I don’t know about you, but sometimes I reflect on where I have been and I wonder how I managed to pull through. How did I manage to survive 4 years of medical school? Nearly 5 years of residency? Cycle between Ottawa and Kingston and back again? In the thick of it: I don’t think, I just perform.
During medical school, for the first two years, I routinely had lectures from 8am to 5pm every day, interspersed with small group sessions, anatomy labs and clinical skills workshops. Even when I go to conferences, I don’t subject myself to 9 hours of lectures in a day. It is just nuts. However, this weekend I sat through 3 days of intense review-type lectures. Rapid fast compressed learning, except it was more of a reminder of things I already knew. However, after 10 hours of lectures on Saturday, and a lengthy 3 hour drive home (thank you Toronto traffic), I was positively pooped. The next day, too. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook… it was that bad. I ended up sleeping at 8pm.
Meals stashed in the freezer are a definite boon these days. However, I find cooking therapeutic. A way to destress as I chop and julienne vegetables, stirring patiently as I saute onions or peacefully munch through the leftovers.
When I finally made it back into the kitchen, instead of reinventing the wheel, I revamped an old favourite. This is a variation of my Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry. Same flavours, mostly different vegetables. Turns out the original recipe called for winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. My first incarnation included parsnips, carrots, green beans, oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard; basically the odds and ends in my fridge. This time, I included thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, carrots and parsnips: the current odds and ends in my fridge. The hardest part is chopping all the vegetables, but a quick saute in the wok yields a flavourful meal from the Chinese five spice. I use kelp noodles, which I like in Asian stir fries, but feel free to use your favourite noodle. Gena recently wrote a great post all about kelp noodles if you have yet to try them. I am already imagining my next incarnation, likely including edamame.
What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.
- Painted Fruit
- Raw Berry Jam
- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt
- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup
- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble
- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp
- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese
- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens
- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo
- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust
- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach
Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win!
This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).
Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!
Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.
Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.
PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!
I am really impressed by British/Irish chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi, Denis Cotter and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had never heard of him before I saw praise for his new vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Everyday Veg.
What I love most about these chefs is that they turn humble vegetables into something extraordinary. First, I tried Hugh’s quinoa salad with caramelized onions and zucchini that was a sleeper hit. I loved the sweetness from such simple ingredients. Then there was the Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili which used red wine with zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes to make a savoury chili.
Tell me which vegetable you like the least. Probably something local that comes up in overabundance in the summer. You can tolerate it in moderation, but week after week of the same vegetables can get boring. I would probably pick green beans. While I have made some great dishes with them, I don’t find them that versatile. Zucchini, on the other, doesn’t taste like much, but can be used in so many creative ways.
I was drawn to make Hugh’s tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes as a spotlight to local, seasonal ingredients. I wasn’t sure it would be a filling meal, but green beans are beans and along with the lemon-tahini dressing, this voluminous salad was perfect.
While this may seem initially like a finicky salad, look at it as a main course to soothe your qualms. Relish in cooking each component to bring out its best: lightly sear the zucchini until golden, then dress in some lemon juice and chile flakes. Steam your green beans until tender crisp. Plate on top of your favourite baby greens, sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drizzle with your dressing. The dressing is nice and light, without being too oily or heavy (I reduced the oil and sugar since I used Meyer lemons). Enjoy this best as a warm salad directly after preparing it. Leftovers are nice cold when slathered in the dressing.
There is nothing like a move to show you how much stuff you have. One thing I have plenty of are beans. Common beans like chickpeas and lentils but also a multitude of heirloom beans. I bought a bunch of beans during my first trip to NYC, but they seemed too pretty to eat. Now I am on a mission, though… eat through my beans throughout the year.
Trust me, it wasn’t that I wasn’t eating my beans before. My white bean of choice this winter were the Yellow Eye Beans from Rancho Gordo (they held their shape wonderfully in two soups and were nice and creamy in the Moroccan phyllo triangles). I also tried out Marrow beans, which supposedly have a bacon taste but it was really subtle. They worked nice pureed in my High-protein Alfredo sauce as well as in soups.
