Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday that holds special appeal for tree-loving nature worshippers like me. It is described as a new year for the trees, and while it coincides with spring in the middle east, here in Toronto it is celebrated in the depths of winter, providing a welcome festive focus to January or February.

Friends of mine host a Tu Bishvat seder dinner every year. We start by going around the table and sharing which is our favourite kind of tree and why. I always have trouble choosing, but will pick one to highlight some of the medicine trees have to offer, like willow or hawthorn. They ask each guest to bring a food contribution in keeping with the tree theme.

I have brought this dish for several years. It is a yummy salad, providing a perfect counterpoint to rich winter food with its nutrient-dense ingredients, and bitter, sweet, and fresh flavours. But more tree-relevantly, it contains the fruit of two trees (avocado, pomegranate), the nuts of one tree (pecan), and the heart of another (palm). It also happens to feature red and green, making it in keeping with the colour theme of a certain December holiday 🙂 In our household, we think it pairs well with roast for Christmas dinner, too!

Consider this salad for a festive occasion in your life this winter.

arugulaPecanspomegranate on boardavocado1

Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free


  • 1 box baby arugula or 2 bunches arugula, washed & chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into quarter rounds
  • 1 can heart of palm, drained and sliced in rounds
  • 1 medium haas avocado, diced
  • Seeds of 1/2 -1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and toss well with dressing to coat.

For pretty presentation, toss arugula with dressing before adding the other ingredients artfully into the serving bowl or individual salad bowls.


  • Olive oil – ~1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice – ~1 lemon
  • Dijon mustard – ~ 2 tsp
  • Sea salt – ~ 1 tsp
  • Maple Syrup – ~2 tsp
  • Garlic, pressed – ~ 1 small clove

Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake to emulsify.

Taste and adjust quantities as needed to please your palate.

Bring on Spring / Lettuce is Boring Radicchio & Parsley Salad

In keeping with the seasons, I don’t eat much in the way of raw salad-type vegetables in the winter.parsley-bunch This salad was an exception last winter, during the first trimester of my pregnancy. It is a great break from boxed mixed greens, and is packed full of fresh flavour and fantastic nutrition. Also, it answers the eternal question of what to do with the rest of the bunch of parsley when you use 1 tbsp in a recipe. Now you know: make salad!

If you haven’t used radicchio before, it is the pretty little purple hued vegetable in the lettuce radicchiosection of the produce store. It is classified as a bitter (but i think it sweet as well), making it an excellent ally to digestion and liver function.

This salad is: Liver Loving, Energizing, Detox-supporting, Cleanse-friendly, Nutrient-dense, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free (it is a salad!), Nightshade Free (if you omit the red pepper), Nut-free, and most importantly, Tasty.




½ a head of radicchio, chopped

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

1 bunch/bag of spinach, stemmed (optional)

½ an English cucumber, sliced or cubed

1 red pepper, chopped



Juice of ~1 lemon

Olive oil ~1/3 cup

Celtic Sea Salt ~1 tsp

Optional: 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard; 1 clove garlic, pressed


Wash all vegetables well. Add the first two or three ingredients to a salad bowl and mix. Top with cucumber and pepper.


Mix dressing ingredients in small jar, close lid and shake to blend. Dressing ratio should be approx. 2/3 lemon juice to 1/3 oil, or half and half if you prefer a less acidic dressing. Adjust ingredients to taste.


Pour dressing over salad, toss, serve.


This salad is a great accompaniment to zucchini-salmon fritters or beef & lamb koftas.

“I drink milk for my bones”

 Dr Mahalia Freed ND, nutritional myth-buster

I regularly encounter the myth that we need dairy products for healthy bones. My clients tell me they don’t want to give up dairy, as osteoporosis runs in their family. Or, they tell me, “I don’t want to do that to my kids”.

Let me set the record straight: you don’t need milk products for healthy bones!

Adults don’t need dairy, kids don’t need dairy.

But, don’t I need calcium? Don’t my kids need calcium?

Yup. And many other minerals.

You don’t need milk products to get calcium!

As stated by researchers in a recent (July 2013) editorial in JAMA Paediatrics, “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet.”

But I thought I needed milk products for healthy bones!

Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis” (Ludwig D and Willett W. 2013).

Furthermore, “Milk consumption increases serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1, an anabolic hormone linked to prostate and other cancers” (ibid). Why increase cancer risk? Or the risk of type 1 diabetes, also associated with dairy intake?

Ludwig and Willett conclude: “For those with high quality diets (including green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and adequate protein), the nutritional benefits of high milk consumption may not outweigh the negative consequences.”

Milk, it doesn’t necessarily do your body good. You don’t need it, and neither do your kids.

More info on bones, calcium, and health:

What do I do for healthy bones?

Where (else) can I get calcium?

Healthy bones need which nutrients?

