Flash back two years ago and my favourite breakfast was oatmeal with ponzu sauce and flax seeds. I know it sounds like the oddest combination, but I loved it. Savoury oats for breakfast.
Yet somehow, I seemed to skip over posting my most repeated recipe in lieu of other savoury oatmeal concoctions: soy sauce and nutritional yeast, goji berries, nori and ponzu sauce and a savoury oatmeal that I would eat for dinner with vegetables, miso and nutritional yeast.
NATURALLY BREWED SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), WATER, SUGAR, VINEGAR, SALT, BONITO EXTRACT (FISH), LACTIC ACID, LEMON JUICE, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL LEMON AND ORANGE FLAVORS WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SUCCINIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SODIUM BENZOATE: LESS THAN 1/10 OF 1% AS A PRESERVATIVE.
Forget the sugar and preservatives, but it isn’t even vegan! Oopsies!
So I ventured to make my own homemade vegan ponzu sauce, without all the fluff… and the fish. My recipe is adapted from Taste of the East. The core is a base of tamari (sadly, Braggs couldn’t compete) along with juices from both lemon and lime. Yuzu is more traditional but even I can admit that I have never seen yuzu for sale. While I don’t think ponzu sauce tastes fishy, a dashi flavoured broth is created from arame and added to the ponzu. I skipped mirin, a common Japanese sweet rice wine, not only because I am challenging myself to go sweetener-free, but also because I thought it tasted fine without it. I tried it with less tamari, but found it lacking without it. Since I only use 1-2 tsp for my oatmeal, I find a little goes a long way.
While I typically eat steel-cut oats, I treated myself to some extra thick rolled oats. Pillow soft, it worked well with the ponzu sauce. More as a textural contrast, and also for its health benefits (omega 3s, lignans and fiber), I added flax seeds. I highly prefer yellow or golden flax seeds which are more mild tasting than brown flax. However, to unlock flax’s prowess, freshly grinding them is the way to go. Otherwise, they may not be absorbed at all.
Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.
It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.
I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?
In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page. I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.
This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!
When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.
I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.
What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?
PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.
Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?
Basically, not as bad as I thought.
I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.
However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!
I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.
This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.
I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.
Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus. I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day. I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.
My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post.
I’ve told you my weekly menus now revolve around a new dressing.
Now that veggies may not necessarily be at their peak, a good dressing is key to eating raw salads.
Or, once you make this dressing, you may just decide to drink it instead. Forgetting the veggies altogether.
It took me a long, long while to finally make Tess’ peanut sauce. Her recipe was daunting with the coconut milk, peanut butter and heavy use of agave. Tess’ last coconut-based sauce (the creamy Thai cilantro ginger sauce) was heavenly so I knew I should try it out. Eventually.
However, I was guarding the last of our molasses for the recipe. With my pantry purge and gusto of tackling old bookmarked recipes from October, I finally took the plunge. With less sweetener, less sodium AND using coconut beverage, we have a winner. A drinkable winner. The twist from the other peanut dressings comes from the bite from molasses and umami from the fermented black bean sauce. Use it to coat anything. Veggies, grains, beans, you name it. Here, I paired it with sliced carrots, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, julienned baby bok choy, kelp noodles and pea shoots.
I suppose this is a good time to let you all in on a challenge I started this month. A sweetener-free challenge. For 8 weeks along with Gabby and Megan. Leanne is also doing a 2-week sugar-free cleanse which is a bit too extreme for me. While I have already cut out refined sugars, I am going to limit my intake of other sweeteners, including dried fruit, maple syrup, agave and stevia. I decided to keep eating fruit that isn’t sweet (cranberries, green papaya, tamarind, etc) since they are more sour than sweet. As I work through some of my recent recipe successes, a few may still contain sweeteners which is good for those of you still using them.
Last year, I teased you. I told you about all these delicious meals I was making but not sharing the recipes.
Russian Sauerkraut Soup (Shchi) – This was a favourite recipe and Isa has already shared the recipe here (I loved the book’s smokey version with liquid smoke, coriander seitan, sliced cabbage along with I also added some white beans)
Sesame Wow Greens, a spin on oshitashi – so simple, yet a delicious way to eat spinach. I should try it with chard and kale, too.
Luscious White Bean and Celery Root Puree – this was how I got hooked onto celeriac!
Rice Paper Rolls with Kale and Asian Pear with a Peanut Coconut Sauce – delicious in a zucchini wrap
Fastlane Cabbage Kimchi – I preferred the ginger version instead of the spicy version (did you know that kimchi normally has fish sauce or shrimp in it?)
