After so many people recommended Meetup a few weeks ago, I have really been making an effort to get out and meet new people and experience new things. I like the Houston meetups so far because they don’t fill up so fast. I often tried to sign up for Toronto meetups but they would fill up before I knew whether I could commit to the event. Houston also has quite a variety of groups. Since there are so many groups, it has become interesting to see which of my “interests” has people with which I click the most.
My blog is mostly about healthy vegan food, so I picked a raw vegan potluck as my first foray into social gathering.
The meeting was tucked at the top of Central Market, with a pretty view of the colourful aisles of groceries. However, the most beautiful produce was upstairs, in our room. The spread of delicious food was incredible. Foodie heaven! Lots and lots of salads. Some were more simple and others more elaborate. A lot of classic raw dishes, too: raw zucchini spaghetti with marinara, raw walnut tacos, guacamole and lots of delicious raw crackers. Zucchini pesto roll-ups were unique (and very good). I honestly thought there would be more desserts, but the two that were there were incredible: raw peach cobbler and superfood nut butter cups (I recognized Sarah’s recipe).
I had master plans to bring Genevieve’s raw tropical jicama nachos but when I went to assemble the dish after work, my pineapple was not ripe enough and my peaches were screaming: eat me NOW! So, at the last minute, I ended up making this salad. It passed the taste-test with flying colours, and off I ran.
As we each introduced the meal we brought, I felt a bit sheepish because I ended up picking a dressing with maple syrup, which is technically not raw. This is not a problem for me, and I think most people still tried it because there wasn’t much left by the end of the night. In any case, I thought it was delicious. I usually eat my kale salads with a citrus dressing, but the maple-miso dressing worked really well with the sweet peaches, earthy kale and crunchy hazelnuts. It would be perfect for picnics, too.
Have you ever been to Meetups in your city?
Give me leafy greens and I will make salad.
Give me fruit and I will eat it.
Give me a CSA share and I will become creative. Or lazy, your choice.
Same salad, different fruit and new herb. Still as delicious.
I added fresh basil as a unique flavour hidden amongst the greens.
And those hemp seeds? They are really growing on me. They are my new salad topping, including fruit salads. I picked up a few of my pantry staples online, and decided to splurge on these hemp seeds since they were on sale.
I am used to a later peach season from Ontario (and they have finally arrived, too!), but local peaches were out in full force when we arrived in Texas. Sweet, juicy peaches. I have to remind myself that buying too many is often fool-hardy. Their peak ripeness has a short window. But once they are juicy: pounce. Peaches for breakfast, peaches as a snack and peaches for dinner. Peaches for a salad work so well because they make their own dressing, to boot. I still supplemented it with the nice citrus dressing from earlier in the week, though.
I was hoping Rawfully Organic was going to provide me with local produce. I know they try when it is possible. Rob and I had been pining a few local treats before we even arrived. The first one: avocado. Avocados are quite expensive in Canada, but upon our first week here we were greeted with a warm welcome. Avocados: 4 for $1.
The nice thing about my Rawfully Organic share was that I wasn’t saddled with uncommon ingredients. With so many greens, I knew salads were in order, though. Luck would have it that I was tempted by Gena’s berry and avocado salad at the same time. Coincidentally, I had all the ingredients and then some. I tried it her way, with hemp seeds, then with almonds and when I finally got around to photographing it, I used pumpkin seeds. I used sweet strawberries, paired with creamy avocado and a sweet citrus dressing. Since the oranges we got in our share were “juicing oranges” (Valencia, aka sweet Texan oranges!!), I figured a dressing was a good way to capitalize on their sweet juiciness. Since, yes, I left my juicer at home. No homemade juice on the horizon yet. It may seem fiddly to also add lemon juice, but it balanced the dressing nicely.
Any nut or seed would work for crunch – as I said, I have made this with almonds, hemp and the pumpkin seeds (a mix of almond and hemp was my favourite). Any berry would work well here. Pick your favourite.
With all these salads that I have been making, I am kind of sad I left my big plates and big bowls in Canada. I want more greens but don’t have a serving plate big enough!
