janet @ the taste space

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

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

In Mains (Vegetarian) on January 30, 2014 at 7:04 AM

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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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

In Mains (Vegetarian) on January 28, 2014 at 6:24 AM

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.

Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.

After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer.  If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.

I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.

We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!

Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.

The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted  to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.

This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.

With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?

For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

This is my submission for Meatless Mondays from A to Z for potatoes. Read the rest of this entry »

Vegan Cheesy Chickpea Dip with Coconut Bacon

In Appetizers, Favourites on January 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Vegan Cheddar Bacon Dip

I tried a little bit harder with this dip.

You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.

This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.

While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.

Coconut Bacon

But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs. 🙂

With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:

Green Velvet Guacamole (aka Guacamame or Edamame Guacamole)

Edamame Miso Dip

Raw Zucchini Hummus

Ginger Lime Wasabi Edamame Hummus

Rosemary Pistachio Hummus

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Coconut Bacon

This is my submission to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, this month’s Cheese Please, this month’s Spice Trail for paprika, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Tomato Red Lentil Soup with Dill

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on January 23, 2014 at 7:07 AM

I love it when Houston behaves itself.

Rob and I had another Canadian visitor recently. In between Polar Vortex 1 and Polar Vortex 2, Houstonians enjoyed balmy (normal) summery weather at its finest. You know, summer how it is meant to be: around 25ºC. None of that feels like 38ºC with 90% humidity forecast. None of that below freezing business (that’s tonight, by the way).

Together, we did more touristy things than we had ever done before: hiking next to alligators, admiring the Museum of Fine Art’s impressive gold collection, watching Americana in our backyard via the Martin Luther King Jr Parade. However, I still skipped out on the stereotypical NASA Space Center visit. We still shared our favourite haunts but explored new restaurants as well. Nearly every meal was pre-planned. My friend had so many restaurants she wanted to try!

After the whirlwind of a visit (if you knew my friend, you would know this is no overstatement), both Rob and my friend parted for Canada. One to Toronto and the other to Winnipeg. Both returned to temperatures around -20ºC (-4F). Yesterday, my friend in Winnipeg told me it was -40ºC with the windshield. For those that need a conversion to Fahrenheit, at -40, both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales collide. Collide and freeze. They are the same. Both, really, really cold.

With the imminent cold weather, I am sharing another warming soup. Red lentils are a perfect blank canvas for a hearty meal. Pureed tomatoes and red lentils are combined with cauliflower and brown rice in a broth spiced with cumin, mustard and dill. I never would have thought to combine those flavours together but the dill really brightened the dish. This is an excellent soup!

How have you been keeping warm lately?

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

PS. The winner of Balanced Raw is Marquis. Congratulations! Read the rest of this entry »

Mexican Black Bean Dip

In Appetizers on January 21, 2014 at 7:58 AM

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Yesterday was Martin Luther Kind Jr. Day. A new-to-us statutory holiday, we celebrated by attending America’s third largest parade. Third behind the Rose Parade and The Macy’s Day Parade. Yes, Houston’s Martin Luther King Jr Parade highlighted marching bands, parade floats, antique cars (and horses!) and attracted an estimated 300,000 spectators. And it was happening a few blocks from my home. So we went. I can’t say I have been to many other parades (other than the Santa Claus Parade) and this was a real treat.

There are a few things on my American bucket list. A few fun things (like Burning Man and visiting National Parks), and then some that others think we should experience to fully appreciate the American culture. Like attend a football game. If you think hockey is big in Canada, football is even bigger in the US. Like huge. I mean, like HUGE. Our neighbour invited us to watch a football game with him but timing never seemed to work out. When I finally approached him again, the Texans had already wrapped up a year that was not their best.  I don’t think they even made the playoffs. In any case, I will have to scurry about to find an invitation to a Superbowl party instead. It sounds more up my alley… game day food, no?

