This year, I have traded my cookbooks for textbooks.
One of the textbooks I need to know like the back of my hand can be a tad dry. All 1464 pages. I can only read about molecular pathways or the causes of cardiomyopathy for so long before I need a break.
But then, as I was reading the nutrition chapter, I swear, this is what it said (I quote):
Even lowly garlic has been touted to protect against heart disease (and also against, devils, werewolves, vampires, and, alas, kisses), although research has yet to prove this effect unequivocally. Of these, the effect on kisses is the best established!
I wonder whether I can bring up devils, werewolves and vampires on my oral exam for full marks? Or just kisses since they have more evidence against them? They didn’t cite their source, though…
Thank goodness, my love of garlic hasn’t kept away kisses from Rob.
My love of garlic has a long history. My love of raw garlic began with Tess. My love of Rob fits in between these two.. In length, but surpasses them all by quantity and quality, of course.
Raw garlic isn’t as scary as it seems. Chili lime noodles, 15-minute zippy garlic-basil marinara, lemon asparagus quinoa toss, and many other dishes that add garlic at the end of cooking instead of at the beginning. It adds a brightness to any dish.
This is another garlicky dish from Tess. A quickie dish that I can make after work. Easily modifiable to your pantry surpluses. Tess uses rice and beans, but bulgur and cooked beans make this an even simpler dish. It has been a while since I’ve gushed over bulgur, but sometimes I forget until I unearth it again from my pantry. Smokey from liquid smoke, creamy from a touch of oil, snappy with some nearly raw garlic and wholesome with some shredded greens. Beans + grains + greens, a force to be reckoned with.
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.
If you can’t tell, I am all about the greens. Any kind of vegetable, bring it on [except celery]. I still buy leafy greens even if my garden is growing kale and collards. Especially when they are 2 HUGE bunches for $1. When I mean huge, I decided to do the weight test. Each bunch clocked in at 2 lbs. That’s the equivalent of 4 bunches for $1. Booyah! Surprise sales. That’s when I get in trouble. What the heck to do with all the greens?
I now have the perfect solution. You have to cook them down into creamy silkiness. This way the greens wilt down and you can munch through a bunch in no time. My Green Soup with Ginger with both Swiss chard and spinach almost called me back, but I decided to try a dish with more sustenance. Last time, I added quinoa to the Coconut-Braised Collards and this time, I continued with the Greek theme and added Christmas Lima beans (any large white bean would work) to my stewed greens. The gentle, slow simmer allows the tomatoes to cook down, conferring sweetness and creaminess, while the paprika, mint and dill infuse an extra flavour dimension. This is how you eat your greens, my friends. Lots of them.
(If only I could do the same thing with lettuce!)
Not only can I get in trouble at grocery stores, I can also get in trouble at garden centres.
It makes sense, because it is like a grocery store with such promise for the future.
Originally, we had planned to keep things relatively simple. We tried out a few plants last year, and knew that our best results were with our herbs in planters. We were also able to harvest beans (snow peas, snap peas and flat beans), lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, although at much lower yields. Carrots – nada! Kohlrabi – nope. Beets- only the chioggia beets grew and they were way too small.. Zucchini- to be fair, we grew it in a very shady part of the garden and it died. Our rhubarb died a horrible death, too.
Our new home has a much smaller garden, but receives a lot more light. I am hopeful we will be able to grow some tasty delights this year. To keep things simple, the herbs would be a definite go, especially since I overwintered them in my kitchen and only had a few casualties (basil, thyme and even the Vietnamese coriander, boo, the last two both perennials). I was going to try my hand at kale again, both with the transplanted kale and with seedlings. After Rob’s mom’s success with dinosaur kale (lacinato kale) from a seedling (and plenty of sun), I was adamant I wanted to try kale from seedlings. I know kale grows easily from seeds, but I figured this could help get the plant bigger and me eating it sooner!
Locating kale seedlings is easier said than done. Not only did I not want the standard kale, I wanted heirloom kale. Home Depot? No. Canadian Tire? No. A local independent grocer had the normal curly kale, though. I decided to check in with the closest garden centre: Caledonia Garden Centre. Turns out they had just picked up some kale to sell. Lacinato kale and the normal curly kale. Perfect!
