Unbeknownst to me, this will be the week of salad.
I enjoy pre-planning my meals for the week. I don’t stray too far from my typical weekly batch of steel cut oats, a bean dish and vegetable/grain dish and a soup or salad. My menu is first and foremost based on what I have in my fridge that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later and after that, what is on sale at the store. I had a menu, but it was abandoned with gusto.
On Friday, my friends came over bearing fresh lettuce. They gifted me two massive heads of lettuce from their rooftop garden (local, organic gardening, at its finest), and I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t the first time I have been gifted perishable food items but at least lettuce is quite flexible with its use. (I have yet to venture into cooked lettuce, so I will be trying to use it in fresh salads)
After making the Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam, I was plotting to make a version with balsamic-roasted strawberries. While I gobbled down the majority of the blueberry jam solely on a spoon, I figured a salad dressing might be more appropriate with my new-found lettuce acquisition.
So here we are with a delicious dressing. Fresh strawberries are delicious and their sweetness is intensified with the caramelization from roasting. While I have baked and macerated strawberries before, I never thought to roast them. Here, they are combined with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil with savoury undertones from thyme, rosemary and garlic. Serve it with your favourite greens. I topped my salad here with yellow beans (Rancho Gordo‘s Yellow Indian Woman) and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around in your fridge!
I planned for a stress-free brunch by making nearly everything in advance. I kind of ending up pulling out some of our normal breakfast foods (granola, yogurt, etc) along with the special crepes and pancakes. I had pimped my kale salad as the best kale salad ever, so I had that as a savoury option, too.
On the menu:
Avocado Mint Cream
Yogurt, for those wanting something more traditional
Rob’s Omelettes with Spinach and Mushrooms (which no one wanted with all the other food!)
Raw Strawberry Tart, as the birthday “cake”
Strawberry Smoothies (a surprise from one of my friends who came bearing a ton of frozen strawberries!)
and this Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam.
With all the different filling options, it was a brunch extraveganza. Just look at Rob’s plate, complete with his new Android jelly bean toy (no jelly beans were in the crepes!):
Earlier that week, I made Angela‘s Blueberry Chia Jam, so I pulled it out as another option as an afterthought. Everyone enjoyed their mixed-and-matched creations, and agreed that the jam was awesome. Pure blueberry bliss. Without all the typical over-sugared pectin-laden jam, this spread is simply fresh blueberries reduced with a touch of maple syrup and vanilla, thickened with chia seeds. I was worried the chia seeds might be too slimy or crunchy, but it was neither. They blended in so well and helped make this a thicker spread. Such a simple recipe, but it highlights how fresh produce can be augmented in creative ways.
Today I did the dirty deed.
Yes, that kind of dirty deed.
Already. Before 6am.
In the backyard.
Even worse, though, is that it involved squash.
And no, I am not talking getting dirty from doing plain old gardening.
Artificial insemination, baby!
I took matters into my own hands. While I have very prolific kabocha squash plants, I have yet to see any squashes. Lots of blossoms but they seem to wither away. Further investigation told me that squash plants have two different kinds of blossoms: one male and one female. The one with a plump mini-squash is the female flower and needs to be fertilized by the male flower. After some careful examination, I quickly realized there are way more male to female blossoms. Only 2 open blossoms were female, whereas I have at least 20 male blossoms.
I did not want to leave it to the birds and the bees. I took a stick and wiped a male blossom to get the pollen and smeared it into a female blossom. Cross your fingers for me, ok? Hopefully they aren’t as complicated as humans, which have an abysmal 20% fertility rate.
Apparently once you have a few growing squashes, you don’t need the male blossoms anymore. This is what people eat when you see “zucchini flowers” for sale. Dispensable, edible male parts.
My zucchini plants are much smaller and only have a few male blossoms, but I may need to give them a hand for reproductive success, if only to make sure we don’t end up with mutant kabocha-zucchini hybrids.
I should be telling you about how I fried up some squashes flowers, but I am paranoid. I am keeping the males around until I am certain I have lots of kabocha squashes. Maybe in a week or two, I will give you an update?
In the meantime, I have been cooking up a lot of quick, simple meals, like this asparagus and tempeh stir fry. Pick your favourite vegetables and fry up some tempeh in a simple Asian sauce with garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. The fermented black beans add a very authentic salty dimension to the dish. Enjoy!
