the taste space

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry (& a vegan FODMAPS diet for IBS)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 19, 2013

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

Sing along if you know the words:

I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)

I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas

I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!

Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.

So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

If you guessed gas or flatulence, you win! (For my new readers, I have no shame: I have talked about poop and red pee, too).

I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS.  Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.

Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.

So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).

Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.

Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. ;) Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.

Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?

Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder. :)

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

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

(more…)

Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup (& My Favourite Recipe App for Android)

Posted in Favourites, Soups by janet @ the taste space on February 21, 2013

Androidians, rejoice!

(Take note, Rob does not approve of said term. He prefers Android users. How boring.)

Since forever, I have been trying to find the perfect way to store my bookmarked recipes.

I have progressed from storing them in emails, then to pinterest and pocket. (I know others use Evernote). I use Eat Your Books primarily for my cookbook collections. Although I can upload other recipes, too, I prefer to have the directions along with the recipe list. :)

A lot of people have a hard time understanding pinterest. What is it for? How does it work? I try to explain it is a picturesque way to bookmark links. Pictures with links. It is used to inspire. My biggest pet peeve is the lack of searchability, which limits its use as a workable list of recipes. I can’t search for all the recipes with mango instance. Furthermore, it only links to a website which can later be modified or even vanish. Hence my migration to pocket, which I mainly use as an offline web reader now. Because you can’t search that one either.

I recently discovered a crazy wonderful app that I had to share: ChefTap. (Android only for now)

Designed specifically to store recipes, it does its job.

From the website: ChefTap is the only app on the market that uses an advanced artificial intelligence engine specifically designed to find recipes on any English language web page.

It stores recipes offline, completely searchable, so you always have access to them. It will pick out the recipe, picture, title, etc from any website, even if the recipe is buried under lots of text (like most blog posts). It will sync with epicurious, allrecipes, or your other favourite recipe sites. However, I was in awe that it could export all the recipes from pinterest. Plug in an album and it will crawl all your links and add them to the app. You can’t even export your pins any other way, as far as I know. How awesome is that?

So, I have just begun to use the app (you can change it so it won’t go to sleep on you while cooking, wahoo!) and I would say the miss rate is around 10% for picking up the wrong title, etc. It is easy to  fix things, though, as it has alternative title suggestions, or move things around like yields and ingredients. Another con is that this is a device-only app, but a complementary web site seems to be in the works.

I started with importing all my pins and will work towards my lengthy email folder filled with recipes. All I need to do is convert the emails into .txt files and they can be easily imported as well. How awesome is that??

I’ll tell you what’s more awesome: This app is free!!

(I bet you thought I was going to say it is only yours for $9.999 or something. I hate that, too! I have yet to be corrupted by commercial influence. Anything I recommend is because I honestly recommend it)

In case you are interested in some of my other favourite apps, here they are:

iAnnotate PDF: For highlighting, marking up pdfs for studying, etc. The Android app is not as smooth at the iPhone one, but the one for Android is free

Any.Do: Great to do app that syncs with google tasks

8tracks: I love the music selection here, but this app is notorious for crashing if I shut off my tablet. Feel free to listen to my playlist (from a few years ago)!

Songza: I haven’t been that wowed by the music selection, but it isn’t that bad

(I love pandora but I can’t get it in Canada, btw).

What are your favourite apps? How do you store recipes?
(I have been bugging Rob to make me a Taste Space app, but that’s likely never to happen…)

Now for today’s recipe!

I don’t know about you, but I am a big suck when I get sick. My energy gets drained and I usually just want to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I want to do is cook. The second to last thing I want to do is photograph said food. The third last thing I want to do is write about said food.

Which is why it has taken me so long to share this fabulous soup. I usually bust it out when I am sick. (And yes, I still get sick. My diet does not make me immune from viruses and the like. A flu shot helps, though).

I first made this soup when I lived alone and it has become a sicky staple ever since. As long as my kitchen is reasonably well stocked, there is nothing easier than a bowl of miso soup.

