Even though we won’t be moving until late June, now that Rob and I have found a place to live in Houston (YAYAYAYA!), the move seems a bit more real.
All of a sudden, I want to scope out my new neighbourhood. I want to know my route to work, cycle the nearby bicycle paths and explore the grocery stores. I want to know my new routine.
Thankfully, our new place will be close to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I am most excited about Trader Joe’s since I doubt Whole Foods is any cheaper in the US than it is here in Canada. Although I will still keep an eye out for ethnic grocers. They are my favourite for fresh and inexpensive produce and staples (these are my favourite stores in Toronto). If you are familiar with Houston, please let me know of your favourite shops. I am also considering trying out Rawfully Organic for fruits/veggies. Does anyone have experience with them? *As well, if anyone could share what they routinely buy online instead of at TJ’s, please let me know what and where*
Right now, the plan is to try to live a “minimalist” lifestyle while in Houston. Bring only the bare necessities. I think it will be fun to move the majority of our stuff into storage and live on less. Of course, we don’t plan on depriving ourselves. We are not materialistic but somehow seemed to have accumulated a lot of stuff. I suppose we don’t like to waste anything, purge little and haven’t started the “this is for real” part of laying down a home.
We plan on bringing our own current necessities, though. Like 4 bicycles. And my Vitamix, food processor, rice cooker and coffee machine (the last one is for Rob). A handful of cookbooks. I decided that the dehydrator may take a year-long sabbatical. The dehydrator is pretty bulky and I don’t use it that often. And I could live without it for a year. Which, of course, means I am using it like crazy before we leave.
I have mentioned these beet chips discretely before. I have made them a few time, but lost my original set of photos. It was a perfect impetus to make them again… and again. They are possibly my favourite snack from the dehydrator and they are so easy to make. Peel beets, slice, marinate and dehydrate. Sweet and crispy chips emerge. Pretty, too. And yes, these were regular beets. No fancy candy-cane striped Chioggia beets, here.
Actually, I take that back. One time I made this with small beets, and it took forever to peel them. Now I only make these with large beets. The chips are bigger, too. You wouldn’t believe how much they shrink. Depending on how thick you slice your beets, two pounds of beets may only yield 2 cups of chips. Which I could likely eat in an afternoon, if I am not careful.
Wrappers. Not to be confused with Spicy Mango Wraps.
Because the mango is part of the wrap. In the wrapper.
Rob left for Kitchener yesterday and left me alone to study. I was so close to joining them. The reduced distance was a draw, but the kicker: I am sick. I have been down with an ear infection and upper respiratory tract infection all week. No fun… and not a good way to recover. Studying has never been more focused.
Of course, what is more fun than studying? Cycling, I know. I didn’t do that. I went to my regular Pump, though. No Shred. (PS, I love it when instructors in the audience fill in for no-show subs). First gym visit, actually, for over a week. When I returned home, I looked at the case of mangoes (not the Alphonsos, those were eaten; the case of Ataulfos Rob bought afterwards), glanced at my dehydrator and then outside and had dreams of an ice cream summer. It was then that I decided to forge ahead with valiant plans to make mango cones.
Mango cones are hard to make, though. Folding them to be all cone-like? Um, yeah, didn’t happen. No patience for that right now. So I dehydrated large sheets of a mango-coconut-flax wrap spiced with chili pepper and basil (optional, not necessary). Cut them into circles. Ate all the scraps as chips.
Now all I need is some ice cream… Rob has been encouraging of my ice cream needs to help my sore throat. My Mom advocated for honey-lemon tea. I tried lemon tea (sans honey) and it didn’t work. But ice cream, YES!
I digressed… We did a tour of the nearby grocers recently. Vegan ice cream cannot be found at my ethnic grocer (I knew that), Walmart, Freshco, nor Metro. The Sweet Potato and Fiesta Farms are our sure-fire bets but I know the Mega Loblaws downtown has it too… not sure about regular non-Mega Loblaws. It probably would be considered a frill at No Frills. Who knew vegan ice cream would be so hard to find? Because shouldn’t everyone be eating vegan ice cream with a sore throat and tummy? Dairy is a no-no with a troubled tummy. I should probably learn how to make it, instead (something a bit more beyond my banana soft-serve).
Everyone must have mango on their minds right now.
I definitely have a lot of recipes for mango and people have been bumping into some of my old mango treats lately: Raw Tropical Mango Pie, Thai Tempeh Lettuce Wraps with Mango Ginger Sauce, and Mango Shrikhand. If you have scurried to purchase dried mango for the Raw Tropical Pie, place some aside for these delicious bars.
Even before I got my own dehydrator, I knew not all dried fruit were equal.
Now with my dehydrator, I also know it isn’t always easy to dehydrate fruit.
Apple chips are super easy. I just slice and dehydrate at 135F overnight, around 8 hours. I prefer thin slices to get a crisp chip. Thicker slices are nice when you want something to chew on. I’ve added cinnamon, cardamom and pumpkin pie spices but still prefer the plain variety.
I experimented with homemade unsweetened and maple syrup-sweetened dried cranberries, but my efforts didn’t work out so well. I tried to split the skins by blanching them, but that worked only sporadically and thus, I ended up slicing each cranberry individually. Even then, I must have over dehydrated them because they were very dry… oops!
Dehydrated pineapple has such a concentrated flavour, packed with sugar, that it almost seemed like I was eating a chew candy.
And there are some fruits that never make it to the dehydrator, like mangoes. Why dehydrate them when you can eat them fresh?
Just as we have become picky about which fresh mangoes we prefer (Honey, Alphonso and Ataulfo), not all dried mangoes are created equal.
The best dried mangoes we’ve come across are the Philippine brand dried mangoes. They occasionally go on sale at Loblaws, T&T and can also be found at Costco. They are sweet and juicy. The dried mangoes at Better Bulk (as much as I love the store) and Bulk Barn are a shame next to them, as are the packs from Sunny’s. Sadly, the Philippine brand ain’t cheap.
With all that being said, if you find yourself with any dried mangoes at all, make these bars.
They are the best granola bar I have tried and eerily taste so good I could sell them. I am so glad that Lisa decided to share her recipe for Holy Delicious Mango Bars! I had been pining the recipe even before I had my dehydrator, actually. I’ve made granola bars before, but those had refined sugars and butter. I’ve also made oodles of raw energy treats, but they were usually more date-heavy.
I knew Rob would love them, but had to figure out when to make them to keep them as a surprise for him. I won’t give away my secret… A humming dehydrator is hard to conceal. But oh so totally worth it.. and trust me, these are so much better than those silly packaged bars. Do they even come in mango flavours, eh? Or the flavour of love? hahaha!
These are incredibly flavourful, packed to the brim with goodies like nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and raisins and dates for sweetness. Oh, and dried mango, too. Dehydrating brings everything together, with a firm feeling. If you don’t have a dehydrator, try your hand at freezing it instead.
These are part of my recent crack obsession but they were very satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.
I was planning on sharing a different recipe with you today.
I had the theme of my post all figured out in my head.
I went to go find my photos… and looked, and looked and looked… I looked again.
They were nowhere to be found.
Completely scandalous in the land of food blogging, where recipes rarely get repeated and I only do one photoshoot. I really have no idea how I lost them.
However, while I was searching for my photos, I unearthed this gem of a recipe. Rather, I rediscovered photos that I had neglected. I obviously need a better photo tracking system.
Clearly made before my sweetener-free challenge, this packs a serious punch. Satisfies a snack attack. Or maybe not, since it is so addictive.
Or kale chips with the works.
Crispy dehydrated kale is coated in a caramel lemon-cinnamon dressing and tossed with coconut, dried cherries, almonds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for some glorious snacking.
That other recipe? Well, it was also for a crispy snack, sweetener-free, of course. I will just have to make it again and not loose the photos.
Funny how with this blogging blooper, I inadvertently turned more blogger, with a recipe for kale chips. HA!
Have you ever lost your photos before? I once had to recover engagement photos of my brother and at-the-time fiancee. Gosh, that was stressful. But now, I have no clue where the photos could even be recovered… and NO, I did not dream that I took the photos. I had witnesses while making the recipe, too. I know I did!
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.
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.
Rob and I did a 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida while in Colombia. You need a guide and we picked Magic Tours since they responded to our emails and assured me I would have vegan options on the trek. We started off with 4 other hikers, our guide, a cook and a porter (with 2 mules) for our 5-day 44-km hike.
We hiked through the Colombian jungle, with a well-delineated path, up and down many hills and through a river quite a few times! Gorgeous scenery with a great ruined city at the end. An unparalleled experience, to say the least.
