You saw the writing on the wall. With my love of wraps, it was only a matter of time before I made sushi rolls.
It took me a few tries, but I finally found not one, but two recipes that I really like.
Am I the only one who scopes out a bunch of recipes for a particular dish and then can’t decide what to make? Should I go with option A or option B? Sometimes, I decide to hedge my bets and make multiple options. That’s how I ended up with 2 versions of my chocolate black bean cookies and oodles of combinations for my savoury flax-hemp crackers. Half a recipe for you and half a recipe for you… which means the bonus of 2 recipes for me!
This explains why my recipe says it serves 1. I boiled down each sushi roll to fit one parsnip with its seasonings. The fillings could easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled, but please, please, please don’t assemble these babies too far in advance. The nori sheet will become limp and soggy…and no fun.
To be fair, my first venture at a nori wrap was from Color Me Vegan with an orange-cashew cream sauce. I have become spoiled because that cashew sauce was nothing compared to my previous Zesty Cashew Orange Spread. The rolls seemed a tad lacking, especially since there wasn’t anything that reminded me of a standard sushi roll.
Having really enjoyed the parsnip in Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice, I knew that this was the way to approach raw sushi. Then I had to decide- nut butter-version from Gena or miso-version from Lauren? I have had some really heavy sushi rolls at raw restos because they make the rice from nuts, so I was excited to try the lighter miso version. I was torn, though, because I was still drawn to Gena’s recipe since the butter seemed to accentuate the parsnip rice. So, I made both and glad I did because they were both different yet equally delightful.
The miso version was light and flavorful and worked well with the multitude of veggies. It reminded me of my citrus-spiked sushi rice bowl with the miso twist. I am not sure the oil was completely necessary so I may remove it next time. The tahini version was heavier but incredibly flavourful from the tahini and the touch of toasted sesame oil. They were both filling as a light lunch.
If you haven’t yet made raw sushi, don’t be shy. You certainly don’t need a special sushi rolling mat. Just a great filling. It is what is inside that counts, and I’ve got you covered. Twice. Two hugs, as Rob would put it.
This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for quick foods.
To all those celebrating, Happy Diwali!
While Rob remains away (he came and left again), I was whisked away by friends into a wonderfully chaotic Diwali celebration over the weekend. A huge crowd came to the Houston BAPS in Sugarland to enjoy the music, light and firework display for the Indian festival of lights. A place named Sugarland, a suburb of Houston, seems like a fitting place for a Diwali celebration which includes a lot of dancing, fun, and food including Indian sweets.
While I don’t know the difference between a laddoo, burfi, and mysore pak, I can tell you all about how make dhokla, a steamed chickpea flour bread, and baked (not fried!) pakoras. Obviously, I am all over the savoury Indian meals. While I adore Indian curries, I like mixing Indian spices with other dishes as well.
Enter this simple bok choy skillet with soy knots. I got the idea from Iyer’s newest cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded. Iyer, the author of one of our favourite Indian cookbooks 660 Curries, has written a new cookbook that is, in essence, a cooking class in book form. Based on his own cooking curriculum, he takes you through different cooking techniques in each chapter, highlighting ingredients, methods and tips for each recipe. What it lacks in number of recipes, he makes up for it in sharing his cooking knowledge.
So, I took his idea for a quick-and-easy ginger raisin bok choy side dish and turned it into a heartier ginger date bok choy skillet with soy knots. I swapped dates for the raisins and added in these interesting soy knots. To be honest, I prefer the texture of the yuba skins (aka tofu intestines) as they were very dense. The recipe, though, is a keeper. A colourful keeper perfect for any celebration. A bit more spicy than I am used to (darn, green chiles in the tomatoes) but it mellowed as leftovers and worked well with the sweetness of the dates.
If you celebrated Diwali, how did you enjoy it?
Apparently, the worst is behind me.
While my homies in Canada relish in local winter squashes, apples and other fall delights, Houston is experiencing its autumn as well. Last weekend as Rob and I went out for our weekly cronut ride, wherein we no longer buy cronuts, almost overnight, after the torrential rains had abated, there was a bit of a nip in the morning air. Of course, this is still Houston. It is all relative. Translation: It was only 20C (68F) that morning but I was cold in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. My parents are battling frost warnings at night, and their highs are still our lows. A few days later and a few degrees more, we are back in summer mode. As I write this, at 6am on the last Saturday in September, it is 25C, feels like 36C (77F and 97F respectively). Five degrees short of the day’s high. Woe is me. I am really looking forward to this “winter”. Perhaps this could entice more people to come visit me??
