the taste space

Southern Beans and Greens Saute (& The Last Organic Outpost urban farm visit)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on September 15, 2013

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

It took me a while to realize it, but Houston’s claim to fame is not its hot summer. It may be infamous for its stifling, humid summers, but that’s not when the most fun occur. For people, nor plants.

I love it when readers help me learn the ropes of my new town. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it is just too hot for most vegetables to grow. Coming from Ontario, summer equals fresh vegetables. Right now, we are between seasons in Texas. I will quit lamenting the lack of flavourful tomatoes (for now), the local vegetables will be coming in the fall and spring.  Despite being between seasons, vegetables can still be grown, though. Recently I visited an urban farm and loved it so much, I wanted to share the experience with you.

The Last Organic Outpost

The Last Organic Outpost is an urban, community farm. We weren’t sure what to expect, as this farm is close to where we live. Truly a hidden gem, they encourage the community to become involved in creating their own farming experience and ultimately to sell enough to become self-driven.

Last Organic Outpost

It is completely volunteer-run, except for one farmer they employ. They minimize costs by recycling unwanted goods. Donated hot tubs will be turned into planters. Cars have been turned into vermicomposters, bee havens, etc.

last organic outpost

Of course, they also grow vegetables. Despite being between seasons, they were growing greens (collards, dinosaur kale, spinach — all grown year-round), herbs, sweet peppers, eggplant, winter squash as well as figs and papayas. The somewhat chaotic plants reminded me of my small garden in Toronto.

last organic outpost

At first I thought it was just a big plant with pretty flowers, but they also had different kinds of okra. Small, long and purple varieties. I had never tried just picked okra and it was refreshingly crisp.

last organic outpost

Talk about freshly picked, they had produce for sale as well as special sampler bags which is what we purchased (it included kale, spinach, eggplant and butternut squash). Because it is volunteer-driven, their hours are variable but keep an eye on their facebook page if you want to become more involved.

Have no fear, there is still a delicious recipe attached to this post. When in the South, why not try their local specialties, too? Although traditional beans and greens in the South usually use collards, black eyed peas and ham/bacon, this one was a nice twist. I honesty wasn’t expecting much, but was blown away by the flavour. A quality liquid smoke definitely brings this dish to the next level. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists of the liquid smokes at the store? I thought we could omit it from our Houston pantry, but caved. Once we started looking, though, there were a lot of additives to most liquid smoke “seasonings”. The one we settled on just has water, hickory smoke, mesquite smoke as its ingredients and I really like it. It also won this taste test. :)

Anyways, this is a simple skillet saute with carrots, (pinto) beans and (kale) greens. I used a melange of spices for my vegetable stock substitute and I think it worked really well with the liquid smoke. Easy, peasy.. and delicious.

I am looking forward to coming back to The Last Organic Outpost once the growing season resumes. :)

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this month’s challenge to Shop Local.

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Raw Chili Dip

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on August 15, 2013

Raw Chili Dip

Nothing like a delicious raw vegan potluck to reignite an interest in raw cuisine.

Lately my meals have been fairly simple, including my foray into raw foods. I have made more elaborate raw dishes in the past (like this nut-free raw lasagna), but currently enjoying the freedom of a simple kitchen.

This is a dish I had been meaning to try ever since Ellen recommended it to me: Matthew Kenney’s Raw Chili. I changed the ingredients slightly (no celery please! does that even go in chili?) and omitted the nuts entirely.  Cooked chilis are nice but raw chilis are great because the vegetables are fresh along with strong flavours from the spices. Some vegetables are chopped, others riced, creating a melange of textures. Because I omitted the nuts, this was a delicious veg-heavy dip instead of a meal per se. Unless you eat the whole thing in one go, which is what I ended up doing.

Yes, that was the sad part. I spent all this time and energy making a delicious dip. And then I ate it all in one go. It just seemed too time consuming….. moral of the story: make a big batch. Double or triple this if you want it for a few meals. Or if you are not particular about keeping things completely raw, add some cooked beans (or sprouted beans, if you like them).

Want another quickie no cook chili? I liked this one as well.

