We traded hills for wind this weekend.
Blustery wind. Gusty winds.
It was kind of humbling to cycle 100-km hilly routes outside Houston, and then find ourselves so pooped we could barely finish our rides.
Even though we’re aiming for 160 km, our odometers have been stuck at 100-km for a while. This weekend, we decided to shun the hills (and the 2-hour commute to get to them) and opt for distance. The wind was a pleasant (or unpleasant), unplanned surprise. A flat tire was also a surprise and likely cost us an hour of cycling time. We pushed through 127 km of city-riding on Saturday.
On Sunday, we aimed to add hills to our windy resistance. We did an “urban hill” loop where we tried to climb as many highway overpasses as possible. The wind was relentless. If we thought Saturday was windy, it was even windier on Sunday. Southeast winds of 30km/h with gusts over 50 km/h. Rob rerouted it to include a stopover at Mi Tienda #2, our favourite Mexican grocer. We weren’t going to skip out on our aguas fresca ritual! This week they had mamey, which was a hard choice over the guanabana.
Even though we were out and about on our bikes most of the weekend, we actually had more energy. I guess we’re better at tackling wind than hills.
We ended up (ok, just me) stockpiling veggies when we finally ended up at an Asian market for our weekly grocery run. We put them to great use in this vegan spin on bahn mi sandwiches. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich, which I associate with the pickled vegetables and cilantro. Here, tofu and mushrooms are scrambled as the base. The veggies, with Terry’s spin of adding star anise, make this a nice and bright wrap.
Rob thought it was his best sandwich ever. I thought it nice, too, and opted to eat it in a collard wrap.
Maybe everything tastes better after biking 180 km?
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.
I thought it was getting colder, but then it was a balmy 20C yesterday. Soup time? No, it is sandwich time!
I don’t eat sandwiches very often.
I still drool over delicious sandwiches, though.
Including this one from Two Peas and their Pod.
Like a souped up guacamole, this combined both of my versions. Chunky like my pineapple and cucumber guacamole but ramped up with chickpeas like my edamame guacamole. Filled with fresh cilantro, a zip from green onions and citrus tang from lime, this worked really well.
You could use this as a dip with big crackers. Or slather it onto your next sandwich or wrap. Whatever you decide, you know it will be a tasty spread.
And about that bread? It is an interesting sourdough rye bread. You can actually store it unopened at room temperature for 6 months. Something about it being double-baked or something. I first tried it in Calgary, but recently spotted a few versions at a nearby health food store, Foods for Life. And you know what? Their tempeh is just as cheap ($3.59) as Tutti Fruiti!
There are a few reasons I don’t eat bread. One is because I don’t really like it. This bread was interesting, but not my favourite. It was merely a vector for the delicious filling. The best part was definitely in the middle!!
A Vegan BLT.
Not so farfetched with prepared store-bought vegan bacon, vegan “mayonnaise” and a loaf of bread.
But this is Janet-style. Whole foods only. No white flours.
A return of the raw eggplant bacon. Flatbread made with kabocha squash, buckwheat and flax. And for that mayonnaise, I whipped up a tofu-cashew version.
Food is always a source of discussion at gatherings, and since I don’t visit my extended family in Montreal that often, they found it shocking what I ate (or rather what I don’t eat). OK, no meat and dairy, but what about baked goods with eggs? No. What about whole wheat pasta? No. What about bread? No.
I make very few baked goods. Even when I do, I want them to be whole-foods based. It took me awhile, but I finally made Gena’s curried kabocha squash flatbread when I had a hankering for a BLT with the abundant fresh tomatoes. Although, after I had difficulties with a wet dough that never seemed to bake, I was reminded why I love my one-pot meals. They are so much harder to goof up!
My problem with the bread was that it took much longer to cook. I probably added too much water since my squash was already moist. Or I should have spread it thinner. In any case, I had to flip it while the underside was still wet. After a long run in the oven, it was dry and cooked through. I loved the subtle flavour from the squash which made these moist and pliable breads. The spices added a complementary touch and was nice with the BLT components.
I also made a quick vegan mayonnaise with tofu and cashews. I scoured a few recipes, including some made with avocado and even beans but wanted one that wasn’t loaded with oil. While not as creamy as traditional mayo and only reminiscent of its flavour, I still enjoyed the spread. In the sandwich, you wouldn’t note the lack of real mayonnaise. You only notice the differences while licking the knife.
While most people have returned to school this week and may be looking for totable lunches, sandwiches are common for the masses. However, just like my BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon, the bacon needs to be kept separate and assembled just prior to serving. The great thing about the eggplant bacon is how crispy it is. However, it seems to whisk in moisture super fast, so you need to keep it separated until ready to eat.
Rob warned me.
I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.
However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.
AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!
One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…
But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.
It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.
Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich. Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!
Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.
First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!
I find eating through a cuisine a great way to learn about a new culture, which is what I typically do when I travel overseas. New York City is a foodie-paradise with abundant choices for high-end splurges, plentiful cheap eats, as well as a handful of grocery stores. Our main purpose for heading to New York City was a 9-course menu at Per Se, so I knew I had to save my stomach for the ultimate gastronomical experience.
So what’s the trick to eating healthy, plentiful meals while still wanting to experience everything NYC has to offer? I am sure not if we’ve mastered it just yet, but here are my tips to how NOT to eat out while in NYC.
The first step is to find yourself a kitchen, because that makes a world of difference. In a city where apartments are tiny, hotel rooms are equally as small and ridiculously expensive. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan, across from Penn Station, with huge rooms and reasonable rates (we paid $139/night + tax). However, the main advantage is that each room has a kitchen, complete with a fridge/freezer, oven/stove, microwave, toaster and utensils/plates/cutlery. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you may need to become more creative, storing food in the minibar, bringing cutlery/plastic containers, etc.
I will admit that we visited more grocery and food stores while we were in NYC than anything else, but that’s what we like! Trader Joe’s is great for picking up breakfast items. I bought some quick-cook steel cut oats (what an oxymoron, but true to the advertising they cooked up in 7 minutes over the stovetop) and we added some dried blueberries and bananas for a delicious breakfast. We picked up some apples, edamame hummus and baby carrots for snacks. Arugula and artichoke antipasto spread were bought for sandwiches. Other travelling-friendly breakfast options sans-stovetop would be granola overtop yogurt and fruit or overnight oats.
After Trader Joe’s, the next stop was Eataly, the upscale Mario Batali Italian superstore. My main purpose was to buy mosto cotto, a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes (any clue where to buy this in Toronto?). While the prices are not cheap, Eataly is a good place to pick up high-quality items for sandwiches.
Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip. Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese. All the ingredients lasted us a few meals with some food left over to bring back to Canada (the artichoke surprisingly did not set off the alarms at the airport, hehe). For a vegetarian option, roasted red peppers could be substituted for the prosciutto and for vegans, the cheese could easily be omitted.
I will also give due credit to the most wondrous milk we bought at Eataly – Soloriso basmati rice milk. With a delicate smooth flavour, I never knew rice milk could taste so good. With a side of edamame hummus and carrots, this is how a foodie does not eat out in NYC.
Where we ate elsewhere in NYC:
Ess-A-Bagel – There are Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. When in NYC, you should try New York-style bagels. Ess-A-Bagel is well-known for its huge, fluffy bagels (12 different varieties including whole wheat everything), and also serves up vegan-friendly tofu-spread in lieu of cream cheese (the traditional cream cheeses are there too, including the delectable lox cream cheese). The bagels are packed with filling, and 1 bagel could easily serve 2.
Alan’s Falafel – Battle of the street cart food falafel in NYC creates the most lusciously moist falafel with minimal grease. Get it in a wrap, a salad or combo spread with lettuce, tomato, hummus and a sesame dipping sauce. Can’t say I’ve compared it to Sam’s, but Alan’s was mighty tasty.
Candle Cafe – A long-time favourite vegan resto with a focus on local, organic foods. The collard rolls are a must-try! :)
Other worthwhile food-related places to visit in NYC:
Kalustyan’s – For all your kitchen desires, spices, vinegars, beans.. let’s just say I was stopped by the bean section, and didn’t really make it to any other floor (I think there are 3 levels). (Thanks for the tip, Joanne!)
Essex Street Market – For down-to-earth fresh produce and condiments
Chelsea Market – A bit too upscale for me (can you say not affordable?) but a cute, artsy renovated warehouse housing upscale gourmet food vendors, with the Food Network located upstairs
Saveur’s note: I am delighted to have a guest post from Rob at Free Pants Online. He usually posts about his travel adventures although he has posted some recipes. He made the most delicious tempeh sandwiches recently and I really wanted to share the recipe. I love to share healthy, great tasting food – and these sandwiches were phenomenal. However, since I didn’t technically make it myself (although I was in the same room), I begged Rob to write a post about it to spread some tempeh love.
For the picnic, I brought the Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers, Rob brought these delicious sandwiches and it was finished with exquisitely moist and unique cupcakes from For The Love of Cake. Red Velvet cupcakes filled with a chocolate ganache were my favourite, but we also had Japanese Ginger cupcakes filled with a plum sake reduction and plum slice and topped with cream cheese frosting, Maple Bacon cupcakes filled with blueberries, and Tiramisu cupcakes with a mascarpone frosting. It was a glorious feast indeed. :)
A couple of weeks ago, I visited one of the health food shops in Kensington Market. I had a craving for tempeh. I hadn’t had it in a while. None of the shops in my neighbourhood (Yonge and Eglinton) seem to carry it. As such, I picked up a couple packages and brought them home.
I have randomly tried to prepare tempeh while traveling. I didn’t really know what I was doing and usually just fried it to enjoy its simple flavour: denser and meatier than tofu; maybe a little nuttier. I know I could do better once I was armed with my own kitchen. What was I to do? I asked Saveur for recommendations. She confessed that she’s never tried tempeh before. Oh my! She’s a clever one, though, and was still able to make some suggestions for me. This recipe for Maple Grilled Tempeh looked very intriguing to me. Since I don’t have any maple syrup (what kind of weak Canadian am I, anyways?) or rice vinegar, or a proper grill to cook these on, I decided to adapt the recipe and created the marinade listed below.
Oh wow! These were tasty! They were bursting with flavour!
The first time I had these, I had some parathas and steamed broccoli on the side, which is very typical for me. I didn’t choose the broccoli for its complementary qualities to my tempeh; but simply since I usually have some in the fridge and it’s my favourite vegetable anyways. Parathas are just delicious… period. I might have chosen rice as my starchy side, but I my rice cooker is currently out on loan.
These marinated and fried tempeh pieces were great when they were fresh. As leftovers, however, there was much to be desired. They had dried out and weren’t nearly so flavourful. Eat these fresh, or don’t eat them at all!
The following weekend, I planned on going to Olympic Island with Saveur and her friend to see Arcade Fire play a show. The concert was really great! This blog isn’t a music blog, though. It’s a food blog. You’re certainly not interested in any concerts.
I’ve read somewhere that tempeh is great as a meat substitute in sandwiches. Now that was my master plan!
We preceded the show with a picnic. The picnic was really great, too! I decided to take on the task of bringing sandwiches by combining the same marinated tempeh with alfalfa sprouts and cucumber on ciabatta bread. In my head, it sounded like a match made in heaven. It worked out just fine! This recipe is not one that I found anywhere. I just thought it would work…. it looks like it did!