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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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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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.

Paper Folding, Doll Making, and Painting with Charcoal

I went for a walk the other day to explore Tokaimura and found myself at a local community centre. I checked out the daily schedule on the billboard and realized that there were currently a number of classes in progress. The centre offers a whole range of neat drop-in classes for elderly citizens. It gives them a nice cozy place to gather and socialize while working on art projects of their choice.

I poked my head into the doorway of a few different rooms and asked if I could check out what they were up to. Everyone was very welcoming and they were all surprisingly chill with some random foreigner popping into their classroom and taking photos.

Thank you to everyone for their hospitality! I had a fantastic time hanging out with you all 🙂

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Farmers’ Market Festival in Japan

I took another trip back to Nijinonaka, the local farmers’ market here in Tokaimura. Every once in a while they have a special festival day, and local farmers gather to sell their fruits and veggies at an even better price than usual. It’s not just about produce, though. There are lots of artisans selling baked goods, rice crackers, pickles, miso paste, peach juice, and a whole bunch of other goodies.

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I picked up three bags of Japanese rice crackers (sembei), which came in neat flavors like ginger, chili pepper, and soy sauce. The ginger ones were frosted in a thick coating of white icing and I was a little dubious at first, but they taste just like gingerbread cookies!

Another favorite of mine was the stand selling chocolate coated roasted soy beans. They also had little boxes of soy cookies where you could choose from pumpkin, purple sweet potato, spinach, and carrot flavors.

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Perhaps best of all was the fresh mochi! If you haven’t heard of mochi before, it’s this heavenly thick gooey rice cake made out of a special type of pounded rice. Nowadays, you can easily buy it in any grocery store around Japan, but the traditional way is to put the freshly steamed rice into a huge wooden barrel and then pound it with a wooden mallet until it all forms together into a smooth, sticky rice cake. It’s such a physically intensive process that many men usually gather around and take turns pounding the mochi.

Even in Japan, it’s not everyday that you get to see mochi being prepared in the traditional style. Even rarer still is the opportunity to eat it fresh, within moments of being scooped out of the barrel.

They put large gobs of the mochi into bowls of hot soup with cooked radish, deep fried tofu, carrot, and onion and handed it out for free! Incredible 😀

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Fried Potato Korokke Burger

Korroke are a very popular staple food item in Japan. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket or convenience store, all the way up to higher end restaurants where they’re dressed up with quality ingredients.

I always like to get the veggie ones which are a mashed potato patty mixed with peas and corn, covered in a fine coating of crispy breadcrumbs, and deep fried. This is the most standard type of korokke, but you can also find them made out of mashed pumpkin, tofu pulp, or potatoes mixed with a bit of ground meat. They can be eaten as is, on top of noodles, or as a burger topped with shredded cabbage and sauce. So simple, but they’re really fantastic, especially if you can manage to get your hands on one while it’s still hot!

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