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.c

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.c

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.

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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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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Cherry Chocolate Nice-Cream

It's turning out to be a hot, hot, hot summer, and if you're looking to beat the heat, I’ve got just the recipe to cool you down.  Cherry Chocolate Nice-Cream. Need I say more? Well, perhaps I should clarify for those of you who are new to the term "nice-cream", which is a quick DIY dairy-free banana-based ice-cream.  It's essentially the easiest, tastiest and possibly healthiest way to make ice-cream at home. 

I’m super excited to share this recipe for a couple reasons. Firstly, I’ve been making this one a lot at my cooking lessons and sharing photos on my Instagram stories. Needless to say, I had lots of requests and it's about time I share this with those of you who haven't been able to attend the lessons. 

Secondly,  this is the first of many upcoming projects that I'll be doing with my friend Ana Tavares. You might remember seeing her as a guest blogger, or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon her Instagram where she posts stunning food photography. If you speak Portuguese you may have discovered her vegetarian food blog or cookbook (which has been hugely successful in Brazil).  Ana took the photos for this post and we plan to collaborate in the coming months to create more great culinary content in both English and Portuguese.

Scroll down to learn how to make Cherry Chocolate Nice-Cream and stay tuned as we’ll be sharing another recipe collab next week.

CHERRY CHOCOLATE NICE-CREAM

Makes 3 - 4 servings

Ingredients: 

4 overripe bananas
1/3 cup cocoa powder or raw cocao powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Non-dairy milk of your choice, optional
1/4 - 1/3 cup frozen dark sweet cherries or sour cherries depending on your taste
Optional topping: unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions: 

Chop the bananas into small rounds and freeze them overnight on parchment lined baking tray.

Add all ingredients - except cherries and coconut flakes - to a food processor or high-speed blender.   Process until completely smooth (similar to a soft serve consistency). If you find your blender isn’t strong enough to handle the frozen banana you may need to let them thaw a bit and/or add a bit of non-dairy milk to get things going. 

Once you've reached a nice, smooth texture, add the cherries, then pulse for a minute or so or until the cherries are evenly distributed, but still a bit chunky. 

For the best texture you’ll want to enjoy your nice-cream immediately, but you can  freeze leftovers and thaw again before serving.  When serving, top your nice-cream with whole frozen cherries and unsweetened coconut flakes. 

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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Green Power Bowls

I've been making tons of Green Power Bowls these days. These have been very well received by my private clients and at cooking lessons.  I have been posting photos of these bowls a lot in my Instagram stories and I figured it was finally time to share the recipe on my blog. 

Although it may seem elaborate, these kinds of bowls are actually quite easy to make.  It requires a little prep, chopping and sautéing of the veggies, putting together the dressing, and making the noodles.  If you are a soba noodle newbie you'll want to pay attention to a few things. Pure buckwheat noodles are gluten free, but you may come across some varieties of soba noodles that are a mix of buckwheat and wheat. The blended variety is much less expensive. If you are celiac or gluten intolerant make sure you seek out the 100% buckwheat noodles. When using buckwheat noodles of any kind, I always cook them according to the package directions (usually for about 5 - 8 minutes on a simmer). When they are fully cooked I transfer them to a colander immediately and give them a very good rinse under cold water. This will remove any excess starch.   By the way, if you don't have soba noodles on hand or if you don't want to use them, you can also swap out the soba noodles for rice noodles, quinoa, or any other grain or noodle of your choice. 

I also wanted to mention that this recipe is really a guideline.  As I said above, you don't need to use soba noodles, you can use something else. Also, feel free to swap in kale for spinach, or maybe some bok choy. You may also decide to add in chickpeas or tofu instead of the edamame.  The sauce is the pièce de résistance and no matter what you put in your bowl, it'll taste good as long as you're using the sauce. 

Scroll down to get the full recipe and if you make it, please tag me on social media. I love seeing your photos! 

