Tag Archives: Grain

Chopped Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

Salads are pretty great, don’t ya think? I mean, there’s gotta be an infinite number of ways you can combine some vegetables, maybe some grains or some noodles, possibly some fruit. And then there’s the dressing. You can take your same ol’, same ol’ salad and add a new dressing and it’s not so same ol’ anymore, is it? Or you can take your standby dressing and pour it on a different base of vegetables and you’ve got something new! Take this salad for example. I introduced this salad way back in April 2014 – a chopped salad with all the ingredients arranged separately in the bowl – and, last week I recreated it with a few different vegetables and a new dressing. Voila! A new salad!


The salad ingredients choices are my own, but the dressing is inspired by Minimalist Baker’s Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing.


Chopped Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

(Ingredient amounts depend on how many servings you want to make. The dressing makes about 4 servings.)

quinoa, cooked

red cabbage


orange bell pepper

green onion




1/2 ripe avocado

juice of 1/2 lime  (3 tbsps.)

juice of 1/2 orange (3 tbsps.)

2 tsp agave nectar

1 tsp hot sauce

1/4 tsp cumin

a sprinkle of cayenne (less than 1/8 tsp)

2-3 tbsps. water

Arrange the quinoa and vegetables in individual bowls. I like to chop up one ingredient and arrange in the bowls, then chop up the next ingredient and arrange in bowls and so on.

Put all the dressing ingredients except the water in a tall container and blend with an immersion blender. When things start to get too thick, add in the water, 1 tbsp. at a time until the dressing blends smoothly and is pourable but not runny.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients. Admire your artistry, then toss everything together in your personal bowl!




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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.


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)


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).


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)


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!



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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Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad

Okay, I’m posting on Thanksgiving Day (Canada), but I’d better warn you that this isn’t a Thanksgiving dinner recipe … it’s a recipe that carries a lot of thanks though! I’m so thankful that I came across this yummy recipe and I’m sharing it with you to give you thanks for reading my blog! See, it is about Thanksgiving after all!

I’ve been dying to share this Mexican dish with you for ages. This recipe was inspired by Oh My Veggies The Ultimate Vegan Taco Salad. I have made this countless times – for a family dinner party, for friends, many times just for “Tom” and I, each time a bit different and each time delicious. I’m a big fan of Mexican food and I love to find ways to spice up different combinations of plant based foods to give it a south-of-the-border (south of the USA border, that is, not south of the Canada border) taste. See my menu for a Mexican Fiesta for other Mexi taste treats.


The original premise was to replace taco meat with something that resembles ground meat in both taste and look, but is not meat. The original recipe calls for farro to serve this purpose. Spice it up a lot and serve it with lots of fresh vegetables and beans and you’ve got a vegan taco salad. Well, I’ve made this with farro, with spelt, with short-grained brown rice, with potato cubes. I’ve used black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, refried beans. I usually leave out the tortilla chips, sometimes serve them on the side and occasionally crumble them on top. Anyway, the variations are endless and hinge on the ingredients on hand, time, purpose and food craving of the moment! So here is the basic recipe followed by my variations/additions:

Mexican Fiesta Taco Salad


1 cup farro, cooked *

1/2 cup mild salsa (I use Herdez)

2 tsps chili powder

2 tsps ground cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

salt to taste

1 head iceberg lettuce (or Romaine lettuce), shredded

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped, or several grape tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans **

1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen and thawed)

2 avocados

juice of 1/2 lime

2 tsps finely minced garlic

1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

optional – crushed tortilla chips


Cook your farro in a rice cooker using 3 cups of water to one cup of  farro. Once cooked, stir in the salsa, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne and salt. You can stir everything together right in the rice cooker. If you are cooking the farro in a pot, once the water has been absorbed and the grain is soft, stir everything straight into the pot with the farro.

Make the guacamole by scooping out the insides of the avocados into a bowl, adding in the lime juice and garlic and mashing everything together.

Assemble the salad by laying down all the lettuce on a platter. Sprinkle on the tomatoes, then the black beans, then the corn. Spread the guacamole over top (or dollop it on all over as it’s kind of hard to spread). Finally, spoon the farro all over the platter. If you want, you can sprinkle on the green onions, cilantro and crushed chips or you can serve them all on the side for diners to add to their plates/bowls as they want.

