Archive for August, 2009

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Quite a Day!

August 31, 2009

Dear Willie,

Today was my first day of classes and I thought I would try to feed myself well to prepare for the week ahead.

I began my day with french toast!

french toastI used some slices of the rye bread I made earlier in some banana, almond milk, cinnamon puree. The rest of the banana is featured on the top of the plate! It may not be the prettiest meal, but it was super filling and delicious!

Once I got my new ID (I only look mildly drunk and disoriented), I decided to take a walk around the block and scope out the neighborhood. Down the block I found a cute little coffee shop:

kawaThis was very expensive kawa! Definitely a sometimes treat… It really was delicious coffee though and I will have to go back to try their maple latte! (They were out of maple syrup today!) I had a hazelnut latte with soymilk instead.

After class, I headed to WF to pick up some things for this week’s noms. I got a lot of exciting things (including figs!) in addition to some of the noms for tonight’s dinner:

barszczI have been anxious to try this recipe of Indian-style borscht from PV for a long time. Since I had some beets on hand, I gave it a shot tonight. Never would I imagine that Indian spices would go so well in this Slavic classic. It was pretty seriously spicy (by my standards) but was delicious! I also got to try a new ingredient Thai peppers! They are super cute! (I forgot to take a pic tonight, but I have some left over so I’ll post one later.)

My day was pretty exciting for many reasons (one of which I will not mention because I don’t want to jinx it! fingers crossed!) so I’m pretty beat. Hopefully later in the week I’ll have a little more time to post something more substantial… Also there is new snuggie commercial on TV, and now they have snuggies for dogs. Now, you can look like a wizard at home, at sporting events AND while playing with your dog!

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

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Carried Away … By Caraway!

August 31, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

Carraway 3

Sometimes bread can just speak to you. The moment you see it, it seizes your consciousness and you become enraptured, unable to resist its influence, powerless in the face of its freshly baked goodness. I call it loaf at first sight.

Carraway 1

Carraway 2

That was very much the feeling I had when I saw the above Caraway Deli Rye sitting on the shelf at Stonemill Bakery in St. Lawrence Market this weekend. I really couldn’t resist! Fortunately, I’m very glad I didn’t.

The first time I tried this bread was yesterday (Sunday), when I whipped up another round of polenta and chard. This time, though, I put most of the grits and greens in between two slices of the rye, like a sandwich. It was delicious!

Polenta Sandwich

This bread scores BIG points in my book. It really is an ideal sandwich bread: its wonderful flavors of caraway and rye provide the perfect complement to whatever you’ve got going on inside your sandwich, without being too overwhelming. My mouth is literally watering right now just thinking about it (and I just had another sandwich before writing this; see below).

For Sunday’s dinner, I made another batch of pesto for Red Quinoa Pesto. It was just as delicious as the last time and made me very happy. This time, I also added some “El Supremo” sprouts on top for extra fun!

Red Quinoa Pesto

Sorry that you can’t really see the Red Quinoa Pesto under everything that’s going on on top. The close-up doesn’t help much, either, but what the hey…

RQP Closeup

I also had a side of corn with this meal, which, sad to say, was disappointing. I didn’t feel like oven roasting it since that seemed a little excessive for just one ear of corn, so I just microwaved it, but I don’t think that was the problem. This was just disappointing corn. Here’s a picture:

Corn

Anyway, on to Monday’s adventures! Today I was out and about for most of the afternoon. First, I went to this stationery store called Red Pegasus in hopes of finding a blank journal I could use as a recipe book. And while the one I got is a little thematically off, I think it will function very where. Plus, I like the kitschy design.

Journal

The nice things about this journal are that it is spiral bound, so it stays easily open on your kitchen table to whatever page you need, and that it is lined and split into two columns, which I think is ideal for recipe-writing. Plus it’s too all that big, so it’s easy to bring around with you. So all in all, I’m happy with what I got!

The next thing I did was visit the National Film Board of Canada’s Mediatheque Digital Viewing Station, this place in Toronto where you can go and watch any movie you like from a selection of 5,000 National Film Board of Canada-financed pictures. The viewing stations they have are really nice and their catalogue is easy to navigate. Most of the collection is animation and documentary films, and I really enjoyed everything I watched. I spent a little over two hours just browsing their selection, and I could’ve easily spent more. I hope to go back before too long; it seems like a really nice way to pass an afternoon.

When I got back from my afternoon outing, I needed to make myself some lunch! Or breakfast, since it was my meal of the day. Or perhaps dinner, since it was nearly 4:30 before I actually ate. Anyway, I made myself a simple meal of a sandwich and a salad. Both were delicious.

Sandwich

Salad

The sandwich of course uses my Caraway Deli Rye again; but inside this time is Ying Ying Soy Food Sweet & Spicy Tofu with sprouts and mustard. This picture might help clarify:

Sandwich Open

The salad is a combination of the two salad bags I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday, one of which is a mixed greens bag, whereas the other is just kale. On top are deliciously sweet sunburst tomatoes (you must try these!), sprouts, flax seed meal, dried cranberries, and pepitas. Oh, and one more thing—curious to know what that green dressing is on top?

Salad Closeup

That’s Gena’s recently posted Raw Green Goddess Dressing!

Dressing

Mine doesn’t really look the same, but I think that’s just because I used a food processor rather than a blender or magic bullet. Oh, and looking at her original recipe post right now, I just saw that I forgot to add the water. Oh well. It was still very good! I thought it tasted very green, if that makes any sense. One thing I’d like to try, though, is putting in less parsley and more dill, which I might do soon!

You know, it’s kind of crazy how quick things can spread in the food blogging community, although I guess this is true for most internet communities. But to think that Gena just came up with this recipe the other day and now I’m making it myself, hundred of miles away… it’s very interesting to think about. Of course, I’m very grateful to all the great food bloggers out there for sharing all their wonderful ideas—I don’t know where my cooking would be without them!

And that’s all for now! I hope you had a good first day of school!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Breakfast, Then Breakfast Again

August 29, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

Thankfully today’s forecasted storms were basically entirely confined to last night. I say “thankfully” because I had my heart set on going to this morning’s farmers’ market, the same one I went to last Saturday and at which I purchased that awesome basil and those wonderful rapini greens. So at nine o’clock this morning, with cloudy but dry skies overhead, I wiped off my rain-speckled bike seat and was on my way!

Because of the inclement weather, most of the vendors were moved inside, which I found actually pretty nice. There seemed to be more stands here this week than last week, with a marked increase in the number of baked goods sellers. Unfortunately, there were no more rapini greens to be found! I did, however, pick up two bunches of basil (for two soon-to-come killer pesto recipes, I hope), some bags of mixed greens for salads and sandwiches, yellow chard, some sweet, orange sunburst tomatoes (also for salads), and a little baked treat for later. And by later, I mean when I got home. Because of a twelve o’clock meeting I had with my program advisor, I didn’t really have time to prepare a more proper and involved Saturday morning breakfast, but I was able to get a nicely rounded breakfast in my tummy. Here’s what it looked like:

First Breakfast

Pink lady apple, toast with peanut butter, orange chocolate chip scone, and tea: pretty good breakfast, no?

After this, I was off yet again, this time into the campus area for my meeting. Afterwards I swung by Canadian Tire (from what I can tell, the Canadian K-Mart) to pick up some food containers and the Toronto Reference Library to return a book and do some leisure reading. By the time I was ready to head home, the morning’s clouds had completely parted and the day actually felt warm. So much for weather forecasting.

As the evening approached, my hunger returned, and so I prepared a meal I had long been anticipating. The inspiration came from this post from Another Bites the Crust, although I did not really follow the recipe that closely. Mostly, I was intrigued by the idea of vegan breakfast-y meal of tofu, grits, and greens. But instead of ABTC’s suggested tofu steaks, I chose to use the local Ying Ying Soy Food‘s tofu bacon strips. What are these, you ask? Well, here are some pictures:

Tofu Bacon Uncooked

Tofu Bacon Uncooked Closeup

As you can see, they are basically compressed tofu sheets. The first thing I thought upon handling them was that they felt just like bacon: a little greasy with a smell that stays on your hands (and is still on my hands as I type this; I really need to use some soap!). These sheets are flavored, but only ever so slightly; the ingredients are simply soy sauce, sea salt, soy oil, and natural smoke liquid.

Now there are many ways Ying Ying Soy Food says you can eat these tofu bacon strips: raw and straight from the package, pan fried, or baked. I chose to pan fry the few strips I took out for today’s meal, so as to get the full bacon experience, and they fried well, becoming a nice brown. I could’ve perhaps made them crispier if I let them fry a little longer, but I was happy with them as they were. And here they are, complete with the accompanying cheesy grits, toast, and yellow chard underneath!

Second Breakfast

Second Breakfast 2

This meal was awesome! I loved the polenta, although mine wasn’t too cheesy (I didn’t have any vegan swiss cheese slices or anything, so I just tried adding some nutritional yeast in at the end, but I don’t think that did anything); it went especially well on the potato sourdough toast. The chard could’ve been sauteed a little better (I tried a dry saute this time rather than using any oil, but I think it could’ve used just a tad), but it was still delicious. And the tofu bacon was very tasty, although not very bacon-y. Actually, I think the taste is more closer to that of smoked turkey cold cuts, which is impressive since it’s tofu, but still a little weird. So I don’t know if I’ll buy this tofu bacon again, but I will definitely enjoy eating my way through the rest of the package, so look for further tofu bacon adventures throughout the week!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Enjoying Some Street Magic, Wishing For Some Dinner Magic

August 28, 2009

Dear Caitlin,

This afternoon I biked downtown to St. Lawrence Market, the home to this year’s Buskerfest, an international street performer festival. At the outset I had two goals in mind: (1) see some awesome street performances, and (2) grab me some awesome market vendor foodstuffs. The former was somewhat of a let-down, but the latter was a great success!

But let me give some credit to the street performers I saw. They were definitely entertaining to watch and I really enjoyed the sort of old-world circus vibe of the festival. However, there is something a little anachronous and, frankly, unimpressive about street performers in today’s world. Juggling and gymnastics just can’t compete with the sorts of thrills we experience in our various forms of modern entertainment (or, for that matter, Cirque du Soleil). But that being said, here are some awesome pictures of the street performers I saw!

P1020222P1020224

P1020225P1020227

P1020233P1020232

P1020239P1020241

One thing I definitely didn’t like about these performers: Their requests for donations went past the point of begging and became more like accusations, suggesting that we the audience should feel guilty and ashamed for not giving them money after seeing their stunts. I understand that a street performer is not the most lucrative walk of life, but I just didn’t appreciate the meanness and bitterness.

But enough of the street performers, let me tell you about the food I got! I haven’t taken any photos of my finds yet, but you’ll be seeing lots of them in the coming days. Here’s a preview: tofu bacon from Ying Ying Soy Food, a new pack of “El Supremo” sprouts from Uncle George’s, and an amazing looking Carraway Deli Rye loaf that I absolutely cannot wait to bite into! (I also got some apples.) I promise you’ll be seeing plenty of these guys soon!

Dinner tonight, however, involved taking care of the groceries I still had left over in the fridge. I whipped up another pot of miso soup, using the leftover tofu cube I had sitting in the fridge all week, and I made Vegan Dad’s delectable Malaysian Sweet & Sour Tofu, using the leftover tofu pack I had sitting in the freezer all week. In other words, this was a soy-heavy meal!

The miso soup went swimmingly enough, but unfortunately, the Sweet & Sour Tofu was somewhat of a disaster. First off, I burned the rice. I guess this is what I get for only using a rice cooker for the last two years. I mean, this is why I wanted a rice cooker in the first place: I just can’t seem to cook rice. Oh well, better luck next time.

And second of all, I overfried the tofu, making for some darkish brown tofu rectangles instead of my desired golden brown bits. The inside still had that great frozen tofu texture, but the outside was definitely a little too stiff. Still, not a complete disaster.

Fortunately, the sweet and sour sauce went off without a hitch. My substitution of apple cider vinegar for the recommended white vinegar worked well; it didn’t change the overall flavor much, but if anything I’d say it made it better, and I will probably continue to use apple cider vinegar in the future (if for no other reason but that I have no other use for white vinegar). Other quick side note: I got the recommendation to replace white vinegar with apple cider vinegar from The Cook’s Thesaurus, which, judging by my brief use of it, seems pretty awesomely handy. It provides quick overviews of all sorts of common recipe ingredients, along with recommended substitutes for when you’re out or can’t find any.

So how did this somewhat calamitous dinner turn out? See for yourself…

P1020244

I would rate it “Not Bad.” It certainly wasn’t without its problems, but in the end it felt really good to sit down to a nice warm bowl of crispy tofu and crunchy rice swimming in a neon red sauce. Yet that’s likely due in part to the fact that Toronto was decidedly chilly today, and I really needed a nice warm pick-me-up. I can’t believe it’s still August.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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A Hot Yam Done Good

August 28, 2009

Dear Caitlin et alia,

So the last few days for me have not been the most exciting food-wise; that’s why I haven’t posted in a while. My own meals have been somewhat dull as of late. But I did have the excellent experience of my first Hot Yam lunch this week, and I will dedicate most of this post to this amazing group.

What is Hot Yam? Simply put, it’s a University-of-Toronto-student-run all-volunteer mostly-local-and-organic 100%-vegan cooking collective. Every week, a group of us get together, prepare a hearty meal, and then sell it to the hungry public for only $4. The meal is always different and changes based on the season and the local produce available. This week was my first week with the Yam, and since I have basically nothing else to keep me busy until school starts, I decided to devote a good chunk of my time to helping out in whatever way I could.

Meal preparation started the night before on Wednesday, where me and another Yammer met up to go shopping in Kensington Market for the various, non-produce items for this week’s menu (two other Yammers went to a local farmers’ market to pick up all the fresh stuff). It was pretty fun; I’ve never bought food in such large quantities before. We actually cleared out the store’s bulk container of chickpeas!

Anyway, after we got back to the Hot Yam kitchen, we unpacked our groceries and then got to cooking. Again, I’ve never prepared food in such large quantities, either, so it was quite the experience. We aim to make enough food for about 100 people, and this meant I did things like wash and boil 250 potatoes, and cook 15 cups of chickpeas and 15 cups of quinoa! I was a little surprised at how humble the Hot Yam kitchen was: stove burners didn’t work, the oven didn’t cook evenly, there never seemed to be enough containers and pots for everything we were doing. But I liked that. It made it more exciting and spontaneous, and made it feel more real. The Hot Yam isn’t a professional kitchen; it’s just a group of students who really love cooking and want to make delicious food in any way possible.

I didn’t finish up on Wednesday until 9 p.m., and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it. I was a little worried about our progress when I left Wednesday night, but when I returned Thursday morning at around 10:30 a.m., everything seemed to be almost done (except for the fruit compote, which was a long and complicated—but ultimately averted!—disaster)! Come noon-time, we were all set to serve our hungry patrons. And here’s what your plate would’ve looked like if you had been one of those patrons:

Hot Yam Lunch

What is all that delicious goodness? Well, here’s the day’s menu:

Menu

In case you need some help linking the menu with the plate, the dishes are, starting with the bowl and moving clockwise: Peaches & Elderberries Fruit Compote with Chocolate-Dipped Cornmeal Wafer Squares; Curried Potato Salad; Steamed Bean Salad with Dill; Pesto Carrot & Cucumber Salad; and Quinoa Chickpea Salad. My favorite dish of the day was probably the Curried Potato Salad, although I am quite partial to potatoes. But I was also quite partial to the cornmeal wafers, which were absolutely amazing, even when not dipped in chocolate. I will hopefully be getting the recipe (which isn’t even that difficult!) soon.

Want to learn more about the Hot Yam? Well, you could hop on over to their blog, which has all the latest updates on the group’s activities. If you just want to learn more about the Yam and what it’s all about, check out Now Magazine’s glowing review of us in this week’s magazine (giving us the highest possible, NNNNN rating!), available online as HTML or PDF.

But for all my Hot Yam activity this week, I was not completely absent from my own kitchen. Here are a couple of the things that made it into my mouth in the past few days…

To begin, a new Sunflower Lentil Pate, this time with all yellow lentils:

Sunflower Lentil Pate

This pate definitely tasted different from the last one, although I can’t say exactly how, but it was still totally delicious and made for some very happy snacking.

Next up, the first of two bread loaves I bought this week at farmers’ markets:

Olive Cilantro Bread

This is an Olive & Cilantro loaf, which I very much enjoyed. It was very soft and almost creamy on the inside, and I loved the flavors. Does this mean I might be slowly warming up to the joys of olives? We can only wait and see…

Last night’s dinner was udon noodles with a simple peanut sauce:

Udon and Peanut Sauce

Unfortunately, this could’ve been better for me. I think it was a mistake to cool down the udon after cooking them by running them under cold water, and the peanut sauce had too much coconut milk for my liking. However, it was still a nice quick and simple dinner, and I will most likely be eating the rest of the peanut sauce in the next few days.

And here’s the second of this week’s two famers’ market loaves:

Potato Sourdough

Potato Sourdough Cut

I definitely liked the mix of the potato and sourdough flavors, but this bread isn’t my favorite. It’s still very good, though, and I will enjoy eating the rest of it.

That’s all I have to report in recent food news, but before I go I thought I’d share with you some of my weekend plans! Here they are:

Friday

  • Buskerfest: A festival of international street performers. It’s going on all weekend, but I think today might be the best day weather-wise to go downtown to see the madness. (Their website is not the greatest as it is bogged down by Flash animations and the like, but it’s still kind of cool to check out.)

Saturday

  • Hot Yam Party in the Park: If the rain stops by the evening, I will probably head out to nearby Sibelius Park to hang out with fellow Yammers and enjoy some good food and games. Other than that, though, it looks like the weather is going to make for a quiet day inside.

