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Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Wild Mushroom and Minted Brussels Faux Pho

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on September 28, 2013 at 6:20 AM

Wild Mushroom and Minted Brussels Faux Pho

Apparently, the worst is behind me.

While my homies in Canada relish in local winter squashes, apples and other fall delights, Houston is experiencing its autumn as well. Last weekend as Rob and I went out for our weekly cronut ride, wherein we no longer buy cronuts, almost overnight, after the torrential rains had abated, there was a bit of a nip in the morning air. Of course, this is still Houston. It is all relative. Translation: It was only 20C (68F) that morning but I was cold in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. My parents are battling frost warnings at night, and their highs are still our lows. A few days later and a few degrees more, we are back in summer mode. As I write this, at 6am on the last Saturday in September, it is 25C, feels like 36C (77F and 97F respectively). Five degrees short of the day’s high. Woe is me. I am really looking forward to this “winter”. Perhaps this could entice more people to come visit me?? 🙂

While I have not yet been craving kabocha squashes, I spotted a stalk of Brussels sprouts at the grocer. With a cute tag that exclaimed “We’re back!”. In Ontario, I’ve associated Brussels sprouts as fall/winter vegetables and ate my weight in them last year. I broke down and carried the huge stalk home with me, almost cradling like a baby since I did not want to damage them.

Wild Mushroom and Minted Brussels Faux Pho

I ended up combining a ton of Asian goodies (thank you Viet Hoa) with the Brussels sprouts to create this very nice rendition of Vietnamese pho. The ingredient list is daunting, but it is a fairly simple soup to whip up. The abundance of vegetables creates a flavourful soup without too much of a soup base. The broth is nicely flavoured with ginger, star anise, tart lime juice, salty tamari and aromatic toasted sesame oil. Fresh mint adds a beautiful brightness. For the vegetables, seared Brussels sprouts, baby bok choy and meaty mushrooms make up the bulk of the soup. In addition, I added sliced water chestnuts, julienned bamboo shoots and baby corn (the latter all canned).  I haven’t cooked with them before, but the bamboo shoots were akin to short noodles and the water chestnuts added a neat crunch. Definitely recommended. I used a mix of Asian mushrooms (shiitake, Portobello and enoki) but feel free to use just one.

The soup made a ton and filled me up all week long. Leftovers were just as good, if not better. While this may not seem like a fall-inspired recipe, this seems like a Texan fall-inspired meal. A light veggie-filled soup perfect during the hot weather. Hannah told me she may stop to read my blog during the winter, as she lives in Toronto, missing her warm Aussie winters. Please don’t hate me for the abundant heat! 🙂

Have you fallen for fall veggies yet?

Brussels sprouts done before:

Simple Ayurvedic Brussels Sprout, Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

Roasted Orange and Brussels Sprout Veggie Noodle Bowl

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpeas

Roasted Balsamic Curry Fall Vegetables and Cranberries with Kamut

Warm Lentil Salad with Caramelized Onions and Brussels Sprouts

Wild Mushroom and Minted Brussels Faux Pho

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir-Fry with Bean Curd Skin

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on September 26, 2013 at 6:34 AM

Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir-Fry with Bean Curd Skin

Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Bean Curd Skin

I really wanted to call this Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Tofu Intestines, because isn’t that what you think of when you see it, too? In truth, I know what I am talking about. I would consider myself an expert at what the small bowel looks like. (For the record, Rob thought it was inappropriate)

In case you were curious, a google search for tofu intestines still pulls up what I am describing:

tofu bean curd skins, yuba, tofu intestine

Also known as yuba, bean curd skins are made from the thin skin that forms on top of the tofu while it is being made. It can be bought fresh, frozen or dried. If it is dried, it needs to be soaked for at least 8 hours but the fresh ones are ready to go, as is. A bit more googling, taught me that yuba has been gracing higher end restos lately. I would believe it. Because let me tell you, they pack the nutritional punch of tofu with a nice, new texture.

While they were new to me and Rob, this did not stop Rob from making a fabulous random stir fry. Tender crisp vegetables are a must for a stir fry (broccoli and carrot here) along with your typical aromatics, like ginger and garlic. While the tofu intestine bean curd skins were an amazing textural foil amongst the vegetables, the flavour explosion came from Rob’s addition of kimchi and miso to the mix. Yeah, bliss.

Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir-Fry with Bean Curd Skin

Now for a shout-out to Viet Hoa, the grocer where we found the tofu intestines. It is possibly the biggest Asian grocer I have encountered. They have a lot of fresh produce and aisles upon aisles of other Asian goodies. They honestly have a whole section for noodles and a large room solely for rice. Sadly, their brown rice selection is not as plentiful and they don’t stock our favourite brand (but I did find whole oat groats amongst the rice, crazy eh?). Total props goes to their tofu selection which covers nearly an entire aisle. Not only are there multiple varieties of traditional tofu, they also had fun bean curd shapes, such as these tofu intestines and small bowties. However, it was their selection of mock meats that made our jaws drop. As you know, I don’t usually eat mock meats (other than the seitan I’ve made myself), but they had an entire freezer aisle dedicated solely to vegan mock meats (see below: Rob snapped some photos with his phone). I am not talking Gardein and the like. Mock chicken, salmon and ham but also mock abalone and sea cucumber made from seitan or soy. Explore a bit more and they have dried seitan and bean curd in fun shapes, as well. I swear, I have never seen so many versions of mock meat/tofu in one place.

Have you tried bean curd skins? Think they look like intestines? Had enough of the kimchi recipes yet? 🙂

vegan eats at viet hoa, houston

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lucia.

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Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls (& The Elephant in the Living Room)

In Desserts, Favourites on September 24, 2013 at 6:08 AM

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Now that I think about it, I know more vegans in Houston than I did in Toronto.

In Toronto, I never tried to connect with the vegan community. However, in Houston, this is where I am searching for like-minded souls.

In addition to the raw vegan meet-up potluck, I have connected with others at the Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E. (VSOP)’s monthly potluck. While not all vegan (some vegetarians and veg-curious also come), a large crowd gathers each month to share tasty vegan eats and learn a bit more about other vegan issues. Lately, it has been about travelling as a vegan in Asia but they have been highlighting more issues surrounding animals. At the last meeting, an upcoming viewing of the documentary The Elephant in the Living Room was promoted. Turns out it was on Netflix, so Rob and I watched it later that week.

The Elephant in the Living Room is a quite powerful, yet humble documentary about exotic animals as pets. Did you know that there are more tigers in Texas than there are in the in wild worldwide? What do you do when you no longer want your python? The climax of the film surrounds the connection between an Ohio resident, Terry, with 2 lions and 4 cubs, housed in his backyard.  It was a good movie and I recommend it. Another great documentary related to animals is The Cove, which won an Academy Award in 2010. That is a in a league of its own, though. That was a thrilling documentary!

In any case, chronicling my life through the foods that surround these events, I present to you these quick and easy peanut butter and jam energy balls. Flavourful peanuts are key for this recipe, which is why I highly recommend using roasted peanuts. I didn’t want to be wrist-slapped if I brought them to a raw vegan potluck, so I shared it with this vegan potluck instead.

With such a simple ingredient list, you might not think too much about them. However, there was a nice balance of chunky peanuts and jam-like sweet raisins. The extra peanut butter kept the balls together nicely. Add salt to taste, but I guarantee you it needs some to make the flavours pop.

When Rob taste-tested them, he thought they were better than my typical date balls I bring cycling. At first, I felt bad for my date balls, but then took it as a compliment that these were just really good. 🙂

There is only one problem with the potlucks. Sometimes it seems like a tease to try so many great dishes, but not get a corresponding recipe. Thankfully, I connected with someone who shared the recipe for her fudgy black bean brownies. I look forward to following her blog and connecting more, because her MoFo theme is eating out as a vegan in Houston. I am impressed she can support a month’s worth of posts!!  It may not be so bad as a vegan in Houston after all. 🙂

Have you seen The Elephant in the Living Room or The Cove? Any other documentaries you recommend?

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. Read the rest of this entry »

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on September 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Compared to most other fellows, I have it pretty good. Right now, I have very limited call and my hours are fairly regular. However, I still spend around 12 hours at the hospital each day, plus an hour for my commute. This is partly self-induced since my first few hours are spent at the hospital fitness center. It is quite impressive. I still marvel at their selection of classes that start prior to 7 am (4-5 different classes depending on the day).

In any case, it is no wonder that Rob, working from home, with regular hours and no commute, has more time on his hands. The best part is that it has transcended into the kitchen for some delicious meals. Epic meals, at that. Rob has been neglecting his blog, especially for recipes, so I’ve decided to blog his culinary creations. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.

