the taste space

Lemony Cucumber and Chickpea Salad with Dukkah

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by Janet M on June 11, 2013

Lemony Cucumber and Chickpea Salad with Dukkah

Rob and I have been good about eating through the freezer and pantry. While I no longer have a white board with the freezer inventory (it was such a good idea but we lost track), we generally pick up a container, look at the label, pick our favourite of the day and chow down.

Trust me, I am very diligent about labelling freezer meals.

I am not sure why I don’t do the same with my fridge foods. I don’t store too many things in the fridge but sometimes I forget about salad dressings or marinades pushed to the back. My rationale is probably: Well, this is fresh food. I’ll remember what it is before it grows mold.

Not true.

Some fridge finds are still happy in my fridge for months. Possibly years, although I can’t say for sure. Since now I can’t remember what it was and when I made it.

Mystery ingredients.

My mystery concoction looked like roasted and ground nuts. Likely with some spices. It passed the sniff test. Not entirely sure what it is, I have two options: almonzano (unlikely because it doesn’t taste similar) or dukkah. Or something I just don’t remember making, which is also a possibility. Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice mix with cumin, coriander and sesame seeds but there are many variations. The New York Times recently shared recipes for dukkah with peanuts, pumpkin seeds, chickpea flour and even an herbal variation with mint and fennel. While I have included a link to my favourite dukkah recipe that includes coconut, I am fairly confident this was a different variation. I *think* this is the hazelnut dukkah from Vegan Eats World, which is more nut-heavy than spice-heavy. I prefer more spices than nuts, so that the flavours really pop, but the lack of spices did not hold back here.

This salad started off a bit ho-hum, with a simple favour profile: cucumbers, chickpeas, quinoa, lemon and balsamic. It was nice, but not something to rave about… I wanted to add some chopped almonds but instead sprinkled the mystery nut blend overtop and it definitely brought this to a wow dish. The lemon really accents and highlights the spices. It tastes great and yet I still cannot confirm what is in this mix. :)

So for now, let’s assume it is dukkah and enjoy it for all it is worth. :)

How do you keep track of your food? Do you subscribe to “if I can’t remember what I made, then I probably shouldn’t be eating it?” rule?

Here are other recipes with dukkah:

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Dukkah
Maple and Dukkah Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Olive Magazine
Roasted Carrot Soup with Dukkah from Bon Appetit
Bulgur Bowl With Spinach, Mushrooms and Middle Eastern Nut and Spice Seasoning from New York Times
Dukkah-Spiced Green Beans and Mushrooms from Anja’s Food For Thought
Roasted Squash with Tahini and Dukkah at Lisa’s Kitchen

Lemony Cucumber and Chickpea Salad with Dukkah

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

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 8, 2013

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

Is it harder to get kids or adults to try new foods?

I am not a parent yet, but I know I was a pretty picky eater as a child. I was definitely better at eating my fruits and veggies than my brother, but we both drove our Mom crazy.

Now the roles are reversed. I am the one eating so many different foods and sharing them with my parents.

Quinoa, possibly my favourite (pseudo)grain, has been a hard sell for my parents. To be fair, in Ottawa, the quinoa never seemed to cook properly. It was mushy and water-logged. I don’t know what was so different but it was a recurring theme. I recommended my standard technique: using less liquid (broth is more flavourful) and then let it sit, lid closed, to steam and help fluff it up. Another option (albeit more fussy) is to partially cook it, drain it and then steam the quinoa.

I thought my Mom had given up on quinoa altogether. I was surprised when I spotted quinoa in her pantry.

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

Turns out she had finally found a recipe she liked after my sister-in-law served it. Lucky for me, my Mom decided to treat me to her new favourite quinoa recipe.

The main flavours were classic: lemon and thyme. The difference was in the quinoa. First it was rinsed, dried, toasted, cooked in a minimal amount of broth and then steamed with a towel. I typically use a 1.75:1 broth:quinoa ratio but this was much closer to 1:1. This results in no-mush quinoa. The kernels are separate and flavourful. Due to the limited liquid, you might notice they do not become as big and not as voluminous. They are also not water-logged.

I like to include a lot of vegetables in my meals, so instead of adding them directly to the quinoa pilaf, I served mine with grilled asparagus and grilled balsamic mushrooms. My Dad, very generously, donated cut-up asparagus as pupils and a uni-nostril to complete my happy meal. He is not a fan of asparagus, so I gladly ate his offering. Maybe we are all picky kids at heart? :)

Did you have any rough starts with some foods in your kitchen?

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

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

PS, I think I may need new glasses. These photos look fuzzy. Oh well, too lazy to fix that! :)

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Indian Mung Beans with Fresh Mango Chutney

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 25, 2013

Indian Mung Beans with Fresh Mango Chutney

I am currently on a mung bean kick.

Lets just say they’ve been in my pantry for awhile. Two years, perhaps more. I made one meal with them initially that was a bit lackluster, so it has been difficult to give them another try. But, in my pantry clearing gusto, I tried them again. And again. And again. Yes, I have made them 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Now, I’m hooked. You see, I just needed the right recipe.

Mung beans should be on your hitlist because they don’t need any soaking and cook up quickly, around 30-45 minutes. Even beans that are two years old. :) My trick is to slightly overcook them. Here, I cooked them until they were creamy-soft, nearly exploding. Some of my earlier tries were more intact than this batch, but still cooked beyond a firm bean. If you keep it more firm, it has a very pronounced “bean” flavour. It mellows as it cooks further, which I prefer.

So where did I get my mung bean recipe success? From Tess, of course. I made the Easy Indian Mung Beans from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. Then I made her Mung Beans with a fabulous cilantro chutney from Get Waisted (more to share about that, in due time).

For my third time, I put my own spin on it: I decided to use her base recipe for the mung beans and add a simple fresh mango chutney. The mung beans were simmered with cumin and coriander until all the water is absorbed, then doused in fresh lemon juice. Mung beans are ok with just the spices, but much better with fresh citrus juice. Instead of a tarka, I wanted to highlight the mango chutney so I kept the beans simple. The chutney was simply a mix of mango, ginger, cumin and apple cider vinegar, but next to the mung beans, they were great.

Have you tried mung beans? Any favourite recipes?

Indian Mung Beans with Fresh Mango Chutney

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Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

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

Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

Eating through my pantry has some benefits. I find foods I had forgotten.

My Mom remembers. My Mom is like an elephant: she never forgets.
(She will probably never forget me calling her an elephant… HAHAHAHA!)

What about all your soba noodles, Janet?

Oh yeah…. all those noodles I bought after I came back from Japan. Just like when I drank my way through a library of non-dairy milks to figure out which I liked the most, I bought a wide variety of soba noodles to pinpoint the perfect pasta.  However, I shortly became disillusioned when I figured out that most soba noodles actually contain very little buckwheat. The noodles are still mostly made from white flour. Lesson: Read the package before you buy them.

I eventually found 100% buckwheat noodles but scoffed at the price. So I put them back.

I eventually found them again, but this time it was a different brand. And they were a much better price. So I bought some and then proceded to forget I had them.

Definitely great for a change, the buckwheat noodles are slightly nutty and cook in 4 minutes.

Here, I paired them with kale and red pepper and a simple sesame-miso sauce. A simple sauce, not due to a limited ingredient list. Rather because the ratio is almost all 1:1:1:1:1:2 (the original recipe was 1:1 for all ingredients but I thought it needed a bigger dose of lemon juice). The sauce is creamy, salty and tangy and coated the noodles and veggies well. I used some of the pasta water to thin the sauce but use as much as you like.

Instead of massaging the kale, I let the heat of the noodles wilt them. Easy, peasy. Because as much as I love raw kale salads, I am usually able to trick convince others into doing the massaging. I hate getting my hands too dirty. ;)

(PS. This post was pre-approved. My Mom thought it was in good taste. Both the elephant and noodles. And a great post for Mother’s Day. I think she was just happy I was eating through my soba noodles.)

Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

Other tahini sauces you may enjoy (because tahini is so much more versatile than hummus):

Macro Veggie and Tempeh Bowl with a Miso-Tahini Sauce

Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Orange-Tahini Dressing

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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

Braised Tempeh with Green Beans in a Sesame Sauce

Yam, Zucchini and Chickpea Salad with a Tahini-Lemon Dressing

Quinoa Wraps with Sweet Potato, Tofu Feta and a Sweet Tahini Dipping Sauce

Bok Choy and Sesame Ginger Udon Noodles from 1000 Vegan Recipes (we’ve made these with red pepper added and enjoyed them)

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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

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

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

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

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

My old favourites are still wonderful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favourite salad?

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

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

Tempeh and Arugula Salad with a Mustard Miso Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Salads by Janet M on May 9, 2013

Tempeh and Arugula Salad with a Mustard Miso Dressing

Power of beautiful food?

I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.

So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.

It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.

By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.

Here’s to beautiful salad! :)

Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?

Tempeh and Arugula Salad with a Mustard Miso Dressing

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required for little bites. (more…)

Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

Posted in Drinks by Janet M on May 8, 2013

Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

This is just a quick post to tell you about my latest infatuation.

(Unlike the Mediterranean Beans which I ate a month ago)

That ice cream craving was this week, though.

And while this is no ice cream, it is a deliciously creamy banana-less smoothie. And so cold, it gave me ice cream head aches.

Slow down, Janet…

Yes, this is the perfect drink to slow down with.. on a sunny summery day (thank you beautiful weather, Toronto).

Bananas are a common fixture in my smoothies, but Rob has stopped buying bananas, focusing on our freezer fruits. Vegetables are commonly added to sauce to make them smooth (cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato and roasted tomatoes come to mind), and I have even added carrots to smoothies before (for a strawberry-mango-carrot delight). But this time, I wanted to try cucumbers. They worked well in my Cucumber Beet Ginger juice, so I figured out if someone had done something similar.

Joy had.

Now it didn’t seem so scary to pair cucumbers with strawberries. I’ve tried it with the seeds and without, and personally I just can’t be bothered to remove the seeds. To be honest, you cannot really taste the cucumber per se but it gives a fresh feel to the smoothie. I’ve made it with and without the vanilla and both are good. And the lemon juice? Definitely better with it.

Weird, but it works.

Definitely a comforting, guiltless drink for the summer. Thank goodness cucumbers are on sale this week. If you pick some up and make this, please let me know what you think… or if you have any other ways to enjoy cucumbers drinks. I was wondering whether they would freeze well for smoothies but ate through all my cucumbers before I could figure it out.

Joy says hers feeds two. It serves one Janet. And I’ve drunk my way through 2 cucumbers, if that tells you anything.

Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required for smoothies, this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday and Raw Food Thursday. (more…)

Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

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

Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

Comfort means different things to different people. A warm hug, a friendly email, a cheery phone call.. or wallowing with an ice cream sundae and warm apple pie. I try not to do the emotional eating thing but sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. But can chocolate really overcome the worst blues? No.

I know some of you think I am nuts… some holier-than-thou soul who can shun the desserts and treats. Well, let me assure you that I am not immune. Trust me, there are enough vegan desserts that can keep me entertained and gluttonous. But sometimes, you just need something more.

A great way not to get suckered into buying treats is not to shop at standard grocers. This also means it can be more difficult for me to indulge if I want.

After writing the first part of my exam, I planned to do grocery shopping. It all made sense: I had neglected all foodly things earlier that week and it was time to restock. My exam also happened to be close to my favourite ethnic grocer. Score!  I had no list, no recipes, no agenda – time was spent on studying pathology, not recipes. However, after that exam, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted to wallow in some chocolate.

My favourite grocer is filled with all sorts of fun, cheap produce: grapefruits, many different kinds of mangoes, baby bok choy, Asian mushrooms, cheap fresh herbs. I wanted to splurge. I wanted something decadent. Chocolate, anything remotely vegan and dessert-like. Um, yeah, no. Nothing here at all. The nuts didn’t appeal to me… and my splurge? Two pounds of baby arugula for $4. Two pounds doesn’t seem like a lot but it was two big clamshells worth of arugula. Was it a splurge? Yes, because I did not think I could eat that much arugula and I thought to myself: I should not be buying this. But it was no decadent splurge.

So, on my way home, I stopped by my favourite resto in Toronto, Belmonte Raw. In spite of improving their hours, because they are on the other side of town, I have not been in a long time. So this was my treat. I had no appetite, but I was salivating just wondering what their specials would be for the day. I needed some comfort. I ended up ordering a comforting smoothie and a raw burrito. I have raved about their raw burrito before, but this one left me flat. This version was only half of a burrito with a side salad. The smoothie was also lacklustre. I wanted more!! I decided that my taste buds could not be comforted at this point. They were beyond repair. My appetite could not be perked up and trying her sinful chocolate thimbles would likely not help the cause.

So I moseyed home. With my 2 pounds of arugula. But no interest in cooking or eating (let alone photographing and blogging). A good night’s sleep and an empty fridge partially motivated me to try something more than oatmeal in the following days.  Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to eat.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat through the arugula, it would have to be cooked. Thus lemony arugula nests were born. This actually turned out much better than I anticipated. Considering nothing seemed to taste good to me, and I really liked this, that says a lot! It was also fun because it was a very simple recipe.

I used JL’s recipe as a guide. She simmered Italian-spiced tomatoes with olives and beans. I simmered tomatoes and white beans and added in a bunch of herbs that seemed Italian: marjoram, fennel seed and lemon pepper. It worked! The tomatoes were light and fresh with flavour, and I only simmered it for 10 minutes as I tended to the arugula. For the arugula, I misread the directions and lightly steamed it with some broth and garlic, and then doused it in lemon juice. Contrasting the two components was good. Lots of greens. Lots of beans. And I really don’t think the photos do it justice because I think it was even prettier in person… and surprisingly enough, leftovers were good, too.

What is your comfort food? Surprised mine includes beans? Shocked chocolate couldn’t suffice? I think having a delicious bowl of good food definitely helps…

Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

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Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew with Greens

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

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

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

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

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

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

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

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

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

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

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

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Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

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

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

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

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

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

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

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

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

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

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Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on March 12, 2013

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

So Rob is gone and I am out to play!

A few years ago, I read What We Eat When We Eat Alone by husband and wife team Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin. I was so fascinated by their stories that I wrote my own series about eating for 1. At the time, I had been living by myself for over 6 years (plus another 4 years I lived with roommates). I was fascinated by what people ate when not with their significant other. Truthfully, I don’t really modify my habits too much when Rob is away. I try to stay on track.

However, I emailed Rob about being influenced by the Bad Idea Bears (bonus points if you have any clue what I am referring to). After going to the gym, I was so energized post-shred that I went grocery shopping. My email to Rob:

The bad idea bears helped me reason out why I should buy 8 lbs of chickpeas for $5, spinach (3/$2), baby bok choy (79c/lb), lots of bananas (29c/lb), grapefruit (4/$1) among other things. I bought you some rolled oats, too. :-) oh, and some yogurt (it expires in April so you are still good post-SXSW).

I know my Mom is shaking her head. I thought about it, too. I reasoned it out. Our chickpea stash was getting low!! I am on a chickpea phase! The other beans will not suffice! They are on sale! They will keep. I will eat them. I want my chickpeas!

Plus, my Mom gave me a nice balsamic vinegar for Christmas, so I need chickpeas and greens to eat through that! ;)

(I am thinking about depleting my pantry…)

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

So now I have lots of chickpeas and lots of greens. Which is better than a case of beer, right? (Rob thought so, too).

You may have noticed I am posting more and more simple recipes. This is possibly one of my easiest recipes (the broccoli was an afterthought, so the hardest part is chopping the broccoli). In a saucepan, put all your ingredients and make a balsamic reduction with a touch of tomato, garlic and lemon. Within a few minutes, it glazes the chickpeas with a sweet-tart sauce. The original recipe called for ketchup, which I replaced with tomato paste and sweetener. The quality of your balsamic vinegar will dictate how tart it will become and how much sweetener to add. Taste as you go. You could just make the chickpeas, but I found the broccoli to be a perfect match, sweet and crunchy, to balance the strong balsamic reduction. Next time, to make this even easier, I may just whip out my mosto cotto instead.

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s My Legume Love Affair.

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Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach (& a Mediterranean Vegan Diet)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 3, 2013

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Did you catch the news about the Mediterranean diet preventing heart disease? I won’t rehash the study, but it compared a Mediterranean diet (either with supplemental olive oil or nuts) with a supposedly “low-fat” diet (which was not low-fat due to poor adherence) in over 7000 people at high risk for heart disease. In short, the study intervention (in addition to medication) was to eat high levels of vegetables, fruits, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts), legumes, fish, and olive oil.

The full dietary recommendations are listed in their appendix here: a) lots of olive oil (at least 4 tbsp if in the olive oil arm of the study), b) at least 2 daily servings of vegetables, c) at least 2 daily servings of fruits, d) at least 3 weekly servings of legumes, e) at least 3 weekly servings of fish, f) at least 1 weekly servings of nuts or seeds (at least an oz of nuts a day if in the nuts arm of the study), g) white meat only, h) olive oil-simmered tomato-onion-garlic sauce at least 2 times a week. Raw and unsalted nuts, eggs, fish, seafood, low-fat cheese, dark chocolate (with at least 50% cocoa) and whole grain cereals were encouraged. A switch to red wine as a primary source of alcohol was encouraged in people who normally consumed alcohol. Other sweets, pastries, red meat, fatty cheese, cream, butter, potato chips, and French fries were discouraged. Their suggested recipes are posted online, however in Spanish.

Turns out there was a benefit in reduced myocardial infarctions, strokes and deaths in both arms of the study group compared to the controls. So much so (a whopping 30% reduction) that they stopped the study earlier than anticipated due to a reduction in heart disease. It would be unethical to allow people to continue with the control diet when the intervention was so much better. Not that all heart disease was eliminated entirely, it was reduced. Most remarkably, the dietary changes improved outcomes in addition to their medications.

Sounds like a radical diet? Cut out the crap and eat the good food?

Sometimes I feel like most of the benefits from so-called diets, whether it be plant-based vegan, Paleo or the Mediterranean diet, are mostly from removing the processed foods and replacing them with wholesome whole foods. Start cooking your food at home. As both the oil and nut arms of the study improved outcomes, it is difficult to pinpoint the important parts of the diet.  That’s the hard part of nutrition research. Do you need fish (unlikely) or the omega 3 fatty acids? Do you need to drink red wine? Which fats are important? Interestingly enough, despite improved heart health, no one lost weight on this diet.

Following a plant-based whole foods approach is what makes most sense to me. As mentioned in the New York Times article, others support a no-oil vegan diet for reducing heart disease. Instead of oil, fat comes from nuts and avocados. I don’t plan on changing my focus (BEANS and GREENS!) but for some reason I seem to have a hankering for more Mediterranean-inspired meals recently. I may go find myself some olives, too.

Ever since I really enjoyed my Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic, and munching on my very freezer-friendly Greek Stewed Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, I have been on the look-out for more ways to cook down my greens in a skillet.

Enter this super easy Greek chickpea and spinach skillet with lemon and dill. It looks deceivingly simple. It does not deceive you: it is simple. It deceives you because it tastes a lot better than you might think. You can taste each component of the meal and the lemony-dill aspect complements the nutty chickpeas and silky spinach. The chickpeas ended up creamy, too, with the brief cooking in the pan…. and the spinach, well, its wilts away, allowing you to eat a lot more greens than you may have thought possible.

Any thoughts on the diet du jour? Any recommended Mediterranean recipes?

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Need more Mediterranean inspiration?

Fasoulia (Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)

Mediterranean Crustless Vegetable Chickpea Flour Quiche

Chickpeas Romesco

Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Warm Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

Mediterranean Collard Wrap with Hummus, Artichoke Hearts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic

Greek Baked Beans (Gigantes Plaki)

Moroccan Tagine of Lima Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives

Greek Lemon and Quinoa Soup (Vegan Avgolemono)

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

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

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Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

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

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

OK, file this under “I don’t need to try that again“.

Not this dish. Chicory greens.

Chicory Greens

I hunted down chicory greens for my Random Recipe of the month. I was positively giddy to try some new-to-me greens. Pretty little wild greens, eh?

I am warning you: evil. Turns out not all greens are as lovely as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Chicory leaves look like dandelion greens and they (likely) also taste like them: BITTER! They are cousins, after all.

This dish had such promise. I used freekeh, which is young cracked wheat with beautiful smoky undertones, and chickpeas and spiced it with paprika, cumin and pomegranate molasses. Thyme and lemon, too. Sounds beautiful but thwarted by the bitter greens. The original recipe called for ground lamb (which I obviously omitted) but I doubt that would overcome its bitterness. Next time, I’d suggest using a milder green like Swiss chard or kale. Although, the leftovers were not as vile.. either that, or I slowly became accustomed to it.

I was going to say that, in retrospect, this was obviously not meant for me since I am a pitta (which shuns bitter foods). Although, turns out the joke’s on me: chicory greens are good for pitta. I guess I must take after vata in this regard. Or maybe this is all messed up since it isn’t an Ayurvedic recipe. ;)

So, tell me, do you like bitter greens? If so, how do you enjoy eating them? If I ever try them again, I’ll go with this dish for Moroccan Braised Mustard Greens, which I’ve tried and enjoyed. Maybe I just had a particularly bitter bunch?

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

This is my submission to Dom for this month’s Random Recipes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Simple and in Season.

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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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Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpeas (& the best cat videos)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 5, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpeas

In the morning, I like to read through my blog roll. Rob and I read different blogs, so we often share fun links with each other.

I might share interesting recipes with Rob (beer-soaked fries, anyone?), whereas Rob might share interesting news. Real new like we’re losing the penny. Where was I last year when they decided that? Or not so important (but still real) news like the Toronto IKEA monkey that made front page news around Christmas (that I otherwise missed). Or the software developer who outsourced his own job to China. I think my favourite part of the detective work was documenting that he spent hours watching cat videos.

It is true: we love cat videos, too. Like this one, this one and this one. Oh, and this oldie but goodie. I liked those better than the World’s Best Cat Video, although it was still pretty cute. The top 30 cats of 2012 had some of our favourites, too, including grumpy cat! (With a special nod to #5, cat alarm cat).

OK, OK, I know I should be studying. :P

I have been keeping things simple in the kitchen like this easy spaghetti squash stir fry with Brussels sprouts and chickpeas. Once you’ve roasted the squash, it comes together pretty simply. An Italian spiced dish with basil lightened with lemon juice, that is really more than the sum of its parts. It has been a while since I’ve cooked with spaghetti squash. My first venture was less than stellar and it took me a while to regain my confidence. Once you get past the notion it is pasta (it isn’t), you can enjoy it as a noodly-shaped squash. Actually, if you haven’t yet watched it separate into the thin spaghetti strands, you are in for a treat. A neat trick from nature. This dish was also nice as leftovers.. booyah!

So, do you enjoy cat videos, too? Any favourites?

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for noodles, to this month‘s Credit Crunch Munch and this month‘s Simple and In Season.

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