They are here!
I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!
Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.
Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.
Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango. Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.
Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.
Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?
Vegan propaganda: I try not to spread too much of it.
If you read my blog, I think you’ve already accepted that vegetables are good for you and are ok with the lack of meat and dairy in my meals.
But I will share this fun video anyways, because I thought it was flipping awesome. I’ve watched a few documentaries about veganism and I am usually left with a bitter taste in my mouth, wondering about the accuracy of the science and experiences presented. The prolonged juice fast in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead creeped me out. The main study in Forks over Knives, The China Study, was not convincing for me. Vegucated was cute, following 3 people on a vegan challenge for 6 weeks, though.
But this video? I loved it! Made by Dr Michael Gregor, the physician behind NutritionFacts.Org, he presents how a vegan diet affects the top 15 causes of mortality in a very engaging way. I know the clip is almost an hour long, but it is an hour well spent. If you watch it, please let me know what you think. For me, it reinforced continuing with a plant-based diet for health reasons. :)
In the spirit of nutritarianism (coined by Dr Fuhrman, describing those who consume foods based on their higher micronutrients and shun refined oils, sugars and salt), I decided to make The World’s Healthiest Tomato Sauce, as proclaimed by Amber.
This was a chunky tomato sauce like no other. Filled to the brim with vegetables. All sorts of veggies, it was a lovely clean-out-my-fridge kind of sauce. I am probably the only person with a random vegetables, like a solo leek, beets, carrots, broccoli stems and mushrooms, hanging around for no good reason. Granted, this is a very flexible sauce so work with what you have. Amber suggests not omitting the olives, though. They add both the salty and fatty components from a whole food (instead of a refined oil product). The tempeh is eerily similar to chunks of meat. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy hint, as if you had already stirred in Parmesan cheese. But the funniest part of the sauce is that it was more a fluorescent-red, courtesy of the pureed beet.
You might think this sauce would take forever to prep, with so many veggies. However, the food processor does that majority of the work. The directions look lengthy, but you’ll see a theme: chop veggies in food processor, add to the pot and stir. :)
I actually really liked this sauce. It tastes healthy yet hearty while still feeling light. Would I serve it to omnis I wanted to impress? Probably not. They would probably think I was pulling a joke on them. But if someone made this for me, I’d be thrilled. I’d also have a lot of sauce to last for many meals. Freeze some for later, or relish in eating it a few times a day. :)
I believe that moderate amounts of oil, sweeteners and salt are good for you. Fats are definitely important, especially to absorb nutrients from other foods, but they can also come from avocados, nuts and seeds (and soy). I plan to incorporate more of these “healthy fats” into my foods.
What do you think about nutritarianism? Oils vs healthy fats?
Rob is gone this week.
To a work conference.
His dilemma yesterday was whether to go a talk from Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee (he invented the web browser), or Neil Gaiman (a fantastic author according to Rob). All 3 happening at the same time. Rob had to clue me in on the last two since I have only heard of Al Gore. ;) (In the end, he chose Al Gore’s talk about The Future). Today he is going to try to track down Grumpy Cat. In the flesh. She is here, too. :)
As I’ve shared before, Rob is the king of hot meals on the weekend. His specialties are tofu scramble, arepas and besan chilla. But this weekend, alone with some tofu and veggies, I pulled them all out for a hot lunch and made myself some scramble.
While it seems like the majority of recipes (even Isa’s) call specifically for extra-firm tofu, this time I opted for Chinese-style soft tofu. Turns out this specific tofu is made so close to where we live, too. I wonder if I can get a walk-in discount? ;)
I’ve used soft tofu in a scramble before and now I prefer it to the extra-firm. Who wants a dry scramble? Who wants to wait for their tofu to be pressed? Not me! I want mine fluffy, flavourful and filled with veggies. This scramble certainly fit the bill: spiced with cumin and curry powder, the assorted vegetables played a roll in the colourful plate. Since Rob was not here to make arepas as a side, I just ate the whole thing. Delicious!
Rob likes to update me on his foodie finds while away: yesterday’s lunch was jicama slaw with captain-crunch-encrusted chicken strips in a bacon waffle cone and a trip to the flagship Whole Foods store. After he sees this, I think he’ll want some of this curried tofu scramble when he returns, though. :)
Long-term vegans are probably well-versed in their tofu scramble preferences. Do you like firm or soft tofu in your scramble?
I don’t shop at the standard grocery stores. I prefer the smaller, independent ethnic grocers for my veggies and natural foods stores for my pantry staples.
However, I recently heard that Costco had some interesting foods, and sent my family searching for sprouted mixed beans. Turns out they stopped selling them here a few months ago, but my aunt spotted a sprouted rice and quinoa blend instead. Always eager to try something new, I decided to give it a shot.
