Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!
Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.
This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.
After boldly stating that I can easily munch through a weekly food budget of $15, I had a few people suggesting I share my tips. I have been meaning to write this post for a while, so I apologize for its delay.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but it is possible to eat well on a vegan whole-foods diet without breaking the budget. In fact, moving towards a whole foods diet will keep you away from spending the big bucks on processed food. All that processing costs the consumer more money. You do not need to eat cheaply, but rather buy good food that costs cheap.
Without further adieu, here are my tips.
1. Waste not
First of all, my biggest tip is do not waste any food. I try really hard not to waste any produce. I make weekly meal plans incorporating the ingredients I already have and what I want to buy. Know was needs to be consumed quickly (strawberries!) and what can wait (sweet potatoes!). Know what needs to be refrigerated (greens!) and what does not (tomatoes!).
2. Store surplus properly – freezers are your friends
Freeze leftover veggies and meals. When red peppers go on sale, I stock up because they can be easily frozen. No need to blanch or cook beforehand, just chop and freeze. Afterwards, they are also easy to throw into whatever dish you end up using them in – they’ve already been pre-cut! Soups and stews can easily be frozen and reheated when you want to eat them again.
3. Eat beans and cook them from scratch
Beans are cheap, healthy and store well. I routinely make a big batch of beans and freeze them with their stock in containers in 2 cup measurements so it is just like pulling out a can of beans. Quick cooking beans like red lentils are also great for easy soups and curries.
4. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense
My Mom calls me a hoarder. I think of myself as buying in bulk. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have the space, definitely consider it. When certain staples go on sale, I stock up. 2 kg of red lentils for $2? Yes please. That will likely only last 2 months anyhow. Steel cut oats, same thing… Cans of coconut milk and tomatoes will also always find a use.
5. Grow your own food
If possible, grow your own food. I have been dabbling in gardening, focusing on higher yielding vegetables (beans, zucchini) and greens such as kale and collards since they do not need to be harvested immediately. However, even for those without much space, my herb garden has been the most prolific and rewarding, both in the garden and in my kitchen. Being able to snip off a handful of fresh herbs for your meal makes your meal go a long way. Even if you are hard-pressed for sun, you can grow your own sprouts.
6. Cook at home
I almost didn’t include this tip since it is pretty obvious. Save money by cooking for yourself. Don’t eat out at restaurants. Don’t buy premade seitan. Pack your own lunch and cook things yourself.
7. Know where to shop for good prices
The above tips are more general but I wanted the heart of this post to be about my favourite local stores. I currently live in an area that has plentiful options for groceries, so every week I scour the flyers and figure out what I need to buy based on my meal plan. Ethnic grocers are usually a great place for reasonably priced ingredients. Sales often vary, but there are stores that I know I will usually find great prices.
Here are my favourite places in Toronto:
Sunny’s Supermarket – I don’t live close to Sunny’s anymore, but it has an awesome selection of nearly every ethnic cuisine, except the standard North American diet. Milk and cereal might be there, but it isn’t as cheap as the red lentils and tofu. It has a very extensive spice collection with high turnover for its produce, beans and grains. Weekly sales are great and they often have random produce on sale, too. It is not uncommon for red lentils, chickpeas and split peas to sell for cheap ($2 for 2 kg). Bestwin is a similar supermarket, not too far away, but it is more dingy and not as big as Sunny’s.
Lucky Moose in Chinatown – I have started to bike past Chinatown when I come home from work. I think this is one of the better priced grocers with good quality produce. I never know what I will find on sale though… bananas for 29c/lb, zucchini for 39c/lb or young Thai coconuts ($2/2). Like most Asian grocers, “exotic” mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake and enoki are always reasonably priced. Snow peas and snap peas, too ($2/lb).
Welcome Food Mart – This is my neighbourhood ethnic grocer. A transplanted Chinatown grocer with oftentimes questionable produce but there are some good deals to be had. They have a weekly flyer and they constantly seem to sell 10 limes for $1 which suits me perfectly.
Tutti Fruiti in Kensington Market – Kensington Market is our local stop for bulk items, like nuts when they aren’t on sale elsewhere. I have started to use more Brazil nuts in recipes because they are cheaper here than walnuts and pecans! Protein powders are also very reasonably priced (Hemp Pro 70 is $19) and tempeh is the best price in town. Don’t like Tutti Fruiti? Try the neighboring Essence of Life instead.
Ambrosia – My favourite health food isn’t that close to me, but when we are in the area, we stock up at Ambrosia. Monthly specials can be great on top of great regular prices. Quinoa for $2.44/lb? Yes please! They also seem to stock the majority of all my wacky kitchen needs (I buy my nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten here).
Bulk Barn – I don’t find Bulk Barn to have good prices but if it is your closest bulk store, so be it. Buying only what you need is the way to go. The one time you will find me in Bulk Barn is when their oats are on sale for 79c/lb and I couple that with a $3 off $10 purchase coupon. Cheap oats, please!
J-Town – I don’t find J-Town that inexpensive but it is a nice place to stock up on all your Japanese needs. I am listing it thought because it sells Mori-Nu silken tofu for $1.68. Booyah!
No Frills, FreshCo and Walmart – Of all the big chain grocery stores, these are my favourites even though I don’t shop there that often. No Frills and FreshCo stock ethnic vegetables, depending on their neighbouhood, too. Surprisingly, Walmart has good prices for nuts and dried fruit. It has a reasonable selection of ethnic ingredients. I even spotted my much loved package of peeled garlic at Walmart, too. All three stores also have a nice price matching policy, that includes grocery items. I really like that because I can still go shopping on a Wednesday and know my produce will be in-stock at the grocers that price match.
Do you have any other great tips for eating well as a vegan? Any other places in Toronto that you recommend?
Feel free to peruse my archives for what I actually eat on a day-to-day basis. I have a bad habit of not sharing some of my most easy pantry-friendly meals. Possibly because red lentil soups are not always photogenic. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste as good, so I encourage you to dive past the murkiness of this soup and give it a try.
This Greek red lentil soup is very simple, yet tastes great. The soup stock is based from sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves which are simmered with red lentils infused with rosemary and oregano for the touch of Greek. The soup is finished with lemon juice and zest to bring it up a notch and complement the herbs.
The entire recipe makes a big pot of soup, so I encourage you to freeze half for a rainy (or snowy) day.
When making meals for special guests, how do your meals change?
Unless we are making a buffet of food, I try to make meals that I will also be able to eat. That means I make vegan dishes. For picky omnivores, we may opt to supplement with meat.
Depending on the guest, I will pick recipes that are, let’s just say, a bit more indulgent. If Rob and I are cooking you dal bhat, one of our favourite meals, simple with lentils and rice, you know we have nothing to prove to you in the kitchen. For us, we can make it as fast as the rice cooker makes the rice as it is filled with cupboard staples and we will both fight over the leftovers.
Now, if Rob whips up his legendary pad thai, then you know we are aiming to impress (or I am too tired to cook, hehe, or I have a craving for pad thai!). We usually have the ingredients on hand except for the fresh sprouts, and with its custom single serving plating, we don’t make it for ourselves very often.
If I am in the mood, I may very well pull out all my tricks and make something fancy like Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce. Stars may need to collide just right for that to happen again (just kidding!).
Other times, I will aim for something rich and satisfying but still relatively simple to make. Enter the meal-in-a-bowl soup. With a side of bread for guests (and Rob).
I had been eyeing this recipe for a Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder for a while. A creamy coconut-based soup filled with chickpeas, red peppers with a dash of heat from chiles. However, I was turned off by using not 1, but 2 cans of coconut milk (that’s just plain superfluous). While I know it would be even more decadent with 2 cans, I opted for just one can of full-fat coconut milk. When I made this I didn’t have fresh corn, so I substituted a can of cream-style corn but fresh corn would be uber delicious.
As I said, the flavours worked so well together – sweet from the peppers, creamy from the coconut milk and creamed corn, heat from the chilies and bulk from the chickpeas. If you use 2 full cans of coconut milk, you will likely need the full amount of water in the original recipe (2 cups). As I only had 1 can and used creamed-style corn, I used less water and even then thought it was a bit thin for my liking. Another option would be to partially puree the soup, too. Anyhow, add liquid as you see fit. The flavours are already spot on.
In much the same way as there is an art to using up the last of your fresh produce before you head away for vacation, I think there is an art to keeping a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something fresh. I want the greens.
While I hate asking for rides, at the airport, it is nice to be picked up by a familiar face. I still remember returning from Japan to friendly faces and in addition to a quick ride home, they also had a few things to get me through to my first grocery run. At that time in my pre-vegan days, it was eggs, bagels, fruit and some leftover soup. With an empty fridge, it was a glorious gesture.
While Rob and I are good at taking transit to the airport, this meant we didn’t have any room to stop for groceries with all our luggage on the subway. In any case, while we came home to an empty fridge, it wasn’t so empty after all.
Granted, we were only gone for two weeks, so we still had a few grapefruits and apples for my usual breakfast routine. Onions and carrots in the crisper keep well, too. Cabbage, too. Thankfully garlic lasts, as do other citrus like lemons and limes. When in season, winter squashes can be stored outside the fridge. Frozen staples also work well: spinach, vegetables and herbs. I also keep my cooked beans in the freezer.
I always tell myself I will stop coming back from vacations on Sundays, only to be back at work on Monday, but we never learn. Returning from vacation means I also need to find quick-cooking meals that I can make after work, amongst unpacking, laundry and all that jazz from the vacation wrap-up.
Scrap the brown rice. It can take a long time to cook. Instead, I bastardized Gena’s Greek Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) by substituting quinoa. It takes half the time to cook, making a quick and tasty soup. Bright and fresh from the lemon , creamy from the tahini with depth of flavour from the miso, dill and nutritional yeast. Considering traditional avgolemono is made with eggs, the quinoa bastardization seems quite tame.. and quite the fanciful adaptation from the original. Regardless, this is a filling and delicious soup. Enjoy!
I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!
Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.
My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.
We made sure we had the basics though:
Vegetariana estricta Vegan
But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:
Without eggs (Really?)
Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)
We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:
We got better at explaining what I wanted:
Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).
other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)
As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.
Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!
By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!
In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip. I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.
Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals. Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting. While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.
This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.
And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom!
For the seasoned bloggers and blog-readers out there, when reading recipes, how often to you think to yourself: Oh yeah, I’ve made something similar to that before… move on…
I rarely repeat recipes, and sometimes even shy away from ones that look similar to ones I’ve made before. It is all about variety! The more, the merrier!
While I have made some really delicious red lentil soups, mostly with lemon (lemon+cumin+cilantro=fantastic), I was still intrigued by Deborah Madison’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach and Lime from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Both soups have similarities: red lentils, cumin, cilantro, onion and citrus.
The differences: tomato paste vs yellow mustard. Spinach, too. (The original recipe also called for yogurt and rice, both of which I omitted)
This soup just goes to show you how a simple change in seasoning can drastically alter a dish. Both equally delicious, yet completely different.
In this soup, you have a savoury red lentil soup flavoured primarily by mustard, oh yes mustard, with a hint cumin, sweetened by the spinach, then livened by the cilantro and fresh lime juice. They work so well together. And yes, this time my yellow mustard seeds did not disappoint! I am positively smitten by mustard. What are your favourite recipes with mustard?
I can’t believe that a year ago this weekend, I was already biking to-from Toronto and Kitchener (120 km, one-way). While I am planning to cycle to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls in June (160 km, one-way), our fall-back is a shorter course that leaves from Burlington (90 km).
With so many things happening this spring (moving, Colombia, hiking training, etc), it has been hard to dedicate as much time to long-distance cycling. Funnily enough, I have still clocked more kilometers on my bike due to my long daily commutes (780 km already clocked this year). However, nothing beats the long rides on my road bike as true training. Two weekends ago, Rob and I did a short jaunt in the cold for 35 km. True, I cycle that much on a typical day but it is spaced out. But that was enough for me. By the end, my back was sore for some odd reason. One really needs to ease into these long distance trips.
I know I’ve been posting a few recipes highlighting high protein options for typical carb-heavy meals, but my main focus for protein-friendly meals will always be a combination of beans and veggies. Brendan Brazier has always recommended a 3:1 to 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, preferably a liquid for easiest digestion after recovery from sports. This is easy to get from bean- and veggie-centric soups and stews.
While I didn’t encounter anything like this in Turkey, the recipe for this Turkish red pepper, chickpea and cilantro soup came from Classical Turkish Cooking. I bookmarked it while searching for ideas with celeriac. I really liked how fresh and vibrant this soup was without being heavy. The simple soy milk makes this creamy along with the pureed chickpeas. The red pepper confers sweetness, celeriac a hearty celery background and the parsley/cilantro combo complemented it all really well. It has simple flavours that worked so well together: perfect as a light yet filling soup for the spring. The original recipe suggests pureeing the whole soup and then straining it, but I don’t like pureed soups, so I used my immersion blender to puree it partially. I was able to enjoy the benefits of the texture from the veggies as well as the additional heft from the puree.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month‘s Simple and in Season, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Priya, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s Mulligatawny Soup ever since she posted it in January. My Mom told me not to stress about the meals, so I scoped out recipes that I could make with the produce I already had (we happened to be fortunate that cauliflower was on sale for $1/head for our pakoras). Almost everything else had been squirreled away in my freezer, or living without a purpose in my fridge (I was looking at half a celeriac and half a kabocha squash!). While Sarah also provided the recipe for the Celeriac and Pumpkin Curry, they don’t taste remotely similar.
Mulligatawny is a British Indian curry-flavoured soup and literally means “pepper water”. However, recipes seem to be so varied that anything goes. Tess‘ version of mulligatawny is primarily red lentils, lemon and cilantro, whereas this is a creamy, tomato-spiked vegetable curry-soup brightened with tamarind. The leftovers were definitely more of a curry consistency.
Preparing a huge batch of soup in advance is a great way to relieve the stressful prep before a large meal. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how much soup I would be making. Sarah suggested it would serve a crowd, and she didn’t lie. We definitely already had enough food to feed an army along with the pakoras, 2 other curries [Malai Koftas, and a Spinach Chana Dal curry], a couscous pilaf salad and dessert. Oh, and we bought naan, too. Those recipes are still forthcoming, no worries!
Why did we make such a feast? 1) To make sure there was something for everyone to enjoy; and 2) No cooking required for the rest of the weekend since we’d be eating the leftovers.
Oh gosh, am I ever happy to be back at home! Thankfully I was able to enjoy the summer weather this weekend. 22°C, baby! Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather by taking out our bikes for our first (real) bike ride of the year. I know it has only been 3 months, but I had forgotten how much I love riding my road bike.
With the beautiful weather in Toronto, the last thing I wanted was to cook up a storm over the weekend. Rob made a delightful savoury lentil and rice soup that I will be sharing, but it was times like this that I really appreciated having a freezer with the taste of summer.
If you thought my fridge was full, you haven’t seen my freezer yet! It is filled with cooked beans, herbs, frozen veggies and fruit, and of course, some meals that I have popped in there for emergencies. Rob and I have a physical menu of possibilities from the freezer: a white board where we keep track of what’s lurking in the cold. Mainly so that we know what’s in there… so we don’t forget about the container of black eyed peas, half a can of whole tomatoes, or this roasted red pepper and tomato soup with zucchini and cranberry beans.
Earlier, way earlier in the summer, I gushed over Denis Cotter. Except I only shared two of his recipes, his not-quite-authentic yet still delicious Massaman curry and the Pan-Fried King Oyster Mushrooms and Bok Choy over a Wasabi Millet Mash. I actually made a few of his recipes this summer, and when I pulled out this soup from the freezer, I was aghast that I hadn’t shared it yet. Shame on me, because it is great.
Cotter is the master of the multi-component meal, bringing out the best of each part of the dish. The original recipe can be found in his new cookbook For The Love of Food. Red peppers and tomatoes, right at summer’s peak, were roasted to perfection, then simmered and pureed to create a silky broth. Meanwhile, you cook your cranberry beans (I used fresh ones so this was fast, but dried beans could work, too, after you cook them). You then toss them with lemon juice and marjoram. Next, you saute the zucchini with garlic to take off their raw edge. This can all be done as the veggies are roasting. When you are all set to eat, ladle out a portion of the tomato-red pepper broth, top with zucchini and cranberry beans. Each component is slightly different, both in taste and texture, creating a complex and tasty soup. The lemony beans with the garlicky zucchini swim in the creamy and rich broth with wonderful results. Cotter also included a basil-chili oil recipe to drizzle overtop but I honestly thought the soup was great without it.
Thankfully, this soup freezes well (I made individual servings and simply combined all the components together) and I still have a few servings left. It is nice to have a taste of summer at the tale end of winter, when flavourful tomatoes are just a faint memory.
Guess who biked to work yesterday? With highs of 18C, a nice rain on Monday to get rid of the salt, I was almost feverish in excitement to finally start biking to work!
I know it is only a teaser, though… Warmer weather alone does not make spring. Especially if it only lasts a week.
There are many ingredients I associate with spring: Baby greens. Arugula. Asparagus. Carrots. And peas.
Since the fresh, local produce hasn’t made its way to the forefront just yet, you can approximate springtime with this hybrid of a stew adapted from Love Soup: Finnish Double Pea Soup with Apples (original recipe here). It is a wonderful merriment of a hearty stick-in-your-ribs winter split pea stew combined with a sprinkling of spring with fresh (or in my case, frozen) peas (I used the sweeter petit pois from President’s Choice). Apples also add a hit of sweetness without being too discernible. The vinegar and mustard temper and balance the soup extremely well along with a whiff of nutmeg and coriander. The flavours are not over-the-top but they marry very well.
This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World featuring dishes from Finland, to This Week’s Cravings (Green), to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Gimme Green event and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
Thanks for all the encouragement guys after my last post. The comment didn’t phase me too much as I know when my recipes turn out well… I love being able to share that same joy I experience, hence the blog and hence hosting meals with friends.
Sometimes I feel like I am on a roll in the kitchen. A week filled with great dishes, each one working out perfectly.
And then, it dries up.
Last week, I did the unfathomable for me. I threw away food.
Over the Christmas holidays, I made homemade sauerkraut. I scoped out pickling salt after my grandmother’s insistence and followed the recipe to a T. 5 pounds of cabbage with 3 tbsp of salt. Nothing fancy. No seasonings. After its first night, it needed a bit more liquid to completely cover the cabbage, so I added some more salt water. I used a (very heavy) car battery [long story how I have that...] to really pack the cabbage down. And then I waited.
It said it would take 4-6 weeks.
After 2 weeks, it started to grow mold on the surface (also known as scum or bloom). Which I removed. Apparently it is normal?
Another 2 weeks went by, more scum. The cabbage tasted like cabbage. Not even that salty.
After another 2 weeks, the scum was making the house smell. I knew sauerkraut could make a house smell, but I figured it would smell like sauerkraut.
The cabbage still didn’t taste like anything more than cabbage in a muted salty broth. Six weeks in, no change and lots of mold. That’s enough.
So it got tossed.
I am a sauerkraut failure.
Oh well, I will have to shell out the big bucks for the really delicious Bubbie’s sauerkraut instead.
What else has been going on in my kitchen?
Sadly, my lackluster results were mostly the meals I had picked to share with friends. I hate it when that happens. Although I know I am my harshest critic when serving others.
I made the White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano from Terry’s new cookbook. The soup itself was pleasant and my guests really enjoyed it (moreso than myself). It became more special when you added the chickpea flour parmigiano which added a lemony tang to the soup. The soup ended up improving as leftovers and Rob adored it atop his weekend besan chilla.
A few days later, I made this soup, a Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup that I modified from Jessica. Like the last soup, this one didn’t wow me either. I always have high expectations when people say this was the “best dish ever”. I don’t think I seasoned it properly but it was still good. Just not GREAT. I liked the chunky yet creamy roasted garlic and white beans (I used marrow beans from Whole Foods). I omitted the nutritional yeast since my go-to vegetable broth powder includes nutritional yeast (I use Tess‘ delightful Chicky Baby Seasoning, by the way). I think kale would be better, but I substituted collard greens since they needed to be used.
And lastly, I made Sarah’s Split Pea Sunshine and Saffron Soup. I didn’t even photograph it because it turned an ugly murky green after being pureed thanks to the (unpeeled) kabocha squash. The soup had such promise- split peas, kabocha squash, carrots, leeks and a host of savoury spices including saffron. I even made the cute (but labour intensive) sunshine carrot cut-outs!
I used red split peas for the first time (courtesy of Whole Foods in Mississauga) and it took over 4 hours before they softened for my liking. It was gorgeous before I threw my handheld blender in there. That’s when the flecks of green were pretty. It was also pretty tasty in the little spoonfuls I tried. But the blender muddled the soup – in looks and taste, unfortunately.
Hopefully your cooking adventures have been better!
Any tips for homemade sauerkraut??
You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. But what’s up with the cravings?
*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.
In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.
Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.
So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.
While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.
Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup. I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!
Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.
What have you been craving recently?
This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.
I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.
When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).
It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.
Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.
Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.
Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia. Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.
Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).
I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.
Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.
I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).
The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.
This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.
So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.
Split pea soup is underrated. Oftentimes, vegan authors are almost apologetic for including split pea soups in their cookbooks.
If you have a bland split pea soup in your cookbook, then, yes, you should feel ashamed. The folks at Rebar need not be worried, because their split pea soup is fantastic. In my notes next to the recipe, I wrote “silly good” and a few of my adjustments (smoked paprika for the chipotle puree, and yellow instead of green split peas). Do you write in your cookbooks? I feel kind of dirty doing it, but it is the best place to keep your notes!
Like most beans dishes, the spices and seasonings are integral to the final dish. Paired with the sweet peas, you add roasted garlic, smoked paprika and liquid smoke. Carrot, too. And while I added 1/4 cup of fresh sage, it wasn’t a dominant flavour. All the flavours mingle so well together, it creates a soup with different levels. This is definitely a soup I will warm up to again this winter.
As I said, I don’t really do anything different around January 1.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do over the holidays, though, but didn’t really conquer much of the list. Other than spend time with family and friends… and with myself. Sometimes, it may be more important to get a good relaxing vacation instead of worrying about work and other deadlines.
Rob and I had planned to do some spring cleaning, going through some of our stuff downstairs, but we procrastinated instead…
I know some people are really good about cleaning out their pantries of old food, but I tend to accumulate instead of purge. However, I’ve had 2 recent cooking mishaps from stale spices, so I am urging you not to follow my footsteps into the same fate! Toss those old spices!
In my case, I inherited a nice spice drawer when I moved into our new house. The drawer is lined by rows of jars with spices. Some new to me, like anardana, and others that I had never used before like marjoram, and others that I just didn’t have like chili powder and ground mustard. I quickly added in some of my own spices that were missing like smoked paprika, parsley and mint. While I know how old my spices are, I wasn’t sure how long the inherited spices had been there… but when this recipe called for ground mustard, low and behold, I had some and plundered on.
This is a recipe for a Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Soup from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (recipe also posted here). In addition to inheriting spices, I also was (very kindly) lent a slow cooker. This soup looked simple enough to simmer away in the crockpot, so I pieced it together and timed it so it would be ready by the time I got home after work. Since I was to be sharing this with a bunch of friends, I doubled the amount of black-eyed peas, carrot and spices, turning this into a stew instead of a soup.
There was so much stuff in the slow cooker, I was worried it would boil over! Thankfully, by the time I made it home, the stew was ready and Rob had already started to dish it out.
Everyone said they liked the stew, but I thought something was missing. The fresh cilantro and chives were important for flavour but the stew needed a bit more depth of flavour. I wasn’t happy with it. Someone ended up adding a spicy Dijon mustard and said it was superb. When I ate the leftovers, I agreed that the mustard really helped. But I thought to myself, I know I added the ground mustard – why can’t I taste it? So I went back to the ground mustard in the spice drawer… dipped my finger in it and tasted it. And what did it taste like? NOTHING! It definitely needed to be tossed!
Combined with lackluster results from Chili Lime Roasted Chickpeas due to stale chili powder, this has really gotten me to think about tossing the old spices! Out with the old and in with the new!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Chez Cayenne, and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring black eyed peas.