I am a strawberry baby.
Being born at the end of June, my birthday usually coincides with the local strawberry season. My Mom went into labour while picking strawberries. I tell no lies.
This year, local strawberries are already finished as they had an early start. (Local cherries, though, are already here!). Rob and I still managed to sneak in some strawberry action, though, before he took off for the week.
No stranger to raw desserts, I know they can be pretty heavy. Nuts, coconut, avocado, you name it. They make for delicious desserts, but they can be truly decadent.
I had been pining a recipe for a nearly nut-free Strawberry Pie, so when we had a huge clamshell of strawberries, I couldn’t resist not making this. It was now or never. Next week, the strawberries may not be as good!
I couldn’t go nut-free with a crust, so I picked an interesting almond-vanilla-maple crust. However, since it was date-free, I didn’t find it kept its integrity as well as my go-to crust from the Raw Cashew Dreamcake. The recipe below has my standard crust which I think would work better.
In any case, the filling is really simple. A puree of strawberries and bananas with lemon juice is the base for holding more strawberries. Then it is topped with even more strawberries! Strawberry heaven, for sure.
This pie needs to be chilled so that the base firms up. In any case, I think it will be a messy cake no matter what you do.. unless you add a thickener like agar agar. My pie firmed up nicely after a few hours in the fridge but our initial foray after an hour left us with a goopy (yet still delicious) mess. Another less messy option would be to make and serve it in ramekins, like we did with our Tropical Mango Pie (oh so good!).
Since the highlight of the pie are the fresh strawberries, the pie cannot be stored in the freezer (hello, Raw Key Lime Pie!). Instead, the leftovers were my breakfast for the rest of the week.
Happy birthday to me.
Today is my birthday.
I don’t like to make a fuss about it, though. I’d rather have a quiet night at home, dinner cooked for me, than throw a birthday bash. I find more love in that than heading to a resto.
I am hoping to break the grasp of restos on my life. I have a few that I enjoy and those are ones that I haven’t quite figured out how to duplicate at home. With a Vitamix and dehydrator, I should be all equipped. I just need some smokin’ recipes.
Last year, my Mom made a killer raw raspberry cheesecake for my birthday. This year, there ain’t no party, but I thought it would be nice to continue the tradition of creating a decadent raw dessert for my birthday. I consider myself a quasi raw dessert expert, nearly always sampling a dessert when I visit a raw restaurant. I mean, I am an expert in taste. I have not nearly mastered all raw desserts. I just know what tastes good! A recent visit to the Naked Sprout in Burlington had me sampling Rob’s dessert: Raw Key Lime Pie. It was nice, light yet filling. Apparently they don’t even use lime to make it. The flavour is from lemons. (WHAT?!) Anyways, I figured I could try my hand at it back at home.
Armed with a recipe from Peacefood Cafe, a vegan resto in New York, I set myself to work. I had to scope out a few ingredients, but it was totally worth it. Cheap Brazil nuts and raw cashews from Kensington Market. 10 limes for $1 at my local grocer. 5 avocados for $2.50, too. Agave and coconut oil were already in my pantry. And yes, then to find a young Thai coconut. My new local grocer had that, too! $2 for a young coconut.
When we were in Colombia, the young coconuts were opened with a machete. Yeah, we weren’t going to do that. There are many different ways to open coconuts (great video here), but we’ve had the most success with removing the majority of the skin with a knife, scoring the top with a knife and then bashing it against the front steps to crack it open. OK, I’ll be honest- this is Rob’s successful technique. Not mine. I just help with its consumption. The juice is probably the best part, although Rob likes to eat the meat, too. In this case, I used the coconut meat for the dessert.
Since Rob had the task of opening the coconut, this was a very simple recipe to make. Assuming of course you have a gizmo to help with juicing 8 limes! Process the nuts and dates for the crust. Smoosh it into a springform pan. The rest of the ingredients were combined in my Vitamix to create a silky smooth filling. The green comes naturally from the avocados!
I hesitated as I dumped in 3/4 cup agave, but figured it would balance the 1 cup of fresh lime juice. I hesitated again when I added the coconut oil to the filling. The filling was so good without any oil at all, but I compromised. I added in 1/2 cup coconut oil instead of the full 3/4 cup. Trust me, you don’t need the full amount. You could probably use less oil, actually, because with the avocados and coconut, this is one decadently rich dessert. Incredibly delicious and it rivals the best raw desserts I have eaten. It is that good. Serve as small pieces.
Now who wants to come over tonight to help me polish off the rest of this pie?
(I am alone since Rob is away ALL WEEK!!)
