Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cat Approved Kale Chips and Celeriac Noodles

Everyone in our family loves Kale - even the cat it seems. Guess he's trying to make a statement that I'm not giving him enough greens, because I turned my back for all of 30 seconds and came back to find him chowing down happily on the kale. 

This is no aberration for him - I used to buy these nice containers of sprouts fairly frequently. Sadly, I have yet to taste even one sprout from the lot- I would leave the plants sitting on the counter and within an hour all sprouts were residing in his happy belly.

 I could not let that happen to my kale (at least not all of it) as it was destined for these awesome looking kale chips from Hallie's fabulous Daily Bites Blog.

I fully intended to make them exactly as written, but to my horror discovered that my tahini jar was covered in mould! Has this ever happened to you? It was a first for me and the jar is only a couple months old - bizarre! At the last minute, I ended up subbing sunflower seed butter for the tahini.

They were delicious anyway and I will definitely make them again (perhaps when I actually have tahini). Next time, however, I will reduce the salt a little and add a pinch of chili powder or cayenne. We used 3/4 tsp but it was a little salty for our tastes (this is 100% preference here as we aren't really used to very salty things). Next time I will try 1/2 a tsp instead. 

I love, love, love Hallie's recipes! Every one is sure to be a hit :-)

For dinner, I was inspired by Sarah's My New Roots blog and her recipe for Celeriac Pasta With Puttanesca Sauce. I have seen posts for zucchini noodles, butternut squash noodles and more, but never celeriac noodles before. How could I not try it (especially with pictures as pretty as Sarah's to entice me)?

I made the recipe pretty much exactly as written, adding in an extra tsp of crushed chili flakes as I was craving some heat. The recipe is simple, but oh so good :) Celeriac noodles are pretty awesome and I will most certainly be trying them again, although next time with a mandoline. This time I used my julienne peeler, which was a huge pain (very time consuming and I also managed to peel my fingers).

I was surprised that even my gluten eating family were a fan of the celeriac noodles, noting that they liked the texture and taste. These are definitely something I'd like to experiment with more :-).

Yum! Pasta without the heaviness - what could be better?


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

An Amazing Getaway to Portland

Enjoying a meal at Prasad
Being back from our amazing trip to Idaho and Portland doesn't seem quite real. We had a week-long getaway filled with friends, fab food and TONS of hiking. In just a week, we were able to fit in 4 full day hikes. I almost feel like I need a vacation from vacation (as I always do).
Juniper Gulch

We started our trip visiting friends in Idaho for a couple of days. We had a great visit complete with chamber music and a hike to Juniper Gulch (the hike actually ended up being in Oregon). I've never been to a desert state before so I was dazzled by some of the breathtaking terrain.

Our hosts, Laurie and Marv, were incredible going out of their way to provide healthy gluten free and vegetarian food! I have never eaten so well on a vacation before - what a treat!!!

Views from our hike to Cape Lookout
We then headed to Portland for the rest of our trip. Too short as always!!

We took a roadtrip to squeeze in some hiking on the coast, in the Columbia Gorge and near Mount Hood. 

Starfishes Galore at Pacific City
After hiking on the coast, we drove to Pacific City where it was low tide. We had fun scouring the tide pools for signs of life, finding crabs, fish and starfish in abundance!

From Pacific City, we headed back to Portland for the night before setting out for the Table Mountain Loop Hike the next morning in the Hood River area! After our hike, we rushed to the Naked
Descending after our hike to the Table Mountain
Winery for some last minute tasting. I'm still very sad that this winery does not ship to Canada. I really love their wines. After tasting 16 different varieties, we checked into the Hood River Hotel - our second stay with them and dined at a great local restaurant that starts with a C (I sadly can't recall the name at the moment).

Next we headed to the Lolo Pass to hike to Bald Mountain for some incredible views. 

This year, we were lucky enough to stay at the Timberline Lodge - simply gorgeous both inside and out! I highly recommend a stay there if you have the opportunity.

