Variety is the spice of life. It is possibly the best spice in the kitchen, too.
You can probably tell I like to experiment in my kitchen… so many great recipes to try and share. So many new things to explore.
You’d think I’d run out of repertoire. Me, too. Not yet, at least.
Case in point. I made yet another new hummus. This time I shunned the chickpea and traded it for roasted carrots. I kept my favourite hummus classics: fresh lemon juice (with a strong flavour from the zest, too), garlic and tahini. Smoked paprika and cumin for more depth of flavour. This is a very creamy dip. Lip-smacking good.
Faced with some leftover hummus after a party, I decided to turn it into a thick dressing for my salad. My last carrot (ginger sesame) dressing was paired with quinoa, avocado and tomato. This time, I juxtaposed it against black rice, tomatoes, baby greens and fresh herbs.
A note on black rice, possibly one of my favourite rices to date. When I cut fruit out on my sweetener-free challenge, I knew I was going to miss some of the many benefits from eating whole fruits: fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This was how I stumbled upon black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. It has a lovely short-grain rice feel similar to my favourite medium-grain brown rice with the added bonus of more protein and more anti-oxidants. Turns out that colourful is better for you, especially when talking about rice. I liked that the black rice wasn’t too sticky and had great flavour naked. As such, it was fun to throw it into this salad.
I ended up tossing it with an herbed spring mix (a mix of baby greens that includes dill, cilantro and parsley), which I thought brought this to the next level. Not the greens, but the herbs. I keep forgetting how simple herbs can totally elevate a dish from ho-hum to hoo-ya! Just a dash of fresh herbs was enough and in truth, the herb that stood out and complemented the salad best was the dill.
After I ate this salad, I had a bit of tummy rumblings. My Mom asked me what new foods I had eaten lately. Everything I eat is new. (Actually, at first I said nothing. Nothing crazy new) Except for the leftover hummus, everything else was new. It was my first time trying black rice and the herbed lettuce greens. Furthermore, I drank a mamey shake, too. Exciting times at the beginning of the week!
Pinpointing culprits when eating fresh foods can be a challenge for me without a lot of sleuthing. Mostly free of FODMAPs other than the garlic, I don’t think that’s the problem. A repeat salad had no problems so who knows what it was. Perhaps the chocolate walnut dessert from the night before? Probably. Too many walnuts? Who knows… it isn’t a problem now.
Here’s to more black rice. Have you tried it yet?
While tackling my list of bookmarked recipes, I knew not everything would be a winner.
My criteria for my eats? First of all, it must be whole foods oriented (nothing white- flour, rice, etc) with limited oil and salt. A lover of most international cuisines, I try not to discriminate but it must be filled with ingredients I love. Beans! Quinoa! Greens! Squash! Lemon! I also like to see a few reviews of the recipe. N=30 is better than n=1 for liking a dish.
I may try to incorporate a new-to-me food or one I haven’t previously enjoyed. I won’t even try to like celery, though. I have given up on green pepper. And now I have sworn off parsley, too.
I have a few parsley recipes here, although usually it is just a flavour accent. I should have known better, and even thoguh I reduced the parsley in this salad, it was still too prominent for me. My parsley came from a friend, so perhaps this local, organic homebrew was more potent?
In any case, this recipe is a knock-off of Fresh‘s All-Star Tabbouleh Salad with adzuki beans and quinoa. It made its rounds earlier this summer, first posted by Angela and subsequently Kass. Sadly, I give very few stars to the salad.
But, all is not lost because extra stars go to the absolute best roasted sweet potatoes ever. I know, a very ballsy statement. I have a witness. Rob agreed with me. So, you have n=2 from us. Lots of positive reviews from Kath’s post, which I bookmarked many moons ago.
Suffice it to say, it may take a while, but the roasted sweet potatoes have a nice skin on the outside while being pillowy soft on the inside. After a little rub of olive oil, salt and pepper, you roast them at 350F for 30 minutes, then 400F for 20 minutes. A simple flick of the knob makes for the most glorious sweet potatoes.
Please try it out and let me know whether you like it, too! Perfect for an upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
Amongst my closer friends and family, I am the only vegan. Quite a few of my friends are vegetarian, but my closest vegan buddy is in Vancouver. That’s across one big country. One of my co-workers is a former vegan, choosing to eat fish as an omega supplement mostly. I have yet to know anyone who has tried raw cuisine without my influence. Most of my friends are adventurist eaters, so I can share my kitchen successes and failures. While I eat vegan mainly for health and environmental reasons, sometimes I wonder about connecting with other like-minded souls.
A few months ago, I travelled with Rob to meet some of his friends from Burning Man. While mostly everyone was vegetarian, it was exciting to meet someone else who also dabbled in raw cuisine. She encouraged me to try banana chips in the dehydrator and told me about one of her raw successes: King Oyster Calamari from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma’s restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in NYC, is my favourite raw resto to date, so I was eager to try the dish when I got home. King oyster mushrooms were on sale, too, to boot. I didn’t have the cookbook, but a quick google search led me to Emily’s site which had the recipe.
The recipe was simple: marinate king oyster mushrooms, bread them with spiced ground flaxseeds (works as both the breading and egg-substitute!) and then dehydrate. My new-found friend also gave me a few other tips.
While the recipe says to dehydrate for 2-3 hours, she suggested dehydrating up to 5 hours for them to become really crispy. She also warned me that the whole recipe made a ton of food, so I halved it. (I also quartered the cocktail sauce below, since I ended up thinning it and had an overabundance of sauce leftover). I tinkered with the recipe since I don’t have an Italian spice blend, and instead added whatever looked like an Italian spice from my spice drawer: basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley. I threw in some dried onion and garlic granules as well as lemon pepper seasoning instead of the black pepper. Even though I used chili powder, too, I dipped my finger in and thought something was missing. I added black salt. Now we were set. (Note to self: next time I may try this with nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, since I liked that with my Asiago-crusted baked zucchini sticks). I had a bit of leftover crumbs, so you could probably increase the number of mushrooms with this mixture – or pack it in more than I did.
Now, if you don’t have a dehydrator, do not fear. You can still make vegan calamari! I made these both ways: raw in the dehydrator for 3 hours and a separate batch for 10 minutes in the oven. I don’t care too much about the raw philosophy of not cooking over 115F, but I love the inventive recipes… so to hurry things up, I stuck some in the oven, too. Both were
good great. They honestly tasted like calamari. No hidden mushrooms here (Rob thinks he could taste mushrooms but only because he knew they were in there). Between the two versions, though, I preferred the raw dehydrated ones. They were more crispy and the breading stayed on (some of it stuck to my silpat in my oven version). The oven-baked version had more of a slippery calamari feel to it, though. In any case (or in both cases), Rob said he liked them better than regular calamari since it has a cleaner taste. I also preferred this version instead of the typical deep-fried options you find at restos. Bright and fresh, healthy food, what’s not to like?
Speaking of connecting with other like-minded souls, I was wondering if I have any readers in the GTA that would like get connected? I was really sad I missed Sarah’s potluck in the park, especially since it looked like it was a lot of fun!
I can’t believe that a year ago this weekend, I was already biking to-from Toronto and Kitchener (120 km, one-way). While I am planning to cycle to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls in June (160 km, one-way), our fall-back is a shorter course that leaves from Burlington (90 km).
With so many things happening this spring (moving, Colombia, hiking training, etc), it has been hard to dedicate as much time to long-distance cycling. Funnily enough, I have still clocked more kilometers on my bike due to my long daily commutes (780 km already clocked this year). However, nothing beats the long rides on my road bike as true training. Two weekends ago, Rob and I did a short jaunt in the cold for 35 km. True, I cycle that much on a typical day but it is spaced out. But that was enough for me. By the end, my back was sore for some odd reason. One really needs to ease into these long distance trips.
