So, how are you faring with the first blast of winter?
Turns out my furnace was not up to the increased stress and stopped working. Twice. For the past two nights, we have woken up to a fairly frigid home. At least we have warm blankets, so you don’t really notice until you escape for breakfast.
It reminded me of the time we were in Houston, in May during the first heat wave. It was at that time we noticed our air conditioner was broken. Eventually our home was a few degrees shy of the sweltering outside and we knew we had to contact our landlord. Accessing the air conditioner was another challenge, as it was difficult to find a safe ladder to span 4 storeys and jockey around the lightning and rain.
This time, I keep telling myself: at least we’re not in Buffalo. Did you catch the video of the snow blanket being lifting from the lake?
I thought, perhaps my salad days were over, too. But this is a delightful salad warm or cold. A bunch of leeks are caramelized and added to creamy flageolet beans and coated in a simple lemon-mustard sauce.
Another winner from Gena!
You may have noticed my recipes becoming simpler. I am spending less time in the kitchen. Life is busy.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, I was so excited to leave work before it was dark. (This was before the time change). I routinely leave work pretty late.
I texted Rob the good news: I would beat him home.
I plotted what I would do with my extra time. Plotted what I would cook up for dinner. Perhaps an easy tofu scramble.
However, as I walked onto our street, I slipped my hand into my bag looking for my keys. A second time. After a frantic search, I realized I must have forgotten them inside our home. (Of note, we have a very weird lock on our door – it locks automatically as soon as the door closes). I texted Rob that I was heading to the neighbourhood resto, for a warm supper, and to keep myself warm as I waited for him to return home. Sure enough, once I made it home, a couple hours later, my keys were right next to the front door. And it was now positively dark outside.
One reason I am not stressing about my meals is that I know I have a stash of treats in the freezer. These are everything you could possibly want in a snack: quick and easy, tasty and healthy. Furthermore, the simplicity of the recipe lets you taste the finished product by the ingredient list alone. Roasted almond butter mixed with a touch of coconut oil (it gives it a nice mouth feel) along with a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and cinnamon. Because, cinnamon is in all good things. Place the mixture into the freezer and take each one out whenever you have a hankering for a snackering.
Of course, the race is to see whether there will be enough snacks left by the weekend to take photos. Although, I would not be sad to make another batch.
I am sharing this with Random Recipes and Dead Easy Desserts.
I am no stranger to Heather Crosby’s fabulous recipes (seen here previously: Peruvian Bean Bowl with Fried Plantains, Blueberry Tarragon Dressing and more recently the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream), I was excited to be able to review her first solo cookbook creation, YumUniverse as part of the #YUBlogTour and #YUHealthyHalloween Blog Tour.
However, it is more than a cookbook. It is a fabulously complete introduction (and then some) to eating plant-based whole foods. Her book is built in three parts: why, how and do (let’s eat). First, why eat plant-based? Heather details numerous reasons to eat your vegetables. Her second part, teaches the reader the ins-and-outs of how to cook plant-based. She addresses protein and calcium needs and how to craft a week’s worth of eats. There are tables of how to properly store fresh and pantry ingredients (fruits/vegetables, oils, nuts, spices, flours, etc; whether they go in the fridge/freezer). She explains soaking and sprouting with times for common nuts and seeds. She explains different cooking methods and even how to correct oversalting. Once you have mastered feeding yourself, she has tips for social situations. She really has left no gaps. She even explains how to get rid of pesky fruit flies.
Next, the recipes. With adventurist recipes including Mung Bean and Eggplant Curry, Jerk Lentil and Avocado Wrap, Beet, Apple and Onion Gratin and Skillet Crusted Sweet Potato Gnocchi, there are boundless possibilities. That was just in the lunch/dinner section. Heather also includes breakfasts, dressings, dips/spreads, breads, beverages, snacks and other desserts and treats.
In short, this is the cookbook I wish I had when I first began my journey becoming a vegan.
I made her Chocolate & Cherry Hemp Bars which are a spiffied rice krispy treat. Like Ange’s Glo Bars, brown rice syrup is the binder of choice but the bars are not that sweet. Calling them hemp bars is a bit of a superfood marketing ploy: they are barely detectable amidst the sunflower seeds, rolled oats and flaked coconut. Furthermore the chocolate chips melted seamlessly into the sweet binder, so the major flavour was from the tart cherries with a faint chocolate background. Below is the photo you would actually find in the cookbook. Enjoy!
