Five Ways To Up Your Veggie Burger Game

It’s seems as though we’re in the heyday of veggie burgers. Whether you like a classic hippie veggie burger with whole grains and legumes or if you’re looking for a meaty vegan burger, there are so many options!

While I personally love a homemade black bean burger, I have to say the surge of meat-like alternatives such as Beyond Meat have really expanded the foodie horizons and provide alternatives for plant-based eaters at pubs, fast food establishments, and restaurants that historically weren’t very veggie friendly. Not to mention that most grocery stores carry a variety of options that are suited to just about all palates (vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike!).

When I’m putting together fixings for my burgers I usually like to go all out. I love loading up my burg with nutritious toppings and a variety of flavours and textures. Below I’ve shared some of my tips for upping your veggie burger game!

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Load up your burger with veggies & fruits!
If you’ve been to any of my talks or workshops, you’d know I’m always looking for ways to add more vegetables and fruits to my meals. Veggie burgers are no exception! Of course, there are the tried and true toppings like thinly sliced onions, tomatoes and lettuce. However, I’m a huge fan of adding arugula, spinach or baby kale, micro greens or sprouts, pickled red onions, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, or grilled peaches, pears or pineapples. I don’t necessarily add all of these at the same time, but the point is, there’s tons of variety and the options are endless. If you have any favourite veggie or fruit toppings that I didn’t mention, please tell me in the comments below.

Fermented fixings.
Fermented foods lend a nice crunch, a hit of sourness, and the benefit of gut friendly bacteria to whatever you’re eating. I enjoy adding sauerkraut and kimchi to veggie burgers, but my personal favourite is fermented dill pickles and mustards. When shopping for these products look for words like “raw”, “unpasteurized” or “lacto-fermented” on the label. They will likely be in the natural food section of well stocked grocery stores or health food stores in the refrigerator, and at your local farmers’ market.

Carefully curated condiments.
Confession: I have a thing for condiments! Some of my favourite plant-based veggie burger toppings include soft cashew cheeses, tapenade, salsa, pesto, chutney, vegan mayo or even homemade or naturally sweetened ketchups (I really like the Good Food For Good brand which uses dates instead of sugar). Oh and hummus, the catch-all condiment that can be added to just about anything. It truly deserves its own food group.

Better buns.
Most commercial or store bought breads taste pretty good, but many fall short nutritionally. Generally when I’m seeking out the perfect bun to my burg, I’ll look for sprouted whole grain burger buns as they tend to contain higher quality, more nutritious ingredients. They can be harder to come by, so try the natural food section in your grocery store or your local health food store. I also suggest connecting with artisanal bakers or bakeries in your area for freshly baked buns free of preservatives and additives.

Super tasty sides.
At most restaurants you’ll be offered a side salad or fries with your veggie burger, but the great thing about serving veggie burgers at home or bringing them to a BBQ party is that you can step it up a notch with super tasty and nutritious sides. I usually serve my veggie burgers with my Power Pasta Salad, Summer Slaw or my Superfood Kale Salad. Fries make a great side, but have you tried my Chili Roasted Sweet Potatoes? These are baked (not fried!) and pair perfectly with any veggie burger.

I hope my suggestions will take your summer barbecues to the next level. I was inspired to write this post after filming a veggie burger taste test with some friends for my YouTube channel. You can check out the video below!

Marinated Tofu & Veggie Skewers

During the springtime I taught a lot of cooking classes. The most popular class leading into the summer months was my “Veggie Grilling” class. If you follow me on social media you likely saw a few photos or videos from my classes and you definitely would’ve seen a few shots of the tofu & veggie skewers. I had a lot requests for this recipe and I’m happy to finally be sharing it with you while we’re still in the height of summer.

If you’re new to using tofu this is a great recipe to get you started. Tofu is a very neutral tasting plant-based protein which makes it perfect for marinating. Not to mention that extra firm tofu holds up very well on the grill. If you don't have a barbecue - don’t worry - you can still make this recipe. Follow the recipe exactly, but instead of using a grill, simply bake your skewers on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375 F for 30 - 40 minutes or until the tofu has firmed up and all the veggies are cooked through.

For a long time there was a misconception that if you don’t eat meat, there’s really not much worth grilling. I think these skewers will put that idea to rest. Try out this recipe and let me know if you agree!

MARINATED TOFU & VEGGIE SKEWERS

Yields anywhere from 8 - 12 skewers or 4 servings.

Ingredients:

350 g block of extra firm tofu, diced (big enough to fit on your skewers)
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or a few drops of liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, optional 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 red onion chopped into big chunks
1 bell pepper cut into large dice
1 zucchini cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 pint mushrooms of your choice, cleaned off, stems removed

Directions:

Mix the soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup, smoked paprika or liquid smoke, chili flakes and garlic in a measuring cup to create the marinade. In a wide flat container or casserole dish, add the tofu and pour over the marinade. Cover and transfer the dish to the refrigerator for 1 hour to overnight, mixing occasionally to allow the tofu to absorb the marinade.

Drain the marinade into a saucepan, bring to boil and reduce to a simmer until it thickens, stirring occasionally. This could take about 20 minutes.

While you are reducing the marinade, thread the cubes of tofu and mixed veggies onto skewers.  Once the the marinade has thickened up nicely, brush it over the skewers so all the veggies have a light coating.

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Option to lightly brush the grill with some oil (unless it's nonstick).  Transfer your skewers to the grill and cook the skewers for 5 minutes on each side or until you have nice grill marks.  

Notes from the kitchen:
-For best results, be sure to drain off the excess water from the tofu when you take it out of the package. Then pat the tofu dry with a paper towel or dish cloth. This will allow the tofu to fully absorb the marinade. In case you’re wondering, you do not need to press the tofu, but if you’d like to, go ahead.
-If you’re using wooden skewers and grilling on a barbecue, make sure to soak your skewers in water for at least 30 minutes so that they don’t catch on fire.

This recipe is inspired by the Buddhist Chef’s tofu skewers.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning. For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

A Plant-Based Guide to Patio Season

Patio season is a sought after time of year even when trying to stay plant-based. Not all plant-based options are automatically healthy but whether you’re trying to make healthier choices or looking to treat yourself, check out my pro tips on how to stay in the plant-based lane. 

Drinks

First of all, I’d like to mention that you don’t need to drink alcohol to fully embrace the patio experience. Kombucha has changed the game for many looking to curb their drinking habits. The fermented taste combined with effervescence can make for an excellent beer or cider substitute. Some of the trendier restaurants have even started carrying it on tap. It comes in a variety of flavours and contains probiotics. Plus, I’m seeing more and more companies like Seedlip who are revolutionizing mocktails with a fantastic array of non-alcoholic spirits. There’s also Canadian brewers such as Parktake Brewing who are creating tasty alcohol-free IPA, blonde and pale ales.

Another great alternative to drinking alcohol is instead ordering sparkling soda/water. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime and a pinch of salt. With this DIY electrolyte drink you’ll be well hydrated for your patio adventures.

As for the alcoholic beverages, you may already know that many beers and wines are processed using animal products such as isinglass, egg whites, lactose, or gelatin. Ciders are usually (but not always) vegan and other than liquors and mixed drinks that have honey (some plant-based eaters omit honey and others don’t), cream or egg whites, you’re pretty safe with these! Servers at restaurants or bars won’t always know whether or not a beer, wine or liquor is vegan, so you might have to do the research yourself.

For a comprehensive list of vegan alcohol options available in Canada and the US visit Barnivore.  It’s an online database that’s easy to search and explore. They don’t guarantee having every beer, wine and liquor on the market but they stay pretty up to date and have an easy submission process if you want to add your favourites.

Fortunately many of my favourite Ontario wines like Karlo Estates (the first certified vegan winery in the world!), Sandbanks and Waupoos Estate Winery are vegan. As for beers, most tend to be vegan  - including my fave beer Mill Street Organic - but I’ve come across milk stouts, milkshake IPA’s, caramel truffle beer, etc that contain milk or milk chocolate so keep an eye out for those.

Nutritionist tip: If you do plan on drinking alcohol, remember to follow each drink with a glass of water and never drink on an empty stomach.  And on that note, let’s talk about food…

Patio Eats  

The plant-based patio hopper can survive quite easily if they’re willing to be resourceful. I’ve found that a large number of places will serve one or all of these options:

Pita Plate/Veggie Plate – most places nowadays serve an appetizer made up of cut up veggies, some crackers or pita, olives, and hummus. A perfect compliment to that glass of white wine. 

Cauliflower Wings – a plant-based sensation, these little guys are super yummy and popping up more and more as an alternative to chicken wings. Often made in BBQ and sesame flavours these can really hit the spot for that typical patio fare taste.

Nachos (hold the cheese, extra guacamole) – nachos can quickly become a veggie-head’s perfect snack when you hold off on the meat and cheese. Just be sure to ask for extra guac and salsa.

Veggie Burger – it’s rare not to find a decent veggie burger on the menu these days especially with the spike in popularity of meat-substitute brands like Beyond Meat, which is popping up in more and more restaurants, pubs and bars.

Vegan limited offers – sometimes restaurants will only want to dip in their toes and run limited-time plant-based menu items as a way of testing out their consumer demand. Be sure to check not only the menu, but also the little postcards and specials signs on the table and in the restaurant, or simply ask your server if there are any vegan options as part of the daily special.

Lastly, a great resource for finding plant-based friendly spots is Happy Cow (both the website and the app). You can customize your search by location and filter by vegan, vegetarian or by restaurants that have vegan options. You can also use Google Maps and search “vegan” to find updated info on restaurants in your area that offer vegan options. Google Maps has been a handy resource for me both locally and on my travels.

Happy patio season friends! I’ll be sharing a number of tips over the summer on my website and on social media. If you want to share other suggestions for patio season or tips and tricks for plant-based eating at restaurants, pubs, and bars please leave them in the comments below.

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Veggie Quinoa "Fried Rice"

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to collaborate with others. I work with a variety of brands, health food products, and business owners quite regularly. Although I am self-employed the collaborative nature of my work really fills me up and I rarely feel like I’m working alone.

This blog post was a collaborative effort with Debra Cowie, who is somebody I greatly admire. Debra is a leading Canadian food stylist and photographer known for her gorgeous flat lays and clean aesthetic. She just so happens to live in Ottawa and we have naturally crossed paths over the past few years. Mostly recently Debra expressed an interest in cooking more plant-based foods. She enthusiastically joined Plant-Based Breakthrough, my online nutrition and meal makeover program, and took part in both the winter and spring sessions in 2019. Having her part of the program was a bit intimidating for me because she’s a true foodie, a great cook, and really knows her stuff when it come to all things culinary. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when she said she really enjoyed the recipes and has started incorporating many of them into her rotation. Coming from her, that was one of the highest compliments. She also kindly snapped several beautiful photos of the recipes featured in the program and I’m pleased to share the first (of many!) on my blog this week.

One of Debra’s favourite recipes from the program was my Veggie Quinoa “Fried Rice”. It’s a healthy spin on the classic take-out dish fried rice and features protein-rich quinoa, hearty kale, aromatic spices, and lots of other veggies. Debra served up her Veggie Quinoa “Fried Rice” with a side of smoked tofu and roasted broccoli. See her beautiful photo below and then keep scrolling for the full recipe.

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VEGGIE QUINOA “FRIED RICE”

Yields 4 - 6 servings 

Ingredients: 

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed under cold water 
1.5 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil or coconut oil
1 bunch kale, stems roughly chopped, leaves ripped or chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, small dice
1 carrot, small dice
1 rib of celery, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups green peas
1/4 cup regular or low sodium tamari or soy sauce
Sriracha or hot sauce of your choice, optional
Sea salt

Directions:

In a medium pot, add the quinoa and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 12 - 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Then transfer the quinoa to a bowl.

In a large skillet or wok, warm the oil over over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, kale stems and a pinch of sea salt and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until it becomes fragrant and the veggies start to soften. Add the garlic, ginger and green onions, and sauté for a minute or two. Add the kale leaves and sauté until it begins to wilt (about 2 minutes).

Add the quinoa and peas to the skillet. Then pour in the tamari or soy sauce and stir until everything is evenly combined. Serve warm and enjoy on its own or with a side dish of your choice.

Will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Quick & Easy Banana Oat Pancakes

My husband Jeremy has been making me pancakes for breakfast quite regularly on the weekend for years. On Saturday mornings when I get home from the gym he’ll have pancakes waiting for me. His recipe is not necessarily complicated, but it’s not super fast to make which is why pancakes were reserved exclusively for weekends or when we have more time to prep, cook and clean up.

I was recently in Alabama visiting my my sister and her family. One morning my 3 year-old-niece Marley wanted me to make her pancakes. I was tempted to make Jeremy’s recipe, but time was tight and there was lots of commotion as we hurried to get Marley ready for daycare. It dawned on me that I could probably simplify things a bit and create a quick, easy recipe that my niece would like and that my sister could recreate on busy mornings. I took to google as I usually do and came across this stellar recipe from Ambitious Kitchen. I ultimately ended up modifying the recipe but it provided the inspiration I needed. I’ve changed the quantities a bit, made some omissions and additions, but from the get-go these pancakes were a huge hit with my niece. My sister and my mom have both started making this recipe regularly. Jeremy also loves the simplicity of this recipe and he’s been making pancakes more often… even on weekdays!

This super simple recipe is vegan and gluten free. It contains ingredients most of us are likely to have in our kitchens. Bananas, oats, plant-based milk, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder & salt. That’s it! The bananas give the pancakes some sweetness and the oats take the place of flour. Although you could use quick oats, I recommend using rolled oats as they are higher in protein and fibre. Jeremy and I have played around with different variations of this recipe and have added flax and protein powder with great success.

Just a little disclaimer: these will not be your typical white, fluffy diner style pancakes. They are a bit more dense and not-so-fluffy, but if you are looking for a healthy, yet delicious, and quick alternative, give these a try! Scroll down for the full recipe and be sure to let me know how it goes or if you make any of your own modifications.

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BANANA OAT PANCAKES

Makes 6 - 8 small pancakes

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup of unsweetened plant-based milk
1 cup of rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder
A big pinch of sea salt

Directions:

Add the bananas and plant-based milk to a blender and process on high for a minute (or until the bananas are thoroughly blended into the milk). Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend on high speed for a minute or two until the oats are fully processed and you have a nice, even batter consistency. If the batter is too thick you might need to loosen it by adding a bit more plant-based milk.

Warm a non-stick frying pan or griddle on medium-high heat. Lightly coat the surface with a bit of oil. Once the pan is hot pour the batter (in 1/4 - 1/3 cup batches) onto the hot surface directly from the blender or scoop out some batter using a ladle or measuring cup. Make sure the pancakes are relatively thin or they may not cook all the way through. Cook the first side until bubbles form on top (about 4 minutes). Gently lift the edges around the pancake with a spatula and then you should easily be able to flip it. Cook on the other side for 2 - 3 minutes. The pancake should be golden brown on both sides. Clean off the surface of your pan or griddle, if needed. Repeat this process until you’ve used up all the batter.

Enjoy your freshly made pancakes topped with hemp hearts, blueberries, extra banana, maple syrup, nut or seed butter, or other toppings of your choice. We usually eat all our pancakes in one sitting, but they can be refrigerated for 3 - 4 days, or frozen for a month or so.

Notes from the kitchen:
- I’ve never had any trouble with this recipe, however if you your pancakes are too thick or too runny, you may need to increase the plant-based milk or the amount of oats.
- If the pancakes are still “raw” on the inside after cooking them, it could mean that your batter is to thick, or that your pancakes were too thick. Sometimes flattening down the pancakes when they are on the skillet or in the pan can help with this.
-A hot non-stick surface is the key to perfect pancakes. You’ll want to warm the pan/skillet for a few minutes before adding your batter.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Chili Roasted Sweet Potatoes

If you’ve ever been to one of my events, cooking lessons, or yoga retreats where you’ve had the opportunity to eat or make one of my Buddha Bowls, you’d be familiar with my chili roasted sweet potatoes. As you’ll see in the photo below, they look like sweet potatoes that are slightly overcooked. I didn’t burn them, I swear, they are simply coated with lots of tasty chili spice which plays nicely into the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.

This is a really simple recipe that can be enjoyed as a part of my Buddha Bowls or used as a side dish for any meal. You don’t necessarily need to cut them into cubes as I suggest below. You could turn them into chili fries by cutting them into long strips or even try spiralized chili roasted curly fries. Just note that cooking times will vary depending on how big or small (or curly) your sweet potatoes are. By the way, I’ve made this recipe using peeled and unpeeled potatoes. I tend to like the texture of roasted sweet potatoes with the skin. That said, if I have organic sweet potatoes I'll leave the skin on, and if I end up with conventionally grown, I’ll peel them.

Scroll down for the full recipes! If you try it out, please let me know how it goes. Tag me on Instagram and I’ll be sure to share your photos.

CHILI ROASTED SWEET POTATOES 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of sweet potatoes (~3 small sweet potatoes) 
1 -2 tablespoons chili powder, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: 

Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon liner.

Thoroughly wash the sweet potatoes, then cut them into dice sized pieces. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle over the oil and sprinkle on chili powder, garlic powder, salt & black pepper. Toss the potatoes until evenly coated in oil and spices.

Spread the seasoned sweet potatoes evenly over the baking sheet in a single layer. Transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, stirring once half way through. By 25 minutes the sweet potatoes should have softened and slightly browned on the edges. However, total cooking time will ultimately depend on the size of your cubes. If they are not softened to your linking, cook them for 5 - 10 minutes more.

These will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Swiss Chard, Quinoa & Red Lentil Soup

Three words I would use to describe this soup: simple, nutritious and satisfying. It’s a recipe I’ve been sharing with clients and making at cooking lessons for ages. Most recently I made a batch and shared a photo in my Instagram stories and I received so many requests for this recipe! So here we are! It’s officially live on the blog.

Just a few notes before diving in! Firstly, I used swiss chard this time around, but I’ve also used kale and collards with great success. I also strategically included turmeric and ginger as I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate these anti-inflammatory superstars into my cooking. I must mention that while this is a soup, it really does hold up as a meal on its own. Between the red lentils and quinoa, you’re getting a really nice portion of plant-based protein. The complex carbohydrates from the potatoes will keep you full longer. Plus, it’s a one-pot wonder and it freezes well. Wins all around with this soup!

