Banh Mi Sandwich

Here I go again! Posting on my blog! Four times in less than two weeks! I’m realizing that the more I post, the easier it is. I get into a kind of routine – make delicious food, take pictures of food, upload pics to WordPress, begin a draft, finish draft, hit publish! Done! Of course, more frequent posts means poorer quality pictures because I don’t take the time to set up. I’m often eating the food while taking photos! Or I don’t want the food to get cold while I take pictures. Or the food is so delicious that I have to quickly snap off a few pics before we eat it all! Anyway, I’m pleased with myself and my blogging frenzy and I hope you are finding some recipes, and maybe some pictures that please you!

Today, I’m writing about a Banh Mi sandwich that I made for supper tonight. The inspiration came from Blissful Basil blog and the Shitake Banh Mi Tacos posted there yesterday. I really liked the sound of the pickled vegetables and the Sriracha cashew mayo, and, of course, I liked the idea of mushrooms replacing the traditional meat in this sandwich. I have never eaten, let alone made, a Banh Mi sandwich before so I was kind of excited to be finally trying one! Once I started making my sandwiches,  however, I realized that I’ve actually made this sort of thing before. Last summer, my son and I made sandwiches for everyone (7 people) when we were all staying in a cabin on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I was the only vegan there so while my son was filling up buns with a variety of sliced sausages and cheese, I filled my Hoagie roll with leftover marinated baked tofu and leftover grilled zucchini and eggplant. It was delicious! I keep meaning to recreate that sandwich, take pictures and write a blog post about it, but it just hasn’t happened … yet! In the meantime, try out this vegan Banh Mi sandwich.

Mushroom and Zucchini Banh Mi Sandwich with Sriracha Cashew Mayo and Pickled Vegetables

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Sriracha Cashew Mayo

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1/2 cup cashews

1/4 – 1/2 cup water

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsps. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. sriracha sauce

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

Soak the cashews overnight or soak them for an hour or more in boiling water. Throw all the ingredients (use 1/4 cup of water to start with) into a blender and blend for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add a bit more water if needed and blend for another 3 minutes. If you use the full 1/2 cup of water, you will have more of a sauce than a mayo so if you want it thicker, use less water.

Pickled Vegetables

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1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 daikon radish, cut into matchsticks

1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tbsp. maple syrup

1/4 tsp salt

Put everything into a mason jar, shake and swirl for 15 seconds, then put in the fridge until you’re ready to make the sandwiches. (PS – all the vegetables came from my CSA box)!

Mushrooms and Zucchini

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1 1/2 tbsps. maple syrup

1 tbsp. tamari

1 tbsp. chile-garlic sauce

1/2 tsp rice vinegar

10 – 15 shitake mushrooms, sliced in 2 or 3 pieces

10 – 15 cremini mushrooms, sliced in 2 or 3 pieces

6 thinnish slices of zucchini

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and set aside. Toss the mushrooms into a hot pan (heat the pan over high heat for a minute before adding the mushrooms), turn the heat down to medium-high and dry cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn. Let the mushrooms release their liquid and let the liquid start to evaporate a bit. Add the marinade and continue cooking to let the liquid evaporate a bit. Turn off the heat. Brush some of the mushroom marinade onto both sides of the zucchini slices. Put the zucchini under the broiler for 3 minutes, flip and broil for another 3 minutes. Slip the zucchini slices into the pan with the mushrooms.

Assembly

French bread

cucumber, cut into thin slices

Cut the loaf of bread in thirds, crossways. Cut each section in half lengthwise. This will make 3 sandwiches. For each sandwich, open up the bread and pick out some clumps of bread in order to make a hollow on both sides. Spread both sides of the bread with the Sriracha Cashew Mayo. Fill the hollows in the bread with a scoop of mushrooms, 2 slices of zucchini, 2 slices of cucumber, a scoop of pickled vegetables. Put the bread halves together and eat! This is a messy sandwich so have a napkin standing by. This sandwich would be good with some of that Asian Slaw I made last week!

