Veggie loaded pierogis

A quick and easy comfort food for the nights when you need it, while using up some veggies in your fridge. I can’t think of a better excuse to prevent food waste.

***

Recipe

Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

24 pierogies (your favourite brand & flavour)
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup of pickled jalapeños or 1 fresh jalapeño, diced
1 cup shredded kale
1 cup of shredded cheese (substitute vegan cheese, if you wish)
1 tbsp of olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°C.
  2. Boil pierogies in water, as directed by the instructions. Chop up the vegetables while the pierogies are cooking. Once they are finished, drain and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in an oven safe skillet. Add pierogies and cook until sides are crispy, about two minutes each side.
  4. Spread pierogies out in an even layer over the pan, then top with vegetables. Sprinkle cheese all over.
  5. Place skillet in oven and cook until cheese is melted, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately.

***

– Magical Properties –

A versatile, quick and easy dish. Try out some of the combinations below or get creative with whatever is in your fridge.
~
green onion, bacon, yellow pepper then drizzled with greek yogurt
diced mushrooms, spinach, fresh basi and tomatoes
black bean, avocado, red pepper and corn
olives, mushroom, green pepper and prosciutto

***


Avocado & egg on a potato hash

I have never been a huge fan of going out to brunch. The odd time is great but there is something comforting about being at home in the morning on weekends. I’ve collected and created a good collection of brunch recipes because of this.

This recipe is a perfect balance of fried goodness and greens.

***

Recipe

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2 servings

Ingredients

Potato Hash
2 medium potatoes
2 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp of onion powder
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
1/4 tsp of salt
Pepper to taste

Everything Else
2 eggs
2 cups of packed greens
1 avocado, diced
feta cheese

Directions:

  1. Wash potatoes then grate with a cheese grater. You do not need to peel the potatoes.
  2. Add potatoes to a bowl with olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Mix well.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Use a cast iron pan if you have one but a regular skillet will also work.
  4. Pour potato mixture onto skillet and spread out to create a thin layer. Press firmly down on potatoes with spatula.
  5. Let the potatoes cook for 4 minutes, until crispy. Split the large potato hash in half, then flip and cook on the other side for an another 4 minutes. You want to ensure that the hash is cooked all the way through.
  6. While the hash is frying, cook the eggs to your preference. I recommend over easy to get a nice yolk drizzle on the hash.
  7. Split greens over two plates. Place potato hash on top of greens followed by the egg. Finish with adding the avocado and feta cheese.
  8. Serve & enjoy.

*Adding a slice or two of bacon on top of the hash would an excellent addition.

***

– Magical Properties –

Potatoes are often lumped into the bad food category but are quite the opposite. These delicious nuggets are a decent source of fibre & protein while also rich in Vitamin C, B6 and potassium. The more you process them, the lower their nutrient quality will become so aim to have them in whole food form more often. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a potato chip though (which is my favourite food, by the way).
Potatoes are one of the most versatile & delicious foods on the planet and I strongly encourage you to include them in your diet.

***


Understanding oats

The oat aisle of the grocery store is surprisingly large. Not only do you have multiple brands to choose from, but there are many different types of oats.

To help you out, I’ve created a quick review of the classic oat to help you better navigate the grocery store and choose the oats best for you.

Nutrition Overview

Oats have been a staple for centuries and appear to be a grain that has escaped the “carbohydrate boycotting” that is so common in diet culture. It is a nutrient rich food that provides you with fibre, protein, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.

Types of Oats

Steel Cut Oats are closest to the original grain and contain the entire oat kernel sliced into smaller pieces to help with cooking. Because these are the least processed of the oats, they also contain the highest concentration of nutrients. They will have a very chewy texture and will take the longest to cook at anywhere between 20-40 minutes.

Rolled Oats are sometimes called Old Fashioned Oats. They are slightly more processed as the outside hull of the oat is removed. This does result in a lower nutrient content compared to steel cut, but they still remain very nutritious and are a great choice (my personal favourite). The cooking time is also faster taking 10-20 minutes.

Quick Cooking Oats are rolled oats that have been cut before being steamed & flattened to help speed up the cooking process. They can be helpful when you need to make oats quickly, or are often used in baking.

Instant Oats are usually what you find in the packets. They are the most processed of all the oats, as they have been cut, pre-cooked, dried, steamed and then flattened. While the packets are convenient because they have been significantly processed they have lost a good chunk of nutrition. As well, the flavoured packets usually contain quite a bit of added sugars. I would recommend trying to include the above oats over instant for a more nutritious and satisfying meal.

