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Grilled Asparagus & Sweet Potato with Chimichurri

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Grilled AsparagusLocally-grown asparagus is finally available here in Ontario! As an asparagus afficionado, I’m super-excited. My parents used to grow asparagus in their garden and I have fond memories of my mom making the most scrumptious asparagus tarts with béchamel sauce and Swiss cheese. I’m too lazy a cook to make pastry and béchamel myself but I do enjoy dining on asparagus as often as possible while it is in season.

And one of my favourite ways to serve these verdant spears is grilled and drizzled with a garlicky dressing chock full of fresh herbs. This recipe for Grilled Asparagus & Sweet Potato with Chimichurri fits the bill.

If you aren’t a fan of sweet potato, feel free to omit it or use any other vegetable suitable for grilling.  Bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant work well. I also really enjoy grilling bitter wedges of radicchio and cauliflower “steaks”. If you don’t have a grill, this can be just as easily prepared with a grill pan over the stove or roasted in the oven.

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Grilled Asparagus & Sweet Potato with Chimichurri. And read on for more about…

  • how awesome asparagus is for the health of your microbiome and gut, and
  • the gazillion ways you can use chimichurri and turn this recipe into a full meal deal.

But first, I thought you (and any of my family reading this and nostalgic for my mom’s cooking) might also enjoy the recipe for my mom’s Asparagus Tarts with Béchamel Sauce. Let me know if you make them. I can be over lickety-split. 😉

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Creamy Coconut Lime Chicken

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Creamy Coconut Lime ChickenCoconut and lime is a classic flavour pairing. The acidity of the lime balances the fatness of the coconut milk beautifully. Consequently, with just two simple ingredients you can truly elevate your meal. A few decades ago I bought a book called The Flavor Bible. It chronicles the flavour pairings and other tips top chefs use to make food taste great. The entry on limes describes how acidity awakens flavours. And among all the pairings listed, the strongest recommendations included coconut/coconut milk, chili peppers and cilantro. All of these are included in this recipe for Creamy Coconut Lime Chicken, so no wonder it tastes so good!

Fish was also strongly recommended as a flavour pairing, so feel free to substitute fish or shellfish in this recipe (just be sure to adjust the cooking times). Ginger pairs beautifully, too. If you have fresh ginger on hand to grate into this dish, I’d go for it. To make the dish vegetarian/vegan, swap in chickpeas or tofu.

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Creamy Coconut Lime Chicken. And read on for what to look for when purchasing coconut milk and for these bonus recipes to round out the menu:

  • Roasted Curried Cauliflower
  • Cucumber & Lime Fresca

I hope you enjoy the recipes! And I highly recommend you have a look at the book as well. It includes “Flavour Matchmaking Charts” that are extremely handy. As the authors write, “understanding what herbs, spices, and other seasonings will best bring out the flavor of whatever it is you’re cooking is some of the most important knowledge any cook can master.”

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Presto Pronto! Pesto Pasta with Scallops

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Presto Pronto Pesto Pasta with ScallopsFeeling ravenous and want dinner presto pronto? Then this recipe for Pesto Pasta with Scallops is for you! If seafood just isn’t your thing, you could certainly substitute chicken, although it will be a little less presto pronto (given chicken takes longer to cook). The recipe calls for chickpea pasta which is much higher in protein than regular pasta. So vegetarians can simply omit animal protein altogether and add extra veggies to the pasta and pesto to boost flavour.  Cannellini or navy beans work well too.

Pesto is my saviour when it comes to getting a tasty meal on the table in a timely manner with minimal fuss and muss. You can make your own and keep it in the freezer, ready to thaw as needed. Or make your life even easier and purchase a high-quality pesto from your local market. There are so many varieties out there that you can make this with a different pesto every time to change up the flavour profile. So it’s never boring. And I love that this recipe serves three, making enough for my husband I for dinner and leftovers for my lunch the next day.

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Pesto Pasta with Scallops. And read on for more about:

  • my favourite pesto varieties, including a nut-free basil pesto you can make yourself
  • why I highly recommend you try chickpea pasta, and
  • the nutritional benefits of scallops.

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Celebrate Heart Month with Spice Crusted Salmon & Beets

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Celebrate Heart MonthDid you know that heart disease is the second leading cause of death for both men and women in Canada? February is Heart Month. It is “a time to raise awareness about the importance of cardiovascular health and an opportunity to focus on what we can do to improve our heart health” says The Public Health Agency of Canada. According to the World Health Organization, “the most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.”

So in honour of Heart Month, this recipe for Spice Crusted Salmon & Beets serves up a heaping helping of heart-healthy nutrients. And if you are time-pressed or don’t know your way around a kitchen, take heart, because it’s super simple to prepare!

To make this dish even more heart-healthy, serve it with farro either on the side or mixed in with the beets. The high fibre content of this whole grain helps reduce LDL cholesterol in your blood, lowering your risk of heart disease. You can read more about the many health benefits of farro in this previous post of mine (and here’s the link to view the recipe it features: Farro & Beet Salad).

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Spice Crusted Salmon & Beets. And read on to find out more about how including salmon and beets in your diet can help keep your heart in tip-top shape.

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Peri-Peri Picante Chicken Thighs, Chickpeas & Collard Greens

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Peri-Peri PIcanteI’ve had a penchant lately for anything peri-peri picante. Perhaps it was my friend enthusing about the delicioso food she ate in Portugal. Or maybe my daily dose of DuoLingo Spanish (porque espero visitar España en mis vacaciones) has piqued my interest in food that is muy picante.

Whatever the reason, this month I have chosen to share a recipe for Peri Peri Chicken Thighs, Chickpeas & Collard Greens. Not only does the spicy heat appeal to me in winter, this dish exemplifies what I love about all my favourite recipes. Namely:

  • it’s a one-pan, all-in-one dish (no need to make anything on the side and less to clean up),
  • using a pre-made spice blend gives maximum flavour for minimum fuss,
  • it’s flexible (swap the chicken for fish/shellfish, or use only chickpeas to make it vegetarian/vegan),
  • you can easily alter the flavour profile (use a Cajun, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian or Italian spice blend in place of peri-peri, for example),
  • it’s quick enough for a workaday dinner but also interesting enough for company,
  • it includes legumes which have a whole host of health benefits (more on that in this post) and
  • it makes great leftovers for lunch (or even breakfast)!

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Peri Peri Chicken Thighs, Chickpeas & Collard Greens. For those keen to make their own Peri-Peri spice blend, I have included a recipe for that as well. Or you can simply procure some (suggestions below).  And I invite you to read on, too, if right now you are thinking “What the heck is Peri-Peri?

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Festive Fixings

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Festive FixingsThe countdown to Christmas is on. It’s just over a week away! Are you feeling the (time) crunch? I wish I could say my to-do list was ta-done leaving me free to ease into feeling festive. But it isn’t. And I imagine I’m not the only one in holiday-hustle mode, so I’ll get straight to the point.

This month’s missive is a collection of Festive Fixings. These recipes offer fast fixes to the dilemma of what to serve alongside the centerpiece of your holiday feast, be it turkey, ham or what have you. I’ve included a few suggestions each for appetizers, salads and yummy vegetable side dishes. I hope that one or more of these Festive Fixings finds a place on your holiday table! Sign up to my newsletter to receive my Festive Fixings recipe collection and all recipes to come. And read on for some re-gifts from last year.

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Gourds & Goblins Menu … exhumed

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Gourds & Goblins Menu

I first posted my Gourds & Goblins Menu two years ago and my readers back then deemed it a treat. I’ve exhumed it this Hallowe’en in the hope that my newer subscribers will also find it a scream. If you are seeing this again, think of it as Hallowe’en and Groundhog Day all rolled into one.

My Gourds & Goblins Menu is a Jekyll & Hyde character.

The Jekyll version is served pretty much as described in the recipes. It’s a heaping harvest helping of carbo-comfort foods featuring a gaggle of gourds (namely pumpkin, butternut squash and zucchini). But with some sleight of hand and the spooky styling suggestions at blog-bottom, you can turn it ins-Hyde-out into a fiendish feast for your ghoul-friends! It’s double, double the fun without too much toil or trouble.

Served either way, my Gourds & Goblins Menu is devilishly good at disguising veggies.

Gourds & Goblins Menu

Apéritif: Classic Virgin Sangria (Served per the recipe, it is a harmless harvest cranberry cocktail. But we musn’t forget the word sangria means bloodletting in Spanish, so take a boo at the sinister sip tips below.)

Soup: Spider Web Pumpkin Soup (I’ve dusted the cobwebs off this one from a menu I put out in pre-pandemic times. For the harvest version, omit the spiderweb. But feel free to add curry powder or cayenne if you like it hellishly hot.)

Pasta: Vegan Mac n’ ‘Cheese’ (This is devilishly good served with a tempest-tossed “blood red radicchio and endive of the world salad”. The bitter leaves are a killer counterpoint to the richness of the pasta.)

Dessert: Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes (For some, the thought of zucchini in cupcakes is scary enough. But if you dig the demonic decorating ideas down below you can make these double chocolate delights even darker. If you wish to spike the suggested whipped cream topper, I recommend heavenly Frangelico or the Devil’s rum.)

Whether cooking up the Jekyll or Hyde version, feel free to reach out if you have any questions, comments or grave concerns. I hope you enjoy goblin’ these recipes up!

Join The Nutritional Reset Community here to receive the recipes in the Gourds & Goblins Menu (as well as the recipes to come).

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Mondo Mint

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Mondo MintMy mom always warned me never to plant mint directly in my garden or it would take over. She was a fantastic gardener so I listened to her sage advice about mint and dutifully planted it in pots. However, over time (and admittedly due to some neglect this summer), my mint has jumped the pot and run rampant. And so my small garden is now in a state best described as mondo mint. I could invite every neighbour on my street for mojitos and I would still have great bunches of mint left over.

What, oh what, to do? Well, eat mint for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that’s what!

So this month I have included recipes to help do just that, plus a (non-mojito) libation…

  • Nigella’s Corsican Omelette (the recipe is Nigella Lawson’s but, due to copyright, the photo is mine; as you might expect, Nigella’s omelette, just like Nigella, is more attractive)
  • Beet, Grapefruit & Mint Salad (just add grilled chicken or your protein of choice and this makes a wonderfully satisfying lunch)
  • Cold Noodles with Pork & Cucumber (most Asian-inspired dishes are elevated by the addition of fresh mint and/or basil; both herbs are from the same family, Lamiaceae, also known as Labiatae)
  • Blackberry Smash Cocktail (I love blackberries as they are delicious, dramatic and not too sweet; this is a mocktail but I won’t tell if you add vodka or gin to it)

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipes. And then read on for more about my favourite ways to use mint and some of its benefits.  I  hope you enjoy how mint adds a refreshing flourish to each of these dishes!

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Lemony Baked Cod with Zucchini & Mini Potatoes

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Lemony Baked Cod with Zucchini

Summer is in full swing. We want to be outdoors enjoying the sun, not slaving over a hot stove. I get it. But salads every night can get boring. That’s why I love this Lemony Baked Cod with Zucchini & Mini Potatoes. Just pop everything into a baking dish and it practically cooks itself. And it’s a delicious way to enjoy summer’s bounty of locally grown zucchini.

This recipe is easy enough for a simple weeknight dinner. You can use lemon juice only (as per the recipe, and I admit one of my time-savers is to use organic lemon juice from a bottle, like this Sicilian one). But when I want a more rustic, colourful presentation, I’ll add in some thin slices of whole lemon before baking. In fact, if I want a really quick meal, I’ll often do just that and skip the capers and dill altogether (as shown in the photo here).

But when you prepare the recipe as written, it is sophisticated enough to serve to guests, especially if you use a mix of colours of mini potatoes, include yellow zucchini (or a mix of yellow and green) and bake it in an attractive casserole dish that you can bring right to your (preferably al fresco) dining table. The combination of olive oil, fish, herbs, capers and zucchini has a sunny Mediterranean vibe and would pair beautifully with a crisp, cool sauvignon blanc or Chablis. 😉

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for Lemony Baked Cod with Zucchini & Mini Potatoes. And read on for more about the health benefits of zucchini as well as for a simply refreshing (yet refreshingly simple) dessert suggestion!

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Grilled Chicken & Chickpea Kale Salad

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Grilled Chicken & Chickpea Kale Salad

I love a gorgeous salad in summer. Fresh and crisp, they are super nutritious, easy to put together and leftovers make a great meal the next day (just don’t add the dressing until you serve it). The key is to include a variety of tastes and textures and enough protein to make it a meal. This Grilled Chicken & Chickpea Kale Salad is a fantastic example, with nearly 50 grams of protein!

I chose it because it highlights the humble radish and Ontario-grown radishes are abundant now. I recently received a beautiful bunch of French breakfast radishes in my local food box and this salad was their destiny. That said, salads make great canvasses for all manner of veggies. No radishes on hand? Just use whatever you do have. As long as it’s colourful and crunchy, you can’t go wrong!

And I encourage you to shop your local Farmers’ Market where you will find a variety of stunning radishes that will transform every salad into a work of art!

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for my Grilled Chicken & Chickpea Kale Salad and read on for more about what’s ravishing about radishes!

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