YumUniverse recipes spotted elsewhere:
Buckwheat Noodle Pad Thai
Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Brownies
Orange and Pepita Granola
Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque
Salted Caramel Sauce
Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Kale with Miso Dijon Sauce
Toasted Super Seedy Power Bread
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me your favourite meal (no recipe required). The winner will be selected at random on November 7, 2014. Good luck!
Welcome to my latest obsession: fried capers.
If you have yet to try them yet, try to imagine how they would taste. Crunchy, salty little nibbles. It surprised me how much they taste like popcorn, I kid you not. Combined with the pickled currants (tart and sweet), and the avocado (creamy!), this salad was perfectly balanced. I know I say that a lot here, but this salad rises above its peers. It could possibly be my best salad of the year. I thought my Cali-Coco BLT Salad was the best so far, but this week I switched allegiances. It could possibly usurp the former champion, crowned in 2011: The New Best Salad Ever aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa.
I am no stranger to quick pickled dried fruits, but the benefit of pickling dried currants instead of raisins, is that you don’t get the goopy juicy raisins that don’t particularly appeal to me.
My inspiration for this fascinating combination was the ever-fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen, although I changed many things, including adding the much maligned leafy greens. I also chose to roast my cauliflower and added the fantastically creamy avocado. I look forward to trying her riced fresh cauliflower in the warmer months. The fried capers? Completely her idea. Her poetic prose made me stock up on capers pronto:
Crispy fried capers are one of my favorite garnishes, ever. They are way more interesting than bacon bits — yes, I said it. When you drop capers (that you’ve patted out on paper towels as best as possible) in a little puddle of oil, magical things happen — their layers curl out and crisp, like the world’s tiniest blooming onion. Like all fried, crunchy things, they don’t keep long under the weight of dressing; I recommend adding them only right before serving. I usually use brined capers for this, but both brined and salt-packed will work.
Um yeah, totally try them out. Please.
While it still feels like summer in Toronto, it is hard to believe Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. And as I was writing up my recipe for raw macadamia vanilla cream, I realized I never shared this fabulous recipe with you.
It still makes me smile that one of my co-workers, Abby, made a vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pie with me in mind for last year’s Thanksgiving. Abby graciously let me take home all the leftovers which I enjoyed. Sadly, I was hoping to get better photos. I don’t think these do it any justice but figured I should still share the great recipe with you.
Pumpkin pies are ubiquitous in the US around Thanksgiving but this pie was better than your traditional fare. A mixture of both pumpkin and sweet potato purees with a custard texture from tofu worked really well here. It was perfectly sweetened with a hint of savoury notes from the cinnamon and nutmeg. The recipe will make more filling than you need for one pie, which might work out nicely if you have a vegan friend who really wants all the leftovers. ;)
The crust was awesome, too, just a bit on the brown side, but with a spiced pecan background that worked well with the pumpkin pie. As I pay more attention to the recipe, it looks like Abby took some inspiration for the crust from my pecan-shortbread crust I used with a lemon-cheesecake. You may not even need to pre-bake the crust like Abby did, so keep that in mind.
Are you ready for fall yet?
Do you remember the soba noodle debacle? The time I bought oodles of soba noodles and then proceeded to leave them in the pantry and slowly, slowly eat through them. Yeah, I still have soba noodles and still eating through them. A true hoarder.
However, when the cooking rut continues, I get less picky in the kitchen. I have little energy to refuse the noodles. Plus, they are quick and easy to make. I added the cold leftover sauce to warm noodles and it melted right in. A little green garnish might be nice, too. Consider adding fresh chives, as recommended in the original recipe. Because you know, I would never suggest eating parsley. Yucko.
Third time was a charm. Rob and I finally got our internet at home this weekend. (YES!)
We also moved all our stuff previously stored in my brother’s basement.
I can no longer find my computer, though.
I mean, I know where it is, but it blocked by too many boxes to unpack.
OMG. We have a lot of stuff. I am truly a hoarder (of sorts).
Living a year without most of the stuff will make it easy to purge. Easier, I should clarify.
I am hoping to rebuild a decluttered home, but we have many boxes ahead of us. In time.
Otherwise, here are some quick and easy desserts to try. No need to wait too long for your mango to absorb any water, just blitz away. I added a touch of lemon zest to accentuate the sweetness of the mango. The coconut makes this luscious and decadent. These are more akin to a non-chocolate truffle in their consistency. I don’t think they would work well as a ball, which is why I put them in the small cups. Another alternative would be to pour the batter into a small square container and then cut them into your preferred size. Enjoy!
Hoarder or purger? Which are you?
I will hopefully become a ruthless purger.
This is probably my favourite concoction from the remains of my pantry.
I had a vision. I wanted to make corn muffins with masarepa. Cornmeal, polenta, masa harina and masarepa— what are the differences?
Masarepa is unique because it is precooked. We use it all the time for arepas and I love how soft and melt-in-your mouth arepas taste fresh from the oven. Sounds like the perfect recipe for cornbread, no?
My googling did not help. Possibly because arepas ARE Colombia’s (and Venezuela’s) answer to cornbread.
In any case, I cobbled together a few recipes and in the end, just ran with it. Into my batter with masarepa (and masa harina since I finished our stash), I added roasted corn, roasted hatch chiles and roasted red peppers. A bit of sweetener to accentuate the dough, although that may be sacrilegious depending on who you ask (and I am no corn bread expert).
Although I appreciate good food, and this was delicious. Basically a fiesta arepa in muffin form. They didn’t really raise too much. Although this will encourage me to add veggies to our next batch of arepas.
I find experimental baking quite daunting, but these turned out great. Do you ever make non-arepas from masarepa?
Rob did some more investigating. He found a program that would figure out if I had any duplicate files irregardless of the name.
WOO! After three days, my program to find duplicate files on your external hard drive has completed. It has found at least 172 GB of duplicate files. We need to clean them up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
His emphasis, not mine.
So apparently, I come with baggage. Electronic baggage.
There used to be a time when I couldn’t fit everything on my hard drive, but once I had 1 Tb on my external hard drive, I haven’t thought much about my space usage.
Rob didn’t appreciate my old school way of culling my photos: copying them into a new folder. Sometimes I had 4-5 copies of the same photo with my disjointed backing up. Now we get to do some culling!
Rob is doing a great job tackling our leftover food stuffs. This was an absolutely, wonderfully delicious pea curry he made with the peas in the freezer and spices from the pantry. I am not saying that just because Rob made it and everything tastes better when someone else cooks for you, but honestly this was gourmet Indian and made me a pea-lover. I love beans but peas are not as high in my “love list” but this, guys, was incredible.
Creamy with a rich-tomato broth with bright green peas, this was a keeper. Sadly, this curry has a really long ingredient list, which seems almost disjointed and muddy, but have faith. This was delicious and completely worth the effort (and definitely Rob’s effort!).
Do you like peas?
PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.
Before you start to think this will be a smoked paprika free household, have no fear. I am pretty sure Rob will let me replenish prior to moving back to Canada.
It is a bit of a race, now. Rob has made it his own personal goal to munch through our food stocks…. so, if I wait too long, my food may disappear. Use those roasted red peppers in the pantry! The roasted corn in the freezer! The last of the soy curls! (I actually had planned to use some small flageolet beans I had frozen but could not get them to thaw out of the container fast enough….)
Reminiscent of my Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder, I loved how this one was virtually bursting with vegetables. Coconut milk would make this a thick and luscious soup. This version was inspired by one of my favourite cookbooks this year, Soup’s On!, since it is packed with quick and healthy meals. Mark’s inspiration was New Orleans’ Maque Choux, a Cajun-inspired corn soup.
I loved it. Simply delicious. I worked with what we had lying around and it made a light, summery bowl of vegetable soup.
Do you like soups in the summer as well?
PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
I have been a bit quiet on the cycling front.
I kind of poured my everything into the Shiner GASP and let my body (and mind) recover as needed. Rob and I kept cycling, but nothing over 50 km. There is no point in cycling if you aren’t having fun. It pales to our upcoming distances, but I just didn’t have it inside me to resume our crazy adventures.
