Friday, 27 October 2017

Baked Apples to Honour the Dead


My apologies for the delayed update, dear readers. A lot has happened since last I posted on here (last February!), but it seems apt for me to do a bit of scribbling as the Celtic new year approaches.

The period between late October and early November has been noted as a liminal space for millennia. Hallowe'en, Samhain, Nos Calan Gaeaf, Allhallowtide, and El Dia de los Muertos all fall within the same smattering of days, and all acknowledge and celebrate the transition between life and death. It's a time when, it is said, the veils between worlds fall, and spirits can shift between planes to visit loved ones. I have been fortunate enough to feel solid connections with some of my ancestors, and although it's certainly fun to dress up in costume and consume far too much sugar, I find that I prefer to mark this time of year by honouring the Dead, instead.

Since I am mostly of European descent, the foods that I prepare to honour and share with my ancestors tend to be those that they likely would have enjoyed while they were alive. Oat cakes sweetened with honey for my ancestor Knut. Colcannon for my nan Helen. I mix it up from year to year to honour different facets of my ancestry, but the one recipe I always, always prepare, is baked apples.



Apples are the fruit of the Otherworld, ever associated with Avalon (the Isle of Apples), and liminal, in-between places. They are associated with fertility and eternal youth (such as the apples grown and guarded by the Norse goddess Iðunn), and in Cornwall, Kalan Gwav, (the first day of winter, also known as Allantide) is celebrated the eve of October 31st and most of November 1st. For this festival, people give each other large, red "Allan" apples to their loved ones as tokens of good luck and joy for the coming year. This is echoed in the Jewish tradition of eating apples—especially apples dipped in honey—at Rosh Hashanah, symbolising the hope for a sweet and happy new year.

In the Northern hemisphere, apples come to their full ripeness in autumn, so they are abundant and glorious by the time All Hallow's rolls around. These baked beauties can be made with whichever apples you have available locally, and sometimes it's fun to make them with a variety of different ones so you can determine which flavours and textures you like best. Although I love to eat MacIntosh apples raw because they're so crunchy and tart, I generally use Cortland or Honeycrisp for baking.



Baked Apples

Ingredients:

6-8 apples, cored (6 if larger, 8 if on the smaller side). Use local apples if possible.
1 cup chopped nuts (I like a mixture of walnuts and pecans)
1 cup flour (gluten-free if needed)
1 cup quick-cook oats
1 cup unsalted butter or Earth Balance
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup granulated maple sugar
Ground cinnamon
Sea salt

Preparation: 

Preheat your oven to 350F, with your rack in the middle position. 

Slice the bottoms of each cored apple very slightly so they can sit upright properly, and place them in a baking pan. Pour the maple syrup into the pan, over and around the apples. When the oven is warmed, bake them upright for 15-20 minutes, depending on size, then flip them upside-down and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

While those are in the oven, combine all of the dry ingredients with the butter until it makes a crumbly mixture. Add as much or as little cinnamon as you like, and a pinch of salt, and mix thoroughly.

Remove the apples from the oven, cram them full of the crumbly, nutty stuff, spoon some of the syrupy mixture over them to dampen the crumb, and then pop them back into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Serve with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream (dairy or vegan), or clotted cream, or custard, or just enjoy exactly as they are. If you're so inclined, set an extra apple on an empty plate to symbolise sharing it with your ancestors, beloved Dead, and/or friendly spirits who may stop by.

Blessings to you.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Simple Pleasures: Olives, Bread, Oil, and Vinegar



It's been a while since I updated, and I apologise for that. As most of us have realised by now, life has its ups and downs, and sometimes just staying afloat takes almost all of our effort. A new year has rolled over, I've just turned 40, and recent events have left me reeling from a veritable emotional maelstrom. One of my oldest friends recently died after a long battle with cancer, and as I work my way through the grieving process after losing her, I find many aspects of my life have been put into perspective. Funny how tumultuous life events will do that, neh? In any case, I feel as though I am slowly emerging from a midwinter cocoon into a rather new form of existence, though it's a slow process and has quite a way yet to go.
A very slow process indeed.

No metamorphosis comes without growing pains (often quite painful ones), and my own recent shift has required a startling amount of introspection and honesty about old wounds. Some of that culminated in a breakdown in a hotel room about a thousand miles from where I am now, and the rest has unfolded here in my cabin in the woods, where the snow now reaches my chest if I dare to venture out into the cold.