Other Oat Products

Oat Flour is made from grinding up rolled up. You can do this yourself in a blender or food processor. To add to a recipe, substitute up to 30% oat flour for all purpose. It will contain the same nutrients all rolled oats and can be a great addition to your baking.

Oat Bran is made from the outer later of the oat kernel known as the bran. This very rich in fibre and can also be a great addition to your baking.

How to Use Oats

My favourite way to eat oats is in a good old fashioned porridge. Now oats for breakfast may not initially spark your food desires but the beauty of oats is that they are a great base. Once you start dressing them up, you might find porridge becomes a staple.

They are also a great addition to baking. You will find a million recipes that incorporate oats including muffins, cookies, energy bites and homemade bars. As mentioned above, you can also sneak in this nutritious powerhouse in the form of oat flour or oat bran.


Dressed up oats

For most the word oatmeal conjures up a tasteless gruel served at summer camps or in your grandparents kitchen. I promise you it can be so much more than that. If we are home on a Saturday morning we will cook up a pot of oatmeal without fail. I find it so comforting likely due to the fact it’s also what my parents usually make on Saturday’s. My dad’s speciality? Adding apples to the oats while they are cooking.

Below is the quickest base recipe for making dressed up oats to your liking. You will never go back to plain oats again.

***

Recipe

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients

1 cup of rolled oats, cooked according to package*
1/2 cup of your fruit of choice
1/4 cup of something creamy (kefir, yogurt, oat milk, coconut yogurt)
1/4 cup of something nutty (walnuts, almonds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds)
1/4 tsp warming spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice or a combination)

Directions:

  1. Cook rolled oats according to package. If you wish to add any fruit while it’s cooking, add at the same time you add the oatmeal. You may have to cook a little longer than the suggested cook time.
  2. Once oats are cooked, take off heat and stir in your warming spices. Let the oatmeal cool slightly before portioning.
  3. Portion into two bowls, and top with something creamy (kefir is my favourite), fruit and something nutty.
  4. Serve & enjoy.

– Magical Properties –

Oatmeal is packed full of nutrients that will support your health including soluble fibre, protein, thiamin, magnesium and iron. Add fruits or nuts for an even more powerful breakfast.

***

Notes
* Use any oats to your liking


Manuka honey vs. the bees

Liquid Gold. Manuka honey is a hot item right now. And with all food trends, it’s important to step back before jumping on board. A good three questions to ask yourself are: Do I enjoy the taste? Are the proposed health benefits true? What is the impact on the environment? Because yes, food and the environment intersect.

Manuka honey tastes like honey, which means it’s delicious, but why is it considered superior? It’s comes from bees in New Zealand that pollenate the Manuka bush. This specific plant allows the honey to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Some research has shown this to be beneficial in wound healing, sore throats, and help to promote good oral health. Sounds cool, right?

But what is the actual impact on your health? Minimal. Fortunately we have the miracles of modern medicine to help with wound healing and I would never encourage anyone to apply honey to their own wounds (interestingly, some wound dressings do contain honey but let’s leave that to our experts in wound care). Oral care? Brush and floss regularly and you will be fine. Let’s not forget the cost. I’m talking $30 – $50 dollars for a small jar.

Now to the environmental impact. An increased demand for specific foods may help boost economies but often these local farmers end up being exploited in the name of profit. In the case of Manuka honey, the bees are actually dying. Manuka is expensive. People want in on this multiple million dollar industry. Bees are being poisoned and stolen for profit. Why? Destroy your neighbours hives, then your honey will be bought.

Additionally, Manuka honey is grown in New Zealand meaning it’s needs to be shipped thousands of kilometres before ending up in your cupboard, if you live in North America. We have beautiful local honey at our fingertips. Let’s support our local bee keepers!

Bottom line: The health benefits are not worth the cost and not worth the negative impact on the environment and the bees.


Storing Produce to Make it Last

Food waste is a huge problem in Canada. Up to 50% of food produced gets wasted, with half of that waste occurring in the household. One of the best ways to reduce food waste is to properly store produce to prevent them from turning quickly.

Before jumping into specifics, I want to bring up the refrigerator crisper. Understanding the crisper is a game changer for extending the life of fruits & vegetables.

There are two options for your crisper, a high humidity drawer and a low humidity drawer. They are used depending on if a fruit or vegetable is either ethylene sensitive or ethylene producing. Ethylene is a gas produced by some fruits and vegetables that cause produce to ripen faster.

A high humidity drawer (the vent is closed, trapping in the moisture) is for produce that wilts. This is mostly vegetables, with a few fruit exceptions. These are produce that are ethylene sensitive. It might have a vegetable on the drawer.

A low humidity drawer (the vent is open, allowing moisture & gas to escape) is for produce that rots. This will be mostly fruits, with a few vegetable exceptions. This is the drawer for produce that produces ethylene, hence why you keep the vent open to allow for the gas to escape. It might have a fruit on the drawer.

If you want to get real serious, you can use the following list to figure out which fruit & vegetables should be stored where:

Ethylene Producing: apples, apricots, avocados, bananas (ripe), blueberries, cantaloupe, figs, green onions, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plumes, princess and tomatoes

Ethylene Sensitive: asparagus, unripe bananas, blackberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, ready greens, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, raspberries, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, strawberries, and watermelon.

But I know ya’ll don’t have time to be checking this post out every time you bring groceries home, so below is a quick rule of thumb when you are putting your groceries away:

  • Fruits in the low humidity drawer (vent open)
  • Vegetables in the high humidity drawer (vent closed)
  • Keep your berries & bananas out these these drawers

Ripening Tip: If you need to ripen something quicker, like an avocado, toss into a bag with an ethylene producing fruit to help it ripen quicker. Now this won’t work magic, but it may help you out if you think of it the day before.

Storing Tips for Specific Fruits & Vegetables

Storing produce goes beyond just using the crisper. Below is a more detailed breakdown of specific fruits & vegetables. I try to take a sustainable focus with my kitchen, so I will be highlighting some reusable products. Plastic ziplock bags and paper towels can be used, but I encourage you to check out some alternatives to help cut back on your waste. I’ve linked the products I use & love.

~ Fruits ~

Apples: Can be stored in a fridge in the low humidity drawer or a cool, dark place such as a basement or fruit cellar. Be careful not to store your apples near onions or they will take on an onion taste.

Avocado: Store at room temperature until ripe, then pop into the fridge to extend their life. Avocado also freezes great, just remove the skins and cube before freezing.

Banana: Unripe bananas should be left on the counter, away from other fruits they might ripen (such as avocados). Once they ripen, you can place them in the fridge. The skin may still brown in the fridge as a heads up. Otherwise, pop them in the freezer for banana muffins.

Berries: Berries turn bad quickly, therefore eat as soon as possible. Avoid washing them until you need them (the moisture will cause them to ripen quicker) as well as remove any moldy ones before storing. I usually store mine in a small ceramic colander to allow any excess moisture to drip off. If they are about to turn, pop them into a reusable freezer bag (Rezip and Stasher are my favourites!) to save for smoothies, oatmeal bakes or crisps.

Grapes: Similar to berries, they are best stored in a container that drains. You can either keep them in the plastic bag they came in or transfer to a larger colander. By waiting to wash them before eating, you will also help extend their life.

Melons (ie. Honeydew, Cantaloupe & Watermelon) : Keeping a melon as intact as possible will help make it last longer. I typically slice in half, then cover the unused portion with a beeswax wrap (like this one) to help keep it fresh. Keep in the low humidity crisper drawer.

Lemon & Limes: Store in the fridge or on the counter depending on how quickly you are going to use them. The best way to keep a used one fresh is with a food hugger. This silicone tool pops on the the end of a cut lemon or lime, keeping it fresh longer (you can actually use it for lots of different produce). Otherwise, you can wrap the end in beeswax.

Stone Fruit (ie. Mango, Plums, Peaches & Nectarines): Store in the low humidity crisper. Nothing special here. If you have stone fruits that are going bad, they are great for jams/jellies. Pop them in the freezer and use them when you have time to make some.

~ Vegetables ~

Asparagus: Can be stored two ways in the fridge. Either upright in a mason jar with a small amount of water or wrapped in a damp towel. The goal is to keep this ends moist.

Broccoli: Keeps best in the high humidity crisper. Due to high water content, you should blanch before freezing to maintain the flavour & texture of the vegetable. 

Cabbage: I store unwrapped in the high humidity crisper. You may read elsewhere to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, but I avoid this and find it still lasts 2-3 weeks.

Cauliflower: Similar to broccoli. Store in the high humidity crisper and blanch before freezing. If you you slice up for quick vegetable access, keep in a sealed reusable bag or container to help maintain moisture.

Green Onions: Keep wrapped in a damp towel in a reusable bag. Once I’ve used a good portion of of my green onions, I pop them into a mason jar with water to cover the bulbs. If you have good lighting, this will allow the onions to grow 1-2 more times. I will change the water every 1-2 days.

