I love when it is going to be a delicious week.
I am too lazy/tired to cook during the week, so I make everything on the weekend. A new batch of oatmeal. I create 3-4 different dishes, with possibly some fresh rice mid-week. Rob helps with the rice. His rice always seems to taste better even if we use the same rice cooker.
Anyways. I digress.
I love delicious surprises in the kitchen.
I was wooed by Tess’ creamy cauliflower soup in her latest cookbook. However, I knew cauliflower and leeks, alone, would not be a filling meal. Beans. I need some beans. Where are the beans? I could have easily blended white beans into the soup, but I don’t like pureed soups.
Keeping things a bit more texturally complex, I ran with bacon-flavoured roasted chickpea croutons! Because I was going to use the oven to roast my chickpeas, I roasted my vegetables, too. It helped to free up a coveted soup pot and oven burner, too.
I guess I get surprised by some of my successes. Light and fluffy yet still filling, the soup was as easy as blending together roasted vegetables with some spices. The bacon chickpeas added a salty-savoury topping that contrasted the soup wonderfully.
And somewhat off-topic. Not soup-related, but related by all things delicious. You know what else we recently discovered that was glorious? Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream. GAH! Annie clued me in early on that their coconut-based ice creams were delicious and they helped tame the Texan heat in the summer. Now that we’re cycling in the heat, this has become our new way to cool off.
What have you been enjoying lately?
I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
Thank you, guys, for pointing out some technical difficulties with my last post. Everything should be working fine now, so don’t miss your chance to win a new cookbooks and try out a fabulous recipe for Cuban beer-infused black beans.
Because, this was so revolutionary that a stranger came up to me at a grocery store, as I was picking out a head of broccoli. Have you tried roasting broccoli? OH MY GOSH. SO GOOD!
In my head, I was thinking: Yes, of course, I have tried it. Broccoli is great roasted! While you could just roast the head, I have got you covered with more creative options: a delicious Forty Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli and even atop a Roasted Veggie and Kale Pizza (with a quinoa-bean crust).
But it is true. Roasting broccoli doesn’t happen nearly enough. We usually opt to steam it so I decided to roast this newest head. While you can simply roast broccoli with nothing more than a touch of oil with some salt and pepper, I dusted it with curry powder first and then broiled it until it was slightly charred and tender. I then added it to some pan-roasted tomatoes and carrots, quinoa, fresh arugula and toasted cashews topped with the piece de resistance: quick-pickled raisins conferring a salty-sweet-acidy tang, nicely balancing the whole dish. The recipe inspiration came from Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables and his original recipe is for a single serving. This would be way too much work for a single meal, so I doubled it. Furthermore, I recommend doubling it again to last a few more meals as you’ll love the mix of flavours.
Have you ever tried roasted broccoli?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already:
What did the eggs benedict say to the rest of the breakfast table?
Hardy, har har.. Rob told the joke a few times over the holidays.
With the balmy Houston weather and having returned back to work, it does not really feel too much like holidays. In fact, I am at a loss what to do for New Year’s Eve. Rob wants a party. I, however, will be working all day. And, to be honest, I doubt Rob or I will make it all the way until midnight. We are such party poopers. Early risers, we go to bed early as well. With a morning alarm for 5 am, I am usually the earliest to wake. However, two of my co-workers have their alarms for 4:30am. They beat me! Obviously, we need to invite them over after work. Celebrate St John’s, Newfoundland’s new year at 9:30 pm and then call it a night. Last year, Rob and I celebrated by watching the Sydney fireworks at 8am, but alas, I will be busy at work, already.
Even if I am not headed out for a party, at least I may provide you with some party fare. Splendid warm but still delicious cold as leftovers, here is a protein-packed spinach and artichoke dip. Definitely not as heavy as real cheese dips, this is more of a veggie-centric dip whipped together with some silken tofu. There is more of a hint of cheesiness, thanks to the nutritional yeast. I don’t particularly enjoy nooch-heavy cheeses, but this was pretty good. It is a nice way to bring a dish that could double as a main, should your other options be limited, and you eat a bunch of it. You could totally chow down on a quarter of this, easily. And you should.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?
PS. The winner of The Cheesy Vegan is Shannon.
Yesterday, we had a potluck at work. Non-denominational for the holidays, there was an Italian theme. In addition, the organizer reminded us of some food restrictions in our department: nut allergies, no eggs, gluten-free and vegetarian.
My original plan was to bring the vegan cheese log, but figured the vegans would appreciate it more. Indeed, they loved it possibly more than me! Instead of bringing vegetables for the non-vegans, I shared a treat that did not even seem vegan: the very best chocolate truffles! Also, because it met all of the listed dietary restrictions! It is nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free as well as free of artificial sweeteners and flours. It is also (almost) raw. Not quite raw because I use non-raw cocoa powder. I think a few people were scratching their head wondering exactly what was in my truffles since I had such a long list of what was not in them. All yummy, though!
(Of note, I discovered the truffles are super soft after being at room temperature for 3 hours… and I think the best remedy for this would be coat them in a magic shell!!)
I am a bit behind on my potlucks, though. At our last work potluck, celebrating Thanksgiving, I did represent the veggies with this salad. We have made this holiday-inspired ruby red dressing a few times after Emma suggested it. It adds a gorgeous colour to your salad and the delicious sweet-tart cranberries in the dressing is balanced by orange juice and maple syrup.
Pictures here with lettuce, dried cranberries, pecans and pumpkin seeds, I find it pairs amazing with brown rice or curried chickpeas to make a complete meal. Apples and cucumbers make a nice contrast, too.
I asked Rob to take photos and he told me he wanted to highlight the pretty red dressing by drizzling it in fun patterns overtop the salad. It was a bit challenging with a spoon. He may have picked up on my hint that squeeze bottles would make a nice gift (and under $5!). In actuality, he told me we already had squeeze bottles: I just need to finish the agave nectar. Not too hard after I made 3 batches of the best truffles ever within the past week. ;)
Would you have gone with the salad or chocolate?? (Or both?)
While I prefer Brussels sprouts roasted, I also like them slipped into scrambles, skillets, stir fries, pastas, soups and salads. The last on my bucket list (I think) was to try them raw, shredded into a slaw.
Raw versus cooked. Talk about something new. Now the endearing term “little cabbage” comes to light. Shredded Brussels sprouts let their true Brassica family roots shine through, with a definite cabbage undertone. Here it is paired with a sweet maple Dijon mustard dressing with sweet dried cranberries and local Southern pecans for some crunch.
Not sure whether raw Brussels sprouts are for you? I am certain this would be delightful with roasted ones, as well. Sometimes, it is nice not to wait for your vegetables to roast or to try something different. Something a bit lighter in spite of its wintery feel.
This salad is courtesy of Raw & Simple, which I verily enjoyed (un)cooking through this summer, amid Houston’s hot heat. Judita has written a cookbook with easy, tasty recipes without the fuss of complicated raw show-stoppers. Some delicacies are included, too, though. She incorporates a few non-raw ingredients like maple syrup, as evidenced by this recipe. I recommend her simple Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara with zucchini noodles, Calexico Salad, Five-Pepper Vegetable Chili, and still want to try her Southwest Corn Chowder, Healthy Mary (a spin off a Bloody Mary), Thai Veggie Noodles, Raw Meat and Cheese Pierogies and her Wild Blueberry Meyer Lemon Cheesecake.
A few typos aside, I really enjoy this cookbook and want to share it with you.Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me which recipe you’d like to try the most (or if you have a recipe from Judita that you recommend). Have a look through the table of contents of Raw & Simple on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 30, 2013. Good luck!
