the taste space

Raw Carrot Falafels and Cauliflower Couscous Wrap with a Hummus Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space 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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Black Bean Tostadas with Tangy Cabbage Salad

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 14, 2013

Black Bean Tostadas with Tangy Cabbage

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.

Black Bean Tostadas with Tangy Cabbage

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? :)

Black Bean Tostadas with Tangy Cabbage

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

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Mexican Chili Salad Wraps

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 30, 2013

Chili Salad Wraps

It is hard to believe that just two years ago, in preparation for cycling to/from Ottawa and Kingston, I was already training by cycling to/from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our friend was hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo party so I packed my pannier and cycled over. That’s 120km one-way. This year, due to snow and rain, the long cycles haven’t progressed as well. Thus, the trip has been modified to be 70km one way from the train station.

While the party is happening again this year, and I have signed up for Rideau Lakes, I am trying to balance my time between cycling and studying. Studying is winning. Cycling can wait. Passing my exams cannot. Two years ago, I cycled with my buddy, Sue, while Rob stayed at home to study. This year, Rob is cycling with Sue, and I am staying home to study.

Cinco de Mayo was still on my mind, though, as I made these Mexican-inspired almost raw chili salad wraps. I could easily whip these up in Kitchener, had I decided to cycle over myself.

One of the things I love about raw cuisine is that the flavours (usually) pop. Just think of garlic – raw garlic is potent, cooked garlic is muted and slow-roasted garlic is even more mellow.

With a higher emphasis on proteins lately, one thing raw meals lack are good sources of protein. Sure, you could sprout grains and beans, but I don’t really like them as much as their cooked counterparts. That’s probably why I don’t see many recipes for sprouted legumes. “High protein” raw meals usually mean lots of nuts and seeds, which also come with more fat than protein.

In any case, I thought to myself: lets combine the best of both worlds.Beans and flavourful sauces for a high-protein fix. I actually got the idea after Gena posted Brendan’s recipe for a cold chili. Basically all the foundations from a regular chili are combined to make a satisfying dip. It is quite versatile: heat it up to make a regular chili, serve it with chips as a dip, place overtop your favourite green as a salad or place inside Romaine lettuces as a chili salad wrap.

In my study gusto, I appreciate super quick meals. Open a can of cooked beans (I used a canned bean medley), empty out a can of tomato paste, chop up some tomato and green onions and season with chili powder, cumin and lime. Of course, the raw garlic pops out for you, too. It tastes best after a marinade, which means leftovers are just as good, if not better. :)

Chili Salad Wraps

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

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Vegan Khao Soi)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 25, 2013

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

What makes someone “interesting”?

Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).

1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.

2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.

3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)

4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.

Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter.  Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).

Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.

The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them. ;)

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.

A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.

Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.

A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.

If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead? :)

So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

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

Spicy Thai Mango Tofu Curry with Vegetables

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space 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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Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu and Kelp Noodles

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 6, 2013

This is another favourite repeater recipe I have been sitting on way too long. Gena’s recent post asking for my tamarind suggestions reminded me I hadn’t shared it yet.

Pay attention, dudes: the secret to capturing someone’s heart lies in their belly. Who wouldn’t like a man who knows his way in the kitchen?

One of Rob’s cooking specialties has always been pad thai. One of my favourite meals at restaurants has always been pad thai, but only if done right. Not tomatoey, certainly not filled with ketchup, and to be honest, I never understood why pad thai recipes in the raw community were made from nut butters (certainly a delicious coleslaw, though).

When we first were dating, I brought Rob to a restaurant, raving about their “authentic” pad thai. Only after I sat down and both of us received our orders of pad thai, did I worry Rob would find it below his high expectations. Thank goodness, he loved it, his recipe is a dead knock-off AND he loves making it!

Robbie-style cooking is usually a lot more low-key than mine, especially after he has made the dish a few times. Reading his original recipe leaves a bit to the imagination, but we have also modified it throughout the years. For me, he now omits the egg and swaps Bragg’s for the soy sauce/fish sauce. For the longest time, I tried to find a substitute for the rice noodles. I’ve tried quinoa and zucchini noodles, both with ok results. However, my preferred version is with kelp noodles which hold up well to the tangy sauce.

What doesn’t change is the strong emphasis on tamarind. I’ve talked about tamarind before, but it is worth highlighting again. It truly makes pad thai sing.  For those who love sweet-sour as much as I do, tamarind also falls into the love category. Rob likes to remind me that fresh tamarind pods look like poo, but you can’t tell by looking at the pulp or concentrate. There are a few ways to buy tamarind. The blocks of tamarind pulp are cheap ($1) but you need to soak and strain it before you use it. Rob and I have converted to using tamarind concentrate ($2-3), though, since it is easier to use and more consistent in its taste.

Rob learned how to make pad thai in a cooking class while travelling in Thailand and his second tip for glorious pad thai, after using tamarind of course, is to make sure you cook each meal to order. It works well for customization of spice levels, but the flavours are spot-on, too. The problem is how to do this for a big group. We will prep all the ingredients at the same time, customizing each meal as we go. If the group is big, we don’t usually eat at the same time, but it is perfect for 2.

Do you have a signature dish for special occasions? Any favourite recipes for tamarind? We also really like tamarind lentils.

vegan pad thai with tofu and kelp noodles

This is my submission to this month’s Pasta Please for chilies.

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Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew with Greens

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space 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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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.

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Raw Vegan Smoked Salmon and Scallion Cashew Cheese Cucumber Rolls (Aux Vivres Végé-Lox)

Posted in Appetizers by janet @ the taste space on January 6, 2013

I wasn’t going to join in…

But then I saw this article co-authored by one of my former classmates debunking Dr Oz. I may have done a little cheer and a happy dance. I couldn’t keep quiet. Please read it and tell me what you think.

It seems like the new year ushers in the applause for “healthy” fasts and diets. I condone a balanced diet but not starvation. I don’t believe in miracle foods. While I tried a sweetener-free challenge last month, I am back to eating fruits and chocolate. Fruits are filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants and fiber and too good to pass up.

I am certainly not doing a juice cleanse. I was gifted my grandmother’s juicer, but have only made juice a handful of times so far. I juice because I like the taste of fresh juice. Proponents of juice cleanses focus on the increased consumption of vegetables (more than one could eat in their raw form), lack of fibre and a way to detox your body and lose weight. If you are not one to eat vegetables and enjoy juice, then yes, this could be a way to consume more nutrients found in vegetables but it does not replace eating whole vegetables. If you are healthy, there is no evidence that your liver, kidney or stomach needs a rest to assist removal of toxins. The higher glycemic index of juice (without fibre) may actually cause one to gain weight.

There is evidence, though, that vegan diets (moreso than vegetarian diets) protect against cancer. A study in BMJ from earlier this summer suggests that low carb/high protein diets are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mainly exacerbated by those consuming animal protein. I recently added a link to Vegan Health on my side bar which has a lot of good information about nutrition advice for vegans, including supplementation (gotta get the vitamin B12), especially if consuming a raw food diet.

In any case, for those of you with a leftover juice pulp otherwise destined for the compost, or those with an excess of carrots, or those who rave about Aux Vivres‘ raw smoked salmon, this dish is for you.

My last visit to Montreal had me visiting the vegan restaurant for a second time. I have recreated their delicious Macro Bowl with tempeh, greens and a miso-tahini sauce, but also wanted to recreate their raw smoked salmon, or végé-lox as they call it. Made with carrot pulp and seasoned with red onion, parsley, dulse and liquid smoke, it is a delicious spread combined with their tofu cream cheese and capers. I used shallots and dill and added capers directly into the spread for a different twist. Instead of tofu, I went all raw with a scallion cashew cheese rolled into a light cucumber roll.

If you want something more sweet for your carrot juice pulp, I highly recommend these raw carrot cupcakes. What is your take on juice fasts? On miracle weight-loss products?

Any favourite recipes for juice pulp?

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Foods Thursday.

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Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on December 29, 2012

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

Everyone’s taste buds change over time.

Even before I started the sweetener-free challenge, I wondered how my tastes have changed. I can’t do deep-fried foods or other meals doused in oil. It isn’t the fat that bothers me because I easily down more than a handful of nuts in a sitting. :P

Last week, I started to re-introduce sweets. Fruits: mostly apples and berries. I have replenished my morning grapefruit stash. Dark chocolate, too: I made my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie. After this challenge, my tolerance for highly sweetened foods decreased.

My tolerance for spice has increased, albeit still slowly.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t add any chiles to my cooking.  Three (raw) cloves of garlic were pushing my boundaries in hummus. Raw green onions were spicy enough for me.

Then I discovered Aleppo chile flakes, more flavourful than hot. Slowly I added more and more to my dishes. I began experimenting with Ancho chili powder and paprika as well.

I was drawn to this recipe for Spanish Chickpeas since it looked like a flavourful warm chickpea salad. Spiced with smoked paprika, chile powder and roasted garlic, it really called my name. It has been awhile since I’ve pan-cooked chickpeas, and as I made it, I added spinach. When I sat down to eat it, I was smitten. Perfectly balanced with smoky undertones, sweetness from the red peppers and lightness from the lemon juice. It reminded me of my Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers (without the salty capers) and the addition of the spinach reminded me of Andalusian Chickpeas and Spinach. Two years ago, I made a hybrid from Deb’s recipe and the recipe in The New Spanish Table. All I remember was that it too spicy. I remember kicking myself for using so much paprika.

Two years later, I compare both recipes. I assumed I had used a tablespoon of paprika or something crazy the first time. No, it was only one teaspoon. Just like in this recipe. This version was definitely not spicy even with the addition of Ancho chile powder.

Any takers? Have my taste buds improved or has my paprika decreased in potency? ;)
(My paprika is not two years old, in case you were thinking it! I used sweet paprika from Penzey’s before and smoked paprika from Whole Foods for this recipe (the brand escapes me at this time) I am tempted to believe that smoked paprika isn’t as spicy as its non-smoked counterpart).

Here are some other great Spanish recipes:

Chickpeas Romesco

Mango Gazpacho

Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic

Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew

Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers

Spanish Baked Eggs on a Red Pepper Ragout

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sukanya, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Herby, Peanutty Noodly Salad

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on December 20, 2012

What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.

- Painted Fruit

- Raw Berry Jam

- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup

- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble

- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp

- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese

- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens

- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo

- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust

- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach

Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win! :)

This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).

Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!

Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.

Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.

PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks, and to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Dolmas (Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 18, 2012

Easy Dolmas

One of the things I am enjoying about this sweetener-free challenge is determining how much sweetener I truly need.  Furthermore, I feel less bloated, which is really keeping me motivated to stick with the challenge this long. I love throwing fruit into my savoury dishes, but I know not everyone rolls with me.

Earlier this fall, I made Cherry Collard Dolmas. A little bit more non-traditional because I was lazy and used larger collard leaves but also because sweet cherries were used to complement the savoury spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, mint and dill. Currants and pistachios were also mixed in there for good measure. Brown rice and white beans were used to amp up its nutritional profile. Yes, these were very good.

RHIW Dolmas

This time, I consulted with Tess for a simpler version. Brown rice and chickpeas are the base with fresh tomatoes, dill and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in a salty grape leaf. Seemingly humble ingredients, combined into power rolls, you have a winning snack. I liked them both before I cooked them (the lemon juice was a strong, fresh flavour) but they mellowed out nicely after a 20-minute steam.

I don’t know about you, but there is something so awesome about little nibbly snacks. Finger foods are fun. Serve as an appetizer, a snack, or eat a bunch as a meal. I served mine with a simple tahini dip which contrasted the lemony flavours nicely. A thinned out hummus dressing could work, too.

RHIW Dolmas

There is only one problem with finger foods.  That means I have to assemble a whole bunch of teeny rolls! Trust me, it is worth it. However, if it is a weeknight and you just want to eat pronto, throw it into a larger collard leaf instead.

RHIW Dolmas

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturdays, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on December 15, 2012

Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

I have not yet read the book The 5 Love Languages, but I like the concept of different ways to communicate your affection. How do you express your love? Through words of affirmation, acts of service, giving/receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch? Knowing how you express and perceive love, along with your partner, helps you communicate with the same language.

This also holds true for family and friends, especially around holidays.  Everyone is scurrying from party to party, thinking of ideal gifts and making travel plans to spend with loved ones. What is most important to you and others?

I will be sharing my time this weekend with Rob’s family and next weekend with my parents. I definitely subscribe to my presence is my present – HA! Can you tell giving/receiving gifts is so low on my priority list? But truthfully, gift giving continually becomes harder and harder. There are cute and practical gift giving guides, but on my wishlist this year: A textbook. I know, not even a cookbook. I am also eagerly awaiting my grandmother’s old juicer and pressure cooker. I don’t really need much else. The most important thing is the company. I really am all set. (I am also UBER stoked for Rob’s early Christmas present: a raw “cooking” class with Doug McNish on Sunday! I have no idea how we will tackle all the recipes!)

While some of my most well-used kitchen tools were gifts that I never thought I needed (see last year’s gift guide), random foodie purchases have entertained me as of late. I know I am supposed to be culling my pantry, but when I see something like baby quinoa (kaniwa), I have a hard time not wanting to try it out. A new, healthy food.. let’s see what it is like!
PS. Spotted at Essence of Life and Lady York.

First off, it looks like little kernels of quinoa. While it isn’t quinoa in its young state, it is in the same family as quinoa. It has a higher protein content and possesses less of the bitter saponins that plague quinoa. I still rinsed it though I may try toasting it next time. It cooks up nearly exactly like quinoa with a scanty 2:1 ratio of liquid. Due to its small nature, the texture is quite different. It reminded me of the pebbly nature of amaranth without its gluey consistency. I ended up tossing it in a festive bowl with a simple cranberry jicama salsa and a chili-spiked butternut squash gravy/sauce.  The seemingly odd combination of ingredients worked really well… and awfully pretty, too, I may add.

So, the moral of the story… for the hard to shop foodies, perhaps all you need to do is head to a grocery store? :) Or only for practical foodies like me. Only I would swoon over a new bean to try… or appreciate radish sprouts. ;) Need other ideas for foodie gifting? Check out my favourite wacky ingredients including pomegranate molasses, red pepper paste and miso, along with recipes to woo you over.

Baby Quinoa (Kaniwa) Bowl with Cranberry Jicama Salsa and Sweet Squash Puree

This is my submission to this month‘s Simple and in Season and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich with Lime and Cilantro

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on October 16, 2012

I thought it was getting colder, but then it was a balmy 20C yesterday. Soup time? No, it is sandwich time!

I don’t eat sandwiches very often.

I still drool over delicious sandwiches, though.

Including this one from Two Peas and their Pod.

Like a souped up guacamole, this combined both of my versions. Chunky like my pineapple and cucumber guacamole but ramped up with chickpeas like my edamame guacamole. Filled with fresh cilantro, a zip from green onions and citrus tang from lime, this worked really well.

You could use this as a dip with big crackers. Or slather it onto your next sandwich or wrap. Whatever you decide, you know it will be a tasty spread.

And about that bread? It is an interesting sourdough rye bread. You can actually store it unopened at room temperature for 6 months. Something about it being double-baked or something. I first tried it in Calgary, but recently spotted a few versions at a nearby health food store, Foods for Life. And you know what?  Their tempeh is just as cheap ($3.59) as Tutti Fruiti!

There are a few reasons I don’t eat bread. One is because I don’t really like it. This bread was interesting, but not my favourite. It was merely a vector for the delicious filling. The best part was definitely in the middle!!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and No Croutons Required featuring sandwiches.

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Chili-Lime Noodles

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

This post is dedicated to my Mom.

Whenever we chat on the phone, she likes to ask me how I am doing eating through my pantry. Are you still eating all your noodles? What about your beans?

I’ve tried to reassure her that yes, we are eating through our pantry. I am still eating through my kelp noodles, my collection of beans and polishing off assorted grains like millet. She just might not be able to tell from my blog posts. Not everything makes it to the blog and sometimes it can take a while for me to put together a proper post (backlog!).

So here we go: photographic proof we’re eating the soba noodles, too. OK, Rob is eating the soba noodles. ;)

Never doubt a Tess recipe. Here we have soba noodles that are smothered in a bright, tangy, zesty and most importantly delicious chili-lime dressing. The dressing has mostly raw ingredients, like garlic and cilantro that complement the heat from the sriracha, ginger and green onion and the sour from the fresh lime juice. A little sweetness goes a long way in balancing the flavours from the agave.

As with most dressings, feel free to add any vegetables you desire. I just photographed the base noodles, but it was served with pan-fried tofu and eggplant, since they were lingering in the fridge. Somehow the addition of eggplants didn’t make for a very photogenic dish, but Mom, believe me that we had some veggies and protein with this meal. ;)

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Val, and to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday and Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

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