Food has always been one of my favorite things. If I were Oprah, and had a “Favorite Things” show, it would be all food…. and well running shoes, Tri bikes, wet suits, pull buoys, compressions socks…Ok, I digress. Anyway, imagine how thrilled I was when I found out that our friends in Canada had planned for us to have a Vegan cook come to their house, and do a cooking class for us. I always love finding new recipes, trying new foods, and learning how to cook amazing Vegan spreads like the one we made today.
Our friend Shannon met this AMAZING lady at the market who does these cooking classes. All fresh, organic, Vegan meals. She came in with her bags and bins full of various spices, veggies, fruits, noodles, tofu, oils and mortar and pestle. Each of us had a job to do. I loved that our kids got into it. Mariah sat for an hour, and crushed/grinded all of the spices we would be using with the mortar and pestle. White peppercorns, coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, shallots, garlic, and chills, to name a few. Greg, Shannon and Ellie cut, peeled and chopped veggies, squashes etc. I made a beautiful Tamarind sauce. Every one of us, being “coached” by this wonderful lady named Aja. She talked to us about each ingredient, and why it was going into the meal. Talked about being Vegan (I loved her) talked about her 2-½ years that she lived in Tonga. What an amazing woman.
Our kitchen smelled like a gourmet restaurant.
We prepared and ate each of the courses separate, which made it easier for us with the cooking. We could prepare one thing, and eat, while something else was cooking. Our first course: Butternut Squash Coconut Chowder. Oh man, this chowder was to absolutely die for. Great texture and colour. And the Yellow Curry Paste that Mariah had prepared to put in it was outrageously delish. We topped the chowder with fresh basil, and lime, which really brought out the flavour.
Mariah grinding all of the spices.
Everyone taking their turns at some cooking.
Second course: Peppercorn Tofu Shitake Rice Paper Salad Rolls. I think anything with Shitake mushrooms (or ANY mushroom) in it is outstanding, so this, I was VERY excited about. This had grated cabbage, tofu that had been coated in sesame oil, and white peppercorns, sesame seeds, the shitakes…. my mouth is watering again. The kids really got into this one. We took our hard rice papers, and dredged them through the warm water to get them pliable. They were super thin, and see through, but amazing tough. We put in the ingredients one by one, topped with mint leaves, and rolled them up. They were gorgeous in colour, and taste. We made a Sweet and Sour Chili dipping sauce for them. MMMMmm!
Check out that colour
Our main course; Vegan Pad Thai with the Tamarind Sauce. I love Pad Thai, but have never made it on my own. It was so good, so fresh, like no other Pad Thai I have ever had…. and trust me, I have had a lot since Thai food is one of my faves!
We sat and savored the Pad Thai, learning more about our gracious teacher/chef, Aja. Her and I talked “all Vegan” and will be keeping in touch to swap recipes. She was a wealth of knowledge since she has been Vegan for 22-some years. WOW!! For someone like me, new to Veganism, going into my 4th year, I sat and listened to every word that came out of her mouth. This woman and her stories fascinated me. We laughed, drank wine, and talked about gardening, processed foods (BAD), composting and her travels. And then came time for dessert. OH MAN!!
Dessert: Baked Caramel Coconut Bananas with Local Pears. And yes…STOP, before any of you jump in and say, “Caramel is not Vegan!!!” we caramelized using organic coconut oil, lime and cane sugar. Another side note…I love bananas, plantains, etc, and have had them cooked in various ways as well…. this dessert, well, lets just say, STICK A FORK IN ME…. and topped with coconut that we toasted was so delicious, and decadent. The entire experience, and meal was so great!! I cannot wait to recreate this wonderful meal in my own kitchen.
The rest of our time spent in Canada involved a lot of wonderful wines, a FEAST on Thanksgiving (even though it was not their Thanksgiving in Canada), game playing, watching Shannon curling and just enjoying our time with our great friends. It was unusual to spend Thanksgiving there. With the craziness on Thanksgiving in the States, Black Friday sales, and just the rushing around, I feel a lot of Thanksgiving is lost to us back home. Too much goes into “getting the best sales” and not enough into being thankful for our family and friends this time of year. I feel Thanksgiving is rushed through to get to the sales, chaos, and un-merriment of Black Friday. So it was truly a gift to spend our time out of the US, where it was simply a “good time, good food, and good friends kind of day”. There was no anxious alarm clock setting to be at the doors to shop at 3am….just the quiet, peacefulness of a beautiful Thanksgiving. Slowing our family down to realize how blessed we really are with the simple things in life.
Of course we HAD to go to Salty's while we were there.
Shannon curling (as much as I wanted to understand this sport....I just couldn't get it)
A huge THANK YOU, goes out to our awesome life long friends and house host in Canada; The Burton Family. You are family to us and we all enjoy every second that we get to spend with you all.
And a huge shout out to Aja Jackson of Earthaja. (www.earthaja.ca) You were a joy to meet, and learn from. Thank you for all of your wisdom. You will come highly recommended. Your cooking skills, and food selection was to die for.