Tag Archives: healthy eating

Healthy and Quick Quinoa

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

How are your New Year’s resolutions holding up? Statistics say that most people will have abandoned their pledges by the end of the month, and I’m not surprised since they are often worded so negatively. This year I changed tack; instead of vowing to lose weight, I have promised to spend as much time on my inner health as I do on my outside appearance.

Image: Skinny Ms.

So, I’m taking a little more time to prepare my own meals, using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. In order to do this, I have stocked my pantry with quality ingredients that can be prepared quickly and in many different ways.  At the top of my list is quinoa. Pronounced “KEEN-wah,” this little seed has been named International Food of 2013 by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Mango Blueberry Quinoa Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing.  Image: Veggie Belly

I’m not surprised, since it is low-fat, cholesterol-free, and high in fiber. Its texture and nutty flavour is similar to whole grains like brown rice and barley but it is a complete protein, which makes it perfect for vegetarian meals. And it cooks quickly, in about 15 minutes!

Breakfast Quinoa Cereal. Image: 80 Breakfasts

Like whole grains, it takes some care to make sure it doesn’t turn out mushy. And the seeds need to be rinsed thoroughly before cooking or they will taste bitter. The Kitchn has excellent step-by-step cooking instructions that guarantee perfection. I always try to make a little extra at dinner so that I can use the leftovers to make porridge or a salad the next day.

Dairy Free Quinoa Cocoa Waffles.  Image: Kitchen Therapy

Quinoa is also gluten-free and quinoa flour can be used as a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose in baking recipes. While most supermarkets carry it, homemadeadventure shows how quinoa flour can be made at home in a food processor for a fraction of the cost.

Quinoa Sushi Rolls.  Image: Wholesome Cook

The seeds come in three colours: white, red, and black. There is no difference in their preparation or nutritional value, though some people swear that the red and black versions are nuttier and more flavourful. I have also seen tri-colour mixes, which I think gives great visual appeal to dishes like Wholesome Cook’s quinoa sushi rolls.

Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls. Image: Damndelicious

I don’t have a rice cooker and I am really impatient, so I’m excited to try substituting quinoa as a base for my stir-frys and curries. Damndelicious even replaced vermicelli noodles with quinoa in fresh summer rolls. My brain is spinning with the possibilities!

Andean Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Quinoa. Image: New York Times

Because it isn’t as popular as other grains, quinoa can be a little pricey. However, it is still a great option for bulking up soups and stews and stretching your food budget. And because it is an excellent source of protein, you can cut back on the amount of meat you use, or leave it out altogether.

Orange Quinoa Bars. Image: Modern Taste

Most brands of quinoa are certified organic, so I feel even better about making it one of my main pantry staples. Why blow my money on packaged low-fat, chemical-laden snack bars when I can make Modern Taste’s version, filled with fruit and spicy goodness?

Blueberry-Quinoa Tart with Lemon Whipped Cream. Image: Kiss My Spatula

Quinoa has me excited to be back in the kitchen, providing a fresh take on old favourites and inspiring me to create a few new ones. I think this might be one resolution that lasts.

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Salad Days

Steamy Kitchen's Grilled Tofu Salad and Miso Dressing

It’s nearing the end of January and I am still trying to get over the effects of the gustatory excess of December! So it’s been salads, salads, and salads — or at least, that’s the general idea. And there’s a whole slew of really lovely and scrumptious salad ideas to try, among them Steamy Kitchen’s Grilled Tofu Salad with Miso Dressing, and Rasa Malaysia’s Shrimp and Pomelo Salad, both of which have that exotic Asian kick.

An Asian salad made with shrimp and pomelo

Rasa Malaysia's Shrimp and Pomelo Salad

And to give a light, fresh, and delicious salad meal even more oomph, kick them up another notch with these incredibly stylish  salad bowls and utensils. They’ll give the eyes so much more to feast on.

Salad servers with integrated salt and pepper shakers

Salad tossers and shakers combo, designed by Enoc Armengol. Image via Trend Hunter

Green salad bowl with servers

Salad Bowl by Joseph Joseph via Charles and Marie

Salad bowl with integrated hands

Image via The Kitchen Dresser

salad bowl and servers

Koziol Leaf Salad Bowl with integrated servers. Image via Koziol.

We here at The Design Tree have a special affinity gorgeously crafted wooden anything, and these bowls are so fine they blow my mind! I love the clean curves, the wood grain, and the low musical sound they make when they bump against the other utensils.

Wooden salad hands

Via Design Centre

Bamboo bowlImage via The Raw Food World

Bamboo salad bowlImage via The Raw Food World

Wooden salad serving bowl and servers with wooden handles

Image via Wood Worker's Institute

Two-tone wooden salad bowl

Bamboo Salad Bowl. Image via Bambooki.

