Wow, once you start, it can be hard to stop.
I may have unrawified the quinoa wraps, but I have been noshing on lots of great raw eats all week. I also ventured away from my standard chocolate oats, and re-entered overnight oats territory. For some odd reason, I usually only eat overnight oats when I have an empty container of nut butter. The overnight soaking allows you to absorb all the rest of the nut butter on the sides of the jar.
(and yes, I think that’s some carrot that snuck in from my grater, hehe)
I like how simple changes can truly transform my breakfast. I routinely add fresh fruit to my oats (especially apples), but I usually just chop them up. However, this time I made a spin on Swiss muesli. Nowadays, muesli is more akin to uncooked granola, heavy on rolled oats, nuts and seeds, although Dr. Bircher-Benner’s original recipe called for far more fruit than grains.
When I think of Bircher muesli, I associate it with the grated apple. Not chopped, grated. Grated apple was a fun twist. I ran with Gena’s recipe, which updated the classic recipe by including chia seeds, dried fruits and chopped almonds. The textural contrast from the soaked chia seeds, creamy oats, grated sweet apple and chopped almonds was a delicious treat. Trying to clear out my pantry, I tossed in some dried goji berries and my homemade unsweetened dried cranberries. I don’t normally like goji berries (I think I’ve had the same package for over 2 years), but found they were fantastic in here. So much so that I am sad I cleaned out the last of them… and trying very hard not to run back to Chinatown to buy some more. Must. Resist. Buying. New. Ingredients.
Do you do the nut butter jar trick? Have you tried goji berries? What are your favourite recipes?
And last, but not least, the winner for my cookbook giveaway is Ellen! I will contact you to get your shipping address.
I have been searching for a hearty, meaty (yet vegan), filling stew.
I had early success with mushroom bourguignon, but wanted something lighter, with less oil and flour. I tried recipe after recipe, without avail. Beet bourguignon did not satisfy. Beans bourguignon from 1000 Vegan Recipes was ok but not quite up to my high standards. Seitan-less Burgundy Stew with Parsnips from Big Vegan was not my favourite either. I almost gave up…
And then this treat popped out of nowhere.
After my success with baked (fresh) cranberries in the stuffed carnival squashes and roasted balsamic curry fall vegetables, I began exploring other savoury ideas for fresh (or frozen) cranberries. I stumbled upon Bryanna’s Mushroom and Cranberry Stew and was immediately intrigued. I don’t normally cook with TVP but had picked up some large chunk TVP at some point. Might as well use it and clear out the pantry, I mused.
I hadn’t really thought this was a bourguignon. However, it has a lot of similar flavours: red wine and sherry, carrots, thyme, mushrooms. No tomatoes, though and no need to use a thickener. TVP was used as a meat mimicker, texture only. I think a large bean could substitute if you are averse to TVP. The real beefy flavour came from Marmite. A yeasty, salty spread that Kiwis adore. The lovely twist in this recipe came from the fresh cranberries. Pleasantly tart, not sweet, but complemented the beefy stew incredibly well.
I will happily curl up with a bowl of this over the winter months.
I have not yet read the book The 5 Love Languages, but I like the concept of different ways to communicate your affection. How do you express your love? Through words of affirmation, acts of service, giving/receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch? Knowing how you express and perceive love, along with your partner, helps you communicate with the same language.
This also holds true for family and friends, especially around holidays. Everyone is scurrying from party to party, thinking of ideal gifts and making travel plans to spend with loved ones. What is most important to you and others?
I will be sharing my time this weekend with Rob’s family and next weekend with my parents. I definitely subscribe to my presence is my present – HA! Can you tell giving/receiving gifts is so low on my priority list? But truthfully, gift giving continually becomes harder and harder. There are cute and practical gift giving guides, but on my wishlist this year: A textbook. I know, not even a cookbook. I am also eagerly awaiting my grandmother’s old juicer and pressure cooker. I don’t really need much else. The most important thing is the company. I really am all set. (I am also UBER stoked for Rob’s early Christmas present: a raw “cooking” class with Doug McNish on Sunday! I have no idea how we will tackle all the recipes!)
While some of my most well-used kitchen tools were gifts that I never thought I needed (see last year’s gift guide), random foodie purchases have entertained me as of late. I know I am supposed to be culling my pantry, but when I see something like baby quinoa (kaniwa), I have a hard time not wanting to try it out. A new, healthy food.. let’s see what it is like!
