Peanut Butter & Blueberry Chia Muffins

These tasty little treats were the result of me trying to perk myself up and get myself organized for the week ahead. The last couple (challenging) weeks have been a write-off resulting in me spending more than I’d like to on food that I would normally prepare myself (along with spending more than I should be on a fun distracting app).

So instead of spending another $13.99 to buy more gems on my build-a-Disney-park app, I used that time to bake which was: A) a great distraction, B) I got to use the blueberries that had been sitting at the back of my freezer forever, and C) I got delicious muffins out of it. I also used the time to prep salads for the week, but that’s SO BLEH compared to these muffins.

I used ingredients that I already had in the house, which is how I ended up mixing peanut butter and blueberries, but it turns out to be a great combo! I won’t lie, the chia seeds were an afterthought, but I have a ton of them in my cupboards….BUT they’re healthy for you and they add the tiniest bit of crunch, so I think it was a good choice.

Honestly though, you can’t go wrong with peanut butter, it’s a personal favourites. If it can make celery delicious then obviously it will make your everyday blueberry muffins that much better. While I generally don’t eat breakfast most days, I was pretty happy when I hit the 11:00 a.m. snack craving and was able to pull one of these out of my bag.

I know that muffins are generally not good for you – but peanut butter, blueberries and chia seeds are, and that’s the only important thing to take away from this. All three are filled with protein and nutrients so you can’t really go wrong here….right? We can call it balance! They’re tender, flaky, hearty and the blueberries add such a nice little twist of blue! Like the cranberry muffins, remember to not over mix or you’ll end up with completely coloured muffins instead of nice little pockets of blue.

These tempting bites of joy will keep for about 5 days in an airtight container…if they make it that long of course. They’re also quick to put together – making them perfect for when you’re busy with other things, which if you’re like me, is basically always. When you need to enjoy a quick, sweet, sort-of-healthyish treat, then look no further! (They also go great with Baileys for a late-evening snack…shh…)

Peanut Butter & Blueberry Chia Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I use cashew)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare your muffin tin with muffin liners or grease it (12 muffin tray)

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and chia seeds.

In another, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Pour wet ingredient mixture into dry ingredient mixture. Stir until just combined. GENTLY fold in blueberries. Remember do not overmix!

Fill each muffin cup to the top. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely (if you have that kind of will power). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Will last in an airtight container for 5 days. These can also be frozen!

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Quinoa Bake

I’m the proud owner of a Costco size bag of quinoa. I wouldn’t say I “needed” it, but it was right there in front of me and everything at Costco is so tempting (i.e. the massive blocks of cheese). Not to mention a little box of quinoa isn’t always cheap, so it was a pretty good deal…and quinoa is dellisssh.

This bake is pretty great because it’s like healthy comfort food with the classic chicken and broccoli combo. I know what you’re probably thinking, how is it healthy if it has cheese? Well a little cheese never hurt no one, okay! It’s made totally from scratch. That means no canned soup full of ingredients that you ain’t ever heard of. Chicken, fresh broccoli, superfood quinoa, creamy greek yogurt and cheese… how can you can say no to that? Seriously… how? It’s also easy and quick to make. PERK ALERT.

Oh hey, does anyone know how to actually measure out how much quinoa you need? It’s like pasta, I always cook wayyyyy to much. I wanted 2 cups cooked quinoa, but I had no idea how much dry quinoa to measure to make 2 cups cooked…so I ended up with about 6 cups cooked quinoa. If you’re mathematically challenged like me (or don’t read instructions like me) then you can freeze cooked quinoa in freezer bags and defrost in the fridge, which is what I ended up doing!

Some Dani notes:

  • Cook the quinoa ahead of time (the ideal shortcut)
  • Make the whole casserole ahead of time, keep it in the fridge or freeze it and bake it off on a busy night when you’re running out the door.
  • Get creative with the cheese, I always use cheddar but you can use whatever you like, mix it up!
  • Cut out the chicken if you like and substitute with more veggies or meat alternative (Asparagus or yves sausage would be yum)
  • I used white wine (because I had some open) but you can sub it for veggie or chicken broth (which it turns out I didn’t have)
  • This whole thing can be made ahead of time, and baked off when you’re ready to eat
  • This makes GREAT leftovers, you can even freeze the leftovers!
  • I’m pretty sure it’s kid friendly? I mean it’s full of cheese, so how could it not be. I don’t have kids, but I definitely would have ate this as a child.

