Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers (Gluten-Free and Vegan-Friendly)

Happy Nutrition Month!

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty darn sick of this winter weather and cannot WAIT for spring to arrive!

Spring = sunshine. And warm weather. And patios. But most importantly, BARBECUING.

Need I say more?

If you’re going through BBQ withdrawal and are craving a burger, this is the perfect meatless recipe to satisfy your craving (and your waistline). I started out following a recipe from How Sweet It Is, but it ended up evolving into something a little bit different.

These burgers are hearty, a little bit spicy, and packed with superfoods like sweet potato, quinoa and coconut oil. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A and carotenoids, which help promote healthy skin and vision. Combined with the quinoa, these burgers pack a protein- and fibre-packed punch! Plus they can be easily modified to be vegan and/or gluten-free :) I wish I took some more photos of these tasty morsels, but they looked so good I just couldn’t wait to eat them.

So… while you continue to wait impatiently for spring, at least you won’t go hungry…

Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers
Makes 4 patties

Ingredients:
1 medium sweet potato
½ large red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used gluten-free oats, pulsed in a food processor)
¼ cup parmesan cheese (use nutritional yeast for a vegan option – I used half of each)
3-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 egg (for a vegan option, combine 1 tbsp ground flax seed with about 3 tbsp water to make a flax “egg”)
2-3 tbsp sunflower seeds (or other seeds like chia or pumpkin.. whatever you have on hand)
1 tbsp peanut satay sauce or natural peanut butter

sweet potato burger

Directions:

  1. Pierce the sweet potato a few times with a fork and place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes, until tender. Let cool; peel and place flesh in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat half the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the peppers, garlic, chili flakes, and a dash of salt and pepper and stir fry until the peppers are tender. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well to combine, mashing the sweet potato as you go. Put in the fridge to chill for about 10-15 minutes. *Note: if the mixture seems too wet, add some more breadcrumbs. If it seems too dry, add some water 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. Heat the remaining coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Form the sweet potato mixture into 4 equally sized patties and fry until golden – about 4-5 minutes each side.
  5. Enjoy on a whole grain bun, or simply on a bed of organic greens topped with your favourite condiments! I just added a few slices of avocado to mine :) Happy eating!

Be Well xo

Celebrating 100 Posts… with Cake

This is officially my 100th blog post!

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 2 years since I started this blog back in February of 2012. What started as a creative project to “beef up” my resume has turned into something I’ve now managed to sustain for a couple of years – all thanks to the support of you, the readers!

I know I don’t post as often as I used to when I first started this blog, but I’ve kept it up because, well, I think it’s fun, but also because of the support and encouragement I’ve received along the way from friends, family, and random strangers on the Internet.

Those of you who know me know that I’m a bit of an Instagram addict. I’m one of those lame people that like to constantly post pictures of food (#sorry #notsorry). It means a lot when people comment on my food pictures saying how tasty it looks, or even asking if I can share the recipe. I LOVE food and I LOVE to cook. I’m no expert, but knowing that certain meals I create inspire other people makes me happy :) So thank you for sticking with me on this wellness journey, regardless of whether you’ve read one post or kept up with them all!

To commemorate this milestone, it’s only appropriate to celebrate with cake. Apple cinnamon cake.

Okay, perhaps this recipe doesn’t fit your traditional definition of “cake”, but it’s as healthy as cake comes and in my opinion is pretty darn close to the real thing! If you remember my last post, I was lucky enough to get a juicer for Christmas. I’ve been using it a lot lately and have been searching for new ways to put the leftover pulp to good use.

I stumbled across a recipe for a whole wheat zucchini loaf, and after a few modifications ended up with a delicious, hearty, fibre-packed loaf of apple cinnamon goodness. I keep making homemade apple juice just so I have pulp handy to make this recipe - it’s THAT good.

Juicing!  Juicing!

Plus it can also be easily adapted to be vegan and/or gluten-free.

