No Croutons Required - The Winner for February and the Theme for March

This month we have two winners for the February creamy soup and salad challenge. Congratulations to Heather of Gluten-Free Cat, who entered this mouthwatering and nourishing Curried Ginger Carrot Soup.

Also congratulations to Adam and Theresa of Yogi Kitchen who entered this tempting and most rustic Middle Eastern Minestrone.

I will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to come up with a soup or salad featuring whole aduki beans or mung beans. Split mung beans are also acceptable. Spice it up and send your submissions by the 20th of this month. I will change things up a bit this time around and you may enter any vegetarian dish, be it a casserole or baked good containing these most wholesome legumes.

Azuki beans are an Asian bean that is often made into desserts and sweet pastes. More savory creations are soups and salads. High in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates and iron, these delightful little red beans are sure to please legume fanatics.

Mung beans are native to India and Pakistan. The possibilities are endless and like azuki beans, these little green beans are just plain good for you and oh so tasty. Easy to digest and because the texture of azuki beans and mung beans are rather similar, I have often combined them with mung beans in the same dish and use them interchangeably.

For a recap of the guidelines, check here.

Indian Tamarind, Carrot and Coconut Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian Tamarind, Carrot and Coconut Soup

Addicted as I am to cookbooks, my most recent obsession is Silk Road Cooking by Najmieh Batmanglij. Such a lovely gift to receive from my dear friend Susan. Absolutely stunning pictures and commentary, along with 150 recipes that vegetarians will be drooling over. I have already bookmarked several dishes to try and I am sure this will become a treasured addition to my collection. I know my dining friends have been wowed by the results so far.

Surely this could be a coffee table book, but most importantly, the recipes are top notch and a visual feast adorned with artworks and extensive history. From China to the Middle East, this wonderful book compiles unique but accessible creations that will have you craving for more. A book to sit down with and read and a trusty book to cook from. Salads, soups, eggs, rice, fruit and vegetables, pasta, pizza, breads, pastries, desserts, beverages and preserves will certainly make your vegetarian tummy happy and also the tummies of your more carnivorous friends. Good energy certainly goes into the selections contained in this book. Definitely an enchanting experience in so many ways. Highly recommended from my vegetarian kitchen.

This tangy and spicy vegetable and tamarind soup was adapted by me, as I can never resist adding my own touches. I used carrots instead of the squash and included some green beans that I did not want to go to waste and also added some sun-dried tomatoes for an extra tangy-ness. I suggest you use the soaking liquid from the sun-dried tomatoes as it is like gold and imparts a nice flavor to this creamy, warming and nourishing soup. Serve with rice for a delicious and balanced meal.

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Cheese Potato Puff with Dried Mushrooms

If you are looking for comfort food, this classic dish is recommended, especially during cold months. Warm up the kitchen and your tummy with this rather decadent mixture of potatoes and cheese. It reheats well, so if you don't feel like cooking for a few days, you will have plenty of nourishment on hand. Serve with a leafy green salad and some cornmeal johnny cakes for an especially filling and satisfying meal. Be sure to shop for the best quality cheese you can find. Mushrooms are optional but highly recommended, adding an extra and desirable earthly flavor to the dish. Do consider using fresh sautéed mushrooms in place of the dried variety if desired.

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Spicy Lentil Quinoa Nut Loaf

Vegetarian cooks are often challenged when it comes to serving their most voracious carnivorous friends. I can assure you this loaf will go over well and your diners won't miss the meat, even though combined are lentils, quinoa and toasted cashews along with some spice, and no animals. My husband never eats meat at home as I can't stand the smell and will not tarnish my cookware with dead carcass. He was most delighted as this dish reminded him of meatloaf. Indeed, he declared that he liked this vegetarian version better than the traditional ones. Serve with a dollop of salsa, sour cream or ketchup.

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Cornmeal Johnny Cake

Cornmeal Johnny Cake

This oven-baked cornbread comes from Muffins & More by Jean Pare. The book was a gift from my Mom and it has proved to be a valuable reference tool for quick breads for many years and was one of the earliest additions to my cookbook collection that has grown to be quite extensive over the years.

This is a "double corn" cornbread with both yellow cornmeal and a cup of creamed corn. Very easy to prepare, all you need to do once you mix up the ingredients is pop the bread into the oven for 20 minutes or so. Moist with a rather custard-y texture and flavor, this cornmeal johnny cake will pack even more taste if you make a batch of your own creamed corn beforehand. Serve for breakfast, enjoy for lunch or in place of rolls for dinner.

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Indian Mixed Vegetable Soup — Contemporary Style

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian Mixed Vegetable Soup - Contemporary Style

Bliss in a bowl. Really. Creamy, packed full of nutrients and filling besides, especially when paired with roti, salad and a fulfilling dal dish, this soup is a gem on any menu. Suggested menu to share with guests would be besan rotis, cracked black pepper rice, a leafy green salad and toor dal palak. You simply cannot go wrong with hot vegetable soup, especially when the wind is blowing directly into your work space. I need my fresh air, but oh, I am not especially smitten with the cold blast that envelopes me.

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Ancient Roman Cheesecake

Ancient Roman Cheesecake

This is a rather whimsical recipe, but one I stumbled across many years ago in a book on ancient Rome, and finally got a round to making to get a small and apparently authentic "taste" of the times. Although the vanilla is admittedly a more modern addition, ricotta cheese is certainly no modern invention. Ricotta is believed to have been around since the time of the Roman Republic where milk whey was cooked twice (Latin: recocta, or "cooked twice") to curdle into soft cheese. This is no ordinary cheesecake as we've come to think of them, but an incredibly rich and dense cake drenched in honey. Very easy to prepare, these cakes are filling and sweet, and should appeal to your guests' curiosity when you tell them what you're making.

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Besan Roti

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
One of my favorite Indian creations are flatbreads. As I tend to eat at home and rarely order out or dine at restaurants, I decided it would be fun to make some homemade rotis. Once again, I had a sous chef to help me out in the kitchen and we enjoyed the meal with some friends. The dough was very easy to work with and the process was a bit time consuming, but worth the effort. I served these with a spicy mung bean dish and some buttered basmati rice.
Besan Roti

1 cup of besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of fenugreek powder
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
3 tablespoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
approximately 3/4 cup of warm water
butter or ghee for frying

In a large bowl, combine the flours, fenugreek powder, asafoetida, cayenne and salt. Rub 3 tablespoons of ghee or butter into the mixture. Stir in enough water until a firm dough is formed. Knead the dough on a floured surface for roughly 5 minutes until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 balls and on a floured surface, roll each piece out into a round measuring 7 - 8 inches.

Heat some butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, cook one roti at a time until nicely browned on both sides. Add more butter to the pan as needed and keep the rotis warm in the oven until you have cooked all 12.

More recipes with Chickpea flour from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Scrambled Chickpea Flour with a Fiery Red Chili Paste
Chickpea Flour Pancakes
Chickpea Flour Dumplings in a Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Chickpea Fritters with a Creamy Ricotta, Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Filling

On the top of the reading stack: Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Audio Accompaniment: Marsen Jules with visuals by Johannes Braun

Mixed Green and Radicchio Salad with Balsamic Rosemary Dressing

An excellent green salad will present your diners contrasts in both colour and flavour to enjoy. Fresh chopped radicchio and yellow or orange bell peppers add an obvious visual appeal to peppery leafy greens like arugula, chicory or spinach, while lending an inviting contrast of warm bitter and sweet tastes at the same time. Top it off with an assertive and sharp balsamic, mustard and rosemary dressing and you've got all the ingredients for a fresh salad that will delight everyone.

Likely cooks in Ontario will want to serve this with a hearty and substantial dish, such as Chickpea Paneer Kofta in a Creamy Cashew Tomato Sauce or Greek Macaroni and Cheese, to combat the ridiculously cold temperatures we are experiencing right now. Spring can't come soon enough for me.

Mixed Green and Radicchio Salad with Balsamic Rosemary Dressing


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup olive oil


4 cups salad greens
1 small radicchio, cored and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 red onion, sliced

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the oil into the dressing while whisking. Set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes or longer to let the rosemary soften and its flavour infuse the dressing.

Meanwhile, toss the salad ingredients until combined. Give the dressing a quick whisk, then drizzle over the salad.

Serves 6 to 8.

Other salad ideas from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Mustard & Herb Dressing
Creamy Sesame Miso Salad Dressing
Lemon Mint Dressing
Cucumber Dill Dressing

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Harold Budd

Pasta with Marinated Tempeh and Goat Cheese

My dear friend Susan recently sent me a copy of The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel. Carnivores won't be disappointed and vegetarians are sure to find lots of creative ideas to serve to their meat eating friends, along with their vegetarian diners. The book is divided into sections focusing on the four seasons, along with some Wild Card recipes, but any of the recipes in this book would suit the palate anytime of year.

52 menus are offered up to tempt the palate and nourish the soul. Ignoring the mention of climate change and obesity, this book offers plenty of ideas for grains, legumes, pasta, vegetables and salads, along with some solutions for cooks wanting one-pot meals, and those looking for slightly more complicated meals complete with side suggestions. There are not many pictures presented, but do not let that discourage you from obtaining a copy of this resourceful book.

This is my contribution to Presto Pasta Night, a popular event started by Ruth and hosted this week by Fuss Free Flavours. Congratulations to Ruth, as this week will be the 200th edition.
Pasta with Marinated Tempeh and Goat Cheese

Adapted from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook

12 ounces of tempeh, cut into small cubes or strips
3 tablespoons of tamari
3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
juice from 1 fresh lime
1 - 2 teaspoons of hot sauce
sesame oil for frying
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 cup of dried pasta (penne, rotini, shell pasta or whatever you have on hand)
3 - 4 ounces of goat cheese
4 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
a generous handful of Asiago cheese
small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, marinate the tempeh, tamari, mustard, sesame oil, garlic, lime juice and hot sauce for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to coat evenly.

Heat 1/4 cup of sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and stir and fry for about 10 minutes. Add the tempeh to the pan, along with the marinated mixture and thyme. Fry, stirring often, until the tempeh is browned evenly and the liquid is reduced.

While the tempeh is cooking, prepare the pasta. Drain well.

To serve, line a serving bowl with the goat cheese, cover with the hot pasta and toss. Add the tempeh along with the parsley and some salt and pepper and stir gently to combine. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and Asiago.

Serves 4 - 6

More tempeh recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Thai Tempeh Patties with a Red Chili Dipping Sauce
Oseng Oseng Tempe
Tempeh-miso Breakfast Patties

On the top of the reading stack: Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Audio Accompaniment: Markus Guentner

Rice Muffins

Rice Muffins

Looking for a way to use up leftover rice? Try these savory gluten-free muffins that smell just heavenly as they are baking, almost like cookies. These muffins make for a delightful quick breakfast, light lunch, or an accompaniment to dinner. I served them with a simple mung bean soup to balance out the meal. Packed full of goodness and easy to prepare, these should be a weekly staple on your menu. Raisins can be used instead of the cranberries if desired. Next time I make them, I am going to add some cornmeal in place of a bit of the rice flour.

Rice MuffinsRice Muffins
Recipe by
Published on February 4, 2011

Simple, slightly sweet and savory gluten-free muffins made with white rice

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  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled basmati rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 1 1/4 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (gluten-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Preheat an oven to 350° and grease or butter 10 standard size muffin cups.

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs. Add the milk, vanilla and rice, and beat lightly to combine.

  • Add the rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Stir with a spatula until just moistened, taking care not to over mix. Fold in the cranberries. Evenly transfer the batter to the prepared muffins cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Makes 10 muffins
More muffins from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Cornmeal Honey Muffins
Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins
Savory Dill Ricotta Muffins

On the top of the reading stack: Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Audio Accompaniment: Herbstlaub by Marsen Jules

Spicy Tamarind Black Beans

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
The dried pulp of the tamarind fruit has a refreshing sour and slightly sweet tang that tempers and lends wonderful depth to spicy foods.  Easy to prepare and use, the widespread use of tamarind in south Indian cooking gives many of the region's dishes a characteristic hot and sour taste as well as a lovely fragrance that invites the palate and prepares the appetite for an authentic, warming and delicious eating experience. My guests and I were tantalized by the aromas of this spicy tamarind black bean dish as it simmered on the stove, eager to see it finished, and delighted to find that the flavours matched the expectations.

The instruction for a 1-inch piece of tamarind is based on the cake form of the dried pulp sold in every Indian and Asian grocery here in North America. Likewise the asafoetida and garam masala called for in this recipe are always easily found at Indian stores, or make a fresh batch of the garam masala spice blend using the instructions found here.

This is my submission to My Legume Love Affair, a most popular monthly event started by dear Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Sandhya's Kitchen.
Spicy Tamarind Black Beans

1 cup dried black beans
1-inch piece dried tamarind pulp
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tomato, chopped
2 green chilies, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
large handful fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Rinse the dried beans under running water and soak overnight covered in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. After soaking, drain the beans and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with several inches of fresh water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but firm. Drain and set aside the beans and 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of the tamarind pulp. Discard the pulp and set aside the liquid.

Also during preparation, toast the ground cumin in a dry pan over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until the spice becomes fragrant and darkens a couple of shades.  Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion and stir until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and continue to stir for 5 minutes, scraping the pan to prevent the ginger from sticking.

Now toss in the chili flakes, turmeric and asafoetida. Stir for a few moments, then add the tomatoes and chilies, and cook until a sauce forms and the oil separates from the tomatoes, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the beans and the reserved cooking liquid, raise the heat, and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Now add the tamarind liquid, toasted ground cumin, garam masala, and most of the fresh chopped coriander or parsley, and simmer for another 10 minutes to let the flavours gently blend.

Remove from heat and season with salt. Serve in bowls garnished with the remaining coriander or parsley.

Serves 4 to 6.

Other tamarind based recipes you may enjoy:
Mung Tamarind Dal
Tamarind Rice
Tamarind Chutney

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: sweet silence