Desperate times call for desperate measures.
This weekend was a doozy of a cold fest. With the long weekend, I briefly contemplated using the snow in my favour by breaking out the snowshoes… until I realized just how cold it was. With temperatures near -40C with the wind, Rob and I opted to stay inside most the weekend.
We actually had a plan. We needed to study.
We are working to becoming PADI scuba certified. Since our wedding in one of the best places to go scuba diving, we decided to capitalize on the uniqueness of the location. 5 hours of videos, 300 pages of a manual and multiple questions, we spent the majority of the weekend tucked away reading. Next weekend, we will attempt our pool portion of the training. Sadly, outdoor dives here will not resume until June, so we won’t be certified before we go, but it will make it much easier to go scuba diving.
Around this time of year, it is probably a good idea for us to go through our pantries and cold rooms. Please tell me I am not the only one with winter squashes that always seem to linger throughout the winter. No better time to use the winter squash along with a new variety of bean. Especially in curry form.
Susan gifted me these black chickpeas awhile back and I will admit, I prefer regular chickpeas. However, this curry was spectacular. There were a multitude of spices, added at different times to the curry, which created a rather optimally spiced dish. The fennel and panch phoran make this Bengali-inspired and a bit different from our typical curries. The black chickpeas made for a beautiful visual contrast but regular chickpeas could work, too.
How did you stay warm this weekend? Any scuba divers with beginner tips? :)
Lately my meals have been a lot of random foods. I am holding out. I knew I had some staples waiting to be unpacked but quickly replenished my perishable staples (tahini, peanut butter, maple syrup, etc). As such, the last few weeks have had me cooking without spices, relying on strong-flavoured ingredients and let’s be honest, I bought some pre-made soups and added some beans to make it a complete meal.
I promise to share some of my fun meals once my home is back to normal. Until then, I will continue to unearth some oldies-but-goodies from my backlog. I chose to share this one because it is actually pretty similar to what I am eating these days: cooked quinoa, random vegetables, beans, topped with a creamy sauce.
What is your template for healthy lunches?
Celeriac. Pumpkin. Could I be sharing any more autumn-like produce?
As I am munching away through my freezer before our next move, I am rediscovering meals that I should have blogged about but for some reason, I haven’t!
I am a long-standing proponent of leftovers but oddly enough, when I stash leftovers in the freezer, they kind of sit there for a while. Freshly made meals are always my go-to choice, but I have some real gems being unearthed these days.
I have become a bit more accustomed to the tamer curries that are made with curry powder, red lentils and an assortment of veggies. I really liked the Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal and since celeriac was my favourite veggie this winter, I was eager to try my hand at a similar stewy curry from Sarah. Typically, potatoes are used in Indian cooking but here, celeriac adds a different dimension which complements the sweetness from the pumpkin. I also loved the addition of the spinach thrown in for good green measure. I usually don’t freeze meals that use greens, but these leftovers are ok from the freezer.
By the way, does anyone know what kind of pumpkin is sold in stores that are cut into large wedges? They are labelled as Ontario pumpkins, but I have no clue what kind they are… I don’t cook with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but this was definitely a pumpkin for cooking. :)
Last weekend, Rob and I had pre-Christmas dinner with his family. Our families are located a bit too far from each other to want to drive between both cities on Christmas Day so we went to Woodstock a week earlier. Rob’s mom was a sweetie and gave me full reign over the kitchen to whip up a few dishes. She took care of the traditional Polish dishes while I had more of a hybrid/fusion contribution with braised cabbage, borscht (recipe to come) and this kale salad. In the aftermath of the gathering, Rob let me know that his parents couldn’t stop raving over this kale salad. People raving over kale salad, doesn’t that make your heart skip a beat? ;) First of all, let me apologize for the less-than-stellar photos. That’s the sacrifice for making a new recipe for guests away from home. Trust me, though, that the salad is stellar. Wilted kale. Garlic roasted butternut squash. Pomegranate arils. Smothered with a lemony vinaigrette. Oh so festive with a green base and sparkly red jewels. This is my version of Sarah’s Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranate Salad. As you can tell, I nixed the poppy seeds altogether. And the shallots. I also increased the amount of garlic, added a lot more kale and used more fresh lemon juice and salt. It is hard to muck up a salad with such delicious ingredients, so add what you like. :) This made a ton of food, and the beauty of kale salads is that the leftovers are just as good… which is what I brought home to photograph for you. ;) This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ingredient Challenge Monday for squash and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend. (more…)
Rob finds blogging to be a chore, at times. Me, I will gladly use it as a form of procrastination. Writing personal statements, now that is a chore!
This was another recipe I
pawned off suggested to Rob when I had leftover butternut squash. Aarti‘s Indian Summer Stew. Indian, check. Coconut, check. Butternut squash, totally up my alley… and a new kind of bean to try: toor dal or split pigeon peas. I actually originally bookmarked this recipe when I saw Anja using split yellow peas (my latest craze), but I’ve bought a few new split beans to facilitate more cooking from 660 Curries, Rob’s go-to cookbook. So toor dal, it was!
As expected, Rob adored this soup. Creamy and savoury. The toor dal melts into a thickened soup spiced with warming spices and thick chunks of dried coconut. There was a zippy undertone that was tempered by the cilantro. He promptly took photos and linked it up on Facebook, sharing his culinary success.
But as we ate the soup, we argued a bit. Freshly made, I thought the soup was a bit too hot for me (not Rob). Was it the mustard seeds or the Aleppo? Half a teaspoon is usually my max for the Aleppo chili flakes, and Rob swore he didn’t add anything extra or sneak in any of our garden chilis. Were my chili flakes more potent? We had finally returned to using my stash of chili flakes from Turkey, as opposed to the Aleppo from Kensington Market. Rob then described how he cooked the chili flakes, in the tempering oil. Oh yes, that must be why – the flavour oil explosion!
Turns out that the stew mellowed as leftovers, so it was now safe for me. Life got busy, though, and Rob lost his enthusiasm for sharing the recipe. I still wanted to share the meal, so here I am with Rob’s dish. Because while I used to only share food that I made, I can’t deprive you all of tasty dishes that Rob cooks up!
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Healing Foods featuring coconut, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month featuring coconut, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for coconut and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring squash.
Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.
I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).
What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?
First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.
You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer…. ;)
Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.
But today.. what am I enjoying today?
These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.
Next month? Only time will tell….
This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.
Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.
I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!
Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
How much is half a bushel?
Technically, it is 4 pecks or 8 gallons.
After this weekend, to me, it means 26.6 lbs of apples.
Or 66 apples!
And a bargain at $15.75 (60c/lb!)
(our bushel was slightly rounded, hehe)
Last weekend, Rob and I travelled to Birtch Farms for some DIY apple picking. We were expecting to come home with Cortland and Empire, but were tickled pink when we found out that Mutsu (aka Crispin), Jonagold and Ida Red were also ripe for picking!
Rob had never had Mutsu before, and thankfully we were encouraged to sample the apples first to figure out which we preferred. Mutsu was the clear winner for a snacking apple, followed by the Ida Red. While the Jonagold is a cross between a Jonathan and Golden Delicious, I thought it tasted too much like a Gala for me to enjoy it. Sadly, we missed the Honeycrisp picking season, and I don’t think they grow Ambrosia out here, which are my 2 favourite snacking apples. Mutsu will be my go-to apple for the next month or so, though!
Rob also picked up some fresh apple cider for the road and when we returned I made this delicious soup.
A butternut squash soup with pear, apple cider and vanilla from Orangette.
Who says vanilla is only for sweet desserts?
Add it to your savoury dishes, as well.
Sometimes you can go too sweet with squash but here, everything was balanced nicely. The pear and cider are sweet, but the vanilla calms it down. It was smooth and creamy from the squash and milk. A delightful light, creamy soup.
Perfect for your next Thanksgiving meal. Or any day you want a delicious heart-warming soup.
Rob and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Iceland. I hope to do a more complete post in a few weeks about the trip (wonderful! beautiful! stunning!), after I frantically try to put my life back into order with work and research commitments. My blog will go into autopilot until then.
I will tease you, though, and let you know how great the trip was and a week was certainly not long enough for the quaint island. Despite the stunning views and vistas, it was cold. While the daytime highs could be 8-20C, with winds beating us fiercely at 80 km/h, the windshield was brutal. It reminded me how it is truly fall.
Even before I left, I knew summer was slowly coming to an end at home. I was worried I would return to Canada to find fall, but instead, thankfully, it is still in the mid-20s.
However, there are other signs. The mornings are now dark when I get up and if I cook after work, it can be dark by the time I finish. Butternut squash, a surefire marker of fall, is making a come back!
After the cold winds of Iceland, I was hankering some warming stews and soups. Summer or fall, stews are great any time of the year. In fact, this stew doubles as a salad which is how I ate the leftovers. See how perfect this is for end-of-summer meals?
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (recipe posted here), this is a flavourful medley of vegetables (red bell pepper, green beans, tomatoes and butternut squash) with a light broth spiced with sweet paprika. Spurred by Cara’s recommendation, I used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes but both would work well here. This is great with the large, buttery lima beans, but feel free to use your favourite bean.
Moosewood recommended serving this with a romesco sauce on top, but I found I preferred the thickened leftover stew over top baby spinach with a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds. After throwing my sweet and sour lentils overtop arugula, I am learning that most bean dishes can be thrown overtop some greens for a lovely salad.
Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been. :)
When I posted my favourite recipes from 2010, I found it amusing that phoo-d astutely pointed out that I love chickpeas. I knew I liked them, but it wasn’t until I noticed that 4 recipes had chickpeas, that some of my most memorable meals have involved these nutty gems. As I delve into more meals that focus on vegetables, beans and whole grains, chickpeas and other beans have become more prominent in my kitchen. I have also been trying to integrate more nutrient-packed foods into my meals, spurred mainly by these vegetable ratings.
I was obviously tickled pink when I found this spin on Italian minestrone with chickpeas, butternut squash, kale, red pepper and tomatoes in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health. Oh, and carrots, too. A rainbow for the soul: every ingredient is chock-full of nutrients. Adapted, slightly, from this recipe, this is a mix of superfoods simmered in a basil-thyme broth. A splash of red wine vinegar at the end is an important part to lighten the dish. The flavours worked really well together, creating a light, healthy and hearty stew. I didn’t even serve it with a grain, it was that filling. This was a cheery, warm hug during a dreary winter.
I have a mighty fine selection of spices, if I may say so myself. A huge thank you goes to my last trip to Penzeys, and also to Bestwin which has a multitude of cheap ethnic spices. Fresh spices make a huge difference when cooking. Spices don’t keep long, which is why I only buy the spices I need. I make my own garam masala and now I will show you how to make your own chili powder. For the spice-sissies like me, this is yet another way to flavour the heat levels to your own liking.
There are many recipes for chili powder, but I went with a flavourful blend with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano and garlic powder. You can add as much real chili your taste buds will desire, but I stayed with my flavourful (not hot) Aleppo chili flakes from the base recipe. The deconstructed recipe has been incorporated into the chili recipe below. Definitely play with the flavours until you get something you like.
This is a Hallowe’en themed chili, filled with all things black and orange, adapted from Party Vegan (recipe also posted here). Of course, I couldn’t just do a simple, traditional chili. This one is filled with butternut squash and the secret oomph comes from the apple juice. Its sweetness allows you to dial up the heat higher than you might otherwise. Personally, I thought it was great. Different than the ordinary, and the squash worked well with the black beans.
I have been apprehensive of curries for a long time. I do not like curry. Rather, there is something in curry powder I do not like. A bit earthy, definitely spicy. I still haven’t figured it out. It may just be the chili pepper!
I enjoy Indian food, though, and bought 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer to help me conquer my fear of curries without the use of curry powder. I simply omit the peppercorns and add Aleppo chili flakes to my liking. :) Browsing through the cookbook, you realized this is a cookbook of authentic Indian dishes along with contemporary dishes with an Indian spin. And they are all considered curries.
The word “curry” doesn’t exist in the Indian vocabulary. Authentic Indian dishes do not call for curry powder, either! So what is a curry then? Iyer describes it as any dish which is simmered with a sauce/liquid with spices and herbs, which can be pretty much anything.
Hence why this dish is considered a curry.
And I didn’t even know it until after I sat down to eat it.
In my quest to find interesting ways to use my large bunch of kale (superfood #1), I stumbled upon a vanilla sweet potato and kale soup by KathEats. I adapted it by swapping some of the sweet potato for butternut squash. I inadvertently added more coconut milk (my can was 19 oz, but I think 14 oz is the standard size) and instead of using garam masala, I made my own spice blend, loosely based off of Lisa’s post.
This was supposed to be a soup, but it was too thick to be a soup and too saucy to be a stew (although it technically could be considered a stew since everything was stewing). In the end, we christened it as a curry due to its Indian-flavoured spices and use of coconut milk.
Regardless, this was delicious. DELICIOUS. It was sweet, savoury, spicy, and salty. It was hearty, yet creamy. It was filling. It was everything great. Just not a soup.
The sweet potatoes and butternut squash cook down to a sweet hearty broth, aided by a blender. Coconut milk permeates along with the sweet/spicy flavours of the garam masala – cumin, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg – with a kick from Aleppo chili flakes. I almost thought to leave this as a nice soup after blending it, as it tasted great. But I am glad I persisted, because the kale was a delight. Chewy and full of texture. The vanilla worked well and the raisins were like hidden treasures, sweet jewels popping up in every few bites or so.
I am sure this would still be nice as a thinned soup, but served with rice, the textures balanced out nicely.
I scooped up a few butternut squashes when they were on sale, and they are great because they don’t take up coveted refrigerator space. I can plot and determine a strategy to use them in my cooking. What will I make first? Ina Garten’s Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with a Warm Cider Vinaigrette? Smitten Kitchen’s Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew or her Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese? The New Spanish Table‘s Lentil and Pumpkin Stew with Roasted Garlic? Joanne’s Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Butter Mole? Ottolenghi‘s Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Eggplant and Pomegranate Molasses? Fat Free Vegan’s Lemony Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash? 101 Cookbook’s Borlotti Bean Mole with Roasted Winter Squash? There are so many options to mull over as squash season starts up again.
So how did I narrow my choices? I didn’t have all the ingredients for any of the recipes, so I kept my eyes out for the missing links. While I was walking around the St Lawrence Market, I stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans (borlotti beans). I had bought some dried Romano beans earlier to make the dish, but when I spotted the fresh beans, I couldn’t resist! The Borlotti Bean Mole was the chosen one. How could I not have chosen it initially? It has lots of great ingredients – caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, ground almonds, some kale is thrown in for greenery and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate mole sauce. Now, all I had to do was also find some kale. :)
My favourite part of St Lawrence Market is the Saturday morning farmer’s market in the North building. For early risers like me, it is great because it is probably one of the only places to buy groceries at 6am in the morning! :) I spotted a bunch of kale for $2. Let me not fool you, this bunch was HUGE. It could not fit into my bicycle pannier, it was that big. It did not even fit in my refrigerator. I had to store it outside on my balcony! And when I measured out 3 oz of kale for this recipe, I needed one leaf. Just one leaf!
I have never had a Mexican mole before. For the other newbies out there, it is pronounced mo-lay, not mole like the skin lesion. I was corrected, thanks Rob! My Mexican modesty was revealed! ;)
While I generally am a bit apprehensive with traditionally spicy dishes, I really enjoyed this. I modified Heidi’s recipe (who in turn adapted it from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me) to increase the beans and squash, and I used Aleppo chili flakes instead of the jalapeno peppers. The chocolate softens the spicy kick. I otherwise kept things the same and really enjoyed it. It takes a while to make, at least an hour prep, with a further 2 hours of slow cooking, but you have a wonderfully fragrant meal. I think you could skip the 2 hour cooking time, if you really need to. It would still taste great. Everything was basically cooked before it went in and when I snuck in a lick before I popped it into the oven, it was very tasty. It was also slightly colourful at this point. Two hours later, the flavours were more robust, deeper, darker and savoury but it was still great beforehand. The cranberry beans are creamy, the squash is sweet, the kale has a slight bite to it and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate sauce. Who says you can only have chocolate as a sweet treat? It is wonderful savoury as well. :) Enjoy!
Here I present an interesting miso soup with butternut squash, spinach and soba noodles. It had been a while since I made a Japanese dish, as I was sidetracked with buttermilk, pumpkin and cranberries, but I was craving a soup. I liked how the sweet butternut squash mixed with salty miso. This soup was adapted from a recipe in Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. I have learned that Asian recipes may not be the best from non-Asian sources, but this was pretty good although certainly not authentic Japanese. It attests to the beauty of soups and how hard it is to mess them up. :)
The hardest part of the soup was prepping the squash. I found it easy to microwave the squash first, let it cool slightly, then peel and cut the squash for the soup. Alternatively, you could cut and peel before you microwave it. Roasting it would be easy as well, but takes longer and you are more likely to get soft (roasted) squash.