Foodie penpal reveal!

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Check out this duct tape! It’s amaaaazing! This is what greeted me as I opened my parcel from the lovely Jen in Calgary – just a short trip over the Rockies from me. I sent goodies to Izabela this month – her first participating in the program, so I hope I made a good first impression and that she continues with the foodie fun. Inside the parcel:

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Jen chose for me: apricot paste (this has got to go nicely in sandwiches, or as a layer in baking squares, even as a cupcake ingredient!), granola and trail mix – yay snacks!, and wasabi peas, which are something I like when I see them to snack on, but never think to pick up at the store, so they’re a lovely treat to have around. You will also notice home-made Oreo truffles – incredibly delicious, and the first item I tried. Here’s a closeup of the sprinkled, iced creations after one made the customary jump into my mouth:

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I very much appreciate the care and attention Jen gave me while picking up the components to my parcel this month. I have never seen Apricot paste before, and I’m excited to do a little googling and see how I can use it – new food and new ideas, what is not to love?

If you’re feeling brave enough to participate in sharing treats with another foodie across your country (US and Canada, with thisisrocksalt.com providing the foodie love in the UK), Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean runs a fantastic program. Food is what we have traditionally used to bring families and friends together. I have met some wonderful people through my participation and sharing.

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My camera broke

Blog on hiatus until I find my son’s camera to borrow until I can a) fix mine, or b) buy a new one. 😦  I scheduled a foodie penpal reveal, so that’ll go through tomorrow. For what it’s worth, I had udon noodles in their own spicy sauce that I made with stirfried red peppers and onions, with orange and apple segments. Totally delicious and tasty-looking, not that I can share how good it looks with you.

Falafel, Israeli couscous, salad, and -oops- feta cheese

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Is there such a thing as an almost vegan bento?

I recently watched a documentary that discussed a plant-based diet from a health point of view, and I was surprised to learn how just how easily dairy products are linked to chronic diseases. This is something to think about, as I love cheese in particular, and I willingly gave up meat products in part due to health concerns without looking back for a second. I’ve been trying to focus on delicious vegan foods (of which I know there’s an abundance), but I failed today. It’s a double fail because for those of you who remember, the hubs doesn’t eat dairy or eggs (he hates them, no allergies). So if I make him a meatless bento, it’s naturally vegan. I made an almost identical bento for him, but just.couldn’t.not.reach for the feta cheese when finishing off my lunch for tomorrow.

Rant over. Onto the bento. I have a layer of Israeli/pearl couscous cooked in mushroom stock, some falafel (from a mix, so easy to do), a tier of yellow pepper and cucumber with raspberry vinaigrette, a hot pickled pepper… and cheese. Lots of cheese (by comparison). Oops. Snack – another quinoa bar/muffin, and an apple. Almost vegan.

Chickpea curry, quinoa, tiny samosas

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Sort-of-not-very-authentic curried chickpeas here, but they’re spicy and tasty.

1. Sautee 1/2 a large red (or yellow) onion in a little olive oil on med-low heat until softened.
2. Add in 1 19-oz can drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 15-oz can of tomato sauce, a handful of raisins, and 1-2 tbsp. of curry powder (being a transplanted Brit, it has to be Sharwoods). However, I used a chana masala blend, imported from India, and it’s spicy! Deelish!
3. Simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary.

I’ve served this over quinoa (hiding out in the fridge from the weekend’s cooking where I used it in two dishes), sautéed broccoli, and some tiny samosas! Aren’t they cute? Mangoes and Indian cooking are so connected, so I have a mango jelly for dessert. My snack is another quinoa breakfast bar and a segmented cara cara orange.

Pizza

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I made pizza for dinner tonight. I actually made three pizzas: one with just sauce and cheese, one with sauce, cheese, pepper strips and grape tomatoes (pictured), and one with sauce, NO cheese, chorizo, olives, pepper strips, and grape tomatoes. Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a short order chef. I wasn’t too hungry for dinner today, so half my pizza is in my bento for tomorrow’s lunch – makes it easy, no scavenging in the fridge required, well, except for the side dishes. I tried a new crust/dough recipe today, and it’s deliciously fluffy on the inside, and crisp on the outside – a keeper. Sides are a baby cuke, 1/2 an orange, and a chocolate kiss (love seasonal candy on sale!).

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For my snack bento, I have a quinoa breakfast bar, but made in a muffin cup. I’m actually not going to post the recipe for this, as I really think it needs some tweaking. It’s a bit too moist and not quite sweet enough as is. I will give it another try. I also cut some apple pieces up, not quite room for a whole apple, so I ate about 1/4 of it while making lunches for everyone.

In other blogosphere news, the lovely http://thiscreativedream.wordpress.com/ (pretty link tool in wordpress not working, sorry!) and I are collaborating for the month of March. Each Monday, I will be posting a vegan bento on her blog, with the intent of helping people out who are thinking about reducing their meat intake. I hope to give some easily-attainable ideas to get people started, share a little about how I decide to eat how I eat now, and give people some resources to help them on their way at the end of the series. It’s like teaching, but with fewer Jedi attention-grabbing tricks reminding people to please not plug into The Matrix via their iPods while I’m intro’ing the lesson needed. I’m very excited – good things happen when people collaborate.

My blogosphere buddy will be looking at detoxing using fresh spring produce, growing one’s own plants to eat, and some tips on how to sustain fruit and veggie intake over winter through preserving that spring and summery goodness. Why do we focus on detoxing in the middle of winter, when fresh seasonal produce is hard to find unless you’re in Southern California? Now that the days are lengthening, it’s (theoretically still, on some parts of our lovely continent) warming up, and we’re approaching growing season, it’s going to be easier to renew a commitment to be healthy. Not to mention that for beach babes across North America, bikini season will soon be upon us! I will also set up a flickr group, so that we writers and readers alike can share newly planted seeds, vegetarian/vegan bentos, and anything else along the theme of Spring and health.

Cupcake Friday!

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Vanilla bean cupcake with vanilla bean buttercream icing and a tiny fondant blossom. I made the fuchsia stripe with a stripe of gel food colouring up the side of the icing bag. Each cupcake works out a tiny bit differently, so not for the OCD-cupcake decorators among us. These were commissioned as favours for a baby shower.