A week ago was the big move. From condo to house. You wouldn’t believe how much can accumulate in a 1 bedroom apartment, especially when you have a fondness for cookbooks and dried beans. All my houseplants don’t make it that easy to move, either, but I was incredibly grateful for everyone’s help to move us into our new place.
When helping with a move, there are ways to help even if you don’t have lots of muscle power (like me!). My mom, even though she can pump more weight than me by far, so thoughtfully, offered to help by making a veritable feast for everyone helping with the move. Everyone raved about the Mango BBQ Beans which were better this time with black eyed peas, and as usual my mom made a nice buttermilk-based coleslaw from America’s Test Kitchens, our family French Potato Salad, hummus with hamburgers and sausages for the carnivores. As a forward-thinker, she made tons of food so there were leftovers. This way, Rob and I didn’t have to think about making food for a while. And feed our friends both lunch and dinner, since it took that long to help us move.
Once all the boxes were moved in, we made sure we had a bed with sheets so we could crash that night. My next priority room was the kitchen (it took 5 days for me to hook my laptop to the internet!). While pantry items are still all over the place in unpacked boxes, the major appliances, knives, cutlery, plates, spices, etc, have all found a place in the kitchen. I could wiggle my way around the kitchen by the end of the weekend which felt great.
The first meal I made in our new home was this Quinoa and Red Lentil Kitchari, adapted from The 30-Minute Vegan. I wanted something quick, tasty and healthy. This is an endlessly variable recipe, throwing in your favourite vegetables, mixing up the herbs, swapping the miso and ginger for lime juice or toasted sesame oil.
Kitchari, according to Reinfeld, is a healing meal according to Ayurveda, a traditional medicine from India. At its core, it is a mixture of two grains, in this case quinoa and red lentils, which both cook up quickly. Other recipes use mung beans and basmati rice with more traditional Indian flavours, but really anything goes.
This was a simple porridge-type stew, like a lentil-based dal with crunchy quinoa. Not only was this a great dish to eat, it was simple to prepare without too much fuss. I could throw in any vegetable and work with the herbs in the garden, and the items I still had left in my fridge. In this version, you have great texture from the cabbage and colour from the carrots. We debated which flavour was more pronounced, but I thought the dill worked great with the hint of miso. My friend thought ginger was more prominent. In any case, we all enjoyed it.
When life seems to be so chaotic, it was great to come back to eat this and bring me back to some peace. I just haven’t figured out the best place to photograph my meals in the new house! The scourge of an East-facing kitchen.
Peanut butter and banana are a classic combination. Warm caramelized banana with peanut butter is even better. Add in some rolled oats, chia seeds, vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, and you have a crazy concoction. A crazy, wonderful breakfast concoction. Or dinner, because you love it so much.
Ashley calls this a banana scramble, but I see it as a huge, fluffy pancake. Her description as a melty gooey chewy bananer oat goodness fits much better, actually. The banana becomes soft and caramelized as it is permeated with the peanut butter. The rolled oats and chia seeds add bulkiness and texture. It reminds me of a stovetop version of the Dark Chocolate Banana Coconut Almond Cookies, which are soft from the bananas, but here, you eat it right from the stove, ooey-gooey in its warmness.
I have made this a few times, and the recipe is very flexible. You can use chia seeds, ground flax or even wheat germ to help keep it together. Instead of banana, you could use apple sauce, mashed pumpkin or sweet potato. The amount of nondairy milk is up to you and your preference. It should be a bit thick, but not dry. I like to err on the side of wet. Chia seeds definitely make this an easier thing to flip, though, and 2 smaller pancakes would help to flip as well. Wheat germ was nice because it was more fluffy and I added more milk. Especially with wheat germ, it can be a bit finicky to keep it all together, so the name scramble is quite fitting.
This is the wheat germ version. After frying, It may look like this:
So just stick it together and top with bananas (see top photo) and no one would be the wiser.. Personally, in this case, as unphotogenic as it is, I prefer the super fluffy pancake that doesn’t easily keep together then a flippable pancake that is a bit sturdier. I like to eat fluffy goodness.
