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Appetizers

Avocado Toast, Tropical Style

Breakfast, Appetizers, SnacksLina LiwagComment

I just love avocado toast!  It's so delicious, easy to make, comforting and it always makes me smile!  Especially when Spring in Toronto can't seem to make up her mind.  

There are so many versions or flavours of this wonderful thing.  And the good news is: the components are not complicated and anybody can make it!  This is a great family activity on a Saturday morning which the kids would love to join in.  

 

Fresh bread with the best ingredients is the most important thing for this recipe.  I love to use organic sourdough or rye bread.  For those who are sensitive to gluten, use your favourite gluten-free bread.  Raw flat bread made of almonds and flax seed is also a great option.  I've served the recipe using them in my last raw food tea party and they were a hit just the same.  Ripe but firm avocado is also a must - unless you're a fan of the more mushy ones like my hubby.  The rest of the components is a mix and match at your own preference -  be creative. 

Here's my own version of the avocado toast, tropical style.  It reminds me of Hawaii and Philippines.  I have served them many times to friends and family.  They're always  a crowd pleaser I must say!  The combination of creamy, sweet, tart, and crunchy items + herbs and toasted bread makes it a perfect and delicious option for breakfast, brunch or snack.  It will make you smile!

Avocado Toast, Tropical Style
Ingredients:
1-2 ripe but firm avocado, cut and pitted
1-2 ripe mangoes, cut into cubes
1/2 - 3/4 c. cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 tbsp. red onion, minced
1 small purple daikon or a few red radish, thinly cut
juice of 1/2 lime or more
1/4 c. cilantro leaves
pinch of good salt and optional black pepper
Slices of sourdough, rye bread or gluten-free option

Method:
Prep all the ingredients and before serving, toast the bread. In a bowl, mix  the mango, tomatoes, onions, lime, salt and some of the cilantro leaves leaving some for topping.  Depending on how big your bread slices and your avocados, scoop 1/4- 1/2 of the avocado and spread on the bread by using the tines of a fork.  Top with mango salsa, a few daikon slices and more cilantro.  Enjoy!

Below is another version using homemade flat bread, shaved purple cabbage dressed in cashew cream and edible flowers.  We enjoyed this last year in my Raw Tea Party. 
 

 Another  version using raw flatbread and purple cabbage

Another  version using raw flatbread and purple cabbage

Recently, I went home to the Philippines.   I had a good dose of my long missed tropical fixes and get to hang out with  my favourite people including high school classmates and teachers. My family lives in the northernmost tip of the country where we still grow our own rice, vegetables and lots of fruits since land is abundant there, thanks to our older generation who started it all.  The ocean is not too far away either although no beach days for me as it rained so much for the whole week that I was there.  I enjoyed spending time playing with my nephews and nieces in Manila, especially the younger ones.  I miss them so much!

  I'm very grateful that I have the best of both worlds: cosmopolitan Toronto and the muddy rice fields of my childhood.  I was able to ride in the same boats (just like in my high school days)  to cross the river in order to visit Aparri.  I still have several of my high school friends there.  Shopping in open markets  was fun!  There were fresh seaweeds and pako (tropical version of fiddleheads), taro shoots, the juiciest  jicama and the best bananas.  The supply of young and mature coconuts never runs out since all you need is a skillful young man to climb the tall trees in the backyard.  My sister is the new(er) modern-day  farmer, mixing some science and good old passed me down wisdom from older generation farming techniques.  She graduated from UP Los Banos many years ago specializing in Agriculture and is now managing what our ancestors left us.  These days, her garden has tons of red dragonfruits, bananas, pomelo in addition to trees my dad planted when we were young: mangos, tamarind, mandarin oranges, chico and coconuts.

 My dad is now 91.  He still has a sharp memory and is the classic story-teller who remembers things that happened so many years ago.  He loves to read using a magnifying glass and never his prescription glasses.  My heart was full.  Here are some of the photos.

 My dad at 91.  

My dad at 91.  

Sun-dried Tomato Crisps (No-corn Chips) With Guacamole & Homemade Salsa

AppetizersLina LiwagComment


My very good friend Zeny and her 6-yr. old daughter Ayeesha came over for brunch this weekend.   Smoothies and desserts were in order but I wanted more.  At the onset, I didn't really knew what else to make but after a few ideas here and there, I eventually was inspired by the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations.  Chips and dips would work for Ayeesha I thought.  The only problem was, I haven't made chips before and would require some practice.  I didn't really want store-bought ones either.  But I've been making crisps and crackers a lot lately so why not use the same recipe?   So here's one of my family's favourite crisps recipes.  The great thing about this is that it's corn-free and nut-free.  I used sunflower and flax seeds instead.  The recipe is simple and easy to make.  If you don't own a dehydrator, it can also be baked at the lowest oven temperature.  

Sun-dried Tomato Crisps (No-corn Chips) With Guacamole & Homemade Salsa

Crisps
2 c.  tomatoes, chopped 
1/4 c. sundried tomato,  chopped and soaked 
1 c. sunflower seeds
1  c. flax seeds 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1  1/4 c. water

1. Use 1/4 c. of the water to soak the sun dried tomatoes for 10-15 minutes until soft and making sure to reserve the water. 
2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the sunflower seeds until they turn into a coarse meal.  You also have the option of turning it into a flour for smoother chips.  Transfer into  a mixing bowl.  Next, process the flax seeds into a fine meal  then transfer into the same bowl. 
3. On the same blender or food processor, blend/pulse the sun dried tomatoes with the reserved water and garlic until the mixture turns into a paste.  Add the chopped tomatoes and pulse until the tomatoes liquefy.
4. Pour the tomato mixture and the rest of the water into the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated. 
5. Spread the batter thinly, about 1/8" thick on a dehydrator sheet.  Dehydrate at 115F until crisp, approximately 12 hours.  Break into tortilla chip sizes and serve with guacamole, salsa and optional sour cream. Makes 4 trays.

 

Guacamole 
2 small avocados, cut and pitted 
1 1/2 Tbsp. red onions, minced 
Juice of 1 lime 
1 tsp. maple syrup 
2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves, finely chopped 
Salt to taste
A pinch of cumin  
A pinch of cayenne pepper  (optional) 

Place everything in a bowl and use the tines of a fork to mash the avocado with the rest of the ingredients making sure not to make it too smooth but give it some chunky consistency. If you own a mortar and pestle, it would really work perfectly. 

Homemade Salsa 
2 cups tomatoes, chopped*
3 Tbsp.cilantro, finely chopped 
2 Tbsp. red onions, minced 
2 1/2 -3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar**
1/4 tsp. cumin 
Salt to taste 
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional) 

Set aside 1/2 c. of the tomatoes .  In a food processor or blender, place  all the ingredients and pulse briefly until the tomatoes liquefy.  Add the rest of the tomatoes and pulse once. If preferred, the reserved tomatoes can also be folded in for a chunkier consistency.  Transfer to a bowl and adjust the taste accordingly. 

* The tomatoes can be deseeded if a thicker salsa is preferred.  Plum tomatoes are less juicy than the other varieties.  
** If you're like me who loves tart salsa, 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar is just perfect.

Our girl-time was really wonderful and fun last Saturday.  The boys were out and we had the whole house to ourselves.   We were able to catch up with what he had missed for over a year no matter how short it was.  We also enjoyed our mini tarts.  I'm hoping to post the recipe of that soon but in case you're not on Instagram, here was the iPhone image of it:) 

We're still waiting for that elusive Spring weather here in Toronto.  Hopefully it won't be long and will soon see some pretty flowers and Spring produce.  Ayeesha brought me some pretty green roses and mini hydrangeas which I am enjoying inside.   Take a look at how cute she is here.  Wishing you all a Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Veggie Rice Paper Rolls & Creamy Almond Dipping Sauce (A Perfect Dish to End the Summer)

Appetizers, Asian, Lunch, DinnerLina LiwagComment
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Ahh...Summer...we thought you would stay with us forever but it's time to say goodbye. We've had great weather and also enjoyed our local harvest.  But before embracing Fall with all its beautiful colours and bounty, I thought it would be fitting to post one of my favourite Summer dishes. 

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Veggie rice paper rolls or wraps are a regular in our family...it's everyone's favourite!  I started making them after realizing that the commercial ones out there did not have the ingredients that would really satisfy me or my loved ones.  Most of them have a lot of noodles with barely any vegetables.  And how about the sauces?  You may not even know what exactly is in there.  Mind you, it may seem intimidating to make a perfect roll to begin with...it kinda looks messy and even sticky.  However, think about it as if you were wrapping or rolling a burrito...with just a different and more delicate wrap.  It gets better over time.    

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Veggie Rice Paper Rolls & Creamy Almond Dipping Sauce

Filling: 
2 carrots
1/2 English cucumber
1/4 of a small purple cabbage
1/2 jicama
1 avocado
handful of sunflower sprouts
fresh mint or Thai basil

rice paper rolls or wraps
(I used 10 large rolls, 22cm in diameter)

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 c. raw almond butter 
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. lime
3 Tbsp. unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
1/3 c. filtered water

 

  22 cm rice paper roll

22 cm rice paper roll

Method: 

1.  Wash then cut all the vegetables into matchstick sizes and set them aside. The mint leaves can be used as whole, no need to cut them.   Cut the avocado and slice it into thin segments. 
2. Place all the ingredients of the dip into a blender and blend until well incorporated.
3. Put some water in a large dish and dip one rice roll at a time until it starts to become soft and pliable, about 30 seconds.  Do not leave it in the water too long or it will get too sticky.
4. Transfer it in a clean chopping board or a plate then place your fillings in the middle of the wrap leaving about  2" allowance on each side.  Fold the bottom of the wrap over the fillings then fold in the 2 sides and lastly, roll it like a burrito to finish off.  This is the "closed" style.  If using a large roll (22 cm. in diameter), they can be cut in half before serving (see first photo).
5. You can also try the "open-end" one: dip the roll in water, transfer it to the plate then fold it into half.  Place the fillings in the middle making sure to leave 2" allowance on the bottom.  Fold the bottom over the fillings and roll from right to left.  The fillings should be peeking out of the open end.  
6. If it gets messy, try again...it gets better with practice. There's plenty of rolls in a pack. 

Suggestions:
Be creative and use any vegetables, herbs or even fruits like mango...other kinds of sprouts, red peppers, zucchini, lettuce or spinach.  The rice paper rolls come in 16 cm. or 22 cm. size (where I shop anyway).  They can be found at Asian stores or even at Whole Foods Market. Hope you can try making them soon!

   "open-end style rolls

 "open-end style rolls

Happy Fall everyone!  I hope you enjoyed your summer!  I graduated 2 weeks ago as  heath coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I am so excited that I have reached this point of my learning journey in holistic health.   

Sincerely,

Lina

 

Dips, Dips, Dips - Austin's Super Bowl Weekend

Appetizers, DipsLina Liwag5 Comments
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My 15 year old son  loves to invite relatives during sporting events.   He also loves to plan and talk about the menu...sometimes way too much as he really gets very excited with good eats.  So I thought why not take this opportunity to make some good dips... then share it with everyone.  We had my brother-in-law and his 11-year old son for dinner today and everyone enjoyed a mini Super Bowl party.  I'm not really a big sports fan but I don't mind the entertainment portion of it. 

On this post,  I have decided to showcase three recipes of dips that have become our family's favourites. I know I should have posted this last week in preparation for Super Bowl Sunday but I find I'm always running behind in a lot of things.  I'm sure you can still use these for your snacks or when you're entertaining as I find them very versatile.

In addition to these dips, I also made some flax crackers with organic spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, a variation of the crackers on an earlier post..see here. I will try and share that recipe at another time.  We had some citrus drinks made of lemon, lime and tangerine with mint which was yummy.   After partaking with the appetizers, we were too full but eventually, we had some vegetarian chili and I promise to share that too in a future post.  

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Tex-Mex Guacamole
Ingredients:
2 medium size avocados
1/2 c. cooked black beans or 1 can BPA-free organic black beans
1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. Non-GMO frozen corn soaked in boiling water for 5 mins.
1/2 to 1  piece jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onions
juice of 1 lime
1/2 t. Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt
3 Tbsp. finely chopped coriander leaves and a bit more for garnish
a pinch of cumin
Method:
Rinse and drain the beans if you are using the canned version. Boil 1 cup of water then add the corn.  Turn off the stove then let the corn sit with the boiling water for about 5 minutes then drain.  In a bowl, mashed together the avocado, salt, lime, coriander, cumin and onions.  Add the black beans, tomatoes and corn and combine well.  Refrigerate before serving.  Garnish with coriander leaves.  

Avocado Hummus
Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas or 1 can  BPA-free organic chickpeas
1/4c. toasted unhulled sesame seeds, grounded
juice  of 1 1/2 lemons
2 -3 Tbsp. filtered water
1/2 avocado
1/2 t. Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of cumin
Method:
Rinse and drain the beans if you are using the canned version.  Dry roast the sesame seeds then grind them.  Place all ingredients into the food processor except the avocado.  Process until smooth then add the avocado on the last minute then process until well incorporated.  You may add more water if you want your mixture a little thinner.  

Creamy Cannellini Bean Dip
Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. cooked cannellini beans or 1 can BPA-free organic cannellini beans
2 Tbsp. raw tahini paste
5 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. filtered water (or more if you want a thinner consistency)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1-2  cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt
Method:
Rinse and drain the beans if you are using the canned version.  Place all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth.  Add a bit more water if you want your mixture thinner.  Serve with your favourite crackers, cut up raw vegetables or even use it as base on open face sandwiches with tomatoes, avocado and sprouts like the picture below. 

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I'm not sure how your weekend has been.  Did your team win?  Did you have good food?  My weekend just flew by so quickly.  I spent Saturday prepping for today's food and I was happy that my family enjoyed it.  We are still in the midst of winter here...we seem to be having a lot of snow this year.  What I notice though is that the morning is much brighter and so I know spring is not too far away.  I can't wait!  

I took some pictures of the woods behind our town home last week.  These are usually green in the summer and bright with pretty colours in the fall and now they are bare.  However, they are so beautiful whenever we get the right kind of snow...the fluffy kind which gives the trees that magical look!  Whereever you are and whatever kind of weather you have, there is always beauty in it...God made it that way!  Have a great week!

Wishing you the best,

Lina

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