Super Ace Artichoke & Sunflower Spread

April 4, 2012

Hello super fabulous IPOM readers and friends! Today’s post is dedicated to new friends and old, those who support us through all the tough times in life. Those who believe in us, and see something in us that makes them want to hang with us (or just eat our delicious food, I am totally fine with either or both). Friendships are special, as folks are busy and time is tight. Friends kind of make this girl’s world go ’round and I love any chance to win someone over. What better way to do that than with super homemade food?

This recipe was recently inspired by the creamy texture of canned artichoke hearts. Blended together with a few winners like the protein-loaded sunflower seed and made rich & sophisticated by the addition of roasted pepper, this spread is dressed to impress – it can be made totally vegan as the cheese is optional – and is full of delicious and healthy ingredients!

Super Ace Artichoke & Sunflower Spread:
  • (1) cup raw sunflower seeds
  • (2/3) cup olive oil
  • (1) clove garlic
  • (1) tsp salt
  • (1) tbsp fresh thyme
  • (1/2) bunch chives (about 2 tbsp)
  • (1) red pepper, roasted, charred and peeled
  • (4) tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • (1) 398 ml can un-marinated artichoke hearts (5 each)
  • (1/4) cup good parmesan cheese (totally optional!)

Begin by roasting the red pepper – this is so easy and fun! Turn the oven on to broil and prepare the pepper by washing it and slicing it in half (no need to do anything else!). Without any oil, add the pepper halves, seed side down, to a flat cookie sheet and pop into the hot oven, on the second rack from the top. The pepper will start to char in the skin after 10 minutes or so – keep roasting under the broiler for 25 minutes or so until the skin is black and has popped off the flesh. Your pepper should begin to smell wonderful too at the finish of this process – enjoy! Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skins, the top, and the seeds with your hands. They will just fall off easily as the pepper will be well cooked and ready to use!

Next, toast (or roast) about a 1/3 of the sunflower seeds either in the warm oven for a few minutes or in a dry skillet on the stove top. Add the remaining raw seeds to your blender along with the lemon juice, chives, thyme leaves, garlic, and the roasted pepper flesh. Drain the artichokes and save the liquid from the can. Add artichokes to the blender along with the oil, salt, and optional cheese. Once the seeds are toasted perfectly, add them (still warm) to the mixture. Blend all on a pulse blend and stop here and there to agitate the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. Do not do what I do and put it in while it runs! Ooooops! Blend until thick and well incorporated, using additional artichoke water if you need to facilitate better blending. Transfer to your favorite container (this recipe makes a generous amount) and refrigerate. This will keep at least 5 days in the fridge and makes a generous portion!

Enjoy this yummy spread as a base for your next sandwich, as a dip for your next celery snack attack, or to start an evening or gathering with friends and family off on the right foot! We enjoyed this week with a bit of broiled toast – just drizzle a few pieces of old toast with olive oil and pop under the broiler until brown. Another great way to jazz up stale bread! However you choose to enjoy it, do it well, do it with friends or loved ones, and enjoy!

ShiraSuper Ace Artichoke & Sunflower Spread

Quinoa Cauliflower Tabbouleh

April 2, 2012

Getting fresh perspective isn’t always the easiest thing. Ever heard of tunnel vision (I sure have!)? With so many fixed elements in place in our lives it can be difficult to break out of our routine, or look at life through a different lens, never mind through new eyes. Well, it’s Monday, friends – and here’s to the start of a brand new week!With spring here, we feel the urge to renew, and refresh. For me, this recipe represents an opportunity I recently got to do just that! I was delighted to open my email last week to find a fresh recipe sent just for me courtesy of a favorite blogger – the quirky and extremely clever writer and (dare I say) curator of This Sydney Life.

I simply adore tabbouleh (reminds of potlucks in the 80’s), with its minty freshness and light airy vibes, and this recipe has a twist that honestly knocked my socks off. It’s just so darned fresh! So I simply had to share it.

Fresh takes on old ideas are what makes the world go around according to my favorite clever & inspirational writer Paul Arden in his book “Whatever You Think Think The Opposite”.

So with that, I’ll get right to it – let the celebration begin!

The Less:

Less wheat-based tabbouleh means those with sensitivities can enjoy their favorite fresh-flavored dish. Less focus on the grain as the main ingredient means a lighter experience all around. Less wondering what to do for your next potluck makes planning a snap – because this dish is a winner!

The More:

More cabbage family veggies in the diet mean more disease fighting properties in your foods. More fresh herbs and green leafy veggies means more ways to win without growing bored. More zesty citrus, sweet dried fruits, and bold nutty flavors mean more satisfying tastes for your taste buds. More sharing is good, especially when it’s done among friends.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh:
  • (1) small head cauliflower, washed & cut into small florets
  • (1 and 3/4) cups water
  • (1) cup quinoa, dry
  • (1) bunch cilantro (about one cup chopped)
  • (1) bunch Italian flat leaf parsley (about 2 cups chopped)
  • (1) bunch mint (about one cup chopped)
  • (1/2) to (1) cup walnuts, chopped & toasted
  • (1/2) – (3/4) cup dried cranberries (or to your preference)
  • (2-3) tbsp olive oil
  • (2-3) tbsp of juice from one large lemon & zest
  • (1) tsp salt or to taste

Cook quinoa by combining the grain with the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn heat to low (without raising the lid) and cook for 20 minutes. Once finished, remove lid and fluff with a fork while it cools in the pot.

Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets, saving the stem part for soup (or include it if you prefer). Chop to a 1-2 inch dice. This will produce 4-6 cups of chopped cauliflower.

Cook cauliflower in boiling salted water or in a steamer for 6-8 minutes until tender. Drain and rinse quickly with cold water to cool.

Chop the walnuts and toast either in a dry pan over medium high heat (stirring constantly) or in the oven until brown and fragrant. About 6-8 minutes in a 350 degree oven should do the trick!

Zest half the lemon on a fine grater and juice the lemon afterwards. Add to a large mixing bowl along with the cooked quinoa & cauliflower, cranberries, walnuts, olive oil and salt. Gently toss everything to combine.

Next, wash your bounty of gloriously fragrant herbs under cold water and shake any excess water. Chop them all up and throw them in too – this is BY FAR the most wonderful part of this recipe!

Stir everything together and enjoy! This dish will keep in the fridge at least a few days. I served it the first time this week with these millet burgers and a nice green salad. Wonderful!

What was wonderful to me was my frame of mind when I first made this – normally I would chop my herbs super fine – but given the amounts of greens and the presence and size of the cauliflower in this recipe, it was liberating and totally refreshing to chop the herbs like I would for a salad – the original recipe called for cup measurements which worked out to roughly a bunch of each of the 3 stars of this dish.

I’ll let you be the judge as to how you’d tackle this, and I sure would love to know! I simply delighted in this recipe. The smells of the herbs (mint lovers heaven!) – and the combo and the sheer amounts of the 3 thrilled not only my senses but those I have (already) shared it with (I’ve now made it twice). Cooking and sharing is but one small way we can open ourselves up to outside views, totally fresh perspectives we would otherwise miss. Thanks to all you bloggers and readers (and dare I say friends!) out there, there is a world of endless possibilities out there…just waiting…

ShiraQuinoa Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Classic Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

March 26, 2012

I hope you all had a truly fab weekend soaking up the spring sun and taking it all in!

As for us, we’ve got a new layer of topsoil in the garden and a clean fresh outlook – here’s to the new season…and Easter coming up! Today’s post is (once again) dedicated to the simple easy pleasures in life. Healthy food made delicious by the addition of simple (and rich) spices! A vegetarian’s palette of inspiration is only as limited as the spice cupboard, and inexpensive staples can go from pretty meh to pretty mean in a few seconds with (just a little) bit of spice.

Indian spices in particular are so wonderfully varied, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with combos (but it can be done) – and there are a few easy ones that everyone should be familiar with. They would be (for me): cumin (both ground and seeds), ginger, turmeric, black mustard seeds, coriander, garam masala (so many kinds!), cardamom..there are a few others – what are your classic faves?

There are so many different spices to name but I’ve always had good luck preparing delicious veggie curries and bean dishes out of the ones listed above. They are known for being widely beneficial to digestion, and gentle and calming for the soul (maybe that part is just for me – anyone else?).

