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Summertime and some are slacking!  That is to say — oh oh I’m sorry I dropped off the face of the blog-Earth!  I’ve been pretty busy, writing papers, painting spiders and lettuce leaves, taking t’ai chi, dating someone (yey), still cooking up a storm, and just not really feeling like there’s been a good time to blog about it.  But really, it’s getting ridiculous… I’ve lost count of how many photos I have.  Stacks.  And they’re getting outdated, I’m forgetting if I used olives or capers in these stuffed tofus for example… at any rate I used Kittee’s Method of the Stars to stuff them full of olive-oily spinach, red peppers, and raisins (I think).  Other good things, then breaded them in cornflakes, baked, and ate most of them all chewy-cold out of the fridge – like moment’s notice hunger-killers, basically.
Sushi!  But with black rice this time, which is really more of a purple, and taste-wise isn’t quite sushi bliss… but it sure is pretty.  I kinda feel like this is sushi with a silk tie on, or something.

And speaking of oceanic treats, my sister and I discovered some fantastic package of salty fried nori in her cupboards.  This stuff is gooooood.  For my money, beats the pants off of potato chips.

Sis thinks so too!

Then for a while I was all in love with med-firm tofu and it’s magical ability to become some luxurious (yet low guilt) salad dressing at a moment’s notice.  I played around with a few varieties – I tried the Vegan World Fusion Caesar (yum!), I made a kind of ranch, and my favourite was a curried apricot dressing that was very inspired by something from the Millenium cookbook, although I changed it entirely…  I even found the notepad file I wrote the recipe on!  So here it is —-

1/4 lb. med-firm tofu

1-2 dried apricots, soaked well and chopped

1 tsp rice vinegar

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp garam masala

1/8 tsp cardamom

pinch of cayenne

1 tsp almond butter

1 tsp canola oil

enough water to thin

Blend!  Blend like yo salad depends on it!  
My favourite part of tofu dressings is putting on so much that you can eat the extra at the bottom with a spoon. :)
Isa’s perfect chocolate chip cookies are, by the way, and if you hadn’t heard – perfect.  Utterly perfect.  Me and this cookie had a bit of a moment… time stopped outside my window, cars drove softly past and I felt like all the sweet chewy vanill-y mass was just going straight into my heart (forget stomachs).  Good times.  Oh!  And this is only from batch number two.  I made them before, maybe not creaming quite enough so they spread a bit, but obviously still amazing enough to convince me to try again.

Not having ever tried a Madhur Jaffrey recipe I figured I would give it a go, finally.  Her dhal intrigued me in how it has a whole lemon sliced right into it, and it really works!  Totally makes it a different sort of creature than your regular lentil-mash.  I ate it up with — oh oh oh oh!!  guess what!!!  I got a food processor!  Or at least, an attachment for my new stick blender that my mom got me (love moms!).  I turned veggies into confetti in like, 10 seconds, wow.  Anyway, yeah, I stuffed said veggies (sauted with garlic, mustard seeds, cider vinegar, bit of braggs, maybe a bit of tahini? possibly caraway seeds, too) into a paratha, and then ate the mountain of leftovers too, because it was pretty delicious stuff.  

I also think I’m finally getting the hang of cakes.  Getting the right ratio of textures, flavours, sizes, richnesses, bursts of things, etc.  This was so well-balanced, one of my favourites in recent memory!  It’s a chocolate mint cake with minty vanilla buttercream sandwiched between, whipped ganache on top, and loads of little violets, to celebrate spring or some such twee sentiment that surprised me in actually tasting good as well as looking way pretty.  I ended up dipping the extra violet stems in the leftover ganache!  And the cake… was this joyous kind of refreshing melt-in-your-mouth confection that I had (Mwahahaha!) MOSTLY to myself.  Usually I’m the one giving away desserts too soon, but this one was totally mine.  Yum!

*ackdroolzzz*  don’t you wish there was taste-o-vision?

So when Isa says smother, smother I do. There’s not much else I wanted to eat after making the VwaV punkrock chickpea gravy, except anything with loads of this on top. Potatoes are totally good for you, right? Like, they’re vegetable matter! I ate so much potato last week.

Yes, and cabbage. If you think this is stereotypically peasant-fare so far, just wait until you see my third primary vegetable of late. But anyway, cabbage in everything, and when a lunch needs to be made in the time it takes for coffee to brew, a nice apple & clove braised cabbage isn’t bad at all, and can be slurped like noodles actually.

Third in the poor food trinity? Carrots! Good thing I almost consider them dessert. My favorite way to eat them these days is shredded with daikon radish, peppers and sprouts on top, with toasted sesames, tamari and rice vinegar. Sometimes sriracha, and sometimes… wakame seaweed! No, not hydrated, just crunchy and awesome right out of the bag. Better than chips sometimes.

One can see why I took the opportunity to hop home this weekend and eat out of someone else’s fridge for a while? Too bad Ottawa produce is expensive and wilty, ah well. Increases appreciation for the bounty of home, definitely (I complain but it’s really not that bad in Montreal). And at least there are fair trade vegan chocolates everywhere. This Zazubean bar was sweetened with cane juice and had damiana leaf, maca root and horny goat weed, whatever that is. Had to try it. Flirtacious, no? The cherries were the best part and there were tons.

The real reason I went to Ottawa was to hit the annual Fall Fair Flea Market at the First Unitarian church, which is basically a place to find vintage treasures and loads of fabulous high-quality literature for utter pennies. I found Godel, Escher, Bach for $1, and at that I rest my case. No wait! I also found The Man Who Ate Everything for $1, which is a fairly entertaining read. Almost precisely like reading a top notch food blog in book form. Plus I got a zillion classics, artbooks, and philosophy for a smile & a song and a twenty dollar bill, y’all, Liz is in happy book land!!!!!

Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that the church offers sanctuary to a number of people. Most recently a Nepali human rights activist (Shree Kumar Rai on the right), and for ten years a Bangladeshi family who were abused years ago here in Ottawa, and threatened back at home for speaking out about it. So now they both have apartments in the building, and cook amazing amazing food (mostly vegan!!) to pay for expenses and things. And they need people to watch for government officials all the time, which is crazy, but I’m proud of my old church for having the balls to be this immensely awesome. That’s the mediterranean plate they put together for me up there, with a requested cauliflower pakora in the middle, yum.

(More information about UU sanctuary here).

Not to mention I was lucky enough to try Mr. Samsa’s vegetarian wrap and holy crap, it was actually the best deep-fried falafal-ish thing I’ve EVER had. No kidding. The bread was yielding like butter (absolutely homemade), and the innards were spiced like the chorus of your favourite song. I wish I could get these all the time!

They even had sushi! Basic veggie style, but it was real and fresh and delicious as sushi usually is. Go International Cafe! I just wish I could have tried some of the onion bhaji or samosa, which were flying out of the kitchen and looking phenomenal, but next year I guess.

So that was the trip and now I am home, and since I couldn’t for life of me decide what I wanted for dinner tonight I mixed it all together with some kind of gluten-free pasta (rice, I think), fresh basil, chard, garlic, sundried tomatoes and chickpeas I made this morning with balsamic grilled fennel and that was pretty good for a girl who makes noodles maybe ten times a year. Pretty good delicious, that is!

Oh yeah. And 100% potato/cabbage/carrot free, and for that we sing a wee song of yay and happy-chew. :)

There’s a reason I haven’t been posting this past week… and a reason I haven’t been around to your blogs. It is a very good reason, but we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, here are the handful of beautiful things I’ve eaten recently. That salad up there was way back on Father’s Day, but it was so delicious and so lovingly assembled by my own sister that it has to get blogged. You can’t see it for all the chunky/sumptuous organic veg on top, but she bought one of those salad mixes with furry bites of mint and even flowers in it – so posh! All it needed was a squeeze of orange and some sesame oil to make it sing. And also cashews on top!

This is my Om-inspired meal. The bean salad component was actually made at 3 in the morning, the night I got in from camping. No, not shower first, oh no… beans need time to marinade of course! And then the next day I threw together this miraculous pilaf with apricots and cumin seeds that tasted WAY better than I ever could have predicted (what did I do??? It just started melting in one’s mouth!), and an addictive tahini-dressed salad with radish greens, red onions, yellow beets, parsley and cucumber.

I think the best part of this was my mother’s roommate admitting that she didn’t need to make that eggy frittata after all, it was a complete meal on it’s own. (duh!). No, actually, the best part was the leftovers…. mmmmmmm.

And this is a last meal of sorts. Pretty good for a last meal, though, eh? The sushi ginger was even the fancy kind I had stored away with shiso leaf in it, ooooooh. And it’s probably okay that we polished all this off between two people because……….

It’s MASTER CLEANSE time! – nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and mint tea for 10 whole days. Who’da thought I’d ever do it? Actually, it’s going okay. I’m on my 5th day right now, and since P and I are both doing it at the same time, it’s been really supportive and fairly easy. I’m not even light-headed anymore, and I have zero cigarette cravings. I can’t believe I used to poison myself like that, tsk… not when my skin looks this good right now! Things I have noticed, however:

* one must budget heavy-lifting/long walks in proportion to nap times
* limes are totally allowed and taste way better
* eating food seems weird to me now
* I miss alcohol and coffee, though :p
* P is crazy for wanting to do this for 14 days. It’s peach season, after all! Expect 5 more days from me and then back to wanton baking/stirring/blending/concocting of actual real FOOD, I can’t wait!

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 )

Aaaah! I guess I have too much free time or something. Actually I’ve been in this mood where I don’t really know what I want to eat for lunch at all, so only the most elaborate thing has been satisfying. So that begat sushi, which was the magical result of actually having avocado and cucumber in the fridge at the same time. The rolls were at the whim of whatever I had on hand, so I ended up with…

+ california (of course)
+ bunny rolls (apple, carrot and thin-sliced ginger)
+ vegetable with hot chili sesame oil
+ broccoli mashed with tahini and ume plum vinegar, with red pepper and red onion
+ and avocado-cashew!

I’ve also been harboring this serious craving for pizza, for like, ever. And I’d never made it before! (these days it hardly seems worth cooking if it’s not an experiment. *shrug*)

I cracked open my Vegan with a Vengeance and started on the pizza dough, and it was great – I’m so used to making bread with a poolish that I have to set up the night before that a straight-ahead dough recipe seemed positively lightning fast to make! Plus ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

This is my second attempt and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I was even flipping the dough in the air to get that paper-thin middle crust going! I could make pizza all the time, it’s totally playing with food, and anyway… this is my second creation, a grand mess of red onion, tofurkey sausage, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, broccoli, olives, tofu ricotta and red chile flakes with homemade pizza sauce, YUM!

And check it out! CRUST BUBBLE ACTION!!

The bubble means it’s extra delicious. :D

My friend Dilly is leaving tomorrow to go to Jordan for 2 months, to live with her father and get some experience in sustainable development, maybe teach English, that sort of thing. So of course, we had to have a sushi party to see her off well, and my other friend Shine is the whiz-biz at sushi, no joke – she made uramaki’d (inside outed) california with fuji apple, shitake & sweet potato, avocado & peanut, bunny rolls, some with veggie pâté, some with peanut butter (surprisingly good!), mango cilantro rolls, futomaki, various tiny single-ingredient rolls, caterpillar rolls with mango on the outside…. so amazing. We feasted on the floor and drank yerba teas and inhaled gorgeous little sushi pieces until we couldn’t eat anymore.

But then I did have to eat more (poor me, I know!) – they brought out a slice of spelt-crusted chocolate-banana pie with a big sparkler in it, just for my birthday! (it happens to be today but I hadn’t breathed a word of it). So incredibly sweet! I have a hard time with undue attention and a whole birthday cake would have probably blown my mind and made me blush enough to pop a gasket, but one slice of beautiful pie and a small round of ‘happy birthday’… well, it was perfect.

Here’s to 24! :D

(and I’m still making a key lime Pie Of Greatness for my birthday, just probably the next time I go home)

Well, Liz is a happy vegan – I finally picked up Vegan with a Vengeance yesterday (it was between that and Refresh, or maybe Heaven’s Banquet, but hey, it’s Isa ramblings we’re talking about here, and I needed that recipe for the raspberry blondies). And the muffin recipes! There’s so many! Very happy vegan. :D

I thought I’d try the Hijiki-Salad Sammiches first, since I didn’t have hijiki, but I had nori….. thus the chickpea maki-wraps above. Muy tasty! It’s beyond simple, I just mashed the chicks with nayonnaise, salt, pepper, cider vinegar, tabasco and celery seed, then I spread it on toasted nori and rolled it up with carrots, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and sunflower seeds. Oh, and Braggs to dip, of course.

Hey, look, it’s thematically relevent! Peanut-Sesame Hummus from ED&BV. It’s good, especially with lots of crushed peanuts swirled in.

Also….. Chickpea Cutlets?
I am so sorry for having doubted you! You taste delicious the next day, as does that addictive Mustard Sauce, I just have to remember not to form you into the shape of meat lest I get weirded out by it. (my very good vegetarian friend Ben-sen just about busted a gut laughing when I told him I’d made a shmancy fancy dinner with roasted potatoes and cutlets and everything. He also polished off the leftovers and declared them “creepy yet delicious”)

Okay, so the sad sad truth is that living alone on a fairly small budget with a fairly small stomach means I can’t be running around making giant meals all the time. Most of the time dinner is fresh corn on the cob, actually. But sometimes I go all out, and even though these pictures are kinda old (maybe a month ago), I gotta talk about sushi night!

For my first foray into seaweed delights, I wasn’t gonna use no stinking recipes! I just chopped up some delicious sushi-ables (avocado, red pepper, match-sticked carrots, cucumber, toasted sesames, marinated tofu, peanuts, sprouts, asparagus and green onion) and went apeshit for a few hours. So. Much. Fun! The sushi pictured on the left is what came out of it, pretty much all of them some variation on a vegetable roll. And I like vegetable rolls! But somehow it was lacking in punch, direction, zazz.

So I wised up. I actually looked at some recipes for the next batch, notably the PPK sushi recipes, and the amazingly good so good better than sex Mango Salsa Roll!! Seriously, Star and I were moaning and rolling on the floor as the flavour cascaded thru our mouths, juicy and cilantro-y and wonderfully shrimp-free. She liked the mango best, and I was torn between that and the spicy tofu. I do likes spicy.

Check it out! Uramaki-style California Roll! I think that pretty much means all the boys are MINE MINE MINE, and also probably the girls as well.

I dunno how something so simple can be so satisfying, but it’s a seriously well-constructed formula – crunchy and creamy and nutty and actually a nice palate cleanser between the stronger flavoured sushis.

(and of course, the best part of making sushi is that it’s the perfect excuse to throw a party and stuff yourself silly on uncannily good food) —–>

We even invented a roll (probably just so we could enter the canon of People Who Have Named a Maki Roll). It’s got crispy sweet apple, julienned carrot and fresh ginger, and it’s actually pretty balanced and satisfying, if I do say so myself!

Bunny Roll

1 cup of sushi rice, seasoned with…
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
4 sheets of nori

1 large fuji apple, sliced into 1/2 inch rectangles
2 carrots, steamed briefly, then julienned (matchsticked!)
a hunk of fresh ginger, sliced into very thin strips

roll it all up, eat with good quality soy sauce and wasabi, and then go “wow, it’s so refreshing and spicy and sweet” oh yes. : D