Raw Chili Dip

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea Salad

Posted in Salads by Janet M on July 9, 2013

Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea SaladLiving in Toronto, my kitchen accumulated a lot of stuff. Gadgets, ingredients, Mason jars, you name it. All for the best, though, allowing me to explore new favourites.

Thus, when we moved to Houston, we pared down our kitchen, minimalist-style. Minimalist, in comparison, because I am not willing to compromise in the kitchen, either. Do I need 5 different whole grains all the time? No. I will repopulate my kitchen with my favourites. Quinoa, brown rice and oats. Beans? Right now, I have been mainly munching on canned beans (we don’t have containers/bags to freeze beans yet and time has been a bit sparse). OK, I will still have many beans (don’t forget, I can order from Rancho Gordo directly!) but my collection will not as big as my last.

I still don’t feel deprived in the slightest. There are constant permutations and combinations to try out. The recipe may look the same, but a change in spice can make all the difference.

While still in Toronto, I was had a cook-date with a friend after work. I suggested making Heidi’s Moroccan chickpea and carrot salad. No cooking required, it was filled with my typical pantry staples. However, not everyone always has a lemon on hand, grows mint in their backyard (I don’t have that anymore), stocks prunes (um, yeah, not me either) or has a spice grinder. So we made do with what she had. Lime instead of lemon, cilantro instead of mint, dates instead of prunes and we kept the cumin seeds intact.

It may just be a label, but I wondered whether these changes would make this salad less Moroccan. Dates, cumin and carrots are very common in Moroccan cooking. However, I typically ascribe cilantro to Indian and southeast Asian cuisine. Turns out, cilantro is pervasive in Moroccan cuisine as well. Moroccan, with a twist, perhaps. With the mix of sweet dates, earthy cumin, tart lime, bright cilantro and crunchy carrots, it was very good.

It should not come as a shock, since it is very similar to my beloved Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants with a smattering from my Moroccan Carrot Salad. Next time, though, I think I will try the original recipe. A tasty variation on a similar theme.

Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea Salad
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s No Croutons Required for legume salads and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. (more…)

Chickpea and Apricot Salad with a Pineapple-Ginger-Cilantro Dressing

Posted in Salads, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on June 22, 2013

Chickpea and Apricot Salad with a Pineapple-Ginger-Cilantro Dressing

Announcement time!

(No, nothing on the relationship front..)

While I modestly shared the news of passing the.most.important.exam.of.my.life, I figure you guys may be more excited about this news: my photos are in a cookbook! In Tessnewest cookbook, no less. I am not sure what was more exciting: new Tess recipes or  being a published foodie photographer? :) (I choose the former, actually)

In Tess’ latest cookbook, Get Waisted, she has teamed up with Dr. Mary Clifton, to create 100 delicious, healthy recipes. She has included healthy modifications to older recipes and all-new favourites. Bean and rice coconut banana curry, Black bean and rice bowl with mango salsa, Japanese ume rice, Lemon lover’s red lentil spinach soup, Mexican polenta bowl, Pasta caulifredo, Rosemary polenta with mushrooms, Samosa wrap with cilantro chutney, Spicy Indian chickpea fritters.. ok, ok, I will stop the temptation. You can find all of the recipes on Vegansprout if you are curious. :) Suffice it to say, the recipes are creative and drool-worthy. And I photographed a handful of them.

One of the recipes Tess included is one of my favourites from her first book: Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad. I routinely make it, changing ingredients, matching what I have in my kitchen.

This time, I swapped the black beans for chickpeas; the mango juice for pineapple juice; swapped the corn for more carrots and scrapped the spinach altogether. Combined with the sweet dried apricots and cilantro-ginger spiked dressing, you have a delicious summer bean salad. Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy.. It is really hard to mess it up.

The photos in the cookbook are true to the recipe, thus you won’t see this in there. Trust me, I tried. Tess, I just made your salad with pecans instead of walnuts.. can’t you just change your recipe?…. NO GO FROM TESS! You will see this salad, in its many incarnations this summer, though. Perfect for potlucks and summer gatherings. Especially if Houston’s weather is as hot and humid as I fear. Last I checked, there were highs of 35C, feels like 45C with a 50% humidity. This is no heat wave. This.Is.Houston. It will soon become my new reality. GAH! I am sweating just thinking about it. I may not be turning on my oven or stove very often, methinks. ;)

Have you tried any of Tess’ recipes yet? This cookbook would be a great place to start. You can buy it directly from Tess here (discounts if you buy more than one cookbook) or on Amazon (kindle and hard copy).

Chickpea and Apricot Salad with a Pineapple-Ginger-Cilantro Dressing

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday. (more…)

Good Mother Stallard Beans (& Great Vegan Bean Book Review & Giveaway)

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Sides by Janet M on June 4, 2013

Good Mother Stallard Beans

Guys, I am thrilled to tell you about my latest favourite cookbook. It has a lot of my favourites things: all vegan, lots of beans, mostly plant-based with options for those that need their meals to be gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free or oil-free. I am a big proponent of beans (cheap, tasty and healthy protein) and was wondering who would be the smart cookie to make the first vegan bean cookbook.

Kathy Hester is the genius behind this and honestly, I am blown away by the cookbook. I want to make the majority of the recipes but I cannot decide where to start. They span the gamut from breakfast beans to beany desserts and everything in between. The dishes run the spectrum from Indian to Jamaican and Mexican to French and Moroccan, focusing on traditionally vegan meals along with creative uses for beans (fudgesicles!). Since the meals typically call for cooked beans, they are mostly easy, quick dishes, too. Here are the chapters and a few sample dishes (a complete recipe list can be found here):

  • The Beautiful Bean: Basics, How-Tos and Recipes To Keep Your Food Budget in Check
    -Baked Crispy Chickpea Seitan Patties, Bean Chorizo Crumbles, Sweet Red Bean Paste
  • Morning Beans: Beany Breakfast and Brunch Dishes
    -Almost-a-Meal Black Bean Tamale Muffins, Sausage-Spiced Savoury Pancakes, Roasted Root Veggie and Kidney Bean Hash, Red Bean-Filled Baked Donuts
  • Noshy Beans: Appetizers, Dips, and Spreads
    -Creamy Spinach Artichoke White Bean Dip, Pepita Black Bean Dip, Beany Eggplant Bruschetta Spread
  • Nutritious Soups: Easy and Delicious One-Bowl Meals
    -Hutterite Soup, Thai Coconut Tongue of Fire Soup, Salsa Fresca White Bean Gazpacho, Triple Lentil Soup with Wheat Berries
  • Cool Beans: Legume-Centric Salads
    -Salsa Quinoa Salad, Lentil Beet Salad, Chickpea Greek Salad with Tofu Feta
  • Portable Beans: Sandwiches, Patties and More
    -Mango Curry Chickpea Salad, Don’t be Crabby Cakes, Butternut Squash Frijoles, Baked Arugula and Bean Flautas
  • Sultry Stews and Hearty Chilies: Quintessential Bean Dishes
    -Chickpea Veggie Tagine, Indian Cauliflower Lentil Stew, Solstice Beans with Pumpkin and Greens, Margarita Chili Beans, Apple Baked Beans, Hard Cider-Sauced Beans, Tomato Rosemary White Beans
  • Casseroles, Pastas, and More: One Dish Meals
    -Flageolet Cassoulet, Lentil Quinoa Bolognese Sauce, Chickpea and Vegetable Lo Mein, Creamy Healthified Vodka Sauce, Oven Chickpea and Seasonal Veggie Biryani
  • Bean-a-licious Sweet Treats: Desserts that Love Beans
    -Black Eyed Pea-nut Butter Pie, Ginger Red Bean Popsicles, Black Bean Fudgesicles, Cherry Basil Crumble Bars, Chocolate Summer Squash Cake

Kathy explains the basics of the standard beans, along with variations for specialty heirloom beans. Until you buy pretty, specialty beans, you may not understand the lure to not cook with them. They are just so pretty and recipes never suggest using Tongues of Fire beans, or Hutterite soup beans, or Good Mother Stallard beans. Here, Kathy breaks down the anxiety. She describes which beans are in each family and therefore can be easily exchanged, while still not alienating those without access to specialty beans.

