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Black Bean Brownie Bites

Black Bean Brownie Bites

Black Bean Brownie Bites

This fun little recipe reminds me of two-bite brownies, but I used a regular sized muffin tin to make them so they are probably more like a 3 or 4 bite brownie! Black beans are incorporated for added fibre and protein.

  • 1 (16oz) can black beans
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips melted

Topping:

  • 1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup walnuts finely chopped
Black Bean Brownie Bites prepared in a silicone tray

Combine all ingredients (except the last 2 topping ingredients) in a food processor and blend until smooth. Divide evenly into a 12-cup silicone muffin tray. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely, then pop out and enjoy!

How do you enjoy brownies? With ice cream or as is?

See also Chocolate Almond Brownies.

Cauliflower Hummus

Cauliflower Hummus

Cauliflower Hummus

I’m one of those people that loves hummus, but has to be careful how much I eat – you know what I mean right?… the effects of beans! I love to add beans to many of my dishes but a few too many can create a bit too much gas and that can be embarrassing! This dish helps solve that problem by incorporating cauliflower instead of beans. It’s pretty similar in texture and I think tastes pretty good too…

  • One head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 to 2 tsp canola oil to drizzle
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil

 

Wash cauliflower florets then drain. Place in large bowl and lightly coat in canola oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place evenly on a parchment covered baking sheet and roast at 375F until tender, about 25 minutes. Flip halfway to ensure even cooking. Or use my Roasted Cauliflower recipe.

Once cauliflower has roasted and mostly cooled, add to food processor along with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Stop and scrape the sides to make sure everything is incorporated. If needed, add more water for thinner hummus. Keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools. Keep stored in covered container in fridge for several days. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

What types of hummus have you tried?

You might also like Easy Guacamole and Black Bean Avocado Salsa.

Another recipe that is sneaky and uses cauliflower is my Fettuccini Alfredo. Try it and let me know what you think…

Black Bean Avocado Salsa

Black Bean Avocado Salsa

Black Bean Avocado Salsa

This is a great recipe to prepare for a party or gathering. It’s full of lots of colour and phytochemicals to give you a nutritious appetizer or snack. Bring this to a pool party this summer and everyone will be asking you for the recipe!

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 1 (16oz or 400mL) can black beans
  • 2 to 3 medium tomatoes, diced & water squeezed out
  • 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 to 2 avocados, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro or parsley
  • ¼ cup green onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • juice of 1 lime (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 jalapeno finely diced or
  • 3 to 4 dashes Tabasco (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Combine all salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Combine all dressing ingredients in a measuring jug and stir. Pour evenly over salsa then stir to evenly coat. Keeps well in the fridge for a few days and might even be better the second day. After storing, stir it up to make sure all the salsa is coated in dressing. Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

What do you put in your salsa? Leave your comments below…

You might also like Artichoke Spinach Dip and Easy Guacamole.

Strawberry Fruity Smoothie

Strawberry Fruity Smoothie

Strawberry Fruity Smoothie

This fruity smoothie can be adjusted to whatever you have on hand or whatever is in season. It’s refreshing for first thing in the morning and can even be enjoyed as a healthy snack.

  • half a banana
  • half a naval orange
  • 1 small kiwi including skin
  • ½ cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • ½ Tbsp Maca powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mango

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

What do you put in your smoothie?

 

Newfoundland Part Two

Newfoundland Part Two

Newfoundland – Part 2

Jellybean Row House mailbox

One of the best parts of visiting Newfoundland is meeting the locals. They are warm, welcoming and hospitable! Newfoundland’s people are from varying backgrounds but predominantly from European origin like England and Ireland. There are also some pockets of French and Scots and some aboriginals. St. John’s has a lot of Irish heritage and throughout the province you may notice some different dialects. It’s fun to hear the accents and unique phrases and try to interpret what they are saying! You can even buy a Newfoundland slang dictionary! But no matter where they originated, Newfies are a friendly bunch, perhaps because they must rely on each other when times get tough.

Gander Airport on September 11, 2001

Their true colours were shown during the Canada’s Yellow Ribbon Operation on September 11, 2001 when civilian airlines were diverted to Canadian airports during the attack on the USA. Newfoundlanders opened their homes and hearts to help 38 planes full of 6,122 passengers and 472 crew stranded in Gander while planes were grounded when US airspace was shut down. This made such an impression that a musical production was recently made called “Come From Away”.

