Archive for August, 2009

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An All-Star Day For Blogging

August 22, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

Whoa, I have SOOO much goodness to blog about today—and I already blogged once already this morning! It was a really amazing day filled with some really amazing food, so let’s get right to it!

First off, lunch! After yesterday’s meager food offerings, I was ready for a nice big noon-time meal today. I started it off with a simple bowl of miso soup, following the classic “3 Bowls” recipe:

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Good as always. I was happy with the tofu I picked up yesterday and the white miso I picked up this morning, and also about the fact that I have plenty of this soup left over for me in the fridge!

Along with this I made myself a BIG salad. Like too big. I mean, just check it out:

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If I remember everything correctly, this salad consisted of: kale, rapini greens, plum tomatoes, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pepitas, an avocado, and Uncle George’s Place’s Variety Blend of sprouts (flax, fenugreek, arugula, mustard, red clover/cabbage, radish, alfafa, lentils—did you even know all those things even had sprouts?). Now, like I said, this salad was too big, so much so that I couldn’t finish the whole thing. I think it was mostly the kale’s fault, though; I didn’t realize how filling raw kale can be! Unfortunately, my inability to finish this deal also owed some to a select few disappointing ingredients, namely, all the ones I bought from the Organics on Bloor shop yesterday: the kale (which just didn’t seem very fresh anymore), tomatoes (half my container had already gone yucky and the half was just so-so), and avocado (completely bland—what a letdown!). So I’m giving Organics on Bloor the big thumbs down. Thankfully, the other ingredients were very satisfying and didn’t ruin my entire salad experience. I’m looking forward to my next salad which will call for no kale and much more rapini.

After lunch, I set off on my afternoon adventure, a charity soccer tournament being held a good 45-minute bike ride away from my place. I enjoyed the ride, although it was more traffic filled than I hoped; I got to bike alongside the water and see the harbor area of Toronto for the first time. I got there a little before 4, and by that time it was already in full swing. There were four fields playing simultaneous 5 vs. 5 matches made up of local soccer enthusiasts. Here are some photos of the action (along with the beautiful Toronto skyline in the background):

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Now although I enjoyed watching these energetic matches, the real reason I went was because I heard a few certain celebrity players would be joining in on the action. At first, I didn’t see anyone and was starting to think that I had either missed them or had read the ad wrong, but then, as the second match was about to begin, I turned my head, and there he was—my middle school hero!

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For those unaware, that man of the left there is Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of Weezer! And in addition, a total surprise—his allstar teammate, Michael Cera!

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I really couldn’t believe I was seeing these two people that I’ve only known from TV and CDs. And because this whole tournament was a pretty casual affair, I was able to stand literally ten feet away from them! It kind of blew my mind. I decided not to ask for a picture, though, as they had games (and then, later, reporters) to deal with. But here’s a really cute team photo from the end of the game (which, I’ll add, Rivers’ and Michael’s team won!):

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Other notes of interest: Ted Leo, famed indie rock musician, was also originally scheduled to be at this event, but apparently he got stopped at border security and couldn’t make it (or, in addition, open for Pearl Jam the night before!). Also, Rivers Cuomo was there with his Japanese wife and 2-year-old Japanese daughter!! Exciting, eh? ;)

Well, enough about soccer. I biked back home around 7 at night, really eager to get some dinner in me. With all the groceries I had picked up in the past couple days, I was ready to bring forth some kitchen spectacles. And, amazingly, I did! Seriously, this was one of the best dinners I have ever made, enjoyable from start to finish. It started humbly enough…

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This is just sauteed kale, whipped up Dreena style. After my unpleasant kale experience at lunch, I knew that I would need to add some flavor to this kale if I was going to stomach it. This simple preparation involving just sesame oil, Bragg’s, salt and pepper really did the trick. And now all of my less-than-stellar kale is gone. :)

Next up, an irresistible plate of Ying Ying’s tomato flavored tofu:

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I told myself that I would wait and use these tofu packages in sandwiches and salads, but I just couldn’t wait! And I’m glad I didn’t. This tofu is absolutely delectable. You’ll really just have to try it to understand. Don’t worry—I will make sure to facilitate the experience for you.

But it was the main course that really stole the spotlight tonight, what I’m calling “Laurel Wreath” Red Quinoa Pesto!

