I don’t know what is in the air. I assure you, it was not weather-related. No snow or ice around here.
Between myself and my sister-in-law, we have a veritable collection of injuries: 2 sprained knees and 1 sprained (or broken, we’re not sure) toe. Sadly, it was me with both knees sprained. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for my sister-in-law, sprained and broken toes are treated the same way.
Also sad is that I have not yet come up with a sexy story to explain my bilaterally braced knees. NOT MY BIKE, thankyouverymuch. In any case, each day is getting better.
I followed my mnemonic from medical school: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. (Of course, after a free consultation from my trauma surgeon friend to confirm my suspicions nothing was broken). And of course: anti-inflammatories for pain management. Turns out there is a modified mnemonic for that inclusion: PRINCE, including P for protection and N for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I like it!
Serendipitously, I also happened to make the perfect “anti-inflammatory” soup a few days before I went down. A warming soup filled with cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and tofu. Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, added a lot of flavour. It was perfect to help me recover.
There is evidence fruits and vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties and the reasons are multi-factorial. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salicylates, the compound found in aspirin. This explains why vegetarians have naturally occurring salicylate levels in their blood, albeit not likely therapeutic. While I have heard of people shunning “nightshade” vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, because they are “pro-inflammatory”, I have not found any solid scientific evidence to support hiding from the nightshades. (If you know of any articles, please share!).
Anyways, this soup. Delicious. Not too spicy although this soup was a bit of a mystery to me. When I ate it right after making it, it was the perfect level of spice. I added the kimchi to taste, obviously. However, the soup was pretty bland as leftovers. The chiles had mellowed! To ramp the flavour back up, I added fresh kimchi to each subsequent serving. Definitely add to taste. Enjoy!
We had our first visitors last week. My parents made the brave trek down to Houston.
I say brave because just before they arrived, we were hovering around 2-5 C in the morning in Houston. It was cold. I had to break out my pants.
Thank goodness Houston redeemed its hot, humid self, so my parents could relish instead in highs of 28C, feels like 38C weather! Rob and I have become accustomed to Houston’s weather, positively smitten by the nice weather. Instead, my parents melted under their jeans. I understand. I was there. Except in July, it was 38C, feels like 48C!
We had a hard time recommending tourist things in Houston, so instead, we treated them to a typical week in the life of Houston-bound Rob-and-Janet.
On the weekend, we started it off by buying cheap produce at our favourite fruit and vegetable wholesaler. I usually beeline it to the stands with the cheaper produce, but I think my Dad had fun haggling his way to a $7 case of 24 Ataulfo mangoes (they couldn’t go any lower right now, they explained, since it isn’t high season).
Next up, was the Mexican bakery across the street where we picked up the highly coveted tres leches cakes*, fresh tortillas, and other Mexican baked goods. My friend has been on a quest to find the best tres leches cake in Houston and this is his pick. My parents never knew Mexican sweets were so awesome.
*Note: While this tres leches cake is definitely not vegan, we have found a nice vegan tres leches cake, too.
Our subsequent stop was at my favourite Trader Joe’s, where we sampled all 3 cookie butters before deciding which one to bring home. My Dad picked the smooth version. Who knew grocery shopping could be so much fun. An employee snuck in a souvenir Houston-themed Trader Joe’s bag into my Mom’s arms, congratulating her on visiting the store with us.
And lastly, since we had too much fun shopping and became hungry, we decided to have an early lunch for some quick dosas.
Sunday was our standard biking morning, when my Dad joined us cycling for cronuts while my Mom relaxed at home. We went out for a Mexican fusion vegan brunch but Rob treated us to his specialty later: chilla, Indian chickpea pancakes.
During our kimchi phase, Rob quickly figured out that kimchi worked really well in chilla. Basically it is pre-seasoned cabbage which makes it easier to add to the batter. Rob also likes to add other random vegetables, like tomatoes and spinach, but this version was just with kimchi. Easy, peasy. A dollop of mayonnaise and more kimchi as a nod to our favourite sweet potato and kimchi poutine but I ate it without it and it was still delicious.
