the taste space

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

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

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

Did you have a good Valentine’s Day? I don’t think I have been told to celebrate Valentine’s Day more than yesterday (and I forgot to call my parents, OOPS!). It almost felt like a national holiday, with everyone at work asking about the evening plans, rushing to finish early for the weekend. Is it because Texans are just so friendly? Or because Americans love holidays?

Rob and I have never been big fan of V-Day, enjoying each other’s company more than anything else. Rare gifts and certainly no cards, this year was the most low-key ever. A nice dinner with friends. True to his word, Rob and Matt had a feast ready for me just as I stepped (pedalled) home: Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup and corn tortillas followed by Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls. Actually, the order was reversed, we ate the dessert as an appetizer while we waited for the veggies to cook. I had offered to make dessert but Rob saved the day.

Rob also registered us for Cycle Oregon. Tent porter, and all: we’re committed. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, cycling is easier on me than walking.

After a few weeks of rest and recovery, I resumed my daily cycling commute this week. I also swapped my HIIT classes at the gym for weights. No impact and no balance required. Mostly upper body. My knees may be resting but I am certainly still keeping active. I don’t think my arms have ever worked so hard. Although while it would be nice to have a goal to do an unassisted pull-up (NOT happening anytime soon), I think a more realistic goal will be to be able to refill the water cooler at work without too much difficulty. I am a bad employee right now. If it is empty, I do not refill it. I can do it. I mean, I did it once, but it wasn’t pretty. More awkward than anything else but instead of potentially making a giant puddle, I am acknowledging and working within my limitations. ;)

Now about the food. For anyone looking for a fun twist on spaghetti, this is a delicious marinara sauce. A heartier, cooked version of my 15-minute garlic basil marinara sauce, I fortified the sauce with red lentils. The finishing raw garlic and basil made the sauce truly special. I swapped the raw zucchini noodles for winter’s veggie noodle: spaghetti squash. While those expecting a noodle replica will be disappointed, those looking for a fun veggie side will be thrilled. A new texture and a fun way to slurp up all the delicious sauce.

So, please tell me: how was your Valentine’s Day? Do you refill the water cooler?? :)

Lentil Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, Extra Veg, Pasta Please, Simple and in Season and Cooking with Herbs.

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Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

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

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.

I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.

What did I end up doing?

1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?

2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.

3. Travelled through chocolate.  With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.

4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.

So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.

Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content.  Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.

I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.

How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs, this month’s Extra Veg and to this month’s Feel Good Food for Tasty and Inexpensive.

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Southern Black Eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 31, 2013

Southern Black Eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes

I have embraced the hidden Texan in me. Only the good parts, obviously.

Especially when it involves beans.

I mean peas. Peas, beans, all the same, right? (Not if you don’t like peas!)

As I discovered earlier, black eyed peas taste so much better when cooked from fresh. After you cook them from recently picked pods, that is when you figure out why they are called black eyed PEAS. 

Southern Black Eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes

Many of the Southern United States grow field peas, such as black eyed peas, including Texas. Local, fresh black eyed peas are easily found in local grocers right now. A longstanding Southern tradition for forthcoming good luck is to eat black eyed peas and collard greens (a dish named Hoppin John) on New Year’s Day. This year, I decided to try a different variation on Southern stewed beans: black eyed peas are simmered in a Creole-spiced tomato sauce. I skipped the collards (the horror) in lieu of brown rice, but that was merely due to my lack of judgment at the grocery store this weekend.

I routinely get into a (deliciously yummy) rut with similar flavours – cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger – but I liked how simple this dish was, yet it was deliciously flavoured. I whipped together my own version of Creole seasoning right into the tomatoes. Creole seasoning should be easy to make, as it is a mix based on paprika, onion, garlic, thyme and oregano. In the heat of the kitchen, I mistakenly thought Old Bay seasoning would be a quasi-supplemental spice mixture. The celery-dominant Old Bay seasoning made up for my lack of celery from the holy trinity of Creole cuisine: a mirepoix from onions, bell peppers and celery. In the end, this turned out to be a wonderful success.

Do you try to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day?

Southern Black Eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes

Other black eyed pea recipes here:

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Garlicky and Lemony Black Eyed Pea and Kale Salad

Goan Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Other Southern beans and greens recipes here:

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

Citrus Collards and Chickpeas

PS. The winners for Indian Cooking Unfolded are Michaela, Elizabeth, Marsha, and Joanne.

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Caribbean Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Greens Wrap

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

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap

Rob and I have been trading stories. He has been back in Canada for the last two weeks. He is hitting up all our old haunts, new joints (I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the vegan boston creme donuts and other treats at Through Being Cool; he’s already tried the Toronto’s crookie (cookie-croissant hybrid) and scouting out Toronto’s cronut, too) and getting ready to spend time with his family for Thanksgiving. I am willing to bet most of my readers know Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving almost a month before the Americans, but if not, let there be no confusion. Canada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday. :)

This is a dish Rob made before he left. He is much better at tackling his recipe hit-list than I am. Possibly because it is shorter.  While in Bend, Oregon, we discovered a restaurant with delicious food. For me, I adored their tempeh reuben salad (recreating it is still on my hitlist!) and Rob was adamant about recreating the sloppy joe sandwich.

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap

While I have made Sloppy Joes with TVP, which I served overtop roasted sweet potatoes, I shared Isa’s recipe with Rob. With the extra spices, I knew he would really like it. Rob really liked their sandwich because it was served with a brioche bun. He looked around a bit but wasn’t able to find something in Houston. That did not deter him.

I no longer remember what protein this resto used for their sloppy joe, but Isa’s called for seitan which we didn’t have. Instead, Rob experimented with another Portland find: soy curls. Soy curls totally deserve their high praise. Similar to TVP in that they are a dry soy product, they not as highly processed. Soy curls are made by cooking, then drying soybeans, whereas TVP has been processed to become defatted. Their fun shapes are akin to pulled meat. I bought a bunch in bulk while in Portland and wish there was a local supplier because I know we will use them up quickly.

In any case, Isa’s recipe did not disappoint. She called it jerk-spiced sloppy joes, but the flavours were more muted. When I think of jerk, I think of bold flavours. Instead, this was tame. Nicely flavoured and palatable for the masses. The Caribbean flavours of allspice, cinnamon, and paprika were present and made for a  lovely tomato sauce. Rob amped the sweet sauciness by adding red pepper paste. Lime juice balanced it nicely.

The second component to the dish was coconut creamed spinach and kale. Spiced with star anise, the Caribbean flair persisted. Instead of the brioche bun, Rob used a paratha to eat this. Mainly because that’s what we had in the freezer. This is a fusion household. Indian-Caribbean-American in one wrap. Use whatever vehicle you’d like.  :)

While this recipe seems almost as elaborate as Rob’s epic Jackfruit & Kimchi and Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu, this one didn’t take nearly as long to cook. Start to end was around an hour, which is a good thing since Rob has proclaimed this as a Rob’s Repeater Recipe.

Have you ever tried soy curls? What did you think?

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Southern Beans and Greens Saute (& The Last Organic Outpost urban farm visit)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 15, 2013

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

It took me a while to realize it, but Houston’s claim to fame is not its hot summer. It may be infamous for its stifling, humid summers, but that’s not when the most fun occur. For people, nor plants.

I love it when readers help me learn the ropes of my new town. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it is just too hot for most vegetables to grow. Coming from Ontario, summer equals fresh vegetables. Right now, we are between seasons in Texas. I will quit lamenting the lack of flavourful tomatoes (for now), the local vegetables will be coming in the fall and spring.  Despite being between seasons, vegetables can still be grown, though. Recently I visited an urban farm and loved it so much, I wanted to share the experience with you.

The Last Organic Outpost

The Last Organic Outpost is an urban, community farm. We weren’t sure what to expect, as this farm is close to where we live. Truly a hidden gem, they encourage the community to become involved in creating their own farming experience and ultimately to sell enough to become self-driven.

