Holiday Weekend Sangria

Before our kids came along, my husband and I were able to do a bit of travelling as a couple and one of our all-time favourite destinations was Spain. The food, the people, the culture, the sights, the shopping…it was all fantastic. Well perhaps we could have done without the seedy hostel our first few nights in Barcelona and my husband is still cursing my backpack that weighed well over 40 pounds, but overall it was a magical trip.

sangria 1

One evening during our travels we were sitting in a café in Seville munching on tapas and oohing and ahhhing over the most amazing Sangria on the planet when we decided we just had to learn how to make this magical drink. My husband speaks a bit of Spanish so he approached the bartender in the hopes of obtaining the recipe so that we could wow and impress our friends when we returned home. The bartender smiled, reached under the counter and came up with his secret ingredient- a big bottle of Wink!We definitely weren’t expecting that!

wink

Many years have passed since that trip but I still love a sweet and fruity ruby-red glass of Sangria. And as we head into our Canadian long weekend, I thought you might appreciate a cocktail recipe to serve at weekend get-togethers and barbeques.

My husband worked part-time as a bartender during his university days (and moonlighted part-time as a drunken student) so he drew on his “training” to create this delicious Sangria recipe. It tastes amazing, it’s vegan (check here to make sure your wine is veg-friendly), it’s full of healthy fruits and antioxidants and there isn’t a trace of high-fructose corn syrupy soda in sight. Mix up a batch this weekend and I’m willing to bet you’ll love it… and that it will disappear in a wink!

Sangria

sangria 2

1 bottle of red wine
2 cans of Santa Cruz Organic Orange Mango Sparkling Beverage (I think a combination of orange juice and sparkling water would work as well)
2 shots of Brandy (optional)
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 cup raspberries
1 cup of chopped pineapple
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1-2 trays of ice cubes

Empty the wine into a large pitcher and squeeze in the juice from the lemon, lime and orange and then toss in the fruit wedges (minus the seeds). Add the pineapple, agave and brandy and stir to mix. Chill for a couple of hours in the fridge. Just prior to serving, add the Santa Cruz sparkling beverage, raspberries and tons of ice. Pour into a large wine or cocktail glass and enjoy!

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Simply Delicious Grilled Veggies

Sometimes its the simplest things that taste the best. Like a crispy salad with oil and lemon, freshly squeezed juice or a sweet fruit salad. This also holds true for these super easy and delicious marinated grilled vegetables. No matter how many times I over think my menus and buy the most exotic ingredients for recipes – this continues to be one of the most popular and requested dishes I make.

grilled veggies 3

In addition to being easy, these vegetables are also very versatile. You can use any veggies you have on hand and mix and match your spices to suit your mood. They taste great served over rice or other cooked grains, in pitas or sandwiches, with pasta or potatoes and over mixed greens. They work as a main course, a side dish or a salad. I often save the leftovers and throw them into a wrap the next day for lunch or toss them with some hummus and eat them with rice crackers for a hearty snack.

The real key to bringing out the flavor in the vegetables is to marinate them for as long as possible – all day if you can swing it. Mix them with the marinate in the morning and pop them in the fridge in a large container with a lid so you can shake them often throughout the day. When you are ready to eat, you can grill them either in your oven or in a vegetable basket or cookie sheet lined with tin foil on your barbecue.

grilled veggies 2

As a side note, this also happens to be my dad’s favourite vegetarian dish- and this is a man who once proudly told me he was a “meat-a-tarian”. He’s made a lot of dietary changes since he made that claim and I like to think what eventually convinced him to embrace more plant-based foods was my dogged determination, my often annoying persistance…..and these vegetables. Give them a try and see if they win you over too!

Marinated Grilled Vegetables

grilled veggies 5

1 container of mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced (green or yellow or both)
1 red pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 small head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 cup of brussel sprouts, halved
1 cup green beans
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp sea salt (more or less depending on taste)
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Dash of turmeric
Dash of cayenne pepper
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut vegetables and put them into a large container with a lid. Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour over the veggies and shake to coat. Place in the fridge and marinade for several hours, shaking a few times to redistribute the marinade.

To cook, preheat bbq to medium or stove to 350. Discard marinade and place vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil or into a bbq grill basket. Grill in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring often. If using the bbq, grill for 20-25 minutes. Vegetables should be cooked but not mushy.

grilled veggies 4

Serve with potatoes, pasta, grains, bread or over greens. Enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Now that I have mastered the skill of making my own almond butter, I am getting a bit obsessed with the stuff. It is just so darn creamy and delicious and it goes well on crackers, on banana or apple slices, on bread with jam and on a spoon straight out of the jar.

almond butter 3

As I was slurping a fresh batch off of my spatula recently, I had another brilliant idea – chocolate and almond butter together! Heavenly. I started dreaming about homemade peanut butter cups and this amazingly awesome recipe was born.

I based these on the Peanut Butter Cups in Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet cookbook. I adore this book because it has tons of plant-based recipes that are relatively easy to make and taste great. I especially love Mom’s Granola, Black-Eyed Pea CroquettesRustic Pasta and Kim’s Red Radish Tabbouleh.

the kind diet

I got busy pulling together ingredients for this dessert and I quickly encountered a problem – no graham cracker crumbs. But I did have a new box of Barbara’s Original Puffins cereal and after I popped some into a large baggie and let the toddler at them with a meat tenderizer – I soon had my crumbs. And as an added bonus, the recipe was now wheat-free.

puffins

These decadent treats taste like old-school peanut butter cups made with crunchy peanut butter. You can whip them up in no time flat with store-bought almond butter if you don’t want to make your own. And yes they taste as good as they look. You can thank me later ; )

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

cups 1

1/2 cup Earth Balance (or organic butter)
3/4 cup almond butter (homemade or raw organic)
3/4 cup Barbara’s Puffins cereal crumbs (whirred in the food processor or hammered in a baggie to make crumbs)
1/4 cup maple sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life vegan or Cuisine Camino fair trade)
1/4 cup almond milk

Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in almond butter, puffin crumbs and maple sugar and mix well. Remove from heat and evenly distribute among the muffin cups.

Combine chocolate and milk in another saucepan and stir over medium/low heat until chocolate is melted. Spoon chocolate over peanut butter mixture.

Place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Enjoy!

cups 2

Lessons From My 3-Week Cleanse

Yahoo I did it! 21 days with no animal products, gluten, alcohol, caffeine or sugar. It was a roller coaster 3 weeks but I made it through and I’m feeling great. Here are a few insights from my 3-week cleanse to offer a little inspiration and information:

1. Gluten and sugar are in so many of the foods I eat. It is shocking really. Did you know that there is a good amount of sugar in most tomato sauce, granola bars, ketchup, gf pizza crust and salad dressing? And that aside from bread and pasta, there is often gluten in french fries, veggie burgers, flavoured potato chips, salad dressings, soy sauce, cereal, soup broth and bouillon?

2. Going away for the weekend during a cleanse with girlfriends who love to sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants is a very, very bad idea! Thank goodness for the toddler who provided the perfect excuse for not joining in on all of the fun.

3. The Happy Cow app on my iphone is a lifesaver! It offers up a list of veggie restaurants and markets in whatever city or town I find myself in with links to websites and additional information. This came in super handy when I was away from home.

happy cow

4. It is hard to meditate in the morning when your toddler is yelling “MOM – try to find me!”, your older son is watching hockey highlights at full volume and your daughter is stomping around looking for her favourite shirt. Meditating in the afternoon while the kids were in school or in the evening before bed turned out to be much more enjoyable.

5. I am super fortunate to live in a community with easy access to an organic market (Goodness Me), 2 fantastic vegan/raw restaurants (Kind Food and The Naked Sprout) and a Whole Foods. On those days when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to cook for myself, I could simply stop in to one of these places and grab a filling and nutritious meal to take out.

kind food

6. The best way to shake off the blahs was to get my heart pumping with some kindness missions! I am telling you I felt like a spy and my heart was racing when I tried to execute my kind acts in secret. I had so much fun dropping flowers with notes at strangers doors, leaving chalk messages at a local park and leaving sticky notes with encouraging messages around town (on change room mirrors at the mall, at the grocery store, in bus shelters, on books at the library). This is one habit that I’m definitely going to keep doing and I’m excited to get the kids doing it with me.

guerilla goodness

7. My munchies alarm seems to go off regularly mid-afternoon and in the evenings. Even though intellectually I was poo-pooing the idea of a handful of walnuts or an apple or a banana to replace some chocolate or a bowl of chips – it actually worked! Who knew? (I also popped up some popcorn in my air popper one afternoon and sprinkled on some sea salt and nutritional yeast flakes. Mmmmmm…)

8. It’s really not all that hard to cook vegan and gluten-free. Honestly. All it takes is some planning and the willingness to try out new recipes. And there are so many amazing cookbooks and blogs devoted to plant-based eating. Some of my favourites are: OhSheGlows, Alicia Silverstone, The Savvy Sister, Meghan Telpner, Plant-Powered Kitchen and Healthy Happy Life.

