Category Archives: gluten free

Bringing your lunch to school or work

School started after Labour Day and this term I need to bring lunch 3 times a week. I can now relate to parents and the difficulty they have with their children in what to put in that lunch box, as I am that picky kid!!! I refuse to eat microwaved food, warm soup in a thermos is unappealing, only some sandwiches are ok, so it seems like there are not many options to bring. Sometimes I don’t feel like prepping food and want a fresh hot meal…there is no such thing around the school, so it is absolutely necessary for me to bring a lunch! I have meditated on the lunch idea and have the following observations and suggestions:

-Involve the child and allow them to choose the container in which they bring and eat their food in. I find this has a huge impact on how appealing I find my lunch, since my ideal is a white plate. However, there are transport and weight considerations when bringing a lunch, so the right container makes it all better. There is also the lunch box or bag- I have a Spongebob lunch bag

-Ask them to choose what leftover dinner foods they find appealing for their lunch. Food that is prepped at dinner time is a timesaver for packing lunch.

-Most importantly, find out what healthy food the child is enthusiastic or excited to eat. Involve them in preparing the food they want to eat. Many will try for pizza and other foods most parents find unhealthy. Those are not options. If you have a picky eater who is an aspiring food critic, it is time they learn some food prep skills. Mom or Dad are not short order cooks!

Here are my current packed lunch ideas that are edible room temperature, and are fairly nutritious to provide energy for focus:

greek salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, cucumber, green onion, fresh oregano, parsley, grilled haloumi cheese, olive oil and lemon juice

roast turkey with kale salad, and roasted sweet potato

quinoa salad with fresh herbs, and green veggies, boiled egg

I also pack fruit and a small sweet treat to round out the meal. Best wishes for lunch prep and healthy eating!

 

 

Recipe: Carrot, mint and date salad

My trip to Morocco was a unique experience in terms of culture and food. I will never forget the meals that came with many plates of salads, one of which was carrot salad. I am not a fan of raw carrots at all. However, once cooked and seasoned, I like carrots enough. This salad is inspired by the salads I had in Morocco and more recently by the opening of my friends’ restaurant Atlas.

5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of cumin to taste

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

honey to taste

handful of chopped fresh mint

5-6 pitted dates, chopped

Bring salted water to boil in a medium pot. Add carrots and boil for 6 minutes or until desired tenderness. Drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey and cumin. Add cooked carrots and dates, toss together gently and top with mint. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature

Recipe: Banana Chia Pudding

This summer my good friend K offered me a chia pudding cup. I never got around to eating it, so I asked her what it was made with and she said banana. The next time I came across some ripe bananas, I figured I would make my own banana chia pudding. I had full fat coconut milk on hand, so I mashed the banana, added coconut milk and Coconut Dream to make my chia pudding. I swirled in some strawberry jam as sweetener and found a tasty snack, or breakfast or alternative to yogurt. Chia seeds also have the added benefit of aiding digestion by moving through the intestines. I prefer whole chia seeds. However, this week, I showed a client how to make this pudding and found she had only ground chia seeds, so we made pudding with just banana and added coconut water as liquid with a touch of cinnamon plus maple syrup to sweeten. Quite pleasant tasting…

I am not going to include a photo of either forms of pudding as they actually look a bit like barf. Think of chia pudding as an alternative to yogurt or a tasty medicinal digestive aid, so give it a try. This is so easy to make that I will suggest you create your own recipe to suit your tastes:

3 tablespoons whole white chia seeds

1/2-1 whole mashed ripe banana

1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)-optional

1/4-1/2 cup non dairy milk of your choice or juice or coconut water

Mash banana in a medium bowl, stir in chia seeds, add liquid to create a pudding like consistency. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight, When ready to serve, stir again and add more liquid for desired consistency. Sweeten with jam, maple syrup or honey. Top with granola, nuts or fruit and enjoy,

Recipe: Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (harira)

I have seen harira soup mentioned a few times in magazines and cookbooks over the years. I tried it for the first time this spring in Morocco and loved it! I wanted to make it at home and was only motivated to do so as the weather started to cool off this fall. The harira I had in Morocco was made with beef, a bit of rice, served with dates and delicious little sweet crispy fried morsels of dough. I decided to make a vegetarian version, as I felt the spicing was bold and well suited to being a vegetarian soup. I also made the soup with fresh turmeric, an ingredient I only learned of when I took a 9 year friend to Caribbean Corner and she picked up the little roots and asked ‘what’s this?’ Fresh turmeric looks like dirty mini pieces of ginger and needs to be grated on a microplane for this soup. Be careful, turmeric leaves persistent yellow stains! If fresh turmeric is not easily available, use the powdered version. Fresh ginger is another key ingredient (powder will work too). Turmeric and ginger both have anti inflammatory properties. It is also best to use chickpeas made from dry, although a can will work if you desire. Serve this delicious soup topped with fresh chopped cilantro and parsley along with some dates…and crispy moroccan morsels…if I could find them!

1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked overnight in water with baking soda, then cooked until tender, see http://www.vivianlaw.ca/cook-beans-from-dry-skip-the-cans/ )

1 cup brown lentils

1 796 ml can diced tomatoes (puree if a smoother textured soup is desired)

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon powdered

1 small piece of fresh turmeric, finely grated or 1 teaspoon powdered

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch saffron

4 cups vegetable broth

pepper and lemon juice to taste

chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates for serving

In a large soup pot, melt butter and saute onion, celery, jalapeno and ginger over medium heat until softened. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add chickpeas. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy topped with chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates.

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential

 

Salad meals…we make our own

I have always wondered how a person could eat a salad for lunch or dinner, as it has always been an unsatisfying meal for me. I have ordered salads from all sorts of restaurants and specialized ‘healthy’ food places to feel disappointment in having a salad as a light lunch, never mind as dinner. A UK trainer friend shared the nutrition and healthy lifestyle tip of learning how to make your favourite food very well as a way of motivating yourself to cook. In my case of having a salad for a meal, the idea always sounded good, but it never worked until I started making lunch salads myself.

After a year of getting into the habit of having salads for lunch on a regular basis, I maintain it is best that you make your own to suit your own tastes, nutritional and digestive needs.  Salads are a great way to enjoy raw foods, in other words, natural, whole foods with the only processing being chopping. Selection of the raw foods makes a difference in digestion and energy levels when you pay attention, as every person is different. Here are some salads I have found be  satisfying meals:

pear arugula salad

Arugula and pear salad

Arugula pear salad with honey, shaved cheese and pecans: The combination of sweet, tart pear with the bite and slight bitterness of arugula is a classic combination. Dress the arugula leaves with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then top with sliced pear, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey then shaved grana padano cheese and pecans.

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro and lime

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro, lime and a sprinkling of string cheese

Mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken and mango: This salad is a fusion of several sources of inspiration. I ate the most delicious Mexican taco salad with slow cooked chicken at the San Francisco airport this year and I came home and wanted to make my own slow cooked chicken right away. Chili infused macadamia oil is a discovery I made in Hawaii a few years ago then mixed together with cilantro and lime from a farmer’s market for a most delicious, fresh salad dressing. This salad of chopped romaine and any other mixed greens on hand, is topped with green onion, sugar snap peas, cucumber, avocado, cilantro. Dressed with salt, pepper, a drizzle of chili infused macadamia oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, tossed and topped with slow cooked chicken, fresh mango pieces and a sprinkling of string cheese (just happened to have it on hand from a Lebanese store).

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

‘Greek’ salad topped with grilled halloumi cheese:

A Greek friend explained to me years ago that a greek salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I have taken creative liberty with this concept and my greek salad consists of romaine lettuce (other greens if available), green onion, cucumber, cherry tomato, chopped olives, fresh mint, parsley and oregano, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, tossed and served with grilled halloumi cheese.

