Friend Feature: SweetSugarBean

Salted Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes

I have been lucky enough to work with some very talented and inspiring people during my short stint in the restaurant industry.

Renee is one of those people- we met at the Rutherford House Historic Site where we both worked.  She was the head chef in the tiny little kitchen that serves the equally tiny (but super busy) Arbour Restaurant.  Think high tea, scones, quiche, sandwiches, and an incredible dessert menu, of course, all kinds of tea.  Though it was not a vegetarian restaurant, the Arbour did have some great options.  And Renee always would fix something special up for me if I wanted something different.

Well, we have both moved on since then, she, moving back home to Saskatoon, and I, of course, moving back home to Lethbridge.  But through the magic of facebook, we’ve kept in touch.  Renee continues to work in the culinary industry and has recently started her own blog at the request of many of her friends.  She just has way too many good recipes not to share!  That, combined with her artistic approach to food styling and eye for photography has created SweetSugarBean. I was lucky enough to assist a little in formation of the blog, and it’s so exciting to see how it’s grown in the short time it’s been around.

She really has a special touch when it comes to desserts, as well as yummy (but healthy) comfort food.  Renee has posted a number of vegetarian and vegan recipes and I thought I would share some of these today (and thank you for creating a separate vegetarian & vegan label!)  Click on the pictures for the recipes!

curried butternut squash soup with coconut milk

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

Swiss Chard and Feta Phyllo Pizza

Swiss Chard and Feta Phyllo Pizza

And be sure to check out the rest of the SweetSugarBean’s recipe index on the side of the page.  Of course, don’t forget to snoop the chocolate section!


Mulligatawny Veggie Soup

Lethbridge got about 20cm of snow in the last 24 hours.  So when I got home, I decided it was a soup night.

So out comes the good ‘ol Joy of Cooking; which practically lives on the kitchen counter now- we reference it often.  I highly recommend it, though it does have lots of meat recipes in it, these can simply be ignored or improvised.  Hmmm.. black bean soup, U.S. Senate bean soup (uh.. no!), lentil soup with greens… nope.

Mulligatawny.  I’ve always been curious- I’ve never been able to try it since it always seems to have meat in it.

Mulligatawny, a curried soup brought back from India by British colonists, is the Anglicized name of two words for “pepper water,” molegoo (pepper) and tunee (water).The real Mulligatawny is a traditional curry-flavored pea and lentil peasant dish. Indian restaurants today serve it as a vegetarian soup and appetizer. The Anglicized version adds chicken so it’s more like a stew and suitable as a meal in itself. Originally the soup was enriched with coconut milk and embellished with almonds and apples. It can also contain rice, eggs, cream, and other meats besides chicken.

from global gourmet

Strangely, this mulligatawny recipe had no lentils, peas or almonds.  It’s the sort of dish you can improvise on- as long as you have the basics down (the rich, spicy broth being paramount) Which is exactly what I did to make it vegetarian.  I also had a few things kicking around from my garden, the last of the carrots and the apples I chopped and froze back in the fall.  Perfect!

This took less than half an hour to prepare and cook; perfect for a weekday night when you have little energy left for cooking.  It can also be made vegan very simply; just use coconut milk instead of cream and vegetable oil instead of butter.

Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Heat in a soup pot over medium heat:

  • 1/4c (1/2 stick) butter or vegetable oil

Add and cook, stirring until softened:

  • 1/2c diced onion
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced

Add and cook, stirring about 3 mins:

  • 1.5 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp curry powder (i used medium)

After the mixture dries out a bit and coats the veggies add

  • 4c  veggie broth
  • 1 bay leaf

Boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 mins.  Add:

  • 1/4c diced tart apples
  • 1/2c cooked rice (I used quinoa instead for more nutrition)
  • 1/2c veggie chicken, diced (I used some TVP and added a little extra liquid.  You could also use crumbled tofu, lentils, or your favorite protein filled meat substitute.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh lemon zest.  This is an important ingredient!  Make sure you use fresh!

Simmer for 15 minutes, remove bay leaf.  then add:

  • 1/2c heavy cream or unsweetened coconut milk

Heat through, do not boil.

Serve & enjoy!

Nutritional Yeast Dressing

Many vegetarians and vegans are fond of Nutritional Yeast. It’s high in B vitamins (which vegetarians need) and tastes good.  It can be used many ways, but mostly as a type of seasoning or condiment-  sprinkled on food or mixed into sauces or dressings.  And for those vegans who miss cheese- it tastes like cheese!

If you’ve never tried or seen nutritional yeast before, it’s a yellow, flaky or powdery substance.  According to wikipedia, it is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast.  If you’ve ever tried marmite or vegemite, it has a similar taste (less salty though).  Keep in mind, it is not a live yeast. And you can get it in Lethbridge- try the natural foods section at save on, superstore, or nutters.  I know for sure Bob’s red mill makes it, but there are many different brands.

