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Inside Japan

Certainly the last few weeks have been a succession of historical moments in international history, but March will surely be remembered more for Japan's devastating tsunami-earthquake disaster than anything else. My friend Zach was on the ground in Tokyo the day of the earthquake, and began to keep a very informative and insightful blog cataloguing his experience in Japan, including photographs, in a way that no news coverage can communicate. Despite Zach's even calm and ever-grateful demeanor, the blog is moving and is at all times an incredibly personal account that makes room for the community as well as perhaps bringing to light some of the concerns and conflicted emotions felt by many people in Japan. Zach has made his way to China, and will be returning to Japan when he can Click here.

Tofu Chili in the Crockpot

As you may have noticed, I am NOT a bean person (and talk alot about it). Which is why I was never a big chili fan. However, on my quest to start liking beans again (cuz you know...it's healthy), I have forced myself to try a good meaty chili (i.e. Tim Horton's) and actually enjoyed the taste! In light of this, C and I tried a tofu chili yesterday - different from amanda's Barely Vegetarian Chili - which I was quite impressed with! Found here, I had to ommit some of the ingredients as I always try to make things with what I have in my fridge/cabinets/wallet.

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 large stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz. can of tomato soup
  • 14 oz. can black beans
  • 1 cake low fat extra-firm tofu
  • half a box of white mushrooms
1. The night before you want to eat this chili, prep your ingredients by cutting up all the vegetables and put them in a bowl. Refrigerate.
2. The next morning before you leave for work/school/whatever it is you do, dump everything in your crockpot (including beans, tofu and tomato soup)
3. Heat on low for 6-8 hours.
4. Enjoy this hearty meal when you get back home!



4 Simple Ingredients + 4 Easy Steps = Fantastic Healthy Salad!

Did you ever wonder if Popeye only ate his spinach straight from the can, or did Olive sometimes cook for him? Well, if she did put on an apron and had a short 20 minutes to spare, I'm sure that this recipe would've been a winner!

I had never thought of mixing potatos and spinach together, until I came across this potato and spinach salad  recipe (the link is odd as you can't link to this particular recipe, you actually have to look for it). It is absolutely fantastic! Great to fill you up for lunch/supper but also great if you're invited to a potluck and you've got a case of I-don't-have-time-to-make-something-but-I-have-to-bring-something. You can bring the ingredients over and take 20 minutes to make it! :)

To make a salad that serves 3 somewhat good portions, GET:
  • 3 large Russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup of spinach (defrosted)
  • 2 teaspoons mayo
  • 1 squirt of mustard
  1. If you have time, boil your potatoes until soft. I cleaned them first then microwaved them for about 15 minutes because I didn't have time to boil them.
  2. Defrost your spinach in the microwave
  3. While your spinach is defrosting, cut your potatoes into cubes (or whatever shape you like them in), I like to leave the skin on, but do whatever your heart desires.
  4. Mix your potatoes, spinach, mayo and mustard.
  5. THAT'S IT!
It turned out succulent and a little sweet too! It's quite fantastic! :)



Hot Beans FTW: Sexy Latino Flavor, Vegan-Styles

I'm not a Toronto girl, at all, but every once in a while, something happens to make me wish I were. This year, that thing is Hot Beans, a one-of-a-kind latin-inspired vegan take-out place that has recently opened at 160 Baldwin in Toronto's Kensington Market. The brain-child of partners Ross, Madeleine, and Scott, this new vegan mecca promises to make vegan dreams of late night burritos and donuts come true, against all odd. Because I can't be there, I think you should. Check them out at their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter . Here is some of what they have to offer:


Vegan Donuts!
Tacos!! And biodegradable plastic!    
Hearty vegan Burritos!


Baked Pasta with Sausage and Eggplant

YUMMY. Last night I actually had time to cook a nice dinner for M and I and it turned out great! Believe it or not, I actually found this recipe on a parenting website (no worries A, I wouldn't tell you on a blog ;)). The recipes on family websites are usually very little time-consuming (takes about 45 minutes from start to finish) and delicious as it needs to please the kids. This one was no exception! Although frying eggplants is not the best for your health calorie-wise (as it absorbs most fat and adds a hell of alot of calories in the process), you'd be fine eating small portions of it. Besides, this recipe is so packed with ingredients that you won't need a big portion to fill up that belly! :)

  • 1 lb dry pasta
  • 6 links of your favorite pre-cooked sausage (beef, pork or chicken) (I used 3 large sausages that were on sale at Super C - the ones we use for the bbq - instead of 6 links of sausage)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant cut into 1-inch pieces (you'll see that this might look like ALOT of eggplant when you cut it up, but it's actually very proportional)
  • 2 tablespoons of dry basil (the original recipe calls for fresh basil but I didn't have any and it still tasted awesome)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Pepper
  • 1 can of Aylmer tomato soup
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (optional - I didn't have any)
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta only 6-7 minutes. It will be firm (and will soften when it's baked).
  2. While waiting for water to boil, chop the sausages (into big pieces) and the onion and garlic. Cook together in olive oil in a skillet 3-4 minutes (they'll cook further when baked). Put sausages, onion and garlic in a large casserole dish.
  3. In the same oil fry as many eggplant pieces as you can fit. Cook until both sides are browned and then add eggplant to casserole. Repeat with all of the eggplant pieces, adding more oil when necessary.
  4. Add the cooked pasta (drained) and ½ cup of the pasta water to the casserole. Add the basil to casserole and add 1 cup of mozzarella. Grind in some black pepper.
  5. In a mixing bowl, pour the tomato soup, the tomato paste and the water and mix well. Pour in pasta casserole. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  6. Optional: Sprinkle remaining cup mozzarella and Parmesan over pasta.
  7. Cover with foil and refrigerate if making ahead, or immediately bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

I would like to apologize for the picture - it's not the best for this dish but take my word for it, it's absolutely amazing! I got my sausages a little spicy so it gave an extra umph to the dish!



Chunky Meaty Fantastically Easy Pasta Sauce

Everyone has their personal recipe for a deliciously meaty pasta sauce. When I was still living with the 'rents, I used to LOVE how my mom always made her sauce so chunky! Once I got my own place, I wanted to get the taste of this delicious and easy meal but always failed at making it as good as my mom's. In search of a great recipe, A's mom gave me her family recipe and with a little personal touches, this recipe turned out to be so delicious, I can almost say that it's better than my mom's!! (sorry mom). It's perfect to freeze up, and it's got all kinds of good vegetables in there!

Once you're done with this recipe, you'll want to eat it up with a spoon, forget about the pasta and eat more for lunch the next day. Feed it to your boyfriend before they go out and play sports and they will be on adrenaline! Here's what you need to do to get your (and your man's) taste buds going:

  • 1 1/2 table spoon of olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef (you can substitute this with turkey or half turkey and half beef)
  • 1 yellow or orange pepper (or both, or a different colour. Whichever one you prefer really)
  • mushroom (as many as you want, I usually take about half of those white mushroom boxes)
  • 1 large celeri stem
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium can of Aylmer Tomato Soup (sometimes I use a can of diced tomatoes, but the soup tastes better)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (preferrably plain - without any added spices)
  • 3/4 table spoon of oregano
  • 3/4 table spoon of thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
Putting the deliciousness together:
  1. Chop your onions is small pieces and caramelize them in the olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add your crushed garlic into the pan and stir.
  2. Add your meat to the onion mix and stir to make sure that all the meat cooks well.
  3. Cut up all your vegetables and add them to the meat/onion mixture. Stir for another 2-3 minutes. *Note: it's easier if your vegetables are prepped beforehand, but I often simply chop them while the meat is cooking.
  4. Add your tomato paste and tomato soup. Stir well for the sauce to cover the entire mixture.
  5. Add your oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir very well.
  6. Cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours (longer if you have time). Stir once in a while.
That's it! :) The long part is the simmering, but it's sooo worth it! The sauce comes out chunky and meaty. If you like it more liquidy, you can add some water. Also (although I haven't tried it yet), perhaps some tempeh or tofu would be a good substitute for the beef for vegetarians out there.

Enjoy and feel free to play around with this recipe!! Let me know how it turns out! :D


A Sweet Crunchy Creamy Broccoli Salad

Speaking of the brassica family (weren't we?), broccoli is another hearty green you may have run out of ways to love. Never fear. My mom makes an excellent variation of this salad that involves sliced grapes and a more homemade dressing, so I'll post that as soon as I can get her on the horn, but for the time being, this is a reduced and speedier version of her salad.

You'll need

  • 1 large head of brocolli, florets snapped or sliced off into small pieces and and with sections of the stalk sliced into disks
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped up very small
  • small handful sliced almonds (i like the ones that are chunky rather than flat)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (ideally not artificially flavored) - for a superfood variation, try dried goji berries!

poppyseed dressing of your choosing (recipe to come, thanks to mom)

Put all dry ingredients in a bowl, broccoli at the bottom. Pour on about 2tbsp dressing to start with, and stir it all with a wooden spoon. Add dressing to combined ingredients until your desired creaminess versus chunkiness is achieved. Serve cold. Makes 4 servings give or take. Refrigerate.

photos courtesy of thepetitfour.com and vegetarian-nutrition