Sunday, September 27, 2015

Green Power Bowl

Granted, this was not the most delicious of my Buddha Bowl series, but it packed the highest nutrition. Edamame, aka young soybeans, are a phenomenal source of protein and, when combined with mushrooms and peppers, have a very "meaty" effect. This edamame came from our farm share, raw and still on the stalk. I picked the shoots off the stem, blanched them for 5 minutes, shocked them in cold water, and then peeled the beans out. If that's too much work for you, edamame is available, ready to boil, in the freezer section of most grocery stores. You could even make the beans into little burger patties, and stuff with the grilled veggies between your favourite hamburger bun. For extra vitamines I laid everything on a bed of raw spinach, though any lettuce or steamed bitter-green would work just as well. The dressing is made simply by blending avocado, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. This whole bowl was a little bit weird, and a lot a bit awesome.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Easy Flax Crackers

These crackers have just 4 steps: mix, soak, spread, and dehydrate or bake. They contain zero flour or sugar, and taste just as crunchy. They're an awesome lunch-bag addition, or buildable appetizer option. If you make a large batch, (this recipe yielded 15 big crackers), then they store perfectly crisp in the fridge.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup whole flax seeds, 1/2 cup ground flax seeds, 3/4 cup water, 1 tbs miso paste, 1 tbs honey or maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste, whatever herbs you like!

Directions:  Mix everything together in a big bowl. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so the flax seeds can congeal the mixture. Adjust the viscosity with more water or flax seeds if it looks like you either can't spread it, or it will run everywhere. Spread thinly on a teflex sheet and dehydrate for 12 hours (flipping halfway), OR spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and dehydrate in a 170F degree oven for 6 hours (flipping at hour 5).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cooking Events: Stein and Dine with Lynn Crawford

Every once in a while I am invited to a special culinary event. Working at a local cooking school, I've had the chance to meet some pretty spectacular chefs, but rarely are they as well known as Food Network Canada's Lynn Crawford. Thanks to a few individuals, I was able to experience this kickoff event for the city of Kitchener's annual Oktoberfest. Minto Schneider is CEO of the Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corp., and Andrew Coppolino is editor, publisher, and columnist at Rare Public, Waterloo Region Eats and Kitchener Post, respectively. Thank to them, I am able to tell you what I learned about beer, its complimentary dishes, and the chef who created the menu. The event was sponsored by Molson Coors, so all beer-pairings mentioned below can be purchased under their brand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Passion Fruit Agua Fresca

Passion fruit is sweet, fragrant, and a little sour. Its flavour is wonderfully exotic and its scent will perfume your whole kitchen. Cutting into one is easy with a serrated knife - just be sure not to spill its contents! The bright jelly is packed with seeds which, although perfectly edible, I am not a fan. A quick straining through a seive solves this problem. My staple fruits are apples, pears, bananas, and dates, but sometimes I'll find tropical fruits on-sale in the discounted/past-due section. As this batch of fruit was on the brink of spoiling, I scooped out the jelly (seeds and all) and spooned it into ice cube trays. The next day I had little passion fruit cubes ready to flavour water or blend into a drink. The recipe below is very easy to make. Chia seeds fortify and thicken the mix; while stevia, or even half a banana, is a healthy way to balance passion fruit's sourness.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Nut Cheese: Is It Gross? / Easy Step-By-Step

A slice of almond cheese in a lettuce wrap
First off, no, it's delicious. It does not taste like cow's cheese, but when combined with other ingredients (like tofu in a stir-fry, or almond milk in cereal) its texture and flavour are just right. Those transitioning from meat and dairy on to a plant-based diet will enjoy how creamy and umami nut cheeses taste. It has that rich, fatty, tangy fermented flavour everyone loves. Not restricted to cheese made from milk, however, one can puree soaked nuts, mix a few ingredients in, and let the mixture cure on their counter-top overnight for a similar effect.

*Disclosure: I'm not a fan of "vegan substitutes" as I find they give a bad name to the plant-based community. I've had this "Tofurkey" debate with a number of friends. Sure, they provide a non-animal option for many folks transitioning to vegetarian or vegan diets, but I believe they do little to help individuals acquire their tastes to natural foods. How is one to genuinely love raw fruits and veggies if they keep feeding themself salty, chewy, "fleshy" soy simulations? These types of things (ie: veggie burgers and dogs) can be very useful to blend in at family BBQs, but I say just bring a heaping bowl of quinoa and veggie salad. The ingredient list on a number of simulation foods is scary long, in comparison. I think it's best to just go through a processed-foods withdrawal for a few weeks, and emerge on the other side getting stoked about apples and raw sunflower seeds. (True story). All of a sudden, meat and dairy will feel overly-dense and rich compared to crunchy, fresh produce.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cooking Around the World: Mississippi River

"2,832 miles, 23 cups of coffee, 7 states, and 8 days later I have returned from the best solo adventure I've ever embarked on. It's amazing the places your driveway will take you. 'When you walk, bicycle, or motorcycle...and then camp, you participate in the world immediately around you in a unique way. These methods of living separate you from a house with its locks, windows, and furniture. When you engage the world with only the intermediation of your clothing and the fabric of your tent, you learn stuff. You cannot lock a tent or perfectly shut out bad weather if you are living outdoors. Travel this way becomes a more transformational experience' - from the book Unsupported Motorcycle Travel for Terminal Cases.'" - from the adventures of my friend, Keegan Peckham.

When people mention they've taken road-trips, or backpacked across a continent, the first thing I ask is: "Well, what did you eat?" Food tells a story about where people find themselves in the world. While travelling Italy, I feasted on regional, home-cooked Italian food prepared by distant relatives. But, while hostle-hopping in Southeast Asia, there were times I survived on 15 Baht ($1 USD) bowls of soup. I wish I had more travelling stories to share - as discovering new regions and their cuisines is easily my favourite (albeit expensive) hobby - but I am locked into finishing my university degree in Waterloo, Ontario. Hearing stories from travelling friends inspired me to start a new feature on this site: Cooking Around the World. Ever wonder what a dude eats when he packs up his motorcycle and heads North on the Mississippi River for a week? I sure did. These monthly features will work as such: friends travelling around the world are asked if they would like to be written about on my blog. If so, they submit a few photos with some descriptions and stories. We chat about it on Skype or phone, and voila... everyone gets to read about it. You can see older travel posts here, whereas new stories will appear on the main page. So, without further adieu, the first feature.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Peach & Basil Summer Soup

Cold soups are a nice snack or light-meal option during the summertime. They are ready in five minutes and only require a blender. Gazpacho, made from tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions, is traditional, but fruit soups are fun too. Watermelon and basil is one of my favourites (amazing with a drizzle of quality olive oil), so I thought interchanging peaches would be a fun twist. Like avocados, peaches seem to be under-ripe for a week, all the ripe the same day, and then all mushy two days later. This is a great way to use them up! Four peaches will make two portions.

No exact measurements are needed for this one. You can eyeball everything. In a blender, combine a cup of water and a tablespoon of chia seeds. Let them soak while you cut up your fruit. They will provide a silky thickness to the dish. Add 4 fresh peaches (skin and all), and a big handful of basil. Add a splash of olive oil, a glug of any fruit vinegar, a pinch of salt, and blend on high for a minute. Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve. I garnished with purple basil. This soup also reacts well to a little heat, so adding some fresh chili pepper to the blender would be stellar.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Homemade Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, when prepared and eaten raw, is wonderfully healthy. It contains lactic acid and living probiotics which restore one's gut flora. Cultures whose diets regularly consume lacto-fermented foods (ie: Japanese) are known to boast anti-cancer and anti-aging benefits. Glucosinolates in cabbage decrease cell damage and cell mutation... so I like to think of sauerkraut (and a variety of other fermented foods) as an immunity booster and fortifier. I love how the tangy, salty brine works as an impromptu salad dressing. And, how crunchy and sour the cabbage turns over time. This raw lunch bowl packs shredded beet, broccoli sprouts, shredded swiss chard, half an avocado, a yellow tomato, and the tangy cabbage. Having jars of sprouting, soaking, or fermenting foods tucked into the corners of your kitchen quite literally brings your house alive. It's fun to have little projects on the go; ready to be checked on each time you walk in the door. I've been experimenting with the same lacto-fermentation process on zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and more. Stay tuned.