Creamy Coconut Lentils

Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

I will make this short and sweet…thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you for making my dream/goal of running my very own food blog a successful reality in 2013. I appreciate your support and encouragement so much. It’s a beautiful thing when you have an idea and it comes to life!

I am pretty sure 2013 had been my most eventful year of my life. Lots of ups (a few lows) and I am grateful for all of it. This blog has definitely been like a journal for me. A journal through food and photography 😉

My favourite dish combination has to be rice and beans…or PULSE and beans, if you will. I probably have a dozen variations that I make continuously and yet somehow my brain always think they are different. It is no surprise that dishes like this have been eaten globally for tens of thousands of years. It just works. Every time.

Wait…I may have just decided on a theme for my first cookbook 😉

“101 Ways to make Rice and Beans” or “Pulsating Beans”…a work in progress!

It is a meal in itself with only a few ingredients needed. In fact this particular recipe only requires about 4 ingredients plus a few spices.  And on these cold winter nights nothing satisfies they way this hearty dish can.

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For a slight variation it is fantastic with baked zucchini (I simply cut the zucchini lengthwise and bake at 350 for about 20 min with a little olive oil and sea salt)…yum!

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I hope and trust that the close of the past year is joyous and reflective for all of you!

Here’s to 2014 and all of the wonderful food possibilities.

Cheers.

Creamy Coconut Lentils

Serves 4-6

Prep Time 20-25 mins

Ingredients

4 cups cooked coconut jasmine rice (cook as per instructions using coconut water instead of regular water and then finish with 2 tbsp coconut oil once fully cooked)

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups of dry red lentils

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1 tsp tumeric

1- 400 ml can of coconut milk

sea salt to taste

handful of chopped cilantro

2 tbsp sriracha (optional)

  • Bring vegetable broth and lentils to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Then reduce heat to low and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Approx. 15 mins
  • Add garlic powder, cumin, coriander, tumeric and salt. Stir to combine and then add coconut milk. Heat for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Scoop creamy lentils over the coconut rice and finish with sriracha and cilantro. Easy peasy!

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Creamy Potato & Bacon Soup

When I was a kid growing up on farm in Ontario our meals consisted mostly of things that we grew, raised or got for free from other farmers. If my memory serves me correctly, there was not a day that went by that I did not have to peel potatoes. Potatoes worked for breakfast, lunch or dinner, they were cheap and we had ALOT of them. I used to think it was a form of torture to get your child to peel that many potatoes. Fried, baked, boiled or mashed I learned how to do anything with a potato. Back then I swore to myself that I would never, ever, ever eat potatoes as an adult and I would certainly never make my kids peel them!

(Okay so I was a bit dramatic!)

Flash forward 30 years and I still eat potatoes often…but truth be told I look for every opportunity to not have to peel a potato.

Potatoes are rich in nutrients, low in sodium, low in calories and negligible in fats. These amazing tubers are approximately 2/3 starch carbohydrate and about 10% protein. They have good amounts of Vitamin C and B’s and high in potassium. And lets not forget how easy they are to grow yourself. In my veg garden the potatoes take the least amount of maintenance and are extremely hardy. This year I planted a variety of red potatoes and harvest time has come just in time for this recipe 🙂

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If my dad was still around I have no doubts that he would have loved this soup. Creamy, full of potatoes and all of the addicting flavours of traditional bacon. My dad loved bacon but unfortunately probably a little too much 😦  Admittedly, this particular “food group” was a hard one for me to let of when I initially eliminated animals from my diet. So when I started to read the blogging buzz around coconut bacon a few months back I was so excited. Could this really work? I was skeptical but eager to find out for myself.

Side note: If you stumbled upon this recipe thinking that I would actually use real bacon then I am sorry to disappoint. No pigs were used in the making of this soup!…not even to peel the potatoes 😦

Needless to say I discovered that Coconut Bacon was amazing. Its crispy and salty and delicious. What more could a vegan girl ask for?  It is super easy to make and requires only a little bit of patience (for the soak time) so no reason not to try this for yourself…

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Coconut Bacon

3 cups unsweetened large flake coconut

1/4 gluten-free soy sauce (or you can substitue soy-free Coconut Aminos…duh! coconut and coconut aminos are just brothers from anotha mother…or sisters from different misters :))

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp liquid smoke

3 tbsp water

2 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

black pepper

  • Mix together all the ingredients (except the coconut) either in a small food processor or a handheld emulsifier.
  • Put your coconut in a closable container. Pour over the marinade and gently toss to make sure every piece has marinade on it. Then put on lid and store in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees C.
  • Spread coconut flakes with the marinade over a large cookie sheet. Bake for approx 20-25 mins. Make sure to remove the bacon after 10 mins and give it a stir as the edges with cook faster. Since every oven is different its important to keep an eye on your bacon and consider removing it from the oven anytime after 17 or 18 mins. It doesn’t need to be crispy at the time it is cooked as it crisps up as it cools down.
  • Allow it to cool completely before storing. This will keep in the fridge for a very long time.

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As September seems to have settled in nicely, potatoes and bacon just feels like the perfect comfort food. As I sit and eat a hearty bowl of this soup I am reminded of my dad, of my childhood and how much I love potatoes!…even if I have to peel them 😉

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Creamy Potato & Bacon Soup

Serves 6-8

Prep Time: 50 mins

Ingredients

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tarragon

6 cups of vegetable stock

5-7 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 cup of Coconut Bacon (see recipe above)

  • Using your favorite soup pot, heat the oil on med-high heat and add the leeks. Cook for 3-4 mins and then add the garlic. Cook another minute and toss in the tarragon. Heat and stir for another minute.
  • Add the white potatoes and stir to coat with oil. Sautee for about 3-5 mins. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for about 2 mins.
  • Pour in the stock, add the bay leaves and liquid smoke. Allow the soup to a slow boil and then reduce to a low temp. Simmer at this temp for about 20 mins.
  • Turn off heat, remove bay leaves and let sit for 5 mins. Take approx. 1/3 of the soup and add to a blender. Puree and pour back into soup. Stir to incorporate.
  • Serve immediately with a generous portion of Coconut Bacon. This soup makes a great leftover, but be sure to leave the coconut bacon on the side until you are ready to eat as it gets soggy if left in the soup.

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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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