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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Oil-free Lentil Curry and Lemon Chutney

I just spotted a jar of lentils in my cupboard the other day and realized that I haven’t made daal in ages. I remember early on in university I used to be all about lentils and brown rice. Especially back when I was new to vegan cooking, my mind immediately went to lentils as a cheap and delicious source of protein. There were lentil sloppy joes, lentil burgers, lentil meatloafs…but the healthiest, easiest, and by far my favorite to cook up in large batches was lentil curry.

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I was long overdue for some daal so to get things started last night, I soaked about four cups of dry lentils and let them sit until this morning. After breakfast today, I drained out the water, added in some more fresh water and set the lentils on the stove at low heat until it came to a slow boil.

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I drained out the water again to get out any remaining enzymes, and then poured in some more water before adding in the following ingredients:

  • half a Mayan sweet onion
  • three cloves of garlic
  • a knob of finely chopped up ginger
  • crushed chili peppers
  • salt
  • ajiwan seeds
  • two tablespoons of garam masala
  • two tablespoons of Madras curry powder
  • four tablespoons of massaman Thai curry paste (completely optional)

I then returned it to the stove to simmer for two hours, and then turned off the heat and let it sit for the rest of the afternoon.

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Just before I was ready to serve the curry for dinner, I added in a little more water (this may or may not be necessary depending on how much you added earlier on) and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes. I also adjusted the amount of salt and chili to my liking.

And, that’s all there is to it! I served this with some naan bread, Mayan sweet onions, coriander, and an assortment of chutneys, including this lemon chutney that I threw together yesterday.

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For this lemon chutney, all I did was chop up the rind of a Meyer lemon and put it in a jar together with salt, crushed chili peppers, diced up onion, and a bit of plum sauce because, well…I just so happened to have plum sauce lying around. An odd combination, perhaps, but it was a surprisingly refreshing addition to the lentil curry.

Yakisoba: Japanese fried noodles

Have you ever heard of yakisoba? It’s a super popular street food in Japan, and a staple dish found at every festival you’ll ever visit. The streets will always be lined with food stalls where they have a big flat grill set up, and there’s someone frying up a huge pile of yakisoba noodles using these metal spatulas specially designed for flipping the ingredients.

The most classic yakisoba dish consists of hearty noodles fried together with cabbage, carrots, and onion. It’s then topped off with a savory sauce, shavings of aonori (a type of dried seaweed), and small slices of pickled pink ginger. Recently, some vendors have started to add on some other popular toppings like Japanese mayonnaise.

I don’t usually get to buy yakisoba at food stands because there’s sometimes a bit of meat thrown into the mix, but that doesn’t stop me from making it at home! Lucky for me, it’s fairly quick and easy to put together. I had this for dinner the other night, along with some slices of deep fried tofu that I picked up at the shops and then warmed up in the grill a few minutes before serving.

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Soba Noodles and Pesto for Dinner

Here’s what a typical dinner can look like for me while in Japan. You can of course easily buy regular spaghetti noodles here, but I’ve found that using soba (buckwheat noodles) as an alternative is so amazing!

Soba is usually eaten in the traditional Japanese style with a soy sauce based broth. So, serving them the way I do is unconventional, but I find that the nutty flavor of the buckwheat goes perfectly with pesto.

I just put a bundle of soba noodles into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer for about seven minutes. After draining, I top them with a bit of pesto, some fresh basil leaves and whatever other veggies a have at hand. Today, I dressed it up with a handful of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, daikon radish, and black beans.

Not only does soba taste good, but it’s actually an incredibly healthy alternative to white spaghetti noodles, as it’s much higher in protein and fiber. Buckwheat also contains no gluten, so if you can find soba noodles using 100% buckwheat flour, it’s gluten free as well!

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Gorgeous Flower Garden in Japan

While I was in Hitachi (the same place with that amazing retro amusement park that I posted about earlier), I stumbled across this gorgeous flower patch. It was right up on the top of a hill overlooking miles and miles of city below. I’m not normally into flowers, but for some reason these ones had me enthralled. I hope you enjoy looking at these flowers as much as I did!

And, since I don’t want to make two posts in a row without any food pics (because that’s what this blog is all about right?!)…I’m also throwing in a photo of my dinner at the end. I managed to make the long trek out to a Costco the other day and I was ecstatic when I found tortillas there, which are otherwise pretty hard to get a hold of here in Japan. I bought some beans and threw together a homemade salsa for some amazing burritos!

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Airplane Food on My Way to Japan!

I’m in Japan again! As soon as I got back home to Vancouver, things just fell into place very quickly and I found myself returning to Japan much sooner than expected. This time I’ll be working here so I’ll get to stay a lot longer. I will be busy with work every weekday, but on the weekends I plan to explore as much as I can of the neighboring cities and prefectures.

The flight over was very smooth and comfortable as always. I flew with ANA and it was pretty awesome how all the flight attendants were all dressed up for the season to match the cherry blossoms!

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The standard in-flight meal is a fish or meat main course, with a few side dishes including soba noodles. I pre-ordered an Indian veggie meal instead with two curries and basmati rice, chickpeas, a corn and cauliflower salad, and two fruit bowls. For plane food, I have to say it was pretty fantastic! The snack at the end of the flight was a tomato and cucumber sandwich with more fruit. Before I knew it, I was in Japan. I’m looking forward to all the months of excitement to come! It will be a big adjustment, but a memorable adventure for sure.
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Roadtrip to Aomori: Dinner and Live Shamisen Music

For dinner in Aomori we went to this amazing Japanese pub. It’s not the kind of place where you sit on a bar stool and chug a pint of beer while munching on a burger and fries, though. In the traditional Japanese style, we all get to sit on the floor on these large cushions (zabuton) and relax for hours. The dark wooden furnishings used in all old Japanese buildings and the traditional paper screens add a really authentic touch. And get this…there’s a live shamisen performance each evening!

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We shared a big a hotpot of tofu and veggies cooked right there on a little fire in the middle of our table. We also ordered a whole bunch of neat appetizers including a serving of roasted garlic with a sweet miso dressing…plus a lot of good sake and beer, of course!

There’s something about sitting on the floor that’s so welcoming and comfortable. Instead of feeling like a bunch of patrons at a restaurant, it feels like a big party and you sort of build this feeling of closeness with everyone else there. And as an added bonus, when you finally get sleepy (or drunk!) you can just lie flat on your face and no one really cares haha 😀

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