So without further ado… let’s eat cake!

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups apple pulp (equals about 5 large apples + 1 lemon, juiced)
1/2 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 cup date sugar (about 20 pitted dates put through a food processor. I was hoping they would be pulverized into a sugar-like substance, but they ended up more like a sticky paste, which was fine.)
2 eggs (to make this recipe vegan, try using 2 flax eggs. 1 flax egg = 1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water)
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour (to make this recipe gluten-free, try substituting with gluten-free options like almond flour, coconut flour, etc.)
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 tbsp apple juice (if necessary*)

Directions:
1. Combine the apple pulp, oil, date paste, and eggs in a large bowl. The date paste was so sticky it was hard to combine everything using a spatula, so eventually I gave up and just used my hands to mix everything together.
2. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, chia seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon). Add to the apple pulp mixture and combine. If the mixture seems too dry, add the apple juice*.
3. Bake in a loaf pan greased with coconut oil at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Loaf

This loaf slices up nicely without crumbling apart, even when it’s fresh out of the oven. I like to top a slice with peanut or almond butter and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds :) That’s pretty much the same thing as cake, right?

Be Well xo

Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Happy Holidays!

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holiday season, staying warm, and eating lots of tasty treats!

“Santa” was kind enough to bring me a juicer for Christmas! I took some time today to test it out and made some green juice (kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, and green apple), then froze the leftover pulp in an ice cube tray so I can easily throw them into green smoothies. I can’t wait to try making fresh orange juice :)

Green Juice

I had so much fun with it that I wanted to make something else, so I decided to try juicing some veggies to create broth for soup. From there I improvised, throwing whatever I had lying around the kitchen into the pot, until I ended up with this delicious stew! It’s the perfect meal to sit back and relax with after a busy week of holiday celebrations :) It’s also vegan and gluten-free!

Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetable Juice
1 tomato
1 small onion
1 red pepper, de-seeded
2 carrots
1 stalk of celery

Stew
Vegetable juice & pulp
500 mL no-salt-added vegetable broth
2 cups chopped butternut squash
1/2 cup quinoa
1 can white cannellini beans
1-2 handfuls each of kale and spinach
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic powder
A couple of pinches of dried sage
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. To make the vegetable juice, put the tomato, onion, pepper, carrots, and celery through a juicer. Pour the juice and pulp into a large stock pot. Add the vegetable broth, squash, quinoa, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and squash is tender. You may need to add some more water as you go, if necessary.

2. Add the beans, kale, and spinach and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in large bowls and enjoy!

Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Be Well xo

21-Day Elimination Diet

Well, I did it! Despite the wind, rain, and cold weather.. I ran my first 5K race and finished in EXACTLY 26 minutes! I was surprised at how quickly time seemed to pass while I was running, and was even more shocked to learn that I had actually achieved my goal of running it in 26 minutes. Prior to race day, my fastest time had been just under 28 minutes. I guess the adrenaline rush and desire to escape the awful weather helped!

I’ve now started tackling a new challenge – a 21-day elimination diet. Since the beginning of November, I’ve eliminated wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and coffee from my diet. Am I crazy? Perhaps. But for the past couple of months I had been finding I often felt sick after eating, as well as super tired.

After looking a bit more into my symptoms, I decided it might be worthwhile to try a 21-day elimination diet in order to detox and “re-charge my batteries”, so to speak. It’s also a helpful tool to figure out whether you have any food allergies/sensitivities, which could very well be the source of my discomfort.

I’m currently 16 days in and it’s been an interesting journey! The first few days were definitely the hardest and I battled some pretty intense cravings – mostly for wheat products, like bread. I also suffered from headaches for the first little while due to caffeine withdrawal. I probably should have gradually cut back instead of jumping from my usual two cups a day to nothing more than green tea.

After the first few days things started getting a bit easier. I had to really plan ahead and prep meals in advance in order to avoid giving in to cravings. I even re-organized my cupboards by placing the things I could eat on the bottom shelf and things that were “off-limits” on the upper shelves – just sliiiiightly out of my reach ;)

Now that this cleanse is almost over, I can honestly say I have noticed some changes. For starters, although I’m still tired most days (nothing new there), I now have the energy to make it through the day without coffee – something I haven’t been able to do in years. Literally. I’ve also noticed I’m able to fall asleep a lot faster. Finally, most of the negative symptoms I had been experiencing for the past couple of months have disappeared – no more headaches, bloating, stomach cramps, and less joint/muscle pain. Once the weekend hits, I’ll be starting to re-introduce certain foods back into my diet to see if my body experiences any of those symptoms again. Hopefully all goes well!

If you’re thinking about trying an elimination diet, I would say that it’s definitely worthwhile. As long as you plan ahead and are willing to get creative in the kitchen, you might just find the three weeks pass by fairly quickly. The hardest part is planning around social events! It was pretty tricky to find foods to eat when going out for dinner with family/friends, so I had to make a few exceptions sometimes.

Looking for some ideas to help kick-start your own elimination diet? Here are some of the meals I’ve made so far. I included links to recipes where I could!

Day 1
Garlic lemon brown rice pasta with mushrooms & kale, and a side of steamed lemon-ginger carrots
032

Day 2
Quinoa bowl drizzled with homemade ginger-peanut sauce
033

Day 4
Zucchini-white bean sliders with roasted butternut squash
037

Day 6
Chili-lime lentil tacos with cauliflower tortillas
002

Day 8
Garlic lemon spaghetti squash & sautéed veggies
006

Day 10
Cilantro lime rice, black beans, kale, squash & homemade guacamole
010

Day 11
Spicy coconut curry rice noodles
011

Day 16
Brown rice pasta in a cauliflower “alfredo” sauce, topped with chia seeds
016

Happy detoxing!

Be Well xo

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

In my last blog post I had mentioned how I finally ran a full 5k without stopping to walk, and that my goal was to continue decreasing my time so I could try to complete it in less than 28 minutes on race day.

Well, apparently training has been doing my body good, because just last night I ran 5k in about 28 minutes! Since I have three and a half weeks left until race day, I’m going to continue working hard to see if I can get down to about 26 minutes. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come in less than 2 months, but it just goes to show what a little persistence and motivation can do! I’m actually starting to ENJOY running, to the point where it’s become an important part of my daily routine.

Making a conscious effort to eat well and drink plenty of water has definitely helped with the training process. Now that the cooler weather is approaching, I’ve been making a lot of homemade soup. It’s perfect to make on a Sunday because you can keep half of it on hand for quick meals throughout the rest of the week, and then freeze the remainder in individual freezer bags for nights where you don’t feel like cooking.

Nothing screams fall like fresh squash from the farmer’s market! Butternut squash is my FAVOURITE. This recipe is super simple and super tasty – like.. lick-the-bowl-it’s-so-yummy, tasty. You laugh now, but when you make this recipe I guarantee you’ll be tempted to lick your bowl clean!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Seasonings, such as garlic powder, dried rosemary, or sage (I used about ¼ tsp of each)
Salt & pepper, to taste
3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth (plus more, in case the soup is too thick for your liking)
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375oC. Place the squash and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, whatever seasonings you plan to use, and a little bit of salt and pepper. Gently mix so that everything is nicely coated in oil, and then pour into a large roasting pan. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender, stirring the mixture a couple of times.
    066
  2. When done, blend the squash, vegetable broth, and Greek yogurt using a large blender or food processor until smooth and well-combined (I had to blend everything in a couple of batches because there was so much!). Transfer to a large pot set at low to medium heat and stir constantly until heated through. If the soup is too thick for your liking, feel free to mix in a bit more broth or water. Enjoy with a light, green salad or fresh bread!
    068

Be Well!