Needless to say, all of this growth has been assisted by some of my favourite comfort foods.
Sure, my old standbys (potato salad and soup) played a role in this time of change and growth, but I also turned to the simple foods that have soothed my soul on countless occasions over the past few decades: good bread, cheese, olives, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. 


It really is the type of basic peasant fare that people have been enjoying for a few thousand years now, but there's a reason this food is turned to time and time again: it's not just because it's fairly inexpensive and easily accessible, but because it is gorgeously indulgent and comforting. Bread satiates hunger when it actually arises, and just happens to soak up good oil and vinegar rather beautifully. Olives are perfect, fleshy, salty little bites of wonder, and there's wondrous variety to be enjoyed: meaty Spanish black olives, briny kalamatas, green olives stuffed with garlic or pimento... so many to choose from, and delight in.
As an added bonus, as far as comfort foods go, this is a pretty healthy spread. 


I've tasted foods from around the world, but if I had to choose a last meal for myself, I'm quite certain that it would consist of olives, cheese, bread, and balsamic. Probably an excellent wine as well. For those of you who may be inclined to indulge that last bit, I like Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio best.

And so, a toast: to friendship, to self-care, and to appreciating all that we have... even the tiniest joys, such as these.


Friday, 4 November 2016

A Pile of Pierogies



In my last post, I mentioned how a vat of cheesy carbs can work wonders to soothe one's soul. Once again, we're going to contend with a glorious mess of potato and cheese, but in a completely different form this time around.

My ethnic background is quite mixed, but one solid corner of it is significantly Slavic: Ukrainian, Russian, a bit of Czech thrown in there for good measure. Although I'm not a huge fan of Eastern European cuisine (ask me how much borscht I've eaten over the last four decades...), I have to admit that pierogies (varenyky) are always a pleasure to devour.


These glorious little dumplings have made an appearance at every family funeral I've attended, and I remember many sleepless nights sitting at the dining room table with my mother, filling and folding bite-sized versions of these for the buffet table.




Rich, Soft Pierogi Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cold mashed potatoes (very smoothly mashed!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened (you can also use vegetable shortening or Earth Balance)
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature (use very thick flax eggs for a vegan version)
  • 1 3/4 cups flour (if you're using gluten-free flour, make sure it has xanthan gum added to it!)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Extra flour as needed 
(Filling ingredients to follow)

Preparation:

Mix the mashed potatoes, butter, and egg yolks thoroughly until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Then add the water. 

Sift the flour with the cream of tartar and salt, then stir into the wet mixture. This will form a very soft, sticky dough, so you'll need to stir in extra flour in 2 tablespoon portions until the dough no longer sticks to your hands as you work with it. (The dough should still be very soft and fluffy feeling.) 

> Knead lightly until mixed throughly, then cover with a towel and let stand for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, preferably on a floured surface: it shouldn't stick to your rolling pin as you work. Cut circles out of it with a round cookie cutter or drinking glass (for small pierogies, use a small juice glass). 



Place a round of dough in the palm of your hand, and use your fingers to flatten the dough just a little bit. Scoop a small spoonful of the filling in the centre of the round, fold it over to form a half circle, and use your fingers to press the edges of the dough together, pinching the centre closed first, and then working outwards towards the edges. 

Make sure that the edge is sealed well, otherwise your filling will spill out while the pierogies are cooking. You can even use a fork to smoosh the edges together firmly, which will also create a lovely pattern around the edges.

Bring a pot of water to a low boil, and drop a few pierogies in at a time: don't cook too many at once! Stir very gently with the handle of a wooden spoon to keep them from touching the bottom, and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. They are generally done when they've puffed up a bit and float.


Remove the cooked pierogies with a slotted spoon, and place into serving bowls or dishes. Serve with sour cream (dairy or vegan), and if desired, chopped herbs like chives, green onions, sage, or parsley.
Note: You can also give them a quick fry in a little bit of butter or olive oil so they firm up a little and go a beautiful golden brown.



Fillings:

Pierogies can be filled with just about anything you can imagine, savoury or sweet. I've stuffed them with traditional fillings like potato and cheese or sauerkraut, but I've also made fillings like roasted squash with pine nuts, or sautéed leeks with wild mushrooms. Pierogies with fruit fillings are gorgeous too: sugared blueberries are wonderful to use, as are peaches, strawberries, or pears. Below are a few different ideas for filling options, but don't hold back from using your imagination and being creative!