I swear, I don’t eat mangoes every day (Rob could take that honour for the past few weeks, though). It may seem like it, though, since I happen to be posting those recipes more quickly. While I don’t share all my recipes, I have a treasure trove of half-finished posts, some with photos, others with a story, and most of them with an ingredient list and a scribbling of my thoughts about the dish.
There is something about meals with mango that makes me want to share the recipe right away. Adapted from Veggie Belly, this is savoury use of fresh mango in a beauty of a salad. Red quinoa is combined with fresh blueberries, chopped mango and dried cranberries and chopped snow peas for crunch. It is then tossed in a subtle lemon-basil dressing and topped with toasted pecans. Nothing is overpowering, nothing screams at you. Everything works well for a simple, yet flavourful salad. A great way to highlight different summer produce in a healthy salad.
My friends recently hosted an international-themed potluck. Everyone brought a dish from another country. A real melange of flavours.
While most of my cooking comes from an international menu, I used this opportunity to try a cuisine I knew next to nothing about: Indonesia. While I have cooked with tempeh, fermented tofu originating from Indonesia, I didn’t really know much else.
While browsing through Love Soup, I spotted this curious soup: it featured a host of vegetables including carrots, parsnips and yams (yes, I had a monster yam that weighed 900g and even another that weighed 1100g!), flavoured with earthy tones from cumin and garam masala, spiced with garlic, ginger and chili flakes, lightened with sourness from both tamarind and fresh lemon juice, and coming together with a hint of lusciousness from the peanut butter. My mouth is watering as I write this…
At first, I wasn’t sure how this would be a spicy soup: I substituted garam masala for the curry powder and was only using a small amount of chili flakes for such a large amount of soup. Have no fear, this is a zingy soup with all the right amount of zing. The culprit? The savior? Half a cup of grated ginger, tempered by the peanut butter. Boo-yah! Joanne pointed out I was on a ginger kick, and yes, I am loving it!
This soup has a great mix of flavours – warm yet spicy, creamy yet light, zingy and sour. Soups get the shaft in the summer, but I think they are great any time. Share this with friends, because it makes a lot of soup. It also freezes well.
My mom was mad at me the other day.
Because of me, she was buying expensive things in the grocery store.
I know I buy some pricy ingredients, but a little goes a long way. I try not to eat out too often, and find it hard to rationalize the high prices. I could buy so much fresh (expensive) produce, tempeh, and spices for the price of a meal in a restaurant. It can be hard to justify sometimes.
Anyways, back to the mangoes. When I was home last weekend for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (aka the ultimate cycle), my mom had picked up some mangoes for breakfast. Rob and I stole some of the extras to fuel us later in the week.
After really enjoying the Chickpea Salad with Mexican Mango Dressing earlier, I wanted to try a variation of the mango dressing with ginger. Earlier, I had bookmarked this tantalizing Thai lettuce wrap with sesame-soy baked tempeh and a zippy mango ginger sauce in The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (recipe here).
I adapted the recipe slightly, causing it to take more than 30 minutes to make, but I think that steaming tempeh is important. Since steaming in the microwave is so simple, I try not to forget that step.
Initially I was a bit disappointed, because the sauce was really zippy. Almost overpowering, but I was so pleased with the leftovers. Finally, a tempeh dish, a salad at that, that tastes great as leftovers!
First the sauce: fresh mango was pureed with freshly grated ginger, along with lime juice and soy sauce. I also added a touch of chili flakes, but add to taste since the ginger is fairly zingy. I found this mellowed out much better the next day. It still had a kick but not as pungent. Just whirl in your blender and you have a fabulous sauce.
Next, the tempeh is marinaded in a simple sesame oil and soy sauce marinade, and feel free to marinade it as long as possible. I was only able to marinade it for 5 minutes, but longer is always better. After baking, the marinade was completely absorbed. The steaming helped to keep the tempeh pieces moist, even as leftovers. Because the mango sauce is the main star of the wrap, the loss of sauce around the tempeh is not detrimental to the dish (which had been our problem previously).