Back when I worked at a certain organic eatery/grocery store  in Edmonton (which has now been downscaled drastically), the Nutritional Yeast Dressing was a customer favorite.  Us workers constantly had to replenish the container of it in the salad bar.  (On a side note, the salad bar was awesome: you got a bowl, and you filled it up with whatever you want in the salad bar- organic greens, veggies, nuts, pre-made pasta & noodle salads, and everyone’s favorite organic goat feta). 

Luckily, I still have the recipe and use it often.  I don’t know where it came from, or who made it up, but it’s too good to keep a secret any longer!  Just get a  clean, empty salad dressing bottle (preferably glass), a funnel and all your ingredients, and you’re good to go!

Its good on more than just salads- think warm veggies, lentils or noodles…

Nutritional Yeast Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 c nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 c tamari (or soy sauce or braggs.. but I like tamari best)
  • 4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 c flax seed oil or olive oil (or a mixture of  both)

Pour all ingredients into a bottle using a funnel.  Leave a couple inches of headspace.  Shake until mixed.

I find in the  bottle I use I can only fit about a cup of oil in, which works fine for me.  You can top it up with more oil as you begin to use it.

It is normal for the dressing to separate, therefore give it a quick shake before using it.  I also found that the olive oil goes slightly solid when I put this in the fridge (and please do store in the fridge) so you just have to remember to take it out of the fridge for a few minutes before using.

Edible Weeds: Purslane

In each of the places I’ve lived and gardened, there have always been one or two dominant weeds. I accept that weeds are a (sometimes necessary) part of gardening. When my husband came upon a vintage book on edible garden weeds, we decided that we had to sample the weeds that we’d normally dispose.


This is the first summer in our new house and the dominant weed here is purslane, also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed, Pusley or Portulaca oleracea in the scientific world. It’s a low-growing succulent plant that quickly spreads over the soil to form dense mats. The leaves are small, fleshy and paddle shaped and almost resemble miniature jade plants. It grows abundantly across North America and many areas of the world and can be found everywhere from orchards to industrial yards.


What I found of particular interest is that, like many other “weeds,” purslane is enjoyed in other parts of the world as a food source. It has been eaten for thousands of years in Persia and India and is still grown as a food source in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.  Some eat it raw as a salad green, others add it to stews, some use the seeds to make flours and meals and others boil it or stir fry. It’s amazing to think that there is so much free food available that isn’t being consumed!

Many common weeds are edible, including milkweeds, thistles, certain types of daisies, and of course, dandelions. Many of these are also considered noxious, and were perhaps initially planted as an ornamental or a food source and then not kept in check. What I find worthy of note is that the majority of “weeds” in North America are not native. They were carried over, either accidentally or on purpose, by Europeans who settled here.

The best and safest way to get rid of weeds is to pull them — and instead of throwing them in your garbage, or perhaps even your compost pile, why not check if they’re edible? Luckily, purslane has a relatively short taproot and can easily be plucked from the ground.

It was so exciting to sample purslane for the first time. We decided to keep it simple and chop it into bite-size pieces, then lightly blanch it, stems and all, followed by a quick fry in butter and then topped it with some lemon juice, white wine, salt, pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Purslane is quite nutritious. It’s richer in iron than any other leafy vegetable except parsley, and the addition of lemon juice often aids in the absorption of iron. When cooked its texture is soft, similar to cooked spinach or chard, and it also has a hint of natural acidity.


It’s our new favorite green, and we enjoy eating it at least once a week with supper. You can’t get much more local than weeds from your own backyard or neighborhood! Eating “weeds” also discourages the use of harmful herbicides that are often unnecessary. The word “weed” is subjective; just because it wasn’t planted by a human, doesn’t mean it’s not useful!  Knowledge of edible weeds is especially handy should you get stranded in the wilderness; there are many stories of people surviving because they had the knowledge of what plants to eat (and which ones to stay away from).

And one more reason to pick and eat your weeds while they’re still young: purslane can become a troublesome weed, especially when it goes to seed — and each plant can produce up to 50,000 seeds!

Happy weeding and eating!

*Words of warning: Please make sure you learn to correctly identify and cook any plant before eating it.  Unfortunately, not all weeds are edible and many plants have “evil twins.” Don’t eat plants found in areas where chemical herbicides or fertilizers are applied, or in those areas with high vehicle traffic exhaust.

Purslane_boil.jpgFried Purslane
Serves 2

2 cups (500 ml) fresh purslane leaves (and stems, if young), washed
2 Tbsp (30ml) butter or olive oil
1/4 cup (50ml) dry white wine
2 Tbsp (30ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste

Bring water to a boil, add purslane, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 min. Drain.

Melt butter or oil in a heavy skillet. Add blanched purslane, wine, and lemon juice — cook until liquid reduces slightly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, grate fresh parmesan cheese on each serving.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Have you ever cooked with weeds? Tell us about it in the comments below!

**originally published on; Aug 30, 2010