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July 20 – I made a scrumptious salad from the leftovers of this Banh Mi sandwich! I tore up a few leaves of lettuce, quartered some grape tomatoes, and sprinkled in a handful of chickpeas. Then I added in some leftover pickled vegetables and the leftover mushrooms and zucchini. I topped it all with a generous serving of the leftover Sriracha Cashew Mayo. Very yum!

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Dinner Party Extrodinaire!

“Tom” and I just finished hosting a great dinner party. It was such a relief to get this party going because it was prefaced by organizational challenges – procrastination, rescheduling, commitment, on again, off again. Usually our little gang of dinner partyers has our dinners scheduled ahead of time, but not this time for some reason. Funny thing is I’ve had the menu planned for months! So once we nailed down a date, I was raring to go! Here is the menu:

Cauliflower Ceviche *

Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad with Cilantro Cashew Cream *

Slow Cooker Refried Beans *

Chocolate Mousse – Strawberry-Cherry Parfaits *

fresh fruit (watermelon and cherries)

* see below for recipes

You can find the recipes for the Taco Salad and the Chocolate Mousse on my blog – see links above.

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Cauliflower Ceviche

(adapted from Dora’s Table’s Cauliflower Ceviche)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1 cup of diced tomatoes

1 cup of peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber

1/2 Serrano pepper, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp (or more) salt

Put the cauliflower florets into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into a big bowl of cold water. When cool, chop finely. (I threw the cauliflower into my mini-food processor to chop). Put all the chopped vegetables in a big bowl, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt and mix together. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes. We ate this with tortilla chips and alongside the taco salad as a kind of salsa.

This was the first time I made this dish. It was pretty good and was well received, but I think the next time I make it I will take it up a notch. I only put 1/2 a Serrano pepper in because I wanted to be careful about the heat, but I could easily have put the whole thing in. (You just never know with peppers … you can get a super fiery one or a fairly mild one)! Also, the dish needs more lime juice or vinegar or something to up the tangy taste. This will make the dish more liquidy, but after marinating, the ceviche could be transferred to another bowl leaving the excess liquid behind.

Cilantro Cashew Cream (This stuff is crazy delicious!)

(adapted from Oh She Glows’ Cilantro Lime Garlic Cashew Sauce)

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3/4 cup cashews, soaked overnight

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tbsps. fresh lime juice (the juice of 1 whole lime)

2 tbsps. avocado

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup water

Drain the soaking water from the cashews. Through everything into the blender and blend for 2 or 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides and blend for another 2 or 3 minutes. (Unless you have a high powered blender then you can blend it until smooth in 2 minutes).

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Slow Cooker Refried Beans

(my own recipe)

image2 cups dry pinto beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained

1 small onion, diced

4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp hickory black pepper, if you have it, otherwise use plain black pepper

1 tsp chipotle paste (I make paste by throwing a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce through the blender, then I store the paste in a jar in the fridge)

5 cups vegetable broth

Throw everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 hours. Turn to low, coarsely mash the beans in the pot with a potato masher, and keep warm in the slow cooker until ready to use. I stirred a tsp of hickory smoked salt in just before serving. (The refried beans will probably be a bit runny. When they cool down, they thicken up. You can also reduce the liquid in the slow cooker by 1/2.)

Strawberry-Cherry Parfaits

(makes 5 servings)

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1 recipe chocolate mousse

2 cups strawberries

2 cups halved, pitted cherries

2 tbsp maple syrup

5 cherries with stem attached

Make the chocolate mousse ahead of time and leave in fridge to set for a few hours. Put the strawberries in a small saucepan over medium to low heat and add the maple syrup. Bring to low boil then let simmer for 30 minutes. Put the cherries in a small saucepan and heat over medium to low heat. Bring to low boil and let simmer for 20 minutes.

