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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Best Stuffing EVER!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!

However it is that you celebrate or acknowledge this holiday, one thing seems to be a common thread amongst us all and that is appreciation!

It’s a beautiful thing.

And what’s easier to appreciate than good food? Well, good food prepared by someone else! I don’t get to say this very often (because I truly enjoy creating and prepping food) but last night I was totally spoiled by my dear friend Theresa’s amazing holiday meal…and I didn’t even lift a finger 🙂

No exaggeration, this stuffing was phenomenal. At one point towards the end of the meal I was so stuffed I thought I might roll myself home and yet I involuntarily reached over to the dish of stuffing and scooped myself another helping. Now that is appreciation. Sweet, unapologetic appreciation 😉

It was so good in fact, that I couldn’t leave without getting the recipe.  Then I woke up this morning and headed to the grocery store to pick up the supplies I needed to make it for dinner tonight. I tweaked a few ingredients to make it totally vegan (replacing the butter) and substituted a sourdough loaf.  It turned out just as delicious as Theresa’s version so I would say this recipe is fool-proof!

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The oyster mushrooms are definitely a highlight of this stuffing. If you have never worked with oyster mushrooms you will probably be surprised to find them right beside your less-expensive mushrooms in most supermarkets. These sweet mushrooms grow on trees and are harvested in the fall. They are extremely versatile (ideal for soups, stir-frys, stuffing) and their sweet aroma is not lost in the cooking process.

But let’s not sugar coat this, stuffing is just well-seasoned and decorated bread! In all it’s glory, this stuffing is a sweet and savoury dish that should be enjoyed once (or possibily twice) a year without guilt.

I hope this recipe has found you in time to share it with your own family feast this year but if not then save it, or pin it, or do something so that you can impress everyone with your mad cooking skills at your next holiday meal!!!  

Enjoy the long weekend in whatever way that brings you appreciation of your family, your friends, food, oh and lets not forget wine…we should not forget to show appreciation of a good bottle of wine 😉

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Rustic Bread Stuffing w/dried cranberries, hazelnuts and oyster mushrooms

Serves 8 to 10 people

Ingredients:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan

2/3 cup dried cranberries

Loaf of rustic bread

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup Earth Balance

1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

1lb (500g) oyster mushrooms, stem trimmed, torn into strips

2/3 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts (to toast, place on baking sheet, bake at 350 for 14 to 18 mins, stirring half way)

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup thinly sliced chives

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp finely grated orange zest

2 cups vegetable broth

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  • Heat the oven to 375. Oil a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Put the cranberries in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand 15 mins; drain.
  • Remove the crust from the bread and cut the bread into 3/4-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the bread, olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 20 mins.
  • Remove the bread from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350
  • Melt the Earth Balance in a 12-inch skillet over med-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 1 to 2 mins.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large bowl, mix the bread, cranberries, mushroom-shallot mixture, hazelnuts, parsley, chives, thyme and orange zest. Stir in the broth. Toss well to combine; the bread should absorb most of the broth.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing in the prepared dish and cover with foil. Bake for 5 mins; then remove the foil and bake until crusty and golden, about 35 mins.

Make Ahead: Combine all the ingredients except the broth up to 4 hours ahead. Add the broth, put the stuffing in the and hold at room temperature, covered, up to 1 hour before baking.

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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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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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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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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 😉

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!

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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Dinner Re-vamped

Well, back to the wonderful rhythm of my life this week!

Somehow without even doing anything at all (or maybe because of not doing anything at all!?!) my “to-do” list has grown since before the spring break. Funny how that works. I was just digging through a drawer looking for my camera charger thingy and came across an abandoned “to-do” list from several months ago…and in reading through it I realized that there were still things that I hadn’t done on that list. So…maybe its not just my procrastination but maybe (just maybe) its the list itself! Perhaps lowering my expectations on what I am capable of doing could help me accomplish more!!! I will do some experimenting on that theory…next week 😉

This week I am heading for a small trip out east to visit my nephew and nieces. Ahhhh, Ottawa in early April— too late for ice sculptures and too early for tulips. What will we do? I guess all the pressure will fall on my family’s shoulders to entertain us.

For this past week the pace has been at full speed and planning meals can be almost too much some days. Having all that beautiful leftover food from our holiday meal in the refrigerator has managed to carry us through the week. But it’s not what you think! I have only reheated and served the exact same meal one time. The others have been (surprisingly) well-disguised re-vamps with very little effort on my part 🙂

Earlier in the week I took the leftover Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes (see recipe in New Traditions blog) and tossed them with cooked Soba noodles. Adding in caramelized onions, sauteed garlic, toasted pine nuts and some olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. I popped the sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet and broiled them in the oven to re-heat and add even more of a crispy exterior. It was delicious!

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Then on Wednesday, after finding some stunning watermelon radishes in my grocery basket…

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I utilized the leftover quinoa by adding lightly sautéed radishes (I used a small amount of olive oil and salt in a pan and sautéed for about 5 mins each side) and a scrumptious portobello mushroom “steak”. Now I know what you are thinking- Cooked radishes?  Yes, cooked!  Even though I LOVE raw radishes, cooking them is equally fantastic.  It becomes amazingly sweet and takes away that sharp spicy taste that a fresh, raw radish is famous for. You must try this at home!

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The mushroom steak is a recipe I have been making since first becoming a vegetarian. It’s a Tal Ronnen recipe from his cookbook The Conscious Cook. Incredibly easy, it just requires the time for marinating. And marinating is the secret to a well prepared portobello steak. It infuses so much flavour and transforms the texture from rubbery to “meaty”. Here is the cooking instructions from Tal Ronnen’s cookbook;

Ingredients:

sea salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

4 portobello mushrooms, stemmed and gills removed

1 tbsp dried thyme

  • Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.
  • Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 5 mins. Add the wine, vinegar and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 mins.
  • Add them mushrooms and cook for 1 min. Pour the mushrooms and liquid into a shallow container, cover, set aside to marinate for 1 hour.
  • Sear the mushrooms: Remove from marinade and press between paper towels to remove excess marinade. Sprinkle with crushed peppercorns, salt, thyme, pressing the seasoning into both sides of the mushroom. Discard the marinade. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 1 min, then add the mushrooms in one layer, working in batches if necessary. Cook until browned and crisp, 2 to 3 mins on each side.

Have a great week! And visit me on Instagram (figbasil) or Twitter (@figandbasil) to find out what kinda trouble (and food) I discover in our nation’s capital 🙂

Emily