I won’t lie. It was hard. We hiked in hot and humid weather, over 30C with at least 80% humidity. Shade from trees was a welcome treat after hiking in open sun. I also found the terrain difficult with many river crossings and steep hills. I wish I had had better ankle support on my hiking boots! By the fourth day, we reached The Lost City. There were 1200 steps to climb to reach the actual Ciudad Perdida with a further 800 steps within the ruined city, itself. Going up those stairs was not so bad; going down was worse! If you don’t like heights, this also won’t work well for you.
Before I left, I made a few energy snacks. This was one of them which was a great source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once).
I was drawn to this recipe immediately after Cara posted it. It reminded me of a souped up Raw Brownie with a heavenly base of walnuts, dates and cocoa. However, to make this a protein power star, there are hemp seeds and protein powder as well. I ended up increasing the mint extract and substituting agave for the brown rice syrup. Absolutely delicious straight from the mixer. I dehydrated them at 110F for 7-8 hours hoping to make them more portable. The sharp flavours diminished slightly but my snacks were now able to came with me to the jungle! Sadly, I didn’t wrap them individually so they kind of smooshed together towards the end of my trip. Still good, though.
I will admit that Rob and I overpacked for our hike, but I would still travel with my snacks again. I still need to share the winner of the energy snacks, so stay tuned. I had some bona fide Larabars as well, which also seemed to ooze some oily stuff under the heat of the jungle. If you are planning for a similar trip, definitely consult your tour operator to see what they recommend you bring. While Magic Tours had an extensive list of stuff to bring (sunscreen, hat, water bottle, clothes, etc), this is what I also found useful:
Foot talc powder- We didn’t bring any but if you are prone to sweaty feet or slipping into rivers, this is for you!
Sanitizer- We didn’t bring any, but considering the lack of soap and toilet paper, this would have been great to have to not get traveler’s diarrhea.
Compact camera- You do not want to bring a big D-SLR with you on this hike. We actually don’t have too many photos because we were more focused on hiking then taking photos.
After bite & antihistamines- We had deet (although only 30%), and were still bitten by bugs. Lots of bugs. This helped.
Ibuprofen- You may be sore. You may get a headache.
Travel pillow- On the hike, you sleep in hammocks and the occasional bunk bed. No pillows. I am VERY picky about my pillow. I often travel with my day-to-day feather pillow because I have a hard time sleeping without it. This pillow, albeit not exactly what I am used to, was a godsend, even outside the trek in other B&Bs.
Hiking poles- I love my collapsible hiking poles.
Non-cotton clothing- Want your clothes to dry? Make sure they are not cotton.
Water purification tablets- You want to make sure you are drinking potable water. These tabs add no taste to the water.
What else do you like to bring with you on long hikes?
Amongst my closer friends and family, I am the only vegan. Quite a few of my friends are vegetarian, but my closest vegan buddy is in Vancouver. That’s across one big country. One of my co-workers is a former vegan, choosing to eat fish as an omega supplement mostly. I have yet to know anyone who has tried raw cuisine without my influence. Most of my friends are adventurist eaters, so I can share my kitchen successes and failures. While I eat vegan mainly for health and environmental reasons, sometimes I wonder about connecting with other like-minded souls.
A few months ago, I travelled with Rob to meet some of his friends from Burning Man. While mostly everyone was vegetarian, it was exciting to meet someone else who also dabbled in raw cuisine. She encouraged me to try banana chips in the dehydrator and told me about one of her raw successes: King Oyster Calamari from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma’s restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in NYC, is my favourite raw resto to date, so I was eager to try the dish when I got home. King oyster mushrooms were on sale, too, to boot. I didn’t have the cookbook, but a quick google search led me to Emily’s site which had the recipe.
The recipe was simple: marinate king oyster mushrooms, bread them with spiced ground flaxseeds (works as both the breading and egg-substitute!) and then dehydrate. My new-found friend also gave me a few other tips.
While the recipe says to dehydrate for 2-3 hours, she suggested dehydrating up to 5 hours for them to become really crispy. She also warned me that the whole recipe made a ton of food, so I halved it. (I also quartered the cocktail sauce below, since I ended up thinning it and had an overabundance of sauce leftover). I tinkered with the recipe since I don’t have an Italian spice blend, and instead added whatever looked like an Italian spice from my spice drawer: basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley. I threw in some dried onion and garlic granules as well as lemon pepper seasoning instead of the black pepper. Even though I used chili powder, too, I dipped my finger in and thought something was missing. I added black salt. Now we were set. (Note to self: next time I may try this with nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, since I liked that with my Asiago-crusted baked zucchini sticks). I had a bit of leftover crumbs, so you could probably increase the number of mushrooms with this mixture – or pack it in more than I did.
