Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.
I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.
What did I end up doing?
1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?
2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.
3. Travelled through chocolate. With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.
4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.
So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.
Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content. Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.
I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.
How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?
A few months ago, though, I was treated to a wonderful girl’s night out: a vegan wine and cheese!
A vegan cheese party in Texas.
An oxymoron like no other?
I don’t buy processed vegan cheeses and while I have tried my hand at simple homemade cheeses, I was blown over by all.the.vegan.cheeses. There was a complete spread from Door 86 (the cheese ball was my favourite), Heidi Ho, and a bunch of homemade cheeses from Artisan Vegan Cheese (the sun-dried tomato and garlic cream cheese was fabulous). I have been intimidated by recipes requiring room temperature fermentation. My biggest kitchen disasters have been sauerkraut and pineapple vinegar from Mastering Fermentation. No fun.
Enter The Cheesy Vegan. A bit more complex than cashew spreads, but recipes not as complex to require fermented rejuvelac. I started with this recipe for a vegan cheese log crusted in pecans and cranberries. Not hard to make, but with a few steps over the span of 2 days, you need a bit of advance preparation. Coconut and olive oil are blended with cashews, lemon juice, tahini and salt and then left to drain/ferment overnight. Instead of cheesecloth, my fine-mesh strainer worked like a charm. The following morning, a fair amount of liquid had dripped from my cashew spread.. and in case you were wondering, it looked mostly like oil. A bake in the oven at a low temperature is akin to a faster dehydration (I presume) and assists with getting the cheese to firm up. Refrigerate, top with the nuts and cranberries, and you are good to go. The salty/lemony spread paired really well with the buttery pecans and sweet cranberries.
I will confess that I did not bring any vegan cheeses to the original cheese party but was inspired to make the cheese log for a subsequent vegan potluck. It was a hit. With so many recipe requests, I knew I had to share it… and lucky for you, you can also win your own copy of the cookbook!
Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States (sorry to all my non-US readers). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegan cheese or cheese dish. If you haven’t made anything cheesy yet, have a look through the table of contents of The Cheesy Vegan on amazon and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 26, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Other recipes from The Cheesy Vegan spotted elsewhere:
PPS. My other vegan cheese/dairy recipes:
I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing yet another dessert. But once I made these (uber wonderfully, possibly, yes, confirmed, the best chocolate I have ever made) treats, I knew I had to share them. Chocolate in January usually doesn’t fly…. and I simply could not wait until Valentine’s Day to share this with you.
But, before I tell you about the chocolates, let me tell you where the recipe hails. While in Montreal last year, I explored a variety of vegan restos. I was initially wooed by Aux Vivres, a vegan resto with cooked foods, and quickly recreated their macro veggie and tempeh bowl and their raw vegan smoked salmon. I also stumbled upon Crudessence, a longstanding raw restaurant and really enjoyed my meal. I was *thisclose* to buying their cookbook. It had the recipes for many of the same dishes I had just eaten and loved at their restaurant: Kombu mojito, raw tiramisu and raw cinnamon buns. Many of their other highly praised dishes are included, such as their Om burger, pad thai, Caesar salad, Tibet fat-free dressing, maki rolls, eggplant bacon, raw parmesan (crumesan), chocolate banana pie, chocolate mouse, lime pie, banana split with chunks of raw brownies, blueberry un-“Cheese”cake and Hippocrates juice.
So why didn’t I buy the cookbook? It was in French only. I can read French but since it is not my first language, it would not be as easy to decipher all the cooking terms. So I put it back.
Fast forward a year and their cookbook has been reprinted in English. Lucky for us, because this is a drop-dead gorgeous cookbook with delicious recipes.
The first recipe I tried were these truffles. In the cookbook, they are called “dark nougat”. I am not entirely sure what nougat is supposed to taste like. I thought it might be kind of chewy and sweet (I am only familiar with the nougat that studs Toblerone bars), but this was nothing of the sort…. it was creamy, smooth and divine. Honestly, I had made the middle of creamy truffles. Akin to the middle of Lindt truffles. YES!! And it was dead simple: whizz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and then allow to set in the freezer.
