Tofu Steaks and Lentil Curry in Japan!

Hello friends! I stepped away from my blog for a bit while I traveled and pursued some exciting projects, but now that things are settling down, I’m hoping to get back to regular posts this summer. I have loads of fun photos from my travels and cooking experiments that I’m excited to share!

To start things off today, when I was in Japan a little while ago, I visited this fantastic vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurant called Kizuki Kitchen. I know Japan has a common reputation of being a difficult place to eat veggie, but it’s not true! There are so many fun options, and over the recent years, trendy vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes are popping up all over the place!

The ideas are often really creative, too, with a special Japanese twist. These are some deep fried tofu steaks that came with a whole bunch of delicious sides.

There were various salads, brown rice, and mushroom miso soup. We tried a number of other set menus, including the lentil curry, which was nicely spiced. The only adjustment that I wanted to make was that there wasn’t quite enough heat for my taste. I asked the restaurant staff, and they were incredibly helpful, searching all over until they found a little shaker of red chili for me.

One thing that made the cozy little restaurant even more fun was that they would prepare all the food right there in front of you, so you could see your dishes as they were being put together. It’s sort of like dinner and a cooking show at the same time.

The third meal that we ordered was a hotpot set. In it, were daikon raddish, an egg, carrot, konyaku, shiitake mushroom, and a deep fried tofu pouch — all well seasoned and bursting with umami flavour. By the time we finished, the tiny little restaurant was packed, and there was a line out the door. If you ever pay this place a visit, make sure you get there early! This was one of the first health-angled restaurants that I ever visited in Japan, so it was a very neat experience to see what they do with all these different and unique ingredients.


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Turmeric Hummus: Possibly the Healthiest (and tastiest) Hummus!

If only medicine could come from purely natural ingredients and taste like rich, creamy hummus…Oh wait, it can!

We are all familiar with turmeric as one of the most standard spices in Indian cuisine, but did you know that it has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to promote a whole range of health benefits? It stimulates digestion, boosts the immune system, detoxifies the liver, and may even be effective at fending off cancer and depression. When paired with black pepper to help the body absorb curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric), it is also has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Plus, it’s just delicious.

Knowing all this, I’m always looking for different ways to incorporate turmeric into my diet, and here’s a great one! Chickpeas are already quite the superfood, with their high levels of iron, protein and fibre, but combined with turmeric, this hummus is incredibly good for you.

I already had a batch of my homemade hummus in the fridge, so all I did was mix some turmeric power and a bit of black pepper into it.

But, just in case you want to make everything from scratch, here’s the whole recipe below.

  • 500 grams of dry chickpeas (soaked overnight, then left to simmer until soft)
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • crushed chili peppers
  • turmeric (I just kept adding it in and mixing until everything was a rich yellow colour)
  • black pepper

Everything just goes straight into the blender, and that’s all there is to it! For a bit of added flavour, some paprika or cumin also gives it an extra kick.

Falafel and Garlic Hummus Pizza

Don’t you just love it when a new recipe idea pops into your head, and you realize that you already have every ingredient you need?

Last night, the plan was pizza. Fully loaded falafel pizza. You see, I found myself at a Greek restaurant a little while back with some friends, and after searching the entire menu the only thing I could find that could be veganized was their pizza. (Well, either that or a salad.) So, I asked for a cheeseless pizza, and what I got was an impossibly dry crust scattered with a few slices of tomato and bell pepper. It was not at all the restaurant’s fault, though. I should have gotten creative and asked them to replace the cheese with hummus or baba ganoush. Every experience is a new learning curve!

Needless to say, I’ve been in serious need of some pizza redemption.

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All I did for this pizza was take a large whole wheat pita and spread on some basil tomato sauce. Then, I stacked it with layer upon layer of my favorite veggies, topped with some homemade falafels and a drizzle of garlic hummus that I made the other day. Adding hummus to a cheeseless pizza is a fantastic way of giving it that rich, creamy texture.

Here’s the full ingredient list:

  • Large whole wheat pita
  • Basil tomato sauce
  • Sliced up falafel (click here to check out my recipe)
  • Garlic hummus (recipe here)
  • Mayan sweet onion
  • Spinach
  • Bell peppers (I sauteed mine in water and soy sauce)
  • Tomato slices
  • Green beans
  • Crushed chili peppers, black pepper, and Cajun spice sprinkled over top

Then, I just put this in a pan with the lid on and let it simmer at low heat on the stove for about 15 minutes. No oven required. When I was ready to eat, I raised the temperature to get the crust all crispy, and that’s all there was to it. Extremely satisfying, oil-free, vegan pizza in no time at all!

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Vegan Cherry Cheesecake…Using Chickpeas!

Super creamy vegan cheesecake made from chickpeas…no added fats, no dairy, no baking time. It’s actually pretty unbelievable.

In my last post on oil-free falafels, I showed you how I separated the chickpea pulp from the chickpea “milk” before adding in the spices and cooking them up. As I was waiting for the falafels to grill, I actually went to work right away experimenting with a dessert using the chickpea milk. I am so stoked about how it turned out!

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Ingredients for the cheesecake portion:

  • Chickpea milk (click here to see how to make it)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Lemon juice (lemon zest also works nicely)
  • Sugar, or sweetener of choice
  • Salt (optional)

Ingredients for the base of the cheesecake:

  • I used milled golden roasted flaxseeds mixed with maple sugar, but crumbled up cookies or granola also worked beautifully. (Or, for something a little more decadent, try blending up some dates with almonds and using that as the base!)

I started by heating the chickpea milk on the stove at medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula to keep it from burning. After about 10 to 15 minutes the chickpea milk will start to get quite thick, like custard. The thicker you can get it, the better.

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Once it’s nice and thick, mix in all the ingredients (vanilla, some lemon juice, sugar, and a bit of salt if you like). Then, just lay down your cookie crumbs or roasted flaxseeds at the bottom of some little ramekins, and pour the batter over top. Place the dishes in the fridge to set.

One super important tip — you have to resist the urge to dig in right away! At the very least, let it sit for 24 hours. If you can manage 48 hours, that’s even better. The longer it sits, the creamier and firmer the cake gets. That way, the lemon juice also has the chance to get infused into the batter. It’s absolutely worth the wait!

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For the topping, I just made my own cherry sauce by heating together some frozen cherries, sugar and starch. I also tried another batch with blueberry compote, which was also delicious. I found that it was best to put the topping on right away, before letting the cheesecake sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours. This gives the flavors a chance to permeate into the rest of the cake. Enjoy!

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Oil-free Vegan Falafels (with a twist!)

I’ve been craving falafels lately (I mean, who doesn’t from time to time?!), so I decided to have a go at making them at home. The ready-made ones in the supermarkets are quite pricey plus they are deep fried in oil, so I figured it was pretty much a win-win if I could successfully make some oil-free versions at home. Healthier, cheaper…and surprisingly delicious if I do say so myself!

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This is different from the standard falafel recipe, as you may notice. I mixed in some Indian spices, plus I used a cheesecloth to separate the chickpea “milk” from the chickpea pulp. I then used the milk afterwards for an exciting vegan cheesecake recipe which I’ll be posting about shortly!

Here are the ingredients I used for the falafels:

  • one cup dry chickpeas
  • sweet Mayan onion
  • fenugreek leaves (a handful of parsely would be more conventional, but I love the taste of fenugreek)
  • tahini
  • garam masala
  • madras curry powder
  • cumin
  • ajwain
  • crushed chili pepper
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • starch (if needed to help hold the mixture together)

I started by soaking the chickpeas overnight. A traditional falafel recipe would then blend the water and the chickpeas together with all of the ingredients, but instead, the next morning I blended the chickpeas and the water until smooth, and then used a fine cheesecloth to drain out all the chickpea milk and set that aside for my dessert recipe!

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Draining out the milk
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chickpea milk
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chickpea pulp

Into the chickpea pulp, I mixed the rest of the ingredients listed above. Then, I just rolled the mixture into little balls and then grilled them up until they had a nice crispyness on the outside. That’s really all there is to it!

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All the ingredients mixed in, and ready to grill!

I served this with homemade hummus and a simple tahini sauce. For the tahini dressing, I just mixed together the following:

  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • fresh garlic paste (garlic powder would also work well)

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Just for fun, I also tried making these mini falafel donuts. Same recipe, same process…but cuter.

Japanese Soybean Salad

I seem to be on a bit of a legume kick lately! First, I made lentil curry, which was soon followed by hummus, vegan chickpea “tuna” salad, and then chana masala. Today, though, it’s all about soybeans.

In traditional Japanese cuisine, beans are used very differently from in the west. In Canada and America we probably find them most often in things like chili, burritos or canned baked beans. But in Japan, beans are commonly used in sweets or in savory side dishes meant to accompany a bowl of rice, while soybeans in particular are used for making tofu, miso paste and natto.

Beans are also much pricier in Japan and are thought of as something of a delicacy to be enjoyed in small quantities, in contrast to the cheap image of beans that we have in North America. But on the other hand, the quality of the beans produced domestically in Japan is incredible. Each bean is often large, perfectly plump and bursting with flavor. I understand why they don’t choose to cover up the taste with garlic, spices and other heavily flavored ingredients!

In Japan, it is also not at all uncommon to buy precooked pouches of beans instead of the typical canned beans that I’m used to back home. I was recently gifted two such packs of soybeans so I decided to try my hand at making a Japanese-style side salad.

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On the package, it says “Naturally rich in calcium. Good for your bones. Non-GMO. Grown in Japan.”

For this dish, I mixed together the following ingredients and let sit for a little bit before enjoying over a bowl of fresh rice.

  • one pouch of cooked soybeans (50 grams)
  • shredded kombu
  • thinly sliced carrot
  • finely diced sweet Mayan onion
  • soy sauce
  • thinly sliced homemade pickled napa cabbage (optional, but adds a great crunch)
  • shichimi togarashi (a lightly aromatic Japanese mixture of spices, seeds and orange peel)

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Magical Little Chickpeas (Hummus recipe!)

Remind me again why I’ve been buying hummus all these years?

I used to make hummus at home all the time, but recently I somehow fell into the habit of buying ready-made commercial hummus. Sure, it’s convenient and if you buy it at Costco like I do, it’s really quite affordable as well. But, it’s actually fun to make at home and you can adjust the flavour to your liking. Plus, not to mention once you’re done making it, you get to wipe up the blender and the spatula with thick slices of pita bread…which is a fantastic excuse to eat tons and tons of fresh, warm hummus! It’s all in the details.

For this batch, I thoroughly rinsed about 500 grams of dried chickpeas, brought them to a slow boil, and then let them sit overnight (or, for about 6 hours). The next morning, I brought them to a slow boil again and let simmer until soft.

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Next, I filled up my Vitamix blender about 2/3 of the way with the chickpeas, and then added in the following ingredients. (All measurements are very approximate, so be sure to adjust to your liking!)

  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • crushed chili peppers

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There were enough chickpeas that I made two batches like this, and still had enough left over to make some vegan chickpea “tuna” salad and a bit of chana masala curry. And, don’t forget that if you have some of the water left over after having cooked your chickpeas (otherwise known as aquafaba), you can use this as an effective egg white replacement in vegan baking!

I’ve got to say, I’m pretty impressed with the versatility of chickpeas. They’re healthy, cheap, delicious…and adorable. My new favorite legume.

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