the taste space

Hazelnut-Roasted Delicata Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

Posted in Favourites, Salads by Janet M on December 6, 2012

While I planted basil this summer, I didn’t use very much of it. It bolted before I knew what I wanted to do with it. My Pesto Perpetuo basil, a non-bolting basil, from two years ago was a basil warehouse. I had access to basil year-round as it survived the trip back into the house during winter. However, it died when I put it back outside this year. I suppose annuals have to die at some point. Given my lack of basil this summer, I feel that it is worth scoping it out next year.

Of course, it makes sense that once the summer is mere a distant memory, the days are cold and the rides back home in the night even colder, all I want is pesto. One of my proliferative herbs this summer was sage (if only the thyme and rosemary could have taken some advice). It may be synonymous with Thanksgiving stuffing, but one can definitely look beyond that.

You actually don’t need cups of sage to make this pesto. Instead sage is buffered with mild baby spinach to create a garlicky spread. Instead of pine nuts, I used toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil to flavour this winter pesto. The nutritional yeast adds the traditional cheesy taste but feel free to omit it. I chose to serve it with hazelnut-roasted delicata squash rings. Served on more greens, you have a very flavourful salad. Add white beans to make this a main meal. I didn’t use too much oil so my pesto was more thick than oily. Loaded with flavour.  Later in the week, I liked it smeared inside a green wrap (with a nod to my simple hazelnut-roasted squash, avocado and cucumber wrap).

Do you like pesto in the winter?

This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Tomato-Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by Janet M on October 25, 2012

If my Pinterest boards tell you anything, I am scouring the web for interesting dressings.

Each week, I try to make a new dressing to add to whatever wandering salad I may concoct for lunch. Toss it with whatever random veggies I have in the fridge or plucked from the garden.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we were urged to pick a pantry item and randomly try a recipe with it. I picked pomegranate molasses and then randomly picked Turquoise, a cookbook I have been neglecting but adamant about trying more of the drool-worthy recipes.

I landed squarely on the tomato-pomegranate dressing, spiced with thyme, shallots and garlic. I was initially perplexed by the recipe since it seemed to be a dressing infused with the flavours instead of being pureed directly into the dressing. So, I experimented. I made half of the recipe through the suggested (infused) method, and half of the dressing was simply pureed. The verdict? Both were good and more surprisingly to me, the blended dressing was creamier. I thought the pureed shallot and garlic would make this a scary dressing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as tart and acidic as the infused dressing. However, once mixed with my veggie medley, it was perfect. Both versions were nice.

Here, in the photos, I paired the dressing with thinly sliced collards, shredded beets and carrots, thinly sliced Roman beans and toasted sunflower seeds. I massaged some of the dressing directly with the collards (like I do for my raw kale salads) and then drizzled more dressing for the rest of the veggies. As you can see, the collard greens didn’t wilt as much as kale, but it made for a tasty salad, mellowing the collards for a simple salad. Later, I also found the dressing paired well with my standard concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, chickpeas and lettuce.

Looking for another great salad with pomerganate molasses? This one with bulgur and chickpeas (aka, The Old Best Salad Ever) was how I got hooked onto pomegranate molasses!

Do you have any favourite salad dressings?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Random Recipes for cupboard items. (more…)

Carnival Squash Stuffed with Cranberry Maple Quinoa and Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 9, 2012

This feels like a guilty confession. Boastful yet partially aghast at my audacity.

I admit it: I have 10 different kinds of winter squash in my kitchen.

All are edible (unlike the uber cute swan squash below! which I didn’t buy by the way)

There are the usual players: Butternut squash. Buttercup squash. Kabocha squash. Delicata squash. Spaghetti squash. Sugar pie pumpkin.

They all happened to be on sale this week.

But then, I went to the large Loblaws downtown (the one with 20 different kinds of mushrooms) and yes, they have plenty of squashes, too. Known for its wide selection, they carry many gourmet foods. While the dried mushrooms could cost you an arm and a leg (dried morels are $113.05/lb), the unique squashes didn’t break my budget.

From a local mostly-Mennonite farm and only $1/lb, I came home with new-to-me squashes: carnival, white swan and sweet dumpling (pictured left to right, above).  I resisted buying the ambercup and turban squashes, but I may head back for my next squash fix. (These are small squashes, so it may happen sooner than you think!)

With the ridged nature of the squashes, I knew these squashes were meant to be stuffed. I filled them with quinoa and white beans spiced with sage and oregano from my garden along with fresh cranberries, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. The flavours worked well together and I liked the tartness from the fresh cranberries contrasting the sweetness from the maple syrup. I served it overtop spinach for a prettier presentation.

The squash verdict? Love the carnival squashes! Dry yet moist, crumbly and sweet. Perfect as a stuffed squash because you can eat through the squash at the same time and integrated it into the dish. It might be too crumbly to hold up as large chunks for soups or stews. In the end I ate the skin of the squash, too. It was nice and crispy after all the roasting, so make sure you scrub the squashes clean before you start.

PS. For those keeping track, I also have a golden nugget squash and haven’t tried it yet. Any predictions on how best to eat it?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to the Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge, and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.

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Strawberry, Avocado and Mint Salad with a Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on July 17, 2012

Yes, I bought more strawberries!

At one point, I had fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries in my fridge. Oh, and Rob’s bananas, too. I am addicted to the fresh fruit. It was a good thing that Rob didn’t buy the case of fresh figs, too.

My Mom is probably scratching her head.. I just told her that I spend around $10-15/week on groceries. Granted, I have a pantry packed with my staples (beans, grains, nuts, spices) and a garden with herbs and greens (kale and collards) which makes things easier. Each week, I basically buy fruits and veggies. Cilantro, green onions and regular onions, too. Garlic and ginger every few weeks. Tofu or tempeh once a month. Veggies aren’t that expensive, guys! My recent grocery glories were zucchini for 39c/lb, bananas for 29c/lb and red pepper for 79c/lb. Oh, and two HUGE bunches of Swiss chard for $1. Suffice it to say, strawberries were on sale for $1.50/lb, so I got some more.

During my week of the salad, I tried so many different leafy salads. I am not that heavy with salad dressing, so they last a long time. I still have dressings left over. I need more greens! I also like variety, so I tried yet another dressing. This time, though, I made less. This is a simple dressing to put together, so I can easily whip it up again. And I will because it was glorious. Roasted hazelnut oil. Balsamic Vinegar. Chocolate. Need I explain more?

Oh wait, please, let me tell what I paired the decadent chocolate balsamic vinaigrette with: Strawberries. Avocado. Mint. Toasted Almonds. Raw Cacao Nibs…… oh, and lettuce, too.

Pray-tell, was it the lettuce that made you swoon? I thought not! ;)

I know some people don’t like fruits in savoury dishes (not me!) but here I am left scratching my head wondering whether this should be dessert or an appetizer. Does plating something on lettuce automatically relinquish this from being a possible dessert? Anyways, I ate this for dinner. And it was delicious.

With chocolate crepes, coconut cream and cherries and raw strawberry pudding pie for breakfast, it seems like I am eating dessert all day long!

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Blackberry, Avocado and Walnut Salad with a Ginger Lime Vinaigrette

Posted in Favourites, Salads by Janet M on July 11, 2012

Lettuce for hostage.

I almost had 3 huge heads of lettuce to go through this week. In addition to my two heads of lettuce, a friend left their lettuce in the fridge by mistake and went home solo. Oops!

I told him I would allow him to have his lettuce, if he would trade it for some blackberries from St Lawrence Market. Earlier, he had taunted me, telling me how small and sweet they were on his last trip.

Surprisingly, he agreed to the ransom! (To be fair, I rescinded a piece of the Raw Key Lime Pie)

So I was back to 2 heads of lettuce. And now blackberries. With avocados from the week before. And walnuts from the pantry. These ingredients, alone, would be a great combination of sweet, creamy and bitter… but then it is drizzled with a sweet ginger lime vinaigrette. I didn’t think it would be so flippin’ fantastic, but it was. Instead of my morning oats, these blackberries are being renewed for another round of this salad! Thanks Matt! :D What are you making with your lettuce? :)

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for blueberries, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by Janet M on July 9, 2012

Unbeknownst to me, this will be the week of salad.

I enjoy pre-planning my meals for the week. I don’t stray too far from my typical weekly batch of steel cut oats, a bean dish and vegetable/grain dish and a soup or salad. My menu is first and foremost based on what I have in my fridge that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later and after that, what is on sale at the store. I had a menu, but it was abandoned with gusto.

On Friday, my friends came over bearing fresh lettuce. They gifted me two massive heads of lettuce from their rooftop garden (local, organic gardening, at its finest), and I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t the first time I have been gifted perishable food items but at least lettuce is quite flexible with its use. (I have yet to venture into cooked lettuce, so I will be trying to use it in fresh salads)

After making the Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam, I was plotting to make a version with balsamic-roasted strawberries. While I gobbled down the majority of the blueberry jam solely on a spoon, I figured a salad dressing might be more appropriate with my new-found lettuce acquisition.

So here we are with a delicious dressing. Fresh strawberries are delicious and their sweetness is intensified with the caramelization from roasting. While I have baked and macerated strawberries before, I never thought to roast them. Here, they are combined with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil with savoury undertones from thyme, rosemary and garlic. Serve it with your favourite greens. I topped my salad here with yellow beans (Rancho Gordo‘s Yellow Indian Woman) and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around in your fridge!

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

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Strawberry and Roasted Chickpea Salad with a Cinnamon Vinaigrette

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on July 3, 2012

I needed to be weaned off the Colombian tropical fruit, but instead, I have been catapulted into the berry haven of southern Ontario.

Pick your poison of choice, right?

No stranger to strawberries perking up a summer salad, instead of balsamic, this time I opted for a savoury note with cinnamon. Cinnamon roasted chickpeas as well as a cinnamon vinaigrette. Strawberries confer sweetness, toasted almonds crunch with a hint of mint making this a much more complex salads. Serve overtop your favourite greens for a summer treat.

This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian for sweet spices, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring summer salads, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 30, 2012

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

Guacamole with pineapple and cucumber or edamame

Lime-spiked non refried black beans and quinoa in a kale wrap

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

Chickpea salad with a Mexican mango dressing

Moles with cranberry beans and roasted butternut squash or with tofu and tempeh

Mexican cabbage stirfry

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).

Thoroughly thrilled with my hazelnut-roasted kabocha squash, I figured it would also be delicious with Isa’s Butternut Rancheros.

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?


This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Mexico and to this week’s Weekend Wellness .

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High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 3, 2012

A new month, a new hospital.

Yesterday I was (slightly) complaining about my upcoming commute from our new home. After today, a 10-12 km one-way commute seems like peanuts.

A last minute change in scheduling has me rotating at a hospital outside the downtown core for April. My total commute yesterday was 37 km. Almost 2 hours on the bike.  The day’s schedule was a bit more erratic than normal, but basically my cycling looked like this:

8 km from home to downtown gym (0700 spinning class!)
10 km from downtown gym to uptown hospital (UPHILL!)
10 km from uptown hospital to downtown hospital
8 km from downtown hospital to home

Thank goodness it was broken up over the course of the day, but it was likely the spinning class that had me sore by lunch.

Considering I just started cycling to work last week, this is quite the lengthy commute.  While I have been going to the gym ~5x week throughout the winter, I always find new muscles when I hop back on my bike in the spring. I made sure to wear my padded cycling shorts. ;)

I decided to make Sunday my rest day from the gym to give me a fresh start on Monday. While Rob went to a spinning class, I was in the kitchen making this high-protein alfredo sauce with white beans, soy milk and roasted cauliflower. I bookmarked the original recipe from Jess but finally made it after Johanna also had success. My changes were roasting the cauliflower, onion and garlic with some hazelnut oil and combining that with the beans and soy milk. The lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika added extra flavour that worked well with the simple additions of baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. This is a nice, comforting creamy dish. Creamy in the non-oily, non-heavy, guiltless sense, though. Perfecto! I tossed this with kelp noodles, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.

Why do I call this high-protein? Assuming you use the entire batch of sauce for 4 people (it makes a ton of sauce!), each serving has: 245 calories, 33g carbs (11g fiber), 14g protein and 8g fat. Gotta love the 2:1 carb:protein ratio! Perfect following all this cycling. :)

Two years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing commutes like this. When I started biking to work, my (one-way) commute was 4 km. Because I was essentially sedentary, I thought that was far. When I switched to a downtown hospital, my commute was 7 km, at most. When I moved out East with Rob, my commute was 8 km. When I move out West, it will be 10-12 km depending on the hospital. Having the gradual increase in distance has made this become second nature, instead of daunting. It is definitely my preferred way of traversing the city – a fun way to exercise, a great way to de-stress, faster than transit, and better for the environment. Jen recently shared this fun pic about commuting with me, which definitely reinforces why I don’t drive a car to work.

With all this cycling, I imagine I will be ready for our cycle to Niagara Falls in no time, although I am trying to figure out a better way to combine my time at the gym and commuting to work so I am not on my bike 2 hours every day!

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Potluck Party with high-protein vegan meals, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Hazelnut Roasted Kabocha Squash, Cucumber and Avocado Collard Wrap

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on January 23, 2012


Calling all squash experts. I need your help!

This week, kabocha squash was on sale. Half price. Score for me!

I had two problems, though.

1) While I have heard of such a highly-praised squash, I had never eaten it.  I figured there hadn’t been a squash that I hadn’t liked, so I still decided to scope them out.

2) When I made it to the grocery store, the sign was labelled as BUTTERCUP squash, though. The squashes had kabocha stickers, the flyer advertised kabocha squash, but the sign clearly stated buttercup squashes were on sale.

I haven’t tasted a kabocha, let alone really noticed them before (the one I bought at the Farmer’s market, that is still sitting in my kitchen, is a light shade of blue… and 8 lb.. and looked nothing like these squashes!). Furthermore, there was no way I could discern any differences from a buttercup squash. What to do???

If I had a cell phone, I could have done an emergency internet search… but I don’t have a cell phone. :P So I bought a bunch of squashes, drove home and then did my emergency squash search.

Turns out I am not the only person with the buttercup-kabocha quandary! Heather outlined the very subtle differences, focusing mostly on the butt of the squash.

Tell me how my squash butt compares. Did I buy a kabocha or a buttercup?

I suppose the proof is in the pudding.  Or wrap, in this case.

I decided to roast the squash so that I could really taste it. Drizzled with a little hazelnut oil and only salt and pepper, this was a delicious squash. Denser, yet drier than a butternut squash. I found it had more flavour though and possibly a bit more sweet. Plus, the definitive bonus of the kabocha squash is that you don’t need to peel it!! I buy butternut squashes because I have become pretty adept at peeling it, but eating the peel is even easier! (FYI- the buttercup squash tends to cook up softer and falls apart quite easily).

Next, I went just a bit more fancy and stuffed the roasted squash into a collard wrap smothered with mashed avocado and cucumber, an idea that I borrowed from Gena at Choosing Raw. Gena has a wonderful way with pairing seemingly odd ingredients together, yet they work so well (remember the delectable apple and zesty cashew orange spread wrap?). Anyways, this was a very decadent wrap with the seasoned avocado working as a dressing, the cucumber conferring crunch all highlighting the hazelnut-flavoured roasted kabocha squash.

How do you prefer to eat your kabocha squash?


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cindystar, to Ingredient Challenge Monday for squash and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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