As the lone Canadian at work, I feel like an Ambassador.
I am constantly learning about Texas, and likewise I try to explain where I am coming from as well.
Yes, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving two months before Americans. Toronto is colder than Houston, but not nearly as cold as Ottawa, let alone Edmonton. My friend who recently joined us in Houston came from Edmonton, where she explained she could take a cup of boiling water out in the water, and splash it out of her cup. By the time it would hit the ground, it would have frozen solid. Toronto is not that cold, although Hannah told me Toronto has already received its first snowfall of the year (which subsequently melted away).
Then there’s the upcoming Hallowe’en celebrations. Yes, Canadians celebrate Hallowe’en much the same as Americans: youngsters (young and old) get dressed up in costumes and in the evening, go door-to-door asking for candies. We just have to wear more clothes in Canada to keep warm.
Truth be told, I was a bit more curious whether trick-or-treating still took place in Houston. Houston seems quite unique to me, because at least in my neighbourhood, everyone has gates and fences around the front of their houses. It seems a tad intimidating and uninviting. Never mind the “Trespassers will be shot; Survivors will be shot again” sign our neighbours sport. Right next to a “Peace” sign, to boot.
In anticipation of Hallowe’en, this past weekend, Rob and I with a new friend cycled around our neighbourhood which is nicely decked out with Hallowe’en decorations. It really was a great bike ride, with good company. It was nice to have Rob back home!
And while this is no Hallowe’en treat I am sharing, it is a Hallowe’en coloured treat courtesy of the fall’s fine produce: the pumpkin. A spin on refried beans, in this dip, pumpkin is mashed with pinto beans and tomatoes and spiced with marjoram, smoked paprika, chili powder and lime juice. The pumpkin lent a nice sweetness to the dip which was countered by the lime. Not at all spicy so increase to your heat level. I ate this dip with crackers, corn chips and vegetables. Kathy also suggests using this as a nice burrito filling, too, but it didn’t last long enough for me to test it out.
So, for those outside North America, how do you celebrate Hallowe’en?
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.
After I ate the last serving of this salad, I was sad. Sad I had no more salad left. It was that good.
Rob cocked his head and asked, So is this a repeater recipe?
But we have no more corn! And no more spinach or lettuce! And I think my Appaloosa beans are finished, too.
That can easily be remedied, Janet.
Besides, I just bought 53 lbs of tomatoes (yes, I did it!)
I think I should focus on those!
So this one will just go down in the vault as a wickedly delicious salad. And contrary to my sorry excuses, this is a very forgiving salad. Use your favourite salad toppers. Just don’t skip on the tomatoes. And the dressing.
This salad all began with the creation of the raw eggplant bacon. I picked up a super cheap monster eggplant and earmarked it for the dehydrator. The salty and sweet marinade (tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke) was delicious and I couldn’t wait for them to dry out. Twelve hours felt like a life-time. I was blown away by the texture of the eggplant, airy yet crispy but sadly, with a fraction of the flavour from the salivating marinade. Since I used low-sodium tamari there wasn’t the uber saltiness associated with bacon but it was pretty nice, regardless. Does it taste like bacon? Not at all, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.
I also used some of the extra marinade to make zucchini chips. Since I sliced them cross-wise, they looked like chips and tasted like bacon chips, too. However, those went into my belly. The eggplant bacon went into this salad. (For the record, I prefer the eggplant version!)
Obviously, this salad pushes monumental levels when you use fresh, ripe ingredients. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, check. Local, fresh corn on the cob, check. Cute heirloom pinto beans, I’ve got that covered. Your greenery of choice (or whatever is in your fridge): baby spinach. I added oomph to the original dressing by mirroring the bacon marinade, throwing in smoked paprika and chili powder. Lime juice makes this a bright dressing. And while I was worried I wouldn’t have enough dressing with only the juice from 2 non-juicy limes, after I placed everything in jars for the week, the tomatoes macerated, adding tomato juicy goodness to the dressing, too. Now it was perfect.
