I well remember the unbridled glee we all felt in grade school when, first thing in the morning, the Principal walked in to announce that we’d have a substitute teacher that day. We kids practically roared with excitement at the prospect of (a) getting a reprieve from homework (because the substitute, of course, never knew exactly what our regular teacher had assigned); (b) getting a reprieve from the usual discipline and classroom structure (we would just make up new rules that we preferred, and she never knew the difference); and (c) getting a reprieve from, basically, any learning at all (she didn’t stand a chance with a group of squealing, shrieking, squirming children who suddenly considered the day to be allotted for play).
Ah, yes, kids can be so cruel.
At least the class embraced the notion of a substitute with gusto. These days, I think, we’ve got the connotation of “substitute” all wrong. A substitute is not a lesser version of the “real thing”–no sir. It’s the brave soldier willing to stand in for his buddy on the front lines. It’s the eager understudy who may just surpass the headliner. It’s the medical resident who steps in to complete the operation when the surgeon’s hands begin to tremble. You get the idea.
Whenever the HH and I go to a restaurant and the menu proclaims “No Substitutions allowed” next to their most popular items, I’m always a little peeved and wonder how much more they’d sell of said pasta or salad if they did allow subs. In fact, I make a point of seeking out eating establishments that do permit changes to the menu–otherwise, I’d have precious few choices most of the time (oh, wait, I still have precious few choices. Damn you, ACD!).
And let’s not forget the common phrase, “poor substitute.” It’s as if those two words are fused at the hip, sort of like Eng and Chang, or coffee and cigarettes, or Simon and Paula (I know–can you believe they’re together, again, on X-Factor??).
Me, I love substitutes. I think substituting is part of the fun in cooking. When I first changed my diet, I wanted to play with every new ingredient I could find and figure out how the new could replace the old (or not). I was so fascinated with substitutes, in fact, that I devoted an entire chapter to substitutes in my cookbook.
The process of coming up with substitutes can be a truly creative endeavor in the kitchen (or, really, any facet of life). Maybe my interest is rooted in my cash-strapped twenties when, as a graduate student, I was constantly seeking cheaper alternatives for the latest fashions, buzz-worthy restaurants, first-class travel, or even a favored bubbly. After a while, it was like a game: what can I use instead of this pernod in the recipe to achieve the same result (without the same cost)? How about this cool aviator jacket from the army surplus instead of the latest runway darling? And these discarded flyers have print on one side only–they’d make great note paper–for free!
My knack for subbing one ingredient for another came back in a flash last week as I prepared a warming soup for the HH and me (sort of how the autumn weather itself decided to blast into town out of nowhere, too). With the cooler clime suddenly upon us, I found myself wanting some classic split-pea soup. After consulting my soup bible, Nava Atlas’s Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, I settled on the “Golden Curried Pea Soup.”
Everything was going along swimmingly (except of course, no more real swimming, now that it’s turned cool outside–summer, why hast thou forsaken me?). My onion was sizzling, I was chopping up the carrots, I poured the broth into the pot and reached for my jar of split peas, and–oh, noooo! No split peas! (I had been so certain I had some, in fact, that I hadn’t even checked before beginning to cook–kids, please don’t try this at home). But the soup must go on! I scanned the cupboard for a suitable substitute, and came upon a jar of red lentils. Perfecto!
In went the lentils and the the final result worked out beautifully. This version offers up the same thick, nubby, substantial base as a split-pea version, albeit slightly less sweet. The curry provided a warming undertone to the mild flavor of the lentils, and the carrots contributed their own seasonal color and texture. This is a stick-to-your-ribs, hearty and filling bowlful, one you’ll be scraping clean with your spoon.
In this instance, I daresay my substitute was every bit as good as I expect the original would have been. I hope you’ll give it a try–and do feel free to substitute another legume of choice for the lentils.
1 pound (454 g) red lentils, split yellow peas, or other quick-cooking legume
1/2 cup (120 ml) raw brown rice
2 bay leaves
2 tsp (10 ml) good-quality curry powder, more or less to taste (I used more)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garalic and sauté until just golden.
Add remaining ingredients to the pot except for salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently until the lentils are mushy, about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
When the soup is ready, adjust consistency with more water as needed, then season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves and serve. Makes 8-10 servings. May be frozen.
This month’s SOS (Sweet or Savory) Kitchen Challenge asked readers to whip up dishes with spinach, and wow, did you ever take on this challenge with gusto! We received a dozen fantastic, creative recipes to try that all highlight the super-healthy leafy green. And yes, a few desserts are included as well!
Thanks to everyone who entered the challenge this month. As always, if you’ve submitted a recipe and I forgot to include it here, please let me know asap so I can add it to the list.
Here’s what’s on the menu with spinach:
THE SAVORY CONTRIBUTIONS:
Our very first entry was from Janet at Taste Space (Toronto) –a colorful and delicious Quinoa and Butternut Squash Spinach Salad with Cranberry and Pear. Well, I think the title tells you everything you need to know–doesn’t that just sound delectable? This savory salad is also a bit sweet with the pear and cranberries. Suitable for gluten free, vegan, sugar free, egg free and dairy free diets.
Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes (Dundee, Scotland) offers up a great recipe for Spicy Spinach and Potato Curry adapted from a recipe she found in one huge tome of a cookbook. Her pics look great (and check out the gratuitious cuteness of her new baby, Cooper!) This recipe is suitable for gluten free, soy-free, vegan, and ACD diets (contains coconut milk).
Kiersten from Full of Beans (Charlotte, NC )’s vegan Coconut Curried Chickpeas and Spinach looks like the perfect quick weekday dinner. I love a good curry, and with chickpeas AND spinach, you can’t go wrong with this one! Vegan, soy-free, gluten free, ACD-friendly and otherwise nut-free.
She also “uncooked” some gorgeously green Spinach-Hemp Flatbreads on which to spread it. Unlike many other dehydrated flatbreads, these remain soft, perfect for sandwiches. These both are vegan, dairy free, gluten free, raw, and sugar free.
Mom at the Gluten-Free Edge (Georgetown, Texas) decided that her Spinach Mushroom Pie should undergo a vegan revamp for this month’s entry! This is her remake of a long-time favorite recipe, and it worked out beautifully. The recipe is gluten free and vegan.
Chaya from The Comfy Cook is back this month with a fabulous Oriental Rice Pizza. This savory dish is filled with veggies and is a snap to make with its rice-based crust. It’s gluten free, sugar free and dairy free.
Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe (Melbourne, Australia) offers a cheezy spinach-based soup this month with her Pumpkin, Bean and Spinach Soup. While the recipe itself looks delicious, half the fun of the recipe is Johanna’s recounting of the experimentation that led her to it. And doesn’t the concept of tofu croutons just sound fabulous?
Valerie of City Life Eats (Washington, DC) has created a Lemony Spinach Pepita Pesto. With a unique combination of ingredients, this pesto would be delicious on more than just pasta. It’s gluten free, vegan, nut free, sugar free and ACD-friendly.
Aubree Cherie, who blogs at Living Free (Kennett Square, PA), decided to move out of her usual spinach zone with these Almond Spinach Biscuits. A great savory biscuit with a hint of sweet (dried cranberries), these treats were gobbled up by her significant other in no time. Definitely a fun (and delicious) recipe. Gluten free, sugar free, vegan and ACD-friendly.
My event partner, Kim at Affairs of Living, cooked up a fabulous Creamy Spinach and Celeriac Soup for those days when you crave something rich and healthy at the same time. The recipe is vegan, gluten free, sugar free, ACD friendly, soy free and nut free.
My savory contribution this month is a Classic Tofu Quiche recipe that I’ve had for years but never thought to post. The millet crust helps to make it quick, easy, and delicious! It’s gluten free, sugar free and vegan.
THE SWEET CONTRIBUTIONS (Yes, even spinach has a sweet side!):
Rachel from My Munchable Musings (WA) treated us to two sweet recipes this month! First up are these Spring Picnic Cupcakes, her take on the classic Strawberry and Spinach Salad–in a sweet mini confection! She’s also included a great bit of additional history and nutritional information about spinach here. These are wheat free, sugar free and vegan.
Rachel also created these adorable Green Thumb Print Cookies, that are gluten free! I love how the strawberry sits perfectly in the thumb print–seriously yummy looking. These are gluten free, sugar free and vegan.
Kim’s second contribution this month is her Invisible Spinach Smoothie. While you may have enjoyed smoothies with spinach before, this quick and easy recipe contains another veggie that you might not expect. Vegan, ACD-friendly, gluten free.
Finally, my sweet contribution is this Green Monster Muffin. Based on the concept of green smoothies, these muffins offer up spinach in a slightly sweet, hearty breakfast baked good. I’ve used chopped apples, but you could add in raisins or even chocolate chips to the mix if you like. Vegan, sugar free, gluten free.
Thanks again to everyone who played along this month. Enjoy these recipes until next month, when Kim–our hostess for June’s Challenge–will announce the new SOS ingredient.
[Before I delve into today's snack post, I want to send out a heartfelt "thank you" to each and every one of you who responded to my last post. I was bowled over by the outpouring of kindness and support that you folks displayed. And thanks to all of you who shared your own story or struggles with food issues, whether dietary restrictions or your own food addictions. I've said this many times before on the blog, but really, I can't say it enough: you people are remarkable! Thank you, all, for visiting, for reading, for commenting, and for your thoughtful responses and ideas, which all add their own kind of sweetness to my life. Without you all, this would be a very lonely (not to mention unrewarding) endeavor, indeed!]
And now, on to the food! A while back, I promised a post on anti-candida snack foods along with the breakfasts and desserts. (And even though I’m assuming the anti-candida diet will be temporary for me, as it is for almost everyone, it’s amazing how my blog has suddenly morphed into a “candida” blog. Most of the searches that lead people here involve the words, “anti-candida” or “candida diet.” Except, of course, for those that involve the words, “dogs girls sexy” or “dogs girls dessert.” Don’t worry, though–I don’t let the realGirls see any of these–it would be too traumatic for them.).
Over the past few months, I realized that most of my snacks don’t actually require a recipe: baby carrots (in moderation–they are pretty high in natural sugars, after all); grape tomatoes; celery sticks; hummus and any of the previous veggies; roasted chick peas; cucumber rounds; kale chips (and have you seen this recent iteration? They sound great!); or, most recently, fresh berries (yay! fruit–though limited to berries and a few others–has made its triumphant return to my diet!). Although I was never a “potato chips” kind of gal (I think you can be one or the other: salty-snack person or sweet-snack person. I always leaned toward the chocolate bars, cookies, cupcakes, etc. rather than the salty snacks), I have been craving something snacky recently. Something crunchy. Something salty. Something portable that isn’t nuts or seeds.
And so, on a whim a couple of weeks ago, I visited our local health food store in search of snacks. My encounter with the cashier went something like this:
Scene: small, family-owned health food store tucked in a local plaza not far from where Ricki lives. Reminiscent of old-time general stores that you see on reruns like The Andy Griffith Show* or Green Acres.
Ricki [browsing around. She approaches the affable, somewhat retro-looking cashier.] “Say, do you have any snack foods for someone who can’t eat gluten, sweeteners, refined anything, eggs, or dairy?”
(Actually, I never begin sentences with the word, “Say,” but it does make the dialogue sound much more as if I really live in a small, close-knit neighborhood like Mayberry, doesn’t it?).
Young Cashier: “Why, yes, Ma’am, yes, indeed, we do.” (Okay, she didn’t really start with, “Why, yes,” either, and didn’t say “indeed.” Another attempt at 1950s-era verisimilitude. She did, however, actually call me “Ma’am,” which made me feel very authentically 1950s).
Young Cashier: [Leading Ricki to a shelf containing Mary's products.] These are all gluten-free and sugar free, made with whole foods ingredients. You might like to try some of these. The Curry flavor is my favorite.
Ricki: [Speechless. Her mind is reeling]: Wow! You mean there are actually snacks I can eat on this &*%$#! regimen that I don’t have to make myself??Okay! I’ll take ten bags!
(All right. I admit that I didn’t really say THAT, either. But I wanted to. Perhaps realistic dramatic representation is not my forte.)
Well, if you live in California–or anywhere in the US, really–and are either (a) on a gluten-free diet; (b) into healthy foods; (c) the owner of a health food store; or (d) named Mary, you have most likely already heard of or tasted the Mary’s Gone Crackers product called “Sticks and Twigs.” On the other hand, if you live in the Distant Far Northern Canadian Outpost that is Toronto–as I do–the discovery was a revelation. (Do you think perhaps I should stop making tongue-in-cheek comments about how far north, how cold, and how polite it is here in Canada? After all, there are some people out there who might actually think I’m being serious!). These snacks resemble pretzels but are crunchier. They’re a whole foods, no-added-fat snack with little pellets of baked amaranth and quinoa scattered throughout. They come in flavorful choices such as Curry or Chipotle Tomato.
And they are mighty addictive.
Only one problem: at $5.99 per 8-ounce (about 250 g) bag, they really did leave me speechless.
In recent months, I’ve noticed a few bloggers playing a game that involves listing the ingredients in a processed “food” and having readers guess what it is (such as this one on Meghan’s blog). For instance, did you know that “Wheat Flour, Sugar, Dextrose, Vegetable Oil, Glucose Syrup, Milk Whey Powder, Invert Sugar Syrup, Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Wheat Starch, Salt, Raising Agent (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Diphosphates), Dried Egg White, Beef Gelatin, Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Vanilla Extract, Modified Wheat Starch, Colour (Caramel E150d, Titanium Oxide) and Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin)” is actually a Pop Tart? (Yep. Titanium Oxide–often used in paint, or as a sunscreen--is a bonus ingredient in your breakfast “pastry.” Eat up, everyone!).
Well, I decided to turn that game on its head. I took a food I like, namely the Sticks and Twigs, studied the ingredients, and then attempted to reproduce it at home. The result was better than I could have expected. I daresay, I like my version better than the original!
Mine are surprisingly like Mary’s, but a bit thicker, and–most important–at a fraction of the cost. They are, however, still exceedingly crunchy, so if you’re in need of some elective dental work, don’t eat these until after the filling has been replaced. (Just kidding. But they really do snap, crackle and pop in your mouth).
And, if it turns out they’re not to your taste after all, they make excellent dog biscuits.
With all the healthy whole-grain ingredients in these, I thought they’d make a perfect contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays, showcasing real food. Take a peek, or submit your own healthy recipe!
["Mmmm, nice and crunchy, Mum, just like real sticks and twigs. But what was that you mentioned before about not letting us see something--? You're not hiding other snacks from us, are you?"]
*For those of you young enough that you can’t remember a time before computers: yep, “Ronny Howard”–ie, Opie–is the same person as director Ron Howard. Wasn’t he a cutie when he still had hair?
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks
A perfect take-along snack that’s crunchy and filled with real nutrient value: with amaranth, millet, quinoa and rice, these savory treats contain a fair portion of vitamins, minerals, and protein in each serving.
3 Tbsp (45 ml) amaranth, dry
1/4 cup (60 ml) quinoa, dry
1/4 cup (60 ml) millet, dry
2 cups (480 ml) cooked brown rice (I used brown basmati)
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground chia seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) mild curry powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt, or more, to taste
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sesame seeds
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) water, as needed
In a small bowl, soak the amaranth, quinoa and millet for about 2 hours (up to 6 hours). Drain in a very fine sieve. Remove about 3 Tbsp (45 ml) of the mixture and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Place the remaining amaranth, quinoa and millet mixture into the bowl of a strong blender along with the rice, flax, chia, curry powder and salt. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and blend to a paste; stir in the sesame seeds. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water until you have a mixture the consistency of a soft cookie dough. It should be soft enough to pipe but firm enough to hold its shape if you scoop some out and place it on the cookie sheet.
Scrape the mixture into a bowl and then stir in the 3 Tbsp (45 ml) whole seeds that have been set aside. Using an icing gun or cookie press, press out the mixture in long, thin logs across the cookie sheet (or make into any shapes you like). I used my icing gun without a tip to create logs for this, but you could use any shape you like. If you have neither an icing gun nor cookie press, you can shape the “dough” into disks or logs by hand, or simply spread the mixture into a large rectangle and then bake as crackers.
Bake the snacks in preheated oven for about 30 minutes before checking. Turn them over and continue to bake, another 30-45 minutes, until they are very browned, dry and crisp. (If baking as crackers, remove from oven after 30 minutes and cut into desired cracker shapes; then turn each cracker over individually and continue to bake as above).
Allow to cool before storing. Makes 4-8 snack-size servings, depending on how hungry you are. If sufficiently baked, these will keep for at least 2 weeks at room temperature in a covered container (ours only lasted a few days, but they were clearly sturdy enough for the long term).
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fifth edition, I'm focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fifth entry on cilantro.]
The HH and I just returned from an annual sojourn to what used to be our favorite summer retreat, a country resort up in ski country. I say, “used to be” because, like so many other businesses these days, our erstwhile “favorite” has cut services to the bone and, as a result, is no longer the hotel we remember and loved. Those of you on twitter may have seen my lament that the breakfast “buffet” included precisely one food I could eat: roasted potatoes. The rest of the menu (ham, bacon, eggs, french toast, plate of baked goods and bowl of yogurts) was all verboten to me. As I chewed on my (suddenly very bitter) spuds, I wondered, what about celiacs? What about diabetics? There wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of choices for them, either. In addition, the dinner “service” was so deplorable (over 40 minutes to get our appetizers! In a dining room with six patrons!), we decided that next year, we’ll look for a new place to patronize during our annual summer weekend away.
Well, no matter. The weather, at least, was glorious, and hey–the paucity of food actually resulted in two more pounds of weight loss (for those of you who’ve been following such things, the grand total is 32 lost so far. That means I can now get into my “chubby” clothes, leaving behind my “fat” and “edifice-like” wardrobes, while I’m still not quite slim enough for my “I’m-saving-these-even-though-they’re-out-of-style-and-I’m-really-too-old-for-them-because-I-love-them-so-much” clothes). I also realized that the best way to lose weight is when you’re not really trying. (Hmm. Maybe that resort wasn’t so bad after all. All I have to do is suffer there for another week , and I’m pretty sure I’d be at goal.).
The weekend was an explicit reminder (I guess I’d sort of forgotten) that I am, indeed, following a rather restricted diet these days. Funny, even though I altered my diet to eliminate wheat, eggs and dairy about ten years ago (meat was pretty much already gone by then), I hadn’t really thought of my food intake as ”restricted” (after all, I’d still managed to gain 45 pounds eating that way!) until these past few months on the anti-candida diet. In fact, changing my diet initially prompted me to try out many foods I’d shunned until that point.
One prime example is Indian cuisine. I’d never tasted any of my current favorites–an authentic, long-simmering curry, a crispy papadum, a nubby, melting dal, or peppery masala okra–until I was forced to change my diet. Once I tried the first few dishes, I quickly grew enamored of the fragrant spices like sweet cardamom and warming turmeric, and was easily besotted with basmati rice, vibrant vindaloos and creamy kormas. In fact, it was Indian cuisine that catalyzed my conversion from cilantro foe to cilantro lover.
Whenever we stop in at our favorite Indian restaurant nearby, the HH will often order lamb. I have to tell you, if I’m sitting downwind, it can ruin my dinner. Even before I stopped eating meat, I just wasn’t able to tolerate lamb. Something about the smell–that elusive combination of unctuous yet slightly sweet–always managed to make my stomach flutter and my bile rise, even as a child and long before I understood the true source of those glistening cubes on my plate.
Well, lucky for me, most Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian. On the other hand, it only occurred to me recently that I’ve been inadvertently ruling out a whole category of recipes in my collection simply because they feature lamb, glossing right over those when I scan my cookbooks for dinner ideas.
Well, silly me! I mean, where is it written that those dishes must they be made with lamb? Why couldn’t a favorite soy product (or other legume) stand in for the meat, as they’ve often done before with chicken or beef? I must have been blinded by my visions of guileless black eyes, kinky white curls and baby hooves to even consider it. (I know, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes).
One of my favorite sources of protein is tempeh, and it’s one I use far too infrequently. I thought it would offer a great substitute for ground lamb in a curry. After browsing through various cookbooks, I combined some of my favorite flavors to create a warm, mildly spiced, and slightly unconventional main dish. The smooth, creamy sauce is punctuated by occasional bursts of sweet peas, bits of savory tempeh, and juicy tomato. It’s perfect served over some steamed basmati rice.
And the aroma, redolent with Indian spices, is guaranteed to entice you–no matter which side of the table you’re on.
“Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen, we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.)”
Taking inspiration from recipes in several cookbooks as well as what I had on hand, I came up with this satisfying curry. Use crumbled tempeh, or, for more discernible pieces of tempeh, cut into small cubes.
1 pkg tempeh (I used soy tempeh with seaweed)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 ml) minced fresh ginger
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cardamon pods (or 1/4 tsp/ 1 ml ground cardamom)
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1/3 cup (80 ml) smooth natural almond butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh mint, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste (depending on how salty your veg broth is)
cooked brown basmati rice, to serve
Prepare the tempeh: crumble the tempeh and place in a skillet with the vegetable broth. Heat over medium heat until broth bubbles; lower to a simmer, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Remove tempeh from skillet and set aside. Melt the coconut oil in the skillet (no need to wash it first) over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the garlic and ginger begin to brown and the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato, cumin, bay leaves, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric and coriander and cook an additional minute. Lower heat and add the almond milk, almond butter and peas, stirring to melt the almond butter. Gently stir in the tempeh. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until flavors have melded and the curry is heated throughout. Add the cilantro and mint and heat for another 2 minutes. Serve over hot rice. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
As we often do, the HH and I made the trek to Montreal over the long weekend to spend the holidays with my family. While I long ago became accustomed to toting along some sort of sustenance for these trips (my diet, even when I’m not on a candida cleanse, is considered fairly “out there” by the rest of my kinsfolk), this last visit presented a particular challenge, as I couldn’t even partake in those few foods I normally eat when staying with the CFO.
As a result, our cooler was packed a little more than usual as we departed for La Belle Ville. At our pit stop near Kingston, the HH bought himself a regular coffee and chicken club at Tim Horton’s, while I munched on grape tomatoes, baby carrots, and my new favorite hummus–a Curried Pumpkin variety.
The hummus came about the week before we left, as I was standing in the kitchen ruminating (figuratively, of course) about how much I miss my beloved pumpkin oats (à la Shelby) since I began this infernal ACD. While I ruminated (literally) on some hummus, it occurred to me: why not combine the pumpkin with my hummus instead? Eureka! I threw together some standard hummus, tinkered with the spices and fats, and ended up feeling rather smug for having created a unique, ingenious and flavorsome dish. Immediately, I determined to blog about it.
Well, a few days later, I encountered Vegan Yum Yum’s post about Apple Pie Coffee Cake. The post opened with the following line: ”I have a knack for inventing things that have already been invented.” Ooops.
Rather quickly, I was accosted by insistent, niggling doubts (sort of like Chaser when she wants to go for a walk) about my hummus. Could it be that my original invention already existed? Eventually, I succumbed and, after a quick Google search, discovered that pumpkin hummus abounds on the Internet. In fact, it’s almost as ubiquitous as those little popups (you know the ones–those rows of laughing emoticons) that invade your screens when you’re looking for something else. Curses!
I did take some comfort, however, in the knowledge that all of us, at some time or another, have probably considered an idea or concept of ours to be entirely unprecedented, only to discover fairly quickly that scores of others had already considered the very same thing.
* * *
The scene: Ricki, aged 17, returns home from CEGEP. The Nurse hunches over the kitchen table, enjoying a Fresca and reading Family Circle.
RICKI [flushed with pride at her own discovery]: Hey, did you ever consider how every person sees everything through their own mind? I mean, maybe each of us is actually living in our own little world, which is, like, just our own consciousness, and maybe everything else is just an illusion? Like, what if you’re not really here, but you’re only here because I think you’re here–what if everythng in the world is just an offshoot of my own imagination, creating my reality? What if there’s really nothing else except me? Whoah. Weird, huh?
THE NURSE: I hate to tell you this, but that’s a common theory. It’s called solipsism. Just read some philosophy, genius. Geez. [She yawns. Ricki sinks under the table].
Or how about the same scene, six years later:
Ricki and the CFO are hunched at the kitchen table, drinking Diet Pepsi and reading People magazine.
THE CFO: Hey, Ric, did you ever consider how every person sees everything through their own mind? I mean, maybe each of us is actually living in our own little world. . . . . What if there’s really nothing else except me? Whoah. Weird, huh?
RICKI: I hate to tell you this, but that’s actually a common concept. They even made a movie about it–The Matrix. Just rent the film (which is much more fun than reading philosophy; besides, Keanu Reeves is much cuter than Descartes).
* * *
Well, no matter. Original or not, this hummus is delightful. With its subtle, sunny glow from both pumpkin and turmeric, to the slightly sweet spice from a mild curry and creamy chickpea base, the flavors meld beautifully to create an enticing appetizer or sandwich filling.
When I served this at dinner last week, the HH proclaimed, “This is the best hummus I’ve ever had,” and made me promise to prepare it again.
Now, I’d be inclined to agree with him, except of course I can never be 100% certain that his experience of hummus is identical to my experience of hummus. . . I mean, what if he’s referring to something entirely different from me when he says “best”? And what if I am actually living in my own little world, separate and distinct from his, and the HH is just a figment of my imagination? (Well, okay, I guess that wouldn’t be so bad–it would just mean more hummus for me!). Either way, I’ll be making this again.
Curried Pumpkin Hummus
Unlike most hummus recipes, this one includes no added oils–the almond butter and tahini provide enough fat to render this smooth, creamy, and very satisfying. (And quite original, don’t you think?) It’s great as a filling in raw collard wraps–as seen above–too.
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed cooked pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
2 Tbsp (30 ml) smooth natural almond butter
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) mild curry powder
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
Cover the chickpeas with water and allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Drain and cover with fresh water in a large pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until very soft, about 40 minutes. (Alternately, use canned, well-rinsed chickpeas).
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the drained chickpeas and remaining ingredients and process until smooth (add up to 1/3 cup or 80 ml water to achieve desired thickness). Scrape into serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil, if desired. Serve with pita chips or raw veggies, or use as a filling in sandwiches or wraps. Makes about 3 cups.
I have a confession to make. I haven’t told you all about this yet because, quite frankly, I was afraid you’d reject me. Move that cursor elsewhere, and click. At best, roll your eyes. Maybe snort in disgust. Maybe gag, even.
But I’ve decided it’s time. I mean, really, what kind of lasting relationship can we have without full disclosure?
So I’m just going to come out and say it:
I love okra.
Are you running for the hills yet?
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: Okra? That polygonal pod that’s a staple in gumbo, and mostly reviled? That much-maligned member of the marrow family (but cocoa is in that family, too!) that most people reject without so much as a nibble? That pariah of the produce aisle that’s often referred to as gluey, viscous, slimy or mucilaginous–with seeds that remind you of those bowls of peeled grape “eyeballs” we all stuck our hands into at Halloween when we were kids?
Yep. That okra.
I adore okra’s long, lantern-shaped pods, the vibrant green skins with just a hint of fuzz and the wagon-wheel innards when you cut them across. I love the mild, slightly woodsy flavor and the pop of the seeds in your mouth. I could eat okra every day, and never tire of it.
I think it’s heartbreaking that okra gets such a bad rap. Okra is like the pimply nerd at school–the reject, the Carrie, the Napoleon Dynamite , the Ugly Betty. The last kid to be chosen for the baseball team. The scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face. The pink-and-too-frilly kid who takes her dad to the prom. The computer geek nobody wants to date so then he quits high school and starts some computer company run from his parents garage and redeems himself by becoming the richest guy in America. . . oh, wait. That would make him Bill Gates, wouldn’t it? And then he’d actually be much sought after, wouldn’t he? Well, heck! To my mind, that IS okra!
[A bit of spice, a bit of bite, a bit of lemon zest: an endearing combination.]
I think we should give okra the accolades it deserves. Let’s nurture its low self-esteem. Let’s compliment its grassy hue and lovely symmetry, tug its cute little tail at the narrow end and make it blush. Sure, it was born a green vegetable (already at a disadvantage compared to, say, watermelon). And then there’s the goo factor. But sometimes, with a recipe that takes our humble ingredient and pushes it to be its best, well, that little green lantern can really shine. That’s what I wish for my buddy, okra.
Besides, okra has much to offer us. Described by WholeHealthMD as having a taste that “falls somewhere between that of eggplant and asparagus,” it’s a good source of Vitamin C and several minerals; and the seeds offer up protein in every pod, along with 4 grams of both soluble (known to help keep cholesterol levels in check) and insoluble (great for regularity) fiber in a one-cup (240 ml) serving.
[Still slightly al dente in this photo; cook a bit longer if you're an okra neophyte.]
These are two of my favorite okra dishes, ones that we consume fairly regularly here in the DDD household. The first is another adaptation from my dog-eared copy of Flip Shelton’s Green, a Moroccan Spiced Okra-Quinoa Pilaf. I’ve made liberal changes to this one, including altering the base from rice to quinoa. The spices are subtle with a barely detectable undertone of lemon zest in the mix. Served sprinkled with chopped nuts, this pilaf is a meal in a bowl all on its own.
The second dish comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani. Again, I’ve made a few alterations to the original, which asks you to dry-cook the okra on the stovetop; I’ve found that adding chopped tomatoes and allowing the tender pods to stew in the juices produces a more appealing taste and texture. Although a masala curry, this one isn’t the least bit spicy, yet is still rife with the flavors of tomato, cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro. It’s a perfect side dish for Indian food, of course, but we also enjoy this as an accompaniment to burgers or cooked grains.
So go ahead, give okra a try! Who knows? You may even like it. And don’t worry, the secret will be safe with me.
Subtle flavors of warming spices and comforting vegetables, this quinoa-based pilaf can be made with any favorite grain.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 medium carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) chili flakes
2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 cup (240 ml) dry quinoa
1/2 cup (120 ml) green or brown lentils
3-4 cups (720-960 ml) vegetable broth or stock
freshly grated zest of one lemon
4 ounces (100 g) okra, washed, trimmed and cut into pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup (75 g) roughly chopped cashews or pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease a large covered casserole dish.
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat; add onion, carrot, garlic, chili flakes, ginger, cumin and coriander. Stir until the vegetables start to soften and the spices are fragrant. Add the quinoa and lentils and cook for a few minutes more. Add the broth, lemon zest and okra and return to the boil. Remove from heat.
Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, cover, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with the cilantro and nuts before serving. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
Anti-Candida Variation: omit the nuts, or use chopped almonds instead.
This is the perfect introduction to those wary of okra: keeping the pods whole prevents the juices from being released, and once the okra is cooked it’s not the least bit gooey inside. Be sure the pods are very soft and cooked through (the color will darken to an olive green) for best effect.
1 pound (450 g) okra or green beans, or a combination (washed and trimmed but not cut)
In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, salt, agave, lemon juice and chopped cilantro (the mixture will still be fairly dry).
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium heat and add the cumin and mustard seeds; fry for about 2 minutes, or until they begin to splutter and pop.
Add the spice mixture and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and okra and stir to coat well. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until the okra is very tender and most of the moisture from the tomatoes has evaporated, 25-35 minutes. Garnish with more chopped cilantro if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Anti-Candida Variation: Use 3-5 drops of stevia in place of the agave or Sucanat.
First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone! Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year. I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life. But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers. Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!
The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.” We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009. The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle that’s printed in The Globe and Mail. I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).
And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.
Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.” In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years. I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months: take a course in html; one year: design own web page).
Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.
I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust. Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).
Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once. As the famous Harvard study demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true. For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action. I will share the easiest goal on my list, though: remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly. That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!
Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time. Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us.
[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]
I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges. At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.
Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants. Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well! And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless. Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets. These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).
It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work. In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years. Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat. For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.
Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner. The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.
Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice. While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.
Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year.
One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan: Cook Indian more often.
Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce
Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries. The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From an unidentified cookbook–sorry!
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) Sucanat or other unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cumin
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) garam masala
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. (1-2.5 ml.) chili powder, to your taste
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) tomato purée (I used organic ketchup and omitted the Sucanat, above)
3/4 cup (180 ml.) unsweetened almond or soymilk
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 fresh green chili, chopped (optional–I omitted it as all the other dishes were very spicy)
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) black or yellow mustard seeds (I used black)
2-10 ounce (285 g.) bags frozen peas, defrosted under lukewarm water and drained
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder, if needed
Combine the Sucanat, ground cumin, garam masala, salt, chili powder and tomato purée in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl. Slowly stir in 2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) water and mix well. Add the soymilk gradually and mix; then add the lemon juice, cilantro and optional green chili. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry until the seeds begin to pop (about 20-30 seconds). Add the peas and fry for 30 more seconds before adding the sauce to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. For a thicker sauce, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the sauce into a small bowl and blend with the 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) cornstarch. Add this mixture back to the frypan and stir until thickened.
Serve over rice or with cheela. Makes about 6 servings.
*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, turmeric, baking soda, cumin, soymilk, and enough water to make a slightly thick, yet still flowing, batter. Stir in the chopped onion, green chili, tomato and cilantro.
Heat a nonstick (5 inch or 12 cm.) pancake pan [I just used a regular frypan] and spray with olive oil spray. Pour in about 1/3 cup batter, spreading it around to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin pancake. Spray the top of the pancake with oil as well.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the pancake for about 2-3 minutes, until the top begins to dry and the bottom of browned in spots. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until the other side is browned as well. Remove and keep warm while you make another 7 or so pancakes. Serve hot. Makes about 8 pancakes. Best eaten immediately (they do dry out if kept till the next day).
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fourth entry, I'm focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]
Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household. This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .
The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home. Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal. So far, so good.
As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:
Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers. In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each. I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began.
“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.
“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.
“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!! Apple-raisin??!!!RAISIN???!!!!” How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . .
I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late. They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal! Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse. Horrors!
In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do. My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded.
And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins.
Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).
Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today. I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series. (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).
* * * * * * * * *
Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.
Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white ”meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit. In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us. Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant, coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems.
Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic).
Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school. An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) . I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.
As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk? It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce. I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat.
Finally, there’s the coconut itself. Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute. I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking. Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar). This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking. For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).
Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarianby Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.
According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage? And yet, it really works.
Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.
“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”
[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask? Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow. I did eat the T'horin with them, though.]
2 tsp. mild vegetable oil (I used–what else?–coconut oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. black or brown mustard seeds
2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 small head cabbage (about 1 lb. or 500 g.), core removed, finely chopped into pieces no larger than 1/4 inch on their largest side, preferably smaller (this is the fussiest part of the recipe)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2-3 Tbsp. water, preferably spring or filtered (I needed a bit more)
1/3 cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes (I only had shredded, so used that)
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the mustrad seeds and cook, shaking the pan often, until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 3 minutes. Add the paprika and stir for 20 seconds.
Add the cabbage and stir well to combine and slightly sear the cabbage. After 20 seconds, add the salt, along wtih the 2 Tbsp. of water; cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, lifting the lid to stir now and then, and adding the extra tablespoon of water if needed, 6 to 8 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. (The dish should be dry–no liquid at all in the pan–though the cabbage will be moist.)
Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4-6 side dish servings. May be frozen.
AND DON’T FORGET. . . . If you’ve posted any coconut recipes of your own recently, send the URLs on over and I’ll be happy to link to them! (Depending on how many people send links my way, I may need to restrict the number of links per person. I’ll keep adding as the series continues, so feel free to send them along any of the LC days).
In the halcyon days of our relationship, when my HH and I were still in early stages of romantic life, I was sideswiped with a doozy of a diagnosis that caused me to change my diet drastically for what turned out to be quite a long time.
Still fiercely besotted back then, my HH was perfectly willing to accommodate my strange and singular dietary restrictions: no sugar, no wheat, no eggs, no dairy, no anything fermented (which included my half of those bottles of wine we’d grown accustomed to consuming with dinner), no caffeine, and on and on—for about three more paragraphs.
As a couple who habitually dined out 2 or 3 times a week plus brunch on Sundays (one advantage of meeting when we were too old for kids is the increased discretionary spending), this new diet forced us to alter our regular routine, um, considerably.All this, and my HH was still happy to comply, and even join me as I consumed cooked amaranth and tahini, tamari-marinated tofu, kamut pasta sprinkled with nutritional yeast, kale and arame salad, and every other manner of organic, whole, vegan foodstuff.
Yes, for a time, life was good in the DDD household.
After a couple of years of this regime, however, the cracks began to appear.I detected quiet rumblings of protest, as when I’d serve up my favorite tofu-veggie stir fry in almond-curry sauce:“What?” my HH would say.“This, again?” He’d eat it, but he wasn’t happy.
Soon, he imposed a veto on seaweed (unless, of course, it was wrapped around a hunk of raw eel or salmon at his favorite sushi bar). “It’s actually kinda slimy and gross when it’s marinated like that,” he’d remark of my kale and seaweed salad. Next, he tired of tofu. “That tofu stir-fry was okay at first,” he admitted, “But I think I’m maxed out on tofu for a while.” Before I knew it, he was once again craving caffeine.Up came the coffee maker from the basement, where it had been relegated for over a year, amid the piles of as-yet unpacked boxes from our previous house-move.
Almost imperceptibly, more changes took place.Stealthy, small cartons of half-and-half cream began to make their way back into our fridge. At first, they lay low at the back, behind the cartons of soymilk; later on, they declared their presence boldly, at the very forefront of the shelves. Eventually, there came the final affront: last year, the HH rekindled his mania for meat. No more pasta with veggies and walnuts for dinner, no sir; from now on, he wanted steak.
Well, what’s a vegan-loving gal to do when her HH suddenly reverts to his Neanderthal, bachelor appetites (for foods, that is)? These days, most of the time our dinner table is graced with a dual repast: a vegan main course for me, which cheerfully serves double duty as a side for him, nestled next to his hunk of animal protein. I love the guy, and he cooks his own meat, so I can live with it.
(“Steak ? Did someone say ‘steak’? But Mum, we think you should be the one to cook it. Dad never gives us as many leftovers as you do. . . oh. Sorry to interrupt.”)
I had tried both the Cozy Insideand Fat Free Vegan Kitchen omelettes and enjoyed them immensely. This morning, however, I was aiming for something a little richer and a little more gussied up, something I could serve to friends as the centerpiece of a brunch buffet.So, using these three for inspiration, I played with the various elements of the recipes and devised my own concoction.
An old recipe for a regular, egg-based omelette that had always intrigued me since I first read about it years ago is a sweet version, with an apple-cinnamon filling. So that the flavors in the base wouldn’t clash with the sweetness of the filling, I decided to make the omelette itself as plain as possible, omitting any strong seasonings such as garlic, paprika, or chopped veggies.
While cooking it up (and as you’ll see, the process is surprisingly easy), it still felt as if the dish needed something more than just apples to finish it off properly. I remembered a curried cream sauce I’d created to pour over broccoli raab, as a slightly sweet contrast to the bitterness of the greens.I thought that would be the perfect accesory for this omelette, and stirred some up while the apples cooked.The final product was a delicious and filling brunch.
Once everything was completed and plated, I tentatively asked the HH if he’d be willing to taste it.
Surprise number one: “Sure,” he said. He took a big forkful.
Surprise number two:“This is delicious!” he proclaimed, and then: “Can I have half?” Well, I’ve never been so happy to share.
With great enthusiasm, he proceeded to eat it all, and practically lick the knife clean. Perhaps the tofu embargo has come to an end.
Yep, love never ceases to amaze me.
Tofu Omelette with Sauteed Apples and Sweet Curry Cream Sauce
For the Sauce:
1/2 cup (125 ml.) smooth cashew butter
1/4-1/2 tsp. (1-2.5 ml.) mild curry powder
2 Tbsp. rice milk (this adds a bit of natural sweetness to the sauce)
For the Filling:
1 large apple (I used Gala), cored and cut into half-moon slices
2 tsp. organic coconut butter or sunflower oil
dash of cinnamon
For the omelette:
1 pound (about 500 g.) firm or extra-firm block of tofu (not the kind packed in water)
1/4 cup (about 60 ml.) nutritional yeast
3/4 cup (about 185 ml.) plain, unflavored soymilk
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) potato starch
1 tsp. (5 ml.) onion powder (not salt)
1 tsp. (5 ml.) turmeric
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) almond butter or cashew butter
salt, to taste
Make the sauce:
In a small heavy-bottomed pot, heat blend all ingredients together and heat over low heat until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the rest of the omelette.
Make the filling next:
Melt the coconut butter in a medium frypan over medium heat. Saute the apple slices until soft and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. While they are cooking, prepare the omelettes.
Prepare the omelettes:
In a food processor, blend the tofu and soymilk until it reaches a fairly smooth consistency. Add the remaining ingredients and process again until very smooth. This should be a thick batter, the consitency of a muffin batter. (If the mixture is too thin, the omelette won’t hold together. If it’s too thin, add about 1 Tbsp. of spelt or other flour at a time, up to 4 Tbsp., until it reaches the correct consistency).
Heat a small non-stick frypan over medium heat. Add about 1/4 of the omelette batter at a time, and smooth it evenly in the pan. Allow to cook for about 5-8 minutes, until the colour changes (it will become more yellow as it cooks) and the top appears dry. Flip the omelette (Joni provides a neat trick to do this effectively here) and cook the other side for another 4-6 minutes, until light golden. Repeat with other 3 omelettes.
Fill omelettes with apple slices, fold over the slices, then top with some Sweet Curry Sauce. Serve and enjoy! Makes 4 substantial omelettes.
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today, what with an order for 56 frosted cupcakes due by noon, as well as an article on cooking with avocado expected by this afternoon. Yikes. Therefore, today’s Holidailies post will be short and sweet. Or, in this case, short and spicy.
This recipe for Tofu Masala is quick and easy, despite the long list of spices that need to be ground into a curry. I’ve adapted the recipe from the fabulous cookbook, Green, by Flip Shelton. When I saw it in Chapters, I loved the modern, clean look of the book and bought it on impulse, but must say it’s become one of my favorites because of the recipes.
Maybe it’s my lifelong enchantment with Australia (and New Zealand) that drew me to it, but the book itself is a definite winner, filled with fresh, delicious, quick dishes that have, so far, always come out just right.
This recipe was one of my first ventures into homemade curries, and I was a bit intimidated by all the spices the first time I made it; my mother’s spice cupboard, in contrast, contained exactly one jar each of garlic salt, paprika, onion salt, and white pepper. All I knew about fenugreek at the time was that it’s commonly used in Ayurvedic cooking, and is supposed to help keep blood sugar levels even (enough of a reason right there to try it, I guess). But the spice mixture here–and it’s a powerfully hot mix, so beware if you’re timid about hot spice–is the perfect blend to offset the otherwise bland tofu, the al dente vegetables, and the brown basmati rice.
Sorry I don’t have a photo of this one; we made it at my last cooking class and consumed it before I remembered to snap a picture. I’ll add one in next time we eat it over here at D,D & D.
Easy Masala Curry with Veggies and Tofu
This dish is truly a snap to make, despite the long list of spices.And you can alter the mix of vegetables to your taste, or according to what’s on hand in the fridge!
1/2-1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. Sucanat or 5 drops stevia
Pinch sea salt
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
About 400 g. (1 lb.) firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 cup green beans, cut in half, or green peas
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 small Japanese eggplants, cut in disks
1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
Place the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cilantro, spices, sucanat, salt and lemon juice in a small food processor or coffee grinder and blend until you have a paste.Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions.Saute for two minutes, or until just soft. Add the chili paste and stir until the onion is well coated. Add the tofu, and stir to coat.Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Serve over brown basmati rice. Makes 4-6 servings.