* instead of farro you can use spelt, wheat berries or short grain brown rice. You can even use potatoes – chop about 4 potatoes into little cubes, toss with a bit of oil and roast in a single layer in the oven at 400 degrees; stir in the salsa and spices.



** use 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed) or you can use your own homecooked beans. I cook our beans in a slow cooker on high for about 3 to 4 hours, drain, cool, dole out into freezer bags in 1 1/2 cup portions, freeze. Another option is to omit the black beans from the salad and serve some refried beans on the side. You could try this recipe for crock pot refried beans or just heat up a can of refrieds.








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Picket Line Food!


Most readers of this blog come here because they’re interested in eating, cooking, health, plants-based diet, vegan food prep. They want to look at pictures of food and try out a new recipe. That’s cool. I’m happy to be your host. Today, I have a new recipe for you and I have pictures of food, but first, I want to have a chat …

I’m a teacher.

I’m a teacher on strike.

Since I’ve been working in schools, I have experienced the steady erosion of funding for public education. Twelve years ago, the provincial government stripped our collective agreement, our contract, of certain clauses without consultation, without negotiation, without bargaining. These clauses had to do with class size and class composition. Prior to this stripping, our collective agreement had language limiting the number of students in classes and limiting the number of students with special needs in classes. If a class was over the limits, another class had to be opened. In case you didn’t know, it is illegal to rip up collectively bargained contracts and this was reiterated, reinforced, confirmed and asserted when the teachers’ union took the government to court – not once, but twice. And still, the government refuses to obey the law and provide restitution. For this reason, and many more, I am on strike.

2014-06-17 13.58.35

 Don’t worry! Don’t give up on reading this post yet. I know this is a food blog and I will provide you with some. Here’s the connection:

While I’ve been out on the picket line, my colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by the support from parents, local businesses and members of the community. Drivers coast past honking, waving and smiling. The local pizza joint provides us with pizza and the neighbourhood tea house provides us with scones and croissants. Parents bring us cupcakes and muffins and cookies. Everyday we have plenty to eat. Even I, the plants-based eater in the crowd, has indulged in a few chocolate chip cookies and a banana muffin or two (complete with eggs and butter, I’m sure)! Earlier, this week, I thought, “No more!” I’m most wonderfully grateful for the support and good wishes and gifts from the community, however, I need some healthier food choices on the line. So, I made these little morsels pictured above. I got the recipe from Connoisseurus Veg, but changed it up a bit. These little Quinoa Trail Mix Bites were a hit on the picket line, along with a basket of local, organic strawberries. We all appreciated a break from the sweets.

Quinoa Trail Mix Bites


1/3 cup almond milk

2 tbsp. ground flax seed

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 1/4 cups oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup almonds, some whole and some coarsely chopped

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (I used dried cherries and apricots)

Mix milk and flax seed together and set aside for 10 minutes. Stir everything else together, then add the flax/milk mixture and mix together completely. Spoon into greased mini muffin tins (if you have them) or put 2 heaping tbsps. into regular muffin tins. Press down with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 + minutes. Let cool completely in pans before removing.


Note: these little titbits are somewhat crumbly. If you can think of a way to help them stick together better, I’d be happy to hear about it. Agave nectar instead of brown sugar, maybe?





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Barley Risotto


I have a confession to make … I’ve never made risotto before! Shocking, I know! I tend to stay away from cooking procedures that involve a lot of fussing and extra special care, and risotto involves constant stirring and adding of hot liquid and it can’t be left to cook by itself while the chef goes off to do other things like prepare another dish, check email, play Angry Birds… Well, yesterday, while I was having lunch at Alegria Café in Steveston after my Yoga class,” Tom” was flipping through The Georgia Straight looking at live music events and venues. When I glanced over, my attention was caught by a recipe for Barley Risotto. I quickly read through the recipe, jotted a few notes down on a scrap of paper, then surrendered the newspaper back to “Tom”. I decided to try making this dish for supper seeing as the use of barley, instead of rice, seemed to reduce the fussiness surrounding risotto making and because it seemed fairly easy to veganize (omitting butter and cheese), and here’s what I came up with:


1 onion, finely chopped *

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 cup barley

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups hot broth **

2 bay leaves

In a large pot, cook the onion over medium heat – add a tbsp. of water at a time to prevent sticking. Cook until onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook a bit longer (again, prevent burning, browning and sticking by adding 1 tbsp. of water). Stir in thyme, paprika and barley and cook until the pan become a bit dry. Pour in white wine and stir, scraping up the dry bits at the bottom of the pan (I think this is called deglazing), and allowing the alcohol to cook off. Add hot broth and bay leaves. Simmer over medium-low heat, with no lid, stirring often. Keep the mixture simmering gently and turn down the heat as the liquid gets absorbed by the barley so as not to burn, dry out, stick. Once all the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat and put the lid on the pot and let sit for a bit while you put the rest of the meal together.

* the original recipe called for leeks and although this would be fine, I didn’t have any so used an onion instead

** I used McCormick’s All-Vegetable Chicken Style Bouillon cubes

We ate our Barley Risotto with roasted vegetables and steamed spinach.




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Quinoa Porridge

Soft Food Only, No Crunchy or Crispy Food!

These are the instructions given me by my periodontist after having dental surgery. Not, actually, that difficult to follow – steamed vegetables, rice and other cooked grains, noodles, lettuce salads, smoothies, soft fruit … The potato chip ban is a little hard to take, but I can have french fries as long as they’re not too crispy-crunchy. This is what I made for breakfast today in order to satisfy the soft food only criteria, and in order to consume something filling before I had to use the nasty tasting post-surgery mouth rinse (no food or drink for 2 hours after using):


Quinoa Porridge

(thanks to my friend Sh. for his highly recommended use of quinoa for breakfast)

1/3 cup quinoa flakes

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)

dried fruit *

Mix the quinoa flakes, water and milk together in a pot. Add the dried fruit.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat to low and cook and stir until liquids are absorbed – this takes only a couple of minutes.

* I used a small handful of dehydrated blueberries and a small handful of dehydrated strawberries – organic berries I obtained in the summer and dehydrated in my dehydrator, then packed in freezer bags and froze. When the strawberries are rehydrated in the porridge, the taste is wonderful. Mmmmmm!

I also chopped up half a banana and added to the top of the bowl of porridge with a bit more almond milk.


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Full-Meal-Deal Salad

Since September, I’ve been attending a university class on Monday evenings. I have to drive to the campus directly after work in order to arrive by 4:30, then I stay there until about 9:30 when class is over. So, on Mondays, I must pack a lunch and a supper and some snacks. This means that on Sunday, I have to do a lot of meal prep. On a recent Sunday, for example, I worked on:

  • green salad for tonight’s supper and for tomorrow’s lunch
  • a big pot of soup for tonight’s supper and for tomorrow’s lunch
  • a big bowl of hearty salad for tomorrow’s supper

And, of course, all of this food must be vegan, healthy, filling. Recently, I made this full-meal-deal salad:


1 cup spelt *

10 brussel sprouts, washed, cut in half **

yam, large dice, about 1 cup

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

1 can artichokes, rinses, drained, cut into 8th’s

1 cup chopped purple cabbage

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced

1 bunch parsley, washed, dried, minced

2 tbsps apple cider vinegar

2 tbsps brown rice syrup

2 cloves garlic, minced

Cook the spelt in about 2 1/2 cups of water until all the water is absorbed and the grain is soft. Add more boiling water to cook a bit longer as necessary. Drain, if necessary, and let cool. Spray a baking sheet with a thin layer of veg oil. Spread out the brussel sprouts and yams on the baking sheet. Make sure all the brussels are cut-side down. Bake at 390 degrees for 20 minutes, toss the vegetables around a bit, bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until browned, but not burned, and fork tender. Put aside to cool. In a big bowl, dump the chickpeas, artichokes, cabbage, onion, and pepper. Toss together. Add the cooled brussel sprouts. Leave the yams the size they are, or cut in half, and add to the big bowl. Add the cooled spelt. Stir in the parsley. Toss everything together. Whisk together the vinegar, syrup, garlic and pour over the salad. Stir well to coat everything. Let the flavours blend and develop for a few hours or overnight, then taste and adjust the dressing as required – you may want to add some more vinegar and syrup.

* I cooked the spelt in a rice cooker with 2 1/2 cups of water and it turned out great.

** The brussel sprouts are an important taste and nutritious addition, but you may find that you prefer fewer. If that’s the case, save some of the roasted brussels for another meal and/or chop the roasted brussels in half again before tossing into the salad.

PS – After 2 or 3 servings of this salad were consumed, there was still a bit left – not enough for a full serving. I mixed it into a plain ol’ green salad and , voila, a new, tasty, even better for you salad!

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