the taste space

Lemon-Mustard Glazed Carrots and Chickpeas (aka Yassa Chickpeas)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 30, 2014

Yassa Chickpeas

Based on my review of vegan nutrition books, you can tell why I always try to eat a lot of beans. So much so, that when I travel and people want to know what I eat, I tell them that something as simple as vegetables and a can of chickpeas would suffice. My family is actually really good about making sure there is food for me, but I still have fun cooking in the kitchen while travelling.

Yassa Chickpeas

During our trip back home during the holidays, not only did I make a delicious dark chocolate peanut butter pie (delicious, definitely check it out), but I made this dish a few times. Basically, it is a simple dish of mustard/lemon-glazed root vegetables and chickpeas but I experimented each time I made it. While I could count on everyone having mustard available, every time was a bit different depending on what was in the kitchen. I learned that this is definitely better with garlic, tamari/soy sauce is preferred and while this is nice with carrots, the addition of parsnip is a fun twist. This is a great comforting dish for anyone looking to warm their kitchen with your oven. ;)

What did you think of the nutritional recommendations from the review? Do you feel like you eat enough of the different areas?

Yassa Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winners for the nutrition books are: Rachel with Vegan For Her and Moo with Becoming Vegan Express. Congratulations!

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Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 14, 2014

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.

Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year.  I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.

Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.

If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:

Butternut Squash and Coconut Indian Stew

Plantains and Cabbage with Split Peas

Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

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

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Curried Dill Tofu Scramble with Brussels Sprouts and Arepas

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on November 12, 2013

Curried Dill Tofu Scramble with Brussels Sprouts and Arepas

Oh my gosh… what happened? I posted on a Monday! WHAT?!

Long hours at work must be making me sloppy. *sad face*

Bonus for you, I suppose, since I decided to still write up a quickie Tuesday post!

Curried Dill Tofu Scramble with Brussels Sprouts and Arepas

Now that Rob is back, it means that we have our Houston weekend routine back in place. On one day of the weekend, it goes something like this:

1. Sleepy fresh oatmeal breakfast before heading out for a 50-km bike ride (The cronut ride is still my ride of choice. Mostly because the route is very simple. We came for the cronut, but kept returning for the bathrooms… although Rob gives their donuts two thumbs up)

2. Come home to a delicious smoothie, then hop in the shower to remove all that grime

3. After we are both clean, we do a load of laundry, hang out a bit and then let the laundry hang dry.

4. Now, it is usually time for lunch. Rob and I usually make a scramble of sorts, with arepas or chilla.

This time, Rob decided to merge our two favourite tofu scramble recipes… Especially since we learned that dill + curry = awesome! But how about, dill + curry + tomato + Brussels sprouts! With some noochy and kala namak goodness sprinkled overtop? Very awesome! Booyah! I honestly look forward to my freshly made weekend meals with Rob. When they taste this good, who wouldn’t be thrilled? :)

Do you have a favourite morning routine?

Curried Dill Tofu Scramble with Brussels Sprouts and Arepas

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Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on August 27, 2013

Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

As I shared earlier, slowly, Rob and I are exploring different ethnic grocers in Houston. Each weekend, we have been heading to a new place. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, though.

We wanted to go to Little India but everything was closed when we were there early in the morning (yes, we are the early birds). Chinatown was our alternate choice. Since it is more of a big box store Chinatown that necessitates driving between stores, the dilemma was figuring out which grocer to hit up first. I had 3 stores starred. I picked the one that we knew was open early, the one that also happened to be the closest and the one that had great online reviews.

The parking lot was empty but we ventured in. Let’s just say it was a sad store. I picked up some snow peas and bean sprouts. We left a bit sad. I always gauge a store by the state of their produce. I was hoping for better quality produce and to be honest, much cheaper prices. Whole Foods was better priced, which doesn’t say much.

Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

Uncertain what the rest of Chinatown would hold, we figured we would check out another grocer. The next on the list was Welcome. This time, though, the parking lot was nearly already packed for an early Saturday morning. Definitely a better sign. Their produce section was busy with so many people, snapping up the best produce, clamouring for the cases of mangos or picking the best greens. Good prices and good quality. Now I was a happy camper! Chinatown had been vindicated.

I still had the snow peas and bean sprouts which Rob and I put to good use by making pad thai. I was the sous chef as Rob made pad thai for me, complete with kelp noodles and snow peas. He slipped the fresh pad thai onto my plate. It was so pretty, I had to take a photo.

Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

I don’t photograph many dishes twice. Especially if it is a regular in our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s because we had a new brand (Swad) and it doesn’t seem as potent as what we were used to (Tamicon or the blue top one). This version turned out so well though, so if you prefer things less tart, try to find this brand of tamarind. Otherwise, 3 tbsp of concentrate may be tamarind overload! :)

And for anyone curious, we found the kelp noodles at H-Mart. Around $3 for a Korean brand, which is even cheaper than Vitacost and Sea Tangle directly.

swad tamarind concentrate

Do you re-photograph your pretty meals?

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Broccoli and Kasha Bowl with an Onion-Miso-Dill Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by Janet M on June 6, 2013

I am on a kasha-kick. At least until my stash runs out.

The millet evaporated last summer. Next went the wild rice. Now I am plowing through the kasha. Once I discovered the boil-in-a-bag stuff, I was smitten with it as a base for veggie-based bowls.

With a focus on simpler meals, I made the dressing first and then decided what to toss with it.

And yes, this was a glorious dressing.

It seems so weird. Raw onion? Dill? Miso?

But trust me, it worked so well. I also tried a creamier version with tofu-cashew mayonnaise and liked that, too.

I picked kasha, but any grain would work here. Brown rice? Quinoa? Choose your favourite veggie but broccoli complemented the tangy dill-miso dressing well.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this month’s Random Recipe for healthy foods and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

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

Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

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

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

What about all your soba noodles, Janet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sesame-Miso Soba Noodles with Kale & Red Pepper

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

Macro Veggie and Tempeh Bowl with a Miso-Tahini Sauce

Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Orange-Tahini Dressing

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

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

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

Braised Tempeh with Green Beans in a Sesame Sauce

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

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

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

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

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Spicy Thai Mango Tofu Curry with Vegetables

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 18, 2013

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

They are here!

I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!

Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.

Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango.  Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.

Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.

Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?

Spicy Mango and Tofu Stir Fry

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

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Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry (& a vegan FODMAPS diet for IBS)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 19, 2013

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

Sing along if you know the words:

I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)

I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas

I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!

Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.

So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

If you guessed gas or flatulence, you win! (For my new readers, I have no shame: I have talked about poop and red pee, too).

I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS.  Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.

Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.

So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).

Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.

Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. ;) Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.

Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?

Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder. :)

Chinese Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stirfry

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

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Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup (& My Favourite Recipe App for Android)

Posted in Favourites, Soups by Janet M on February 21, 2013

Androidians, rejoice!

(Take note, Rob does not approve of said term. He prefers Android users. How boring.)

Since forever, I have been trying to find the perfect way to store my bookmarked recipes.

I have progressed from storing them in emails, then to pinterest and pocket. (I know others use Evernote). I use Eat Your Books primarily for my cookbook collections. Although I can upload other recipes, too, I prefer to have the directions along with the recipe list. :)

A lot of people have a hard time understanding pinterest. What is it for? How does it work? I try to explain it is a picturesque way to bookmark links. Pictures with links. It is used to inspire. My biggest pet peeve is the lack of searchability, which limits its use as a workable list of recipes. I can’t search for all the recipes with mango instance. Furthermore, it only links to a website which can later be modified or even vanish. Hence my migration to pocket, which I mainly use as an offline web reader now. Because you can’t search that one either.

I recently discovered a crazy wonderful app that I had to share: ChefTap. (Android only for now)

Designed specifically to store recipes, it does its job.

From the website: ChefTap is the only app on the market that uses an advanced artificial intelligence engine specifically designed to find recipes on any English language web page.

It stores recipes offline, completely searchable, so you always have access to them. It will pick out the recipe, picture, title, etc from any website, even if the recipe is buried under lots of text (like most blog posts). It will sync with epicurious, allrecipes, or your other favourite recipe sites. However, I was in awe that it could export all the recipes from pinterest. Plug in an album and it will crawl all your links and add them to the app. You can’t even export your pins any other way, as far as I know. How awesome is that?

So, I have just begun to use the app (you can change it so it won’t go to sleep on you while cooking, wahoo!) and I would say the miss rate is around 10% for picking up the wrong title, etc. It is easy to  fix things, though, as it has alternative title suggestions, or move things around like yields and ingredients. Another con is that this is a device-only app, but a complementary web site seems to be in the works.

I started with importing all my pins and will work towards my lengthy email folder filled with recipes. All I need to do is convert the emails into .txt files and they can be easily imported as well. How awesome is that??

I’ll tell you what’s more awesome: This app is free!!

(I bet you thought I was going to say it is only yours for $9.999 or something. I hate that, too! I have yet to be corrupted by commercial influence. Anything I recommend is because I honestly recommend it)

In case you are interested in some of my other favourite apps, here they are:

iAnnotate PDF: For highlighting, marking up pdfs for studying, etc. The Android app is not as smooth at the iPhone one, but the one for Android is free

Any.Do: Great to do app that syncs with google tasks

8tracks: I love the music selection here, but this app is notorious for crashing if I shut off my tablet. Feel free to listen to my playlist (from a few years ago)!

Songza: I haven’t been that wowed by the music selection, but it isn’t that bad

(I love pandora but I can’t get it in Canada, btw).

What are your favourite apps? How do you store recipes?
(I have been bugging Rob to make me a Taste Space app, but that’s likely never to happen…)

Now for today’s recipe!

I don’t know about you, but I am a big suck when I get sick. My energy gets drained and I usually just want to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I want to do is cook. The second to last thing I want to do is photograph said food. The third last thing I want to do is write about said food.

Which is why it has taken me so long to share this fabulous soup. I usually bust it out when I am sick. (And yes, I still get sick. My diet does not make me immune from viruses and the like. A flu shot helps, though).

I first made this soup when I lived alone and it has become a sicky staple ever since. As long as my kitchen is reasonably well stocked, there is nothing easier than a bowl of miso soup.

You can go ultra-simple for a fix of miso soup – all you need is miso, hot water and perhaps some green onions. However, Tess’ recipe goes one step beyond: a Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup. Lemon and ginger are great as a pick-me-up when sick, comforting yet zingy. Best of all, though, this soup literally takes 5 minutes to make. Awesome on any given day, but really fabulous when you are under the weather and can’t stand to wait any longer. Just heat up the soup before it boils so that you still get the benefits from miso (heck I do that with my tea as well because I can’t drink boiling water). I really liked the combination of lemon, ginger and miso.

The recipe serves 2, so if a sweetie is cooking for you, they can enjoy it as well. Or if home alone, you can have it as a delicious breakfast the next day.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
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Dillicious Yellow Tofu Scramble and Mini Arepas

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on February 14, 2013

Rob has leaked that tonight’s dinner will not only feature frozen bananas (for dessert, I presume), but also sweet potatoes and beans. I am very intrigued… I’ll have to wait until tonight to see what he has in store. ;0

Rob is the king of fresh, hot lunches. His specialty on the weekend and while on staycations. Helping me focus more on studying, he is cooking up more of my meals these days.

When he makes this dillicious tofu scramble, there is no way I can turn it down. Paired with freshly made arepas, we have a winning combo.

Yes, this tofu scramble has dill, along with zip from onion, garlic and tamari. The cheesiness comes from nutritional yeast and egginess from black salt. But, really, it isn’t trying to imitate scrambled eggs, although that is how we came up with the idea to add in chopped broccoli stems.

We discovered arepas while in Colombia. A corn-based pancake, it was typically made with cheese and stuffed with some sort of meat. While hiking to The Lost City, our chef extraordinare made some arepas sin queso (without cheese) for me one morning. They used a more elaborate, although simplistic method, for making the wider and flatter Colombian arepas with a tortilla press. Here, we have adopted a Venezuelan-style arepa as it is thicker and baked.

Yes, there is a secret ingredient in here. After love, of course (which is why I themed this post with V-Day, HA!). Another Rob’s Repeater Recipe, arepas are super simple to make once you have located masarepa flour. You need pre-cooked finely ground corn meal. We used PAN (found just steps away from Welcome Food Mart but I have seen it elsewhere, too, like No Frills and Walmart), which comes in both yellow and white varieties. Both colours are ok. To make arepas, corn flour is mixed with salt and water. You let it rest, then form into flattened balls. Pan-fry it in a non-stick skillet to create a brown crust (yes, it tasted better if you use a bit of oil) and then bake it to cook it all the way through. No kidding, these were better than what we had in Colombia. Soft like a corny mashed potato inside with a delicious crispy crust on the outside. One problem, though: the leftovers are not as good cold.

Rob made mini arepas as a side to the tofu scramble, but feel free to make them slightly larger and fill them with the scramble (it just isn’t as pretty).

Rob cooks. I photograph and eat. Oh, and study. I could get used to this.

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

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Szechuan Green Beans and Red Pepper

Posted in Sides by Janet M on January 31, 2013

I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.

While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating.  I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…

I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.

So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.

But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”.  Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.

Do you like discovering new veggies?

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

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Beefy Portobello Mushroom and Cranberry Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M 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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Confetti Veggie Salad with Mustard Curry Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on January 17, 2013

Confetti Veggie Salad with Curry Mustard Dressing

Half-way through January.

Have you been affected by the January Joiners?

A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.

Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well.  Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.

I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)

I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.

Confetti Veggie Salad with Curry Mustard Dressing

Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.

Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better. :)

I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! :)  Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win! ;)

Confetti Veggie Salad with Curry Mustard Dressing

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

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Spinach Salad with Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing and Pepitas

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

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.

There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.

Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.

One of my goals last year was to simplify my kitchen, with a focus on sauces and dressings with fresh vegetables supported by beans and whole grains. My salad jar revolutionized my lunch meals.

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.

Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.

A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for Substantial Salads and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

Savoury Oatmeal with Vegan Ponzu Sauce

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites by Janet M on December 4, 2012


One of my biggest challenges was to ditch the sweet breakfast during my sweetener-free challenge. Until I realized I used to eat a savoury breakfast all the time.

Flash back two years ago and my favourite breakfast was oatmeal with ponzu sauce and flax seeds. I know it sounds like the oddest combination, but I loved it. Savoury oats for breakfast.

Yet somehow, I seemed to skip over posting my most repeated recipe in lieu of other savoury oatmeal concoctions: soy sauce and nutritional yeastgoji berries, nori and ponzu sauce and a savoury oatmeal that I would eat for dinner with vegetables, miso and nutritional yeast.

Flash forward two years and I still have a bottle of ponzu sauce. OK, OK, it is not that old (I think!). Anyways, I turned it over and was not that thrilled with the ingredient list:

NATURALLY BREWED SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), WATER, SUGAR, VINEGAR, SALT, BONITO EXTRACT (FISH), LACTIC ACID, LEMON JUICE, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL LEMON AND ORANGE FLAVORS WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SUCCINIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SODIUM BENZOATE: LESS THAN 1/10 OF 1% AS A PRESERVATIVE.

Forget the sugar and preservatives, but it isn’t even vegan! Oopsies!

So I ventured to make my own homemade vegan ponzu sauce, without all the fluff… and the fish. My recipe is adapted from Taste of the East. The core is a base of tamari (sadly, Braggs couldn’t compete) along with juices from both lemon and lime. Yuzu is more traditional but even I can admit that I have never seen yuzu for sale. While I don’t think ponzu sauce tastes fishy, a dashi flavoured broth is created from arame and added to the ponzu. I skipped mirin, a common Japanese sweet rice wine, not only because I am challenging myself to go sweetener-free, but also because I thought it tasted fine without it. I tried it with less tamari, but found it lacking without it. Since I only use 1-2 tsp for my oatmeal, I find a little goes a long way.

While I typically eat steel-cut oats, I treated myself to some extra thick rolled oats. Pillow soft, it worked well with the ponzu sauce. More as a textural contrast, and also for its health benefits (omega 3s, lignans and fiber), I added flax seeds. I highly prefer yellow or golden flax seeds which are more mild tasting than brown flax. However, to unlock flax’s prowess, freshly grinding them is the way to go. Otherwise, they may not be absorbed at all. :(

This is my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena.

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