Mung Bean Pad Thai

Photo 2014-05-08, 6 32 22 AM
Who doesn’t like pad thai? Something about the  combination of sweet, sour and salty just gets me every single time. Something else also happens every. single. time. I feel AWFUL. I know I’m not the only one who feels bloated, tired and uncomfortable. Even though the base of rice noodles, veggies and meat sounds like a healthy trio it is loaded with copious amounts of fat and sodium.

Pad thai has been on my recipe list for a while now. I think most home cooks steer clear of asian flavours because they seem complicated. Once you build up your pantry with the basic sauces however, most asian dishes can be tackled with ease. Whats best is that you can control all the ingredients that go inside. You really dont need so much oil, salt and sugar to get the awesome flavours. Use fresh herbs and spices and you’ll see that you actually prefer your own cooking to what you get in restaurants!

My favourite thing to hear from friends, family and guests who eat my food or try one of my recipes is how surprised they are by how great it tastes while still being good for you. What’s best is that everyone feels so much better. People dont want heavy. Why eat a meal if you are going just feel awful and potentially guilty afterwords. You want to feel energized, light and satisfied. And that’s exactly what this Pad Thai will do! I will eventually tackle a raw version of this dish, but these mung bean noodles were an awesome addition.

Mung Beans are packed with protein, fibre and vitamins. If you are not in the mood for meat or tofu, you will get plenty of extra nourishment from the noodles itself. I found these noodles at a speciality grocery store. Check your asian markets or health food stores! If you cant get your hands on these, try using buckwheat soba or brown rice noodles! Also, the tofu can be replaced with chicken or beef. Bon appetit!
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Serves 4

Ingredients:

• 1 package mung bean noodles or noodle of choice
• 1 1/2 cup bean sprouts
• 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
• 1 inch piece of ginger (finely chopped)
• 2-3 limes
• 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
• 1 jalapeño or chilli pepper (seeds removed, chopped)
• 1 package non GMO tofu (cubed) or meat of choice
• 1 red pepper (chopped)
• 1 cup broccoli
• 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
• 2 eggs (lightly scrambled) (optional)
• 3 tbsp cup roasted peanuts (roughly chopped)
• 2 tbsp sprouted buckwheat
• 2 tsp coconut oil (divided)
• 1 tsp sesame oil

Sauce Ingredients:

• few dashes fish sauce (to taste)
• 1/4 cup all natural creamy peanut butter
• 2 tbsp gluten free tamari
• 8 drops stevia or 1 tsp honey
• 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
• juice of one lime

Directions:

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, toss in sesame oil and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk sauce ingredients until combined. Set aside.

3. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in a wok or large pan, and cook onion until tender about minutes.

4. Add garlic, ginger, peppers, bean sprouts, broccoli and cilantro. Sautée for about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.

5. Heat remaining coconut oil on medium-high heat and cook tofu until browned. Then re-add veggies and the eggs. Stir until the egg is cooked through. Then add the noodles and pad thai sauce. Stir until completely combined and thoroughly heated, about 3 to 4 more minutes.

6.Remove from heat and toss with peanuts before serving. Garnish with lime wedges, peanuts, buckwheat groats and additional cilantro.
Photo 2014-05-08, 6 32 24 AM

Spicy Black Bean Primavera

Photo 4-22-2014, 5 46 56 AMThere truly is nothing like fresh Italian pasta. Something about the combination of comforting starchy noodles and tasty fresh sauces makes all my troubles go away.  After traveling throughout Italy, I was so inspired by their use of simple ingredients. A little garlic, tomato and wine and you had one of the most delicious pastas you ever tasted.