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, St. John’s
St. John’s Harbour
Jellybean Row Houses

Labour in the province was at one time primarily fishing. Since the decline of the fishing industry, Newfoundland’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Canada, and at times was double the national average. Cod fishing is now limited and the industry is now primarily shellfish. Other industry includes pulp & paper mills, hydroelectricity and iron ore mines, off-shore oil drilling and, of course, tourism.

Cape Spear Lighthouse

In addition to the incredible scenery, the arts play a large role in the experience of the province. The art and culture is well known within Canada. The comedy group CODCO including the likes of Mary Walsh, Bob Joy, Cathy Jones to name a few, became a local sensation with their Newfoundland sense of humour and inspired a whole generation of comedians and political satirists including Rick Mercer, Mark Critch and Shawn Majumder. One of Newfoundland’s esteemed songwriter’s is Ron Hynes and groups such as The Irish Descendants and Great Big Sea have recorded his songs. Celtic and folk music is a staple in the Newfoundland scene. When in St. John’s, just stop by any pub along George Street to take in the sounds of local musicians. You can also experience local groups and musicians in almost any small town pub. There are also dinner theatres throughout the province showcasing local talent. If you’d rather not go to a pub, try the Resource Centre for the Arts.

Quidi Vidi Fishing Village

There is so much to see and do that it is hard to fit everything into 10 days. Really you could go back and have an entirely different itinerary the next time! But I think we lucked out not only in weather, but also for timing of events and activities. Here’s an outline of our trip:

Our 10-day Itinerary:

For our 10 day trip we opted to leave out some of the suggested landmarks due to driving distances. L’Anse aux Meadows was one and the other was more of the Avalon Peninsula (down to Cape St. Mary’s). These both require staying overnight, but you could easily extend this itinerary to 2-weeks to include these areas. Note that at each location there are lovely hiking trails.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • Drive to Twillingate
  • Long Point Lighthouse, see icebergs

Day 5

  • Iceberg boat tour, eat fresh seafood
  • Drive to St. John’s

Day 6

  • Explore downtown & harbour in St. John’s on foot
  • Tour Canada C3, Water & Duckworth Streets, Terry Fox Memorial Mile 0, Jellybean Row Houses
  • Signal Hill, Ocean Sciences Centre

Day 7

Day 8

  • Whale & Puffin Tour (Gatherall’s)
  • Explore small towns along the coast (Witless Bay, Mobile, Tors Cove)
  • Cape Spear (most easterly point) see whales
  • Take in a comedy show

Day 9

  • Explore northern shore starting at Holyrood
  • Conception Bay South, Portugal Cove, Pouch Cove, Torbay

Day 10

  • Visit Cape Spear one last time
  • Fly home direct from St. John’s
Humpback Whale feeding on capelin

What to take:

In addition to the usual travel items and clothing, make sure to include:

  • Good footwear for walking and hiking
  • Rain gear
  • Binoculars
  • Good camera
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Federal park pass
Living creatures at the Ocean Sciences Centre

Things to do:

  • Deer Lake
    • Stop by the lake and see the fly fishermen in action
    • Insectarium
    • Big Falls at Sir Richard Squires Memorial Park
  • Gros Morne National Park
    • Rocky Harbour (great place to stay)
    • Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse
    • Cow Head dinner theatre
    • Western Brook Pond Tour
    • Green Garden Trail
    • The Tablelands
    • L’Anse aux Meadows (overnight trip)
  • Other Areas south of Gros Morne
    • Corner Brook
    • Channel-Port aux Basques
  • Twillingate
    • Iceberg boat tour
    • Long Point lighthouse
  • Other areas en route to St. John’s
    • Fogo Island
    • Gander
    • Grand Falls-Windsor
    • Bonavista
    • Terra Nova National Park
    • Dungeon Provincial Park
    • Sherwink Trail
  • St. John’s
    • Signal Hill & Cabot Tower
    • Johnson GEO Centre
    • Jellybean Row Houses
    • The Rooms Museum
    • Basilica Cathedral
    • Terry Fox Monument
    • Memorial University Botanical Gardens
    • Quidi Vidi Fishing Village
    • Cape Spear Lighthouse
    • Bell Island Mine Museum
    • Whale & Puffin Tour
    • Conception Bay coastal drive
    • Avalon Peninsula
    • East Coast Trail (any part)
    • Ferryland (picnic by the lighthouse)
    • Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (overnight trip)

 

Newfoundland is indeed a very special place…

What’s your favourite part of Newfoundland?