For another variation on the corn + tomato + bean salad, try this one with a balsamic dressing, toasted in a skillet.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s favourite summer recipes, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
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!
There is nothing like a move to show you how much stuff you have. One thing I have plenty of are beans. Common beans like chickpeas and lentils but also a multitude of heirloom beans. I bought a bunch of beans during my first trip to NYC, but they seemed too pretty to eat. Now I am on a mission, though… eat through my beans throughout the year.
Trust me, it wasn’t that I wasn’t eating my beans before. My white bean of choice this winter were the Yellow Eye Beans from Rancho Gordo (they held their shape wonderfully in two soups and were nice and creamy in the Moroccan phyllo triangles). I also tried out Marrow beans, which supposedly have a bacon taste but it was really subtle. They worked nice pureed in my High-protein Alfredo sauce as well as in soups.
As I said, I have a few pinto beans in my stash, so I was tickled pink when Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pinto Bean Chili was my Random Recipe this month. I didn’t have many cookbooks to randomly pick at the beginning of the month due to the move, but since I already had River Cottage Veg Every Day! out, I picked that as my book. As it is a library book, I didn’t want it to be lost in the shuffle of the move! Once I selected a cookbook, the task was to cook the first or last recipe. I zoomed to the front of the cookbook. The first 2 recipes were not vegan (Aubergine Parmigiana, Chachouka), but the third recipe, and the first vegan one, was this Pinto Bean Chili. Once I finally made it to the grocery store, I was all set to try my heirloom pinto beans.
The heirloom pinto bean of choice: Appaloosa beans. Named after the colourfully dappled horse, these are incredibly pretty beans. At least before they have been cooked. Like the anasazi beans, they lost their vibrant colours after cooking. They keep their shape well and don’t have any strong flavours. They worked well in this summer chili with zucchini, red pepper and tomato. The red wine brought a robust depth of flavour and the summer flavours really shined through. I used Aleppo chile flakes as well as green chiles and this was perfectly spiced for me. A bit of spice that was cooled by the avocado. Want more heat? Add to taste… or use cayenne as written in the original recipe.
This is my submission to Random Recipes this month, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks Veggie Heaven, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
This weekend, I was planning a menu since I was hosting guests. I initially thought my challenge was finding something I could make or reheat in a kitchen devoid of all my usual ingredients and utensils.
No, that was not my challenge.
“I don’t like vegan food,” said one guest.
Oh my gosh, what to do?!
I would obviously have to figure out a way to appeal to everyone’s palates with our limited kitchen possibilities.
If meat was somewhat prominent, perhaps a vegan dish could be stealthily incorporated into the menu.
In the end, we opted to use the barbecue for some quick meals with side dishes I made at home earlier. We served barbecued wild boar sausages with a side of (vegan) coleslaw. For dessert, we made mango shrikhand or simply unadorned Alphonso mangoes for those averse to yogurt. The following day we went entirely vegan with mango BBQ beans, leftover coleslaw, cucumber slices wrapped inside a tortilla, or with a side of multigrain bread.
I heard the sausages were nice, but there were resounding compliments for the mango BBQ beans. Red kidney beans are simmered in a tomato sauce spiced with coriander, allspice, liquid smoke and mango. Smoky, sweet, zippy and saucy. A perfect combination for barbecue flavours. Don’t be fooled by the mango, though. It adds sweetness as opposed to authentic mango flavour, although some of the frozen mango chunks were still present within the sauce. While the original recipe from Appetite for Reduction calls for red kidney beans, I think pinto beans would be better next time. This way, it would be more similar to baked beans. Or black beans since they pair so well with mango.
The great thing about these beans, though, is that they are easy to whip up in advance. After an overnight sit, they tasted even better. Just reheat prior to serving and you’ve got some smokin’ mango BBQ beans!
I bit my tongue as my guest said these were one of the best baked beans she’s eaten. They were vegan and she knew that, too. I just won’t label anything in advance to ward off any undue prejudice.