the taste space

Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 30, 2012

Although it is still many, many moons away, if I am moving to Texas, I think I need to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While I have posted quite a few Mexican recipes, they are a tad nontraditional:

Tacos made with “BBQ jackfruit meat

Guacamole with pineapple and cucumber or edamame

Lime-spiked non refried black beans and quinoa in a kale wrap

Raw burritos which are collard wraps filled with jicama, sprouts and a nacho-cashew sauce

Or how about a raw taco filled with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa

Chickpea salad with a Mexican mango dressing

Moles with cranberry beans and roasted butternut squash or with tofu and tempeh

Mexican cabbage stirfry

What can I say, that’s what happens when I veer away from deep fried and cheese-heavy meals. At least I know how to pronounce mole (moh-lay).

Thoroughly thrilled with my hazelnut-roasted kabocha squash, I figured it would also be delicious with Isa’s Butternut Rancheros.

Glancing at the recipe, I could tell this was a going to be a dish with spicy tomato sauce smothering black beans, topped with hazelnut-infused caramelized roasted squash. But what makes this a rancheros? What is rancheros?

Turns out rancheros literally means Ranch-style. Huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican dish with a tortilla topped with an egg and tomato sauce means Ranch-style eggs.

So this, my friends, is Ranch-style squash!

A very simple recipe to prepare, basically you create a spicy silky-smooth cumin and coriander enhanced tomato sauce that coats black beans. The spiciness is juxtaposed beautifully against the sweet squash.  Isa’s recipes rarely disappoint although I still tinkered with it.

I roasted my kabocha with hazelnut oil instead of walnut oil. Olive oil would work, too, no worries. I substituted 2 green chiles for the jalapeno and increased the garlic to 6 cloves. It had a nice zing for my palate, but for those who love heat, definitely add more chile.

Any plans for Cinqo de Mayo this weekend?


This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Mexico and to this week’s Weekend Wellness .

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Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Mole

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 27, 2012

Have you ever been drawn to a particular ingredient or appliance based on a recipe?

I do it all the time. Do you need chaat masala to make the Malai Kofta? Of course not, but I wanted to see what it tasted like with it. I remember my sister-in-law searching out maple sugar just to make Kevin’s Blueberry Maple Pecan Cinnamon Buns. (For the record, I don’t think it was worth it).

I first spotted this Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Mole a few years ago. Certainly not fat-free with the peanut butter, I knew that if Susan from Fat Free Vegan found it worthwhile sharing, then it must be special. Joanne loved it, too.

Problem: I had no slow cooker. So I stalled on the dish. I had tofu frozen for the longest time until I figured out how to make it sans slow cooker. I also needed to get over my fear of the chipotle chiles in adobo.

Then, I moved and my landlords graciously lent me their slow cooker.

It still took me a nearly a year to finally make it. Getting the boot from our home and leaving the slow cooker, was my impetuous for making this. Rather, highly suggesting Rob make it, as he likes spicy moles and in a slow cooker it couldn’t be any easier, right?

Wrong! The recipe was deceiving. Rob thought this was way too much work with all the blending and grinding prior to using the slow cooker. He ended up forgetting to use the chipotle chiles and the bread (nevermind the bread, it was thick enough).

We both tasted it and thought it was just ok. Not worth repeating. Not worth searching out a slow cooker.

In fact, the majority of the stuff I made in the slow cooker were beans, but I prefer them on the stove top so I can keep my eye on them. The problem with freshly dried beans (ie from Rancho Gordo) is that they can easily be overcooked! Rob’s slow cooker brisket was probably the biggest recipe winner. Our year with the slow cooker has taught us that we definitely do not need a slow cooker.

Perhaps a pressure cooker instead? Quicker beans, please!! ;)

This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Mexico, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Warm Chickpea Salad with Mango, Pomegranate and Chaat Masala

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on April 25, 2012

I whittled my pantry down slightly. No more tofu, no more canned green peas, no more hazelnut butter. I polished off the frozen fruit with my breakfasts.

For some ingredients, I do a little happy dance every time we empty a container and put it to rest. White flour, please, I do not need you. Pasta, I loved you once before, but not now. Some ingredients just do not need to be replenished and those we celebrate empty containers!

Other foods have become staples. If we run out, I feel a bit antsy.

On the weekend, I inadvertently finished the last of our tamarind concentrate while making this salad. I also realized that we are awfully low on chickpea flour, due to Rob’s (healthy) weekend obsession with Besan Chilla. We also have no nondairy milk left.

These ingredients can be a challenge to find at reasonable prices, so I feel compelled to restock my pantry before we move. I know, terrible idea. We have hired movers, so it couldn’t be too bad, right? Actually, with my collection of beans and cookbooks, I am slightly worried that the 2 movers won’t be enough. Anyhow, before we move, I plan on fortifying our stocks. We will have tamarind and chickpea flour once again. ;)

Now about this salad: It is a light yet hearty Indian-spiced chickpea salad from 1000 Indian Recipes that I first spotted on Lisa’s blog. Her high praise for 1000 Indian Recipes was one reason I picked it up, despite my embargo on new cookbooks. Lisa described this as a great salad for those not used to fiery hot dishes, which sounded right up my alley. Here, the chickpeas are mixed with sweet and creamy mangoes, sweet and sour tamarind, and tart and sweet pomegranate arils doused in a savoury dressing with ginger, tamarind and chaat masala. Cilantro, used both cooked and fresh, adds a brightness to the dish.

It was refreshing to break free of my typical Indian curries and savour such a nicely balanced salad.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala (Vegan, Baked)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 23, 2012

I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.

Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version.  While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.

While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away. :(

Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!

When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy.  While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.

While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. ;) Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango (Mango Curry with Toor Dal)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 21, 2012

Have you heard?

They’re here!!!

Rob stalks grocery stores once a year for it. Now they’ve arrived.

It is mango season. Not just any mango, though.

Alphonso mangoes have touched down from India. Thankfully, before our move away from Little India.

We picked up a case of nice Ataulfo mangoes last week because we weren’t sure when the Alphonsos would arrive. Lucky for us, it wasn’t long before they began popping up in Little India. On Thursday, they had a new shipment. By the end of the day, there were only 2 cases left. They are flying like hotcakes!

For the last two years, Rob and I have trekked out to buy these sweet and creamy mangoes. This is the first year it isn’t such a trek to locate them. We’ve made many mango dishes, both sweet and savoury, and now we’ve added another favourite to the list: this fabulous mango curry from 660 Curries which Iyer titled Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.

This curry follows the key steps of toasting and grinding spices, simmering the dal with different flavours and tempering another set of spices in oil that are added in at the end. But first, you need to make your own garam masala. Trust me on this. I know you have garam masala already lurking in your spice rack. This garam masala is different: it has sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut. We decreased the chilis and it was fragrant and savoury without unnecessary heat. For those who don’t want more spice blends, the recipe below is exactly for one recipe, but you will want to make more once you get a whiff of the final blend. We wished we had made more, so don’t follow in our footsteps. ;)

While I just harped on this being Alphonso mango season, this mango curry does not need to be made with fancy mangoes. We used Ataulfos because we picked them up for cheap, but Tommy Atkins will work just fine, and frozen chunks, too. If Alphonso mangoes weren’t $2 each we’d gladly use them, though. Like the Mango BBQ Beans, the mango in this curry melts into oblivion leaving its sweet remains behind. Distinct mango flavour is camouflaged among the curry leaves, coconut and peanut. Everything works so well together. Sweet, spicy, savoury…

This is a delicious curry that you won’t be disappointed it. We’ve been eating at a few Indian restos recently and I still think the best Indian cooking happens in our kitchen. With this dish, there is no contest.

This is my submission to this month‘s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie (Vegan)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on April 20, 2012

You’d figure with all the options for food at Easter, I could skip out on making a dessert, right?