White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano – the topping is what made this dish special
All of the recipes were from Terry Hope Romero’s new book, Vegan Eats World which is available today! And those were only a few of the recipes, since I tested over 30. This is a vegan cookbook geared at international cuisine, from Colombian Coconut Lentil Rice to Moroccan Vegetable Filo Pie (Bisteeya) and (Belgian) Beer Bathed Seitan Stew with Oven Frites (the latter were two of my recipe requests!). Terry tackled fun recipes from around the globe. She uses authentic ingredients while still putting her own spin to the dish.
One of the drawbacks of this cookbook is that she uses authentic ingredients. My cupboard explosion is partially due to Terry’s influence when I bought frozen pandan, Korean pepper flakes, canned jackfruit, freekeh and annatto seeds, among others. I can credit her with discovering many new favourite ingredients, too, including star anise, celeriac and freekeh.
As a recipe tester, I received my cookbook last week. It was captivating to read through the cookbook and discover even more recipes I want to try. There were so many recipes I couldn’t test them all.
Recipes in her book range from fancy to easy weeknight meals. Some are more involved (she has recipes for Afghan Pumpkin Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Garlic Yogurt Sauce) or incredibly easy (like Coconut [Black Eyed] Bean Curry (Lobia). The marker of a good cookbook, though, is having repeater recipes. I even photographed this one before when we made it with red lentils instead of green. Lover of all things curry, Rob has adopted this into his Repeater Recipes as a quick and simple meal both of us enjoy. We may have moved across town, from one Little Ethiopia to another, so we have easy access to injera. Terry also has a recipe for (Almost) Instant Injera, along with other dishes to make your own Ethiopian feast.
While I encourage you to pick up your own copy of Vegan Eats World, thankfully, Terry agreed to me sharing her recipe for Ethiopian Lentils in Berbere Sauce (Yemiser W’et) and Berbere Spice Blend. Enjoy!
Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!
Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.
This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.
This post is dedicated to my Mom.
Whenever we chat on the phone, she likes to ask me how I am doing eating through my pantry. Are you still eating all your noodles? What about your beans?
I’ve tried to reassure her that yes, we are eating through our pantry. I am still eating through my kelp noodles, my collection of beans and polishing off assorted grains like millet. She just might not be able to tell from my blog posts. Not everything makes it to the blog and sometimes it can take a while for me to put together a proper post (backlog!).
So here we go: photographic proof we’re eating the soba noodles, too. OK, Rob is eating the soba noodles.
Never doubt a Tess recipe. Here we have soba noodles that are smothered in a bright, tangy, zesty and most importantly delicious chili-lime dressing. The dressing has mostly raw ingredients, like garlic and cilantro that complement the heat from the sriracha, ginger and green onion and the sour from the fresh lime juice. A little sweetness goes a long way in balancing the flavours from the agave.
As with most dressings, feel free to add any vegetables you desire. I just photographed the base noodles, but it was served with pan-fried tofu and eggplant, since they were lingering in the fridge. Somehow the addition of eggplants didn’t make for a very photogenic dish, but Mom, believe me that we had some veggies and protein with this meal.
While I don’t share all my meals with you, I still photograph the majority of my meals if convenient. A quick run upstairs, snap a few photos, and then eat away. Sometimes I kick myself for not having taken a photo, especially if I eat it all before I have a second chance, which is why I try to photograph my meals.
The real conundrum is whether to photograph the meals that Rob makes. Not because I don’t like to post his meals (I do), but sometimes the meals aren’t what I like, or don’t use ingredients that I eat, etc, but importantly, I may not be around to snap the photo.
When Rob made these udon noodles with a spicy peanut
-hoisin sauce (he forgot to add the hoisin sauce, oops!), we deliberated. Did I want to take some photos? Is it blog worthy, I asked? How does it taste? Is it spicy? There’s a 1 tbsp of sriracha in it, gosh, I’d never do that!
Initially, he thought he preferred his other udon noodle dish with a miso sauce, but happily munched away. I tasted some of the broccoli and tofu smothered in the peanut sauce. Delicious. I ate some more. Not really that spicy, totally Janet friendly. The sweetness from the agave and the peanut butter lend a helping hand to the subtle heat from the sriracha. The vinegar adds the sour dimension. And while Rob forgot to add the hoisin sauce, it tasted like it had already been added anyhow.
As you can tell, I then ran upstairs to photograph a bowl of delicious noodles. While we have yet to see whether this will truly be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, I can safely assure you that we both liked this dish. I may whip out the kelp noodles to make the peanut sauce again! And when Rob makes the udon with miso sauce again, I’ll try to grab some pics, too.
I know it is fall.
I unearthed my long pants to cycle to work last week. I now don full-fingered gloves as well as my cycling hat.
But, it isn’t fall until the winter squashes come out. And the apples.
I have been relishing in the end-of-summer produce for the past few weeks. Tomatoes. Green beans. Beets. I bought some squashes but have yet to cook with them. I also got some canned pumpkin and resisted the onslaught of all things pumpkin. Until now.
Maybe I can blame it on the equinox?
Now that I’ve started, I don’t think it will stop. Not only because I have to plow through the monster of a pumpkin can but because I have found a glorious way to enjoy pumpkin.
In my morning brew.
I love my tea and usually enjoy a nice cup in the morning. Technically, I enjoy tisanes because I prefer herbal-based blends. I like rooibos but have started to shun all things with black teas. My favourite tea remains a chai-based concoction and surprisingly, I have yet to create my own home-grown spice medley. No better time than to start today with this cup.
Savoury spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom mellow nicely with the pumpkin with the peppercorns and ginger offering a nice kick of spice. I used pumpkin butter (from Trader Joe’s) as my sweetener but I look forward to fiddling with this for a less sweetened version. In any case, this was so good I had to share the recipe immediately.
I am also excited to make this pumpkin chili with the leftover pumpkin puree! It was so good last year!
I discovered where I inherited my veggie-loving genes.
You see, it skipped a generation.
I recently visited my grandparents. Not wanting to burden my grandmother with worrying about what I was going to eat, I took charge and delved into her kitchen to see what I could make….. While she typically makes traditional German food, I was delighted to discover she also had glass jars filled with oodles of dry beans, dried fruit, and whole grains (quinoa, millet, barley, rolled oats), a freezer filled with nuts and seeds, a pantry with tamari (my grandmother has tamari?!) and even things I have never eaten like Brewer’s yeast and soy lecithin. I almost forgot she also had a 20-year old juicer!!
My meal of the weekend was a double batch of my easy Curried Beans and Quinoa with Baby Bok Choy which was enjoyed by all.
However, my culinary bliss came when I juiced to my heart’s content. I juiced oodles of carrots, beets, apples, ginger and lemon to create the perfect breakfast juice. My first version had a strong kick from the ginger, but I held back on later versions.
All this juicing meant that I had lots of juice pulp. While my grandmother usually enriches her compost with the pulp, I wanted to make something a bit more
creative edible with the leftovers.
With my leftover carrot pulp, I decided to make raw carrot cake cupcakes. Super simple, no dehydrator needed, it was uncanny how they tasted like an even better traditional carrot cake. I don’t even like traditional carrot cake since it is typically a heavy and dense cake with little flavour. However, simply blend together carrots, walnuts, dates and raisins with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and you have a flavourful no-cook dessert. Moist and flavourful. Top it with the cashew-date frosting, and you have one sinfully delicious dessert. Way too addictive to keep in your fridge, if I may caution you in advance.
Even if you don’t have a juicer, do not fret. I am definitely going to try this again with grated carrots with the extra water squished out because I don’t have my own juicer.
I made some raw juice pulp crackers with the pulp from the beets, apples, and ginger. With a touch of curry powder, they were oddly good. More like a thin bread than a cracker, but still good.
This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by A.B.C, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Potluck Party for Kid Friendly Foods and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
This week I have been addicted to peanut butter.
I made this peanut butter banana smoothie until we ran out of ingredients. First I ran out of frozen bananas, and found out that ice + fresh bananas are truly sub-par substitutes. Next, I ran out of peanut butter, too. I considered making my own homemade peanut butter, but gosh, I am out of peanuts, too. That’s when my addiction stopped. I had to stop cold turkey. It was probably for the better of us both.
Thankfully, I made this salad earlier in the week and have been enjoying it ever since.
Sweet mangoes and sugar snap peas are paired with a tangy, acidic (in a good way) peanut dressing, spiced with green onions and tossed overtop peppery Asian baby greens (bring on the mizuna!). I also added kelp noodles, to add a bit more bulk. They are great additions to salads since they don’t slurp up the extra dressing. I liked that the vinegar in the dressing made this quite a light peanut dressing. I normally pair coconut milk with my peanut dressings, so this was a nice change. Light and refreshing, yet still substantial. Perfect to eat during this hot summer.
It might not seem like it, but sometimes I can be lazy.
In the morning, while rushing out to the gym, I might have 30-45 minutes where I munch on some fruit, drink some tea (if I am lucky) and gather my breakfast and lunch (and sometimes my dinner, too) for the road.
I have all the right intentions for eating salads, but come a rushed morning, the last thing I want to do is rinse and spin my greens and chop some veggies.
I now have the ultimate solution: pre-chopped salads ready to go in a Mason jar!
How does my summer slip away so fast? I feel like all my weekends have all been pre-booked with very little downtime this summer. Between 5 weddings (3 out-of-town), cycling to Niagara Falls, travelling for a conference and a music festival (more about that one later!), Rob and I have barely spent much time relaxing over the weekends. Always on the go. Plus, my new rotation this month has a 1-hour cycling commute each way. I come home a tired puppy.
