In Love With Garlic, Soup

Happy Labour Day everyone! Plus an extra special Happy Birthday to my lovely mom and sister-in-law Lolly (who’s mothers took this day quite literally apparently ;))

What a difference a week can make!

Last week I was dealing with some tough stuff and drowning my sorrows in Mushroom Alfredo (which you all seem to really enjoy…the recipe I mean, not my sorrows). However this week my world feels lighter and brighter thanks in large part to my fantastic girlfriends, a short camping trip in the great outdoors and an unpredictably fun night out in Canmore.

Everything passes, the good and the bad. We are officially out of August and fall is just around the corner. There plenty of good things heading our way: harvesting the garden, changing of the leaves, boots & scarves, and most importantly the kids are back in school!!! (insert your own happy dance here). 

And along with all of that comes a change in the kitchen. Maybe you have more time to prep dinner or more than likely you have less time to prep dinner. Either way this time of the year somehow brings this weird juxtaposition of change and stability. The best way to transition through September in the kitchen is one-pot meals and when I think one-pot meals, I think soup.

September happens to be Vegan MoFo and I am excited to be apart of it this year. If you are not familiar with it then be sure to checkout www.veganmofo.com There are some amazing food bloggers creating some incredible food and this platform helps unite everyone.

My theme for September is SEXY SEPTEMBER SOUPS. That’s right, I said sexy.

Spicy, velvety, sweet, seasonal…all things that just sound sexy in my culinary mind.

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First up is the marriage of two things I love most this time of year- garlic and soup.

With only a few ingredients, minimal chopping and no need to hang over the stove, there is no reason you cannot whip this soup out on a weekday after work (and before the ten other things you are committed to doing).

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Finally lets not forget the most obvious reason to indulge in this soup- cold season! With the kids back in school viruses become inevitable and garlic is one of the most powerful immune boosters. If you cannot get this soup into your kids then at least do it for yourself. The only thing worse than a coughing, runny-nosed child is a coughing, runny-nosed adult. Gross.

So on that note, here is the first of four Sexy September Soups 😉

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In Love With Garlic, Soup

Prep Time: 1 hour

Serves approx 4-6 people

Ingredients

2 heads of garlic, with tops cut off

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 cups of vegetable stock, preferably homemade

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp Harissa

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle garlic heads with olive oil. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and roast until tender, about 30-35 mins. Let cool, then squeeze cloves from papery skin.
  • Bring stock, potatoes, bay leaves and roasted garlic to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 mins. Remove from heat and pick out the bay leaves.
  • Let cool slightly. Working in batches. puree in a blender until smooth (don’t fill blender more than half way so that it does not explode). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a small scoop of Harissa and your fav rustic bread.

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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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Eating…Vacation-style!

Greetings from Tofino!

I feel like this is more of a postcard than a blog post but lets just run with it 😉

We have been here almost two weeks and life is darn good on this side of the our beautiful country. The weather has been slowly improving however I am just about done with having to suit up 2 kids in wetsuits (somehow they miraculously turn into jellyfish when I try to push through their limbs…arghhh). However any complaints out here is better than a great day elsewhere!

I have had alot of free time in the evenings to indulge in fun things (other than being in the kitchen) and I love to share things that I think are awesome! I finished this book, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, you must read. I finished the entire season of Netflix’s newest show Orange Is The New Black, you must watch…but be advised this is not for minors…or prudes 🙂 I also discovered one of the most fantastic food blogs EVER, Thug Kitchen www.thugkitchen.com…you must check it out. Again not for children since every post is laced with “bad” words but totally hilarious and full of great information.

For this trip we have been staying at a house on Chesterman Beach and the kitchen set up is pretty fantastic considering I have slightly high standards in that department.  I realized that I really enjoy stocking up a new kitchen, determining the essentials and then creating dishes from the basics.  Every morning I bike into the closest market and pick up a few fresh items like avocados or cilantro for the days meals.  It’s a way of life I could get used too 🙂

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Most mornings have started with the most amazing bread ever, from 600 Degree Bakery, along with avocado slices and a flax milk tea latte. The kids are finding their own way around the kitchen and grabbing fruit or raisin toast for breakfast when they are ready. We seem to be splitting our time between the ocean and our new favorite hot spot, Kennedy Lake.  So packing beach lunches into a mini cooler has become a routine this past week.  I have been making everything from smoked tofu rice wraps, tortillas stuffed with avocado, rice and hummus to carrot & apple coleslaw with chick peas.

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Thanks to the wonderful world of Pinterest I have stumbled upon a super easy and tasty substitution for pasta that I have made for dinner a few times. Sweet potato “noodles” are quicker to make than regular noodles, are totally gluten-free and look WAY prettier 😉 The cooking instructions are simple: using a vegetable peeler (or a julienne peeler of you have one handy) peel sweet potato, heat a small amount of oil/butter in a large frying pan (I used Earth Balance), toss the potato and some sea salt into the pan and sauté for approximately 5-10 mins depending on the thickness of your sweet potato pieces.  Done.  You can eat just as it is (which is the way the kids prefer) or add a tomato sauce. You’re welcome!

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But I do not want to mislead you to think that I have been making ALL of our food on my vacation! We have been eating out plenty…more than we ever do in our regular life. My new favorite eating spot in Tofino, Sobo. I have read numerous article about their delicious approach to sophisticated flavours in a very laid back setting and as it turns out everything I read was true!  Their lentil burger with kale chips was out of this world good and the polenta fries were inspiring. My favorite dish so far  is the Cold Noodle salad which is a combination of Soba noodle, peanut Thai dressing, fresh veggies and a gorgeous greens blend that they refer to as the “Nanoose Edibles”. But an honourable mention to their Tofu pockets with Shiitake  mushrooms. Yum!

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The things coming out of their kitchen should be available to everyone, in any city, and any country. Local, seasonal, whole foods converted into delicious combinations by clearly talented people…what a clever idea!

I can’t forget to mention another new obsession here in Tofino and that is the newly opened juice and smoothie joint, The Juicery. Located just steps away from the Tacofino truck, The Juicery offers amazing fruit and veggie juices and totally delicious smoothies. The bonus is the options. You can substitute coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or add Vega One protein powder, spirulina or even bee pollen. If you are here then you need to pay them a visit.

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So as my love affair with Tofino continues, I shall be heading home this week to the one place I love more than anywhere…my kitchen!

See you next week.

Emily

Portobello Tacos

I hope you all are enjoying this lazy July weekend!

I am completely guilty of being 100% submerged into summertime and this may have created a bit of a writer’s block!?!  With the kids being out of school and no real routine in place, it’s a free-for-all around here. These days I am usually torn between working in my garden, creating recipes in my kitchen, food photo sessions for my Instagram account (yes, I actually do that), the kids and their social life or keeping myself moving either on my bike or at the gym…Tough life I know!

But the reality is that alot of changes have occurred over the last month leaving me to fall behind on some of my responsibilities and  I feel somewhat out of balance. Not in a “Help me I am drowning!!!” kind of way. More like a “Oh!…did I forget to do that?” kind of way 🙂  But lucky for me, I am not in a huge hurry to get myself back to balance just yet so I will continue to be aware of the imbalance for now. And when it comes to this blog, it is never far from the front of my brain. I am always creating and thinking of things to share with you all.

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Over the past two weeks all of my meals have been about using what I have at hand, to avoid more visits to the grocery store, while still pulling together delicious and simple dishes. This recipe could definitely fit into the “Simple Summer” category. I think I have made this 3 times over the past two weeks and everyone loves it. And when everyone loves it, then I know its worth sharing. The clean, whole foods and light flavours make this perfect for this time of year.

I also have been experimenting with my hummus recently…and I have discovered that the possibilities are endless! In this photo session for the Portobello Tacos I was using a Radish & Cilantro hummus combo which paired really well with the radish greens I used in the tacos. Another great one was this Cilantro & Lime Hummus that I paired with some leftover steamed purple cauliflower (pulsed in the food processor before folding into the hummus). It is packed full of amazing nutrients and the only thing anyone cares about is how great it tastes 🙂

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A trick that I learned a long time ago was to prep caramelized onions when I have a bit of time so that they are quick to use whenever a recipe calls for it. The sweet and savoury onions are one of my favourites and can be used in just about anything. Just this morning I added them to my avocado toast for breakfast. But it’s important not to rush the cooking process of the onions to fully bring out their natural sweetness. So try to prep these when you have a good 45 mins to watch over them and give an occasional stir. I like to use red onions but really any onion gives great flavour. You can cook them down with olive oil, coconut oil or Earth Balance with a good amount of sea salt. Cooking a large batch allows you to have extra for pizzas, sandwiches or salads.

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This week we are heading on our summer vacation on the West Coast. As always, I try to rent places that have great kitchens so that I can continue to prepare most of our meals (I have been known to pack important kitchen utensils and spices in my luggage to bring on family vacations). Being away from a cutting board is never a vacation for me! I am fortunate enough to be able to return to Tofino, BC for a few weeks to explore and relax with the kids. I am looking forward to trying a couple of new restaurants (well, new to me) and utilizing all of their amazing local produce for my own creations. I hope to be able to share some of this with you while I am out there.

Before we know it the summer will be just another passing season and complaining about the cold weather will be part of our regular conversation again. So I hope that you are enjoying the perfect imbalance that comes with this time of year and that you are still finding joy in your kitchen!

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Portobello Tacos

Prep Time: 30 mins or less (if you have the caramelized onions pre-prepped)

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

8-10, 6″ corn tortillas

1 cup of hummus, homemade with your favourite flavours is the best option

1 cup caramelized red onions

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for tortillas shells

1 tsp truffle salt, optional

3 portobello mushrooms, gills removed and cut into 1/4″ slices

2 avocados, pitted and sliced

6-10 cheery tomatos, sliced in half

a handfull of greens, ie. radish greens, micro mixed greens

a small bunch of cilantro, chopped

your favourite hot sauce, optional

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place mushrooms slices into pan and sprinkle each piece with truffle salt or regular sea salt. Cook about 5-7 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

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  • Pre-heat outdoor BBQ to a medium heat. Drizzle olive oil onto large plate and with your hands lightly coat each side of the tortilla with the olive oil.
  • Add tortillas to grill and grill for approx. 3 minutes each side. Watch carefully as each grill is different and the “hot spots” on your grill will cook some of them faster than others. Remove and immediately fold them in half to shape them before they cool and harden.
  • Lay out your buffet of tacos toppings and allow each guest to make their own version of Portobello taco. Serve with a side of hot sauce for those you like it a little spicier.

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  • For added enjoyment be sure to be sitting outside on a patio with a cold Corona close by 😉

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. 

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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

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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.

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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!!!

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Panzanella Salad w/tofu feta

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

Serves: 4 people, as a main meal

Ingredients

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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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;

Ingredients

  • 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.

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

ボナペティ
Bonapeti
Avocado Sushi Bowl
Serves: 4-6 people
Prep Time: 30 mins
Ingredients:
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
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  • Toss all ingredients, except the rice, into a large bowl and combine. Set aside until you are ready.

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  • 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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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  • Pulse until thoroughly mixed together but not entirely smooth

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

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  • 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)

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  • 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!

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