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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.  

Creamy Spiced Apple and Maqui Berry Kale Chips

Snacks, RawLina LiwagComment

This Summer, we've seen the best organic Ontario kale in great abundance.  I’ve been turning them into salads like this or juicing them with other Ontario produce as shown here.  Sometimes when we had cold weather, I added the greens into an Asian miso bowl like this one.  At other times,  I just quickly sauteed them with grated ginger and a bit of lemon juice. But as the season is quickly coming to and end... I’m wishing for an "Endless Summer" - kale chips came to mind.

Ahh.. kale chips!  Aren't they awesome to snack on?  But they cost so much...they range from $6.99 - $7.99 for a 2.5 oz. pack depending on what brand you're buying.  The owner of the reliable Brad's Kale Chips, Mr. Brad Gruno explains it here.  And now more and more people are making their own kale chips like me.  It's the best time to make them while kale is still abundant locally.

Personally, I like to be a little creative.  I'm inspired by my childhood memories, places I've visited, a current craving or maybe with just what's available in my kitchen. About five months ago when I attended Matthew Kenney Culinary, we created our own flavour of kale chips and then sampled the varied and interesting creations afterward (for those of you who maybe interested in taking either in-class or online courses at the culinary school, check them out at this link).

So this is the same flavour that I made on that Project except I used lacinato kale and acai berry powder at that time (check this photo). My hubby regularly buys organic freeze dried maqui berry for his daily smoothies and so I thought it would be a great sub for acai. Other freeze dried berry powder would work too.  If this is not available to you, not to worry as it’s optional.  It just gives the recipe an added dimension so to speak.  And  a bit of that wonderful purple colour.   And apple?  Yes, it works so well, it’s delicious!  My husband gave it a two thumbs up I might add.  As a note, please use organic kale and apple as they are high in pesticide residues and part of the on the Dirty Dozen+ List  as shown here.

 

Creamy Spiced Apple And Maqui Berry Kale Chips
Ingredients:

1 bunch curly green kale, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
 cup raw cashews, soaked for 6 hours to overnight
1 green apple, cored and cubed 
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. grated ginger
1/2 - 3/4  tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. Himalayan salt
pinch (or more) chipotle or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Maqui berry or other freeze dried berry powder

Method:

1. Wash the kale then strip the green leaves off the tough center stems then tear leaves into large bite size pieces (note they will shrink in size as they dehydrate) and dry them in a salad spinner or with a clean tea towel.  Transfer them into a big mixing bowl where you plan to mix the sauce later.
2.  In a high speed blender, add the cashews with the rest of the other ingredients and blend until smooth.  Adjust the taste as you may want it more hot, spicy or more tart.
3.  Pour the sauce into the kale leaves and massage them with your hands making sure they are fully coated.
4. Lay the coated leaves flat on dehydrator screens and dehydrate at 115F until crisp, approximately 10-12 hours.  
Some dehydrate their kale on teflex sheets.  I like doing them just on the screens as I think the air flows freely this way.  If you don't have a dehydrator, check this link out for helpful tips in baking them.

Suggestions:

You can try other varieties of kale for this recipe like Lacinato, Red Russian or Redbor.  The creaminess of the end product depends on how big your bunch of kale is.  You will have to increase the cashew accordingly with how much leaves to coat.  Mine had 12 small leaves and the consistency was just perfect.    Remember, a recipe is just a guide so don't be afraid to be creative. Add your own spice or special ingredients. Experiment.  And don't forget to taste it. Enjoy!

As August winds down and we embrace a new month,  my tendency is to want to hold on longer to warmer weather, lots of sunshine and abundant local produce.  I also wish my favourite hydrangea flower can withstand all seasons.  However, I am yet again reminded of Ecclesiastes 3 that I read on my uncle's funeral in Arizona recently. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..."  

Happy Labour Day and welcome September!

Warmly,

Lina

 

Easy To Make Energy Bars + "Primary Foods"

Snacks, Energy Bars, DessertLina Liwag2 Comments
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It feels like we just blinked and June is here!  I'm excited that Summer is just around the corner!   Although our weather here has been very unpredictable lately with lots of rain and thunderstorms, I'm still grateful for the changing of the seasons. 

Summer is also for vacations and we're trying to get ready for ours.  One of the things I think about of course is food...munchies to pack when you go swimming or hiking.  So this weekend, I made some energy bars just to get myself into that vacation mode.

 

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Energy bars are really popular these days...they are no longer just sold at the Health Food stores but they are now at your regular supermarkets,  drugstores and even at gas stations.  Yes,  they can be handy for snacks but have you ever tried reading their ingredients?  They can be loaded with high amounts of processed sugars and preservatives.  Sometimes, it's even hard to figure out what's in them as the fonts in some of their packaging are too small to read.

There was a time when I used to shell out $4.99 for a raw and healthy version of these but one day, I made the decision to start making them in my own kitchen. There's nothing like being aware of what you're putting into your own food and saving money at the same time.  And the best thing is...  there's hardly any processing involved here and it's easy to make.   This was originally inspired by a recipe from a Canadian health magazine called Vitality.  I tweaked it to my own version and here it is now. 

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Easy To Make Energy Bars

Ingredients (Preferably Organic):
2 c. almonds
1 c. dehydrated coconut flakes or unsweetened shredded coconuts 
1 c. hemp hearts
1/4 c. sprouted chia powder (I used this brand) or chia seeds
1/4 c. unhulled sesame seeds
1/2 c. goji berries 
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
4  Medjool dates, pitted and chopped 
1/3 c.  filtered water (for soaking the dates)
1 c. protein powder (optional, see notes)
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder (omit if using a vanilla flavoured protein powder)

Method: 
1. Soak the dates for 15 minutes and  reserve the water.  
2. While the dates are soaking, grind the almonds in a food processor or in a blender until they turn into a coarse meal.  Transfer into a pan or container where you plan to store the bars (I used an 8" x 8" Pyrex glass dish).  Combine the other dry ingredients.
3. If you are using coconut flakes, lightly pulse them as well until they resemble the size of shredded coconuts then add them to the mixture.
4.. Blend the dates and the water until smooth.
5. Add  the date paste and the melted coconut oil into the dry ingredients.  Mix well then spread evenly into the pan.  Press firmly to about 3/4" thick.
 6.  Let it set in the freezer for 1 hour then cut them up into bars (the size is all up to you).  I cut mine at 1 1/2" x 3" and this recipe yielded about 16 bars.  They can be stored in the fridge for about 5 days and in the freezer for later use. I actually enjoy the semi-frozen state of this bar better so maybe try that as well.  Enjoy!

Notes: 
1.  You can pretty much be creative with your own additions to this recipe. For those who love maca, lucuma, spirulina  or mesquite powder - feel free to experiment (I don't react very well to some of these ingredients).  Other nuts and seeds are fine as well.
2.  You can definitely increase the dates to 5.  I brought some to my workplace and my co-workers thought that the sweetness was perfect. 
3.  I use Sun Warrior Vanilla Brown Rice Protein Powder.  Hemp protein powder is also a good option although I haven't tried it yet (check this brand) . If you decide to omit the protein powder, the taste will still be fine.   I don't always include it.
 

 

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 At The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned that there are two types of foods: "Primary Foods" and "Secondary Foods." (check this article).   Primary foods in detail are: spirituality, healthy relationships, regular physical activity and a fulfilling career.  If all of these things are in working order and are balanced, the food we eat becomes secondary.   

For me, my spiritual beliefs are the driving force in my life.  I have not always had great relationships...it takes so much effort to love someone who has hurt me.  This continues to be a journey in my life.   With the help of the Scriptures, my husband and my close friends, I am being transformed slowly but surely.

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I was recently inspired by these colourful hats at a store in downtown Toronto.  It makes me feel excited about the coming of Summer.  What are your plans for the Summer?  I wish you great times and memories with your loved ones! 

Warmly, 

Lina

Homemade "Raw" Nutella Spread

Spreads, SnacksLina Liwag3 Comments
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I don't know about you but I love Nutella!  There is one brand  that really stands out there  but it's not available in Toronto... so this has become one of my DIY projects.  The first time I made this, I brought it to work so it's been tested by the ladies at my team and a few managers on the floor.  They all gave it a thumbs up so I am excited to now share it.

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Some fun facts about hazelnutsthey are also called filberts and are a good source of Vitamin E, rich in dietary fiber, B Vitamins and folate  They also contain minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassium,  calcium, zinc, copper, iron, manganese and selenium. Great item to try unless you are allergic to it. 

Most nutella recipes call for the hazelnuts to be roasted.  However, the raw version is just as good or even better.  The prep time is also short...perfect for working people like you and me.   

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Homemade  "Raw" Nutella Spread
 
Ingredients (Preferably Organic) 
1 cup hazelnuts
3  1/2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
3 dates, pitted and chopped 
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted  (I used this brand)
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder
1/8 tsp. Himalayan crystal salt or Celtic sea salt
1/4 c. filtered water (or more if you desire a thinner consistency)

Method:  
1.   Measure the coconut oil needed and place it in a small bowl.   Boil water in a pan then place the bowl into the boiled water and wait for it to melt. 
2. In a high speed blender, food processor or personal blender (I used my Nutribullet), grind the hazelnuts until they turn into a powder.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture turns into a spread-like consistency which may take 5 minutes or so.  Add a bit more water if you prefer the mixture thinner.

Suggestions:   
You may also substitute the dates with coconut nectar...start with 3 Tbsp. and increase it according to your taste.

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Nutella is so great with bananas, apples and of course with a gluten-free bread!  This can be stored at the fridge for a week.  Although it will harden there, it can be softened by placing some in a small bowl and follow the steps of melting coconut oil (see method above).  

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We made it through the first week of daylight savings time.  The days have been brighter lately and although it's still quite cold in Toronto, the signs of Spring are all around us.  This weekend, I was able to enjoy some peace and quiet in our home which was a good break.   My son was at his Lola's place spending time with her.  Have yourself a wonderful week!

Sincerely, 

LIna