You know how bloggers tend to post holiday dishes before the actual holiday? Do you think they make the same dish for the real holiday? Or make something new?
Me: a little from column A and a little from column B. Cooking for me, column B the majority of the time. For guests, perhaps some from column A.
For Cinco de Mayo, I shared my Mexican Chili Salad Wraps the week before. Rob celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a lovely corn and avocado salsa and oodles of other Mexican treats. No salad wraps. Except that was on May 4. On May 5, Rob and I actually went out for Thai food to celebrate a friend’s birthday (they actually had a few vegan options -youpee!).
But then, after seeing others share their Mexican eats, I had a craving for more Mexican. Post-Cinco.
Flipping through Bittman’s latest cookbook, VB6: Vegan Before 6:00 (good review of the cookbook here), I knew exactly what I was drawn to: black bean tacos with a tangy cabbage slaw. I had my mango “taco” wraps ready to go. I love all things “tangy” especially if it means lots of citrus juice (lime!). And well, beans, oh yes. I have used black beans in many Mexican dishes, but I was intrigued by Bittman’s suggestion to mash them, spice them (lots of garlic!), and then roast them.
It worked really well. While the beans crisped up in the oven, I made the beautiful cabbage slaw. It came together seamlessly. Call them tostadas with crispy flatbreads or roll them into tacos. My mango wraps were crispy but if you let the beans sit on top of the wraps for a while, the wraps absorb some of the moistness and became pliable again. Because they were very thin, they were very delicate and made a big delicious mess. A beautiful delicious mess. I can’t remember the last time I bought red cabbage, but gosh, isn’t it gorgeous?
So, for all you seasoned bloggers and foodies out there, do you remake your pre-holiday dishes? Or try something new again?
I’ve been making a lot more simple meals lately (I promise to keep sharing the dressing recipes!), so by the complexity of this dish, you probably can guess that I made this for guests. Technically, my guests ate a Mexican Tortilla Lasagna and I made myself a Mexican Zucchini Lasagna!
The only difference between the two were the noodles. Instead of lasagna pasta, the tortilla lasagna used 9″ whole wheat flour tortillas and my version used zucchini instead of noodles.
Inspired by Susan, this is actually a relatively simple dish to make if you already have refried beans and enchilada sauce. I didn’t. So I turned to Radiant Health, Inner Wealth for a simple unfried refried bean recipe and Veganomicon for an enchilada sauce.
Basically, you create layers with refried beans, a chili-flavoured bell pepper and onion mixture, black beans, and salsa each separated by zucchini slices. Because I wasn’t using tortillas, to make sure my lasagna wasn’t a soupy mess, I lightly salted the zucchini and baked them for a few minutes to dry them out. As with most multi-component recipes, each part is as important as the next. Pick a flavourful salsa. Use a zippy chili powder. Savour the zesty refried beans, lime-spiked in all their glory. Repeat the layers a few times, then smother it in enchilada sauce. I found the original enchilada sauce recipe way too spicy for me (3 roasted green chiles, oh my!), so I ended up diluting it with more tomatoes and almond milk. Combined with the rest of the components, it worked well to balance the flavours.
I actually wasn’t even sure I would share this recipe… it was hard to keep photogenic when fresh. Once chilled as leftovers, it was easier to cut out a slice without it capsizing. Regardless, it still tasted good!
Let me get this off my chest: I really liked this meal.
It was quick, healthy and tasty.
The main component to the tacos is a seemingly simple black bean saute with oyster mushrooms and red pepper. I don’t know what it is, but the oyster mushrooms were fabulous here. They kept their shape, they had a sweet but subtle mushroom flavour but it complemented the red peppers and beans especially well. The Ancho chile-based chili powder made this spicy enough with great flavour.
Don’t stop there, just yet. Cut up a sweet mango, toss with some cilantro and red onion and you have a quick salsa that pairs so nicely. Since I used Alphonso mangoes, there was no need to add more sweetener, but adjust to your tastes and available fruits.
