the taste space

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 13, 2014

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Even though Rob was away, in the end, it didn’t stop me from a) cooking some delicious meals and b) going out to cycle.

Going out for a bike ride by myself doesn’t seem like a big accomplishment, but I always save my long rides to do with friends. Of course, I commute by myself, but I always want to do my longer, harder challenges with someone else in case we get into trouble (flat tire, accident, get lost, etc).

This weekend, though, I took matters into my own hands. It was cold and windy but I circumvented the rain. I still managed to pedal 100 km over the weekend. Baby steps, as we haven’t done more than 30 km within the past few months. I stayed with a well-travelled and well-loved route.

I even had a flat tire. A slow leak I discovered Sunday morning and took out my commuter instead. I didn’t want to waste time and lose motivation changing my tire.

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

Because I split my ride over 2 days, I still had enough time to do my weekend batch cooking. One of my favourites was this soup. All.things.caramelized: caramelized cabbage, caramelized onions and caramelized leeks. If I had roasted the carrots, it may have turned into a sweetness overload. Just kidding. While you dirty a bunch of dishes, everything cooks or roasts in parallel so it doesn’t take as long as you might fear. Combining the sweet vegetables with celeriac and white beans countered with a bit of bitterness, but the broth was spiked with dill that brought everything together.

I liked how the soup was made with winter vegetable staples (carrot, cabbage, celeriac, leeks) but I find fresh dill has a spring feel. Granted we have no snow, but the warmer weather will definitely be appreciated.

Caramelized Cabbage Soup

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

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Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on November 11, 2013

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have mastered eating leftovers, which is the ultimate way to cook for one. I did not really think I would cook differently while Rob was away, but towards the end of nearly 5 weeks without Rob, I had little interest in making complete meals.

And then, suddenly, when I knew Rob would return (again), all I wanted to do was make something for him to enjoy.
(I just became disinterested in cooking while he was away; Rob had limited use of a kitchen while away)

Thai curry for Rob! With sweet potatoes! And Kabocha squash! AND PEAS! (Rob loves peas!) AND COCONUT! (he likes that, too)

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have already shared with you the main ingredients (plus WHITE BEANS! yay!) so you can imagine the delicious taste of flavours.

The sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash are roasted separately to bring out their sweetness and keep their shape. I don’t like green peas as much as Rob, but I really liked them here, next to the creamy roots. The red curry paste was not overwhelming, and really, I should have added more for Rob’s palate, but I played it safe so I could savour it, too. Instead of using a flour to thicken it up, I simply simmered it longer until it was a nice creamy coconutty consistency.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

Joanne’s tantalizing original recipe was actually for a Thai-inspired potpie with a pumpkin biscuit topping, which I am sure would have been lovely… but hey, baby steps, here. This was a glorious curry, even without a topping.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew
To return the favour of delicious food, I had to ask Rob to photograph the leftovers. If I thought the lack of daylight after work was bad before the daylight savings switch, there is now no way I can make it home before darkness now. So here, is Rob’s signature style photo… because as he puts it, he wants to SEE THE FOOD:

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge for one-pot wonders, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required for blogger inspiration.
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White Bean Paprikash with Soy Curls

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on October 24, 2013

Bean Goulash with Soy Curls

I couldn’t let Rob be the only one having fun with soy curls. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make, but once Rob showed how easy it was to add to a dish, I kept thinking of new ways to use them. It is all about the play of textures, since any saucy dish will lend well to adding flavour to the soy curls.

While the original recipe called this goulash, I think it is more similar to paprikash. Paprikash and goulash are both Hungarian stews, but I have gathered that goulash usually includes more vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potato, peppers, etc). Of course, my favourite part of paprikash were the dumplings. I have no idea how to spell it, but we called them “nokola”. My google kung-fu has brought me to this recipe for Hungarian nokedli, which looks similar, although they are smaller. My “nokola” are basically oversized spaetzle.