Not that I have ever been to a sport watching party before.. with game food. I imagine there would a lot a of nibblers and popcorn… and chips. While I am not sure how I could make this delicious bowl of black beans whipped into a dip look much better (perhaps a garnish or two.. and some colourful veggies for the photo.. or inside a pretty kale wrap), I am sharing it because it was delightful. A spin on hummus, but with nearly everything replaced: black beans instead of chickpeas, pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds, lime instead of lemon, and the icing on top: instead of garlic we used fire roasted green chiles. Fire roasted green chiles are much easier to find in the US, whereas I don’t think I ever noticed them in Canada. I have really taken a liking to them since they aren’t that spicy, either. In this dip, they were a perfect foil for the otherwise ugly dip. Eat it with some crackers or vegetables.. and get your leguminous protein fix. 🙂

Do you like football? Are you excited for the Superbowl? What will you be serving for game day?
(To be fair, I rarely even paid attention to the hockey games while in Canada, either)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

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Vegan Nutrition Books You Should Read

In Book Review on January 18, 2014 at 7:28 AM

With the excitement of the new year and new resolutions, you told me you are enjoying a change with your meals. More vegan meals, less processed foods, more vegetables, whatever it may be. A vegan diet can mean a lot of things and without the proper knowledge, may seem as a restrictive and potentially nutrient-poor choice. Obviously, once you are well-versed in a nutritionally-sound vegan framework, it is a healthy choice.

While I usually keep it on the low-down, my long-term readers know I am a physician. I am board-certified in my specialty in two countries. This year marks my 14th year of schooling after high school. Suffice it to say, I have an analytical frame of mind which is routed in science and evidence-based medicine.  I may be a doctor but am I a registered dietician? No.

I do not pretend to be anything I am not. Instead of focusing on studies and nutritional benefits here, I prefer to share my joy for good, healthy food.  Wading through the mounds of pseudo-science (and real science) is an onerous task even for those working in the industry. As this is a hobby blog, it is more fun for me to lead by example, sharing my recipe successes. Thankfully there are others who have made it their mission to share scientifically sound nutritional advice for people who have adopted a vegan lifestyle. Consider reading the latest books to connect with the most current available vegan-centric knowledge.

1. Vegan For Life

vegan for life cover

Around this time last year, I shared my recommendation for Vegan For Life, a book routed in the science of living a healthy vegan lifestyle. If you have read that book already, my new recommendations may not necessarily share new information with you. They are a bit more in-depth, though. However, an annual nutrition refresher may be just what you need, no matter which book you read.

The chapters are short, but highlight the important nutrients vegans have to work harder to eat: proteins, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, minerals such as iron, zinc, and iodine. Their vegan food guide suggests eating whole grains and starchy vegetables (5+ servings a day), legumes and soy foods (3-4+ servings a day), vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (2+ servings a day), nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) and fats (2 servings a day) along with supplementation (including whole food sources) for vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D and omega-3 fats.

Shorter chapters highlight key points for vegan pregnancy and breastfeeding, raising vegan children, eating properly if you are over 50 years of age, managing weight, heart disease and diabetes, and sports nutrition. This is actually a quick and engaging read for anyone wanting to learn more about vegan nutrition. Highly recommended.

2. Becoming Vegan, Express Edition

becoming vegan express

Possibly one of the first books focusing on vegan nutrition was Becoming Vegan, initially published in 2000. Davis and Melina updated their classic book and despite streamlining it into an “Express Edition”, it boasts 86 more pages. This is an Express Edition, because it presents the information in a readable digest geared to a person learning about nutrition. It touches on the basics. There are pages dedicated to each and every vitamin and mineral and chapters outlining vegan sources of carbohydrates, fats and protein. There are readable chapters for people wanting to lose weight or gain weight on a vegan diet as well as chapters how a vegan diet may change over a lifestyle (athletes, pregnant women and the elderly are highlighted). A cursory last chapter is dedicated to a properly balanced vegan diet. Their balanced daily Vegan Plate includes vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (4+ servings a day), legumes (3+ servings a day), grains (3+ servings a day) and nuts and seeds (1+ servings a day), along with other essentials such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine. The chapters are well laid-out with headings, bullets, tables and quite high-yield if you know what you want to learn about.

It is a comprehensive book and one with which I agree with their message, but it fell short for me. There are lengthy textbook-like tables highlighting the nutritional composition of different foods and suggestions to make proper choices at meal-time (only 2 recipes are included as the companion cookbook is Cooking Vegan), but the scientist in me wanted more. I missed their citations. Where did they base their recommendations? My review may be a little premature, though. An updated comprehensive version, with 624 pages, will be published in June 2014, which may very well have all the information I seek. In any case, I still think this is a valuable resource. A sample snippet from the book about coconut oil can be read here and a nice Q & A with the authors here.

