Shepherd’s Pie for Easter

Happy Easter to all those who are celebrating!

Yesterday I ventured into Toronto and picked up some Easter treats at the Vegan Danish Bakery in Thornhill. As it was their last day before closing for the long weekend, they didn’t have their regular supply of goodies available, which was a bit disappointing after hearing about the wide variety of treats they normally carry, but they did have these adorable cupcakes which I picked up for the kids.

Vegan Danish Bakery April 2014 Earthgiven Kitchen (2)Vegan Danish Bakery also has frozen prepared vegan cannelloni and lasagne for take-out. I haven’t had cannelloni since going vegan, and when I heard that the owner of the bakery uses hand-made crepes, I had to pick one up for dinner. Were we ever impressed!

Vegan Danish Bakery April 2014 Earthgiven Kitchen (3)The fluffy  crepes were filled with vegetables and veggie ground round, topped with tomato sauce and Daiya and it was the most delicious dinner we had enjoyed in a long time. The cupcakes were very nice but the cannelloni was spectacular. Beyond passing the taste test, I love that the bakery says it uses no preservatives and 90% of ingredients are organic. I hope I have another reason to take me all the way to north Toronto again so I can pay a visit to Vegan Danish Bakery and stock up on more cannelloni.

One entrée I frequently make for Easter is another hearty comfort food: Shepherd’s Pie. It’s also a dish I tend to make when I have omnivores over for dinner as it is a hit with meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (2)It’s made with soy crumbles, or crumbled veggie burger. The soy crumbles we like best are Yves and Tofurky brands of veggie ground round (Tofurky is free of GMOs and MSG making it my preference).

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a dish of lamb’s meat topped with mashed potatoes. I gave up eating lamb when I was 12 so I have no recollection of ever eating the meat version of this dish. The only meaning Shepherd’s Pie has ever had for me is a vegetarian version, so I haven’t felt the need to change the name, though I have seen vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie be called Shepherdess Pie.

This recipe is to fill two casserole dishes as I usually make a double batch: one to eat that day and one to pop one in the freezer as time-saving future meal, or for feeding a crowd. Feel free to halve the recipe to feed 4-6 people. This recipe can be made gluten-free.

Shepherd’s Pie – double batch

2 shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp olive oil
8 cups chopped potatoes (about 7 medium-large potatoes)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy)
4 tbsp vegan butter
1 tbsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
1 kg of crumbled veggie burger or soy crumbles (I use three 340 gm packages of veggie ground round. Choose gluten-free burgers for a GF option)
2 cups frozen peas
approximately 4 tbsp breadcrumbs (choose gluten-free bread for a GF option)

1 cup veggie broth (packaged, homemade or 1 cup water plus ½ vegan broth cube)
4 tbsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
½ tsp poultry seasoning (a mix of sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and black pepper)
2 tbsp cornstarch

Start by making the mashed potato topping: Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat and cook the garlic and shallots until soft and golden.

Boil the potatoes, then mash with the non-dairy milk, butter and Bragg’s/soy sauce.  Use a potato masher; don’t use your for food processor for this part or your mashed potatoes will be gummy.  Set aside.

Then make the gravy:

Heat 1 cup of broth (or the water, then add the broth cube) on a stove top on medium-high heat.  Stir in the 4 tsp Bragg’s/soy sauce and poultry seasoning then reduce heat to low.  Add the cornstarch and whisk until well combined.  Set aside to let thicken.  Will make about 1 cup of gravy.

Now assemble your pies:

Spray two casserole dishes lightly with oil.  In each dish, empty one and a half packages of the ground round, pour in half the gravy (about ½ cup), mix and spread out to evenly cover the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle 1 cup of frozen peas on top of each pie.  Take half the mashed potato mixture and spread on top of the layer of peas, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Sprinkle with a bit of breadcrumbs.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (1)Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated all the way through.  Remove foil and cook another five minutes to crisp up the top to a light golden brown.

Makes 8-12 servings.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (3)


Review: Lettuce Love and Kelly’s Bake Shop, Burlington, Ontario

Hello and happy spring! I took a short hiatus from blogging this winter to travel and focus on work and family; it’s nice to be back. I will have some new recipes for you soon.

