Archive for Cookbooks

HelloFresh!

Sheesh. Life is B-U-S-Y. Between teaching 4 classes and finishing up the editing on my cookbook, plus clients and the boy, I feel like I barely have a moment to spare.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you’re in a similar position.

Our lives are pretty crazy these days–shuttling the kid(s) to after school activities, homework, housework, it’s no wonder dinner sometime feels like an afterthought.

I try to be prepared–before I went back to school, for example, I did a ton of batch cooking and prepped up a bunch of meals for the freezer, which we are still working our way through.

But I recently had the opportunity to try a local meal-prep service, and I wanted to share my impressions with you.

hello fresh

Feta- Stuffed Eggplant with Chermoula Freekeh
and a Cucumber and Mint Salad

HelloFresh doesn’t deliver readily-made meals. What they do deliver is the ingredients to make them. Everything is pre-portioned, and they include recipes. The idea is, you can make the meals in about 30 minutes from beginning to end, and it saves time because you don’t have to shop for the ingredients, and some of them are actually pre-prepped for you, like for example the onions come already cut.

You can order different kinds of boxes as well. I got a vegetarian one, but they also offer meat options. The meals feature fresh, healthy, quality ingredients.

The 3 meals that came in my box included a vegetarian sloppy joe (made with Yves Ground Round) with a side arugula salad, lentil dal with naan bread, and  roasted eggplant with feta and chermoula freekeh.

Those all sound pretty tasty, right?

veggie sloppy joes hello fresh

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with an arugula salad

Here’s what I liked about HelloFresh:

Flexibility: my box came with 3 meals, but you can order larger quantities, and you can also order boxes that feed a larger crowd. Mine was for 2, but a version that feeds a family of 4 is another option.

Speed: all three of them cooked up in about 30 minutes. In fact, the night we had the sloppy joes was a bit of a hairy one. I had a meeting in Kits at 4, and zoomed in the door at 5:30. Dinner was served at 6! I would consider that a success, in and of itself, but the kid actually really like the sloppy joes, as well. Bonus.

Sustainability: all of their packaging is recyclable. All of the boxes are cardboard, and just go straight into the blue bin. The plastic bottles and bags can be rinsed and also recycled.

hello fresh ingredients

By sending you only as much as you need of say, herbs or lettuce, you don’t have produce languishing away in the crisper drawer. I really hate throwing out food, but I do it sometimes, especially fresh produce that I didn’t use up fast enough.

Sourcing local: they also are committed to sourcing the ingredients as locally as possible, which means fresher ingredients, and more money going back into the pockets of local farmers, something I support wholeheartedly.

Trying new things: I get stuck in cooking ruts. We eat lots of stir-fries, pizzas, homemade mac ‘n’ cheese with Caesar salad. What I like about these kits is that they force me to try something new. I’m pretty daring in the kitchen. There’s not much I won’t try, and there’s probably less that I haven’t tried. But this kit exposed me to a few ingredients like a Mediterranean spice mix called chermoula. And freekeh, which was something that I’d known about for a while, and had meant to try.

lentil dal with spinach hello fresh

Lentil Dal with Spinach and Naan

I think it’s a great service–it would be really great for those who cook less from scratch, but even a more advanced home cook can benefit. I also think it would be a really fun date-night activity (I did one of mine with a girlfriend), or a great way to get your kids to help out more in the kitchen.

You can learn more about HelloFresh!, including pricing and meal plans, by visiting their website: hellofresh.ca.

 

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Vegan Carbonara

When I first moved back to Vancouver 20 years ago, I spent a lot of time on The Drive. More specifically; I spent it at Continental, drinking coffee and people watching.

I didn’t live in Commercial Drive. There was a part of me, that, while I loved to visit, was reticent to live there. Like it still had that “rough and tumble” East Van reputation that was too exotic for the every day.

vegan carbonara

There were lots of tattoos and piercings, and people sporting brightly-coloured hair. There was passionate yelling and crowds gathering on the sidewalk outside of Cafe Roma to watch soccer. There were Italian gentlemen sipping tiny coffees and reading newspapers at Joe’s. There was Havana, where I spent a lot of time both hanging out and making art. It was wonderful.

I’ve grown up since then, and I think East Van has, as well. Yeah, the attitude is still there, but East Van has a sophistication now that it lacked 20 years ago.

That sophistication has a lot to do with the food culture of East Van–and that food culture is being celebrated in a new book, The East Van Foodie. Published by Brad Hill, this book is the follow up to The North Shore Foodie. What I love about Brad’s books is that they aren’t just cookbooks. These are the kinds of books you want to proudly display on your coffee table. They are replete with the greatest food porn.

The East Van Foodie features stories and recipes from some of my fave East Van joints; Havana, Bandidas, Chicha, Fets, Red Wagon, Mamie Taylors. These places are the real deal. They serve straight-up good food.

Today’s recipe is from this book. One fantastic thing about this book is how much vegetarian and vegan food there is in it, and this recipe comes from The Wallflower, a diner on Main St that is very veg friendly.

Pasta Carobonara is, of course, normally made with bacon, eggs and cream. None of which, of course, are vegan. This vegan carbonara uses a smoked tofu and coconut bacon chips to impart that smoky flavor, and roasted garlic cashew cream. Its pretty tasty!

vegan pasta carbonara

Vegan Carbonara

(recipe courtesy of The East Van Foodie)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 200 mL coconut milk
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • olive oil
  • 1 500 gm package of pasta, I used spaghetti
  • 1 210 package of smoked tofu
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • Coconut bacon

Method:

  1. The night before, place the cashews in a 500 ml mason jar and cover them with water. Screw on the lid and allow to sit on the counter overnight.
  2. Slice the tops off of the bulbs of garlic, and place them on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fold up the sides to make a little package. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. Cook pasta according to directions.
  4. While pasta is cooking, drain the soaked cashews and add them to the blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend well for about a minute. Squish the roasted garlic cloves into the blender and blend again.
  5. In a medium-sized pot, bring the cashew sauce up to the boil, along with the additional 2 cups of water. Place the coconut milk in a mason jar with the cornstarch and shake well to create a slurry. Add that to the cashew cream, whisking all the time, until it’s thick and creamy. Season.
  6. In a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the diced tofu and fry for a minute. Add the peas and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta back into the pan, then add the sauce. Toss well until everything is coated.
  7. Serve, garnishing with coconut bacon and fresh herbs.

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