Anti-Inflammatory Coconut Blueberry Smoothie

This smoothie is great for anyone, but especially beneficial for those with inflammatory related health issues.  It has become a weekly favourite of mine as it's simple to make and refreshingly delicious. The only "step" in the recipe is gently warming the coconut oil to it's liquid state before blending into smoothie. If used at room temperature, the oil will react to the cold fruits and make hard chunks in the smoothie (nobody wants that!). Use the lowest heat setting and warm the oil slowly, as high heat destroys the healing properties of the oil. Even on the lowest temperature of my range, the oil has liquified in approx 30-45 seconds.


1 cup sliced or cubed fresh pineapple
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup filtered water
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid state

On lowest heat setting of cooktop, gently warm coconut oil in a saucepan just until it turns to liquid. Add liquid coconut oil and all remaining ingredients to VitaMix or blender and blend until smooth. Simple!

Tip: Immediately after blending and pouring into glass, add hot water and a small amount of soap to blender canister. Turn the blender back on high for about 10 seconds and rinse the canister with hot water. This will prevent the coconut oil from hardening onto the sides of your blender, making it difficult to clean.


Black Lentil and Walnut Tacos

With two full time jobs, a side jewellery business, school, daycare and cheerleading  - our house is a busy one! I have a stack of easy 30-minute-or-less fall back recipes to keep my family nourished and on schedule. This is a favourite of our girls' and they sing the It's Raining Tacos song by Parry Gripp a hundred times every time I make them (listen to it here). An added bonus is using any left-over filling the next day in wraps for school lunches as it's equally delicious when served chilled.

2 beef flavoured vegetable bullion cubes (McCormicks makes a vegetarian one)
1 cup dry black lentils
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp chili powder
2/3 cup walnut pieces
4tbsp hemp hearts

1 1/2 cup kale, washed and cut into ribbons
juice of 1 lime
6-8 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 ripe avocado
juice of 1 lime
4-6 tsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp minced garlic

8-10 small flour tortillas
4-5 tsp oil for frying

1/2 cup crumbled soft goats cheese OR vegan sour cream

1 habanero pepper finely diced (optional)

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, then add veg bullion, lentils, garlic, chill powder, walnuts and hemp hearts. Reduce heat and gentle simmer until lentils are cooked (15-20 min). Add more water as needed.

While lentils are cooking, slice kale into ribbons, add cilantro and dress with lime juice.

Prepare guacamole by gently mashing an avocado with fork and adding lime juice, cilantro and garlic.

Adding 1 tsp of oil at a time (per 2 tortillas), lightly fry each small tortilla until golden and puffy. As they cool, the tortillas will harden into a crunchy taco shell.

Once lentils have cooked, prepare tacos by filling shell with lentil mixture, kale and guacamole. Top with desired topping of goats cheese or vegan sour cream; if you like some heat, add diced habanero peppers or salsa.


All Purpose Vegan Cheese Sauce

This cheese sauce is an absolutely life saver in my home. My kids love it, and will eat pretty much anything, if there's a bit of cheese sauce on it. I am very specific about the brands used for the cheese and rice milk, but that's because I've tried every variation out there and the ones used here really are the best in both flavor and consistency. This is such a versatile recipe, and I have added numerous add-in's and examples of it's many uses. There is also an alternate method to make this recipe corn-free as well, but it is much trickier, so make sure to read all of my notes.

Cheese Sauce Recipe:
1 cup Daiya CHEDDAR style cheese
1 cup Natura rice milk - original flavor. (Do not use almond, soy or hemp milk...it ruins the cheese sauce)
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 minced garlic cloves
1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast (your preference on taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a separate cup or bowl, combine:
2 tbsp rice milk
mixed with 1 heaping tbsp corn starch to make a slurry and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine cheese, rice milk, margarine, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt & pepper. Heat over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Then pour in the corn starch slurry. The sauce will thicken very quickly after adding the slurry, so stir constantly for 20-45 seconds (until desired thickness). Do not leave unattended as it will burn.


Vegan & Gluten-Free Alfredo Sauce

From reading the title, you already know this Alfredo sauce is both vegan (of course) and gluten free... but it's also soy-free! I thought naming this recipe "Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free Alfredo" was a bit overkill! This really is a tasty and versatile sauce; serve it over your choice of rice or corn pasta, and throw in some chickpeas (as shown), or some red pepper, peas, artichoke hearts, spinach... you name it! It's also good over potatoes and rice. Keep the ingredients for this recipe stocked at all times and you've always got a simple staple sauce that can be made in minutes.

Vegan, Gluten-free AND Soy-free Alfredo Sauce

4 tbsp vegan margarine

4-5 minced garlic cloves

1/2 gluten-free vegetable bullion cube mixed with 1/2 cup hot water until dissolved

1 cup Daiya Mozzarella style cheese shreds

1/2 cup Natura rice milk - original flavor. (Do not use almond, soy or hemp milk, it greatly alters the taste)

salt & pepper, to taste

In a separate cup or bowl, combine:

4 tbsp rice milk

mixed with 2 heaping tbsps corn starch to make a slurry and set aside.

In a saucepan saute garlic in margerine until slightly golden. Next add the vegetable broth and stir together until it begins to simmer. Add the cheese, rice milk and salt & pepper. Heat over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Then pour in the corn starch slurry. The sauce will thicken very quickly after adding the slurry, so stir constantly for 20-45 seconds (until desired thickness). Do not leave unattended as it will burn.

Pour over pasta/rice/potatoes/veggies and enjoy!


Vanilla or Plain Almond Milk

Once you start making your own almond milk, you'll never go back to store bought! All it takes is remembering to soak the almonds the night before, and then 5-10 min of time, depending if you are making plain or vanilla. For general drinking, cereal and lattes, we prefer vanilla, and for cooking I use plain. Almond milk will stay fresh, stored in the fridge for 3 days. 

1 1/2 cups raw, un-pasteurized almonds (usually available in bulk at organic markets/grocery stores)
4 cups water, plus 2 cups filtered water (divided)
3-4 medjool dates, pits removed
1 vanila bean, scraped or 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
You will need the following tools for this recipe:
high speed blender
nut milk bag

Place almonds in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups water. Allow to soak 10-12 hours, uncovered at room temperature. 
Once almonds have soaked, rinse thoroughly. You will notice the murkiness of the soaking water, which needs to be completely washed off of the almonds.  Place the soaked almonds and 2 cups of fresh filtered water into the canister of your high speed blender. Increase the speed until it is at the max and blend for approx 1 min. Pour the contents into a nut milk bag, over a pitcher or bowl and squeeze the milk from the pulp. The milk is now ready to refrigerate if you are making the plain version. 
If you are making vanilla almond milk, rinse your blender canister completely, then pour the milk back in and add the dates and vanilla. Blend on high until dates are have completely blended in; refrigerate and enjoy!


