See below for the giveaway for Isa Does It!
If I had to pick a vegan rockstar, it would be Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Long ago, we was rocking it out on television, but now mostly vegan chef, author and blogger. She has penned 7 vegan cookbooks and her eighth book has been eagerly anticipated. As she explains in her newest cookbook, Isa Does It, her title makes more sense once you know her first name is pronounced Ee-sa. Thus, her title is a play on Easy Does It.
As such, Isa Does It highlights mostly simple, quicker recipes (under 30 minutes!) that are foremost tasty. This is a cookbook for the beginner chef as well as those who want to reinvigorate their kitchens with new scents and textures, without breaking the bank or spending hours on top of the stove. Isa explains how she stocks her pantry, her kitchen cabinets and then details specific beginner techniques (with step-by-step photos), such as how to butcher tofu and tempeh.
With 11 recipe chapters that span the gamut from quick soups, salads, handheld, bowls, curries and stir fries, there is a lot of variety. Furthermore, not much is left untouched as Isa also includes fancier “Sunday night suppers” and breakfast/brunch ideas, too. Rest assured, complete meals are encouraged as desserts are included, too.
I admire Isa for a fabulously tantalizing blog, sharing her delicious creations. I guess it should be no surprise that some of my favourite recipes from her blog appear in the cookbook (see below). In addition, of the 150 recipes in the cookbook, the majority are brand-spanking new.
Beefy asparagus stir-fry with fresh herbs. Okra gumbo with chickpeas and kidney beans. Quinoa Caesar salad. Cucumber Ranch bowl with breaded tofu. Edamame hummus and tofu wraps. Belgian beer and seitan stew. Baked garlic-curry fries. Chickpea-Rice soup with cabbage. Coconut chana saag. Chandra Malai kofta. Goddess noodles with tempeh and broccoli. My Thai overnight scramble, breakfast scrambled chickpeas, oh please.
If you have tried Isa’s recipe before, you know the name of each dish never gives you the full picture. They are very descriptive of the ingredients, but something so simple may be more than the sum of its parts. I am eagerly waiting to pounce through this cookbook, page-by-page. Chocolate gingerbread cookies, anyone? I can already vouch for the ancho lentil tacos, tempeh orzilla, Jerk Sloppy Joes, lemon-garlic fava beans and mushrooms, chana masala (not my favourite but Rob liked it well enough), cucumber avocado tea sandwiches, chai spiced snickerdoodles, and now her delicious Moroccan harira with eggplant and chickpeas.
Harira is a Moroccan soup/stew that I have been meaning to recreate since I travelled to Morocco. Let’s just say it has been on my to-make list for many years. It wasn’t until I saw Isa’s recipe that I jumped at the chance to try it out. Harira is a very forgiving recipe. As I travelled through Morocco, nearly every restaurant had a different version of harira. Some with chickpeas, some with lentils, sometimes both beans, some with tomatoes, others with ginger, some with herbs, others not. I cannot say that I saw any with eggplant, but that is Isa’s slant.
First, I made a few tweaks to Isa’s recipe… mainly because I had no vegetable broth, so I used my impromptu nooch plus random spice blend. This time, I threw in dried parsley, lemon pepper and the 21-spice seasoning from Trader Joe’s. I also substituted spiralized zucchini for the noodles. Ingenious, if I may say so myself. Anyways, less about me, more about Isa. This soup was great. Bulky and satisfying with chickpeas and lentils in a flavourful tomato broth spiced with ginger, cinnamon, smoked paprika and saffron. Fresh mint and cilantro add a lightness, along with the finishing lemon juice. I use saffron so sparingly I am glad I finally found a great use for it! The textural foil of the noodles with the beans was perfect.
For someone new to veganism, the ingredient lists in her recipes may still seem a tad overwhelming (vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, cashews, wine and fresh herbs) but these are rather commonplace in a vegan’s kitchen. Except the saffron, because well, that’s not a regular ingredient. Once you have access to fresh herbs, it is hard to return to the dried ones, so I understand the recent push for quality ingredients.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Isa recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Isa yet, have a look through the table of contents of Isa Does It on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on October 31, 2013. Good luck!