Other fruity salads you may enjoy:
Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad!
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about my refrigerator woes, and an immense amount of gratitude goes to my friends and family for offering to help store our food over the weekend. You’d think there would be an emergency fridge delivery service, eh? Or maybe our landlord just opted for the “deliver it on Monday” option. Suffice it to say we had three days without fridge stuff.
How did we manage? Oatmeal. Twice a day. I am only partly joking. If I going to make a single serving of any food, it better be quick. Hence, the oats. I jazzed them up as a dessert pudding with chocolate protein powder, which is also how I ate them for breakfast, too. Still tasty.
Rob and I also unearthened some of our favourite foods from the freezer. It is amazing what I had forgotten that been stashed away. I had the forethought to freeze meals in single servings (or 2), so it was perfect. Freezer meals don’t have to be shabby. We had memories of summer produce by munching through Greek Stewed Swiss Chard With Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, Peruvian Mayocoba Bean Bowl with a Roasted Pepper Sauce, Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew and even older but (still) goodie Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti. Score!
I also experimented with frozen oats and frozen stir fries. Meals that I had made before the fridge died but then stashed outside, in the winter chill, to freeze. It works! Turns out I am not the first person to have figured out you can freeze steel-cut oatmeal (Trader Joe’s even sells it). You can rest assured I will be sharing those recipes eventually (the stir-fry, not how to freeze oats).
In the meantime, I am sharing a cinnamon-spiced beet and sweet potato salad with spelt berries and kale. Ashley raved about Kath’s salad, so I had been meaning to try it out for a while. Plus, Valentine’s Day is all about the red foods, eh? Bring on the beets!
I’ve gone the savoury cinnamon route before (Strawberry and Roasted Chickpea Salad with a Cinnamon Vinaigrette, Moroccan Barley and Pea Shoot Salad, Cherry Collard Dolmas) and this was pretty good, too. I won’t gush its praises but it was fit for a weeknight meal (maybe not for anti-kale guests). It may seem like an involved salad but you just need to prepare each component separately – the cinnamon-roasted beets and sweets, the spelt berries, the sauteed kale and finally, the dressing.
I have had problems with burned spices when added to roasted vegetables, but this worked out. The sweetener from the dressing helps to accentuate the earthiness of the cinnamon. I imagine adding maple syrup to the veggies while roasting would be delicious as well.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Red food? Chocolate? Or nothing at all, since every day is an awesome celebration of love? I vote for the latter, but I know Rob is planning a special home-cooked meal for me later this week. He has leaked that it will involve frozen bananas. (Exciting! Nothing more sexy than your man in an apron, no?)
I have been blogging for over 3 years (and cooking for myself for the past decade), so you’d think I’d have figured everything out in the kitchen by now, right?
You’d think I’d have figured out what I like to eat or not…
OK, I know what I like but I love trying new things. It is harder to pinpoint what I don’t like. (Other than celery).
With my never ending stash of pumpkin puree, I whipped up a quick and simple pumpkin pie pudding. It didn’t woo me.
While I grew up with turkey at Thanksgiving, we rarely had stuffing (no one likes it), sometimes had cranberry sauce (not sure who likes it) and we never had pumpkin pie (who knows why). I don’t know if I have ever had it except as a raw cheesecake from Naked Sprout (which doesn’t really count as traditional pumpkin pie).
I figured a sweet pumpkin pie pudding with pumpkin, maple and pumpkin pie spice would be great. It was missing something, though. I didn’t know what. I added some blackstrap molasses to make this more gingerbread-like. I definitely preferred the sharp bite from the molasses. But as I licked my way through my dessert, I wasn’t particularly smitten with its pudding nature. I don’t really like pureed soups either. I like soups with body and bulk. So I stirred it into my morning oats with the natural Sun Warrior blend and I had a happy protein-rich breakfast for the week. Creamy with some body from the steel-cut oats. Re-purposed dessert for breakfast, yum.
I also thought it would be fun to share my trusty travelling spork. A spoon, a fork and a knife, all in one. This one is orange, to boot.
