the taste space

Greek Stewed Swiss Chard With Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 25, 2012

If you can’t tell, I am all about the greens. Any kind of vegetable, bring it on [except celery]. I still buy leafy greens even if my garden is growing kale and collards. Especially when they are 2 HUGE bunches for $1. When I mean huge, I decided to do the weight test. Each bunch clocked in at 2 lbs. That’s the equivalent of 4 bunches for $1. Booyah! Surprise sales. That’s when I get in trouble. What the heck to do with all the greens?

I now have the perfect solution. You have to cook them down into creamy silkiness. This way the greens wilt down and you can munch through a bunch in no time. My Green Soup with Ginger with both Swiss chard and spinach almost called me back, but I decided to try a dish with more sustenance. Last time, I added quinoa to the Coconut-Braised Collards and this time, I continued with the Greek theme and added Christmas Lima beans (any large white bean would work) to my stewed greens.  The gentle, slow simmer allows the tomatoes to cook down, conferring sweetness and creaminess, while the paprika, mint and dill infuse an extra flavour dimension. This is how you eat your greens, my friends. Lots of them. :)

(If only I could do the same thing with lettuce!)

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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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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Raw Strawberry Cream Tart

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 12, 2012

I am making babies.

(It is true that Rob and I recently celebrated our “common law” status after a year of living together, but I am not talking about our eventual (not now) cute kids)

I am talking about squash babies!

It looks like my hand pollination of the kabocha squash was successful, with at least 2, maybe 3 baby squashes rapidly ballooning in size. This kabocha squash business is actually very high maintenance. Not only do I water them twice a day, I now inspect the blossoms to scout out the females. I am not leaving anything to chance and work my magic before the bees come a-buzzin. Seems to be working so far!

Just late last week, Melissa Clark at the New York Times had a post (and video) about eating squash blossoms. The best part? They weren’t deep-fried! Her recipe was for a simple cheese and tapenade filling that used the blossoms as a wrap. While Rob and I nibbled on a few male blossoms this weekend, we’ll have to see how I incorporate them into a bona fide meal. Somehow, I feel like it is more about the filling then the wrap, since it just tasted like a sweet veggie wrap!

I seem to be late with all my strawberry loving this year, but the strawberries keep coming! Looks like the second round might be knocking.

This, however, was my birthday cake from my brunch. I was inspired by Lisa’s raw strawberry tart, not only because it was topped by loads of strawberries, but also because the cream of the tart wasn’t based entirely on cashews. Instead, a frozen banana is whipped inside to create a creamy, looser filling, of which strawberries are nestled overtop. Although it seemed like just a simple garnish, the fresh mint and grated coconut added the extra dimension to make this a special cake. Because this tart is made with frozen banana, it is best eaten fresh. I swear the base was a more creamy yellow a few hours before I took the photos but I had problems with oxidation again! Arg! ;)

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anca, Healthy Vegan Friday and to this week’s Wellness Weekend.

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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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Thai Kelp Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on June 15, 2012

I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.

Now I want a mamey tree.

I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.

I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.

I think I lost track of everything I tried.

From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).

Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.

I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.

My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat! ;)

In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.

Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.

Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala (Vegan, Baked)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 23, 2012

I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.

Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version.  While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.

While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away. :(

Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!

When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy.  While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.

While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. ;) Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.

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

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Iraqi Pomegranate Stew (Shorbat Rumman)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 10, 2012

I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.

When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).

It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.

Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.

Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.

Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia.  Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.

Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).

I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.

Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.

I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).

The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.

This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.

So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.

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Roasted Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnuts and Mint

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 8, 2012

I loved hearing how you decide to share your blog with your friends and co-workers after my last post. As Joanne said, sometimes there are clues that a blog may be lurking in the background, or at least a true love of cooking. Rarely repeated lunches, guilty as charged. Beyond that, I try not to share my profound love of beans with just anyone.  I don’t want to be perceived as preachy once I start talking about my food choices (no meat, dairy, fish, refined flours, refined sugars, white rice and potatoes, etc). You know you are my friend when I discuss the virtues of lentils over chickpeas. Although walking into my kitchen, with its rows of dried beans are a quick giveaway. If you make it up into my study, then my collection of cookbooks is a dead giveaway that I love to cook.

