MAP Wellness

MAP Wellness
Spreading the Health

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Savoury RAW No-Meat-Balls

I grew up on the outskirts of a rural small town, a farming community that respected and cherished all that the surrounding land had to offer.  Times have certainly changed over the years though, and now there are a lot more greenhouses going up in place of standard crop fields, and it is clear that there is some genetically modified planting going on.  One thing that can always be counted on, however, is access to roadside fruit and veggie stands, a place for small farmers to showcase their best stuff while also making a modest summer supplemental income. 

Proof of this fact came on my most recent trip to South Western Ontario, the beautiful region of our province that my family calls home.  After my mother picked me up from the bus station in London, we headed off down Highway 4, the road that connects the metropolis that is “The Forest City”, with my home town of 4400, Exeter Ontario. My mom decided we should stop by a local farm to see what harvest goodies they had on offer.  But upon entering the wee produce stall, it was clear that this was no big-city market. There were plenty of plant offerings to be sure...but what was missing was a vendor. In their place, a note on the wall to welcome us, plus directions about where to deposit our money once our shopping was complete.  You see, this sale barn ran on the honour system. You simply select your stuff, pack your bag, and leave the cash behind. 

Mom and I managed to find some great deals, and drove away with more than an ounce of local inspiration.

That night, when it came time to prep our meals, I knew I wanted to make fresh produce the main attraction.  And nothing says summer suppers like local squash and the classic combo of fresh basil and tomatoes.  So I decided to hold onto the season for just a bit longer and created a caprese-style pasta bowl, topped with some comfort-food-style “no-meat-balls” for added protein.  I have been meaning to come up with a raw and vegan substitute for ground meat, and this was the perfect time to get to work on it, as there are often not a lot of protein choices available for me when I am not cooking in my own kitchen.  What I came up with that evening, was a rustic Italian inspired dish that I know I will be making again and again.

Savoury RAW No-Meat-Balls

1 C raw sunflower seeds
½ C + 1 T raw almond butter
4 sundried tomatoes, soaked and chopped
3 T fresh basil, shredded
1 T nutritional yeast
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp dried thyme 
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch cumin
sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until the mixture reaches a texture similar to ground meat.

Scoop the mixture out by into heaping teaspoons and form each meatball.  Try not to over-roll them; we are going for “rustic” Italian here! 

This mix can be served as balls over raw zucchini pasta as seen here, but it can also be a great vegetarian stand-in for any recipe you’d use ground meat.  Try it as a taco or sandwich filling, a base for a raw chili, or as a crunchy topping for salad or soup!  This protein-packed flavour blend pairs well with marinara sauce, cashew sour cream or pesto!

RAW Pasta with Basil Kale Pesto

RAW Pasta with Basil Kale Pesto

Zucchini, or summer squash has long been part of my diet, whether I liked it or not.  Growing up, I lived on a six-and-a-half acre farm and that allowed my mother’s to tend a vast vegetable garden.  This was no skimpy square of soil growing a mere salad’s worth of greens and tomatoes.  No, my ma’s mini-field was home to corn, green beans, peas, onions, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, dill, scallions, yellow beans, and carrots; of which me and my sisters regularly pulled from the soil and enjoyed after just a brief rinse under the garden hose.  Oh, and then there was the zucchini. 

My mom’s squash thrived on the land, often growing to be more than a foot in length.  And there were many.  So many in fact, than my mom had to get creative in how she could use up her harvest, sometimes requiring some clever camouflage techniques.  Because let’s face it; little kids are not all that keen on eating green stuff.  And adding anything vert to dessert?  Unheard of!  But mom managed to sneak one by us for our entire childhoods; and her zucchini chocolate cake still stands the test of time.  In fact, my sister Stephanie made the recipe just last week.  And had dozens of folks asking her for the secret formula.

Well enough about my youth.  Nowadays, I avoid gluten, most processed foods, and like to include as much green food as possible at every meal.  One of my fave ways to use zucchini is to make it a noodle!  I have a neat-o spiralizer machine that makes quick work of the squash, easily transforming it into a soft, pasta-like flavour vessel.  But if you don’t have one of those at home, you can also make thicker zucchini “ribbons” simply be using your standard vegetable peeler.