Three weeks later and I got my mojo back. I started swapping my morning gym with longer routes to work. Rob would join me. On his road bike, no less, which was a good motivator to keep pushing it on my commuter, while carrying all my stuff for work on my back. I managed to squeeze an extra 50 km, in addition to my regular commute, over the 2 days we tried this out. Sadly, the forecast is all rain this week, so I may return to the gym after all.
With the long weekend, Rob and I had time to both relax and fit in some longer cycling. A perfect balance, methinks. 50 km and 107 km, including an urban hilly ride. Thankfully we made it home yesterday before the torrential rain, which is merely a preview for the week.
In any case, I made these delicious snack bites to tote along for our longer ride. They were inspired by a reader, Jessica, who encouraged me to try adding ginger and turmeric to Gena’s Hemp Cocoa Energy Bites. I love it when you guys know me too well!
No stranger to sharp, fresh ginger in sweets (remember my Matcha Ginger Smoothie?), I didn’t add enough turmeric for it to be a strong taste. I will admit that I added the ginger because I like its taste but its anti-inflammatory properties are a bonus. However, I added the turmeric specifically because of its anti-inflammatory properties (I really don’t like its taste in strong amounts!). The dates sweet this nicely and the hemp protein powder gives it a grassy/earthy undertone which complements the sweetness perfectly.
What do you think of turmeric? Do you try to incorporate into more of your foods? Any recipes you recommend?
You probably wept as I described Houston’s spring/summer weather a few months ago. With the atrocious Canadian winter, I started clarifying when my Mom would ask me about the weather: Do you really want to know? Do you really want to know we have bone fide summer with 30 C highs while you just lost the last of your winter snow? I thought not.
Have no fear, though, you will have your just revenge. That hot and humid weather is mere weeks away, if not here already. Hot and humid? Yeah, that’s was this weekend. Houstonians know this is peanuts compared to the upcoming summer (sad face). I am convinced that it is the humidity that makes the wind so heavy here, but I have nothing to prove it.
In any case, I made a Houston-newbie mistake last weekend. I brought these treats to a potluck. Not a problem in other cities, but Houston is hot these days. They were very keen to melting. Even in our apartment, with the air conditioner, they were quick to begin to melt. Since they were my only cooked food fit for others, I brought them anyhow. Imagine my shock when I arrived at the potluck, when they decided to serve the food outdoors! GAH!! A bit of reprieve, the desserts were to stay inside. I placed my container of mini treats with the other desserts and proceeded to pile up with all the delicious savoury options.
I returned indoors to the dessert table. The line from the savoury table now snaked indoors, right past the desserts. I had to do a double-take: only one half-treat remained. I told Christine to grab the last one. Instead of melting, within 5 minutes they had evaporated to high acclaim! Success!
One of my favourite parts of going to vegan potlucks (other than trying so much delicious food), is experimenting in my own kitchen. After seeing Lisa share these, I immediately wanted to try it. Tahini-based desserts were a definite hit earlier this year (see my Sweet Sesame Rice Crispy Treats) and I am warming up to liking a hint of coffee flavour. It pairs well with chocolate (hello Chocolate Mocha Pudding Cake!) but I was unsure about it without the chocolate. Lisa raved about it, so I gave it a whirl.
In case it wasn’t obvious: it was a definite hit. The coffee flavour was subtle enough (for me) and paired well with the sweet dates. The tahini cups were a nice contrast with a creamy base. I liked that it was nut-free, which helps for those with nut-allergies at potlucks.
I made these into mini cups, which I think worked well since you could get more filling:base ratio. Tahini can be a bit bitter, but it was tempered nicely with the sweet date-heavy filling. I still had some filling leftover, which was easily slipped into my next morning’s oatmeal. The tahini base settled a bit funny on top, which is probably because I didn’t use enough. I just barely had enough to surround my 24 minicups. I changed the recipe below to account for more base.
Do you like tahini in your desserts? I am inspired to try more! Perhaps these salted tahini caramels are in my future: tahini + coconut flour + sweetener!
PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.
Breakfast Chocolate Mocha Pudding Cake.
Because all things with rolled oats are actually meant for breakfast. Add coffee to it, some chocolate for good measures, then there is no question: this is all good breakfast things. A perfect way to start your day.
Because that coffee at night, may keep you awake. Or maybe it was the chocolate.
This was how I rationalized eating this for breakfast.