Scroll down to get the full recipe! If you try it out, please let me know. I truly appreciate getting your feedback on my recipes.

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SWISS CHARD, QUINOA & RED LENTIL SOUP

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 bunch of swiss chard, stems roughly chopped, leaves ripped or chopped into bite-sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh ginger finely minced
½ teaspoon ground turmeric or 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric very finely minced
1 - 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
2 medium potatoes, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces (If organic, no peeling required!)
1 cup red lentils
½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions, carrots, celery and chard stems until tender, about 8 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and sauté another minute, just until fragrant (if using fresh ginger and/or turmeric add it with the garlic). Add in the cumin, dried ginger, dried turmeric, salt, potatoes, lentils, quinoa, water and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover the pot to let everything simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Once the lentils and vegetables have softened, stir in the chopped chard leaves and cook until they are wilted, just a few minutes. Season with additional salt, if desired, and serve warm with freshly ground black pepper. If you like a little heat, try adding chili flakes or a hot sauce of your choice.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for about 2 months.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Tempeh Bolognese on Zucchini Noodles

Before I even dive into the recipe, I should probably tell you a little about tempeh. Maybe you’ve seen it but have been intimidated to try it, or maybe you’ve never even heard of it before. Either way, tempeh is becoming more and more popular, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a mainstream staple yet. So what exactly is it? Tempeh is a plant-based protein. Like tofu, it’s made from soy beans, but the taste and texture is very different due to the way it’s prepared. Unlike tofu, tempeh is a fermented food. It’s a staple in Indonesia and it’s slowly making headway among vegans, vegetarians and flexiarians everywhere.

I enjoy cooking tempeh in many ways. I love cutting it into small cubes, marinating it in a peanut ginger sauce, and baking it in the oven. I also make a smokey tempeh “bacon” by coating the tempeh in a maple, tamari and smoked paprika marinade. It can also easily be incorporated into stir-fry or added as the protein in pasta sauces, stews, soups, curries, tacos, and more!

In this video collaboration with my friend Lynda you’ll learn more about tempeh and find out how I use it to make a tasty bolognese sauce. I served the sauce over zucchini noodles (to up the veg!) and topped it with plant-based cheese from Lynda’s company Fauxmagerie Zengarry. Watch our video below, or scroll down for the text version of the recipe.

TEMPEH BOLOGNESE ON ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH CASHEW CHEESE

Makes 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of tempeh
3 tablespoons, extra virgin olive oil
1 cup, red wine
1 onion, peeled and diced small
1 large carrot, diced small
2 ribs celery, diced small
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoons dry oregano (if fresh is available use 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoons dry basil (if fresh is available use 1 tablespoon)
1 jar (680 ml) strained tomatoes ("passata")
Black pepper to taste
Optional: sweetener such as maple syrup, to taste, if the sauce seems too acidic
1/2 round Fauxmagerie Zengarry Creamy Swiss cashew cheese, frozen & grated
2 - 4 medium zucchini, spiralized into noodles

Directions:

Grate the tempeh on the large teeth of a box grater or crumble it using your hands. Sauté the tempeh in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Add a few splashes of water if tempeh starts to stick.

Add the remaining olive oil and the onion, carrot and celery, with 1 teaspoon of salt, keep cooking until the vegetables have softened.

Add the garlic, oregano and basil, and cook for a few minutes longer (unless you are using fresh oregano and basil then add fresh ingredients near the end of the cooking time). Add 1 cup of red wine and simmer until almost dry.

Pour in the strained tomatoes and cook covered for 15-20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper and sweetener (if needed). Serve the sauce over zucchini noodles (either raw or lightly warmed in a frying pan) and topped with grated Fauxmagerie Zengarry Creamy Swiss cashew cheese. Enjoy!

Notes:

-See Zengarry’s website to find retailers near you. If you cannot find Zengarry in your city or town, you can always swap in another plant-based cheese of your choice, either store bought or homemade. Alternatively you could top your dish with nutritional yeast flakes to add some cheesiness or enjoy the dish on its own!

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

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Green Curry Soup

Have you seen our newly revamped Canada’s food guide yet? It’s a hot topic these days and it generated a whole lot of fun discussion on my Instagram post. The new evidence based guide ditches dairy as a food group and heavily emphasizes plant-based foods. It also includes healthy habits such as choosing water as a primary beverage, eating with others, spending more time cooking at home and being aware of food marketing.

Unlike former iterations of the guide, our new one highlights plant-based proteins. Speaking of which, I recently made a green curry style soup that conveniently features three kinds of plant proteins: tofu, green peas, and soy bean sprouts. This trifecta of proteins paired with homemade green curry sauce and coconut milk resulted in one of the most delicious soup I've ever created.

When you scroll down, don't be alarmed by the list of ingredients. This recipe is soup-er easy to make (45 minutes start to finish), you'll learn how simple it is to DIY a flavourful green curry-style sauce, and you'll have leftovers for the next couple of days.  Scroll down for the full recipe!

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VEGAN GREEN CURRY SOUP 

Makes 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients: 

Green curry sauce: 

1 bunch of cilantro, stems and leaves washed and roughly chopped
1 bunch of parsley, stems and leaves washed and roughly chopped
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced
1 - 2 hot peppers (I used habanero, but jalapeño or another spicy pepper would work), chopped
3 cloves of garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon sea salt 

Soup base: 

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
8 oz mushrooms of your choice, sliced
1 can (400 ml / 14oz) of full fat coconut milk 
1 block of firm tofu, large dice
1 can (199 ml) bamboo shoots (optional) 
1 cup green peas
1 bunch greens of your choice (I used dandelion), washed and finely chopped 
3 - 4 cups soy bean or mung bean sprouts (optional)
Sea salt & pepper 

Black rice ramen (I used Lotus Foods brand) or rice noodles, cooked according to package directions

Directions:

In a blender process all of the green curry ingredients to a smooth, sauce-like consistency.  You may need to add a bit of water to get things going.

Warm the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots, and a big pinch of salt, and cook until the onions become translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the mushrooms and cook them for a few minutes until they have softened and start releasing water. 

Add the green curry sauce to the pot, along with the coconut milk, tofu, bamboo shoots, and peas. You will also want to add 3 - 4 cups of water depending on how thick you want your soup to be. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, then stir in the greens and sprouts.  Cook until the greens have wilted and the sprouts have softened. Taste the soup and season with sea salt and pepper if needed. 

Transfer a portion of your noodles to a soup bowl and pour the green curry soup over top.  Enjoy!

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

My Go-To Tofu Scramble

Tofu scramble has been a staple in my diet for years and it’s definitely one of my favourite weekend breakfasts. Enjoyed on its own, or with a side of roasted veggies, a bit of salsa or guacamole, or a slice of toasted sourdough, it’s so so tasty! My friends and family love it too and I get requests for it regularly.

If you’re new to the world of tofu scramble, let me tell you, this dish is a game changer. The crumbled tofu is reminiscent of scrambled eggs, and I love jazzing it up with tons of veggies and aromatic spices. Turmeric, the anti-inflammatory superstar, gives the dish a yellowish colour and nutritional yeast adds a subtle hint of cheesiness.

When you read through the recipe you’ll notice I’ve listed an ingredient called “black salt” or “kala namak”. Although it’s called black salt it’s actually pink in colour. It’s not quite as salty as regular salt and it has a slightly sulphuric essence. It adds an eggy taste and aroma to the dish. I really enjoy adding it to the scramble, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have any on hand. If you want to try it out, you can usually find black salt at Indian or ethnic grocers, some health food stores, or you can order it online.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. If so, please share your feedback in the comment section below and/or tag me on social media with your photos. I love to see what you’re cookin’!

TOFU SCRAMBLE

Makes 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoons turmeric
1 - 2 tablespoon chili powder
1 zucchini, diced
2 - 3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed, roughly chopped, optional
1 block organic firm tofu, crumbled into small pieces, using a potato masher, fork or your hands
1 large tomato or heaping handful of grape tomatoes, chopped or halved
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 - 3 tightly packed cups of leafy greens of your choice
Sea salt or black salt (kala namak) and pepper to taste

Directions:

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions with a few pinches of salt, cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until they become slightly transparent. Add the peppers and sauté for a couple minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the chili powder and turmeric. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the mushrooms and zucchini, cook, stirring every so often, to allowing them to release water (approximately 5 minutes).

Mix in the crumbled tofu. Then stir in the nutritional yeast, followed by the tomatoes and cook for another few minutes. Then add the leafy greens and cook until they’ve wilted and have become bright green. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and enjoy.

You may wish to serve your scramble with a side of roasted potatoes, topped with avocado slices, or a few splashes of your favourite hot sauce.

Keeps in the fridge for 5 days.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join the Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Photography by Ana Tavares.

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Build Your Own Plant-Based Cheese & Charcuterie Board

When I made the switch to a plant-based diet many years ago, I figured my days of enjoying cheese and charcuterie boards were over. I truly assumed plant-based cheese and meat alternatives would be lacklustre. I sort of avoided these products and instead I spent a lot of time making my own cheese spreads, dips and even faux meats that were actually pretty great. However, I have to say, over time I’ve come to know and love several fantastic companies that make phenomenal plant-based cheeses and meats that not only rival traditional versions, but have made it much much easier to make the compassionate choice without having to make everything myself.  

As you know, I’m a huge proponent of spending time in the kitchen and learning how to make things from scratch, but I do realize that it’s not always possible especially during busy times (like the holiday season). It’s nice and so convenient to have store bought options that are healthy, delicious, and plant-based.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to put together a beautiful, bountiful spread combining a variety of cheese and meat alternatives along with other components of your choosing. If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration for your next holiday party, scroll down to learn how to build your own plant-based cheese and charcuterie board. Below I share some of my favourite brands and a few healthy holiday recipes too! 

I partnered up with my friends at Animal Justice to make this cheese and charcuterie board. We used Fauxmagerie Zengarry cheeses and GUSTA sausage along with an assortment of other delicious things.

I partnered up with my friends at Animal Justice to make this cheese and charcuterie board. We used Fauxmagerie Zengarry cheeses and GUSTA sausage along with an assortment of other delicious things.

Cheeses - Look for these brands: Daiya (Farmhouse Blocks), Culchered, Earth Island, Fauxmagerie Zengarry, Field Roast (CHAO Creamery), GUSTA, Happy Heart Vegan Gourmet, Miyoko's Creamery, Nuts For Cheese, Truffula (available in Edmonton, Alberta), Vegan Stokes, VegCheese, VegNature, and Violife.

Meat Alternatives - Look for these brands: Beyond Meat, Field Roast, GUSTA, Real Fake Meats (available in Halifax, Nova Scotia), Tofurky, The Very Good Butchers, and Yam Chops.

Fruits - Everybody loves grapes, berries, cherries, ground cherries, pomegranate, clementines, and dried fruits like figs, raisins, cranberries or apricots.

Veggies - My favourites include olives, sliced raw vegetables, pickled or fermented vegetables (beets, onions, and gherkin pickles are always popular), roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, black garlic, etc.

Nuts & Seeds - I like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, candied pecans, tamari almonds, and pistachios.

Dips & Spreads - Enhance your board with a nice grainy mustard, hummus, bruschetta, salsa, chutney, jams, compotes and maple syrup. I also love this fig & olive tapenade and zucchini almond dip.

Dark chocolate - Can’t go wrong here!

Bread & Crackers - I like a classic french baguette and/or a mix of crackers including Mary’s Gone Crackers, Le Pain des fleurs Crispbread, and more.

Decor -  In the photo above, the decor includes pine cones, holly and ivy, pine branches and of course a few nice cutting boards and decorative bowls. Things like micro greens or delicate leafy greens look pretty. You can also use festive household items like mini-lights, ornaments, candles, or whatever you have on hand to jazz up your board.

Many of the above-mentioned cheeses and meat alternatives are available throughout Canada and the US at health food stores, Whole Foods Markets, and most major grocery stores. In Canada, you can also order a variety of plant-based products online via Vegan Supply and Yam Chops

Did I miss anything? Tell me your favourites in the comment section below!

If you’re stuck on what to make for your holiday dinner, be sure to download my Healthy Holidays eBook. CLICK HERE to get your digital copy. 

Special thanks to Animal Justice for this fun collaboration! Click on the image below to see a fun little video on how we built our board.

Healthy Holidays eBook - Available Now!

I’m excited to announce that my eBook Healthy Holidays: A Festive Feast for Veggie Lovers is now available. In my new eBook I share the recipes for a plant-based holiday feast including a hearty lentil loaf, roasted brussels sprouts, garlicky smashed potatoes, chickpea shallot gravy, and my mom's raw cranberry sauce. It also features 3 delicious vegan dessert recipes by Ana Tavares.

If you’re looking for ideas for your plant-based holiday dinner CLICK HERE to download your digital copy!

Magic Cookie Bars

If you live in Ottawa you’ve undoubtedly heard of Strawberry Blonde Bakery. Known primarily for delicious desserts, savoury snacks, and breads, behind the scenes Strawberry Blonde has been blazing the trails in plant-based and allergy free baking. A designated nut free, dairy free, gluten free bakery, Strawberry Blonde has become a fixture for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions, but since they also produce delicious baked goods, they are a unanimous favourite throughout the city.

Jacqui Okum, outside of her bakery, Strawberry Blonde, in Ottawa.

Jacqui Okum, outside of her bakery, Strawberry Blonde, in Ottawa.

Jacqui Okum is the mastermind behind this award winning bakery. She has years of experience with baking and is a pro when it comes to swapping and substituting ingredients. She has been successful in “veganizing” pretty much every classic recipe. Since the holidays are synonymous with baking (baking, and more baking!) and many of you are likely planning to adapt classic recipes to make them plant-based, I hope to ease this process by learning from one of the best bakers around. Below Jacqui shares her story about starting a vegan bakery, gives us insider tips, tricks and swaps for plant-based baking, and also shares her recipe for Magic Cookie Bars. Yum! Scroll down to learn more.

Amy: Strawberry Blonde is one of Ottawa's most beloved bakeries. Were you always into baking?
Jacqui:
I was definitely always into eating baked goods! Haha! I originally went to University for Film Production and worked in the TV industry for a number of years. I eventually decided it wasn't the right work environment for me and around the same time I went vegan. The transition to being vegan was easy, but boy oh boy did I miss pastries and sweets. Vegan pastries were hard to find then (about 12 years ago now) so I just ended up baking all the time for myself. I found I really liked it. And although I knew I didn't want to work in Film/TV, I didn't know what else I wanted to do. I did know that I wanted to be my own boss. One day my boyfriend made an offhand comment about how I should open up my own vegan bakery since I was just baking all the time anyway, and when he said that, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I decided that if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right so I enrolled in George Brown College's Baking & Pastry Arts Program, where I learned all the tips and tricks of the trade and applied them at home to vegan baking.

Amy: When did you open the bakery?  And what inspired you to offer vegan, gluten free, & nut free baked goods? 
Jacqui:
The storefront on Grange Ave opened just over 5 years ago now. But we were baking for wholesale customers (Rainbow Foods on Richmond Road and Herb & Spice on Bank street) for a number of months before that. And before that even I was selling my baked goods at the Lansdowne Farmer's Market. My treats were always vegan, but it was my experience at the market that made me decide to switch to doing everything gluten free and nut free. I really listened to my customers and the majority of them were asking for gluten free or nut free on top of it being from from dairy and eggs. For allergy concerns, I thought it would be best to just eliminate these ingredients completely, to avoid risk of cross contamination. But also, being vegan, I really sympathized with them, knowing how disappointing it can be to not be able to enjoy a pastry or a treat. I quickly became determined to create a space where vegans, or those with allergies, could go and feel normal and have the ability to get excited the way most people do when treating themselves. 

Amy: Many of my readers are interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet and looking for tips, swaps and alternatives for baked goods. Can you share a list of swaps/alternatives that you use in creating your famous desserts?
Jacqui:
Okay, here are some of the most common swaps…
Butter:
-I find Earth Balance to be the best and most consistent brand for replacing butter. It can easily be used as a 1:1 ratio when subbing in any recipe.
-There is a soy-free brand of butter replacement called Melt that is good for some things, but it is more expensive than Earth Balance and the ratio needs to be played with a little bit. But if you're looking for soy free, this is a good alternative, especially for making icings.
-Coconut oil can sometimes work, but be careful as it melts quickly so it won't cream as well as traditional butter would (especially important when making cookies!)

Milk:
-There are so many milk alternatives out there and they all work fairly well with a 1:1 ratio. I find soy milk to be the creamiest and works best in most situations. Coconut milk is also good, but the fat content is higher so it sometimes separates or makes products a little greasier.
-For butter milk, simply add 1 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of milk and whisk. Let it sit for a couple minutes then it's turned into buttermilk.

Eggs:
This really depends on what it is you're baking. There are lots of options! These are the ones we use at the bakery:
-Flax seeds
-Chia seeds
-Apple sauce
-Silken tofu
-Ener-g brand egg replacer

Cream Cheese:
-The tofutti brand is by far the best for baking!

Amy: Finally, we're getting into the holiday season. Would you mind sharing one of your favourite seasonal recipes? 
Jacqui:
Sure thing! The Strawberry Blonde Magic Cookie Bars are a serious Christmas favourite for both our customers and staff alike!

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MAGIC COOKIE BARS

Ingredients:

Base:
3 cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3 tablespoons sugar

Filling:

For the condensed coconut milk:
1.5 cans coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar

Other:
2 cups chocolate chips
3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Base:

Line a 9"x 13" pan with parchment paper.

Melt the Earth Balance and combine with graham cracker crumbs and sugar.

Press firmly and evenly into pan.

Filling:

To make condensed coconut milk: Combine canned coconut milk and brown sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, ensuring all the sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened slightly

Pour chocolate chips evenly over base, making sure to cover the corners.

Pour hot coconut milk/sugar mixture evenly over the top of chocolate chips, followed by an even layer of coconut and pumpkin seeds.

Press ingredients down with your hands or a spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set and top browns slightly.

Let cool completely, then put in fridge for at least 2 hours to make cutting easier. Enjoy!

For more information about Strawberry Blonde Bakery, visit their website,  Facebook page, or Instagram account.

Butter Chickpeas & Cauliflower

I love fall! Mainly for the hearty warming meals and abundance of one-pot-wonders. You know, the kind of recipe where you literally throw a bunch of veggies, plant-based proteins, herbs, and spices into a pot and you find yourself with the most magically delicious feast. That’s what I’m talking about!

If you’ve been following me for a while you’d know I often trial my recipes at cooking lessons and with my nutrition clients. This Butter Chickpeas & Cauliflower recipe has been a unanimous hit, which means it’s destined for the blog. As I was saying above, this is one of those one-pot meals that is fairly simple to prepare and is rich in flavour and nutrients. You can eat it on its own, or pair it with a grain of your choice and you will have lunches for the week. In the photo below it’s paired with brown rice, but you could try quinoa, millet, wild rice, or whatever you fancy.

Scroll down for the full recipe and please let me know if you try it out. I love getting your feedback on my recipes!

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BUTTER CHICKPEAS & CAULIFLOWER

Yields 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons curry powder (I love Cha’s Curry Masala)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional
1 can (14 oz/398 ml) chickpeas, drained & rinsed, or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
1 can (14.5 oz/411 g) of diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz/398 ml) full fat or lite coconut milk
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a medium or large pot warm the oil on medium head. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions become slightly translucent. Add the red bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes, until softened a bit.

Next add the garlic, ginger and spices and stir for a minute allowing the spice to become fragrant.  Then add the chickpeas, tomatoes, coconut milk, and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring every so often, until the cauliflower has softened (about 8 - 10 minutes).

Once the cauliflower has softened, taste and then season the dish with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with a hefty helping of cilantro. Option enjoy on its own or to serve with a grain of your choice. 

Will keep in the fridge for 5 days, or frozen for an upward of 2 months.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join my Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Photography by Ana Tavares.

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Tofu Feta Salad

I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with cheese, so when I went dairy-free many years ago I had to find new ways to indulge in my favourite food. Cashews tend to be the superstar when it comes to making cheesy alternatives, but you’d be surprised how tofu can magically morph into feta if you’ve got the right ingredients.

In my version of tofu feta, I use two ingredients that help infuse a cheese-like flavour into the tofu. Firstly, there’s nutritional yeast, which is a deactivated yeast and bi-product of molasses making. Nutritional yeast or “nooch”, as it’s often called, is a staple in dairy-free cuisine because of its versatility and sharp, cheesy taste. I also used miso paste, which is fermented bean (generally soy or chickpea), that is mostly found in Japanese cuisine and offers a strong and pleasant salty fermented taste reminiscent of parmesan (but it works with perfectly with my faux feta). I use both in my recipe, however, you could get away with one or the other. That said, if you’re delving into the world of dairy-free cooking, they are handy and highly recommended pantry staples.

If you have questions about any of the ingredients in this recipe, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below. If you’re looking to learn more about dairy-free cuisine, I’ve written a few blogs on the topic. Find them HERE and HERE.

A final tip about tofu feta: you can definitely serve it with salad as instructed below, but it can also be crumbled onto vegan pizza or eaten as an appetizer with tomatoes and fresh basil.

This recipe has been very popular at my cooking lessons and I’m super excited to share it here on my blog for you to try as well. Without further ado, scroll down for all the details. Please do report back if you try this recipe!

TOFU FETA SALAD

Makes 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients:

Tofu Feta Ingredients:
1 package extra firm organic tofu
1 tablespoon white or chickpea miso
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Dijon Dressing:
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:
8 cups leafy greens of your choice, chopped to bite sized pieces
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes or two large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, chopped in to bite sized pieces
1 15 ounce can of white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped

Directions:

For the tofu feta:

Drain and press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. You can wrap the tofu in a dish towel and place a heavy object on top (I often use a cast iron pan with a big jug of vinegar, but you can use any heave object in your kitchen) or use a tofu press.

While the tofu is pressing, whisk together the miso, extra virgin olive oil, water, nutritional yeast, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Cut the tofu into small cubes and toss with the marinade. Place in the fridge and marinade for an hour, preferably longer. If you have time, leave it to marinate overnight.

To make the dijon dressing:

Whisk together the dijon mustard, garlic clove and lemon juice until combined.

Slowly whisk in the olive oil until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble your salad: 

Divide the salad ingredients evenly in bowls. Top with tofu feta and drizzle on dressing. Serve immediately.

If you want to prep ahead of time, wait until just before serving to add the dressing. 

Notes from the kitchen: I used a locally made navy bean miso (as seen in the photo above), but you'll be more likely to find a white miso or chickpea miso in a store near you. 

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join my Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

Photography by Ana Tavares.

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Chickpea Salad Wrap

It's been a long time coming and I'm happy to finally be posting my chickpea salad recipe!  I've made it for cooking lessons, yoga retreats, and shared with many of my clients, always with such positive feedback. It's truly one of my favourites and I was so excited to learned that Ana Tavares, my friend & photographer extraordinaire (she shot the photos below),  makes this recipe often for her son's lunches.  Given that I've received so many requests for easy back-to-school/kid friendly recipes lately, the timing couldn't be more perfect! 

This recipe is nut, dairy, egg, and gluten free, and offers tons of plant-based protein and fibre. It's also a versatile recipe that can be eaten on its own, in wraps, sandwiches, with crackers or on a bed of leafy greens. For this blog post, I opted to serve it in a wrap because it made for fun food styling. 

You'll notice this recipe calls for dulse or kelp flakes. These are both varieties of dried seaweed ground into flakes, which can generally be purchased at health food stores or online. Although I've listed these ingredients as optional I highly recommended adding seaweed since it's such a nutritious food and gives the chickpea salad a nice boost of flavour (reminiscent of tuna ...but less fishy). 

Scroll down for the recipe and please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. I love hearing from you! 

CHICKPEA SALAD WRAP

Makes 6 - 8  servings

Ingredients: 

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed, or ~ 3 cups cooked
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise  (store bought or homemade)
1/3 cup celery (about 1 or 2 ribs of celery), minced
3 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced dill pickle (about 1 large dill pickle)
1 - 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tamari
2 teaspoons kelp or dulse (seaweed) powder or flakes, optional  
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 large handful, fresh dill, roughly chopped

Directions: 

For a chunky consistency: add all of the ingredients (except dill) into a medium sized bowl.  Mix and mash everything with a fork or potato masher. 

For a smooth consistency: add all the ingredients to a medium sized bowl and process with an immersion blender. Alternatively add the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. 

Once desired consistency is reached, stir in the dill. Enjoy in sandwiches, wraps, on crackers, or on a bed of salad greens.

Keeps in the fridge for 5 days in an air-tight container.

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough program, which is a 4 week online crash course in health, nutrition, and meal planning.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join my Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition.

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A Decluttered Space Is Good For Your Health: Q & A with Kelsey Marion

Since starting my business I've been forced to learn (and unlearn) so many things and create new habits to help manage my ever-changing schedule.  I've never been an organized person, in fact, I was probably the opposite of organized, and starting a business was a big wake-up call for me.  

Somebody once told me that a cluttered space creates a cluttered mind. That really stuck with me.  Over the last couple years I've slowly been working towards tidying up in various aspects of my life. Like anyone on the quest for less clutter I've read Marie Kondo's book The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (I highly recommend it, by the way) and I've been applying her principles.  Most recently, I even won a contest which included a session with home organizer Kelsey Marion. Kelsey is an easy-going, yet professional and completely non-judgemental lover of all things organization. She runs the business Get Sorted. Organizing is a pain point for me, but for Kelsey it's a passion. Since our initial visit she's been to my house several times and whenever she leaves I feel lighter, less stressed and definitely more in comfortable in my living space. 

I truly believe that living and working in an environment that feels good is important for physical, mental,  spiritual wellbeing, not to mention creativity, productivity, and so on. That doesn't necessarily mean a tidy, decluttered space is the answer for everyone, but for me personally, I felt overwhelmed by my surroundings and that's why meeting Kelsey was so serendipidous. Kelsey and I have spoken at length about organization and tidiness, and she has also taken some time to share her insights for my blog. Read on to learn more about Kelsey, the connection between decluttering and health, dealing with clutter related stress and quick tips for organization. 

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Amy: What drew you to organizing and ultimately starting your business?
Kelsey: 
I used to be a disorganized person - across the spectrum; in school, financially, socially, work. I collected many items that were not serving a purpose in my life. I didn't recognize how my disorganized behaviors were negatively affecting my life until I was in University. I really became frustrated with myself and knew I needed to unlearn my behaviors/habits. After years of self reflection and research of decluttering and realistic organizing techniques that would benefit me I felt a huge weight lifted. After feeling this great I knew others would feel amazing too. Get sorted was formed out of the desire to help others reach their organizing goals and it's been a rewarding experience ever since!

Amy: Is there a connection with an organized and decluttered space and a healthy mind & body?
Kelsey: Yes!!! When we are living in clutter we cannot focus at our fullest potential. By reducing the clutter to items that actually make sense for your life we have the space to make positive changes and/or form routines in our lives. We are not wasting time digging through clutter to find items. By decluttering and being more organized we reduce feeling overwhelmed by the mess (less mess = less stress). I find when a kitchen is more organized it is more inviting to cook in. Overall, it enhances the chances to feel less stressed or guilty, and more room to function and motivated to make healthier choices.

Amy: Clutter and mess can feel overwhelming. Do you have tips for getting over the initial stress of tidying? 
Kelsey: Do not try to do everything at once! For example, "I want to organize my entire home today". This will only make you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Take it one cabinet/ dresser/ closet at a time. Create realistic goals for yourself, especially if you are doing this on your own. If you're at the point of complete overwhelm, I highly recommend hiring a professional organizer to book a consultation to explore your options. 

Amy: Can you share a few organizing tips that my readers could practice on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that'll make it easier to keep their space organized?
Kelsey: Definitely, I recommend trying the "one-minute rule";
• instead of placing your plate in the sink - place it in dishwasher (or better yet, clean it!)
• hang your coat on the rack or hang up instead of throwing on floor. 
• empty your kid(s) lunch bag after school/ camp instead of leaving dirty containers and wrappers overnight.
Little actions like this help maintain order in your life. You don't need to have a "show-room" space 24/7; I tell my clients you want realistic goals. As long as the home feels functional to maintain that is the ultimate win! 

Want to connect with Kelsey? Visit her website or find her on Instagram and Facebook

Raw Taco Salad Bowl

This summer heat just won't quit. We've got another hot week ahead here in Ottawa, which means I'm avoiding my stove, my oven, or anything that'll heat up my house.  If you're looking for a no-cooking-required simple summer recipe, you're in luck.  

You may have seen a raw taco bowl on my blog before, but it's making a comeback. I've simplified the recipe and collaborated with my friend Ana Tavares to shot some beautiful photos.  This recipe has been on high rotation at my cooking lessons this summer and is also a favourite in my household. Ana told me her family also loved the bowls as they were the lucky recipients of the leftovers following the photoshoot.  Scroll down to get the full recipe. Please let me know if you've tried it out. I'd love your feedback! 

RAW TACO SALAD BOWL

Makes 4 servings 

Ingredients: 

Walnut Meat: 

1 cup walnuts
1/2 packed cup sun-dried tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
Pinch of chili flakes or cayenne pepper, optional (for those who like it spicy!) 

Tahini Sour Cream: 

1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
1 small clove garlic clove, roughly chopped

Salad Components: 

Approximately 8 cups leafy greens of your choice (arugula or finely chopped kale are my favourites)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 of a small red onion, small dice
3 - 4 green onions roughly chopped
1/4 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish

Directions:

If you're using sun-dried tomatoes in oil skip this step.  If using sun-dried tomatoes (just dried tomatoes and salt, no oil), add them to a bowl and cover them in water and leave them to soak for 1 - 2 hours to soften them. Drain.

Process all of the Walnut Meat ingredients in a food processor until well combined, but still chunky and crumbly (with a meaty texture).

Combine all of the Tahini Sour Cream ingredients in the blender and process until smooth.  If it's too thick, add some water to loosen. 

To assemble your salad: place about 2 cups of leafy greens in a bowl. Top the salad with the fresh tomatoes, a sprinkling of red onions and green onions.  Then add the walnut meat and drizzle about 1/4 cup of dressing on your salad. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy! 

If you enjoyed the recipe I shared above be sure to check out my Plant-Based Breakthrough Program, which is a 4 week online course focussed on health, nutrition, meal planning, and cooking.  For details on when the next program starts click here. You can also join my Plant-Based Breakthrough Community on Facebook where I share recipes, inspiration, and information on plant-based nutrition. 

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