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GREEN POWER BOWLS WITH SOBA NOODLES

Yields 4 to 6  servings

Sauce: 

1/4 cup natural peanut butter, tahini, or sunflower seed butter
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice or apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
1 - 2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4  - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water, or more, if needed to loosen the sauce

Noodles:

16 oz soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Vegetables:

1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
6 - 8 cups assorted vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, & spinach
1 small bunch basil
2 cups shelled edamame, thawed

Toppings (optional): 

Hemp hearts & sliced green onions

Directions:

Wash and chop cauliflower & broccoli (approximately 6 - 8 cups in total) into bite sized pieces. Wash spinach and pat to dry or use salad spinner. Pick basil leaves off the stems (discard stems), wash leaves, and gently pat to dry.  Set aside. 

In large measuring cup or medium sized mixing bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients, except the water. Stir until well combined (you could also use a blender if you're looking for a very smooth sauce) and add enough water to thin the sauce down so that it’s pourable.  Set aside. 

Cook noodles according to the package. Drain, rinse, and toss with sesame oil. Set aside.

Warm the sesame oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook for a couple minutes, just until they start to soften. Add the heartier vegetables - cauliflower & broccoli - cook until tender. Add the edamame and warm for a minute or two. Add the spinach and basil towards the end of cooking and allow them to wilt (about 2 minutes). 

To create your bowls: add a portion of soba noodles and a big scoop cooked vegetables to a bowl.  Top your bowl with a drizzle the sauce. Alternatively, you can add the sauce to the pan with the vegetables to heat the sauce. Before serving, top with a sprinkling of hemp hearts and any remaining green onions. These bowls can be eaten warm or cold.  

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

Seaweed: A Sustainable Superfood + Miso Mugs

Following my interview on CBC Radio I wanted to share more information about seaweed and its benefits. In case you haven’t noticed, seaweed has become more and more popular these days. It has been featured in prominent and well respected blogs, magazines, and media outlets as a top food trend, and chefs around the world are finding new and exciting ways to incorporate seaweed into their menus. It's also been touted for its many health benefits and is a rising star in the world of sustainable foods. 

What exactly is seaweed?   

Seaweed is an umbrella term for an entire group of macroalgae and microalgae that live in salt water, brackish water, or fresh water.

There are three main varieties of seaweed: Green algae, such sea lettuce. Brown algae which includes kombu/kelp, wakame, arame, and hijiki. Red algae includes well-known varieties such as nori, dulse, and hana tusnomata just to name a few. 

Cultivation

Depending on the variety of seaweed, it may be harvested wild or using various cultivation systems (seaweed farming). Cultivation can occur onshore using large tanks, inshore (close to land), or offshore (in deeper waters). In some cases it may be handpicked, collected using nets, or harvested mechanically.  

When it's harvested seaweed is processed immediately to avoid spoilage. Generally seaweed is rinsed with clean salt water (fresh water is damaging to seaweed) and dried in the sun or using drying equipment or facilities. Once dried, seaweed is vacuum sealed to prolong freshness and quality. 

Cultivating sea vegetables in the oceans may offer the environment healthy benefits through reducing ocean acidification and purifying the water around them. Cultivation is also sustainable as it reduces the risk of over-harvesting wild species, and it is a food source that does not require feed, fertilizer, or land to grow.
 

Taylor Widrig, owner of  Mermaid Fare , harvesting kombu in Nova Scotia.

Taylor Widrig, owner of Mermaid Fare, harvesting kombu in Nova Scotia.

Nutrient Profile

Seaweed is an extremely nutritious food. It's rich in vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body. It also contains antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and contains essential fatty acids and essential amino acids.

Macronutrients:
Depending on the variety, seaweed can contain anywhere from 5 to 45 % protein.  It also contains a significant amount of dietary fibre (anywhere from 30 to 60 % when dry) and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

Micronutrients:
Seaweed contains vitamins including A, B1, B3, B6, C, and E. It also contains minerals and trace elements including calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, chromium, fluoride, and iodine. 

Health Benefits

Potential health benefits of seaweed: maintaining healthy cholesterol levels; may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease; weight management; supporting thyroid function;  may be protective against some forms of cancer; and more!

How much should you eat to maximize the health benefits? Since seaweed is extremely nutrient dense, you only need to consume small quantities to reap the benefits.  For the average adult the recommended daily intake is 0.2 to 0.35 oz or 5 to 10 g of dried seaweed. If you plan on using seaweed therapeutically, please consult with a medical professional. 

Choosing & Sourcing Seaweed

Although it may be tempting, do not harvest wild seaweed yourself. Proper harvesting techniques are essential in maintaining the health of the plant and its surrounding environment.  

You can purchase seaweed in most natural food stores, Asian grocers, and sometimes even in well stocked grocery chains. If possible, choose sustainably sourced and traceable seaweed. 

Culinary Uses

Seaweeds are know for their salty, briny and distinctive umami flavour.  Depending on the variety, it can be enjoyed dried or fresh, roasted, cooked, stir-fried, marinated, used in teas, soup stocks or bouillons,  dips and spreads, used as garnish or salt replacement, and as a thickening agent. It's highly uncommon to find fresh seaweed in North America. Depending on the type of seaweed you're cooking with you may need to rehydrate it by submerging it in water before use. 

Although the options are endless, here are a few ways you can incorporate seaweed into your diet: wakame in miso soup; kombu in dashi or when cooking beans or grains (to increase digestibility & add nutrients); nori for sushi or toasted to make a crispy snack; agar agar (a gelatinous substance derived from algae) to make jams and jellies; or dulse sprinkled in salads soups, stews or pan fried to create a plant-based alternative to bacon; etc.

Note: dried seaweed expands significantly when rehydrated, with an increase of 8 - 10 times in weight depending on the variety.

If you're looking to add more seaweed to your diet, I have a few recipes on my blog that may be of interest to you. Check out my Dulse Sunflower Seed & Walnut PâtéSuperfood Kale Salad, and Kaiso Seaweed Salad (featuring hana tsunomata).  You can also scroll down for my quick and easy miso mug recipe. This is one of my favourite snacks and I hope you'll enjoy it too!  

MISO MUG WITH DULSE

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Makes 1 serving. 

Ingredients:

1.5 cups of water
1 - 2 teaspoons miso paste, to taste
Mermaid Fare dulse
Optional add-ins: sliced green onions, grated carrot, sesame seeds, little cubes of tofu or shelled edamame, dried or fresh mushrooms, or tiny pieces of a delicate leafy green (like spinach or arugula)

Directions:

Bring water to a boil in a pot or a kettle. Transfer hot water, plus miso paste, to a mug or small bowl. Stir until the miso is dissolved. Then add in crumbled or small pieces of dulse and choose any of the add-ins listed above. Enjoy immediately!  It makes a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or even a light meal with the addition of tofu. 

In the photo, I've added dulse, green onions, tofu, and mushrooms, and served the soup with a side of pretzel bites from Ottawa's zero waste grocery store Nu Grocery.

References:
Ocean Greens: Explore the World of Edible Seaweed & Sea Vegetables, by Lisette Kreisher & Marcel Schuttelaar

Dulse, Sunflower Seed, & Wanut Pâté

Yesterday I was invited to be part of CBC Radio show "D is for Dinner" here in Ottawa. I was asked to talk about seaweed, the health benefits, and bring along recipe.   During the show, the host Alan Neal tried dulse (seaweed) on its own and he also tried a Dulse, Sunflower Seed & Walnut Pâté that I made — and he loved both! CLICK HERE to listen to the full recording of the show, or scroll down for the Pâté recipe.  CBC also shared article following the interview. You can find it here.

By the way, if you're in Ottawa, you can buy Mermaid Fare dulse at all Kardish Health Food Centre locations, The Table Vegetarian Restaurant, and NU Grocery. If you're outside of Ottawa, please visit the Mermaid Fare website to order online or find a retail location near you! 

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DULSE, SUNFLOWER SEED, WALNUT PÂTÉ

Ingredients: 

1 cup walnuts
1.5 cups cup raw sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red onion, minced
1/3 cup whole leaf dulse
1/3 cup celery, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoon freshly chopped dill or 2 tbsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Water, if needed, during processing

Directions: 

Start off by soaking the walnuts and sunflower seeds together in warm water for at least 30 minutes.

Dice the red onion very small, about ¼ inch dice, and add to small bowl. Then pour over the red wine vinegar. Set aside.