Weather prevented us from hiking Brazos Bend together on the weekend, but my parents made their own trip there together while Rob and I worked during the week. They also toured Galveston and the Johnson Space Center (NASA), the most touristy thing they experienced.
And just like that, my parents are back in Canada. We had a few more ideas up our sleeves, but time was too short. A quick visit but we showed them exactly why we like Houston so much. Here’s to seeing them again in the summer as they want to return before we leave. Any favourite spots we still need to check out and share with them?
This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.
As I shared earlier, slowly, Rob and I are exploring different ethnic grocers in Houston. Each weekend, we have been heading to a new place. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, though.
We wanted to go to Little India but everything was closed when we were there early in the morning (yes, we are the early birds). Chinatown was our alternate choice. Since it is more of a big box store Chinatown that necessitates driving between stores, the dilemma was figuring out which grocer to hit up first. I had 3 stores starred. I picked the one that we knew was open early, the one that also happened to be the closest and the one that had great online reviews.
The parking lot was empty but we ventured in. Let’s just say it was a sad store. I picked up some snow peas and bean sprouts. We left a bit sad. I always gauge a store by the state of their produce. I was hoping for better quality produce and to be honest, much cheaper prices. Whole Foods was better priced, which doesn’t say much.
Uncertain what the rest of Chinatown would hold, we figured we would check out another grocer. The next on the list was Welcome. This time, though, the parking lot was nearly already packed for an early Saturday morning. Definitely a better sign. Their produce section was busy with so many people, snapping up the best produce, clamouring for the cases of mangos or picking the best greens. Good prices and good quality. Now I was a happy camper! Chinatown had been vindicated.
I still had the snow peas and bean sprouts which Rob and I put to good use by making pad thai. I was the sous chef as Rob made pad thai for me, complete with kelp noodles and snow peas. He slipped the fresh pad thai onto my plate. It was so pretty, I had to take a photo.
I don’t photograph many dishes twice. Especially if it is a regular in our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s because we had a new brand (Swad) and it doesn’t seem as potent as what we were used to (Tamicon or the blue top one). This version turned out so well though, so if you prefer things less tart, try to find this brand of tamarind. Otherwise, 3 tbsp of concentrate may be tamarind overload!
Do you re-photograph your pretty meals?
First there was the Toronto flood.
And now there’s the heat wave.
Your heat wave is my new normal. Although last week was actually quite mild. Lots of rain meant the temps were only peaking at 85-90F (29-32C) (before humidex, add another 10 degrees please). Whereas in Canada, you can boast about the amount of snow you endure, in Houston, it is the heat. Although, to be honest, it is not as bad as I feared. Why? Because biking is better. Working long hours. And a/c is everywhere. Yes, my long working hours mean that I cycle to work before the sun is shining too brightly and my commute home is after the mad rush from the Texas Medical Center. I swear, a leisurely bike ride is better than walking in hot weather since you make your own wind. I basically meander from one building with a/c to another with a/c (on really hot days my car’s a/c has trouble keeping up, though). And drink lots of (flavoured) water. I also have not been cooking too much. Eating, yes. Cooking, no. Salads, yes. Lots and lots of veggies. Even though my home has a/c, I do not feel like turning on the oven too often.
Raw food for the win! Simple raw food for the win.
Chutneys can be really spicy or ookey sweet. Neither which really appeal to me. I’ve made a simpler fresh mango chutney, paired with mung beans, but this time I focused a bit more on the chutney as a vector for flavour. Mango, red pepper, ginger, onions, chile flakes, curry powder and even raisins. Apple cider vinegar gives you the tang you associate with traditional chutneys. Use it as a dip, a salad topper or on top of your favourite curry. Whatever you pick, it is quite refreshing.