In parfait glasses (I don’t have parfait glasses so I used wine glasses), begin the layering process. Set out the glasses, and put a layer of chocolate mousse in each. Then put in a layer of strawberry compote, another layer of chocolate mousse, then a layer of cherry compote, and finish with a layer of chocolate mousse. Of course, you need to put a cherry on top!

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Looks like a mess when it’s all on the plate, but don’t let that fool you! It was all dee-licious!

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Vegan Queso

I feel like the Cat in the Hat!

Why?

Because the Cat in the Hat says, “Look at me! Look at me now! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how!”

And that’s what I’m saying right now! Look at me! Look at me now! I’m posting on my blog for the second day in a row!

(Of course, when the Cat in the Hat said it, he was balancing a cup and some cake and some books and a fish and lots of other things!)

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So, yeah, I’m posting another recipe today. This one is for vegan queso. You know, I’d never heard of queso until I became a vegan! Until I started reading and subscribing to other food blogs. Since then I’ve learned that Americans (that is, people from the U.S. of America) really like queso! Even vegans! Traditional queso is a cheese sauce, so creative vegan queso lovers have invented all kinds of cheeseless queso recipes. While I was looking for a Mexican flavoured appetizer to kick off a dinner party that I’m about to host, I came across this interesting take on queso on Minimalist Baker (http://minimalistbaker.com/cashew-less-vegan-queso/).

I made this queso tonight and I thought it was really tasty. I just ate some with tortilla chips, but I’m thinking of using it to make nachos – chips on a pan, a layer of queso, a layer of diced tomatoes, green onions, black olives, jalapenos, repeat layers, broil lightly, eat. I’m also wondering if I could use it for a pasta sauce.

Vegan Queso

(slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker’s Cashew-Less Vegan Queso)

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about 1/2 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds (Unusual ingredient, that’s for sure! Whether you like or don’t like eggplant, you’ll really like this queso! I know because I taste tested it on an eggplant hater!)

salt

olive oil

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

3 tbsps. nutritional yeast

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 + 1 tsp cornstarch

Sprinkle the eggplant rounds on both sides with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water, pat dry and lay out on a lightly greased baking pan. Brush a little olive oil on the eggplant rounds. Broil on high close to the top of the oven for about 4 minutes, then flip and broil for another 4 minutes. Don’t let the eggplant burn. Broil to a golden-brown colour. Transfer rounds to some foil, loosely wrap and let steam for a couple of minutes. Peel off the eggplant skin. The broiled, skinned eggplant rounds, packed into a 1 cup measuring cup, should fill the cup.

Put the eggplant rounds, milk, yeast, garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and 2 tsps. cornstarch into a blender and blend on high for 2 to 5 minutes (depending on how powerful your blender is) until smooth and creamy.

Transfer to a saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring slowly. It will start to thicken and bubble (watch out for those bubbles!). If it doesn’t seem thick enough after 3+ minutes, mix the remaining 1 tsp of cornstarch with a splash of almond milk and a couple of tbsps. of the queso until smooth then stir into the saucepan. Keep cooking and stirring until thick.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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Next time I make this, I will roast the eggplant whole, then scrape out the inside to fill 1 cup .

The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of drained salsa to stir into the queso after it has been heated and thickened. I didn’t do this because I wanted to serve the salsa alongside the queso.

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Asian Slaw and Roast Veg

I can’t believe I haven’t posted here since February! What’s the matter with me? I know I had lots of ideas for posts. I took a few pictures of meals that I considered posting … like my first ever batch of gnocchi and a black bean-farro burger. I’ve been eating lots of meals that I’ve already posted on Mostly Vegan which, I suppose, reinforces that they were (are) good recipes! Well, today, I’m going to post recipes for the meal I made for supper tonight. It’s not extra special, but it’s tasty. I wanted to use up some vegetables from my CSA box and here’s what I came up with.

Asian Slaw

(adapted from Scaling Back’s Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing)

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1/2 small green cabbage, finely sliced

1/2 Napa cabbage, finely sliced

1 large carrot, julienned

handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped

2 tbsps. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. tamari

1 tsp honey (or agave nectar)

1-2 cloves, garlic, finely minced

handful of peanuts, chopped

Toss the cabbage, carrot and cilantro together in a big bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together then pour over the cabbage and toss. When serving, sprinkle on the peanuts.

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Roast Vegetables with Miso-Tahini Sauce

(adapted from Dishing Up the Dirt’s Bok Choy Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing)

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3 beets, peeled, chopped into 1 inch cubes

2 potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1 inch cubes

1/2 onion, chopped in 3 pieces

2 patty pan squash, chopped into 1 inch cubes

3 carrots, chopped into pieces the same size as other veg

(You can use whatever combination of vegetables you want and you have on hand. I used these vegetables because they were what I had leftover from last week’s CSA box.)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsps. white miso

1/4 cup tahini

2 tsps. honey (or agave nectar)

1 1/2 tbsps. rice vinegar

1/4 cup warm water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Toss the vegetables with the oil, arrange on a large roasting pan, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Flip the vegetables around on the pan and roast for another 10 minutes.

Put the dressing ingredients (miso, tahini, honey, vinegar, water, lemon juice) into a 2 cup measuring cup and whisk together using an immersion blender.

Dish up the vegetables into a big bowl (serve on top of some short grain brown rice or other grain if you want), drizzle with the Miso-Tahini Sauce. Spoon a generous serving of the Asian Slaw into the bowl as well.

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Yummy Breakfast Bowl

I’ve been wanting to write a post about bowls for some time. You know bowls … a big bowl of plant-based foods. The bowl concept has been around for a long time and was once the perview of hippies and crack-pot vegetarians. These days anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan or is trying to diminish their meat intake is getting into bowls. You can find them all over Pinterest and food blogs. But just because folks are creating them, photographing them and posting them on social media doesn’t mean they aren’t, when it comes right down to it, simple and easy and delicious and economical. You don’t need any fancy equipment or need to know any fancy cooking techniques. All you need to know is that a bowl generally consists of four elements:

  • a grain

  • a green

  • a bean/plant protein

  • a sauce

Knowing this, the world of bowls is wide open to you! To help get you started, and to get a quick post about bowls sent off (I intend to go more in depth at another time), here’s a bowl I made for my brunch today.

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This is a Mexican inspired bowl. Here’s how I made it:

  • 2 small potatoes, peeled (or not), cut in large dice (this would be the “grain” portion of the bowl)

  • 1 tsp coconut oil, melted

  • 2 large handfuls of spinach (this would be the “green” portion of the bowl)

  • 1 can of your favourite black beans (I used Rosarita Premium Seasoned Whole Black Beans – purchased in the States – I haven’t been able to find them in Vancouver) (this would be the “bean/plant protein” portion of the bowl)

  • 1 tomato, diced

  • 1/2 cup of your favourite salsa (I used Herdez) (this would be the “sauce” portion of the bowl)

  • 1/2 to 1 whole avocado, diced

  • sprinkle of salt (I used Chipotle salt from the Salt Dispensary) – optional

Toss the potatoes in the coconut oil, then roast in a 395 degree oven for 5 minutes or so, toss, roast for a further 5 minutes or so. Turn off the oven. Sprinkle the spinach over the potatoes right on the pan, put a cover on and return to the oven for 5 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt a bit. Heat the black beans in a pot on the stove until warmed through. Assemble the bowl by arranging the potato/spinach mixture on one side, a large scoop of beans beside, the tomatoes beside, the salsa beside, the avocado beside, so that everything is in the bowl, but in their separate piles. Sprinkle on the salt if using. I like to eat my bowls by stirring everything gently together, but some folks are extremely opposed to this kind of food touching business (cough-Susan-cough) so just eat it any way you like!