I know I’ve been posting a few recipes highlighting high protein options for typical carb-heavy meals, but my main focus for protein-friendly meals will always be a combination of beans and veggies. Brendan Brazier has always recommended a 3:1 to 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, preferably a liquid for easiest digestion after recovery from sports. This is easy to get from bean- and veggie-centric soups and stews.
While I didn’t encounter anything like this in Turkey, the recipe for this Turkish red pepper, chickpea and cilantro soup came from Classical Turkish Cooking. I bookmarked it while searching for ideas with celeriac. I really liked how fresh and vibrant this soup was without being heavy. The simple soy milk makes this creamy along with the pureed chickpeas. The red pepper confers sweetness, celeriac a hearty celery background and the parsley/cilantro combo complemented it all really well. It has simple flavours that worked so well together: perfect as a light yet filling soup for the spring. The original recipe suggests pureeing the whole soup and then straining it, but I don’t like pureed soups, so I used my immersion blender to puree it partially. I was able to enjoy the benefits of the texture from the veggies as well as the additional heft from the puree.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month‘s Simple and in Season, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Priya, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not if you are Rob and me.
We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)
Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.
One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.
I say: BRING IT ON!
While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan. Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.
Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.
In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.
But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)
Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?
There is one problem with my list of top cookbooks for my move.
What if I buy new cookbooks?
Sometimes the Book Depository makes it a bit too easy to buy new books. Americans are already blessed with cheap prices and even cheaper shipping options, but in Canada, things are a bit more expensive. Prices on books are reasonable on amazon.ca but I usually wait until I have an order over $40 for free shipping. And by that time, I may have decided not to buy the cookbook afterall. At The Book Depository, even though they ship from the UK, it is free shipping. Because it is from the UK, there is also no tax. I have not been hit with customs fees either, yet.
After I borrowed Bean by Bean from the library, I knew this cookbook was totally up my alley. Beans, beans, beans. Lots of information, this is almost a book of short stories describing each dish! Mostly vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipes. International themed. I also love the multiple variations for the recipes – swapping in different ingredients for a different meal. The only drawbacks were the heavy handedness with the oil (not too hard to fix) and serving sizes that are far too generous (again, not too hard to fix). So far, it I think it was a well spent $10.49.
So after I sorted my new cookbooks in alphabetical order, it turned out that Bean by Bean was lucky cookbook #17 for the Random Recipe challenge this month. I was excited to try any (non meatist) recipe, so I flipped it and it fell open to this very green Bok Choy, Broccoli and Edamame Skillet… which I decided to serve with millet (and no, not just because it rhymes).
I have bookmarked quite a few very simple beans + greens + lemon stir-fries but had yet to try one, so I was quite pleased to be bluntly encouraged to make this for Random Recipes. This recipe is great because it is so simple. No garlic, nor onion (gasp) just veggies and edamame with lemon. First, get your millet cooking, chop your veggies and then after a quick stirfry with a squeeze of lemon (and Aleppo, my addition), you have a tasty meal. A super green one at that. Pick your own favourite greens (baby spinach would be great), vegetables (I am still partial to broccoli but carrots would be nice, too), bean (any takers for chickpeas) and grain (quinoa, yes please). While Dragonwagon says this would serve 2-4 with pasta as a main dish, this was more like 6 servings when I added in the millet.
So when she made Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers for a potluck, I asked her how she liked it. “It was all gone!” But how did you like it? “It was great!”
When she made Bulgur and Cantaloupe Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint for her barbecue, I asked her how she liked it. “It was all gone!” But how did you like it? “I didn’t even get to try it, it was gone so fast!” Wowzas!
Personally, I don’t subscribe to the if-there-are-leftovers-they-didn’t-like-it camp. It all depends on how much food is available. I tend to err on the side of too much food so that no one can say they left hungry. Granted, this means I make dishes that will make great leftovers for me, and usually a large batch of the recipe, at that.