 

See Newfoundland Part One

Visit Newfoundland’s Official Tourism Website

Newfoundland – Part One

Newfoundland – Part One

Newfoundland – Part 1

Newfoundland is an island, which is part of the province known as Newfoundland and Labrador. It is Canada’s most eastern province, where the sun rises first. It is also home to the oldest settlement yet it is Canada’s youngest province. With vast amounts of land and one of the lowest populations, it is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll every meet. You can experience its natural wonders with stunning cliffs, whales & icebergs as well as the mountain ranges, rivers, waterfalls and winding coastlines by immersing yourself in outdoor adventures like hiking, boating and kayaking. You can embrace its vibrant culture through the quaint coastal villages, meeting the locals and taking part in theatre and musical shows. Go to Newfoundland to witness the spirit of close-knit communities whose hospitality endures to this day.

Newfoundland was on my bucket list and I can’t believe it took me so long to get there, but am I ever glad I did! To get to the island of Newfoundland it is easiest to fly (into Deer Lake, Gander or St. John’s), but you can also drive and take the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Channel-Port aux Basques (south-west).

Map of Newfoundland

There are four distinct regions of Newfoundland:

  • West coast – dominated by the table-top long-range mountains, formed by glaciers with fjords and home to Gros Morne National Park
  • Interior – more plateau-like with undulations and large rivers
  • North coast – comprised of many bays, coves and islands and the best place to view icebergs
  • South coast – includes areas like the Avalon Peninsula, with deep cliffs, with more vegetation inland and many coves and bays along the shoreline – home to migratory birds
A small coastal village
Long Point Lighthouse
Geological Site at Green Point

The climate varies considerably and Newfoundlander’s themselves recommend visiting during July-August (unless you want to experience winter!). If you want to see icebergs they suggest end of June, beginning of July. It can vary year to year; some years there are several icebergs, but other years very few. The best way to see the province is to drive. The people are very friendly and you will feel right at home! Stay in Bed & Breakfast accommodations especially on the west side within Gros Morne National Park. They will give you a welcoming place to stay and lots of excellent advice on where to go and what to see. You’ll want to book a few months in advance, especially in the touristy areas like Gros Morne National Park. Two B&B’s I can highly recommend are Sea Breeze B&B in Cow Head, run by Robert & Roberta and also Candlelight B&B in Rocky Harbour run by Peter & Diane. You will also need to purchase an entrance pass for the park to get to both Rocky Harbour and Cow Head. Cow Head is farther north up the coast from Rocky Harbour and also home to Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) and this is where we experienced the S. S. Ethie dinner theatre show where the actors even served dinner!

Western Brook Pond walk
Western Brook Pond

While staying in Gros Morne National Park, we thoroughly enjoyed the Western Brook Pond boat tour run by Bon Tours. The staff were incredibly organized, knowledgeable and entertaining and we thought it was excellent value. Be aware that space needs to be pre-booked well in advance to ensure a spot. There is the chance that it may not depart depending on fog and weather. Get in touch with BonTours to make sure the trip is still on. There is also a 3km pleasant trail walk through a bog to get to the departure point, which is where you pay for the tickets. If you are really adventurous you can arrange to be dropped at a dock the end of the 16km boat ride and hike through the forest for 3 days to get back! I heard this was extremely buggy very few people choose to do this. Nobody on our boat got off and we were quite happy to stay on the boat!

View from walking trail at Bonne Bay

Go for a walk on any of the trails within Gros Morne National Park and learn about the geology and history of the area. With so many to choose from, Gros Morne has a hike that’s perfect for everyone. Check out the Parks Canada website for descriptions of each trail and a table showing difficulty levels. If you’re still not sure, stop by the Visitor Information Centre for advice. Some of the most popular trails include Green Point coastal trail, Lobster Cove Head trail, Baker’s Brook Falls, Tablelands and Lookout. There are also lots of walking trails around the small towns including Rocky Harbour and each spots has it’s own unique vistas. Depending on the weather conditions, make sure to take layered clothing, a hat, bug spray and rain jacket, good walking shoes and water to drink. The weather can change quite quickly, according to the locals. We had mixed skies including sun, cloud, fog but it never rained more than a sprinkle or light mist. When the sun came out it felt hot.