I tried to be a bit fancier by freezing them in silicone ice cube trays, but since they were still so creamy after setting, they stuck a bit to the molds. The light dusting of flaked coconut or matcha helped to make them less gooey for your fingers. I was rooting for the pretty matcha-dusted truffles, but they were still a bit bitter for my liking. The coconut-flaked ones were great and if I had enough coordination, the chocolate-and-hazelnut-coated truffles sound incredible. I think these are a bit too fragile to gift, unless you coat them in a hard chocolate shell.
There is one special ingredient for this recipe, I apologize. Lecithin. I plan on writing more about this ingredient in a later post, but I can definitely assure you that it makes the most creamy chocolate to date.
PS. Other recipes shared from RawEssence:
Time flies. I have already passed the 4 month mark. One-third of my time in Houston. I already know what I will remember the most. Mosquitoes and potlucks. The mosquitos are relentless and well, I am discovering the joys of vegan potlucks.
I have been to many a potluck, but usually that means I bring a dish I will be eating. It is usually the only vegan component and I try to make it a complete meal, like a hearty bean or whole grain salad. Even though that is my specialty, it kind of limits my repertoire.
All vegan potlucks are a whole other ballpark. I know I will find plenty of food (and they have been really tasty!) and therefore, I can branch out to try something new. Furthermore, some foods lend better to a buffet set-up than others, so I have been testing out new ideas.
Enter the cucumber sandwich. Not a tea sandwich, this one replaces the bread for cucumber, creating a crunchy bite-sized nimbler. Easy to add to your plate and no fussy sauce that can leach and contaminate the next dish over. (I have adopted the 2 plate strategy for potlucks- 1 plate for savoury and 1 plate for desserts!) Perfect for those who want a gluten-free and nut-free snack… and raw, to boot. For me right now, raw has become more synonymous with easy food prep.
This dish, while easy to prep, is a bit more fussy than my typical one-pot meals. Puree your cucumber and lemon juice into a mayonnaise-like consistency and pulse in the cool and crisp cucumbers and herbs. The lemon juice should prevent the avocado from oxidizing but try not to make them too far in advance. Hopefully they will be devoured and none will remain after they have been served.
What are your go-to potluck dishes?
Other dishes I shared at potlucks this year:
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, this month’s Cooking with Herbs, to this month’s Random Recipes, and to this month’s Veg Cookbook Club for Isa Does It.
What is better than a potluck with delicious vegan food? A potluck with delicious vegan food, complete with recipes!
Recently, some new friends invited me over for a Ripe-themed supper. Stephanie, the mastermind behind Ripe Cuisine, serves vegan eats at a few farmer’s markets in Houston but also has a recipe blog. I have gushed about her homemade coconut-almond ice cream before and since I knew her recipe for brownies was good, I was excited to see how her other recipes fared.
Broccoli “cream” soup with polenta croutons, baked zucchini chips, tahini mustard carrots, and cauliflower piccata were on the menu. Veggie extraveganza! Everything was delicious. I really enjoyed the carrots and polenta croutons.
My small contribution to the menu that evening was this cheesecake. I say small due to its size, not its taste. For my birthday, Rob surprised me with a smaller 6″ springform pan. I left my larger one in Toronto and brought this one so I could make smaller versions of dessert.
I love raw/no-bake cheesecakes. I have made them with cashews as well as tofu, but this time, I used them together. And I baked it. Both for synergistic results.
This cheesecake is a combination of a few recipes and both are knock-outs. The filling is courtesy of Ricki Heller‘s new cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. Since these recipes are all gluten-free and sugar-free, they employ ingredients I don’t have in my (mostly) minimalist pantry. I tried to stay mostly true to her recipe, though, even scoping out lemon extract. I realized that having a concentrated lemon flavour without the sourness would be a good way to reduce the amount of sweetener needed, without resorting to Meyer lemons.
