Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.
I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.
What did I end up doing?
1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?
2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.
3. Travelled through chocolate. With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.
4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.
So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.
Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content. Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.
I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.
How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?
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!
The fourth curry this week… I am almost getting curried out!
I have never seen Rob so excited about trying a new recipe. I was browsing through my newest favourite cookbook, For The Love of Food, and I spotted a recipe that seemingly used up a lot of the odds and ends in our fridge.
Massaman curry, have you heard of this, Rob? Would I like it?
Turns out it was his favourite curry while travelling in Thailand.
However, as we made the curry together, Rob quickly realized this wasn’t the same Massaman curry he had eaten overseas. The sauce had coconut milk, lemongrass, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, but no peanuts. No fish sauce nor tamarind.
After slaving and salivating in the kitchen for a while, Rob felt let down when he taste-tested it the first time. The vegetables were good, but the depth of flavour was lacking. He ended up adding all of the spice mixture, as the recipe only called for a couple tablespoons of the mixture. After which, when I tasted it the second time, I told him I wouldn’t be able to eat it for dinner- it was now too spicy! Those peppercorns were likely the culprit but thankfully, it didn’t have that ominous “curry” flavour.
Since I had adored Cotter’s previous recipes, we still trucked on with making the cucumber and coriander salsa. Rob finally sat down to eat it, served with the salsa and rice, with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime juice. The more he ate it, and accepted it as a non-Massaman curry, he grew to enjoy it.
I then decided to give it a go with the salsa and lime.
While Cotter may have misled us by calling this a Massaman curry, he also said this curry was best with the cooling salsa, and there he wasn’t lying. It definitely made the dish go from something I refused to eat, to something that was genuinely spectacular. Another Janet-sanctioned curry, this time hailing from Thailand.
I am definitely realizing that more complex dishes, where each component is outstanding on its own, can be brought to high levels when combined. The only problem is that it makes for a kitchen filled with lots of dirty dishes. Gah!
An authentic Massaman curry is still on our to-do list, though. But whatever its name, this curry is the bomb, just don’t forget the salsa!
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month, featuring cauliflower, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Cathy, to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Thailand and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends.
I am not sure why, but I feel the need to apologize for my overuse of mango in my recipes.
In the spring, Rob will treat himself to a case (or 2!) of Alphonso mangoes and savour each one, unadorned, possibly over top his breakfast oatmeal. The King of Mangoes does not come cheap, though. They also make Rob a mango snob.
At Sunny’s, they have 3 mangoes for a $1. They are not Alphonso, nor Ataulfo, rather the Tommy Atkins mango. I can’t help myself, though. 3 for $1!
You will notice the difference if eating the mangoes raw (they aren’t as sweet nor as creamy and luscious), and Rob has no interest in eating them for breakfast. But for me, they are a guilt-less way to cook with the mangoes.
In this meal, you have Mango Gazpacho diving into French lentils with an earthy undertone from the cinnamon and cumin, frolicking with the coriander, thyme and oregano. Joanne called it Lentil Mango Picadillo, based off of the Latin Pork Mango Picadillo, but that means nothing to me since I am a novice to Latin foods. Whatever the name, this is quick, easy and healthy. It is a lovely, light lentil salad infused with a savoury tomato-mango salsa. I loved the background of the cinnamon and the bite the French lentils imparted to the salad. Delicious, despite using Tommy Atkins mangoes.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Preeti, to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring lentils.
Toronto has a lot of burrito restaurants. I have been to a few places, but my favourite sandwich remains the yam burrito at Big Fat Burrito. I used to gush about them at work, where our Monday lunches were burritos from Big Fat Burrito. It turned out to be a bad idea, because we started to run out of the yam burritos.
I haven’t eaten a burrito in a while, especially after I found out that the steak burrito at Burrito Boyz is over a pound of food, and over 1000 calories. Chipotle fares no better, clocking in at over 1200 calories if you include guacamole.
However, when I spotted this (since adapted) recipe in Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook for yam, black bean and amaranth burritos, I knew I had to give burritos a second chance. Making them at home meant I could make them healthier! Including a touch of sour cream, these burritos are around 550 calories, but it all depends on the tortilla, salsa and added fixins you use. Next time I make burritos, I will try to search out freshly made tortillas from La Tortilleria. Sometimes, though, I ate this more like a stew, sans wrap.
Amaranth is an optional ingredient, but if you have it, this is a great way to incorporate it into your meal. Amaranth is one of those up-and-coming superfoods. It is an ancient South American seed loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, akin to quinoa. It has a slightly nutty taste and can be quite sticky. It works well as a binder in these burritos.
Amaranth has an interesting history, as it was believed to have superpowers and was given to the army for increased energy. Furthermore, it was used during religious ceremonies as effigies, and thus was banished when the Spaniards invaded Mexico. It has only been rejuvenated within the past few decades and still remains relegated to health food stores (I found mine in bulk at Essence of Life but have also seen it at the St Lawrence Market at Lively Life Fine Food).
Here are some other recipes with amaranth seed:
Emeril Lagasse’s Five Grain Salad on The Kitchn
Banana Apple Coconut Curry at Oh She Glows
Jewelled Amaranth at Cook (almost) Everything At Least Once
Heidi Swanson’s Savory Amaranth Soufflé at Pink Stripes
Ottolenghi’s Potato and Amaranth Cakes at The Guardian
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks at Diet, Dessert N Dogs