Sometimes I’d rather have more veggies than dessert, but when I asked if I could skip serving dessert, my Mom was adamant: This is EASTER, bring on the dessert!

I obliged. I ruffled through my bookmarks for an easy, healthy dessert… with ingredients from my pantry. I bet you didn’t think it was possible, but this is an incredibly delicious dessert. Almost guiltless, as my Mom called it. No refined flours or sugars, with minimal agave at that. Decadent and delicious. Why is this almost guiltless? Well, it is still 256 calories (skip the crust and it is 156 calories, when serving 10!).

The secret? Tofu! But not just any tofu: the silken tofu you find in aseptic containers (not refrigerated). I used the firm silken tofu from Mori-Nu which had been languishing in my pantry for a while.

I have been meaning to make a tofu cheesecake but haven’t located a recipe worth trying yet (have any suggestions?) but I was positively smitten by this wickedly easy recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie.  So was my entire family. We ate half the pie for dessert for lunch and then the leftovers were nearly polished off by the end of the day, after dinner. I kept the tofu a secret until I was pinned and explained that the delicious creaminess came from the tofu. The richness from the good quality chocolate. Trust me, you couldn’t taste any tofu.

I am loving these quick-and-easy no-bake desserts. Here, you make a quick almond-date crust (I used the same one from my Raw Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake) – or skip it altogether if you want to serve it in cute little tumblers. Melt your chocolate and throw everything until a food processor. Spread overtop and chill. Easy, peasy!

Decadent and delicious, yet still low calorie for the huge amount of flavour.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, to this month’s Cook-Eat-Delicious- Desserts for dates, to We Should Cocoa for almonds, to this week’s Mother Day Healthy Recipes, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Warm Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on April 18, 2012


Before this blog goes Indian for the rest of the month, let me share this delicious warm Mediterranean salad. I know it isn’t potluck or BBQ season yet, but I already know this will be my go-to summer salad for sharing.

This salad is so good that I have no reservations serving it guests.  Delicious slightly warm but equally good as leftovers brought up to room temperature.

Of course, please double the recipe if making it for a group.  I don’t know who wouldn’t like a warm chickpea and spinach salad filled with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of herbs.

It reminded me a lot of my favourite Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad which pan-sears the artichokes and chickpeas into a glorious dish. This salad, courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution is lighter in flavour since the chickpeas are braised with the onions, garlic and herbs and the tossed with the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. You could keep this simply as a bean salad, but I liked the contrast of the warm (or room temperature) bean salad atop the fresh baby spinach. This salad has the perfect ratio of beans to other stuff. Be mindful not to evaporate too much of your braising liquid since it becomes your dressing.

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring antipasto ingredients, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Raw Alfredo Sauce with Basil, Cherry Tomatoes and Zucchini Noodles

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on April 17, 2012

So the joke’s on me.

70% chance of rain yesterday. I hate rainy Mondays because I have to go all over the place, with 5 destinations yesterday. If I took the subway, I’d need a day-pass!

I plotted the forecast and took my chances.  No rain! I beat the weather demon!

I lost the meal planning, though. Instead of rain, turns out it was 27C with 70% humidity. It felt down-right tropical. I was cycling around in my shorts and top, it was that awesome. When I got home, I wanted a light and crisp salad! No chili, thank you kindly.

As the summer alternative to my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta, I went totally raw with a light and fresh raw alfredo sauce with basil and sun-dried and cherry tomatoes smothering zucchini noodles.

Trust me, this hit the spot.

Utterly delicious. The sauce is bright with the lemon, creamy from the cashews yet still light since it is thinned with water. Miso adds that lovely fifth dimension.

I threw in some vegetables I had hanging around (cherry tomatoes, carrot, cucumber) as well as fresh basil. Gena has also paired this with tempeh, which I might add next time. Because this recipe is definitely worth repeating.

For those of you interested in my commuting challenges, I had a real quandary today. As you know, I enjoy Steve’s downtown spinning classes on Mondays. Except I had to be at work early, so there was no way I could do both.

I was up a bit earlier than usual, so I decided to try the 0630 spinning class at my old gym. With a 9km commute just to get to the gym, that meant I was leaving home around 0545. You see, this gym has an intense and awesome spinning culture. This is where I fell in love with spinning. The regulars are incredibly supportive. Kind of like where everyone knows your name. Indeed, despite not being there since I moved (10 months ago), I was greeted on a first name basis.

I still get the weekly emails (it even has its own member-driven website with instructor AND member profiles!) with interesting news and stories, guests instructors (aka subs but sounds so much nicer, eh?) and the ever elusive sign up trends. Over the winter, it was not unheard of the spinning classes to fill up 30 minutes before the class started throughout the week, INCLUDING the 0630 classes. I used to be a regular in Dave’s classes, so I completely understand, but that’s intense. Now that the weather has been nicer, the 0630 classes finally weren’t filling up at 0600, so I figured I could try my luck at the Monday class if I showed up 15 minutes early.

Suffice it to say, I have a new Monday morning spin class love. So completely different than any of my other classes, with a focus on cardio and core training, I loved the diversity. Furthermore, I loved being back with the gang, with all the hooting and hollering. It is one of the most boisterous spinning groups I have ever been with.

I will admit that one drawback of our new (upcoming) home, is the serious lack of gyms nearby.  I had planned to continue with the gym close to work, but since my old gym is just a minor detour away (still 10km away, though), I may just end up there instead. We’ll see how it goes!  I usually wake up at 0530, but this may require an even earlier start to the day. Obviously I am not thinking clearly at the moment, haha! ;)

As for Monday morning Steve? He may turn into Friday morning Steve if I meander to a different gym. ;)

Anyhow, the moral of the story? Take a risk. You might find a new love.
(Btw, there is no risk with trying out this delicious sauce. You will be smitten, too. Spinning can be a bit hit-or-miss, I understand).

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.

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Root Vegetable Mulligatawny

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on April 16, 2012

I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!

Let me assure you that for my Indian Easter, I continued with the clean out my kitchen mantra and no-more-buying things for the pantry moratorium with the Janet-friendly part of the meal.

I had been eyeing Sarah’s Mulligatawny Soup ever since she posted it in January. My Mom told me not to stress about the meals, so I scoped out recipes that I could make with the produce I already had (we happened to be fortunate that cauliflower was on sale for $1/head for our pakoras). Almost everything else had been squirreled away in my freezer, or living without a purpose in my fridge (I was looking at half a celeriac and half a kabocha squash!). While Sarah also provided the recipe for the Celeriac and Pumpkin Curry, they don’t taste remotely similar.

Mulligatawny is a British Indian curry-flavoured soup and literally means “pepper water”. However, recipes seem to be so varied that anything goes. Tess‘ version of mulligatawny is primarily red lentils, lemon and cilantro, whereas this is a creamy, tomato-spiked vegetable curry-soup brightened with tamarind. The leftovers were definitely more of a curry consistency.

Preparing a huge batch of soup in advance is a great way to relieve the stressful prep before a large meal. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how much soup I would be making. Sarah suggested it would serve a crowd, and she didn’t lie. We definitely already had enough food to feed an army along with the pakoras, 2 other curries [Malai Koftas, and a Spinach Chana Dal curry], a couscous pilaf salad and dessert. Oh, and we bought naan, too. Those recipes are still forthcoming, no worries!

Why did we make such a feast? 1) To make sure there was something for everyone to enjoy; and 2) No cooking required for the rest of the weekend since we’d be eating the leftovers.

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Cheezy Oats and Peas

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 15, 2012

How many of you are weather watchers?

Now that I am biking to work again, I watch the forecasts closely. On rainy days I track the radar throughout the day to figure out when it would be best to bike. Hourly forecasts, too.

But please, how many of you watch the weather to determine your weekly menu?

I am pretty good about making the majority of my meals on the weekends and scooping out leftovers all week. But sometimes I don’t want to eat what I’ve already made. Sometimes I don’t want salad.

Case in point: Wednesday. 30% chance of rain in the afternoon. I’ll take my chances, thanks. By the time I was finished at work, it looked wet outside but it didn’t look like it was raining. I consulted the radar: the rain had ended and it had just skirted the city anyhow.

But I walked outside and it now it was lightly raining. I pummeled home on my bike, when it rained even harder. I was cold and wet by the time I make it home. The last thing I wanted was salad.

I wanted something warm and cozy. And quick.

So I did what everyone turns to in such a panicked state: breakfast for dinner. Not wanting to eat my latest breakfast oats, I went with a savoury twist. I boiled my oats with vegetable broth, threw in some leftover cooked peas and carrots, stirred in some nutritional yeast and miso and I was in heaven. I’ve done the savoury oats thing before, but I had forgotten how lovely it was. Plus, I never ate it for dinner, with the vegetables thrown in for good measure.

While this was great the first night, I found myself craving it throughout the rest of the week, too. Nooch plus miso works so well here and you can throw in all your leftover vegetables. I tried it with uncooked carrots, but they weren’t able to lose their crunch by the time the oats were done, unfortunately. Just throw in cooked vegetables. The peas worked really well. Not sure where else canned mushy peas would be so awesome… (other than the Malai Koftas from Easter, recipe forthcoming!).

So before this weekend’s round of cooking, I looked at the forecast. It was pretty grim: rain today and early in the week. Rob made a nice cocoa chili (a bit too spicy for me) and I opted for a curried red lentil soup and a Mediterranean chickpea salad. I am sure I may have these cheezy oats once again as well. :)

This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Homemade Vegan Nutella)

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by Janet M on April 13, 2012

Where have all the hazelnuts gone?

While Rob and I went all out for our Indian Easter feast, my parents were sleeping over which meant we also had plan for breakfast. Thankfully, oatmeal works for my Mom, Rob and me. Not so much for my Dad.

My Dad eats bagels and Nutella for breakfast. I had neither. Rob picked up some Montreal-style bagels from St Lawrence Market and I decided to work on the Nutella. Without actually buying Nutella.

I have been meaning to try making my own homemade nut butter for a while, so I was eager to try Katie’s Better than Nutella recipe. I just needed some hazelnuts. Last year, I discovered the grocers in Little India sell hazelnuts super cheap. Turns out all 3 grocers had no hazelnuts. Then I went to my go-to bulk store, and they were out, too. Apparently their supplier had been out for the last 6 weeks.

Where have all the hazelnuts gone?

I re-evaluated my options:

a) Head elsewhere to buy hazelnuts (ie, The Big Carrot or the Bulk Barn)
b) Use hazelnut butter instead of hazelnuts
c) Substitute another nut (apparently Nutella used to be a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
d) Make a chocolate-bean spread instead that didn’t require hazelnuts

Rob told me not to buy anything. We are trying to empty our pantries, not refill them. Option A and possibly option B were out. I really wanted to make a Nutella substitute, since this was for my Dad and he may not be as smitten with a chocolate bean spread as me. But you gotta do what you gotta do. I peered into our pantry and boo-yah, we had hazelnut butter! Option B it was!

I modified Ricki’s recipe slightly, but mainly with the sweetener only. After her warning that stevia-only sweetened chocolate could have a weird taste, I decided to substitute it with a portion of coconut sugar. Feel free to use your own sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, sugar, etc).  Super simple to make, I threw everything into my Vitamix. As it heated up, the coconut oil melted making it a smooth, silky consistency (which is what I photographed). Leftovers were popped into the fridge where it firmed up considerably. It was still spreadable and melted as it was spread onto warm, toasted bagels. Spreading it onto cold bagels could be more difficult, though.

The verdict? According to me and Rob: Better than Nutella. Silky smooth, with a lovely cocoa flavour with a touch of sweetness. I found this a bit too sweet for my liking but Rob thought it was perfect, or possibly under sweetened. My Dad said it was ok. Perhaps it wasn’t sweet enough, but he wouldn’t elaborate. (For the record, while Rob and my Mom thought the banana naan were wonderful, my Dad thought they should have been more fluffy, despite acknowledging they were already more fluffy than the store-bought naan).We were planning on gifting the remainder of the Notella to my Dad when he left, but it was nearly demolished over the course of the weekend. There was just a little left.. and had my Dad stayed for breakfast #2, it would have been all gone. Not sure where else to put this homemade Nutella? How about my Nutella and kiwi crepes or Nutella-filled aebleskiver?

This is my submission to this month’s Cook.Eat.Delicious-Desserts for Picnic Desserts, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Breakfast Club for Sweet Treats.

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Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 11, 2012

This is another dish we test-drove before our Indian Easter feast.

Pakoras are veggie-based fritters common across South Asia and are a popular snack or appetizer in India. Walk into any store in Little India, and you will see them: 2 for $1, although I have no clue who would want to buy cold deep-fried snacks.  Lemon Cilantro Pakoras is a recipe from Tess, so we knew it would be scrumptious. However, we wanted to figure out how to make them without deep-frying.  Here, we mix finely chopped cauliflower and onions in a lemon-cilantro-cumin studded chickpea flour batter. Akin to a souped up chilla, in ball form, oozing with lemony cilantro goodness. Like naan, these tasty fritters are best fresh, warm straight from the oven.

I will admit that we didn’t do a double-blinded randomized control trial for this cooking experiment. We made the batter and cooked them 3 different ways: a) in my aebleskiver pan; b) in a non-stick skillet; and c) baked on a silpat. The hardest part was keeping the pakoras together as we cooked and flipped them, so we also did a batch with extra chickpea flour on the skillet. I took photos of each version, but they kind of looked the same, so I will spare you the repetition.

I will get right to the unanimous verdict:

Baked pakoras for the win!

First of all, they were definitely the easiest: smush into a ball and bake. Although I flipped them half-way while baking, and then dusted with some oil, they are fairly hand’s off: no need to tend to them over the stovetop, roll them about, fiddle with additional oil, etc. Secondly (although most important), they tasted the best. The extra oil needed for the aebleskiver pan didn’t help them not stick and definitely made them taste heavier. The silpat was also easier to clean. Rob and I both preferred the lighter, refreshing taste from the baked pakoras. Out of everything we served at Easter, this was also the unanimous dish loved by all (including my hard-to-please father).

I feel like a real gourmand telling you all about pakoras, but the truth is I had no clue was a pakora was until last weekend. Rob, my resident Indian cuisine connoisseur, assured me this tasted authentic and better than what he has eaten at restaurants. He liked these more because they were lighter and healthier. Considering these are basically chopped up veggies slathered in a chickpea flour batter, they seem like a quick, guilt-less snack to me! We enjoyed them with tamarind and mango chutneys, but cilantro chutney would be paired with them more often.

Another note, I wanted to give a shout-out to Justa who recently tagged me with a Sunshine Blog Award as an Inspirational Blog. Her description of my blog had me nearly in tears:

This blog is my secret obsession.  I’ve spent so much time over there I almost feel like a stalker!  Janet is Vegan and while Mr. Foodie and I sometimes struggle to get a day’s worth of veggies, we are trying to eat more meatless meals and more healthily.  Her blog is amazing to me and often intimidating but I don’t let that stop me.  I read it like I’m studying a book, probably because I can’t pronounce half the stuff she makes and have no idea what the ingredients are so I end up googling them and learning so much about new foods and food combinations.  She also provides lots of links to other blogs so the amazing food journey never seems to end.  If you want to learn more about healthy recipes this is a good place to start.

I am thrilled to know I have been able to keep her inspired to try new ways of incorporating veggies into her meals. Part of why I blog is because I hope to inspire others with easy, healthy cooking and connect with other like-minded people. I also post about my cycling adventures because cycling was a big positive change in my life two years ago. I went from walking 30 minutes a day to/from the subway as my only exercise to building myself up to bike 361 km over 2-days last summer. Even though I now go to the gym regularly and have returned to biking to work, I still don’t consider myself athletic! There is something magical about biking: anyone can do it with a proper bicycle.

