t want to have to pick around them, so I pitted my cherries.

Ingredients are simple: egg, milk, flour, flavour, a little butter or oil. Clafoutis batter is rather thin, like crepe batter, and is usually flavoured with almond or vanilla. It puffs up during baking and cuddles around the fruit as it sets. In fact, it’s very much like making a Dutch Baby pancake.

This was my first attempt at clafoutis, and it turned out quite well. Gingerman liked it, and we had the leftover portion for breakfast the next day. I half made up a recipe on the fly because I had only 2 eggs and a strangely shaped dish. A few more experiments, and I’ll come up with a reliable version of my own. Meanwhile, I found some inspiring recipes online and gathered a bit of clafoutis wisdom to share.

Baking Tips for Clafoutis:

  • Butter & Sugar the baking dish: Butter the bottom and sides of the dish, toss in a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and shake it around to coat the dish. Dump excess sugar that doesn’t stick.
  • Experiment with different fruits and flavour extracts or liquers.
  • Sift the flour to prevent clumps.
  • Bake individual clafoutis in muffin tins or ramekins.
  • Do not open the oven door until the end of baking time!

Recipes for Clafoutis:

Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . how do you like to eat cherries?

Vancouver Farmers Market: Heirloom Tomatoes

I love buying tomatoes at the farmers market. Yeah, they sometimes cost more than tomatoes at the supermarket or local grocer, but not too much more. And these heirloom tomatoes are homegrown, with varieties of distinctive taste, texture, and colour that no storebought tomato can match.

~ lovely striped beauties fresh from the Vancouver Farmers Market ~

Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes…

Plant ’em in the Spring, eat’em in the Summer
All Winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer…

Only two things that money can’t buy
that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Support Free Folk Music @ FolkAlley.com

There are tomatoes for every taste: dense flavourful plum tomatoes that are excellent for sauces, as well as big juicy red, yellow, orange tomatoes that make the perfect slice for a BLT. There are citrusy tomatoes that add zing to your salads, and tiny pop-em-in-your-mouth-like-candy  tomatoes that taste like sunshine.

Look for homegrown/heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market [Vancouver].
Better yet, grow your own: Heirloom Tomato Seeds from Victoria.

For more farmers market goodies, see also:

To Market and Home Again ~ Sunday Morning Market Fare ~ Farmers Market Feast

Leaving a comment? I’m curious… how do you like your tomatoes?

To market and home again, jiggety-jig.

You never know what you’re going to see when a community gathers. As I walked into the Farmers Market, a man was rowing his bike out of the parking lot. Yes, rowing. The seat was on a track, and the handlebars moved like a rowing machine. About a dozen people stopped and watched him go, with a “well whaddaya know” look on their faces, self included. I don’t know how well it corners, but it’s certainly a unique form of transportation. (Watch a Row Bike video at the end of this post)

Crabapples, Amish Gold and Heirloom Tomatoes, and a little French Melon

Crabapples, Amish Gold and Heirloom Tomatoes, and a little French Melon

The markets seem to have an infinite supply of tomatoes right now, many of them heirloom varieties, which makes me extremely happy. I never imagined I could get West Virginia tomatoes all the way in the Pacific Northwest; they’re red, meaty, and delicious, but not always easy to find. Today I picked up some pretty Amish Gold hybrid tomatoes and a simillar roma-stlye red tomato for saucemaking, as well as two squat yellow-flecked tomatoes whose name escapes me. They’re so pretty, and the sign said “perfect for stuffing.” I’ll probably lunch on them in a day or two.

Remember the crabapples I mentioned a trip or two ago? They were two bucks a basket, so I brought them home. I’m thinkin’ pastry or pie. I also went back to the tomato/melon guy for another french melon. He had a golden watermelon today (free samples, YAY) that was absolutely succulent and perfectly sweet. Next week, if he has more, I’m definitely springing for one and heading to the beach. I also got some basil for more pesto. Next year I really want to have a little herb garden of my own. Somehow, I’ll make that happen.

coronationgrapesLast but not least, I found a delightful thing today: Jelly Grapes! There were a few piles of plump little purple grapes in several stalls, so be on the lookout. These are Coronation Grapes, but they look a lot like Concord Grapes. Soon, they’ll be spreading out with some all-natural peanut butter on my morning toast. (P.S. See if your grocer has fresh ground nut butters. I saved $3 vs. name brand in jars, and it’s 100% peanuts with no sugar! )

And now for something completely different. I give you, the Row Bike:

Row, row, row your bike gently down the street.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Row Bike“, posted with vodpod

Sunday Morning Market Fare

Another glorious Sunday morning at the Farmers Markets in Vancouver. It was a quick trip this time, and I’d already had breakfast (french toast and bacon), so no Métis Special for me today (that’s a grilled buffalo-sausage on a bun with corn relish and grilled onions with some cinnamon-sugared bannock for dessert). Sigh, I love good food so much.

Farmers Market Haul

A bounty of delicious things from the Farmers Market.

