Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashews

Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashews - a simple super healthy meal with broccoli, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, cashews and rice or noodles
Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashews

I love the colours in stir fry dishes.  This is one recipe where the vegetables are the stars of the plate.  Crisp, vibrant colours of red, green, orange, yellow; they are a feast for our eyes and taste amazing! They are incredibly versatile and easy to change up based on what is in season, on sale or what ever strikes you to add.  There are never any left overs and everyone has a satisfying meal made up of more than half a plate of vegetables and protein rich cashews, completed with rice, barley, noodles, or alternative.

Vegetables cup up for stir fry

There is a knack to making stir fries and it is all in the prep. Wash and chop all the ingredients and have everything ready right beside your wok.  Have your sauce mixture ready to go in and start heating up the pan.  Once the cooking begins, dinner will be on the table in less than 10 minutes.

Stainless Steel Wok with stir fry carrots

I love my heavy stainless steel wok.  It heats so well and so evenly.  I recommend stainless steel or cast iron pans.  It was an investment many years ago and was money well spent.  Many woks are not suitable for high heat cooking and are coated with a non stick coating which can have health risks. For more information on non stick cookware see the guidelines from Cancer.ca

Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashews (Serves 4)

4 cups broccoli florets

4 carrots chopped

1 red pepper chopped (or mix of colours to make approx 1 pepper)

10 mushrooms

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated ginger

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup vegetable stock

2 tsp corn starch

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 tsp rice vinegar

2 pinches red pepper flakes

1/2 cup roasted cashews

Rice, barley, quinoa or noodles of choice

Directions:  In a small bowl stir together vegetable stock, corn starch, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  Set aside while you wash and chop all the vegetables.  Heat coconut oil in wok over medium high heat and add garlic and ginger.  Cook until fragrant.  In order add carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers and cook, stirring the vegetables gently so that they cook quickly, remaining firm and with bright colours.  Add stock mixture which will thicken, glaze and coat the vegetables. Top with cashews.  Serve with rice, barley, quinoa or noodles of choice.

This recipe is adapted from Whole Foods Recipes.

Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans

Bowl of granola with pears, pecans and cranberries, large container of granola in background
Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans

There is something about cardamom that is hard to describe.  At first it is a spicy peppery taste that makes me think of savoury dishes, but then there is a hint of sweet and a nut taste too.  It is a unique powerful spice that is very aromatic.  I love it.  I keep finding more and more ways to use it.  Cardamom is delicious in coffee, hot chocolate, warm milk or of course chai tea.  It is wonderful in combination with apples, pears and oranges and it goes very well with ginger and cinnamon.  Much more commonly used outside of North America in India, Asia, Sweden and Finland, it isn’t a spice I know very well, but I am looking forward to trying more recipes with cardamom as it makes dishes extra special.

This granola is extra special.  Spicy, sweet, crunchy, nutty; it is one terrific bowl of cereal that is hearty and satisfying.  Perfect for busy mornings, it provides a nutritious breakfast that is completely delicious.  Filled with toasty oats, coconut, pecans, just enough sweetness and lovely warm spice from cardamom, cinnamon and ginger it is great for cold winter mornings. I usually make a batch on the weekend to last for a couple of breakfasts throughout the next week or so.

Speaking of batch cooking and planning ahead, that is my January project. There is something about the New Year that makes me want to get organized.  Determined to do meal plans, cook ahead, and organize the kitchen it helps us to save money and time, reduce our food waste, plan to include lots of colours and increase variety in our diets. Make ahead breakfasts, crock pot dinners, batch cooking – it all just helps so much to reduce stress and provide healthy food for our busy family even on the most hectic of days.

Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans 

Makes 12 servings (1/2 cup)

4 cups oats (Large Flake or Old Fashioned Oats) *

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup pecans

1 cup pear sauce (or apple sauce)*

2 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup brown sugar*

1 tsp ground cardamom

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees and prepare cooking pans by lining them with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, mix together oats, coconut and pecans and set aside.  In a small saucepan mix together pear sauce, oil, brown sugar, spices and salt.  Heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Pour sauce mixture into oats and stir well.  Spread out onto prepared pans.  Bake for approx 45 minutes until toasty.  Stir every 15 minutes and add the dried cranberries during the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool completely and store in a jar. Makes approx 6 cups granola.

*To make gluten free ensure gluten free oats are used.

