Monday, November 5, 2012

Spicy Pineapple Cashew Rice

I am now on day three of having no budget for groceries. I have to say I am really luck that I seem to hoard non-perishable food. I have lots of dried herbs and lots of canned and frozen vegetables. It is truly saving my life this week.

I made this recipe sort of loosely based on chicken and rice. It was something that I lived on while when I was traveling in Thailand. At the time, I was a little scared of spicy food and a little scared of anything that I didn't know. Chicken and Cashew was this one dish that was everywhere. On every menu at restaurants and sometimes on food carts and stands. It had a little spice, but nothing crazy. It was filling and most of all, tasted really good. I decided to veganize this... but my version is very, very loosely based on this Thai version. What you get in Thailand is usually very simple. I am not sure how they are cooking the rice, but it seems flavours. Mine, however, is a pretty much a dump of all sorts of stuff I had in my fridge with a base of rice and cashew... anyways, both are good, but this version has not meat making it even better.

Spicy Pineapple Cashew Rice
*Serves 2-3, about 30 minutes to cook if rice is pre-made.

Many Ingredients not pictured. I sort of built
this as I cooked.

  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice
  • 1 can of pineapple, drain and reserve the juice
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 of a package of firm tofu, pressed and diced
  • 1 Tbsp oil (I used canola)
  • 1/2 cup of toasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup of frozen (or fresh, I don't have any) spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp toasted coconut
First, drain the pineapple and reserve the liquid in a bowl. Add to it the soy sauce and the tofu and let it marinate for at least 20 minutes, but can go as long as a couple hours if you want.

Prepping for marinade - Very important when dealing with tofu.
Marinated is always better

If you have this meal planned out, do this the day before. It can
soak for up to 8 hours.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tofu to the skillet and cook for about 5-6 min a side or until it is golden brown. Add the cashews and the pineapple and cook another 5 minutes or so. Now add all the other ingredients (except the reserve liquid and the green onion). Stir fry this for at least 5-6 minutes or until everything is well heated through. If things are sticking, add some of the reserve liquid, about a table spoon at a time. I ended up used 3-4 table spoons. if you like a little crunch, turn the heat up for a couple minutes and stir fry on high to crisp up the rice.

Building the dish.. I started with tofu

Added my other base ingredients

Then really, I just kept adding until this is what I had!
One pot/one bowl meal.

Now when this is done or close to done, toast some coconut. Get your unsweetened shredded coconut and add it to a dry pan on low-medium heat. Toast for about 3-4 minutes. Watch it really closely and remove from heat as soon as it browns. Add it to the rice bowl with the green onion prior to serving.

The final result - Sweet, spicy, filling. Good.

For a dish that is essentially a basic grain and left over and frozen foods.. I cannot believe how good this tasted. It was nice to start this week of being on a zero budget with something good. It made me feel like I might actually be able to pull this off. The toughest part for me is that I have no fresh fruit for snacks and I have no popcorn... I have been relying on these for snack foods and without them, cravings have gone from strong to intense.

Just four more days to get through.... Not going to be easy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let Me Eat Cake

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am not always the most responsible with money. From time to time, I just say fuck it and go spend. I like doing it, it feels good and I rarely have remorse, even when I get the credit card bill. I go from being flush to broke all the time and I am pretty used to it. When I feel flush, I spend and when I am broke, I stay home.. and ground myself. I have never had long term goals to strive to. even though I am not the biggest thrill seeker or risk taker out there, I try very hard to live in the present. I don't want to die with thousands saved away for a rainy day. I make mistakes all the time, but I rarely dwell on them. Shit happens and  hopefully in the end I will make more good decisions than bad and most of my risks will pay off.

This week, I noticed a large amount of money sitting in my account. Not so much that I could pay off everything I owe and be good, but enough that it was like I was a month ahead. I happily paid all my bills for the month... not realizing that I had forgotten I was holding money int here for a cheque that was going to be coming out soon... So that cheque, all my bills and my rent all were withdrawn and just like that I was broke until next pay day. So much for being responsible!!

Normally Sunday is my day to make lots of food, do lots of food shopping and plan out the week. This week was a little different. Even though I could have gone and got groceries, I figured maybe this would be a good time to see what I can do with what I have. Sometimes my best creativity comes out when I am forced to look at what I have stocked and figure out what to cook with it.

I think this week is going to be an interesting one. I have lots of grains (Rice, barley, Wheat  berries, cornmeal), but not so much for protein (Chickpeas, dried beans and a little bit of tofu).  I have decided that I am only going to purchase food with whatever cash I can find in my apartment... so far I have found about $10, but opted to do laundry with it.

Feeling a little down about this forced grounding... I started really craving something sweet. I had an overwhelming urge to buy cake mix. Luck for me, I seemed to have enough ingredients kicking around to make a cake.. not a mix, but from scratch. It's always better from scratch. the nice thing about a cake is that almost all the ingredients are ones that are pantry items.. nothing that really goes bad. Really all you need is flour, sugar, milk, chia egg and baking powder. From there add any other ingredients you see fit. My favourite cake is golden yellow cake... I am pretty sure that nice golden colour comes from all the egg they put into most recipes. I decided that I needed to figure out how to veganize this..

Giant Vanilla Golden Cupcake Cake 
*Makes 1 small cake (8" pan), double for using in a 9 X 13"

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 chia egg (1tsp ground chia + 2 Tbsp water)
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric (makes it golden)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you may add more if you like)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 2 cup of icing sugar 
  • Toasted Coconut
  • Chopped walnut
For the Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Get a sieve and sift the flour with the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Use your mixer and now mix in the butter, milk and vanilla until well combined. Now add the egg and the tumeric and mix very well (About 3 min or so). Prepare your pan but either spraying with cooking spray or using shortening to crease it. Add a little flour and cover it on the bottom and sides.

With cakes, sifting is always better

Another great thing about this recipe, only one bowl

Pour the batter into the pan. For mine, I used what seems to be a giant cupcake pan. Honestly I am not really sure what the real purpose of this small of a pan is, but it works perfect for me. I tend not to share my cakes, so whatever I make either gets thrown out or eaten. Personally I would rather just make less.

Giant cupcake, ready for the oven!

Put the cake into the oven and bake. Mine took about 35-40 min, but if you were doing cupcakes, I would think about 23-30 minutes. Keep an eye on them. To tell if they are ready either use a toothpick (Insert it into the centre of the cake and it is ready when that comes out clean) or look for when the edges start to pull in from the pan.

The worst part... waiting for the cake to cool

And.... ready for icing

Once the cake is done, let it cool fully before icing.

For the icing, melt the butter in a bowl. Sift in the cocoa, cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne. Now add in the the icing sugar and mix until it is well absorbed. I used about two cups, but it depends on what consistency you like. I recommend adding the icing sugar by a half cup until you get the desired consistency.

Trick to this icing, combine everything but icing sugar first

Then.. add a ton of sugar... a ton

Lastly, get some fun toppings like coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles.. what ever you want and add them on top of the icing.

Top of the cupcake to you!

This cake is so good. A little spicy (No heat, but you can tell it isn't a mix!) the tumeric gives it a beautiful golden yellow colour and the chocolate icing is just the right amount to get a good amount on the cake.

Since I used a giant cup cake pan, I decided to lop off the top of the cupcake and make it into a mini cake. Check out the results... I think it turned out pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Last Chance for Noorish - Third Time's the charm

I have posted before about Noorish. It is a new-ish cafe that opened up in Garneau. New meaning that has been around about a year now. I went to Noorish on opening night. At the time, there was really only a couple vegetarian restaurants in Edmonton, and it was so exciting to have a new one.

third time was the charm

You can read my first review here. To summarize it, I liked the food, I did not like the management of the restaurant. Nice people, but seemed to have no clue how to manage a restaurant. I have stayed away from Noorish for quite a few months now, when a friend of mine suggested it for dinner tonight. I figured  if they have not gotten their shit together by now, they probably never will.

What is Noorish? Well, to me it is a hipster hang out, trendy and for the DINK's of the world with lots of disposable income to invest in all the latest health crazes. They are a raw, vegan (Mostly, I think they have cow's milk for coffee), heavy on the gluten-free cafe attached to a yoga studio. The serve elixirs and healthy warm and cold beverages, a small menu of typical cafe food (Think burger, stir-fry, salads, etc)

Was not a busy Tuesday night, so that may have helped them stay on top of service
That said, I here this place still gets packed, get a reservation if you go

My final overall impression? The good is tasty and filling, the staff is friendly. The menu is predictable and over-priced. If I was doing a star rating, for me, I would say 3 stars out of 5. I think it depends on your wallet and what you're looking for though... some would probably give it much more than what I do, but then... It's my blog and my rating system...

First, the cons. The menu, to me, is same as what I find everywhere. They have some salads and a soup and a sandwich, burger, pizza and some stir-fries... I am always looking for something different. The menu does not stand out because even though they are raw.. I can get similar food anywhere. For me, there is nothing on the menu that I HAVE to go back for.

Usual stuff.. burgers, sandwiches etc, etc. I did notice a kids menu.
I don't remember that from last time!
Prices - $8 for a drink (elixirs), $18 for a stir-fry or a small plate of nachos. $12 for hummus and 10 crackers. I am sorry, but I am not seeing the value. Maybe it's because of the ingredients they use... or that they know their target audience will pay to be there, but when you combine and somewhat predictable menu with high prices, it does not make me want to come back. I wish there was a couple things on the menu that were a little more economical... at least then there is a choice for the budget conscious. My friend and I had two appetizers, spit one dessert and I had a green tea. Total? $30 before tip. That is no entree, no alcohol. Let's just say, I didn't really feel like I got my money's worth even thought the food was yummy.

Hipster Vibes - Ok, this is a personal preference thing for me... but I feel going into that restaurant, that I really should have worn a fedora and many, many accessories that have no business being worn together. For some reason, I can expect this from places that are dressy. I know when I go to a fancy restaurant in jeans that I will stand out.. but with these hipster places, I am always surprised. You never know when you're going to land in one. For some reason when I end up in a hipster-type spot, I feel uncomfortable and judged... I don't know why, I just do. Something about trying so hard to have a laid-back, mellow comfy vibe, makes me uncomfortable... I am so glad I don't own my own business and can just blindly judge rather than try to create that feel without offending anyone.

Now that I have done my complaining, what did I like about this place?

The staff - yes, they were a little (A LOT) unprepared the first time I went, but regardless, they seem like nice people there. I was greeted when I came in, and offered three times an explanation on what the restaurant is about. Maybe that was overkill, but I appreciated that they want to tell people dining more about who they are. Our server was very friendly, offered opinions on the menu. Even warned us of a deceptively filling dessert that was good to share. They even happily split the cheque for us, which surprisingly puts some restaurants off. Good staff can be hard to come by and it is nice to be treated like a person and not just a table number.

The Store - part of the restaurant is selling hard to find herbs, health foods and books. I really like that, especially for a place into the vegan/raw culture. Some things seemed priced well, others were kind of high for me, but they have things that you probably can't find elsewhere... like raw chocolate, goji berries, herbal smokes, hard to find teas and lots of herbal mixes. Lots of other stuff too. It's nice to know that I can get some of these things if I am looking for them.

The Food - I know I spent a lot of blog space above complaining about the menu, but overall the food is good. Definitely not for everyone. My restaurant bestie, James, does not like the food here, but I do. Nothing to me stands out as a have to have item on the menu, but everything is tasty, healthy and filling. I am not sure why but it is missing that something that will make me go back. At the same time, I know I won't be disappointed eating there either. Strange.

What did I have tonight? first Hummus and crackers. The hummus is really good. Very homemade tasting and the crackers are very filling (Made from sprouted seeds, dehydrated.) I took the left over hummus home and totally plan to have it with a bagel tomorrow.

The hummus, it was good enough to take the left overs with me

We also split a plate of nachos. Surprisingly the nachos were one of the crackers on the hummus plate which if I had known that, I probably would not have got both of these, but nevertheless, they were also pretty good. They make this homemade chili cheese that looks kind of like cheese that came out of a tube, but tastes much better. It comes with a goji berry salsa, a raw version of refried beans (I forget what it was made of) and a vegan, raw, sour cream. The salsa and sour cream were by far the best part of this dish. They were good on their own and even better when you combined them. I would definitely order than one again.

By far the best part of these is the 'sour cream' and salsa,
preferably together.

For dessert we split a chocolate mousse cake. The server promised us it would be something you could split and when we got it, it was this little, tiny piece of cake. I thought for sure we would need a second dessert, but it was surprisingly filling. half, was more than enough. it actually reminded me a bit of the raw ice cream I made. It came with a raw chocolate sauce, caramel and berry compote and I normally hate chocolate and fruit together, but this was so, so good.

Most important part.. dessert.

So, I think for me, Noorish is not my favourite place in the city, but it isn't because of the people or the food. It is the prices and the menu choices that knock it off the top five. That said, I would not be unwilling to go back. I know the food tastes good and in the end, that counts for a lot.

So there you go, justifying my three stars. Points for food (taste and quantity), funky store and friendly staff. Points off for over-priced and lack of creative menu options. i won't be going there every weekend, but I think I will be back there again some time soon.

More than all I am glad they sorted out their management issues. Regardless of any negative, it is really good to see more vegan and raw restaurants popping up in this overly meat-centric city.