The beauty of this veg’s bounty is that you can enjoy it well into fall – local zuchs will be available right through October.  So why not hit your local farmer’s market and fill your basket with a few other fresh ingredients and whip up a bowl of this pesto zucchini pasta bowl?  It will taste like summer in a snap!

Makes about 1 cup of pesto (leftovers freeze well)

•    1/3 C firmly packed fresh organic basil*
•    5-6 organic kale leaves, washed, trimmed, and torn into pieces*
•    2-4 garlic cloves, depending on your tolerance!
•    1/3 C walnuts (raw, or toasted for a denser flavour)
•    1/4 C nutrition yeast***
•    2-3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
•    1.5 t sea salt
•    1/4 C extra virgin olive oil to start, adding more as needed
•    1-2 zucchini, made into “noodles”

*Feel free to substitute any local organic herbs (cilantro, parsley) or leafy green (spinach, arugula) that you prefer or have on hand.  The flavour combos are endless, but I like the mix of the kale and basil.

1.    In a blender or small food processor, add all ingredients and puree until smooth, scraping down blender jar or processor bowl with spatulas as necessary.
2.    Continue drizzling additional olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency.
3.    Enjoy!

The richness of this nutty sauce is a perfect match with the crisp freshness of raw zucchini noodles or spirals.  This pesto is also a delightful addition to any cooked pasta, rice and greens bowl, or grilled veggie sandwich.  

***Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast sold commercially as a food product.  It is yellow in color and has a flakey texture and a nutty cheese-like flavor, making it a great flavour enhancer and favourite among vegans.  Nutritional yeast can be found in bulk food and health food stores as well as many larger supermarkets


Friday, September 7, 2012

Maca-Java Smoothie

MACA-Java Smoothie

I have been logging a ton of hours trying to get my wellness business off the ground.  Thank goodness for afternoon naps and evenings of yoga as it’s all I can do to keep the stress from building a home in my trapezius muscles, and my head screwed on straight!

What else do I do to keep anxiety at bay?  Well I run.  I read.  I cook.  But I also enjoy a good ‘ol power smoothie to start the day off right, and this little gem is not only tasty, but functional to boot, thanks to the fibre and protein packed  chia seeds, the healthy fat of avocado, and the caramel-y smooth addition of maca root powder:

·         2-5 dates depending on your level of sweet tooth
·         1 T maca root powder
·         1 t cinnamon
·         1 C almond milk
·         1 C freshly brewed coffee, cooled
·         1 T chia seeds
·         ½ t vanilla
·         ½ avocado

Why MACA?  Well, maca root is an adaptogen, or a substance that assists in keeping up with the body's natural rhythms to help rebuild weak immune systems, re-mineralize poorly nourished bodies, and increase energy and endurance.  Maca has also been known to help improve mood and reduce the symptoms of anxiety or fear.

Speaking of FEAR, have you checked out my latest non-food related article about “fear of greatness”?  You can read me here:

Happy blending, and be well!

End of Summer Get Your Greens on Smoothie

I can not believe that the dear sweet summer is drawing to a close in the next few weeks.  It is a sad thought surely, but the silver lining is that the bounty of the fall harvest is just around the bend!  But for now, we should revel in the glory that is the present, and what’s in season now, is Ontario watermelon!  I picked up a HUGE one this week and decided to get creative with how I could incorporate it into as many recipes possible. 

Watermelon is comprised of about 92 percent water, which makes it highly hydrating, and it is also well known that is a great source of the antioxidant lycopene.  But, did you know that it is also jam-packed with potassium, which helps the body maintain proper electrolyte balance and assists in muscle and nerve function?  And hey, Watermelon also contains the amino acid arginine, which can help maintain arteries, blood flow and overall cardiovascular function.

So what better food to use in a pre-workout morning smoothie, right?  I decided to whip up one up after my morning run, and with the addition of ginger, kale and a few other delicious add-ins, I came up with this super powered, super hydrating, and super yummy smoothie.  I have enjoyed it countless times since:

End of Summer Smoothie: Get Your Greens On!

