I told my friend in Houston that I had reached the height of my vegan eats here. There were no new restaurants I wanted to try. She assured me there were so.many.more to try and convinced me to try a nearby Thai restaurant. Oddly enough, Rob has spotted it earlier that week and was amused by its billboard that announced it was MANGO SEASON!
I was apprehensive but she assured me I would love it. She told me they had vegan ice cream. I was sold.
She did not lie. I loved it. So much so, that I quickly tried to figure out how to recreate the dishes.
This is a spin on Laotian larb. Of note, Rob tells me this is nothing like the original and in fact, if you pronounce the r in larb, that is wrong, too. Make no mistake about its simplicity, this salad wrap was GREAT!
A few fun points: This was the first time I have steamed tofu. I LOVED it. It made it nice and fluffy and once crumbled, it absorbed the flavours of the marinade incredibly well. Lime juice, cilantro, in a salty-hot-sweet background, it was nice, fresh and light. After an overnight soak, it was absolutely perfect and lasted for a few days of lovely leftovers for lunch.
I took inspiration from the restaurant to serve it next to a quarter of an iceberg. Its solid leaves make for excellent wraps, more sturdy than most lettuces and is rather mild on the green scale. Besides, it is always good to rotate your greens. :)
Do you have a favourite green wrap? I thought collards were my favourite but I was rather smitten by the iceberg lettuce. ;)
Desserts and salads, that’s just the way we’re rolling here these days.
There is just something so pretty about colourful vegetables, I had to share this fun twist on salad. Vegetable noodles, either created with a spiralizer, a shredder, or careful knife skills, can totally change your view on salad.
Rob cheers every time we finish something. I actually apologized when I finished the balsamic vinegar but Rob gave me a high five. I am a bit antsy about the lack of smoked paprika in the house, too, but pretty confident we’ll replenish it before we return to Canada (because: PENZEY’S!).
The tahini may be dwindling but I have lots of sesame seeds. I haven’t resorted to making my own homemade tahini yet, but it could be fun to try. Until then, my sesame seeds are usually garnishes.
This salad dressing is a fun twist on a creamy sauce, since it is made with tahini with accents from the rice vinegar, mustard and lemon pepper seasoning. As I said, the salad was fun to create, too: spiralized zucchini is tossed with shredded carrots, thinly sliced red cabbage and instead of edamame (which would be good, too), I added sweet sugar snap peas. A bit different but fun for a change. And nice when you do not feel like cooking.
Note: I am pleading fifth amendment about the coconut flour. Some things were just meant to return to Canada. ;)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest, Souper Sundays, Extra Veg and Four Seasons Food.
We reached critical mass last weekend.
I am not joking.
We ran out of room in the refrigerator.
Who knew greens could take up so much space?
I loaded up at our favourite market. $7 got us heaps of produce along with our $5 case of mangoes. The mangoes and bananas didn’t go into the fridge, but it was hard enough to get my bag of 9 leeks ($1!) and 3 heads of Boston lettuce ($1!) in there.
But then, I went to the potluck. How could I not support buying some freshly picked organic kale grown by school children from a nearby elementary school? And that is how I also ended up with a good 3-4 bunches worth of kale and could barely close my fridge.
Thank goodness Rob hasn’t strangled me just yet.
With prices so low, we don’t feel as guilty if I don’t eat through everything. But I try!!
Instead of tackling all the leeks and my new produce, I decided to dig through my vegetable bins to find the older vegetables. Finish off the snap peas, carrots and bell peppers, and the last of the scraggly cilantro and scallions. For protein, I quick-thawed some edamame.
This combination reminded me of my vegetable buddha salad bowl but since we’re low on miso, I went with a dressing more reminiscent of my (other) raw Asian kale salad with edamame. With so many colourful vegetables and an Asian dressing, how could you go wrong?
Please share with me your favourite kale and leek recipes! Also, for fresh chickpeas since I scored those too! :)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest and this week’s Souper Sundays.
