the taste space

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…)

Raw Austrian Linzer Tarts

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on February 8, 2014

Raw Austrian Linzer Tarts

One thing my friends and family have heckled me about recently (not my knees, thank goodness), is my purchase of 25 lbs of coconut flour last year.

What will you make with it? What’s your plan?

It may seem like I have a plan for most of my purchases, but not this one. Reading through a new cookbook with coconut flour recipes, I envisioned running through my coconut flour fairly quickly. And while I have been pretty good with making a few recipes with coconut flour, the recipes only use a small amount.

Raw Austrian Linzer Tarts

I did the math. I don’t think know I will not be able to finish all of my coconut flour before I leave Houston. That would be over a pound per week. No. Can. Do.

Instead, I am having a lot of fun experimenting. This dessert intrigued me as it asked for a lot of coconut flour compared to the nut flour. I wondered how it would bind together without dates or oil. I tried it out. And true enough, it did not stick together. It was dry as a bone. Natasha told me to have faith, it would clump if I pressed it really hard in my pie plate.

Raw Austrian Linzer Tarts

I pressed and pressed. And then gave up. Perhaps the secret was the refrigerator chilling. I opted to try remedy the recipe myself: I added more sweetener, some oil and lots of almond milk. Coconut flour is thirsty, give it some liquid! I added and added until I felt the batter come together. I pressed it into a 6″ springform pan (unpictured), topped it with the radacious raspberry puree and sprinkled more of the batter overtop.

With still some batter and puree leftover, I created these mini versions. Too cute not to photograph and share.

The larger pie pieces stayed together easily, but that could be because I left it in the fridge longer. These were inhaled within a few hours. Don’t wait too long to eat your dessert, though. The coconut flour will dry up (sucking it from your raspberries perhaps) and taste a bit chalky. However, with a crumbly base, it is akin to a linzertorte, the Austrian cake with a pastry base, a fruit jam topping and the classic lattice topping. Delicate lattices are for chumps when you can much easily make a delicious, delicate crumb topping. ;)

Do you have any recipes you love with coconut flour?

Vegan coconut flour recipes I love:

Raw Peppermint Patties

Nut-Free Raw Carrot Cupcakes

Nut-Free Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies

Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Raw Austrian Linzer Tarts
This is my submission to Raw Food Thursdays.

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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.

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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!

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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…)

Vegan Cheesy Chickpea Dip with Coconut Bacon

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on January 25, 2014

Vegan Cheddar Bacon Dip

I tried a little bit harder with this dip.

You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.

This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.

While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.

Coconut Bacon

But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs. :)

With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:

Green Velvet Guacamole (aka Guacamame or Edamame Guacamole)

Edamame Miso Dip

Raw Zucchini Hummus

Ginger Lime Wasabi Edamame Hummus

Rosemary Pistachio Hummus

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Coconut Bacon

This is my submission to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, this month’s Cheese Please, this month’s Spice Trail for paprika, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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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…)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Posted in Appetizers by Janet M on January 21, 2014

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Yesterday was Martin Luther Kind Jr. Day. A new-to-us statutory holiday, we celebrated by attending America’s third largest parade. Third behind the Rose Parade and The Macy’s Day Parade. Yes, Houston’s Martin Luther King Jr Parade highlighted marching bands, parade floats, antique cars (and horses!) and attracted an estimated 300,000 spectators. And it was happening a few blocks from my home. So we went. I can’t say I have been to many other parades (other than the Santa Claus Parade) and this was a real treat.

There are a few things on my American bucket list. A few fun things (like Burning Man and visiting National Parks), and then some that others think we should experience to fully appreciate the American culture. Like attend a football game. If you think hockey is big in Canada, football is even bigger in the US. Like huge. I mean, like HUGE. Our neighbour invited us to watch a football game with him but timing never seemed to work out. When I finally approached him again, the Texans had already wrapped up a year that was not their best.  I don’t think they even made the playoffs. In any case, I will have to scurry about to find an invitation to a Superbowl party instead. It sounds more up my alley… game day food, no?

Not that I have ever been to a sport watching party before.. with game food. I imagine there would a lot a of nibblers and popcorn… and chips. While I am not sure how I could make this delicious bowl of black beans whipped into a dip look much better (perhaps a garnish or two.. and some colourful veggies for the photo.. or inside a pretty kale wrap), I am sharing it because it was delightful. A spin on hummus, but with nearly everything replaced: black beans instead of chickpeas, pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds, lime instead of lemon, and the icing on top: instead of garlic we used fire roasted green chiles. Fire roasted green chiles are much easier to find in the US, whereas I don’t think I ever noticed them in Canada. I have really taken a liking to them since they aren’t that spicy, either. In this dip, they were a perfect foil for the otherwise ugly dip. Eat it with some crackers or vegetables.. and get your leguminous protein fix. :)

Do you like football? Are you excited for the Superbowl? What will you be serving for game day?
(To be fair, I rarely even paid attention to the hockey games while in Canada, either)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

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Vegan Nutrition Books You Should Read & Book Giveaways!

