Marinated Baby Bellas

Marinated Mushrooms

Mushrooms always seem to make their way into our shopping cart. The way we see it, a dish is not complete without the addition of criminis, shitakes, chanterelles or good ‘ol white button mushrooms. If you share the same love for mushrooms as our family, you will love this simple appetizer.

Our first experience with Marinated Mushrooms was several years ago at The Green Door Restaurant, one of Ottawa’s oldest and best know vegetarian restaurants. It was this restaurant’s cookbook that first introduced me to the ingredients of umeboshi plum vinegar and umeboshi plum paste – two seasonings or condiments that are now staples in our pantry.

Umeboshi plum vinegar, also known as Ume Su, is popular in Japanese and macrobiotic cooking. It has a very unique flavour giving vegetables, fungi, pasta and rice a salty, sour and fruity taste. If you are vegan and love dishes that traditionally use fish sauce, umeboshi works as a great substitute.

As well, this vinegar is known for its medicinal properties. Made from pickled umeboshi plums, it has an alkalizing effect on the body which helps combat illnesses and disease. Just be sure to look for a bottle that doesn’t contain any nasty ingredients. The brand I purchase has three ingredients: ume (Japanese plum), sea salt and shiso. Check out the site Allergies and Your Gut for more information on the making of umeboshi vinegar and its many health benefits.

Have you tried the Garlic Beets? I use umeboshi vinegar in that recipe, too.

With the summer over (said with tears rolling down my cheeks), why not add edible fungi to your diet. Mushrooms are immune-boosters and most are nutrient-dense.

Crimini mushrooms, otherwise known as “baby bellas” – did you know that crimini mushrooms are a younger version of the portobellas? - are the ones I find most in our local stores. They usually sit next to the white button mushrooms in the produce section. I tend to choose the crimini mushrooms for their medium-brown colour and earthier taste.

MARINATED BABY BELLAS

  • 300 grams crimini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or thyme
  • chopped parsley to garnish

Clean and trim mushrooms. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add clean mushrooms and cook for no more than one minute. Drain and let cool.

Add all other ingredients to a bowl and combine well. Do not add salt. The umeboshi vinegar is salty in taste. When mushrooms are cool, add them to the bowl with dressing and toss. Garnish dish with fresh parsley.

Summertime Guacamole

Angela Liddon's Strawberry-Mango Guacamole

Angela Liddon definitely knows how to tempt your taste buds. I bought her cookbook, The oh she glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Outshortly after its release in early March of this year. One of my best cookbook purchases to date.

If you don’t own this book, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy. With every page turn, you’ll find yourself blurting, “ooh – I gotta make that!”. Like the inside cover states, Whether you are a vegan, “vegan-curious”, or you simply want to eat delicious food that just happens to be healthy, this cookbook is a must-have for anyone who longs to eat well, feel great, and simply glow!

Over 90 recipes in Angela’s book are gluten-free while many are free of common food allergens, like soy, nuts, sugar and grains.  I could make a serious long list of our family favourites, but here are a few dishes that we just can’t get enough of this summer: chakra caesar salad with nutty herb croutons (these croutons are to-die-for!), perfected chickpea salad sandwich (ideal for picnics and long days on the water), sweet potato and black bean enchiladas with avocado-cilantro cream sauce, and our favourite veggie burger.

Another family favourite is Angela’s glowing strawberry-mango guacamole. :)

For Canada Day this year, the girls and I spent a wonderful afternoon with family and friends at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. With strawberries at their peak (and Angela Liddon being Canadian and all), I decided to take this guacamole to share poolside. The temperature outside was a balmy 32 degrees C and we were in need of light, fruity and refreshing fare. You know…something to go nicely with my sister’s Canada Day Sangria.

This guacamole was definitely a crowd-pleaser.

For your next social gathering I suggest that you get yourself some sweet strawberries, a succulent mango, fresh cilantro, a lime and a couple of ripe avocados and make this appetizer. Your friends will love you forever. (And you’ll love yourself even more if you reserve a half a cup for sole snacking later in the day…just a thought).

You may also want to consider treating yourself and your family to this cookbook. Angela’s beautiful and mouth-watering photographs will have you licking your lips and begging for more wholesome, plant-based foods.  mmmm – so many dishes and so little time.  You just gotta laugh when asked, “you’re a gluten-free, vegan? what do you eat?“.

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

It’s going to be a beautiful summer solstice weekend in our neck of the woods. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of summer than a trip north to the lake.

This is the salad we plan to eat on the dock as we watch the osprey dive and listen to the loons sing.