Side Note: Here in Vancouver – home to one of North America’s most widely celebrated Indian restaurants (Vij’s) – we are lucky to have a few high quality haunts (from budget to high-end) to frequent for a taste of the real thing. My recent (1st!) trip to London also brought me to Brick Lane, which was a very special experience, and I’ll never forget my 1st taste of that delicious lime pickle…amazing!

Alas, I don’t think a trip to India will ever be in the cards for me (but never say never), and I would never consider my home cooking a substitution for the real thing……but it isn’t all that hard, and cooking this way is: Delicious, cheap, and good for you. Straight up!

The Less:

Less complicated ingredients means you are more likely to make this. Less canned or jarred spice mixtures mean cleaner, simpler food. Less cream and animal based curries means lighter, cheaper meals. Less heavy beans means your body might not mind eating these (especially if you are sensitive to beans and legumes).

The More:

More flavorful vegetarian dishes in your repertoire means more yummy foods to cook often. More vibrantly colored food means more visual pleasure for your senses. More ginger and spices means more help for digestion. More cheap dinners means more money for other things. Straight up and simple, this dish a classic.

Red Lentil Vegetable Curry:
  • (2) tbsp olive oil, canola oil, or ghee
  • (2) tbsp black mustard seeds
  • (1) onion chopped (about one heaping cup)
  • (2) tsp salt
  • (2) tsp turmeric
  • (2) tsp cumin
  • (2) tbsp fresh chopped or grated ginger
  • (3) carrots, chopped (about one heaping cup)
  • (2) medium potatoes (about one heaping cup)
  • (1.5) cups canned diced tomatoes (1 398ml can)
  • (1) cup red lentils
  • (4) cups water
  • (1) lemon
  • black pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

The trick with this style of cooking is to have all of your spices ready and veggies chopped and ready to go. Everything happens pretty quickly and even for experienced cooks it’s difficult to be prepping and measuring while the cameras are rolling. So be ready! In a medium large pot, heat the oil on medium high. When hot, add the black mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop – don’t leave the stove – this takes about 30 seconds only!

Once the little seeds start dancing (and popping!), add the chopped onion and salt and cook, stirring about 5-6 minutes, or until golden. Add ginger and remaining dry spices and cook, stirring for one minute on medium heat. When spices are fragrant, add tomato and stir all well for about a minute or two until well integrated.

Add lentils, chopped vegetables and water and stir all to well combine. Bring to a light boil on medium-high with the lid on. Once boiling temperature has been reached, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently to prevent the lentils from prevent sticking to bottom of the pot. Once ready, add the juice of lemon. Simple, zesty, and ready to serve! Serve with ground pepper, a dash of butter or olive oil, plenty of freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh cilantro – don’t forget the side of rice if desired and buttery naan bread too!

This will get more delicious the longer it sits in your fridge and I highly recommend making it a day before you serve it. I’ve been making this curry as long as I’ve been cooking it seems – it never gets tired, and it’s always incredible!

ShiraClassic Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

Lively Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce

March 21, 2012

Good day folks! Here it is, as promised, the brightest, greenest, freshest sauce to hit our fridge (that won’t go brown) in a long long while!

I should start by stating that I could eat foods inspired by Mexican flavors everyday without any issue (really, at all). I mean, really, this food is made with quite possibly the simplest, freshest, and most flavorful ingredients out there – not to mention being outright cheap and easy to obtain and prepare. I’ve yet to meet a person who disagrees with me on this either – and I think I’d be challenged to based on the general love I see for all things taco related online and elsewhere (delicious food truck anyone?).

Let’s just say: LOVE. Yes, there it is – for veggies and meat eaters alike to vegans and gluten free folk. There is something for everyone here….most all an abundance of fresh flavor that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy!

Let’s go through the list when it comes to the amazing flavors that have permeated our house these days: Limes: easy to find and cheap. Cilantro: easy to find (and grow) and cheap. Green onions: same. The rest? A little goes a long way here: a few nuts (which could easily become dairy too if preferred), a little oil, water and salt (and don’t forget to add a little kale of course!) – and you are set! A gorgeous any-day meal inspiration to top just about anything.