With my best intentions, I swear, I headed off to buy some lacinato kale. I perused their collection… next to the lacinato kale, they had redbor kale. I picked up both. They also had a curly kale and bought it just for fun. Then I spotted the collard section. The regular collards were only a $1; in it went… and then I perused the section a bit more…. they had heirloom collards! Vates collards, which are a bit more compact with an earlier maturation date. And Portuguese collards (couve). Never even heard of it but they looked a bit more frilly and white in their mugshot on the label. I was excited just to find lacinato kale but now I was ecstatic!! New veggies to explore! I resisted the Swiss chard since I had seeds at home to plant. Then I moseyed through the rest of the veggies…. and while I had no plans to buy squash, when I saw they had KABOCHA (!) squash seedlings, I impulsively threw them in my now overflowing tray of seedlings. At only $1.25 for 4 plants, it was an experiment I was willing to try.
When I got home, I had to investigate how to grow collards and kabocha squash! Where would they fit in my garden?
Thankfully squash can be grown in containers, so that’s where I put my squash. I am not sure where the 20 foot vines will go but if they make it that far, I will deal with it then!
The collards and kale have all been interspersed in the front garden, amongst the perennial flowers. I am hoping they become balmy ornamental greens throughout the summer. Hopefully the sun cooperates and we can feed them properly. Cross your fingers for a summer of green overload!
Looking for a way to use some greens? This is a bulgur pilaf salad with some Swiss chard sneaked in.. while it may call for a bunch of Swiss chard, it wilts down and makes you wonder why you didn’t add more.
Courtesy of Melissa Clark, I tweaked her Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots from Cook This Now. Like my Middle Eastern-Inspired Olive Oil Granola, this bulgur salad is flavoured with cinnamon, dried apricots and pistachios. With a nod to my favourite bulgur salad, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and pomegranate arils make this salad more interesting with their tangy crunch. This is actually a template for a great salad: mix and match with what you have in store. Don’t have apricots and pistachios? Use dried cranberries and almonds instead… or try raisins and walnuts.. Salads need not be stressful!
Let me get this off my chest: I really liked this meal.
It was quick, healthy and tasty.
The main component to the tacos is a seemingly simple black bean saute with oyster mushrooms and red pepper. I don’t know what it is, but the oyster mushrooms were fabulous here. They kept their shape, they had a sweet but subtle mushroom flavour but it complemented the red peppers and beans especially well. The Ancho chile-based chili powder made this spicy enough with great flavour.
Don’t stop there, just yet. Cut up a sweet mango, toss with some cilantro and red onion and you have a quick salsa that pairs so nicely. Since I used Alphonso mangoes, there was no need to add more sweetener, but adjust to your tastes and available fruits.
Now wrap it all up. With a nod to my raw tacos, I decided to serve this in a Swiss chard leaf. Pick your poison: leafy green, flour tortilla or hard taco shell.
With each bite, you will have sweet, spicy, and savoury. Juicy mushrooms and black beans. Simple sweet mango salsa – how could it not be good? Thankfully, it is easier to make then our New Best Salad Ever (aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa). This was best eaten fresh, with the warmed beans and saucy mushrooms contrasting the cool salsa.
For some reason, I tend to gravitate to black beans when I cook Mexican. Probably because I really like black beans. I am working through my heirloom bean stash, though. However, my collection of beans are predominantly Southwestern or pinto bean hybrids (Rio Zape, Bolita, Anasazi, Rattlesnake, Appaloosa, etc). Not sure what to make with them. What are your favourite recipes for pinto beans?
A new home; a new 5 keys.
Trust me, I am not complaining about now having a garage. Although 5 keys is certainly overwhelming. First front door, second front door, rear door, garage door and garage.
While we are still unpacking boxes, and likely will for many weeks, the kitchen is functional. The bedroom is almost unpacked (minus my clothes) and we have no idea what to with ourselves now that we have 3 bathrooms.
In any case, while Rob and I have moved many, many times before, this is the first time we hired movers. So completely worth it. Our friends and family must think so, as well. Our movers were work horses: incredibly strong, super fast while still being very gentle. One of the movers relished telling me a new joke every time he saw me. If anyone needs cheap, efficient movers in the GTA, shoot me an email and I’ll give you their contact info.
While there are many great things about our new place, we are kind of sad we don’t have a basement. You can really scurry things out of sight and mind, so our move forced Rob and I to go through another round of purging and incidentally, discover new things, as well. Rob had some pretty bowls (and pretty chopsticks!) hidden in the basement that I unearthed! I also didn’t know that I had so many packages of kelp noodles. I knew I had bought a case (or two) when they went on sale, but looks like a lot more noodles once I take them out of the case.
For one of my first meals in the new home, I decided to break in the kitchen with a quick and easy stir fry. I also inadvertently christened the kitchen by setting off the smoke alarm. I swear, there was nothing burning! I will have to be careful to not wake up my neighbors. I adapted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Winter Stir Fry with Chinese Five Spice to what I had left in my vegetable crisper. Winter root vegetables are fabulous for keeping so long, but it felt nice to use up the remainder of my root veggies, along with some spring veggies. Goodbye winter, hello spring.
The heart of this stir fry is the Chinese Five Spice powder, which stems from the heart of Szechuan cooking. It is aromatic and savoury, composed of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. A seven spice blend may also include ginger and black peppercorns. A complex spice blend, a little goes a long way and really shines here.
Throw in your own favourite vegetables with some noodles and then toss with a sake, tamari and Chinese five spice dressing. The drizzle of lime at the ends adds the perfect acidic balance to the veggie-centric meal. Feel like more protein? Add some tofu or tempeh. Me? My pantry is all cleaned out of tofu!
While I had been working through my pantry prior to this move, I plan on eating through the remainder over the next year before our BIG move to the US. Expect to see more recipes with kelp noodles! What are your favourite ways of eating them?
Here are a few other recipes with Chinese Five Spice:
Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash from Appetite for Reduction
Fluffy Sesame Baked Tofu from Sprint 2 the Table
Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu from Vegetarian Times
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles with Broccoli from Serious Eats
Smoky Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice from Vegan with a Vengeance
Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes from Post Punk Kitchen
Chinese Five Spice Miso Soup with Shitakes and Edamame from Florida Coastal Cooking
Star Anise-Glazed Tempeh with Stir-Fried Peppers from Joanne Eats Well With Others
You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. But what’s up with the cravings?
*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.
In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.
Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.
So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.
While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.
Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup. I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!
Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.
What have you been craving recently?
This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.
The week before the party, I made this delicious salad.
The super quick sauce was courtesy of The Breakaway Cook (recipe here). Deep, rich flavours from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and fresh tarragon. I substitute a dried apricot and agave for the apricot jam and decreased the oil without any problems. The pomegranate molasses added a subtle taste but really added that extra dimension and it worked wonderfully with the tarragon.
I was so happy to love the sauce, because it made a ton!
Eric suggested serving it with orzo, but instead I went with barley. Wanting a more complete meal, I also added white beans and chopped Swiss chard. A cup of baby rainbow Swiss chard, because that was all I could harvest from my garden. ;) I only needed half of the sauce.
It was luscious and glorious. I knew I wanted to share the salad because it was that good.
Sadly, the sauce was sopped up by the barley when I ate it as leftovers. Still good but not as sinfully saucy as the first night
Half the sauce remained. The party was the following weekend.
With two beans salads, I knew I had my grain salad picked out.
I just couldn’t make it in advance.
Because I already had a bean-centric salad menu, I opted to forego the white beans, and well, I didn’t have any more Swiss chard, so it was just barley for the party. With the glorious sauce, no one knew what they were missing.
I was honoured when Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook invited me to provide a guest post for her blog, continuing to celebrate the 4th year of My Legume Love Affair. Please head over to her site to hear about my current battle between lentils and chickpeas, and the winning salad I display: Warm Lentil and Swiss Chard Salad.
After the early bedtime on Sunday, I thankfully got my mojo back in the kitchen! My brain and body got the rest they needed for me to become prolific in the kitchen once again.
The next day, after work, I tackled the rest of my week’s menu which included this smoky tempeh and chard stew, adapted from Appetite for Reduction. It came together seamlessly, as I prepped while things steamed, fried and simmered.
I obviously decided to make this stew last week, when we were in the midst of heavy, dreary rainy weather. It was a hearty stew, and after a few tweaks, filled with ingredients already in my kitchen when I didn’t want to head out to the grocery store. Unfortunately, by the time I made it (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), the weather turned around completely. This week we have been enjoying sunny, bright days with highs around 18C. Perfect, spring weather. More akin to spring salads, but this smoky tempeh stew still tastes great.
It is a lovely, hearty stew. It is filled with a tomato-based sauce with a smokiness coming from sweet smoked paprika. Carrots are added for additional flavour and you have a good nutritional punch from Swiss chard, or your favourite green. In fact, I liked using the stems from the Swiss chard for additional crunch (don’t discard the stems!). Tempeh is steamed, then fried to get a crispy coating, and added for an interesting texture and source of protein. While the original recipe called for frozen lima beans, I used frozen shelled edamame instead. Together, we have a winning combination of a hearty, healthy and filling stew. Perfect for the winter, or rainy days, but I am certainly not complaining about the wonderful spring weather that has finally arrived.
It is important evolutionarily, actually, because otherwise women wouldn’t go through childbirth a second time!
I am also experiencing amnesia this year. I trained last summer to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall (325 km) over 2 days. I had wet rides in the rain, tough climbs up hills, and super sore after coming home from Cornwall. But all of that is overshadowed by the triumph of completing such a goal (having done no long distance cycling ever) and how much fun it was to explore the larger GTA by bike with Rob at my side (usually in front, to be precise). It was a wonderful summer.
My goal this year is to cycle from Ottawa to Kingston and back (a hilly 355 km over 2 days) in early June with my father, Rob and some other friends.
Rob and I have tried to get out to cycle, but the rainy weather and work commitments have prevented us a few times. While it was raining all week, Saturday conferred a perfect spring day which we capitalized to do our first (metric) century ride of the year (101 km). I picked one of my favourite routes, up to Aurora, which we adapted to include a trip to Ambrosia, a natural food store that Ricki introduced me to (yes, we adapt cycling routes too, not just recipes!). I have been to the Thornhill location a few times, and figured with their bountiful selection of produce and snacks, it would be a great stopping point for lunch on our cycling trip.
Armed with water bottles filled with homemade sports drink, energy date bars (cocoa fudge and gingerbread recipes to come!) and some hummus for lunch, Rob and I set out for Newmarket with gusto!
Let me tell you, though, I had forgotten how hard it is to do these long cycles. We are keeping these as endurance rides, so I like to ride at an easy pace to be able to last the full ride. I used to be able to cycle 100 km without thinking twice, but now, so early in the season, my legs are sore after an hour. I still have another 5 hours to go. I just get used to the pain and relish the hourly breaks. I would get sore last year, too, I just had forgotten.
As planned, Rob and I stopped at Ambrosia for lunch, and I quickly realized this was not nearly comparable to the wonderful Thornhill location. The only produce they had was organic Romaine lettuce. Gah! My plan to eat a Swiss chard wrap with sprouts and carrots with hummus was foiled! I ended up picking up the lettuce, and scavenged the bulk section for other tasty nibbles. I love picking up things on sale, so I was drawn to the raw almonds and prunes (both on sale). Almonds for crunch and prunes for carbs, I figured. I also picked up a dash of flax seeds for good measure.
And while I had no clue what I was really making, I was incredibly content with the mishmash of ingredients. I used the Romaine leaves as a base, topped it with a lemony-miso hummus, sprinkled some flax seeds overtop and added some almonds and prunes. Rolled it up and devoured. It worked wonderfully together, with both a mix of textures, but also complementary flavours. It was too good not to share with you, even if all I had were travel photos.
The nice surprise, though, afterward, was wandering through the adjacent Filipino food market. This is where I picked up a handful of tiny milk bananas, succulent and sweet, just right for eating. And yes, it also tasted great rolled up in Romaine.
The Aurora loop is great though, because it is a (relatively) painless uphill for the first half, and by the time you are tired, it is mostly downhill with some rolling hills. After our scavenger lunch, we were rested and energized to ride home. I was able to arrive home with enough spare time to clean up and make dinner before my guests arrived. Yes, sometimes I am that nuts. I had forgotten how rough the ride would be, to be honest. A dinner party after a century ride. I think I’ll just remember how great it was to finally have my brother and sister-in-law over for dinner.
They are a very healthy way to wrap around a sandwich filling, while having the benefit of not getting soggy like rice paper rolls, etc.
I am still working on the best technique on how to keep them together, though.
Attempt #1: A little lop-sided but still very tasty!
Attempt #2: I think I could use smaller apple slices, but this was a better success!
But like most things, it is what is inside that counts.
This is such an unusual pairing of ingredients but they work wonderfully together. Just as Gena suggested, I used the Zesty Cashew Orange Spread with an apple in a Swiss chard wrap. That dip, divine as it is solo, it is even better in this wrap. There is something about the crisp, sweet apple, paired with the sweet green, along with the tangy citrus spread that knocks my socks off. This is a lovely snack, and once I get some toothpicks, a lovely snack to take on my long cycling trips!
They say to eat a rainbow, but I am trying to eat more green, as the reds and oranges come too naturally to me. I am also trying to figure out what to plant in my garden, and Swiss chard made the potential list. Truth be told, this was my first time eating Swiss chard. This got me thinking, why the heck is that?
Because, I am a sucker for sales.
And you know what, Swiss chard never goes on sale (neither do pea shoots, and what a treat it was to discover those!). I get side-tracked when baby spinach is less than $4/lb, or wooed when red peppers are under $1/lb, and perfectly smitten when juicy navel oranges are 33 cents/lb (yes, there will be many recipes with orange to come!). But Swiss chard had never made it to my grocery list, until now.
I spotted this recipe in Love Soup (Heidi had already posted the recipe here, too), and was impressed that there was nearly a pound of leafy greens in the soup! Plus, there was a sweet potato and ginger, as well, which I knew worked well from my previous Japanese Winter Stew.
I preferred the soup prior to pureeing it, where I could taste each individual ingredient. The caramelized onions lent a delicious sweetness to the soup, the ginger a bit of bite, the sweet potato proffered its creaminess, all the while dancing around the multitude of greens (feel free to substitute your favourites). You pile in so many vegetables but they wilt down nicely, as you can see.
Other than using baby spinach, I followed the recipe fairly closely. This is surprisingly a quick soup to make, but I took the longer one-pot route. Anna suggests caramelizing your onions while the rest of the soup simmers, but I really wanted to deglaze the pan after caramelizing my onions, so I waited for my onions to finish and then threw the rest of the ingredients in afterwards.
Then I pureed it, and it both looked and tasted completely different. The green highlighted how much green really was in the soup! The soup had become a chameleon, because now it tasted like a melange of flavours since it was all blended together. The same, but different. Two soups for the price of one! I preferred the former, and I think my camera did as well, but for those who get leftover fatigue by the end of the week, the option to puree it is a good one.
I am so excited about Love Soup, as all the recipes look delicious, and perfect for someone with a backyard filled with vegetables. I can’t wait to plant some Swiss chard this summer (yes, it made the cut) and explore more of Anna Thomas’ recipes.
I saw this super easy recipe for cajun spiced salmon in Real Simple magazine (paper copy). Take a filet of salmon (I used wild, but Atlantic farmed would be fine also), shake on some cajun spices (I just used a President’s Choice grinder mix – I had to grind it rather than take a pinch and press it in, but it was ok anyway) and 10 minutes later you have a salmon dinner. I ate it with steamed swiss chard which I doused with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice also. It was quite good and tied me over for well over 5 hours.
Here are some pics, before and after: