the taste space

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 18, 2014

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

I have resorted to this blog to help settle a question. Between these two words, which do you recognize? One? Both? None?

Ablution

Ambulate

Full disclosure: Rob’s word was ablution. I had never heard of it before. Me, I use ambulate all the time. Rob swears it is medical jargon.

The best part? We both agreed on one word: ablation. Mainly because there is a medical/biological use as well as a nerdy space definition.

As your ponder your newest words, this will be a short post with a short recipe.

This is an Indian spin on creamed greens. Beefed up with some tofu, you pan-fry it first, then simmer it along with coconut milk and collard greens. Easy peasy. Serve with some brown rice if desired. Kind of a hybrid of my Spicy Coconut Braised Collards and Indian-Spiced Chickpeas and Kale. All delicious.

Looking for other reading to keep your brain working? I try not to disappoint and will steer you elsewhere.

Other recommended links:

Why the Olympics Are a Lot Like ‘The Hunger Games’
The Power of Protein Timing
Sweet nothing: The real science behind sugar
All About The Filter Bubble (make sure to watch the associated TED talk)

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

This is my submission to Speedy Suppers.

(more…)

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 15, 2014

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

Did you have a good Valentine’s Day? I don’t think I have been told to celebrate Valentine’s Day more than yesterday (and I forgot to call my parents, OOPS!). It almost felt like a national holiday, with everyone at work asking about the evening plans, rushing to finish early for the weekend. Is it because Texans are just so friendly? Or because Americans love holidays?

Rob and I have never been big fan of V-Day, enjoying each other’s company more than anything else. Rare gifts and certainly no cards, this year was the most low-key ever. A nice dinner with friends. True to his word, Rob and Matt had a feast ready for me just as I stepped (pedalled) home: Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup and corn tortillas followed by Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls. Actually, the order was reversed, we ate the dessert as an appetizer while we waited for the veggies to cook. I had offered to make dessert but Rob saved the day.

Rob also registered us for Cycle Oregon. Tent porter, and all: we’re committed. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, cycling is easier on me than walking.

After a few weeks of rest and recovery, I resumed my daily cycling commute this week. I also swapped my HIIT classes at the gym for weights. No impact and no balance required. Mostly upper body. My knees may be resting but I am certainly still keeping active. I don’t think my arms have ever worked so hard. Although while it would be nice to have a goal to do an unassisted pull-up (NOT happening anytime soon), I think a more realistic goal will be to be able to refill the water cooler at work without too much difficulty. I am a bad employee right now. If it is empty, I do not refill it. I can do it. I mean, I did it once, but it wasn’t pretty. More awkward than anything else but instead of potentially making a giant puddle, I am acknowledging and working within my limitations. ;)

Now about the food. For anyone looking for a fun twist on spaghetti, this is a delicious marinara sauce. A heartier, cooked version of my 15-minute garlic basil marinara sauce, I fortified the sauce with red lentils. The finishing raw garlic and basil made the sauce truly special. I swapped the raw zucchini noodles for winter’s veggie noodle: spaghetti squash. While those expecting a noodle replica will be disappointed, those looking for a fun veggie side will be thrilled. A new texture and a fun way to slurp up all the delicious sauce.

So, please tell me: how was your Valentine’s Day? Do you refill the water cooler?? :)

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, Extra Veg, Pasta Please, Simple and in Season and Cooking with Herbs.

(more…)

High Raw Vegetable Chili

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 13, 2014

High Raw Vegetable Chili

Raspberries and tomatoes: red foods for Valentine’s Day! Matt, a friend from Canada, is joining us right now so for tomorrow, I think Rob will be making all of us dinner! Youpee!

Tomorrow is also the day to sign up for Cycle Oregon. After mulling over our options, we decided to scrap the Houston-Austin MS 150. Instead, Rob and I will be training for the 1-day 100 mile Shiner GASP (Great Austin to Shiner Pedal) ride this spring. For many reasons, we switched allegiances. I always prefer the first day of the long cycling rides and this will allow us to enjoy some time in Austin afterwards. (Free beer from the Spoetzle Brewery once we finish doesn’t hurt, either). And yes, it is only a stepping stone. Our master plan (provided we snag a porter) is to do Cycle Oregon this fall.

Cycle Oregon is not for the faint of heart: 2200 cyclists. 7 days. The route changes every year and this year it is over 400 miles and over 30,000 ft in incline. The hilly route mimics a portion of our beautiful roadtrip from Portland to Burning Man. This time, it will be by bike instead of by car.

Having a goal is a great way to stay on track. Even though we haven’t started training in earnest yet (blasted knees!), reading Gena’s snippet in No Meat Athlete about raw foods, reminded me why it is good to incorporate a variety of foods into your diet. Cooked or raw. And raw definitely does not need to be a salad. In the winter (even Houston’s winter), it can be hard for me to eat salads.

Filled with veggies, this is a fun twist on chili, done raw-style. A hybrid of my raw chili dip and chili salad wraps, this is a fun high-raw hearty chili. Red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes spiced with chili powder, tamarind and cocoa powder (YES!) create a smooth sauce that coats more veggies and beans. I used cooked pinto beans to make this a filling dish (and in my experience, easier to digest than using sprouted beans).

Is anyone else planning to do Cycle Oregon? We hope to have a small Cobra* contingent.

*Cobras are the name of our biker gang. We are a very inclusive bunch. Join us!

High Raw Vegetable Chili

PS. This is my submission to Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for tomatoes.

(more…)

South of the Border Tortilla Soup (& No Meat Athlete Review+Giveaway)

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 11, 2014

South of the Border Tortilla Soup

With Olympic fever set anew, I felt a tad guilty sitting on my latest find. Perhaps you have already heard about it? Matt’s book, No Meat Athlete: part nutrition advice for athletes, part vegan transition guide, and part cookbook. Matt freely admits he is your typical average guy. No Olympian-in-training, but through his quest to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, he picked up the vegan bug and pushed himself to the next level.

I am certainly no runner. Cycling is my sport of choice. However, his story echoes my own. While learning to best prepare my (formerly?) non-athletic self to cycle a double imperial century ride (361 km/224 mi), I discovered the benefits of vegan foods. I fell hard for the advantages of regular exercise (no pun intended on my knees). At the time, I cobbled together bits and pieces of my culinary and cycling journey through books mainly by Brendan Brazier with a shout-out for women’s cycling guides.

At the time, veganism was not mainstream (and is still not popular – only 2% call themselves vegan in the US) which makes this book perfect. This guide is perfect for the beginner: the beginner to vegan eats, the beginner to fuelling yourself as an athlete and the beginner to running (or any endurance sport).  Pick any of the three and you will glean something from Matt’s quest to inform himself to conquer his athletic goals. This is not to say that if you have any experience in any of these areas you will not gain more information, you might, or it may remind you to try new things, inspire you to run a marathon, or simply eat good food.

His advice for athletes are pertinent for most cardio-intensive sports (like cycling), although he has specific advice for a beginner who wants to learn how to run. The best part is that Matt shares his favourite recipes to fuel you, too.

All of Matt’s recipes are catered to optimal nutrition. Fast, healthy and tasty. Approachable dinner meals like Variations on Beans and Rice (I really liked his Mexican version) and desserts like black bean brownies. He also offers blueprints for creating your own culinary masterpieces: The Perfect Smoothie Formula, Your Own Energy Bar Recipe, or The Incredible Veggie Burger Formula. For the athletes, there are sport-specific recipes like chia fresca, homemade energy gels and homemade sports drink.

Nutrition aside, it must taste good, too, and these do not disappoint.

South of the Border Tortilla Soup

was not joking about eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the tacos were no longer fresh, no longer as soft as a baby’s bum, I resorted to Matt’s recipe: South of the Border Tortilla Soup. Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup.

Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup. I tried to stay as true to Matt’s recipe for reviewing purposes but his suggestion to pan-fry the tortillas did not work so easily for me. Baking them might actually be easier which is what I shared in the following recipe. In any case, a big pot of delicious soup. For athletes and non-athletes alike.

South of the Border Tortilla Soup
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what kind of exercise you enjoy or your favourite recipe you have tried (or want to try) from Matt’s website No Meat Athlete. I will randomly select a winner on February 22, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from No Meat Athlete shared online:

Buffalo Hummus

Chickpea Protein Burgers

Momo Granola Bars

Chocolate Protein Quinoa Bars

The Perfect Smoothie Formula

PS. This is my submission to this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s  My Legume Love Affair, Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food and No Waste Food Challenge. (more…)

Broccoli and Pineapple Udon Bowl with Pineapple-Peanut Sauce

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 6, 2014

Thank you for all your kind words about my knees. Thankfully I had friends and co-workers (AND ROB!) to help with my (on-going) recovery. Unlike my sister-in-law who is still driving herself to work (her [now confirmed] broken toe is on her non-driving foot), Rob has been driving me to work. Not that I couldn’t drive myself, but he is just that awesome.

He has also been helping me around the kitchen. He made the cheezy chickpea dip again although I was to blame for the burnt coconut bacon, as Rob tended to a broken beer bottle. The beer bottle that exploded (from the bottom), after the rice vinegar fell on it which was knocked over when Rob was putting back the liquid smoke. Oh my.

He also revisited some old favourites like tamarind lentils and my lemon-ginger miso soup (Rob’s addition were carrots, parsnips with some noodles and I then added extra sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach to mine). Yum!

Rob also has been steaming up broccoli like a pro.  For this dish, he went all out with a sauce, tofu and noodles. The pineapple was a fun twist on a Hawaiian noodle bowl with a peanut sauce. I love how the pineapple was used to sweeten the sauce directly. Ginger and sriracha made it a bit zippy but this was all tempered by the sweetness from the pineapple.

While Rob was busy in the kitchen, I caught up on my web reading. Which also meant that Rob’s to-read list got longer as I punted them to him as well! Like my last link share, I figured you may enjoy them, too. There are a few travel-related links here. You know that I like to travel but you may not know that Rob loves travelling, too, and spent over a year abroad backpacking in Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand before we met. He wrote about that on his blog.

Without further ado, please let me know what you think about these links:

1. 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America. This actually rings true based on my experiences, too.

2. 20 Things I Learned from Travelling Around the World. Rob concurs.

3. Date a Boy Who Travels. YES! No offense to boys who still live with their parents. OK, maybe just a little.

4. Ben & Jerry & Me. What do you get for naming a Ben & Jerry flavour?

5. Murmuration. A quick, beautiful video. A magical canoe ride

6. Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. I don’t watch many videos on youtube but this one is great!

7. Is Pro Cheerleading a Scam? I honestly had no idea but then again I am not into football.

8. 11 Tips for Telling a Loved One About Your Mental Illness. From a new-to-me blog that I love. Great tips about communicating with others, nevermind about a mental illness

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. (more…)

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 4, 2014

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

I don’t know what is in the air. I assure you, it was not weather-related. No snow or ice around here.

Between myself and my sister-in-law, we have a veritable collection of injuries: 2 sprained knees and 1 sprained (or broken, we’re not sure) toe. Sadly, it was me with both knees sprained. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for my sister-in-law, sprained and broken toes are treated the same way.

Also sad is that I have not yet come up with a sexy story to explain my bilaterally braced knees. NOT MY BIKE, thankyouverymuch. In any case, each day is getting better.

I followed my mnemonic from medical school: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. (Of course, after a free consultation from my trauma surgeon friend to confirm my suspicions nothing was broken). And of course: anti-inflammatories for pain management. Turns out there is a modified mnemonic for that inclusion: PRINCE, including P for protection and N for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I like it!

