Thank goodness I got my share of summer while I was still in Houston. Spending a month in Africa was sunny, but still a bit nippy, and definitely not that green. Our first week back in Canada was hot and humid, but that was an anomaly. Toronto didn’t get much of a summer this year, either.
However, while I am no farmer, I think one thing that has benefitted from the rainy days has been the blueberries. The wild blueberries were unbelievably big this year and the cultivated ones, even more massive. Rob tried to warn me when I loaded up with some cultivated blueberries: They don’t taste that great, he whispered to me. Turns out they were big and blueberry-delicious. And I didn’t have to share them with Rob. Score! :)
Without restraint, I added them to my morning oats and carefully crafted this salad courtesy of Terry’sFrom Salad Samurai. A multi-component, main dish salad with a spinach base, filled with cucumber and blueberries, beefed up with Ginger Beer tofu and topped with sticky, sweet & savoury almonds with Chinese 5-spice. I tried to stay true to the recipe, but only changes were to decrease the tamari because it was an ever-present ingredient in nearly all the components. I also did not want to turn on my oven for the tofu, so I pan-fried it in its marinade. It wasn’t as crispy as it would have been baked, but still good. The star of the salad, other than the big blueberries, were the Chinese 5-spiced glazed almonds which were perfectly balanced with the tamari, agave and the Chinese 5-spice imparted an interesting edge that I did not expect to taste so good.
This was not my first salad from the cookbook and it will certainly not be my last. Because the salads are huge ensembles of dressings, flavoured mains and interesting toppings, it can be hard to settle down and make an entire salad. Terry has some tips to master your art of making heavenly salads throughout the week. I have been picking and choosing each component separately, although, I really want to make everything: Thai Seitan Larb in Lettuce Cups, Lentil Pate Banh Mi Salad Rolls, East-West Roasted Corn Salad, Green Papaya Salad with Lemongrass Tofu, Miso Edamame Succotash Salad, Seitan Bacon Wedge Salad with Horseradish Dressing, Kimchi Black Rice with Asian Pear, Collards and Sweet Potato Crunch Bowl… ok, ok, I will stop. I basically want to make everything. The recipes are grouped by season and feature salads with loads of flavour from lots of fresh vegetables (no kidding) but also fresh herbs and spices. Terry also has a fun chapter for sweet salads, including a coconut carrot cake salad and overnight oats with Mexican chocolate creme that are calling out for salads for breakfast and dessert, too. Trust me, I am looking forward to cooking through this throughout the whole year.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere in the world (since I will be shipping it). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite salad. I will randomly select a winner on September 5, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Salad Samurai shared elsewhere:
Last year, I was all over the strawberry cucumber smoothie. I drank it for weeks straight. Banana-less, the strawberries provided enough sweetness and contrasted against the cooling cucumber.
This year, I went more simple: frozen watermelon and mint. Lime juice is optional, mainly because I think it would be fabulous, but right now our limes are very sad so I didn’t get very much juice at all.
By using watermelon that has been pre-frozen, this is a quick and cooling drink. The hint of mint is a nice contrast without overpowering the drink.
Depending on the sweetness of your watermelon (and your tastes), will depends how much sweetener you would like to add.
What are your favourite summer drinks?
PS. Another nice version is this pineapple-mint frothy!
I told my friend in Houston that I had reached the height of my vegan eats here. There were no new restaurants I wanted to try. She assured me there were so.many.more to try and convinced me to try a nearby Thai restaurant. Oddly enough, Rob has spotted it earlier that week and was amused by its billboard that announced it was MANGO SEASON!
I was apprehensive but she assured me I would love it. She told me they had vegan ice cream. I was sold.
She did not lie. I loved it. So much so, that I quickly tried to figure out how to recreate the dishes.
This is a spin on Laotian larb. Of note, Rob tells me this is nothing like the original and in fact, if you pronounce the r in larb, that is wrong, too. Make no mistake about its simplicity, this salad wrap was GREAT!
A few fun points: This was the first time I have steamed tofu. I LOVED it. It made it nice and fluffy and once crumbled, it absorbed the flavours of the marinade incredibly well. Lime juice, cilantro, in a salty-hot-sweet background, it was nice, fresh and light. After an overnight soak, it was absolutely perfect and lasted for a few days of lovely leftovers for lunch.
I took inspiration from the restaurant to serve it next to a quarter of an iceberg. Its solid leaves make for excellent wraps, more sturdy than most lettuces and is rather mild on the green scale. Besides, it is always good to rotate your greens. :)
Do you have a favourite green wrap? I thought collards were my favourite but I was rather smitten by the iceberg lettuce. ;)
We reached critical mass last weekend.
I am not joking.
We ran out of room in the refrigerator.
Who knew greens could take up so much space?
I loaded up at our favourite market. $7 got us heaps of produce along with our $5 case of mangoes. The mangoes and bananas didn’t go into the fridge, but it was hard enough to get my bag of 9 leeks ($1!) and 3 heads of Boston lettuce ($1!) in there.
But then, I went to the potluck. How could I not support buying some freshly picked organic kale grown by school children from a nearby elementary school? And that is how I also ended up with a good 3-4 bunches worth of kale and could barely close my fridge.
Thank goodness Rob hasn’t strangled me just yet.
With prices so low, we don’t feel as guilty if I don’t eat through everything. But I try!!
Instead of tackling all the leeks and my new produce, I decided to dig through my vegetable bins to find the older vegetables. Finish off the snap peas, carrots and bell peppers, and the last of the scraggly cilantro and scallions. For protein, I quick-thawed some edamame.
This combination reminded me of my vegetable buddha salad bowl but since we’re low on miso, I went with a dressing more reminiscent of my (other) raw Asian kale salad with edamame. With so many colourful vegetables and an Asian dressing, how could you go wrong?
Please share with me your favourite kale and leek recipes! Also, for fresh chickpeas since I scored those too! :)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest and this week’s Souper Sundays.
We traded hills for wind this weekend.
Blustery wind. Gusty winds.
It was kind of humbling to cycle 100-km hilly routes outside Houston, and then find ourselves so pooped we could barely finish our rides.
Even though we’re aiming for 160 km, our odometers have been stuck at 100-km for a while. This weekend, we decided to shun the hills (and the 2-hour commute to get to them) and opt for distance. The wind was a pleasant (or unpleasant), unplanned surprise. A flat tire was also a surprise and likely cost us an hour of cycling time. We pushed through 127 km of city-riding on Saturday.
On Sunday, we aimed to add hills to our windy resistance. We did an “urban hill” loop where we tried to climb as many highway overpasses as possible. The wind was relentless. If we thought Saturday was windy, it was even windier on Sunday. Southeast winds of 30km/h with gusts over 50 km/h. Rob rerouted it to include a stopover at Mi Tienda #2, our favourite Mexican grocer. We weren’t going to skip out on our aguas fresca ritual! This week they had mamey, which was a hard choice over the guanabana.
Even though we were out and about on our bikes most of the weekend, we actually had more energy. I guess we’re better at tackling wind than hills.
We ended up (ok, just me) stockpiling veggies when we finally ended up at an Asian market for our weekly grocery run. We put them to great use in this vegan spin on bahn mi sandwiches. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich, which I associate with the pickled vegetables and cilantro. Here, tofu and mushrooms are scrambled as the base. The veggies, with Terry’s spin of adding star anise, make this a nice and bright wrap.
Rob thought it was his best sandwich ever. I thought it nice, too, and opted to eat it in a collard wrap.
Maybe everything tastes better after biking 180 km?
There is long-distance cycling and then there’s long-distance cycling over hills.
We’ve heard the cycling routes around Austin are hilly but not entirely sure how it compares to Ontario. Houston, is fairly flat, so I haven’t been doing many hills, unless it is an overpass over a highway. I stumbled upon Lori’s recap of last year’s Shiner GASP. She wrote:
This course was going to be challenging because of the sheer number of inclines and hills (Esmeralda said she stopped counting at 23 last year), and the wind that it was famous for. I had hoped that with the front it would be a tail wind, but at mile 30 the wind shifted and was either a head wind or cross wind. Oh well, it was nice to dream.
With a month away from our own hilly 100-mile adventure, it instilled a fear of hills. So, this weekend, we sought out something to climb.
Earlier this year, we were planning to do the “Bike Through the Forest and Hills” 80-km ride in Coldspring, Texas. We had already registered and picked up our packages (the first ones, at that, bib numbers 1 and 2). It was scheduled right after I sprained both knees, so understandably, we didn’t go. However, with such a descriptive name, we figured it would be a hilly ride. Rob saved the course maps, though. He ended up modifying the route so that we had a 50 km loop. The original ride had you return in the opposite direction, but we just repeated the same loop once we were familiar with the course.
The 100-km ride wasn’t the hard part. It was the hills! After 8 minutes, I wasn’t sure I was up for this many hills. Rob clocked an incline that lasted 3 km. The worst part, though, was the wind. Wind + hills = a definite challenge. A strong wind with a loopy course meant the wind was, sadly, only helping us 25% of the time. In any case, we were positively pooped after our “short” 100-km ride.
We ended up stopping off at our favourite Mexican grocer on the way home: Mi Tienda. It reminds us of our trip to Mexico City, with lots of fun food, loud music and random decor. We treated ourselves to fresh guanabana juice and a mix of celery-pineapple-cactus juices. If you have never tried guanabana, I highly recommend it. We fell in love with it in Colombia. We also had some fresh (and warm- this is KEY) churros. After our bellies were content, I scurried back in for our weekly grocery expedition.
I try am trying to balance emptying my pantry along with trying everything that I can while in Texas/America. This time, I bought some cactus (aka nopales). You can find it fresh as a giant paddle or pre-chopped with the spikes removed. I gather you can also find it brined in jars or cans. In any case, I first tried it while in Mexico City. Cooked simply, it was a vegetable side or topping. One of the dishes I had it with was as tlacoyo from a street vendor: a blue corn masa dough that she stuffed with refried beans and topped with a nopales salsa. was I really liked it: the texture of a bell pepper with the taste of a green bean.
In truth, Rob and I were too zonked to do any cooking when we returned post-ride and post-Mi Tienda. We went out for tacos. The following day, we did another cycling jaunt. Not too long, and all flat, we were still battling the wind and the possibility of rain. However, the shorter ride meant I had enough energy to tend to errands and do some cooking.
I simply ran with the idea of tlacoyo. It is more like a cheese-less quesadilla. We had fresh corn tortillas so I used that instead of the masa dough. I already have a favourite (unfried) refried bean recipe. The problem was the cactus. I wasn’t entirely sure how to cook it, but I eventually decided to boil it first, then saute it with some leftover roasted onions. It may not have been authentic at all, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Have you ever tried nopales/cactus? What are your favourite recipes?
With my meals revolving around plant-based whole foods, my mom has referred to my choice as being a vegan on steroids. While I have relaxed slightly, I still try my hardest to cater to others who may have dietary restrictions, for whatever reason. I have a friend with a sulphite allergy, family members with celiac disease and a coconut-hating mom. I was honoured when Ricki approached me to guest post on her blog. I have been reading it for years and enjoyed many of her creations (hemp brownies, the best vegan cheesecake, warm chickpea and artichoke salad and cocoa mint nibbles). All the while knowing she follows an anti-candida diet but never really knowing what it entailed. Imagine my surprise when Ricki told me how simple it really was: vegan, gluten-free meals without mushrooms, peanuts, pistachios, yeast and only low glycemic sweeteners. Without fail, I only then notice how all my recent recipes I wanted to share weren’t suitable: a mushroom-walnut pate, veggie spring rolls with a peanut sauce, vegetable noodle salad with peanuts, the banana in my acai bowl or the maple syrup in my salad dressing. Then I started to second guess myself, is miso ok? What about almonds? Ricki’s upcoming cookbook will help delineate this, along with new mouth-watering recipes and I cannot wait to read it. Until then, I decided to share what I know best: a hearty salad. ACD-friendly. I crafted a fun twist with spring’s new bounty of asparagus. I paired it with edamame for some additional protein and toasted almonds for crunch and drizzled it with a miso-lime vinaigrette. Jump over to her blog to check out the recipe here.
First of all, you guys are awesome. You guys are word wizards! I love it!
(And yes, I realize there is a selection bias based on who chooses to write a comment, but still…)
Second of all, did you catch the recent posts all about beans? Like “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Avoid Eating Beans” on Breaking Muscle? Or Ginny’s recent post on The Vegan RD called “Plant Protein: Why Vegans Need Beans“? Both are very well done posts about beans. Bucking the paleo trend, Jeff points out common (or quite uncommon) misconceptions about beans and why you should be eating them. Ginny makes a great case why beans are the best source of protein that is relevant for vegans and non-vegans alike.
You know it. Beans are my fuel, too. Oftentimes, I get stuck in the land of chickpeas and lentils when there are actually a lot more beans out there. With the Mexican slant in Houston, I have been gobbling up black beans with much gusto as of late. Mexican black bean dip, black bean tostadas, Mexican zucchini lasagna, black bean and sweet potato tamales and even black bean tortilla soup. And here we go with another Mexican-inspired black bean soup.
This is an absolutely delicious soup. However, there is an asterisk. It tastes good because you coax all the goodness out of each ingredient individually. Translation: it is a bit labour-intensive but so worth it.
Caramelize your onions and carrots. Roast your red bell pepper. Make your own Ancho chile puree. Freshly toast your cumin seeds. If you have the time, prepare your beans from scratch. Squirt on some lime juice and scatter cilantro throughout. Yeah.
Take the time to tend to this soup and you will not be disappointed. In fact, I recommend you double the recipe so that you can freeze your bounty.
Want to take the short cuts? I am sure this will still be a delicious soup: soften your onion and carrot with the red pepper, throw in your pre-cooked/canned beans, swap Ancho chile powder for the puree, forego the cumin toasting. It can all be done and will still be delicious.
Here’s to more more beans! :)
With Olympic fever set anew, I felt a tad guilty sitting on my latest find. Perhaps you have already heard about it? Matt’s book, No Meat Athlete: part nutrition advice for athletes, part vegan transition guide, and part cookbook. Matt freely admits he is your typical average guy. No Olympian-in-training, but through his quest to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, he picked up the vegan bug and pushed himself to the next level.
I am certainly no runner. Cycling is my sport of choice. However, his story echoes my own. While learning to best prepare my (formerly?) non-athletic self to cycle a double imperial century ride (361 km/224 mi), I discovered the benefits of vegan foods. I fell hard for the advantages of regular exercise (no pun intended on my knees). At the time, I cobbled together bits and pieces of my culinary and cycling journey through books mainly by Brendan Brazier with a shout-out for women’s cycling guides.
At the time, veganism was not mainstream (and is still not popular – only 2% call themselves vegan in the US) which makes this book perfect. This guide is perfect for the beginner: the beginner to vegan eats, the beginner to fuelling yourself as an athlete and the beginner to running (or any endurance sport). Pick any of the three and you will glean something from Matt’s quest to inform himself to conquer his athletic goals. This is not to say that if you have any experience in any of these areas you will not gain more information, you might, or it may remind you to try new things, inspire you to run a marathon, or simply eat good food.
His advice for athletes are pertinent for most cardio-intensive sports (like cycling), although he has specific advice for a beginner who wants to learn how to run. The best part is that Matt shares his favourite recipes to fuel you, too.
All of Matt’s recipes are catered to optimal nutrition. Fast, healthy and tasty. Approachable dinner meals like Variations on Beans and Rice (I really liked his Mexican version) and desserts like black bean brownies. He also offers blueprints for creating your own culinary masterpieces: The Perfect Smoothie Formula, Your Own Energy Bar Recipe, or The Incredible Veggie Burger Formula. For the athletes, there are sport-specific recipes like chia fresca, homemade energy gels and homemade sports drink.