Uh, let’s just say that packaged mixed grains don’t always work so well. When I’ve made mixed grain dishes before, I cook the grains separately, or add them at different times so they finish cooking at the same time. I couldn’t get the grains to be as fluffy and distinct as I am used to.. unless that is what happens after they are sprouted? In any case, the mix turned out to be a bit on the mushy side, both when I’ve made it on the stovetop and in the rice cooker. I tried to salvage the mix by introducing it into this easy skillet.
I’ve made multiple skillets before, and each time I gush over its simplicity. I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing this recipe. It just seemed too simple, too boring and I didn’t think it would taste as flavourful as it did. The original recipe suggested throwing everything in the skillet and cooking, but I shunned a mise-en-place and threw things in as I finished chopping them. First went in the leeks, then the portobello mushrooms, next the red pepper and Brussels sprouts. Grated carrots and garlic rounded the veggies out with a sprinkle of salt and thyme. After the vegetables brown and begin to caramelize slightly, cooked grains get dumped in for a complete meal. No dressing, no broth. Thyme was the only herb but this was surprisingly flavourful. Do not discount the flavour of veggies (and garlic).
I think I may relegate my mixed grains to soups… that seems pretty foolproof. What do you think? Fan or foe of mixed grain blends?
Do you like it when I share easy, seemingly non-recipes with you?
I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.
Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious? :)
I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.
This one was a big win!
Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.
Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.
This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread. Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.
Which soups are warming your belly this winter?
Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.
It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.
I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.
In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.
For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.
I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.
I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.
While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating. I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…
I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.
So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.
But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”. Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.
Do you like discovering new veggies?
One of the things I liked about Vegan For Life is that there are recommendations supported by science. Two servings of fruit are good and just 2 tsp of oil a day is a good idea. And that whacky TVP? It isn’t as scary as you may think. It may be a processed soy product, but it is basically defatted soy flour that is high in protein. A varied diet is more important. Everything in moderation is ok.
This may or may not have given me the nudge to use up the last of my TVP that had been languishing in my pantry. I bought it planning to make Cara’s Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars, and then bookmarked Laura’s Squash Breakfast TVP and Maple TVP Oatmeal but happy I eventually settled on making these TVP Sloppy Joes.
Not that I grew up eating Sloppy Joe’s. I don’t think I have ever eaten the real thing, but I know this tasted good. A sweet tomato sauce accentuated with Worcestershire sauce, mustard and liquid smoke. A bit sweet for me with the added sweetener, so I suggest not adding it until the end to see if it needs it. The TVP confers a granular hamburger meat texture. I am thinking mashed lentils could be a good substitute next time.
Instead of the standard bun, I piled the sloppiness overtop a roasted baked potato. Paired wonderfully.
What do you think of TVP?
Here are my other meals with TVP:
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better. :)
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! :) Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win! ;)
Imagine my shock when Rob called me from the grocery store to tell me they were out of broccoli. It wasn’t even a weekly special. No broccoli in the entire store. I thought new year’s meant more carrots, but maybe it really means broccoli? ;)
In any case, have no fear, I switched recipes and ended up clipping off the last of my garden kale. Yes, there has been snow here for over 2 weeks and yes, hidden underneath the snowy blanket, my kale is still alive and kicking. More power to the kale! (The broccoli dish will have to wait)
Black eyed peas are certainly not just for the new year, but I was drawn to this black eyed pea and kale stew through Random Recipes. This month’s challenge was to randomly select a recipe from a cookbook from someone else’s library. I decided to tackle this electronically. When I saw Ali was gifted Superfood Kitchen I tried to borrow it from the library, but it hasn’t been received yet. In that moment, I decided that the first recipe I found online from the cookbook would be my “random recipe” and I found it here: Kale and Black Eyed Pea Stew. I like that Julie has incorporated more common “superfoods” into her cookbook, like leafy greens and legumes, which can be seen in this recipe.
This is no ordinary bean and green stew. Along with black eyed peas and kale, there is red pepper as well as my addition of oyster mushrooms. It is a European spice mash-up with oregano and thyme as well as smoked paprika and Ancho chile powder. I was scared to use a full tablespoon of smoked paprika, but feel free to use more because this was not spicy. I ended up adding liquid smoke at the end for a further depth of flavour. But oh, this alone would still be a great chili-like stew, but this it is not. A special twist comes form the addition of ground wakame. A little goes a long way and makes this a unique stew. It brings a certain seaweedy-ness to the stew. By the way, a few notes about my version: I used dried herbs in this recipe because I don’t usually use fresh herbs for a long simmer (they turn to mush, so maybe remove them as a bouquet garni). As well, the recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked black eyed peas but I am fairly confident this dish could be made more simply by cooking dried black eyed peas with the soup broth (which I have not tried but noted in the recipe below).
Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Sneaky Collards at Serious Eats
Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas in River Cottage Veg Every Day
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach Stew with Ginger at I don’t know, what do YOU want to eat?