This was a fun, delicious paprikash stew. Smoked paprika with total tomato goodness (canned tomatoes, paste AND sun-dried tomatoes) create a luscious base. I had no red wine, and I thought Marmite would have been a good substitute since I loved it in my Beefy Mushroom and Cranberry Stew. However, with no Marmite here, I devised a fun substitute: miso and nutritional yeast. I figured it was that umami we were after and it worked! A touch of balsamic vinegar added a sweet-sour-acid thing. The soy curls were akin to thicker meat strands, but there were also white beans and thicker slabs of red pepper. This really brought me back to eating paprikash and dumplings as a child.

I found my inspiration for this dish from Mouthwatering Vegan. Lets just say the original recipe seemed a tad too complex. Unnecessarily complex, for my liking. Have I become a cantankerous kitchen curmudgeon? I don’t think so… I kept this as a one burner, one pot dish (along with something to soak the soy curls). Miriam says it is quick and easy to prepare, but I cut out the hour baking time. I am sure sauteeing the red peppers separately would be nice, too, but I streamlined that step, too. I imagine one could even rehydrate the soy curls in the stew, but I am not as familiar with them to know how that would work.

Are you one to make changes to speed up making your meals, too? And do I have any European dumpling experts that know what I am talking about??

Bean Goulash with Soy Curls

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Mouthwatering Vegan. Next month’s VegCookBook Club is all about Isa Does It. Feel free to share your eats from the cookbook and enter here for your chance to win your own copy of Isa Does It! (more…)

Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 23, 2013

Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

I am a sucker for beans.

While I have a pantry filled with heirloom specialty beans from Rancho Gordo and Kalustyan’s, I still keep finding new-to-me beans. During a cycling trip last year, a few friends and I cycled up to Woodbridge, and wound up at an Italian grocer for lunch. I perused the aisles for my lunch. Even though it was Italian, I had a brown rice veggie avocado sushi roll and an apple but I also discovered a new bean: Tondini beans (also known as burrini beans or pea beans). A small white bean in a glass jar. Perfect for a traveller: no need for a can opener and the cap could be screwed back on if on the go. I brought it back home and a few months later, I decided to bust them out for a salad.

However, when I opened the jar, they were sitting in a funny gooey jelly. A lot of the beans had split open, likely releasing their starch and gelling the liquid.  I didn’t think the road that THAT bumpy on our ride. I typically cook my own beans so I don’t normally run into this problem… so how to use mushy beans?

Scramble! A breakfast scramble… although more of a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner sort of meal. Perfect anytime, if you ask me. Definitely one of my favourite meals lately. The Tondini beans were nice and small, similar to flageolet beans, but more fragile, lending well to a scramble. The beans are simmered with onions and garlic, along with tomatoes and spinach as familiar breakfast omelette toppings. Similar to my chickpea and tofu-tahini scramble, but lighter and more cheezy from the nutritional yeast. Black salt added the eggy flavour.

Beans for breakfast, I could get used to this. :)

Have you ever had a problem with mushy beans?

Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

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Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 7, 2013

Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

Comfort means different things to different people. A warm hug, a friendly email, a cheery phone call.. or wallowing with an ice cream sundae and warm apple pie. I try not to do the emotional eating thing but sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. But can chocolate really overcome the worst blues? No.

I know some of you think I am nuts… some holier-than-thou soul who can shun the desserts and treats. Well, let me assure you that I am not immune. Trust me, there are enough vegan desserts that can keep me entertained and gluttonous. But sometimes, you just need something more.

A great way not to get suckered into buying treats is not to shop at standard grocers. This also means it can be more difficult for me to indulge if I want.

After writing the first part of my exam, I planned to do grocery shopping. It all made sense: I had neglected all foodly things earlier that week and it was time to restock. My exam also happened to be close to my favourite ethnic grocer. Score!  I had no list, no recipes, no agenda – time was spent on studying pathology, not recipes. However, after that exam, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted to wallow in some chocolate.

My favourite grocer is filled with all sorts of fun, cheap produce: grapefruits, many different kinds of mangoes, baby bok choy, Asian mushrooms, cheap fresh herbs. I wanted to splurge. I wanted something decadent. Chocolate, anything remotely vegan and dessert-like. Um, yeah, no. Nothing here at all. The nuts didn’t appeal to me… and my splurge? Two pounds of baby arugula for $4. Two pounds doesn’t seem like a lot but it was two big clamshells worth of arugula. Was it a splurge? Yes, because I did not think I could eat that much arugula and I thought to myself: I should not be buying this. But it was no decadent splurge.