Recently, my brother and sister-in-law were over for dinner while Rob was out-of-town and trust me, I erred on the side of more food. I included this soup as an after-thought, after I had already decided to double the recipe for the main dish. They still demolished the meal, which was sad for Rob, because he wasn’t able to try any of the leftovers. Because I definitely had Rob in mind (mango lover extraordinaire) as I prepared this last-minute mango gazpacho.
Adapted from The 30-Minute Vegan, this is a wonderful chilled soup with summer salsa flavours. Gazpacho is a Spanish chilled soup typically filled with tomatoes, peppers and onions that is partially pureed to give it a chunky soup-like consistency. In this Thai-fusion version, mango is added to the traditional tomatoes and bell peppers, along with cilantro and parsley. The sweetness from the mango is countered beautifully by the zippiness from chili flakes and chile powder. It took me a bit longer than 30 minutes to chop everything for the soup, but it was a very simple soup to prepare. I found it tasted best after a long chill, almost 6 hours, which is a perfect make-ahead summer appetizer.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World for Spain, to E.A.T. World for Spain, and to this month’s Simple and in Season, to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends and to this month’s No Croutons Required for raw salads/soups for Lisa’s birthday (I’d also serve this with Savoury Hemp Crackers as a side, Raw Tacos with Walnut Taco Meat, Cashew Sour Cream and Tomato Salsa as our main and Raw Tropical Mango Pie for dessert).
Toronto is having its first long heat wave of the summer. Tomorrow’s forecast is for a high of 38C and who knows what it will feel like with the humidity. It is a positive sauna outside and I don’t like it one bit!
Figures that all I want to make are baked beans. Turning on my oven when my house is already 28C inside. I must be nuts.
Nuts for beans, of course!
I am not bent on making your typical ooky sweet ketchup baked beans. I’ve already done the non-traditional, but uber delicious Mango BBQ Beans (not baked but the stovetop preparation makes this much more summer friendly!). I am talking around-the-world type of baked beans.
Because, every country has a different spin on the classic bean dish.
Apparently vegan New Brunswick-style is to use blackstrap molasses and ginger for a zippy punch.
Or I could go more into southern soul cooking, using baked black eyed peas.
How about Mexican-style with Anasazi Beans Baked with Ancho Chile?
Then there’s Sephardic White Beans with Leeks.
Substitute the leeks with onions, add allspice, cinnamon and cloves, and you have Syrian baked beans.
If you were Serbian, you’d bake your white tetovac beans with sweet paprika.
When in Nigeria, you might add curry powder, cumin, coriander, and peanut butter.
A quick glance onto my back porch, with its bountiful flat-leaf parsley, steered me into the direction of Greek Baked Beans (Gigantes Plaki), where giant lima beans are baked with a luscious tomato sauce spiced with smoked paprika, oregano, garlic, parsley and dill. Already a creamy bean, the giant lima bean is brought to a silky high as it is baked in a delicious sauce. Baking confers even heat distribution and somehow allows the beans to continue to become creamy without losing its shape. Lima beans, if overcooked, can quickly disintegrate into mush if you don’t watch them carefully while they are cooking. Browning the beans during the last 15 minutes, allows a slightly crusty exterior to the top beans. The mixture of textures is wonderful.
Serve slightly warm, or at room temperature, with slices of bread, or just as is, which is my preference along with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.
Rob has the privilege of having a nice breakfast supplied at work. Each morning, the offerings vary from pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausages, croissants, danishes, muffins, oatmeal, muesli, yogurt, fruit salad, dried fruit and nuts. He complains about the breakfast, though, and shuns most of the menu. Sub-par baked goods and homemade oatmeal that tastes better, he usually opts for the fruit salad with yogurt and dried fruits and nuts. But even then, he complains about the fruit salad. Too much filler, like honeydew and cantaloupe, where is mango? He wants more pineapple, strawberries and blueberries. Add some papaya, while you’re at it. Apple and pear, too. He wants ginger.