PS – You might notice there is no avocado in the bowl in the photo. I, sadly, was out of avocado when I made this, but would definitely have used avocado if I’d had one available so make sure you do!

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Valentine’s Day 2016 – Pizza and Roasted Vegetable Hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

“Tom” and I created another lovely Valentine’s Day supper to share with each other. This year we decided to stay with the heart theme dominated by red and white. We made heart shaped Margherita pizza with roasted heart shaped beets and potatoes.

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Margherita Pizza

individual pizza shells (store bought or make your own)

spicy tomato sauce such as Arribiata or Marinara (store bought or make your own)

cheezy cashew sauce *

vegan pesto **

1 or 2 tomatoes

3 large leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded

If making this for Valentine’s Day, cut the pizza shells into heart shapes. Otherwise, leave as is. Spread a bit of spicy tomato sauce onto the pizza shells. Put dollops of cashew sauce all over the pizza, then dollops of pesto in between the cashew sauce. Arrange thinly sliced tomatoes (I used 3 slices for each individual pizza). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. After removing from the oven, add a few strips of fresh basil to each pizza.

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Before baking, all ready to go in the oven.

*  Cheezy Cashew Sauce

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours

3/4 tsp garlic powder

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup water (or more)

1/8 tsp salt

a few grinds of black pepper

dash of cayenne

1/8 tsp dried basil

1/8 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp nutritional yeast

Put everything in a blender and blend for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed and adding a bit more water as needed. The consistency needs to be thickish so be careful about the addition of water.

** Pesto

1 avocado

1/4 cup vegetable broth

7 fresh basil leaves (approx.)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp white wine vinegar

Put everything in a mini food processor or blender and blend until well combined.

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After baking, with a little bit of fresh basil added on top.

 

Roasted Heart Shaped Vegetables

2 beets, peeled

2 largish, round potatoes, peeled

1 tsp vegetable oil

Cut the beets and potatoes into slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the slices into heart shapes with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Toss the vegies in the oil, arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then flip the hearts and bake for another 5 minutes until lightly browned on each side.

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Check out these lovely striped beet hearts cut from Chioggia beets.

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Oh, and we ended our meal with more hearts … watermelon hearts! And chocolate of course!

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Healing Foods to Start Your Day – Porridge and a Smoothie

I’m just coming out the other end of emergency surgery, a short stay in hospital, and some recovery time at home. Although I still have a few weeks before being able to resume my normal activity level, I’m recovering and healing nicely and look forward to being back at work soon. This experience has left me even more convinced of the importance of food and diet in good health and in the promotion of healing. I mean, look at what I was served in hospital:

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This is “Tofu Adobo” and “California Vegetables” and white rice with Cranberry Cocktail to wash it all down.

Thank goodness they sent me home shortly after my surgery and thank goodness I had “Tom” around to bring me in some decent food while I was in hospital. I don’t really understand why hospitals cannot do a better job in their food selections and preparations. The two breakfast items I am featuring today would not be difficult to provide in a hospital. Yes, it would be a little more expensive to make, but the benefits to the patients would far outweigh those costs. In fact, spending a bit more thought, time, energy and money on decent food in hospitals would improve patients’ health and so lessen their time in hospital. And that, in turn, would bring down costs.

Anyway, when I got home from hospital, I wasn’t up to much for the first few days, but cooking up a pot of porridge or blending up a smoothie was easy enough. These two meals are so full of healthy goodness I could almost feel the healing happening in my body! Here’s what I  made:

Super Foods Smoothie

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1 banana, coarsely chopped

1/2 orange, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 apple, peeled or not depending on the power of your blender, coarsely chopped

handful of spinach

1 large Romaine (or other) lettuce leaf, torn into pieces

2 or 3 small inside stalks kale, stalks removed, torn into pieces

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. hemp hearts

1/2 tsp chlorella powder

1/2 tsp vegetable based B-Complex powder

1 tbsp. Saskatoon berry syrup (or other kind of sweetener) – I add this to mask the flavour of the chlorella powder

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup or more almond milk

Throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth. Serves one.

