the taste space

My Top 12 Recipes of 2012

Posted in Events/Round-Ups, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on December 31, 2012

I enjoy recommending recipes but for some reason, I found it difficult to compile this post of my favourite recipes from the last year. Then I received my first annual report about my blog, which was filled with fun facts: 188 new posts (565 posts overall), almost half a million page views with my busiest day earlier this month when I posted Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). My most popular posts are from the depths of my archives, though: Apple Strudel (my Oma would be proud), Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing, Raw Tacos, and Lemon Basil Almond Pesto. Only one post from 2012 was equally as popular (#1 below) and it wasn’t the one with the most comments (Carolina BBQ Jackfruit Pulled “Pork” Wraps with Pickled Red Onions gets that honour).

Which recipes were my favourites from 2012? Which recipes were our repeaters? Without further ado, and in no particular order:

1. Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie

It feels almost sacrilegious to post a dessert first, but it is one of my most repeated and requested recipes from the year. When I wanted my first dessert after my sweetener-free challenge, this is what I made. Decadent and rich, you would never know this was low in calories. Nor would you ever guess it was filled with tofu.

Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie
2.  Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Caramelized Onions (aka Dal Bhat Meets Mujaddara)

This is another one of my favourite recipes. A hearty red lentil and brown rice soup filled with warming spices like cinnamon, allspice and cumin topped with sweet caramelized onions. Spinach is stirred in for even more nutritional goodness. When I have people over, I do not hesitate to suggest making this soup together.

Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions (aka Dal Bhat Meets Mujaddara)

3. Salad in a Jar (and Topaz Dragon Lemon Ginger Dressing)

This revolutionized my lunches. Pre-packing salads into Mason jars made it easy to assemble salads to tote to work. Pick a dressing, add veggies to marinate, drop in your protein of choice, top with your leafy greens. Bonus for such a great lemon-ginger salad dressing as well.

Salad in a Jar (and Topaz Dragon Ginger Dressing)

4. BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon

One of my favourite summer salads was this pinto bean salad with fresh roasted corn, tomatoes and raw eggplant bacon with a smoky chili-lime dressing.

BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon

5. Creamy Thai Cilantro Ginger Sauce (for Thai Shiitake-Basil Spring Rolls and Sexy Saucy Noodles)

Dressings were a culinary discovery this year.  A good dressing can take you make places and simplify your cooking tremendously. This was an unusually delicious Thai cilantro ginger sauce made with peanut butter, coconut milk, ginger, basil and cilantro that had me begging for more. Perfect as a dipping sauce for spring rolls but also in a stir fry with broccoli, carrots and kelp noodles.

Thai shiitake-basil spring rolls with a creamy Thai cilantro ginger sauce

6. Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

Another one of my favourite dressings this year was a simple balsamic tahini dressing. Use it overtop grains, beans, veggies, you name it. Just don’t use dark soy sauce, because then it becomes an Asian sesame soy dressing and you lose the balsamic undertones!

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Tahini Balsamic Dressing

7. Raw Burrito (Collard Wrap filled with Jicama, Sprouts and a Nacho Cashew Spread)

I enjoy being inspired by restaurants and this is one dish that I recreated at home after being smitten by raw burritos at Belmonte Raw. I used a collard leaf to wrap up julienned jicama and sprouts and slathered it with a delicious nacho sauce made from cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, smoked paprika and red pepper paste. Raw food has never tasted so good.

Raw Burrito (Collard Wrap filled with Jicama, Sprouts and a Nacho Cashew Spread)

8. Hazelnut-Roasted Delicata Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

On the subject of tasty spreads, I fill find it hard to top my hazelnut-sage pesto. Spinach makes up the bulk for the greenery so it isn’t a pungent sage slap-in-the-face, but teamed with toasted hazelnuts and nutritional yeast, you get the familiarity you expect from pesto, too. Pairing it with roasted delicata squash complemented the natural sweetness of squash.

Hazelnut-Roasted Delicata Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

9. Hazelnut Roasted Kabocha Squash, Cucumber and Avocado Collard Wrap

Every year, I continue to discover new favourite ingredients. Kabocha and delicata squash quickly became my go-to squashes since no peeling is required. Sometimes simplicity is as its finest with roasted vegetables and I loved hazelnut-roasted kabocha squash paired with avocado and cucumber in a green collard wrap. No dressing needed with the sweetness of the squash next to the creamy avocado. Just make sure you buy kabocha and not the buttercup imitator!

Hazelnut Roasted Kabocha, Cucumber and Avocado Collard Wrap

10. Creamy Broccoli Dal

No stranger to Indian cooking, I cooked up a lot of dals this year. This one was repeated twice in the last two weeks alone. Broccoli makes a surprise appearance amongst a flavourful red lentil curry spiced with cumin, black mustard seeds, Aleppo chili flakes and garam masala. As I type that, it doesn’t sound too appealing to me either but I swear it is one of my favourite curries!

Creamy Broccoli Dal

11. Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras 

Indian cooking does not only subsist of bean-based curries, although that is my favourite part. I discovered a love for these lemon-cilantro cauliflower pakoras made with chickpea flour. My favourite part of this experience was a head-to-head comparison of batches that were fried in a skillet, in my aebleskiver pan and baked in the oven. The clear winner? Baked in the oven for simplicity, taste and texture! We all win with this healthier option. :)

Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras

12. Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

I am a sucker for beans and enjoy finding recipes that will appeal to the masses. This Mediterranean lentil salad is simple to whip together and flavourful from the lemon juice, capers, olives, thyme and cherry tomatoes.

Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

This has definitely been a tasty year. So many great dishes to pick from, these are ones that still make me salivate. Please let me know how you enjoy them. For my favourites from years yonder:

My 10 Favourite Recipes from 2010

My 11 Favourite Recipes from 2011

My Ongoing List of Favourite Recipes

What were your favourite finds from the year?

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on December 29, 2012

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

Everyone’s taste buds change over time.

Even before I started the sweetener-free challenge, I wondered how my tastes have changed. I can’t do deep-fried foods or other meals doused in oil. It isn’t the fat that bothers me because I easily down more than a handful of nuts in a sitting. :P

Last week, I started to re-introduce sweets. Fruits: mostly apples and berries. I have replenished my morning grapefruit stash. Dark chocolate, too: I made my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie. After this challenge, my tolerance for highly sweetened foods decreased.

My tolerance for spice has increased, albeit still slowly.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t add any chiles to my cooking.  Three (raw) cloves of garlic were pushing my boundaries in hummus. Raw green onions were spicy enough for me.

Then I discovered Aleppo chile flakes, more flavourful than hot. Slowly I added more and more to my dishes. I began experimenting with Ancho chili powder and paprika as well.

I was drawn to this recipe for Spanish Chickpeas since it looked like a flavourful warm chickpea salad. Spiced with smoked paprika, chile powder and roasted garlic, it really called my name. It has been awhile since I’ve pan-cooked chickpeas, and as I made it, I added spinach. When I sat down to eat it, I was smitten. Perfectly balanced with smoky undertones, sweetness from the red peppers and lightness from the lemon juice. It reminded me of my Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers (without the salty capers) and the addition of the spinach reminded me of Andalusian Chickpeas and Spinach. Two years ago, I made a hybrid from Deb’s recipe and the recipe in The New Spanish Table. All I remember was that it too spicy. I remember kicking myself for using so much paprika.

Two years later, I compare both recipes. I assumed I had used a tablespoon of paprika or something crazy the first time. No, it was only one teaspoon. Just like in this recipe. This version was definitely not spicy even with the addition of Ancho chile powder.

Any takers? Have my taste buds improved or has my paprika decreased in potency? ;)
(My paprika is not two years old, in case you were thinking it! I used sweet paprika from Penzey’s before and smoked paprika from Whole Foods for this recipe (the brand escapes me at this time) I am tempted to believe that smoked paprika isn’t as spicy as its non-smoked counterpart).

Here are some other great Spanish recipes:

Chickpeas Romesco

Mango Gazpacho

Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic

Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew

Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers

Spanish Baked Eggs on a Red Pepper Ragout

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sukanya, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Kasha with Sauteed Mushrooms and Dill

Posted in Salads, Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 27, 2012

In a typical day, I try to eat a combination of vegetables, beans and whole grains. While steel cut oats are my typical breakfast, I will often add whole grains to some of my other meals.

There are many whole grains: brown rice, wheat berries, spelt berries, bulgur, oats, rye, barley, millet, kamut, and teff, oh my! Despite what the name may imply, buckwheat is in the same family as sorrel and rhubarb. It is not even a wheat. Buckwheat, quinoa (my favourite), amaranth and wild rice are considered pseudograins because they are seeds (not grains). They also happen to contain more protein than grains and are all gluten-free.

They all taste different. Not all of them will appeal to everyone.

Of all the grains/pseudograins, I think kasha gets the most haters. Kasha is simply toasted buckwheat, but seems to have an acquired taste.

When I first cooked it, I hated it too. I added too much water (1:3 ratio) and it became a literal soggy mess. It took me two years to try again. I tried a different strategy. Next, I baked it first, and cooked it in a 1:2 ratio which was 100x better. The cooked kernels were soft but some partially opened. When I included it in a multigrain oatmeal with quinoa, I liked it, too. So when Rob’s Mom offered me some kasha for breakfast, I didn’t hesitate. I hesitated when I saw what she was doing though. Instead of boiling kasha in water, she pulled out a funny-looking instant boil-in-a-bag Polish package. It made the most glorious kasha, though. Plump, yet firm, the kasha had a nice nutty flavour with a perfect texture. Rob’s mom gave us some to take home with us but when we stopped off at the Polish store on the way home, I found out it actually wasn’t any more expensive than when I buy it in bulk. I don’t know what that bag does, but it is magical.

When people say they don’t like an ingredient, I always think maybe they just haven’t met the right version yet. (I will even concede while I detest celery, you can get me to eat raw celery if you remove the strings and I will eat a soup with celery in the mirepoix; while I hate the flavour of coffee, I will eat something with mocha if it is a faint wisp within a chocolate dessert; and I like tarragon and fennel, when I don’t like licorice).

So, if you don’t think you like kasha, try this first. Amuse me. Then tell me what you think.

However, I will need to walk you through it… unless you know Polish. Without Rob, I knew I had to boil it for 15-20 minutes. Rob helped by telling me I had to salt the water and keep the pot covered as it simmered. After 15-20 minutes, you open the package and have lovely, fluffy kasha. Rinse in cold water before you open the package.

To flavour this dish, I adapted the recipe in Appetite for Reduction for Sauteed Kasha and Mushrooms with Dill, a pasta-less version of Kasha Varnishkes. The fluffy kasha is combined with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Lots of black pepper and dill make this dish flavourful, despite it looking so bland on paper.

The tricky part will be locating the boil-in-a-bag kasha. Go to your European grocer. For those in Toronto, you can find it at Euromax in Milton, Starsky’s in Mississauga and possibly Benna’s on Roncesvalles (I haven’t checked the latter myself). In Woodstock, you can buy it from this European Meat and Deli.

Does anyone have a way to make kasha taste like this without the package? Did I miss the cooking kasha 101 memo?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.

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Braised White Beans and Leeks

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 23, 2012

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Who invited winter?

I thought Toronto had been spared a white Christmas, as we were pummeled with rain instead of snow late last week. However, I woke up yesterday to howling winds, frigid temperatures and snow. Ottawa may have received 30 cm of the fluffy stuff over the past few days, but in true Toronto fashion, we had a sprinkle of snow.

This is indeed, the perfect solution. Rob and I are pining to go snowshoeing while in Ottawa for the holidays but that requires snow. Ottawa will have it and we can return to the lack of snowblower land without too much worrying. It just means we can’t snowshoe to work. I am ok with that. Rob may be sad. Over the last few weeks, Rob has occasionally walked to work. That takes him 2.5 hours. It would likely take him longer with snow shoes. ;)

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Last weekend was Woodstock in Christmas, and this is what I brought. Another benefit of cooking en masse on the weekend (other than not having to cook mid-week), is that I could pick my favourite dish to share.

Beans from scratch has become second nature. I typically simmer them on the stovetop while doing something else in the kitchen. This time, I brought back low-and-slow oven braised beans. Nothing could be so easy to get perfectly plump beans. Using Rancho Gordo’s plump, tiny Yellow Indian Beans beans definitely helped but the long simmer in the oven slowly cooks the beans to perfection. No exploding beans, nothing too mushy, just perfectly cooked beans. Three hours later, you have a house fragrant from the leeks and herbs and a pot of plump beans. Sara’s original recipe suggested broiling cheese overtop at the end of the braise but I went without for a vegan option. I had considered sprinkling almond parmesan overtop but ran out of time. The beans are definitely more than a sum of its parts. The leeks cook down to a silky creaminess and the Italian herbs confer a fragrant background.

Due to the sheer simplicity of this dish, it was easy to whip together other meals for the week. While my curries also turned out great, I didn’t think they would mesh as well with a traditional Christmas menu. I’ll share those, too, likely in the new year. ;)

Although, turns out dal will be making an appearance at the Ottawa Christmas. My Mom has left me in charge of Christmas lunch and I’ll be making Root Veggie Dal. A perfect bowl to curl up with after returning from a snowy snowshoe adventure. :)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Braised White Beans and Leeks

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

Herby, Peanutty Noodly Salad

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on December 20, 2012

What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.

- Painted Fruit

- Raw Berry Jam

- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup

- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble

- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp

- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese

- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens

- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo

- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust

- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach

Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win! :)

This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).

Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!

Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.

Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.

PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks, and to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Dolmas (Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 18, 2012

Easy Dolmas

One of the things I am enjoying about this sweetener-free challenge is determining how much sweetener I truly need.  Furthermore, I feel less bloated, which is really keeping me motivated to stick with the challenge this long. I love throwing fruit into my savoury dishes, but I know not everyone rolls with me.

Earlier this fall, I made Cherry Collard Dolmas. A little bit more non-traditional because I was lazy and used larger collard leaves but also because sweet cherries were used to complement the savoury spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, mint and dill. Currants and pistachios were also mixed in there for good measure. Brown rice and white beans were used to amp up its nutritional profile. Yes, these were very good.

RHIW Dolmas

This time, I consulted with Tess for a simpler version. Brown rice and chickpeas are the base with fresh tomatoes, dill and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in a salty grape leaf. Seemingly humble ingredients, combined into power rolls, you have a winning snack. I liked them both before I cooked them (the lemon juice was a strong, fresh flavour) but they mellowed out nicely after a 20-minute steam.

I don’t know about you, but there is something so awesome about little nibbly snacks. Finger foods are fun. Serve as an appetizer, a snack, or eat a bunch as a meal. I served mine with a simple tahini dip which contrasted the lemony flavours nicely. A thinned out hummus dressing could work, too.

RHIW Dolmas

There is only one problem with finger foods.  That means I have to assemble a whole bunch of teeny rolls! Trust me, it is worth it. However, if it is a weeknight and you just want to eat pronto, throw it into a larger collard leaf instead.

RHIW Dolmas

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturdays, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on December 15, 2012

Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

I have not yet read the book The 5 Love Languages, but I like the concept of different ways to communicate your affection. How do you express your love? Through words of affirmation, acts of service, giving/receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch? Knowing how you express and perceive love, along with your partner, helps you communicate with the same language.

This also holds true for family and friends, especially around holidays.  Everyone is scurrying from party to party, thinking of ideal gifts and making travel plans to spend with loved ones. What is most important to you and others?

I will be sharing my time this weekend with Rob’s family and next weekend with my parents. I definitely subscribe to my presence is my present – HA! Can you tell giving/receiving gifts is so low on my priority list? But truthfully, gift giving continually becomes harder and harder. There are cute and practical gift giving guides, but on my wishlist this year: A textbook. I know, not even a cookbook. I am also eagerly awaiting my grandmother’s old juicer and pressure cooker. I don’t really need much else. The most important thing is the company. I really am all set. (I am also UBER stoked for Rob’s early Christmas present: a raw “cooking” class with Doug McNish on Sunday! I have no idea how we will tackle all the recipes!)

While some of my most well-used kitchen tools were gifts that I never thought I needed (see last year’s gift guide), random foodie purchases have entertained me as of late. I know I am supposed to be culling my pantry, but when I see something like baby quinoa (kaniwa), I have a hard time not wanting to try it out. A new, healthy food.. let’s see what it is like!
PS. Spotted at Essence of Life and Lady York.

First off, it looks like little kernels of quinoa. While it isn’t quinoa in its young state, it is in the same family as quinoa. It has a higher protein content and possesses less of the bitter saponins that plague quinoa. I still rinsed it though I may try toasting it next time. It cooks up nearly exactly like quinoa with a scanty 2:1 ratio of liquid. Due to its small nature, the texture is quite different. It reminded me of the pebbly nature of amaranth without its gluey consistency. I ended up tossing it in a festive bowl with a simple cranberry jicama salsa and a chili-spiked butternut squash gravy/sauce.  The seemingly odd combination of ingredients worked really well… and awfully pretty, too, I may add.

So, the moral of the story… for the hard to shop foodies, perhaps all you need to do is head to a grocery store? :) Or only for practical foodies like me. Only I would swoon over a new bean to try… or appreciate radish sprouts. ;) Need other ideas for foodie gifting? Check out my favourite wacky ingredients including pomegranate molasses, red pepper paste and miso, along with recipes to woo you over.

Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

This is my submission to this month‘s Simple and in Season and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Kale Granola (or Raw Coconut Almond Kale Chips)

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by janet @ the taste space on December 13, 2012

I was planning on sharing a different recipe with you today.

I had the theme of my post all figured out in my head.

I went to go find my photos… and looked, and looked and looked… I looked again.

They were nowhere to be found.

Completely scandalous in the land of food blogging, where recipes rarely get repeated and I only do one photoshoot. I really have no idea how I lost them. :(

However, while I was searching for my photos, I unearthed this gem of a recipe. Rather, I rediscovered photos that I had neglected. I obviously need a better photo tracking system.

Clearly made before my sweetener-free challenge, this packs a serious punch. Satisfies a snack attack. Or maybe not, since it is so addictive.

Kale granola.

Or kale chips with the works.

Crispy dehydrated kale is coated in a caramel lemon-cinnamon dressing and tossed with coconut, dried cherries, almonds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for some glorious snacking.

That other recipe? Well, it was also for a crispy snack, sweetener-free, of course. I will just have to make it again and not loose the photos.

Funny how with this blogging blooper, I inadvertently turned more blogger, with a recipe for kale chips. HA!

Have you ever lost your photos before? I once had to recover engagement photos of my brother and at-the-time fiancee. Gosh, that was stressful. But now, I have no clue where the photos could even be recovered… and NO, I did not dream that I took the photos. I had witnesses while making the recipe, too. I know I did! :)

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, and to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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Chocolate Mint Mesquite Protein Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on December 11, 2012

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

Oprah did a 21-day vegan challenge a few years ago. I remember her gushing over her improved pooping.  If there is one thing I am not lacking from my foods, it is fiber. Mostly due to my love of beans. One serving of Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini gives you 16g of fiber, or 65% of your suggested daily fiber intake. Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala): 18g of fiber or 72% of your suggested daily intake. This definitely helps to keep things moving.

Trust me, I don’t need help any help in the pooping department, but recently bought psyllium husks after Gabby gushed over a banana-less chocolate smoothie. I found the smoothie a bit gritty from the psyllium (I doubled the psyllium, though, and used psyllium husks instead of psyllium powder) but even worse, my belly became bloated nearly instantaneously. And boy, was I gaseous. With stinky farts. Super stinky. Poor Rob.

Psyllium helps relieve constipation and diarrhea, regulating bowel movements with its high soluble fiber content. It is the main ingredient in All-Bran Buds and Metamucil. During medical school, a surgeon touted its value and I began adding All-Bran Buds to my morning yogurt. However, as the husk itself, a little goes a long way. I used 1 tablespoon the first time, which is a pretty big amount. Nearly entirely fiber. Only 17 calories, with 5g of carbs including 4.5g of fiber. Way more potent than beans.(Metamucil only recommends 1 tsp at a time).

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

I thought I was doomed to another long-time pantry lurker, but then discovered an interesting chocolate cake. Hemp protein powder + psyllium + cocoa + mesquite + mint sounded like a winning combo.. actually, it sounded down-right odd. No grains? How would this turn into a cake? Especially after only microwaving it for a minute? My curiosity got the better of me and I was completely smitten. It may look like poop but it was a magic cake. Perfect as a dessert or a filling breakfast. It is a chewy cake but a chocolate cake nonetheless. I’ve made it with cocoa and carob. I have substituted maca for the mesquite, although I had to add more water. I’ve gone mesquite-less with more hemp and carob. I’ve mistakenly forgotten the mint. Since I am on the sweetener-free challenge I didn’t add any sweeteners but I encourage something sweeter for those who haven’t deprived your sweet tastebuds for a month (um, like Rob!).

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

But be careful, psyllium is incredibly filling. Drink a huge glass of water/tea with it. Work yourself up to a full cake and don’t eat them every day. Eventually the bloating will subside and the smelly farts become less.

However, because it is so filling, this is a terribly satisfying snack. Top it with some melted coconut oil or coconut butter. Want something even more decadent? Omit the mint and top it with my chocolate peanut butter frosting or cashew date frosting! Or make this avocado buttercream frosting and tell me how it was. ;)

Looking for more psyllium recipes? Check out Dr. John Howard‘s (a pediatric gastroenterologist in London) collection of kid-friendly recipes using psyllium. If you have or know of children with constipation, I also encourage you to read through his kid’s book: All Aboard The Poop Train. All aboard, toot toot!