·         2 C Ontario watermelon
·         ½ C coconut water (100% pure, no added sugars)
·         1.5 T fresh orange juice
·         ½ Ontario peach
·         ½ T grated fresh ginger
·         ¾ C organic kale (OR sub-in a collard leaf or spinach)
·         3-4 leaves fresh organic basil (OR parsley)
·         1 T goji berries (optional)
·         4-5 ice cubes

1.    Add to blender all the ingredients, in the order listed (putting the melon and liquid at the bottom of the jar will help get the blending going).
2.    Pour into a tall glass, and enjoy (with a straw!)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Very Vegan Lentil-Walnut Loaf

Hit any bookstore’s cookbook section these days, and you’ll discover shelves and shelves of vegetarian and vegan recipe collections available for purchase.  This wasn’t always the case however, as I recall during my first serious venture into the plant-based diet world in the late 90’s.  Back then I was living in a small town for one thing, but at that point going all-veg was also still considered a pretty severe and radical way to live (especially for a teen).

Fast forward a decade, and I am back on the meat-free (and dairy and egg free) train, and life is a whole lot simpler.  Nowadays, it is easy to find an abundance of recipe options that work for me, and I love that when I plan a dinner date, there is a whole new slew of restaurants out there offering menus that cater to folks like me.  The benefits of including a vast variety of colourful vegetables in the diet are widely known, and it is great to see how many people have begun to embrace the idea of consuming less meat in favour of more greens and earth’s vegetative bounty.

I have chosen to join the green-food revolution, and through my culinary training am trying to help spread the word that vegetarian food can be chic, easy, tasty, and comforting.  I have spent many hours rocking out in my kitchen developing my very own food creations to comfort the soul.  One recipe that I remember often eating while growing up is meatloaf.  Such a cozy meal when paired with mashed potatoes and gravy!  Here, I have re-vamped the loaf concept, and created a savoury main dish that I have fed to even the most meat-loving men I know with great success.  I admit it is a bit labour intensive, but it is well worth it in the end, especially when paired with a side of yummy sweet potato smash or cauliflower puree!

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or half pine nuts/half walnuts), roughly chopped
  • 4 Tbsp ground flax seed, plus 1 Tbsp ground flax seed separated
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup  onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated, squeezed of excess water*
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/3 of an apple, grated (makes 1/3 cup grated apple)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates or raisins
  • 2 1/2  cups cooked green lentils (if using canned, be sure to rinse & drain well)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ Tbsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh organic lemon zest(about 1 medium lemon’s worth)
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (gluten free option)
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (gluten free option)
*You can grate using a box grater, or save time by using a food processor with the grate plate attachment
*Optional add-ins: ¼ Cup chopped sundried tomato, ¼ sunflower seeds

Meg's Sweet Glaze – this is a flexible recipe; use what you have on hand!
  • 1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce or Red Pepper jelly
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a loaf pan with parchment so that parchment paper hangs over the edges by 2 inches.  Set aside.

2. On a baking sheet, toast 3/4 cup of walnuts at 350F for about 6 minutes, keeping an eye to ensure they do not burn.  Set aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, mix ground flax with 1/2 cup warm water and stir well. Set aside for at least 5-10 minutes so it can gel up.  This is your binding agent.  Add remaining 1 Tbsp flax to large mixing bowl for later.

4. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion and minced garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring often until translucent.  If veggies stick add 1 Tbsp of water at a time and scrape up bits form pan.  Add mushrooms, carrot and zucchini and cooking for 5 minutes more.  Stir in grated apple, raisins, and chopped and cover pan and let heat through for another 5-6 minutes. 

Add herbs, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste (stir in any optional add-ins now). Remove from heat and set aside.

5. In food processor, process about 3/4 of the lentils until smooth.  Add to bowl and mix in remaining whole lentils.  The two textures make for a nice meaty mouth-feel in the loaf.

6. To the bowl, add the breadcrumbs, flax egg, cooked veggie mixture and oat bran.  Stir well!  Dump the mixture into your loaf pan and spread out with a spoon. Now take your hands and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.

Glaze & Bake!
In small bowl combine all glaze ingredients.  Spread evenly over loaf and bake, uncovered 45 minutes at 350F.

Cool for about 10-15 minutes, slice into 8 slices and serve.

**This recipe freezes very well – you can freeze individual portions and then re-heat the slices in the oven.  Just wrap the piece in foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 mins.

***Make a couple of loaves at a time to save extra work!