This was a delicious cheesecake. Possibly our favourite vegan cheesecake of all time. Very rich in a non-heavy sense, which can happen with raw cheesecakes, relying on cashews and coconut oil. However, sadly, after chilling in the fridge, it was no longer a lemon cheesecake; it morphed into a creamy, rich, vanilla cheesecake. Equally as good, just a different flavour. The lemon flavour disappeared considerably. I really like the tang from lemon juice, so next time I would add more lemon juice in addition to more lemon extract. It was a very nice cheesecake, though. I also liked how I had the height to really get a good size piece on my fork with the smaller pan. You’ll understand when you look at my (much more flat) lemon cheesecake squares. Rob agreed, and we both thought this was the best, most “real” vegan cheesecake we have eaten (albeit a fluffier European-style cheesecake, which is our preference).
And the crust? A perfect foil for the rich, more mellow filling. A salty-sweet cinnamon pecan crust with oat flour that I snagged from Angela’s pumpkin pie adventures. She tasted a few crusts and proclaimed this the winner. Definitely one of my favourite crusts, too. I liked that it was sweet and salty (no dates) and the cinnamon spike brought it over the edge. I was worried the crust was a bit crumbly but it held together well when serving from the fridge.
I try to keep this blog real, and yes, this cheesecake was utterly delicious. However, it also cracked. This could be due to a few things, but next time, I will add a basin of water in the oven. I did that with the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares, and it worked well. With some strategic slicing, you could hide the cracks. Or find a saucy topping. (Ricki suggested a blueberry compote which I think would have been divine!) But really, it doesn’t matter unless you are photographing it because it still tasted delicious. Do you have any other tricks for cracked cheesecakes? What is your favourite vegan cheesecake recipe?
Ricki has been travelling the interwebs with her blog tour and I have been enjoying seeing her recipes all over the place. With all the thoughtful Q&As, I feel like I am really getting to know Ricki, the chef/baker, but most importantly, the person behind her recipes. A trained chef with a former catering company, watching her on video is like a fun cooking class, with so many tips about ingredients and techniques. I also recommend these recipes from Ricki’s new cookbook:
Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:
PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.
Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.
Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).
I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!
PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds! :)
Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:
While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?
Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?
The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).
Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.
Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.
The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.
The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.
But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.
Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.
The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.
For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. :)
In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!
I feel a bit guilty sharing this post.
1. It will be a quickie vacation gush over Portland.
2. More easy peasy food. I feel guilty sharing such a simple recipe but it was SO GOOD.
Oddly enough, despite travelling to Japan, Morocco, Iceland and Colombia throughout my blog tenure, I have yet to do any thorough vacation recaps. Mostly sharing the recipes they have inspired back in my kitchen or the treats I made to travel with me.
Those destinations seem so foreign and mostly inaccessible to the masses. But Portland, dude, that’s in America (and I know most of my readers hail from the US of A). I also made nada special to bring with me. I knew vegan heaven was only a plane ride away.
Despite visiting for only a short weekend, I feel like I connected with Portland and the rest of Oregon. The city, even downtown, is green. Green in the lots of trees sense, and in the save the environment sense. Cycling is a culture and definitely safer than where I have lived previously. Vegans rejoice, as there are truly innumerable options for fun meals. Lucky me, many a vegan already visited Portland earlier this year (mostly for Vida Vegan Con) so I already knew where to hit up.
In brief, food: Canteen (our favourite restaurant of our trip, the Portland bowl was fabulous as well as the maca shake); Prasad (lovely soul salad and chai latte); Rawdacious raw cheesecake (found at Canteen); Raw Pixie Re’treats (loved the mock BLT and lil pudding; found at Kure and Food Fight); Kure Juice Bar (breakfast acai bowls and matcha latte); Missionary Chocolates (found at Living Room Theaters); the infamous Portobello restaurant (Rob’s lasagna was better than my portobello steak but the decadent ice cream sundae made up for it); vegan Mexican fare (with soy curls!) at Los Gorditos; Food Fight, an all vegan grocery store for some desert treats; Rob also had some Voodoo Doughnuts, but not the vegan ones (the Memphis Mafia was pretty epic, though [peanut butter, coconut and chocolate on top of a fritter as big as his head]) and lots of local brews for Rob
(more complete reviews can be found at Happy Cow)
In brief, non-food: Cyclepedia at the Portland Art Museum, Bike-A-Rama Bicycle Tour, watching indie films on a sofa at the Living Room Theater; Powell’s City of Books, early morning views of the city from Pittock Mansion and hiking in Forest Park (loved this!!). We also snuck in some shopping at REI and a downtown cycle store.
Who could guess we were only in Portland for less than 48 hours? Well, that’s the way we roll… bring on the awesomeness!
I have plans to recreate that delicious Portland bowl sauce but until then, I am sharing this delicious hummus-tzatziki fusion dip. We made it before we left and we made it when we returned. It is possibly our favourite non-classical hummus. Just like my strawberry-cucumber smoothie, cucumber adds an airy lightness to the dip which is countered by flax (trust me, you can’t taste it). Lots of garlic and bit of lemon juice makes this a great dip. Or spread. Or however you want to eat it. I won’t judge.
I still have many more places on my Portland hit-list, including Native Bowl, Natural Selection and Departure with their vegan menu, and that’s just the food list. Anything you recommend I see on my second trip to Portland? :)
PS. have you entered my giveaway for a copy of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites yet?
PPS. Hopefully we’ll have some photos up later this week.
I have already mentioned some of the delicious flora (ok, the fruit) in Texas (local oranges, grapefruits and avocados! We’ve even seen a papaya tree here!) but what about the fauna?
1. Mosquitoes. I am well acquainted with mosquitoes, thankyouverymuch, but they are simply merciless here. Worse of all, they target me (not Rob), and they leave large welts. In Canada, I would rarely be targetted and it was a mild reaction. I had a lot of bites in Colombia, but still none were as large and bothersome. Judging by my co-workers (n=6), all new females have been scourged with the same problem. Thankfully, they have abated somewhat but sometimes they still catch me in my front yard. I blame all my sweating in this Texan heat.
2. Ants. Talking about bug bites, you have to be careful around ants here. I don’t know if they were fire ants or crazy ants (I did not make that up), but they are vicious and will bite and leave pus-filled lesions. Not nice. They caught me once as I was sitting on a sidewalk, helping to fix Rob’s flat tire. Hopefully it will be the last.
3. Frogs. I also know what frogs are.. although I haven’t really hung out with them too much. While we don’t live near a swamp, after a rain, frogs have been known to hang out ALL NIGHT LONG, CROAKING. I haven’t seen them, but that is who I am blaming for my sleepless nights.
4. Lizards. This is a new one for me (I had to ask what it was – someone thought it was a gecko but we don’t think so. salamander? small iguana?) It is a small guy and there is one right outside our home. I hear they eat bugs, so I am not worried. Eat those mosquitoes, yo!
5. Armadillos. Apparently armadillos can be found in Texas, but I have yet to see any. Judging by the presence of a Houston Armadillo Removal service, they must be found locally. ;)
6. Snails. OK, we have snails in Toronto, too, but I rarely see them in my garden. I used to see them squashed on the bicycle trails, actually. I haven’t seen wild snails here either, though. Although, what I found most amusing is that I had snails in my kale from Rawfully Organic. Organic kale, indeed. My homegrown organic kale gets massacred by aphids in Toronto, but here, there are snails!
And every time I say snails in the kale, I think of bananas in pyjamas! For the record, pajamas is the American spelling. My blog is my spelling refuge. I add extra u’s as I see fit. ;)
This was my long-winded interlude to tell you all about a super simple dish: cheezy chickpeas and kale. A cooked version of my Easy Cheezy Chickpea Salad, this is nearly as simple, although it does require dirtying a skillet. The combination of coconut oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic create a lovely nude sauce. The chickpeas soak it up but become nicely cheezy afterwards. I liked this warm, straight from the stovetop and they were very nice cold as leftovers the next day.
Do you have any fun local animals? I imagine raccoons could also be seen as weird creatures for the uninitiated. This fun video of a raccoon walking on a utility wire was shot very close to where I used to live in Toronto.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Give me leafy greens and I will make salad.
Give me fruit and I will eat it.
Give me a CSA share and I will become creative. Or lazy, your choice.
Same salad, different fruit and new herb. Still as delicious.
I added fresh basil as a unique flavour hidden amongst the greens.
And those hemp seeds? They are really growing on me. They are my new salad topping, including fruit salads. ;) I picked up a few of my pantry staples online, and decided to splurge on these hemp seeds since they were on sale.
I am used to a later peach season from Ontario (and they have finally arrived, too!), but local peaches were out in full force when we arrived in Texas. Sweet, juicy peaches. I have to remind myself that buying too many is often fool-hardy. Their peak ripeness has a short window. But once they are juicy: pounce. Peaches for breakfast, peaches as a snack and peaches for dinner. Peaches for a salad work so well because they make their own dressing, to boot. I still supplemented it with the nice citrus dressing from earlier in the week, though.
I was hoping Rawfully Organic was going to provide me with local produce. I know they try when it is possible. Rob and I had been pining a few local treats before we even arrived. The first one: avocado. Avocados are quite expensive in Canada, but upon our first week here we were greeted with a warm welcome. Avocados: 4 for $1.
The nice thing about my Rawfully Organic share was that I wasn’t saddled with uncommon ingredients. With so many greens, I knew salads were in order, though. Luck would have it that I was tempted by Gena’s berry and avocado salad at the same time. Coincidentally, I had all the ingredients and then some. I tried it her way, with hemp seeds, then with almonds and when I finally got around to photographing it, I used pumpkin seeds. I used sweet strawberries, paired with creamy avocado and a sweet citrus dressing. Since the oranges we got in our share were “juicing oranges” (Valencia, aka sweet Texan oranges!!), I figured a dressing was a good way to capitalize on their sweet juiciness. Since, yes, I left my juicer at home. No homemade juice on the horizon yet. It may seem fiddly to also add lemon juice, but it balanced the dressing nicely.
Any nut or seed would work for crunch – as I said, I have made this with almonds, hemp and the pumpkin seeds (a mix of almond and hemp was my favourite). Any berry would work well here. Pick your favourite.
With all these salads that I have been making, I am kind of sad I left my big plates and big bowls in Canada. I want more greens but don’t have a serving plate big enough!
Other fruity salads you may enjoy:
Thank you so much for the kind words from my last post. New friendships take a while to develop, at least for me. I am definitely keeping my chin up… and moving forward. Or perhaps trying just to enjoy what is. It really was a stressful whirlwind last year and it might be nice to embrace the emptiness. Thank you, Anna, for pointing me to this lovely video.
One thing is for certain: I couldn’t do this without Rob. I could not imagine doing this year apart.
Since Rob works from home, and I labour in the hospital, it is funny how the roles have reversed slightly. I swear, Rob has been more adventurist in the kitchen than me. Rob is cooking up a storm, while I am relishing in my quickie salads, hehe.
And the best part? If we time it just right, I can come home to freshly cooked food. Some foods are just not meant to be eaten as leftovers, which is why they are such a treat.
Case in point: arepas. The moist and fluffy arepas with a crispy shell only happen when you make them fresh. We long learned not to make leftovers since they are very lacklustre. They are one of Rob’s specialties, although previously reserved for the weekend when we have more time for food prep.