I don’t consider myself to have any innate athletic skills (I am possibly the most non-athletic person), nor do I have any special skills in the kitchen. My secret to capturing kitchen bliss is to know what I like, push myself in new directions to keep things interesting, maintain a well-stocked pantry and use fresh ingredients whenever possible. I love trying out new recipes but usually tweak them to my tastes.

I am still learning how to do the cycling thing better, but my tips are: a) wear a good helmet to protect your head; b) ride a comfortable non-cruiser bicycle; c) use a good lock so your bicycle doesn’t get stolen; d) incorporate cycling into your daily activities; e) padded cycling shorts + chamois butter are essential for long rides; f) gradually build up distance to cycle the long rides, taking breaks as you need them and g) have no shame in using your granny gear (ie, your lowest possible gear) for the big hills. ;)

I have been honoured with a few other blogger awards, and had planned to do a dedicated post gushing over my favourite bloggers akin to my favourite cookbooks post. I will save that for another day, though. :) In the meantime, try out these healthy pakoras and let me know what you think. Don’t let the wacky name intimidate you. :)

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Simona, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

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Wild Rice and Edamame Salad with a Lemon-Miso Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on April 9, 2012

Thanks for all the encouragement about my long cycling commute. Last week was a short week, but I thought I’d update you on my commute. I am still working on the optimal way of combining gym + cycling commute, but later in the week, I cut down on my distance by going to the gym closer to home. Instead of 37km, I biked 25km each day. I am also biking at a moderately leisure pace instead of racing to work. My instinct is always to push as hard as I can, but I told myself I was focusing on endurance this week. One of my favourite downhills in the city always used to have me trying to go faster than 50 km/h. This time, I didn’t ride like a madwoman and still maxed out at 47 km/h. I thought I would be super sore by the end of the week, but it has actually gone very well. :)

Part of the problem on Mondays is that I really like Steve, the spinning instructor who teaches downtown on Monday mornings.  Sadly, the gym next to my home has poor programming Monday mornings but I stuck closer to home for the other days. The route uptown from home is also safer, nearly 80% on the Don Valley bicycle path, so I am away from cars and traffic lights.

So is the commute downtown worth it for the spinning class? I think so. I am drawn to positive instructors. A group exercise instructor does a lot more than lead a routine. It is about inspiring the class (“the team”) to push themselves further than what they would do otherwise. Steve’s classes always seem to push me. He explains the intensities of the exercises at a level that is very easy to grasp (challenging but comfortable, pick a resistance that you can only sustain for 5 minutes, etc) and makes it easier for me to challenge myself. He is also great at using inspirational messages. In normal life, I know it sounds so dorky, but when you are pushing yourself to the limit, his messages keep me going longer. For a while he was reminding us never to say I can’t do this. It is just something you haven’t done yet.

If you love inspirational messages, check out a few more gems here:

Know your limits, then defy them

If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.

Yesterday you said tomorrow.

Nothing hurts more than sitting on a couch.

Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford)

No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.

Now about this salad. It is another salad bursting with whole foods and boasts a higher protein content. Wild rice is not rice at all, instead it is a seed. Higher in protein, with a lower glycemic index, it is a great gluten-free option for hearty salads. Coupled with edamame and tofu, loaded with carrots, sprinkled with greens and doused in a sesame-lemon-miso dressing, you have an unassuming salad that will make you anticipate lunch time.

For those of you who go to exercise classes, do you feel drawn to your instructors? Do you feel guilty when you skip their classes?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

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Banana Naan (Homemade Vegan Naan)

Posted in Appetizers, Sides by Janet M on April 6, 2012

Happy Good Friday!

This year, Rob and I are hosting my family for Good Friday. We typically don’t celebrate Good Friday, but since my brother is hosting us on Saturday, I thought it would be nice to have everyone over for a meatless dinner today.