I headed straight for the sourdough loaf (the starter grew up in the Napa Valley, so it’s just like San Francisco sourdough, which is utterly scrumptious). Next stop, heirloom tomatoes and basil. On a whim, I purchased an heirloom melon, which the vendor promised would be delicious (he did not lie). There was a duet playing Celtic music in the center aisle. I wandered the stalls to the sounds of singing accompanied by bodhran or guitar or fiddle or the stamping of feet.  Were I not in a civilized neighbourhood, I might have busted out in a jig. Had I been with my sisters, it likely would have happened anyway.

At one stall, I discovered some pretty crabapples in a box marked “samples,” so I snagged myself one and bit into it. I remember the hard green cherry-sized fruits that hung so temptingly close from our crabapple tree by the forbidden creek. It was planted in a low section of our yard that sometimes flooded during thunderstorms. As a result, the grass was moist and lush and a vibrant deep green. Crawdad holes poked up through the ground here and there, like tiny chimeys made of dabbled mud. If I was barefoot, they’d squish suddenly under my toes and make me shudder. It was important to watch where you were going in my yard. I always picked the fruit too soon, though, and became a sourpuss.

This crabapple was different. It was big, almost golf-ball sized, with skin partly green and partly rosy. The flesh was crisp and tart, but not sour. Altogether not a bad experience. Now that I think of it, I could have roasted them with the pork tenderloin in my freezer. Ah, well. Next time maybe. I decided to add some potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots to my bag. I tried some local canned tuna, which was really quite delicious, but at $5 a can, I just couldn’t do it. I’m completely in favour of supporting local growers and meat vendors, but sometimes it’s just too pricey for my wallet. Green onions for $2.50 when I can pay 89¢ at the produce store up the street? No thanks. And the lovely eggs from those happy chickens? About $3 more than “inhumane” eggs. I hope someday the extra few bucks won’t matter to me.

Altogether, it was a good haul, and Ginger Man and I had a light vegetarian lunch of  walnut-basil pesto, sliced tomato, and cheese on sourdough toast with scoops of sweet melon. So fresh! Such a delight to eat. Plus, I finally got a chance to use my melon baller. 8)

Strawberry Cornmeal Cupcakes with Prairie Berry Frosting

A while back, I joined up with Iron Cupcake Earth in the interest of stimulating my baking muse. Each month they challenge bakers to come up with creative ways to use a particular ingredient and make nommy cupcakes. Of course, there are PRIZES, too! I love prizes.

The Milwaukee Cupcake Queen’s decree for June: SUMMER BERRIES.

Sweet Summer Strawberries

Sweet Summer Strawberries by ellievanhoutte

So many possibilities! Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, snozzberries . . . and so many ways to use them. This weekend, the farmers market was full of fresh organic strawberries, and it was high time I took up the Queen’s challenge. This is my first attempt at an Iron Cupcake, and I’m pretty well satisfied with the results. Ginger Man ate three right off the bat! It was a tasty adventure, plus I got to use some of my favourite things:

  • Fresh Fraser Valley Strawberries
  • Citrus Salt by Maison Coté
  • Bonne Maman Prairie Berry Jam: a mixture of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Made in France.
  • Silicone Cupcake Liners: super-easy cleanup and no trash!

Strawberry Cornmeal Cupcakes with Prairie Berry Frosting

strawberrycckeThe addition of a little cornmeal to the batter enhances this cupcake’s texture without making it taste like cornbread. It’s a sweet cake, not savoury, and the baked tops have a pleasant toothsomeness.

Note: Mix the batter with a regular ol’ wooden spoon so the ingredients don’t get overmixed. For the frosting, use an electric mixer for best results.

Cook the strawberries:

In small saucepan, combine 1 pint fresh strawberries (quartered), 2 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, and a few grinds of Citrus Salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened and reduced by about half. Set aside to cool.

Mix the dry ingredients:

  • scant cup sugar (not quite a full cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix the wet ingredients:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk

Combine the mixtures:

  • Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just combined.
  • Do not overmix.
  • Fold the cooked strawberries into the cupcake batter.

Bake the cupcakes:

  • Divide batter among 12 lined muffin cups.
  • Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes.
  • Cool completely before frosting.

surprise inside*At the last minute, I decided to add a little surprise when the cupcakes came out of the oven. While the cakes were still warm, I scooped out the center of six cupcakes and filled them with a few mini chocolate chips. Strawberries love chocolate, and so do I. Covered with frosting, they all looked the same. The little extra chocolate boost was fun to find!

Make the frosting:

  • Whip 1/4 cup softened butter until fluffy.
  • Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbs milk. Beat well.
  • Stir in 2 Tbs Bonne Maman Prairie Berry Jam
  • Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes.
  • Garnish with berry of your choice.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo
by ellievanhoutte

Thanks for your votes! This month’s winning cup cake was:

Not-so-blue-berry Cupcakes from How To Eat A Cupcake

Vancouver Farmers Markets: Fresh, Local, and Fabulous!

Vancouver lies in the bountiful cradle of the Fraser Valley, and the  farms and orchards of the Okanagen are not too far away. Being a port city, exotic produce and goods are readily available to consumers, and many items are available year round. Seasonal local products and produce are wonderful, however, and Farmer’s Market season is in full swing in most Vancouver communities come summertime.

