Eating through my pantry has some benefits. I find foods I had forgotten.
My Mom remembers. My Mom is like an elephant: she never forgets.
(She will probably never forget me calling her an elephant… HAHAHAHA!)
What about all your soba noodles, Janet?
Oh yeah…. all those noodles I bought after I came back from Japan. Just like when I drank my way through a library of non-dairy milks to figure out which I liked the most, I bought a wide variety of soba noodles to pinpoint the perfect pasta. However, I shortly became disillusioned when I figured out that most soba noodles actually contain very little buckwheat. The noodles are still mostly made from white flour. Lesson: Read the package before you buy them.
I eventually found 100% buckwheat noodles but scoffed at the price. So I put them back.
I eventually found them again, but this time it was a different brand. And they were a much better price. So I bought some and then proceded to forget I had them.
Definitely great for a change, the buckwheat noodles are slightly nutty and cook in 4 minutes.
Here, I paired them with kale and red pepper and a simple sesame-miso sauce. A simple sauce, not due to a limited ingredient list. Rather because the ratio is almost all 1:1:1:1:1:2 (the original recipe was 1:1 for all ingredients but I thought it needed a bigger dose of lemon juice). The sauce is creamy, salty and tangy and coated the noodles and veggies well. I used some of the pasta water to thin the sauce but use as much as you like.
Instead of massaging the kale, I let the heat of the noodles wilt them. Easy, peasy. Because as much as I love raw kale salads, I am usually able to
trick convince others into doing the massaging. I hate getting my hands too dirty. ;)
(PS. This post was pre-approved. My Mom thought it was in good taste. Both the elephant and noodles. And a great post for Mother’s Day. I think she was just happy I was eating through my soba noodles.)
Other tahini sauces you may enjoy (because tahini is so much more versatile than hummus):
Bok Choy and Sesame Ginger Udon Noodles from 1000 Vegan Recipes (we’ve made these with red pepper added and enjoyed them)
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
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…)
Variety is the spice of life. It is possibly the best spice in the kitchen, too.
You can probably tell I like to experiment in my kitchen… so many great recipes to try and share. So many new things to explore.
You’d think I’d run out of repertoire. Me, too. Not yet, at least.
Case in point. I made yet another new hummus. This time I shunned the chickpea and traded it for roasted carrots. I kept my favourite hummus classics: fresh lemon juice (with a strong flavour from the zest, too), garlic and tahini. Smoked paprika and cumin for more depth of flavour. This is a very creamy dip. Lip-smacking good.
Faced with some leftover hummus after a party, I decided to turn it into a thick dressing for my salad. My last carrot (ginger sesame) dressing was paired with quinoa, avocado and tomato. This time, I juxtaposed it against black rice, tomatoes, baby greens and fresh herbs.
A note on black rice, possibly one of my favourite rices to date. When I cut fruit out on my sweetener-free challenge, I knew I was going to miss some of the many benefits from eating whole fruits: fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This was how I stumbled upon black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. It has a lovely short-grain rice feel similar to my favourite medium-grain brown rice with the added bonus of more protein and more anti-oxidants. Turns out that colourful is better for you, especially when talking about rice. I liked that the black rice wasn’t too sticky and had great flavour naked. As such, it was fun to throw it into this salad.
I ended up tossing it with an herbed spring mix (a mix of baby greens that includes dill, cilantro and parsley), which I thought brought this to the next level. Not the greens, but the herbs. I keep forgetting how simple herbs can totally elevate a dish from ho-hum to hoo-ya! Just a dash of fresh herbs was enough and in truth, the herb that stood out and complemented the salad best was the dill.
After I ate this salad, I had a bit of tummy rumblings. My Mom asked me what new foods I had eaten lately. Everything I eat is new. (Actually, at first I said nothing. Nothing crazy new) Except for the leftover hummus, everything else was new. It was my first time trying black rice and the herbed lettuce greens. Furthermore, I drank a mamey shake, too. Exciting times at the beginning of the week! ;)
Pinpointing culprits when eating fresh foods can be a challenge for me without a lot of sleuthing. Mostly free of FODMAPs other than the garlic, I don’t think that’s the problem. A repeat salad had no problems so who knows what it was. Perhaps the chocolate walnut dessert from the night before? Probably. Too many walnuts? Who knows… it isn’t a problem now. ;)
Here’s to more black rice. Have you tried it yet?
I have been meaning to write a post about kale for a while.
As 2013 began, I had a few friends inquire how best to eat kale. Be it resolved to eat more kale? It may be many moons later, but there is no better time than to eat more greens than yesterday. Or if you need a greener boost, how about upcoming St Paddy’s Day? ;)
I have talked about vegetable ratings before (Nutrition Action’s winner of the veggies is kale followed by other leafy veggies) but Dr Fuhrman’s ANDI (aggregate nutrient density index) score is probably more widely disseminated. Whole Foods has started to rate its produce by publicizing ANDI scores. While not a perfect system at all, it prioritizes nutrients per caloric cost. I agree with Anthony’s musings on the ANDI scores which suggests this may confuse people. Focus on whole foods, primarily vegetables and legumes with occasional fruits, grains, nuts and seeds. Why battle it out between greens, when one should try to rotate through them all? Kale, yes, but also Swiss chard, spinach and collards. Throw in Romaine lettuce and mixed baby mesclun greens. Go Asian with baby bok choy or another Asian green. Try out chicory to see if you like it more than me. ;)
I had elaborate plans to create a green eating guide, but as I waited, procrastinated, let life happen, others posted great greenery cooking summaries. Lindsay recently posted videos on how to strip and cook kale. I also found this nice guide from Epicurious. I will not reinvent the wheel but I will continue to share my green eats.
As I told my friends, be persistent. You may not like all greenery preparations right away. Instead of a raw kale salad, try kale chips. Add kale to your soups or stir fries, instead. Or
hideblend it into a smoothie or baked good. Slowly integrate them into your diet until you find something you like.
Here is a lengthy list of ideas for numerous greens. Raw, cooked, I’ve got you covered for your greens. Once I started, I just couldn’t keep away any of my favourites. I even limited myself to leafy greens. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are for another list.
Soups, Stews and Curries:
Stirfries, Skillets and Pastas:
Pizza topping (kale chips!):
As a side:
Inside a wrap with peanut dressing
As a wrap:
Plain Kale Chips (with a video)
The options with greens are endless. I continually find new recipes and new favourites.
Case in point: this Indian-spiced Chickpeas and Kale. Not authentic Indian but authentically good. Cumin, cardamom and ginger augment garam masala to create a quick dish with chickpeas and kale. A touch of tahini adds a hit of creaminess that transcends its small amount. The greens are wilted in a stir fry but fully flavoured and juicy. Paired with chickpeas, this makes a complete meal.
What is your favourite way to eat greens?
Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.
It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.
I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.
In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.
For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.
I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.
Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus (& What to do with leftover roasted sweet potatoes)
Some people hate leftovers. (hi Mom!)
Personally, I love them. I enjoy freshly cooked food, but I love not cooking after work even more.
This is how to re-purpose leftovers into something new. The best of both worlds?
Pre-roasted sweet potatoes can be integrated into different meals.
They can easily be added to your salad of the week, but for something a bit more different, add them into a curry-flavoured sweet potato hummus for a filling dip or sandwich spread. Even though I added lemon juice to Gena’s recipe, I found it lacking the tang and bite I associate with traditional hummus. In retrospect I probably should have added some garlic, too. Still a nice dip for crackers and veggies and it travelled well while snowshoeing.
Tired of hummus leftovers? Run out of crackers and veggies? Already added it to your sandwich/wrap? Trust me, there was a time when I couldn’t finish a batch of hummus within a week, so I understand. But now, I make a batch nearly every week. Carrots and hummus were my dessert of choice on my sweetener-free challenge.
In a land of plenty (and deficiency), you become creative. We had run out of roasted sweet potatoes but still wanted to make this carrot ginger lime soup. Of course, the reason we ran out of sweet potatoes is because I put them in the sweet potato hummus. So why not use the sweet potato hummus instead of the sweet potato? My only qualms about Tess’ original recipe for the soup is that it isn’t a meal-in-a-bowl. I prefer filling soups. Hummus, with the additional beans and tahini, adds the much needed protein and fat. A few crumbled Mary’s crackers and I had a delicious meal. One I wanted to remake hummus just to slurp the soup again when I returned home. Because it was that good and I wanted a photo to share, too.
