Sweet Freedom Saturday : Ellen, are you watching?

I’ve blogged about it and I’ve Tweeted it, too : Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom is a must-have vegan dessert book.  With gluten-free, sugar-free and cruelty-free sweets and treats, Sweet Freedom is your go-to book when it comes to making something tasty that everyone can enjoy.

Ricki would be a great guest on the Ellen DeGeneres show and no one can sell themselves as well as Ricki can :

How can you resist that, Ellen?

As one of the testers for Sweet Freedom, I can vouch for the accessible and delicious recipes, and as a friend of Ricki’s, I can also attest to her wit, humor and just general delightfulness.

If you’re wondering why I’m giving Ricki some (much-deserved) free publicity, I’ll tell you.  She self-published her cookbook, and all the publicity has been grassroots and word of mouth.  As my dedicated readers know, I’m all about using my blog for good (and not evil) I’m all about helping the peeps do what they can without the man.

Stop by Ricki’s Ellen Show Headquarters for more information. And do watch the video, it’s hilarious.

BBA Poolish Baguettes

This was a both gratifying, exciting and delicious adventure in baking for me.  I have never made, or even really thought of trying, to bake baguettes.  I mean, come on. I’m surrounded by boulangeries on every side, the tempting aroma of baking bread wafting through the air and all through the neighbourhood.  Baking your own baguette in France just seems so, well, extravagant.

But I did it.  I was thrilled at how easy and delicious they turned out.  I can see the danger in baking these, because now I want to bake them all the time!

This is much less of a time-commitment than the Pane Siciliano I posted about last week.  You can make your poolish up to three days before using, you just mix it up and leave it in the fridge.  Bread baking day is a little more complicated because of the 3 rises, but it was pretty easy to choreograph into my day.  And worth it. So worth it.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Painting fun for little (and big) ones!

Guppy and I have been on Spring break this week, and it’s been lovely to spend lazy time with her, just reading, snuggling and creating.

Last year’s Spring Break was a drenched two weeks of earth-quenching rain. And cold. Berk.  With the memories of last April’s humid holiday wrecking weather I opted to prepare a few “Plan Bs”,  just in case.  As our good luck would have it we’ve been blessed with the most beautiful, warm and sunny weather, so we’ve been spending most of this week playing outside, but here’s a peek at one  of the activities that we’ve both been enjoying.

This is the most beautiful book, “Apprendre à peindre” (learn to paint).  It’s written in Chinese and French, and it’s a very simple approach to painting.  The book is meant for Chinese Inks, but we have watercolors at home, and they seem to be just great.

As you can see, it illustrates in a few brushstrokes how to create something simple.

Here are a few kakis and some apples (so you don’t have to guess!)

A pair of pears.

Guppy made an apple tree and an unfinished snailrabbit.

I know these are not meant for close-ups, but I wanted to show you the simplicity of the technique which, if I am to judge Guppy’s reaction, really appeals to children.

As I mentioned in last week’s post I’m learning to knit, but this amazing weather has had me outside playing and not inside knitting.  I did bring my knitting to the park the other day while Guppy played, and I brought it with me today on a picnic, but I admit to playing with the kiddies and not really knitting…

Knitting? Or…

Playing? Humm…

There’s rain in the forecast for the weekend, so maybe I’ll get a little scarf-knitting in between the raindrops?

A bright and cheery Spring welcome to all our new Wipsters! If you’d like to join the Wipster list, just leave a comment and let me know. The W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool just keeps growing – don’t be shy! Those photos are there to inspire, and we would love to see what you’ve been up to. Think of it as your parents’ fridge : a safe and loving place to highlight what you’ve been working on (without the strawberry jam stains on the door).


The easiest Safsouf (tabouli) in the world and a little story.

Many years ago,  when I was still a young woman living in the U.S., I came to Paris for the summer to dance, study French and soak up all the Parisian magic I could. I met a friend-of-a-friend during that visit, a bright young woman, a-typically tall  for a française.  She towered over “rather short for an American” me, and our seeming differences drew us together.  My recently coloured raven hair reached long down my back in straight locks, and her short curly blonde hair stopped at her ears.  She’d been in a serious relationship with her boyfriend for nearly 8 years, while I often found that 8 days was more than long enough as far as romantic entanglement was concerned.

