Long time no write!
My longest blog hiatus is definitely worthy of a wedding and honeymoon. I know a few were interested in photos and here are a few teasers from our fabulous photographer, Gabe McClintock.
After a partial whirlwind through Honduras and Guatemala following our wedding, we returned to Toronto earlier this week. I was hoping to bring a bit of spring and summer back with me, but Toronto is still fairly cold with (freezing) rain this week. Channeling my continuance of all things avocado (albeit of the Mexican variety), I could not resist them at the grocer. I still managed to stock up with lots of vegetables and then threw together this quick and easy salad.
Consider it a chunky avocado dressing, or an avocado scramble salad, the flavours are bright and flexible. The different veggies conferred different textures while enveloped by the creamy lime avocado mash with a hint of cheeziness from the nooch. The black beans help to make this a filling complete meal salad. It was excellent and I recommend eating it at once as the leftovers were not as vibrant. Alternatively, sprinkle with a touch more lime juice when reserving. While not necessary, I added the salad on top of leafy greens. I have a bad habit of being leafy greens and then not eating them. Here’s to eating more greens. And warmer weather.
What are you wishing for lately?
I must admit that I was drawn to making this because it had the word “summer” in its title. With frozen corn, canned tomatoes and fresh produce available even now (zucchini, spinach, red bell peppers and cilantro), you could almost imagine was made in the summer. This is probably one of most colourful curries, due in part, to all the rainbow of colours from the vegetables.
Rob and I (very briefly) considered taking our bikes out this weekend (we skipped right over snowshoeing) but while the temperatures are nice, the roads are littered with salt, sand and even some small snowbanks.
I am kind of hoping that once we return from our trip, spring will be here for real. Especially since I am already planning/imaging what I want to plant in my garden pots for the summer. I have missed my forest of fresh herbs.
I have been lucky to be able to cook from so many fabulous cookbooks. I always try to share my favourite recipe for you to try as well, but sometimes there are so many good recipes. This dish was simplified, slightly from the Buddha Parcels in Keep It Vegan (as reviewed originally here).
Instead of making parcels (cute but not too practical), I put all the vegetables in a big glass tray and roasted them with a sheet of aluminum foil overtop. The sauce from toasted sesame oil and sriracha was spot on perfect, and I wonder whether the vinegar was the best part. Not that I tasted it, but it was a lovely marinade.
I used sweet potatoes and sweet red bell peppers and it complemented the spicy sauce. Because of the lid, the kale gets steamed from the juicy vegetables. Not that kale chips would be bad, because I think they were fabulous on this roasted vegetable and kale chip pizza.
There is a nice (albeit small) side of cardamom-lemon infused rice in the cookbook, but I ended up tossing the vegetables with chickpeas and brown rice. Enjoy it with your favourite protein.
I am sharing this with Shaheen’s Eat Your Greens.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
While the blogosphere blows up with desserts, here is a fun way to add even more chocolate to your meals. Cocoa jerk tofu tacos. No stranger to brightly flavoured jerk foods (e.g. Jamaican Jerk Plantain Soup and the ever classic Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps), I have never seen it with the addition of chocolate.
The recipe is courtesy of Superfoods for Life, Cocoa which is a vegan cookbook devoted to adding more chocolate to your meals. The book explains the health benefits of chocolate and shows you ways to incorporate it into your breakfast, lunch and dinner, including desserts (obviously). Sweet and savoury.
This has been my favourite recipe so far, and I probably would not have tried it had Sayward not raved about it. The perfect balance of tangy, spicy (not too spicy) with flavourful spices (allspice, oregano, cinnamon) and the raw cocoa powder merely lent a deeper flavour. This did not taste like chocolate. It was also really simple to put together, with a quick marinade mixed in a baking dish which was then baked altogether. I served it as tacos with a spoonful of mashed avocado but Matt also recommends eating it with a side of rice, beans and/or plantains. Rob doesn’t like onions too much, so if you are like him, reduce or replace the onions with more bell peppers.
It took me awhile to review this cookbook because I quickly realized it is hard to eat chocolate so often. Even with the savoury meals, sometimes I got tired with my leftovers prematurely so I had to space them out. I will also admit was not that adventurous to try all of Matt’s suggestions yet (bana ghanoush with cocoa powder, cocoa coleslaw, choco-spinach lasagna). However, it just goes to show you how novel some of these recipes truly are.
I wish the cookbook was organized more intuitively for finding the recipes, but I cannot determine the method to their madness. I think they are organized based on health benefits (ie, preventing stroke, diabetes, etc). The chapters are labelled as such: Heart-Healthy Cacao: Little Bean, Lots of Benefits and Cacao on the Brain: From Stroke Prevention to Cognitive Function.