So any home cook probably did the same thing as me.  The second I got home I went to my local grocery store and picked up what I thought was the same garlic, tomato, wine etc… Cooked everything the same way I had learned from nonna and voila! I had a meal that tasted like true… Italian…leather. Why didn’t it taste the same?  I added the same amounts, the same ingredients… was it me? Was it my stove? No… in fact it was those “same ingredients” that really weren’t the same at all.  A tomato grown in nonna’s backyard is not the same tomato you get at Publix, Provigo or even Whole Foods. I think that most North Americans are making pretty average tasting dishes in general because of one simple mistake. Sh*t ingredients.
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I really came to truly believe this after The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, bullied me enough through the TV to buy those good quality eggs, good quality olive oil, good quality vanilla etc…She always said “make sure its good quality.” I thought, oh olive oil is olive oil. Take it from me, it is not the case. Test it yourself and I promise you will end up coming to the same conclusion as I did. Listen, I know its hard…. you don’t want to go to the market, or spend so much extra on that expensive maple syrup when you can just get some Aunt Jemima.   But knowing where to stretch your dollar and where to spend a little more is the difference between a bland boring dinner, to one that tastes like you are eating at a winery in Tuscany. That is truly how Italians make their food taste unbelievably delicious. They aren’t putting red wine from the 7/11 or depanneur into their marinara. It isn’t 55 crazy expensive ingredients that you can’t pronounce or understand. They use simple, good quality ingredients and cook them right. They showcase the taste and quality of the ingredients themselves. I know its tempting to buy that 99 cent can of whole tomatoes but those San Marzano ones in the can for $4.99 is the epitome of the Olive Garden vs. Tuscany debate.  Heres my must-do list when making a fresh pasta at home.

CEG’s Must-do Italian

1. If making a tomato sauce, always buy San Marzano tomatoes from the can… not San Marzano type… just San Marzano.

2. Always add wines into your sauces that you would drink from a glass.

3. Fresh pasta (bought or homemade) can take your pasta to the next level. But boxed pastas are just fine!

4. Don’t use jarred or dried garlic/onion. Buy fresh. Cut fresh.

5. Invest in a good quality olive oil that tastes great to you. Most markets or speciality food stores will let you taste the olive oils. Bring your own Gfree crackers or bread and test it out! Plus they’ll give you the best information on which ones to cook with and which to only use on salads or as garnish.

6. Don’t forget the fresh herbs. Fresh basil can make the world of difference in any pasta dish. If you are making a heavier pasta, any fresh herb or green will lighten (and brighten) up the dish. (If you don’t have basil on hand, add a little fresh kale or arugula).

7. Boil your noodles in heavily salted water. The noodles absorb the water they are cooking in, so you want those noodles seasoned!Don’t use the expensive stuff here. Kosher salt is perfect!
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Now for the pasta recipe! This pasta is full of protein and healthy fats from the black beans and pine nuts. Feel free to add shrimp, chicken or ground turkey for a little meaty touch. But on its own it is truly satisfying and perfect for Meatless Mondays. If spice isn’t your thing, simply leave out the chilli flakes and hot sauce. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:

• 1 package black bean noodles
• 1 can San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
• 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
• 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
• 1 small shallot (chopped)
• 2 zucchini (diced)
• 10 ounces of mushrooms (your favourite kind)
• 2 red peppers (julienned)
• 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
• a few dashes of hot sauce
• 1/4 cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
• 2 sprigs fresh basil (chopped) or a bunch of fresh organic arugula
• 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
• salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Chop all ingredients so they are ready to go! (separate them in bowls or on your cutting board).
2. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a deep skillet on medium heat.
3. Once the oil is hot, add the shallot and sautee until soft. Then add garlic and chilli flakes, salt and pepper and sautee for another 30 seconds.
4. Add canned tomatoes and crush with a wooden spoon or cut with kitchen scissors. Bring to a boil, then put heat to low. Add tomato paste and stir until combined. Let simmer until most of the water has evaporated (about 30 minutes).
5. While the sauce is simmering, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in another skillet on medium heat. Add olive oil and sautee for 30 seconds. Then add zucchini, peppers and mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until tender and slightly brown.
6. Now its time to boil your pasta according to the directions on package or box. If you bought fresh pasta, then cook it in heavily salted water for 2-3 minutes.
7. Back to the sauce…after the sauce has thickened add the red wine. Stir and taste. Add hot sauce if you want more heat, and adjust salt and pepper seasoning if necessary.
8. Toast your pine nuts on medium heat in a dry pan until golden. Watch carefully or they will burn (5 minutes).
9. Add the vegetables to the pasta sauce, stir. Then add the noodles. Toss until well combined. Top with fresh basil or arugula and toasted pine nuts.
Photo 4-22-2014, 5 43 55 AM

Mexican Inspired

Photo 4-12-2014, 6 11 15 AM (1)
I’ve only really started to enjoy Mexican food over the past two years. Cilantro was never my favourite herb, so it just sort of turned me off of the whole cuisine in general. Like most food though, let me have it 5-6 times and eventually it will grow on me. What did always attract me to Mexican food is the versatility and the fresh flavours. There are so many platters that allow you to create the bite that YOU want. Extra guacamole, more chicken, no salsa… no problem. When it comes to Mexican, you become the chef! And thats exactly what I have created here.

With this meal, vegetarians and meat eaters alike can create the plate/bowl that best suits their taste buds. This meal can easily be made with tofu/seitan, steak or fish and be absolutely delicious! Feel free to serve with black bean chips (beanitos… yum) or gluten free brown rice wraps and everyone is bound to find something delicious, healthy and fitting to their cravings. We all know I love a good bowl, so no chips or wraps were needed for me.

Homemade pico de gallo aka salsa fresca aka a fresh salsa really lightens up the heaviness that can come from the avocado and beans. You can also use salsa from a jar if time isn’t on your side, but homemade is always better! The star of the dish for me was the cumin-cilantro corn. It was so sweet and had so much flavour, ill definitely be using this as a side dish for another meal.If your not in the mood for meat, or are vegan, make this dish with tofu or quinoa for added protein. Perfect for Meatless Mondays! You’ll get plenty of healthy fats from the guacamole and fibre from the brown rice and black beans. I hope you enjoy this seriously tasty meal without the guilt or upset tummy. As always this meal is free of gluten, dairy and refined sugars. Go as fresh as possible with your ingredients, and please enjoy a beer*** alongside! Clean living is all about moderation, life is short…so enjoy it!

*** I tried my first gluten-free beer called Glutenberg. It was very decent consideering the lack of barley but it did have a pretty bitter lingering after taste. If anyone has any suggestions for some of the best gluten free beers, please write in the comments! I will be doing a lot of taste testing in the summer and I will do a roundup of some of my favourites.

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Serves 4
Ingredients:

• 3-4 chicken breasts (cleaned and chopped)
• 1 can or fresh black beans (rinsed)
• 2 very ripe avocados
• about 1/4 red onion chopped (3 tbsp)
• 3 tomatoes
• 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
• brown rice or quinoa (4 servings)
• 4-5 fresh corn on the cob
• 4 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
• 2 tbsp cumin (divided)
• 2 tsp garlic powder (divded)
• 1 jalapeño
• 1 red pepper chopped
• 3-4 limes
• 3 tbsp olive oil (olive oil)
• 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
• salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

1. Prep and chop all ingredients… it makes it a lot easier for the cooking process! Once everything is prepped the cooking part is easy! Ok… so now that everything is chopped and ready in bowls…

2. For the rice: cook based on the directions of the bag. Season with 1 tbsp olive oil, squeeze of lime salt and a bit of pepper.

3. For the corn: heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Sautee corn until slightly brown then add a nice pinch of salt, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp cilantro, juice of half a lime. Sautee for 2-3 minutes, turn off heat and add a little more fresh cilanto and more lime juice.

4. For the guacamole: Mash avocados, add juice of one lime, 1 tbsp red onion, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt.

5. For the pico de gallo: mix jalapeño, fresh garlic, red pepper, tomatoes, 2 tbsp red onion, red wine vinegar, juice of 1 lime, 2 tbsp cilantro and pinch of salt and pepper.

6. For the black beans: rinse very well, season with salt and pepper.

7. For the chicken: heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Sautee chicken with salt and pepper. About half way through cooking, add 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp garlic powder and some lime juice. Cook through and finish with more lime juice.
Photo 4-12-2014, 6 10 59 AM