Amazing to see that the top of Mount Hood was still covered in snow. Last time we visited in July we were hoping to do some hiking at higher elevations. Unfortunately, at that time, the weather was such that there were still skiers out on the slopes making hiking less than ideal!!!!

This year in Portland, we discovered a wonderful gluten free vegetarian restaurant called Prasad, nestled inside a Yoga studio in the Pearl district. I admit that we managed to eat there 4 or 5 times on this trip.  How many times do I get to experience a place where I can eat almost everything on the menu!

I am slightly ashamed to confess that I took over 1,000 pictures on our vacation, which made parring down the shots for this post incredibly hard.  

Here are some of my favourites!
Views from our Hike to Cape Lookout
Views from our Table Mountain Trek
Wine Tasting at the Naked Winery
Beautiful Mount Hood
The Timberline Lodge
Mount Hood from the Timberline Lodge

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dinner Inspiration Courtesy of Green Kitchen Stories

Tonight I made this rice, kale and aubergine pilaf from Green Kitchen Stories. Of course, my pictures are nowhere near as beautiful as David and Luise's. I love the Green Kitchen Stories blog and their cookbook too. The recipes are flavourful and creative and, while not entirely gluten free, easily adapted to be. Best of all, for me at least, this is creative vegetarian cooking at its finest. I have thrown many a dinner party that featured recipes from the Green Kitchen Stories blog or cookbook. Their recipes are so good that you don't have to try them first before experimenting on guests.

Eggplant (aubergine) has never been my favourite vegetable (in fact many know that it is my least favourite), but something about this recipe made me decide to give it a try anyways. It may have helped that I have never tried a recipe on Luise and David's blog that has flopped.

The recipe doesn't call for it, but I like to salt my eggplant prior to cooking. What that means is that I cut my eggplant according to the recipe directions and then toss the pieces with about 1/2 a tablespoon of salt per eggplant. I then let it sit for an hour or longer and just prior to cooking rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat the excess water out with paper towels. I find that this vastly improves the taste and texture of eggplants.

I am very glad I let Luise and David decide on dinner tonight. The flavours were a perfect mix of sweet, sour and spicy with a great mix of different textures. I did not have black rice in my cupboard so I used a wild rice mix (mostly brown really) so mine was not as pretty. It was still delicious and no one could tell that there was any eggplant at all!

Jewelled Basmati Rice

I have been procrastinating for days about writing this post and for that I apologize. I snapped my pictures and took my notes Monday evening but one thing after another came up and I never got around to posting. Now its already Thursday - only 2 more sleeps before we fly out to Idaho and Portland for a week of wonderful food, hiking and fabulous company!! I, still, have yet to even think about packing, but I knew if I didn't get this out now, I might never and that would be a shame because this meal is simple and delicious. Besides if I don't post some food, you might all think I exist on cookies and protein powder!

Sometimes when I am feeling lazy and don't want to tackle anything too complicated I make us a simple one pot rice dish. This happens far more often than I like to admit, but the result is always delicious. The flavours and add-ins for this meal are forever changing but lately I've been in the mood for the smell and taste of saffron. 

This week I ran out of pretty much everything vegetable-wise and as we are heading to Portland next week didn't want to stock up on more. I always keep some pre-soaked and cooked lentils and beans in the freezer so I decided to make this delicious meal of rice. I threw in some mung beans and green peas while the rice was cooking and added in some toasted pistachios and golden berries at the end for flavour and colour! Tasty and beautiful - just the way I like it.

I always like to pre-soak my rice for somewhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours as it quickens up the cooking time. This is also supposed to make the grains easier to digest though I think for health benefits soaking is really supposed to be more on the order of 8 hours+! Maybe next time if I plan in advance I'll soak overnight.

Jewelled Basmati Rice 
1 TBSP coconut oil
2 Bay Leaves
5 Black cardamom pods (remove before eating, because biting into one of these is THE worst)
1 or 2 shallots, chopped
1/2 tsp saffron (expensive but worth it)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup rice
1/2 cup pre-cooked mung beans
1/4 cup green peas frozen
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup golden berries (or cranberries or currants)   

  1. Heat coconut oil over medium to high heat.
  2. Add bay leaves and cardamom pods and swirl around for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add shallots and saute on medium heat until golden around edges (around 5 minutes).
  4. Add saffron and stir to coat.
  5. Add rice, mung beans, green peas, water and salt.
  6. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir once, cover and turn heat to low. Cook for another 10 minutes. Right before the end add in pistachios and golden berries.
  8. Keep rice covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork and serve.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I've been playing around with a pancake recipe of my very own for quite some time now. For some reason, my experiments before today never seemed to come out quite right. Too dense, too hard to flip, or just too healthy tasting. I never realized before how much I rely on eggs to create perfect (flippable) pancakes. 
After a lovely girls evening out yesterday courtesy of my dear friend Kate, I was refreshed and ready to try again for Sunday morning brunch. These are the result and I'm excited to share them with all of you today.
I think these are perfect and so does the Monk who polished them off in record time. These pancakes are easy to flip, they don't fall apart and the taste is just what I was looking for.
I didn't have blueberries in the fridge so I used chocolate chips instead - just enough for a hint of chocolate.

We enjoyed these with a little maple syrup and in the Monk's case some cherry jam from Harrods. Next time I will serve them with a pile of berries :)

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 banana, mashed
1 cup milk (I used homemade macadamia nut milk using this recipe with a 3:1 ratio of nuts to water)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

2 tbsp chocolate chips

  1. Mix together dry ingredients
  2. Add in wet ingredients and mix well
  3. Add in chocolate chips
  4. Pour batter in 1/4 cup amounts onto a heated skillet.
  5. Cook pancakes until bubbles appear on the surface.
  6. Flip with spatula and cook until golden on other side. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Oatmeal-Currant Cookies for Dad

Mom and I experimented together in the kitchen today with these oatmeal-currant cookies. 

You must think I am quite the cookie monster with all these recipes for cookies lately, but I swear that these aren't just for me alone. The benefactors of my recent cookie spree are many! 

Indeed, these cookies are more for my father, who was appalled by the healthiness of my carrot cake "cookies" and demanded something sweeter that actually tasted like a cookie. He loves oatmeal cookies with raisins - those I can't stand, but currants are a happy medium for us.

These oatmeal-currant cookies are the end product of our experimentation and apparently quite the hit. In the five minutes since I left the kitchen to write this for you, the cookies appear to have disappeared altogether. Lucky for me I took my pictures first!

If you are intolerant to oats, try substituting some quinoa flakes instead. 
Oatmeal-Current Cookies

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup gluten free oats
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
6 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 flax meal egg (1 tbsp flax meal, mixed with 3 tbsp water - let sit until jell like ~5 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix dry ingredients together
  3. Mix wet ingredients in order given
  4. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients
  5. Form into balls on prepared baking sheet
  6. Press down each ball to flatten
  7. Bake for ~10 minutes
  8. Let cool


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Magically Delicious Mushroom Risotto

When I make risotto, I like to load on the mushrooms. Mushrooms have always been a favourite food of mine. I love eating them raw, sauted simply with a little salt and butter, roasted in the oven, mixed in stirfries and pretty much almost any way you can imagine. Don't try to sneak me any from a can though - I don't consider those even a poor relation!

Fresh, dried or both... mushrooms are key for me in risotto. Though I have strayed many a time, trying pear risottos, squash risottos, beet risottos and more, inevitably I am always disappointed returning to my tried and true mushroom risotto.

Risotto is time consuming to make properly, its true, but not too complex in its preparation. All you need is vegetable stock, mushrooms, aborio rice, parmesan cheese and a splash of white wine to make this impressive dish. While you can certainly make this dish sans butter, I find its one of those dishes that tastes better for the addition of a little. If you don't eat dairy, substitute olive oil for the butter and omit the parmesan cheese (it is awesome but optional) .
There is nothing like homemade risotto.

Mushroom Mixture Preparation

6 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
3/4 tsp salt
  1. Heat butter over medium to high heat
  2. Add mushrooms and salt and saute until mushrooms have released all liquid and begin to turn golden (~ 10-15 minutes).


Mushroom mixture
1 tbsp butter
1 cup aborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 litre vegetable stock + additional boiling water as needed (I used an additional 1 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup mixed dried mushrooms (optional but yum)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

  1. Prepare mushrooms as above
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil and reduce to simmer. Add in dried mushrooms for some extra flavour.
  3. Melt butter and add rice, toasting until translucent on low-medium heat (~2 minutes)
  4. Add wine and stir until absorbed
  5. Add stock 1/4 cup at a time, stirring often in figure eight pattern. Wait until all liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue in this fashion until rice is tender (not overcooked, should still be firm) and creamy (~25-30 minutes)
  6. Add mushroom mixture and stir in
  7. Remove from heat, add parmesan cheese and stir to combine


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Carrot Cake "Cookies"

After a grueling two hour work-out, I needed something sweet to rebuild my energy stores, but not so deadly that I offset the work-out entirely (or worse). 

Last month, while I was on my detox from grains and sugar I perfected a delicious carrot-cake type cookie. Those had eggs and almond flour (and of course the recipe is nowhere to be found in any case), but I was in the mood for something similar. 

These cookies are moist and cakey (the texture is super soft almost more like cake than cookies actually), but are pretty healthy for you. 

I added some honey in this batch, but they are naturally sweetened with banana and carrot, so would be pretty good without the honey (depending on how sweet you like your treats!). 

Carrot Cake Cookies

Wet ingredients:
1 banana
1 medium carrot, grated
1 chia egg (whisk together 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp of water. Let sit until jelly-like in texture)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp honey

Dry ingredients:
1 cup hazelnut flour
3 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger

1/4 cup cacao nibs (for a sweeter cookie use chocolate chips)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In medium bowl mash banana until smooth
  3. Add in carrot and chia egg and whisk together
  4. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well
  5. In separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients (add in cacao nibs and shredded coconut last)
  6. Mix dry and wet ingredients
  7. On prepared baking sheet, form into balls and press tops down slightly
  8. Bake for 16-18 minutes
  9. Cool for at least 10 minutes. Cookies will be soft in center like cake!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Baking Soda Experiment!

Baking Soda has a multitude of uses outside of baking. You can use it in household cleaning, for stain removal, as a gentle body/face scrub, as a deodorant, or even as a natural alternative to shampoo.

When I heard about people tossing out their expensive hair care products and going the baking soda way I was somewhat skeptical, but at the same time intrigued. How could something that I use to remove tricky wine stains be any good for my hair?  

Thus, began my month long "baking soda experiment". The first couple of weeks was a pretty big adjustment (apparently this is normal as hair needs to begin rebalancing natural oils) as I experienced lanky lackluster hair. I was just about ready to give up and return to my long-loved, chemical-laden Nioxin when things began to fall into place.

Now my hair is shiny, smooth and manageable to the point where I really can't tell the difference. Can you?

All you need is baking soda, apple cider vinegar and water for this super simple, two-step hair care alternative. While some of you might shy away from trying this method for fear of your hair smelling like apple cider vinegar, I assure you that's not the case. Once rinsed, no apple cider vinegar smell should remain!

To wash my hair, I now mix ~2 tbsp of baking soda with a cup or so of water (I honestly can't be bothered to measure) and rub it into my hair and scalp. This takes some getting used to at first as the baking soda method lacks the foam of traditional shampoo. Once I have massaged the baking soda solution into my scalp and hair, I rinse thoroughly and follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse (again 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar mixed in a cup or so of water). The apple cider rinse does not need any time to soak in - rinse it out immediately for best effect.

For more information, Liz Wolf's Skintervention Guide is a fantastic resource on the "no-poo" method  and other natural skin and hair care solutions.