I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. Recently, I won a subscription to Eat Your Books, a website that indexes cookbook recipes for easier searching. Sadly, my most loved cookbooks (namely my vegan faves) have not yet been indexed (the scourge of Tess’ cookbooks being not-so-mainstream). However, this allows me to check out some of my other cookbooks, that I would not have pulled off the shelf simply because they are not vegan. The best recipes are those that are accidentally vegan. They aren’t trying to be something meaty.

I recently made a delicious celeriac and white bean puree from Terry’s new cookbook. I know her cookbook will get lambasted for using the most isoteric ingredients, but I love it because my kitchen is stocked with all things isoteric and I have bought even more pantry items! I also push myself to try new vegetables. Despite hating celery, I scoped out celeriac, also known as celery root. Sunny’s for the win, after the St Lawrence Market was out that week. And yes, it is now my newest favourite root vegetable. An underdog if you ever looked at it; it is a white/grey/dirty thing all gnarled up in roots. But as a non-starchy vegetable root (not part of the cruciferous gang, sadly), it tastes like a cross between a potato and has the nice parts of celery: a sweet, yet subtle earthy celery taste. It tastes a bit nutty with hints of lemon, too.

So, when I was left with half a celeriac, I turned to Eat Your Books. I found an intriguing celeriac schnitzel in my German cookbook (here‘s Bittman’s version), lots of mashes, a lot of soups, some slaws and salads. I will have to get more celeriac to try all the recipes! However, this time I was drawn to a vegan-friendly lentil salad with celeriac from Ottlenghi’s Plenty (similar recipe here).

Of course, I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the celeriac, I opted to roast it. I also decreased the dressing, making it less oily and I tried to play up the hazelnut flavour by pairing the hazelnut oil with a mild rice vinegar (it would be interesting to try this with a balsamic, me thinks). However, the majority of the hazelnut taste came from the roasted hazelnuts, instead. I liked the juxtaposition of warming hazelnut with the roasted celeriac, earthy lentils and bright mint. It is a nice, unassuming salad and a great way to introduce someone to celeriac.

This is being submitted to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring Heart Healthy Meals.

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Chocolate Mint Black Bean Cookies and Mexican Chocolate Spiced Black Bean Cookies with Cherries

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on December 13, 2011

Now for the cookies you’ve been waiting patiently for

What’s your definition of a healthy dessert? Of a healthy cookie? Two years ago, I thought my (oh so gorgeous) apple banana cake was healthy because it had no oil or butter. Except, as a sweetener, it had sugar and honey in addition to the bananas. It used white flour.

Preferring whole unprocessed foods, I have currently shunned refined flours and sugars. It is not that I don’t enjoy my sweets. I do. In moderation. I just want to have some nutrients packaged with it, too. A healthier option. I simply adore raw desserts, but often they are nut-based or sport a heavy dose of agave or coconut oil/butter.

You can imagine how giddy I was when I first saw this recipe for a chocolate cookie made with black beans without any grains or nuts. No refined sugars, either. The giddiness was mostly because these cookies were made with BLACK BEANS! Sarah had a chocolate chili cherry recipe but I decided to hedge my bets and split the dough for two versions: Mint Chocolate and a Mexican Chocolate Spiced version with Dried Cherries, modeled after my Spiced Brownies.

Trust me, no one will know these cookies are filled with beans. It is really unfair to quiz your guests about the secret ingredient because they taste like delicious cookies, beans or no beans. These are not fudgy cookies, but more dense than the airy banana-based cookies. A moist, fluffy cookie filled with chocolate. The chocolate mint version marries the quintessential holiday favourite flavours. You can’t go wrong with peppermint and chocolate.

For round two, the Mayan-Spiced cookies have a whiff of savoury spices including cinnamon, cardamom and smoked paprika with a bit of a zip from the chili flakes. I might try increasing the spices next round because they weren’t too dominant. The dried cherries offered a nice contrast to the dark chocolate.

What will round 3 entail? You tell me! I will have to whip up another batch if I want eat them over the holidays. ;) Or maybe I will venture to finally try other bean-based desserts.

Other bean-based vegan desserts:

Black Bean Brownies from Patty Cake
Low Fat Black Bean Brownies from Happy Herbivore
Chocolate Chickpea Blondies from Delicious Vitality
Marathon Cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bean Balls from Purple Bird Blog
Butter Bean Cookies from Happy Herbivore
Black Bean Fudge from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Chocolate Bean Butter from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Faux Date Squares from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Dessert Hummus from Never (home) Maker
Black Bean Cookie Dough Hummus from What Runs Lori

This is being submitted to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this week’s Healthy Dessert Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Cookie Blog Hop.
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Bombay Hummus

Posted in Appetizers, Sides by Janet M on October 24, 2011

Sorry for keeping you all in suspense about Iceland.

I haven’t even gone through all (6000!) photos Rob and I took while we were away. Suffice it to say, we absolutely adored our trip and a week wasn’t nearly enough time to do everything. We packed it all in though.

We went horseback riding with Icelandic horses into the countryside, were mesmerized by numerous waterfalls, eagerly awaited the next spurt from the geyser, hiked between the separating North American-European tectonic plates, attempted to hike up a volcano (yes, THAT volcano) but instead ended up in a magical land possibly filled with elves. We hiked up other hills, treated by natural hot springs at the top. We touched a glacier and then had fun watching where icebergs merged together before heading out to sea. We visited a lava tube, more lava fields and even a pseudo crater. The windy south-west peninsula brought us to steep black cliffs, isolated lighthouses and beaches.

Everyone is amazed that I managed to keep up with my vegan eats while in Iceland. It was actually quite easy, since our hotel had a fabulous breakfast buffet and it was right next to a glorious restaurant, Glo. Each day, Glo has 3 main meals: one raw, one vegan/vegetarian and one meat. You get to pick another 3 salads to complete your meal… along with as much hummus as you want.

Suffice it to say, Rob and I ate a lot of hummus while we were away. Not only because their hummus was incredible, but also because we brought our own. Security made us check it into our luggage (apparently hummus = paste and cannot go through security), but it makes for a very portable snack while travelling.

I made two batches of hummus before we left. This was Rob’s favourite. Adapted from Rebar (also posted here), it adds a unique twist to traditional hummus, using cashews and chickpeas as a creamy base, spiced with ginger, cumin, coriander, cilantro, mint and lime. Use it as a dip for fresh veggies, or roll into into your next Swiss chard wrap.

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne from Cafe Lynnylu.

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Roasted Golden Beet and Lentil Salad with Mint and Cilantro

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on October 21, 2011


If you need a spooktacularly healthy salad, filled with Hallowe’en colours to boot, look no further. ;)

For family gatherings, I find it less stressful for everyone if I bring my own food.

On one hand, I get to eat what I want, and on the other hand, I don’t have to worry about rattling off my long list of things I won’t eat and having someone else stress about what to feed me. For me, it comes naturally. For others, it isn’t as easy and can be quite a challenge to think beyond the meat and potatoes.

Rob and I ended up in Woodstock twice this month, and this is what I brought to the BBQ. I tried to keep my salad on the tamer side, with familiar ingredients and flavours, all the while introducing something new for the crowd, like black beluga lentils. Turns out golden beets were new, too.

Beets can be controversial. Love them or hate them. Personally, I like beets and really enjoy them after they’ve been roasted. Golden beets have a more mild, sweeter flavour, so I jumped with glee when I found them on sale (2 large bunches for $1.50! Surprisingly, no, this wasn’t at Sunny’s, just at a local grocer up the street.).  I figured the only place I could safely bring a beet salad would be to a Polish crowd.

