Monday, October 30, 2006

Cambodian Stuffed Butternut Squash

Cambodian Stuffed Butternut Squash

Okay it’s not really Cambodian but it’s not really Japanese or Indonesian so I decided to pick a random country in between cause this recipe is kind of an in between. This is honestly a recipe I pulled out of my ass after an hour of not knowing what to do with this squash that I’ve had for about 2 weeks now. I love butternut squash but I wanted to do something fun with it other than a soup… and yea… curries are not allowed on the Pagano diet. Sniff sniff. So Candi, if you’re too scared to buy another spaghetti squash, you could always try this recipe for Cambodian stuffed butternut squash!!

Cambodian Stuffed Butternut Squash

1 Butternut Squash, halved and deseeded
1/3 cup Orange Juice
1 tablespoon mugi miso (barley miso, any other bold miso will do fine)
1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup
olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup broccoli florets
3-4 shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ tofu block

¼ cup wild rice (or whatever rice!)
1 ½ tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, orange juice and agave nectar. Score the squash on the vertical and diagonals (refer to photo). Brush the marinade onto the squash several times. You can leave a small puddle in the “well” part of the squash. Lightly brush some olive oil onto the squash, place onto a cookie sheet cut side up and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Brush on more marinade every 10 to 15 minutes.

Place the rice in a steamer as per your steamer’s directions.

Use a small amount of the marinade to line a wok. Mix in sesame oil and heat on medium-high heat. Crumble the tofu into the wok, add the sliced mushrooms and broccoli florets. Cover for 5 minutes until broccoli is tender.

When the rice is ready, place it in a small bowl and mix in the agave nectar, tamari and almonds.

When the squash is ready, cut it in half lengthwise (almost all the way through, stop at the peel) and allow the squash to naturally create a “valley” as it separates. Spoon the tofu mixture into the “valley”. Top it with the sweet almond rice.


Quick note: Don’t get carried away! Butternut Squash peel is not edible! The good news is the edible part will come off very easily from the peel as you eat your way through this butternut squash mountain.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Japanese Pumpkin Chai Mousse Cake!

As promised, here is the “Cake that will blow you away!” It is a Japanese pumpkin chai mousse cake. It’s “pumpkin pie meets chai and they start to make out on a wedding cake!”. The base is a basic white cake with added chai spices… I call it the “lazy man’s chai cake”. It’s hardly an acceptable chai cake but it is there only to serve as a base and not compete with the intense flavor of the mousse. The mousse is made of Kabocha squash which has many names such as sweet mama squash and Japanese pumpkin. It’s a neat squash that doesn’t really shrink when it’s cooked the way ibutternut squash does. The flavor is akin to pumpkin, butternut and yams all mixed together. You could, technically, use a normal pumpkin… but it’s a lot more fun to use a Japanese one!

This cake takes a whle to make. Make sure you have a good two hours to make this as well as an hour for the cake to settle in the fridge.

Cake base

1 vanilla cake or basic white cake recipe (one that uses about 2 cups of flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric (for color)
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
6 small cheesecake pans (or one 8” cheesecake pan for a bigger cake)

As you make your basic white cake, add the spices to the dry ingredients. Combine dry and wet ingredients and pour into 6 small cheesecake pans. Bake as per instructions (normally about 20-25 minutes). When the cakes come out, place them in the freezer (to get the cheesecake pans to cool down quickly). When they have cooled down, cut off a slice off the bottom of the cake if the cake takes up more than ½ of the cheesecake pan. Save them for later to make “star cut outs”.

Pumpkin Chai mousse

½ Kabocha squash. Inside scooped out and discarded. Cubed. Peeled
¼ cup soy milk

2 cups water
1 cup soy milk (+ up to 1 cup as needed)
5 chai tea bags
4 tablespoons (1 stick) Agar Agar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup or rice syrup
2 tablespoons agave nectar

¼ cup soy milk
2 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch…but arrowroot is better)

Place the cubed squash in a steamer for about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together a slurry using the ¼ cup of soy milk and the arrowroot.

Place 2 cups of water in a small saucepan on medium heat until water starts to steam but not boil. Place 3 teabags and stir around, pressing down on the teabags regularly with a spatula to infuse lots of flavor. After 5 minutes, remove the teabags and discard. Add 1 cup of soy milk and 2 teabags and repeat the earlier process for another 5 minutes. Discard the teabags. Shred the agar with your hands and place the pieces into the steaming liquid. Stir regularly until agar is fully dissolved. This may take several minutes.

Place the steamed squash into a blender (you should have about 1 ½ cups – packed – of steamed squash) along with ¼ cups of soy milk. Blend into a smooth slurry.

Once agar is fully dissolved, measure into a bowl, how much chai/agar liquid you have. Add enough soy milk to equal 3 cups and return the mixture into the saucepan and back onto the stove. Add the sweetener and the squash mixture and whisk well to combine. Stir regularly and allow the mixture to almost reach a slow boil. Add the soy milk/arrowroot slurry and mix well. Allow mixture to heat to the same point again while stirring continuously. The mixture will feel a lot thicker. Remove from heat.

Place the tiny cheesecake pans on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Bring the saucepan to the fridge (this avoids a big mess) and spoon the mixture onto the cakes until the pans are almost overflowing with yummy pumpkin goodness. Pop any bubbles that form with a fork before you close the fridge door. If you have any mixture left over, place it into a small bowl and place wax paper onto the surface to avoid it forming a skin… place it in the fridge and save it for a midnight craving. Allow the cakes to cool for a full 1 or 2 hours… preferably overnight.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out cute shapes out of the “cake bottoms” and place the shapes into a ziplock bag until you’re ready to serve the cakes.

To serve the cake, run a small knife along the edge of the cheesecake pan to loosen the mousse from the pan. Open the cheesecake pan and place the cake onto a place. Top with “cake shapes”. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Out the door, Seaweed salad!

Getting back into a "normal life" routing of working 40 hours a week sure is tiring when you're used to having so much time off. What's really neat though is I've been able to stick to the diet more than ever before. I'm working 12:30pm to 9:00pm which means I can make breakfast and lunch when I get up; bring my lunch with me and cook up "dinner" when I get home.

I've been working on a really impressive dessert that will blow you all away... but the first attempt wasn't up to my standards... So I'm going to work on attempt #2 tonight.

I wasn't planning on posting this recipe at all when I pulled it out of my ass this morning (I'm not a morning person, so I'm quite impressed with myself when I'm able to be creative in the kitchen in the morning). I find I become a lot more creative when I have less ingredients at my disposal... does anyone else find that?

Seaweed salad with soy ginger dressing

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon water
1/2-3/4 teaspoon natural (sugar free) apricot preserve
1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 very large carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 very large kale leaves, hard parts removed, roughly chopped
1 baby bok choi, roughly sliced
1 tablespoon dried wakame, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen edamame beans, out of the shell

Dressing ingredients

1 heaping tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/8 cup + 1 tablespoon soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Fill a saucepan with water, halfway. Place wakame in water and bring to a boil on high/medium heat. When water reaches boiling part, add the frozen edamame and allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the edamame/seaweed over cold water.

Meanwhile, in a wok, combine sesame oil, water, apricot preserve and agave nectar. Heat the mixture on high/medium heat. Layer carrots, then bok choi and then kale. Top with the seaweed and edamame. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until the carrots are tender. Give the salad a good stir and allow to cool for 5 minutes whilst making the dressing. Spoon portions onto a plate.

In a small bowl mix all the remaining (dressing related) ingredients together and wisk well to emulsify the ingredients. It's oil free and has a bit of a punch to it! The soy milk may look funny when you first add it to the vinegar; that's normal... Just mix it well!

Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve!

Chef's notes: A japanese mandolin is an awesome tool. I bought one in chinatown this weekend and I'm having one of those "where have you been all my life" moments. Saves so much time when matchsticking veggies.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Sorry that I’ve been MIA for the last little bit. I’ve just completed my last flight as a flight attendant so I was away in Scotland. Leaving the gypsy life behind and doing something more sedentary which will definitely give me a lot more time to spend in the kitchen! I had a cute little omen in Glasgow on Saturday when I asked the “universe” for a sign that I was doing the right thing. I passed by LUSH and there was a sign in the window that said “There’s no place like Lush”…. I kind of thought that was close enough to “There’s no place like home”.

I started craving Lebanese food recently and it's pretty much all forbidden under the Pagano diet. One of my favorite dishes is a really bold and delicious salad called Fattoush. Now Fattoush normally has tomatoes, white vinegar and deep fried pita chips; forbidden ingredients which can actually be easily dealt with. The result is a salad that is very alkaline and has ingredients such as onions and lemon juice which are powerful detoxifiers and romaine lettuce which is very alkaline producing. Ever since I've "Paganofied" this dish I've been known to scare my friend Danika with random "MMM!!!!!!" FATTOUSH!!!" exclamations of joy whenever I refer to it. I've presented this salad in wrap form because it's never been done before (really.. I googled "Fattoush wrap" and came up with nothing!). If you'd like it in salad form just omit the pita and follow the directions for toasted pita chips. If you're on a Pagano diet and want to stick to every rule, omit the pita altogether; otherwise you're mixing citrus and grains in the same meal which is a minor rule of the program (I sometimes cheat with the small rules... whahahaah). I present here instructions for both forms of Fattoush.


1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
dash of salt

1 medium red onion (or half a big one) loosely chopped
half an English cucumber, cubed for salad - sliced for wrap
1/2-3/4 cup sliced black olives
1 heaping handful of parsley, finely chopped
3-4 mint leaves, finely chopped
1 head of organic romaine lettuce
1/2 or 1 whole wheat pita bread

Emulsify all the fattoush dressing ingredients.

If making a salad as opposed to a wrap, slice the pita in half and save the other half for another project. Slice the remaining pita into 1 inch squares, place them in a non stick pan over medium-high heat and toss around every few minutes until the pita chips become crunchy.

Wash the romaine lettuce and drain it in a salad spinner. Shred the lettuce with your hands and place into a large bowl. Add all the other salad ingredients and toss. To make a fattoush wrap, place some of the salad in a whole wheat pita bread and add a few spoonfuls of the dressing. To make a fattoush salad, place a serving into a bowl, add the dressing and top with toasted pita chips;

**Important note :: Do yourself a favor and don't go on a date after having this salad. Fattoush will conjure up a breath that will drive any potential mating partner away... but it's so yummy!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

OM-Tastic Chai Cakes!

Oh yea... That's right... Finally a DESSERT recipe! It's a Ben Original too. I used to love making chai cake a few years back. I used to bring it to any gathering I would go to and it would disappear quite quickly. The recipe I used to use was quite time consuming and relied heavily on white flour and white sugar. I've actually made this recipe much more Pagano friendly (it's still kinda cheating... but just have a good alkaline salad beforehand!) by reducing the amount of white flour used and eliminating cane sugar all together. Enjoy!

OM-tastic Chai Cake

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 chai tea bags
1 cup water
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place water in a small saucepan on medium high heat until water begins to steam but does not boil. Place 3 teabags and stir constantly with a spatula. Regularly squish the teabags onto the wall of the saucepan to get more flavor out. Do this for about 5 minutes. Keep 1/2 cup of the mixture and set the remaining liquid aside. Discard teabags.

Combine the 1/2 cup of chai tea with the soy milk in the saucepan and add remaining tea bags. Repeat the earlier pocedure (stir, squish) for another 5 minutes. Once you're done you should have a very concentrated chai tea latte. Mesure out the liquid; you should have 1 1/2 cups... but you won't. Add the chai tea you put aside earlier to equal 1 1/2 cups.

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a large muffin pan. I used a jumbo muffin (6 cups) silicone pan. (I have to say... I've converted to the silicone bakeware... it's awesome!!)

Sift dry ingredients and spices together into a large bowl. Wisk together wet ingredients in a seperate bowl until well combined. Of course, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients making sure they're very well combined without overmixing.

Glob the delicious chai batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffins/cupcakes pass the glorified knife test. Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool before you pop them out.

Chef's notes : Depending how much batter you put in the cups you'll either end up with chai muffins or chai cupcakes. You could also just bake this in a normal cake pan and it would turn out great I'm sure. I'm just obsessed with making individual small cakes. The recipe also makes a bit more batter than you'd need for a 6 jumbo cup muffin pan but my friend Danika and I had no problems eating the left oven uncooked batter... MMMmmm!!

The Tao of Frosting

You'll notice the last cake is frosted differently than the first two. It's not a lighting trick... there really were two frostings at play here. The reason behind this is that Danika is allergic to seaweed hence cannot have the healthy frosting made with Agar Agar... and obviously I'm avoiding white sugar. So I made her a regular vanilla frosting and used a Pagano-friendly frosting for my cake. I'm such a good friend!

The Good frosting

I found this recipe on Vegan Chef and it was an amazingly great choice for this cake. The flavour marries itself beautifully to the spices in the chai cake. What would I do without the vegan chef!?

Almond cream

3 cups water, divided
1 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 T. agar-agar flakes
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. almond extract
[Ben added:
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 tablespoon arrowroot]

In a saucepan, place 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Add the almonds, boil for 1 minute, remove the pan from the heat, and set aside for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Using your fingers, squeeze the almonds out of their skins and discard the skins.

Transfer the almonds to a food processor and process for 1-2 minutes or until a fine meal. While the machine is running, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup water, and process an additional 1 minute. Line a colander or strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth (or coffee filters) and pour the almond milk mixture through the cheesecloth to strain.

In a saucepan, combine the almond milk, maple syrup, agar-agar flakes, and salt, and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk occasionally. Reduce heat to low, simmer for 5 minutes while whisking occasionally, or until the agar-agar flakes are dissolved completely. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extract, and transfer the mixture to a glass container.

Place a piece of waxed paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, or overnight.

When the mixture is firm, place in the food processor, and process for 1-2 minutes or until light and creamy. Taste and add additional vanilla or almond extract, if desired. [After the vanila extract was added, I added a slurry of 1 tablespoon soy milk and 1 tablespoon arrowroot to the mixture to make this more firm].

The Bad frosting

Who am I kidding? It's AMAZING frosting... if you're not avoiding the white stuff. This recipe came from How it All Vegan which is an amazing cookbook you all should own. I was a hopeless vegan until I stumbled upon this gem... it also taught me the basics of vegan baking.

- 1/4 cup margarine
- 2.25 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla

In a blender, combine the wet ingredients. While the blender is running, slowly add the powdered sugar. Voila!

Adding some OM to your cake

There are tons of stainless steel stencils on the market so you can powder patterns onto cakes (or even cappuccinos). I own a star shaped one which was used for these cakes. But you don’t need to spend a fortune or feel limited by what’s on the market… you can make your own! You’ll need the following…

1 exacto knife
1 cutting surface (I use a sheet of acrylic)
1 sheet of vellum or mylar
1 printer
1 pattern (you can find the OM pattern I used here)
1 mix of cinnamon/cloves/cardamom
1 good friend

Print out the pattern onto the vellum paper. Using an exacto knife cut out the pattern. You should wear goggles while doing this; the tip of the blade can sometimes snap off and become a deadly projectile). Get a friend with steady hands to hold the pattern over the cake while you lightly and quickly dust the cinnamon mixture over the cake. Voila! You have a really OM looking cake that would make Buddha proud!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Detox-Friendly Samosas

So I know Indian food is a lot like marmite; you either love it or you hate it. I absolutely LOVE the stuff. But many of the ingredients are not allowed on the Pagano regimen; white potatoes, tomatoes, loads of spices, white flour... Therefore I had to find a solution. I put my Superman underwear on and started to devise a way to make them work.

I present to you Sweet Potato, Edamame & Kale Samosas with Red Onion & Fig Chutney. Or you know... detox-friendly samosas for short! :)

To make the dough

2 Cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 - 1 cup water

To make the filling

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup edamame (out of the pod)
1 cup of kale
1 medium white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon savory
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt

Peel and cube the sweet potato. Place in a steamer for 20 minutes.

Sift the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. In a food processor add the olive oil then the water until a dough forms (you could also do this in a bowl with your hands... but get with the times already! haha!). Cover the dough and allow it to stand for half an hour.

Chop up the kale and add to the steamer (there should be about 5-10 minutes or so remaining by this point).

Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil until they turn translucent. Add the spices and saute for another minute.

In a large bowl mash the sweet potato/steamed kale mixture. Add the onion mixture and mix well to combine. Gently add the edamame to the mixture.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Split the dough into 2 equal parts. Split those into 2 equal parts. Then spit the four pieces into 3 equal parts each. This is a fool proof way of ending up with 12 equal portions. With a rolling pin, roll each ball of dough into a circle; about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Work on one samosa at a time. Keep the remaining balls of dough covered.

**This part takes a lot of practice** Place about 1/4 (or as much as possible) of a cup of the filling in the centre of the circle and pinch the tops (two opposite corners) together. Pinch together one side of the samosa together. At this point if you were unable to get much filling in there earlier, this is a good time to push the mixture to the closed side using a spoon and then add more mixture before closing the other side. Make sure your sides are well pinched/crimped together.

Brush samosas with a bit of olive oil and place on a non stick cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly.

To make the Chutney

8 dried black mission figs, chopped roughly
1 small red onion; chopped roughly
2 heaping teaspoons of naturally sweetened apricot preserve
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients together! And tada! Yummy detox-friendly chutney.

Although you may be tempted to bite into these right away, I suggest being patient: they taste even better the next day!


Ode to the Fat Free Vegan!

When I first started on my alkaline diet I will admit I cheated often with white rice. I couldn't live without my sushi!! Avocado rolls and tempura yam rolls and shitake rolls... Drool. Well one day I stumbled upon the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. Not only did an amazing amount of Susan's recipes work in my newly adopted diet... but she had a recipe for no-rice sushi! That was my happiest day on the detox!

Susan's Blog is absolutely out of this world. I have to admit... her blog is in big part the reason why I decided to start my own. But uhh... I'm not competing or anything... cause yea... she kicks major vegan butt!

Ergo I present Susan's no-rice sushi... Ben style!

As with Susan's recipe, the rice is replaced by healthy baby spinach. The sushi fillings I used are as follows;

Ginger Orange Tofu
Marinated Shitake Mushroom
Steamed Sweet Potato (cut into sticks)
Celery (cut into matchsticks)
Cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
Carrots (cut into matchsticks)

To make the Orange Ginger Tofu

1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/4 cup Orange Juice
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
1 stalk thinly sliced lemongrass (white part only)
3 slices of extra firm tofu, 1 inch thick

Mix ingredients used in marinade; oil, orange juice, ginger, tamari and lemongrass. Place in a non stick frying pan on high/medium heat. Lay the tofu on top of the marinade. Brush some of the marinade on top. Keep moving the tofu (without flipping it) every few minutes to keep it from sticking to the pan. Once the marinade starts to thicken, flip the tofu over and slide it back and forth regularly to keep it from sticking to the pan. Flip the tofu over until it has a nice golden color with a few charred marks. Set aside to cool and slice into strips.

To make the Marinated Shitake Mushroom

1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon low sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon barley miso (or any other dark miso)
2-3 medium shitake mushrooms

Wash and de-stem the mushrooms. Pat dry. In a small bowl, wisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Lay the mushrooms in the marinade and give them a squish every once in a while. This is a good time to matchstick the carrots, celery and cucumber. When the mushrooms have sufficiently marinated; lay them on a non stick frying pan on medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and slice into strips.

At this point you should have a wonderful palette of veggie goodness to chose from. Time to start picking fun combinations and rolling up the sushi! These taste amazingly fresh, healthy and quite decadent!

- Ben

Here we go !

My first post! It probably would be proper to explain what my goal is here... A manifesto of sorts. Quite simply, I love to cook! I'm also a Leo and an art student therefore I like to flaunt my masterpieces... And seeing as I live alone and have no one to give me daily accolades I figured a blog would be a good idea!

My philosophy on nutrition

I became vegan 6 years ago and it's been quite an adventure since then. I remember the first vegan meal I made myself was firm tofu stir fried (on it's own) with olive oil and a bit of curry and tumeric.... It was so bland and yuck I drenched it with ketchup. I remember thinking this vegan thing was going to be hard. No wonder I was a tard in the kitchen! Everything I ate until then had been ready-made/just add water nonsense. I learned to cook, refined my kitchen skills and invested in several vegan cookbooks.

In march of 2005 I made yet another dietary change: I adopted an alkaline diet and eliminated nightshades from my diet. I originally did this to heal myself of psoriasis (which was quite severe and painful) and I can happily report that there has been a dramatic improvement and I'm getting better everyday. The Alkaline diet actually has made me rediscover the basics of veganism; fresh vegetables and fruits. With the added challenge of eliminating tomatoes, peppers and eggplants (seriously... everything I ate before had tomatoes!) I ventured forth in search of new recipes and actually created a lot of my own.

My hope is that I'll get the chance to show off a bit (hehe!) and receive your accolades. On a serious note though... I do hope this blog will maybe inspire other psoriatics to take on the Pagano Regimen which can look quite daunting at first. I also hope to help vegans who maybe are stuck in a routine to change it up a bit. Try new ingredients, ditch the white sugar, the white flour and try more wholesome alternatives!

I'll quit ranting now... I know what you came here for... Pictures of yummy tasty food!

Lots of love,

- Ben