coconut curry squash lentil soup



coconut milk butternut squash soup





coconut milk butternut squash soup





coconut milk butternut squash soup




The return to work is really the last sort of triumph is new motherhood isn’t it? Another change, another end and beginning. Pluses: the option to actually drink hot coffee, and wear accessories that have been collecting dust, and that renewed sense of self [or yes my brain does still work!]. The downside, I’ve learned so quickly is less time with your babe and less time actually at home. I am so lucky here in Toronto, Canada we have one year of maternity leave. I stayed home with Oscar for 14 months and it was the happiest and craziest time of my life.

For me this transition back to work happened in late summer. Since then it’s also marked me shifting into uncharted cooking territory: meal planning. I used to totally mock it, now I get it. Leftovers are my friend, and the freezer is my BEST friend. I’ve found joy and maybe even a little calmness in spending Sunday cooking big catches of food like roast chicken, quinoa, homemade granola and now that it’s January and freezing out – soups. Weeknights become easier with three or four prepped dishes in the fridge or freezer. Soups freeze so well for up to several months.

Which brings me friends to this awesome little soup. Red lentils for protein meet coconut milk, butternut squash and a hint of curry. It’s kid approved and recipe makes 6-8 servings. You could easily swap out the butternut squash for acorn too. I’ve also stirred in some leftover rice or quinoa I had to use up in the fridge before serving and it’s yummy with or without. We’ve been eating it lately topped with a few chia seeds, cilantro, feta, or a big dollop of plain yogurt. It’s yummy just by itself too.

coconut curry squash lentil soup

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp yellow curry powder
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
one can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup dry red lentils
3 cups water
olive oil

Cut squash into four pieces leaving the skin on. Scoop out the seeds. I find it easiest to use a metal spoon. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. While the squash bakes, I take a minute to prep the remaining ingredients and rinse my lentils. I just swish the lentils in a large metal bowl of cool water. Then I use my hand to hold the lentils in and tilt the bowl over the sink to drain the water. It’s not a science so if you don’t get all the water or lose some lentils, it’s all good.

Coat the bottom on a large soup pot generously with olive oil and cook onion on medium heat with salt and pepper until fragrant. Add garlic, cumin, curry and red pepper flakes. Add a bit more oil if you need to and keep stirring, spices will become fragrant. Remove from heat and scoop the squash from its skin, adding to the pot. Add the coconut milk, water and lentils. Stir and bring to a light boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer on low for 30-40 minutes.

I use an immersion blender to quickly blitz this into a creamy consistency. A regular blender works well too. If you want a chunkier soup just mash with a plain old potato master. Tell me in the comments – do you meal prep too? Hope you love this soup as much as I do!

Canola Eat Well Holiday Baking Party



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Who doesn’t love baking up a storm, hanging with your girlfriends, learning about food, and sipping some wine? I got to do all this and more last week attending a farm-to-table holiday baking party hosted by Canola Eat Well. The event took place at Luxe Appliance Studio, a stunning cooking space on King St East here in Toronto, and was hosted by cookbook author and chef Emily Richards.


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A neutral oil, canola oil can be used for frying as well as in sweet or savory recipes. Emily explained its versatility and how well it lets other flavours shine. A great versatile healthy oil to have in your pantry, I often use it in baking and for making popcorn the old fashioned way on the stove top using a pot and kernels.

My dad’s family has run a successful family dairy operation for generations. At the event I especially loved getting to chat with a Canadian canola farmer from Alberta about how the farm-to-table dining craze supports Canadian farmers and their local communities. Just another reason to reach for canola oil!

To kick off the evening and get our hands dirty we crushed some canola seeds. A practice canola farmers still do today to grade the quality of their canola seed. We were even able to expel some canola oil.


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arancini




A highlight of the night for me was connecting with Emily, a successful cookbook author and mom of three. She shared some tips on weeknight family dinners and the beauty of cooking and eating as a family. Emily talked about watching her grandmother use canola oil this time of year in holiday baking and shared some of her favourite recipes. I have included her aranaci rice ball recipe below.  If arancini is on the menu at a restaurant I always order it to share as a starter. Crispy and cheesy, a perfect small bite with some wine. It’s featured, along many other delicious Southern Italian recipes in her latest cookbook Per La Famiglia. A great Christmas gift for a foodie!

Arancini (Cheese-filled Rice Balls)

Ingredients for filling:
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 egg

Ingredients for Coating:
6 oz mozzarella, provolone, asiago or havarti cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
4-6 cups canola oil (for frying)
good quality sea salt (to sprinkle after frying)

Filling: Boil water and saffron in large pot. Add rice and reduce heat to low stiring frequently for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add romano cheese and butter. Set aside and let cool. Coating: Cut cheese into 16-18 small cubes and set aside. In a shallow dish whisk eggs. Divide rice filling into 16-18 small balls. Make an indentation in each ball and place cheese cube, then seal indentation. Roll balls in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. In a large saucepan heat oil to 375 degrees. Fry balls in small batches 2-3 minutes until golden. Drain on a paper towel lined dish. I added a sprinkle of coarse sea salt to these as they cooled as well.

I served these at home with a little tomato sauce for dipping and topping and they were a huge hit.


