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I don’t remember what prompted the lasagna. Something prompted it… oh yeah! Friends came over eating giant gloppy plates of cheesy tvp-veggie lasagna last saturday and it stuck in my mind. Then I woke up on sunday slightly hungover and thinking that making lasagna would be a kind of ideal and relaxing way to spend the afternoon. I was right, too… so laid back this was. I made some tofu ricotto with fresh basil and a roasted red pepper sauce with nutmeg, then layered with whole wheat noodles, sliced mushrooms, zucchini, loads of swiss chard, and some ground up almonds, sesames and lemon zest on top. It turned out so exactly like I wanted – fresh and vegetabley and clean, and hearty too! I ended up eating most of it cold, too, like the risotto.

Later on… I haven’t actually been baking all that much lately, but I figured maybe trying to make a single cookie might amuse me and get some chocolate into my system, so last night I tried. Here’s the measurements, in case you’re curious…

dry ingredients:
1 tbsp ground up oats (I used my fingers to grind)
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp unsweetened coconut
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of baking soda
pinch of chinese 5-spice powder
wet ingredients:
2″ of banana, mushed to a pulp
1/2 tsp canola oil
splash of vanilla soymilk (if needed)

12 chocolate chips

** Add wet to dry, bake @ 350 for 12-15 minutes, until it’s glossy and browned. Would be mad good with tea and apple juice methinks.

It’s more like a chewy muffin top than a cookie per se (doubling the sugar might get you a cookier cookie), but I loved it as a near-guiltless snack. My next single cookie experiment will probably run along the lines of lemon-cranberry-almond. Come to think of it, does anyone have any delicious recipes for cranberries that aren’t too indulgent dessert-like? For some amazing reason they’re on for $1 a bag at my favourite grocery store and I can’t think of a darned thing I want to do with them besides eat them out of the freezer and add them to oatmeal. Maybe cranberry bars? I just don’t want to make them into something too sugary…

Oh yeah, speaking of good deals… I found 72% organic non-animal tested moisturizer and actual Scharffen Berger chocolate at the dollar store! The labels are ever-so-slightly off center and the bars are maybe 1 degree convex, like they’d been warm for a second, and I am a happy girl to take the misfit chocolate under my wing. Er, teeth. Yummy. (actually, verdict is I like Lindt better, but it’s nice and fruity with a bit of pepper and I’d like to make a sauce with it maybe)

Yesterday I made some of Melanie’s wonderful hummus, quinoa and broccoli soup. That particular combination got stuck in my head the moment I saw it, and I thought adding 2 cups of hummus to a soup pot was pretty novel. I added tomatoes to it today and loved it even more, but I could probably add tomatoes to ice cream and I would think it improved. :P
I also feel like mentioning that after finishing this bowl I felt just inexplicably amazing. Really, really good and energized, like my belly was a rotating rose. Wish I’d made more!

I always end up making curry on a whim. Without fail I am on my way to make something else, something usually boring and somehow between the fridge and the stovetop it turns into curry in my brain and I’m always thankful for the switch. I can always eat more red lentils… and I got to try out these unreal curry powders my friend J brought me from India when he went this summer. Why have I not used these all over the place before???? They are crazy good, more on them later. They made an acorn squash, red lentil, coconut, pea and green pepper curry absolutely golden. Actually, pistachio coloured. Who says curry is homely? And cardamom raisin quinoa underneath doesn’t hurt in the pretty department, either.

Here are those spices (I couldn’t be happier that there’s massive quantities of both).

The south indian blend has — white pepper, chili, mango powder, dagger fool, clove, ginger, mace, citric acid, concoun, cassia, and akarkhora. Badass.

The garam masala is black cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, piper, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, black cardamom, ginger.

These are seriously aromatic and complex, and for some reason taste different in every curry I add them to. Maybe it’s like that chemical thing where the same perfume smells different on various wrists? Maybe it’s the akarkhora.

Then I made some DAIIIII-FU-KUUUU, yippee! I didn’t realize I was out of red dye for my envisioned green-and-red holiday colours, but I did have a beet, which worked perfectly and the subtle flavour didn’t mess with the beans at all. They are bean paste (anko) filled, which has got to be my favourite stuff ever. I’m still not 100% on the mochi part, I may have found the one food I’m not super crazy for, but they are definitely fun to make. And it was much as Julie in Japan describes: truly they are weird. But I did keep eating it and then later I did really want another one. That strange earlobe jellyness kinda becomes… intriguing? In a way? I must say I can taste the difference in the supple freshness of homemade mochi versus those awful pucks I got over christmas.

Okay, this is actually making my mouth water now, so disregard any blabbing about weirdness. You can also see that I like my anko (I LOVE my anko) chunky, generous in proportion to earlobe-jelly, and only moderately sweet.

J’s (half awake) response was A: “They look like the kind of thing that people eat in cartoons, Liz.” (I nodded). And B: “Hmm… they taste like rice cake.” Which I thought was mighty open-minded for a technicoloured blobby-dessert ambush, and indicative of an awesome generation of eaters. My parents would have certainly gone for the bugspray or something. :)
Yay Daifuku!!

EDIT:
In response to KingoftheFrogs — what I did for the mochi:

The red and the green both had pretty different textures, since I used more water in the green, but they were both good… it takes some playing around I think.

approximately…
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water + (if needed) 2-3 tablespoons
food colouring (optional)
(1 cup of anko/red bean paste)

* stir the flour, water, sugar and colouring together in a microwave-safe bowl, adding more water so that it’s smooth (but still pretty thick)

* microwave 2 minutes, then stir it like crazy

* microwave until it inflates, stir like crazy and stretch it and wack it with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and bouncy.

* turn it onto a tray covered with potato starch (or cornstarch) and roll it into a snake, then cut that snake into 12 equal pieces.

* stretch a piece into a disc, thicker in the middle than at the edges, place 1 tablespoon of anko paste in the middle and wrap it up like a parcel, pinching the seam to join the mochi together. Dust with extra cornstarch, and set it aside, repeat with remaining mochi pieces.

note 1: they freeze pretty much perfectly, so uneaten candy can be squirreled away for later.

note 2: anko is soooo easy to make, it’s just red beans cooked with sugar and a touch of salt. Take cooked adzuki beans, add sugar til it’s sweet enough for you, mash with a spoon and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until it’s really thick, like cookie dough. Let it cool completely before using.

Well, I’m back! I’ve scrubbed the dirt out of all my crevices, uploaded a billion gorgeous pictures of natural beauty and human wackiness, rubbed my belly after meal upon meal of delicious vegan forest food, and now I’m finally ready to get back to city life… and update my blog!

So this is the humble kitchen, rather unassuming by day (though inviting), and positively radiant by tiki torch at night. There was always fresh fruit and whole grain breads around, and a steaming gigantic decanter of yerba mate for the lacking-in-energy camper to drink copious amounts of (4 mugs a day, anyone?)

One afternoon Star and I even discovered sushi being made! Forest sushi! It took all of 3 seconds for her to jump into the kitch and start showing off her fantastic rolling skills. There was even apparently onigiri with pickled plum being made later, which I unfortunately missed, but still… that’s damn cool.

Here’s me (on the right), grabbing some killer miso soup from The Great-Smelling Pot of Giganticness. I always had to stand on tiptoes to see what was inside!

And here’s the bounty of fresh herbs and vegetation at the right of the kitchen, which gave the food this wonderful vitality. (note to self: donate something that is green and growing in a pot next year)

The tea tent! It was this dear little spot, glowing white and smelling of herbs/the always-lit iron stove that kept the kettle boiling outside. There were teas for everything — lung cleansing, ephedra-energizing if you wanted it, lucid dreaming, even getting in a sexy mood! With agave nectar, fresh citrus to cut, ginger, books on herbs, and just a great atmosphere all around.

The fact that I could stumble down to the kitchen area, grab my colourful breakfast and realize I was munching in front of killer art like this was all part of the fun.

And E-balls! E for energy, of course. Yum, yum, yum, and I have a new appreciation for hempseeds now. Especially the crunchy black unhulled ones, they’re SO much fun to eat!

Okay, onto the plates. (every attempt I made to take night photos got thwarted, so none of the dinners got photographed, but rest assured they were pretty involved and distinctive and delicious, even moreso than the first two meals of the day. ah well.)

This was my first breakfast – note the conservative portions, before I realized I could totally take my fill from the table – morning quinoa with hempseeds, soaked/raw whole wheat granola, and spicy applesauce.

First lunch – creamy coleslaw with fresh herbs, split pea dhal, bannock, and fruit salad.

Yay, oatmeal! I loved the announcement of breakfast that morning – the whole kitchen in unison shouting “Gruuuuuuuuel!!!!!”

Oops – this is the one standout meal that sucked for me. 1 out of 21 ain’t too shabby at all, though! Another split pea dhal with much much less flavour, and saltless dry millet. Still – totally healthy.

This was way (way!) better! Quinoa with fresh oregano, vegan caesar salad, and a beautiful hearty bean and vegetable stew, with beets, wakame, squash and barley.

Most colourfullest breakfast EVER, and it tasted even better than it looked! Tahini-dressed salad, quinoa with star anise and clove, apple chutney, pickled carrots, fruit salad with papaya, pineapple, watermelon, pear, orange and honeydew, and one of those awesome E-Balls.

Maybe my favourite lunch, too – miso soup with gorgeous huge pieces of seaweed, whole juicy shitake mushrooms, roasted squash seeds and my new cracker obsession, rye Wasa.

And the last brekky – creamy rice pudding with apricots and sunflower seeds, sugarless (yet sweet) cocoa apple crumble/granola, a citrus-y salad, and a slice of dense rye with apple butter. Plus a view to totally die for…

More often than not, I skipped the smoky campfire scene and hiked a few minutes away to a secluded sunny rock with my meal to listen to mild ripples and rustling trees instead. You could have given me a half-eaten Boca burger in that setting and I would have been in foodie bliss anyway… but really, in conclusion, I got totally inspired by the spices and innovation that I saw at Om, and the dedication that the kitchen organizers had to keeping 500+ people fed and nourished all day, every day, for a whole week! For one – I’m gonna start respecting the “mere” salad a heck of a lot more, play with grains and seeds more, put tahini in more stuff (because tahini = AWESOME), and basically just focus on health and colour instead of rigidly following silly things like recipes all the time. I’ve even put it into practice at home, but that’ll have to wait for the next post. ;)

( Oh, and I wish I could have taken a picture of the meal that I helped prepare, it was my favourite of all the dinners (maybe I’m biased, but it WAS amazing). Just imagine saffron-coconut apple soup, fried bananas, truly spicy aloo gobi, and cardamom-almond rice. OMG. I weep for the lack of picture! :O )

Well… like a lot of bloggers it seems I have to bear the news that I may not be able to keep up with commenting or even posting quite so often as before (still often – blogging gets my sillies out, and is thus very vital!). I think it’s a summer thing. Also, much MUCH drawing to be finished, books to read, hanging out to do… the usual.

Anyway, that craziness up there is natto! Weird food, but strangely delicious. It’s a fermented soybean that they eat a lot in japan, with brown rice, chopped scallion and soy sauce, and I’ve gotten kinda hooked on it. It’s full of B12, too (the absorption of which is still in debate, but I’ll take my nutrients as I get ’em).

And I tried, oh I did, to give up the oatmeal thing in the morning, but I was crazy hungry by 11 am and went screaming for banana oatmeal bread – go figure. So I’m back, but I’m switching up the flavours and it’s so much more fun this way! So far I’ve tried it with gomasio, kelp and toasted sesames (very good, savoury… completely unphotogenic though), and this morning was amazing – ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, candied ginger, dates, flax seeds and lots of perfect fresh blueberries.

Dinner number 2! Clockwise from the left, it’s leftover paratha; sliced mango and avocado; steamed kale; smoky red bean and quinoa croquettes; Vcon gazborscht; big green salad; and get this —- Aux Vivres chana masala!! P brought it from work and it’s the exact stuff they put in my favourite menu item there, the chickpea chapati wrap. It’s fatty and addictive and hee hee! We have secret restaurant food! :DD

*sexy shot of the oh-so refreshing gazborscht with homegrown cilantro*

*sexy shot of the quinoa croquettes* (recipe follows, ooh!)

Smoky Red Bean & Quinoa Croquettes (makes about 15, maybe… I’m guessing)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cooked red quinoa
2 cups cooked red beans (or blackeyed peas)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced and steamed
1/2 red pepper, diced small
1 cup spinach, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp gluten flour
2 tbsp flax meal
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp Braggs or tamari
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime
1/8 tsp Liquid Smoke
2 tsps olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Mush half of the beans and leave the rest whole. In a large bowl, combine everything together along with the beans and mush with your hands until it forms a very thick paste.

2. Scoop out about a 1/3 of a cup and form it into a patty. Repeat, repeat.

3. Heat a bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook for about 4 minutes each side, or until nicely browned and slightly firm. Serve with guacamole and chips, or fresh corn, or mango.

I do have other cookbooks, I swear I do… but somehow I just keep coming back to the Vcon. It’s like this personal challenge thing to finish it, and it narrows my weekly grocery ideas down to a manageable level, definitely. Plus it tastes fantastic, like 98% of the time, can’t go wrong. :)

The prettiest salad award goes to the black bean, mango and quinoa salad, and also the “makeable in ohhh 5 minutes” award. I rank both factors pretty high, I’ll be making variations on this for years to come, I think. (and each subsequent salad will rock more than this one, because I was using up iffy mango and tasteless red peppers in it. and it was still great!)

I don’t know why I torture myself with risotto-making plans on my off-days. Maybe because on the other side of all that stirring I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain. A mountain made of patience! And about 1 more cup of water than the recipe called for. So yeah…. this is one tasty concoction. I’ve never even had regular risotto, but this one (the asparagus and lemongrass risotto) was worth every moment of glazed-over-eyes and stirring, stirring, stirring………. seriously! Something really nice and exotic about it (and yet comforting like only a big ol bowl of creamy rice can be). It was even good the next day.

And what does one do when the fridge is down to carrots, celery and peas? Make pot-pie of course! This was kinda iffy for me, actually, but I’m not much of a ‘beef-style’ person normally, and I think the toughness of the crust was my fault since I followed normal crust procedure and not what was written in the book (I added water, chilled, and rolled. Instead of adding water, rolling and chilling). I mean, it was good, but not my usual bag, you know? I’m actually kinda curious what recipes will be left for me to force myself through when I get near the end of the Vcon – I counted today and I’m 1/5th through the book!!! Whew! (and what happens when the cookie and brunch book come out? Liz explodes, basically. XDDD)

EDIT: The crust wasn’t tough it just wasn’t browned enough! And I dropped a bit of water in the filling before I made the second one, to up the gravy factor, and went mad with the pepper. MUCH better this time. Extremely yum. And oh lordy did I feel like June Cleaver while making this, did I mention that? The novelty of that alone will probably get me to potpie it up sometime again in the future, maybe chicken-style next time though, cause those are the freezer-burnt memories of my childhood. White sauce-y, nutritionally void, gooey crusted toasty gems… zomg I’m getting nostalgia-drool all over! haha, anyway….

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