To prepare the dulse, quickly warm it in a cast iron pan for about 1 minute – do not let it burn! Remove from the heat, let it cool, and crush it into flakes. 

Dice the celery the same size as the onion, and roughly chop parsley, dill, and mix together with the onions, lemon juice,  and dulse flakes in a medium sized bowl. 

Drain and rinse the walnuts and sunflower seeds. Using a food processor or high powered blender, blend the walnuts and sunflower seeds together until the oil starts to show on the bowl and it becomes similar to nut butter consistency; about 2-3 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit of water, and mix again. 

Combine the walnut and sunflower seed mixture with the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy immediately in lettuce wraps or tortillas, with crackers, in sandwiches, or in a salad with vegetables and a dressing of your choice.

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Middle Eastern Lentils & Rice with Caramelized Onions

It's been my intention for ages and I'm finally getting around to sharing one of my favourite Middle Eastern recipes with you. For the uninitiated, Mujadara is a hearty, protein rich plant-based meal that is known for its humble and simple ingredients, yet is bold and rich in flavours. As the title of this blog post suggests, the base ingredients are lentils, rice, caramelized onions and spices. It's well known throughout the Middle East, and many families have their own version or special family recipe. If you search the web, you'll come across countless versions. 

It was my husband that first introduced me to this dish many years ago. He used to order Mujadara from the Lebanese restaurant in the cafeteria at his office. It became one of his favourite meals at work. Eventually he learned how to make it himself, and then I started making it too. For us, it's become a wintertime staple and below is our take on the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo by  Caroline Yung .

Photo by Caroline Yung.

MUJADARA with CASHEW CREAM

Makes 6 servings. 

Ingredients: 

1 cup brown or green lentils (not red lentils), sorted and picked through for little rocks or other debris
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
Sea salt
3/4 cup brown rice or brown basmati rice
3 1/4 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want it to be spicy) 
Lemon wedges
Pine nuts or hemp seeds, optional, for garnish
Cashew Cream  (from my 4-Layer Dip recipe)

Directions:

Add the lentils to  medium saucepan and cover them by about an inch with cold water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow the lentils to cook until they are tender, but not mushy (about 20 minutes).  Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skill has warmed up, add the whole cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns . Cook the spices and stir them a bit until you start to smell the aromas as the spices "bloom" and start to darken a bit.

Then, add the onions and a few big pinches of salt and cook until they begin to caramelize . Over time the onions will begin to caramelize and they'll start tasting sweeter. If the onions start sticking to the bottom of the pan,  add a little water.  Once the onions are sweet and a bit crispy you'll know they are done.  This will take an upward of 15 minutes. 

Remove about half of the onions to a dish and set them aside to be used later as a garnish. Then mix in the ground cumin, the cinnamon or cinnamon stick and cayenne.

Next up, mix in the rice and toast the rice in the pan for a few minutes. Add the cooked lentils, 3 1/4 cups of water and 1 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer. Then cover the saucepan and cook 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done cooking once the water is completely evaporated and the rice is tender.

Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.

Taste the rice for seasoning and adjust the flavour with extra salt, pepper or spices if needed. Serve with the reserved caramelized onions, pine nuts or hemp, cashew cream, and a little squeeze of fresh lemon and a side of roasted or sautéed vegetables or salad.  

This recipe is modified from the original recipe by Aarti Sequeira featured on the Food Network blog.

Sautéed Garlicky Greens

I love leafy greens! If you've been reading my blog, or attending any of my cooking lessons, you probably know this by now. Usually I talk about incorporating greens into soups, smoothies, stews and stir fry, but to be honest, most days I keep it really simple and I'm happy to eat a big ol' bowl of sautéed kale or collards. Is that weird? Maybe. Either way, I've been meaning to share this "recipe" with you for a while. It's very simple and can be used with whatever greens you have on hand. 

Just so you know, the term "greens" generally refers to a broad category of leafy vegetables, including collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard, beet greens, arugula, kale, spinach, etc.  Although most of these are readily available and packed with nutrients, they tend to be overlooked. Given the excellent nutritional profile of leafy greens, I encourage you to seek them out and try different varieties.  You can use the recipe below as a starting point. 