I hope the salads I mention above look appealing and inspire you to create your own. What the salads have in common is a slightly longer list of fresh ingredients with flavour and the technique of salting the salad greens first (a key step in bringing out the flavour of the greens), drizzling with oil then citrus juice. Also works the same way with any other type of dressing. The possibilities in making your own salad combinations are unlimited in your choice of greens, other veggies or fruit, protein sources, flavourful  toppings like fresh herbs, cheese, olives, crunchy toppings like nuts or seeds. Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Chickpea pancakes

I have never been a fan of savoury breakfasts. However, the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine was full of various healthy eating ideas and one recipe that caught my interest was squash, leek, and chickpea pancakes. I made them this week and loved them! They remind me of one of my favourite Chinese appetizers, green onion pancakes, but healthier, since these pancakes are made with chickpea flour and also contain veggies. Having made them with both carrots and squash, I must say I prefer the taste and texture of the carrot pancake. Plus, I am curious to try this recipe as a sweet carrot pancake…(shallot and salt need to be omitted for that experiment)

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup water

1 egg

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt to taste

1 cup grated squash or carrot

1 shallot finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

plain yogurt and chopped parsley for serving

In a medium bowl, stir together chickpea flour and water, whisk in egg, olive oil, baking powder and salt. Let batter stand, as you cook the veggies.

In a oiled skillet over medium heat, saute shallots and squash until cooked through, about 2-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir cooked squash and shallot into chickpea batter (can be refrigerated overnight). Batter should have a thin, pourable consistency, add water if necessary.

Heat an oiled skillet (same one as above) over medium heat. Spoon 1/4 cupfuls of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles form in the pancakes, flip and cook until browned. Repeat until batter is finished, about 6-8 pancakes. Serve immediately topped with yogurt and chopped parsley. If you have any leftover pancakes, they can be refrigerated and heated up in the toaster (homemade toaster pancakes!)

 

chickpea pancake topped with yogurt and parsley

chickpea pancake topped with yogurt and parsley

Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato with Lemon Maple Dressing

Sweet potatoes are supposedly a ‘good’ carbohydrate with a lower glycemic index that most nutrition people will say is a healthy choice. However, I have never liked sweet potatoes very much as a carbohydrate choice on my plate, even as fries, as I generally do not find them to be satisfying. I have experienced some looks of incredulity amongst health conscious eaters when I announce I don’t really like sweet potatoes. I am changing my tune with this recipe I discovered  and made repeatedly the past 3 weeks. I was going to bring this dish for a potluck and it was so delicious I had to keep it for myself!!! This recipe caught my eye in the Ottolenghi cookbook and it is a form of sweet potato I will gladly eat anytime. I believe what converted me was the incredible blend of tastes and textures created with the maple syrup, lemon, sherry vinegar, raisins, chili, parsley, cilantro and pecans that elevate the sweet potato.

The tastiest sweet potatoes, with lemon maple dressing, parsley, cilantro, raisins and pecans

The tastiest sweet potatoes, with lemon maple dressing, parsley, cilantro, raisins and pecans

Roasted Sweet Potato with Lemon Maple Dressing

2-3 sweet potatoes, diced, leave the skin on

Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

For dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1-2 lemons

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

‘Garnish’:

2 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp chili flakes

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a rimmed baking dish, toss diced sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands. Roast sweet potatoes in the oven for approximately 30 min, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat before the potatoes become too soft, they require some bite to them to hold up to the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, maple syrup, sherry vinegar, cinnamon, ginger and olive oil. Adjust taste to your liking, as it is best a little tangy. Set aside.

Place chopped green onion in a large bowl. Add the roasted sweet potatoes while they are still hot, and mix well with dressing. Stir in chopped parsley, cilantro, chili flakes, raisins and pecans. Enjoy warm or at room temperature at a later time.

 

 

Recipe: Party Hummus by the Naked Label

Hummus is a snack I like to enjoy occasionally. There are many opinions on what needs to go into hummus to make it great. I posted a highly purist version without tahini a couple years ago. It took me a while to get to this recipe, as I have tested and absorbed so many hummus recipes over the years. I met the creator of this amazing hummus recipe, Briana Santoro by chance in Antigua early this year. She is a nutrition expert who has compiled a great cookbook Get Naked in The Kitchen with nutrition education, healthy recipes  and most importantly the book has my endorsement for great taste! Briana’s video here and others on her site are fun and highly educational:

http://thenakedlabel.com/blog/2014/03/24/best-hummus-recipe/

I watched this video a while ago and finally got around to making the hummus from memory today. It is so delicious I had to write this up right away and call it party hummus! Briana shares some secret ingredients in the video above. This is my version, hopefully I recalled her secret ingredients correctly (watch her video to know for sure) and I’ll add my chickpea and hummus strategies .

I stock only dry beans in my kitchen, as canned beans seem to give me digestive issues, and beans you cook yourself have better taste and texture. Chickpeas can be a bit tricky sometimes to get the right tenderness without losing the skins. Soaking overnight with baking soda really improves the cooking time and texture of chickpeas. In addition, the technique of blending the tahini with lemon juice first makes an extra smooth hummus in my experience.

Party Hummus from theNakedLabel.com

Soak 1 cup of dry chickpeas in a large bowl of water and 1 tsp of baking soda overnight or for 8 hours plus.

Rinse chickpeas, place in a large pot, and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook chickpeas until tender, 20-60 minutes or more, depending on your chickpeas. Rinse chickpeas, set aside.

3 tablespoons tahini

juice of one lemon

juice of one orange

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 tablespoons tamari

cumin and paprika to taste

salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blend together tahini with orange and lemon juice. Add garlic, chickpeas, olive oil and tamari process until smooth. Season with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, process until combined. Adjust seasoning to your taste, enjoy the hummus with crackers, veggies, or anything else you like for yourself or a party!

 

 

Silicon mini muffin mold for gluten free treats!

Gluten free is a food trend that seems to be staying with us. Avoiding ‘farinaceous’ foods for weight control has been suggested for many years, dating back to 1825 in the book, Physiology of Taste. I work with lots of people that choose to eat gluten free to improve health issues they experience. However, I love traditional baked goods and I can only consume gluten free foods I really enjoy, since I do not have celiac disease. This leaves me with the job of locating and creating gluten free foods that I can enjoy and share with you here.

I have been aggravated and disappointed on quite a few occasions while adapting a recipe with alternative flours. The biggest issue is a crumbly texture with a recent most frustrating incident of ricotta pancakes falling apart while I flipped them! I had already conveniently added too much sugar, so I pressed the remainder of the batter into my silicon mini muffin mold:

 

magic silicon mini muffin mold!

magic silicon mini muffin mold!

The ricotta and coconut flour batter for pancakes was baked into mini cheesecakes. They were tasty in a healthy sort of way and a lot more appealing than a crumbled pancake!

Coconut macaroons usually are a gluten free option. I tried a vegan version that was quite crumbly, barely held together and was very difficult to create any shape with. Again, the silicon muffin mold came to the rescue for a perfectly formed and browned coconut macaroon! The key is the mold is non stick and allows you to press an otherwise slightly crumbly mixture into a pleasing shape that holds together once baked. This tool may help enhance the success of a recipe you may want to adapt into a gluten free version. My recommendation is to try recipes that have less than one cup of flour to start.

Here is an easy recipe for coconut macaroons that are easy to put together and quite delicious:

2 1/2 cups of unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/2-2/3 cup of sugar

1-2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract or grated lemon zest

pinch of salt

Preheat over to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Add shredded coconut and mix well with your hands. Spoon and press coconut mixture into the silicon mini muffin mold to the top of each cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or desired brownness. Cool and enjoy! Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

 

Recipe: Chia Pudding

I have tried a few chia pudding recipes and found them to be lacking in the taste department and wondered how the name pudding could be applied to the recipes. While in London, my great friend K bought me a coconut chia pudding from Le Pain Quotidien despite my reluctance. This pudding was delicious!! We looked up the recipe and I tested it as soon as I returned home. There are only 2 ingredients to work with to your liking, canned coconut milk and chia seeds. Coconut milk contains healthy medium chain fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids are found in chia seeds. In addition, this pudding feels like a dessert without any added sugar.

For one serving (use a ratio of 1 part chia seeds to 4 parts coconut milk to make your desired quantity)

1 tablespoon chia seeds

4-5 tablespoons canned coconut milk (full fat tastes best)

In a small bowl, stir together chia seeds and coconut milk. Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour. Stir, add water if needed, for desired consistency. Top with chopped strawberries, shredded coconut, fruit of your choice, or passion fruit butter for an ultimate rich taste. Enjoy for breakfast, as a snack or dessert.

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