the taste space

Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on November 18, 2014

Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry

And like that, winter arrived. The snow dropped in full force and actually stuck around a bit.

I had a few short weeks for biking. My broken leg meant I was not fit for biking earlier this fall but it was nice while it lasted.

And what is better during the cold weather than a warm bowl of curry?

To keep things simple in the kitchen, I have resorted to remaking some favourites and making twice as much.

Most of my favourites have already been shared  (Tamarind Lentils, Bengali Cauliflower Dal, Creamy Broccoli Dal, and Root Veggie Curry), so it does not surprise me to share yet another easy, delicious and healthy curry. This is one I first discovered while testing/eating through Gena’s fabulous cookbook and has become a staple ever since. Having blog worthy photos also helps keep me more speedy in the kitchen.

So, please, grab yourself a huge sweet potato and make a double batch. It freezes well should you want to save it until a colder day.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry

I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.

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Baba’s Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Meat) by janet @ the taste space on November 11, 2014

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

This post is almost 5 years in the making. Before there were tamale and mustard tasting parties, pierogi parties have been a long tradition.  One reason I became interested in cooking and blogging was to learn and share our family recipes. Hand’s down, my most popular post is How to Make Authentic German Apfelstrudel and I photographed this almost 5 years ago, wanting share our family’s favourite Ukrainian food: perogies.

This is how my family makes perogies. They are not vegan although my Dad said he might try Isa’s vegan recipe next time. I did not know I could be competitive about perogies until I was invited to a perogie party when I first met Rob. As his family is Polish, he was obviously making them differently (most notably his family uses cheese and uses butter and a special pierogi flour). I am partial to our methods and simple recipe and encourage you to follow along.

First you boil your potatoes:

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Fry your bacon. Remove and drain.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Fry your onions.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Mash the potatoes with the bacon and onions. The filling can be then set aside until needed.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

The dough is a simple combination of flour, eggs, a dash of oil and water. My Dad is adamant that we must roll out each pierogi dough individually, because that was how Baba did it. Rob’s technique is to roll out the entire dough and use a metal can (as a cookie cutter) for identical shapes.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

In any case, we rolled them out until very thin.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

And it is ok if they are not perfectly symmetrical

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Put a bit of the potato mixture inside the dough

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Then add some more and centre it.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Stretch the dough so it you can pull it overtop the pierogi.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Pinch the tops so it stays shut.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Work your way on one half

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Until it is sealed on one side, then seal the second half.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Then go over it again to make sure it is completely sealed (exploded perogies are no good)

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

As you make them, place them on a towel and cover with another damp towel so they do not dry out.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

When you get going, you will make a lot. This is what we had made during the second day.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

Fresh perogies are best boiled and served simply with sour cream.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

You can freeze them after boiling them.

Baba's Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies

If you prefer videos, this one is pretty good although slightly different than our technique.

If nothing else, I hope you like the photos of my Dad’s fingers making the perogies. I like the lighting and detail and feel it captures a lot of character.

Are there any family recipes you truly cherish?

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Pasta Arrabiata with Chickpeas and Zucchini Noodles

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on November 8, 2014

Classic Pasta Arrabiata with Chickpeas and Zucchini Noodles

Feel like you missed autumn? Summer went straight into winter? Time flies, and sometimes I feel like I missed the peak season for certain fruits and vegetables. I keep missing peach season although we had a few this year. I also missed prime tomato time, perhaps because I was distracted by summer exams. In any case, have no fear. Canned tomatoes are possibly the best way to make sure you have flavourful tomatoes.

Oddly enough, I first encountered Arrabiata sauce while travelling in South Africa. It was a premade sauce that I added to a can of lentils with delicious results. A bit spicy, a lot tomatoey, it worked well with the hearty lentils. However, by the time I returned to Canada, I figured a pasta sauce deserved some pasta.

Classic Pasta Arrabiata with Chickpeas and Zucchini Noodles

I made a huge batch of Ricki’s Arrabiata sauce and used it in two non-traditional ways: paired with soba noodles and also paired with zucchini noodles with chickpeas and nutritional yeast. I liked both versions although the zucchini noodles remind me more of the summer than soba noodles.

Next time, I think I will puree the sauce and add a bunch of lentils. Topped with nutritional yeast, it was a great meal, too.

Classic Pasta Arrabiata with Chickpeas and Zucchini Noodles

I am sharing this with Pasta Please and Bookmarked Recipes. (more…)

Sweet Potato Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on November 6, 2014

Sweet Potato Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Even for me, this recipe seems a bit long and bothersome. However, I implore to try it out.

Let’s break this recipe down so it is not too daunting. Thankfully, even the sweet potato coconut mash topping could stand-alone on a Thanksgiving spread.

Sweet Potato Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes

First, start with roasting your sweet potatoes. I honestly would have double next time. I would not judge you if the potatoes never made it to the shepherd’s pie.

I started with my favourite recipe for Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Low and Slow) which coaxes and highlights their natural sweetness. I made them the night before so this recipe would work fabulously with leftover roasted sweet potatoes, too. Despite roasting 3 big potatoes, I wanted more volume. I ran out of drinkable non-dairy milks so I grabbed a can of lite coconut milk. Just a touch whipped into the spuds created a silky sweet puree. Inspired by Candle Cafe’s Paradise Casserole’s mash, I added some miso as well. You could stop right here with a delicious side.

Sweet Potato Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Let’s pretend you still want to make the whole shepherd’s pie, though. I used a mix of beans, which along with carrot, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes had a nice texture. Balsamic vinegar and nutritional yeast added a nice depth and if you have red wine, that would work well here, too. I used a pressure cooker for my lentils, overcooking them slightly, but this was a great way to use them. I also slightly overcooked my butter beans (pressure cooker equilibration issues) but the butter beans were a fantastic counterfoil to the smaller bits. They don’t call them butter beans for nothing. Rancho Gordo’s Florida butter beans were silky smooth, almost like butter! :P

I tried to have a good sweet potato-mash to filling ratio, with a decent height with the mash. I chose a smaller but high casserole dish, as opposed to a 9×13″ pan. I think it worked out really well. The sweet potato mash makes this a less traditional shepherd’s pie but since it is vegan, can I really claim any authenticity?

Sweet Potato Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes

I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes and My Legume Love Affair.

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Three Sisters Soup (Black Bean, Corn and Squash Soup)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on October 11, 2014

Three Sisters Soup (Black Bean, Corn and Squash Soup)

Despite what you make believe, I haven’t eaten any winter squash recently. I bought a colourful carnival squash but haven’t made anything with it yet. I have this recipe I made while in Houston. The giveaway? The frozen roasted corn. I can’t say I have seen that since returning to Toronto.

This is a perfect end-of-summer, beginning of fall soup, as the last of the local corn arrives and the first winter squashes arrive. Or perfect for the dead of winter, too, using frozen corn kernels.

Three Sisters Soup (Black Bean, Corn and Squash Soup)

The Three Sisters, referring to the dietary staples of the Mesoamerican diet: corn, beans and squash. They often grow together, each plant benefitted from the others. The lankly corn husks provided a structure for the beans to latch onto. The squash covers the ground, preventing pesky weeds from appearing. And like all beans, they return nitrogen to the soil to help nearby plants. It makes sense that meals would also center around such foods, equally creating a balanced meal. This meal is simple but elevated by choice herbs and spices (cilantro, chiles, smoked paprika, garlic) with a heavy hand of lime juice. I used the full amount in the recipe and even I, the lover of all things tart, found it off-putting. Please start with less and taste as you go.

Three Sisters Soup (Black Bean, Corn and Squash Soup)

The recipe comes from a cookbook I have been meaning to write about for a while, Extraordinary Vegan. I can see Allan is a partial kindred spirit in the kitchen as he realizes a few choice ingredients can elevate meals to become extraordinary. Like I have said, some of my favourite, albeit unusual ingredients, are Aleppo chile flakes, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and miso. These are a few of the ingredients Allan uses to create his meals. I had a few of these in my Houston kitchen, but still piecing together my larger pantry here, and now looking forward to trying other recipes. Many recipes are simple but a few use a few hard to find ingredients. Here are a few other recipes I have spotted around the web from Extraordinary Vegan.