While I have not yet been craving kabocha squashes, I spotted a stalk of Brussels sprouts at the grocer. With a cute tag that exclaimed “We’re back!”. In Ontario, I’ve associated Brussels sprouts as fall/winter vegetables and ate my weight in them last year. I broke down and carried the huge stalk home with me, almost cradling like a baby since I did not want to damage them.
I ended up combining a ton of Asian goodies (thank you Viet Hoa) with the Brussels sprouts to create this very nice rendition of Vietnamese pho. The ingredient list is daunting, but it is a fairly simple soup to whip up. The abundance of vegetables creates a flavourful soup without too much of a soup base. The broth is nicely flavoured with ginger, star anise, tart lime juice, salty tamari and aromatic toasted sesame oil. Fresh mint adds a beautiful brightness. For the vegetables, seared Brussels sprouts, baby bok choy and meaty mushrooms make up the bulk of the soup. In addition, I added sliced water chestnuts, julienned bamboo shoots and baby corn (the latter all canned). I haven’t cooked with them before, but the bamboo shoots were akin to short noodles and the water chestnuts added a neat crunch. Definitely recommended. I used a mix of Asian mushrooms (shiitake, Portobello and enoki) but feel free to use just one.
The soup made a ton and filled me up all week long. Leftovers were just as good, if not better. While this may not seem like a fall-inspired recipe, this seems like a Texan fall-inspired meal. A light veggie-filled soup perfect during the hot weather. Hannah told me she may stop to read my blog during the winter, as she lives in Toronto, missing her warm Aussie winters. Please don’t hate me for the abundant heat!
Have you fallen for fall veggies yet?
Brussels sprouts done before:
Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Bean Curd Skin
I really wanted to call this Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Tofu Intestines, because isn’t that what you think of when you see it, too? In truth, I know what I am talking about. I would consider myself an expert at what the small bowel looks like. (For the record, Rob thought it was inappropriate)
In case you were curious, a google search for tofu intestines still pulls up what I am describing:
Also known as yuba, bean curd skins are made from the thin skin that forms on top of the tofu while it is being made. It can be bought fresh, frozen or dried. If it is dried, it needs to be soaked for at least 8 hours but the fresh ones are ready to go, as is. A bit more googling, taught me that yuba has been gracing higher end restos lately. I would believe it. Because let me tell you, they pack the nutritional punch of tofu with a nice, new texture.
While they were new to me and Rob, this did not stop Rob from making a fabulous random stir fry. Tender crisp vegetables are a must for a stir fry (broccoli and carrot here) along with your typical aromatics, like ginger and garlic. While the
tofu intestine bean curd skins were an amazing textural foil amongst the vegetables, the flavour explosion came from Rob’s addition of kimchi and miso to the mix. Yeah, bliss.
Now for a shout-out to Viet Hoa, the grocer where we found the tofu intestines. It is possibly the biggest Asian grocer I have encountered. They have a lot of fresh produce and aisles upon aisles of other Asian goodies. They honestly have a whole section for noodles and a large room solely for rice. Sadly, their brown rice selection is not as plentiful and they don’t stock our favourite brand (but I did find whole oat groats amongst the rice, crazy eh?). Total props goes to their tofu selection which covers nearly an entire aisle. Not only are there multiple varieties of traditional tofu, they also had fun bean curd shapes, such as these tofu intestines and small bowties. However, it was their selection of mock meats that made our jaws drop. As you know, I don’t usually eat mock meats (other than the seitan I’ve made myself), but they had an entire freezer aisle dedicated solely to vegan mock meats (see below: Rob snapped some photos with his phone). I am not talking Gardein and the like. Mock chicken, salmon and ham but also mock abalone and sea cucumber made from seitan or soy. Explore a bit more and they have dried seitan and bean curd in fun shapes, as well. I swear, I have never seen so many versions of mock meat/tofu in one place.
Have you tried bean curd skins? Think they look like intestines? Had enough of the kimchi recipes yet?
Compared to most other fellows, I have it pretty good. Right now, I have very limited call and my hours are fairly regular. However, I still spend around 12 hours at the hospital each day, plus an hour for my commute. This is partly self-induced since my first few hours are spent at the hospital fitness center. It is quite impressive. I still marvel at their selection of classes that start prior to 7 am (4-5 different classes depending on the day).
