Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad!
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
Are you familiar with The Dish column in the Toronto Star?
They routinely give the nutritional stats of local eats based on laboratory analysis. Not surprisingly, most meals get a failing grade.
Salad King’s Chicken Pad Thai: 1114 calories and 3479mg of sodium
Burrito Boyz’s Steak Burrito: 1000 calories and 1452mg of sodium
Veggie options are not usually any better:
Gandhi’s Spinach and Paneer Roti: 1482 calories and 3360mg of sodium
a1 Sweet’s Indian veggie thali: 1690 calories and 2134mg of sodium
And what about vegan eats? Not any better.
Urban Herbivore’s sweet potato date muffin (just one! one muffin!) is 986 calories and 689 mg of sodium.
And supposedly “healthy” restos? Depends on what you order:
Fresh’s Buddha Bowl (brown rice bowl with peanut sauce, tofu cucumber, tomato, cilantro, bean sprouts and peanuts) is 1168 calories and 1076mg of sodium
And Fresh’s Green Goddess Bowl (steamed bok choy, kale, swiss chard and broccoli with grilled tempeh, pickled ginger, toasted sunflower seeds, tahini sauce, toasted nori and ginger tamari sauce) is only 687 calories with 647mg of sodium.
Moral of the story? If you are eating out, be mindful of your portion sizes and the amount of non-veggies…. and preferably, only eat half your meal.
This always encourages me to try my hand at making the food at home, more in tune to my regular portion sizes. The culprits for the giant calorie counts are mostly due to the sheer amount of food, including heaping portions of rice and rich sauces. Fresh’s Green Goddess Bowl is lighter because it is filled with less caloric dense green veggies.
And yes, because I still couldn’t get Hot Bean’s peanut miso sauce out of my head, I made another version.
Last time, it was just chickpeas and broccoli but this time I went more extravagant by adding spaghetti squash, shallots and sesame seeds to the chickpeas and broccoli. I also wanted to test my theory of a thicker sauce by using some toasted sesame oil with the peanut butter and miso dressing.
Compared to my last attempt, this dressing was thicker, coating the veggies nicely. This version also had a more pronounced sesame flavour from the toasted sesame oil. In fact, a little of the sauce goes a long way. Big bold flavours means you don’t need to use as much. If you like it to cover everything, thin it or make a double batch. Both dressings were good, though. Side-by-side, I preferred the first dressing (I like dressings a bit more tart) whereas Rob preferred this one, but it was close.
Sing along if you know the words:
I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)
I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas
I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!
Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.
So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..
I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS. Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.
Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.
So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).
Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.
Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.
Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?
Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder.
(Take note, Rob does not approve of said term. He prefers Android users. How boring.)
Since forever, I have been trying to find the perfect way to store my bookmarked recipes.
I have progressed from storing them in emails, then to pinterest and pocket. (I know others use Evernote). I use Eat Your Books primarily for my cookbook collections. Although I can upload other recipes, too, I prefer to have the directions along with the recipe list.
A lot of people have a hard time understanding pinterest. What is it for? How does it work? I try to explain it is a picturesque way to bookmark links. Pictures with links. It is used to inspire. My biggest pet peeve is the lack of searchability, which limits its use as a workable list of recipes. I can’t search for all the recipes with mango instance. Furthermore, it only links to a website which can later be modified or even vanish. Hence my migration to pocket, which I mainly use as an offline web reader now. Because you can’t search that one either.
I recently discovered a crazy wonderful app that I had to share: ChefTap. (Android only for now)
Designed specifically to store recipes, it does its job.
From the website: ChefTap is the only app on the market that uses an advanced artificial intelligence engine specifically designed to find recipes on any English language web page.
It stores recipes offline, completely searchable, so you always have access to them. It will pick out the recipe, picture, title, etc from any website, even if the recipe is buried under lots of text (like most blog posts). It will sync with epicurious, allrecipes, or your other favourite recipe sites. However, I was in awe that it could export all the recipes from pinterest. Plug in an album and it will crawl all your links and add them to the app. You can’t even export your pins any other way, as far as I know. How awesome is that?
So, I have just begun to use the app (you can change it so it won’t go to sleep on you while cooking, wahoo!) and I would say the miss rate is around 10% for picking up the wrong title, etc. It is easy to fix things, though, as it has alternative title suggestions, or move things around like yields and ingredients. Another con is that this is a device-only app, but a complementary web site seems to be in the works.