Either way you make it, this is a simple soup. Boil nondairy milk with carrots until they are soft. Bake your sweet potato or go all out and make some sweet potato hummus. Then combine it along with ginger and lime in your blender. The cilantro topping is completely optional. Creamy, flavourful. A new way to enjoy hummus. Boo-yah! :)
Here are some other carrot soups that I’ve had my eye on:
Roasted Carrot and Lentil Soup with Harissa and Mint
Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Miso and Thyme
Moroccan Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame at Smitten Kitchen
Carrot Soup with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas at Smitten Kitchen
Carrot and Tahini Soup at Joanne Eats Well With Others
Carrot Ginger Soup with Tahini at Cara’s Cravings
Creamy Orange Sunshine Soup (Carrot/Orange/Ginger/Cashew) at Oh She Glows
Curried Carrot Parsnip Soup at Eating Appalachia
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Helen and Camilla, to this month’s No Croutons Required with soups/salads featuring leftovers and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.
This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden. ;)
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath. ;)
While in Montreal, it was a whirlwind of a trip between the wake and funeral. However, I successfully managed to visit Aux Vivres for a quick dinner with Rob, my Dad and grandmother. Rob and I went there during our last visit, and I wanted to return for a veggie-packed meal that would appeal to some of the most serious veggie critics (my Dad!).
I love the bowls at Aux Vivres because they are mostly loaded with veggies. They should be called veggie bowls, not rice bowls, because the rice is hidden at the bottom. You really have to dig around to find it. But when you do, it is some of the best rice I have tasted. Coupled with the vegetables, and any of their decadent sauces, you have a tasty meal on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong, Aux Vivres is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, but glancing at the menu, you are left thinking, I bet I could make this at home. Actually, when I tasted their miso tahini sauce from their Macro Bowl, I thought: I have this sauce at home, I just made it!
So when I got home, I was able to compile all the ingredients to make a great copy cat version of their Macro Bowl filled with wakame, sauerkraut, sprouts, steamed baby bok choy and brown rice. I skipped the steamed spinach.
I have been following this year’s Healthy Lunchbox Series (recap here) and was positively smitten when I saw Dawn’s post about bento boxes. Perusing her site, she had some incredibly cute lunches, including a barn made out of granola bars complete with watermelon animals and spinach grass. I almost died from its cuteness.
I thought I might try a much simpler bento box with this multi-component meal. After its assembly, I told Rob I was ready to go for our dinner picnic. However, I looked down and realized I was short possibly the most important component of the meal. The tempeh! I needed some emergency tempeh, and fast. Aux Vivres’ tempeh is actually fairly plain with limited marinade but I thought mine could use a bit of flavour. While Rob usually scoffs at Tess’ declarations of making meals in under 30 minutes, I quickly located a quickie tempeh recipe that still included the all-important steaming. A simple glaze of tamari, agave, toasted sesame oil and raw garlic was exactly what I needed. Perfecto. Under 30 minutes, mostly hands off, to boot, leaving me able to clean up the kitchen and snap a few photos as the tempeh caramelized away.
The verdict? The bento box was not really appropriate because the best part of the bowl is mixing it all up. I needed a bigger container for proper mixing. The salty sauerkraut, the briny wakame juxtaposed against the salty dressing and fresh greens. With them individually separated in the box, it was hard to mix them up. At least with my Salad in a Jar, I mix it up before I eat it. I may need to look into a layered version of this, too!
Have you ever tried to make a cute bento box? Just at these cuties!
This is being submitted to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for lunches, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Siri.
Our friends came over for a “Stress Free Friday” gathering. A chance to get together, chat, play games and such.
However, one of our friends forgot to write down our house number… but found our house without any trouble. Follow the kale and collards!, he told us. We are the only ones growing them on our street! :)
It has been a while since I’ve shared a garden update.
The good news: We are now harvesting green beans! Both Romano beans and Kentucky Wonder beans. I thought we weren’t going to get anything except for leaves (too much nitrogen?), but once Rob placed the tomato rings, the plants finally had something to hold onto and they shot up with tons of blossoms. And then over to our neighbour, too!
Last year, I only ever harvested a handful of beans at a time. While I kept a handful of dried pods so that I could plant them this year, I felt so sad, never having enough to make a real green bean dish. Not so, this year. I have harvested over 2 lbs so far. All in the span of a week. That may not sound like a lot but I am quickly going through my favourite green bean recipes. I am also being quite vigilant about my harvesting since if you leave the beans on the plant too long, they will become bitter.
Our herbs and collards are still growing strong. Except the basil, it grew too strong, too fast and I missed its lovely basil prime time. Now it is too zingy for me. I am definitely going back to the Pesto Perpetuo basil next year. I grew it last year and it never bolted. The only downside was that the leaves are smaller.
The not so bad news: My dinosaur kale plants have this funny white bug on them. It has been there a while, and I used to just clean it off before I ate it. However, now it looks like the poor plants are suffering. Anyone know what it could be and a natural way to remove them?
The ugly news: After all our efforts with the kabocha squash plants, they all died. I saved 2 squashes but I think the bugs got to them first. Boo. My zucchini plant hasn’t made any zucchinis either. Am I squash-cursed?
Now onto the food:
The good news: I am on a dolma kick. I made some kick-ass dolmas that I will share soon.
The not so bad news: I made a cranberry lemon tahini dip to go with said super fabulous dolmas. The cranberry lemon tahini dip was also super delicious. But somehow, super fabulous + super delicious did not make super super fabulous delicious. Instead they clashed. Both the dolmas (spiced with allspice, cinnamon and cherries!!) and the dip (cranberry, lemon, tahini) had strong flavours that didn’t work out so well together. However, separate, still very good.
At first, I thought the dip was a bit too sweet from the cranberries, so I added more lemon. The tahini adds a decadent silkiness to the dip. After an overnight chill in the refrigerator, it was perfect. I hummed and hawed over what to do with my dip now that I didn’t want it with my dolmas. Throw it into a collard wrap? Smother it onto broccoli slaw with some tempeh?
My brain went all fancy. My hands went simple. I took the freshly picked green beans and scooped up the dip. No adornments needed. Just crisp veggies. Serve this sweet dip with your favourite veggies and crackers… or go fancy and make me jealous. :)
This is a quick post to remind anyone in the GTA that this weekend is the Vegetarian Food Festival, the largest vegetarian food festival in the world.
I went yesterday and had a blast. There were some awesome speakers and cooking demos. I enjoyed seeing Lisa and Nicole discuss tips for how to eat for cheap while still keeping health in the forefront. They shared delicious samples (and recipes) for a chocolate chip brownie bar with avocado frosting, an herbed tahini dip and homemade nut butter and almond milk. It was also great to see Isa Chandra Moskowitz who demo’ed her Beet Burgers and Carrot Bisque. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to Terry Hope Romero’s demo of her olive-flecked seitan gyros with a tzatziki cucumber dill sauce which I think is from her upcoming cookbook, Vegan Eats World.
I also had fun checking out over 100 vendors of vegetarian and vegan food, treats, equipment, books, and clothes. There were many vendors that I had never seen before so I enjoyed being able to sample their foods to see what I liked. A shout-out to Manitoba Harvest who had samples of hemp hearts and their protein powders (they had coupons for my favourite Hemp Pro 70, too!), samples and great deals on Camino Chocolate Bars, and the absolute best (hands-on) non-dairy milks by The Bridge. It seemed like a bit of a teaser since they don’t have a storefront yet (coming soon, she told me), but all their drinks were silky, smooth and sweet despite no sugar additives (not even stevia and the like). The varieties I tried include included milk from kamut, quinoa, farro/spelt, oats, and rice + hazelnuts. They reminded me of the fabulous brown basmati rice milk Rob and I bought at Eataly. Totally in a league of their own in the realm of non-dairy milks (price-wise, too, I am sure). Definitely don’t pass up the chance to try them. The raw salads dressings from RawFoodz were also very nice. I also picked up a wallet from Matt & Nat and some Hurraw lip balms from Nice Shoes.
To celebrate all things vegan, I am sharing a non-traditional yet homely rendition of a classic vegan dish: tofu scramble. This one uses both chickpeas and crumbled tofu as its base and is coated in a delicious lemony-hummus-tahini sauce. Pan-roasted tomatoes add a nice burst of sweetness and I tossed this all over fresh baby spinach. I have also made this with the spinach wilted into the dish, which was also lovely.
So what are you waiting for? Head down to Harbourfront for the vegetarian festival and if you can’t make it, celebrate at home with your own vegan creations.
I am really impressed by British/Irish chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi, Denis Cotter and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had never heard of him before I saw praise for his new vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Everyday Veg.
What I love most about these chefs is that they turn humble vegetables into something extraordinary. First, I tried Hugh’s quinoa salad with caramelized onions and zucchini that was a sleeper hit. I loved the sweetness from such simple ingredients. Then there was the Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili which used red wine with zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes to make a savoury chili.
Tell me which vegetable you like the least. Probably something local that comes up in overabundance in the summer. You can tolerate it in moderation, but week after week of the same vegetables can get boring. I would probably pick green beans. While I have made some great dishes with them, I don’t find them that versatile. Zucchini, on the other, doesn’t taste like much, but can be used in so many creative ways.
I was drawn to make Hugh’s tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes as a spotlight to local, seasonal ingredients. I wasn’t sure it would be a filling meal, but green beans are beans and along with the lemon-tahini dressing, this voluminous salad was perfect.
While this may seem initially like a finicky salad, look at it as a main course to soothe your qualms. Relish in cooking each component to bring out its best: lightly sear the zucchini until golden, then dress in some lemon juice and chile flakes. Steam your green beans until tender crisp. Plate on top of your favourite baby greens, sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drizzle with your dressing. The dressing is nice and light, without being too oily or heavy (I reduced the oil and sugar since I used Meyer lemons). Enjoy this best as a warm salad directly after preparing it. Leftovers are nice cold when slathered in the dressing.
I know many people had their doubts, but yes, you can travel to Colombia as a vegan! Meat and fish abound on resto menus, but thankfully beans are a common vegan staple which were my savior. Fruits and fruit juices abound, and simple salads are also a common feature. Veggie sides are usually fried plantains, yuca or potatoes. Rice, although white rice, is a plenty.
Because I wanted to minimize the fried resto foods, and continue to eat vegan, Rob and I planned for a successful vegan-friendly trip to Colombia. I thought I’d share with you our strategies for vegan eating in Colombia (and no, Rob did not only eat vegan on the trip, too).
1. Plan Ahead – Book accommodations with refrigerators and kitchens
For general Colombian travel advice, definitely plan ahead. All of our accommodations had fridges available and the majority gave me access to a kitchen, as well. Staying in private rooms in hostels is a great way to get the perks of a hostel (kitchen, fridge, social events) as well as the privacy you want from a hotel room. Our hostel‘s kitchen in Salento was so well-stocked it even had a blender and sandwich press! Definitely the marker of a great hostel. :)
2. Bring snacks and protein powder
I brought a few meals and snacks with me to tide me over on the plane and after our arrival. See my new favourite non-traditional hummus recipe, below! I also brought some protein powder as an emergency if I needed a meal replacement, but also to add to whatever breakfast may be. Thankfully I was never without a vegan meal so I just used it with breakfast, as per usual.
3. Bring some cooking essentials
Planning on eating leftovers? Bring some containers to hold them. I was really impressed with my collapsible containers which were leak-proof, sturdy and collapsed easily when empty. I also cannot travel without a small paring knife that I protect with a knife case (obviously needs to go in checked baggage). Ziploc bags are also essential for oodles of things. Just make sure you know which bags had your sunscreen and which were holding food. Do not mix. :P
4. Figure out where you can eat
First, you need to know how to ask for vegan eats which you can find at most restaurants. Happy Cow was also great for locating vegan-friendlier restaurants and health food stores, even if limited in number. Sol del la India was a favourite of ours in Cartagena. I also consulted a few other blogs with vegetarian reviews from Colombian restaurants. Definitely scope out local fruit and vegetable markets as well as grocery stores for other purchases if cooking yourself. The typical Colombian breakfast is coffee/tea/juice, toast, eggs in some form (omelet or scrambled), sometimes an arepa, and fruit. Our B&B in Bogota was kind enough to make oatmeal specifically for me. We ended up cooking our own oatmeal at places that didn’t supply an adequate breakfast.
5. Do a cooking class
We started off our trip in Bogota and as you know, I was really excited about the cooking class. While we needed a Spanish translator (Juan was a vegan, to boot!), we were able to cook with a native Bogotan, in her humble abode that even had fruit trees within her courtyard. This was Dona Elsa’s first vegan cooking class and she was receptive to my requests to make a surplus of food for me to take home with me as leftovers. I was excited to try some new-to-me vegetables prepared ala Colombiano. We ended up making the traditional Colombian salad with avocado, a huge amount of vegetable soup (sancocho without chicken, filled with fava beans, green peas, green beans, squash/pumpkin (auyama), green plantains, carrot, corn, spinach and cilantro), frijoles (Colombian beans), yucca frita (fried yucca), patacones (refried plantains), papa fritas (fried criolle potatoes), fresh lulo juice along with a dessert that I forgot to write down. I was antsy about eating the fried foods but they were great. In fact, these were one of the best meals of the entire trip. The patacones and yucca fritas could not be duplicated elsewhere, in ay resto or when I made them myself in a hostel (I went for a non-stick, low-oil option). Sadly, I know the secret: frying in lots of oil. Twice. ;) Not only was I armed with leftovers, I was now more familiar with the local ingredients and how to prepare them.
Here for the hummus recipe, instead? I don’t blame you… ;)
I don’t know why, but I don’t make hummus on a regular basis. I break it out for parties and when I am travelling. This is currently my favourite non-traditional hummus. It takes a bit more work than your standard hummus, but the results are great. First, you need to saute some shallots (or onion) with rosemary to infuse a small amount of oil for your hummus. Ground pistachios and a touch of tahini are the base for this version that is also spiced with maple syrup and cinnamon. I didn’t think rosemary would pair so well with this, but it was a phenomenal hummus. Sweet, yet savoury. Lighter with the additional water, it isn’t as creamy as a decadent hummus, but you could add more tahini or oil to taste. In short, perfect for me. Enjoy!
Other hummus flavours:
Today, though, I will be eating salad.
Intellectually, I understand the value of a great sauce or dressing. Sometimes, it is a sauce that makes a dish. With a salad, fresh greens are great but the avenue it will taste will depend entirely on your dressing. It is probably no surprise that one can take classes specifically for Sauces and Marinades at George Brown College Culinary School.
While I make oodles of salads, there is only one dressing that I’ve popped into my leafy green salad repertoire. The super simple 3-2-1 dressing, where I sometimes have to remind myself which ingredient goes with the 2 and 1. (Note: Balsamic=3. Mustard=2. Maple syrup=1.)
I am trying to make life less complicated in the kitchen this year, and I am doing that partly by focusing on different dressings and sauces. This way, I can throw them on a multitude of dishes – whether as a hearty bean or grain salad, something with leafy greens, or even used in a stir-fry, etc.
The first dressing I want to highlight is this uber delicious tahini balsamic dressing that I spotted at Choosing Raw. I am loving all things tahini lately and balsamic remains one of my favourite vinegars, so I was eager to try out her dressing.
I dipped my finger into the dressing to test it out. Trust me, I licked it clean.. and another finger, just to make sure it was still so good. It passed the taste test again. I had to make sure I kept some for my salad!
The tahini provides a nutty and creamy backdrop accented by the sweet balsamic vinegar. The garlic adds a bit more complexity. The water thins it out so this isn’t heavy like oil- or mayo-based dressings. Use it anywhere you’d enjoy a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.
Its initiation into my kitchen was with a light yet hearty quinoa and chickpea salad punctated by bursts of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and slivered kale. I usually massage my kale, but here, it countered the quinoa and beans nicely with its crunch. I added the dressing just before I ate so that it would still be quite light. I assumed the quinoa could probably absorb a heck of a lot more of the dressing, but this way it was wonderful. I also made a quinoa-less salad later in the week, subbing collards for the kale which was possibly even better.
I know I could drip the dressing onto anything but I was sufficiently content with my salads for the week. Definitely let me know how you enjoy it! I bet it would be wonderful on kale chips, too!
I like to think of myself as a self-taught cook. Although, technically, I took the introductory course in George Brown College’s Culinary Arts Program a few years ago. Exploring new vegan meals through cookbooks and blogs has been the real way that I have learned so much about cooking and my kitchen. I continue to share my recipes, hoping to share the little tips and wisdom that I have picked up on the way.
While I am fairly adept in the kitchen, the garden still remains a mystery to me. Sun, shade, companion plants, pests and bugs, oh my! Then there’s the proper way to grow them, how to feed them water and other nutrients… and finally how to properly harvest. It feels like there are so many things to learn about even after picking out the so-called “easy” plants I want in my garden.
Last year we had our first garden and not everything was successful. This year, in a new home, a new garden, we decided to keep things simpler: potted herbs, beans, zucchini and kale in the garden with more kale and collards interspersed amongst the garden. Then there’s the impulse buy of kabocha squash. Four tiny plants have morphed into GIGANTIC plants, seemingly overnight (hey, we were in Colombia). After a month, my plants are at least 5 feet long, with numerous flowers. Upon further reading, I am kind of regretting the purchase. Most people recommend covering the plants to keep away the pests. They suggest opening the covers for only 2 hours so that the blossoms can be pollinated, it must be pretty bad. Furthermore, did you know that squashes need to be dried while on the vine? Kabocha squashes, in particular, need to be stored initially at a high temperature and then again at a cool temperature for long-term storage? Sounds like these crazy vines are staying here all summer, oh my!
Another mystery to me is that I cannot seem to grow dill. Dill weed. It is supposed to be so prolific many consider it a weed. Both this year and last, my seeds did not sprout. This year, I also bought some seedlings. After returning from Colombia, they disappeared. I am guessing they died. I know they don’t like to be transplanted, but I was hopeful. Oh dear.
My other herbs are doing well, so I will have to rely on the grocer (and friends!) for my dill fix.
Have an abundance of dill? Or just a lover of dill? Definitely try these garlic-roasted chickpeas with a creamy lemon-dill dressing. It had been a while since I’ve had pan-roasted chickpeas, which were a favourite of mine 2 years ago, so I decided to break them out with this creamy lemon-dill dressing from Angela. She used it with tofu but the garlicky chickpeas worked well, too. This was glorious fresh from the pan, but due to the creamy nature of the dressing, it was absorbed by the chickpeas as leftovers and became a bit dry. If you think you might be going the leftover route, consider only adding the dressing just prior to serving.
Anyone have tips for growing dill weed? Should I try again?
In much the same way as there is an art to using up the last of your fresh produce before you head away for vacation, I think there is an art to keeping a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something fresh. I want the greens.
While I hate asking for rides, at the airport, it is nice to be picked up by a familiar face. I still remember returning from Japan to friendly faces and in addition to a quick ride home, they also had a few things to get me through to my first grocery run. At that time in my pre-vegan days, it was eggs, bagels, fruit and some leftover soup. With an empty fridge, it was a glorious gesture.
While Rob and I are good at taking transit to the airport, this meant we didn’t have any room to stop for groceries with all our luggage on the subway. In any case, while we came home to an empty fridge, it wasn’t so empty after all.
Granted, we were only gone for two weeks, so we still had a few grapefruits and apples for my usual breakfast routine. Onions and carrots in the crisper keep well, too. Cabbage, too. Thankfully garlic lasts, as do other citrus like lemons and limes. When in season, winter squashes can be stored outside the fridge. Frozen staples also work well: spinach, vegetables and herbs. I also keep my cooked beans in the freezer.
I always tell myself I will stop coming back from vacations on Sundays, only to be back at work on Monday, but we never learn. Returning from vacation means I also need to find quick-cooking meals that I can make after work, amongst unpacking, laundry and all that jazz from the vacation wrap-up.
Scrap the brown rice. It can take a long time to cook. Instead, I bastardized Gena’s Greek Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) by substituting quinoa. It takes half the time to cook, making a quick and tasty soup. Bright and fresh from the lemon , creamy from the tahini with depth of flavour from the miso, dill and nutritional yeast. Considering traditional avgolemono is made with eggs, the quinoa bastardization seems quite tame.. and quite the fanciful adaptation from the original. Regardless, this is a filling and delicious soup. Enjoy!