This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden.
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath.
(sorry, this time you can actually post comments! Apparently I can’t figure out wordpress for Android)
For someone who doesn’t drink, I have a lot of alcohol. I used to have more booze attributed to my purchases than Rob, but that was before Rob visited Veux-Tu une Biere? in Montreal and stocked up like mad with artisanal beers.
I may not drink alcohol, but I will gladly cook with it. Over the years, I have gathered:
Vodka, from my Penne Alla Vodka days.
Raki, from my trip to Turkey. My Dad already drank half of it but I think I wanted it to make a poached-fish dish. Totally tabled for now.
Chambord, because I wanted to make a knock-off of a mixed berry Chambord-whipped cream French toast from a local resto, Coquine. Off my radar for now.
Amaretto, because who doesn’t like almonds?
Madeira, because I was lusting over Madeira-soaked mushroom ragouts.
I think I also have a small amount of Creme de Menthe because I wanted to make a Grasshopper dessert.
Rob has scotch, rum, Aguardiente (from our Colombian trip), ROOT liqueur (tastes like root beer and Rob highly recommends it!) and SNAP gingersnap liqueur (with blackstrap molasses, ginger and cloves! but Rob hasn’t opened it yet). Nevermind his stock-piled of beer.
While trying to decide what to do with a crate of figs, I decided to finally break out the Madeira. Fresh figs do not last long. Roasting them (or technically poaching them in this case), allowed me to extend their sweetness for another 2 weeks.
Madeira: Candy liqueur, as Rob put it, after he tasted it from the bottle. Using it to oven-poach figs resulted in a sweet yet savoury concoction spiked with lemon and sage. I tried a bunch of variations, but my favourite was with the lemon and sage, although you could leave them out, too. Thyme also worked well. I also tried a few cinnamon-orange variations but preferred the one with Madeira. The orange zest became a bit bitter through the roasting so consider omitting that if you want to try that variation.
Because my photos aren’t always that photogenic, I thought it would be neat to play around with some of the features on Picasa. I rarely do much photo post-processing other than “I Feel Lucky” but found this neat “Orton-ish” option in Picasa (see pic below). Not entirely sure who or what this Orton effect was all about, I learned it was named for Michael Orton who would combine 2 images: one in focus and the other out-of-focus to create an impressionistic effect. Brought me back to my black and white darkroom days!
How do you like the photo? I like the colour palate with the soft contours and warmer colours. More of an artsy shot now, instead of a food porn photo. But hey, it keeps me entertained!
While I don’t share all my meals with you, I still photograph the majority of my meals if convenient. A quick run upstairs, snap a few photos, and then eat away. Sometimes I kick myself for not having taken a photo, especially if I eat it all before I have a second chance, which is why I try to photograph my meals.
The real conundrum is whether to photograph the meals that Rob makes. Not because I don’t like to post his meals (I do), but sometimes the meals aren’t what I like, or don’t use ingredients that I eat, etc, but importantly, I may not be around to snap the photo.
When Rob made these udon noodles with a spicy peanut
-hoisin sauce (he forgot to add the hoisin sauce, oops!), we deliberated. Did I want to take some photos? Is it blog worthy, I asked? How does it taste? Is it spicy? There’s a 1 tbsp of sriracha in it, gosh, I’d never do that!
Initially, he thought he preferred his other udon noodle dish with a miso sauce, but happily munched away. I tasted some of the broccoli and tofu smothered in the peanut sauce. Delicious. I ate some more. Not really that spicy, totally Janet friendly. The sweetness from the agave and the peanut butter lend a helping hand to the subtle heat from the sriracha. The vinegar adds the sour dimension. And while Rob forgot to add the hoisin sauce, it tasted like it had already been added anyhow.
As you can tell, I then ran upstairs to photograph a bowl of delicious noodles. While we have yet to see whether this will truly be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, I can safely assure you that we both liked this dish. I may whip out the kelp noodles to make the peanut sauce again! And when Rob makes the udon with miso sauce again, I’ll try to grab some pics, too.
I know it is fall.
I unearthed my long pants to cycle to work last week. I now don full-fingered gloves as well as my cycling hat.
But, it isn’t fall until the winter squashes come out. And the apples.
I have been relishing in the end-of-summer produce for the past few weeks. Tomatoes. Green beans. Beets. I bought some squashes but have yet to cook with them. I also got some canned pumpkin and resisted the onslaught of all things pumpkin. Until now.