I started with importing all my pins and will work towards my lengthy email folder filled with recipes. All I need to do is convert the emails into .txt files and they can be easily imported as well. How awesome is that??
I’ll tell you what’s more awesome: This app is free!!
(I bet you thought I was going to say it is only yours for $9.999 or something. I hate that, too! I have yet to be corrupted by commercial influence. Anything I recommend is because I honestly recommend it)
In case you are interested in some of my other favourite apps, here they are:
iAnnotate PDF: For highlighting, marking up pdfs for studying, etc. The Android app is not as smooth at the iPhone one, but the one for Android is free
Any.Do: Great to do app that syncs with google tasks
Songza: I haven’t been that wowed by the music selection, but it isn’t that bad
(I love pandora but I can’t get it in Canada, btw).
What are your favourite apps? How do you store recipes?
(I have been bugging Rob to make me a Taste Space app, but that’s likely never to happen…)
Now for today’s recipe!
I don’t know about you, but I am a big suck when I get sick. My energy gets drained and I usually just want to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I want to do is cook. The second to last thing I want to do is photograph said food. The third last thing I want to do is write about said food.
Which is why it has taken me so long to share this fabulous soup. I usually bust it out when I am sick. (And yes, I still get sick. My diet does not make me immune from viruses and the like. A flu shot helps, though).
I first made this soup when I lived alone and it has become a sicky staple ever since. As long as my kitchen is reasonably well stocked, there is nothing easier than a bowl of miso soup.
You can go ultra-simple for a fix of miso soup – all you need is miso, hot water and perhaps some green onions. However, Tess’ recipe goes one step beyond: a Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup. Lemon and ginger are great as a pick-me-up when sick, comforting yet zingy. Best of all, though, this soup literally takes 5 minutes to make. Awesome on any given day, but really fabulous when you are under the weather and can’t stand to wait any longer. Just heat up the soup before it boils so that you still get the benefits from miso (heck I do that with my tea as well because I can’t drink boiling water). I really liked the combination of lemon, ginger and miso.
The recipe serves 2, so if a sweetie is cooking for you, they can enjoy it as well. Or if home alone, you can have it as a delicious breakfast the next day.
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.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.
There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.
Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.
So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.
Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.
A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….
What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.
- Painted Fruit
- Raw Berry Jam
- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt
- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup
- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble
- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp
- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese
- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens
- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo
- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust
- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach
Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win!
This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).
Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!
Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.
Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.
PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!
Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?
Basically, not as bad as I thought.
I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.
However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!
I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.
This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.
I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.
Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus. I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day. I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.
My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post.
I’ve told you my weekly menus now revolve around a new dressing.
Now that veggies may not necessarily be at their peak, a good dressing is key to eating raw salads.
Or, once you make this dressing, you may just decide to drink it instead. Forgetting the veggies altogether.
It took me a long, long while to finally make Tess’ peanut sauce. Her recipe was daunting with the coconut milk, peanut butter and heavy use of agave. Tess’ last coconut-based sauce (the creamy Thai cilantro ginger sauce) was heavenly so I knew I should try it out. Eventually.
However, I was guarding the last of our molasses for the recipe. With my pantry purge and gusto of tackling old bookmarked recipes from October, I finally took the plunge. With less sweetener, less sodium AND using coconut beverage, we have a winner. A drinkable winner. The twist from the other peanut dressings comes from the bite from molasses and umami from the fermented black bean sauce. Use it to coat anything. Veggies, grains, beans, you name it. Here, I paired it with sliced carrots, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, julienned baby bok choy, kelp noodles and pea shoots.
I suppose this is a good time to let you all in on a challenge I started this month. A sweetener-free challenge. For 8 weeks along with Gabby and Megan. Leanne is also doing a 2-week sugar-free cleanse which is a bit too extreme for me. While I have already cut out refined sugars, I am going to limit my intake of other sweeteners, including dried fruit, maple syrup, agave and stevia. I decided to keep eating fruit that isn’t sweet (cranberries, green papaya, tamarind, etc) since they are more sour than sweet. As I work through some of my recent recipe successes, a few may still contain sweeteners which is good for those of you still using them.
While I don’t share all my meals with you, I still photograph the majority of my meals if convenient. A quick run upstairs, snap a few photos, and then eat away. Sometimes I kick myself for not having taken a photo, especially if I eat it all before I have a second chance, which is why I try to photograph my meals.
The real conundrum is whether to photograph the meals that Rob makes. Not because I don’t like to post his meals (I do), but sometimes the meals aren’t what I like, or don’t use ingredients that I eat, etc, but importantly, I may not be around to snap the photo.
When Rob made these udon noodles with a spicy peanut
-hoisin sauce (he forgot to add the hoisin sauce, oops!), we deliberated. Did I want to take some photos? Is it blog worthy, I asked? How does it taste? Is it spicy? There’s a 1 tbsp of sriracha in it, gosh, I’d never do that!
Initially, he thought he preferred his other udon noodle dish with a miso sauce, but happily munched away. I tasted some of the broccoli and tofu smothered in the peanut sauce. Delicious. I ate some more. Not really that spicy, totally Janet friendly. The sweetness from the agave and the peanut butter lend a helping hand to the subtle heat from the sriracha. The vinegar adds the sour dimension. And while Rob forgot to add the hoisin sauce, it tasted like it had already been added anyhow.
As you can tell, I then ran upstairs to photograph a bowl of delicious noodles. While we have yet to see whether this will truly be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, I can safely assure you that we both liked this dish. I may whip out the kelp noodles to make the peanut sauce again! And when Rob makes the udon with miso sauce again, I’ll try to grab some pics, too.
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.
Today I did the dirty deed.
Yes, that kind of dirty deed.
Already. Before 6am.
In the backyard.
Even worse, though, is that it involved squash.
And no, I am not talking getting dirty from doing plain old gardening.
Artificial insemination, baby!
I took matters into my own hands. While I have very prolific kabocha squash plants, I have yet to see any squashes. Lots of blossoms but they seem to wither away. Further investigation told me that squash plants have two different kinds of blossoms: one male and one female. The one with a plump mini-squash is the female flower and needs to be fertilized by the male flower. After some careful examination, I quickly realized there are way more male to female blossoms. Only 2 open blossoms were female, whereas I have at least 20 male blossoms.
I did not want to leave it to the birds and the bees. I took a stick and wiped a male blossom to get the pollen and smeared it into a female blossom. Cross your fingers for me, ok? Hopefully they aren’t as complicated as humans, which have an abysmal 20% fertility rate.
Apparently once you have a few growing squashes, you don’t need the male blossoms anymore. This is what people eat when you see “zucchini flowers” for sale. Dispensable, edible male parts.
My zucchini plants are much smaller and only have a few male blossoms, but I may need to give them a hand for reproductive success, if only to make sure we don’t end up with mutant kabocha-zucchini hybrids.
I should be telling you about how I fried up some squashes flowers, but I am paranoid. I am keeping the males around until I am certain I have lots of kabocha squashes. Maybe in a week or two, I will give you an update?
In the meantime, I have been cooking up a lot of quick, simple meals, like this asparagus and tempeh stir fry. Pick your favourite vegetables and fry up some tempeh in a simple Asian sauce with garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. The fermented black beans add a very authentic salty dimension to the dish. Enjoy!
My choice of bedtime reading usually includes a cookbook. Rob actually reads novels. Books with chapters, a beginning, a middle and an end.
When we packed for Colombia, we debated how many books to bring. I typically read 1 book while on vacation: my travel guide. Rob was adamant that he would likely read a bunch of books. In the end, we brought 5 books, including the travel guide.
After 2 weeks, I had read the travel guide and 1 book. Rob had plowed through all the books.
While I don’t read many novels, I really enjoyed my book: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It is a collection of short, thought-provoking essays about American culture through the eyes of Chinese food. Lee starts off by exploring people’s thoughts on fortune cookies after a national lottery gets pummeled with too many winners- they had all picked the same numbers from a fortune cookie. In a dizzying around-the-world tour-de-force, Lee visits the home of the real General Tso, puzzles together the origins of chop suey and the first fortune cookie and crowns the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant. This isn’t a flippant ready-for-the-masses book, though. It is smartly written in an accessible manner. Have you ever thought about the dangers of being a delivery person? Or the lives affected through human trafficking? Or why the Chinese food in the US cannot be found in China?