They seem to fit with most any dish, at least in our fusion household. We like to make it with tofu scramble, but this time Rob went all out with the bean-quinoa chorizo crumbles from The Great Vegan Bean Book. I found them a bit spicy, so I threw together a spin on vegan egg salad: tofu-avocado salad. The avocado, tahini and Dijon make for a creamy dressing while chunky avocado and tofu are surprisingly reminiscent of eggs. The dill adds a nice spin, too. I used dried but I think fresh would be best.
When I chat with friends from home, I field many similar questions. Have you finished unpacking? YES!!!! How am I finding the heat and humidity? Not that bad… Is Houston friendly for cyclists? My route to work is actually pretty devoid of cars, so I can’t complain. How is the food… and the veggie selection? One of my friend was interested in how I triaged the stocking of my fridge and pantry. What did I buy first? What were my perishable and non-perishable necessities?
Since we were without a kitchen for almost a week when we arrived, I continued with my travel-friendly eats: overnight oats with chia seeds and protein powder for breakfast, hummus with carrots and crackers for lunch and snack, and easy eats for dinner once I made my first grocery run. We hit up the closest grocers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fiesta Mart) to scope out our new neighbourhood and begin our pantry. See below for what I commonly keep in my kitchen.
After the Zesty Lemon Cilantro Chickpea Salad, this was the next salad I made. This salad is almost too simple. Only four ingredients, or five if you include salt or pepper. Chickpeas, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and leafy greens. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. The lemon juice is tart and the nutritional yeast tames it into a creamy dressing. Marinade the chickpeas and use the extra sauce to toss with your favourite leafy greens. This is also a good travel-friendly meal if you stash nutritional yeast in your bag, of course, along with a knife to cut the lemon. Don’t we all travel this way? HAHA! :)
Without further ado, this is my culled pantry list:
Produce: apples, bananas (for Rob), carrots, lemons/limes, green onion, onions, garlic, ginger (cilantro is a common staple, depending on my menu)
Bonus: tofu and tempeh.
Leafy greens if salads are on the menu
canned beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)
dried beans (chickpeas, black beans, lentils (red, green))
Oats (rolled oats and steel cut oats)
Brown short-grain rice
Apple cider vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil, for salads
Coconut oil, for cooking
Toasted sesame oil
Nut butter (peanut butter is Rob’s favourite)
Bragg’s liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari
Mustard (preferably Dijon)
Sweet chili sauce (for Rob)
Sriracha (for Rob)
Dried fruit (dates, raisins, coconut, cranberries)
Canned tomatoes (I usually only get whole tomatoes and less commonly crushed)
Agave or maple syrup
Tea/tisanes (coffee for Rob)
Baking soda (also for cleaning)
Herbs and spices (at least):
Cinnamon (sticks and ground)
Cardamom pods (green)
Aleppo chili flakes
Thyme (I don’t use this that often)
Basil (I don’t use this that often)
+ all the ingredients for my veg stock powder (parsley, dill, garlic granules, onion granules, etc)
I have had a much larger pantry in the past but I am trying to keep things limited to what I will consume in a year. What are things that I have missed that you cannot live without?
I thought I had adequately prepared for a few days without a kitchen. I packed a paring knife, cutting board, can opener, garlic press and lemon press with me during our road trip. No pots meant I couldn’t cook up quinoa. No cups meant I couldn’t even boil water for tea. Never mind anything more fancy that needed a skillet. Basically, it meant I could make salads.
This isn’t a boring salad, though. In between unpacking and snacking on hummus, I made this delicious chickpea salad when we first arrived in Texas. Of course, after I stocked up the fridge. Super simple: mix and marinate. It looks uninspiring but it was a nice balance between the tart lemon, fresh cilantro and sharp garlic. Lemon zest? Well, without my zester, I shaved off the lemon peel and chopped it with a knife instead. However, the zest in this salad is from the garlic, not the lemon zest. The garlic was stronger when I originally made it, but it tamed itself for leftovers, which made it perfect for lunch. It was also delicious overtop mixed greens for a more green salad.
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