Is there anything better on a rainy day then hot, ooey gooey, creamy comfort food that you can feel good about? I don’t think so. It’s the perfect way to add some superfood to your weekday!

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Quinoa Bake

Serves 4 (or less if you want amazing leftovers!)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chili flakes, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon AP flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken, veggie stock or wine
  • 3/4 cup milk or half and half cream
  • 1-2 tablespoon cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (plus a pinch extra 😉 )
  • Cilantro, for on top
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square casserole dish.
  2. Season sliced chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Add chicken breasts and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned. Set aside.
  5. In the same pan, melt butter. Scrape all those yummy brown bits off the bottom. Add onions and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or 2 until onions are soft and translucent. Your kitchen should start to smell fantastic at this point!
  6. Add in flour and cook for 1 minute until lightly browned. Whisk in the stock or wine and milk. Bring to a boil and add cilantro. Cook for 2 minutes, continuously whisking.
  7. Turn heat down to low, add broccoli and simmer for 3 minutes.
  8. Stir in cooked quinoa, chicken, greek yogurt, 3/4 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Toss to combine.
  9. Spread mixture into the casserole dish. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and bake until cheese in melted and top is lightly browned.
  11. Serve with fresh cilantro.

Caesar Dressing

I think salad for dinner is wonderful. It’s easy, you don’t have to actually cook anything (if you don’t want to), it’s a pretty good way to clean out your fridge, and you can eat just a ton of bread with it (you need to soak up the leftover dressing on your plate, right?) without feeling bad because you just did eat a LOT of veggies! You can make salads as easy or as fancy as you like, and I like to stick more towards the easy end of things.

I will tell you that my absolute favourite salad dressing is just oil and balsamic vinegar over greens (we’ve been really into arugula lately). You can get so many fun flavours of balsamic that it’s impossible to get bored with it. My personal favourite is a blueberry balsamic from All of Oils…UGH drool worthy, honestly. Oh, and fig balsamic. ALSO DROOL.

Sometimes though you just need to have some cheesy, crunchy Caesar salad, topped with all the good stuff. Caesar salad makes an awesome dinner salad, I think it’s pretty hearty. My mom often made grilled chicken and Caesar salad for dinner growing up, especially during summer when it was just wayyyyy too hot to turn the stove on. Also, it’s full of cheese and chunks of crunchy bread….YES.

BUT I find Caesar dressing really weird. First of all it has anchovies in it. ANCHOVIES. A FISH. In my dressing? That’s a no from me. And don’t tell me to just use the paste – because what the heck am I supposed to with the rest of the tube? Secondly, it’s made with raw eggs, that’s another pass from me – I prefer not risking salmonella. Oh, and the store bought stuff never has enough kick in it, it’s like they don’t put enough garlic or cheese in it.

The solution? An easy homemade version! I take out the raw eggs and the anchovies, and bam you have a nice, light (and less risky) dressing! If you have a food processor, this is wicked easy. Most of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen! This dressing is cheesy, creamy, garlicky and easy. You can really play around with the flavours and add more or less to your own taste.

  • Don’t cheap out or skimp on the cheese. Use the good Parmesan, not the dry powdered stuff from the shelf. Parmesan takes FOREVER to go bad (does it actually go bad ever?) so buy some, and keep it on hand.
  • I like the kick from a lot garlic – if you’re planning on smooching or don’t like the spicy kick, only use 2 cloves.
  • Use nice mustard. It’s a huge flavour in the dressing. If you have cheap mustard it won’t be the same. I like grainy, beer dijon. French’s yellow mustard won’t cut it here.
  • Let the dressing sit for at least a 1/2 hour before serving to let the flavours get all cozy.
  • Use a mix of greens – The one I made last night I used romaine, arugula, and red leaf lettuce (that’s what I had in my fridge from earlier this week). Shake it up and get creative! You want this dressing to shine on fun lettuce.
  • This dressing can be EASILY vegan. Swap out the mayo for vegan yogurt or vegan mayo and use the vegan parm or nutritional yeast. We’ve already took out the anchovies, because yuck.

This makes a pretty good size batch. Leftover dressing can be kept in the fridge for a couple days, which is great for us make ahead queens. Tossed with some mixed greens, and your favourite toppings you got yourself an easy dinner or side salad! Leftovers can be used as a dip or spread!

When it’s this easy and tasty, you won’t want to go back to the bottled stuff – trust me! This dressing is a game changer.

Caesar Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp Mayo
  • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard (I like the grainy kind)
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 garlic gloves (use less is you like – or roasted for a change!)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (plus a pinch extra 😉 )
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of Olive oil to blend

Put mayo, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and cheese in food processor. Blend.

While it’s blending, drizzle in oil until it’s smooth and creamy. Add less if you want it thicker (for a spread) or add more if you like it thinner.

Toss with greens and your favourite toppings, or use a spread or dip. I like cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons and shaved cheese, get creative!

Mango Noodle Salad

I moved to New Westminster this past weekend and I now live 5 minutes away from one of my closest friends, which means she’s going to be at my house more often. It’s great news because I love having someone to cook for. Last night she popped over with a bottle of cold white wine and very kindly made sure my glass didn’t run empty while I made dinner. True friendship.

Anyways, with the nice warm weather we’ve been having it seemed like a good night for something light, and mango’s were on sale the other day so that kind of made the decision for me. Mango’s are amazing so I was more than happy to fight with mango pits. I always thought by now I’d be able to figure out how to cut around the pit properly, but I still end up leaving meat on the mango or somehow just hacking it up. HOWEVER I did learn this super cool trick to peel a mango – and I’m sure you’ve all seen it on the internet by now – BUT you take your slice of mango and using a glass you hold the mango against the lip of the glass in between the flesh and the peel, drag it down with your hand and the drinking glass peels the mango! I feel like I didn’t do a good job explaining it so here’s a link to a video so you can see it for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F9-Nkj3Bb4

How cool is that? Super easy and a lot less messy (I think). Now you can peel sweet delicious fruit in seconds!

I really do love mango’s though. It makes anything you put it on taste tropical, sweet, and colourful. They’re also full of vitamins so even if you blend them with rum and coconut (my personal favourite use for mango), it’s still technically healthy.

Okay – but this salad is pretty delicious. It makes a perfect light, summer dinner, or a nice light lunch. The dressing is refreshing, the noodles are filling, and it’s full of crunchy veggies and sweet, juicy mango. Kayli likes chicken, so I did cook up some soy ginger chicken to top it with, but if you don’t put the chicken on then this could easily be a great vegan or vegetarian dinner!

It’s also wonderful because it’s served cold, so you can make it ahead of time – perfect for busy nights or when it’s too warm out to eat something hot! And you can use whatever veggies you have handy – peppers, cucumbers, celery – if you have it, include it! The dressing could also double as a marinade for meat or grilled veggies in the summer time. Double duty dressings are where it’s at. One more thing, I used capellini noodles, but use whatever long, thin noodles you have in your pantry! Rice noodles, vermicelli, angel hair, or soba noodles would work well here.

This pairs perfectly with crisp white wine, which isn’t included in my recipe below, but it’s kind of just an unofficial ingredient.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is mango no. 5! *cue Lou Bega music*

Mango Noodle Salad

Dressing

1/2 cup chopped mango
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
t tbsp honey or maple syrup

Salad

2 cups mango, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cucumber, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup basil
15 – 20 ounces, long thin noodles (cavetelli, soba, angel hair etc)

To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Put in fridge to chill while you prep the salad.

Cook noodles as per package directions (this is a no brainer, just boil em up for a few minutes until they’re al dente, pretty boiler plate stuff here). Drain and let cool. Oh hey, guys don’t rinse your noodles, please. When you do that it rinses off the starch which means the dressing (or sauce in other cases) won’t stick to the noddles and it will be a mess. Just leave them to cool on their own in the colander- promise me, okay?

Chop mango, radishes, cucumber, carrot, green onion, cilantro and basil. Toss with dressing and cooled noodles (that you didn’t rinse). Chill in fridge until you’re ready to serve. Serve as a main if you’re doing no meat, or serve as a side.

I’m pretty sure this will feed like 4-6 people, easily! Keep leftovers for lunch!


Olive di Casino Royale (Fried Olives – Vegan)

I know I haven’t posted in a while…I’m sorry all my faithful followers! It’s been crazy lately. I was away on a family ski trip, I was sick, and I’m moving next weekend…so needless to say I have my hands full! My kitchen has been totally packed up ready for the move, so I don’t even have a fork or knife, but thankfully I have a costco size box of cereal, almond milk and red solo cups to keep myself going at home!

Anyways, we were at Manning Park over the February long weekend with our family from Kelowna. It was an awesome trip – lots of snow, hot tubbing, good drinks, lots of laughs, and the snowboarding was BEYOND AMAZING. We had high hopes for some fun cooking that weekend, but unfortunately I came down with a pretty wicked cold the last day of the trip so I didn’t get to cook as much as I had wanted. Gord and I spent weeks prior talking about cooking together and work shopping the name for the olives (“the spy who fried me, from olives with love, olives – fried olives” to name a few), so we were making them no matter what. I have a very faded memory of being nudged on the floor “Hey you, get up, time for you to make the olives” .

The “Kitchen”

My dad set up the outdoor “kitchen” a.ka. the tailgate (pictured here)…because who wants to fry inside of their cabin and get it all smelly. I put my coat on, poured myself a glass of wine (maybe a martini would have been more appropriate), and headed outside to deep fry.

Gord used to make these olives all the time at our cabin when I was a kid. We used to just cover them in hot sauce and they were fantastic. We love olives a lot, so no surprise that we started deep frying them. These brought back a lot of really wonderful memories!

Back in the day, we weren’t concerned about making them vegan, so coating the olives was easy with the help of an egg wash. We had to get a bit creative and experiment to make these olives vegan friendly. CHIA EGG was what I came up with.

Chia Egg

Honestly, I’m not sure if chia egg was the right answer. It did work, but as the chia egg sat it just got thicker and gloopier, making it harder and harder to properly coat the olives. Not to mention it made a sticky mess in the flour and some of the coating fell off. If anyone has any better ideas for vegan egg coating (or more experience using egg alternatives) let me know – I’m open to suggestions!

Nonetheless, they were delicious and got gobbled up instantly. I wish I could of made more, but I was sick and had no energy to be standing outside in the cold any longer. I don’t really have a set-in-stone recipe for these…but I’ll put a bit of a walk-through below. We served them on skewers in martini glasses, as our ode to James Bond…(the spy who fried me) with warm vodka marinara sauce for dipping.

This was by no means a “bust”, but there is room for improvement. If you’re an olive lover though, like we are, then these are definitely worth a try!

Olive di Casino Royale

  • Queen stuffed olives
  • Chia Egg (general ratio is 1 tbsp chia seed to 3 tbsp water and let sit until gel like) (or another egg substitute of your liking)
  • Panko Bread crumbs
  • Flour
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Parmesan (if not vegan) or vegan parmesan (Optional)
  • Grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil) for frying
  • Hot sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

Again, as I don’t have exact measurements because I get dumb when I’m sick – use as much as you think you’ll need and experiment!

Drain olives.

In a large pot or pan, heat up a couple inches of grapeseed or vegetable oil. You’ll want to make sure you’re making these somewhere well ventilated.

Combine bread crumbs, salt/pepper, and vegan Parmesan (if using) in a bowl. Set up two other bowls – one with flour and one with chia egg.

Toss olives, a few a time, in flour. Transfer to chia egg and toss until coated. Lastly, transfer the olives to the breadcrumb mixture and coat.

To check if the oil is ready, take the end of a wooden spoon and dip in oil. When bubbles form around the wooden spoon, the oil is ready for frying. I don’t have a fancy thermometer, it’s not necessary.

Drop the olives, one a time, in the oil. Toss with a slotted spoon and cook for 2-4 minutes, until the breading is crispy and golden brown.

When they’re done cooking, use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Serve with hot sauce or warm marinara sauce for dipping!

Butterscotch Croissant Pudding

Carbs are awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, you do not need that kind of negativity in your life. Bread is definitely one my personal favourite carbs. My favourite dinner? Bread, cheese, and wine. That will woo me over any day.

Honestly though bread is SO versatile you can do basically anything you want with it. Even bad bread is good. Stale Panetonne? Toast that baby up and smother it with butter. Dried out french bread? Croutons. Few day old sandwich bread? French toast. Any bread? Bread pudding! Even better…croissant pudding!

My brother for some reason made a lot of bread pudding when we were younger, and I always hated it (sorry D’arcy!) but maybe because it was him making it and it was a sibling thing? Whatever, I think it’s delicious now, and you can flavour it any way you want, and use any leftover bread you might have sitting around. Cinnamon buns, donuts, Italian bread..heck you could probably even make a savoury bread pudding with leftover focaccia! But croissants are my personal favourite!