So, on my way home, I stopped by my favourite resto in Toronto, Belmonte Raw. In spite of improving their hours, because they are on the other side of town, I have not been in a long time. So this was my treat. I had no appetite, but I was salivating just wondering what their specials would be for the day. I needed some comfort. I ended up ordering a comforting smoothie and a raw burrito. I have raved about their raw burrito before, but this one left me flat. This version was only half of a burrito with a side salad. The smoothie was also lacklustre. I wanted more!! I decided that my taste buds could not be comforted at this point. They were beyond repair. My appetite could not be perked up and trying her sinful chocolate thimbles would likely not help the cause.

So I moseyed home. With my 2 pounds of arugula. But no interest in cooking or eating (let alone photographing and blogging). A good night’s sleep and an empty fridge partially motivated me to try something more than oatmeal in the following days.  Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to eat.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat through the arugula, it would have to be cooked. Thus lemony arugula nests were born. This actually turned out much better than I anticipated. Considering nothing seemed to taste good to me, and I really liked this, that says a lot! It was also fun because it was a very simple recipe.

I used JL’s recipe as a guide. She simmered Italian-spiced tomatoes with olives and beans. I simmered tomatoes and white beans and added in a bunch of herbs that seemed Italian: marjoram, fennel seed and lemon pepper. It worked! The tomatoes were light and fresh with flavour, and I only simmered it for 10 minutes as I tended to the arugula. For the arugula, I misread the directions and lightly steamed it with some broth and garlic, and then doused it in lemon juice. Contrasting the two components was good. Lots of greens. Lots of beans. And I really don’t think the photos do it justice because I think it was even prettier in person… and surprisingly enough, leftovers were good, too.

What is your comfort food? Surprised mine includes beans? Shocked chocolate couldn’t suffice? I think having a delicious bowl of good food definitely helps…

Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on March 28, 2013

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

Another batch of lost photos. Although the “lost” photos from that previous post were found (!!), months after I repeated the recipe (HA!).

This time, I am not sure where the photos went, but I have an ample substitute.

Pardon my faux pas.

One of my favourite vegetables this winter (if you could not guess) were Brussels sprouts.

I roasted them, roasted them, and roasted them again. I added them to soups, stirfries and skillets.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

Recently had a hankering for a creamy, balsamic dressing. Something tangy, something sweet but creamy, too. Then I remembered I had already made such a thing: Tess’ Miso Healthy Dressing. When I went looking for my photos of my creamy balsamic miso dressing, I looked at my notes from the recipe: tossed with brown rice, roasted Brussels sprouts and white beans. No photos to be found, but I did find photos of another creamy dressing with roasted Brussels sprouts. (Yes, there were lots of roasted Brussels sprouts around here).

Brown rice and white beans are left to your imagination. However, I included them in my recipe because that’s how you assemble a meal. :)

In any case, do not limit this dressing to roasted Brussels sprouts. With the change in seasons, make it more spring-friendly. Take your favourite leafy green, add some chopped veggies, chickpeas or quinoa, and smother it in the dressing. Or grab yourself some Brussels sprouts and get thee roasting. :)

roasted brussels sprouts and a creamy balsamic miso dressing

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Haalo, and my dressing is submitted to this week’s Raw Food Thursday.

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Roasted Vegetable Ribollita

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 5, 2013

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

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

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

This one was a big win!

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

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

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

Which soups are warming your belly this winter?

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

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Smoky One Pot Beans and Bulgur with Kale

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 3, 2013

This year, I have traded my cookbooks for textbooks.

One of the textbooks I need to know like the back of my hand can be a tad dry. All 1464 pages. I can only read about molecular pathways or the causes of cardiomyopathy for so long before I need a break.

But then, as I was reading the nutrition chapter, I swear, this is what it said (I quote):

Even lowly garlic has been touted to protect against heart disease (and also against, devils, werewolves, vampires, and, alas, kisses), although research has yet to prove this effect unequivocally. Of these, the effect on kisses is the best established!

I wonder whether I can bring up devils, werewolves and vampires on my oral exam for full marks? Or just kisses since they have more evidence against them? They didn’t cite their source, though…

Thank goodness, my love of garlic hasn’t kept away kisses from Rob.

