Rob warned me.
I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.
However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.
AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!
One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…
But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.
It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.
Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich. Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!
Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.
First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!
I am making babies.
(It is true that Rob and I recently celebrated our “common law” status after a year of living together, but I am not talking about our eventual (not now) cute kids)
I am talking about squash babies!
It looks like my hand pollination of the kabocha squash was successful, with at least 2, maybe 3 baby squashes rapidly ballooning in size. This kabocha squash business is actually very high maintenance. Not only do I water them twice a day, I now inspect the blossoms to scout out the females. I am not leaving anything to chance and work my magic before the bees come a-buzzin. Seems to be working so far!
Just late last week, Melissa Clark at the New York Times had a post (and video) about eating squash blossoms. The best part? They weren’t deep-fried! Her recipe was for a simple cheese and tapenade filling that used the blossoms as a wrap. While Rob and I nibbled on a few male blossoms this weekend, we’ll have to see how I incorporate them into a bona fide meal. Somehow, I feel like it is more about the filling then the wrap, since it just tasted like a sweet veggie wrap!
I seem to be late with all my strawberry loving this year, but the strawberries keep coming! Looks like the second round might be knocking.
This, however, was my birthday cake from my brunch. I was inspired by Lisa’s raw strawberry tart, not only because it was topped by loads of strawberries, but also because the cream of the tart wasn’t based entirely on cashews. Instead, a frozen banana is whipped inside to create a creamy, looser filling, of which strawberries are nestled overtop. Although it seemed like just a simple garnish, the fresh mint and grated coconut added the extra dimension to make this a special cake. Because this tart is made with frozen banana, it is best eaten fresh. I swear the base was a more creamy yellow a few hours before I took the photos but I had problems with oxidation again! Arg!
Happy birthday to me.
Today is my birthday.
I don’t like to make a fuss about it, though. I’d rather have a quiet night at home, dinner cooked for me, than throw a birthday bash. I find more love in that than heading to a resto.
I am hoping to break the grasp of restos on my life. I have a few that I enjoy and those are ones that I haven’t quite figured out how to duplicate at home. With a Vitamix and dehydrator, I should be all equipped. I just need some smokin’ recipes.
Last year, my Mom made a killer raw raspberry cheesecake for my birthday. This year, there ain’t no party, but I thought it would be nice to continue the tradition of creating a decadent raw dessert for my birthday. I consider myself a quasi raw dessert expert, nearly always sampling a dessert when I visit a raw restaurant. I mean, I am an expert in taste. I have not nearly mastered all raw desserts. I just know what tastes good! A recent visit to the Naked Sprout in Burlington had me sampling Rob’s dessert: Raw Key Lime Pie. It was nice, light yet filling. Apparently they don’t even use lime to make it. The flavour is from lemons. (WHAT?!) Anyways, I figured I could try my hand at it back at home.
Armed with a recipe from Peacefood Cafe, a vegan resto in New York, I set myself to work. I had to scope out a few ingredients, but it was totally worth it. Cheap Brazil nuts and raw cashews from Kensington Market. 10 limes for $1 at my local grocer. 5 avocados for $2.50, too. Agave and coconut oil were already in my pantry. And yes, then to find a young Thai coconut. My new local grocer had that, too! $2 for a young coconut.
When we were in Colombia, the young coconuts were opened with a machete. Yeah, we weren’t going to do that. There are many different ways to open coconuts (great video here), but we’ve had the most success with removing the majority of the skin with a knife, scoring the top with a knife and then bashing it against the front steps to crack it open. OK, I’ll be honest- this is Rob’s successful technique. Not mine. I just help with its consumption. The juice is probably the best part, although Rob likes to eat the meat, too. In this case, I used the coconut meat for the dessert.
Since Rob had the task of opening the coconut, this was a very simple recipe to make. Assuming of course you have a gizmo to help with juicing 8 limes! Process the nuts and dates for the crust. Smoosh it into a springform pan. The rest of the ingredients were combined in my Vitamix to create a silky smooth filling. The green comes naturally from the avocados!
I hesitated as I dumped in 3/4 cup agave, but figured it would balance the 1 cup of fresh lime juice. I hesitated again when I added the coconut oil to the filling. The filling was so good without any oil at all, but I compromised. I added in 1/2 cup coconut oil instead of the full 3/4 cup. Trust me, you don’t need the full amount. You could probably use less oil, actually, because with the avocados and coconut, this is one decadently rich dessert. Incredibly delicious and it rivals the best raw desserts I have eaten. It is that good. Serve as small pieces.
