Monday, May 4, 2015

Squashed Yellow Rice Bowl

I'm sure you're wondering what I mean by "squashed". all started Saturday night when I couldn't decide whether to make yellow rice or spaghetti squash. I'm incredibly indecisive about food. I drive my husband insane with options for dinner if I'm cooking. "So we're having pasta?" "Yes!...unless you'd prefer tacos, tandoori or felafel??" I can't make decisions to save my life when it comes to food these days. I must have the "grass is always greener..." syndrome...

So ya, no decision was made in the end. Instead I turned to a delightful compromise...A yellow rice bowl with roasted spaghetti squash on top! Sounds weird but tastes awesome, trust me...

This bowl has a lot going on. I'd call it a "buddha bowl" BUT I tend to associate those with tahini, or Asian flavours, which are not present here at all. So instead I'm simply calling this a "yellow rice bowl." I have a bit of an obsession with yellow coconut rice. Its addictive and comforting -- a dangerous combination. Its delicious on its own but I decided to top it with a few different toppings to make it into a meal and to give the dish a bunch of textures and flavours. Here's what this bowl includes:
  • yellow brown rice base seasoned with coconut milk, turmeric, cumin, garlic and lime loaded with tender carrots and onions
  • steamed garlicky greens
  • raw and crisp red leaf lettuce
  • ultra creamy guacamole sauce
  • grated cucumber
  • roasted spaghetti squash seasoned with cumin, garlic and lime 
Seriously delicious. Seriously healthy. Vegan. Gluten-free. Satisfying. 

Though the bowl has a lot going on and a lot of flavours and textures, its really simple to prepare. The rice is basically a chop, stir, boil, and simmer affair. The squash could be roasted blindfolded while the rice cooks. Everything else takes little to no time to prepare. You could also make the rice and squash in advance and just heat and serve them with the toppings (for a meal in minutes). Give it a try! 

Spaghetti squash:
  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • Dash cumin
  • Dash cinnamon
  • Dash chilli powder
  • Dash garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450. Cut your squash in half. Remove the seeds and rinse. Massage the flesh with a little oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the hot oven and roast until the squash is easily pierced through the skin with a fork. Flip the pieces over, season with the citrus and spices and return to the oven for a few more minutes. Scrape the squash strands out of the skin into a bowl. Stir in the oil evenly. Return to the oven until ready to eat.

Creamy guacamole sauce:

  • 2 avocados
  • Juice of 1/2 small lime or to your taste
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • Pinch pink salt
  • Optional: 2 tsp vegenaise or vegan sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mash everything together well with a fork until smooth, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Carrot coconut curry rice

  • 2 cups short grain brown rice, rinsed well
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2/3 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large yellow or orange or red carrot, chopped into coins and then cut in half
  • 1/2 small leek, chopped small
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Bring everything to a boil together. Stir, cover for one minute. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in the following:

  • 1.5-2 tbsp coconut cream or coconut cream powder
  • Big pinch pink salt
  • Dash or two garlic powder
  • Juice of half a small lime

Stir through the extra ingredients. Cover and continue to cook until rice is tender and fully cooked to your taste. Stop and stir often to ensure it doesn't stick to bottom.

Steamed greens:
  • 2 leaves kale, black, chopped
  • 2 leaves kale, green, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Tiny pinch pink salt
  • Few dashes garlic powder
  • Squeeze lime
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil

Steam your greens and broccoli until bright green. Transfer to a bowl and stir in spices and seasonings. Set aside.

Extra toppings:

  • Lime wedges
  • Grated cucumber
  • Hot sauce or Sriracha

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tropical Smoothie Bowl and why you should eat smoothies in a bowl too!

I used to always start my day with a big green smoothie but I've realized that they may not be the most conscious way to begin a new day of food. If you're like me and are prone to chugging anything liquid, you are likely not getting the most out of your smoothie routine. Drinking a smoothie too fast can result in your body only partially digesting the meal. This can lead to bloating, gas, and more unpleasant side effects of consuming food too quickly. My husband always suggests chewing your smoothie, allowing saliva to mix with the drink to help get your digestive juices flowing and help you break that drink down into usable fuel. I have tried  to do this many times but I invariably go back to my default chug setting. Enter my new best friend, the smoothie bowl. 

