Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Perfect NYE Appy? Yes please.

Only a couple days left of 2015...

Time for a gorgeous outfit and some sparkly shoes to ring in the fabulous new year!

Whether you are hosting, going to a party or enjoying a cozy night in...this appetizer recipe for Arancini is perfect.

I personally tested it out at Christmas with rave reviews...To save time day of, I made the risotto the day before and kept it in the fridge until it was time to make the actual rice balls.

Recipes aside, I can't thank you enough for your readership and support in 2015 - I am so grateful to have you in the Picky Diet community.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year...

See you next week for our first Meatless Monday of 2016!

Arancini Appetizer

makes 18 rice balls

4 cups vegetable broth (1 32 oz box), divided
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp Earth Balance
Fresh ground sea salt & pepper to taste
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup all purpose flour (you can use gluten free)
1 cup of breadcrumbs (you can use gluten free)
2 - 3 cups canola oil
tomato sauce for dipping

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.

In a large pot, cook the onion in 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium heat until onion begins to soften. Add rice and stir to coat with oil for about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Begin adding 1/2 cup of the warm broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time and stirring until all the broth is absorbed - about 20 minutes.  

Turn the heat to low and add the nutritional yeast and Earth Balance. Stir to mix everything together and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Chill the risotto in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight. 

Fill one medium bowl with the flour, another medium bowl with the almond milk and a third medium bowl with bread crumbs. Form the chilled risotto into golf ball sized balls and then roll each ball in the flour first, followed by the almond milk and then the bread crumbs so they are well coated. 

In a large frying or sauté pan, heat approximately 1" of canola oil on medium-high until oil reaches 350 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, sprinkle some breadcrumbs into the hot oil and when they sizzle the oil is hot. 

Using tongs, place 4 - 6 balls in the hot oil and cook for about two minutes on each side - turning the balls so that they are golden brown all around. Serve on a platter with warmed tomato sauce for dipping. 


Sending you sunshine, happiness and arancini love,

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Scrumptious Vegan Shortbread

Vegan Shortbread.

I know - doesn't seem right.

But if you love shortbread (ME & most likely the rest of the world), and you don't want to eat inflammatory foods like dairy then you at least have to give it a try...

So I did and I have to say I liked it enough to share the recipe with you.

This recipe is actually also gluten free - which seems like even more of a sin, but honestly delicious.

Might not be the healthiest recipe I have created, but its Christmas and sometimes you need a little shortbread...


Scrumptious Shortbread
1 cup Earth Balance
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer cream the Earth Balance and sugar together until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour 1/2 a cup at a time until well combined. 

Separate the dough into four equal round balls and roll each one into a 1/2" disk. Score the top of each disk into 8 wedges. 

Bake for 22 -25 minutes or until the bottoms are golden. Let them cool and then break them into wedges. 

Sending you sunshine, happiness and vegan shortbread love,

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Tasty Toasted Pecans

Toasted pecans look beautiful, taste amazing and are a perfect snack to put out if you are doing some holiday hosting this season.

Or you end up eating them all with a glass of wine during an evening wrapping session...

Either way - they are super easy to make and unlike many holiday treats they combine a touch of sweetness with all the heath benefits of pecans: fibre, protein, magnesium and iron.


Tasty Toasted Pecans

1 cup pecan halves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Place all ingredients in a medium ziplock plastic bag and shake it baby! Once all the pecans have been covered with the cinnamon and sugar, empty them out onto the parchment paper. Spread them out so none are touching and put them in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch they don't burn. 

Thats it!

Sending you sunshine, happiness and toasted pecan love,

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Picky Peppermint Bark

I love dark chocolate.

Totally delicious and full of healthy antioxidants.

Pair it with peppermint and boom - AMAZING!

Most chocolate barks that show up around the holidays are made with milk chocolate - obviously not an option when you are living dairy-free - and are usually loaded with sugar.

My recipe uses dark chocolate, toasted quinoa for crunch (trust me, its good), pure peppermint and is sprinkled with an all natural crushed candy cane.

As an aside, I found the natural candy canes (meaning they are not artificially  flavoured) at Whole Foods and have spotted them at other health food grocery stores.

This bark is perfect to serve when you are entertaining for the holidays or even to give as a gift - I like to put it in a mason jar wrapped up with pretty ribbon and rosemary.


Picky Peppermint Bark
14 oz bittersweet dark baking chocolate
1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract
1/2 Tbsp quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 all natural candy cane

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the unwrapped candy cane in a ziplock plastic bag and bang it with a large spoon to crush it. Set aside

Fill a medium size soup pot with about 2 inches of water and bring it to a low simmer. Place a heat safe bowl (I use glass) on top of the pot and make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Place the chocolate in the bowl and stir it as it begins to melt.

While the chocolate is melting, put the quinoa in a small sauce pan on medium heat and stir it around with a wire whisk until it is lightly toasted - about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Set aside.

