Category Archives: Fruit

Salad or Dessert?

Around the end of February, I decided to give up sugar. I wanted to cleanse my body, get over the cravings of an addiction, and add in another layer of healthy living to my life.

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Here are some negative qualities of sugar that I’ve come across in my reading:

  • empty calories

  • bad for the liver

  • linked to cancer

  • fattening and can lead to obesity

  • can cause heart disease

  • can be highly addictive

How much sugar did I actually consume before eliminating it from my diet? Well, being a (mostly) vegan, I don’t eat cookies and cakes and such, but I do like chocolate! My latest chocolate binge began in December and carried on into the new year. There is always a lot of chocolate around during the holidays and then once Christmas is over, chocolate goes on sale and ya gotta buy it because it’s such a deal! And, I have to admit, I was eating milk chocolate – so deliciously sweet and smooth; so very not vegan; so very addictive!

Eating Chocolate

So, at the end of Dine Out Vancouver, I said, “That’s it! No more sugar!” I anticipated that it was going to be somewhat trying when I embarked on this sugar elimination campaign, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be too difficult. I was wrong! It was, and it continues to be, hard. It’s been about six weeks with no sugar and I still get cravings! At first, the cravings were every day, mostly in the evening. Nowadays, those cravings have tapered off, but every now and then, maybe a couple of times a week, when I’m relaxing in the living room in the evening, I get this restless craving for something … a nice big bite of milk chocolate! So, how do I deal with these cravings? Well, I live with a terrific partner who, for the most part, stays away from refined sugar. I’ve discovered Larabar, an energy bar made from dates and nuts.

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Plus, “Tom” and I have been exploring sweet replacements for sugar. We’ve always eaten a lot of fresh fruit, but now we eat more during the evenings – the danger time zone when fighting sugar addiction – such as fresh pineapple, mango, oranges, apples, bananas. (“Tom” is cutting up some pineapple as I type)!

And this brings me to the recipe I want to share with you. This salad is so sweetly, deliciously yummy that you could (and I have) eat it for dessert! The recipe was developed by Sherry Strong of Return to Food (http://www.returntofood.com/).

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Now before you freak out about the colour and look of this salad, let me explain! I used my spiralizer for the first time to make this salad and I made spirals our of some wonderful organic purple carrots that I received in my CSA box. Looks kinda weird, but taste was yummy!

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1 large carrot, spiralized or grated

1 large apple, spiralized or grated (skin on)

zest and juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup raisins, chopped

handful of walnuts, left whole or coarsely chopped

Toss the carrot and apple in a bowl with the lime zest and juice. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Eat! Simple, quick, healthy, satisfies the craving for sweet. Yum!

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Smoothie Bowl!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving weekend, my family celebrated on Friday. This was a work day for me, so other members of the family stepped up and did all the food prep. I didn’t have to do anything except show up! So, I don’t have any Thanksgiving feast recipes to share today. Instead, I thought I would share my discovery of Smoothie Bowls. I’m thankful for Angela Liddon and her new cookbook (see below). I’m thankful for wonder, imagination and creativity.

Check out this new vegan cookbook!

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I took this book out of the library and have had a wonderful time reading it – yes, cover to cover! – and have earmarked a few recipes to try out. I’ll have to return the book to the library before I can really give it the good attention it warrants, but that’s okay because … I just bought it!

The first recipe I tried was a Smoothie Bowl! What? A Smoothie Bowl? What the heck is that? That’s what went through my mind when I first encountered the smoothie bowl recipes! I’m actually quite an accomplished smoothie maker, if I do say so myself, and I didn’t see the point of a smoothie bowl! But then I looked at the pictures, reread the recipes (there are 3 or so recipes for smoothie bowls as well as several recipes for smoothies) and thought, “Well, I have a smoothie every day for breakfast, maybe I’ll just change it up a bit, put my smoothie in a bowl, add a few toppings, and see what happens.” So I did! I actually made my usual smoothie but decreased the liquid and made sure I added chia seeds to make a thick, spoonable smoothie. And now I’m sold on Smoothie Bowls because this bowl kept me full until lunch time! I used to be hungry and ready for a snack by recess, about 2 1/2 hours into my work day, but when I start my day with a Smoothie Bowl, I’m good for another 2 hours!  Folks in the know tell me the feeling of fullness comes from chewing my food – “oral-sensory stimulation” or tricking the brain into thinking I’m eating.

