Thursday, March 5, 2015

indian quinoa chickpea stir fry

I am following Oh My Veggies, and loving the recipes. Following a link on the potluck section of the blog, I found this amazingly simple and delicious one pot supper:

It's from another simply splendid food blog, Eat Happy Eat Healthy. I cooked it the other night and loved its super warm spicy-homey flavor. Alex was home, so I also cooked up some frozen parathas from the Indian grocery, to eat with it. They are not the healthiest food, but they are delicious. I was a bit surprised Alex liked it so much. He's sometimes suspicious of spicy things. This recipe isn't so much mouth-flaming as it is full-full-full-flavoured spicy. It uses chili, cumin, coriander, cayenne - hmm, an alliterative spice list. It's good! When Andrew came home from work late, the house must have smelled of spices even outside the front door. I think the yumminess captivated him, because he came in, heated up some leftovers and rolled them up in a tortilla. He said that was good too, and definitely healthier than a paratha. (That's my comment, not his.)

The recipe takes just a few minutes to put together and uses ingredients we have in our pantry almost all the time. I didn't have spinach so I used kale, and it was good.

Cook something full-full-full-flavoured soon. Serve it in a tortilla. Serve it with a paratha. Serve it in a big beautiful bowl, made by someone you love.

Friday, February 27, 2015

three out of ten for the photograph, 10 out of 10 for the soup

OH SHE GLOWS! This is now my desert island cookbook. Like on that fictional desert island where you can have just one food, and you are allowed to say "sushi," as if there's a sushi tree growing on the desert island. Well, if I could use only one cookbook, it would be this one. And it's vegan and full of gluten-free recipes. Who would have guessed? I have been cooking my way from cover to cover, and have not yet found a bad recipe. Here's the website. The book is in stores everywhere.

I made this satisfying creamy tomato soup a couple of weeks ago. It's thickened with cashews, soaked overnight then blenderized to creaminess. The roasted chickpeas add a spicy-delicious crunch on top. It's just very, very yummy. Even if you are not a soup person, I bet you will like this soup. In person it is more beautiful than in this photograph. But you get the idea.

I will be restarting the Big Bowl blog, taking time to capture some of the yumminess that I cook up in my kitchen, and the love that I have for my family, and my love for food and for cooking it.

To Fiona - look! The bowl lives! Everything I serve in it is extra delicious because it is the bowl you made for me. To the World - take time to enjoy whole food, made with love, served in a way that pleases your senses.

The Big Bowl is back.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

no spiders were harmed in the making of this soup

My friend Linda and I have decided to have a Soup-Off at work this fall. We are taking turns, each Wednesday, to bring a home-made soup in to share at lunchtime. Whoever doesn't make soup that week has to bring two buns. Those are the rules.

For my first soup, a couple of weeks ago, I made The Pioneer Woman's Italian Meatball Soup. It was pretty yummy. The next week, Linda made Turkey Vegetable Soup, which was delicious! Last week it was my turn again. I had some of those wonderful organic carrots left, so I made Winter Warm Up. The recipe was published in The Vancouver Sun about 20 years ago. I have kept the newspaper clipping in a photo album of similarly clipped recipes. I make it 2 or 3 times every winter, it's such an old favourite at our house.

Before I get to the soup, I want to tell you about the spider.

It's spider season just now. There are webs everywhere, with all kinds of interesting looking spiders living in them. You have to watch where you walk when you go outdoors or you will be snagged with web, and perhaps carry a spider away with you. I have been watching this gorgeous spider for a few days. She lives on one end of our porch, near the rosemary plant (seen at the extreme left of the photo). It's pretty easy to avoid her web in daylight. You just look for the lowest strands and duck under. My challenge was that I made my Winter Warm Up Soup at about 6 in the morning last Wednesday, when it was still quite dark outside. The recipe calls for rosemary, and fresh is best. I turned on the porch light and looked outside. I could see Madam Spider, but it was just too dim to make out the path of the web. So I crawled along the porch floor, hoping I was low enough. When I got to the very edge of the porch, where the rosemary pot sits on the railing, I stood up, snipped off some rosemary, then dropped down and crawled back beneath the spider and her web. When I got back to the doorway I turned around to look. Phew! The spider was still there. I knew that if she was not still suspended above the porch, then she would be somewhere on me - in my hair, or on my pajamas. Did I mention I was cooking carrot soup in my pajamas? Oh well. Fortunately I was not giving that particular spider a ride that dark morning. It's possible I snagged another spider on my way, quite unknowingly, but probably not. I went back inside and added the rosemary to the soup. At lunchtime, Linda and I enjoyed it very much. I downplayed the spider part when I told her about making the soup. Linda really doesn't like spiders.

