the taste space

Rosemary Mushroom Risotto

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on March 24, 2013

Do you ever reminisce about the glory days?

Back when I could juggle everything. Back when I didn’t have to crack down on studying?

I never seem to have enough time these days. I can’t study the way I used to. It is harder now.

I feel more liberated in the kitchen, though, with help from Rob and a wealth of favourite recipes. A choice of dressing and 1 or 2 other dishes makes my weekly cooking complete.

While I have moved my herbs indoors over the winter (and most of them died, boo), I never really felt like I had enough thyme this summer, either. My grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic and thyme were a common sighting at barbecues and many of my dishes use thyme (lemon-kissed tomato barley risotto, tomato-pomegranate vinaigrette, etc). My piddly thyme plant was nearly always being scavenged.

I thought I planned for success in the rosemary department, because I have 3 plants. But I never seem to have enough rosemary, either! One batch of Rosemary Pistachio Hummus, and my plants are wiped clean.   A month later, I may try again. Thankfully this week, I had enough to make this rosemary mushroom risotto. Another great dish from Tess.

An uber simple dish, this is a creamy brown rice side speckled with oyster mushrooms focusing on a strong garlic-rosemary flavour. How easy is this? Toss everything into a pot. Don’t worry about the mushrooms if they aren’t pre-sliced, add them in 10 minutes later, no problem. While the rice is boiling, pluck your rosemary and have it ready for when the rice is finished. {Or if you are like me, you can make a whole other quickie-meal while waiting for the brown rice to cook!}

Cooking the rice in almond milk makes this creamy but using the seasoning makes this still taste like it was boiled in a flavourful vegetable broth. I didn’t feel like it needed more than 1 tbsp of oil, but Tess suggests adding more. This isn’t your typical risotto, as the rice still had a bit of bite (which I enjoyed for texture), but certainly a heck of a lot easier and a lot healthier without any cheese or butter.

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space 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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Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 10, 2013

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Rob is gone this week.

To a work conference.

His dilemma yesterday was whether to go a talk from Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee (he invented the web browser), or Neil Gaiman (a fantastic author according to Rob). All 3 happening at the same time. Rob had to clue me in on the last two since I have only heard of Al Gore. ;) (In the end, he chose Al Gore’s talk about The Future). Today he is going to try to track down Grumpy Cat. In the flesh. She is here, too. :)

As I’ve shared before, Rob is the king of hot meals on the weekend. His specialties are tofu scramble, arepas and besan chilla. But this weekend, alone with some tofu and veggies, I pulled them all out for a hot lunch and made myself some scramble.

While it seems like the majority of recipes (even Isa’s) call specifically for extra-firm tofu, this time I opted for Chinese-style soft tofu. Turns out this specific tofu is made so close to where we live, too. I wonder if I can get a walk-in discount? ;)

tofu superior co. toronto

I’ve used soft tofu in a scramble before and now I prefer it to the extra-firm. Who wants a dry scramble? Who wants to wait for their tofu to be pressed? Not me! I want mine fluffy, flavourful and filled with veggies. This scramble certainly fit the bill: spiced with cumin and curry powder, the assorted vegetables played a roll in the colourful plate. Since Rob was not here to make arepas as a side, I just ate the whole thing. Delicious!

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Rob likes to update me on his foodie finds while away: yesterday’s lunch was jicama slaw with captain-crunch-encrusted chicken strips in a bacon waffle cone and a trip to the flagship Whole Foods store. After he sees this, I think he’ll want some of this curried tofu scramble when he returns, though. :)

Long-term vegans are probably well-versed in their tofu scramble preferences. Do you like firm or soft tofu in your scramble?

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

This is my submission to this month’s One Ingredient Challenge for chilies and Breakfast Club for local eats.

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Simple Ayurvedic Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space 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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Roasted Vegetable Ribollita

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on March 5, 2013

I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.

Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious? :)

I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.

This one was a big win!

Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.

Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.

This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread.  Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.

Which soups are warming your belly this winter?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Random Recipe.

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

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space 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 @ the taste space 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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Beefy Portobello Mushroom and Cranberry Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 24, 2013

I have been searching for a hearty, meaty (yet vegan), filling stew.

I had early success with mushroom bourguignon, but wanted something lighter, with less oil and flour. I tried recipe after recipe, without avail. Beet bourguignon did not satisfy. Beans bourguignon from 1000 Vegan Recipes was ok but not quite up to my high standards. Seitan-less Burgundy Stew with Parsnips from Big Vegan was not my favourite either. I almost gave up…

And then this treat popped out of nowhere.