Sunday

  • Live Green Toronto Festival: Toronto’s annual celebration of all things green! I’m mostly going to scope out the local food, but I’m sure there will be plenty of things of interest. Also, one of the live music acts is called The Philosopher Kings.
  • The Wilderness of Manitoba, Live @ Sneaky Dee’s: The same band I went to see last weekend are back in town, playing a PWYC (Pay What You Can) show at a local bar.

And that’s what my weekend is looking like right now. Finally, two quick things I recently discovered that you may be interested in:

  • Toronto’s First Post Office: As explained in Fodor’s: “Dating from 1833, this working post office continues to use quill pens, ink pots, and sealing wax. Exhibits include reproductions of letters from the 1820s and 1830s.” And it’s free! Possible place to go when you visit?
  • BlogTO: The more I frequent this all-about-Toronto blog, the more I love it. I specifically appreciate the “Best of Toronto” features, which are perfect for a TO-newbie like me. You really need to check out their index; you won’t believe the sorts of lists they’ve come up with. For example, here‘s a list of The Best Roti in Toronto. Roti. I mean, c’mon.

Okay, this has been a long post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed. I’ll be back soon, I hope, with reports of all the weekend’s fun activities and food adventures.

Until we eat again,

Willie


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The Pizza Post

August 27, 2009

Terve Willie (and any other possible readers!)

As I mentioned in my last post, I was really craving pizza. When I get a craving it really doesn’t go away until I give in in one way or another. Today, I caved. I am weak. I know.

But, I resisted the temptation to order in, and instead decided to make my own. I did some heavy photo-documentation of the process:

Raising the dough

I was nervous the dough wouldn’t rise in my rather chilly apartment, so I preheated the oven to the lowest temperature available (200 F), turned it off and popped in the dough! Magically, an hour later, this appeared:

Risen

This dough was just right! I’ll have to put up a recipe once I have tweaked it a bit. Originally I was considering trying to make this one of your single-serving meals, but it made a little more pizza than I had originally planned…

crusts

I made 2 single-serving pizzas! (It is important to note that 2 single-serving pizzas and a double-serving pizza are very different things! 🙂 )

flax meal

Flax meal made a great coating for the pan! (I wish it was a pizza stone though…)

pies!

I squared them off a bit so they would better fit the pan. The pizza on your left is topped with nootch, “pizza seasoning,” olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions. The pizza on your right is topped with sunflower seeds, kale, beets, roasted garlic and rosemary! I think next time I will try the right-hand pizza with pistachio nuts and arugula, but this was delicious as is.

After 10 minutes or so in the oven, I was beckoned by the fabulous smell of these:

cooked pies!

And the obligatory close ups:

tomato piebeetza

I must say. I have a new love and its name is Beetza. Don’t worry Willie you are still number one! Maybe I can try this with golden beets and you will share my noms?! 🙂

One last photo for good measure:

slices of pie

MY SLICES!

I’m thrilled I have another 2 pizza halves left!

On a mostly unrelated note, in case you were unaware of this craziness, I present to you without further ado…

Yes. Ricky Gervais was totally in a band in the eighties. Fantastic.

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

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A Hearty Lunch Before Starting the First Day of the Rest of My Life!

August 26, 2009

Ciao Willie!

I was super nervous all day waiting for my SILS orientation tonight! To get out some of my stress, I thought I would prepare a special lunch for myself.

closeup saladlarge saladbutternut squash soup

First, I made myself a hugh jass kale salad with a lemon vinagrette, some basmati and cucumbers (I also added sunflower seeds after I took the pics). I suppose a little more exciting was sweet-roasted butternut squash soup! I roasted the squash in the sauce Crescent Dragonwagon suggested in that recipe I had with the polenta earlier and, when it was done, I blended it with some thyme and almond milk. Really delicious I must say! I think it would be even better with coconut milk… I also mixed the leftover rice into my bowl.

So, after putzing around the house nervously, I headed to 14th street for my new grad student orientation! It was really great! I’m glad it went well considering the Brooklyn orientation was pretty horrible… Once again, NY librarians are the coolest! I learned a lot about student organizations I definitely want to join and got a lot of other useful info too. This is going to be such an exciting program! There were some really great little desserts at the reception too! I also thought I would take a picture of the Pratt Swag I came home with:

Pratt Swag

In addition to informative materials, there was a planner, NYC cycling map, subway and campus map, luggage tag, lots of pens, a magnet, a minature first-aid kit and a really cute SILS tote!

Everyone is so friendly and I really can’t wait to start on this new path! It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but there are so many great opportunities and choices! The hardest part might be deciding what to do first!

Okay, gotta go. Alton Brown is making cinnamon buns.

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

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