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.
Did you know you can revitalize stale chips and crackers with a dehydrator? We were skeptical, but when Rob and I unearthed some stale chips we had forgotten about, we put the dehydrator to the test. After an hour at 145F, we had fresh chips once again! I guess it just goes to show you that it is the moisture that sucks the life out of stale goods.
I don’t think my mom really approved of Rob buying me a dehydrator for Christmas. Figured it would be a passing phase and end up being a dust collector.
Never fear, it is still being used for many different things, even though I haven’t shared them on the blog. I’ve become pretty adept at making apple chips, although dehydrated pineapple is quite good, too (very chewy!). My naked and maple-sweetened cranberries didn’t work out so well, unfortunately. Kale chips have also been great. Rob and I enjoying the polar opposite kinds. He loved the chocolate kale chips, whereas I preferred the Sarah’s maple sesame version. I’ve made raw chocolate macaroons and raw chocolate mint brownies with delicious results. Zucchini wraps, too.
Next up: Crackers.
Looking for a healthy dessert alternative, I decided to make cinnamon flax crackers after spotting them at Vegan Culinary Crusade. I increased the cinnamon for a bigger burst of flavour but otherwise followed her recipe. I mixed together the soaked flax seeds, water and dates in the food processor to create a thick gooey dough. Spread as thinly as possible for a crispy cracker.
Even with 1/2 cup of dates, this wasn’t a sweet cracker. But it was sweet enough to release its prowess with me. I gobbled these crackers up so quickly with their warming hug of cinnamon. I used brown flax seeds but will try golden flax seeds next time since they have a milder taste. In any case, while I originally planned to eat these for dessert, I found they paired beautifully with a butternut squash soup.
My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make. Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.
This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.
These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.
The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.
These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.
I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!
This week, kabocha squash was on sale. Half price. Score for me!
I had two problems, though.
2) When I made it to the grocery store, the sign was labelled as BUTTERCUP squash, though. The squashes had kabocha stickers, the flyer advertised kabocha squash, but the sign clearly stated buttercup squashes were on sale.
I haven’t tasted a kabocha, let alone really noticed them before (the one I bought at the Farmer’s market, that is still sitting in my kitchen, is a light shade of blue… and 8 lb.. and looked nothing like these squashes!). Furthermore, there was no way I could discern any differences from a buttercup squash. What to do???
If I had a cell phone, I could have done an emergency internet search… but I don’t have a cell phone. So I bought a bunch of squashes, drove home and then did my emergency squash search.
Turns out I am not the only person with the buttercup-kabocha quandary! Heather outlined the very subtle differences, focusing mostly on the butt of the squash.
Tell me how my squash butt compares. Did I buy a kabocha or a buttercup?
I suppose the proof is in the pudding. Or wrap, in this case.
I decided to roast the squash so that I could really taste it. Drizzled with a little hazelnut oil and only salt and pepper, this was a delicious squash. Denser, yet drier than a butternut squash. I found it had more flavour though and possibly a bit more sweet. Plus, the definitive bonus of the kabocha squash is that you don’t need to peel it!! I buy butternut squashes because I have become pretty adept at peeling it, but eating the peel is even easier! (FYI- the buttercup squash tends to cook up softer and falls apart quite easily).
Next, I went just a bit more fancy and stuffed the roasted squash into a collard wrap smothered with mashed avocado and cucumber, an idea that I borrowed from Gena at Choosing Raw. Gena has a wonderful way with pairing seemingly odd ingredients together, yet they work so well (remember the delectable apple and zesty cashew orange spread wrap?). Anyways, this was a very decadent wrap with the seasoned avocado working as a dressing, the cucumber conferring crunch all highlighting the hazelnut-flavoured roasted kabocha squash.
How do you prefer to eat your kabocha squash?
Rob can be bad at keeping secrets. He leaked that he wanted to buy me a dehydrator for Christmas in September.. or maybe October. I rationalized that it was in both our interests to get it while we were still brimming with autumn harvests (mainly our herbs and peppers). Hehehe… Rob had tried drying his chili peppers in the oven on the “keep warm” setting and it took many days to dry completely. Not that energy or time efficient. So…. the dehydrator arrived early and we dehydrated our summer bounty of chili peppers. Then moved on to apple chips, dehydrated pineapple and kale chips.
But it wasn’t much of a surprise when the dehydrator arrived. Rob didn’t even hide when it was available to be picked up from the store.
What was a surprise was when my first issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter arrived in my mailbox this week. I’ve written about this fabulous publication three times before, which I describe as the Consumer’s Reports of healthy food. I usually read my Mom’s leftover issues, but this time she bought me my own subscription. Yahoo! However, someone goofed (not my Mom) and I received the December 2011 issue. Not really a problem because I love this issue, but it arrived before Christmas.. totally spoiling the Christmas Day surprise.
The December 2011 issue, itself, was a great issue. The feature article is all about which foods actually improve your health based on scientific research. Want to lower your cholesterol? Your best bet in to focus on foods high in unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and fatty fish. The second best option is to consume foods high in soluble fibre like beans, oats and psyllium. As they explain, it is important to replace foods with trans- and saturated fats (meat, butter, cheese, cream, etc). It can be too easy to add additional calories through nuts, which are caloric-dense, but if you increase your refined carbs as a result of decreasing your fats, your triglycerides could increase, too (not good). They also talk about the best foods to protect your eyes, prevent colon cancer, staying regular and lowering your blood pressure (yes, the DASH diet is better than any single medication on the market).
Previously, my favourite article has been their ratings of vegetables where kale tops their list. I know all veggies are good for you, but I am such a numbers girl. However, with my new subscription they sent me a small pamphlet with ratings of other staples: fruit, beans (!!!), grains, lean meats and spreads. Of course, I was drawn to the best of the beans ratings.
While I know each bean is different, I always thought they were nearly similar nutritionally – full of fibre, folate and other vitamins. Only Nutrition Action would rate them! They based their ratings on the percentage of daily value of that each cup of cooked bean possessed for fibre, protein, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B6 and potassium.
Interestingly enough, at the top of their list was edamame and at the bottom of the list was tofu, both soy products. Compared to other beans, edamame (soybeans) are unique because they contain more iron and protein (also fat!) with decreased levels of folate and fibre. This explains why they are so creamy.
In honour of winning the title of “best bean”, I thought I’d share a fabulous avocado-edamame dip: guacamole with edamame… guacamame? Or, as Tess called it in Radiance 4 Life: Green Velvet Guacamole. I modified the recipe slightly by increasing the lime juice and garlic for some added zip. If you like bits in your guac, feel free to add chopped tomatoes and onions.. or whatever floats your boat. The edamame adds creaminess and body to your dip but more importantly, additional fibre and protein than you would get from an extra avocado.
I love frozen edamame (ok only the pre-shelled kind, otherwise I start to curse), because they are easy to throw into all sorts of dishes- stir fries, soups and salads. Need only a cup? Not a problem!
Here are some of my favourite recipes with edamame:
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
As I said, I typically make my meals on the weekends and munch on leftovers during the week. One perk, especially for me, is that my photographs benefit from the daylight. Sometimes, though, I may take a photo of a meal prematurely.. before I have it nailed down.
This recipe is all about the sauce. A mojo sauce. A creamy, yet light and zippy sauce filled with roasted red peppers, cumin, almonds and cilantro. Inspired by Sarah at My New Roots, I used less oil but otherwise true to her recipe.
Reminiscent of my favourite Chickpeas Romesco, I originally ate this smothered over chickpeas with a lettuce base. After an overnight marinade, it was nice. Except I didn’t think it worked that well with the lettuce (sorry, lettuce greens!). I used half of the sauce for two cups of chickpeas, but mid-week I became creative (sadly, without a camera).
It just goes to show you how diverse this wickedly addictive the sauce was… because it was devoured in no time. I enjoyed it unadorned with crackers and raw veggies as well as smeared overtop some veggie burgers (recipe to come!).
We had lofty garden plans. We can grow herbs and hot peppers very well, but some of the veggies never materialized. Some just died like the zucchini, cucumber and rhubarb. I harvested some Swiss chard but not enough to make a whole salad. And the only thing I really wanted to grow from the garden was the kale. I planted different kinds of kale- dinosaur or lacinato, Red Russian, and Vates blue curled kale. The vates blue curled kale grew the best, but even then, it wasn’t much. A handful of leaves, tops.
Imagine my surprise when we went to Rob’s parents place over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend and they had this monster of a beauty in their backyard:
Lacinato or dinosaur kale is an heirloom variety of kale that is dark green with textured leaves. It is more tender and sweet than your standard curly kale, and works really well in salads. Armed with oodles of kale and a couple hours before the Thanksgiving feast, I quickly made myself at home in their kitchen and got to work making a salad. It sure is fun to cook in a well-stocked kitchen and garden! Lacinato leaves are more narrow, as well, but they can easily be removed with gentle traction (as seen in this video). I rolled all the leaves together and then cut them into thin slices, akin to a thick chiffonade. I grabbed some dill from their backyard and added it to a simple lemony vinaigrette, inspired by Ricki. Topped with grated carrots, julienned raw sweet potato and toasted pumpkin seeds, there was a nice orange visual with a serious satisfying crunch. The lemon-dill dressing complemented the salad without being overpowering.
I will likely be known as the kale salad girl by Rob’s family. Two holidays, two raw kale salads. For Easter, I brought the raw kale salad with beets, raisins and almonds. Thanksgiving, was this raw kale salad. Personally, I have no qualms sharing my joy of kale.
They urged me to take home the rest of the kale. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I left them the leaves at top so the plant would continue to grow. Kale apparently tastes better after the first frost, so I have hope there is still more kale to come!