Don’t reward adorable begging. Maybe just one nibble of croissant.

I’ve been crashing at my parents the last few days toughing out the snow “storm” (an excuse to see the dog more) and Tuesday was a snow day in. Extra sleep, lots of puppy snuggles, and some good ol’ comfort food. I didn’t actually have croissants just sitting around my parents house, but I did manage to get my hands on some and was able to whip up some croissant bread pudding. I cut them and let them dry out a bit before I put the custard on, though!

I think the croissants are perfect for bread pudding. They’re light, flaky and really soak up the custard and you get all those nice crunchy bits on top. I really love butterscotch and caramel, so the last few times I’ve made bread pudding I’ve used that and have never been disappointed, but definitely get creative with the add ins! Chocolate, dried fruit, berries, skor, citrus…it’s all delicious!

I served mine with some frozen berries that my mom had picked from our bushes over the summer and lightly warmed them up till they popped and got all juicy, and they were a nice topping. But when I have more time a caramel or whip cream is another go-to! My dad, who “wasn’t hungry“, ate two pretty decent sized bowls of this, so I know it was good. To quote “This is the best bread pudding I’ve had…what’s in it?” I used croissants, dad…the secret is out!

Flaky, buttery, creamy, butterscotchy-y, bread-y, warm and comforting…bread pudding just got upgraded!

P.S. – Why can’t you trust croissants to get things done?
They’re too flaky!

Butterscotch Croissant Pudding

  • 8 cups cubed croissants
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 fht. Butter a 1.5 quart baking dish, I used Corning Ware, but a Pyrex baking dish or another casserole dish will do just perfect as well!

Cube croissants and put in large mixing bowl. If your croissants are fresh, let the cubes sit out uncovered for a bit to slightly dry out.

In another bowl, combine butterscotch chips, milk, sugar, eggs, pudding mix, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pour milk mixture over croisssants and mix well. Be gentle so you don’t break all the croissants apart!

Put in prepared baking dish and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, until the top is brown (and a bit crispy) and the custard is set.

Serve warm with berries, whip cream or caramel!

Beet Hummus

So I promise I’m not trying to channel Dwight with another beet recipe. It’s just that I was never taught how to grocery shop for 1 or 2 people. I grew up watching my mom grocery shop as if 30 people might randomly show up at the house expecting a 3 course meal at any given time. Ahh Italians. I’m still learning the whole “Dani, you are one person, you do not need to buy 50 pounds of potatoes just in case” thing.

With that in mind, when I made the Tahini Harvest Bowl last week, I bought wayyyyy too many beets and only ended up using one. The mysterious hungry crowd that I’m always waiting for didn’t show up to my house, so I ended up with a crisper of beets that I’ve been munching on slowly. I’m not one to waste good produce, so with one lonely roasted beet left I decided to shake things up a bit.

And suddenly…beet hummus! It’s a nice change from plain hummus. I mean, look at the colour – IT’S HOT PINK! How gorgeous is that? And it’s not hot pink because of processed food colouring…it’s hot pink because of NATURE. Nature is crazy!

This is a bit sweeter than regular hummus . Although it’s not overwhelming, you can definitely taste the beets. If you don’t like beets, this is not the dip for you. If you’re a beet lover, or maybe just adventurous, you’re in luck. Sweet roasted beet, garlic, lemon (duh!), and parsley all blended together with chickpeas, for a sweet, garlicky, beety bowl of love. Side note – does anyone else notice chickpeas kind of look like little butts? I hope that doesn’t ruin chickpeas for you, but it always makes me giggle.

This is such a simple dip to make. Once you have a roasted beet (tip: they’re easier to peel once they’re roasted) it’s just a matter of throwing everything in the food processor. I love dipping crunchy pieces of cucumber in hummus…and they look so pretty next to this! Oh, and pita obviously. If you have any other ways you love to use hummus, let me know! I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy it!

This makes about 3 cups of hummus and keeps for a week in the fridge, which makes it the perfect make ahead snack. Hummus is a great dip to make as you can adjust the seasonings to your taste, so consider this more of an ingredient guide as opposed to set in stone measurements.

Alright, so this dip is creamy, super beautiful, quick, easy, full of vitamins and minerals (so don’t feel guilty about eating a ton of this), and delicious. Best served with pita, colourful veggies, and wine. If you love hummus and you love beets, welcome to your new favourite snack!

Beet Hummus

  • 1 small – medium roasted beet, cooled, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 -540 ml can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tbsp. tahini
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp parsley, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
  • Olive oil

Blend beets in food processor until smooth. (To roast beet wrap in foil and roast at 400 fht. for around 35-40 minutes until tender)

Add chickpeas, tahini, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Blend.

While it’s blending, drizzle in olive oil until smooth and creamy but still thick and dip like.

Taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt, pepper, garlic, parsley or lemon to your taste.

Serve alongside crisp veggies and pita bread. Keeps for 1 week in the fridge.

Chorizo Chili (Vegan)

This is actually the chili that my mom taught me to make. She grabbed the original recipe from Trader Joe’s, which is one of my favourite stores. I think the original way to make it was just beans, tomatoes and the chorizo, but we add a few extra ingredients. So I’m not sure if I should give the credit to TJ’s or my mom? Thanks to both of you!

My family has a place in Washington, so I always make a stop at Trader Joe’s when I head down (we need one in Vancouver!), or if my parents are going I ask them to bring me back some of this soy chorizo. I like to keep a few on hand – it freezes really well and defrosts quickly. It’s perfect for nachos, tacos, chili fries, pasta sauce..basically whatever you would use chorizo for (or any ground meat) you can replace with this. It’s amazing – the texture is fantastic, it’s spicy, flavourful, and unlike regular chorizo or ground meat, it’s not greasy or fatty. I’ve been able to get quite a few friends on board the soy chorizo train. It’s definitely worth stocking up on it if you make it to TJ’s! If you don’t have access to one, I’m sure another soy chorizo would work just as well.

The best thing to make with it though (in my opinion) is this chili. Whenever I think about chili I think about a big ol’ pot of hearty meat and beans…complete with a layer of grease and fat floating on the top…and a big ol’ stomach ache to follow. No bueno. This chili on the other hand has all the heartiness of a regular chili…but without that layer of fat and grease from the meat..so it’s tastier and way healthier! To be honest, the first time my dad had this chili, he had no idea it was meatless. This is hands down our favourite chili even though we are not a vegan family.

Not to mention this chili is way easier to make because you don’t have to brown meat or play around with spices. The chorizo already has all the spices in it…including salt…so there’s no need to add any salt or chili powder which is another reason it’s quicker to make! Play around with it though if you like it a bit spicier.

Perfect to pack up and freeze for meal prep!

This chili freezes really beautifully. My mom often makes it when we go away – she makes it a few days ahead and freezes it so it’s ready to go (perfect for camping or ski trips *wink wink* Gord). I like to make a big pot of it and pack it up in individual servings for quick dinners and lunches. It makes quite a bit, so I even packed a couple containers up to share! And because it’s so quick to make it’s a great dish to make during the week!

I top mine with crushed taco chips, avocados, cilantro, and lime. Sour cream or cheese are also great toppings if you’re not worried about keeping it vegan.

You don’t need to be vegan to love this chili. It’s really the perfect comfort food for a cold winter… hearty, warm, spicy, comforting, and easy! What more could you ask for….except for maybe a cold beer on the side!

Chorizo Chili (Vegan)

  • 1 pkg Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
  • 1 – 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 520 ml. cans of kidney or black beans (drain if desired, but not necessary, I don’t like dry chili)
  • 1 cup of corn
  • Olive oil
  • Dash of hot sauce, if desired
  • Toppings, optional – Cilantro, lime, avocado, taco chips (or your favourite topping)

In a large dutch oven, saute onion, garlic and bell pepper in a touch of olive oil until they begin to get soft.

Add chorizo by slicing open the casing (like a regular chorizo) and squeezing into the pot. Saute until chorizo becomes hot and slightly brown.

Add tomatoes, beans and corn (and hot sauce if you want it spicier!). Stir and cover with lid. Once boiling, turn to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until thick – or until you’re ready to eat!

Top with your favourite chili garnishes, or serve over rice or quinoa. Pack up the leftovers in freezer bags or containers and freeze for a quick and easy meal!