PS. Spotted at Essence of Life and Lady York.
First off, it looks like little kernels of quinoa. While it isn’t quinoa in its young state, it is in the same family as quinoa. It has a higher protein content and possesses less of the bitter saponins that plague quinoa. I still rinsed it though I may try toasting it next time. It cooks up nearly exactly like quinoa with a scanty 2:1 ratio of liquid. Due to its small nature, the texture is quite different. It reminded me of the pebbly nature of amaranth without its gluey consistency. I ended up tossing it in a festive bowl with a simple cranberry jicama salsa and a chili-spiked butternut squash gravy/sauce. The seemingly odd combination of ingredients worked really well… and awfully pretty, too, I may add.
So, the moral of the story… for the hard to shop foodies, perhaps all you need to do is head to a grocery store? Or only for practical foodies like me. Only I would swoon over a new bean to try… or appreciate radish sprouts. Need other ideas for foodie gifting? Check out my favourite wacky ingredients including pomegranate molasses, red pepper paste and miso, along with recipes to woo you over.
Earlier this year, my cousin’s wife was trying to track down kamut, an ancient wheat. She explained to me that kamut contained less gluten, perfect for her gluten-free adventures. She searched high and low and could not find whole grain kamut. Kamut flakes and puffed kamut, yes, but not regular old kamut. Since she was hoping to get rid of gluten, I suggested not trying to track down such a hard-to-find ingredient, especially since it still contains gluten, even if it is a smaller amount.
A few days later, when I decided to reorganize my whole grains, I discovered I had kamut. Turns out I had forgotten all about it. I bought a small amount while in Calgary, since I had never seen it before. Unfortunately, while Community Natural Foods has an online store, I don’t see kamut for sale. With my curiosity piqued, I decided it was time to try out the kamut.
Nothing fancy, I opted to add it to a bowlful of roasted fall vegetables. More veggies, less grain, please.
First, the kamut. I will admit that it was nice. Similar to wheat berries, they were pleasantly plump yet their shape made it more akin to orzo. A plumpy, chewy orzo. Milder than wheat berries, I rather enjoyed them. If I had easy access to kamut, I would likely choose it over wheat berries, but since I don’t know where to replenish it in Toronto, I will just have to finish my spelt berries first. Although, I am already on a whittling of the pantry plan, where nothing is being replenished except for my easy-to-find favourites: quinoa, red lentils and chickpeas.
Next, the veggies. Delicious right from the oven, I had a hard time holding back from gobbling everything down. I loved combining the different roasted vegetables for different complementary flavours. The Brussels sprouts were earthy and crispy, contrasting the soft and sweet squash, next to the tart and juicy cranberries. The balsamic-curry dressing was not overpowering, and allowed the natural flavours to shine.
Don’t have kamut? No worries. Simply omit it or add your favourite whole grain or bean. I am thinking chickpeas or white beans would be great here.
If you do have kamut, and live in the GTA, please tell me where you found it.
This feels like a guilty confession. Boastful yet partially aghast at my audacity.
I admit it: I have 10 different kinds of winter squash in my kitchen.
All are edible (unlike the uber cute swan squash below! which I didn’t buy by the way)
There are the usual players: Butternut squash. Buttercup squash. Kabocha squash. Delicata squash. Spaghetti squash. Sugar pie pumpkin.
They all happened to be on sale this week.
But then, I went to the large Loblaws downtown (the one with 20 different kinds of mushrooms) and yes, they have plenty of squashes, too. Known for its wide selection, they carry many gourmet foods. While the dried mushrooms could cost you an arm and a leg (dried morels are $113.05/lb), the unique squashes didn’t break my budget.
From a local mostly-Mennonite farm and only $1/lb, I came home with new-to-me squashes: carnival, white swan and sweet dumpling (pictured left to right, above). I resisted buying the ambercup and turban squashes, but I may head back for my next squash fix. (These are small squashes, so it may happen sooner than you think!)
With the ridged nature of the squashes, I knew these squashes were meant to be stuffed. I filled them with quinoa and white beans spiced with sage and oregano from my garden along with fresh cranberries, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. The flavours worked well together and I liked the tartness from the fresh cranberries contrasting the sweetness from the maple syrup. I served it overtop spinach for a prettier presentation.
