There are lots of things in life that I dream about doing. I’ve fought the label at times – because it sometimes gets used to deride those who never follow through on their dreams, as a derogatory term for those who never hustle – but I am a dreamer. Ideas come and go: sometimes I latch onto some longer than others, some get dragged down into the realm of practicality to be parsed for potential only to be discarded, others make the complete, daunting journey from flight of fancy to reality. I’m an ideas person, happily inhabiting a vivid imaginative realm, realizing that not every flight of fancy will become a reality (though, I mean, that would be swell if they’d all come true!).
Often these dreams and ideas are inspired by someone or something; there has to be that spark that sets the mind ablaze. Inspiration is the ability to make someone move or change, and as one of my absolutely favorite novels intones:
The only lasting truth
So, the ability to inspire, to create change or movement in someone is a powerful thing. Whether its inspiration for a new recipe, for a piece of writing, for a travel destination, or for something much larger – there’s a certain world-shifting, world-creating power within those who can inspire.
Andrea and Denis are two people who inspire me. It’s not so much that I want to be like them, or even to do what they do, but the ways in which they’ve approached what they want to do makes me want to do what I do in new ways. What seems like another lifetime ago, we knew each other in person – sharing similar experiences as newly married couples who were finishing university degrees and the like in Victoria, BC. And, as life tends to go, our paths diverged, multiple moves around the globe happened, many children were born. But, through the power of social media, I’ve been able to catch glimpses of how their life has evolved, how the two of them morphed into a family of seven and how their dream of owning a farm became a reality that is now Grey Arrow Farm in Camrose, Alberta.
On the farm, they run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that brings fresh veggies to customers in Canmore and Edmonton. Farming on a small scale isn’t easy, which is why so few are doing it. To make it all work for them, Denis still works as a teacher through the school year. They hustle hard, wearing many hats and all in the pursuit of turning dreams into reality. But what I admire and what inspires me is that they took a leap into their dream, made some big moves and changes, and despite (what I’m sure are many) challenges, they’re putting in that behind-the-scenes hustle that’s necessary to make any dream possible. They’re making dreams come true. At least that’s how I see it.
And how I see it often came through the lens of Andrea’s camera. She’s superbly talented, with a warm, inviting style that is reflective of the life her and Dennis have built. As they’ve embraced the many changes in their life with an enthusiasm that is reflected in the images, I’ve always been inspired to carry the same attitude into new challenges and changes; it’s an encouragement to see people you know learn and thrive in the midst of change. As I go through changes of my own, it’s important to see people thrive through change.
So when Andrea approached me and asked if I would come up with a recipe that used some of the beautiful produce that they grow, it was a neat moment of re-convergence and an opportunity to pay back the encouragement.
For the recipe, I wanted something that used a number of the items they were growing (not just one), that was relatively simple and not time-consuming to make (we have big families, school is back in session, life gets hectic…), that highlighted the beauty and color of the vegetables, and which didn’t require any complex or hard to find ingredients – but still brought some big flavors!
This Thai Coconut Rice Bowl marries three different parts together to make a satisfying, nutritious meal: fluffy, coconut rice meets the spice laden, crunchy chick peas, and the bright, piquant tang of the sesame lime slaw.
It’s a recipe that has bold, exciting flavor combinations without scaring you off through a complex process. It’s a perfect midweek meal for a family and because the slaw can easily be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge it’s a meal that quickly comes together for those busy days.
This is not Thai food by any means; but it definitely is inspired by what are, in my mind, key ‘Thai flavors’. In creating this, I wanted to include cilantro, lime, and coconut. These three (along with lemongrass and fish sauce) are key ingredients for me when I think about the best Thai food I’ve had and they’re all in here (fish sauce too, unless you want to make it vegan/vegetarian!).
And, as pretty much every ‘bowl’ that ever existed goes, this one is totally customizable to your tastes and preferences. Feel free to adjust, play around, and add or subtract as you prefer.
Thai Coconut Rice Bowl
This Thai Coconut Rice Bowl marries three different parts together to make a satisfying, nutritious meal: fluffy, coconut rice meets the spice laden, crunchy chick peas, and the bright, piquant tang of the sesame lime slaw. It’s a recipe that has bold, exciting flavor combinations without scaring you off through a complex process. It’s a perfect midweek meal for a family and, because the slaw can easily be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, it’s one that quickly comes together.
- 2 cups carrot, shredded (approximately 5-6 medium carrots)
- 4 cups cabbage, shredded (approximately half of a small head)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (2-3 limes depending on the size)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 2 cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- zest of 2 limes
- 2 teaspoons dried ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- sea salt, to taste
- 2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
- 2 (400ml) cans of coconut milk
- sesame seeds, to garnish
Put cabbage, carrots and cilantro into a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, honey, sesame oil and ginger.
Combine sauce with the vegetables and let sit for at least 30 minutes (make sure to give a stir before serving!)
Heat the oven to 400F.
Rinse the chickpeas and pat dry, discarding any loose skins that peel off. Put on a baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over, add lime zest, cumin & salt and toss with a spatula or your hands.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden. They should be slightly crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle.
Rinse your rice (until water is clear) and in a medium pot add the rice, two cans of coconut milk, and 200ml of water.
Bring the rice to a rapid boil on high heat, and then reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and let simmer (with the lid on) until all the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice sit covered for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.
In a bowl, combine the rice, chickpeas, and slaw. Sprinkle some sesame seeds, add a lime wedge, sprinkle some extra cilantro - and serve warm!
A few ideas: The slaw can be made up to a couple days ahead of time and stored in the fridge. If you want to make this recipe vegan/vegetarian, substitute a vegan fish sauce alternative (they exist!) or use soy sauce in its stead. In a rush? You could omit the baking step for the chickpeas (losing the warm crunch though...) and just toss them in the spices and lime zest. The baked chickpeas lose their crunch after a while out of the over, so be sure to use them fresh out of the oven (though I don't mind them as they cool, they get more chewy than crunchy!)