the taste space

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Vegan Bacon Chickpea Croutons

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides, Soups by Janet M on April 22, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Vegan Bacon Chickpea Croutons

I love when it is going to be a delicious week.

I am too lazy/tired to cook during the week, so I make everything on the weekend. A new batch of oatmeal. I create 3-4 different dishes, with possibly some fresh rice mid-week. Rob helps with the rice. His rice always seems to taste better even if we use the same rice cooker.

Anyways. I digress.

I love delicious surprises in the kitchen.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Vegan Bacon Chickpea Croutons

I was wooed by Tess’ creamy cauliflower soup in her latest cookbook. However, I knew cauliflower and leeks, alone, would not be a filling meal. Beans. I need some beans. Where are the beans? I could have easily blended white beans into the soup, but I don’t like pureed soups.

Keeping things a bit more texturally complex, I ran with bacon-flavoured roasted chickpea croutons! Because I was going to use the oven to roast my chickpeas, I roasted my vegetables, too. It helped to free up a coveted soup pot and oven burner, too.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Vegan Bacon Chickpea Croutons

I guess I get surprised by some of my successes. Light and fluffy yet still filling, the soup was as easy as blending together roasted vegetables with some spices. The bacon chickpeas added a salty-savoury topping that contrasted the soup wonderfully.

And somewhat off-topic. Not soup-related, but related by all things delicious. You know what else we recently discovered that was glorious? Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream. GAH! Annie clued me in early on that their coconut-based ice creams were delicious and they helped tame the Texan heat in the summer. Now that we’re cycling in the heat, this has become our new way to cool off.

What have you been enjoying lately?

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Vegan Bacon Chickpea Croutons

I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.

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Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 13, 2014

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Even though Rob was away, in the end, it didn’t stop me from a) cooking some delicious meals and b) going out to cycle.

Going out for a bike ride by myself doesn’t seem like a big accomplishment, but I always save my long rides to do with friends. Of course, I commute by myself, but I always want to do my longer, harder challenges with someone else in case we get into trouble (flat tire, accident, get lost, etc).

This weekend, though, I took matters into my own hands. It was cold and windy but I circumvented the rain. I still managed to pedal 100 km over the weekend. Baby steps, as we haven’t done more than 30 km within the past few months. I stayed with a well-travelled and well-loved route.

I even had a flat tire. A slow leak I discovered Sunday morning and took out my commuter instead. I didn’t want to waste time and lose motivation changing my tire.

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Because I split my ride over 2 days, I still had enough time to do my weekend batch cooking. One of my favourites was this soup. All.things.caramelized: caramelized cabbage, caramelized onions and caramelized leeks. If I had roasted the carrots, it may have turned into a sweetness overload. Just kidding. While you dirty a bunch of dishes, everything cooks or roasts in parallel so it doesn’t take as long as you might fear. Combining the sweet vegetables with celeriac and white beans countered with a bit of bitterness, but the broth was spiked with dill that brought everything together.

I liked how the soup was made with winter vegetable staples (carrot, cabbage, celeriac, leeks) but I find fresh dill has a spring feel. Granted we have no snow, but the warmer weather will definitely be appreciated.

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

This is my submission to 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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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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Ayurvedic Winter Vegetable Stew with Adzuki Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 19, 2013

Ayurvedic Winter Vegetable Stew with Adzuki Beans

Oops, I pulled a Joanne.

I stockpiled my winter squashes, only to discover one going moldy. Booo…. so much for hoarding my squashes until the snow prevents me going grocery shopping. One buttercup squash down but a golden nugget squash that was still fine.

This looks like a kitchen sink soup, but I was actually following a recipe! (mostly)

I have become fascinated with Ayurvedic cuisine as of late. Mainly because the recipes tend to have an Indian slant that I quite enjoy. Not hard-core, authentic, spicy curries, but milder flavourful Indian-infused dishes. Ayurvedic cuisine balances the six tastes (six rasas), sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. By determining your dosha, or your main energy as per Ayurvedic tradition, you can tailor your foods to match your constitution.

I will not pretend to know much about Ayurvedic cuisine, although I did figure out my doshas: bidoshic with a bit more pitta (fire/water) than vata (air/space). I connect better with pitta-reducing recipes, which shies from heat and spice (among other things). Recipes can be modified to better balance your dosha, and these are modifications that I do instinctively: reduce chiles, omit curry paste, etc. Although my love of quinoa must be from vata because pitta precludes it!

This is an Ayurvedic winter vegetable stew that balances vata and pitta and decreases kapha. I made it more pitta-friendly by omitting the green curry paste (miso-curry soup isn’t so scary) and ground pepper and made it more Janet-style by adding adzuki beans (good for both vata and pitta).  Ignoring all the dosha-stuff, I can assure you that this is a delicious stew. The main flavours are miso, ginger and dill dancing around winter vegetables like winter squash, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Adding in the suggested green curry paste would probably make this an entirely different soup altogether, and would be more up Rob’s alley. I have yet to figure out his dosha but he definitely has less pitta!

Have you ever tried Ayurvedic cuisine? What is your dosha?

Ayurvedic Winter Vegetable Stew with Adzuki Beans

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

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Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 9, 2013

Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

When I am stressed, I like to cook. Most of my meals are winners thanks to a great recipe base and a dash of creativity and experience. So, for me, heading into the kitchen is a way for me to turn off my brain and do something that gives me something positively tangible in the end.

The same with blogging. I use it as a creative outlet and a way to share said awesome recipes.

This will explain why I am blogging right now.

I kind of want to vent.

Toronto was hit with a bit of snow over the past few days. 30 cm of snow. I’ve experienced worse (60 cm overnight) and it could have been much worse. Toronto just has a hard time dealing with snow. My car is currently snowed in my parking spot. A day after the snowfall, the laneway still has a foot of snow for me to drive through if I want out.

Rob warned me last night, so I knew I wasn’t heading to the gym for my 8am weights.

Turns out that was the least of my worries.

This morning, my fridge broke.

And I can’t get into my garage. Both locks are jammed.

Of course, we planned for storm success by grocery shopping before the blizzard.

One plus for it being winter is that I have stored all the freezer stuff in my car. Friends have offered fridge-space in the meantime for our non-freezable stuff.  Although we are still working out how to move it over since our car is snow-bound.

I know, things could be worse.

So, as I wait for Rob to return home, I am blogging.

To share with you this delicious soup I made last week and is now chilling in my car. This is a great soup to soothe the soul, be it from unforeseen craziness or the howling winter winds. Definitely better than chicken soup.

I rechristened it with a more descriptive name: miso curry squash and chickpea soup. A broth spiced with black mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic and ginger, along with miso and kombu. Chunks of winter squash (golden nugget was my choice this time), shiitake mushrooms and chickpeas fill your bowl with goodness. Chickpeas were my addition, as well as baby bok choy. The baby bok choy was such a last minute thought that I photographed the soup before I added it. However, I ended up really liking the crunchy stems and leafs, so I included them in the recipe below.

I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. In fact, I thought I did not like black mustard seeds, but this was fabulous.  If you like this soup, I also recommend these similar stews: Butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew and Plantains and cabbage with split peas. Miso-curry squash elsewhere: Red Curry Miso Roasted Veggie Bowl, Miso-Curry Squash, Tofu and Kale Salad, Miso Sesame Winter Squash and Tofu and Coconut Curry Miso Soup.

So, tell me: how is your weekend going? How do you like to deal with stress?

Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

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

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Lemon-Ginger Split Pea Soup with Toasted Coriander

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 12, 2013

Lemon-Ginger Split Pea Soup with Toasted Coriander

If you are a vegan, new or old or contemplating dabbling in vegan cuisine, I highly recommend reading this book: Vegan for Life.

Like right now.

I mentioned basic vegan nutrition in my earlier post, but this book is chock-full of advice navigating the murky scientific waters of vegan nutrition. Vitamin B12 supplementation should be old news but what about calcium, iron and zinc? Essential fatty acids?

Of course, then there’s the never-ending protein question. (Love this video, by the way)

Beyond, where do you get your protein but how much do you really need. I used to aim for the prototypical 0.4g of protein per pound of body weight, so around 50g for a 120lb woman. Brendan Brazier’s books were also instrumental in highlighting the importance of the ratio of protein to carbs, as well, when exercising.

While I stagger my meals and snacks to support my exercise, I have never really considered myself an athlete. I am not a bodybuilder but I do lift weights twice a week.  I have cycled really, really long distances (over 350km in 2 days kind of a lot). Although it seems like such a distant memory right now. Even though I tucked my bike away for the winter, just last month, I was cycling a minimum of 1.5 hours each day for commuting alone. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I have so much more energy now.

My co-worker would (lovingly) heckle me, telling me I wasn’t eating enough protein as a vegan, especially with all my cycling. I reassured him I was ok, 50g is enough. I eat my beans. Vegan for Life has me re-evaluating my base protein needs. Strength and endurance athletes (and pregnant people- not any kind of hint, by the way) seem to require more protein although how much is debatable. It could be up to 0.8g/lb for weight lifters. If you interested, this is a good read, too. I strive for 25% protein in my meals, so I think my new protein goal is be achievable. Especially since I love beans.

The benefit of beans and legumes were highlighted not only for their high protein content but also their amino acid profile, compared to other vegan protein sources (vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains). They are a good source of lysine, a particular amino acid that is not as easily found in other vegetarian foods.

So.. the moral of the story? Take charge of your nutrition. And eat more beans.

Even within the legume family, there is a lot of variety. Lentils and chickpeas are my go-to beans, but they all have their own merits. Pick up a new bean and get creative.

Have some split peas but don’t know what to do? Try this soup.  I really like split peas, but less eager to cook with them due to their long cooking time. Even with soaking (or not), I find they take a while to cook, sometimes longer than an hour and a half.

It is worth it, though.

I prefer yellow split peas, which have a milder pea flavour. The split peas thicken this soup spiced with ginger and coriander. Filling and hearty yet light at the same time from the lemon. The lemon zest really brought this up a notch. It also packs a protein punch: 20g when serving 3. Serve with a salad to get some greens.

Looking for other ways to eat split peas? Try these:

Smoky Split Pea Soup with Roasted Garlic and Sage
Finnish Double Pea Stew with Apples
Iraqi Eggplant and Seitan Stew
Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime
Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha)
Ethiopian Split Pea and Squash Stew with Collard Greens
Swedish Yellow Split Pea Soup with Dill at Power Hungry
Curried Squash and Split Pea Soup at Choosing Raw
Sunshine Curried Split Pea Soup at G Living
Yellow Split Peas with Garlic, Ginger and Cilantro at Kalyn’s Kitchen
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Paprika and Crisped Leeks at Not Eating Out in New York
Polish Split Peas and Cabbage at About.com

Lemon-Ginger Split Pea Soup with Toasted Coriander

This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for soups, to January’s Food of the Month Club for soups and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Braised White Beans and Leeks

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on December 23, 2012

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Who invited winter?

I thought Toronto had been spared a white Christmas, as we were pummeled with rain instead of snow late last week. However, I woke up yesterday to howling winds, frigid temperatures and snow. Ottawa may have received 30 cm of the fluffy stuff over the past few days, but in true Toronto fashion, we had a sprinkle of snow.

This is indeed, the perfect solution. Rob and I are pining to go snowshoeing while in Ottawa for the holidays but that requires snow. Ottawa will have it and we can return to the lack of snowblower land without too much worrying. It just means we can’t snowshoe to work. I am ok with that. Rob may be sad. Over the last few weeks, Rob has occasionally walked to work. That takes him 2.5 hours. It would likely take him longer with snow shoes. ;)

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Last weekend was Woodstock in Christmas, and this is what I brought. Another benefit of cooking en masse on the weekend (other than not having to cook mid-week), is that I could pick my favourite dish to share.

Beans from scratch has become second nature. I typically simmer them on the stovetop while doing something else in the kitchen. This time, I brought back low-and-slow oven braised beans. Nothing could be so easy to get perfectly plump beans. Using Rancho Gordo’s plump, tiny Yellow Indian Beans beans definitely helped but the long simmer in the oven slowly cooks the beans to perfection. No exploding beans, nothing too mushy, just perfectly cooked beans. Three hours later, you have a house fragrant from the leeks and herbs and a pot of plump beans. Sara’s original recipe suggested broiling cheese overtop at the end of the braise but I went without for a vegan option. I had considered sprinkling almond parmesan overtop but ran out of time. The beans are definitely more than a sum of its parts. The leeks cook down to a silky creaminess and the Italian herbs confer a fragrant background.

Due to the sheer simplicity of this dish, it was easy to whip together other meals for the week. While my curries also turned out great, I didn’t think they would mesh as well with a traditional Christmas menu. I’ll share those, too, likely in the new year. ;)

Although, turns out dal will be making an appearance at the Ottawa Christmas. My Mom has left me in charge of Christmas lunch and I’ll be making Root Veggie Dal. A perfect bowl to curl up with after returning from a snowy snowshoe adventure. :)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Braised White Beans and Leeks

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

Flageolet Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Leeks

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by Janet M on October 23, 2012

Hold up. The squashes have been stored but I have not forgotten about the lovely end of summer vegetables.

Thankfully, the frost is still at bay and I continue to harvest green beans. My greens (kale and collards) will only improve after a frost, so I am letting them continue to grow before I harvest them. Rob is planning a kale chip-a-thon once we do a mass harvest. The dehydrator will be baking up a storm!

I didn’t grow tomatoes this year and my dill died, but my aunt and Rob’s parents had much better success than me. Last weekend, they graciously shared with me some of the garden bounty: fresh, ripe (local and organic!) tomatoes and dill. This was my salad the following week and I was happy as a peach.

It is such a simple salad, but capitalizes on summer’s fresh bounty. You could even whip this one out in the middle of winter with green-house tomatoes and nobody would be the wiser. Roasting the tomatoes, leeks and garlic makes a delicious base for this salad. Coated in a touch of coconut oil, it permeates into the juicy tomatoes and silky leeks. I combined them with flageolet beans, perfect for salads with their creamy texture yet firm shape. No need for a dressing, the vegetable juices embrace the beans. Dust with dill, if you wish, for a delicious twist. Divine as a warm salad from the oven, this was just as nice as a cold salad as leftovers.  I served my bean salad overtop salad greens.

Flageolet beans are one of my favourite beans and I held onto the last of my batch until this salad. I also recommend using them in this warm bean salad with leeks in a mustard dressing as well as this warm bean and carrot salad with dill. With less time in the kitchen, I may try Gena’s recipe next time I get some leeks. Don’t have flageolet beans? Try this with any small white bean, including white kidney beans.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup with Chickpeas, Leeks and Fennel

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on October 11, 2012

Last year, two of my culinary discoveries was my love of fennel and kabocha squash (celeriac, too). Not a fan of licorice, but I appreciate a subtle anise flavour from cooked fennel.

Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!

Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.

This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.


This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Potluck party, to this month’s Simple and In Season and to this month’s Monthly Mingle for squash.

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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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Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on August 13, 2012


All these recipes with coconut beverage got me thinking…

When making meals for special guests, how do your meals change?

Unless we are making a buffet of food, I try to make meals that I will also be able to eat. That means I make vegan dishes. For picky omnivores, we may opt to supplement with meat.

Depending on the guest, I will pick recipes that are, let’s just say, a bit more indulgent. If Rob and I are cooking you dal bhat, one of our favourite meals, simple with lentils and rice, you know we have nothing to prove to you in the kitchen. For us, we can make it as fast as the rice cooker makes the rice as it is filled with cupboard staples and we will both fight over the leftovers.

Now, if Rob whips up his legendary pad thai, then you know we are aiming to impress (or I am too tired to cook, hehe, or I have a craving for pad thai!). We usually have the ingredients on hand except for the fresh sprouts, and with its custom single serving plating, we don’t make it for ourselves very often.

If I am in the mood, I may very well pull out all my tricks and make something fancy like Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce. Stars may need to collide just right for that to happen again (just kidding!).

Other times, I will aim for something rich and satisfying but still relatively simple to make. Enter the meal-in-a-bowl soup. With a side of bread for guests (and Rob).

I had been eyeing this recipe for a Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder for a while.  A creamy coconut-based soup filled with chickpeas, red peppers with a dash of heat from chiles. However, I was turned off by using not 1, but 2 cans of coconut milk (that’s just plain superfluous). While I know it would be even more decadent with 2 cans, I opted for just one can of full-fat coconut milk.  When I made this I didn’t have fresh corn, so I substituted a can of cream-style corn but fresh corn would be uber delicious.

As I said, the flavours worked so well together – sweet from the peppers, creamy from the coconut milk and creamed corn, heat from the chilies and bulk from the chickpeas. If you use 2 full cans of coconut milk, you will likely need the full amount of water in the original recipe (2 cups). As I only had 1 can and used creamed-style corn, I used less water and even then thought it was a bit thin for my liking.  Another option would be to partially puree the soup, too. Anyhow, add liquid as you see fit. The flavours are already spot on.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s No Croutons Required challenge for coconuts.

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Pickle Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 13, 2012

You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. :P But what’s up with the cravings?

*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.

In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.

After eating more than a few unadorned, I decided to branch out and make Pickle Soup that I had bookmarked from Love Soup eons ago.

Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.

So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.

While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.

Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup.  I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!

Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.

What have you been craving recently?

This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.

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Pan-Seared King Oyster Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy in a Coconut Tamarind Sauce with a Caramelized Leek and Wasabi Millet Mash

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on December 7, 2011


Sorry about the lack of diversity in my month of cruciferous vegetables. I know what it must look like to you: lots of broccoli, some kale with a bit of daikon and baby bok choy. Actually it looked like this: kale, daikon, broccoli, kale, broccoli, broccoli, kale, broccoli, baby bok choy and broccoli, and broccoli with a side of Napa cabbage. I’ll be honest: broccoli was on sale. A few weeks in a row. ;) I’ll try to make my next few posts with different cruciferous veggies.

Pop quiz:

Which cruciferous vegetables are in this meal? Check all that apply.
a. broccoli
b. baby bok choy
c. cauliflower
d. king oyster mushroom
e. leek
f. tamarind
g. potato
h. wasabi

Have a headache yet? Flashback to an undergrad midterm? SORRY!

I just want you to know your cruciferous veggies..

Don’t be fooled. The answers are baby bok choy, cauliflower and WASABI! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable but not in this recipe (sad, I know). King oyster mushrooms, leeks and tamarind are not cruciferous vegetables, but still good! While there is a mash here, there are no potatoes in this recipe!

Did you know that wasabi is a cruciferous vegetable? Thought it only came in powder form? Well, wasabi is actually a root vegetable. When I visited Japan, I visited the Daiõ Wasabi Farm outside Hotaka, which is the largest wasabi farm in the world. Not only were there fields upon fields of growing wasabi (pic above), they also had the roots for sale along with other wasabi treats like wasabi soup, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi wine, wasabi lollipops and my favourite: wasabi ice cream! I was a spice novice at that time, and still loved it: the spicy wasabi was off-set by lots of sweetness. The ice cream had a mild background of wasabi and vanilla perhaps, but lovely at the same time.


Sadly, wasabi is difficult to grow and thus expensive. Outside Japan, wasabi is commonly substituted with (cheaper) horseradish, mustard and green food colouring. Have no fear, Eden sells genuine wasabi powder. And yes, Sunny’s sells it for half the price of The Big Carrot.

This meal, which is actually 2 recipes, must have the longest name of anything on this blog so far. These long descriptive names are what have me drooling at restaurants, so I love to point of all the nuances of my dishes, too. The longer the name, the longer the ingredient list, and thus probably the longer it took me to make this. Denis Cotter loves to make multi-component meals, and this is no exception. Adapted from his recipe in For the Love of Food, I increased the vegetables, especially the baby bok choy and decreased the coconut milk. Meaty king oyster mushrooms were pan-fried in coconut oil then stir-fried with ginger and the baby bok choy. A light tangy broth with tamarind and coconut milk rounded out the sauce and offered a nice contrast in flavours.

As an Irishman, Cotter adores potatoes and served this with mashed potatoes spiced with caramelized leeks and wasabi.

I opted to try a different a kind of mash: the monster mash.

I mean, the millet mash. With cauliflower. And caramelized leeks and wasabi, as per Cotter.

The cauliflower millet mash is courtesy of Sarah, and while it doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes, it has a creaminess akin to mashed potatoes. As a blank slate, it can take any flavours you throw at it, including the subtly sweet caramelized leeks and the spicy wasabi. Juxtaposed next to the tangy coconut broth with the vegetables, you have a crazy concoction of cruciferous vegetables.


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta from Viaggiare è un po’ come mangiare.

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Warm Lentil, Bulgur and Vegetable Skillet with a Lemon-Tahini Sauce

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 27, 2011

I follow a lot of food blogs. When I started to use Google Reader, maybe only 6 months ago or so, somehow I effortlessly started reading more and more food blogs. My last count was 232 subscriptions (eek!).

I read blogs for many different reasons: to be inspired by the recipes or techniques; to learn more about ingredients or different ethnic cuisines; and lately to open my culinary repertoire into vegan (and raw) cooking.

Some blogs post tried-and-true recipes, and maybe it is just my poor luck, but sometimes I get lackluster results from other bloggers. It might seem like I have been ragging on her alot recently, I actually adore Angela’s positive message on Oh She Glows.  I just haven’t had too much luck with her recipes.  I find her overnight oats a bit too liquidy for me, her split pea and spinach soup and white bean pesto dip underflavoured and more recently, her tahini-avocado chickpea salad also lacked spunk. Nothing that I couldn’t fix myself, but you just know you will have to continually assess the dish at every step.

Like a mouse drawn blindly to cheese, I am still tempted by her recipes. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, because I know we share some similar tastes. While I haven’t tried her version, I also adore the Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. I just have to do a lot of tweaking to follow her recipes.

With this in mind, I assessed her Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl with caution, despite the many positive reviews in the comments. It looked like a wonderful clean-your-fridge recipe, but I knew I wanted to load it up with vegetables. I scaled back the lentils and swapped the spelt berries for bulgur. I doubled the vegetables, used leek instead of onion, added in 2 red bell peppers, some snow peas, tomato and spinach.  Because I adore lemon, I increased the lemon flavour by adding in the zest from the lemons as well. With less grains and beans, but more vegetables, I kept the same amount of dressing. Finally, an adapted OSG’s recipe worthy to share!

Here, a zippy creamy sauce is simmered with the vegetable medley that is speckled with lentils. The black lentils hold their shape well, as do the French du Puy lentils, which would also work great here. Green lentils would also work ok. I was lucky to have a leftover leek waiting in the fridge, but onions or shallots could also be used.  For the vegetables, pick your favourites but I liked that the fresh tomatoes, with their juices, deglazed the pan nicely.  Serve with your choice of grain, mixed into the skillet or served on the side.


This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday.
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