I have been meaning to review Hilda’s High Protein Vegan for a while. I bought it last year while exploring more protein-rich ideas (I thought it was a great deal, under $5 for a kindle version). Despite many people poo-pooing protein needs, I have long been a proponent of higher protein intake. This is especially important for active people (see my first rant here). With Carrie’s recent post about Fatigue and the Ex Vegan Phenomenon and Sayward’s older post about low cholesterol and protein on a vegan diet, both highlight the importance of proper nutrition. One needs adequate calories (including protein! and fat!) on a restrictive vegan diet which is naturally high in carbohydrates (see my review of vegan nutrition guides here). Why harp on protein? For me, it can be the most difficult to obtain on a vegan diet.
Eat beans and legumes. That includes tofu. Hilda’s book may be soy-free but soy is ok. Yes, there is protein in vegetables (spinach is almost 50% protein) but you have to eat a lot of vegetables for it to be a meaningful protein source. Whole grains, like quinoa, are ok, too. And when you want a high protein boost, pick something like vital wheat gluten which is basically wheat protein powder. Anyways, enough with the lecture, more about implementing high protein meals.
I like Hilda’s book because it has over 100 recipes with an emphasis on a (soy-free) protein component. All are whole-foods based recipes. Recipes are marked as gluten-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, and onion/garlic-free. Some are low-fat, some are higher fat. She does not call for processed foods like fake meat, cheese or yogurt. The cookbook highlights the gamut of vegan protein selections – beans including chickpea flour, whole grains, nuts and seitan. She even has a soy-free tofu recipe to use in a satay tofu with an almond sauce, cauliflower parmigiana bake, bean and mushroom stroganoff and even pasta alla carbonara. I was most excited about the seitan recipes since I don’t make it nearly enough.
One of the paradoxes about eating vegan is that you explore new foods and increase your food options despite limiting meat and dairy consumption. I had never even heard of käsekrainer or a “kransky” before, let try alone a vegan version. Cheese-stuffed sausages are probably the antithesis of vegan eats but here is a vegan spin on it. An easy, flavourful steamed seitan is filled with a cashew cheese spread. I thought the cheese spread was absolutely delicious and was thrilled I had a bunch leftover. I don’t like nooch-heavy sauces but it was very well balanced. In fact, I preferred the cheese sauce before steaming as it lost its sharp, salty bite once in the sausage.
Certainly, I cannot vouch for its authenticity but I can tell you how it tastes: delicious. I shared it with Rob (who hadn’t had a kransky previously, either) who said it tasted 60% like sausage and 40% like cheese. It was 90% like cheese as the uncooked spread. With my recent infatuation with all things mustard, I thought it was perfect with a side of sauerkraut as well. (With a shout-out to this recipe that led me to finally making homemade sauerkraut successfully!!).
Hilda graciously allowed me to reproduce her recipe (it would have taken me so long to type up!) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader ANYWHERE in the world! BOOYAH! Please visit her blog and thank her! To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your favourite vegan protein and how you like to prepare it. The winner will be selected at random on March 10, 2014. Good luck!
PS. Here’s a shout out to my latest raw brownie with over 7g of protein per serving without beans/legumes/protein powder. Not enough protein for a meal but I think it is great for a dessert.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.
Did you have a good Valentine’s Day? I don’t think I have been told to celebrate Valentine’s Day more than yesterday (and I forgot to call my parents, OOPS!). It almost felt like a national holiday, with everyone at work asking about the evening plans, rushing to finish early for the weekend. Is it because Texans are just so friendly? Or because Americans love holidays?
Rob and I have never been big fan of V-Day, enjoying each other’s company more than anything else. Rare gifts and certainly no cards, this year was the most low-key ever. A nice dinner with friends. True to his word, Rob and Matt had a feast ready for me just as I stepped (pedalled) home: Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup and corn tortillas followed by Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls. Actually, the order was reversed, we ate the dessert as an appetizer while we waited for the veggies to cook. I had offered to make dessert but Rob saved the day.