Quinoa seems to be all the rage right now. It’s no wonder. This gluten-free whole grain takes only 15 to 20 minutes to cook, keeps for a few days in the fridge, and is extremely versatile. I have put quinoa in our smoothies and stews, as well as blended it in soups that require a thick, creamy texture. It is even used in many cookie, cake and muffin recipes.

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to try substituting your rice dishes for this wholesome grain. Quinoa has so many health benefits. It is high in protein, iron and calcium and has an abundance of B vitamins and other minerals. In his book “Staying Healthy with Nutrition”, Dr. Elson Haas states that the “amount of protein as well as the quality of protein in quinoa is worth mentioning….this grain contains a fairly nice balance of all essential amino acids, including lysine”.  Lysine is usually not found in grains.

In fact, did you know that quinoa is more closely related to veggies like beets, spinach and swiss chard than it is to grains? As Dr. Haas says, “perhaps we should call it a vege-grain“. :)

There are so many delicious quinoa salads out there. This one happens to be our very favourite at the moment.  Mediterranean flavours are just so refreshing this time of the year, don’t you think?

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA SALAD

  • 3 cups of cooked and cooled quinoa (follow directions on the package – one cup of dried quinoa makes approximately 3 cups cooked)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • one diced red pepper
  • good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup chickpeas
  • chopped parsley or cilantro
  • capers and black or green olives, to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano

In a large bowl, make the dressing and stir with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and toss. I like to serve this salad on top of a plate of organic mixed greens.

So simple and so easy and so darn tasty! Guaranteed to be a hit at your next social gathering! Enjoy your weekend and eat well!

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (For a Great Cause)

My daughter’s elementary school held a very successful Community Garage Sale and Bake Sale this past weekend. The sale raised nearly $2000 for a much-needed play structure for the kinders of the school. I love this sort of thing – people coming together for a great cause and donating their cast-offs for others to enjoy. It was good timing. April 22 was Earth Day and many of the young ones learned for the first time of ways to help protect our beautiful planet. Recycling unwanted toys and books was their way of helping.

I donated two dozen gluten-free and vegan chocolate chip cookies for this event’s Bake Table. It’s rare that you go to such an event and enjoy a treat that contains no gluten, eggs or dairy. I know that others following a similar diet to our own were thrilled to find these cookies sitting on the table, especially the children. I did label the container “no gluten, eggs, or dairy”. But I wonder how many people believed it? I’m guessing none. ;)

On Friday afternoon, I bragged about these cookies on facebook and immediately got requests for the recipe. The recipe comes from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book, The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. I got this book for Christmas the first year I transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism. The recipes in this book truly debunk the outrageous myth that vegan desserts “taste different”. All of the recipes I have tried (and there have been many!), can easily be converted to a gluten-free dessert by switching up the flour.

I promised my friends that I will post the recipe by the end of the weekend, so here it goes.

This recipe does come with my two warnings. One, these decadent cookies are truly a dessert so don’t go thinking they’re healthy by any means AND you may have to exercise complete self-control during the baking process.

Gluten-free & vegan chocolate chip cookies

 CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES 

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer* (equivalent to 3 eggs)
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) water
  • 1 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed organic light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if not in your gluten-free flour mix)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 cups non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional – I made mine nut-free for this event)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Whip the egg replacer* and water together in a food processor to create a thick and creamy blend.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars and vanilla. Add the egg replacer* to this wet mixture and combine. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum (if not in your g-free flour mix), baking soda, and salt. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the wet mixture until it begins to form a dough. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using).

Bake on a cookie sheet for approximately 8 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks for cooling.

* Ener-G Egg Replacer can be a great product for any baker making the transition away from eggs. Keep in mind it has no nutritional value, but does work great in cookie recipes. I used it this time because it was in my pantry and I wanted to use it up. You may want to try some healthier egg replacement foods. In the past, I have made this recipe with flax eggs and that works, too. Please see a post here on egg replacements.

For your next bake sale or potluck event, please consider a dish with no meat, eggs or dairy.  Following a plant-based diet is another great way to help protect our Earth’s resources. I know many of you are doing your best by practicing Meatless Mondays and that’s wonderful! My wish is that one day we will be teaching this to our children. I know I do.

How was your Earth Day?

 

 

Our Peter Cottontail Cake

My mom has never had a passion for baking. She prefers to cook, as the recipes are more forgiving when the creative mind takes over. However, every Easter my mom would gather us kids around the kitchen counter and we would eagerly make our annual Peter Cottontail Cake. I’m not sure exactly when this tradition began, but I can’t remember an Easter without this cake.

When my two girls came along, I decided that I would continue this tradition. Our cake has certainly evolved over the years. Not just in appearance (the kids always take over the icing and decorating) or flavour, but in the chosen cake ingredients. Our Peter Cottontail Cake has been gluten-free for several years and gluten-free and vegan for the past two years. Changing our diet and lifestyle, did not mean that we would live without our beloved Easter cake.

Every year leading up to Easter weekend, the girls continuously remind me of this cake. As if I would ever forget.

Meet Peter.

Bunny Cake

This year our cake will be taken on a road trip to be enjoyed by our many extended family members. The girls decided that a mocha flavoured bunny would be best. So, the recipe was a no-brainer.  We decided to go with Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for Mocha Almond Fudge Cake since we have had so much success with it in the past. We easily made it gluten-free with an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. We substituted the sugar in the recipe for coconut sugar and the canola oil for coconut oil. It made two beautiful 9-inch round cakes.

Creating the bunny is super easy. Like my mom, I’m not one for fiddly things, but this I can do. ;) Once the cakes have cooled, one is carefully cut in half. The sides are then “glued” together with icing and the cake is stood cut sides down on a cake plate.

My 11 year-old daughter covered this year’s cake in a mocha icing and added some shredded coconut sprinkles. My teen made a great set of floppy ears from cardboard. The girls completed our bunny cake with some candy. A big marshmallow is always our bunny cake’s tail. Something all the kids like to fight over when it’s time for slicing. Usually the younger child wins.

This post could not be complete without sharing a couple of photos of Basil. Basil is our bunny we adopted from New Moon Rabbit Rescue a year and a half ago. He is now two years old. He is our baby.

 

Wishing you all a beautiful Spring-like weekend! (Let’s hope we get some much-needed sunshine!!). As well, a very Happy Easter to those of you celebrating this special occasion!

What’s Been Cookin’ (And A Tasty Protein Shake)

It’s about time I shared with you the main reason for me being so inconsistent and sporadic with my posts these days (by the way, A BIG thank you to many of you who have written asking me ‘what’s up?’).

Well, I am thrilled to announce that I have gone back to school! :) CSNN study booksNot as a teacher, as some of you would suspect (I work as an occasional school teacher in my small town). I am back to school as a student and loving every minute of it. It really feels good to hit the books once again. Most importantly, it feels good to finally work on completing something I started nearly 15 years ago.  By the end of 2015, I hope to have earned my certificate in Holistic Nutrition from The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Yay!!

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. ~ Earl Nightingale

I do realize that earning my Holistic Nutrition Certificate may involve some blood, sweat and tears, but I’m up for the challenge. At 45 years of age, it’s been some time since I’ve had to take tests and write reports. Thankfully, my busy family is on board and they are giving me all the love and support I need to fulfill my goals.

I have many interests and hobbies and one of them is this food blog. While I study, I will continue to post all the delicious gluten-free and plant-based dishes that are palate-approved by my family and friends. However, for the next little while my posts will be a little “here and there”. If time goes by between posts, as it so easily does, please know that I will be back!

If you haven’t already done so, I would love for you to like my Facebook page. I tend to use Facebook to share tidbits of interesting health and nutrition info, as well as recipes so worth trying. Lately, I’ve been inspired by the many vegan athletes fulfilling their dreams. You’ll see a few of those stories on my fb page, too.

Now…back to the books, but first I’ll whip up a shake.

PINEAPPLE PROTEIN SHAKE (from Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast)

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pineapple
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 1 cup filtered water (I used coconut water)
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon spirulina*

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Ani Phyo, an award-winning chef and raw food guru,  says it will keep in your fridge for two days. I seem to drink it within minutes! ;)

* Spirulina is a microscopic blue-green algae. But don’t let that turn you away!  This superfood contains high amounts of protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. You can find it in many natural health food stores. I have seen it in powder form or in pressed tablets. I like to purchase it as a powder, so that I can add it to a variety of recipes. On its own, it tastes like seaweed.  If this is not your choice flavour, rest assure – you will not taste it in fruit smoothies like this one!!

Cheers!! :)

Pineapple Protein Shake

 

Shamrock Smoothie

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

shamrock smoothie

SHAMROCK SMOOTHIE (inspired by Kriss Carr’s Greensicle Smoothie)

  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 2 small oranges, peeled
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 large handful organic kale leaves
  • 4 organic romaine leaves

Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Cheers!!

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrock.

May your heart be as light as a song.

May each day bring your bright, happy hours.

That stay with you all year-long.