Potato and Cheese Filling (VG):


  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes, allowed to cool
  • 1 cup cottage cheese or ricotta (or vegan equivalent)
  • Salt and pepper
Sautée the onion in the butter until it's tender and just starting to go transparent and golden. Combine it well with the potatoes and cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sauerkraut Filling (V):


  • 3 cups sauerkraut, drained and pressed to dry it out
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (dairy or vegan)
  • Salt and pepper

Chop the dried, rinsed kraut very finely. Cook the onion in the butter until it softens, then add in the kraut and sour cream, and season with salt and pepper. Cook this on low heat for about 15 minutes, or until it's tender and the flavours have blended well.


Kasha (Buckwheat) and Mushroom Filling (V):


  • 2 cups cooked buckwheat
  • 1 cup assorted mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • Salt and pepper
Sautée the onion in butter until it softens a bit, then add in the mushrooms. Stir well and cook on low heat until the mushrooms darken and release some of their liquid. Add the cooked buckwheat, remove from heat, stir well, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Berry Filling (V):


  • 2 cups whole blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, currants, or gooseberries
  • Granulated sugar
Place as many berries as you can in the centre of your pierogie round, and sprinkle with as much or as little sugar as you like. Fold and cook as you would a savoury version, and serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. 





Sunday, 16 October 2016

Funeral Potatoes



My family lived in Montreal when I was a child, and the neighbourhood we lived in was incredibly diverse in terms of people's cultural backgrounds and religions. On our street alone, my mother's closest friends were Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Mormon, respectively, and all the neighbours would get together for everything from barbecues to birthday parties.

Naturally, being such a close-knit community, we also gathered together whenever there was a death in the family. Funerary customs may have differed slightly between our various cultures, but the main themes of togetherness and food were universal. The matriarch of the Mormon family died during the summer before we moved away, and everyone on the block attended her memorial service. The family itself was quite large, and with all of us in attendance as well, you can just imagine how many people filled up their backyard. The gathering overflowed to the next-door neighbour's yard and out into the street, and there must have been at least 20 enormous buffet tables that kept being replenished every time we cleaned them out.

Aside from the trembling mountain of jello desserts that shall ever be burned into my mind, the one dish that I remember from that gathering was an incredible cheesy potato casserole thinger that one of the 90 aunts prepared for the buffet. She must have made a dozen trays of the stuff, because as soon as one tray was scraped clean by the ravenous horde, another would swiftly take its place. I remember this dish so clearly because it was so very different from the types of potato dishes that my Nordic/Slavic relatives made: it was a creamy celebration of gooey cheese and potato, and I must have had three helpings of the stuff.

I'd forgotten all about it until I started doing research into funeral foods around the world and came across this recipe on a blog about common Mormon recipes. Go figure. Apparently the dish is affectionately nicknamed "funeral potatoes" because it always shows up at luncheons after Mormon funerals, especially in Utah. Lucky mourners!

This is an incredibly delicious dish, and when people are in mourning, calories don't count. True fact: every tear shed negates about 50 calories, so go for seconds. Fifths, even.



Funeral Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons salted butter (or Earth Balance)
  • One large bag of frozen, shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 1 large Spanish onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup flour (gluten-free or regular)
  • 1 cup milk (dairy, soy, rice, or almond)
  • 2 cups chicken or onion bouillon
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or Gruyere cheese (or Daiya Shreds)
  • 1/2 cup grated old* cheddar or (Daiya shreds)
  • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (or soy-based substitutes)
  • 2 cups plain potato chips, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions or chives
  • Salt
  • Pepper
*I've made this with smoked applewood cheddar, beer cheddar, and even jalapeño havarti. It'll be delicious no matter what cheese you use.

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 350 or 375 degrees, depending on how hot yours gets.
Grease a 9" x 12"baking dish with some extra butter or Earth Balance, and set aside.

In a large, non-stick skillet or stock pot, heat your butter (or substitute) on medium-high, and once it has started to bubble festively, add in your onions.

Turn the heat down to medium and stir regularly until the onions soften and begin to go transparent.

Add in the flour and stir to blend into the flour, and after a minute or two, add the milk. You may have to whisk this to eliminate any lumpy bits.