Rob also registered us for Cycle Oregon. Tent porter, and all: we’re committed. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, cycling is easier on me than walking.
After a few weeks of rest and recovery, I resumed my daily cycling commute this week. I also swapped my HIIT classes at the gym for weights. No impact and no balance required. Mostly upper body. My knees may be resting but I am certainly still keeping active. I don’t think my arms have ever worked so hard. Although while it would be nice to have a goal to do an unassisted pull-up (NOT happening anytime soon), I think a more realistic goal will be to be able to refill the water cooler at work without too much difficulty. I am a bad employee right now. If it is empty, I do not refill it. I can do it. I mean, I did it once, but it wasn’t pretty. More awkward than anything else but instead of potentially making a giant puddle, I am acknowledging and working within my limitations.
Now about the food. For anyone looking for a fun twist on spaghetti, this is a delicious marinara sauce. A heartier, cooked version of my 15-minute garlic basil marinara sauce, I fortified the sauce with red lentils. The finishing raw garlic and basil made the sauce truly special. I swapped the raw zucchini noodles for winter’s veggie noodle: spaghetti squash. While those expecting a noodle replica will be disappointed, those looking for a fun veggie side will be thrilled. A new texture and a fun way to slurp up all the delicious sauce.
So, please tell me: how was your Valentine’s Day? Do you refill the water cooler??
Rob and I have been on a quest. A mission to find corn tortillas. Corn tortillas so light and pliable, you easily could think they were flour tortillas.
I don’t know if it is just me, but I always think of hard, crunchy El Paso taco shells when I hear corn tortillas. Nothing could be further from reality. We were treated to the fresh tortillas while in Mexico City and figured it was just a matter of research. They were bound to be found in Houston.
Because once you’ve tried them, you can’t go back.
I was not alone in my quest. The lovely folks on the Houston Chowhound boards already helped others satisfy their fresh corn tortilla needs. Our adventures to Mi Tienda proved to be a quick trip back to Mexico. They are a grocery store for all your Mexican needs, including corn tortillas. They are freshly made in-house and perfectly tender when consumed that same day. Since it is a bit far from home, we bought 80 tortillas. All for a whopping $2.
While we froze the majority of the tortillas, we have been enjoying tacos all times of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. No complaints from Rob. He LOVES tacos!
For our breakfast tacos, we were inspired by Dawn’s recipe to make “cheezy” scrambled eggs with chickpea flour and nutritional yeast.
WeRob routinely makes Indian chickpea flour pancakes and tofu scramble, so this kind of married the two. It was a fun mess, too. We served it with spinach and topped it with a creamy, cheezy mustard sauce.
Corn tortillas – what do you think?
I tried a little bit harder with this dip.
You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.
This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.
While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.
But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs.
With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:
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 embraced the hidden Texan in me. Only the good parts, obviously.
Especially when it involves beans.
I mean peas. Peas, beans, all the same, right? (Not if you don’t like peas!)
As I discovered earlier, black eyed peas taste so much better when cooked from fresh. After you cook them from recently picked pods, that is when you figure out why they are called black eyed PEAS.
Many of the Southern United States grow field peas, such as black eyed peas, including Texas. Local, fresh black eyed peas are easily found in local grocers right now. A longstanding Southern tradition for forthcoming good luck is to eat black eyed peas and collard greens (a dish named Hoppin John) on New Year’s Day. This year, I decided to try a different variation on Southern stewed beans: black eyed peas are simmered in a Creole-spiced tomato sauce. I skipped the collards (the horror) in lieu of brown rice, but that was merely due to my lack of judgment at the grocery store this weekend.
I routinely get into a (deliciously yummy) rut with similar flavours – cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger – but I liked how simple this dish was, yet it was deliciously flavoured. I whipped together my own version of Creole seasoning right into the tomatoes. Creole seasoning should be easy to make, as it is a mix based on paprika, onion, garlic, thyme and oregano. In the heat of the kitchen, I mistakenly thought Old Bay seasoning would be a quasi-supplemental spice mixture. The celery-dominant Old Bay seasoning made up for my lack of celery from the holy trinity of Creole cuisine: a mirepoix from onions, bell peppers and celery. In the end, this turned out to be a wonderful success.
Do you try to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day?
Other black eyed pea recipes here:
Other Southern beans and greens recipes here:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already:
What did the eggs benedict say to the rest of the breakfast table?
Hardy, har har.. Rob told the joke a few times over the holidays.
With the balmy Houston weather and having returned back to work, it does not really feel too much like holidays. In fact, I am at a loss what to do for New Year’s Eve. Rob wants a party. I, however, will be working all day. And, to be honest, I doubt Rob or I will make it all the way until midnight. We are such party poopers. Early risers, we go to bed early as well. With a morning alarm for 5 am, I am usually the earliest to wake. However, two of my co-workers have their alarms for 4:30am. They beat me! Obviously, we need to invite them over after work. Celebrate St John’s, Newfoundland’s new year at 9:30 pm and then call it a night. Last year, Rob and I celebrated by watching the Sydney fireworks at 8am, but alas, I will be busy at work, already.
Even if I am not headed out for a party, at least I may provide you with some party fare. Splendid warm but still delicious cold as leftovers, here is a protein-packed spinach and artichoke dip. Definitely not as heavy as real cheese dips, this is more of a veggie-centric dip whipped together with some silken tofu. There is more of a hint of cheesiness, thanks to the nutritional yeast. I don’t particularly enjoy nooch-heavy cheeses, but this was pretty good. It is a nice way to bring a dish that could double as a main, should your other options be limited, and you eat a bunch of it. You could totally chow down on a quarter of this, easily. And you should.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?
PS. The winner of The Cheesy Vegan is Shannon.
Oh my gosh… what happened? I posted on a Monday! WHAT?!
Long hours at work must be making me sloppy. *sad face*
Bonus for you, I suppose, since I decided to still write up a quickie Tuesday post!
Now that Rob is back, it means that we have our Houston weekend routine back in place. On one day of the weekend, it goes something like this:
1. Sleepy fresh oatmeal breakfast before heading out for a 50-km bike ride (The cronut ride is still my ride of choice. Mostly because the route is very simple. We came for the cronut, but kept returning for the bathrooms… although Rob gives their donuts two thumbs up)
2. Come home to a delicious smoothie, then hop in the shower to remove all that grime
3. After we are both clean, we do a load of laundry, hang out a bit and then let the laundry hang dry.
4. Now, it is usually time for lunch. Rob and I usually make a scramble of sorts, with arepas or chilla.
This time, Rob decided to merge our two favourite tofu scramble recipes… Especially since we learned that dill + curry = awesome! But how about, dill + curry + tomato + Brussels sprouts! With some noochy and kala namak goodness sprinkled overtop? Very awesome! Booyah! I honestly look forward to my freshly made weekend meals with Rob. When they taste this good, who wouldn’t be thrilled?
Do you have a favourite morning routine?
I couldn’t let Rob be the only one having fun with soy curls. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make, but once Rob showed how easy it was to add to a dish, I kept thinking of new ways to use them. It is all about the play of textures, since any saucy dish will lend well to adding flavour to the soy curls.
While the original recipe called this goulash, I think it is more similar to paprikash. Paprikash and goulash are both Hungarian stews, but I have gathered that goulash usually includes more vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potato, peppers, etc). Of course, my favourite part of paprikash were the dumplings. I have no idea how to spell it, but we called them “nokola”. My google kung-fu has brought me to this recipe for Hungarian nokedli, which looks similar, although they are smaller. My “nokola” are basically oversized spaetzle.
This was a fun, delicious paprikash stew. Smoked paprika with total tomato goodness (canned tomatoes, paste AND sun-dried tomatoes) create a luscious base. I had no red wine, and I thought Marmite would have been a good substitute since I loved it in my Beefy Mushroom and Cranberry Stew. However, with no Marmite here, I devised a fun substitute: miso and nutritional yeast. I figured it was that umami we were after and it worked! A touch of balsamic vinegar added a sweet-sour-acid thing. The soy curls were akin to thicker meat strands, but there were also white beans and thicker slabs of red pepper. This really brought me back to eating paprikash and dumplings as a child.
I found my inspiration for this dish from Mouthwatering Vegan. Lets just say the original recipe seemed a tad too complex. Unnecessarily complex, for my liking. Have I become a cantankerous kitchen curmudgeon? I don’t think so… I kept this as a one burner, one pot dish (along with something to soak the soy curls). Miriam says it is quick and easy to prepare, but I cut out the hour baking time. I am sure sauteeing the red peppers separately would be nice, too, but I streamlined that step, too. I imagine one could even rehydrate the soy curls in the stew, but I am not as familiar with them to know how that would work.
Are you one to make changes to speed up making your meals, too? And do I have any European dumpling experts that know what I am talking about??
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Mouthwatering Vegan. Next month’s VegCookBook Club is all about Isa Does It. Feel free to share your eats from the cookbook and enter here for your chance to win your own copy of Isa Does It! (more…)
See below if you are interested in a giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen.
There is one problem with our weekly cronut ride: it gives us flat tires. Since we began cycling to Pearland, Rob and I have had 3-4 flat tires between to two of us. Usually it is a slow-leaking flat and we figure it out right as we want to leave the next day. However this time, it was a nice bloat out en route. There is a lot of debris on the road, but I am still boggled how Rob managed to catch a whole 1″ screw into his rear tire. I saw it happen, too. First there was a funny noisy rumble over a section of pavement, followed by a sharp whizzing noise…. 50 ft later, Rob’s tire is sagging. I have a photo just to show you how ludicrous it was… (For the record, Rob was not amused enough to take a photo of the screw once we managed to evacuate it.. he just wanted to fix his bike).
Yes, we were screwed. We usually have to hunt to find the culprit for a leak, but this instigator was easy to spot. When my Dad saw the photo, he exclaimed: “How the H*** did that get in there?” Precise positioning?Anyways,
weRob replaced the tube but we decided to return home sooner rather than later with the sad-looking tire. Turns out it was a good decision since 10 minutes after we arrived home, we were pummelled with rain. Best to stay indoors as the rain comes down so hard.
Turns out that while writing my round-up of my favourite Brussels sprout recipes, I was reminded of my Ayurvedic kick last winter. I am currently on a dill-kick and decided to make Ayurvedic Herbed Quinoa (instead of millet) with Fried Soup Onions, which I rechristened as Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa.
This is a simple yet somewhat elaborate quinoa pilaf salad spiced with cumin and dill. Leave it at that, and it would a pretty simple side salad. However, the suggested Indian-spiced baked onions make this a special treat. I don’t know about you, but I love roasted vegetables and really like somewhat charred roasted onions. I always have onions on hand and it takes next to no effort to add them to a pan to roast. However, these are more than simple roasted onions. A quick saute with cumin, fennel and mustard seeds transforms them into a veritable Indian party. The flavours are not overtop, rather muted with a colourful background. There are so many different spices once added to the dilly cumin quinoa, but it all works. Really well. The recipe is from The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen which I have mentioned before. Talya recommended pairing the salad with a Creamy Cucumber-Tahini Dressing but I felt it overpowered all the tastes in the salad, so I left it out.
After discovering the cookbook at my library last year, I bought my own copy before my move. It was actually my first e-cookbook and I really appreciated its portability (books are heavy!). It is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about Ayurveda, but most importantly the recipes are whole foods-, plant-based and taste great. If you like Indian flavours, this will definitely appeal to you but the range of recipes is quite vast (thankful pie, perfect spring soup, creamy miso lentils, magical ‘mato lasagna, quinoa pancakes and even breakfast greens!). There are still so many recipes I want to try.
Other recipes from The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen, here and elsewhere:
I am beyond thrilled that the publisher has agreed to let me share this recipe AND sponsor a giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen. They are giving away one (paperback) copy to a reader from the US (sorry my international friends). To be entered, please leave a comment here, letting me know whether you’ve heard of Ayurveda before (and if so, what do you think of it?). I will randomly select a winner on October 15, 2013. Good luck!
I procrastinated with this post. My post about Burning Man. Not because I didn’t enjoy myself (I loved it). Not because
weRob still had to process our photos. Rather, I didn’t know what to say.
True enough, I am no longer a Burning Man virgin (they make you scream that when you enter the first time( but in the 4 days we were there, there was still more to do, more to explore and more to share. I certainly do not feel like any authority but will share a bit of my experiences.
First of all, what is Burning Man?
Most simply, it is an arts and culture festival in the middle of the Nevada desert. However, it is much more than that. It is a very special place. The Ten Principles of Burning Man give you a bit of a better idea:
- Radical Inclusion: everyone is welcomed
- Gifting: no money is exchanged during the event [other than for ice, coffee and lemonade from Central Camp]
- Decommodification: commercial sponsorship is shunned
- Radical Self-Reliance: you are expected to take care of your own needs
- Radical Self-Expression: the outcome from fashion and other art (sculptures, music, dance) at the festival
- Communal Effort: cooperation is needed to build something as monumentous as this
- Civic Responsibility: the Burning Man “village” only exists for the week of Burning Man, but still needs to follow local, state and federal laws
- Leaving No Trace: everything you bring to Burning Man needs to return with you as well (bodily fluids aside, but even dirty water needs to come back with you). There is no garbage disposal. You cannot let things disappear. Volunteers spend an additional month after Burning Man cleaning up the camp to make sure there is no trace of Burning Man.
- Participation: you can participate in many ways, by taking part in others’ events and/or creating your own.
- Immediacy: nothing can be substituted for the immediacy of your own experience.
Even looking through photos (check these out), it is hard to grasp the enormity of this event. Almost 68,000 people converge for a week in the middle of the desert. Everyone had to bring their own water, food, shelter and power. You might think this would lead to a bare campsite but it was anything but. Tons of lights, cold drinks and shade. People walking and cycling at all hours. Art cars out for the night. It was incredible.
Rob and I were lucky to we camp with one of his friends, from Camp Flock Ewe who constructed an incredible sheep art bus, aka BAAAHS, the Big Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep. It was described as part mutant vehicle, part penetrable sculpture, part socio-political statement, and part gay disco. And let’s just say, a wicked awesome viewpoint and party for watching the burning of The Man.
Rob and I enjoyed wandering around, enjoying being in the present. Catching up with friends. Enjoying the art sculptures, the music, the experiences. We drove self-propelled bumper cars. took a taiko drumming class, a tango dance class and napped when the room was too full to listen to a talk from a Buddhist monk. (We, sadly, never made it to the bum drumming or body percussion classes). We watched creative fire dancers (hula hoops with fire, oh my!) and since we were out in the middle of the day, we relished being misted with water at any opportunity, and really appreciated “being lavenderized” while getting a scalp massage.
On the more practical front, Burning Man necessitated a few new items for the trip: dust goggles, a cover for my mouth/nose during potential dust storms, a carpet and long rebars for our tent. Next time, we may try harder to bring bikes, which are the ideal way to travel on the playa. Sadly, bikes go to die on the playa, along with running shoes which collect so much dust, as they are hard to return to their pre-playa cleanliness.
We actually don’t have too many photos since the playa dust also eats away at electronics, but Rob snapped a few photos with our point-and-shoot camera.
Because this is a food blog, I will share a bit more about my extreme camping eats. No electricity, but we had a small propane stove and cup to boil water. We opted not to buy any ice, so we didn’t have anything cold or chilled. While trying not to leave any garbage behind (or grey water), especially compostable foodstuffs, we had to become a bit creative. Or not. Our meals were really simple. We didn’t go to Burning Man to eat, we went to enjoy the experience.
Oatmeal with fruit, peanut butter and chia seeds for breakfast. Grapes were great but we also snacked on bananas, huckleberries and apples. Dried fruits and nuts could also have worked nicely. We also had oranges and a mango, but they were not the best idea and ended up coming home with us.
We usually were more adventurous with lunch, which is not saying much. Rob had some takeaway meals form Trader Joe’s and he would boil me some water to make this TVP pilaf. Before I left, I thought a reasonable meal could have been the shelf-stable tofu with peanut butter but when I went to Food Fight in Portland, they had TVP which was a better idea. Just add water! I found a salt-free seasoning and along with nutritional yeast, had a good base for a meal. Chopped tomatoes were a good vegetable to add since they don’t really need to be cooked. Was it the best meal? No way but it was impressive as a nearly instant meal in the middle of the desert. We had baby carrots as snacks.
By the time dinner rolled around, I usually wasn’t that hungry and had little energy to prepare anything (or to wash anything). Veggies, peanut butter and chips. My planned tofu + peanut butter never materialized.
We didn’t go hungry at all. We also snacked on random gifted food throughout the day. Water, lemonade, oatmeal bar (YES!!) , kale and carrot salad, farmer’s market veggies (carrots, zucchini, corn, etc), cereal with soy milk (Rob wanted the fruit loops), chai soy latte, bicycle powered fruit smoothie (see above), bicycle powered snow cones, fruits, nuts and even a tomato. Oh, and pickled asparagus from the stinky pee party.
All-in-all, this Portland to Burning Man trip was incredible trip. If you think you’d enjoy the foundations of Burning Man, please try to attend. I know we’ll try to return.
This is my submission to this week’s What I Ate Wednesday.
It took me a while to realize it, but Houston’s claim to fame is not its hot summer. It may be infamous for its stifling, humid summers, but that’s not when the most fun occur. For people, nor plants.
I love it when readers help me learn the ropes of my new town. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it is just too hot for most vegetables to grow. Coming from Ontario, summer equals fresh vegetables. Right now, we are between seasons in Texas. I will quit lamenting the lack of flavourful tomatoes (for now), the local vegetables will be coming in the fall and spring. Despite being between seasons, vegetables can still be grown, though. Recently I visited an urban farm and loved it so much, I wanted to share the experience with you.
The Last Organic Outpost is an urban, community farm. We weren’t sure what to expect, as this farm is close to where we live. Truly a hidden gem, they encourage the community to become involved in creating their own farming experience and ultimately to sell enough to become self-driven.
It is completely volunteer-run, except for one farmer they employ. They minimize costs by recycling unwanted goods. Donated hot tubs will be turned into planters. Cars have been turned into vermicomposters, bee havens, etc.
Of course, they also grow vegetables. Despite being between seasons, they were growing greens (collards, dinosaur kale, spinach — all grown year-round), herbs, sweet peppers, eggplant, winter squash as well as figs and papayas. The somewhat chaotic plants reminded me of my small garden in Toronto.
At first I thought it was just a big plant with pretty flowers, but they also had different kinds of okra. Small, long and purple varieties. I had never tried just picked okra and it was refreshingly crisp.
Talk about freshly picked, they had produce for sale as well as special sampler bags which is what we purchased (it included kale, spinach, eggplant and butternut squash). Because it is volunteer-driven, their hours are variable but keep an eye on their facebook page if you want to become more involved.
Have no fear, there is still a delicious recipe attached to this post. When in the South, why not try their local specialties, too? Although traditional beans and greens in the South usually use collards, black eyed peas and ham/bacon, this one was a nice twist. I honesty wasn’t expecting much, but was blown away by the flavour. A quality liquid smoke definitely brings this dish to the next level. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists of the liquid smokes at the store? I thought we could omit it from our Houston pantry, but caved. Once we started looking, though, there were a lot of additives to most liquid smoke “seasonings”. The one we settled on just has water, hickory smoke, mesquite smoke as its ingredients and I really like it. It also won this taste test.
Anyways, this is a simple skillet saute with carrots, (pinto) beans and (kale) greens. I used a melange of spices for my vegetable stock substitute and I think it worked really well with the liquid smoke. Easy, peasy.. and delicious.
I am looking forward to coming back to The Last Organic Outpost once the growing season resumes.
I have already mentioned some of the delicious flora (ok, the fruit) in Texas (local oranges, grapefruits and avocados! We’ve even seen a papaya tree here!) but what about the fauna?
1. Mosquitoes. I am well acquainted with mosquitoes, thankyouverymuch, but they are simply merciless here. Worse of all, they target me (not Rob), and they leave large welts. In Canada, I would rarely be targetted and it was a mild reaction. I had a lot of bites in Colombia, but still none were as large and bothersome. Judging by my co-workers (n=6), all new females have been scourged with the same problem. Thankfully, they have abated somewhat but sometimes they still catch me in my front yard. I blame all my sweating in this Texan heat.
2. Ants. Talking about bug bites, you have to be careful around ants here. I don’t know if they were fire ants or crazy ants (I did not make that up), but they are vicious and will bite and leave pus-filled lesions. Not nice. They caught me once as I was sitting on a sidewalk, helping to fix Rob’s flat tire. Hopefully it will be the last.
3. Frogs. I also know what frogs are.. although I haven’t really hung out with them too much. While we don’t live near a swamp, after a rain, frogs have been known to hang out ALL NIGHT LONG, CROAKING. I haven’t seen them, but that is who I am blaming for my sleepless nights.
4. Lizards. This is a new one for me (I had to ask what it was – someone thought it was a gecko but we don’t think so. salamander? small iguana?) It is a small guy and there is one right outside our home. I hear they eat bugs, so I am not worried. Eat those mosquitoes, yo!
5. Armadillos. Apparently armadillos can be found in Texas, but I have yet to see any. Judging by the presence of a Houston Armadillo Removal service, they must be found locally.
6. Snails. OK, we have snails in Toronto, too, but I rarely see them in my garden. I used to see them squashed on the bicycle trails, actually. I haven’t seen wild snails here either, though. Although, what I found most amusing is that I had snails in my kale from Rawfully Organic. Organic kale, indeed. My homegrown organic kale gets massacred by aphids in Toronto, but here, there are snails!
And every time I say snails in the kale, I think of bananas in pyjamas! For the record, pajamas is the American spelling. My blog is my spelling refuge. I add extra u’s as I see fit.
This was my long-winded interlude to tell you all about a super simple dish: cheezy chickpeas and kale. A cooked version of my Easy Cheezy Chickpea Salad, this is nearly as simple, although it does require dirtying a skillet. The combination of coconut oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic create a lovely nude sauce. The chickpeas soak it up but become nicely cheezy afterwards. I liked this warm, straight from the stovetop and they were very nice cold as leftovers the next day.
Do you have any fun local animals? I imagine raccoons could also be seen as weird creatures for the uninitiated. This fun video of a raccoon walking on a utility wire was shot very close to where I used to live in Toronto.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
The dust has settled… the boxes have been unpacked and we’re settling into a new routine.
As life becomes less chaotic, I am feeling a bit more lonely.
Friends and family seem so far away. It doesn’t help that Rob is sometimes working out-of-town.
At least I interact with my co-workers. I don’t know how Rob copes with mostly working from home. Not too much real people interaction except from the coffee shop down the road. Limited integration with other Texans.
So, be it resolved… our next goal has to become more social.
Baby steps. This weekend, we have cycling plans and curry+games plans [BANANAGRAMS!]. It feels good to get back into my social groove.
And these chili lime crackers? They bring me back to good times in Toronto.
Just before we left, I visited Superfoods Eateries, a quaint resto with take-away raw foods. Between Rob and I (and a few free samples), we tried a variety of dishes. Luc, one of the owners, was incredibly enthusiastic about explaining the menu. My two favourite dishes were the cheesecake and corn nachos. They also had a lovely sandwich at one point but I don’t see it listed on their website menu. Their selection varies from day-to-day, especially after each item sells out. (I really, really wanted to try their chocolate cake but it was not available until after I left). The coconut-based cheesecake was not as heavy as other raw cheesecakes and unique because it had a slightly fermented/cheezy zing to it! It was definitely special.
But those corn nachos, oh my. Delicious. They are corn and flax based but thin and crispy with an exotic twist from the orange juice and cilantro. Rightfully addictive and perfect with a dollop of guacamole. Now that I am miles away, I figured I would try my own hand at the nachos. I will admit that mine are not as good as the original, but they are still good in their own regard. I tried to add as much veg-powered nacho-like flavours to the chips. The chili and lime flavours were the highlight. The nuts and seeds make for a filling cracker, although a bit thick. As such these are more akin to crackers and weren’t as crispy as chips.. but still complex and delicious.
Anyways, here’s to a fun-filled weekend!
How do you combat loneliness?
When I chat with friends from home, I field many similar questions. Have you finished unpacking? YES!!!! How am I finding the heat and humidity? Not that bad… Is Houston friendly for cyclists? My route to work is actually pretty devoid of cars, so I can’t complain. How is the food… and the veggie selection? One of my friend was interested in how I triaged the stocking of my fridge and pantry. What did I buy first? What were my perishable and non-perishable necessities?
Since we were without a kitchen for almost a week when we arrived, I continued with my travel-friendly eats: overnight oats with chia seeds and protein powder for breakfast, hummus with carrots and crackers for lunch and snack, and easy eats for dinner once I made my first grocery run. We hit up the closest grocers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fiesta Mart) to scope out our new neighbourhood and begin our pantry. See below for what I commonly keep in my kitchen.
After the Zesty Lemon Cilantro Chickpea Salad, this was the next salad I made. This salad is almost too simple. Only four ingredients, or five if you include salt or pepper. Chickpeas, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and leafy greens. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. The lemon juice is tart and the nutritional yeast tames it into a creamy dressing. Marinade the chickpeas and use the extra sauce to toss with your favourite leafy greens. This is also a good travel-friendly meal if you stash nutritional yeast in your bag, of course, along with a knife to cut the lemon. Don’t we all travel this way? HAHA!
Without further ado, this is my culled pantry list:
Produce: apples, bananas (for Rob), carrots, lemons/limes, green onion, onions, garlic, ginger (cilantro is a common staple, depending on my menu)
Bonus: tofu and tempeh.
Leafy greens if salads are on the menu
canned beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)
dried beans (chickpeas, black beans, lentils (red, green))
Oats (rolled oats and steel cut oats)
Brown short-grain rice
Apple cider vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil, for salads
Coconut oil, for cooking
Toasted sesame oil
Nut butter (peanut butter is Rob’s favourite)
Bragg’s liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari
Mustard (preferably Dijon)
Sweet chili sauce (for Rob)
Sriracha (for Rob)
Dried fruit (dates, raisins, coconut, cranberries)
Canned tomatoes (I usually only get whole tomatoes and less commonly crushed)
Agave or maple syrup
Tea/tisanes (coffee for Rob)
Baking soda (also for cleaning)
Herbs and spices (at least):
Cinnamon (sticks and ground)
Cardamom pods (green)
Aleppo chili flakes
Thyme (I don’t use this that often)
Basil (I don’t use this that often)
+ all the ingredients for my veg stock powder (parsley, dill, garlic granules, onion granules, etc)
I have had a much larger pantry in the past but I am trying to keep things limited to what I will consume in a year. What are things that I have missed that you cannot live without?