This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden.
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath.
Thanks for all the encouragement about my long cycling commute. Last week was a short week, but I thought I’d update you on my commute. I am still working on the optimal way of combining gym + cycling commute, but later in the week, I cut down on my distance by going to the gym closer to home. Instead of 37km, I biked 25km each day. I am also biking at a moderately leisure pace instead of racing to work. My instinct is always to push as hard as I can, but I told myself I was focusing on endurance this week. One of my favourite downhills in the city always used to have me trying to go faster than 50 km/h. This time, I didn’t ride like a madwoman and still maxed out at 47 km/h. I thought I would be super sore by the end of the week, but it has actually gone very well.
Part of the problem on Mondays is that I really like Steve, the spinning instructor who teaches downtown on Monday mornings. Sadly, the gym next to my home has poor programming Monday mornings but I stuck closer to home for the other days. The route uptown from home is also safer, nearly 80% on the Don Valley bicycle path, so I am away from cars and traffic lights.
So is the commute downtown worth it for the spinning class? I think so. I am drawn to positive instructors. A group exercise instructor does a lot more than lead a routine. It is about inspiring the class (“the team”) to push themselves further than what they would do otherwise. Steve’s classes always seem to push me. He explains the intensities of the exercises at a level that is very easy to grasp (challenging but comfortable, pick a resistance that you can only sustain for 5 minutes, etc) and makes it easier for me to challenge myself. He is also great at using inspirational messages. In normal life, I know it sounds so dorky, but when you are pushing yourself to the limit, his messages keep me going longer. For a while he was reminding us never to say I can’t do this. It is just something you haven’t done yet.
If you love inspirational messages, check out a few more gems here:
Know your limits, then defy them
If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
Yesterday you said tomorrow.
Nothing hurts more than sitting on a couch.
Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford)
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.
Now about this salad. It is another salad bursting with whole foods and boasts a higher protein content. Wild rice is not rice at all, instead it is a seed. Higher in protein, with a lower glycemic index, it is a great gluten-free option for hearty salads. Coupled with edamame and tofu, loaded with carrots, sprinkled with greens and doused in a sesame-lemon-miso dressing, you have an unassuming salad that will make you anticipate lunch time.
For those of you who go to exercise classes, do you feel drawn to your instructors? Do you feel guilty when you skip their classes?
Here we go, another salad with roasted beets!
I just can’t get enough of them.
This time I used red beets. There are a few differences between red and golden beets:
1) Golden beets are more mild and taste sweeter.
2) Red beets bleed. They make me look like I’ve been bleeding. Golden beets don’t bleed.
3) Red beets make my pee turn red. Golden beets do not.
Please don’t be alarmed at the red pee side effect of loving beets. In the summer, my pee turned red but I couldn’t recall eating any beets. I was worried something was wrong. Until I remembered that I had ordered an apple, ginger and beet juice at the restaurant. That was the culprit! Sure enough, by the next day, my pee was back to normal.
Beets work well with a lot of different flavours, but they definitely pair well with orange. I really enjoyed my chilled Orange and Beet Soup with miso, dill and carrots, and thought this rice-based salad sounded great. Adapted from Appetite for Reduction (original recipe posted here), beets and brown rice (wild rice would be good, too!) are coated in a zippy Asian-inspired orange sesame vinaigrette. Freshly squeezed orange juice is key to keeping this a light, flavourful dressing. The salad is spiked with currants for additional sweetness. Pile it overtop your favourite greens for a lovely meal-sized salad.
Keep all the components separate to maintain freshness… and keep the beets sequestered, else they will turn everything pink. Pink rice, ok, maybe do it just for kicks.
If you ever want to try to make your own recipes, soups and salads are a great place to start. I don’t think you could muck it up too badly.
I was inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini’s Apple and Cumin Lentil Salad. I knew I wanted to keep the base flavours the same with the apple, lentils and cumin, but change things around as well.
To keep this a filling hearty meal, I added wild rice which had a nutty flavour that complemented the rest of the salad ingredients. The tofu was removed. I added in chopped carrot for crunch and kept the dressing ingredients fresh (Clotilde cooked hers a tad). The dressing was increased because of the larger volume of the salad, but it is not heavy at all. It was fresh, yet hearty at the same time. Sweet and savoury with the apple and cumin. Play around with this theme and see what you can create!
Living in a city as nice as Toronto, I am surrounded by many great restaurants. I try to cook at home most of the time, for health and economic reasons, but I am slowly scoping out delicious, cheap places to meet over food prepared by someone else.
Currently, some of my favourite places to eat out, if I must, include:
Folia Grill – excellent home-grown Greek fare with a delicious chicken gyro pita for $4
Sky Blue Sky – a quaint sandwich shop, with all under $5, including the suprisingly filling pulled pork sandwich. Chatting with the owner about the trendy (pulled pork) and less popular (cashew butter and cucumber) sandwiches is equally amusing when selecting your choice
The Fish Store – delicious fish sandwiches prepared from your choice of fresh fish, all under $10, and a delicious homemade lemonade for $3
Manpuku – my long-time favourite for Japanese, but you won’t find any sushi here. Their nikku udon (beef soup with udon noodles) is a great heart-warming dish for under $6
Guu – still Toronto’s newest sweetheart, with a second location expected in the Annexe, this is a popular Japanese izakaya (aka tapa-style bar). Everyone is welcomed as soon as they enter and leave the resto and the dishes have yet to disappoint me. All dishes are under $10, but the sizes are smaller and meant for sharing.
Pomegranate – a newer find that complements my latest love of Middle Eastern food. This is Persian food at its finest, at reasonable prices around $15.
Amaya – A bit of a splurge restaurant (mains under $20), especially since it is Indian, but I am enthralled by their butter chicken. If only I knew how to make it myself!
Canoe – This is arguably Toronto’s best restaurant and it has the price-point such that it is very elitist, and limited to special occasions only. You get what you pay for, and it is lip-smacking delicious. I really appreciate their use of local, unique ingredients, prepared, oftentimes, in a myriad of ways. I know these are dishes I would have a difficult time recreating at home, which is important for my restaurant adventures. While the written menu did not immediately appeal to me, I just had to ask the server to explain what each dish entailed. It is here that I had a surreal mushroom soup that tasted like apple due to the varieties used, and I had squab prepared in 3 different ways: marinated with Newfoundland screech, drenched in a Saskatoon berry sauce and served with a side of dinosaur kale.
Enough gushing over Canoe, because I like to post things I make myself on my food blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw Canadian Living had Canoe’s recipe for wild rice pudding with a rhubarb compote. I could now bring the taste of Canoe into my own kitchen.
It boasted a baked rice pudding with short-grain and wild rice within a orange- and cinnamon-scented creamy base, topped with a sweet-and-tart rhubarb compote.
While I have not had this at the restaurant, I might have to go there to try it out because my kitchen adventures were not as successful as I’d hoped. The rhubarb compote almost seemed to be in excess with the delicious flavours from the pudding. The wild rice added a nice crunch and the orange and cinnamon flavours blended well together, but my pudding was too thick for my liking. I wonder if there was too much evaporation during the baking? I think my substitutions were legit, but you never know. Maybe the recipe was meant to be a teaser, just to bring us back into the restaurant?
Let me start this by saying I am not a foodie hippie. While I do enjoy granola, my cupboards are not filled with wacky ingredients like agave, nor do I believe that all organic food is the right way to go. I don’t have many cupboards in my apartment, so I try to keep quasi-normal ingredients in my pantry. However, I have a stash of wheat berries. I was first introduced to wheat berries a year ago, and it was an interesting adventure to procure the nutty wheat gems. I originally found them in a natural bulk food store, of the organics variety, with a higher price point. In fairness, I had no idea what I was looking for, but I was pleased once I made my first salad. They were delicious and worth it. Once I was armed with what wheat berries looked like, I found them much cheaper at Loblaws, but under another name: wheat kernels.
Wheat berries are the whole kernel of wheat, minus the hull, so they are chockful of nutrients. Wheat is typically stripped of nutrients during the processing of white flour. Wow, I sound kind of like a granola girl… but what you really need to know, and all that matters is that they taste great and are incredibly filling. A little bit goes a long way. The slightly nutty flavour is captured within a chewy nugget that is perfect for salads, soups, and sides.
The following salad combines wheat berries with equally nutty wild rice and pairs them with crunchy apples, sweet cranberries and toasted almonds. It is all tossed together in a flavourful citrus dressing. This is one of my favourite salads, and the slightly counterintuitive secret may be to dress the salad just as it is being served. (more…)