Now who wants to come over tonight to help me polish off the rest of this pie?
(I am alone since Rob is away ALL WEEK!!)
Plus, a dessert like this is meant to be shared…
I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.
Now I want a mamey tree.
I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.
I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.
I think I lost track of everything I tried.
From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).
Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.
I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.
My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat!
In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.
Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.
Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
So the joke’s on me.
70% chance of rain yesterday. I hate rainy Mondays because I have to go all over the place, with 5 destinations yesterday. If I took the subway, I’d need a day-pass!
I plotted the forecast and took my chances. No rain! I beat the weather demon!
I lost the meal planning, though. Instead of rain, turns out it was 27C with 70% humidity. It felt down-right tropical. I was cycling around in my shorts and top, it was that awesome. When I got home, I wanted a light and crisp salad! No chili, thank you kindly.
As the summer alternative to my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta, I went totally raw with a light and fresh raw alfredo sauce with basil and sun-dried and cherry tomatoes smothering zucchini noodles.
Trust me, this hit the spot.
Utterly delicious. The sauce is bright with the lemon, creamy from the cashews yet still light since it is thinned with water. Miso adds that lovely fifth dimension.
I threw in some vegetables I had hanging around (cherry tomatoes, carrot, cucumber) as well as fresh basil. Gena has also paired this with tempeh, which I might add next time. Because this recipe is definitely worth repeating.
For those of you interested in my commuting challenges, I had a real quandary today. As you know, I enjoy Steve’s downtown spinning classes on Mondays. Except I had to be at work early, so there was no way I could do both.
I was up a bit earlier than usual, so I decided to try the 0630 spinning class at my old gym. With a 9km commute just to get to the gym, that meant I was leaving home around 0545. You see, this gym has an intense and awesome spinning culture. This is where I fell in love with spinning. The regulars are incredibly supportive. Kind of like where everyone knows your name. Indeed, despite not being there since I moved (10 months ago), I was greeted on a first name basis.
I still get the weekly emails (it even has its own member-driven website with instructor AND member profiles!) with interesting news and stories, guests instructors (aka subs but sounds so much nicer, eh?) and the ever elusive sign up trends. Over the winter, it was not unheard of the spinning classes to fill up 30 minutes before the class started throughout the week, INCLUDING the 0630 classes. I used to be a regular in Dave’s classes, so I completely understand, but that’s intense. Now that the weather has been nicer, the 0630 classes finally weren’t filling up at 0600, so I figured I could try my luck at the Monday class if I showed up 15 minutes early.
Suffice it to say, I have a new Monday morning spin class love. So completely different than any of my other classes, with a focus on cardio and core training, I loved the diversity. Furthermore, I loved being back with the gang, with all the hooting and hollering. It is one of the most boisterous spinning groups I have ever been with.
I will admit that one drawback of our new (upcoming) home, is the serious lack of gyms nearby. I had planned to continue with the gym close to work, but since my old gym is just a minor detour away (still 10km away, though), I may just end up there instead. We’ll see how it goes! I usually wake up at 0530, but this may require an even earlier start to the day. Obviously I am not thinking clearly at the moment, haha!
As for Monday morning Steve? He may turn into Friday morning Steve if I meander to a different gym.
Anyhow, the moral of the story? Take a risk. You might find a new love.
(Btw, there is no risk with trying out this delicious sauce. You will be smitten, too. Spinning can be a bit hit-or-miss, I understand).
When I finally made it to Penzeys in Boston, I caved.
I didn’t want to.
Say it ain’t true..
But I did it any way,
I bought curry powder. (to continue with the rhyme- I bought a powder for my next curr-ay)
For so long, I have been meaning to make my own curry powder but instead I went with a packaged blend.
660 Curries has not 1, not 2, not 3 but 20 different recipes for curry powder and spice blends. Where’s a girl to start? Understandably, I was a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t know which one would be best for me, a lover of non-curry, so instead I opted for the sniff test. I smelled all the different versions at Penzeys and ultimately bought their “Sweet Curry Powder” (I wish cookbooks had the sniff test, *sigh*). It has that quintessential curry note but it isn’t overwhelming. I still haven’t figured out which spice I am averse to, but thankfully, this blend is a keeper. It is super mild, so I even feel the need to supplement it with some Aleppo chili flakes.