My lovely friend, Dawn, recently asked me to share my tips for food blogging.
As you know, I have a demanding full-time job and this is my hobby. After a few years, I think I have a great balance between managing the blog and the rest of my life. Mainly, the blog does not take over my life.
Some people wonder how I make and share so many different recipes without losing my mind.
I try to keep things low-key. I only take photos once. New recipe, snap a photo. If I come back and the photos suck, oh well… I will still post the subpar photos if the recipe is good.
This also means that I may make a recipe one way but find a better use for it afterwards as leftovers. Then my photos might not look like my recipe!
That is how this recipe evolved. It started out as a Thai Kale Salad with Chickpeas and a Peanut Dressing. I made it, I ate it. However, the next day, I thought rice paper rolls would be better. So I wrapped them up… and decided I didn’t want to bother with new photographs and munched away. Of course, the wrap was better. There is something sensational when all the components of the dish hit your palate at the exact same time: the lemony kale, the sweet red pepper, the crunchy carrots and the chickpeas are not rolling around everywhere…. and how could I forget the delicious peanut sauce? It is light, thinned with vinegar but flavourful with the ginger and orange. Drizzled into the salad roll, it was delicious. So delicious, I gobbled up the rest of the salad before rethinking about a new photo shoot.
Want more advice on how to be an awesome food blogger? Check out Dawn’s round-up with tips from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg, Susan Voisin from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, Cara Lyons from Cara’s Cravings and Alyssa from Queen of Quinoa.
We traded hills for wind this weekend.
Blustery wind. Gusty winds.
It was kind of humbling to cycle 100-km hilly routes outside Houston, and then find ourselves so pooped we could barely finish our rides.
Even though we’re aiming for 160 km, our odometers have been stuck at 100-km for a while. This weekend, we decided to shun the hills (and the 2-hour commute to get to them) and opt for distance. The wind was a pleasant (or unpleasant), unplanned surprise. A flat tire was also a surprise and likely cost us an hour of cycling time. We pushed through 127 km of city-riding on Saturday.
On Sunday, we aimed to add hills to our windy resistance. We did an “urban hill” loop where we tried to climb as many highway overpasses as possible. The wind was relentless. If we thought Saturday was windy, it was even windier on Sunday. Southeast winds of 30km/h with gusts over 50 km/h. Rob rerouted it to include a stopover at Mi Tienda #2, our favourite Mexican grocer. We weren’t going to skip out on our aguas fresca ritual! This week they had mamey, which was a hard choice over the guanabana.
Even though we were out and about on our bikes most of the weekend, we actually had more energy. I guess we’re better at tackling wind than hills.
We ended up (ok, just me) stockpiling veggies when we finally ended up at an Asian market for our weekly grocery run. We put them to great use in this vegan spin on bahn mi sandwiches. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich, which I associate with the pickled vegetables and cilantro. Here, tofu and mushrooms are scrambled as the base. The veggies, with Terry’s spin of adding star anise, make this a nice and bright wrap.
Rob thought it was his best sandwich ever. I thought it nice, too, and opted to eat it in a collard wrap.
Maybe everything tastes better after biking 180 km?
After nearly 10 months in Houston, you’d think we have settled in.
I (only slightly) notice when people say “y’all”. The humidity is slowly building up past my Toronto summer thresholds. All in a regular Texan day.
And then, a few months ago, we spotted a new-to-us animal. Half-turkey, half-duck, we had no way to ask locals about it other than “Have you seen the turkey duck?”.
I have a feeling I am getting the same look from you right now. Turkey duck??
Rob snapped this photo. Tell me you do not agree:
The crazy Canadian Canucks following the ducks.
My googling suggests these are Muscovy Ducks and are rather invasive, almost pest-like. Probably similar to Canadian geese. I don’t get excited about them, either, but I am sure tourists love feeding them.
