Luisa Rios' Kitchen Notebook

Archive for the 'Ingredients A-Z' 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?

Thanksgiving – A Time to Try Something New!

Written by Cooking Journeys, October 13th, 2013
Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Thanksgiving is almost here and our tummies are already grumbling at the thought of a juicy turkey with crispy, golden skin and a rich, creamy pumpkin pie.

We all look forward to these comforting holiday classics, but why not spice up your Thanksgiving spread a bit by trying a new side dish?

This recipe highlights gorgeous local fall produce and is sure to add new colours and flavours to your Thanksgiving spread. We love how the sweet, earthy flavours of the squash and beets intensify as they roast in the oven. The toasty hazelnuts in the citrus-scented gremolata add a nice crunch while the parsley and orange zest lend bright, herby notes to the dish, making it simply irresistible.

We are fairly confident that if you try it this year, this may just become one of your go-to holiday dishes.

From our kitchen to yours, have a happy (and delicious) Thanksgiving!

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Celebrate the sweet flavours of the British Columbia’s harvest with this comforting and festive side dish.

Serves: 4


For the roasted veggies:

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into a 1” dice

3 large beets, peeled and cut into a 1” dice

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the gremolata:

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skin removed and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons orange zest, finely chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



1. Preheat oven to 375?F and line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Place chopped squash in a large bowl and add toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and half of the rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet. Repeat with the beets and arrange the other sheet so they don’t discolour the squash.

3. Roast veggies for 40-55 minutes, or until tender and nicely caramelized.

4. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Lightly cook the chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil to remove a bit of its sharpness. Combine all ingredients for the gremolata in a small bowl and mix well.

5. To serve, arrange veggies side by side in two rows on a platter and top with spoonfuls of gremolata. Alternately, serve the gremolata alongside.


*Note: The gremolata is a great condiment for a variety of seasonal vegetables and even meats or fish. Try swapping the orange zest for lemon or grapefruit zest and experiment with different nuts!


Vitamin A Autumn Soup

Written by Cooking Journeys, September 20th, 2013

Guest Blog by Cooking Journeys sous-chef (soon to be R.H.N.) Courtney Schwegel

I’m in week two of my holistic nutrition course and we are delving into the vast world of vitamins. As part of a recent project, I created a recipe inspired by the amazing Vitamin A.

Orange and yellow pigmented veggies like the yams and butternut squash in this recipe are rich in beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A found in plant foods. Butter made from the cream of grass-fed cows gives this soup unctuousness as well as an extra powerful Vitamin A kick! The pumpkin seeds, high in zinc and protein, aid in the absorption and storage of all those gorgeous carotenoids.

This soup (well, the Vitamin A in it anyways) has been known to enhance overall eye-health, promote healing from infection and illness, encourage normal menstruation, help combat skin problems like psoriasis and acne, and even assist in preventing cancer. Consume and enjoy at your own benefit!


Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Serves: 4


1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 medium yam, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 medium onion, sliced into wedges

1.5 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

1.5 tablespoons fresh thyme

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

Water, as needed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons grass-fed, organic butter (or olive oil)

½ cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Toss together the chopped squash, yam and onion in a large bowl and dress with herbs, sea salt and black pepper and coconut oil. Transfer to baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Give the veggies a toss and pop them back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until they are very tender and nicely caramelized.

3. Transfer the cooked veggies to a large pot and add just enough water to cover. Add cayenne pepper and blend (either using an immersion hand blender or an upright blender) until very smooth. Add more water until desired consistency is reached. Taste and toss in some more herbs if you’d like.

4. Before serving, bring soup to a boil. Incorporate the butter or olive oil to achieve a velvety texture (you may want to add more) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve heaping helpings topped with pumpkin seeds. For even more of a carotenoid boost this soup can be accompanied by a spinach salad jewelled with orange segments.

*Courtney Schwegel is my holistic cooking companion – A firm believer that food is the best medicine for both our bodies and our souls, Courtney is  following her passion for delicious, healthy meals by pursuing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a Reg­is­tered Holistic Nutritionist.

Wild About Zucchini Cakes!

Written by Cooking Journeys, August 26th, 2013
Gluten-Free Savoury Zucchini Cakes

Savoury Zucchini Cakes

At Cooking Journeys, all of our clients have very different food preferences. Some have gone gluten free, for one reason or another, some don’t eat mushrooms, some are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, and others are vegan.  You name it, we’ve cooked it. Italian Cannelloni without pasta? Sure. Meat-free bacon? No problem.

Despite all the varied dietary needs, we’ve found a winner of a recipe that is insanely popular with everyone. And since zucchini season is in full swing, we want to share this with you now.

Go grab a pound of zucchini (or more, as you might want to double or even triple this recipe, it’s so darn good) and get cookin’!

Savoury Zucchini Cakes Recipe

(adapted from


1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 large egg OR 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water)

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup Bob’s Red Mill™ Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

½ teaspoon gluten free baking powder

Olive oil, for frying


1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grate zucchini using the large holes on a box grater. Season with the salt and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes to draw the excess moisture out of the zucchini.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking powder and black pepper in a small bowl.

4. Using a kitchen towel or clean hands, squeeze the water out of the zucchini and place in a large bowl. Add egg or flax egg, garlic and scallions and mix well. Add in the flour mixture. You may want to fry a tester cake to check your salt levels at this point; alternatively you can salt the cakes as soon as they come out of the frying pan.

5. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. When the oil ripples, spoon rounds into the pan, about two tablespoons worth, flattening slightly. Fry until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side) and remove from pan to a parchment-lined baking tray. When all the cakes have been fried, bake for 10 minutes, flipping them after five minutes.

6. Remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy warm, at room temperature or cold. All are equally delicious!