Category Archives: Recipes

Tasty, healthy, quick. That’s what you’ll get with these recipes. Enjoy!

Coleslaw is the new cool kid in the kitchen

Trust me. Everyone’ll be talking about slaw soon. The cool ones probably already are. But it’s not going to be like it was way back when. You know – the age of the mayonnaise. Bring on the new slaw, where flavour is the feature, healthy vegetables are the base, and no mayonnaise is harmed in the process.

As you can see, I’m pretty excited about coleslaw right now. I actually started thinking about it after having the chili lime coleslaw at ZaZaZa in the Glebe. And then one of my friends mentioned a coriander lime slaw they had picked up at the Piggy Market in Westboro. It was like suddenly I had been invited to experiment in the new world of slaw, and I said Yes!

Since then, I’ve made 3 very different and very great slaws:

  • Asian slaw
  • Coriander lime slaw
  • Middle eastern slaw

The middle eastern slaw is currently in my fridge, waiting for me to dive in once the flavours have merging just enough…in about another 5 minutes. Once I confirm it’s deliciousness, I’ll share the recipe. Until then, let me share the other two recipes.

One note before you read on: do you have a food processor? If not, you may find that the drudgery of cutting cabbage into small pieces slowly eats away at your enthusiasm for the dish to come. I don’t blame you. I’m not sure I would be in my current slaw love fest if I didn’t have a food processor.

That’s a lot of veggies to chop!


Asian slaw

Beyond delicious.  Think of a delicious peanut sauce you had at your favourite Thai restaurant. Now think of that in the heatlhiest way you can: covering mounds of chopped vegetables. Still entirely delicious, but now in the format of a great vegetable snack or side dish. Why wouldn’t you try this?

I found the Asian coleslaw recipe with the help of Chef Google:


Coriander Lime slaw

Truth be told, this one was not as delicious as the Asian slaw, but still amazing in comparison with plain old ordinary slaw. Now if you don’t like coriander (or cilantro ;) ), then I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you won’t like this. I ended up making this with a sweet onion instead of green onions (that’s what I had), and threw in some broccoli stalks just because. The latter was a great addition, but I wouldn’t do the onion for green onion trade again. It’s still pretty  good, and I’ll make it again. But I think it’s missing something to be deemed truly awesome. But still absolutely worth making. And eating. Next time I make it, I’m probably going to make adjustments and call it a Mexican slaw. Stay tuned!

Here’s the Coriander Lime Coleslaw recipe


Middle Eastern Slaw

I’ve now pulled some  out of the fridge and am chomping away. There’s something about the crunch of cabbage that helps make this great. It’s official: this coleslaw is tasty! I will concede that it’s not as awesome as the Asian slaw, but still pretty amazing. And it’s a completely different flavour, which I love. I’m a fan of variety, and when I can find it in healthy and easy to make recipes that can sit in the fridge for a few days to be eaten as simple snacks, I get excited.

This recipe was inspired by one that I found using Chef Google (, but I opted to make changes because that one just didn’t look like it would have enough flavour. Really it’s that there wasn’t any garlic.

So I searched for some Middle Eastern salad dressing recipes, found this one (scroll down to the Middle Eastern Lemon Tahini Salad Dressing recipe), and basically merged the two recipes. With a few additional changes.

Here’s the final recipe:

  • 1/2 head of cabbage (I used green, but purple would be fine too. Maybe even more awesome based on looking cool)
  • 3 broccoli stalks (This is a tip I picked up from a Jamie Oliver recipe: the stalk of the broccoli is tasty! And so it occurred to me that chopping it up with cabbage would be great.  It is! Thanks again food processor.)
  • 6 green onions (why six? because that’s how many came in the bunch. Based on what I learned from the coriander lime slaw, I opted for green onions here instead of the red)
  • a handful of mini carrots (base recipe said one large carrot; this was my interpretation based on what I had. It’s slaw. I feel like there’s room for variants.)
  • 1 cup of chickpeas (I did them from dried in my slow cooker, following this recipe, but I think canned would work just as well. If you go canned, give them a good rinse first.)

The dressing:

  • 1/4 cup tahini (this is the stuff in most hummus recipes, and can be found with the nut butters in most health food stores. Hopefully in the grocery store too, but I can’t confirm that. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup, which is what I used, but I think it’s a bit too much in this case. Stick with 1/4 cup, or 4 TBSP)
  • 2-3 TBSP water (If you use 1/4 cup of Tahini, stick with 2 TBSP water; if you go with a bit more tahini, then use the 3 TBSPs.)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (I went with closer to 2/3 of the lemon – start with 1/2 and touch it up based on how it tastes)
  • 1/2 TSP ground cumin
  • 1-2 cloves crushed garlic (I used 2 cloves, because mine weren’t that big and they are getting a bit old, so I think they have less taste. I often chop my garlic, but for this, I used the garlic press. Not for any real culinary reason – I just didn’t feel like chopping it.)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt to taste.


1. Chop the veggies using your food processor. Or use a knife. If you use a knife, please let me know how long it takes and how many fingers you still have. When I say veggies, I don’t mean the chickpeas. Put it all in a large bowl and add the chick peas.

2. Mix the tahini with the water.  As the original dressing recipe points out, it gets more liquidy (look what I’m doing to the poor English language!), and then magically it gets thick.

3. Cut the lemon half into thirds, and squeeze each one into the tahini-water mix, being careful to remove any seeds.

4. Nomnonnom…having a second helping as I type. Wait. That’s not really something you get to do at this stage.  Sorry.

5. Add the cumin, garlic, salt and olive oil to the tahini-water-lemon juice mix, and stir until smooth.

6. Mix the dressing in with the veggies. Stir. until it’s all nicely coated. A bit of stating the obvious here, but if  you used a smaller supply of veggies, then don’t toss in all the dressing at once – try a bit less to make sure you’ve got a good ratio. If needed, add the rest.

7. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavours blend.

8. See #4 above.

Ya, this is pretty good. Also, I just had an epiphany for my next go at the coriander-lime slaw: I think the dressing will need some avocado.


Curried zucchini salad recipe

I had some cold curried zucchini salad at The Table (a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa) last week, and thought it was such a great idea that I wanted to make it myself. I didn’t actually have a recipe though, so I decided to create one. Good thing I did, actually, as I went back a few days later to try it again and get a better feel, but it seems like they had changed it. This time the zucchini wasn’t cooked (a big no-no in my opinion – cook it, just don’t overcook it), and they used sesame oil, which I ordinarily support, but in this case, it’s flavour takes over instead of enhances the dish). So I went to work on the recipe on my own. I reviewed many curried chicken salad recipes and some zucchini recipes and pulled ideas from each. My first try with the recipe was pretty good, and the friends I brought it to seemed to like it. I still felt there was room for improvement, and so I created version 2.0 this past weekend. Delicious! And of course, easy to make, and healthy too. It took about 10 minutes of prep time (that’s generous – I was moving at a glacial pace), a little more than 5 minutes to cook, and then at least 15 minutes in the fridge to cool.


1/2 onion (Sliced and quartered)

2 cloves garlic (chopped)

2 tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil)

3 medium zucchini (Yellow or green, or a combination. Slice them on a diagonal about a half inch thick. Ok, truth be told, I can’t tell the difference between a quarter and half inch enough to eyeball it. Look at the picture. That’s about how thick to cut it)

1 tbsp curry powder*

2 tbsp Greek yoghurt (Note, my first version was without Greek yoghurt. If you want a vegan option, consider skipping the Greek yoghurt but definitely add the extra tablespoon of olive oil, or even a tablespoon and a half)

1 tsp cider vinegar or lemon juice or lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)


Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, and stir lightly.

About 30s later, add the garlic.

Another 30s later, add the curry powder.

Continue heating and stirring for another minute.

Add the zucchini, and continue stirring.

After about another minute, add the 2nd tbsp of olive oil.

Continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes then pour everything from the pan into a bowl and place in the fridge.

Once cool, add the Greek yoghurt and vinegar or lemon or lime juice. You may also want to add an additional tablespoon or olive oil, although it is not necessary.

Cool completely and then serve with, well, just about anything.