Spicy and rich, not hot, as Penzeys puts it. The ingredients? Turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, Tellicherry black pepper and cayenne red pepper. Almost sounds like a warm hug, eh? And something I could try to duplicate at home next time…
As you can see, I am on a raw food kick and yes, you can make simple, raw foods sans dehydrator, too. I was intrigued by Susan’s Raw Curried Pineapple Rice. Who needs the fried rice found in the typical Thai recipe? Give me veggies any day! Let your favourite curry powder lightly dust a smattering of sweet vegetables. Here, parsnips and carrots are chopped fine in the food processor until they resemble rice, or small-grain couscous. Diced cucumber and pineapple add juicy sweetness along with the currants. Green onions give this more kick than the curry powder. The lime juice makes this really pop. If you don’t really care about rawness, toast your cashews and add them right before you serve the dish. I can see myself taking this lovely salad to potlucks this summer for something different.
Knowing my aversion to restos but Rob’s appreciation of them, Rob and I have been slowly visiting vegan-friendly restaurants in Toronto. Our favourite raw restaurant has now been usurped. Raw Aura serves delicious food, but we seem to leave the resto filled to capacity with their rich meals. It is probably our fault – there is no need to order a starter and a main, here. Let alone a juice or dessert*, delicious as they all are. The dishes are heavily based on nuts, seeds and oils, which is why we always are stuffed afterwards.
*desserts are not Raw Aura’s forte
Our new favourite raw resto is Belmonte Raw. Closer to home, to boot; although their hours are terrible, only open for lunch. They’ve only recently opened up shop as an eat-in eatery and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our meals. The cozy place is a bit confusing, though. You pick your meal from the refrigerator case from stacks of take-away containers. You bring it to the cash and they will literally transform it into a beautiful meal. I honestly marveled at how much food came out of such a small container.
In any case, I really enjoyed my raw burrito (and Rob, likewise, enjoyed his sunflower burger). My burrito was a huge collard wrap stuffed with jicama fries, sprouts with their nut meat (it may have been sunflower seed based but I forgot to ask). When I say stuffed, though, this was a great veggie-heavy wrap which is what I loved! The nut meat was a highlight, not the main part of the dish. Along with the wrap, there were dehydrated corn chips with salsa, guacamole and chipotle nut cheese. The nut cheese is uber smooth and scarily reminded me of cheeze whiz! Taste and colour.
After eating the burrito, more jicama fries and a smoothie, we were both positively stuffed but in a good way, knowing that we ate primarily veggies and not heavier nuts/seeds/fats. Somehow we still managed to eat their delightful raw chocolate desserts. So smooth, with either a raspberry or peanut butter filling.
Of course, I was itching to duplicate the meal at home. One of the main drawbacks of Belmonte Raw are the prices, which goes with a visit to most restos. I figured that if I spent the same amount of money on grocery produce, I could whip up quite a few burritos. This gave me enough incentive to close my eyes at the price when I bought some sprouts at Whole Foods. Thankfully the rest of the ingredients were much cheaper: my weekly raid through Sunny’s was where I picked up the bunch of collards ($1.59), lemon (4/$1), and jicama ($1.49/lb) – all at their regular prices. I have yet to see sprouts at Sunny’s and should really learn how to grow my own.
Other than fresh veggies, my creativity lied with the cashew nacho cheese. I spiced it with red pepper paste, miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sweet smoked paprika, garlic and onion for maximum flavour. (Chipotles in adobo sauce still scare me). It does not disappoint. Use it as a fabulous dip, or spread into a “raw burrito” such as this one filled with julienned lemon-spiked jicama slices and mounds of sprouts (I used alfalfa and sunflower sprouts). My burrito was not as big as the one at Belmonte Raw. They needed a string to keep everything in place! I made smaller ones and used a sliver from the collard stem to keep them together for the photo. I would skip that entirely if eating right away – it was quite a tricky thing to tie!
Just when I thought my week in the kitchen couldn’t get much worse, I broke it. Broke the unbreakable.
Thank goodness they have a 7-year warranty. We’ll see how the repair process goes.
Pray tell, what the heck was I doing that broke my blender?
A Valentine’s Day dessert for Rob.
Innocent mangoes in paradise.
I was whipping up Mango Paradise Bars from Radiance 4 Life. I originally planned on making Tess’ Raspberry Star Bars, in the shape of hearts, pink for the cheesy day, but I didn’t have enough strawberries. Switching to mango bars was probably more in keeping with Rob’s tastes, so it all worked out ok.
