I usually don’t like to play guessing games with my food. However, I had fun sharing it at work, letting people tell me what they thought. First yay or nay. I had 90% yay. Then I let them guess what they were eating. Not a single person guessed watermelon. I had a lot of votes for pepper (due to the seeds, methinks) and other fruit due to the sweetness. Lisa described them as bubble gum which comes from the sticky sweet consistency. But once I let out the watermelon secret, you can catch a glimpse of flavour in the background. Isn’t it funny how fickle our tastebuds can be?
It is certainly the special texture of the dried watermelon that I adored. Chewy and sweet. I made version plain and also salted with and without chile flakes. With a combination of hot-salty-sweet, the salted chile flake version was my favourite. Rob concurred. Rob mused it would be eerily similar to jerky if we added liquid smoke. Not that I know what jerky tastes like, though.
I just realized that not only are simple recipes easier to make, but they are also a lot easier to type up afterwards. Enjoy!
Have you heard of cronuts? Maybe the dosant? They are both spins on the same baked hybrid: a donut-like croissant. The original cronut wooed New York City. However, they take days to make and minutes to sell out. The lines are long and the prices are high. Since then, a few knock-off dosants have peppered North America.
In Houston, they can be found at Pena’s Donut Heaven in Pearland. When Rob discovered this, we had our next cycling destination picked. Turns out, while the cronut was not that fabulous, we’ve discovered our favourite cycling route in Houston, thus far. We’ve pedalled back 3 times already, enjoying the long, flat and straight road leading out of downtown Houston. Of course, Pena’s dosant is not vegan and I oftentimes get giggles from strangers as they see me snacking on an apple while Rob munches on his donut.
When we get home, though, I have been mixing up my own fabulous tropical smoothies. We’re working through different frozen fruit pulps. After our trip to Colombia, it was hard to find tropical frozen fruit (mamey, guanabanana, lulo, etc) in Toronto, but we snagged a bunch when we spotted it at Fiesta Mart. Mamey is still my favourite, but this simple guava smoothie was very good, too. Usually we just drink it and forget it, but this one I remade and photographed because I thought it was perfect to share. Frozen guava is combined with frozen banana, almond milk and ground flax seeds. The flax bulk up the smoothie making it more creamy. You may see the small flecks of brown but you can’t taste them.
Coming home to a cold drink is definitely the way to go in Houston. Do you have a favourite treat for hot weather?
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
Our vacation was pretty awesome. And pretty overdue. While road tripping from Toronto to Houston was fun, it definitely was not a vacation. Since tickets to Burning Man can be very hard to get, we planned this trip last winter. Rob has been a few times and only had positive things to say about it (other than the insidious playa dust). In my mind, I thought: Hey, Texas is pretty close to Nevada. We should go to Burning Man! True enough, Houston is closer to Nevada than Toronto is to Nevada, but Houston is still 2000 km from Reno. Not that close.
I plan to summarize Burning Man in next week’s posts, as I recoup and regroup this week. Suffice it to say, I thought it was hot while camping in Nevada’s desert. We boarded the plane from Reno and landed in Houston. A week away and I had already forgotten how HOT, HOT, HOT (and humid) it is in Houston. Since Rob turned off the air conditioner while we were gone, we were greeted with an empty fridge and a hot kitchen. Other than thawing some (delicious) freezer meals, I had little interest in cooking anything. Zucchini noodles to the rescue!
Zucchini noodles have been my go-to lunch this summer. Gabby warned me that Houston’s heat would lead me to more raw foods and she was right. My meals have become simpler. Zucchini noodles are simple enough and of course, are just a vector for the sauce. The end of summer is a prime time for juicy tomatoes, at least in Ontario. I have yet to find tasty tomatoes here in Houston, so I have resorted to cherry tomatoes, which, in general, have more flavour. A portion of the fresh tomatoes are pulsed with a red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes along with a bunch of fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and garlic. A dash of chile flakes give a bit of kick and a date balances it out with a bit of sweetness. I topped it with some hemp seeds, too. I actually used a lot more than what I photographed since I knew it wouldn’t be as photogenic. I usually add the sauce and hemp seeds just before I eat the salad but I took photos of my partially packed lunch. Of course, this sauce will work equally well with your favourite spaghetti-type noodle.