I  enjoy sautéed greens as a snack topped with hemp hearts, as a side dish, in a Buddha Bowl, or served with Quinoa Pilaf and chickpeas or beans. My personal favourite is to make open faced sandwiches topped with Hummus  and sautéed greens. It does get a bit messy, so a fork and knife are necessary.

Scroll past the photo of sautéed beet greens and you'll find my simple formula for Sautéed Garlicky Greens. Enjoy! 

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SAUTÉED GARLICKY GREENS  

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch greens of your choice (kale, spinach, collards, arugula, chard, beet greens, mustard greens, etc.)

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

  • 3 to 4 cloves, garlic, minced

  • Fresh lemon juice or vinegar of your choice, to taste

  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Directions: 

To prepare the greens, give them a thorough wash, and then chop or rip the leaves into bite sized pieces.  If you are using kale, collards or chard, cut away the stems first. You can use the stems in your sauté as well, just be sure to slice them into small pieces. For less hearty greens like arugula or spinach, there’s no need to separate the stems. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan on medium. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes, until slightly golden. (If you’re using the stems, add them to the pan at the same time as the garlic.)

Add the greens and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add a splash of water or vegetable broth, if needed, to keep the pan moist. 

For hearty greens, like kale or collards, cook them until they are tender, but still green in colour — this can take about 5 to 7 minutes.  For softer, more delicate greens, like spinach or arugula, cook until they are wilted — this may only take a minute or two. 

Finally, add a big squeeze of lemon juice or a few splashes of vinegar to your greens. I personally love apple cider vinegar, but use whatever you like!  Season with salt and pepper and then serve immediately. 

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Bites

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Just over a year ago I stumbled upon the eye-catching Instagram account of an Ottawa-based blogger called "Pequena Vegetariana". The Instagram account and blog focusses on colourful, vibrant vegetarian recipes in Portuguese and English. A few months later, I had the chance to meet the blogger behind the blog when Ana Tavares attended one of my cooking classes.   Ana has been such a positive influence and has always been so supportive. I've gotten to know her better over the last year as she has since attended many of my cooking lessons and even participated in my group nutrition program.

Ana was born in Brazil and now lives and works here in Ottawa.  Although she works full time as a public servant, she also has several exciting endeavours underway that she showcases on her new website.  While Ana has lived in Canada since her teens, she still has strong ties to Brazil.  This past summer she worked with Brazilian publishing houses Belas Letras and Imaginarium to create her first cookbook, "Comidinhas do bem", which launched in November 2017 in 235 stores across the country.  It features 45 exclusive recipes created by Ana, daily positive living tips, beautiful photographs and graphics. I also played a very small role in the creation of this cookbook as I provided nutritional content for foods based on their colour.  It was truly a full circle moment to be able to offer my support to Ana in creating this gorgeous cookbook.  The cookbook is only available in Portuguese at the moment, but it has opened the door for some fun future collaborations between Ana and me. Stay tuned! 

Recently Ana shared one of her new recipe with me and I'm thrilled to be able to pass it along to all of you. She's come up with simple and delicious Gingerbread Cookie Dough Bites that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season.   I love that this recipe features whole foods and is free of  refined sugars and flours.  This recipe is definitely #AmyApproved, but I'm told it was also a big hit with Ana's 2-year-old son Ethan.  Try them out and let us know what you think! 

If you're in the Ottawa area and would like to learn more about vegan baking from Ana, she has a holiday baking class coming up this Saturday, December 16.   For more information or to register, please visit her website.  

Without further ado, please scroll down for the full recipe. 

GINGERBREAD COOKIE DOUGH BITES

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger or finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond flour

Directions: 

Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a blender mix together the oats, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves until it resembles a flour like texture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla extract until well combined. 

Slowly add in the blender mixture and finally, add in the almond flour. By the end, you may need to use your hands cause it’ll get a little sticky.

Generously fill a tablespoon sized measuring spoon with the cookie dough mixture, roll into balls and place in the freezer. You should be able to make between 18 to 24 balls.

Freeze for at least an hour, and serve cold directly from the freezer.

Once the balls have frozen, you can move them over into an enclosed container and keep them in the fridge for all your holiday cookie cravings!

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