Here is a sample of the recipes shared elsewhere:
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the book, please leave a comment below telling me about your favourite unusual way to enjoy chocolate. The winner will be selected at random on February 22, 2015. Good luck!
PS. I am sharing this with Vegetable Palette.
Feel like you missed autumn? Summer went straight into winter? Time flies, and sometimes I feel like I missed the peak season for certain fruits and vegetables. I keep missing peach season although we had a few this year. I also missed prime tomato time, perhaps because I was distracted by summer exams. In any case, have no fear. Canned tomatoes are possibly the best way to make sure you have flavourful tomatoes.
Oddly enough, I first encountered Arrabiata sauce while travelling in South Africa. It was a premade sauce that I added to a can of lentils with delicious results. A bit spicy, a lot tomatoey, it worked well with the hearty lentils. However, by the time I returned to Canada, I figured a pasta sauce deserved some pasta.
I made a huge batch of Ricki’s Arrabiata sauce and used it in two non-traditional ways: paired with soba noodles and also paired with zucchini noodles with chickpeas and nutritional yeast. I liked both versions although the zucchini noodles remind me more of the summer than soba noodles.
Next time, I think I will puree the sauce and add a bunch of lentils. Topped with nutritional yeast, it was a great meal, too.
Despite what you make believe, I haven’t eaten any winter squash recently. I bought a colourful carnival squash but haven’t made anything with it yet. I have this recipe I made while in Houston. The giveaway? The frozen roasted corn. I can’t say I have seen that since returning to Toronto.
This is a perfect end-of-summer, beginning of fall soup, as the last of the local corn arrives and the first winter squashes arrive. Or perfect for the dead of winter, too, using frozen corn kernels.
The Three Sisters, referring to the dietary staples of the Mesoamerican diet: corn, beans and squash. They often grow together, each plant benefitted from the others. The lankly corn husks provided a structure for the beans to latch onto. The squash covers the ground, preventing pesky weeds from appearing. And like all beans, they return nitrogen to the soil to help nearby plants. It makes sense that meals would also center around such foods, equally creating a balanced meal. This meal is simple but elevated by choice herbs and spices (cilantro, chiles, smoked paprika, garlic) with a heavy hand of lime juice. I used the full amount in the recipe and even I, the lover of all things tart, found it off-putting. Please start with less and taste as you go.
The recipe comes from a cookbook I have been meaning to write about for a while, Extraordinary Vegan. I can see Allan is a partial kindred spirit in the kitchen as he realizes a few choice ingredients can elevate meals to become extraordinary. Like I have said, some of my favourite, albeit unusual ingredients, are Aleppo chile flakes, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and miso. These are a few of the ingredients Allan uses to create his meals. I had a few of these in my Houston kitchen, but still piecing together my larger pantry here, and now looking forward to trying other recipes. Many recipes are simple but a few use a few hard to find ingredients. Here are a few other recipes I have spotted around the web from Extraordinary Vegan.
Are the squashes out in full force in your kitchen yet?
So, it is late August. We moved back to Toronto at the beginning of August. Our stuff from Houston arrived, and our stuff we squirrelled away in my brother’s basement will be arriving this weekend. Unfortunately, one key link remains broken: the internet. We have been waiting for our internet to be installed for 3 weeks now.
I have internet through my cellphone but otherwise, our tap into the internet is dry. As such, I am *still* relying on oldie-but-goodie recipes I photographed earlier, lurking in my drafts, waiting for the right moment to share.
This was a delicious nut pate I made when I had access to fresh herbs in my garden. While I am not a fan of raw pates, I will concede that I wasn’t trying to make a pate with this meal. That is what happens when you over-process nut meat! I was aiming for nut-based Italian sausage crumbles, but with a few too many whirls with the food processor, it turned into a delicious, chunky spread instead.
This is no bland pate, though. First of all, I wanted to lighten up the nut meat by adding some mushrooms. I used oyster mushrooms because they have a very mild flavour and I dare say you couldn’t taste them anyhow. I pulsed the nuts (pecans and Brazil nuts) with a handful of fresh herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme and sage. It was the last-minute addition of sun-dried tomatoes that added not only a great burst of flavour, but also turned my sausage crumbles into a pate.
There are countless ways to enjoy this spread and I originally ate it solo, stuffed into a bell pepper. For leftovers, I smeared it into a collard wrap topped with assorted spiralized or thinly sliced vegetables (zucchini, beet, carrot, cabbage) and a beautiful sprout garnish. I almost didn’t photograph the haphazard (leftover) collard wraps, but Rob urged me to reconsider. They were definitely pretty, too, and mighty tasty.
You know Rob is a keeper when he doesn’t kill you when it is time to pack. And a) you have essentially doubled your cookbook collection while in Houston (although I limited myself to 10 books for my move) and Rob is now packing your heavy books; b) while you should be packing, instead you are cooking the last of the bits in the refrigerator, so I am still net loss worth for packing. And then there’s c) please don’t pack my cookbooks I still want to review! Eventually I had to give in…. and help pack. And thankful that most books I receive to review come in electronic form.
Especially after making my own e-cookbook, I have grown to appreciate digital books. They have their pros and cons. They are easier to search, but not as fun to read. I miss the ability to curl the pages and find new random recipes. Although they are definitely easier to move. They also allow me to write posts in the airport.
Afro Vegan is Terry Bryant’s new cookbook. A lover of good food, he has managed to fuse soul comfort food with gourmet twists. His muses vary from Caribbean soul cuisine, Southern US down home cooking and African menus. Pecan cornbread with dukkah? Sweet plantain and Fresh Corn Cakes? Peanut Pumpkin Fritters? Jamaican Patties Stuffed with Maque Choux? Spinach Peanut Sauce? Trust me, it all sounded good to me, I was sad I haven’t had enough time to explore it.
While a bit more complex than my weeknight meals, there are more simple and more elaborate dishes. Delicious and innovative all-round. I loved, loved, loved my version of his Southern black eyed peas, I shared it before the book was even released to the masses. Now I am sharing another great soup, which I simplified by skipping the dumplings. This black bean stew, inspired by the Brazilian feijoada, is more tomato-heavy than my previous versions, but still nice and hearty and simple enough for an easy meal.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere (except maybe the moon). To be entered, please leave a comment here, any comment. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!
Recipes from Afro-Vegan shared elsewhere:
It is my pleasure to share with you Gena Hamshaw’s new cookbook, Choosing Raw. Named after her widely popular food blog, her simple, bright and healthy recipes shine through onto paper. Full disclosure, I have loved Gena’s recipes ever since I discovered her blog (and her infamous banana soft serve recipe). My previous gushings can be seen here and here and I was thrilled when Gena asked me to be a tester for her cookbook. The best part of help her test the recipes? She actually cared about my feedback beyond recipe bloopers, making this a truly phenomenal cookbook.
Just as her blog attests, the recipes are fresh and flavourful. All vegan, some raw, some cooked, some mixed, some with options for either raw or cooked. You might think you recognize some of the recipes from her blog, but they have all been reworked and rewritten based on reader feedback. With 125 recipes, spanning essential foundation recipes (including cashew cheese, chocomole, banana soft serve, lemon turmeric vinaigrette, ginger miso dressing and hemp parmesan) and breakfasts, meals and desserts separated based on the degree of raw components and familiarity to traditional meals. She includes a primer on making meal-sized salads, including a Dinosaur Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad and a Raw Cobb Salad with Eggplant Bacon.
Gena’s level 1 or introductory recipes are truly tried-and-true. Breakfasts options include the (delicious!) Raw Vegan Bircher Muesli, and (even more delicious!!) Chickpea Tofu Tahini Scramble. Gena has different suggestions for lunch and dinner (for me, lunch is always dinner in leftover form) and I can highly recommend both her Curried Chickpea and Carrot Salad and Easy Red Lentil Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry.
Slowly, Gena encourages you to branch out from the familiar with a hybrid of new and old. Her Avocado Black Bean Scramble was fresh and bright, the Raw Falafels have a carrot base which was the first falafel recipe I liked, and I love that her Raw Pad Thai actually includes tamarind (although I recommend adding more tamarind… because, that’s just the way we like it!). The Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds was a fun twist for an autumn side, although I added chickpeas for a heartier meal.
Within her level 3 recipes (aka Brave New World), Gena introduces you to chocolate açaí bowls, jicama fiesta rice salad, raw corn chowder, and coconut curry kelp noodles. From this chapter, I highly recommend the Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Salsa (I substituted peaches which was still glorious) and her Raw or Cooked Ratatouille.
Desserts are typically the star of raw cuisine, and her recipes do not disappoint. Her Simple Raw Vanilla Macaroons are flawless and her Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is spot-on. I cannot wait to try other dishes like her Cherry Vanilla Tahini Ice Cream (no ice cream machine required!) and her No-Bake Tartlets with Raw Vegan Chocolate Ganache Filling has been on my hitlist for a long time.
For me, the most important part of a cookbook are the recipes (and the index so I can find the recipes), but the recipes are only a portion of Gena’s book. Her first chapters explain “The Why”, “The What” and “The How” of a eating a vegan diet that includes raw. Normally I skip over these sections, but Gena makes these sections practical, useful and insightful with her background in nutrition. Finally, a raw cookbook that tells you the theory of keeping your food “enzymes” intact will all get decimated in your stomach’s harsh acidic environment anyhow. Likewise, her focus is on nutrients from a plant-based diet.
Gena explains how to properly balance your meals, explaining the importance of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. She debunks myths including “Eating spinach raw is bad for you because it blocks the absorption of nutrients”, “Soy disrupts hormones, causes breast cancer and should be avoided”, “You should always eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach”, and “It’s essential to separate proteins and starches, because they require different digestive environments and will cause bloating if you eat them together”. To top it off, there are 21 days of worth of meal plans along with tips on how to transition to a vegan diet.
For this review, I had a hard time deciding which recipe to highlight. I decided to share her Classic Cheezy Kale Chips. The mixture of cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast and miso coat the kale leaves which are dehydrated until they are crispy and flavourful. I don’t usually bother with pretty photos while recipe testing, and I had good intentions of taking better photos. Until I ate all the chips. And then they were all gone. They were incredibly addictive.
Gena also has a higher protein kale chip that I am dying to try: Hummus Kale Chips (made with chickpeas)!
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegetable. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Choosing Raw shared elsewhere:
Did you know that Trader Joe’s is not in Canada? The closest thing we have (well, those who live in Vancouver) is Pirate Joe’s. They temporarily renamed themselves Irate Joe’s as they were being sued by TJ’s. TJ’s lost but is continuing to appeal. In any case, we’re getting our fair use of TJ’s while still in Houston.
Sadly, though, it took me 10 months to locate their perfect salsa. Their chunky salsa is totally my favourite. Perfectly spiced with a robust tomato flavour, I love it. I also managed to go through a container in less than a week. I started adding it to everything.
In fact, this is such an easy recipe, it is almost non-recipe. I envision this as the perfect travelling meal – mix and eat. Until then, it will have a happy place in my kitchen.
Mix some salsa with chickpeas and chopped bell pepper. Throw it overtop some shredded broccoli and carrots for more crunch on a taco shell, and you’ve got a meal. I topped mine with a healthy dose of nutritional yeast which became creamy and gooey with the extra salsa. Totally not optional for those who love nooch.
I may go into salsa withdrawal. Can anyone recommend a good recipe? I cannot imagine it being hard to make. ;)
I told my friend in Houston that I had reached the height of my vegan eats here. There were no new restaurants I wanted to try. She assured me there were so.many.more to try and convinced me to try a nearby Thai restaurant. Oddly enough, Rob has spotted it earlier that week and was amused by its billboard that announced it was MANGO SEASON!
I was apprehensive but she assured me I would love it. She told me they had vegan ice cream. I was sold.
She did not lie. I loved it. So much so, that I quickly tried to figure out how to recreate the dishes.
This is a spin on Laotian larb. Of note, Rob tells me this is nothing like the original and in fact, if you pronounce the r in larb, that is wrong, too. Make no mistake about its simplicity, this salad wrap was GREAT!
A few fun points: This was the first time I have steamed tofu. I LOVED it. It made it nice and fluffy and once crumbled, it absorbed the flavours of the marinade incredibly well. Lime juice, cilantro, in a salty-hot-sweet background, it was nice, fresh and light. After an overnight soak, it was absolutely perfect and lasted for a few days of lovely leftovers for lunch.
I took inspiration from the restaurant to serve it next to a quarter of an iceberg. Its solid leaves make for excellent wraps, more sturdy than most lettuces and is rather mild on the green scale. Besides, it is always good to rotate your greens. :)
Do you have a favourite green wrap? I thought collards were my favourite but I was rather smitten by the iceberg lettuce. ;)
Before you start to think this will be a smoked paprika free household, have no fear. I am pretty sure Rob will let me replenish prior to moving back to Canada.
It is a bit of a race, now. Rob has made it his own personal goal to munch through our food stocks…. so, if I wait too long, my food may disappear. Use those roasted red peppers in the pantry! The roasted corn in the freezer! The last of the soy curls! (I actually had planned to use some small flageolet beans I had frozen but could not get them to thaw out of the container fast enough….)
Reminiscent of my Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder, I loved how this one was virtually bursting with vegetables. Coconut milk would make this a thick and luscious soup. This version was inspired by one of my favourite cookbooks this year, Soup’s On!, since it is packed with quick and healthy meals. Mark’s inspiration was New Orleans’ Maque Choux, a Cajun-inspired corn soup.
I loved it. Simply delicious. I worked with what we had lying around and it made a light, summery bowl of vegetable soup.
Do you like soups in the summer as well?
PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
We reached critical mass last weekend.
I am not joking.
We ran out of room in the refrigerator.
Who knew greens could take up so much space?
I loaded up at our favourite market. $7 got us heaps of produce along with our $5 case of mangoes. The mangoes and bananas didn’t go into the fridge, but it was hard enough to get my bag of 9 leeks ($1!) and 3 heads of Boston lettuce ($1!) in there.
But then, I went to the potluck. How could I not support buying some freshly picked organic kale grown by school children from a nearby elementary school? And that is how I also ended up with a good 3-4 bunches worth of kale and could barely close my fridge.
Thank goodness Rob hasn’t strangled me just yet.
With prices so low, we don’t feel as guilty if I don’t eat through everything. But I try!!
Instead of tackling all the leeks and my new produce, I decided to dig through my vegetable bins to find the older vegetables. Finish off the snap peas, carrots and bell peppers, and the last of the scraggly cilantro and scallions. For protein, I quick-thawed some edamame.
This combination reminded me of my vegetable buddha salad bowl but since we’re low on miso, I went with a dressing more reminiscent of my (other) raw Asian kale salad with edamame. With so many colourful vegetables and an Asian dressing, how could you go wrong?
Please share with me your favourite kale and leek recipes! Also, for fresh chickpeas since I scored those too! :)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest and this week’s Souper Sundays.
My lovely friend, Dawn, recently asked me to share my tips for food blogging.
As you know, I have a demanding full-time job and this is my hobby. After a few years, I think I have a great balance between managing the blog and the rest of my life. Mainly, the blog does not take over my life.
Some people wonder how I make and share so many different recipes without losing my mind.
I try to keep things low-key. I only take photos once. New recipe, snap a photo. If I come back and the photos suck, oh well… I will still post the subpar photos if the recipe is good.
This also means that I may make a recipe one way but find a better use for it afterwards as leftovers. Then my photos might not look like my recipe!
That is how this recipe evolved. It started out as a Thai Kale Salad with Chickpeas and a Peanut Dressing. I made it, I ate it. However, the next day, I thought rice paper rolls would be better. So I wrapped them up… and decided I didn’t want to bother with new photographs and munched away. Of course, the wrap was better. There is something sensational when all the components of the dish hit your palate at the exact same time: the lemony kale, the sweet red pepper, the crunchy carrots and the chickpeas are not rolling around everywhere…. and how could I forget the delicious peanut sauce? It is light, thinned with vinegar but flavourful with the ginger and orange. Drizzled into the salad roll, it was delicious. So delicious, I gobbled up the rest of the salad before rethinking about a new photo shoot.
Want more advice on how to be an awesome food blogger? Check out Dawn’s round-up with tips from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg, Susan Voisin from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, Cara Lyons from Cara’s Cravings and Alyssa from Queen of Quinoa.
One reason Easter snuck up on me this year is because I do not get a statutory holiday this weekend. In Canada, I usually get Good Friday off. (In Quebec, I think they get the Monday off instead). Here in Texas, nothing. Although I think stores may be closed on Sunday.
The second reason, of course, is that we will not be celebrating it with family or friends.
I have even less knowledge of Passover but it passed my mind as I made this quintessential Arabic-Jewish dish: Shakshouka.
I first encountered shakshouka (also known as shakshuka or chakchoukah) in Morocco. At its roots, it is a mildly spiced tomato dish in which eggs are poached directly in the tomatoes. Like most dishes, every city had its own variation: more vegetables, less vegetables, more spice, less spice.
I was drawn to this version due to the overabundance of vegetables. Tomatoes, bell peppers and cabbage. Shakshouka’s country of origin may lie in Morocco’s neighbouring country of Tunisia, known for its hot and spicy harissa pepper paste. While I have made my own (not-too-spicy) harissa before, I opted for something quasi-similar I had in my kitchen: pat-chi. Aka, kale and collard kimchi spiced with Thai chiles. Aka, related to kimchi with a yaya-twist. A little bit goes a long way to flavour our vegetable ragout.
To keep this vegan, I swapped the eggs (perhaps totally losing the essence of shakshouka) for chickpeas. I loved it. But sadly, upon investigation found that with this swap, this would no longer be appropriate for passover. No chickpeas for Passover. Perhaps you could serve the ragout with some quinoa: now kosher approved for Passover.
Will you be celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend?