Easing back into cooking in Toronto, I tried to highlight local, seasonal vegetables. We arrived too late to grow our own garden but we had a little help from family.
These cucumbers were courtesy of Rob’s mother’s garden and the tomatoes came from my sister-in-law’s parents’ garden. The dressing was a simple lemon-tahini-garlic combination that pretty much never fails. Although the twist was adding some olives. I don’t use them very often but it was an unusual and nice accent to the creamy dressing.
What are you growing this year?
Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? While I celebrate proper nutrition every day (ok, 3 times a week here), I was encouraged by Erika to join Houston’s VegOut! challenge to eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days.
Thirty different vegetables in thirty days? Even as a veggie-loving gal, that’s a pretty huge feat. Look at my sidebar. I have favourites. Barring onions, my top ten are: garlic (227 recipes, and I don’t even tag all my garlic), tomato (139 recipes), ginger (121 recipes), carrot (110 recipes), red bell pepper (82 recipes), spinach (64 recipes), mushroom (50 recipes), kale (44 recipes), zucchini (44 recipes) and broccoli (36 recipes).
No stranger to jicama, I have enjoyed mostly in Mexican-inspired dishes: a raw burrito and as a cranberry-jicama salsa. This time, I decided to switch avenues and was inspired by Middle Eastern flavours. Packed with vegetables (7 if you include olives, but I think they are technically fruits), these are a fun twist on dolmas, stuffed grape leaves.
Instead of cooked rice, the jicama is riced into small pieces. Jicama is quite moist, so it needs a thorough drying before being incorporated with the cucumber, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. If you don’t have jicama, cauliflower would work, too. Dill and mint were used for the filling and cilantro for the green tahini dipping sauce. With all the fresh ingredients, the flavours really popped.
This was also the first time I tried grape leaves raw. I mean, without steaming them first. Steaming makes them more tender and less salty, but this was a quick and easy way to enjoy them.
Do you think you could eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days? How do you like to eat jicama?
PS. This is my submission to Raw Food Thursdays and to VegOut Jicama: #vegoutjicama #vegoutrfs
While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?
Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?
The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).
Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.
Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.
The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.
The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.
But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.
Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.
The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.
For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. :)
In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!
I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso? I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.
Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.
Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.
Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Joyce, kitchen flavours, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y..
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?
With less free time, I have had to trim my bloglist. I can’t seem to fit everything into a day, so I am focusing my blog reading in the morning.
However, all bets are off if I can’t sleep at night.
I recently discovered this incredibly hilarious blog. Maybe you’ve run into her blog already? Jenny, The Bloggess?
Just read these two posts and I guarantee you will be laughing:
I don’t want to give away any of the punch lines, but it makes me look tame. Crazy Janet buying 10 squashes is nothing compared to this!
Crazy Janet buying 10 squashes means more squash recipes for you, though!
This is a recipe I bookmarked years ago when Deb first posted it: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew.
I stashed away a preserved lemon and green olives a bit too long, just for this recipe.
Turns out that while I had the squash and green beans, too, I didn’t have any chickpeas. My freezer collection had been depleted. Undeterred, I pulled out the next best thing: chana dal, or split chickpeas. Except they aren’t typical chickpeas, they are black desi chickpeas. A tad smaller, a bit firmer, they have a thick shell which makes them look black. However, chana dal splits them in half and removes the tough outer shell. I figured they would cook up faster than unsoaked chickpeas, too. Have no chana dal? Try split yellow peas instead (soaked would be best)… or used cooked chickpeas like in the original. :)
While my stew looks nothing like Deb’s original version, I am sure mine was equally as delicious. I liked the creamy nature of the chana dal as a back drop for the stew along with cinnamon and cumin. The buttercup squash was sweet and complemented the grassiness of the green beans (yes, my plants were very prolific this year). For further depth, green Cerignola olives and preserved lemon make this an exotic twist of flavours.
I was trying to tackle bookmarked recipes last month and I wonder if I should keep this one bookmarked so I can try the original version? I still have half a preserved lemon left!
While I still have many more bookmarked recipes courtesy of a great vegan mofo, I still tackled many of my dog-eared bookmarks and depleted my pantry items. Thank goodness most of the recipes were successes!
What have you bookmarked recently?
What are your favourite non-food blogs?
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.
Are you tired of wraps and salads but still want to pack in your veggies?
Enter Pizza Bella: a raw portobello mushroom pizza.
Since our move, Rob and I have lost easy access to a barbecue but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying portobello mushrooms. I still adore grilled portobello bliss but variety is the spice of life. With my leftover cocktail sauce from the Raw King Oyster “Calamari”, I knew I wanted to use it towards pizza on a fungi.
In fact, my idea for this came from my visit to Houston, where I had a similar meal from Pat Greer’s Kitchen (see Ashley’s Pizza Bella review here). Everyone keeps reminding me that Houston is America’s fattest city and they only eat meat. I protest, you can find healthy take-away foods, even in Houston: you just need to know where to look. When I had my interview in Houston, I wasn’t able to visit the store front of Pat Greer’s Kitchen, but with advance ordering, she was able to deliver her foods to a nearby My Fit Foods store. With a few fresh, raw meals now packed in my hotel mini-fridge, I was all set to bring my A game for my marathon of interviews.
Pat’s Pizza Bella: made with breath, love, and portabella mushroom, and organic: sunflower seeds, cashews, carrots, zucchini, wild kalamata olives, local tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano, tahini, garlic powder, and sea salt
What I was most impressed at was that the mushroom seemed to be raw. I wasn’t even sure it was marinaded, but as a raw mushroom, it kept its shape well while holding a nice tomato sauce, a sunflower-cashew cheese, topped with spiralized zucchini, olives and carrots.
For my version, I opted to marinate the mushroom in a touch of apple cider vinegar to soften it slightly as I prepped my sauces. My tomato sauce was ready-to-go but now I had to decide on a cheese flavour. In the end, I went with Gena’s Italian cashew cheese flavoured with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. I made it with my food processor, instead of my Vitamix, hoping to get a more cheese-like consistency, but it still was no match to real ricotta cheese. It still tasted great, though, and worked really well with the contrast from the lemon-tomato sauce. I like the shredded zucchini and olives from Pat’s version, so I included that, along with a mound of sprouts as toppings.
I ran out of mushrooms, so I ended up freezing the extra cashew cheese in ice cube trays, so I can pop them out whenever I want a single serving of pizza cheese (thanks for the tip, Zoa!). This set of ingredients would also work well in a collard wrap, or overtop zucchini noodles.
How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?
Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.
So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.
My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? ;) Let me know how it goes!
Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:
I’ve been making a lot more simple meals lately (I promise to keep sharing the dressing recipes!), so by the complexity of this dish, you probably can guess that I made this for guests. Technically, my guests ate a Mexican Tortilla Lasagna and I made myself a Mexican Zucchini Lasagna!
The only difference between the two were the noodles. Instead of lasagna pasta, the tortilla lasagna used 9″ whole wheat flour tortillas and my version used zucchini instead of noodles.
Inspired by Susan, this is actually a relatively simple dish to make if you already have refried beans and enchilada sauce. I didn’t. So I turned to Radiant Health, Inner Wealth for a simple unfried refried bean recipe and Veganomicon for an enchilada sauce.
Basically, you create layers with refried beans, a chili-flavoured bell pepper and onion mixture, black beans, and salsa each separated by zucchini slices. Because I wasn’t using tortillas, to make sure my lasagna wasn’t a soupy mess, I lightly salted the zucchini and baked them for a few minutes to dry them out. As with most multi-component recipes, each part is as important as the next. Pick a flavourful salsa. Use a zippy chili powder. Savour the zesty refried beans, lime-spiked in all their glory. Repeat the layers a few times, then smother it in enchilada sauce. I found the original enchilada sauce recipe way too spicy for me (3 roasted green chiles, oh my!), so I ended up diluting it with more tomatoes and almond milk. Combined with the rest of the components, it worked well to balance the flavours.
I actually wasn’t even sure I would share this recipe… it was hard to keep photogenic when fresh. Once chilled as leftovers, it was easier to cut out a slice without it capsizing. Regardless, it still tasted good! :)
I don’t think I have ever had sandwiches for lunch. Even as a child, I remember eating leftover pizza instead. The local pizzeria had a Monday night special: 2 pizzas for $5. As such, my parents bought a couple every. single. week. For years. Pizza for lunch every day. Although I never complained because I loved it.
Leftovers, whether a soup, stew or salad, have always been my go-to lunch.
But with my renewed interest in eating more greens, I have fallen for green wraps.
Just like you probably don’t need recipes for sandwiches, you probably do not think you need recipes for wraps. True, my ingredient list is a bit approximate in its amounts, but I love sharing good combinations of wrap fillings.
Furthermore, for those who travel, this is a perfect wrap to whip up at your destination. You can easily pick up all the ingredients at a well-stocked grocery store (here’s a shout out to Trader Joe’s who knows how to do hummus very well!). If you can’t find pre-sliced artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, I suppose it could be considered optional if you are knife-less due to travelling only with carry-on luggage. I don’t know why, but canned artichoke hearts have a super simple built-in can opener. Perfect – no need to whip out my (non-existent) Swiss Army knife. ;)
This wrap was inspired by Tess’ Fresh Greek Delight found in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. I used a collard leaf to wrap up hummus, sliced artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh basil and garlic chive sprouts. The Greek flavours worked well with the creamy hummus, salty olives, bright fresh basil and the zippy garlic sprouts.
Enjoy! What are your favourite combinations for wraps?
Most kids are picky eaters. I was no exception. I remember hating whole wheat bread, with the oats on the crust. I’d tell my mom I refused to eat the “eggshell bread”. My mom was pretty stern in the kitchen, and always made me finish eating my food, anyways.
While I may have my own food quirks, I think most kids would agree that certain foods are no fun. Lima beans, anyone? Brussels sprouts, perhaps?
Lima beans were definitely not something I liked as a kid, either. I would try to pick them out of the mixed frozen vegetables. To no avail. My mom was watching. I remember them being small, flat green beans with a firm texture. Yellow wax beans were more up my alley back then.
So when I saw Ricki smitten with fennel after her Hated Vegetable Challenge, I figured I would open my bean repertoire and try out lima beans again. As an adult (am I really an adult now? well at least my palate is!).
My source for dried beans is Bestwin, where I can find the standard fare of chickpeas (split, desi, black, etc), black beans, and assorted lentils (red and brown but not French du Puy or black beluga). They have black eyed peas, pinto beans, and, to my delight, lima beans as well.
I picked out a Moroccan lima bean tagine from Tagine by Ghillie Basan. It was not like anything I had encountered while in Morocco, as I skipped the Northern Mediterranean coast with its Spanish flare, filled with roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, ginger, thyme, coriander and saffron; and a bit of zip from chili flakes. An exotic savoury blend wherein the flavours worked really well together. And the lima beans, well, they were phenomenal. They expanded to be these silky, creamy smooth pillows if ever beans could do that.
But wait! These are not the lima beans I remember from my childhood!
Reverse, reverse…. what did I buy at Bestwin?
Lima beans… butter beans… habas grande.
These must be giant lima beans! Further research tells me that lima beans (Phaseolus limensis) and butter beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are different, yet similar since they are related. The lima bean tends to be larger, though. And those small green ones I remember? They are more akin to baby/green lima beans.
Either way, this was a great experiment with lima beans. I have found a new beany friend.