Once the chocolate is 80 percent melted, stir in the peppermint extract.

When the chocolate mixture is completely melted and smooth, pour it onto the parchment paper and spread it out gently so that it is thin and in a rectangle shape. Sprinkle the quinoa into the chocolate, followed by the crushed candy cane. Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once it is completely chilled, break into pieces and serve...aka EAT!

Sending you sunshine, happiness and peppermint bark love,

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Holiday Detox Salad

I don't know about you but I am in full holiday mode!

The past few weeks have been a whole lot of lunches, dinners, parties, shopping, baking, eating, drinking...

And then today I feel my jeans a touch tight, my head a bit foggy, my skin a bit dull.

Can you relate?

I'm completely out of my healthy eating, workout and sleep routine. I'm guessing you are too. And we still have 11 days until Christmas! (I understand some of you will want to stop reading here, realizing there are ONLY 11 days until Christmas and think who has time to deal with vegan food - I have shopping to do! But please read on, today's recipe is quick and easy)

In this super busy, exciting time of the year it is so easy to fall out of our usual healthy habits. Its ok - every day doesn't have to be perfect. And you can stay on track through all these events with a few simple tricks:

-Eat a healthy snack like veggies and hummus or fruit and nuts and drink a big glass of water before going to a holiday party or dinner - this will keep you full and less likely to try every appy known to man!

-If you are drinking, alternate between an alcoholic drink and water to keep you hydrated and to keep you from drinking too much - stick with red wine if you like it since it does contain antioxidants = fun & healthy!

-Choose one dessert that you really love, enjoy it and then be finished. Remember to be empowered about your food decisions - say to yourself  "I could have more dessert if I wanted to but I choose not to" instead of "I can't have any desserts"

And if all else fails make this awesome Holiday Detox Salad for dinner tonight!

Its sweet, savory and full of antioxidants, fibre and clean protein.


Holiday Detox Salad

serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side

~all organic ingredients are preferred
1 large head of red leaf lettuce, torn
1/3 medium red onion, cut into ribbons
1/2 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/2 pear, thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder

In a shallow bowl place the onions, fennel, pecans, kidney beans and pear slices on top of the lettuce.
Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and garlic powder until well combined.
Dress the salad and toss to combine.

Sending you sunshine, happiness and holiday detox love,

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Spaghetti and Lentil "Meatballs"

Spaghetti and meatballs often gets a bad rap...

"Don't eat that pasta...its full of evil carbs"

But lets face it - spaghetti and meatballs is comforting, cozy, Sunday night happy food...

So how can we enjoy it without seeing those meatballs on our hips in the morning? Or feeling like that pasta is still sitting in our belly?...

We "Picky Diet" it up! With quinoa or brown rice pasta, fresh homemade (quick) sauce and "meatballs" made with lentils, quinoa and mushrooms.

Let's see how they compare:

Traditional Meatballs (made with ground beef)
-high in protein
-high in cholesterol
-contains trans fat
-some iron, B vitamins
-may contain hormones
-may contain antibiotics

Picky Diet Lentil "Meatballs"
-high in protein
-cholesterol free
-contains heart healthy fats
-super high in iron and B vitamins
-high in antioxidants
-high in fibre
-high in magnesium
-contains vitamin D

Not sure there is much more to say there so let's start cooking!

This recipe takes a bit longer than my usual ones and is a bit more labour intensive. It makes 12 "meatballs" but you can easily double the recipe and freeze the extras so you do all the work once and enjoy them for many dinners to come.

Spaghetti and Lentil "Meatballs"

serves 4 and makes 12 lentil "meatballs"

Lentil "Meatballs"
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cooked lentils ( 1/2 cup uncooked)
2 cups cooked quinoa ( 3/4 cup uncooked)
8 crimini mushrooms (cut in quarters)
1/2 cup oats
1 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary

Fresh Tomato Sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 28oz can or jar of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
10 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
1 lb of cooked brown rice or quinoa pasta


Lentil "Meatballs"
Cook the lentils and quinoa separately according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium low heat and sauté the garlic and onions until soft. While the onions are cooking, put the mushrooms in a food processor or blender and pulse to mince them. Once minced, add them to the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. 

Add the cooked quinoa and lentils to the pot and mix well. Add in tomato paste, nutritional yeast, vinegar and herbs. Pulse the oats and walnuts lightly in a food processor or blender until they are ground, but not a powder and add them to the mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes until all ingredients are warm and well mixed. 

Form the mixture into 2" balls (like the size of a golf ball) and place them on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes until they are browned. Serve with pasta and fresh tomato sauce or on their own dipped in tomato sauce. 

Fresh Tomato Sauce
Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium low heat for 5 - 7 minutes until the onions are very tender. Add in the fresh tomatoes and oregano and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes begin to reduce to a sauce. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and basil and cook for another 15 - 20 minutes. Top the cooked pasta with the sauce, add a few "meatballs" and enjoy!

Sending you sunshine, happiness and lentil meatball love,

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