With Olympic fever set anew, I felt a tad guilty sitting on my latest find. Perhaps you have already heard about it? Matt’s book, No Meat Athlete: part nutrition advice for athletes, part vegan transition guide, and part cookbook. Matt freely admits he is your typical average guy. No Olympian-in-training, but through his quest to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, he picked up the vegan bug and pushed himself to the next level.
I am certainly no runner. Cycling is my sport of choice. However, his story echoes my own. While learning to best prepare my (formerly?) non-athletic self to cycle a double imperial century ride (361 km/224 mi), I discovered the benefits of vegan foods. I fell hard for the advantages of regular exercise (no pun intended on my knees). At the time, I cobbled together bits and pieces of my culinary and cycling journey through books mainly by Brendan Brazier with a shout-out for women’s cycling guides.
At the time, veganism was not mainstream (and is still not popular – only 2% call themselves vegan in the US) which makes this book perfect. This guide is perfect for the beginner: the beginner to vegan eats, the beginner to fuelling yourself as an athlete and the beginner to running (or any endurance sport). Pick any of the three and you will glean something from Matt’s quest to inform himself to conquer his athletic goals. This is not to say that if you have any experience in any of these areas you will not gain more information, you might, or it may remind you to try new things, inspire you to run a marathon, or simply eat good food.
His advice for athletes are pertinent for most cardio-intensive sports (like cycling), although he has specific advice for a beginner who wants to learn how to run. The best part is that Matt shares his favourite recipes to fuel you, too.
All of Matt’s recipes are catered to optimal nutrition. Fast, healthy and tasty. Approachable dinner meals like Variations on Beans and Rice (I really liked his Mexican version) and desserts like black bean brownies. He also offers blueprints for creating your own culinary masterpieces: The Perfect Smoothie Formula, Your Own Energy Bar Recipe, or The Incredible Veggie Burger Formula. For the athletes, there are sport-specific recipes like chia fresca, homemade energy gels and homemade sports drink.
Nutrition aside, it must taste good, too, and these do not disappoint.
I was not joking about eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the tacos were no longer fresh, no longer as soft as a baby’s bum, I resorted to Matt’s recipe: South of the Border Tortilla Soup. Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup.
Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup. I tried to stay as true to Matt’s recipe for reviewing purposes but his suggestion to pan-fry the tortillas did not work so easily for me. Baking them might actually be easier which is what I shared in the following recipe. In any case, a big pot of delicious soup. For athletes and non-athletes alike.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what kind of exercise you enjoy or your favourite recipe you have tried (or want to try) from Matt’s website No Meat Athlete. I will randomly select a winner on February 22, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from No Meat Athlete shared online:
A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.
Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.
After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer. If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.
I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.
We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.
Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!
Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.
A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.
The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.
This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.
With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?
For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!
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.
My propensity for snacks is directly proportional to the amount of studying I should be doing.
Cookies and chips? Code words for Janet should be studying.
It must seem like my life revolves around exams. Although, I consider these board exams as big.important.things. Why did I not go home for Thanksgiving? I was writing an exam. I found it quite ironic that they scheduled Canadians to write the American board exams on our holiday. So, instead of heading home to Canada, I was off to Florida.
Now that that is over with, with newfound time on my hands, I can finally share these chips with you. Because, they are my newest addiction. So simple to make and so tasty…..
Four(ish) ingredients. Only one really counts: corn. The rest are spices. That’s it. I have made raw corn chips (with chili and lime!) before, but I think the almonds but most likely the flax made them not as crispy as I wanted. I wanted uber crispy. Now we’ve got it.
The inspiration for these chips came from The Garden Kitchen, a raw resto in Houston. What I love about this place, is that it is in a hospital. Run by a cardiologist Dr Montgomery, he is offering healthy meals for his patients and beyond. We were blown away by their corn chips and asked how they were made. The server explained it was really simple: corn, cumin and Kirkland seasoning. Kirkland what? Turns out it is a no-salt seasoning blend and I hunted down a replacement from Trader Joe’s.
I have made these a few times and while messy, I prefer the leave the chips unscored and crack them haphazardously afterwards (as photographed) . Unless it is my scoring technique that needs improvement, as I found the scoring produced lumpy chips.
Also, it may seem like torture but wait it out for 48 hours.
Are you more into chips or cookies? Do you snack more when procrastinating, too? :)
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
The dust has settled… the boxes have been unpacked and we’re settling into a new routine.
As life becomes less chaotic, I am feeling a bit more lonely.
Friends and family seem so far away. It doesn’t help that Rob is sometimes working out-of-town.
At least I interact with my co-workers. I don’t know how Rob copes with mostly working from home. Not too much real people interaction except from the coffee shop down the road. Limited integration with other Texans.
So, be it resolved… our next goal has to become more social.
Baby steps. This weekend, we have cycling plans and curry+games plans [BANANAGRAMS!]. It feels good to get back into my social groove.
And these chili lime crackers? They bring me back to good times in Toronto.
Just before we left, I visited Superfoods Eateries, a quaint resto with take-away raw foods. Between Rob and I (and a few free samples), we tried a variety of dishes. Luc, one of the owners, was incredibly enthusiastic about explaining the menu. My two favourite dishes were the cheesecake and corn nachos. They also had a lovely sandwich at one point but I don’t see it listed on their website menu. Their selection varies from day-to-day, especially after each item sells out. (I really, really wanted to try their chocolate cake but it was not available until after I left). The coconut-based cheesecake was not as heavy as other raw cheesecakes and unique because it had a slightly fermented/cheezy zing to it! It was definitely special.
But those corn nachos, oh my. Delicious. They are corn and flax based but thin and crispy with an exotic twist from the orange juice and cilantro. Rightfully addictive and perfect with a dollop of guacamole. Now that I am miles away, I figured I would try my own hand at the nachos. I will admit that mine are not as good as the original, but they are still good in their own regard. I tried to add as much veg-powered nacho-like flavours to the chips. The chili and lime flavours were the highlight. The nuts and seeds make for a filling cracker, although a bit thick. As such these are more akin to crackers and weren’t as crispy as chips.. but still complex and delicious.
Anyways, here’s to a fun-filled weekend! :)
How do you combat loneliness?
After I ate the last serving of this salad, I was sad. Sad I had no more salad left. It was that good.
Rob cocked his head and asked, So is this a repeater recipe?
But we have no more corn! And no more spinach or lettuce! And I think my Appaloosa beans are finished, too.
That can easily be remedied, Janet.
Besides, I just bought 53 lbs of tomatoes (yes, I did it!)
I think I should focus on those!
So this one will just go down in the vault as a wickedly delicious salad. And contrary to my sorry excuses, this is a very forgiving salad. Use your favourite salad toppers. Just don’t skip on the tomatoes. And the dressing.
This salad all began with the creation of the raw eggplant bacon. I picked up a super cheap monster eggplant and earmarked it for the dehydrator. The salty and sweet marinade (tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke) was delicious and I couldn’t wait for them to dry out. Twelve hours felt like a life-time. I was blown away by the texture of the eggplant, airy yet crispy but sadly, with a fraction of the flavour from the salivating marinade. Since I used low-sodium tamari there wasn’t the uber saltiness associated with bacon but it was pretty nice, regardless. Does it taste like bacon? Not at all, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. ;)
I also used some of the extra marinade to make zucchini chips. Since I sliced them cross-wise, they looked like chips and tasted like bacon chips, too. However, those went into my belly. The eggplant bacon went into this salad. (For the record, I prefer the eggplant version!)
Obviously, this salad pushes monumental levels when you use fresh, ripe ingredients. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, check. Local, fresh corn on the cob, check. Cute heirloom pinto beans, I’ve got that covered. Your greenery of choice (or whatever is in your fridge): baby spinach. I added oomph to the original dressing by mirroring the bacon marinade, throwing in smoked paprika and chili powder. Lime juice makes this a bright dressing. And while I was worried I wouldn’t have enough dressing with only the juice from 2 non-juicy limes, after I placed everything in jars for the week, the tomatoes macerated, adding tomato juicy goodness to the dressing, too. Now it was perfect.
For another variation on the corn + tomato + bean salad, try this one with a balsamic dressing, toasted in a skillet.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s favourite summer recipes, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
When making meals for special guests, how do your meals change?
Unless we are making a buffet of food, I try to make meals that I will also be able to eat. That means I make vegan dishes. For picky omnivores, we may opt to supplement with meat.
Depending on the guest, I will pick recipes that are, let’s just say, a bit more indulgent. If Rob and I are cooking you dal bhat, one of our favourite meals, simple with lentils and rice, you know we have nothing to prove to you in the kitchen. For us, we can make it as fast as the rice cooker makes the rice as it is filled with cupboard staples and we will both fight over the leftovers.
Now, if Rob whips up his legendary pad thai, then you know we are aiming to impress (or I am too tired to cook, hehe, or I have a craving for pad thai!). We usually have the ingredients on hand except for the fresh sprouts, and with its custom single serving plating, we don’t make it for ourselves very often.
If I am in the mood, I may very well pull out all my tricks and make something fancy like Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce. Stars may need to collide just right for that to happen again (just kidding!).
Other times, I will aim for something rich and satisfying but still relatively simple to make. Enter the meal-in-a-bowl soup. With a side of bread for guests (and Rob).
I had been eyeing this recipe for a Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder for a while. A creamy coconut-based soup filled with chickpeas, red peppers with a dash of heat from chiles. However, I was turned off by using not 1, but 2 cans of coconut milk (that’s just plain superfluous). While I know it would be even more decadent with 2 cans, I opted for just one can of full-fat coconut milk. When I made this I didn’t have fresh corn, so I substituted a can of cream-style corn but fresh corn would be uber delicious.
As I said, the flavours worked so well together – sweet from the peppers, creamy from the coconut milk and creamed corn, heat from the chilies and bulk from the chickpeas. If you use 2 full cans of coconut milk, you will likely need the full amount of water in the original recipe (2 cups). As I only had 1 can and used creamed-style corn, I used less water and even then thought it was a bit thin for my liking. Another option would be to partially puree the soup, too. Anyhow, add liquid as you see fit. The flavours are already spot on.
I have been reading other VeganMoFoers posts this month and I am thoroughly impressed. Lots of people have themes, or an outline for specific days of the week… 31 days of unique spices. A month devoted to orange food! Or 1 food, done 5 ways x5 (cashews and kale so far!). Recipes with ingredients following the alphabet. Me, I just want to be able to post every day.
Then I thought.. 1 week in, a bit late on the theme-front, why not showcase my love of beans. So I will share with you bean dishes for the rest of the month. Get ready for your daily dose of bean! :)
Lately, I have been on a white bean kick. Baby lima beans, giant lima beans, flageolet beans, bring them on! Ashley thought it was amusing that my bean collection had so many of the same white beans in different containers.
Look closely, and while they are all white beans, they are definitely not the same!
While I also don’t mix different batches of beans, since they may cook at different lengths of time, all my white beans are different. In fact, I don’t have any more lima beans left and only a handful of dried flageolet beans. What I have left are Great Northern beans, white kidney beans, navy beans, Macedonian tetrovac beans and Turkish dermason beans. I am so curious as to how the latter two taste but still fall into the simplicity of the familiar!
I feel so naked now that I am out of lima beans. I used the last of the baby lima beans in this delicious quinoa corn chowder from Viva Vegan. The small, plump yet creamy baby lima beans melded well into this perfect end of summer stew-like corn chowder. Light, yet creamy with a dash of soy milk, a bit of zip from chili flakes, sweetness from the fresh corn and hearty with both the quinoa and lima beans.
It wasn’t even 6 months ago that I likely would have shunned lima beans based on my childhood disdain, but I am so glad that I made the leap to try something new. If you haven’t yet tried cooking up your own lima beans, definitely give it a go. You may never look back!
I hope my white kidney beans don’t get shunned too long… they are just so unsexy compared to its other white bean counterparts. I wonder if the dermason beans will be just as good as the lima beans? ;)
Thankfully, because if not, my pantry-substitute, Better Bulk, has baby lima beans, so the next time I have a hankering, they are right around the corner. :)
How do you bookmark your recipes? Every day I am inundated by oodles of recipes I want to make from other bloggers, from my cookbooks, or just something I whip up in my head (and belly).
I know there are applications and websites to help you figure this out, but they have been too cumbersome for me. I am old school. I email myself the recipes and stick them in a searchable folder. The rest, my brain has to take care of, as it remembers what I don’t put into emails.
When I can’t find a suitable recipe in my email treasure trove or rack my brain as to what’s in my cookbooks, I will often consult my favourite bloggers. My favourite way to tackle this is through Google Reader, which is a quick and easy way to narrow my search to my blogs of interest.
So when Rob and I picked up a dozen ears of corn, I had to scour everywhere for corn recipes. I usually don’t like corn – of the frozen or canned variety. I will actively remove it from recipes (celery gets removed even more quickly) so it was a challenge to do the opposite. Find me some corn delicacies!
Hopefully the last few corny posts have shown you how great corn can be, from the simple grilled ears, to pan-toasting the kernels for a salad, or boiling the corn to put in a quinoa salad, or as a savoury filling for a cornmeal pancake.
Corn soups are another way to enjoy corn. Trust me, I have bookmarked so many corn soup recipes that I had a difficult time narrowing it down to which I wanted to try. In the end, I thought this Thai Coconut Corn Stew, which Ashley made last year from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan hit it right (recipe also posted here). A soup that could come together quickly despite its long ingredient list. In addition to the coconut milk as the backdrop for the chowder, red bell pepper is added for sweetness. The soup is flavoured with lemongrass, lime, ginger, cilantro and a hint of spice from chili flakes, creating a very complex soup without too much fuss. It is nice and creamy from the coconut milk and pureed corn, but also surprisingly light at the same time. Seriously yummy, this recipe is a keeper!
In all honesty, I didn’t use cilantro for the salad. I used Vietnamese coriander. While researching what to plant, we found out cilantro tends to bolt in the summer. Ours bolted during the heat wave. But we had a back-up! Vietnamese coriander! It continues to give us nice leaves that taste similar to cilantro with a bright, lemony accent. Thankfully it is a perennial, so we should have some of it next year, too. :) I also grew lemongrass but the stalks don’t look anything like what I buy in the grocery store.. so who knows what I am to do with the leaves only. Sunny’s to the rescue with 6 lemongrass stalks for a $1. :)
Here are some other corn soups that I had spotted elsewhere:
Roasted Tomato and Grilled Corn Soup from The Edible Perspective
Summer Sweet Corn Soup with Basil Oil from Julia’s Vegan Kitchen
Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Corn and Cilantro from Oui, Chef
Tomato, Corn and Basil Soup from New England Soup Factory Cookbook
Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder from ExtraVeganZa
Summer Corn and Coconut Soup from Choosing Raw
Corn and Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Purée from CIA Chef
Japanese Corn Cream Soup from The Well-Seasoned Cook
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Thailand, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for coconut, and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring home-grown produce.
My family only recently discovered quinoa.
I’d like to think I am to blame, but I know it is only partially due to my fondness for whole grains.
According to my sister-in-law, quinoa is the new couscous. She went to a multitude of barbecues this summer and quinoa salads were always a star.
What’s not to like about the fluffy pebbles? I often use quinoa as a simple side to a stir fry or curry. Anywhere you’d typically think of rice, quinoa can substitute as a quick-cooking grain. Other times, I will use it as a base for a salad, as I find it works well with Mexican flavours.
While my family has been smitten with quinoa, they have had a hard time figuring out how to cook it properly. I typically cook it in twice the amount of salted water for 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed, and then plop the lid back on for an additional 5 minutes to let it steam.
For some reason, this doesn’t work for my mom. I will conceded that yes, her quinoa was more on the mushy/goopy side. I encouraged her to try to toast it first, to use less water or to steam it instead. For her last quinoa salad, with oranges, black-eyed peas and mint, she tried the steaming method with a fine mesh strainer inside a pot of boiling water. Now she had perfectly plump quinoa! It really is a simple way to get better texture from the quinoa and I should really try it more often. The benefit of boiling it is that I can infuse the quinoa with flavour if I use vegetable stock, herbs or other spices.
Need a delicious salad to inspire you to try quinoa? Try this Mexican-inspired lime-cilantro quinoa corn salad that I adapted from Ashley at Eat, Me, Delicious, who modified it from Rebar. It is a light, bright salad brimming with flavour.
While I don’t usually add corn to salads, the sweet corn was the perfect accent to this salad. It melds well with the the quinoa, that is speckled with a red pepper that I had grilled on the barbecue with some oil and garlic. Green onions add a nice sharpness and the chili flakes give this a bit of a zip. Cilantro is the herb of choice that pairs well with the fresh lime juice. I love the acid, but if you don’t, feel free to tame it by adding some oil. I also found that I really liked adding whole golden flax seeds to the salad. They were camouflaged amongst the quinoa, so you can’t really taste them, but they add extra nutrition – healthy omega fats and fiber. Completely optional, but if you are the adventurist, healthy type, go for it!
Eating corn as a simple side is delicious right from the cob, but my specialty is one-pot meals. Preferably with beans. I have started to feel that a meal isn’t complete if there are no beans. I miss them that much. ;)
I already knew this was going to be the year of the bean, but I have been slow on trying out my heirloom beans. I have a hard time using up an ingredient that will be nearly impossible for me to replenish. But after reorganizing my kitchen into a virtual bean library with rows of Mason jars housing my beans, it became apparent just how many beans I have! Lots! And I should really start to cook with them. It will be ok, even if I love them to bits. It will just give us an excuse to wander back to New York or San Francisco.
Imagine how excited I was to find a salad for both corn and heirloom beans. Martha called for Jacob’s Cattle Beans. I went downstairs to soak them.
Except I couldn’t find Jacob’s Cattle Beans. My beans are organized by use, and the heirloom beans by colour… not alphabetically. I scoured my list of beans I bought from Kalustyan’s and turns out I don’t have Jacob’s Cattle Beans. Drats! I googled a bit and figured Anasazi beans could substitute as they are a sweeter, mealy bean similar to Jacob’s Cattle Beans. Colourfully dappled when dry, they sadly loose their fun colours after cooking. Anasazi beans are quick cooking, and apparently don’t need any pre-soaking (although I did anyways). Pinto beans could easily substitute if you are heirloom-less.
Now that we had our bean selection under control, I got the beans simmering the next afternoon. Each component of the salad was meant to shine, so meanwhile, I toasted the corn kernels in a skillet over the stovetop. Next, I cooked down some cocktail tomatoes with thyme. I tried to cook the tomatoes in a non-stick wok without oil but they stuck anyways. If you add oil it may not be a problem for you, but to capture all those browned bits, I deglazed the pan with some the broth from the cooked beans. I threw in the beans and corn to help meld the flavours. The dressing was simple, with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, chili flakes and salt and it rounded out the salad nicely. Served on top of your leafy green of choice, you have a typical one-pot Janet bean salad.
I had a sense of deja vu this weekend. But not in the typical I’ve already done this sense. Rather, a ‘why haven’t I learned my lesson yet’ kind of deja vu.
We visited friends in Horseshoe Valley for a weekend filled with friends, food, games, adventure park fun (o-go ball is highly recommended) as well as a trip to the beach. While I am not too fond of beaching, I was excited when my friend, Greg, suggested we bike to Wasaga Beach instead, which was 45km away, he said. Rob checked: it was 27km away.
While Rob and I haven’t done many long-distance cycling trips since our big adventure to Kingston, 27km would still be a quick stroll for us. An hour, maybe an hour and a half, I told myself. We packed light for the trip, with just a couple bottles of water. Our snack would be waiting for us at the end, at the beach, when we would arrive for an early lunch and meet up with the girls. We could easily cycle back, too. Greg, our fierce leader, wasn’t keen on cycling back. OK, no problem.
As soon as we pulled out, I was reminded that this may not necessarily be as flat as I had predicted. We were starting at the bottom of the valley. We only could go up! Greg suggested taking smaller side roads to circumvent the huge hills on Horseshoe Valley Road, which we thought was a fabulous idea.
We twisted up the side roads and meandered through lovely rolling hills. After 13km, I needed a break and nonchalantly stated we were half-way to the beach.
Not so. Rob, plotting our progress through GPS on his phone, said we were now further from the beach than when we started!
I’ll spare you the details, but yes, we had lots of rolling hills with challenging uphills. The wind was fierce. We added detours to forgo traffic-heavy roads. I broke out my emergency larabar. Thankfully, the last 15km was mainly flat, maybe slightly downhill to the beach. The flat 27km bike ride ended up being a very hilly, very windy 57km.
We were greeted by a mild sand storm at Wasaga as the strong winds pushed sand around ruthlessly. Greg still jumped into the lake, cycling clothes and all. We arrived for a late lunch. The girls had already eaten without us and warned us there was probably sand in the sandwiches. ;) My quinoa salad had fared a bit better.
Steph made delicious vegan cupcakes for dessert – matcha green tea with marzipan flours. It had been a while since I had a cupcake yet I devoured it for dessert. Sometimes crazy cycling can do that to you!
It was on the way back home that Rob and I picked up the corn on impulse. Where else would we get such freshly picked corn?
Using three different forms of corn – fresh corn kernels, corn meal and corn flour (masa harina) – these are a seriously corn-stuffed pancake. With corn as the flour base, it was reminiscent of a sweet polenta. Flavoured with both vanilla and lemon, it was an exotic twist. Slather it with Earth Balance for pure simple bliss, or top with your favourite compote or salsa.
Now, when I can buy local corn picked that morning. As corn sweetness degrades by the hour after picking, it is best to buy fresh and to eat it soon after.
Just like fruit, fresh sweet corn is best with minimal adornments.
At the party, because the barbecue was hot real estate, I opted to boil the corn. But this weekend, when Rob and I bought a dozen ears of corn, we wanted to try to grill the corn.
For such a simple procedure, even boiling corn, everyone has their preferred method. When is boiled corn ready? When the water turns yellow… Just take it out after 10 minutes… Instead, I went with Rob’s aunt’s advice to take it out after you could pierce it easily with a knife. Nicely done. The corn was so sweet, no butter or salt was needed.
For grilling the corn, there are also numerous ways to tackle the job. If you want to keep your kernels juicy and plump, grill it with the husk intact. If you want it more dry and charred, grill it with the husk removed (check out this video by Mark Bittman).
This time, Rob and I experimented. We soaked our corn, dehusked the corn (or would that be husked the corn?), then removed the silk. You can then grill them, unadorned, with a hint of that smokiness from the barbecue. Or, go slightly more upscale with your favourite flavourings.
Here, we tried a delicious garlic-rosemary grilled version from Ashley at the Edible Perspective. We mixed together some olive oil with minced garlic and fresh rosemary, slathered it on the corn, re-wrapped the husk around the corn and grilled away. Plump, juicy corn with garlic and rosemary infused right into the corn.
What are your favourite flavour combinations with grilled corn?
Can you tell I have a few foodie crushes?
Tess Challis, the obvious choice.
You could possibly surmise I love Ottolenghi‘s recipes.
You don’t yet know how much I adore Denis Cotter’s recipes, because I haven’t posted them yet, but I am loving his latest cookbook, For The Love of Food.
There is something so unattainable about cookbook authors.
Then there’s Sarah at My New Roots. I adore her approach to whole, natural foods and want to make everything on her blog. Plus she’s seriously cute and makes adorable videos.
And equally unattainable since she doesn’t respond to my emails. :( (turns out she has just been UBER busy!)
I have become smitten by her food, instead. So far, her recipes have not let me down: the raspberry dream cake, the sultry peaches and blueberries, the 11-spiced lentil salad, the raw tacos with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa and the chickpea salad with the Mexican mango dressing.
So when I wanted a recipe for grilled portobello mushrooms for the barbecue, I quickly turned to Sarah’s blog. There were heaps of meat for everyone else, so I only made one burger. No worries if it didn’t work out. But of course, there were no failures. The mushroom burger was fabulous. I shared it with Rob so he, too, could relish in the culinary delicacy he had just grilled for me.
While I only modified her recipe by decreasing the oil and using fresh herbs, this would also be good with dried herbs when I don’t have them blooming on my patio. After grilling, you have a nicely spiced meaty burger with a balsamic glaze. It didn’t taste like a mushroom, so you could possibly convert mushroom-haters, but you won’t be able to fool anyone into thinking this was meat. But it was surprisingly filling!
However, I had one problem.
I made one mushroom; I ate one mushroom; I did not photograph said mushroom.
Thankfully I had some more portobello mushrooms, so after the hubbub of the party subsided, Rob offered to grill me up some more burgers the next day.
However, this time, I chose to smear it with a white bean puree spiced with thyme and garlic, from Power Foods (recipe also here) and then I sprinkled some leftover corn kernels on top. Now we had a complete meal. And a photograph!
Rob prefers hummus to this bean spread, but personally, I found it to be a great twist to a bean spread. The baby lima beans made it creamy with only a touch of oil. The garlic and thyme heightened its flavour, making this a nice and bright spread. Use it just like you would hummus, though: it would be great with raw vegetables, crackers or in a wrap.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Preeti, to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for mushrooms, to this week’s Summer Favourites potluck party, and to this month’s Simple and in Season.