While we both thought Philippe Djian rather sexist, we still found ourselves drawn to his prose.  Though we really enjoyed Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s Three Colours Trilogy, we were both rather disappointed it hadn’t featured more Polish actors. Our disdain for Capitalism was mutual.  We became fast friends, and continued to email throughout the  school year.

When the opportunity for me to dance again with my favourite Parisian Prof. presented itself, she offered me her couch.  Her fiancée would be a continent away, finishing up research for his thesis, and I would make good company. Though we were both really busy that summer, we nearly always had dinner together, and that meant she would cook for me since my culinary abilities were boiling water and buying take-out.

That summer I learned the expression “au pif” literally “by the nose”,  in English we say “by ear”.  Most of what she created in the kitchen was “au pif” and I never once saw her consult a recipe. She showed me how to make this easy and delicious cold salad, and also how to cut tomatoes in my hand, thus not dirtying a cutting board needlessly. This was one of the first things I ever  learned to make.

This is one of those recipes that you feel guilty about posting because it’s so ridiculously easy, it’s almost a cheat.  On the other hand, it’s such a great recipe because it’s so easy it would be wrong not to share it.  Nutritious deliciousness has never been quite so simple and inexpensive.

I’d like to warn purists that this is in no way being touted as a traditional safsouf so before you get your pita in a pinch, just roll with it, please.

This recipe is wonderfully adaptable; you can add or subtract pretty much anything.  There are also no real set quantities because it’s a customisable recipe.  Here is the basic recipe :

* uncooked couscous Regular or whole wheat work well here.

* tomatoes I usually use about 3 or 4 medium ones.

*cucumber Cut in half length-wise, then in thirds, then hold it all in your hand like a bouquet and cut across width-wise over the bowl, ending up with six chunks.

* corn Fresh or frozen are of course best, but as you can see, last week I used canned! Oh the horror!  Just remember to rinse off the salt if you go canned.

* Tons of fresh or frozen parsley and cilantro or just one, or neither.

* Olive oil

* Salt to taste

Other wonderful possibilities : diced peppers, cooked garbanzo beans, diced raw onion, raisins…

You’ll need a bowl, the size depending on how much you’re planning on making. I generally use a small mixing bowl. Go with a larger bowl than you think you’ll need, it’s better than having things over-flow, and you’ll need room for stirring.

1) Pour the uncooked couscous into your bowl. I’ve never measured this, but I’m guessing it’s about a cup and a half.  Or a cup. Sorry.

2) Now add your veggies and herbs. The key is to do your chopping/slicing over the bowl so the juices of the veggies fall in.  If this seems way to strange or dangerous to you, just use a chopping board, but be sure to add the juices with the veggies.

3) Add the olive oil. Again, I have no idea how much, because this is all by ear.  I usually just slosh a little in (perhaps a quarter cup total?).  You’ll have a chance to add more later on, so don’t worry about that too much.

4) Now it’s time to stir!  Using a large spoon, stir everything until it’s mixed through, then put it in the fridge and forget about it for at least 2 hours.  I will often make this in the morning before going to work, and re-stir just before serving at dinner.  The couscous will be perfect as it absorbs the juices of the veg you’ve added.  The second stir is also when you can add the salt to taste, and add a little more oilve oil if it seems lacking.

This keeps well in a sealed container for about 4 or 5 days I’d guess, but we usually it all in less than 2.  I also tend to vary the ingredients depending on if it’s going to be served to children or adults.

I hope you like it!

Vegan Meal Plan

Gloriously on vacation this week, which means a little more time for dinner preparation.  More importantly it means spending some quality time with Guppy who will be 5 years old on Sunday, May 2nd. Wow.

Guppy, a week before her 5th birthday. Time flies when you’re eating salad.

It also means a week filled with test recipes for Celine & Joni (marked with an *). Our big move is coming up at the end of June so I’m trying to test as much as I can before things get more hectic. Well, they always seem hectic, but you know what I mean!

One of our favourite new test recipes for saucisses.

Monday : Stew-Tatouille*, homemade Poolish Baguettes from Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Tuesday : Breakfast will be Crème brulée baked oatmeal*.  I’m looking forward to this recipe because I’ve never made baked oatmeal before, and the idea always seems to intrigue me. Dinner will be Pesto Pea-Damame Soup* with Chickpea Patties from Vcon and hopefully left-over baguette.