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Photo credit: photography by Josh Tenn-Yuk courtesy of Canola Eat Well. This event and post was sponsored by Canola Eat Well. All opinions and comments are my own.

tomato + zucchini baked egg shakshuka



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shakshuka



Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and feta – maybe some of my favourite flavours ever. Shakshuka hails as a breakfast dish in the Middle East, but I often make it for weeknight suppers or late lunch on Sunday afternoons.

It cooks in one pan, and we sometimes have fresh bread from the market on Saturdays to scoop it all up with. Other wins? Shakshuka cooks in one pan, is meatless and loaded with veggies and protein from those eggs. Can you tell I have gone back to work with the cooks-in-one-pan business? Life’s full of big beautiful feelings with my boy now in daycare and it’s BUSY. Three of out four meals I am cooking these days cook in one pot or pan i.e.: soups, frittatas and dishes like this one. Okay enough about me, back to the recipe! I used tomatoes and zucchinis, but you can easily substitute any veggie your family likes. Red peppers, mushrooms or spinach all work. I’ll often make this on Sunday and enjoy it Monday for lunch, it’s one of those dishes that reheats well the next day too. Recipe makes four servings when paired with a green salad or fresh bread.

tomato + zucchini baked egg shakshuka

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 small or 1 large zucchini sliced into half moons
2 tomatoes diced
1 and 1/2 cups canned tomatoes or leftover tomato sauce
4 eggs
handful feta
chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in an oven proof pan (like a cast iron) on the stove top. Add onion and salt and pepper. Saute onion on low-medium heat until fragrant, approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, zucchini and fresh tomatoes and paprika and cumin. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down and zucchini lightly browns. Add canned tomatoes or leftover tomato sauce scrapping up any bits that are sticking. I almost always use leftover marinara-style tomato sauce which I usually have hanging around in my fridge or freezer. This has some basil and oregano already in it, so feel free check the seasoning and add a pinch of each and some extra salt and pepper if using canned tomatoes. If they are whole canned tomatoes, break them up a bit with your hands as you add them. Cook and stir occasionally until canned tomatoes warm. Lastly, using a wooden spoon push back the sauce and veggies creating an empty space in the pan for each egg. Break the eggs (I use a bowl in case of shells) one by one and add in. Transfer pan to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes based on how well done you want your eggs. With a little toddler eating this at my house I veer more towards the 10 min mark. Serve straight from the oven topped with parsley and dive in!

no sugar banana muffins



no sugar banana muffins





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Heading on a road trip to the beach and baked these muffins up to nibble on, because road trip snacks are half the fun right? In other news, also heading back to work in two weeks and hoping a freezer stocked with these will ease what will soon be very busy weekday mornings. I like big life events that I can prepare [read: cook/bake] for. This recipe came about as I cruised the kids aisle at the grocery store and found all the snack items to have sugar listed in the top ingredients. I am trying to avoid giving any to our 13 month old. Not entirely, just not on a routine basis. So i whipped these up (I think the photos are from the fourth batch I’ve made this summer) and skipped adding any sugar or maple syrup and don’t even miss it! Naturally sweet bananas and dates work so well together. Feel free to throw in some chocolate chips if you like but we thought these were pretty delicious as is. Recipe makes 12 regular sized muffins, or 16 smaller sized muffins for baby/toddler hands. I just fill the empty muffin cups with water when I bake the second round. These freeze well too, but don’t generally last very long in my house. Topping one with almond butter is my favourite breakfast this week. Wishing you happy summer adventures big and small!

no sugar banana muffins

1 cup oats
3/4 cup flour (or gluten free alternative)
1 + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (use 2 tsp if using gluten free flour)
1/2 tsp salt
5 dates pits removed and chopped into small chunks
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
1 tsp vanillia extract
4 ripe bananas peeled and mashed
1 egg
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix wet and dry ingredients in two separate bowls. Combine them being careful not to over mix. Batter should be lumpy. Use muffin liners, or lightly grease the muffin pan with coconut oil or non stick spray and scoop out batter, filling each cup about 2/3 full. I bake these for exactly 17 minutes in my oven and they come out perfect every time. Let muffins cool for a few minutes in pan before removing.

sweet potato smoothie bowl



smoothie bowl



I’m devouring this smoothie bowl as I type and it’s amazing. Slightly sweet and so satisfying. It feels a bit more mindful to eat from a bowl and spoon, rather than chug a smoothie straight from the glass, right?

Summer always feels busy. Our little man is turning 1 in a week, barbecues with family and friends are in full swing, and I am loving the last months of my maternity leave spending a lot of time at the park and local splash pad or cuddled up at home with my babe. I try to incorporate veggies in my breakfast and needed a break from green smoothies. This was a perfect change of pace.

A few tips for this recipe, boil your sweet potatoes the night before and this smoothie bowl comes together in a flash. I just stick them in the fridge cooked and whole and peel them quickly before I toss them in the blender. I added pepita seeds and shredded unsweetened coconut, but chia seeds and any nuts would be delicious. Makes enough for two small smoothie bowls, or one very hungry one!

sweet potato smoothie bowl

Ingredients:
1 pitted date
1 frozen banana
2 small organic sweet potatoes boiled and peeled (or 1 large)
1/2 milk of your choice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch sea salt
1 scoop protein powder
Suggested toppings: shredded coconut, chia seeds, pepita seeds

Combine all ingredients in blender and blitz until smooth.

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