This sauce is part of a trio of sauces I have been playing with – so far this version has gotten the most play simply for the ease of ingredients, and the fresh color and flavour. 

Lively Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce:
  • (3/4) cup raw whole cashews or pieces
  • (1) whole bunch cilantro, stems removed (yup – the entire bunch!)
  • (1) fresh jalapeno pepper
  • (1/2) bunch green onion (tops only – about 1/3-1/2 cup, no need to chop!)
  • (1-2) leaves green curly kale
  • (4) tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • (1) cup water
  • (2) tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • (1) tsp good sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high. Keep things moving with a spatula if you like, and let it go until it is well blended and super duper bright green! Use the whole jalapeno if you don’t mind a little kick, otherwise feel free to remove the seeds first if you prefer a milder flavour. There you have it – pour into a jar and keep sealed in the fridge. This will last at least a week in the fridge – see how long it lasts you!

This sauce works brilliantly (as you can imagine) smothered on a freshly warmed corn tortilla and topped with any range of beans, chopped veggies, with or without meat or cheese. It also works to top any kind of veggie burger and is delicious on the Quinoa Protein Bites posted here! The beauty and simplicity within each of the ingredients in this recipe remind me that good food is always just a step away and needn’t be complicated to be prepared well, or enjoyed.

On a personal note, I am so enjoying the comments and feedback from all of you this week – particularly the notes on your favorite childhood snacks – it’s so fun to be taken back for just a moment to what we ate in the good old days!

ShiraLively Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce

Quinoa Protein Bites

March 17, 2012

Happy Saturday all! I hope you are all enjoying the start of a wonderful weekend as spring has officially sprung, our days are getting longer, and we are starting to plan for the spring and summer season ahead! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a reasonably busy gal…

Eating well on limited time is always a challenge – especially when we want to be outside during the warmer months coming up. Enter this recipe. I make these little nuggets of pure complete plant protein and have them in the fridge to heat up (or eat cold) when I come in and need a quick healthy meal that will make me feel great. They are rock solid in a salad, or wrapped in a lightly heated corn tortilla and doused in this yummy cilantro sauce (an upcoming post!). Quinoa is indeed an almost perfect food. I mean, it’s got it all, doesn’t it? Few are the foods which provide such solid nutritional sustenance and complete proteins while being tasty, light, easy to cook, and so versatile!

Quinoa Protein Bites:
  • (1) cup uncooked quinoa cooked in 1 3/4 cup cold water*
  • (1) cup walnuts ground fine
  • (2) tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 5 tbsp water (or sub one egg for the chia)
  • (1) cup nut milk, soy milk, or regular milk
  • (1/2) cup quick oats
  • (2) tbsp Bragg’s Aminos or soy sauce
  • (1) tsp salt
  • (1) tsp cumin ground
  • (2) tbsp chopped scallions/green onions/chives
  • roasted sesame seeds to top the bites before baking (optional)
  • olive oil for the pan

Put up the quinoa to cook by combining the water and quinoa in a pan. Cover the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat with the lid still on. Cook, covered, on low for 20-25 minutes. While the quinoa cooks, soak your chia in a small bowl with the water. Stir after a minute to ensure the water and chia soak together evenly. Grind the walnuts, using either a hand grinder or the attachment to your hand blender (or your food processor 🙂 )

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.Chop the scallions, and combine with the salt and cumin in a large mixing bowl. Once your quinoa is cooked, add (1/2)-(3/4) of the cooked grain to a blender (or food processor – hehe) along with the soaked chia, nut milk, and Braggs or soy sauce. Blend to a paste, stirring as needed with a spatula. Remove the mixture into the mixing bowl with the seasonings and follow with the remaining cooked quinoa, oats, and ground nuts. Get in there and mix this with your hands – and have fun!

You should end up with a beautiful mix that will stick together beautifully to form wonderful round discs of protein madness (add oats if they are falling apart at all). Oil a flat cookie pan with olive oil. Form your bites and add to the pan, one by one, mindfully (and don’t worry about them being perfect). Add sesame seeds to one side one by one with a little spoon if you like, it looks nice and they add a nice flavour. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes on each side, turning them over at the halfway mark. Remove from oven and cool! Voila! Perfect little protein bites.

ShiraQuinoa Protein Bites
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