What are your favourite ways to beat the heat? (more…)
Of my blog readers, only a handful are from my family. Rob and my Mom are my biggest readers.
So, when I say something here, I am held accountable.
When we planned our move to Houston, I said we were going to try a minimalist lifestyle. I was going to leave my dehydrator behind. But then, I kept making more and more things in my dehydrator. I had forgotten how lovely it was to make things in the dehydrator.
I also forgot that I wasn’t going to let life pass me by, either. We are planning to camp in the desert (via Burning Man), continue the long distance cycling (via the MS 150, Houston to Austin) and hopefully squeeze in weekend trips (sadly, my vacation days have dwindled down to nothing). It is times like these that portable snacks work their magic.
So, as we packed, I kept reconsidering whether or not to bring my dehydrator. To be fair, it is a space hog, but it is light. It is mostly filled with air!
Rob was not pleased, though. You said on your blog, you weren’t going to bring it.. I have changed my mind! I kept saying things like, “If I had to choose between x and the dehydrator, I choose the dehydrator.” Example: “If I had to choose between pictures for the wall and my dehydrator, I’d pick the dehydrator… and I bet we could fit the pictures inside the dehydrator, too! HA!”
Eventually, Rob had heard enough. After I made these kale chips, he definitely reconsidered his position. Thankfully, I did a mass kale harvest prior to our move. These were one of our favourite kale chip flavours. I thought they tasted like Sour Cream and Onion, with a touch of cheese, if you include the nutritional yeast. One of our friends agreed they were delicious but tasted more of the scallion undertone. Either way, it made a believer out of me for the power of kale chips. Hourrah!
The question will be whether I can keep up with the kale chip demand, though. We can plow through them so quickly!
Kale chips, here and elsewhere:
Maple Sesame Kale Chips from My New Roots (one of my favourites)
Chocolate Kale Chips from Cupcakes and Kale (Rob likes these more than me; I actually don’t like them)
Sweet and Zesty Kale Chips from Season 2 Season Eating
Sweet Onion Kale Chips from Flora Foodie
Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips from Branny Boils Over
Dill Pickle Kale Chips at Sondi Bruner
Spicy Curry Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
Banana Walnut Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
(No, nothing on the relationship front..)
While I modestly shared the news of passing the.most.important.exam.of.my.life, I figure you guys may be more excited about this news: my photos are in a cookbook! In Tess‘ newest cookbook, no less. I am not sure what was more exciting: new Tess recipes or being a published foodie photographer? (I choose the former, actually)
In Tess’ latest cookbook, Get Waisted, she has teamed up with Dr. Mary Clifton, to create 100 delicious, healthy recipes. She has included healthy modifications to older recipes and all-new favourites. Bean and rice coconut banana curry, Black bean and rice bowl with mango salsa, Japanese ume rice, Lemon lover’s red lentil spinach soup, Mexican polenta bowl, Pasta caulifredo, Rosemary polenta with mushrooms, Samosa wrap with cilantro chutney, Spicy Indian chickpea fritters.. ok, ok, I will stop the temptation. You can find all of the recipes on Vegansprout if you are curious. Suffice it to say, the recipes are creative and drool-worthy. And I photographed a handful of them.
One of the recipes Tess included is one of my favourites from her first book: Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad. I routinely make it, changing ingredients, matching what I have in my kitchen.
This time, I swapped the black beans for chickpeas; the mango juice for pineapple juice; swapped the corn for more carrots and scrapped the spinach altogether. Combined with the sweet dried apricots and cilantro-ginger spiked dressing, you have a delicious summer bean salad. Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy.. It is really hard to mess it up.
