Monday, November 29, 2010

CooCoo for Coconut

Last week started off on quite a poor note for me: on top of having to deal with a broken bed and a wintery slap in the face in the form of an ice storm,  I had to deal with some less-than-pleasant stomach issues which landed me in the dreaded waiting room of a health clinic. The cherry on top of it all: I was instructed by my new doctor to stay away from both gluten AND dairy for "a couple of weeks."

Is he aware that gluten and dairy are the basis of my comfort-food diet every winter?
Is he aware that the temperatures dipped below freezing this week?
Is he aware that denying me of bagels and cream cheese is not good for my mental health?

Attempting to keep my mental health in check - for the good of everyone around me - I decided to make the best of things and turn this into a cooking challenge! (While grinding my teeth and forcing a smile!) At first, it was tough to think up ideas. (On that note, it's also been tough trying to ignore the brand new chocolate milk container and the three containers of yogourt in my fridge. But I digress). I began to get quite creative in the kitchen.

And that my friends, is where my fabulous coconut shrimp stir-fry was born.
I must admit, I had some inspiration from my good friend Lisa, so thank you!
The boy and I both reached for seconds. And then thirds. We then had to restrain ourselves, because I was insistent on getting a photograph in before it was all devoured...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Just Might Make Friends With Salad. (This Time).

I've never liked lettuce.

Being a vegetarian for so many years, this fact has often startled people.  Each time that I tell someone that I dislike lettuce, the reaction that I receive generally follows the same pattern. It begins with a baffled, "but how could you not like lettuce?" And is often followed by " So I guess you don't eat salad, then?"









Ah, how I love receiving that follow-up question. Each and every time, I'll respond with, "actually, I love salad." I then adore watching the person's facial transformation - twisting mouth and furrowing brow - as he or she becomes even more confused. If the person does not immediately conclude that I am simply delusional, I will begin my usual - salads-don't-need-lettuce rant.

Salads do not (always) need lettuce.

Now, you may have heard that you don't make friends with salad, but I think that that is only because most people are doing it all wrong. There are so many vegetable possibilities out there - all you need is two or three of them, and you've got yourself a salad. Lettuce-free.


My two favorite salad combinations are: 1. Cucumber, tomato and celery and 2. Spinach, dried cranberries and almonds. Lately, however, I've been on a more exotic/experimental gourmet salad kick. I started the week off with a fabulous concoction of pan-seared red pear slices, brie and chopped walnuts. And then, yesterday, I picked that - as I discovered today at lunch - is even tastier once it's been marinating for a while. Unlike lettuce salads that become soggy a day later - this salad maintained it's crunch beautifully.

Go ahead and make some friends.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Three Minute Masterpiece

Rice wraps.
If you haven't done so already, I strongly urge you to get on the bandwagon.




Light and easy to work with, rice wraps are a fail safe go-to anytime that I need a quick-fix meal. Thanks to their neutral taste, they can be stuffed with pretty much anything that you desire. I could imagine them filled with any savory meal that you'd normally eat as a salad - for instance, some seared strips of steak and raw spinach. Or, for the vegetarian, tofu, ginger, carrots and sprouts. You can even venture to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and make desert rolls, filling them with a fruit salad and dipping them in chocolate. When I make them, my preference has generally been sushi-inspired. The other day, I had a fishepiphany - why don't I make a bagel-inspired one? I am from Montreal afterall...

Ah! There she is - the above photo was taken pre-wrap, of course. A true beauty: avocado, alfalfa sprouts, Coho smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasted sesame seeds. As a bonus, since the rice papers each contain only 45 calories and 0 grams of fat, I was able to enjoy all of the best parts of my Sunday morning bagel, without any of the usual carby guilt. 

My favorite part about these wraps is that they look ridiculously impressive - and only take a couple of minutes to throw together. For real: this little baby took me three minutes total! A three minute masterpiece.... I'll now title this blog post accordingly. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Nutty November

Look out, boy - I am currently infatuated with another. 

Though I hate to admit it, I accidentally fell in love... While I long believed that I hated the nut, our paths crossed one faithful night. It was tough at first to crack him, but once he came out of his shell,  I felt completely satisfied. He was more tender than I had imagined, and though at first a little bitter, he became surprisingly sweet in the end. Lately, I've been going to him for a late afternoon pick-me-up...


O, Walnut, how I lust for thee...


My mother used to keep walnuts in our pantry. I'll never forget them - I don't know what on earth she used them for, but they were there for as long as I can remember - chopped up and stored in a recycled glass jar that was in the shape of a teddy bear. One day - most likely out of rainy afternoon boredom - I decided to grab a handful out of the jar to eat as a snack. Now, perhaps they had gone rancid, perhaps they were simply stale, or perhaps my palette had not yet fully developed... but all that I can recollect is a vivid memory of my immediate heaving and spitting straight into the garbage pail.

For years afterward, this popular nut remained banished from all that I cooked, baked, and consumed.

Recently, I visited a small Italian resto on St. Denis. I was deep into conversation when the waiter showed up to take our orders. As per usual, I hadn't yet taken a long enough glance at the menu to know what I wanted - feeling pressured as everyone sounded off their choices, I ran a split-second menu scan, spotted the words "cream," "mushrooms," and "pasta."
Done and done.

Half a litre of wine later, a horrifying plate was placed in front of me:  I received a dish of pasta covered in... you guessed it... walnuts. Now, I do not like handing anything back at restaurants - if you've seen the movie Waiting, you'll understand why. Moreover, I was not going to let my (relatively new) friends think that I, Allison the Foodie, was a picky eater. So - I dug right in, fully ready to paste on a fake smile (all while I prepared a napkin in my lap, for secretive spitting purposes...)

And that's when it happened. That was the turning point.
I. Like. Walnuts.

Later that week, I attempted to replicate the mushroom walnut cream sauce (which I did, fabulously, by the way), and served it over a spinach and mushroom tart. Sorry to break your hearts, but you won't be getting the recipe for that today. You can blame the boy, and I guess you can also blame it partially on myself - we polished that sucker off before I could even fathom taking a second photograph. (Or writing down what the recipe.) Oops.

Instead - I bring you something tantalizing - an autumn twist on a year-round staple. You may have been searching for a superior banana bread recipe for years, and just haven't found one. Or, perhaps you already have your own recipe for banana bread, and you're wondering why you should switch away from your tried-and-true.  Here are a few reasons why this bread is awesome: three huge bananas, whipped butter, cinnamon and vanilla. And now, here are a few reasons for the health conscious people: fibre(fruits, nuts), protein(nuts), vitamins(fruits), and a ton of added fat-free moisture - in the form of diced apples.

Yeah. That's right. I put diced apples in my banana bread.
Do it. I dare you. You won't regret it.