One of our favourite restaurants in Toronto is Banh Mi Boys and we nearly always ordered their tofu-kimchi sweet potato poutine. It is a riff on traditional poutine, a Canadian delicacy of potato fries covered in gravy and cheese. Their Asian fusion version has crispy sweet potato fries (our request), covered with kimchi, marinaded tofu, sprinkled with green onions and the mayonnaise is on the side (as per our request). Hannah shared a lovely photo of it here. They also have a pulled pork version for carnivores.

We have been fantasizing about making our own version for awhile, after we discovered how wonderful beer transformed sweet potatoes into crispy fries. With the boon of (vegan) kimchi, it was only a matter of time. Beer-Soaked Sweet Potato Fries + BBQ Jackfruit meat + kimchi + baked tofu. Rob added mayo to his which is what he photographed. He took all the photos for this, including step-by-step documentation of the components.

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Don San Foods vegan Kimchi

I didn’t want this to fade away into our memories, so here’s to a special recipe for you to try, too.

PS. For those interested, Rob shared the photos from our Portland, Oregon and Burning Man vacation here.

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

This is my submission for this month’s Bake Fest, and to this month’s Four Seasons Food for Sliding into Autumn.

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Goan Black-Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

In Mains (Vegetarian) on September 19, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.

Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).

I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!

PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds! 🙂

Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:

Mango BBQ Beans

Garlicky and Lemony Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Salad

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

This is my submission to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Vegan Indian Cooking and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. Read the rest of this entry »

Tomato TVP Pilaf (aka Instant Camping Meal & What I Ate at Burning Man)

In Mains (Vegetarian) on September 17, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Burning Man 2013

I procrastinated with this post. My post about Burning Man. Not because I didn’t enjoy myself (I loved it). Not because weRob still had to process our photos. Rather, I didn’t know what to say.

True enough, I am no longer a Burning Man virgin (they make you scream that when you enter the first time( but in the 4 days we were there, there was still more to do, more to explore and more to share. I certainly do not feel like any authority but will share a bit of my experiences.

First of all, what is Burning Man?

Most simply, it is an arts and culture festival in the middle of the Nevada desert. However, it is much more than that. It is a very special place. The Ten Principles of Burning Man give you a bit of a better idea:

  • Radical Inclusion: everyone is welcomed
  • Gifting: no money is exchanged during the event [other than for ice, coffee and lemonade from Central Camp]
  • Decommodification: commercial sponsorship is shunned
  • Radical Self-Reliance: you are expected to take care of your own needs
  • Radical Self-Expression: the outcome from fashion and other art (sculptures, music, dance) at the festival
  • Communal Effort: cooperation is needed to build something as monumentous as this
  • Civic Responsibility: the Burning Man “village” only exists for the week of Burning Man, but still needs to follow local, state and federal laws
  • Leaving No Trace: everything you bring to Burning Man needs to return with you as well (bodily fluids aside, but even dirty water needs to come back with you). There is no garbage disposal. You cannot let things disappear. Volunteers spend an additional month after Burning Man cleaning up the camp to make sure there is no trace of Burning Man.
  • Participation: you can participate in many ways, by taking part in others’ events and/or creating your own.
  • Immediacy: nothing can be substituted for the immediacy of your own experience.

Burning Man 2013

Even looking through photos (check these out), it is hard to grasp the enormity of this event. Almost 68,000 people converge for a week in the middle of the desert. Everyone had to bring their own water, food, shelter and power. You might think this would lead to a bare campsite but it was anything but. Tons of lights, cold drinks and shade. People walking and cycling at all hours. Art cars out for the night. It was incredible.

Rob and I were lucky to we camp with one of his friends, from Camp Flock Ewe who constructed an incredible sheep art bus, aka BAAAHS, the Big Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep. It was described as part mutant vehicle, part penetrable sculpture, part socio-political statement, and part gay disco. And let’s just say, a wicked awesome viewpoint and party for watching the burning of The Man.

Rob and I enjoyed wandering around, enjoying being in the present. Catching up with friends. Enjoying the art sculptures, the music, the experiences. We drove self-propelled bumper cars. took a taiko drumming class, a tango dance class and napped when the room was too full to listen to a talk from a Buddhist monk. (We, sadly, never made it to the bum drumming or body percussion classes).  We watched creative fire dancers (hula hoops with fire, oh my!) and since we were out in the middle of the day, we relished being misted with water at any opportunity, and really appreciated “being lavenderized” while getting a scalp massage.

On the more practical front, Burning Man necessitated a few new items for the trip: dust goggles, a cover for my mouth/nose during potential dust storms, a carpet and long rebars for our tent. Next time, we may try harder to bring bikes, which are the ideal way to travel on the playa. Sadly, bikes go to die on the playa, along with running shoes which collect so much dust, as they are hard to return to their pre-playa cleanliness.

We actually don’t have too many photos since the playa dust also eats away at electronics, but Rob snapped a few photos with our point-and-shoot camera.

Burning Man 2013

Because this is a food blog, I will share a bit more about my extreme camping eats. No electricity, but we had a small propane stove and cup to boil water. We opted not to buy any ice, so we didn’t have anything cold or chilled. While trying not to leave any garbage behind (or grey water), especially compostable foodstuffs, we had to become a bit creative. Or not. Our meals were really simple. We didn’t go to Burning Man to eat, we went to enjoy the experience.

Burning Man 2013

Oatmeal with fruit, peanut butter and chia seeds for breakfast. Grapes were great but we also snacked on bananas, huckleberries and apples. Dried fruits and nuts could also have worked nicely. We also had oranges and a mango, but they were not the best idea and ended up coming home with us.

We usually were more adventurous with lunch, which is not saying much. Rob had some takeaway meals from Trader Joe’s and he would boil me some water to make this TVP pilaf. Before I left, I thought a reasonable meal could have been the shelf-stable tofu with peanut butter but when I went to Food Fight in Portland, they had TVP which was a better idea. Just add water! I found a salt-free seasoning and along with nutritional yeast, had a good base for a meal. Chopped tomatoes were a good vegetable to add since they don’t really need to be cooked. Was it the best meal? No way but it was impressive as a nearly instant meal in the middle of the desert. We had baby carrots as snacks.

Tomato TVP Pilaf (aka Instant Camping Meal)

By the time dinner rolled around, I usually wasn’t that hungry and had little energy to prepare anything (or to wash anything). Veggies, peanut butter and chips. My planned tofu + peanut butter never materialized.

We didn’t go hungry at all. We also snacked on random gifted food throughout the day. Water, lemonade, oatmeal bar (YES!!) , kale and carrot salad, farmer’s market veggies (carrots, zucchini, corn, etc), cereal with soy milk (Rob wanted the fruit loops), chai soy latte, bicycle powered fruit smoothie (see above), bicycle powered snow cones, fruits, nuts and even a tomato. Oh, and pickled asparagus from the stinky pee party.

All-in-all, this Portland to Burning Man trip was incredible trip. If you think you’d enjoy the foundations of Burning Man, please try to attend. I know we’ll try to return. 🙂

This is my submission to this week’s What I Ate Wednesday.

PS. The winner of the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites giveaway was Genevieve! I will be in touch with you. 🙂

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Southern Beans and Greens Saute (& The Last Organic Outpost urban farm visit)

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on September 15, 2013 at 7:48 AM

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

It took me a while to realize it, but Houston’s claim to fame is not its hot summer. It may be infamous for its stifling, humid summers, but that’s not when the most fun occur. For people, nor plants.

I love it when readers help me learn the ropes of my new town. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it is just too hot for most vegetables to grow. Coming from Ontario, summer equals fresh vegetables. Right now, we are between seasons in Texas. I will quit lamenting the lack of flavourful tomatoes (for now), the local vegetables will be coming in the fall and spring.  Despite being between seasons, vegetables can still be grown, though. Recently I visited an urban farm and loved it so much, I wanted to share the experience with you.

The Last Organic Outpost

The Last Organic Outpost is an urban, community farm. We weren’t sure what to expect, as this farm is close to where we live. Truly a hidden gem, they encourage the community to become involved in creating their own farming experience and ultimately to sell enough to become self-driven.

Last Organic Outpost

It is completely volunteer-run, except for one farmer they employ. They minimize costs by recycling unwanted goods. Donated hot tubs will be turned into planters. Cars have been turned into vermicomposters, bee havens, etc.

last organic outpost

Of course, they also grow vegetables. Despite being between seasons, they were growing greens (collards, dinosaur kale, spinach — all grown year-round), herbs, sweet peppers, eggplant, winter squash as well as figs and papayas. The somewhat chaotic plants reminded me of my small garden in Toronto.

last organic outpost

At first I thought it was just a big plant with pretty flowers, but they also had different kinds of okra. Small, long and purple varieties. I had never tried just picked okra and it was refreshingly crisp.

last organic outpost

Talk about freshly picked, they had produce for sale as well as special sampler bags which is what we purchased (it included kale, spinach, eggplant and butternut squash). Because it is volunteer-driven, their hours are variable but keep an eye on their facebook page if you want to become more involved.

Have no fear, there is still a delicious recipe attached to this post. When in the South, why not try their local specialties, too? Although traditional beans and greens in the South usually use collards, black eyed peas and ham/bacon, this one was a nice twist. I honesty wasn’t expecting much, but was blown away by the flavour. A quality liquid smoke definitely brings this dish to the next level. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists of the liquid smokes at the store? I thought we could omit it from our Houston pantry, but caved. Once we started looking, though, there were a lot of additives to most liquid smoke “seasonings”. The one we settled on just has water, hickory smoke, mesquite smoke as its ingredients and I really like it. It also won this taste test. 🙂

Anyways, this is a simple skillet saute with carrots, (pinto) beans and (kale) greens. I used a melange of spices for my vegetable stock substitute and I think it worked really well with the liquid smoke. Easy, peasy.. and delicious.

I am looking forward to coming back to The Last Organic Outpost once the growing season resumes. 🙂

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this month’s challenge to Shop Local.

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Kale Salad with a Raw Thousand Island Dressing

In Salads on September 14, 2013 at 7:30 AM

While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?

Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?

The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).

Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.

Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.

The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.

The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.

But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.

Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.

The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.

For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. 🙂

In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge.

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Raw Watermelon Candy

In Desserts, Favourites on September 12, 2013 at 6:17 AM

Raw Watermelon Candy

Here is another ridiculously easy treat!

While I have gushed over simple dehydrated fruits and veggies before, here I am raving about dried…… wait for it…. watermelon!

I usually don’t like to play guessing games with my food. However, I had fun sharing it at work, letting people tell me what they thought. First yay or nay. I had 90% yay. Then I let them guess what they were eating. Not a single person guessed watermelon. I had a lot of votes for pepper (due to the seeds, methinks) and other fruit due to the sweetness.  Lisa described them as bubble gum which comes from the sticky sweet consistency. But once I let out the watermelon secret, you can catch a glimpse of flavour in the background. Isn’t it funny how fickle our tastebuds can be?

Raw Watermelon Candy

It is certainly the special texture of the dried watermelon that I adored. Chewy and sweet. I made version plain and also salted with and without chile flakes. With a combination of hot-salty-sweet, the salted chile flake version was my favourite. Rob concurred. Rob mused it would be eerily similar to jerky if we added liquid smoke. Not that I know what jerky tastes like, though. 😉

I just realized that not only are simple recipes easier to make, but they are also a lot easier to type up afterwards. Enjoy! 🙂

Raw Watermelon Candy

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

In Appetizers, Favourites on September 10, 2013 at 6:37 AM

Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

I feel a bit guilty sharing this post.

1. It will be a quickie vacation gush over Portland.

2. More easy peasy food. I feel guilty sharing such a simple recipe but it was SO GOOD.

Oddly enough, despite travelling to Japan, Morocco, Iceland and Colombia throughout my blog tenure, I have yet to do any thorough vacation recaps. Mostly sharing the recipes they have inspired back in my kitchen or the treats I made to travel with me.

Those destinations seem so foreign and mostly inaccessible to the masses. But Portland, dude, that’s in America (and I know most of my readers hail from the US of A). I also made nada special to bring with me. I knew vegan heaven was only a plane ride away.

Despite visiting for only a short weekend, I feel like I connected with Portland and the rest of Oregon. The city, even downtown, is green. Green in the lots of trees sense, and in the save the environment sense. Cycling is a culture and definitely safer than where I have lived previously. Vegans rejoice, as there are truly innumerable options for fun meals. Lucky me, many a vegan already visited Portland earlier this year (mostly for Vida Vegan Con) so I already knew where to hit up.

In brief, food: Canteen (our favourite restaurant of our trip, the Portland bowl was fabulous as well as the maca shake); Prasad (lovely soul salad and chai latte); Rawdacious raw cheesecake (found at Canteen); Raw Pixie Re’treats (loved the mock BLT and lil pudding; found at Kure and Food Fight); Kure Juice Bar (breakfast acai bowls and matcha latte); Missionary Chocolates (found at Living Room Theaters); the infamous Portobello restaurant (Rob’s lasagna was better than my portobello steak but the decadent  ice cream sundae made up for it); vegan Mexican fare (with soy curls!) at Los Gorditos; Food Fight, an all vegan grocery store for some desert treats; Rob also had some Voodoo Doughnuts, but not the vegan ones (the Memphis Mafia was pretty epic, though [peanut butter, coconut and chocolate on top of a fritter as big as his head]) and lots of local brews for Rob
(more complete reviews can be found at Happy Cow)

In brief, non-food: Cyclepedia at the Portland Art Museum, Bike-A-Rama Bicycle Tour, watching indie films on a sofa at the Living Room Theater; Powell’s City of Books, early morning views of the city from Pittock Mansion and hiking in Forest Park (loved this!!). We also snuck in some shopping at REI and a downtown cycle store.

Who could guess we were only in Portland for less than 48 hours? Well, that’s the way we roll… bring on the awesomeness!

Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

I have plans to recreate that delicious Portland bowl sauce but until then, I am sharing this delicious hummus-tzatziki fusion dip. We made it before we left and we made it when we returned. It is possibly our favourite non-classical hummus. Just like my strawberry-cucumber smoothie, cucumber adds an airy lightness to the dip which is countered by flax (trust me, you can’t taste it). Lots of garlic and bit of lemon juice makes this a great dip. Or spread. Or however you want to eat it. I won’t judge.

I still have many more places on my Portland hit-list, including Native Bowl, Natural Selection and Departure with their vegan menu, and that’s just the food list. Anything you recommend I see on my second trip to Portland? 🙂

PS. have you entered my giveaway for a copy of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites yet?

PPS. Hopefully we’ll have some photos up later this week.

Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Swathi and to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Guava Flax Smoothie (& Houston’s cronut)

In Drinks on September 8, 2013 at 7:48 AM

Guava Flax SmoothieHave you heard of cronuts? Maybe the dosant? They are both spins on the same baked hybrid: a donut-like croissant. The original cronut wooed New York City. However, they take days to make and minutes to sell out. The lines are long and the prices are high. Since then, a few knock-off dosants have peppered North America.

In Houston, they can be found at Pena’s Donut Heaven in Pearland. When Rob discovered this, we had our next cycling destination picked. Turns out, while the cronut was not that fabulous, we’ve discovered our favourite cycling route in Houston, thus far. We’ve pedalled back 3 times already, enjoying the long, flat and straight road leading out of downtown Houston. Of course, Pena’s dosant is not vegan and I oftentimes get giggles from strangers as they see me snacking on an apple while Rob munches on his donut.

When we get home, though, I have been mixing up my own fabulous tropical smoothies. We’re working through different frozen fruit pulps. After our trip to Colombia, it was hard to find tropical frozen fruit (mamey, guanabanana, lulo, etc) in Toronto, but we snagged a bunch when we spotted it at Fiesta Mart. Mamey is still my favourite, but this simple guava smoothie was very good, too. Usually we just drink it and forget it, but this one I remade and photographed because I thought it was perfect to share. Frozen guava is combined with frozen banana, almond milk and ground flax seeds. The flax bulk up the smoothie making it more creamy. You may see the small flecks of brown but you can’t taste them.

Coming home to a cold drink is definitely the way to go in Houston.  Do you have a favourite treat for hot weather?

Guava Flax SmoothieThis is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

In Mains (Vegetarian) on September 5, 2013 at 6:41 AM

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Our vacation was pretty awesome. And pretty overdue. While road tripping from Toronto to Houston was fun, it definitely was not a vacation. Since tickets to Burning Man can be very hard to get, we planned this trip last winter. Rob has been a few times and only had positive things to say about it (other than the insidious playa dust).  In my mind, I thought: Hey, Texas is pretty close to Nevada. We should go to Burning Man! True enough, Houston is closer to Nevada than Toronto is to Nevada, but Houston is still 2000 km from Reno. Not that close.

I plan to summarize Burning Man in next week’s posts, as I recoup and regroup this week. Suffice it to say, I thought it was hot while camping in Nevada’s desert. We boarded the plane from Reno and landed in Houston. A week away and I had already forgotten how HOT, HOT, HOT (and humid) it is in Houston. Since Rob turned off the air conditioner while we were gone, we were greeted with an empty fridge and a hot kitchen. Other than thawing some (delicious) freezer meals, I had little interest in cooking anything. Zucchini noodles to the rescue!

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles have been my go-to lunch this summer. Gabby warned me that Houston’s heat would lead me to more raw foods and she was right. My meals have become simpler. Zucchini noodles are simple enough and of course, are just a vector for the sauce. The end of summer is a prime time for juicy tomatoes, at least in Ontario. I have yet to find tasty tomatoes here in Houston, so I have resorted to cherry tomatoes, which, in general, have more flavour. A portion of the fresh tomatoes are pulsed with a red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes along with a bunch of fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and garlic. A dash of chile flakes give a bit of kick and a date balances it out with a bit of sweetness. I topped it with some hemp seeds, too. I actually used a lot more than what I photographed since I knew it wouldn’t be as photogenic. 😉 I usually add the sauce and hemp seeds just before I eat the salad but I took photos of my partially packed lunch. Of course, this sauce will work equally well with your favourite spaghetti-type noodle.

What is your easy, no-cook go-to meal?

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This is my submission to this month’s Pasta Please for long noodles, hosted by Johanna, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, and to this month’s Cooking with Herbs. Read the rest of this entry »

Moosewood’s Caribbean Stew (& Cookbook Giveaway!)

In Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on September 3, 2013 at 6:01 AM

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

You may not have noticed, but I snuck away last week. An absolutely epic road trip, starting at Portland, the vegan mecca, meandering through lakes and mountains, including Crater Lake, reaching our ultimate destination: Burning Man. I hope to summarize our adventures and if I don’t I’ll be sure to share if Rob posts anything on his website. He is much better at looking through photos afterwards. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my food photos. 😉

Before we left, I tried to cook through our pile of produce. Serendipitously, I had everything for this delicious Caribbean Stew. It is from Moosewood’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites. Through their collective, they run a restaurant in Ithica, New York, and have written many cookbooks over the past few decades. Most of my Moosewood cookbooks were bought/discovered at used book sales, although they are still keeping up with the times. Their latest cookbook, while not entirely vegan (they still use cheese, although less than before) and not even vegetarian (they have recipes for fish), includes updates from their restaurant favourites. Between their section dedicated to Soups (Thai Butternut Squash Soup, Texas Barbecue Bean Soup, Red Lentil Soup), to Main Dish Salads (Peruvian Quinoa and Vegetable Salad), to Curries and Stews (Lentil-Vegetable Sambar, Navajo Stew), a section dedicated to Beans (Basque Beans, Caribbean Red Beans, Creole Red Beans), and sides (Lentil Dhal), I was very pleased with their vegan recipes.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

And this Caribbean Stew? It did not disappoint. A delicious medley of sweet potato, red bell pepper, tomato, cabbage and kale in a flavourful (not too) spicy broth made with ginger and green chiles. The dash of nutmeg and lime finish kept this special. As part of their growing process, Moosewood recommends more fresh herbs than before (I learned that lesson, too!) and this included fresh ginger, thyme and cilantro. They also recommended freshly grated nutmeg which is definitely more potent than pre-bought powdered. I modified the original recipe slightly, noted below. I decreased the ginger, although I probably didn’t need to be scared of the bit of heat it would impart. I also found the directions to cook everything on low to be too slow, so I increased my heat to medium-low and eventually medium. In the end, though, it was a fabulous soup. Tons of veggies with a delicious broth. A bit lacking in the protein department, I served it with the suggested brown rice. I bet you could easily sneak in some beans or tofu in there, too.

I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give away a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Moosewood dish. If you haven’t made anything by Moosewood yet, have a look through the table of contents of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on September 15, 2013. Good luck!

Other Moosewood recipes I have shared:

French Barley Salad
Bulgur Chili
Chinese Cabbage and Fermented Black Beans
Spanish Green Bean and Lime Bean Stew
Japanese Winter Stew
African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew
Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas
Thyme-Spiced Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Flavours of Caribbean.

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