Serendipitously, I also happened to make the perfect “anti-inflammatory” soup a few days before I went down. A warming soup filled with cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and tofu. Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, added a lot of flavour. It was perfect to help me recover.

There is evidence fruits and vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties and the reasons are multi-factorial. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salicylates, the compound found in aspirin. This explains why vegetarians have naturally occurring salicylate levels in their blood, albeit not likely therapeutic. While I have heard of people shunning “nightshade” vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, because they are “pro-inflammatory”, I have not found any solid scientific evidence to support hiding from the nightshades. (If you know of any articles, please share!).

Anyways, this soup. Delicious. Not too spicy although this soup was a bit of a mystery to me. When I ate it right after making it, it was the perfect level of spice. I added the kimchi to taste, obviously. However, the soup was pretty bland as leftovers. The chiles had mellowed! To ramp the flavour back up, I added fresh kimchi to each subsequent serving. Definitely add to taste. Enjoy!

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required. (more…)

Cheezy Scrambled Egg Breakfast Tacos with a Creamy Mustard Sauce (Vegan, Soy-Free)

Posted in Breakfasts, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 1, 2014

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

Rob and I have been on a quest. A mission to find corn tortillas. Corn tortillas so light and pliable, you easily could think they were flour tortillas.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I always think of hard, crunchy El Paso  taco shells when I hear corn tortillas. Nothing could be further from reality. We were treated to the fresh tortillas while in Mexico City and figured it was just a matter of research. They were bound to be found in Houston.

Because once you’ve tried them, you can’t go back.

I was not alone in my quest. The lovely folks on the Houston Chowhound boards already helped others satisfy their fresh corn tortilla needs. Our adventures to Mi Tienda proved to be a quick trip back to Mexico. They are a grocery store for all your Mexican needs, including corn tortillas. They are freshly made in-house and perfectly tender when consumed that same day. Since it is a bit far from home, we bought 80 tortillas. All for a whopping $2.

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

While we froze the majority of the tortillas, we have been enjoying tacos all times of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  No complaints from Rob. He LOVES tacos!

For our breakfast tacos, we were inspired by Dawn’s recipe to make “cheezy” scrambled eggs with chickpea flour and nutritional yeast. WeRob routinely makes Indian chickpea flour pancakes and tofu scramble, so this kind of married the two. It was a fun mess, too. We served it with spinach and topped it with a creamy, cheezy mustard sauce.

Corn tortillas – what do you think?

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this month’s Shop Local.

(more…)

Lemon-Mustard Glazed Carrots and Chickpeas (aka Yassa Chickpeas)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 30, 2014

Yassa Chickpeas

Based on my review of vegan nutrition books, you can tell why I always try to eat a lot of beans. So much so, that when I travel and people want to know what I eat, I tell them that something as simple as vegetables and a can of chickpeas would suffice. My family is actually really good about making sure there is food for me, but I still have fun cooking in the kitchen while travelling.

Yassa Chickpeas

During our trip back home during the holidays, not only did I make a delicious dark chocolate peanut butter pie (delicious, definitely check it out), but I made this dish a few times. Basically, it is a simple dish of mustard/lemon-glazed root vegetables and chickpeas but I experimented each time I made it. While I could count on everyone having mustard available, every time was a bit different depending on what was in the kitchen. I learned that this is definitely better with garlic, tamari/soy sauce is preferred and while this is nice with carrots, the addition of parsnip is a fun twist. This is a great comforting dish for anyone looking to warm their kitchen with your oven. ;)

What did you think of the nutritional recommendations from the review? Do you feel like you eat enough of the different areas?

Yassa Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winners for the nutrition books are: Rachel with Vegan For Her and Moo with Becoming Vegan Express. Congratulations!

(more…)

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 28, 2014

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.

Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.

After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer.  If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.

I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.

We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!

Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.

The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted  to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.

This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.

With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?

For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

This is my submission for Meatless Mondays from A to Z for potatoes. (more…)

Tomato Red Lentil Soup with Dill

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 23, 2014

I love it when Houston behaves itself.

Rob and I had another Canadian visitor recently. In between Polar Vortex 1 and Polar Vortex 2, Houstonians enjoyed balmy (normal) summery weather at its finest. You know, summer how it is meant to be: around 25ºC. None of that feels like 38ºC with 90% humidity forecast. None of that below freezing business (that’s tonight, by the way).

Together, we did more touristy things than we had ever done before: hiking next to alligators, admiring the Museum of Fine Art’s impressive gold collection, watching Americana in our backyard via the Martin Luther King Jr Parade. However, I still skipped out on the stereotypical NASA Space Center visit. We still shared our favourite haunts but explored new restaurants as well. Nearly every meal was pre-planned. My friend had so many restaurants she wanted to try!

After the whirlwind of a visit (if you knew my friend, you would know this is no overstatement), both Rob and my friend parted for Canada. One to Toronto and the other to Winnipeg. Both returned to temperatures around -20ºC (-4F). Yesterday, my friend in Winnipeg told me it was -40ºC with the windshield. For those that need a conversion to Fahrenheit, at -40, both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales collide. Collide and freeze. They are the same. Both, really, really cold.

With the imminent cold weather, I am sharing another warming soup. Red lentils are a perfect blank canvas for a hearty meal. Pureed tomatoes and red lentils are combined with cauliflower and brown rice in a broth spiced with cumin, mustard and dill. I never would have thought to combine those flavours together but the dill really brightened the dish. This is an excellent soup!

How have you been keeping warm lately?

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

PS. The winner of Balanced Raw is Marquis. Congratulations! (more…)

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 16, 2014

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

I loved your feedback to my mung bean stew last week, especially Hanna’s rendition of the dish. If your comments are any indication, you may have bought mung beans a while ago but not sure what to make with them. I was like that, too. Last year, I couldn’t get enough of simple spiced mung beans. Despite having the mung beans in my cupboard for 2 years or so, I discovered their awesomeness as I (attempted) to eat through my pantry. I became so enamored with them that I bought another 4 lbs when I moved to Houston. With a focus on eating through my pantry yet again, I have been experimenting with mung beans. Bring on more beans, right? :)

While this creamy mung bean curry hails from the ever fabulous Lisa, ever an Indian bean whiz should I meet one, I knew it was a winner before I even made it. Like my recent Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup, it includes all my favourite things: tamarind, cumin, Aleppo chili flakes, and a bit of coconut milk for a touch of creaminess for the sauce. A simple twist of adding curry leaves makes this a different dish altogether. Southern Indian-style.

Have you tried mung beans yet? How do you like to prepare them?

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winner of Superfood Smoothies is Annette.

(more…)

Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 14, 2014

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.

Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year.  I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.

Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.

If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:

Butternut Squash and Coconut Indian Stew

Plantains and Cabbage with Split Peas

Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

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

(more…)

Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 9, 2014

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!

I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!

Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.

Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.

What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.

(more…)

Indian-Spiced Mung Bean Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 7, 2014

Mung Bean Casserole

While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time  over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:

1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.

2. Batkid: More feel-good moments. My friend was The Penguin in this heist. You can read about his experience here.

3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.

4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.

5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.

6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.

7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. ;)

Mung Bean Casserole

I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.

Where have you been on the web recently?

Mung Bean Casserole

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Let’s Cook with Green Vegetables.

(more…)

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 2, 2014

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.

I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.

What did I end up doing?

1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?

2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.

3. Travelled through chocolate.  With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.

4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.

So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.

Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content.  Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.

I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.

How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs, this month’s Extra Veg and to this month’s Feel Good Food for Tasty and Inexpensive.

(more…)