Smoothie bowls are great for many reasons. If you like smoothies but tend to drink too fast they may be your new best friend too. By creating a thicker smoothie that you eat with a spoon, you will slowly eat the smoothie instead of chugging it. This allows for more saliva to mix with your food as you eat it -- which unleashes valuable digestive enzymes which will help to begin to break down your food for digestion. By eating the smoothie you are also allowing yourself more time overall to consume the food. Eating slowly is always a good idea. It allows you to tune into your body's hunger signals, helping to stop you from overeating or binge eating.

Digestive issues aside, there's a lot to love about smoothie bowls. For one thing they are gorgeous! You can dress them up with fruit slices, sauces, jam, whatever you like! They can also offer a beautiful medley of flavours and textures -- I like to top mine with soft and crunchy fruits, and colourful accents to make them more appealing.

 Today's smoothie bowl kind of tastes like a dressed up Flintstone's Push Pop. Do you remember those? I used to love them because they were creamy, tart and sweet! For the base of my bowl I combine fresh ataulfo mangoes with frozen raspberries, frozen bananas and fresh lime juice. The result is creamy, cold, pink, tangy sweet heaven. I then pop it in the freezer for a bit to firm up while I slice and dice some more mango, half a red bartlett pear (for crunch) and a few lime wedges. Put it all together and you get one magical smoothie bowl.


  • 2 ataulfo mangoes, flesh of
  • Juice of 1/2 a small lime
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1-2 frozen bananas (I used 1 1/2)
Add all base ingredients to a food processor and blend until totally smoothie. Transfer to a serving bowl and place in freezer while you prepare toppings.

  • 1 ataulfo mango, chopped flesh
  • 1/2 lime, sliced
  • 1 pear, diced
  • kiwi, sliced (optional)
Slice all toppings. Remove smoothie bowl from freezer and top with toppings. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 minute Quinoa and Kale Soup (that tastes like Lentil Soup)

My last post discussed my sister Anna's traditional birthday meal of hummus, tahina, falafel and lentil soup. We never waver, its always on the menu. I love lentil soup so much -- there are no words. I have made my own in the past and even when flavor wise the dish works, I always find myself curling into a ball with abdominal pain within an hour. Beans and legumes typically really upset my stomach, as much as I love them. I know I'm not the only one with this issue so tonight when I accidentally created a similar tasting soup that was legume and lentil FREE, I knew I had to share. This soup is: 

  • VEGAN 
If that doesn't have you intrigued, did I mention this soup features quinoa and kale? Arguably two of the healthiest foods on the planet! Can you say awesome? 

I made this soup because I wanted, no I NEEDED, to eat some turmeric. Its the beginning of my seasonal allergy season and turmeric is my savior. It clears up my symptoms in less than an hour. I had planned to make yellow rice with ground turmeric but decided that I couldn't be bothered to spend that much time on dinner. So I threw some quinoa flakes, water, spices, coconut cream, coconut oil, olive oil, lemon, garlic, kale and grated zucchini into a pot, and heated them to create a thick and creamy yellow and green soup. It instantly reminded me of my favorite lentil soup so I served it in the same way -- with a drizzle of evoo, a lemon wedge, and some hot sauce. This soup is so good. 

It is undeniably similar to lentil soup but most likely won't upset your stomach if you're sensitive to legumes like me. Its just as healthy and delicious. Give it a try if you've given up on beans and lentils! 

10 Minute Quinoa and Kale Soup 
  • 3-4 cups water or stock of choice (vegetable stock etc.) 
  • 1.5 cups quinoa flakes 
  • 1/2 tsp virgin coconut oil 
  • 1.5 tsp evoo 
  • 1/4 white onion, diced small 
  • 2 leaves black or green kale, chopped small 
  • 1/2 large zucchini, shredded with a cheese grater 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder 
  • 1/4 tsp oregano (optional) 
  • Squeeze of lemon 
  • Big pinch of pink salt 
  • OPTIONAL extra spices: saffron, paprika or sumac to taste 
Add everything to a small pot and stir well to combine evenly. Heat over high heat to bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until everything is yellow and thick and creamy (at least 10 minutes to ensure the quinoa flakes are cooked through thoroughly). If you like your soup thinner, add as much stock or water as you like and taste. If you need to add more spices and oil to compensate for the extra liquid, add and heat for a couple minutes longer.