Strawberries are out and cherries are in. Seasonal eating at its best, right?
While I originally planned for a strawberry-filled birthday brunch, I worked towards the next seasonal fruit: cherries.
What do you think of first after I say cherry?
Please don’t say cherry red macronucleoli.
(Gosh, the July 1st studying mode has made its way into my blogging, ack!)
Now you’re talking.
The Naked Sprout‘s brunch menu inspired me again to try my hand at raw crepes. While I had the raspberry banana coconut pancakes, Rob had the chocolate coconut crepes with banana and a blueberry cashew whipped cream drizzled with an ancho chocolate sauce and a strawberry compote. What a tasty mouthful!
Not so fancy for my home-grown brunch, though. We are aiming for stress-free gatherings, not stress-inducing gatherings!
In the end, I decided to pair the local, fresh cherries with an almost raw chocolate banana crepe and an almond-coconut cream. All of which I could make in advance and allow guests to assemble themselves.
I was scared of thin raw wraps since my raw zucchini wraps were a bit finicky. I have made these a few times, so let me assure you that these are easy to make. The Vitamix makes for a smooth batter and adding the flax seeds last gives you some time to work the batter into a thin sheet. I wanted round crepes, but here, you make a big sheet of a wrap and then cut out your desired shape. It is much easier to make a consistency thin wrap if it is one big sheet. Rest assured that the extra pieces of crepe were not wasted and went straight into my belly. This wrap has a nice chocolate flavour with a hint of banana and very pliable.
I paired the wrap with a coconut-based cream. Now that Rob is gaining experience with opening coconuts, I ventured with a coconut recipe. I contemplated making a macadamia-based whipped cream but cheap coconuts from Chinatown won that battle. I paired it with almond extract for a strong almond flavour, almost begging to be paired with cherries.
Top with sliced almonds, this was a glorious brunch… or dessert.. and quite a great way to introduce my friends to raw cuisine, if I may say so myself.
Sometimes simple is all you need, because the simple flavours melded so well together.
This is being submitted to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring holiday treats, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.
I needed to be weaned off the Colombian tropical fruit, but instead, I have been catapulted into the berry haven of southern Ontario.
Pick your poison of choice, right?
No stranger to strawberries perking up a summer salad, instead of balsamic, this time I opted for a savoury note with cinnamon. Cinnamon roasted chickpeas as well as a cinnamon vinaigrette. Strawberries confer sweetness, toasted almonds crunch with a hint of mint making this a much more complex salads. Serve overtop your favourite greens for a summer treat.
This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian for sweet spices, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring summer salads, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
If there is one thing that is predictable with my meals, it is my breakfast. Steel cut oatmeal with fruit and protein powder. Lately, I’ve been eating it with Vega, since I scored it at half price. Making a big batch each week is a time saver and doesn’t make me think too much each morning as I rush out the door.
With a bit of extra time this long weekend, I decided to host a birthday/housewarming brunch today. A time to whip out all the vegan brunch options. I know, one meal that can be challenging for vegans has got to be brunch, typically filled with cheese, eggs and baked goods. Not here.
A recent visit to The Naked Sprout‘s Sunday brunch had me in a tizzy over their raw raspberry banana coconut pancakes with coconut ice cream. I thought it would be great to try my hand at it and I figured going raw for brunch would be an easy way to serve a crowd. The pancakes could be made in advance and then assembled once we were ready to eat. No need to slave over a stovetop, especially during this hot summer weather.
Of course, I had to do some research to make sure the recipe worked out before my guests arrived. Last week, while we still had strawberries, I did the first test run. This was the glorious result. Soft and chewy (not light and fluffy like SAD pancakes) pancakes with a hint of maca. Stacked, on top of berries and topped with banana soft-serve ice cream. I was definitely inspired by my meal at The Naked Sprout. This version was lighter and glorious in the melting ice cream. Make no mistake, their vanilla coconut ice cream was possibly the best I have ever had.
One problem: A few days later, my pancakes didn’t look the same. I stored a bunch in the refrigerator in anticipation of not dehydrating this weekend and they turned brown. The banana had probably oxidized or something. Still delicious, they just weren’t as um, photogenic. Well, at least to me, since I know they are supposed to be a light brown colour.
In any case, strawberries are out and cherries are in, so I’ve come up with an alternate breakfast plan. Stayed tuned!