Herbs: Similar to green onions, I usually put them in a mason jar with a small amount of water, changing the water every 1-2 days . I will also trim off any stems or leaves that have gone bad. You can also wrap in a towel and store in a reusable bag in the fridge. I find mint does better in the fridge. Many herbs can be dried to avoid waste. Just tie the end together and hang upside down until complete dry. You can also whip up a quick pesto and freeze. 

Leafy Greens: Leafy greens keep best in the fridge if they are washed as soon as you bring them home. I will wash and cut into large pieces (if needed). Next, wrap them in a towel (I love Unpaper Towels) and place in a reusable bag.

Leeks: Wrap leeks in a moist towel and store in the high humidity crisper. Give them a good shake before storing with other vegetables, as they retain a lot of soil. If they won’t fit in the crisper, try a reusable bag. If they are still too big then store in the main fridge but keep the ends wrapped.

Ginger: I keep ginger loose in the fridge and find it keeps for a while. Otherwise toss it into the freezer. It will still grate frozen, so no need to take it out before hand.

Garlic: Store in a cool, dark place. If it is in a jar, ensure has has holes for it to breath. When green appears in the centre of the garlic, it indicates that it is aged and ready to sprout. While it is safe to eat, it has a bitter taste so it is best to remove.

Peppers: If you are going to eat them quickly, keep them on the counter for better flavour. They can also handle a cool, dark spot. Otherwise, keep them in the high humidity crisper.

Tomatoes: Kept best at room temperature as they ripen better when not in the fridge. If they are ripe, but you have no use for them yet, then you can place them in the fridge. I would just allow them to come to room temperature before using

Mushrooms: Keep them in a paper bag and store in the fridge. The paper bag will help with moisture control. There are usually some beside the bulk mushroom section at the grocery store. If not, then store in plastic packaging. Keep in large part of fridge, out of crisper. 

Root Vegetables (ie. Squash, Potato, Onions, Sweet Potato). Keep them in a cool dark spot outside of the fridge. I keep mine in a wicker basket under my bar cart. Securing a spot in a kitchen cabinet or in the basement works as well. If possible, store each vegetable in it’s own container (unfortunately I don’t have space for that).

Zucchini: Store loose in the high humidity crisper. It can be frozen, which is great for baking. Given it’s high water content, it is best to grate it then squeeze excess water out before freezing. 


Coconut Oil: It’s not poison, but it’s definitely not a miracle food either

A quick google search of coconut oil will lead you down two paths at the moment:

(1) Harvard professors calling it pure poison

(2) Wellness blogs praising it as the cure to nearly everything

So what’s the deal? Should you throw your container of coconut oil in the garbage or continue to slather it on every food you eat?

The Proposed Hype

The preacher of coconut oil will likely highlight the following:

  • It’s has medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are ~amazing for our health~
  • It has saturated fat, but that is good for us now
  • It increases our good cholesterol (HDL-C)
  • It has a high antioxidant content

So let’s break this down.

The Evidence

Starting with MCTs, small research studies are showing some benefits in it’s use for weight loss and Alzheimer’s. It is proposed that it may be due to the unique way in which your body uses them. They bypass the traditional way fats are absorbed, leading to a quicker uptake by the body and can act as readily available source of energy. This may help in weight loss, as your body may use it for energy versus storing as fat. In Alzheimer’s, the proposed theory is that the brain will utilize the MCTs as an energy source, instead of the typical glucose, which may have a protective effect.

While that all sounds great, there is some problems with this claim. My main concern is that coconut oil does not equal MCTs. Sure, coconut oil contain some MCTs but it is not an 100% source. The above studies are looking at use of an 100% MCT oil supplement. We cannot assume that using coconut oil will translate to the same benefits. Additionally, there is much debate in the nutrition world as to what the actual percentage of MCTs found in coconut oil is, with some arguing it to be quite low.

But if there is a possible benefit of using it, why not?

This has to do with its saturated fat content. Let me get this clear  – I am not against saturated fat in your diet, but let’s review a little nutrition history to get a better understanding of what this all means.

Back in the day of power suits and scrunchies, saturated fat was thought to be the devil incarnate resulting in the low-fat diet trend (“Non-fat Yogurt” Seinfeld episode, anyone?). More recent research has actually shown it may not be as harmful as once thought. What was found was that if you replaced saturated fat with sugar*, you saw an increased cardiovascular risk. But what often gets skipped over is that it also found that choosing unsaturated fats (olive oil) over saturated fats (coconut oil) significantly improved cardiovascular health.  So the harm comes in when you start using coconut oil as your main source of cooking oil. This is likely doing your body more bad then good. Speaking to effect on our cholesterol, coconut oil does raise our good cholesterol, but also our bad ones. 

Now let’s not forget about the antioxidant claims. Unfortunately, these claims are not backed by evidence at this time. A recent study looked to analyze the antioxidant content of coconut oil and found squat. Sadly, no antioxidants in coconut oil. 

Bottom Line

Coconut oil may have some moderate health benefits but it is not a superfood and should not be the main fat source in your diet. I would recommend reaching for extra virgin olive oil first, as this is an oil proven to be a good source of antioxidants and contains those unsaturated fats your heart loves. 

Will you find coconut oil in my pantry? Most definitely. It has a wonderful flavor and is a good oil to cook with especially when using higher heats. When purchasing, aim to grab a cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. This type is less processed and has not been exposed to high heats that can be damaging to the overall nutrition content of fats.

Finally, what also always needs to be remembered is that individual foods have little impact on our health. It is the sum of our dietary habits that matter. A person who eats coconut oil as a main fat source, but has a diet that consists mostly of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and legumes is making healthier choices than a diet that has olive oil as it’s main cooking oil but contains high amounts of meat, simple sugars and processed foods.

So keep that coconut oil in your diet, just don’t think it’s the the magical ingredient to a healthy lifestyle.

*sugar does not equal carbohydrates FYI.


An Argument Against Meal Prep

Flip open Instagram and you’ll find pages of the most beautiful meal prep you could imagine. Green smoothies, halloumi cheese salads and black bean burgers. All perfectly prepared in reusable containers for the work week.

A dream world where you ensure you eat healthy every day of the week. 

I truly admire the effort that goes into this extensive meal preparation (maybe with a hint of jealously), but a few questions usually come to mind:

  1. Does that salad ACTUALLY still taste fresh on Day 3?
  2. Don’t you get bored when you have the same meals three days in a row?
  3. What happens when your co-workers ask you to check out the new Mexican restaurant after work, but you have you have that black bean burger in the fridge at home?
  4. And most importantly, what about Sunday Funday?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Filling your fridge and pantry with healthy, whole foods is critical in making sure you are putting the right nutrients into your body.

But my argument is this: If we strive to complete this extensive meal preparation in a world that has too many unknowns, is actually attainable for most people? I am the perfect candidate to being able to achieve this: no children, partner who also enjoys cooking and able to afford healthy fresh foods. Yet, I still can’t seem to get it done every week. Sure, I could leave the cottage on Sunday morning a few hours early, or skip out on the afternoon Bocce in the park… Yeah, no thanks.

So I say, drop the dream of completing this crazy meal prep. Enjoy your weekends and evenings. Learn to throw together healthy meals in a hot minute or actually take the time to cook some nights of the week with your friends & family (take leftovers for lunch).

Then, if you do happen to have the time to do a huge meal prep, take advantage! I can guarantee you will eat healthier. On a smaller scale, use that time to make some bulk recipes that might last you the week, such as homemade granola, soups, muffins or banana bread. If you are away for a weekend, you can always stock the fridge/pantry before you head out to make sure a full fridge exists when you get back.

So since I just bashed your meal preparation dream, I will leave you with some recommendations of foods to always have around (that don’t spoil quickly!) to help you make quick healthy meals.

Top Things to Keep in Your Kitchen

Well Stocked Fridge: frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, frozen banana, frozen bag of bread, frozen meat, yogurt, milk, vegetables you enjoy eating raw, eggs, cheese, hummus, mayonnaise, salsa

Well Stocked Pantry: canned beans, oatmeal, your favourite grain, nuts & seeds, peanut butter, whole grain crackers, olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, canned tuna/salmon, potatoes, tomato sauce

How to Use These Ingredients in Healthy Meals

Quick Breakfasts: smoothies, overnight oats, parfait, peanut butter toast w/ bread & fruit, omelette w/ cheese and frozen vegetables, refried beans on toast

Quick Lunches: above omelette, cheese & crackers or two hard boiled eggs with a side of vegetables & hummus, bean pasta salad with oil & vinegar dressing

Quick Dinners: Tuna melt, salmon melt, salmon cakes, bean pasta with frozen vegetables, meat w/ friend potato & vegetable hash, fried eggs over a bed of vegetables & beans with salsa


Chicken & basil rice paper rolls with homemade peanut sauce

We are all strapped for time hence meals that work well as leftovers can be an absolute blessing. These rice paper rolls will satisfy your taste buds and pack up easily for lunch the next day. The Chinese 5-Spice blend brings together a perfect balance of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Chinese coriander, while the basil keeps it fresh. Paired with a homemade peanut sauce, you might be tempted to eat all 12 at once.

***

Recipe

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4. Makes 12 spring rolls, with 3 per serving.

Ingredients

Rolls
1 package extra lean ground chicken (approximately 600 grams)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp of Chinese 5-Spice
1 large carrot
8 radishes
1 english cucumber
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 bunch crisp romaine lettuce or leafy greens

Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (or whatever you have on hand)
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)

Directions:

Rolls

  1. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to large pan over medium heat. Add package of ground chicken, breaking meat up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once cooked through, drain excess fat and return to heat.
  2. Mix together chicken stock and Chinese 5-Spice. Add to ground chicken and reduce heat to a simmer. Let mixture simmer uncovered for approximately 10 minutes, or until broth has slightly thickened. Set aside.
  3. Peel and slice carrots into small matchsticks, also known as a julienne cut.
  4. Slice radishes into small matchsticks.
  5. Cut cucumber in half and remove seeded middle. Cut remaining cucumber into small matchsticks. *Side note: You can also add the carrots, cucumber and radishes to a food processes on medium grate. The result still works, but will be slightly more watery vegetable mix.
  6. Wash and tear lettuce into 12 pieces about the size of your hand. You want pieces large enough that the vegetables can be rolled into it.
  7. Add chopped carrots, radishes, cucumber and 1-2 basil leaves to middle of lettuce leaf, rolling to make a lettuce wrap. Complete all 12 and set aside.
  8. Take rice paper and wet under cold water. Place onto flat surface and rub rice paper with fingers until it begins to soften. Once soft, place 1 rolled lettuce leaf with 2 heaping spoonfuls of chicken towards the back of the rice paper.
  9. Bring the back of the rice paper over mixture, and then fold in sides. Continue to roll the mixture forward so that the rice paper wraps around mixture. Repeat until you have 12 rolls.
  10. Serve 3 rolls with a side of peanut sauce as a main. Pair with a salad for a complete meal.

Peanut Sauce

  1. Make while chicken is simmering to save time.
  2. Whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, water, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a medium bowl until fully blended.
  3. Cover and place in fridge until serving.

***


Roasted sweet potato & barley salad with lemon dressing

Vegetables are one the best things we can put into our body but they can be seem boring at times. I get it – steamed broccoli and carrots do get old. Enter above salad. The lemon dressing is refreshing while the barley, sweet potatoes and toasted almonds bring an earthy and nutty taste. Finished with some tang from feta cheese for a flavourful bite each time.

***

Recipe

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side.

Ingredients

Salad
3 cups leafy greens
2 cups arugula
2 small or 1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup of pearl barley, uncooked
1/2 cup of toasted almonds
feta cheese

Dressing
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°C.
  2. Wash and cube sweet potatoes. Place in bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Spread onto baking sheet.
  3. Add 3/4 of cup of water and 1/4 cup of barley to a pot (Tip – always cook barley at a 1:3 ratio. 1 cup barley to 3 cups water). Bring barley to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce  to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Barley is finished when  water has been absorbed and the texture is light and fluffy.
  4. Place sweet potatoes in the oven when you have started to simmer the barley, as these should both be finished at around 30 minutes.
  5. Roughly chop almonds. Toast in frying pan on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes. Set aside.
  6. For the dressing, whisk together lemon, olive oil, pepper and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  7. When barley and sweet potatoes are finished and slightly cooled, add to leafy greens/arugula with toasted almonds. Whisk lemon dressing and add to salad. Mix until dressing evenly covers salad.
  8.  Once plated, top when a sprinkling of feta cheese .

* Add meat, fish, poultry or tofu for an extra protein boost.

***

– Magical Properties –

It’s easy to always reach for the same grain especially when they can be sensationalized in the media as food that cures all (I’m looking to you, quinoa). The reality is that all grains bring something to table. Barley is fantastic for your health in a few ways, one being its soluble fibre content. Simply put, soluble fibre moves slowly through your GI tract due to its gel-like texture. This is particularly beneficial as it helps to keep you full, reduces cholesterol levels, moderates blood sugar levels and helps keep you regular. Barley is also a source of folate, iron and magnesium.

***