Tahini Harvest Bowl

Nope, I didn’t hurt myself. I was Dwight Schrute-ing it last night. If you don’t know what that means you should go look up who Dwight Schrute is, I bascially looked like this last night:

Image result for dwight schrute covered in beet juice at mall

Meaning that like Dwight, I wouldn’t be allowed in any fancy stores for safety concerns. “I’m a beet farmer, you idiot!” I’m actually not a beet farmer though. But I do like beets, and I decided to try roasting them last night which was a W-I-N in my books, and I also discovered a few things. 1. I should have used gloves, and 2. Dwight must have some damn good soap because beet juice gets over and stains EVERYTHING, and 3. He was right, beets are life. If you do use beets, I suggest gloves and to rinse everything off right away so it doesn’t set in.

This dish isn’t really about the beets, I just got super excited because I never cook with them, so it was new and uncharted territory for me. I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but veggie bowls are REALLY popular, they’re everywhere. I jumped on that train last night with some in-season winter veggies and quinoa and it was darn good. So good in fact, that I called my mom just to tell her what I had made and how much I was enjoying it.

Umm…and this easy tahini sauce? If you haven’t had tahini, it’s sesame paste, and it’s often used in hummus. It’s a bit bitter for me, so I felt it needed sweetener. This sauce was soooooo fantastic (or at least I thought it was), I legitimately could eat it on ANYTHING and be perfectly content. I packed up a container of leftovers for BBE who likes Tahini, and I think I may have put too much on, but hey the quinoa will soak it all up, right? As you all know by now, I love lemon, so I added a lot – but start with a little and then keep adding as we may have very different lemon tolerances. This sauce would also be perfect as a salad dressing, hot or cold, as a dip, over any fun hippy-dippy veggie/grain bowls…or maybe even just on some bread…or just with a spoon.

Alright, so this is a super easy concept. Sweetened roasted broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes and carrots, fluffy quinoa, and to marry it all together it’s topped with tahini sauce, pistachios (another BBE favourite) and fresh dill. How quick and easy is that? More importantly, it’s packed with nutrients and you can use any seasonal veggies, or whatever you have in your fridge. This really makes the perfect weeknight meal when you’re craving something healthy and simple yet satisfying. Plus, it’s super comforting, which is ideal for the chilly winter weather! Oh and hey, it makes beautiful leftovers…ding ding! Meal prep friendly!

In more good news, my hands and cutting board are beet juice free today, and I have veggie loaded, sweet and savoury, superfood leftovers awaiting me! Not too shabby considering this meal took LESS THAN AN HOUR which means you can quickly get back to binge watching Netflix! WIN WIN.

Tahini Harvest Bowl (Vegan)

Vegetables:

  • 2 medium whole carrots (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 beet (peeled and cubed…gloves recommended!)
  • 2 Tbsp sweetener (honey, maple syrup or other alternative)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • Pinch of salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1 small/medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed

Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed and drained; I buy the pre-rinsed)
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

Tahini Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Zest and Juice of one medium lemon (to taste, start out with a bit add more if needed)
  • 2 -3 tbsp sweetener (honey, maple syrup or other alternative) (to taste)
  • pinch of pepper & salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or until you get a consistency you like)
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh dill or parsley (to taste)

For serving (optional):

  • Pistachios, walnuts or almonds
  • Dill or parsley

Preheat oven to 400 fht. Line a baking sheet with tin foil or parchment (easy clean-up!)

Place carrots, beets and sweet potatoes on baking sheet (these take longer than the broccoli so we start them first) and drizzle with 3/4 of the honey or sweetener and oil (save some for the broccoli) and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Toss to combine..careful not to mix the veggies together as the beet will stain the other veggies.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until veggies start getting soft (depending on your oven and how big you cut the veggies). Once they start to get soft, add broccoli to the sheet pan, drizzle with the rest of the honey or sweetener and oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the water and add the quinoa. Put on low and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Set aside.

To make the sauce, combine tahini, sweetener, dill (or parsley), salt, pepper. Add lemon juice, a bit at a time, adjusting the amount to your taste. Drizzle in olive oil to loosen the sauce and make it thick but pourable. If you want it thicker, add less oil, and more for a thinner sauce. Taste and adjust as needed, adding in more honey, lemon, dill or oil if desired.

To serve, divide quinoa into bowls. Top with roasted vegetables and a pretty generous pour of the tahini sauce because it’s delicious. Garnish with nuts (I used pistachios, the crunch is great) and fresh dill or parsley.

