Rob can be bad at keeping secrets. He leaked that he wanted to buy me a dehydrator for Christmas in September.. or maybe October. I rationalized that it was in both our interests to get it while we were still brimming with autumn harvests (mainly our herbs and peppers). Hehehe… Rob had tried drying his chili peppers in the oven on the “keep warm” setting and it took many days to dry completely. Not that energy or time efficient. So…. the dehydrator arrived early and we dehydrated our summer bounty of chili peppers. Then moved on to apple chips, dehydrated pineapple and kale chips.
But it wasn’t much of a surprise when the dehydrator arrived. Rob didn’t even hide when it was available to be picked up from the store.
What was a surprise was when my first issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter arrived in my mailbox this week. I’ve written about this fabulous publication three times before, which I describe as the Consumer’s Reports of healthy food. I usually read my Mom’s leftover issues, but this time she bought me my own subscription. Yahoo! However, someone goofed (not my Mom) and I received the December 2011 issue. Not really a problem because I love this issue, but it arrived before Christmas.. totally spoiling the Christmas Day surprise.
The December 2011 issue, itself, was a great issue. The feature article is all about which foods actually improve your health based on scientific research. Want to lower your cholesterol? Your best bet in to focus on foods high in unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and fatty fish. The second best option is to consume foods high in soluble fibre like beans, oats and psyllium. As they explain, it is important to replace foods with trans- and saturated fats (meat, butter, cheese, cream, etc). It can be too easy to add additional calories through nuts, which are caloric-dense, but if you increase your refined carbs as a result of decreasing your fats, your triglycerides could increase, too (not good). They also talk about the best foods to protect your eyes, prevent colon cancer, staying regular and lowering your blood pressure (yes, the DASH diet is better than any single medication on the market).
Previously, my favourite article has been their ratings of vegetables where kale tops their list. I know all veggies are good for you, but I am such a numbers girl. However, with my new subscription they sent me a small pamphlet with ratings of other staples: fruit, beans (!!!), grains, lean meats and spreads. Of course, I was drawn to the best of the beans ratings.
While I know each bean is different, I always thought they were nearly similar nutritionally – full of fibre, folate and other vitamins. Only Nutrition Action would rate them! They based their ratings on the percentage of daily value of that each cup of cooked bean possessed for fibre, protein, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B6 and potassium.
Interestingly enough, at the top of their list was edamame and at the bottom of the list was tofu, both soy products. Compared to other beans, edamame (soybeans) are unique because they contain more iron and protein (also fat!) with decreased levels of folate and fibre. This explains why they are so creamy.
In honour of winning the title of “best bean”, I thought I’d share a fabulous avocado-edamame dip: guacamole with edamame… guacamame? Or, as Tess called it in Radiance 4 Life: Green Velvet Guacamole. I modified the recipe slightly by increasing the lime juice and garlic for some added zip. If you like bits in your guac, feel free to add chopped tomatoes and onions.. or whatever floats your boat. The edamame adds creaminess and body to your dip but more importantly, additional fibre and protein than you would get from an extra avocado.
I love frozen edamame (ok only the pre-shelled kind, otherwise I start to curse), because they are easy to throw into all sorts of dishes- stir fries, soups and salads. Need only a cup? Not a problem!
Here are some of my favourite recipes with edamame:
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
I went to the St Lawrence Market this weekend to buy some kale. I was pining the HUGE $2 bundles of kale. Last year, with only one bundle I made Brazilian Potato-Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo (Caldo Verde), Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew AND Cranberry Bean Mole with Roasted Butternut Squash. The bundles were that huge. This week, they had smaller bundles, all from the top part of the plants. Still a great deal at $1.50 and actually more manageable to eat in a week. I bought 2 bundles because I planned for a kale chip marathon this weekend. While I also scored a delicata and kabocha squash (I have yet to try them but I hear they are wonderful), I wasn’t able to find celery root (aka celeriac) which was my main reason for visiting the market. I guess, I will have to head back next week.
