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?
Of my blog readers, only a handful are from my family. Rob and my Mom are my biggest readers.
So, when I say something here, I am held accountable.
When we planned our move to Houston, I said we were going to try a minimalist lifestyle. I was going to leave my dehydrator behind. But then, I kept making more and more things in my dehydrator. I had forgotten how lovely it was to make things in the dehydrator.
I also forgot that I wasn’t going to let life pass me by, either. We are planning to camp in the desert (via Burning Man), continue the long distance cycling (via the MS 150, Houston to Austin) and hopefully squeeze in weekend trips (sadly, my vacation days have dwindled down to nothing). It is times like these that portable snacks work their magic.
So, as we packed, I kept reconsidering whether or not to bring my dehydrator. To be fair, it is a space hog, but it is light. It is mostly filled with air!
Rob was not pleased, though. You said on your blog, you weren’t going to bring it.. I have changed my mind! I kept saying things like, “If I had to choose between x and the dehydrator, I choose the dehydrator.” Example: “If I had to choose between pictures for the wall and my dehydrator, I’d pick the dehydrator… and I bet we could fit the pictures inside the dehydrator, too! HA!”
Eventually, Rob had heard enough. After I made these kale chips, he definitely reconsidered his position. Thankfully, I did a mass kale harvest prior to our move. These were one of our favourite kale chip flavours. I thought they tasted like Sour Cream and Onion, with a touch of cheese, if you include the nutritional yeast. One of our friends agreed they were delicious but tasted more of the scallion undertone. Either way, it made a believer out of me for the power of kale chips. Hourrah!
The question will be whether I can keep up with the kale chip demand, though. We can plow through them so quickly!
Kale chips, here and elsewhere:
Maple Sesame Kale Chips from My New Roots (one of my favourites)
Chocolate Kale Chips from Cupcakes and Kale (Rob likes these more than me; I actually don’t like them)
Sweet and Zesty Kale Chips from Season 2 Season Eating
Sweet Onion Kale Chips from Flora Foodie
Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips from Branny Boils Over
Dill Pickle Kale Chips at Sondi Bruner
Spicy Curry Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
Banana Walnut Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
And we’re off!
Rob and I packed up all our things and are currently en route, road trip-style, to Houston. I have a few travel-themed recipes this week, as we drive across the country (down the country would be more accurate). 3000 km (over 1800mi). We have a lot of ground to cover.
I made a few travel snacks to bring with me (will be sharing throughout the next few weeks), and while I have tracked down a vegan restaurant in each city for dinner, I plan on eating simple meals throughout the day.
I brainstormed before I left. What can I easily find at grocery stores? What would pack well? For some reason, I kept returning to salads with avocado and lemon. Easy, peasy. Throw in some nuts/seeds, cooked beans or tofu as an easy protein. And then I decided sauerkraut would be a wonderful addition, too.
Not wanting to simplify my meals too soon, I knew I didn’t want to wait to try out an avocado and sauerkraut salad. With my current kitchen a few weeks ago, I had the liberty of making a more complex salad dressing, so I ran with it. A creamy miso dressing with a zip from ginger and the tang from apple cider vinegar. That creaminess? Not nuts: nutritional yeast. I imagine avocado would be nice pureed into the dressing as well, but I left it in chunks for the salad. Paired with the salty sauerkraut and crunchy sunflower seeds, this was delicious.
What are your favourite easy travel-friendly meals?
Zucchini “Meatballs” and Tomato-Curry Sauce with Almond Parmesan (aka Vegan Indian Spaghetti and ‘Meatballs’)
I used to wonder if my Indian dishes were up to snuff. It has been so long since I had been to an Indian restaurant, that I have nothing for a comparison. I usually rely on Rob’s opinion, who eats out more than I do. While on my many travels last year, I stumbled upon a highly rated Indian resto that had quite a few vegan options. I helped myself to the vegetarian platter and while I ate it, the only thing I could of was that I could make better Indian food at home. Not that the food was bad; only my curries are much better, if I may say so myself. Rob has taught me well. Furthermore, I can control the level of spiciness and the amount of added oil (no deep-fried belly aches), making dishes that are truly perfect for me.
Another advantage of cooking Indian at home is that you can go totally crazy, too. Crazy in the foodie-sense, of course. Have you ever seen an Indian dish with noodles? Italian meets Indian. Sounds like a perfect description of Joanne, who shared the lovely recipe.
Here, we have spiced zucchini and chickpea meatballs (aka kofta) that are baked, not fried. They are served overtop a tomato-curry sauce. The next question was what to serve this with. You could go with rice to return to the Indian base, but Joanne served it with polenta. I wanted to continue with the Indian spaghetti theme. Therefore, I used zucchini noodles and made a raw almond parmesan topping. Cooked meets raw. Zucchini on zucchini. Craziness, pure craziness, I tell you… but all in a good way. :)
If you think I am just tooting my own horn, I urge you to try our favourite Indian dishes and decide yourself:
Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat)
Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime
Indian Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak)
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu)
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango (Mango Curry with Toor Dal)
Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)
Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta)
Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti
Indian Chickpea and Collard Roulade with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce
Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala
Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras
What is the most underrated herb?
Some herbs get all the love: basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint were easy picks when I started my herb garden a few years ago. I also planted sage last year since it was easy to grow, while still mostly unfamiliar. I also really enjoy lemon verbena, although I only ever used it as a tisane (it would make delicious ice cream, though).
Sadly, most of my herbs died over the winter, despite living in the warm comfort of our kitchen. One plant was hardy enough to survive our kitchen winter and popped its head out again: chives. And despite growing them for 3 summers, I rarely used them in my cooking.
While I caved and bought some new plants last month (it was Red Russian kale! and basil!) at my local grocer, my basil has not yet grown enough for a harvest just yet. So, I improvised for this recipe. A chunky yet creamy tomato mushroom sauce. Yes, fresh basil would be delightful. I compromised. Instead, I used dried basil and added fresh chives. (I thought perhaps some pesto could substitute for the fresh basil but my Mom suggested going with the chives instead).
My Mom did not lead me astray: it was very good. This is a quick-and-easy chunky tomato sauce, with big chunks of tomato, chopped mushrooms and giant corona beans that I snuck in at the last moment. Just like when I made The World’s Healthiest Bolognese Sauce, nutritional yeast added creaminess with a hint of cheesiness. The dried herbs worked well and the chives gave a different twist to the sauce. Next time, though, I may try the tomato-pesto sauce, too – it isn’t a novel idea.
Although I wanted to serve this with soba noodles, the sauce was too chunky for such delicate pasta. Instead, I pulled out a chunky noodle. We have tried a few bean-based pastas, but this was a different brand and a different bean. Made with chickpeas but still fusilli, though. A fun shape and it worked well with the sauce.
Can oats taste like rice?
The folks who sell Cavena Nuda seem to think so.
Cavena Nuda is a Canadian innovation: a new hull-less form of oats. The oat grows with the hull, but it falls off much more easily than standard oats. Regular oats need to be heated and milled until they can be de-hulled. As such, they are more environmentally sound and nutritionally superior to regular oats. After Angela tried them, it took me a while to find them but I eventually located it at Ambrosia and later at Bulk Barn.
They don’t taste like oats, though. Cavena nuda is the complete oat kernel, so while they are in the shape of rice, they remind me more of farro or oblong wheat berries than rice per se.
That didn’t stop me from trying to cook it into a risotto-style dish, though. Lacking rice and cheese, I am hard pressed to call this a risotto but it is a nice meal. Since it has a few components, this is a dish that will dirty up a few pots but it is delicious and worth the effort. To simplify the recipe, you could skip the tempeh as it was good even without it, although it adds a flavourful protein component.
Here, you cook up the cavena nuda (or farro, or rice, or even orzo as Isa suggests), which is added to some cooked onions, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Spinach is wilted at the end. The topping is a crumbled tempeh spiced with fennel and coriander. It is a nice addition but certainly not necessary if you are short on time, or short on tempeh. ;)
Other dishes with farro I’ve spotted:
Scarlet Rosemary Chickpea Farrotto from Keepin It Kind
Farrotto with Tomato and Artichokes from Eating Well
Farrotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Beets from TasteFood
Spiced sprouting broccoli with roast parsnip farrotto and citrus-rosemary butter from For the Love of Food
Purple sprouting broccoli with leek and shallot farrotto from Denis Cotter at BBC
Risotto-Style Farro with Caramelized Onions, Squash, and Kale from Cate’s World Kitchen
Baked Coconut Kale Salad with Farro from Super Natural Every Day
Farro and Millet Risotto from 101 Cookbooks
I am a sucker for beans.
While I have a pantry filled with heirloom specialty beans from Rancho Gordo and Kalustyan’s, I still keep finding new-to-me beans. During a cycling trip last year, a few friends and I cycled up to Woodbridge, and wound up at an Italian grocer for lunch. I perused the aisles for my lunch. Even though it was Italian, I had a brown rice veggie avocado sushi roll and an apple but I also discovered a new bean: Tondini beans (also known as burrini beans or pea beans). A small white bean in a glass jar. Perfect for a traveller: no need for a can opener and the cap could be screwed back on if on the go. I brought it back home and a few months later, I decided to bust them out for a salad.
However, when I opened the jar, they were sitting in a funny gooey jelly. A lot of the beans had split open, likely releasing their starch and gelling the liquid. I didn’t think the road that THAT bumpy on our ride. I typically cook my own beans so I don’t normally run into this problem… so how to use mushy beans?
Scramble! A breakfast scramble… although more of a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner sort of meal. Perfect anytime, if you ask me. Definitely one of my favourite meals lately. The Tondini beans were nice and small, similar to flageolet beans, but more fragile, lending well to a scramble. The beans are simmered with onions and garlic, along with tomatoes and spinach as familiar breakfast omelette toppings. Similar to my chickpea and tofu-tahini scramble, but lighter and more cheezy from the nutritional yeast. Black salt added the eggy flavour.
Beans for breakfast, I could get used to this. :)
Have you ever had a problem with mushy beans?
My brother likes to make fun of my standard breakfasts: oatmeal + protein powder + spice/fruit + flax/chia. Not the oatmeal, the protein powder part. Why do I need that? That isn’t all natural. For me, it is one way to ensure I reach my daily protein needs and gives me a filling breakfast (oats alone do not do that).
It is true: I eat things that have been processed. I can’t make everything from scratch and sometimes I think it is necessary to tap into the best parts of what a plant can give me. I am anti-white flour because flour has been stripped of its nutrients, but what if I told you I found a fortified wheat “flour”? One filled with 75% protein. It is called vital wheat gluten. You strip away everything but the protein. Wheat protein powder! Instead of adding it to smoothies, like my regular protein powder, I bake with this one.
I have made seitan before. I liked these chorizo sausages, especially with cabbage, as well as Chinese Five-Spice Seitan with cabbage. I’ve also trying the boiling method to make seitan directly in a stew (the Iraqi eggplant stew was oh so good). However, always up for a new recipe, this time I tried a baked sausage. For some reason, I remembered seitan being a pain to make, with kneading and resting, etc. I wanted to see how a simpler recipe would compare. Just a bit of kneading, and then a simple bake. This one lacked chickpea flour and mashed beans (vital wheat gluten only) and used flavours from nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, mustard and tamari and was easy to make.
Seitan is also known as wheat meat. This recipe reminded me of that. It tasted more bread-like. I don’t think that’s how most seitan is supposed to be (maybe because I decreased the oil?) but I still thought it tasted good. And they were easy to make. Mix, knead, bake.
I rechristened these as sausage buns because they are buns that taste like sausage, not because there is a sausage in the bun.. HA! Most recipes tell you to let your seitan cool and an overnight chill in the fridge is recommended to enhance their flavour. Well, I ate these puppies straight from the oven, unadorned, only cooled so that I could unwrap them without burning my fingers. Delicious. A warm bun. A (super) filling high-protein bun. (I am not joking, if you make this into 3 buns, each bun is 50g of protein and only 315 calories). And super filling. Bready and chewy with a nice flavour from the smoked paprika and nooch. I found them a bit salty, which may explain why I liked them so much, so next time I would suggest decreasing the salt and/or tamari and add to taste.
What are your thoughts on seitan? Not too popular with anyone on an anti-gluten diet, but if you are not gluten-sensitive, definitely give it a shot.
This is my submission to this month’s Random Recipe for bread.
Eating through my pantry has some benefits. I find foods I had forgotten.
My Mom remembers. My Mom is like an elephant: she never forgets.
(She will probably never forget me calling her an elephant… HAHAHAHA!)
What about all your soba noodles, Janet?
Oh yeah…. all those noodles I bought after I came back from Japan. Just like when I drank my way through a library of non-dairy milks to figure out which I liked the most, I bought a wide variety of soba noodles to pinpoint the perfect pasta. However, I shortly became disillusioned when I figured out that most soba noodles actually contain very little buckwheat. The noodles are still mostly made from white flour. Lesson: Read the package before you buy them.
I eventually found 100% buckwheat noodles but scoffed at the price. So I put them back.
I eventually found them again, but this time it was a different brand. And they were a much better price. So I bought some and then proceded to forget I had them.
Definitely great for a change, the buckwheat noodles are slightly nutty and cook in 4 minutes.
Here, I paired them with kale and red pepper and a simple sesame-miso sauce. A simple sauce, not due to a limited ingredient list. Rather because the ratio is almost all 1:1:1:1:1:2 (the original recipe was 1:1 for all ingredients but I thought it needed a bigger dose of lemon juice). The sauce is creamy, salty and tangy and coated the noodles and veggies well. I used some of the pasta water to thin the sauce but use as much as you like.
Instead of massaging the kale, I let the heat of the noodles wilt them. Easy, peasy. Because as much as I love raw kale salads, I am usually able to
trick convince others into doing the massaging. I hate getting my hands too dirty. ;)
(PS. This post was pre-approved. My Mom thought it was in good taste. Both the elephant and noodles. And a great post for Mother’s Day. I think she was just happy I was eating through my soba noodles.)
Other tahini sauces you may enjoy (because tahini is so much more versatile than hummus):
Bok Choy and Sesame Ginger Udon Noodles from 1000 Vegan Recipes (we’ve made these with red pepper added and enjoyed them)
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Have you ever had raw hummus?
As in, hummus made from raw, sprouted chickpeas?
I did. Once.
But not on purpose.
Early in our courtship, Rob decided to surprise me with some hummus. While we diligently follow our favourite recipe now, there was a time when Rob liked to “wing it”. At that time, Rob was a novice with beans, too.
He went all out and bought dried chickpeas. He soaked them overnight. He methodically added the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and finally the chickpeas to his food processor. It churned away and then stopped working. The hummus had broken his food processor! The first thing that popped into Rob’s head was – let’s go to Janet’s apartment and use her food processor to finish it off. I was away, so he silently entered my apartment and finished off pureeing the hummus.
He surprised me the next day with the hummus when he met me in Texas. I tasted it. It was off. Did you follow a recipe? Yes! But then I tinkered with it since it didn’t taste as good as before. Oh well, we better find a better recipe next time. This tastes funny. I don’t know what it is, though.
A few days later, we figured it out. Maybe it was a week later.. or a month later, I can’t remember. This story is such a classic, I mostly remember the punch line….
Rob used raw chickpeas in the recipe. He soaked them but did not cook them. He didn’t know he had to cook them (canned chickpeas are already cooked?? the recipe didn’t tell me to cook them!). Thankfully, now he knows better. ;)
These days, hummus has become fairly ubiquitous for any bean spread. Technically, hummus is Arabic for chickpea and mostly associated with a chickpea puree with tahini.
I admit it: I am guilty of making non-traditional hummus. I have made hummuses (hummi? hummus?) with edamame and white beans instead of chickpeas, with peanut butter and cashews instead of tahini, and even a dessert option with peanut butter and chocolate! I have also souped up traditional hummus with pomegranate molasses and red pepper paste. Carrots and hummus have become my go-to snack lately.
However, those versions always used cooked beans. Now was my turn to try raw hummus. Without any sprouted beans, though.
With zucchini as its base instead of chickpeas, and cashews instead of tahini, there is not much resemblance to classical hummus. However, it is one deliciously creamy spread spiced with garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and miso. Use it to dip your favourite vegetables or crackers or however else you love to use hummus. :) Lately I have been loving it with huge carrots as my after dinner snack. There is something so satisfying about eating a whole uncut carrot smothered in a garlicky
Vegan propaganda: I try not to spread too much of it.
If you read my blog, I think you’ve already accepted that vegetables are good for you and are ok with the lack of meat and dairy in my meals.
But I will share this fun video anyways, because I thought it was flipping awesome. I’ve watched a few documentaries about veganism and I am usually left with a bitter taste in my mouth, wondering about the accuracy of the science and experiences presented. The prolonged juice fast in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead creeped me out. The main study in Forks over Knives, The China Study, was not convincing for me. Vegucated was cute, following 3 people on a vegan challenge for 6 weeks, though.
But this video? I loved it! Made by Dr Michael Gregor, the physician behind NutritionFacts.Org, he presents how a vegan diet affects the top 15 causes of mortality in a very engaging way. I know the clip is almost an hour long, but it is an hour well spent. If you watch it, please let me know what you think. For me, it reinforced continuing with a plant-based diet for health reasons. :)
In the spirit of nutritarianism (coined by Dr Fuhrman, describing those who consume foods based on their higher micronutrients and shun refined oils, sugars and salt), I decided to make The World’s Healthiest Tomato Sauce, as proclaimed by Amber.
This was a chunky tomato sauce like no other. Filled to the brim with vegetables. All sorts of veggies, it was a lovely clean-out-my-fridge kind of sauce. I am probably the only person with a random vegetables, like a solo leek, beets, carrots, broccoli stems and mushrooms, hanging around for no good reason. Granted, this is a very flexible sauce so work with what you have. Amber suggests not omitting the olives, though. They add both the salty and fatty components from a whole food (instead of a refined oil product). The tempeh is eerily similar to chunks of meat. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy hint, as if you had already stirred in Parmesan cheese. But the funniest part of the sauce is that it was more a fluorescent-red, courtesy of the pureed beet.
You might think this sauce would take forever to prep, with so many veggies. However, the food processor does that majority of the work. The directions look lengthy, but you’ll see a theme: chop veggies in food processor, add to the pot and stir. :)
I actually really liked this sauce. It tastes healthy yet hearty while still feeling light. Would I serve it to omnis I wanted to impress? Probably not. They would probably think I was pulling a joke on them. But if someone made this for me, I’d be thrilled. I’d also have a lot of sauce to last for many meals. Freeze some for later, or relish in eating it a few times a day. :)
I believe that moderate amounts of oil, sweeteners and salt are good for you. Fats are definitely important, especially to absorb nutrients from other foods, but they can also come from avocados, nuts and seeds (and soy). I plan to incorporate more of these “healthy fats” into my foods.
What do you think about nutritarianism? Oils vs healthy fats?
Sing along if you know the words:
I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)
I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas
I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!
Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.
So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..
I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS. Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.
Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.
So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).
Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.
Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. ;) Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.
Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?
Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder. :)