The squash verdict? Love the carnival squashes! Dry yet moist, crumbly and sweet. Perfect as a stuffed squash because you can eat through the squash at the same time and integrated it into the dish. It might be too crumbly to hold up as large chunks for soups or stews. In the end I ate the skin of the squash, too. It was nice and crispy after all the roasting, so make sure you scrub the squashes clean before you start.
PS. For those keeping track, I also have a golden nugget squash and haven’t tried it yet. Any predictions on how best to eat it?
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to the Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge, and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.
Our friends came over for a “Stress Free Friday” gathering. A chance to get together, chat, play games and such.
However, one of our friends forgot to write down our house number… but found our house without any trouble. Follow the kale and collards!, he told us. We are the only ones growing them on our street!
It has been a while since I’ve shared a garden update.
The good news: We are now harvesting green beans! Both Romano beans and Kentucky Wonder beans. I thought we weren’t going to get anything except for leaves (too much nitrogen?), but once Rob placed the tomato rings, the plants finally had something to hold onto and they shot up with tons of blossoms. And then over to our neighbour, too!
Last year, I only ever harvested a handful of beans at a time. While I kept a handful of dried pods so that I could plant them this year, I felt so sad, never having enough to make a real green bean dish. Not so, this year. I have harvested over 2 lbs so far. All in the span of a week. That may not sound like a lot but I am quickly going through my favourite green bean recipes. I am also being quite vigilant about my harvesting since if you leave the beans on the plant too long, they will become bitter.
Our herbs and collards are still growing strong. Except the basil, it grew too strong, too fast and I missed its lovely basil prime time. Now it is too zingy for me. I am definitely going back to the Pesto Perpetuo basil next year. I grew it last year and it never bolted. The only downside was that the leaves are smaller.
The not so bad news: My dinosaur kale plants have this funny white bug on them. It has been there a while, and I used to just clean it off before I ate it. However, now it looks like the poor plants are suffering. Anyone know what it could be and a natural way to remove them?
The ugly news: After all our efforts with the kabocha squash plants, they all died. I saved 2 squashes but I think the bugs got to them first. Boo. My zucchini plant hasn’t made any zucchinis either. Am I squash-cursed?
Now onto the food:
The good news: I am on a dolma kick. I made some kick-ass dolmas that I will share soon.
The not so bad news: I made a cranberry lemon tahini dip to go with said super fabulous dolmas. The cranberry lemon tahini dip was also super delicious. But somehow, super fabulous + super delicious did not make super super fabulous delicious. Instead they clashed. Both the dolmas (spiced with allspice, cinnamon and cherries!!) and the dip (cranberry, lemon, tahini) had strong flavours that didn’t work out so well together. However, separate, still very good.
At first, I thought the dip was a bit too sweet from the cranberries, so I added more lemon. The tahini adds a decadent silkiness to the dip. After an overnight chill in the refrigerator, it was perfect. I hummed and hawed over what to do with my dip now that I didn’t want it with my dolmas. Throw it into a collard wrap? Smother it onto broccoli slaw with some tempeh?
My brain went all fancy. My hands went simple. I took the freshly picked green beans and scooped up the dip. No adornments needed. Just crisp veggies. Serve this sweet dip with your favourite veggies and crackers… or go fancy and make me jealous.
This week, Rob was uber busy at work so I decided to spice up his mornings with some new granola. Like me, Rob typically eats oatmeal for breakfast and it has been ages since he’s made granola. He used to be a granola fiend, but it was put on his back-burner after we moved in together. Way back when, in his granola-making days, he bought millet for granola. Instead, the millet made its way into savoury dinners.
I don’t remember which recipe gave us the idea to add millet to granola, but whoever did it first should be applauded. Crunch explosion! In a great way! It gave a crunchy-crispy texture to the toasted oats and nuts. For this version, I went with Rob’s favourite granola flavours: cinnamon, cranberries, coconut and almonds, but feel free to pick your own favourite nuts and dried fruit. Just don’t skip the millet, because that is what makes this granola special.
Even if you didn’t think you liked cooked millet (I will admit that it isn’t my favourite grain), this is probably my favourite way to eat it. Don’t let the birds enjoy all the millet.
Other granolas we’ve made:
Here is a variation on the ALC. We have WOC: walnut, orange and cranberry! Simply delicious! Thank you, Tess.
