Panzanella Salad w/Tofu feta

Hello foodie friends!

First off let me apologize for missing last weeks blog 😦 I had intentions to but with all of the craziness that ensued following our city’s flooding last week, I found it impossible to even open my computer. For those of you that don’t know, Calgary was hit unexpectedly with a devastating flood and my community (being close to the Elbow River) was one of numerous communities evacuated for 3 days. Thankfully I was able to return home to a dry home along with most of my neighbours. Other than being out of our homes and losing power, we are very fortunate to be able to carry on with our regular routines with the added bonus of having a greater sense of appreciation. There are many people that were deeply affected by the floods and returning to regular life is not as easy. Many homes, communities and businesses are having to dig themselves out and start a long process of rebuilding. One of the most amazing take-aways from this difficult situation is the enormous spirit and camaraderie of this incredible city. Volunteers showing up by the thousands everyday to help those who need it, donations by the truckloads and people opening up their homes to strangers. It’s just awesome.

Coming out of this, it seems that everything has come up so fast!

School is out, the days are longer, the flowers are blooming and if you haven’t already heard, SUMMER HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED!

And as promised, I have one more recipe for the Simple Summer Recipe Series. This week is another one of my staple meals during the summer months, Panzanella Salad. This salad originates from Italy as a way to utilize stale bread and highlight their fresh tomatoes and onions. I don’t typically use onions in my version of this salad but tomatoes and bread are definitely the main attraction. This salad is incredibly easy and loaded with flavour!

On a side note: I know alot of you have sensitivities to gluten or wheat but don’t count this recipe out. Whether you use a spelt bread, a sourdough or a gluten-free bread it can still work.  But don’t be afraid to make this salad without any bread. The vinaigrette mixed with the fresh veggies and tofu is so refreshing. 


One ingredient that I am slightly obsessed with right now is tofu feta. I am not exactly sure how it took me this long to discover this delicious recipe but now that I know about it,  I would like to shout it from a mountain top like the Swiss man blowing his horn in a Ricolla commercial 😛

This part of the recipe should be made ahead of time and left in the fridge to marinate for at least a couple of hours but longer if you can. I like to make it the day before… but the problem then becomes trying not to eat a piece every time I open the refrigerator 😦

Tofu Feta

400 g firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tbsp sea salt

2 tsp dired basil

2 tsp dried oregano

  • add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil
  • reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for approx. 25 mins or until almost of the water in gone
  • transfer tofu with the brine into a sealable container and place in fridge overnight


The other component of the dish is the grilled peppers. If it’s just one step too many for you, there are some great options at the grocery store for peppers that are already grilled and peeled for you. However, I would encourage you to try making them yourself, as it is pretty straight forward. I do mine on the outdoor grill by preheating it to med-high and then tossing a few peppers directly onto the grill. Every 5 mins or so I turn the pepper until it is completely charred all the way around. I then remove them and immediately toss them in a brown bag and twist the top to lock in the steam. Leaving them in the bag for approx. 30mins allows them to cool but also separates the skin of the pepper so that it is much easier to peel.  I use my fingers to peel away the outside layer of charred skin and slice the pepper into strips.


With this recipe I wrap up my Simple Summer Recipe series but do not fret, there will be plenty of seasonal, easy and delicious recipes coming your way this summer.

My hope is that you can keep these 6 recipes close at hand and be able to pull them out over the next few months as quick and nutritious meals that you can make at home without having to sweat over a stove!!!


Panzanella Salad w/tofu feta

PrepTime: approx 30 mins (plus prep for tofu feta and grilled peppers)

Serves: 4 people, as a main meal


1/2 loaf of day-old Sourdough, cut into 1/2″ cubes

10-12 whole green olives

4-5 roma tomatoes

6-8 large basil leaves, ripped into small pieces

1 cup of tofu feta (see recipe above)

2 small red or orange bell peppers, roasted, peeled and cut

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

black pepper & sea salt to taste

  • For the vinaigrette: cut tomatoes in half and scoop out the insides into a small food processor or blender (save the outside flesh of tomato for the salad). Puree the tomatoes until most of the chunks are gone and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add in the garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Whisk together until completely combined and set aside.


  • Toss remaining ingredients into a large salad bowl and top with the tomato vinaigrette. Toss together to coat all of the bread with the dressing. Cover and place in refrigerator for about 20-30 mins. Serve.


Avocado Sushi Bowl

One of my very favorite foods is sushi. Unfortunately for me, I am not very good at rolling sushi!

If I have to I can, but it requires a tremendous amount of focus and patience for me to build a solid sushi roll. And plus I don’t really enjoy it as much if it does not look pretty…it changes the flavour somehow 😉 So one night before dinner I was craving sushi and wasn’t excited about having to call in an order, then wait for it to get here. There has to be an easier way, I thought!

I started to think about what sushi feels like and tastes like in your mouth, because lets face it, other than the presentation that is all that really matters when it comes to food! So that is how it started for this recipe, I just decided to throw all the ingredients of my favorite sushi roll into a bowl… a deconstructed sushi roll, if you will.


Of course you can modify this dish to represent your favorite sushi very easily but for me it has to include avocados! The sweet, buttery, dense texture of avocado transports me into a mini vacation. There is not a sandwich, rice bowl or tortilla chip in the world that doesn’t benefit from having an avocado near by. It is one of those perfect whole foods that falls into its own category, a “special” fruit. The avocado shares this category with only the olive, the kiwi, the persimmons and the pomegranate. However in alot of ways the avocado is more like a nut than a fruit, with its high amount of oil and its dense concentration. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat which is easily burned for energy, this is considered a healthy fat! They are also a good quality carbohydrate and protein, contain a substantial amount of B vitamins and are a good source of Vitamin C and A. Everything your body needs. Awesome for your skin, your hair, and most importantly, your brain!

And because I cannot be “good” all the time, I like to indulge in a little vegetable tempura with my sushi. It is a simple and quick thing to make at home with only a couple of ingredients to use with which ever fresh vegetable you have available. I use a straight forward recipe given by Masato Nishihara, the executive chef of Kajitsu, an elegant vegan Japanese restaurant in New York City. He believes that the best tempura batter is in its most traditional form, without eggs. Here is his method for fantastic tempura;


  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour plus 2 tablespoons, plus 1/2 cup or as needed for dipping
  1. Pour oil into a large wok or pot so that the oil is two inches deep. Heat over medium-high heat until oil is 350 degrees. Set aside a baking sheet with a rack lined with paper towels, and a small long-handled fine-meshed strainer for removing excess fried batter.
  2. Pour 1 cup ice-cold water into a medium bowl. Add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, and whisk to blend lightly. Place about 1/2 cup cake flour into another bowl. Dip each slice of vegetable into dry flour, shake off excess, and then dip each slice of vegetable into the batter.
  3. Fry the vegetables in batches to be sure they are not crowded. Place 4 to 5 vegetable pieces in the oil and fry, turning once or twice, until golden and crisp, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Using the long-handled strainer, remove excess bits of fried batter to keep the oil clean. Transfer to the baking sheet to drain. Continue until all the vegetables are fried.


So I hope you also enjoy this simple summer recipe, and trust me, your mouth will never know the difference!

Avocado Sushi Bowl
Serves: 4-6 people
Prep Time: 30 mins
2 cups uncooked jasmine or sushi rice, cook according to directions
2 ripe avocados, remove peel and pit, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 med cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp wasabi powder (or more depending on your preferences)
2 tbsp finely ground nori sheets
a handful of cilantro
2 tbsp soy sauce (or a great alternative is Coconut Aminos)
Garnish with pickled ginger, optional
  • Toss all ingredients, except the rice, into a large bowl and combine. Set aside until you are ready.


  • Once your rice is cooked (or sometimes I like to prep it earlier in the day and leave it at room temperature), I quickly fry the tempura vegetables and place it altogether in a bowl and top with some pickled ginger.


Tofino Food & Wine Festival


It has taken me a few days to even bring my feet back down to reality from my Tofino trip.  I now understand that I probably drank too much wine, didn’t eat enough food (go figure) and could have used a bit more sleep. So basically what I am saying is that I had a wonderful time 🙂

I could not even begin to explain all of the interesting people that I met, whether at the festival, the market or just grabbing my morning tea latte. Each of them full of unique experiences that individually brought them to Tofino either for the weekend, for the short-term or for their lifetime. Tofino is ultimately a destination for complete and total relaxation. The locals live it everyday and the transients wish they could take a piece of it home with them when they leave. At times Tofino feels like it is completely cut off from the rest of the world, with a constant vibe of being exactly where you are supposed to be. You cannot go much further west in Canada and perhaps Mother Nature saves the very best for those brave enough to venture to the “edge” if you will…this is a road trip not for the faint of heart (a mini “Road to Hanna” if you know what I mean)! Although I have been told the way to get into Tofino is by plane, you cannot discount the incredible scenery seen only from your car window that organically brings you back to Nature. Before I get into my indulgences of the Food & Wine Festival, I would be doing Tofino an injustice if I neglected to explain the shear beauty that is their landscape. The endless beaches, the enormous forested trails, the raging ocean and the tranquil inlets are unlike any other place you have ever been. True story.

An early morning on Chesterman Beach

An early morning on Chesterman Beach

The 11th Annual Tofino Food & Wine Festival  was hosted by the Tofino Botanical Gardens. Having been lucky enough to visit the gardens on lasts year’s summer vacation, I already knew of its endless paths & boardwalks and its magical fusion of nature, art and whimsy. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the 12 acres of garden, forest and shoreline graciously lent itself as the backdrop to the hundreds of guests that showed up to indulge in the local fare and spectacular wines.


Kira and her team put together an event that is so well organized and inviting. Strolling outdoors down winding paths, you didn’t have to go very far between steps to get a wine sample or be entertained by either the people, the music, or the laid back atmosphere. Around every corner of the garden there were men and women talking, laughing, eating…and yes, drinking!



One of the favourite hangouts of the afternoon seemed to be down by the abandoned fishing boat “Evian”, where DJ Kevin lured the masses with his awesome beats.  And to spite the fact that dancing midday atop a fishing boat, drink in hand and soaking up the sunshine, is not my regular routine, I did so happily! After all it was my intent to experience all parts of the festival 😉

Myself (L) and my new friend Camille (R) partaking in the festivities

Myself (L) and my new friend Camille (R) partaking in the festivities

Lastly I want to give a HUGE shout out to Schooner’s Restaurant! Mare, her family and her staff worked tirelessly before, during and after the festival to host the Cocktail Show, The BBQ and fill our bellies with some amazing food. As well as keeping the party going long after the tents of the festival were brought down! Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

Leaving Tofino on Sunday was not easy, the tug of “reality” pulling me back down the winding road. But not before I got a few photos, tasted some incredible food & wine and met a handful of memorable characters that made my weekend what it was…awesome!

I cannot wait until next year.

Here are a few of my Tofino MUSTS:

  • Tofino Vacation Rentals– there are definitely a few wonderful hotel options in Tofino but once you experience one of TVR’s luxury rental homes, its hard to go back! Michele and the rest of the team, make it so effortless and relaxing to slip into your vacation. I would totally recommend their services.
  • Tof Cycles– There is no greater way to explore Tofino than on a bike. The bike paths are fantastic and the downtown core is packed full of places to park your bike while you walk around. Riding a cruiser bike along the shoreline is an experience you don’t want to miss. Marc and his wife Adi are so lovely and will deliver your bikes right to where you are staying.
  • Tacofino- You don’t need to hear this from me (they already have a large reputation) but no one travels to Tofino in the summer without getting in line to enjoy the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G tacos and burritos from this food truck. Although they have now ventured into Vancouver with a restaurant and food truck, nothing comes close to biking over after a full day at the beach to grab your grub while still in your bathing suit!
  • Tofino Public Market– Every Saturday local vendors gather in the park for you to enjoy the unique goods that Tofino has to offer. In particular, you must stop in to see Kate Koreski and her incredible handmade jewelry. So beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Also if you like bread, Six Hundred Degrees bakery creates some incredible baked goods using ancient grains and using traditional techniques that separates them from everyone else. SO yummy!
  • Green Soul Organics– this tiny local grocery store has all the familiar products that big commercial grocery stores don’t. Anyone that has a dairy-free, gluten-free or meat-free lifestyle will love the selection here. Plus, they have tonnes of fresh organic produce and make awesome smoothies.


Don’t forget to checkout the Tofino Food & Wine Festival on Facebook to see more great photos!

I will be back on Sunday with another Simple Summer Recipe

Hummus Burger

Simple Summer Recipes #3

I am just wrapping up my incredible weekend here in Tofino.  I cannot even begin to explain how fantastic the last couple of days have been. I will be posting a full “report” later in the week to share with you all the reasons you MUST come to the Tofino Food & Wine Festival next year…or at the very least, plan a trip to this part of the island in the very near future.

Getting back to simple and delicious summer foods that you can make at home, most people don’t go without a burger or two during the summer months. It is my opinion no animals need to be involved to enjoy a delicious juicy summer burger :-)…well unless your dog knows how to barbecue a veggie burger, and in that case, lucky you and be sure to send me a picture!

Although there are many vegetarian/vegan burger options available at the grocery stores, I have yet to find one that I couldn’t live without. There seems to be alot of fillers in the store-bought ones that don’t necessarily represent real food, not to say I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the occasional Gardein Meatless Burger! If you have tried one of these store-bought versions and it wasn’t your thing, then I would encourage you to try making some burgers at home if you haven’t before. One google search and you could be inundated with hundreds of potential veg burger recipes, it’s just finding one that works for you….and hopefully here is one to add to your collection!


Although my Beet Burger is still one of my all-time favourites, I recognize that there is not always time to pull them together. I am a big fan of hummus and so needless to say, formulating this recipe was not a huge stretch for my taste buds but maybe a little stretch for my belly :-0  If you love hummus then you will love this quick burger recipe…and if you can make hummus, then you can definitely make this burger!


Hummus Burgers

Prep Time: approx. 30 mins

Makes 6-8 burgers

2 tbsp chia seeds (soaked for 5 mins in 3 tbsp warm water)

2 (14oz) cans of garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed

3 tbsp tahini

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 large sweet potato, grated (approx. 2 cups of shredded sweet potato)

1/3 cup bread crumbs

  • Add everything, except for the sweet potato & bread crumbs, into a food processor.


  • Pulse until thoroughly mixed together but not entirely smooth


  • With your hands combine chick pea mixture, sweet potatoes and bread crumbs. Then form them into medium sized patties


  • I usually get 7 or 8 burgers depending on how large I make them (and they are excellent for freezing if you only need a few at a time)


  • Preheat your BBQ or indoor grill to a med-high heat. Coat both sides of the burgers with a little olive oil. Cook for 5-7 minutes each side. Full disclosure: they can be a bit delicate on the outdoor grill but not impossible. Just be patient. Sometimes I also bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 mins. if I am not in a patient grilling kinda mood! 

Throw together a simple side salad (below I used mixed greens with grilled pears & topped with a extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt) and Helllllllooooo Summer!


Family-Style Grilled Veggies

Simple Summer Recipes- Part 2

I had a really great response to last weeks Quinoa salad so I will take that to mean 2 things: #1 you like quinoa and #2 you want super simple recipes for your summer cooking!

This week it will be my first non-recipe recipe that I have ever posted 🙂

It would be difficult to even call this a recipe…it’s more of an idea. An idea that is served in my house at least once (sometimes twice) every week when the weather is nice. Everyone loves it!!! We usually are sitting in the backyard and the sun is still shining while we dig into the very large plate of grilled veggies. This meal is beyond easy and requires very little thinking (which is kind of what we want sometimes, am I right?) without taking away any of the flavour and of course loaded with nutritional benefits. I usually never plan exactly what it is I am going to grill, I simply look in the fridge and see what I have. Therefore this meal is never the same twice.


There is basically 2 parts to this meal prep- make the rice & cut/grill the veggies. First, start by getting your rice cooking and depending on which type you choice will determine how long the total prep time will take. I like to use brown rice when I can get away with it but the kids really love jasmine. But don’t be afraid to substitute the rice for quinoa or millet. And I know I say this each time, but it adds so much flavour to our grains when we cook them with stock instead of just water.

While the rice is cooking, preheat your barbecue or indoor grill before you start chopping. Next, grab every vegetable you have on hand and start chopping into large but thin pieces. Really any vegetable works and don’t forget fruit works too. You can grill pineapple, peaches, pears, etc.  I like to throw all the chopped veggies on a large baking sheet and then coat with extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and Herbamare (you can substitute salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano or dried thyme if not using Herbamare). Here is 2 examples of what I have headed to the grill with recently;

IMG_5360 IMG_2398

Individually my kids have their favourite veggies that I try to include every time. One loves asparagus, one loves the sweet potatoes or regular potatoes and I love the mushrooms! However even with their favourites in front of them, they always venture out and try something else from the plate… which is all part of my secret plan 😉 And having favourites is why this meal works, there is no “wrong” way to load your plate and everyone gets to customize their dinner without you having to make separate meals.

Preparation Tip: With asparagus, it is much more enjoyable to eat if you shave off the bottom stem with your vegetable peeler. With portobello mushrooms, you must remove the inside gills as they tend to get slimy when cooked. I use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon actually) and scrap the inside of the mushroom before the grill.


The presentation is what makes this dinner so appealing. Whether you are serving it to yourself, your family or you are having dinner guests, take the time to organize the plate before presenting it. I feel that it makes a difference as we usually tend to eat with our eyes first!


Although I love all the veggies, my favourite part of this dish is usually the dip or sauce. I tend to make up a new one each time (without any real recipe) but as usual I am trying really hard to write down what I make so that I can share with all of you! Here is a couple of quick ideas for you to experiment with;

Asian Inspired Mayo

1/2 cup Veganaise or your mayo of choice

2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tbsp tahini paste

Spicy Hummus

1 cup hummus *homemade preferably

1/2 tsp red curry paste

1 tsp harissa

juice of 1/2 lime

Lastly, I wanted to fill all of you in on some really exciting news…I have been brought on a Social Media Correspondent for this years Tofino Food & Wine Festival taking place next weekend. For those of you that have been following me from the beginning you know that this is exactly where I had hoped this new path would lead me. I plan to journal all things food and wine through my Instagram account (@figbasil), posting photos on Twitter and on their Facebook page. Please show your support by “Liking” their Facebook page and this will allow to you to experience the festival from afar!


It should be an incredible weekend and I am looking forward to sharing the amazing food and wine with you!