Curried zucchini salad shown here with steak, raw vegetables and cous cous

If you give this a try, please let me know how you liked it. I loved it so much that I’m thinking of posting it to, but would love to get more feedback on it first. While I think it’s delicious, I feel like there’s room for improvement, and would love to hear suggestions to get there from other foodies out there.


* If you ran out of curry powder like I did, or are a bit adventurous, make your own curry powder. I made mine by mixing together 1 tsp each of turmeric, cumin, coriander and chili powder, with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (slight adaptation of a recipe I found on Yahoo Answers). Remember 3 tsp in a tbsp, so with 1 tsp of each part, you will have slightly more than 1 tbsp of curry powder.


Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer and lover of delicious foods in Ottawa, Canada.

Sesame “noodles” (spaghetti squash) recipe

When I think of sesame noodles, my first thought is of Pan Chancho in Kingston. They make a tasty sesame noodle salad! As it turns out, so do I. Except mine uses spaghetti squash instead of noodles, which means that it is delicious and incredibly healthy. It’s basically a big bowl full of vegetables with exceptional flavour. And it’s pretty easy to make.

Want the recipe?

This recipe actually started out as an idea. I wanted to make a sesame noodle dish with spaghetti squash. I’m not really into low carb or Paleo eating, but I am into eating more vegetables. So I went to Google to see what I could find. I found nothing. So I looked at several sesame noodle recipes until this one from Martha Stewart caught my attention. I liked the sauce ingredients but didn’t really like that the vegetables were boiled with the noodles. And since I wasn’t making noodles, that part definitely needed to be changed. So here goes:

Sesame spaghetti squash salad recipe:

1 Spaghetti squash
1 cup shredded zucchini*
dash of salt
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
5-10 mushrooms, sliced*
1 red pepper, sliced
1-2 tbsp sesame oil or vegetable oil for cooking the vegetables

For a larger squash:
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1.5 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 tsp red-pepper flakes (this gives it kick. Use less or omit if kick isn’t your thing.)

For a smaller squash:
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp sesame oil
1 and a half cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced (Ya, I know. 1.5 cloves is lame. Go for 2 or 1 if you prefer. It’s not going to kill the recipe either way)
1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes (this gives it kick. Use less or omit if kick isn’t your thing.)

1. Preheat your oven to 350, cut your spaghetti squash in half, and place the halved squash on either a greased baking sheet or a baking sheet with parchment paper on it (You can also cook the squash by poking many holes in it and cut it once it is cooked). Cook for 30-35 minutes.

2. While the squash is cooking, chop the vegetables and garlic. This is where a food processor comes in handy. Soooo much faster. Start with the zucchini. Once it is chopped, shake a bit of salt on it to get some of the water out of it, and then either let it sit in a strainer or lay it between paper towels or clean tea towels. Once chopped, keep each vegetable in little piles on your cutting board.

3. Place a skillet (that’s fancy talk for frying pan) on the stove on medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook it, stirring regularly for several minutes, until it is translucent and slightly browned (people often undercook onion – unlike most other vegetables, it tastes better if you let it cook longer). Remove from the skillet and return to the cutting board. Top up the oil in the pan if it looks too dry. This time add the garlic. The garlic only needs 30s to a minute, and should be stirred frequently. Remove it and return it to the cutting board. Repeat this process with each of the vegetables you used. I found each of the zucchini, mushrooms, and red peppers each only needed about 2 minutes – maybe a bit less for the red peppers. This part is really not an exact science – as long as you don’t really, really overcook it, it will taste great.

4. Combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili peppers and garlic in a large bowl.

5. After you take the spaghetti squash out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes and then use a fork to separate the “spaghetti” from the squash. To do this, pull the fork through the squash and you’ll see that it separates into strands (almost spaghetti-like!). Once this is done, use the fork (I like to use two forks actually) to pull the spaghetti squash strands out of its skin and put it into the large bowl with the (delicious) sauce. Pile the other vegetables in there as well and then use the fork(s) to mix it all together.

6. Serve and enjoy.

I’d suggest that this provides 3-6 servings as a side dish, although let’s face it, a “serving” is very different from person to person!

Wondering about the nutritional info?

Assuming it’s 4 servings and using a smaller squash:
Calories: 190
Carbohydrate:90 g (45%)
Fat:40 g (45%)
Protein: 19 g (10%)

Here’s a pic of the end result, served with sesame beef. Great combination! I didn’t time it, but I think the Fridge to Fork time for the entire meal was about 45 minutes. Not quite as quick and easy as some of the other foods I make, but not bad.

Spinach in a smoothie?????

It’s crazy, I know. But I just finished drinking a smoothie that has spinach as one of the ingredients. And it was really good. And by good, I am referring to the taste, not the healthiness. No, really. I do love healthy foods, but more importantly, I love foods that actually taste good, and quickly cast aside those that don’t. Like the black bean brownie recipe I tried. They were vile. I would never serve or suggest them to anyone that I actually like. But strangely I am now sitting here writing about adding spinach to a smoothie. Crazy. I know.

I can’t recall what website I got the idea from, but I recall having read that the spinach added a creamy consistency but that the spinach flavour is quite mild and so the other flavours in your smoothie are likely to overpower it. I do love an experiment, and I am currently on a mission to find more ways to eat vegetables in my snacks. Let’s face it: no matter what diet or nutrition approach you believe in, I think the one area where we all agree is that more green vegetables is a good thing.

And so I introduce to you my recipe for Chocolate mint smoothies:

  • 1 cup of almond milk (I suspect regular  or  soy milk would also be fine if you drink them)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Magnum Quattro because it’s delicious. Hopefully you pick one that doesn’t have aspartame or any vile sweetener like that as I personally think they can ruin the taste of a good smoothie. This one’s sweetened with stevia and organic cane sugar)
  • 1 scoop cocoa powder. I use Fry’s cocoa powder.
  • a few drops of peppermint extract
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1-2 handfuls of spinach
  • crushed mint leaves (optional)

I came up with this recipe (excluding the spinach) after reading Molly Galbraith’s blog entry chock full of amazing protein smoothie recipes. That girl is creative with her smoothies! It had never occurred to me to include things like cocoa powder in a smoothie. Brilliant!

I didn’t know how much spinach to add, so I went to google to get some ideas, and I saw the 2 handfuls recommendation from the Incredible Smoothies website, so figured I’d try it.  I blended the ingredients without the spinach first, then blended in one handful of spinach and gave it a taste. I was impressed. But it did seem that the spinach absorbed a bit of the peppermint flavour that really makes this smoothie, so I added a few more drops before adding the second handful and blended again.

It still tasted delicious – my taste buds could not find the spinach flavour over the chocolate and peppermint. But what did happen after the second handful is that the colour got a little light, and there remained some specs of green – evidence of the spinach that some might not care for. After drinking a few sips, the colour didn’t bother me anymore. Maybe I was over-reacting? You can decide for yourself: the first picture is a version of this smoothie I made a few weeks ago without spinach. The second is the one I just made with spinach.

Now if the colour is too light for you, or if the bits of green don’t appeal, then I would suggest trying it with only one handful of spinach instead of two. Maybe I didn’t look at it closely enough after one handful, but I did look, and it seemed amazingly normal looking.

Lastly, I remembered that the first few times I made the smoothie that I added crushed mint leaves. I stopped doing that primarily because I felt the peppermint extract provided enough colour. But after making this, I realized that if you were making this smoothie for someone and didn’t want them to know there was spinach in it, you could always add a bit of crushed mint and as you’re serving it, make a point to mention that. I’m not suggesting that you overtly lie about the spinach; just that you highlight the crushed mint instead so that nobody asks about the green specs. Your call.

Give this recipe a try with or without the spinach. It’s unbelievably tasty.

Wondering about the nutritional facts? Here are the numbers:

  • Calories: 254 kcal
  • Fat: 4.1 g (14%)
  • Carb: 19.5 g (29.6%)
  • Protein: 33.6 g (56.4%)

Note that I use one scoop of protein powder, which in this case is half a serving. If you want a higher calorie snack, then go for the full serving, but personally I suspect that most protein powder suggested serving sizes are holdovers from the days when male body builders were their primary consumers.