Now wrap it all up. With a nod to my raw tacos, I decided to serve this in a Swiss chard leaf. Pick your poison: leafy green, flour tortilla or hard taco shell.
With each bite, you will have sweet, spicy, and savoury. Juicy mushrooms and black beans. Simple sweet mango salsa – how could it not be good? Thankfully, it is easier to make then our New Best Salad Ever (aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa). This was best eaten fresh, with the warmed beans and saucy mushrooms contrasting the cool salsa.
For some reason, I tend to gravitate to black beans when I cook Mexican. Probably because I really like black beans. I am working through my heirloom bean stash, though. However, my collection of beans are predominantly Southwestern or pinto bean hybrids (Rio Zape, Bolita, Anasazi, Rattlesnake, Appaloosa, etc). Not sure what to make with them. What are your favourite recipes for pinto beans?
Although it is still many, many moons away, if I am moving to Texas, I think I need to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While I have posted quite a few Mexican recipes, they are a tad nontraditional:
Tacos made with “BBQ jackfruit meat“
Raw burritos which are collard wraps filled with jicama, sprouts and a nacho-cashew sauce
Or how about a raw taco filled with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa
What can I say, that’s what happens when I veer away from deep fried and cheese-heavy meals. At least I know how to pronounce mole (moh-lay).
Glancing at the recipe, I could tell this was a going to be a dish with spicy tomato sauce smothering black beans, topped with hazelnut-infused caramelized roasted squash. But what makes this a rancheros? What is rancheros?
Turns out rancheros literally means Ranch-style. Huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican dish with a tortilla topped with an egg and tomato sauce means Ranch-style eggs.
So this, my friends, is Ranch-style squash!
A very simple recipe to prepare, basically you create a spicy silky-smooth cumin and coriander enhanced tomato sauce that coats black beans. The spiciness is juxtaposed beautifully against the sweet squash. Isa’s recipes rarely disappoint although I still tinkered with it.
I roasted my kabocha with hazelnut oil instead of walnut oil. Olive oil would work, too, no worries. I substituted 2 green chiles for the jalapeno and increased the garlic to 6 cloves. It had a nice zing for my palate, but for those who love heat, definitely add more chile.
Any plans for Cinqo de Mayo this weekend?
Good news! Rob and I will not be homeless come May 1!
Having been thoroughly spoiled in our current home, we tried to balance what we wanted with our new place. Turns out we were wooed by suburbia. We are currently living at the East end of the city of Toronto, and will be moving all the way to the Western-most outskirts of the city of Toronto. My daily cycling commute will change to 9 km, which will probably be around 35 minutes but I have yet to try it out (still faster than transit). While we aren’t exactly thrilled with living in a cookie-cutter community, what we do appreciate is living in a 10-year old home that has been well-kept by the current owners (never before a rental!), a space for me to hibernate for studying purposes and the real bonus was a garage for us to keep our bikes. No more storing the bikes in the dining room! The kitchen is also pretty nice, roomy and complete with a gas stove (and a dishwasher!). Don’t laugh, we contemplated living in a few places without a dishwasher- it is more common than you might think.
What we’ve sacrificed for this gem of a house is basically location. Not only are we an extra 2km from downtown, but the subway is 2km away, necessitating a bus or street-car ride on rainy days. While I have located my new health store for my tempeh and dino kale fixes, sadly Sunny’s and Better Bulk are now quite a hike. Travelling East/West in midtown Toronto is definitely not very efficient, so I think I will have to plan for grocery shopping primarily at No Frills instead (cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes, anyone?). I am actually looking at this as an opportunity to force myself to eat through my pantry. Eat all my beans before we trek out to Texas. I can replenish my stash from Rancho Gordo once we settle there, hehe.
