Mushroom Alfredo uncensored

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

Life is not always a bowl of cherries. Sometimes life is difficult and the only way to get through it is to march right through it…but there are no rules that say you cannot do it with a large bowl of pasta and a glass of wine!

I had plans to bring you another lighter & summery-er (?) dish as we finish out August but instead I thought Screw it!, this is what I ate this week and it was freakin amazing. I am learning that I cannot always direct this blog, sometimes I gotta just let it direct me 🙂

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Alfredo sauce (as we know it today in North America) is a comfort food that usually includes cream, butter and cheese. Just mentioning those three ingredients in the same sentence probably makes some of you perk up! However if you are here for my opinion (which I will assume most of you are) then I say why not be a little more kind to ourselves, particularly in our comfort foods. Dairy is hard on our digestive system, our immune system and our adrenals.

The simplest solution to anyone out there that is doing their best to avoid dairy is cashew cream. And when I say simple, I MEAN SIMPLE! Ounce for ounce this “magical” nut cream can replace most any dairy ingredient in a recipe and making it yourself takes less than 30 seconds. Okay, well there is a soaking time to be added on to that 30 seconds but I am trying to make my point dramatic 😉

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Once you have the cashew cream made then you are only minutes away from the creamiest, most satisfying bowl of All Of My Worries Are Soon To Be Gone Alfredo Sauce!

So put on your stretchy pants, pour a glass of your favourite white wine and escape from the world for a few glorious moments.

I won’t tell anyone 😉

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Mushroom Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4 people

Prep Time: 25 minutes plus soaking time for nuts

Approx. 1 1/4 cup Cashew cream (start with 1 cup raw cashews, soak for 1 hour or longer. Rinse and add to blender with 1/4 cup fresh water. Blend thoroughly until super creamy)

2 tbsp Nutritional yeast

1 garlic, minced

1 tbsp non-dairy butter (I use soy-free Earth Balance)

1 tsp truffle salt, or regular sea salt if you haven’t bought yourself a jar of the truffle salt yet 🙂

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

2 portobello mushrooms, gills removed and sliced length-wise

2 tbsp Coconut oil

  • With the cashew cream still in the blender add the nutritional yeast, garlic, butter and salt. Blend until fully incorporated and set aside

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  • In a large frying pan heat the coconut oil and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until golden brown. Approx. 10 mins.
  • Then add the sliced mushrooms and cook for another 5-7 minutes

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  • Turn off the heat and pour the Alfredo sauce into the hot pan to gently heat the sauce. Stir well and then add your favorite gluten-free pasta. Serve immediately.

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Smoked Tofu Rice Wraps

So we have been in a bit of a heat wave this week. It has been steady at around 30 degrees for most of the week and that is a wee bit hot for me. I am more of a 21-23 degree kind of girl but my veggie garden and flowers are loving it so I will put up with it…that is until the colder weather sets in and then I will find a different temperature to complain about 😉

I have been trying to encourage myself to take my own advice and find dishes that do not require the stove or even the BBQ for that matter! (Did I mention it was HOT?)

Plus my lettuce is fully ready in my garden so they are continually calling out for me to eat them. Fresh lettuce from the garden requires almost no preparation. A little olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and some salt & pepper is all that it needs. This side can accompany almost any main dish and for this rice wrap meal it is perfect.  My favourite lettuce combo is butter lettuce and arugula plus a small handful of hemp seeds for a little crunch and some much needed manganese, magnesium and iron.

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Eating raw foods is SO beneficial to your body. Raw foods contain vitals elements of the Earth and are essential in a healthy digestive tract.  I admire those that can incorporate a larger portion of their diet to raw foods however the best that I can maintain is about 20% of raw food. However there is no need to pull out your calculator and become one of those people! Just check in with yourself every once in awhile and ask yourself when was the last time your meal was uncooked. If its been a while then plan for a hearty salad for lunch tomorrow or revisit some of your favourite raw dinner recipes. Don’t forget my Pad Thai  with kelp noodles recipe or my Arugula Cashew Cream Sauce. Or how about these Smoked Tofu Rice Wraps?

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You don’t need your chef’s papers to roll rice wraps and they definitely are not as difficult as sushi to construct. Rice paper is much more forgiving and extremely inexpensive so even if you get a tear you may be able to hide it or just toss it and start again. You will need a large dinner plate filled with warm water to rehydrate the wrap before you begin. I usually leave the rice paper in the water for about 1-2 minutes then lift and allow the water to drip off slightly before rolling. But they certainly do not need to be dry as any remaining water will be absorbed into the rice paper by the time you are ready to eat.

A few key points that I have found to help in the rolling process is to start with your ingredients piled closer to one end and then ensure that you pull the sides as tight as you can before you roll. Other than that, it only takes 1 or 2 tries to really get the hang of it.

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Your choice of filling is really up to you but I would highly recommend some smoked tofu for substance… well, also for the incredible flavour! Smoked tofu is readily available wherever you purchase your tofu and is a ready-to-eat product. I have become obsessed with it and I am now finding myself cutting it directly from the block as a snack.  In these rolls I have used carrots, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, smoked tofu, cilantro and basil leaves. Be sure to take the time to chop everything thin as it makes for a more enjoyable bit. If you have a mandolin (you know the one you purchased years ago thinking that you would always use it and never have) then this is the time to pull it out!

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Lets not forget about  THE DIPPING SAUCE, the single most important component of this meal. If you do it properly then you should be picking up the side dish, putting it directly to your mouth and drinking it…you know, like when you are finished your cereal and cannot bare to leave the sugary milk behind in the bowl and don’t have the self-control to just use your spoon 🙂

There are a few store bought dips that are pretty good if you would like to make this meal even easier but why not make your own?

Here is a recipe for a dip that I like to use for my rice wraps;

Spicy Peanut Ginger Dip

1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce (or soy-free coconut aminos)

2 tbsp natural peanut butter, crunchy or smooth it doesn’t matter

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp chili garlic sauce (or add 2 tsp if you like it spicier)

1 tsp ground ginger

2 droppers of stevia *you could use 1 tbsp of honey or 1 tbsp of agave if you want also

2 tbsp water

  • combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together and then pour directly into your mouth! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Pancakes Pleeeease!

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Pancakes are about as close as I get to “baking” and lets face it eating pancakes for a meal is like skipping the actual meal and jumping right into dessert. And I do so happily 🙂

I like to make weekend pancakes when I am in the mood and sometimes you could even find me making pancakes for dinner during the week. Yep that’s right…PANCAKES FOR DINNER! No need to feel sorry for my kids any longer 😉

For many years prior to my food evolution, I am completely guilty of buying the bags of pancake mix and just adding water or worse yet, cow’s milk. But I have forgiven myself because as Maya Angelo says ” When you know better, you do better”.  And what I know now is that making my own pancakes from scratch is just as easy and allows me the benefit of knowing exactly what goes into the them.

No two batters are ever the same at my house. Sometimes I use only white flour (when I am feeling really good and by “good” I mean bad) and other times it might have fresh fruit stirred in.

GF Apple & Pecan Pancakes *add 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. chopped pecans and 1-2 chopped apples

GF Apple & Pecan Pancakes
*add 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. chopped pecans and 1-2 chopped apples

And as a super-duper treat, according to my son, I like to add 1/4 cup of  beet powder into the mix to create pink pancakes. Beet powder is a fantastic natural food dye that can be added to any baked item with only a mild flavour change and a HUGE nutritional benefit.

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At the heart of any pancake recipe is the flour. Which flour is best? I don’t think there is one answer to that question. We are fortunate enough to live in a time that allows us access to many, many flours. Everything from whole wheat flour to quinoa flour. Brown rice flour to chickpea flour. Spelt flour to tapioca flour. The list goes on and on. Not that any of these are “new” they just have not always been as accessible. The reality is that most of us can benefit from avoiding gluten and when you prepare your own batters or baked goods you have the ability to play around with the flour combinations. In this pancake recipe the flours can be substituted depending on your dietary needs or just for the fun of it! I find that rice flour seems to be less absorbent of the liquids so the batter tends to be a bit thinner and therefore creates thinner pancakes. White pastry flour creates the fluffiest of pancakes (see the Coconut Banana Pancakes below) and the tapioca flour is essential in getting a beautiful crispy edge to the pancakes. I would recommend to always include the 1/2 cup tapioca flour and feel free to experiment with the remaining 2 cups of flour needed.

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Whatever your preference I hope that this recipe inspires you to avoid the store-bought pancake mixes and get in the kitchen on a Saturday morning to make your pancakes the old-fashioned way…from scratch 🙂

Coconut Banana Pancakes * add 1/4 c. coconut water powder (or use coconut milk instead of soy milk) and 1 tsp. coconut extract to the batter. Finish with sliced bananas and dried coconut

Coconut Banana Pancakes
* add 1/4 c. coconut water powder (or use coconut milk instead of soy milk) and 1 tsp. coconut extract (instead of vanilla extract) to the batter. Finish with sliced bananas and dried coconut

Ultimate Pancake Mix

Gluten-free version in red

Serves: Approx. 6 people

Dry Ingredients

1/2 c. tapioca flour  1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix

1 c. rice flour   1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 c. whole wheat flour  1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 tbsp baking powder, aluminum- free

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

Wet Ingredients

2 1/2 c. soy milk  3 cups soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp non-diary butter ( I use Earth Balance), melted

1 flax “egg” (1 tbsp flax meal, add 2 tbsp of water, stir and let sit for 5 mins)

3 droppers of Stevia

2 tbsp maple syrup

  • add apple cider vinegar to soy milk in large liquid measuring cup ( I use a 4 cup) and set aside for 5 mins, this will create a “buttermilk” type effect
  • combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • add remaining wet ingredients into soy milk mixture and stir
  • pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and combine until everything is incorporated. A few lumps are okay.
  • heat a large frying pan and add coconut butter before adding the batter. Cook on one side until air pockets are visible and then flip…you can figure out the rest! Serve with the finest maple syrup you got. Enjoy.

Coconut Curry Bisque with Mushrooms

So life has resorted back to its new normal and I am happily working away in the kitchen again this week.

Although I must say that I definitely have a case of “Island Brain”  that I am hoping will stick around for a bit longer. I find myself daydreaming of the beach and genuinely not caring about how much gets accomplished each day 🙂

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One of the best things that came home with me from Vancouver Island was two bigs bags of mushrooms. Now, I know what you are thinking……….”It’s not even Chanterelle season yet!!!” And you’re right but I still managed to get a good supply of BC dried Chanterelles  and that is good enough for me. I also scored some sweet Morels that I have not decided what to do with just yet.

I knew I wanted to put these beautiful french fungi into a soup and so this next recipe is perfect for highlighting their unique flavour.  So if you are fortunate enough to live in an area where Chanterelle can be purchased (or picked) then I would recommend you make the investment. They take your taste buds to a whole other level! However, you can easily substitute any variety of mushroom that you may have available to you.

Plus any excuse to cook with mushrooms makes my son excited to be in the kitchen and chop…

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Lets talk coconut oil for a minute. In recent years people have slowly been introduced to the health benefits of cooking with this oil as opposed to vegetable or even olive oil.  Sometimes the information can be confusing for people and generally when someone hears saturated fat they run in the other direction. Coconut oil is a different variety of fat than most saturated fats. First of all its an extremely stable oil which makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures for long periods of time. Others oils have less structural stability and will oxidize when exposed to heat or light and become rancid. Consuming rancid oils adds more toxic load to your body. Secondly, coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) whereas the most saturated fats are long-chain triglycerides and the liver is able to convert MCT’s into energy quickly and effectively. Providing all kinds of health benefits for you! I would encourage you to read this article by Dr. Mercola if you are interested in more information on cooking with coconut oil http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/coconut-oil-benefits_b_821453.html or just go ahead and buy yourself a tub of coconut oil and starting using it 😉

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The combination of coconut oil, coconut milk, curry and mushrooms make this one of my all-time favorite soups. It is a meal onto itself but adding a little bread never hurts. It is also great for freezing so if you want to double up on the recipe and save it for another time, that works too.

I hope you are enjoying your first weekend of August. Where I live it doesn’t get much better than this; the sun is out, my garden is  grown in and colourful, and heavy jackets and gloves are still securely tucked away 😉 OH and did I mention that I have a bag of Morels?! Therein lies my gratitude for this week.

See you next weekend.

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Coconut Curry Bisque with Mushrooms

Prep Time: Approx. 30 mins

Serves: 4-6 people

Ingredients

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 large onion, chopped small

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

2 large carrots, chopped small

2 celery stalks, chopped small

4-5 cups of fresh mushrooms (or a combination of reconstituted dried mushrooms & fresh) I like to use a variety of mushrooms in this soup. Chanterelles truly are so delicious in this bisque but I also added cremini, oyster and a few portobellos

2 mushroom bouillon cubes

2 tbsp red curry paste

2 cups of water

1- 14oz can of coconut milk

1 lemongrass stalk or 2 tsp dried lemongrass put in a cheesecloth pouch so that it may be removed when bisque is finished

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp Truffle salt (or plain sea salt if you don’t have truffle salt)

  • Heat coconut oil in a heavy-bottom large pot.  Add onions and cook until they are opaque, 5-7 mins. Then carrots, mushrooms, garlic, ginger and celery and cook for about 7-10mins or until they start to brown slightly.

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  • Crumble in the mushroom bouillons and add the curry paste. Stir and cook for 2 mins.
  • Next add the water, coconut milk, lemongrass and fresh lime juice. Simmer on a medium heat for about 15-20 mins. Stirring and tasting occasionally to ensure you have the correct amount of salt. I like to add a bit of truffle salt at the end to enhance the soup but you  may not need any additional salt. If you used dried lemongrass then be sure to remove the pouch now before serving.

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