Wild Love for Wild Blueberries

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

My son's first taste of wild blueberries last summer. They were a hit of course.

It’s wild blueberry season!  And really there’s no crop I look forward to more than wild blueberries (my father-in-law’s rainbow chard and raspberries are second if I’m going to  the trouble of ranking).

The Science

Image via Campfire Gourmet

Wild blueberries have a distinctive flavour, packing more punch in a smaller size and way, way more nutritional value.

  • Blueberries – cultivated and wild – are one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet
  • The wild variety has more of the antioxidant powerful anthocyanin than their cultivated cousins
  • Wild blueberries also demonstrate greater antioxidant capacity per serving over the cultivated variety
  • The blue in blueberries is caused by phytochemicals which nutrition researchers say help ward off diseases associated with aging – cancers, heart disease, dementia, loss of eye sight
  • And at 45 calories per serving they contain more nutrition than virtually any other food.

Of course you can just eat them as they are or dress them up with cream, but below find a recipe for blueberry sauce and the many ways you can use it.

Wild Blueberry Sauce

Smoky Brie with Wild Blueberry Sauce from Chatelaine

Mini Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce by Kitchen Crush

Grilled Pork with a Silky Smooth Blueberry Sauce by Zesty Chef

Vanilla Ricotta Ice Cream with Blueberry Sauce by Adventures in Shaw

Over ice cream, on waffles or pancakes, warmed as a syrup or baked with brie, a wild blueberry sauce is delicious, decadent and dead simple.  Click on the links below each photo for the recipe of the gorgeous food pictured.  Or try my wild blueberry sauce recipe for your next brunch:

  • 2 cups wild blueberries
  • 1/4- 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

In a saucepan add water and cornstarch to dissolve, add remaining ingredients cooking over medium heat until it thickens and blueberries burst, about 10 minutes.

Bon Appetit!

How to not go hungry during your kitchen reno

image via Design Sponge. BBQ-ing is a great way to get you through a kitchen reno if the weather's on your side. Click on the photo for a delicious and deliciously easy portobello and peach burger recipe!

Are you planning for your dream kitchen?  Have you saved your pennies for this big investment in your biggest investment? It’s a fact that with any renovation, especially a sizable one, timelines can easily extend and budgets are stretched to the max.  That’s why it’s so important to consider how you and your family will eat well and on a budget without the, uh, kitchen.

Here are a few tips to stay healthy and stuffed:

Plan ahead
The best advice I got when preparing for the arrival of our little one was to cook and cook lots and freeze it all for those first hectic, sleepless, joyous months.   If felt so good to have a wholesome and hearty meal only a few minutes away by microwave or stovetop.  I made several litres of four kinds of soup, lentil-walnut burgers, veggie chili, chicken pot pies and it really only took a couple of weekends of work.  The payoff is so worth it. This advice works just as well for a kitchen reno too – a great way to not blow your budget on crappy take-out or less than special restaurant excursions.

Set up a mini kitchen elsewhere

via 7th House on the Left, this is pic of the makeshift kitchen set up during Ashley Brown and her husband's recent renovation

  • Warning: You may never move your coffee maker out of the bedroom once it enters, but enjoy this caffeinated perk during your kitchen renovation.
  • The dining room is a great spot to set up a hotplate, toaster oven and microwave.  The table itself can be used as prep room.  Do yourself the favour of being organized though, diligently cleaning as you prep meals and getting dirty dishes done after eating because it’ll quickly feel like chaos if you don’t. If possible set up a shelf of dishes, editing your flatware choices to the bare minimum to keep clutter contained.

We haven’t renovated our kitchen but we did have our kitchen roof collapse in the dead of winter once. All tolled we were without a kitchen for a month as we patched and painted and waited for the new roof. But we still had lovely breakfasts of waffles and cappuccinos thanks to our waffle iron and espresso machine. Soups and stews were easy with the hotplate too.

  • You’ll also need a place to wash up, which most likely means the bathroom sink or tub.
  • Hopefully you’ll still have access to your fridge, if not invest in a bar fridge and stand alone freezer which can be set up elsewhere, however awkward.

Focus on one-pot meals and foods that only get better with time
In the cooler months a chili or hearty stew can be made in one pot and will keep for a few days.  If it’s summer pasta, bean, or couscous salads really only improve with a day or two of marinating (just add your favourite sandwich for a full meal).  Making large batches of these will make for quick and easy meals for at least a couple of days.


image via Big Girl Small Kitchen. Click the pic for the barbecue lentil recipe. While the name is a bit of a misnomer - she doesn't use the BBQ - it'd be quite easy to do so. Simply cook your lentils using a hotplate and finish the recipe using a cast iron pan on the barbe!

If the weather is on your side and you’ve got a garden or patio, the barbeque will be your best friend.  Get adventurous, you’re really not limited to hot dogs and burgers!  My favs this summer have been roasted veggies and lemon garlic shrimp.  Plus you can put your cast iron grills and pans directly on the barbeque to really expand your culinary options.

Black and Blum have created this Hot Pot Barbeque. It looks like a terracotta planter, perfect for your herbs, but lift off the top to reveal a small charcoal grill with a heat insulating ceramic coating. Great for small outdoor spaces like a tiny balcony and super attractive planter when not in use!

Accept friendly neighbours’ offerings
If friends and neighbours offer to bring you food or have the family over for dinner, for the love of a decent meal, say yes!  You can repay this remarkable kindness in full with a gourmet dinner in your brand new kitchen a few weeks hence.

Community dinners and picnics

Locally grown produce and artisanal meats, cheeses, breads and preserves as far as the eye can see at our local farmer's market. Also prepared meals served on real plates with cutlery, perfect if you're feeling nostalgic for a proper meal. Hit up your local farmer's market for the community vibe and tasty offerings.

Toronto is a great city for parks as I assume many urban centres are.  Many of our city’s parks and parkettes also have a strong community contingent that informally evolved out of a sense of camaraderie and pride for one’s neighbourhood and public spaces.  I can think of at least two west-end parks that host weekly community dinners offering healthy meals for the whole family.  Countless others host farmer’s markets one day per week.  So if you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner and don’t have a kitchen, wander over to one of these spots and dine with your neighbours for less than take out.  Or just pick up some healthy offerings at the farmer’s market for a quiet little picnic.

These markets are a really great place to introduce kids to our food system. Not to mention there’s lots of entertainment just for them: Homegrown talent, Chris Patterson has a fun kids' album out called Small Potatoes and he was out wowing crowds with his songs about new siblings and smelly belly buttons.

Take out and delivery
Of course this might be what you end up doing more often than you’d like but hopefully the ideas above mean it won’t have to be an everyday thing.  Do your research beforehand too and find out which of your favourite healthy haunts deliver so at least it won’t be fast food every night!  And now’s a great time to try various international cuisines: Thai and Indian curries, affordable falafels and west-Indian roti, handmade pierogi and cabbage rolls – make it a theme night where the family travels the globe one night a week for dinner.

Bon appetit!  My fingers are crossed your reno goes smoothly and you’re soon cooking up a storm in your dreamiest of dream kitchens!

Perfect Picnic Potluck

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

It’s the time of year for impromptu picnics and BBQs.  Wondering what to bring to the next potluck shindig?  Try one of these delicious recipes!

3 Bean Salad

This is hardy and tasty, pretty and healthy. You can mix it up in less than 15 minutes and it only gets better as it sits.  Plus as a side dish goes it’s pretty versatile, going well with a burger or egg sandwhich.  Who could ask for more?


3 cans of beans – I usually use red kidney beans, chick peas, and romano beans

1 small purple onion minced

1 yellow and 1 orange pepper, diced

1/3 cup minced parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


¼ cup each olive oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar (I typically use less sugar, so be sure to taste as you go).  Stir vigorously till emulsified.

Mix all ingredients together.  Best to chill for a couple hours before serving as the falvours really intensify.  Serves 10.

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad

If there was a food that epitomized summer for me it’s a bowl full of berries.  My mum always says they look like sparkling jewels.  And how wonderful that these beautiful and delicious berries are possibly the healthiest foods on earth (especially organically grown ones)?  Ice cream, whipped cream or a rich chocolate something also pair stupendously.  But really the berries will be enough, you’ll see.

1 lb strawberries, halved

1 pint raspberries

1 pint blueberries

1 pint blackberries

1 sliced mango and/or a three sliced kiwis are optional but add beautiful colour and flavour too.

Wash and pick over berries, discarding any that are bruised or off.  Mix together in a large salad bowl with a generous sprinkle of sugar (1-2 tablespoons).  If possible chill until serving.  Serves 6 as berries alone, more if you’re serving ice cream or brownies with them too!

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich

Okay tuna nicoise is a bit of a loose term here, but this is sure how to fancy up the lowly tuna sandwich.  Make sure to use a nice crusty bread – a third of a baguette makes a perfect sandwich.

Ha! Local bakery didn't have my baguettes today. No matter a nice multigrain works too


2 baguettes

3 cans of tuna packed in water, well drained

3 stalks of celery, washed and finely minced

1/3 cup minced fresh chives

1/3 cup mayonnaise or to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Top with:

Sliced boiled egg (this recipe serves 6)

Any combination of Boston lettuce, pea shoots, cucumber, tomato

Mix tuna salad, top with egg and other fixings.  My preference is always to prepare tuna salad and sliced sandwich toppings in advance but have folks assemble their own sandwich.  (I for one hate soggy bread and these tend to fall apart given how jam-packed they are.) Makes 6 sandwiches.

Bon Appetit!