Delicious, Fun & Healthy Food


Balsamic Roasted Fall Vegetables & Sauteed Rapini

Lunch, Dinner, VeganLina LiwagComment

Making food in big batches is something that I do regularly,  being a busy working mom. In my family, we enjoy home cooked meals and we pack our lunches everyday too.  At this time of the year, we have all these very colourful local produce: squash, pumpkins, beets, cauliflower, carrots and one of our recent favourites, red onions.  I try to make them in many different ways and roasting is one of them.  I first made this dish on Thanksgiving  (check this photo) and it has then become a regular.  I just mix and match different veggies to make it interesting.  It also stores well, one of those leftovers that doesn't get boring after a few days.  And so I've decided to share this post, specially for all moms out there. 

The star vegetable here is delicata squash.  It's the type with those distinctive dark green stripes on a yellow or cream background like shown in the photo. It has a yellow-orange flesh that's sweet.  No peeling is necessary as the  peel is also edible so prep time is shorter than those other varieties.  It mixes so well with the other vegetables in this recipe as they all have different flavours that complement each other.

Balsamic Roasted Fall Vegetables & Sauteed Rapini

1  Small Delicata squash, approximately  6" long
1/2 of a medium size cauliflower
1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
1 small red onion
2 -3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. sulphite-free balsamic vinegar 
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano 
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, chopped 
3 Tbsp. lemon 

Preheat the oven at 375F. Wash all the veggies. Cut the squash lengthwise (do not peel), remove seeds then cut them crosswise, about 1/4" thick slices. Cut the cauliflower into florets and the  Brussels sprouts into halves.  Peel and slice the onion into thin wedges.  Lightly smash the garlic, the peels can be left so they don't burn.  Prep the rest of the ingredients then transfer them into a large roasting pan.   Add the oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper leaving the lemon juice for later.  Toss then spread them out.  You may have to use another pan if necessary.  Roast for  approximately 30-35 minutes until the edges of the veggies have browned stirring once or twice.  Add the lemon juice when they're done.  Adjust the taste.  Maybe more balsamic vinegar or salt and pepper. 

Sauteed Rapini  or Other Greens

1 bundle rapini 
1-2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
2 Tbsp. lemon
Sea salt to taste 

Wash and cut the rapini into 3"long, removing the tough stems. On a pan at medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil for about two minutes or until lightly browned. Add the rapini, and cook just until wilted,  about three minutes.  Add the salt and lemon then remove from heat immediately.  Transfer  into a bowl. 

Here are different ways to serve the dish:
a) Place them on a bed of quinoa or your choice of healthy grains. 
2) The roasted veggies, minus the rapini is a great addition to a raw/warm salad with your favourite greens like arugula, baby kale or spinach.
3) As a great side dish. 
4) They're delicious and hearty on their own.  

Fall is such a beautiful season with so much  colours around!  There's this mini woods behind our home that I get to witness the changing leaves and foliage with so much awe and admiration to the Creator of all things.  And my heart is bursting with gratitude.  How lovely and magical is nature!  I've been so fascinated with trees lately that I've been taking photos of them - more than I used to.  Here are a few of them.  


These beautiful trees in my neighbourhood had their leaves with the most intense colours last week.  They're now slowly falling into the ground and soon they will be bare.  I hope you too are enjoying October!





Radicchio and Corn Salad with Sweet Lime and Cumin

Raw, Salad, Dinner, LunchLina LiwagComment

Happy Canada Day!  Yay to Summer too!  And what better way to celebrate  at Freshncrunchy  than share the colours red (and white)  with our food.  Here's a lovely salad that we enjoyed at lunch.   We also made some mini berry tarts for dessert which was shared at my Instagram page here  and here.  Mind you, our boy was enjoying them more than my husband and I. 

Our veggie star today comes in with that lovely red wine colour.  It's known as radicchio, a member of the chicory family and it became popular in the Veneto regions of  Italy.   It looks like a small coloured cabbage and if you're not too familiar with this wonderful leaf, take a look at these different images. It's a bit bitter but it's  a good source of Vitamin K which helps in bone formation and strength.  Radicchio is also an excellent source of  antioxidants such as zea-xanthin and lutein which are known to offer protection to age related macular disease by filtering harmful ultraviolet rays.  And let's not forget these other good stuff it brings: selenium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and folate.

