We’ve had our fair share of rain and thunderstorms in these parts lately. It’s been good for setting the mood when developing some recipes for fall and such, but more importantly it’s made for some cozy , very high quality mornings. Once we get into spring + summer, my days of sit-down breakfasts promptly come to a close. Sometimes I like to fix up a raw chia pudding or buckwheat porridge, but generally coffee/tea is just fine right away, and then maybe I’ll have a smoothie or some fruit (or a pastry, cuz sometimes you got to) later on. Something about the heat and umpteen million things to do outside pulling me away from those solitary early moments.
Every week there are more things to do with new challenges, and in this season of life it feels like that notion has exploded times a thousand. Taking moments for simply being leads to better awareness as a human that can say and do out in the world. More opportunities for stillness lead to better connection with the presence of capital-G-good in other forces. I’ve developed an acute sense of how much I need that lately.
Years ago, I used to work at a sometimes stupidly busy café/lunch/brunch spot in Toronto and when I came home after my 40-minute, million miles an hour walk home, I needed to have solitude in the most critical of ways. Even now when I pull up to my porch after a Saturday night service or whatever, it’s weird that someone in my house is still up when I just expect all lights out and the still quiet of night. I guess I’m still adjusting to it. Full absorption in a body + mind decompress/daily moment of simply being has historically been my scene out of a certain social necessity, so I’m trying to reclaim that.
I don’t think it’s simplistic to observe that breakfast helps with that process either. When I think of that morning meal, I think of grains and mindfully stirring them or soaking them prior to the whole process. Even my super quick morning smoothies feature some soaked oats or raw buckwheat most times. There’s an elemental quality to these hearty stores from the fields, a notion that we can hardly be, much less go about our day without them. It’s a foodstuff you can lean on when times are tough, literally and figuratively speaking I suppose.
I feel like most if not all of you are familiar with Erin Alderson’s blog, Naturally Ella, at this point. Erin is an expert at making delicious, vegetarian, whole food recipes feel approachable, and her new book The Homemade Flour Cookbook is most certainly an extension of that. A book focused on making your own flour from grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, and then incorporating that flour into your cuisine was a challenging thought to me at first–I don’t grind too much of my own flour really. Mostly chickpeas and oats if I’m gonna go there. But Erin makes some serious arguments for better taste and nutrient value throughout. She also details different routes for milling flour at home–including a coffee grinder technique that’s within anyone’s reach.
My first go was a sweet version of her ground millet “polenta” for my re-established breakfast routine and whoa! Seriously so good. I wound up eating mine mostly cold and still enjoyed it so much. It’s kind of wild to see a grain that you know and love in a new and delicious light. Her version in the book is savoury with chickpeas and a spicy tomato chutney, and gosh doesn’t that sound just too good? I’ve always liked strawberries combined in a baked good with cornmeal, and since millet has a bit of a corn-vibe, I knew this combination would work. The vanilla warms it up a bit and I just really enjoy lavender with berries, so that got plucked from the backyard right quick. Bonus: once I had the millet ground up (which wasn’t even a big deal), this was ready in about 15 minutes. I’m also interested in trying her quinoa-crusted cauliflower steaks, hazelnut pumpkin muffins, and the zucchini and corn empanadas with spelt dough really soon. Nice work, Erin!
Hope you’re all starting summer on a strong, solid foot of serious being :) xo
vanilla bean millet porridge w/ lavender strawberries + super seeds
lightly adapted from The Homemade Flour Cookbook
notes: I don’t grind the millet all the way into flour because I prefer to have some cracked bits of grain for texture.
1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 tbsp maple syrup (+ extra for serving if you like)
1-2 tsp lavender buds, crushed with your fingers
super seeds (makes extra!):
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted (or not)
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted (or not)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or ground cardamom
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup filtered water
heaped 1/2 cup of ground millet (in a coffee grinder, food processor or blender)
1/2 tsp sea salt (I used fancy pink salt)
seeds scraped from a 1/3 vanilla bean OR 1/2 tsp extract/paste
Place the diced strawberries in a small-medium bowl and stir them up with the maple syrup and lavender buds. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together all of the seeds for the super seed mixture and set aside.
Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground cinnamon and stir it up until fragrant, about 30 seconds. You should have a cinnamon oil of sorts. Add the almond milk and water and stir. Bring the mixture to a light boil, add the ground millet along with the salt and whisk. Continue to whisk the mixture as it cooks. Once it’s thickened up to the consistency of polenta, pull it off the heat. Allow the millet porridge to sit for a moment, add the vanilla, and whisk it again lightly and serve with lavender strawberries, super seeds and extra milk or maple syrup if you like.
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My favourite cookbooks either take me somewhere or challenge me in a new way. I think this is true for films, books, music etc. as well, but it has to be most especially true with cookbooks because frankly, I have too many. And if I’m makin’ space in my new shelf-y kitchen cabinet JUST for this sort of thing, or I’m aiming to cook with some serious intention from a new perspective, that possible new cookbook better be damn good.