Wednesday : Cornbread-Stuffed Peppers*, green salad.

Thursday : Left-overs (I hope).

Friday : Homemade mini-pizzas for Guppy and a few friends who’ll be sleeping over. Birthday cake or cupcakes, too, but not sure which yet.

Saturday : Breakfast burritos* for Monsieur Fish and I,  probably muffins and/or pancakes for the kids – need to confirm opinion of the almost-birthday girl.

Sunday : Birthday picnic for Guppy. Not her official birthday party, more a get-together with our friends to celebrate the day. Menu TBA.

For everyone asking about the Patatas Bravas Gratin slated for last week…it didn’t happen as I was out of a key ingredient. Hoping to add to next week’s list, though.  Also hoping to get one or two of the recipes up from last week.

Bon appétit everyone!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Knitting 101

I’m finally learning to knit.  I figured now that it’s reaching 22°c and 25°c outside it’s just perfect scarf-knitting weather…

Obviously I’m joking, but I am finally getting the hang of it. The problem is I’m such a visual learner – had I found someone to sit down with me and show me what to do, I’d have learned a long time ago I suppose.  I gave it a go a few weeks ago, but skipped so many stitches I pulled it all out and am giving it another go.  Hopefully I’ll get it done before too long!

(The grey scarf I’m knitting is behind the book!)

This book has really helped me. I had another one, but it wasn’t as geared towards “true” beginners as this one is. It’s got lots of diagrams and pictures, so that works for me.

I guess I’ll try to work in a few stitches between packing boxes next week as I’ll have a full week’s vacation. Happyfish.

A warm welcome to all our new Wipsters! If you’d like to join the Wipster list, just leave a comment and let me know. The W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool just keeps growing – don’t be shy! Those photos are there to inspire, and we would love to see what you’ve been up to. Think of it as your parents’ fridge : a safe and loving place to highlight what you’ve been working on (without the strawberry jam stains on the door).


BBA Pane Siciliano

Pane Siciliano anyone? Here are some very, very bad pictures of some most delicious bread. This is one of my favourite breads from the famed Bread Baker’s Apprentice, it always turns out so well! (Much better than my crappy point and shoot after sunset pictures!).

This is the kind of bread I’d never thought I could actually make in my pre-baking days.  I mean, this baby takes 3 days (if you include the pâte fermentée) to make, and that’s a whole lot of planning. However, it’s more than worth it. Trust me!

As is the case with most of the formulas in BBA, the Pane Siciliano is a snap to veganize : I just used rice syrup in lieu of the honey.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

Vegan Meal Plan Time

This lovely sunset photo has nothing to do with anything, really. I just hate blogging without pictures.

I went sans Meal Plan last week and I must admit, it was a bit of a pain.  I found myself not knowing what to make and trying to come up with last-minute solutions in a pinch.  Though I’m still trying to get into the blogging groove (ie: finding the time), it might take me a while, but I hope to get some of these recipes* posted.  I may not be consistent, but here is this week’s meal plan:

Monday : Easiest Tabouli*, Grated Carrot salad and garlicy hoummous with baguette.

Tuesday : Quinoa-stuffed tomatoes*, Chocolate-Hearted Yeasted Muffins (a test recipe for Celine & Joni’s new project).

Wednesday : Patatas Bravas Gratin (also for Celine & Joni).

Thursday : Left-overs.

Friday : Homemade Pizza Night!

Weekend Baking  & Brunching : Coconut Baked Oatmeal (Celine & Joni) and maybe some waffles? Who knows…wait and see…

Vegan Brunswick Stew : Daring Cook’s April Challenge

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

This was one very “meaty” stew, but that’s no problem. The timing couldn’t have been better because I’d just tested some seitan patties for Celine & Joni’s upcoming project and knew they’d be great. I also used some steamed seitan sausages made with poultry seasoning. I’ve got so many yummy test recipes to post, oh time management…

Before this month’s challenge I’d never heard of Brunswick Stew, so thanks to our lovely host for sharing this. I’m always excited about stews calling for corn and Lima beans, and this one had both, so I was a rather happyfish.

Be sure and check out the Daring Cook’s Blogroll to see all the stewy love this month!