simple soup - fast & healthy food for frosty days

chard, like kale, comes in many varieties
Sometimes a good dose of veggies is really in order. In winter, decent fresh veggies can be a little harder to come by.

Soup is a food that we whip up based on a few essentials and whatever is available and ideally, organic and in season. This time of year that means greens like chard, kale or collard. Squash and root veggies are also a good bet. Oh, and beans. We eat a lot of beans.

So here is a super simple list of ingredients that make up a healthy and hearty soup. Mix up the variables for variety:

Put this selection of items into the pot in this order:
1) good quality extra virgin olive oil to cover bottom of pot
2) chopped onion and or leeks & garlic, sauteed until clear
3) any combination of chili flakes, thyme, rosemary, parsley...
4) beans (garbanzo, white kidney, cannelini, navy, black...)
5) chopped greens (kale, chard, collard, spinach...)
6) organic/healthy/gf bouillon cube(s)
7) boiled water (kettle makes this easy) to cover ingredients.
8) bring to boil and then turn down to simmer for 20 mins. 
beans make veggie soup more substantial
To shake it up further, you could add either a can of diced tomatoes OR juice from a lemon (not both!). We make most of our choices based on what's in the larder. Toss in potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel right after the onions - whatever you have on hand.
this one has chard, white kidney beans and diced tomatoes
If you think you don't have the time or energy to make homemade soup... this takes about 10 minutes to assemble (including washing, chopping etc).. and another 20 minutes to simmer. If you make a big batch (note I didn't include amounts - depends on your need!) you can eat this for lunches throughout the week. You can also put it in single serving size containers and freeze it for another time. Healthy food - ready when you are... and ideal for keeping those new year's resolutions on track!


gluten-free now and then...keeping it healthy

Mum's gluten-free recipe cards held the secrets of my favourite treats growing up
Flashback to the early 1970's. No gluten-free anything in any grocery store. No internet. No computers for that matter. My mother was armed with her little index cards and her typewriter to record her groundbreaking research.

Celia was truly a pioneer in the gluten-free food world. On the days when you are feeling a little blue about having to go without something, it doesn't hurt to recognize that there is no better time to be diagnosed with a condition that requires or benefits from going without gluten. 

I think it's equally important to reflect on the fact that it was very possible to live well, and thrive on this diet before the market was flooded with specialty food products. As a veteran, it's been very interesting to watch the market change so much and see people adopting this diet without their doctor prescribing it to keep them alive.

Gluten-free is not a guarantee that you will be healthier (or thinner for that matter!) Living simply, on fresh, local foods that are not mass produced is still the best option. I love having the gluten-free foods I crave at the ready, but as we all focus on living a little healthier at the start of a new year... I'm going to aim to keep my meals focused around lots of greens, beans and simple gluten-free grains. Ok, and perhaps an occasional (and much appreciated) cookie or two.


Toronto Gluten Free - The Junction

Gluten-free neighborhoods in Toronto are on the agenda for this year. I thought I'd start closest to home.  I live in the Junction - which is north of High Park. The Junction has been "up and coming" for many years now. It looks like we are in the sweet spot where there is lots of creative energy, but we are not gentrifying towards shopping mall mediocrity. Starbucks arrived a couple of years ago, but so far, it's stopped there. We still have a high ratio of used appliances and indy dollar stores gracing the hood.

What's most interesting to me, is that even in this tiny little hipster grotto there is a SELECTION of places where I can get not only a safe gluten-free meal, but some devine treats too. My top 10 Junction spots for a gluten-free fix are: 

The Beet: I cannot say enough about rice wraps at this place (see a past post HERE). Lots of gf options and a staff that just "gets it". In the summer we are regulars on their patio. Super healthy, tasty, affordable and SAFE!
Bunner's Vegan & Gluten free Bakery: When they opened across the street from my  home I could not believe my eyes. They just celebrated their 2nd birthday. Celebrate yours with a custom made red velvet cake - or just pop in for cupcakes or cookies. It's hard to walk by.  

North of Bombay: I'm crazy about Indian food. Go here for the best pakora in town.  Curry Twist: Another Indian restaurant, with tangier butter chicken and slightly more refined offerings. There is typically a line up in this little place - and it's worth waiting for.  Read more about Indian gf food options in general HERE. 

Cantina: New to us as of December 2012. Sophisticated, handmade soft tacos with rice and beans are the gf offering. Be warned, the staff like to make a point of letting you know that they are cooler than you. Yes, even you. Your bill will be higher than what you'd expect to pay for Mexican. The tacos almost make up for this. La Revolucion: Also Mexican, but cheap and cheerful for when you need a fix and want a decent gf meal that isn't posed over.   

Little Fish Bakes Good: A cafe with an excellent brunch which includes an option of white or brown gf rice toast. They sometimes have other goodies like gf brownies too.   

Gabby's: One must recognize a sports bar that puts out an enormous sign that reads "try our gluten-free menu!". This is not a culinary place - you go there to watch a game. I've tried the burger so far, which I was happy to enjoy on a gf bun.

The Sweet Potato: An organic food market with a wide selection of gluten-free staples like bread, crackers and cookies, much of which is produced locally including Organic Works and Gaga for Gluten free.
Crema Coffee: Aside from making excellent coffee... they also carry a selection of gf goodies including cookies from Bunners and treats from Queen B Pastries.   

Finally, we have an organic farmer's market here on Saturday mornings during the summer.  Sounds like a pretty good hood for a celiac eh? If you think I've missed something worth noting - please let me know!


quinoa gluten-free tabbouleh

Quinoa as a gluten-free substitute in tabbouleh
Tabbouleh is a classic middle eastern dish made with either bulgar wheat, or couscous (sometimes called semolina - whatever you call it... couscous, semolina and bulgar wheat are NOT gluten free!).  

Quinoa is a lighter grain and makes an excellent substitute for a gluten-free version of tabbouleh. I've linked to an earlier post about quinoa, and how to cook it within the recipe. 

Cook one cup of quinoa (it's easy - click HERE for how)
dice 1 firm plum tomato 
about 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
about 10 finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 an English cucumber diced
2 green onions (or scallions) finely chopped
squeeze juice from one lemon
drizzle on some good quality olive oil
dash of salt & pepper
stir it up & serve!

I typically put some of the plain, cooked quinoa aside for breakfast the next morning (there is plenty for the salad). I love squeezing an extra meal or two out of a pot of cooked grain. 

This dish is great on its own, works well as a side with chicken or fish, and travels well for lunches lasting up to 2 days in the fridge.  

An excellent dish for a healthy start to the new year!