While I feel like the winter heralds the end of fresh vegetables (my local farmer’s market has already closed for the season), without physical snow, there is still lots of food from local sources. In fact, I still have kale growing in my own garden! It became much more prolific since the first frost. The winner of the kale plants we planted this year was the Vates Blue Curled Kale. It is a dwarf plant, so the plants are smaller and don’t take as long to grow (dinosaur kale takes 90 days to grow, whereas these need only 30 days). The leaves are smaller and more tender, thus they are perfect for wraps. No need to steam, because they taste wicked awesome fresh from the garden.
This is a delicious wrap that I adapted from The Two-Week Wellness Solution. Tess initially made these as tostadas, but I really enjoyed these as wraps. I pretty much adore all of Tess’ recipes and had bookmarked these for the longest time due to their positively glowing reviews. Then Ashley posted her version, and I knew I had to try it.
It looks so daunting with all the ingredients, but it is actually really easy to make. The mashed black beans seasoned with lime, cumin and onion are the star of the wrap, contrasting nicely with quinoa as well as lime-spiked carrots and green onions. The avocado adds a creamy touch. Try it as a tostada, or a wrap, but any way will be delicious. This has been one of my favourite meals. Enjoy!
You wouldn’t think a falling bicycle could be so dangerous.
If I was riding it, sure. But not a bicycle falling down next to me!
This time, I wasn’t even riding my bicycle and I was injured.
I was standing next to my bicycle, as it was falling, and the front chainring (or chainwheel or spikey teeth where my gears change) decided to take a piece out of me. A few pieces. A few deep chunks of me. I saw my subcutaneous fat before I started to bleed, and knew it was bad news. In the next instant, blood was pooling down to my sock. I declined an offer for a napkin to wipe the blood off and softly said, “I just need to get to work.” The nice stranger probably thought I was nuts. Of course, with an injury like that, it only makes sense to wish you were at work if you worked at a hospital! I hopped on my bike and rode off. I eventually found my way to the emergency department where I was cleaned up and stitched back together (thank you year 2 medical student).
***disclaimer, possibly gory photo of my leg… Personally, I don’t think it looks too bad, but it is definitely not as appetizing as my mousse!**********
My supervisor remarked that after enduring the injury, freezing and stitching, I deserved a treat. He suggested ice cream. Interesting idea, I thought. Instead of ice cream, I plotted and schemed. I had some avocados at home that I had forgotten to add to some tacos, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. A quick, decadent treat.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse.
Definitely not your typical mousse, it is a light chocolate pudding with a hint of spice. Not airy as you would expect in a mousse. If you would like more of a pudding, don’t add any water but it was good both ways. I adapted Gena’s chocomole, to include a bit of lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon and cardamom and swapped agave nectar for the dates. Next time, I may omit the water completely, and try adding some almond or hazelnut butter for added richness and a more pudding-like consistency. For something more airy, I may try this cashew-based recipe instead.
Thank goodness I have another avocado!
But I won’t wait for a pity-party for my next chocolate fix.
No worries about me, though, because my leg is doing fine, as am I. In fact, the worst thing that has happened is that I am now wearing skirts and dresses (pants irritate my stitches). Becoming quite feminine with my masculine injury, eh?
This is my submission to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
But I did.
Trust me, I didn’t succumb to the traditional sushi rolls.
Instead, I had a delicious raw sushi roll at Organic Lives. Completely inauthentic, it was filled with a pecan pate, sprouts, veggies, avocado and mango. With the zippy fruit-based dipping sauce, it was so completely different from any sushi roll I have ever had. The only similarity was that it was a nori roll wrap.
Once the hubbub subsided after I returned home, I was craving a more traditional sushi roll. Without all the hard work of actually rolling the little buggers…
When I visited Japan, one of my favourite meals was eating sashimi at the Tsukiji Market, which is the wholesale marketplace for seafood in Tokyo. With daily auctions, this is where you can eat the freshest fish. The sashimi was unbeatable. I have never been able to enjoy sea urchin anywhere else. So fresh, it was so buttery soft and creamy.
I actually visited Tsukiji two days in a row and sampled sashimi from two different vendors. Both times, I ordered a sushi bowl with an assortment of sashimi. One resto had better sashimi and the other had better rice. The rice was so good, it eclipsed the fish. And I don’t really like rice, actually. I consider it filler in sushi rolls, when I would rather be eating the filling. I tolerate rice for the most part, but here, I learned how great rice can taste.
I have experimented with a few rices since my return, and I still remain partial to a short-grain Japanese-style rice. Recently, I bought the Taiwanese Yih Chuan Aromatic Rice, which has a faint aroma of taro (yes, on sale at T&T). It brings rice to the next level. The rice is nicely flavoured, shaped and most importantly, tastes great.
My whole preamble about rice is because if you are going to make a sushi rice bowl, you should try to use a nice rice! The dressing helps, too. The toppings, too. But let the rice get the spotlight it deserves as it isn’t supposed to be a bland side.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, I wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but a lively citrus-flavoured sushi bowl. Top with your favourite sushi toppings such as steamed asparagus, avocado, grilled tofu, and dare I suggest mango? (Mango, next time…). The key to keep this a sushi bowl, and not a rice salad, though, is to include the toasted nori strips. You can buy them pre-shredded, but you could also toast the nori and then cut it into thin strips yourself.
Salads can be costly.
I’m not talking about the lettuce, or the vegetable toppings, or even the dressings…
I needed to buy a bigger pannier for my bike when I started to eat huge salads at work. One container for the lettuce, another for the toppings and another for the dressing. It takes up a lot of room, but the fresh salad is definitely worth it.
Last year, I lamented that my Mexican salad with the creamy avocado dressing needed to be eaten soon after assembly. Once dressed, lettuce doesn’t last that long (more the power to wilted kale salads!). This year, when I spotted a tomato-based Mexican salad at Namaste Gurl, I was smitten. Her salads were gorgeous and while her tomato-based dressing seemed quite unorthodox, it sounded delicious. If I kept all the components separate, I knew I could enjoy this salad all week long.
Sauces and dressings are what clinch a meal. Fresh, tasty produce helps, too, but oftentimes the dressing pulls it all together. And in this salad, the dressing is what really shines. It is a light, silky smooth tomato and red pepper sauce with a hint of cheese from nutritional yeast, smokiness from smoked paprika and zip from the chili flakes. Cumin and oregano keep this Mexican. You could add your favourite vegetables to the mix, to replace the cabbage, but I highly recommend the red pepper which conferred a sweet silkiness to the dish, almost as if it were roasted. I have never pureed my tomato sauces, but this dressing was so creamy because I used my immersion blender to make it smooth. The sauce was so good, I had to stop myself from gobbling it up straight from the stovetop.
Instead, I held out to use it as the dressing for this Mexican salad with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado overtop mixed greens. Be creative with your toppings – add in some whole grain crackers, fresh bell pepper, cucumber, etc. Romaine worked well with this combination as well. I bet there are countless things this sauce could be used for, and I am sure I will whip it up again when I make my first batch of zucchini noodles!
A big round of applause for Rob for posting some awesome recipes over the past week!
Gosh, sometimes life just becomes incredibly hectic. At times, it can be hard to juggle work, research, social commitments, and all of a sudden there is crunch time! Rob saw I was stressed and offered to help with the blog (what a sweetie, eh?).
No worries about food, because I was still cooking up a storm. In fact, I feel almost guilty about taking so long to tell you about this lovely kale salad. I have shared the recipe countless times since I made it, but have yet to blog about it. Trust me, it is fabulous.
This is a kale salad. A salad made with raw kale. I know you are raising your eyebrow, thinking that kale is so bitter and tough, why would you eat it raw? Well, it is more of a wilted kale salad because you massage it into silky oblivion, kneading in the flavours.
I was (loosely) inspired by the raw kale salad in Lucid Food, and kept it as a creamy salad with the addition of avocado. It is combined with a splash of olive oil and garlic for a luscious dressing. I chose to top the salad with a tart Granny Smith apple as well with grated raw beet (yes, you can eat it raw) instead of carrot which made the apple turn a brilliant shade of magenta. Toasted almonds add another layer of nutty crunch.
A perfect salad for potlucks, and even for leftovers (gasp!) because you actually want this to be a wilted salad.
Hi! It’s Rob again for one last item in my short series of posts here on the taste space.
After crafting the delicious avocado chutney last week, I was left with a couple of leftover avocados. I was perplexed. What should I do with them? I didn’t want to make guacamole. I wasn’t prepared to produce a salad with them. In Australia I learned how amazing avocado is in sandwiches or hamburgers, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go either.
I KNOW! I would devise a new variation of everyone’s beloved overnight oats! I was very excited. Overnight oats are great, but wouldn’t they be better if they were filled with tropical fruits?
I’ll be honest with you. I hold tropical fruits in very high regard. As such, I pine to travel to the tropical regions where these fruits are cheap, fresh, and plentiful. I’ve been to a few of these places, but my yearning to go to more is unceasing…
I still think fondly of the Cook Islands where I enjoyed the best papaya I ever had, topped with grated coconut and lime juice.
I still remember the glee I felt when I arrived in Fiji at the height of mango season. They were so ripe that they fell from the trees and landed at my feet, begging to be devoured.
I still recall the wonder I felt while roaming the streets of Bangkok and marvelling at the carts of the street vendors showcasing pineapples, artfully cut and ready to take away with little packets of salt and chili.
Several years ago, back when I lived in another city and worked at a different job, I was just beginning to discover many types of international cuisine. There was a while where my coworkers and I would take lunch every Friday “off-site” to go to a nearby Indian restaurant with a buffet. It was an exploratory process for me: samosas, mulligatawny soup, this kind of curry, that kind of curry, basmati rice, and kulfi, to name a few. Not only did I expand my newly-found appreciation of foods outside my normal “comfort zone”, but I expanded my comfort zone to encompass them. It did wonders for my vocabulary, too!
Of particular interest were the several varies of chutneys available. I found that the tamarind chutney and the mango chutney particularly tickled my taste buds. I had never tried tamarind or mango before. Now they are counted among my favourite flavours. I was so excited that I told an Indian friend of mine, “I had chutney for lunch!” She was amused, but told me it was the same thing as saying that, “I had ketchup for lunch.”
Wikipedia defines chutney as “a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish.” I can see how something like ketchup might fall under that categorization, but your typical chutney is so much more! It’s like an explosion of flavour you can enjoy bite, by bite, by bite!
This recipe comes from 660 Curries which Saveur lent me several months ago and I’ve been studying intently. I’ve already posted a couple of the these recipes on my own blog (which isn’t a proper food blog, per se, but just a place where I post many photos and write about whatever is interesting me at the time).
This recipe did introduce me to a new ingredient; an ingredient that I approached with some trepidation: curry leaves. These leaves are not the kind of leaves that curry powder is made from. Much like Europeans chefs use bay leaves to add flavour to dishes they are making, Indian chefs (especially in the southern regions of India) would add curry leaves to theirs to impart a characteristic flavour to their dishes. Like bay leaves, people generally remove the curry leaves as they eat the meal. Unlike bay leaves, their flavour is subtle and many need to be added to the dish.
I found dried curry leaves at a health food store in Ottawa several weeks ago. I knew that 660 Curries had many recipes that asked for fresh curry leaves. There aren’t any stores near me that sell fresh ones, so I took the opportunity to buy the dried ones. Saveur warned me that recipes usually need far fewer dried leaves than fresh ones and I needed to research the proper ratio to use. Did I need to use half as many dried curry leaves? One third as many?
After some quick online research, I discovered that opposite holds true for curry leaves: the dried ones have less flavour and I need many many more dried ones… perhaps as many as ten times as many! Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, even goes so far as to say that the flavour of dried curry leaves is “insipid” and to avoid them completely!
I was somewhat disappointed. Since the ingredient was still new to me, and I wasn’t willing to put 120 dried curry leaves in my chutney (it was unlikely that my tiny bag of them even had that many leaves in it), I simply put in 12 dried curry leaves in the hot oil at the end of cooking the mustard seeds to allow any of their flavour to transfer to the oil. I then removed the leaves myself.
The chutney was simply packed with flavour! The subtle taste of the avocado was the dominant flavour, with the motifs of roasted mustard coming a close second. The tamarind was not overpowering at all. I was careful with the chili flakes so the result was not too spicy.
Sadly, by the second day, the avocado on the surface had become discoloured and turned brown. The chutney still tasted fine, though. I served mine on toasted pieces of pita bread.
Go for it!