Other recipes from Raw & Simple shared online:
Mushroom Miso Soup
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Sunny Peach Salad with Chipotle-Maple Dressing
Nacho Cheese Dip
Thai Veggie Noodles
Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles
Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
Apple Pie Smoothie
Hazelnut Fig Shake
Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookies
Superfood Seed Bar
Wild Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares
Note: I purchased my own copy of Judita’s cookbook. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
After so many people recommended Meetup a few weeks ago, I have really been making an effort to get out and meet new people and experience new things. I like the Houston meetups so far because they don’t fill up so fast. I often tried to sign up for Toronto meetups but they would fill up before I knew whether I could commit to the event. Houston also has quite a variety of groups. Since there are so many groups, it has become interesting to see which of my “interests” has people with which I click the most.
My blog is mostly about healthy vegan food, so I picked a raw vegan potluck as my first foray into social gathering.
The meeting was tucked at the top of Central Market, with a pretty view of the colourful aisles of groceries. However, the most beautiful produce was upstairs, in our room. The spread of delicious food was incredible. Foodie heaven! Lots and lots of salads. Some were more simple and others more elaborate. A lot of classic raw dishes, too: raw zucchini spaghetti with marinara, raw walnut tacos, guacamole and lots of delicious raw crackers. Zucchini pesto roll-ups were unique (and very good). I honestly thought there would be more desserts, but the two that were there were incredible: raw peach cobbler and superfood nut butter cups (I recognized Sarah’s recipe).
I had master plans to bring Genevieve’s raw tropical jicama nachos but when I went to assemble the dish after work, my pineapple was not ripe enough and my peaches were screaming: eat me NOW! So, at the last minute, I ended up making this salad. It passed the taste-test with flying colours, and off I ran.
As we each introduced the meal we brought, I felt a bit sheepish because I ended up picking a dressing with maple syrup, which is technically not raw. This is not a problem for me, and I think most people still tried it because there wasn’t much left by the end of the night. In any case, I thought it was delicious. I usually eat my kale salads with a citrus dressing, but the maple-miso dressing worked really well with the sweet peaches, earthy kale and crunchy hazelnuts. It would be perfect for picnics, too.
Have you ever been to Meetups in your city?
You don’t know how good you had it until you leave.
Except I already knew how great Toronto was… Sure, it had its quirks but it has been my favourite city to live in.
This weekend, Rob and I watched a movie that epitomized why I adore Toronto, and then some. Take This Waltz unashamedly showcases the beauty of Toronto. The colourful palate of Parkdale, the quirkiness of Kensington Market (although, to be fair, I have never seen a picnic bench outside Essence of Life) and the touristy rickety rickshaws. Despite living in Toronto for 5 years, both of us discovered more fun things about Toronto. There is an indoor scrambler at Centreville, complete with dance music and lights. Even I think that sounds awesome!
Despite Hannah’s latest ode to Toronto, complete with Kensington jenga and mung bean ice cream, my heart tugs only gently.
In the meantime, while I am accumulating more ideas for things to see and do when I return, I am focusing on where I am now. Because, you know what – Houston is pretty awesome, too! My time here will be short, so I better capitalize on these evenings which are a balmy 25C. Perfect when relaxing/napping on a hilltop while next to an outdoor Shakespeare performance.
And that mung bean ice cream? I bet it can’t compare to Ripe’s (vegan, homemade) coconut-almond peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips and date caramel. (SOOO good!)
Anyways, it is salad week. Here is a simple zucchini noodle salad with a bruschetta-like topping with tomatoes, basil and garlic. Late summer in a bowl. A salad in another form, without leafy greens, but with long zucchini noodles. The next time I made this, I added chopped almonds for a bit more crunch. Delicious!
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
First there was the Toronto flood.
And now there’s the heat wave.
