It is hard to believe that just two years ago, in preparation for cycling to/from Ottawa and Kingston, I was already training by cycling to/from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our friend was hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo party so I packed my pannier and cycled over. That’s 120km one-way. This year, due to snow and rain, the long cycles haven’t progressed as well. Thus, the trip has been modified to be 70km one way from the train station.
While the party is happening again this year, and I have signed up for Rideau Lakes, I am trying to balance my time between cycling and studying. Studying is winning. Cycling can wait. Passing my exams cannot. Two years ago, I cycled with my buddy, Sue, while Rob stayed at home to study. This year, Rob is cycling with Sue, and I am staying home to study.
Cinco de Mayo was still on my mind, though, as I made these Mexican-inspired almost raw chili salad wraps. I could easily whip these up in Kitchener, had I decided to cycle over myself.
One of the things I love about raw cuisine is that the flavours (usually) pop. Just think of garlic – raw garlic is potent, cooked garlic is muted and slow-roasted garlic is even more mellow.
With a higher emphasis on proteins lately, one thing raw meals lack are good sources of protein. Sure, you could sprout grains and beans, but I don’t really like them as much as their cooked counterparts. That’s probably why I don’t see many recipes for sprouted legumes. “High protein” raw meals usually mean lots of nuts and seeds, which also come with more fat than protein.
In any case, I thought to myself: lets combine the best of both worlds.Beans and flavourful sauces for a high-protein fix. I actually got the idea after Gena posted Brendan’s recipe for a cold chili. Basically all the foundations from a regular chili are combined to make a satisfying dip. It is quite versatile: heat it up to make a regular chili, serve it with chips as a dip, place overtop your favourite green as a salad or place inside Romaine lettuces as a chili salad wrap.
In my study gusto, I appreciate super quick meals. Open a can of cooked beans (I used a canned bean medley), empty out a can of tomato paste, chop up some tomato and green onions and season with chili powder, cumin and lime. Of course, the raw garlic pops out for you, too. It tastes best after a marinade, which means leftovers are just as good, if not better.
Have you ever had raw hummus?
As in, hummus made from raw, sprouted chickpeas?
I did. Once.
But not on purpose.
Early in our courtship, Rob decided to surprise me with some hummus. While we diligently follow our favourite recipe now, there was a time when Rob liked to “wing it”. At that time, Rob was a novice with beans, too.
He went all out and bought dried chickpeas. He soaked them overnight. He methodically added the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and finally the chickpeas to his food processor. It churned away and then stopped working. The hummus had broken his food processor! The first thing that popped into Rob’s head was – let’s go to Janet’s apartment and use her food processor to finish it off. I was away, so he silently entered my apartment and finished off pureeing the hummus.
He surprised me the next day with the hummus when he met me in Texas. I tasted it. It was off. Did you follow a recipe? Yes! But then I tinkered with it since it didn’t taste as good as before. Oh well, we better find a better recipe next time. This tastes funny. I don’t know what it is, though.
A few days later, we figured it out. Maybe it was a week later.. or a month later, I can’t remember. This story is such a classic, I mostly remember the punch line….
Rob used raw chickpeas in the recipe. He soaked them but did not cook them. He didn’t know he had to cook them (canned chickpeas are already cooked?? the recipe didn’t tell me to cook them!). Thankfully, now he knows better.
These days, hummus has become fairly ubiquitous for any bean spread. Technically, hummus is Arabic for chickpea and mostly associated with a chickpea puree with tahini.
I admit it: I am guilty of making non-traditional hummus. I have made hummuses (hummi? hummus?) with edamame and white beans instead of chickpeas, with peanut butter and cashews instead of tahini, and even a dessert option with peanut butter and chocolate! I have also souped up traditional hummus with pomegranate molasses and red pepper paste. Carrots and hummus have become my go-to snack lately.
However, those versions always used cooked beans. Now was my turn to try raw hummus. Without any sprouted beans, though.
With zucchini as its base instead of chickpeas, and cashews instead of tahini, there is not much resemblance to classical hummus. However, it is one deliciously creamy spread spiced with garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and miso. Use it to dip your favourite vegetables or crackers or however else you love to use hummus. Lately I have been loving it with huge carrots as my after dinner snack. There is something so satisfying about eating a whole uncut carrot smothered in a garlicky
Wow, once you start, it can be hard to stop.
I may have unrawified the quinoa wraps, but I have been noshing on lots of great raw eats all week. I also ventured away from my standard chocolate oats, and re-entered overnight oats territory. For some odd reason, I usually only eat overnight oats when I have an empty container of nut butter. The overnight soaking allows you to absorb all the rest of the nut butter on the sides of the jar.
(and yes, I think that’s some carrot that snuck in from my grater, hehe)
I like how simple changes can truly transform my breakfast. I routinely add fresh fruit to my oats (especially apples), but I usually just chop them up. However, this time I made a spin on Swiss muesli. Nowadays, muesli is more akin to uncooked granola, heavy on rolled oats, nuts and seeds, although Dr. Bircher-Benner’s original recipe called for far more fruit than grains.
When I think of Bircher muesli, I associate it with the grated apple. Not chopped, grated. Grated apple was a fun twist. I ran with Gena’s recipe, which updated the classic recipe by including chia seeds, dried fruits and chopped almonds. The textural contrast from the soaked chia seeds, creamy oats, grated sweet apple and chopped almonds was a delicious treat. Trying to clear out my pantry, I tossed in some dried goji berries and my homemade unsweetened dried cranberries. I don’t normally like goji berries (I think I’ve had the same package for over 2 years), but found they were fantastic in here. So much so that I am sad I cleaned out the last of them… and trying very hard not to run back to Chinatown to buy some more. Must. Resist. Buying. New. Ingredients.
Do you do the nut butter jar trick? Have you tried goji berries? What are your favourite recipes?
And last, but not least, the winner for my cookbook giveaway is Ellen! I will contact you to get your shipping address.
What makes someone “interesting”?
Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).
1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.
2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.
3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)
4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.
This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.
Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter. Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).
Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.
The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them.
I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.
A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.
Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!
Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.
A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.
If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead?
So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?
Stir fries may be easy but I find bowls even easier.
Each week, I try to make a dressing so that I can use up bits and bobs from in the refrigerator. Leftover grains, pre-cooked beans and steamed veggies can become a delicious meal with the right dressing.
This was one of those meals where I was searching for the perfect dressing. I wanted to make a peanut-miso dressing.
I know I have gushed over Hot Beans before. I’ve tried a few options from their not-so-secret menu and their secret secret menu. My latest love is the TVPeanut Burrito Bowl (so much easier to ask for then the The Bill’s Dick and The Peeb with a straight face) which features a brown rice burrito with ancho-spiced TVP, peanut-miso sauce, chipotle sauce, chili aioli, salsa and lettuce. Oh yes. Glorious. Substitute cumin-lime lentils for the brown rice and you have another great option. And while I have not tried it, Rob and I brainstormed the best burrito bowl ever. We named it Who Cut The Cheese: cumin-lime lentils, black beans and BBQ jackfruit in a bowl. We thought one could skip the cheese sauce for that one!
I digress. Tahini and miso are a common duo, but I never would have thought to pair peanut butter and miso until now. But it works really, really well.
While I would have loved to duplicate that whole big burrito bowl, I settled on recreating the peanut-miso sauce and paired it with some classic ingredients: chickpeas and broccoli with some quinoa to sop up the dressing.
Since I was experimenting, I did a lot of sampling. Rob helped, too. Too vinegary? Added a touch of agave and more peanut butter. Now, the sauce was perfect. I kept dipping my finger in again and again.
I will warn you that the sauce was a bit thin. A rule of thumb is that your sauce is supposed to coat the back of spoon, but this one was definitely drippy. I didn’t notice while I was sampling it until it shimmied off my chickpeas a bit too easily. Perhaps using less water, thinning with coconut milk or adding some oil would help if that is important to you. I just ended up tossing in some quinoa to catch the last of the sauce goodness.
What is your favourite peanut sauce?
Other recommended peanut dressings here:
Tess’ Ultimate Peanut Sauce
Creamy Thai Cilantro Sauce
Tangy Peanut Dressing (with a Mango and Snap Pea Salad)
Coconut-Peanut Mmm Sauce (with Kelp noodles, baby bok choy and edamame)
Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli
Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad with a Peanut Dressing
Guys, I am loving your list of your favourite raw recipes. It isn’t too late to win a copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power. To enter, just leave a comment here telling me about your favourite raw meal. Definitely include a link to a recipe if it is online, like Gabby’s Raw “Baked” Fettuccine Alfredo, Genevieve’s Mango Gazpacho or Hannah’s Raw Blondies with Chocolate Ganache. I really liked Ellen’s suggest of a Korean collard wrap with Asian pear and sweet chili sauce. Sounds delicious! I ended up hunting down some Asian pear, napa cabbage and collards but at the last minute, as the winds warmed me with the southern breeze (this was right before it snowed yesterday), I changed my mind. Instead of a wrap, I went with a chopped salad. And instead of Korean and I went Mexican with a smoky avocado and cumin dressing.
When asked what I usually eat, I explain to people that I love to make soups and salads. Not your flaky salads and not your brothy soups, I prefer hearty one-pot meals in a bowl. My salads tend to be either grain-based or bean-based, whereas I don’t make the standard leafy side salad with a simple vinaigrette. I suppose I don’t find it very high-yield. If I want leafy greens, I’ll add them to my soup or salad!
Not all dressings are created equal, and this smoky avocado dressing is creamy but intense at the same time. It wouldn’t work with flimsy baby greens, which is why I opted for heartier sliced Napa cabbage and collard greens. To counter the heaviness of the dressing, I added a touch of sweetness to the salad with Asian pear and red bell pepper. To add even more goodness, I added some arugula sprouts and to add a good protein source I added chickpeas [sprouted chickpeas keeps this raw, but cooked chickpeas are what I prefer]. With the dressing thinned out over the salad, it was a nice merriment of flavours and textures, although a tad heavy on cumin (even for me).
OK, next up: working on that Korean wrap.
Everyone must have mango on their minds right now.
I definitely have a lot of recipes for mango and people have been bumping into some of my old mango treats lately: Raw Tropical Mango Pie, Thai Tempeh Lettuce Wraps with Mango Ginger Sauce, and Mango Shrikhand. If you have scurried to purchase dried mango for the Raw Tropical Pie, place some aside for these delicious bars.
Even before I got my own dehydrator, I knew not all dried fruit were equal.
Now with my dehydrator, I also know it isn’t always easy to dehydrate fruit.
Apple chips are super easy. I just slice and dehydrate at 135F overnight, around 8 hours. I prefer thin slices to get a crisp chip. Thicker slices are nice when you want something to chew on. I’ve added cinnamon, cardamom and pumpkin pie spices but still prefer the plain variety.
I experimented with homemade unsweetened and maple syrup-sweetened dried cranberries, but my efforts didn’t work out so well. I tried to split the skins by blanching them, but that worked only sporadically and thus, I ended up slicing each cranberry individually. Even then, I must have over dehydrated them because they were very dry… oops!
Dehydrated pineapple has such a concentrated flavour, packed with sugar, that it almost seemed like I was eating a chew candy.
And there are some fruits that never make it to the dehydrator, like mangoes. Why dehydrate them when you can eat them fresh?
Just as we have become picky about which fresh mangoes we prefer (Honey, Alphonso and Ataulfo), not all dried mangoes are created equal.
The best dried mangoes we’ve come across are the Philippine brand dried mangoes. They occasionally go on sale at Loblaws, T&T and can also be found at Costco. They are sweet and juicy. The dried mangoes at Better Bulk (as much as I love the store) and Bulk Barn are a shame next to them, as are the packs from Sunny’s. Sadly, the Philippine brand ain’t cheap.
With all that being said, if you find yourself with any dried mangoes at all, make these bars.
They are the best granola bar I have tried and eerily taste so good I could sell them. I am so glad that Lisa decided to share her recipe for Holy Delicious Mango Bars! I had been pining the recipe even before I had my dehydrator, actually. I’ve made granola bars before, but those had refined sugars and butter. I’ve also made oodles of raw energy treats, but they were usually more date-heavy.
I knew Rob would love them, but had to figure out when to make them to keep them as a surprise for him. I won’t give away my secret… A humming dehydrator is hard to conceal. But oh so totally worth it.. and trust me, these are so much better than those silly packaged bars. Do they even come in mango flavours, eh? Or the flavour of love? hahaha!
These are incredibly flavourful, packed to the brim with goodies like nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and raisins and dates for sweetness. Oh, and dried mango, too. Dehydrating brings everything together, with a firm feeling. If you don’t have a dehydrator, try your hand at freezing it instead.
These are part of my recent crack obsession but they were very satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.
They are here!
I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!
Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.
Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.
Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango. Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.
Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.
Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?
Do you think there is an old school vegan cuisine?
Stereotypical tofu, broccoli and brown rice? Nutritional yeast?
What’s the new school vegan?
Kale, quinoa and Brussels sprouts? Miso?
I say what’s not the new school vegan? Variety is key! Everything is fair game!
I may choose chickpeas day in and day out for a few months (you have been warned, hehe), then I am loving lentils the following month and the next bit is all about black beans. By the time I eat chickpeas again, I have forgotten how wonderful they were and the cycle repeats itself ad nauseum.
Out of all the vegetables, we buy broccoli fairly routinely. Rob loves it. Steamed, it is a simple side for any meal Rob wants to healthify. Rob also loves adding broccoli stems to besan chilla and tofu scrambles and creamy broccoli dal continues to be one of our favourite meals.
However, as rated by my most popular tags on the blog, broccoli does not even make my sidebar!
Thus, it is time to diversify our broccoli uses.
This is a rice pilaf from 1000 Indian Recipes which is basically old-school vegan gone Indian! Brown rice and broccoli fragrant from Indian spices with sweet caramelized onions. Savoury spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves infuse the rice as it cooks and a tarka (spiced oil) is used at the end to get the mustard and cumin seeds to pop. Sadly, I didn’t find this dish as flavourful as I anticipated and was a bit disappointed. Next time, I would increase the spices and perhaps decrease the amount of rice. And likely add some beans for a complete meal.
What’s your take on broccoli? Common vegetable often in the shadows?
Other broccoli favourites on my blog:
Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad)
Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli
Quinoa Falafels with a Cheezy Broccoli Bowl
Buddha Veggie Bowl with a Ginger-Miso-Lime Dressing
Confetti Veggie Salad with Mustard Curry Dressing
Forty Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli
Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce
Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli
Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)
Broccoli and Red Pepper Stir Fry with Peanuts
As you know, I am a cookbook junkie. I have a lot of cookbooks and trying to wean myself from my cookbook library before our move. Last year, I picked out my top 10 cookbooks to move with me, but I may have to revise that list as I have discovered new favourites. Even more scary is that I have partially migrated to electronic cookbooks. It makes it easier to amass a larger collection. I still prefer leafing through a hard copy, but an electronic version is ideal when space is at a premium.
Considering my cookbook love, I was ecstatic when asked to review a new raw cookbook: Annelie’s Raw Food Power. No stranger to raw cuisine, I surprisingly do not have that many raw cookbooks. This is a gorgeous cookbook, with colourful photographs accompanying every recipe. The dishes are typical raw cuisine style, with recipes for smoothies, salads, snacks and mains like raw pizza. She also includes a lot of recipes for teas/tisanes.
Annelie developed the recipes while in Costa Rica, and as such, the recipes use a lot of tropical fruits (bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon) but also more common ingredients like zucchini, tomatoes, apples, nuts and seeds. Superfoods like chia seeds, goji berries, probiotics, maca and lucuma are often used, too. These ingredients are not new to me, but Annelie surprises me further with recipes calling for purple corn, mucuna, ashwagandha and shatavari powders, of which I have yet to encounter. Like most raw recipes, the majority of the dishes are quick and easy. The recipes call for typical raw equipment: blender (preferably high-speed), juicer, dehydrator, and spiralizer which not everyone possesses. In short, this is not a cookbook for someone dabbling in raw cuisine, but good for those familiar with the ingredients and equipment. (Of note, the index is very subpar, listing recipes by title only, not ingredient).
While most of the recipes seemed familiar to me (guacamole, spiralized zucchini with nutrient-dense pasta sauce, avocado and strawberry salad, raw lasagna), I opted to try something with a bit of a twist: Quinoa, avocado and tomato marinara wraps, especially since I was reminded how much I enjoy lettuce wraps.
I’ve tried raw quinoa before (basically quinoa soaked for a day) but prefer to use cooked quinoa. Uncooked raw/sprouted grains and legumes kind of go thump in my tummy. The quinoa is dressed with a rich flavourful tomato sauce which I unrawified by substituting red pepper paste for the optional red pepper. This is then placed in a Romaine leaf and topped with avocado for a delicious wrap. I found it was best to add the dressing just prior to serving since leftovers became dry.
While I still have a few recipes earmarked to try (beet and mint chocolate chip dip, oh my!), I am giving away a brand new copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power to a lucky reader. For a chance to win, just leave me a comment by April 25, telling me about your favourite raw dish you’ve made.
As I said, I should listen to myself more often. I am full of great wisdom.
Another piece of Janet tried-and-true advice: follow the recipe! I know I adapt many recipes to what I have on hand, but some recipes are best left untouched. Case in point: traditional hummus. I already have a recipe I love (LOVE!) and see no need to experiment. Winging it ends up with a subpar hummus.
For some reason, I also find juices and smoothies to be a bit finicky. Sure, I can wing random smoothies and juices, but sometimes the proportions are off, some flavours aren’t properly balanced and gosh, I know it can taste better.
Hence why I am sharing this recipe. It turned out great. When I winged this with raspberries, flax and protein powder, it was ok but not fabulous. Raspberries are more tart than strawberries and while I used flax seeds as my milk substitute, almonds and hemp seeds create a more lusciously, creamy drink. I still tinkered with the original recipe but not by much. Next time, I will add some protein powder, which can easily be hidden inside a smoothie.
I have eaten at Gorilla Foods a few times when visiting Vancouver and this shake is definitely one of my favourites. I found most of their dishes to be a bit lackluster although I thoroughly enjoyed their Main St. Monkey Sandwich: a raw squash-curry bread filled with olive tapenade, creamy mashed avocado, zucchini hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts. I thought there was raisin chutney, too, but I could be mistaken. In any case, it was a delicious sandwich to try if you are in their neighbourhood.
I often try to recreate resto meals. Inspired by Gorilla Foods, I’ve made a (non-raw) kabocha squash curried flatbread, but filled it with eggplant bacon as a BLT. Their raisin chutney has been on my hit-list, though. Although their guacamole recipe is in Thrive Foods, it wasn’t until they released their cookbook, that nearly their entire menu was available to be made at home.
We’re all out of raisins, though, so I started by making this smoothie. And as I already said, I wasn’t disappointed. Sweet creamy strawberries with a hint of malty maca and vanilla.
How do you usually make your smoothies? Wing it or measure it?
Other smoothies/drinks here and elsewhere:
Peachy Keen Vanilla Smoothie
Chocolate Maca Raspberry Smoothie
Raw Chocolate Milkshake at My New Roots (very, very good!)
Mojito Smoothie at My New Roots (different but good)
Most people probably roll their eyes when they hear you have dietary restrictions. I know my food choices can be a pain in the butt for some people but imagine combining it with other allergies and restrictions? I have a friend with a severe allergy to sulphites, another friend who won’t eat nightshades and beans and I recently met someone with some crazy diet for interstitial cystitis and I could only remember her telling me she eats no spices. I love trying to find meals we can enjoy together, though. I think the worse was when I was trying to find common meals I could share with my grandfather who needed a low potassium, low salt, and low cholesterol diet. The low potassium part made it the most challenging since he couldn’t eat any whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds which are my protein sources. Meal planning is like a fun puzzle for me although others probably find it a headache.
Recently I was asked to suggest meals fit for entertaining. Not usually a problem, because I keep a list for myself in case I forget. However, there was a caveat: no garlic, no onions, no leeks, no shallots, no green onions (no alliums). I know there are multiple reasons to avoid them (including those who are doing the FODMAPS thing), but they continue to be a staple in my diet. More than just aromatics, they have a lot of health benefits, too.
Never daunted by a special diet request, I mustered up a few suggestions (Raw Zucchini Alfredo, Raw Tacos skipping the onion in the salsa, Thai Tempeh Wraps with a Mango Ginger Sauce, Sushi Salad Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my
Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests (YA!).
The request planted a seed in my head, though. What kinds of meals are naturally free from alliums? I know some people just don’t like chopping garlic and onion, and some Indian recipes call for asafoetida as a substitute. Thus, I looked through my Indian bible, 660 Curries, and while I didn’t pick a recipe with asafoetida, I picked one without onions and garlic.
Cooking without the typical aromatics meant we needed flavour from elsewhere: loads of savoury spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, all the good spices Indian curries are made from. The special spice, this time, was amchur/amchoor (mango powder).
I’ve used amchoor before in chaat masala used with Malai kofta and a warm chickpea and mango salad. It is made from dried green mangoes, conferring a sour tangy flavour, not unlike vinegar or lemon juice. Since I substituted tomato passata for fresh tomatoes, this is a very pantry-friendly recipe when you run out of even the most basic perishables (onions, garlic and lemons) and don’t feel like going grocery shopping when it is snowing in April (!). The cilantro does perk it up, but not necessary.
Anyways, in essence, you are making chickpeas cooked in a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. No fuss, you simply simmer then away for a while as you tend to something else. Like most curries, they make fabulous leftovers and I ended up enjoying them overtop fresh green spinach as a quasi salad.
Do you feel overwhelmed or welcome the challenge of dietary restrictions?
This blog is definitely a labour of love.
More than sharing recipes and my experiences in the kitchen, it has morphed into a sort of journal, chronically my adventures with cycling, gardening and whatever life throws at me. Some blogs cater to their readers’ wants…. me, I share what I like and most likely if you are reading, you will like it, too. Or, if I muck things up, I hope to pass on my wisdom. (PS, I loved hearing your confessions about your own kitchen bloopers after my last post)
Another benefit of writing this all out? I can learn from my old mistakes, too.
Rob and I recently connected with one of our neighbours and we started chatting about our garden. Did we have any tips? I couldn’t think of any tips other than a) beans can be grown easily from seeds; and b) kale and collards from seedlings gave us better results. She also asked for some pictures. As I dug up some of my garden updates, I re-read my posts and uncovered other golden nuggets: tomato cages for the beans! get rid of those bugs from the kale ASAP! my preferred basil plant..
I should listen to myself more often. I dug up another old post, when I first started my cycling commute in the spring last year. Talk about deja vu. I was complaining about a long commute after a winter hiatus and here I am complaining again. I thought I was easing myself into my old cycling groove by foregoing the gym, but a long commute needs to be warmed into. I cycled to work (no gym) on Friday: 25km. The ride back was brutal with fierce winds all the way home. I almost decided to give up my cycling commute altogether and stick with the subway. On Sunday, I ended up cycling to the gym and really enjoyed the ride.
With a rainy forecast this week, I decided to capitalize on another day to try to cycle to work (no gym) on Monday. Mondays have me travelling all over the city, so I ended up clocking 36km. It doesn’t sound like that much… but coming from zero biking and a 2-week gym hiatus, I was wiped out when I came home. (Let’s not forget to mention I cycled home IN THE RAIN). Physically pooped, cold and wet, the last thing I wanted was a salad for dinner. I didn’t want to wait for a soup to defrost from the freezer, either. Instead I made a smoothie. Simple and nothing to document as I just whizzed together a frozen banana, frozen raspberries, maca, vanilla, flax seeds and unflavoured Sunwarrior protein powder. Oh, and some water. I am normally never satisfied with a smoothie as a meal, but this worked… after a warm bath and canning my oatmeal for the week, I slid into bed, exhausted.
I need to find more balance.
Still needing to eat, I really should plan my meals based on the weather forecast. The rest of the week has a rainy forecast and possible snow/hail today and/or tomorrow. No more cycling, that’s for sure… warm comforting meals may be in order, though. As such, I took this soup out from the freezer for some meals later this week.
I love unearthing gems from the freezer. I should do it more often. I often get wooed by fresh produce but I need to remind myself to keep things stress-free by eating from the freezer. This is a soup I have made a few times, too, and was lucky to have garden kale when I made this in the fall. I have used both shiitakes and oyster mushrooms with great results. Combining mushrooms and lentils, the earthy flavours mix well with the tangy vinegar and zippy garlic. It is during these dreary days that warm, comforting bowls of my favourite soups really help.
Do you keep a journal? If you do (or have a blog), do you ever re-read it?
I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too.
I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.
I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made
some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.
After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.
In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.
PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?
PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?
Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.
I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!
Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).
While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.
Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining.
Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.
Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?