This is just my point of view though. Once you’ve cooked for a while and made a serious effort to be around food in a professional setting, recipes begin to feel almost pointless. Almost. Certain books and audiences need them though. Baking is a good example here. But in a big picture-kind of sense, I’m more vested in the how of recipes and dishes, the cook’s philosphy and how they arrived at this full page photo and accompanying blurb. How many recipes for kale salad does one really need?! When an author goes beyond the recipes and makes you feel something or tells you their story in some way, it’s a whole other thing. Doors open, your vision expands and you think about new things that are possible. The book inspires you to the point where you can think a bit differently.
I’ve had Kimberley Hasselbrink’s book VIBRANT FOOD in my possession for about two weeks, and can safely say it’s one of those inspiring, thought-shifting kind of cookbooks that takes you somewhere. Maybe you read her blog The Year In Food and you already had a hunch that this could be possible? It’s organized by season and then further broken down by an almost micro-seasonal consideration by item. There’s a section on flowers for spring, herbs + greens for summer, tree fruits in fall, and hardy root vegetables in the winter segment, among many others. You get a sense of each season’s flavour and vibe through Kimberley’s photography and thoughtfully approached recipes.
I never thought to put squash blossoms in a quesadilla or to roll chocolate truffles in bee pollen, or to even approach a Japanese-style curry with kabocha squash and soba noodles. There’s some bangin’ renditions of more classic fare as well, like smoky red pepper soup and a shredded brussels sprouts salad with apples + pecans. All really good and beautiful things that could inspire anyone, at whatever level, to cook at home.
The first recipe I tried was a riff on her salmon banh mi sandwiches, with some portobello mushrooms instead. The whole time I was making it, it dawned on me how realistic it would have been for me to fix up something like this for dinner. You get your pickled veg going and the portobellos marinating a bit. You stir up a little mayo, clean some herbs and prep the bread. A minor bit of stove time and assembly leads to a most gratifying sandwich experience. There’s a sour-fresh crunch from the vegetables, the portobellos are meaty to the point of “Wait, really?!” and the mayo! It’s all fresh lemon and garlicky-ness, and it’s crucial for waterproofing (yes, that’s the term I’m using) that light baguette. I could see this as some sort of salad scenario with tons of fresh herbs in the mix with the lettuce and the portobellos all grilled and sliced on top. You could thin the mayonnaise with some of the pickling liquid for a solid dressing, and then make some baguette croutons to finish it off. See what I mean by a book showing you a new way to think?
High fives, Kimberley. It’s a beaut :)
portobello banh mi with pickled vegetables
lightly adapted (but barely) from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink
notes: If you aren’t a mushroom person (WHAAAA??), tempeh or tofu would be so great here. I could even see some grilled pieces of eggplant as a decent replacement. Also, Grace has a particularly yummy looking version of vegetarian banh mi with sweet potatoes! Lastly, I used Vegenaise for the garlic aïoli, mostly out of ease (TRUTH BOMB: I would stock a case of the soy free at all times if I was a billionaire), but you could do a pine nut or cashew variation from the archives :)
pickled vegetable slaw ingredients:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup natural sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 medium carrots, julienned
2 big radishes OR 1/3 of a daikon radish, sliced paper thin
1/2 english cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup Vegenaise/other plant-friendly mayo
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tsp lemon zest
squeeze of lemon juice
banh mi ingredients:
4-6 portobello mushrooms caps (depending on size), cleaned
2 tbsp maple syrup OR dark agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt + pepper
1 baguette (French, Vietnamese or a GF one, depending on your need or what you can find)
big handful of cilantro leaves
equal handful of thai basil OR mint leaves
thin slices of chili (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the white vinegar, cane sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved. Place the julienned and sliced cucumber, radish and carrots into the bowl and toss them/submerge them in the vinegar mixture. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Drain when ready to use.
In a small bowl, stir together the Vegenaise, minced garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
Cut the portobello mushroom caps into quarters and set aside.
In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the maple syrup/dark agave, tamari, sriracha, minced garlic and a hearty splash of warm water. Add some salt and pepper if you like. Place the quartered portobellos in the sriracha mix and let them sit for 15-20 minutes or so, flipping them over here and there.
Heat some oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Place the portobello quarters into the pan and let them brown a bit on one side. Flip them over and brown a little more. Pour half of the sriracha marinating mix into the pan and simmer until reduced by at least half. Keep turning the portobello pieces in it. Once the mushrooms are reasonably soft and browned, remove them and place on a plate.
Build the sandwiches! Cut the baguette into 4 equal pieces. Spread the aïoli on both sides of all bread. Divide pickled vegetable slaw among the 4 bottoms of bread. Divide the quarters of portobello among the 4 sandwich bottoms. Place cilantro, mint, and Thai basil leaves on top of the portobellos along with the sliced chili. Place the mayo’d tops on top and enjoy.
