Comfort me with noodles

As soon as I started to think about comfort food, the phrase “comfort me with apples” popped into my head.

Photo by Kyla Winchester

I remembered it as the title of a book of food writing by a former Toronto Star columnist. However, it turns out it’s also the title of a food critic’s memoir and a quote from the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon: “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” The exact translation varies—sometimes it’s “refresh me with apples”, sometimes it’s “strengthen,” or “apricots.” Once it’s even, “Support me with citrons,” which I find especially interesting because I learned a citron is actually one of the citrus fruits that the other types were derived from—but also because I find citrus far more refreshing than apples.

All this to say: I don’t find apples especially comforting. 

There are a few things we probably universally associate with comfort: something warm or hot, full of carbs, with nostalgic or sentimental feelings. It’s what we want when we’re sick, or tired, or homesick, or just having a bad day. It’s the thing we want to magically appear before us when it’s January and snowy and we have to get groceries but we’d rather not. It’s the thing we want when nothing else will do. 

And yet, I find my comfort foods are changing. When I was a kid, my dad’s chicken noodle soup and my mom’s homemade muffins, fresh from the oven, were the perfect comfort foods. As an adult with the flavours of the world at my door, I now crave things I didn’t even know existed when I went to high school in small-town Ontario: sushi, pho and ramen, dumplings, panini, tamales, and anything with peanut sauce. 

My go-to for peanut sauce is thick rice noodles with baby bok choy and grilled tofu, but it’s a delight on many things: dumplings, summer rolls, even a fusion burrito… and if you dipped raw veggies in it, I’m sure no one would object. If you’re being responsible, add the sauce to your favourite noodles with a veg and a protein and you can have a healthy, filling meal. If you’re not, just pour the sauce on cooked noodles and delight in the saucey goodness.

I make no claims as to the authenticity of this peanut sauce: the original recipe may have been, but since I started making it from the recipe in my head with the ingredients I usually have on hand, it may have strayed. Fortunately, the recipe is flexible: use whatever soy sauce you have around, you can skip the ginger if necessary, make it thinner or thicker as you see fit. The beauty of comfort food is that it only needs to make you happy. 

Peanut sauce

Attributes: Vegan, can be gluten-free with tamari instead of soy sauce (check the label to confirm)
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty level: Easy

½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or substitute with 1 tablespoon lime juice)
Grated or chopped garlic to taste (start with a half a large clove or 1 small clove, then add more as desired)
Approx. a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or chopped
Chili flakes or chili sauce to taste
Cold water to thin sauce, if needed

Add all ingredients except water to a bowl and whisk to combine. Add water to achieve desired consistency. It will thicken in the fridge, so if you’re saving it for later, check consistency before adding to noodles, etc. 

Submitted by Kyla Winchester

A soul-warming parsnip-carrot-potato soup and an intention for 2019

Raise your hand if you’re craving warm, hearty, nourishing meals during this time of year. Though it’s been a mild winter so far, it’s nice to have a few easy meal options to whip up on those days when the bitter cold, howling wind, and limited daylight hours encourage taking refuge in the kitchen. 

The calm rhythm of scrubbing, dicing, and mixing 

The spicy aroma of ingredients mulling together on the stove

Getting lost in one’s thoughts while stirring soup

Ladling it into a favourite ceramic bowl before adding a handful of herbs 

The joy of sharing a favourite meal that is equal parts delicious, nourishing, and beautiful 

One of my intentions for the new year is to spend more time preparing food with others. Last fall I started a monthly Sunday night soup club. The idea is that a group of about a dozen friends gathers at a rotating host’s home the last Sunday of each month. The host cooks a large pot of soup, featuring a seasonal ingredient or two, and guests bring something complementary to share, like a hearty loaf of bread, seedy crackers, fruit, or a bottle of wine. We enjoy a slow meal, generative conservation, and good music, and warm our hearts and bellies for the week to come. 

Soup Club has been successful so far, thanks in large part to having access to a bounty of seasonal produce at Karma from which to find inspiration.

Every time I enter Karma during the winter, I head to the produce section to see what beautiful root veg is on offer. I love to use what catches my eye to create simple soups and stews to cook, share, and enjoy during the week (if there are leftovers).

From baskets overflowing with vibrant orange, green, and yellow squash, to jewel-like beets, earthy and grounding, to bright, crunchy multi-coloured carrots, we are lucky to have choices, even in the coldest times of the year.

One root vegetable whose call is sometimes drowned out by more extroverted veggies is the humble parsnip. I like parsnips—their mild but slightly spicy flavour lends itself well to gentle roasting, or a light sauté, perhaps sweetened with a miso-maple syrup glaze. But I often forget about them, drawn to flashier colours and bigger flavours.

After many glances at those parsnips in the corner, I decided it was time to integrate them into a well-loved soup recipe in my household: a zesty root vegetable soup made richer with a bit of peanut butter and coconut milk and enlivened by a generous sprinkle of cilantro and green onions. Bonus: its flavours intensify over time, making this an excellent soup to cook on a Sunday for plenty of weekday leftovers.

Soup Club is a reminder that cooking isn’t just about the end result. It’s also about the process: the slowing down, appreciating the resources and labour that produces ingredients, the conversations that make habitual acts meaningful. 

I hope you’ll give this soup a try! 

The recipe is inspired by the Minimalist Baker’s Creamy Thai Carrot Soup with Basil. https://minimalistbaker.com/creamy-thai-carrot-soup-with-basil/

Serves 8 medium bowls

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 2 pounds carrots (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • 1 pound parsnips (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • 1 pound yellow potatoes (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • Pinches Herbamare and pepper, your favourite soup spices (e.g. chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika)
  • 6–8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (get it from Karma’s bulk section!)
  • 1 cup coconut milk 

Optional toppings:

  • Fresh cilantro 
  • Chopped green onions
  • More coconut milk, to drizzle
  • Lime wedges
  • Hot sauce (Karma has many options, including Simply Natural sriracha)

How to make it:

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.

2. Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil and let melt, then add curry paste.

3. Finely chop onion, garlic, and ginger. Add to pot, stirring and enjoying the lovely aroma.

4. Add diced carrots, parsnips, and potato, and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Season with a Herbamare and pepper, and any other spices you like. I find a bit of cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika are nice.

6. Add the stock and stir gently, making sure the vegetables and spices are integrated.

7. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. 

8. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Then turn off the heat and move your pot to a pot-holder.

9. Now the fun part! Grab your immersion blender, and blend the soup until smooth (on low speed). 

10. Whisk the peanut butter and coconut milk in a bowl, then add to the soup pot and blend to combine (on low speed).

11. Return the pot to the stove, over low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. 

12. Prepare your toppings (cilantro, green onion, lime wedges, extra coconut milk, hot sauce) in small bowls.

13. Serve immediately! 

Submitted by Sarah Bradley

Nutritional yeast

What bulk item at Karma do you think triggers the most questions of James Byrne, Karma’s bulk, meat, and cheese purchaser? I’ll give you a hint: Read the title of this article. Members are more curious about those bright yellow nutritional yeast flakes than any of the other bins and tubs of bulk products.

First of all, what is nutritional yeast? It is a single-celled microorganism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which grows on and feeds from cane or beet molasses. The molasses provides a source of nutrient-rich food, filling the microbes with 18 amino acids and a selection of vitamins and minerals.

What are the health benefits of nutritional yeast?

It is a source of essential nutrients, soluble fibre (beta glucan), and minerals, as well as a more readily available supply of protein than meat. Nutritional yeast is popular with vegetarians and vegans as it provides vitamin B12, which otherwise is found only in animal products. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 100% or more of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12.

The Engevita brand that Karma carries contains 71% protein by weight, which is impressive for plant food, and is an excellent boost for the brain, body, and muscles. It is low in sodium and calories, is non-GMO, and is free of added MSG and flavouring. This table details the nutritional values.

How is Engevita produced?

Engevita is derived from baker’s yeast, which is a waste product in the beer-making process. This variety is grown specifically on beet molasses. After harvesting, the microbes are heated to 100 °C, rendering them inactive. They are then dried and rolled with a drum into flakes.

Where does Karma obtain its supply?

Karma buys Engevita flakes from Grain Process Enterprises Ltd. in Scarborough. Engevita was developed by the food scientists at Royal DSM Food Specialties in The Netherlands in 2002. In 2006, the privately-owned Québec company Lallemand Inc. purchased the yeast rights and moved production to Estonia, where it is produced today.

To keep members satisfied, James orders a 10 kg bag of flakes every couple of months. That’s a lot of yeast considering 1 cup of the flakes weighs 60 g. Compare that with water, which weighs 236 g per cup.

How does one use nutritional yeast?

Those who are familiar with it know it for its strong flavour. It is often described as cheesy or nutty, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used as a substitute for parmesan cheese in recipes. You can sprinkle it or stir it into dishes to add a hint of cheesiness. Nutritional yeast can also be used to thicken sauces and soups.

If using nutritional yeast is uncharted territory for you, maybe now you feel motivated to incorporate it into your cuisine for its nutrition-packed splendour. The Internet is the place to find recipes using nutritional yeast. Here’s one to get you started.

 

Dharma’s Kale Salad

Makes 1 to 2 servings

Author: Kimberly Snyder

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 bunch black kale
Pinch of salt
1 small avocado
Juice of a lemon
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 handful sprouts, any kind
1 tomato, cubed
1–2 tbsp dulse flakes (seaweed flakes)
Handful of dill, parsley, or cilantro, or combination

Instructions

1. Tear the kale leaves off the stem and place into a mixing bowl.

2. Add salt and tear into bite-sized pieces.

3. In a separate bowl, scrape out the avocado flesh and add lemon juice. Lightly mash and mix with a fork.

4. Add the avocado mixture to the kale and massage it into the kale with your fingers.

5. Stir in the nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, sprouts, tomato, dulse flakes, and herbs, and add a little more sea salt, if desired.

From https://kimberlysnyder.com/blog/2012/01/23/dharmas-kale-salad-recipe/

submitted by Barbara Walters

Photograph by Ela Lichtblau

Raw Chia Morning Cereal

Raw cereal is a good way to start the day: not heavy like toast or greasy like croissants; not too sweet like doughnuts or muffins. Chia seeds can be a delicious and nutritious component of raw cereal.

When I was growing up, chia seeds were known only for growing fuzzy green “hair” on clay heads as decoration. Today we know that this tiny seed in the mint family is great for stabilizing blood sugar, consuming omega-3, and lowering cholesterol. Two tablespoons of chia seed have 7 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, and 5 grams of omega-3. Plus, 3.5 tablespoons of chia seed provide as much omega-3 as 32 ounces of salmon!

Karma has the best price on organic chia seeds in the city. We sell them in the bulk section for about $26 per kilogram. As a cereal, chia is similar to flax.

When you add liquid, the seed expands and becomes thick and soft. You can add virtually anything to chia to make a hearty, healthy morning cereal. This recipe is only a guideline. You can omit or add different seeds, nuts, or fruits.

1 1/3 cup (250 g) organic chia seeds
2/3 cup (80 g) nuts (your choice)
1/2 cup (70 g) dried fruit (like figs and apple)
1/3 cup (40 g) raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (30 g) raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 – 1/2 cup (25 – 50 g) flax seeds
1 – 2 tbsp. (10 – 20 g) raw sesame seeds
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp. (20 – 30 g) maple flakes or maple sugar (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl and pour the mix into an airtight container. I like to use the Sopa or Sunflower Kitchen soup jars I’ve previously bought at Karma. Keeps for months. To make the cereal, it all depends on how much you like to eat. A little goes a long way. Try 3 tablespoons of chia cereal with 1/3 cup almond, rice, or soy milk.

Submitted by Siue Moffat

First published in The Chronicle (Fall 2013)

Maple Miso Adzuki Beans

I rarely know what to do with adzuki beans. They’re one of the easier beans to digest, but they’re not the prettiest, say, blended into a hummus. This, however, is a quick and tasty way to add some protein to a plate of colourful veggies (prepared however you fancy).

a splash of olive oil
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 c. cooked adzuki beans (or one can from Eden Foods, drained and rinsed)
a splash of maple syrup
a splash of tamari soy sauce
1 rounded tsp. unpasteurized miso paste (I use a mellow one) mixed into a splash of water

Heat the oil in a small-medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Mix in the beans, syrup and tamari, and cook until the beans are heated through. Turn off the heat and stir in the miso mixture. Serve hot.Makes 2 servings. (It’s gluten free and nightshade-free)

Submitted by Jae Steele
First published in The Chronicle (Winter 2010)

jae steele is a local holistic nutritionist and author of two vegan cookbooks: Get It Ripe and Ripe from Around Here. She has also been a working member of Karma since 2003. More information at HyggeMama.

Roasted vegetable medley

I love beets, squash, and sweet potatoes partly because of their colour, but also because at Karma I get to meet the farmers who grow them. This roasted vegetable dish is easy to make, and actually doesn’t need proper measuring—well, unless you’re the measuring type. Beets make your bowels happy as they are fibre-rich, and are also full of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.

6 sweet potatoes
1 bunch chives or green onions, chopped
1 c. maple syrup
5 beets, pre-steamed
1 butternut squash
5 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
3 red onions
3/4 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
1 tbsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. salt
1 handful tarragon
1 handful parsley

Preheat oven to 375° F. Peel and boil the sweet potatoes until soft. Mash and mix them with the maple syrup, chives, and 1 tbsp. each of salt and pepper. Spread them evenly in the bottom of a roasting pan. Scrub and chop up the beets and steam until about halfway cooked. Peel and slice the butternut squash into thin pieces. Chop the garlic and red onions. In a bowl, toss the beets, squash, garlic and onions with the olive oil, the rest of the salt, and the garlic powder. Throw the whole lot on top of the sweet potatoes and roast for 40 minutes. When you take out the pan, the veggies should be browning on top and the squash should be fully cooked. Throw in the peppers, tarragon, and parsley. Roast on broil for about 10 minutes or until the peppers are slightly brown. Enjoy!

Submitted by Sophie Muller
First published in The Chronicle (Jan/Feb 2010)