Monday, 30 June 2014

Nut-Free Caesar Salad Dressing

Ceaser salad is one of those iconic dishes that are available pretty much everywhere. I've often seen it on the weirdest of places, like at a chinese restaurant of all places. It has become one of the most common salads to be found and can be made in a large variety of ways.

One of these ways is the gourmet raw vegan way, usually filled with cashews. The problem is, cashews and me don't have the best of relationships. They tend to like getting me a little more weighty. While working at a raw vegan restaurant, these pesky things were everywhere.

Many people also tend to avoid nuts for many reasons: they follow a low fat vegan diet, they have allergies, they aren't actually raw... I just tend to avoid nuts because they don't digest that well and I like to keep a *generally* low fat diet. This recipe is also raw if you use fresh coconut!

While in Costa Rica, we had ample access to fresh coconuts, I would harvest the meat from them almost every week and would freeze most of later use. I made a TON of curries but I really wanted to make some fun and interesting raw recipes.

This recipe came out so well, it became a staple, where there was pretty much always a jar sitting in the fridge. If you don;t have access to fresh coconuts, or you don;t really want to go through that hassle, you *might* be able to use dried coconut that has been soaked overnight to 24 hours with a high powered blender. I can't guarantee anything though.

Coconut Caesar Dressing


- 2 cups coconut meat
- Water, as needed
- 2 tbsp capers
- 2 lemons, juiced (about 5 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup noni juice OR 1/2 cup nutritionnal yeast
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard (opt)
- 1 tbsp pepper
- Salt, to taste (opt)

In a high powered blender, blend the coconut meat and water (start with 1 cup and go from there) until very smooth. 

Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until well incorporated.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. It sets in the fridge and is even better the next day.


Friday, 27 June 2014

From Scratch Hot Sauce

Getting used to having a "real job" is weird. I've been so used to being able to pull either 12 hour days working on websites, this blog and taking courses, or just vedging out that getting used to have to be doing a certain task 5 days a week that isn't working towards total independence is just odd.

BUT I havent wavered on my true passion, I've found that even after an 8 hour day of training on the phone and on the computer, I still look forward to making dinner. It's one of the bestparts of my day (although the dishes are a whole other story!) 

Making things like hot sauce and salsa from scratch is something that I picked up in Costa Rica, mostly because the ones available there we're both very expensive AND full of nasties. I've found that although I have a serious Sriracha food fetish, making my own hot sauce is just too awesome to stop doing.

I made two versions so far, one with jalapeños and one with habanero peppers, but in this recipe you can use whatever hot pepper you want or have access to. Don't be shy to whip out those scotch bonnets if you love heat!

I've found that hot sauce is one of those things that people LOVE and put on everything (me!) or something that is occasional or avoided at all costs. I made 2 liters of this stuff one week and it lasted about 2 weeks. I think we may have an addiction...

Use the freshest produce available to get the best results. You can also change up the vinegars you use. I only had access to regular white vinegar, but to make this even healthier you could use apple cider vinegar instead.

Basic Hot Sauce


- 1 lb hot peppers of choice
- 1 large roasted tomato
- 3 large roasted red peppers
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 tsp salt

To mellow the sauce a little, or create a more smokey flavor, you can roast the peppers. I roasted them for both the recipes pictured (jalapeño and habanero). Stem and seed them, unless you want an extra hot sauce in which case keep the seeds.

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. 

Can be used right away but it gets even better overnight.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Yam Enchiladas

Sometimes, when you really work hard at what you want and keep a positive attitude (well, for the most part anyway) you find yourself exactly where you planned on being. As much as it took a bit more time than I wanted, I finally found a job that suits my needs and allows me to continue working on Plates for Plants.

I am lucky enough that this also means that I get to work from home! Time saved, no need to commute and no need for bus passes and less temptation to eat out are all massive perks.

And more time for food! It's nice because since being back in Canada, I'm not rushed to absolutely have to do recipes during the day, since the sun doesn't set at 6pm every single day as it did in Costa Rica. Which means good pictures are available for a much longer time period!