PPS. If you pre-ordered your cookbook already, don’t forget to get your free Isa Does It tote bag.
PPPS. Versions of Isa’s dishes made previously, not all from Isa Does It (more recommended dishes can be found listed here):
Ancho Lentil Salad Wraps
Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros
Roasted Beet Salad with Warm Maple Mustard Dressing and Tempeh Croutons
White Bean, Quinoa and Kale Stew with Fennel
Asparagus, Nectarine and Baby Lima Bean Lettuce Wrap
Naked Oats with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crumbled Tempeh
Tomato-Basil Zucchini Noodle Salad
Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles
PPPPS. Isa’s recipes in Isa Does It that she has already shared on her blog, Post Punk Kitchen:
Everyday Pad Thai
Seitan & Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce
Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches with Dill & Mint
Roasted Potato & Fennel Soup
Chickpea-Rice Soup with Cabbage
New England Glam Chowder
Quarter Pounder Beet Burger
Olive Lentil Burgers
Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach
Sunflower Mac (and Cheese)
Roasted Butternut Alfredo
Ancho Lentil Tacos
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Chili Pumpkin Cranberry Risotto with Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Red Lentil Thai Chili
Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings
Meaty Beany Chili with Corn Muffins
Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas & Kidney Beans
Lemon Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms
Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime
Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Nirvana Enchilada Casserole
Garlicky Thyme Tempeh
Puffy Pillow Pancakes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
Marbled Banana Bread
Chai Spice Snickerdoodles
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. You know I would have loved this book and would have bought my own copy.
I have been reducing my sodium gradually over the past year and my sodium culprits are not table salt itself; instead it is soy sauce, miso and sauerkraut. Because of that, I still eat a lot more sodium than my parents. Packaged foods use salt as a preservative, thus canned and prepared foods generally contain more sodium. But Ravi’s soup is supposed to be homemade. He shared his (healthy) recipe. The numbers just don’t add up. Thus the culprit must be over-salting (and the red curry paste).
While Ravi suddenly passed away a few months ago, he leaves behind a quaint resto chain which serves delicious soups and sandwiches. I haven’t been in a (very long) while, but it was a sure-fire bargain on Friday evenings when everything was half-priced before they closed for the weekend. I remember one of their soups of the day, an uber delicious butternut squash soup with lemongrass that I wanted to recreate but it has since become a distant memory.
Another one of Ravi’s soups on my ‘To Make List’ has been his Curried Red Lentil and Apricot Soup. I would categorize this as the other kind of Indian food. If I have to tell you this is a curried soup, then it isn’t from India.
However, it has all the components of a great Indian dish: red lentils, tomato, a touch of coconut milk, garlic, ginger and curry powder. The dried apricots are what hold me from thinking this is an authentic Indian dish, but they work really well here. Chopped up in small pieces, you get bursts of sweetness that complement the savoury elements of the rest of the dish. Creaminess comes from the red lentils and just a hint of coconut milk. This soup is more sweet and bright than the cumin-scented pigeon pea soup with mango that I adore but it likely depends on the curry powder you use.
I know the dried apricots seem so odd, but they work surprisingly well. For some reason, their sweetness permeates the soup without being too overpowering. The leftovers were even better as the sweetness subsided slightly. Dried apricots can pack a bona fide punch of taste, so if in doubt, use less dried apricots.
Straight from their menu, though, this curried red lentil and apricot soup is so easy to make, it behooves you to make it yourself.. and with a lot less sodium.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this month’s Everyone Can Cook Vegetarian for orange foods, and Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Eats Well in Flanders, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y.
This blog is definitely a labour of love.
More than sharing recipes and my experiences in the kitchen, it has morphed into a sort of journal, chronically my adventures with cycling, gardening and whatever life throws at me. Some blogs cater to their readers’ wants…. me, I share what I like and most likely if you are reading, you will like it, too. Or, if I muck things up, I hope to pass on my wisdom. (PS, I loved hearing your confessions about your own kitchen bloopers after my last post)
Another benefit of writing this all out? I can learn from my old mistakes, too.
Rob and I recently connected with one of our neighbours and we started chatting about our garden. Did we have any tips? I couldn’t think of any tips other than a) beans can be grown easily from seeds; and b) kale and collards from seedlings gave us better results. She also asked for some pictures. As I dug up some of my garden updates, I re-read my posts and uncovered other golden nuggets: tomato cages for the beans! get rid of those bugs from the kale ASAP! my preferred basil plant..
I should listen to myself more often. I dug up another old post, when I first started my cycling commute in the spring last year. Talk about deja vu. I was complaining about a long commute after a winter hiatus and here I am complaining again. I thought I was easing myself into my old cycling groove by foregoing the gym, but a long commute needs to be warmed into. I cycled to work (no gym) on Friday: 25km. The ride back was brutal with fierce winds all the way home. I almost decided to give up my cycling commute altogether and stick with the subway. On Sunday, I ended up cycling to the gym and really enjoyed the ride.
With a rainy forecast this week, I decided to capitalize on another day to try to cycle to work (no gym) on Monday. Mondays have me travelling all over the city, so I ended up clocking 36km. It doesn’t sound like that much… but coming from zero biking and a 2-week gym hiatus, I was wiped out when I came home. (Let’s not forget to mention I cycled home IN THE RAIN). Physically pooped, cold and wet, the last thing I wanted was a salad for dinner. I didn’t want to wait for a soup to defrost from the freezer, either. Instead I made a smoothie. Simple and nothing to document as I just whizzed together a frozen banana, frozen raspberries, maca, vanilla, flax seeds and unflavoured Sunwarrior protein powder. Oh, and some water. I am normally never satisfied with a smoothie as a meal, but this worked… after a warm bath and canning my oatmeal for the week, I slid into bed, exhausted.
I need to find more balance.
Still needing to eat, I really should plan my meals based on the weather forecast. The rest of the week has a rainy forecast and possible snow/hail today and/or tomorrow. No more cycling, that’s for sure… warm comforting meals may be in order, though. As such, I took this soup out from the freezer for some meals later this week.
I love unearthing gems from the freezer. I should do it more often. I often get wooed by fresh produce but I need to remind myself to keep things stress-free by eating from the freezer. This is a soup I have made a few times, too, and was lucky to have garden kale when I made this in the fall. I have used both shiitakes and oyster mushrooms with great results. Combining mushrooms and lentils, the earthy flavours mix well with the tangy vinegar and zippy garlic. It is during these dreary days that warm, comforting bowls of my favourite soups really help.
Do you keep a journal? If you do (or have a blog), do you ever re-read it?
With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too! While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.
This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.
I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?
Spring has sprung? Wishful thinking?
Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather this weekend to ride our bikes for the first time this year.
Having my bike cleaned and tuned over the winter meant I had a sparkly bike to ride! Except I noticed my fender is broken, so I have to figure out whether I will fix that.
We used this as an opportunity to bike to our new favourite restaurant: Hot Beans. Turns out the shops and restos in Kensington Market are open for the long weekend, YA!
I don’t know why, but it took me a while to finally try out Hot Beans, a fast-food vegan resto with burritos, tacos and nachos… and my favourite: burrito bowls. Sounds possibly terrible, but it is vegan goodness in its glory. Filled with vegan staple goodness: beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, chili aoili and vegan cheese sauce with your main topping of choice. Ask about their special menu. Mix-and-match but you can basically pick from Ancho-spiced TVP, seitan, black beans, lentils and Rob’s favourite: BBQ jackfruit. Add hot sauce as you see fit. Rob and I both had similar versions of the The Bill’s Big Dick, aka BBQ jackfruit + Ancho TVP burritos (mine in bowl form, Rob in burrito form).
I figured we would be Ancho’ed out but later that afternoon, Rob was whipping up Ancho lentils! Destined to be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, because it was so easy and SO GOOD. This recipe didn’t make PPK’s Top 100 list for nothing! Spicy, but not too spicy, and a bit sweet, these lentils were so flavourful. We went really low-key after such a lunch-fest, stuffing Romaine leaves with the filling and topping them with thick slabs of avocado. Rob doesn’t like collard wraps as much as me, but he gave the Romaine boats two thumbs up. Romaine is definitely sweeter than the darker leafy greens and the inner part of the leaf makes it easy to scoop up a beany filling.
Am I behind the times? Have you made these lentils already? If only Rob didn’t finish off the last of our green lentils with this batch.
How do you like green wraps? What’s your favourite? I like collards because they are bigger and easier to make transportable wraps but I was really digging the lettuce this time around.
Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.
It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.
I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?
In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page. I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.
This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!
When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.
I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.
What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?
PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.
I was really tempted this weekend. My parents were over and my Dad surprised me with berries for dessert. He was equally surprised when I shared that I wasn’t eating fruit right now. Have no fear, this will likely be temporary.. unless I enjoy it too much. Think all desserts have to be sweetened? Not true! Gabby shared these delicious carob almond butter cups with me and you would never know they were sweetener-free.
Savoury Indian dishes have fuelled me during my sweetener-free challenge. While I have cooked up quite a few Indian dishes, I still feel like a novice to Indian cooking. Pangal, aviyal, dhokla, they are still foreign to me. I probably don’t even pronounce them properly. Leafing through 660 Curries and 1000 Indian Recipes, I know there are tons of curries and likely 1000s more beyond the pages of these cookbooks.
Thankfully I don’t think I will ever tire of the holy vegan trinity of beans+grains+greens. I eat it every day. These are staples throughout the world. I still have my favourite repeater curries, but like to mix things up with seasonal produce.
Here, this simple savoury red lentil and zucchini curry from World Vegetarian reminds me of Nepalese Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime combined with hefty chunks of zucchini. Jaffrey says this dish is typically made with green bottle gourd, instead of zucchini, but the latter is easier to find.
I am a sucker for creamy red lentils and while it didn’t have the zip that dal bhat delivers, it was a great curry. I find that most curries are a bit too watery for my liking, especially if eaten fresh. So, I have suggested starting with less water. You can always add more to thin it out, but it is kind of a pain to boil that extra water away. It will thicken a bit as leftovers as well. I also ended up using less oil, salt and chili and adding more lime. Definitely season to taste, as I probably could have added more heat with the chile flakes.
Last year, I teased you. I told you about all these delicious meals I was making but not sharing the recipes.
Russian Sauerkraut Soup (Shchi) – This was a favourite recipe and Isa has already shared the recipe here (I loved the book’s smokey version with liquid smoke, coriander seitan, sliced cabbage along with I also added some white beans)
Sesame Wow Greens, a spin on oshitashi – so simple, yet a delicious way to eat spinach. I should try it with chard and kale, too.
Luscious White Bean and Celery Root Puree – this was how I got hooked onto celeriac!
Rice Paper Rolls with Kale and Asian Pear with a Peanut Coconut Sauce – delicious in a zucchini wrap
Fastlane Cabbage Kimchi – I preferred the ginger version instead of the spicy version (did you know that kimchi normally has fish sauce or shrimp in it?)
White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano – the topping is what made this dish special
All of the recipes were from Terry Hope Romero’s new book, Vegan Eats World which is available today! And those were only a few of the recipes, since I tested over 30. This is a vegan cookbook geared at international cuisine, from Colombian Coconut Lentil Rice to Moroccan Vegetable Filo Pie (Bisteeya) and (Belgian) Beer Bathed Seitan Stew with Oven Frites (the latter were two of my recipe requests!). Terry tackled fun recipes from around the globe. She uses authentic ingredients while still putting her own spin to the dish.
One of the drawbacks of this cookbook is that she uses authentic ingredients. My cupboard explosion is partially due to Terry’s influence when I bought frozen pandan, Korean pepper flakes, canned jackfruit, freekeh and annatto seeds, among others. I can credit her with discovering many new favourite ingredients, too, including star anise, celeriac and freekeh.
As a recipe tester, I received my cookbook last week. It was captivating to read through the cookbook and discover even more recipes I want to try. There were so many recipes I couldn’t test them all.
