Time is a-ticking. Less than a week left in Houston. We have been balancing DO.ALL.THE.THINGS left to do in Houston and DO.ALL.THE.PACKING. Lots of pantry-friendly meals this month as we eat through our kitchen.
We stopped replenishing the red lentils months ago and begrudgingly started eating through the toor dal. Not that we don’t love it (WE LOVE TOOR DAL) but it just takes longer to cook and time is something we are lacking right now.
We left a few Houston must-dos until the end. I finally went to the NASA Space Center, lured by a private tour by an astronaut. An astronaut with a PhD in Cancer Biology, which was right up my alley, as she explained the medical complications of space travel. And let us touch and feel the space stuff. But not wear the space suits, sadly. Astronauts ARE a science experiment in themselves, did you know? They also do deadlifts and squats in space to maintain their bone density.
We also went to Chinatown to eat at one of the rival Malaysian restaurants, complete with the suggested one-hour foot massage for only $20-25 at the neighbouring reflexology spas. It is the thing to do, I swear.
That experience was also our first (and hopefully last) experience with Houston rush hour traffic.
Also, kudos to the American pharmacies. “Yellow Fever Vaccine Now Here”. I can easily obtain travel immunizations without an appointment or a puncture fee. Vaccines tend to be controversial but it is not controversial for me: I would rather not get infected. So I finally got my hepatitis A shots and re-immunized myself against typhoid for my upcoming vacation.
So, about this curry. It is simple, yet delicious. Lightly spices with all the great Indian spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala) and lightened with a splash of lemon juice, it is a nice hearty meal. An easy way to easily add more spinach, too.
I haven’t really gone into too much detail why I am pro-vaccine (the main reason is the ability to prevent serious diseases, some of which are uncurable, which I believe outweighs the potential side effects from receiving the vaccine). Do you have strong opinions either way?
This month has and will be a whirlwind.
In fact, this entire summer will be a crazy, wonderful adventure.
I have not leaked my summer adventures here yet. In brief: cycling, long vacation, moving back to Toronto, and yet more cycling. I am warning you now. There may not be much blogging.
For now, my early summer cycling triumphs have been conquered. A month ago, Rob and I rode the 165-km Shiner GASP and I finally got my riding mojo back a few weeks ago in time to ride the 2-day/334-km Rideau Lake Cycle Tour (RLCT) with my father last weekend. This was my third time on the course, but the second time I did the full “Classic Route”. I described the route the first time I did it in 2011, but each year feels different depending on your level of training, equipment and weather.
Despite reducing my weekly cycling from 250 km to 150 km over the last month, I felt reasonably fit for the ride. I knew there were big hills that I just could not train adequately while in Houston, but we found as many hills as we could.
One difference this year, though, was that I did not have my own bike. A friend of my father graciously lent me a road bike for the weekend, although in the end, it was a men’s bike that did not fit me properly. I took it for a ride the afternoon before the ride and was sore. Too sore, too fast. I frantically tracked down a women’s road bike I could rent for the weekend which is hard to find when over 2000 other people are expected to cycle to Kingston. In the end, I found a nice bike to rent from an unlikely of stores, and they even loaned me cycling shoes to boot. This is the first year I have tried clips for my bicycle. There are different systems for clipping your shoes into bicycle pedals and SPD clips have been the bane of my existence. This weekend, I may have found a new clipping system I prefer: KEO.
In any case, while my Dad and I had fun together riding over the hills, I fell victim to all my new things, with saddle sores. Instead of my legs being tired, it was mainly the soles of my feet and my saddle that were the most bothersome. While some of the hills were still challenging, I felt the best prepared of all years. Granted, my Dad did 80% of the pulling. ;) Thankfully, the wind was not too bad but I think it helped to shave 15 minutes off our return ride along with an hour less breaks.
I actually did not bring anything recipe-inspired with me during my ride. Instead, I ate lots of bananas, dates and almonds. The dates and almonds would have been pulverized into balls anyways, so it was basically deconstructed trail mix. ;) I will not deprive you of a delicious recipe, though. They are not too travel-friendly though. I soaked the cashews, as recommended by Sarah, but I found them too creamy to be portable. Still delicious, though. I added some ginger, as a nod to the Lovely Lemon Hemp Protein Bites. I actually think these would be better with a shredded coconut dusting on the outside, but I only had coconut chips which don’t lend as well to pretty exteriors.
I am on vacation for the rest of this week and very happy to not be riding for a few days. Our next goal is finding a place to live.
Please tell me about all your plans for the summer!
I am sharing this with Healthy Vegan Fridays.
Rob did some more investigating. He found a program that would figure out if I had any duplicate files irregardless of the name.
WOO! After three days, my program to find duplicate files on your external hard drive has completed. It has found at least 172 GB of duplicate files. We need to clean them up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
His emphasis, not mine.
So apparently, I come with baggage. Electronic baggage.
There used to be a time when I couldn’t fit everything on my hard drive, but once I had 1 Tb on my external hard drive, I haven’t thought much about my space usage.
Rob didn’t appreciate my old school way of culling my photos: copying them into a new folder. Sometimes I had 4-5 copies of the same photo with my disjointed backing up. Now we get to do some culling!
Rob is doing a great job tackling our leftover food stuffs. This was an absolutely, wonderfully delicious pea curry he made with the peas in the freezer and spices from the pantry. I am not saying that just because Rob made it and everything tastes better when someone else cooks for you, but honestly this was gourmet Indian and made me a pea-lover. I love beans but peas are not as high in my “love list” but this, guys, was incredible.
Creamy with a rich-tomato broth with bright green peas, this was a keeper. Sadly, this curry has a really long ingredient list, which seems almost disjointed and muddy, but have faith. This was delicious and completely worth the effort (and definitely Rob’s effort!).
Do you like peas?
PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.
I have been a bit quiet on the cycling front.
I kind of poured my everything into the Shiner GASP and let my body (and mind) recover as needed. Rob and I kept cycling, but nothing over 50 km. There is no point in cycling if you aren’t having fun. It pales to our upcoming distances, but I just didn’t have it inside me to resume our crazy adventures.
Three weeks later and I got my mojo back. I started swapping my morning gym with longer routes to work. Rob would join me. On his road bike, no less, which was a good motivator to keep pushing it on my commuter, while carrying all my stuff for work on my back. I managed to squeeze an extra 50 km, in addition to my regular commute, over the 2 days we tried this out. Sadly, the forecast is all rain this week, so I may return to the gym after all.
With the long weekend, Rob and I had time to both relax and fit in some longer cycling. A perfect balance, methinks. 50 km and 107 km, including an urban hilly ride. Thankfully we made it home yesterday before the torrential rain, which is merely a preview for the week.
In any case, I made these delicious snack bites to tote along for our longer ride. They were inspired by a reader, Jessica, who encouraged me to try adding ginger and turmeric to Gena’s Hemp Cocoa Energy Bites. I love it when you guys know me too well!
No stranger to sharp, fresh ginger in sweets (remember my Matcha Ginger Smoothie?), I didn’t add enough turmeric for it to be a strong taste. I will admit that I added the ginger because I like its taste but its anti-inflammatory properties are a bonus. However, I added the turmeric specifically because of its anti-inflammatory properties (I really don’t like its taste in strong amounts!). The dates sweet this nicely and the hemp protein powder gives it a grassy/earthy undertone which complements the sweetness perfectly.
What do you think of turmeric? Do you try to incorporate into more of your foods? Any recipes you recommend?
It is all about the greens, lately.
After a week or so of salads and wraps, I turn the rest of my fresh greens into a soup, stew, or in this case curry.
PS. And when I said I would be sharing another giveaway with you yesterday, I meant tomorrow. So stay tuned! ;)
I always thought it would be funny to have enough forethought to pre-plan my holiday meals months in advance. You know, Christmas food served at Thanksgiving; Valentine’s Day treats for Christmas; Cinco de Mayo eats on Easter.
OK, I made the last one up, but it totally happened anyways.
It turns out out Rob was a bit more lonely on Easter Sunday than me, and at the last minute, we decided to host Sunday for the ex-pats. Three Canadians and a Dutchman, all displaced in Houston temporarily.
Although, instead of stressing out about our meals, we shared our love for vegan Mexican food (with a South American twist). Our friends brought some Mexican bread pudding and other Mexican treats for dessert. Easter Houston-style.
Migas is a dish typically made with eggs, but we swapped it for crumbled tofu and added some spices and topped it with salsa and cilantro. The tortillas are usually scrambled into the mixture but I like to add them at the end to keep them crispy. Rob shared his Colombian delicacy of arepas.
There is something about the weekend that brings out the tofu scramble in us.
Are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Fellow bloggers, have you ever pre-planned your meals that far in advance? ;)
It is the most wonderful time of the year….
Not because the spring weather in Houston is positively happiness (it is!) or it is the beginning of a cycling season (it is!)…. but it is the beginning of mango season and now we live closer to the mangoes!
Nearly every year, Rob will hunt down Alphonso mangoes. The fancy mangoes flown in from India. I am not sure whether they will be coming to Houston, but it does not matter. There are cheap and plentiful Mexican Ataulfos to be found. Last week, we picked up a whole case for $5. (We split it with a friend to keep our eating crop fresh. I know we’ll be replenishing a few times, no worries)
We tend to keep the mangoes plain and unadorned (at least I do, Rob adds it to his breakfast granola) but used some frozen mangoes for this fun twist on chana masala. It kind of a combination of my Mango BBQ Beans combined with Indian flavours. While I have used amchoor powder (raw mango powder) to make a nice chana masala, this was a fun twist since it was hot and sweet, too. The heat came from our newest infatuation: roasted hatch chiles. The flavours complemented each other nicely, especially with the tang from the tomatoes and the earthy tones from the cumin, mustard seeds and garam masala, too. Not too overly spiced.
Rob actually made a double batch of this and we shared it with friends. We told them to give an honest opinion of the dish. It was the first time we tried it, so we could handle their feedback. Like us, they loved it! And I hope you do, too.
Here’s to a prosperous mango season!
Onwards with the 30 vegetable challenge. Instead of using an abundance of vegetables in a single dish, I am focusing on possibly the most popular vegetable. A vegetable that I rarely eat at that: the humble white potato.
White potato has its critics. A high glycemic starchy vegetable that is typically consumed deep-fried or slathered in oil. I actually don’t like the taste of white potatoes, either, preferring its colourful cousin, the sweet potato. In any case, not all white potatoes are created equal and it was most apparent while we travelled in Colombia and enjoyed their local favourite: papas criollas. A small, creamy potato, perfect to eat after a simple boil, although it was also common spotted after a toss in an oiled skillet. Other small potatoes can be reasonable substitutes. I spotted these at our favourite (Mexican-flavoured) farmer’s market and brought them home to make a vegan twist on devilled eggs.
No eggs, no problem. The creamy potatoes are a fun twist for the cooked egg white base and a creamy mustard-hummus filling with a touch of black salt is very reminiscent of the real deal. Sprinkled with a touch of smoke paprika and you have an easy, pretty appetizer. If you have some mad piping skills, you could make this even more fancy.
This recipe is from the latest in the Happy Herbivore cookbook series, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean. For some reason, I have never really warmed up to Lindsay’s earlier cookbooks but this one was different. First of all the photos are gorgeous. Secondly, the recipes appeal to me more.
Her recipes, even if from previous cookbooks, have been lightened up and spruced up with bolder flavours. She has a bigger emphasis on vegetables and less reliance on ketchup and mayonnaise. More complete meals, instead of sides. All her recipes are oil-free and low-fat which I don’t necessarily advocate but did not mind trying out temporarily. Her recipes prove you do not need oil to make food flavourful but I like a bit more fat for satiety. Even if for no other reason, yes, you need some fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
The third part of the book includes an introduction to basic strength exercises. She includes good photographs and descriptions of each move with modifications for beginners and those who want a challenge. I like that she included another aspect of healthy lifestyles, beyond nutritious food.
First and foremost, I enjoy sharing delicious food and this cookbook delivers. These deviled eggs are only one recipe but I also recommend the garden vegetable chili, cheater pad thai noodle bowl, breakfast tacos and scrambled tofu.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe (with one of the gorgeous food photos by Jackie Sobon from Vegan Yack Attack, too) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think about no-oil meals. The winner will be selected at random on April 7, 2014. Good luck!
Recipes from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean elsewhere:
Thai Crunch Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Lentil Joes (with a video)
Spinach Love Wrap
Soba Peanut Noodles
Microwave Peach Cobbler
PS. This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food.
Recently, Rob and I have been flip-flopping. One weekend Rob is home alone. The next, I am home alone as Rob is out. Travelling separately. Although I probably received the brunt of the solo travels as I ventured to the cold Canadian winter alone. Rob, however, is travelling without me but visiting and meeting friends throughout the US.
This weekend, he also left me without a car. My bike gets me to and from work but on the weekends, the car brings me to groceries. Our loot is too big to bring home on a bike. Oftentimes, Rob will also pick up random missing ingredients throughout the week… so I lost that convenience, too. Although, we planned for this: a double grocery haul last weekend. This week, I get to eat through the fridge and pantry. And tackle my languishing winter squashes.
I am sure I am not the only one with winter squashes on my counter (right?). It happens every year to me. Houston-time, included.
Winter squash may not still be on your radar but with the last winter blast, a warming stew is hard to turn down. (I am not playing with you, Houston does get cold. I had pants on last week).
I finally decided to tackle Hannah’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry. Unlike most curries, this one has NO CUMIN. Blasted! A bit more sweet with the kabocha squash which worked well with the aromatics like cardamom and coriander, but still tempered by ginger, mustard and chile with a luscious coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass.
Do you still have winter squashes looming around? Heck, it is still winter, right? I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? :)
I tried a little bit harder with this dip.
You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.
This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.
While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.
But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs. :)
With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:
While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:
1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.
3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.
4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.
5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.
6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.
7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. ;)
I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.
Where have you been on the web recently?
We had our first visitors last week. My parents made the brave trek down to Houston.
I say brave because just before they arrived, we were hovering around 2-5 C in the morning in Houston. It was cold. I had to break out my pants.
Thank goodness Houston redeemed its hot, humid self, so my parents could relish instead in highs of 28C, feels like 38C weather! Rob and I have become accustomed to Houston’s weather, positively smitten by the nice weather. Instead, my parents melted under their jeans. I understand. I was there. Except in July, it was 38C, feels like 48C!
We had a hard time recommending tourist things in Houston, so instead, we treated them to a typical week in the life of Houston-bound Rob-and-Janet.
On the weekend, we started it off by buying cheap produce at our favourite fruit and vegetable wholesaler. I usually beeline it to the stands with the cheaper produce, but I think my Dad had fun haggling his way to a $7 case of 24 Ataulfo mangoes (they couldn’t go any lower right now, they explained, since it isn’t high season).
Next up, was the Mexican bakery across the street where we picked up the highly coveted tres leches cakes*, fresh tortillas, and other Mexican baked goods. My friend has been on a quest to find the best tres leches cake in Houston and this is his pick. My parents never knew Mexican sweets were so awesome.
*Note: While this tres leches cake is definitely not vegan, we have found a nice vegan tres leches cake, too.
Our subsequent stop was at my favourite Trader Joe’s, where we sampled all 3 cookie butters before deciding which one to bring home. My Dad picked the smooth version. Who knew grocery shopping could be so much fun. An employee snuck in a souvenir Houston-themed Trader Joe’s bag into my Mom’s arms, congratulating her on visiting the store with us.
And lastly, since we had too much fun shopping and became hungry, we decided to have an early lunch for some quick dosas.
Sunday was our standard biking morning, when my Dad joined us cycling for cronuts while my Mom relaxed at home. We went out for a Mexican fusion vegan brunch but Rob treated us to his specialty later: chilla, Indian chickpea pancakes.
During our kimchi phase, Rob quickly figured out that kimchi worked really well in chilla. Basically it is pre-seasoned cabbage which makes it easier to add to the batter. Rob also likes to add other random vegetables, like tomatoes and spinach, but this version was just with kimchi. Easy, peasy. A dollop of mayonnaise and more kimchi as a nod to our favourite sweet potato and kimchi poutine but I ate it without it and it was still delicious.
Weather prevented us from hiking Brazos Bend together on the weekend, but my parents made their own trip there together while Rob and I worked during the week. They also toured Galveston and the Johnson Space Center (NASA), the most touristy thing they experienced.
And just like that, my parents are back in Canada. We had a few more ideas up our sleeves, but time was too short. A quick visit but we showed them exactly why we like Houston so much. Here’s to seeing them again in the summer as they want to return before we leave. Any favourite spots we still need to check out and share with them? :)
This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.
Oh my gosh… what happened? I posted on a Monday! WHAT?!
Long hours at work must be making me sloppy. *sad face*
Bonus for you, I suppose, since I decided to still write up a quickie Tuesday post!
Now that Rob is back, it means that we have our Houston weekend routine back in place. On one day of the weekend, it goes something like this:
1. Sleepy fresh oatmeal breakfast before heading out for a 50-km bike ride (The cronut ride is still my ride of choice. Mostly because the route is very simple. We came for the cronut, but kept returning for the bathrooms… although Rob gives their donuts two thumbs up)
2. Come home to a delicious smoothie, then hop in the shower to remove all that grime
3. After we are both clean, we do a load of laundry, hang out a bit and then let the laundry hang dry.
4. Now, it is usually time for lunch. Rob and I usually make a scramble of sorts, with arepas or chilla.
This time, Rob decided to merge our two favourite tofu scramble recipes… Especially since we learned that dill + curry = awesome! But how about, dill + curry + tomato + Brussels sprouts! With some noochy and kala namak goodness sprinkled overtop? Very awesome! Booyah! I honestly look forward to my freshly made weekend meals with Rob. When they taste this good, who wouldn’t be thrilled? :)
Do you have a favourite morning routine?
Not because I came up with the fabulous idea to mix together roasted eggplant, tamarind and chickpeas, but because I kind of ran with a taste in my mouth and help from a friend.
One of my co-workers is vegan and recently invited Rob and me for dinner. He went all out with multiple salads, curries, biryani and dessert. Served on a weekday, at that. I was blown away. By all of it.
The dish that I enjoyed the most was the tamarind roasted eggplant with chickpeas. I asked how it was made:. He said it was easy, just roast the eggplant with masala spices, then cook it with tamarind and chickpeas. Easy, peasy, right? Not really.. a bit too vague for my liking for me to recreate it. ;)
I figured my Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with chickpeas) was a good starting point, though, and after reading it over, my friend gave me some tips:
1. No ginger, more garlic to enhance the eggplant (I happily obliged)
2. No cilantro, and if so, just add it at the end (I just omitted it – it was better without)
3. Heat the chickpeas and slightly mash them, so that they can better absorb the flavours from the rest of the dish (great idea!!)
4. Add some turmeric (done!)
5. Remove or limit the coconut (removed!)
With a bit of trepidation, I set out to recreate this dish. I got my eggplant roasting and re-read my instructions. Sauteed onions and a good dose of garlic. Ground coriander, cumin and garam masala…
It has been a long time since I’ve cooked with eggplant (over 2 years, if you excuse my Raw Eggplant Bacon from last year as that was not technically cooked). Roasting it is definitely my preferred cooking method. It may take a while to cook but the results give you a silky base. Here, the fragrant Indian spices contrast nicely with the sweet/tart tamarind, floating in the silky eggplant peppered with chickpeas. The photos don’t really do it justice because it looks kinda of chunky when it actually wasn’t. Definitely one of my favourite dishes this year.
Have you ever been really excited by your own culinary creation?
Eggplant, chickpeas and tamarind elsewhere:
Eggplant, Chickpea and Tamarind stew at The Guardian
Tamarind Spiced Roasted Eggplant Soup at Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Tamarind Eggplant and Chickpeas at Relish
Eggplant, Tomato, Chickpea Tamarind Stew at Allotment 2 Kitchen
Eggplant Curry with Tamarind & Mint at Veggie Num Num
A few of my friends have become new mamas (or very soon mamas-to-be), and Rob and I have been cooking up meals to share. One less thing for them to worry about. Rob offered one of our delicious dals. I wanted to experiment with a new curry, but Rob was adamant: Let me make dal bhat! We know it is awesome.
I won’t argue with that, nor with Rob offering to do the cooking.
I still experimented with a new curry but kept it for myself. Curry with dill? I was intrigued. Especially since it doesn’t call for a smattering of dill. It uses a whole 2 cups of dill, leaves and stems, akin to a leafy green instead of a finishing aromatic. Sauteed with my favourite flavours, garlic, ginger and coriander with a bit of tomato for some sauciness, this was a delicious chickpea curry. There was enough zip from the chile flakes to keep it well balanced. The flavour of dill was surprisingly not overwhelming and I really enjoyed it. Next time, we’ll know. This curry is definitely good enough to share.
Do you have any favourite meals to share with others? Have you ever cooked with this much dill at once? :)
PS. I am all over the cookbook giveaways these days, if you hadn’t noticed. My giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen is still going, so check it out. I also highly recommend The Great Vegan Bean Book (see my review here). Head over to Miss Muffcake for her giveaway of the book here.