Holy poop! I made food!

It’s been a while since that happened, so I decided to play a fun game of, What canned food do I have that I need to get rid of? This is what I collected from my cupboard:

  • Fava beans
  • Coconut milk
  • Quinoa (the only thing I cooked)
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped garlic (I heard it’s healthier raw, anyway)
  • Banana

My friend the Honourary Consul General of Burundi (I have friends in high places in West Africa) told me that in Burundi, they incorporate banana into everything they cook, especially with beans. In his honour, I sometimes do that too.

It was good, if a bit strong on the raw garlic. There were no disasters, save for me still needing to learn how not to cut myself cleaning the lid of a can. Oh well, it’s always good to have something left to learn!

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The Dhal Baat Diet

In preparing for my trip to Nepal, I heard that the local custom is to eat a heaping plate full of rice, topped with a huge heaping of lentils, by hand, twice a day. This sounded so exciting to me! Two ingredients that are actually on my safe list. That’s all they eat (unless it’s a festival, I suppose), and we’re not talking about a TV-watching slacker culture, either. They do heavy-duty manual labour every day, and these two meals give them all the strength they need.

Imagine my disappointment when I got to Nepal and my group was treated to restaurants with an extensive selection of foods, Nepali, Newari, Tibetan, and their version of Indian, Chinese and Western. I didn’t eat dhal baat a single time while I was there! Not did I eat with my hands, out of a paranoia about my own cleanliness…

So when I got home, I finally found the solution to my strict diet + not-knowing-how-to-cook ways. For every meal, I will make rice and lentils! This saves a ton of money and confusion from restaurants. It allows me to spend more time at home. And rice and lentils is the best bang for your buck — super-cheap ingredients, and a complete protein! I bought 8 kilos of rice (I’m guesstimating, a year’s worth) for $10.

My first meal back, it turned out we didn’t have rice in the house. But there was brown rice pasta (shells), and brown rice is superior to its blanched counterpart. So I threw in a can of garlic-flavoured chickpeas, added basil-tomato sauce, veggies and mung beans, and had a yummy Italian dinner!

Now that I’ve opened lentils to include all forms of beans, the possibilities for this combo are endless. As a snack, there’s rice crackers and humus. For breakfast, there’s crispy rice cereal and soy milk. (Though lately I have been making this nut porridge instead: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/02/recipe-paleo-porridge.html) And this combination lends itself to any variety of spices and toppings, as well as cultural variations. For example, there’s Vietnamese vermicelli, and any Italian pasta you can think of has its equivalent made of rice.

My cooking partner got sick of my new diet pretty quickly, so we made a Mexican night of it. He cooked refried beans with onion, peppers, jalapeño and cheese between two tortillas for quesadillas. I’m off wheat and dairy, so I mixed the beans with brown rice, sautéed the veggies, and mashed an avocado (lazy guacamole) and threw it all into a taco. Olé!

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This is the classic version of black beans and brown rice, before I added a few toppings.

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More fun with bananas and oats

I’m still experimenting with the banana + oats = cookies recipe, and finding fun variations!

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Today I decided to make one big fat blob. Fun, right? Ingredients:

2 bananas, so over-ripe they smell alcoholic
Organic peanut butter
Turmeric (turning it yellow)
Cinnamon
Chia seeds
Hemp hearts
Crushed walnuts
Crushed pecans
Goji berries

Yesterday I made “hamentashen” for Purim. That’s in quotes because this only resembled hamentashen, and not because I don’t think real hamentashen exist. What this means is that I made triangular “cookies”, then put stuff in the middle, then padded the outside again. One was prune, another was dates, another had chocolate chips, and one had goji berries. I didn’t have poppy seeds and decided not to use hemp seeds because I didn’t think that would have the same effect. But maybe it would, what do I know?

I’m still learning about this baking thing. Apparently when I said in my last post that this burns if it’s in the toaster oven more than 20 minutes, I was not yet aware that baking means 350, not 450. So really, bake them for as long as you’d like. They take forever to get crunchy, and sometimes you just have to eat them chewy anyway, and hear everyone complain that cookies are “supposed” to be hard instead of gooey. Enjoy your mishloach manot, people!

And anyway, isn’t it more fun to read a blog by someone who knows less than you do about baking? I am so sick of reading from people who already know everything. Am I right, people?

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I brought cookies!

I thought I would live for a long time.
But I never thought I would live to see the day that I would single-handedly bake something.

My life has transformed, (yet again,) ever since I heard about this recipe that requires two ingredients and allows for infinite possibilities. That recipe is this:

Mash bananas
Add oats

That’s it! You can bake it for no more than 20 minutes, or eat it as is. It’s ready!

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I have now tried it multiple times, and it is so good! I prefer it baked till it’s crunchy, though I have accidentally burned one set by going over 20 minutes. One banana yields four cookies. I’ve tried it with coconut oil on the toaster oven tray.

My experiments so far:

Plain
Cut-up dates (the size of raisins)
Almonds (soaked and chopped) <– the yummiest so far!
Prunes (also chopped)
Cheese (Gouda)

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I had thought the cheese would get gooey like on a pizza pie, but instead it gets hard like in a cheese croissant. But it's worth trying with different cheeses.

Cinnamon makes it sweeter! If the banana is browning then it should be sweet enough. But if you really want it sweeter, try adding honey. Cocoa could work well too.

This morning's Frankenstein creation:

Hemp hearts
Chia seeds
Ginger (freshly finely chopped)
Cinnamon
Dates (4)
Pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds

Yum!

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Everything but the Kitchen Sink

This was one of those days where I’ll be eating lunch on the subway and instead of dinner, biking from practicum to school. So I decided to make something I can eat on the go. Because it’s such a mondo day, I am making something mondo that could keep me nourished for many meals. What started as the remaining yogourt filling the bottom 1/5 of the container became a thick, intense mixture that fills almost the entire container. After every 3 ingredients I thought, I can stop now. But then I thought, I could just keep going…

  • organic yoghurt
  • quinoa
  • chia seeds
  • hemp hearts
  • flax seeds (freshly ground)
  • almonds (soaked)
  • hazelnuts
  • honey
  • goji powder
  • chocolate-flavoured nutritional powder
  • sunflower seeds
  • water (to calm it down)
  • apple (chopped finely, then in chunks)
  • avocado
  • sprouts (mung beans)
  • more water (and lots of it)

This whole party could have happened in a blender. (Or even a juicer, as I was just given one a few days ago.) But I decided to mix it all by hand.

Aside from nutritional content and healthy ingredients, two important factors are sweetness and texture. I like things sweet, so I throw in stuff like honey, chocolate powder, and goji berry powder. Other items that work just as well include maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, whey, raisins, carob chips, jam or marmalade, and fruit such as crushed dates, bits of fig, coconut shavings, and banana bits.

As for texture, this can so easily be adapted for what I’m in the mood for. Avocado makes anything smoother. It can replace mayo in most recipes. Chia seeds can thicken things. Sometimes I love a big crunch, and nuts and sprouts are good for that. Different fruit or sauces can make things juicier or give a different bite.

There is so much that can be said on this topic, I got overwhelmed and ignored this post for three weeks. I would apologise to my readers, because as a Canadian I feel that apologising is my duty, but I’m sure they were eating just fine in the interim. So instead I say, hope you have a great holiday! And if you have any food tips for me, please feel free to leave a comment.

And do you know what else I forgot to mention? Seaweed. Seaweed is so magical. How could I forget?

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Blender Bliss

I am so happy with my mini blender.

I was never unhappy with it. But I have faced other adventures in my life. I travelled for six weeks. I moved into my parents’ house (temporarily?). I gained full access to their kitchen. (Yay steamer! That is an amazing super-easy device.)

But always, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking: I can’t wait to unpack somewhere and access my mini-blender again!

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know whether I was staying or going, but I knew I had to dig into the annals of my storage, put on scuba gear, wrestle a few crocodiles, balance the weight-doohickey of the treasure mound, and retrieve my little blender! And I am so happy that I did!!

The other day my friend told me about vegan yogurt, which sounds even better than dairy yogurt. I had attempted chocolate mousse with avocado and cocoa, but it definitely needed more ingredients. (salt?) So yesterday I had two friends — not one, but two!! — independently send me recipes that involved avocado and cocoa powder. This is what I made this morning:

1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 avocado
Honey – whatever amount was left in the jar

The recipe called for 1/4 cup maple syrup, which I don’t have so I substituted honey, and 1 tsp vanilla. I searched the parental spice cabinet and the adventure was far less successful than the Indiana Jones hunt described earlier, but I did find a lot of creole mixes and something called pumpkin pie spice, so that makes me very happy.

When my blender had leftovers stuck to the bottom, and I enjoyed the super-creamy, rich and delicious mix, I decided I needed more crunchy, so I added:

Walnut pieces
Pine nuts
Almonds
Almond milk
Kiwi (with most of the skin)
Whatever was left from before

Very light in colour, delightfully crunchy, also with kiwi texture. Yummy beverage overall! Then I added dulse flakes to make it saltier. Still very good.

I’m also a bit blissed out from last night, and running on almost no sleep. Such a bad state to be rummaging through every jar and bag of spices and oils on several shelves looking for vanilla. But maybe a good time to be writing blog entries.

Oh! And I went through photos on my phone yesterday because I needed to delete a lot, and a fully 1/4 of them were pictures of my food creations. I was not expecting that. Most were unidentifiable. But also amusing. My favourite of them all is a blend with pumpkin seeds, blueberries, and other random stuff, that had some cheesies thrown in there just for fun.

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Blenders and sprouting and yogurt stew, oh my!

A few weeks ago at a charity auction I won a single-serve blender, and I couldn’t be happier! By single-serve I don’t mean that I used it once then threw it away. I mean that it blends enough for a single serving, and can be taken apart so I can drink directly out of it. Yay! I’ve made wonderful concoctions, discovering that sea salt makes it a world of tastier; banana really does make it frothy and smoothie-licious; honey is wonderful though bee propolis doesn’t blend well; and I like different textures, from smooth to soupy to floating bits inside liquid.

I’ve also begun sprouting mung beans, which is another most exciting thing ever. Supposedly if you bring mung beans to a pot luck it’s best to combine it with something or add olive oil or whatever, but I like to bring it plain and plop it next to someone else’s salad and give people the option. I started this tradition at a pot luck specifically for hippies, and I finally feel like I can legitimately call myself a hippy. I have been waiting for this moment all of my life.

And now, we get to this:

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Today I ran out of solid vegetables or fruit, so all of my usual blending options flew out the window. But then, there’s yogurt in my fridge. And when all I have left is half a dozen powders, yogurt is my new blending canvas.

I started with the 3.9% organic plain yogurt. (Plain is best, the rest have too much sugars – and what’s the point when I can just flavour it myself?) Then I added so many powders that it actually looked like a mountain of dry paint in my bowl. Ew, that’s a gross analogy. Anyway, I started with the vanilla flavoured brown rice protein that I’ve had for over a year because it never mixed well with water and I didn’t really know what to do with — until now!! Two things happened this morning: I learned that it’s perfect for mixing with yogurt; and I finally finished it!! Yayyy.

Then:

Whole vanilla bean powder (also a terrible texture in liquids, but wonderful with yogurt)
Goji powder
Turmeric (what? I’m not afraid of salty!)
Raw hemp, E3Live & maca
Agave (my “prebiotic & probiotic advantage”!)
Honey (a great thing to sweeten yogurt!)

And for the final step, I added the crunchy home-harvested ingredient: sprouted mung beans! But a surprise greeted me when I lifted the lid off the container that I had let sit around for days and days after they finished sprouting. My beans have grown super-long tails and green leaves! I’ve eaten most of them, but here is one in her full glory:

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I really hope that she is edible.
Well, I guess it’s too late for that…

And the verdict on this final concoction? Delicious! I actually surprised myself. I will admit, I had my doubts. My first spoonful was preceded by silent praying and I had to close my eyes. But this recipe is delicious. I am pro-yogurt stew for future experimentations! 🙂

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