Cheezy Mexican Noodles

Well HELLO!

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

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

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

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

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

Either way, life is good!

Ola amigos

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Cheezy Mexican Noodles

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

Sauce:

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

1 cup Daiya Mozzarella-style shreds

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

1/8 cup nutritional yeast

2/3 cup cashew cream

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

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 small jalepeno, finely diced

Other ingredients:

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

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

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

a handful of cilantro, chopped

1 ripe avocado, sliced

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

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Creamy Coconut Lentils

Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Creamy Coconut Lentils

Serves 4-6

Prep Time 20-25 mins

Ingredients

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

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups of dry red lentils

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1 tsp tumeric

1- 400 ml can of coconut milk

sea salt to taste

handful of chopped cilantro

2 tbsp sriracha (optional)

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

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Muhamarra

A few years ago when I was in school taking studying Holistic Nutrition, I met a beautiful chef who shared the same love of food as I do (albeit not vegan food but I adore her nonetheless).  Her name is Christina and among many other things she is a Red Seal chef, Holistic Nutritionist and operates a gorgeous blog  www.honeyandvanilla.com

Throughout my time at CSNN she introduced me to several simple and delicious recipes. I had never experienced Muhamarra before she passed on the recipe and I was over the moon excited once I tried it. This dip works with anything- cucumbers, baked sweet potato medallions, crackers, bread, whatever!

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Pomegranates are a fruit that contain a variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help to improve the skin, bone quality, digestion, cardiovascular health and much more!!!

I have used this spread numerous times for different types of get togethers or holiday parties and it is perfect for this time of year. What screams HOLIDAYS more than pomegranate?…aside from a spiced rum and holly nog 😉

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So please do not skip out on the pomegranate molasses. If you don’t know already it has so many uses and tastes delicious. Buy the large bottle (stick with me) and I will help you figure out how to use it!

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Muhamarra

Created by HoneyandVanilla.com

1.5 cups walnuts (lightly roasted)

12oz jar roasted red pepper (or if roasting yourself then use 2 bell peppers)

1/4 cup EVOO

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried chili flakes

salt to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt. Allow  to rest in fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Cut up you favorite veggies or pita bread and serve on the side.

Quick Tip: Scoop muhamarra dip into a large Ziploc bag and then cut a small opening in one corner to create a piping bag!

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To create the sweet potato medallions I used a thin sweet potato to start, peeled it and then cut into equal slices. Lay them on a baking sheet coated with a small amount of olive oil and bake at 350 for approx. 20-25 mins (turning half way through)

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Also great served simply as a dip for raw veggies…

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Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Who doesn’t LOVE homemade muffins!?!

I do.

Now if someone could just bring me some that would be fantastic! 🙂

So here I am in my new home trying to get my life back to its new normal. I have spent the last week and a half painting and moving. That’s right I said MOVING (who likes moving?…oh ya no one).  I am exhausted but content. Hopefully within this next week I will get back to doing what I do…sharing food ideas on Instagram (@figbasil) and creating new recipes with you all. I am looking forward to sharing some holiday sweets and appetizers in December.

Until then, my lovely friend Stacey has given me an amazingly delicious looking muffin recipe that she created just for my Fig and Basil readers. A huge thank you to Stacey for this!

Check it out and let me know how it turns out. Also go find Stacey’s blog at http://www.staceydeering.com

Have a great week! Emily

Stacey’s post:

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Anyone who has children knows that baking of some kind is almost a parental requirement, whether it’s a birthday cake, cookies or muffins. While some muffins can be loaded with sugar, refined oil and refined flour this recipe is the exact opposite. I try and find ways around refined ingredients without compromising taste.

This pumpkin bran muffin is dairy free, wheat free, gluten free and low fat. The quinoa and almond flour are high protein flours and loaded with oat bran, they are high in fiber. Oat bran is a soluble fiber which helps to clear the digestive system. The pumpkin puree adds a great nutritional boost, high in vitamin A and beta carotene.

Sweetened with pure maple syrup and molasses, unrefined sources, they are not overly sweet. I like to serve them with coconut butter, which is naturally sweet, and warm tea.

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Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Vegan, Gluten Free, No Refined Sugar

Yield: 12 muffins

Author: Stacey Deering, RHN, staceydeering.com

Ingredients

1 cup oat bran (gluten free if required)

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons ground flaxseed

6 tablespoons warm water

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons molasses

3/4 cup almond milk

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

pumpkin seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper muffin liners in a 12 hole muffin pan.
  2. Combine the oat bran, quinoa flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the ground flaxseed with warm water, stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Then add in the pumpkin puree, molasses, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until mixed well. Stir in the raisins.
  5. Divide the batter equally into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on the top of each muffin.
  6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

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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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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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Smoked Tofu Rice Wraps

So we have been in a bit of a heat wave this week. It has been steady at around 30 degrees for most of the week and that is a wee bit hot for me. I am more of a 21-23 degree kind of girl but my veggie garden and flowers are loving it so I will put up with it…that is until the colder weather sets in and then I will find a different temperature to complain about 😉

I have been trying to encourage myself to take my own advice and find dishes that do not require the stove or even the BBQ for that matter! (Did I mention it was HOT?)

Plus my lettuce is fully ready in my garden so they are continually calling out for me to eat them. Fresh lettuce from the garden requires almost no preparation. A little olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and some salt & pepper is all that it needs. This side can accompany almost any main dish and for this rice wrap meal it is perfect.  My favourite lettuce combo is butter lettuce and arugula plus a small handful of hemp seeds for a little crunch and some much needed manganese, magnesium and iron.

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Eating raw foods is SO beneficial to your body. Raw foods contain vitals elements of the Earth and are essential in a healthy digestive tract.  I admire those that can incorporate a larger portion of their diet to raw foods however the best that I can maintain is about 20% of raw food. However there is no need to pull out your calculator and become one of those people! Just check in with yourself every once in awhile and ask yourself when was the last time your meal was uncooked. If its been a while then plan for a hearty salad for lunch tomorrow or revisit some of your favourite raw dinner recipes. Don’t forget my Pad Thai  with kelp noodles recipe or my Arugula Cashew Cream Sauce. Or how about these Smoked Tofu Rice Wraps?

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You don’t need your chef’s papers to roll rice wraps and they definitely are not as difficult as sushi to construct. Rice paper is much more forgiving and extremely inexpensive so even if you get a tear you may be able to hide it or just toss it and start again. You will need a large dinner plate filled with warm water to rehydrate the wrap before you begin. I usually leave the rice paper in the water for about 1-2 minutes then lift and allow the water to drip off slightly before rolling. But they certainly do not need to be dry as any remaining water will be absorbed into the rice paper by the time you are ready to eat.

A few key points that I have found to help in the rolling process is to start with your ingredients piled closer to one end and then ensure that you pull the sides as tight as you can before you roll. Other than that, it only takes 1 or 2 tries to really get the hang of it.

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Your choice of filling is really up to you but I would highly recommend some smoked tofu for substance… well, also for the incredible flavour! Smoked tofu is readily available wherever you purchase your tofu and is a ready-to-eat product. I have become obsessed with it and I am now finding myself cutting it directly from the block as a snack.  In these rolls I have used carrots, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, smoked tofu, cilantro and basil leaves. Be sure to take the time to chop everything thin as it makes for a more enjoyable bit. If you have a mandolin (you know the one you purchased years ago thinking that you would always use it and never have) then this is the time to pull it out!

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Lets not forget about  THE DIPPING SAUCE, the single most important component of this meal. If you do it properly then you should be picking up the side dish, putting it directly to your mouth and drinking it…you know, like when you are finished your cereal and cannot bare to leave the sugary milk behind in the bowl and don’t have the self-control to just use your spoon 🙂

There are a few store bought dips that are pretty good if you would like to make this meal even easier but why not make your own?

Here is a recipe for a dip that I like to use for my rice wraps;

Spicy Peanut Ginger Dip

1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce (or soy-free coconut aminos)

2 tbsp natural peanut butter, crunchy or smooth it doesn’t matter

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp chili garlic sauce (or add 2 tsp if you like it spicier)

1 tsp ground ginger

2 droppers of stevia *you could use 1 tbsp of honey or 1 tbsp of agave if you want also

2 tbsp water

  • combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together and then pour directly into your mouth! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Pancakes Pleeeease!

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Pancakes are about as close as I get to “baking” and lets face it eating pancakes for a meal is like skipping the actual meal and jumping right into dessert. And I do so happily 🙂

I like to make weekend pancakes when I am in the mood and sometimes you could even find me making pancakes for dinner during the week. Yep that’s right…PANCAKES FOR DINNER! No need to feel sorry for my kids any longer 😉

For many years prior to my food evolution, I am completely guilty of buying the bags of pancake mix and just adding water or worse yet, cow’s milk. But I have forgiven myself because as Maya Angelo says ” When you know better, you do better”.  And what I know now is that making my own pancakes from scratch is just as easy and allows me the benefit of knowing exactly what goes into the them.

No two batters are ever the same at my house. Sometimes I use only white flour (when I am feeling really good and by “good” I mean bad) and other times it might have fresh fruit stirred in.

GF Apple & Pecan Pancakes *add 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. chopped pecans and 1-2 chopped apples

GF Apple & Pecan Pancakes
*add 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. chopped pecans and 1-2 chopped apples

And as a super-duper treat, according to my son, I like to add 1/4 cup of  beet powder into the mix to create pink pancakes. Beet powder is a fantastic natural food dye that can be added to any baked item with only a mild flavour change and a HUGE nutritional benefit.

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At the heart of any pancake recipe is the flour. Which flour is best? I don’t think there is one answer to that question. We are fortunate enough to live in a time that allows us access to many, many flours. Everything from whole wheat flour to quinoa flour. Brown rice flour to chickpea flour. Spelt flour to tapioca flour. The list goes on and on. Not that any of these are “new” they just have not always been as accessible. The reality is that most of us can benefit from avoiding gluten and when you prepare your own batters or baked goods you have the ability to play around with the flour combinations. In this pancake recipe the flours can be substituted depending on your dietary needs or just for the fun of it! I find that rice flour seems to be less absorbent of the liquids so the batter tends to be a bit thinner and therefore creates thinner pancakes. White pastry flour creates the fluffiest of pancakes (see the Coconut Banana Pancakes below) and the tapioca flour is essential in getting a beautiful crispy edge to the pancakes. I would recommend to always include the 1/2 cup tapioca flour and feel free to experiment with the remaining 2 cups of flour needed.

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Whatever your preference I hope that this recipe inspires you to avoid the store-bought pancake mixes and get in the kitchen on a Saturday morning to make your pancakes the old-fashioned way…from scratch 🙂

Coconut Banana Pancakes * add 1/4 c. coconut water powder (or use coconut milk instead of soy milk) and 1 tsp. coconut extract to the batter. Finish with sliced bananas and dried coconut

Coconut Banana Pancakes
* add 1/4 c. coconut water powder (or use coconut milk instead of soy milk) and 1 tsp. coconut extract (instead of vanilla extract) to the batter. Finish with sliced bananas and dried coconut

Ultimate Pancake Mix

Gluten-free version in red

Serves: Approx. 6 people

Dry Ingredients

1/2 c. tapioca flour  1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix

1 c. rice flour   1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 c. whole wheat flour  1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 tbsp baking powder, aluminum- free

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

Wet Ingredients

2 1/2 c. soy milk  3 cups soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp non-diary butter ( I use Earth Balance), melted

1 flax “egg” (1 tbsp flax meal, add 2 tbsp of water, stir and let sit for 5 mins)

3 droppers of Stevia

2 tbsp maple syrup

  • add apple cider vinegar to soy milk in large liquid measuring cup ( I use a 4 cup) and set aside for 5 mins, this will create a “buttermilk” type effect
  • combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • add remaining wet ingredients into soy milk mixture and stir
  • pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and combine until everything is incorporated. A few lumps are okay.
  • heat a large frying pan and add coconut butter before adding the batter. Cook on one side until air pockets are visible and then flip…you can figure out the rest! Serve with the finest maple syrup you got. Enjoy.

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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