Lord Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles in the Hindu tradition

I began seeing the wonderful Ayurvedic practitioner, Anita Sharma, here in Montreal to learn how the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can help me live my best health.

Ayurveda is the oldest known system of healing, dating back more than 5000 years in India. In Sanskrit, “Veda” means science or knowledge, and “Ayus” means life. Fittingly, the word, Ayurveda, means the “science of life”. Acknowledging our interconnectedness with nature, the main premise of Ayurveda is the promotion and maintenance of balance in the body through diet, meditation and physical movement.

I met with Anita and filled out questionnaires to determine my doshas. Perhaps, you have never heard of the term, “dosha”. According to Ayurveda, our body is constituted with 3 doshas, namely Vata (the air element), Pitta (the fire element) and Kapha (the earth element). Illness results from a constitution which is not balanced with these 3 elements. Simply put, we look to foods and physical activities to balance the doshas.

People with Vata as their primary dosha are energetic, creative and active. When this dosha is out of balance, they can feel anxious and nervous.

Having Pitta as your primary dosha means that you are a passionate, decisive and focused leader. A pitta imbalance can cause irritability, restlessness and increased body temperature.

If Kapha is your primary dosha, when balanced, you are affectionate and calm. When out of balance, you feel heavy, lazy and a lack of motivation.

If you are curious about what your primary dosha is, you can get an idea by taking a fun online dosha test.

There are various resources online and books you can purchase to learn how we can use food to help us balance our doshas. One fantastic recipe book I have is called, The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amrita Sondhi. This week, I want to share a delicious vegan Dal recipe made with sprouted mung beans I learned from this book. Sprouting beans increases their nutritional value and digestibility, however, sprouting is optional for preparing this recipe. I served the Dal over rice and garnished with chopped green onion and cilantro (I took the liberty of adding this to Sondhi’s delicious recipe). This recipe is calming for all the doshas.

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

 

Sprouted mung Dal over rice with a garnish of cilantro and green onion

Sprouted Mung Dal

Ingredients:
4 cups sprouted mung beans
1 ½ cups water
¼ teaspoon turmeric
3 slices fresh ginger
1 fresh green chili
Juice from one lemon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Chopped cilantro and green onion for garnish if desired
Sea salt to taste

Method:
1. In a large pot, combine mung beans, water, turmeric, ginger, green chili and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer until done, 15-20 minutes.
3. Add a little water as needed if liquid starts to dry out, but be sure than beans do not overcook. When cooked, the green husks will start to come off and the mung will look yellow.
4. Drain and remove ginger slices and chili. Add lemon juice, cayenne and salt. Serve over rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and finely chopped green onion if desired.

“I learned that to be fit and healthy, one has to cook regularly at home, in order to have more control over what goes into our bodies.” ~Amrita Sondhi, The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook

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“For The Love Of Chickens” Casserole

I remember a time when my mom used to make this extremely tasty chicken casserole with broccoli, chicken breast, cream of mushroom and sour cream. We loved the flavours and were completely oblivious to how these ingredients came to be on our plates. We both read Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston around the same time, made the connection, and decided we did not want to participate in the violence towards animals, nor did we want to consume corpses or animal secretions any longer.

Changing our diets to appease our conscience did not mean giving up the pleasant flavours, however. Even for this dish, which included many animal products, I got to work in Amore’s Kitchen and did what I do best: I successfully VEGANIZED the recipe!

I’ve said it before: it’s all about the spices. For this dish, I first made a list of the spices I associated with chicken. This is how I came up with the marinade. The tofu or cannellini beans don’t have much of a taste on their own; they simply act like sponges to absorb any and all the flavours we desire, so really anything is possible.

The grated bread crumbs in this recipe also add to that familiar baked or fried chicken taste – remember Shake & Bake? I chose to make the bread crumbs myself so that I could control what type of bread, and all other ingredients, used. I try to avoid white flour and table salt because they are so refined. I also don’t need preservatives or additives. So easy to make, I share my recipe for the bread crumbs with you below. You can make a big batch and store it in an airtight container in your cupboard for weeks.

I know many people feel they just don’t have time to cook anymore. With full-time jobs, household chores, children, spouses and the multitude of day-to-day activities, finding the time to prepare a meal from scratch can be really challenging! Preparing a casserole like this on the weekend is really convenient because the leftovers can form part of another meal. Preparing 2 casserole-type dishes, and maybe a soup or stew, on the weekend can be all you need so that you have a basis for meals during the week. Toss up a quick salad to accompany the dish, and there you go! We can only do our best, depending on what our schedule allows, however, we must keep in mind that the more time we invest in preparing healthy meals, the less time we will spend in the hospital later. Healthy eating is clearly a worthwhile investment!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

“You are as important to your health as it is to you.” ~Terri Guillemets

“For The Love Of Chickens” Casserole

Ingredients:

1 package organic firm tofu, chopped into large chunks OR 2 cups cannellini beans, cooked
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 cups Cashew-Creamy Mushroom Sauce (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (recipe follows)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

-Ingredients for (tofu or cannellini beans) marinade (all the following spices are dried, unless otherwise specified)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon savory
½ teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Method:

1. Marinate tofu or cannellini beans overnight or for several hours by placing all marinade ingredients and tofu chunks or beans in a glass container and refrigerate.
2. Prepare bread crumbs and Cashew-Creamy Mushroom Sauce (recipes below).
3. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil and minced garlic for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add chopped broccoli and cauliflower. Add sea salt (about ½ teaspoon) and sauté for about 5-6 minutes or until slightly soft.
4. Pour 1 cup each of mushroom sauce, bread crumbs and parsley into saucepan over vegetables. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
5. Remove from heat and place into a large glass casserole dish.
6. Using the same saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil and add marinated tofu or beans and chopped celery. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour 1 cup of mushroom sauce and ½ cup breadcrumbs over mixture and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly.
7. The sauce and bread crumbs will stick to the bottom of the pan. When you pour tofu or bean mixture over the vegetables in the casserole dish, scrape the bottom of the pan and sprinkle roasted bread crumbs and sauce over casserole. This will add lots of flavor to the casserole. Mix together vegetables and tofu or beans in casserole dish.
8. Garnish with more chopped fresh parsley and heat in the oven if necessary. Serve warm.

Cashew-Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Cashew-Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients:
3 cups mushrooms, chopped
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon unsalted steak spice
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours in purified water, drained
1 ¼ cups purified water
1 tablespoon miso (yellow or white)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup hemp seeds
½ teaspoon black pepper

Method:
1. Soak cashews in water for 2 hours. Drain and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, heat grapeseed oil and 1 minced garlic for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add mushrooms, oregano, ½ teaspoon sea salt, steak spice and chili flakes. Sauté for 5-8 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Set aside and allow to cool.
3. In a blender, combine drained cashews, water, miso, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, hemp, pepper and cooled mushrooms. Keep a few mushrooms on the side to add to the sauce whole after blending, if desired. Blend until soft and creamy. Mix in remaining mushrooms.
4. This is a versatile sauce which can be used for casseroles, pasta, quinoa, rice or veggie dishes.

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Ingredients:

4-5 slices of bread of your choice, dried and hardened (takes about 2 days)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Method:
1. Choose bread that you would like to grate. Break it into pieces and place on a cooking sheet. Leave it in the oven for at least 2 days to dry out and harden. Do not turn on the oven.
2. Once bread is completely dry and hard, put it in a blender or food processor and grate.
3. Pour into large bowl and add oregano, salt and garlic powder.
4. Use as desired.

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The Bucerias: Maria’s Avocado Soup

This week, I was severely missing my beloved Bucerias, a quiet, quaint, former fishing village in the Banderas Bay of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. For various reasons, I was not in the position to buy a plane ticket, so I did the next best thing: I went to buy some obscenely expensive avocados and I made this superb soup.

Everyone has the same reaction to this soup: “What?! Warm avocado soup?!”  Oh yes, warm avocado and roasted garlic soup is heavenly, just like the small town of Bucerias, where I was inspired to create this soup.

One of the many wonderful things about Bucerias is the fact that avocados are always plentiful and affordable, unlike some other places in the world. Totally in love with avocadoes, and having them in abundance when I was living there, I was always finding new ways to serve them.  This soup is simple to prepare, and yet so tasty and satisfying! I serve it warm, but it’s not cooked, so all of the healthy nutrients of the avocado stay intact. I urge you to try it!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

 Ingredients:

Makes approximately 3 servings

 

3 ripe avocados

½ cup raw walnuts

3/4 cup purified water

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 clove of garlic, chopped

 

Method:

  1. In a small pot, heat grapeseed oil and add garlic. Allow garlic to cook until slightly golden, but not burnt. Allow to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mash avocadoes with a fork. Add avocadoes, cilantro, walnuts, water, salt and browned garlic (with oil) to a food processor or blender. Blend well until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too thick for your liking, add a little more water.
  3. Transfer mixture to a pot and warm on low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, and more chopped cilantro if desired. Add more sea salt if desired. Serve warm.
My Beloved Bucerias, Mexico

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust

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I know I’m a little late for Halloween, but I did manage to perfect that pumpkin spice muffin recipe I was working on and, as promised, here it is!

It’s the season for making delicious recipes with pumpkin and all varieties of squash. These muffins freeze well, so make a few batches, let them cool and store them in the freezer for times when guests pop in.

Since it took me 3 tries before I got this one right, let me share a few things with you so that you can avoid making the mistakes I made.

First, the amount of pumpkin puree you include is crucial: it cannot be more than one cup. Adding more will make the batter too soft, even once cooked. I chose a very small organic pumpkin to make these muffins with this week, but even with a small pumpkin, I still derived 2 cups of flesh when I baked it. So, I pureed it all, used one cup for my recipe and froze the rest for my next batch. Oh, and yes, baking your own pumpkin and scooping out the flesh is highly recommended, so that you can avoid additives, preservatives and refined sugar and salt from the canned variety.

Another little tidbit for baking pumpkins and all varieties of squash I’d like to share: I find them really difficult to cut in half when they are raw. You may not have this issue if you keep an axe in the kitchen, but if you don’t, you can do what I do: bake them whole for several minutes to soften and then chop them in half and place them face down onto the cooking sheet. Also, remember to remove the seeds before baking.

Second, when you add coconut oil to a muffin recipe, make sure that the oil is in its liquid state. Usually, at room temperature, coconut oil is solid, so heat it on the stove to make it melt. I chose coconut oil purely for its nutritional value, so if you don’t feel like liquefying the oil, you may substitute it for one that is already in its liquid format, and doesn’t denature at high temperatures, such as grapeseed oil.

There you go. I think the rest of the recipe is pretty straight forward. Try these yummy muffins. I’m positive your whole family will love them! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins: just out of the oven!

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin flesh

½ cup bran

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons egg replacer

1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 ¼ cup purified water

½ cup coconut oil, liquefied

¾ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half and bake face down for 30 minutes. If pumpkin is too hard for you to cut, bake it initially for 10 minutes to soften, then cut in half, remove seeds and place it face down on your cooking sheet.  Return it to the oven and bake until flesh is soft.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Leave your stove on at 350˚F since we will be placing the muffins in shortly.
  4. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin (we only need one cup) and place it in a blender or food processor. Add ½ cup water, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ cup maple syrup and blend until soft and creamy. Set aside. If you have more pumpkin flesh, you can freeze it for your next batch. Do not add more than one cup of pumpkin because it will make your muffins too soft.
  5. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (bran, flour, egg replacer, spice, baking soda, baking powder, remaining sea salt and non-dairy chocolate chips). Stir.
  6. If your coconut oil is solid, heat it in a small pot on your stove until it liquefies.
  7. In a small bowl, combine pureed pumpkin, liquefied coconut oil, remaining maple syrup and remaining water. Stir.
  8. Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and stir with a spatula.
  9. Line muffin pan with parchment muffin cups. Spoon in batter.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick test comes out dry.
  11. Allow to cool before serving.

 

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ~Jiddu Krishnamurti

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A successful risotto does have to be rich and creamy, but doesn’t have to contain any dairy. This week, let’s take a look at what makes a delicious risotto.

Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish, usually made with a short-grain, white, starchy rice called Arborio rice. Although Arborio is the standard rice to use when making risotto, you can use any rice you like. If your rice is not a high starch variety, the dish may not be as creamy, however, I will teach you a few tricks to enhance the creaminess of any rice. For example, I chose organic brown basmati rice for its nutritional value when I created this dish the other day, and it was amazingly rich and creamy!

The first trick in creating a scrumptious rice dish is to slightly sauté the rice before adding the liquid to it. This will release its nutty, and to my apparently weird olfactory senses, chocolaty, aroma. Divine scent, really! Then, adding the liquid, either vegetable broth or water, or both, must be done a little at a time to allow slow absorption, while stirring constantly. This method will release whatever starchiness is contained in the rice and hence, the desired creamy texture begins to form.

My last secret weapon in the kitchen for creating an irresistible creamy risotto is adding nutritional yeast and Tahini once the rice is cooked. These two ingredients add to the richness and the nutritional yeast contributes a slightly cheesy flavour, which is typically achieved with parmesan cheese for non-vegans. We have also omitted the butter which is common in conventional risotto recipes. Minus the parmesan and butter in this vegan risotto, but definitely no lack in the deliciousness department. Remember, in the vegan kitchen and elsewhere, just forget the box, and let creativity lead the way!

Indulge in this luxurious, exquisite dish, without any animal products whatsoever! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Vegan Risotto

 

Green Vegetable Sesame Risotto

Ingredients:

2 cups brown basmati rice
4 cups Swiss chard or spinach, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 cups zucchini, chopped
1 ½ cups green Cuban peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups purified water (OR 2 cups vegetable broth and 2 cups water)
1 tablespoon oregano
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup Tahini
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add rice and stir, allowing the rice grains to be covered in hot oil. Sauté for an additional 7-8 minutes.
2. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt and 2 cups of water or vegetable broth. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed – about 15-20 minutes. Add 2 more cups water. Taste rice and if desired consistency is reached, set aside. If still too crunchy for your taste, add a little more water until satisfactory. Rice should be al dente.
3. Add Tahini, sesame seeds and nutritional yeast to rice and set aside.
4. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Toss in zucchini and stir. Add oregano and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Once cooked, add zucchini, including garlic and oil, to rice mixture. Set aside.
5. In your large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Toss in Cuban peppers. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard and cook another 5 minutes.
6. Once the vegetables are cooked, add them to the rice mixture.
7. Add chopped parsley to rice and stir. Heat rice over low heat until warm. Add black pepper and more sea salt if desired. Serve warm.

“They know enough who know how to learn.” ~Henry Brooks Adams

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Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up anything. In fact, you are gaining so much: health, bliss, peace of mind, and a sense that you are helping the whole planet and all its creatures. Being vegan simply means learning new things, like how to make a Caesar salad if you want it, without using anything that comes from an animal. This is possible and I can tell you: any recipe can be veganized!  This week, it is my absolute pleasure to share with you a popular favorite: the Caesar Salad, now veganized!

Vegan Caesar Salad

Ingredients:

1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped

1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/3 cup olive oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon Tamari

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup croutons (see recipe below)

Garnish by sprinkling vegan bacon bits and vegan parmesan (see recipe below)

 

Method:

  1. Place chopped Romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast, Tamari and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over lettuce and toss. Add croutons, and sprinkle bacon bits and parmesan over the salad.

 

Vegan Parmesan

Ingredients:

¼ cup raw cashews

¼ cup nutritional yeast

Method:

1. In a food processor, combine cashews and nutritional yeast. Blend until powdery.

 

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients:

3 slices of bread, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon oregano

1 teaspoon sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cut 2 slices of bread (I used whole sprouted grain bread) into cubes.
  3. Place bread cubes in a large casserole.
  4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil over bread.
  5. Sprinkle sea salt and oregano.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bread is hard and crispy.

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

November 1st was World Vegan Day and the whole month of November is vegan month. It is a time when vegans like me, a mere 1% of the human race, focus and combine our efforts to bring awareness to the plight of our animal brothers and sisters. November is a month of reflection, in some cultures, the “month of the dead”, so let’s look at the logic behind using animals.

There was a time not so long ago, when the slavery of Africans was justified by the argument that they were inferior to the white man and lacked intelligence. It was claimed that slavery was actually necessary for the economy to run, and without it, the whole economy would collapse. The use of children as cheap labour was also justified with similar arguments. Today, hopefully all of us recognize that these arguments are erroneous, illogical and ridiculous.

Similarly, we must acknowledge that the slavery of animals and all the arguments used to justify their misery is equally erroneous, illogical and ridiculous. We now know that animals are highly intelligent, sensitive and have their own desires for freedom. They form families and have emotional bonds just like us. They express love and affection, just like us. They want to live, just like us.

We can live, in fact, we can thrive, on a plant-based diet, so why don’t we all start transitioning into one now? All protein, even the protein in meat, comes from plants, so why not eat plants directly? One of the problems with consuming animals for food is that it is terribly inefficient and unsustainable with our ever-growing population, estimated at 7 billion at the moment, not to mention, unbearably cruel.  Farming animals uses way more labour, land, water, and fuel to grow not only the animals, but the crops to feed the animals. Eating animal products actually reduces the amount of food available to the human population. Instead of all this waste and inefficiency, why not just farm and eat the plant crops directly? You can feed 10 times more people with a vegan diet, than with an animal-based diet. With so many of us on this planet, we must use our resources as efficiently as possible.

In fact, there is no logic in our attitudes towards animals. How many of us love our dogs dearly, and yet ingest pharmaceuticals tested on dogs? How many of us claim to be animal lovers and sit down for a meal full of animal corpses and animal secretions? How many of us listen to the melodious chirping of our budgies and canaries, while we carve out the entrails of a turkey or chicken? How many of us cuddle kittens while we gulp down cow’s milk that has been stolen from calves and the calves themselves ripped away from their screaming mothers? Tell me, please, where is the logic in these unquestioned attitudes?

The time is now. Let’s start questioning everything. Let’s start speaking up. Let’s start choosing what’s right. Let’s start choosing compassion. Animals, too, deserve freedom, safety, love and tenderness.

The time is now. Evolve or die.

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He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well, it happened. After 3 ½ years of being vegan, and claiming that vegans don’t get “sick”, I got sick! And not just a little nuisance of a cold either – a full-fledged nasty bronchitis, requiring 2 visits to the doctor and prescription medication.  Sadly, I can no longer make the claim: “Since I’ve turned vegan, I no longer get sick.” Hey, it happens to the best of us!

So what can we do to strengthen our immune system at this time of year when everyone seems to be coming down with something? Can the foods we choose help us fight off infection? You bet they can! We can support our immune system by choosing foods high in vitamins C and E, zinc, beta-carotene, powerful antioxidants, and foods with natural antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties.

Most of us have probably already read about the healing properties of garlic, onion and ginger. These are nature’s antibiotic, antibacterial antiseptics. They fight off viruses and keep your immune system in tiptop shape. Also to strengthen the immune system, red and green hot peppers and parsley are amazing with their high vitamins C and E content. An excellent vegan source for zinc is pumpkin seeds.

What’s an easy way to incorporate these immune boosting foods in our daily diet? I like to prepare a tasty little concoction that I use as a raw garnish on anything and everything. Keeping these ingredients raw will maximize their nutrition. Here’s the recipe:

Immune Boosting Garnish

 

Immune Boosting Garnish: Add To Everything

Ingredients:

2-3 red and green hot peppers of your choice, chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 white onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

Method:

1. Mix all these ingredients in a small bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt. Use as a garnish over everything!

Vegetable and Chickpea broth, brown rice noodles, organic corn and peas, topped with immune boosting garnish
Kamut pasta with wild mushroom tomato sauce, topped with immune boosting garnish

In addition to this, continue juicing organic fruits and veggies! Make your green smoothies in the morning and don’t forget your wheatgrass! Adding plenty, and a variety of, organic fruits and veggies to your diet will surely increase your beta-carotene, vitamins C and E intake. Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are the three major antioxidant vitamins, which support the immune system. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. All citrus fruits and greens are high in vitamin C. Vitamin E powerhouses are broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds.

Also very helpful to immune system functioning are mushrooms. Mushrooms increase the production of cytokines, infection-fighting cells. They also contain polysaccharides, which are compounds that support the immune system. The most potent cold- and flu-fighting mushrooms are shitake and reishi.

Strengthening your immune system will help you avoid getting sick, make you recover quicker if you do get ill, and will improve many other things like the nuisance of allergies, and increase your energy levels.

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

“It is health that is the real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

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Orange Cranberry Muffins!

Muffins are so fun to make, delicious to eat and convenient. You can pop them in your bag for a snack any time of day or as I like to do, put them in the freezer after they have cooled and defrost them when a guest is coming over for a coffee! With muffins in the freezer, you always have a fresh, homemade baked treat to enjoy with friends and family!

However, sometimes even just making a simple batch of muffins can lead to failure! I experimented with 2 creations this week: I tried to create a Halloween special, which I called “Pumpkin Spiced Halloween”, but couldn’t quite get it right. The first time I made them, they were not sweet enough and the second time, I corrected the sweetness deficiency by adding a little more maple syrup, and even some non-dairy chocolate chips, but they were just too soft. I know I made one mistake when mixing up the batter: I added the coconut oil without liquefying it first. This created multi-sized, solid clumps in the batter which were difficult to dissolve and thoroughly mixing the batter was difficult. Then, once they were baking, the coconut oil began to melt and created too much moistness for the flour to sustain and this caused them to be way too soft. So there you have it – Pumpkin Spiced Halloween Muffins: Fail! If you want to cook, you have to be prepared to fail sometimes! However, don’t worry, I will make a third attempt and when I get this one right, I will share it, hopefully in time for Halloween.

The other recipe I created worked out very well, so I will share the recipe with you today: Cranberry Orange Muffins. Sweetness from the oranges and a slight hint of bitter from the fresh cranberries creates a delightful balance and pure taste explosion in the mouth! Try them!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup raw agave nectar
Juice and zest from one orange
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour OR brown rice flour (gluten-free option)
4 teaspoons egg replacer
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup purified water

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. In a small pot, combine cranberries, salt, coconut oil and agave nectar. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add orange juice and zest. Allow to cool.
4. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
5. Once cranberry mixture has cooled, pour into batter and stir.
6. Line muffin pan with parchment muffin cups. Spoon in batter.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick test comes out dry.
8. Allow to cool before serving.

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

“Beethoven rewrote his Fifth Symphony 31 times; in fact, he rewrote everything he ever produced many, many times.” ~Jim Bagnola, Becoming A Professional Human Being

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This week in my class at McGill University, I taught my students how to make a vegan breakfast. Not just any vegan breakfast, but one complete with  an eggless omelette and bacon! Oh, yes, you read that correctly: a vegan can make bacon!

Vegan Bacon!

As I have mentioned before, my goal is to show you that vegan cooking can be easy, fun, healthy, kind, full of variety and delicious! Adopting a vegan diet, or just including more plant-based meals in your routine, will not leave you feeling deprived; on the contrary, you will learn so many new and creative ways to prepare meals without any use for animal products. Even vegan bacon – imagine!

Many people claim that they cannot become vegan because they love bacon too much. Well, vegans can make bacon too! Better bacon that is, because no pigs need be harmed. In our society, many of us are raised to believe that a pig is something that is raised so that we can eat it. Have you ever stopped to question this belief? In fact, a pig is a beautiful, sentient, loving being, just like you and I, only we may have never had the pleasure of getting to know one.  Pigs are social beings who love to play and cuddle. They can even learn tricks, respond to their names and play video games. Why harm them when it is unnecessary?

We used tempeh, a fermented soy product, cut into thin strips, to make the bacon. I thought up of a marinade with smoky, barbeque-type flavours, created by selecting certain spices, like cayenne and paprika.  I had trouble finding liquid smoke, but in the end, it manifested at the last minute and I think it made all the difference.  Liquid smoke is commonly used to flavour or preserve foods. It is produced by passing smoke through a tube from a combustion chamber filled with wood to a condenser. Water vapor is then added to a condenser, where the smoke cools and forms a smoky-tasting liquid.

This marinade was amazing! Perfectly balanced flavours, spicy and slightly sweet, a real treat for the taste buds. I found it so delicious that I plan to use it for burgers too, maybe even oven-baked potatoes.  Try it!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Tempeh Bacon

Ingredients:

1 package tempeh, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 garlic, minced

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon tamari

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Additional black pepper and sea salt sprinkled over bacon at the end, if desired

for frying pan: 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil  or coconut oil

 

Method:

1. Slice the tempeh into thin, rectangular slices.

2. To prepare the marinade, combine all other ingredients in a shallow dish and whisk until thoroughly mixed.

3. Soak tempeh in marinade for at least 10 minutes.

4. Turn stovetop high heat, add grapeseed oil to the frying pan. Once oil has heated, lay the tempeh flat on the pan. Drizzle a bit of excess marinade onto the pan as the tempeh sizzles.

5. Allow to cook for 1 minute, then flip. Allow to cook for another minute on other side, or until both sides are crisp and browned.

6. Lay tempeh strips on paper towels to cool and to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

 

When a human being kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others. Why then should man expect mercy from God? It is unfair to expect something that you are not willing to give. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

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Thanksgiving brings up mixed emotions for me. There is always so much I feel grateful for and giving thanks regularly comes naturally to me.  However, something about sitting around the table with family members and thanking the Almighty for abundance with a carcass as the centerpiece really ruins it for me. It doesn’t make sense to me to thank God for bounty, while a murdered soul lies in front of me.  I prefer compassion – for all beings, including turkeys, because to me, we are all souls in different disguises. Do you know how that soul lying in front of you lived?

Before I became vegan, I was aware of the death involved, the act of killing even, as an inevitable part of what I was eating, however I really wasn’t informed about the suffering and the torture that animals go through prior to ending up on our plates. In fact, I truly believe everyone should know the truth. Why wait? Get informed, so that you can make informed choices.

There are peaceful alternatives for a tasty vegan Thanksgiving.  Usually I give you one vegan recipe per week, but since it’s Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is all about abundance, I am sharing several recipes with you this week!  A complete Thanksgiving menu, completely vegan, completely delicious!

How about some yummy hummus and pesto as dips for raw veggies to start with? Following that, I gave you a perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving soup last week: the Three Squash Soup.  Easy to make, this soup is a delightful way to start a satisfying meal. The main course can be lovely baked tempeh strips, topped with a zesty cranberry orange gravy.  To complete this course: serve it with mashed potatoes and baby peas!

Room for dessert? Come on: it’s Thanksgiving! We must have pumpkin pie for dessert! Below I share with you a simple vegan pumpkin pie recipe I created.  Try it!

Live in gratitude. Be kind to all creatures. Be Love.

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Baked Tempeh Strips

Ingredients:
1 package tempeh, cut into thin strips, marinated and baked

Method:
1. Marinate tempeh strips overnight, using recipe below.
2. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
3. Cover baking sheet with coconut or grapeseed oil. Place tempeh strips on baking sheet in single file. Bake for 20 minutes and turn over. Bake for another 20 minutes.
4. Serve warm, with cranberry orange gravy.

How to marinate tempeh:
In a large glass container, place sliced tempeh, 1/2 cup purified water and the ingredients which follow. Refrigerate overnight.

2 gloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive OR grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted steak spice
1 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
1 bay leaf

Cranberry Orange Gravy

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 oranges, zest and juice
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Method:
1. Place cranberries in a saucepan. Add orange zest and juice from both oranges. Cook over low to medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Add maple syrup. Stir mixture to combine and bring up to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Stir occasionally. Taste-test for sweet/tart ratio and add more maple syrup if desired. Turn off heat.
3. Stir in walnuts and ginger. Serve warm over tempeh strips.

Pumpkin Pie

Crust

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups raw almonds
15 dates, pitted
½ teaspoon sea salt

Method:

1. Place almonds and dates in food processor and blend until firm.
2. Coat round, shallow baking dish with coconut oil. Place date/almond mixture into dish and pat down evenly.

Filling
Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin, baked and flesh scooped out (approximately 2 cups)
1 cup silken tofu
½ cup raw agave nectar
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
3. Pour mixture into baking dish.
4. Bake for 45 minutes.
5. Let cool thoroughly before serving.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~Martin Luther King

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I cried a little this week as I put away my flip flops for the season. So long as the sun was shining, I insisted on wearing them, even as it got chillier, but now with the temperatures starting to dip towards the freezing mark, I can no longer get away with it without discomfort.

There is very little that consoles me at this time of year, as I mourn the loss of my beloved Montreal summer once again. It’s always so difficult to accept the length of the cold months and the dreariness ahead. Dear Summer: why must you leave me?

Despite the chilliness and replacing my flip flops with sneakers, there is still much beauty in the fall season. In particular, the magnificence of the colours and abundance of the harvest is inspiring. Feelings of gratitude come easily every time I stroll through a farmers’ market. I love the bundles of organic root vegetables, fruits, and pumpkins. I make my way home with a bag full of colorful vegetables, daydreaming up possibilities. As soon as I get in, I can hardly wait to start washing, peeling and chopping for lovely soups and stews.

This week, I came home with three beautiful organic squash, each of a different variety: butternut, delicata and ambercup squash. It’s so fun to experiment with, and learn about the many different varieties of squash!

Butternut, delicata and ambercup squash

I started off this soup by putting the whole squash into the oven for a while to soften them. I find it too difficult to cut the squash in half when they are fully raw (I don’t own an axe!). Once they bake and soften a bit, I remove them from the oven and then cut them in half, and place them face down on the cooking sheet to finish baking. After they have cooled, you can scoop up the flesh and put everything in a blender or food processor. I love the comforting warmth, delicate sweetness and grounding feeling I get from indulging myself with this delicious soup. The essence of home cooking is found here: all these wholesome ingredients, so healthy and so easy to make, without any garbage. Truly, food for our body and soul!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash
2 other varieties of squash
5-6 small potatoes, peeled, washed and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 370˚F.
2. Place the squash whole in a large glass casserole or strong baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes to soften.
3. Remove from oven and cut the squash in half. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to baking sheet and place squash face down. Bake for 25 minutes or until flesh is very soft. Allow to cool.
4. Place potatoes, 1 clove chopped garlic and salt in a pot with filtered water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Drain.
5. In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
6. Scoop out flesh from the squash into your food processor or blender. Add potatoes and browned garlic (including oil).
7. Add 1 cup or purified water, parsley and salt. Blend until creamy. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, add more water.
8. Transfer mixture to a large pot and heat on low heat. Garnish with black pepper and parsley. Serve warm.

Revere the healing power of nature. ~Hippocrates

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“What do they know, all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. 

All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”

~Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978 Nobel Prize Winner

 

A few weeks ago, Mika and Zak, two harp seal pups at the aquarium in Iles-de-la-Madelaine, were issued a death sentence by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Due to an international outcry, with more than 124,000 signatures generated on a petition to save them, the pups’ lives have been spared. After much confusion as to what to do with the seals, the aquarium received word from the DFO a few days ago that Mika and Zak may be released into the ocean.

Every spring for the past 25 years, the DFO captured two young harp seals from the wild to put them on display at the Iles-de-la-Madelaine aquarium. Every fall, when the aquarium closes for the winter months, the seals are released back into their natural habitat. This year, however, the DFO changed their directives and decided that releasing the seal pups may endanger wildlife by potentially transmitting diseases to wild populations. With the recent information coming to light on the sorry state of marine life in captivity and the amount of medications that are given to such animals to keep them looking somewhat healthy, the DFO’s new directives are of no surprise.

Hearing of the death order, one of the aquarium workers alerted a wildlife rehabilitation centre in B.C., and the petition, which ultimately saved the lives of Mika and Zak, was launched.

The aquarium halted the planned killing of the seals but did not quite know what to do with them. At one point, they requested $73,000 from the public to send them to a wildlife facility in France. Animal activists and wildlife organizations were shocked—they felt like this was some type of ransom note.

This heart-wrenching situation raises questions about why the DFO is capturing wild marine mammals to begin with, and about the lack of legislation protecting marine mammals both in the wild and in captivity.

The aquarium states that its mandate is to educate the public about wildlife in the Saint-Lawrence River/Atlantic Ocean area and help humans create a bond with these animals. It appears rather contradictory to this mandate to exterminate these same animals once the tourist season is over.

How unfortunate that people view animals, not as souls and beings like themselves, but as “things” which can be forcibly claimed from the wild and disposed of when they no longer serve them or when they become a burden. What gives us this right? What makes it acceptable in the human psyche, the human heart? It is incumbent for us to reconnect to our hearts and see God in everyone, in every living being. Every living being has a divine spark, and we have no right to recklessly take away lives at will.

What exactly are we teaching our children when we bring them to zoos and aquaria to stare at miserable wild animals captured for our pleasure and “education”?

Based on reports from workers at Marineland, the Toronto Star recently published a series of stories describing the horrendous living conditions at that aquarium in Niagara Falls, and thousands of people have now signed a petition calling on the Ontario Premier to enact laws to protect animals in zoos and aquaria.

The DFO stopped the capture of whales for display in aquaria in 1999. Perhaps it’s due time to stop capturing all marine mammals—stop taking them away from their own families and homes. Just because we can kidnap wild animals, doesn’t mean we should.

 

Apples n’ Cinnamon: The perfect pair!

Last Sunday, I made this delightful apple cake I dreamed up, and everyone at my party loved it! Many people asked me for the recipe, so I decided to share it with all of you!

I call it my comforting apple crumble cake because there is something so homey about anything with apples and cinnamon: apple pie, apple crumble, apple turnover. I guess that particular smell of apples and cinnamon reminds us of childhood when our moms, aunts and grandmothers would be baking and the whole house would smell like a warm hug! You will get that same feeling when you prepare this apple filling on your stove. It has to simmer slowly for almost an hour, allowing the aroma to dance its way into every room. Prepare the filling first so that it has time to cool a little before pouring it over the cake.

I chose to use organic apples for the filling. Organic means that the food in question was not grown with chemicals like pesticides and herbicides, and that it wasn’t genetically modified. Sometimes it is a little more difficult to find organic produce versus that which is conventionally grown, however, it is becoming more widespread. Let’s continue buying organic, and it will become more readily available! Also, sometimes, certain things are more expensive when they are organic. We all have to make a choice whether we want to invest a little more in what goes into our bodies and save on time spent being sick later on! I think it’s well worth it! Isn’t our health our most precious wealth?

This cake is delicious served on its own with a hot cup of green tea or coffee, or also for added yumminess, with a scoop of coconut vanilla ice cream. Ohhhh heaven! I’m in heaven!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

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Ingredients:

 Filling:

7-8 large, sweet red apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup raw agave nectar

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake:

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour or brown rice flour (gluten-free option)

1 cup raw cane sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons egg replacer

1 cup grapeseed or coconut oil

¾ cup purified water

¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce

½ teaspoon sea salt

Topping:

½ cup almond flour

½ cup raw cane sugar

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats

3 teaspoons vegan butter or coconut oil

Method:

  1. In a large pot, combine all filling ingredients and simmer on low heat for 45-55 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  3. Combine cake ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Knead mixture into firm loaf. If loaf crumbles or is too hard to work with, add a tiny amount of water. Remove 1/3 of the mixture and set aside.
  5. Press down mixture in a 10 inch x 10 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
  6. Pour in cooled apple filling.
  7. With remaining 1/3 of the cake mixture, take small amounts and make palm-sized patches with your hands. Place patch by patch over fruit filling until all the fruit is completely covered.
  8. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients. Rub mixture between fingers until it begins to form small clumps. Sprinkle topping over top of the cake.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours before cutting. Serve warm on its own or with coconut vanilla ice cream.
Fresh out of the oven! Overflowing with deliciousness!

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein

Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup

When I posted pictures of a warm avocado soup I created this week, Bonnya wrote to me from India and said that avocado is not always easy to come by in India. She asked me if I could think of an alternative to avocado.

Oh my, but avocado was the main ingredient, besides love of course! What to do, what to do, what to do …. My mind started going quickly through various factors to consider: texture, color, taste, … and … availability in India!

Aha – it hit me! How about potato? I told Bonnya my idea and she seemed very pleased. She said that would work because potato is their “sacred vegetable” in India. I told her I would try it out at Amore’s Kitchen and let her know.

Try it out I did. I got to work and decided to prepare it for a family brunch I was having on Sunday. I took a chance. I don’t often prepare something for the first time when it is intended for guests, but I decided to make it the night prior – plenty of time to start over if it was lousy!

When I am creating in the kitchen, I first imagine what flavours and textures I am looking for. I knew the potatoes, once boiled and cooled, would puree just fine in the food processor – so the texture was covered in my mind – but what taste was I looking for? I imagined roasted garlic, and kept thinking about that “twice baked potato” they do with chives and sour cream. Chives were in for me, sour cream of course not, but I decided to add a little nutritional yeast for a hint of cheesy and nutty (totally optional). I could have gone for a cashew-based sour cream-type ingredient, but did not feel it necessary since the pureed potatoes would be creamy on their own.

Indeed they were! A spoonful of a taste-test for me, and I was satisfied with the textures and flavour. I then called my mother over to give me her verdict.

“Hey, Ma: Try this. Is it fit to serve to guests tomorrow?” She said maybe a touch more sea salt, but other than that my, my, my, not too shabby at all!

The next day, I heated it up for my guests and they loved it!

Vegan Brunches at Amore’s Kitchen!

Fast, simple, a minimal number of easily accessible and affordable ingredients – this is probably the easiest and most inexpensive soup you will ever make! Satisfying and tasty – a perfect upcoming autumn and winter recipe. Also very convenient: make a big batch and simply heat it up on the stove when you need some warmth.

I wrote to Bonnya with pictures and the recipe. She too made it for her family and was ecstatic with the results! She loved it! My heart exploded with joy when I received her feedback!

Try it and bliss out too! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 servings

10-12 small to medium white potatoes, peeled
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of dried chives
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 cups purified water
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper and chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Method:

1. Wash and peel potatoes. Place potatoes in a big pot with water, onion, 1 tablespoon of sea salt and 1 garlic. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain water and allow to cool.

2. In a small pot, heat grapeseed oil and add remaining garlic. Allow garlic to cook until slightly golden, but not burnt. Allow to cool.

3. Once cooled, add boiled potatoes (with onion and garlic) and garlic (with oil) to a food processor or blender. Add chives and nutritional yeast. Blend well until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too thick, add a little more water.

4. Transfer mixture to a pot and warm on stovetop.  Stir occasionally.

5. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and parsley if desired. Serve warm.

“Dear Maria,
Today, this morning, the first thing I did is I prepared the soup. It was mindblowing! It kickstarted our day with bundles of delight. It is a food for happiness. Hats off to you for your amazing creation.
Thank you very much.”
~Bonnya Lahiry Chattopadhyay, from Calcutta, India.

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Granola with blueberries,banana and almond milk!

This week, how about we make some granola? You know you want to and everyone will love you for it! Let’s do it!

I learned this recipe from Ann Gentry’s marvelous book (which I highly recommend), Vegan Family Meals, and simply added a few ingredients myself. It is so delicious! You can eat it as a snack, combined with your favorite cereal, non-dairy milk and fruit, or add a little to your favorite raw nut mix to increase the yumminess factor!

We already discussed the large variety of non-dairy milks on the market. With such tasty, healthy, kind alternatives to dairy, it’s so easy to make the right choice. We can also easily make fresh nut milks at home, which are, the healthiest option of all! Ann Gentry provides an easy recipe in her book. Also, the amazing Montreal-based Naturopath and Raw Food Chef Joanne Gero has a Youtube video channel where she shows us step by step how to make a fabulous almond milk! YUMMY!

This granola is really simple to put together; the majority of the time it takes to prepare this recipe is spent chopping all the nuts! I put some tunes on and it becomes a meditative process for me. I also love to teach this recipe to my students in my vegan cooking class at McGill University. We have lots of fun preparing this recipe together and we practically smell up the whole building with the tantalizing aroma as it bakes!

Making granola!

 

You will notice from the recipe below that the sweetness comes from maple syrup. The rice syrup is also necessary, not for sweetness since it doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but rather it is essential for its binding effect. The rice syrup is our little secret weapon for creating those much loved clusters in the granola! Love granola clusters!

This granola stores very well in mason jars or any glass jar for 2 weeks and more! The crunchiness and freshness remain intact. This is why I love making a batch and bringing it as a gift to friends. Who doesn’t love homemade granola? Try it and have a blast!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Granola gifts!

Ingredients:
Makes about 7 cups

1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup raw Brazil nuts, chopped
½ cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds
½ raw almonds, chopped
½ cup raw pecans, chopped
½ cup raw walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
¾ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
¼ cup goji berries

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.
2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
3. In large bowl, mix oats and all chopped nuts and seeds. Mix in cinnamon and salt.
4. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add maple syrup, rice syrup, water, vanilla and whisk just until blended and heated through.
5. Drizzle the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir with a whisk to coat.
6. Spoon granola mixture evenly over parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.
7. As granola bakes, gently stir it every 15 minutes.
8. Add apricots, goji berries and raisins and cook for 10 more minutes.
9. Allow to cool. It will become crunchy when cool. Serve alone as a healthy snack, add a couple of spoonfulls to your raw nut mixes, or with cereal, banana and/or blueberries and a non-dairy milk of your choice.

“Want your family to enjoy delicious, healthful meals and snacks? Feel and look their best? Improve their long term health? Help the environment? Vegan food makes an incredible difference, for our bodies and for the world around us.” ~Ann Gentry, Vegan Family Meals

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are delicious, nutritious and versatile. Here is a quick and easy salad recipe which you can serve alone, as a side dish or over your favorite greens, such as crispy arugula lettuce.

Some people buy their chickpeas in a can, which you can do if you like—it’s definitely quicker, but not the healthiest option, in my opinion. Anything that is canned contains preservatives, added table salt, sometimes bleaches and food coloring, and possibly other chemicals to increase its shelf life. Simply speaking, the process of canning foods makes it “processed food”. This is not as healthy as fresh produce. With chickpeas, there is more nutrition in buying them dehydrated, soaking and cooking them yourself. For maximum nutrition, you can also experiment with sprouting your own chickpeas.

Furthermore, since fundamentally we and everything around us is energy, we can look at the link between health and food from a vibrational perspective. As Dawn James explains in her book, Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life, everything in nature vibrates at specific frequencies, which can be measured with certain instruments, including our own cells. There is research being done now examining the connection between vibrational frequencies and the state of our health. Even our thoughts and emotions change our cells’ vibrational state.

With respect to food, when the vibrational levels are recorded in Hertz (Hz), fresh produce measures up to 27 Hz, whereas canned food measures in at 0 Hz! What does that mean? It seems that canned food is dead food! As James points out on page 20 of her book, “canning preserves food by heating it in airtight, vacuum-sealed containers; this process removes oxygen, destroys enzymes and kills most microorganisms that may be present in food. The canning process also compromises the quantity and quality of water-soluble vitamins contained in food.” 

I buy my chickpeas in bulk, soak them overnight in purified water, and then cook them the next day. You can also freeze them once they are cooked, so you simply have to defrost when you want to use them.

I soak and cook the chickpeas with a bay leaf and a piece of Kombu (type of kelp). The bay leaf is the Western solution to the issue of intestinal gas that some people experience when they eat chickpeas and other beans, whereas the Kombu is the Eastern solution. I use both, but one or the other also works sufficiently well. Skimming the foam while the chickpeas cook is also another useful trick in eliminating the gas-producing properties of chickpeas. Try these tricks and you’ll experience a big difference!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Cheeky Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups chickpeas, pre-soaked and cooked
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar OR juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Soak chickpeas overnight with one bay leaf and one strip of dried Kombu.
2. Boil chickpeas (including bay leaf and Kombu) for 1.5 to 2 hours. Skim foam while cooking. (Skimming, in addition to the bay leaf and Kombu, removes gas-producing effects.)
3. Remove from heat and drain all liquid. Discard bay leaf and Kombu. Allow to cool.
4. Mix cooled chickpeas and all other ingredients in large bowl.
5. Refrigerate for ½ hour for flavours to marinate. Serve chilled.

 

“If you want to raise your vibration through the consumption of food, then you need to eat foods in their most natural and organic state, with the highest amount of life force energy, the least amount of pesticides and the least amount of processing to ensure your cells receive the nutrients they need so your organs can function optimally.” ~Dawn James, Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life

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