I usually buy produce from local independent shops, and occasionally I’ll venture out to Granville Island Market for some “trendy” grocery shopping and a grand day out, but I what I love best is milling about with the locals at a seasonal Farmer’s Market. Seeing an array of folding tables laden with an incredible selection of fresh fruit and veg or homemade goodies or handmade crafts make me feel at home no matter what city it’s in.

I love the smell of sweet fruit in the warm sun, and the taste of free samples. An infinite palette of ripe natural colours  greets me, and I don’t mind the noise and bustle of a crowd of interesting strangers. I daydream my way through homemade bread, cakes, pies, perogis, pastas, samosas, spreads, dips, sauces, and whatever else the cornucopia of tasty treats may offer. I usually come back with a bag (or two) of fresh, fragrant, and delicious things.

strawberries

An array of ripe strawberries.

bakedgoods

Scrumptious home-baked goodies.

mushrooms

Gorgeous fresh mushrooms.

Today, I purchased a dozen brown speckled eggs laid by happy free-range chickens living in the Fraser Valley, and some ground beef and sirloin steaks taken from grass-fed Angus cattle raised on a Cariboo-Chilcotin ranch. I also picked up some red and yellow peppers, fresh strawberries, and a bag of various greens (including pea shoots and dandelion greens). Baked goods were plentiful, and a small rhubarb crisp came home with us, but we ate an apple-compote crepe and a ham & cheese scone on the spot.

Speaking of spot, there were quite a lot of dogs in the crowd or waiting patiently along the perimeter. I enjoy a dog-friendly neighbourhood, especially when people respectfully leash their animals and the pups have good manners. It’s always a treat for me to meet someone else’s dog, since I cannot have one of my own right now.

frenchbulldog

Little French Bulldog

My Favourite Finds:

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Taffy immediately makes me think of Laura Ingalls-Wilder making snow candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In the winter, her mother would pour swirls of hot maple syrup into a pile of fresh snow and make sweet little candies. Oh how I wanted to do that, begging Mommie Dearest to let me every time there was a good snowfall, but to no avail. Maple Syrup Taffy works on a similar principle. Among French Canadians, it’s called tire sur la neige meaning “to draw in the snow.”

After a brief hand-wash with sanitizing gel, I selected a wooden stick and the Syrup Guy poured a line of hot syrup on top of a barrel full of crushed ice “snow.” I counted to three and pressed the stick into the syrup at the end of the line, then slowly began to collect the sweet sticky candy, rolling it up on my stick. I let my Maple Taffy lolly sit for a moment to firm up, but I could hardly wait to taste it.

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

It was sticky like caramel, but light and not too sugary. The mapley flavour was clean and bright, like a moment of unspoiled childhood happiness.  I also bought a maple sugar cone for Ginger Man. They are like little tiny ice cream cones, filled with a bit of taffy in the bottom and a more crystalized maple sugar candy on top. Apparently, it’s quite a popular treat among the Quebequois. The sugar buzz kept us going all morning. It was a delightful experience.

Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt

At the Maison Coté booth, there were bags upon bags of spice mixes, peppercorns, and seasoned salts, as well as a shelf of oils, vinegars, and little balsamic spritzers. I picked up some Citrus sea salt (with lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel), a bag of Kitsilano peppercorn blend, and a White Truffle Balsamic spritzer to mist on my greens (I’m told it’s also nice on chicken and fish). I wish I had brought an extra $20 bucks at the time, because I would have immediately thrown it down to have a bag of the Italian black truffle salt. The vendor was kind enough to give me a whiff, and it really knocked my socks off. That earthy, pungent, luscious truffley aroma was truly amazing. Happily, his shop is in the city, so I’m looking forward to visiting and bringing home some of that orgasmic salt blend soon.

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

In the Vancouver area, most farmers markets open between April and July and continue through October or September. The majority run Saturdays or Sundays, but there are several venues with markets on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Arrive early to be sure you get what you want, or visit near closing time to get last-minute deals from some vendors
  • Bring CASH to make things simple, or purchase some “Market Money” using your bank card. Use it like cash at any vendor.
  • Some vendors rotate between different venues during the season, but many of them take orders from their websites.
  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags! Most markets sell tote bags and packs of veggie bags if you need them.
  • Bike, bus, or walk if you can. Parking in some neighbourhoods can be tricky to find, and drive cautiously around pedestrians. Besides, it’s no bad thing to be a little “green” and leave the gasmobile at home.
  • Keep an eye out for “delivery services” at the market entrance. You can load up with goodies and someone will bike or drive it to your home.
  • Don’t forget, Farmer’s Markets aren’t just for veggies! You can also get fresh eggs, frozen meats and fish, pickles, preserves, oils, spices, honey, handmade soaps, fresh flowers, potted plants, hats, jewelry, pottery, just about anything!

Links

Video of Maple Syup Taffy

Empire Valley Beef

Maison Coté

VFM Seasonal Produce Guide

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets