I am sorry but not sorry, Canada.
I am sorry that this was one really long and cold winter. But I am not sorry I missed it.
Last week, I returned to Canada. In Montreal, I was greeted by mountains of snow banks that still had to melt away. However, by the end of my stay, a fresh blanket of snow covered the city in near white-out conditions. My flight home was cancelled but Air Canada thoughtfully put us on a later flight, skirting the worst of the storm.
(People poo-poo Air Canada but I like flying with them, especially compared to any airline based in the US. I can catch up on my movie watching (no additional charge!) and sometimes they even give me pretzels (HA!)).
Knowing full well that warm meals are still in season (even Houston’s weather has tamed somewhat), I am unashamedly sharing yet another winter squash recipe. In March. Because, yes, they are still on my counter and based on my last post with kabocha squash, still in your kitchens, too. Plus, this dish was too good to hide until next year.
It is a deceivingly simple recipe: spaghetti squash, kale, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked paprika and curry powder. In fact, it sounded downright weird. However, after I tasted it, it made sense. A lot of curries are tomato-based and while I don’t use tomato, sun-dried tomatoes deliver intense bursts of tomato flavour without sauciness. Smoked paprika adds a different twist so this isn’t a boring, bland curry. Chickpeas add protein and bulk. The kale is more earthy but a barely noticeable way to eat some greenery. The spaghetti squash is merely a backdrop but sops up the flavours deliciously. This dish made fabulous leftovers, allowing the flavours to meld even further.
Did you get walloped with more snow this weekend, too?
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 spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.
Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.
People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year. I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.
Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.
Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.
If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:
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?
I consider my blog to be a public food journal. And as I share my favourite recipes, I may unearth some trends.
Right now, I seem to be all about pecans.
(As evidenced by my maple pecan shortbread cookies, vegan cheesecake with a pecan shortbread crust, baked caramelized banana & pecan oatmeal and even a savoury brussels sprouts slaw with pecans and cranberries)
I say pee-cans, but recently, I can catch myself with a Southern drawl muttering pe-cahns, too.
Pecans are a taste of the Southern United States, and I am trying to relish in all good things here.
Take this pumpkin pecan butter frosting.
I originally made this as a way to tame our consumption of nut butters… and cookie butters. Did I mention how fast my parents devoured the cookie butter? Three days, three people, finito.
Rob declared this spread tasting like a hug. With the warming cinnamon with a pumpkin backdrop, I could see why. This was not as rich as our regular nut butters (obviously!), but it worked remarkably well as a frosting. Thanks to Gaby and Max, we used it to frost Sinfull Bakery’s monster vegan cinnamon bun for a fall-inspired treat.
Now it is your turn: How do you pronounce pecan?
As the lone Canadian at work, I feel like an Ambassador.
I am constantly learning about Texas, and likewise I try to explain where I am coming from as well.
Yes, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving two months before Americans. Toronto is colder than Houston, but not nearly as cold as Ottawa, let alone Edmonton. My friend who recently joined us in Houston came from Edmonton, where she explained she could take a cup of boiling water out in the water, and splash it out of her cup. By the time it would hit the ground, it would have frozen solid. Toronto is not that cold, although Hannah told me Toronto has already received its first snowfall of the year (which subsequently melted away).
Then there’s the upcoming Hallowe’en celebrations. Yes, Canadians celebrate Hallowe’en much the same as Americans: youngsters (young and old) get dressed up in costumes and in the evening, go door-to-door asking for candies. We just have to wear more clothes in Canada to keep warm.
Truth be told, I was a bit more curious whether trick-or-treating still took place in Houston. Houston seems quite unique to me, because at least in my neighbourhood, everyone has gates and fences around the front of their houses. It seems a tad intimidating and uninviting. Never mind the “Trespassers will be shot; Survivors will be shot again” sign our neighbours sport. Right next to a “Peace” sign, to boot.
In anticipation of Hallowe’en, this past weekend, Rob and I with a new friend cycled around our neighbourhood which is nicely decked out with Hallowe’en decorations. It really was a great bike ride, with good company. It was nice to have Rob back home!
And while this is no Hallowe’en treat I am sharing, it is a Hallowe’en coloured treat courtesy of the fall’s fine produce: the pumpkin. A spin on refried beans, in this dip, pumpkin is mashed with pinto beans and tomatoes and spiced with marjoram, smoked paprika, chili powder and lime juice. The pumpkin lent a nice sweetness to the dip which was countered by the lime. Not at all spicy so increase to your heat level. I ate this dip with crackers, corn chips and vegetables. Kathy also suggests using this as a nice burrito filling, too, but it didn’t last long enough for me to test it out. ;)
So, for those outside North America, how do you celebrate Hallowe’en?
Oops, I pulled a Joanne.
I stockpiled my winter squashes, only to discover one going moldy. Booo…. so much for hoarding my squashes until the snow prevents me going grocery shopping. One buttercup squash down but a golden nugget squash that was still fine.
This looks like a kitchen sink soup, but I was actually following a recipe! (mostly)
I have become fascinated with Ayurvedic cuisine as of late. Mainly because the recipes tend to have an Indian slant that I quite enjoy. Not hard-core, authentic, spicy curries, but milder flavourful Indian-infused dishes. Ayurvedic cuisine balances the six tastes (six rasas), sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. By determining your dosha, or your main energy as per Ayurvedic tradition, you can tailor your foods to match your constitution.
I will not pretend to know much about Ayurvedic cuisine, although I did figure out my doshas: bidoshic with a bit more pitta (fire/water) than vata (air/space). I connect better with pitta-reducing recipes, which shies from heat and spice (among other things). Recipes can be modified to better balance your dosha, and these are modifications that I do instinctively: reduce chiles, omit curry paste, etc. Although my love of quinoa must be from vata because pitta precludes it!
This is an Ayurvedic winter vegetable stew that balances vata and pitta and decreases kapha. I made it more pitta-friendly by omitting the green curry paste (miso-curry soup isn’t so scary) and ground pepper and made it more Janet-style by adding adzuki beans (good for both vata and pitta). Ignoring all the dosha-stuff, I can assure you that this is a delicious stew. The main flavours are miso, ginger and dill dancing around winter vegetables like winter squash, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Adding in the suggested green curry paste would probably make this an entirely different soup altogether, and would be more up Rob’s alley. I have yet to figure out his dosha but he definitely has less pitta!
Have you ever tried Ayurvedic cuisine? What is your dosha?
When I am stressed, I like to cook. Most of my meals are winners thanks to a great recipe base and a dash of creativity and experience. So, for me, heading into the kitchen is a way for me to turn off my brain and do something that gives me something positively tangible in the end.
The same with blogging. I use it as a creative outlet and a way to share said awesome recipes.
This will explain why I am blogging right now.
kind of want to vent.
Toronto was hit with a bit of snow over the past few days. 30 cm of snow. I’ve experienced worse (60 cm overnight) and it could have been much worse. Toronto just has a hard time dealing with snow. My car is currently snowed in my parking spot. A day after the snowfall, the laneway still has a foot of snow for me to drive through if I want out.
Rob warned me last night, so I knew I wasn’t heading to the gym for my 8am weights.
Turns out that was the least of my worries.
This morning, my fridge broke.
And I can’t get into my garage. Both locks are jammed.
Of course, we planned for storm success by grocery shopping before the blizzard.
One plus for it being winter is that I have stored all the freezer stuff in my car. Friends have offered fridge-space in the meantime for our non-freezable stuff. Although we are still working out how to move it over since our car is snow-bound.
I know, things could be worse.
So, as I wait for Rob to return home, I am blogging.
To share with you this delicious soup I made last week and is now chilling in my car. This is a great soup to soothe the soul, be it from unforeseen craziness or the howling winter winds. Definitely better than chicken soup.
I rechristened it with a more descriptive name: miso curry squash and chickpea soup. A broth spiced with black mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic and ginger, along with miso and kombu. Chunks of winter squash (golden nugget was my choice this time), shiitake mushrooms and chickpeas fill your bowl with goodness. Chickpeas were my addition, as well as baby bok choy. The baby bok choy was such a last minute thought that I photographed the soup before I added it. However, I ended up really liking the crunchy stems and leafs, so I included them in the recipe below.
I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. In fact, I thought I did not like black mustard seeds, but this was fabulous. If you like this soup, I also recommend these similar stews: Butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew and Plantains and cabbage with split peas. Miso-curry squash elsewhere: Red Curry Miso Roasted Veggie Bowl, Miso-Curry Squash, Tofu and Kale Salad, Miso Sesame Winter Squash and Tofu and Coconut Curry Miso Soup.
So, tell me: how is your weekend going? How do you like to deal with stress?
In the morning, I like to read through my blog roll. Rob and I read different blogs, so we often share fun links with each other.
I might share interesting recipes with Rob (beer-soaked fries, anyone?), whereas Rob might share interesting news. Real new like we’re losing the penny. Where was I last year when they decided that? Or not so important (but still real) news like the Toronto IKEA monkey that made front page news around Christmas (that I otherwise missed). Or the software developer who outsourced his own job to China. I think my favourite part of the detective work was documenting that he spent hours watching cat videos.
It is true: we love cat videos, too. Like this one, this one and this one. Oh, and this oldie but goodie. I liked those better than the World’s Best Cat Video, although it was still pretty cute. The top 30 cats of 2012 had some of our favourites, too, including grumpy cat! (With a special nod to #5, cat alarm cat).
OK, OK, I know I should be studying. :P
I have been keeping things simple in the kitchen like this easy spaghetti squash stir fry with Brussels sprouts and chickpeas. Once you’ve roasted the squash, it comes together pretty simply. An Italian spiced dish with basil lightened with lemon juice, that is really more than the sum of its parts. It has been a while since I’ve cooked with spaghetti squash. My first venture was less than stellar and it took me a while to regain my confidence. Once you get past the notion it is pasta (it isn’t), you can enjoy it as a noodly-shaped squash. Actually, if you haven’t yet watched it separate into the thin spaghetti strands, you are in for a treat. A neat trick from nature. This dish was also nice as leftovers.. booyah!
So, do you enjoy cat videos, too? Any favourites?
While I planted basil this summer, I didn’t use very much of it. It bolted before I knew what I wanted to do with it. My Pesto Perpetuo basil, a non-bolting basil, from two years ago was a basil warehouse. I had access to basil year-round as it survived the trip back into the house during winter. However, it died when I put it back outside this year. I suppose annuals have to die at some point. Given my lack of basil this summer, I feel that it is worth scoping it out next year.
Of course, it makes sense that once the summer is mere a distant memory, the days are cold and the rides back home in the night even colder, all I want is pesto. One of my proliferative herbs this summer was sage (if only the thyme and rosemary could have taken some advice). It may be synonymous with Thanksgiving stuffing, but one can definitely look beyond that.
You actually don’t need cups of sage to make this pesto. Instead sage is buffered with mild baby spinach to create a garlicky spread. Instead of pine nuts, I used toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil to flavour this winter pesto. The nutritional yeast adds the traditional cheesy taste but feel free to omit it. I chose to serve it with hazelnut-roasted delicata squash rings. Served on more greens, you have a very flavourful salad. Add white beans to make this a main meal. I didn’t use too much oil so my pesto was more thick than oily. Loaded with flavour. Later in the week, I liked it smeared inside a green wrap (with a nod to my simple hazelnut-roasted squash, avocado and cucumber wrap).
Do you like pesto in the winter?
Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!
Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.
This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.
This feels like a guilty confession. Boastful yet partially aghast at my audacity.
I admit it: I have 10 different kinds of winter squash in my kitchen.
All are edible (unlike the uber cute swan squash below! which I didn’t buy by the way)
There are the usual players: Butternut squash. Buttercup squash. Kabocha squash. Delicata squash. Spaghetti squash. Sugar pie pumpkin.
They all happened to be on sale this week.
But then, I went to the large Loblaws downtown (the one with 20 different kinds of mushrooms) and yes, they have plenty of squashes, too. Known for its wide selection, they carry many gourmet foods. While the dried mushrooms could cost you an arm and a leg (dried morels are $113.05/lb), the unique squashes didn’t break my budget.
From a local mostly-Mennonite farm and only $1/lb, I came home with new-to-me squashes: carnival, white swan and sweet dumpling (pictured left to right, above). I resisted buying the ambercup and turban squashes, but I may head back for my next squash fix. (These are small squashes, so it may happen sooner than you think!)
With the ridged nature of the squashes, I knew these squashes were meant to be stuffed. I filled them with quinoa and white beans spiced with sage and oregano from my garden along with fresh cranberries, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. The flavours worked well together and I liked the tartness from the fresh cranberries contrasting the sweetness from the maple syrup. I served it overtop spinach for a prettier presentation.
The squash verdict? Love the carnival squashes! Dry yet moist, crumbly and sweet. Perfect as a stuffed squash because you can eat through the squash at the same time and integrated it into the dish. It might be too crumbly to hold up as large chunks for soups or stews. In the end I ate the skin of the squash, too. It was nice and crispy after all the roasting, so make sure you scrub the squashes clean before you start.
PS. For those keeping track, I also have a golden nugget squash and haven’t tried it yet. Any predictions on how best to eat it?
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to the Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge, and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.
Although it is still many, many moons away, if I am moving to Texas, I think I need to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While I have posted quite a few Mexican recipes, they are a tad nontraditional:
Tacos made with “BBQ jackfruit meat“
Raw burritos which are collard wraps filled with jicama, sprouts and a nacho-cashew sauce
Or how about a raw taco filled with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa
What can I say, that’s what happens when I veer away from deep fried and cheese-heavy meals. At least I know how to pronounce mole (moh-lay).
Glancing at the recipe, I could tell this was a going to be a dish with spicy tomato sauce smothering black beans, topped with hazelnut-infused caramelized roasted squash. But what makes this a rancheros? What is rancheros?
Turns out rancheros literally means Ranch-style. Huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican dish with a tortilla topped with an egg and tomato sauce means Ranch-style eggs.
So this, my friends, is Ranch-style squash!
A very simple recipe to prepare, basically you create a spicy silky-smooth cumin and coriander enhanced tomato sauce that coats black beans. The spiciness is juxtaposed beautifully against the sweet squash. Isa’s recipes rarely disappoint although I still tinkered with it.
I roasted my kabocha with hazelnut oil instead of walnut oil. Olive oil would work, too, no worries. I substituted 2 green chiles for the jalapeno and increased the garlic to 6 cloves. It had a nice zing for my palate, but for those who love heat, definitely add more chile.
Any plans for Cinqo de Mayo this weekend?