Super Creamy Cashew Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

White bowl on an orange and blue-flowered tablecloth full of vegetable stir fry topped with cashew butter sauce, chopped fresh basil and cilantro, sambal oelek, and crushed cashews.

When people find out you have a peanut allergy this is what they always say: “You mean you’ve never had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Man, you are missing out!” It’s never any other candy, it’s never a peanut butter sandwich, it’s always Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (which, c’mon guys, are they really that great? Wait, don’t tell me). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, however, so I’ll tell you what I always think I’m missing: Peanut stir-fry sauce topped with plenty of crushed, salty peanuts (my sister assures me that I’m correct, peanut stir-fry sauce is actually incredible). So I took it upon myself to make something close using cashew butter (although you could use something entirely nut-free like SunButter if all nuts are off the table). I’ve made several versions of this sauce, each feeling a bit like trial-and-error, especially when you consider the fact that I’ve never had the original to compare it with. This is the version I’ve been making lately, it’s rich and creamy yet tangy and vibrant, all at the same time. I like to make it in my blender because it turns the cashew butter stir-fry sauce-making into a 2 minutes-or-less type of activity, but you could use an immersion blender or even a whisk to incorporate all of the ingredients together. This recipe is for a vegetable stir fry but feel free to add the protein of your choice, I like to carefully fold in small cubes of creamy tofu towards the end of the cooking time with the vegetables.

super-creamy cashew butter stir-fry sauce:

1/2 cup smooth cashew butter

Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 Tbsp. lime juice, total)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped ginger (use store-bought pre-prepped ginger if desired)

1-2 Tbsp. sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

1/3 cup warm water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth, adding more water to thin if necessary.

vegetable stir-fry:

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

4 cups of your favourite vegetables, thinly sliced (I’ve been on a real sweet pepper, carrot, baby bok choy, and scallion kick lately)

2 cups spiralized zucchini

1 cup basmati rice, steamed

1/2 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, loosely chopped

1/3 cup roasted and salted cashews, crushed (I like to put a handful of cashews into a resealable bag and whack them with the flat-side of kitchen mallet)

Extra sambal oelek and lime slices, for serving

  1. Add the grapeseed oil to a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet and heat until very hot over medium-high heat (the oil will start to look shimmery once it’s hot enough).
  2. Carefully add the vegetables and stir-fry until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. A minute or so before you think the vegetables are done, add the spiralized zucchini and keep cooking until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and pour the cashew butter stir-fry sauce over the vegetable mixture. The cashew butter will thicken quickly, keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Serve the stir-fried cashew butter vegetables with a scoop of rice, plenty of fresh basil and cilantro, a generous sprinkling of crushed cashews, a dollop of sambal oelek, and a lime wedge.

It’s kind of funny that The War on Drugs always makes me think of my dad, considering the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’s ever heard them. They remind me of Neil Young, which reminds me of some of his first “single dad” apartments (children of divorce, you know what I mean). Staying at those apartments every other weekend as a little kid was surreal, in retrospect. Not quite comfortable with just doing nothing with my sister and I, as we would be at my mom’s house, we would always have planned activities to keep everyone from feeling well, under the pressure. We did a lot of painting (my dad loves to paint), I remember once time we tried to make a papier-mâché horse using taped up newspaper and old Penny Savers. My dad’s visiting me in Vancouver for the first time in a couple of years next month and I’ll finally have to play him a War on Drugs album and see if he remembers the oddity of that time in my life the same way that I do.

The War on Drugs – Under the Pressure

Ginger-Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu

Ginger Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu

Because I work from home I’m always looking for ways to make my daytime meals as easy as possible. If I’m being completely honest this means I eat a lot of poached eggs and toast and drink way too many glasses of cold-brewed coffee on a daily basis. When I have my organizational act together I like to make grain bowls; specifically, two to five components which I can combine with some kind of grain to make a filling meal in minutes. Grain bowls can be made from any grain although quinoa is my favourite, I like to cook it ahead of time and then add a generous couple of tablespoons of minced garlic and ginger (there’s nothing worse than boring grains in a grain bowl). Roasting one or two vegetables for the week will also help expedite the grain bowl-making process, I’ve used golden beets and broccoli for this particular bowl. Grain bowls need some sort of protein to round out the meal and I find that baked tofu has a delightfully chewy texture and will keep in a tightly sealed container throughout the week. Pickled onions add a bright flavour contrast and some added  crunch and a tahini yogurt sauce brings all the components together. When the building blocks of a gorgeous grain bowl are all right in front of you it becomes that much easier to make them a daily part of your life. Packed with fibre and vitamins, grain bowls are an all-in-one way to incorporate more vegetables and grain into your diet.

for the roasted golden beets and broccoli:

3-4 golden beets, scrubbed and cut into a medium-sized dice

1 head of broccoli, broken into medium-sized florets

Olive oil

Kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the diced beets with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Spread the beets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. While the beets are roasting and using the same bowl as before, toss the broccoli florets with with some more olive oil and another pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Add the broccoli to the baking tray with the beets and roast for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

for the baked tofu:

1 block of firm or extra firm tofu

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

1 Tbsp. sambal oelek

1 Tbsp. honey

About 1 inch of fresh ginger, finely minced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut the tofu into thick slabs and arrange in a single layer on a baking dish.
  3. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients to form a marinade. Pour over the tofu, turning each piece over to coat.
  4. Bake the tofu for 30-40 minutes, turning again once or twice.
  5. Remove from the oven and cut the baked tofu into cubes, if desired.

for the garlic-ginger quinoa:

3 cups cold cooked quinoa (made from about 1 cup of dried quinoa)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. minced ginger

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

  1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the minced ginger and garlic to the oil and sauté for a few minutes before adding the cold quinoa. Keep cooking and stirring for 4-5 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds and serve warm.

for the tahini yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup of plain yogurt

2 Tbsp. tahini

Juice from half a lemon

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. honey

Pinch of kosher salt

2-3 Tbsp. cold water

Combine all of the tahini yogurt sauce ingredients together in a bowl or a blender until completely smooth, adding water as needed to thin out the sauce until it’s a consistency that can be easily drizzled. Extra tahini yogurt sauce can be refrigerated for 5 days.

for the pickled red onions:

1 red onion, thinly slice

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar OR lime juice

Combine the red onion with the red wine vinegar or lime juice, tossing to combine. Let the red onion sit for at least 30 minutes and up to several days in the refrigerator.

to make the grain bowl:

To assemble a Ginger-Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu begin with a generous scoop of quinoa as the base. Pile on equal amounts of roasted golden beets and broccoli and baked tofu. Drizzle with tahini yogurt sauce and a handful of pickled red onions. Extra add-ons I’m a fan of include chopped pickles, cilantro and parsley, feta cheese, toasted seeds and nuts, and sliced green olives.

Oh, this is lovely. I’ve been obsessively listening to The Japanese House the past couple of weeks. I can’t resist, Amber Bain’s sublime synth-heavy songs sound like perfect little soundtracks to bitter-sweet daydreams.

The Japanese House – Face Like Thunder

Roasted Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Ras El Hanout

Roast chicken, tabouleh, hummus, and tzatziki arranged in serving dishes on a bright purple tablecloth

I’m on a train tonight, speeding to Seattle through the blinding radiance of sun and sky and orange sleepy light. Sometimes we’re next to the ocean, where gold skitters across the surface of the water and sometimes we’re in the woods, where the gold is interrupted by the softest of pine shapes. I’m listening to Amen Dune and my heart is hurting, how do you even start to think of all the shattering of hearts and spirits in Orlando right now? It feels too abstract when it’s so far away, thinking about it is like laying in bed at night trying to get a sense of how large the universe is. I’m trying to concentrate on chasing the sun in this train, about seeing my family in Seattle, about how lucky I am in one million ways, and about this past year’s events – both good and bad. I love my family, I love my friends, I’m trying to think of you all right now and just send rays of kindness in your direction; I hope you can feel it. I have a private blog of my favourite poems and quotations and right now I keep falling back to this one from Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past:

“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.”

Be with the people who you love as much as you can. Forgive petty indifferences as they come, and seek to connect hearts as much as possible. Make a nice meal for the people you love, or better yet, make it together. This meal was made for my friends with ingredients from Morocco brought to me by other dear friends. Lie under the dense canopy of gentle goodness whenever you can, be better through the gold light in your life.

roasted chicken:

1 roasting chicken

Olive oil

Ras El Hanout

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped into large pieces

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Fleur de sel (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub the chicken skin with the Ras El Hanout until covered. Place the chicken breast up in a small roasting pan on top of the chopped onion. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the bird for 15 minutes at high heat. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast for about another 45 minutes (times will vary depending on the size of the chicken, but you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 165 degrees).
  4. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil once it’s out of the oven, give it about 15-20 minutes to rest if you’re eating it right away. Carve the meat and arrange on a big serving platter; add a small sprinkling of fleur de sel if you have it.

quinoa salad:

1 cup of quinoa

1 English cucumber, cut into thin quarter moons

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch of scallions, green parts sliced thinly

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. Ras El Hanout

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly cracked pepper

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and move it to the fridge to cool.
  2. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and mint to a large salad bowl. Add the quinoa and gently toss to combine.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Ras El Hanout, olive, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat. Allow to sit for at least half an hour, giving it some extra freshly cracked pepper before serving for good measure. This salad keeps for about 3 days in the fridge and makes a perfect portable lunch.

Amen Dunes – Splits Are Parted

Easiest Ever Overnight Steel Cut Oats

A shallow bowl full of steel cut oats, nuts, seeds, and brown sugar beside a bowl of orange sections and apple slices.

I love eating steel cut oats for breakfast, especially on cold rainy mornings when I feel as though  I need something warm and solid to carry me through the day. I would confidently and decisively place steel cut oats in the “rib sticking” category of morning meals, especially when combined with toppings rich in complementary flavours and nutrients. The only real drawback (and I say this only because I don’t give myself enough time to make these oats the morning of) is that they need a good half an hour to forty five minutes to cook and there isn’t much you can do to rush this step. I had relegated steel cut oatmeal to a weekend-only type of meal and resigned myself to smoothies for weekdays until I read about making steel cut oats the night before. I’m so happy I discovered this cooking method, because now I can have steel cut oats whenever I feel like it. It’s difficult to cook a very small batch so rather than attempt this I embraced it. This recipe makes enough for about 5 portions, depending on how much you like to eat first thing in the morning (I prefer smaller servings early in the day). Either keep the cooked oats in your fridge in it’s original cooking pot to dish out portions as needed, or experience the thrill of neatly packed individual jars lined up perfectly in your fridge. Of course, choosing potential toppings is the fun part and the variations are endless. My favourites include trail mix and maple syrup (as pictured above), raspberries and grated coconut, blueberries and brown sugar, or sliced banana with honey. I know that generally oats recipes call for water only, but I grew up on a half water/half milk combination and so that’s how I prefer them as an adult and I always pour over some warmed milk, cream, or coconut milk to stir in before eating.

easiest ever overnight steel cut oats:

1 cup of steel cut oats

2 cups of milk

2 cups of water

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Extra milk or cream

Oatmeal toppings of your choice

  1. Bring the oats, milk, water, and salt to a low boil in a lidded pot. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes before removing from heat. Store in the fridge overnight.
  2. In the morning, heat up a serving of oats in a saucepan with with some extra milk to get a wonderfully creamy texture. Finish with the toppings of your choice and a final drizzle of milk or cream.

Shallow plate of fruit containing pineapple, oranges, and kiwi.

This pretty song is such a nice way to usher in the light on still navy mornings.

Royksopp – So Easy

 

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables and a Creamy Greek Yogurt and Orange Dressing

White dish full of quinoa and roasted vegetable salad beside a glass container containing creamy orange salad dressing.

This recipe is a testament to the infinite usefulness of leftovers; cold cooked quinoa and roasted vegetables from last night’s dinner form the framework for this hearty grain salad. I can’t think of a single vegetable that wouldn’t be a delicious addition, and for this particular version I used red onions, sweet peppers, fennel, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms that had been roasted for 45 minutes at 375 degrees the previous evening (a massive plate of roasted vegetables on a rainy Friday night is my idea of heaven). The black sesame seeds and hemp hearts add a nutty flavour and extra texture, both could be substituted with other seeds or nuts or even omitted entirely. There’s something about the taste of fresh citrus on grain salads that I love, especially during December when all of the lovely oranges are beginning to appear at produce stands in Vancouver. I used a Cara Cara orange for this salad because I love their bitter and only slightly sweet flavour but any type would work well, including my two other favourites, clementines and blood oranges. Serve this salad at room temperature either as is, or with avocado and orange slices gently stirred in on a bed of mixed baby greens. This quinoa salad will keep in the fridge for several days and therefore makes a great portable lunch or reliable dinner at the end of a long day.

quinoa salad with roasted vegetables:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

About 2 generous cups worth of cold, leftover roasted vegetables

1 leek, the white part only cut into very thin half moons

1/2-3/4 cup of Italian parsley, finely shredded

1/4 cup of dried cranberries or cherries, minced

2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

2 Tbsp. hemp hearts

creamy greek yogurt and orange salad dressing:

Juice and zest of 1 orange

2 Tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. kosher salt

Generous pinch of freshly cracked pepper

  1. In a large salad bowl combine the quinoa, roasted vegetables, chopped leek, parsley, dried fruit, sesame seeds, and hemp hearts.
  2. Shake all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass jar and pour over the quinoa and roasted vegetable mixture stirring gently to cover.
  3. Allow the salad to sit for at least 15 minutes, serving at room temperature as is, garnished with orange and avocado slices, or on a large bed of mixed greens.