I had a bit of a panic when my very favourite restaurant, Kindfood, announced in late 2013 that they were closing temporarily to renovate, re-brand as Lettuce Love Café and change their menu. I’ve tried so many veggie restaurants and very few have come close to the quality, taste and love-filled energy of the family-run Kindfood (see my review here).

Lettuce Love collage Earthgiven KitchenTo my delight, Lettuce Love maintains the same location and owners (Kelly and Erinn and Mike, the manger, whose specialty is customer service and infectious enthusiasm). The menu is still entirely vegan and gluten-free, focusing on healthy, locally-sourced, fair trade, and organic. I visited Lettuce Love twice recently and my fears were put to rest: it’s the same wonderful place it always was, just with prettier walls and some exciting new additions to the menu. And thank heavens they kept the California Burger on the menu!

We visited Lettuce Love in February to try their new Sunday Brunch. Here is what we enjoyed:

Lettuce Love and Kellys February and March 20141Almond Banana French Toast served with tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, fresh orange slices and maple syrup. We loved it! Especially the kids.

The California Burger: marinated Nobel Bean tempeh burger with avocado, vegan bacon, Daiya cheese, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo on toasted quinoa maple bread. This has been our favourite menu item there for years and our favourite burger EVER. I don’t want to be too dramatic here but I think this could be the world’s best veggie burger. My friends and I have tried to recreate it at home and just can’t…. I don’t know how they make a veggie burger this yummy but I think the secret is the marinade… I hope to one day figure it out, but in the meantime, I continue to be dazzled by the California Burger at each visit.

Caesar Salad: Possibly the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The dressing is tasty without being overpoweringly garlicky like many other dressings and the quinoa croutons and Brazil nut parmesan add a great crunch. The burgers are a bit too thick (and messy) for little mouths so we get the Caesar salad for the kids and they eat it right up.

The BLAT: Vegan Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato with mayo. Simple, fresh and delicious!

I returned to Lettuce Love late March with friends including Kimmy from Rock My Vegan Socks, who was visiting from California and new friend Suzanne from Hello Veggy. Kimmy and Suzanne host the weekly Healthy Vegan Fridays recipe link-up.

Suzanne Sarina JW and Kimmy at Kelly'sHere’s what we enjoyed:

Lettuce Love and Kellys February and March 20142Green Smoothies: This blend of kale, spinach, banana, orange and apple are lovely and not-to-sweet; great for kids.

Broccoli Dahl: Lentils, veggies and some terrific spices made for an exquisite starter. Too bad it was their soup of the day and not on their everyday menu as it was FABULOUS.

Goddess Bowl: Organic brown rice, tamari & olive oil, shredded carrots & beets, braised kale, marinated baked tofu, with a cashew ginger sauce and sesame seeds. We all thought this was delicious, the sauce was superb.

Power Bowl: Organic steamed quinoa, braised kale, grilled sweet potato, black beans, grilled portobello mushroom, avocado, Brazil nut parmesan, with a delicious lemon tahini sauce. We all liked this one too, but I have a preference for the Goddess Bowl (I’m a big fan of cashew and ginger together).

After our meals at Lettuce Love, we headed to Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, just a few blocks away, for dessert. (See my first review here). Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is another gluten-free & vegan venture from the owners of Lettuce Love.

Kelly's Bake Shoppe collage Sarina JWWhen you step inside you will find yourself in the prettiest bake shop you could imagine. Their daily offerings include cupcakes, cookies, and cake ball truffles. If you go on a weekend, you’ll find an even bigger selection of treats. When we went on a Sunday afternoon, the counters were full of donuts, scones, brownies, banana bread, rice crispy treats, ice cream sandwiches, plus a greater variety of cookies and cupcakes than you’ll find on a weekday.

Since I’ve been several times now and have gotten to try most of their treats, here are my very favourite Kelly’s Bake Shoppe selections: Cupcakes (Hostess, Black & White, Cookies & Crème and Coffee Break (with miniature donuts on top) are my favourite favours), World Peace Cookie, cinnamon donuts, soft serve ice cream with assorted toppings (summer only), and chocolate cake ball truffles.

