Saturday, 28 November 2015

Exotic Potato Pudding [Cooking For One]

Oh yeah, time to get into the weird stuff. Pineapple + oranges + potato. Yes, potato. I apparently this isn't meant to be a dessert either - it's in the "vegetarian meal" section of the Cooking For One cookbook. It's also partially cooked in the microwave, and oddly for this cookbook, makes more than just one portion.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 9 oz (255g) cooked potatoes
  • Finely grated rind of 1 orange
  • 1/2 orange, peeled
  • 1/2 small pineapple, peeled (I prefer the term "butchered")
  • 3 1/2 oz (99g) canned mandarins
  • 3 tbsp mandarin juice from the can
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp butter

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Cut the potatoes into thin strips, sprinkle with the orange rind, and mix. Slice the orange and pineapple. Layer the potatoes, orange, pineapple, and mandarins in a greased microwaveable dish, top with a layer of potatoes. The potatoes are going to get a bit crumbly because, well, cooked potatoes.

2. Put the mandarin juice, butter, and a dash of salt in a bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Pour over the potatoes.

What am I doing with my life

3. Microwave the dish for 4-5 minutes.

The Outcome:

What the hell am I eating? It doesn't taste bad per se, but it's very, very weird. It's warm citrus and pineapple, but then suddenly there's a piece of potato. The weirdness is compounded since there aren't any spices in here, it's just fruit and potato. The good news is potato is such a neutral flavour, so it's more just weird than bad. I think I'm having some kind of dissonance with this, because I did eat seconds of this, but I still can't really wrap my head around it.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Cod Curry [Cooking For One]

I figured I'd try another reasonably normal recipe from the Cooking For One cookbook before I burn my house down with the weird microwaved stuff. This looks like a pretty straightforward fish curry recipe, though the option of yogurt vs. canned tomatoes seems like it would produce two very different dishes.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt or 2 oz canned tomatoes, chopped (this seems very weird as an alternative, it would change the dish's composition and flavour profile dramatically - not in a bad way, just that it would be a pretty different curry)
  • 1 small fresh green chili, finely chopped (they didn't specify what kind of green chili so I went for a serrano)
  • 1 sprig fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 oz cod filled, cut into 2 inch pieces (that's only like 113g, so I got the smallest piece of cod in the grocery store for this)
  • salt to taste

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion until "golden brown". Add the cinnamon, bay leaf, ginger and garlic pastes, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the ground spices and stir for another minute. (At this point it's going to be very dry, so keep stirring so nothing burns.)

2. Add in the chili, cilantro, and either the tomatoes or the yogurt - and if you're using yogurt, also add 3 tbsp water.

3. Add the cod and season with salt. Cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes. It does seem dry in the pan, but a sauce does start to form after a bit, but this recipe does seem a bit touch-and-go, I stood ready with a bit of water in case it started burning.

The Outcome:

It's not a bad curry, but it's not amazing. The cod flakes apart at this point and is completely overwhelmed by the spices, so you mainly feel like you're eating an onion curry. The addition of cinnamon is interesting, it adds a bit of complexity, and using a serrano pepper gave it a nice bit of kick (they also didn't make me de-seed the pepper to strip its potency away, thankfully). However, while it's not terrible, it didn't make me go "wow". I wonder if works better with the tomatoes instead of the yogurt?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tomato and Cucumber Salad [Cooking For One]

I figured I'd start with one of the more basic recipes in the Cooking For One cookbook before venturing into potentially blowing up my microwave. At first glance this recipe looks pretty basic. On second glance, it is pretty basic.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 1 1/2 oz cucumber (I assumed this was 1.5 oz of cucumbers instead of one comically tiny 0.5 oz cucumber. This only works out to like 43g, a very small amount of cucumber indeed)
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 spring onions, coarsely chopped (In Canada spring onions generally mean green onions, but there is also a slightly different variety more common in Europe that is hard to find here that is also called "spring onion".)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 oz roasted, salted peanuts, crushed (this is only 14g - I used my digital scale to get it exact. Again, a very tiny portion)

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

This is what 43g of cucumber looks like.

1. Peel and chop the cucumber "finely". Chop the tomato finely as well. (Seems like somewhere between a chop and a dice.) Mix the onions, tomato, and cucumber in a bowl and set aside.

Even my smallest whisk seems like overkill.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and cilantro.