Your heat wave is my new normal. Although last week was actually quite mild. Lots of rain meant the temps were only peaking at 85-90F (29-32C) (before humidex, add another 10 degrees please). Whereas in Canada, you can boast about the amount of snow you endure, in Houston, it is the heat. Although, to be honest, it is not as bad as I feared. Why? Because biking is better. Working long hours. And a/c is everywhere. Yes, my long working hours mean that I cycle to work before the sun is shining too brightly and my commute home is after the mad rush from the Texas Medical Center. I swear, a leisurely bike ride is better than walking in hot weather since you make your own wind. I basically meander from one building with a/c to another with a/c (on really hot days my car’s a/c has trouble keeping up, though). And drink lots of (flavoured) water. I also have not been cooking too much. Eating, yes. Cooking, no. Salads, yes. Lots and lots of veggies. Even though my home has a/c, I do not feel like turning on the oven too often.
Raw food for the win! Simple raw food for the win.
Chutneys can be really spicy or ookey sweet. Neither which really appeal to me. I’ve made a simpler fresh mango chutney, paired with mung beans, but this time I focused a bit more on the chutney as a vector for flavour. Mango, red pepper, ginger, onions, chile flakes, curry powder and even raisins. Apple cider vinegar gives you the tang you associate with traditional chutneys. Use it as a dip, a salad topper or on top of your favourite curry. Whatever you pick, it is quite refreshing.
What are your favourite ways to beat the heat? (more…)
And we’re off!
Rob and I packed up all our things and are currently en route, road trip-style, to Houston. I have a few travel-themed recipes this week, as we drive across the country (down the country would be more accurate). 3000 km (over 1800mi). We have a lot of ground to cover.
I made a few travel snacks to bring with me (will be sharing throughout the next few weeks), and while I have tracked down a vegan restaurant in each city for dinner, I plan on eating simple meals throughout the day.
I brainstormed before I left. What can I easily find at grocery stores? What would pack well? For some reason, I kept returning to salads with avocado and lemon. Easy, peasy. Throw in some nuts/seeds, cooked beans or tofu as an easy protein. And then I decided sauerkraut would be a wonderful addition, too.
Not wanting to simplify my meals too soon, I knew I didn’t want to wait to try out an avocado and sauerkraut salad. With my current kitchen a few weeks ago, I had the liberty of making a more complex salad dressing, so I ran with it. A creamy miso dressing with a zip from ginger and the tang from apple cider vinegar. That creaminess? Not nuts: nutritional yeast. I imagine avocado would be nice pureed into the dressing as well, but I left it in chunks for the salad. Paired with the salty sauerkraut and crunchy sunflower seeds, this was delicious.
What are your favourite easy travel-friendly meals?
I am on a kasha-kick. At least until my stash runs out.
The millet evaporated last summer. Next went the wild rice. Now I am plowing through the kasha. Once I discovered the boil-in-a-bag stuff, I was smitten with it as a base for veggie-based bowls.
With a focus on simpler meals, I made the dressing first and then decided what to toss with it.
And yes, this was a glorious dressing.
It seems so weird. Raw onion? Dill? Miso?
But trust me, it worked so well. I also tried a creamier version with tofu-cashew mayonnaise and liked that, too.
I picked kasha, but any grain would work here. Brown rice? Quinoa? Choose your favourite veggie but broccoli complemented the tangy dill-miso dressing well.
I am currently on a mung bean kick.
Lets just say they’ve been in my pantry for awhile. Two years, perhaps more. I made one meal with them initially that was a bit lackluster, so it has been difficult to give them another try. But, in my pantry clearing gusto, I tried them again. And again. And again. Yes, I have made them 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Now, I’m hooked. You see, I just needed the right recipe.
Mung beans should be on your hitlist because they don’t need any soaking and cook up quickly, around 30-45 minutes. Even beans that are two years old. :) My trick is to slightly overcook them. Here, I cooked them until they were creamy-soft, nearly exploding. Some of my earlier tries were more intact than this batch, but still cooked beyond a firm bean. If you keep it more firm, it has a very pronounced “bean” flavour. It mellows as it cooks further, which I prefer.
So where did I get my mung bean recipe success? From Tess, of course. I made the Easy Indian Mung Beans from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. Then I made her Mung Beans with a fabulous cilantro chutney from Get Waisted (more to share about that, in due time).
For my third time, I put my own spin on it: I decided to use her base recipe for the mung beans and add a simple fresh mango chutney. The mung beans were simmered with cumin and coriander until all the water is absorbed, then doused in fresh lemon juice. Mung beans are ok with just the spices, but much better with fresh citrus juice. Instead of a tarka, I wanted to highlight the mango chutney so I kept the beans simple. The chutney was simply a mix of mango, ginger, cumin and apple cider vinegar, but next to the mung beans, they were great.
Have you tried mung beans? Any favourite recipes?
Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!
It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.
My old favourites are still wonderful:
The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad
The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa
The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants
And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.
I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.
This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.
I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.
What is your favourite salad?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better. :)
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! :) Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win! ;)
Rob and I came up with a few new traditions this year.
1. When we host Christmas (you know when we finally have our imaginary children), it is going to be a pyjama party all day long. At home, we get dressed up for Christmas dinner, but we’ll buck the trend with comfy pyjamas until dessert. We both got PJs for Christmas, so it must have been a sign my mom is on board, too! ;)
2. Sydney fireworks. Rob and I both start each day fairly early (5am on work days) so staying up past midnight to watch a ball drop on New Year’s Eve is a hard-earned delight. This year, Rob and I watched the spectacular fireworks as Sydney fired its way into the new year. Trust me, New York has nothing compared to their expansive fireworks… and it started at 8am EST! :)
I have never celebrated the new year with beans and greens, but I see no reason not to try to incorporate some black eyed pea love into a new year celebration.
This year, I decided to mash up some black eyed peas into a hillbilly hummus. Crescent explains this delightful pantry-friendly hummus was created as a local interpretation when she lived in Arkansas. The double leguminous hummus is created with black eyed peas, peanut butter, garlic and apple cider vinegar. A touch of sage complements the flavours surprisingly well and makes a wicked spread. No stranger to peanut butter in hummus, I bet black eyed peas could also be substituted 1:1 with chickpeas in traditional hummus. I found peanut butter to be a prominent flavour whereas the black eyed peas were merely a vector for the PB. I also used my Vitamix to create a silky smooth spread. I was initially worried I would lose a bunch of it behind in the blender blades, but my fingers were quite nimble so I had ample sampling before bringing it to my New Year’s Eve party. It was as well received as I had hoped, and more!
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year! :)
I’ve told you my weekly menus now revolve around a new dressing.
Now that veggies may not necessarily be at their peak, a good dressing is key to eating raw salads.
Or, once you make this dressing, you may just decide to drink it instead. Forgetting the veggies altogether.
It took me a long, long while to finally make Tess’ peanut sauce. Her recipe was daunting with the coconut milk, peanut butter and heavy use of agave. Tess’ last coconut-based sauce (the creamy Thai cilantro ginger sauce) was heavenly so I knew I should try it out. Eventually.
However, I was guarding the last of our molasses for the recipe. With my pantry purge and gusto of tackling old bookmarked recipes from October, I finally took the plunge. With less sweetener, less sodium AND using coconut beverage, we have a winner. A drinkable winner. The twist from the other peanut dressings comes from the bite from molasses and umami from the fermented black bean sauce. Use it to coat anything. Veggies, grains, beans, you name it. Here, I paired it with sliced carrots, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, julienned baby bok choy, kelp noodles and pea shoots.
I suppose this is a good time to let you all in on a challenge I started this month. A sweetener-free challenge. For 8 weeks along with Gabby and Megan. Leanne is also doing a 2-week sugar-free cleanse which is a bit too extreme for me. While I have already cut out refined sugars, I am going to limit my intake of other sweeteners, including dried fruit, maple syrup, agave and stevia. I decided to keep eating fruit that isn’t sweet (cranberries, green papaya, tamarind, etc) since they are more sour than sweet. As I work through some of my recent recipe successes, a few may still contain sweeteners which is good for those of you still using them. :)