Veggie Bites of Wisdom #56

16 Sep

Veggie Bites of Wisdom - KarmaFree Cooking

Taro Root Nests

14 Sep

I’m in love with taro root or malangas, as I call them on a daily basis…

Here is a fun and easy way to make taro root for your next party of gathering.

Taro Root Nests


1 pound of raw taro root, peeled and cut into long pieces
1 tsp sofrito
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp salt
A pinch of freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
Frying oil – canola oil, grape seed oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc.
  1. Shred the taro root pieces using the shredding blade of your food processor.  You could also shred by hand using a box grater, but this would be much harder and take up more time.
  2. Transfer the shredded taro root to a large mixing bowl and season with the sofrito, salt and black pepper.  Grate the garlic cloves using a microplane grater over the shredded taro root mixture.  Combine well all the ingredients using your hands.  I find they work best for doing this.
  3. In a large skillet, add enough frying oil to make it about ½” to 1” deep and bring to temperature over medium-high heat.  The oil will be ready for frying when you stick the back of a wooden spoon into the oil and bubbles form all around it.
  4. Make mounds of the seasoned shredded taro root…  Squeeze out all the starchy liquid from it and place on the hot oil to fry.  Using a spoon, pour some of the hot oil over the mound of shredded taro root to help it cook on the inside and to start to harden the top part a bit.  Place mounds of taro root on the skillet leaving some space between the mounds so they don’t stick together.
  5. After a few minutes, flip the mound on the other side so it fries evenly on all sides.  When the taro root mounds are golden brown on all sides, take them off the oil using a wooden spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb all the excess oil.  If you want, you can sprinkle them lightly with some more kosher salt, but it may not be necessary.

Enjoy these little nest fritters as an appetizer or as the crispy component to any Latin dinner…

Colombian Breakfast Arepas

8 Sep

I’ve never been to Colombia…  YET.  But I have many Colombian friends who boast the deliciousness of their native cooking – Rubén, Andrew, Karina, Enrique, and my good friend, Dolly.  Whenever we visit our Yoga Center in Queens, she always wants to please our Guruji, and all of us who visit, with many of her Colombian favorite recipes.

Lately, she’s been making us her Colombian Arepas.   These arepas are made with yellow cornmeal and topped with your favorite veggie mixture.  We are busy yogis, so Dolly uses frozen pre-made arepas from La Venezolana, but there are many good brands out there.  Try to pick a brand that’s as natural as possible, with the least preservatives.

Here, I will share the recipe for the delicious topping…

Recipe by KarmaFree Cooking


4 corn arepas – the refrigerated kind

6 large white mushrooms, chopped finely

1/4 lb oyster mushrooms, chopped finely

1 yellow onion, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

½ yellow bell pepper, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

2 tbs garlic and herb butter or use vegan butter if you prefer

2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbs soy sauce

¼ cup wáter, if necessary to make a sauce

1 cup vegan shredded cheese – I used Trader’s Joe’s vegan cheddar/monterrey jack mix

Vegan mayonnaise

2 tbs Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. To thaw the arepas, place them in a 350F oven in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper… or place them on top of a griddle.  The oven is helpful because it can fit as many arepas as you want.  This recipe is good enough for 4 arepas, but it’s easily doubled if you need more for your crowd.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle a little bit of olive oil to the garlic/herb butter.  Add the mushrooms
  3. and toss them to coat them with the oil and butter.  Spread them out in the skillet so they can get browned.  Resist the urge to move them around.  Wait until the mushrooms start to give off the smell of a cooked steak…  I know…  I know…  but you’ll remember me when the smell hits your nose.  You might want to turn on the smoke extractor in your kitchen for this one…
  4. When you’re ready to move the mushrooms again, add the onions and peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and toss the whole contents of skillet so the onions and peppers cook.
  5. The arepas should be warm now in the oven… take them out, spread a generous schmear of vegan mayo and place about ¼ cup of shredded vegan cheese on top of each arepa.  Place back in the oven for a few minutes for the cheese to melt thoroughly.
  6. After a few minutes reduce the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and season with the thyme leaves.  After about 1-2 minutes, add the vinegar and soy sauce to start to create a sauce.  If the tomatoes do not give out too much liquid, add a little water to create a sauce.
  7. As soon as the cheese is melted and the mushrooms, onion, tomato mixture is cooked, you can assemble…  Place one arepa with melted cheese onto a plate and cover with a healthy helping, about ¼ of the mushroom mixture over it.  Serve alongside a simple green salad on the side.


I’ve had this dish originally as a hearty breakfast/brunch item… but I have also made it as a light dinner option.   Add a few slices of avocado, and you’ll be golden.  It’s easy to make and super filling.  Hope you enjoy ittoo…

Eggplant Musubi

3 Sep

I can’t believe I had forgotten to share this recipe with you…

Hawaii is the number 1 consumer of SPAM in the United States…  Apparently, Hawaiians love their potted meat.  I have to admit, back in the days when I was growing up I looooved when my grandma made for us Spam sandwiches with mayo on criollo bread.  That was a treat we only ate while on vacations.

Now…  my tastes have changed.  And while I wanted to bring a traditional and authentic take of a Hawaiian Luau to my Yogi friends, I also wanted to make it accessible to everyone.  Some of us have access to good vegetarian “hams”, but I figured that eggplant is something most of you will be able to get and will not cringe when you read it on a recipe.  The teriyaki marinade is what will bring it all together in true Hawaiian musubi fashion.

This recipe is a tad long…  but there are just 3 main steps – 1. cook the rice, 2. cook the eggplant, 3. assemble the musubi.  So don’t be overwhelmed by it all.    I used two small plastic containers of the same size that can fit one inside the other to form my musubi.  There are musubi contraptions, but I could not find one for the life of me in Puerto Rico.   Once you get the hang of it… it will be a breeze.

Recipe from KarmaFree Cooking


2 cups short grain brown rice

3 cups water

1/3 cup plain unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tbs brown sugar

½ tsp salt

2 small eggplants, peeled and sliced thinly

1  cup soy sauce

1 cup brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, grated

1-inch piece of ginger, grated

About ¼ cup of Black Sesame Gomasio as seasoning

2 nori sheets, cut into thin strips

Olive Oil

  1. First, cook the rice…  I use a rice cooker, but you can do it on the stove top if you prefer.  The idea is to cook the rice thoroughly but that it’s a tad sticky.  Not fluffy for sure.  Although by using short grain rice you get that consistency inherently.
  2. Cook the rice without oil, just a light sprinkling of salt.  In a measuring cup mix together the rice vinegar, the 3 tbs of brown sugar and salt.  Set aside.  After the rice is cooked, transfer to a plastic or wooden bowl to cool completely.  While rice is still hot, drizzle the vinegar/brown sugar mixture over the rice to season.   Set aside for the rice to cool completely.
  3. Secondly, we season the eggplant…  Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice eggplant in thin, ¼ inch slices.  In a large flat container mix together the marinade for the eggplant – soy sauce, brown sugar, grated garlic and ginger.  Mix together well to make sure the sugar dissolves well in the soy sauce.  Add the eggplant slices to the marinade, making sure all sides of eggplant are coated with the marinade.  Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet or griddle and pan-fry the marinated eggplant slices until caramelized, about 2 minutes on each side.  As you cook the eggplant slices, set aside on a baking sheet.
  5. So now…  we assemble the musubi.  Moisten your hands with water.  It will help with the rice not sticking as much to your fingers while you’re assembling.  Take about 2 tbs or rice into the bottom of the plastic container.  Sprinkle lightly some black sesame gomasio as seasoning over the rice.  Place a piece of eggplant over the rice.  Fold the eggplant slice if it’s necessary to fit into the small plastic container.  With the secong plastic container press the eggplant/rice tower to form a compact package.  Using a sharp knife separate the rice/eggplant for the edges and flip over and tap on a cutting board for the rice/eggplant to release from the container.
  6. Wrap with a thin strip of nori.  The nori sheets come scored in strips, we cut each of those strips in half, to make them yiled more strips for sheet.

Musubi tastes best the same day it is made.  Never refrigerate because the cold makes the rice hardens and it’s not very nice to eat.

As you can see, the recipe has a few steps, but it’s not very difficult to make.  And when you get the hang of making the musubi, it becomes kinda like an assembly line.   I want to thank Jesús Omar for being my musubi assistant the day we had to make 50+ musubis for the Hawaiian Vegetarian Festival.  The crowd was surprised they were eating “vegetarian sushi”  for the first time.

Next time, I will definitely try to make this with what they call “sham spam”…  my version, of course.  Stay tuned.

Avocado Toasts

31 Aug

This is a breakfast inspired by a delicious treat we had last month while traveling in NYC.  We had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, a great French-style bakery/restaurant chain found in many cities in the US.   We were going to see the “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and needed to make some time before the museum actually opened at 10AM.

China as seen by the fashion and movie industries.

We had only had some fruits and we were hungry…   so we ordered steel-cut oatmeal and Avocado Toasts with Kale and Cumin Salt, a seasonal option for breakfast and lunch at the restaurant.    To be honest, I’ve had better versions of the steel-cut oats from LPQ before, but the Avocado Toasts stole the show!!   I don’t know if it was the awesome gluten-free bread they were made in… or the interesting combination of the kale and cumin salt, but we were blown by the deliciousness of these toasts.  I even had to Instagram-it they were sooo good.

Le Pain Quotidien - Avocado Toasts

These days, I have such an abundance of avocados that I decided to have some for breakfast the other day…  I made it my own by exchanging the cumin salt for garlic salt and adding alfalfa sprouts instead of kale.

Avocado Toasts - KFC


2 slices of bread – I prefer whole grain or gluten-free versions

½ avocado – sliced

Vegan Mayonnaise

Dijon or Stone Ground mustard

Alfalfa Sprouts

Garlic Salt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


I make this just like at Le Pain Quotidiene, open-faced.  But you can pile it all up, make it portable and eat it like a traditional 2 slice sandwich… it’s up to you.

  1. Toast the bread to your liking.
  2. Spread a generous amount of vegan mayo and mustard.
  3. Arrange the avocado slices, in shingle like manner.  Season with a light sprinkling of garlic salt.
  4. Pile the alfalfa sprouts.  Drizzle a small stream of olive oil.  Season with a light sprinkle of garlic salt again.

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