There is no television in my house.
Thus, I do not watch the food channel or other cooking shows.
It is not that I don’t need help in the kitchen, though. I am mainly a self-taught, learn by experience (and sometimes from my family/friends) kind of cook. I love cookbooks that explain and educate so that I can figure out how and when I can modify the recipe to my own tastes.
Truthfully, I still firmly believe that I don’t make anything too complicated and anyone can make the recipes on my blog. Because if I can do it, so can YOU!
Rob bought me the Cadillac, I mean Excalibur, of dehydrators for Christmas. While I quickly made some snacks and treats (apple chips, zucchini chips and kale chips, galore!), what I really wanted to make were crackers, flatbreads and wraps. After giving up refined flours, I have only enjoyed these at raw restaurants so I was itching to make them at home.
However, dehydrating is not as simple as it may seem. I made these zucchini wraps after only consulting Gena’s recipe at Choosing Raw, but it took 12 hours for them to dry and by that time, they were more chip than wrap. Tasty, but very hard to roll. So I consulted the lovely youtube and found this great tutorial. I needed some visual guidance.
It was here that I picked up some great tips. First, I was worried that my wraps were too thick, but thinner wraps would actually be more likely to break. To help dehydrate them better, I could flip the wraps over mid-way (and there is an easy way to do that with an extra tray). Lastly, the best tip I found out in this video, is that if you over-dehydrate something, you can always rehydrate it with some water!!
I thought I had zucchini flatbread, but with a brush of water, I could roll them into zucchini wraps. Therefore, I made the recipe again, this time flipping the wrap over after 3 hours. I let it dehydrate one more hour and it was finished. A little sprinkle of water is all that it needed to become pliable to roll. However, they are still delicate and there is no fancy tucking of the rolls, though. Just rolling.. At least for now, until someone teaches me otherwise.
My only new tip is that these wraps don’t keep very well once assembled. The fillings will fall out unless you wrap them in plastic/wax paper. Just as they will absorb water, they will absorb the moisture from your filling, too. Therefore, they are best eaten freshly wrapped.
These wraps have good flavour as-is: nutty from the flax with a hint of zucchini. Season it with your favourite seasonings if you want something more pronounced. I wanted my filling to shine, so I kept the wrap without extra flavours.
Currently, I am testing recipes for Terry Hope Romano’s new vegan cookbook, Vegan Eats World, and I stuffed my wraps with her filling for Rice Paper Rolls with Kale and Asian Pear with a Peanut Coconut Sauce. I can’t share the recipe, but it is delicious. Truly. One of my favourite recipes from the book so far.
Each aspect makes this wrap shine. I loved the juxtaposition of a lime-coconut-kale salad with Asian pear, packed next to some noodles, next to a spicy and creamy peanut-coconut sauce. Terry uses her peanut sauce as a dipping sauce, but I preferred it to be right inside the wrap, making it a lot less messy with my zucchini wrap. With the rice paper roll, the dipping sauce worked well, though. It really was the perfect merriment of flavours- sweet, sour, spicy, creamy. Feel free to add in some baked tofu for a complete meal.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
I may have a blog, but I still feel inept with the latest technology. I am still using Microsoft Office 2003 and I have no cell phone. I constantly have to ask Rob how to work his Android phone and navigate his Apple laptop. And sometimes, I make boo-boos with my posts… my top recipes of 2011… yeah, don’t postdate that for January 1, 2011. Because that isn’t post-dated at all. Sorry for the New Year’s teaser, especially since it is still in my Google Reader despite its deletion on my blog. Although the worse is that you have to wait until mid-December for that fabulous cookie recipe! Until then, I have another recipe with hidden beans… and hidden broccoli!
Veggie burgers? Veggie patties? Bean cakes?
These are the first veggie “burger” I have made. I think veggie patty is a better descriptor since it isn’t as “meaty” as typical burgers. What can you expect from chickpeas, broccoli and oats? Well, when they are combined with peanut butter, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and cilantro, it is a pretty powerful flavour-house.