Hexagonal dish of quinoa salad with Christmas lights off to the side.

Of course I’m listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, good grief.

Skating – Vince Guaraldi Trio

 

Savoury Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Mahon

Bowl of barley risotto with rosemary and Mahon cheese

This barley risotto is deeply savoury, but also woodsy tasting and earthy in its complexity of flavours. The rosemary adds just the right amount of piney substance and the mushrooms lend the perfect amount of umami (which is to say, great amounts of umami). You could certainly use a cheese like aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano if you can’t find Mahon for this recipe. If you can find Mahon then try and get your hands on an aged version (it’s often sold as Mahon Authentique in North America). Mahon is a firm cow’s milk cheese from Spain that is a buttery marigold colour; it smells like a cellar and a fresh cut lawn all at the same time. Its flavour is one of intense grassiness and dark earth – I could wax poetic on the subject forever, what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s an absolutely lovely table cheese to have on hand and a nice alternative to Manchego when you’re having company over for Spanish tapas. If I was making this meal for a dinner party I would serve it with a really bright salad full of shaved fennel and oranges, a plate of marinated olives, some pears that your guests can just help themselves to, and a bottle of something big, red, and spicy.

savoury barley risotto with mushrooms and mahon:

Scant cup of bread crumbs, homemade or panko crumbs work best

1 cup of pearl barley

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 large leek, cut into half moons

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

About 1 good sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

2 tsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

About 5 cups of vegetable stock

Thick shavings or gratings of Mahon Authentique cheese

  1. Begin with a large skillet. Over medium heat, toast the breadcrumbs first (this will happen within seconds, so stir constantly and transfer to a plate as soon as they’ve turned a dark golden brown colour).
  2. Next, toast the barley and almonds together while stirring frequently (but not constantly). As soon as they begin to turn golden transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat, adding the mushrooms, leek, garlic, and celery. Cook for several minutes until the ingredients begin to soften. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for five more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and almonds back to the pan and stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Pour in the vegetable stock, soy or tamarin sauce, and lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the stock has been absorbed by the barley. When it looks like it has the consistency of risotto try the barley to make sure it’s cooked, you want it to be soft but chewy.
  5. To serve the barley risotto ladle it into a shallow bowl and top with a handful of the toasted bread crumbs and a generous amount of shaved Mahon cheese.

Barley Risotto Mis En PlaceI recently added a whole bunch of music to my computer that I a)thought I had lost and b)forgot I even had (out of sight out of mind if stronger than I realize, especially considering I’ve seen The xx twice live and thought both shows were incredible). It was a combination “Oh yeahhhh!” and “Oh yayyy!” moment when I started listening to this album again, like a forgotten treasure I found in the backyard. So here you are, minimalism at its best and sexiest.

The xx  – Heart Skipped a Beat

Acorn Squash and Brown Rice Crockpot Risotto

Serving dish full of acorn squash risotto with pomegranates.

Today was a perfect example of why I love my crockpot: I can put everything in it and then have a cozy afternoon nap. This isn’t a true risotto by any means, but it has all of comforting properties of a proper stovetop version. One acorn squash is the perfect amount for this recipe, but any other firm squash would work well and the yam could be substituted with the equivalent amount in diced carrots. The pomegranates are an added colour and nutrition boost, providing some crunch in an otherwise very creamy risotto. If I’m home I’ll generally have it in the crockpot three to four hours, but I’ve left it cooking while I’m at work on low for eight hours by adding an additional half cup of vegetable stock to the recipe. I like to serve this with a really crisp chopped salad full of crunchy ingredients like radishes, fennel, romaine hearts, and iceberg lettuce.

acorn squash and brown rice crockpot risotto:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 medium sized acorn squash, diced

1 small yam, peeled and diced

3/4 cup of brown rice

4 cups of vegetable stock

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

2 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1. Soften the onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Add to crockpot.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot, stir to combine. Set the crockpot to cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, checking to make sure it doesn’t overcook and become dry. Serve with extra fresh thyme and pomegranate seeds.

How can you not feel happy? Frantic, spirited, and just the right amount of twee for a misty Sunday afternoon.

Air Miami – Definitely Beachy / Bubble Shield (Reprise)