OPTIONAL to Serve: Top your bowl of soup with a wedge of lemon, a dash of hot sauce, a pinch of Paprika and/or sumac, and a drizzle of evoo. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the soup before eating.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hummus Wraps (gluten-free, vegan, no chickpeas)

Last night my family celebrated my big sister's birthday in the only way we seem to know how -- with lots of hummus, tahina, falafel, lentil soup and other mezes, and lemon meringue pie for dessert. No one is exactly sure when this tradition started, but its solid as a rock. We've been ordering in for Anna's birthday for as long as I can remember from the same restaurant. No one's sure if the food is outstanding or just nostalgic at this point. Either way, its always great.

I had birthday traditions as well -- for years I would order in chow mein from our favourite Chinese restaurant. Once I realized I was allergic to soy and gluten intolerant that tradition halted.

I absolutely love hummus and I've been lucky enough to travel abroad and enjoy some of the best out there. I make no claims that my recipe today is either authentic or the best of the best, but its pretty delicious, pretty healthy and dead simple to make.

This is not a traditional recipe mainly because I don't use chickpeas to make it. Don't get me wrong, I love chickpeas, but they often really upset my stomach. I find white beans much easier to digest so I opted for those instead. The result is still very good so give it a try if you have a can kicking around. I also chose to use raw sesame tahini instead of roasted tahini in this recipe. I think I prefer the flavour of it and the raw version is a healthier choice. Feel free to use either.

Since hummus makes such lovely sandwiches (and since I no longer eat bread) I decided to wrap some of it up in some raw savoy cabbage leaves with some cucumber, tomato and hot sauce. 

These wraps are healthy, vegan, gluten-free and nut-free. They make a delicious light lunch or snack.  If you don't like cabbage but still want to enjoy this hummus in a gluten-free context, I also love adding hummus to saffron rice or with raw or roasted vegetables! Its such a versatile dish, it can be enjoyed in countless ways.

White Bean Hummus
  • 2 cans great northern beans, 1/4 cup brine reserved (I used Eden Organic which packs beans with kombu seaweed instead of salt, making the beans easier to digest)
  • pink salt to taste (more than you'd expect is required if you use unsalted canned beans)
  • lemon juice (I used about 3/4 of a lemon but start with 1/2 a lemon and add more or less to your taste)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1-2 tsp cumin (to taste)
  • garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp evoo (optional)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup raw sesame tahini (add to your taste) 
Reserve 1/4 cup of the bean brine. Rinse your beans until they aren't super foamy. Add to a food processor along with garlic, lemon, tahini, brine, cumin. Blend until smooth and thick. Keep processor on blend while you drizzle in the evoo through the spout, then the water. Taste. Add more lemon and blend if its not tangy enough. Add garlic powder (as much as you want) and blend well. Transfer to an airtoght container and store in the fridge. Makes a large amount of hummus.

Hummus Wraps
  • Savoy cabbage leaves, washed and dried
  • White bean hummus (as much as you want)
  • tomatoes, chopped small
  • cucumber, diced small
  • Frank's red hot or sriracha

Arrange cabbage leaves on a plate. Add hummus to the center of each. Top with tomatoes, cucumber and a few dashes of hot sauce. Eat like tacos.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Crab" Cakes with Green Tartar Sauce (Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

I used to really enjoy deep fried and greasy meals like Fish N Chips, and crab cakes with remoulade or tartar sauce. I don't eat fish anymore, but as a vegan I wanted to create something comparable to crab cakes to enjoy. I have seen many recipes for vegan crab cakes using hearts of palm but I had another idea -- artichokes and chickpeas...

The inspiration for these comes from the classic vegan fake tuna salad recipe -- smashed chickpeas. I love the tuna-like flavour and texture of smashed chickpea salad and I thought it would work really nicely in this recipe. What I didn't want was for these cakes to be too dry or too firm, which can happen with chickpeas. Crab cakes have a lovely soft interior and crunchy exterior...So do my little vegan cakes.
Despite their crispy crunchy and golden exterior these vegan crab cakes are neither breaded nor fried. This is just the end result of baking my "crab" patties. Its almost magic...I created this texture by combining grated zucchini with chickpeas and artichokes (I steamed frozen artichoke hearts) in my food processor. Pulse pulse pulse and you get a chunky mixture you can use to hand-form delicate fishy patties. All the happens next is you bake the cakes in a roaring hot oven to get a crispy exterior and soft interior. Easy.
What crab cake would be complete without a creamy sauce for dipping? 
For dips I used some delicious organic ketchup and my own Green Tartar Sauce. This tartar sauce is a little unconventional and slightly healthier than ordinary tartar sauce. It is a delightful combination of avocado, soy-free vegan mayo, dill, garlic and chopped pickles. So delicious. You need to try this recipe.

The vegan crab cakes themselves are quite low in fat if you are on a low fat diet. The whole batch uses only 2 tsps of olive oil. The dip is obviously not fat free but feel free to just use ketchup instead, they'll still taste delicious.

For the Vegan Crab Cakes:
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 zucchini roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cooked artichoke hearts (not preserved, I used frozen and steamed them)
  • 1 tsp dulse or kelp flakes
  • 2-3 tsp evoo
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.5 tsp dried dill
  • squeeze of lemon or orange juice
  • big pinch of salt (I used pink salt but sea salt is a good alternative)
Add everything to a food processor and pulse until you have mixture that resembles chunky tuna salad. Form into little patties and bake in a 400F oven until lightly brown on top. Very carefully flip them over one by one and return to the oven to brown well on both sides. Serve with organic ketchup and Green Tartar Sauce (recipe follows).
Green Tartar Sauce:
  • 1 small ripe avocado, mashed until smooth
  • 2 tbsp soy-free vegenaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 0.5 of a dill pickle, chopped finely
  • 0.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp evoo
  • 1 tsp orange juice or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water

Add all ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well. Use as tartar sauce for your vegan crab cakes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Healthy Key Lime Pie

Spring. Living in Canada, you come to truly adore the changing of the seasons. Its f#$%in cold for a big chunk of the year so when grass peeks its way out from under the snow, people break out their flip flops. I wish I was joking. Generally with the first signs of Spring (a few days above zero, a day above 10 degrees (!), sunshine) people dress as if Spring is in full swing. It can be a little ridiculous, but also encouraging in a weird way. Think t-shirts in 5 degree weather...Me, I bake.

Today was a beautiful day, Saturday, and I spent it working from home -- a familiar story these days. By "working" I mean working for my clients and working on this blog. I have to be honest, I have been slacking a little with Baking Backwards. I take food photos weekly for one of my clients now for their social accounts and by the time I take a moment to shoot my own creations I'm tapped out of inspiration and my photos start to look just "ok" -- not great to me. When I woke up today I went for a run and committed to the idea that I would come home, bake something crazy and try my best to at least style the photos. Amazingly I did it!

 I am a big fan of moody food photography. I love black backdrops and bright food paired together in gloomy lighting. Hence, today's photos. Have ever heard of Linda Lomelino? I really love her food photography style. Everything she shoots looks so elegant and mysterious, not to mention delicious as f#$%.

My pie today was a bit of a tricky subject. I feel like the lovely mellow green colour of the filling was lost by my camera. It really is a pastel green but not as faint as it appears in these photos. You'll have to make this delicious pie to see for yourself!

Today's recipe is as tasty as it is healthy. Its full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, vegan protein, and good fats. The pie filling has two super healthy hidden ingredients -- avocado and...CAULIFLOWER! Yes, cauliflower. Strange sounding I know, but trust me this filling is so creamy and delicious. The crust is very healthy as well featuring whole buckwheat groats, raw cacao powder, dates, figs, olive oil and coconut oil. The whole dessert is naturally sweetened with dried fruit, stevia and maple syrup. No refined sugar for me. It is creamy as hell but totally vegan. The healthy shortcrust is chewy, chocolatey and very sturdy meaning you can eat it out of your hand instead of needing a plate.

If you like key lime pie but are looking for a healthy alternative, this recipe is for you. No guilt required at all.

Chocolate Crust:
  • 1 cup raw buckwheat
  • 3-4 dried figs
  • 3-4 medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of stevia or a couple drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1/4 cup water
Add everything but water to food processor and pulse till evenly crumbly. Add water, just enough to moisten the dough and blend. Wet your hands and press the dough into a short crust pie dish. Bake in a 400 F oven until firm.

Key Lime Filling:
  • 2.5 cups steamed and cooled cauliflower florets
  • 1/2-2/3cup fresh lime juice
  • Big pinch of pink salt
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 1.5cup ripe avocado flesh, not mashed
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp liquid sweetener (I used raw honey because I consume it but if you are a strict vegan substitute agave or coconut nectar or brown rice syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Puree everything until totally smooth. Taste!!! Add extra stevia as you need it to sweeten it to your taste. Spread into baked shell evenly. Chill in the freezer for 1-2 hours then store in the fridge. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)

Growing up I ate a lot of mac and cheese. I mean A LOT. It was possibly my favourite meal ever. I am well aware that mac and cheese can mean many different things to different people -- from a neon orange creation out of a box to a truffle laced creamy taste sensation at a fancy restaurant -- and everything in between, I'm sure. Today's recipe is a veganized version of my favourite mac and cheese interpretation -- my mom's baked mac and cheese. 

My mom does not cook often. She doesn't really enjoy it. My dad loves to cook so he made most of my meals as a kid. My mom made a lot of sandwiches, delicious holiday meals and a few key dinners like old school mac and cheese. The kind that's crispy on top, uses big noodles (fussilli or penne with no macaroni in sight), real cheese, milk...the works. Though my mom rarely cooked dinner, it was meals like her mac and cheese that I associate with my childhood. Definitely my favourite meal as a kid. 

As a grown up, I no longer consume dairy products (I am mostly vegan and I am lactose intolerant now). I do however miss the flavour and texture of real cheese. 

You may have noticed I have recently created many cheesy vegan dishes like this lasagna, this pizza, and this burger pizza...What can I say, old habits die hard. I have made many vegan "cheeses" over the years, some good some terrible. Today's recipe doesn't exactly involve one. I made this mac and cheese recipe for me and my husband last weekend on a whim. All last week I had been really enjoying a cauliflower puree (created to mimic the taste and texture of ricotta cheese) on everything from zucchini noodles to homemade pizza. It really worked with everything. It worked so well that I decided to add some sweet potato into the mix to achieve a cheddar colour and bake it with pasta. I'm so glad I did.

This is the best vegan mac and cheese I have ever made to date. It reminds me so much of my mom's real mac and cheese in flavour and texture. Best of all its vegan, gluten-free, loaded with vegetables and fairly low in fat. I attribute the stickiness of the cheese sauce to the pasta water I added to it to make everything hold together better, don't skip the step! 

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)
  • 1 bag rotini or penne or rigatoni (brown rice pasta)
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tbsp evoo
Cheesy Sauce:
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato
  • 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 cup water or non dairy milk (unsweetened plain!)
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp or more garlic powder
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Black pepper (optional)
Boil you pasta in salted water with a dash of oil and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water after the water goes cloudy.  Cook the pasta till all dente (not soft because its going in the oven). Strain and set aside.

Steam your vegetables together until soft. Add to a blender along with other sauce ingredients and puree until totally smooth and creamy. Add more milk or water if necessary and be careful to stop and scrape the sides and blend to ensure its all smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Pour your noodles and the rest of the sauce into a big pot along with your al dente pasta and stir together well. Preheat oven to 430F and scrape your pasta into a parchment paper lined lasagne pan, spread out to the sides evenly. Make topping.

Crunchy Topping:
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved 1/4 cup sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 tomato, chopped small
  • Evoo

Add everything but tomato, evoo and paprika to a blender and pulse to make a rough thick paste. Add in dollops on top of your noodles and spread out like you would spread frosting. Arrange tomato pieces evenly on top and drizzle with a tbsp of evoo. Sprinkle the whole dish with a little paprika. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes then broil (watching to ensure it doesn't burn) for a couple minutes to get a slightly crispy top. Serve with hot sauce or sriracha or ketchup...