Warm Spring Salad

strawberries-in-a-bowl

What a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather is beautiful and we have 4 days off to enjoy it.

I have been car shopping for the past few weeks and I must say that it is an arduous task. It takes days to compare all of the models and brands and then consult all of the review sites.

Do I buy new or save and buy a few years old?

Do I want a car to move things around or something more sporty?

Do I care about what colour it is?

All of these questions and more have been running through my head, endlessly. It’s driving me crazy!

Since I live in downtown Toronto I could almost get by without a car. There is public transit that will get me anywhere within the city. Then there are the car-by-the-hour places that can supply wheels to go, if I choose to venture further.

I have decided to walk away from the car shopping and the big decision, for a while. I will take my new bicycle for a ride. I will turn off the computer and get outside to enjoy the sun.

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season and that you are having a great weekend!

asparagus-on-marble

On holiday weekend like this, it is easy to over indulge on sweets and heavy foods so I try to serve healthy side dishes to my meals.

I am featuring a vegan recipe that is simple to make, beautiful to look at and delightful to eat.

I found this recipe on a local vegan blog called Oh She Glows. I modified it by blanching the asparagus and adding sugar snap peas which are also blanched. I love how blanching brings out the rich green colour while leaving a bit of a crunch in the vegetables.

The salad would be great as a side dish or as a main dish. Either way, it is delicious and healthy,

summer-salad

Warm Spring Salad

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leak, sliced into rounds or half moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, ends broken off and chopped in to 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest for garnish, optional

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Blanch the snap peas and asparagus in separate batches by inserting them in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, sate leeks and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the asparagus and snap peas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the parsley and strawberries. Heat for 1- 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

summer-salad-saute

Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, ¼ tsp. sea salt). Pour dressing over the cooked quinoa.
In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and the skillet mixture together. Can be served warm or cooled.

Recipe adapted from http://www.ohsheglows.com

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Crisp Lemon Snap Pea Salad

lemon-quinoa-salad

This has been an eventful week. My blog had its 10,000th visitor, and I launched my new photography website.

I also attended a wedding and sadly, a funeral.

The wedding made me remember that love comes along when you least expect it. My nephew and his wife met while traveling in New Zealand. He is from Canada and she is from Germany. They met by chance, fell in love and have been together ever since. They are one of those couples that you just know by looking at them, they are madly in love. I wish them both a lifetime of joy and happiness.

The funeral was for a man who died before his time. He was a great father, a wonderful coach, and a great husband.  He had an endless passion for living and helping others. While I watched hundreds of people pay their respects to this unique individual it made me wonder. What will people remember about me when my time comes?

We all need to put our lives in perspective, now and again.

Nobody is remembered for the long hours that they worked or the things they did not do. They are remembered for their contributions to the world and their relationships with their family and friends. I admit that I have been guilty of not balancing my life, in the past.

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Mark Twain

Now I am pursuing my passions with great enthusiasm. I am soaking up knowledge like a sponge and trying new things, every day. I love writing my blog. I have learned so much on this journey. I love my family and my friends, and the wonderful man in my life.

I have a passion that I have been feeding for years. Every time I pick up my camera and shoot a few shots of a special place, a person, a wonderful recipe or a beautiful flower, I feel alive. Whenever life gets me down I focus on photography and find my inspiration. I don’t know what I would do without having this creative outlet in my life.

Another one of my passions is cooking. I found this recipe for Crisp Lemon Snap Peas Salad and thought it would be perfect for this time of year when the sugar snap peas are in season. When they are fresh from the farm they taste sweet and crisp. The original recipe called for raw mushrooms but I decided to saute them to bring out their rich flavour.

Crisp Lemon Snap Pea Salad

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) quinoa
2 cups (500 ml) fresh sweet snap peas cut in half, diagonally
1 ½ cups (375 ml) brown mushrooms sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup (75 ml) thinly sliced red onion cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup (75 ml) white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 tsp. (5 ml) grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml) pure maple syrup

Directions :

Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool completely.

Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, cook until lightly browned, stirring as needed. Set aside.

Combine the peas, mushrooms, red onion and the dill in a medium bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and maple syrup. Pour over the cooled quinoa in the saucepan and stir until evenly dispersed. Add the vegetable mixture, toss and serve.

Recipe adapted from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar for a Gluten-free Life

Do you know anyone in your life that has a gluten allergy or has been diagnosed as a celiac?

I have more than a few relatives and friends who have had to change their diets due to one of these conditions. At first the idea of changing their eating habits was daunting but with a little research and the help of a few specialty stores they were able to get started. What I have noticed is the growing variety of Gluten-free and even Vegan Gluten-free products that have been showing up, even in the mainstream grocery stores.

A few weeks ago we went to a pop up market called Gluten-free Garage that was held at the Artscape Wychwood Barns in Toronto. Dozens of food suppliers, bakeries and caterers were on hand allowing visitors to taste their products and ask about ingredients. We had attended the event in the hopes of finding a bakery that could offer gluten-free, dairy free and egg free cupcakes for my granddaughter’s first birthday party. Surprisingly, there were a few excellent choices that offered tasty solutions.

http://glutenfreegarage.ca/

While wandering the fair I spent some time chatting up a few of the vendors to get a sense of what each vendor had to offer this niche market. I came across two vendors who were offering classes in gluten-free cooking. Since I am so interested in new styles of cooking I immediately gravitated to their booths for tastings.

Arvinda’s offered us a lentil curry dish that was truly remarkable. They are suppliers of Indian spices through retail and online sales. Chefs Arvinda Chauhan and her daughter Preena teach classes in home-style, healthy and traditional Indian cooking at Nella Cucina in Toronto. I see an Indian cooking class in my future.

http://www.arvindas.com

Gluten-free-garage-3

Pimenton offers cooking classes and catering for gluten-free events. Chef Jose Arato was serving up some Paella Vegetariana for those who like a little Spanish in their lives. Chef Jose was telling me that it was his birthday and he was having a great time meeting people at the market.

http://www.pimenton.ca/

Gluten-free-garage-1

Other vendors who we spoke to were suppliers of ready-made gluten-free dinners for those who were looking for quick meal options. We particularly enjoyed the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free Gnocchi from Antipastos Kitchens.

http://www.antipastoskitchen.com/

gluten-free-garage-2

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the event even though I am not on a gluten-free diet. I found out more about these diet restrictions and what is available to accommodate those whose health is affected by them.

I have learned over the past few years to make a few gluten-free dinners that are not only tasty, but healthy options for everyone. This Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar is one of my favourites from Quinoa Revolution. Like many of you, I have added Quinoa to my diet for its health benefits but also because I like how it tastes in salads and baking. This recipe has a great blend of fruit and cucumbers with the Quinoa that tastes fresh and light.

quinoa-and-cucumber-salad-v4

Berry Cucumber Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) water

1 cup (250 ml) quinoa

¼ cup (60 ml) white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. (15 ml) pure maple syrup

1 tbsp. (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup (250 ml) fresh blueberries

1 cup (250 ml) fresh strawberries, quartered

1 cup (250 ml) diced English cucumber

½ cup (60 ml) thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup (60 ml) sliced blanched almonds

Directions:

Combine the water and the quinoa in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil;. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl and cool completely.

Whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil; stir into the quinoa. Gently toss in the blueberries, strawberries, cucumber and red onion. Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

Recipe from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

 

A Little Taste of Paris and Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

Elora Mill

Elora reflections

A few weeks ago we were in an area north of Toronto for a family wedding. On the way home that Sunday we decided that since we were already in the area, why not go exploring some of the places that we never get to see. One place that came to mind was Elora, Ontario.

Elora is a historic village  1 1/2 hours north-west of Toronto that is nestled along the Grand River. It is well-known for the Elora Gorge Park and Quarrie, The Elora Festival and The Elora Mill Country Inn and Restaurant.  The village has become home to numerous artisans and performers and is a favourite spot for a weekend getaway.

The Elora Mill, at the head of the Elora Gorge, was constructed in 1833. It is considered one of Ontario’s finest historic mills and was made famous in the 1930s by a painting by Canadian Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. When the mill ceased operating in 1974 it was turned into a lovely country inn and fine dining establishment.

Our original intent was to have lunch at the Inn while looking out over the river, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. Still hungry, we started to wander along the shops that back onto the Grand River on Mills St. and came upon a quaint little spot called Cafe Creperie.

After choosing a cozy window seat we were greeted by a charming French gentleman who inquired as to whether we had tried their crepes before. We said that we had not and he just smiled and told us we were in for treat. As we waited I glanced around the room at the warm, rustic decor and small intimate tables. There was a collection of photographic portraits on the walls that showcased Elora’s talented artistic community.

The menu offered a variety of sweet and savoury crepes with wonderful fillings like goat cheese, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, etc. I ended up choosing the Provencal and my friend ordered the Tuscan crepe. Minutes later we were served the most delightful lunch. Let me start by saying I am a crepe lover from way back and I have tasted crepes in Canada and France many times. The crepes that we had this day were the best I have ever had!

The batter was exactly the right consistency and each crepe was topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper. It was light and flavourful and so very French. It was a little taste of Paris in Elora, Ontario.

As it turns out; our charming server was actually the chef, Jacques Dion. His warm demeanor, delightful smile and culinary prowess are a treasure to find in this little village. The restaurant often hosts artists works and musical events and contributes regularly to other village events. It is worth the drive next time you are in the area.

Crepe chef Elora

cafe-creperie

Although I was not able to get the recipe from Jacques for his wonderful crepes, I was able to find this one from one of my favourite cookbooks. These Quinoa Crepes with Warm Apples are a healthy option served with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and are vegetarian and gluten-free.

Quinoa-Crepes-with-apples

Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

Apple Topping

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. (30 ml) non hydrogenated margarine

4 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup (125 ml) brown sugar, packed

½ tsp. (2 ml) ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups (125 ml) low-fat vanilla yogurt

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions:

Prepare Quinoa Crepes (see recipe below).

Add the margarine to a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent.

Add the brown sugar, stirring to coat the fruit, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble.

Add the spices and continue to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the apple slices are tender but not mushy. (Recipe can be made in advance to this point. Cool, refrigerate and then reheat before serving.)

To serve, fold the crepes in quarters and place on a plate. Add a few tablespoons of the apple mixture and a dollop of yogurt on each. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add a sprig of mint to each plate.

Serve.

Basic Quinoa Crepes

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

¾ cup (185 ml) quinoa flour

3 large eggs

¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil

1 cup (250 ml) organic vanilla soy beverage

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the flour, eggs, oil and soy beverage for 10-15 seconds, until smooth and lump free. Refrigerate batter for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Lightly grease a small 7-8 inch crepe pan with canola oil. Spoon 3 tbsp. of the batter into the pan and rotate the pan around so that there is an even coating on the bottom of the pan.

Turn the crepe after 30 seconds. Crepe will be lightly browned and will be flexible for folding.

Place cooled crepes on a plate lined with parchment pepper to cool. They can either be used in crepe recipes or frozen for later use. Freeze in small amounts, placing a small piece of parchment paper between the crepes and wrapping them in clear plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Recipe from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook edited by Marilyn Smith, PHEc from the Ontario Home Economics Association.

 

 

Bocconcini, Quinoa and Oregano Salad for a healthy life

“When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch.” Anonymous

Spring is about new awakenings. Trees and flowers wake up from a long winter’s rest to bloom and grow, filling the landscape with rich hues and fragrant aromas. Animals and birds begin to show themselves to the world after a period of hiding or a long migration north. People who have spent their winter indoors are now outside enjoying the warm weather. They have turned off their TV sets and have taken their exercise routines out of the gym and onto the playing fields and streets.

Each day of this spring has been an awakening for me. My new healthy lifestyle has contributed to a fresh outlook and renewed confidence, but it is more than that. I realize that I have been holding back from making things happen out of fear of failing. I have started to look at my life differently and feel more confident that I can shape my future to what I want it to be.

I understand that if I can see my goals, I can reach them. Instead of just saying what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am going to stop talking; I am going to put my words into action. My close friend, coach and mentor tells me that a plan for a successful, meaningful life is:

”Say It, Mean It, Do It”.

I plan to use this motto to guide me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to sound like a motivational speaker and I don’t expect the road to my goals to be smooth or easy. It is bound to be full of bumps, falls and possible road blocks. I have already fallen off of the bike once and will likely fall again before I am good at this. I also understand that you cannot be successful without first getting uncomfortable. That is why I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone in all aspects of my life, be it physical, emotional, creative or mental. I will report back on my progress when I have been on this journey a little longer and can provide evidence of the positive change that I am beginning to experience.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” Pablo Picasso

This Bocconcini, Quinoa and Oregano Salad is a good source of protein and vitamins. It makes a nice main course for lunch or dinner or a tasty side dish with grilled fish or meat.  I am really enjoying the Quinoa 365 cookbook for its versatile and inspiring recipes.

Bocconcini, Quinoa  and Oregano Salad

Ingredients

¾ cup quinoa
1½ cups water
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup diced red onion
½ frozen baby green peas, thawed
1 cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
Pinch salt
Pinch ground black pepper
1 cup mini bocconcini cheese pieces, halved

Directions

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 4 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork. Set aside to completely cool.

Combine the zucchini, tomatoes, onion, peas and red and yellow pepper in a large bowl.

Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and thoroughly mix all the ingredients. Add the quinoa and boccocini and mix until evenly combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

Chocolate Quinoa Crepes with Bananas (Gluten-Free Goodness)

What a great weekend! As I continue on this journey of getting fit, I have decided to take up cycling again. I went out with a friend last evening and cycled along the Toronto Beaches bike trails. Just as we were riding back home the super moon was hanging over the lake reflecting rich, golden hues into the water. What an outstanding night!

I plan to continue with this fitness program all summer and will report back periodically on how well things are going. So far I am feeling more alive and happy than I have in years.

I will also try to add more recipes for healthy eating as I go.

I was skeptical when I tried this recipe for chocolate quinoa crepes. I am a crepe lover from way back. When in Paris, I love to order Crepes Chantilly as a treat and I love savoury crepes for dinner. So here I am making crepes with quinoa flour. This is a very different style of cooking for me. Well, the truth is, it was the chocolate that got my attention.

I have to admit that they turned out so well my daughters ate them up in mere minutes. The great thing is that my celiac friends can also enjoy this great gluten-free dessert with bananas or another fruit. They are a real treat for anyone who loves crepes.

 

Chocolate Quinoa Crepes with Bananas

Ingredients

1/3 cup quinoa flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. white sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. salted butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 bananas, sliced
whipped cream
chocolate shavings

Directions

Combine the quinoa flour, cocoa and white sugar in a medium bowl, mixing well. Whisk in the eggs, then the melted butter, mixing gently. Slowly add the milk, blending until smooth.

Lightly grease or spray a small frying pan with cooking oil and place over medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour about 3 tbsp. of the crepe batter into the pan spreading evenly to coat. Fry until the edges begin to turn golden brown and flip, cooking about 30 seconds per side. Set aside on a plate. Repeat until all of the crepes are done (you will have about 6-8 crepes).

In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, brown sugar and vanilla to make the filling. Spread about 3 tbsp. of the filling onto each crepe. Add some sliced bananas. Wrap the crepe gently by folding in each side. Garnish with additional slices of banana, a tablespoon of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings.

Serve immediately.

Recipe from Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming