As I write this, it is snowing outside.
Not that it will last and stay on the ground, but it definitely marks the beginning of fall. The leaves and temperatures have both fallen.
I walked to the Saturday farmer’s market this morning and they had finally moved it indoors. With everyone crammed into a smaller place, it was cramped and crowded but I still walked away with my stash of apples. Earlier, Rob and I tried to go apple picking where we had gone a few years ago. Turns out that the farm was subsequently sold and the DIY apple picking was no more. Since the farmer’s market is so close to our home, we didn’t pursue it further this year.
While we typically eat the apples as snacks and in our morning oats, this time, I added it to a savoury autumn salad. Roasted cauliflower is combined with quinoa with Indian-inspired flavours such as roasted coconut with a touch of sweetness from the apple and raisins. I then drizzled my favourite curried maple tahini dressing, which I usually reserved for my chickpea and carrot salad with excellent results. I needed to double the dressing since this salad was so voluminous.
Did you see snow, too?
Easing back into cooking in Toronto, I tried to highlight local, seasonal vegetables. We arrived too late to grow our own garden but we had a little help from family.
These cucumbers were courtesy of Rob’s mother’s garden and the tomatoes came from my sister-in-law’s parents’ garden. The dressing was a simple lemon-tahini-garlic combination that pretty much never fails. Although the twist was adding some olives. I don’t use them very often but it was an unusual and nice accent to the creamy dressing.
What are you growing this year?
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:
I was hoping to update you with happy news that our stuff had arrived. Sadly, no. A mix up at the customs warehouse means we are still without all stuff. Except our car. We have that because my parents’ drove it down, hoping to help us unpack, only to find out our pod was not coming, as expected.
Anyways, I am ahead of myself. I am still reliving last weekend’s debacle.
Curious as to how so many people were able to help when we were stranded with the car in the middle of nowhere?
Turns out my brother and sister-in-law were also driving back to Toronto around the same time. They were in Ottawa for my SIL’s baby shower and we both left around the same time and thank goodness, they were still reasonably close when our distress call went out.
My mom hosted a fabulous shower and I had very little involvement. Other than suggesting some menu changes as there were limited vegan options. Considering I finagled 3 dishes, it was in directions only. I suggested some tried-and-true favourites for the appetizers: Pineapple and Cucumber Guacamole (my SIL stole the leftovers, so that was a success!), Cucumber Hummus Dip (very well received), and my Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Salad as my main. I added a bit of cinnamon this time and liked that, too. I actually made a double batch so I could take the leftovers, but alas, they never made it. I hope my Mom liked it instead.
My mom totally outdid herself with the desserts (so.many.pretty.cakes!) so I knew any dessert I made would just be for myself. This was my experiment. And it was a very good experiment. My Mom treated herself to a new Vitamix so I took full use of it!
I used Brandi’s recipe as my inspiration for this cinnamon spice vegan cheesecake. It was also my first time playing with a cake swirl! I really liked the the cake. I think lemon juice would be great here, but I swapped it for orange juice, since that was what my parents’ had on hand. I also swapped a fresh apple for the apple juice. Because this is oil-free (no coconut oil or coconut butter), it is softer than my previous raw cheesecakes. This just means that you need to time it perfectly before you can eat it. If you leave it out at room temperature too long, it will melt into a softer cake. I liked it with still a bit of bite from the freezer, thus this was definitely an ice cream cake!
My swirling wasn’t perfect but this just means I will have to try again with my next attempt. (See my tips below for my next round).
I spoke too soon.
You know when you plan for something, know you won’t be having internet for a while and schedule a post about what life will be like (because you planned for it to be as so)?
Well, let’s just say I planned to have a semi-functioning household. En route to our new home in Toronto, packed to the brim with loaner things (you know, all the necessities: an inflatable bed, sheets, cutlery, pot, frypan, containers and all that food you made for the following week so you wouldn’t actually have to cook..), an hour and half into our trip from Ottawa, my car breaks down. We pulled off to the side of the 401 as my dashboard went bonkers and the engine stopped working.
