July 31, 2011

Avocado Smoothie


I love recipes that have avocado in them, but the problem for me is that I can’t eat a whole avocado in one meal, and as I’m sure you all know, leftover avocado doesn’t save very well as it starts to go brown once you cut it open.

Luckily I’ve come up with another use for my leftover avocado – I store it in the fridge and use it for smoothies the next day! Since avocados are already so creamy, they are perfect for making thick smoothies without even needing to add ice.

It took me a few tries to get this recipe right, but I’m happy enough with this version to share it with you!  The full title should really be Avocado-Almond Banana Coconut Smoothie, since each of those flavours comes through. But it can also be adapted very easily if you don’t have all these ingredients. I would say that the avocado and frozen banana are essential, but the rest of the ingredients could be played around with....so for example, if you don’t have coconut water, you could try pineapple juice, and you could probably use honey or sugar in place of the agave.

Before I get to the recipe, a quick note about coconut water – this is another of my recent discoveries that I’ve become obsessed with! It’s been popular with celebrities for awhile, and you can find it in some grocery stores now, in addition to health food stores. If you do a google search, you will find tons of information about the health benefits of coconut water, and its great for re-hydrating on a hot day or after working out. 

The taste does take some getting used to though...I remember the first time I tried the real thing straight out of a coconut in India and I almost had to spit it out! But now I’ve grown to love the taste and I will happily drink it both out of freshly cracked coconuts or from the packaged bottles! It even comes in different flavours now, like lime, pineapple and mango.

So far, my favourite kind is O.N.E. coconut water in the mango flavour (which I believe is only available in the US).

If you don't like the taste of coconut water on its own though, you can still get the nutritional benefits by adding it to a smoothie along with other ingredients to mask the taste!

Here is the recipe I used:

¼ avocado
½ frozen banana
1 tbsp almond butter
½ tsp agave
1 tbsp almonds soaked in ¼ cup coconut water*
¼ cup additional coconut water

Blend first 5 ingredients until smooth. Add up to 1/4 cup additional coconut water to thin out (mine was very thick the last time I made it, so I needed a bit more than the 1/4 cup extra just to make it drinkable).

* It is best to soak your almonds in the coconut water itself overnight, so that you don't lose any of the almond "juice". If you don't plan your smoothies that far in advance though, I've also tried it after just soaking the almonds in hot water for at least 5 minutes before making the smoothie...but you might end up with some chunks of almonds that don't get broken up this way).

Makes 1 smoothie.

July 29, 2011

Mango Gazpacho

As I mentioned before, I've been trying out various chilled soups lately. Here's another one that I particularly liked...I fell in love with mangoes during my stay in India, and it was actually there that I first tried mango soup - served cold as a cocktail hour appetizer at someone's house. I thought it was so unique and interesting at the time, but I sort of forgot about it afterward....until a couple weeks ago, when I saw this recipe for a mango gazpacho, so I had to try it!

It wasn't the same as what I had in India, but it was still delicious! Using yellow tomatoes instead of red ones gave the soup a beautiful colour, and the taste was a good balance between sweet (from the mango) and spicy (from the onion and garlic). Overall, another refreshing and healthy summer meal! (especially paired with a big hunk of my Vegan Rye-Oat Quick Bread!)

Mango Gazpacho
Adapted from Delishhh

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
2 medium yellow tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 cup chopped English cucumber, plus a bit more for garnish
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Add all ingredients except oil, salt and pepper to a blender and blend until smooth. Then add the oil and seasoning and blend again briefly.

Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, top with the reserved chopped cucumber and add more seasoning to taste.

Makes about 2 cups (2 large or 3 small servings).

July 28, 2011

Vegan Rye-Oat Quick Bread


A couple days ago I had a craving for bread...and not just any bread, but fresh, homemade bread! So even though I practically live next door to a bakery, I decided to make some myself. 

Looking through my bookmarked recipes, I came across one that claimed to take no more than 30 minutes. Since it doesn't use yeast, there is no kneading or rising time required, meaning I could satisfy my craving much quicker!

I also had some rye flour in my cupboard that I had been anxiously waiting to bake something with, so I took this opportunity to try making a rye bread. For such a quick and easy process, I couldn't be happier with how it turned out! 

It had a slightly sweet, nutty flavour (from the oats), with a crunchy crust and a dense, moist interior. It reminded me a lot of Irish soda bread, which I also love. 

I ate some by itself, some slathered in margarine and jam, and even some dipped into my soup with dinner. Mmm now I'm getting a craving for more...

Here is the recipe:
Adapted from A Healthy Passion

1 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour-like consistency in the blender
1 cup rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond milk

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the melted coconut oil and agave, then add almond milk. Mix wet and dry ingredients and stir until everything is incorporated into a dough. 
Shape the dough into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes (mine took 25 mins, but my oven usually takes a bit longer to cook things all the way through). 
Cool on a wire rack and slice. 

Note: This was best eaten fresh on the same day it was made. By the next day, it got a bit dry, but a quick zap in the microwave softened it up again.