Recipes in her book range from fancy to easy weeknight meals. Some are more involved (she has recipes for Afghan Pumpkin Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Garlic Yogurt Sauce) or incredibly easy (like Coconut [Black Eyed] Bean Curry (Lobia). The marker of a good cookbook, though, is having repeater recipes. I even photographed this one before when we made it with red lentils instead of green. Lover of all things curry, Rob has adopted this into his Repeater Recipes as a quick and simple meal both of us enjoy. We may have moved across town, from one Little Ethiopia to another, so we have easy access to injera. Terry also has a recipe for (Almost) Instant Injera, along with other dishes to make your own Ethiopian feast.
While I encourage you to pick up your own copy of Vegan Eats World, thankfully, Terry agreed to me sharing her recipe for Ethiopian Lentils in Berbere Sauce (Yemiser W’et) and Berbere Spice Blend. Enjoy!
It is that time of year again. Vegan MoFo. A month-long blogging event featuring all things vegan.
This will be my third time participating.
In 2010, I wasn’t even a vegan but only posted vegan eats.
I hummed and hawed over this year’s theme.
Quick and easy dishes?
Any of those themes would have been fun and challenging for a month. In the end, I decided to allow myself some flexibility and focus on tackling my bookmarked recipes.
Also, as much as I initially wanted to do a month of daily posts, I have decided to scale back my blogging. All in the interest of focusing on more important life events. Not that I won’t be cooking. I will. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be a very creative (and stress-reducing) outlet but will keep it as a smaller hobby. In any case, the theme will be bookmarked recipes for the month of October!
It is no secret that I bookmark a lot of recipes, from other blogs and my cookbook collection. I also recently joined Pinterest (follow me!), which may not be a good thing. Time will tell. Some of my isoteric pantry items are from bookmarking a recipe and then forgetting/waiting to make the recipe. Then I try to save the ingredient until I finally make the recipe. So, I hold onto ingredients perhaps a bit longer than needed. This is my challenge to eat through my pantry and my long list of bookmarked recipes.
I realize that not all recipes will be winners, but thought I would share my thoughts anyways. That’s the fun of MoFo!
One of my goals is to eat through my heirloom beans. I’ve amassed a few from Kalustyan’s, Rancho Gordo as well as from local stores like Whole Foods. I find them too pretty to eat but be it resolved to eat them. And replenish my favourites once I move to the US.
So here we go with a foray with mayocoba beans (or canary beans) that I picked up at Whole Foods (Mississauga Square One location for anyone interested). They are originally from Peru and similar to a white bean with a smooth, buttery texture. Feel free to substitute white beans or large pinto beans if you can’t find mayocoba beans. They are paired with one of my favourite lentils, black beluga, which are nice because they are small and keep their shape well. Here the bean medley is simmered in a roasted pepper sauce along with carrots and Swiss chard. The roasted peppers makes this a sweet sauce, so you may want to dampen it a bit with a bit more spice than I used. I served it with cooked quinoa and a side of pan-fried plantain, reminiscent of my Colombian adventures.
After boldly stating that I can easily munch through a weekly food budget of $15, I had a few people suggesting I share my tips. I have been meaning to write this post for a while, so I apologize for its delay.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but it is possible to eat well on a vegan whole-foods diet without breaking the budget. In fact, moving towards a whole foods diet will keep you away from spending the big bucks on processed food. All that processing costs the consumer more money. You do not need to eat cheaply, but rather buy good food that costs cheap.
Without further adieu, here are my tips.
1. Waste not
First of all, my biggest tip is do not waste any food. I try really hard not to waste any produce. I make weekly meal plans incorporating the ingredients I already have and what I want to buy. Know was needs to be consumed quickly (strawberries!) and what can wait (sweet potatoes!). Know what needs to be refrigerated (greens!) and what does not (tomatoes!).
2. Store surplus properly – freezers are your friends
Freeze leftover veggies and meals. When red peppers go on sale, I stock up because they can be easily frozen. No need to blanch or cook beforehand, just chop and freeze. Afterwards, they are also easy to throw into whatever dish you end up using them in – they’ve already been pre-cut! Soups and stews can easily be frozen and reheated when you want to eat them again.
