janet @ the taste space

Posts Tagged ‘balsamic vinegar’

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

In Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on April 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

This blog is definitely a labour of love.

More than sharing recipes and my experiences in the kitchen, it has morphed into a sort of journal, chronically my adventures with cycling, gardening and whatever life throws at me. Some blogs cater to their readers’ wants…. me, I share what I like and most likely if you are reading, you will like it, too. 🙂 Or, if I muck things up, I hope to pass on my wisdom. (PS, I loved hearing your confessions about your own kitchen bloopers after my last post)

Another benefit of writing this all out? I can learn from my old mistakes, too.

Rob and I recently connected with one of our neighbours and we started chatting about our garden. Did we have any tips?  I couldn’t think of any tips other than a) beans can be grown easily from seeds; and b) kale and collards from seedlings gave us better results. She also asked for some pictures. As I dug up some of my garden updates, I re-read my posts and uncovered other golden nuggets: tomato cages for the beans! get rid of those bugs from the kale ASAP! my preferred basil plant..

I should listen to myself more often. I dug up another old post, when I first started my cycling commute in the spring last year. Talk about deja vu. I was complaining about a long commute after a winter hiatus and here I am complaining again. I thought I was easing myself into my old cycling groove by foregoing the gym, but a long commute needs to be warmed into. I cycled to work (no gym) on Friday: 25km. The ride back was brutal with fierce winds all the way home. I almost decided to give up my cycling commute altogether and stick with the subway. On Sunday, I ended up cycling to the gym and really enjoyed the ride.

With a rainy forecast this week, I decided to capitalize on another day to try to cycle to work (no gym) on Monday. Mondays have me travelling all over the city, so I ended up clocking 36km. It doesn’t sound like that much… but coming from zero biking and a 2-week gym hiatus, I was wiped out when I came home. (Let’s not forget to mention I cycled home IN THE RAIN). Physically pooped, cold and wet, the last thing I wanted was a salad for dinner. I didn’t want to wait for a soup to defrost from the freezer, either. Instead I made a smoothie. Simple and nothing to document as I just whizzed together a frozen banana, frozen raspberries, maca, vanilla, flax seeds and unflavoured Sunwarrior protein powder. Oh, and some water. I am normally never satisfied with a smoothie as a meal, but this worked… after a warm bath and canning my oatmeal for the week, I slid into bed, exhausted.

I need to find more balance.

Still needing to eat, I really should plan my meals based on the weather forecast. The rest of the week has a rainy forecast and possible snow/hail today and/or tomorrow. No more cycling, that’s for sure… warm comforting meals may be in order, though. As such, I took this soup out from the freezer for some meals later this week.

I love unearthing gems from the freezer. I should do it more often. I often get wooed by fresh produce but I need to remind myself to keep things stress-free by eating from the freezer. This is a soup I have made a few times, too, and was lucky to have garden kale when I made this in the fall. I have used both shiitakes and oyster mushrooms with great results. Combining mushrooms and lentils, the earthy flavours mix well with the tangy vinegar and zippy garlic. It is during these dreary days that warm, comforting bowls of my favourite soups really help.

Do you keep a journal? If you do (or have a blog), do you ever re-read it?

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required for mushrooms.

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Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on April 7, 2013 at 9:04 AM

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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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic Miso Dressing

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides on March 28, 2013 at 6:32 AM

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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Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

In Mains (Vegetarian), Sides on March 12, 2013 at 6:41 AM

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

So Rob is gone and I am out to play!

A few years ago, I read What We Eat When We Eat Alone by husband and wife team Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin. I was so fascinated by their stories that I wrote my own series about eating for 1. At the time, I had been living by myself for over 6 years (plus another 4 years I lived with roommates). I was fascinated by what people ate when not with their significant other. Truthfully, I don’t really modify my habits too much when Rob is away. I try to stay on track.

However, I emailed Rob about being influenced by the Bad Idea Bears (bonus points if you have any clue what I am referring to). After going to the gym, I was so energized post-shred that I went grocery shopping. My email to Rob:

The bad idea bears helped me reason out why I should buy 8 lbs of chickpeas for $5, spinach (3/$2), baby bok choy (79c/lb), lots of bananas (29c/lb), grapefruit (4/$1) among other things. I bought you some rolled oats, too. 🙂 oh, and some yogurt (it expires in April so you are still good post-SXSW).

I know my Mom is shaking her head. I thought about it, too. I reasoned it out. Our chickpea stash was getting low!! I am on a chickpea phase! The other beans will not suffice! They are on sale! They will keep. I will eat them. I want my chickpeas!

Plus, my Mom gave me a nice balsamic vinegar for Christmas, so I need chickpeas and greens to eat through that! 😉

(I am thinking about depleting my pantry…)

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

So now I have lots of chickpeas and lots of greens. Which is better than a case of beer, right? (Rob thought so, too).

You may have noticed I am posting more and more simple recipes. This is possibly one of my easiest recipes (the broccoli was an afterthought, so the hardest part is chopping the broccoli). In a saucepan, put all your ingredients and make a balsamic reduction with a touch of tomato, garlic and lemon. Within a few minutes, it glazes the chickpeas with a sweet-tart sauce. The original recipe called for ketchup, which I replaced with tomato paste and sweetener. The quality of your balsamic vinegar will dictate how tart it will become and how much sweetener to add. Taste as you go. You could just make the chickpeas, but I found the broccoli to be a perfect match, sweet and crunchy, to balance the strong balsamic reduction. Next time, to make this even easier, I may just whip out my mosto cotto instead.

Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s My Legume Love Affair.

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Beefy Portobello Mushroom and Cranberry Stew

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on January 24, 2013 at 6:31 AM

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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Roasted Balsamic Curry Fall Vegetables and Cranberries with Kamut

In Favourites, Salads, Sides on November 20, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Earlier this year, my cousin’s wife was trying to track down kamut, an ancient wheat. She explained to me that kamut contained less gluten, perfect for her gluten-free adventures.  She searched high and low and could not find whole grain kamut. Kamut flakes and puffed kamut, yes, but not regular old kamut.  Since she was hoping to get rid of gluten, I suggested not trying to track down such a hard-to-find ingredient, especially since it still contains gluten, even if it is a smaller amount.

A few days later, when I decided to reorganize my whole grains, I discovered I had kamut. Turns out I had forgotten all about it. I bought a small amount while in Calgary, since I had never seen it before. Unfortunately, while Community Natural Foods has an online store, I don’t see kamut for sale.  With my curiosity piqued, I decided it was time to try out the kamut.

Nothing fancy, I opted to add it to a bowlful of roasted fall vegetables. More veggies, less grain, please.

The verdict?

First, the kamut. I will admit that it was nice. Similar to wheat berries, they were pleasantly plump yet their shape made it more akin to orzo. A plumpy, chewy orzo. Milder than wheat berries, I rather enjoyed them.  If I had easy access to kamut, I would likely choose it over wheat berries, but since I don’t know where to replenish it in Toronto, I will just have to finish my spelt berries first. Although, I am already on a whittling of the pantry plan, where nothing is being replenished except for my easy-to-find favourites: quinoa, red lentils and chickpeas.

Next, the veggies. Delicious right from the oven, I had a hard time holding back from gobbling everything down. I loved combining the different roasted vegetables for different complementary flavours. The Brussels sprouts were earthy and crispy, contrasting the soft and sweet squash, next to the tart and juicy cranberries. The balsamic-curry dressing was not overpowering, and allowed the natural flavours to shine.

Don’t have kamut? No worries. Simply omit it or add your favourite whole grain or bean. I am thinking chickpeas or white beans would be great here.

If you do have kamut, and live in the GTA, please tell me where you found it. 🙂

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

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Warm Balsamic Rosemary Cabbage Salad

In Favourites, Salads on November 15, 2012 at 5:47 AM

You know you are a food blogger if…

According to this list, I am not a very good blogger. I can only relate to:

3. You’ve made kale chips. And there is a recipe for it on your blog.
I’ve made kale chips but it is not on my blog. Or does my kale chip pizza count?

6. You take the same photos of the produce at the farmer’s market that you did last year, but you can’t help it. The rainbow chard is so pretty!
I don’t recall actually doing this but I could see myself doing and saying this.

7. You really are confused as to why granola is so expensive at the grocery store.
Uh yeah, especially when it is so easy to make at home.

8. You go shopping with your significant other, and at some point, while looking for a specific item on your grocery list, you turn to him/her and say “We need to shop at a white person grocery store.”
Sounds like something I could say but I don’t think I have. In my defense, ethnic grocery stores don’t carry nutritional yeast!

9. When dining out, no one is allowed to eat the food until you have whipped out your camera/iPhone/Android and taken a shot of it first.
Rob and I both do this!

11. You scope out restaurant tables at lunch with proximity to windows to provide natural lighting for your Rob’s photographs.
If the light isn’t right, I don’t even try taking a photo.

19. You have run out of room for your cookbooks. Yet you still buy more.
Guilty, as charged.

21. You think Pinterest is a godsend as well as the devil’s work.
Absolutely.

27. You start to get nervous when you are down to only one pound of butter, one bag of flour, one head of garlic, or one onion.
But is that really because I am a food blogger or just a meticulous cook that likes garlic and onions?

9/40. I fail. 😉

I have others suggestions: You know are a food blogger when you can’t NOT make a new recipe, when you make meals during the day to help take photographs in natural light, or you have a special spot dedicated for food photography.

I never really thought much about blogging and my life, 3 years – has it really been that long?, until I tried to stop blogging.

I recently went to a party and planned to keep things low stress. I would make a repeater recipe: My Crunchy Cabbage Salad with an Orange-Tahini Dressing. However, I knew I could eat half of it, so I decided to double the recipe. After I cut all that cabbage, it seemed like a heck of a lot. Even if there would be 12 people at the party. So I reverted back to my die-hard blogger instincts and made a second salad instead of doubling the original salad.

This is the second salad. Which I photographed before the party and repackaged. Because who would share a cake with a piece missing at a party? (#24) Only if it is my own party! And really, I just claim the first piece. 🙂

While cabbage haters would likely not be pleased with 2 salads, both featuring cabbage, I was glad that I brought both (just like kale salads, cabbage salads keep well as leftovers). The Orange-Tahini Cilantro Cabbage Salad is bright and flavourful but this second salad was warm and earthy. Onions and garlic are pan-fried along with cabbage that is gently cooked to remove some of its bite. Granny Smith apples add tartness and sweetness along with raisins. Tossed with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, you have a simple salad that is more than the sum of its parts. I used green cabbage which became a bit muddled from the balsamic vinegar. My suggestion would be to use white balsamic if you have it or use purple cabbage instead.

The salads had mixed reviews. Personally, I preferred the new salad but the guests seemed to prefer my old stand-by.

How do you know that you are a food blogger?

Warm Balsamic Rosemary Cabbage Salad

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required for special salads for guests, to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne, to this month‘s Herbs on Saturdays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays

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Zucchini Spaghetti with Chickpeas and a Roasted Tomato-Peach Sauce

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on August 31, 2012 at 6:21 AM

There should be some limits.

I shouldn’t be able to buy anything I can’t lift at the grocery store.

Technically, I could lift the crate of tomatoes. Into the shopping cart, into the car, and into the house. And then onto the scale to see how many tomatoes I got for $10!

53 lbs of tomato goodness

It is a lot more tomatoes than you think

For this recipe, I used 5 cups of tomatoes. That seems like a lot on any normal day in my kitchen. It didn’t even make a dent.

I ended up roasting, dehydrating and cooking up half of the tomatoes last weekend. Round two starts tomorrow!  Please share with me your favourite recipes. Bonus for any water-cannable recipes…. my freezer is becoming uber full.

Back to this recipe at hand, which combines seemingly polarized end of summer produce: tomatoes and peaches. Both become sweet through roasting in the oven, which is augmented with Ancho chili powder, and then tamed by balsamic vinegar. Fresh tarragon and cinnamon confer a lovely, unexpected depth to the sauce. Hot, sweet, sour… we’ve got you covered. Chickpeas are added for protein and this was delicious served overtop zucchini spaghetti.

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. Read the rest of this entry »

Balsamic Marinated Cherries, Rosemary Cashew Cheese, and Arugula Sandwich

In Garden, Mains (Vegetarian) on July 30, 2012 at 6:19 AM

Rob warned me.

I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.

However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.

AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!

One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…

But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.

It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.

Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich.  Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!

Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.

First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!

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

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Strawberry, Avocado and Mint Salad with a Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads on July 17, 2012 at 6:22 AM

Yes, I bought more strawberries!

At one point, I had fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries in my fridge. Oh, and Rob’s bananas, too. I am addicted to the fresh fruit. It was a good thing that Rob didn’t buy the case of fresh figs, too.

My Mom is probably scratching her head.. I just told her that I spend around $10-15/week on groceries. Granted, I have a pantry packed with my staples (beans, grains, nuts, spices) and a garden with herbs and greens (kale and collards) which makes things easier. Each week, I basically buy fruits and veggies. Cilantro, green onions and regular onions, too. Garlic and ginger every few weeks. Tofu or tempeh once a month. Veggies aren’t that expensive, guys! My recent grocery glories were zucchini for 39c/lb, bananas for 29c/lb and red pepper for 79c/lb. Oh, and two HUGE bunches of Swiss chard for $1. Suffice it to say, strawberries were on sale for $1.50/lb, so I got some more.

During my week of the salad, I tried so many different leafy salads. I am not that heavy with salad dressing, so they last a long time. I still have dressings left over. I need more greens! I also like variety, so I tried yet another dressing. This time, though, I made less. This is a simple dressing to put together, so I can easily whip it up again. And I will because it was glorious. Roasted hazelnut oil. Balsamic Vinegar. Chocolate. Need I explain more?

Oh wait, please, let me tell what I paired the decadent chocolate balsamic vinaigrette with: Strawberries. Avocado. Mint. Toasted Almonds. Raw Cacao Nibs…… oh, and lettuce, too.

Pray-tell, was it the lettuce that made you swoon? I thought not! 😉

I know some people don’t like fruits in savoury dishes (not me!) but here I am left scratching my head wondering whether this should be dessert or an appetizer. Does plating something on lettuce automatically relinquish this from being a possible dessert? Anyways, I ate this for dinner. And it was delicious.

With chocolate crepes, coconut cream and cherries and raw strawberry pudding pie for breakfast, it seems like I am eating dessert all day long!

Strawberry, Avocado and Mint Salad with a Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

In Salads on July 9, 2012 at 5:42 AM

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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Grilled Balsamic Mushroom and Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads on June 29, 2012 at 5:47 AM

Uh, oh. I have become predictable.

Being invited for a BBQ = time for Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms!

Any time of day, grilled portobello mushrooms fit with the theme. Rob and I went to a post-wedding brunch where the new father-in-law was cooking eggs and sausages on the barbecue. I knew this man must be a barbecue connoisseur, so I left my marinaded mushrooms with him. Do not lose the marinade, I told him, because it was going to be my salad dressing, too.

I was shocked when he returned with beautifully plump mushrooms with even more marinade. He turned my barbecue skills upside down. Instead of doing a continuous grilling on a random side of the mushroom, he started grilling gill side down. Next, he flipped them gill side up to finish them off. The juices from the mushrooms pooled in the middle of the mushrooms. Ingenious. No, really, I was so impressed. (Never mind scrambled eggs on the barbecue…)

In any case, portobello mushrooms alone do not make a meal, so instead of a garlic white bean puree, I opted to add quinoa and toasted walnuts for crunch. This way, you do not lose any of the fabulous garlic-thyme-balsamic marinade and you get a filling meal that is also great as leftovers. Because, yes, it is very sad. I do not like to share my mushrooms. They are just too good. 😉

What are your favourite vegan things to make on the barbecue? I think I need a bigger variety of barbecue tricks! Here are our current barbecue tricks:

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Corn
Rob’s Grilled Pineapple with Lime and Chile Flakes
Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss
Dragon Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and a Miso Gravy
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables

Here are some other recipes I have bookmarked:

BBQ Tempeh Kabobs from Making Love in the Kitchen
Peruvian Seitan Skewers from Viva Vegan
Coconut and Lime Grilled Kale from Kitchen Operas
Grilled Corn and Tomatoes with Vegan Tonnato Sauce from Food & Wine
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing from Veganomicon

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

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Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads on June 27, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, guys.  All of the well wishes, emails, comments and phone made it a special day. And the pie, of course, it helped. 😉

Today, though, I will be eating salad.

Intellectually, I understand the value of a great sauce or dressing. Sometimes, it is a sauce that makes a dish.  With a salad,  fresh greens are great but the avenue it will taste will depend entirely on your dressing.  It is probably no surprise that one can take classes specifically for Sauces and Marinades at George Brown College Culinary School.

While I make oodles of salads, there is only one dressing that I’ve popped into my leafy green salad repertoire. The super simple 3-2-1 dressing, where I sometimes have to remind myself which ingredient goes with the 2 and 1. (Note: Balsamic=3. Mustard=2. Maple syrup=1.)

I am trying to make life less complicated in the kitchen this year, and I am doing that partly by focusing on different dressings and sauces. This way, I can throw them on a multitude of dishes – whether as a hearty bean or grain salad, something with leafy greens, or even used in a stir-fry, etc.

The first dressing I want to highlight is this uber delicious tahini balsamic dressing that I spotted at Choosing Raw. I am loving all things tahini lately and balsamic remains one of my favourite vinegars, so I was eager to try out her dressing.

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

I dipped my finger into the dressing to test it out. Trust me, I licked it clean.. and another finger, just to make sure it was still so good. It passed the taste test again. I had to make sure I kept some for my salad!

The tahini provides a nutty and creamy backdrop accented by the sweet balsamic vinegar. The garlic adds a bit more complexity. The water thins it out so this isn’t heavy like oil- or mayo-based dressings.  Use it anywhere you’d enjoy a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

Its initiation into my kitchen was with a light yet hearty quinoa and chickpea salad punctated by bursts of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and slivered kale. I usually massage my kale, but here, it countered the quinoa and beans nicely with its crunch. I added the dressing just before I ate so that it would still be quite light. I assumed the quinoa could probably absorb a heck of a lot more of the dressing, but this way it was wonderful. I also made a quinoa-less salad later in the week, subbing collards for the kale which was possibly even better.

I know I could drip the dressing onto anything but I was sufficiently content with my salads for the week. Definitely let me know how you enjoy it! I bet it would be wonderful on kale chips, too!

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

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Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce

In Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on February 17, 2012 at 6:30 AM

My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make.  Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.

This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.

These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.

The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.

These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.

I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!


This is being submitted to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Game Night treats and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Christmas Eve Borscht (or Barszcz)

In Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on December 23, 2011 at 6:49 AM

I may be half-Ukrainian but darned if I know how to speak it. My vocabulary is limited to Я тебе люблю (Ja tebe liubliu). Some kids learn swear words, but I was only told how to love (it means ‘I love you’).

Rob is slowly introducing me to Polish words. As they pop up, obviously. The key to my heart lies in the kitchen, right? 😉 First, I learned how to say borscht. While borscht originates from Ukraine, many other countries have their own variations. In Poland, the soup is called barszcz. Notice the ah sound… and the lack of the t at the end. 😉

Polish barszcz has numerous variations, but the vegetarian version is commonly reserved for Christmas Eve. With the bloody blazing red beets you have a very festive soup with the dilly green accent. This version, tinkered from Rebar, makes a huge pot of soup filled with vegetables – beets, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes – and white beans for good measure. Lemon juice and balsamic vinegar add that necessary tang, a key feature in Polish barszcz. Traditionally, the soup was aged to get that acidic tang. Sounds like a project to tackle in the new year. 😉

Due to its association with Christmas, I decided to make it for the pre-Christmas dinner. Rob told me it was very similar to his family’s barszcz. I really enjoyed this soup. So did everyone else (well, except for those who shun beets and cabbage and didn’t even try it!). I found the vegetables complemented each other nicely and the Polish dried mushrooms added a deeper, complex flavour. Perfect for Christmas Eve, or any time of the year. I’ll be enjoying it a few weeks from now because I packed the leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later. This makes a ton of soup!

Happy holidays, everyone!

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

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