Anyway, here is the soup:

The recipe says to garnish it with crumbled bleu cheese, which is really, really, yummy. I didn't have any at home, so this is an ungarnished bowl, which is also really, really, yummy. Here's my adaptation of the recipe from the newspaper so many years ago:

(Spider Friendly) Winter Warm Up Soup

1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
6 large carrots, peeled and dice (or not peeled -just scrubbed- if they are really great carrots)
2 large onions, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
dash each tabasco, worcestershire and soy sauce
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary - mind the spiders!
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
crumbled bleu cheese or feta or some plain yogurt

Melt the butter. Add the two oils. Saute the carrots, onion and potato in your big stock pot, for about 10 minutes, until they are softened, but not browned. Stir in the herbs and spices and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the dashes of sauces and the stock. Stir it all up. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour until the veggies are all really soft. Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the soup until it's smooth. Stir in the whipping cream. Serve and garnish with crumbled cheese or just a blob of yogurt.

This is a simple but very warming and filling soup, thanks to the earthiness of the vegetables, and the warmth of the spices.

The recipe makes about 12 cups of soup, so share it.

While you are gathering food or walking outdoors, be kind to spiders, and grateful for the good work they do, capturing and eating all kinds of insects. Where do you think all of the fruit flies go at the end of the summer? Yup, spider chow! When you come inside, if you see a spider, kindly escort it out to your porch or front walkway. Then go inside and make some really good soup.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

wheat berries and Brussels sprouts without the sprouts

I have never been a fan of the English feast, nor the American TV dinner. Food that is compartmentalized, with protein blob here, veggie blog here, starchy blob there has never really appealed to me. My favourite foods are mixed-up combinations of bits of protein, veggies and grains. These foods are perfectly suited to the big bowl. They also fit the way I live. Whenever I have time, I love to take time to prepare and cook food. If I'm busy the next day, I can coast on leftovers, and I enjoy the absolutely best lunches of anyone at work. It's also a good thing, having food in the fridge for my husband and son to reheat whenever their schedules don't match mine.

When my friend Sue shared a link to a cooking blog called Oh My Veggies, I was delighted to find lots of recipes that I can't wait to try. This one appealed to me especially. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Brussels sprouts at the veggie store or the grocery store. What is that about? I know they are a favourite Thanksgiving vegetable, so maybe it's a bit early? But they are wonderful any time, and I know they are grown in the late summer.

I was disappointed, but not defeated. I roamed around the veggie store and bought a butternut squash because it tastes good in just about everything. I also picked up some crimini mushrooms (for the same reason). Then a lady at work gave me a big bag of muddy but radiant organic home-grown carrots. I put them together with some kale and beet greens and some cherry tomatoes that I already had at home, and decided this:

squash + mushrooms + greens + carrots + tomatoes = Brussels sprouts

Do not ask me to prove this equation. Just try the recipe. I think you will discover that it's good with just about any veggie combination. Here's a picture of how it turned out in my kitchen:

The lemon juice and lemon zest in the dressing make it really, especially good. Alex loved it so much he filled his bowl up twice.

When you are cooking, don't be discouraged if you are missing an ingredient. Improvise, take a risk. You will likely make a delicious new discovery. I am glad I did. And I can't wait to try it with Brussels sprouts!

Fill your bowl with what you find beautiful and delicious around you today.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

roots, leaves and legumes - the new sticks and twigs

I remember, when I was a little girl, I used to laugh at TV advertisements for Grape Nuts Cereal. There was this author named Euell Gibbons who most famously said, "Did you know you can eat a pine tree? Most parts are edible." I couldn't find that ad online but here's another classic. Whenever I cook something that is full of really healthy ingredients, I can hear an echo of Euell Gibbons saying, "Its naturally delicious taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts."

That's what I thought about a recipe in the Whitewater Cooks with Friends Cookbook for Quinoa, Chickpea and Roasted Yam Salad. Doesn't that just sound too nutritious to possibly taste good? WRONG! If Euell Gibbons was still alive, I am sure he would be extolling the virtues of this recipe.

AND it is really delicious.

I won't copy a published recipe into my blog, so you'll have to go buy the book. Buy it! This is just one of dozens of scrumptious, and coincidentally healthy, recipes. Much better than a pine tree, and not even vaguely reminiscent of wild hickory nuts.

Gather sticks, twigs and berries. Make something yummy. Remember Euell.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

tastes like home

I took a week's vacation with my parents recently. We stayed in a nice hotel, with one of those big breakfast rooms with a hot breakfast provided: pastries, eggs, sausages, make-your-own-waffles... The only thing wrong with it was the porridge. They had those packs of instant oatmeal that you mix with hot milk or water. It looked like porridge but it didn't taste like the porridge I love.

One morning, instead of having breakfast at the hotel, we went out to a fancy brunch place. They had french toast, omelets, eggs benny... Guess what I ordered?

Yup! and guess what my Dad ordered? YUP! They had steel cut oatmeal, cooked properly. It was like heaven to eat this delicious, substantial, and nourishing bowl. I make it at home all the time. At the brunch place, I opted for grilled bananas on top, which was rather fancy and quite delicious. At home, I throw in a handful of dried cranberries and mix them through. My favourite topping is unsweetened coconut, toasted pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. I don't put milk or cream on my oatmeal. If I want to be really decadent, I put a wee bit of real butter right into the middle of the bowl and slowly discover its buttery goodness as I eat. Most days though, it's just the oats and the crunchy, nutty toppings and sweet berries inside.

Here's the recipe:

Steel Cut Oat Porridge

1/2 cup steel cut oats (the real kind, not quick-cooking)
just a little less than 2 cups cold water
slim little pinch of salt
small handful of dried cranberries
unsweetened coconut
toasted pumpkin seeds
chia seeds

Put the oats and the water into a bigger saucepan than you think. This stuff likes to boil over. Throw in the salt. Turn the heat onto high and bring it to a boil with the lid off. Turn the heat down and stir the porridge. When you are really, truly sure that it has settled down, you can put a lid on, just a bit askew because it's less likely to boil over if the steam can escape. Cook it over low heat, so it's just bubbling lightly, for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. It's done when the oats are mostly tender, and most of the liquid has absorbed into the porridge. Throw in the cranberries and take the pot away from the heat. Plop the lid on tightly and let it sit, off the heat, for 5 minutes. This gives the cranberries time to plump, and somehow counteracts the tendency of the porridge to stick to the bottom of the pot, so it's much easier to scoop the porridge out, and easier to clean the pot after breakfast. Serve the porridge up into a bowl and top it with the coconut, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. Pour on cream or milk if you prefer it that way. Do that thing with the butter if you are feeling buttery.

This makes one generous serving, or 2 dainty servings. To make porridge for more people, just scale it up.

Wherever you are, try to find a taste of home. If you are home, take the time to cook real things for yourself. Nothing much good comes out of a small paper package. The real porridge will always be worth the wait.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

when I cook just for myself...

I like to cook varied and nutritious meals, and don't like to be in a rut. I feel fortunate that my family eats all kinds of food. There are a few exceptions to this rule of course - foods that I love, but nobody else will eat.

Eggplant and tofu are on the list of "exceptions." I think both of these foods are delicious, and get a bad rap from people who may not even have tasted them before pronouncing them inedible. Luckily, one of my favourite dishes makes use of both tofu and eggplant, and it's super easy to fix. So while my husband and son were both out on Saturday night, I prepared this delicious meal:

Sauteed Eggplant and Tofu with Sweet Chili Sauce

1 pound medium firm tofu - cut into small cubes
1 Japanese eggplant - cut into 1/4 inch slices, then halve the slices to make half-moons
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves fresh garlic, also minced
vegetable oil
soy sauce
sweet chili sauce

In a non-stick frying pan, saute the tofu with a bit of oil, until it is golden brown and crisp on the outside. Set it aside. Saute the garlic and ginger briefly, in the pan that you used for the tofu, then add the eggplant slices. Cook until the eggplant softens. You may add a few sprinkles of water to make a bit of steam to help the cooking. When the eggplant is cooked (about 5 minutes), add the tofu. Season with a couple of splashes of soy sauce and enough sweet chili sauce to coat everything lightly.

Serve with brown rice, because not everybody prefers brown rice, but maybe you do!

You know the nice thing about cooking something that nobody else wants to eat? You get the leftovers all to yourself!

Remember to cook the things that you enjoy. Cooking for yourself is a good thing.