Maybe I can blame it on the equinox?
Now that I’ve started, I don’t think it will stop. Not only because I have to plow through the monster of a pumpkin can but because I have found a glorious way to enjoy pumpkin.
In my morning brew.
I love my tea and usually enjoy a nice cup in the morning. Technically, I enjoy tisanes because I prefer herbal-based blends. I like rooibos but have started to shun all things with black teas. My favourite tea remains a chai-based concoction and surprisingly, I have yet to create my own home-grown spice medley. No better time than to start today with this cup.
Savoury spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom mellow nicely with the pumpkin with the peppercorns and ginger offering a nice kick of spice. I used pumpkin butter (from Trader Joe’s) as my sweetener but I look forward to fiddling with this for a less sweetened version. In any case, this was so good I had to share the recipe immediately.
I am also excited to make this pumpkin chili with the leftover pumpkin puree! It was so good last year!
After boldly stating that I can easily munch through a weekly food budget of $15, I had a few people suggesting I share my tips. I have been meaning to write this post for a while, so I apologize for its delay.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but it is possible to eat well on a vegan whole-foods diet without breaking the budget. In fact, moving towards a whole foods diet will keep you away from spending the big bucks on processed food. All that processing costs the consumer more money. You do not need to eat cheaply, but rather buy good food that costs cheap.
Without further adieu, here are my tips.
1. Waste not
First of all, my biggest tip is do not waste any food. I try really hard not to waste any produce. I make weekly meal plans incorporating the ingredients I already have and what I want to buy. Know was needs to be consumed quickly (strawberries!) and what can wait (sweet potatoes!). Know what needs to be refrigerated (greens!) and what does not (tomatoes!).
2. Store surplus properly – freezers are your friends
Freeze leftover veggies and meals. When red peppers go on sale, I stock up because they can be easily frozen. No need to blanch or cook beforehand, just chop and freeze. Afterwards, they are also easy to throw into whatever dish you end up using them in – they’ve already been pre-cut! Soups and stews can easily be frozen and reheated when you want to eat them again.
3. Eat beans and cook them from scratch
Beans are cheap, healthy and store well. I routinely make a big batch of beans and freeze them with their stock in containers in 2 cup measurements so it is just like pulling out a can of beans. Quick cooking beans like red lentils are also great for easy soups and curries.
4. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense
My Mom calls me a hoarder. I think of myself as buying in bulk. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have the space, definitely consider it. When certain staples go on sale, I stock up. 2 kg of red lentils for $2? Yes please. That will likely only last 2 months anyhow. Steel cut oats, same thing… Cans of coconut milk and tomatoes will also always find a use.
5. Grow your own food
If possible, grow your own food. I have been dabbling in gardening, focusing on higher yielding vegetables (beans, zucchini) and greens such as kale and collards since they do not need to be harvested immediately. However, even for those without much space, my herb garden has been the most prolific and rewarding, both in the garden and in my kitchen. Being able to snip off a handful of fresh herbs for your meal makes your meal go a long way. Even if you are hard-pressed for sun, you can grow your own sprouts.
6. Cook at home
I almost didn’t include this tip since it is pretty obvious. Save money by cooking for yourself. Don’t eat out at restaurants. Don’t buy premade seitan. Pack your own lunch and cook things yourself.
7. Know where to shop for good prices
The above tips are more general but I wanted the heart of this post to be about my favourite local stores. I currently live in an area that has plentiful options for groceries, so every week I scour the flyers and figure out what I need to buy based on my meal plan. Ethnic grocers are usually a great place for reasonably priced ingredients. Sales often vary, but there are stores that I know I will usually find great prices.
Here are my favourite places in Toronto:
Sunny’s Supermarket – I don’t live close to Sunny’s anymore, but it has an awesome selection of nearly every ethnic cuisine, except the standard North American diet. Milk and cereal might be there, but it isn’t as cheap as the red lentils and tofu. It has a very extensive spice collection with high turnover for its produce, beans and grains. Weekly sales are great and they often have random produce on sale, too. It is not uncommon for red lentils, chickpeas and split peas to sell for cheap ($2 for 2 kg). Bestwin is a similar supermarket, not too far away, but it is more dingy and not as big as Sunny’s.