Berry Delicious Porridge

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2/3 cup water

1/3 cup organic large flake rolled oats

5 or 6 strawberries (I use frozen strawberries … organic strawberries that were picked in the summer then frozen)

1/4 cup (maybe a bit less) Saskatoon berries (or blueberries) (again, picked in the summer and then frozen)

1/2 apple, peeled, diced

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. hemp hearts

1 tbsp. maple syrup

a few walnuts, broken into pieces

almond milk

Bring the water to a boil, then add the oats, berries, apple, seeds and syrup. Let simmer gently until thick. Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle on the walnuts and add as much milk as you like. Mmmmmm!

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Dill Pickle Chip Dip

I’ve probably  mentioned it a time or two on this blog, but I’ll say it again … I LOVE POTATO CHIPS! Have you noticed at this time of year, potato chips are on sale? You can’t afford to not buy them when they’re such a deal! So, of course, I have chips in the cupboard. Actually, they’re on the table right now. Right beside the computer while I type this. Open bag. Testing the recipe while I type!

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Earlier today, I thought I might like to have a potato chip snack and I started reminiscing about potato chip dips. The ones that we only had at Christmas time. The ones full of dairy! Well, I wanted a dip, a vegan dip, to go with my chips, darn it, so I just … made one! Here it is:

Dill Pickle Chip Dip

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1/2 cup organic, raw cashews

2 dill pickles

2 to 3 tbsps. dill pickle juice

1 tsp onion powder

Soak the cashews for several hours (or if you’re in a hurry like I was, soak them in boiling hot water for 20 minutes). Chop up the pickles, reserve about a tbsp. for garnish. Throw the drained cashews, pickles, 2 tbsps. pickle juice and onion powder into a blender and blend for about 2 minutes. If you need a bit more liquid, add in the extra tbsp. of pickle juice. Continue to blend for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour into a bowl, garnish with the reserved chopped pickle and eat with your favourite potato chips.

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Here’s the dip chillin’ in the fridge just after I made it.

 

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Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup

The food blogging world has gone crazy for pumpkin! It happens every fall. Recipes for everything from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin falafel and beyond are coming into my in box. I haven’t joined the furor over pumpkin, but I have come across a recipe or two that has peaked my interest. This pumpkin soup for instance. Now, this soup recipe started out as this one from Dishing Up the Dirt. I was intrigued because the recipe called for preparing the pumpkins out of real pumpkins, rather than from a can or from frozen. I’d never actually done this before. So, I picked up a couple of pumpkin pie pumpkins from the market

Sugar Pie Pumpkin

Not my photo! Borrowed from peacefultable.net.

and set about roasting and prepping these pumpkins for some yummy soup. It wasn’t until I got right into the recipe that I realized I didn’t like the spices called for in the original recipe. I know I should have read the recipe over first, but I assumed it was a Thai flavoured recipe. So, I changed spices in mid-recipe and came up with this beauty:

Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup

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2 pumpkin pie pumpkins (or sugar pie pumpkins)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. red curry paste

2 cups vegetable broth

1 can light coconut milk

1 large handful of cilantro, finely chopped

a few sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped

pumpkin seeds

Wash the outside of the pumpkins, chop in half, coat the cut sides with a bit of veg oil, place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. The baking time may take longer or shorter depending on the size or your pumpkins. The pumpkins should be nice and soft when done. Pull them out of the oven and set aside to cool for a bit.

In the meantime, melt the coconut oil in a big pot over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and saute for several minutes until onions become translucent – you  may need to add a bit of water or veg broth to prevent sticking. Add in the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes more. Turn the heat down a bit and add the red curry paste. You will need to stir and mash the paste to incorporate it into the onions/garlic.

