Category Archives: Vegan/Vegetarian

Basic recipe Healthy cooking Japanese food Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian


Okayu with an umeboshi on top

Recently, with the cold season in full swing and my baby being weaned, I find myself making a lot of okayu, which is the Japanese version of rice porridge or congee. Okayu is often given to the ill as it is easier to eat and digest than white rice. In fact, when I was in the hospital after giving birth in Japan, I was given okayu instead of white rice for the first few meals. Then, in a weaning class several months later, I was taught how to prepare okayu as it is the recommended first food for babies in Japan. (In case you’re wondering, this is what okayu as baby food looks like; the different colors come from the different foods that can be added into the okayu as the baby grows, like broccoli, white fish, kabocha, egg yolk, tofu, etc.) Some people also like to use okayu as a way to lose weight by simply replacing white rice with the lower-calorie okayu.

Here, I will describe the basic recipe for okayu.

Japanese rice
Optional toppings (e.g., umeboshi (pickled plum), spring onions, etc.)

There are several types of okayu, which differ according to the amount of rice and water used and the final ratio of gruel to liquid in the okayu. Here is a quick list:

  • zengayu
    1 rice : 5 water (this gives gruel without any extra liquid)
  • shichibugayu
    1 rice : 7 water (this gives okayu with a 7 gruel : 3 liquid ratio)
  • gobugayu
    1 rice : 10 water (this gives okayu with a 1 gruel : 1 liquid ratio)
  • sanbugayu
    1 rice : 20 water (this gives okayu with a 3 gruel : 7 liquid ratio)
Cooking okayu
Cooking okayu

– wash rice until the water runs clear.
– add the appropriate amount of water and heat on high while stirring occasionally to avoid clumping of the rice.
– once the water is boiling, allow to simmer covered on low heat for 30 mins.
– add salt as needed
– serve hot with or without any toppings

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Baking Bento Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian

Peach ginger crumble – bento friendly!


Fall’s bounty is hitting the markets, and yesterday, I found the most beautiful, and absolutely huge, apples and peaches.

Since I was turning on the oven to roast a chicken, I decided to add a baked dessert to the menu too. Fruit crumble is so easy to make, and baking these in individual servings make them very bento (and portion size) friendly!

Apples and cinnamon are natural together. For the peaches? I decided to experiment by adding ginger. Yum yum! It turned out moist and gooey on the bottom, and slightly crunchy on top, with a touch of sweet ginger heat. I might use ginger again as an alternative to the cinnamon that permeates so much fall and winter baking. Although, I’m not sure how it’ll pair with ice cream (one of my recipe books says that apple crumble must be eaten with vanilla icecream – it’s the law!

In this tray, I made six apple crumbles and six peach crumbles (half recipes of each). The measurements below are for full recipes.

Filling for apple crumble:

4 medium sized apples
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup currants (optional)
Filling for peach ginger crumble:

4 medium sized peaches
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar

¼ cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
Line cupcake pan with muffin cups. Large cups are better – makes bigger servings Seriously though, small cups will make the serving minuscule!

Peel and core the fruit, and dice into small pieces. Mix well with the rest of the filling ingredients. Spoon into the muffin cups, about 3/4 of way full.

Melt butter, and stir in the sugar. Mix well with the oats and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit filling in the muffin cups. Press down firmly, and keep filling until it reaches the top (as it bakes, the crumble sinks a little, so next time I’ll try heaping more topping on top.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 mins.

Bento tip!
This is my bento the next day (chicken, roast potatos, turnips, parsnips, broccoli, and peach crumble).

And for saving to enjoy later, I froze some of the cups in slight wedge shapes, which can easily be thawed and transferred into bento boxes.

Healthy cooking Restaurants Vegan/Vegetarian

Hibiscus Cafe – salads, soups, crepes, and more!

One of our long standing Kensington Market staples, this little café offers an eclectic mix of vegan soups, salads, and crepes, gluten free baked goods, and dairy free ice cream and smoothies. Far from a wacky alternative health food store, it’s actually a cozy eatery churning out delicious light meals that just happen to be healthful. We’ve watched this place get more and more popular over the years, and although we’ve long lost our claim to the coveted window table, we keep going back just for the food .

My favourite is the mixed salad, which comes in a large bowl with generous scoops of their popular quinoa, lentil, green bean, tofu, carrot, sweet potato (and many other) salads – everything but lettuce! The large salads are also topped with a crispy sweet raw cracker (I wish they sold these in boxes!).

Savory buckwheat crepes come with a variety of fillings. The spinach, mushroom, and mozzarella crepe has a tangy pesto that gives an extra zing.

Soups are thick and heavily herbed – perfect to round out a meal, but not enough to stand out on its own.

The sweets are outstanding, and demonstrate creative experimentation and well thought out flavour combinations (a shout-out to our friend Grace!). The cookies made of rice flour are light and crispy – more wafer than doughy (try the green tea cookie). The non-dairy cream is creamy, and packed with flavour (recommend the black sesame or ginger). And the soy smoothies are lightly sweet and frothy (try strawberry).

Word on the street is that Hibiscus also makes their own soy milk and tofu.

One warning – this place is tiny. If you don’t want to wait for a table while literally hovering over other diners, get there earlier than 1pm. Patience is also required, as service is friendly but can be slow. And the ambiance encourages lingering over a cup of fair trade soy latte.

$15-30 for a meal for two.
238 Augusta Ave.

Healthy cooking Middle Eastern Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian


manakish with za’atar spice mix
Manakish with za’atar spice mix

Za’atar is a middle eastern mixture of spices including thyme, oregano, majoram, savory, sesame seeds, and salt. It can be used in a variety of middle eastern dishes, including manakish bread, and za’atar chicken.

Here is a simple recipe for the za’atar spice mix.

2/3 cup oregano
1/3 cup marjoram
1 cup thyme
1/3 cup savory
1/2 cup sumac
2 cups sesame seeds
About 4-8 teaspoon salt

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Healthy cooking Recipes Soups and Stews Vegan/Vegetarian

Creamed broccoli soup

This foolproof recipe is not only vegan and healthy, it is surprisingly delicious and full of flavor despite its simplicity. The flavor of the soup comes mainly from the onion, parsley, and pepper, while the creaminess comes from the potatoes. This soup can be enjoyed hot or chilled.

• Broccoli- one large bunch
• Onion- one large
• Potato- one large or two small
• Dried parsley- about 2-3 tbsp
• Salt and pepper to taste

– chop vegetables into small chunks
– lightly fry onions in a heated pot.
– mix in broccoli, potatoes and parsley
– add water, enough to just cover the vegetables
– bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15-25 minutes
– blend with a hand-blender until smooth
– salt and pepper to taste
– enjoy!

Breads Middle Eastern Restaurants Vegan/Vegetarian

Za’atar Manakish

Manakish is a type of Lebanese food made of dough that is rolled flat and baked. Popular toppings include za’atar (a mixture or spices including thyme, oregano, majoram, savory, sesame seeds, and salt), cheese, and minced meats.

My favorite is from a Lebanese store called Al-Taib on Guy street in Montreal. They have a wide variety of Manakish, but my favorites are the za’atar one, and the ‘half-half’, which is half covered with za’atar and half with cheese. They bake the manakish in a large hot oven upon ordering, and hand it to you wrapped in a piece of paper or in a paper bag, hot. They also have Lebanese vegetables you can put on the manakish to make a roll.

The manakish is best fresh, of course. However, when I bring a bunch for my sister in Toronto, we freeze them, and then toast them in a toaster oven when desired. They taste just as good.

Recipes Soups and Stews Vegan/Vegetarian

Sweet Potato Soup with Rosemary

Sweet potato is one of my favourite foods… it’s good grilled, baked, fried, mashed… and in soups!

I would usually make a curried sweet potato soup, but this time, to (un)spice things up, I decided to turn to the “western” side of my spice rack. I reached for the rosemary, because it has a strong flavour, and theoretically a good replacement for curry or nutmeg.

Two bowls of soup and a cheese bagel later, I decided this recipe would be a keeper. The rosemary paired surprisingly well with ginger, and there was just enough flavour of each to gently infuse the soup without being too overwhelming. The rosemary needles also softened as the soup cooked, and the green flakes were very pretty against the orange sweet potato.


2 large sweet potatos
1 medium potato
1 sweet onion
2 stalk of celery
1 carrot
3-4 cups of broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tbsp of rosemary
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cooking oil
salt and pepper
Peel the sweet potatos, potato, and carrot, and chop roughly into 1/2 inch cubes. Also chop the celery and onion.

In a heated soup pot, sautee the carrot, celery and onion until soft. Add the rosemary, ginger, paprika, sweet potatos, and potato and sautee for 3-4 mins (or until you can smell the rosemary). Add the broth and top up with hot water if necessary. The liquid should cover everything with an inch or two to spare. Cover and simmer for 20-30 mins, or until all the ingredients are soft. Take off heat and blend with immersion blender or in batches with a countertop blender. Stir in milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 7-8 servings.