You can go ultra-simple for a fix of miso soup – all you need is miso, hot water and perhaps some green onions. However, Tess’ recipe goes one step beyond: a Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup. Lemon and ginger are great as a pick-me-up when sick, comforting yet zingy. Best of all, though, this soup literally takes 5 minutes to make. Awesome on any given day, but really fabulous when you are under the weather and can’t stand to wait any longer. Just heat up the soup before it boils so that you still get the benefits from miso (heck I do that with my tea as well because I can’t drink boiling water). I really liked the combination of lemon, ginger and miso.

The recipe serves 2, so if a sweetie is cooking for you, they can enjoy it as well. Or if home alone, you can have it as a delicious breakfast the next day.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
(more…)

Roasted Orange Veggie Noodle Bowl

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 17, 2013

Roasted Orange Veggie Noodle Bowl

Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.

It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.

I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.

In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.

Roasted Orange Veggie Noodle Bowl

For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.

I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.

Roasted Orange Veggie Noodle Bowl

This is my submission this month for Pasta, Please for peppers and to this month’s Simple and in Season. (more…)

Szechuan Green Beans and Red Pepper

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on January 31, 2013

I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.

While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating.  I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…

I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.

So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.

But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”.  Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.

Do you like discovering new veggies?

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

(more…)

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 22, 2013

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I reflect on where I have been and I wonder how I managed to pull through. How did I manage to survive 4 years of medical school? Nearly 5 years of residency? Cycle between Ottawa and Kingston and back again? In the thick of it: I don’t think, I just perform.

During medical school, for the first two years, I routinely had lectures from 8am to 5pm every day, interspersed with small group sessions, anatomy labs and clinical skills workshops.  Even when I go to conferences, I don’t subject myself to 9 hours of lectures in a day. It is just nuts. However, this weekend I sat through 3 days of intense review-type lectures. Rapid fast compressed learning, except it was more of a reminder of things I already knew. However, after 10 hours of lectures on Saturday, and a lengthy 3 hour drive home (thank you Toronto traffic), I was positively pooped. The next day, too. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook… it was that bad. I ended up sleeping at 8pm. ;)

Meals stashed in the freezer are a definite boon these days. However, I find cooking therapeutic. A way to destress as I chop and julienne vegetables, stirring patiently as I saute onions or peacefully munch through the leftovers.

When I finally made it back into the kitchen, instead of reinventing the wheel, I revamped an old favourite. This is a variation of my Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry. Same flavours, mostly different vegetables. Turns out the original recipe called for winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. My first incarnation included parsnips, carrots, green beans, oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard; basically the odds and ends in my fridge. This time, I included thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, carrots and parsnips: the current odds and ends in my fridge. The hardest part is chopping all the vegetables, but a quick saute in the wok yields a flavourful meal from the Chinese five spice. I use kelp noodles, which I like in Asian stir fries, but feel free to use your favourite noodle. Gena recently wrote a great post all about kelp noodles if you have yet to try them. I am already imagining my next incarnation, likely including edamame. :)

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

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

(more…)

Spinach Salad with Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing and Pepitas

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on January 3, 2013

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.

There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.

Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.

One of my goals last year was to simplify my kitchen, with a focus on sauces and dressings with fresh vegetables supported by beans and whole grains. My salad jar revolutionized my lunch meals.

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.

Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.

A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for Substantial Salads and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

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.

(more…)

Buddha Veggie Bowl with a Ginger-Miso-Lime Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by janet @ the taste space on November 29, 2012

Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?

Basically, not as bad as I thought.

I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.

However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding  fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!

I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.

This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.

I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.

Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus.  I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day.  I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.

My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post. :)

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

Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 24, 2012

While I don’t share all my meals with you, I still photograph the majority of my meals if convenient. A quick run upstairs, snap a few photos, and then eat away.  Sometimes I kick myself for not having taken a photo, especially if I eat it all before I have a second chance, which is why I try to photograph my meals.

The real conundrum is whether to photograph the meals that Rob makes. Not because I don’t like to post his meals (I do), but sometimes the meals aren’t what I like, or don’t use ingredients that I eat, etc, but importantly, I may not be around to snap the photo.

When Rob made these udon noodles with a spicy peanut-hoisin sauce (he forgot to add the hoisin sauce, oops!), we deliberated. Did I want to take some photos? Is it blog worthy, I asked? How does it taste? Is it spicy? There’s a 1 tbsp of sriracha in it, gosh, I’d never do that!

Initially, he thought he preferred his other udon noodle dish with a miso sauce, but happily munched away. I tasted some of the broccoli and tofu smothered in the peanut sauce. Delicious. I ate some more. Not really that spicy, totally Janet friendly. The sweetness from the agave and the peanut butter lend a helping hand to the subtle heat from the sriracha. The vinegar adds the sour dimension. And while Rob forgot to add the hoisin sauce, it tasted like it had already been added anyhow.

As you can tell, I then ran upstairs to photograph a bowl of delicious noodles. While we have yet to see whether this will truly be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, I can safely assure you that we both liked this dish. I may whip out the kelp noodles to make the peanut sauce again! And when Rob makes the udon with miso sauce again, I’ll try to grab some pics, too. :)

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Elizabeth.

(more…)

Asparagus and Tempeh Stir Fry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on July 5, 2012

Today I did the dirty deed.

 Yes, that kind of dirty deed.

Already. Before 6am.

 In the backyard.

Even worse, though, is that it involved squash.

And no, I am not talking getting dirty from doing plain old gardening.

 Artificial insemination, baby!

I took matters into my own hands. While I have very prolific kabocha squash plants, I have yet to see any squashes. Lots of blossoms but they seem to wither away. Further investigation told me that squash plants have two different kinds of blossoms: one male and one female. The one with a plump mini-squash is the female flower and needs to be fertilized by the male flower. After some careful examination, I quickly realized there are way more male to female blossoms. Only 2 open blossoms were female, whereas I have at least 20 male blossoms.

I did not want to leave it to the birds and the bees. I took a stick and wiped a male blossom to get the pollen and smeared it into a female blossom. Cross your fingers for me, ok? Hopefully they aren’t as complicated as humans, which have an abysmal 20% fertility rate.

Apparently once you have a few growing squashes, you don’t need the male blossoms anymore. This is what people eat when you see “zucchini flowers” for sale. Dispensable, edible male parts.

My zucchini plants are much smaller and only have a few male blossoms, but I may need to give them a hand for reproductive success, if only to make sure we don’t end up with mutant kabocha-zucchini hybrids. ;)

I should be telling you about how I fried up some squashes flowers, but I am paranoid. I am keeping the males around until I am certain I have lots of kabocha squashes. Maybe in a week or two, I will give you an update?

In the meantime, I have been cooking up a lot of quick, simple meals, like this asparagus and tempeh stir fry. Pick your favourite vegetables and fry up some tempeh in a simple Asian sauce with garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. The fermented black beans add a very authentic salty dimension to the dish. Enjoy!

This is my submission to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

(more…)

Smoked Salmon Sushi Pizza

Posted in Appetizers, Mains (Fish) by janet @ the taste space on June 8, 2012

It is true. I am in a Mixed Diet Relationship.

I often get questions how Rob and I duke it out in the kitchen.

In my corner, I am the whole-foods vegan devoid of white flours and sugars.

At the opposite end, we have Rob, who will eat anything.

Thankfully, we actually don’t have segregated corners.

Before I met Rob, he was eating vegetarian at home. Actually, when Rob met me, I was eating a flexitarian diet (mainly vegetarian with occasional fish but I still ate meat, too). Rob had no clue what he was getting himself into, haha!

One of my friends who is vegan won’t allow any meat into his home.  I am definitely not like that but I could see how dietary choices could definitely divide relationships. Thankfully both Rob and I are more accommodating, as well as our friends and families.

At home, Rob and I eat mostly the same stuff. Mostly vegan, although sometimes Rob eats yogurt and adds butter to his granola. There are some Rob-only ingredients, like the red and green curry pastes in the fridge (they include shrimp, so a definite no-go for me). There are some Janet-only foods, too, because Rob doesn’t really care for them- like my Amazing Grass for breakfast. For breakfast fruit, Rob gets the bananas and mangoes while I relish in berries. Rob loves spicy foods, so if cooking for himself, he usually increases the chilies. If cooking for both of us, they fall more into my own comfort zone (1/2 tsp Aleppo max!). Rob also has a sweet tooth and is pretty content to munch through the rare dessert that I make.

I think we’ve got things worked out pretty well in the kitchen, actually.

Rob eats out way more often than I do, which is where he gets his occasional fix of meat. If we Rob cooks meat at home, it is for our guests.  Rob’s last birthday party kind of had me in a tizzy because I didn’t want to cook meat. Rob couldn’t use the barbecue so grilling was out. Thankfully the slow cooker came to the rescue.

I still contend that while I don’t crave it, I probably miss fish the most. Here I am sharing a smoked salmon sushi pizza that I made for a party with mixed company. While traditional sushi can be finicky to make for a large crowd, making a casserole of sushi pizza is much quicker and easier.

I used the seasoned sushi rice from Yo Sushi and the sushi pizza recipe was modified from Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends. I ended up doubling the recipe to fit a 9″x13″ pan but I probably didn’t have to double it. It made a ton of food. My pieces were a bit big which necessitated using a knife and fork to eat, so next time I would opt for smaller bite-sized pieces, with overlapping cucumber slices.

I am still too shy to try a nontraditional raw take on this for a crowd. If I test-run it first, I may have more courage to try Ricki’s vegan sushi pizza next time.

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Terry.

(more…)

Vegan Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese Vegetable Pancake), As You Like It

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 6, 2012

My first meal after I arrived in Tokyo was okonomiyaki. It was from the closest restaurant to our hostel. We had no clue what we were ordering, pointing to pictures instead from a photo album. All the while, making sure there would be no shrimp (no ebi!). We ended up with an assortment of vegetable pancakes that were cooked up on a hot grill in front of us. Some with more flour, others with different vegetables. I remember one being bright pink (I forget what made it that colour). Once the server noticed we were eating them plain, he encouraged us to try the sauces on the side. To be honest, we left wondering what the hype was about okonomiyaki.

We persevered, though. When we went to Osaka, we tried okonomiyaki again, at a very popular hole-in-the-wall resto. We had to wait in line for 30 minutes, but when we finally snatched a seat in the tiny resto, we were able to watch our cabbage pancakes being made in front of us: thinly sliced cabbage and carrots were mixed with a seasoned flour and dashi stock batter, grilled and then topped with your chosen toppings- most of them with bacon- and then it was slathered with Japanese barbecue sauce (okonomi sauce), and later drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise,  and sprinkled with parsley flakes. A crispy veggie pancake with a soft middle, topped with savoury sauces. Delicious. I was hooked.

Okonomiyaki literally means as you like it. Want yours with veggies? Want yours with sauce? Do you want your toppings in the batter with noodles (Hiroshima-style), or on top (Osaka-style)?

Or in my case, do I want mine vegan? Oh yes! I was bookmarked this recipe immediately from Big Vegan because it used tofu as the base instead of the traditional flour and eggs. While I have made Kevin’s okonomiyaki before, I found it hard to flip and keep intact while cooking. As such, I was thrilled to see this version. While already nontraditional, you bake it as a huge pancake instead of frying it on the stovetop. It took more like 60 minutes to bake but it was delicious. Alone, the tofu-miso-nooch batter was flavourful even before we cooked it. The consistency was a bit more heavier on the batter on the batter-cabbage ratio than I remember mine in Japan, but it was great as is. We would definitely make this again.

My version was topped simply with black sesame seeds and toasted shredded nori, whereas Rob went more all-out with some tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes. Remember, as you like it. If you want to try your hand at homemade mayo and okonomi sauces, there are recipes forthcoming in Terry’s new book. I haven’t tried them, though. Big Vegan also has suggestions for wasabi-mayo and tomato sauces. Or go simple like Heidi, who used almonds and chives to garnish her veggie pancake.

I was planning on talking about Mixed Diet relationships in this post, but I think I will save that for my next post.

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

(more…)

Sushi Roll Edamame Collard Wrap with Green Onion-Miso Vinaigrette

Posted in Appetizers, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 4, 2012

The point of making a sushi rice bowl salad is that it is easier than rolling numerous sushi rolls. I know, I’ve done it before.

So why would I bastardize a perfectly nice sushi salad by turning it into a wrap?

A collard wrap, of all things, instead of a sushi roll.

As you probably figured out, I like wraps, especially when wrapped with a green leaf like Swiss chard, kale, collard or even Romaine lettuce. Hearty greens don’t go soggy. My leaves are usually small enough for bite-size snacks, rolling up a few for tasty meal. While I also like salads, I preferred this as a wrap. With a wrap, you make sure every component of the salad hits your palate at the same time.

The idea of this wrap came from Appetite for Reduction, after Ashley posted her version. In my wrap, you get your zing from the green onions, the crunch from the carrots and cucumber, the salty earthiness from the shredded nori with a savoury note from sesame seeds all firmed up with a background from coarse bulgur and slippery edamame. The collard leaf keeps it all together. The green onion miso dressing is great within the wrap, and you can always add more if you use it as a dipping sauce. As a salad, the Asian ingredients seem a bit disjointed, but in the wrap, they work so well together.. because you can experience it all in every bite. :)

If you are tired of eating delicate leafy green-based salads, consider turning it into a green wrap. Where your greenery is just presented in a different form.

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

(more…)

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 1, 2012

A new home; a new 5 keys.

Trust me, I am not complaining about now having a garage. Although 5 keys is certainly overwhelming. First front door, second front door, rear door, garage door and garage.

While we are still unpacking boxes, and likely will for many weeks, the kitchen is functional. The bedroom is almost unpacked (minus my clothes) and we have no idea what to with ourselves now that we have 3 bathrooms.

In any case, while Rob and I have moved many, many times before, this is the first time we hired movers. So completely worth it. Our friends and family must think so, as well. ;) Our movers were work horses: incredibly strong, super fast while still being very gentle. One of the movers relished telling me a new joke every time he saw me. If anyone needs cheap, efficient movers in the GTA, shoot me an email and I’ll give you their contact info.

While there are many great things about our new place, we are kind of sad we don’t have a basement. You can really scurry things out of sight and mind, so our move forced Rob and I to go through another round of purging and incidentally, discover new things, as well.  Rob had some pretty bowls (and pretty chopsticks!) hidden in the basement that I unearthed! I also didn’t know that I had so many packages of kelp noodles. I knew I had bought a case (or two) when they went on sale, but looks like a lot more noodles once I take them out of the case. ;)

For one of my first meals in the new home, I decided to break in the kitchen with a quick and easy stir fry. I also inadvertently christened the kitchen by setting off the smoke alarm. I swear, there was nothing burning! I will have to be careful to not wake up my neighbors. I adapted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Winter Stir Fry with Chinese Five Spice to what I had left in my vegetable crisper. Winter root vegetables are fabulous for keeping so long, but it felt nice to use up the remainder of my root veggies, along with some spring veggies. Goodbye winter, hello spring.

The heart of this stir fry is the Chinese Five Spice powder, which stems from the heart of Szechuan cooking. It is aromatic and savoury, composed of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. A seven spice blend may also include ginger and black peppercorns. A complex spice blend, a little goes a long way and really shines here.

Throw in your own favourite vegetables with some noodles and then toss with a sake, tamari and Chinese five spice dressing. The drizzle of lime at the ends adds the perfect acidic balance to the veggie-centric meal. Feel like more protein? Add some tofu or tempeh. Me? My pantry is all cleaned out of tofu!

While I had been working through my pantry prior to this move, I plan on eating through the remainder over the next year before our BIG move to the US. Expect to see more recipes with kelp noodles! What are your favourite ways of eating them?

Here are a few other recipes with Chinese Five Spice:

Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash from Appetite for Reduction
Fluffy Sesame Baked Tofu
from Sprint 2 the Table
Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu from Vegetarian Times
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles with Broccoli from Serious Eats
Smoky Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice from Vegan with a Vengeance
Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes from Post Punk Kitchen
Chinese Five Spice Miso Soup with Shitakes and Edamame from Florida Coastal Cooking
Star Anise-Glazed Tempeh with Stir-Fried Peppers from Joanne Eats Well With Others

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this month’s pasta bloghop, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, Virtual Vegan Potluck and to Cookbooks Sundays.

(more…)

Wild Rice and Edamame Salad with a Lemon-Miso Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on April 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

Know your limits, then defy them

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

Yesterday you said tomorrow.

Nothing hurts more than sitting on a couch.

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)