After an overnight soak for the cashews, I decided to mix everything else together in my food processor. Since I wasn’t sure I could fit everything into my food processor, I transferred it to my Vitamix. Everything was going well….. the cashews and juice were a creamy pulp. I added everything else – agave, melted coconut butter and the frozen mango. My blender was pretty full, so I turned down the speed, and used the plastic stick to help mix in the mango. It was mostly blended, but then it suddenly stopped working. I checked the plug. I checked the socket. The on/off was not working. Gah. Back into the food processor (two batches) for the final whipping.
I layered it into a large tupperware container and set it to freeze while I went to work. While they still needed to be frozen, I already knew the recipe had turned as I did a very thorough cleaning job (aka licking both blenders clean!).
After work, it had hardened into a delightful creamy bar. Basically a rich but still light-tasting cashew cheesecake, sans nut crust. For best results, let it thaw just slightly before devouring.
And you know what, it was better than the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis from Prime.
Maybe my lackluster cooking streak has taken a turn for the better? If anything can turn your cooking into a positive experience, it is a Tess recipe!
(And thank you so much for all the encouragement, guys! It really means a lot to me!)
Sorry for keeping you all in suspense about Iceland.
I haven’t even gone through all (6000!) photos Rob and I took while we were away. Suffice it to say, we absolutely adored our trip and a week wasn’t nearly enough time to do everything. We packed it all in though.
We went horseback riding with Icelandic horses into the countryside, were mesmerized by numerous waterfalls, eagerly awaited the next spurt from the geyser, hiked between the separating North American-European tectonic plates, attempted to hike up a volcano (yes, THAT volcano) but instead ended up in a magical land possibly filled with elves. We hiked up other hills, treated by natural hot springs at the top. We touched a glacier and then had fun watching where icebergs merged together before heading out to sea. We visited a lava tube, more lava fields and even a pseudo crater. The windy south-west peninsula brought us to steep black cliffs, isolated lighthouses and beaches.
Everyone is amazed that I managed to keep up with my vegan eats while in Iceland. It was actually quite easy, since our hotel had a fabulous breakfast buffet and it was right next to a glorious restaurant, Glo. Each day, Glo has 3 main meals: one raw, one vegan/vegetarian and one meat. You get to pick another 3 salads to complete your meal… along with as much hummus as you want.
Suffice it to say, Rob and I ate a lot of hummus while we were away. Not only because their hummus was incredible, but also because we brought our own. Security made us check it into our luggage (apparently hummus = paste and cannot go through security), but it makes for a very portable snack while travelling.
I made two batches of hummus before we left. This was Rob’s favourite. Adapted from Rebar (also posted here), it adds a unique twist to traditional hummus, using cashews and chickpeas as a creamy base, spiced with ginger, cumin, coriander, cilantro, mint and lime. Use it as a dip for fresh veggies, or roll into into your next Swiss chard wrap.
I’ve tried very hard to resist it, but next weekend, we’ll be hosting a gathering for Rob’s family. I think I am most nervous about all the unpacking I still want to do instead of the menu!
You see, I have been learning from the master. I consulted my mom about her recommendations for feeding 10.
For salads, she suggested a leafy green salad and another heartier salad (be it bean-, grain- or vegetable-based). Only one dip for vegetables. Meat for the barbecue. In addition to fruit for dessert, add a baked good.
Sounds like a good plan, indeed.
You’d think I was the Queen of Salads, but I still want to try something new. Instead of experimenting on my guests, I decided to audition my salads.
I figured the Polish crowd would love a cucumber salad, and made a super cute cucumber ribbon salad with a ginger-lemongrass dressing. Rob liked it but it did not pass my test. It wasn’t special enough; nothing really stood out despite using interesting ingredients. Blocked. Not fit for company.
Next up, something to try-out for the bean salad. Attempt #2: Creamy Cashew Kale and Chickpeas.
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, who based hers off of Susan’s at Fat Free Vegan, this is a deceptively decadent dish. A creamy cashew-based garlic sauce coats wilted kale speckled with sweet red bell pepper and chickpeas. I preferred it fresh and warm from the stove top, but the leftovers were great at room temperature, too.
Despite seemingly unorthodox, it tastes great. My raw kale salad was a hit with the gang last time. I really thought this could be a contender for the party.
But I am trying to limit myself to one heavier salad and I think the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants wins this round. I think they will prefer the lentil salad, a bit more “normal” and with all the flavour you want. It is also more simple to prepare in advance.
This dish will have to wait until I go to my next potluck (any takers on who wants to host the next one?? I’ve claimed the salad!).
