Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Easy Is That?

Ladies and men - the moment has finally come: My Ina Garton cookbook collection is complete!

It happened yesterday. There was an unassuming looking cardboard box sitting on the table. As I got closer, I saw it - my name printed in the "attention to" and Amazon printed in perfect little letters along the side of the box. I'm not sure what their slogan is, but "Delivering smiles, one box at a time" should be it if it's not already! I tore open the box like a kid on Christmas morning, and there it was: How Easy Is That? Well, Ina, let me tell you - it's pretty easy! I can't wait to get to work on some new recipes! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joy the Baker

Ok, friends!

I have become a fan of a great food blog called Joy The Baker She's hilarious, and she's darn good at what she does.

I got the vegan cream of mushroom soup recipe that I made for the retreat last weekend from her blog, and as I had so many requests for it, I have pasted it for you below! I encourage you to check out her blog and become a follower. You will be hooked!

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cashew Cream

Makes about 18 cups (12 people)

For the Soup:
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium yellow onion, chopped
9 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Amino Acids)
3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (vegan please)
about 3 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
9 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste

For the Cashew Cream:
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cup water
*Substitute Cashew Cream with 3/4 cup half and half or 8 ounces of silken tofu

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions to hot oil and saute until translucent and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook until mushrooms are cooked and broken down, about 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add cracked pepper and  vegetable stock and cook at a simmer until mushrooms are completely soft.  This took me about 10 to 15 minutes.

While the soup simmers, prepare the cashew cream.  In a blender, combine raw cashews and water.  Blend on high until smooth.  Pour into a measuring cup and set aside.  Don’t worry about washing the blender… we’re going to use it to blend the soup.

When mushrooms are cooked through, add about one third of the soup to the blender.  Hot soup rises high in the blender so definitely be careful how high you fill the blender.  Blend soup on low, increasing the speed to high, until no large mushroom chunks remain.  Pour blended soup into a clean pot or large bowl.  Blend the remaining soup in batches.  *If using silken tofu instead of cashew cream.  Blend the silken tofu in with the mushrooms and broth.

Add the cashew cream to the blended soup and stir to incorporate.

Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot that you cooked the soup in.  In batches, pour the blended soup into the fine mesh strainer and work the soup through the strainer with a rubber spatula.  Don’t use a wooden spoon… you could get splinters in your soup… seriously.  Heat and serve the strained soup.  Or place in a freezer safe container for a few weeks down the road.

Let me know how it turns out!!

Love always,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mammoth Yoga Retreat

Picture this: A mountain view. Sunny blue skies. White snow. A beautiful kitchen. 8 beautiful woman celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday. 2 yoga classes a day. Skiing moguls in amazing mountain conditions at Mammoth Mountain. A stack of blueberry pancakes with all the fixings. Lauren in a chef coat in her dream kitchen.

What? Lauren in a chef coat? Yes, friends! For all of you who have been guests in my living rooms and kitchens in Montreal, L.A and Vancouver, for all of you who have sat at my dinner table or on the floor around my coffee table, laughing and chatting away, for all of you who have enjoyed the tastes of my latest recipes, for all of you who cheered me on at my decision to leave lululemon and go to culinary school, I dedicate this entry to you. For without your support and encouragement, I never would have had the courage to agree to be the private chef on a yoga retreat for 8 beautiful woman in Mammoth mountain last weekend! 

 Thursday evening of last week, I left for Mammoth Mountain with the very talented and inspiring yoga instructor, and owner of Adventure Yoga Retreats (, Ted McDonald, the car packed to the brim with food and supplies, menu planned and in hand, butterflies in my stomach, and a silly smile on my face. “Oh my goodness – who am I? What did I just get myself into?” I thought to myself as we got closer and closer to the mountain. Over the course of 3 days, I prepared 3 breakfasts, 2 dinners, 3 afternoon snacks, and 1 very special birthday “cake.” 

 The menu?

A breakfast spread of homemade granola, dried fruit and nuts, greek yogurt, fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs and oatmeal, with a guest appearance of my famous chocolate chip banana bread on Sunday.

