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?
There are stereotypical differences of Canadians. You know, publicly-funded health care, colourful paper bills, and yeah, I throw extra u’s into my words. I knew about that.
And then, there are things that I had grown to enjoy that I miss. Like the lack of pennies. Honestly, that was a great idea for Canada. Or, our penchant for environmental choices.
Get this: I have garbage removal TWICE a week. However, there is NO recycling pick-up and definitely NO green bins/compost pick-up. (People drop off their recyclables at recycling depots at their leisure, if they do at all).
My new co-workers have become accustomed to my Canadian accent but never cease to discover new Canadian-isms… and apparently, the word garburator is a Canadian term. To Americans, they are known simply as garbage disposal units.
Google helped me figure out how to use it. However, it didn’t stop me from plugging my drain within a week of moving in. My co-workers confessed they rarely use them since they plug up drains too often. I think I will leave it alone, too. It seems quite wasteful and noisy to get rid of tiny scraps of foods.
I have no problem pulverizing my food into a delicious sauce, though. (I think my Vitamix is more noisy than the garburator, but it is all for a good cause). For this sauce, I combined avocado, cucumber and hemp seeds for a bright luscious sauce flavoured with lime and miso. Twirled it overtop kelp noodles and thinly sliced kale for a quick summer meal.
Do you have a garbage disposal unit? Do you use it?
*PS: Rob reminded me that while Ontario collects a lot of recyclables, they also ship it across the world to China. Not so environmentally friendly…
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?
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.
Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.
It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.
I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.
In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.
For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.
I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.
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’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.
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.
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.
Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)
I am really enjoying my simplistic meals these days.
First decide on a sauce or dressing. Pick your favourite veggies. Decide on a base – bean or grain.
Here, I went raw for Raw Thursdays. I picked a lusciously creamy lemon and basil dressing. How does it become so creamy? Hidden inside is a whipped avocado. Adding warm water also adds a lightness without added fats.
My veggie of choice: chopped broccoli.
My base: kelp noodles.
Rob tasted this after I had cleaned up the kitchen. I was surprised he picked up on the avocado right away since I found the lemon, basil and garlic more pronounced while the avocado was there to deliver the lusciousness. I quizzed him- How was he so smart? He noticed the sauce was green and assumed it was from the avocados in the fridge. I protested and blamed the green on the pureed basil. In any case, he was right. He must be more in tune with his avocado sensors than me.
Regardless, while I usually shun creamy dressings, this was both creamy and light at the same time. Perfect in every way. Just be careful not to eat the entire dish in one sitting! Leftover (chilled) dressing was also great in…. wait for it…. a wrap!! (also filled with carrot, cabbage, cucumber and sprouts!)
I can’t wait to try out more avocado dressings. Do you have a favourite?
I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.
Now I want a mamey tree.
I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.
I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.
I think I lost track of everything I tried.
From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).
Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.
I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.
My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat!
In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.
Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.
Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
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
A new month, a new hospital.
Yesterday I was (slightly) complaining about my upcoming commute from our new home. After today, a 10-12 km one-way commute seems like peanuts.
A last minute change in scheduling has me rotating at a hospital outside the downtown core for April. My total commute yesterday was 37 km. Almost 2 hours on the bike. The day’s schedule was a bit more erratic than normal, but basically my cycling looked like this:
8 km from home to downtown gym (0700 spinning class!)
10 km from downtown gym to uptown hospital (UPHILL!)
10 km from uptown hospital to downtown hospital
8 km from downtown hospital to home
Thank goodness it was broken up over the course of the day, but it was likely the spinning class that had me sore by lunch.
Considering I just started cycling to work last week, this is quite the lengthy commute. While I have been going to the gym ~5x week throughout the winter, I always find new muscles when I hop back on my bike in the spring. I made sure to wear my padded cycling shorts.
