With all the recent sweets, it was probably no shock that I’d jump on the chance to try a sweetener-free challenge. Early in the summer I tried to reduce my fruit consumption, to no avail, as local berries arrived and continued to excite me throughout the summer. In the fall, came the figs and apples. Now we have pomegranates, too.
This time, I tried caramelizing it like I do with onions. A long slow braise to express all the natural sugars while taming the boldness of the anise. Silky and sweet, I really enjoyed fennel this way. I sprinkled it with cumin and lemon juice for a second level of flavour. Then, it is tossed with quinoa in a punchy salad spiked with cilantro and dill with chunks of lemon. The Aleppo chiles added a nice wave of heat contrasting the sweet fennel. While caramelizing the massive amount of fennel, you may wonder how everything will fit into the salad, but trust me. It wilts a bit and I loved that this was a fennel heavy quinoa salad, instead of a quinoa heavy salad. Tossed overtop baby spinach, it was delicious . Two guesses as to where I got this recipe. With such focus on each ingredient, you might guess Denis Cotter, but no, it was from another great, Ottolenghi. It was reminiscent, but better, than his barley and pomegranate salad I made last year.
The original salad also calls for pomegranate arils, which I added for one serving, just as I started my sweetener-free challenge. It elevated the salad to a whole other dimension. I wonder if it was because I knew it was the last fruit I’d be having until the new year. ;)
Have you ever tried a sweetener-free challenge? Do you think I am nuts for trying it? ;)
This feels like a guilty confession. Boastful yet partially aghast at my audacity.
I admit it: I have 10 different kinds of winter squash in my kitchen.
All are edible (unlike the uber cute swan squash below! which I didn’t buy by the way)
There are the usual players: Butternut squash. Buttercup squash. Kabocha squash. Delicata squash. Spaghetti squash. Sugar pie pumpkin.
They all happened to be on sale this week.
But then, I went to the large Loblaws downtown (the one with 20 different kinds of mushrooms) and yes, they have plenty of squashes, too. Known for its wide selection, they carry many gourmet foods. While the dried mushrooms could cost you an arm and a leg (dried morels are $113.05/lb), the unique squashes didn’t break my budget.
From a local mostly-Mennonite farm and only $1/lb, I came home with new-to-me squashes: carnival, white swan and sweet dumpling (pictured left to right, above). I resisted buying the ambercup and turban squashes, but I may head back for my next squash fix. (These are small squashes, so it may happen sooner than you think!)
With the ridged nature of the squashes, I knew these squashes were meant to be stuffed. I filled them with quinoa and white beans spiced with sage and oregano from my garden along with fresh cranberries, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. The flavours worked well together and I liked the tartness from the fresh cranberries contrasting the sweetness from the maple syrup. I served it overtop spinach for a prettier presentation.
The squash verdict? Love the carnival squashes! Dry yet moist, crumbly and sweet. Perfect as a stuffed squash because you can eat through the squash at the same time and integrated it into the dish. It might be too crumbly to hold up as large chunks for soups or stews. In the end I ate the skin of the squash, too. It was nice and crispy after all the roasting, so make sure you scrub the squashes clean before you start.
PS. For those keeping track, I also have a golden nugget squash and haven’t tried it yet. Any predictions on how best to eat it?
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to the Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge, and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.
While tackling my list of bookmarked recipes, I knew not everything would be a winner.
My criteria for my eats? First of all, it must be whole foods oriented (nothing white- flour, rice, etc) with limited oil and salt. A lover of most international cuisines, I try not to discriminate but it must be filled with ingredients I love. Beans! Quinoa! Greens! Squash! Lemon! I also like to see a few reviews of the recipe. N=30 is better than n=1 for liking a dish.
I may try to incorporate a new-to-me food or one I haven’t previously enjoyed. I won’t even try to like celery, though. I have given up on green pepper. And now I have sworn off parsley, too.
