"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine."
- Hippocrates

November 22, 2010

Who wants Brownies?


If you're anything like me...brownies are one of those treats that are perfect for just about any occasion! My favorite way to eat them is slightly warmed up with a big scoop of ice cream on top (try this brand!).

These brownies are just the way I like them, slightly crispy on top and ooey gooey fudgy in the middle! They taste sinful, but really, compared to other recipes, they're not all that bad! I'm not saying you should eat them for breakfast of course, but everyone needs to indulge in a nice decadent treat every now and then. Are you with me?? Thought so!!

So go ahead, make these tonight...it's Monday, and nothing makes Mondays slightly more tolerable than a nice warm fudgy brownie! Here's the recipe!

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour*
1/3 cup more all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour*
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp unrefined sugar
1/3 cup ground chocolate chips (grind in a food processor)
1/2 tsp sea salt (a little generous)
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder OR cornstarch
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp plain soy milk or other plain non-dairy milk
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add the sugar, chocolate chips, and salt, and stir until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the arrowroot with several tablespoons of the milk, stirring through until smooth, then add the remaining milk and other wet ingredients and stir until well combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir through for about 1/2 minute or so (the batter will be quite thick). Pour evenly into a lightly oiled (or lined with parchment paper) 8x8 inch baking pan.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool in the pan, running a spatula around the outer edge to loosen. Once cooled, cut into squares.

Makes 12-16 brownies
* For wheat-free brownies, use white spelt flour, but add an extra 2-
3 Tbsp (in addition to the 3/4 cup + 1/3 cup)

Enjoy!
This recipe is from Dreena Burton's Vive le Vegan

November 4, 2010

Spicoli Burgers


These burgers are from the brilliant Dreena Burton's
Eat, Drink and be Vegan. Their name was inspired by the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (great movie if you haven't seen it!). Anyway, in it, the hilarious character Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn) is a surfer dude who partakes in smoking lots of marijuana!! Since these burgers are packed with nutritious hemp seeds...well, I guess it seemed fitting :D

Hemp seeds are super nutritious! Here are a few facts about them:

Hemp was first cultivated in China more than 6,000 years ago, and was used as a food source long before soy foods

Hemp seed is considered by leading researchers to be one of the most nutritious super foods on the planet — packed with protein, vitamin E, Omega-3, and GLA

Hemp has twice the iron and magnesium contained in flax.

Hemp is a complete protein
Source


You can use hemp seeds in so many ways like adding them to cereal, omelets, yogurt, soups, snacks, smoothies, salads, pasta, veggies, dressings, and desserts. You can find them in your local health food store, or online...we buy ours from
Manitoba Harvest. I highly recommend picking some up to try. And no worries, if you do invest in hemp seeds, I'll be including several other recipes that use them here...so you won't be left with a big quantity and nothing else to do with them. Most online retailers publish recipes as well...so try doing a quick search!

These burgers are not only packed with protein and nutrition, they're really great tasting and super easy to make too! They're great to bring to work for lunch or to grab as a quick snack. You can throw them in a pita with veggies and eat it as a wrap or just eat them on their own. They freeze really well too, so you can make a big batch and have them on hand whenever you want (if they're around for that long!).

Spicoli Burgers
Yields 9 patties

Ingredients

Note: you'll need a total of 3 cups of cooked rice for this recipe
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion, diced
1/8 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup red pepper, diced
2 cups cooked short grain rice
1 cup shelled hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup cooked short grain rice
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

In a frying pan on medium heat, add oil, onions, salt and black pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes until onions start to soften. Add bell pepper and saute for another 5-6 minutes, until onions are fully softened.

In a food processor, combine veggies, 2 cups rice, hemp seeds, garlic, ketchup, tamari, mustard, oregano, thyme, sage, and salt and puree until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining rice. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

Remove from fridge and form patties with your hands. Place flour evenly on a plate and lightly dust both sides of each patty, shaking off access.

In a frying pan on medium-high, heat oil. Add patties 3 or 4 at a time and lightly flatten with a spatula. Cook 6-9 minutes on each side, until golden and a crust has formed.

Enjoy!

September 17, 2010

Roasted Yellow Pepper and Corn Bisque

With the crisp Fall temperatures coming at us these days, it's nice to have a comforting soup to come home to. This dish is perfect for the season, using fresh corn, yellow squash, and yellow peppers. Together, they make a beautiful yellow soup that is slightly sweet and very creamy! Due to the pepper roasting, this soup does take a bit more preparation than others, but it's so worth it! And if you're really keen, you can roast and prep the peppers the day before to save some time. Try roasting them on the barbecue, it gives you an excuse to spend some more time with the big guy before he's put away for the winter!

To pump up the nutrition with extra fiber and protein, I added red lentils. Red lentils are my favorite trick for adding nutrition and thickness to creamy soups because they break down so well once cooked - you really don't notice they're there!

You can choose to partially blend or fully blend this soup depending on your mood. I chose to blend about 2/3 of the soup and keep the rest unblended. This added a nice texture to the soup, especially the fresh corn because it's still a bit crisp!

This is officially my new favourite Fall soup...until I find my next fav anyway :) Give it a try!


Ingredients

4 yellow bell peppers
3 cups fresh corn, cut from the cobs (about 4 cobs)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups yellow summer squash, cut into small cubes
1 cup dry red lentils
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can of coconut milk (light is fine)
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
juice of 1 lime, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the stems off the peppers and pull out the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet (covered in parchment paper) and bake for about 40 minutes, turning once. The peppers should be very soft and collapsed. If you are roasted them on the barbecue, place them on the grill whole, and turn them as the skins blacken. Let them cool and sweat in a bowl wrapped tightly with plastic wrap before peeling off the skin and removing any remaining stem and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.

In a large pot, saute the onion in the oil to 5 to 7 minutes over a medium-high heat, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and the chilies and saute for another minute or so.

Add the corn, squash and lentils; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until moisture begins to release from the squash. Add the roasted peppers, vegetable broth and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 20minutes, covered.

Add the coconut milk and blend the soup, either by using an immersion blender or by slightly cooling and then transferring the soup to a food processor or blender in batches. Reheat the soup and stir in the nutmeg, maple syrup and lime.

Enjoy!

Adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

September 6, 2010

Coconut Cake

In the past, when it came to cake, I would usually go for the standards, chocolate, vanilla, or to spice it up, marble! But on one occasion I was looking for something with a little hint of the tropics for a dinner I was making - alas I found this Coconut Cake! It has since become one of my favorites!

As always, I love it because it's so easy and always turns out perfect! And it works really well without any icing, so you save yourself a couple steps there. Instead of icing, I make a really simple lemon glaze and pour it on top of the cake once it cools. The sweet lemony flavour perfectly complements the delicate coconut, and as a bonus, it adds extra moisture to the cake (but it's certainly not necessary). You can serve it just like this, or sometimes, I like to top the slice with some warm blueberry compote - again, pairing perfectly with the coconut and lemon flavours!! All these recipes are included below - mix and match, or even try it with your favourite icing!


Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups plain non-dairy milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/2 tsp almond extract (or 1/4 tsp each of almond and coconut extracts)
1 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup canola oil

Directions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In large bowl, combine dry ingredients, including coconut, sifting in flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine non-dairy milk, applesauce, vanilla and almond extracts, lemon juice, and oil.
- Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until well-combined (do not overmix).
- Lightly oil a bundt pan, angel food cake pan, or 2 round cake pans. Pour batter evenly into cake pan(s).
- If using a bundt or angel food cake pan, cook for 35-40 min (until toothpick comes out clean). If using two round cake pans, cook for 23-26 minutes.


Lemon Glaze
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine and mix well until there are no lumps. Prick all around cake with long skewer and drizzle glaze over the whole cake.

Warm Blueberry Compote
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine in a small saucepan. Gently heat at a medium temperature and mash blueberries as it heats. Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat. Spoon over slices of cake immediately.

Enjoy!

This cake recipe is from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink and be Vegan!

August 25, 2010

Zucchini Muffins

If you head out to any local farmer's market or produce stands these days, you'll notice that it's the season of summer squash. Yup, that includes your pattypans, yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and zucchini! Now, I'll admit, I haven't yet found a way to incorporate these babies into my regular diet, even this time of year (I prefer the various varieties of winter squash), but I'm trying!

Now, last weekend I planned to make some
Veggie Burritos and needed some zucchini, so I made my way to the Ottawa Farmer's Market and found some great deals! I couldn't resist and bought a bunch of fresh organic zucs! I knew right away that with the extras I'd make some yummy Zucchini Muffins!! Ohhh... the excitement!

Now if you're not a fan of zucchini, don't let the contents of these muffins deter you from trying them...you certainly can't tell there's any vegetables in here! They've even got banana and maple syrup...you can't go wrong! The result is moist, fluffy and slightly sweet muffins with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg! I like to eat them straight out of the oven smothered with lots of melted *non-dairy* butter. Or you can just eat them they way they are ;)

The original recipe is wheat-free using spelt flour, but I've included a substitute for regular white or whole wheat flour.




Ingredients
2 tbsp flax meal
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp plain or vanilla non-dairy milk
1 cup overripe bananas, mashed
1 cup grated zucchini
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp canola oil
2 cups spelt flour (subtract about 6-8 tbsp if using regular whole wheat or white flour)
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 - 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Directions
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a bowl, combine flax meal and non-dairy milk and stir. Then add mashed bananas, grated zucchini, syrup, vanilla, and oil - stir well to combine.
- In a separate large bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients, sift in baking powder and baking soda, and stir until well combined.
- Add wet mixture to dry, gently folding until just combined (don't over mix).
- Fit a muffin pan with liners or spray lightly with oil. Spoon batter into liners. Bake for 21-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Enjoy!

This recipe is from Dreena Burton's
Eat, Drink and Be Vegan!

August 15, 2010

Brazilian Rice Salad

I'm always on the lookout for tasty bean and grain salads. They're typically easy to prepare, healthy, and great for weekday lunches, potlucks and a nice addition to casual dinners with company.

This rice salad is one of my favorites! The rice is cooked with coconut milk so it's so nice and creamy. There's a very mild spicing, nothing too different or strong tasting. And the beans combined with the veggies and grain make it a complete meal - not just a side dish.

I've made this one with white basmati, but if you want the additional nutrition, using brown rice will work just as good!

Just note that this recipe makes A LOT of salad...so if you're only looking to serve two or three people and don't want a ton of leftovers, I suggest halving the recipe.



Ingredients

2 cups long-grain rice (such as Basmati)
2 1/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups coconut milk (either regular or light)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red, yellow, and/or green bell pepper (I usually add a bit more than this)
2 large plum tomatoes (about 3 ounces each), chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (again, I'm usually more generous here)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

In a medium pot (or use rice cooker), bring rice, water, coconut milk, turmeric, cumin, sugar and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed, 17-20 min. When ready, fluff with a fork and set aside or in the fridge to cool for about 20 min.

In a large bowl, combine the rice with the remaining ingredients, tossing well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper.

This salad is best served slightly warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!


This recipe is from Donna Klein's
The Tropical Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Tropics

July 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies

Finding that perfect cookie recipe can lead to a lifelong search. I know I've never been completely content with most recipes I've tried...they were always too thin, too sweet, too hard or too dry. And when I removed the eggs and dairy components, I figured it would be even harder to find the perfect cookie!

Well, wasn't I surprised when these unsuspecting recipes resulted in perfect cookies! Really, it's true! They both have the perfect texture - thick and chewy; and taste amazing - not too sweet but with a lot of peanut butter and chocolaty flavour!

Although I wouldn't call these cookies "healthy", they are a "healthier" version of the standard cookie recipe, using only minimal sugar and maple syrup :) Both cookies will work well with whole wheat flour...and if you'd like to make a wheat-free version, you can substitute spelt flower - just add an extra 1/4 cup!

What else can I say to convince you to try these babies!? I mean, they're cookies!! But if you need an extra vote of confidence - I'll tell you that I'm currently on vacation right now, visiting family out East. We arrived here on Sunday evening with a double batch of both cookies, since then I've made another two double batches of the chocolate chip cookies...it's only Friday people!! Believe me, you (and your guests) will love them!!

TIP! - Once your cookies have cooled, tear up a couple pieces of bread and put them in the container with your cookies. This will guarantee soft and chewy cookies everytime!!

Peanut "Better" Cookies



Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup + 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses (adds a buttery flavour, but not critical)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp canola oil

Directions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, stir until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the 1/2 cup peanut butter with maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, stir through, as it is coming together, stir in the remaining peanut butter (leaving bits of peanut butter throughout the batter).
- Lightly roll spoonfuls of the batter into a ball and place on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or lightly greased), press with the tines of a fork.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes, until just golden (I usually only need 9 minutes). Immediately (to prevent overcooking) remove from baking tray and place on a cooling rack.


Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 - 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil (a little generous)
1/3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (most are non-dairy actually!)

Directions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, stir until well combined. Add chocolate chips and stir well.
- In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, stir through until just well combined (do not overmix).
- Place spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or lightly greased) - you may need to lightly roll the batter so that it sticks together well, then lightly flatten.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes, until just golden (I usually only need 9 minutes). Immediately (to prevent overcooking) remove from baking tray on to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!


Both recipes are from Dreena Burton's Vive le Vegan!

July 21, 2010

Creamy Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

Ok...I know it's summer, and people don't typically think of eating a steaming bowl of creamy soup when it's hot and sunny outside. But hey, like everyone else, I go to work everyday and soup has always been a tried and true staple for my weekday lunches. And it's always nice to have a couple servings of soup lying around in the freezer for those nights when cooking something for dinner sounds like torture!

A few weeks back we visited the farmers market here in Ottawa and I got so excited by all the fresh greens available!! I decided to buy a bunch of broccoli and spinach, not knowing yet what I was going to do with them.

At home, I found a recipe for a creamy broccoli and spinach soup and that was that! The recipe however, called for milk as the creamy base so I decided to use coconut milk instead. I also added some red lentils to add additional thickness and to boost the protein and fiber content of the soup. The result was fantastic!! This creamy soup is now one of our favourites! As can be expected - the coconut milk is the real star here...but if you'd like to reduce the fat content, feel free to use light coconut milk, or just reduce the amount and compensate with more veggie stock.


Pair this soup with some whole grain crusty bread for a filling and complete meal. Feel free to play with garnishes as well, I've used sunflower seeds here, but you could use any nut/seed really, or croutons, or fresh herbs, or crackers... you get my point!

Eating a big steaming bowl of greens will make anyone feel healthy - thereby making that sweet treat you've been craving all day a guilt-free dessert!

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped roughly
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red lentils
12 oz broccoli (about 4 cups) cut into florets
8 oz fresh spinach, packed (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pepper to taste

Directions:
- Saute onion and garlic in oil until lightly cooked - about 5-7 min.
- Add red lentils and cook 1-2 min
- Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for a few minutes to get the lentils cooking.
- Add broccoli and simmer until broccoli and lentils are tender - about 10-15 min depending on size of florets
- When broccoli is fork tender, add spinach, coconut milk, nutmeg and pepper. Cook spinach for 2-3 minutes until wilted.
- Use a blender to blend soup (really well) in batches until all the soup is smooth.

Enjoy!

This recipe was heavily adapted from Susannah Blake's 500 Soups: The Only Soup Compendium You'll Ever Need

July 16, 2010

Fresh Basil Pesto and Tomato Brushetta

When I first cut out eating dairy, I had a few moments of mourning for all my former favourites that were now off-limits. But, happily, as I've come to discover, there's ALMOST ALWAYS a comparable (or better) version of these foods available without meat, eggs or dairy.

One of my former favourites is basil pesto - with it's creamy texture made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and most importantly - the cheese! Well, when I tried this recipe I was shocked... it was the perfect pesto! The creamy, buttery texture is thanks to the blended cashew nuts! And there's a great fresh flavour that's achieved by the basil-lemon combination too!

As a side-dish, jazz up your garlic bread routine by making simple, yet oh-so-yummy and fresh, brushetta! I got this recipe a long time ago while dining with the chef at a former restaurant in Halifax. He told me the secret ingredient to good brushetta - balsamic vinegar! Ok, maybe it's not so secret, but it was certainly news to me at the time! Below is my rough version of what he served us that night.

Take advantage of the summer produce at it's peak - find fresh basil and tomatoes at your local farmer's market, or even better, your own garden!

Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto
Serves 3-4

Ingredients
1 large clove garlic
3 to 3 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 cup + 1-2 tbsp raw cashews
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1/2 to 3/4 lb (225g-340g) dry pasta of choice
olive oil for finishing

Directions
- In a food processor, combine garlic, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, oil, and water, and puree until fairly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cashews and basil and puree until smooth, again, scraping down bowl.
- Toss cooked pasta with pesto. If it's too dry, add some water, 1 tbsp at a time.
- Season with additional salt and fresh pepper, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe is from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating

Tip
!
Make a double batch of this pesto and freeze it for another meal. Just lightly spray an ice cube tray with oil,
fill each compartment with pesto, then put in the freezer until completely frozen. Once frozen, remove squares from tray and store in a freezer bag (for about 6 months). A serving for two people would be 3-4 squares, depending on how much pesto you like.

Other great uses for pesto:
- Pesto is delicious as a sandwich spread and as a layer in an appetizer dip.
- Pesto mixed with olive oil makes a fabulous salad dressing, especially for pasta salads. It can be stirred into rice or mashed potatoes, or mixed into hot vegetables.
- Make pesto pizza by spreading pesto on pizza crust instead of tomato sauce. Cover with sun dried tomatoes, other veggies and/or crushed pine nuts - OR - drop a few dollops of pesto right on top of the tomato sauce!


Fresh Tomato-Basil Brushetta
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 large ripe tomatoes (or 4 Roma tomatoes), diced into small cubes
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh basil (depending on your affinity for basil), chopped finely
1 1/2 tbsp red onion, chopped very finely
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (toast at 400 for about 5 min - tossing frequently)
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Directions
- Toast pine nuts.
- Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Serve on toasted crusty bread (or garlic bread), either cold on the side with a spoon or warmed up slightly in the oven until heated through.

Enjoy!

March 18, 2010

Easy Peasy Pasta Sauce

It's Friday!! You know what Friday means in my house? Pasta night!! Yup, for the last few years we've been having pasta dinner every Friday night and still look forward to our end of the week meal!

Now, I'm a fan of simple pasta sauce. No big chunks of veggies or fake meat in my sauce...just a simple and tasty tomato sauce that's great for dipping your garlic bread in. Sometimes I even forgo the pasta and just have garlic bread and sauce...yes, it's strange...but sooooo good!!

After seeing all the added crap that goes into store-bought sauce I started making my own every Friday. It's really only a couple more steps than just opening a jar and heating. Try it out tonight...maybe you'll start a new tradition too!



Ingredients
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste (just the regular small size)
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp
agave syrup* OR 2-3 tbsp sugar (to taste)
2 tsp dry basil
2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

* You can find agave (a sugar substitute) in most grocery stores, if not, check your local health food store.

Directions
In a blender or food processor, blend diced tomatoes, paste, and garlic. While it's blending, add the olive oil. Place blended sauce in a saucepan, add remaining ingredients and heat slowly until simmering. Serve when hot! That's it!

I recommend cleaning up any leftover sauce with some toasted garlic bread...mmmm...yum!

Enjoy everyone
!

March 5, 2010

Double Layer Chocolate Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Ok people, who doesn't like chocolate cake? Right, just as I expected...no one! Good! Let's get on with this post then...

There's a common misconception that vegan baking is similar to eating cardboard...bland and dry. Well, as a lover of all things sweet and dessert-like, I'll be the first to tell you that that's completely untrue. I've made countless desserts using no eggs, butter, or milk and they always turn out fantastic!

This double layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is moist, flavourful, and very easy to make! It's one of my all-time favourites! And there's a fun secret about the frosting that will shock anyone who tastes it...it's made with tofu!! Yup, the frosting is the best part of the cake and it's simply tofu and melted chocolate! Your party guests will NEVER believe you! Make sure you get the
SILKEN tofu though, rather than the usual block tofu you might fry up in a stir-fry, this stuff is soft and creamy when blended, and it's specially made for desserts! You can usually find this stuff on the shelf at your grocery store and natural food store, just ask if you're unsure.

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups unrefined sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 3/4 cups water
2 tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil

Frosting
2 pckgs (349-g) SILKEN extra-firm tofu, patted dry
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (generous) non-dairy chocolate chips

Directions:
For the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda, then add in sugar and salt and mix well. In another bowl, combine water, vinegar, extracts, and oil. Add wet mixture to the dry, and stir until well combined. Pour into 2 lightly oiled round cake pans, distributing batter as evenly as possible. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting
In a food processor (don't use a mixer, it won't smooth out the tofu), combine tofu with maple syrup and vanilla, and puree until very, very smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a bowl fitted over a pot with simmering (not boiling) water. Pour melted chocolate into food processor with tofu mixture, and puree again until well incorporated (again, scraping down sides of bowl). Transfer to a container and refrigerate until cool (will thicken as it cools). Once cool, spread frosting on cake layers, then refrigerate cake for a couple of hours to set.

This recipe is from Dreena Burton's
The Everyday Vegan.

February 25, 2010

Applesauce Muffins

Muffins are the best, aren't they? You can eat them for breakfast, for a snack, or, sometimes, even for dessert. Who wouldn't love a food that's so versatile? In the past, I'd buy a muffin a day to have with my morning coffee...this is until I realized that store bought muffins are really just cupcakes in disguise. Not that there's anything wrong with cake, but it's not the best way to start your day!

These muffins are one of my favourites! They're really moist and sweet due to the applesauce and maple syrup...and I add whole wheat flour to give them some extra fibre and bulk. With no refined sugar or unhealthy fat, you can eat one (or more) with your morning coffee and stay completely guilt free!!


Ingredients
2 cups flour (I usually add all or half whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or raisins

Directions
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the milk, vinegar, oil, maple syrup, applesauce and raisins or walnuts. Mix together gently until "just mixed". Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin tins and bake for 15-20min. Test with a toothpick to see if done.

Enjoy!

This recipe is from How it all Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

February 18, 2010

Chili

Hey everyone, sorry for my absence last week, I was a touch under the weather...but I'm back this week with a great chili recipe!

Chili is one of those meals that hits the spot on a cold winter day! I had been searching for a good standard vegetarian chili recipe for a long time but somehow they always fell flat...or included strange ingredients that I didn't necessarily want to see in my bowl of chili! So I was determined to create one that met my tastes and was easy to make...

This recipe is really easy, especially if you're making use of a slow cooker. Don't get anxious, but there's one new ingredient that you may not have seen or used before...textured vegetable protein (or TVP for short). It's a high-fiber, high-protein meat substitute made from soy flour. To use it, you just need to rehydrate it - making it a great substitute for ground meat. I get mine at the Bulk Barn, easy peasy! For a bit more on TVP, check out
this explanation. If you can't find TVP, or are still a little weary, try adding veggie ground round, it's easy to find in most grocery stores and it works just as well!

Now go make some chili! Cozy up with a warm bowl and watch some Olympics!


Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup onions, chopped finely
1 large pepper, any color, chopped finely
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
3-4 cups cooked beans (about two cans) any kind of bean works here, I usually use 1 can kidney, the rest adzuki or black beans
1 1/2 cups dry TVP or 1 pkg veggie ground round
3-4 cups water
4 tbsp chili powder (just make sure it's not the crazy hot variety)
2 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp cayenne powder (depending on your taste for spice)
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels

Directions
Add chopped veggies and garlic to large sauce pot with saute for about 5 min. Add all remaining ingredients except frozen corn (start with 3 cups water then add more if required later). Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer until veggies are cooked to a desired consistency - about 30 minutes. Add frozen corn at the end and warm through.

If using a slow cooker, throw everything in the pot; for quick cooking, set it on high heat for about 3 hours; for slower cooking, set it on low heat for about 6 hours. Add frozen corn at the end and warm through.

The best garnish for chili is avocado! Just chop some up and throw it on top. Another good way to eat it is to serve it with tortilla chips on the side - yum!

Enjoy everyone!

February 4, 2010

Salad - it's what's for dinner!

Yeah, yeah...I know what you're thinking, "Really, Leigh - salad??...Yawn!" But wait! Salad can be tasty, filling, and exciting with the right components!

I'll start with a confession...up until not long ago, I NEVER ate salad - unless of course, it was a creamy and fatty Cesar! I would pretty much turn my nose up to anything that had the semblance of a green salad. I did try though...I'd go through spurts where I'd buy all the fixings - lettuce, salad dressing, tomatoes, cucumber, etc. - then just let it all die a slow and slimy death in my fridge. Sad, I know.

This all changed when I discovered that a salad doesn't have to be just chopped lettuce and veggies topped with a never-quite-perfect store bought dressing. I thank my mother-in-law for this enlightenment!! There is a whole world of salads out there that include different greens, veggies, fruit, nuts, grains and home-made dressings! Once you find your perfect components, you'll never let your greens wilt alone in the fridge again! And you'll be healthier for it!



For a salad to be a complete and filling meal it should have a few things: greens, veggies/fruit, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Below I've included some of my favorites, but really, the possibilities are endless.

Greens
Organic baby greens (they are organic and prewashed so you just dump a few handfuls into a bowl - so easy!)
Other lettuce (Boston, Romaine, etc.) remember that plain old Iceberg lettuce is pretty much devoid of nutrition
Other greens (spinach, kale, cabbage, arugula)

Veggies
Sweet peppers (any color)
Cucumber
Tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes are particularly suited for salads)
Red onion, thinly sliced (an absolute must for my salads)
Green onion
Carrots, grated
Beets, grated
Radishes, thinly sliced

Fruit
Pear
Apple
Oranges/tangerines
Any berry
Avocado, sliced (another must!)

Protein
Any bean/legume (I love black beans or chickpeas) - just open the can and drain!
Nuts (pecan, slivered almonds, cashews, etc.)
Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin are good)

Carbohydrate
Any cooked grain (barley, buckwheat, bulgar, corn)
Toasted pita (just brush on olive oil, toast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes)
Whole grain bread croutons

Fat (aka dressing)
The best dressings are home-made and they typically include the following:
Oil
Vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
Optional: Herbs, spices, garlic, other flavorings, mustard (mustard actually helps hold it together so it doesn't separate as easily.)

The ratio of oil to vinegar should be about 3 to 1. Shake it all together in a jar or whisk in a bowl. Super easy!! Below I've also included two of my favorite go-to dressings. These can be made and kept in the fridge for up to a week or so.

Both recipes adapted from Eat, Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton

Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced

Cumin-Cinnamon Vinaigrette
(This one is great for Mexican or Caribbean dishes like Burritos, Mexican Lasagna, or Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp agave or maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

Health Benefits: Eat your greens!!

Pound for pound, leafy greens are just about the healthiest food on the planet! They are low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. The benefits of regularly including greens in your diet include cancer-prevention, lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, prevention of cataract and age-related macular degeneration, and improved immune function. Wow..Now that's a sales pitch!

Now go forth and enjoy mother nature's medicine!

January 27, 2010

Paella

I'd never had paella before this Christmas. We were staying at my Dad's and he sought out to make a vegan friendly dinner that everyone would enjoy. It was so simple, tasty and creamy, I was amazed that I'd never thought of trying it before! Who wouldn't love a dish with rice, beans, veggies and a slightly spicy tomato based flavour?! And don't we all need more Spanish influence in our lives?! So thank you Dad and Gisele for your introduction to this fantastic meal...it's since become one of our staples!!

Now, I did a bit of research about this dish because I was a little curious as to how "authentic" this recipe is. Well, turns out, not very! Apparently, to prepare paella, there are three basic rules to follow:


1. Cook Over a Fire - Hmmm...nope, not in this weather anyway!

2. Use a traditional Paella Pan - A paella pan is apparently a necessity. It's a large, flat, open round steel pan with handles. Again, nope!

3. Use Medium-Grain Rice - For best results, use a medium-grain rice rather than a long grain rice. The medium-grain rice absorbs a lot of liquid, which makes it particularly fitting for paella. Ok! Now this we can do!!

1 out of 3 ain't bad right? Give it a try and feel free to be flexible...paella is meant to be personal to the chef - that's you! So mix it up and see what you get!



    Makes approximately 6 servings

    Ingredients
    3 tbsp olive oil
    5 cloves minced garlic
    1 large yellow onion
    4-5 cups vegetable stock
    2 cups medium grain brown rice
    1 28oz can diced tomatoes
    1 small red bell pepper, chopped
    1 small green bell pepper, chopped
    1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
    1 tsp rosemary
    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    2 tsp cumin powder
    1/2 tsp paprika
    1 can (about 2 cups) cooked black beans (or any other bean), drained
    1 cup frozen corn kernels

    Directions
    Heat oil in a large high-sided frying pan or large saucepan. Add garlic and onion and saute until onions are translucent (about 5-7 min). At the same time, heat broth in a separate saucepan until simmering.

    Pour the rice in the pan and mix well. Fry for about 3 minutes, then add can tomatoes (with juice), spices, and bell peppers and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

    Add 3 cups of stock to begin with. Partially cover the pot and let simmer on low until the stock is mostly absorbed (anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on type of rice used). Once most of the stock is absorbed, add another cup of stock and leave the cover off as it simmers. You may need to add some or all of the final cup of stock depending on the rice and the tenderness you like. All together, the cooking process can take up to 40 minutes (white rice takes much less time to cook than brown rice).

    Once the rice is tender and there is still a bit of stock remaining to be absorbed, add the beans and frozen corn. Just heat through and serve!

    This recipe freezes really well and tastes great as leftovers!

    Enjoy!


    January 26, 2010

    Why vegan?

    Since changing my eating habits I've been asked countless times "but why?". Sometimes it's hard to eloquently express my many reasons without sounding too preachy or, on the other end, too apathetic about the subject. So, for those of you who are asking the same thing, I recently came across a few resources that succinctly explains it all quite well.

    Below Chef Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook, provides a good starting point. I've provided a few extra links for each subject if you'd like to read more.

    WHY VEGAN?
    Source

    Without being preachy, here's a quick look at what veganism means to those who choose it. Even a step toward it -- say, going meatless three days a week -- lets you in on a lot of the benefits.

    Health
    Because cutting out animal products means virtually eliminating the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and several types of cancer. Your energy shoots up and your weight is likely to drop.
    Read more here

    Ethics
    Because most of us question the morality of eating animals, and many people who feel it's absolutely wrong do it anyway out of habit. Eating with a clear conscience -- feeling good about everything you put in your mouth -- lightens up your life.
    Read more here

    Planet
    Because factory farming of animals consumes and pollutes insane quantities of water and demands so much feed that it threatens forests. And because greenhouse gases from animal emissions are destroying the atmosphere.
    Read more here and here

    Helping Others
    Because the grain fed to livestock could feed at least twice as many hungry people in third-world countries. Weakening the livestock industry by buying less or no meat is a step toward rejiggering resources to save lives.
    Read more here

    Because Albert Einstein Said So
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

    Because Paul McCartney Said So
    "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you can do."

    Here are a few others you might recognize...

    Actors, Actresses, Comedians, and Producers
    Alec Baldwin
    Alicia Silverstone
    Alyssa Milano
    Carrie Anne Moss
    Casey Affleck
    Casey Kasem
    Daryl Hannah
    Demi Moore
    Elijah Wood
    Ellen DeGeneres
    Emily Deschanel
    Gillian Anderson
    Ginnifer Goodwin
    Heather Mills
    James Cromwell
    Jason Schwartzman
    Jennifer Connelly
    Joaquin Phoenix
    Keenan Ivory Wayens
    Kevin Nealon
    Mayim Bialik (Blossom)
    Natalie Portman
    Pamela Anderson
    Portia de Rossi
    Sandra Oh
    Tea Leoni
    Toby Maguire
    Vanessa A. Williams
    Weird Al Yankovic
    Woody Harrelson
    Zooey Deschanel

    Musicians
    Alanis Morissette
    Anthony Kiedis
    Barry White
    Brandy
    Bryan Adams
    Jason Mraz
    Joan Jett
    K.D. Lang
    Michael Franti
    Phil Collins
    Shania Twain
    Sinead O'Connor

    Athletes
    Brendan Brazier (ironman triathlete)
    Carl Lewis (Olympic Track Star)
    Ed Templeton (pro skateboarder)
    George Laraque (NHL)
    Jack LaLaine (fitness guru)
    John Salley (former NBA player)
    Lucy Stephens (triathlete)
    Martina Navratilova (tennis)
    Pat Neshek (Minnesota Twins pitcher)

    Other
    Albert Schweitzer, theologian, philosopher, and physician
    Benjamin Spock, M.D.
    Henry David Thoreau
    Leonardo Da Vinci
    Mohandas Ghandi

    Hope that sheds some light on some of the reasons I've chosen to focus on eating a plant-based diet. If you'd like to know more or want to ask any specific questions feel free to email me - I'd love to chat!

    Now...back to cooking... :D

    January 21, 2010

    Blueberry Banana Pancakes

    When Jeff and I bought our first home, we had these romantic visions of lazy Saturday mornings at the dining room table, still cozy in our PJs, reading the newspaper for hours, passing the Arts and Lifestyle sections back and forth, all while sipping hot coffee from a seemingly endless pot. Alas, we've been living in our home for over two years and this fantasy has yet to be realized...Oh well, it's still nice to dream right??

    Although we're still waiting for our hours-long coffee and newspaper fest to materialize, we have been successful in establishing one cherished Saturday morning tradition - Pancakes!! And I highly recommend you try it. These pancakes are really easy to whip up and always turn out fantastic - not too dense or too light - all without the need for dairy or eggs!

    Not only do they taste great, but they are healthy too! Well, healthier than the average anyway... They're made with whole wheat flour (I've actually tried them with everyday white flour and they turned out a bit rubbery - so try them with whole wheat if you can), they have a whole banana and lots of blueberries! Plus, I suggest adding some chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds for extra health benefits (and great added texture)!


    Makes 4 medium sized pancakes


    Ingredients
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds) (optional)
    1 ripe banana
    1 - 1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, etc)
    1 tbsp sweetener such as maple syrup or sugar (optional)
    About 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
    About 1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
    Lots of real maple syrup!!

    Directions
    Put a serving dish in the oven and preheat to 210 degrees.

    Mix flour, baking powder and nuts in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mash banana with a fork or masher until most of the lumps are gone. Add 1 cup non-dairy milk and sweetener to the banana and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the dry and gently mix until just wet (don't beat this mixture or the batter will be rubbery). If you notice the batter is too thick, add up to 1/4 cup more non-dairy milk until you reach the desired consistency.

    Preheat your frying pan at about medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. When hot (tip: a drop of water should sizzle), drop 1/3 cup of batter into the pan then immediately drop the blueberries into the batter (add as little or as many as you want) - gently press them down into the batter while the pancake cooks. When the batter starts bubbling on the sides and in the middle you're ready to flip! Cook the other side for another 3 or 4 minutes to ensure the batter cooks around the blueberries.

    Once cooked through, transfer cooked pancake to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.


    My humble tips for great pancakes:

    1) Use a small frying pan if you have one (e.g. 9 inch). This will keep all the oil inside the area where the pancake cooks - ensuring maximum outer crispiness and less waste!

    2) Drop any fruit pieces to the pancake batter AFTER you've poured it into the pan - otherwise you'll get lots of color from the fruit bleeding into the batter (not a bad thing, but just the way I like it).

    3) Use a measured amount of batter for each pancake for a uniform stack - and less fighting over who gets the largest pancake!

    4) Make sure your heat is just right - I keep adjusting the heat throughout the cooking process, the first pancake is cooked at the highest heat (about medium high) and I keep inching it down from there - by the time I get to my fourth one, the heat is usually set at medium low.

    5) Resist the urge to keep checking if the underside is cooked - give the pancake time to cook through a bit and get nice a crispy on the outside. Wait until you see bubbles all the way through the batter, then flip!

    6) Whenever you have a ripe banana lying around but don't necessarily want to cook with it right away, just freeze it! When you're ready to use it, defrost for about 45 seconds, cut off the top and squeeze the banana out of it's peel - super easy!

    Well, that's it for this week - geez, who knew simple pancakes could result in such a lengthy post! Have a great weekend!


    This recipe was adapted from How it all Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

    January 15, 2010

    Soup's On!

    Last year Jeff (my husband) and I decided to do a 21-day cleanse wherein we omitted all meat, fish, eggs, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and, as a result, shifted our eating toward more whole food including using new grains and lots of organic produce. This was based on the cleanse suggested in Kathy Freston's Quantum Wellness (see my reading list). Throughout the 21 days we were so surprised at how easy it was to eat this way--the food tasted amazing and we felt better (physically and mentally) almost instantly! After the three weeks, we decided to stick with this diet for the most part because we just couldn't come up with a good reason to go back to how we were eating before.

    Last week, I learned about a similar program being sponsored by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart is a "program is designed for anyone who wants to explore and experience the health benefits of a vegan diet". If you're interested, check-out their website, it's got some really fantastic resources including a full 21-day meal plan, personalized grocery shopping lists, tons of recipes, celebrity tips, and some great videos! In the spirit of the 21-Day Kickstart, I decided to test out a couple of the recipes on their site. I chose two soups because, well, it's winter, and soups do a great job at warming us up on those cold and snowy days! The pictures are from my own kitchen, so what you see is what you get!

    Butternut Soup with Cinnamon Cream
    Makes 4-6 servings

    This soup is sooooo good!! I'm a big fan of creamy soups and this one does not disappoint! It's super silky and creamy from the buttery squash and it's got just the right amount of flavour kick from the ginger and cinnamon. Best of all, it's really easy to prepare!! This soup would be a great starter for any meal. Or pair with a hearty salad and some crusty bread for a complete meal.


    Ingredients
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    2 pounds butternut squash (about 6 cups), peeled and chopped
    1 carrot, chopped
    1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
    1 clove garlic, chopped (this wasn't original to the recipe--silly eh?)
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 tablespoon ground coriander
    3 cups vegetable stock
    1 cup soymilk (or any non-dairy milk)
    salt, to taste
    freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Directions
    In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion for 5 minutes, until golden. Add squash, carrot, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. Cook while stirring for 5 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are browned.

    Add the vegetable stock and soymilk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring for 30 to 35 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Blend until smooth in a blender or food processor. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

    Lentil Barley Stew
    Makes 6 1-cup servings

    I love barley in soups! Well, I love barley in anything really, it's so chewy and hearty and pairs really well with beans and lentils. This soup is really tasty, it's got the exact right flavour that you'd expect from a lentil and barley stew...and it's got just a tiny bit of spice at the end to keep you coming back for more! This soup is a meal all on it's own, but paired with some fresh whole wheat crusty bread, it's over the top ;)


    Ingredients
    1/2 cup dry lentils, rinsed
    1/4 cup dry hulled or pearl barley
    4 cups Vegetable Broth or water
    1 onion, chopped
    1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
    1 carrot, diced
    1 celery stalk, sliced
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt

    Directions
    Place all ingredients except salt into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils and barley are tender, about 1 hour. Add salt to taste.

    Enjoy!



    January 14, 2010

    Dips!

    Dips are great for all occasions... They are great as appetizers for a nice dinner party, as snacks to accompany your favourite TV shows (ahem, LOST anyone?), or as a healthy alternative to your everyday brown bag lunch. They are great dipped with crackers, potato chips, tortilla chips, pita bread or chopped veggies! You can even smear them on a tortilla, throw in some veggies and call it a wrap!

    These are your standard "go-to" dips that are a hit with pretty much anyone - Hummus, Guacamole, and Black Bean Dip - all are super easy, cheap and packed with healthy snacking nutrients!! Because everyone likes their dips a certain way (e.g., lemony hummus, garlicky guac, or chunky black bean dip), you should consider these recipes a guide...play with them, add more or less ingredients and find what makes you happy!


    Hummus


    Ingredients
    1 can chickpeas, drained (Optional - reserve liquid for later)
    2 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
    4-5 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
    2 tbsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp salt

    Directions
    Add all ingredients in the food processor and blend. Keep checking and scraping the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything gets blended. If it seems dry, add - by the tablespoon - either the reserved chickpea liquid or water to thin it out (the chickpea liquid makes it a bit smoother, but it has more sodium, so if you're trying to avoid that just use water).

    Serve sprinkled with extra cumin or paprika and drizzled with olive oil. Variation There are a million variations on hummus, for example, try adding chopped fresh basil, roasted red pepper, or sundried tomatoes!

    Health Benefits
    Tahini is made of sesame seeds which are a very good source of manganese and copper, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fibre. Infact, just a quarter-cup of sesame seeds supplies 35.1% of the daily recommendation for calcium!!

    Guacamole


    Ingredients
    4 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded (Tip: to ripen avocados faster, put them in a paper bag with a banana, apple or tomato!)
    1-2 tsp ground cumin
    1 tomato, seeded and diced
    1/4 - 1/2 cup finely diced onion (red, white, or green - or a mix)
    2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced (optional)
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
    4 tbsp fresh lime juice
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped salt and pepper to taste

    Directions
    - Cut avocado into large chunks and mash coarsely in a bowl with a fork.
    - Add remaining ingredients and mix gently. The guacamole does not have to be absolutely smooth - leaving some small avocado chunks is fine – more than fine actually!

    Health Benefits
    Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate and copper. Avocados are also a good source of potassium - they are actually higher in potassium than a medium banana!

    Black Bean Dip


    Ingredients
    1 tsp olive oil
    1/4 cup chopped onion
    1 large clove garlic, chopped
    1 green pepper, chopped
    1/2 tsp coriander, ground cumin, and chili powder
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
    1 can (19oz) black beans, drained
    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    3 tbsp fresh cilantro
    1 small tomato, chopped

    Directions
    - Cook onion, garlic, and half the green pepper until tender (about 7 min). Stir in ground spices then remove from heat.
    - Briefly process beans and juice, add onion mixture, tomato and half the fresh cilantro - process until smooth. If it's too thick, add up to 1/4 cup water.
    - Serve topped with remaining cilantro and green pepper.

    Health Benefits
    Black beans are a very good source of dietary fibre, folate (one cup provides about 2/3 of the daily recommendation for folate), a good source of manganese, protein, magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), phosphorus and iron. In the case of protein, a one cup serving of cooked black beans provides about one third of a day's protein requirement.


    Enjoy!

    Super-Charge Me! Cookies

    These cookies have become a daily staple in my house. They replace all those “fake healthy” granola bars that we used to take to work as snacks. They’re packed with nutrition with natural peanut butter, flax meal and oatmeal! You’ll notice that there’s no refined white sugar, flour or tons of added fat in these babies; they’re better than that – and so are YOU!

    Tip: These cookies freeze really well, so they're great to make in big batches for the whole week!

    Makes 11–12 cookies

    Dry Ingredients
    2/3 cup spelt flour (you can use whole wheat flour, just reduce the total amount by about 3 tbsp)
    1 cup quick oats or rolled oats (I use half rolled and half quick)
    1/4 tsp (rounded) sea salt
    1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/4 –1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit (optional)
    3–4 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)
    1 tsp baking powder

    Wet Ingredients
    1/3 cup flax meal (not flax seed)
    1/2 cup pure maple syrup or agave
    3 tbsp peanut butter (may use cashew, almond, or hemp seed butter)
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tbsp organic canola oil

    Directions
    - Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
    - In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, raisins, and chocolate chips, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined.
    - In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Then stir in oil.
    - Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (try not to overmix).
    - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly.
    - Spoon batter onto baking sheet evenly space apart, and lightly flatten.
    - Bake for 11-12 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out).
    - Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

    Enjoy!!

    This recipe is taken from Eat, Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton

    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla with Fresh Tropical Fruit Salsa

    Having a dinner party? Don't know what to serve? Looking for some inspiration to spice up a weeknight dinner at home? Why not whip up some yummy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas with some Tropical Fruit Salsa? They're a nice (and healthy) variation on the standard chicken and cheese versions that are usually piled high with sour cream! Instead, opt to serve these babies with some fresh guacamole and a nice green salad. If you want to get really fancy, serve some basmati rice infused with lime and coconut milk with a side of fried plantains! Mmmm...so tropical!!! I can hear the steel drums now...


    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas
    (makes 2 main-course, 6 snack-size or 12 appetizer servings)








    Ingredients
    1 (8-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
    1/2 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp lime juice
    1/4 tsp garlic salt (or one clove fresh garlic)
    1/4 tsp ground cumin
    Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
    1/2 tbsp diced canned mild green chilies, drained (you can find these in any grocery store with the taco seasonings)
    6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas
    3/4 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans

    Directions
    Boil sweet potatoes until soft (about 10 minutes)
    Drain and return to saucepan. Add oil, lime juice, garlic salt, cumin, and black pepper. Mash well. Stir in chilies and mix well.
    Lay out one tortilla, cover with one third of the mashed sweet potato (about 1/4 cup), then top with 1/4 cup black beans.
    Cover with another tortilla, press. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
    Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a little oil.
    Press tortillas (one at a time) lightly with a spatula and cook until lightly browned, then turn over and repeat.


    Tropical Fruit Salsa

    Ingredients
    2 cups tropical fruit of your choice (papaya, pineapple, mango), diced
    1 to 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped
    1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
    1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp lime juice
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tsp sugar
    1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Directions
    Toss all ingredients together until combined. Serve.
    You can prepare ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 1 day.


    Did you know?
    Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, a very good source of vitamin C and manganese, and a good source of copper, dietary fibre, vitamin B6, potassium and iron! Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans' high fibre content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. When combined with whole grains (such as whole grain tortillas), black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein! Wow!


    Enjoy!

    Both recipes are taken from
    The Tropical Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein

    January 13, 2010

    Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado

    This recipe is one of my new favorites!! It combines my love of lasagna, mexican food, black beans and of course - Avocado! And it's got a crunchy topping which is welcomed at any meal! Even though the ingredient list looks long, it's actually very easy to assemble. It avoids the need to boil the lasagna noodles, which - even though simple - always seems to stop me from making lasagna more often...well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!!


    Hint: to make prep time even shorter...prepare the tomato sauce mixture ahead of time and freeze it. When you want to have it for dinner, just defrost the sauce and assemble!!


    Ingredients
    1 can (14-oz/398 ml) plain tomato sauce
    1 tsp chili powder
    1 1/4 tsp cumin powder
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1/8 tsp allspice
    1/4 (rounded) salt
    freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1/2 tsp chipotle hot sauce (I use Tabasco brand)
    1/4 tsp sugar, agave or maple syrup (optional)
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/3 cup onion, finely diced
    1 can (14 oz/ 398 ml) black or pinto beans, rinsed (about 1 3/4 cups)
    2-3 large whole wheat tortillas
    1 large avocado (or 2 small ones), sliced thinly
    3/4 cup corn kernels
    1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
    1/2 cup tortilla chips
    grated vegan cheese (optional)
    Fresh cilantro for garnish


    Directions
    - Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    - In a large bowl, combine tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, allspice, salt, pepper, hot sauce, agave or syrup, garlic, onion, and beans. Stir to mix well.
    - Lightly oil an 8x12-in baking dish. Pour half of mixture in baking dish and distribute evenly.
    - Place one of the tortillas on top of mixture (I cut the tortilla in half and place the straight edge along the long side of the dish. Then I fit the other half on the other long edge...there will be some overlap with the two halves - cut the overlap off the second half and use the extra pieces to cover the left and right sides).
    - Place avocado slices on top of tortilla, then evenly distribute corn over avocado. Drizzle this layer with lime juice.
    - Top with remaining tortillas, spread with remaining sauce, and sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips. You can add grated non-dairy cheese to the top if you like (but it's fine without it).
    - Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or so until casserole is bubbling at edges.
    - Remove from oven, let sit for about 5-10 minutes, then cut into squares to serve. -- Sprinkle with fresh cilantro if desired.

    Enjoy!!


    This recipe is taken from Eat, Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton

    January 12, 2010

    Vegetarian Burritos


    This week's recipe for Vegetarian Burritos is packed with yummy veggies, beans, rice, and salsa! They're in low fat, and have tons of fibre, protein and other healthy vitamins and minerals!! These burritos are super easy to make especially with the help of a food processor!! Feel free to play with the ingredients and spicing...that's the great thing with burritos, they're so versatile!

    I recommend making a double batch -- you can prepare, individually wrap in plastic and freeze them!! When you're ready for a great lunch or dinner, just pop them in the microwave, defrost for a few minutes on each side, then cook for 2-3 minutes...voila! They're excellent served with mashed avocado on the side!!


    This recipe was adapted from one given to me by my sister-in-law - Thanks Ellen!


    Ingredients
    1 onion
    1 zucchini
    1 1/2 peppers (any colour)
    1 carrot
    garlic (2-3 cloves)
    2 T chili powder (or to taste - make sure it's not the super-hot stuff first!)
    2 T cumin powder (or to taste)
    1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
    1 can refried beans (any kind, e.g., pinto, black bean, soy bean...)
    about 1/2 large jar of salsa (or just to taste)
    1/2 cup cooked brown rice
    7-10 large whole wheat tortillas (depending on how full you stuff them)
    1 avocado

    Directions
    - Chop veggies into big chunks, then process in food processor until desired 'chunkyness' (I usually use the grating attachment for the carrots). Fry veggies all together with spices and salt until softened (but still a little firm).
    - Add refried beans and mix well (using a little heat over the stove helps soften the beans a bit faster). Then add salsa and cooked rice, mix well.
    - Add about 3 heaping tablespoons of mixture to the large tortilla, fold in edges and roll up moving from the bottom up
    - If you're gonna serve them right away, add a little extra filling on top (if available), then top with non-dairy cheese (optional)
    - Cook at about 425 for about 15-20min
    - Serve with extra salsa and guacamole - or just some mashed avocado for those of us who don't want to get too fancy!

    Enjoy!!