So the colours in our produce are much more than just aesthetics.  I wrote a bit about this on this earlier post here.  That's the reason why I love purple cabbage and cauliflower, blood orange, cherries, blueberries and of course radicchio!   Here is a good article to read  from N. C. State  University about this topic.  

It's good for us so let's enjoy it!.  I'm mixing  it with fresh and local organic corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onions, cilantro and a wonderful dressing to compliment them.  If bitter is not your thing, simply substitute the radicchio with other greens like romaine or spinach and maybe arugula for some peppery flavour.  Bitter greens require sweet and also tart items to balance that strong taste.  Berries, peach or mango are great to try.  Orange or grapefruit are other options too.


Radicchio and Corn Salad with Sweet Lime and Cumin Dressing

Ingredients (Preferably Organic)

Two big handfuls of radicchio leaves, washed, torn and spun dried
1 1/2 c. fresh organic corn, cleaned, shucked and rinsed
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced
1/4 c. cilantro, washed and stems removed
2 Tbsp. red onions, minced

1/4 c. lime juice
3 Tbsp. avocado oil
2 1/4  Tbsp. maple syrup or coconut nectar
Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
A pinch (or two) of cumin powder
A pinch of cayenne or slices of jalapeno pepper

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar or a bowl and mix or shake well until fully incorporated.  Adjust the taste.  Wash and prep all salad ingredients.  It's a must to use fresh organic corn as this is one of those produce that's on the GMO list.  To assemble, toss the salad but only add the avocado as you plate individually so they don't get mushy.  Save some of the cilantro for the decoration as well.  Enjoy! 


Summer is also the time when we can take advantage of our  local produce.  Going to farmer's market to meet the source of the food we eat is something I love to do.  One of the great places to visit in Toronto is the Evergreen Brick Works.  This year, they're open from May 3, 2014 to November 1, 2014.  It was great to meet several of the organic farmers of Ontario last Saturday.  Here's a link to their vendors.  

Hoping you enjoyed Canada Day celebrations with family and friends.  The weather was a bit testy but it started to clear up later.  To all my relatives and friends in the U. S., have a Happy 4th of July too!  Our son is turning 17 that day and we're hoping to be able to share our celebratory food here on Freshncrunchy next week.  



Black (Un)fried Rice + Happy Chinese New Year

Lunch, Dinner, AsianLina LiwagComment

Gong Hei Fat Choy!  The Lunar New Year's celebration is underway in many parts of the world, even in my own city.  It started on January 31st and will last for 15 days.   As custom goes, food is a huge part in all these festivities.  I'm not sure if you're familiar with the top "lucky foods" to eat at this time. Clementines or oranges, noodles and dumplings to name a few.  Take a look at the list here  or here.  At first I thought I'd be using one of these for the main ingredient to my Asian-inspired post but I had a change of heart.  Instead, I'm going back to my childhood memories.

 And so I started reminiscing about the  foods that I ate growing up in a place located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. The town is called Aparri and I just realized that it can now be found on Google map.   However, our small village which is on the western side across the huge Cagayan River will never be on Google map, I'm afraid.  Rice is grown big time here being an agricultural land.  It's eaten 3x a day -  yes even at breakfast!  Before my grandparents moved to California in the mid-70's, they were seasoned rice farmers back home....successful enough that they were able to send all their 6 children to university.  So let's just say that on several weekends and summer vacations in the 60's and  70's, my siblings and I experienced rice farming 101.  It was hard work, let me tell you.  And as a young child, I didn't really like it much then,  but I loved all the the foods that were being prepared during rice planting season and harvest time.  My grandma was a great cook.  She also grew a lot of vegetables and fruits, even coffee and cacao!  Our first experience with hot chocolate was from cacao beans harvested from her own backyard.  The word "fair trade" was not in foodies' consciousness yet at that time I don't think! 


Many of those rice fields have been passed down to the next generations and at this time, my sister who's an agriculturist manages them...don't know how she does it but  I'm glad she does as I would be totally lost having no experience and passion for farming nor a green thumb for that matter. 

So to celebrate the Lunar New Year and those awesome food memories of my childhood, I've decided to make "fried rice" but with a little twist of the classic. My family still grows Milagrosa, Jasmine or sticky rice in those fields but I've chosen black rice for this recipe.  Great for its fibre, nutrients and especially its antioxidants, it's usually the variety that I choose if ever I make a rice dish.  Check out these recipes that I've shared from over a year ago, here and here.  

The trick to this rice dish is using minimal oil (a total of 2 Tbsp. only). The 1 Tbsp. of oil is used to cook the garlic, ginger and scallions and the rest is mixed with the sauce. The vegetables were also lightly steamed.   This way the dish is not heavy and the vegetables still has a crunch and not overcooked.  


Black (Un)fried Rice
Ingredients (Preferably Organic):

For the Rice/Veggies:
1 cup organic black rice preferably soaked for up to 6 hours
1 1/2  cups water for soaked rice, 2 cups for unsoaked rice
2 cups broccoli florets, cut in small pieces 
1 1/2 carrots,washed, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes 
1 cup  frozen peas 
25 snow peas, thinly cut diagonally, about 1/4" thick and 2" long
3  cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped 
1" ginger grated 
4  scallions/green onions chopped into small pieces or cut diagonally
(separating the lighter parts (dark green parts for topping) 
1  1/2 Tbsp. avocado oil (see suggestions)

For The Sauce:
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil 
1  1/2  Tbsp.  mirin  (or 1 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 tsp. maple syrup)
3 Tbsp  wheat-free tamari or Braggs
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted 

1. Rinse the rice in a strainer under cold water then transfer to a pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil then simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 40- 45 mins. Fluff and cool it down.  Soaked rice cooks faster at 30 minutes.
2. After all the veggies have been prepped, place them except the snow peas in a steamer. Cook briefly making sure the veggies are still crunchy, about 5 minutes.  Add the snow peas on the last minute then remove from heat. 
3. Place the the avocado oil into a pan and on low heat, cook the garlic, lighter portions of the green onions and ginger until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes then turn off the heat.  Mix in the sauce then add the rice and veggies stirring a few times to incorporate all the flavours .  Transfer to serving bowl then top with sesame seeds and the rest of the scallions.  Enjoy!

1. For better digestibility, soak the rice for a minimum of 4 hours to 6 hours.  I've tried both ways and either one works.
2.Some other options for vegetables are: mung bean sprouts, Chinese napa cabbage, cauliflower or bakchoy.  This is a versatile dish so you can go creative.  
3. Please note that when it comes to oils, there are healthier options to use.  You can read a very informative article  "What's the Best Oil to Cook With" on this link here.


As I was reminiscing, I can't help but be thankful for all those wonderful experiences I had  in the Philippines.  We grew up where the air was clean and the ocean was pristine.  We ate fresh seafood and seaweeds from the ocean nearby.  Sunshine was abundant all year round.  Free Vitamin D!

My dad planted the biggest orchard in our neighbourhood.   It produced a variety of tropical fruits...all we did was climb up the different trees to pick the freshest and purest fruits in season. No chemicals or preservatives or no storage necessary.  And most of these trees are still bearing fruits over 50 years later.  We grew our own vegetables in our gardens.  We had many moments playing in our backyard or in the muddy rice fields connected we were to the earth...grounding, anyone?   Mind you, we never knew how lucky we were then.  Thank you Lord for all of these!

I hope you'll start reminiscing about your own childhood memories too.  Happy Lunar New Year!



Creamy (No Mayo) Winter Slaw + Physical Activity

Salad, Lunch, DinnerLina Liwag3 Comments

Coleslaw with all it's different variations is one of my favourite salads.  It's a powerhouse of nutrition, easy to make and inexpensive. I have several recipes in the blog.  One of these is an Asian inspired variety which you can check here. There's another one  that's  bright and  pretty with the addition of blood orange and a hint of lemongrass. I've got it here. And how about this summer variety of slaw, inspired by our trip to Hawaii in July. 

But on this new post I've decided to go monochromatic in my choice of be a little different and using what's available at the market this time of year.  The dressing is creamy as you may have already noticed on the title of the post. And the creaminess is not coming from a jar of mayo that's been commercially prepared but one that can be made in our own kitchen.  And the magic ingredient that helps create that "mayo-kind" of consistency and taste is hemp hearts.  Hemp hearts are shelled hemp seeds, bursting with proteins (10 g/3 T.), essential fats, vitamins and minerals (please check out this link).  What’s really great is that Canada is a big producer of hemp hearts...check this out.


Creamy (No Mayo) Winter Slaw
Ingredients (Preferably Organic):

4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 rutabaga, washed, peeled and julienned, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 green apples, washed and julienned
1 cucumber, washed and julienned
1/4 cups coriander leaves, washed and chopped
3 Tbsp. black sesame seeds for topping, lightly toasted

1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
2 dates, pitted, chopped and soaked in 1/3 cup of water (save the water)
1 Tbsp.  (or more)wheat-free tamari or Braggs liquid aminos
1/2 - 1 clove steamed or roasted garlic (optional, see suggestions
 water from soaking the dates

Prep all the salad ingredients then place them in a big bowl.  Blend the dressing until creamy.  The salad can be assembled one hour before serving except for the topping so the vegetables can have enough time to soak into the delicious dressing.  

1.  Other root vegetables like parsnip, celeriac or even jicama can be used to substitute rutabaga.  Kohlrabi was my first choice but I didn't find them at the market  this week.  
2. Steaming or roasting garlic tames down its strong taste and flavour.  This is just a personal preference so fresh can also be an option.


 And now, I'd like to talk about something that's in a lot of people's minds at this time of year: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.  Personally, I struggle with consistency in this particular area.  Can you relate?  I do very well in the warmer months but as October rolls in and the days get shorter, my tendency is to start making excuses and then I do it less and less. In Toronto, winter-like weather is basically half of the year.  Imagine  the repercussions on one's health and wellness not exercising regularly for that long? 

You see, I grew up  in rural Philippines at a time when functional exercise was the norm: walking a lot (sometimes too much), playing outside as we had no TV then, manually doing all chores  since we had no electricity in the 60 's.  Even water had to be pumped from a "hand pump well" at that time.  It may be hard to imagine this but laundry was done by hand.  There were 7 kids in our family...laundry day can really be a major exercise especially if you include all the beddings and cloth diapers!  Fast forward to  Canada and functional exercise has become almost nonexistent for me. So what to do? 

Thank God I'm married to someone who's my opposite. My husband loves to exercise and it has become second nature to him.  He inspires and  motivates me but like most people, I still have to work hard on my consistency. Here are some practicals that I've learned over time:

1)Create an intention, meditate and pray about it so that the when, where and how (and maybe even the why)  of exercising will become a reality. 
2) Do something you love.  You don't really need gym membership or expensive exercise machines that will not serve you.  My husband does it  efficiently at home. 
3. Find a friend, a mentor or a support system who will help make exercising more fun and the consistency more attainable. Workout together.  If your budget allows you, hire a trainer.
4) Be aware of your limitations and injuries. Don't run or spin if your knees are weak...there's other form of physical activity that makes sense to everyone. 
5) Form is more important than intensity especially if you're just  starting out. You may have noticed those guys at the gym who love to jerk the heavy weights so hard they actually look silly...injuries can happen any time.
6) Just move and have fun!  The technical aspects of exercising can come later.  The hardest part is doing it. 


So this time around,   I became proactive.  I made my intention to beat the "exercise blues" that starts to hit me late Fall every year.  In addition to hot yoga, I have added HIIT into my weekly routine with the help of a friend.  I have ditched "body pump" due to a  recovering shoulder and neck injury.  I realized too that spinning hurt my knees and I don't really enjoy it as much.  So far so good...I even exercised through the Christmas holidays.  I'm hoping I'll be able to master this thing called consistency.  And currently, I've been fascinated with exercise and its role in increasing  the number of mitochondria in a cell.  I'll be reading more about it and hopefully share my findings next time.  Before I sign out, here's an awesome scripture to meditate on:

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
Philippians 4:8



Celeriac, Sweet Potato & Leek Soup + Lessons of Letting Go

Soup, Lunch, DinnerLina LiwagComment

Hello and Happy New Year! As you may have noticed, I was MIA for the whole month of December.  It was never my intention to do that.   In fact I had plans for at least 2-3 posts before the year was over. However, things took a life of their own so to speak.  Before I knew it, the month was done and over with.  Welcome to  2014!

Nothing really major happened in the big scheme of things if you asked me.  But somehow even  small  or insignificant matters can take a lot of our time and energy.   Sometimes, they even test our very core.

To me this came in the form of technology malfunction that happened all at the same time: our fairly new desktop computer (we have no spare lap tops), our home telephone and internet connections.  This took place in the midst of the two busy weeks at my work, record high snowfalls and frigid temps of the season.

At the onset, I thought they could all be fixed quickly and I would then have time for my projects but boy, was I ever wrong!  It took almost 3 weeks, 3 visits from 3 different technicians and countless calls to customer service managers  before our phone and internet started working properly...with no more interruptions.

And while I was going through my technology pains and as the city was continually being inundated with snow and even at one point blanketed in tons of ice that we’ve never seen before, I was making soups.  Soups to warm me and my family.  And after a month when our iMac is now as good as new…many thanks to Pat, the tech genius of the family… here is my first post of the year!  So forgive me as this is rather a long one.



For me personally,  this is not the time to do a “Detox.”  I find that I can handle that better in the Spring as the weather gets warmer.  I still make green juices at least 3 times a week but my body feels balanced with more warming foods in the winter.  I learned this through the guidance of my Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner as I was going through rough times in my health. 

This soup is a winning combination of celeriac, sweet potatoes and leeks.  Celeriac is that root vegetable that looks hairy, knobbly and rather uninteresting like the photo above.  It is the root of the celery plant so it's also known as celery root. It has a mild celery-like flavour with starchy consistency when cooked.   Did you know that this is a great source of Vitamin K and essential minerals such as phosphorus ,iron, calcium, copper, and manganese?


Celeriac, Sweet Potato & Leek Soup 

1 medium size celeriac,washed, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
(approximately 3 cups)
1 big  or 2 small sweet potato, washed, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
(approximately 1  1/2  cups)
1 leek, washed and chopped, white and light green part only
1  1/2" ginger, grated
thyme leaves from 3 sprigs
1 Tbsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
Himalayan pink salt to taste
6-7 cups water or vegetable broth (or a combination of both)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (see other options below)
1 -2 tsp. pepper flakes 

1. In a big stock pan, saute the leeks in coconut oil until they soften.  Add the ginger, thyme, coriander powder and turmeric and let the flavours incorporate.
2. Combine the celery, celeriac and sweet potato and stir for a minute or so.  Pour the liquid, add some salt and let it boil then lower heat to simmer until the root vegetables are cooked, about 15-18 minutes.  
3. Adjust the taste and add the milk.
4. Blend by using a hand blender or in batches using a blender.
5. Before serving,  sprinkle with pepper flakes.


1.  This is a large soup and great for leftovers.  Please feel free to cook half of the recipe if required.
2. You can substitute cauliflower if celeriac is not available and adjust the liquid (5 cups)  and  less cooking time .
3.  I've used almond, cashew and coconut milk in the past and they all worked well.  It all depends on your taste.  1/2 avocado can  also be substituted for creaminess.  If preferred, not adding any of these is also fine .


Deep Freeze in Toronto


So what did I learn through these situations?  “Let go and let God.”    We live in a world where everything must always be done fast and according to our own timing and schedule.   There is so much liberation from letting go!  Of course I was frustrated and at times angry with my phone and internet provider.   Then one day as I was feeling so stressed about the whole thing,  I stopped and prayed...first for my heart  then secondly for the situation and left it all to the Lord.

This scripture at Philippians 4:67 reminds us:  “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with THANKSGIVING, present your request to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Thanksgiving in the midst of stress, how is that possible?  Well it’s part of letting go and letting God.

 Amazing how everything started to fall into place.  I interacted with amazing managers and technicians who were empathetic and kind. Although it took almost 3 weeks, the company sent Thasan, one of their their most senior technicians.   On that  3rd visit, he was able figure out the root cause of our problem. We now even have his direct line in case something may happen again in the future.

As for our desktop, I just had to wait for my brother-in-law to be able to come by (he lives on the other side of the city).  I didn’t have to bring the computer to the Apple store and spend money for the repair.  He even made it more efficient by updating and simplifying what’s in there.  To tech-challenged people like my husband and I, this is priceless!

I hope you have your own lessons from 2013.  May I leave you with more verses from the bible that have become my inspirations lately. These last ones were from a message delivered last Sunday by Mark Kang.  Mark is an evangelist from our church in Milwaukee who was visiting his relatives during the holiday.  He also shared this powerful video that you can find on this link.  This is called the “Invisible Woman” by Nicole Johnson.  This is so moving... a reminder that it's not always about me but all about HIM.  I hope you too will get inspired!

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Ecclesiastes 7:9-10


May your 2014 be filled with great lessons in life!