3. Vegan For Her

vegan for her cover

Authored by Messina, who co-authored Vegan For Life, with help from JL Fields for the recipes, Vegan For Her focuses on the special nutritional needs of vegan women. The basics of vegan nutrition are covered along with the basics of female physiology like hormones throughout a woman’s life. Messina looks specifically at the changing nutritional needs of enhancing fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, aging, athletes, dieting to lose weight, as well addressing how a vegan diet may help prevent breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, pain, depression and stress and how to increase and/or maintain bone density. The second half of the book is dedicated to recipes created by JL Fields.

While Becoming Vegan reads more like a textbook, Messina’s approach to Vegan For Her is more engaging in a novel-type of book. Without being too dry, Messina is still able to cite the scientific literature to strengthen her recommendations. However, instead of bogging down her reader with numbers and tables, she has introduced her Vegan Food Guide, highlighting vegetables (5+ servings a day) and fruits (3+ servings a day), whole grains and starchy vegetables (4+ servings a day), legumes and soyfoods (3+ servings a day), and nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) with special attention to calcium-rich foods, ALA, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine.

Instead of empowering the reader by educating them about ingredient staples (Vegan For Life is a bit more list-heavy), there are recipes geared for a beginner, transitioning vegan without any nutritional information. I will be a bit critical of the recipe portion, as I found it quite perplexing to find so many specialty items listed as ingredients. I understand the need for transitioning recipes, finding common ground with familiar favourites. However, the recipes span the gamut of convenience foods like fake ground beef substitute,  fake cheese, TVP, soy curls, “chicken style” seasoning, marinara sauce and vegan mayonnaise to harder-to-find specialty ingredients that might make a beginner intimidated such as ume plum vinegar, fresh coconut water, hemp seeds, chickpea flour, vital wheat gluten, amaranth and millet. Even as a seasoned vegan (almost 3 years of a whole foods based vegan diet here), I have tried to keep my pantry smaller and thus found it difficult to connect with the recipes. There was a lot of variety, though. Some were appealing. I have previously shared Fields’ Mediterranean Beans with Greens and I enjoyed some of her dressings. Next time, I recommend a more focused theme for recipes along with a plea to number the directions and space them out for easier reading.

4. Never Too Late to Go Vegan

never too late to go vegan cover

My Mom may claim otherwise but it may be more of a challenge for older people to change their diet. To help burgeoning vegans over 50, Messina recently penned a vegan help book due out at the end of January 2014.

I probably should get my Mom to review the book for a more accurate view from the target audience. In any case, with a similar tone and style as Vegan For Her, Adams, Breitman and Messina explore why one would want to make the change to a vegan diet even later in life (it is never too late, as the title suggests). Not only does she highlight the important aspects of a diet for those over the age of 50, she helps one navigate relationship dynamics and issues surrounding being a vegan caregiver, all with  stories from successful over age 50 vegans peppered throughout the book.

The last part of the book is dedicated to 78 recipes which are geared to transitioning vegans with recipes for basic hummus, Portuguese kale soup, mushroom pate, spicy collards with ginger, mashed potatoes and gravy, quick enchiladas, Texas chocolate sheet cake.

If you are the target audience, this may be a great start to begin introducing yourself to the vegan community.


As you can see, each book is different. Make no excuse to educate yourself about a proper vegan diet and try to find the one that resonates best for you and your needs.

For a few lucky readers, you will have a chance to win your own copy of these books. I have copies of Vegan For Her and Becoming Vegan Express up for grabs for those living in the United States.  Please let me know if you have a preference for either book in a comment below. Have you read any of these books before? Any other books you recommend? I will select 2 winners at random on January 28, 2014. Good luck!

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

In Mains (Vegetarian) on January 16, 2014 at 7:59 AM

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

I loved your feedback to my mung bean stew last week, especially Hanna’s rendition of the dish. If your comments are any indication, you may have bought mung beans a while ago but not sure what to make with them. I was like that, too. Last year, I couldn’t get enough of simple spiced mung beans. Despite having the mung beans in my cupboard for 2 years or so, I discovered their awesomeness as I (attempted) to eat through my pantry. I became so enamored with them that I bought another 4 lbs when I moved to Houston. With a focus on eating through my pantry yet again, I have been experimenting with mung beans. Bring on more beans, right? 🙂

While this creamy mung bean curry hails from the ever fabulous Lisa, ever an Indian bean whiz should I meet one, I knew it was a winner before I even made it. Like my recent Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup, it includes all my favourite things: tamarind, cumin, Aleppo chili flakes, and a bit of coconut milk for a touch of creaminess for the sauce. A simple twist of adding curry leaves makes this a different dish altogether. Southern Indian-style.

