April 27, 2011

double fudge brownies

Guilt-free brownies sound like an oxymoron, but here they are! These contain no simple sugar, no eggs, no dairy but yet have the texture of non-vegan brownies that have all the “stuff” that makes them taste good. The secret ingredient is  a paste made from purple sweet potatoes, which have a chocolate-y taste on their own. It lends the brownies the desired texture of being moist in the inside but crunchy on the outside.


Purple sweet potato paste
1/4 lb purple sweet potatoes
1/4 cup water
1 TBS brown rice syrup

1/2 cup maple sugar
2/3 cups flour (I use a combination of whole spelt and unbleached white flour)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup rice milk (or any milk substitute)
1 TBS vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup roasted pecan nuts (chopped) (optional)
1/2 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks. Place them in a pot with water and cover. Turn the flame down when it starts to boil and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until tender.
  2. Place the cooked sweet potatoes in a food processor with brown rice syrup. Process until it forms a paste. (The consistency should resemble that of mashed potatoes.) You should end up with about 1/2 cup of the paste.
  3. Place maple sugar in a bowl and sift the rest of the dry ingredients.
  4. Put the wet ingredients in another bowl and whisk until it emulsifies.
  5. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add pecan nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Pour the batter into an oiled 9 x 9 baking pan. Bake in an  oven (preheated at 350°F) for 20 minutes. (I use a muffin pan and the recipe yields about 10 three-inch brownies.) Insert a skewer and if nothing sticks, remove from oven and let cool before cutting.

April 19, 2011

kabocha salad with sesame dressing

Although I love all winter squashes, as a native of Hokkaido, I must admit that I am very partial to Kabocha squash, which originated in the northern island of Japan. I remember my grandparents would send us a case of this variety of squash at the height of its season. We would enjoy the sweet and nutty flavored Kabocha in so many ways:  simply steamed with a pinch of salt, deep-fried in tempura batter, made into croquettes, puréed to make chowder, blended into puddings…. Here’s another simple but tasty way to prepare it. Delicious even cold, this salad was one of the popular items at the deli.


Half of kabocha squash, seeds scooped out and cut into bite sized pieces
2 stalks celery, minced

1/4 cup of sesame dressing (recipe below)

Toasted pumpkin seeds

  1. Place the kabocha in a steamer, sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt and steam for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft. 
  2. Blanch the minced celery quickly. Drain. 
  3. Toss the steamed kabocha, celery and sesame dressing together.
  4. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped parsley. Serve.

Sesame Dressing

1/2 cup sesame seeds (toasted)
1 tsp ume vinegar
1 tsp ume paste
1 TBS sweet white miso
3/4 cup water

Place everything in a blender and blend until the consistency is smooth. This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

April 13, 2011

almond jam dots

I always liked crunchy "jaw breaking" cookies in the past but I've become very fond of moist, chewy cookies over the last few years. These jam dots are the soft kind. The almonds give a nice crumbly texture. I use almond meal from Trader Joe's but you can also make your own by processing some roasted almonds in a blender. This recipe makes about 20 small cookies.


1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

1 cup almond meal
2 cups flour (I used a combination of oat and whole spelt)

Jam of your choice (sweetened with fruit juice; Bionaturae makes a good one)

  1. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl. I like to dissolve the salt in the wet ingredients. 
  2. Place the almond meal in a bowl and sift the flour into the bowl. Mix well. 
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until well incorporated. 
  4. Use an ice cream scoop of the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an indentation with your thumb or with the back of a wooden spoon and fill it with some jam. 
  5. Bake for 11 minutes in a preheated oven of 350°F. Rotate the cookie sheet and bake for another 5 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

April 7, 2011

carrot beet slaw

When it comes to beets, you either love them or hate them. Although I must admit I am not a beet lover myself, I like adding a tiny bit to a mock tomato sauce made with carrots and red onions and also using it to make my own food coloring. I do like this fresh and colorful slaw marinated with a mustard vinaigrette. The sweet taste of beets go perfectly well with the sour savory dressing. The carrots and celery add a nice flavor as well. This is one of the few occasions I use the shredding disk of the food processor. It makes the dish a snap to prepare and it is less messy.


1 beet (1 cup shredded)
2 carrots (1 cup shredded)
1 stalk of celery (sliced)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1/2 tsp ume vinegar
1 tsp Dijion mustard
Pinches of garlic powder (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Shred the beet and carrots in a food processor using the disk. Cut the celery into thin slices. Place everything in a big bowl. 
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. 
  3. Pour the vinaigrette onto the vegetables and mix well. Adjust the seasonings and serve.

April 4, 2011

pasta with spicy peanut sauce

Rich, creamy and slightly sweet and spicy, peanut sauce is many people’s favorite. Usually the sauce contains sugar but this version is sweetened with white miso. The spicy peanut sauce also makes a nice dressing and a dipping sauce for summer rolls. Here it is tossed together with some pasta and vegetables. This dish is delicious served cold as a salad or warm as a main dish.


3 cup of pasta

2 shallots or 1 onion, sliced into half moons
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets

Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 TBS toasted sesame oil
1 TBS minced ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 to 1 cup water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup peanut butter, unsalted
1 TBS sweet white miso
2 tsp shoyu or Bragg’s

Chopped peanuts

Parsley or scallions for garnish
  1. Cook the pasta according to directions. Run it under cold water after cooking. Drain and set aside. 
  2. Meanwhile, water sauté shallots until translucent. Add carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Blanch the broccoli florets. Set them aside. 
  3. To make the spicy peanut sauce, sauté minced ginger in sesame oil. Add some red pepper flakes (adjust the mount to your liking). Remove from heat when ginger becomes fragrant. Add some water to stop the cooking process. (Be careful as it may splatter.) 
  4. Place the ginger/pepper concoction in the blender with the rest of the ingredients. Start with 3/4 cups of water. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and thickness. 
  5. If serving warm, warm up the sauce in a pot and add the vegetables and pasta. If serving cold, mix everything in a bowl and chill.  Sprinkle some chopped peanuts and garnish with parsley or scallions.