Lucky Moose in Chinatown – I have started to bike past Chinatown when I come home from work. I think this is one of the better priced grocers with good quality produce. I never know what I will find on sale though… bananas for 29c/lb, zucchini for 39c/lb or young Thai coconuts ($2/2). Like most Asian grocers, “exotic” mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake and enoki are always reasonably priced. Snow peas and snap peas, too ($2/lb).
Welcome Food Mart – This is my neighbourhood ethnic grocer. A transplanted Chinatown grocer with oftentimes questionable produce but there are some good deals to be had. They have a weekly flyer and they constantly seem to sell 10 limes for $1 which suits me perfectly.
Tutti Fruiti in Kensington Market – Kensington Market is our local stop for bulk items, like nuts when they aren’t on sale elsewhere. I have started to use more Brazil nuts in recipes because they are cheaper here than walnuts and pecans! Protein powders are also very reasonably priced (Hemp Pro 70 is $19) and tempeh is the best price in town. Don’t like Tutti Fruiti? Try the neighboring Essence of Life instead.
Ambrosia – My favourite health food isn’t that close to me, but when we are in the area, we stock up at Ambrosia. Monthly specials can be great on top of great regular prices. Quinoa for $2.44/lb? Yes please! They also seem to stock the majority of all my wacky kitchen needs (I buy my nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten here).
Bulk Barn – I don’t find Bulk Barn to have good prices but if it is your closest bulk store, so be it. Buying only what you need is the way to go. The one time you will find me in Bulk Barn is when their oats are on sale for 79c/lb and I couple that with a $3 off $10 purchase coupon. Cheap oats, please!
J-Town – I don’t find J-Town that inexpensive but it is a nice place to stock up on all your Japanese needs. I am listing it thought because it sells Mori-Nu silken tofu for $1.68. Booyah!
No Frills, FreshCo and Walmart – Of all the big chain grocery stores, these are my favourites even though I don’t shop there that often. No Frills and FreshCo stock ethnic vegetables, depending on their neighbouhood, too. Surprisingly, Walmart has good prices for nuts and dried fruit. It has a reasonable selection of ethnic ingredients. I even spotted my much loved package of peeled garlic at Walmart, too. All three stores also have a nice price matching policy, that includes grocery items. I really like that because I can still go shopping on a Wednesday and know my produce will be in-stock at the grocers that price match.
Do you have any other great tips for eating well as a vegan? Any other places in Toronto that you recommend?
Feel free to peruse my archives for what I actually eat on a day-to-day basis. I have a bad habit of not sharing some of my most easy pantry-friendly meals. Possibly because red lentil soups are not always photogenic. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste as good, so I encourage you to dive past the murkiness of this soup and give it a try.
This Greek red lentil soup is very simple, yet tastes great. The soup stock is based from sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves which are simmered with red lentils infused with rosemary and oregano for the touch of Greek. The soup is finished with lemon juice and zest to bring it up a notch and complement the herbs.
The entire recipe makes a big pot of soup, so I encourage you to freeze half for a rainy (or snowy) day.
When I go travelling, I love to take cooking classes. When I went to Morocco, I took a lovely private cooking class in Marrakesh, with the chef from a near riad. We made a sampling of traditional Moroccan mezes (tomato jam, stuffed zucchini and zaalouk), two entrees (apricot and lamb tagine and chicken bastilla) and milk bastilla for dessert (photos from Casa and Marrakesh here, from the desert and Fes/Meknes).
We toured around Morocco, and when we arrived in Fes, it was rainy. Since most of our activities were outdoors, I contemplated doing yet another cooking class at a local restaurant. Instead, we opted to eat lunch there and I bought their cookbook, Clock Book, to take home.
A few months later, I went vegan. You wouldn’t think it, but Morocco was quite meat-heavy. With so many flavourful vegetarian options on the web, you’d think they would be easy to find in Morocco. Not so.
Of the dishes from the cooking class, the mezes were vegan-friendly. I can’t seem to remember where I put my recipe for tomato jam, but it is unlike any jam you might think you know. Slowly simmered tomatoes are infused with cinnamon, sweetener and topped with sesame seeds.
However, this leads me to this month’s Random Recipe which was to randomly pick a tea time treat. I have a few cookbooks, but none with a section for tea treats, so I randomly flipped through cookbooks until I found a tea-appropriate treat. That’s when I pulled out Clock Book and it fell open to this Tomato and Chili Chutney, very reminiscent of tomato jam, although definitely more of a chutney with the vinegar. The cookbook paired it with fried crispy squid but like tomato jam, I figured it would be nice with a simple bread or cracker. I am a sucker for cinnamon, and paired with tomato and a sharp vinegary bite with a touch of heat from the red chiles, this was a unique chutney.
While I halved the recipe, it still made a lot (around 2 cups), so we will see how it combines with Indian snacks, too.
While in Montreal, it was a whirlwind of a trip between the wake and funeral. However, I successfully managed to visit Aux Vivres for a quick dinner with Rob, my Dad and grandmother. Rob and I went there during our last visit, and I wanted to return for a veggie-packed meal that would appeal to some of the most serious veggie critics (my Dad!).
I love the bowls at Aux Vivres because they are mostly loaded with veggies. They should be called veggie bowls, not rice bowls, because the rice is hidden at the bottom. You really have to dig around to find it. But when you do, it is some of the best rice I have tasted. Coupled with the vegetables, and any of their decadent sauces, you have a tasty meal on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong, Aux Vivres is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, but glancing at the menu, you are left thinking, I bet I could make this at home. Actually, when I tasted their miso tahini sauce from their Macro Bowl, I thought: I have this sauce at home, I just made it!
So when I got home, I was able to compile all the ingredients to make a great copy cat version of their Macro Bowl filled with wakame, sauerkraut, sprouts, steamed baby bok choy and brown rice. I skipped the steamed spinach.
I have been following this year’s Healthy Lunchbox Series (recap here) and was positively smitten when I saw Dawn’s post about bento boxes. Perusing her site, she had some incredibly cute lunches, including a barn made out of granola bars complete with watermelon animals and spinach grass. I almost died from its cuteness.
I thought I might try a much simpler bento box with this multi-component meal. After its assembly, I told Rob I was ready to go for our dinner picnic. However, I looked down and realized I was short possibly the most important component of the meal. The tempeh! I needed some emergency tempeh, and fast. Aux Vivres’ tempeh is actually fairly plain with limited marinade but I thought mine could use a bit of flavour. While Rob usually scoffs at Tess’ declarations of making meals in under 30 minutes, I quickly located a quickie tempeh recipe that still included the all-important steaming. A simple glaze of tamari, agave, toasted sesame oil and raw garlic was exactly what I needed. Perfecto. Under 30 minutes, mostly hands off, to boot, leaving me able to clean up the kitchen and snap a few photos as the tempeh caramelized away.
The verdict? The bento box was not really appropriate because the best part of the bowl is mixing it all up. I needed a bigger container for proper mixing. The salty sauerkraut, the briny wakame juxtaposed against the salty dressing and fresh greens. With them individually separated in the box, it was hard to mix them up. At least with my Salad in a Jar, I mix it up before I eat it. I may need to look into a layered version of this, too!
Have you ever tried to make a cute bento box? Just at these cuties!
This is being submitted to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for lunches, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Siri.
For those keeping score. Rob = Polish. Me = Ukrainian and German.
As a bonus, both sets of our parents will be coming to Toronto to check out the festivals. I mean, they are coming to see us.
How will we manage? Which one to attend? They are reasonably close to each other, so we’ll likely hit up both festivals. The question is who will win the pierogi contest? OK, forget pierogi, I am more interested in kasha these days.
Nothing says more Eastern European than beets and dill, especially with kasha!
Kasha is buckwheat that has been hulled and roasted. As such, it is a darker brown than raw buckwheat. Kasha can be tricky to cook as it can absorb lots of water and turn into mush. Here, I opted to toast it in the oven first, and then cooked it in a 1:2 ratio with water. While the kernels still seemed to explode slightly, they reminded me of coarse bulgur in this salad.
Kasha has a slightly nuttier, stronger flavour but pairs well with beets and dill. I combined some garden-fresh green beans and roasted beets with a lemony dill vinaigrette for a bright early fall salad. Or late summer salad?
Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)
This has been the summer of cherries.
Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?
So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.
Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:
Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus
Sounds heavenly, no?
Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.
With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma. As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants. The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.
Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.
The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves.
In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand.
I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.
With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!
Our friends came over for a “Stress Free Friday” gathering. A chance to get together, chat, play games and such.
However, one of our friends forgot to write down our house number… but found our house without any trouble. Follow the kale and collards!, he told us. We are the only ones growing them on our street!
It has been a while since I’ve shared a garden update.