Have you tried mung beans yet? How do you like to prepare them?

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

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

PS. The winner of Superfood Smoothies is Annette.

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Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on January 14, 2014 at 6:59 AM

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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Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce & Cookbook Giveaway!

In Appetizers, Book Review on January 11, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce

I have been very fortunate to grow up in an environment where brains were valued over beauty. None of my friends were ever on diets. If I made New Year’s Resolutions (I doubt I did; my last decade has been more of a daily self-evaluation), they were short-lived vow to be nicer to my brother. My mother (and brother) may not believe me.

It was only after I started reading food blogs, did I encounter the dizzying world of detoxes, cleanses and diets. Not that I have ever condoned detoxes. Barring liver disease or overdoses, our liver does a great job “detoxifying” our body every.single.day. Imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my friends in Houston told me they were eating 100% raw shortly after New Year’s, spurred by Kristina’s 21-Day Raw Challenge. I love the creativity that comes from cooking/uncooking/eating raw foods, but they complement my cooked vegan eats. Let’s be honest, even in Houston, winter is not the ideal time to go all raw.

Parsnip Rice Sushi with Sweet Tamarind Dipping Sauce

My friend hosted a potluck to kickstart her first day on her raw diet and this is what I brought to share. I used it as an opportunity to make something from a new cookbook, Balanced RawRaw sushi is easy to share at a party, so I tried the new recipe. I have made raw sushi before, and the recipes are quite similar, but I decided to share this version, too, mainly because Rob took some impromptu sushi rolling action shots. Using a placemat makes sushi rolling very easy. Parsnip rice is spiced with a bit of chile powder and filled with an assortment of vegetables.

Raw Parsnip Rice Sushi Demo

A note about the cookbook, though. The recipes are built around a 3-week vegan “cleanse” with a meal plan for every day. The recipes span both raw and cooked meals, but they seem to follow a low-fat 80/10/10 vegan diet. While Kristina is good about mentioning the need to eat enough calories, the meal plans in this book look woefully inadequate calorically. However, the recipes are interesting and would be a useful adjunct to whatever your typical eats may be. There are ideas for vegetables beyond salads. I use raw foods to enhance my vegan diet. It is a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits.

The publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think about cleanses and detoxes. Have you done one? Are you doing one? I will randomly select a winner on January 20, 2014. Good luck!

Balanced Raw recipes elsewhere:

Blue Greens Smoothie

This is my submission to this month’s I Am Vegetarian – Hear Me Raw, and this week’s Raw Foods Thursdays.

PS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for Superfood Smoothies here.

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Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup

In Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on January 9, 2014 at 7:43 AM

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!

I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!

Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.

Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.

What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.

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Indian-Spiced Mung Bean Stew

In Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on January 7, 2014 at 7:15 AM

Mung Bean Casserole

While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time  over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:

1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.

2. Batkid: More feel-good moments. My friend was The Penguin in this heist. You can read about his experience here.

3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.

4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.

5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.

6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.

7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. 😉

Mung Bean Casserole

I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.

Where have you been on the web recently?

Mung Bean Casserole

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Let’s Cook with Green Vegetables.

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Lucuma Macadamia Smoothie & Superfood Smoothies Cookbook Giveaway!

In Book Review, Drinks on January 4, 2014 at 7:10 AM

Lucuma Macadamia Smoothie

There was How I Spent My New Year’s Eve and now How I Spent My New Year’s Day.

Who did not enjoy a mid-week hump day holiday?

Because we had returned to Houston, this was a New Year’s Day like no other. It was reasonably warm outside. Rob had a taco craving. The much-hyped taco restaurant was open on January 1. We wanted to cycle. So we combined the plans.

In truth, while I cycle to/from work every day, our weekend rides have dwindled in between all our travel, cold and rainy weather and lastly Rob’s cold. By the time I became infected, I was only inflicted by a minor sore throat (so far, at least). I didn’t let that stop us from cycling for tacos.

Instead of our dawn-cracking bicycle rides of summer yonder, our winter cycling is more of an afternoon affair. In Houston, daily temperatures are at their peak around 3-4 pm, whereas in Toronto, it is more like 1-2 pm. In any case, we forged ahead. Rob picked the location that would lead best to a bike ride.

We picked a nice bike trail that is fairly sheltered from motorists. While construction has demolished its uninterrupted bicycle bliss (Houston’s construction season must be winter), it was a great ride… and surprisingly without too many other people sharing the path.

While the bike ride was fantastic, nearly 40 km and with a good pace, we had a much slower pace at the restaurant. Because it was THE place to be… we had to wait at least 15 minutes prior to being seated. Rob felt vindicated, though. He had eaten the best tacos yet, although I still feel like those in Mexico City were superior. Rob pointed out that the commute is much easier if we stay within Houston.

Hope you enjoyed your holiday, too.

After our ride, I treated us to this delicious smoothie. A little messy, but I decided not to clean up my mess. All for a better photo, no? 😉

Lucuma Macadamia Smoothie

While we have a freezer filled with frozen bananas, I like to whip together banana-free smoothies, too.  Dates and lucuma powder provide the sweet caramel undertones for this creamy smoothie. Banana usually lends well to both creaminess and sweetness, and in this case, the creaminess comes from tofu, hemp seeds and macadamia nuts. It is actually a very simple smoothie but it tasted great. It kind of brought whole foods smoothie to a new level for me (due to the lack of non-dairy milk). In addition to the lack of banana, this smoothie was fun because you basically create your own non-dairy milk from macadamia nuts and tofu.

This is just one of the creative craveable concoctions from Julie Morris’ Superfood Smoothies. She has really outdone herself, because there are so many wonderful drinks here: watermelon acai, carrot cardamom, mango chili, cucumber mint, chocolate kale, mint chip, mayan chocolate, maca oat, pineapple maca, red velvet cake (with roasted beets!) and even a chocolate smoothie with cauliflower.

All of the smoothie focus on plant-based ingredients, with a special focus on superfoods. Superfoods including standard fruits and vegetables but also less common ingredients (aka expensive) like acai, macqui, maca and camu powders, dried mulberries, hemp seeds, and fresh coconut water. A handy substitution chart at the back of the book will help with substitutions, but let’s be honest: smoothies are meant to be forgiving. Most of the time, the hard-to-find ingredients could be omitted altogether since they are used in limited amount, substituted with something more common or you could splurge and just use a little bit of them for each smoothie, which would last you a long time. A bit more of a bother for me was the inclusion of different juices in the recipes – carrot, apple, orange, pomegranate, aloe, etc. I would rather throw in a whole carrot than only use its juice, but one is way more sweet than the other… and way more juicy.  If you use the recipes as a guide, I don’t think you will be let down. Furthermore, while there may or may not be a conflict of interest, Julie is a spokesperson and executive chef for a company that sells said expensive superfoods. Although her work with the Smoothment (Smoothie Movement), may indeed make her an expert with such ingredients. Perhaps if you drink your way through this cookbook, you will become one, too.

Lucuma Macadamia Smoothie

Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the continental United States (sorry to all my non-US readers). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite smoothie. If you have yet to venture into the land of smoothies, have a look through the index of Superfood Smoothies on amazon (or any of the smoothies listed here) and tell me what you want to drink the most. I will randomly select a winner on January 15, 2014. Good luck!

Superfood Smoothies spotted elsewhere:

Cranberry Orange Smoothie

Toasted Coconut and Macadamia Smoothie

Lemon-Lime Smoothie (with Bok Choy!)

Mint Chip Smoothie

Raw Cookie Dough Shake

Cocoa Cream (aka Chocolate Dream Smoothie)

Mango Chili

Strawberry Basil

Grapefruit Pomegranate

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month’s Random Recipes.

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Top 13 Reader Favourite Recipes from 2013

In Events/Round-Ups, Favourites on January 3, 2014 at 6:46 AM

Thank you for all your positive feedback from my top 13 favourite recipes. This is the first year I also looked through my blog stats and decided to share your favourite recipes you read on my blog last year. I was going to add them to my last post, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you.  Some oldie-but-goodies are in this list, so be sure to check them all out.

1. Apple Strudel (How to Make Authentic German Apfelstrudel)

My most popular recipe is not even vegan, but I am tickled pink that I keep reading everyone’s success with our family recipe for apple strudel. No store-bought phyllo dough here, we have authentic strudel dough. Who does not enjoy seeing step-by-step photos of my Oma making an apple strudel? (Also my top post last year).

2. Ethiopian Lentils in Berbere Sauce (Yemiser W’et)

We have gravitated to Ethiopian w’ets as they are cousins to simple Indian dals. Easy, flavourful and healthy. All good! Ethiopian restos can be hit-or-miss for me, as Ethiopian food tends to be even more spicy than Indian curries. I learned the hard way that Penzey’s berbere is way.too.spicy, but this recipe comes with a delicious blend for even the mild palate.

3. Better Than Nutella Cheesecake (Almost Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake)

You have good taste. This dessert was awesome. An almost raw cheesecake with nutella flavours from chocolate and hazelnuts.

Better Than Nutella Cheesecake (Almost Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake)

4. Raw Tacos with Walnut Taco Meat, Cashew Sour Cream and a Cherry Tomato Salsa

A raw cuisine classic, and it is no surprise why. Even the most serious meat eaters approved! The walnuts are easily crumbled into a mock ground beef and topped with a simple tomato salsa and cashew sour cream.

5. Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

If you could not tell, I really like chickpeas and they work well warmed. Here they are dressed up Spanish-style along with smoked paprika, roasted garlic, lemon and spinach for an easy weeknight meal.

Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic

6. Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie 

A hit from last year, this chocolate mousse silk pie acquires its light silkiness from tofu. I promise you can’t taste it. This was so good, I also turned it into a chocolate mint no-churn ice cream.

7. Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha)

It boggles my mind that kik alicha, a simple Ethiopian split pea puree, is one of my post popular posts of the year. But it shouldn’t. It is a deliciously garlicky, silky dip/spread/thick stew. For those who think Ethiopian food is only hot-and-spicy, this will definitely prove you wrong.

8. Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad)

This was a fun cilantro-lime twist on a broccoli and cauliflower rice salad originally popularized by taking the Whole Foods salad bar by storm. Sunflower seeds add crunch and dried currants add sweetness, making a fantastically popular salad.

9. Nut-Free Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

I was going to include this in my list of of favourite recipes from 2013, but I knew it would be repeated here, so I refrained. Coconut flour was revolutionary in my kitchen and this was my gateway dessert. A low-fat, nut-free, raw carrot cupcake made with carrots, topped with an apple-cashew frosting. Ingenious, no?

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

10. Mango Cupcakes with Mango Buttercream Frosting

Bring on more cupcakes! I made these for Rob’s birthday and they were a hit. A lower oil cupcake made possible by adding mango puree to the cupcake batter. Spiked with vanilla and cardamom, they were topped with a mango-coconut buttercream frosting. The frosting melted by the end of the night, but the cupcakes were a winner.

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Buttercream Frosting (Vegan)

11. Vegan Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese Vegetable Pancake), As You Like It

I really like that some of my popular posts are quite non-traditional. This a vegan spin on the Japanese cabbage pancake. Instead of flour, tofu and cornstarch/arrowroot are used to bind the baked pancake together. Top with black sesame seeds, shredded nori, as well as okonomi sauce and Japanese-style mayo for the real deal.

12. Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla)

A staple in our kitchen, these are Indian-flavoured chickpea pancakes that Rob loves to whip together on weekends together. They are very flexible, so fill them with your vegetable odds-and-ends. Our newest favourite version incorporates kimchi into the batter.

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

This was a portable spin on an Ottolenghi-inspired salad with sweet potato, quinoa, wild rice and brown basmati rice with tofu feta and a sweet and creamy tahini dipping sauce. Wrap it in rice paper rolls for easier transportation, or leave it a salad in a bowl; it will be delicious either way.

14. Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

A bonus #14 since we had a repeat for #3. Plus this is an oldie-but-goodie and worthwhile revisiting (or visiting if you have not tried it yet). Pan-fried chickpeas and toasted almonds are combined with artichoke hearts in an Italian marinade with lemon, basil and oregano.

What were your favourite finds from the year? Did I miss any of your favourites?

Favourite here, previously:

My 10 Favourite Recipes from 2010

My 11 Favourite Recipes from 2011

My 12 Favourite Recipes from 2012

My 13 Favourite Recipes from 2013

My Ongoing List of Favourite Recipes

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on January 2, 2014 at 6:49 AM

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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My 13 Favourite Recipes from 2013

In Events/Round-Ups, Favourites on January 1, 2014 at 7:36 AM

This has been a year of many changes but equally one with many delights. Moving to another country, almost 3000 km away, was a monumental feat. With support from family, friends, co-workers and strangers, my new home in Houston has a warm, soft spot in my heart. My kitchen has changed, my recipes a bit more simple, but still delicious as ever. Without further adieu, here are my favourite recipes from the last year (no particular order). Tomorrow I will share your top reader favourites from 2013.

1. Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

Food seems to taste better when someone else makes it for you, but this was pure gastronomical bliss. Beer-Soaked Sweet Potato Fries + BBQ Jackfruit meat + kimchi + baked tofu, a spin-off of one of our favourite dishes in Toronto.

Jackfruit and Kimchi Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu

2. Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

Pad thai is another dish that is Rob’s culinary creation and I finally snapped photos of the most delicious version yet. Tamarind is the secret to our authentic-tasting pad thai sauce.

Snow Pea & Tofu Pad Thai

3. Dillicious Yellow Tofu Scramble and Mini Arepas

Looks like this may be found as the year Rob fed me, but judging by how often we make arepas, this is definitely a winner in our books. Here it is paired with a dill-intensive tofu and broccoli scramble.

4. Ancho Lentil Taco Salad Wraps

We are loving all.things.taco at the moment and this still stands as one of our favourite fillings. Quick, easy, and tasty. The reason why I keep powdered Ancho chiles in my kitchen.

Ancho Lentil Taco Salad Wraps

5. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

Roasted brussels sprouts are fantastic but this sweet, creamy and tangy balsamic-miso dressing is a winner with anything.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

6. The Best Raw Corn Chips

I had to limit myself to one chip recipe for this round-up. While my raw beet chips are truly addictive despite their simplicity, I like the simplicity of these corn chips which are basically only corn with spices and seasonings.

Raw Corn Chips

7. Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants (The Best Chickpea Salad Ever)

A winner for potlucks, this simple chickpea and carrot salad is delicious with a medley of curry powder, maple syrup, tahini for a dressing. It can double as a main.

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

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

I never would have thought to combine miso and curry, but trust me, this soup was delicious.

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

9. Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

Most of the recipes in this list of favourites have been Robbie Repeaters, aka recipes simple and tasty that Rob makes time and time again. This is a refreshing change of pace for a dip: a fusion of hummus with tzatziki. Cucumber meets chickpea. Nice to meet you, too.

Cucumber Hummus Dip (Hummus-Tzatziki Fusion)

10. Better Than Nutella Cheesecake (Almost Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake)

At number 10 only because I lumped my desserts towards the end, this was an epic dessert. Rich and decadent, chocolate meets hazelnut for a nutella-like cheesecake, only better.

Better Than Nutella Cheesecake (Almost Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake)

11. Rich Vegan Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

This was a year filled with lots of great desserts, and this cheesecake was the dessert that reminded me the most of real cheesecake. The fluffier European-style cheesecake that I adore. Cashews and tofu are combined with great results but almost overshadowed by a crispy pecan shortbread crust.

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

12. The Best Chocolate Truffles

These were so easy to make and also, to eat, I ran out of cocoa powder after making three batches over the holidays. It is possibly to my benefit that I don’t replenish it. Although on second thought, how will I use up my lecithin before we move? 😉

The Best Chocolate Truffle

13. Cardamom, Cinnamon & Ginger Iced Tea

I have long been a fan of tisanes, but little did I know how easy (and cheaper) it would be to make my own. This has been a staple ever since. A cold beverage spiced with kitchen staples: cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.

Cardamom, Cinnamon & Ginger Herbal Infusion

What were your favourite finds from the year? Did I miss any of your favourites?

Favourite here, previously:

My 10 Favourite Recipes from 2010

My 11 Favourite Recipes from 2011

My 12 Favourite Recipes from 2012

My Ongoing List of Favourite Recipes