Posted in Book Review by Janet M on January 18, 2014

With the excitement of the new year and new resolutions, you told me you are enjoying a change with your meals. More vegan meals, less processed foods, more vegetables, whatever it may be. A vegan diet can mean a lot of things and without the proper knowledge, may seem as a restrictive and potentially nutrient-poor choice. Obviously, once you are well-versed in a nutritionally-sound vegan framework, it is a healthy choice.

While I usually keep it on the low-down, my long-term readers know I am a physician. I am board-certified in my specialty in two countries. This year marks my 14th year of schooling after high school. Suffice it to say, I have an analytical frame of mind which is routed in science and evidence-based medicine.  I may be a doctor but am I a registered dietician? No.

I do not pretend to be anything I am not. Instead of focusing on studies and nutritional benefits here, I prefer to share my joy for good, healthy food.  Wading through the mounds of pseudo-science (and real science) is an onerous task even for those working in the industry. As this is a hobby blog, it is more fun for me to lead by example, sharing my recipe successes. Thankfully there are others who have made it their mission to share scientifically sound nutritional advice for people who have adopted a vegan lifestyle. Consider reading the latest books to connect with the most current available vegan-centric knowledge.

1. Vegan For Life

vegan for life cover

Around this time last year, I shared my recommendation for Vegan For Life, a book routed in the science of living a healthy vegan lifestyle. If you have read that book already, my new recommendations may not necessarily share new information with you. They are a bit more in-depth, though. However, an annual nutrition refresher may be just what you need, no matter which book you read.

The chapters are short, but highlight the important nutrients vegans have to work harder to eat: proteins, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, minerals such as iron, zinc, and iodine. Their vegan food guide suggests eating whole grains and starchy vegetables (5+ servings a day), legumes and soy foods (3-4+ servings a day), vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (2+ servings a day), nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) and fats (2 servings a day) along with supplementation (including whole food sources) for vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D and omega-3 fats.

Shorter chapters highlight key points for vegan pregnancy and breastfeeding, raising vegan children, eating properly if you are over 50 years of age, managing weight, heart disease and diabetes, and sports nutrition. This is actually a quick and engaging read for anyone wanting to learn more about vegan nutrition. Highly recommended.

2. Becoming Vegan, Express Edition

becoming vegan express

Possibly one of the first books focusing on vegan nutrition was Becoming Vegan, initially published in 2000. Davis and Melina updated their classic book and despite streamlining it into an “Express Edition”, it boasts 86 more pages. This is an Express Edition, because it presents the information in a readable digest geared to a person learning about nutrition. It touches on the basics. There are pages dedicated to each and every vitamin and mineral and chapters outlining vegan sources of carbohydrates, fats and protein. There are readable chapters for people wanting to lose weight or gain weight on a vegan diet as well as chapters how a vegan diet may change over a lifestyle (athletes, pregnant women and the elderly are highlighted). A cursory last chapter is dedicated to a properly balanced vegan diet. Their balanced daily Vegan Plate includes vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (4+ servings a day), legumes (3+ servings a day), grains (3+ servings a day) and nuts and seeds (1+ servings a day), along with other essentials such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine. The chapters are well laid-out with headings, bullets, tables and quite high-yield if you know what you want to learn about.

It is a comprehensive book and one with which I agree with their message, but it fell short for me. There are lengthy textbook-like tables highlighting the nutritional composition of different foods and suggestions to make proper choices at meal-time (only 2 recipes are included as the companion cookbook is Cooking Vegan), but the scientist in me wanted more. I missed their citations. Where did they base their recommendations? My review may be a little premature, though. An updated comprehensive version, with 624 pages, will be published in June 2014, which may very well have all the information I seek. In any case, I still think this is a valuable resource. A sample snippet from the book about coconut oil can be read here and a nice Q & A with the authors here.

3. Vegan For Her

vegan for her cover

Authored by Messina, who co-authored Vegan For Life, with help from JL Fields for the recipes, Vegan For Her focuses on the special nutritional needs of vegan women. The basics of vegan nutrition are covered along with the basics of female physiology like hormones throughout a woman’s life. Messina looks specifically at the changing nutritional needs of enhancing fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, aging, athletes, dieting to lose weight, as well addressing how a vegan diet may help prevent breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, pain, depression and stress and how to increase and/or maintain bone density. The second half of the book is dedicated to recipes created by JL Fields.

While Becoming Vegan reads more like a textbook, Messina’s approach to Vegan For Her is more engaging in a novel-type of book. Without being too dry, Messina is still able to cite the scientific literature to strengthen her recommendations. However, instead of bogging down her reader with numbers and tables, she has introduced her Vegan Food Guide, highlighting vegetables (5+ servings a day) and fruits (3+ servings a day), whole grains and starchy vegetables (4+ servings a day), legumes and soyfoods (3+ servings a day), and nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) with special attention to calcium-rich foods, ALA, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine.

Instead of empowering the reader by educating them about ingredient staples (Vegan For Life is a bit more list-heavy), there are recipes geared for a beginner, transitioning vegan without any nutritional information. I will be a bit critical of the recipe portion, as I found it quite perplexing to find so many specialty items listed as ingredients. I understand the need for transitioning recipes, finding common ground with familiar favourites. However, the recipes span the gamut of convenience foods like fake ground beef substitute,  fake cheese, TVP, soy curls, “chicken style” seasoning, marinara sauce and vegan mayonnaise to harder-to-find specialty ingredients that might make a beginner intimidated such as ume plum vinegar, fresh coconut water, hemp seeds, chickpea flour, vital wheat gluten, amaranth and millet. Even as a seasoned vegan (almost 3 years of a whole foods based vegan diet here), I have tried to keep my pantry smaller and thus found it difficult to connect with the recipes. There was a lot of variety, though. Some were appealing. I have previously shared Fields’ Mediterranean Beans with Greens and I enjoyed some of her dressings. Next time, I recommend a more focused theme for recipes along with a plea to number the directions and space them out for easier reading.

4. Never Too Late to Go Vegan

never too late to go vegan cover

My Mom may claim otherwise but it may be more of a challenge for older people to change their diet. To help burgeoning vegans over 50, Messina recently penned a vegan help book due out at the end of January 2014.

I probably should get my Mom to review the book for a more accurate view from the target audience. In any case, with a similar tone and style as Vegan For Her, Adams, Breitman and Messina explore why one would want to make the change to a vegan diet even later in life (it is never too late, as the title suggests). Not only does she highlight the important aspects of a diet for those over the age of 50, she helps one navigate relationship dynamics and issues surrounding being a vegan caregiver, all with  stories from successful over age 50 vegans peppered throughout the book.

The last part of the book is dedicated to 78 recipes which are geared to transitioning vegans with recipes for basic hummus, Portuguese kale soup, mushroom pate, spicy collards with ginger, mashed potatoes and gravy, quick enchiladas, Texas chocolate sheet cake.

If you are the target audience, this may be a great start to begin introducing yourself to the vegan community.

**

As you can see, each book is different. Make no excuse to educate yourself about a proper vegan diet and try to find the one that resonates best for you and your needs.

For a few lucky readers, you will have a chance to win your own copy of these books. I have copies of Vegan For Her and Becoming Vegan Express up for grabs for those living in the United States.  Please let me know if you have a preference for either book in a comment below. Have you read any of these books before? Any other books you recommend? I will select 2 winners at random on January 28, 2014. Good luck!

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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.

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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.

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Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Appetizers, Book Review by Janet M on January 11, 2014

Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce

I have been very fortunate to grow up in an environment where brains were valued over beauty. None of my friends were ever on diets. If I made New Year’s Resolutions (I doubt I did; my last decade has been more of a daily self-evaluation), they were short-lived vow to be nicer to my brother. My mother (and brother) may not believe me.

It was only after I started reading food blogs, did I encounter the dizzying world of detoxes, cleanses and diets. Not that I have ever condoned detoxes. Barring liver disease or overdoses, our liver does a great job “detoxifying” our body every.single.day. Imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my friends in Houston told me they were eating 100% raw shortly after New Year’s, spurred by Kristina’s 21-Day Raw Challenge. I love the creativity that comes from cooking/uncooking/eating raw foods, but they complement my cooked vegan eats. Let’s be honest, even in Houston, winter is not the ideal time to go all raw.

Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce

My friend hosted a potluck to kickstart her first day on her raw diet and this is what I brought to share. I used it as an opportunity to make something from a new cookbook, Balanced RawRaw sushi is easy to share at a party, so I tried the new recipe. I have made raw sushi before, and the recipes are quite similar, but I decided to share this version, too, mainly because Rob took some impromptu sushi rolling action shots. Using a placemat makes sushi rolling very easy. Parsnip rice is spiced with a bit of chile powder and filled with an assortment of vegetables.

Raw Parsnip Rice Sushi Demo

A note about the cookbook, though. The recipes are built around a 3-week vegan “cleanse” with a meal plan for every day. The recipes span both raw and cooked meals, but they seem to follow a low-fat 80/10/10 vegan diet. While Kristina is good about mentioning the need to eat enough calories, the meal plans in this book look woefully inadequate calorically. However, the recipes are interesting and would be a useful adjunct to whatever your typical eats may be. There are ideas for vegetables beyond salads. I use raw foods to enhance my vegan diet. It is a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits.

The publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think about cleanses and detoxes. Have you done one? Are you doing one? I will randomly select a winner on January 20, 2014. Good luck!

Balanced Raw recipes elsewhere:

Blue Greens Smoothie

This is my submission to this month’s I Am Vegetarian – Hear Me Raw, and this week’s Raw Foods Thursdays.

PS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for Superfood Smoothies here.

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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.

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