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Oh my god just thinking about this makes me want to eat it again. It was seriously that good. But perhaps you’re wondering what exactly it is. Fair enough. Here’s the scoop: This inspiration for this dish came courtesy 101 Cookbooks and her recipe for Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries. I was very intrigued by the idea of an arugula-based pesto, and I loved the concept of eating pesto with a grain, so I decided to tweak it a little to make it match my pantry. First, I swapped the wheat berries with red quinoa, my new fav. Second, although I really did want to use arugula, there was none available at the farmers’ market this morning, so I decided to go more traditional and buy a lovely and bountiful bunch of basil being sold at one of the stands. This, I think, was really the key—the basil was just so delicious! If you’re ever going to try this recipe, I think you have to go with freshly picked basil (or arugula, if you can find it). Other than that, I basically followed 101 Cookbook’s instructions. One creative thing she did that really stepped this recipe up in my opinion was to mix a good hunk of the pesto in with the grain, then topping it off with additional pesto to your liking. And because this recipe was just so incredibly delicious (like never-want-to-stop delicious), I’m going to post my slightly tweaked recipe below, in hopes that you will soon try it.

“Laurel Wreath” Red Quinoa Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup red quinoa
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritonal yeast
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • additional basil leaves, pine nuts and nutritional yeast for garnish

Preparation

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, or just cook it in about 3/4 cup simmering water. When done, put in a mixing bowl.
  2. Combine basil leaves, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are well mixed.
  3. With the food processor still running, drizzle in the olive oil.
  4. Take out about a 1/2 cup of the pesto and mix it in with the cooked quinoa.
  5. Serve pesto quinoa mixture with an extra dollop of pesto with additional pine nuts and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top and a laurel wreath of the remaining basil surrounding.

Note: This recipe is written to serve one (fairly hungry) person, but there should be extra pesto left over, which you can enjoy in many other fun ways.

After writing up this recipe, I realized that you’d need a food processor to make it. Sorry! Maybe this will give you an excuse to ask for one?

And that’s all for this very satisfying day. I really don’t know how I’d ever top this tomorrow, so I think I’ll not even try to outdo it and just go for a long run in the morning and make myself feel horrible and achy. Or then again, maybe it’ll go great! We’ll see…

Until we eat again,

Willie


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Crescent Dragonwagon is a Wonderful Woman!

August 22, 2009

Салам!

Last night, my dinner was just too delicious. My last trip to Mr. Kiwi’s left me without any greens! :( This meant no salad for Caitlin… (Apparently, they get fresh shipments on Tuesday and they hadn’t put the fresh greens out yet…) But I did get a nice squash that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with! So, I decided to consult my new deliciously comforting vegetarian food guru, Crescent Dragonwagon:

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She had a really simple baked squash recipe and an intriguing grits method using a double boiler.

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A dinner this good deserves a close up!

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These grits definitely rival Raymond’s! They were just absolutely perfect! The taste blended perfectly with the sweet and slightly tangy squash! I would highly recommend both recipes and will, without a doubt, make both of these again. I just have to stop myself from making the same meal tonight! So, this may have made 2 large portions… and I may have eaten it all…

To complete the comfort foods round up, I had a brownie (or two) for dessert…

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For these, I used my favorite brownie recipe in the world from The Garden of Vegan. I added a little ground cardamom and it was one of the best choices I think I have ever made in my life. No, seriously. These brownies are so moist and cakey that I might have to eat them with a fork…

Anyway, I am going to have to get to the grocers so I can pick up some greens and avos… I feel like I’m going through withdrawal from green things in my diet…

On a unrelated-to-food note, wikihow had a really fun how to today: How to Understand Canadian Slang. While I knew most of the words and wouldn’t say that they are all uniquely Canadian, some of them are kind of funny. I am also led to wonder if it won’t be long before my fellow New Yorkers will begin to use and understand the phrase timbits intimately. One can only hope.

Until we eat again,

Caitlin

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Exploring Toronto

August 22, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

Friday was a day of much exploration but not much (food) preparation. So unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures or stories to share with you about all the awesome things I ate yesterday (my meals were consisted only of yesterday’s sunflower seed & lentil pate, almond butter, pita bread, baby carrots, and a nice fruit salad David prepared for everyone). However, I do lots to tell about all the places I went and food I bought. So here we go!

There were many things I wanted to do on Friday, and not all of them were food related. My first stop for the day was the local library to get a library card, which I now have! The library (which is very close to my house) is very cute, newly remodeled, but sort of small. It seems like a great place to go and do work or relax, but not the best place to go browsing for books.

Next I decided to ride my bike out to the downtown area to find a souvenir shop, since I thought that’d be the most reliable place to find a Toronto map and a Toronto mug. What I ended up finding was St. Lawrence Markets, a huge warehouse building filled with various vendors and grocers and all sorts of amazing places. Just check out this sign for one of its shops:

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A store devoted entirely to sprouts? Yes, please! I got a really interesting blend of all sorts of sprouts which is going to be great on salads and sandwiches. Also, look at that tofu sign below it—more on that company later!

