Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad w/Pomegranate Dressing

Hello foodie friends!

This past week I have received an overwhelming amount of support. From hundreds of new followers on Instagram, to increased interest on my blog, messages of encouragement, and even a photo from readers that made one of my recipes last week (shout out to my West Coast girls!). I am just so grateful for all of it. Not for any other reason than it helps me realize that my passion is connecting with people and that reaffirms for me that I am exactly where I should be. So keep it comin’! ūüôā

And on that note, I going to try something new with my blog this week (and the next few to follow)…a series!

I will call it 6 Simple Summer Recipes. With the intention of sharing 6 recipes that can be made in rotation during the warmer months.  All of these recipes can be made in under 30 minutes (look at me ripping off Rachel Ray :-)) and are deliciously simple to throw together.  Its harder to get in the kitchen when the sun is shining and the garden is calling but you still gotta eat!

So hopefully I can help you.

I am a huge fan of quinoa in the summer months for salads. Mainly because it is so versatile, can be made ahead of time, and is just so flipping good for you. The most commonly used quinoa is the white variety but red and black quinoa are also readily available in most grocery stores so why not explore?  This week I am using the red quinoa in my Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad.  Nutritionally speaking, the benefits are pretty much equal between the white and red quinoa. All quinoa, being a complete protein, offers numerous vitamins and minerals to you that your body will love you for. The small difference between the two varieties would be the texture and flavour. Red quinoa has a slightly crunchier bite (which is an awesome combination with the soft & sweet roasted yams) and a slightly bolder flavour. As I have said before about rinsing, the same rule applies to the red quinoa, which is to make sure you give it a good rinse before cooking to wash away the outer coating.

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A few simple whole foods make up this incredibly satisfying lunch or dinner dish. The dressing is sweet and tangy and only requires a couple of ingredients that most of us have available in our pantry, with the exception of the pomegranate molasses. I would highly recommend that you grab yourself a bottle of this “deliciousness-in-a-bottle” before the summer months approach, as it is amazing in almost every homemade dressing!

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Have a lovely week.

Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 30 mins

Ingredients:

2 cups red quinoa (cooked according to directions…but instead of water I like to use vegetable stock)

3 medium-large yams, peeled, cut into 1″ cubes

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped small

small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped

Pomegranate Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp dried chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chopped yams on a baking sheet, coat in olive oil and season with sea salt. Bake for approx. 20-25 mins, checking about half way through to turn them. * make sure to cut the pieces small enough so they cook fast
  • Combine all ingredients for dressing and set aside.
  • Combine onions, cilantro, quinoa and slightly cooled yams into large bowl and toss in dressing. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper as needed. If you find it too dry then add a bit more olive oil.
  • Ideally, letting this rest for more time allows dressing to absorb and increases the flavour (which makes this dish fantastic for leftovers or tomorrow’s lunch) but serving it immediately is also delicious!

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Homemade Dairy-free Ice Cream

With summer peaking its head out and pulling us outside into the our backyards, gardens and whatever other warm weather pleasures you enjoy, there is one thing that seems to be synonymous with summer….ice cream!

It is a food that is on many people’s “favourite food” list, adults and children alike.

But the reality is that many people have dairy sensitivities and the remainder of the people have dairy sensitivities and don’t ¬†know it ūüė¶ These sensitivities do not just show up in the form of an upset stomach, there are numerous ways your body can react. Asthma, behavioural issues, mood swings, constant skin irritations (rash, psoriasis, acne) and headaches just to name a few. There is no doubt that dairy is hard on our bodies with all the use of antibiotics and growth hormones used by the dairy industry, harder to digest than even red meat. And don’t even get me started on the treatment of dairy cattle, forced to lactate continuously when their natural biology only requires them to produce milk during and after pregnancy (just like humans!).

But seriously, I intended this post to be light and fun…how am I doing so far? ¬† ūüėČ

When you can find a recipe that requires less than 5 ingredients, takes about 10 minutes to make and is incredibly delicious, you must go for it! I first found a version of this frozen banana treat last summer and it has been a hit in my house since then.

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FYI- I bought all of  these organic bananas for around $4.00 from my local organic market. Because they were overly ripe they gave me a reduced price.

The directions are pretty straight forward—-peel banana, freeze banana, put ingredients in food processor, stir in favourite toppings and eat. That simple.

Feel free to experiment with different combinations and try reinventing your favourite dairy ice cream at home.

This week I managed a few batches with 3 different combinations; strawberry (everyone 1st choice), Mint Chip and Maple Walnut.

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A new trick I tried this year was putting the ice cream into mini mason jars before putting them in the freezer so that they were already portioned out for the kids (and myself). It also makes it easy to grab if you are heading outside in the backyard or to the park for a refreshing and healthy snack!

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I have a few flavour ideas that will definitely be created sometime this summer, like Raspberry Cardamom, Maple Peanut Butter, Mango Coconut…and maybe something with pine nuts…I will let you know how they turn out!¬†

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I hope that this simple recipe finds its way into your home (and your belly) this summer.

And if you haven’t already, come join me on Instagram @figbasil for daily food photos and meal inspirations.

Enjoy.

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Strawberry Dairy-free Ice Cream

Active Time: 5-10 mins plus time to freeze bananas

Ingredients:

4-5 ripe bananas, peeled and frozen

2-3 tbsp any nut or seed milk ( I used flax milk but you could use soy, coconut, hemp, almond)

8-10 fresh strawberries, pureed

8-10 fresh or frozen strawberries, cut into small pieces

Method:

  • Place your peeled bananas into an air-tight bag and place into freezer until completely frozen. I like to leave them in overnight.
  • When you are ready to make the ice cream, remove the bananas from the bag and chop into larger chunks. Place in a food processor with your milk of choice. Pulse a few times and then put on high speed to puree the bananas into a smooth, creamy texture

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  • Pour in pureed strawberries and pulse for another minute.
  • Scrap banana mixture into bowl and gently fold in the strawberry pieces.
  • You could eat immediately but depending how long you have had the bananas out of the freezer, I like to throw the completed ice cream back into the freezer for another 10-20 minutes to get a harder consistency. It stores in the freezer for a very long time…but honestly I actually don’t know how long cause we have never had it in there for longer than a few days ūüôā

Pad Thai

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Happy Mother’s Day!

The day has arrived again, when everyone lets their mothers know how much they love them and appreciate them. The funny thing is that most mothers already understand how much they are needed and loved on a daily basis because if we didn’t then we wouldn’t do what we do! But it’s nice to be reminded. This is the most unique and powerful relationship one can have in their life…for good or bad ūüėČ A two-way street that somehow generally only feels like a one-way! And the payoff simply comes from being called Mom.¬†

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I like to think of motherhood as a long-term investment. Most days I’m¬†the mom that doesn’t serve bacon, that has weird greens growing the fridge, that didn’t buy the “good” cereal on my shopping trip, and is totally annoying for serving new foods that don’t look familiar! I am¬†that¬†mom. Some days it feels like I am pushing against a brick wall and then other days, like when I see my kids eating greens or when they get excited that the avocados are ripe enough to eat, I think that maybe I am making some progress. It helps me to sleep at night to assume one day they will look back and understand that aside from wanting to nurture their bodies and fuel their brains, that one day they will also understand that I am simply doing the best with what I know. Making a tonne of mistakes along the way.

This week I am stepping out of my comfort zone. Into the unknown. Okay, perhaps a bit dramatic…I am testing out a new ingredient¬†and¬†a new recipe! I have been wanting to try kelp noodles for a very long time since I have read all about the health benefits and how easy they are to use. I am not sure what has held me back but now that I have tried them, nothing could keep me away! I am in love.

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The texture is almost unexplainable. Kelp noodles have the familiarity of a rice noodle with a surprise crunch of a lettuce. They soak up which ever sauce you submerge them in without loosing any of the crunch. I am familiar with dried kelp and so I assumed that the noodle would have the same “fishy” ¬†flavour but I was wrong…no fishy flavour at all!

There is almost too much information on the benefits of kelp noodles for me to sum up articulately so I did a little digging and found this fantastic summary supplied by www.rawguru.com

What Exactly Are Kelp Noodles?

Kelp is a kind of seaweed, or algae, that grows in the ocean. To create kelp noodles, which are raw and very white, almost clear, in appearance, the clear substance that holds the individual pieces of kelp together are harvested. Though the noodles are not made from the entirety of the algae, they are packed with the same nutrients that have made kelp a popular ingredient among health-conscious individuals.

Although they can be treated much like regular noodles, kelp noodles may need to be marinated before use. They are naturally crisp, and by marinating them in citrus juice or vinegar you can enhance their texture without having to cook them.

Here are some of the great things kelp noodles can supply to your body:

  • Over 70 nutrients and minerals, including iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, among others
  • Vitamins, including B6
  • Over 21 amino acids
  • Improved thyroid function from iodine
  • Stronger bones from calcium and magnesium
  • Alleviation of menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms, as well as a few cases of arthritis,¬†through calcium and magnesium
  • Folic acid, which protects the circulatory system
  • Anti-inflammatory properties, due to the magnesium
  • Absorption of radioactive materials and heavy metals through phytochemicals
  • Polysaccharides, which provide antifungal and antibacterial properties
  • Supported memory health
  • Decrease of allergies

So¬†why¬†do we not eat them regularly? ¬†Probably because trying something new can be intimidating. Not wanting to waste your money or scare the children ūüėČ ¬†It’s worth the risk, just re-read the list above and realize all of the ways that your body will thank you. You will find this product refrigerated and usually close to the produce section. Of course, the sweet and tangy peanut sauce is the real killer ¬†in this dish so substitute which ever noodles you wish, such as rice noodles. If you are keeping it raw then you can bang this recipe out in about 15 mins and on these hot spring days it makes dinnertime more enjoyable for everyone.

If this post does nothing else but make you feel a tiny bit better as a mom (by understanding how much I torture my kids) then that would make be happy. But if it makes you drive to your grocery store and ask the awkward teenager in the produce section where you can find the kelp noodles, then you have made my day!

Enjoy.

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Tangy Pad Thai

Prep time: approx. 15 mins

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/2 cup crunchy natural peanut butter

1-400ml can of coconut milk

2 tbsp tamarind paste (optional)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tbsp tamari (you can substitute soy sauce or my new fav coconut aminos)

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp dried chili flakes

2 shakes of hot sauce (optional)

juice of 1 lime

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Ingredients  for the pad thai:

1 package (15 oz) kelp noodles

1 red pepper, thinly julienned

1 cup shredded red cabbage

4 green onions, sliced

1/4 fresh chopped cilantro

  • In a high-speed blender, blend all sauce ingredients until smooth. If you are heating your sauce then use a saucepan and slowly bring to a low boil and stir regularly.

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  • In a colander, rinse kelp noodles, shake dry and transfer to a serving bowl. Add in red pepper, cabbage and green onions.
  • Add sauce and toss gently to combine. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

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Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

‚ÄúThe only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.‚Ä̬†
‚Äē¬†Julia Child

Sometimes (just sometimes) the best recipes come about by way of accident or experimentation. This week I have had the pleasure of hosting two lovely house guests and in an effort to impress them I was going to make a dish that wins over everyone’s heart…RISOTTO!¬†

But then I started thinking, as much as I love the starchy, creamy yumminess of white rice maybe I could step it up a level and add more nutrients and perhaps maybe even some protein…sans meat of course ūüėČ

I set out on a task of finding the perfect recipe in my small library of cookbooks. I flipped through my “go-to” vegetarian bibles and was utterly shocked to not find¬†any quinoa risotto recipes. I am sure there are some out there but I couldn’t find any in my books and I even have cookbooks with the word¬†Quinoa¬†in the title!!!

By now we all know the incredible nutritional benefits of quinoa: the only complete protein (meaning it contains all 8 essential amino acids, including lysine) outside of animal protein. Several whole foods contain protein but only quinoa has everything you need for protein absorption in this one ingredient. Along with being high in protein it also contains excellent sources of iron, calcium and B vitamins. And as an added bonus, its gluten-free! Mother Nature made no mistakes on this Central American grain!

But getting back to my accidental experiment, the results of my quinoa risotto were well received and so therefore I am sharing my lab notes (aka recipe) with you. Traditionally, a risotto requires a few months of pot-stirring along with a sore arm but since we are not trying to slowly pull out the starchiness with quinoa, you are free to do other things while making your dinner…like pour a glass of wine ūüėČ

I know I usually sign off my blog with “Enjoy!” but this time I¬†really¬†mean it!

Enjoy the beauty of this perfect superfood, enjoy its creamy, nutty flavour, and enjoy the guilt-free consumption because it doesn’t get much better than this.

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Mushroom & Asparagus Quinoa Risotto

Serves: 4-6 people (as a main dish)

Prep Time: Approx. 40 mins

Ingredients:

4 cups of Vegetable broth (+ 2 cups of water)

7-10 pcs dried mushrooms (I used Shiitake & Porcini)

1″ chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

1 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp dried chili flakes

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

8 oz cremini mushrooms (or 10-15 mushrooms), thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups of quinoa, rinsed and drained

10-12 asparagus stalks, cut in 1/4″ circles

2 tbsp Earth Balance

Truffle salt (optional)

Methodology:

  • First start with the broth. It is the heart and soul of this dish (as I have said before, its very important to get it right). Add your broth, water, dried mushrooms, ginger, tamari, garlic,¬†chill flakes, thyme and bring to a gentle boil. Once it is boiling add in the chopped asparagus to cook. Reduce to simmer and leave it until you are ready to add to the quinoa. Make sure to taste the broth a few times to ensure the flavour, you may need to add a touch of sea salt.

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  • Using a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat on medium and add coconut oil. Then toss in onions and cook for about 5 mins or until translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and cooked for another 5 mins or until most of the moisture is gone from the pot. Then use the wine to deglaze the pot and simmer for other minute.
Quinoa (even organic quinoa) has a saponin (soaplike) coating and it is important to rinse this off before cooking.

Quinoa (even organic quinoa) has a saponin (soaplike) coating and it is important to rinse this off before cooking.

  • After you have rinsed & drained the quinoa add to the pot and stir. ¬†Slowly add the broth mixture one ladle at a time and stir. I like to remove the asparagus tips from the broth before adding to quinoa to use as a garnish (but if you are not that fancy don’t worry about it :-)) Raise the heat to med-high to get a low boil and then reduce back down to med-low and cover with lid. You want to cook the quinoa until all liquid has been absorbed, this should take approx. 20 mins. Be sure to check a few times¬†throughout and give it a stir.
  • Once quinoa is cooked, add the butter and truffle salt. Gentle stir and replace lid. Let sit for 5-10 mins. Then consume immediately!

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