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.

 

 

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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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!

French Onion Soup

So simple so good
So simple so good

So I know that EVERYONE is under the impression that French Onion soup needs beef broth and soggy bread to be awesome…and to be honest French Onion Soup with both of those things is crazy good. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here is a surprising truth: French Onion Soup originated in the French countrysides in husband and wife little hostels/b&b’s where travelers stopped for a filling meal and a good sleep. The only ingredients in their soup were onions, water, salt & pepper, and then topped with whatever they could afford at the time. It was designed to be a cheap and long-lasting and easily accessible, and let’s face it, onions are pretty much always good to go.

My French Onion Soup is completely vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free without any toppers, so it’s totally up to you what it becomes. Oh, and did I mention that it is delicious and flavourful and if you never say anything NO ONE will guess that there is no meat involved in the making of this soup. I dare you to take this challenge…

Ingredientsimage

8-12 onions, sliced (the more variety the better)

1/2 bottle of decent, full bodied red (Cab Sauv is best, a French full bodied wine is better, but basically anything you will drink on it’s own but doesn’t cost a ton)

1 carton (900ml) vegetable stock (or even better make your own)

1 carton (refill your veggie stock carton) water

White, non-died string + cheesecloth

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

3 bay leaves

Parmesan Crisps

1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese + parchament paper

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Half and slice onions by hand or in food processor, making lengthwise strips. Put all strips in large stock pot with lid or Dutch Oven on stove on medium heat, and let cook for 4-8 hours. Remember, the longer it cooks the more flavour you get; these onions will create their own, amazing, delicious juice which is what you want for this soup. The onions should caramelize and can even stick to the bottom of the pot as much as they want, because that’s all flavour. Stir every hour or so. No butter, no oil, no anything is necessary for this process.

Once you have decided your onions are dark enough, add your wine, and let cook/reduce for 5 minutes. Then add vegetable broth, water, and bay leaves. Pack the thyme and rosemary in the cheesecloth, make a “tea bag” and tie/secure with string, then drop in the soup, tieing one end of the string to a pot handle. If you have no cheesecloth, no worries…tie the herbs together and secure to the pot handle without the cheesecloth and your good. Let cook one hour.

Optional: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Place 2 inch round disks of grated parm. Cook for 5 minutes until golden and let cool.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with Parmesan Crisps. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Vegetable Soup

Full of vitamins, iron and calcium, this soup helps you fight the winter germs and fills you up
Full of vitamins, iron and calcium, this soup helps you fight the winter germs and fills you up

I also call this soup “Don’t Get Sick” Soup, because it kicks ass at keeping you healthy when everyone else has a brutal cold. In fact, the veggies in the soup are all extremely high in either Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, or Iron (or a combination of all of them). This soup is also great for vegans and vegetarians who have a difficult time getting Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin A from animal sources. Sometimes I even add chili flakes to the soup when I add the oregano to get that nose running and to rev up my metabolism.

But aside from all of that good-for-you awesomeness, my Winter Vegetable Soup is delicious comfort food that will keep you warm all winter long, and is really easy to make. The beans add a bit of creaminess to the soup, and the richness pairs perfectly with a bold glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ingredients

2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and coarsly chopped

1 medium cooking onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 can of navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium zucchini, chopped

4 cups (half bunch) of kale, leaves only, broken into small pieces

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 can (794g) of whole tomatoes + 1 can of water

1 carton (900ml) vegetable stock

fresh ground salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in Dutch Oven or large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add carrots, celery and beans, season with salt and pepper, add oregano, and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Add zucchini and kale and cook until kale has reduced, 3 minutes.

Add juice from tomato can, then add each tomato in the can one at a time, squeezing in your hand to break apart, throwing out the greenish, hard core of each one. Rinse the can with water and add that water to the pot. Add the vegetable stock, and bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

imageLadle into bowls, serve, and enjoy! Keep soup up to one week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer in a tightely sealed mason jar.

 

Note: I always try to buy organic everything because I like to avoid chemicals entering my body as much as possible. Buying whole tomatoes in a can means they have only been processed once, unlike diced or crushed tomatoes which are processed twice or more. This way they maintain more of their nutrients, and we always want more nutrients.

 

 

Button and Wild Mushroom Soup

This "creamy" vegan mushroom soup tastes better than traditional
This “creamy” vegan mushroom soup tastes better than traditional

 

I used to hate mushrooms. Their texture was weird to me, and I wasn’t too keen on their strong, earthy taste. Today I have grown to absolutely love them, but I find myself surrounded by people who still have a hate on for the flavourful fungi. This soup is my attempt to convince even those the most fearful of mushrooms to give them a chance. And it usually works…at least until the bowl is gone.

 

I would like to note that the key to the flavour and richness of this soup lies in the use of a variety of mushrooms. In this recipe I use button, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms, but essentially the sky’s the limit in terms of different types. Use as many kinds of mushrooms as you like. I saved some of each type to slice and add in at the end, but you can leave the soup as is after it’s blended if you prefer.

The more kinds of mushrooms, the more lfavourful the soup will be
The more kinds of mushrooms, the more flavourful the soup will be

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 medium cooking onion, diced

5 cups of a variety of button, cremini and shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup sweet white wine like Vidal or Riesling

1 carton (900ml) no salt added veggie stock

2-4 sprigs of thyme

1 carton (945ml) organic almond milk (should only have 5 ingredients max)

salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes (Optional)

Old white cheddar, grated

Truffle oil

Fresh thyme

 

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add onions, some fresh ground salt & pepper, and cook until translucent, 3 minutes. Add all of the mushrooms, or save 1 cup if you like sliced mushroom pieces in your soup.image

 

Place the thyme sprigs on top of the mushrooms, turn up the heat to medium high, and allow the mushrooms to begin sticking to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the white wine and stir, pulling away all of the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom. Reduce for 3 minutes. Add veggie stock, almond milk, and more ground salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes.

 

Strining Mushroom SoupBlend soup with a handheld blender. If using a food processor or smoothie blender, make sure you let the soup cool first. Once soup is blended, you have the option to pass it through a fine sieve placed over a bowl to make the soup less gritty.

If you saved some sliced mushrooms, heat a bit of olive oil in the empty soup pot, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the soup back into the pot and heat through.

Garnish with grated old white cheddar, a sprig of thyme, or some truffle oil (or all three), serve, and enjoy.