I pulled out my cell phone. Three days earlier I had finally signed up for service. Although, looking down, my phone told me I had no service. (Bad WIND!) Not good.
Thank goodness Rob’s phone still worked, despite roaming and despite me previously draining the battery surfing the internet.
Frantic phone calls eventually got my brother and pregnant sister-in-law to my side who had the rational idea to tow the car back to Ottawa and they would drive Rob and I along with a few essentials.
We called CAA/AAA with my brother’s charged phone, despite being on hold and having dropped calls, only to find out our membership expired last month (GAH!). Membership offices are closed because it is a holiday.
We contact my Mom, who has a CAA membership and she offered to come down and help out. We knew it would be at least 90 minutes for her to arrive.
We start rearranging luggage on the side of the highway. Non-essentials in the dead car. Essentials in my brother’s. I had to make quick decisions: clothes and underwear keep, inflatable bed keep (but forgot the pump and sheets!) and also realized there was no room for all of the packed food and the container with all the helpful bits (pot, pan, knives, etc).
An OPP police officer pulls over and asks us what was going on. It must be such a sight with all of us scurrying around, including a pregnant woman and someone with crutches. He calls a tow truck to remove us from harm’s way and told us to be careful (turns out someone had died earlier that day after exiting their car).
Not too long afterwards, the tow truck arrives. The car is loaded onto the flatbed truck and brought to the closest safe location as we patiently wait for my mother to arrive.
Eventually, my Mom is able to call CAA for us and she returns with the car back to Ottawa. My brother drops us off in our new empty home. (Kind soul, he actually waited with us for 30 minutes as we waited for our landlord to give us the keys). We forgot we have no microwave.
Once we’re somewhat settled, Rob runs off to the grocery store since we have zero food. And no tokens for the bus to get to work tomorrow. He comes back loaded with groceries. We quickly eat the ready-made salads and hummus.
I ask for his can opener for the beans. (Because salsa+beans=meal). It is in the bag that went back to Ottawa. GAH.
I subsequently call up a friend and we cobble together some kitchen necessities to borrow: cutlery, can opener, bowls and plates. And a pot!
We collapse on the inflatable bed. Exhausted but at the same time basking in the love and support from family and friends. Ready for me to start my first day at work.*
*With my vacation clothes I packed for Africa.
If you are here for the lovely recipe instead of the dramatic life of Janet (I can’t make this up!), this was made while I still lived in Houston. This was our go-to roasted cauliflower recipe. A tomato base with a savoury spice blend. The original recipe was for a raw version, using the dehydrator, but we have been using tomato paste and the oven since it is both delicious and simple. A great side with lots of flavour.
Perhaps in a week or so I will be back to normal. Have you ever felt like the universe was pushing against you?
It is nice to be home again. While I have a very bare kitchen (some borrowed knives, cutting board, pot and frypan only with a few containers), I am still happy to be starting my new life. We had dedicated more time for unpacking over the long weekend, but since we had nothing to unpack, we spent more time at my parents, thoroughly exploiting their fully functional kitchen.
We quickly gravitated to make old favourites: Tamarind Lentils, Pad Thai, and Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad. Then, finally itching to make something new, I decided to make a spin on two of my other favourite salads, aka The Best Lentil Salad and The Best Chickpea Salad. This time, I used lentils, capers and currants but with a dressing more similar to the tahini-maple-curry dressing from the chickpea salad. I added some greens, too, which I like to add to lentil salads. It was so delicious, it barely lasted one meal.
Got to love simple salads like this. What is your favourite summer salad?
Houston gets me every single time. You leave for a week or two and you forget how hot and humid it is. Or maybe it just became hotter.
I thought it was ice cream weather before but now it has become a dietary staple. Just like salsas, we will have to wean ourselves from the vegan ice creams at Trader Joe’s.
I have no ice cream maker, but this recipe promised to deliver.
Mint ice cream with chocolate chunks – what’s not to like? I added some spirulina to make it a vibrant green base.
Sadly, it didn’t work out. I actually wonder whether it could be done at all without an ice cream maker. I quickly realized the chocolate chunks would sink to the bottom if I didn’t stir. So, I stirred the ice cream as it become to freeze, almost every 30 minutes for a few hours. Until it was way too late to stay up. Of course, in the morning, it was solid as a brick and difficult to thaw. I had a hard time getting it into a scoopable form and ended up thawing it in the microwave! It was also a bit icy, I suspect because I didn’t remove the watery coconut water from the coconut milk.
I eventually refroze it into small quantities and ended up adding some soy milk to turn it into a smoothie. Next time, I may try Kari’s idea to put it back in the food processor to whip it back into a creamy state. Or fish out my ice cream maker from storage.
The recipe comes from The China Study All-Star Collection which is a collection of vegan recipes that focus on whole foods with limited refined oils, sugars and salt. Like my cookbook collaboration, the recipes hail from many authors. I was familiar with some of the authors (Dreena Burton, Ani Phyo, Christy Morgan, and Lindsay Nixon) but also new-to-me authors like Chef AJ and Del Sroufe among others.
A cookbook like this makes a great introductory cookbook. You are exposed to the styles of many chefs, hopefully finding a few that really resonate with you, or others that perhaps push you in new directions. Would you like to try Dreena’s Apple Lentil Dal? Or Christina’s Daikon Mushroom Fettuccine? Or Laura’s Cauliflower Steaks with Sweet Pepper Sauce? Or Heather’s Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Brownies? Yeah, me too. All four. In fact, you may notice a few repeats from the more prolific writers. Lindsay’s Quick Burgers have been shared earlier as well as Dreena’s Mellow Lentil “Sniffle Soup” and Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes (I shared that one in the fall and it was fabulous!). If nothing else, it may open you up to a whole new library from a new favourite author.
Of note, due to the multiple authors, the writing style of each author is apparent, along with the quality of their accompanying photographs.
Recipes from The China Study All-Star Collection shared elsewhere:
Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles (with another giveaway, too)
Dreamy Baked Bananas (with another giveaway, too)
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite ice cream flavours. I will randomly select a winner on June 30, 2014. Good luck!
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. ;)
Spring cleaning isn’t just happening in our kitchen. Rob has decided it was time to clean up our hard-drives, over-drives and Monkey drives, too. Mostly spurred because, after trying to amalgamate his important files with my important files, it would not fit on our 1 terabyte of online back-up space.
Rob thought it was a bit nuts.
My files are mostly photos. Mostly food, but also from travel and of family/friends.
My shutter count on my six-year-old camera is 101,501. That’s only ~17k photos a year.
Apparently I take too many photos. And I keep them all. And then some.
I will let him tackle the computer while I tackle the kitchen, thank you.
We seem to have an excess of sesame seeds. Sadly, I bought a pack late in the year when I couldn’t find my original package…. I thought we were out. Instead, now we have twice as many sesame seeds. With our sesame seed surplus, I also made these fun crackers.
A simple cracker made with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and maple syrup. I remain a bit apprehensive of black sesame seeds since I don’t find them as flavourful as their whole counterparts, but they certainly make for a pretty cracker. The maple syrup bound it all together after baking. Maybe I don’t need brown rice syrup afterall? ;)
Have you checked? What is your shutter count?
PS. In my defence, I take much less photos than I used to….. and my camera has travelled to many fun places over the years)
PPS. To find your shutter count with a DSLR, you can find it embedded within the Exif information of a photo, and it can be easily unearthed through Picasa.
Desserts and salads, that’s just the way we’re rolling here these days.
There is just something so pretty about colourful vegetables, I had to share this fun twist on salad. Vegetable noodles, either created with a spiralizer, a shredder, or careful knife skills, can totally change your view on salad.
Rob cheers every time we finish something. I actually apologized when I finished the balsamic vinegar but Rob gave me a high five. I am a bit antsy about the lack of smoked paprika in the house, too, but pretty confident we’ll replenish it before we return to Canada (because: PENZEY’S!).
The tahini may be dwindling but I have lots of sesame seeds. I haven’t resorted to making my own homemade tahini yet, but it could be fun to try. Until then, my sesame seeds are usually garnishes.
This salad dressing is a fun twist on a creamy sauce, since it is made with tahini with accents from the rice vinegar, mustard and lemon pepper seasoning. As I said, the salad was fun to create, too: spiralized zucchini is tossed with shredded carrots, thinly sliced red cabbage and instead of edamame (which would be good, too), I added sweet sugar snap peas. A bit different but fun for a change. And nice when you do not feel like cooking.
Note: I am pleading fifth amendment about the coconut flour. Some things were just meant to return to Canada. ;)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest, Souper Sundays, Extra Veg and Four Seasons Food.
My lovely friend, Dawn, recently asked me to share my tips for food blogging.
As you know, I have a demanding full-time job and this is my hobby. After a few years, I think I have a great balance between managing the blog and the rest of my life. Mainly, the blog does not take over my life.
Some people wonder how I make and share so many different recipes without losing my mind.
I try to keep things low-key. I only take photos once. New recipe, snap a photo. If I come back and the photos suck, oh well… I will still post the subpar photos if the recipe is good.
This also means that I may make a recipe one way but find a better use for it afterwards as leftovers. Then my photos might not look like my recipe!
That is how this recipe evolved. It started out as a Thai Kale Salad with Chickpeas and a Peanut Dressing. I made it, I ate it. However, the next day, I thought rice paper rolls would be better. So I wrapped them up… and decided I didn’t want to bother with new photographs and munched away. Of course, the wrap was better. There is something sensational when all the components of the dish hit your palate at the exact same time: the lemony kale, the sweet red pepper, the crunchy carrots and the chickpeas are not rolling around everywhere…. and how could I forget the delicious peanut sauce? It is light, thinned with vinegar but flavourful with the ginger and orange. Drizzled into the salad roll, it was delicious. So delicious, I gobbled up the rest of the salad before rethinking about a new photo shoot.
Want more advice on how to be an awesome food blogger? Check out Dawn’s round-up with tips from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg, Susan Voisin from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, Cara Lyons from Cara’s Cravings and Alyssa from Queen of Quinoa.
I love when it is going to be a delicious week.
I am too lazy/tired to cook during the week, so I make everything on the weekend. A new batch of oatmeal. I create 3-4 different dishes, with possibly some fresh rice mid-week. Rob helps with the rice. His rice always seems to taste better even if we use the same rice cooker.
Anyways. I digress.
I love delicious surprises in the kitchen.
I was wooed by Tess’ creamy cauliflower soup in her latest cookbook. However, I knew cauliflower and leeks, alone, would not be a filling meal. Beans. I need some beans. Where are the beans? I could have easily blended white beans into the soup, but I don’t like pureed soups.
Keeping things a bit more texturally complex, I ran with bacon-flavoured roasted chickpea croutons! Because I was going to use the oven to roast my chickpeas, I roasted my vegetables, too. It helped to free up a coveted soup pot and oven burner, too.
I guess I get surprised by some of my successes. Light and fluffy yet still filling, the soup was as easy as blending together roasted vegetables with some spices. The bacon chickpeas added a salty-savoury topping that contrasted the soup wonderfully.
And somewhat off-topic. Not soup-related, but related by all things delicious. You know what else we recently discovered that was glorious? Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream. GAH! Annie clued me in early on that their coconut-based ice creams were delicious and they helped tame the Texan heat in the summer. Now that we’re cycling in the heat, this has become our new way to cool off.
What have you been enjoying lately?
Adult rice krispies and now adult rice pudding.
The difference is that I liked rice krispies as a kid but hated rice pudding. My brother loved it, but me, not so much.
However, spice it up with chai-infused flavours, sweeten it with apple, dried currants and a touch of maple syrup, bathe it in coconut milk and sprinkle it with pistachios along with leftover short-grain brown rice, and I am a happy camper.
This is no quick-fix rice pudding but it sure is delicious. My friend who tried it said it was the best rice pudding she had ever eaten.
This is my take on Tess Masters‘ version found in her gorgeous new cookbook The Blender Girl. Do not let the title mislead you too much. Yes, this is a cookbook where nearly every recipe uses a blender, but this does not mean only smoothies. The recipes are all gluten-free and vegan with only natural sweeteners. The recipes revolve around whole foods. Raw and cooked recipes are included. Tess has recipes for juices, smoothies, dips/spreads, soups, dressings, sauces and even desserts. She has entrees that use homemade sauces, including her penang curry and creamy mushroom stroganoff. Desserts include sugar-free no-pumpkin pie and chocolate-chile banana splits. Breakfast favourites including pancakes and crepes, with delicious toppings like ginger-apple-pear butter and instant raw raspberry jam. She even finds a way to use a blender for rice pudding.
She knows her stuff. It may dirty another container but I liked how a portion of the rice was pureed to thicken the rice pudding. It was rather ingenious.
She is a girl smitten by her high-speed blender. I can tell. I have one, too, and I find it hard to remember what my kitchen was like without it. Do you need an expensive high speed blender for this cookbook? Certainly not. However, you definitely need something with a blending capacity, may that be a regular blender, an immersion blender or a food processor. If you don’t have a blender, you could still gain inspiration from her creations. Your textures may be different but it would be fun to see what else you could make.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you love to make with your blender (or blending instrument). The winner will be selected at random on April 20, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes shared from The Blender Girl:
Creamy and Crunchy Spuds (with Raw Mayonnaise)
Watermelon Gazpacho is The Bomb
Fresh Spring Rolls with Orange-Almond Sauce
Creamy of Cauliflower Soup
Incredible Edible Edamame Dip
Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff
Pineapple Salsa Smoothie
Chock-Full Chocolate Surprise Smoothie
Raw Chocolate-Orange Torte
I may have been late to the Valentine’s Day dessert sharing by a week and truthfully, Pancake Tuesday was never on my radar.
Since there is a create-eat-blog lag, obviously, I need to be thinking about upcoming holidays months in advance. Red for Valentine’s Day? No. Green. Green is the new red, right? With what, St Patrick’s Day in March, right?
Joking aside, because I really don’t need an excuse to make a fun raw crepe inspired by one of my favourite childhood desserts: grasshopper crepes. My mom may chime whether this recipe is close to what she used to make: a marshmallow-cream filling spiked with creme de menthe is surrounded by a paper-thin chocolate crepe. YES! Of course, I haven’t had it in ages, but the classic flavours of chocolate and mint never fail.
I used an old favourite recipe for the chocolate banana crepes but switched up the filling by whipping together avocado, frozen banana and mint. I prefer the flavour from the mint extract instead of the mint leaves, but the mint leaves kind-of-sort-of made the filling green. I should have added a touch of spirulina to really make it sparkle!
Remember Valentine’s Day? I reneged on my promise to make dessert. Rob had no problem coming up with an alternative. In fact, he was happy when I said I didn’t have the time to make my dessert of choice. He had already planned the whole meal!
The week post-V-Day is always special for us because we celebrate Rob’s birthday and our anniversary, so I eventually made my planned dessert, too. Our stash of avocados were perfectly ripe and could I really ignore an excuse to try out a new coconut flour-based dessert?
I cobbled together a delicious dessert from a few places. The base is inspired by Emma’s Raw Brownies but I topped it with a chocolate avocado frosting, based on my chocolate avocado mousse. To get a firm frosting, I used juicy Medjool dates as the sweetener (with a dash of agave only because I ran out of dates) along with a touch of lemon juice to balance the flavours. Next time, I might try a spiced version with cinnamon and cardamom again (like in my mousse).
Because I smushed this into a springform pan, this is more like a brownie cake. The brownie was delicious and it was amazingly fudgy and moist for a raw/no-cook dessert. Unlike my walnut-based raw brownie, this was lighter in texture due to the coconut flour (but more fudgy than my raw chocolate zucchini muffin). Plus the frosting just sealed the deal: delicious decadence. I highly recommend this. Although make no mistake, this is a decadent and filling treat.
PS. Here’s a shout-out to my Mom who got me a small off-set spatula. Which I totally used to frost the brownies. :)