Lately my meals have been a lot of random foods. I am holding out. I knew I had some staples waiting to be unpacked but quickly replenished my perishable staples (tahini, peanut butter, maple syrup, etc). As such, the last few weeks have had me cooking without spices, relying on strong-flavoured ingredients and let’s be honest, I bought some pre-made soups and added some beans to make it a complete meal.
I promise to share some of my fun meals once my home is back to normal. Until then, I will continue to unearth some oldies-but-goodies from my backlog. I chose to share this one because it is actually pretty similar to what I am eating these days: cooked quinoa, random vegetables, beans, topped with a creamy sauce.
What is your template for healthy lunches?
Hourray! Our stuff from Houston arrived! Six weeks after we left and a week later than expected. Our scheduling goof-up was that the Canadian Customs will not let your unaccompanied goods enter Canada until you do. So since we went straight to South Africa from Houston, our stuff could only enter Canada after we had returned. The extra delay was due to paperwork problems, out of our control. Anyways, it is here now.
As Eileen said, the worst part is knowing stuff is going to arrive and putting off buying duplicates. So I have been cooking without spices and exotic ingredients. Oddly enough, this was also how I was cooking towards my final days in Houston.
Just to show you exactly what we were cooking down to the wire, this was a delicious concoction we threw together with fridge remnants the day we moved. Rob and I still had a day at work before we took off for 2 overnight flights. I knew I needed some fuel, so my Mom helped at the stovetop as I suggested combinations of ingredients.
Towards to end of my stint in Houston, all of a sudden, I wanted to try.all.the.things, aka all the faux meats at Trader Joe’s. Even though I don’t normally eat them, my positive experience with Beyond Meat told me to branch out a bit and try them while I still could.
The next on deck were TJ’s beefless crumbles and my limited kitchen conferred a surprisingly tasty meal. The crumbles didn’t have too much flavour on their own but this worked really well. I am accustomed to the traditional onion and garlic aromatics but the simple addition of roasted green chiles (has anyone found these in Toronto???) and sun-dried tomatoes made that unnecessary. This was a quickie and delicious meal.
I just ate this as is, but this could easily be added as a filling for a taco or burrito and topped with extra veggies.
Do you cook without aromatics? What do you replace them with?
I am sharing this with No Waste Food Challenge.
It is nice to be home again. While I have a very bare kitchen (some borrowed knives, cutting board, pot and frypan only with a few containers), I am still happy to be starting my new life. We had dedicated more time for unpacking over the long weekend, but since we had nothing to unpack, we spent more time at my parents, thoroughly exploiting their fully functional kitchen.
We quickly gravitated to make old favourites: Tamarind Lentils, Pad Thai, and Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad. Then, finally itching to make something new, I decided to make a spin on two of my other favourite salads, aka The Best Lentil Salad and The Best Chickpea Salad. This time, I used lentils, capers and currants but with a dressing more similar to the tahini-maple-curry dressing from the chickpea salad. I added some greens, too, which I like to add to lentil salads. It was so delicious, it barely lasted one meal.
Got to love simple salads like this. What is your favourite summer salad?
The other day my Mom admitted that Rob’s opinion is biased. And she doesn’t trust it.
I like to use Rob as my barometer. How would a regular person enjoy my meal?
I think my Mom meant that Rob always likes my food, which, uh, is completely far from the truth. While Rob will eat most anything and has a very open mind (he skipped out on the rotten shark in Iceland, though), he still has his food preferences. Some meals I make are not his style, so I may not even share the meal with him. But when something tastes really good, or includes a lot of his favourite ingredients, I want to know what he thinks.
This was a curry that I tracked down fresh fenugreek. Toor dal (split pigeon peas) was simmered with pumpkin along with a multitude of spices: cilantro, mint, coriander, cardamom, paprika, ginger, garlic, chili flakes and sambhar masala. To keep it vegan, I simply omitted the chicken from the original recipe.
This was a case, though, where the curry was only ok. I thought it was ok but not great. Too many flavours became a muddled dish. Rob liked it more than me, though. He likes curry more than me, although since we weren’t completely smitten with it, we decided to try out Curry Burgers. Super simple: mix together leftover curry with leftover rice and chickpea flour. Bake. Easy, peasy. Since we usually serve our curries with rice, this was a fun way to jazz up the leftovers.
I don’t know why but the burgers tasted better than the original curry. We ditched the standard ketchup and mustard for Indian chutneys.. with a side salad of pickled beets and spinach and just ditched the buns altogether. :)
I almost thought about making my blog vacation all about chickpea flour. I have been experimenting with it a lot more and this was a fun venture into sweet pancakes.
