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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Family-Style Grilled Veggies

Simple Summer Recipes- Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian Inspired Mayo

1/2 cup Veganaise or your mayo of choice

2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tbsp tahini paste

Spicy Hummus

1 cup hummus *homemade preferably

1/2 tsp red curry paste

1 tsp harissa

juice of 1/2 lime

Lastly, I wanted to fill all of you in on some really exciting news…I have been brought on a Social Media Correspondent for this years Tofino Food & Wine Festival taking place next weekend. For those of you that have been following me from the beginning you know that this is exactly where I had hoped this new path would lead me. I plan to journal all things food and wine through my Instagram account (@figbasil), posting photos on Twitter and on their Facebook page. Please show your support by “Liking” their Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Tofino-Food-and-Wine-Festival/165195280193148?fref=ts and this will allow to you to experience the festival from afar!

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

Taco Slawco

I have passed this simple concoction onto friends numerous times. I hear from friends that they want meatless options that are quick and simple enough that their kids will not question what is on their plate.  But even as adults there are days when making a “big deal” over dinner is not appealing. If this is you, then Taco Slawcos is the answer to your prayers!

During the week I find that there are days when I only have about 30 mins, at the most, to pull something together in the kitchen (and some days that includes eating time!). This is by far the quickest meal that I have in my repertoire. I find that if I make the bean mixture & coleslaw earlier in the day then I can have the tacos on the table in about 10 mins. You may think that coleslaw is a warm weather kind of side dish but combined with the warm black bean mash and melted cheese you can enjoy this really at anytime of the year.  And for me, this dish is all about the SLAW 🙂
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Coleslaw is a side dish that reminds me of being a kid. It was a rare “treat” (I use that word very loosely) when my parents would bring home the grease-soaked breaded chicken from you-know-who and for me the highlight was always that weird green coleslaw. I loved that stuff. I cringe to think what might actually be in that coleslaw (please, nobody tell me) but it started a curiosity to find and make the best variation that I could.  Now, don’t misunderstand me, my taste buds have changed enormously since I was 10 but I find comfort in these type of familiar foods.
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Cabbage is a nutritious, anticancer cruciferous vegetable that is low in fat and may even help reduce body fat levels (I’m not makin this up…I wouldn’t do that to you, that would be just mean!). It is rich in chlorophyll, folic acid and Vitamin C. Both the carrots and cabbage are especially good in that they contain selenium (a hard-to-find known antioxidant and anticancer nutrient). Needless the say the carrots are chalked full with Vitamin A, important for healthy skin, healing tissue and growth in our kids.
So load up on the slaw and feel free to make any variations that suite you or your family on this one. Its easy to play with or substitute according to what you have in your fridge. Is cumin not your thing? (I’m talking to you AD;-) Then substitute  chilli powder instead. Only have green cabbage? Not a big deal…go with just red cabbage. Kids not into coleslaw just yet? Then try adding in a leaf of shredded romaine to get them used to the crunch and eventually they will get there if they see you eating it.
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Okay well now I have to go….all this talk about tart, crispy and sweet coleslaw in making me hungry!
Taco Slawcos
Active time: 20 mins
Coleslaw
1 1/2 cups green cabbage, finely sliced
1 1/2 cups red cabbage, finely sliced
3 carrots, shredded
small bunch of cilantro, chopped coarsely
Coleslaw Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp unpasteurized honey or substitute Pomegranate molasses if you do not eat honey
1 tsp chili flakes
Juice of 1 lime
Zest of 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste
Combine dressing separately and then toss in with chopped ingredients. Although you can consume this coleslaw immediately (as I sometimes do 😉 ) it is best if you cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 30 mins. to get all the juices going.
Black Bean Mash
2 cans (398ml) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tbsp cumin
Salt to taste
Place rinsed beans in a medium bowl and mash them with a masher or fork. Don’t puree them but mash them until they are about 75% mashed with whole pieces still visible. Add in remaining ingredients and mix with fork. Set aside.
Taco Ingredients
6-8 soft tortillas, I prefer corn or spelt tortillas
2 cups non-dairy cheese, I use Daiya Pepperjack Shreds, but you may want to substitute with dairy cheese if that floats your boat 🙂
Salsa & guacamole (optional)
Pulling it all together
* Heat a skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Place tortilla in pan and immediately add bean mixture followed by your preferred cheese.
*Cook for about 5 mins or until the tortilla is golden brown and slightly crisp and your cheese is melted.
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* Remove from heat and scoop in lots of delicious coleslaw, then fold tortilla while still warm.
* Serve by itself or along side some brown rice or tortilla chips.
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