Last Organic Outpost

It is completely volunteer-run, except for one farmer they employ. They minimize costs by recycling unwanted goods. Donated hot tubs will be turned into planters. Cars have been turned into vermicomposters, bee havens, etc.

last organic outpost

Of course, they also grow vegetables. Despite being between seasons, they were growing greens (collards, dinosaur kale, spinach — all grown year-round), herbs, sweet peppers, eggplant, winter squash as well as figs and papayas. The somewhat chaotic plants reminded me of my small garden in Toronto.

last organic outpost

At first I thought it was just a big plant with pretty flowers, but they also had different kinds of okra. Small, long and purple varieties. I had never tried just picked okra and it was refreshingly crisp.

last organic outpost

Talk about freshly picked, they had produce for sale as well as special sampler bags which is what we purchased (it included kale, spinach, eggplant and butternut squash). Because it is volunteer-driven, their hours are variable but keep an eye on their facebook page if you want to become more involved.

Have no fear, there is still a delicious recipe attached to this post. When in the South, why not try their local specialties, too? Although traditional beans and greens in the South usually use collards, black eyed peas and ham/bacon, this one was a nice twist. I honesty wasn’t expecting much, but was blown away by the flavour. A quality liquid smoke definitely brings this dish to the next level. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists of the liquid smokes at the store? I thought we could omit it from our Houston pantry, but caved. Once we started looking, though, there were a lot of additives to most liquid smoke “seasonings”. The one we settled on just has water, hickory smoke, mesquite smoke as its ingredients and I really like it. It also won this taste test. :)

Anyways, this is a simple skillet saute with carrots, (pinto) beans and (kale) greens. I used a melange of spices for my vegetable stock substitute and I think it worked really well with the liquid smoke. Easy, peasy.. and delicious.

I am looking forward to coming back to The Last Organic Outpost once the growing season resumes. :)

Southern Beans and Greens Saute

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this month’s challenge to Shop Local.

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Moosewood’s Caribbean Stew (& Cookbook Giveaway!)

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on September 3, 2013

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

You may not have noticed, but I snuck away last week. An absolutely epic road trip, starting at Portland, the vegan mecca, meandering through lakes and mountains, including Crater Lake, reaching our ultimate destination: Burning Man. I hope to summarize our adventures and if I don’t I’ll be sure to share if Rob posts anything on his website. He is much better at looking through photos afterwards. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my food photos. ;)

Before we left, I tried to cook through our pile of produce. Serendipitously, I had everything for this delicious Caribbean Stew. It is from Moosewood’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites. Through their collective, they run a restaurant in Ithica, New York, and have written many cookbooks over the past few decades. Most of my Moosewood cookbooks were bought/discovered at used book sales, although they are still keeping up with the times. Their latest cookbook, while not entirely vegan (they still use cheese, although less than before) and not even vegetarian (they have recipes for fish), includes updates from their restaurant favourites. Between their section dedicated to Soups (Thai Butternut Squash Soup, Texas Barbecue Bean Soup, Red Lentil Soup), to Main Dish Salads (Peruvian Quinoa and Vegetable Salad), to Curries and Stews (Lentil-Vegetable Sambar, Navajo Stew), a section dedicated to Beans (Basque Beans, Caribbean Red Beans, Creole Red Beans), and sides (Lentil Dhal), I was very pleased with their vegan recipes.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

And this Caribbean Stew? It did not disappoint. A delicious medley of sweet potato, red bell pepper, tomato, cabbage and kale in a flavourful (not too) spicy broth made with ginger and green chiles. The dash of nutmeg and lime finish kept this special. As part of their growing process, Moosewood recommends more fresh herbs than before (I learned that lesson, too!) and this included fresh ginger, thyme and cilantro. They also recommended freshly grated nutmeg which is definitely more potent than pre-bought powdered. I modified the original recipe slightly, noted below. I decreased the ginger, although I probably didn’t need to be scared of the bit of heat it would impart. I also found the directions to cook everything on low to be too slow, so I increased my heat to medium-low and eventually medium. In the end, though, it was a fabulous soup. Tons of veggies with a delicious broth. A bit lacking in the protein department, I served it with the suggested brown rice. I bet you could easily sneak in some beans or tofu in there, too.

I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give away a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Moosewood dish. If you haven’t made anything by Moosewood yet, have a look through the table of contents of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on September 15, 2013. Good luck!

Other Moosewood recipes I have shared:

French Barley Salad
Bulgur Chili
Chinese Cabbage and Fermented Black Beans
Spanish Green Bean and Lime Bean Stew
Japanese Winter Stew
African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew
Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas
Thyme-Spiced Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Flavours of Caribbean.

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Stovetop Apple Baked Beans

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on July 2, 2013

Stovetop Apple Baked Beans

Have you checked out some of the other blogs on the Great Vegan Bean Book Blog Tour yet?  I keep bookmarking more recipes to try. I feel like the majority of the cookbook is earmarked, to be honest.

I thought it might be nice to cook up a bunch more of the recipes and let you know how they were.. but then I made my second dish and decided to not delay my post any longer. The beans were fabulous.

Everyone has their go-to baked bean recipe. I did not grow up with baked beans, so I keep trying out new versions. Mango BBQ Beans are one of my favourites, but I also enjoyed the robust Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans with blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed butter.

Like the Mango BBQ beans, these apple baked beans are simply simmered on the stovetop. They are also sweetened with fruit and since I used pureed canned tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, the sauce was lighter. A dash of molasses, Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar make a complex sauce which is also flavoured with rosemary, thyme and smoked paprika. Weird, but it works. Very, very well. The beans probably do not need such a long simmer, but I decided to go a bit lazy with my food prep. Since I had Macintosh apples, which turn to mush when heated, I thinly sliced them. Thus, I had to wait for the slices to turn to mush. If you have an apple that keeps its shape, you will need to chop it up more finely.

Most bean-centric dishes make good leftovers, but I loved these beans cold, too. I served them on top of fresh baby spinach for a nice, light meal.

Stovetop Apple Baked Beans
PS. The winner of The Great Vegan Bean Book giveaway is babette from Vegan in Montreal. Congratulations!

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Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 8, 2013

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

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

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

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

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

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

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

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

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

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

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

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme

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

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

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Creamy Mushroom Tomato Pasta

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 2, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Tomato Pasta

What is the most underrated herb?

Some herbs get all the love: basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint were easy picks when I started my herb garden a few years ago. I also planted sage last year since it was easy to grow, while still mostly unfamiliar. I also really enjoy lemon verbena, although I only ever used it as a tisane (it would make delicious ice cream, though).

Sadly, most of my herbs died over the winter, despite living in the warm comfort of our kitchen. One plant was hardy enough to survive our kitchen winter and popped its head out again: chives. And despite growing them for 3 summers, I rarely used them in my cooking.

While I caved and bought some new plants last month (it was Red Russian kale! and basil!) at my local grocer, my basil has not yet grown enough for a harvest just yet. So, I improvised for this recipe. A chunky yet creamy tomato mushroom sauce. Yes, fresh basil would be delightful. I compromised. Instead, I used dried basil and added fresh chives. (I thought perhaps some pesto could substitute for the fresh basil but my Mom suggested going with the chives instead).

My Mom did not lead me astray: it was very good.  This is a quick-and-easy chunky tomato sauce, with big chunks of tomato, chopped mushrooms and giant corona beans that I snuck in at the last moment. Just like when I made The World’s Healthiest Bolognese Sauce, nutritional yeast added creaminess with a hint of cheesiness. The dried herbs worked well and the chives gave a different twist to the sauce.  Next time, though, I may try the tomato-pesto sauce, too – it isn’t a novel idea.

Although I wanted to serve this with soba noodles, the sauce was too chunky for such delicate pasta. Instead, I pulled out a chunky noodle. We have tried a few bean-based pastas, but this was a different brand and a different bean. Made with chickpeas but still fusilli, though. A fun shape and it worked well with the sauce.

Creamy Mushroom Tomato Pasta

This is my submission this month‘s Simple and In Season and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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Mediterranean Artichoke, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

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

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso?  I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.

Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.

Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.

Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Joyce, kitchen flavours, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y..

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Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 7, 2013

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

I wasn’t expecting this week to be all about tried-and-true favourites, but I don’t think you mind?

Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.

I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!

Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them  guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.

Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining. :)

Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.

Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

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

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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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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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Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 26, 2013

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

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

Not this dish. Chicory greens.

Chicory Greens

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

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

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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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