Newfoundland’s provincial flower – the Pitcher Plant
Wild lupins at the side of the road

The provincial flower is the purple pitcher plant, which is used in their logo and on their car licence plates. We spotted it twice: along the 3km walk in to the Western Brook Pond boat tour as well as at the Memorial University Botanical Gardens in St. John’s. As you drive around the province you will also notice wild lupins along the side of the roads adding lovely colour. They were especially noticeable on the road to Twillingate. There are also many, many walking trails all throughout the province, each offering their own special vistas with endless opportunities for that special photo. But nothing comes close to being there. No photo or video can replicate the feeling of standing on a dramatic, rocky cliff looking out to the sea, with the sun shining on your face, the wind blowing your hair while you hear the humpback whales blow as they feed offshore.

Icebergs off the coast of Twillingate

Newfoundland’s rich history is honoured in several national parks:

We chose to omit the overnight trip to L’Anse aux Meadows simply due to lack of time. From Rocky Harbour it is about 4 hours drive so you’d really need an extra night to do this. It will be on the list for our next visit! It is the oldest Viking settlement in North America so rich in history and a well-known historical interest point. It’s also another really great place to spot icebergs.

Dramatic sunset near Twillingate

For more information see Newfoundland – Part 2

…including details about St. John’s, a travel itinerary, things to do/see and what not to forget to take…

 

Visit Newfoundland’s Official Tourism Website

 

 

Watermelonade

Watermelonade

Watermelonade

Ahhhh…. on those hot summer days, imagine lying back relaxing by the lake or pool, the sun streaming down and the soft summer breeze on your face, with a cool refreshing drink in your hand…. Watermenonade – a nice twist on lemonade with the addition of watermelon.

  • 1/2 small watermelon cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 5 lemons (about 1 cup juice)
  • 4 cups cold water or more
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple flakes or maple sugar
  • 1 tray of ice cubes

 

Add watermelon to a high-powered blender and pulse until well pureed. Strain through a mesh strainer (optional) and pour the juice into a pitcher. Juice the lemons (about 1 cup) and add to pitcher along with water. Add sugar to desired sweetness. Store in refrigerator or serve immediately over ice and garnish with slice of lemon. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite summer drink?

See also my tangy Mango Smoothie

Artichoke Spinach Dip

Artichoke Spinach Dip

Artichoke Spinach Dip

Enjoy this delicious dip warm or cold (my preference is warm). A great recipe to share with friends and is quite simple to prepare. The original recipe is from one of my favourite Canadian chefs, Dreena Burton. I’ve updated it by not blending the spinach in but rather finely chopping it and mixing it by hand.

  • ¾ cup raw cashews (unsoaked)
  • 1-2 medium-large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk (almond)
  • 5-3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups artichoke hearts
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves

 

Preheat oven to 425F. In blender add cashews, garlic, salt, mustard, black pepper, milk and lemon juice. Blend until very smooth. Add half of artichokes and pulse through – in order to keep some chunky texture. Chop remaining artichokes and all of the spinach.   In large bowl, combine artichokes and spinach with cashew mixture, mixing well. Transfer to an ovenproof (lightly greased) baking dish and bake for 17-20 minutes until lightly golden on top. Serve warm with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

What dish to you take to a potluck meal?

See more recipes here.

Gardening

Gardening

Gardening – is it good for you?

Do you like to putter in the garden? I tend to start on one task and then see other things that need to be done so end up spending more time in the garden than I first intended. Gardening can really draw you in and before you know it, a couple of hours have gone by!

Gardening is an excellent way to get some fresh air in addition to increasing physical activity with exercise. Gardening involves digging, pulling weeds, planting, spreading compost, trimming bushes and trees, raking, mowing and even moving rocks. It includes movements like bending, lifting, reaching, pushing and is a great way to enjoy staying fit without doing an organized sport. The benefits of gardening can increase muscle and bone strength, can lower blood pressure and even be a stress reliever. It is fun and creative and has many positive health benefits.

