Luisa Rios' Kitchen Notebook

Archive for the 'Food Finds' Category

For the Love of Kale

Written by Cooking Journeys, November 12th, 2013

You, me and almost everyone else has fallen deeply in love with kale. For many, however, the reasons behind the sudden love-affair with this spectacular superfood remain something of a mystery.

If you’re one of those few who have yet to succumb to the charms of the Queen of Green, here are a few facts from Dr. Drew Ramsey’s book 50 Shades of Kale that just might change your mind:

  • Kale has more vitamin C than an orange;
  • It’s a great source of “good” fats (like alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid that’s essential for boosting brain health, heart health and reducing type 2 diabetes);
  • It has more vitamin A than any other leafy green;
  • It has more calcium than a container of milk;
  • It’s full of iron (which can be made even more bioavailable with a splash of lemon juice); and
  • It has multiple nutrients and cancer-fighting compounds that are great at combating inflammation and preventing the formation of arterial plaque (especially when dressed up with fats like avocado, olive oil or parmesan cheese, which can make fat-soluble carotenoids more available to the body).

Still not convinced? The following recipe is a delicious and easy way to enjoy all the bounty of nutrition that kale has to offer, as either a side or a light and lovely lunch.

Kale Salad with Raisins and Almonds

Kale Salad with Raisins and Almonds

Kale Salad with Raisins & Almonds

Serves: 4


½ cup (125 mL) golden raisins

2 tablespoons (30 mL) red or white balsamic vinegar, divided

1 tablespoon (15 mL) apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) liquid honey (preferably Manuka)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon (2 mL) garlic salt (preferibly organic)

¼ teaspoon (1 mL) red pepper flakes

1 lb. (500 g) Tuscan kale, stems and centre ribs removed and sliced crosswise

2 tablespoons (30 mL) sliced almonds, lightly toasted

¼ cup (60 mL) shaved Parmesan or nutritional yeast for garnish (optional)


1. In a small bowl, combine raisins with the white balsamic vinegar. Let soak for 15 min to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain raisins, reserving the liquid.

2. Whisk the soaking liquid together with cider vinegar, honey, oil, garlic salt and red pepper flakes. Toss with kale and raisins to coat. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with toasted almonds (and shaved Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if desired).

Cook’s Notes:
Golden raisins maintain their flavour, shape and texture, making them ideal for dressings and preserves. Sometimes referred to as “muscats,” they’re made from white grapes that are seeded and oven-dried. Choose sulphur dioxide-free raisins if you can.

Raw Kale? There are a couple of tricks to enjoying this hearty green uncooked. Removing the stems and centre ribs eliminates the bitterness, and allowing them to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes softens the leaves to the perfect tenderness for eating.

A Few of our Favourite Squash

Written by Cooking Journeys, November 07th, 2013
Butternut, Delicata, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Etc. Etc.

Butternut, Delicata, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Etc. Etc.

We’re crazy about winter squash. They’re gnarly, they’re curvy, they’re bulbous, lumpy and bumpy, and they are beautiful! They’ve got a ton of character, both in appearance and on your plate. Because there are so many different kinds, each with their own unique texture and flavour, we never get tired of them. Here is a list of our current favourites to experiment with so that you don’t get stuck in a butternut rut!

1. Kabocha – These dark green, hearty looking little beasts are as sweet as candy with a very dense flesh. Slice in half, take out the seeds and place halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, scoop out the flesh and mash with a generous slab of butter and a few good pinches of salt. This divine side dish makes a great alternative to mashed potatoes.

2. Delicata – This small, oblong squash has an edible, striped rind and a distinctive flavour reminiscent of sweet corn. Halve, remove seeds, cube, toss with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until just tender. Add to a grain or green salad with toasted almonds.

3. Turban Squash – It looks like it sounds. This unique-looking squash has a floury texture that is great in soups. Halve and roast like the kabocha, then scoop out flesh and puree with sautéed onions, garlic, sage and maple syrup.

4. Butternut – This popular squash deserves a mention as it is incredibly versatile. Our favourite way to use it is to make it into noodles! Use a Japanese mandolin or vegetable peeler to create very thin strands and toss with your favourite pasta sauce. Or, try again our beta-carotene rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam soup

5. Sugar Pumpkin – These sweet little pumpkins aren’t just for decoration, they are great in pumpkin spiced smoothies! Check out our favourite recipe for this yummy fall breakfast: An Autumn Smoothie 

What is your favourite squash and how do you use it in your kitchen?

Five Reasons to Shop at the Vancouver Farmers Market

Written by Cooking Journeys, June 07th, 2013
Trout Lake Farmers Market

Visit to Trout Lake Farmers Market

Food is at its finest when it is fresh, local and seasonal. If you haven’t paid a visit to a market yet, here are five reasons why you should!

1. Your health. The most nutrient dense food available to us is at the farmers market! The produce is harvested at the peak of ripeness and most of it is organic or pesticide free. The meat is free range, ethically raised, and free of hormones and antibiotics, and the fish and seafood is sustainable and fresh. Even the baked goods and other treats are made with love in small batches with quality
ingredients. You’ll be doing your body so much good if you start doing at least some of your weekly
shopping at the market.

2. The health of the environment. The easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to shop locally. Why buy apples that were shipped all the way from Argentina when the Okanagan produces some of the most delectable apples in the world? Another green perk is that the market collects food scraps! If you aren’t composting now you can start by bringing your compost to the Food Scrap Drop Spot. For more info on this, visit

3. Community Participation. Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be just another weekly chore. Going to the market gives you a chance to chat with vendors and mingle with people from your
neighbourhood who are passionate about local food. People are in great spirits at the market and it is really nice to feel such a warm sense of community each week.

4. Food Education. It’s amazing what can be learned from a single trip to the farmers market. Did you know that kiwis are grown locally? Or that there is a winter squash named “Turk’s Turban?” Not only will you discover what foods B.C. produces, you will start to understand our growing seasons as well.

5. Epic Snacks. Food trucks are abundant at the farmers market and they put out some of the tastiest fare in the city without the prices of a sit-down restaurant. There are always too many to choose from but my personal favourite is Crêperie La Bohème. Their savoury buckwheat crêpes are out of this world. Get the Ali Baba. Thank me later.

So don’t waste time! Get out there and get some good local grub!
To find the summer farmers market nearest you, check out

Gluten Free Ingredients – My Memory Card

Written by Cooking Journeys, May 29th, 2012

Gluten Free Memory Card

I moved to Canada more than 14 years ago. Ever since, I’ve noticed that something in my organism, or the way I digest my food, has changed dramatically.

One of the hardest things to get used to, was gluten. In Canada, gluten is almost a staple. Whether it’s bread, pasta or baked goods, gluten is everywhere, and in so many of the things we eat.

In Colombia, we are heavy starch eaters, but we don’t have a gluten-heavy diet. Potatoes, yucca, plantains, yams – you name it, if it’s a starch, we probably eat it. We’re also consummate corn eaters. In fact, I’m convinced that if you tested me in a lab, you’d find I’m probably about 70% corn.

But gluten was a new thing, and either I didn’t like it or, more likely, it wasn’t crazy about me. So I started looking more carefully into what gluten is, how our bodies react with it, and where it comes from.

I found friends and clients who followed a 100% wheat- and gluten-free diet, either because of an allergy or an intolerance or because they realized that they felt better. Through them, I started applying what I learned to my own diet.

What I’ve found is that when I eat too much gluten, or gluten that’s been too heavily processed, I can suddenly look (and feel) like I’m 6-months pregnant overnight. When I remove gluten (and dairy) almost completely from my day-to-day meals, my tummy gets flatter, my energy goes up like a rocket and I can actually stay awake past 8:30 p.m.

But we all know how time-consuming it can be to check every ingredient on every label at the supermarket. So to help myself – and now you! – I’ve prepared the following gluten- and wheat-free cheat sheet that I take with me whenever I go shopping:

Always choose baked goods from ancient or sprout grains

Foods that ARE Gluten Free:

  • Amaranth, arrowroot, annatto,
  • Baking soda, buckwheat (beware of buckwheat flour that is combined with other flours),
  • Butter, (beware of additives),
  • Carob flour, cellulose gum (I opt for keeping it out of the list of products I buy) cheeses (beware of blue cheeses such us Roquefort), chickpeas, corn, cream of tartar,
  • Eggs
  • Flax seeds, fruits (plain)
  • Gelatin, guar gum,
  • Herbs,
  • Kasha, roasted buckwheat
  • Maltodextrin (unless derived from barley; In the US, this starch is usually corn; in Europe, it is commonly wheat), masa-harina, meat (plain) millet, MSG (I opt for keeping it out of the list of products I buy)
  • Nut flours (check if the package mention the facilities where they are processed)
  • Pasta (made from rice, corn or quinoa) polenta, potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Rice,
  • Sago, sorghum, sesame seeds, soy, starch,
  • Wheat free tamari (remember that wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free), tapioca, teff,
  • Vegetables (plain)
  • Vinegar (beware of malt vinegar)
  • Xanthan gum

Foods that are NOT Gluten Free:

  • Barley, bulgar, bran
  • Couscous
  • Flours (usually from wheat)
  • Gardein, Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Malt/extract/syrup/vinegar (unless derived from corn – must are derived from barley)
  • Matzo
  • Oats/bran/syrup (Big discussion about organic oats – your choice)
  • Wheat based pasta
  • Rye
  • Seitan, semolina, regular soy sauce, spelt
  • Teriyaki sauce, triticale
  • Udon
  • Wheat/bran/starch/germ

Unusual Foods that MIGHT Contain Wheat or Gluten (Beware!)

  • Low fat or fat free spreads
  • Some canned vegetables
  • Flour thickened sauces, dressings and vinaigrettes
  • Soups (can and from an envelope)
  • Ice creams
  • Pudding
  • Food colouring
  • Binders
  • Modified starches
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Cottage cheese
  • Some herbal teas
  • Instant coffee

Let me know if you have anything I should add to my list!

Beet the Blood Preasure

Written by Cooking Journeys, February 16th, 2012

Winter BeetsHere in winter-locked Canada, beautiful beets are now officially in season!

In addition to being a colourful addition to salads and a great natural sweetener, beets have also recently been found to be a possible treatment for high blood pressure!

People who drank a glass or two of beetroot juice a day (store-bought or homemade) found their blood pressure decreased by up to 10 points.

So if you have hypertension, or just want to remind your taste buds that fresh summer salads are just around the corner – think beets!