Eaten fresh, this is basically a self-saucing cake. A chunky dense cake doused in a mocha-chocolate sauce. It was really good, although a bit gummy from the oat flour.
I apologize for the unappealing photographs, but the leftovers were what I had to work with… The leftovers firmed up a lot after the overnight rest, sopping up the sauce, leaving this with a texture more comparable to leftover oatmeal. I hope you still get the idea that this is saucy, though.
Just so you know, I debated remaking this to get a better photo, but decided to share it anyways. My motto is to keep things stress-free and I wanted to share this sooner rather than later.
Chocolate pudding cake has always been associated with the Good Friday Cooking Disaster of 2009, wherein I made a meatless feast with a black bean and pumpkin soup, penne alla vodka and finished it off with a brownie pudding cake. Of course, all were new recipes that I was dying to try out. If I recall correctly, everyone was mostly satisfied with my first two dishes (I remember the penne alla vodka turning out well but I had to simmer off a lot of liquid) but all heck broke loose when I shared dessert. My family did not like it and they told me very bluntly. (Too sweet! I can cook better than you!) That last part is true.
However, I think everyone would love this pudding cake, for dessert or breakfast. Or both. Rob highly approved. For both.
In addition of its association with the upcoming Easter holiday, I also wanted to share this because I received some lovely ingredients to try courtesy of Carrington Farms, ground flax seeds and coconut oil, both of which I used here. Because this is a pudding cake filled with all good things. Check out stores near you celebrating Carrington Farm’s All Good April campaign by passing deals to you, too. In Houston, you can find that at HEB and Fiesta Mart. They also have additional coupons on their website.
Disclosure: I wrote this review as part of the #CarringtonAllGoodApril campaign with Carrington Farms, through FitFluential LLC. I received the products described at no cost in order to complete the review. However, opinions are honest and my own.
Another bike ride and another treat!
Although this weekend was more about travelling to Austin for the Texas VegFest to meet the ever wonderful Tess Challis, instead of cycling. We had lofty plans for both, although the rainy weather foiled our plans.
We decided to play chicken with the weather. We wanted to cycle at least 100 km, if not more. Instead of going out for a long loop, we drove out to a more rural location and used it as our home base. I would have been very happy doing multiple laps along a straight and flat road but Rob thought that would be too boring. Instead, Rob drafted 30-35 km loops in a few directions. We pedalled through two loops before giving in to the wind and rain.
Us versus the weather? We lost. Our bikes? Super dirty. Our car won. It became clean.
The nice thing, though, was that I was able to take out these treats. I was really curious to try them out. Not only to see whether it would be better than my last puffed quinoa treat, but I was curious about using coconut sugar as a binder.
The good part? They tasted great. A chocolately goop to keep everything together. Not too sweet with a hint of almond. Since the quinoa was puffed and not crisp, they were easy to munch on. However, my intuition was correct about the coconut sugar: it did not hold up well as a binder. The only way I could keep these treats together was by chilling it in the freezer. Even then, perfectly cut squares were hard to craft. I resorted to breaking off nibbles when I wanted a treat. As such, these were not portable snacks but worked out well with our continuous looping back to the car. I wonder whether coconut nectar would work better as a binder, although I have never tried it.
The treats are from a fun new vegan cookbook called (wait for it) The Vegan Cookbook. It is a gorgeous cookbook with creative yet approachable recipes: breakfast tagine, kale & soba noodles with ginger-chilli sauce, curried chickpea patties with satay dipping sauce, chai-spiced banana muffins and chocolate banana wontons. Authored by Adele McConnell of Vegie Head, I must admit I had never heard of it before, but we have been enjoying many of her recipes, including the super fast chickpea curry and South African sweet potato stew (very similar to my previously shared recipe). The rasam soup was a bit too tart for me, but at least it wasn’t mind-blowing spicy. In any case, with a wide range of international whole food recipes, I have many more dishes I look forward to making.
Here’s to hoping the nice weather persists for this weekend. Not only for our cycling adventures but for all those partaking in the MS150 this weekend, too. :)
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living anywhere in the world (YAYAYA!). To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your favourite vegan meal. The winner will be selected at random on April 21, 2014. Good luck!
PS. Recipes from The Vegan Cookbook elsewhere:
Moroccan Quinoa Soup (with a giveaway, too)