Halloum, kabocha, mixed grains

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I really enjoy halloumi cheese. It’s one of my favourite things to eat, ever. I put some on top of a layer of mixed quinoa, wild rice, and brown rice, with a little lightly steamed broccoli mixed in. I made some simmered kabocha squash, cooking it in veggie stock, tamari, and mirin. I had one tiny little grape tomato that I thought would do nicely for a garnish, too! I love how bento helps me make odds and ends into a beautiful meal.

Vegan baking Friday!

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I made a delicious eggless, dairyless spice cake, from my latest favourite bedtime reading find (y’all know I’m not the only one who reads them in bed!), The Complete Tassajara Cookbook by Edward Espe Brown. The only adaptation I made was to use a gluten free flour rather than wheat. I used quinoa flour, and it turned out very nicely. I added some dried cherries on top to pretty it up a bit, but didn’t really need to!

Quick Vegan Spice Cake

Preheat oven to 350’F.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
(3/4 tsp. xanthan gum if using a gf flour that doesn’t include it in the ingredients)

Melt:

1/3 cup coconut oil

Add to the oil:

1 tbsp. balsamic or raspberry vinegar (I would imagine apple cider vinegar would work nicely here too)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cold water

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and be careful not to overmix. Pour the mixture into a greased pan (loaf or 8″ cake pan) and bake for 35-40 minutes or so.

Vegan Baking Friday!

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As I mentioned earlier this week, for Vegan MoFo 2013, I’m expanding from the cupcake obsession to baking in general. This week’s offerings are some wheat-free chocolate chip cookies, very loosely adapted from the awesome Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you’re at all curious about Vegan cooking, I strongly recommend you get the book. If you’re secure in eating all foods but want to liven up how you cook veggies, then I strongly recommend you get the book! The book is particularly suited to North American audiences in the types of recipes featured, and the authors were careful to make sure that most recipes could be made with ingredients found in small-town supermarkets (very much appreciated, as I live in one).

What I love about vegan baking is that it defies the rules of creaming and emulsifying that we were all taught – it’s usually a gloriously simple matter of wet into dry, choose baking dish/sheet of choice, and away you go! Add that I no longer have to worry about activating gluten structures and creating tough baked goods by overmixing now that I’m gluten-free, and baking is crazy easy (although has never been especially difficult for me, let’s face it). My inner science geek still makes me obsessively measure everything, but it’s more fun and less structured now.

Place in Kitchenaid (or big mixing bowl):

~1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
~1/4 cup water (recipe calls for soy milk, I had none on hand)

Then add:

~1/4 cup brown sugar
~1/2 cup granulated sugar
~1/3 cup safflower oil (recipe calls for canola; any neutral-tasting oil will do nicely)
~a nice glug of vanilla (recipe calls for 1 tsp., but honestly, who measures for home baking?)

Mix until emulsified.

Now for the dry ingredients! Loosely sprinkle onto the wet ingredients:

~1 3/4 cup gluten free flour of choice (recipe calls for oat flour; I used some all-purpose flour blend and quinoa flour to use what’s in my baking cupboard)
~1/2 tsp. baking soda
~1/4 tsp. salt

Mix the ingredients, and add in:

~3/4 cup chocolate chips (as far as I can tell, these are vegan. Always read the label to be sure your dietary and ethical needs are met).

You’re supposed to drop the batter by tablespoons onto the baking sheet, but I used my cupcake scoop for some giant cookies: I got 12, recipe should yield 18. I am the mother of a pre-teen boy after all! Go big or go home! The recipe calls for baking at 375′ for 10-12 minutes for normal sized cookies. Psssh! (although these are too big to fit into a bento…)

Quinoa salad bento

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    How to make a quinoa salad to use up whatever’s in the fridge

Cook quinoa according to package directions, or if you have a rice cooker (great for not heating up the kitchen when it’s hot out!), do this:

~rinse one cup/250 mL quinoa in running water to remove the bitter coating
~place the quinoa in your rice cooker, and add two cups/500mL of water to the rice cooker. Feel free to throw some salt in there, or some lower sodium veg bouillon.
~put the lid down and flip the switch to cook.

Meanwhile, chop whatever vegetables and/or fruit you have on hand. I used celery, red onion (only a little), bell pepper, cilantro, and baby cucumber.

Put the quinoa into your bento box – I have one cup, cooked – and add your cut veggies (I had probably one cup total). Mix in 1/2 cup beans/lentils, and there you go! Use your favourite salad dressing on it, either home-made or from a bottle. We’re going for beating the heat here.

With the salad, I have one cup of frozen mango cubes. They’ll be defrosted by tomorrow morning, and they’d act as a nice ice pack if this bento needed to travel.

I’ll be snacking on cherries from my neighbour’s garden tomorrow! She has too many, so brought some for us before the crows got at them.

2 salads with addictive salad dressing!

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Do these ingredients look familiar? They should – smoked tofu, grated beet, grated carrot… just goodies from yesterday’s kitchen awesomeness. This time I tossed them with some quinoa and cilantro to mix it up. There are only a few pieces of tofu as the quinoa is high in protein as well as being very filling. In the smaller tier, I have half a raw fennel bulb (am I ever in love with raw fennel? Yum!), some dried cranberries, and diced grilled halloumi cheese.

I plan to use the same dressing from the glory bowl recipe for both salads – it’s that good!

My snacks for tomorrow are a Clif bar and a pear. Breakfast will be overnight oats, and this time I’m experimenting with vanilla protein powder to see what happens. I’m hoping it’s good because otherwise I’ll be hungry!

Quinoa with chard, roasted beets, pine nuts, and goat cheese

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I see two trends among the healthier blogs I read frequently right now. One is it’s race season. I am active most days of the week, but the idea of running a race fills me with the utmost dread. I realize people love to enter and run races, but it’s definitely not for me. The other trend is juice cleansing/detoxing. Don’t get me started (although if it’s something that works for you, great. I have a smoothie for breakfast about 4 days a week, and I love them!).

That being said, I was at a conference for most of the weekend and found it very difficult at times to keep my choices healthy. Perhaps going to a market full of street food for dinner wasn’t the best option, but it was certainly one of the tastiest! Breakfast was a challenge too. Two different people (not fellow delegates) stole my toast from the toaster at the breakfast buffet the two times I tried to make some, at which point I gave up and had fried diced potatoes with my now-cold eggs and fruit. On the other hand, I had steamed rice with veggies and tofu for lunch one day, and soup and sandwiches the next.

On the cleanse thing, I really believe that the excess calories and sodium will be resolved sooner rather than later if I drink lots of water, make sure I schedule exercise in, and really focus on nutrient- and fibre-rich foods again. So here we go with some quinoa cooked in water with a little low-sodium bouillon added in (far less than the package recommends), chard sautéed in a very small amount of olive oil, roasted beets:

~scrub beets well
~wrap in foil (altogether, doesn’t need to be individually)
~bake at 375′ for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets
~peel when cool using a paring knife
~appreciate newly-acquired pink hands, counter, cutting board…

1 tbsp. pine nuts toasted in a dry pan over medium-low heat (careful not to burn, those things are pricey!), and about 2 tsp. of herbed goat cheese (really only added on for flavour – you can see hubs doesn’t have it, and he’s looking forward to lunch tomorrow).

Side dish for me is sliced strawberries, and the spousal unit has some roasted tomatoes as well.

(Tagging and categorizing the post vegan, as there is a vegan bento here)

Quinoa and black bean salad, goat cheese, pickles

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Before I begin, WordPress let me know that today is my 1st blogiversary! How totally fun 🙂 I knew I started blogging my lunches in May last year, but that’s pretty cool that it’s been a year. Wow.

Cooked quinoa, a can of black beans, some diced bell pepper, some grape tomatoes, a spring onion, pecan pieces, dried cranberries, and a basic vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper is in the main tier. I didn’t really measure anything – except for the quinoa and water. That part’s important!

In the divided tier, I have some goat cheddar pieces, tiny pickles, and a herbal teabag. Under the teabag is a rhubarb and custard English candy that a fellow foodie friend bought for me a while back. Finding them hidden from my men in the back of my baking cupboard was a really nice surprise! I don’t like leaving space in the bento, but the quinoa salad will be very filling, so I don’t want to overdo lunch.

And here’s a quick shot of how bento-making goes for a family of three. Hubs has the same salad I have, but with ham instead of cheese, and a slice of home-made banana bread. Offspring has a pbj (quelle surprise, oui?), a fruit leather, yogurt, pear, and red pepper. I could put banana bread in there, but he comes home at lunch to eat what I’ve made him and I know he’ll help himself to a big slice of nana bread before he goes back to school for the afternoon! Here we go:

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