{Vegan} Asparagus and Sweet Pea Fettuccine Alfredo | With White Wine and Lemon

Our new house is proving to be the gift that gives on giving in the faulty appliance department. It started with the archaic beast of a cathode ray tube TV we dragged in from the shed when we first moved in; our initial plan was to put this relic to use until we could retrieve our flat screen from the storage locker. Evidently the years it spent mouldering out back proved to be too much for this already obsolete goggle box, for upon plugging it into the wall it began scrolling itself (!?) through various static-y channels before going completely dark, presumably forever. As we aren’t avid enough fans of TV to attempt to trouble shoot and repair such an ancient piece of technology, the next day it was dispatched to the local waste disposal station along with the teal wall-to-wall carpet ripped up from the bedroom floor.

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I won’t reiterate the problems we were having with our screwy toilet and besides, a toilet doesn’t really count as an appliance. I will mention briefly that those issues seemed to have resolved themselves, something which has had a surprisingly significant impact on my personal quality of life index; being able to flush and be done with the matter is pretty awesome! The next piece of appliance drama came in the form of a humongous ball of fluff – possibly years worth (seriously, I could have made a throw pillow out of it ) – extracted from the lint trap in the dryer. That’s it. The real drama played itself out in my brain, where the fluff ball caught ablaze and burned the whole house down while we slept. Morbid thoughts! My inner neurotic always has a field day with potential hazards.

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The most recent appliance debacle occurred just a couple days ago and nearly toppled my plans to make this moreish pasta dish. In the midst of reheating some food in the oven I noticed a few wisps of smoke rising from behind the stove. This wasn’t merely ‘burning food’ smoke (which would have freaked me out enough), but the far more menacing, hot and plastically, ‘electrical component failure’ variety. I switched off the oven and started panicking a little – not like the time flames leapt into the air when I threw a bunch of kale into a skillet containing overheated olive oil, that was out-and-out hysterics – but panicking enough. Mike (an electrician by trade, hallelujah) was summoned from the front lawn and was able to quickly ID the problem (something with one of the connections in the wiring) and fix it – and in so doing put an end to sinister thoughts of preparing this dish in the microwave.

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Alas, I’m back with yet another cashew cream sauce recipe. I can’t help it – the stuff is just so versatile and delish I want to throw it into everything these days! There’s a fun little game I’ve been playing with Mike – I call it ‘vegan bombing’ and it involves feeding him vegan dishes and seeing if he’s able to discern the absence of eggs and dairy products. My cashew cream recipes, I’m proud to report, ALWAYS pass the test! What’s more, they don’t leave you with that depressing ‘I just consumed my weight in butter and cream’ feeling with which conventional cream sauces probably leave you. I don’t know about you, but white wine alfredo sauce totally makes me think of the 80s – you know, yuppies yucking it up on yachts, Hall and Oates, gigantic shoulder pads, stuff along those lines of cocaine – but I love it all the same! Combined with fresh asparagus, sweet green peas and lemon, it’s like a mouthful o’ Spring 🙂

What is your favourite way to cook asparagus? I’m always looking for new ideas!

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Recipe: Asparagus and Sweet Pea Fettuccine Alfredo | With White Wine and Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain cashews (+ water for soaking)
  • 225g fettuccine pasta (or your choice of gluten free pasta)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (I used low sodium broth)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup sweet green peas (thawed if using frozen)
  • 12 thin asparagus stalks, tough ends removed
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I used Pinot Blanc)
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place cashews in a small bowl and cover with water. Let soak for an hour. Drain and rinse.

2. Place soaked cashews and vegetable broth in a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes or until cashews and broth form a smooth liquid. Set aside.

3. Fill a medium skillet with cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Add asparagus and reduce to a simmer. Let asparagus cook just until bright green and tender crisp (this should only take a minute or two). Immediately drain asparagus and transfer to a bowl of ice water (this will ensure asparagus doesn’t over cook).

4. Once asparagus is cold, remove from water and cut into 1″ pieces. Set aside until needed.

5. Cook fettuccine according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse. Set aside until needed.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute just until garlic is golden brown.

