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Quinoa Tabbouleh

24 Sep

I am a lover of Middle-eastern food… ever since I visited Israel 15 years ago, I have been a fan of falafels, hummus, pita bread, rice pilaf, dolmades, among others.

Tabbouleh would be part of that fan list, however, the tabboulehs made usually in Middle-Eastern restaurants are too heavy on the parsley for my taste.  And now that I am trying to avoid wheat sometimes, well I rather order the arab salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and skip the tabbouleh all together.  Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with cracked wheat.

For the last time I cooked in the Yoga Center, I wanted to make a Middle-Eastern inspired menu and it all revolved around the fact I wanted to make this salad.  We made hummus, a salad with mixed herbs including mint, rice with spinach, mushrooms and nuts, which is not like the rice pilafs I am used to having at middle-eastern restaurants, but it fit better for the Yoga appetites.

This recipe also makes use of the abundance of avocados we have right now in Puerto Rico…  and what dish is not instantly improved by adding avocado to it??


Recipe by KarmaFree Cooking


2 cups of quinoa

1 vegetable bouillon cube

The zest and juice of 6 yellow lemons

2 bunches of scallions, thinly sliced

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of fresh spearmint leaves, julienned

4 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 seedless cucumbers, unpeeled and diced

1 avocado, diced

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper


  1. Cook the quinoa first… by adding 4 cups of water to a medium saucepan with the vegetable bouillon cube.  When the water reaches a boiling point, add the quinoa.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, just like you would when making rice.  Cover and lower the heat to simmer until the quinoa cooks, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. After the quinoa is done, fluff it with a fork and season with ¼ cup of the olive oil and the zest and juice of 3 lemons.  Set aside.  If you are making this ahead of time, you can stop here and store the cooked quinoa in the refrigerator after it has had a chance to cool off a bit.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the scallions, onions, parsley, spearmint leaves, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Add the cooked quinoa and toss all the ingredients together.  Season the whole salad with the additional ¼ cup of olive oil, the zest and juice of the remaining 3 lemons, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss again well to combine.  Let all the flavors combine about 30mins – 1 hour before serving.

When you’re about to serve, garnish with the pieces of avocado.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

Vegan Longrice Soup

1 May

One of my friends on Facebook suggested this soup as something very traditional to Hawaii…  And, coincidentally,  it was one of the hits of the Hawaiian Vegetarian Festival at the Yoga Center.

It has quite a few ingredients, but it’s not a complicated recipe at all.  It’s all about making a very flavorful broth to enjoy with some veggies and noodles.  The cellophane noodles are great because they’re made from mung beans and are naturally gluten-free.   This might not be traditional, but I suggest you break up the noodles a bit before adding them to the soup…  I find that if you leave them whole, they’re a hassle to serve and eat.  Don’t kill the messenger, but I also like shorter noodles of pasta…  (ducks head in protection of potential tomatoes thrown her way).

I guess you could use only vegetable stock and avoid the hassle of boiling vegetables for the stock… but I like the idea and flavor the fresh veggies give to the stock. And the ginger needs some time to infuse its flavor into it too.  Don’t be afraid at the amount of stock this needs… this recipe will serve about 10-12 people.  You’ll need more stock than you’ll think you’ll need because the noodles soak up some and people will go back for seconds.  Mark my words…

Hawaiian Soup


4 cups water

1 quart vegetable stock

2 vegetable bouillon cubes

1 large onion, quartered

6 cremini mushrooms, halved

2 bell peppers, seeded and halved or quartered

4 garlic cloves, smashed

Half of a bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley

A 6-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 large carrots, grated coarsely

1 bunch of watercress leaves

2 packages of cellophane noodles

A bunch of scallions, sliced thinly

Salt and pepper to taste

Toasted Sesame Oil, optional

Toasted Sesame Seeds, optional


  1. In a large stock pot, add the water, vegetable stock, bouillon cubes, onion, mushrooms, peppers, garlic cloves, parsley and ginger.  Cover pot and bring stock to a boil and lower heat to medium to simmer for about 30-45 minutes for the veggies to release their flavors. After the stock is done, turn off the heat.
  2. Remove the cooked pieces of onion, parsley, pepper, ginger and any loose garlic cloves you can find.  The mushrooms will be so small that you can leave them in.
  3. Add the shredded carrot and the cellophane noodles.   Move the noodles around so they hydrate and loosen up.
  4. Add the watercress leaves and sliced scallions.  It will stay warm for about 1-2 hours.  Garnish with extra scallions, toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, optional.

Hawaiian Poi

27 Apr

I was first introduced to the concept of poi on a Top Chef episode, when a finale was held in Hawaii.  When I saw the taro root, out of which poi is made, I couldn’t believe they were talking about my beloved malanga lila.

Malanga Lila - KarmaFree Cooking Photo

When researching poi for this Hawaiian Festival, I learned it is mashed taro root, and can be eaten  as thick or loose as you want it to be.  One-finger poi means you only need 1 finger to scoop it out and eat it with your hands, just like three-finger poi is looser and needs 3 fingers to be able to scoop it out using your hand.

My Hawaiian friend, Kenny, told me his favorite way to eat taro root is steamed with coconut milk.  And even though poi is traditionally mashed with just with water, I thought it would be interesting to mash it using coconut milk and meld two Hawaiian traditions into one dish.

This might not be traditional poi recipe…  but it is my interpretation.  Hope all you Hawaiian people approve.

Taro Root mashed with Coconut Milk


2 large taro roots, peeled and cut into large chunks

About 1 cup to 2 cups of coconut milk

1 large onion, chopped

1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

½ bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 small red onion, sliced thinly

Olive oil

Butter or dairy-free spread, like Earth Balance

Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, boil the taro root pieces in salted water.  Cook them until they’re soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.  This will take about 30 minutes.  I usually turn off the stove at 30 minutes and let the taro or any other root vegetable to finish cooking in the hot boiling water for about 10 extra minutes.
  2. While the taro root cooks, take a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle some olive oil.  Add the onions, peppers and garlic.   Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until softened for about 10 minutes.   Set aside.
  3. In another skillet over medium heat also, drizzle some olive oil and sauté the sliced red onions and the flat leaf parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  The idea is to soften the onions and cook them a bit, but you still want them to look “purpley”… we’ll use this to garnish the mash in the end.  Set aside.
  4. When the taro is cooked, drain the taro root pieces and return to the pot you boiled them in.
  5. Using a potato masher, mash the taro root pieces while they’re still warm.  Doing this immediately after draining will be much easier than if you let them dry out. Drizzle some olive oil and butter or vegan butter substitute and mash away.  Add the cooked onions, pepper and garlic mixture and mix it all in well.
  6. Slowly add the coconut milk and continue mashing until you get a smooth consistency, just like mashed potatoes.    Add as much coconut milk as you need to reach your desired mashed consistency.  Season one last time with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving plate.  Garnish with the sautéed red onions and parsley mixture

Hawaiian Vegetarian Festival

26 Apr

Manolo gave me a challenge… Why don’t we plan a Vegetarian Festival with the flavors of Hawaii??  Hawaii??  Why??  I asked.   He replied: “Well…  I did this Rice with Pineapple the other day and I think it’s pretty awesome… so I thought it would go well within a Hawaiian-themed festival.”

33  stock-footage-aloha-form-hawaii

Just like Manolo… he gets an idea in his head, and then the rest of the world needs to accommodate to it.   “Oh… and the decorations would look so pretty!!!! Don’t you think, Madelyn??”   And that’s how the idea about this Hawaiian Festival came about.  Because… I have never been to Hawaii, Manolo has never been to Hawaii and the closest we have been to something truly Hawaiian are our friends Kenny and Tim, who one is from Hawaii and the other lives currently in Maui.

Hawaii Festival - ENG

So I went to the internet and social media to gather some ideas of what a traditional Hawaiian Luau would be like and how could I make it into a vegan, gluten-free affair.  My friends were enthusiastic about the idea and recipes started to flow.  What surprised me the most was that many of the ingredients in Hawaiian/Polynesian cuisine are the same as in Puerto Rican cooking – taro root, breadfruit, sweet potatoes… with a few unexpected twists, such as nori, gomasio, rice vinegar, and macadamia nuts…

During the next few weeks I will be sharing with you the menu of this Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau.  But this post will serve as an anchor and summary of all the recipes served that Sunday at the Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand.   Let’s all travel through our taste buds…

Alohas and Mahalo!!!

23  shaka-sign

 Lomi Tomato

Longrice Soup


Tofu Mushroom Poke

Lau Lau

Eggplant Musubi

Roasted Breadfruit with Spices

Haupia with a Carob Drizzle

Banana Mango Bread

Lilikoi and Grapefruit Juice

Green is for Spinach…

2 Mar

I did not grew up eating “greens” …  I only knew spinach was something “kinda gross” that Popeye ate out of a can to become strong and powerful.

I can’t recall when my perception of spinach changed, but I am thankful it did.  Spinach is now my go to salad green, especially baby spinach, that’s so ready available in every supermarket nowadays.

So in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to celebrate my love for spinach.  Cooked, raw, frozen and thawed… all this recipes take advantage of the goodness of spinach.  I hope that if you’re still on the fence about spinach, to give a few of this recipes a try… they might change your mind too.

Spinach Recipes Collage 2015 - ENG


Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Spinach Salad with Figs, Blue Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spinach Fried Quesadillas

Spinach Pinwheels

Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms

Spinach Croquetas

Smoked Gouda Rissotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

Bucatini with Goat Cheese, Spinach and Tomatoes

Spinach and Almond White Lasagna

Kick-butt Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Quinoa Pasta with Baby Spinach and Lemon Vinaigrette

Sweet Plantain Canoes Filled with Creamed Spinach and Pine Nuts


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