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Smoked Tofu, Kimchi and Gomae Rice Bowl!

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Sorry for the weird lighting in this photo.  The sun was shining brightly through the window and I just couldn’t get it right.  This dish comes together very simply once you have a few things made in advance.  I started making homemade kimchi a while ago to avoid a lot of the salt and fish sauce.  My favourite recipe for kimchi is from Dr. Ben Kim.  I love the addition of grated fruit and the step by step photos are great. 

The smoked tofu recipe comes from Grouprecipes.com and it turned out great.  I will definitely be using this recipe again for sandwiches.  I would just say to ease up on the liquid smoke a bit as that stuff packs quite the punch and can be a bit overwhelming if you add too much.  1/2 tsp. is more than enough!

The spinach gomae is just in my head after years of making it.  This is more like the gomae you would get in Japan and not at all like North American sushi restaurant gomae which usually uses peanut butter and includes a big dollop of sweet, sticky sauce on top.  Regular gomae is usually just sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and ground sesame seeds.  I just kind of wing it.  Steam the spinach and squeeze out as  much moisture as you can.  Grind the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or invest in a Japanese grinder which is kind of like a mortar and pestle with grooves in the mortar part.  Chill the spinach at which point you can squeeze together and slice into pieces or not as I didn’t bother to do in the photo above.  Add sauce and enjoy!

All of this is put atop Japanese short grain sticky rice with some slices of avocado.  Mmmmmmmm…

Vegan Energy Balls

This recipe is one of my most popular posts, lately! 🙂

Jenn Peters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. almonds-skin on, soaked for an hour or two
  • 1/4 c. cashews-dry, not soaked
  • approx. 15 dates-pitted, also soaked for an hour or two
  • approx. 10 dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp. carob powder
  • 2 tbsp. ground whole hemp seeds (plus extra for rolling)-thanks L!
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax

Method:

Put almonds, dates and apricots in a food processor and mix on low until fully broken up into small pieces.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until mixture comes together in a large ball.  Add cashews last-don’t worry if they are big and chunky-that makes for great texture.  If mixture is too wet, just add more flax seeds or something until it comes together when mixed.  I also highly recommend adding some coconut but I didn’t have any and my husband isn’t a big fan so I left it out this time.

Roll mixture into small balls…

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New Year…New Beginnings…

                                                                                                                                             Source: flickr.com via Blair on Pinterest

Well, we are into January now and it’s treating me pretty well so far.  I had a spectacular New Years Eve.  I don’t think I can do it full justice by trying to explain it too fully on here but I’ll just give you a brief summary.  We left the house fairly late after a few weeks and walked to Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the countdown with what was predicted to be about a million people.  I have spent New Years in quite a few different countries now, but I have never seen fireworks like I’ve seen in Berlin on New Years Eve.  *EVERYONE* has fireworks.  The streets walking to Brandenburg Gate are lined with people, every few steps, with their families, friends and children, with champagne and other libations, lighting off insane amounts of fireworks and fire crackers.  Some do make colours and something to look at.  Others are purely to make a crazy loud BANG!!! that I never got used to.  Bottles, paper, small fires in the street.  Everywhere.  Craziness.

Tonnes of people walking towards Brandenburg Gate.  In truth, we didn’t get more than two or three blocks away from it.  We could see the gate and the main fireworks display but there were too many people to get to the other side of the gate, where allegedly there was 2 miles of stages and food stalls and included performances by the Pet Shop Boys?  Anyway, we didn’t get anywhere near that.  But it was all good because we were in such a nice group of people who were all happy, fireworks were exploding all around us on all sides of the street and it was all very beautiful. 

After midnight we headed to Tresor, a nightclub that I’ve been wanting to go to for at least 12 years.  It’s famous to me for the music they play, and their record label.  Tresor used to be in an old bank vault but it’s now in a huge old power station.  I’ve never seen a club of this size before.  It took us at least 45 minutes to figure out where all the four bars were in the building.  Stairwells that lead to other bars, underground, pitch dark tunnels and DJ’s in industrial underground cages.  It was so, SO fun and we stayed all night, without narcotic assistance! Staff were so friendly, it wasn’t as smoky with cigarettes as the other club we went to here and the air circulation was generally better, mostly due to the size of the place.  Walking home in the Berlin sunrise was another highlight and the streets were filled with garbage that is still not all the way cleaned up. 

We’ve been taking it easy since that night.  I have been getting over a cold that I woke up with on the 30th but I feel much better now.  Met up with some friends for dinner and today it has been pouring with rain and windy all day so we’ve been working in our next travel plans and bus routes/schedules etc.

I haven’t been really updating my blog too much on what’s been going on behind the scenes with regards to our future plans and where we are “settling down” as much as we ever do, after this stint of travel.  We had shallow hopes of staying in Europe for work, but as I mentioned before, Europe’s not really in a good way as far as jobs go and we frankly just can’t compete with multilingual people holding EU passports.  We always sort of knew in the back of our heads that we’d end up back in Japan, but we were keeping open to any possibilities in the meantime.  Now that we are getting closer, and our allotted visa time in Europe is 2/3 done, we have to get more realistic and we’ve come to the conclusion that we want to give it a go in Tokyo again. 

We lived in Tokyo for a little over 2 years from 2005-2007 and we haven’t been back since.  I’ve missed it terribly during my absence.  I love so many things about it.  There are difficulties and challenges to going there, of course.  One major one being a vegetarian that no longer even eats seafood as we did last time we lived there.  It wasn’t too difficult to get by eating seafood there.  Not eating seafood is going to prove a HUGE challenge, especially with the language barrier.  I speak SOME Japanese and I can read and write SOME but I have a long way to go. Getting work, interviews, commuting and the massive strain on our finances getting set up are all going to be hard things to deal with at first, just as they were the first time we moved there.  But we know we aren’t ready to live in Canada again.  At least for now.  Apart from our family and friends there, who we can still visit, there is nothing really there connecting us to a feeling of “home”.  I worry about disappointing my family and friends by going there, but we have to do what is best for us.  I know they’ll be worrying about us and the earthquakes.  If it wasn’t for the tsunami of last year, I’m sure they wouldn’t be AS worried for us, but now that that has happened, it adds an extra strain on people, I know.  And it’s worrying for us, too.  But I am always resisting the pull to live in fear or to take the easy way out of things.  It’s easier to live in Canada, in many ways.  But I feel it’s also a compromise.  It’s hard to explain and it’s hard for other people to understand.  Basically I’d rather DIE doing what I love (travelling/living abroad) than die inside from not living my life how I want to.  Okay, this is getting cheesy.

So, we are due to check out here on the 11th.  We ended up extending our stay here by another week.  And now we are planning a return to the Netherlands.  We really want to travel to more countries on this trip.  I really wanted to go to Paris. But since we have this big plans now of heading to Japan and we need to buy some pretty big plane tickets, we need to lay low to save funds! Holland is the cheapest way for us to do this.  We found a beautiful room to rent in Haarlem which is outside of Amsterdam by about 15 minutes by train.  We rent a room in a B&B but then the owners are going to be away so they are leaving us with their place to ourselves! The rent, being out of Amsterdam is a HUUGE savings for us.  It’s pretty much the cheapest place we could stay and also happens to be in a country we are so in love with.  It works out cheaper than renting a flat for a month in my own country, by quite a lot! I’m very excited to get to know a new part of Holland and explore a new small city.   It’s close enough to Amsterdam that we’ll probably buy a monthly pass for the train to get back and forth.  Groceries and whatnot are also slightly cheaper there than Germany. 

We have a lot of adventure coming our way in 2013 but for now we’re going to take it day by day to enjoy our last week in Berlin.  Staying focused on the present while being mindful of our bigger goals.  Thanks for sticking with me!

xo

Vegan Food Swap-September Edition!

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Hey there y’all.  Been kinda busy over here.  Sorry for neglecting you! It’s time for my latest and final (for now!) Vegan Food Swap Update.  This month, my package came from Sasha at One Small Vegan!

Here’s what I got:

Thanks Sasha! I’ve eaten almost everything in this photo and I’ve loved it all! 🙂

Vegan Food Swap-August Edition!

Well, due to aforementioned camera issues, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of my vegan food package that came in the mail the other day.  I was very excited to receive a package from Becks McCarthy, of Crunchy Can Feel Good!  

Becks was very sweet and concerned about my Oral Allergy Syndrome since I usually request no raw items, but it’s really not a big deal.  It’s more of an uncomfortable/painful inconvenience, but it’s not life threatening, so far!  Anyway, she sent me such a good mix of things, it’s a shame I can’t show you a photo, so instead I’ll just tell you what was in it:

  • A huge bag of mixed sprout seeds and a cute little mason jar with cheesecloth for sprouting (that unfortunately broke due to Canada Post).  I grow sprouts all the time though, so I have a jar at the ready at all times! 
  • A bag of vegan gummy worms-no gelatin! Yay!
  • Fiesta Coconut Cream
  • Roads End Organics Vegan Alfredo Sauce
  • Mae Ploy Yellow Curry Paste (it’s like this girl knows me!)
  • A postcard from Victoria
  • Cute little clothespins for sealing up bags etc.

Thank you so much Becks! You and your blog are awesome! If anyone out there wants to join the Canadian Vegan Food Swap, check out this website for more info!

Vegan Chili with Barley…

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Barley is an awesome meat substitute for chili.  It gives you that texture and “filling-ness” that is normally taken up with ground beef but is so much better for you.  I used to make this with Yves Ground Round but I’m moving away from processed vegetarian meat substitutes as much as possible.  Throw in whatever veggies you want in this recipe, and make it your own!

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 med. onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1-28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2-19 oz. rinsed cans of beans of your choice (here I use black and kidney beans)
  • 10 oz. can of sliced mushrooms*
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 c. dry pot or pearl barley
  • 1 c. H20
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tbsp. poblano chili pepper
  • 1 tsp. Franks Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Heat oil in large pot on medium-high.  Add onions and celery and saute until onions are tender and nearly clear.  Add garlic last and stir (garlic burns easily).  Add zucchini and rinsed can of mushrooms and stir occasionally for a few minutes.  Add can of diced tomatoes and cans of beans and mix well.  Add 1c. of H20 and barley.  Reduce heat to low-medium and let simmer until barley is cooked through.  If chili begins to look too dry, add more water, a quarter cup at a time.  When barley is cooked, add chili peppers, hot sauce, brown sugar and salt.  Mix well and cook for a few more minutes so spices can release their flavours.  Taste and adjust salt and spices to taste.  Let sit a few minutes before serving! Tastes better the next day!

*Why do I use canned mushrooms? Yes, I know, living fresh mushrooms are probably better nutritive-wise and I always used them in chili up until recently.  But something about the texture of canned mushrooms is more appealing to me and works better for chill.  Of course, the recipe works just fine with fresh, sliced mushrooms.  Add them to the celery at the beginning and sauté until cooked.