My love of garlic has a long history. My love of raw garlic began with Tess. My love of Rob fits in between these two.. In length, but surpasses them all by quantity and quality, of course. ;)

Raw garlic isn’t as scary as it seems. Chili lime noodles, 15-minute zippy garlic-basil marinara, lemon asparagus quinoa toss, and many other dishes that add garlic at the end of cooking instead of at the beginning. It adds a brightness to any dish.

This is another garlicky dish from Tess. A quickie dish that I can make after work. Easily modifiable to your pantry surpluses.  Tess uses rice and beans, but bulgur and cooked beans make this an even simpler dish. It has been a while since I’ve gushed over bulgur, but sometimes I forget until I unearth it again from my pantry.  Smokey from liquid smoke, creamy from a touch of oil, snappy with some nearly raw garlic and wholesome with some shredded greens. Beans + grains + greens, a force to be reckoned with.


This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, now hosted by Lisa.

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Braised White Beans and Leeks

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on December 23, 2012

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Who invited winter?

I thought Toronto had been spared a white Christmas, as we were pummeled with rain instead of snow late last week. However, I woke up yesterday to howling winds, frigid temperatures and snow. Ottawa may have received 30 cm of the fluffy stuff over the past few days, but in true Toronto fashion, we had a sprinkle of snow.

This is indeed, the perfect solution. Rob and I are pining to go snowshoeing while in Ottawa for the holidays but that requires snow. Ottawa will have it and we can return to the lack of snowblower land without too much worrying. It just means we can’t snowshoe to work. I am ok with that. Rob may be sad. Over the last few weeks, Rob has occasionally walked to work. That takes him 2.5 hours. It would likely take him longer with snow shoes. ;)

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Last weekend was Woodstock in Christmas, and this is what I brought. Another benefit of cooking en masse on the weekend (other than not having to cook mid-week), is that I could pick my favourite dish to share.

Beans from scratch has become second nature. I typically simmer them on the stovetop while doing something else in the kitchen. This time, I brought back low-and-slow oven braised beans. Nothing could be so easy to get perfectly plump beans. Using Rancho Gordo’s plump, tiny Yellow Indian Beans beans definitely helped but the long simmer in the oven slowly cooks the beans to perfection. No exploding beans, nothing too mushy, just perfectly cooked beans. Three hours later, you have a house fragrant from the leeks and herbs and a pot of plump beans. Sara’s original recipe suggested broiling cheese overtop at the end of the braise but I went without for a vegan option. I had considered sprinkling almond parmesan overtop but ran out of time. The beans are definitely more than a sum of its parts. The leeks cook down to a silky creaminess and the Italian herbs confer a fragrant background.

Due to the sheer simplicity of this dish, it was easy to whip together other meals for the week. While my curries also turned out great, I didn’t think they would mesh as well with a traditional Christmas menu. I’ll share those, too, likely in the new year. ;)

Although, turns out dal will be making an appearance at the Ottawa Christmas. My Mom has left me in charge of Christmas lunch and I’ll be making Root Veggie Dal. A perfect bowl to curl up with after returning from a snowy snowshoe adventure. :)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Braised White Beans and Leeks

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Haalo. (more…)

Hazelnut-Roasted Delicata Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

Posted in Favourites, Salads by Janet M on December 6, 2012

While I planted basil this summer, I didn’t use very much of it. It bolted before I knew what I wanted to do with it. My Pesto Perpetuo basil, a non-bolting basil, from two years ago was a basil warehouse. I had access to basil year-round as it survived the trip back into the house during winter. However, it died when I put it back outside this year. I suppose annuals have to die at some point. Given my lack of basil this summer, I feel that it is worth scoping it out next year.

Of course, it makes sense that once the summer is mere a distant memory, the days are cold and the rides back home in the night even colder, all I want is pesto. One of my proliferative herbs this summer was sage (if only the thyme and rosemary could have taken some advice). It may be synonymous with Thanksgiving stuffing, but one can definitely look beyond that.

You actually don’t need cups of sage to make this pesto. Instead sage is buffered with mild baby spinach to create a garlicky spread. Instead of pine nuts, I used toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil to flavour this winter pesto. The nutritional yeast adds the traditional cheesy taste but feel free to omit it. I chose to serve it with hazelnut-roasted delicata squash rings. Served on more greens, you have a very flavourful salad. Add white beans to make this a main meal. I didn’t use too much oil so my pesto was more thick than oily. Loaded with flavour.  Later in the week, I liked it smeared inside a green wrap (with a nod to my simple hazelnut-roasted squash, avocado and cucumber wrap).

Do you like pesto in the winter?

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

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Flageolet Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Leeks

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by Janet M on October 23, 2012

Hold up. The squashes have been stored but I have not forgotten about the lovely end of summer vegetables.

Thankfully, the frost is still at bay and I continue to harvest green beans. My greens (kale and collards) will only improve after a frost, so I am letting them continue to grow before I harvest them. Rob is planning a kale chip-a-thon once we do a mass harvest. The dehydrator will be baking up a storm!

I didn’t grow tomatoes this year and my dill died, but my aunt and Rob’s parents had much better success than me. Last weekend, they graciously shared with me some of the garden bounty: fresh, ripe (local and organic!) tomatoes and dill. This was my salad the following week and I was happy as a peach.

It is such a simple salad, but capitalizes on summer’s fresh bounty. You could even whip this one out in the middle of winter with green-house tomatoes and nobody would be the wiser. Roasting the tomatoes, leeks and garlic makes a delicious base for this salad. Coated in a touch of coconut oil, it permeates into the juicy tomatoes and silky leeks. I combined them with flageolet beans, perfect for salads with their creamy texture yet firm shape. No need for a dressing, the vegetable juices embrace the beans. Dust with dill, if you wish, for a delicious twist. Divine as a warm salad from the oven, this was just as nice as a cold salad as leftovers.  I served my bean salad overtop salad greens.

Flageolet beans are one of my favourite beans and I held onto the last of my batch until this salad. I also recommend using them in this warm bean salad with leeks in a mustard dressing as well as this warm bean and carrot salad with dill. With less time in the kitchen, I may try Gena’s recipe next time I get some leeks. Don’t have flageolet beans? Try this with any small white bean, including white kidney beans.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Carnival Squash Stuffed with Cranberry Maple Quinoa and Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 9, 2012

This feels like a guilty confession. Boastful yet partially aghast at my audacity.

I admit it: I have 10 different kinds of winter squash in my kitchen.

All are edible (unlike the uber cute swan squash below! which I didn’t buy by the way)

There are the usual players: Butternut squash. Buttercup squash. Kabocha squash. Delicata squash. Spaghetti squash. Sugar pie pumpkin.

They all happened to be on sale this week.

But then, I went to the large Loblaws downtown (the one with 20 different kinds of mushrooms) and yes, they have plenty of squashes, too. Known for its wide selection, they carry many gourmet foods. While the dried mushrooms could cost you an arm and a leg (dried morels are $113.05/lb), the unique squashes didn’t break my budget.

From a local mostly-Mennonite farm and only $1/lb, I came home with new-to-me squashes: carnival, white swan and sweet dumpling (pictured left to right, above).  I resisted buying the ambercup and turban squashes, but I may head back for my next squash fix. (These are small squashes, so it may happen sooner than you think!)

With the ridged nature of the squashes, I knew these squashes were meant to be stuffed. I filled them with quinoa and white beans spiced with sage and oregano from my garden along with fresh cranberries, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. The flavours worked well together and I liked the tartness from the fresh cranberries contrasting the sweetness from the maple syrup. I served it overtop spinach for a prettier presentation.

The squash verdict? Love the carnival squashes! Dry yet moist, crumbly and sweet. Perfect as a stuffed squash because you can eat through the squash at the same time and integrated it into the dish. It might be too crumbly to hold up as large chunks for soups or stews. In the end I ate the skin of the squash, too. It was nice and crispy after all the roasting, so make sure you scrub the squashes clean before you start.

PS. For those keeping track, I also have a golden nugget squash and haven’t tried it yet. Any predictions on how best to eat it?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Marta, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to the Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge, and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.

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Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)

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

This has been the summer of cherries.

Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?

So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.

Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:

Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus

Sounds heavenly, no?

Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.

With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma.  As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants.  The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.

Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed  more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.

The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves. ;)

In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand. :)

I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.

With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!

This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturday, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Simple and In Season.

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Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by Janet M on July 9, 2012

Unbeknownst to me, this will be the week of salad.

I enjoy pre-planning my meals for the week. I don’t stray too far from my typical weekly batch of steel cut oats, a bean dish and vegetable/grain dish and a soup or salad. My menu is first and foremost based on what I have in my fridge that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later and after that, what is on sale at the store. I had a menu, but it was abandoned with gusto.

On Friday, my friends came over bearing fresh lettuce. They gifted me two massive heads of lettuce from their rooftop garden (local, organic gardening, at its finest), and I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t the first time I have been gifted perishable food items but at least lettuce is quite flexible with its use. (I have yet to venture into cooked lettuce, so I will be trying to use it in fresh salads)

After making the Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam, I was plotting to make a version with balsamic-roasted strawberries. While I gobbled down the majority of the blueberry jam solely on a spoon, I figured a salad dressing might be more appropriate with my new-found lettuce acquisition.

So here we are with a delicious dressing. Fresh strawberries are delicious and their sweetness is intensified with the caramelization from roasting. While I have baked and macerated strawberries before, I never thought to roast them. Here, they are combined with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil with savoury undertones from thyme, rosemary and garlic. Serve it with your favourite greens. I topped my salad here with yellow beans (Rancho Gordo‘s Yellow Indian Woman) and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around in your fridge!

This is my submission to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 3, 2012

A new month, a new hospital.

Yesterday I was (slightly) complaining about my upcoming commute from our new home. After today, a 10-12 km one-way commute seems like peanuts.

A last minute change in scheduling has me rotating at a hospital outside the downtown core for April. My total commute yesterday was 37 km. Almost 2 hours on the bike.  The day’s schedule was a bit more erratic than normal, but basically my cycling looked like this:

8 km from home to downtown gym (0700 spinning class!)
10 km from downtown gym to uptown hospital (UPHILL!)
10 km from uptown hospital to downtown hospital
8 km from downtown hospital to home

Thank goodness it was broken up over the course of the day, but it was likely the spinning class that had me sore by lunch.

Considering I just started cycling to work last week, this is quite the lengthy commute.  While I have been going to the gym ~5x week throughout the winter, I always find new muscles when I hop back on my bike in the spring. I made sure to wear my padded cycling shorts. ;)

I decided to make Sunday my rest day from the gym to give me a fresh start on Monday. While Rob went to a spinning class, I was in the kitchen making this high-protein alfredo sauce with white beans, soy milk and roasted cauliflower. I bookmarked the original recipe from Jess but finally made it after Johanna also had success. My changes were roasting the cauliflower, onion and garlic with some hazelnut oil and combining that with the beans and soy milk. The lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika added extra flavour that worked well with the simple additions of baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. This is a nice, comforting creamy dish. Creamy in the non-oily, non-heavy, guiltless sense, though. Perfecto! I tossed this with kelp noodles, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.

Why do I call this high-protein? Assuming you use the entire batch of sauce for 4 people (it makes a ton of sauce!), each serving has: 245 calories, 33g carbs (11g fiber), 14g protein and 8g fat. Gotta love the 2:1 carb:protein ratio! Perfect following all this cycling. :)

Two years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing commutes like this. When I started biking to work, my (one-way) commute was 4 km. Because I was essentially sedentary, I thought that was far. When I switched to a downtown hospital, my commute was 7 km, at most. When I moved out East with Rob, my commute was 8 km. When I move out West, it will be 10-12 km depending on the hospital. Having the gradual increase in distance has made this become second nature, instead of daunting. It is definitely my preferred way of traversing the city – a fun way to exercise, a great way to de-stress, faster than transit, and better for the environment. Jen recently shared this fun pic about commuting with me, which definitely reinforces why I don’t drive a car to work.

With all this cycling, I imagine I will be ready for our cycle to Niagara Falls in no time, although I am trying to figure out a better way to combine my time at the gym and commuting to work so I am not on my bike 2 hours every day!

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Potluck Party with high-protein vegan meals, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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