7. Reduce heat slightly. Sprinkle flour into skillet and whisk continuously until a smooth paste forms.

8. Slowly pour cashew and broth mixture into skillet, whisking continuously until everything is incorporated and a smooth, creamy sauce forms.

9. Stir in wine and lemon zest. Taste sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.

10. Fold in pasta, peas and asparagus.

11. Serve immediately, topping each portion with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

I broke the hot news in my previous post that we’re finally out of the RV and living in a real house – as in, one that sits on a foundation and has a front and back yard. We’re just getting started with the renovations – ripping up the carpets in the bedrooms, updating the bizarro apricot and teal bathroom, and sanding the walls to remove the faux ‘suede’ finish fancied by the previous owners. Does anyone remember this type of paint from the late 80s (or possibly early 90s)? If not, consider yourself lucky. And by the way, if you’ve never attempted it, sanding paint is the dustiest endeavour known to man!

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Despite the dishevelled state of the house I’m having no trouble adjusting to life outside of the RV. I finally have a washer and drier at my disposal, so I no longer have to drag my laundry to a public facility like I did at the trailer park – often through the rain or snow, the horror – squirming child in tow. Plus I’ve quit hoarding change like an old lady for the machines. I’m also enjoying being able to shower without fear of the hot water running out before I’ve rinsed the shampoo out of my hair (the hot water tank in the RV only allowed for a 6-7 minute shower), and having a toilet that flushes into the ground and not a stinky tank that needs to me emptied with a pull of a lever. And best of all, little Hunter now has more space to move around and bigger cupboards to hide from me in.

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I’ve been so preoccupied with scrubbing the house that I’ve fallen a bit behind on posting recipes here. This gravy has the vast honour of being the very last thing I made for the blog before we moved out of the RV last week. Admittedly, the shiitake mushrooms that went into the gravy were meant for this soup recipe, but somehow they made their way to the back of the fridge, where they remained unnoticed and hence unused. I noticed them back there the next day and after feeling momentarily flabbergasted that I’d left them out of the soup, set about devising a plan to put the evasive fungi to use!

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At first I considered simply throwing the shiitakes in a stir-fry, but in the end decided to indulge my obsession with cashew cream yet again and use them to concoct a gravy. Yes, I’ve been talking a lot about cashews lately, possibly too much. My obsession started off savoury here with a roasted red pepper cashew cream sauce, then took a sweet turn here with a vanilla cashew cream. Now that I’ve made this gravy, I’m thinking I should become a professional matchmaker – shiitakes are a wonderfully flavourful mushroom and meld perfectly with cashew cream to form a marvellously rich-tasting gravy. As you can see, I used the gravy to jazz up a simple bowl of steamed vegetables, but you could put it on top of just about anything – mashed potatoes, soba noodles, grilled tofu, you name it. It would also make a fantastic dipping sauce for roasted potato or yam wedges!

Recipe: Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain cashews (+ water for soaking)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (I used low sodium broth)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Place cashews in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 2 hours. Drain, rinse and set aside until needed.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute just until golden brown. Add sliced mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are cooked all the way through. Remove from heat.

3. Place cashews and vegetable broth in blender and pulse until completely smooth.

4. Transfer mushrooms from skillet to blender and pulse until ingredients are blender together. (If you prefer a chunkier gravy, blend for less time.) Taste and adjust with salt if necessary.

5. Transfer gravy to back to skillet and warm through over low-medium heat, stirring often.

Serving ideas: Ladle gravy over steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, brown rice – or whatever you like!

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Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

All my talk of cocktails in my ‘Bloody Mary’ Tortilla Soup post gave me the urge to splurge on new (to me) vintage tiki mugs. I’ve thought better of purchasing anything beyond the basics since we moved into the RV – simply because there is nowhere to put anything. But now that we’re moving out of the Gypsy Roller and into a real house (next week hopefully!), I’ve given myself permission to acquire a few new tchotchkes. On the recommendation of my blogger buddy GiRRL_Earth – herself a 1950s vintage hound – I went shopping on Etsy, which turned out to be a great source for tiki stuff – although many sellers, to my dismay, don’t ship to Canada. After much perusing and ogling I finally settled on this guy. From there I went over to Ebay and picked up this fierce twosome. Once they arrive in the mail I plan on busting out the Polynesian tunes and celebrating with a Mai Tai or two.

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Anyway, on to the food. When I posted my Fragrant Breakfast Lentil Bowl with Apples, Golden Raisins and Indian Spices back in October I wasn’t sure how it would go over. For most people in the Western World lentils are mostly the stuff of stews, soups and chilli; in other words, we generally don’t consume them before noon. So while I really enjoyed the recipe, I didn’t expect anyone to join me on the lentils-for-breakfast bandwagon. But surprisingly (to me, anyway) this recipe gets viewed far more than anything else I’ve posted to date! Rather than a breakfast lentil bowl being an whacko idea, it looks like I was on to something!

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Given the relative success of my first lentil bowl, I figured it would be neat to come up with a completely different version. Like the original recipe I use red lentils, which are more tender when cooked than other lentil varieties and have a shorter preparation time. In the new version I incorporate the flavours of a bumbleberry pie – juicy blueberries and strawberries, sweet apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a touch of brown sugar. If I’d had blackberries on hand I would have included these as well. Next time!

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I must admit I’m on a cashew-cream kick, having figured out recently how easy it is to make the stuff. My last recipe featured a savoury version, and at the risk of committing cashew-cream overkill I whipped up a sweet version and used it to top my bumbleberry lentil bowl. It functions much like a dollop of vanilla ice cream – but without the guilt that might result from eating ice cream in the morning. The lentil bowl is tasty in itself, but I highly recommend you try it with the cashew cream. It’s a simple recipe and can be prepared the night before.

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Tip: If the concept of lentils for breakfast is just too weird for you, you could easily make this recipe using old fashioned rolled oats. Just reduce the cooking time a little.

Recipe: Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

For Vanilla Cashew Cream:

  • 1/2 cup plain cashews + 1 cup water for soaking
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

For Lentil Bowl:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + more to serve (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 apple (I used an Ambrosia), peeled and grated
  • 1 cup mixed berries (thawed if using frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Prepare vanilla cashew cream: Place cashews and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Place in fridge and let soak for two hours. Drain cashews and transfer to blender along with remainder of ingredients. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the edges of blender with a spatula as needed. Set aside until needed.

Prepare lentil bowl: Place berries in a small bowl and toss with brown sugar and lemon juice. Set aside. Place lentils, grated apple, almond milk, water, spices and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed and lentils are tender. Gently fold in berries and let warm through – a couple of minutes.

Serve, topping each portion with a dollop of Vanilla Cashew Cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or brown sugar. Eat!

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Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Casserole | With Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Sauce

We’ve been back in the Lower Mainland for a month now, and already I’ve fallen back into an annoying habit. It’s the same habit many locals also seem to be guilty of: the tendency to feel utter shock over the weather conditions. Those who know the Vancouver area know it rains A LOT here. That being said, one would assume we would have an irreverent, or at least cavalier, attitude toward the wet stuff. However, I’ve lived in the area most of my life and can say that for the majority of us, this simply isn’t the case.

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Whenever it rains I’m inevitably drawn into a reflective state where I’ll marvel at the rain’s various attributes: its duration (‘It rained all night and it’s still raining this morning!’), intensity (‘I couldn’t sleep last night the rain was hitting the roof so hard’) and type (‘Is it just me or is it raining sideways right now?’). From Winter to Winter the rain is always the same but somehow it never succeeds in losing its novelty. Just the other day my SO – who works outside, the poor bastard – walked in the front door of the RV and asked, ‘Is it always this wet here?’. To which I responded, after taking a moment to think, that I couldn’t remember. It’s like we have weather amnesia.

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This time of year we’ll get the odd break in the weather, but somehow these days pass through our consciousness – if not unnoticed, then without regard as to their freak nature. Last Tuesday was gorgeous here – 10C and sunny – but somehow I made it through the day without being struck in any meaningful way by the appearance of the sun. But surely enough, when the rain started up again the next day, I found myself dully remarking to no one in particular that I couldn’t believe it was raining again – like I’d suffered a personal affront – before stepping into my Hunter Wellingtons and hauling my laundry over to the laundromat.

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The upside of the soggy weather in these parts is that I get to work on creating lots of comfort food dishes, like the casserole featured here. I love a good casserole but casserole recipes that are both vegetarian AND healthy are a rarity. Often they’re laden with cheese and cream sauces, both of which taste good, don’t get me wrong – but usually leave me feeling like I’ve maxed out my salt and cholesterol intake for the year. Wanting a healthier but still hearty alternative, I tried my hand at a simple cashew-based cream sauce – with resounding success, I must say!

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The texture is similar to a dairy-based sauce, and the taste has the same richness, but without the bad fats. I added roasted red peppers to give the sauce a subtle sweetness and paprika for smokiness – and when baked in the oven with sweet potatoes, cauliflower and shallots, a thing of comfort food beauty was born. This recipe got an enthusiastic stamp of approval from my staunchly omnivorous SO, who was fully shocked that what I’d given him to eat was vegan. I like being tricky like that!

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Casserole | With Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Sauce

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2 red peppers, seeded and cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

For the rest

  • 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into thin medallions
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro and parsley for garnish (optional)

Method:

Soak cashews: Place cashews in a medium bowl and cover with 2 cups of cold water. Refrigerate for two hours. Remove from fridge, drain and set aside until needed. While cashews are soaking, prepare roasted red peppers:

Roast red peppers: Preheat oven to 400C. Place quartered peppers in a baking dish and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and arrange peppers into a single layer. Place in oven for 45 minutes or until flesh is tender and skin is blackened, tossing twice. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once peppers are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off skin and discard.

Finish sauce: Place cashews, roasted peppers, vegetable broth, water and spices in blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary. Set aside until needed.

Assemble casserole: Preheat oven to 375F. In a casserole dish with lid (I used a circular dish that’s about 8″ in diameter and 5″ deep), ***layer 1/4 cup of cashew cream sauce. Layer 1/3 of sweet potatoes and 1/3 of shallots. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer another 1/4 cup of cashew cream sauce, then layer 1/3 of cauliflower. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat from *** another two times, ending with the remainder of sauce.

Cover casserole and place in oven for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tenders and sauce is hot and bubbly. Remove lid, set oven to broil and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until cauliflower is brown and caramelized.  Remove from oven.

Serve, topping each portion with fresh cilantro and/or parsely and freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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‘Pretty in Pink’ Vermicelli Rice Noodle Salad | With Sweet and Spicy Sesame Dressing

We’ve settled in nicely at the trailer park here in the Lower Mainland. After a few long months of being cooped up inside the trailer in the Okanagan, where it was too cold to spend much time outdoors, Hunter (now a bona fide toddler) is enjoying getting outside on a daily basis and practicing his walking skills in his new gumboots. I’m not a huge fan of the location of the park as we’re right off the highway and have to listen to traffic noise all day and night, but apart from that it’s a decent place to stay until we can ditch the Gypsy Roller (sorry, girl) and move into an honest to goodness house in a few weeks time.

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In a sense our impending move into a house makes me feel like we’re defecting from a sort of secret society. While the last 6 or so months have given me some interesting insights into the trailer park subculture, I have felt a touch cut off from the ‘real’ world living in such a tiny space, behind gated entranceways and amongst folks several decades our senior. The house we’ll be moving into isn’t big, but it will surely feel like a mansion by comparison!

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Full-timers (those who use their RV as a permanent home) have a name for people who, like us, live in a house and use their RV as temporary accommodations or to travel in a few months of the year: slabbers – as in, the concrete slab houses are built on. I can’t help but feel this term carries with it a tone of condescension or disapproval, as though we don’t have what it takes to make a full-fledged commitment to the so-called ‘RV-lifestyle’. But in a way I can understand why the full-timers might set themselves apart from us slabbers, as it does take a good deal of mettle to make a home out of an RV!

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We’ve already marked several occasions in the Gypsy Roller (Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s and each of our birthdays) and as of tomorrow we’ll be able to add Valentine’s Day to the list. Truth be told, I had zero intention of pitching this recipe as a Valentine’s dish – until, that is, I tossed the ingredients together and the juices of the grated cabbage and carrot combined and turned the whole thing a festive pink – Pretty in Pink, in fact, because you know I can’t resist a reference to my favourite decade, the 1980s! At any rate, this rice noodle salad has more going for it than just looks. It’s crunchy, refreshing, sweet and zesty – and more filling that you’d expect of a rice noodle salad (the toasted cashews give it some added bulk). If you don’t serve it on Valentine’s Day then try it another time for lunch or as a light dinner. And oh ya, it’s vegan and gluten free 🙂

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Recipe: ‘Pretty in Pink’ Vermicelli Rice Noodle Salad | With Sweet and Spicy Sesame Dressing

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

Sweet and Tangy Sesame Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons pure sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s All Purpose Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sambal olek

Vermicelli Rice Noodle Salad

  • Approx. 100g vermicelli rice noodles (about 2 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 cup purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 small carrot, finely shredded
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
  • 5 green onions, minced (dark and light green parts only)
  • 1/3 cup cashews (plus a few more for garnish)

Method:

Prepare toasted cashews: Place cashews in a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. When cashews are cool enough to handle, chop into small pieces. Set aside until needed.

Prepare vermicelli rice noodles: Cook noodles according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside until needed.

Prepare Sweet and Tangy Sesame Dressing: In a medium salad bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Finish salad: Place cooked rice noodles, cabbage and carrots, celery, green onions and cashews in salad bowl and toss gently to combine with dressing.

Serve, topping each portion with more chopped cashews. Eat!

Tip: If you intend to store this salad in the fridge, keep the toasted cashews separate and add them immediately before serving. This way they won’t turn soft.

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Fragrant Breakfast Lentil Bowl with Apples, Golden Raisins and Indian Spices

There is an absolute bounty of apples available in Lake Country right now. Ambrosia (a British Columbia original and my personal favourite), Golden Delicious, Mutsu (this one is on my ‘to try’ list), Spartan… It’s like a who’s who of the apple world. I took the photo below at the local grocer yesterday. The staff there must wonder who the crazy broad is who takes all the pictures of the fruits and vegetables. I’m like the produce paparazzi!

The experience of biting into a crisp, fresh-from-the-tree apple is eminently superior to that of an imported (and probably mushy and mealy) one that’s been sitting in storage for who knows how long. Who’s with me? I have an insatiable sweet tooth – baked goods, frozen confections, candy… it’s all fair game – but I can honestly say that I enjoy a quality apple just as much if not more than  the aforementioned less-healthy options (with the possible exception of donuts).

While apples are delicious eaten uncooked, and are obviously amazing when used in baking (you can just imagine how mental I go over apple fritters), they can also be super tasty when used in combination with savoury ingredients. The Granny Smiths I use in this slaw give it an added crunch and their tartness is the perfect compliment to the miso-lime dressing. The recipe here uses apples in a completely different savoury application – a breakfast lentil bowl!

I know, the idea of eating lentils before noon might seem a little bizarro (at least in this part of the world), but simmered with coconut milk, spices, apples and golden raisins, they make for a yummy and satisfying breakfast that keeps you feeling full for hours! In many ways lentils function just like old-fashioned oats, really, except they’re higher in protein! Can’t go wrong with that.

The precipitation that Vancouver is known for this time of year seems to have followed us to Lake Country. I mentioned this unpleasant reality a few posts back and it still hasn’t let up! What gives?! I woke up this morning to yet more rain hammering the roof of the RV, which actually sounds nice but doesn’t exactly make me want to get out of bed and do anything remotely productive. And it definitely doesn’t make me want anything cold for breakfast! I had the idea for this lentil bowl earlier in the week and given the soggy weather figured today was an appropriate enough day to make it. I ate my lentil bowl with a few cups of black coffee and some quality CBC Radio programming playing in the background, and was completely content to spend the rest of the day hunkered down in the RV. It’s good I conserved energy today because tomorrow I have a mini pumpkin to carve and some candy to eat!

Note: I found this recipe to be sweet enough with adding sugar, but if you want some added sweetness you can serve it with a touch of brown sugar.

Recipe: Fragrant Breakfast Lentil Bowl with Apples, Golden Raisins and Indian Spices

Makes 2 servings or one large bowl!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 pod star anise
  • Pinch of salt
  • Brown sugar (optional) and almond or soy milk to serve

Method:

Place lentils, coconut milk, water, spices and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in grated apple and raisins. Allow to simmer partially covered for 20 minutes, stirring periodically, or until lentils are tender. Remove from heat, discard of star anise pod, and transfer to serving bowls. Top with cashews, brown sugar (if using) and almond or soy milk. Eat!

Spicy Rice Noodles with Broccoli, Red Peppers and Cashews

Oh my goodness, does anyone have a leaf blower? Better yet, does anyone have a leaf blower and enjoy blowing leaves (hint, hint)? There was a barnburner of a wind and rain storm in Lake Country last night, and whichever leaves still clung to the limbs of the trees overhanging the RV pad yesterday are today stuck to it like glue.

I took a push broom to the leaves for a few minutes this morning (holding Hunter in my other arm, BTW – how’s that for multi-tasking), but instead of sweeping them into neat piles succeeded only in grinding them further into the pavement. Is there a trick to this? I’ve lived in apartment buildings for over 15 years and haven’t had to tend to anything garden waste-related for at least that long, so I’m a little out of the loop. My elderly neighbours seemed to have no problem raking and bagging up their leaves, and had finished doing so before 9am, making me feel like the lazy sod of the trailer park as I kicked back on the couch with my morning coffee and trashy novel. Thanks a lot, ladies. I wonder if I brought them some of the banana bread I baked last night they’d give me a few pointers. Nah. I’m not one to advocate a gendered division of labour, but in this case I’ll make an exception and volunteer Mike take care of the leaves when he gets home from work.

With all manual labour obligations delegated, I was free to get back to my usual routine of cooking and eating. I was looking forward to making this dish all weekend because it meant a long overdue reunion with one of my favourite vegetables, broccoli! For ages broccoli was my go-to leafy green. I’d put that sh*t in everything. Then it was kale. Then baby bok choy. Then kale again. I realized when I was grocery shopping a couple days ago it had been ages since I made a broccoli dish, and decided to rectify the situation immediately.

This recipe isn’t new per se – I think I first cobbled it together about 7 years ago – but I put a new spin on it for this post by replacing the tofu with toasted cashews (I’m trying to reduce my soy consumption and cashews are nutritious and delicious), adding in red pepper for colour, and using rice noodles in place of rice, just for kicks. This dish has remained one of my favourites because I simply never tire of the interplay between perfectly cooked, emerald green broccoli and the Spicy Hoisin Sauce. As I explained here, I experienced a bit of culture shock when we moved away from Vancouver and suddenly had fewer good Asian restaurants at our disposal. But what was initially a bummer is actually encouraging me to incorporate more Asian flavours into my home cooking, which is always a good thing!

Note: This recipe is tagged gluten-free but I realized when I read the ingredient list on the jar of hoisin paste that it contains some wheat flour. So if you’re very sensitive to gluten you might want to find a wheat-free hoisin or use black bean sauce instead. Just be sure to use it sparingly because it’s very salty!

Recipe: Spicy Rice Noodles with Broccoli, Red Peppers and Cashews

Makes 2 meal-size servings, or 4 smaller ones

Ingredients:

  • 125g rice stick noodles
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews

Spicy Hoisin Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup hoisin paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Sambal Olek
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup water

Method:

Prepare rice stick noodles: Cook rice stick noodles according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Prepare Spicy Hoisin Sauce: In a small bowl whisk together hoisin paste, ginger, garlic, Sambal Olek, vinegar and water. Set aside.

Prepare cashews: In a small skillet over low-medium heat, toast cashews until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute broccoli and red peppers in 1/4 cup olive olive until tender crisp. Reduce heat and add Spicy Hoisin Sauce to skillet, stirring gently until combined with broccoli and peppers. Gently fold in rice noodles, then cashews. Once noodles have warmed through, divide into two bowls and eat!