I was drawn to Gena’s recipe because they were protein pancakes without protein powder. While I am no stranger to savoury chickpea flour pancakes (aka besan chilla), I liked how these were more traditional. Here, chickpea flour is combined with cashew flour and soy milk for a heartier base.
They did not fluff up like regular pancakes, but were good for a lazy weekend breakfast. I topped them with a quickie raspberry chia jam for a summer twist. Forget boiling the fruit as in my blueberry vanilla chia jam. I simply defrosted some frozen raspberries in the microwave, added some chia seeds and waited a few minutes. The jam was a nice sweet contrast when rolled inside the pancakes.
I am sharing this with Dead Easy Desserts.
You know Rob is a keeper when he doesn’t kill you when it is time to pack. And a) you have essentially doubled your cookbook collection while in Houston (although I limited myself to 10 books for my move) and Rob is now packing your heavy books; b) while you should be packing, instead you are cooking the last of the bits in the refrigerator, so I am still net loss worth for packing. And then there’s c) please don’t pack my cookbooks I still want to review! Eventually I had to give in…. and help pack. And thankful that most books I receive to review come in electronic form.
Especially after making my own e-cookbook, I have grown to appreciate digital books. They have their pros and cons. They are easier to search, but not as fun to read. I miss the ability to curl the pages and find new random recipes. Although they are definitely easier to move. They also allow me to write posts in the airport.
Afro Vegan is Terry Bryant’s new cookbook. A lover of good food, he has managed to fuse soul comfort food with gourmet twists. His muses vary from Caribbean soul cuisine, Southern US down home cooking and African menus. Pecan cornbread with dukkah? Sweet plantain and Fresh Corn Cakes? Peanut Pumpkin Fritters? Jamaican Patties Stuffed with Maque Choux? Spinach Peanut Sauce? Trust me, it all sounded good to me, I was sad I haven’t had enough time to explore it.
While a bit more complex than my weeknight meals, there are more simple and more elaborate dishes. Delicious and innovative all-round. I loved, loved, loved my version of his Southern black eyed peas, I shared it before the book was even released to the masses. Now I am sharing another great soup, which I simplified by skipping the dumplings. This black bean stew, inspired by the Brazilian feijoada, is more tomato-heavy than my previous versions, but still nice and hearty and simple enough for an easy meal.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere (except maybe the moon). To be entered, please leave a comment here, any comment. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!
Recipes from Afro-Vegan shared elsewhere:
It is my pleasure to share with you Gena Hamshaw’s new cookbook, Choosing Raw. Named after her widely popular food blog, her simple, bright and healthy recipes shine through onto paper. Full disclosure, I have loved Gena’s recipes ever since I discovered her blog (and her infamous banana soft serve recipe). My previous gushings can be seen here and here and I was thrilled when Gena asked me to be a tester for her cookbook. The best part of help her test the recipes? She actually cared about my feedback beyond recipe bloopers, making this a truly phenomenal cookbook.
Just as her blog attests, the recipes are fresh and flavourful. All vegan, some raw, some cooked, some mixed, some with options for either raw or cooked. You might think you recognize some of the recipes from her blog, but they have all been reworked and rewritten based on reader feedback. With 125 recipes, spanning essential foundation recipes (including cashew cheese, chocomole, banana soft serve, lemon turmeric vinaigrette, ginger miso dressing and hemp parmesan) and breakfasts, meals and desserts separated based on the degree of raw components and familiarity to traditional meals. She includes a primer on making meal-sized salads, including a Dinosaur Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad and a Raw Cobb Salad with Eggplant Bacon.
Gena’s level 1 or introductory recipes are truly tried-and-true. Breakfasts options include the (delicious!) Raw Vegan Bircher Muesli, and (even more delicious!!) Chickpea Tofu Tahini Scramble. Gena has different suggestions for lunch and dinner (for me, lunch is always dinner in leftover form) and I can highly recommend both her Curried Chickpea and Carrot Salad and Easy Red Lentil Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry.
Slowly, Gena encourages you to branch out from the familiar with a hybrid of new and old. Her Avocado Black Bean Scramble was fresh and bright, the Raw Falafels have a carrot base which was the first falafel recipe I liked, and I love that her Raw Pad Thai actually includes tamarind (although I recommend adding more tamarind… because, that’s just the way we like it!). The Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds was a fun twist for an autumn side, although I added chickpeas for a heartier meal.
Within her level 3 recipes (aka Brave New World), Gena introduces you to chocolate açaí bowls, jicama fiesta rice salad, raw corn chowder, and coconut curry kelp noodles. From this chapter, I highly recommend the Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Salsa (I substituted peaches which was still glorious) and her Raw or Cooked Ratatouille.
Desserts are typically the star of raw cuisine, and her recipes do not disappoint. Her Simple Raw Vanilla Macaroons are flawless and her Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is spot-on. I cannot wait to try other dishes like her Cherry Vanilla Tahini Ice Cream (no ice cream machine required!) and her No-Bake Tartlets with Raw Vegan Chocolate Ganache Filling has been on my hitlist for a long time.
For me, the most important part of a cookbook are the recipes (and the index so I can find the recipes), but the recipes are only a portion of Gena’s book. Her first chapters explain “The Why”, “The What” and “The How” of a eating a vegan diet that includes raw. Normally I skip over these sections, but Gena makes these sections practical, useful and insightful with her background in nutrition. Finally, a raw cookbook that tells you the theory of keeping your food “enzymes” intact will all get decimated in your stomach’s harsh acidic environment anyhow. Likewise, her focus is on nutrients from a plant-based diet.
Gena explains how to properly balance your meals, explaining the importance of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. She debunks myths including “Eating spinach raw is bad for you because it blocks the absorption of nutrients”, “Soy disrupts hormones, causes breast cancer and should be avoided”, “You should always eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach”, and “It’s essential to separate proteins and starches, because they require different digestive environments and will cause bloating if you eat them together”. To top it off, there are 21 days of worth of meal plans along with tips on how to transition to a vegan diet.
For this review, I had a hard time deciding which recipe to highlight. I decided to share her Classic Cheezy Kale Chips. The mixture of cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast and miso coat the kale leaves which are dehydrated until they are crispy and flavourful. I don’t usually bother with pretty photos while recipe testing, and I had good intentions of taking better photos. Until I ate all the chips. And then they were all gone. They were incredibly addictive.
Gena also has a higher protein kale chip that I am dying to try: Hummus Kale Chips (made with chickpeas)!
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegetable. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Choosing Raw shared elsewhere:
Perhaps it is fitting that my last post from Houston should be a review for Vegan Finger Foods. It was in Houston, that I found and dived head-first into the “vegan potluck” community. Bounded by a common interest (delicious food), people came from various backgrounds. Some were vegan, others vegetarian, some omnivores, but all were included and encouraged to eat and enjoy the plentiful vegan food.
For me as a cook, it was (mostly) fun to try new recipes or share old favourites. I tend to gravitate to one-pot meals, but now I experimented with appetizers and desserts, knowing there would be plenty of Janet-friendly dishes to sample. As a person, it was comforting to meet others with similar interests, even if only within the realm of veganism. Although especially within the realm of veganism when I first moved to Texas.
Vegan Finger Foods is a fun cookbook, overflowing with ideas for your next gathering. Not only are the recipes suitable for vegan parties and potlucks, they can be mixed and matched for regular main meals at home. There are vegetable-centric bites (think “Bacon” Wrapped Water Chestnuts, Harissa Carrot Zucchini Cups), Finger Foods (think Brewpub Cauliflower Dip and Chips), Dips and Stuffed bites (like Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites with Pantry Raid Ranch and Pulled Jackfruit Mini Tacos), Bread-Based Bites (including Salsa Scuffins) and not forgetting bite-sized desserts (lots of cookies, cupcakes and even Goji Berry Cacao Bites and Tahini Caramel Popcorn).
I appreciate that each dish is a star in itself, even the veggie-centric dishes. I also liked that many dishes are hearty enough to be a main meal (ie, Sweet-and-Sour Sloppy Joes (with tempeh), baked lenteja taquitos (with lentils), baked frittata minis (with tofu) and even a few homemade seitan dishes, including these Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages. No need for company to eat well.
I tried a few dishes from the cookbook, but this one was my favourite and thankfully helped use up some odds-and-ends lingering in the kitchen. Reminiscent of my previous (vegan) cheese-stuffed sausage, these sausages are stuffed with kimchi. Kimchi is also incorporated into the batter making for a flavourful yet chewy sausage. I found it easier just to serve it with a side of even more kimchi, but I love suggestion to pan-fry it and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Pan-frying would accentuate the flavours even further.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite dish to share at potlucks. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Vegan Finger Foods shared elsewhere:
Spinach Swirls (with another giveaway, too)
Salsa Scuffins (with another giveaway, too)
Other dishes I shared at the vegan potluck this year:
Time is a-ticking. Less than a week left in Houston. We have been balancing DO.ALL.THE.THINGS left to do in Houston and DO.ALL.THE.PACKING. Lots of pantry-friendly meals this month as we eat through our kitchen.