Use that whisk to incorporate the broth, increasing the heat slightly and whisking regularly until the mixture starts to thicken a little bit. Lower the heat even more, and stir in the grated cheese and sour cream, blending everything together thoroughly. Taste it, and adjust salt as needed. If you're so inclined, this is where you'd crack some pepper into it.

Turn the heat off completely and add the hash brown potatoes into the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat everything thoroughly. Transfer this into your baking dish, smooth it with a spatula, and then sprinkle the crushed potato chips and chopped green onions over everything.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes. You're aiming for a nice, golden-brown topping that has bits of cheese bubbling up through it here and there.

Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before allowing the ravening masses to descend upon it.


Yeahhhh. That's a big dollop of creamy comfort food, right there.



Lead photo credit: jumanggy via Foter.com

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Put Brandy in It


"'Drink this.' I dashed some brandy into the water, and the colour began to come back to his bloodless cheeks."
- Dr. Watson, from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes 

Those of you who know me well are thoroughly aware of how much I love the Sherlock Holmes stories. Although I'm fond of the modern Cumberbatch depiction, Jeremy Brett's Sherlock is the one that won my heart, and I've devoured all the Arthur Conan Doyle stories so many times over that I could probably recite them verbatim.

One thing that I noted as I pored through those stories was how Dr. Watson doled out brandy at every turn, as though it were a cure-all for any illness. Has someone fainted? Give them brandy. They're sobbing in abject misery? Brandy. Elderly person complaining of something or other? Brandy them up.

Personally, I think this is a rather wonderful way of tending to various ills, whether physical or emotional. Below is my own recipe for a hot toddy. Although I make these when I feel a sore throat or a head cold coming on, I've also been known to cup them in my hands and sip them slowly when grave news has come my way. 



Ingredients:

  • 2 generous tablespoons of brandy 
  • 1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup 
  • 1/4 of a fresh lemon 
  • 1 cup freshly boiled hot water 
  • 1 bag of orange pekoe or other black tea 
  • 1 thin slice of ginger (if desired) 

Preparation:

Bring a kettle of water to a rolling boil. 
Pop the teabag into a small pot and cover with a cup of water. Allow the bag to steep until the tea is as strong as you like it best. 
Pour the honey or syrup into the bottom of your favourite mug, then add the brandy and lemon juice, and stir together to make a glorious slurry. If you're adding in a slice of ginger, pop that in now. 
Add the steeped tea to this mixture, stir it well, and enjoy it while it's hot. 

These drinks have a way of warming people to the core after an autumn or winter funeral, when everyone is back inside and in need of soothing. They're great served with ginger snaps or shortbread biscuits, especially the rosemary cookies mentioned in a previous post.

Blessings to you.





 Lead photo credit: shutterbean

Sunday, 9 October 2016

It's Chowder



“The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Yes, it's another soup recipe, and you know why? Because soup is glorious and comforting and is a major theme of this blog—just check the URL. There will be many more soups in the future as well, I promise you, but this one holds a special place in my heart.

My apologies for the delayed post: I've been trying to publish at least one blog post a week, but I've been travelling and immersed in various bits of strangeness over the last couple of weeks and haven't been able to concentrate on my own writing. Mea culpa, dear readers.
The days are growing cooler, with nighttime temperatures that just barely skim above freezing. It's a nebulous time in which the days are still quite warm, but we can start to see our breath once the sun begins to set. I've set fires in the wood stoves almost nightly, and heaps of hand-knit, warm woollen socks have been pulled out of storage.

This soup has been a favourite of mine since earliest childhood, and I have made it on countless occasions when I have needed its comfort. 
I need its comfort this weekend. 
It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and although there is much to be thankful for, this is also a time of grief and loss for me: for what might have been, as well as for old wounds whose scabs have been torn open rather cruelly and needlessly. 

I've made several different versions of this chowder (chowdah, to my east coast friends!) to suit different people's dietary needs, but it's gorgeous in all of its many incarnations. I'm sharing the original (pescetarian + dairy) recipe that my family has been preparing for the past 40 or so years, with vegan and AIP-compliant variations listed afterwards.

This chowder is made in three parts and then combined.



Ingredients:

Part 1: Broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups firm white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup white onion, diced (or 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup thinly sliced leek whites)
  • 3/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced
Bring the water to a rolling boil in a large soup pot, then add the potatoes, onions, and carrots. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender (usually 8-12 minutes).

Part 2: Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (standard or gluten-free, your call)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk, 1 cup half-and-half cream if you'd like this soup to be really rich and creamy)
  • 2 cups old cheddar cheese, grated

Begin part 2 once you've set the vegetables to simmer.  Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, then whisk the flour in bit by bit to make a good, thick roux.
Slowly add the milk, whisking quickly the entire time.  Add pepper and mustard, then add the grated cheddar in small quantities, using a spoon to stir the mixture in order to blend it evenly.
Once it's completely mixed, pour this mixture into the vegetable broth. 

Part 3: Clams
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free/vegan as required)
  • 3 cans (10 oz ea.) baby clams, including the juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Combine these three ingredients in a bowl, and then add to the soup pot. Use a large spoon to stir everything thoroughly, then allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes longer. 

You can serve it immediately (preferably accompanied by really good bread and a crisp white wine), but the soup is even better the next day once all the flavours have had a chance to combine.



Vegan version:

Swap out the clams for diced oyster mushrooms, and use coconut, soy, almond, or rice milk in lieu of dairy. You can add a bit of miso paste to get the briny umami note that the clam juice would have provided.
To thicken it, you could try using Daiya shreds, but I've never tried using them in this way. I have, however, made the soup thick and creamy by adding pureed white cannellini beans to it.



AIP version:

Use diced yucca, turnip, sweet potato, or rutabaga instead of white potatoes, OR eliminate that ingredient entirely and just pack the chowder full of other fish instead. I like to add chunks of white fish to mine, as well as crab meat and shrimp.
Coconut milk is ideal for adding creaminess as well as a tiny hint of sweetness. If you'd like this thickened, pureed steamed cauliflower works like a charm, though I've also used a roux made with a tiny bit of tapioca flour mixed with olive oil for that purpose.

I hope this soup comforts you and your loved ones beautifully.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stellar Sandwiches for Funeral Feasts


Anyone who's ever attended a funeral buffet will undoubtedly remember the sandwich tray. Depending on the deceased's ancestry, one might find baked ham and cheese buns, mortadella on focaccia bread, pulled pork in a kaiser roll, or liverwurst on dark rye.

If you're planning a funeral or memorial service and are staring blankly at a wall trying to figure out what to feed everyone, take a deep breath, and know that you can depend on tea sandwiches. They're the ideal foods for such events because they can be eaten with one hand whilst chatting with friends and family members, and tend to be tidy enough that they won't erupt all over one's formalwear.
I was once served a slice of Swedish "sandwich cake" (Smörgåstårta) that was truly a thing of beauty: multiple layers of fish paste, shrimp, sliced hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese between thin layers of bread. That's a bit much for a funeral buffet, but it just goes to show that one can rise above the standard melty ham and cheese bake and add a bit of variety to a solemn affair.



I tend to prefer vegetarian fillings in funeral sandwiches, mainly because plant-based ingredients don't go quite as dangerously manky as chicken salad or smoked salmon if left out on a buffet table at room temperature for several hours.
When it comes to the breads and such being used, that's really a matter of individual taste + dietary requirements. For the sake of presentation, it's nice to use a variety of different breads in various ways, such as using pumpernickel to make rolled rounds, or stuffed mini croissants. Knowing how difficult it is to find food that won't poison me when I attend events, I tend to be the one who brings gluten-free or paleo dishes that we Celiac folks can munch in solidarity. GF breads can be found at most supermarkets and health food stores, and though paleo rolls are a bit time consuming to make, they turn out rather delicious. If you can get your hands on corn flour-based tortillas, those are also wonderful for GF wraps.

The fillings listed below are categorised as vegetarian with V, vegan with VG, and  Paleo with P. There's a lot of crossover, and of course recipes can always be adapted by swapping ingredients in or out. For example, one can use mashed avocado in lieu of any kind of mayonnaise, Tofutti instead of cream cheese, etc.



Chick'n Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts (VG)
Pulse drained, canned chickpeas in a food processor with a handful each of dried cranberries and walnuts. Mix in some vegan mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper, and spread between slices of grainy bread.

