Culinary Adventures + Preserved Lemons

You know that saying “When life gives you lemons…” ?

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Months ago, I had a super amazing dinner with Jonathan (my boyfriend),  at a Moroccan restaurant here in the city.  The appetizer we ordered was something similar to a spanakopita, pretty heavily spiced and containing tiny pieces of preserved lemon. It was divine. So amazing, so tasty, just so good.

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The meal reminded me of a Moroccan themed dinner party I was a part of year(s?) ago. One of the recipes a friend of mine was creating for the meal, involved preserved lemons. She had looked up ways to make them, finding that ultimately there was just not enough time. Preserved lemons need to age, to preserve. The longer they are left, the better – with a minimum of two months before cracking the seal for the first time.  We ended up finding a deli style counter in a Mediterranean shop that sold preserved lemons like a typical North American grocer would sell sliced sandwich meat.

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Calgary is home to a plethora of different cultural areas, many many different ethnic grocery stores – resulting in a basic unlimited supply of knowledge surrounding food. The folks working behind the check out counter of the little mom ‘n’ pop shops are so helpful, so willing to give you absolutely every bit of information – whether that be on a specific dish from their country, or about their own personal journey. It’s amazing. If there are small ethnic grocers near you, I strongly urge you to go! The wealth of knowledge is incredible, the people are heart warming – and equally heart warmed by someone of a different culture wanting to learn from them. It’s a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

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Preserved Lemons
two 500mL jars worth

5-7 Lemons
1 Cup High Quality Salt
1 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Cinnamon Sticks
3-4 Star Anise
8 Peppercorns
Sterilized 500mL Glass Jars

Scrub the lemons, you want them nice and clean because you’ll be eating the rind. Slice the lemon into quarters, keeping the fruit in tact – not cutting the full way to the bottom.  The lemon should still be whole, just sliced open into four parts. Fill the middle of the lemon with salt, then pack it into the bottom of one of the jars. Continue with the rest of the lemons. Add four peppercorns, one cinnamon stick, and at least one star anise to each jar. You should have enough to make two jars, depending on your lemons you may have extra. Using the lemon juice first, add half to each jar, then add in the water, topping up the jar to be filled to the shoulder. Add in another few tablespoons of salt, and seal. Leave in a dark, room temperature place for a minimum of two months. Tip each jar upside down and give it a bit of a whirl every few days to ensure the salt dissolves.

*Preserved lemons are great in a pilaf, mixed into quinoa with veggies (especially good with spinach), couscous – and well, basically any grain dish. They pair well with roasted potatoes, once roasted dress with fresh pepper, oregano and thinly sliced preserved lemon.  Goat cheeses, olive spreads, oh man just use your imagination! So many uses! But keep in mind, they are salty!*

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Gratitude, Love, Overwhelming Fondness + Poached Pears

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In the past week I have fully submerged myself into the amazing supportive loving community that is B School. I have {already} met some absolutely amazing people and am completely saturated with the most insane amount of joy. I’m so overcome with gratitude and love, the constant display of support is so gorgeous. It’s so inspirational to see, to be a part of, and to have access to. I have been feeling so celebratory and so full of creativity that business ideas are just popping out of me like fireworks! Crazy, colorful, beautiful fireworks.

Of course……  I’m not sure what to do with them yet, so they are here, tucked away in my pretty little note book just waiting for their opportunity to jump out and make dreams come true. That’s what it’s all about for me right now, really, keeping track of all my dreams and paving the way for them to become reality.  Maybe the cement trucks and the handy dandy workers who pave those streets have yet to arrive – but the blueprints, they are being drawn.

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Embracing the time change, the spring ahead (super fantastic time of year), and the giant step I have taken before I’m quite ready… Is cause to celebrate.  I am celebrating with flower petal and mint nature-fetti, sprinkled absolutely everywhere! Mega color therapy, amazing freshness, and completely organic!

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Pears, slightly unripe are left to soften and absorb a beautiful and slightly spicy soaking liquid before topping a thick layer of fresh young coconut cream. Really light, really easy, and so beautiful. The nature-fetti of course is the fun part, having had a quick discussion about kids in the kitchen with a group of fellow B School adventurers it occurred to me – what child doesn’t love throwing confetti? I mean really….  even for adults, get in touch with that inner child and go wild. I sure did.  So, leave the pears spiced and naked then employ tiny hands to help with the decorating! Hello to super fun bonding! Especially come summer, when the flowers can be picked and torn (or left whole!) together in the yard! When I have kids, you can bet your butt my little darlings will have flowery crowns and talk about Earthing. Spreading nature-fetti all over the place.

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Poached Pears, Coconut Cream & Nature-fetti
serves 2

2 Unripe Pears
2.5 Cups of Water
4 Tbsp Honey
Finger Sized Knob of Ginger
1/2 Tsp Coconut Oil
1 Tsp Rosehip Powder
1/2 Cup Young Coconut Meat
Pinch of Vanilla Powder
Edible Flowers
Mint

Add 2 cups of the water to a smallish pot, along with the honey. Peel the ginger with the blunt end of a spoon, slice it and pop it in the pot as well. Bring the water up almost to a boil then turn it down to maintain the movement in the mixture. Peel the pears – leaving the stem and bottom in tact, then gently place them on their side in the pot. Turn the heat down to medium-low and rotate with a spoon, gently, every few minutes. After about 10 minutes, remove from the heat completely, add the coconut oil. While that sits, add the coconut meat and the remaining half cup of water to a high speed blender, whirl until it’s thick and creamy. Once the pears have cooled remove them from the pot, placing them somewhere to continue resting until the dish is ready to be assembled. Put the pot of ginger honey pear water back onto the stove, and whisk in the rosehip powder. Reserve for plating. Gather the flowers and the mint together, have fun with it, you may remove each petal & leaf; keep the flowers whole and stem the mint, or rip the petals and the mint into smaller pieces! Store them in a bowl in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembly

Divide half of the coconut cream per pear, scooping it onto one large plate. Arrange the pears on top of the cream, leaning against each other if necessary. Sprinkle with vanilla.  Using a soup spoon or small ladle, surround the pears and cream with some of the reserved soaking + rosehip water. Drizzle the top of each pear gently. Now the nature-fetti! Get creative! Toss, throw, blow out nature-fetti kisses from your hand! Just get those little beauties everywhere!

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Bring on the Sunshine!

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Today marks the last predicted day of our deep freeze (for now..), move over frigid air, get outta here wind chill – sun’s a-comin’ and I can’t wait!  I’m welcoming some not so crazy cold days with a really simple citrus set up. A Sunshine Salad, if you will.  Sweet and tart, with a boosted vitamin C drizzle.  Yum.  Well…. unless you’re my unsuspecting love, biting straight into a drizzle-less lemon. Hehe, oops!

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A few months ago, back in the very early grips of winter – I spent the afternoon foraging for enough wild sage to make a number of smudge bundles. During my foraging journey, I happened across hundreds and hundreds of wild roses. Or well, rose hips. The fruit, rose fruit. I know from my upbringing that the best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost, the zap of ol’ Jack Frost leaves the fruit a touch sweeter. Well, the morning I set out may not have been the first frost, but it was certainly frosty. Perfect.

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Wild roses are one of my favorite plants! They are so beautiful, so fragrant, so lifting, I love them. I love walking through the trees just outside the city and happening upon bush after bush. All blooming and full of life, emitting the softest yet strongest aroma and immediately lifting my spirit. I love this plant. I connect with this plant. The wild rose offers much in the way of healing, may it be a vibrational healing or a physical healing. The hips are antibacterial, antispasmatic, mineral rich, and of course the high vitamin C content is always welcome, especially in the cold and dark months of an Albertan winter. Brrr!

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The hips can be dried and ground into a powder, they can be made into jelly, or one of my favorite uses – they can infuse honey or be used to make a rosehip syrup. Rosehip syrup is one of my favorite ways to gently sweeten my home brew kombucha! Buttt….  that’s a different post. Right now, I am talking about ground rosehips, powdery soft and the slightest tinge of orange. Really beautiful and delicate stuff, of course, coming from such a beautiful plant. (Even kitties love them, notice top right!).

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We all know and associate citrus with vitamin C, right? Yes, great. Okay. Well now, we can associate rosehips with it as well, loads of it. Pair the two together and people I tell you, you will feel like a super star. A super star shot right out out of this universe and into the next! Seriously simple, super yummy, and healthy to boot. Use whatever citrus is around, kumquats, navel, grapefruit,lemon, pomelo. Any! All! Don’t be scared to add the funny face inducing ones like lemons and limes. The tang is refreshing and the detoxing effects are well worth it. Plus, with a pinch of salt in the drizzle that graces the top of this citrus salad, all different types of fruit get sweeter. Really! Don’t love grapefruit? Try dipping it in salt. Just a touch.  Sounds strange, I know, but it’s a tip I picked up from a teaching kitchen and it works like a charm.

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Sunshine Citrus Salad

2 Limes
2 Lemons
1 Large Grapefruit
3 Blood Oranges
3 Navel Oranges
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
2 Tsp Rosehip Powder
Raw Honey
Pinch of Himalayan Salt

Carefully slice each of the citrus fruits at the top and the bottom, this provides a flat working surface. Begin at the top and slowly remove the rinds (rinds which can be kept and dried, chopped up and used for infusions!). Once the rinds have been removed, slice thinly and arrange on a serving plate. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, rosehip powder, honey to taste and the pinch of salt. Pour over top of arranged citrus slices and enjoy!

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Carrot Pappardelle with a Middle Eastern Twist!

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Growing up, I absolutely loved pasta. I loved it! Spaghetti drenched in tomato sauce and covered with melty cheese was one of my favorite meals before school in the morning. When asked what my favorite food was as a kid, my answer would always be pasta. That love transferred over when I started working in restaurants, ordering pastas for my lunch and dinner break.

These days, I still love pasta – but I’m more likely to be found curling up with a bowl of the veggie variety. Not quite as steamy hot and pillowy soft, but it sure doesn’t leave you feeling heavy and bogged down inside!

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Nope, in fact veggie pasta leaves you feeling satisfied! Perfectly satiated, and with none of that so-full-your-back-hurts kind of finish (thank goodness). The bonus, is that you get all the vitamins and minerals from the raw vegetable and don’t need to worry about your digestive system being confused by the wheat! No sticky gluten, no preservatives or additives, just real goodness.   I have tried a number of different vegetable options for making pasta, I enjoy zucchini for thin noodles; celeriac for thicker noodles, and carrots work so incredibly well for a wide pappardelle type noodle! So easy, so fresh.

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When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand carrots.  I was good with things like broccoli, but for some reason I just could not get down with carrots. I had it in my head that I didn’t like them, so I would over-chew them. Weird, right? Yeah, it gets better.  I would over-chew them to the point they would swell, picture it.  Okay, maybe they didn’t swell for real, but that’s exactly what it felt like when I tried to swallow the then massive amount of pulp in my mouth. For years and years I would refuse eating carrots, telling whoever was trying to feed them to me that they would swell in my mouth and cause me to choke.  Now that I am an adult and able to find interesting ways to eat these tapered orange roots, I enjoy them thoroughly! No more insane pulpy mouth swelling for me!

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Two power houses that make this carrot pap so filling and energy lifting are sprouted chickpeas & lentils. Sprouts are a fun and suuuper simple way to add the life force into any dish. A true enhancement to a raw bowl, a cooked bowl, or gosh just to grab a handful!

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Finally! The secret is in the sauce. Really. It’s sweet, tangy, earthy and has a distinct herby finish. Packed full of anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-everything, digest stimulating, taste bud tingling…   get it? It’s packed full of awesome. Really!  Za’atar is a grouping of different herbs and sesame seeds very commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. The biggest flavors in a typical za’atar mix are sumac, thyme, and roasty toasty sesame seeds; other lovely additions may be oregano, basil, citrus peels and sometimes (as seen above) chunky sea salt. The combination is heavenly, both on the nose and the tongue.

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Carrot Pappardelle 

5-6 Carrots
1-1.5 Cups Cherry Tomatoes
Handful of Fresh Basil
1/3 Cup Lentil & Chickpea Sprouts
1 Tbsp Sunflower Seed Butter
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Maple Butter (or 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup)
1 Tbsp Warm Water
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Inch Knob of Ginger
1 Turmeric Finger
1 Tsp Za’atar Blend

Using a veggie peeler make thin slices of carrot, trying to keep each strip in a long ribbon. Put in a bowl and set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix together the sunflower seed butter, apple cider vinegar, maple butter and water. Stir until combined and smooth. Using a zester or a fine grater, grate the garlic, the ginger and the turmeric over the sauce bowl, stir in the za’atar and mix well. Pour the sauce mixture over the carrots, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl. Allow the mixture to sit for at least an hour, the flavors will be better the longer they mingle. Shred the basil with a sharp knife or by hand and garnish the top of the dish. Add the chickpea & lentil sprouts before serving.

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Noodle Buddha Bowl

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Sometimes, for dinner…  the best things are the simplest.  For years I have been making bowls of food and calling them “Buddha Bowls” – in fact one of my very first blog posts was a Buddha Bowl.  Really simple stuff, using what’s in the fridge, or garden, or window sill, whatever is available.

Today was a Buddha Bowl Day, for sure.  I have a fairly busy weekend ahead of me.. that coupled with a lot of fresh veggies in my fridge, and no real desire to cook anything extravagant; well the Buddha Bowl fit perfectly, right into my evening.

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This is the time of year everyone seems to be craving something simple, something warm, something with next to no clean-up effort. I can totally agree with all of that, the last thing I want to do is spend the final moments of daylight doing dishes. I am so very much looking forward to longer days!  One thing that I find is often forgotten come mid winter is that our bodies need extra love! I for one crave the crisp freshness of fruits and vegetables so much more when the season offers so much less.  I try to buy smart, I try to purchase mostly what is in season – this week though, when I saw the sweet peas. I couldn’t resist.

Super delicious little crunchy loves that remind me of summer, that immediately transport me to a warm and sunny day in the grass.  I think that being shot off to a different time was just as important for my inner-self as eating the little loves was for my physical body. Just a little winter break, that’s all I needed.  Well..  that and a steaming hot bowl of buckwheat noodles, covered in veggies and doused in a cashew satay sauce.

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Soba Noodle Buddha Bowl
serves two

Handful of Buckwheat Noodles
1 Large Carrot
2 Large Portabello Mushrooms
3 Rainbow Chard Leaves
Handful of Peas
1 Large Broccoli Crown
1/4 Cup Raw Cashew Pieces
Creamy Cashew Satay Sauce

Grate the carrot, chop the chard into long strips, cut the broccoli into florets and slice the mushroom length wise into medium-thin strips. Place the portabellos into a pan with a few tablespoons of water. Cook until they are soft, adding more water as needed. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil and add the buckwheat noodles, cook until tender. Remove the noodles with a pair of tongs, placing them into a colander and rinsing with cold water. Quickly add the peas and the broccoli to the boiling water – leave them there for no longer than a minute, removing them with the tongs and adding them to the colander to drain.  Reserve 1 cup of the boiling water for the satay sauce.

Cashew Satay Sauce

1 Cup of Boiling Water
2.5 Tablespoons Cashew Butter
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Umeboshi Paste
1 Thai Chili
1 Teaspoon Grated Ginger

Suuuuper simple…. Add all ingredients into a jar and shake until combined.

Assembly

Lay the strips of chard on the bottom of each bowl, top with noodles, mushrooms, broccoli and peas. Slowly pour the satay sauce along the side of the bowl, filling the bottom. This will help soften the chard. Top with grated carrot and raw cashew pieces.

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Simple Restorative Eats

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For the last week I have been doing a fairly intensive cleanse, new year, new start. Right?  Cleansing is a very personal thing, some people like it and do it – some people don’t.  A girlfriend at work and myself have been successfully cleansing and fasting for a number of days now… by that I mean it feels like ten. Ridding our bodies of the old and helping to boost rejuvenation.   The cleansing battle has been a bit up and down for me, considering I have a slight food obsession and this particular program includes a five days of no solids. How does a food blogger… quit food? Quit juicing.  Quit…. it all.  It’s been an adventure, lets say that.  

Before beginning the cleanse I spent a lot of time brainstorming how to properly use up the remaining items in my fridge and how to break the fast in a way that would be satiating as well as gentle. The recommended options stated in the cleanse are an apple for breakfast, a salad for lunch and if that goes well – another salad at dinner.    Well that’s all good, fine, quite tolerable.  However, for someone like me who eats an abundance of fermented foods, I have noticed a dramatic change in my inner self with not having any added happy friendly bacteria.

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So I have decided to rebel.  I am not going to break the fast with salads, an apple – sure, a green juice instead of a salad and a niiiccee warm bowl of miso soup.  I don’t love soy, honestly I don’t even like soy. I generally try to avoid it, with the occasional exception of some tempeh and a tub of miso paste that calls the top shelf of my refrigerator home.  There are so many debates about soy, so many.  For a very informative and objective look at some of the debates head on over to the Holy Kale, take a read. Decide for yourself if you want to use it and include it.   Like I said, I have a whole shwack load of friendly ferments in my daily life – so miso works for me on occasion.   Occasions… such as this, where I would really like to gently reintroduce semi solids and send my digestive system back into orbit with some fermenty friends.  The thing to remember when making miso, is that in order to get the full benefit of those bacteria it needs to be warm not hot. Scalding those little loves will do no good, so be careful when mixing it up!

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Can’t have miso soup… without just a few little steamed gyoza. Right? So easy once you get the hang of it, knowing that after a bowl of miso I would be dying for at least a couple… I made a batch of 20 and froze them. I have a previous post about making gyoza so I won’t delve deeply into my love for little steamed pockets. Maybe the fact that I am doing a second dumpling ish post says enough! These ones are just mushroom, no tempeh or kale. 

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I chose to steam the gyoza, limit the frying and why bother with the baking.  Simple is best, plus I love cooking with water and steam.  This cleanse taught me an incredible amount of just how gentle the system is, while being so strong and resilient at the same time. It’s amazing! Truly a wonder.  My own body has gone on a round about ride up and down between feeling good and feeling like crap, I will be happy to have some real food again. That’s for sure.  Steam, because it’s simple and it’s healthy. No added oils or splatter burns.  Just some quick cooking love.

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Although I have a burning love for shiitakes on a regular day, I chose to use only these little delights for my come back soup.  Shiitakes support healthy stomach function, are incredibly restorative and are great immune regulators.  Medicinal mushrooms, gotta love ’em! They also look beautiful and ever so traditional in a simple miso broth.  Floating perfectly in place of small pressed tofu cubes!

Shiitake Miso
(makes two bowls)

2.5 Cups of Water
1 Handful of Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Green Onions
1 Tsp Tamari
1.5-2 Tbsp Shiro Miso Paste
Sea Veg & Pea Shoots 

In a medium sized pot, boil the water and the mushrooms. Cook at medium heat for about 5-8 minutes with the lid on. Slice and add the green onion continuing to cook for a minute or so before turning the burner off and adding the tamari. Remove the pot from the stove completely, then scoop out about 2/3 of the mushroom water (liquid only) leaving the lid off and allowing it to cool down slightly, putting it in a soup bowl. Stir the miso paste in the 2/3 of mushroom water until it’s fully dissolved. Once the pot is no longer steaming visibly, add the miso water into the pot and give it a good stir.  Top with nori or other sea veg and some fresh pea shoots.

Mushroom Gyoza 
(makes about twenty)

1/3 Cup Water
2 Cups of Oyster Mushrooms
1 Cup of Shiitake Mushrooms
0.5-2 Tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Green Onion
1 Tbsp Tamari
Splash of Rice Vinegar
Salt & Pepper 
Wonton Wraps

In a large pan or wok, cook the mushrooms in the water until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has disappeared. Allow the mixture to cool, and then blend in a food processor until it forms a paste like texture. Add the ginger – to taste, sliced green onion, tamari, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend it again to make sure it’s fully mixed. Scoop out half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of filling into the middle of a wrapper, wet the edges and fold! Easy peasy, I promise, once you do a couple you’ll fly through it.  For a more detailed explanation of wrappers and folding check out my previous gyoza post.

Dipping Sauce

2 Parts Rice Vinegar
1 Part Sesame Oil
As many heaps of chili flakes as desired

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Balsamic Beads & Alien Veggies

Romanesco…

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Roma-whaa?  Romanesco.  Rad, eh?  I’m a sucker for treasures of the produce section.. Seriously.

A few years ago I saw a whole pile of these alien looking broccoli-cauliflower-whatever-the-heck’s, just tucked casually between the sprouts and the beans. No biggie, just a friggin’ UFO hybrid.  I didn’t buy one, I just tucked my basket in a little closer and scooted my butt on by never to see one again.  Until this week. There was one left, I went for it.

So what the bleep is it!? It’s a relative of cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, a dense spirally flower.  Tastes more like cauliflower, than broccoli, and breaks apart like it too.  It works well sauteed, steamed, and of course – raw.

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I love and absolutely can’t get over these beautiful tasty spirals. So stunning to look at, shocking even. I sent a photo of my first romanesco experience to le boyfriend and he gave me the “…” type response.  Something along the lines of “What the……” – Perfect. It’s perfect! We had the exact same response, years apart. What better way to get creative with food, than to add in something that is so unusual?!

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Let’s add to the unusual.  Balsamic beads. Pearls. Balls.  Whatever you want to call them. It’s called molecular gastronomy. Science+Food. I had the absolute pleasure of assisting Chef Pierre Lamielle in a molecular gastronomy class a few weeks back, a class I had been suuuper pumped about.  I put my name into the bid for which classes I would get to volunteer for, choosing 18 total. The only one I really, really had to make sure I somehow got to – was the molecular class. Ding ding! What fun it was! He talked a bit about the different components used in molecular gastronomy, different ingredients to make foams and spheres.  He mentioned his favorite to work with is agar, which was thrilling for me – as I am familiar with agar agar and being that it is a seaweed product, am happy to use it in my own kitchen.

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Molecular kits can be purchased online, and sometimes in specialty kitchen stores; agar agar can be found powdered or flaked in some health food stores and in most Asian markets. So if making “caviar” out of vinegar, fruit juices or whatever liquid you fancy is the goal – simple agar powder is the way to go. Since the molecular class, I have been using Chef Pierre Lamielle’s instructions for making balsamic “caviar” but have altered the measurements a tad seeing as I do not own a molecular kit.

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Tomato & Romanesco Salad with Balsamic Beads

1 Handful of Yellow Grape Tomatoes
1 Handful of Red Grape Tomatoes
1 Small Head of Romanesco
2-3 Tbsp Chia Oil (flax oil, or good quality oil of choice)
1 Tbsp Fresh Chive – sliced thin
1/4 Cup Shredded Basil
6-7 Chunks of Chevre (omit for vegan option)
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1-1.5 Tsp Agar Powder
3 Cups Cheap Olive Oil
Syringe

Slice the tomatoes in half, and pull apart the romanesco – leaving it chunky. Toss the tomatoes, romanesco, chia oil, sliced chives and shredded basil in a large glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt and as much fresh pepper as desired. Toss the salad, then add the chunks of chevre. Allow this to sit out while making the balsamic beads. Fill a large pint glass or jar with the olive oil and pop it in the freezer to chill for about 30-45 minutes. The key is cheap oil, which is usually heat pressed and therefore won’t solidify as quickly in cold temperatures. In a small pot combine the agar and the balsamic vinegar, bring it to a simmer – stirring to dissolve the powder. Once dissolved, transfer to a bowl or cup and set aside. Take the chilled olive oil from the freezer, pull the balsamic liquid up into a syringe and drip it one drop at a time into the oil. The beads will fall to the bottom of the jar, forming as they chill. Stir gently to unstick if necessary. Drain the oil from the glass into another container and sprinkle as many of the balsamic beads as desired over the salad.

Voila!

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Left Overs… I Love Left Overs!

My dad makes the best mashed potatoes in the whole world.

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Well, actually he makes an amazing Christmas dinner in total – but ever since I was young, the mashed potatoes and dressing have been my favorite.  I can’t for the life of me make mashed potatoes like my dad does, not even a chance.  This is a pretty sad thing for me, as I have a serious love for potatoes.

On the other hand…. very lucky for me, that I got to take all of the left overs!

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While cleaning up the kitchen after our holiday dinner, it came out that I don’t have a microwave in my tiny apartment.  I used to, but when I last moved – I left it. Actually, my old landlord called me to thank me for leaving it, as I hadn’t used it for the year I spent in his building and it had been essentially brand new when I moved in.. He took it. I had intended to leave it for the new tenant, but anyway, besides the point.  I don’t have a microwave. I love left overs.  I choose not to have a microwave for a number of reasons, and find that often when one would sure be handy – creative juices begin to flow.

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Holidays… heck, just plain old days off – call for brunch. Brunch to me just isn’t brunch, without eggs. Now I had been doing the fully vegan thing for a while, with some recent reintroductions – eggs and goat cheese. I feel very strongly in listening to my body, I believe food is medicine… and if my body needs vitamins it can get from eggs – well I would much rather have an egg than pop back a couple of pills. As long as it’s organic, properly treated, and farm fresh.   Omit the egg to keep it vegan, instead topping with fresh greens.

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Potato Latkes & Crisped Sage
makes about five palm sized latkes

2 Cups Cold Mashed Potatoes
1/2 Cup Quinoa Flakes
1 Shallot
2 Cloves of Garlic
Pinch of Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
5 Tbsp Coconut Oil (separated)
10 Fresh Sage Leaves

Preheat the oven to 350. In a fairly large bowl, hand mix all ingredients except the coconut oil (make sure to use cold potatoes!).  The mixture should be thick and stick mostly to itself, not your hands. Roll the mixture into five separate balls, flattening each into a patty. Heat up a pan (ideally cast iron, but not necessary), melt 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and gently place the latkes in. Depending on the size of the pan, mine fit four at a time. Keep in mind, the latkes will need to be flipped, so over crowding is not a good idea. Allow the latkes to develop a crust, then flip. Once both sides have a seared crust put the pan in the oven (if not using a cast iron, transfer gently to an oven safe dish or cookie sheet) and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.  When the latkes come out of the oven, they will be very soft. Allow them to cool slightly, and firm up before plating. In another pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, to test that the oil is hot enough to crisp the sage – dip the tip of one leaf in. If it begins to bubble, it’s ready – add in all 10 leaves. It’s not to deep fry them, just to crisp them so they need only be cooking for about two minutes, maybe three. Remove them with a fork.

*If completing this brunch with an egg, use the same sage-y coconut oil to cook it *

Loving Tomato Jam & Lentil-no-meat Balls

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Sometimes, I seem to have a serious craving for spaghetti and meatballs.  Not that I necessarily have eaten loads of meatballs in my life, but the craving sometimes can be pretty darn strong.  Something about an Italian meal gets me…  I think it’s the sensory aspect.  The basil, garlic, oregano, slowly cooking tomatoes..  The way it makes the whole house smell so warm and lived in.

I tend to not really buy many things pre-made, I like to know what goes into my food and I find that often the simplest of ingredients can give such amazing flavor. It’s an enormous reward to know that it was created from scratch! That is entirely true for tomato sauce, whether it is slow roasted, simmered and loved or tossed together in a pinch – homemade is always the way to go.  I have a secret love for what I call “tomato jam”, I pile it on everything that resembles noodles. It’s quick, has this… super crazy punchy flavor, and makes the house smell divine. I originally drummed it up as a condiment for a savoury tart, having oodles of left overs I scooped it into half of a spaghetti squash and have never looked back.

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Now, this weekend… there couldn’t just be spaghetti without meatballs. There just couldn’t.  Cooking for folks who are a tad on the green side of this whole “veggie” thing (no pun intended, ha!), means that sometimes there needs to be real alternatives that.. well, don’t really seem like an alternative. Now I’m not claiming that these lentil-no-meat balls could fool a carnivore, but they sure would satisfy one!  Lentils are great! Super easy to cook (or sprout), great source of plant based protein, and they work well with so many different dishes.  Growing up, my mom used to make this lentil… bake.  I can honestly say that’s what we named it, I don’t remember it having any other title. Lentil bake.  It had tomatoes, cheese…. herbs, I don’t know. It was delightful. I have tried to recreate it a number of times with no success, these little balls paired with my tomato jam – well they measure up well. Le Boyfriend even enjoyed them!

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New Spaghetti & Meatballs
(makes for about 4 people)

2 Large Zucchini

Punchy Tomato Jam

5-6 Medium Red Tomatoes
1 Cup Sundried Tomatoes
3+ Cloves of Garlic
1/2 Cup Water
1/3-1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Lentil-no-meat Balls

1 Cup Cooked French Lentils
1/2 Cup Cooked Quinoa
2 Shallots
2 Cloves of Garlic
1-2 Tsp Olive Tapenade
3+ Tbsp Water
1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
2-3 Tsp Shichimi Togarashi
1-2 Tsp Nutritional Yeast
Salt & Pepper
1/3 Cup Quinoa Flakes

Tomato Jam: Wash & chop the tomatoes leaving the skin on, and a decent chunky size. Slice the sun dried tomatoes, roughly chop the garlic.  In a medium pot, heat up the water to a simmer then add in both the dried and fresh tomatoes and the garlic. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes keeping the heat at a medium temperature. Season with salt and pepper once the tomatoes have begun to soften and release their juice, about another 5 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, and continue to cook until the tomatoes have deepened in color, the house smells amazing, and the mixture has thickened up a bit.

No-meat Balls: Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly coconut oil or prepare with parchment – a cookie sheet. In a food processor, pulse the lentils, quinoa, tapenade, shallots, garlic and water (add if necessary, table spoon at a time) until it begins to pull from the sides and stick together. For a more uniform texture, continue processing a touch longer with a tad more water. Add in the spices,nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and give it another quick pulse to incorporate. Remove the blade, and mix the quinoa flakes in by hand. Form the mixture into balls and set on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, turning them, and baking for another 5-10 or until browned and firm.

Assembly: Wash and spiralize or julienne the zucchini into noodles, divide between bowls. Spoon on the hot tomato jam and then top with the lentil balls. Voila!

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(Medicinal Mushroom) Savoury Breakfast Bowl

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My dad sent me a text this morning to inform me of the snowfall warning scheduled for Calgary tonight, this immediately put me into need-comfort mode. It’s not that I don’t like snow…. I think it’s beautiful! It does however instill the serious need for hibernation.  I tend to run a bit on the cool side, so winter really bites me in the butt sometimes.

Comfort food is something that has dramatically changed for me in the last 10 months or so. Since going primarily vegan the typical oozy, gooey, piping hot cheesy pasta bowls, quiche, and ultra creamy brie pizzas have sorta flown out the window. I have a much stronger grasp on what works for me and my body, and am so happy to say that I am still learning! Every day!
Each day in yoga I am reminded that today is different from yesterday, that tomorrow will be different from… next Tuesday. We are in a constant state of revolution, the beauty of becoming more in tune with our own body is that come tomorrow (shoot, even come three hours from now!) we will require something that is just a bit different from the current moment.  Being your own intuitive chef is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

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Comfort food for me, now looks something like this! Quinoa, avocado, shiitakes, and kimchi.  Deeply nourishing, flavorful, and packed with both prebiotics as well as probiotics. Most everyone has heard about probiotics and how important they are (think yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut) but not as many people now how vital it is to also have the prebiotics! Prebiotics are essentially food for the probiotics, they provide sugars for the happy bacteria to eat and grow thus helping us to be happy and to grow!  Enjoying a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) like this fabulously comforting bowl is only one way to get a good dose of bioavailable nutrition; for those of us who enjoy a sweeter breakfast, or perhaps to be used as a dessert option it’s simple to convert from savoury. Bananas are a great source of prebiotics, oats and other porridge grains work as well. Scooping some cultured yogurt and raw honey on top of a blended banana oat pudding/porridge and topped with some extra beneficial bee pollen is sweet perfection in a bowl. Wholesome, real food.

I cooked the quinoa in a decoction of chaga tea, chaga is a tonic medicinal mushroom that is a-maaaaa-zing! Chaga is a rough and tough mushroom growth that essentially scabs over the broken portion of a piece of living wood. Key words there – living wood. It grows to protect the tree, not to help it decompose. Chaga is an immuno-modulating herb that has been used in Canada and Russia for years and years. In fact, I recently heard about a Siberian shaman who was found in the ice from ages ago – who had chaga in his herb belt. Ancestral people knew that it was anti viral, antiseptic, and very tonic; a herb that could be used on a very regular basis and to treat a number of different conditions. Now we also know that chaga has the most amount of antioxidants of anything known! Awesome! Tonic herbs, immno-modulating herbs, this means that instead of boosting the immune system (like echinacea) they balance the body so that it can zen out. They help to put the pieces together, so the body itself can be the boost it needs. Chaga is not an aromatic, so it can be concentrated and decocted multiple times – and by multiple, I basically mean you can brew chaga on the stove sort of witches cauldron style for hours and hours and it will just be more bioavailable and amazing. Unlike something like a peppermint tea, you cook that baby down and eventually you’re just drinking leaves. The minty aromatics fly away. Once you bottle the chaga you’ve made, keep the mushroom, keep on refilling that pot until the brew deposits no more color into the water. I usually get four or five brews out of the same batch, fill mason jars with the beautiful black tea and refrigerate it to be used as a base in soups, smoothies, or to cook grains in.  Cooking grains with chaga tea provides an even more powerful prebiotic base! Perfection!

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Savoury Breakfast Bowl

1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 Cup Chaga Tea
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Cup Whole (fresh) Shiitake Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Water
Himalayan Salt & Fresh Pepper
Kimchi
Avocado – sliced

Add the quinoa, chaga and coconut oil to a small pot, allow it to boil then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for ten minutes or so before removing from the heat. Get a frying pan out and onto the hot element, adding in the shiitakes, salt and pepper, and then the water. No oil necessary. Pan-steam (I may have made that term up…) the mushrooms, until they are ultra soft and have soaked up most of the water. Assemble in a bowl, starting with the quinoa, the mushrooms, sliced avocado and kimchi last. We want those probiotics to live, covering them in hot quinoa isn’t ideal!

Optional Toppings

Hemp Hearts
Sesame Seeds
Dried Dulse, Wakame, and Sea Lettuce

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