9. I can’t even count the number of people who asked me “What do you eat?!” There is a bounty of amazing foods that get completely overlooked when meat is the focus of a meal. I ate a rainbow of fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, rice, tofu, quinoa, almond milk, hummus, amaranth, chia, green smoothies, coffee-less lattes, oat flour pancakes, rice crackers, stir frys and many more yummy foods. Now that being said, I did miss a good old hunk of bread and a piece of chocolate ; )

10. I’ll share my biggest lesson from the cleanse on Wednesday. I had a huge “aha” moment this time around and I thought I’d devote an entire post revealing it. I’m also thinking about a new challenge…maybe 21 days of yoga. Anyone wanna join me?

***Before I wrap up I want to send a special shout out to my mom and dad who did the cleanse for a full week. Awesome! Way to go! It was great to have someone riding the roller coaster with me and I appreciate your support.

My Kitchen Helper and Oat Flour Pancakes

I have a “helper” in the kitchen when I am whipping up most of my culinary masterpieces. He is about 2 feet tall, has blue eyes, blond hair, a killer smile and he’s been known to throw a measuring cup full of almond milk across the kitchen in a fit of rage. No I am not talking about a mini-Gordon Ramsey – it’s my feisty and adorable 2 year old son.

kitchen helper 1

Most of the time I enjoy his “help” and the way he loves to stir every batter, pour every ingredient and lick every spoon (not so keen to try my muffins now are you?) but sometimes he truly drives me nuts. Like the time he dumped an entire bowl of flour all over the floor. Or the time he spilled beet juice on my marble island. Or the aforementioned “almond milk incident”.

But I know all too soon he will be skipping off to school with his brother and sister and I will be alone in my kitchen missing his company and longing for the days when he was so eager to pull up his chair and assist me in any foodie endeavor.

kitchen helper 2

My little helper definitely has some strong opinions about my cooking and baking (beet salad = “that tastes terrible mommy”) but his very favourite thing of all to make has gotta be pancakes. Since I am on Day 19 of my Kathy Freston cleanse, I decided to enlist the help of my assistant in whipping up a batch of pancakes that would be tasty and still adhere to my requirements of no gluten, sugar or animal products.

I started by making a fruit puree to use as a topping on my pancakes (the kids and my hubby just stuck to maple syrup). Then my helper and I ground up our own GF oats to make the flour, stirred in some milk and coconut oil and in no time at all we had whipped up a delicious meal. These pancakes are yummy but they are actually more like a big oatmeal cookie when you cook them – crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

These giant cookie/pancakes make a delicious breakfast and a fun dinner that the whole family will love. And if you are interested giving them a try and you’d like to enlist the help of an eager toddler smack dab in the middle of his terrible twos- give me a call ; )

Oat Flour Pancakes with Fruit Puree

oat pancake 2

1 1/2 cups oat flour (I ground my own GF oats in a food processor but you could simply buy oat flour)
1/2 cup barley flour
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. of flax meal mixed with 1/2 cup of water – let stand to get goopy)
2 cups of almond milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat and grease with earth balance or organic butter. Pour 1/2 cup circles of batter on the frying pan and cook until bubbles form. Flip cakes and press down with the spatula to flatten slightly. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with fruit puree and/or syrup, fresh fruit and chopped pecans.

oat pancake 1

Fruit Puree

2 cups pitted medjool dates
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, place in a high-powered blender or food processor and puree.

Enjoy!

Colourful Quinoa Casserole

When I decided to adopt a more plant-based diet, the very first cookbook I bought was Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. You can easily tell that I adore this book because I have probably made every recipe at least once (and many dozens of times) and my copy is completely dog eared and covered in food stains. I highly recommend it and Dreena’s other books because it she is not only a fantastic chef but also the mother of three young children so she offers up a bounty of food you can make at home that is both yummy and family friendly.

eat, drink and be vegan

This casserole is a particular favourite because it is hearty, delicious, easy to make and is perfect for my cleanse. It really packs a punch nutritionally with the combination of quinoa, veggies, nuts and fresh basil and it’s a great filling dinner for the whole family. Well the whole family minus the toddler who quickly told me he “hates this supper!” Don’t listen to him though – he hates most things these days. Give this one a try and I’m willing to bet you’ll love it. You can also serve it cold as a salad over greens, in a wrap with hummus or quickly fry up the leftovers in a bit of olive oil for different variations.

