Variety is the spice of life. It is possibly the best spice in the kitchen, too.
You can probably tell I like to experiment in my kitchen… so many great recipes to try and share. So many new things to explore.
You’d think I’d run out of repertoire. Me, too. Not yet, at least.
Case in point. I made yet another new hummus. This time I shunned the chickpea and traded it for roasted carrots. I kept my favourite hummus classics: fresh lemon juice (with a strong flavour from the zest, too), garlic and tahini. Smoked paprika and cumin for more depth of flavour. This is a very creamy dip. Lip-smacking good.
Faced with some leftover hummus after a party, I decided to turn it into a thick dressing for my salad. My last carrot (ginger sesame) dressing was paired with quinoa, avocado and tomato. This time, I juxtaposed it against black rice, tomatoes, baby greens and fresh herbs.
A note on black rice, possibly one of my favourite rices to date. When I cut fruit out on my sweetener-free challenge, I knew I was going to miss some of the many benefits from eating whole fruits: fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This was how I stumbled upon black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. It has a lovely short-grain rice feel similar to my favourite medium-grain brown rice with the added bonus of more protein and more anti-oxidants. Turns out that colourful is better for you, especially when talking about rice. I liked that the black rice wasn’t too sticky and had great flavour naked. As such, it was fun to throw it into this salad.
I ended up tossing it with an herbed spring mix (a mix of baby greens that includes dill, cilantro and parsley), which I thought brought this to the next level. Not the greens, but the herbs. I keep forgetting how simple herbs can totally elevate a dish from ho-hum to hoo-ya! Just a dash of fresh herbs was enough and in truth, the herb that stood out and complemented the salad best was the dill.
After I ate this salad, I had a bit of tummy rumblings. My Mom asked me what new foods I had eaten lately. Everything I eat is new. (Actually, at first I said nothing. Nothing crazy new) Except for the leftover hummus, everything else was new. It was my first time trying black rice and the herbed lettuce greens. Furthermore, I drank a mamey shake, too. Exciting times at the beginning of the week!
Pinpointing culprits when eating fresh foods can be a challenge for me without a lot of sleuthing. Mostly free of FODMAPs other than the garlic, I don’t think that’s the problem. A repeat salad had no problems so who knows what it was. Perhaps the chocolate walnut dessert from the night before? Probably. Too many walnuts? Who knows… it isn’t a problem now.
Here’s to more black rice. Have you tried it yet?
I wasn’t going to join in…
But then I saw this article co-authored by one of my former classmates debunking Dr Oz. I may have done a little cheer and a happy dance. I couldn’t keep quiet. Please read it and tell me what you think.
It seems like the new year ushers in the applause for “healthy” fasts and diets. I condone a balanced diet but not starvation. I don’t believe in miracle foods. While I tried a sweetener-free challenge last month, I am back to eating fruits and chocolate. Fruits are filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants and fiber and too good to pass up.
I am certainly not doing a juice cleanse. I was gifted my grandmother’s juicer, but have only made juice a handful of times so far. I juice because I like the taste of fresh juice. Proponents of juice cleanses focus on the increased consumption of vegetables (more than one could eat in their raw form), lack of fibre and a way to detox your body and lose weight. If you are not one to eat vegetables and enjoy juice, then yes, this could be a way to consume more nutrients found in vegetables but it does not replace eating whole vegetables. If you are healthy, there is no evidence that your liver, kidney or stomach needs a rest to assist removal of toxins. The higher glycemic index of juice (without fibre) may actually cause one to gain weight.
There is evidence, though, that vegan diets (moreso than vegetarian diets) protect against cancer. A study in BMJ from earlier this summer suggests that low carb/high protein diets are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mainly exacerbated by those consuming animal protein. I recently added a link to Vegan Health on my side bar which has a lot of good information about nutrition advice for vegans, including supplementation (gotta get the vitamin B12), especially if consuming a raw food diet.
In any case, for those of you with a leftover juice pulp otherwise destined for the compost, or those with an excess of carrots, or those who rave about Aux Vivres‘ raw smoked salmon, this dish is for you.
My last visit to Montreal had me visiting the vegan restaurant for a second time. I have recreated their delicious Macro Bowl with tempeh, greens and a miso-tahini sauce, but also wanted to recreate their raw smoked salmon, or végé-lox as they call it. Made with carrot pulp and seasoned with red onion, parsley, dulse and liquid smoke, it is a delicious spread combined with their tofu cream cheese and capers. I used shallots and dill and added capers directly into the spread for a different twist. Instead of tofu, I went all raw with a scallion cashew cheese rolled into a light cucumber roll.
If you want something more sweet for your carrot juice pulp, I highly recommend these raw carrot cupcakes. What is your take on juice fasts? On miracle weight-loss products?
Any favourite recipes for juice pulp?
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Foods Thursday.
Rob and I came up with a few new traditions this year.
1. When we host Christmas (you know when we finally have our imaginary children), it is going to be a pyjama party all day long. At home, we get dressed up for Christmas dinner, but we’ll buck the trend with comfy pyjamas until dessert. We both got PJs for Christmas, so it must have been a sign my mom is on board, too!
2. Sydney fireworks. Rob and I both start each day fairly early (5am on work days) so staying up past midnight to watch a ball drop on New Year’s Eve is a hard-earned delight. This year, Rob and I watched the spectacular fireworks as Sydney fired its way into the new year. Trust me, New York has nothing compared to their expansive fireworks… and it started at 8am EST!
I have never celebrated the new year with beans and greens, but I see no reason not to try to incorporate some black eyed pea love into a new year celebration.
This year, I decided to mash up some black eyed peas into a hillbilly hummus. Crescent explains this delightful pantry-friendly hummus was created as a local interpretation when she lived in Arkansas. The double leguminous hummus is created with black eyed peas, peanut butter, garlic and apple cider vinegar. A touch of sage complements the flavours surprisingly well and makes a wicked spread. No stranger to peanut butter in hummus, I bet black eyed peas could also be substituted 1:1 with chickpeas in traditional hummus. I found peanut butter to be a prominent flavour whereas the black eyed peas were merely a vector for the PB. I also used my Vitamix to create a silky smooth spread. I was initially worried I would lose a bunch of it behind in the blender blades, but my fingers were quite nimble so I had ample sampling before bringing it to my New Year’s Eve party. It was as well received as I had hoped, and more!
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!
I know many people had their doubts, but yes, you can travel to Colombia as a vegan! Meat and fish abound on resto menus, but thankfully beans are a common vegan staple which were my savior. Fruits and fruit juices abound, and simple salads are also a common feature. Veggie sides are usually fried plantains, yuca or potatoes. Rice, although white rice, is a plenty.
Because I wanted to minimize the fried resto foods, and continue to eat vegan, Rob and I planned for a successful vegan-friendly trip to Colombia. I thought I’d share with you our strategies for vegan eating in Colombia (and no, Rob did not only eat vegan on the trip, too).
1. Plan Ahead – Book accommodations with refrigerators and kitchens
For general Colombian travel advice, definitely plan ahead. All of our accommodations had fridges available and the majority gave me access to a kitchen, as well. Staying in private rooms in hostels is a great way to get the perks of a hostel (kitchen, fridge, social events) as well as the privacy you want from a hotel room. Our hostel‘s kitchen in Salento was so well-stocked it even had a blender and sandwich press! Definitely the marker of a great hostel.
2. Bring snacks and protein powder
I brought a few meals and snacks with me to tide me over on the plane and after our arrival. See my new favourite non-traditional hummus recipe, below! I also brought some protein powder as an emergency if I needed a meal replacement, but also to add to whatever breakfast may be. Thankfully I was never without a vegan meal so I just used it with breakfast, as per usual.
3. Bring some cooking essentials
Planning on eating leftovers? Bring some containers to hold them. I was really impressed with my collapsible containers which were leak-proof, sturdy and collapsed easily when empty. I also cannot travel without a small paring knife that I protect with a knife case (obviously needs to go in checked baggage). Ziploc bags are also essential for oodles of things. Just make sure you know which bags had your sunscreen and which were holding food. Do not mix.
4. Figure out where you can eat
First, you need to know how to ask for vegan eats which you can find at most restaurants. Happy Cow was also great for locating vegan-friendlier restaurants and health food stores, even if limited in number. Sol del la India was a favourite of ours in Cartagena. I also consulted a few other blogs with vegetarian reviews from Colombian restaurants. Definitely scope out local fruit and vegetable markets as well as grocery stores for other purchases if cooking yourself. The typical Colombian breakfast is coffee/tea/juice, toast, eggs in some form (omelet or scrambled), sometimes an arepa, and fruit. Our B&B in Bogota was kind enough to make oatmeal specifically for me. We ended up cooking our own oatmeal at places that didn’t supply an adequate breakfast.
5. Do a cooking class
We started off our trip in Bogota and as you know, I was really excited about the cooking class. While we needed a Spanish translator (Juan was a vegan, to boot!), we were able to cook with a native Bogotan, in her humble abode that even had fruit trees within her courtyard. This was Dona Elsa’s first vegan cooking class and she was receptive to my requests to make a surplus of food for me to take home with me as leftovers. I was excited to try some new-to-me vegetables prepared ala Colombiano. We ended up making the traditional Colombian salad with avocado, a huge amount of vegetable soup (sancocho without chicken, filled with fava beans, green peas, green beans, squash/pumpkin (auyama), green plantains, carrot, corn, spinach and cilantro), frijoles (Colombian beans), yucca frita (fried yucca), patacones (refried plantains), papa fritas (fried criolle potatoes), fresh lulo juice along with a dessert that I forgot to write down. I was antsy about eating the fried foods but they were great. In fact, these were one of the best meals of the entire trip. The patacones and yucca fritas could not be duplicated elsewhere, in ay resto or when I made them myself in a hostel (I went for a non-stick, low-oil option). Sadly, I know the secret: frying in lots of oil. Twice. Not only was I armed with leftovers, I was now more familiar with the local ingredients and how to prepare them.
Here for the hummus recipe, instead? I don’t blame you…
I don’t know why, but I don’t make hummus on a regular basis. I break it out for parties and when I am travelling. This is currently my favourite non-traditional hummus. It takes a bit more work than your standard hummus, but the results are great. First, you need to saute some shallots (or onion) with rosemary to infuse a small amount of oil for your hummus. Ground pistachios and a touch of tahini are the base for this version that is also spiced with maple syrup and cinnamon. I didn’t think rosemary would pair so well with this, but it was a phenomenal hummus. Sweet, yet savoury. Lighter with the additional water, it isn’t as creamy as a decadent hummus, but you could add more tahini or oil to taste. In short, perfect for me. Enjoy!
Other hummus flavours:
Cilantro, you either love it or hate it.
As you may have figured out, I am in the cilantro-loving camp.
On the theme of delicious sauces, this one is definitely a keeper. I shouldn’t have doubted it for a second, as it comes courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution.
Originally, I made a half recipe. Trust me, I was kicking myself. I slurped up nearly a quarter of the sauce just “sampling it” with some crackers, it was that good. I had to make it again, it was that awesome!
Cilantro is the major flavour in the sauce, with hits from the ginger, garlic, basil and fresh lime juice. The peanut butter and light coconut milk make this a creamy sauce which balances the bold flavours nicely.
So, what to do with it once you’ve licked your fingers clean a few hundred times? Textured crackers work well, too, although this is more of a sauce than a dip. The sauce would work well overtop vegetables with your favourite grain, too.
To get a bit more fancy, Tess had 2 recipes in her book using this sauce.
The first recipe was for Thai shiitake-basil spring rolls using this as the dip. I ended up making collard wraps with the same filling substituting kelp noodles, drizzling the sauce inside and around the wraps. The fresh herbs and veggies, along with the sauteed shiitakes worked well. The star was definitely the dipping sauce.
The next recipe I loved was the “Sexy Saucy Noodles“. Broccoli, mushrooms and edamame are sauteed in toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Throw in your noodles of choice (I used kelp noodles but soba would work well here) and douse heavily with the sauce. Stir to combine. Garnish with carrots, sprouts, fresh herbs, etc. Delicious. The sauce isn’t as strong, but the flavours are great.
For maximum dip enjoyment: Lick your fingers.
Amongst my closer friends and family, I am the only vegan. Quite a few of my friends are vegetarian, but my closest vegan buddy is in Vancouver. That’s across one big country. One of my co-workers is a former vegan, choosing to eat fish as an omega supplement mostly. I have yet to know anyone who has tried raw cuisine without my influence. Most of my friends are adventurist eaters, so I can share my kitchen successes and failures. While I eat vegan mainly for health and environmental reasons, sometimes I wonder about connecting with other like-minded souls.
A few months ago, I travelled with Rob to meet some of his friends from Burning Man. While mostly everyone was vegetarian, it was exciting to meet someone else who also dabbled in raw cuisine. She encouraged me to try banana chips in the dehydrator and told me about one of her raw successes: King Oyster Calamari from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma’s restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in NYC, is my favourite raw resto to date, so I was eager to try the dish when I got home. King oyster mushrooms were on sale, too, to boot. I didn’t have the cookbook, but a quick google search led me to Emily’s site which had the recipe.
The recipe was simple: marinate king oyster mushrooms, bread them with spiced ground flaxseeds (works as both the breading and egg-substitute!) and then dehydrate. My new-found friend also gave me a few other tips.
While the recipe says to dehydrate for 2-3 hours, she suggested dehydrating up to 5 hours for them to become really crispy. She also warned me that the whole recipe made a ton of food, so I halved it. (I also quartered the cocktail sauce below, since I ended up thinning it and had an overabundance of sauce leftover). I tinkered with the recipe since I don’t have an Italian spice blend, and instead added whatever looked like an Italian spice from my spice drawer: basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley. I threw in some dried onion and garlic granules as well as lemon pepper seasoning instead of the black pepper. Even though I used chili powder, too, I dipped my finger in and thought something was missing. I added black salt. Now we were set. (Note to self: next time I may try this with nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, since I liked that with my Asiago-crusted baked zucchini sticks). I had a bit of leftover crumbs, so you could probably increase the number of mushrooms with this mixture – or pack it in more than I did.
Now, if you don’t have a dehydrator, do not fear. You can still make vegan calamari! I made these both ways: raw in the dehydrator for 3 hours and a separate batch for 10 minutes in the oven. I don’t care too much about the raw philosophy of not cooking over 115F, but I love the inventive recipes… so to hurry things up, I stuck some in the oven, too. Both were
good great. They honestly tasted like calamari. No hidden mushrooms here (Rob thinks he could taste mushrooms but only because he knew they were in there). Between the two versions, though, I preferred the raw dehydrated ones. They were more crispy and the breading stayed on (some of it stuck to my silpat in my oven version). The oven-baked version had more of a slippery calamari feel to it, though. In any case (or in both cases), Rob said he liked them better than regular calamari since it has a cleaner taste. I also preferred this version instead of the typical deep-fried options you find at restos. Bright and fresh, healthy food, what’s not to like?
Speaking of connecting with other like-minded souls, I was wondering if I have any readers in the GTA that would like get connected? I was really sad I missed Sarah’s potluck in the park, especially since it looked like it was a lot of fun!
It is true. I am in a Mixed Diet Relationship.
I often get questions how Rob and I duke it out in the kitchen.
In my corner, I am the whole-foods vegan devoid of white flours and sugars.
At the opposite end, we have Rob, who will eat anything.
Thankfully, we actually don’t have segregated corners.
Before I met Rob, he was eating vegetarian at home. Actually, when Rob met me, I was eating a flexitarian diet (mainly vegetarian with occasional fish but I still ate meat, too). Rob had no clue what he was getting himself into, haha!
One of my friends who is vegan won’t allow any meat into his home. I am definitely not like that but I could see how dietary choices could definitely divide relationships. Thankfully both Rob and I are more accommodating, as well as our friends and families.
At home, Rob and I eat mostly the same stuff. Mostly vegan, although sometimes Rob eats yogurt and adds butter to his granola. There are some Rob-only ingredients, like the red and green curry pastes in the fridge (they include shrimp, so a definite no-go for me). There are some Janet-only foods, too, because Rob doesn’t really care for them- like my Amazing Grass for breakfast. For breakfast fruit, Rob gets the bananas and mangoes while I relish in berries. Rob loves spicy foods, so if cooking for himself, he usually increases the chilies. If cooking for both of us, they fall more into my own comfort zone (1/2 tsp Aleppo max!). Rob also has a sweet tooth and is pretty content to munch through the rare dessert that I make.
I think we’ve got things worked out pretty well in the kitchen, actually.
Rob eats out way more often than I do, which is where he gets his occasional fix of meat. If
we Rob cooks meat at home, it is for our guests. Rob’s last birthday party kind of had me in a tizzy because I didn’t want to cook meat. Rob couldn’t use the barbecue so grilling was out. Thankfully the slow cooker came to the rescue.
I still contend that while I don’t crave it, I probably miss fish the most. Here I am sharing a smoked salmon sushi pizza that I made for a party with mixed company. While traditional sushi can be finicky to make for a large crowd, making a casserole of sushi pizza is much quicker and easier.
I used the seasoned sushi rice from Yo Sushi and the sushi pizza recipe was modified from Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends. I ended up doubling the recipe to fit a 9″x13″ pan but I probably didn’t have to double it. It made a ton of food. My pieces were a bit big which necessitated using a knife and fork to eat, so next time I would opt for smaller bite-sized pieces, with overlapping cucumber slices.
I am still too shy to try a nontraditional raw take on this for a crowd. If I test-run it first, I may have more courage to try Ricki’s vegan sushi pizza next time.
When I visited San Antonio last year, I discovered Greens, a gem of a restaurant and a haven for vegetarians on the outskirts of downtown. Eager to side-skirt the meat- and cheese-heavy Texan cuisine, a few friends and I checked it out together. All of the dishes we ate that night were great – fresh and vibrant. They really know how to make a mean sauce!
I still remember when my friends tried the kale salad. It was their first time eating a raw kale salad and they enjoyed it. Simple and sweet, yet slightly spicy, but not overpowering. We tried to guess what was in it, pinpointing the flavours.. soy sauce? citrus? chili flakes? While there was no specific recipe (they make it to taste every day), thankfully our server told us exactly what was in it: soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. I could have sworn there was orange juice, but regardless, I was eager to try my hand at this once I returned home, with or without the citrus!
As I flipped through Color Me Vegan, I bookmarked the raw kale salad with orange, grapefruit and lime, and I remembered the salad from San Antonio. I figured this would be a good recipe to try to recreate it. I wasn’t sure about including grapefruit, so I omitted it entirely. Being familiar with the massaging technique for raw kale salads, I also opted to wilt my kale with the citrus dressing. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the citrus kick from both the orange and lime juices. It paired well with the kale, and the addition of onion and pine nuts made this even better than the raw kale salad at Greens! I prefer my salads to be on the less sweet side, so feel free to add more agave, to taste, depending on the sweetness of your oranges.
I’ve said it before, but raw kale salads are perfect for gatherings: no worrying about anything spoiling in the sun and wilted kale salads can easily be made in advance since they are supposed to wilt! Enjoy!
Other kale salads I have enjoyed:
It may be a good thing that Sunny and I live further apart.
I won’t get into as much trouble with my grocery shopping.
You see, we needed to get more chickpea flour and tamarind. No better excuse to head out to Sunny’s one last time. I scope out my weekly meals based on the produce that is on sale. I knew oyster mushrooms were on sale, so I planned to make mushroom dal. Green beans were also on sale, so I had planned a meal for that, too. I still meander through the produce section to see what else is available, though.. and that’s when I get into trouble.
Unadvertised specials: Two bunches of broccoli for $1. Huge collards for 79c/bunch. Hard-to-find green mangoes were spotted. So. Hard. To. Resist. I am weak against fresh, cheap veggies. I succumbed. I contained myself, though, when I saw a huge amount of mixed baby greens on sale for $3 (it must have been a bag of 20 lbs, I kid you not), though. My weekend menu gets turned upside down. Now I am not entirely sure what I want to make.
In the end, I made the sushi roll edamame collard wraps earlier in the week with the collard greens. By the end of the week, I wanted to try something cooked instead. Continuing on my current Indian kick, I turned to 660 Curries and I was shocked to find a recipe using collards: Roulade of Collard Leaves with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce! Collard leaves are used to envelope a savoury chickpea flour batter, drizzled with a tomato-mustard sauce. The authentic Indian version uses taro leaves but Iyer insists that collards are a nice, if somewhat chewier substitute. My curiosity was piqued instantly.
My Indian repertoire consists mainly of bean-based curries, so it was nice to try something completely different. This is an appetizer, but it is hearty enough to be a main meal if you eat enough. Here, you make a delectably savoury filling based on chickpea flour spiced with coriander, cumin, chile flakes, ginger and tamarind. Please stop to taste the filling, it is very good. Just don’t eat too much of it because it is then thinly spread overtop collard leaves. With around one tablespoon of batter per leaf, I had my doubts whether this would all stick together in the end. You stack 4 collard leaves on top of each other and tightly roll it together and secure it with a toothpick (or string). Next, your collard roll is steamed until tender and the chickpea batter is cooked. After a bit of cooling, you slice them, then pan-fry them until brown with mustard and cumin seeds and then briefly stew them with some tomato and cilantro to create a quasi-sauce. Dust with some coconut and you have some seriously flavourful collard bites. The collards are meltingly tender, the chickpea filling so tasty and the nibbles are eerily creamy. The extra flavour from the tempered spices make this sing. My tomato-mustard sauce never really delivered, as I may not have had a big enough tomato, but the little smattering of tomato-cilantro was nice in moderation.
I know it seems so complex, but it is fairly simple to make. I’d bust this out for my next Indian fest, though, as it is best when fresh and very impressive, while still pretty easy to make. Iyer says these can be prepared in advance and frozen, which would be a delicious treat to have stored for a rainy day.
The point of making a sushi rice bowl salad is that it is easier than rolling numerous sushi rolls. I know, I’ve done it before.
So why would I bastardize a perfectly nice sushi salad by turning it into a wrap?
A collard wrap, of all things, instead of a sushi roll.
As you probably figured out, I like wraps, especially when wrapped with a green leaf like Swiss chard, kale, collard or even Romaine lettuce. Hearty greens don’t go soggy. My leaves are usually small enough for bite-size snacks, rolling up a few for tasty meal. While I also like salads, I preferred this as a wrap. With a wrap, you make sure every component of the salad hits your palate at the same time.
The idea of this wrap came from Appetite for Reduction, after Ashley posted her version. In my wrap, you get your zing from the green onions, the crunch from the carrots and cucumber, the salty earthiness from the shredded nori with a savoury note from sesame seeds all firmed up with a background from coarse bulgur and slippery edamame. The collard leaf keeps it all together. The green onion miso dressing is great within the wrap, and you can always add more if you use it as a dipping sauce. As a salad, the Asian ingredients seem a bit disjointed, but in the wrap, they work so well together.. because you can experience it all in every bite.
If you are tired of eating delicate leafy green-based salads, consider turning it into a green wrap. Where your greenery is just presented in a different form.
This is another dish we test-drove before our Indian Easter feast.
Pakoras are veggie-based fritters common across South Asia and are a popular snack or appetizer in India. Walk into any store in Little India, and you will see them: 2 for $1, although I have no clue who would want to buy cold deep-fried snacks. Lemon Cilantro Pakoras is a recipe from Tess, so we knew it would be scrumptious. However, we wanted to figure out how to make them without deep-frying. Here, we mix finely chopped cauliflower and onions in a lemon-cilantro-cumin studded chickpea flour batter. Akin to a souped up chilla, in ball form, oozing with lemony cilantro goodness. Like naan, these tasty fritters are best fresh, warm straight from the oven.
I will admit that we didn’t do a double-blinded randomized control trial for this cooking experiment. We made the batter and cooked them 3 different ways: a) in my aebleskiver pan; b) in a non-stick skillet; and c) baked on a silpat. The hardest part was keeping the pakoras together as we cooked and flipped them, so we also did a batch with extra chickpea flour on the skillet. I took photos of each version, but they kind of looked the same, so I will spare you the repetition.
I will get right to the unanimous verdict:
Baked pakoras for the win!
First of all, they were definitely the easiest: smush into a ball and bake. Although I flipped them half-way while baking, and then dusted with some oil, they are fairly hand’s off: no need to tend to them over the stovetop, roll them about, fiddle with additional oil, etc. Secondly (although most important), they tasted the best. The extra oil needed for the aebleskiver pan didn’t help them not stick and definitely made them taste heavier. The silpat was also easier to clean. Rob and I both preferred the lighter, refreshing taste from the baked pakoras. Out of everything we served at Easter, this was also the unanimous dish loved by all (including my hard-to-please father).
I feel like a real gourmand telling you all about pakoras, but the truth is I had no clue was a pakora was until last weekend. Rob, my resident Indian cuisine connoisseur, assured me this tasted authentic and better than what he has eaten at restaurants. He liked these more because they were lighter and healthier. Considering these are basically chopped up veggies slathered in a chickpea flour batter, they seem like a quick, guilt-less snack to me! We enjoyed them with tamarind and mango chutneys, but cilantro chutney would be paired with them more often.
Another note, I wanted to give a shout-out to Justa who recently tagged me with a Sunshine Blog Award as an Inspirational Blog. Her description of my blog had me nearly in tears:
This blog is my secret obsession. I’ve spent so much time over there I almost feel like a stalker! Janet is Vegan and while Mr. Foodie and I sometimes struggle to get a day’s worth of veggies, we are trying to eat more meatless meals and more healthily. Her blog is amazing to me and often intimidating but I don’t let that stop me. I read it like I’m studying a book, probably because I can’t pronounce half the stuff she makes and have no idea what the ingredients are so I end up googling them and learning so much about new foods and food combinations. She also provides lots of links to other blogs so the amazing food journey never seems to end. If you want to learn more about healthy recipes this is a good place to start.
I am thrilled to know I have been able to keep her inspired to try new ways of incorporating veggies into her meals. Part of why I blog is because I hope to inspire others with easy, healthy cooking and connect with other like-minded people. I also post about my cycling adventures because cycling was a big positive change in my life two years ago. I went from walking 30 minutes a day to/from the subway as my only exercise to building myself up to bike 361 km over 2-days last summer. Even though I now go to the gym regularly and have returned to biking to work, I still don’t consider myself athletic! There is something magical about biking: anyone can do it with a proper bicycle.
I don’t consider myself to have any innate athletic skills (I am possibly the most non-athletic person), nor do I have any special skills in the kitchen. My secret to capturing kitchen bliss is to know what I like, push myself in new directions to keep things interesting, maintain a well-stocked pantry and use fresh ingredients whenever possible. I love trying out new recipes but usually tweak them to my tastes.
I am still learning how to do the cycling thing better, but my tips are: a) wear a good helmet to protect your head; b) ride a comfortable non-cruiser bicycle; c) use a good lock so your bicycle doesn’t get stolen; d) incorporate cycling into your daily activities; e) padded cycling shorts + chamois butter are essential for long rides; f) gradually build up distance to cycle the long rides, taking breaks as you need them and g) have no shame in using your granny gear (ie, your lowest possible gear) for the big hills.
I have been honoured with a few other blogger awards, and had planned to do a dedicated post gushing over my favourite bloggers akin to my favourite cookbooks post. I will save that for another day, though. In the meantime, try out these healthy pakoras and let me know what you think. Don’t let the wacky name intimidate you.
Happy Good Friday!
This year, Rob and I are hosting my family for Good Friday. We typically don’t celebrate Good Friday, but since my brother is hosting us on Saturday, I thought it would be nice to have everyone over for a meatless dinner today.
Instead of opting for typical Easter fare (to be honest, I don’t really know what that would be), Rob and I are going Indian-style!
I suppose there are a myriad of reasons: we all like Indian food (including my parents, wowzas!), it fits nicely for healthy, meatless meals without feeling deprived, and one thing about curries is that they taste better as leftovers, so preparing them in advance is preferable and easier for me!
While we could revisit some of our favourite dishes, we’ve decided to try new meals (of course!). We’ll have enough variety in case something doesn’t turn out. For the more iffy recipes, we test-drove them first, though. Case-in-point: vegan banana naan.
While I don’t like bread, Rob adores it. Picking up a fresh loaf of bread from the nearby bakery is always a treat for Rob and he typically finds an excuse to do it whenever we have guests. I figured it would be nice to try our own fresh bread, instead. When going Indian, naan is the obvious choice.
Little do my guests know that I am using this opportunity to help empty my cupboards. I don’t really want to throw out my bread flour, so if everyone loves the homemade naan, that’s perfect! I still had some yeast, that I needed to proof to make sure it was still alive. If you like bread, there is nothing more satisfying than hot-off-the-stove chewy flatbread. Way cheaper than store-bought naan, even if we pick it up from Little India.
Traditional naan recipes call for yogurt, though. Flipping through vegan recipes, I noticed some used vegan yogurt (ugh!), some simply omitted it and others included ingredients like banana and avocado. We always have bananas on hand, so we picked this recipe to begin our experimentation.
I thought Rob was going to kill me when he had sticky dough all over his hands, but we added more flour and he kept on kneading. Our dough didn’t rise much (older yeast?) but we pressed on. We forgot to add the nigella seeds to the first batch, and they wouldn’t stick, but we added them to the next batch.
The verdict? Rob LOVED them! Warm, chewy yet fluffy – this was a great naan. No tandoor needed. The banana provides sweetness and moisture. While they were easy to make, they were a bit labour-intensive for us to serve to a large crowd. Until we experiment with a baked naan recipe, we’ve decided they won’t grace our Good Friday meal. They will, however, likely make an appearance when we serve some of the leftovers to my parents tomorrow.
I am a victim of my own success.
Nearly a year ago, I started my whole foods vegan diet, or vegan on steroids as Rob likes to put it. I did it primarily for health and environmental concerns and haven’t looked back.
No, really, there is no turning back. I know some people wonder why I can’t just eat something if it has meat broth, or snack on whole wheat bread, or just eat the darn white rice. There is a reason for my choices and I don’t want to compromise. Not all vegan food is healthy.
On the rare occasion, I have made small compromises. Last summer, I went to a potluck where a friend didn’t know about my food choices and quickly whipped up some deep-fried tofu-and-lotus root croquettes for me. I should have stuck to my lentil salad, but I also nibbled on a rice dish and the croquettes. I left that night with a belly beyond bloated. At the time, we thought maybe I had mistakenly eaten something with shrimp (of which I do have allergies) because I reacted so badly.
I have travelled a lot this year, some for vacation, other times for interviews and this time for a conference. I have become really good at planning for success: finding a grocery store and appropriate restaurants, if need be. This time, I returned to my favourite Vancouver hotel not only because it is affordable, but because I have a mini-fridge in my room and access to a communal kitchen. I also know that T&T is close for me to pick up affordable groceries. Because I didn’t have to cross borders, I brought some veggies, hummus (this Ginger-Lime-Wasabi Edamame Hummus!) and some leftovers with me to tie me over until I was able to shop at T&T. I even brought a dressing in anticipation of buying frozen edamame, a quick and easy way for me to get my bean fix.
I was pretty diligent about picking up some produce to bring me back to my normal routine: tea and grapefruit to start the day. I planned for a simple oatmeal+flax+fruit breakfast, but instead was wooed by Ruth’s Chia Goodness at T&T. Basically it is a souped up chia pudding and I am adamant to recreate it for my next travel destination. It is easier than my portable overnight oats since I have been using water as the liquid instead of nondairy milk. I picked up a bunch of veggies to make some collard wraps with my hummus (pea shoots, carrots and cucumber), and edamame for my bean salad.
However, I left Toronto’s balmy summer weather and was greeted by Vancouver’s cold and wet conditions. In the span of an hour, I can see it pouring torrential rain, followed by some snow/sleet and then the sun will come out and dry it all away. With this chilling weather, by the time a few days rolled around, the last thing I wanted to eat was another cold salad or wrap.
While I had earlier success at some nearby raw restaurants (Gorilla Food‘s Main St Monkey sandwich is so good!), I scoped out some hot vegan eats at nearby Nuba, a Lebanese resto with many vegan options. I had enjoyed my meal there last year, so I was eager to have a large glass of carrot-beet-ginger-lime juice, as well as mujaddara. I also opted for a small side of Najib’s special: crispy cauliflower with lemon and sea salt, with a tahini sauce. Unfortunately, a few hours later, I had a bloated belly… However, a few days later, I thought maybe their red lentil soup and falafels could sooth my cold soul. Not so. Within minutes of finishing my plate, my belly was bloated again. I thought I had picked hearty bean dishes, but my plan had been foiled. Even when I don’t know what the offending food is, my belly cannnot be fooled.
In retrospect, I have blamed it on the deep-frying.The mujaddara had deep-fried crispy onions, that crispy cauliflower – yeah, it was deep-fried, too, and those falafels were also deep-fried. Suffice it to say, I don’t deep-fry anything at home and this was probably what caused my troubles.
You see, I cannot go back to my old ways.
Many bloggers have recently adopted a vegetarian, vegan or whole foods way of eating. I would love to know if you’ve experienced the same since changing. Before I went whole foods, I never really had any digestive issues. Now, a small deviation into junk can easily trigger something nasty. Annie recently said she notices changes immediately when she deviates from her vegan, gluten-free diet.
Anyways, back to the hummus. Hummus is the perfect travel food in my opinion, because all you need are some veggies to dip and you are good to go! It can also go a bit more fancy with a collard wrap or a hummus dressing for a raw kale salad. While I prefer the traditional recipe, you can easily mix things up with different flavours – any takers for pomegranate red pepper or Indian-spiced? This time, I opted for a spin off of Gena’s Ginger Lime Edamame Hummus which I had immediately bookmarked last summer.
I’ve made some fabulously creamy edamame dips (edamame miso dip and edamame guacamole), so I knew this wouldn’t disappoint. I liked Gena’s suggestion for ginger and lime. Instead of tobasco sauce, though, I added wasabi powder to continue with the Asian theme. It contrasted nicely with the sharp bite from the ginger and the acidity from the lime, all the while creamy from the edamame and tahini.
Yet another successful variation on hummus. I think I will warm it up to counteract my shunning of all cold foods.
Would you go to a steakhouse for an upscale vegan experience?
It seems so counter-intuitive, eh?
I was hesitant, though. Could a steakhouse really have great vegan food? It turns out that they recently hired Doug McNish, Raw Aura‘s former vegan chef that catapulted raw food into my dream books. He added a complete vegan menu at Prime, so I was confident that this would not be subpar vegan eats.
I priced out their Winterlicious menu. It turned out it was cheaper to pick from their standard vegan menu than to limit oneself to the vegan options on fixed price menu, especially since there was overlap between the options.
I opted to try the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil as a starter. It was decadent and delicious. It was also rich and filling, so I decided to pace myself and take half of it home. Rob tried the nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate but we didn’t find them that exceptional.
For our mains, I happily munched on the herbed portobello mushroom and tempeh burger which was the highlight of the night. I have never had such a flavourful veggie burger. Unfortunately, the sweet potato fries were subpar, even after I asked for fresh ones since mine were cold. They also forgot to give me the sun-dried tomato aioli, but I am glad I reminded them because it was really good with the burger.
Rob had been pining over the cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks, spiced sweet potato coconut mash, steamed greens with caramelized onion and cherry tomato relish but we both found it lackluster. I suppose we’ve been spoiled by great vegan eats from Blossom Cafe, Candle 79 and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.
For dessert, I was salivating the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis. When I packed my risotto earlier, I wanted to make room for this dessert. However, it was bad. It was uber sweet but in a dry icing sugar kind of way. Turns out, I can make a better version at home anyhow (remember those Mango Paradise Bars?)
I enjoy raw food because the flavours really pop. At Prime, although their meals are not raw, their tempeh burger had great flavours mingling together which is what captured me into the dish. Here, these mini burgers are flavoured with shiitake mushrooms, sage, rosemary, garlic with bulk from pumpkin seeds and sweet potato. They don’t require a long dehydration time since you want to maintain some moisture. Don’t have a dehydrator? I bet they could easily be baked for 15 minutes or so but I can’t say for sure.
I ate my sliders as mini sandwiches with a slice of tomato as the base, followed by a bed of alfalfa sprouts. The slider was then topped with a smear of avocado with a touch of salt. Delicious!
There are many differences between Canadians and Americans. One definitely is due to the Mexican influence on Americans.
Despite posting a few Mexican recipes, I don’t really know much about Mexican cuisine.
Like hummus, everyone has their favourite guac recipe. I haven’t experimented much but I loved this creamy guacamole with edamame. You see, I don’t buy avocados that often. They are expensive in Canada. I know they are ridiculously cheaper in the US, especially in the Southern states. But for some reason, they have been on sale recently so when Rob went grocery shopping, he came home with over 10 avocados. We were obviously making guacamole for his party!
While the brisket and BBQ jackfruit tacos received high praises, I think this guacamole stole the show. It was the winner of the night.
I want to call this a nontraditional guacamole because it is stuffed with pineapple and cucumber. However, since it is adapted from Truly Mexican, it is probably more authentic than you think. Mexicans know how to accentuate the already delicious avocados into a sweet and spicy salad.
Chunkier than your mashed guacamoles, you have a mingling of sweet pineapple chunks, cool chopped cucumber and chunks of avocado bathed in a lime-chile marinade. Due to the acidity from both the lime juice and the pineapple, this is a guacamole you can make in advance and not worry about it turning an ugly brown.
Make sure you have large chips to scoop up this guac, or if you’re like me, make it into a wrap!
Load a Romaine leaf with guacamole, and top with your favourite toppings – I chose julienned cabbage and carrots, chopped cilantro, pickled red onions, alfalfa sprouts and sunflower seeds.
Don’t have any fixings? It paired beautifully with the BBQ jackfruit as well.
This is being submitted to this month’s Simple and In Season, to this month’s Herbs on Saturday bloghop, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for pineapple and to this month’s Gimme Green event.