The good news: We are now harvesting green beans! Both Romano beans and Kentucky Wonder beans. I thought we weren’t going to get anything except for leaves (too much nitrogen?), but once Rob placed the tomato rings, the plants finally had something to hold onto and they shot up with tons of blossoms. And then over to our neighbour, too!
Last year, I only ever harvested a handful of beans at a time. While I kept a handful of dried pods so that I could plant them this year, I felt so sad, never having enough to make a real green bean dish. Not so, this year. I have harvested over 2 lbs so far. All in the span of a week. That may not sound like a lot but I am quickly going through my favourite green bean recipes. I am also being quite vigilant about my harvesting since if you leave the beans on the plant too long, they will become bitter.
Our herbs and collards are still growing strong. Except the basil, it grew too strong, too fast and I missed its lovely basil prime time. Now it is too zingy for me. I am definitely going back to the Pesto Perpetuo basil next year. I grew it last year and it never bolted. The only downside was that the leaves are smaller.
The not so bad news: My dinosaur kale plants have this funny white bug on them. It has been there a while, and I used to just clean it off before I ate it. However, now it looks like the poor plants are suffering. Anyone know what it could be and a natural way to remove them?
The ugly news: After all our efforts with the kabocha squash plants, they all died. I saved 2 squashes but I think the bugs got to them first. Boo. My zucchini plant hasn’t made any zucchinis either. Am I squash-cursed?
Now onto the food:
The good news: I am on a dolma kick. I made some kick-ass dolmas that I will share soon.
The not so bad news: I made a cranberry lemon tahini dip to go with said super fabulous dolmas. The cranberry lemon tahini dip was also super delicious. But somehow, super fabulous + super delicious did not make super super fabulous delicious. Instead they clashed. Both the dolmas (spiced with allspice, cinnamon and cherries!!) and the dip (cranberry, lemon, tahini) had strong flavours that didn’t work out so well together. However, separate, still very good.
At first, I thought the dip was a bit too sweet from the cranberries, so I added more lemon. The tahini adds a decadent silkiness to the dip. After an overnight chill in the refrigerator, it was perfect. I hummed and hawed over what to do with my dip now that I didn’t want it with my dolmas. Throw it into a collard wrap? Smother it onto broccoli slaw with some tempeh?
My brain went all fancy. My hands went simple. I took the freshly picked green beans and scooped up the dip. No adornments needed. Just crisp veggies. Serve this sweet dip with your favourite veggies and crackers… or go fancy and make me jealous.
This is a quick post to remind anyone in the GTA that this weekend is the Vegetarian Food Festival, the largest vegetarian food festival in the world.
I went yesterday and had a blast. There were some awesome speakers and cooking demos. I enjoyed seeing Lisa and Nicole discuss tips for how to eat for cheap while still keeping health in the forefront. They shared delicious samples (and recipes) for a chocolate chip brownie bar with avocado frosting, an herbed tahini dip and homemade nut butter and almond milk. It was also great to see Isa Chandra Moskowitz who demo’ed her Beet Burgers and Carrot Bisque. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to Terry Hope Romero’s demo of her olive-flecked seitan gyros with a tzatziki cucumber dill sauce which I think is from her upcoming cookbook, Vegan Eats World.
I also had fun checking out over 100 vendors of vegetarian and vegan food, treats, equipment, books, and clothes. There were many vendors that I had never seen before so I enjoyed being able to sample their foods to see what I liked. A shout-out to Manitoba Harvest who had samples of hemp hearts and their protein powders (they had coupons for my favourite Hemp Pro 70, too!), samples and great deals on Camino Chocolate Bars, and the absolute best (hands-on) non-dairy milks by The Bridge. It seemed like a bit of a teaser since they don’t have a storefront yet (coming soon, she told me), but all their drinks were silky, smooth and sweet despite no sugar additives (not even stevia and the like). The varieties I tried include included milk from kamut, quinoa, farro/spelt, oats, and rice + hazelnuts. They reminded me of the fabulous brown basmati rice milk Rob and I bought at Eataly. Totally in a league of their own in the realm of non-dairy milks (price-wise, too, I am sure). Definitely don’t pass up the chance to try them. The raw salads dressings from RawFoodz were also very nice. I also picked up a wallet from Matt & Nat and some Hurraw lip balms from Nice Shoes.
To celebrate all things vegan, I am sharing a non-traditional yet homely rendition of a classic vegan dish: tofu scramble. This one uses both chickpeas and crumbled tofu as its base and is coated in a delicious lemony-hummus-tahini sauce. Pan-roasted tomatoes add a nice burst of sweetness and I tossed this all over fresh baby spinach. I have also made this with the spinach wilted into the dish, which was also lovely.