What is your easy, no-cook go-to meal?
Remember our warm avocado greeting? To be honest, comparatively, Texas does not grow very many avocados. In the US, avocadoes are mainly grown in California and Florida or imported from Mexico and Chile. True, we are much closer to all those places than when we lived in Canada.
One of Rob’s self-imposed goals this year was to perfect guacamole while we live in the land close to avocados. However, after making this, our plans have been put on hold. This is just too good. Better than guacamole and even simpler. A seemingly crazy concoction of avocado and kimchi with a bit of tang from citrus juice (we’ve used both lime and orange juice with good success). The spicy, tangy kimchi works well with the creamy avocado and sweet orange juice or tart lime juice.
Just like guacamole, it is a great dip and a flavourful topper paired with flavourful dishes like pupusas.
I wish I could take credit for this wonderful dip, but I stole it from Joe Yonan’s new cookbook Eat Your Vegetables. While it isn’t vegan, it is a vegetarian cookbook aimed to help the single cook. The recipes are geared for 1-2 people, with tips on how to use up odds and ends from cooking. Personally, I am a big fan of leftovers, but I can appreciate the value of fresh, flavourful cooking throughout the week. His recipes span super simple, such as this one, to more elaborate fare that I could not imagine cooking just for one. All look bold on flavours. I also enjoyed his laissez-faire recipes, teaching you to listen to your food on the stove, instead of the prescribed directions. He’ll direct you to saute your onions until brown instead of “for 10 minutes”.
Need other ideas for kimchi? Joe includes a recipe for homemade kimchi but also has you covered in case you get bored of guaca-chi: Sweet Potato, Kimchi and Greens Hash; Kimchi Deviled Eggs; Cold Spicy Ramen Noodles with Tofu and Kimchi and even Grilled Kimcheese. Of course, you could also try my Enoki, Broccoli and Tofu Bowl with Kimchi.
PS. A few people commented on my last kimchi post, but I wanted to highlight that yes, indeed, kimchi is usually not vegan nor vegetarian. There is usually shrimp or fish sauce in it. Making it at home is great (I should really do that again) but there are vegan versions out there.
Nothing like a delicious raw vegan potluck to reignite an interest in raw cuisine.
Lately my meals have been fairly simple, including my foray into raw foods. I have made more elaborate raw dishes in the past (like this nut-free raw lasagna), but currently enjoying the freedom of a simple kitchen.
This is a dish I had been meaning to try ever since Ellen recommended it to me: Matthew Kenney’s Raw Chili. I changed the ingredients slightly (no celery please! does that even go in chili?) and omitted the nuts entirely. Cooked chilis are nice but raw chilis are great because the vegetables are fresh along with strong flavours from the spices. Some vegetables are chopped, others riced, creating a melange of textures. Because I omitted the nuts, this was a delicious veg-heavy dip instead of a meal per se. Unless you eat the whole thing in one go, which is what I ended up doing.
Yes, that was the sad part. I spent all this time and energy making a delicious dip. And then I ate it all in one go. It just seemed too time consuming….. moral of the story: make a big batch. Double or triple this if you want it for a few meals. Or if you are not particular about keeping things completely raw, add some cooked beans (or sprouted beans, if you like them).
Want another quickie no cook chili? I liked this one as well.
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
After so many people recommended Meetup a few weeks ago, I have really been making an effort to get out and meet new people and experience new things. I like the Houston meetups so far because they don’t fill up so fast. I often tried to sign up for Toronto meetups but they would fill up before I knew whether I could commit to the event. Houston also has quite a variety of groups. Since there are so many groups, it has become interesting to see which of my “interests” has people with which I click the most.
My blog is mostly about healthy vegan food, so I picked a raw vegan potluck as my first foray into social gathering.
The meeting was tucked at the top of Central Market, with a pretty view of the colourful aisles of groceries. However, the most beautiful produce was upstairs, in our room. The spread of delicious food was incredible. Foodie heaven! Lots and lots of salads. Some were more simple and others more elaborate. A lot of classic raw dishes, too: raw zucchini spaghetti with marinara, raw walnut tacos, guacamole and lots of delicious raw crackers. Zucchini pesto roll-ups were unique (and very good). I honestly thought there would be more desserts, but the two that were there were incredible: raw peach cobbler and superfood nut butter cups (I recognized Sarah’s recipe).
I had master plans to bring Genevieve’s raw tropical jicama nachos but when I went to assemble the dish after work, my pineapple was not ripe enough and my peaches were screaming: eat me NOW! So, at the last minute, I ended up making this salad. It passed the taste-test with flying colours, and off I ran.
As we each introduced the meal we brought, I felt a bit sheepish because I ended up picking a dressing with maple syrup, which is technically not raw. This is not a problem for me, and I think most people still tried it because there wasn’t much left by the end of the night. In any case, I thought it was delicious. I usually eat my kale salads with a citrus dressing, but the maple-miso dressing worked really well with the sweet peaches, earthy kale and crunchy hazelnuts. It would be perfect for picnics, too.
Have you ever been to Meetups in your city?
I have discovered the secret to living in Houston’s summer. You need to fall into one of these two groups of people:
1. The people who wake up early before the sun rises
2. The people who stay up late after the sun sets
Rob and I have been exploring Houston by bicycle on the weekends. At 7am, we’ll cycle the deserted streets, only to find the paths at the parks literally packed with joggers and walkers. We must be thinking along the same lines: if you are going to be outdoors, best to do it before the sweltering heat arrives.
We quickly learned that Houston is wonderful after sunset. Many public events start late in the day, again to beat the heat.
The problem is trying to fit into category 1 and 2, on the same day. Suffice it to say, after a long bike ride in the morning, I was almost asleep mid-way through a Shakespeare in the Park production later that evening. The comfortable, balmy weather was a bit too conducive to napping. We didn’t even last past the intermission, HA! It was a splendid day, though.
Speaking of cycling in the Houston heat, it is very, very important to keep hydrated and fuelled. Even short runs are more demanding. This is a portable snack recipe I promised a while back. I whipped them up with the odds and ends in my mom’s kitchen before we left for our cycle to Kingston. I must have had some forethought because I remember bringing the coconut flour with me. My master plan for a chocolate date and peanut butter combo was thwarted because the dough was just too runny. But the magic of coconut flour did the trick. It is a very thirsty flour, so it sopped up the batter into portable chewy balls. The peanut butter made them rich and decadent, balanced by the sweetness of the dates and cocoa flavour.
A treat like this is perfect for fuelling during long rides. While our weekend rides are more around 50km now; in this heat, we feel like it gets a conversion factor of 1.5x for intensity. We are still a long way from the MS 150, but we’re hoping to improve our distance as the weather improves…. you know, in October, when it is supposed to cool down.
Are you a morning person, a night person, both or neither?
Give me leafy greens and I will make salad.
Give me fruit and I will eat it.
Give me a CSA share and I will become creative. Or lazy, your choice.
Same salad, different fruit and new herb. Still as delicious.
I added fresh basil as a unique flavour hidden amongst the greens.
And those hemp seeds? They are really growing on me. They are my new salad topping, including fruit salads. I picked up a few of my pantry staples online, and decided to splurge on these hemp seeds since they were on sale.
I am used to a later peach season from Ontario (and they have finally arrived, too!), but local peaches were out in full force when we arrived in Texas. Sweet, juicy peaches. I have to remind myself that buying too many is often fool-hardy. Their peak ripeness has a short window. But once they are juicy: pounce. Peaches for breakfast, peaches as a snack and peaches for dinner. Peaches for a salad work so well because they make their own dressing, to boot. I still supplemented it with the nice citrus dressing from earlier in the week, though.