Not only am a I bad vegan who missed World Vegan Day, I am also a bad blogger.
October slipped by without me realizing I had an anniversary. October marked my fourth year as a blogger.
I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I posted a Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
One can see why it was easy for me to switch to a whole foods vegan diet with an inaugural salad such as that. Just swap the honey for your preferred sweetener, or omit it entirely, and it would be a recipe I could see myself munching on today.
I am going to joke a bit about Hurricane Sandy, but truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was affected. Toronto wasn’t hit nearly as bad. There was at least one fatality but trees suffered the most of the storm’s brunt. Although some people lost power, we fared very well. A few days of a light rain with some higher winds. Other than leaving my bike at home, I wasn’t affected.
Except I somehow made not one, but two desserts that week. This was the second dessert.
I blame the hurricane.
My excuse for making the chocolate chip blondies was to thank my co-workers. I gobbled down more than a few pieces in the “taste-testing” phase. While they were delicious, I felt shy bringing them to work. Even though Rob agreed they tasted great, they were non-traditional (never mind eating chocolate chip blondies, but they were filled with chickpeas!). They also were only 1-cm thick or so, and not as visually appealing as I had hoped. Since the whole plan was to thank my co-workers, I decided to make something else.
A vegan chocolate cake.
I actually wanted to make cupcakes, but I had no muffin wrappers.
I actually wanted to make a mint avocado cream frosting but did not want to brave the storm to get more avocados.
Even before my vegan days, I had a favourite quick and easy chocolate cake. It just so happened to be vegan. Pantry-friendly with staples such as sugar, oil, cocoa, and vinegar, my grandmother dubbed it “Wartime Cake” since the ingredients were reminiscent of cakes she made during the war when there were rations on milk, eggs and butter. While it would have been a fool-proof and easy cake to make, I wanted to try something new, something healthier.
Thankfully I had one avocado to make Joy’s Chocolate Avocado Cake. Oil is easily replaced with avocado. You would never know the difference. I only had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used that instead of white flour. If you could guess anything was up, you might have been able to tell there was whole wheat flour in the cake. Although nothing seemed to be suspected by others.
Instead of topping it with a green avocado frosting, I busted out a simple peanut butter chocolate frosting. I have not always been a fan of frosting (especially the ooky sweet ones), but since I didn’t use too much and it had peanut butter in it, this sealed this as a delicious cake.
My co-workers and Rob’s co-workers agreed. While Rob was sneaky, I disclosed to my gang this was a vegan cake and people were buzzing all day with compliments, at the same time marveling there were no eggs, butter or milk. They were impressed at how moist it was, which I ascribed to the avocado, my secret ingredient.
Baketivism. Sharing the love of veganism through baking.
I could get used to this.
Do you feel like more and more people are interested in eating whole foods?
Last weekend, between Thanksgiving meals, friends and family were curious about quinoa and kamut. One of my cousins is on a low-sodium diet and my other cousin is experimenting with a casein-free and gluten-free diet for their children and asked me if I had any kid-friendly recipes.
I had to think a bit harder. I can talk at lengths about my favorite grain (ok, pseudo-grain) but my recipes are probably not that kid-friendly. I like onions and ginger and spices and greens. Most kids like blander food. And sugary food… I think, right? I am certainly no kid feeding expert.
Then I brainstormed more main-stream main dishes like:
I already offered to bring hummus for the barbecue, and decided to bring two versions. My rosemary-pistachio hummus for the adults and a kid-friendly hummus: chocolate peanut butter style!
Pureed chickpeas are at the heart of this hummus, but you can’t really taste them. Compared to traditional hummus peanut butter is used instead of tahini; almond milk instead of stock and oil; garlic and lemon are removed to make room for maple syrup and cocoa powder. OK, maybe only the chickpeas keep this similar to hummus, but it was a tasty dip nonetheless. Peanut butter was the dominant flavor with more of a hint of cocoa.
I didn’t ask how the kids liked it. I imagine if they thought it was a chocolate spread they could be disappointed because it was more than that with the peanut butter. Or maybe less chocolatey, in their eyes. But the adults seemed to like it, no problem! With a few recipes requests and the leftovers snatched up, I would consider it a success.
For those with kids, do you modify your meals to be more kid-friendly and what do you change? I imagine it depends entirely on the child and their specific likes and dislikes, which may change from month-to-month.
While in Montreal, it was a whirlwind of a trip between the wake and funeral. However, I successfully managed to visit Aux Vivres for a quick dinner with Rob, my Dad and grandmother. Rob and I went there during our last visit, and I wanted to return for a veggie-packed meal that would appeal to some of the most serious veggie critics (my Dad!).
I love the bowls at Aux Vivres because they are mostly loaded with veggies. They should be called veggie bowls, not rice bowls, because the rice is hidden at the bottom. You really have to dig around to find it. But when you do, it is some of the best rice I have tasted. Coupled with the vegetables, and any of their decadent sauces, you have a tasty meal on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong, Aux Vivres is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, but glancing at the menu, you are left thinking, I bet I could make this at home. Actually, when I tasted their miso tahini sauce from their Macro Bowl, I thought: I have this sauce at home, I just made it!
So when I got home, I was able to compile all the ingredients to make a great copy cat version of their Macro Bowl filled with wakame, sauerkraut, sprouts, steamed baby bok choy and brown rice. I skipped the steamed spinach.
I have been following this year’s Healthy Lunchbox Series (recap here) and was positively smitten when I saw Dawn’s post about bento boxes. Perusing her site, she had some incredibly cute lunches, including a barn made out of granola bars complete with watermelon animals and spinach grass. I almost died from its cuteness.
I thought I might try a much simpler bento box with this multi-component meal. After its assembly, I told Rob I was ready to go for our dinner picnic. However, I looked down and realized I was short possibly the most important component of the meal. The tempeh! I needed some emergency tempeh, and fast. Aux Vivres’ tempeh is actually fairly plain with limited marinade but I thought mine could use a bit of flavour. While Rob usually scoffs at Tess’ declarations of making meals in under 30 minutes, I quickly located a quickie tempeh recipe that still included the all-important steaming. A simple glaze of tamari, agave, toasted sesame oil and raw garlic was exactly what I needed. Perfecto. Under 30 minutes, mostly hands off, to boot, leaving me able to clean up the kitchen and snap a few photos as the tempeh caramelized away.
The verdict? The bento box was not really appropriate because the best part of the bowl is mixing it all up. I needed a bigger container for proper mixing. The salty sauerkraut, the briny wakame juxtaposed against the salty dressing and fresh greens. With them individually separated in the box, it was hard to mix them up. At least with my Salad in a Jar, I mix it up before I eat it. I may need to look into a layered version of this, too!
Have you ever tried to make a cute bento box? Just at these cuties!
This is being submitted to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for lunches, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Siri.
After I ate the last serving of this salad, I was sad. Sad I had no more salad left. It was that good.
Rob cocked his head and asked, So is this a repeater recipe?
But we have no more corn! And no more spinach or lettuce! And I think my Appaloosa beans are finished, too.
That can easily be remedied, Janet.
Besides, I just bought 53 lbs of tomatoes (yes, I did it!)
I think I should focus on those!
So this one will just go down in the vault as a wickedly delicious salad. And contrary to my sorry excuses, this is a very forgiving salad. Use your favourite salad toppers. Just don’t skip on the tomatoes. And the dressing.
This salad all began with the creation of the raw eggplant bacon. I picked up a super cheap monster eggplant and earmarked it for the dehydrator. The salty and sweet marinade (tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke) was delicious and I couldn’t wait for them to dry out. Twelve hours felt like a life-time. I was blown away by the texture of the eggplant, airy yet crispy but sadly, with a fraction of the flavour from the salivating marinade. Since I used low-sodium tamari there wasn’t the uber saltiness associated with bacon but it was pretty nice, regardless. Does it taste like bacon? Not at all, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.
I also used some of the extra marinade to make zucchini chips. Since I sliced them cross-wise, they looked like chips and tasted like bacon chips, too. However, those went into my belly. The eggplant bacon went into this salad. (For the record, I prefer the eggplant version!)
Obviously, this salad pushes monumental levels when you use fresh, ripe ingredients. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, check. Local, fresh corn on the cob, check. Cute heirloom pinto beans, I’ve got that covered. Your greenery of choice (or whatever is in your fridge): baby spinach. I added oomph to the original dressing by mirroring the bacon marinade, throwing in smoked paprika and chili powder. Lime juice makes this a bright dressing. And while I was worried I wouldn’t have enough dressing with only the juice from 2 non-juicy limes, after I placed everything in jars for the week, the tomatoes macerated, adding tomato juicy goodness to the dressing, too. Now it was perfect.
For another variation on the corn + tomato + bean salad, try this one with a balsamic dressing, toasted in a skillet.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s favourite summer recipes, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I know many people had their doubts, but yes, you can travel to Colombia as a vegan! Meat and fish abound on resto menus, but thankfully beans are a common vegan staple which were my savior. Fruits and fruit juices abound, and simple salads are also a common feature. Veggie sides are usually fried plantains, yuca or potatoes. Rice, although white rice, is a plenty.
Because I wanted to minimize the fried resto foods, and continue to eat vegan, Rob and I planned for a successful vegan-friendly trip to Colombia. I thought I’d share with you our strategies for vegan eating in Colombia (and no, Rob did not only eat vegan on the trip, too).
1. Plan Ahead – Book accommodations with refrigerators and kitchens
For general Colombian travel advice, definitely plan ahead. All of our accommodations had fridges available and the majority gave me access to a kitchen, as well. Staying in private rooms in hostels is a great way to get the perks of a hostel (kitchen, fridge, social events) as well as the privacy you want from a hotel room. Our hostel‘s kitchen in Salento was so well-stocked it even had a blender and sandwich press! Definitely the marker of a great hostel.
2. Bring snacks and protein powder
I brought a few meals and snacks with me to tide me over on the plane and after our arrival. See my new favourite non-traditional hummus recipe, below! I also brought some protein powder as an emergency if I needed a meal replacement, but also to add to whatever breakfast may be. Thankfully I was never without a vegan meal so I just used it with breakfast, as per usual.
3. Bring some cooking essentials
Planning on eating leftovers? Bring some containers to hold them. I was really impressed with my collapsible containers which were leak-proof, sturdy and collapsed easily when empty. I also cannot travel without a small paring knife that I protect with a knife case (obviously needs to go in checked baggage). Ziploc bags are also essential for oodles of things. Just make sure you know which bags had your sunscreen and which were holding food. Do not mix.
4. Figure out where you can eat
First, you need to know how to ask for vegan eats which you can find at most restaurants. Happy Cow was also great for locating vegan-friendlier restaurants and health food stores, even if limited in number. Sol del la India was a favourite of ours in Cartagena. I also consulted a few other blogs with vegetarian reviews from Colombian restaurants. Definitely scope out local fruit and vegetable markets as well as grocery stores for other purchases if cooking yourself. The typical Colombian breakfast is coffee/tea/juice, toast, eggs in some form (omelet or scrambled), sometimes an arepa, and fruit. Our B&B in Bogota was kind enough to make oatmeal specifically for me. We ended up cooking our own oatmeal at places that didn’t supply an adequate breakfast.
5. Do a cooking class
We started off our trip in Bogota and as you know, I was really excited about the cooking class. While we needed a Spanish translator (Juan was a vegan, to boot!), we were able to cook with a native Bogotan, in her humble abode that even had fruit trees within her courtyard. This was Dona Elsa’s first vegan cooking class and she was receptive to my requests to make a surplus of food for me to take home with me as leftovers. I was excited to try some new-to-me vegetables prepared ala Colombiano. We ended up making the traditional Colombian salad with avocado, a huge amount of vegetable soup (sancocho without chicken, filled with fava beans, green peas, green beans, squash/pumpkin (auyama), green plantains, carrot, corn, spinach and cilantro), frijoles (Colombian beans), yucca frita (fried yucca), patacones (refried plantains), papa fritas (fried criolle potatoes), fresh lulo juice along with a dessert that I forgot to write down. I was antsy about eating the fried foods but they were great. In fact, these were one of the best meals of the entire trip. The patacones and yucca fritas could not be duplicated elsewhere, in ay resto or when I made them myself in a hostel (I went for a non-stick, low-oil option). Sadly, I know the secret: frying in lots of oil. Twice. Not only was I armed with leftovers, I was now more familiar with the local ingredients and how to prepare them.
Here for the hummus recipe, instead? I don’t blame you…
I don’t know why, but I don’t make hummus on a regular basis. I break it out for parties and when I am travelling. This is currently my favourite non-traditional hummus. It takes a bit more work than your standard hummus, but the results are great. First, you need to saute some shallots (or onion) with rosemary to infuse a small amount of oil for your hummus. Ground pistachios and a touch of tahini are the base for this version that is also spiced with maple syrup and cinnamon. I didn’t think rosemary would pair so well with this, but it was a phenomenal hummus. Sweet, yet savoury. Lighter with the additional water, it isn’t as creamy as a decadent hummus, but you could add more tahini or oil to taste. In short, perfect for me. Enjoy!
Other hummus flavours:
Rob warned me.
I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.
However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.
AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!
One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…
But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.
It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.
Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich. Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!
Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.
First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!
No? Good, me neither. Not yet, at least. The week of salads continues!
One of my foodie goals in Colombia was to munch my way through quinoa and maybe bring some cheap quinoa back home with me.
Turns out I couldn’t do that in Colombia. Quinoa is hard to find and when you find it, it isn’t any cheaper than what I can buy from my local favourite health store. Most Colombian locals had no clue what quinoa was.. except for the sole vegan I met (hi Juan!).
I obviously went to the wrong country. Apparently, Bolivia is where it is at. Not only for the cheap and plentiful quinoa, but also for the amazing salt flats, jungle hikes, glacier climbs and vibrant city life. We loved asking other travellers about their favourite places to see in South America and Bolovia kept popping up. It is now on our ever-growing list of countries Rob and I want to visit… along with Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Jordan, Nepal, India, gosh you name it. Although Rob’s covered most of South-east Asia and Australia, he is willing to return with me.
My latest kick is adding quinoa to vegetable sides to make it a more sustaining meal, and here I go again with this salad. This would be a delightful salad without the quinoa, too, as it highlights the crisp asparagus and colourful baby greens with some crunch pecans. The dressing, a maple-mustard flavoured one, definitely brings the salad together with the tang from the soy sauce, the sweetness from the maple syrup and the deeper flavour from the mustard.
I planned for a stress-free brunch by making nearly everything in advance. I kind of ending up pulling out some of our normal breakfast foods (granola, yogurt, etc) along with the special crepes and pancakes. I had pimped my kale salad as the best kale salad ever, so I had that as a savoury option, too.
On the menu:
Avocado Mint Cream
Yogurt, for those wanting something more traditional
Rob’s Omelettes with Spinach and Mushrooms (which no one wanted with all the other food!)
Raw Strawberry Tart, as the birthday “cake”
Strawberry Smoothies (a surprise from one of my friends who came bearing a ton of frozen strawberries!)
and this Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam.
With all the different filling options, it was a brunch extraveganza. Just look at Rob’s plate, complete with his new Android jelly bean toy (no jelly beans were in the crepes!):
Earlier that week, I made Angela‘s Blueberry Chia Jam, so I pulled it out as another option as an afterthought. Everyone enjoyed their mixed-and-matched creations, and agreed that the jam was awesome. Pure blueberry bliss. Without all the typical over-sugared pectin-laden jam, this spread is simply fresh blueberries reduced with a touch of maple syrup and vanilla, thickened with chia seeds. I was worried the chia seeds might be too slimy or crunchy, but it was neither. They blended in so well and helped make this a thicker spread. Such a simple recipe, but it highlights how fresh produce can be augmented in creative ways.