After my success with baked (fresh) cranberries in the stuffed carnival squashes and roasted balsamic curry fall vegetables, I began exploring other savoury ideas for fresh (or frozen) cranberries. I stumbled upon Bryanna’s Mushroom and Cranberry Stew and was immediately intrigued. I don’t normally cook with TVP but had picked up some large chunk TVP at some point. Might as well use it and clear out the pantry, I mused.

I hadn’t really thought this was a bourguignon. However, it has a lot of similar flavours: red wine and sherry, carrots, thyme, mushrooms. No tomatoes, though and no need to use a thickener. TVP was used as a meat mimicker, texture only. I think a large bean could substitute if you are averse to TVP. The real beefy flavour came from Marmite. A yeasty, salty spread that Kiwis adore. The lovely twist in this recipe came from the fresh cranberries. Pleasantly tart, not sweet, but complemented the beefy stew incredibly well.

I will happily curl up with a bowl of this over the winter months.

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

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Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 22, 2013

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I reflect on where I have been and I wonder how I managed to pull through. How did I manage to survive 4 years of medical school? Nearly 5 years of residency? Cycle between Ottawa and Kingston and back again? In the thick of it: I don’t think, I just perform.

During medical school, for the first two years, I routinely had lectures from 8am to 5pm every day, interspersed with small group sessions, anatomy labs and clinical skills workshops.  Even when I go to conferences, I don’t subject myself to 9 hours of lectures in a day. It is just nuts. However, this weekend I sat through 3 days of intense review-type lectures. Rapid fast compressed learning, except it was more of a reminder of things I already knew. However, after 10 hours of lectures on Saturday, and a lengthy 3 hour drive home (thank you Toronto traffic), I was positively pooped. The next day, too. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook… it was that bad. I ended up sleeping at 8pm. ;)

Meals stashed in the freezer are a definite boon these days. However, I find cooking therapeutic. A way to destress as I chop and julienne vegetables, stirring patiently as I saute onions or peacefully munch through the leftovers.

When I finally made it back into the kitchen, instead of reinventing the wheel, I revamped an old favourite. This is a variation of my Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry. Same flavours, mostly different vegetables. Turns out the original recipe called for winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. My first incarnation included parsnips, carrots, green beans, oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard; basically the odds and ends in my fridge. This time, I included thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, carrots and parsnips: the current odds and ends in my fridge. The hardest part is chopping all the vegetables, but a quick saute in the wok yields a flavourful meal from the Chinese five spice. I use kelp noodles, which I like in Asian stir fries, but feel free to use your favourite noodle. Gena recently wrote a great post all about kelp noodles if you have yet to try them. I am already imagining my next incarnation, likely including edamame. :)

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry, Take 2

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

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Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on January 10, 2013

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Imagine my shock when Rob called me from the grocery store to tell me they were out of broccoli. It wasn’t even a weekly special. No broccoli in the entire store. I thought new year’s meant more carrots, but maybe it really means broccoli? ;)

In any case, have no fear, I switched recipes and ended up clipping off the last of my garden kale. Yes, there has been snow here for over 2 weeks and yes, hidden underneath the snowy blanket, my kale is still alive and kicking. More power to the kale! (The broccoli dish will have to wait)

Black eyed peas are certainly not just for the new year, but I was drawn to this black eyed pea and kale stew through Random Recipes. This month’s challenge was to randomly select a recipe from a cookbook from someone else’s library. I decided to tackle this electronically. When I saw Ali was gifted Superfood Kitchen I tried to borrow it from the library, but it hasn’t been received yet. In that moment, I decided that the first recipe I found online from the cookbook would be my “random recipe” and I found it here: Kale and Black Eyed Pea Stew.  I like that Julie has incorporated more common “superfoods” into her cookbook, like leafy greens and legumes, which can be seen in this recipe.

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

This is no ordinary bean and green stew. Along with black eyed peas and kale, there is red pepper as well as my addition of oyster mushrooms. It is a European spice mash-up with oregano and thyme as well as smoked paprika and Ancho chile powder. I was scared to use a full tablespoon of smoked paprika, but feel free to use more because this was not spicy. I ended up adding liquid smoke at the end for a further depth of flavour. But oh, this alone would still be a great chili-like stew, but this it is not. A special twist comes form the addition of ground wakame. A little goes a long way and makes this a unique stew. It brings a certain seaweedy-ness to the stew. By the way, a few notes about my version: I used dried herbs in this recipe because I don’t usually use fresh herbs for a long simmer (they turn to mush, so maybe remove them as a bouquet garni). As well, the recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked black eyed peas but I am fairly confident this dish could be made more simply by cooking dried black eyed peas with the soup broth (which I have not tried but noted in the recipe below).

