Chaga Mushroom Tea Latte

I’m going to be completely honest and admit that there are many mornings you will find me at my favourite coffee joint in the drive-thru line up patiently waiting for my soy latte. I have a well rehearsed repertoire of excuses in my head to justify my “need” for a fancy take-out drink:

– I was up all night with a sick child and I desperately need a coffee today
– I worked out really hard this morning and I deserve a reward
– I’m going to start eating right and working out next week so I’d better get my treats in today
– I stayed up late working so I need a coffee to make it through the day
– It’s a holiday (insert any occasion here – including Ground Hog Day!) and I need to celebrate with a coffee
– I’m meeting a friend and I can’t be rude and not join her when she is drinking her coffee
– It’s Monday and I need to pick myself up for the week
– It’s Friday and I need to gear up for the weekend

Trust me, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Needless to say I really enjoy a nice tall latte filled with steamy soy milk and sugary add-ins to start off my day. But being something of a health nut- I am also well aware of the negative effects of indulging in this particular treat (not to mention that it costs $6 a pop!)

Although the pros and cons of coffee have been hotly debated I know for myself that I feel much healthier and my gut, skin and pocketbook are much happier when I stick to all-natural homemade concoctions. And yes I can see you rolling your eyes through my computer screen – but some of my concoctions really do taste great!

Because I’m a full-on food nerd, I was totally thrilled to find this bag of Canadian Chaga Mushroom pieces on a recent trip to my local health food store. This potent and unique superfood is “a slow-growing mushroom that develops on living birch trees, obtaining nutrients from its host and making them available to us.” Chaga is considered the most nutritionally dense tree growth in the world and is revered in ancient Chinese medicine as being the “king of plants“. Studies have shown Chaga to be the single most concentrated source of antioxidants known to man and it has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and cancer fighting properties. Wow!

The cool thing about these mushroom chunks is that you boil 1/3 of a cup of them in a liter of water and just let them steep like tea. Afterwards you strain out the chunks and you will be left with a mild-tasting dark brown liquid that you can add to soups, smoothies, tea, coffee or just drink it straight up. And since the mushroom is so potent – you can actually reuse the chunks several times!

chaga

This morning I added 1 heated cup of the Chaga tea to 1 cup of boiling water and blended it together with 1 tbsp. raw sesame seeds, 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. Dandy Blend, 1 tbsp. cacao powder, a small chunk of cacao butter and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Voila! Yummy coffee drink that has a ton of health benefits! (I also added a cupful of the tea to our morning smoothie)

So for today, I am skipping the fancy take-out coffee and sipping my Chaga Tea Latte. One day at a time right? As for tomorrow – if you happen to see me in the drive-thru line just give me knowing nod and a wave…..because trust me, I’ll have my excuse ready ; )

Asian Noodle Soup

Remember those yummy bags of noodles we used to eat as kids? Just rip open the bag, add the seasoning and some hot water and enjoy? Mmmmm…..my sister and I used to tuck into those babies weekly as kids. They also came in the oh-so-convenient cup format that I could tote to work as a young adult or throw in the microwave for an easy dinner.

But I now realize those bags or cups are actually filled with some nastiness – like MSG, loads of sodium and some unpronounceable chemicals that I don’t want to put in my body or in the bodies if my precious children. But dang those noodles were good!

So I’ve come up with a replacement that is just as good if I do say so myself and easy to make for a weeknight family dinner or quickie lunch. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Asian Noodle Soup

mr. noodles done
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp sesame oil (not toasted)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot – chopped
½ head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 head bok choy, leaves chopped
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1 pack of organic extra firm tofu, sliced and chopped into 1 inch bite size pieces
2 cubes of low sodium mushroom bouillon dissolved in 6 cups of warm water
6 cups water
3 tbsp gluten-free Tamari
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg rice or soba noodles
Hot sauce (srirachi is my fav)

Prepare the noodles as per package directions and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Heat the coconut and sesame oils in a large soup pot over med-high heat. When hot – add the garlic, onion and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushroom, carrot, broccoli and bok choy and cook for 5 minutes more or until the veggies start to soften.

Dissolve the bouillon in 6 cups of warm water and add to the veggies with the additional 6 cups of water. Toss in the tofu, sprouts, tamari and lime juice. Bring the entire mixture to a boil and them reduce to low and cover until you are ready to serve.

mr noodles broth

Set out your bowls and scoop a good portion of noodles into the bottom of each one. Top with veggie soup and a sprinkling of cilantro. You can then top with hot sauce if desired.

Dig in, enjoy and let the compliments from your family roll in.

A Manly Vegan Meal

This may sound sexist but I honestly think it’s harder for a guy to become a vegan that it is for a woman. The culture we live in often equates meat with manliness and strength and even after 5 years I know it sometimes hard for my husband to admit to his vegetarian lifestyle…especially around his father who still insists on ordering a “man” pizza when he visits which is covered in pepperoni, bacon and sausage.

I actually think it’s quite sexy – a guy who cares enough about animals, his health, the environment and me to go along with my veggie loving ways. He drinks up the green smoothies and juice, uses the phytoplankton and essential oils and never complains about what is put in front of him for dinner…some good and some very very bad (lentil meatloaf- yuck!).

But that isn’t to say the he doesn’t crave a good old-fashioned meat dish like his mom used to make every once in a while. This recipe is a great compromise for the meat lovers in your family. It is comfort food, it’s hearty and it is smothered in gravy -Mark’s favourite part. I even served this for Thanksgiving dinner last year with a side of extra mashed potatoes and a big salad and everyone gobbled it up. You’re welcome Mr. Turkey.

Give this a try and see if even the carnivores in your life enjoy it. And let’s celebrate the veggie loving men out there. Real men eat vegetables! This one is for you Mark.

Vegan Shepard’s Pie (adapted from How It All Vegan, Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer)

Filling:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 Portobello mushroom cap, diced
2 regular carrots, diced
1 cup butternut squash, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup spinach, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cooked green lentils (or canned), mashed
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp tamari

Topping:
6-8 medium potatoes ( I always make a few extra for plain mashed potatoes to serve on the side)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease square cake pan with olive oil.
Steam cubed squash and carrots in a steamer for 20 minutes.

shepards pie- steamer
In a medium pot, boil the chopped potatoes until they are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.
In a frying pan, saute garlic, onions, spinach, celery and tomatoes in the olive oil for 5-6 minutes. Add in the steamed carrots, squash, lentils, basil, salt and tamari. Stir and simmer without a lid until the liquid cooks off.

shepard's pie - veggies in pan

Meanwhile, mash the cooked potatoes with milk, salt and olive oil.
Scoop the veggie mixture into the bottom of the cake pan and top with the potatoes.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.

shepard's pie in pan

Mushroom Gravy (adapted from How It All Vegan, Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer)

8 mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tamari
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash dried basil
Dash dried dill
Dash black pepper
1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Flour (or AP flour)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp miso paste

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion and mushrooms in olive oil on medium/high heat until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are tender. Add the tamari and spices and stir together.
Remove from heat and slowly stir in the flour. It will be very pasty. Slowly start adding the stock a little at a time until it mixes together well and the lumps disappear. Place back on medium heat and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring often.

shepard's pie gravy

At the last minute, stir in miso.

shepard's pie miso

Place a big scoop of Shepard’s Pie on a plate and cover with a generous serving of gravy. Enjoy!

shepard's pie on plate