Homemade guacamole and chips, asparagus soup with herbed goat cheese balls (thank you Giada de Laurentiis!), vegan cream of mushroom soup with cashew cream (thank you Joy The Baker!, bok choy salad with sautéed almonds and sunflower seeds, mixed greens with avocado, dried cranberries, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and red onions, chicken stuffed with goat cheese and basil, quinoa, roasted root vegetables, and sesame roasted asparagus.

 And most importantly – dessert! Lemon yogurt cake, homemade crème brulee, watermelon salad, and a tower of salted caramel filled chocolate cupcakes, topped with chocolate ganache and candied hazelnuts for the birthday girl on Sunday night.

 I’m proud to say that everything was served hot and on time, and that the food was greeted by rave reviews. To make it all the more wonderful, each one of the ladies on the retreat was absolutely wonderful!

Kristin, Beth, Maia, Diana, Suzanne, Janet, Anne and Minta – you ladies are all shining examples of the strong women that this world needs, and I’m so happy to have had the chance to meet you!

Now I’m going to stop babbling and show you some more pictures! But before I do, I raise my glass to you in cheers, and remind you to trust. Trust that here is exactly where you need to be right now. Have faith and confidence in your fabulous self. Turn your can’ts into cans, and your dreams into plans. And one day, you might find yourself in a chef coat, smiling as you lovingly assemble a birthday cake, every so often staring out across a 10 person dinner table into the backyard with a mountain view, shaking your head at the beauty and magic of it all. Or something like that…

 All my love,


Friday, April 1, 2011

The French Alps, 12 600ft up the top of Auguille Du Midi, The Eiffel Tour, The Moulin Rouge, La Duree, Me and lots of pastries...

I’m back from Chamonix and Paris, and despite working out and skiing everyday, I’m quite certain I am a few pounds heavier than I was when I left (last night instead of saying, “Hi love!” my boyfriend said, “Hey love handle!” Should I take this personally? hm…). All I can say is: Oops! I suppose I was naïve to think this wasn’t bound to happen…wishful thinking at its best!

Are there ever moments in your life where things are just so beautiful and surreal that you think, “Who AM I? And how the heck did I get so cool as to be here?” I had at least a dozen of such moments this trip. One of the best of them was when I skied past a glacier at Les Grands Montets in Chamonix. One wrong step of the ski, and down the glacier you go, never to breathe again. Sort of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

 I might be smiling but I assure you, I am scared out of my mind! Also notice that I look like a small 12 year old boy in my ski gear. HOT!

Dean Decas - one of the top 100 ski instructors in the world - I got to ski with him - um - WHAT????

 Another of these glorious moments was standing under the vastness of the Eiffel Tour. This was my second time to this stunning piece of architecture, but it was just as humbling as the first time. Perhaps the bigger magic of it all is knowing that the whole world knows about the Eiffel Tower. So standing there in a weird way made me feel connected to the whole world…is that crazy? Perhaps, but it certainly was a nice thought as I stood staring at the beauty of the structure, my face lit and my eyes shining in the reflection of the light.

 Tony and Ted - lovers - dance and sing in the rain on the way to the Eiffel town - isn't it sweet?

 There is so much more to say about this trip, but let’s skip to the important stuff, shall we? FOOD!

So you know you have a serious obsession with chocolate and all things pastry when your boyfriend starts worrying and is genuinely concerned that you are an addict:

“Lauren, I just think you should know that it’s not normal behavior to have an éclair for breakfast.”

Thanks, tips! But you cannot tell me that life is normal when I’m in Paris, the land of beautiful pastry shops and arguably the best sweets in the world! He tried to educate me on delayed gratification: why couldn’t I wait until after lunch to eat the pastry that was sitting right in front of me, taunting me, begging me to eat it and all its beauty? Well, I would argue that I had indeed practiced delayed gratification – all that time I spent waiting to go back to Paris to eat again? Delay. Getting to eat pastries for breakfast in Paris? Gratification, baby! Hence: delayed gratification – I do believe I am an expert :)


I’m back in North America now, and though I haven’t had a single pastry since I’ve been back, much less one for breakfast, I do encourage you to! Throw caution to the wind, tilt your head back, and chow down on that delectable breakfast pastry! Just don’t tell anyone but me :)

Love always,

Your love handle
Otherwise known as the luckiest girl in the world