In any case, it is no wonder that Rob, working from home, with regular hours and no commute, has more time on his hands. The best part is that it has transcended into the kitchen for some delicious meals. Epic meals, at that. Rob has been neglecting his blog, especially for recipes, so I’ve decided to blog his culinary creations. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
One of our favourite restaurants in Toronto is Banh Mi Boys and we nearly always ordered their tofu-kimchi sweet potato poutine. It is a riff on traditional poutine, a Canadian delicacy of potato fries covered in gravy and cheese. Their Asian fusion version has crispy sweet potato fries (our request), covered with kimchi, marinaded tofu, sprinkled with green onions and the mayonnaise is on the side (as per our request). Hannah shared a lovely photo of it here. They also have a pulled pork version for carnivores.
We have been fantasizing about making our own version for awhile, after we discovered how wonderful beer transformed sweet potatoes into crispy fries. With the boon of (vegan) kimchi, it was only a matter of time. Beer-Soaked Sweet Potato Fries + BBQ Jackfruit meat + kimchi + baked tofu. Rob added mayo to his which is what he photographed. He took all the photos for this, including step-by-step documentation of the components.
I didn’t want this to fade away into our memories, so here’s to a special recipe for you to try, too.
In addition to cycling through Houston, Rob and I are also discovering Houston, one grocer at a time. After chowing through our organic produce, we started exploring my hitlist of ethnic grocers, one weekend at a time.
First of all, though, our Rawfully Organic broccoli lasted 3 weeks. WOAH! Gotta love that!
Second, because I love Asian produce, the first ethnic grocer we picked was H-Mart, a Korean market. It is a chain that has branches as far as California and New York, so you may be familiar with it. It reminded a lot of T&T, actually. A large, clean store with fresh produce, mostly Asian with a heavy Korean slant, with reasonable prices. They had a whole giant section just for kimchi. Rob picked out a house-made vegan kimchi for us to try. Turns out it wasn’t as blow-off-your-face hot as kimchi can be… score for me!
We also picked up a few different bags of brown rice. I am very particular about my brown rice and we both absolutely loved these finds. While both are short grain brown rice, the Sukoyaka Genmai Brown Rice produces the most fluffy and sticky rice (that doesn’t even taste like brown rice, imho). I can’t seem to find the other one online (it is made by Organic Farm and is a 50/50 blend of organic short grain brown rice and brown sweet rice). It requires a 2 hour soak, but it is very nice as well. Not sticky in the slightest, and less aromatic, but good rice. I was quite impressed by their wide selection of brown rice at H-Mart, which is usually hard to find. Now the dilemma will be whether to gamble and try a new brand or stick with these two we like a lot.
Lest you think we have gone all raw here, have no fear. A perfect rice bowl, akin to Korean bibimbap, complete with fresh rice waiting for me when I come home from work (thank you, Rob). A quick stir fry with tofu, broccoli and enoki mushrooms in a sweet maple infused sauce that is matched well with a side of not-so-fiery kimchi. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve made the quickie kimchi from Vegan Eats World, although it is really spicy if you use the full amount of Korean chili flakes. I am quite partial to the ginger-only version, actually.
So, have you ever been smitten by brown rice? What is your favourite brand?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Instead, I was immersed back into work and fun at a break-neck pace.
It wasn’t entirely conscious, but I definitely kept myself well distracted as I waited for my results.
I had to ramp up for that big bike ride. (And I so want to give that bike ride a post it deserves)
We saw friends we hadn’t seen since I went into exam hibernation. Rob and I had dates that included musicals and concerts.
On the errands that are still fun, Rob and I mapped out our road trip; booking our accommodations and figuring out which cities have Trader Joe’s (HA!).
The list of things to do for our move never ceases. Book movers and pods, obtain visas, social security numbers. Get a US dollar bank account, flip cash into American funds, change addresses, suspend gym memberships. Make sure we both have benefits. Become officially common-law. Get everything ready to import our car.
Oh, and pack.
Nothing that is too difficult on its own, simply time consuming.
Death by a thousand paper cuts, as Rob puts it.
I haven’t been cooking too much, either. Pulling out freezer meals and eating out a bit more. Cooking up simple grains and tossing with a random assortment of veggies. Discovering fun sauces in the fridge.
This was a fun snack/side I made with some leftover rice. Basically it is a ball of sushi rice, seasoned with rice vinegar and filled with a touch of umeboshi paste, a Japanese spread from pickled plums. I squished the rice into a hard ball with the help of plastic wrap and kept it wrapped until I ate them for lunch. For your viewing pleasure, I played around with strips of nori to make fun faces, although the rest of my balls used wider strips of nori more practically, to keep my hands clean. Use a simple soy dipping sauce, or go all out with a homemade ponzu sauce which has citrus notes to the salty base.
Happy faces, all around, I must say.
I can now add 5 more letters to the end of my name: FRCPC.
(Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians of Canada)
Sing along if you know the words:
I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)
I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas
I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!
Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.
So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..
I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS. Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.
Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.
So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).
Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.
Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.
Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?
Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder.
(Take note, Rob does not approve of said term. He prefers Android users. How boring.)
Since forever, I have been trying to find the perfect way to store my bookmarked recipes.
I have progressed from storing them in emails, then to pinterest and pocket. (I know others use Evernote). I use Eat Your Books primarily for my cookbook collections. Although I can upload other recipes, too, I prefer to have the directions along with the recipe list.
A lot of people have a hard time understanding pinterest. What is it for? How does it work? I try to explain it is a picturesque way to bookmark links. Pictures with links. It is used to inspire. My biggest pet peeve is the lack of searchability, which limits its use as a workable list of recipes. I can’t search for all the recipes with mango instance. Furthermore, it only links to a website which can later be modified or even vanish. Hence my migration to pocket, which I mainly use as an offline web reader now. Because you can’t search that one either.
I recently discovered a crazy wonderful app that I had to share: ChefTap. (Android only for now)
Designed specifically to store recipes, it does its job.
From the website: ChefTap is the only app on the market that uses an advanced artificial intelligence engine specifically designed to find recipes on any English language web page.
It stores recipes offline, completely searchable, so you always have access to them. It will pick out the recipe, picture, title, etc from any website, even if the recipe is buried under lots of text (like most blog posts). It will sync with epicurious, allrecipes, or your other favourite recipe sites. However, I was in awe that it could export all the recipes from pinterest. Plug in an album and it will crawl all your links and add them to the app. You can’t even export your pins any other way, as far as I know. How awesome is that?
So, I have just begun to use the app (you can change it so it won’t go to sleep on you while cooking, wahoo!) and I would say the miss rate is around 10% for picking up the wrong title, etc. It is easy to fix things, though, as it has alternative title suggestions, or move things around like yields and ingredients. Another con is that this is a device-only app, but a complementary web site seems to be in the works.
I started with importing all my pins and will work towards my lengthy email folder filled with recipes. All I need to do is convert the emails into .txt files and they can be easily imported as well. How awesome is that??
I’ll tell you what’s more awesome: This app is free!!
(I bet you thought I was going to say it is only yours for $9.999 or something. I hate that, too! I have yet to be corrupted by commercial influence. Anything I recommend is because I honestly recommend it)
In case you are interested in some of my other favourite apps, here they are:
iAnnotate PDF: For highlighting, marking up pdfs for studying, etc. The Android app is not as smooth at the iPhone one, but the one for Android is free
Any.Do: Great to do app that syncs with google tasks
Songza: I haven’t been that wowed by the music selection, but it isn’t that bad
(I love pandora but I can’t get it in Canada, btw).
What are your favourite apps? How do you store recipes?
(I have been bugging Rob to make me a Taste Space app, but that’s likely never to happen…)
Now for today’s recipe!
I don’t know about you, but I am a big suck when I get sick. My energy gets drained and I usually just want to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I want to do is cook. The second to last thing I want to do is photograph said food. The third last thing I want to do is write about said food.
Which is why it has taken me so long to share this fabulous soup. I usually bust it out when I am sick. (And yes, I still get sick. My diet does not make me immune from viruses and the like. A flu shot helps, though).
I first made this soup when I lived alone and it has become a sicky staple ever since. As long as my kitchen is reasonably well stocked, there is nothing easier than a bowl of miso soup.
You can go ultra-simple for a fix of miso soup – all you need is miso, hot water and perhaps some green onions. However, Tess’ recipe goes one step beyond: a Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup. Lemon and ginger are great as a pick-me-up when sick, comforting yet zingy. Best of all, though, this soup literally takes 5 minutes to make. Awesome on any given day, but really fabulous when you are under the weather and can’t stand to wait any longer. Just heat up the soup before it boils so that you still get the benefits from miso (heck I do that with my tea as well because I can’t drink boiling water). I really liked the combination of lemon, ginger and miso.
The recipe serves 2, so if a sweetie is cooking for you, they can enjoy it as well. Or if home alone, you can have it as a delicious breakfast the next day.
Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.
It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.
I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.
In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.
For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.
I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.
I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.
While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating. I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…
I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.
So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.
But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”. Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.
Do you like discovering new veggies?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I reflect on where I have been and I wonder how I managed to pull through. How did I manage to survive 4 years of medical school? Nearly 5 years of residency? Cycle between Ottawa and Kingston and back again? In the thick of it: I don’t think, I just perform.
During medical school, for the first two years, I routinely had lectures from 8am to 5pm every day, interspersed with small group sessions, anatomy labs and clinical skills workshops. Even when I go to conferences, I don’t subject myself to 9 hours of lectures in a day. It is just nuts. However, this weekend I sat through 3 days of intense review-type lectures. Rapid fast compressed learning, except it was more of a reminder of things I already knew. However, after 10 hours of lectures on Saturday, and a lengthy 3 hour drive home (thank you Toronto traffic), I was positively pooped. The next day, too. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook… it was that bad. I ended up sleeping at 8pm.
Meals stashed in the freezer are a definite boon these days. However, I find cooking therapeutic. A way to destress as I chop and julienne vegetables, stirring patiently as I saute onions or peacefully munch through the leftovers.
When I finally made it back into the kitchen, instead of reinventing the wheel, I revamped an old favourite. This is a variation of my Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry. Same flavours, mostly different vegetables. Turns out the original recipe called for winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. My first incarnation included parsnips, carrots, green beans, oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard; basically the odds and ends in my fridge. This time, I included thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, carrots and parsnips: the current odds and ends in my fridge. The hardest part is chopping all the vegetables, but a quick saute in the wok yields a flavourful meal from the Chinese five spice. I use kelp noodles, which I like in Asian stir fries, but feel free to use your favourite noodle. Gena recently wrote a great post all about kelp noodles if you have yet to try them. I am already imagining my next incarnation, likely including edamame.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.
There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.
Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.
So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.
Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.
A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….
Flash back two years ago and my favourite breakfast was oatmeal with ponzu sauce and flax seeds. I know it sounds like the oddest combination, but I loved it. Savoury oats for breakfast.
Yet somehow, I seemed to skip over posting my most repeated recipe in lieu of other savoury oatmeal concoctions: soy sauce and nutritional yeast, goji berries, nori and ponzu sauce and a savoury oatmeal that I would eat for dinner with vegetables, miso and nutritional yeast.
NATURALLY BREWED SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), WATER, SUGAR, VINEGAR, SALT, BONITO EXTRACT (FISH), LACTIC ACID, LEMON JUICE, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL LEMON AND ORANGE FLAVORS WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SUCCINIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SODIUM BENZOATE: LESS THAN 1/10 OF 1% AS A PRESERVATIVE.
Forget the sugar and preservatives, but it isn’t even vegan! Oopsies!
So I ventured to make my own homemade vegan ponzu sauce, without all the fluff… and the fish. My recipe is adapted from Taste of the East. The core is a base of tamari (sadly, Braggs couldn’t compete) along with juices from both lemon and lime. Yuzu is more traditional but even I can admit that I have never seen yuzu for sale. While I don’t think ponzu sauce tastes fishy, a dashi flavoured broth is created from arame and added to the ponzu. I skipped mirin, a common Japanese sweet rice wine, not only because I am challenging myself to go sweetener-free, but also because I thought it tasted fine without it. I tried it with less tamari, but found it lacking without it. Since I only use 1-2 tsp for my oatmeal, I find a little goes a long way.
While I typically eat steel-cut oats, I treated myself to some extra thick rolled oats. Pillow soft, it worked well with the ponzu sauce. More as a textural contrast, and also for its health benefits (omega 3s, lignans and fiber), I added flax seeds. I highly prefer yellow or golden flax seeds which are more mild tasting than brown flax. However, to unlock flax’s prowess, freshly grinding them is the way to go. Otherwise, they may not be absorbed at all.
Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?
Basically, not as bad as I thought.
I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.
However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!
I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.
This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.
I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.
Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus. I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day. I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.
My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post.