Now, if you don’t have a dehydrator, do not fear. You can still make vegan calamari! I made these both ways: raw in the dehydrator for 3 hours and a separate batch for 10 minutes in the oven. I don’t care too much about the raw philosophy of not cooking over 115F, but I love the inventive recipes… so to hurry things up, I stuck some in the oven, too. Both were
good great. They honestly tasted like calamari. No hidden mushrooms here (Rob thinks he could taste mushrooms but only because he knew they were in there). Between the two versions, though, I preferred the raw dehydrated ones. They were more crispy and the breading stayed on (some of it stuck to my silpat in my oven version). The oven-baked version had more of a slippery calamari feel to it, though. In any case (or in both cases), Rob said he liked them better than regular calamari since it has a cleaner taste. I also preferred this version instead of the typical deep-fried options you find at restos. Bright and fresh, healthy food, what’s not to like?
Speaking of connecting with other like-minded souls, I was wondering if I have any readers in the GTA that would like get connected? I was really sad I missed Sarah’s potluck in the park, especially since it looked like it was a lot of fun!
Strawberries are out and cherries are in. Seasonal eating at its best, right?
While I originally planned for a strawberry-filled birthday brunch, I worked towards the next seasonal fruit: cherries.
What do you think of first after I say cherry?
Please don’t say cherry red macronucleoli.
(Gosh, the July 1st studying mode has made its way into my blogging, ack!)
Now you’re talking.
The Naked Sprout‘s brunch menu inspired me again to try my hand at raw crepes. While I had the raspberry banana coconut pancakes, Rob had the chocolate coconut crepes with banana and a blueberry cashew whipped cream drizzled with an ancho chocolate sauce and a strawberry compote. What a tasty mouthful!
Not so fancy for my home-grown brunch, though. We are aiming for stress-free gatherings, not stress-inducing gatherings!
In the end, I decided to pair the local, fresh cherries with an almost raw chocolate banana crepe and an almond-coconut cream. All of which I could make in advance and allow guests to assemble themselves.
I was scared of thin raw wraps since my raw zucchini wraps were a bit finicky. I have made these a few times, so let me assure you that these are easy to make. The Vitamix makes for a smooth batter and adding the flax seeds last gives you some time to work the batter into a thin sheet. I wanted round crepes, but here, you make a big sheet of a wrap and then cut out your desired shape. It is much easier to make a consistency thin wrap if it is one big sheet. Rest assured that the extra pieces of crepe were not wasted and went straight into my belly. This wrap has a nice chocolate flavour with a hint of banana and very pliable.
I paired the wrap with a coconut-based cream. Now that Rob is gaining experience with opening coconuts, I ventured with a coconut recipe. I contemplated making a macadamia-based whipped cream but cheap coconuts from Chinatown won that battle. I paired it with almond extract for a strong almond flavour, almost begging to be paired with cherries.
Top with sliced almonds, this was a glorious brunch… or dessert.. and quite a great way to introduce my friends to raw cuisine, if I may say so myself.
Sometimes simple is all you need, because the simple flavours melded so well together.
This is being submitted to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring holiday treats, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.
If there is one thing that is predictable with my meals, it is my breakfast. Steel cut oatmeal with fruit and protein powder. Lately, I’ve been eating it with Vega, since I scored it at half price. Making a big batch each week is a time saver and doesn’t make me think too much each morning as I rush out the door.
With a bit of extra time this long weekend, I decided to host a birthday/housewarming brunch today. A time to whip out all the vegan brunch options. I know, one meal that can be challenging for vegans has got to be brunch, typically filled with cheese, eggs and baked goods. Not here.
A recent visit to The Naked Sprout‘s Sunday brunch had me in a tizzy over their raw raspberry banana coconut pancakes with coconut ice cream. I thought it would be great to try my hand at it and I figured going raw for brunch would be an easy way to serve a crowd. The pancakes could be made in advance and then assembled once we were ready to eat. No need to slave over a stovetop, especially during this hot summer weather.
Of course, I had to do some research to make sure the recipe worked out before my guests arrived. Last week, while we still had strawberries, I did the first test run. This was the glorious result. Soft and chewy (not light and fluffy like SAD pancakes) pancakes with a hint of maca. Stacked, on top of berries and topped with banana soft-serve ice cream. I was definitely inspired by my meal at The Naked Sprout. This version was lighter and glorious in the melting ice cream. Make no mistake, their vanilla coconut ice cream was possibly the best I have ever had.
One problem: A few days later, my pancakes didn’t look the same. I stored a bunch in the refrigerator in anticipation of not dehydrating this weekend and they turned brown. The banana had probably oxidized or something. Still delicious, they just weren’t as um, photogenic. Well, at least to me, since I know they are supposed to be a light brown colour.
In any case, strawberries are out and cherries are in, so I’ve come up with an alternate breakfast plan. Stayed tuned!
With the bright summery weather, I am thinking of doing a Raw Thursday series for the summer. A bonus recipe each week… Let me know what you think!
There is crack and then there are crack crackers.
Healthy, vegan crack.
I was honestly hooked on Mary’s Crackers for a while.
(In the US, the crackers are called Mary’s Gone Crackers for good reason!)
Then I said, enough is enough! Let me make my own
I started by making a sweet flax cracker with cinnamon and dates but wanted to tackle something savoury, too. This multiseed cracker, courtesy of Sarah, boasts not only ground flax but also hemp and chia seeds. This cracker base was great because it was so much easier to spread than the flax-only cracker. It was more airy and flaky, too, compared to the Mary’s Cracker prototype. The flavourings are, of course, up to you.
I was itching to recreate Mary’s caraway flavour, which was simple. I also made a version with za’atar that was perfect with my go-to hummus.
My favourite cracker of the bunch, so far, is this pizza cracker. I spiced them with garlic, onion, rosemary, nutritional yeast as well as red pepper paste (a roasted red pepper or tomato paste could be substituted). The slight tang from lemon juice evened out the flavours just slightly.
If I thought Mary’s Crackers were addictive, now I know making my own crackers can be equally as addictive.
What flavour will I create next?
I like Angela’s suggestion to add kelp and Herbamare. Do you have any suggestions?
Would you go to a steakhouse for an upscale vegan experience?
It seems so counter-intuitive, eh?
I was hesitant, though. Could a steakhouse really have great vegan food? It turns out that they recently hired Doug McNish, Raw Aura‘s former vegan chef that catapulted raw food into my dream books. He added a complete vegan menu at Prime, so I was confident that this would not be subpar vegan eats.
I priced out their Winterlicious menu. It turned out it was cheaper to pick from their standard vegan menu than to limit oneself to the vegan options on fixed price menu, especially since there was overlap between the options.
I opted to try the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil as a starter. It was decadent and delicious. It was also rich and filling, so I decided to pace myself and take half of it home. Rob tried the nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate but we didn’t find them that exceptional.
For our mains, I happily munched on the herbed portobello mushroom and tempeh burger which was the highlight of the night. I have never had such a flavourful veggie burger. Unfortunately, the sweet potato fries were subpar, even after I asked for fresh ones since mine were cold. They also forgot to give me the sun-dried tomato aioli, but I am glad I reminded them because it was really good with the burger.
Rob had been pining over the cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks, spiced sweet potato coconut mash, steamed greens with caramelized onion and cherry tomato relish but we both found it lackluster. I suppose we’ve been spoiled by great vegan eats from Blossom Cafe, Candle 79 and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.
For dessert, I was salivating the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis. When I packed my risotto earlier, I wanted to make room for this dessert. However, it was bad. It was uber sweet but in a dry icing sugar kind of way. Turns out, I can make a better version at home anyhow (remember those Mango Paradise Bars?)
I enjoy raw food because the flavours really pop. At Prime, although their meals are not raw, their tempeh burger had great flavours mingling together which is what captured me into the dish. Here, these mini burgers are flavoured with shiitake mushrooms, sage, rosemary, garlic with bulk from pumpkin seeds and sweet potato. They don’t require a long dehydration time since you want to maintain some moisture. Don’t have a dehydrator? I bet they could easily be baked for 15 minutes or so but I can’t say for sure.
I ate my sliders as mini sandwiches with a slice of tomato as the base, followed by a bed of alfalfa sprouts. The slider was then topped with a smear of avocado with a touch of salt. Delicious!
Did you know you can revitalize stale chips and crackers with a dehydrator? We were skeptical, but when Rob and I unearthed some stale chips we had forgotten about, we put the dehydrator to the test. After an hour at 145F, we had fresh chips once again! I guess it just goes to show you that it is the moisture that sucks the life out of stale goods.