I did end up getting to the souvenir store eventually, though, and I did find my Toronto map and mug. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any mugs with my desired amount of kitsch, but I still found one that I found very classy and functional:

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After the souvenir shop, I went uptown to the largest branch of the Toronto Public Library, the Toronto Reference Library. This library was enormous and beautiful, but since it’s a reference library, most of the books are not for checkout and only for perusal. Still, it’s an amazing place. Check out this photo:

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After this, I had a little more food shopping to take care. Really, I just wanted to go to a couple of the more nearby grocers and check out their selection. The first place I went to, Taste of Nature, is great little health food store, complete with almost all the pantry things I’d ever need. It was so impressive that I actually went back this (Saturday) morning to get a few things I forgot. The other place I went to, Organics on Bloor, is another small grocery, but this one specializes more in fresh produce. I found it a little too pricey for what it was offering, so I don’t know if I’ll go back.

Now, originally I did plan to have a nice salad for dinner, but one of my roommates asked me to go out to this folk music concert and so I didn’t have time to prepare a real dinner. I was a little bummed at first and not very happy that I’d have to put my salad on hold for the night, but the concert we went to totally made up for all the disappointment I was initially feeling. The show was literally in some dude’s backyard, in a wood shed no bigger than a two-car garage, crammed to the walls with listeners surrounding a quintet of guitars, stand-up bass, banjo, and percussion. The band was completely acoustic—not even any microphones—so the show had the intimacy of a small folk club, but the quiet excitement of a packed room. On top of all this, the band was also really great, very much like Iron & Wine or the more intimate songs of Sufjan Stevens. Since getting into the show was free, I decided to throw some money the band’s way and pick up their CD. I still haven’t had time to give it a listen yet, but their name is The Wilderness of Manitoba. Perhaps they have a website or something you can check out.

The show was continuing with another artist after The Wilderness of Manitoba finished, but I was feeling tired so I decided to head back home and go to bed. The next morning (today), I woke up and got my stuff together to head to a nearby farmers’ market. On my way there I was a little shocked because, after a full day of biking riding around the flat streets of Toronto, I experienced my first Toronto hill! Thankfully the hill was on the ride there and not back, because I sure did load up my backpack with fresh goodies. Here are some photos of the market itself:

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As you can see, it was well vended and well attended (and this was at 9 in the morning!). There were so many wonderful things here. Some of the things I purchased included…

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Ying Ying Soy Food Gourmet Tofu packs! Remember that sign below the sprouts sign from before? These are the same guys. Now normally I don’t go for these pre-flavored tofu packages, but after the vendor gave me a sample, I just couldn’t resist. This is seriously some of the best tofu I’ve ever tasted, and it’s not just the flavorings (although those was superb as well). Also, Ying Ying, besides from being a local Toronto company, makes their own tofu from a local soybean farmer’s crop. If you can’t read the labels, the flavors I ended up choosing were curry, tomato, and sweet & spicy. I’m sure you’ll be seeing these in some meals soon!

Next up, one bag of peaches and one bag of greens, squash and sweet potatoes!

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I can’t really report on how good any of these things are, as I haven’t tried them yet, but I’m looking forward to them. The potatoes came from  an exclusively sweet potato farmer and vendor, so I think these should be interesting!

After the farmers’ market, I did a little more food shopping, going back to Taste of Nature and the local Asian market, which was very impressive. I think I definitely have enough food now to keep me busy for a while. There should be many exciting meals on the way!

Before I sign off, two quick questions: Do you have a good peanut butter sauce recipe? I’d like to make some with udon noodles sometime soon. Also, the local Toronto free city paper, Now Magazine, has an issue this week all about green eating and related topics, and I found how the cover story, The 100 Mile Myth, to be very interesting. It’s a short read and I’d definitely recommend it, although it is a little depressing in how it reminds you just how complex our food buying choices are.

I should be back again today with some reports on all the delicious new food I bought and will be cooking with! Until we eat again,

Willie

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I seem to dine out in sets of three…

August 21, 2009

Jambo Willie!

Since Willie seems to be so anxious for me to do some restaurant reviews, I am writing this tripartite post. Now, only two of these restaurants were explored with Willie, so number three is a wildcard of sorts!

First off, Willie and I spent the day taking in a triple feature of films! First came Ponyo, which was completely adorable, then Julie and Julia, which I liked but didn’t love, and finally, I Love You, Man, which I ADORED. In the meantime, we did work up an appetite, and decided to stop by Angelica Kitchen. (Warning: Flash site)

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As you can see, we ordered a lot of food here. While this wasn’t the most affordable place, it wasn’t outrageuously expensive either. The food was really good, though. Left to Right; Top to Bottom, we had: Chai Tea, Agrarian Salgado, The Nori Maki of the Day, a Tempeh Reuben and “cheesecake.”

