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 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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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.

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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Giant Steamed Veggie Buns!

I had a sudden craving for steamed buns the other day so I headed to Chinatown to see what was on offer. I wandered up and down the streets, stepping into random dim sum shops and bakeries looking for veggie steamed buns, but pretty much everything contained meat or seafood. Just when I thought I’d have to go back home empty handed, I discovered what is now my absolute favorite Chinese bakery in Vancouver. Every single bun, cake, dumpling, and tart is gigantic! They’re honestly about twice the size of every other shop I visited, and the crazy thing is that most of the items are actually cheaper!

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For lunch, I got one white steamed veggie bun, and another whole wheat one. They were so huge that I couldn’t even finish them and ended up having the rest for dinner. It’s not just about the size and price either…none of that would matter if the food was poor. But, you could tell that fresh vegetables were used for the filling inside the buns, and they also had a variety of other ingredients mixed in like mushrooms, rice noodles, and tofu. Really fantastic!

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