You don’t know how good you had it until you leave.
Except I already knew how great Toronto was… Sure, it had its quirks but it has been my favourite city to live in.
This weekend, Rob and I watched a movie that epitomized why I adore Toronto, and then some. Take This Waltz unashamedly showcases the beauty of Toronto. The colourful palate of Parkdale, the quirkiness of Kensington Market (although, to be fair, I have never seen a picnic bench outside Essence of Life) and the touristy rickety rickshaws. Despite living in Toronto for 5 years, both of us discovered more fun things about Toronto. There is an indoor scrambler at Centreville, complete with dance music and lights. Even I think that sounds awesome!
Despite Hannah’s latest ode to Toronto, complete with Kensington jenga and mung bean ice cream, my heart tugs only gently.
In the meantime, while I am accumulating more ideas for things to see and do when I return, I am focusing on where I am now. Because, you know what – Houston is pretty awesome, too! My time here will be short, so I better capitalize on these evenings which are a balmy 25C. Perfect when relaxing/napping on a hilltop while next to an outdoor Shakespeare performance.
And that mung bean ice cream? I bet it can’t compare to Ripe’s (vegan, homemade) coconut-almond peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips and date caramel. (SOOO good!)
Anyways, it is salad week. Here is a simple zucchini noodle salad with a bruschetta-like topping with tomatoes, basil and garlic. Late summer in a bowl. A salad in another form, without leafy greens, but with long zucchini noodles. The next time I made this, I added chopped almonds for a bit more crunch. Delicious!
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
I was hoping Rawfully Organic was going to provide me with local produce. I know they try when it is possible. Rob and I had been pining a few local treats before we even arrived. The first one: avocado. Avocados are quite expensive in Canada, but upon our first week here we were greeted with a warm welcome. Avocados: 4 for $1.
The nice thing about my Rawfully Organic share was that I wasn’t saddled with uncommon ingredients. With so many greens, I knew salads were in order, though. Luck would have it that I was tempted by Gena’s berry and avocado salad at the same time. Coincidentally, I had all the ingredients and then some. I tried it her way, with hemp seeds, then with almonds and when I finally got around to photographing it, I used pumpkin seeds. I used sweet strawberries, paired with creamy avocado and a sweet citrus dressing. Since the oranges we got in our share were “juicing oranges” (Valencia, aka sweet Texan oranges!!), I figured a dressing was a good way to capitalize on their sweet juiciness. Since, yes, I left my juicer at home. No homemade juice on the horizon yet. It may seem fiddly to also add lemon juice, but it balanced the dressing nicely.
Any nut or seed would work for crunch – as I said, I have made this with almonds, hemp and the pumpkin seeds (a mix of almond and hemp was my favourite). Any berry would work well here. Pick your favourite.
With all these salads that I have been making, I am kind of sad I left my big plates and big bowls in Canada. I want more greens but don’t have a serving plate big enough!
Other fruity salads you may enjoy:
The dust has settled… the boxes have been unpacked and we’re settling into a new routine.
As life becomes less chaotic, I am feeling a bit more lonely.
Friends and family seem so far away. It doesn’t help that Rob is sometimes working out-of-town.
At least I interact with my co-workers. I don’t know how Rob copes with mostly working from home. Not too much real people interaction except from the coffee shop down the road. Limited integration with other Texans.
So, be it resolved… our next goal has to become more social.
Baby steps. This weekend, we have cycling plans and curry+games plans [BANANAGRAMS!]. It feels good to get back into my social groove.
And these chili lime crackers? They bring me back to good times in Toronto.
Just before we left, I visited Superfoods Eateries, a quaint resto with take-away raw foods. Between Rob and I (and a few free samples), we tried a variety of dishes. Luc, one of the owners, was incredibly enthusiastic about explaining the menu. My two favourite dishes were the cheesecake and corn nachos. They also had a lovely sandwich at one point but I don’t see it listed on their website menu. Their selection varies from day-to-day, especially after each item sells out. (I really, really wanted to try their chocolate cake but it was not available until after I left). The coconut-based cheesecake was not as heavy as other raw cheesecakes and unique because it had a slightly fermented/cheezy zing to it! It was definitely special.
But those corn nachos, oh my. Delicious. They are corn and flax based but thin and crispy with an exotic twist from the orange juice and cilantro. Rightfully addictive and perfect with a dollop of guacamole. Now that I am miles away, I figured I would try my own hand at the nachos. I will admit that mine are not as good as the original, but they are still good in their own regard. I tried to add as much veg-powered nacho-like flavours to the chips. The chili and lime flavours were the highlight. The nuts and seeds make for a filling cracker, although a bit thick. As such these are more akin to crackers and weren’t as crispy as chips.. but still complex and delicious.
Anyways, here’s to a fun-filled weekend!
How do you combat loneliness?
First there was the Toronto flood.
And now there’s the heat wave.
Your heat wave is my new normal. Although last week was actually quite mild. Lots of rain meant the temps were only peaking at 85-90F (29-32C) (before humidex, add another 10 degrees please). Whereas in Canada, you can boast about the amount of snow you endure, in Houston, it is the heat. Although, to be honest, it is not as bad as I feared. Why? Because biking is better. Working long hours. And a/c is everywhere. Yes, my long working hours mean that I cycle to work before the sun is shining too brightly and my commute home is after the mad rush from the Texas Medical Center. I swear, a leisurely bike ride is better than walking in hot weather since you make your own wind. I basically meander from one building with a/c to another with a/c (on really hot days my car’s a/c has trouble keeping up, though). And drink lots of (flavoured) water. I also have not been cooking too much. Eating, yes. Cooking, no. Salads, yes. Lots and lots of veggies. Even though my home has a/c, I do not feel like turning on the oven too often.
Raw food for the win! Simple raw food for the win.
Chutneys can be really spicy or ookey sweet. Neither which really appeal to me. I’ve made a simpler fresh mango chutney, paired with mung beans, but this time I focused a bit more on the chutney as a vector for flavour. Mango, red pepper, ginger, onions, chile flakes, curry powder and even raisins. Apple cider vinegar gives you the tang you associate with traditional chutneys. Use it as a dip, a salad topper or on top of your favourite curry. Whatever you pick, it is quite refreshing.
What are your favourite ways to beat the heat? (more…)
There are stereotypical differences of Canadians. You know, publicly-funded health care, colourful paper bills, and yeah, I throw extra u’s into my words. I knew about that.
And then, there are things that I had grown to enjoy that I miss. Like the lack of pennies. Honestly, that was a great idea for Canada. Or, our penchant for environmental choices.
Get this: I have garbage removal TWICE a week. However, there is NO recycling pick-up and definitely NO green bins/compost pick-up. (People drop off their recyclables at recycling depots at their leisure, if they do at all).
My new co-workers have become accustomed to my Canadian accent but never cease to discover new Canadian-isms… and apparently, the word garburator is a Canadian term. To Americans, they are known simply as garbage disposal units.
Google helped me figure out how to use it. However, it didn’t stop me from plugging my drain within a week of moving in. My co-workers confessed they rarely use them since they plug up drains too often. I think I will leave it alone, too. It seems quite wasteful and noisy to get rid of tiny scraps of foods.
I have no problem pulverizing my food into a delicious sauce, though. (I think my Vitamix is more noisy than the garburator, but it is all for a good cause). For this sauce, I combined avocado, cucumber and hemp seeds for a bright luscious sauce flavoured with lime and miso. Twirled it overtop kelp noodles and thinly sliced kale for a quick summer meal.
Do you have a garbage disposal unit? Do you use it?
*PS: Rob reminded me that while Ontario collects a lot of recyclables, they also ship it across the world to China. Not so environmentally friendly…
Of my blog readers, only a handful are from my family. Rob and my Mom are my biggest readers.