I decided to make Sunday my rest day from the gym to give me a fresh start on Monday. While Rob went to a spinning class, I was in the kitchen making this high-protein alfredo sauce with white beans, soy milk and roasted cauliflower. I bookmarked the original recipe from Jess but finally made it after Johanna also had success. My changes were roasting the cauliflower, onion and garlic with some hazelnut oil and combining that with the beans and soy milk. The lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika added extra flavour that worked well with the simple additions of baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. This is a nice, comforting creamy dish. Creamy in the non-oily, non-heavy, guiltless sense, though. Perfecto! I tossed this with kelp noodles, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.
Why do I call this high-protein? Assuming you use the entire batch of sauce for 4 people (it makes a ton of sauce!), each serving has: 245 calories, 33g carbs (11g fiber), 14g protein and 8g fat. Gotta love the 2:1 carb:protein ratio! Perfect following all this cycling.
Two years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing commutes like this. When I started biking to work, my (one-way) commute was 4 km. Because I was essentially sedentary, I thought that was far. When I switched to a downtown hospital, my commute was 7 km, at most. When I moved out East with Rob, my commute was 8 km. When I move out West, it will be 10-12 km depending on the hospital. Having the gradual increase in distance has made this become second nature, instead of daunting. It is definitely my preferred way of traversing the city – a fun way to exercise, a great way to de-stress, faster than transit, and better for the environment. Jen recently shared this fun pic about commuting with me, which definitely reinforces why I don’t drive a car to work.
With all this cycling, I imagine I will be ready for our cycle to Niagara Falls in no time, although I am trying to figure out a better way to combine my time at the gym and commuting to work so I am not on my bike 2 hours every day!
This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Potluck Party with high-protein vegan meals, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
It is no secret that Rob and I may choose our next vacation destination based on its cuisine. Obviously, Iceland wasn’t picked based on its cuisine, although the food I had was top-notch (although not Icelandic).
One country that is creeping up in our list of places to visit is Jamaica. I don’t know how widespread the Rastafari movement is, but with its mostly-vegan cuisine (called ital), vegan options free of chemical and artificial additives should be available throughout Jamaica. According to wikipedia, they prefer more natural vegetables and fruits such as coconut and mango. Rob would be in heaven.
There are Rasta communities around the world, including Toronto where I’ve been to One Love, which serves ital and other Caribbean vegan meals. However, my introduction to Rastafarian cuisine was in Japan of all places. Around the time I was heading to Japan, Heidi gushed over Tokyo’s only ital noodle shop. Sure enough, a lover of food but not even vegetarian at the time, we scoped out this teeny tiny restaurant completely off the tourist track. We enjoyed our noodles and other veggie dishes. While this was Heidi’s best meal of her trip, I will admit that my fresh sashimi was unbeatable at the Tsukiji Market. If I were vegan at the time, I would have really appreciated the vegan soba noodles. In Japan, fresh soba noodles are richer because they are typically made with Japanese fish broth, dashi.
Now that I am vegan, I was stoked to try Rasta Pasta that I found in Big Vegan. A bowl full of vegetables (green beans! mushrooms! collards!, tomato!), with some noodles, too, in a coconut-curry-tomato sauce. It had a lot of the similar ingredients as my favourite Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce but it was so different. The recipe called for 1 tbsp of curry powder. I’ve made other Caribbean dishes that were unpalatable by their heat (ok for Rob, just not me), so I went tame. I didn’t even use curry powder. I substituted 1 tsp of garam masala instead.
It was a quick noodle stir-fry. With the garam masala, it was savoury. It lacked the sweetness from coconut-peanut sauce, and originally I thought it was rather pungent but truthfully, as I ate the leftovers, that was exactly why I liked it. Nothing too crazy and creamy, just a savoury veggie and noodle dish. However, now that the Madras curry powder has been given the green light in my kitchen, I’d love to try this again with curry powder. If you try it, let me know how you like it!
As a vegan, where would you prefer to travel?