http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/how-more-chewing-leads-eating-less

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Here’s how I did it:

1 banana

1/2 apple or 5 large strawberries or equivalent amount of fruit

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup almond milk

a chunk of cucumber, diced (about 2 tbsps)

4 cm piece of celery, diced

handful of spinach

2 large lettuce leaves

1 cm piece of ginger, peeled and diced

very thin slice of lemon, peel and flesh, diced

1/8 tsp turmeric

less than 1/8 tsp cayenne

1 tbsp hemp hearts

2 tbsps granola

1-2 tbsps nuts

Put the fruit, chia seeds and milk in a blender (I use an immersion blender in a tall, narrow container). Blend for a few seconds until combined. Add the rest of the ingredients, blending after each addition if necessary. Pour into a bowl and let sit for a bit. (I usually make the smoothie bowl up to this point, go for a walk, then finish making it and eat it when I get back). Sprinkle on the hemp hearts, granola and nuts. Sit down and enjoy eating your smoothie with a spoon!

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This Smoothie Bowl gets its colour from strawberries.

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The fruit in this Smoothie Bowl was light coloured so the green colour from the leafy greens really stands out.

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Another Dinner Party – White Bean Salad and Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Pie

This summer saw a few dinner parties. I posted about the party “Tom” and I had here. The next dinner party was a casual bday celebration outside on some friends’ patio. It was a potluck – not in the literal sense where everyone brings whatever, and all guests take their chances on what food is available, but where the hosts provided the main course and the guests brought complementary food. Our hosts made Puttanesca sauce with pasta, so I thought I’d bring a salad. But what kind of salad goes with the strong flavours of Puttanesca sauce? Here’s what was recommended by Moira Hodgson in Oprah Magazine:

White Bean Salad

(adapted from Moira Hodgson)

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3 cups cooked navy beans

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1/4 red onion, diced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsps. white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

1/2 tsp salt (or more)

sprinkling of black pepper

Gently toss the beans, bell pepper, onion and tomato together. Whisk the dressing ingredients together then pour over the beans. Gently mix together and let marinate in fridge for a couple of hours. Bring to room temperature to serve.

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I also decided to bring a dessert. I have been making my chocolate mousse pie for some time now, but I wanted to add in another layer … literally another layer, but also another layer of flavour. I had some late season local strawberries in the fridge so I created this:

Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Pie

(my own creation)

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2 packages Oreo cookie type cookies

2 tbsps. coconut oil

1 recipe chocolate mousse

  • 1 full package (200 grams) organic fair trade baking chocolate (I use Camino semi-sweet)

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  • 1 package silken tofu

  • 1/2 cup almond milk

  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla (liquid or powder)

  • pinch sea salt

1 cup strawberries

1 tbsp. maple syrup

several strawberries cut in slices

Crumble 1/2 of the cookies in a blender, then transfer to a pie plate. Crumble the other 1/2 of the cookies in a blender with the coconut oil until well mixed. Mix the dry and oiled cookie crumbs together and press up the sides and into the bottom of the pie plate.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler.

Slip the tofu into a pot of boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes (helps get rid of any beany taste).

Put the tofu into the blender with the milk and blend until smooth. Add in the melted chocolate, vanilla and salt and blend for 2-3 minutes until very smooth. Pour the chocolate mousse into the pie plate on top of the cookie crumb base. Put in fridge for an hour or so until the mousse cools and firms up.

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Put the cup of strawberries into a blender and blend until liquid. Add in the maple syrup and blend briefly. Ladle the strawberry puree onto the chocolate mousse, letting the puree spread on its own to the edges.

Top with sliced strawberries.

Chill in fridge for at least an hour. Serve straight from the fridge.

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Dinner Party Extrodinaire!

“Tom” and I just finished hosting a great dinner party. It was such a relief to get this party going because it was prefaced by organizational challenges – procrastination, rescheduling, commitment, on again, off again. Usually our little gang of dinner partyers has our dinners scheduled ahead of time, but not this time for some reason. Funny thing is I’ve had the menu planned for months! So once we nailed down a date, I was raring to go! Here is the menu:

Cauliflower Ceviche *

Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad with Cilantro Cashew Cream *

Slow Cooker Refried Beans *

Chocolate Mousse – Strawberry-Cherry Parfaits *

fresh fruit (watermelon and cherries)

* see below for recipes

You can find the recipes for the Taco Salad and the Chocolate Mousse on my blog – see links above.

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Cauliflower Ceviche

(adapted from Dora’s Table’s Cauliflower Ceviche)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1 cup of diced tomatoes

1 cup of peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber

1/2 Serrano pepper, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp (or more) salt

Put the cauliflower florets into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into a big bowl of cold water. When cool, chop finely. (I threw the cauliflower into my mini-food processor to chop). Put all the chopped vegetables in a big bowl, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt and mix together. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes. We ate this with tortilla chips and alongside the taco salad as a kind of salsa.

This was the first time I made this dish. It was pretty good and was well received, but I think the next time I make it I will take it up a notch. I only put 1/2 a Serrano pepper in because I wanted to be careful about the heat, but I could easily have put the whole thing in. (You just never know with peppers … you can get a super fiery one or a fairly mild one)! Also, the dish needs more lime juice or vinegar or something to up the tangy taste. This will make the dish more liquidy, but after marinating, the ceviche could be transferred to another bowl leaving the excess liquid behind.

Cilantro Cashew Cream (This stuff is crazy delicious!)

(adapted from Oh She Glows’ Cilantro Lime Garlic Cashew Sauce)

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3/4 cup cashews, soaked overnight

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tbsps. fresh lime juice (the juice of 1 whole lime)

2 tbsps. avocado

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup water

Drain the soaking water from the cashews. Through everything into the blender and blend for 2 or 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides and blend for another 2 or 3 minutes. (Unless you have a high powered blender then you can blend it until smooth in 2 minutes).

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Slow Cooker Refried Beans

(my own recipe)

image2 cups dry pinto beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained

1 small onion, diced

4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp hickory black pepper, if you have it, otherwise use plain black pepper

1 tsp chipotle paste (I make paste by throwing a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce through the blender, then I store the paste in a jar in the fridge)

5 cups vegetable broth

Throw everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 hours. Turn to low, coarsely mash the beans in the pot with a potato masher, and keep warm in the slow cooker until ready to use. I stirred a tsp of hickory smoked salt in just before serving. (The refried beans will probably be a bit runny. When they cool down, they thicken up. You can also reduce the liquid in the slow cooker by 1/2.)

Strawberry-Cherry Parfaits

(makes 5 servings)

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1 recipe chocolate mousse

2 cups strawberries

2 cups halved, pitted cherries

2 tbsp maple syrup

5 cherries with stem attached

Make the chocolate mousse ahead of time and leave in fridge to set for a few hours. Put the strawberries in a small saucepan over medium to low heat and add the maple syrup. Bring to low boil then let simmer for 30 minutes. Put the cherries in a small saucepan and heat over medium to low heat. Bring to low boil and let simmer for 20 minutes.

In parfait glasses (I don’t have parfait glasses so I used wine glasses), begin the layering process. Set out the glasses, and put a layer of chocolate mousse in each. Then put in a layer of strawberry compote, another layer of chocolate mousse, then a layer of cherry compote, and finish with a layer of chocolate mousse. Of course, you need to put a cherry on top!

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Looks like a mess when it’s all on the plate, but don’t let that fool you! It was all dee-licious!

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Valentine’s Day 2016 – Pizza and Roasted Vegetable Hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

“Tom” and I created another lovely Valentine’s Day supper to share with each other. This year we decided to stay with the heart theme dominated by red and white. We made heart shaped Margherita pizza with roasted heart shaped beets and potatoes.

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Margherita Pizza

individual pizza shells (store bought or make your own)

spicy tomato sauce such as Arribiata or Marinara (store bought or make your own)

cheezy cashew sauce *

vegan pesto **

1 or 2 tomatoes

3 large leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded

If making this for Valentine’s Day, cut the pizza shells into heart shapes. Otherwise, leave as is. Spread a bit of spicy tomato sauce onto the pizza shells. Put dollops of cashew sauce all over the pizza, then dollops of pesto in between the cashew sauce. Arrange thinly sliced tomatoes (I used 3 slices for each individual pizza). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. After removing from the oven, add a few strips of fresh basil to each pizza.

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Before baking, all ready to go in the oven.

*  Cheezy Cashew Sauce

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours

3/4 tsp garlic powder

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup water (or more)

1/8 tsp salt

a few grinds of black pepper

dash of cayenne

1/8 tsp dried basil

1/8 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp nutritional yeast

Put everything in a blender and blend for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed and adding a bit more water as needed. The consistency needs to be thickish so be careful about the addition of water.

** Pesto

1 avocado

1/4 cup vegetable broth

7 fresh basil leaves (approx.)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp white wine vinegar

Put everything in a mini food processor or blender and blend until well combined.

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After baking, with a little bit of fresh basil added on top.

 

Roasted Heart Shaped Vegetables

2 beets, peeled

2 largish, round potatoes, peeled

1 tsp vegetable oil

Cut the beets and potatoes into slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the slices into heart shapes with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Toss the vegies in the oil, arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then flip the hearts and bake for another 5 minutes until lightly browned on each side.

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Check out these lovely striped beet hearts cut from Chioggia beets.

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Oh, and we ended our meal with more hearts … watermelon hearts! And chocolate of course!

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Healing Foods to Start Your Day – Porridge and a Smoothie

I’m just coming out the other end of emergency surgery, a short stay in hospital, and some recovery time at home. Although I still have a few weeks before being able to resume my normal activity level, I’m recovering and healing nicely and look forward to being back at work soon. This experience has left me even more convinced of the importance of food and diet in good health and in the promotion of healing. I mean, look at what I was served in hospital:

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This is “Tofu Adobo” and “California Vegetables” and white rice with Cranberry Cocktail to wash it all down.

Thank goodness they sent me home shortly after my surgery and thank goodness I had “Tom” around to bring me in some decent food while I was in hospital. I don’t really understand why hospitals cannot do a better job in their food selections and preparations. The two breakfast items I am featuring today would not be difficult to provide in a hospital. Yes, it would be a little more expensive to make, but the benefits to the patients would far outweigh those costs. In fact, spending a bit more thought, time, energy and money on decent food in hospitals would improve patients’ health and so lessen their time in hospital. And that, in turn, would bring down costs.

Anyway, when I got home from hospital, I wasn’t up to much for the first few days, but cooking up a pot of porridge or blending up a smoothie was easy enough. These two meals are so full of healthy goodness I could almost feel the healing happening in my body! Here’s what I  made:

Super Foods Smoothie

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1 banana, coarsely chopped

1/2 orange, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 apple, peeled or not depending on the power of your blender, coarsely chopped

handful of spinach

1 large Romaine (or other) lettuce leaf, torn into pieces

2 or 3 small inside stalks kale, stalks removed, torn into pieces

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. hemp hearts

1/2 tsp chlorella powder

1/2 tsp vegetable based B-Complex powder

1 tbsp. Saskatoon berry syrup (or other kind of sweetener) – I add this to mask the flavour of the chlorella powder

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup or more almond milk

Throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth. Serves one.

Berry Delicious Porridge

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2/3 cup water

1/3 cup organic large flake rolled oats

5 or 6 strawberries (I use frozen strawberries … organic strawberries that were picked in the summer then frozen)

1/4 cup (maybe a bit less) Saskatoon berries (or blueberries) (again, picked in the summer and then frozen)

1/2 apple, peeled, diced

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. hemp hearts

1 tbsp. maple syrup

a few walnuts, broken into pieces

almond milk

Bring the water to a boil, then add the oats, berries, apple, seeds and syrup. Let simmer gently until thick. Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle on the walnuts and add as much milk as you like. Mmmmmm!

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Mexican Fiesta!

Over Christmas, “Tom” and I were fortunate enough to go to Mexico for a week. We stayed in a beautiful resort on the Mayan Riviera with a large family group. This was our first visit to Mexico. Some highlights of our trip were hiking along the stretch of wild beach next to the resort,

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swimming in cenotes in the Jungle Maya,

Splash!

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attending a Mayan cleansing ceremony,

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watching Mayan dancers,

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and eating authentic Mexican food. Ah, Mexican food … I love it! And you would think a trip to Mexico would mean plenty of it … not so in our case. You see, the resorts have to cater to a wide variety of clientele and so the food choices were all over the place, but with an emphasis on what you could call “western”. I had no problem eating vegan what with all the salads and fresh fruit, but it was very difficult to find good Mexican food on the resort. There was a Mexican restaurant, but it was very meat heavy and very spice light. The main buffet had Mexican food – tortillas in green or red sauce, refried beans, fresh salsa (with no chili spice), avocado sauce – but only at breakfast.

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Our best Mexican food experience was in the Jungle Maya where we were treated to authentic Mayan cooking prepared over charcoal stoves in clay pots and pans. Yum! (Unfortunately, no photos.)

When we got home from Mexico, I knew I wanted to cook up a Mexican meal. Seeing as it was our turn to host the dinner party (see here for more info on that), I decided to do a Mexican theme.

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Here is the menu:

mojitos

make your own tacos:

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roasted chipotle cauliflower

imageroasted poblano vegie toss

“black nachos” – roasted portabello mushrooms

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refried black beans

lime rice

roasted corn rounds

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fresh salsa

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guacamole

chipotle crema

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fresh fruit

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And here’s how I made it:

 Roasted Chipotle Cauliflower

(adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

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1 head cauliflower, separated into florets

2 tsps. chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp chipotle paste

juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. water

Mix all ingredients except cauliflower together in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower florets and toss to coat all pieces. Spread the cauliflower out on a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, toss, bake another 10 minutes or so depending on the size of the florets. Bake until fork tender, but not too soft as they will become mushy as they cool.

Roasted Poblano Vegie Toss

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1 poblano pepper, roasted and diced

2 zucchini, cut into 6 cm long strips

2 bell peppers, diced

Roast the pepper by spraying it with oil, placing under the broiler for 5 minutes with the over door ajar. Turn the pepper over using tongs, broil for another 5 minutes, turn, another 5 minutes, etc. until blackened. Let the pepper rest for 5 minutes or so, then peel off the skin and scrape out the seeds and membrane.

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In a large pan, saute the zucchini and peppers together. As they begin to soften, add in the diced poblano pepper and saute and toss everything together.

Roasted Portabello Mushrooms – or BLACK NACHOS as “Tom” nicknamed them!

(adapted from Keepin’ It Kind)

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12 baby portabello mushrooms

2 tbsps. Bragg liquid

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp. chili infused olive oil

Mix all the ingredients except the mushrooms in a large bowl. Add the sliced mushrooms and toss to coat all the mushrooms. Do this quickly before the marinade is absorbed completely be the bottom layer of mushrooms only. Spread mushrooms out on a large baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, toss, bake for another 10 minutes.

Lime Rice

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1 cup rice of your choice (I think we used white basmati)

1 lime, zested and juiced

Cook the rice. At the end of the cooking time, stir in the zest and the juice from the lime.

Salsa

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4 plum tomatoes, finely diced

1/2 white onion, finely diced

4 stalks green onions, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (seeds and membrane removed)

splash of lime juice

1/2 tsp salt

Combine everything together. Taste and adjust by adding more salt or lime juice.

Chipotle Crema

(adapted from Oh My Veggies)

3/4 cup cashews, soaked for 4 hours

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp chipotle paste

1/4 cup + water

salt and pepper

Combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Keep adding water until you get the consistency you desire, either thick or more thinned out. Blend for at least 5 minutes.

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The Most Amazing Smoothie!

After years of having, basically, the same smoothie every morning, I’ve really broken out of my smoothie rut this year. With the help of sessions with Feed Life and Jiivala and information from the blog Nutrition Stripped, I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of greens, assorted seeds, super foods and antioxidants. Spinach is my favourite leafy green to put in my smoothie because it doesn’t have a flavour when it’s all blended up. Some nutrition experts recommend changing up your greens as sticking to one kind can cause a build up of toxins (alkaloid buildup) in your body. So, I try to rotate my leaves – baby kale is pretty good, fresh Romaine lettuce is good, arugula is interesting. I’ve even thrown leftover salad into the blender! (Tastes pretty good as long as there are no green onions in the salad)! A new addition to my smoothies is turmeric which has anti-inflammatory effects. Cayenne, also new, stimulates circulation and boosts the immune system. I throw some ginger in for it’s anti-inflammatory contribution and because it is good for the digestion. Lemons in a smoothie give a vitamin C boost and they are antibacterial and immune boosting.

So, here’s what I’ve been blending up recently:

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Nestled in my basil patch!

(I’ve been dying to post this picture! Look at all the fancy labels I made!)

What we’ve got here is …

a big handful of spinach

3 leaves of Romaine lettuce, chopped up a bit

1 stalk of celery, chopped

2 small English cucumbers, chopped

2 kinds of fruit (In this picture, it’s mango and apple, but try blueberries, peach, strawberries, whatever you like. Hold off on the banana though unless you’re going to drink it all right away. Banana in a smoothie, left to sit for a bit takes on a flavour I’m not partial too.)

1 tbsp. chia seeds (or ground flax seeds or hemp hearts)

1 slice of lemon, peel and all

thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped up

1/8 tsp turmeric

1/8 tsp cayenne

water

Put all the ingredients in a blender. (I use an immersion blender with a tall narrow container as pictured in the photo). Pour water in until the ingredients are covered. Blend until smooth. In a high powered blender you can get really smooth. With my immersion blender, it gets pretty smooth, but there is still a bit of texture. This makes two servings. One for you and one for a friend. Or one for you now and another for you later!

Here’s what my amazing smoothie looks like after blending:

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Beautiful green smoothie sitting in my herb garden!

The taste is eye opening and energizing and delicious. I really like the hit of ginger and cayenne. I’ve tried this smoothie out on a few people and it’s been well received by most. My six year old niece hates it, doesn’t even like the smell! “Tom” is not into it either. But two family members and two friends have given it one, if not two, thumbs up.

Here’s the same smoothie, but with blueberries. I think it has a deep purple colour, but “Tom” says it looks like sludge!

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Blueberry smoothie in a blueberry bush!

And here’s the same smoothie made with strawberries and beet leaves. I call it Ruby Beauty!

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Snuggled in amongst the leaves and petals of a red geranium!

Try it. Let me know what you think.

A note about the font: This post was written in large, black, bold font for easier access by people with vision impairments.

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Mincemeat

Merry Christmas everyone! And Happy Winter Solstice! Whatever you celebrate, and wherever you are, I hope you were able to spend time with loved ones and to eat delicious food. I hosted the Christmas dinner today. Along with the turkey I cooked for my omnivore family, and to satisfy tradition, “Tom” and I also made mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, garlic-white wine mushrooms, and peas. This is our usual fare for Thanksgiving and Christmas and there isn’t much leeway allowed on these food choices by the traditionalists in the family. Where there is a little more room for experimentation is dessert. Often I will make Apple Crumble or “Tom” will make one of his sensational pies, but this year, I decided to be traditional and new age at the same time. I made vegan mincemeat tarts. When I set out to make the mincemeat, I remembered that years ago, when I used to do a lot of baking, I would make vegetarian mincemeat – no animal suet used in the making. I searched through my extensive recipe file for my mincemeat recipe and I searched through the internet looking for a vegan mincemeat recipe. I couldn’t find what I was looking for in either of those places. So, I decided to make my own version of vegan mincemeat based on my memory and on a few ideas I found online. Here’s what I came up with:

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1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 apples, peeled, cored, diced

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup currants

handful chopped dried cherries, optional

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tbsp. brandy or rum or whiskey

Heat the apple juice and brown sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Combine all the ingredients together, including the sweetened juice. Stir well, then let sit for an hour or more to allow the dried fruit to plump up and to let flavours develop.

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I made mincemeat tarts with my mincemeat, but you could also make a mincemeat pie or even just serve the mincemeat straight up with a bit of vegan ice cream or cashew cream. To make my tarts, I made some pastry dough, rolled it out fairly thinly, cut out large circles using a small bowl as my cut-out, then lined a tart pan (like a muffin pan except the sides are more sloping) with the pastry circles. It’s a bit tricky doing the crust for tarts – you have to gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the openings in the tart pan, and the dough will overlap on the sides, and you have to press and flatten and make sure it isn’t too thick and make sure that you’re careful and the dough doesn’t rip. Whew! I ended up making just 6 of these tarts. Then I found some pre-made tart shells in the freezer and I filled 4 of these with mincemeat. Finally, I  made a larger tart using what I call a patty-pan. By then, I had run out of mincemeat and I was done working with pastry!

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Before serving, I heated the tarts up a bit then served them with cashew cream. They were a big hit. Even my cynical-about-vegan-cooking brother declared them “delicious”.

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Differentiation

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a teacher. A Learning Resource Teacher. Otherwise known as a Resource Teacher, a Support Teacher, a Helping Teacher, a Special Education Teacher. I support students with special needs in inclusive schools. I collaborate with Classroom Teachers in planning lessons and programs for our very diverse classrooms. The teaching that comes out of these plans is what we call differentiated instruction.

What does all this have to do with healthy plants-based eating and healthy living? Don’t you see the connections?

Diversity

Differentiation

Herbivores like you and me need to have diversity in their diet. When we eat a variety of food, we know we are getting the nutrients we need. I, however, live in an omnivore dominated world. I make accommodations for this by preparing vegetarian food for omnivore guests that resembles their more familiar meaty dishes (Mushroom BourguignonLettuce Wraps), even cooking a turkey dinner now and then. I eat at restaurants that have menus that can satisfy both me and my dining companions, or have chefs willing to make some changes to the standard fair to accommodate my dietary needs. In other words, I practice differentiation in my menu planning.

Are you seeing the connections now?

Last month, I posted an entry on my blog about exercising (see below or see here). I’d like to add a bit more to that information. In fact, I want to help you diversify your active lifestyle with a bit of differentiated instruction. I realized, since that last post, that I could provide a few more details about how to get into that bootcamp run no matter what your fitness level is – tone it down, beef it up. Some of you may run and exercise with a partner, perhaps even a mismatched partner. I think you can still have the support and togetherness of a buddy while participating at a level you both feel comfortable with. So, I offer this:

1. If you want to increase the intensity of the workout, try these things:

  • Run quickly between exercise stations
  • Set up quickly for the exercise after each run
  • Move quickly into a run after each exercise
  • Do more sets of the exercises at each station
  • Go for a longer run and add in a few more exercises – either ones you think of yourself, or repeat some of the ones from the bootcamp run program.
  • Do both static and dynamic work at each exercise station. For example, for squats, do your 1 or 2 sets of 10 squats, but also hold your squat for 30 seconds of more.

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It usually takes me between 42 and 45 minutes to complete my bootcamp run. Today I set off on my run a bit later than I wanted and I needed to get home by a certain time. So, I picked up the pace, following some of those tips I just outlined above. I was done in 39 minutes!

2. If you want to decrease the intensity of the workout, try these things:

  • Jog or power walk between exercise stops
  • Walk into the set up of your exercise
  • When you have finished your reps, walk out of it before picking up the pace into a power walk or a jog
  • Do the minimum of 10 reps of the exercises – DO NOT DO FEWER THAN THIS!
  • Play around with how you run between exercises, but do not adjust your exercises. Work slowly and at a comfortable pace, but do them all.

3. If you’re running with a mismatched partner:

  • Run or walk at a pace that is a bit slower for the fitter partner and a bit faster for the less fit partner – this promotes pacing and patience for one and pushing at a supported level for the other.
  • Fitter partner does more sets of the exercises while the less fit partner does the minimum.

Reward yourself at the end of your bootcamp run with this delicious and refreshing smoothie:

Peppermint-Cucumber Smoothie

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2 small English cucumbers (leave unpeeled if organic), chopped in chunks

Several fresh peppermint leaves

Large handful of spinach leaves

1 banana, sliced

large handful of blueberries

1 tbsp ground flax seeds, or chia seeds, or ground hemp seeds

1 cup + non-dairy milk

Throw everything into the blender and blend until smooth. Drink it on down!

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