Kelly's Bake Shoppe cupcakes (3)Want to be sure your favourite selection will be offered the day you go? Check the online Daily Bakery Menu on their website.

I give Lettuce Love Cafe and Kelly’s Bake Shoppe my highest recommendation.  Since they boast top rankings on Trip Advisor and local Reader’s Choice Awards, I know I’m not alone!

Lettuce Love Cafe is at 399 John Street, Burlington, ON.
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is at 401 Brant Street, Burlington, ON.

DIY Soothing Hot/Cold Rice Bag

Greetings form the polar vortex!  The frigid temperatures in Ontario have me wanting to spend every day this winter in my cozy bed or in front of the fire with a cup of tea and a good book.

Earthgiven Kitchen books tea fireplace Earthgiven Kitchen weatherYes, that really does say -40 with the windchill.

Most winter nights I take a heated rice bag to bed to keep my feet warm.  You can make your own microwavable hot bag with any fabric; it’s a great way to reuse items like old sweaters, flannel pillow cases or socks.

Earthgiven Kitchen diy hot cold rice bag homesteading craftJust fill with rice, stitch close and you’ve got a reusable bag you can pop in the microwave for soothing heat.

You can also store in the freezer for a cold compress.

Hot/Cold Rice Bag

What you need:

Fabric (like old sweaters, linens and socks)
Sewing kit
Uncooked Rice (any kind)

Fold the fabric enough to make a square or rectangle, flip inside out and sew up two of the three open sides.  Flip right side out.  Fill about halfway with rice.  Sew the last side closed.  You could also use a sock and just fill then sew the top clothes.

To heat it up, microwave the bag for 30-60 seconds.  For a cold compress, keep in the freezer until cold.

Roasted Chickpeas

I first heard of roasting chickpeas from healthy recipe gurus Dreena Burton and Meghan Telpner.  What a great idea: crispy, salty and slightly sweet roasted chickpeas, perfect to eat by the handful like nuts or popcorn.  More than just protein-packed, chickpeas are a good source of fibre and iron.  We snack on them in the car and at work; they also make a great party food.  They are excellent in my children’s lunch box for school since they are healthy, nut-free, mess-free and the kids love them.

The recipe is very adaptable; add your favourite spices or fresh herbs if you like.

Roasted chickpeas Earthgiven Kitchen veganHere is my version of our new favourite snack.   I’ve been told they are addictive!

Roasted chickpeas
1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
Sea salt + pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl then spread on a baking sheet.  Roast at 400 F for about 30 minutes until they are golden and almost completely dry,  turning gently a few times.  Enjoy warm or room temperature.  Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Earthgiven Kitchen Roasted Chickpeas

I am sharing this recipe on Healthy Vegan Fridays!

Sexy Vegan Italian Sausages

I was pleased to be offered a copy of The Sexy Vegan: Happy Hour At Home by Brian L. Patton from New World Library.  This is his second cookbook, you may already be familiar with his first book The Sex Vegan: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude.  Learn more about this not-so-ordinary dude on his website here.

sexy vegan at homeI flipped through to see which recipe to make first and was enchanted by the Pretend Italian Sausages.  This recipe comes from the Little Britain chapter menu, with other recipes you can pair with it like creamy polenta, peppers and mushrooms. I was never a fan of meat sausages in my pre-vegan days until in 2012 when I was introduced to Field Roast sausages at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival and I was hooked!  Apple Sage is my absolute favourite and I’d been meaning to try to duplicate it with seitan (wheat protein).

Earthgiven Kitchen Sexy Vegan Pretend Italian Sausages   (4)Making the sausages was simpler than I thought: throw the ingredients in a food processor, then roll the dough into sausage shapes and cook.

Earthgiven Kitchen Sexy Vegan Pretend Italian Sausages doughYou do have to plan ahead because the sausages are steamed for an hour, but the hands-on time is short.   If you can bake cookies, you can make these sausages.