Sesame Broccoli with Arame & Daikon

(Mahalia’s Recipe)

This recipe is a simple “side” that integrates a sea vegetable, Arame.  With the classic Japanese flavors of toasted sesame with soy sauce, this broccoli dish will disappear fast. Perfect to accompany broiled/roasted tempeh, fish or chicken with ginger-tamari marinade, this dish is fancy enough for a party and easy enough to be part of a weekday meal.


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Lentil-Walnut Pate

Red Lentil-Walnut Pate

From Christina Pirello’s fantastic macrobiotic-style cookbook, “Cooking The Whole Food Way”

“This dip is rich and delicious, and will disappear fast at a party.”

“Pan-toasting the nuts instead of oven-roasting them gives a better flavour for this dish.”



Lentil Walnut Pate @ Real Food Daily, Los Angeles
Photo by IronChefVegan

  • 2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed well
  • 1 (2 inch) piece wakame, soaked and diced (I just crumble it and throw it in)
  • 4 cups spring or filtered water
  • Soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Generous pinch dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces, lightly pan-toasted
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Umeboshi vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar



Place lentils, wakame, and water in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until lentils are very creamy. Season lightly with soy sauce (or sea salt) and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and basil and cook, stirring, 3-4 minutes or until softened. Set aside.

Transfer cooked beans, vegetables, walnuts, parsley and a dash of soy sauce (or salt) to a food processor (or add everything to the lentil pot & use a handblender). Puree until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a serving bowl and lightly sprinkle with umeboshi and balsamic vinegars. Mix well and serve surrounded with crackers or toast points. Delicious on slices of daikon radish.

Makes 6 to 8 servings



Happy Soup (aka Nettle & Fiddlehead Soup)

Happy Soup

Seriously, this is the happiest soup I’ve ever made or had the pleasure of consuming. There is no other way to describe it. Perhaps it is partially the virtuousness I feel, eating local, wildcrafted herbs & greens in season. Mostly, though, it is just a great, simple soup. Click here to learn more about nettles (and allergies), and here for more about fiddleheads.


(Based on the suggestion of the Friendly Happy Guy from Forbes Wild Foods at Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market)


  • 1/2 pound fresh local fiddleheads, soaked and rinsed in a bowl of water several times, ends cut off.
  • 1 heaping, packed colander full of fresh wild stinging nettles, stems removed (remember to wear your gloves to avoid the sting!). (Sorry, didn’t weigh the nettles)
  • 2 onions, chopped (plus green onion, or the green shoots growing off an old onion if that happens in your house)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2-4 cups stock (I used veggie stock)
  • Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper


Saute onions & garlic in olive oil until tender. Add water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add cleaned fiddleheads and continue sauteing. Add a bit of stock. Wait a minute or few. Add nettles. Pour stock over nettles, and add water to just barely cover the greens. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, swirling/stirring to make sure nettles get wilted. About 10 minutes in, add the green onion. Add sea salt and maybe pepper. Blend. (I use a handblender, right into the hot soup in the pot).

Enjoy Happy Soup!

PS: some internet recipes for nettle soup swirl in cream at the end, but i really think this soup needs no enhancement.

Spice Things Up Quinoa & Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Vegan, gluten-free

This salad is build around a spicy cilantro pesto recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. Thank you, Lorna, for the many tasty meals you have contributed to since I bought this book in 1999! Find her book here: http://lornasass.com/cookbooks/complete-vegetarian-kitchen It is a valuable kitchen resource for tasty and wholesome vegan meal ideas, or for a primer on how to cook beans or grains, or how to assemble an awesome salad, every time.

  • 1 batch Cilantro Pesto (recipe below)
  • 1 can black beans (Eden is BPA-free) or 2 cups cooked black beans (about 1 cup soaked and simmered)
  • 1 cup raw quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk broccoli, cut into bite size florets/pieces and steamed
  • sprouts if you have some on hand
  • avocado if you have some on hand
  • whatever other veggie you are inspired to add

Cook quinoa in 2 cups of water with a bit of salt. While quinoa is cooking, chop veggies and put into salad bowl, leaving the avocado aside. Make the pesto. Remember that quinoa cooks faster than rice and take it off the heat when it is done (about 15-20 minutes)! Letting it sit with the lid on for a few minutes helps make it fluffy. Combine all ingredients (except avocado) and toss. Add avocado to individual bowls.

Serve warm for a 1-bowl week-night dinner, and pack up leftovers for a delicious – if garlicky – lunch.

“Coriander Pesto”

From Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen

Cilantro is not only delicious, and cleanse-friendly, it also supports detoxification as it nourishes.

Note from Lorna: Great served over plain boiled beans or grains, or on bean and grain salads.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, approximately
  • 1 cup tightly packed minced fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or sunflower seeds, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove minced fresh garlic (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  1. In a food processor or jar, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Use immediately or store in a well-sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  3. Makes 1/3 cup