July 27, 2011

Summer Avocado Soups

Once summer finally arrived here in Ontario this year, I began experimenting with a variety of chilled soups for dinner. When you're already sweating in the heat, the thought of eating a hot soup isn't exactly very appealing...but cold soups on the other hand are the perfect light summer meal! Not only are they so refreshing, but they usually involve no cooking at all - just chop up the ingredients and put them in the blender...then let it chill in the fridge and just relax until you are ready to eat!

One of my favourite ingredients for a chilled soup is avocado. It adds a creaminess and richness to the soup without being too heavy. It also pairs well with a lot of other flavours and different herbs.

Here are two variations on chilled avocado soup that I made and absolutely loved (yes, I was guilty of licking the blender, the bowl, and any utensil that had leftover bits of soup on it!)

The first recipe is one I saw in a little pamphlet/magazine produced by Astro Yogurt. It tasted so fresh and I loved the dill. Here is the full recipe, which would make 4 servings (I cut the recipe in half for myself and the leftovers saved well in the fridge for the next day)

Cucumber-Dill Avocado Soup

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 cup water (I prefer a thicker soup, so start with this amount and add up to 1/2 cup more more if needed)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard
pinch cayenne

Add all ingredients to blender and puree. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Garnish with fresh herbs (chives, green onion or more dill) and serve.

Another recipe that I made combined raw sweet corn with avocado. The result was an amazing creamy soup with delightful bites of corn kernels added for a bit of texture.

Raw Corn Avocado Chowder
Original Recipe from Natural Noshing

1 large ear of corn
1/2 avocado
1.5 tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/4 lime (about 1 tbsp or less)
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced (I started with less but the soup didn’t taste spicy so I ended up using the whole thing)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water (again, this is the lesser amount so add more if you want a thinner soup)

Husk the corn and then cut off the kernels with a knife (do this over a large bowl to catch them). Then go back over the cob with the dull side of the knife and try to scrape off as much juice as possible into the bowl.
Reserve a handful of corn kernels, along with some of the minced jalapeno for garnish.
Add the remaining ingredients to blender and puree.
Let chill in the fridge for a bit before serving. Top with garnish and enjoy!

Makes 2 servings

Raw Beet, Carrot & Apple Salad

One thing you should know about me is that I absolutely LOVE beets! Whenever I buy a bunch of them, I get so excited trying to come up with new and creative ways to use them. One of my favourite ways to eat beets is to roast them and add them to a simple salad with goat cheese, or even on their own mixed with plain yogurt. I've also had success in the past with beet pasta, and beet hummus is definitely my favourite kind of hummus ever!

But on to this salad...I didn't realize until recently that you could eat beets raw too! All you do is peel them, cut off the stems and then grate them just like you would carrots. Check out the how gorgeous this one was when I cut it open - it looks just like a real heart!

The grated beets pair really well with shredded carrots, and then I got the idea to add shredded apple to the mix after seeing this recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Oh She Glows.
For the dressing, I used this one for a honey-dijon vinaigrette . I just substituted honey mustard for the dijon, and used a bit less oil than it called for.

For the rest of the salad, I used:

half of a large beet, peeled and grated
1 carrot, shredded
half of an apple, shredded
handful of dried cranberries
handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted

Combine the shredded beet, carrot and apple. You might want to squeeze the apple first as it will be very watery. Add the cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve on top of washed beet greens (might as well use up the whole beet while you're at it!) or regular lettuce. Pour dressing over top (you won't need the whole recipe, so save some for another use).

Makes 1 large serving.

July 25, 2011

Fat-Free Pineapple Coffee Cake

For my first post, I wanted to share this tropical coffee cake that I just made. I was searching for a healthy baked good recipe to use up some pineapple I had, and came across this one for pineapple coffee cake on FatFree Vegan Kitchen. I was intrigued by the idea of a fat-free cake, but I had had mixed success with fat-free baked goods in the past. However, the reviews for this recipe were all great, so I had to try it out for myself!

I made a few modifications to the original recipe (subbing banana for the applesauce and using fresh instead of canned pineapple), and I was so happy with the results! The texture turned out a bit dense and chewy, which I like, and its still a light and healthy coffee cake that leaves you feeling guilt-free!

(Note: I didn't have egg replacer, so I went with the suggestion of using cornstarch + baking powder instead...it seemed to work fine, but I'm not sure how it would compare to the original)

Pineapple Coffee Cake
Adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
1 cup quick or rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used regular granulated sugar)
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 cup fresh pineapple diced very small (try to keep as much juice as you can, but if it doesn’t look very juicy, add about 1 tbsp additional juice - any kind of tropical juice you have)
1/3 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium sized banana)

2 tablespoons coarse sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.

First, grind the oats in a blender until fine (to turn into oat flour). Mix oats with the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients and then add to dry. Stir until completely moistened (Note: the batter will be very thick...I thought I was going to have to add more liquid, as it took a while to incorporate all of the dry parts, but eventually it came together...just be careful not to overmix!)

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes (mine was done when I checked at 35 minutes). Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool some more before cutting. 


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