October 24, 2013

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

In the past few weeks, with fall colors in full swing, I noticed the supermarkets were flooded with pumpkin treats. Pumpkin scones, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin granola, pumpkin croissants... I even spotted pumpkin dog treats!

Fall is my favorite season, probably because I was born in October. It could also be because it is such a short season, it makes me appreciate the transient, fleeting beauty it brings. The falling leaves remind us that nothing lasts forever. Maybe such imperfect, impermanent and incomplete beauty deeply resonates with my appreciation for wabi-sabi in Japanese culture.

Sadly, fall is coming to an end (at least in the area where I live). So I thought I celebrate this beautiful season by making (and eating, of course!) something pumpkin. I looked for ideas online and set my eyes on a vegan cookie recipe that was flour-less and sugar-free. For some reason, the recipe did not work for me and I ended up adding a whole different set of ingredients, which resulted in a totally new recipe. I'm not much of a canned pumpkin person, but these cookies definitely turned me onto pureed pumpkin that is readily available in grocery stores. These cookies are moist, flavorful and hit the spot. They are just right.

So here it is, my version of pumpkin cookies that commemorate the fall harvest.

makes about 20 small cookies
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
2 tsp pumpkin spice blend (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ginger powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup almond butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips


In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients with a whisk.

Place the wet ingredients and salt in another bowl and whisk until everything is well incorporated. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. When it is about 80% combined, stir in the chocolate chips. (If you are finicky about the appearance of your cookies, set aside a small handful of chocolate chips so you can garnish them before baking.)

Take a small ice cream scooper or a tablespoon to portion out the dough onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven of 350°F for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes. Serve right out of the oven or after they have cooled down (if you can wait, that is).

October 6, 2013

deep-fried spring rolls

Of all the savory dishes that I have made in my entire life, I can probably say that deep-fried spring rolls are the most popular. Everybody loves them. When I made them at my restaurant, I could not keep up with the demand as many people would buy half a dozen at a time. I have had feedback from non-vegans saying that they were the best thing they have ever eaten.

Well, what is not to like? First of all, deep-frying always helps. Inside the perfectly crunchy skin is a flavorful vegetable filling that is so simple but very delicious even on its own.

There are a few pointers in making perfect spring rolls. First, get good quality wrappers. If possible, buy the plain spring roll pastry from Spring Home. It has only four ingredients: wheat flour, water, coconut oil and salt. Very clean. It is widely available through Asian grocery stores. These wrappers were used at the summer conference in the Netherlands so I know they are even sold in Europe.

Now onto filling. Sauté the vegetables on medium high flame and make sure you cook off any liquid. It is tempting to put a lid on it to make it cook faster, but that only traps the moisture. Wet filling can make the rolls fall apart and oil will splatter during the frying process.

Consider the ingredients listed for the filling as just a guideline. Switch it around and have fun with it. I highly recommend using toasted sesame oil to sauté the vegetables and a little bit of finely ground white pepper for seasoning. White pepper adds a little heat and also a distinct flavor. Be careful not to put too much as it can become very spicy. (And of course, you can't undo this process! I learned it the hard way....)

When wrapping the filling, make sure you achieve a tight roll. Use a mixture of flour and water as glue to seal the rolls. Any filling spilling out can cause the oil to seep in, making the rolls greasy. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, too. Dip the tip of wooden chopsticks and if you see bubbles, the oil is ready. Place only a few at a time so the oil temperature does not drop.

OK, enough with the pointers. Here's the list of ingredients and the directions on how to make them. Enjoy!

 makes a dozen rolls
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, sliced thin, white and green parts separated
1 yellow onion, sliced in quarter moons (about 1 cup)

8 oz oyster mushrooms, shredded by hand (about 3 cups) (Sliced shiitake mushrooms are also great.)
1 small carrot, sliced into matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)

2 to 3 TBS soy sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 package of 10" spring roll pastry, thawed overnight if frozen

1 TBS white flour mixed with 2 TBS water

Oil for frying (Use neutral-tasting oil with high smoke point such as safflower oil.)


Sauté the ginger and garlic in sesame oil until fragrant. Add white part of the leek and yellow onion and cook until translucent. Add oyster mushrooms, cabbage and carrot. Season with soy sauce and white pepper and cook off the liquid. Remove from heat and stir in the green part of the leek. Set aside to cool.

Now, let the rollin' begin! Here's the how-to's with step-by-step photos. (Please note that 5" wrappers are used in the photos.)

First, take a sheet of pastry and lay it on a work surface. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling on the pastry. 

Lift up the end close to you and roll over the filling. 

Fold over the left and right sides of the wrapper. 

While holding the sides, roll the whole thing over, leaving a small triangular space on top.

Use a mixture of white flour and water to seal the end. 

Repeat with the rest of the filling. Put the unused wrappers in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate (in which case you need to use them in a few days as they can dry out or mold) or freeze.
Heat up oil in a deep frying pan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Place a few spring rolls with seam side down and fry about a couple of minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel. Serve hot. (Not that they aren't good even when they're cold!)

You can also bake the spring rolls. Simply place the spring rolls on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and brush or spray some oil. Bake in a preheated oven of 400F for 10 minutes, flip each piece over halfway through and brush or spray some oil. Return to oven and bake again for 5 to 10 minutes until crispy.

August 21, 2013

European Summer Conference '13

From August 4 through 16, my husband and I spent time in the Netherlands to participate in the Macrobiotic Summer Conference organized by the Kushi Institute of Europe.

We both taught some classes during the two-week conference and, in our free time, audited other teachers' classes and explored the neighborhood by foot to enjoy the breathtaking view of Holland.

It was such a blessing to be able to enjoy yummy macrobiotic food three times a day. Here is one of the many delicious meals offered at the conference.

Now that I think about it, these two weeks were the longest I'd gone without cooking (besides doing cooking demos in classes). I was pleasantly surprised that I did not miss home-cooked meals (which happens when you are away from home for so long!) or have any weird cravings. Kudos to the kitchen staff for preparing such nourishing food and keeping us so healthy!


My first class at the conference was on Japanese cooking.

Photo credit: Kushi Institute of Europe

I presented chirashi rice salad, tofu patties with kuzu glaze and broccoli with walnut dressing (shira-ae). I was happy to see people taking interest in Japanese food and culture.

In addition to a class on salads and spreads (in which I showed how to make sunflower seed pate with rosemary flatbread, quinoa/chickpea salad with pesto and cucumber/wakame salad), I taught a couple of dessert classes.


The dessert classes were very popular. Of course, who doesn't like desserts?!

Photo credit: Julia Goryun

In the "Summer Desserts" class, I demonstrated how to make blueberry/amasake tart with a date/hazelnut crust and strawberry kanten with almond cream.

The blueberries used for the tart were handpicked by the kids in the children's program. I loved the fact that the whole conference was so family oriented. Run by the Nelissen's, Kushi Institute of Europe itself is a family operation and maybe that had helped to bring a relaxed, homelike atmosphere to the conference. As more time progressed, we were, in fact, becoming one big family.


My second dessert class featured some of the sweet treats from my book "THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK."

In class, I demonstrated carrot cake with lemon tofu cream, lemon bars with almond crust and melon kanten. My book has a recipe for a lemon cream frosting made with tofu and cashews but I decided to make a different kind of cream that uses ingredients widely available in the European market.

Here is the recipe for the lemon tofu cream.

1 carton of vacuum-packed silken tofu (250 g)
2 TBS maple syrup
1 to 2 TBS almond paste (or "pasta" as the Dutch call it)
zest of 1 lemon
sprinkle of vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)

The key is to drain the tofu well. Place the tofu in a colander set in a bowl. Drain overnight in the refrigerator. The tofu should weigh less than 200 g. Blend everything together in a food processor or blender. When chilled, the fat from the almond paste helps to firm up the cream a bit. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The kitchen had these cutest small melons with green flesh. I decided to utilize the skin by hollowing out the halves and filling them with the kanten mixture.

Photo credit: Julia Goryun

The set kanten was sliced it into wedges for a beautiful presentation.

Photo credit: Julia Goryun

Bon appetit!


I got a little sentimental on the last day of the conference. After we came back to the US, I reminisced on our trip while eating stroopwafels. Two weeks went by so quick. Being part of the conference brought me a wealth of drive, enthusiasm and inspiration. I will cherish the fond memories that I shared with my new friends. I look forward to seeing them again.

July 17, 2013

almost raw chocolate mousse tart

The recent hot weather has inspired (or forced) me to come up with a variety of salads, some raw and some requiring minimal cooking. (May I interest you in bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto?) Salads with grains or pasta makes a relatively quick and filling dinner, but what about dessert? What can I make to satisfy my sweet tooth without breaking a sweat in a 90-degree kitchen?

So here's my solution: Almost raw chocolate mousse tart. "Almost" because the almonds in the crust are roasted, the filling has maple syrup (which is not technically raw although it is used by some raw foodists) and the raspberry sauce is cooked. But no cooking required. The secret ingredient in creating the creamy yet sliceable texture is... avocado! Make sure the avocados are ripe and free of any browning or stringiness.

This dessert is rich, decadent and satisfying and so much more elegant (and less pathetic) than nibbling on frozen blueberries on a warm summer night. Indulge!

Ingredients (for one 5" spring-form pan)


3/4 cups toasted almonds
1/2 cup pitted dates (4 to 5 dates)
2 tsp water

Chocolate mousse filling
2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS unrefined coconut oil
1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Super easy raspberry sauce 

1/2 cup raspberry jam (fruit juice sweetened)
1/4 cup apple juice

Optional garnish

Fresh raspberries and mint leaves


To make the crust, grind the almonds and dates together in a food processor. Add water so the dough becomes moist and holds together. Press it into a 5 inch spring form pan. (You can use a small tart pan too but make sure it has a removable bottom.)

To make the chocolate mousse, place all the ingredients in a blender and process for a few minutes, until everything is well incorporated. You may need to pause a few times to scrape the sides down with a rubber spatula. 

To make the raspberry sauce, simply mix the jam and apple juice. Remove the seeds by pushing the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Pour the chocolate mousse in the crust and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Remove from the pan, slice and serve with raspberry sauce and mint leaves.

You can also divide the filling into parfait glasses and and enjoy it as a mousse. After refrigerating the filling overnight, use a small ice cream scooper or tablespoon to dish it out. Serve with raspberry sauce and garnish with mint and fresh raspberries.

The tart freezes well too! Take it out from the freezer and thaw at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Enjoy it like a chocolate ice cream tart! Yum!

June 15, 2013

bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto

I have been on the Indian food kick lately, shopping at Indian grocery stores and experimenting with Indian spices. This dish is not Indian but has been inspired by my frequent shopping trips to the big Indian market in my neighborhood. They have an extensive selection of fresh produce and dry goods. At first, shopping there made me feel a bit challenged because there were quite a few items that I could not identify and had no idea how to use. I have realized that this is exactly how people feel when they first make the transition into a macro/veg diet (or any kind of diet for that matter): overwhelmed, confused and intimidated. But we must persevere, right?

So, to familiarize myself with the ingredients sold at the Indian market, I got this awesome book titled Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla, picked out a few recipes to try, made a shopping list and went back to the store. Here are some dishes that I made so far with great success. (I highly recommend the book, by the way.)

lentils with fresh curry leaves served with roti

Punjabi cabbage (I added kale, rutabaga and carrots for a twist!)

Baked samosa sticks with mint chutney

Okay, now back to my recipe: the bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto. All the ingredients were purchased at the Indian market (except for the optional ume vinegar, which is my pantry staple). This dish can be easily prepared gluten free by substituting bulgur for quinoa or rice.

 makes 3-4 servings
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup water
pinches of salt

pistachio pesto (makes about 1 1/3 cups)
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1 cup toasted pistachio (unsalted)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups of cooked chickpeas OR 1 can of chickpeas

1/2 cup pistachio pesto
1 tsp ume vinegar (optional, you can add some lemon juice and salt instead)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks and blanched lightly
2 red radishes, cut into thin rounds
parsley for garnish
salt and pepper to taste


To cook the bulgur, bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add bulgur and salt. Cover, lower the flame and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the pesto while bulgur is cooking. Place the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. This pesto is made thicker than your usual pesto. When storing the extra, put the pesto in a glass jar and pour some olive oil on top to cover. Yummy with pasta (my personal favorite is adding to orzo salad) and on toast, too.

Sprinkle ume vinegar on cooked bulgur. Add pistachio pesto and mix well. Fold in the cooked chickpeas, carrots and red radishes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

This salad is also great with quinoa used in place of bulgur. I love it with arugula!

March 28, 2013

gobi manchurian

In an interesting twist of fate, I actually no longer live in the Berkshires. I am still cooking up a storm every day and would like to continue to share my vegan creations on this blog.

My hubby and I moved to the greater Boston area at the beginning of this month. We have explored some restaurants in town and found a nice vegetarian place named Red Lentil. When we were there for the first time, curious as to what others were ordering, I looked around in a discreet manner. I would say more than half of the customers were enjoying a plateful of "something" tossed in red sauce. I couldn't figure out what it was then (and I'm too shy to ask) but after we got home, I did some research and learned that it was one of the restaurant's most popular appetizers: gobi manchurian.

Gobi manchurian is an Indian Chinese dish prepared by deep frying cauliflower coated with corn flour batter. It could be served dry like fritters but the kind at Red Lentil is tossed in a tomato-y sweet and sour sauce.

So when we went back, we knew exactly what to order. The cauliflower florets were nice and crispy and the sauce that gently coated the nuggets was sweet and tangy. The flavor reminded me of a sweet and sour pork dish that I had when I was a kid.

I could eat a big bowl of this every day, I thought. Dangerously addictive. I had to make this at home. After a few attempts, I think I successfully cracked the "code." Here's my version without refined sugar, cilantro and bell peppers.


2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 yellow onion, sliced in half moons
1/3 cup tomato purée
1/3 cup apple juice
1/3 cup water
1 TBS barley malt OR brown rice syrup
2 tsp shoyu OR gluten-free tamari
1 tsp ume vinegar
1 TBS kuzu, mixed with 1 TBS water
dashes of white pepper and cayenne pepper

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/2 cup + 2 TBS water
1 tsp virgin sesame oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
pinch of baking powder
dash of paprika

safflower oil for deep frying
chopped parsley for garnish


1. To prepare the sauce: Sauté garlic and ginger in sesame oil. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add tomato purée, apple juice, water and barley malt (or rice syrup, if you wish to make it gluten free). Cook for a few minutes until it comes to a boil. Add shoyu (or tamari) and ume vinegar and simmer. Thicken the mixture with kuzu and finish it off with some white pepper and cayenne. Set it aside.

2. To prepare the cauliflower fritters: Prepare the batter by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. Put a few inches of oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven (or a heavy pot that you use for deep frying) and heat it up on medium flame. The oil is ready when you put a drop of batter and it floats to the top right away. Dip a handful of cauliflower florets into the batter and fry the pieces until golden brown, turning over each one to cook both sides. Drain on paper towel and repeat. The nuggets are also quite tasty on their own (which is actually the dry version of gobi manchurian).

3. To finish off: Toss the fried cauliflower pieces into the sauce and mix to coat evenly. Stir in some chopped parsley and serve. Enjoy while it's hot and crispy!

February 8, 2013

sweet potato salad

I went to visit my family in Houston in mid-January. The weather was absolutely gorgeoussunny and 70+°F every single day. I felt like I had come far far away from home, knowing that the Berkshires was in the single digits.

I did not know until this visit that Texas is one of the top growers of pecans in the US. I spotted quite a few vendors at farmer's markets selling local pecans. I thought it would make a nice souvenier for myself so I purchased a bag of fresh, partially shelled pecans.

So here there are. They traveled with me all the way back to the cold Massachusetts. I carefully removed the shells to leave the pecans whole. Each smooth oval shell contained a two-lobed seed. So adorable.

Here is a delightful salad that I made with Texas pecans. The combination of sweet, tart and salty flavors go perfectly well with the mild astringency and just the right amount of crunch provided by the toasted pecans.

makes 2 2/3 cups
1 medium sized sweet potato, diced (2 cups)
half of small onion, diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp ume vinegar

1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 TBS kalamata olives, sliced
3 TBS vegan mayo (I used Earth Balance mindful mayo, which is soy free)
1 TBS dried cranberries (fruit juice sweetened)
freshly ground black pepper  


1. Place the diced sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring it to a boil, lower the flame and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Drain and let cool.

2. Put the diced red onion in a bowl and add ume vinegar. This brightens up the color and lightly pickles the red onion. If you don't like raw onions, you can simply omit it or lightly sauté the onion with ume vinegar.

3. Add the cooked sweet potatoes to the bowl and mix the rest of the ingredients.

January 14, 2013

gyoza dumplings

When I think of "gyoza" (pot stickers), it brings me a sense of nostalgia. Well, first of all, everyone in Japan loves gyoza. It's like burgers to the Americans. But thinking about gyoza gives me a warm feeling inside not just because it is a tasty comfort food, but also because when I was younger, my mother and I would always sit at the table side by side to wrap the dumplings while we chit-chat. 

My mom's version of the filling was usually made with ground pork, nira (Chinese chives), ginger and garlic. Now that I don't eat meat and the combination of chives and garlic is a bit too strong for me (gyoza breath on the next day is inevitable...), I modified the recipe for the filling. The pre-made wrappers are readily available in Japan but good quality ones are hard to come by. So here's my version of wrappers from scratch. Making your own is a bit of a hassle but it is well worth it.
makes about 2 dozen pieces

2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, minced (about 1 3/4 cups) (You can also cut the mushrooms in chunks and pulse them in a food processor. Be careful not to grind them up too much or they will turn into paste.)
6-8 leaves of napa cabbage, minced (about 3 cups)
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 to 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1 1/2 TBS toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 TBS arrowroot (OR potato starch)

1 TBS shoyu
2 tsp ginger juice

1 cup unbleached white flour (all-purpose flour)

3 TBS arrowroot (OR potato starch)
pinch of sea salt
1 TBS virgin sesame oil
up to 1/2 cup water 

arrowroot (OR potato starch) for dusting

1 TBS toasted sesame oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup boiling water


To prepare the filling:
Put the minced napa cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Squeeze out the water by hand. Mix the cabbage with the rest of the ingredients.  Set aside to work on the wrappers.

To prepare the wrappers: 
Place the flour, arrowroot and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix. Add sesame oil and pour the water little by little while mixing the dough with your hand. Adjust the amount of water to reach the softness of an earlobe. (Yep, earlobe. Funny expression but that's how we Japanese describe it.) The dough shouldn't be too sticky but easy to handle. I ended up having about 2 TBS of water left.

Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes and shape it into two balls. Shape each ball into a long cylindrical log. Cut each log crosswise into 12 pieces.

Dust each cut side with arrowroot to prevent the dough from sticking and drying out. 

Take a piece of dough and lightly flatten it with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece out thinly into a 3- to 3.5-inch circle. Dust both sides of the wrapper with a generous amount of arrowroot before stacking them together.

To wrap the filling:
Take about 2 tsp of the filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Wet your index finger with water and trace a line around the lower half of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and close it by creating pleats in the top part of the wrapper. I make mine with the front edge pleated and the back edge flat but this takes a bit of practice. Just make sure it's sealed so the filling is contained. Pleating the top gives the dumplings a base so they stand up. 

To pan fry the gyoza:
Heat oil in a frying pan big enough to hold the dumplings. (You may need to divide the batch into two.) Put the gyoza in the pan and fry on medium high flame until the bottoms turn brown. Add boiling water and cover immediately. (Be careful since the water can splash.)

Lower the flame and steam the gyoza for about 7 minutes or until almost all the water is cooked off. Remove the cover and turn up the flame to make the bottoms crispy. Shake the pan so the dumplings lift from the pan. Place a plate over the pan and flip over to serve.

Serve gyoza with dipping sauce. You can use just straight shoyu or shoyu diluted with water but I like mine with vinegar and a touch of heat from hot sesame oil (ra-yu). I've always eaten them this way and I feel like it cuts the greasiness (not that that's a bad thing!).

Dipping sauce
2 parts shoyu
1 part rice vinegar
drops of hot sesame oil (optional)

The dumplings are great in soups too! Add the dumplings to seasoned broth with veggies and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. They will float to the top when ready.