We had our first visitors last week. My parents made the brave trek down to Houston.
I say brave because just before they arrived, we were hovering around 2-5 C in the morning in Houston. It was cold. I had to break out my pants.
Thank goodness Houston redeemed its hot, humid self, so my parents could relish instead in highs of 28C, feels like 38C weather! Rob and I have become accustomed to Houston’s weather, positively smitten by the nice weather. Instead, my parents melted under their jeans. I understand. I was there. Except in July, it was 38C, feels like 48C!
We had a hard time recommending tourist things in Houston, so instead, we treated them to a typical week in the life of Houston-bound Rob-and-Janet.
On the weekend, we started it off by buying cheap produce at our favourite fruit and vegetable wholesaler. I usually beeline it to the stands with the cheaper produce, but I think my Dad had fun haggling his way to a $7 case of 24 Ataulfo mangoes (they couldn’t go any lower right now, they explained, since it isn’t high season).
Next up, was the Mexican bakery across the street where we picked up the highly coveted tres leches cakes*, fresh tortillas, and other Mexican baked goods. My friend has been on a quest to find the best tres leches cake in Houston and this is his pick. My parents never knew Mexican sweets were so awesome.
*Note: While this tres leches cake is definitely not vegan, we have found a nice vegan tres leches cake, too.
Our subsequent stop was at my favourite Trader Joe’s, where we sampled all 3 cookie butters before deciding which one to bring home. My Dad picked the smooth version. Who knew grocery shopping could be so much fun. An employee snuck in a souvenir Houston-themed Trader Joe’s bag into my Mom’s arms, congratulating her on visiting the store with us.
And lastly, since we had too much fun shopping and became hungry, we decided to have an early lunch for some quick dosas.
Sunday was our standard biking morning, when my Dad joined us cycling for cronuts while my Mom relaxed at home. We went out for a Mexican fusion vegan brunch but Rob treated us to his specialty later: chilla, Indian chickpea pancakes.
During our kimchi phase, Rob quickly figured out that kimchi worked really well in chilla. Basically it is pre-seasoned cabbage which makes it easier to add to the batter. Rob also likes to add other random vegetables, like tomatoes and spinach, but this version was just with kimchi. Easy, peasy. A dollop of mayonnaise and more kimchi as a nod to our favourite sweet potato and kimchi poutine but I ate it without it and it was still delicious.
Weather prevented us from hiking Brazos Bend together on the weekend, but my parents made their own trip there together while Rob and I worked during the week. They also toured Galveston and the Johnson Space Center (NASA), the most touristy thing they experienced.
And just like that, my parents are back in Canada. We had a few more ideas up our sleeves, but time was too short. A quick visit but we showed them exactly why we like Houston so much. Here’s to seeing them again in the summer as they want to return before we leave. Any favourite spots we still need to check out and share with them?
This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.
Most food bloggers have non-foodie day jobs. Tell me, do you share your blog with your co-workers, with your supervisors? Would you include it on your CV?
I work in the medical field. I am a doctor, although still in training during my residency.
Suffice it to say, I work in a very conservative field.
I recently applied for a fellowship after I graduate. In about 16 months. My applications went in 21 months before the position started (I think it is just as ludicrous as you). I polished off my CV, highlighting my clinical and research experience. Thankfully I didn’t have to follow a resume template, so I debated whether to include my “other interests”. One of my mentors told me casual hobbies/interests like “cooking”, “cycling”, etc should be excluded unless you earn medals. Telling me you love to cook, tells me you love to eat, he said. And what is special about that?
In the end, I decided to highlight extracurricular achievements. I highlighted that my recipes had been included in Canadian Living; I currently maintain this blog promoting healthy recipes; and I listed the supported cycling trips that I have done over 300 km.
While I tend to keep my blog on the down-low from my supervisors, I have shared it with other residents.
Including this information wouldn’t hurt me as an applicant (right?) and if anything it would give them something to talk about, other than my very interesting research.
At one hospital, I was interviewed consecutively by 10 people. As you are probably thinking, this could be pretty intimidating! However, the group was really approachable and open, and they relished talking about my research and non-research interests. More than one had my blog on their computer screen!
Sharing your blog with co-workers can be such a nerve-wracking experience. I absolutely adore the food blogging community I have joined, but I know that my food preferences are in the minority. Especially in Texas. In fact, being someone who blogs about said food seems even more ludicrous, eh? I would have thought the same thing three years ago, but really, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
Food blogging is something special. A place for me to express myself, both through writing, photography and culinary creativity. It also exposes my vulnerability, hence my shyness with co-workers.
But please do share with me how you share your blog.
Sometimes I find vegetable-based dishes that scream “I need some protein!”. Instead of adding a bean or grain to the dish, this time I opted for a side of beans in pancake form.
These pancakes have a similar texture to the potato pancakes I ate as a child due to the shredded carrot. However, the flavour is anything but bland as they are spiced with ginger, garlic, onion and garam masala. Other than veganizing the recipe by substituting the chia for egg, I also decreased the garam masala from Joanne’s original recipe and found them great as-is. They could be eaten as a simple pancake with a side of chutney, or a nice salad, or with a mild curry.
Rob and I ate them with the Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Pineapple to beef up the meal. We found that when we smothered them with the curry sauce, it almost tasted like schnitzel. Texture-wise. I know, so weird, but true.