I have a few parsley recipes here, although usually it is just a flavour accent. I should have known better, and even thoguh I reduced the parsley in this salad, it was still too prominent for me. My parsley came from a friend, so perhaps this local, organic homebrew was more potent?
In any case, this recipe is a knock-off of Fresh‘s All-Star Tabbouleh Salad with adzuki beans and quinoa. It made its rounds earlier this summer, first posted by Angela and subsequently Kass. Sadly, I give very few stars to the salad.
But, all is not lost because extra stars go to the absolute best roasted sweet potatoes ever. I know, a very ballsy statement. I have a witness. Rob agreed with me. So, you have n=2 from us. Lots of positive reviews from Kath’s post, which I bookmarked many moons ago.
Suffice it to say, it may take a while, but the roasted sweet potatoes have a nice skin on the outside while being pillowy soft on the inside. After a little rub of olive oil, salt and pepper, you roast them at 350F for 30 minutes, then 400F for 20 minutes. A simple flick of the knob makes for the most glorious sweet potatoes.
Please try it out and let me know whether you like it, too! Perfect for an upcoming Thanksgiving feast. :)
It is that time of year again. Vegan MoFo. A month-long blogging event featuring all things vegan.
This will be my third time participating.
In 2010, I wasn’t even a vegan but only posted vegan eats.
I hummed and hawed over this year’s theme.
Quick and easy dishes?
Any of those themes would have been fun and challenging for a month. In the end, I decided to allow myself some flexibility and focus on tackling my bookmarked recipes.
Also, as much as I initially wanted to do a month of daily posts, I have decided to scale back my blogging. All in the interest of focusing on more important life events. Not that I won’t be cooking. I will. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be a very creative (and stress-reducing) outlet but will keep it as a smaller hobby. In any case, the theme will be bookmarked recipes for the month of October! :)
It is no secret that I bookmark a lot of recipes, from other blogs and my cookbook collection. I also recently joined Pinterest (follow me!), which may not be a good thing. Time will tell. Some of my isoteric pantry items are from bookmarking a recipe and then forgetting/waiting to make the recipe. Then I try to save the ingredient until I finally make the recipe. So, I hold onto ingredients perhaps a bit longer than needed. This is my challenge to eat through my pantry and my long list of bookmarked recipes.
I realize that not all recipes will be winners, but thought I would share my thoughts anyways. That’s the fun of MoFo!
One of my goals is to eat through my heirloom beans. I’ve amassed a few from Kalustyan’s, Rancho Gordo as well as from local stores like Whole Foods. I find them too pretty to eat but be it resolved to eat them. And replenish my favourites once I move to the US.
So here we go with a foray with mayocoba beans (or canary beans) that I picked up at Whole Foods (Mississauga Square One location for anyone interested). They are originally from Peru and similar to a white bean with a smooth, buttery texture. Feel free to substitute white beans or large pinto beans if you can’t find mayocoba beans. They are paired with one of my favourite lentils, black beluga, which are nice because they are small and keep their shape well. Here the bean medley is simmered in a roasted pepper sauce along with carrots and Swiss chard. The roasted peppers makes this a sweet sauce, so you may want to dampen it a bit with a bit more spice than I used. I served it with cooked quinoa and a side of pan-fried plantain, reminiscent of my Colombian adventures.
This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden. ;)
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath. ;)
How does my summer slip away so fast? I feel like all my weekends have all been pre-booked with very little downtime this summer. Between 5 weddings (3 out-of-town), cycling to Niagara Falls, travelling for a conference and a music festival (more about that one later!), Rob and I have barely spent much time relaxing over the weekends. Always on the go. Plus, my new rotation this month has a 1-hour cycling commute each way. I come home a tired puppy.
As such, I haven’t really been doing my “cook for the week” thing on the weekends. Instead, I am cooking up quick weekday meals. Almost like a normal person. However, I still eat leftovers for dinner as soon as I come home from work. The new meal is for tomorrow’s leftover dinner!
I am still on my Thai-kick and decided to combine two of my recipes into one stellar quickie dinner. Instead of a complex coconut-based salad dressing from my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans, use the coconut milk as a base for simmering vegetables with Thai flavours. You could go all decadent and use full-fat coconut milk from a can, but I used the stuff from a carton again after it worked well with the coconut-braised collards. This is a very flexible recipe, so work with what you have to make this a quick dinner.
Go all out with Thai ingredients like shallots, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, or use onion, lime zest and skip the lemongrass instead. I used sweet basil but Thai basil would be more authentic, although with that terrible licorice flavour. :P Use whatever vegetables you have, and feel free to add tofu or tempeh, too. I used broccoli and carrots with great results and served it overtop some cooked quinoa to sop up the delicious sauce. Using the beverage coconut milk makes this a lighter sauce that is still packed with flavour from the aromatics. It balances the sour, sweet and hot nicely while served on top of crisp vegetables. Authentic or not, it definitely tastes great. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays.
Let me share with you the best way to travel.
I am not talking about priceline or other websites which have lower prices on hotels. Been there, done that. I have never liked hotels, anyways. Without a kitchen and other homely accessories, I still feel out of my element.
Last week, I was in Calgary for a conference. Fortuitously, only half the cost of the hotel room would be covered by my employer, and I could not find another person to share a room. So I looked for alternatives.
I discovered Air BnB (and no, I get nothing to shamelessly promote this). A site where people rent out their homes just like a hotel room. Granted, each listing is bound to be different, but I really lucked out in Calgary. For half the price of the conference hotel room, I rented out an entire 2 bedroom bungalow that was not too far from downtown. It had a well-stocked kitchen, a living room complete with board games and oodles of books to read, if I actually had the time. Of course, I was drawn to the kitchen, so I could easily whip up my routine breakfast oatmeal and other healthy meals. With an Asian grocer a few blocks away, I had access to cheap groceries as well.
While I think of travel as a vacation from blogging as well, I was wrong. I desperately wanted to share some of the quick and easy meals that I pulled together. I brought quinoa with me so that I could turn any vegetable stir fry into a quick main meal but I ended up going more elaborate with this curried tomato and kidney bean bowl. The results were worth it and have already been incorporated into repeater meals in my own kitchen.
The ingredients seem so simple, so the bulk of flavour comes from the high quality curry powder. When I spotted a local Artisan curry powder (Bridget’s) at Community Natural Foods, it was then that I decided to make this. Shallots (or onions), ginger and garlic are sautéed and added to the curry powder. A can of tomatoes turns this into a great sauce that simmers with some kidney beans and quinoa. I added chopped baby bok choy for some greenery and crunch. Susan originally made this as a lettuce wrap with chickpeas. I have since made this since my return with chickpeas and more quinoa; it is a very forgiving recipe. Like most curries, this was great as leftovers. And yes, I was thrilled that my kitchen in Calgary also had plastic containers for me to tote my meals to the conference.
Who would have thought I’d eat so well away from home?
No? Good, me neither. Not yet, at least. The week of salads continues!
One of my foodie goals in Colombia was to munch my way through quinoa and maybe bring some cheap quinoa back home with me.
Turns out I couldn’t do that in Colombia. Quinoa is hard to find and when you find it, it isn’t any cheaper than what I can buy from my local favourite health store. Most Colombian locals had no clue what quinoa was.. except for the sole vegan I met (hi Juan!).
I obviously went to the wrong country. Apparently, Bolivia is where it is at. Not only for the cheap and plentiful quinoa, but also for the amazing salt flats, jungle hikes, glacier climbs and vibrant city life. We loved asking other travellers about their favourite places to see in South America and Bolovia kept popping up. It is now on our ever-growing list of countries Rob and I want to visit… along with Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Jordan, Nepal, India, gosh you name it. Although Rob’s covered most of South-east Asia and Australia, he is willing to return with me. ;)
My latest kick is adding quinoa to vegetable sides to make it a more sustaining meal, and here I go again with this salad. This would be a delightful salad without the quinoa, too, as it highlights the crisp asparagus and colourful baby greens with some crunch pecans. The dressing, a maple-mustard flavoured one, definitely brings the salad together with the tang from the soy sauce, the sweetness from the maple syrup and the deeper flavour from the mustard.
Uh, oh. I have become predictable.
Being invited for a BBQ = time for Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms!
Any time of day, grilled portobello mushrooms fit with the theme. Rob and I went to a post-wedding brunch where the new father-in-law was cooking eggs and sausages on the barbecue. I knew this man must be a barbecue connoisseur, so I left my marinaded mushrooms with him. Do not lose the marinade, I told him, because it was going to be my salad dressing, too.
I was shocked when he returned with beautifully plump mushrooms with even more marinade. He turned my barbecue skills upside down. Instead of doing a continuous grilling on a random side of the mushroom, he started grilling gill side down. Next, he flipped them gill side up to finish them off. The juices from the mushrooms pooled in the middle of the mushrooms. Ingenious. No, really, I was so impressed. (Never mind scrambled eggs on the barbecue…)
In any case, portobello mushrooms alone do not make a meal, so instead of a garlic white bean puree, I opted to add quinoa and toasted walnuts for crunch. This way, you do not lose any of the fabulous garlic-thyme-balsamic marinade and you get a filling meal that is also great as leftovers. Because, yes, it is very sad. I do not like to share my mushrooms. They are just too good. ;)
What are your favourite vegan things to make on the barbecue? I think I need a bigger variety of barbecue tricks! Here are our current barbecue tricks:
Grilled Rosemary Garlic Corn
Rob’s Grilled Pineapple with Lime and Chile Flakes
Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss
Dragon Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and a Miso Gravy
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables
Here are some other recipes I have bookmarked:
BBQ Tempeh Kabobs from Making Love in the Kitchen
Peruvian Seitan Skewers from Viva Vegan
Coconut and Lime Grilled Kale from Kitchen Operas
Grilled Corn and Tomatoes with Vegan Tonnato Sauce from Food & Wine
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing from Veganomicon
Today, though, I will be eating salad.
Intellectually, I understand the value of a great sauce or dressing. Sometimes, it is a sauce that makes a dish. With a salad, fresh greens are great but the avenue it will taste will depend entirely on your dressing. It is probably no surprise that one can take classes specifically for Sauces and Marinades at George Brown College Culinary School.
While I make oodles of salads, there is only one dressing that I’ve popped into my leafy green salad repertoire. The super simple 3-2-1 dressing, where I sometimes have to remind myself which ingredient goes with the 2 and 1. (Note: Balsamic=3. Mustard=2. Maple syrup=1.)
I am trying to make life less complicated in the kitchen this year, and I am doing that partly by focusing on different dressings and sauces. This way, I can throw them on a multitude of dishes – whether as a hearty bean or grain salad, something with leafy greens, or even used in a stir-fry, etc.
The first dressing I want to highlight is this uber delicious tahini balsamic dressing that I spotted at Choosing Raw. I am loving all things tahini lately and balsamic remains one of my favourite vinegars, so I was eager to try out her dressing.
I dipped my finger into the dressing to test it out. Trust me, I licked it clean.. and another finger, just to make sure it was still so good. It passed the taste test again. I had to make sure I kept some for my salad!
The tahini provides a nutty and creamy backdrop accented by the sweet balsamic vinegar. The garlic adds a bit more complexity. The water thins it out so this isn’t heavy like oil- or mayo-based dressings. Use it anywhere you’d enjoy a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.
Its initiation into my kitchen was with a light yet hearty quinoa and chickpea salad punctated by bursts of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and slivered kale. I usually massage my kale, but here, it countered the quinoa and beans nicely with its crunch. I added the dressing just before I ate so that it would still be quite light. I assumed the quinoa could probably absorb a heck of a lot more of the dressing, but this way it was wonderful. I also made a quinoa-less salad later in the week, subbing collards for the kale which was possibly even better.
I know I could drip the dressing onto anything but I was sufficiently content with my salads for the week. Definitely let me know how you enjoy it! I bet it would be wonderful on kale chips, too!
In much the same way as there is an art to using up the last of your fresh produce before you head away for vacation, I think there is an art to keeping a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something fresh. I want the greens.
While I hate asking for rides, at the airport, it is nice to be picked up by a familiar face. I still remember returning from Japan to friendly faces and in addition to a quick ride home, they also had a few things to get me through to my first grocery run. At that time in my pre-vegan days, it was eggs, bagels, fruit and some leftover soup. With an empty fridge, it was a glorious gesture.
While Rob and I are good at taking transit to the airport, this meant we didn’t have any room to stop for groceries with all our luggage on the subway. In any case, while we came home to an empty fridge, it wasn’t so empty after all.
Granted, we were only gone for two weeks, so we still had a few grapefruits and apples for my usual breakfast routine. Onions and carrots in the crisper keep well, too. Cabbage, too. Thankfully garlic lasts, as do other citrus like lemons and limes. When in season, winter squashes can be stored outside the fridge. Frozen staples also work well: spinach, vegetables and herbs. I also keep my cooked beans in the freezer.
I always tell myself I will stop coming back from vacations on Sundays, only to be back at work on Monday, but we never learn. Returning from vacation means I also need to find quick-cooking meals that I can make after work, amongst unpacking, laundry and all that jazz from the vacation wrap-up.
Scrap the brown rice. It can take a long time to cook. Instead, I bastardized Gena’s Greek Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) by substituting quinoa. It takes half the time to cook, making a quick and tasty soup. Bright and fresh from the lemon , creamy from the tahini with depth of flavour from the miso, dill and nutritional yeast. Considering traditional avgolemono is made with eggs, the quinoa bastardization seems quite tame.. and quite the fanciful adaptation from the original. Regardless, this is a filling and delicious soup. Enjoy!
Bengali Five Spice, or panch phoran, is a super simple spice mix, though: equal amounts of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Presto, finito.
As you can probably guess, it is a savoury mix of spices that create a complex depth of flavour. Here, it is paired with wilted sweet spinach, tender crisp red pepper along with some toasted almonds and garam masala. While I adore leafy greens, I am not a big fan of cooked greens as a side. But when I mix them with a grain or bean, then I’ve hit my mojo. For this meal, I opted to create a quinoa bowl to sop up the flavours and mellow the vegetal cooked greens.
You might think this is just a side dish, with a lack of noticeable protein source. No bean, no tofu, no tempeh. Quinoa itself contains a reasonable amount of protein but the protein superstar here is the spinach. Two bunches of spinach wilt down to maybe a cup or so, but it packs a serious punch of protein (almost 10g per serving- more than the 6g from quinoa!) along with an abundance of vitamins and nutrients (640% of your recommended vitamin A, 160% of your vitamin C, 35% of your calcium and 50% of your iron daily intake). All that in one serving!
Here’s to more spinach!
This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Bangladesh.
Can you guess where these flowers came from?
If you know anything about me, my garden would be filled with vegetables. Only things I could eat.
Hint: I can eat these flowers. And the plant.
Hint 2: I never knew this plant even had flowers.
Hint 3: I’ve already told you I’ve grown this before…
Yes, the flowers are from my kale!
Those are my sad-looking kale plants that Rob and I transplanted this weekend (they perked up by this morning, though). They no longer had a home, so instead of being a legacy gift, we transplanted them to our new home. The funny thing was that when we moved two weeks ago, the plants were maybe 2 feet tall, and now look at them! Huge! With flowers!
I was actually kind of worried because once most plants flower, they are finito. That terrible bolting stage.
Not so with kale. It is a super plant, for sure. Apparently, the leaves are still just as tender and tasty (albeit maybe smaller), and the flowers are edible, too. You can use the unopened flowering portion just like sprouting broccoli. Turns out that kale is a plant that lives 2 years and in its second year, it produces these beautiful flowers.
Now who said kale wasn’t pretty enough to be in a garden? :)
As you can see the leaves look a little sad, so I am leaving them on the plant until it has revived slightly.
Instead, I will share a recipe for spicy coconut braised greens. You can use kale, too, or collards, like I did.
Whenever I post a recipe for raw collard wraps, I invariably receive a comment from a perplexed reader wondering whether raw collard greens are too tough to eat. Personally, I think collard leaves are one of my favourite greens for raw wraps since they are more sturdy than kale, Swiss chard or lettuce, and I do not find them to be too chewy. Firm and sturdy, yes, but that is why they are the base of the wrap.
However, I know not everyone enjoys greens as much as me (like Rob), and may be more likely to add collard greens to stir fries or soups instead. When I cooked my chickpea-collard roulade, though, I was aghast at how creamy collard greens could become.
Thus, my curiosity was piqued when I saw Cara’s recipe for Spicy Coconut Braised Kale, where the greens are simmered in coconut milk for half an hour. While I have seen greens simmered in coconut before, I was intrigued when Cara used the coconut milk from refrigerated cartons, instead of the canned coconut milk.
Not really a fan of making veggie sides, I employed my latest trick of tossing saucy veggies with quinoa for a complete meal.
After the long braise in a warmly spiced coconut broth, the collards become nice and tender. I liked that it was a rather light dish with a nice coconut flavour, courtesy of the coconut milk beverage. There was so much braising liquid left over, I almost wished I had used another bunch of collards. In any case, the quinoa was a perfect vehicle to sop up all of the juice. Next time, I may add in some squash and chickpeas, or decrease the amount of coconut milk.
If you had to pick one, which would it be: garlic or chocolate. Which one could you give up? Which one would you keep?
I know, tough choices. So different. Apples versus oranges (although I would pick apples).
If I wasn’t biking this weekend, what was I doing?
I was in Woodstock for Rob’s sister’s bachelorette and bridal shower.
Her gonna-be-groom does not eat beets nor cabbage (Rob’s loving Polish family has still accepted him). And in this predicament, garlic versus chocolate, he would pick to keep garlic, hands down.
I had to deliberate a bit, but I would choose the same. Garlic is more versatile and I eat savoury more often than sweet. For practical purposes, garlic for the win. Rob, on the other hand, would choose to pick chocolate. My sweetie definitely has a sweet tooth. ;)
Now, how did we end up talking about this? I am way past the time when I would think of such thought-provoking questions for dates… (HA!)
Well, Rob and I took advantage of the barbecue and barbecue weather to grill up my favourite grilled portobello mushrooms which are marinated with balsamic vinegar, oregano, thyme and yes, garlic. Delicious grilled garlic.
However, I also went for a garlic double whammy with this Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss. I should rename it Grilled Asparagus Lemon-Garlic Quinoa Toss, because as most of Tess‘ great recipes, this one features raw garlic. I made this recipe last year when I had local asparagus. Now that Ontario asparagus is just starting to arrive, I broke it out again. I changed her recipe, a tad, this time, by roasting the asparagus on the barbecue, as well as decreasing the raw garlic (gasp!) and oil, but increasing the fresh lemon juice and adding lemon pepper. Meyer lemons subdue the lemon flavour, so for a nice match for the bold garlic, consider using the regular lemons.
While Rob and I didn’t go biking, we did a short 10-km walk/hike around the periphery of Woodstock instead. In true backpacker style, I wore my hiking gear (hiking boots, jacket and my new (and first) sports bra– it needs to get broken in, too!) and loaded my new (and first) backpack with 15lbs of stuff. So far the verdict has been all positive! Sadly, our cheapo trip to Colombia will be more expensive with all the stuff we’re buying in its preparation- why are sleeping bag liners so expensive? Look at this uber cute and practical collapsible bowl set I bought, though. I tested them out, too, this weekend and no leaky oatmeal!
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not if you are Rob and me.
We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)
Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.
One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.
I say: BRING IT ON! :D
While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan. Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.
Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.
In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.
But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)
Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?