Yummy Vegan Chili / Taco Salad

This recipe has two names because you can enjoy the hearty chili on its own, or as a tasty salad. I actually prefer having it as a taco salad and usually make a double batch of the chili and freeze half of it in  individual portion sizes for a quick lunch or dinner when I don't have time to cook. I have also served the taco salad to meat eaters and they didn't know it was vegan!

1 onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pkg veggie ground round (I use Yves Mexican Veggie Ground Round, however it is not gluten free)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt (or sea salt)
2 cups water
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-3 jalapenos, sliced (use as many as needed to obtain desired level of spice)
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
2 cups cooked red kidney beans (if using canned, use 1 can)
1 can chili-style stewed tomatoes (I use Alymer's Accents Chili Stewed Tomatoes, or you can use RoTel)

In a large frying pan, saute onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is starting to lightly brown. Stirring  constantly, add in the veggie ground round and raw chopped tomatoes and saute until the raw tomatoes have cooked down and the skins are starting to peel off.. Transfer the sauteed ingredients to a large pot and add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours, making sure to check it, stir occasionally, and add more water as needed.
The chili is actually even better the second day, after being refrigerated and re-heated. (When re-heating, make sure to add a few spoonfuls of extra water).

Corn Tortilla Chips, lightly crushed
Iceberg Lettuce, finely shredded (I recommend Iceberg, because other lettuces will get soggy)
Vegan Chili
Salsa of your choice (I use Peach Mango Salsa)
Cilantro (optional)

Layer the chips, chili and lettuce. Top with desired condiments such as salsa, cilantro, guacamole etc.


Easy Macaroni Salad

It's finally picnic and BBQ season, and neither is complete without a yummy macaroni salad! This recipe takes only a matter of minutes to make and no one will even know it's vegan. I love the flavor and texture of adding dill pickles; it's the ingredient that makes this salad the talk of the BBQ. 

Easy Vegan Macaroni Salad
3 cups of elbow macaroni, cooked according to directions and cooled
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
3-4 dill pickles, cubed

1/2 cup dill pickle juice
1 cup vegan mayo, homemade or store bought
2-3 tbsp dried dill
1 tbsp dried garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 tbsp agave nectar (optional)

Put cooled, cooked macaroni, pickles, peppers and tomatoes in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, then combine with macaroni mixture. Refrigerate for 30 min before serving to allow flavors to marry. May be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. 


Marinated Mushroom Stuffed Endive

These tasty bites double as a perfect appetizer to serve dinner guests and as a quick work lunch the next day. I made these at a recent party I hosted and they were a total hit! This is a great recipe to keep nearby if you're following a raw vegan diet and want something satisfying and quick, but still tasty.

Raw Vegan Marinated Mushroom Stuffed Endive
1 1/2 cups (any) white mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp nama shoyu (can substitute coconut aminos or soy sauce if you don't have nama shoyu)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
Himalayan salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

12-14 endive leaves. (Can substitute romaine hearts if unable to find endive, however the dish will lack that extra zing of the endive)

Combine all ingredients for the mushroom pate and allow to marinate for 15 min. Scoop into the endive leaves and serve immediately. If making the mushroom mixture in advance, store the endive separately, and do not cut the endive leaves away from the stock until ready to serve, as they can turn brown.

Recipe by Matthew Kenney


Raw Organic Almond Butter

I never realized how easy it is to make your own nut butters... no more paying $7 for a tiny jar of organic almond butter for me! With a few simple ingredients that you likely already have on hand, and approx 10 minutes, you too can whip up a batch of fresh, raw organic almond butter to spread on your toast, throw into your smoothie or blend into a stir fry sauce!

Raw Organic Almond Butter
1 cup raw organic unpasteurized almonds
1 tsp raw organic sesame oil (or canola oil)
pinch of Himalayan salt
1 tsp filtered water

Place almonds, sesame oil and salt in a food processor. Turn the blender on and run for 1 minute. Turn the blender back off, wait till the blades have completely stopped, then scrape down the sides of the blender canister with a spatula. Next turn the blender back on and let it run for 3 minutes. The almonds should be getting sticky and balling up at this point. Turn the blender back off and scrape down the sides as well as loosen any of the mixture that is stuck to the bottom. Now add the 1 tsp of water, and turn the blender back on for an additional 3 minutes. Check the consistency, and add another 1/2 tsp of water if you like a more smooth almond butter. Viola!


Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

Whenever Spring rolls around I start craving ice cream. Usually I buy the coconut or soy ones, however I wanted to make a raw vegan ice cream that was safe for Fiora to eat, without all of the added preservatives, thickeners and colors. So here it is! A yummy, easy homemade vegan ice cream recipe that's actually good for you!

Raw Vegan Chocolate Banana Ice Cream
2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup raw cacao powder (if  not following a raw diet, using regular cocoa powder works just fine)
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp dark raw agave nectar (equal amount of maple syrup can be substituted if you don't have agave on hand)

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until completely smooth. (It will look like chocolate pudding). Pour into freezable air tight container and freeze for at least 24 hours - preferably 36 hours. Or you can skip freezing and eat it as a chocolate pudding! To serve I always like to add toppings such as shredded coconut or crushed walnuts.


Zucchini Hummus

This raw hummus is a delicious way to eat your veggies! It's a bit lighter than traditional hummus, as it is made form zucchini instead of chickpeas. I recently had a party so I tripled the recipe and all of it got eaten! This yummy dip is super easy to make and will keep in the fridge for three days.

Zucchini Hummus
1 cup peeled and chopped zucchini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup raw tahini paste
1 1/4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of chopped garlic
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to serving bowl and chill 1-2 hours before serving.


Perfect Kale Chips

There are probably a few hundred different ways of making kale chips, and most of them are fairly similar. Some recipes call for short blasts of very high heat, others say slow and low is best. I'm of the latter group. I used to make my kale chips in the oven but almost always ended up burning a few (or all of them), so now I prefer the dehydrator. I'm not going to claim I invented this recipe, as I got tips from a few Twitter friends as well as online searched for the magical combination of toppings. I love them so much I even eat them for breakfast some days ;)

Perfect Kale Chips

1 bunch of curly kale, thoroughly washed and patted dry
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried dill
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp dried garlic (finely crushed)
pinch of salt

Start by tearing the kale leaves from the spine. Place in a large bowl. Next mix olive oil and vinegar together and drizzle over kale leaves. In a small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and evenly sprinkle over kale.
Massage the seasonings onto the kale leaves so they are all evenly coated. Lay the leaves flat on the mesh screen of your dehydrator and dehydrate at 105F for 8 hours (or overnight). Kale chips can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

*If you don't have a dehydrator, lay prepared kale on metal baking sheet and bake at 250F for approx 30 min. Make sure the leaves do not turn brown (burn) or they will be bitter. Depending on you oven they may need a few minutes more or less. Check them 5 min early and test their crunchiness and go from there.


New Vegan FAQ

Yesterday I was looking for a book (which I didn't find) at Chapters, and I noticed a woman browsing the vegan cookbooks. I asked her if she needed help and we started talking. Turns out she and her husband had just watched Forks Over Knives, and were wanting to convert to a vegan lifestyle. Talking with her made me realize that often when I write, I just assume people understand why vegan recipes call for strange things like quinoa or agave nectar. But the reality is that if you're totally new to this world, and jumping from full on meat and dairy eating to full on veganism, it's foreign and confusing! I wanted to do a post for all of you who are brand new and don't really have a support system of vegans on speed dial. I've transitioned to a veg lifestyle so long ago I honestly couldn't tell you what meat tastes like, so I'm gonna try to think back about 17 years and go over the basics with you...

The most important thing I can tell you, is do your research. When you give up animal products, you are making a major change. You are cutting out bacon and eggs, cream cheese on your bagel, your bagel (has eggs in it), BLT's, hamburgers, cheesecake, ice cream, cream in your coffee, cheese plates with your wine, mac & cheese, steak, turkey at holidays, fettuccine alfredo, pho, butter chicken, mayo, prawns.... honestly, I could go on for paragraphs and pages. But I won't. However there was a point, and that being that you give up A LOT of things when you convert to a vegan lifestyle. So be prepared to introduce A LOT of things to replace the things you gave up! Is it mandatory to go out and buy Daiya cheese, amaranth, lentils or agave nectar? No it's not mandatory. However when you give up hundreds of things without introducing any new things, your eating situation will be pretty bland, and you'll crash and fail. Also, if you were previously eating the Standard American Diet, and you take away three quarters of it to become vegan, you NEED to try new things in order to get all of your vitamins, nutrients, protein and amino acids. 

The most important thing you need to do, is to broaden your spectrum of veggies, fruit and berries. Have you tried kale, tangelos, beets, yams, sprouts, pea shoots, wheat grass, pomegranates, purple potatoes, lobster mushrooms, shallots, cantaloupe, red leaf lettuce, avocados, kolhrabi, butternut squash, cilantro, eggplant,  romanescu broccoli, jack fruit, jicama, gauva, pummelo, sea asparagus (samphire), goji berries, maca, cacao....? The world of fruit and veggies is broad and exciting - bursting with flavor and it's waiting for you to get acquainted! You can't just eat carrots, potatoes and iceberg lettuce, darling... branch out, and try every fruit and veggie you can find! The more colorful your produce, the more vitamins it has; so don't fear deep purples, dark greens, vibrant reds and bright oranges!

Then get familiar with your grains and rices. For example in my household, on a regular basis, we eat things like: quinoa, cous cous, lentils (black, green, yellow and red), pearl barley, amaranth, brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, black china rice, and grits. Eating only white (or brown) rice is boring...don't be afraid of trying some of the many rices, lentils and grains from around the world!
As far as flours go, I use a wide range in baking and cooking: unbleached white flour, whole wheat flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, amaranth flour, white rice flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, corn meal, spelt flour, kamut flour, coconut flour, and potato starch (I am gluten sensitive, so I avoid wheat flours, however I use them when cooking for family). It's not at all essential to purchase all of these different flours and learn to bake and cook with them. However, I do find that new vegans (and vegetarians) eliminate a whole bunch of food and then just eat bread, more bread, some pasta, cereal, and more bread because they don't know what else to eat. An excess of gluten will cause digestion problems for ANYONE! That's why it's a good idea to use a variety of non glutenous flours and give your intestines a break. Google search recipes for vegan buckwheat pancakes or vegan cornbread and gravy. Choose corn tortillas over wheat ones. And on that note, try adding corn and rice pastas to your pantry. Corn pastas make the BEST mac & cheese, and rice pastas are essential in Vietnamese (and other Asian) dishes.  After all, variety is the spice of life! And an overdose of wheat based foods will make you sluggish and bloated, and could develop into a serious problem  and/or condition in the long term. (I speak from experience; a lesson learned the hard way)

Stock up on nuts and seeds, and try some new ones! I always keep almonds (yes even with the "vegan controversy", we still eat them), cashews, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts. We frequently use organic natural nut butters as well; peanut, almond and hazelnut. And then there's seeds! Fall in love with seeds! They are an amazing way to get protein, vitamins and nutrients. An example is the humble sesame seed; did you know it's high in calcium, copper, manganese, iron, phosphorous and B12? Or the chia seed - as far as I'm concerned everyone should eat them. Chia seeds are full of omega 3's, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, vitamin A, and they're a complete source of protein. So eat them up! Research other seeds, those two aren't the only good ones! We eat all of the following: chia, hemp, sesame, poppy seed, sunflower, pumpkin, savi seed, and flax (make sure to buy ground flax seed as your body cannot digest full flax seeds). Seeds are so simple to throw on salad, toss into a smoothie or sprinkle over a stir fry... stock up on a variety and make them a part of your daily meal plans!

Beans are another fast and easy source of protein and iron. I buy beans in bulk, and soak them in large bowls full of water overnight. Then I cook them in large batches (most beans take almost an hour), store enough for a few days in the fridge, and freeze the rest. To use the frozen beans, simply re-boil until they are heated through; it's a quicker option than soaking and cooking them from scratch every time I want to use beans. You can buy canned beans, which is admittedly easier. I cook my own beans because there are always additives added to the canned ones, plus there is BPA in the lining of cans. (BPA's are only banned in plastic, and there is a loop hole with the lining of cans, and therefor still used and legal). I do keep a can of pinto beans and a can of chickpeas (both organic) on hand to use in a pinch if I'm ever out of cooked beans. So which beans to buy? We use chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, black beans, edamame beans, and mung beans (mung beans actually are a complete protein and contain all of your essential amino acids). Beans are so versatile; they can be mashed and spread as a condiment, heated and served with a tomato or "cheese" sauce, served cold (and/or marinated) in/or/as a salad, as a filler in wraps, blended into other ingredients as a veggie burger, or plain and heated as a side dish! I love beans, and especially chickpeas. We eat chickpeas (or hummus, which is made from chickpeas) at lease one meal a day.

Alternate milks.... What the heck should you put in your coffee? (Try vanilla or chocolate soy). In your cereal?(Try plain or vanilla almond milk). And what do you use to make alfredo sauce? (Plain rice milk). When it comes to alt milks, it is important to use a variety. The reason is because alternative milks range widely in sweetness and taste.  For example, vanilla soy milk is divine in a latte (or in your coffee), however it is high in estrogen so you don't want to be drinking it all the time. Stick to one time per day at most. For your cereal and for cold drinking, I recommend almond milk. The neat thing about almond milk is that you can actually make it yourself very easily with raw (not toasted) almonds! (Recipe HERE). You can use almond milk in smoothies and in baking as well. And then for cooking savory and/or creamy sauces, I recommend plain (natural flavor) rice milk. It is very neutral in taste and heats the best of all of the alternative milks (Soy tends to get quite sweet when heated and almond milks taste a bit "off" when heated, in my opinion). I use coconut milk in Thai and Indian recipes, as its richness is a perfect base for these flavorful sauces. There is also hemp milk which can be used in the places I recommended almond milk. Hemp milk has a strong nutty flavor, and it's not a favorite in our household, so we rarely purchase or use it.

Then there's the "fake" meats and plant based protein meat substitutes. I rarely use or eat "fake" meats, as they are heavily processed, and contain lots of artificial coloring and preservatives. If we eat plant based protein such as seitan or tempah, I make it from scratch. I'll leave the choice of to-eat or not-to-eat "fake" meats, up to you.

If you're new to veganism, you've probably seen agave nectar and brown rice syrup in recipes. Why? Well because refined (white) sugar is actually not vegan. The sugar is processed using animal bone char. Gross right?! So we vegans avoid refined sugar and find some cool alternatives; raw organic sugar, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, pure maple syrup, stevia, coconut sugar, date sugar and molasses. Honey is not vegan, as it comes from bees. It's not at all necessary to buy all of these alternate sweeteners. In fact, I'd recommend when you're just starting this journey, stick to raw sugar as it can be used the same way refined white sugar is used; no conversions needed. You can figure our how to use all of the other sweet options when you feel more confident in your vegan culinary skills.  And at all costs, avoid aspartame based sweeteners. Aspartame is as bad as it gets, with 92 different side effects. 92!!! Click HERE for more terrifying info on this "sweet poison".

And lastly, you'll probably see a broad variety of oils, vinegar, soy sauces and pastes used in vegan recipes. These are simply preference. For example, in baking, I use coconut oil. For frying, I use canola oil. For sauteing and salad dressings, I use olive oil; and for Asian and Latin dishes, I use toasted sesame oil. These are all just preference and are not necessary. There is also truffle oil, and it is a very costly and certainly not necessary oil. Truffle oil is approx $50 per bottle, and it is only used as a seasoning (combined with balsamic vinegar over raw tomatoes, or in a sauce over butternut squash ravioli, etc); it's very strong and very distinct and you either love it or hate it. I'd suggest ordering a dish that uses it, from a restaurant before shelling out for this oil, as it is pricey and you may hate it.  When it comes to vinegar, it's mostly a taste preference. I'll use apple cider vinegar in baking and dressings; rice wine vinegar in Asian recipes; balsamic in dressings and for dipping bread or french fries; and plain white vinegar for pickling recipes or marinades. Other than balsamic, vinegars are similar enough that they can be easily interchanged. Then there's soy sauce, tamari sauce and amino liquid. All of it varies so slightly, you don't need to buy three different bottles. (I usually just sub tamari and amino liquid with soy sauce). You might see recipes calling for miso paste, which is fermented soy beans. Miso is a unique pungent, tart and salty taste. It's almost always optional in recipes, so it's not a necessary purchase. And then there's tahini, which is a sesame paste. It's usually used in Middle Eastern dishes and in things like hummus. Again, it's usually optional and is simply used to give a bit more "bite". Finally there's sriracha, which is a chili paste/sauce. It's super spicy and you can substitute other hot sauces such as Frank's Red Hot. (EDIT: The day after this I posted this, I realized I forgot to include nutritional yeast!  What is it and do you need to buy it? First of all, it's not a baking yeast, and it's not a brewer's yeast. You can usually find nutritional yeast at health food stores, or organic grocery stores. It's notorious for adding a "cheesey" flavor, and it's not mandatory, but I really do recommend picking this ingredient up!  All of the above listed ingredients (in this paragraph) are optional and are used in flavor enhancement but are not mandatory.

Ok, ok... that's a lot of info and a lot of new foods! So where do you start?! Take one step at a time. Here's a to-do list for your first two weeks....

*Make it a habit that every time you go to the grocery store, you buy a new fruit, berry or veggie for you and your family to try. Remember, you cannot thrive on iceberg lettuce and carrots alone!
*Pick up some Daiya cheddar cheese shreds and make a vegan cheese sauce (recipe HERE), and slather it on pastas (try corn pasta!!), make veggie nachos, use it on a veggie burger, eat it over a tofu scramble (kinda like scrambled eggs and cheese), pour it over broccoli, cauliflower or baked potatoes, or use it as a fondue for el dente veggies! Most new vegans miss cheese, and this  cheese sauce is a tried and tested life-saving recipe that goes on pretty much everything.
*Purchase at least three kinds of beans. (I recommend soaking and cooking your own as mentioned above, but you can use canned at first if you're feeling overwhelmed). Make or buy a hummus with chickpeas (hummus can be used as a spread on veggie burgers, in wraps and as a dip with crackers or raw veggies) and choose two different ways to use the other two kinds of beans.
*Make a familiar and easy sweet "dessert". Try No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (I use THIS recipe); just make sure you are using vegan margarine (Becel makes one now! Or you can use the longtime vegan favorite, Earth Balance), as well as raw sugar. You could also make Puffed Wheat Squares (recipe HERE), or Rice Krispy Squares (recipe HERE). Marshmallows are not vegan, so buy the vegan ones made by Dandies, which are super-duper delicious. The reason I'm condoning sugary junk food at the beginning of this journey? Well because when everything is new and your food seems foreign, it's nice to have a kid-approved comforting and familiar sweet treat on hand. Trust me on this one ;)
*Make a stir fry! Anyone can chop up veggies and saute them, plus its a quick dish that has endless variations! Throw in some nuts and seeds and/or some tofu and serve it over any type of rice or vermicelli (rice noodles). Make extra and take it to work or school for lunches. Stir fry's simply rock, and you can put pretty much any veggie, nut or seed, or sauce in them and they always taste yummy. (Note: Find sauce recipes on Epicurious; try out a Thai peanut sauce, a coconut sauce, a teriyaki sauce, a simple soy sauce, add some fresh ginger, or try a curry!)
*Make and eat fruit smoothies at least a few times per week (if not once per day). Smoothies are the easiest and most yummy way to eat lots of fruit. Plus you can add in some raw spinach, hemp or chia seeds, and some almond milk and you've got a power breakfast that will keep you full while satisfying your sweet tooth. I like to stock up on berries and bananas when they're on sale and freeze them for smoothies. This way your smoothie is cold and has the texture of a milkshake, and you don't need to dilute it by adding ice cubes. You don't need yogurt to make a smoothie either.  Try adding a couple of frozen bananas, a half cup of fresh or frozen berries, one or two pieces of fresh fruit (mangoes, oranges, peaches etc), a cup of raw spinach, a few teaspoons of seeds, and enough almond milk as your food processor or blender needs to blend it all together.  For a sweeter smoothie, add one or two medjool dates or a teaspoon of agave nectar. And for a yummy breakfast smoothie, try four bananas, two medjool dates, a few tablespoons of peanut butter, a half teaspoon of cocoa powder and almond milk. YUM!

I hope this has been helpful, and that it helps clear up a few things and reasons for all of the "strange" ingredients! Feel free to email me any questions or comments you may have. No question is a bad question, and I always love hearing your thoughts and opinions! Email: jakigh@gmail.com


Vegan Calzones

The best thing about this recipe is that it's packed with veggies and your kids will never know (they'll think they're eating junk food)! Hidden in the sauce are carrots, broccoli, peas and tomatoes, but all you'll taste is a yummy sauce, cheese and veggie pepperoni. I tried my best to create a gluten free dough recipe, however two failed batches later, I decided to let the idea go for today. Since I was making these for my family who are not gluten intolerant, I used durum atta flour (usually used to make chapati and roti). I'll keep working on a gluten free recipe and post it as soon as I create one I love! This is a great recipe to double up and freeze the extra calzones as they make handy work or school lunches.
*This recipe is NOT gluten-free*

Calzone Dough Recipe (bread machine)
1 1/8 cup warm water
3 cups durum atta flour
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp raw sugar
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast

Place ingredients (in the order listed) in your bread machine and press the DOUGH cycle. Once cycle is complete, remove the dough and divide the dough into six equal portions. On a floured surface, roll the dough into flat circles (with a rolling pin). Leaving a 1" border around the edges, layer HALF of each calzone with Hidden Veggie Sauce (recipe below) veggie pizza pepperoni (I used Yves brand) and Daiya Cheese (I blended pepper-jack and cheddar). Fold the unfilled half over the filled half of each calzone and press edges together. Place calzones on metal baking sheet (with silicone baking mats or parchment paper lining the sheets) and let rise for 30 min. Preheat oven to 400F, and when calzones are done rising, brush both sides with vegan margarine (optional).  Place in oven and bake for 20 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five min before eating, and serve with the leftover Hidden Veggie Sauce.

Hidden Veggie Sauce
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup peas (I use frozen)
1 can tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp water (I use the water left over from cooking the veggies)
1 tbsp olive oil

Place carrots, broccoli and peas in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook until veggies are al dente. Drain water (reserving 4 tbsp), and place in food processor with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. *There will be extra sauce for dipping the calzones.


Savory Strawberry Spread

This is a fantastic spread to keep in your fridge at all times (an alternative to ketchup). Subtly sweet, and a bit tangy, it's the perfect compliment to veggie burgers and yam fries. It also pairs well in a chickpea and lettuce wrap, and even tastes good heated and served on pasta!

Savory Strawberry Spread
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1 can (plain) tomato paste
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp agave nectar (optional)
salt and pepper

Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth (the consistency should be like that of ketchup).


Fiesta Stack

I wasn't even sure what to call this dish, so chose the word "fiesta" to reference the Mexican influences, and "stack" because it's layers of flavor in every bite. This is a dish I make when we have dinner company, and it's been a crowd pleaser every time; even for meat-eaters! I usually serve it with black lentils or Spanish style rice. This patty can also be served in a bun or in a pita as a burger, using the same toppings as condiments.

***(Note: I serve this recipe with Roasted Red Pepper Relish and this requires two red peppers to be seeded and baked for 2 hours, which I usually roast in advance to making the remainder of the dish. You can even roast the peppers the day before and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. See recipe link and details below)***

Fiesta Stack
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can pinto beans
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (OK to substitute canola oil)
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup corn meal
salt & pepper
toasted sesame oil for frying (can use canola oil)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor (or you can use your hands and mush it together) and form into 8-10 patties (your preference on size). Heat oil in a non stick pan (start off with approx 2 tbsp and add as needed). When oil is hot, carefully place two or three patties at a time in the pan. Let them fry on the first side until you can flip them with a large spatula (flipper). Alternate sides until the patties are turning golden brown. Place on silicone mats on a baking sheet (parchment paper can be used in place of silicone baking mats). Once all of the patties are fried, bake for 45 min.

While patties are baking, prepare the following:
1 recipe of Roasted Red Pepper Relish, recipe HERE.
1 recipe of Cheese Sauce, recipe HERE. It is ok to omit the nutritional yeast, and I usually add 2 tbsp of salsa
I also serve this with Pico de Gallo and Gaucamole, (which you can buy or make-- recipes below) as well as fried mushrooms (optional) and lettuce.

Pico de Gallo
1 tomato chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
3-4 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp lemon juice
Blend all ingredients together and refrigerate.

1-2 avocados
1/4 cup Pico de Gallo
Cut avocado in half and remove the seed. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mush with a fork. Add the Pico de Gallo and refrigerate.

Fried Mushrooms
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp vegan margarine
Fry over med heat until lightly golden.


Roasted Red Pepper Relish

This relish is one of the things my fridge is never without. It's a perfect condiment for sandwiches, veggie burgers and wraps, as well as can be heated up and added to pastas or cheese sauces. Plus it's a cinch to make!

Roasted Red Pepper Relish

2 organic red peppers, cut in half and remove seeds
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (can use olive oil if you don't have sesame)
1 white or yellow onion, cubed
1 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush sesame oil onto the skins of the red peppers and place in a baking dish (I used a glass one). Bake peppers for two hours.

Once peppers are roasted, remove from oven and allow to cool. Saute the onion in the margarine until the onion begins to turn translucent. Place the peppers, onion and remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree until you have reaches the desired consistency. Enjoy!


Perfect Vegan Mac & Cheese (and it's Gluten Free!)

Mac & Cheese makes the top ten list of "most missed foods" for both vegans and people who cannot eat gluten. There are a few hundred vegan Mac & Cheese recipes on the internet and every vegan cookbook has a version, however most of them taste too artificial or don't even resemble the taste of cheese. There are also dozens of gluten free pastas on the shelves of your supermarket, and yet they always taste too slimy, too rice-y, or just plain wrong when mixed with a creamy sauce. So what's a gluten-free vegan to do?! Well you can do what I did and try 50 different recipes and combinations of different gluten free pastas to find the magical balance, or you can just take my word for it and make this recipe! It's been tried on non-vegans (full-on-omni brother) and people who eat regular pasta like it's going out of style. The comments were: "I could eat this every day", "this is vegan?", "wow, this is super good"... etc etc etc. So just make it already; you know you want to!

Perfect Vegan Mac and Cheese
Probably the most important thing in this recipe is to use the brand of pasta and the brand of cheese that I recommend. I've tried many, many different brands and these two are by far the most superior of the bunch for making mac & cheese. After all, it's pasta and cheese... don't screw up the two main ingredients! 

The pasta is: San Zenone 100% organic CORN pasta.
Boil one 340g bag exactly according to package directions. Do not over cook.

Cheese Sauce Recipe:
1 cup Daiya CHEDDAR style cheese
1 cup Natura rice milk - original flavor. (Do not use almond, soy or hemp milk...it ruins the cheese sauce)
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 minced garlic cloves
1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast (your preference on taste)
salt & pepper, to taste

In a separate cup or bowl, combine:
2 tbsp rice milk
mixed with 1 heaping tbsp corn starch to make a slurry and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine cheese, rice milk, margarine, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt & pepper. Heat over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Then pour in the corn starch slurry. The sauce will thicken very quickly after adding the slurry, so stir constantly for 20-45 seconds (until desired thickness). Do not leave unattended as it will burn.

Pour over pasta and devour!
Note: The pasta and cheese sauce are both best enjoyed immediately; if you make the dish ahead of time, store the pasta and cheese sauce separately. 


Chocolate Banana Bread

When you combine chocolate with anything it becomes divine. I took my Mum's famous banana bread recipe (which was already delicious), added chocolate and veganized it. The result is an absolutely irresistible , moist, eat-it-till-it's-gone treat. 
Enjoy this recipe! It is delicious!!

Chocolate Banana Bread
3 tsp egg replaced, whisked with
4 tbsp water and 
1 tsp canola oil
Next add 
1/2 cup vegan margarine
2 cups unbleached white flour (for a gluten free loaf, sub. 2 cups sorghum flour and add 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum; all other ingredients remain the same)
1/4 cup almond (or soy) milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 over-ripe bananas
Blend all ingredients together thoroughly and pour into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for approx 60-65 min or until wooden pick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Check loaf at the 45 min mark as some ovens and/or climates require less baking time. 


Greek Falafel Burger

This burger is a result of three different (slightly modified) recipes from the cookbook The Best Veggie Burgers On The Planet by Joni Marie Newman. This cookbook has pretty much every possible type of veggie burger, and most of the burgers double as a main course option served with rice and veggies. This recipe is not gluten free.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup diced onion
2 tbsp potato starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water to make a slurry
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for frying
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili pepper
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (plus more if needed)
salt and pepper

1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup vegan Italian dressing

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 tbsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups water

200 g of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 cup raw cashews, ground into a fine powder
2 tbsp white rice vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

First mix the peppers, onions and tomatoes for the Greek Topping together with the lemon juice and Italian dressing in a bowl and place in the fridge to marinate while you make the remainder of the meal. 

Next prepare the Non-Dairy Sour Cream by processing all of the ingredients until smooth in a blender or food processor. Place in the fridge as well.

Now on to the exciting part! Start the falafel burgers by combining the chickpeas, vegetable broth and onion in a  large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer uncovered, for 15 min.

While chickpeas are cooking, mix together ingredients for the flatbread and knead for 5 min. Divide into 8 equal portions and press flat into "pancakes".  Set aside on a cleaned flat surface.

When the chickpeas and onions are cooked, remove from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the potato starch slurry and stir until combined thoroughly and mixture is thickened. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil, spinach, coriander, cumin, chili powder, lemon juice and both flours. Knead until a nice elastic dough is formed, adding more chickpea flour if dough is too sticky. Preheat the oven to 350F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Form into 6 (or 8) patties and place on prepared sheet. Bake for 20 min uncovered.

Next heat a non stick pan over high heat and dry-fry one flatbread at a time. Fry each side for 2 minutes (use a timer), and when both sides are cooked, transfer to a plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm. Keep an eye on the flatbreads as the pan gets hotter with time, and you may have to adjust the heat to avoid burning the flatbread. 

When flatbreads are done, the burgers should be done as well. Finish the burgers by frying them in a panini press or electric grill (I used a George Foreman) for about 5-7 min or until golden crispy. 

You can either use the burgers in the flatbreads like burgers, or break them up and eat them in a wrap style. Layer the flatbread with the burgers, Greek topping and a dollop of the non dairy sour cream :) mmmm!


Four Lentil & Chickpea Wrap

This wrap is a go-to in our household. Packed full of flavor and nutrients, it's perfect for me to have for lunches at home, or for Shane to take to work. This is a great wrap for vegans and omnivores alike, because when yellow and red lentils are combined, they create a complete protein as well as supplying essential amino acids; then I also added green and black lentils for dietary fiber and iron.


2/3 cup yellow lentils
2/3 cup red lentils
2/3 cup green lentils
2/3 cup black lentils
6 cups water
1 cup cooked chickpeas
gluten-free tortillas (or wrap of choice)

1 yellow onion, chopped
1-2 cloves minced garlic (depending on how much garlic you like)
1/2 cup of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp dijon mustard
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Start by bringing the 6 cups of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add yellow lentils (they take longer to cook than the other three lentils). Cook yellow lentils for 3 minutes and then add remaining three types of lentils. Cook for an additional 8-10 min (until lentils are tender). 

While lentils are cooking, start on the artichoke spread by cooking the onion in the olive oil until onion is tender and turning clear in color. Once the onion is cooked, blend with remaining ingredients for the artichoke spread, in a food processor. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the lentil marinade and set aside. 

Drain the cooked lentils and toss in the lentil marinade. Then build your wrap by layering tortillas (or wrap of choice) with the artichoke spread, the lentils, chickpeas, sprouts and spinach. ENJOY!!


Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

This is a recipe from the cookbook REFRESH by Ruth Tal and Jennifer Houston. I just bought the cookbook and this is the first recipe I have tired. Wow am I impressed! This soup is everything you want in a fall soup; the squash and pear together are a marriage of divinity.
*note: cloth napkin shown is made of 100% organic cotton and printed with water based inks. They available from Graze Organics

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

1 inch of ginger root, peeled and minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 garnet yam, peeled and diced
6 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 pears, cored and diced
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Put the ginger, cinnamon, squash and sweet potato in a soup. Cover with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer.
While the vegetables are simmering, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add he onions and cook until caramelized, about 5 min.
Add white wine and chopped pears to the pan. Cook for 5 min until wine is reduced; then add to the soup pot.
When the squash and yam are cooked, about 30 min, add the coconut milk, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Puree in a food processor or with a hand blender.
Serves 6


Peanut Butter & Banana DOG Treats

My household eats almost completely organic, and I decided that since my dog is a huge part of our lives, I wanted her to start eating better too! The muffins smelled good while baking, and Sam LOVED them! I did not invent this recipe, it is courtesy of Vegan Flower, and it is not gluten free (uses whole wheat flour). Makes 24 mini muffins.

2 cups whole wheat organic flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup organic crunchy peanut butter
2 mashed bananas
3/4 cup water
1 apple, de-seeded and cubed

Mix all ingredients together and divide into greased paperless mini muffin tins. Bake at 350 F for 30 min. Allow to cool, remove from muffin tin and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 24 mini muffins :)


Peanut Sauce w/ Autumn Vegetables & Coconut Rice

Remember yesterday when I said that I was off to create some cozy food? Well here it is! This dish is sort of a sauce, sort of a stew, and has some Thai influences as well as some Indian influences. However it doesn't quite fall into any of these categories... but it IS just the perfect cozy dish for chilly fall days like today, even if it is un-categorized!

Peanut Sauce w/ Autumn Vegetables and Coconut Rice

3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp olive oil (or choice of vegetable oil)
1 can of original stewed tomatoes
1 can of garlic tomato paste
3/4 cup organic crunchy peanut butter
1 cup of water
1/4 cup light coconut milk (reserve remainder of can to cook rice)
1 tsp dried basil
10 fresh sweet basil leaves
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp turmeric 
2 to 3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion salt
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 can organic chickpeas, drained
1 red pepper, cubed
1 tomato, cubed
1 medium zucchini, sliced (about 1/2 inch thick slices)
Jasmine, brown or white rice for 4 people
1/4 cup shredded coconut

In a deep sauce pan, saute garlic cloves in oil until golden brown. Add stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, peanut butter, basil, coconut milk, chili powder, turmeric onion salt and salt. Stir all ingredients until well blended and add cubed potatoes. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook rice according to package directions, substituting part of the water with remaining coconut milk.
When sauce has simmered for 15 min, add in cubed red pepper, zucchini, tomato & chickpeas and simmer for an additional 10-15 min.
Add shredded coconut to cooked rice and serve with peanut veggie sauce.


Crustless Mini Cous Cous Quiche Recipe w/ Red Pepper Hummus

I was flipping through the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times, and seen a tasty looking recipe for Crispy Quinoa Cakes. I decided to make them, however realized just before I was about to start cooking, that I didn't have quinoa or sweet potatoes. Or tahini. Nor did I want to add egg or feta cheese.... so the recipe evolved to fit the ingredients I DID have on hand and to become vegan. I figured while I was on a roll changing things anyway, I'd change them from "cakes" to crust-less quiche(s) by baking them in mini muffin tins.

Make sure to use cous cous made from brown rice if you are allergic to gluten, as regular cous cous is a grain and contains gluten! The brand of roasted brown rice cous cous I use is manufactured by Lundberg Family Farms.

Crust-less Mini Cous Cous Quiche Recipe
Makes 24 mini quiche

1 1/2 tsp vegan egg replacer, mixed with 2 tbsp warm water <*may substitute 1 egg if not following a vegan diet>
2 tbsp brown rice flour <*may substitute all purpose flour if not following a gluten free diet>
1 1/2 tbsp all natural peanut butter <*may substitute tahini or alternate nut butter if allergic to peanuts>
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 cups roasted brown rice cous cous, cooked (made by Lundberg, www.lundberg.com ) <*may use regular cous cous if not following a gluten free diet>
2/3 cup grated carrot
2/3 of 300g pkg frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 tbsp finely diced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt

~Red Pepper Hummus
1 large red pepper, cut in half lengthwise
1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp vegan mayonnaise <*may substitute regular mayo if not following a vegan diet>
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4-5 tbsp water  (adjust as needed for blender)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Once oven has reached temperature, place red pepper halves on middle oven rack for 15 minutes to bake. While the red pepper is baking, prepare the first set of ingredients by stirring together in large bowl until thoroughly combined; then set aside. Once red pepper has finished baking, carefully remove it from the oven and place on cooling rack or cutting board to cool. Next, use coconut or olive oil to grease unlined mini muffin tins. Using a spoon, fill the muffin tins and pack until tins are level and full. Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes. While the cous cous is baking, dice up the cooled red pepper. In a blender, combine the pepper and remaining ingredients for the Red Pepper Hummus. Blend on high until chickpeas are mashed and blended with other ingredients. Remove the cous cous quiche(s) from the oven and flip tin upside down onto cooling rack. Serve immediately with Red Pepper Hummus. 


Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

This is an adaption of a recipe from my Mum... She always bakes these muffins during harvest, and eating them brings back memories of spending every autumn driving a combine and visiting my family. This year will be the first year since I was 9 years old that I won't be driving a combine. Because Fiora will only be about 5 weeks old when harvest arrives, I will be cooking for the crew instead of driving... not a bad trade-off as I'll have a whole crew of hungry workers that I can use as testers for new recipes!

I've changed the recipe from the original by making it gluten-free, vegan, and by cutting the sugar down to a third. Enjoy the healthy changes!

Makes 24 muffins

1/4 cup vegan margarine <*may substitute regular margarine if not following a vegan diet>
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour <*may substitute 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour and eliminate potato starch completely, if not following a gluten free diet.>
1 cup potato starch <*eliminate if using all purpose wheat flour>
1/2 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
2 cups grated (peeled) zucchini
1/2 cup original flavor almond milk <*may substitute regular whole milk if not following a vegan diet>
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

~Crumble Topping:
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
1/8 cup brown rice flour <*may substitute with unbleached all purpose flour if not following a gluten-free diet>
2 tbsp melted vegan margarine
 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine all ingredients (excluding ingredients for Crumble Topping) in a large bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly blended.  Next, in a separate small bowl, combine Crumble Topping ingredients and set aside. Line standard size muffin tin with paper liners and lightly grease with vegan margarine or coconut oil. Next use a 1/4 cup ice-cream scoop** to evenly distribute muffin batter into greased muffin liners. Top with Crumble Topping and place muffins into heated oven to bake for 25 minutes, or until wooden pick comes out clean. Let muffins cool before removing from pan, and once completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Baked muffins may also be frozen for up to a month.

**a good investment if doing lots of baking is a thumb release 1/4 cup ice-cream scoop. The scoop will evenly distribute your batters with relatively no mess.. not to mention you will have perfectly sized, uniform muffins and cupcakes!

Raspberry Mango Juice

This is probably the most exciting post (for me) on this blog.... The reason?? Not because of some exotic fruit or complex technique... but because the raspberries are from my very own garden!!! (I freeze them and enjoy raspberries year round) If you do not have a raspberry tree in your backyard, there are plenty of farmer's markets and berry farms where you can get fresh raspberries...


1 cup fresh raspberries
1 ripe mango
2 cups watermelon (minus the rind)

Combine the above three ingredients into juicer and garnish with raspberries. Simple and delicious!!!

Gauc-Hummus Salad

Days off and weekends call for light, easy summer-y foods...such as salads. Here's the confession... I'm not really into salads; mostly because they are too dry or because they are over-saturated in an oily dressing which kills the purpose of eating the salad. However, eating fresh greens is essential for being healthy, so I decided to make a salad which is oil free (uses the natural oils of the avocados, instead of adding extra oil), and wanted it to be filling enough for a meal, not just a starter. Here's the winning salad... and after this, I may just start liking salads! Plus, this recipe is so easy, there are absolutely no excuses to ignore those fresh greens any more ;)


1 ripe avocado
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup cucumber, diced
1- 540ml can of chick peas
1 lime
salt and pepper

Mash chickpeas and avocado with a fork until coarsely blended. Add cucumber and tomatoes and squeeze juice of the entire lime onto the mixture. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper and mix together. Serve over spinach as a salad, or with romaine hearts as a dip. 


Beet Borscht w/ Crispy Basil

Yup, it's another recipe courtesy of the shiny new juicer... (I promise the next recipe won't require the magic of the juicer) So that being said, here is a twist on beet borscht. Mum didn't answer her phone, so I was left to guess what ingredients compose this staple soup. Let's just say it turned out better than Mum's! Shhhh let's just keep this quiet, she probably wouldn't be too thrilled at being out-cooked!

3 cups baby red potatoes, cubed to 1/2"
4 cups water <*measure water, as the potato water will be used as a base for the soup>
Bring potatoes to boil, then simmer for while you prep remaining ingredients.

(Prep the following ingredients but do not juice them yet)
8 carrots (large) ***MUST be peeled and washed, as pulp (from juicing) is later used in soup
7 celery stalks
2 cups purple cabbage, roughly chopped
4 vine tomatoes, washed and halved
4-5 beets, peeled and "ended" (chop off the top and long root), then cut into quarters
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
7-9 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 cup sweet basil, roughly chopped

At this point, check potatoes; if tender, transfer potatoes and potato water into over-sized pot and set aside. To the potatoes, add the shallots, garlic, dill and basil.

Now for the juicing part....(add all fresh juices to soup pot immediately)
START with the carrots. The carrots should produce 1 3/4 cups of juice (adjust number of carrots needed, accordingly) Add carrot juice to pot. Turn off and unplug juicer, and remove 2 cups of pulp. Add pulp to the soup; then reassemble juicer, plug in and turn on... resume by juicing the celery (should produce 3/4 cup juice,  again adjust amount of celery as needed to produce sufficient juice), continue with the tomatoes (should produce 1 1/4 cups juice), and next juice the cabbage (should produce 1/2 cup juice). Now, move on to the beets.*( It is very important that they have been peeled even though most juicers do not require vegetables to be peeled; beets are a gnarly root vegetable, and not only is the skin foul tasting, it can be difficult to clean properly.) Also, ensure that the beets are quartered, as the are tough and give the juicer quite a work out. Beets should produce 2 cups juice, adjust number of beets accordingly to produce exactly 2 cups of beet juice. 

Season soup with
1 tsp freshly ground pepper 
and 2 tsp course sea salt

Over med-low heat, simmer for half an hour to 45 min.

Next prepare the Crispy Basil...
1 cup sweet basil, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup canola oil

In small (2-cup) saucepan, heat oil to boiling point. Carefully add basil (about 1/3 at a time) and fry till crispy. Set on paper towel to blot off excess oils.

Optional*** add 2 tbsp of the oil which you fried the basil in, to the soup (oil will be green). If following a low fat diet, omit this step, however the flavored oil adds a lovely finish to the soup.

When soup is finished simmering, serve topped with crispy basil. <*If following a non-vegan diet, add a dollop of sour cream> 


Refreshing Grapefruit Juice

In an attempt to "green" my life even further, I bought a juicer. The decision was made because sorting the juice containers for recycling has turned into a full time job. It's been fun seeing how much juice an apple or kiwi actually makes, not to mention there's no worry or additives or preservatives!

2 cups watermelon (without the rind)
1 organic grapefruit
1 organic red apple

Combine ingredients in juicer and enjoy this tangy refreshing beverage 

Grilled Summer Vegetables

It's been a busy two weeks (therefore the lack of postings); 4 days of vacation followed by 3 days of home renovations and 6 days of company. The BBQ was definitely a life saver! Here's a quick and easy recipe to add some sizzle to dinner tonight. 


2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups mini carrots
2 cups fresh mushrooms (of choice)
2 cups red pepper, chopped

1 cup Italian salad dressing
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Marinate the vegetables in the Italian dressing mixture for 2-4 hours. Then pierce with bamboo skewers and BBQ. Quick, Simple, Delicious!