You can also make them ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to four days or the freezer for up to a month.   Unlike many “fake meat” from the grocery store that can be full of highly processed/GMO soy, the protein and meaty texture from these soy-free sausages come from the white beans and potatoes.   It’s just delicious plants in the perfect shape to enjoy in a bun.

Earthgiven Kitchen Sexy Vegan Pretend Italian Sausages   (2)The verdict: We absolutely loved the taste and texture.  They were perfect grilled on the BBQ.  Definitely a keeper recipe.  Next time I’ll add some apple and fresh sage!

We also tried the Tofu-Citrus “Titrus” Dippers and Citrus Soba.  Both recipes would be great if you’re a fan of creamy dressings as well as the combination of tangy orange and sesame flavours. (See also a photo on the front cover, above.)

Earthgiven Kitchen sexy vegan titrus dippersEarthgiven Kitchen sexy vegan happy hour recipes (1) I liked both the citrus recipes, but I LOVED the sausages.  The recipe is below.

I like that Brian’s fun and cheeky personality comes through in his writing.  He’s hilarious, just check out his cooking videos like this episode featuring to Stromboli.

This cookbook would be great for anyone who loves to create fancy appetizers to wow guests at parties.  Many recipes feature alcohol; there’s an entire chapter of cocktail recipes!   Tip: get the e-book as I did which has colour photos, over the hard copy which has black and white photos.

Pretend Italian Sausages
Excerpted with permission from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home ©2013 by Brian Patton.  Published with permission of New World Library

1/2 pound russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of ground sage
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chickpea flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup (1 15-ounce can) drained and rinsed canned white beans


In a small pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chunks easily fall apart when you put a fork through them. Drain the potatoes well and while they’re still hot, gently mash with a fork until there are no chunks left, or pass through a potato ricer. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, bouillon powder, pepper, celery seeds, thyme, sage, chile flakes, fennel seeds, and chickpea flour.

In a food processor or blender, puree the tamari, water, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and beans. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, add them and the bean mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mash it all together with your hands to form a soft dough, making sure there are no dry parts remaining.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before using. You can also wrap it in plastic and store it in the refrigerator for later use. It will last for 5 days.

Form the dough into a loaf-like shape and cut it in half. Then cut those halves in half. Finally, cut the halves of the halves into five- sixteenths…just kidding, cut them in half. Now you’ll have 8 portions. Roll them into cigar-like shapes, 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Loosely roll each portion in foil and twist the ends of the foil to seal the packets. Remember to leave some room for expansion. Using a steamer basket, steam for 1 hour. Now they’re ready to be browned or grilled in a pan.

If you don’t use all 8 sausages right away, store the remaining ones in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to a month.

Thank you very much to Kim at New World Library for the cookbook!

Have you tried any of The Sexy Vegan’s recipes yet?  What are your favourites?

Earthgiven Kitchen’s Top Recipes of 2013

First of all, my sincere thanks for all of you who visited Earthgiven Kitchen this past year.   Every comment, every new follow, every new like on Facebook makes my day.  I hit 40.000 views in 2013, which kind of blows my mind.  I juggled full-time work and part-time school in 2013 which left less time for blogging, so thanks for hanging around despite the slow-down in posts.  I aim to continue posting at least twice a month in 2014, sharing new recipes and musings on simple, compassionate living.

Here are the recipe posts from 2013 which had the most number of views this year:

Spinach Black Bean Brownies Earthgiven Kitchen#5) Spinach Black Bean Brownies with Vanilla Cream Frosting

The credit for this recipe (and the photo above) goes to Carrie on Vegan and is featured in the fabulous healthy recipe app Vegan Delish.

Portobello Leek and Walnut Turnovers Earthgiven Kitchen (4)#4) Portobello, Leek and Walnut Turnovers

These were created for the Virtual Vegan Potluck in May.  Turnovers are great for potlucks and parties but who has time to make pastry from scratch when company is coming over?  Just use sliced bread!

Coconut Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies by Earthgiven Kitchen#3) My favourite chocolate chip cookie with a surprising healthy ingredient

Chickpeas in this cookie lend it some nice texture not to mention the super nutritional benefits.  You can almost pass them off for macadamia nuts.  Coconut, chocolate and chickpeas, three of my favourite foods, all in one cookie!

