Cheezy Mexican Noodles

Well HELLO!

One of the hardest things to do since I have eliminated dairy from my household is not making a huge pot of cheesy noodles for the kids when I need dinner quick. It was the one dish that I knew the kids would devour without hesitation. I have tried other non-diary recipes to replace the “traditional”….ahem…boxed version, and the kids weren’t having it 😦

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This recipe has been a work in progress for several months. I have tweaked it several times until it received their stamp of approval. I finally knew that I had it when on a Friday night in January, three 12 years old girls (all of whom think food with the words gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan in it, is not really food) sat down at my dinner table and happily finished their entire bowls of Cheezy Mexican Noodles. It was like a belated Christmas present!!!

I love this sauce so much that I could probably drink it out of a cup. It’s velvety, salty and spicy…

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Poured over a pot of brown rice noodles and tossed with some black beans and yams makes it a complete meal. However, if you are in a hurry then noodles and sauce works just fine.

It might just be a delightful coincidence that after weeks of trying to get this recipe on my blog that I am also heading to Mexico for some fun in the sun this week…or perhaps its just the universal aligning 🙂

Either way, life is good!

Ola amigos

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Cheezy Mexican Noodles

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

Sauce:

3 tbsp non-dairy butter, I use soy-free Earth Balance

1 cup Daiya Mozzarella-style shreds

1 cup non-dairy milk (almond or flax works)

1/8 cup nutritional yeast

2/3 cup cashew cream

2 tsp Herbamare, or sea salt if you don’t yet have Herbamare

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 small jalepeno, finely diced

Other ingredients:

1- 16 oz bag of brown rice noodles, cooked as per directions

1- 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes and baked for approx. 20 mins

a handful of cilantro, chopped

1 ripe avocado, sliced

  • in a medium sauce pan melt the butter and then add the Daiya until melted and smooth
  • stir in the milk, nutritional yeast, cashew cream and spices and then set aside
  • in a large pot combine all the remaining ingredients with the sauce and serve immediately, saving the avocado to garnish on the top

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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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Protein Pizza

So I hope you all enjoyed your short week last week, because honestly it messed me UP!

I spent most of the week thinking it was the day prior.

My inner dialogue sounded something like this…”Oh shoot I cannot do that on Tuesday cause I have that thing, oh, actually, hold on a second, it’s Wednesday never mind. Oh crap! It’s Wednesday I am supposed to be at that other thing :/”

So here in lies the reason that I am sending out my blog post on Monday instead of my usual Sunday. I really hope this does not mess you up for the rest of the week 😉

Thankfully in the kitchen I don’t adhere to any weekly food schedules, you know like Taco Tuesdays.  So throwing together meals was just as wonderfully spontaneous as most weeks are. I started last week with an idea that I couldn’t let go of and that was that my kids are not getting enough protein. Not that I am jumping on the “protein bandwagon” because as a mostly vegan adult I have no concerns about getting enough protein. My kids however are another story. If you let them, kids will very quickly (and without warning) jump into a “food rut”.  Sticking with what they know, or like, can somehow turn into a less than colorful plate…Brown rice pasta with butter or cheese pizza (both non-dairy, of course)…neither of which carry alot of protein!

Well, until now  🙂

I am a huge lover of beans. I could eat them at every meal and usually try to sneak them in to a few dishes throughout the week. But more often than not, I find them carefully removed and resting on the side of my kids plates 😦 My heart breaks a little each time.

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On Tuesday this week I was whipping up a homemade pizza sauce for dinner and a tiny little light bulb went off in my head. Why not hide the beans in the sauce? Brilliant! (my inner dialogue said) I had some fresh white beans in the fridge so I threw them right into the food processor with the rest of the sauce. Could it really be that easy? I felt a little like Jessica Seinfeld 🙂

Up until this point no one is aware of any of my deceptive behaviours and watching them inhale their pizza was enough to make me smile. Because the sauce wasn’t the only thing that I “rigged” with protein 😉 I also substituted some of the white flour with quinoa flour and it was completely undetectable.

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This sauce is also great as a pasta sauce or shoved into a quesadilla

But don’t be fooled by the veggie pizza pictures…those were for me. The kids still want their “cheese” pizza, but at least I know that I have controlled the amount of sugar, salt and protein that they are eating with this homemade pizza sauce. And that is a small victory that I feel good about 🙂

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Have a great week!

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Protein Pizza Sauce

1- 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1-14oz can navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp sugar

2 cloves roasted garlic

1 tsp sriracha (optional)

  • Add all ingredients into a food processor and combine until smooth

Protein Pizza Dough

Prep time: about 1 hour

2 cups warm water

1 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups organic unbleached white pastry flour

1 cup quinoa flour

  • Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees for 10 mins and turn it off.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar and let sit until the mixture begins to bubble, about 5-10 mins.
  • Add the salt and olive oil to the mixture. Slowly add the pastry flour. When the dough starts to thicken, use your hands to mix in the quinoa flour and knead until smooth. Place the dough in a large oven-safe bowl that has been lightly oiled and cover with plastic. Set the dough inside the oven until it has doubled in size , about an hour.
  • When the dough has expanded, place a floured flat surface and roll out the dough.

From here, the sky is the limit with whatever toppings you enjoy most! On this pizza I have added grilled zucchinis, chopped orange bell peppers, steamed asparagus ribbons and finished with Herb de Provence cashew nut cheese.

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Autumn Chili

Hello foodie friends 🙂

I intended on posting this recipe last week while it was still technically September soups month here on Fig and Basil, but somehow the weekend got away from me 😦 I feel a sense of guilt when I have been away from writing for too long. Not that I assume you are all fading away to nothing from lack of food inspiration but I trust that you at the very least look forward to them!

And if I could place blame for a moment, I would have two words…Breaking. Bad.

I finally caught up with the rest of the planet and began binging in this series. I am hooked and only half way through Season 4 (so nobody tell me what happens ;)) At this point I am convinced that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are merely characters played by Walt and Jess to throw us off their real identities! But there is no need to indulge in my crazy

Fall is definitely here and surrounding us all with change. Change in the air, change in the trees, change in our clothes and if your immunity health has also changed (for the worse) then you are not alone. Almost everyone I come into contact with these days is getting a cold, in the midst of a cold or just getting over a damn cold.  The writing is on the wall, this time of year it is so crucial to take care of your health!

Besides getting a regular 7-9 hours of sleep every night and drinking a tonne of clean, filtered water, the single most important thing is your diet. So lets focus on what is beneficial to our immune systems.  It’s quite simple really, you cannot get enough of seasonal fruits and veggies this time of year.  And Mother Nature is no dummy! It is no coincidence that it’s harvest time for most fruits and veggies. Apples, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, beans, kale, pears…everything your body needs is being provided exactly at the right time. But lets not confuse the pumpkin spice latte as a seasonal necessity 😉

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Chili is definitely a recipe that has been around the block a few times. Everyone has their version and it has been tweaked a thousand times. Therefore I am not trying to reinvent the wheel but perhaps provide you with an inspiration to add another ingredient to a well-loved dish. Acorn squash is a perfect pairing for chili and provides a huge boost of nutritional benefits. This winter squash not only has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-regulating properties but for this time of year it is an awesome source of Vitamin C.  And as an added bonus acorn squash is a great source of fibre and low in calories.

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I couldn’t make this next recipe more autumn-ish if I tried 🙂

The colours and the ingredients scream FALL!!!

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Autumn Chili w/acorn squash

Prep time: 45 mins

Serves: approx. half of the Breaking Bad cast (6-8 badasses)

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 med yellow onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or grated

3 portobello mushrooms, chopped

15-20 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tbsp dried thyme

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces

2- 28oz cans of high-quality tomatoes (I use one crushed tom and one whole peeled tom but use whatever combo you like)

1- 28oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1-14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 whole cinnamon stick

1/8 cup raw sugar

2 avocados, peeled and cubed

handful of fresh cilantro for garnish

  • heat olive oil on medium heat in your best soup pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 3-5 mins.
Quick Tip: using a microplane to mince the garlic is super fast and easy

Quick Tip: using a microplane to mince the garlic is super fast and easy

  • add in the mushrooms and cook for another 5 mins. Toss in thyme, cumin and chili powder and stir.
  • add squash, stir and cook for about 3-5 mins.
  • finally add in the remaining ingredients (except for avocado and cilantro) plus using one of the tomato cans add a half a can of fresh clean water. Turn up temperature to med-high until you get a gentle boil. Place on lid, lower heat down to med-low and cook for about 15 mins. Remove cinnamon stick and season with sea salt and pepper.
  • Serve in bread bowls and finish with fresh chopped avocado and cilantro.

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Indian Dahl Stew

Looking back at my blog posts I am shocked that I have yet to post an East Indian inspired recipe! I mean, how is that even possible really!?!

Indian dishes are some of my all-time favourite meals. I love all the spices and veggies and pulses and coconut milks and…holy moly I think I might be drooling 🙂

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With September Sexy Soups still going strong I am grateful for the abundance of fresh vegetables we have available at this time of year. Summer squash and root vegetables make me wanna stock up on chopped wood and sterilize mason jars for canning…FYI, I don’t do either of those, I’m just saying I get an ERG 🙂

This week I hosted a small Indian Feast for my friends. I worked all morning prepping my dahl, chopping veggies and baking naan (and by baking I mean re-heating) so come dinner time I could sit back and enjoy without the last minute rush that usually comes along  with hosting a dinner.

This stew is simple and straight forward. Not alot of messing around. Throw everything into a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven and slowly cook all the flavours until your guests have arrived and the wine is open.

Split peas are a great low-fat source of protein and are high in fibre. They are dried peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas and either color can be used to make this dahl stew.

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I like to serve this with a few other Indian inspired dishes like coconut jasmine rice (simply use coconut water instead of regular water to cook the rice), samosas and naan bread.  Oh and loads of cilantro! This dahl is even better the next day so make the full size batch of my recipe below and you will have plenty for lunches or late night snackin’…not that I do that 😉

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Indian Dahl Stew

Prep Time: 50 mins

Serves: a small village

Ingredients:

2 cups split yellow peas, uncooked

6 cups vegetable broth

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 med onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 cups veggies, chopped (carrots, zucchini, eggplant)

2 inch grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp tumeric

2 tsp mustard podwer

1 tsp cumin

2 -14oz cans diced tomatoes

1- 14oz can coconut milk

1 dropper of stevia

2 tsp Herbamare (or sea salt)

2 tsp sriracha (optional, add more or less depending on your heat preference)

A whole bunch of chopped cilantro

  • In a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven add 4 cups of broth and split peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 mins.
  • Meanwhile, in a large frying pan heat coconut oil and sauté onions and garlic for about 5-7 mins. Toss in chopped veggies and cook them for another 10 mins or so.
  • combine veggies with split peas in large pot. Add remaining ingredients (except for cilantro) including 2 more cups of vegetable broth.

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  • Simmer on medium-low heat for approx. 25 mins
  • Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately with your favourite Indian East side dishes

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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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Spicy Paella Soup

I cannot even express how appreciative I am of all the new foodies I have been introduced to through Vegan MoFo over the past week. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many people from all parts of the world, share in the love of plant-based food. It not only feels like a celebration of vegan food but also a movement! So lets keep it going 🙂

In the past I have been vocal about my deep-rooted love of Spain and I thought it was time to revisit that intriguing part of the world (if only through our taste buds) for this weeks Sexy September Soups!

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Where I live the summer weather is still very much here but there are also a few rainy days in the forecast and a spicy bowl of Spanish goodness makes for a perfect meal. Tucked into your favorite chair with a blanket and a good book while the season changes around you, this soup works for a slow lunch or a relaxing dinner…or both, like a did yesterday 🙂

Choosing a vegan lifestyle is never about focusing on what you “cannot” eat but more about exploring all of the incredible foods that you have to choose from. It is also about compassion for others and making decisions to not put your own temporary satisfaction above others discomfort. Funnily enough, this week I found myself extending those beliefs into other parts of my life. It seems to me that when you align all parts of your life then what you eat, or who you love, or what you wear all become the same expression of who you are.  So I guess I’m feeling  spicy this week because I made my Spicy Paella Soup very hot, adding way more sriracha than my recipe called for 😉

Tomatoes are to be celebrated this time of year so nothing is better than a tomato-based soup. Seasonal ingredients just feel good for the soul. This soup is a perfect example of all the delicious foods that are available this time of year and all the wonderful choices that are available when you choose a plant-based diet.

Hasta pronto amigos 🙂

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Spicy Paella Soup

Serves 4-6 amigos

Prep Time: Approx 45 mins

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 small zucchini, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

2- 14 oz cans of high-quality diced tomatoes

4 cups mushroom (or vegetable stock)

1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 tbsp ground up sea vegetables (I use a combo of nori & dulse pulsed in a small food processor)

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup frozen peas

4 artichoke hearts, cut into quarters (for this recipe I use artichokes from a jar)

2 tsp sriracha (optional for added heat)

Salt & Pepper to taste

2-3 cups of Lemon Saffron Rice (see recipe below)

  • Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and add onions. Cook for approx. 7-10 mins until onions are slightly brown. Add garlic, zucchini and red pepper to pan and cook for another 10-12 mins.
  • Add in tomatoes, mushroom stock, paprika, sea veggies, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  • Reduce heat and add the frozen peas and artichokes. Simmer for 10 mins.

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  • Remove from heat and serve with Lemon Saffron Rice.

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Lemon Saffron Rice

Ingredients:

2 cups jasmine rice

2 cups vegetable stock

2-4 pieces of dried porcini mushrooms

1 tsp saffron threads

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook rice according to instructions using vegetable stock instead of water. Add the mushrooms and saffron into the stock prior to cooking
  • When rice is cooked, toss in the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside.

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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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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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Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” 
― Julia Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mushroom & Asparagus Quinoa Risotto

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

Prep Time: Approx. 40 mins

Ingredients:

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

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

1″ chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

1 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp dried chili flakes

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

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

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups of quinoa, rinsed and drained

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

2 tbsp Earth Balance

Truffle salt (optional)

Methodology:

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

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

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

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

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