January 31, 2012

Indian Six-Layer Dip

Since Super Bowl recipes seem to be pretty popular right now, I thought I would follow up my last post with another appetizer that would be a great addition to any game day party menu.

In my last post, I shared a recipe for an appetizer that I'd never made before, but it turned out amazing!  Today I'm sharing a recipe that I've already made many times before, so I know it's good!

This Indian-inspired dip is based on the idea of a traditional layered dip, but it becomes much more interesting by adding some Indian flavours and ingredients that you wouldn't normally think to put in a dip!

The bottom layer is a combination of curry powder and sour cream, which is topped with a layer of shredded cheese, then a mixture of yogurt and mango chutney, and finished off with a generous sprinkling of coconut flakes, peanuts and cilantro.  All of the layers come together to make a delicious dip that combines sweet and spicy, creamy and crunchy, all in one bite!

I like to serve this with toasted pappadums (a thin crispy Indian wafer), but if you can't find any, then it would also go well with pita chips or plain tortilla chips.

So if you want to change up your traditional chips and dip this year, I hope you'll give this recipe a try!

Indian Six-Layer Dip
Adapted from The Monterey County Herald

1/4 cup light sour cream
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup shredded marble cheese
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tbsp mango chutney
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut)
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
pappadums, pita chips or tortilla chips for serving

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and curry powder, stirring well until the curry powder is completely incorporated. Transfer to the bottom of your serving dish, spreading evenly. Top with shredded cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix the yogurt and mango chutney together. Pour over the cheese, spreading evenly across the top of the dish. If you are making this ahead of time, stop here and refigerate the dip before adding the remaining toppings (otherwise they will get soggy).

When you are ready to serve,sprinkle the coconut, cilantro, and peanuts over top of the dip, making sure each component is evenly distributed.

Serves 2-3 as an appetizer, or one person as a meal (which I like to do!).  If you are making this for a party, you will want to double or triple the recipe.

On a different note, I wanted to share an update on the 2011 Ninjamatics Canadian Weblog Awards....I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my blog was included in the top five nominations for Best New Weblog and Best Weblog About Food and Drink.

Well, the team at Ninjamatics has been working hard since then to choose the final winners, and I was super excited to learn this morning that Vanilla & Spice was awarded second place in both categories!!

2011 Canadian Weblog Awards winners

I still can't quite believe that I even made it to the top five, let alone being chosen as one of the winners.  There are so many wonderful Canadian food blogs out there, so I'm very grateful to have my blog acknowledged this way!

I just wanted to say thank you to Ninjamatics and the team of jurors, and congratulations to the other winners and nominees.  Be sure to check out the other two food blogs who won first and third place in the Food & Drink category - Crumb and Cookin' Canuck!

January 27, 2012

Plantain Guacamole in Black Bean Cups

With Super Bowl Sunday coming up next weekend, its the perfect time to share a fun party appetizer recipe to add to your game day menu!

To be honest, I'm not really a football fan, but I do look forward to the Super Bowl every year. It's fun to choose my favourite team (usually based on uniform colours) and to watch the entertainment and big-budget commercials (although sadly we never get to see the best commercials up here in Canada).

And of course, I look forward to Super Bowl food! I love sitting around the coffee table in front of the TV eating a meal made up entirely of finger foods, chips and dip.

Guacamole is one of the things that has always made an appearance in our family's Super Bowl meal, but this year I wanted to try something a bit different with my guacamole. I had seen these guacamole-stuffed black bean cups on the blog Cake, Batter & Bowl a long time ago but I'd never gotten around to making them, so I decided that now was the perfect opportunity to try them!

I've also had plantains on my mind lately, so I knew I wanted to try incorporate them somehow.  First, I decided to make some sauteed plantains to top each cup with....and then I thought why not mix them into the guacamole too? I've tried mango guacamole in the past, so I figured another tropical fruit would also taste just as good...and did it ever!

I don't like making strong statements like "this was the best guacamole ever", but it turned out even better than I expected! It was so creamy and I loved the way the sweetness of the plantains paired with the lime and avocado - just make sure you get a ripe enough plantain. otherwise it won't mash easily and the flavour won't be as pronounced.. Then the other ingredients like the cilantro, garlic and jalapeno helped to balance out the other flavours and added just a bit of heat to the guacamole.

What I loved most about this whole appetizer was that each of the components was so good on its own, but eating them all together made each part taste even better! The black bean cups were the perfect little vessel to hold the guacamole, and this way everyone can just pick up a portable cup instead of the usual chip-and-dip method.

The recipe might look a bit long, but each of the components is easy and quick to make.  You can even make the black bean cups earlier in the day and then assemble everything right before you want to eat. I think these will definitely earn a permanent spot on my Super Bowl menu from now on!

Plantain Guacamole
2 very ripe avocados
1 very ripe plantain (yellow with black spots)
1 small-medium jalapeno,finely minced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper to taste

Peel and dice the avocados and place in a bowl. Peel or slice the the skin off the plantain, then cut into small pieces and add to the bowl with the avocados. Mash the avocados and plantain together until creamy (a few chunks are okay). 

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Sauteed Plantains
1 ripe plantain (yellow with a bit of green is okay)
Dash of chili powder and cumin
1 tbsp olive oil

Peel the plantain and cut into round slices (you will need at least 12 slices). Place slices in a bowl and sprinkle with chili powder and cumin. Add a couple drops of water to help the spices stick, tossing to coat.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the plantains and cook for 5-6 minutes, flipping once, until browned. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Black Bean Cups
Adapted from Cake, Batter & Bowl

1 can (1.5 cups) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray a 24 cup mini-muffin pan (or two 12-cup pans) with cooking spray.

Place the black beans, flour, cumin, paprika and salt in a large food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Then keep the processor running while you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Process until the mixture comes together into a smooth, sticky dough. 

Divide the dough evenly into the muffin cups and press with your fingers to form cups that spread up the sides of each muffin cup. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cups are set. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

To assemble:
Fill each black bean cup with a large spoonful of the guacamole. Cut the larger sauteed plantain slices in half and top each guacamole cup with one of the half-slices (you can keep the smaller slices whole).

Note: Leftovers won't save very well the next day, but I doubt you'll have any leftovers anyway! If you end up with extra plantains or guacamole after assembling the cups, you can just eat them on their own without the black bean cups. 

This was submitted to Ricki's Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert & Dogs

January 24, 2012

Cranberry Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

I don’t usually write about my personal life on my blog, but today marks a bit of a personal milestone that I wanted to share – it's my one year anniversary of being vegetarian!  I had already considered myself a 'flexitarian' for awhile, but one year ago today marks the official day that I made the decision to stop eating meat completely....and I’m happy to say that I haven’t looked back since!

I thought it would be difficult to give up some of my favourite fish or chicken meals, but honestly I haven’t ever craved them.  I would definitely say I’ve grown a lot in the past year in terms of my cooking style, what I eat, and what products I buy, and through this process I’ve learned a lot of new things and enjoyed cooking more than ever! 

It's funny to think that just one year ago, I had never even tried certain foods like quinoa - and now it's one of my favourite things to make!  So in honour of this occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to share a recipe for a simple and healthy vegetarian quinoa dish.

The recipe comes from a great blog, Daily Garnish. Her recipe looked perfect already, so the only change I made was to add the diced apples at the end rather than cooking them with the quinoa, since I wanted them to stay crisp. I also thought the cinnamon stick didn't provide enough flavour, so I added some extra ground cinnamon to each serving. 

Cooking the quinoa in orange juice gives it a fruity flavour that goes well with the apples and cranberries. This makes a nice light dish suitable for breakfast or lunch, and is a good recipe for the winter months when many other fresh fruits aren't available. 

Cranberry Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa
Slightly Adapted from Daily Garnish

1 cup dry red quinoa
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1 medium apple, diced
Additional cinnamon for sprinkling

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and lay the cinnamon stick in the middle of the quinoa. Add the orange juice and water to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking to allow the remaining moisture to escape.

Once the quinoa is done cooking, remove the cinnamon stick and add the cranberries, pumpkin seeds and apples, tossing to combine. Sprinkle some extra cinnamon over each serving if desired.

Makes 3-4 servings.

January 22, 2012

Mini Carrot-Tahini Loaf

One of the recipes that I was excited to try when I got the Vegan Planet cookbook was the Zucchini-Tahini bread. I had never thought to put tahini in baked goods before, but I thought it was such an interesting idea!

Since I had an abundance of carrots at the time, I decided to change the recipe into a carrot-tahini loaf instead of zucchini. I also left out the sesame seeds and added chopped walnuts to the batter, since walnuts usually go well with carrots.

And since I was only making this for myself to eat, I cut the recipe in half and made mini loaves - one to eat right away, and one to freeze for later.

I loved how the loaves turned out! They stayed soft and moist, and they weren't very sweet - which made them perfect for breakfast. Plus they were so cute! I think its more fun to eat things in miniature form, and since the pieces are so small, its easier to slice off just a little bit for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

I wasn't sure how the tahini would affect the taste and texture, but it was very mild - I probably wouldn't be able to detect it if I didn't know it was there. I think the main purpose of the tahini  is to provide healthy fats and other nutrients, since there is no oil or other source of added fat in the recipe.

I had to restrain myself from adding coconut to the recipe (which I always seem to do!), but I think coconut milk would work well here instead of the almond milk. You could also leave out the walnuts or try adding raisins if you like a more traditional carrot loaf.

Mini Carrot-Tahini Loaf
Adapted from Vegan Planet

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground flax + 1.5 tbsp water
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp tahini
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
3/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tbsp chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 2 miniature loaf pans with cooking spray.

First, mix together the flax and water and let sit for at least five minutes to thicken.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, tahini, almond milk, and flax mixture. Stir in the grated carrot.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until the dry ingredients are all incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack before removing the loaves and slicing.

Makes 2 mini loaves plus 1 extra muffin (*If you want to bake a full-sized loaf, double the recipe and increase baking time to about 1 hour).

January 18, 2012

Roasted Squash, Beet & Chestnut Salad with Warm Walnut Dressing

Lately, I've been eating a lot of one of my favourite vegetables - beets! I've been using them in a variety of ways - raw and roasted, sweet and savory...so you can expect to see at least a few beet recipes here in the near future!

One of the recipes I made with all my beets was this warm winter salad full of roasted veggies with toasted pecans and chestnuts, all tossed in a creamy walnut dressing over mixed greens. It was so good that I ate it for dinner three nights in a row and then I was disappointed when it ran out!

The inspiration for this salad started with the roasted chestnuts...after my sister told me about a vegetarian stuffing she made with chestnuts, I couldn't get them off my mind. So I chose a couple other vegetables that I thought would compliment the chestnuts, then looked through my cookbooks for a suitable salad dressing.  I found a recipe in Vegan Planet for a warm dressing made by blending up toasted walnuts and I thought that sounded perfect!

I was a bit worried that I would be disappointed when I tasted everything together, but thankfully the salad lived up to my expectations! I loved the combination of the squash, beets, and chestnuts and the pecans were the perfect addition to complete the salad. But the star of the whole thing was definitely the walnut dressing - the toasted, nutty flavour complimented all the other ingredients so well!

There were a lot of components to this salad to prepare, but the good part is that you can make a big batch of all the vegetables and the dressing one day, and then store each of the components separately in the fridge to get at least a few meals out of them.

Roasted Squash, Beet & Chestnut Salad with Warm Walnut Dressing

*I’ve noted the amounts that I used below, which got me about 3 salads, but treat these as guidelines – as long as you follow the same process with the same ingredients, the precise amounts aren’t that important!

2 medium beets, washed
1/2 lb chestnuts in their shells (about 14 chestnuts)
2.5 - 3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (I used the pre-cut kind)
olive oil
1/3 cup chopped pecans
About 4.5 cups mixed greens (1.5 cups per serving)

Adapted from Vegan Planet
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup canola oil
3 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Scrub beets and wrap them in foil. Place on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast for about one hour, until a knife can easily pierce them.

Meanwhile, prepare the chestnuts by scoring an “X” on one side of the shell with a knife (this will allow some steam to escape so they don’t explode in the oven). Place the chestnuts on one side of a large baking sheet, with the cut side facing up.

Toss the squash with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on the other side of the baking sheet next to the chestnuts. When there is about 25 minutes left in the roasting time for the beets, add the chestnuts and squash to the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the chestnuts are dark and starting to split open and the squash is tender and starting to brown (you don’t want it to be too soft).

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the pecans and the walnut dressing: 

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped pecans and toast for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside. 

Add the walnuts to the pan and toast for a few minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the canola oil. Continue to heat on low for about 5 minutes. Stir in the orange juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth, then return dressing to the pan and keep warm over very low heat.

When the vegetables are done, remove from oven and let cool slightly until ready to handle. Trim the ends off the beets and peel off the skin. Slice beets into wedges. Pry the skins off the chestnuts using a knife or your hands and remove the nut from inside. Chop chestnuts into small pieces.

If you are making a single serving of salad, lay the mixed greens on a large plate. Place some of the beets, squash and chestnuts on top of the greens. Sprinkle with some of the chopped pecans. Pour about a third of the dressing (or however much dressing you like) over the salad and gently toss to combine.

Alternately, you could add the full amounts of everything to a large bowl and toss together before serving onto plates.

Makes 3-4 servings.

January 15, 2012

Peanut Butter & Banana Oatmeal Cookies

After a week of posting about healthy dinner ideas, I figured it was time to share another treat! But these vegan peanut butter banana cookies would hardly qualify as an indulgence - they contain healthy fats from almond butter and peanut butter, very little oil, and the only added sweetener is a touch of pure maple syrup.

I made these cookies for my family just after New Years, but since nobody really wanted another dessert lying around the house after the holidays, I only made a small batch and reassured everyone that they were "healthy" cookies.

I guess I should have made a bigger batch because all the cookies disappeared pretty quickly! They were soft and thick (my favourite kind!) and had a nice balance of flavors between the almond butter and peanut butter with a hint of banana.

2011 Canadian Weblog Awards

Before I get to the recipe, I wanted to share a bit of exciting news that I received this morning - the Ninjamatics 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards just announced their shortlist of nominees for blogs in a variety of categories, and I was so happy to find out that I made the top five for two categories - Best New Weblog and Best Weblog About Food and Drink!

Even if I don't make it any further to the final round, I'm honoured just to be chosen among all the other great blogs that were nominated! Congratulations to the other Canadian nominees on the shortlist!

Peanut Butter & Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Food Doodles

1 cup rolled oats
2.5 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 large ripe banana
2 tbsp each almond butter and peanut butter (or ¼ cup peanut butter)
1.5 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tbsp pure maple syrup
Handful of chocolate chips
Handful of raisins

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients (oats through to salt).

In a separate bowl, mash the banana. Add the nut butters, oil, vanilla and maple syrup and whisk until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips and raisins.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with baking spray. Scoop out the dough and drop cookies onto the baking sheet about 1” apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until they start to turn golden. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes to help them firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 13 cookies (You may want to double the recipe for a bigger batch!) 

January 12, 2012

Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanuts

It seems like I make a lot of dishes with peanut sauce, but I can't help it - it's one of my favourite things to eat! Besides, pretty much anything tastes delicious when its smothered in a creamy, spicy peanutty sauce!

So naturally, this recipe for spicy stir-fried broccoli with peanuts on Eating Well's website caught my eye. The original recipe looked more like a side dish, so I took the suggestion of adding tofu to turn it into a main dish.

I marinated the tofu in some soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sesame seeds - flavours that went well with the rest of the stir-fry. Once you have your ingredients prepped, the rest of the dish doesn't take very long to put together - just cook the tofu, broccoli and red pepper, mix in the sauce and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

I loved the flavours in this dish and I thought the tofu and vegetables were cooked just the right amount!

When I ate the stir-fry on its own, I ended up with some leftover sauce at the bottom, which I was happy to slurp up because it tasted so good!  But the next night I decided to serve the leftovers over some plain rice and that was the perfect way to soak up the extra sauce, so I would recommend cooking some rice to eat with your meal.

Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanuts
Adapted from Eating Well

For the tofu:
1/2 lb extra-firm tofu (I used the small 175g package of Soyganic Super Firm Tofu)
3/4 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Press the tofu between paper towels for at least 5-10 minutes to remove some of the moisture.  Slice tofu into pieces and lay in a shallow bowl.
Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over tofu. Let the tofu marinate for about half an hour, turning occasionally to coat all sides. 

Heat about 1 tsp of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the marinated tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes,   flipping occasionally, until all sides are browned.

For the Peanut Sauce:
1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
dash of hot sauce (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the Stir-Fry:
1 tbsp canola oil
~ 1 lb broccoli crowns, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (depending on your taste)
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften and turn brown, about 6 minutes.

Add water and soy sauce to the pan along with the red pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the pepper has softened and the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cooked tofu. Stir in the reserved peanut sauce and sprinkle with chili flakes. 

Serve hot, over plain rice or on its own. Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts.

Makes 3-4 servings. 

January 09, 2012

Sweet Potato Coconut Cashew Rice

A lot of people probably think of rice as a boring side dish, but this sweet potato coconut cashew rice bowl definitely proves that plain rice can be transformed into an incredibly tasty meal!

I love both sweet potatoes and coconut in any form, so when I saw this recipe on The Family Kitchen, I knew I would be making it myself as soon as possible!

You actually get a double dose of coconut in this dish - I changed the recipe so that the rice is cooked in coconut milk to soak up the flavor better, and then you toast some shredded coconut and mix that into the cooked rice.  I love the smell and taste of toasted coconut, and even though it is usually used in dessert recipes, I thought it fit perfectly in this rice dish!

Between the chunks of sweet potato, the coconut, the raisins and the maple syrup, this meal was a bit on the sweeter side, but it was also balanced out by the spices, cilantro and some chopped spinach that I added to increase the nutritional value a bit more!

So as long as you have a bit of a sweet tooth and you like coconut as much as I do, I'm sure you will love this rice too!

Sweet Potato Coconut Cashew Rice
Adapted from The Family Kitchen

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped cashews
2 tsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup Jasmine or Basmati white rice (I used Jasmine)
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
2-3 tbsp sultana raisins
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 cups chopped spinach
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the diced sweet potato on a baking sheet and toss with a bit of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until tender. 

Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut and cashews. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the coconut is lightly toasted and the cashews are lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 30 more seconds. 

Add the rice, water and coconut milk to the pan. Stir in the spices and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes (or cook according to rice package directions).

Once the rice is done, remove the pot from the heat, take out the bay leaf and add the raisins. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork. 

Stir in the maple syrup and spinach, and the reserved sweet potato, coconut and cashews.

Serve warm. Garnish with cilantro. 

Makes about 4 servings. 

January 06, 2012

Mulligatawny with Chickpeas

After a few round-up posts to start the new year, it's about time I shared a new recipe with you! I actually made this soup before the holidays, but I thought this was a better time to post it, now that everyone is looking for healthy dinner ideas.

I've had mulligatawny soup a number of times in the past, but each recipe seems to be different. The name mulligatawny literally means "pepper water" and can generally be described as a spiced lentil soup, but it can be prepared in different ways - sometimes it's just a pureed soup, and some versions have vegetables or even chicken mixed in. I think the best mulligatawny soup I've ever had will always be one that I ate at a nice hotel in India, but this homemade version was really good too!

The recipe comes from the Whole Living website, and what drew me to it was the addition of toasted chickpeas. The recipe sounded perfect as written, but I decided to add some onion for extra flavour and I used yellow split peas instead of lentils, so I had to increase the cooking time.

This was a warm and comforting soup with the flavour of Indian spices brightened up by the fresh lemon juice. I really liked the toasted chickpeas too, they added an interesting textural dimension and turned the soup into more of a meal.  I also recommend serving this with naan bread - its great for cleaning out your bowl!

Mulligatawny with Chickpeas
Adapted from Whole Living

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper
8 oz dried yellow split peas
28 oz vegetable broth, plus additional water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus additional lemon slices for serving
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander and cayenne, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 30 more seconds. 

Add the split peas and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes, until the split peas are soft.  Make sure you keep an eye on the pot - if the liquid starts to dry up, add additional water to prevent the peas from burning (I added about one cup total throughout the cooking time).

Once the split peas have finished cooking, transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree. Return soup to pot and add 2 cups of additional water.  Heat over medium heat until the soup is warmed through. 

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp, about 7-8 minutes. 

Remove the soup from heat and stir in the lemon juice and the cooked chickpeas (or add the chickpeas to each bowl at serving time). 

Serve with rice and/or naan bread if desired, and additional lemon wedges for squeezing over each bowl.

Makes 4-6 servings.

January 04, 2012

New Year's Eve Asian Feast & Liebster Award

I don't typically make New Year's resolutions but if I had to make one this year, it would be to use my cookbooks more often.  And now that I've received two new vegan cookbooks this Christmas full of recipes that I want to make (Vegan Planet and Appetite for Reduction), it won't be hard to keep that resolution!

I've already tried over eight recipes from the two books, and all of them turned out so well!

I actually made six of those recipes (plus two dipping sauces) from Vegan Planet all in one day for our New Year's Eve dinner, and since I loved everything so much, I wanted to share the meal on my blog!

I was inspired to create an Asian style appetizer feast after remembering a fun NYE a couple years ago with my older sister when we ate sushi.  And since I found so many delicious-sounding recipes in Vegan Planet that would suit the theme, I decided to make them all!

I was a bit worried that I was too ambitious in taking on such a big task by myself and that I wouldn't finish everything on time for dinner, but I worked pretty much non-stop all day long and had everything on the table by about 7pm in time for us to eat.

Even though it was a LOT of work to prepare everything, I actually enjoyed the process and the end result was definitely worth it (not to mention all the praise I received from everyone who ate it!)  We all thought the food tasted better than take-out, plus it was a lot cheaper!

I won't reprint all the recipes here, but I do encourage you to buy the book - I'm sure you will get a lot of use out of it! And if you already own Vegan Planet but haven't tried these recipes, I hope you'll bookmark them to make soon!

(Sorry for the dark photos, I didn't have time to take proper pictures in better lighting before we ate everything!)

Ginger-Scented Vegetable Pot Stickers

These were easier than I thought to make - I prepared the filling ahead of time (tofu, cabbage, carrots and some other flavouring ingredients processed together), then assembled the dumplings using storebought round wonton wrappers and stored them in the freezer until it was time to cook them.

Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

This was my first time making fresh rolls and took took a couple tries to get the hang of it (as you can see, the one on the left was my first attempt). I filled them with cabbage, carrot, red pepper, cucumber, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts. And you have to make the peanut sauce for dipping them in!

Scallion Pancakes with Ginger-Lime Dipping Sauce

These pancakes are made from a simple flour-water dough and coated with sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds. As there are no pictures in the cookbook, I wasn't quite sure how these were supposed to turn out, but I'm pretty sure they aren't supposed to look like this. Even though they didn't brown as much as I wanted them too, they had a nice texture and tasted great, especially with the dipping sauce.

Thai-Style Leaf-Wrapped Appetizer Bites

These lettuce wraps were fun to put together, although there were a lot of components to prepare. To make them, I just took a large piece of lettuce, filled it with a bit of each ingredient from the bowls (peanuts, toasted coconut, thai chilis, shallots, ginger, cilantro, limes and a peanut-coconut chutney), wrapped it up and secured with a toothpick. You could also let guests make these themselves, but I wanted to have everything prepared ahead of time.

Here are the lettuce rolls once they were already prepared. All of the filling ingredients combine to create an explosion of flavour when you pop them in your mouth!

Mango Slaw

I used the recipe in the book for Asian Cole Slaw, which includes shredded cabbage, carrot and daikon radish in an asian style dressing, and added one sliced mango to create a fusion of thai mango salad and coleslaw. The mango was my favourite part, so I recommend adding it!

Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thick udon noodles tossed with shredded carrot, cabbage, red pepper and bean sprouts (my own addition), coated in a creamy peanut dressing. I was very happy to have leftovers of this to eat the next day!

My first helping of food and a great way to end the year!

And now, a note about the Liebster Blog Award...

I was so happy to hear that Heather from Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes (I always smile when I say the name of her blog!) nominated me for this award. The Liebster award is a way of giving recognition to newer blogs or those that have fewer than 200 followers. The recipient of the award then has to select five other such blogs to pass the award on to. 

To accept the Liebster Blog Award nomination one must:
~ thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
~ link back to the blogger who awarded you.
~ copy & paste the blog award on your blog
~ reveal your 5 blog picks.
~ let them know you choose them by leaving a comment on their blog.

Since I love to read other blogs but don't always leave them comments, I thought this was a great way to show my appreciation for some of the blogs that inspire me! 

In no particular order, here are my five picks:
Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes - I couldn't leave Heather out of my own list! I'm happy I found her blog  - she posts so many recipes that suit my tastes perfectly, and always leaves nice comments too :)
Fork and Beans - I discovered Cara's blog in October when she was posting daily Halloween-inspired recipes and I loved her creativity and entertaining writing style. She is a genius at turning any recipe into a gluten-free and vegan version!
The First Mess - I was hooked from the very first post on Laura's blog and I still get excited each time she makes a new post - I love her unique vegetarian recipes and gorgeous photos!
The Fig Tree - Courtney (a fellow Canadian blogger) posts lots of sweet treats and delicious vegetarian recipes and her presentation is always beautiful!
K's Veg Recipes - with a new name (previously called Not Another Cookbook) and a transition to more vegan recipes, I am definitely looking forward to seeing more recipes on this blog this year! K's posts are always so informative and helpful too

January 01, 2012

My Favourite Posts of 2011

Happy New Year everyone!!

Instead of starting off the new year with a new recipe, I wanted to recap some of my favourite recipes from last year.

I've already counted down the most popular posts of 2011, but some of my personal favourites didn't make that list so I decided to create another list!  It was too hard to try to choose ten favourites out of all my recipes, so I broke them down by month and chose my favourite post from each month.

And since I've only been blogging for six months, I added four "honorable mentions" to round out the Top 10!

I made two different kinds of chilled avocado soups this summer - Cucumber Dill Avocado Soup and Raw Corn Avocado Chowder. I loved the flavour and texture that the avocado gave these soups, and they were a nice light and refreshing meal to enjoy in the hot weather!

This soft serve combined three of my favourite tropical flavours in a cool, creamy and refreshing healthy summer treat!

Mangos made another memorable appearance in this fresh salad full of veggies, chickpeas and avocado in a creamy mango dressing. I loved every part of this salad!

Out of all the baked goods on my blog, this might have been my favourite so far! This healthy snack cake was so moist and I loved the flavour combination of pumpkin and coconut.

This was one of those recipes that totally exceeded my expectations. It had so many layers of flavour, texture and ingredients that came together perfectly!

This was my favourite holiday-themed treat that I made this year - a light, minty, crispy bark that was so addictive!

Honorable Mentions:

This was one of those meals that had me licking my bowl clean! The basil pesto sauce was amazing, and I loved the chewy bites of tofu....this is definitely not your average summer pasta salad!

I love coming up with creative variations of hummus, and this pumpkin dessert hummus with a hint of coffee flavour was such a tasty snack, especially spread on graham crackers!

Indian-Inspired Versions of Western Classics

I made a lot of Indian food this year, but my Indian Naan Pizza with Paneer and Corn and my Indian Pot Pie really stood out.  Both were Western style dishes adapted to incorporate Indian ingredients and spices, and they turned out so well! And if you haven't tried corn as a pizza topping yet, I highly recommend it!

Roasted Panzanella

This was also the year I discovered and fell in love with panzanella! It's a great way to highlight seasonal veggies and you can customize it however you like. I can't decide whether I liked my Summer Panzanella or Winter Panzanella better, so I included them both!

So I guess I cheated a little at the end, but it was too hard to limit my favourite recipes of the year to just 10!

I had so much fun creating all of these recipes and sharing them here this past year, and I can't wait to post more delicious recipes in 2012!


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