Cucumber, Dill, and Almond "Feta" Soft Cream Cheese (VG, P)
Make a batch of soft almond cheese, and spread it between slices of your favourite bread. Top with thinly sliced cucumber, a sprinkle of salt, a sprig of dill, and even some minced capers, if you so desire. I like this best inside very light, mini GF scones.

Artichoke Muffaletta (VG, P)
Drained artichoke hearts are put through a food processor with a bit of vegan mayonnaise or avocado, and then seasoned with salt, pepper, Cajun spice mix, and tabasco sauce. That's then packed into a mini bun and topped with chopped green olives, minced green onion, and thinly shredded lettuce.

Tomato Slices on Basil Pesto (VG)
A classic: basil pesto spread on whatever you like, and topped with a slice of firm, ripe tomato. Add a bit of salt and pepper, and you're golden.

Hummus with Beet Carpaccio (VG, P option)
Not only rich in flavour, the textures of creamy hummus and slices of sweet roasted beet pair together wonderfully. Use golden beets to avoid inevitable pink staining that red ones will cause. To make a paleo version of this, make hummus from sweet potatoes, cauliflower, or parsnips instead of chick peas.

Mushroom Pate with Dijon (VG, P)
Spread whole-grain Dijon mustard on light or dark rye, top with sliced mushroom pate and either a slice of bread-and-butter gherkin, or a bit of Boston lettuce.

Black Bean and Avocado Bites (VG)
This is great as a filling in mini croissants: use a fork (or food processor) to mash black beans into a thick paste, and season that with salt, pepper, chopped green onions, and a bit of lime juice. Slice open the little pastries, slather some of the black bean mash inside, and top that with a slice or two of avocado and a pinch of salt before closing.

Sliced Hard-Boiled Egg with Veggie "Caviar" (V, P)
These fancy appetizer bites are a nod to my Germanic/Nordic heritage: spread a bit of butter or Earth Balance on flatbread, top with a spray of arugula, a couple of slices of hard-boiled egg, and a small dollop of vegan caviar.

Provolone with Mango Chutney (V)
Mango chutney's tart/sweet combo complements provolone's creaminess in the best way imaginable. Spread multigrain bread with Earth Balance (or butter, or other vegan margarine) on one piece, mango chutney on the other, and sandwich a slice of provolone and a piece of frisée lettuce between them.

Roasted Asparagus Tips with Garlic-Herb Aioli (VG, P)
Roast asparagus tips with a bit of olive oil and good salt, then lay them out between slices of bread (or wrapped up in a tortilla) that's been spread with paleo or vegan aioli.



Olive Tapenade and Cucumber (VG)
The salty creaminess of vegan olive tapenade is a perfect contrast to the crisp sweetness of thinly sliced cucumber. This is great on focaccia bread or any other base that has some firm chewiness to it. (Note: If you use store-bought tapenade, check its ingredients as many varieties have anchovies added to them.)

Baba Ghanoush with Roasted Red Pepper and Zucchini Slices (VG, P)
Slice a mini pita pocket in half, spread baba ghanoush inside each half, add a layer each of roasted zucchini and red pepper slices, roll up, spear with a toothpick.

Cornbread and Guacamole Bites (V, VG option)
Slice mini cornbread muffins in half and fill with thickly mashed guacamole. Close so they look like mini green burgers.

Cauliflower "Egg" Salad (VG, P)
This one works for the autoimmune paleo diet as well. Combine steamed cauliflower florets with vegan mayo, minced celery, onion, salt, pepper, and even a pinch of turmeric for flavour. Pack into mini rolls or roll it up into wraps.

Ploughman's (V)
Slather Branston Pickle (or other favourite sandwich spread) between hearty bread slices along with with sliced aged cheddar and finely chopped pickled onions.

Tofu Banh Mi Rolls (VG)
Take mini rolls and fill them (generously) with vinegar-marinated carrot and daikon radish matchsticks, fried tofu strips, and lettuce.

Almond Butter with Apple (VG, P)
This is a great option for kids attending the funeral, as it's one they probably won't feel intimidated by. Spread almond butter on your bread of choice, top with peeled, thinly sliced red or yellow apple, and a drizzle of honey or agave syrup.

Cashew Cream "Cheese" with Roasted Strawberry Slices (VG, P)
A little fussy to make, but well worth the effort. The cashews need to be pre-soaked to make the "cheese" and the strawberries will need to be pre-roasted, but once the prep work is done, you can spread everything between slices of good, firm bread and dig in.