And hold on just a minute before you delete this because of the long list of ingredients (yes I’m talking to you Jessica and Nancy ; ) It’s actually super easy because you just pop almost everything in a casserole dish and slide it into the oven to bake. You can do it girls!

Colourful Quinoa Casserole (adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton)

colourful quinoa 1

1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa (rinsed and drained 3 times)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 15 oz can of mixed beans (rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups fennel bulb, julienned
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp allspice
1 dried bay leaf
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted – I just toast them in a small saucepan over med heat until lightly browned)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a deep casserole dish with olive oil. Combine all ingredients (except for pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon juice and olive oil for finishing) and stir to mix well. Cover and bake for an hour, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked and has absorbed all liquid. Remove from oven and stir in lemon juice, basil and pine nuts. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

colourful quinoa 2

*I also have to add a “Woohoo” moment from last week. Kathy Freston – author of Quantum Wellness and the creator of the cleanse I am currently doing- sent out a tweet about me! What a thrill to get a shout out from one of my mentors. Thanks Kathy!

Luv that Lori is doing the cleanse https://lorileighwilson.com/2013/03/29/a-kathy-freston-spring-cleanse/ … Posting it in The Daily Lean fb chatroom if u want to join community

Cleanse Day # 8 – Dining Out and Not Starving

I’m often asked how I can survive this 3 week cleanse (and how I can be a vegan for that matter) and not starve. Trust me, it’s can be done and it’s not even all that hard. It can however get a bit tricky when I am away from home- especially during cleanse time. When I’m separated from my kitchen and my beloved vitamix I have to be prepared.

Actually, I had to be out 3 nights last week and I was fairly sure that vegan/gluten-free options would be in short supply. So I armed myself with snacks, drinks and creative ideas for finding something to eat that wouldn’t compromise my 21-day clean eating plan.

nuts and seeds   larabar

I always keep a container of nuts and seeds and a couple of Larabars in my purse for emergencies. I also lug along a big container of water or my new favourite refreshing/energy boosting drink: Chia Fresca. I got this recipe from Oh She Glows and it is a neat one. The drink itself is simply made with water, fresh lemon juice, agave and chia seeds and is a very popular beverage in Mexico and Central America. Chia seeds are considered a superfood because of their incredibly high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, protein and fiber. They are also a mucilaginous seed which means that they get gel-like when wet and pull toxins out of your body as they travel through your system. The texture of this drink is really different so it’s not going to be for everyone- but give it a try and see what you think.

Chia Fresca (adapted from OhSheGlows.com)

chia fresca

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups water or coconut water
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Sweetener, to taste (I used 1 tsp agave nectar)

Add chia and water into a jar or glass and stir very well to combine. Let  sit for 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to swell up. I like to use a jar with  a lid so I can shake it up really well and break up the clumps of chia.
Add lemon juice and sweetener to taste. Stir (or shake) well to  combine and enjoy!

So what did I do in addition to my snacks and Chia Fresca on those 3 nights? Well, on night #1 I hit up Mucho Burrito for a veggie salad bowl (minus the tortilla shell bowl) and ended up with a delicious dinner of chopped romaine lettuce, rice, grilled veggies, black beans, fresh tomato salsa, guacamole and cilantro all topped with a light vinaigrette. Not bad eh?

Night #2 I was off to Toronto for an evening voiceover gig so I packed a dinner to take along. Here is my quick on-the-go creation that left me full and satisfied:

leftover salad

2 cups of leftover rice
1/2 a can of organic mixed beans, rinsed and drained
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 chopped mini cucumber
Handful of raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp gluten-free tamari
Salt and pepper

I’m going to be honest and tell you that night #3 was the toughest and it had nothing to do with the food. My husband and I were out at a local restaurant with friends and I really, really, really wanted to enjoy a cocktail! It was so tough when everyone else was sipping wine and beer to sit there like a teetotaler with my water and lemon. I did it though and by the end of the night I was happy to just watch the crazy drinkers and thank my lucky stars that I wouldn’t be feeling like them the next morning ; )

Bottom line – as a (mostly) vegan, I’ve had to learn to be adaptable to ensure that I can enjoy something to eat and drink in all situations without being too much of a pain in the butt. It has taken some work, some exploring, some mistakes, some research and some frank discussions with friends and family but most of the time things work out just fine. Do I always get it right? Not a chance! But hey, I’m sure not starving in the process.