I had a sense of deja vu this weekend. But not in the typical I’ve already done this sense. Rather, a ‘why haven’t I learned my lesson yet’ kind of deja vu.
We visited friends in Horseshoe Valley for a weekend filled with friends, food, games, adventure park fun (o-go ball is highly recommended) as well as a trip to the beach. While I am not too fond of beaching, I was excited when my friend, Greg, suggested we bike to Wasaga Beach instead, which was 45km away, he said. Rob checked: it was 27km away.
While Rob and I haven’t done many long-distance cycling trips since our big adventure to Kingston, 27km would still be a quick stroll for us. An hour, maybe an hour and a half, I told myself. We packed light for the trip, with just a couple bottles of water. Our snack would be waiting for us at the end, at the beach, when we would arrive for an early lunch and meet up with the girls. We could easily cycle back, too. Greg, our fierce leader, wasn’t keen on cycling back. OK, no problem.
As soon as we pulled out, I was reminded that this may not necessarily be as flat as I had predicted. We were starting at the bottom of the valley. We only could go up! Greg suggested taking smaller side roads to circumvent the huge hills on Horseshoe Valley Road, which we thought was a fabulous idea.
We twisted up the side roads and meandered through lovely rolling hills. After 13km, I needed a break and nonchalantly stated we were half-way to the beach.
Not so. Rob, plotting our progress through GPS on his phone, said we were now further from the beach than when we started!
I’ll spare you the details, but yes, we had lots of rolling hills with challenging uphills. The wind was fierce. We added detours to forgo traffic-heavy roads. I broke out my emergency larabar. Thankfully, the last 15km was mainly flat, maybe slightly downhill to the beach. The flat 27km bike ride ended up being a very hilly, very windy 57km.
We were greeted by a mild sand storm at Wasaga as the strong winds pushed sand around ruthlessly. Greg still jumped into the lake, cycling clothes and all. We arrived for a late lunch. The girls had already eaten without us and warned us there was probably sand in the sandwiches. My quinoa salad had fared a bit better.
Steph made delicious vegan cupcakes for dessert – matcha green tea with marzipan flours. It had been a while since I had a cupcake yet I devoured it for dessert. Sometimes crazy cycling can do that to you!
It was on the way back home that Rob and I picked up the corn on impulse. Where else would we get such freshly picked corn?
Using three different forms of corn – fresh corn kernels, corn meal and corn flour (masa harina) – these are a seriously corn-stuffed pancake. With corn as the flour base, it was reminiscent of a sweet polenta. Flavoured with both vanilla and lemon, it was an exotic twist. Slather it with Earth Balance for pure simple bliss, or top with your favourite compote or salsa.
Peanut butter and banana are a classic combination. Warm caramelized banana with peanut butter is even better. Add in some rolled oats, chia seeds, vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, and you have a crazy concoction. A crazy, wonderful breakfast concoction. Or dinner, because you love it so much.
Ashley calls this a banana scramble, but I see it as a huge, fluffy pancake. Her description as a melty gooey chewy bananer oat goodness fits much better, actually. The banana becomes soft and caramelized as it is permeated with the peanut butter. The rolled oats and chia seeds add bulkiness and texture. It reminds me of a stovetop version of the Dark Chocolate Banana Coconut Almond Cookies, which are soft from the bananas, but here, you eat it right from the stove, ooey-gooey in its warmness.
I have made this a few times, and the recipe is very flexible. You can use chia seeds, ground flax or even wheat germ to help keep it together. Instead of banana, you could use apple sauce, mashed pumpkin or sweet potato. The amount of nondairy milk is up to you and your preference. It should be a bit thick, but not dry. I like to err on the side of wet. Chia seeds definitely make this an easier thing to flip, though, and 2 smaller pancakes would help to flip as well. Wheat germ was nice because it was more fluffy and I added more milk. Especially with wheat germ, it can be a bit finicky to keep it all together, so the name scramble is quite fitting.
This is the wheat germ version. After frying, It may look like this:
So just stick it together and top with bananas (see top photo) and no one would be the wiser.. Personally, in this case, as unphotogenic as it is, I prefer the super fluffy pancake that doesn’t easily keep together then a flippable pancake that is a bit sturdier. I like to eat fluffy goodness.
Pancakes are what I consider a splurge or luxury breakfast. Most of my breakfasts are quick to reheat in the morning, or don’t require that much attention on the stovetop allowing me to multitask in the kitchen.
Pancakes are easy to make, but who wants to slave over the frypan so early in the morning? Add another insult to the injury because most recipes make a ton of pancakes, and pancakes tend to be infinitely better when fresh.
But for those special occasions, break out this pancake recipe. Or when you feel like eating an all-day pancake special, because that is what I ended up doing.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted them from Good to the Grain, these pancakes are worthy of its high praise (308+ comments later!). Not your typical white, tasteless pancake, these are filled with oat flour (rolled oats that I ran through my food processor until fine) and oatmeal. White flour still makes an appearance though which is probably why they taste so great. They are moist, substantial pancakes and actually a bit sweet. The recipe calls for both sugar and honey and I would decrease the sugar next time, but otherwise these are perfect. A great way to increase your repertoire of whole grain-based recipes and will please even the pickiest eater.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!