Smoky Red Lentil Stew by Sprouted Kitchen
Smoky Paprika Baked Beans by The Spade & Spoon
Spiced Red Lentils by Ottolenghi
Pumpkin Chili by Never Homemaker
French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika in Let Them Eat Vegan!
Easy New Orleans Red Beans and Rice by Fat Free Vegan
“1 Million” Veggies Lentil Stew by Chocolate Covered Katie
My other recipes with smoked paprika are here
Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?
Basically, not as bad as I thought.
I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.
However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!
I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.
This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.
I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.
Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus. I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day. I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.
My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post. :)
It is that time of year again. Vegan MoFo. A month-long blogging event featuring all things vegan.
This will be my third time participating.
In 2010, I wasn’t even a vegan but only posted vegan eats.
I hummed and hawed over this year’s theme.
Quick and easy dishes?
Any of those themes would have been fun and challenging for a month. In the end, I decided to allow myself some flexibility and focus on tackling my bookmarked recipes.
Also, as much as I initially wanted to do a month of daily posts, I have decided to scale back my blogging. All in the interest of focusing on more important life events. Not that I won’t be cooking. I will. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be a very creative (and stress-reducing) outlet but will keep it as a smaller hobby. In any case, the theme will be bookmarked recipes for the month of October! :)
It is no secret that I bookmark a lot of recipes, from other blogs and my cookbook collection. I also recently joined Pinterest (follow me!), which may not be a good thing. Time will tell. Some of my isoteric pantry items are from bookmarking a recipe and then forgetting/waiting to make the recipe. Then I try to save the ingredient until I finally make the recipe. So, I hold onto ingredients perhaps a bit longer than needed. This is my challenge to eat through my pantry and my long list of bookmarked recipes.
I realize that not all recipes will be winners, but thought I would share my thoughts anyways. That’s the fun of MoFo!
One of my goals is to eat through my heirloom beans. I’ve amassed a few from Kalustyan’s, Rancho Gordo as well as from local stores like Whole Foods. I find them too pretty to eat but be it resolved to eat them. And replenish my favourites once I move to the US.
So here we go with a foray with mayocoba beans (or canary beans) that I picked up at Whole Foods (Mississauga Square One location for anyone interested). They are originally from Peru and similar to a white bean with a smooth, buttery texture. Feel free to substitute white beans or large pinto beans if you can’t find mayocoba beans. They are paired with one of my favourite lentils, black beluga, which are nice because they are small and keep their shape well. Here the bean medley is simmered in a roasted pepper sauce along with carrots and Swiss chard. The roasted peppers makes this a sweet sauce, so you may want to dampen it a bit with a bit more spice than I used. I served it with cooked quinoa and a side of pan-fried plantain, reminiscent of my Colombian adventures.
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.
Have spices, will travel.
I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.
I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.
But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!
A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.
I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.
Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!
When making meals for special guests, how do your meals change?
Unless we are making a buffet of food, I try to make meals that I will also be able to eat. That means I make vegan dishes. For picky omnivores, we may opt to supplement with meat.
Depending on the guest, I will pick recipes that are, let’s just say, a bit more indulgent. If Rob and I are cooking you dal bhat, one of our favourite meals, simple with lentils and rice, you know we have nothing to prove to you in the kitchen. For us, we can make it as fast as the rice cooker makes the rice as it is filled with cupboard staples and we will both fight over the leftovers.
Now, if Rob whips up his legendary pad thai, then you know we are aiming to impress (or I am too tired to cook, hehe, or I have a craving for pad thai!). We usually have the ingredients on hand except for the fresh sprouts, and with its custom single serving plating, we don’t make it for ourselves very often.
If I am in the mood, I may very well pull out all my tricks and make something fancy like Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce. Stars may need to collide just right for that to happen again (just kidding!).
Other times, I will aim for something rich and satisfying but still relatively simple to make. Enter the meal-in-a-bowl soup. With a side of bread for guests (and Rob).
I had been eyeing this recipe for a Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder for a while. A creamy coconut-based soup filled with chickpeas, red peppers with a dash of heat from chiles. However, I was turned off by using not 1, but 2 cans of coconut milk (that’s just plain superfluous). While I know it would be even more decadent with 2 cans, I opted for just one can of full-fat coconut milk. When I made this I didn’t have fresh corn, so I substituted a can of cream-style corn but fresh corn would be uber delicious.
As I said, the flavours worked so well together – sweet from the peppers, creamy from the coconut milk and creamed corn, heat from the chilies and bulk from the chickpeas. If you use 2 full cans of coconut milk, you will likely need the full amount of water in the original recipe (2 cups). As I only had 1 can and used creamed-style corn, I used less water and even then thought it was a bit thin for my liking. Another option would be to partially puree the soup, too. Anyhow, add liquid as you see fit. The flavours are already spot on.