Plus, a dessert like this is meant to be shared…
This week, Rob was uber busy at work so I decided to spice up his mornings with some new granola. Like me, Rob typically eats oatmeal for breakfast and it has been ages since he’s made granola. He used to be a granola fiend, but it was put on his back-burner after we moved in together. Way back when, in his granola-making days, he bought millet for granola. Instead, the millet made its way into savoury dinners.
I don’t remember which recipe gave us the idea to add millet to granola, but whoever did it first should be applauded. Crunch explosion! In a great way! It gave a crunchy-crispy texture to the toasted oats and nuts. For this version, I went with Rob’s favourite granola flavours: cinnamon, cranberries, coconut and almonds, but feel free to pick your own favourite nuts and dried fruit. Just don’t skip the millet, because that is what makes this granola special.
Even if you didn’t think you liked cooked millet (I will admit that it isn’t my favourite grain), this is probably my favourite way to eat it. Don’t let the birds enjoy all the millet.
Other granolas we’ve made:
Bengali Five Spice, or panch phoran, is a super simple spice mix, though: equal amounts of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Presto, finito.
As you can probably guess, it is a savoury mix of spices that create a complex depth of flavour. Here, it is paired with wilted sweet spinach, tender crisp red pepper along with some toasted almonds and garam masala. While I adore leafy greens, I am not a big fan of cooked greens as a side. But when I mix them with a grain or bean, then I’ve hit my mojo. For this meal, I opted to create a quinoa bowl to sop up the flavours and mellow the vegetal cooked greens.
You might think this is just a side dish, with a lack of noticeable protein source. No bean, no tofu, no tempeh. Quinoa itself contains a reasonable amount of protein but the protein superstar here is the spinach. Two bunches of spinach wilt down to maybe a cup or so, but it packs a serious punch of protein (almost 10g per serving- more than the 6g from quinoa!) along with an abundance of vitamins and nutrients (640% of your recommended vitamin A, 160% of your vitamin C, 35% of your calcium and 50% of your iron daily intake). All that in one serving!
Here’s to more spinach!
This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Bangladesh.
Sometimes I’d rather have more veggies than dessert, but when I asked if I could skip serving dessert, my Mom was adamant: This is EASTER, bring on the dessert!
I obliged. I ruffled through my bookmarks for an easy, healthy dessert… with ingredients from my pantry. I bet you didn’t think it was possible, but this is an incredibly delicious dessert. Almost guiltless, as my Mom called it. No refined flours or sugars, with minimal agave at that. Decadent and delicious. Why is this almost guiltless? Well, it is still 256 calories (skip the crust and it is 156 calories, when serving 10!).
The secret? Tofu! But not just any tofu: the silken tofu you find in aseptic containers (not refrigerated). I used the firm silken tofu from Mori-Nu which had been languishing in my pantry for a while.
I have been meaning to make a tofu cheesecake but haven’t located a recipe worth trying yet (have any suggestions?) but I was positively smitten by this wickedly easy recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie. So was my entire family. We ate half the pie for dessert for lunch and then the leftovers were nearly polished off by the end of the day, after dinner. I kept the tofu a secret until I was pinned and explained that the delicious creaminess came from the tofu. The richness from the good quality chocolate. Trust me, you couldn’t taste any tofu.
I am loving these quick-and-easy no-bake desserts. Here, you make a quick almond-date crust (I used the same one from my Raw Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake) – or skip it altogether if you want to serve it in cute little tumblers. Melt your chocolate and throw everything until a food processor. Spread overtop and chill. Easy, peasy!
Decadent and delicious, yet still low calorie for the huge amount of flavour.
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, to this month’s Cook-Eat-Delicious- Desserts for dates, to We Should Cocoa for almonds, to this week’s Mother Day Healthy Recipes, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Still interested in winning recipe #5?
5. Sarah’s Raw Brownies!
Of course, Rob needed dessert for his party.
Rob specifically requested a new raw dessert. Apparently Raw Mango Paradise Bars weren’t enough!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s recipe for Raw Brownies and figured a rich chocolate dessert would appeal to the masses. While a cashew-based dreamcake would have been nice, too, I wanted to try something different.. and gasp, something even easier to make.
1 food processor.
As a make-ahead dessert, this couldn’t have been easier. And the results were great. Fudgy raw brownies. Not too sweet due to the raw cacao powder with great texture from the partially chopped almonds. You can’t really compare them to traditional (baked) brownies, but they are delicious in their own right.
I smushed the batter into a 9×9″ tupperware container and while it doesn’t look like a lot of food, these are very rich and filling. When serving, do yourself (and your guests) a favour by making small pieces.
When you start baking desserts with non-traditional ingredients, you may start to doubt yourself. If you thought black bean cookies were weird, how about hemp seeds and stevia?! Coconut sugar? What the heck? How will they taste?
