Mini Tahini Cups with a Creamy Coffee Date Filling

mini tahini cups with creamy coffee date filling

Without a doubt, these addictive little raw energy bites rank high on my list of delectable treats. I've already made them twice, partly because I wanted to get the proportions just right, and largely because I wanted to eat them again, even though a batch yields about 20. They do keep well though, as they are stored in the refrigerator and the basic ingredients are coconut oil, tahini and dates — not that they lasted very long in my kitchen, especially considering I shared with friends. Peanut butter fan that I am, I honestly think these rank right up there with homemade peanut butter sweets.

raw tahini date cups

This brilliant recipe is slightly adapted from a new favorite cookbook that I received for possible review. I've written about Rawsome Vegan Baking before and haven't stopped using the book for inspiration since. The original recipe suggested serving them in standard size muffin cup portions, but I wanted to make them into smaller bite-size servings. Mind you, this did not prevent me from indulging in more, as I would have perhaps two (or more!) at a given time. Good thing they are naturally sweetened and full of goodness and without guilt — you would not necessary think so because these luscious creamy date filled delights satisfy the sweet tooth like the most decadent of desserts and literally melt in your mouth. Enjoy them anytime of day when the craving for a bit of sweetness hits. You won't miss the butter, sugar, nor the chocolate, in this instance.

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Green Peas in a Tomato Coconut Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
green pea tomato coconut curry

Easy curries featuring green peas are among some of my favorite sides to serve along with other Indian dishes. Simple enough to make to go along with a busy weeknight meal, yet elegant enough to be part of any meal asking for some spice, no matter how fancy or humble, this flavorful side with a creamy tomato and coconut gravy is especially good scooped over some steamy white basmati rice. The main offering was chickpeas, mango and spinach in a tomato coconut gravy. Though the gravies had some of the same essential flavors and seasoning, each dish was quite unique and well-suited to the blank rice canvas that accompanied the meal. If you have the time, consider serving up some savory Indian flat breads too.

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Vegan Rosemary Mushroom Brown Rice "Risotto"

vegan brown rice risotto

When I think of risotto, I usually think of a creamy rice dish with an element of melted cheese. Often Parmesan features in my risottos, but this one is completely dairy-free — not that you would know it. Try serving it to dinner guests and see if they notice that the cheese stayed in the fridge for another day.

Though I cooked this dish up, when enjoying it for dinner, I nearly forgot that Parmesan was absent in the risotto, but the absence was not missed. This is not the only occasion I have made risotto without cheese or dairy.

Coconut milk and mushrooms add creaminess to the dish and the almond milk provides a pleasant nutty undertone. Earthy, with a bit of zest, the rice is cooked until al dente as it should be in traditional risottos. An added bonus making risotto using this method is you don't have to stand over the stove for 30 minutes, adding bits of heated stock at a time. Simply let it simmer away until most of the liquid is reduced and serve.
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Greek-Style Cauliflower Gratin with Feta and Olives

cauliflower gratin Greek style

In my quest to incorporate vegetables more regularly into my meal planning, cauliflower has been taking a prominent role lately. Apart from the delightfully sweet and earthy flavor and crunch of fresh cauliflower, it's a wonderfully versatile vegetable that can star with so many other strong-flavored ingredients and in so many different cuisines.

Indian curries have long been among my favorite ways to feature cauliflower, but I've got to say now that Greek flavors are another favorite candidate.

It could be my weakness for good quality sheep milk feta cheese and Kalamata olives, but baking lightly steamed cauliflower and olives in a tangy herbed tomato sauce topped with browned feta cheese and bread crumbs was such a winning combination not only for me but also for my husband and best friend Basil that I ended up making it twice in short succession. It's that good, and disappeared quickly on both occasions.

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Black-Eyed Peas with Tamarind and Coconut Milk

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
black eyed peas with tamarind and coconut milk

Perhaps it is the promise of spring and the few days of sunshine that certainly mustn't be taken for granted after such a long and gloomy winter, as I've been inspired of late. Apart from organizing some piles and clutter that have accumulated around the apartment over the months, I've been spending hours focused around the kitchen, developing and testing recipes and attempting to document them in a timely manner here on this space. Mind you, I'm easily distracted at the best of times, and warmer weather isn't going to help that. Documenting my dishes is at times a daily struggle and, with a limited amount of hours in a day, I manage my similarly limited attention span as best I can.

Without further ado, my latest offering is this easy but most flavorful black-eyed pea dish. Cooking doesn't need to be an all-afternoon affair to produce something nourishing and vibrant for dinner. Serve with a simple lemon rice and a side vegetable dish for a meal that will be on the table in hardly anytime at all and devoured in much less time than that, although it really ought to be savored, each delectable bite at a time.

Earthy black-eyed peas are one of my favorite legumes to use in spiced up tomato-based curries. This time however, I was feeding my seemingly insatiable craving for anything coconut, so instead of a predominately tomato-based sauce, here the tomatoes combine with coconut milk and tamarind resulting in a creamy and spicy southern Indian style tamarind gravy that envelops the tender peas in a dynamic embrace.

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Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Gratin with a Dijon Mornay Sauce

Brussels sprouts mushroom gratin

When I consume dairy, I prefer to enjoy it in small portions. Accordingly, I don't often eat cheesy meals, preferring instead to focus on legumes, grains and vegetables as the central components, with maybe just a moderate amount of dairy included. However, sometimes the craving just hits and this rich and creamy Brussels sprouts gratin pleased everyone at the table. As this long winter drags on into April, we all needed some comfort food. You may want to consider serving this as part of your Easter dinner. I assure you, carnivores will NOT be leaving the table hungry after enjoying a portion or two of this dish, especially served alongside some freshly baked biscuits slathered with butter and a side vegetable salad dressed with a light vinaigrette.

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Raw Avocado Coconut Nanaimo Bars

avocado nanaimo bars

There is a new cookbook on my shelf and I'm super excited about it. Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes by Emily von Euw is all about sweet treats, all raw, gluten-free and vegan. Covered are old classics ranging from cookies, cakes, bars and cupcakes, pies and tarts, puddings and ice cream with a creative twist. Apart from the stunning and drool inducing photos that adorn each page, I was immediately struck by the unique selections that are essentially guilt-free.

Looking at the photos, you would think eating such decadent looking desserts would lead to a spike in your blood sugar, but in fact, the treats and desserts are actually good for you. Dried and fresh fruits and raw nuts are prominently featured and sweeteners, when they are used, are natural ones, such as maple syrup. Another especially appealing aspect of the book is that pretty much all of the basic ingredients are ones that you are likely to have on hand. No need to hunt around for unfamiliar ingredients that you may only use a few times, leaving them only to languish in the cupboard.

The first recipe I tried was one for raw peanut butter cookies from the multiple ones that I bookmarked. Next up was a this one for raw Nanaimo bars. My usual version of this classic treat is served only rarely on special occasions because they are so decadent. Needless to say, this much healthier version appealed to me. My best friend Basil has been hoping for years that I might come up with a variation that was not so laden with processed sugars, and this was just the right alternative.

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Chickpeas, Mango and Spinach in a Tomato Coconut Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpea mango and spinach curry

No, those aren't potato pieces you see here in this spiced up dish but instead sweet chunks of fresh tender mango nestling up with buttery chickpeas and earthy green spinach. I never can resist chickpeas. Judging by the number of times in a given month they show up on my table in some shape or form, I suppose if I were pressed to name my favorite legume, then chickpeas it would be. Even those who insist they don't like beans can often be persuaded to try chickpeas. They do lend themselves so well to a variety of preparations and inspiration can be found across the globe.

My latest preparation with these beloved legumes is now a new favorite and — as is typical with me — an Indian curry. It's a gentle dish that nonetheless demands attention. The bouquet of flavors of sweet citrus, zesty tomato, vibrant spicing and bold spinach all come together like one big loving family, despite the unique elements of each of the ingredients. The addition of coconut milk and wilted spinach depart a delightful creaminess to the curry and balance out and blend all of the components and slightly soften the spices. My dinner companions proclaimed it a huge success and seconds were in order, though more for the experience because everyone's tummy was full. Try it and see if you don't elicit a similar response. And don't let the long list of ingredients deter you — most of the items are simply spices to be measured out, and it's actually quite a simple dish to prep and put together.

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Mixed Vegetable and Avocado Salad with Almond Herbed Flatbreads

mixed vegetable and avocado salad

It's almost starting to feel like spring here in southwestern Ontario, although after a long and brutally cold winter I'm not counting on sunny warm days sticking around anytime soon. But with the hint of warmer days on the horizon, I find myself thinking more of salads, even if they are often made to go along with a hot steaming bowl of soup or curry.

My latest dressed-up salad was inspired by a complimentary copy of A Taste of Pesach by Yeshiva Me'on Hatorah. This cookbook, devoted to Passover solutions, features both classic and modern recipes, complete with lovely full colored photographs of each dish. If you observe Passover, this might just be the book for you, and even if you don't there are plenty of diverse recipes to inspire cooks. Those with a sweet tooth won't want to miss the dessert section. While the amount of meat and sea food recipes that occupy the book certainly won't appeal to vegetarians, this vegetarian was intrigued by many of the salads and sides showcased in the book.

Accordingly, after flipping through the pages, I was attracted by a colorful "flatbread" salad and I'm glad I tried it, with some minor modifications.

mixed vegetable and avocado salad with almond flatbreads

The salad had a nice creamy component due to the addition of avocado that contrasts pleasantly with crisp romaine lettuce and sweet red cabbage. As the salad is tossed, some of the avocado ends up getting mashed in and incorporated, making it an ideal accompaniment to the tangy and zesty dressing that adorns each serving. The almond flour flatbreads make for an even more substantial salad that you can enjoy as an appetizer while you await the rest of your meal.

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Lemony Pasta with Broccoli and Chickpeas

pasta with broccoli and chickpeas

During a recent visit with my dad and stepmom a few weeks back, I found myself in the kitchen frequently, either cooking up the bulk of the dinner meal or making some healthy sweet treats for snacking or for dessert. Although my family enjoys spicy food, it does not figure frequently on the menu as it does on mine, so after making spicy chickpeas in a tomato coconut sauce with spinach that everyone enjoyed, I nonetheless decided to go with something less spicy and closer to the sort of fare my dad and stepmom would be more inclined to appreciate.

Another reason I took over the bulk of the supper planning and prep was not only to move around but also because my dad and stepmom do not follow a vegetarian diet. That is not to say they don't enjoy and serve vegetarian meals, but it can be a challenge when you are spending over 2 weeks with a rather fussy vegetarian.

Staring at 5 feet high snow banks at the beginning of April had me craving comfort too. Dad's house is located just a few hours north of Toronto and about 4 hours from London, and although it has been a tough winter all across the province, they were hit especially hard with lots of snow and brutally cold temperatures. Not that a spicy dish Indian meal doesn't speak comfort to me, because it absolutely does and it's my specialty, but I do enjoy different types of cuisines, foods and preparations. Exploring keeps me on my toes in the kitchen.

pasta with broccoli and chickpeas

I was quite pleased with this easy dish as were my dad and stepmom. I think it would make for a fine summer meal and it's quite portable if you happen to be taking food over to a friends or are attending a potluck. I kept the spicing minimal to allow the earthy flavor of the broccoli to come through along with the zesty fresh lemon juice. I do think it would work well with cauliflower too, with some dried herbs to enhance the flavor of the pasta and vegetable.

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Raw Peanut Butter Cookies

raw peanut butter cookies

Over the past year or so I've been especially interested in creating my own energy snacks and bars at home. Not only do you have control over the ingredients you use, it's far cheaper than buying store-bought variations that are often laden with sugar and additives. In addition to nuts and dried fruits, peanut butter is often a feature of such snacks made in my kitchen because I admit that peanut butter is a weakness of mine. It is not unusual to see me eating peanut butter on one or more occasions in some form or other throughout the day.

My latest baking experiment was inspired by a cookbook I received for possible review entitled Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes by Emily von Euw. I'll be having more to say about this beautiful and unique book again soon. For now, I will just say it is lavishly illustrated, featuring unique vegan and raw takes on old favorites. Pretty much all of the ingredients are staples you're likely have on hand in your kitchen, so no hunting around specialty stores or roaming the grocery aisle for additions that you may rarely have occasion to use again.

Although I was tempted by pretty much every recipe between the covers, my first choice was a raw version of peanut butter cookies. I have fond childhood memories of my mom's peanut butter cookies, and over the years I have experimented with different variations. As I move more and more away from refined sugars, this unbaked and raw version was especially appealing. Eggless and flourless, the sweetness comes from dried fruits. Soft and chewy, they are even better if you use chunky peanut butter. An additional bonus is that the cookies come together in hardly anytime at all if you have a food processor.

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Beet, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

beet and lentil soup

There's nothing like a bowl of hot fresh cooked vegetable soup to comfort the soul and the body with a nourishing dose of vitamins and minerals. And this simple beet, potato and carrot soup does just the trick — no fancy seasonings or techniques, just the classic flavors of winter root vegetables simmered with dried thyme and a little paprika, with earthy green lentils added for a little protein boost. This is just the soup to serve on a cold day or to someone who's recovering from a winter cold or flu. Hopefully more salads will be appearing on the table soon, but for now, warming soups are still in order.

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Spicy Chickpeas in a Tomato Coconut Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpeas and spinach

I'm back from a two-week retreat of sorts and feeling tired but rather refreshed. I managed to get in some kitchen time during my retreat, and after my last extremely cheesy offering I am sharing a cleansing chickpea curry with spinach.

I adore all things legume, but if I could only eat one legume I would have to go with chickpeas. These plump peas are a perfect vehicle for Indian spices, although they shine in any number of dishes, whole or ground up. Whenever I cook up a pot of chickpeas for a dish, I always soak more than I need because I know I will be nibbling on handfuls of the peas before they even make it into the dish.

Chickpeas feature here, simmered in a spicy tomato-based coconut sauce and adorned with handfuls of nourishing and earthy spinach. There is minimal preparation time, and once your beans are cooked it is just a matter of throwing it all together on the stove top. Although it is a refreshing and vibrant dish anytime, it is certainly suited to a busy weeknight meal precisely because it is so easy to put together. You may want to serve it with rice or your favorite Indian flat bread. I choose to cook up a pot of quinoa that I tossed with fresh lemon juice once it was cooked. Tangy, earthy and spicy, this simple curry is now a new favorite and one that I will especially keep in mind when I am pressed for time or don't feel like fussing too long in the kitchen but still want something to tantalize and satisfy the taste buds.

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