*To make pear sauce, wash pears, core and chop.  Add to small saucepan with a little water and cook on low until tender.  Mash or blend.

*Substitute 1/4 cup honey or 1/4 cup maple syrup if desired.

 

 

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

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Bright, refreshing, tangy; I just love citrus.  It is like sunshine. By using the whole orange (zest, pith, sections, and all), the fresh flavour shines through this warm comforting oatmeal dish.
 The steel cut oats soaked in milk become tender overnight and mixed with carrots, coconut, walnuts and spiced with warm ginger and cinnamon this healthy bowl will make your morning a little easier. Especially since you have mixed it up the night before, the only work in the morning is to pop it in the oven.
 Make ahead breakfasts simply make mornings more pleasant and start everyone off with a healthy breakfast before heading out the door. Stay tuned for more make ahead breakfast ideas!

Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Oranges, Carrots and Walnuts

1 cup steel cut oats*

2 cups 1% milk*

1 large egg*

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup grated carrots

1/4 cup coconut

1 whole orange (pureed in blender)

zest of an additional orange

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Butter an over proof dish that is approx 8 x 8.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and pour into prepared dish.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.  In the morning remove cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until browned, toasty on top and cooked through.  Serve warm with milk or yogurt.

*to make this recipe vegan, use almond or coconut milk for the 1% milk, coconut oil for the butter and a flax egg instead of the egg

*to make gluten free, ensure gluten free oats are used.  Oats are naturally gluten free, however can come in contact with gluten during processing.

 

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries
Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

Ever since I saw a video of this simple recipe on my Instagram feed I couldn’t wait to try it.  But in the midst of holiday traditional baking and festivities I didn’t get to it until New Years Eve.  It comes together so quickly, literally, it takes 5 minutes to prepare and then sets in the freezer for an hour.  It is amazing, with just the right amount of sweetness from maple syrup, tartness from the raspberries wrapped in smooth, silky, rich chocolate that you have made yourself.

I have been experimenting with making chocolate for a while.  Various recipes using cocoa butter, coconut oil, honey, cocoa powder etc with varying results.  I like that this recipe includes some nut butter and nut milk and makes a soft chocolate that is a delicious fudge like dessert. A perfect sweet treat that is easy to vary based on seasonal fruit or what ever combination you like.

Although my family tells me they could eat this everyday, it is luxurious enough for special occasions.  When liquid it would pour nicely into molds, such as hearts for Valentine’s Day or other shapes for other special days. Packaged up in a special box, what a lovely gift it would be.

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

100 grams cocoa butter *

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cashew butter or other nut butter

1/4 cup coconut milk or almond milk

fresh raspberries

Prepare small cookie sheet or pan by lining with parchment paper.  In a small saucepan melt the cocoa butter with the maple syrup.  When melted whisk in cocoa powder until well blended.  Add nut butter and coconut milk and whisk until combined.  Pour onto parchment paper and spread out a little (I simply tilted the pan to spread evenly)  Sprinkle with fresh raspberries and freeze for one hour.  Cut into pieces and serve.  Store in the refrigerator.

*For those in the Metro Vancouver area, cocoa butter is available at Galloways.

This recipe is from feedfeed as part of Edible Holiday Gifts.

Natural Sprinkles for Cookies and Treats

Natural Sprinkles for Cookies and Treats
Natural Sprinkles
Everyone loves cookies and for special occasions decorated cookies are extra special.  However, if you look at the ingredient list on that jar of sprinkles and are not sure about all those colours and chemicals what other options are there? Chocolate chips, melted chocolate to dip, coarse sugar, powdered sugar, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, hemp seeds, chia seeds can all be fun.
When I tried this freeze dried fruit I noticed in the packages some of the dried fruit had become powdery – perfect for sprinkles! The fruit is very dry and crispy so simply crush up what you need. What do you use for to decorate your cookies?

Lentil Tacos

Lentil Tacos
Lentil Tacos

I have made a very conscious effort to include more lentils and other pulses in my cooking. There are just so many healthy benefits: they’re high in protein, high in fibre, high in iron and many other vitamins and minerals.  Lentils are also very budget friendly – the cost of the protein in the meal will only be dollar or two.  Through experimentation I have found pulses really work with many different herb and spice combinations, and it is easy to mix things up to avoid ho hum dinners!

I remember the first time I made these my family just loved them! Tacos in any form are such a fun, kid-friendly meal and great for casual family style dining where all the fixings are on the table and everyone builds their own. These are so delicious, with all the familiar flavours of tacos, yet the lentils make a lighter, healthier,  fibre rich meal.  Paired with a fresh green salad, this easy dinner is on the table in only 40 minutes. I usually make a double recipe so that I cook once and then have extra filling for another meal of taco’s, burritos, or other mexican flavoured dish. The filling freezes well.  Simply defrost, heat and serve. This meal is gluten free and vegan (with a dairy free cheese).

 Lentil Tacos

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp chili powder

1 cup brown lentils (rinsed and drained)

340 ml strained tomatoes

340 ml water or more

salt and pepper

 10 Taco Shells *see note about TBHQ

 Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute a few minutes and then add garlic.  Cook until garlic is fragrant.  Turn heat down to low and add cumin, coriander, paprika and chili powder.  Cook a minute or two.  Add lentils, strained tomatoes and water.  Simmer until lentils are cooked, adding more water if needed.  Once the lentils are cooked (about 25 minutes) continue to simmer to thicken to desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

 Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Place taco shells on cookie sheet and heat for about 5-7 minutes until warm.

 Assemble taco’s with filling, lettuce, tomatoes or salsa, cheese and avocado. (vegan cheese product to make vegan)

TBHQ – When you shop for taco shells, check the ingredient list.  One of the ingredients may be TBHQ.  TBHQ is tertiary butylhydroquinone, a synthetic antioxidant that is used to extend the shelf life of packaged foods. It is to keep the fat in the product from becoming rancid.  There are good qualtiy brands of taco shells on the market that do not have TBHQ and also have a very reasonable best before date.

Candy Free Gingerbread House

Candy Free Gingerbread House
Candy Free Gingerbread House
When we heard about a local gingerbread house competition, my kids got excited, planning on buying lots and lots of their favourite candies to decorate the house.  I knew I had a tough negotiation ahead of me when we brought the kit home.  I wanted it to be a family project, stretch all of our imaginations, inspire creativity, be lots of fun, but, do something different – make it with NO candy.
Is it an oxymoron to make a gingerbread house with NO candy?  Is it scroogish? Would it be boring with out all the bright colours and shiny sugary surfaces?  They came around when we started to talk about alternatives we could use to make it interesting, creative, and fun: popcorn, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, fruit leathers etc.  Finally everyone agreed and we set to work!
Pinterest was a big help with lots of creative ideas.  Everyone in our family helped and yes it was lots of fun, complete with nibbling and munching on the various material to build and decorate our house.  I am proud of what we came up with AND we won 1st prize in the competition. Even the kids agreed it was lots of fun.  Are you making a gingerbread house this year?

Dark Chocolate with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Dark Chocolates with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

These are so easy to make and fun to assemble! They are just perfect for homemade treats to gift to family, friends, neighbours and teachers.  After making the first batch with my kids, they made them on thier own to sell in small packages at the school Christmas Craft Fair.  They were a huge hit and sold out so quickly we wish we had made more!

The variations in flavours are endless, although this combination tastes especially seasonal. Have fun experimenting and let me know what you come up with.

Chocolate is a treat but does provide nutritional benefits as well.  Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which are phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and antioxidant properties.  Dark chocolate varies in cocoa content and generally the higher the better, so aim for 70% or more.

 Dark Chocolate with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Fine quality extra dark chocolate (this one is 72%) cut into smallish squares or pieces
Hazelnuts, chopped
Candied ginger, very finely chopped
Sweetened dried cranberries, finely chopped
Fine sea salt

Heat oven to 150 degrees (on my oven, this is one of the keep warm settings). Anything over 100 will work as chocolate melts at about 90 degrees.  Put a silicone mat on a cookie tray or pan and arrange chocolate leaving about 1 inch space between each piece.  Depending on the size of the chocolate and your oven temperature it will melt quickly (mine took about 5 minutes).  Remove from oven once chocolate is melted.  Sprinkle chocolate with hazelnuts, ginger and cranberries and top with a few grains of salt.  Cool until set and chocolate is hardened, generally a couple of hours, however the freezer works in case of emergencies. Gently lift from silicone mat (you may need to lift mat up and peel them off).

Caramel Cheesecake

Caramel Cheesecake - This award winning healthy cheesecake is made with Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. Dates add a lovely light caramel flavour and sweeten it so no added sugar or sweetener is needed.
Caramel Cheesecake

At dinner I mentioned to my family I had made cheesecake for dessert.  Cheesecake!  It is not like me to make a rich dessert, especially on a weeknight and they know it.  My son, immediately suspicious asked “Really?” Is it really cheesecake?  You see, they know I am always up to something, trying to add nutritious things into, well, everything.  When they tasted it they still couldn’t believe it, even though it tastes like cheesecake, but not as heavy as a typical cheesecake.  My son asked, is there anything in this cheesecake that doesn’t belong in a cheesecake? Does it have nuts?  Beans?  Spinach?  They know me. My daughter asked for a second piece.  Finally my husband asked “Does it have cheese in it?

This cheesecake is made with greek yogurt and the only sweetness is from moist Medjool dates which also add a lovely caramel flavour. It is a simple dessert which comes together quickly, yet is completely delicious and impressive!

Caramel Cheesecake

Prepared graham cracker or gingersnap cookies crust in buttered 9 inch spring form pan.

8 Medjool dates, pitted

2 cups greek yogurt

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place dates and 1/2 cup yogurt in food processor or blender and process until dates are blended will into yogurt.  This can take some time with stopping and scraping down periodically).  Add remaining yogurt and blend until completely smooth.  Add eggs, vanilla extract, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt, blending well after each addition. Gently pour into prepared crust and bake 30-35 minutes until set.  Garnish with thinly sliced ripe pears and pomegranate seeds.

I entered this recipe into a recipe competition with Tree Island Yogurt AND took away the prize for best dessert!

 

Buckwheat Pilaf (dressing or stuffing)

Whether you call it dressing, stuffing or simply a pilaf, this buckwheat dish is a wonderful addition to a special occasion dinner or any meal where you would typically have a grain based dish. It is vegan and gluten free. It can be made a day or two ahead, kept refrigerated and heated when needed.

Buckwheat is not a “wheat” at all or even a grain.  It is a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.  It is an excellent choice for a naturally gluten free dish and a terrific alternative to rice or other grains.  Buckwheat is very nutritious and has been shown to be beneficial in heart health and also in controlling blood glucose, making it a good choice for diabetes, pre diabetes and for everyone as part of a healthy diet. It is a good source of fiber and is a plant based source of high quality protein.

My Mom introduced us to buckwheat which she used in Poland where it is much more common than in North America.  To this day, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner doesn’t seem the same to me without her delicious buckwheat stuffing!
Buckwheat Dressing
Buckwheat Dressing
If you have left over bread it is easy to adjust this recipe to include it and perhaps makes it a true dressing.  Simply cut stale or dry bread into small cubes, add it to the dressing, adding an addition 1/2 cup of mushroom broth. Depending on how much bread you are adding you may want to add additional herbs.  Press into pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Buckwheat Dressing or Stuffing

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Gluten Free, Holiday, Vegan
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Buckwheat
  • 2 Cups Mushroom Broth
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, finely diced
  • 2 Ribs Celery, finely diced About 1 cup
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 100 Grams Chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 Tsp Sage, dried
  • 1/2 Tsp Thyme, dried
  • 1/2 Tsp Marjoram, dried
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt Or more to taste
  • 1/8 Tsp Pepper Or more to taste
  • Fresh sage leaves For garnish
  • 1 Tsp Olive oil To fry sage leaves

Variation: Adding Bread

  • 1/2 Loaf Bread, 2-3 days old Gluten free if preferred
  • 1/2 Cup Mushroom broth

Instructions

  1. Pick over buckwheat and remove any small stones.  Rinse and drain.  Add mushroom broth and buckwheat to a medium saucepan and cook on medium until most of the water is absorbed.  Turn off heat, cover and let sit covered until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  

    While buckwheat is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add onion, celery and garlic.  Cook a few minutes until vegetables are soft and getting some colour.  Add spices, chopped chestnuts, cooked buckwheat and dried cranberries.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.  

    Heat 1 tsp oil in small pan and quickly fry sage leaves.  Sprinkle on top.  

Variation: Adding Bread

  1. Preheat oven  to 350 degrees.  Cut bread into small cubes and add into mixture.  Pour extra broth in and mix well. Press into oven proof casserole dish or pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.