Earthgiven Kitchen June 1 potluck Belgian waffles#2) Coconut Belgian Waffles

Another great recipe to impress guests, these were made for a vegan potluck in June.

And for the Top Recipe of 2013…..

Earthgiven Kitchen healthy peanut butter fudge ripple ice cream#1) Healthy Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple Ice Cream

This was my very favourite recipe too, and the one that appears to have gotten the most pins on Pinterest.   Our family enjoys this treat a few times a month, even through winter.

Also very popular were my Chocolate Banana Cookies and Crispy Breaded Tofu Strips from 2012.

Chocolate Banana Cookies (1)Crispy Breaded Tofu Strips Earthgiven Kitchen (3)Warmest wishes for a wonderful 2014!

Apple Berry Crumble and Holiday Recap

Hello 2014 and happy new year to you!
Earthgiven Kitchen snow and ice
I hope your Christmas, if you celebrate, was as wonderful as mine was.  We had three days packed with family, friends and scrumptious food.  It was a beautiful white Christmas here in southern Ontario.

Earthgiven Kitchen holiday 2013 (7) - CopyEarthgiven Kitchen tree decorationOne of my favourite things about our Christmas meals was that our families made the food mostly vegan to accommodate me and my husband and children.  We were so touched!  I’ve seen many facebook posts recently from acquaintances who are the lone vegan in their family, where the holidays have become a time to feel isolated, their beliefs challenged.  I am grateful for a loving family that supports compassionate eating.  And all meals were DELICIOUS!

Here is what we enjoyed….Earthgiven Kitchen holiday appetizersAppetizers of fruits and nuts, veggies and sun-dried tomato hummus.Earthgiven Kitchen holiday 2013 (1) - CopyEarthgiven Kitchen Fieldroast celebration roast holiday 2013 - CopyLentil Sweet Potato Soup, homemade bread, Field Roast Celebration Roast, and Three Bean Quinoa Salad.
Earthgiven Kitchen holiday 2013 (8) - CopyTofurky roast with mushroom gravy, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with peas and roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary.
Earthgiven Kitchen holiday 2013 (3) - CopyField Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast with herbed gravy, peas and corn, roasted white potatoes and sweet potato biscuits.

We all decided not to fuss with entrees from scratch and enjoyed three different ready-made vegan roasts.  Our very favourite is the Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast: it’s vegan apple sage sausage, vegetables and herbs in puff pastry!  It’s simply heavenly for a special meal.  If it wasn’t so high in calories I’d want to eat it all the time.

Earthgiven Kitchen Chef Chloe chocolate cakeChocolate Molten Lava Cakes with Cranberry Sauce.  Recipe from Chloe’s Kitchen, I used cranberries instead of raspberries for the fruit sauce.  These are quite decadent!  What a treat.

Earthgiven Kitchen Apple-Cranberry CrumbleApple-Cranberry Crumble topped with coconut gelato

Here’s the recipe for the crumble, it’s super easy!

Apple Berry Crumble

4 cups chopped apples and berries of your choice (I like cranberries at Christmas)
1/8 cup white sugar or coconut sugar
Crumble topping:
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup flour
1/3 cup vegan margarine
¼ cup white sugar or coconut sugar
dash sea salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Mix the crumble topping ingredients in a bowl.  Law the fruit in an even layer in a greased 6 cup (1.5 L) baking pan.  Sprinkle with the sugar, then spoon the crumble topping evenly on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until golden on top.Earthgiven Kitchen apple-cranberry crumble 1The recipe is very adaptable; you can use any four cups of fruit (or veggies like rhubarb) for the base.  Here’s a tasty variation:

Earthgiven Kitchen Banana Mango CrumbleBanana Mango Crumble
substitute the apples and berries with:

2 sliced bananas
1 sliced mango
1/8 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Wishing you all health and happiness for 2014!  I am sharing this day of yummy eating on Peas and Crayons for What I Ate Wednesday, with thanks to Jenn for hosting!

Earthgiven Kitchen holiday 2013 (5) - Copy