Okay, let's get to the food. This recipe is quite delicious and since we are very partial to any type of latin american food, it was very popular. These enchiladas are quite simple to make, you can even make the filling ahead of time, as well as the sauce. So when dinner comes around all you have to do is warm the tortillas, stuff and roll them and slater them in sauce. In the oven and voila! Dinner is served.

As always you can adjust the spice level to your preferences. I enjoy a sprizt of lime and a tumble of avocado to top mine, but yet again if you want to keep your fat intake as low as possible, omit the avocado.

Yam Enchiladas


- 2 large yams, peeled and cubed.
- 3/4 cup black beans
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 bell pepper, diced finely
- 1 tsp cumin
- S/P
- 10 corn tortillas


- 2-3 large tomatoes
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 jalapeño
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 red pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Boil the yams until tender.

In a large pan, water sauté the onion and pepper until softened, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer yams and vegetables into a large bowl and mash until well incorporated. Add spices. Warm the tortillas in the oven and then stuff and roll them, about 2-3 tbsp of filling per tortilla. 

While the potatoes are boiling, blend the tomatoes or tomato sauce with the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer until it has reduced to a thick consistency. 

Pour some sauce into an oven safe dish to cover the bottom, then add in the enchiladas and then pour the rest over them. Bake for 20-30 minutes.


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Chickpea "Tuno" Salad

Fresh and vibrant are my two favorite words when it comes to food. I mean, there are a million words with which food can be described, but when a dish is made of pure fresh and alive ingredients, it just resonates with me. The way it tastes combined with the amazing feeling of fresh foods is incomparable. 

Even better, is making some food that "someone" was craving but just doesn't fit in our usual arsenal of healthy and plant-strong foods. Sometimes, when you've eaten a certain food your whole life, in this case tuna, it resurfaces as a comfort food craving.

It happens to everyone! The fun thing is, it gives me an awesome outlet to be creative in choosing healthier foods, that still fulfil that craving! This chickpea based "tuno" salad is vibrant and delicious served as a lettuce wrap, a sandwich or a topping on a salad.

It has a nice "fishy" taste from both the seaweed and capers, although they can be used interchangeably I find that the combination of the two really gives it the perfect flavor profile.

Dig in!

Chickpea "Tuno" Salad


- 2 cups chickpeas, cooked
- 1 avocado, mashed
- 1 sheet nori, crushed finely
- 1-2 tbsp capers, minced
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 green onion, chopped
- S/P

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas until they are just flaking. Be careful not to overdue it, we don't want hummus wraps!

Add in all the other ingredients and stir well to combine evenly.

Serve in lettuce wraps with tomatoes, in a sandwich or on a salad.


Monday, 16 June 2014

Black Bean Loaf

There are some days that I find solace and comfort in the making of a recipe. Something thatI have never made before most of the time, or at least a new variation. The best days are when I spend the entire day testing recipes, sometimes up to 10! When I made this recipe, it was one of those days.

Bean and nut loafs are something that I was always curious about, but having only made raw nut ones at the restaurant I worked at in Toronto, I knew that this one was going to be very different. I usually prefer lower fat recipes, or at least no oils. There are definitely exceptions to that, I am working on an easy cream cheeze recipe at the moment that is 98% seeds.

I've been on the job search (again) and it's been somewhat of a challenge to apply to positions that are short-term and still give me time to keep working on this blog. Keeping a balance of job to pay the bills, and time to work on y true passion right here.

I seriously dream of just doing this full-time. I'm working hard to on bringing Plates for Plants to the next step to make that dream a reality, preferably within the next year!

Enough about all that, let's get back to the food. This loaf was scarfed down by my partner in about 2 seconds flat. I *think* he enjoyed it, even though it was hard to tell if he was actually tasting it at all...

Its also a quick and easy dinner to throw together whenever that is needed, which let's face it, is pretty often. I definitely will be adding this one to the last minute guest go-to recipe list.

The loaf as a nice crust and soft interior that just melts in your mouth. I do think that a "meatloaf" pretty much *needs* a little coating of ketchup baked into the top, but if that;s not your thing, then it's not absolutely essential. Use any tomato sauce to serve, I just mixed 50-50 homemade tomato sauce and ketchup.

Black Bean Loaf

- 2 cans black beans, rinsed
- 1.5 cups quick oats
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped.
- 1 carrot, chopped or grated.
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp braggs liquid aminos
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3 tbsp ketchup (opt)
- Black pepper, to taste
- Water for sautéing.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a medium pan, water saute the onions until translucent then add the garlic, pepper and carrot. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, until softened.

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, oats and all seasonings. Add in the veggies that you sautéed and mash with a potato masher or fork until well combine but not mushy, If it isnt moist enough add water and if too moist add oats until it holds together.

Spoon "dough" into a parchment paper lined loaf pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until it has developed a nice crust.

I served with steamed yams and onions and tomato sauce.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Eggplant Curry

Almost every time I have more than one or two people over for dinner, I seem to gravitate towards making an indian themed spread. It's juts instinctually what I think of and plan for.

It might be because I always have the pantry staples on hand and the dishes use the same basic ingredients. Yet you can easily make three or more different dishes without difficulty. I live that seasonal vegetables can be used to create complimentary dishes with different flavors, so that it's a little bit different everytime.

I usually always serve my chickpea curry, but tonight I think I'll change it up and make three dishes that are new to my repertoire. I have an AMAZING recipe that I still tweaking that so closely resembles butter chicken in flavor that I'll be "testing"tonight. I should be sharing it sometime this month.

They had amazing eggplant at the market a few weeks back and I just had the instant craving for eggplant curry. This dish is decadent, yet completely fat-free and low sodium if you keep the added salt on the no or low side. The carrots bring the perfect level of sweetness to counteract the slight bitter taste eggplant can sometimes have.

You can easily change up the supporting cast of vegetables in this recipe, I just recommend having a sweeter vegetable in the mix.

Eggplant Curry

- 2 medium eggplants, peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, sliced and halved
- 2 medium red peppers, diced
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 2 clove garlic
- 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp fresh turmeric
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1/2 tbsp cardamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 lemon, juiced

Combine the ginger, garlic, turmeric and tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth.

In a deep pan, water sauté the onions until translucent. Add the carrots, peppers and eggplant and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the spices and stir for about 1 min. 

Now add in the tomato mixture and bring to a slow simmer. Cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Mix in the lemon juice.

Serve over rice or quinoa.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Roasted Onion Hummus

I've had a rather eventful last few days, what with having a very long transit time from Costa Rica back to Ottawa. We're slowly getting settled into our new place but so far it's really going to work out for us. It's a bit of an adjustment being back, going 5 months in a completely different way of living really gives you a new perspective on the way that you've lived your whole life.

For the moment, it's back to basics while we unpack and settle in. Hummus to me is an essential part of living, regardless of diet choices. The only thing is that the store bought stuff, although delicious, often has oils and lots of salt. Making your own is so ridiculously easy and quick that its something that I really encouraged everyone to do.

This way you can also change up the flavors to your preferences, although my most favorite type of hummus is of the roasted red pepper variety, this one is a close second. Roasted onions are the lazy caramelized onion in my opinion. But this recipe is brought to the next level if you do decide to commit more time and make caramelized onions.

The texture is a bit different when not using any fats. This hummus comes out very creamy and smooth, perfect for dipping, spreading and drowning all sorts of delicious things. It's great with these baked falafels.

Roasted Onion Hummus


- 2 cups chickpeas (canned or cooked)
- 1/2 cup water 
- 1 medium onion
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt (opt)

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Roast the onion for about 40 minutes. I usually do this when I plan on using the oven for another dish so I'm using it just for this one thing.

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except for 1/4 of the onion. Blend until smooth. Mince or slice the rest of the onion and top or stir into the hummus.