Those are the main ingredients to the wrap. Next find yourself some large Romaine lettuce leaves, top with cucumber, sliced tomatoes, some chopped mint, add your tempeh, slather with the mango sauce, wrap, roll and eat! For the wrap in the photo, my eyes were bigger than my mouth, and I had to split it into two wraps for all that filling!
I also like the idea of tossing the dressing with zucchini noodles, as in this Mint and Mango Marinated Zucchini Spaghetti. This dressing would need to be thinned out a bit with water if you wanted to use it overtop a traditional lettuce salad.
Salads can be costly.
I’m not talking about the lettuce, or the vegetable toppings, or even the dressings…
I needed to buy a bigger pannier for my bike when I started to eat huge salads at work. One container for the lettuce, another for the toppings and another for the dressing. It takes up a lot of room, but the fresh salad is definitely worth it.
Last year, I lamented that my Mexican salad with the creamy avocado dressing needed to be eaten soon after assembly. Once dressed, lettuce doesn’t last that long (more the power to wilted kale salads!). This year, when I spotted a tomato-based Mexican salad at Namaste Gurl, I was smitten. Her salads were gorgeous and while her tomato-based dressing seemed quite unorthodox, it sounded delicious. If I kept all the components separate, I knew I could enjoy this salad all week long.
Sauces and dressings are what clinch a meal. Fresh, tasty produce helps, too, but oftentimes the dressing pulls it all together. And in this salad, the dressing is what really shines. It is a light, silky smooth tomato and red pepper sauce with a hint of cheese from nutritional yeast, smokiness from smoked paprika and zip from the chili flakes. Cumin and oregano keep this Mexican. You could add your favourite vegetables to the mix, to replace the cabbage, but I highly recommend the red pepper which conferred a sweet silkiness to the dish, almost as if it were roasted. I have never pureed my tomato sauces, but this dressing was so creamy because I used my immersion blender to make it smooth. The sauce was so good, I had to stop myself from gobbling it up straight from the stovetop.
Instead, I held out to use it as the dressing for this Mexican salad with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado overtop mixed greens. Be creative with your toppings – add in some whole grain crackers, fresh bell pepper, cucumber, etc. Romaine worked well with this combination as well. I bet there are countless things this sauce could be used for, and I am sure I will whip it up again when I make my first batch of zucchini noodles!
Every year, over 2000 cyclists bike between Ottawa and Kingston with the Ottawa Bicycle Club for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This is not a charity event; everyone does it for fun. There are many different routes, but the most popular is the “Classic” 177-km route that you do in both directions on smaller country roads between the 2 cities. My Dad has done this for over 9 years and when he announced this year would be his last, I wanted to join him. Somehow (and thankfully!), other friends also thought this would be a great idea to do. We trained earlier this summer, as soon as the snow melted, in between rain, fierce winds, battling challenges with riding with heavier panniers, back on my hybrid and even renting an uncomfortable cruiser while in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, my Dad broke his wrist 2 weeks before Rideau Lakes, so he wasn’t able to cycle with us. However, he was quite omnipresent by waiting for us at random places along the route. Sometimes with the camera ready to catch us in action (a cast makes photo-taking hard, too, though!). This is me and Rob in action:
Thankfully, despite ominous forecasts, we had beautiful weather: mostly overcast, with some lovely tailwinds in both directions. My brother had spooked me by telling me this was a very challenging course, with lots of killer hills. Tackling the tough hills around Toronto allowed me to feel more comfortable attacking the steep hill near Westport. The other rolling hills were fun!
I was thankful for such a great group of friends for the ride, but almost thought I was doomed after cycling 140km on Day 2, at the last rest station in Ashton. I had stomach cramps and a bloated belly. I was not feeling well. My legs were sore (understandably) but still pushing well. But my belly was not happy. I ended up sucking it up, taking ibuprofen, and biking to the finish with the group. I am still not sure what is bothering my belly (digestion problems persist) so I don’t think it has anything to do with biking per se. Perhaps it was something I ate earlier? Who knows. Now is the time to recover.