Some benefits of gardening include:

  • Encouraging relaxation & stress release
  • Improving physical fitness
  • Strengthening muscles and joints
  • Increasing hand dexterity
  • Preventing falls by improving balance
  • Improving mental well-being
  • Connecting with nature
  • Incorporating family fun and/or community involvement
  • Producing delicious, nutritious food
  • Encouraging creativity
  • Allowing for Puttering

If you are limited for space, you can start with a simple container garden on your balcony or within your kitchen window. Otherwise you can work with anything from a simple container on your deck to a small garden patch or even a large patch in your backyard. To be involved within your community, investigate shared gardens within your neighbourhood.

Swallowtail butterfly
Ruby-throated hummingbird

Gardens can attract wildlife like butterflies, bees and birds, which help fertilize colourful flowers and they become an integral part of the well being of your garden. It becomes an interactive place and an opportunity to learn about various species.

Gardening tools

To get started there are a few tools you may need such as:

  • Spade
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Watering can or hose
  • Twine
  • Broom
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Kneeling pad
  • Sunhat and sunscreen
  • Clippers
  • Weeder
  • Shears

Consider also:

  • Bird feeder
  • Bird bath
  • Ornamental objects
  • Lighting
  • Pathways
  • Outside seating

 

Starting out as a novice can seem daunting but also exciting! There can be so much to learn but the best way is to get your hands dirty and just start. With practice we become more experienced and we can learn by reading and simply with trial and error. When I first created a garden at my first home, I didn’t have much money but started small. We grew veggies from seed and purchased what we could afford. Sometimes you can get cuttings from neighbours, friends or a neighbourhood garage sale. Then when you become more experienced you can experiment with more unusual or exotic plants. You can also share you experience with other novice gardeners and even donate or sell clippings of your own. It really can become a great neighbourhood community builder.

Vertical container garden

In addition to getting your hands dirty by manipulating plants, it also gets you thinking creatively and gets the blood pumping. By combining creative mental thinking with physical movements, it helps maintain physical stamina and keep the mind active at the same time. Doing this along with a family member or neighbour requires teamwork and is a great overall activity to support your health in so many ways. I really love this activity and there is always so much to do that it is easy to get carried away once I start! This is a great way to get “lost puttering”. This spontaneous way of working from one task to another allows the mind to rest from a routine schedule and keeps our minds active while still being imaginative. The physical work involved with gardening can be limited to our own activity level. It is rewarding to produce beautiful flowering plants as well as nutritious, organic food we can ultimately consume.

Gardening has so many benefits and is an excellent activity at any age. It is something that can be enjoyed in almost any climate (perhaps only in summer months in certain areas) but also indoors.

My own backyard

My garden includes mostly perennials (plants that grow back each year), trees and shrubs along with a few herbs. I have a container with some tomato plants and I hope to spend even more time planting, growing and nurturing new plants in my retirement. I also have a few pots of herbs indoors for cooking.

What do you have in your garden?

Please leave your comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

Read also about Bird Watching and Go Outside!

Asparagus Potato Salad

Asparagus Potato Salad

Asparagus Potato Salad

This is a great dish to serve at a barbeque or picnic! Served cold, it can be cool and refreshing. Served warm, is comforting! I love the creamy avocado dressing…

  • 2 pounds mini potatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Dressing:

  • ½ cup ripe avocado
  • ½ Tbsp dried dill or 1 Tbsp fresh dill
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 400F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Wash and prepare potatoes. I like to cut them in half depending on their size. In large bowl, add mini potatoes and drizzle with 2 tsp of canola oil. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper and toss again. Spread evenly over one baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes flipping half way. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned.

Next wash asparagus then cut each stem into about 3 pieces, discarding woody ends. Place into bowl and drizzle with 1 tsp of canola oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on 2nd baking sheet. Add asparagus to oven during the last 10 minutes of the potatoes roasting.

For the dressing, in a medium bowl, mash avocado. Add lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add roasted potatoes and asparagus and coat well. Serve right away warm or allow to cool, then store in sealed container in fridge. This recipe can be enjoyed warm or cool!

Do you like this dish warm or cool?

Try also Broccoli Salad or Thai Crunch Salad

Adapted from an original recipe from Oh She Glows cookbook.