Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Gratin with a Dijon Mornay Sauce

Brussels sprouts mushroom gratin

When I consume dairy, I prefer to enjoy it in small portions. Accordingly, I don't often eat cheesy meals, preferring instead to focus on legumes, grains and vegetables as the central components, with maybe just a moderate amount of dairy included. However, sometimes the craving just hits and this rich and creamy Brussels sprouts gratin pleased everyone at the table. As this long winter drags on into April, we all needed some comfort food. You may want to consider serving this as part of your Easter dinner. I assure you, carnivores will NOT be leaving the table hungry after enjoying a portion or two of this dish, especially served alongside some freshly baked biscuits slathered with butter and a side vegetable salad dressed with a light vinaigrette.

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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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