As you may have noticed, I am still on my smoked paprika kick. Here are other recipes I have bookmarked:

Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Sneaky Collards
at Serious Eats
Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas in River Cottage Veg Every Day
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach Stew with Ginger at I don’t know, what do YOU want to eat?
Smoky Red Lentil Stew by Sprouted Kitchen
Smoky Paprika Baked Beans by The Spade & Spoon
Spiced Red Lentils by Ottolenghi
Pumpkin Chili by Never Homemaker
French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika in Let Them Eat Vegan!
Easy New Orleans Red Beans and Rice by Fat Free Vegan
“1 Million” Veggies Lentil Stew by Chocolate Covered Katie
My other recipes with smoked paprika are here

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

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

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Kasha with Sauteed Mushrooms and Dill

Posted in Salads, Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 27, 2012

In a typical day, I try to eat a combination of vegetables, beans and whole grains. While steel cut oats are my typical breakfast, I will often add whole grains to some of my other meals.

There are many whole grains: brown rice, wheat berries, spelt berries, bulgur, oats, rye, barley, millet, kamut, and teff, oh my! Despite what the name may imply, buckwheat is in the same family as sorrel and rhubarb. It is not even a wheat. Buckwheat, quinoa (my favourite), amaranth and wild rice are considered pseudograins because they are seeds (not grains). They also happen to contain more protein than grains and are all gluten-free.

They all taste different. Not all of them will appeal to everyone.

Of all the grains/pseudograins, I think kasha gets the most haters. Kasha is simply toasted buckwheat, but seems to have an acquired taste.

When I first cooked it, I hated it too. I added too much water (1:3 ratio) and it became a literal soggy mess. It took me two years to try again. I tried a different strategy. Next, I baked it first, and cooked it in a 1:2 ratio which was 100x better. The cooked kernels were soft but some partially opened. When I included it in a multigrain oatmeal with quinoa, I liked it, too. So when Rob’s Mom offered me some kasha for breakfast, I didn’t hesitate. I hesitated when I saw what she was doing though. Instead of boiling kasha in water, she pulled out a funny-looking instant boil-in-a-bag Polish package. It made the most glorious kasha, though. Plump, yet firm, the kasha had a nice nutty flavour with a perfect texture. Rob’s mom gave us some to take home with us but when we stopped off at the Polish store on the way home, I found out it actually wasn’t any more expensive than when I buy it in bulk. I don’t know what that bag does, but it is magical.

When people say they don’t like an ingredient, I always think maybe they just haven’t met the right version yet. (I will even concede while I detest celery, you can get me to eat raw celery if you remove the strings and I will eat a soup with celery in the mirepoix; while I hate the flavour of coffee, I will eat something with mocha if it is a faint wisp within a chocolate dessert; and I like tarragon and fennel, when I don’t like licorice).

So, if you don’t think you like kasha, try this first. Amuse me. Then tell me what you think.

However, I will need to walk you through it… unless you know Polish. Without Rob, I knew I had to boil it for 15-20 minutes. Rob helped by telling me I had to salt the water and keep the pot covered as it simmered. After 15-20 minutes, you open the package and have lovely, fluffy kasha. Rinse in cold water before you open the package.

To flavour this dish, I adapted the recipe in Appetite for Reduction for Sauteed Kasha and Mushrooms with Dill, a pasta-less version of Kasha Varnishkes. The fluffy kasha is combined with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Lots of black pepper and dill make this dish flavourful, despite it looking so bland on paper.

The tricky part will be locating the boil-in-a-bag kasha. Go to your European grocer. For those in Toronto, you can find it at Euromax in Milton, Starsky’s in Mississauga and possibly Benna’s on Roncesvalles (I haven’t checked the latter myself). In Woodstock, you can buy it from this European Meat and Deli.

Does anyone have a way to make kasha taste like this without the package? Did I miss the cooking kasha 101 memo?

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

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Nut-Free Raw Lasagna

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 30, 2012

The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.

One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.

However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.

Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case.  I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!

No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.

Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.

A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!

This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.

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Grilled Chili-Lime Vegetable Lentil Fajitas

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 27, 2012

Have spices, will travel.

I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.

I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.

But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!

A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.

I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.

Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!

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

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Pizza Bella (Raw Portobello Pizza)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 9, 2012

Are you tired of wraps and salads but still want to pack in your veggies?

Enter Pizza Bella: a raw portobello mushroom pizza.

Since our move, Rob and I have lost easy access to a barbecue but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying portobello mushrooms. I still adore grilled portobello bliss but variety is the spice of life. With my leftover cocktail sauce from the Raw King Oyster “Calamari”, I knew I wanted to use it towards pizza on a fungi.

In fact, my idea for this came from my visit to Houston, where I had a similar meal from Pat Greer’s Kitchen (see Ashley’s Pizza Bella review here). Everyone keeps reminding me that Houston is America’s fattest city and they only eat meat. I protest, you can find healthy take-away foods, even in Houston: you just need to know where to look. When I had my interview in Houston, I wasn’t able to visit the store front of Pat Greer’s Kitchen, but with advance ordering, she was able to deliver her foods to a nearby My Fit Foods store.  With a few fresh, raw meals now packed in my hotel mini-fridge, I was all set to bring my A game for my marathon of interviews.

Pat’s Pizza Bella: made with breath, love, and portabella mushroom, and organic: sunflower seeds, cashews, carrots, zucchini, wild kalamata olives, local tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano, tahini, garlic powder, and sea salt

What I was most impressed at was that the mushroom seemed to be raw. I wasn’t even sure it was marinaded, but as a raw mushroom, it kept its shape well while holding a nice tomato sauce, a sunflower-cashew cheese, topped with spiralized zucchini, olives and carrots.

For my version, I opted to marinate the mushroom in a touch of apple cider vinegar to soften it slightly as I prepped my sauces. My tomato sauce was ready-to-go but now I had to decide on a cheese flavour. In the end, I went with Gena’s Italian cashew cheese flavoured with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. I made it with my food processor, instead of my Vitamix, hoping to get a more cheese-like consistency, but it still was no match to real ricotta cheese. It still tasted great, though, and worked really well with the contrast from the lemon-tomato sauce.  I like the shredded zucchini and olives from Pat’s version, so I included that, along with a mound of sprouts as toppings.

I ran out of mushrooms, so I ended up freezing the extra cashew cheese in ice cube trays, so I can pop them out whenever I want a single serving of pizza cheese (thanks for the tip, Zoa!). This set of ingredients would also work well in a collard wrap, or overtop zucchini noodles.

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Susan, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for mushrooms, and to this week’s Raw Thursdays.

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Creamy Thai Cilantro Ginger Sauce (for Thai Shiitake-Basil Spring Rolls and Sexy Saucy Noodles)

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on July 27, 2012

Cilantro, you either love it or hate it.

As you may have figured out, I am in the cilantro-loving camp.

On the theme of delicious sauces, this one is definitely a keeper. I shouldn’t have doubted it for a second, as it comes courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution.

Originally, I made a half recipe. Trust me, I was kicking myself. I slurped up nearly a quarter of the sauce just “sampling it” with some crackers, it was that good. I had to make it again, it was that awesome!

Cilantro is the major flavour in the sauce, with hits from the ginger, garlic, basil and fresh lime juice.  The peanut butter and light coconut milk make this a creamy sauce which balances the bold flavours nicely.

So, what to do with it once you’ve licked your fingers clean a few hundred times? Textured crackers work well, too, although this is more of a sauce than a dip. The sauce would work well overtop vegetables with your favourite grain, too.

To get a bit more fancy, Tess had 2 recipes in her book using this sauce.

The first recipe was for Thai shiitake-basil spring rolls using this as the dip. I ended up making collard wraps with the same filling substituting kelp noodles, drizzling the sauce inside and around the wraps. The fresh herbs and veggies, along with the sauteed shiitakes worked well. The star was definitely the dipping sauce.

The next recipe I loved was the “Sexy Saucy Noodles“. Broccoli, mushrooms and edamame are sauteed in toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Throw in your noodles of choice (I used kelp noodles but soba would work well here) and douse heavily with the sauce. Stir to combine. Garnish with carrots, sprouts, fresh herbs, etc. Delicious. The sauce isn’t as strong, but the flavours are great.

For maximum dip enjoyment: Lick your fingers. :)


This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Thursday, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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