The chai was pretty good, but not the best I’ve ever had. Willie ordered another type of tea, called kukicha made from branches, I thought it had a really interesting and rich taste. The Agrarian Salgado was really spectatular! They were mashed potatoes with a dill “sour cream,” basil-walnut pesto and marinated kale. sdnfiknsoabosbdfisfkgdgg… oh, sorry I guess I lost control there thinking about how good they were… Anyway, I can’t remember all the specifics of the Nori Maki, but it was made with Brown Rice, Tempeh and green beans. These were okay, but the wasabi on the side was fantastic. I think it may have been real wasabi, which, as I learned from Alton Brown, is incredibly hard to grow and most of the wasabi you find in stores does not, in fact, come from real wasabi! We decided to order the tempeh reuben because most of the reviews highly recommended it. I wasn’t incredibly impressed, but it was pretty good! Now, on to dessert. This was labelled as a vegan cheesecake, and was some sort of set silken tofu pie. I don’t know if cheesecake was the most appropraite title for this, but it was REALLY good, I mean, assuming you like tofu because it was a pretty strong tofu taste. All around, I don’t think I would I would say this restaurant is a must, but I definitely think it would be worth a stop if you were in the area.

The next day, before Willie had to ride away into the sunset on his megabus, we decided to try out Sacred Chow. We originally were going to try this place on Willie’s last visit, but because of the horrid results of our meal at that vegetarian Indian buffet that from now on shall remain nameless, we had to cancel the trip. This time, thank goodness, the attempt was successful!

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Sacred Chow is a really cute little place that focuses on making tasty food (mostly tapas) that are all organic, locally grown, vegan, fair sourced and/or kosher! They also have tons of soy-free, gluten-free and wheat-free dishes! Okay, so maybe that isn’t everyone’s idea of deliciousness, but the food was really, really good and I think even someone who wasn’t all for vegan cuisine could enjoy the food here. We began with the Gym Body smoothie, which was thick enough to be considered a milkshake and was high on almond an banana flavor. Next came our set of tapas, root vegetable latkes, sunflower-lentil pate and Orange Blackstrap BBQ seitan. The latkes were really peppery, but tasty and they had a nice texture. The star was definitely the date butter they gave us to accompany the latkes! It was so creamy and sweet (but not too sweet!) The lentil pate was probably the best part of the whole meal. It tasted a lot like sunbutter, which, for me, is a great thing! The seitan was pretty good. The BBQ sauce on top was fantastic. It starts out sweet and tangy and hits you with a little heat at the end. For the main event, we had the grilled western tofu with dill-soy mayonaise. As with everything else in this meal, it was quite delicious and the mayo definitely won me over. This is a really great  lunch place, and I can’t wait to check it out for brunch!

The day after Willie and I went our separate ways, I met up with my friend Germaine! Germaine and I have known each other since kindergarten and it was really great seeing her. Originally, we were planning on seeing Regina Spektor at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, but it was so ridiculously crowded we bailed before she even hit the stage and decided to get something to eat. We stopped in at this little place called Pita Hut in Chelsea.

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I got a creamscicle smoothie (that’s right, I finally got my creamscicle fix!) and an Athenian pita (I think that’s what it was called…). The pita was really good, but I didn’t feel like it was particularly special. I guess it is nice to enjoy food out at a restaurant and be able to duplicate it fairly easily at home though. The food was affordable, but the smoothies run for a pretty steep sum. Though expensive, the smoothie was absolutely delicious, thick and yogurty. The staff was really nice and accomodating too. I can’t remember exactly what Germaine got, but I tried it and it was really good. It was some sort of pita salad with caramelized onions on top (maybe she will be able to remind me…) She also got a smoothie, a blueberry smoothie that was really rich and fresh tasting. If you have a couple bucks to spare, I would definitely recommend these smoothies! :)

Well, thanks for bearing with me and I hope this review was helpful!

Until we eat again, or on another time,

Caitlin :P

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Is my Polish showing? And other random musings…

August 21, 2009

Hola Willie!

This post will include:

  • a proper brekkie (at 12 noon)
  • more pierogi discussion and probably some recipes
  • random musings on the the new season of Top Chef: Las Vegas
  • previews of future posts
  • I don’t know, maybe some other fun stuff?

I won’t go into much detail about my wonderful and satisfying breakfast, instead, a pic of the spread will grace the page:

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(clockwise from the mug: Biofix Rooibos Tea, leftover sunflower-lentil pate from a restaurant I will review soon enough, yogs with flax meal, mesa sunrise with oat milk)

I woke up pretty hungry today, if you were unsure. After submitting my application to Marvel, (!!!) I decided to shift my attention to developing a sauce that would go well with the pierogi I made yesterday. I garnered some inspiration from a Mark Bittman recipe posted here. (I just discovered this website by the way, and it is great!) I also baked the pierogi, and it is still my favorite way to cook them!

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This may not be the prettiest sauce, but it was pretty great with the ‘rogi. Hm. That’s kind of a weird shortening… In Polish, that means corners… Is it still acceptable?

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On to the recipes! (I hope yinz feel ambitious enough to make ‘rogi from scratch, it really isn’t very hard and it is totally worth the time and effort!)

Kasia’s Potato Rogi w/ Tomato-Walnut Sauce

Filling:

note: prepare filling first, it takes longer than the dough!

2 medium large potatoes, cubed and you can peel them if you don’t want the skins in your ‘rogi (this time I used red potatoes, but generally I would use yukon gold)

1/2 a medium-sized onion, chopped fine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tb earth balance buttery spread

braggs (or tamari or soy sauce)

a weensy bit of dill, salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil a pot of salted water. Add taters and boil until fork tender.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, saute the onion and garlic in a little oil with dill.
  3. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water.
  4. Mash the potatoes, onion and garlic. Add a splash of braggs, earth balance and season to taste.

Dough to finished product:

1 + 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 c chickpea flour (feel free to just use 2 cups all-purpose, I added this to give it a little legumy kick )

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 c water

about 2 tb olive oil

1 tsp dried dill

  1. Sift together flours and mix in the salt.
  2. Make a well in the flour and mix in the water, EVOO and dill.
  3. Knead lightly until a neat dough is formed.
  4. Set aside to rest (maybe 5 minutes or so)
  5. Roll out sections of the dough until rather thin, but still thick enough that you aren’t afraid they will break when you lift it.
  6. Cut circles out of the dough (I use a cup and trace with a knife)
  7. For each pieróg, roll over once to achieve an slightly oblong shape and fill with about a tablespoon of filling.
  8. Seal either by pressing the two sides of dough with a fork or pinching like I did.
  9. Set another pot of water boiling with some EVOO and add the ‘rogi to the pot of water. These will not need to cook long! Remove once they begin to float.

From here, there are some options to consider. You can eat them boiled (I usually only like my fruit ‘rogi this way), you can fry them on the stove top in some oil or butter (great if you have some cabbage to add in), or you can bake them at 375 F for about 10-15 minutes (brush with a little oil or melted butter first). I love my ‘rogi baked and that is how this recipe tastes best, in my opinion.

Tomato-Walnut Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup walnuts

1 medium-sized tomato chopped and seeded

1 large clove garlic

1/4 c nutritional yeast

a healthy sprinkle of dried marjoram (or basil or oregano would do well too!)

EVOO (amount TBD)

1 slice of Italian bread (I used Willie’s Ciabatta)

scant 1/2 c “milk” (I used oat milk)

  1. Soak the bread in the milk (crazy I know, but the texture was really interesting in the sauce)
  2. Add 1/2 the tomato and eveything else but EVOO and milk-bread to your blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until a hummusy consistency is reached, then add as much EVOO as needed to make it saucy.
  4. Add bread to blender and add left over milk as needed to reach your desired consistency.
  5. Mix the rest of the chopped tomato into the sauce.
  6. If you want to, you can heat up the sauce, but I would recommend doing it in the microwave to avoid the possible separation you might get from over cooking on the stove top.

I hope this recipe will make you want to try your hand at some Polish-style home cooking!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to do some heavy-duty cooking due to my day spent with Top Chef Masters (I won’t tell you who won in case you haven’t seen yet). Anyway, I watched the first episode of Top Chef: Las Vegas last night and I guess I have been spoilt by getting to watch some really great chefs take on these fun culinary challenges. While a few contestants did catch my interest, the majority of these n00bs seemed a little lackluster. Either they didn’t seem to have any breadth of food knowledge, didn’t approach the challenges creatively or they seemed a little too textbook, as if they had just graduated from culinary arts school and didn’t bother to move on from there.

Maybe this is just random and pointless rambling, but I was just really disappointed by these chefs. I consider myself a novice at best in the kitchen, but I feel like to really be lauded for your cooking skills, you should have the ability to pull ideas and inspiration from anywhere, be flexible and get really creative when faced with new ingredients or techniques. I just felt that most of these contestants just didn’t show these abilities in the first episode. I’ll probably keep watching, so hopefully they might prove me wrong as the series progresses. (Also, I would really love to try the beer and chocolate sauces from the ep, those looked sooo good.)

I will soon do a series of eating out reviews of places Willie and I went on his last visit, and one place I went with one of my Jersey friends!

Until we eat again,

Caitlin

p.s. I looked up your birthday and you got two: Chocolate Wafer Day and Eat Your Beans Day!

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Cooking For One: An Introduction

August 20, 2009

Dear Caitlin (and all other possible readers),

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Now that I have arrived in my new home of Toronto, I want to introduce a new series to this blog, what I’m calling “Cooking For One.” This new series is basically a way for me to respond to the new cooking situation I find myself in: suddenly living without anyone else to cook for on a regular basis, thus becoming both a solo cook and a solo diner. I think this situation presents new difficulties for even a semi-experienced cook like me, and I think it’s one that many others face as well. It means meals must be smaller, simpler to prepare, and, in whatever way they can be, cheaper. These concerns are what I hope to address with “Cooking For One,” providing guidelines and tips for those of us out there who are only ever preparing a single plate, who have to do so on a grad student’s budget, and who want whatever they do to remain healthy and good for them.

Right now, I envision this series as consisting of three smaller mini-series:

  • Single Serving Dinners that are easy and cheap to prepare yet still healthy and satisfying
  • Week-long Dinners that can be made in advance and keep well throughout the week
  • On The Go Lunches that are ideal for the traveling professional and student

Of course, this is as much a learning experience for me as it is something I’m doing to help others. Like I said before, this is a new way of cooking for me, but it’s also really exciting, and I think it’s going to allow me to take a lot of the lessons I’ve learned from the food-blogging community in the last few months and put them into action towards a new, healthy lifestyle. I hope others will join me for the ride!

That being said, I want to jump right into tonight’s dinner. As the evening hours approached today, I realized that I would soon need to feed myself something soon. Given the horrible humidity and stickiness of Toronto today, I knew that I needed something cool-ish—definitely nothing spicy or heated up on the stove. What I ended up with was something perfect for the weather and very satisfying: Sunflower Seed & Lentil Pate.

This dish, I must admit, had many sources of inspiration. First and foremost was the excellent Sunflower Lentil Pate at the Sacred Chow in NYC, where Caitlin and I just ate earlier this week (I hope Caitlin is still going to post about that). Next was the coincidental blog post all about pates (and specifically sunflower seed pates) on Choosing Raw this week. Armed with one recipe guideline, I decided to do a little more internet searching to round out my research and found this recipe on RecipeZaar, which also helped me reach my final concoction.

I then needed to do some quick grocery shopping, since I did not have all I needed for my recipe. Since I didn’t need much and didn’t want to spend too much time getting everything, I decided to go and test out the grocery store that is literally right around the corner from my place, Sobey’s:

Sobey's

This being my first time there I didn’t know what to expect, but I was generally happy with what I saw. This is no grand supermarket extravaganza, just your basic store with a decent enough selection of everything you need. I definitely will not be doing most of my shopping here, but it’s nice to know that there is a place like this right around the block open 24 hours for when I’m in a fix.

After I picked up my groceries, I went back to my house and started pate preparations. I knew the sunflower seeds would need to soak for at least an hour, so I set that up and then went on to take care of the other stuff. Now although the recipe I ended up with (and have included below) does not take long to make, I moseyed my way along when I did it. Tonight was definitely a night where my desire to remain laid back and relaxed was greater than my desire to eat right away. I like nights like this; they make cooking so much more enjoyable I find. But rather than walk you through each leisurely step I took in making this pate, I’ll just put up the recipe, and you can mosey along through it as you wish.

Sunflower Seed & Lentil Pate

Sunflower Lentil Pate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup (cooked) brown lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)
  • 1/2 cup (cooked) red lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (I used brown rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil
  • water, about 1/8 cup or as needed
  • plenty of fresh or dried dill
  • extra sunflower seeds for topping

Preparation:

  1. Soak sunflower seeds in water, for 1 hour or more.
  2. While sunflower seeds are soaking, cook the lentils in simmering water, either in separate pots or together, until soft.
  3. Combine soaked sunflower seeds, lentils, garlic, Bragg’s, and rice wine vinegar in a food processor and pulse until it starts reaching a hummus-like consistency.
  4. Drizzle in the oil to thin out mixture. Drizzle in water as needed until you reach desired consistency.
  5. At the very end, add the dill (I used about 1/2 tsp) and pulse it quickly to incorporate.
  6. Remove mixture from food processor and put in container. Refrigerate for about an hour, if you like.
  7. Serve with extra sunflower seeds and dill on top.

Some notes on this recipe: While I found this mixture very satisfying, it can be done differently in many ways, several of which would probably improve it. I hope to be able to tweak with the ingredients some in the future and try out new combinations, but for now I think this is a good guideline for anyone who is curious to try out something new and amazing. (Also, I’m not really sure how necessary having both brown and red lentils is; it was something I just wanted to try, but, as the pictures show, there’s nothing red about the final product, and I couldn’t really taste any redness in there. I probably won’t know what difference they make until I try it again without them.)

There are many ways one can enjoy this pate; I chose to have mine with some baby carrots and some whole wheat Pita Alwatan:

Pitas

Along with this, I finished off the leftover lentils from the recipe and enjoyed a pink lady apple and an Ontario peach, which doesn’t seem to me too much different from a regular, non-Ontario peach. All in all, a very tasty, healthy, cheap, and satisfying meal! Which is exactly what I’m hoping I can continue making.

Also, for reading all the way to the bottom of this post, you can a bonus gift: the “setlist” from tonight’s dinner (since I’m such a rock star). It includes my original grocery store list, along with my original recipe guidelines:

Setlist

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Backblogging Pt. 2: Eating Out in T.O.

August 20, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

So me and my family arrived in Toronto around 5:30, a little behind schedule due to traffic but not too bad. We brought all my stuff from the car up to my room in about 30 minutes, left it several messy piles, and then left to go to my parents’ hotel and get some grub. I had found what looked like a nice little place within walking distance of the hotel, so we decided to go there. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, which is really a shame, because all the food there was very photo-worthy, and the area itself was also a sight to see. It’s just a small street tucked in between more residential areas, lined with restaurants of every sort of ethnic cuisine you can imagine. All the restaurants had open patios, perfect for the evening’s cool summer weather, and overall it just had a really positive vibe. I will have to take you there sometime soon. I will also have to take you to this restaurant we went to: Vegetarian Haven.

Again, I’m very sorry that this post will have to go without pictures, but perhaps you can get some idea of this place from their menu. It’s basically Asian fusion, 100% vegetarian and actually maybe 100% vegan, with plenty of options, appetizers, drinks, and desserts. It also happens to be located directly below the offices of the Toronto Vegetarian Association, which is nice. Anyway, just to give you a sense of the range of the menu, our dinners included: Thai spring rolls, wrapped in some sort of sheet made from flattened clear noodles; tomato vegetable soup, which although it doesn’t sound like much was super tasty; fried quiche with vegetables and broad noodles; a sizzling plate of seitan cutlets in a pineapple sauce; and spicy Singapore paste, my vote for the best plate at the table. Overall, this restaurant gets my highest rating: place I will take my girlfriend to when she visits. I hope you will like it to!

After dinner, my parents returned me home to my place, where I spent the next three or four hours unpacking. I did a pretty good job, I think, and everything I brought fits in very snugly to my cute little room. Here are some pictures of it, in counterclockwise order:

Bedroom Desk

Bedroom Closet

Bedroom Bed

Bedroom Bookcase

Doesn’t it look home-y? :)

Breakfast the next morning was also very satisfying and, more importantly, not photo-less! We went to another nearby place, this time a small cafe with a decent enough breakfast menu and lots of fresh juices, coffee, and pastries. I got a tofu scrambler platter:

Tofu Scrambler

Along with the scrambled tofu I got a nice salad, an incredibly diverse and fresh fruit cup (watermelon, strawberries, pear, peach, two types of grapes, and I think pineapple), and some spelt toast. I can’t say this was the best tofu scrambler I’ve ever had, but this was a solid way to start off my morning.

My parents got oat bowls—a generous helping of their slow-cooked oatmeal along with three toppings of your choice. Here was my mom’s:

Oats

And that was our breakfast! After this, we walked to the mall to get my new cell phone and then drove back to my place to drop me off and say goodbye. And that almost gets me caught up with my backblogging, except for tonight’s dinner, which I’ll leave for a separate post.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Backblogging Pt. 1: Tuesday’s Meals and Recipe Intergortion

August 20, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

Aah, I’m so behind on my blogging! I guess moving to Toronto is a good enough excuse, though, right? I have so much to blog about, and I think I’m going to do it in installments rather than cram them all on one post. So first, here were my meals from Tuesday, the day before I left.

Lunch was leftovers, but leftovers I had never had (they were made while I was off visiting you in NYC). So they were as good as new! Here’s the spread:

Leftover Lunch

On the left is a simple tofu dish my mom made with peas and a light garlic sauce. It was nice because the tofu came from the local Asian store and thus absolutely delicious. Here’s the close-up:

Tofu Close Up

The other dish was the quinoa mushroom nut loaf featured in the “3 Bowls” book. I know you’re not the biggest fan, and I can’t say that this loaf was any better than the times we made it, but I still enjoy this recipe. I’m also very interested in trying it (or some other sort of loaf) with my new favorite red quinoa. Here’s the close-up, for what it’s worth:

Mushroom Quinoa Nut Loaf Close Up

Dinner on Tuesday was my responsibility, and I decided to experiment with some recipe synergy and combine two VeganDad recipes into one. Okay, it wasn’t much of a synergistic combination; I basically just made his Thai-Style Sweet and Tangy Noodles, except making the tofu according to his instructions in his Thai Tamarind Chili Tofu and Cashews recipe, which is to say baking it. His instructions for baking the tofu are nothing special, but I still feel like I haven’t mastering the art of baking or frying or sauteing or anything else-ing tofu. So I appreciated the guidance, and my tofu came out nice and golden brown:

Baked Tofu

This then went into my big wok for a simple stir fry of noodles and vegetables. I have to say that in the end I wished this mix had a little more punch to it, but it still made for a satisfying platter.

Noodles

In case you’re wondering, the stir fry is topped off with an old standby from my youth, La Choy Chow Mein Noodles (my addition). I used to eat these all the time when I was younger (I typically ate them with Cup-a-Soups), and having them again with this meal was an experience filled with nostalgic goodness. Wonderful.

That’s all for this first backblogging post. I’m going to write the next in the series right after this, so I feel a little silly closing with the standard send-off, but here it is anyway.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Things I ate the day Willie began his adventures in Canadia

August 19, 2009

สวัสดี Willie!

I began my day a little later than expected today, but still ended up being pretty productive! I applied for a few more internships (fingers crossed) and cleaned up the apartment a bit. Despite the productiveness, I did watch Top Chef Masters all day (and still am now…) I still love Michael Chiarello. This meant that I wanted to eat all day. Don’t worry, I didn’t give into the temptation, but I still made some serious food.

For my late breakfast, I had oats!

IMG_3518

I mixed in some of the Simply Delicious granola sprinkled some cinnamon on top and added a splash of maple syrup. Also, hiding under that delicious mound of oaty goodless is a dollop of sunbutter! Along with this perfect way to start a day, I had some Pandicao:

IMG_3516

Hey, I needed some chocolatey comfort after losing you to snowier pastures! I had some cuddly comforting as well…

IMG_3524

After a few hours of Top Chef, I really wanted to do some serious cooking. I decided to make pierogi from scratch! (both meanings…)

IMG_3527

I decided to fry them for the sake of time, but I think these will be a lot better baked. I’ll probably post a recipe once I’ve tried them baked and I find a good sauce for them. They were pretty good and really hit the spot!

Sorry for the brevity of today’s post but I’m feeling kind of sleepy! I hope Toronto is treating you well!

Until we eat again,

Caitlin

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Just What I Kneaded (Or Rather, What I Just Kneaded)

August 14, 2009

こんばんはケートリン!

Bread Close Up

This morning began with a nine-mile run, clocking in at just around 80 minutes, which isn’t so bad (just under a nine minute pace and right on track for an under two-hour half marathon), especially considering that, as I realized part way through said run, I haven’t run more than six miles all year, not since my last half marathon I think. And this might just be why after returning from my run and taking a shower, I promptly fell asleep on the couch for two and a half hours. This resulted in an uncomfortable neck cramp for the next few hours, but it at least eased all the aches and pains in my legs and feet.

Anyway, today was bread baking day—really, my baking occupied the entire afternoon! )Of course, much of that was just down time, waiting for the dough to rise.) I didn’t take pictures of every step of the process this time, since it’s pretty uneventful, but I did make sure to take a photo of the poolish pre-ferment I made the night before:

Poolish

This was awesome! It was amazingly gooey, but not at all sticky. I had never really handled (and certainly never made) anything like it before, just I was really excited to start making this bread. Unfortunately, I started to get a little discouraged when I began mixing the poolish with today’s flour, salt, yeast, and water. The dough was just so dry and not mixing at all with the poolish and I ended up having to wet it a lot more than I was supposed to. Still, in the end it came out looking okay, although I’m starting to realize the benefits of having an electric mixer. Not that mixing and kneading by hand is hard, but rather (at least in my hands) it just seems uneven and inconsistent. I mean, check out this video of someone folding some ciabatta dough. It’s amazing. I don’t think I could ever make dough that good with my hands. Fortunately, though, hand mixed dough still makes delicious bread.

Anyway, here’s what the dough looked like right before it went in the oven, first wide angle and then up close:

Bread Pre-Oven

Bread Pre-Oven Close Up

Originally, I thought I would only be making two loaves from this bread, but it swelled so much during the second rise that I thought it better to make three. Here they are all baked and finished:

Bread Baked

Bread Loaf

So in the end, these came out okay. We cut open one loaf (the one pictured directly above) for dinner tonight to try it out, and, like my last bread, although it wasn’t the most amazing bread I’d ever had, it was very satisfying: soft yet dense on the inside with only the slightest bit of crunch with the crust. I hope this will make an appropriate housewarming gift for my Toronto landlords and roommates, because I’ll be bringing one of those loaves up with me for them!

The rest of dinner tonight was also a treat, although I was not responsible for any of it. It was mostly leftovers, but they were some good leftovers. And since they were coming from the freezer, they weren’t leftovers we had just had the other night, either. Well except for the sweet potato chili with red quinoa, which we did just have the other night. But that’s so delicious, I could leftover that every night. (Look at me, verbalizing a noun that was originally derived from a verb!) Anyway, here are some pictures of the spread:

Dinner Plate

My main plate with aforementioned sweet potato chili and red quinoa on top and some kind of delicious burrito on the bottom.

Watercress Salad

Watercress salad with avocados and grapes. One word: Awesome.

Zucchini Bread

And for dessert, another round of spiced carrot zucchini bread! These loaves were much better than the last one, although the crust turned out so crispy that it sort of reminded me of biscotti, especially given its oblong shape.

And that was today! I’m looking forward to tomorrow :)

Until we eat again,

Willie

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