Ricki is the baker extraordinaire who creates all sorts of vegan treats with wholesome ingredients. However, I am usually daunted by her long ingredient lists… that usually have uncommon ingredients. I was immediately smitten by her two-bite hemp brownies, and after a trip to Ambrosia, I finally had hemp seeds, coconut sugar and stevia. These ingredients allow you to create a low-glycemic fudgy brownie with healthy fats from the almonds and hemp seeds. Yes, I said fudgy!
This was my first time using stevia, a plant-based zero calorie sweetener. It has a distinct aftertaste. That’s the only clue that these brownies are on the healthier side. A walk on the wild side.
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!).
As far as I know, my Dad is still alive. You see, he threw a surprise party for my mom.
This was a real surprise for her because well, it wasn’t her birthday. No date in the calendar that would tip her off that 35 of her closest family and friends would gather in Ottawa for her.
In fact, she thought she was going to to be driving down to Toronto for the weekend. Did I have any plans? she asked. Of course not! I knew that while I wouldn’t meet her in my kitchen, I would be sharing breakfast with her that weekend. In Ottawa, instead of Toronto.
For months, my Dad had plotted and schemed.
He kind of needed that long because he was down to one working hand. After a broken wrist, and slicing through a handful of fingers, my Dad had to be a master to make chicken skewers without my Mom figuring things out… nevermind the 3 cakes and couscous salad he also made.
My brother and sister-in-law were in charge of appetizers, whereas I was the Salad and Dip Queen.
I tried to follow my mom’s salad party suggestions: 1 leafy green salad and 1 bean or grain salad. However, since we were feeding 35 people, my Dad asked me to diversify with more salads rather than fewer salads.
I mixed up both new and old recipes, and all but one was a hit, so I thought I would share them this week since I had a few requests for the recipes.
For the leafy green salad, I kind of went along with what my Dad had lying around at home… Romaine was thrown together with strawberries, almonds and a maple-based vinaigrette. It was gone before I even made it to the buffet line. Someone had actually already removed the bowl before I was there, it was finito.
For the heartier salads, I had a no-brainer up my sleeve: the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants. I have made it so often, and now that my family has tried it, I can’t think of anyone who has not sampled it. It will have to be retired for a bit… at least until potluck season picks up again next summer.
Since Sarah’s lentil salad was such a hit, I thought it would be great to try another one of her salads for the party. She had a lovely tarragon string bean salad that caught my eye. I hesitated about bringing another bean salad to the party, especially with tarragon, but once I tasted it I knew it would be alright. Green beans aren’t so scary, are they?
This salad was simple. Lightly steamed green beans were paired with Great Northern white beans in a light tarragon vinaigrette. Like most of Sarah’s recipes, I decreased the oil, and in the hubbub of the party, I forgot to add the toasted hazelnuts. No worries, though, because the salad was gobbled up.
Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.
I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).
What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?
First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.
You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer….
Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.
But today.. what am I enjoying today?
These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.
Next month? Only time will tell….
This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.
Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.
I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!
Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
Thank you for all your suggestions on how you bookmark your recipes on my last post. For some reason, Google Reader doesn’t always search every post, so sometimes I resort to searching through the archives of my favourite blogs.
We all know the heavy hitters in the food blogging circles. We could argue about our top 3 blogs, but I enjoy Heidi’s blog at 101 Cookbooks and have had success with many of her creations. Even after 3 cookbooks to her name, she continues to post recipes that feature fresh and natural ingredients. One of the benefits of having a blog, instead of her cookbooks, is that it is quickly and easily searchable. When I wanted to know what to do with some leftover dill, I looked through her archives for inspiration.
I eventually settled on this seemingly simple white bean and carrot salad. It is simple to make but the flavours work really well together. This is definitely where food synergy is at play. I added my own spins to the dish, adding more carrots, using less oil and no sugar. Instead, I opted to caramelize the shallots and carrots to capitalize on their natural sweetness. Slivered almonds confer a satisfying crunch.
I froze extra flageolet beans from my last flageolet bean salad, so this was easy to whip together. The broth-infused creamy white beans were the definitive star of the salad. If you can’t find flageolets, any white bean could work like great Northern or pinto (Heidi used alubias, a kind of pinto bean). In a pinch, tinned beans could work as well but they don’t brown up as well as home-cooked beans (be mindful that they don’t turn to mush).
This salad tastes great fresh from the stovetop but also works wonderfully after a few days when the flavours have melded together even longer.
If I thought the label vegan was stigmatizing, never mind what people think when you tell them you are eating raw food! I have had friends flat out refuse to go to a raw restaurant with me (where’s the meat? where’s the heat? they exclaimed).
Eating raw foods could be as simple a summer salad, or snacking on some fresh fruit, which are not too horrific in the slightest. For those eating only raw foods (not me, don’t worry), this would quickly become boring! This is when it becomes exciting, because the experimentation in raw foods has created some luscious treats, perfect during the hot summer when you don’t want to turn on your stove or oven.
Summer berries are at their prime right now and I know the virtues of eating berries, plain, unadorned, in all their glory.
Let me fill you in on a secret: there is food synergy at play. 1+1 does not equal 2. Combine your favourite summer berries and top with a nutty topping for a delicious crisp. No oven required.
If it were that simple, it wouldn’t as phenomenal.
This is the second secret: macerate your berries. Blend your berries. Use a portion of your berries to create a sweet juice, just as if you baked your crumble and it is oozing those lovely fruit juices. I cringed when I mashed my blackberries (my beautiful blackberries!), but it is what brings this dessert to the next level. It isn’t just berries and nuts.
I was inspired by the recipe in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth and Raw Food Made Easy to create my own Raw Mixed Berry Crisp. I used blackberries and raspberries, which were a wonderful combination, but choose your favourites (blackberry-peach? raspberry-mango? blueberry-pomegranate?). The cinnamon-almond-date topping would work with any fruit! If you don’t plan to eat everything at once, I suggest keeping the topping separate from the fruit. Sprinkle over top just prior to serving… because if you aren’t going to eat it for dessert, you may as well have it for breakfast!
This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anh from A Food Lover’s Journey.
Indeed, I am really enjoying my spiralizer. But in my life BTS (before the spiralizer), I was still able to make interesting textures from my vegetables.
Usually my Santoku knife got the job done (tedious, but can julienne just fine). Sometimes I would use my mandoline to help with thin, even slices.
Then there were times where my vegetable peeler was the best thing around.
Like for this ribbon salad.
I am still relishing in local asparagus, and after ogling many shaved asparagus salads, I finally jumped on the bandwagon when I spotted a recipe for a shaved asparagus salad with a balsamic reduction and almonds.
I never knew how diverse asparagus could be. Yes, asparagus can be eaten raw and it is lovely eaten as ribbons.
Ribboning asparagus can be a tedious process, so this is when you actually want to buy the big, fat asparagus (usually I aim for the thinnest stalks possible since they tend to be sweeter). It is easier to grasp the plump spears and lay them flat as you peel away each layer.
Highlight your peeling efforts with a remarkably simple, yet sophisticated dressing. You can never go wrong with mosto cotto, an aged condensed balsamic vinegar, and here it is complemented by the sweet earthiness of asparagus and the sweet crunch from the almonds.
Aren’t I lucky to have a guy who will make me The New Best Salad Ever? Rob is also more likely to repeat his recipes, so I am hopeful it was make a reappearance soon!! If you don’t believe Rob, take it from me: It was fabulous, heavenly, and a whole lot of swear words came out when I wanted to describe how wonderful it was… although I am not sure why swear words describe it so eloquently. Perhaps because I don’t swear often, and I rarely eat a salad so awesome. Every component was delicious (it helped that we had perfectly ripe Ataulfo mangoes) and together they were golden. I usually do not go to the trouble of so many different components, but this was so worth it. It wasn’t just fried tofu, it was marinaded tofu with roasted garlic. It wasn’t just rice, it was cilantro-lime rice. And then there was the perfect mango salsa overtop. Fresh carrots and cabbage for crunch. Sweet baby spinach. This is how you make epic salads…
But let me tempt you with another delicious salad.
It may not be the typical pomegranate season, but they were on sale at Sunny’s last week. Pomegranates from Chile must have their own special season. . which thankfully allows me to enjoy pomegranates in the summer!
In fact, since many of my friends and family are heading (or went) to Turkey recently, it had me salivating when I remembered my summer love affair with pomegranate molasses. Sweet and sour, tart and delicious, how could I ignore you for so long? Since I have moved in with Rob, this may become a trio. Heck, Rob’s love affair with mangoes persists, so I guess we’re even.
(For the record, I finished my first bottle of pomegranate molasses within 6 months and now that Rob and I have bunked up, we have TWO open bottles!)
I based this salad on my Turkish Bulgur Salad but added in steamed asparagus and served it overtop baby greens for a glorious feast. It had all the elements of a nice main meal salad with quinoa, asparagus and greens. The dressing is tart from the pomegranate molasses with a background of lime. The chili flakes are optional, but I liked the zip it added. The pomegranate seeds and almonds add a nice crunch. Better than the (since dethroned) Best Salad Ever? I’m not sure… A variation on a similar theme, that’s for sure!
Now to bring back the bulgur bonanza!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this month’s Healing Foods featuring whole grains, and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.