There’s more experimenting underway! I’m currently trying out a zucchini-based pizza dough. I’ll admit that I’m skeptical as I have scoured the internet and basically found permutations of only 3 different recipes, each of which suggest that the creators don’t understand that there is chemistry in baking. We shall see…


Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc, CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa with a passion for healthy, AND tasty foods. 


PS – don’t forget to check out Molly’s protein smoothie recipes. She’s got some really good ones.

Healthy, tasty, and quick recipes!

Those of  you who are  friends with me on Facebook know that I love to cook, and have a habit of posting recipes and photos of  delicious meals that I make. I’ve decided it’s time to bring these this habit to my blog, so that I can easily refer back to the recipes. And if interested, so can you.

How a recipe makes the cut

To be clear, I won’t be  posting my own creations. I rarely come up with my own recipes. I’m a pretty good cook, but I am no chef. I know what I like, I’m getting pretty good at finding the great recipes from reading them, and I have cooked enough to make minor adjustments if needed. So that’s what you’ll see: other people’s recipes. Nothing original here! Yes, I give credit where credit is due – respect to the real chefs out there!

Why post recipes from others if they’re already online?

Basically it’s to pull some great recipes into one location: to help you find great recipes without having to search the vastness of the interweb.

Why do I care? Because I have a personal mission to encourage people to cook more. I am convinced that we will all be healthier if we cook more and eat out or take out less. Food has the power to be either medicine or poison. Make it yourself, and there is less likelihood that you’ll be in poison territory. Yes, you can order healthier options in restaurants, but how many of us do? And when we do, how are the portions?

I also have a second mission: to help people to realize that healthy eating can be delicious. No, I’m not drunk. I speak truth. I say this as a healthy living enthusiast, but also as a lover of food, and a lover of my taste buds. I would never disrespect either with a crappy recipe. And from that perspective, I understand why people don’t realize that it is possible to cook healthy food that is also tasty. I think it stems from some of the recipes posted by other fitness enthusiasts and professionals. If you regularly see people eating baked skinless chicken breast with a side of spinach and boiled potatoes as a “healthy and tasty” meal, then, I understand why you don’t try healthy cooking. But please understand It doesn’t have to be that way! That is not an example of healthy and tasty: it is an affront to taste buds everywhere!

Every recipe you see posted here will be taste bud approved. In fact they will all meet what I call the Triple Crown of cooking:

  1. Tasty. If it doesn’t taste good, nothing else matters. Period. End of story.
  2. Easy. I have coined a phrase that you’ll see on a lot of the recipes I post: “Fridge to Fork in 30 minutes“, or whatever time it takes for that particular recipe. My preference is for foods where the Fridge to Fork time is 45 minutes or less. I came up with this term because I was frustrated with recipes that make ridiculous claims about how long something takes to make. I’ve made “30 minute” recipes that took an hour. Maybe they meant 30 minutes after you have chopped up all the veggies. For a recipe to become a regular for me, it typically takes less than 45 minutes from the time you step into the kitchen to the time you are sitting at the table with a forkful of food moving toward your mouth. I say typically because there are some incredible recipes that take very little time to prepare, but have a longer  cooking time, which might bring the Fridge to Fork time to more than an hour. I think you will love some of these recipes,  so I don’t want to exclude them. In these cases, you can be confident that these recipes do not require you to be active during that whole time. It may be 15 minutes of work followed by 1 hour in the oven. Not a good option when you get home 30 minutes before dinnertime, but maybe a great option for a Sunday evening meal.
  3. Healthy. I don’t follow any single nutrition plan: Not Paleo, not low-fat, not intermittent fasting, not weight watchers. I follow a simple approach to eating that doesn’t really have a name:

“Eat real foods as much as possible; ones that agree with your body. Don’t eat too much of it.”

As much as possible, I will also post calorie and macronutrient values for each recipe.

Once I post recipes, I will sort them and add links to this post, so feel free to bookmark this post and check back every week or so.

Look for the first recipe later today…

And remember – healthy and tasty are not mutually exclusive!