Back to the pumpkins … scoop out the now soft and tender flesh and add to the pot, stirring everything together. The pumpkin flesh will puree itself as you stir everything together. Add the vegetable broth and stir well. If you like you soup nicely pureed and smooth, then put an immersion blender in the pot and give it a whirl. I left the soup as is because “Tom” and I like the little bit of pumpkin flesh nibbles in the soup.

Stir in the coconut milk and finely chopped cilantro over low heat, and stir until heated through.

Serve garnished with a bit of cilantro and a few pumpkin seeds on top of each bowl of soup.

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Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad

Okay, I’m posting on Thanksgiving Day (Canada), but I’d better warn you that this isn’t a Thanksgiving dinner recipe … it’s a recipe that carries a lot of thanks though! I’m so thankful that I came across this yummy recipe and I’m sharing it with you to give you thanks for reading my blog! See, it is about Thanksgiving after all!

I’ve been dying to share this Mexican dish with you for ages. This recipe was inspired by Oh My Veggies The Ultimate Vegan Taco Salad. I have made this countless times – for a family dinner party, for friends, many times just for “Tom” and I, each time a bit different and each time delicious. I’m a big fan of Mexican food and I love to find ways to spice up different combinations of plant based foods to give it a south-of-the-border (south of the USA border, that is, not south of the Canada border) taste. See my menu for a Mexican Fiesta for other Mexi taste treats.

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The original premise was to replace taco meat with something that resembles ground meat in both taste and look, but is not meat. The original recipe calls for farro to serve this purpose. Spice it up a lot and serve it with lots of fresh vegetables and beans and you’ve got a vegan taco salad. Well, I’ve made this with farro, with spelt, with short-grained brown rice, with potato cubes. I’ve used black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, refried beans. I usually leave out the tortilla chips, sometimes serve them on the side and occasionally crumble them on top. Anyway, the variations are endless and hinge on the ingredients on hand, time, purpose and food craving of the moment! So here is the basic recipe followed by my variations/additions:

Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad

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1 cup farro, cooked *

1/2 cup mild salsa (I use Herdez)

2 tsps chili powder

2 tsps ground cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

salt to taste

1 head iceberg lettuce (or Romaine lettuce), shredded

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped, or several grape tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans **

1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen and thawed)

2 avocados

juice of 1/2 lime

2 tsps finely minced garlic

1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

optional – crushed tortilla chips

salsa

Cook your farro in a rice cooker using 3 cups of water to one cup of  farro. Once cooked, stir in the salsa, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne and salt. You can stir everything together right in the rice cooker. If you are cooking the farro in a pot, once the water has been absorbed and the grain is soft, stir everything straight into the pot with the farro.

Make the guacamole by scooping out the insides of the avocados into a bowl, adding in the lime juice and garlic and mashing everything together.

Assemble the salad by laying down all the lettuce on a platter. Sprinkle on the tomatoes, then the black beans, then the corn. Spread the guacamole over top (or dollop it on all over as it’s kind of hard to spread). Finally, spoon the farro all over the platter. If you want, you can sprinkle on the green onions, cilantro and crushed chips or you can serve them all on the side for diners to add to their plates/bowls as they want.

* instead of farro you can use spelt, wheat berries or short grain brown rice. You can even use potatoes – chop about 4 potatoes into little cubes, toss with a bit of oil and roast in a single layer in the oven at 400 degrees; stir in the salsa and spices.

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** use 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed) or you can use your own homecooked beans. I cook our beans in a slow cooker on high for about 3 to 4 hours, drain, cool, dole out into freezer bags in 1 1/2 cup portions, freeze. Another option is to omit the black beans from the salad and serve some refried beans on the side. You could try this recipe for crock pot refried beans or just heat up a can of refrieds.

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