Yes, I am typing this up verbatim as he tells me all his breakfast fruit salad desires.
He has been dubbed a food snob by his co-workers. Rightfully so, if I may add.
To be honest, I felt quite liberated when I stopped eating from the (rare) free lunches provided at work. But if fresh fruit or a nice salad is available, I will gladly snack on that.
Melons don’t tend to get the respect they deserve. After biking, sometimes all I wanted was a big piece of watermelon. And while Rob prefers cantaloupe over honeydew (both “filler” fruit), I prefer the reverse. On the fruit echelon, berries rank high for me, but variety is important as well.
Cantaloupe very rarely gets paired with anything… a loner, or sometimes with honeydew. Hidden within a fruit salad, it can go unnoticed. Or shunned when it takes centre stage. I enjoy combining fruit into savoury dishes, and my curiosity was piqued when some friends recommended the bulgur and cantaloupe salad in Supermarket Vegan.
Here, we have a seemingly simple salad but the citrus-spiked bulgur salad works incredibly well with the cantaloupe. As with any salad, quality ingredients make this jump to the next level.
First the cantaloupe. I increased the ratio of cantaloupe-to-bulgur ratio, opting to use an entire small cantaloupe for the salad. Choose a firm not overripe cantaloupe for best results. Next, fresh orange juice is key and I squished 2 Navel oranges to reconstitute the little nuts of bulgur goodness. The original recipe suggested a fine-grain bulgur but I used medium-grain which was perfect. I swapped the herbs around, opting for more fresh mint than parsley, and felt that both had a roll in the flavourful salad. For my nut of choice, I went with hazelnuts that I had unearthed during our move. Again, who would have thought it would work so well? I ended up adding cooked chickpeas to the leftover salad to turn it into a main meal and it was equally delicious.
Heck, who would have thought this whole salad would taste so good? Cantaloupe, you are definitely an unsung hero.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s Healing Foods featuring whole grains, to this month’s Simple and in Season and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
Here is my second dish with pomegranate molasses and I think I am slowly falling in love with this sweet-tart sauce.
This is a Lebanese dish from Arabesque by Claudia Roden where eggplants are baked until soft, then coated with a pomegranate vinaigrette and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley. It is a very simple recipe for a simple dish. In fact, the tastes are rather subtle which is why I enjoyed it. This is meant to be a dish as part of a mezze (appetizer) spread and can be served hot or cold. I preferred to use it as a sandwich topper. It was delicious cold, heaping over a toasted bagel for breakfast. The recipe says the pomegranate seeds are optional but I think they really made the dish stand-out. They explode with little bursts of flavours when you bite through them.
In my last post, I commented that I could have a hard time making up a tasty meal without advance warning. That’s usually because I buy my produce for each dish and then work around what I have and need for my meals. I don’t tend to make too many meals that are completely from pantry staples (I did during my university days, though!).
However, there is something to say about tasty meals that can be whipped together from stuff in your cupboards. I recently returned from a trip and came home to an empty fridge. What to make? Then I knew it! The chickpea and artichoke salad!
I initially spotted this recipe through the No Crouton’s Required round-up about chickpeas (with two variations from the same original recipe from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm (also posted here)). My variation is adapted from Diet, Dessert and Dogs.
While I may not always be a fan of chickpeas, this was delicious. The fried chickpeas had a nutty, toasted flavour that worked well with the slightly tangy lemon and herb dressing, the mellow artichokes that were scorched nicely and the toasted almonds with their crunch and flavour wrapped up the salad beautifully. This is definitely a salad that shows how all the flavour is in that brown stuff at the bottom of the frypan.
The pantry staples for this dish will definitely be squirreled away in my cupboards for that emergency salad fix for unexpected guests. Who should be more excited – me or my guests?
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by RuchikaCooks.