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:
My parents, truly awesome souls, helped us pack in Toronto before our move. Rob and I (mostly Rob) had tucked our possessions into three categories: 1) perma-storage destined for my brother’s basement; 2) Texas-bound or 3) with us on our roadtrip. Granted, the kitchen was the last thing to be packed, especially since I was still using it. As our last weekend in Toronto continued, we had packed nearly everything from the kitchen. The cube was nearly full and we had successfully loaded all four of our bikes. (Initially, we were concerned they wouldn’t all fit)
I had one kitchen drawer left. We had to decide what to do with my spices. I have a
fewlot. My master plan was to bring my little jars down with me and replenish as needed once I arrived. I had already imposed a no spice replenish ban while in Toronto so I was due for more. For my less used spices, I figured I would simply use what I had left in my jar.
Instead, my Mom suggested I go on a spice holiday. WHAT? No spices for a year?! Even I have my limits. Spices are what make my food taste good! I was given one bag to fill. All my little jars came with me. Even the empty ones.
Now that the dust has settled, I pounced on these chickpea salad wraps. Sweetened with fresh mango, spiced with ginger and garam masala with a touch of cilantro. Sweet, spicy and tart – a great trio. Mash them up and then wrap it in a lettuce wrap for an easy meal. I was worried I would have needed to add citrus juice, but this wasn’t dry in the slightest. It probably depends on your mango, so your results may vary.
Can you tell I have become more simple in my kitchen? Something about the hot weather makes me more lazy at home. :P
Thank you so much for the kind words from my last post. New friendships take a while to develop, at least for me. I am definitely keeping my chin up… and moving forward. Or perhaps trying just to enjoy what is. It really was a stressful whirlwind last year and it might be nice to embrace the emptiness. Thank you, Anna, for pointing me to this lovely video.
One thing is for certain: I couldn’t do this without Rob. I could not imagine doing this year apart.
Since Rob works from home, and I labour in the hospital, it is funny how the roles have reversed slightly. I swear, Rob has been more adventurist in the kitchen than me. Rob is cooking up a storm, while I am relishing in my quickie salads, hehe.
And the best part? If we time it just right, I can come home to freshly cooked food. Some foods are just not meant to be eaten as leftovers, which is why they are such a treat.
Case in point: arepas. The moist and fluffy arepas with a crispy shell only happen when you make them fresh. We long learned not to make leftovers since they are very lacklustre. They are one of Rob’s specialties, although previously reserved for the weekend when we have more time for food prep.
They seem to fit with most any dish, at least in our fusion household. We like to make it with tofu scramble, but this time Rob went all out with the bean-quinoa chorizo crumbles from The Great Vegan Bean Book. I found them a bit spicy, so I threw together a spin on vegan egg salad: tofu-avocado salad. The avocado, tahini and Dijon make for a creamy dressing while chunky avocado and tofu are surprisingly reminiscent of eggs. The dill adds a nice spin, too. I used dried but I think fresh would be best.
When I chat with friends from home, I field many similar questions. Have you finished unpacking? YES!!!! How am I finding the heat and humidity? Not that bad… Is Houston friendly for cyclists? My route to work is actually pretty devoid of cars, so I can’t complain. How is the food… and the veggie selection? One of my friend was interested in how I triaged the stocking of my fridge and pantry. What did I buy first? What were my perishable and non-perishable necessities?
Since we were without a kitchen for almost a week when we arrived, I continued with my travel-friendly eats: overnight oats with chia seeds and protein powder for breakfast, hummus with carrots and crackers for lunch and snack, and easy eats for dinner once I made my first grocery run. We hit up the closest grocers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fiesta Mart) to scope out our new neighbourhood and begin our pantry. See below for what I commonly keep in my kitchen.
After the Zesty Lemon Cilantro Chickpea Salad, this was the next salad I made. This salad is almost too simple. Only four ingredients, or five if you include salt or pepper. Chickpeas, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and leafy greens. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. The lemon juice is tart and the nutritional yeast tames it into a creamy dressing. Marinade the chickpeas and use the extra sauce to toss with your favourite leafy greens. This is also a good travel-friendly meal if you stash nutritional yeast in your bag, of course, along with a knife to cut the lemon. Don’t we all travel this way? HAHA! :)
Without further ado, this is my culled pantry list:
Produce: apples, bananas (for Rob), carrots, lemons/limes, green onion, onions, garlic, ginger (cilantro is a common staple, depending on my menu)
Bonus: tofu and tempeh.
Leafy greens if salads are on the menu
canned beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)
dried beans (chickpeas, black beans, lentils (red, green))
Oats (rolled oats and steel cut oats)
Brown short-grain rice
Apple cider vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil, for salads
Coconut oil, for cooking
Toasted sesame oil
Nut butter (peanut butter is Rob’s favourite)
Bragg’s liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari
Mustard (preferably Dijon)
Sweet chili sauce (for Rob)
Sriracha (for Rob)
Dried fruit (dates, raisins, coconut, cranberries)
Canned tomatoes (I usually only get whole tomatoes and less commonly crushed)
Agave or maple syrup
Tea/tisanes (coffee for Rob)
Baking soda (also for cleaning)
Herbs and spices (at least):
Cinnamon (sticks and ground)
Cardamom pods (green)
Aleppo chili flakes
Thyme (I don’t use this that often)
Basil (I don’t use this that often)
+ all the ingredients for my veg stock powder (parsley, dill, garlic granules, onion granules, etc)
I have had a much larger pantry in the past but I am trying to keep things limited to what I will consume in a year. What are things that I have missed that you cannot live without?
I thought I had adequately prepared for a few days without a kitchen. I packed a paring knife, cutting board, can opener, garlic press and lemon press with me during our road trip. No pots meant I couldn’t cook up quinoa. No cups meant I couldn’t even boil water for tea. Never mind anything more fancy that needed a skillet. Basically, it meant I could make salads.
This isn’t a boring salad, though. In between unpacking and snacking on hummus, I made this delicious chickpea salad when we first arrived in Texas. Of course, after I stocked up the fridge. Super simple: mix and marinate. It looks uninspiring but it was a nice balance between the tart lemon, fresh cilantro and sharp garlic. Lemon zest? Well, without my zester, I shaved off the lemon peel and chopped it with a knife instead. However, the zest in this salad is from the garlic, not the lemon zest. The garlic was stronger when I originally made it, but it tamed itself for leftovers, which made it perfect for lunch. It was also delicious overtop mixed greens for a more green salad.
Thus, when we moved to Houston, we pared down our kitchen, minimalist-style. Minimalist, in comparison, because I am not willing to compromise in the kitchen, either. Do I need 5 different whole grains all the time? No. I will repopulate my kitchen with my favourites. Quinoa, brown rice and oats. Beans? Right now, I have been mainly munching on canned beans (we don’t have containers/bags to freeze beans yet and time has been a bit sparse). OK, I will still have many beans (don’t forget, I can order from Rancho Gordo directly!) but my collection will not as big as my last.
I still don’t feel deprived in the slightest. There are constant permutations and combinations to try out. The recipe may look the same, but a change in spice can make all the difference.
While still in Toronto, I was had a cook-date with a friend after work. I suggested making Heidi’s Moroccan chickpea and carrot salad. No cooking required, it was filled with my typical pantry staples. However, not everyone always has a lemon on hand, grows mint in their backyard (I don’t have that anymore), stocks prunes (um, yeah, not me either) or has a spice grinder. So we made do with what she had. Lime instead of lemon, cilantro instead of mint, dates instead of prunes and we kept the cumin seeds intact.
It may just be a label, but I wondered whether these changes would make this salad less Moroccan. Dates, cumin and carrots are very common in Moroccan cooking. However, I typically ascribe cilantro to Indian and southeast Asian cuisine. Turns out, cilantro is pervasive in Moroccan cuisine as well. Moroccan, with a twist, perhaps. With the mix of sweet dates, earthy cumin, tart lime, bright cilantro and crunchy carrots, it was very good.
It should not come as a shock, since it is very similar to my beloved Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants with a smattering from my Moroccan Carrot Salad. Next time, though, I think I will try the original recipe. A tasty variation on a similar theme.
And we’re off!
Rob and I packed up all our things and are currently en route, road trip-style, to Houston. I have a few travel-themed recipes this week, as we drive across the country (down the country would be more accurate). 3000 km (over 1800mi). We have a lot of ground to cover.
I made a few travel snacks to bring with me (will be sharing throughout the next few weeks), and while I have tracked down a vegan restaurant in each city for dinner, I plan on eating simple meals throughout the day.
I brainstormed before I left. What can I easily find at grocery stores? What would pack well? For some reason, I kept returning to salads with avocado and lemon. Easy, peasy. Throw in some nuts/seeds, cooked beans or tofu as an easy protein. And then I decided sauerkraut would be a wonderful addition, too.
Not wanting to simplify my meals too soon, I knew I didn’t want to wait to try out an avocado and sauerkraut salad. With my current kitchen a few weeks ago, I had the liberty of making a more complex salad dressing, so I ran with it. A creamy miso dressing with a zip from ginger and the tang from apple cider vinegar. That creaminess? Not nuts: nutritional yeast. I imagine avocado would be nice pureed into the dressing as well, but I left it in chunks for the salad. Paired with the salty sauerkraut and crunchy sunflower seeds, this was delicious.
What are your favourite easy travel-friendly meals?
(No, nothing on the relationship front..)
While I modestly shared the news of passing the.most.important.exam.of.my.life, I figure you guys may be more excited about this news: my photos are in a cookbook! In Tess‘ newest cookbook, no less. I am not sure what was more exciting: new Tess recipes or being a published foodie photographer? :) (I choose the former, actually)
In Tess’ latest cookbook, Get Waisted, she has teamed up with Dr. Mary Clifton, to create 100 delicious, healthy recipes. She has included healthy modifications to older recipes and all-new favourites. Bean and rice coconut banana curry, Black bean and rice bowl with mango salsa, Japanese ume rice, Lemon lover’s red lentil spinach soup, Mexican polenta bowl, Pasta caulifredo, Rosemary polenta with mushrooms, Samosa wrap with cilantro chutney, Spicy Indian chickpea fritters.. ok, ok, I will stop the temptation. You can find all of the recipes on Vegansprout if you are curious. :) Suffice it to say, the recipes are creative and drool-worthy. And I photographed a handful of them.
One of the recipes Tess included is one of my favourites from her first book: Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad. I routinely make it, changing ingredients, matching what I have in my kitchen.
This time, I swapped the black beans for chickpeas; the mango juice for pineapple juice; swapped the corn for more carrots and scrapped the spinach altogether. Combined with the sweet dried apricots and cilantro-ginger spiked dressing, you have a delicious summer bean salad. Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy.. It is really hard to mess it up.
The photos in the cookbook are true to the recipe, thus you won’t see this in there. Trust me, I tried. Tess, I just made your salad with pecans instead of walnuts.. can’t you just change your recipe?…. NO GO FROM TESS! You will see this salad, in its many incarnations this summer, though. Perfect for potlucks and summer gatherings. Especially if Houston’s weather is as hot and humid as I fear. Last I checked, there were highs of 35C, feels like 45C with a 50% humidity. This is no heat wave. This.Is.Houston. It will soon become my new reality. GAH! I am sweating just thinking about it. I may not be turning on my oven or stove very often, methinks. ;)
Have you tried any of Tess’ recipes yet? This cookbook would be a great place to start. You can buy it directly from Tess here (discounts if you buy more than one cookbook) or on Amazon (kindle and hard copy).
Rob and I have been good about eating through the freezer and pantry. While I no longer have a white board with the freezer inventory (it was such a good idea but we lost track), we generally pick up a container, look at the label, pick our favourite of the day and chow down.
Trust me, I am very diligent about labelling freezer meals.
I am not sure why I don’t do the same with my fridge foods. I don’t store too many things in the fridge but sometimes I forget about salad dressings or marinades pushed to the back. My rationale is probably: Well, this is fresh food. I’ll remember what it is before it grows mold.
Some fridge finds are still happy in my fridge for months. Possibly years, although I can’t say for sure. Since now I can’t remember what it was and when I made it.
My mystery concoction looked like roasted and ground nuts. Likely with some spices. It passed the sniff test. Not entirely sure what it is, I have two options: almonzano (unlikely because it doesn’t taste similar) or dukkah. Or something I just don’t remember making, which is also a possibility. Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice mix with cumin, coriander and sesame seeds but there are many variations. The New York Times recently shared recipes for dukkah with peanuts, pumpkin seeds, chickpea flour and even an herbal variation with mint and fennel. While I have included a link to my favourite dukkah recipe that includes coconut, I am fairly confident this was a different variation. I *think* this is the hazelnut dukkah from Vegan Eats World, which is more nut-heavy than spice-heavy. I prefer more spices than nuts, so that the flavours really pop, but the lack of spices did not hold back here.
This salad started off a bit ho-hum, with a simple favour profile: cucumbers, chickpeas, quinoa, lemon and balsamic. It was nice, but not something to rave about… I wanted to add some chopped almonds but instead sprinkled the mystery nut blend overtop and it definitely brought this to a wow dish. The lemon really accents and highlights the spices. It tastes great and yet I still cannot confirm what is in this mix. :)
So for now, let’s assume it is dukkah and enjoy it for all it is worth. :)
How do you keep track of your food? Do you subscribe to “if I can’t remember what I made, then I probably shouldn’t be eating it?” rule?
Here are other recipes with dukkah:
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Dukkah
Maple and Dukkah Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Olive Magazine
Roasted Carrot Soup with Dukkah from Bon Appetit
Bulgur Bowl With Spinach, Mushrooms and Middle Eastern Nut and Spice Seasoning from New York Times
Dukkah-Spiced Green Beans and Mushrooms from Anja’s Food For Thought
Roasted Squash with Tahini and Dukkah at Lisa’s Kitchen
The dehydrator and juicer are now out in full force.
Carrots for juice and then the pulp was made into these lovely raw falafels.
I know, I said I don’t like raw Mediterranean eats. While I like Middle Eastern foods, I don’t like falafels.
However, I loved these raw carrot falafels.
Probably because they don’t taste like real falafels. And they don’t use raw chickpeas, either.
In any case, they taste great.
Carrots (or carrot pulp) is combined with sesame seeds along with lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and green onions for a flavour punch. Dehydrate them for 4 hours and you’ve got some soft and moist falafels without the heaviness from typical deep-dried falafel balls.
I combined the falafels with my favourite Middle Eastern-tahini dressing to date. Hummus-style with additional lemon juice, tamari and tahini. I originally used it in my Chickpea and Tofu Tahini Scramble but found the flavours mellowed after cooking on the stovetop. However, I stuck my finger in first to see how it tasted. I knew it would be a great dressing/dip and it did not disappoint.
I originally served the falafels and dressing as a salad overtop greens, but they also went really well in a green wrap with a bed of raw cauliflower couscous.
Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!
It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.
My old favourites are still wonderful:
The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad
The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa
The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants
And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.
I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.
This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.
I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.
What is your favourite salad?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)
Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad! :)
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
It is hard to believe that just two years ago, in preparation for cycling to/from Ottawa and Kingston, I was already training by cycling to/from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our friend was hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo party so I packed my pannier and cycled over. That’s 120km one-way. This year, due to snow and rain, the long cycles haven’t progressed as well. Thus, the trip has been modified to be 70km one way from the train station.
While the party is happening again this year, and I have signed up for Rideau Lakes, I am trying to balance my time between cycling and studying. Studying is winning. Cycling can wait. Passing my exams cannot. Two years ago, I cycled with my buddy, Sue, while Rob stayed at home to study. This year, Rob is cycling with Sue, and I am staying home to study.
Cinco de Mayo was still on my mind, though, as I made these Mexican-inspired almost raw chili salad wraps. I could easily whip these up in Kitchener, had I decided to cycle over myself.
One of the things I love about raw cuisine is that the flavours (usually) pop. Just think of garlic – raw garlic is potent, cooked garlic is muted and slow-roasted garlic is even more mellow.
With a higher emphasis on proteins lately, one thing raw meals lack are good sources of protein. Sure, you could sprout grains and beans, but I don’t really like them as much as their cooked counterparts. That’s probably why I don’t see many recipes for sprouted legumes. “High protein” raw meals usually mean lots of nuts and seeds, which also come with more fat than protein.
In any case, I thought to myself: lets combine the best of both worlds.Beans and flavourful sauces for a high-protein fix. I actually got the idea after Gena posted Brendan’s recipe for a cold chili. Basically all the foundations from a regular chili are combined to make a satisfying dip. It is quite versatile: heat it up to make a regular chili, serve it with chips as a dip, place overtop your favourite green as a salad or place inside Romaine lettuces as a chili salad wrap.
In my study gusto, I appreciate super quick meals. Open a can of cooked beans (I used a canned bean medley), empty out a can of tomato paste, chop up some tomato and green onions and season with chili powder, cumin and lime. Of course, the raw garlic pops out for you, too. It tastes best after a marinade, which means leftovers are just as good, if not better. :)
Guys, I am loving your list of your favourite raw recipes. It isn’t too late to win a copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power. To enter, just leave a comment here telling me about your favourite raw meal. Definitely include a link to a recipe if it is online, like Gabby’s Raw “Baked” Fettuccine Alfredo, Genevieve’s Mango Gazpacho or Hannah’s Raw Blondies with Chocolate Ganache. I really liked Ellen’s suggest of a Korean collard wrap with Asian pear and sweet chili sauce. Sounds delicious! I ended up hunting down some Asian pear, napa cabbage and collards but at the last minute, as the winds warmed me with the southern breeze (this was right before it snowed yesterday), I changed my mind. Instead of a wrap, I went with a chopped salad. And instead of Korean and I went Mexican with a smoky avocado and cumin dressing.
When asked what I usually eat, I explain to people that I love to make soups and salads. Not your flaky salads and not your brothy soups, I prefer hearty one-pot meals in a bowl. My salads tend to be either grain-based or bean-based, whereas I don’t make the standard leafy side salad with a simple vinaigrette. I suppose I don’t find it very high-yield. If I want leafy greens, I’ll add them to my soup or salad!
Not all dressings are created equal, and this smoky avocado dressing is creamy but intense at the same time. It wouldn’t work with flimsy baby greens, which is why I opted for heartier sliced Napa cabbage and collard greens. To counter the heaviness of the dressing, I added a touch of sweetness to the salad with Asian pear and red bell pepper. To add even more goodness, I added some arugula sprouts and to add a good protein source I added chickpeas [sprouted chickpeas keeps this raw, but cooked chickpeas are what I prefer]. With the dressing thinned out over the salad, it was a nice merriment of flavours and textures, although a tad heavy on cumin (even for me).
OK, next up: working on that Korean wrap. :)