I am a victim of my own success.
Nearly a year ago, I started my whole foods vegan diet, or vegan on steroids as Rob likes to put it. I did it primarily for health and environmental concerns and haven’t looked back.
No, really, there is no turning back. I know some people wonder why I can’t just eat something if it has meat broth, or snack on whole wheat bread, or just eat the darn white rice. There is a reason for my choices and I don’t want to compromise. Not all vegan food is healthy.
On the rare occasion, I have made small compromises. Last summer, I went to a potluck where a friend didn’t know about my food choices and quickly whipped up some deep-fried tofu-and-lotus root croquettes for me. I should have stuck to my lentil salad, but I also nibbled on a rice dish and the croquettes. I left that night with a belly beyond bloated. At the time, we thought maybe I had mistakenly eaten something with shrimp (of which I do have allergies) because I reacted so badly.
I have travelled a lot this year, some for vacation, other times for interviews and this time for a conference. I have become really good at planning for success: finding a grocery store and appropriate restaurants, if need be. This time, I returned to my favourite Vancouver hotel not only because it is affordable, but because I have a mini-fridge in my room and access to a communal kitchen. I also know that T&T is close for me to pick up affordable groceries. Because I didn’t have to cross borders, I brought some veggies, hummus (this Ginger-Lime-Wasabi Edamame Hummus!) and some leftovers with me to tie me over until I was able to shop at T&T. I even brought a dressing in anticipation of buying frozen edamame, a quick and easy way for me to get my bean fix.
I was pretty diligent about picking up some produce to bring me back to my normal routine: tea and grapefruit to start the day. I planned for a simple oatmeal+flax+fruit breakfast, but instead was wooed by Ruth’s Chia Goodness at T&T. Basically it is a souped up chia pudding and I am adamant to recreate it for my next travel destination. It is easier than my portable overnight oats since I have been using water as the liquid instead of nondairy milk. I picked up a bunch of veggies to make some collard wraps with my hummus (pea shoots, carrots and cucumber), and edamame for my bean salad.
However, I left Toronto’s balmy summer weather and was greeted by Vancouver’s cold and wet conditions. In the span of an hour, I can see it pouring torrential rain, followed by some snow/sleet and then the sun will come out and dry it all away. With this chilling weather, by the time a few days rolled around, the last thing I wanted to eat was another cold salad or wrap.
While I had earlier success at some nearby raw restaurants (Gorilla Food‘s Main St Monkey sandwich is so good!), I scoped out some hot vegan eats at nearby Nuba, a Lebanese resto with many vegan options. I had enjoyed my meal there last year, so I was eager to have a large glass of carrot-beet-ginger-lime juice, as well as mujaddara. I also opted for a small side of Najib’s special: crispy cauliflower with lemon and sea salt, with a tahini sauce. Unfortunately, a few hours later, I had a bloated belly… However, a few days later, I thought maybe their red lentil soup and falafels could sooth my cold soul. Not so. Within minutes of finishing my plate, my belly was bloated again. I thought I had picked hearty bean dishes, but my plan had been foiled. Even when I don’t know what the offending food is, my belly cannnot be fooled.
In retrospect, I have blamed it on the deep-frying.The mujaddara had deep-fried crispy onions, that crispy cauliflower – yeah, it was deep-fried, too, and those falafels were also deep-fried. Suffice it to say, I don’t deep-fry anything at home and this was probably what caused my troubles.
You see, I cannot go back to my old ways.
Many bloggers have recently adopted a vegetarian, vegan or whole foods way of eating. I would love to know if you’ve experienced the same since changing. Before I went whole foods, I never really had any digestive issues. Now, a small deviation into junk can easily trigger something nasty. Annie recently said she notices changes immediately when she deviates from her vegan, gluten-free diet.
Anyways, back to the hummus. Hummus is the perfect travel food in my opinion, because all you need are some veggies to dip and you are good to go! It can also go a bit more fancy with a collard wrap or a hummus dressing for a raw kale salad. While I prefer the traditional recipe, you can easily mix things up with different flavours – any takers for pomegranate red pepper or Indian-spiced? This time, I opted for a spin off of Gena’s Ginger Lime Edamame Hummus which I had immediately bookmarked last summer.
I’ve made some fabulously creamy edamame dips (edamame miso dip and edamame guacamole), so I knew this wouldn’t disappoint. I liked Gena’s suggestion for ginger and lime. Instead of tobasco sauce, though, I added wasabi powder to continue with the Asian theme. It contrasted nicely with the sharp bite from the ginger and the acidity from the lime, all the while creamy from the edamame and tahini.
Yet another successful variation on hummus. I think I will warm it up to counteract my shunning of all cold foods.
It all started when I basically made my own tahini with freshly roasted sesame seeds to go with sauteed spinach for Terry’s oshitashi recipe (Sesame Wow Greens). So good, yet so simple.
Then, I discovered tahini heaven. I had heard that tahini could taste so good that one could eat it straight from the jar. Not so with my previous brand. But now I am a tahini-convert after spreading my way through Prince’s tahini: smooth, rich and creamy with a deep sesame flavour. I love it! I want to eat it with everything! I honestly wonder if I should try out Deb’s Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad again (I found it too bitter the first time) because my tahini was probably at fault.
This time, I went heavy with the tahini. I spotted this recipe in The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (recipe here) and thought 1/3 cup of tahini would be great simmered with tempeh and green beans. I liked it but it wasn’t as sesame heavy as I was anticipating. The dressing, of course, also had lemon juice, broth, tamari and mirin, creating a more complex flavour palate. Nice and light, and quite soupy, too, and easy to put together. The tempeh was a bit more meaty and juicy because I pre-steamed it, dry-fried it to lock in the shape and then simmered in the sesame broth. The green beans were a perfect match. Serve with quinoa so that you can savour this down to the last drop of sauce.
Barring hummus, what is your favourite way to use tahini?
Here are some other tahini recipes I’ve had my eye on:
Miso Tahini Magic Sauce from Fresh Young Coconut
Smoky Red Pepper, Chickpea and Tahini Dressing from Choosing Raw
Miso Sesame Dressing from Choosing Raw
Low-Fat Tahini-Chickpea Dressing from Fat Free Vegan
Orange-Miso-Tahini Gravy from My New Roots
Carrot Ginger Tahini Soup from Kahakai Kitchen
Beet, Tahini and Pomegranate Dip (Mama Dall’ou’ah) from Taste of Beirut
Roasted Carrot Hummus from Enlightened Cooking
Tofu Tahini Scramble from Choosing Raw
Burnt Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegrante from Ottolenghi
Noodles with a Lemon-Miso-Tahini Sauce from ExtraVeganZa
Tangy Tahini Noodles with Tempeh and Vegetables from Julia’s Vegan Kitchen
Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles from Vegan Yum Yum
Creamy Kale Soup with Tahini from Vegan Yum Yum
Quinoa Pilaf with Spiced Miso Tahini Sauce from Sweet Potato Soul
Spinach, Chickpea and Tahini Soup from Soup Chick
Coleslaw just sounds so 1980s.
I know it was probably a disservice to rename the Raw Pad Thai as Coleslaw with a Spicy Almond Dressing. I mean, coleslaw? How lame…
How about cabbage salad? The word coleslaw originates from the Dutch word koolsla which means cabbage (kool) salad (sla). Same thing, then!
But why am I raving about a cabbage slaw, you may be wondering…
Well, for some reason I have been craving fresh cabbage. A sweet, crunch salad with a hint of cabbage-y tartness.
So I made this and ate it throughout the day… lunch, snack and dinner….
The nice thing about this salad is the dressing, which I adapted from My New Roots. Not mayo-laden like typical coleslaws. Rather, tahini is used as a creamy base and the sesame is highlighted by toasted sesame oil and freshly toasted sesame seeds. The fresh twist comes from the orange zest and fresh lemon juice. Cilantro perks up the salad with further crunch from sunflower seeds.
The next day, I was sad I had none left and craved it once again… and so the cycle repeats itself!
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Simple and In Season, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s citrus love blog hop.
Grain bowls are easy to make. Pick a grain, slather with some dressing and top with your favourite veggies, nuts and seeds.
Try to pick a theme: like this sushi bowl with brown rice, topped with asparagus, avocado and toasted nori sheets. Or my millet bowl, topped with cooked spinach, leek and toasted pumpkin seeds. Or my more recent Dragon quinoa bowl, topped with roasted veggies in a miso gravy.
This time, I wanted Middle Eastern flavours and picked a broccoli salad as the base and topped it with baked quinoa falafels, finished with a drizzle of a tahini-miso sauce!
Let’s dissect the anatomy of my bowl:
1) Broccoli Base. I prefer lightly steamed broccoli, so I steamed large florets for a short period of time. I cut them into small pieces after they had cooled.
2) Quinoa Falafel from Whole Foods to Thrive. These were definitely the star of the bowl. These baked falafels are made with cooked quinoa and flax and spiced with miso, tahini, nutritional yeast, onion, garlic and oregano. After broiling them, they are nice and crispy on the outside and chewy, yet soft and creamy on the inside, loaded with tons of flavours. I don’t like greasy, dense falafels, so these nuggets were perfect for me.
3) Tahini-Miso Sauce from the Cheesy Broccoli Bowl from Whole Foods to Thrive. The dressing for this salad is addictive, although I wouldn’t call it cheezy. It has a more pronounced tahini-miso flavour but still delicious. I opted to toss half the dressing with the broccoli and reserved half for the falafel. I preferred the dressing when I could taste it in large amounts, so next time I may not even dress the broccoli and simply drizzle it overtop prior to serving.
I follow a lot of food blogs. When I started to use Google Reader, maybe only 6 months ago or so, somehow I effortlessly started reading more and more food blogs. My last count was 232 subscriptions (eek!).
I read blogs for many different reasons: to be inspired by the recipes or techniques; to learn more about ingredients or different ethnic cuisines; and lately to open my culinary repertoire into vegan (and raw) cooking.
Some blogs post tried-and-true recipes, and maybe it is just my poor luck, but sometimes I get lackluster results from other bloggers. It might seem like I have been ragging on her alot recently, I actually adore Angela’s positive message on Oh She Glows. I just haven’t had too much luck with her recipes. I find her overnight oats a bit too liquidy for me, her split pea and spinach soup and white bean pesto dip underflavoured and more recently, her tahini-avocado chickpea salad also lacked spunk. Nothing that I couldn’t fix myself, but you just know you will have to continually assess the dish at every step.
Like a mouse drawn blindly to cheese, I am still tempted by her recipes. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, because I know we share some similar tastes. While I haven’t tried her version, I also adore the Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. I just have to do a lot of tweaking to follow her recipes.
With this in mind, I assessed her Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl with caution, despite the many positive reviews in the comments. It looked like a wonderful clean-your-fridge recipe, but I knew I wanted to load it up with vegetables. I scaled back the lentils and swapped the spelt berries for bulgur. I doubled the vegetables, used leek instead of onion, added in 2 red bell peppers, some snow peas, tomato and spinach. Because I adore lemon, I increased the lemon flavour by adding in the zest from the lemons as well. With less grains and beans, but more vegetables, I kept the same amount of dressing. Finally, an adapted OSG’s recipe worthy to share!
Here, a zippy creamy sauce is simmered with the vegetable medley that is speckled with lentils. The black lentils hold their shape well, as do the French du Puy lentils, which would also work great here. Green lentils would also work ok. I was lucky to have a leftover leek waiting in the fridge, but onions or shallots could also be used. For the vegetables, pick your favourites but I liked that the fresh tomatoes, with their juices, deglazed the pan nicely. Serve with your choice of grain, mixed into the skillet or served on the side.
Returning from vacation the day before you return to work is not a good idea. Jet-lag was one reason it took me so long to get back into the groove after returning from Iceland.
Thankfully, I was forward-thinking and froze a bunch of meals before we left. I had dal bhat waiting for me upon my return as well as this delicious Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew from Susan at Fat Free Vegan.
Just like dal bhat, this was a savoury, comforting stew. Filled with warming spices like nutmeg, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and cardamom, you have a winning combination with silky yellow split peas and chunks of seitan in a pomegranate-infused sauce. I modified it only slightly by using liquid smoke and substituting Aleppo chili flakes for the larger chilies.
I have made seitan, or wheat meat, once before as chorizo sausages. This recipe is neat because you make a batch of seitan specifically for this recipe. The results are chewy nuggets admixed within the cooked eggplant and split peas. A nice play of textures with a definite protein boost.
This was a delicious stew to return home to, especially since it was so cold upon our return. Curl up with a bowl of stew any day you need some a virtual warm hug from a bowl.
While Rob snacked on the local Icelandic delicacies including sweet rye bread, fish and lamb (not the fermented shark meat!), he still thought his best meal was at Glo. I went nearly every day and sometimes he would join in for a meal. His favourite meal was a totally non-Icelandic Moroccan vegetable tagine with couscous. I am still impressed at how wonderful Glo was, considering Iceland has a total of 300,000 people living on the whole island and nearly all produce needs to be imported.
I was warned that I may only find tomatoes and cucumbers in the grocery stores, but trust me, there was much than that available. There were lots of (although at times underripe) fruit at my breakfast buffet in Rekjavik, and the veggies were unparalleled at Glo. In the rural areas, the food was a bit more slim picking, but I had stocked up while in the city. Glo even sells day bags, where you can buy 3 raw meals encompassing breakfast, lunch and dinner with juice and snacks. All for the same price as a fancy dinner Rob would enjoy.
There were some traditional Icelandic products that I enjoyed. They have some fabulous homegrown herbal teas and I brought some home. We also spotted some new Yogi teas, including a delicious Aztec Sweet Chili and Mayan Cocoa Spice that we’ve already finished (eek!). Sadly, I don’t think they even sell them in Canada.
In anticipation of not finding much to eat, I made another batch of hummus for the trip.
A creamy tahini-based hummus is given the royal treatment with red pepper and pomegranate molasses. Muhammara meets hummus.
While I am happy to have found a new recipe for my red pepper paste, substitute a roasted red pepper for the red pepper paste. The paste is just so much easier since it comes out of a jar.
And yes, pomegranate molasses makes the world so much tastier.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
Hummus, hummus, hummus….
So many different recipes, why even bother following one?
That’s how Rob thinks… and my Mom…
Me, I like to follow recipes.. This way I know I have reproducible results. Not a one-hit wonder.
In fact, my Mom made this first, following the low-fat recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. My family devoured it. My Dad said he’d gladly eat it any time.
The next time my Mom made hummus, she ad-libbed it. It wasn’t the same.
The hummus looked the same, but it wasn’t as bright and flavourful. It wasn’t as creamy. It just wasn’t as good.
And to be honest, this photo doesn’t match my recipe (it is still hummus, though!). I didn’t even photograph the party hummus, because why would I blog yet another hummus recipe? Well, let’s just say there was no hummus left by the end of the party and I had a few recipe requests. That doesn’t happen very often for traditional hummus. Healthy, lower fat hummus, at that.
My mom thinks this vegan stuff is just a phase. Just as I go through other phases in my cooking, she tried to rationalize. She explained that first I was into cooking Japanese after my trip to Japan (all those soba noodles, Janet!), then Middle Eastern after visiting Turkey and Moroccan after my trip to Morocco. Each time, I venture into new cookbooks, find new spices, but truly, I incorporate everything I learn into all my meals. New ingredients, new flavours and new techniques.. it is all a learning process, as life should be. And yes, my pantry continues to gather new and exciting staples.
Granted, I can only eat so much, so I might tackle different cuisines in spurts. A little of Morocco here, a side trip to Brazil here, a quick jet to Egypt and then returning back to Japan. In these around-the-world culinary experiences, sometimes I forget how much I like certain ingredients. Case in point: miso. Last year, I bought miso for the first time to make baked eggplant with miso, which I adored at restos and could easily make at home. I also made miso-crusted black cod and a few other dishes which were great but then I went to Turkey… and forgot about miso.
Until, I made a Japanese winter stew with a miso-based broth. That kick-started it again. Loved it. It wasn’t the star of the meal, but it added an extra dimension. Then I made the orange-beet soup that had an extra twist from the miso. Followed up by the exquisitely delicious zesty orange cashew spread, I knew I had rediscovered an old favourite ingredient.
Plus, the great thing about miso is that I still had the same package from last year. It keeps forever in your fridge!! Discover it, forget about it, but let yourself rediscover it as you clean out your fridge.
I made this for Rob’s birthday, which had a Japanese-theme for his meal, and I loved it as an Asian spin on hummus. You use creamy edamame instead of chickpeas, but you still have lots of garlic and tahini for the prototypical hummus flavour. Instead of traditional lemon juice, lime juice is used. Throw in some spinach for some greenery, and you have a healthy, delicious dip.
It is not just a hummus made with edamame. I had the Trader Joe’s edamame hummus after eating this dip and was sorely disappointed – where was the miso?
It is creamy, smooth, salty with a bit of zip. Without knowing the ingredients, it is hard to place the flavours exactly, but you know it tastes great. Serve it with veggies, pita bread, or as a spread for a sandwich.
I was almost worried I didn’t like tahini. I adore hummus, but usually make it without tahini. You might not believe it, but I try not to have too many wacky ingredients in my cupboard. I try (I swear!), but don’t succeed very well, hehe. I just bought nigella seeds, so shoot me.
So I bought tahini to make Smitten Kitchen’s highly praised Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing. Warm butternut squash and chickpeas, it sounds right up my alley! But I hated it. It was way too bitter. I couldn’t even finish it. It is the first SK recipe that has disappointed me. Oh, and Deb’s shakshuka was too spicy for me to enjoy. I have to tinker with that one, too.
But I persevered. Rivka’s recipe on Food52 for yam, zucchini and chickpea salad called out to me. It had less tahini, so I was hopeful I would enjoy the salad. I also pulled out some of my other kitchen tricks to kick this salad over the top. First, I roasted the yam until soft and sweet (leftover roasted sweet potatoes and yams from thanksgiving would work great here!). Roasted zucchini was also added, which added a nice lightness to the salad.The broiler added the extra caramelization needed to bring this to the next level.
Next, the simple dressing was a winner. A bit of lemon with a dash of tahini. Creamy, nutty, full-bodied flavour that worked so well with the yams, zucchini and chickpeas. A delicious, healthy, satisfying salad. Perfect.
It wasn’t until I had roasted sweet potatoes over Thanksgiving that I forgot how much I love roasted sweet potatoes and yam. I look forward to trying other recipes in the coming weeks. Here are a selection that have caught my eye:
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos in Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites
Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos at Allrecipes
Quinoa with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes from Mischief
Turkish Sweet Potato & Apricot Rolls from Eating Out Loud
Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Couscous Salad from Patty’s Food
Lentils with Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Avocado & Bravado
African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup from Food Blogga
Ottolenghi’s Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato found at Alphabet Soup
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring sesame, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Dil Se, and to Torview’s Food Palette Series featuring orange dishes.