Instead of opting for typical Easter fare (to be honest, I don’t really know what that would be), Rob and I are going Indian-style!

I suppose there are a myriad of reasons: we all like Indian food (including my parents, wowzas!), it fits nicely for healthy, meatless meals without feeling deprived, and one thing about curries is that they taste better as leftovers, so preparing them in advance is preferable and easier for me!

While we could revisit some of our favourite dishes, we’ve decided to try new meals (of course!). We’ll have enough variety in case something doesn’t turn out. For the more iffy recipes, we test-drove them first, though. Case-in-point: vegan banana naan.

While I don’t like bread, Rob adores it. Picking up a fresh loaf of bread from the nearby bakery is always a treat for Rob and he typically finds an excuse to do it whenever we have guests. I figured it would be nice to try our own fresh bread, instead. When going Indian, naan is the obvious choice.

Little do my guests know that I am using this opportunity to help empty my cupboards. I don’t really want to throw out my bread flour, so if everyone loves the homemade naan, that’s perfect! I still had some yeast, that I needed to proof to make sure it was still alive. If you like bread, there is nothing more satisfying than hot-off-the-stove chewy flatbread. Way cheaper than store-bought naan, even if we pick it up from Little India.

Traditional naan recipes call for yogurt, though. Flipping through vegan recipes, I noticed some used vegan yogurt (ugh!), some simply omitted it and others included ingredients like banana and avocado. We always have bananas on hand, so we picked this recipe to begin our experimentation.

I thought Rob was going to kill me when he had sticky dough all over his hands, but we added more flour and he kept on kneading. Our dough didn’t rise much (older yeast?) but we pressed on. We forgot to add the nigella seeds to the first batch, and they wouldn’t stick, but we added them to the next batch.

The verdict? Rob LOVED them! Warm, chewy yet fluffy – this was a great naan. No tandoor needed.  The banana provides sweetness and moisture. While they were easy to make, they were a bit labour-intensive for us to serve to a large crowd. Until we experiment with a baked naan recipe, we’ve decided they won’t grace our Good Friday meal. They will, however, likely make an appearance when we serve some of the leftovers to my parents tomorrow.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Haalo.

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Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on April 4, 2012

When I finally made it to Penzeys in Boston, I caved.

I didn’t want to.

Really.

Say it ain’t true..

Sadly.

But I did it any way,

Yup..

I bought curry powder. (to continue with the rhyme- I bought a powder for my next curr-ay)

For so long, I have been meaning to make my own curry powder but instead I went with a packaged blend.

660 Curries has not 1, not 2, not 3 but 20 different recipes for curry powder and spice blends. Where’s a girl to start? Understandably, I was a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t know which one would be best for me, a lover of non-curry, so instead I opted for the sniff test. I smelled all the different versions at Penzeys and ultimately bought their “Sweet Curry Powder” (I wish cookbooks had the sniff test, *sigh*). It has that quintessential curry note but it isn’t overwhelming. I still haven’t figured out which spice I am averse to, but thankfully, this blend is a keeper. It is super mild, so I even feel the need to supplement it with some Aleppo chili flakes.

Spicy and rich, not hot, as Penzeys puts it. The ingredients? Turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, Tellicherry black pepper and cayenne red pepper. Almost sounds like a warm hug, eh? And something I could try to duplicate at home next time…

As you can see, I am on a raw food kick and yes, you can make simple, raw foods sans dehydrator, too. I was intrigued by Susan’s Raw Curried Pineapple Rice. Who needs the fried rice found in the typical Thai recipe? Give me veggies any day! Let your favourite curry powder lightly dust a smattering of sweet vegetables. Here, parsnips and carrots are chopped fine in the food processor until they resemble rice, or small-grain couscous. Diced cucumber and pineapple add juicy sweetness along with the currants. Green onions give this more kick than the curry powder. The lime juice makes this really pop. If you don’t really care about rawness, toast your cashews and add them right before you serve the dish. I can see myself taking this lovely salad to potlucks this summer for something different.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, and to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Thai foods.

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