Over the course of my training, I tried a lot of different energy balls. I will post them in due time, but this is what I brought with me to Kingston. Adapted from Radiance 4 Life (recipe also posted here), I decreased the amount of cacao nibs since I had a hard time integrating them all in the batter. The malty flavour of maca combines well with vanilla which are the dominant flavours in these slightly sweet balls, packed with cashews, almonds and oats. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch with nice change of texture. These are a delicious treat, and since they are packed with great ingredients, a delicious snack even if not cycling monumental distances.
After my success with combining grains into my morning porridge (technically combining seeds since it was a quinoa-amaranth-chia concoction), I decided to try again with another multigrain breakfast. I spotted this combination of oatmeal, quinoa and kasha in The 30-Minute Vegan (recipe also posted here). You have to tend to it a bit more than traditional oatmeal since each grain gets added in separately, but it created a wonderful texture. You get the nutty quinoa with the creamy oatmeal and truth be told, this was my first time eating kasha, but the combination was wonderful. I added in some sweetened soymilk at the end so I did not feel like it needed anything additional with the bananas. However, use this as a template to add your favourite oatmeal toppings, with the bonus of a new texture for your breakfast porridge.
Armed with pounds of juicy Navel oranges, I turned to Radiant Health, Inner Wealth for inspiration. Tess loves to use fresh citrus juice in her cooking, and I was drawn to this recipe because it included some of my favourite ingredients – baby spinach, orange, almonds. However, there’s that pesky raw red onion. At restaurants, I will usually pick the onion out because they can be incredibly spicy and can detract from the rest of the salad.
At home, though, I know the trick to make this onion palatable and a welcome addition to the salad. America’s Test Kitchens recommends soaking the sliced red onion in water for at least 10 minutes, and it actually works. You lose that rawness, but you still get the crisp, clean onion flavour, that complements the salad as opposed to being moody and detracting. Since I knew I would have some for leftovers, I threw my onions into the leftover dressing, which also works great.
So this salad is everything you think it would taste like. It is light and refreshing with baby spinach, juicy oranges, crunchy toasted almonds and the twist is the light balsamic vinaigrette. And do not fear the red onion if you come over to my place to eat (trust me, if I will eat it, it is ok!).
When you eat alone, you may eat things that are odd. Cereal for dinner? I did that one too many times while in university. So quick and easy! Unless you are making steel cut oatmeal, regular or quick cooking oatmeal falls into the same category: quick and easy meal. Since exploring savoury oatmeal for breakfast, I didn’t think twice about whipping up a batch of oatmeal after coming home from Vancouver and then again for breakfast the next day. I was craving something warm and homey, after eating a lot of raw foods last week.
With Vancouver still on my mind (the sushi capital of Canada), I decided to spice up my ponzu-flavoured savoury oatmeal with strips of toasted nori and goji berries. Seemingly odd ingredients, but all hailing from somewhere in Asia, it worked really well together! The goji berries plumped up nicely and offered a hint of sweetness with some chewiness. The nori brought a comforting sushi-flavour to the dish, the citrus from the ponzu was light and refreshing and the quick-cooking oatmeal was slightly lumpy, but in a good reminds-me-of-rice kind of way.
I have been experimenting with more unusual ingredients lately: maca, delicious! Carob, yup. And now goji berries. Can I blame Tess’ new cookbook all about superfoods? Perhaps… but blame isn’t the right word, praise is more like it. While I also believe that common fruits and vegetables are superfoods with all their vitamins and minerals, it is nice to spice things up with new ingredients. Taste is the most important, though, which is something I will never sacrifice (the health benefits of goji berries may be overstated).
But let me share a secret: these wacky “superfoods” don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Even seaweed (nori, etc) and dried mushrooms can be expensive at health food stores. However, people have been eating seaweed and goji berries for years. Head to where they are native to find cheap supplies – and no, I don’t mean China. Head to Chinatown or your favourite Asian grocery store (Sunny!). Here, goji berries may be labelled as red medlar, though, which is why they have gone under my radar until now. Goji berries are so much cheaper, only a buck or two, whereas I know Whole Foods charges a lot more.
While goji berries are a bit lackluster straight from the bag – they taste like a tart cherry in the guise of a dried raisin – they are much better once they are plumped up in the oatmeal. Because they aren’t cloyingly sweet like most dried fruit, this paired well with the savoury nori and ponzu sauce.
I love soups. Mostly one-bowl complete meal kind of soups, but I have ventured out into some lighter soups as well. Thick soups, thin soups, chunky soups, pureed soups – what is there not to like?
I know some people don’t like pureed soups. It reminds them of baby food.
Recently, I was visiting an old friend for dinner, where she made a nice carrot, sweet potato and orange soup which she also fed to her 1-year-old son. Suffice it to say, this kid had no taste! The hooting and screeching was incredible once he tried the soup, which my friend attributed to his aversion to garlic and onion. He was much happier with a macaroni salad, instead.
Not that I remember what baby food tastes like from my childhood, but simple ingredients can lead to a delicious soup. An old recipe of mine from university used 4 ingredients for a decadent butternut squash and roasted red pepper soup. I wonder if Baby T would like that soup (onion but no garlic!).
Sometimes, though, I want something a bit more edgy, a bit more complex.
Welcome this Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup that I adapted from Color Me Vegan (original recipe also posted here). The name sounds similar to my old stand-by, and with roasted red pepper as a main ingredient, I knew I would like it. I just didn’t know I would love it. Thankfully, while the ingredient list is longer, it is just as easy to make once you’ve got everything assembled. This is an adult soup, though.
I modified the original recipe slightly, choosing to roast my own red peppers (easy and tastes better) while I chopped and cooked the first couple of ingredients. I substituted a large sweet potato for the potato and only used 1 cup of soy milk to get my desired consistency. I also omitted the cayenne, but a dash of red pepper flakes would have been a great addition.
The result was a complex, but still light and creamy soup. The sweetness from the roasted red peppers works well with the carrots, and the pureed sweet potato adds a creamy sweetness as well. I found the sherry to be a welcome flavour, and a great way to cook the vegetables without any oil. But the secret ingredient was the miso. It really added a depth of flavour that had you begging for more. Baby T may not want it, but if you are older, you will.
As I’ve mentioned, Rob loves broccoli. Last week, I made Rob a sweet and savoury broccoli salad from Tess’ new superfoods cookbook Radiance 4 Life due out next month (I had the inside scoop as a recipe tester!). However, after using the crowns, I left with 3 large broccoli stems. What to do, what to do… they are definitely still good! Rob has made a delightful creamy broccoli dal from Vegan Yum Yum multiple times, which is filled with broccoli stems.. but I was hoping to try something new.
While flipping through Supermarket Vegan, a stir-fry caught my eye since it was filled with broccoli slaw, which is simply julienned or matchstick broccoli stems. Perfect! Except, I didn’t want to julienne 12 oz of broccoli by hand. I mean, I could, and I have in the past, but I wasn’t keen to do it this time.
Enter the mighty food processor. I finally looked at the other blades, and noticed there was one for julienning! In fact, I have a duplicate for julienning. In case it breaks, I suppose. (Aside, I wish I had a second base for my food processor because it IS cracking and falling apart! Ack! The forty-year-old food processor motor still runs but the plastic becomes brittle, gah!)
So, I peeled my broccoli stems, chopped them into smaller segments and threw them into the food processor. A bit of struggling as it was unbalanced but the food processor did its job. Not as pretty as when I do it by hand, but for a stir-fry, this is perfect. I added some grated carrot, pulled out some chopped frozen red pepper and was off to the stove. Within 15 minutes, dinner was ready. Despite such a simple cast of characters, this was a nice, simple stir-fry. The broccoli had a nice, sweet crunch that worked well with the carrot and red pepper. The addition of toasted peanuts really helped, along with the salty fermented black bean sauce. The original recipe also suggested bamboo shoots, which I didn’t think I had.. until I went through my pantry a few days later while packing (my pantry is such a treasure trove of interesting ingredients!). I have vowed to add it to my next stir-fry.
Where have stir-fries been all my life? Simple, quick and easy! I’d love to hear from you about your favourite sauces for stir-fries. Granted, leftovers aren’t as nice as the first night, but there are compromises I am willing to make for such a speedy dinner.
I don’t cook with broccoli that often. Rob does, though. A LOT. Once or twice a week, I kid you not. It is his favourite vegetable. In fact, he was quite distraught that it didn’t top the list of veggie superfoods. Number 11 isn’t too shabby if you ask me, since it was mainly leafy greens that beat every other vegetable.
While I have been exploring new vegetables that could be grown in my backyard, I don’t want to experience ingredient fatigue. Therefore, I have been incorporating non-garden veggies back into my meals. You see, broccoli (and cauliflower) attract a lot of bugs, and thus, didn’t make the cut for our virgin garden year. I will also be breaking out more sweet potato recipes, since they didn’t make the cut either (too much space needed). Nor watercress (needs a lot of water). Not even leek (harder to grow, not very prolific). I am also very sad that we decided not to grow bell peppers, because we were afraid they would never turn red (and what would be the point of non-red peppers? although we will have a chili pepper plant). We will be focusing our energies on easy-to-grow (and tasty) veggies and herbs. Our current list includes kale, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula, beets, kohlrabi, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, snow peas, snap peas, green beans, lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander, cilantro, Thai basil, mint, basil, thyme, oregano, chives, garlic chives, dill, lemon verbena, and the one strawberry plant we bought on impulse .
Sometimes you need quick-and-easy recipes, nothing too earth shattering, for times when you don’t want to think about dinner. This is that dish. There is nothing mind-blowing about this meal, but it is pleasingly tasty. Adapted from Appetite for Reduction, the recipe is a vegan spoof on the 40-clove chicken recipe that I had seen circulating the blogosphere, and even hails from a 1967 Gourmet recipe. This is a dish that combines roasted broccoli with roasted garlic in a spicy-lemon oregano dressing. It is not spicy from the garlic (since there are only 10 cloves of roasted garlic), but rather from the Aleppo chili flakes I added in. For the garlic lovers out there, you could even add more garlic (you may also like my Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic).
Throw everything into the oven, flip it a few times, deglaze your pan, and you have a simple dinner ready for you while you were doing something else.
Despite being of Central and Eastern European descent, I actually don’t cook many German or Ukrainian dishes (mainly special treats, though). However, Rob’s parents are very keen on traditional Polish food, and when they came to visit last weekend to help with the burgeoning garden, I wanted to create a meal that everyone would enjoy.
I knew the raw kale salad with beets was a hit over Easter, so I figured I would pick a dish that had similar familiar ingredients: beets, potatoes and dill. That may sound so boring and bland, but I knew I hit jackpot when I spotted the Six Shades of Red Soup in Color Me Vegan (original recipe posted here). It was a virtually fat-free soup filled with red lentils, red potatoes, beets, (red) onion, dill and the perfect twist: red miso. The sixth shade of red was from vegetable juice, which I omitted. I also increased the dill and pureed half the soup for a creamier consistency.
As you can see, this was a beautiful soup. It deepened in colour overnight and the flavours melded wonderfully. It was creamy, yet chunky, with sweetness from the beets but structure from the potatoes with a hint of dill and a depthness brought from the red miso.
I am happy to report that it met the approval of the traditional Polish folk. Not your traditional borscht, different, but in a good way, is how they put it and invited me to make it again anytime. Me, redo a recipe? By request from special people only!
This made a ton of soup, with generous servings, so I was able to enjoy the leftovers. The soup doubled as a perfect meal while cycling last weekend. With the long distances, I prefer to eat more liquid-based foods (ie, soup! homemade sports drink! smoothies!) and this hit the spot. It was light on my stomach and jammed full of vegetables and miso providing sodium and potassium, which is important to replenish when exercising.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Served with Love and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, founded by Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments and hosted by Jacqueline.