To celebrate our impending moves, I decided to make a Mexican bean dish. This time simply spicy, citrus black beans. I changed Elise’s spicy citrus black bean recipe slightly, but the nontraditional Janet-ism was adding the spinach because I wanted some greens. Omit it for normal Mexican beany uses. My other changes were taming the spices, using only Aleppo chile flakes and smoked paprika, but feel free to add chipotles in adobo or whatever floats your boat. I also increased the lime juice and added in orange zest for more pronounced citrus flavours. The citrus paired incredibly well with the heat from the beans. This is definitely one of my favourite solo bean recipes to date.
I don’t know any blogger that doesn’t relish receiving comments.
The food blog community is very supportive, leaving mostly positive comments about recipes and photographs.
I also love comments when I have questions or ones that are constructive. One of my very first posts, about our family’s rouladen, stemmed such interesting comments. Everyone thought we were rolling them backwards! As you can see, we roll the beef slices along their short axis, making long and thin rolls. However, in the comments, in seemed like everyone else was rolling them on the long axis, producing shorter, stumpy rolls.
I told my mom we were rolling them wrong. She told me that was how our grandmother always did it. There was nothing wrong.
We are just a backwards family…
To be honest, we wouldn’t want the short and stumpy rolls… the longer the roll, the more you get to savour the mustard, pickle and caramelized onions on the inside! (Not that I am eating rouladen any more, although a veganized dish is on my bucket list combining those 3 ingredients)
I didn’t really think twice about its validity, but it was really odd. The short comment slammed my style of recipes and specifically directed me to a “good” recipe. One that I have made before and really didn’t like.
I was really excited about the dish, too. Black beans, quinoa and broccoli in a raspberry chipotle sauce. From Isa, whose recipes I adore. I was so happy when I finally found chipotle in adobo at Sunny’s, that Rob went out to buy fresh raspberries specifically for this dish.
However, it was so bad that I was nauseous within thirty minutes. It was my first time using chipotles in adobo, so I started making the sauce with a limited amount of chile. I increased it as I tolerated it. But it didn’t taste that great, even after I added agave to sweeten the sauce. And then my stomach started to give me problems…. I called it quits.
But I hate wasting food. Especially the primo fresh raspberries. If I didn’t get nauseous, I probably would still have eaten it. But I just couldn’t swallow it!
Rob has an iron tummy and tongue already scorched by years of eating spicy food, so he offered to finish it. Even though it was definitely subpar and (not even that spicy).
But, before I burdened Rob with heaps of the dish, I snatched half of the base of the salad. The good parts: the black beans, the quinoa and the steamed broccoli.
I veered towards an alternative route, towards a mango, black bean and quinoa salad with a sesame orange dressing, that I ended up adapting from Eating Well. Bonus broccoli, of course.
After trying the first dish, this was a much better alternative. Light and fresh. Bright with the mango with subtle flavours from the fresh orange juice, toasted sesame oil and cilantro. I added toasted sesame seeds to highlight more of the sesame flavour.
Let me assure you, I won’t be trying chipotles in adobo again anytime soon.
What do you do when you make something that doesn’t taste good? Do you still eat it or try something new?
When I suggested recipes for my Mom to make over Christmas, she was a bit shocked when she found out a few were new recipes. One of the cardinal rules of cooking for guests is to never try a new recipe on unsuspecting guests. I have long abandoned that rule, though.
Truth be told, sometimes it can be difficult to munch on a dish you’ve already made yourself but made by someone else. Sometimes, it will taste the same. We repeatedly return to our favourite hummus recipe (this one, too) because it is so reliable. But in the flash of a pan, a dish can taste different.
Therefore, I figured I would give my Mom all of the glory from a few fabulous new dishes.
The Chickpea Piccata, was a definite hit. I didn’t want to share any of the leftovers!
The second hit was this Pumpkin Chili. I originally spotted it on Isobelle’s site, but the recipe came from Ashlae. While I have made other chilis before, this is definitely my favourite so far. A savoury saucy chili, filled with beans and vegetables. Flavourful, not spicy despite using jalapeno peppers. The pumpkin puree adds a touch of sweetness but doesn’t leave you with a pumpkin flavour. The TVP plumps up to look just like ground meat, it is almost confusing. What isn’t confusing is how great it tastes: delicious.
When we trying to decide what to do with the leftover chili, I suggested my Mom freeze it and save it for the next time I visit. This way, there would be a surefire Janet-friendly meal already waiting for me.
However, after I went home, I called to make sure I had the right recipe for the tantalizing chili. Only minor changes using canned tomatoes and beans. She even used jalapeno peppers! However, my Mom had bad news. There was no more chili left: my Dad had polished it all off! Vegan chili so good it could fool the unsuspecting omnivore: I consider that a success. My Mom makes a tasty chili and I can’t wait to have it again.
I went to the St Lawrence Market this weekend to buy some kale. I was pining the HUGE $2 bundles of kale. Last year, with only one bundle I made Brazilian Potato-Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo (Caldo Verde), Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew AND Cranberry Bean Mole with Roasted Butternut Squash. The bundles were that huge. This week, they had smaller bundles, all from the top part of the plants. Still a great deal at $1.50 and actually more manageable to eat in a week. I bought 2 bundles because I planned for a kale chip marathon this weekend. While I also scored a delicata and kabocha squash (I have yet to try them but I hear they are wonderful), I wasn’t able to find celery root (aka celeriac) which was my main reason for visiting the market. I guess, I will have to head back next week.
While I feel like the winter heralds the end of fresh vegetables (my local farmer’s market has already closed for the season), without physical snow, there is still lots of food from local sources. In fact, I still have kale growing in my own garden! It became much more prolific since the first frost. The winner of the kale plants we planted this year was the Vates Blue Curled Kale. It is a dwarf plant, so the plants are smaller and don’t take as long to grow (dinosaur kale takes 90 days to grow, whereas these need only 30 days). The leaves are smaller and more tender, thus they are perfect for wraps. No need to steam, because they taste wicked awesome fresh from the garden.
This is a delicious wrap that I adapted from The Two-Week Wellness Solution. Tess initially made these as tostadas, but I really enjoyed these as wraps. I pretty much adore all of Tess’ recipes and had bookmarked these for the longest time due to their positively glowing reviews. Then Ashley posted her version, and I knew I had to try it.
It looks so daunting with all the ingredients, but it is actually really easy to make. The mashed black beans seasoned with lime, cumin and onion are the star of the wrap, contrasting nicely with quinoa as well as lime-spiked carrots and green onions. The avocado adds a creamy touch. Try it as a tostada, or a wrap, but any way will be delicious. This has been one of my favourite meals. Enjoy!
Be prepared for some serious veggies this month. Last month was beans. This month will feature loads of greens. A spotlight on the various ways of eating delicious cruciferous vegetables, which include veggies as seemingly varied as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and daikon (white radish). Each one loaded with vitamins and many of them top my superfood chart. Trust me, they do not need to be boring. Anything but!
Here we go, case in point here. A party in my mouth.
Brazilian food tends to do that for me.
Just like Moroccan food, Brazilian cuisine is known to be meat-heavy. However, there are endless recipes for delicious vegan alternatives. In my own kitchen, I can create quite the flavour fiesta.
While selecting a random recipe for this month’s No Croutons Required, I was thrilled when this Brazilian Black Bean and Vegetable Stew from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen was an option. It marries two other dishes I have made: a hearty feijoada with black beans and mushrooms as well as a a black bean soup spiced with cinnamon and mango. The results could not have been better – both in the flavour department and in the colour department!
This stew is filled to the max with colourful veggies (sweet potato, red pepper, green pepper, tomato, kale) on a background of black beans. Garlic, cumin and thyme flavour the broth. While I cooked the stew, it was also spiced with orange zest. I was worried it would be overpowering. It wasn’t until I added the final hit of lime juice that I was seriously satisfied with my beautiful and delicious stew.
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Sweet Heat featuring chilis in soups, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required (co-hosted by Jacqui and Dom) featuring random cookbook recipes.
The first time I cooked millet, it became clumpy as leftovers. This time, I followed Ashley’s advice for fluffy millet perfection, and fluffy millet was delivered! Except for this casserole, I wanted it to be slightly clumpy so that it would stick together. Ah well… at least I know how to make fluffy millet. Can I learn to make clumpy millet again?
I finally broke out this casserole for Thanksgiving with Rob’s family. A multi-layered casserole: nutty millet at the bottom, with a middle layer of cumin-spiced black beans and onions, topped with a sweet potato mash flavoured with cinnamon and miso. Simple, familiar and homey. A complete meal. Perfect for a dish to share at Thanksgiving.
When Rob and I went to NYC last year, we ate at Candle Cafe. I had the Paradise Casserole and when I saw it was in their cookbook and also posted here, I knew I would be able to recreate the dish back home. This is what it looked like at the restaurant:
Their recipe is misleading, so I will redirect you. You will notice that my casserole is a bit bottom-heavy. As written, 1.5 cups of dry millet is WAY TOO MUCH. I spread it out over an 7×7, a 9×9 and 2 smaller ramekins. As such, the rest of my toppings were too thin. I kept on wanting more of the sweet, sweet sweet potato mash. The miso and cinnamon really pumped up its flavour. Before I added the black beans, I thought they were a bit bland with only cumin, so I added a teaspoon of garam masala.
For the beans, I wondered if a portion of the black beans should be mashed. This way if my layer of black beans was thicker, I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling all over the place. Looking back at the resto version, it looks like they have a trick for keeping that layer together as well.
And the millet… well, the trick to fluffy millet is to cook it with less water. I also toasted it in a bit of olive oil but the trick is the 1:2 millet:water ratio. The millet was super fluffy. So fluffy that it would not stick together and made for a messy casserole. The two servings that I put in the ramekins turned out really well, though. My photos are simply subpar in the presentation aspect, though, but it tasted good. Hopefully with my tips, you can make this even better than me.
If you want the best, sweetest cabbage, I suggest braising it for 2 hours. However, I can’t do that every day, especially in the summer when I’d rather not use the oven.
But just like tofu, a cabbage dish can be more about its accompanying ingredients than anything else. Who says cabbage needs to be boring? Adapted from Happy Herbivore, this is a quick stir fry overflowing with cabbage. Mexican in its flavours with a tomato-based sauce spiced with cumin and oregano, there are also red peppers and black beans for a healthy punch. Top with avocado for a creamy accent.
I found this worked perfectly as a meal for 2-3, but if doubling for a larger portion, you will definitely need a big skillet!
The New Best Salad Ever (Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa)
Hi! It’s Rob again. I know that I haven’t posted here in a while. A few months ago I was worried about Janet’s blog when she was going through a really busy time at work. I’ve realized, however, that Janet has many dozens of recipes on deck waiting to be posted and she always had things well in hand. I knew that The Taste Space would forge on boldly without my extra help.
I’m back, though. A couple days ago I made a salad which both Janet and I agreed was the best salad we’d ever had in our lives. It was simply amazing. There was a cacophony of bold flavours bursting with every bite. There were so many things going on. Every portion was enhanced for extra action and pleasure. I knew that I had to share it here.
The salad is the Uptown Salad, adapted from Radiance 4 Life by Tess Challis. Janet suggested it to me as something that was up my alley. It only took me a few seconds of looking at the recipe for me to decide that I had to make it. It hit many of my ingredient buttons: mangoes, coconut, tofu, cilantro, citrus, and chilies. And that’s the just the beginning.
The recipe suggested that it would take 30 minutes (or less!) to prepare the recipe. No way. It took me an hour and a half of chopping, shredding, soaking, slicing, and frying. I was getting cranky by the end. This salad was more work than advertised. The verdict was going to come when we finally got to try it.
Janet occasionally uses some swear words. She’s generally a good girl, though, and restrains herself. However, when she tried the Uptown Salad there was a foul concoction of some four swear words in a row. These words were not uttered in anger. They were the stunned response of a girl eating the best salad she’d ever had in her life. These words were an emotional response of extreme awesomeness. This is a salad with the power to move you.
Salads can be costly.
I’m not talking about the lettuce, or the vegetable toppings, or even the dressings…
I needed to buy a bigger pannier for my bike when I started to eat huge salads at work. One container for the lettuce, another for the toppings and another for the dressing. It takes up a lot of room, but the fresh salad is definitely worth it.
Last year, I lamented that my Mexican salad with the creamy avocado dressing needed to be eaten soon after assembly. Once dressed, lettuce doesn’t last that long (more the power to wilted kale salads!). This year, when I spotted a tomato-based Mexican salad at Namaste Gurl, I was smitten. Her salads were gorgeous and while her tomato-based dressing seemed quite unorthodox, it sounded delicious. If I kept all the components separate, I knew I could enjoy this salad all week long.
Sauces and dressings are what clinch a meal. Fresh, tasty produce helps, too, but oftentimes the dressing pulls it all together. And in this salad, the dressing is what really shines. It is a light, silky smooth tomato and red pepper sauce with a hint of cheese from nutritional yeast, smokiness from smoked paprika and zip from the chili flakes. Cumin and oregano keep this Mexican. You could add your favourite vegetables to the mix, to replace the cabbage, but I highly recommend the red pepper which conferred a sweet silkiness to the dish, almost as if it were roasted. I have never pureed my tomato sauces, but this dressing was so creamy because I used my immersion blender to make it smooth. The sauce was so good, I had to stop myself from gobbling it up straight from the stovetop.
Instead, I held out to use it as the dressing for this Mexican salad with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado overtop mixed greens. Be creative with your toppings – add in some whole grain crackers, fresh bell pepper, cucumber, etc. Romaine worked well with this combination as well. I bet there are countless things this sauce could be used for, and I am sure I will whip it up again when I make my first batch of zucchini noodles!
So what kind of meal would you make if you were hosting a dinner party after cycling 100km?
Without going to the grocery store, to boot.
While I prefer not to try new recipes on unsuspecting guests, I warned my brother and sister-in-law that this was a new recipe… AND that I would likely be pooped post-bike ride. They were fine with the menu.
The most important part of having them over is not about the food, you see, it was about catching up. How their plans for puppy parenthood are progressing, moving plans on both ends, and since my apartment is now on the market to be rented, it has never looked cleaner. Oh, and games. Fun was had by all as we introduced them to Bananagrams and Dominion.
I still get a bit stressed when choosing a menu for guests. My tastes have changed and I would like to showcase how great the food tastes. A bit harder to do without rehearsing a recipe, but I trusted the complementary flavours within this
soup stew. Yam, black beans, orange, cilantro – what’s not to like?
I adapted this recipe from Appetite for Reduction to create a heartier soup, I mean stew. I decreased the amount of yam, increased the black beans, used canned tomatoes instead of fresh and, of course, used Aleppo chili flakes instead of the serrano peppers.
The yams, partially mashed, created a creamy consistency which meshed well with the extra black beans. I squeezed 2 Navel oranges to acquire 1 cup of fresh orange juice. This added more of a lightness to the soup, rather than an intense orange flavour. The sweet cilantro and orange paired well with the slight zing from the Aleppo pepper.
Let me tell you how perfect this stew was:
1) It is a very easy recipe easy. I had no problems whipping this up after the bike ride, since it came together quite seamlessly.
2) It serves 8, so there was plenty of food for seconds. And (souper) leftovers for me!
3) It tasted very good. No complaints from my guests. Not a typical meal for company, but it would suit me well if I visited someone.
4) For recovery meals after endurance-based exercise, this was ideal with a high carb content. As is, this has a 1:5 protein:carb ratio, but enjoy it with a glass of soy milk for an overall 1:3.5 ratio. Apparently, liquid-based meals are easiest to digest while in recovery so a soup is perfect.
Sounds like a winning meal for everyone.