Rob and I are also starting our purging of the pantry/fridge/freezer.
Rob is better at experimenting but he ran with my crazy idea. He wanted a veggie-centric stir-fry and I helped him with the sauce.
He wanted tamarind, obviously.
And for some reason, it hit me. What better pair for sour than a sweet chili sauce for a spicy-sweet kick? YES! Rob added lemon pepper seasoning, too.
Even though this was a crazy-fun kitchen experiment, I obviously wouldn’t be telling you unless it was a crazy-good experiment. The sauce ingredients are a guesstimate of what Rob added so feel free to adjust it along with your own tastes. We always go heavy on the tamarind compared to most people. :)
Have you seen a Muscovy duck before? Do you have any exotic pests where you live?
Even though Rob was away, in the end, it didn’t stop me from a) cooking some delicious meals and b) going out to cycle.
Going out for a bike ride by myself doesn’t seem like a big accomplishment, but I always save my long rides to do with friends. Of course, I commute by myself, but I always want to do my longer, harder challenges with someone else in case we get into trouble (flat tire, accident, get lost, etc).
This weekend, though, I took matters into my own hands. It was cold and windy but I circumvented the rain. I still managed to pedal 100 km over the weekend. Baby steps, as we haven’t done more than 30 km within the past few months. I stayed with a well-travelled and well-loved route.
I even had a flat tire. A slow leak I discovered Sunday morning and took out my commuter instead. I didn’t want to waste time and lose motivation changing my tire.
Because I split my ride over 2 days, I still had enough time to do my weekend batch cooking. One of my favourites was this soup. All.things.caramelized: caramelized cabbage, caramelized onions and caramelized leeks. If I had roasted the carrots, it may have turned into a sweetness overload. Just kidding. While you dirty a bunch of dishes, everything cooks or roasts in parallel so it doesn’t take as long as you might fear. Combining the sweet vegetables with celeriac and white beans countered with a bit of bitterness, but the broth was spiked with dill that brought everything together.
I liked how the soup was made with winter vegetable staples (carrot, cabbage, celeriac, leeks) but I find fresh dill has a spring feel. Granted we have no snow, but the warmer weather will definitely be appreciated.
This is my submission to this week’s 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?
First of all, you guys are awesome. You guys are word wizards! I love it!
(And yes, I realize there is a selection bias based on who chooses to write a comment, but still…)
Second of all, did you catch the recent posts all about beans? Like “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Avoid Eating Beans” on Breaking Muscle? Or Ginny’s recent post on The Vegan RD called “Plant Protein: Why Vegans Need Beans“? Both are very well done posts about beans. Bucking the paleo trend, Jeff points out common (or quite uncommon) misconceptions about beans and why you should be eating them. Ginny makes a great case why beans are the best source of protein that is relevant for vegans and non-vegans alike.
You know it. Beans are my fuel, too. Oftentimes, I get stuck in the land of chickpeas and lentils when there are actually a lot more beans out there. With the Mexican slant in Houston, I have been gobbling up black beans with much gusto as of late. Mexican black bean dip, black bean tostadas, Mexican zucchini lasagna, black bean and sweet potato tamales and even black bean tortilla soup. And here we go with another Mexican-inspired black bean soup.
This is an absolutely delicious soup. However, there is an asterisk. It tastes good because you coax all the goodness out of each ingredient individually. Translation: it is a bit labour-intensive but so worth it.
Caramelize your onions and carrots. Roast your red bell pepper. Make your own Ancho chile puree. Freshly toast your cumin seeds. If you have the time, prepare your beans from scratch. Squirt on some lime juice and scatter cilantro throughout. Yeah.
Take the time to tend to this soup and you will not be disappointed. In fact, I recommend you double the recipe so that you can freeze your bounty.
Want to take the short cuts? I am sure this will still be a delicious soup: soften your onion and carrot with the red pepper, throw in your pre-cooked/canned beans, swap Ancho chile powder for the puree, forego the cumin toasting. It can all be done and will still be delicious.
Here’s to more more beans! :)
Based on my review of vegan nutrition books, you can tell why I always try to eat a lot of beans. So much so, that when I travel and people want to know what I eat, I tell them that something as simple as vegetables and a can of chickpeas would suffice. My family is actually really good about making sure there is food for me, but I still have fun cooking in the kitchen while travelling.
During our trip back home during the holidays, not only did I make a delicious dark chocolate peanut butter pie (delicious, definitely check it out), but I made this dish a few times. Basically, it is a simple dish of mustard/lemon-glazed root vegetables and chickpeas but I experimented each time I made it. While I could count on everyone having mustard available, every time was a bit different depending on what was in the kitchen. I learned that this is definitely better with garlic, tamari/soy sauce is preferred and while this is nice with carrots, the addition of parsnip is a fun twist. This is a great comforting dish for anyone looking to warm their kitchen with your oven. ;)
What did you think of the nutritional recommendations from the review? Do you feel like you eat enough of the different areas?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
I love it when Houston behaves itself.
Rob and I had another Canadian visitor recently. In between Polar Vortex 1 and Polar Vortex 2, Houstonians enjoyed balmy (normal) summery weather at its finest. You know, summer how it is meant to be: around 25ºC. None of that feels like 38ºC with 90% humidity forecast. None of that below freezing business (that’s tonight, by the way).
Together, we did more touristy things than we had ever done before: hiking next to alligators, admiring the Museum of Fine Art’s impressive gold collection, watching Americana in our backyard via the Martin Luther King Jr Parade. However, I still skipped out on the stereotypical NASA Space Center visit. We still shared our favourite haunts but explored new restaurants as well. Nearly every meal was pre-planned. My friend had so many restaurants she wanted to try!
After the whirlwind of a visit (if you knew my friend, you would know this is no overstatement), both Rob and my friend parted for Canada. One to Toronto and the other to Winnipeg. Both returned to temperatures around -20ºC (-4F). Yesterday, my friend in Winnipeg told me it was -40ºC with the windshield. For those that need a conversion to Fahrenheit, at -40, both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales collide. Collide and freeze. They are the same. Both, really, really cold.
With the imminent cold weather, I am sharing another warming soup. Red lentils are a perfect blank canvas for a hearty meal. Pureed tomatoes and red lentils are combined with cauliflower and brown rice in a broth spiced with cumin, mustard and dill. I never would have thought to combine those flavours together but the dill really brightened the dish. This is an excellent soup!
How have you been keeping warm lately?
I have been very fortunate to grow up in an environment where brains were valued over beauty. None of my friends were ever on diets. If I made New Year’s Resolutions (I doubt I did; my last decade has been more of a daily self-evaluation), they were short-lived vow to be nicer to my brother. My mother (and brother) may not believe me.
It was only after I started reading food blogs, did I encounter the dizzying world of detoxes, cleanses and diets. Not that I have ever condoned detoxes. Barring liver disease or overdoses, our liver does a great job “detoxifying” our body every.single.day. Imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my friends in Houston told me they were eating 100% raw shortly after New Year’s, spurred by Kristina’s 21-Day Raw Challenge. I love the creativity that comes from cooking/uncooking/eating raw foods, but they complement my cooked vegan eats. Let’s be honest, even in Houston, winter is not the ideal time to go all raw.
My friend hosted a potluck to kickstart her first day on her raw diet and this is what I brought to share. I used it as an opportunity to make something from a new cookbook, Balanced Raw. Raw sushi is easy to share at a party, so I tried the new recipe. I have made raw sushi before, and the recipes are quite similar, but I decided to share this version, too, mainly because Rob took some impromptu sushi rolling action shots. Using a placemat makes sushi rolling very easy. Parsnip rice is spiced with a bit of chile powder and filled with an assortment of vegetables.
A note about the cookbook, though. The recipes are built around a 3-week vegan “cleanse” with a meal plan for every day. The recipes span both raw and cooked meals, but they seem to follow a low-fat 80/10/10 vegan diet. While Kristina is good about mentioning the need to eat enough calories, the meal plans in this book look woefully inadequate calorically. However, the recipes are interesting and would be a useful adjunct to whatever your typical eats may be. There are ideas for vegetables beyond salads. I use raw foods to enhance my vegan diet. It is a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits.
The publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think about cleanses and detoxes. Have you done one? Are you doing one? I will randomly select a winner on January 20, 2014. Good luck!
Balanced Raw recipes elsewhere:
PS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for Superfood Smoothies here.
I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!
Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.
Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.
What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.
Thanksgiving is over. December is here.
It is all about the holidays now, no?
Well, you know me, I kind of beat to the tune of my own drum. My forthcoming recipes may not necessarily be holiday-driven, but they will definitely be highly recommended. For yourself and others. And if that is not holiday-themed, I do not know what is.
This is a black bean soup I shared with my parents while they were in town. I had some lofty meals planned, but ended up working late and being on call, so things did not work as originally scheduled. I turned to this soup from The 30 Minute Vegan’s latest cookbook: Soup’s On! This is my favourite book of his so far, possibly because I love soups.
Mark’s latest book proves that complex soups do not need to take hours over the stove. With tricks like foregoing a slow saute for onions and prepping your vegetables as you cook your soup, a proficient cook should be able to make most of these soups quickly. Separated into chapters for basic broths, vegetable-dominant soups, heartier soups with whole grains, legumes and pasta, creamy blended soups, raw soups and desserts soups (plus garnishes and sides), this a comprehensive vegan soup compendium. His recipes highlight whole foods: vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and flavourful herbs. In addition to being entirely vegan, this cookbook caters to many special requests: no/low-oil, gluten-free (almost all), and mostly soy-free, too, and every recipe has variations to help you craft your best brew.
This black bean soup was no exception: lots of colourful vegetables superimposed on top of jet black black beans (Rancho Gordo’s Negro de Arbol beans). Bell pepper, carrots and corn with a dash of orange juice, cloves and liquid smoke for a Brazilian flare. The original soup was no-oil, but I opted for the oil-sautéed onion variation. I made the soup first and waited until dinnertime to make the plantain chips. The nuances of the maple-orange-cinnamon marinade for the baked plantain chips may have been lost on us, though. They also took twice as long to bake, but after Hannah’s recent gush of love for oven-baked plantain chips, I figured they may take longer.
With the plantain chips (unpictured), this would have been a stretch for a 30-minute meal, but it was quick. And the soup was delicious. Mark said it would serve 6-8, but the four of us devoured it in one sitting. (Sadly no leftovers for me). I was actually impressed that my Dad thought I had served this to him before. I assured him that this was a new recipe but two years ago, yes, I shared a (different) Brazilian soup with him. It was more stew-like with sweet potato and kale amidst the vegetable choice. I think I liked this one more. RG’s black beans were a hit: a bit smaller than your typical black bean while keeping their shape nicely.
I have been easily cooking my way through this delicious cookbook and can also recommend the Jamaican Jerk Plantain Soup, Holy Moley Soup, Himalayan Dal with Curried Chickpeas, Fire-Roasted Tomato and Rice Soup with Spinach, and Polish Vegan Sausage and Sauerkraut Stew. There are plenty more I will be trying out later.
I really want to share this cookbook with you and thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite recipe by The 30 Minute Vegan. If you haven’t made anything by Mark yet, have a look through the table of contents of The 30 Minute Vegan Soup’s On! on amazon (or my list above or below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 20, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Other recipes from Soup’s On:
PPS. Other recipes I have shared by Mark Reinfeld:
PPPS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for 365 Vegan Smoothies here.
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? :)