Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 minute Quinoa and Kale Soup (that tastes like Lentil Soup)

My last post discussed my sister Anna's traditional birthday meal of hummus, tahina, falafel and lentil soup. We never waver, its always on the menu. I love lentil soup so much -- there are no words. I have made my own in the past and even when flavor wise the dish works, I always find myself curling into a ball with abdominal pain within an hour. Beans and legumes typically really upset my stomach, as much as I love them. I know I'm not the only one with this issue so tonight when I accidentally created a similar tasting soup that was legume and lentil FREE, I knew I had to share. This soup is: 

  • VEGAN 
If that doesn't have you intrigued, did I mention this soup features quinoa and kale? Arguably two of the healthiest foods on the planet! Can you say awesome? 

I made this soup because I wanted, no I NEEDED, to eat some turmeric. Its the beginning of my seasonal allergy season and turmeric is my savior. It clears up my symptoms in less than an hour. I had planned to make yellow rice with ground turmeric but decided that I couldn't be bothered to spend that much time on dinner. So I threw some quinoa flakes, water, spices, coconut cream, coconut oil, olive oil, lemon, garlic, kale and grated zucchini into a pot, and heated them to create a thick and creamy yellow and green soup. It instantly reminded me of my favorite lentil soup so I served it in the same way -- with a drizzle of evoo, a lemon wedge, and some hot sauce. This soup is so good. 

It is undeniably similar to lentil soup but most likely won't upset your stomach if you're sensitive to legumes like me. Its just as healthy and delicious. Give it a try if you've given up on beans and lentils! 

10 Minute Quinoa and Kale Soup 
  • 3-4 cups water or stock of choice (vegetable stock etc.) 
  • 1.5 cups quinoa flakes 
  • 1/2 tsp virgin coconut oil 
  • 1.5 tsp evoo 
  • 1/4 white onion, diced small 
  • 2 leaves black or green kale, chopped small 
  • 1/2 large zucchini, shredded with a cheese grater 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder 
  • 1/4 tsp oregano (optional) 
  • Squeeze of lemon 
  • Big pinch of pink salt 
  • OPTIONAL extra spices: saffron, paprika or sumac to taste 
Add everything to a small pot and stir well to combine evenly. Heat over high heat to bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until everything is yellow and thick and creamy (at least 10 minutes to ensure the quinoa flakes are cooked through thoroughly). If you like your soup thinner, add as much stock or water as you like and taste. If you need to add more spices and oil to compensate for the extra liquid, add and heat for a couple minutes longer.

OPTIONAL to Serve: Top your bowl of soup with a wedge of lemon, a dash of hot sauce, a pinch of Paprika and/or sumac, and a drizzle of evoo. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the soup before eating.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hummus Wraps (gluten-free, vegan, no chickpeas)

Last night my family celebrated my big sister's birthday in the only way we seem to know how -- with lots of hummus, tahina, falafel, lentil soup and other mezes, and lemon meringue pie for dessert. No one is exactly sure when this tradition started, but its solid as a rock. We've been ordering in for Anna's birthday for as long as I can remember from the same restaurant. No one's sure if the food is outstanding or just nostalgic at this point. Either way, its always great.

I had birthday traditions as well -- for years I would order in chow mein from our favourite Chinese restaurant. Once I realized I was allergic to soy and gluten intolerant that tradition halted.

I absolutely love hummus and I've been lucky enough to travel abroad and enjoy some of the best out there. I make no claims that my recipe today is either authentic or the best of the best, but its pretty delicious, pretty healthy and dead simple to make.

This is not a traditional recipe mainly because I don't use chickpeas to make it. Don't get me wrong, I love chickpeas, but they often really upset my stomach. I find white beans much easier to digest so I opted for those instead. The result is still very good so give it a try if you have a can kicking around. I also chose to use raw sesame tahini instead of roasted tahini in this recipe. I think I prefer the flavour of it and the raw version is a healthier choice. Feel free to use either.

Since hummus makes such lovely sandwiches (and since I no longer eat bread) I decided to wrap some of it up in some raw savoy cabbage leaves with some cucumber, tomato and hot sauce. 

These wraps are healthy, vegan, gluten-free and nut-free. They make a delicious light lunch or snack.  If you don't like cabbage but still want to enjoy this hummus in a gluten-free context, I also love adding hummus to saffron rice or with raw or roasted vegetables! Its such a versatile dish, it can be enjoyed in countless ways.

White Bean Hummus
  • 2 cans great northern beans, 1/4 cup brine reserved (I used Eden Organic which packs beans with kombu seaweed instead of salt, making the beans easier to digest)
  • pink salt to taste (more than you'd expect is required if you use unsalted canned beans)
  • lemon juice (I used about 3/4 of a lemon but start with 1/2 a lemon and add more or less to your taste)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1-2 tsp cumin (to taste)
  • garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp evoo (optional)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup raw sesame tahini (add to your taste) 
Reserve 1/4 cup of the bean brine. Rinse your beans until they aren't super foamy. Add to a food processor along with garlic, lemon, tahini, brine, cumin. Blend until smooth and thick. Keep processor on blend while you drizzle in the evoo through the spout, then the water. Taste. Add more lemon and blend if its not tangy enough. Add garlic powder (as much as you want) and blend well. Transfer to an airtoght container and store in the fridge. Makes a large amount of hummus.

Hummus Wraps
  • Savoy cabbage leaves, washed and dried
  • White bean hummus (as much as you want)
  • tomatoes, chopped small
  • cucumber, diced small
  • Frank's red hot or sriracha

Arrange cabbage leaves on a plate. Add hummus to the center of each. Top with tomatoes, cucumber and a few dashes of hot sauce. Eat like tacos.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Crab" Cakes with Green Tartar Sauce (Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

I used to really enjoy deep fried and greasy meals like Fish N Chips, and crab cakes with remoulade or tartar sauce. I don't eat fish anymore, but as a vegan I wanted to create something comparable to crab cakes to enjoy. I have seen many recipes for vegan crab cakes using hearts of palm but I had another idea -- artichokes and chickpeas...

The inspiration for these comes from the classic vegan fake tuna salad recipe -- smashed chickpeas. I love the tuna-like flavour and texture of smashed chickpea salad and I thought it would work really nicely in this recipe. What I didn't want was for these cakes to be too dry or too firm, which can happen with chickpeas. Crab cakes have a lovely soft interior and crunchy exterior...So do my little vegan cakes.
Despite their crispy crunchy and golden exterior these vegan crab cakes are neither breaded nor fried. This is just the end result of baking my "crab" patties. Its almost magic...I created this texture by combining grated zucchini with chickpeas and artichokes (I steamed frozen artichoke hearts) in my food processor. Pulse pulse pulse and you get a chunky mixture you can use to hand-form delicate fishy patties. All the happens next is you bake the cakes in a roaring hot oven to get a crispy exterior and soft interior. Easy.
What crab cake would be complete without a creamy sauce for dipping? 
For dips I used some delicious organic ketchup and my own Green Tartar Sauce. This tartar sauce is a little unconventional and slightly healthier than ordinary tartar sauce. It is a delightful combination of avocado, soy-free vegan mayo, dill, garlic and chopped pickles. So delicious. You need to try this recipe.

The vegan crab cakes themselves are quite low in fat if you are on a low fat diet. The whole batch uses only 2 tsps of olive oil. The dip is obviously not fat free but feel free to just use ketchup instead, they'll still taste delicious.

For the Vegan Crab Cakes:
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 zucchini roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cooked artichoke hearts (not preserved, I used frozen and steamed them)
  • 1 tsp dulse or kelp flakes
  • 2-3 tsp evoo
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.5 tsp dried dill
  • squeeze of lemon or orange juice
  • big pinch of salt (I used pink salt but sea salt is a good alternative)
Add everything to a food processor and pulse until you have mixture that resembles chunky tuna salad. Form into little patties and bake in a 400F oven until lightly brown on top. Very carefully flip them over one by one and return to the oven to brown well on both sides. Serve with organic ketchup and Green Tartar Sauce (recipe follows).
Green Tartar Sauce:
  • 1 small ripe avocado, mashed until smooth
  • 2 tbsp soy-free vegenaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 0.5 of a dill pickle, chopped finely
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp evoo
  • 1 tsp orange juice or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water

Add all ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well. Use as tartar sauce for your vegan crab cakes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Healthy Key Lime Pie

Spring. Living in Canada, you come to truly adore the changing of the seasons. Its f#$%in cold for a big chunk of the year so when grass peeks its way out from under the snow, people break out their flip flops. I wish I was joking. Generally with the first signs of Spring (a few days above zero, a day above 10 degrees (!), sunshine) people dress as if Spring is in full swing. It can be a little ridiculous, but also encouraging in a weird way. Think t-shirts in 5 degree weather...Me, I bake.

Today was a beautiful day, Saturday, and I spent it working from home -- a familiar story these days. By "working" I mean working for my clients and working on this blog. I have to be honest, I have been slacking a little with Baking Backwards. I take food photos weekly for one of my clients now for their social accounts and by the time I take a moment to shoot my own creations I'm tapped out of inspiration and my photos start to look just "ok" -- not great to me. When I woke up today I went for a run and committed to the idea that I would come home, bake something crazy and try my best to at least style the photos. Amazingly I did it!

 I am a big fan of moody food photography. I love black backdrops and bright food paired together in gloomy lighting. Hence, today's photos. Have ever heard of Linda Lomelino? I really love her food photography style. Everything she shoots looks so elegant and mysterious, not to mention delicious as f#$%.

My pie today was a bit of a tricky subject. I feel like the lovely mellow green colour of the filling was lost by my camera. It really is a pastel green but not as faint as it appears in these photos. You'll have to make this delicious pie to see for yourself!

Today's recipe is as tasty as it is healthy. Its full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, vegan protein, and good fats. The pie filling has two super healthy hidden ingredients -- avocado and...CAULIFLOWER! Yes, cauliflower. Strange sounding I know, but trust me this filling is so creamy and delicious. The crust is very healthy as well featuring whole buckwheat groats, raw cacao powder, dates, figs, olive oil and coconut oil. The whole dessert is naturally sweetened with dried fruit, stevia and maple syrup. No refined sugar for me. It is creamy as hell but totally vegan. The healthy shortcrust is chewy, chocolatey and very sturdy meaning you can eat it out of your hand instead of needing a plate.

If you like key lime pie but are looking for a healthy alternative, this recipe is for you. No guilt required at all.

Chocolate Crust:
  • 1 cup raw buckwheat
  • 3-4 dried figs
  • 3-4 medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of stevia or a couple drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1/4 cup water
Add everything but water to food processor and pulse till evenly crumbly. Add water, just enough to moisten the dough and blend. Wet your hands and press the dough into a short crust pie dish. Bake in a 400 F oven until firm.

Key Lime Filling:
  • 2.5 cups steamed and cooled cauliflower florets
  • 1/2-2/3cup fresh lime juice
  • Big pinch of pink salt
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 1.5cup ripe avocado flesh, not mashed
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp liquid sweetener (I used raw honey because I consume it but if you are a strict vegan substitute agave or coconut nectar or brown rice syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Puree everything until totally smooth. Taste!!! Add extra stevia as you need it to sweeten it to your taste. Spread into baked shell evenly. Chill in the freezer for 1-2 hours then store in the fridge. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)

Growing up I ate a lot of mac and cheese. I mean A LOT. It was possibly my favourite meal ever. I am well aware that mac and cheese can mean many different things to different people -- from a neon orange creation out of a box to a truffle laced creamy taste sensation at a fancy restaurant -- and everything in between, I'm sure. Today's recipe is a veganized version of my favourite mac and cheese interpretation -- my mom's baked mac and cheese. 

My mom does not cook often. She doesn't really enjoy it. My dad loves to cook so he made most of my meals as a kid. My mom made a lot of sandwiches, delicious holiday meals and a few key dinners like old school mac and cheese. The kind that's crispy on top, uses big noodles (fussilli or penne with no macaroni in sight), real cheese, milk...the works. Though my mom rarely cooked dinner, it was meals like her mac and cheese that I associate with my childhood. Definitely my favourite meal as a kid. 

As a grown up, I no longer consume dairy products (I am mostly vegan and I am lactose intolerant now). I do however miss the flavour and texture of real cheese. 

You may have noticed I have recently created many cheesy vegan dishes like this lasagna, this pizza, and this burger pizza...What can I say, old habits die hard. I have made many vegan "cheeses" over the years, some good some terrible. Today's recipe doesn't exactly involve one. I made this mac and cheese recipe for me and my husband last weekend on a whim. All last week I had been really enjoying a cauliflower puree (created to mimic the taste and texture of ricotta cheese) on everything from zucchini noodles to homemade pizza. It really worked with everything. It worked so well that I decided to add some sweet potato into the mix to achieve a cheddar colour and bake it with pasta. I'm so glad I did.

This is the best vegan mac and cheese I have ever made to date. It reminds me so much of my mom's real mac and cheese in flavour and texture. Best of all its vegan, gluten-free, loaded with vegetables and fairly low in fat. I attribute the stickiness of the cheese sauce to the pasta water I added to it to make everything hold together better, don't skip the step! 

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)
  • 1 bag rotini or penne or rigatoni (brown rice pasta)
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tbsp evoo
Cheesy Sauce:
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato
  • 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 cup water or non dairy milk (unsweetened plain!)
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp or more garlic powder
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Black pepper (optional)
Boil you pasta in salted water with a dash of oil and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water after the water goes cloudy.  Cook the pasta till all dente (not soft because its going in the oven). Strain and set aside.

Steam your vegetables together until soft. Add to a blender along with other sauce ingredients and puree until totally smooth and creamy. Add more milk or water if necessary and be careful to stop and scrape the sides and blend to ensure its all smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Pour your noodles and the rest of the sauce into a big pot along with your al dente pasta and stir together well. Preheat oven to 430F and scrape your pasta into a parchment paper lined lasagne pan, spread out to the sides evenly. Make topping.

Crunchy Topping:
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved 1/4 cup sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 tomato, chopped small
  • Evoo

Add everything but tomato, evoo and paprika to a blender and pulse to make a rough thick paste. Add in dollops on top of your noodles and spread out like you would spread frosting. Arrange tomato pieces evenly on top and drizzle with a tbsp of evoo. Sprinkle the whole dish with a little paprika. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes then broil (watching to ensure it doesn't burn) for a couple minutes to get a slightly crispy top. Serve with hot sauce or sriracha or ketchup...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tandoori Cauliflower Wraps

Crunchy, spicy and creamy savoury wraps. So delicious and the perfect healthy meal or snack when you have some time in the kitchen and you aren't wearing white...more on that in a bit though. This recipe is one to remember -- easy to make and a little exotic. 

It all begins with cauliflower, roasted to crisp perfection in a hot oven. It then takes a bath in a vibrant orange coloured,sweet, sour, fiery and creamy coconut-yogurt sauce that's brimming with exotic Indian spices like cumin, coriander, garlic, cardamom, chili, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika. Another trip to the oven with the broil setting makes the bites sticky, sweet and smoky. Irresistible. The awesome cauliflower bites are then loaded into cabbage cups along with a hot and tangy avocado mash, more vegan yogurt, and some red hot for extra kick. 

WARNING: Wear a bib and have some napkins on hand -- this s#$& gets messy as f#$%. Who doesn't love a hot mess though?
These wraps are full of healthy vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, avocado), fibre, probiotics (coconut yogurt), antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory spices (all hail turmeric). The ingredients are affordable and not hard to find (grab a tandoori spice mix if you don't have the spices I use instead already). These wraps are also gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, soy-free, nut-free and rockin'. Just sayin'.


MAKE THESE WRAPS. You know you want to.


Crispy Cauliflower Bites
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped up into florets
Arrange on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in 430F oven until crisp.

Tandoori Sauce:
  • 1 cup vegan coconut milk yogurt
  • 2 tbsp neutral tasting oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Black pepper
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1-2 tbsp maple or rice syrup or coconut nectar
  • A few dashes hot sauce or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Whisk all sauce ingredients together. Set aside while cauliflower cooks. When cauliflower is crisp, remove from oven and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add sauce and toss to coat. Scrape back onto parchment paper and spread out evenly. Turn oven up to broil and cook until everything gets sticky but not burnt. Remove from oven.

Avocado Smash
  • 1 ripe avocado, flesh of
  • Pinch pink salt
  • a few dashes red hot
Mash everything together until smooth. Set aside.

Cabbage Wraps:
  • 3-4 Savoy cabbage leaves, washed and patted dry
  • Cooked tandoori cauliflower
  • Avocado smash
  • Red hot or Hot Mango Chutney
  • Coconut milk yogurt
Divide your avocado mash between the cabbage leaves evenly. Then top with equal amounts of the tandoori cauliflower. Add a dollop of coconut yogurt to each wrap and a dash of red  hot or chutney. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Taste Guru: Review and Giveaway!

I was recently sent a box full of gluten free surprises by the nice folks at Taste Guru. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, they are a cool American company that sells monthly boxes of gluten free products through a subscription service. Food lovers subscribe for a box of  new products to try each month, all totally gluten free. When they contacted me to do a review and giveaway I was happy to take this cool service for a spin.

I received my box within two weeks of registering for the service. It was a reasonable sized haul (for something being mailed from another country!), shoebox size, and packed with products, 99% of which I'd never tried or even encountered in Canada. I should note, a few of the products I was sent were not vegan so I didn't try everything myself and my husband had a few in my stead. 

Rather than tell you the details of what I got exactly (it changes monthly), head over to their site to view a sample box. Everything was pretty fun, think health-conscious gluten-free comfort food mixes (vegan pancake mix) and basics (organic white grits) and prepared items (protein bars and granola).

I would rate my experience with Taste Guru as really enjoyable. Their staff is so friendly and I received some fun items I will be making use of (ahem -- vegan gluten free multi-grain pancake mix!) and my husband got to enjoy some healthy snacks like healthy gourmet granola and energy bars. 

What I like best about this service is that every month you get a surprise delivery of new products to try. I love finding a new gluten-free product to test out when I go shopping at my local health food store. This is so much more than that because you get 7-10 products every month mailed to you!

If you like surprises, Taste Guru is for you. If you don't, they may not be. I do so I am a fan for sure! If you want to expand your gluten-free product horizons with Taste Guru, be sure to enter our giveaway today by clicking the link below and entering according to the entry guidelines! You could win a Taste Guru box ($24 value) delivered to your door! 

Enter the giveaway contest by March 30th. This giveaway is for contestants with addresses in the United States and Canada only. Good luck!

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