Now I am still considering what to make for dessert. I have an idea, but open to your suggestions with your favourite desserts.
My brother and sister-in-law recently moved into their new condo. The best part, though, is that they live closer to me. I think we’ve been able to see each other more often this past month than I have during the past year.
As I said, I invited them over for dinner and giggled as I planned my menu. I nonchalantly pointed out that I didn’t want to cook in this atrocious heat so I would make tacos. I told them to come with an open mind and a hungry belly! You see, I wanted to make raw tacos.
A few weeks ago, Rob and I had a celebratory dinner at Raw Aura, where we were blown away by the food. In particular, we devoured the raw nachos which included corn chips with guacamole, cashew sour cream, fresh tomato salsa and walnut taco meat. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was delicious. The corn chips had so many levels of flavour, the cherry tomatoes were so fresh, the sour cream so creamy, and the walnut meat.. let’s just say I was blown away that it was made from walnuts, which I don’t typically like. The flavours were impeccable. I wanted to try to make it myself. I remembered seeing Sarah’s post for post for raw tacos, so I was eager to try my hand at something new.
So what exactly are raw tacos? The main component is the “meat” which is simply coarsely chopped walnuts with cumin, chili flakes, tamari and a bit of oil. Super simple to whip together in a food processor. My brother snuck some before it was served and exclaimed, “This tastes like taco!”. The walnuts are really a vector for the seasonings (aka a heavy dose of cumin and soy sauce) and in this case, I thought the meat itself was a bit salty when eaten solo. Combined with the rest of the ingredients, though, it worked wonderfully. I also whipped together a cashew sour cream with lemon juice, and a delightful cherry tomato salsa (my favourite part of the wrap). I used Swiss chard leaves to eat my tacos, but had tortillas for my guests.
I was worried they may have turned up their noses if they knew they were going to eat raw food, but as they pointed out – it wasn’t like I was going to feed them raw eggs or meat, so they weren’t phased in the slightest.
The perfect dinner guests: adventurist eaters with lovely conversation.
For the record, these tacos were great, but not nearly as fantastic as those at Raw Aura. It just gives me more incentive to go back to the resto. At least it is closer than Thrive Juice Bar in Waterloo, which is my other favourite restaurant.
June has been a busy month.
It started with a trip to Vancouver (where I was so happy to meet up with Ashley!).
Next, there was the bike ride of the century. Or 3.6 (metric) centuries.
Then, the following weekend, there was the move. From separate apartments to a single house. Combining of lives. Living out of boxes and boxes.
The weekend after the move also happened to be my birthday. Apparently, turning 30 is a big deal. Not just any birthday.
Thus, our new home, bricks and mortar only, housed my birthday bash. A small gathering of both immediate families.
My mom was the host, though. She transplanted most of the food, serving dishes and even flowers from her backyard in Ottawa, as we are still unpacking boxes. I can work in my kitchen, but it is not up to its full capacity just yet (where is my second set of measuring spoons?? Or the bicycle chain lube?- not that I need that in the kitchen, btw).
My mom came up with a delicious menu, catering to my “vegan on steroids” diet, as she puts it. I know she is cooking out of her own comfort zone, but she was easily able to combine my bean and grain dishes with meat and dairy-dishes for everyone else.
While Rob and I contributed baklava as a late Father’s day gift for the shindig, since it was for my Dad, I opted not to try a vegan recipe. I went with his favourite Turkish baklava recipe, complete with a pistachio-only filling.
I couldn’t back out of a birthday cake, though. I knew what I wanted: a vegan cheesecake. I have gushed over ones I have eaten at restaurants in town, but had yet to try making it at home. I picked out a recipe and my mom, thankfully, obliged. Her closest Loblaws actually carried all of the ingredients once she started to look (although they were more expensive than what I pay from natural food stores in Toronto, so I will have to hook her up next time). She made it the night before, froze it overnight, and brought it to Toronto in a cooler. Her only change to the recipe was using a 9″ springform pan, but that didn’t change how great it tasted!
Just as I had hoped, this was a delicious cake. Silky, creamy and smooth with a strong burst of raspberry in the cake. This doesn’t taste like cheesecake, but it has a similar consistency. It is not as heavy. Light and fruity. Smooth and creamy. A dreamcake. It needs its own name because it is a shame to even compare it to cheesecake. If you didn’t tell people it was vegan, all they would know is that they were eating a delicious cake. It took longer than half an hour to thaw, but we ate it chilled anyhow. Personally, I preferred it straight from the fridge, when it was more creamy. Thankfully the baklava was a hit, which meant there was more leftover birthday cake for me!!
