Guacamole

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Since moving to Southern Ontario and really getting into the tourism and restaurant industry, I have celebrated this “holiday” with excitement, because I love Mexican food and drink of all kinds. I actually have no vested interest in the day other than to celebrate the cuisine.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t really a big deal in Mexico tbh. The anniversary signifies victory by Mexico over France in the Battle of Pueblo, which was more of a symbolic win vs a strategic war victory. Today in Mexico, May 5th is mainly celebrated in the state of Pueblo, where the triumph occurred.

However, the holiday is widely celebrated in the United States, especially in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Los Angelos, Chicago and Houston host large festivals honouring Mexican culture with parades, music, dancing and, of course, all of the delicious food, including tacos and mole. The tradition eventually made it’s way north of the border to Canada, mostly on the backs of American chain restaurants that featured Cinco de Mayo food and drink specials to get people out to try something new.

Today I will celebrate with a Margarita in one hand and a taco in the other (well, more likely a taco bowl and a fork but we shall see what the day brings), and no taco is complete without guacamole.

My guac recipe borders on traditional, but omits cilantro (I prefer it as a garnish vs throughout the dip) and the jalapenos, again because I prefer those as a garnish. I also add a wee bit of garlic to mine, as I find it really compliments the flavours well without overpowering them. This dip is also an opportunity for you to #snacksmarter by avoiding processed dips that almost always contain inflammatory refined vegetable and seed oils and unnecessary additives and preservatives.

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Guacamole

2 avocados, flesh removed and smashed with a fork

1 clove of garlic, finely diced or grated on a Microplane

2 tsp sea salt

Juice of 1 lime

6 grape tomatoes, cut in half and each half cut in 6

1/4 of a medium red onion, finely diced

Smash the avocados until a bit smooth and a bit chunky. Add garlic, 1 tsp of salt, and the juice from half the lime. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Add the grape tomatoes and the onion, making sure to separate the onion as you drop it in. Mix with a fork until tomato and onion can be seen throughout. Add the remaining lime juice to the top of the dip, and then sprinkle on the remaining salt. You can adjust the salt to taste, but I like my guac salty, so it makes me thirsty for a margarita 😉

Serve immediately with bell peppers or flax chips for dipping, on your favourite taco or bowl, as a spread on crackers or sandwiches, or as a topper for fish or chicken. This dip, unfortunately, due to the quick browning nature of avocados, does not keep well in the fridge. However, you can freeze for later use, and it actually works out just fine.

Avocados are high in healthy fats and are high in B Vitamins, Vitamin E and Omega-3 fats, and are a great addition to any food lifestyle you may be following. This dip is also another option to #snacksmarter.

 

 

Almond Flour Crackers

Part of my business is working as a fasting coach, helping clients with strategic planning to reduce calorie intake and reap all of the benefits that fasting offers. An essential part of any fasting strategy is ditching snacks because your goal is to a) not eat and b) leave ample time between meals to allow your body to process them completely. Unfortunately, during this time, when we are all required to stay at home, I have become a snacker. It’s mostly from boredom, and I usually could do so many things to get rid of the boredom, but right now, there are not a lot of options.

So I have switched gears. Rather than fighting my urge to snack, I am trying to snack healthier. Avoiding chips, candy, and processed crap has been saving my mental health and keeping the scale from climbing. During these times, we have to shift and adapt as best we can, and I know that avoiding snacking is not a thing that is going to happen right now. So this recipe will be a series of many that encourage you to #snacksmarter, because the best defence against any sickness is your health, and what you eat controls that almost entirely.

One of my snacking go-tos is crackers, and they are one of the most terrible food options when you buy store-bought. Manufactured versions include inflammatory seed oils, crappy substitutes for real food ingredients, and refined sugar, which not only makes no sense at all but also makes them very addictive. Enter the easiest, healthiest, and most delicious cracker recipe, Almond Flour Crackers. The best part about these bad boys is the options for flavouring…it’s kind of a choose your own adventure cracker. Add whatever you like. Your favourite fresh herbs, dried spices, cheese, make them vegan, whatever you want. For this batch, I used 1tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary, and some black garlic salt I got when I was in Oregon, and they were insane.

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Almond Flour Crackers

2 cups of almond flour

1 egg, beaten or 1 flax egg

2 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp of fresh herbs, dried spices, or cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine almond flour, egg and salt. Mix with a fork and then your hands until mixture forms a ball. Place the ball in the centre of a large piece of parchment, and then cover with another piece. Press the dough down as much as you can with your hands, and then roll until thin and even, spreading it out to the corners and edges of the parchment. You should have a flat sheet now; the thinner you go, the crispier your crackers will be, but don’t go so thin that they just crumble.

Place on a cookie sheet and remove the top layer of parchment. If you want uniform-shaped crackers, score a grid the size of the cracker you want into the dough. For a more artisanal look, you can just break into random pieces after baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking. These will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, or you can freeze for 6 months.

These crackers are great with sesame seeds in them, everything bagel seasoning pressed into the top, parmesan cheese stirred in + granulated onion…whatever flavours you love, these crackers are an excellent vehicle for them. I use these crackers on my low carb cheese boards, and clients and students love them! Confession: my boyfriend and I ate the entire batch in one go because they were so good…the next batch I need to practise some restraint.

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Tastes Just Like A Cabbage Roll Soup

Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.
Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.

Since I stopped eating meat, there are some things I miss; bacon, chicken wings, pulled pork, Big Macs, and cabbage rolls. I love cabbage rolls. They are meaty and starchy and comforting and delicious. And I haven’t had them in over 5 years.

So I set out to figure out how to bring cabbage rolls back into my life…without meat…without rice, but with all of the flavour. And I was actually shocked when it worked…this soup tastes like actual cabbage rolls…the ones with meat…but they are completely vegan. I swear. The meatiness comes from very finely chopped mini bella mushrooms and pure luck. You’re welcome.

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 small cooking onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

5-7 mini bella mushrooms, very finely chopped image

1 medium cabbage, shredded or chopped into strips

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups strained tomatoes

1 can organic diced tomatoes

2 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté, 30 seconds. Add shallot and continue cooking, 1 minute. Add onion and continue cooking, 3 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cabbage, cover, and let sweat, 5-7 minutes. Remove cover, add stock and both kinds of tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 hours. Stir in quinoa, serve, and enjoy!

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Broccoli & Stilton Soup

The Stilton in this soup is surprisingly smooth, creamy and delicious

My boyfriend suggested I make this soup, as he used to serve it in a pub in England. My reaction was much like yours right now (unless you are familiar with this soup) – a blue cheese soup? For real?

I will say that in the past year or so I have developed a like turned to love for most blue cheeses…I suppose my palette is maturing. However, the thought of such a strong cheese with the strong flavour of broccoli in a soup made me very skeptical. But what the hell…I wanted to make something different than the usual cream of broccoli or broccoli cheddar, so I gave it a whirl.

Results: absolutely awesome. My new fave broccoli soup. And you know what? This soup has way less fat than cream of broccoli or broccoli and cheddar because the stronger the cheese the less you need. Even if you don’t like blue cheese I recommend this soup, as Stilton is a bit milder and a bit creamier than traditional blue.

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small cooking onion, dice

1 stalk of celery, diced

1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, broken into small pieces

1 “knob” of butter (2 inch thick slice of a stick of butter)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 crowns of broccoli, broken into pieces

4 ounces (4 x 1 inch cubes) of Stilton

 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (add a bit of water if they start to stick). Add the celery, leek, cauliflower and butter. Stir until the butter is melted, then cover and  let sweat, 5 minutes.

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Uncover and add the vegetable stock and the broccoli pieces with bigger stems. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until all vegetables are soft. Add the remaining broccoli pieces and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove some broccoli and cauliflower pieces and set aside. Blend the remaining soup with a hand blender. If the soup is not thick enough, continue to cook until it reduces.image

Turn the heat to low. Stir in the Stilton, letting some pieces hold their form. Add the broccoli and cauliflower back in. Spoon into bowls, serve, and enjoy! This  soup would be awesome with some walnut crumbs and balsamic drizzle on it as well.

 

Cauliflower Leek Soup

This soup is just as tasty as it's potato-y cousin, but lighter and better for you
This soup is just as tasty as it’s potato-y cousin, but lighter and better for you

My sister asked me last weekend if there was a way to make potato leek soup without the potatoes, and I thought “challenge accepted”. I love leeks so much and don’t eat potatoes, so why not try to make one of my favourite comfort foods better for you?! And since cauliflower is all the rage these days, I figured I would give that a try to replace the potatoes. And success!

This soup is great as is, but adding some thyme, some curry powder, or whatever spice you might like to pump this soup up would totally work because the flavours are mild but delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 a medium cooking onion, diced

3 leeks, trimmed, halved and sliced

1 large cauliflower, broken into small pieces

4 cups vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven on medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add onion and continue to cook, 3 minutes. Add leeks and cook for another 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and stir through. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

 

Blend until smooth with a hand mixer or in a food processor. Should you want a creamier or heartier soup, add 1/4 cup of cream or blend 1/2 a can of chickpeas into the soup.

Serve and enjoy!

Asian Vegetable Soup

Quick, simple, and made per person, this soup is great for dinner for one, two or five!
Quick, simple, and made per person, this soup is great for dinner for one, two or five

So while I am a firm believer that great food takes time, sometimes we just don’t have it. And although great soups often take hours of simmering to create deep flavours, sometimes a nice, quick, light soup is all you need to warm you up and keep you nourished.

Not only is this Asian Vegetable Soup speedy, but it can make one bowl or 5 bowls…whatever you need. Plus, if you’re really in a hurry you can replace all the fresh veg with the equivalent of frozen Asian veggies and no one would know! Should you want a heartier soup, add brown rice noodles to the mix and you have yourself a noodle bowl. Want more protein? Add 2 tablespoons of shredded chicken or pork, 4 cooked shrimps, or 3oz of sliced, grilled flank steak, or 3oz of fried tofu to the bowl.  To be honest, with a bit of creativity, the possibilities are endless.

 

Ingredientsimage

For each person being served:

1 cup organic, low sodium vegetable stock

1 tsp sesame oil (I always prefer toasted)

1 tsp vegetable oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 of a cooking onion, diced

1 inch ginger, chopped

2-3 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup coarsely chopped hearty vegetables (any of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped leafy greens (any of spinach, kale, collard greens, bok choy)

1 handful edamame beans, fresh or frozen

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

Salt & Pepper, extra soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, sliced green onion, all to taste

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Place vegetable stock in a pot and heat through on medium heat until ready to serve.

Heat sesame oil and vegetable oil in wok or skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté one minute. Add ginger and sliced mushroom and saute 2 minutes. Add your hearty vegetables and continue to cook, 3 minutes. Add edamame, fish sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, and leafy greens, and continue to cook for 1-3 minutes (if only using spinach, stick to one minute; if using sturdier leafy greens use the full 3 minutes).

Spoon contents of skillet into a deep bowl (if adding rice noodles place cooked noodles in the bowl first). Pour broth into bowl, and garnish to your liking with green onions, fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, soy sauce, Sriracha and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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