We stopped replenishing the red lentils months ago and begrudgingly started eating through the toor dal. Not that we don’t love it (WE LOVE TOOR DAL) but it just takes longer to cook and time is something we are lacking right now.
We left a few Houston must-dos until the end. I finally went to the NASA Space Center, lured by a private tour by an astronaut. An astronaut with a PhD in Cancer Biology, which was right up my alley, as she explained the medical complications of space travel. And let us touch and feel the space stuff. But not wear the space suits, sadly. Astronauts ARE a science experiment in themselves, did you know? They also do deadlifts and squats in space to maintain their bone density.
We also went to Chinatown to eat at one of the rival Malaysian restaurants, complete with the suggested one-hour foot massage for only $20-25 at the neighbouring reflexology spas. It is the thing to do, I swear.
That experience was also our first (and hopefully last) experience with Houston rush hour traffic.
Also, kudos to the American pharmacies. “Yellow Fever Vaccine Now Here”. I can easily obtain travel immunizations without an appointment or a puncture fee. Vaccines tend to be controversial but it is not controversial for me: I would rather not get infected. So I finally got my hepatitis A shots and re-immunized myself against typhoid for my upcoming vacation.
So, about this curry. It is simple, yet delicious. Lightly spices with all the great Indian spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala) and lightened with a splash of lemon juice, it is a nice hearty meal. An easy way to easily add more spinach, too.
I haven’t really gone into too much detail why I am pro-vaccine (the main reason is the ability to prevent serious diseases, some of which are uncurable, which I believe outweighs the potential side effects from receiving the vaccine). Do you have strong opinions either way?
Did you know that Trader Joe’s is not in Canada? The closest thing we have (well, those who live in Vancouver) is Pirate Joe’s. They temporarily renamed themselves Irate Joe’s as they were being sued by TJ’s. TJ’s lost but is continuing to appeal. In any case, we’re getting our fair use of TJ’s while still in Houston.
Sadly, though, it took me 10 months to locate their perfect salsa. Their chunky salsa is totally my favourite. Perfectly spiced with a robust tomato flavour, I love it. I also managed to go through a container in less than a week. I started adding it to everything.
In fact, this is such an easy recipe, it is almost non-recipe. I envision this as the perfect travelling meal – mix and eat. Until then, it will have a happy place in my kitchen.
Mix some salsa with chickpeas and chopped bell pepper. Throw it overtop some shredded broccoli and carrots for more crunch on a taco shell, and you’ve got a meal. I topped mine with a healthy dose of nutritional yeast which became creamy and gooey with the extra salsa. Totally not optional for those who love nooch.
I may go into salsa withdrawal. Can anyone recommend a good recipe? I cannot imagine it being hard to make. ;)
I told my friend in Houston that I had reached the height of my vegan eats here. There were no new restaurants I wanted to try. She assured me there were so.many.more to try and convinced me to try a nearby Thai restaurant. Oddly enough, Rob has spotted it earlier that week and was amused by its billboard that announced it was MANGO SEASON!
I was apprehensive but she assured me I would love it. She told me they had vegan ice cream. I was sold.
She did not lie. I loved it. So much so, that I quickly tried to figure out how to recreate the dishes.
This is a spin on Laotian larb. Of note, Rob tells me this is nothing like the original and in fact, if you pronounce the r in larb, that is wrong, too. Make no mistake about its simplicity, this salad wrap was GREAT!
A few fun points: This was the first time I have steamed tofu. I LOVED it. It made it nice and fluffy and once crumbled, it absorbed the flavours of the marinade incredibly well. Lime juice, cilantro, in a salty-hot-sweet background, it was nice, fresh and light. After an overnight soak, it was absolutely perfect and lasted for a few days of lovely leftovers for lunch.
I took inspiration from the restaurant to serve it next to a quarter of an iceberg. Its solid leaves make for excellent wraps, more sturdy than most lettuces and is rather mild on the green scale. Besides, it is always good to rotate your greens. :)
Do you have a favourite green wrap? I thought collards were my favourite but I was rather smitten by the iceberg lettuce. ;)
Rob did some more investigating. He found a program that would figure out if I had any duplicate files irregardless of the name.
