Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I am so, so happy that it is springtime! I have been taking walks down the streets admiring everything that is coming out of the grounds and secretly stealing little buds from all kinds of trees and flowers to put in water all over my apartment. Cherry blossoms, magnolias, daffodils… I feel as though I will enjoy it just as much as the random passer-bys that would be seeing them on the street!
This time of year just doesn’t come around often enough.

I went to a friend’s birthday party a few weekends ago. She is part of a group of friends who are pretty darn passionate about food and sustainability and she is basically studying gardening in university (a masters I believe). I made cupcakes for her, the best kind in the world. They are vegan, but kind of in an accidental way because they actually taste like they are jam packed with all kinds of butter and…stuff.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Frosting
from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World”

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup light molasses
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy milk
2 tbsp soy yogurt
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

-Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with muffin papers (this will make exactly 12).
-Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
-Whisk all the wet ingredients into a large bowl then add the flour mixture and mix it until it’s smooth.
-Fold in the crystallized ginger.
-Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full and bake for 19 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick or the tines of a fork come out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before icing (or else eat them warm!).

*Feel free to add lots of spices to give a bit of a zing.
*I rarely follow the wet ingredients very closely. Use the full amount of oil, but I regularly skip the maple syrup, add lots of molasses, honey, water… Depends on what I have. Just try to have the same amount of wet ingredients as the recipe calls for.
*Not very many people use (or like!) soy yogurt. Regular works just fine.
*Promise to never skip the crystallized ginger. It’s the best part.

Lemony Frosting
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup margarine, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Cream the shortening and margarine (Earth Balance makes both of these things and they are more or less healthy - a million times better than the ‘vegetable shortening’ that is sold in the baking aisle and isn’t even refrigerated!) and then add the sugar in half cup additions. After each addition, add a splash of juice and then beat well. Last, add the vanilla and beat until it’s smooth, creamy and fluffy. Cover and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to ice.
-Don’t be afraid to skip the icing, they are perfect without.

So at this birthday party I got to talk gardens. Being a first timer, I’m pretty excited about any tips I can get. One guy who was there actually lives on the UBC Farm, the only farm in ‘downtown’ Vancouver. It’s huge, 24 hectares, and grows vegetables, fruits, chickens, bees... Everything. Unfortunately, the city seems to think it’s a great idea to close it down and build a bunch of high rises in it’s place - apparently there aren’t enough already. Go and visit, it’s open 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday, and starting June they have a market on Saturdays. And if you want to take things to another level, go to the petition site and add your name in support of the farm! This should be important to Vancouverites because getting rid of the last farm in our city would make us that much more reliant on imported fruits and vegetables. We should be supporting all local food producers wholeheartedly, not chain grocery stores! Fighting for this farm is just another step for sustainable food. Read all about it and tell your friends!

Anyways, I was getting gardening (farming?) tips. Apparently you aren’t supposed to plant beans until early May, while I put mine in at least three weeks ago. I’m told they will get ‘spindly’ but if you have something for them to hold onto they’ll be fine. I’ll have something for them to hold onto! Also if you’re starting a garden for the first time as well or you just need some super-pointers, get your hands on a West Coast Seeds catalogue. They give you all the answers as well as a little chart telling you exactly when to put what in the ground.

Here’s a picture of my mini garden just minutes before being replanted in it’s new summer home:

That’s zucchini in the back, lettuce on the left and the beans on the right.

These are the beans, after being prematurely into their pot. Cross your fingers for them!

So this weekend was Easter and my family came to visit. That would be my mom and dad, and then also my aunt and uncle and two cousins. My one cousin who lives in Toronto was having an art show here, so we all had to get together to see it. It turned into a great food weekend, although it was missing the usual big Easter dinner. Instead, we went to a French restaurant in Gastown called Jules. I know nothing about French food (as I believe I have previously admitted) but I now vow to eat it more often.

I cooked for us one evening and went down to Granville Island for ideas and groceries. It had been a rainy afternoon and we spent it having the perfect lunch of soup and stew (and, of course, pear crumble and chocolate pudding) at Burgoo on Main Street so I needed something light. Dinner turned into fresh snapper with lemon and garlic and new potato salad.

New Potato Salad
First off, make some pesto. Use a bunch of fresh basil leaves, freshly grated parmesean, pine nuts, olive oil and salt and pepper. Grind it up using whatever you’ve got (I used my hand blender) until it looks like pesto. Taste it, and make sure it tastes like pesto!
Now give your potatoes a scrub. New potatoes are the little ones, bite sized. They are actually baby potatoes, fresh from the ground after only being in there a little while, and they’ve got thin little skins that you don’t have to take off. When you’ve got them clean, put them in a big pot of water to boil.
Next get a big bunch of green beans. Put another pot of water on to boil and while you’re waiting trim the ends off the beans (I once got in shit at cooking school for not taking both ends off. I didn’t learn - I still only take the stringy end off. I think the other end is pretty!). When the water is boiling, put the beans in only until they turn bright green, this is called blanching, and then take them out and give them a good, serious rinse with cold water which will stop them from cooking any further.
Lastly, in a big bowl put in half a red onion sliced really thinly, your green beans, the new potatoes that have been cooked until just tender, and the pesto you just whipped up with your own hands. Give it a stir and eat it.

I love springtime…

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