Nutrition aside, it must taste good, too, and these do not disappoint.
I was not joking about eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the tacos were no longer fresh, no longer as soft as a baby’s bum, I resorted to Matt’s recipe: South of the Border Tortilla Soup. Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup.
Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup. I tried to stay as true to Matt’s recipe for reviewing purposes but his suggestion to pan-fry the tortillas did not work so easily for me. Baking them might actually be easier which is what I shared in the following recipe. In any case, a big pot of delicious soup. For athletes and non-athletes alike.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what kind of exercise you enjoy or your favourite recipe you have tried (or want to try) from Matt’s website No Meat Athlete. I will randomly select a winner on February 22, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from No Meat Athlete shared online:
Yesterday was Martin Luther Kind Jr. Day. A new-to-us statutory holiday, we celebrated by attending America’s third largest parade. Third behind the Rose Parade and The Macy’s Day Parade. Yes, Houston’s Martin Luther King Jr Parade highlighted marching bands, parade floats, antique cars (and horses!) and attracted an estimated 300,000 spectators. And it was happening a few blocks from my home. So we went. I can’t say I have been to many other parades (other than the Santa Claus Parade) and this was a real treat.
There are a few things on my American bucket list. A few fun things (like Burning Man and visiting National Parks), and then some that others think we should experience to fully appreciate the American culture. Like attend a football game. If you think hockey is big in Canada, football is even bigger in the US. Like huge. I mean, like HUGE. Our neighbour invited us to watch a football game with him but timing never seemed to work out. When I finally approached him again, the Texans had already wrapped up a year that was not their best. I don’t think they even made the playoffs. In any case, I will have to scurry about to find an invitation to a Superbowl party instead. It sounds more up my alley… game day food, no?
Not that I have ever been to a sport watching party before.. with game food. I imagine there would a lot a of nibblers and popcorn… and chips. While I am not sure how I could make this delicious bowl of black beans whipped into a dip look much better (perhaps a garnish or two.. and some colourful veggies for the photo.. or inside a pretty kale wrap), I am sharing it because it was delightful. A spin on hummus, but with nearly everything replaced: black beans instead of chickpeas, pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds, lime instead of lemon, and the icing on top: instead of garlic we used fire roasted green chiles. Fire roasted green chiles are much easier to find in the US, whereas I don’t think I ever noticed them in Canada. I have really taken a liking to them since they aren’t that spicy, either. In this dip, they were a perfect foil for the otherwise ugly dip. Eat it with some crackers or vegetables.. and get your leguminous protein fix. :)
Do you like football? Are you excited for the Superbowl? What will you be serving for game day?
(To be fair, I rarely even paid attention to the hockey games while in Canada, either)
I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.
Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.
People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year. I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.
Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.
Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.
If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:
I have been very fortunate to grow up in an environment where brains were valued over beauty. None of my friends were ever on diets. If I made New Year’s Resolutions (I doubt I did; my last decade has been more of a daily self-evaluation), they were short-lived vow to be nicer to my brother. My mother (and brother) may not believe me.
It was only after I started reading food blogs, did I encounter the dizzying world of detoxes, cleanses and diets. Not that I have ever condoned detoxes. Barring liver disease or overdoses, our liver does a great job “detoxifying” our body every.single.day. Imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my friends in Houston told me they were eating 100% raw shortly after New Year’s, spurred by Kristina’s 21-Day Raw Challenge. I love the creativity that comes from cooking/uncooking/eating raw foods, but they complement my cooked vegan eats. Let’s be honest, even in Houston, winter is not the ideal time to go all raw.
My friend hosted a potluck to kickstart her first day on her raw diet and this is what I brought to share. I used it as an opportunity to make something from a new cookbook, Balanced Raw. Raw sushi is easy to share at a party, so I tried the new recipe. I have made raw sushi before, and the recipes are quite similar, but I decided to share this version, too, mainly because Rob took some impromptu sushi rolling action shots. Using a placemat makes sushi rolling very easy. Parsnip rice is spiced with a bit of chile powder and filled with an assortment of vegetables.