Now I plan to experiment with using pumpkin in a similar microwave cake. Wish me luck! Have you ever used psyllium or made a protein cake?

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

This is my submission this month’s Tea Time Treats for chocolate. (more…)

Hazelnut-Roasted Delicata Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

Posted in Favourites, Salads by janet @ the taste space on December 6, 2012

While I planted basil this summer, I didn’t use very much of it. It bolted before I knew what I wanted to do with it. My Pesto Perpetuo basil, a non-bolting basil, from two years ago was a basil warehouse. I had access to basil year-round as it survived the trip back into the house during winter. However, it died when I put it back outside this year. I suppose annuals have to die at some point. Given my lack of basil this summer, I feel that it is worth scoping it out next year.

Of course, it makes sense that once the summer is mere a distant memory, the days are cold and the rides back home in the night even colder, all I want is pesto. One of my proliferative herbs this summer was sage (if only the thyme and rosemary could have taken some advice). It may be synonymous with Thanksgiving stuffing, but one can definitely look beyond that.

You actually don’t need cups of sage to make this pesto. Instead sage is buffered with mild baby spinach to create a garlicky spread. Instead of pine nuts, I used toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil to flavour this winter pesto. The nutritional yeast adds the traditional cheesy taste but feel free to omit it. I chose to serve it with hazelnut-roasted delicata squash rings. Served on more greens, you have a very flavourful salad. Add white beans to make this a main meal. I didn’t use too much oil so my pesto was more thick than oily. Loaded with flavour.  Later in the week, I liked it smeared inside a green wrap (with a nod to my simple hazelnut-roasted squash, avocado and cucumber wrap).

Do you like pesto in the winter?

This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Savoury Oatmeal with Vegan Ponzu Sauce

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on December 4, 2012


One of my biggest challenges was to ditch the sweet breakfast during my sweetener-free challenge. Until I realized I used to eat a savoury breakfast all the time.

Flash back two years ago and my favourite breakfast was oatmeal with ponzu sauce and flax seeds. I know it sounds like the oddest combination, but I loved it. Savoury oats for breakfast.

Yet somehow, I seemed to skip over posting my most repeated recipe in lieu of other savoury oatmeal concoctions: soy sauce and nutritional yeastgoji berries, nori and ponzu sauce and a savoury oatmeal that I would eat for dinner with vegetables, miso and nutritional yeast.

Flash forward two years and I still have a bottle of ponzu sauce. OK, OK, it is not that old (I think!). Anyways, I turned it over and was not that thrilled with the ingredient list:

NATURALLY BREWED SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), WATER, SUGAR, VINEGAR, SALT, BONITO EXTRACT (FISH), LACTIC ACID, LEMON JUICE, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL LEMON AND ORANGE FLAVORS WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SUCCINIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SODIUM BENZOATE: LESS THAN 1/10 OF 1% AS A PRESERVATIVE.

Forget the sugar and preservatives, but it isn’t even vegan! Oopsies!

So I ventured to make my own homemade vegan ponzu sauce, without all the fluff… and the fish. My recipe is adapted from Taste of the East. The core is a base of tamari (sadly, Braggs couldn’t compete) along with juices from both lemon and lime. Yuzu is more traditional but even I can admit that I have never seen yuzu for sale. While I don’t think ponzu sauce tastes fishy, a dashi flavoured broth is created from arame and added to the ponzu. I skipped mirin, a common Japanese sweet rice wine, not only because I am challenging myself to go sweetener-free, but also because I thought it tasted fine without it. I tried it with less tamari, but found it lacking without it. Since I only use 1-2 tsp for my oatmeal, I find a little goes a long way.

While I typically eat steel-cut oats, I treated myself to some extra thick rolled oats. Pillow soft, it worked well with the ponzu sauce. More as a textural contrast, and also for its health benefits (omega 3s, lignans and fiber), I added flax seeds. I highly prefer yellow or golden flax seeds which are more mild tasting than brown flax. However, to unlock flax’s prowess, freshly grinding them is the way to go. Otherwise, they may not be absorbed at all. :(

This is my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena.

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Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on December 2, 2012

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.

It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.

I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?

In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page.   I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.

This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!

When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.

I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.

What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?

PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sukanya,  to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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