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!

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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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Wholesome ingredients make this better for you than the stuff you had as a kid, and is easy to make
Wholesome ingredients make this better for you than the stuff you had as a kid, and is easy to make

I used to serve at one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world, and man were they good at making, well, everything. People were always surprised when we told them everything was made from scratch and to order…except for the soup. The soup came in a bag and while still delicious had a million ingredients. I always thought this was a little strange, because soups are so so easy to make.

The following recipe is a simpler re-creation of one of the soups from this restaurant…it was the soup we would sneak into mugs and hide in the corner and drink it was so good. Little did we know that we were drinking to our health, as tomatoes are high in antioxidants, have been proven to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and are high in Potassium and Vitamin’s A & C. My Creamy Tomato Basil Soup has wholesome, real ingredients, and is the perfect soup for pairing with a wintery day and a nice glass of Chianti.

Ingredients

2 tbps olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 small cooking onion, chopped

1 leek, sliced

2.5l canned peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes (I use the big can from Costco)

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup heavy red wine

3 tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup 35% cream

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat, then add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for 1 minute. Add leek and continue to cook until soft and onions are translucent, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes one at a time, discarding the hard, green tip of each one as you go, then dumping the juices in when done.

Turn the heat up to medium high and let mixture come to a boil. Add the vegetable stock and wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the basil, reduce heat to medium low, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Turn to low and stir in cream. Allow soup to heat through, and serve!

This Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is delicious when topped with fresh basil, feta cheese, old cheddar, parm, pine nuts, or any combination of the above. While the amount of cream in the soup is small in comparison to volume, you may want to opt for a lighter or vegan option instead. Should you go this route, remember the soup is highly acidic, so to avoid any milk or dairy substitute from curdling, sprinkle 1-2 tsps baking soda over the soup and stir in. This will neutralize the acid and make any cream replacement work.

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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!