My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make. Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.
This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.
These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.
The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.
These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.
I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!
What does a vegan eat?
I bet most people think of tofu and veggies. Replace your typical meat with tofu and you’re vegan, right?
So here I go, with something that seems so traditional old-school vegan. Delicious Tofu. Matthew’s Delicious Tofu. Who is Matthew? I don’t know.. but he likes tofu! This recipe is pretty old school, because Ashley posted the recipe in 2007, from The Garden of Vegan published in 2002! She kept mentioning it as one of her favourite tofu dishes, so I had bookmarked it a few times.
When I made the braised daikon, I knew I needed a protein source and serendipitously decided to finally make Matthew’s Delicious Tofu. I didn’t really know what to expect, other than some delicious tofu. Turns out this is an awesome sweet and sour, hot and spicy fried tofu dish with just the right amount of spice from the garlic and ginger. Maple syrup, soy sauce and lemon juice create the succulent sauce.
This was deceivingly addictive. No, really. I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing. The tofu had great texture and the sauce was marvelous. I served it with a simple side of steamed broccoli and the braised daikon. I thought about making more sauce to go overtop the broccoli, but I liked the contrast of the sweet and zippy tofu with the plain broccoli. It may have been sauce overload otherwise.
Old school recipes need not be so scary. The classics are worth searching out, too.
I know I’ve briefly mentioned it before, but I tend to do the majority of my cooking on the weekends and eat leftovers all week. Vegan cuisine, especially soups, curries and bean salads, lend well to leftovers because they only taste better after they have marinaded.
Sometimes I crave a nice, fresh hot meal, too. It can be difficult to make a complete meal if you are famished after a long day at work…. unless, you have the forethought of making all the components ahead of time!
I found this delicious salad at Post Punk Kitchen. I know it looks like another crazy multi-component salad: roasted beets, smoky tempeh croutons, a warm maple mustard dressing. Trust me, the best dishes get you to bring out the best of each component. Work on the weekend for each component, then bring it all together mid-week.
First, you need to roast your beets. Glorious roasted golden beets. Next, steam your tempeh, then get it marinading. Tempeh has a bad leftover track-record, which is why I planned on making this salad fresh during the week. I left the tempeh in the marinade until I took out a portion to freshly panfry for the salad. For my last salad, the tempeh had been marinading for 5 days. The maple mustard dressing is a snap to put together as well.
So, when you come home from work, and it is late, and you don’t want to think, now you have all the components for a wonderful salad. Take out your nonstick frypan and fry your tempeh. Meanwhile, get out your beets. Toss them into the frypan with the tempeh if you’d like (or not). Pull out your greens and get chopping. Using Swiss chard or kale instead of Romaine? Finely chop the stems and throw it in with the tempeh, too (or not). Warm the dressing in the microwave (or not). Add to your leafy greens. Add your beets if they aren’t in your frypan. By this time, the tempeh should be almost done…. when it is, plop it on top of your greens.
Ten minutes, tops. I promise.
Sit back and enjoy your fresh salad.. every day of the week.
Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
My Mom had suggested serving a leafy salad. She figured that was a simple thing to make, but instead, I stressed. I was worried about wasting soggy leftovers and truthfully, I don’t have a go-to salad dressing yet. I eat what you see on my blog, and I rarely make simple side salads with a meal.
Salad dressings are a simple ratio of oil to vinegar. My family’s traditional vinaigrette employs a 3-2-1 ratio, with 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, to 2 parts vinegar, to 1 part sugar with salt and pepper to taste.
However, fortuitously, earlier this week Dawn told me about her new favourite salad dressing, excited because it was oil-free. Super simple. Just as easy with a different 3-2-1 ratio omitting oil.
3 parts balsamic vinegar
2 parts strong mustard
1 part maple syrup (or agave)
I am sure most people don’t need much guidance in the simple salad dressing component, but I thought this was definitely worthy to share. It is a healthy and vibrant dressing, so totally Janet-style. Throw it on top of your favourite leafy greens and enjoy!
While I didn’t snap too many photos of the food during the party, I still hope to share some of the recipes. I decided the best way to avoid the Rob-veto (just kidding!) was to simply try some seemingly simple recipes at the time of the party. Thankfully, it all paid off!
Along with this salad, I also served the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants, which is definitely morphing into my signature no-think potluck dish. Everyone really enjoyed it at the barbecue. (I also served it to a bunch of other friends, where I was delighted to see how often people dived in for more, despite eating it with chopsticks – now that takes skill!). I also boiled some fresh corn on the cob. Rob tirelessly tended to the meat at the BBQ, where he also perfectly grilled my roasted portobello mushroom which I served with sweet potato fries and a miso gravy (recipes to come!). My peach smoothies were also a hit. I had planned to serve watermelon with a mint pesto as dessert, but everyone was stuffed (and how can that compete with the macarons and other treats brought by Rob’s cousin?).
Anyways, now that I have this under my belt, it didn’t seem nearly so scary after all!
(Although I hate repeating recipes for guests, so these will have to make my rounds through my family’s side next!)
What will it take to get you to make a recipe?
For me, I doddle between what I have already in my fridge, to what is on sale at the grocery store, to really wanting to make a specific dish. I waver between recipes with a lot of positive reviews, or from my favourite cookbooks and blogs, to more unique recipes with my favourite ingredients. But mostly, it is dictated by what needs to be used up in the fridge. This is why I have a hard time making recipes that are purely from pantry staples (except after returning from vacation and being welcomed by an empty fridge).
I bookmarked The Best Lentil Salad, Ever at My New Roots last year. With a name like that, from a blog that I admire, how could I not want to make it? I adore lentils, especially French du Puy lentils in salads. Then Sarah posted it a second time this spring for her stint at Martha Stewart, and her friend commented:
This salad was the reason that I became friends with Sarah way back in Nutrition School. It is so delicious and easy to make. Don’t get intimidated by the amount of ingredients. This one is a keeper (just like Sarah!)
How cute is that?
Suffice it to say, it has been on my to-do list for a while and I was just waiting for the right opportunity.
It still took me a few months to break it out, but I made it for a recent potluck I hosted. Not that my fridge was bare, but the gathering came together a bit faster than my grocery shopping allowed. Perfect timing. Experimentation with friends.
I had witnesses. We unanimously agreed this was a wonderful lentil salad! Sweet, savoury, and salty, deep and complex, warming yet refreshing… and quite addictive! I stuck with the base of the recipe, tinkering only minorly with the spices (decreased the pepper and chili flakes), and thought the capers and currants were fabulous. The ingredient list is long, with 11 different spices, but they really blend harmoniously. To be honest, I was a bit worried when I first tasted the salad, but it was much better after an overnight marinade. If you can find the French du Puy lentils, they are incredible in stand alone lentil salads such as this. But if you cannot find the French variety, do not let that impede you from making the salad – green lentils would work, too. Furthermore, in case this becomes a staple recipe in your kitchen, feel free to experiment with your favourite dried fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds. Personally, I loved it as is, without too much distraction, and loved editions included some chopped apple and mixed greens too.
The Best Lentil Salad, Ever. For Sure. Make. This. Now.
Everyone has a favourite granola recipe. Personally, I have tried many recipes, and love to try new ones for variety. Adapted from The Stop‘s cookbook Good Food For All, I was drawn to Joshna Maharaj‘s healthy granola recipe because it was filled with my favourite fixins – almonds, coconut, cranberries and date with less oil. It also used a lot of wheat germ and All Bran buds.
A few years ago, I used to eat All Bran buds all the time with yogurt. It was a quick satisfying snack or dessert. I once chatted with a surgeon who was a strong proponent of All Bran buds and psyllium (the main fiber source on All Bran buds). He was a colorectal surgeon and saw people with constipation and colorectal cancer. He was adamant that we could add All-Bran buds to ANYTHING – even pizza! While I am willing to try many thing, I am not THAT adventurous. However, adding All Bran buds to granola just makes sense for a healthy, filling breakfast.
A note about this granola: it is not incredibly sweet. It does not clump well. But it is tasty and best combined with some fresh fruit and yogurt as a lovely breakfast parfait.
In this electronic age, word of mouth can spread fast. Online feedback is immortalized. While I like to consult reviews, too, I didn’t know authors like to gauge their own success through these reviews. I was surprised (but I guess I shouldn’t have been) when I saw Dreena Burton, author of Eat Drink and Be Vegan, really upset by a recent review on amazon. The primary complaint was that her recipes were criticized for using too many unusual ingredients (tempeh, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, lemongrass, agave nectar, etc).
I am so glad my blog doesn’t get judged as harshly – the blogging community is actually VERY supportive. Heck, we actively encourage our readers to try new and unusual ingredients that we have discovered ourselves. I certainly do not purport to be solely cooking from kitchen staples. When I went home over the holidays, I had to figure out what I could still cook in my parents’ kitchen without having to run to the grocery store too often. I know that my armamentarium of ingredients has ballooned since I’ve moved to Toronto and discovered ethnic grocery stores. My favourite ingredients right now include pomegranate molasses, bulgur, lentils du Puy, cardamom, tamarind, and tempeh. Personally, I love it when I find new recipes that use these unique ingredients!
I remember flipping through Veganomicon before I moved to Toronto and the recipes didn’t really appeal to me. I agree, all the new ingredients can be intimidating. However, when I returned to it recently, my curiosity was caught by many recipes. My favourites so far have been the chickpeas romesco and the tamarind lentils.
I recently bought Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a Veganomicon co-author. When I saw a recipe for tempeh and sweet potatoes marinaded in a tamarind-based barbecue sauce, I knew I had to try it first. I also had all the ingredients.
The recipe is also posted here and I modified it by decreasing the tempeh. Who wants to use one and half packages of tempeh for a recipe? The recipe didn’t mention it, but I used Terry’s tip in Viva Vegan to steam the tempeh with half a cup of water in the microwave. Apparently it removes its bitter taste. However, whenever Rob has prepared tempeh, I have not noticed a bitter taste.
I cut the tempeh into small triangles and used around 600 g of sweet potatoes with the same amount of marinade. I started making this dish in the morning, allowing everything to marinade until I threw it into the oven for an easy, late lunch.
I was skeptical the sauce would thicken but it was perfect right out of the oven. It was a smokey barbecue sauce with a strong tangy tamarind flavour. It worked well with the meaty, chewy tempeh and the sweet potatoes. My only complaint, and we’ve had this problem before with tempeh, is that it slurps up the marinade once cooled as leftovers. It still tasted fine for leftovers, but the sauciness was lost. Therefore, it was best the day it was prepared, but still conferred reasonable leftovers. Next time, I may throw in a leafy green like kale, as Susan did here.
Let me let you in on a secret. I actually haven’t done any holiday baking yet. I made the Key Lime Meltaways last year for Christmas. It took me nearly a year to post all my cookies from my holiday baking escapades, and one vegan cookie that wasn’t worthy of being posted (no one liked it!).
While I am still plotting my attack of Middle Eastern-inspired cookies for this year (feel free to recommend your favourites!), my current decadence has been over breakfast. But this decadence is guilt-free.
Adapted from Oh She Glows, this is a version of overnight oats that I have been eating for breakfast some time now. The premise of overnight oats is that you mix rolled oats with milk overnight to create a creamy pudding of sorts. I also add in chia seeds, which are tasteless but feel like small tapioca pearls after they have absorbed the milk. Chia seeds are great because they are relatively low calorie while providing a good source of omega-3s, fiber, protein and other vitamins. After a few hours, the chia seeds plump up nicely and add body to these overnight oats.
In this version, the pudding is fortified with pumpkin puree, savoury spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and the gingerbread taste comes from blackstrap molasses. Not to be confused with typical molasses (which is what typically goes into gingerbread cookies), blackstrap molasses are more bitter, as it is derived after the third extraction of sucrose. Therefore it is less sugary and more nutritious. It is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Rolled oats, chia seeds, pumpkin, blackstrap molasses… all excellent foods and great together for a healthy breakfast treat.
Continuing with our quasi superfood theme, now is the time for quinoa to shine. Also hailing originally from South America (so was amaranth), quinoa was called the mother of all grains by the Incas. Technically it is not a whole grain, rather the seed from the goosefoot plant.
It has gained notoreity as an excellent plant-source of complete protein. Wheat and rice are low in lysine, which is why they need to be paired with beans to get the complete set of amino acids to form protein. It is also high in fibre, B vitamins, gluten-free and supposedly easy to digest.
I have cooked with quinoa before, but I had had issues with it in my pre-blogging days. You need to wash it thoroughly before you cook it to remove the soapy/bitter-tasting saponins that are naturally present in the seed. Most of the time, this has already been removed during its processing, but I am convinced I had a bad batch once (I blame Bulk Barn!) and I shunned quinoa for quite some time. Now that I buy organic quinoa through Bob’s Red Mill, I haven’t had any problems.
It is easy to substitute quinoa anywhere you’d use rice and just as easy to prepare (2:1 boiling water:quinoa and simmer for 12-15 minutes). You can even make it in a rice cooker.
Here, I made a Mexican quinoa salad bursting with flavour from tomatoes, green onions and black beans with a minty-lime vinaigrette. The flavour depends entirely on the flavour of your fresh tomatoes. The dressing is a bit subtle, but a nice supporting cast. The salad is deceivingly filling, so I ate it as a main course salad.
Now I know I just told you how easy it is to boil your quinoa, but the directions for this salad were courtesy of Gourmet (July 2007). First, you partially simmer your quinoa and finish the cooking process with steaming. This made the most fluffy quinoa I have ever had. If you have the time, this is the ultimate way to prepare quinoa.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring quinoa, to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red and white dishes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods, featuring quinoa.
I find most food bloggers have very positive opinions about their food. They generally always love it.
Personally, I try to share recipes that I have loved, as well as normal, and the not-as-great ones. It helps to gauge how great I think the great recipes are. I also keep a list of my favourites for easy identification. I got a bit of flack for calling my Turkish bulgur salad with pomegranate and almonds the best salad ever, but truth be told, it was also called the best salad ever from the blog that I found it on. It also deserves the title.
I like to try other food bloggers’ favourite recipes. A while back, Ashley listed her favourite tofu dishes, and I was eager to try her Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant, adapted from the Rebar cookbook. With a lemon, miso and wasabi dressing (I substituted Aleppo chili flakes), I knew it would be tasty. The key is to press your tofu so it can absorb a lot of the marinade. As Ashley suggested, I made this with an overnight marinade for the tofu. I used the same dressing for the eggplant the following day, and in no time, it was ready to be baked for a quick meal. I preferred the tofu with the marinade the most, but it also worked well with the eggplant. Feel free to use your favourite vegetable. A good, tasty tofu recipe.
I love fish. Especially salmon. I prefer fish baked until just barely cooked through and many of my recipes include salmon baked with different glazes, like teriyaki or maple, or soaked in white wine and wrapped in phyllo dough. It is a very simple way to keep the moisture within the salmon, and up its flavour with the glaze.
I knew pomegranate and salmon paired well together, but I wanted to try something with a stronger, tarter glaze. When I spotted a Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon in The Breakaway Cook by Eric Gower, I knew this was exactly what I was searching for. The salmon fillets are baked with both olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Once it emerges from the oven, a lemon-maple sauce is drizzled over top. This sweet lemony accent, combined with the tart pomegranate glaze was everything I could have hoped for with my salmon. Eric suggests using chives to top the salmon, but fresh basil was a good, if not better, substitute.
I still enjoy my salmon teriyaki recipe, but found the flavours more complex here. I really enjoyed it. My mom preferred it to the maple salmon, which is more salty from the soy sauce and sweet from the maple syrup. Once she picks up a bottle of pomegranate molasses, she may make this her new go-to fish recipe. I definitely plan on making this again.
During the summer, grocery stores overflow with local ripe fruit and vegetables. It would be a shame not to catch some fresh Niagara peaches, fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, or cash in on cheap, overflowing zucchini during their seasonal peak. There is nothing better than fresh produce.
Right now, peaches from Niagara are tricking into stores. They arrived earlier than previous years due to the hot weather, and I am embracing their early arrival. Sweet, juicy peaches are incredible but sadly don’t last very long. Last summer, I made a succulent peach tea cake, when I bought a few 3L containers of peaches. I have restrained myself so far, and only bought a handful of peaches. But I did buy a big clamshell of blueberries, so expect to see a few more blueberry dishes here.
I spotted a lovely summer savoury dish on Fat Free Vegan, with maple-chili grilled tofu steaks with a blueberry-peach salsa. I adapted the recipe to suit my own tastes, substituting Aleppo chili flakes for the heat, increasing the peach to blueberry ratio, and swapping lime juice for the lemon juice (I am slowing going through the 18 limes I picked up for $1 at Bestwin). I also don’t like parsley so I used mint instead, which was a great choice.
The salsa was the highlight of the dish: peaches and blueberries work surprisingly well together, especially when mixed in a slightly spicy and sweet-tart dressing. The maple-chili tofu was good, too, but can’t compete with the perfect allspice-marinated tofu in my tofu in a zesty rhubarb sauce. I don’t think the salsa would mix well though with that tofu, unfortunately, so this is the next best thing.
This is a wonderful way to play with the flavours of the summer. Enjoy!