The photos in the cookbook are true to the recipe, thus you won’t see this in there. Trust me, I tried. Tess, I just made your salad with pecans instead of walnuts.. can’t you just change your recipe?…. NO GO FROM TESS! You will see this salad, in its many incarnations this summer, though. Perfect for potlucks and summer gatherings. Especially if Houston’s weather is as hot and humid as I fear. Last I checked, there were highs of 35C, feels like 45C with a 50% humidity. This is no heat wave. This.Is.Houston. It will soon become my new reality. GAH! I am sweating just thinking about it. I may not be turning on my oven or stove very often, methinks.
Have you tried any of Tess’ recipes yet? This cookbook would be a great place to start. You can buy it directly from Tess here (discounts if you buy more than one cookbook) or on Amazon (kindle and hard copy).
Is it harder to get kids or adults to try new foods?
I am not a parent yet, but I know I was a pretty picky eater as a child. I was definitely better at eating my fruits and veggies than my brother, but we both drove our Mom crazy.
Now the roles are reversed. I am the one eating so many different foods and sharing them with my parents.
Quinoa, possibly my favourite (pseudo)grain, has been a hard sell for my parents. To be fair, in Ottawa, the quinoa never seemed to cook properly. It was mushy and water-logged. I don’t know what was so different but it was a recurring theme. I recommended my standard technique: using less liquid (broth is more flavourful) and then let it sit, lid closed, to steam and help fluff it up. Another option (albeit more fussy) is to partially cook it, drain it and then steam the quinoa.
I thought my Mom had given up on quinoa altogether. I was surprised when I spotted quinoa in her pantry.
Turns out she had finally found a recipe she liked after my sister-in-law served it. Lucky for me, my Mom decided to treat me to her new favourite quinoa recipe.
The main flavours were classic: lemon and thyme. The difference was in the quinoa. First it was rinsed, dried, toasted, cooked in a minimal amount of broth and then steamed with a towel. I typically use a 1.75:1 broth:quinoa ratio but this was much closer to 1:1. This results in no-mush quinoa. The kernels are separate and flavourful. Due to the limited liquid, you might notice they do not become as big and not as voluminous. They are also not water-logged.
I like to include a lot of vegetables in my meals, so instead of adding them directly to the quinoa pilaf, I served mine with grilled asparagus and grilled balsamic mushrooms. My Dad, very generously, donated cut-up asparagus as pupils and a uni-nostril to complete my happy meal. He is not a fan of asparagus, so I gladly ate his offering. Maybe we are all picky kids at heart?
Did you have any rough starts with some foods in your kitchen?
PS, I think I may need new glasses. These photos look fuzzy. Oh well, too lazy to fix that!
The dehydrator and juicer are now out in full force.
Carrots for juice and then the pulp was made into these lovely raw falafels.
I know, I said I don’t like raw Mediterranean eats. While I like Middle Eastern foods, I don’t like falafels.
However, I loved these raw carrot falafels.
Probably because they don’t taste like real falafels. And they don’t use raw chickpeas, either.
In any case, they taste great.
Carrots (or carrot pulp) is combined with sesame seeds along with lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and green onions for a flavour punch. Dehydrate them for 4 hours and you’ve got some soft and moist falafels without the heaviness from typical deep-dried falafel balls.
I combined the falafels with my favourite Middle Eastern-tahini dressing to date. Hummus-style with additional lemon juice, tamari and tahini. I originally used it in my Chickpea and Tofu Tahini Scramble but found the flavours mellowed after cooking on the stovetop. However, I stuck my finger in first to see how it tasted. I knew it would be a great dressing/dip and it did not disappoint.
I originally served the falafels and dressing as a salad overtop greens, but they also went really well in a green wrap with a bed of raw cauliflower couscous.
You know how bloggers tend to post holiday dishes before the actual holiday? Do you think they make the same dish for the real holiday? Or make something new?
Me: a little from column A and a little from column B. Cooking for me, column B the majority of the time. For guests, perhaps some from column A.
For Cinco de Mayo, I shared my Mexican Chili Salad Wraps the week before. Rob celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a lovely corn and avocado salsa and oodles of other Mexican treats. No salad wraps. Except that was on May 4. On May 5, Rob and I actually went out for Thai food to celebrate a friend’s birthday (they actually had a few vegan options -youpee!).
But then, after seeing others share their Mexican eats, I had a craving for more Mexican. Post-Cinco.
Flipping through Bittman’s latest cookbook, VB6: Vegan Before 6:00 (good review of the cookbook here), I knew exactly what I was drawn to: black bean tacos with a tangy cabbage slaw. I had my mango “taco” wraps ready to go. I love all things “tangy” especially if it means lots of citrus juice (lime!). And well, beans, oh yes. I have used black beans in many Mexican dishes, but I was intrigued by Bittman’s suggestion to mash them, spice them (lots of garlic!), and then roast them.
It worked really well. While the beans crisped up in the oven, I made the beautiful cabbage slaw. It came together seamlessly. Call them tostadas with crispy flatbreads or roll them into tacos. My mango wraps were crispy but if you let the beans sit on top of the wraps for a while, the wraps absorb some of the moistness and became pliable again. Because they were very thin, they were very delicate and made a big delicious mess. A beautiful delicious mess. I can’t remember the last time I bought red cabbage, but gosh, isn’t it gorgeous?
So, for all you seasoned bloggers and foodies out there, do you remake your pre-holiday dishes? Or try something new again?
It is hard to believe that just two years ago, in preparation for cycling to/from Ottawa and Kingston, I was already training by cycling to/from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our friend was hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo party so I packed my pannier and cycled over. That’s 120km one-way. This year, due to snow and rain, the long cycles haven’t progressed as well. Thus, the trip has been modified to be 70km one way from the train station.
While the party is happening again this year, and I have signed up for Rideau Lakes, I am trying to balance my time between cycling and studying. Studying is winning. Cycling can wait. Passing my exams cannot. Two years ago, I cycled with my buddy, Sue, while Rob stayed at home to study. This year, Rob is cycling with Sue, and I am staying home to study.
Cinco de Mayo was still on my mind, though, as I made these Mexican-inspired almost raw chili salad wraps. I could easily whip these up in Kitchener, had I decided to cycle over myself.
One of the things I love about raw cuisine is that the flavours (usually) pop. Just think of garlic – raw garlic is potent, cooked garlic is muted and slow-roasted garlic is even more mellow.
With a higher emphasis on proteins lately, one thing raw meals lack are good sources of protein. Sure, you could sprout grains and beans, but I don’t really like them as much as their cooked counterparts. That’s probably why I don’t see many recipes for sprouted legumes. “High protein” raw meals usually mean lots of nuts and seeds, which also come with more fat than protein.
In any case, I thought to myself: lets combine the best of both worlds.Beans and flavourful sauces for a high-protein fix. I actually got the idea after Gena posted Brendan’s recipe for a cold chili. Basically all the foundations from a regular chili are combined to make a satisfying dip. It is quite versatile: heat it up to make a regular chili, serve it with chips as a dip, place overtop your favourite green as a salad or place inside Romaine lettuces as a chili salad wrap.
In my study gusto, I appreciate super quick meals. Open a can of cooked beans (I used a canned bean medley), empty out a can of tomato paste, chop up some tomato and green onions and season with chili powder, cumin and lime. Of course, the raw garlic pops out for you, too. It tastes best after a marinade, which means leftovers are just as good, if not better.
What makes someone “interesting”?
Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).
1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.
2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.
3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)
4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.
This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.
Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter. Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).
Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.
The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them.
I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.
A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.
Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!
Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.
A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.
If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead?
So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?
They are here!
I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!
Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.
Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.
Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango. Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.
Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.
Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?
Pay attention, dudes: the secret to capturing someone’s heart lies in their belly. Who wouldn’t like a man who knows his way in the kitchen?
One of Rob’s cooking specialties has always been pad thai. One of my favourite meals at restaurants has always been pad thai, but only if done right. Not tomatoey, certainly not filled with ketchup, and to be honest, I never understood why pad thai recipes in the raw community were made from nut butters (certainly a delicious coleslaw, though).
When we first were dating, I brought Rob to a restaurant, raving about their “authentic” pad thai. Only after I sat down and both of us received our orders of pad thai, did I worry Rob would find it below his high expectations. Thank goodness, he loved it, his recipe is a dead knock-off AND he loves making it!
Robbie-style cooking is usually a lot more low-key than mine, especially after he has made the dish a few times. Reading his original recipe leaves a bit to the imagination, but we have also modified it throughout the years. For me, he now omits the egg and swaps Bragg’s for the soy sauce/fish sauce. For the longest time, I tried to find a substitute for the rice noodles. I’ve tried quinoa and zucchini noodles, both with ok results. However, my preferred version is with kelp noodles which hold up well to the tangy sauce.
What doesn’t change is the strong emphasis on tamarind. I’ve talked about tamarind before, but it is worth highlighting again. It truly makes pad thai sing. For those who love sweet-sour as much as I do, tamarind also falls into the love category. Rob likes to remind me that fresh tamarind pods look like poo, but you can’t tell by looking at the pulp or concentrate. There are a few ways to buy tamarind. The blocks of tamarind pulp are cheap ($1) but you need to soak and strain it before you use it. Rob and I have converted to using tamarind concentrate ($2-3), though, since it is easier to use and more consistent in its taste.
Rob learned how to make pad thai in a cooking class while travelling in Thailand and his second tip for glorious pad thai, after using tamarind of course, is to make sure you cook each meal to order. It works well for customization of spice levels, but the flavours are spot-on, too. The problem is how to do this for a big group. We will prep all the ingredients at the same time, customizing each meal as we go. If the group is big, we don’t usually eat at the same time, but it is perfect for 2.
Do you have a signature dish for special occasions? Any favourite recipes for tamarind? We also really like tamarind lentils.
There was a time when I would get curried out. Too much curry. I couldn’t keep up with Rob.
Now, curry has become a staple for both of us. Except I don’t think you can tell by what I share here. Be it resolved to share more of our Indian eats. They have converted me.
In my mind, there are authentic Indian foods and Indian-inspired foods or Indian-spiced foods. The latter referring to when you spice things up with curry powder. While I have thrown curry powder into Indian curries, bean and quinoa skillets, and couscous pilaf, I have also added it to tofu chowders, sweet potato hummus, balsamic roasted veggies, kabocha squash flatbread, curried-mustard dressing, raw pineapple rice and more recently tofu scramble. The trick is not to make everything taste like “curry powder”, if you know what I mean. This can mean using different types of curry powder (picking one you like is most important; I am partial to Penzey’s sweet blend), adding other spices, using different vegetables or cooking methods to shake things up.
I was drawn to this Indian mung bean stew for its simplicity but I knew it would not be lackluster. Instead of the typical red lentil curries I adore, this is a brothy soup.
A flavourful broth is created from fennel, cumin and ginger. Indian cooking doesn’t always have to be thick curries. Carrots and collards add colour and mung beans make this filling. Lemon juice brightens it up. The curry powder is added as a finishing spice, at the end of cooking, for a different twist to the soup. Pick a curry powder you like because a little goes a long way to flavour the stew. Fennel and cumin will enhance the curry powder, too. As a note, I used sprouted mung beans because that is what I had on hand, but whole bung beans would be equally as good as would any other small bean, like adzuki, too. My only suggestion is to cut up your carrot smaller than I did, mimicking the size of the beans, for better mouth-feel.
Are you a curry powder fan or a curry fan? Or both?
Sing along if you know the words:
I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)
I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas
I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!
Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.
So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..
I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS. Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.
Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.
So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).
Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.
Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.
Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?
Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder.