Sunday, July 15, 2012

Toronto Instagram Adventures

I had my first migraine in months this week and wow, was I annoyed. It wasn't a horrible migraine, as migraines go, but seeing as I'd gone most of my pregnancy without migraines, I was beginning to harbour a slight hope that pregnancy had cured me of this particular affliction. No such luck.

So instead of writing about this past weekend, which consisted of me being hot, cranky, migrainey, and watching about 7000 episodes of Bones on my laptop while lying in bed with the cat, I've decided to catch you all up on the trip I took to Toronto a few weeks ago.

train

 I took the train down to Toronto, and justified the expense of Via One with the rational that a) I'd be staying with friends and spending very little money while I was actually in the city and b) hey, did I mention I'm pregnant?

For the first time ever, my vegan meal request was lost in the ether, so I was somewhat out of luck with it came to my provided dinner on the trip. I wasn't too worried, given that I had snacks in my bag and I knew the meals always came with salads and bread. I started off with a club soda, and then enjoyed the marinated veg salad of zucchini, tomatoes, and portabellos and then ate a bunch of bread. I optimistically accepted the vegetarian dish that was on offer, some kind of pasta stuffed with cheese and covered in tomato sauce. I thought maybe I could eat around the cheese. Yeah. Not super easy in a dish like that. I gave up quickly and had a Probar to round out my meal then fell asleep listening to Superchunk on my iPhone.

Toronto

I was staying with my friends Nicole and Alex and their awesome little boy, Jacob, but they had work, work, and daycare on Friday, so I happily navigated the TTC streetcars and made my way to Sadie's Diner to meet up with my friend Marion, who I hadn't seen in years. She is nowhere near vegan, so I wasn't sure if she'd be enthusiastic about meeting me at a vegan diner/juice bar, but she was completely up for it and we had an epic breakfast and catch up session in the comforts of a booth by the window. I had a giant plate of pancakes and sausages and Marion had an (egg) omelet. We both had smoothies and tea and I was thoroughly stuffed when I took off to Silver Snail to do a bit of birthday shopping for the Man of Science before meeting The In-Laws of Science for yet more food at Fresh on Bloor.

I like cooking for Nicole and Alex when I'm staying with them, since they are very appreciative eaters. I made burritos for us the first night when Jake was out on the town, and then all four of us had dinner together the next night when Nicole and I prepared together. We made pasta with fresh pesto from their garden, mixed with avocado and tomato, plus a salad of greens, pears, toasted pecans, and a mustard vinaigrette.

I have to say here that this meal did a lot to dispel the doubts brought on by SO MANY PEOPLE saying things to me like, "Oh, you're never going to be able to keep cooking and eating the way you do after you have your baby! Kids don't like that kind of food! You'll be making him macaroni and cheese and eating processed meals over the sink!" Jake is almost three years old and he sat at the table with us and ate the same meal we did without complaint. He even made polite conversation while he was doing it. I'm not saying all kids are like that, but it gave me hope.

lunch

The next day my train didn't leave until the afternoon, so we were able to have brunch at a cute place called The Beet. I had a great vegan avocado and tomato sandwich and some potatoes. I also ordered a vegan smoothie to go when we were leaving, because the smoothie that the guy at the next table was having looked so good. The cafe was very vegan friendly and also kid-friendly in the kind of subtle way that doesn't automatically render it non-adult-friendly. It was a great way to finish my trip.

Well, okay, the Go Max Go bars I bought for my train ride home were a great way to finish my trip. But brunch was great, too.

J.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

No, You Just THINK You're At the Hasty Market in 1989: Watermelon Lime Slushie

Watermelon Slushie

My friend Meghan came over to visit this week and brought with her a seriously giant watermelon. It was so big and so round she had to clarify that the gift was not actually a comment on my current rotund pregnant condition. Just a happy coincidence, that part.

Fortunately, I have been eating watermelon on a near-daily basis since the weather warmed up, so the fruit was very much appreciated. The problem was, I'm the only one in the house who eats it*, so I was a bit flummoxed about how I could eat all that melon before it started to go off. After some consideration, I chopped the thing in half. Half of it got hacked into edible slices and stored in the fridge and the other half got frozen.

Watermelon Slushie

I looked up a lot of recipes using frozen watermelon and then pieced together this one of my own, which was amazingly refreshing and has the texture of the slushies I used to get at the corner store when I was a teenager. They came with spoon straws, freeze headaches, and sugar crashes. Wow, I loved them. Watermelon wasn't always a flavour option, but when it was, I was all over it.

This slushie didn't give me a freeze headache or a sugar crash, so I guess it wins. I used my food processor to make it instead of the blender because the frozen watermelon is really hard to blend. Even with the food processor, it took longer than I expected to get to prime slushie consistency, but if you try it just hang on, you'll get there eventually.

Watermelon Slushie

Watermelon Lime Slushie

3 cups frozen watermelon chunks**
juice from two limes
1/2 cup water or apple juice
2 tsp agave nectar

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high power blender and pulse to combine until the mixture reaches the desired texture.

Makes two medium sized slushies.

Watermelon Slushie

*With the exception of two of our dogs, Oreo and Catie, who psychotically love watermelon. For real. The other dog, Sacha, won't touch the stuff. When I try to give her a piece she lets it fall right out of her mouth onto the floor, where it is promptly snarfed up by one of the others.

**If you don't want to aggravate yourself while freezing watermelon, here's what you do: Cut the watermelon into 1/2 inch chunks and lay them all out (touching as little as possible) on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or a Silpat mat. Freeze. Then you should be able to release them from the cookie sheet quite easily by peeling up the parchment or mat. After that you can put them in a ziplock bag or freezer-proof container for storage. If you put them in the bag or container without the initial freeze, you'll end up with one giant hunk of frozen watermelon, which, if you don't want to use nineteen cups of watermelon in one recipe at once, can be frustrating.

J.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Vegan San Choy Bow

vegan san choy bow

 My parents (and my friends Megan and Dave) are deeply immersed in the current season of Masterchef Australia.  None of us are Australian, it's just a really good show. And it's on six nights a week, which is very exciting. I don't watch all the episodes, but I sit down in front of the TV every few days if it looks like they're cooking something interesting. One episode showed a professional chef cooking San Choy Bow which was something I'd never heard of before. But it looked delicious and summery. I goggled a bunch of recipes and it turns out that it is really easy to make, and super easy to veganize. Tofu, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo, green onions, seasonings, lettuce leaf. That's about it. Thanks, Masterchef.

J.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Tis the Season for Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Has anyone else noticed that it's been getting easier to cook delicious food lately? This happens every year and yet somehow I always forget about it. I spend all winter seasoning and salting and fattening up my slightly bland supermarket vegetables, only to have early summer come and suddenly do all the work for me. Food grown close to home that makes it to our plates as quickly as it can, just tastes better.

It's part of the reason I don't understand the minor backlash against eating local food that pops up now and again. I heard a radio panel on CBC last year where one chef was saying that he was so sick of the push for local, sustainable food that he fantasized about opening up a restaurant that specialized in food that had come from as far away as possible, and had caused the greatest amount of environmental impact while it was being produced.

Hilarious, right?  It baffled me. Regardless of political leanings, regardless of how easily you tire of trends, regardless of whether you think the environmental movement is a load of hooey, doesn't everyone want to eat food that tastes good?

Strawberry Rhubarb

So, here I am, still pregnant and getting pregnant-er by the day, craving desserts. And less able to eat huge amounts of food in one sitting because a) hearrrrrrtburrrrrrrrn, and b) less room in there. Also, I have less energy to spend hours in the kitchen making elaborate food. Therefore, if I am going to eat, I'd like the food to be simple and really delicious. No more fooling around.

I made this crumble for dessert last week using local rhubarb and local organic strawberries and boy, was it good. When I put it into the oven I started worrying because the recipe had been so simple. I wondered if the dessert would be too plain. Kind of "meh" if you will. I shouldn't have worried. It tasted as good as it looks in all these photos. Sweet and tart bubbly hot filling plus crunchy and sweet oat topping plus a scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream equals one perfect dessert. And maybe a little treat for breakfast the next day as well, if no one is looking.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

filling:

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch bits
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 heaping tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

topping:

1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine (or other vegan margarine)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all filling ingredients together in a small baking dish, as long as you have a few inches of room above the filling for the topping, you'll be fine.

Mix all topping ingredients together until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Spread evenly over the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes. You may have filling goo coming up over parts of the topping. This is not a problem at all, it makes it look charming and rustic. Check to make sure if the fruit is tender, then serve while still warm. With ice cream.

Serves four. This recipe could easily be doubled and done in a larger baking dish if you're expecting a crowd.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

J.