Good Mother Stallard beans are in a league of their own, though. They are in the “interesting shapes” category along with ayocote negro and Goat’s Eye beans. Kathy explains Good Mother Stallard beans are football-shaped and create a “perfect pot liquor”. She suggests using them as a fancy bean substitute in certain dishes that call for chickpeas and kidney beans, or using them plainly as in this dish to experience they real, naked taste.

I decided to dust off my pretty Good Mother Stallard beans and put them to the test. A simple pot of beans spiced with rosemary, bay leaves and carrots. Steve from Rancho Gordo suggests these may be his favourite bean and after a simple simmer, I can see why. Delicious mouth feel. The beans have a thicker skin which keeps the bean’s shape while the inside is creamy and sweet. There is a lot more going on with this bean than one would expect and thankfully these beans retain their colourful markings even after being cooked. Kathy suggested eating the beans as-is, with bread or a grain.

I bought my Good Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo, but Kathy has as extensive list of other retailers, too. I normally retype all the recipes I share, but Kathy’s publisher has given me permission to share this recipe. Looking at it below will give you an idea about the attention to detail in this book: flexible bean substitutes, optional slow cooker directions as well as complete nutritional information.

Good Mother Stallard Beans

I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me giveaway a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a message here, telling me about your favourite bean dish. I will randomly select a winner on June 30. For more chances to win, check out the other bloggers that are featuring Kathy’s cookbook this month as part of her blog tour. You can follow along on Kathy’s website here. Good luck!

This is my submission to Healthy Vegan Fridays and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by One Hot Stove.

Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. (more…)

Nut-Free Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on May 28, 2013

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

The carrot craze continues…

I am a proponent of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and raw cuisine intrigues me. Dining at a raw resto can leave me beguiled: how did they do that? This goes beyond salads. Silky smooth lasagnas, luscious chocolate hazelnut cakes and brownies. This does not taste remotely like raw foods. Then I immediately want to try to make it myself. New techniques to bring you different flavours…

If you need any introduction to raw foods, raw desserts are definitely the way to go. No stranger to decadent raw desserts (Raw Key Lime Pie, Better Than Nutella Cheesecake, Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake), sometimes they go thump with the richness from nuts and coconut. It hasn’t stopped me from wanting to explore more desserts, though. Even better when they are lighter.

Last summer, I was a recipe tester for Amber’s cookbook Practically Raw Desserts and while the recipes are very flexible (I love her multiple variations!), one ingredient she was adamant about not substituting was coconut flour. It is unlike any other flour or shredded coconut.

I was dying to try was her Enlightened Carrot Cake. Nut-free, the base is made from carrots, apples and dates. Oh, and coconut flour. However, by the time I tracked down coconut flour and had the gusto to make this recipe, the book had already been shipped to the publisher (oops!). Thank goodness, this was one of the first recipes she shared online because it finally prompted me to try it.

Amber made this as a cute double-decker cake with a small springform pan. Since I don’t have one, I looked for an easier option. Cupcakes worked well with my last raw carrot cake (very good, too), and even though I had no muffin wrappers, I decided to try it out. After a bit of warm water pouring over the back of the muffin tray, the frozen cupcakes popped right out. It worked!

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

And yes, they were delicious. Because they are made with coconut flour, they are light. Coconut flour is defatted coconut meat, so it is a lower-fat coconut-based option for desserts. Most importantly, it is an ingredient creating a fluffier texture.  As such, these cupcakes are so different than any other raw dessert I have made. The sweetness is not over-pronounced and it was a delicious dessert with a hint of coconut and cinnamon. Satisfying and surprisingly filling for a low-fat dessert.

Amber has two recipes as suggested frostings. I chose neither, although her fermented cashew frosting is still on my hit-list. My last cashew-date frosting was a bit dense and definitely not white, so I wanted to substitute the dates.  Instead, I made an apple-cashew frosting. It was simple: apple + soaked cashews + ume plum vinegar (another acid and salt could work) + water. I liked how the fresh apple added bulk and sweetness. The consistency was just perfect after a chill in the refrigerator. Smooth and creamy.

Of course, now I am excited to make more recipes with coconut flour. Have you tried it yet?

Many of the recipes in Practically Raw Desserts use coconut flour, so I am excited to try more of Amber’s creations. I promise to do a better review of the cookbook when I finally get my copy. Here are other recipes that use coconut flour:

Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares in Practically Raw Desserts
Pecan Chai Spice Bars in Practically Raw Desserts (I made these as a tester but found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread in Practically Raw Desserts
Cake Batter Protein Balls from Chef Amber Shea (I have made these already. They are very good for something so simple)
Raw Apricot Jam Bars with Flakey Crust by Bonzai Aphrodite
Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies from Purely Twins
Peppermint Protein Bars from Purely Twins
Coconut Lemon Meltaways from The Hearty Herbivore
Raw Avocado Brownie from Bite-Sized Thoughts
Chocolate Avocado Cookies from Sprint 2 The Table

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

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Raw Carrot Falafels and Cauliflower Couscous Wrap with a Hummus Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on May 26, 2013

The dehydrator and juicer are now out in full force.

Carrots for juice and then the pulp was made into these lovely raw falafels.

I know, I said I don’t like raw Mediterranean eats. While I like Middle Eastern foods, I don’t like falafels.

However, I loved these raw carrot falafels.

Probably because they don’t taste like real falafels. And they don’t use raw chickpeas, either.

In any case, they taste great.

Carrots (or carrot pulp) is combined with sesame seeds along with lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and green onions for a flavour punch. Dehydrate them for 4 hours and you’ve got some soft and moist falafels without the heaviness from typical deep-dried falafel balls.

I combined the falafels with my favourite Middle Eastern-tahini dressing to date. Hummus-style with additional lemon juice, tamari and tahini. I originally used it in my Chickpea and Tofu Tahini Scramble but found the flavours mellowed after cooking on the stovetop. However, I stuck my finger in first to see how it tasted. I knew it would be a great dressing/dip and it did not disappoint.

I originally served the falafels and dressing as a salad overtop greens, but they also went really well in a green wrap with a bed of raw cauliflower couscous.

Don’t have a dehydrator? These could also be baked, according to Gena. Want to try your hand at another lovely baked quinoa falafel? Try these!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this week’s Raw Food Thursday.

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Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants (The Best Chickpea Salad Ever)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on May 11, 2013

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!

It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.

My old favourites are still wonderful:

The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad

The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa

The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants

And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.

I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.

This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.

I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.

What is your favourite salad?

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)

Spicy Thai Mango Tofu Curry with Vegetables

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 18, 2013

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

They are here!

I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!

Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.

Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango.  Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.

Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.

Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

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

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Roasted Carrot Hummus Salad with Black Rice, Tomatoes and Dill

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Sides by Janet M on April 4, 2013

Roasted Carrot Hummus Salad with Black Rice, Tomatoes and Dill

Variety is the spice of life. It is possibly the best spice in the kitchen, too.

You can probably tell I like to experiment in my kitchen… so many great recipes to try and share. So many new things to explore.

You’d think I’d run out of repertoire. Me, too. Not yet, at least.

Case in point. I made yet another new hummus. This time I shunned the chickpea and traded it for roasted carrots. I kept my favourite hummus classics: fresh lemon juice (with a strong flavour from the zest, too), garlic and tahini. Smoked paprika and cumin for more depth of flavour. This is a very creamy dip. Lip-smacking good.

Faced with some leftover hummus after a party, I decided to turn it into a thick dressing for my salad. My last carrot (ginger sesame) dressing was paired with quinoa, avocado and tomato. This time, I juxtaposed it against black rice, tomatoes, baby greens and fresh herbs.

Roasted Carrot Hummus Salad with Black Rice, Tomatoes and Dill

A note on black rice, possibly one of my favourite rices to date. When I cut fruit out on my sweetener-free challenge, I knew I was going to miss some of the many benefits from eating whole fruits: fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This was how I stumbled upon black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. It has a lovely short-grain rice feel similar to my favourite medium-grain brown rice with the added bonus of more protein and more anti-oxidants. Turns out that colourful is better for you, especially when talking about rice. I liked that the black rice wasn’t too sticky and had great flavour naked. As such, it was fun to throw it into this salad.

I ended up tossing it with an herbed spring mix (a mix of baby greens that includes dill, cilantro and parsley), which I thought brought this to the next level. Not the greens, but the herbs. I keep forgetting how simple herbs can totally elevate a dish from ho-hum to hoo-ya! Just a dash of fresh herbs was enough and in truth, the herb that stood out and complemented the salad best was the dill.

After I ate this salad, I had a bit of tummy rumblings. My Mom asked me what new foods I had eaten lately. Everything I eat is new. (Actually, at first I said nothing. Nothing crazy new) Except for the leftover hummus, everything else was new. It was my first time trying black rice and the herbed lettuce greens. Furthermore, I drank a mamey shake, too. Exciting times at the beginning of the week! ;)

Pinpointing culprits when eating fresh foods can be a challenge for me without a lot of sleuthing. Mostly free of FODMAPs other than the garlic, I don’t think that’s the problem. A repeat salad had no problems so who knows what it was. Perhaps the chocolate walnut dessert from the night before? Probably. Too many walnuts? Who knows… it isn’t a problem now. ;)

Roasted Carrot Hummus Salad with Black Rice, Tomatoes and Dill

Here’s to more black rice. Have you tried it yet?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this month‘s Simple and In Season, to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta.

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Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew with Greens

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 26, 2013

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

There was a time when I would get curried out. Too much curry. I couldn’t keep up with Rob.

Now, curry has become a staple for both of us. Except I don’t think you can tell by what I share here. Be it resolved to share more of our Indian eats. They have converted me.

In my mind, there are authentic Indian foods and Indian-inspired foods or Indian-spiced foods. The latter referring to when you spice things up with curry powder. While I have thrown curry powder into Indian curries, bean and quinoa skillets, and couscous pilaf, I have also added it to tofu chowders, sweet potato hummus, balsamic roasted veggies, kabocha squash flatbread, curried-mustard dressing,  raw pineapple rice and more recently tofu scramble. The trick is not to make everything taste like “curry powder”, if you know what I mean. This can mean using different types of curry powder (picking one you like is most important; I am partial to Penzey’s sweet blend), adding other spices, using different vegetables or cooking methods to shake things up.

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

I was drawn to this Indian mung bean stew for its simplicity but I knew it would not be lackluster. Instead of the typical red lentil curries I adore, this is a brothy soup.

A flavourful broth is created from fennel, cumin and ginger. Indian cooking doesn’t always have to be thick curries. Carrots and collards add colour and mung beans make this filling. Lemon juice brightens it up. The curry powder is added as a finishing spice, at the end of cooking, for a different twist to the soup. Pick a curry powder you like because a little goes a long way to flavour the stew. Fennel and cumin will enhance the curry powder, too. As a note, I used sprouted mung beans because that is what I had on hand, but whole bung beans would be equally as good as would any other small bean, like adzuki, too. My only suggestion is to cut up your carrot smaller than I did, mimicking the size of the beans, for better mouth-feel.

Are you a curry powder fan or a curry fan? Or both? :)

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 21, 2013

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

Vegan propaganda: I try not to spread too much of it.

If you read my blog, I think you’ve already accepted that vegetables are good for you and are ok with the lack of meat and dairy in my meals.

But I will share this fun video anyways, because I thought it was flipping awesome. I’ve watched a few documentaries about veganism and I am usually left with a bitter taste in my mouth, wondering about the accuracy of the science and experiences presented. The prolonged juice fast in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead creeped me out. The main study in Forks over Knives, The China Study, was not convincing for me. Vegucated was cute, following 3 people on a vegan challenge for 6 weeks, though.

But this video? I loved it! Made by Dr Michael Gregor, the physician behind NutritionFacts.Org, he presents how a vegan diet affects the top 15 causes of mortality in a very engaging way. I know the clip is almost an hour long, but it is an hour well spent. If you watch it, please let me know what you think. For me, it reinforced continuing with a plant-based diet for health reasons. :)

In the spirit of nutritarianism (coined by Dr Fuhrman, describing those who consume foods based on their higher micronutrients and shun refined oils, sugars and salt), I decided to make The World’s Healthiest Tomato Sauce, as proclaimed by Amber.

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

This was a chunky tomato sauce like no other. Filled to the brim with vegetables. All sorts of veggies, it was a lovely clean-out-my-fridge kind of sauce.  I am probably the only person with a random vegetables, like a solo leek, beets, carrots, broccoli stems and mushrooms, hanging around for no good reason. Granted, this is a very flexible sauce so work with what you have. Amber suggests not omitting the olives, though. They add both the salty and fatty components from a whole food (instead of a refined oil product). The tempeh is eerily similar to chunks of meat. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy hint, as if you had already stirred in Parmesan cheese. But the funniest part of the sauce is that it was more a fluorescent-red, courtesy of the pureed beet.

You might think this sauce would take forever to prep, with so many veggies. However, the food processor does that majority of the work. The directions look lengthy, but you’ll see a theme: chop veggies in food processor, add to the pot and stir. :)

I actually really liked this sauce. It tastes healthy yet hearty while still feeling light. Would I serve it to omnis I wanted to impress? Probably not. They would probably think I was pulling a joke on them.  But if someone made this for me, I’d be thrilled. I’d also have a lot of sauce to last for many meals. Freeze some for later, or relish in eating it a few times a day. :)

I believe that moderate amounts of oil, sweeteners and salt are good for you. Fats are definitely important, especially to absorb nutrients from other foods, but they can also come from avocados, nuts and seeds (and soy). I plan to incorporate more of these “healthy fats” into my foods.

What do you think about nutritarianism? Oils vs healthy fats?

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

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Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 14, 2013

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…

In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!).  I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup. :)

Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Simple Ayurvedic Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 7, 2013

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

I don’t shop at the standard grocery stores. I prefer the smaller, independent ethnic grocers for my veggies and natural foods stores for my pantry staples.

However, I recently heard that Costco had some interesting foods, and sent my family searching for sprouted mixed beans. Turns out they stopped selling them here a few months ago, but my aunt spotted a sprouted rice and quinoa blend instead. Always eager to try something new, I decided to give it a shot.

Uh, let’s just say that packaged mixed grains don’t always work so well. When I’ve made mixed grain dishes before, I cook the grains separately, or add them at different times so they finish cooking at the same time. I couldn’t get the grains to be as fluffy and distinct as I am used to.. unless that is what happens after they are sprouted? In any case, the mix turned out to be a bit on the mushy side, both when I’ve made it on the stovetop and in the rice cooker. I tried to salvage the mix by introducing it into this easy skillet.

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

I’ve made multiple skillets before, and each time I gush over its simplicity.  I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing this recipe. It just seemed too simple, too boring and I didn’t think it would taste as flavourful as it did. The original recipe suggested throwing everything in the skillet and cooking, but I shunned a mise-en-place and threw things in as I finished chopping them. First went in the leeks, then the portobello mushrooms, next the red pepper and Brussels sprouts. Grated carrots and garlic rounded the veggies out with a sprinkle of salt and thyme. After the vegetables brown and begin to caramelize slightly, cooked grains get dumped in for a complete meal. No dressing, no broth. Thyme was the only herb but this was surprisingly flavourful. Do not discount the flavour of veggies (and garlic).

I think I may relegate my mixed grains to soups… that seems pretty foolproof. What do you think? Fan or foe of mixed grain blends?

Do you like it when I share easy, seemingly non-recipes with you?

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona, and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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Roasted Vegetable Ribollita

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 5, 2013

I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.

Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious? :)

I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.

This one was a big win!

Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.

Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.

This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread.  Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.

Which soups are warming your belly this winter?

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

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