Thanks for all the encouragement guys after my last post. The comment didn’t phase me too much as I know when my recipes turn out well… I love being able to share that same joy I experience, hence the blog and hence hosting meals with friends.
Sometimes I feel like I am on a roll in the kitchen. A week filled with great dishes, each one working out perfectly.
And then, it dries up.
Last week, I did the unfathomable for me. I threw away food.
Over the Christmas holidays, I made homemade sauerkraut. I scoped out pickling salt after my grandmother’s insistence and followed the recipe to a T. 5 pounds of cabbage with 3 tbsp of salt. Nothing fancy. No seasonings. After its first night, it needed a bit more liquid to completely cover the cabbage, so I added some more salt water. I used a (very heavy) car battery [long story how I have that...] to really pack the cabbage down. And then I waited.
It said it would take 4-6 weeks.
After 2 weeks, it started to grow mold on the surface (also known as scum or bloom). Which I removed. Apparently it is normal?
Another 2 weeks went by, more scum. The cabbage tasted like cabbage. Not even that salty.
After another 2 weeks, the scum was making the house smell. I knew sauerkraut could make a house smell, but I figured it would smell like sauerkraut.
The cabbage still didn’t taste like anything more than cabbage in a muted salty broth. Six weeks in, no change and lots of mold. That’s enough.
So it got tossed.
I am a sauerkraut failure.
Oh well, I will have to shell out the big bucks for the really delicious Bubbie’s sauerkraut instead.
What else has been going on in my kitchen?
Sadly, my lackluster results were mostly the meals I had picked to share with friends. I hate it when that happens. Although I know I am my harshest critic when serving others.
I made the White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano from Terry’s new cookbook. The soup itself was pleasant and my guests really enjoyed it (moreso than myself). It became more special when you added the chickpea flour parmigiano which added a lemony tang to the soup. The soup ended up improving as leftovers and Rob adored it atop his weekend besan chilla.
A few days later, I made this soup, a Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup that I modified from Jessica. Like the last soup, this one didn’t wow me either. I always have high expectations when people say this was the “best dish ever”. I don’t think I seasoned it properly but it was still good. Just not GREAT. I liked the chunky yet creamy roasted garlic and white beans (I used marrow beans from Whole Foods). I omitted the nutritional yeast since my go-to vegetable broth powder includes nutritional yeast (I use Tess‘ delightful Chicky Baby Seasoning, by the way). I think kale would be better, but I substituted collard greens since they needed to be used.
And lastly, I made Sarah’s Split Pea Sunshine and Saffron Soup. I didn’t even photograph it because it turned an ugly murky green after being pureed thanks to the (unpeeled) kabocha squash. The soup had such promise- split peas, kabocha squash, carrots, leeks and a host of savoury spices including saffron. I even made the cute (but labour intensive) sunshine carrot cut-outs!
I used red split peas for the first time (courtesy of Whole Foods in Mississauga) and it took over 4 hours before they softened for my liking. It was gorgeous before I threw my handheld blender in there. That’s when the flecks of green were pretty. It was also pretty tasty in the little spoonfuls I tried. But the blender muddled the soup – in looks and taste, unfortunately.
Hopefully your cooking adventures have been better!
Any tips for homemade sauerkraut??
My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make. Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.
This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.
These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.
The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.
These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.
I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!
January. The New Year. Time for resolutions.
Personally, I don’t need a special day to reflect on where I’d like to be. I try to continually re-assess where I am and where I’d like to be.
Why else do you think I started a quest to eat more cruciferous veggies in November?
Cabbage is a cruciferous veggie that is routinely shafted as a diet food. Ever heard of the cabbage soup diet? Well, I think it has to do with eating a lot of cabbage…
Cabbage is filled with antioxidants and other nutrients, yet is low calorie. The NY Times dubbed it one of the top foods you aren’t eating (yet!).
Please don’t let the odd association with diets prevent you from trying delicious cabbage soup. I was positively smitten with the smokey Russian sauerkraut soup (Shchi) that I tested for Vegan Eats World. I really, really, want to share the recipe because it was that good! But it is top-secret for now. (hint- veganize this soup and you are halfway there). Instead, I will share yet another cabbage soup that is equally delicious yet completely different. Surprisingly delicious in its simplicity.
This is a spoof on the typically cheese-laden French onion soup from Vegetarian Times (September 2011) with inspiration from Joanne. With my variations, though, you would have to look harder to find its original basis (especially since I omitted the cheese croutons) but it is tasty. Caramelized onions are beefed up with braised cabbage in this thick chowder spiced with apple cider and thyme. Like Joanne, I opted to add sweet potatoes, but also white beans to make it more of a meal-in-a-bowl soup. Everything worked so well together, with the subtly sweet caramelized onions and apple cider with the sustenance from the sweet potatoes and beans. Good the day it was made but even more delicious as leftovers. The thyme was a nice flavour but I can’t wait to try Joanne’s version because she used pomegranate juice and rosemary.
Here are some of my other favourite cabbage recipes:
Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage
Chinese Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Tofu
Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad
Mexican Cabbage Stirfry
Braised Cabbage with Onions and Carrots
Quinoa and Red Lentil Kitchari with Cabbage
I may be half-Ukrainian but darned if I know how to speak it. My vocabulary is limited to Я тебе люблю (Ja tebe liubliu). Some kids learn swear words, but I was only told how to love (it means ‘I love you’).
Rob is slowly introducing me to Polish words. As they pop up, obviously. The key to my heart lies in the kitchen, right? First, I learned how to say borscht. While borscht originates from Ukraine, many other countries have their own variations. In Poland, the soup is called barszcz. Notice the ah sound… and the lack of the t at the end.
Polish barszcz has numerous variations, but the vegetarian version is commonly reserved for Christmas Eve. With the
bloody blazing red beets you have a very festive soup with the dilly green accent. This version, tinkered from Rebar, makes a huge pot of soup filled with vegetables – beets, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes – and white beans for good measure. Lemon juice and balsamic vinegar add that necessary tang, a key feature in Polish barszcz. Traditionally, the soup was aged to get that acidic tang. Sounds like a project to tackle in the new year.
Due to its association with Christmas, I decided to make it for the pre-Christmas dinner. Rob told me it was very similar to his family’s barszcz. I really enjoyed this soup. So did everyone else (well, except for those who shun beets and cabbage and didn’t even try it!). I found the vegetables complemented each other nicely and the Polish dried mushrooms added a deeper, complex flavour. Perfect for Christmas Eve, or any time of the year. I’ll be enjoying it a few weeks from now because I packed the leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later. This makes a ton of soup!
Happy holidays, everyone!
For once, my Mom could snicker that her grocery store was better than mine.
You see, I was on a mission to buy parsnips to make this stew. My trusty Sunny’s didn’t have any.
I found parsley root, with beautiful parsley leaves attached to it. It looked almost identical to a parsnip, which to my eye, is a white carrot. However, they don’t taste the same. Good thing I didn’t buy it!
I had to venture to a “normal” grocery store. Or T&T, since they have parsnips. I bet the Farmer’s Market would have some, too.
While we’re at it, let’s push the boundaries some more (truthfully, parsnips are not that adventurist for me). I don’t like licorice but like tarragon. Why not try fennel? I am so happy I tried it, because I loved this stew, fennel and all!
Continuing with my white bean kick, and my abundance of kale, I modified Isa’s Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew from Appetite for Reduction. I thought it might be plain and boring, but it was anything but. It was sublime. A great, comforting stew with tons of mellow flavours without bogging you down. I substituted the leek for onion and fennel, swapped the white potatoes for sweet potatoes, upped the carrots and parsnips and used up the last of my kale including the stems, which was only 1/2 lb.
Thankfully, this soup makes a ton. I will be slurping it up all week and then some!
I honestly had a hard time deciding which white bean and kale soup to make, and here are some other soups that caught my eye:
Turkey Sausage and Quinoa Pasta Soup (veganized of course) from Shape
White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Kale Soup from The Domestic Vegan
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring parsnips.
I am sharing it with you so that you learn from my mistakes.
A High Protein and Oil-Free Basil Pesto sounded delicious to me. The creaminess and protein came from a whipped white bean puree packed with loads of basil. Like the last bland dish from Angela, I ended up adding even more nutritional yeast and miso to up its appeal. Creamy, salty and full of basil.
Not everyone agreed with me. They didn’t even try the dip, since it looked like green frank-o-monster goop… and ended up oxidizing to an unappealing brown over the course of the afternoon.
My parents and I ended up polishing it off after all the guests had disappeared. I think it would work better as a sandwich spread than a dip with veggies anyways. Not only because the colour wouldn’t matter but that’s the way pesto works best. Slather it onto some crackers topped with roasted veggies. Crostini may be better next time.. but then I would have had to be in charge of appetizers for the party. Now we’re talking.
Thankfully, I made sure the hummus was in tip-top shape so we didn’t have too many naked veggies.
The week before the party, I made this delicious salad.
The super quick sauce was courtesy of The Breakaway Cook (recipe here). Deep, rich flavours from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and fresh tarragon. I substitute a dried apricot and agave for the apricot jam and decreased the oil without any problems. The pomegranate molasses added a subtle taste but really added that extra dimension and it worked wonderfully with the tarragon.
I was so happy to love the sauce, because it made a ton!
Eric suggested serving it with orzo, but instead I went with barley. Wanting a more complete meal, I also added white beans and chopped Swiss chard. A cup of baby rainbow Swiss chard, because that was all I could harvest from my garden. ;) I only needed half of the sauce.
It was luscious and glorious. I knew I wanted to share the salad because it was that good.
Sadly, the sauce was sopped up by the barley when I ate it as leftovers. Still good but not as sinfully saucy as the first night
Half the sauce remained. The party was the following weekend.
With two beans salads, I knew I had my grain salad picked out.
I just couldn’t make it in advance.
Because I already had a bean-centric salad menu, I opted to forego the white beans, and well, I didn’t have any more Swiss chard, so it was just barley for the party. With the glorious sauce, no one knew what they were missing.
As far as I know, my Dad is still alive. You see, he threw a surprise party for my mom.
This was a real surprise for her because well, it wasn’t her birthday. No date in the calendar that would tip her off that 35 of her closest family and friends would gather in Ottawa for her.
In fact, she thought she was going to to be driving down to Toronto for the weekend. Did I have any plans? she asked. Of course not! I knew that while I wouldn’t meet her in my kitchen, I would be sharing breakfast with her that weekend. In Ottawa, instead of Toronto.
For months, my Dad had plotted and schemed.
He kind of needed that long because he was down to one working hand. After a broken wrist, and slicing through a handful of fingers, my Dad had to be a master to make chicken skewers without my Mom figuring things out… nevermind the 3 cakes and couscous salad he also made.
My brother and sister-in-law were in charge of appetizers, whereas I was the Salad and Dip Queen.
I tried to follow my mom’s salad party suggestions: 1 leafy green salad and 1 bean or grain salad. However, since we were feeding 35 people, my Dad asked me to diversify with more salads rather than fewer salads.
I mixed up both new and old recipes, and all but one was a hit, so I thought I would share them this week since I had a few requests for the recipes.
For the leafy green salad, I kind of went along with what my Dad had lying around at home… Romaine was thrown together with strawberries, almonds and a maple-based vinaigrette. It was gone before I even made it to the buffet line. Someone had actually already removed the bowl before I was there, it was finito.
For the heartier salads, I had a no-brainer up my sleeve: the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants. I have made it so often, and now that my family has tried it, I can’t think of anyone who has not sampled it. It will have to be retired for a bit… at least until potluck season picks up again next summer.
Since Sarah’s lentil salad was such a hit, I thought it would be great to try another one of her salads for the party. She had a lovely tarragon string bean salad that caught my eye. I hesitated about bringing another bean salad to the party, especially with tarragon, but once I tasted it I knew it would be alright. Green beans aren’t so scary, are they?
This salad was simple. Lightly steamed green beans were paired with Great Northern white beans in a light tarragon vinaigrette. Like most of Sarah’s recipes, I decreased the oil, and in the hubbub of the party, I forgot to add the toasted hazelnuts. No worries, though, because the salad was gobbled up.
I have been reading other VeganMoFoers posts this month and I am thoroughly impressed. Lots of people have themes, or an outline for specific days of the week… 31 days of unique spices. A month devoted to orange food! Or 1 food, done 5 ways x5 (cashews and kale so far!). Recipes with ingredients following the alphabet. Me, I just want to be able to post every day.
Then I thought.. 1 week in, a bit late on the theme-front, why not showcase my love of beans. So I will share with you bean dishes for the rest of the month. Get ready for your daily dose of bean!
Lately, I have been on a white bean kick. Baby lima beans, giant lima beans, flageolet beans, bring them on! Ashley thought it was amusing that my bean collection had so many of the same white beans in different containers.
Look closely, and while they are all white beans, they are definitely not the same!
While I also don’t mix different batches of beans, since they may cook at different lengths of time, all my white beans are different. In fact, I don’t have any more lima beans left and only a handful of dried flageolet beans. What I have left are Great Northern beans, white kidney beans, navy beans, Macedonian tetrovac beans and Turkish dermason beans. I am so curious as to how the latter two taste but still fall into the simplicity of the familiar!
I feel so naked now that I am out of lima beans. I used the last of the baby lima beans in this delicious quinoa corn chowder from Viva Vegan. The small, plump yet creamy baby lima beans melded well into this perfect end of summer stew-like corn chowder. Light, yet creamy with a dash of soy milk, a bit of zip from chili flakes, sweetness from the fresh corn and hearty with both the quinoa and lima beans.
It wasn’t even 6 months ago that I likely would have shunned lima beans based on my childhood disdain, but I am so glad that I made the leap to try something new. If you haven’t yet tried cooking up your own lima beans, definitely give it a go. You may never look back!
I hope my white kidney beans don’t get shunned too long… they are just so unsexy compared to its other white bean counterparts. I wonder if the dermason beans will be just as good as the lima beans?
Thankfully, because if not, my pantry-substitute, Better Bulk, has baby lima beans, so the next time I have a hankering, they are right around the corner.
While in Iceland, I must admit that I didn’t try many traditional Icelandic meals. My Icelandic finds mainly consisted of Icelandic herbal teas, whereas Rob tried the beer-boiled Icelandic hotdog and other traditional fish- and lamb-based dishes. He also discovered chocolate-covered licorice, an Icelandic candy! Licorice is actually a popular flavour for Icelandic candy. Yucko I say!
I have a few food aversions. Celery. Coffee. And yes, licorice.
And what do I buy from Sunny’s on a whim when I return?
A new-to-me herb.
You know what’s coming up…. It tastes like licorice! Like anise! Oh no! But I decided to forge ahead.. otherwise I would have wasted a $1.
I spotted this simple soup with tomato and tarragon in Rebar for my first taste of tarragon. It was a wonderful introduction to the herby epitome of French cuisine. It has a regal taste, in that it is not so harsh as licorice. The light flavour is delicious. It pairs great with tomato in this soup which is zippy from the garlic and chili flakes. I also wanted to add further creaminess and bulk, so I added in white beans prior to pureeing it.
People love CSAs because they are introduced to new veggies and are forced to use them in creative ways. I get the same trippy feeling whenever I go to Sunny’s and scour their bargain section. I have no a clue what I will come home with… and this time, tarragon was a winner.
While the Baked White Beans with Garlic, Lemon, and Herbs takes an hour and half to bake, it doesn’t take that long to prep. I have become used to cooking my own beans on the stovetop, and routinely cook a big batch, freezing them in 1.5 cups portions with the bean cooking liquid. This way, when a recipe calls for a can of beans, I have exactly what I need in my freezer. I also have canned beans for all my emergency bean needs because as I am learning, my freezer isn’t actually that big.
This is a super quick soup, courtesy of Tess and thus literally bursting with flavour. White beans, kale and a host of flavours (garlic, lemon, celery seed, dill) are combined for delicious results. While you usually have to simmer a soup for complex flavours, here you only have to blend and heat. Almost an instant soup. With a dirty blender and a pot.
I adapted it from Radiance 4 Life, by increasing the kale and using lemon pepper for extra zing. Funnily enough, I hate celery but don’t mind celery seeds and thought they helped create many levels of flavour. The balsamic vinegar works well for the soup as well, but it makes the soup a bit murky. If you have white balsamic vinegar, this would be the time to use it.
While I have baked beans in the middle of the summer, during the biggest heat wave of the summer, no less, I actually try not to use the oven in the summer. The Mango BBQ Beans, which appeared a few times this summer, were perfect because they were cooked on the stovetop. Why would I want to heat up my home with the oven when I am actively trying to keep things cool at the same time?
Last week, it was still summer; this week it is definitely fall. The lows at night were 6C and I was worried about frost in my garden. I kept adding more layers each morning as I froze while riding my bike to work. I am sad to say that I think I brought winter home with me from Iceland.
Since I ate primarily raw while in Iceland (courtesy of a fabulous resto, Glo, right across from our hotel in Reykjavik), I was craving comforting, homey dishes upon my return. Thankfully, I had some meals that I had frozen before we left for vacation, and Rob eagerly whipped up a batch of dal bhat.
When my jetlag finally subsided enough that I was ready to tackle the kitchen, I peered into my bean collection, glanced out at my garden brimming with herbs, and figured a light, lemony, baked bean dish was in order.
Bright and summery with the herbs and lemon, zippy from the chili flakes, yet comforting with the creamy white beans, this was a perfect dish to throw into my oven on a lazy weekend afternoon. The house smelled great, the kitchen warmed up and my belly was decidedly content.
Baking the beans allows a more even cooking temperature that results in creamy beans, but also roasted the garlic and herbs together into a sultry sensation. I modified Kim’s recipe to use the herbs in my own garden and used less oil, but this is completely malleable to whatever strikes your fancy. Pick your favourite herb or herbs. I was a bit perplexed about the baked lemon, but in the end, I kept it with the beans and found I could eat it, too, seeds and all!
Can you tell I have a few foodie crushes?
Tess Challis, the obvious choice.
You could possibly surmise I love Ottolenghi‘s recipes.
You don’t yet know how much I adore Denis Cotter’s recipes, because I haven’t posted them yet, but I am loving his latest cookbook, For The Love of Food.
There is something so unattainable about cookbook authors.
Then there’s Sarah at My New Roots. I adore her approach to whole, natural foods and want to make everything on her blog. Plus she’s seriously cute and makes adorable videos.
And equally unattainable since she doesn’t respond to my emails. (turns out she has just been UBER busy!)
I have become smitten by her food, instead. So far, her recipes have not let me down: the raspberry dream cake, the sultry peaches and blueberries, the 11-spiced lentil salad, the raw tacos with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa and the chickpea salad with the Mexican mango dressing.
So when I wanted a recipe for grilled portobello mushrooms for the barbecue, I quickly turned to Sarah’s blog. There were heaps of meat for everyone else, so I only made one burger. No worries if it didn’t work out. But of course, there were no failures. The mushroom burger was fabulous. I shared it with Rob so he, too, could relish in the culinary delicacy he had just grilled for me.
While I only modified her recipe by decreasing the oil and using fresh herbs, this would also be good with dried herbs when I don’t have them blooming on my patio. After grilling, you have a nicely spiced meaty burger with a balsamic glaze. It didn’t taste like a mushroom, so you could possibly convert mushroom-haters, but you won’t be able to fool anyone into thinking this was meat. But it was surprisingly filling!
However, I had one problem.
I made one mushroom; I ate one mushroom; I did not photograph said mushroom.
Thankfully I had some more portobello mushrooms, so after the hubbub of the party subsided, Rob offered to grill me up some more burgers the next day.
However, this time, I chose to smear it with a white bean puree spiced with thyme and garlic, from Power Foods (recipe also here) and then I sprinkled some leftover corn kernels on top. Now we had a complete meal. And a photograph!
Rob prefers hummus to this bean spread, but personally, I found it to be a great twist to a bean spread. The baby lima beans made it creamy with only a touch of oil. The garlic and thyme heightened its flavour, making this a nice and bright spread. Use it just like you would hummus, though: it would be great with raw vegetables, crackers or in a wrap.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Preeti, to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for mushrooms, to this week’s Summer Favourites potluck party, and to this month’s Simple and in Season.
Sometimes I get distracted at a grocery store by sales. A pound of frozen edamame was $1 at T&T and I snapped it up, despite not knowing what to make with it. I luckily found space in my tiny condo-sized freezer until I spotted this delicious salad at Keep Your Diet Real, who spotted it from an ad in a magazine.
A cup of shelled edamame didn’t seem like a lot, so I started shelling some of my frozen edamame. It was well over 40 minutes, and through my entire 400g bag, that I finally shelled 1 cup of edamame beans. Gah! I will not do that again since I know there are bags of pre-shelled edamame, too. Even if I see them for sale again, I will not succumb to the temptation.
This was a light yet hearty salad at the same time. It was hearty with one of my favourite whole grains: wheat berries. Nutty and chewy, they can really hold their own in a salad. Sweet cherry tomatoes, creamy edamame beans and white beans are added for further textural and nutritional contrast. The dressing is a plain red wine vinegar vinaigrette and the red onions add the bit of kick needed for such a simple salad.