I don’t think my mom really approved of Rob buying me a dehydrator for Christmas. Figured it would be a passing phase and end up being a dust collector.
Never fear, it is still being used for many different things, even though I haven’t shared them on the blog. I’ve become pretty adept at making apple chips, although dehydrated pineapple is quite good, too (very chewy!). My naked and maple-sweetened cranberries didn’t work out so well, unfortunately. Kale chips have also been great. Rob and I enjoying the polar opposite kinds. He loved the chocolate kale chips, whereas I preferred the Sarah’s maple sesame version. I’ve made raw chocolate macaroons and raw chocolate mint brownies with delicious results. Zucchini wraps, too.
Next up: Crackers.
Looking for a healthy dessert alternative, I decided to make cinnamon flax crackers after spotting them at Vegan Culinary Crusade. I increased the cinnamon for a bigger burst of flavour but otherwise followed her recipe. I mixed together the soaked flax seeds, water and dates in the food processor to create a thick gooey dough. Spread as thinly as possible for a crispy cracker.
Even with 1/2 cup of dates, this wasn’t a sweet cracker. But it was sweet enough to release its prowess with me. I gobbled these crackers up so quickly with their warming hug of cinnamon. I used brown flax seeds but will try golden flax seeds next time since they have a milder taste. In any case, while I originally planned to eat these for dessert, I found they paired beautifully with a butternut squash soup.
There is no television in my house.
Thus, I do not watch the food channel or other cooking shows.
It is not that I don’t need help in the kitchen, though. I am mainly a self-taught, learn by experience (and sometimes from my family/friends) kind of cook. I love cookbooks that explain and educate so that I can figure out how and when I can modify the recipe to my own tastes.
Truthfully, I still firmly believe that I don’t make anything too complicated and anyone can make the recipes on my blog. Because if I can do it, so can YOU!
Rob bought me the Cadillac, I mean Excalibur, of dehydrators for Christmas. While I quickly made some snacks and treats (apple chips, zucchini chips and kale chips, galore!), what I really wanted to make were crackers, flatbreads and wraps. After giving up refined flours, I have only enjoyed these at raw restaurants so I was itching to make them at home.
However, dehydrating is not as simple as it may seem. I made these zucchini wraps after only consulting Gena’s recipe at Choosing Raw, but it took 12 hours for them to dry and by that time, they were more chip than wrap. Tasty, but very hard to roll. So I consulted the lovely youtube and found this great tutorial. I needed some visual guidance.
It was here that I picked up some great tips. First, I was worried that my wraps were too thick, but thinner wraps would actually be more likely to break. To help dehydrate them better, I could flip the wraps over mid-way (and there is an easy way to do that with an extra tray). Lastly, the best tip I found out in this video, is that if you over-dehydrate something, you can always rehydrate it with some water!!
I thought I had zucchini flatbread, but with a brush of water, I could roll them into zucchini wraps. Therefore, I made the recipe again, this time flipping the wrap over after 3 hours. I let it dehydrate one more hour and it was finished. A little sprinkle of water is all that it needed to become pliable to roll. However, they are still delicate and there is no fancy tucking of the rolls, though. Just rolling.. At least for now, until someone teaches me otherwise.
My only new tip is that these wraps don’t keep very well once assembled. The fillings will fall out unless you wrap them in plastic/wax paper. Just as they will absorb water, they will absorb the moisture from your filling, too. Therefore, they are best eaten freshly wrapped.
These wraps have good flavour as-is: nutty from the flax with a hint of zucchini. Season it with your favourite seasonings if you want something more pronounced. I wanted my filling to shine, so I kept the wrap without extra flavours.
Currently, I am testing recipes for Terry Hope Romano’s new vegan cookbook, Vegan Eats World, and I stuffed my wraps with her filling for Rice Paper Rolls with Kale and Asian Pear with a Peanut Coconut Sauce. I can’t share the recipe, but it is delicious. Truly. One of my favourite recipes from the book so far.
Each aspect makes this wrap shine. I loved the juxtaposition of a lime-coconut-kale salad with Asian pear, packed next to some noodles, next to a spicy and creamy peanut-coconut sauce. Terry uses her peanut sauce as a dipping sauce, but I preferred it to be right inside the wrap, making it a lot less messy with my zucchini wrap. With the rice paper roll, the dipping sauce worked well, though. It really was the perfect merriment of flavours- sweet, sour, spicy, creamy. Feel free to add in some baked tofu for a complete meal.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.