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.

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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Irresistible Indian Cuisine in Japan

If you could only have one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I’ve been asked this a bunch of times, and my answer often depends on where I am at the time. If I’m traveling in South Asia, I tend to seek out Japanese foods. When I’m in Japan, I crave Indian spices. And, when at home in Vancouver my diet tends to gravitate towards the Mediterranean side of things. I’m not sure why…maybe I just enjoy the challenge of hunting for obscure ingredients!

So, how about you? What would you go with?

The other day, I went to another Indian restaurant. Every time I go for Indian food in Japan, I tell myself that I won’t go again. Don’t get me wrong, the food is usually quite good, but I always think that I should make the most of my time here and experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest. And yet…I always find myself wandering into every Indian and Napalese restaurant that I see. There’s something that’s just so irresistible about the aroma of roasting spices, especially after relying for so long on soy sauce and miso as my main seasonings.

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veggie curry
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daal
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huge, fluffy naan
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mango juice

I tried out the vegetable curry, daal, naan, and mango juice. The daal was unlike any I’ve had before. I’m used it being a soupy dish made with brown lentils, but this daal was very thick and made with big split yellow peas. The mango juice was so syrupy, almost more like mango nectar than juice. All in all, it was an incredibly filling and generous meal.

Like most Indian restaurants in Japan, they offered unlimited free refills of fresh naan, but the servings were so massive that I was more than satisfied with just one!

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Sweets with Cherry Blossom Filling

I’m back at it again with more Japanese sweets. (I swear I don’t eat like this all the time…but I mean, who can resist!) I recently came across another curious, but delicious sweet called sakura daifuku. It’s made of a thin gooey layer of mochi on the outside, with a sweet white bean paste filling, delicately flavored with salted cherry blossoms and cherry leaves. The result is a soft, aromatic dessert with a subtle sweetness and just a hint of tang from the cherry leaves. It’s not at all like western cherry flavored candies, and it doesn’t even taste like actual cherries…it really is in a class all its own, and the skillful balance of flavors absolutely stunning!

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Cherry blossoms and cherry leaves are seasonal ingredients most commonly used in Japanese sweets during the springtime, but they are still available year round for people like me who just can’t get enough of them. There’s even a cherry blossom tea, where you put a few of the little preserved flowers at the bottom of your cup and pour hot water over them. The blossoms open up and look like they’re blooming right there in the water, and the fragrance is incredibly calming.

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Salad Udon Noodles Topped with Pumpkin Chips

One of the many things that I love about traveling in Japan is the huge number of affordable, relatively healthy restaurants. If you want to go for yōshoku (their take on western food), which is basically dishes centred around meat, cheese, or egg, that’s a totally different story. But, if you wander into one of the Japanese noodle joints frequented by locals, it’s pretty easy to fill up on good quality delicious veggie food for five or six dollars. I also find that the atmosphere can often be more rewarding than dining at a formal restaurant. At these sorts of places, you get to sit shoulder to shoulder with high schoolers and businessmen, and there’s a lot more interaction with the customers and staff. You get a feel for Japanese food culture and etiquette…and honestly, that’s one of the best parts about eating out anyways!

I was walking through Mito train station looking for somewhere to stop for lunch, and I found this place advertising their salad udon. Usually, udon noodles are served in a hot broth along with something like green onions, deep fried tofu, or tempura. But, these noodles were topped with lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, okra, and crispy pumpkin sticks. I was so stoked to find this. Another lunch success!

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