3. Eat beans and cook them from scratch
Beans are cheap, healthy and store well. I routinely make a big batch of beans and freeze them with their stock in containers in 2 cup measurements so it is just like pulling out a can of beans. Quick cooking beans like red lentils are also great for easy soups and curries.
4. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense
My Mom calls me a hoarder. I think of myself as buying in bulk. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have the space, definitely consider it. When certain staples go on sale, I stock up. 2 kg of red lentils for $2? Yes please. That will likely only last 2 months anyhow. Steel cut oats, same thing… Cans of coconut milk and tomatoes will also always find a use.
5. Grow your own food
If possible, grow your own food. I have been dabbling in gardening, focusing on higher yielding vegetables (beans, zucchini) and greens such as kale and collards since they do not need to be harvested immediately. However, even for those without much space, my herb garden has been the most prolific and rewarding, both in the garden and in my kitchen. Being able to snip off a handful of fresh herbs for your meal makes your meal go a long way. Even if you are hard-pressed for sun, you can grow your own sprouts.
6. Cook at home
I almost didn’t include this tip since it is pretty obvious. Save money by cooking for yourself. Don’t eat out at restaurants. Don’t buy premade seitan. Pack your own lunch and cook things yourself.
7. Know where to shop for good prices
The above tips are more general but I wanted the heart of this post to be about my favourite local stores. I currently live in an area that has plentiful options for groceries, so every week I scour the flyers and figure out what I need to buy based on my meal plan. Ethnic grocers are usually a great place for reasonably priced ingredients. Sales often vary, but there are stores that I know I will usually find great prices.
Here are my favourite places in Toronto:
Sunny’s Supermarket – I don’t live close to Sunny’s anymore, but it has an awesome selection of nearly every ethnic cuisine, except the standard North American diet. Milk and cereal might be there, but it isn’t as cheap as the red lentils and tofu. It has a very extensive spice collection with high turnover for its produce, beans and grains. Weekly sales are great and they often have random produce on sale, too. It is not uncommon for red lentils, chickpeas and split peas to sell for cheap ($2 for 2 kg). Bestwin is a similar supermarket, not too far away, but it is more dingy and not as big as Sunny’s.
Lucky Moose in Chinatown – I have started to bike past Chinatown when I come home from work. I think this is one of the better priced grocers with good quality produce. I never know what I will find on sale though… bananas for 29c/lb, zucchini for 39c/lb or young Thai coconuts ($2/2). Like most Asian grocers, “exotic” mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake and enoki are always reasonably priced. Snow peas and snap peas, too ($2/lb).
Welcome Food Mart – This is my neighbourhood ethnic grocer. A transplanted Chinatown grocer with oftentimes questionable produce but there are some good deals to be had. They have a weekly flyer and they constantly seem to sell 10 limes for $1 which suits me perfectly.
Tutti Fruiti in Kensington Market – Kensington Market is our local stop for bulk items, like nuts when they aren’t on sale elsewhere. I have started to use more Brazil nuts in recipes because they are cheaper here than walnuts and pecans! Protein powders are also very reasonably priced (Hemp Pro 70 is $19) and tempeh is the best price in town. Don’t like Tutti Fruiti? Try the neighboring Essence of Life instead.
Ambrosia – My favourite health food isn’t that close to me, but when we are in the area, we stock up at Ambrosia. Monthly specials can be great on top of great regular prices. Quinoa for $2.44/lb? Yes please! They also seem to stock the majority of all my wacky kitchen needs (I buy my nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten here).
Bulk Barn – I don’t find Bulk Barn to have good prices but if it is your closest bulk store, so be it. Buying only what you need is the way to go. The one time you will find me in Bulk Barn is when their oats are on sale for 79c/lb and I couple that with a $3 off $10 purchase coupon. Cheap oats, please!
J-Town – I don’t find J-Town that inexpensive but it is a nice place to stock up on all your Japanese needs. I am listing it thought because it sells Mori-Nu silken tofu for $1.68. Booyah!
No Frills, FreshCo and Walmart – Of all the big chain grocery stores, these are my favourites even though I don’t shop there that often. No Frills and FreshCo stock ethnic vegetables, depending on their neighbouhood, too. Surprisingly, Walmart has good prices for nuts and dried fruit. It has a reasonable selection of ethnic ingredients. I even spotted my much loved package of peeled garlic at Walmart, too. All three stores also have a nice price matching policy, that includes grocery items. I really like that because I can still go shopping on a Wednesday and know my produce will be in-stock at the grocers that price match.
Do you have any other great tips for eating well as a vegan? Any other places in Toronto that you recommend?
Feel free to peruse my archives for what I actually eat on a day-to-day basis. I have a bad habit of not sharing some of my most easy pantry-friendly meals. Possibly because red lentil soups are not always photogenic. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste as good, so I encourage you to dive past the murkiness of this soup and give it a try.
This Greek red lentil soup is very simple, yet tastes great. The soup stock is based from sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves which are simmered with red lentils infused with rosemary and oregano for the touch of Greek. The soup is finished with lemon juice and zest to bring it up a notch and complement the herbs.
The entire recipe makes a big pot of soup, so I encourage you to freeze half for a rainy (or snowy) day.
Have spices, will travel.
I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.
I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.
But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!
A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.
I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.
Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!
Rob and I like to
name rename things. People. Animals. You name it, and we’ll rename it.
The previous tenant in the basement had a cat. A big, fluffy black cat that would watch us whenever we were in the backyard. It took us a while to figure out his name. By that time we had christened him with a new name: Muffin.
A dog followed us for a few days while on our jungle trek in Colombia. Rob named him Danger Dog.
After our recent Colombian adventures, our new home also has been christened with a Spanish name: Casa Tarragona.
Thankfully a late summer purchase was a new tarragon plant.
I first tried tarragon last year and since discovered it is an easy-to-grow perennial. Tarragon has a subtle anise flavour that I like, even though I don’t like licorice. Here, I pair it with blueberries in a delicious dressing sweetened by dates. Coconut-sauteed onions make this a luscious dressing with a hint of citrus from the lemon.
Wanting a hearty main-course salad, I paired it with French du Puy lentils and spinach. Toasted walnuts add a satisfactory crunch and fresh blueberries provide bursts of sweetness.
Definitely one of my favourite salads, to date, I feel like this is definitely the summer of salads!
What are your favourite ways to use tarragon?
How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?
Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.
So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.
My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? Let me know how it goes!
Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:
I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!
Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.
My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.
We made sure we had the basics though:
Vegetariana estricta Vegan
But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:
Without eggs (Really?)
Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)
We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:
We got better at explaining what I wanted:
Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).
other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)
As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.
Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!
By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!
In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip. I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.
Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals. Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting. While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.
This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.
And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom!
There are many reasons why I love Rob, but one of them is that he is really laid back. He doesn’t stress out when the fridge is already full and I come home with even more veggies or when I buy, um, another cookbook, or two… I also love the way he approaches cooking: a few staple recipes interspersed with new recipes.
Recently, he’s been culling meals from our favourites. Rob’s Repeater Recipes as I have tagged them on the site: Dal Bhat, Besan Chilla, Tamarind Lentils and this Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. Why mess with success? They fall under “you can make these dishes for me anytime” category. Definitely comfort food. I have mentioned this delightful dal a few times, but have yet to share the recipe because we didn’t have any photos. Since we usually make this whenever we have a surplus of broccoli, I knew we would eventually capture it at a photogenic angle. I tried… there is something about a slurry of a soup that makes it hard to look as great as it tastes.
This is one of our go-to recipes because it is so packed with flavours. Indian-inspired flavours like cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, chile flakes and garam masala really make this pop. The red lentils cook away into a creamy background interspersed with bits of broccoli (we use both the florets and stem). If you are anti-bits, just use the stems. If you are anti-broccoli (gasp!), just use the stems, because only the florets give it away that veggies are hidden in here. The almond milk helps to add an extra level of creaminess.
As written, the recipe serves 2-3 people. We’ve realized that doubling it makes the most sense since we like it so much.