This recipe is courtesy of MamaPea through her cookbook Peas and Thank You (recipe also posted here). The patties were simple to whip together in a food processor and I appreciated their complex flavours. The hint of peanut butter, with the spices worked really well together. I just wish they were a bit more firm (perhaps more oats?). If you camouflaged the burger in a bun, you might not notice the texture. However, I opted to plate mine overtop zucchini noodles with scattered pineapple and Napa cabbage, drizzled here with sweet chili sauce. As a salad topper, they were great! Next time, I might bake them into smaller balls if I knew they would be going on top of a salad. I also found out that the Peanut Mmmm Sauce and even moreso, the Mojo sauce were great burger spreads.
I live in the largest city in Canada, with a population of 2.5 million, and my favourite restaurant is in a town with only 100,000 people. I’ve only been to Thrive Juice Bar once but it was enough to have me hooked. Sadly, the commute kills me. They aren’t open late on Saturdays, and not open at all on Sundays, which makes it hard to visit.
I really liked their pad thai which was overflowing with Asian vegetables topped with a spicy cashew sauce, with a raw option to replace the rice noodles with even more veggies! The menu says it is filled with daikon radish, snap peas, bok choy, Asian cabbage with a raw cashew pad thai sauce, topped with spicy peanuts and cashews, Thai basil and Thai mint (??), while finished with an almond chili oil and mint lime vinaigrette. Wowzers, eh? I am not even going to try to recreate it home because it seems so complex.
I will, however, try out something more simple. Something just as tasty, even though it was not at all the same. But it definitely made me go Mmmmmm! Yes, I made MamaPea’s infamous Peanut Mmmm Sauce!
Inspired by Thrive, I loaded my dish up with veggies: a huge bunch of baby bok choy, 2 red peppers, broccoli and edamame. For my noodles, I opted for kelp noodles, but feel free to use soba instead. Or as they used to do at Thrive, add more veggies! (Scanning their recent menu, it now seems that the raw option is to add kelp noodles). The sauce is a zippy and creamy peanut-based sauce that coats the veggies ever so lightly. Delicious…. all I can hear is the resonant Mmmmm…
This is a super simple dish to make, to boot. Perfect when you have leftover coconut milk. Whiz together your sauce, then quickly stirfry your veggies to remove their raw edge, but keep them crisp and bright. Add your noodles and simmer a bit with your sauce. Now you’re good to eat!
This is a superfood salad if I ever saw one. Pomegranate seeds. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. All together in a peanut dressing. Even though it doesn’t have kale, many of these veggies top my superfood chart.
I took inspiration from a recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes where I increased the veggies in the salad and seriously increased the pomegranate seeds. If you don’t have pomegranate, dried cranberries could be a reasonable substitute. While I typically prefer acidic dressings, I kept the peanut butter in the dressing but substituted vegetable broth for the oil. This allows the peanut flavour to permeate the salad without dripping in dressing. In fact, the peanut flavour wasn’t that dominant, sitting back to highlight the natural flavours of the vegetables. Next time, I might try this with a pomegranate-infused vinaigrette as a dressing, too.
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.
My friends recently hosted an international-themed potluck. Everyone brought a dish from another country. A real melange of flavours.
While most of my cooking comes from an international menu, I used this opportunity to try a cuisine I knew next to nothing about: Indonesia. While I have cooked with tempeh, fermented tofu originating from Indonesia, I didn’t really know much else.
While browsing through Love Soup, I spotted this curious soup: it featured a host of vegetables including carrots, parsnips and yams (yes, I had a monster yam that weighed 900g and even another that weighed 1100g!), flavoured with earthy tones from cumin and garam masala, spiced with garlic, ginger and chili flakes, lightened with sourness from both tamarind and fresh lemon juice, and coming together with a hint of lusciousness from the peanut butter. My mouth is watering as I write this…
At first, I wasn’t sure how this would be a spicy soup: I substituted garam masala for the curry powder and was only using a small amount of chili flakes for such a large amount of soup. Have no fear, this is a zingy soup with all the right amount of zing. The culprit? The savior? Half a cup of grated ginger, tempered by the peanut butter. Boo-yah! Joanne pointed out I was on a ginger kick, and yes, I am loving it!
This soup has a great mix of flavours – warm yet spicy, creamy yet light, zingy and sour. Soups get the shaft in the summer, but I think they are great any time. Share this with friends, because it makes a lot of soup. It also freezes well.
As a Canadian, I don’t like to get confused with being an American. So, I wonder whether it is offensive to call this an African dish? I mean Africa is a big place, with a lot of variation from country to country, and here I am lumping this dish with the whole continent. I am not worried about offending anyone because this dish was so delicious that every country should be fighting to claim it as their own.
Despite recently travelling to Morocco (more about that later!), I am no expert in African cuisine. I didn’t come across any peanut stew in Morocco. A bit of research tells me peanut (or groundnut) stews are typical of sub-Saharan cuisine. I recently made an African pineapple, kale and peanut stew, and was intrigued to try peanut butter in a savoury dish again. Adapted from Vegan Planet, this is a delicious vegetable stew. Again, we have a nice mixture of sweet from the sweet potatoes and tomato, with the salty and smooth from the peanut butter, with a touch of heat from chili flakes, ginger and garlic. Cumin and cinnamon make this a savoury dish indeed. Red kidney beans add substance and I enjoyed their mouth feel (I had forgotten how much I like kidney beans – it has been too long!).
In fact, with only 2 tbsp for the entire dish, the peanut butter is not a dominant flavour. I felt like it was more to add creaminess but occasionally I would get a hit of the peanut butter. I don’t think it mixed in as well as I had thought. My advice is to add to taste, mix it well, but you don’t need much. Another nut butter could easily be substituted.
I have written about the Nutrition Action Health Letter before, which I describe as the consumer reports of healthy food. I used to borrow my mom’s old copies, but since she has stopped her subscription, I have resorted to reading the free online archives. I am so glad I did because I stumbled upon their vegetable ratings from early 2009. They ranked vegetables according to how much a serving of each vegetable contributes to our dietary reference intake of calcium, iron, potassium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K, plus the percentage contributing towards our daily value of iron and the daily targets for lutein and other carotenoids. Certainly there isn’t a bad vegetable (mushrooms? eggplant? I still love them!) but there are superstars, too.
Their winner of the veggies, by a landslide at that, was KALE! With just a cup of cooked kale, you exceed your daily requirements for vitamin K (1300%!) and vitamin A. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese.
I still had two pounds of kale left over from the Cranberry Bean Mole with Roasted Butternut Squash, so I searched for more ways to use kale. I had bookmarked Susan’s African Pineapple Peanut Stew a long time ago, and I stumbled upon it again while flipping through Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Unlike the mole, this was a quick and easy dish to prepare.
This is an unusual dish, not a typical stew by far, but let me assure you that this tastes great. The flavours work wonderfully together. First and foremost, this is a kale stew. I enjoyed the coarse chopped kale, as there was a nice texture to bulk up the dish. Others may prefer it shredded, like in a curry, so I’ll let you investigate. Sweet, crushed pineapple is added, and it is cooked in a slightly spicy, creamy peanut butter sauce. Be careful when you add in the peanut butter – it can do a doozy to the bottom of your frypan. You might not think this is filling, but trust me the peanut butter does the trick here.
Continuing with an African theme, I served this alongside couscous, and found that this really made the dish stand out. The little pellets of couscous paired well with the creamy kale stew. This could be served with rice or any other grain you have on hand.
Creamy Kale Soup at Vegan Yum Yum
North African Chickpea and Kale Soup at Fat Free Vegan
Fall Minestrone with Kale and Butternut Squash from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Quinoa, White Bean and Kale Stew at Post Punk Kitchen
Creamy Millet and Kale Salad by YumUniverse
Spicy Kale and Wheat Berry Salad at Phoo-D
Kale, Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous by Cate’s World Kitchen
Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger and Kale in a Lime Yogurt Sauce at Dana Treat
Caribbean Gingered Squash, Rice and Kale at Fat Free Vegan
Pennette with Kale Ragu at Eats Well With Others
With a few long-distance cycling trips already under my belt this summer, I oftentimes feel like I am eating to bike. I routinely make my own sports drink and have made different portable snacks for my rides: peanutty energy bars, cocoa mint nibbles and almond chocolate larabars. Next up in my arsenal of snacks: homemade granola bars.
I have been making my own granola for some time, but had yet to venture into making granola bars. The thick and chewy granola bars posted by Smitten Kitchen (who, in turn, found and adapted it from King Arthur Flour) called out to me since she posted them in February. I bought oat flour immediately (back when I didn’t have a food processor) but it took me almost 6 months to finally buckle down and make them. What happened? Well, life (in a good way), and I was shunning desserts for a while. Thank goodness I bike now so I can enjoy these guilt-free.
These were subtly addictive. Chewy yet firm, oaty and wholesome, sweet from cranberries and with a strong peanut flavour. You munch on a chewy bar and think to yourself, ‘Is this what granola bars taste like?’ It is miles away from what you get in a store. Deb leaves the recipe completely flexible, with substitutions for the nuts, fruit and nut butter, and I have included my own interpretation below. I was surprised at the strong presence of the peanut butter flavour, so I may decrease it next time or switch it to almond butter which I think would work better with the cranberries. Otherwise, I went with my granola staples of dried cranberries, coconut and almonds. I found coconut chips at Bestwin which are like large coconut flakes. I liked the burst of coconut flavour but found they didn’t integrate with the bars as well; they left the bars more apt to crumble mid-bite. Next time, I’ll stick with my flaked coconut for the granola bars and use the coconut flakes for my crumbly granola.
So how many food bloggers find recipes in cookbooks and then google to see if someone has already typed up the recipe? Me me me! That’s one thing I love about old or popular cookbooks because you can usually already find the recipes online without typing them all out. Imagine my surprise when I was googling for “Peanutty Energy Bars” from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook and I found them posted on Epicurious! With some great reviews, to boot!
Epicurious explains that these bars won a prize at the 2001 Plains Peanut Festival Recipe Contest and I must admit that part of the draw to these energy bars were the peanuts. I had a flop of a peanut butter granola last week, so I was looking for some peanut power redemption.
These were good, almost akin to a filling, complex rice krispie square with the puffed rice, oats, peanut butter and the added fixins like peanuts and dates. It is incredibly adaptable, switching the nuts, dried fruit and nut butters. They packed well with my on my cycling trip but I found the bars to be a bit big, so next time I will cut them into smaller pieces.
The bars were great to make in the summer as they are no bake, just a nuke in the microwave, but a bit tricky to mix together because you have to work fast before the warmed liquids cool. Quite a bit didn’t mix together for me (=leftover breakfast granola) but the stuff that stayed together was yummy. Other than working fast, it also helps to use a huge microwave safe bowl for your liquids. Adding the dry ingredients to the wet facilitates easier mixing.
Other energy bars on my hit-list to try:
Homemade Cliff Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Chocolate Brownie Power Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Easy Whole Grain, Fruit & Nut Energy Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Fruit, Seed and Nut Power Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Paley’s Energy Bars by Runner’s World
Banana Bread Larabars by Oh She Glows
PB&J Larabars by Teens Eat
Apricot-Oatmeal Bars by Eating Well
Hummus is a popular Middle Eastern chickpea spread. I know everyone has their own favourite hummus recipe and this is mine, which is probably not that authentic but still super tasty. I initially gravitated to this recipe during my university days as it was a quick and easy recipe (just whiz everything in a blender and enjoy!) and comparatively cheap and healthy. I didn’t have tahini (a common sesame paste used in hummus), though, but peanut butter was easy to find. Now that I have tahini, I still prefer this variation as it is smooth with a subtle peanut taste, but not too spicy.
It is perfect to use as a dip for chopped veggies, crackers, pita bread, or as a spread on a sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, red peppers, etc.
I found this recipe in a super little cookbook all about beans, More Easy Beans by Trish Ross, and this is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, created by The Well-Seasoned Cook and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend. (more…)