Adapted from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, I made this a main course salad by adding adzuki beans to a shiitake, walnut and cranberry salad with an orange-balsamic dressing. First, the mushrooms are pan-fried until warm and soft. They are combined with an orange vinaigrette that is drizzled overtop a bed of spinach. Then, sprinkled the entire salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. Lovely!
Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
I swear, I don’t eat mangoes every day (Rob could take that honour for the past few weeks, though). It may seem like it, though, since I happen to be posting those recipes more quickly. While I don’t share all my recipes, I have a treasure trove of half-finished posts, some with photos, others with a story, and most of them with an ingredient list and a scribbling of my thoughts about the dish.
There is something about meals with mango that makes me want to share the recipe right away. Adapted from Veggie Belly, this is savoury use of fresh mango in a beauty of a salad. Red quinoa is combined with fresh blueberries, chopped mango and dried cranberries and chopped snow peas for crunch. It is then tossed in a subtle lemon-basil dressing and topped with toasted pecans. Nothing is overpowering, nothing screams at you. Everything works well for a simple, yet flavourful salad. A great way to highlight different summer produce in a healthy salad.
In a few months, I will be moving from my tiny (but cozy! I love it! I will miss it. Anyone want to rent it?) apartment to a house. Not any house, though. A house with a garden: which I plan on filling with vegetables.
While I had a mini container garden on my balcony last year, there will be a lot more space in the new place. Thus, the question is what should we be planting as beginner gardeners for our first garden?
My first list was to pick the things I like to eat: tomatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, cilantro, garlic, and lots of herbs. I have visions of lots of kale, swiss chard and snow peas. However, after reading a bit more, I definitely had to revisit these plans. Butternut squash need a lot of room. Broccoli and cabbage scream “eat me!” by attracting a lot of bugs. Bok choy is hard to grow. Cilantro likes to bolt when the weather gets hot. Garlic needed to be planted in the fall. Hmmpht, this is not as easy as I was hoping.
In an effort to find easy plants to grow that we will want to eat, we’ve been investigating new vegetables. Eat them now to see if we want to grow them later.
The first vegetable we were intrigued by was kohlrabi, one of the oddest looking vegetables (?alien baby in vegetable form). Truth be told, I had never even heard of kohlrabi until Dawn started posting a bunch of recipes as she got them through her CSA. I had not seen them in the grocery stores, either. Until I started to look, of course. Bestwin for the win, sells 4 of them for $1.
Rob took a few and made a light, yet earthy Indian-Spiced Kohlrabi and Quinoa Salad and I used the last kohlrabi to make this delicious wheat berry salad, inspired by Enlightened Cooking. It has been a while since I’ve cooked up some wheat berries. Since wheat berries take an hour or so to cook, I was tempted to bring out quinoa instead for the salad. After seeing wheat berries appear in a few recent recipes, I reconsidered. It has been too long.. and I should be cleaning out my pantry, right? It was the right decision, too: wheat berries were fabulous here.
Reminiscent of two of my favourite wheat berry salads, a bright citrus dressing pairs incredibly well with plump, nutty wheat berries. The salad is flavoured with a tart-sweet crisp apple, chopped sweet red pepper, dried cranberries as well as crunchy carrots and sunflower seeds. I added lots of cilantro and mixed in slivered baby spinach (pea shoots were great, too!) for more body. While it may seem counter-intuitive, a tip I’ve picked up for wheat berry salads is to dress it right before serving. Otherwise, the wheat berries sop up the dressing and it becomes dry when eating them as leftovers.
Oh yes, and the fresh kohlrabi. Hard to describe, but it tastes like broccoli and cabbage with the texture of an Asian pear in a broccoli stem form. Maybe that makes sense to some of you. The conclusion, though, is that I like it! This was a fabulous salad, kohlrabi and all. Hopefully it makes it into our new garden.
Have any suggestions for planting a garden in Toronto? I am all ears!
Other kohlrabi recipes that have interested me:
Kale and Kohlrabi Salad with Miso-Tahini Dressing by Florida Coastal Cooking
Kohlrabi Slivers and Pea Shoots with Sesame Dressing by Gourmet
Kohlrabi and Carrot Salad by The Wednesday Chef
Coconut Curried Tofu, Eggplant, and Kohlrabi with Green Jasmine Rice by Eats Well With Others
Turnip-and-Kohlrabi Slaw with Ginger-Vinaigrette Dressing from The Bitten Word
Asian Slaw with Kohlrabi, Daikon and Turnips by Eggs on Sunday
Savoy Cabbage, Kohlrabi and Grapefruit Salad by Food & Wine
Kohlrabi and Cabbage Salad in Plenty by Ottolenghi
Since I decided to cut out refined sugars and flours, I have found it quite easy to add more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into my meals. That’s because I cook for myself. I stopped eating the free meals at work and try not to eat out at restaurants. The quandary came, though, when I went away on vacation,where I wasn’t particularly interested in immersing myself in local cuisine. I found some vegan TexMex options (spinach citrus ensaladas and guacamole) but really took refuge at a vegetarian restaurant just outside the heart of downtown San Antonio. I went back a few times!
I didn’t know I would find such a delightful resto, so I planned for not finding many vegan-friendly options. In addition to making a bean salad and portable overnight oats, I made some snacks as well.
I spotted this simple snack in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (also posted here). It was easy to put together, tasty with the savoury flavours and healthy, to boot (provided you don’t eat too much!). Here, pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are roasted with soy sauce and thyme until nice and golden, then they are tossed with sweet dried cranberries. The sweet-savoury combination works well together. Stored in resealable plastic bags, it is also easy to bring with you for an emergency fix if you have a hard time finding something to eat.
I eat apricots a lot. Apricots are a funny fruit, though, because I don’t tend to eat them raw. In the summer, I have a habit of buying fresh apricots, but eating them fresh tends to be lackluster.
Instead, I find dried apricots more flavourful and have incorporated them into many salads, granola and energy bars. I have even added them to savoury dishes. When I do find myself with fresh apricots, baking is the best way to fully bring out its sweetness (remember those Moroccan Apricot Parcels? yum!)
As you know, I have a habit of trying out interesting, healthy breakfast ideas. I spotted an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis at Chocolate & Zucchini, and knew that I wanted to try it. The fruit, nuts and other add-ins are completely up to you, but incorporating freshly baked apricots is a royal treat.
But what the heck is an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis? To me, a clafoutis has always meant a custard-like cake speckled with fruit. Here, it means a creamy baked oatmeal filled with fruit.
I have made baked oatmeal before (with rhubarb and apple/banana) but this one was definitely the creamiest of them all. But the great thing is that they kept their shape well, so for anyone who likes to munch on the go, this is perfect for you. According to Clotilde they freeze easily, so you could stack your freezer with individual portions, reheat them and grab them to run.
This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring Breakfasts To Go!
Everyone has a favourite granola recipe. Personally, I have tried many recipes, and love to try new ones for variety. Adapted from The Stop‘s cookbook Good Food For All, I was drawn to Joshna Maharaj‘s healthy granola recipe because it was filled with my favourite fixins – almonds, coconut, cranberries and date with less oil. It also used a lot of wheat germ and All Bran buds.
A few years ago, I used to eat All Bran buds all the time with yogurt. It was a quick satisfying snack or dessert. I once chatted with a surgeon who was a strong proponent of All Bran buds and psyllium (the main fiber source on All Bran buds). He was a colorectal surgeon and saw people with constipation and colorectal cancer. He was adamant that we could add All-Bran buds to ANYTHING – even pizza! While I am willing to try many thing, I am not THAT adventurous. However, adding All Bran buds to granola just makes sense for a healthy, filling breakfast.
A note about this granola: it is not incredibly sweet. It does not clump well. But it is tasty and best combined with some fresh fruit and yogurt as a lovely breakfast parfait.
I have more than a few posts in my drafts folder, as I figure out what to write, take the photos off my camera, go on vacation to Morocco.. You know, the typical delays.
I made this delicious breakfast oatmeal pudding last month, when pumpkin and fresh cranberries were both abundant. Now that Christmas cookie, mint and chocolate season is knocking at the door, I figured I should whip this baby out before it was too late!
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, this is a variation on the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding I posted in September (based on Ricki’s original recipe). Back then, it was my pre-cycling breakfast of choice. This time, though, my pudding was a bit thicker, a bit lumpier, so I wonder whether I had to pulse my almonds longer. However, I enjoyed this variation, too, as it had a different mix of flavours. The pumpkin puree replaced the applesauce, the fresh cranberries substituted for the blueberries and the mix of savoury spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves) worked perfectly. Not too sweet, and definitely not bland, this was a perfect start to the day. Likewise, it could work as a nice dessert as well.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!