As I said, I have a few pinto beans in my stash, so I was tickled pink when Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pinto Bean Chili was my Random Recipe this month. I didn’t have many cookbooks to randomly pick at the beginning of the month due to the move, but since I already had River Cottage Veg Every Day! out, I picked that as my book. As it is a library book, I didn’t want it to be lost in the shuffle of the move! Once I selected a cookbook, the task was to cook the first or last recipe. I zoomed to the front of the cookbook. The first 2 recipes were not vegan (Aubergine Parmigiana, Chachouka), but the third recipe, and the first vegan one, was this Pinto Bean Chili. Once I finally made it to the grocery store, I was all set to try my heirloom pinto beans.
The heirloom pinto bean of choice: Appaloosa beans. Named after the colourfully dappled horse, these are incredibly pretty beans. At least before they have been cooked. Like the anasazi beans, they lost their vibrant colours after cooking. They keep their shape well and don’t have any strong flavours. They worked well in this summer chili with zucchini, red pepper and tomato. The red wine brought a robust depth of flavour and the summer flavours really shined through. I used Aleppo chile flakes as well as green chiles and this was perfectly spiced for me. A bit of spice that was cooled by the avocado. Want more heat? Add to taste… or use cayenne as written in the original recipe.
This is my submission to Random Recipes this month, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks Veggie Heaven, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not if you are Rob and me.
We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)
Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.
One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.
I say: BRING IT ON!
While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan. Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.
Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.
In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.
But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)
Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?
A new home; a new 5 keys.
Trust me, I am not complaining about now having a garage. Although 5 keys is certainly overwhelming. First front door, second front door, rear door, garage door and garage.
While we are still unpacking boxes, and likely will for many weeks, the kitchen is functional. The bedroom is almost unpacked (minus my clothes) and we have no idea what to with ourselves now that we have 3 bathrooms.
In any case, while Rob and I have moved many, many times before, this is the first time we hired movers. So completely worth it. Our friends and family must think so, as well. Our movers were work horses: incredibly strong, super fast while still being very gentle. One of the movers relished telling me a new joke every time he saw me. If anyone needs cheap, efficient movers in the GTA, shoot me an email and I’ll give you their contact info.
While there are many great things about our new place, we are kind of sad we don’t have a basement. You can really scurry things out of sight and mind, so our move forced Rob and I to go through another round of purging and incidentally, discover new things, as well. Rob had some pretty bowls (and pretty chopsticks!) hidden in the basement that I unearthed! I also didn’t know that I had so many packages of kelp noodles. I knew I had bought a case (or two) when they went on sale, but looks like a lot more noodles once I take them out of the case.
For one of my first meals in the new home, I decided to break in the kitchen with a quick and easy stir fry. I also inadvertently christened the kitchen by setting off the smoke alarm. I swear, there was nothing burning! I will have to be careful to not wake up my neighbors. I adapted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Winter Stir Fry with Chinese Five Spice to what I had left in my vegetable crisper. Winter root vegetables are fabulous for keeping so long, but it felt nice to use up the remainder of my root veggies, along with some spring veggies. Goodbye winter, hello spring.
The heart of this stir fry is the Chinese Five Spice powder, which stems from the heart of Szechuan cooking. It is aromatic and savoury, composed of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. A seven spice blend may also include ginger and black peppercorns. A complex spice blend, a little goes a long way and really shines here.
Throw in your own favourite vegetables with some noodles and then toss with a sake, tamari and Chinese five spice dressing. The drizzle of lime at the ends adds the perfect acidic balance to the veggie-centric meal. Feel like more protein? Add some tofu or tempeh. Me? My pantry is all cleaned out of tofu!
While I had been working through my pantry prior to this move, I plan on eating through the remainder over the next year before our BIG move to the US. Expect to see more recipes with kelp noodles! What are your favourite ways of eating them?
Here are a few other recipes with Chinese Five Spice:
Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash from Appetite for Reduction
Fluffy Sesame Baked Tofu from Sprint 2 the Table
Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu from Vegetarian Times
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles with Broccoli from Serious Eats
Smoky Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice from Vegan with a Vengeance
Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes from Post Punk Kitchen
Chinese Five Spice Miso Soup with Shitakes and Edamame from Florida Coastal Cooking
Star Anise-Glazed Tempeh with Stir-Fried Peppers from Joanne Eats Well With Others