So what are you waiting for? Head down to Harbourfront for the vegetarian festival and if you can’t make it, celebrate at home with your own vegan creations.
A Vegan BLT.
Not so farfetched with prepared store-bought vegan bacon, vegan “mayonnaise” and a loaf of bread.
But this is Janet-style. Whole foods only. No white flours.
A return of the raw eggplant bacon. Flatbread made with kabocha squash, buckwheat and flax. And for that mayonnaise, I whipped up a tofu-cashew version.
Food is always a source of discussion at gatherings, and since I don’t visit my extended family in Montreal that often, they found it shocking what I ate (or rather what I don’t eat). OK, no meat and dairy, but what about baked goods with eggs? No. What about whole wheat pasta? No. What about bread? No.
I make very few baked goods. Even when I do, I want them to be whole-foods based. It took me awhile, but I finally made Gena’s curried kabocha squash flatbread when I had a hankering for a BLT with the abundant fresh tomatoes. Although, after I had difficulties with a wet dough that never seemed to bake, I was reminded why I love my one-pot meals. They are so much harder to goof up!
My problem with the bread was that it took much longer to cook. I probably added too much water since my squash was already moist. Or I should have spread it thinner. In any case, I had to flip it while the underside was still wet. After a long run in the oven, it was dry and cooked through. I loved the subtle flavour from the squash which made these moist and pliable breads. The spices added a complementary touch and was nice with the BLT components.
I also made a quick vegan mayonnaise with tofu and cashews. I scoured a few recipes, including some made with avocado and even beans but wanted one that wasn’t loaded with oil. While not as creamy as traditional mayo and only reminiscent of its flavour, I still enjoyed the spread. In the sandwich, you wouldn’t note the lack of real mayonnaise. You only notice the differences while licking the knife.
While most people have returned to school this week and may be looking for totable lunches, sandwiches are common for the masses. However, just like my BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon, the bacon needs to be kept separate and assembled just prior to serving. The great thing about the eggplant bacon is how crispy it is. However, it seems to whisk in moisture super fast, so you need to keep it separated until ready to eat.
First of all, thank you for all the warm fuzzies regarding my grandfather passing away. Never a fun affair, but he lived his 92 years really well. Once I came back I knew I had to tackle my half crate of tomatoes. They don’t wait for you. Even if you had a funeral to attend.
Once you buy a crate of tomatoes, you are committed.
I didn’t think 50 lbs of tomatoes was that much. I mean, the guy next to me bought 2 crates. I had ho-humed over buying San Marzano tomatoes for $19/big crate but when the Romas came on sale for $10/bushel (53 lbs), I decided I had nothing to lose.
Two weekends ago, I made a bunch of tomato-based dishes. I also slow-roasted them (cored, halved, 250F for an hour or so, drizzled with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, then froze them), dehydrated them (cored, halved, dehydrated at 135F for 24 hours, then stored them at room temperature) and may turn some of them into powder, too. My fridge and freezer are becoming quite full so I turned to canning last weekend.
First of all, this may be a do as I say, not as I did kind of recipe. I consulted with two expert tomato canners: my mother and grandmother. Both assured me that canning tomatoes was simple. No need to fuss with a water bath. Just blend tomatoes, simmer, place the hot tomatoes into a hot jar and screw on a hot lid. So that’s what I did. And it was easy, just time consuming due to the sheer amount of tomatoes.
There are countless ways to can tomatoes. This is an ancient art. But, not a time to experiment. People have died from improper canning. Botulism is real.
I originally wanted to make a bunch of tomato-based mother curry sauces (bring on the fabulous Balti sauce!) but my Mom was adamant not to can anything with oil or garlic. If I did, I had to follow a tried-and-true recipe. Low-acid foods require pressure canning. Science is at play. Safety is paramount.
So I kept things super simple.
I didn’t peel my tomatoes. I pureed them in my blender.
I didn’t strain any seeds or skins. I used my Vitamix.
I also didn’t water bath my tomatoes. I should have and will do it next time. Even if it would make this so much more messy and time consuming. My “old world” method is super easy but not considered safe. However, I will use these canned tomatoes since we haven’t encountered a problem yet.
Now for a bit of a breather before I look out for fun cooked tomatoes recipes.
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right?
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.