Adapted from Whole Living, this salad is quite simple. Lentils and beets. Ginger, mint, coriander and cilantro. OK, the ingredient list sounds long but it all worked seamlessly together. Nothing was overpowering. Everything worked well.

While nearly all the salads were polished off at my Mom’s party (trust me, I was not-so-secretly cheering that more meat was leftover than salads!), I can’t say the same for the Polish crowd. They love their meats and sweets. :P That meant I had 2 more meals from my salad when I returned to Toronto… not too bad, if you ask me!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for this week’s Magazine Mondays.

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Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on October 12, 2011


Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.

I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).

What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?

First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.

You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer…. ;)

Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.

But today.. what am I enjoying today?

These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.

Next month? Only time will tell….

This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.

Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.

I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!

Drink up!

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

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Chickpeas and Chana dal Cooked Together in a Tamarind-Mint Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 11, 2011

One of the reasons I have a lot more recipes to share these days is that Rob eats more than me.  Boys need their food. That means that when we cook for each other, I need to make enough that will last us both in the leftover department.

Rob cooks for me as well, and sometimes I not-so-casually suggest recipes that we might both enjoy. A few key ingredients make Rob’s belly rumble…. tamarind, coconut, broccoli (not raw), tempeh, mango and pineapple, to name a few… If it is anything Indian or Thai, Rob will also most likely enjoy it.

I had initially bookmarked this minty-tamarind chickpea dal when I spotted it on Joanne’s blog because I was looking for Indian food for those who don’t like curries.  It is originally from World Vegetarian, with the original recipe posted here. With our bountiful herbs, including a few gigantic mint plants, I figured this would a great recipe to try, especially since I had chana dal. However, split yellow peas could also be used.

But instead of making it myself, I suggested Rob give it a go since he felt out of the kitchen loop this week. It had been on my menu for a few weeks, but it had gotten the shaft to non-Indian meals instead. I knew Rob wouldn’t shun it that long.

The delightful part, though, is that Rob made this for himself. He doesn’t like mint in savoury dishes, so he only used half a cup of fresh mint. I would have used the whole cup. He also used 3 (deseeded) volcanic peppers from our garden. I would have substituted Aleppo chili flakes. Rob halved the oil, which I would have done, too (youpee!).

I came home after a long car ride from Ottawa, famished, and this was cooling on the stove. I dug in before Rob had even tasted it. I was warned about the chili peppers, but I plunged in anyhow. It was love at first bite.

This was a creamy, sweet/tart, slightly zippy chickpea dish. You could barely taste the mint but it was lovely with the tanginess from the tamarind.

And those chilis? Without the seeds, there was a zip but it wasn’t overtly spicy. It was a cleaner spice, more penetrant. Aleppo is usually more smoky and sultry. I could handle it. Now I know I can am not such a chili wimp after all.

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

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Sea Weeds and Greens Salad (aka Kelp Noodles with Wakame and Radish Sprouts)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on September 19, 2011

Sometimes my friends know me better than myself.

What did I want for my birthday, I was asked.

Nothing! Your company is all that I ask for… honestly!

(Except I did leave heavy hints for Rob that I wanted a spiralizer – which is awesome, by the way. And that Vitamix is heavenly. Dude, I am spoiled.)

My friends rarely listen to me, though.

One of my friends, knowing my love of healthy food, specifically with my pea shoot infatuation, gifted me with some radish shoots.

They are some spicy shoots, let me tell you! Pea shoots are sweet and mild, but these are feisty. They taste like radish, which to me, is spicy. While you could throw them into any salad, I somehow stumbled upon a recipe that highlighted their spiciness in all the right ways.

Found in Plenty, I modified Ottolenghi’s Soba Noodles with Wakame, to try out kelp noodles.  While it is brimming with a long ingredient list, including such isoteric items like wakame (and now kelp noodles), the pack-rat that I am, I had everything I needed.  Except a second cucumber because two cucumbers seemed like a bit of cucumber overload. However, after the cucumber rested, wilted, and lost its moisture, it condensed to a small mass. I compensated by adding shredded kohlrabi. The mint and cilantro were courtesy of my garden.

Just as Rob became cranky as he prepared The New Best Salad Ever, I gradually became cranky as I made this… because I had to destem my wakame! This was such a tedious process, and since I used the entire bag of alaria (a common wakame substitute), I had a lot of destemming to do! Part of my uneasiness was that I was using such uncommon, wacky ingredients that I had no clue how this would turn out. Was it worth the half hour of wakame destemming?

By golly geeze, a resounding yes! This salad had me giggling all night with its sheer deliciousness. It was light and bright from the lime, sweet but now overpoweringly so, sea-like with saltiness from the wakame, yet with an undertone of spiciness from the chili flakes and radish shoots. The cucumber and kohlrabi meld well with the slightly crunchy kelp noodles to highlight the sauce.

Sometimes I wonder if my palate is changing, definitely less mainstream meat and potatoes, but this recipe from Ottolenghi is a keeper. Soba noodles would be wonderful here as well, as he originally suggested.


This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Tandy of Lavender & Lime and to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring Scintillating Salads.

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Bulgur and Cantaloupe Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by Janet M on July 15, 2011


Rob has the privilege of having a nice breakfast supplied at work.  Each morning, the offerings vary from pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausages, croissants, danishes, muffins, oatmeal, muesli, yogurt, fruit salad, dried fruit and nuts. He complains about the breakfast, though, and shuns most of the menu.  Sub-par baked goods and homemade oatmeal that tastes better, he usually opts for the fruit salad with yogurt and dried fruits and nuts. But even then, he complains about the fruit salad. Too much filler, like honeydew and cantaloupe, where is mango? He wants more pineapple, strawberries and blueberries. Add some papaya, while you’re at it. Apple and pear, too. He wants ginger.

Yes, I am typing this up verbatim as he tells me all his breakfast fruit salad desires.

He has been dubbed a food snob by his co-workers. Rightfully so, if I may add.

To be honest, I felt quite liberated when I stopped eating from the (rare) free lunches provided at work. But if fresh fruit or a nice salad is available, I will gladly snack on that.

Melons don’t tend to get the respect they deserve. After biking, sometimes all I wanted was a big piece of watermelon. And while Rob prefers cantaloupe over honeydew (both “filler” fruit), I prefer the reverse.  On the fruit echelon, berries rank high for me, but variety is important as well.

Cantaloupe very rarely gets paired with anything… a loner, or sometimes with honeydew. Hidden within a fruit salad, it can go unnoticed. Or shunned when it takes centre stage. I enjoy combining fruit into savoury dishes, and my curiosity was piqued when some friends recommended the bulgur and cantaloupe salad in Supermarket Vegan.

Here, we have a seemingly simple salad but the citrus-spiked bulgur salad works incredibly well with the cantaloupe. As with any salad, quality ingredients make this jump to the next level.

First the cantaloupe. I increased the ratio of cantaloupe-to-bulgur ratio, opting to use an entire small cantaloupe for the salad. Choose a firm not overripe cantaloupe for best results.  Next, fresh orange juice is key and I squished 2 Navel oranges to reconstitute the little nuts of bulgur goodness. The original recipe suggested a fine-grain bulgur but I used medium-grain which was perfect. I swapped the herbs around, opting for more fresh mint than parsley, and felt that both had a roll in the flavourful salad. For my nut of choice, I went with hazelnuts that I had unearthed during our move. Again, who would have thought it would work so well? I ended up adding cooked chickpeas to the leftover salad to turn it into a main meal and it was equally delicious.

Heck, who would have thought this whole salad would taste so good? Cantaloupe, you are definitely an unsung hero.


This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s Healing Foods featuring whole grains, to this month’s Simple and in Season and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.

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