Raw Avocado Coconut Nanaimo Bars

avocado nanaimo bars

There is a new cookbook on my shelf and I'm super excited about it. Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes by Emily von Euw is all about sweet treats, all raw, gluten-free and vegan. Covered are old classics ranging from cookies, cakes, bars and cupcakes, pies and tarts, puddings and ice cream with a creative twist. Apart from the stunning and drool inducing photos that adorn each page, I was immediately struck by the unique selections that are essentially guilt-free.

Looking at the photos, you would think eating such decadent looking desserts would lead to a spike in your blood sugar, but in fact, the treats and desserts are actually good for you. Dried and fresh fruits and raw nuts are prominently featured and sweeteners, when they are used, are natural ones, such as maple syrup. Another especially appealing aspect of the book is that pretty much all of the basic ingredients are ones that you are likely to have on hand. No need to hunt around for unfamiliar ingredients that you may only use a few times, leaving them only to languish in the cupboard.

The first recipe I tried was one for raw peanut butter cookies from the multiple ones that I bookmarked. Next up was a this one for raw Nanaimo bars. My usual version of this classic treat is served only rarely on special occasions because they are so decadent. Needless to say, this much healthier version appealed to me. My best friend Basil has been hoping for years that I might come up with a variation that was not so laden with processed sugars, and this was just the right alternative.

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Chickpeas, Mango and Spinach in a Tomato Coconut Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpea mango and spinach curry

No, those aren't potato pieces you see here in this spiced up dish but instead sweet chunks of fresh tender mango nestling up with buttery chickpeas and earthy green spinach. I never can resist chickpeas. Judging by the number of times in a given month they show up on my table in some shape or form, I suppose if I were pressed to name my favorite legume, then chickpeas it would be. Even those who insist they don't like beans can often be persuaded to try chickpeas. They do lend themselves so well to a variety of preparations and inspiration can be found across the globe.

My latest preparation with these beloved legumes is now a new favorite and — as is typical with me — an Indian curry. It's a gentle dish that nonetheless demands attention. The bouquet of flavors of sweet citrus, zesty tomato, vibrant spicing and bold spinach all come together like one big loving family, despite the unique elements of each of the ingredients. The addition of coconut milk and wilted spinach depart a delightful creaminess to the curry and balance out and blend all of the components and slightly soften the spices. My dinner companions proclaimed it a huge success and seconds were in order, though more for the experience because everyone's tummy was full. Try it and see if you don't elicit a similar response. And don't let the long list of ingredients deter you — most of the items are simply spices to be measured out, and it's actually quite a simple dish to prep and put together.

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Mixed Vegetable and Avocado Salad with Almond Herbed Flatbreads

mixed vegetable and avocado salad

It's almost starting to feel like spring here in southwestern Ontario, although after a long and brutally cold winter I'm not counting on sunny warm days sticking around anytime soon. But with the hint of warmer days on the horizon, I find myself thinking more of salads, even if they are often made to go along with a hot steaming bowl of soup or curry.

My latest dressed-up salad was inspired by a complimentary copy of A Taste of Pesach by Yeshiva Me'on Hatorah. This cookbook, devoted to Passover solutions, features both classic and modern recipes, complete with lovely full colored photographs of each dish. If you observe Passover, this might just be the book for you, and even if you don't there are plenty of diverse recipes to inspire cooks. Those with a sweet tooth won't want to miss the dessert section. While the amount of meat and sea food recipes that occupy the book certainly won't appeal to vegetarians, this vegetarian was intrigued by many of the salads and sides showcased in the book.

Accordingly, after flipping through the pages, I was attracted by a colorful "flatbread" salad and I'm glad I tried it, with some minor modifications.

mixed vegetable and avocado salad with almond flatbreads

The salad had a nice creamy component due to the addition of avocado that contrasts pleasantly with crisp romaine lettuce and sweet red cabbage. As the salad is tossed, some of the avocado ends up getting mashed in and incorporated, making it an ideal accompaniment to the tangy and zesty dressing that adorns each serving. The almond flour flatbreads make for an even more substantial salad that you can enjoy as an appetizer while you await the rest of your meal.

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Lemony Pasta with Broccoli and Chickpeas

pasta with broccoli and chickpeas

During a recent visit with my dad and stepmom a few weeks back, I found myself in the kitchen frequently, either cooking up the bulk of the dinner meal or making some healthy sweet treats for snacking or for dessert. Although my family enjoys spicy food, it does not figure frequently on the menu as it does on mine, so after making spicy chickpeas in a tomato coconut sauce with spinach that everyone enjoyed, I nonetheless decided to go with something less spicy and closer to the sort of fare my dad and stepmom would be more inclined to appreciate.

Another reason I took over the bulk of the supper planning and prep was not only to move around but also because my dad and stepmom do not follow a vegetarian diet. That is not to say they don't enjoy and serve vegetarian meals, but it can be a challenge when you are spending over 2 weeks with a rather fussy vegetarian.

Staring at 5 feet high snow banks at the beginning of April had me craving comfort too. Dad's house is located just a few hours north of Toronto and about 4 hours from London, and although it has been a tough winter all across the province, they were hit especially hard with lots of snow and brutally cold temperatures. Not that a spicy dish Indian meal doesn't speak comfort to me, because it absolutely does and it's my specialty, but I do enjoy different types of cuisines, foods and preparations. Exploring keeps me on my toes in the kitchen.

pasta with broccoli and chickpeas

I was quite pleased with this easy dish as were my dad and stepmom. I think it would make for a fine summer meal and it's quite portable if you happen to be taking food over to a friends or are attending a potluck. I kept the spicing minimal to allow the earthy flavor of the broccoli to come through along with the zesty fresh lemon juice. I do think it would work well with cauliflower too, with some dried herbs to enhance the flavor of the pasta and vegetable.

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