3. Mix the dressing and peanuts into the veggies and serve. (I mean, you're only serving yourself, so dig in.)

The Outcome:

I mean, this is a perfectly good little salad - but I do mean little. The flavours do go together well, but this is a pretty rudimentary recipe - apart from the addition of peanuts, this is something you'd probably just throw together anyways if the ingredients were at hand. Still, it's a perfectly tasty little snack. I'd leave the cucumber skin on and omit the extra bowl - it seems kinda unnecessary to try and whisk so little liquid.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Cookbook Crusher: Cooking For One: Now You're Cookin'

I'm a sucker for the bargain bin cookbooks at Chapters - there's usually a bunch of them for a dollar or two, and it always makes me wonder why they're there. Is it just overstocked? Is there something wrong with the cookbook? For a dollar, it's worth the gamble. (This one only costs a penny on Amazon these days.)

I picked up Cooking For One: Now You're Cookin' at a Chapters in Toronto from the bargain bin, thinking that since I live by myself, I would get some use for it. In all the years I've owned it, I've never even opened it, so now it's time to give it a go.

At first glance the book is filled with single-serving recipes, normal dishes cut down in size for one person. There's a mix of salads, entrees, and a few desserts, but no real overarching theme apart from portion size - though they seem to go heavy on the seafood dishes.

And bad photoshop, too.

The pictures seem a bit weird to me - the book was published in 2007 but the pictures seem a lot older than that. Looking in the inner flap gives a hint to why this is - this cookbook was initially published in the Netherlands. However, the credit for all the recipes is a German company. So it seems like this book was originally published over 15 years ago in either German or Dutch, and was more recently translated into English. One more oddity is that the printed price is only in British Pounds, but the recipes use American weights and measures.

The recipes look generally pretty straightforward, some to the point of being insultingly easy. Their bocconcini salad recipe is essentially just "layer tomatoes, basil, bocconcini, top with olive oil and pepper" - that is definitely a bocconcini salad, but does that need a whole page recipe? 

I can smell the electrical fire already.

They also have a weird focus with microwave cooking - both in terms of cooking raw meat in the microwave, and a rice recipe that wants you to cook the rice for 35 fucking minutes  in the microwave (edit: I looked and they want you to cook beans for one hour in a microwave too). Cooking rice, even a small portion, seems like it could be accomplished on the stovetop a lot more quickly and with less chance of an explosion of ceramic and second degree rice burns.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Outcome: The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook

So, I've now tried five new recipes from The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook. I tried to cook them as close to possible to the recipes, so here's the outcome.

The Verdict is:

Ehh....hit and miss, I'll keep it unless I need space. I was a bit worried that the recipes would be trying to awkwardly shoehorn Sriracha into everything, but they actually all really incorporate it well. The problem here is the same problem a lot of other vegan cookbooks face - adapting non-vegan recipes and making them work. This was compounded by the fact that the recipes defaulted to gluten-free.

Dishes that are already inherently or technically vegan come out just fine: the minestrone soup turned out to be really tasty, as was the mango guacamole. The spicy margarita was also a pleasant surprise, it had just the right level of spice and some interesting flavours. Where it fell down was with the parsnip latkes and the peanut butter cookies - while the flavours were still really good, both had serious consistency issues. Some of these issues could have been solved with flour (it's marketed as a vegan cookbook, not a gluten free one) or other edits and changes to the recipe.

I'm going to hang onto it because the recipes I've tried for inherently vegan things seem to turn out pretty well - there are some good looking soups and dips in here - though since I'm not vegan, I'll skip a lot of the veganized recipes.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Super Simple Peanut Butter and Sriracha Cookies [The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook]

Like the section on drinks, I knew I had to give the dessert section of the Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook a go. The idea of peanut butter and Sriracha doesn't seem to be as off-the-wall as you'd think - the combination of peanuts and chilies is pretty common in a lot of Asian cuisines. However, it's not incorporating the spice that's the problem here, it's incorporating the vegan-ness (or the fact that this recipe is mainly just peanut butter on a tray).

Cookbook Recipe:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter (I had to make a mandatory substitution of "unnatural" peanut butter - I don't really like peanut butter so I needed to get rid of this jar)
  • 1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup (that's "Canada No. 2" in Canada)
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

"Mucilaginous" is an amazing, if gross, word

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix the flaxseeds and water until they mucilaginate and turn into a goopy gel after a few minutes.

2. Mix the flaxseeds and their goo with the peanut butter, maple syrup, Sriracha, salt, baking powder and soda. The dough needs a vigorous stirring to come together, and it's going to be a lot stickier than normal cookie dough.

3. Put heaping tablespoons of the dough and put them on a prepared baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then let cool on the pan for 15 minutes (they have a weird foamy consistency right out of the oven). Cool further on a wire rack.

The Outcome:

Sad to say but the consistency just doesn't work. When they came out of the oven, they were a weird foamy texture that only somewhat firmed up after the cooling. The flaxseeds didn't seem to do much, I'm guessing they were meant as a flour substitute, but these really had the texture of warmed peanut butter. To be fair, that's basically what these cookies are - they also seriously stick to the roof of your mouth and fall apart if you try to lift them. The spice is nice and does go well with the peanut butter and maple syrup, but I think someone with a bit of time and dedication could fix this recipe and still keep it vegan - add some flour, amplify the amount of flaxseeds, or bake them for longer? Or just say sod it and add Sriracha to a peanut butter cookie recipe? 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Light My Fire Potato-Parsnip Latkes [The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook]

I figured I'd pick a recipe from the vegan Sriracha cookbook that's a bit more seasonal - something containing one of my favourite root veggies - parsnips! At first glance, this latke recipe is a bit different - the normal use of egg and flour to hold the potato together has been swapped for mashed parsnip. While it looks good on paper, we'll have to see if the texture holds itself together.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 3 large parsnips
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1 bunch green onions, green part only, sliced diagonally (they cookbook doesn't specify how thinly they should be sliced, but I tried to keep them reasonably fine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (I had to make a necessary compromise with regular parsley because that's all the grocery store had and I wasn't bicycling through a rainstorm to find a single bunch of Italian parsley. Sue me.)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • salt and pepper to season
The cookbook recommends vegan sour cream or applesauce as optional toppings.

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Bring 1/2 inch of water (an oddly specific amount for this) to a simmer over medium. Dice two of the parsnips (the cookbook doesn't specific if you peel them or not, but parsnips can be kinda grubby and hairy, so I took that as unspoken) and simmer in the water for five minutes, until fork-tender.

Goopy goodness

2. Drain the parsnips and pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel. What the cookbook does not mention is that these parsnips will still be incredibly hot, so good luck if you use a paper towel. Put the parsnips in a blender and while the blender is running, dribble in the 2 tbsp of olive oil, processing until smooth. The blender will goop up at this, but fortunately scraping down the sides with a spatula helps blend the mashed parsnips as well as the blades do.

3. Since this recipe makes several batches of latkes, the cookbook recommends you preheat your oven to 200F and put a wire rack on a tray or a foil lined baking sheet in the oven to transfer your latkes to as you cook them in order to keep them warm. I did do this step, but since I'm just cooking for myself and planning to refrigerate the leftovers, it's wasn't super necessary for me.


4. Peel and grate the remaining parsnip and the potatoes. Squeeze the grated roots by hand in a strainer over the sink to press out as much water as possible.

5. In a large bowl, mix the grated roots, the mashed parsnips, green onions, parsley, garlic, and Sriracha. Mix well and season.

6. Heat about 1/4 inch oil in a large skillet to a high heat. Take about 1/4 cup of mixture and form it into flat patties about 1/2 inch thick. Fry in the oil for 4 minutes each side, until crisp and dark brown. Keep warm in the oven as you fry more batches. The cookbook doesn't mention it, but you likely will have to add more oil between batches.

The Outcome:

So shiny!

Man, I don't know. Hot out the pan, the taste is pretty good. There is a distinct parsnip flavour that goes well with the Sriracha. However, the consistency is a bit off - the mashed parsnip doesn't hold it together as well as it should, and despite the high heat and the straining, these are soggier and oilier than normal latkes. I'm havering about these - I like the idea of parsnip and Sriracha latkes. I would probably remake these with egg and flour added - unfortunately the egg destroys the whole vegan intention of this recipe.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Mango-Sriracha Margarita [The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook]

I really wanted to try one of the two alcoholic Sriracha drinks in this cookbook, but both rely on fruit that is really hard to find out of season in my part of Canada (the other recipe is a watermelon and sriracha sangria). The good news is I had already scored some mango for the last recipe, so mango margaritas it is!

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 284g (10oz) frozen mango chunks (this is a standard size package, but the mango I had cut up and frozen also turned out to be pretty much exactly that weight)
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (it took about two medium oranges for me)
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and triple sec are all allowed by the cookbook)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or 3 tbsp raw agave nectar
  • 1/2 tbsp Sriracha
  • juice of three limes
  • ice cubes or cold water
  • Kosher or margarita salt for rimming (I had to make a necessary substitution here, I realized I only had sea salt and it was late - so I ground it to margarita salt consistency in a mortar)
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Combine the mango, orange juice, tequila, orange liqueur, sugar, Sriracha, and juice from two of the limes in a blender until smooth.

I know it's twee but I heart my silly ice cube trays.

2. Add ice cubes or cold water (for thicker or thinner consistency) until the volume is 4 cups. It really helps if your blender has volume marked on it. Blend until smooth.

3. Put the juice of the remaining lime and the salt in seperate shallow dishes. Wet the lip of your glasses in the lime juice then rim it in the salt. Pour the drink into the glasses and garnish with mint.

The Outcome:

The first few sips seemed a bit off - I guess I was expecting it to be sweeter, but the Sriracha gives it a slightly earthy taste. A few sips in the flavour started to grow on me - it's lightly spicy, just enough for a mild tingle, and the flavours of citrus, mango, Sriracha, and tequila all come together really nicely. It's a very summery and fun drink, so it feels odd to be drinking it in the middle of winter - I should put a picture of a beach as my desktop while I drink this.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Sriracha-Mango Guacamole [The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook]

The major downside of produce-heavy recipes like the ones in the Veggie-Lover's Sriracha cookbook is the simple fact that getting fresh produce sucks in Canada. It's going to be out of stock, half-ripe, cost more than an entire meal at Tim Horton's, or look like it was kicked all the way from California to Canada. However, I love mangoes, and even if they're a bit out of season in Canada, when I saw this recipe I really needed to try it. It's guac, it's spicy, and it has mango in it - though there is the weakness that there's just no way to find big soft juicy mangoes in this part of the world right now.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 3 large, ripe, Hass avocados (the varietal with the darker skin - the good news is that's the only kind we get here)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 large mango, diced (I feel a bit let down by this mango - I went to three grocery stores before I even found any mangoes, and this was the "ripest" - it's dry as a bone but it is technically a mango)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more as garnish
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Halve and pit the avocados, scooping the flesh into a bowl. Top with lime juice and mash the avocados with a fork until "relatively smooth". The lime juice should also keep it from browning, however, as we see later, this concern is rendered moot.

Dry as a bone.

2. Add most of the mango, leaving a few pieces for garnish, plus the onion, cilantro, Sriracha, garlic, and cumin. Mix it well and season. You'll now see why browning isn't a big concern, as the red Sriracha turns the green avocados into a colour I can only describe as "cat barf".

3. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with reserved mango and cilantro.


I'm sorry I put the image of cat barf into your minds. It's actually very tasty. The guac, not cat barf.

I really wish I had waited to try this recipe when mangoes were in season. Colour aside, it's really tasty - it's a good solid guac with a nice spicy kick. The mango taste is very subtle and gets a bit overwhelmed by the spice, but I think this is more due to my shitty dry mango than the recipe. But once you get over the colour, it's really tasty and pretty easy to make.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mouth on Fire Minestrone [The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook]

I'm easing into the vegan Sriracha cookbook with their minestrone recipe. Minestrone is pretty flexible, though this one is interesting as they omit pasta completely, it's just beans and veggies. They offer the liberty of switching up for whatever veggies are in season, but that's not the name of the game here.

Cookbook Recipe:


  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced (due to some cosmic joke, my grocery store only had 5 Roma tomatoes, so I made the necessary substitution of adding one small non-Roma tomato)
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and diced (zucchini options were limited at the grocery store, I think this one's been in a fight)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried. I went with dried.
  • 1 3/4 cups cooked canned cannellini beans or 1 undrained 443 ml / 15 oz can (I could only find a larger can, so I've saved extra beans some for a salad or pasta later)
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

Following the cookbook recipe exactly:

1. Basically, into a big pot on high heat, chuck most of the ingredients: the stock, Sriracha, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, zucchini, garlic, bay leaves, and oregano. Bring it to a boil, lower heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Thank god kale boils down.
2. Remove the bay leaves and add the kale and beans. Simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes more.

3. Stir in the lemon juice, season, and serve.

The Outcome:

This is a pretty tasty soup - it's at a right juncture of hearty and healthy where you feel full without feeling gross. The Sriracha gives it a bit of zing but doesn't overwhelm (my mouth definitely isn't on fire, though). It's a pretty straightforward recipe, and really easy - plus it helps you get your veggies in! The only problem I would have with it is adding the lemon juice at the very end - it comes off a bit too strong and distinct. I would give the lemon time to really combine in, maybe add it a minute before you stop cooking. The lemon does meld in nicely when you let the soup sit and then reheat it. I would definitely use this as a good base recipe, it makes a lot of soup and the author is right - it's minestrone, you can add pretty much whatever veggies you want.