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?
Rob and I have been trading stories. He has been back in Canada for the last two weeks. He is hitting up all our old haunts, new joints (I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the vegan boston creme donuts and other treats at Through Being Cool; he’s already tried the Toronto’s crookie (cookie-croissant hybrid) and scouting out Toronto’s cronut, too) and getting ready to spend time with his family for Thanksgiving. I am willing to bet most of my readers know Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving almost a month before the Americans, but if not, let there be no confusion. Canada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday. :)
This is a dish Rob made before he left. He is much better at tackling his recipe hit-list than I am. Possibly because it is shorter. While in Bend, Oregon, we discovered a restaurant with delicious food. For me, I adored their tempeh reuben salad (recreating it is still on my hitlist!) and Rob was adamant about recreating the sloppy joe sandwich.
While I have made Sloppy Joes with TVP, which I served overtop roasted sweet potatoes, I shared Isa’s recipe with Rob. With the extra spices, I knew he would really like it. Rob really liked their sandwich because it was served with a brioche bun. He looked around a bit but wasn’t able to find something in Houston. That did not deter him.
I no longer remember what protein this resto used for their sloppy joe, but Isa’s called for seitan which we didn’t have. Instead, Rob experimented with another Portland find: soy curls. Soy curls totally deserve their high praise. Similar to TVP in that they are a dry soy product, they not as highly processed. Soy curls are made by cooking, then drying soybeans, whereas TVP has been processed to become defatted. Their fun shapes are akin to pulled meat. I bought a bunch in bulk while in Portland and wish there was a local supplier because I know we will use them up quickly.
In any case, Isa’s recipe did not disappoint. She called it jerk-spiced sloppy joes, but the flavours were more muted. When I think of jerk, I think of bold flavours. Instead, this was tame. Nicely flavoured and palatable for the masses. The Caribbean flavours of allspice, cinnamon, and paprika were present and made for a lovely tomato sauce. Rob amped the sweet sauciness by adding red pepper paste. Lime juice balanced it nicely.
The second component to the dish was coconut creamed spinach and kale. Spiced with star anise, the Caribbean flair persisted. Instead of the brioche bun, Rob used a paratha to eat this. Mainly because that’s what we had in the freezer. This is a fusion household. Indian-Caribbean-American in one wrap. Use whatever vehicle you’d like. :)
While this recipe seems almost as elaborate as Rob’s epic Jackfruit & Kimchi and Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu, this one didn’t take nearly as long to cook. Start to end was around an hour, which is a good thing since Rob has proclaimed this as a Rob’s Repeater Recipe.
Have you ever tried soy curls? What did you think?
Apparently, the worst is behind me.
While my homies in Canada relish in local winter squashes, apples and other fall delights, Houston is experiencing its autumn as well. Last weekend as Rob and I went out for our weekly cronut ride, wherein we no longer buy cronuts, almost overnight, after the torrential rains had abated, there was a bit of a nip in the morning air. Of course, this is still Houston. It is all relative. Translation: It was only 20C (68F) that morning but I was cold in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. My parents are battling frost warnings at night, and their highs are still our lows. A few days later and a few degrees more, we are back in summer mode. As I write this, at 6am on the last Saturday in September, it is 25C, feels like 36C (77F and 97F respectively). Five degrees short of the day’s high. Woe is me. I am really looking forward to this “winter”. Perhaps this could entice more people to come visit me?? :)
While I have not yet been craving kabocha squashes, I spotted a stalk of Brussels sprouts at the grocer. With a cute tag that exclaimed “We’re back!”. In Ontario, I’ve associated Brussels sprouts as fall/winter vegetables and ate my weight in them last year. I broke down and carried the huge stalk home with me, almost cradling like a baby since I did not want to damage them.
I ended up combining a ton of Asian goodies (thank you Viet Hoa) with the Brussels sprouts to create this very nice rendition of Vietnamese pho. The ingredient list is daunting, but it is a fairly simple soup to whip up. The abundance of vegetables creates a flavourful soup without too much of a soup base. The broth is nicely flavoured with ginger, star anise, tart lime juice, salty tamari and aromatic toasted sesame oil. Fresh mint adds a beautiful brightness. For the vegetables, seared Brussels sprouts, baby bok choy and meaty mushrooms make up the bulk of the soup. In addition, I added sliced water chestnuts, julienned bamboo shoots and baby corn (the latter all canned). I haven’t cooked with them before, but the bamboo shoots were akin to short noodles and the water chestnuts added a neat crunch. Definitely recommended. I used a mix of Asian mushrooms (shiitake, Portobello and enoki) but feel free to use just one.
The soup made a ton and filled me up all week long. Leftovers were just as good, if not better. While this may not seem like a fall-inspired recipe, this seems like a Texan fall-inspired meal. A light veggie-filled soup perfect during the hot weather. Hannah told me she may stop to read my blog during the winter, as she lives in Toronto, missing her warm Aussie winters. Please don’t hate me for the abundant heat! :)
Have you fallen for fall veggies yet?
Brussels sprouts done before:
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?
Am I the only one who gets into trouble during the summer? Trouble in my kitchen, I mean…
So many fruits and veggies to eat at their peak, sometimes I can’t decide what to eat first!
I recently was in Montreal and stopped at the Jean Talon farmer’s market. It was a good thing we didn’t use our bikes that day, because we came home with tons of fresh fruits and veggies. 5L of uber sweet wild blueberries from Lac Saint Jean. Rob and I demolished them within a week just eating them fresh. I also picked up 10 lbs of beets, peaches and carrots. We decided to stop before we bought some freshly picked corn, too. I like to think I have limits, but our list of purchases may suggest otherwise!
At home, I still had some cherries but wanted to focus on the blueberries. So what to do with the cherries? I really enjoyed them marinaded in balsamic vinegar, used both as a sandwich topper but also as a dressing (and topping) for quick salads.
This got me thinking about pickling my own cherries.
I found a few recipes but settled on a savoury pickling spice, filled with all the components of Chinese five spice (Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and fennel) along with bay leaves. I consulted with my Mom because I wanted to decrease the sugar and swap it for another sweetener, and she recommended not tinkering with the recipe because sugars and salts really help keep the proper preservation. So I didn’t… to be able to keep these pickled cherries for a while in my fridge once my fruit obsession has waned. However, if you want to consume the cherries within a week or so, I see no reason why you couldn’t omit the sugar or swap it for agave or maple syrup just like my simple balsamic marinaded cherries.
Since my cans are not sealed, I snuck in a taste and loved the cherries! A bit sweet, but with a nice savoury backdrop from the Chinese five spice. I plan on using them for salads, but I will let you know if I find other tasty ways to use them!
Next pickling project: Beets, I am looking at you! Anyone have good recipes for pickled beets without too much sugar?