Toronto has a lot of burrito restaurants. I have been to a few places, but my favourite sandwich remains the yam burrito at Big Fat Burrito. I used to gush about them at work, where our Monday lunches were burritos from Big Fat Burrito. It turned out to be a bad idea, because we started to run out of the yam burritos.
I haven’t eaten a burrito in a while, especially after I found out that the steak burrito at Burrito Boyz is over a pound of food, and over 1000 calories. Chipotle fares no better, clocking in at over 1200 calories if you include guacamole.
However, when I spotted this (since adapted) recipe in Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook for yam, black bean and amaranth burritos, I knew I had to give burritos a second chance. Making them at home meant I could make them healthier! Including a touch of sour cream, these burritos are around 550 calories, but it all depends on the tortilla, salsa and added fixins you use. Next time I make burritos, I will try to search out freshly made tortillas from La Tortilleria. Sometimes, though, I ate this more like a stew, sans wrap.
Amaranth is an optional ingredient, but if you have it, this is a great way to incorporate it into your meal. Amaranth is one of those up-and-coming superfoods. It is an ancient South American seed loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, akin to quinoa. It has a slightly nutty taste and can be quite sticky. It works well as a binder in these burritos.
Amaranth has an interesting history, as it was believed to have superpowers and was given to the army for increased energy. Furthermore, it was used during religious ceremonies as effigies, and thus was banished when the Spaniards invaded Mexico. It has only been rejuvenated within the past few decades and still remains relegated to health food stores (I found mine in bulk at Essence of Life but have also seen it at the St Lawrence Market at Lively Life Fine Food).
Here are some other recipes with amaranth seed:
Emeril Lagasse’s Five Grain Salad on The Kitchn
Banana Apple Coconut Curry at Oh She Glows
Jewelled Amaranth at Cook (almost) Everything At Least Once
Heidi Swanson’s Savory Amaranth Soufflé at Pink Stripes
Ottolenghi’s Potato and Amaranth Cakes at The Guardian
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks at Diet, Dessert N Dogs
I have a love/hate relationship with restaurants. I love trying new foods, but hate the heavy cost, of both funds and calories, that typically go hand-in-hand with restaurant meals. Plus, as I get more adventurous in the kitchen, I feel that I can make it better, cheaper, and healthier if I have the time to experiment. A year ago, I thought Japanese cuisine was impossible to make in my own kitchen, but after getting a few staples, it is easy to make tasty Japanese meals at home.
This post is all about the carrot-ginger-miso appetizer salad you find ubiquitously in Japanese restaurants. I never thought of making it myself until I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, who proclaimed it to be the best salad after adapting it from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.com. Whiz together a couple of ingredients in your food processor or blender and you have a silky, spicy, creamy, zesty and salty dressing in one. Use it to top lettuce and avocado for a wholesome, delicious, complex veggie treat prior to your main meal.
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month featuring avocados, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Vegetable Marathon featuring carrots as well as to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
Whenever I cook for other people, I am torn between trying a new recipe on unsuspecting partners in crime, or sticking to some tried-and-true recipes. I battle between knowing a dish will be great, to the possibility that I might find a new dish I love as well! Or if I don’t, others will help me eat it (just kidding!). Certainly some dishes lend well to large gatherings, like creamy lettuce salads.. because they just don’t last until the next day.
So when I was confronted with meeting (many!) strangers over a potluck, I erred on the side of trouble, and a large salad (salad = trouble ? No way!). Thankfully, this gamble paid off. I taste-tested it before I brought it over, so I knew I wasn’t doomed to disaster.
I must admit I don’t make many creamy dressings, and my only mayonnaise is Japanese (courtesy of okonomiyaki cravings), but the majority of this dressing was entirely avocado. It was pretty scrumptious and the green onions had a small kick of heat that balanced out with the avocado nicely and while I omitted the hot sauce, I am sure it would have been nice for those who enjoy more spice. The Romaine and chips had nice crunch that complemented the rich creaminess from the dressing. The black beans were a nice addition too. I am reminded how much I love creamy salads and now I have to wait for another grand gathering to make such a monstrous salad a second time. Enjoy!
This dish was adapted from Noble Pig, and also spotted at Krista’s Kitchen. It is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring Mexican soups and salads as well as this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by The Well-Seasoned Cook.