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I took a little holiday from here and I really hope you don’t mind. Two weeks away from this space in the middle of spring-to-summer felt a bit indulgent and lazy until I realized that hey, I was never aiming for an endless conveyer belt of super-pretty-health-fun-wow-tasty-vibes with this site anyway. Almost three years of creating and sharing here, and I think I finally just grasped what the point of it really is.
I’ve always firmly believed that each person, each entity, is enough as is. We’re all pretty miraculous as lives living right here. It might be our work in life to wake up and just realize that one truth, to get to that state of pure feeling and experience–no words or actions necessary, nobody remembers those anyway. Moving forward from that accepted self means not being reduced by some of the more challenging episodes of the everyday, but instead just being and becoming. You do what you can with what knowledge is available to you, and next time? You’ll do it better just by virtue of having walked in that beautiful and probably messy path.
It’s easy to admire the beauty of something that smacks of completeness, but I’ve always been more interested in growth and how we get to there as a community, even if the “there” changes and moves along. How we work together and relate to pull ourselves out of a difficult spot or a challenge, I’m into that. I love reading and watching interviews with chefs, master carpenters, explorers, makers of all stripes, and people who just DO THINGS because their stories inevitably weave a rich-as-fuck tapestry of experience and lessons from their surroundings. They took their sense of selves, realized the might, made themselves a student of their community/environment, and in turn uplifted some portion of humanity. The mind that shifts and is able to see differently is something to behold.
So we’re always growing together over here. Maybe it’s a new kale salad technique, a new spice, some all-too-human recounts of events and feelings felt. I love that we can all interact over something so simple as a possible bite to eat between hello and goodbye, and on the internet to boot. Just great. Today I grilled an avocado and my sense of time and place went a little wild. So delicious! Its natural shape is perfect for a little stuffing of sorts, so I went to work on charring a few more things for that component. Some marinated tofu, pungent broccoli and a sweet lemon and mildly curry-ish sauce for smothering. The curry part was an accident too, the little bag of it selected when I intended to reach for ground cumin. No need to cope with the error because man, it’s good. Bright, warming, and lightly sweet. I found the whole dish a little strong/rich in terms of mouthfeel, so the sauce is in there to help along with some diced apricots that weren’t quite ripe. Just a touch of pucker to make it work and go pop.
I always feel compelled to dream up some kind of wholesome, feel-good grilled main for y’all this time of year. I know full well that the inclination is just rooted in what I want to eat since we’re creeping up on summer, but it’s also a bit of a counter to the sauced meat-laden magazine covers everywhere right about now. Surely this can’t STILL be feeling like a new thing, right? Eat your vegetables and show ‘em what you’re made of :) xo
charred broccoli + tofu stuffed avocados with sweet curry lemon sauce
notes: Some cooked grain in this mix would be yummy if you’ve got some around. Also, swapping tempeh for tofu could be delicious. If you don’t want to bother with making the sauce, I think some super classic/classy barbecue sauce would be so, so proper.
charred broccoli, tofu + avocados:
1/4 cup olive oil + extra
1 tbsp dijon or grainy mustard
1 clove of garlic, peeled + sliced (optional!)
2 tbsp chopped chives + blossoms if you’ve got ‘em
big pinch chili flakes
5-6 sprigs of thyme, leaves rough chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice + zest
salt + pepper to taste
ground cumin to taste
1 package of extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 stalks of broccoli, stems removed
3 firm, but ripe avocados
1-2 barely ripe apricots
sweet curry lemon sauce:
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 strip of lemon zest
1/2 tbsp dijon OR grainy mustard
1-2 tbsp maple syrup OR agave nectar
1/4 cup diced red onion
fat pinch of mild curry powder
small pinch of ground cumin
splash of filtered water (more or less depending on desired consistency)
salt + pepper
1/2 tsp tamari soy sauce
3 tbsp-1/4 cup olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, garlic, chives, chili flakes, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and cumin. Set aside.
Lay the tofu slices in a large dish and cut the broccoli into florets. Add the broccoli to the dish with the tofu slices. Pour the marinade mix over the tofu and broccoli. Cover and refrigerate, allowing to marinate for at least 1/2 and hour.
While the tofu and broccoli is marinating, make the sweet lemon curry sauce. Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, maple syrup, red onion, curry powder, cumin powder, water, salt, pepper, tamari, and oil in a blender and blend on high until you have a completely smooth mixture. Check the sauce for seasoning and place in the fridge while you grill
Preheat your grill to high. Cut the avocados in half, and remove all pits. brush the exposed surfaces with oil and season with salt + pepper. Set aside.
Start laying the tofu and broccoli on the grill. Cook until char marks appear on all surfaces, carefully flipping pieces of tofu and broccoli over here and there for even cooking. Remove all tofu and broccoli once it’s sufficiently cooked/charred. Place avocado halves on the grill and cook until char marks appear. Remove and place on a serving platter.
Chop up the tofu and broccoli into small pieces and toss together in a medium bowl. Dice up the apricots and add to the bowl as well. Toss with some more chopped chives or chive flowers if you want and spoon into the grilled avocado halves. Finish with drizzles of the sweet lemon curry sauce.
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