To be honest, I did not really like Chinese food take-out but as a child, we had the occasional visit to the local Chinese restaurant. I can see how Chinese food helped to embrace the worldly culinary culture we now have. With its emphasis on saccharine-sweet and cornstarch-goopy sauces, I haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant in ages, though. I have made a handful of Chinese meals at home, usually healthier vegetable stir-fries, where I can reduce the sauce myself without cornstarch and keep any sweeteners to a minimum.
For this month’s Random Recipes, we had to randomly pick a cookbook and cook the middle recipe. My chosen cookbook was Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and at 348 pages, the middle page was 174. No recipe on that page. I rounded down to find the first recipe: Cabbage with Fermented Black Beans (page 171). No stranger to stir-fries with fermented black beans, I thought this looked like a great recipe to try. However, a meal it wasn’t, so I tweaked the recipe to include julienned five-spiced seitan, as a nod to my favourite Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage.
I am really digging veggie-centric stir-fries lately, and this was no disappointment. Quick to put together, dinner was served in under 20 minutes. The fermented black beans add the depth of flavour ones expects from authentic Chinese food which is highlighted with rice vinegar and sake. The ginger and garlic add a nice hit of flavour and feel free to add Chinese chili paste if you want it hotter. The Chinese five-spiced seitan was a perfect complement to the wilted cabbage, conferring sustenance to the dish with a major protein component.
So, tell me. Did you grow up eating Chinese food? Do you still eat it? What is your favourite Chinese recipe?
I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.
Now I want a mamey tree.
I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.
I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.
I think I lost track of everything I tried.
From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).
Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.
I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.
My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat!
In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.
Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.
Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
My first meal after I arrived in Tokyo was okonomiyaki. It was from the closest restaurant to our hostel. We had no clue what we were ordering, pointing to pictures instead from a photo album. All the while, making sure there would be no shrimp (no ebi!). We ended up with an assortment of vegetable pancakes that were cooked up on a hot grill in front of us. Some with more flour, others with different vegetables. I remember one being bright pink (I forget what made it that colour). Once the server noticed we were eating them plain, he encouraged us to try the sauces on the side. To be honest, we left wondering what the hype was about okonomiyaki.
We persevered, though. When we went to Osaka, we tried okonomiyaki again, at a very popular hole-in-the-wall resto. We had to wait in line for 30 minutes, but when we finally snatched a seat in the tiny resto, we were able to watch our cabbage pancakes being made in front of us: thinly sliced cabbage and carrots were mixed with a seasoned flour and dashi stock batter, grilled and then topped with your chosen toppings- most of them with bacon- and then it was slathered with Japanese barbecue sauce (okonomi sauce), and later drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise, and sprinkled with parsley flakes. A crispy veggie pancake with a soft middle, topped with savoury sauces. Delicious. I was hooked.
Okonomiyaki literally means as you like it. Want yours with veggies? Want yours with sauce? Do you want your toppings in the batter with noodles (Hiroshima-style), or on top (Osaka-style)?
Or in my case, do I want mine vegan? Oh yes! I was bookmarked this recipe immediately from Big Vegan because it used tofu as the base instead of the traditional flour and eggs. While I have made Kevin’s okonomiyaki before, I found it hard to flip and keep intact while cooking. As such, I was thrilled to see this version. While already nontraditional, you bake it as a huge pancake instead of frying it on the stovetop. It took more like 60 minutes to bake but it was delicious. Alone, the tofu-miso-nooch batter was flavourful even before we cooked it. The consistency was a bit more heavier on the batter on the batter-cabbage ratio than I remember mine in Japan, but it was great as is. We would definitely make this again.
My version was topped simply with black sesame seeds and toasted shredded nori, whereas Rob went more all-out with some tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes. Remember, as you like it. If you want to try your hand at homemade mayo and okonomi sauces, there are recipes forthcoming in Terry’s new book. I haven’t tried them, though. Big Vegan also has suggestions for wasabi-mayo and tomato sauces. Or go simple like Heidi, who used almonds and chives to garnish her veggie pancake.
I was planning on talking about Mixed Diet relationships in this post, but I think I will save that for my next post.