So, when I say something here, I am held accountable.
When we planned our move to Houston, I said we were going to try a minimalist lifestyle. I was going to leave my dehydrator behind. But then, I kept making more and more things in my dehydrator. I had forgotten how lovely it was to make things in the dehydrator.
I also forgot that I wasn’t going to let life pass me by, either. We are planning to camp in the desert (via Burning Man), continue the long distance cycling (via the MS 150, Houston to Austin) and hopefully squeeze in weekend trips (sadly, my vacation days have dwindled down to nothing). It is times like these that portable snacks work their magic.
So, as we packed, I kept reconsidering whether or not to bring my dehydrator. To be fair, it is a space hog, but it is light. It is mostly filled with air!
Rob was not pleased, though. You said on your blog, you weren’t going to bring it.. I have changed my mind! I kept saying things like, “If I had to choose between x and the dehydrator, I choose the dehydrator.” Example: “If I had to choose between pictures for the wall and my dehydrator, I’d pick the dehydrator… and I bet we could fit the pictures inside the dehydrator, too! HA!”
Eventually, Rob had heard enough. After I made these kale chips, he definitely reconsidered his position. Thankfully, I did a mass kale harvest prior to our move. These were one of our favourite kale chip flavours. I thought they tasted like Sour Cream and Onion, with a touch of cheese, if you include the nutritional yeast. One of our friends agreed they were delicious but tasted more of the scallion undertone. Either way, it made a believer out of me for the power of kale chips. Hourrah!
The question will be whether I can keep up with the kale chip demand, though. We can plow through them so quickly!
Kale chips, here and elsewhere:
Maple Sesame Kale Chips from My New Roots (one of my favourites)
Chocolate Kale Chips from Cupcakes and Kale (Rob likes these more than me; I actually don’t like them)
Sweet and Zesty Kale Chips from Season 2 Season Eating
Sweet Onion Kale Chips from Flora Foodie
Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips from Branny Boils Over
Dill Pickle Kale Chips at Sondi Bruner
Spicy Curry Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
Banana Walnut Kale Chips from Choosing Raw
You don’t realize how much you need things until you don’t have them.
A bed? Yeah, sleeping bags don’t cut it.
Chairs? Sitting on the floor is actually not that much fun.
Lest I mislead you with some pre-written posts, things have been a tad chaotic since my arrival in Texas. We drive down separately from our stuff. The shipping pod that had nearly all of our belongings was 4 days late. We were only partially prepared for living without our stuff. Rob was smart enough to pack our sleeping bags in the car. However, after one night of sleeping on the hard floor, we knew that was not sustainable. We ended up visiting REI earlier than we thought, to buy two thermarest sleeping pads. Much better. Gosh, how did I ever enjoy sleeping parties as a kid?? The good thing about the pads was that I could bring them to the kitchen, too, so I had a more comfy spot to sit on the floor.
Eventually Rob emptied the pod (while I was at work) and slowly we’ve been unpacking our home. We prioritized: 1) bed; 2) computer and then 3) kitchen. Since we only packed the essentials, we kind of needed everything. Bathroom amenities were also important: our shower curtain was in there! And my bicycle to be assembled for commuting to work. (Even before we had the pod, our first priority was internet! Pick up a modem and hook up the wifi)
Those few days in limbo had me less focused on the kitchen. Overnight oats for breakfast and lots and lots of hummus, crackers and carrots. Trader Joe’s has such delicious hummus, no? Their chickpea Mediterranean Hummus is fabulous! I started to build up my pantry with trips to grocers (totally digging Fiesta Mart) but kept meals simple without much of a kitchen.
To celebrate my first American holiday, July 4, I made this patriotic-looking salad: strawberries and blueberries with cacao nibs, hemp and maca. A fun fruit salad with unusual but not unfamiliar flavours. Kind of like a Canadian in America, no? A bit different but kind of the same. I will save my American-Canadian observations for another post… so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, enjoy your summer with some tasty berries.