Simple, Digestion Friendly Carrot & Fennel Soup

This week I bid a temporary goodbye to teaching the lil kiddies to take a much-needed summer break. And honestly it couldn’t have come at a better time. As much as I love quickie meals, I have seriously OD’d on smoothies and cold cereal for breakfast, brown bag wrap + salad lunches and 5 minute polenta bowl dinners. It is time to regain my cooking legs…

And what better to start off my August cooking blitz than one of my all time favourite foods to prepare: SOUP!

I chose to share this recipe because while its very simple, it involves one truly magical element that makes the whole dish shine: Fennel!

Fennel is one of the BEST whole foods to eat when it comes to good digestion and for reasons I am sure you understand I very much encourage vegetarian/flexitarian/vegan-folk (who eat loads of whole grains, beans, spicy food and soy) to incorporate more of this crunchy-sweet veggie into your diet. This carrot-fennel soup is simple, subtley sweet way to do just that. Try it out! Trust me your grumbly bloaty tummy will thank you.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

  • 1 bulb of fennel (just the bottom part), diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tsp coconut oil for frying
  • 1 sweet apple, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 1-2 cups almond milk
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu or yoghurt
  • parsley (optional, for garnish)
  1. Sautee fennel, carrots & onion in oil in a medium-large pot until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add garlic and sautee another 2-3 min.
  3. Add apple, stir to combine.
  4. Add bay leave plus 5 cups vegetable broth or water + boullion. Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes until very fragrant.
  5. Remove bay leaf and add salt and pepper, almond milk and tofu or yogurt. Then blend. You can do this using an infusion hand blender or scoop into a regular blender.
  6. Return to the pot and simmer, season again to taste. Serve with chopped parsley.

Sneaky Vegan Pesto Mayonnaise

Today’s recipe is a sneaky one. It looks and tastes eerily like the real live mayo but sneaks a whole buncha whackadoodle ingredients into the mix to make it suitable for loads of special dietary needs.

I love this kind of recipe because as far as I’m concerned its universal design (teacher-speak for good planning). Food that doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t make anyone sweat or freak out. It just tastes good and pleases everyone from your eco-feminist chakra-sensing aunt to your perma-scowling meat n’ potatoes grandad.

Personally, I love to use this as a sandwich or burger spread as well as a dip for crackers, pita or veggies. Its packed with protein, low in most things bad, high in most things good and most importantly tastes delish.

Vegan Pesto Mayonnaise

Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/High-Protein

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 package silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup cooked white beans
  • 1 tsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt (I used herbamare)
  • freshly ground pepper
Directions: Blend or process ingredients until smooth. Keeps in the fridge for around 5 days. Note – if you use a blender the final product will appear smoother, without the flecks of green pictured above. Its a matter of personal preference or (in my case) which appliance happened to be clean and sitting on the counter.
Yields about 8 servings.
And for those of you who give a hoot I am also including the nutritional breakdown of this recipe after the jump. This isn’t standard practice for me but I can’t resist since this one is SO incredibly awesome!
How do you feel about vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. recipes that attempt to recreate  the “real thing”. Love it or leave it? (more…)

Beach Picnic & A Very Green Soba Noodle Salad

After such a busy week I decided to take my Saturday completely off…Off work, off errands…off of all things city. So I grabbed some friends, packed a picnic lunch & headed to relax on the beachfront of the Toronto Island.

I always relish the opportunity to travel by boat, even if it is just a short ride, and the Toronto Island ferry ride is just perfect. Wind in hair, cute families chatting with you along the way + the knowledge that in just a few short minutes you will have your toes in the sand. Dreamy.

And of course no beach day would be complete without a perfectly packed lunch. I opted for something filling, nutritious & loaded with energizing fruits and veggies. I chose Japanese soba noodles because I love the earthy taste and texture of buckwheat (my current obsession, discussed at length here) contrasted against the bright sweetness of the other flavours in this recipe.

The result was fresh, delicious and lasted very well in my bag even without a cooler because all the veggies I used were hearty enough to marinate rather than wilt with the addition of dressing, making the salad that much more flavourful after the journey on the ferry.

Kiwi & Kale Soba Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bunch kale leaves
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsp honey or agave
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (can sub for another oil if you don’t have it)
  • 2 bunches of soba noodles
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1-2 yellow peppers
  • green onions
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame (tofu cubes would work well here too if they were marinated in a little soy sauce/rice vinegar combo)
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup crushed salted peanuts (optional)**
**I omitted these in the main recipe due to a friend’s allergy  - but when I used them for my leftovers later on I found the additional salty crunch was a perfect finishing touch!  
Directions:
  1. Cook 2 bunches of soba noodles for 3-4 minutes or until just tender.
  2. Tear kale leaves from their stems and place small pieces into a bowl. Massage leaves with the juice of half your lime, oil & honey/agave for 3-4 minutes or until wilted.
  3. Add in cooked soba noodles (i chopped mine up a bit first so they would be in bite sized pieces), edamame or tofu, thinly sliced yellow pepper & thinly cut slices of kiwi. Stir well to combine.
  4. Add in the remainder of the lime juice, rice vinegar plus a few dashes of tamari/soy sauce. Allow to sit about 20-30 minutes in the fridge. Top with peanuts & green onions then serve!

Weird Ingredient Wednesday: Nutritional Yeast!

Happy Humpday!

After a big day of teaching little kiddies (which included an epic, exhausting and disturbingly well strategized game of capture the flag) I was seriously starving when I got home. So I whipped up a quick meal and paired it with an old classic: Broccoli & Cheeze sauce…using one of my favourite “weird” ingredients…NUTRITIONAL YEAST (aka. nooch).

Find the recipe for this tasty sauce at the bottom of this post.

Weird Ingredient FAQ:

1) What is it?

Nutritional yeast also known as “nooch” (since those other words sound pretty gross) comes in the form of yellow flakes and is bright yellow in colour of. It is different from the yeast you use in baking because it is totally inactive and will not raise or leaven breads. Instead you eat it on its own and treat it much like you would treat any other spice in your cabinet.

2) What does it taste like? 

Nooch tastes very savoury & goes into that taste category that many refer to as “umami” (other tastes that fall into this category include fermented flavours like mushrooms, soy sauce, wine, tempeh & cheese).    flavour of buckwhat is bold – a savoury and strong, nutty and earthy taste – it varies greatly depending on what form you buy it in. Raw groats are not nearly as strong tasting as roasted kasha. And buckwheat flour ranges depending on the brand you buy.

3) Is it good for you?

Its good for everyone, but ESPECIALLY vegetarians because it contains high levels of B12, a vitamin that does not occur naturally in a vegetarian diet. B12 is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system, plays an integral role in the production of blood cells & the absorption of other nutrients into the bloodstream. This is a biggie, folks. A B12 deficiency = Neurological Damage, Anemia, etc. = No fun!

4) Why am I such a fan? 

I could go on about the protein content or lecture you more about getting your vitamins…but honestly I mainly enjoy nooch for its cheesy savoury flavour. Simple as that.

5) Ways to use it: 

Use it as a topping on popcorn, pasta or salads – anywhere you’d usually use parmesan cheese is a good indicator that nooch would be deeelish.

I heart a seriously nooched up salad!

Or you could always whip up a batch of …

Broccoli “Cheeze” Sauce

  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp of salsa
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • a palmful of salt (around a tsp)
  • teeny pinch of cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water

Directions: 

Heat all ingredients except cornstarch over medium high heat. Once the mix has reached a simmer, add in cornstarch and water mix and continue simmering until mixture has thickened. Serve immediately.

Quick Note: There are loads of recipes like this that use a mix of flour & earth balance as the base of a nutritional yeast sauce. This will result in a much thicker sauce which would be great for dipping/nachos/etc. But I used this version since I wanted something I could pour, with a similar texture to the kind I liked growing up.

How would you incorporate “nooch” into your favourite recipes? 

Hot Weather. Cold Soup. Authentic Spanish Gazpacho.

If you’re like me, just sitting around your house or apartment in your skivvies feeling too darn hot move let alone cook, then I’ve got a recipe for you. I picked this one up back when I was living in the Northern Spain. Despite having a pretty temperate climate, my city still experienced long hot summers and this born and bred Canadian gal hardly knew what to do with herself! So I did what any ex-pat does when they inevitable get in those situations. Watch the locals & follow suit, hoping no one notices what an outsider you are.

The small city of Oviedo, one of the many locations I have at some point in my life called home.

I quickly learned that if you are attempting to eat out in Spain one must:

1) Remember to order the menu del dia (prefix menu) rather than the standard menu. Most store owners prefer to serve those meals since they are easy and quick to prepare, plus anything else won’t be nearly as delicious and you’ll pay ten times as much for it.

A Typical Northern Spanish Menu del Dia. Ensalada Verde y Fabada Asturiana (Green Salad & White Bean Stew)

And 2) Always ALWAYS ask for the gazpacho in the summertime. You’d simply be a fool not to.

The beauty of a authentic Spanish gazpacho is its utter simplicity. In seconds you have a delicious snack or appetizer thats wholesome, refreshing & completely delicious.

Here is my basic recipe, but part of the fun of lots of Spanish recipes is adapting them to meet your own personal tastes!

Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

  • 1-2 cups of cold water, adjust depending on how thick you want your final product to be
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/3 medium sized red onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • a palmful of salt (don’t be shy)
  • 1 piece of crusty bread (optional, I often omit & serve bread on the side) 

Directions: Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust water & seasonings as necessary. If you choose to add bread, soak it first in a little cold water first before blending.

Do you enjoy cold soups in the summer or does the idea make you cringe? How do you feel about Spanish food? I’d love to post more of my authentic recipes on the blog!

Ruffles-Style All Dressed Kale Chips

In the Great Chip Flavour Debate I have always come down hard in favour of all dressed. You see folks, I’m a libra. Which for those of you currently snickering into your coffee cups at my casual mention of astrology, means I have a hard time making decisions. Does this impact me in other parts of my life as well? You betcha. But we’ll save that for another day.

All dressed chips were basically designed for indecisive folks like myself because they just take every seasoning and mix it together into one epic mix of hard-to-distinguish flavours. So as my own personal homage to the glory of All Dressed Ruffles (or Crispers, omg) I have created an delicious recipe for All Dressed Kale Chips that I swear tastes eerily similar to the real thing.

And yes, for your information my favourite pop when I was a kid was also swamp water (aka. the brown liquid that results after mixing together fountain coke, sprite, iced tea, dr. pepper, etc.)

If you’re a newb, I’m sure the idea of Kale Chips sounds strange. But if you’ve ever tried them you know that by following a few easy steps that boring bunch of kale can become something really special.

With toasty flavour & a satisfying crunch, Kale Chips may never serve as a replacement for regular all dressed chips, but they’re definitely worth a DIY try!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium sized bunch of kale
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 dashes liquid smoke (mine is hickory flavoured)
  • 2 dashes soy sauce
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • a good coating of salt and pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Tear kale leaves from stems in large chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Add all ingredients to the bowl and massage (I instantly apologize for using that word) together until the leaves are well coated.
  3. Spread out leaves on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  4. Bake for around 20-30 min or until dry and crispy. If some chips finish earlier than others just remove and let the other ones stay at it for a bit. TRY to let cool before eating to enhance the crisp factor…it’ll be a challenge ;)
Magical Bowl of Crrrrrunchhhhh. 
**Note: This is a healthy recipe in the nutritional sense, but it is FAR from low sodium. In fact this may fulfill your sodium requirement for the year. So dig in at your discretion.

Flexitarianism & A Raw Picnic Lunch

You may have noticed that I don’t often write about my “food philosophy” here on the blogginz. And the reason for that is pretty simple – I kinda don’t have one. Every day the food I eat looks a little different, and I have a hard time subscribing to any one one way  of eating.

Sure I have goals when it comes to eating healthy (obvz!), local & unprocessed foods. And I have LOADS of preferences (my friends would say a ridiculous about of them ;) ) when it comes to the food I choose to eat and purchase. But nutrition, taste and availability as well as animal ethics and environmental concerns all dictate these choices to varying degrees on different days.

I tend to follow the lead of my ever-changeable heart and stomach, and I embrace my own inconsistencies. This is what I call my flexitarianism.

Today’s picnic lunch was a perfect example: 

A fresh market salad from one of my favourite restaurants The Cruda Cafe. I love the flavour profiles & the vibrant colours of the food always let me know it is perfectly fresh. Incidentally, this cafe also happens to be raw vegan.

Look how gorgeous! A fresh spinach base with sprouts, tomatoes, avocado, shredded beets & carrots paired with some energizing black mission figs and cranberries and topped off with nutrient packed vegan protein sources like sunflower seeds and almonds. And did I mention the coconut oil & agave dressing? Holyveganyummm…

BUT THEN….

I decided to pair my salad – perfect and complete in and of itself – with some additional protein in the form of this majorly delicious, ridiculously fresh tuna sashimi. Truth be told after this morning’s interval run and weight training session the protein monster was raging and I was more than happy to oblige.

So there you have it. Lunch. Flexitarian Style. 

I must admit though that I’m looking forward to getting back in the kitchen tomorrow…Weekends have been dominated by meals out since my weekdays have been so busy with work lately…But I’ve got some seriously delicious recipes on the horizon so start gettin jazzed!

Have you ever heard of flexitarianism? What factors dictate your food choices?

Coffee of the Day

I admit it. I have a weakness for fast food coffee.
20110715-050205.jpg

This was at one point an Americano on ice with just a touch of soymilk. But I’m pretty sure it apparated (harry potter stylez) directly to my belly…

Do you ever cave in to the temptation of big ‘bucks coffee?

Weird Ingredient Wednesday: BUCKWHEAT!

Okay so buckwheat may not seem like a weird ingredient right off the bat, since you’ve definitely heard of it, probably tasted it and maybe even keep it around your house in some form. BUT…there are so many ways and reasons to use buckwheat that I just had to dedicate a post to it.

Weird Ingredient FAQ:

  1. What is it?
    Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, not a grain, which makes it naturally gluten free. It is sold in raw form as “buckwheat groats” which can be soaked and eaten as is, roasted and sold as “kasha” (very popular in eastern europe) or ground into flour and turned into bread, pancakes, etc.
  2.  What does it taste like?
    While the flavour of buckwhat is bold – a savoury and strong, nutty and earthy taste – it varies greatly depending on what form you buy it in. Raw groats are not nearly as strong tasting as roasted kasha. And buckwheat flour ranges depending on the brand you buy.
  3. Is it good for you?
    Holygoodness YES. Not only is it a hearty whole grain (aka. slow digesting, energy giving, blood sugar regulating heaven) but its also a POWERHOUSE source of nutrients like magnesium, an uber metabolism booster  and manganese which is good for bonezz. Plus LOADS of fibre. Which is …well…good fer yer gut! ;)
  4. Why am I such a fan? It is a complete protein! Just like quinoa, but WAY cheaper and less trendy. Also easier on the digestive system…jussayin. GREAT for da veganz, veggiefolk + flexitarian/pescatarian folk like moi!
  5. Ways to use it: swap out a lil’ buckwheat flour for regular in baked goods, cook it up instead of rice as a side dish, throw it in soups or stews, whatevz.
Now you may DROOL over this epic buckwheat crepe filled spinach, tomato and vegan pesto from one of my favourite healthy hipster hangouts: Kensington Market’s Hibiscus Restaurant.
For even more ideas check out my other buckwheat recipes on the blogginz:
And stay tuned cause there’s more where that came from…
So whaddya think? Have you ever used buckwheat in your recipes? Would you consider it?

Healthy as Heck Lunchbox!

Since I started teaching full time this month my lunches have been pretty standard. Last week I showed you Sunday Food Prep Plan of Attack and I pretty much stuck to that (very repetitive but also very delicious) lunch plan for as it lasted. Thursday’s box was starting to get kinda sad so on Friday I just threw together a random mishmash of leftovers which actually ended up being pretty alright.

This week I’ve been back on my A Game, putting together some SRSLY delicious combinations. Today’s was especially tasty and colourful. Oh and yes…I’m definitely eating lunch on the playground…Life of a teacher, anyone?

In the bowl: 

  • invisible layer of romaine
  • visible layer of spinach
  • around 1/2 cup cooked kasha (whole toasted buckwheat)
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • 3 or 4 leftover shrimpiez from dinner, coated in masala seasoning
  • big handful o’ cherry tomatz
  • tossed in a tamari/balsamic/sesame oil combo
On the side: 
  • CRAY CRAY** FOR CRUDITEES! 1 whole chopped orange pepper, 1/2 chopped cucumber, 1 large carrot & 1 large stalk of celery (Yes thats a lot of veg but I like to munch through the day – I also like to serve them tossed in some S+P+Herbs, served on the side rather then crammed into my salad)
  • 1 GIGANTIC apple
Note: This is just my lunch and doesn’t include all my EPIC mid-day/late-day/post-work snacks. I work with little ones and need to stay ENERGIZED. Maybe some other day I will post it all…if it fits on one page ;)
**Healthy Hipster Annoying Slang Alert: Cray cray = Crazy. Don’t ask me why.
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