The great thing about this cake? Once you have the ingredients, soak your cashews, you just whip everything in your food processor. No oven required. Freezer space necessary, though.
Every year, over 2000 cyclists bike between Ottawa and Kingston with the Ottawa Bicycle Club for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This is not a charity event; everyone does it for fun. There are many different routes, but the most popular is the “Classic” 177-km route that you do in both directions on smaller country roads between the 2 cities. My Dad has done this for over 9 years and when he announced this year would be his last, I wanted to join him. Somehow (and thankfully!), other friends also thought this would be a great idea to do. We trained earlier this summer, as soon as the snow melted, in between rain, fierce winds, battling challenges with riding with heavier panniers, back on my hybrid and even renting an uncomfortable cruiser while in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, my Dad broke his wrist 2 weeks before Rideau Lakes, so he wasn’t able to cycle with us. However, he was quite omnipresent by waiting for us at random places along the route. Sometimes with the camera ready to catch us in action (a cast makes photo-taking hard, too, though!). This is me and Rob in action:
Thankfully, despite ominous forecasts, we had beautiful weather: mostly overcast, with some lovely tailwinds in both directions. My brother had spooked me by telling me this was a very challenging course, with lots of killer hills. Tackling the tough hills around Toronto allowed me to feel more comfortable attacking the steep hill near Westport. The other rolling hills were fun!
I was thankful for such a great group of friends for the ride, but almost thought I was doomed after cycling 140km on Day 2, at the last rest station in Ashton. I had stomach cramps and a bloated belly. I was not feeling well. My legs were sore (understandably) but still pushing well. But my belly was not happy. I ended up sucking it up, taking ibuprofen, and biking to the finish with the group. I am still not sure what is bothering my belly (digestion problems persist) so I don’t think it has anything to do with biking per se. Perhaps it was something I ate earlier? Who knows. Now is the time to recover.
Over the course of my training, I tried a lot of different energy balls. I will post them in due time, but this is what I brought with me to Kingston. Adapted from Radiance 4 Life (recipe also posted here), I decreased the amount of cacao nibs since I had a hard time integrating them all in the batter. The malty flavour of maca combines well with vanilla which are the dominant flavours in these slightly sweet balls, packed with cashews, almonds and oats. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch with nice change of texture. These are a delicious treat, and since they are packed with great ingredients, a delicious snack even if not cycling monumental distances.
I am not as fond of of green peppers since they are more bitter. I will, however, tolerate them if hidden in a larger dish.
Green peppers are harvested before they are completely ripe and will never become sweet, like its older colourful siblings. Yellow and orange peppers are more mature than green, but the most mature of all are the red peppers.
With maturity comes hidden specialties, right? Of course! After researching a bit, I found out yellow peppers have 3% of the recommended intake of vitamin A, versus 105% in red peppers. Vitamin C was nearly the same between yellow and red (although green peppers had half as much). But red peppers have 841 mcg of beta-carotene versus 110 mcg in yellow peppers. They say to eat a rainbow, but I think it just makes sense to eat red peppers! Thankfully my taste buds agree and my blog can attest with its multitude of recipes for bell pepper.
The real question is whether to plant bell peppers in the garden. Our friends (and landlords) had difficulties with bell peppers last year, and other gardeners in Toronto have told me they never fully ripened to become red. The scourge of a short summer. The quandaries… perhaps we won’t be planting bell peppers if they stay green. Who would eat them? Only if they were hidden inside this delicious dish!
Yes, I really liked this Hawaiian Roasted Pineapple with Red Peppers and Tofu. It wasn’t one of those ooky-sweet sweet-and-sour sauces. It was light, tasty and fresh, without any cornstarch which plagues most recipes. Originally a vegetable side dish, this recipe was adapted from Supermarket Vegan (also posted on Vegetarian Times) to make a main course by adding in tofu and quinoa. I added in 1 lb of extra-firm tofu and marinaded it in the sesame oil, canola oil and agave nectar. I prepped the rest of my vegetables as it marinaded, although if I had more forethought I would have marinaded it longer. I threw the veggies and tofu together to bake for ~75 minutes, then tossed with a sprinkle of fine coconut and lime juice and sprinkled chopped cashews overtop. Perfect! This recipe definitely warrants fresh pineapple, though (I used half a pineapple). The canned stuff won’t make this meal shine.
This is my submission to E.A.T. World for Hawaii.