Chocolate Banana Mint Smoothie

A Very Different Butternut Soup

Extraordinary Balsamic Vinaigrette

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Artichoke & Lemon Lentil Salad

Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Pears in Pomegranate Juice

 Are the squashes out in full force in your kitchen yet?

PS. I am sharing this with Shaheen’s Vegetable Palette, My Legume Love Affair and Souper Sundays.

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Creamy High Protein Mushroom Stroganoff

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 20, 2014

Creamy High Protein Mushroom Stroganoff

Do you remember the soba noodle debacle? The time I bought oodles of soba noodles and then proceeded to leave them in the pantry and slowly, slowly eat through them. Yeah, I still have soba noodles and still eating through them. A true hoarder.

However, when the cooking rut continues, I get less picky in the kitchen. I have little energy to refuse the noodles. Plus, they are quick and easy to make. I added the cold leftover sauce to warm noodles and it melted right in. A little green garnish might be nice, too. Consider adding fresh chives, as recommended in the original recipe. Because you know, I would never suggest eating parsley. Yucko.

Creamy High Protein Mushroom Stroganoff

I am sharing this with Random Recipes and Pasta Please for fusion cuisine. (more…)

Brazilian Black Bean and Seitan Stew & Afro Vegan Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on July 1, 2014

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

You know Rob is a keeper when he doesn’t kill you when it is time to pack. And a) you have essentially doubled your cookbook collection while in Houston (although I limited myself to 10 books for my move) and Rob is now packing your heavy books; b) while you should be packing, instead you are cooking the last of the bits in the refrigerator, so I am still net loss worth for packing. And then there’s c) please don’t pack my cookbooks I still want to review!  Eventually I had to give in…. and help pack. And thankful that most books I receive to review come in electronic form.

Especially after making my own e-cookbook, I have grown to appreciate digital books. They have their pros and cons. They are easier to search, but not as fun to read. I miss the ability to curl the pages and find new random recipes. Although they are definitely easier to move. They also allow me to write posts in the airport.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

Afro Vegan is Terry Bryant’s new cookbook. A lover of good food, he has managed to fuse soul comfort food with gourmet twists. His muses vary from Caribbean soul cuisine, Southern US down home cooking and African menus. Pecan cornbread with dukkah? Sweet plantain and Fresh Corn Cakes? Peanut Pumpkin Fritters? Jamaican Patties Stuffed with Maque Choux? Spinach Peanut Sauce? Trust me, it all sounded good to me, I was sad I haven’t had enough time to explore it.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

While a bit more complex than my weeknight meals, there are more simple and more elaborate dishes. Delicious and innovative all-round. I loved, loved, loved my version of his Southern black eyed peas, I shared it before the book was even released to the masses. Now I am sharing another great soup, which I simplified by skipping the dumplings. This black bean stew, inspired by the Brazilian feijoada, is more tomato-heavy than my previous versions, but still nice and hearty and simple enough for an easy meal.

Afro-Vegan book cover

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere (except maybe the moon). To be entered, please leave a comment here, any comment. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Recipes from Afro-Vegan shared elsewhere:

Hominy and Spinach in Tomato-Garlic Broth

All-Green Spring Slaw

Glazed Carrot Salad

Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens

Summer vegetable and tofu kebabs with pomegranate-peach barbecue sauce

Savory Grits with Slow-Cooked Collard Greens

Stewed Tomatoes with Black Eyed Peas with Cornbread Croutons

Texas caviar on grilled rustic bread

Creole-Spiced Plantain Chips

Za’atar Roasted Red Potatoes

Smashed Potatoes, Peas and Corn with Chile-Garlic Oil

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Spring Herbs

Creamed Cashews

Skillet Cornbread with Pecan Dukkah

Ambrosia Ice Pops

Cocoa-spice cake with crystallized ginger and coconut-chocolate ganache

 

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Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 28, 2014

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Perhaps it is fitting that my last post from Houston should be a review for Vegan Finger Foods. It was in Houston, that I found and dived head-first into the “vegan potluck” community. Bounded by a common interest (delicious food), people came from various backgrounds. Some were vegan, others vegetarian, some omnivores, but all were included and encouraged to eat and enjoy the plentiful vegan food.

For me as a cook, it was (mostly) fun to try new recipes or share old favourites. I tend to gravitate to one-pot meals, but now I experimented with appetizers and desserts, knowing there would be plenty of Janet-friendly dishes to sample. As a person, it was comforting to meet others with similar interests, even if only within the realm of veganism. Although especially within the realm of veganism when I first moved to Texas.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Vegan Finger Foods is a fun cookbook, overflowing with ideas for your next gathering. Not only are the recipes suitable for vegan parties and potlucks, they can be mixed and matched for regular main meals at home. There are vegetable-centric bites (think “Bacon” Wrapped Water Chestnuts, Harissa Carrot Zucchini Cups), Finger Foods (think Brewpub Cauliflower Dip and Chips), Dips and Stuffed bites (like Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites with Pantry Raid Ranch and Pulled Jackfruit Mini Tacos), Bread-Based Bites (including Salsa Scuffins) and not forgetting bite-sized desserts (lots of cookies, cupcakes and even Goji Berry Cacao Bites and Tahini Caramel Popcorn).

I appreciate that each dish is a star in itself, even the veggie-centric dishes. I also liked that many dishes are hearty enough to be a main meal (ie, Sweet-and-Sour Sloppy Joes (with tempeh), baked lenteja taquitos (with lentils), baked frittata minis (with tofu) and even a few homemade seitan dishes, including these Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages. No need for company to eat well.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

I tried a few dishes from the cookbook, but this one was my favourite and thankfully helped use up some odds-and-ends lingering in the kitchen. Reminiscent of my previous (vegan) cheese-stuffed sausage, these sausages are stuffed with kimchi. Kimchi is also incorporated into the batter making for a flavourful yet chewy sausage. I found it easier just to serve it with a side of even more kimchi, but I love suggestion to pan-fry it and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Pan-frying would accentuate the flavours even further.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite dish to share at potlucks. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Vegan Finger Foods shared elsewhere:

Vegan Potato Puffs with Tapenade

Kale Cucumber Cups

Rasta Salsa

Corn Fritters with Tomato Thyme Gravy

Baked Jalapeños

Spinach Swirls (with another giveaway, too)

Pull Apart Pesto Bread

Quickie Marinara

Fig and Nut Canapés

Sushi Rice Rolls

Salsa Scuffins (with another giveaway, too)

Better Buckeyes

Other dishes I shared at the vegan potluck this year:

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

Pecan and Cranberry Vegan Cheese Log

Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Tahini Cups with a Sweet Coffee Infused Filling

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Green Pea Curry (Mattar Masala)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 2, 2014

Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)

Rob did some more investigating. He found a program that would figure out if I had any duplicate files irregardless of the name.

WOO!  After three days, my program to find duplicate files on your external hard drive has completed.  It has found at least 172 GB of duplicate files.  We need to clean them up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

His emphasis, not mine.

So apparently, I come with baggage. Electronic baggage.

There used to be a time when I couldn’t fit everything on my hard drive, but once I had 1 Tb on my external hard drive, I haven’t thought much about my space usage.

Rob didn’t appreciate my old school way of culling my photos: copying them into a new folder. Sometimes I had 4-5 copies of the same photo with my disjointed backing up. Now we get to do some culling!

Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)
Rob is doing a great job tackling our leftover food stuffs. This was an absolutely, wonderfully delicious pea curry he made with the peas in the freezer and spices from the pantry. I am not saying that just because Rob made it and everything tastes better when someone else cooks for you, but honestly this was gourmet Indian and made me a pea-lover. I love beans but peas are not as high in my “love list” but this, guys, was incredible.

Creamy with a rich-tomato broth with bright green peas, this was a keeper. Sadly, this curry has a really long ingredient list, which seems almost disjointed and muddy, but have faith. This was delicious and completely worth the effort (and definitely Rob’s effort!).

Do you like peas?

PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.

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New Orleans Corn & Roasted Bell Pepper Soup (Vegan Maque Choux)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 31, 2014

New Orleans Corn & Roasted Bell Pepper Soup (Vegan Maque Choux)

Before you start to think this will be a smoked paprika free household, have no fear. I am pretty sure Rob will let me replenish prior to moving back to Canada.

It is a bit of a race, now. Rob has made it his own personal goal to munch through our food stocks…. so, if I wait too long, my food may disappear. Use those roasted red peppers in the pantry! The roasted corn in the freezer! The last of the soy curls! (I actually had planned to use some small flageolet beans I had frozen but could not get them to thaw out of the container fast enough….)

New Orleans Corn & Roasted Bell Pepper Soup (Vegan Maque Choux)

Reminiscent of my Sweet Pepper Coconut Corn Chowder, I loved how this one was virtually bursting with vegetables. Coconut milk would make this a thick and luscious soup. This version was inspired by one of my favourite cookbooks this year, Soup’s On!, since it is packed with quick and healthy meals. Mark’s inspiration was New Orleans’ Maque Choux, a Cajun-inspired corn soup.

I loved it. Simply delicious. I worked with what we had lying around and it made a light, summery bowl of vegetable soup.

New Orleans Corn & Roasted Bell Pepper Soup (Vegan Maque Choux)

Do you like soups in the summer as well?

PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.

(more…)

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl & More Quick-Fix Vegan Review + Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 3, 2014

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

I have another great cookbook to share with you.

Quick, healthy, vegan meals. What’s not to like?

Like The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I have been madly cooking out of Robin Robertson’s latest cookbook: More Quick-Fix Vegan.

She promises simple, delicious meals in under 30 minutes. Provided you have cooked brown rice (which takes 45 minutes to cook), she’s right!  Delicious vegan cuisine need not be elaborate nor time consuming.

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

Take this exotic-sounding vegetable bowl: Manchurian chickpea bowl.

Manchurian cuisine is a subtype of Chinese cooking that heralds from the North-East region of China. While I am not sure how authentic it is, Gobi Manchurian may be a well-known dish. A spicy tomato sauce infused with ginger and garlic typically smother deep-fried cauliflower. In this inspired dish, cauliflower (roasted, not fried, in my case) is joined by potatoes, peas and chickpeas. I was worried the chickpeas would seem out-of-place, but they were actually very good. It seems more Indo-Chinese (or Hakka-inspired) rather than Manchurian. In any case, I can whole heartedly recommend it. Delicious. Even without choice leftovers (hello leftover roasted cauliflower), this could be pulled together within a half-hour.

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

I have been slowly cooking my way through the cookbook and again, had the same difficult: which recipe to share. My full reviews can be seen here, but I also highly recommend the uncanningly simple “Roasted brussels sprouts and chickpeas” which reminds me of my Easy Cheezy Chickpeas and Kale. The cookbook includes many one-dish meals including soups/stews. bowls, stir-fries, pasta, sandwiches, pantry-friendly, oven-cooked meals and even quickie desserts. I appreciate that most meals are based on whole foods and not vegan substitutes (mostly. dessert section exempted). Robin does supply recipes for some of the convenience foods including a cashew-based vegan cream cheese and tofu-based vegan mayonnaise. Having these staples pre-made expedite getting dinner to the table.  Of note, Robin calls for ketchup a few times (like in this recipe), although I substituted my own convenience food: mild Turkish red pepper paste. Booyah!

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

Recipes from More Quick Fix Vegan shared elsewhere:

Chipotle-Sweet Potato Bisque
Chickpeas Nicoise
Kale and Black-Eyed Peas With Smoky Grits
Three-Bean Pantry Chili
Sweet Potato Barbecue Bowls
Veracruz Tacos

Banh Mi Inspired Noodles
Banh Mi Bowls
Avocado Mousse with Raspberries
Date-Pecan Bars
Mango Fried Rice Pudding
Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream
Blueberry Chocolate Trail Mix Bark

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living anywhere in the world (YAYAYA!). To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your quickest and/or easiest vegan meal. The winner will be selected at random on May 16, 2014. Good luck!

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. I am sharing this with My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sowmya.

PPS. Do you like my purple slippers in the last photo?  They were so colourful I had to keep them in. Can you tell I just blindly lift my camera to take shots from overhead? Sometimes I am way off-target. ;)

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Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 15, 2014

Cheater Tlacoyos topped with Nopales (Cactus)

There is long-distance cycling and then there’s long-distance cycling over hills.

We’ve heard the cycling routes around Austin are hilly but not entirely sure how it compares to Ontario. Houston, is fairly flat, so I haven’t been doing many hills, unless it is an overpass over a highway. I stumbled upon Lori’s recap of last year’s Shiner GASP.  She wrote:

This course was going to be challenging because of the sheer number of inclines and hills (Esmeralda said she stopped counting at 23 last year), and the wind that it was famous for.  I had hoped that with the front it would be a tail wind, but at mile 30 the wind shifted and was either a head wind or cross wind. Oh well, it was nice to dream.

With a month away from our own hilly 100-mile adventure, it instilled a fear of hills. So, this weekend, we sought out something to climb.

Earlier this year, we were planning to do the “Bike Through the Forest and Hills” 80-km ride in Coldspring, Texas. We had already registered and picked up our packages (the first ones, at that, bib numbers 1 and 2). It was scheduled right after I sprained both knees, so understandably, we didn’t go. However, with such a descriptive name, we figured it would be a hilly ride. Rob saved the course maps, though. He ended up modifying the route so that we had a 50 km loop. The original ride had you return in the opposite direction, but we just repeated the same loop once we were familiar with the course.

The 100-km ride wasn’t the hard part. It was the hills! After 8 minutes, I wasn’t sure I was up for this many hills. Rob clocked an incline that lasted 3 km. The worst part, though, was the wind. Wind + hills = a definite challenge. A strong wind with a loopy course meant the wind was, sadly, only helping us 25% of the time. In any case, we were positively pooped after our “short” 100-km ride.

We ended up stopping off at our favourite Mexican grocer on the way home: Mi Tienda. It reminds us of our trip to Mexico City, with lots of fun food, loud music and random decor. We treated ourselves to fresh guanabana juice and a mix of celery-pineapple-cactus juices. If you have never tried guanabana, I highly recommend it. We fell in love with it in Colombia. We also had some fresh (and warm- this is KEY) churros. After our bellies were content, I scurried back in for our weekly grocery expedition.

I try am trying to balance emptying my pantry along with trying everything that I can while in Texas/America. This time, I bought some cactus (aka nopales). You can find it fresh as a giant paddle or pre-chopped with the spikes removed. I gather you can also find it brined in jars or cans. In any case, I first tried it while in Mexico City. Cooked simply, it was a vegetable side or topping. One of the dishes I had it with was as tlacoyo from a street vendor: a blue corn masa dough that she stuffed with refried beans and topped with a nopales salsa. was I really liked it: the texture of a bell pepper with the taste of a green bean.

In truth, Rob and I were too zonked to do any cooking when we returned post-ride and post-Mi Tienda. We went out for tacos. The following day, we did another cycling jaunt. Not too long, and all flat, we were still battling the wind and the possibility of rain. However, the shorter ride meant I had enough energy to tend to errands and do some cooking.

I simply ran with the idea of tlacoyo. It is more like a cheese-less quesadilla. We had fresh corn tortillas so I used that instead of the masa dough. I already have a favourite (unfried) refried bean recipe. The problem was the cactus. I wasn’t entirely sure how to cook it, but I eventually decided to boil it first, then saute it with some leftover roasted onions. It may not have been authentic at all, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Have you ever tried nopales/cactus? What are your favourite recipes?

Cheater Tlacoyos topped with Nopales (Cactus)

I am sharing this with the Spice Trail, My Legume Love Affair (managed by Lisa and previously Susan), Four Seasons Food, and Simple and In Season(more…)

Mango Chana Masala

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 29, 2014

Mango Chana Masala

It is the most wonderful time of the year….

Not because the spring weather in Houston is positively happiness (it is!) or it is the beginning of a cycling season (it is!)…. but it is the beginning of mango season and now we live closer to the mangoes!

Nearly every year, Rob will hunt down Alphonso mangoes. The fancy mangoes flown in from India. I am not sure whether they will be coming to Houston, but it does not matter. There are cheap and plentiful Mexican Ataulfos to be found. Last week, we picked up a whole case for $5. (We split it with a friend to keep our eating crop fresh. I know we’ll be replenishing a few times, no worries)

We tend to keep the mangoes plain and unadorned (at least I do, Rob adds it to his breakfast granola) but used some frozen mangoes for this fun twist on chana masala. It kind of a combination of my Mango BBQ Beans combined with Indian flavours. While I have used amchoor powder (raw mango powder) to make a nice chana masala, this was a fun twist since it was hot and sweet, too. The heat came from our newest infatuation: roasted hatch chiles. The flavours complemented each other nicely, especially with the tang from the tomatoes and the earthy tones from the cumin, mustard seeds and garam masala, too. Not too overly spiced.

Rob actually made a double batch of this and we shared it with friends. We told them to give an honest opinion of the dish. It was the first time we tried it, so we could handle their feedback. Like us, they loved it! And I hope you do, too.

Here’s to a prosperous mango season!

Mango Chana Masala

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Kale Ribbons and Chickpeas with Curried Spaghetti Squash

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 25, 2014

Kale Ribbons with Curried Spaghetti Squash

I am sorry but not sorry, Canada.

I am sorry that this was one really long and cold winter. But I am not sorry I missed it.

Last week, I returned to Canada. In Montreal, I was greeted by mountains of snow banks that still had to melt away. However, by the end of my stay, a fresh blanket of snow covered the city in near white-out conditions. My flight home was cancelled but Air Canada thoughtfully put us on a later flight, skirting the worst of the storm.

(People poo-poo Air Canada but I like flying with them, especially compared to any airline based in the US. I can catch up on my movie watching (no additional charge!) and sometimes they even give me pretzels (HA!)).

Kale Ribbons with Curried Spaghetti Squash

Knowing full well that warm meals are still in season (even Houston’s weather has tamed somewhat), I am unashamedly sharing yet another winter squash recipe. In March. Because, yes, they are still on my counter and based on my last post with kabocha squash, still in your kitchens, too. Plus, this dish was too good to hide until next year.

It is a deceivingly simple recipe: spaghetti squash, kale, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked paprika and curry powder. In fact, it sounded downright weird. However, after I tasted it, it made sense. A lot of curries are tomato-based and while I don’t use tomato, sun-dried tomatoes deliver intense bursts of tomato flavour without sauciness. Smoked paprika adds a different twist so this isn’t a boring, bland curry. Chickpeas add protein and bulk. The kale is more earthy but a barely noticeable way to eat some greenery. The spaghetti squash is merely a backdrop but sops up the flavours deliciously. This dish made fabulous leftovers, allowing the flavours to meld even further.

Did you get walloped with more snow this weekend, too?

Kale Ribbons with Curried Spaghetti Squash

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Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 11, 2014

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

Recently, Rob and I have been flip-flopping. One weekend Rob is home alone. The next, I am home alone as Rob is out. Travelling separately. Although I probably received the brunt of the solo travels as I ventured to the cold Canadian winter alone. Rob, however, is travelling without me but visiting and meeting friends throughout the US.

This weekend, he also left me without a car. My bike gets me to and from work but on the weekends, the car brings me to groceries. Our loot is  too big to bring home on a bike. Oftentimes, Rob will also pick up random missing ingredients throughout the week… so I lost that convenience, too. Although, we planned for this: a double grocery haul last weekend. This week, I get to eat through the fridge and pantry. And tackle my languishing winter squashes.

I am sure I am not the only one with winter squashes on my counter (right?). It happens every year to me. Houston-time, included.

Winter squash may not still be on your radar but with the last winter blast, a warming stew is hard to turn down. (I am not playing with you, Houston does get cold. I had pants on last week).

I finally decided to tackle Hannah’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry. Unlike most curries, this one has NO CUMIN. Blasted! A bit more sweet with the kabocha squash which worked well with the aromatics like cardamom and coriander, but still tempered by ginger, mustard and chile with a luscious coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass.

Do you still have winter squashes looming around? Heck, it is still winter, right? I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? :)

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Meatless Mondays for squash and to this month’s Spice Trail.

Better With Veggies

PS. The winner of High Protein Vegan is Miss Polkadot. Congratulations! (more…)