WOO! After three days, my program to find duplicate files on your external hard drive has completed. It has found at least 172 GB of duplicate files. We need to clean them up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
His emphasis, not mine.
So apparently, I come with baggage. Electronic baggage.
There used to be a time when I couldn’t fit everything on my hard drive, but once I had 1 Tb on my external hard drive, I haven’t thought much about my space usage.
Rob didn’t appreciate my old school way of culling my photos: copying them into a new folder. Sometimes I had 4-5 copies of the same photo with my disjointed backing up. Now we get to do some culling!
Rob is doing a great job tackling our leftover food stuffs. This was an absolutely, wonderfully delicious pea curry he made with the peas in the freezer and spices from the pantry. I am not saying that just because Rob made it and everything tastes better when someone else cooks for you, but honestly this was gourmet Indian and made me a pea-lover. I love beans but peas are not as high in my “love list” but this, guys, was incredible.
Creamy with a rich-tomato broth with bright green peas, this was a keeper. Sadly, this curry has a really long ingredient list, which seems almost disjointed and muddy, but have faith. This was delicious and completely worth the effort (and definitely Rob’s effort!).
Do you like peas?
PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.
Before you start to think this will be a smoked paprika free household, have no fear. I am pretty sure Rob will let me replenish prior to moving back to Canada.
It is a bit of a race, now. Rob has made it his own personal goal to munch through our food stocks…. so, if I wait too long, my food may disappear. Use those roasted red peppers in the pantry! The roasted corn in the freezer! The last of the soy curls! (I actually had planned to use some small flageolet beans I had frozen but could not get them to thaw out of the container fast enough….)
Reminiscent of my Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder, I loved how this one was virtually bursting with vegetables. Coconut milk would make this a thick and luscious soup. This version was inspired by one of my favourite cookbooks this year, Soup’s On!, since it is packed with quick and healthy meals. Mark’s inspiration was New Orleans’ Maque Choux, a Cajun-inspired corn soup.
I loved it. Simply delicious. I worked with what we had lying around and it made a light, summery bowl of vegetable soup.
Do you like soups in the summer as well?
PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
It is all about the greens, lately.
After a week or so of salads and wraps, I turn the rest of my fresh greens into a soup, stew, or in this case curry.
PS. And when I said I would be sharing another giveaway with you yesterday, I meant tomorrow. So stay tuned! ;)
This post is a twofer.
First of all, I have a gift for all of you! A free Beyond Meat product – click here for your coupon.
I don’t tend to get too excited about mock meats (it is a bit processed for my liking), but was really curious after it was selected as the “real chicken” on the Today’s Show. Some things are easier to find in the United States, so with a coupon for a free product (see above), how could we refuse? Beyond Meat isn’t new, but it was new to me and definitely uncannily similar to chicken, complete with the grill marks. You buy it frozen and just need to defrost it prior to serving. Thus, it was super easy to make and great source of protein.
Now for the book review, as advertised, with an eccentric Caesar salad. Eccentric because it is no standard Caesar. I mean, it is a vegan version of a decidedly un-vegan salad but the twist comes from the nutritional yeast and curry powder in the dressing and the mishmash of additional ingredients. The cashew-based dressing was simply delicious, aka awesome sauce. Paired with the fresh lettuce, buttery avocado, briny capers and hemp seeds, it was a superfood-packed salad. (And by superfoods, I mean super tasting foods!) Instead of the herby croutons, I wanted this to be a complete meal and thus added the chicken-less strips overtop. The strips look a bit too perfectly rectangular but they tasted great.
The recipe comes from Straight from the Earth, by mother and daughter team Myra and Marea Goodman of Earthbound Farm fame. Neither one is vegan but have created a gorgeous cookbook filled with tantalizing recipes. There is something for everyone between the two cooks. I found myself naturally gravitating to Marea’s recipes, who learned her vegan culinary tricks while living and cooking for fellow vegans in a co-op while at college. Her mother’s tastes are more classical. As an example, Marea has a recipe for chipotle-lime Brazil nuts and Myra has a recipe for double-roasted maple-spiced hazelnuts. OK, OK, both sound delicious. Lots of delicious recipes, including a nut-free crispy baked kale chips with nutritional yeast and shiitake mushroom, water chestnut and tofu lettuce cups.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the continental United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think of mock meats. The winner will be selected at random on June 8, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Straight from the Earth spotted elsewhere:
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
PPS. Stayed tuned because tomorrow I have another giveaway! (more…)