A note about the cookbook, though. The recipes are built around a 3-week vegan “cleanse” with a meal plan for every day. The recipes span both raw and cooked meals, but they seem to follow a low-fat 80/10/10 vegan diet. While Kristina is good about mentioning the need to eat enough calories, the meal plans in this book look woefully inadequate calorically. However, the recipes are interesting and would be a useful adjunct to whatever your typical eats may be. There are ideas for vegetables beyond salads. I use raw foods to enhance my vegan diet. It is a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits.
The publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think about cleanses and detoxes. Have you done one? Are you doing one? I will randomly select a winner on January 20, 2014. Good luck!
Balanced Raw recipes elsewhere:
PS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for Superfood Smoothies here.
I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!
Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.
Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.
What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.
While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:
1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.
3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.
4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.
5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.
6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.
7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. ;)
I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.
Where have you been on the web recently?
Remember that time when I thought fall had arrived in Houston? The morning had a bit of a chill, despite daytime highs that were reminiscent of a typical Toronto summer’s day.
The extreme heat and humidity has somewhat abated, but without the change in the colour of the trees’ leaves, it still does not feel like fall. I continue to wear the same clothes I wore in the middle of the summer (aka short sleeves and shorts).
Although, I know the seasons are changing. The days are getting shorter. I can no longer photograph my dinner, after I return from work. Some days I am home earlier, but most days, I arrive home fairly late, after sunset. The sun is setting earlier, and earlier.
So after Rob made this absolutely delicious black bean soup, I knew I wanted to share it… but I had to photograph it before we finished it off. Instead of depriving Rob of his next dinner, I asked him to photograph it before he devoured the last serving. I mean, there are a few perks of working from home, and photographing meals during daylight is definitely one of them.
So… about this soup. Delicious! Loads of black beans and sweet potato chunks are simmered with cumin, oregano and allspice with a broth that is flavoured with red pepper paste (Rob’s creative substitute since we were all out of red bell peppers) and sun-dried tomatoes. Although the balsamic vinegar and lime juice make this special with the tang and acidity. The balsamic finish is definitely making a comeback in my kitchen, since it worked well with the white bean paprikash. Rob also opted to keep the black beans whole, instead of pureeing them. Thus, this was a bean stew instead of a bean soup.
While one might think I have a certain food photography style, it is truly a lazy affair. One camera and one lens. Photo from above and a few photos from the front. Easy, peasy and pretty fool-proof. As long as you can keep things in focus as you hover above the food. ;) Although the next photo shows you Rob’s signature in-your-face style:
The inspiration for this soup came from Dreena’s latest ecookbook, Plant-Powered 15, filled with 15 whole-foods vegan recipes without any oil or gluten. I know I have a few readers who are no-oil vegans, so this would be perfect for you. Even if you are not eating oil-free (like me!), you will still enjoy the bright flavours. As I have said before, I really like Dreena’s recipes. In particular, we adore her Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad, Jerk Chickpeas, Thai Chickpea Almond Curry, Tomato Lentil Cumin and Dill Soup and Thai Coconut Corn Stew.
Dreena’s ebook spans breakfast, oil-free salad dressings, mains like vegan burgers and even a few desserts. With the help of Nicole, there are gorgeous photos of each recipe. Instead of misleading you, Dreena has allowed me to share Nicole’s photo of the soup:
Dreena has already shared the recipe for Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sundried Tomato Burgers, her cashew-based Wonder Spread and Sticky Almond Blondies as teasers for the cookbook. However, even more exciting is that she is graciously offering a copy of her ecookbook to two of my readers! Because this is an electronic version, it is open to anyone is the world! (Woohoo!) To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Dreena recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Dreena yet, have a look through the table of contents of Plant-Powered 15 (or another one of her books/blog) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 15, 2013. Good luck!
Note: I purchased my own copy of Dreena’s cookbook. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.