As such, I haven’t really been doing my “cook for the week” thing on the weekends. Instead, I am cooking up quick weekday meals. Almost like a normal person. However, I still eat leftovers for dinner as soon as I come home from work. The new meal is for tomorrow’s leftover dinner!
I am still on my Thai-kick and decided to combine two of my recipes into one stellar quickie dinner. Instead of a complex coconut-based salad dressing from my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans, use the coconut milk as a base for simmering vegetables with Thai flavours. You could go all decadent and use full-fat coconut milk from a can, but I used the stuff from a carton again after it worked well with the coconut-braised collards. This is a very flexible recipe, so work with what you have to make this a quick dinner.
Go all out with Thai ingredients like shallots, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, or use onion, lime zest and skip the lemongrass instead. I used sweet basil but Thai basil would be more authentic, although with that terrible licorice flavour. Use whatever vegetables you have, and feel free to add tofu or tempeh, too. I used broccoli and carrots with great results and served it overtop some cooked quinoa to sop up the delicious sauce. Using the beverage coconut milk makes this a lighter sauce that is still packed with flavour from the aromatics. It balances the sour, sweet and hot nicely while served on top of crisp vegetables. Authentic or not, it definitely tastes great. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays.
Let me share with you the best way to travel.
I am not talking about priceline or other websites which have lower prices on hotels. Been there, done that. I have never liked hotels, anyways. Without a kitchen and other homely accessories, I still feel out of my element.
Last week, I was in Calgary for a conference. Fortuitously, only half the cost of the hotel room would be covered by my employer, and I could not find another person to share a room. So I looked for alternatives.
I discovered Air BnB (and no, I get nothing to shamelessly promote this). A site where people rent out their homes just like a hotel room. Granted, each listing is bound to be different, but I really lucked out in Calgary. For half the price of the conference hotel room, I rented out an entire 2 bedroom bungalow that was not too far from downtown. It had a well-stocked kitchen, a living room complete with board games and oodles of books to read, if I actually had the time. Of course, I was drawn to the kitchen, so I could easily whip up my routine breakfast oatmeal and other healthy meals. With an Asian grocer a few blocks away, I had access to cheap groceries as well.
While I think of travel as a vacation from blogging as well, I was wrong. I desperately wanted to share some of the quick and easy meals that I pulled together. I brought quinoa with me so that I could turn any vegetable stir fry into a quick main meal but I ended up going more elaborate with this curried tomato and kidney bean bowl. The results were worth it and have already been incorporated into repeater meals in my own kitchen.
The ingredients seem so simple, so the bulk of flavour comes from the high quality curry powder. When I spotted a local Artisan curry powder (Bridget’s) at Community Natural Foods, it was then that I decided to make this. Shallots (or onions), ginger and garlic are sautéed and added to the curry powder. A can of tomatoes turns this into a great sauce that simmers with some kidney beans and quinoa. I added chopped baby bok choy for some greenery and crunch. Susan originally made this as a lettuce wrap with chickpeas. I have since made this since my return with chickpeas and more quinoa; it is a very forgiving recipe. Like most curries, this was great as leftovers. And yes, I was thrilled that my kitchen in Calgary also had plastic containers for me to tote my meals to the conference.
Who would have thought I’d eat so well away from home?
Cilantro, you either love it or hate it.
As you may have figured out, I am in the cilantro-loving camp.
On the theme of delicious sauces, this one is definitely a keeper. I shouldn’t have doubted it for a second, as it comes courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution.
Originally, I made a half recipe. Trust me, I was kicking myself. I slurped up nearly a quarter of the sauce just “sampling it” with some crackers, it was that good. I had to make it again, it was that awesome!
Cilantro is the major flavour in the sauce, with hits from the ginger, garlic, basil and fresh lime juice. The peanut butter and light coconut milk make this a creamy sauce which balances the bold flavours nicely.
So, what to do with it once you’ve licked your fingers clean a few hundred times? Textured crackers work well, too, although this is more of a sauce than a dip. The sauce would work well overtop vegetables with your favourite grain, too.
To get a bit more fancy, Tess had 2 recipes in her book using this sauce.
The first recipe was for Thai shiitake-basil spring rolls using this as the dip. I ended up making collard wraps with the same filling substituting kelp noodles, drizzling the sauce inside and around the wraps. The fresh herbs and veggies, along with the sauteed shiitakes worked well. The star was definitely the dipping sauce.
The next recipe I loved was the “Sexy Saucy Noodles“. Broccoli, mushrooms and edamame are sauteed in toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Throw in your noodles of choice (I used kelp noodles but soba would work well here) and douse heavily with the sauce. Stir to combine. Garnish with carrots, sprouts, fresh herbs, etc. Delicious. The sauce isn’t as strong, but the flavours are great.
For maximum dip enjoyment: Lick your fingers.