Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dude Brunch 101

Leftover Mexican-night food made for perfect brunch ingredients the following morning. A big pot of re-fried beans and rice greeted us in the fridge, in addition to sauteed peppers, corn/mango/tomato salad with lime dressing, guacamole, and a black bean/cabbage slaw. Re-heat the beans and rice, and pile each condiment onto quarters of the plate. Scramble a few eggs and add a little hot sauce or chilli to coordinate with the theme. Other buildable options might include: spiced sweet potatoes, grilled/fried tomatillo slices, salsa verde, caramelized onion spread, etc. Toss some toast on the side - I used pumpernickel because that's all I had kickin' around - so you have something with which to build your brunch sammies. Reheated corn-tortillas would also be an excellent choice. In fact, I made this same dish for friends the following weekend and they made yummy breakfast wraps. Garnish with cilantro and a fried egg... if you can count a whole fried egg as a "garnish."

Blueberry & Carob Smoothie

Ya'll know I love smoothies! Introducing healthy chinese tonic-herbs into them - like mucuna, ashwagandha, reishi, chaga, etc. - has meant that I need to use bolder flavors to "cover" the strong tastes. Anything naturally fatty, like cacao, coconut, or avocado is a wonderful mask for bitter herbs. A lot of the herb powders taste like tree-bark, mushrooms, or grass... unless its lucuma, which tastes like butterscotch! Their bitterness is fine if you're aiming to make a hot, coffee-like drink; but for sweet smoothies you have to work a bit of kitchen alchemy. This smoothie was a dose of chocolate and berry goodness. I used a heaping tablespoon of carob powder (an excellent alternative to chocolate), a touch of cacao, a cup of frozen blueberries, a frozen banana, almond milk, and all the above mentioned herbs. Blend on high until smooth, and then garnish with something in a contrasting colour. I used bee pollen. For daily nom-nom ideas (minus all the words), you can check out my Instagram here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Beetroot Gnocchi

Last week we made a very large batch of bright pink gnocchi. This recipe, by chef Gennaro Contaldo, came from the cookbook "Gennaro's Italian Home Cooking." Gnocchi's upside is cheap ingredients (potato and flour), while its downside is the relatively large mess it will leave in your kitchen. Granted, Josh and I are not professional gnocchi assembly-line workers, but I have a fair bit of cooking experience and there was still flour everywhere. No bother, for the few hours it took, we enjoyed glasses of wine and yielded 12 people's worth of gnocchi to store in the freezer. I will copy and paste the recipe down below. The sage and orange butter sauce was the perfect tangy compliment to the earthy tasting beets. It was the smallest amount of dairy for maximum effect; and that's the only way I will use dairy now a days. Having heaps of gnocchi in the freezer, with a slap-together gourmet pan-sauce, allows me serve surprise house guests a restaurant-quality dinner on the spot.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Powerhouse Sandwich

I buy my sprouting seeds from Mumm's Sprouting Seeds Ltd. either online or at a hardware/gardening store. They take just a few days to grow and, aesthetically, look lovely on your window sill. Instructions are on the back of the seed package. My faves lately are broccoli, mung beans, and red-clover. I try to have a few mason jars of sprouts growing at all times. They are great in salads, but this weekend I have to feed a growing man, so I layered them into a sandwich with avocado, hummus, tomato, shredded carrot, lettuce, and salt and pepper. If I wasn't using living sprouts, I would have toasted the whole sandwich panini/cubano style, but instead I only toasted the bread. In a skillet, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil, then lie down seedy bread that's been patted with garlic salt and pepper. After it's golden brown, then build your sammies. The creamy hummus and avocado will seal in your sprouts and keep them from falling out. Be sure to salt and pepper each layer to bring out all the fresh-veggie layers. To achieve the same "pressed" sandwich feel, put a heavy pot on top and press down lightly. Slice on the diagonal and serve.

Eggplant Pasta with Pine Nut Parmesan

My secret to perfectly tender eggplant in pasta sauce is to pre-roast the slices in the oven. While you are sauteing onions and garlic, and bringing together your tomato sauce, cut you eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds and put on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 30+ minutes until they loose their rubbery/sponge texture. Drop into your pasta sauce 10 minutes before finishing to turn the slices into silky discs. The sauce itself was homemade with my Nonna's homegrown tomatoes. To make the pine nut parmesan, pulse a big handful of pine nuts, a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, a teaspoon of salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic in a food processor. Turn out the crumbs into a skillet and toast for a few minutes, shaking and tossing constantly to avoid burning.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Creamy Cashew "Cheese" Sauce

This sauce substitutes nicely for any "finishing" cheese you would put on vegetables, nachos, etc., but can also be used as a spread or a dip. It doesn't taste exactly like authentic dairy cheese - so don't go in expecting cheddar - but when combined with other flavours it somehow hits the right note. Ie: layer it into a healthy nacho dip and, combined with guacamole, beans, and salsa, you'll feel like there was cheese in there. Lately, I've been avoiding meat and dairy (because I feel so good without it), but I still have a taste for rich, creamy things. Avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds, and recipes like this sauce fill the void. In a quality high-performance blender combine: a big handful of raw soaked cashews (softened in water for a few hours), 3/4 cup of water, plenty of salt, a spritz of lemon or vinegar, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast, and a little white pepper. Blend until smooth and then adjust the seasonings, add a little more water if necessary, and then add 1/4 of an avocado. This will make it super creamy and rich. If you want a bolder yellow colour, you can grate in a little turmeric. The sauce stores in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Raspberry Oatmeal Bowl

This is an oatey take on the ever popular "smoothie bowl." I made a batch of my favourite oatmeal - large flake oats, water, 1 banana, stevia/agave, flax seeds, dried fruit, etc. - but with the addition of frozen raspberries. They add a nice tang to an otherwise hearty dish. Pour into a wide soup bowl and top with any variety of goodies: pumpkin seeds, chopped fruit, hemp seeds, bee pollen, more berries, etc. Perfect start to the day!