Saluti!

Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Growing up I HATED mushrooms. That’s not even an exaggeration. If they were even anywhere near my food, I wouldn’t eat it. I didn’t do the whole “just pick them out” thing, I flat out refused because they’ve already touched the other food. And don’t even bother trying to hide them, I would know. “I can still taste them!!”. There were many many untouched plates of food and fights with my parents about what they were going to cook for company…”You can’t put mushrooms in it, I won’t eat it, you guys are so disgusting!” What a selfish, foolish brat I was.

This doesn’t really have a perfect ending…I didn’t wake up one morning as a child and run up to my mom and beg her to cook mushrooms. After 26 years I finally gave mushrooms another chance this past summer, and for some reason I warmed right up to them! Now it’s not all wonderful – I’m still pretty picky about them. I still REFUSE to eat them on a pizza. I did try it though! I thought with my new found love for mushrooms I might dig it – but no. Still just so gross and so soggy. I know everyone normally argues about pineapple on pizza, but the real argument should be mushrooms on pizza. Hard pass, buddy.

Basically I’ll only eat them if they’re roasted, sauteed or in pasta. Although that’s huge progress for me! And I’m at the point now where sometimes I even CRAVE sauteed or roasted mushrooms. The other week I even roasted some whole mushrooms to dip in my tzatziki. And since I’m not a big meat eater, I find that mushrooms are a good substitute to add some heartiness to dishes. Like this dish!

Wow, okay I’ve blabbed on a lot, but I promise I’m sort of almost done. These mushrooms are SO delicious. Portobellos are so hearty, and they’re a great blank canvas for whatever you want to put on them. Since they’re so big they’re a perfect size for a meal and to fill with lots of delicious stuffing! I’m a huge fan of caprese salad, so this was a no brainer. You put tomatoes, cheese, basil, and balsamic on anything and I’ll eat it. Now I know that caprese traditionally doesn’t have bell pepper in it, but I really liked the pop of yellow and the crunch that it gave!

I’m not sure how many people know this..but even before my sudden mushroom love affair, I was taught how to properly clean them! No, please don’t rinse them under water. You’re ruining them. I won’t blame you if you do though because running them under water is easy, but mushrooms are like little expensive delicious sponges….if you rinse them under water they’re going to soak all that water up and you’re going to have tough, watery, soggy mushrooms. GROSS. That’s another hard pass for me. The BEST way to clean them is to simply wipe them down with a damp towel one at a time. Yes, I know it’s a lot of effort, but you’ll be rewarded when your little parcels of flavour are tender and golden and crispy (if you’re sauteeing).

Alright, back to this dish itself. Hearty, warm and juicy – so delicious! Trust me, you won’t miss meat in this dish at all. I like to scoop the gills out of the mushroom to make room for more stuffing – warm tomatoes, fresh basil, ooey gooey cheese and a drizzle of balsamic – HEAVEN. If you’re vegan – leave out the cheese – so easy! The hardest part of this dish is waiting for it bake when you’re hungry. It’s also a perfect sheet pan dinner. I put the mushrooms at one end of my baking dish (tin foil makes for easy clean up!) and at the other end, I put asparagus with oil, salt and pepper and let it all just cook together. Couldn’t be any easier!

If you haven’t given stuffed mushrooms a chance, now’s the time! I promise that they’re really fun-gi’s!! (ba dum ch)…*crickets* yea okay I’m done now.

Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Makes 2 portobello caps

  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic (to taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • Mozzarella cheese (fresh or shredded – I used mini balls of fresh mozzarella) (to make vegan, leave out)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • Balsamic glaze (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 fht.

Start by wiping down the mushrooms with a damp cloth. Remove the stem and gills from the mushroom to make them stuffable.

Brush the mushrooms (inside and out) with olive oil. Place on a foil or parchment lined baking tray (easy clean up!)

In a bowl combine tomatoes, pepper, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.

Spoon the filling into the mushroom caps (make sure they’re well filled!) and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until mushrooms and filling are hot and softened.

Top the mushrooms with mozzarella cheese and broil for 2-5 minutes (keep an eye on them – each oven is different!) until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

To serve, garnish with more basil and balsamic glaze (optional). I served mine with roasted asparagus and arugula, but this works as a main OR a side dish!

Saluti!