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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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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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!

Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad w/Pomegranate Dressing

Hello foodie friends!

This past week I have received an overwhelming amount of support. From hundreds of new followers on Instagram, to increased interest on my blog, messages of encouragement, and even a photo from readers that made one of my recipes last week (shout out to my West Coast girls!). I am just so grateful for all of it. Not for any other reason than it helps me realize that my passion is connecting with people and that reaffirms for me that I am exactly where I should be. So keep it comin’! 🙂

And on that note, I going to try something new with my blog this week (and the next few to follow)…a series!

I will call it 6 Simple Summer Recipes. With the intention of sharing 6 recipes that can be made in rotation during the warmer months.  All of these recipes can be made in under 30 minutes (look at me ripping off Rachel Ray :-)) and are deliciously simple to throw together.  Its harder to get in the kitchen when the sun is shining and the garden is calling but you still gotta eat!

So hopefully I can help you.

I am a huge fan of quinoa in the summer months for salads. Mainly because it is so versatile, can be made ahead of time, and is just so flipping good for you. The most commonly used quinoa is the white variety but red and black quinoa are also readily available in most grocery stores so why not explore?  This week I am using the red quinoa in my Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad.  Nutritionally speaking, the benefits are pretty much equal between the white and red quinoa. All quinoa, being a complete protein, offers numerous vitamins and minerals to you that your body will love you for. The small difference between the two varieties would be the texture and flavour. Red quinoa has a slightly crunchier bite (which is an awesome combination with the soft & sweet roasted yams) and a slightly bolder flavour. As I have said before about rinsing, the same rule applies to the red quinoa, which is to make sure you give it a good rinse before cooking to wash away the outer coating.

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A few simple whole foods make up this incredibly satisfying lunch or dinner dish. The dressing is sweet and tangy and only requires a couple of ingredients that most of us have available in our pantry, with the exception of the pomegranate molasses. I would highly recommend that you grab yourself a bottle of this “deliciousness-in-a-bottle” before the summer months approach, as it is amazing in almost every homemade dressing!

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Have a lovely week.

Sweet Yam Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 30 mins

Ingredients:

2 cups red quinoa (cooked according to directions…but instead of water I like to use vegetable stock)

3 medium-large yams, peeled, cut into 1″ cubes

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped small

small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped

Pomegranate Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp dried chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chopped yams on a baking sheet, coat in olive oil and season with sea salt. Bake for approx. 20-25 mins, checking about half way through to turn them. * make sure to cut the pieces small enough so they cook fast
  • Combine all ingredients for dressing and set aside.
  • Combine onions, cilantro, quinoa and slightly cooled yams into large bowl and toss in dressing. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper as needed. If you find it too dry then add a bit more olive oil.
  • Ideally, letting this rest for more time allows dressing to absorb and increases the flavour (which makes this dish fantastic for leftovers or tomorrow’s lunch) but serving it immediately is also delicious!

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Pad Thai

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Happy Mother’s Day!

The day has arrived again, when everyone lets their mothers know how much they love them and appreciate them. The funny thing is that most mothers already understand how much they are needed and loved on a daily basis because if we didn’t then we wouldn’t do what we do! But it’s nice to be reminded. This is the most unique and powerful relationship one can have in their life…for good or bad 😉 A two-way street that somehow generally only feels like a one-way! And the payoff simply comes from being called Mom. 

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I like to think of motherhood as a long-term investment. Most days I’m the mom that doesn’t serve bacon, that has weird greens growing the fridge, that didn’t buy the “good” cereal on my shopping trip, and is totally annoying for serving new foods that don’t look familiar! I am that mom. Some days it feels like I am pushing against a brick wall and then other days, like when I see my kids eating greens or when they get excited that the avocados are ripe enough to eat, I think that maybe I am making some progress. It helps me to sleep at night to assume one day they will look back and understand that aside from wanting to nurture their bodies and fuel their brains, that one day they will also understand that I am simply doing the best with what I know. Making a tonne of mistakes along the way.

This week I am stepping out of my comfort zone. Into the unknown. Okay, perhaps a bit dramatic…I am testing out a new ingredient and a new recipe! I have been wanting to try kelp noodles for a very long time since I have read all about the health benefits and how easy they are to use. I am not sure what has held me back but now that I have tried them, nothing could keep me away! I am in love.

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The texture is almost unexplainable. Kelp noodles have the familiarity of a rice noodle with a surprise crunch of a lettuce. They soak up which ever sauce you submerge them in without loosing any of the crunch. I am familiar with dried kelp and so I assumed that the noodle would have the same “fishy”  flavour but I was wrong…no fishy flavour at all!

There is almost too much information on the benefits of kelp noodles for me to sum up articulately so I did a little digging and found this fantastic summary supplied by www.rawguru.com

What Exactly Are Kelp Noodles?

Kelp is a kind of seaweed, or algae, that grows in the ocean. To create kelp noodles, which are raw and very white, almost clear, in appearance, the clear substance that holds the individual pieces of kelp together are harvested. Though the noodles are not made from the entirety of the algae, they are packed with the same nutrients that have made kelp a popular ingredient among health-conscious individuals.

Although they can be treated much like regular noodles, kelp noodles may need to be marinated before use. They are naturally crisp, and by marinating them in citrus juice or vinegar you can enhance their texture without having to cook them.

Here are some of the great things kelp noodles can supply to your body:

  • Over 70 nutrients and minerals, including iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, among others
  • Vitamins, including B6
  • Over 21 amino acids
  • Improved thyroid function from iodine
  • Stronger bones from calcium and magnesium
  • Alleviation of menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms, as well as a few cases of arthritis, through calcium and magnesium
  • Folic acid, which protects the circulatory system
  • Anti-inflammatory properties, due to the magnesium
  • Absorption of radioactive materials and heavy metals through phytochemicals
  • Polysaccharides, which provide antifungal and antibacterial properties
  • Supported memory health
  • Decrease of allergies

So why do we not eat them regularly?  Probably because trying something new can be intimidating. Not wanting to waste your money or scare the children 😉  It’s worth the risk, just re-read the list above and realize all of the ways that your body will thank you. You will find this product refrigerated and usually close to the produce section. Of course, the sweet and tangy peanut sauce is the real killer  in this dish so substitute which ever noodles you wish, such as rice noodles. If you are keeping it raw then you can bang this recipe out in about 15 mins and on these hot spring days it makes dinnertime more enjoyable for everyone.

If this post does nothing else but make you feel a tiny bit better as a mom (by understanding how much I torture my kids) then that would make be happy. But if it makes you drive to your grocery store and ask the awkward teenager in the produce section where you can find the kelp noodles, then you have made my day!

Enjoy.

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Tangy Pad Thai

Prep time: approx. 15 mins

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/2 cup crunchy natural peanut butter

1-400ml can of coconut milk

2 tbsp tamarind paste (optional)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tbsp tamari (you can substitute soy sauce or my new fav coconut aminos)

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp dried chili flakes

2 shakes of hot sauce (optional)

juice of 1 lime

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Ingredients  for the pad thai:

1 package (15 oz) kelp noodles

1 red pepper, thinly julienned

1 cup shredded red cabbage

4 green onions, sliced

1/4 fresh chopped cilantro

  • In a high-speed blender, blend all sauce ingredients until smooth. If you are heating your sauce then use a saucepan and slowly bring to a low boil and stir regularly.

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  • In a colander, rinse kelp noodles, shake dry and transfer to a serving bowl. Add in red pepper, cabbage and green onions.
  • Add sauce and toss gently to combine. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

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Sweetness of Nature

Stewart's Sugar Bush Pakenham, ON

Stewart’s Sugar Bush
Pakenham, ON

What a difference a week makes! Last week I was heading to Ottawa with a million things on my mind and no time to execute them. Today I am a peacefully sitting in my kitchen with a Raspberry Leaf tea and a bunch of checks off my “to-do” list.  Happiness may be overrated but contentment fills the soul.

This week has been productive: I returned from out east (okay maybe Westjet deserves the credit for that one), designed/ordered Fig and Basil paper products, prepped this week’s recipe 3 times, started my indoor seeds for my veggie garden, participated in a Garden Show, and don’t tell anyone this but… I also contemplated on getting a rescue puppy 🙂 Okay so I recognize the last one is borderline insanity but for the most part I have got my two feet planted back on the ground.

Indoor Grow-Op: Week One

Indoor Grow-Op:
Week One

My trip “home” was fantastic and we managed to stay very entertained.  Baby Mason, Olivia and Alyssa were adorable, as were the rest of the crew. The highlight was definitely when we drove our 5-car convoy deep into the Ontario bush and spent hours eating and learning about maple syrup. I haven’t done this since I was a kid.  Surrounded by maple trees, we ate pancakes & maple taffy, had a game of adult teeter-totter and even a horse drawn wagon ride. What could be better?  Well…the MAPLE SYRUP, thats what!

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There’s just something about maple syrup.  The sweet, smooth earthy goodness dripping over your pancakes. The nutty smell when you heat it. Heaven! As we get older and wiser (?) there are endless reasons why we should avoid refined sugars but thankfully maple syrup is in a whole different category .  One might even argue that it is a “health food”.  In just 2 tsp of pure maple syrup there is 22% of your Daily Value (DV) of manganese and almost 4% DV of zinc. Manganese is a very important trace mineral and is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defences. The zinc supplied by maple syrup, in addition to acting as an antioxidant also can decrease the progression of atherosclerosis. So it’s good for your heart! Not to mention that the zinc and manganese are a sweet support for your immune system.

***Never confuse pure maple syrup with the maple-flavoured syrup that is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners. Pure maple syrup, although more expensive, is a natural product, has many health benefits and a superior flavour.

So when I came home with a little piece of Ontario in my luggage (many thanks to Paulette & Sebastian) I almost immediately started my Slow Cooked Maple Baked Beans.

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This recipe is simple and versatile. Serve as a complete meal or a side dish…I even had it for breakfast this week on a piece of toasted sourdough bread. The preparation of this dish only takes about 10 minutes active time with the remainder of your time spent waiting (hence the word SLOW in the recipe name :-)).  Patience is important for this dish. Plan ahead by soaking your dried beans overnight and then boiling them for about an hour in the morning. Of course, canned beans are always an option but you need to reduce the cooking time on your slow cooker to 4 hours and be sure to use a firmer white bean like a navy bean.

Aside from all the nutritional benefits of maple syrup, the blackstrap molasses and beans in this recipe are also amazing. The beans provide an excellent source of fiber & folate and are a good source of iron. The molasses is very high in iron, manganese and potassium as well as a good source of calcium. Since everyone usually asks a vegan how they get their calcium, here is a great example; Just 1 tbsp of molasses contains 179 mg of calcium (as a point of reference- 1 tbsp of plain yogurt contains 24 mg of calcium).

If you are out west like me, then you are likely getting a fresh dump of snow this weekend so its a great time to crank up your slow cooker to keep warm. I hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to let me know how yours turns out.

Emily

Slow Cooked Maple Baked Beans

Prep Time : 6-8 hours (Inactive), 10-15 mins (Active) plus soaking time for beans

Ingredients:

2 cups dried Great White Northern bean (or approx. 4 cups of canned white beans, drained and rinsed)

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped small

1 clove of garlic, minced

15 oz canned tomatoes, crushed (+ one can of filtered water)

1/2 cup blackstrap molasses

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp liquid smoke (if you do not have liquid smoke then add another tsp of smoked paprika instead)

salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  • Cover 2 cups of dried beans with filtered water, in a large bowl. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

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  • When soaking is complete, drain and rinse with clean water. Add beans to a med saucepan and cover with fresh, salted water. Bring water to a boil with lid on. Then lower heat to med-low and simmer for approx. 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.
  • Heat coconut oil in medium sized frying pan and then add onions and garlic. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until slightly caramelized.
  • While onions are cooking turn on slow cooker to 6-8 hours on HIGH.
  • Toss all ingredients into slow cooker.  Don’t forget the 15 oz can of water and the sautéed onions/garlic.
This is a double batch. I managed to fit it all in my little slow cooker!

This is a double batch. I managed to fit it all in my little slow cooker!

  • Mix completely and place on the lid. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID FOR ANY REASON…well, maybe if there is a fire and you need to shield yourself or a food fight breaks out in your kitchen and you need to take cover…you get the point 😉
  • After 6 hours has passed remove lid and stir. Check beans for doneness and determine if you need more cooking time (adding a small amount of water if you feel it needs it). Also adding salt if necessary.
  • When fully cooked, remove and serve immediately with a buttered piece of rustic bread. Delish!

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