Asparagus-Avocado Salad with Peas and Radishes

AsparagusAvocado Salad with Peas and Radishes.jpg

Even though I’ve lived in this valley all my life, I never tire of its beauty. Neither, apparently, does my daughter who is on a work-away on an olive farm in Tuscany right now. The closing line of her last email read, “I really miss the valley especially in all its spring glory! But I think a farm in Tuscany is the next best thing.”

Next best? Cowichan is more beautiful than the famous hill towns of Tuscany? Tuscany–the setting for countless romantic novels, famed for its olive groves and rolling hills and cypress-lined roads is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular areas of the world. But one could certainly argue that our little valley can now rival it, both in beauty and in the wide variety of produce that the land supports.

Chive Blossom

That’s a really roundabout way of saying I’m grateful that I have so many local farms producing organic vegetables and fruit close by and at this time of year, I’m thankful to have an asparagus farm just down the road from my home. The asparagus shoots in this salad were picked only a few hours before they graced our lunch table. They’re oh so sweet and nothing like the ones imported from Mexico that lie wilting in the produce sections of our supermarkets.

Asparagus, radishes, avocados, peas and chives–does that spell springtime to you? This salad has a perfect balance of textures and flavours and they are all mingled together with a light sesame rice wine vinaigrette. What could be better on a sunny spring day?

asparagus salad with avocado, peas and radishes.jpg

I’ve adapted this recipe from a few I found circulating around Pinterest. Be sure to steam the asparagus lightly, just until crisp tender and bright green, then plunge it into an ice bath to stop further cooking.

Avocado-Aspargus Salad with Peas and Radishes
Serves 4

  • about 16 fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 ½ cups green peas, hulled
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10-12 radishes
  • 1 shallot, minced finely
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil (toasted sesame oil, if you have it)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • snipped fresh chives and chive flowers for garnish


  1. Hold each asparagus spear, bend slightly and snap off the tougher end piece (usually an inch or two in length) Save for making soup.
  2. Steam the spears over boiling water in a steamer basket just until crisp tender and bright green. Immediately transfer to a bowl filled with ice water. Let cool and drain. Slice each asparagus spear into 2 inch lengths.
  3. Boil the peas for 1 minute, rinse in very cold water and then drain.
  4. Thinly slice the radishes.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Season to taste with sea salt. Add the asparagus, peas and radishes and toss together. Check the seasoning and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Peel and thinly slice the avocado just before serving to prevent it browning. Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the serving platter. Drizzle with a little lemon juice if not serving immediately.
  7. Gently spoon the salad into the middle of the platter and garnish with fresh chives and chive blossoms. Chill and serve.
Bees love chive blossoms

I had to wait until this little guy was finished before picking my chive blossoms!

Posted in gluten-free, lunch, salad dressing, salads, vegetables, vegetarian meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipped Cream #gluten-free


Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpg

My back yard forest has exploded with green and filled in all of the barren gaps left by the winter. I have a host of plants to forage here, most of which I’m just learning about. A few years ago, one of our local chefs prepared a rhubarb compote and topped it with whipping cream flavored with Grand Fir shoots but he didn’t provide instructions!

This week I decided to tackle it. I snipped some of the most tender shoots from one of my Grand Fir trees and tried making a tea by pouring boiling water over it. I let it sit on the counter overnight, but it just didn’t seem to have enough flavour. Dumped it.

Next I did the same, but I reduced the amount of water to about 3 tablespoons and squeezed the shoots as I drained them a few hours later. Good, but then I realized it was going to make the whipping cream much too runny. Dumped it.

Finally, I put some fresh shoots in my Vitamix, poured in some heavy cream and a little sugar and just blended the hell out of it.

I think I like it. I’ll let the ones who will eat it for dessert decide for themselves.

Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipping Cream
Serves 6 – 8

for the topping

  • 1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar
  • zest of one organic lemon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients. Mix until clumpy, then refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 Fruit Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • juice of one organic lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar (type of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Combine all filling ingredients in a deep baking dish.
  2. Cover thickly with the topping.
  3. Since it will likely boil over, protect your oven by placing the dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake till top is golden brown and fruit bubbles up, about 45 minutes. Best served warm. Top with Grand Fir Whipped Cream.Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpgGrand Fir Infused Whipping Cream
  • 500 ml. (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)
  • about 1/2 – 3/4 cup freshly picked Grand Fir shoots

Don't confuse with Douglas Fir.

Don’t confuse with Douglas Fir.

The needles on Grand Fir lie flat, not whorled as on Douglas Fir

The needles on Grand Fir are flat, not whorled as on Douglas Fir

Toss all in a high-speed blender. Select Variable speed, quickly turn to 10, then to High Speed. Watch carefully as it will only take about 10 -20 seconds to whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpg



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Mohitos for Mother’s Day

Let’s give Mom what she really wants.. Skinny muffins and low-cal brunch ideas and banana pancake breakfasts in bed are all lovely ideas for mom, but let’s take this route instead . . .

Here’s a roundup of Mohito recipes to celebrate your mother!

Rhubarb Mint Mohito
Rhubarb Mohito

Mohito Slushy
Mmmm . . . Mohito Slushy

Mohito: Cowichan Style
cowichan mohito.jpg

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Rhubarb Quinoa Salad

Rhubarb Quinoa Salad

Rhubarb with quinoa? These sound like odd companions, but the combination of flavours and textures in this salad seems to work. The tiny bit of honey is just enough to temper the tartness of the rhubarb and contrasts with the shallots. Be sure to use a salty cheese like Parmesan or even feta. The cucumbers and nuts contribute the necessary crunch factor and the mint makes it fresh and reminds your mouth that this is Spring! I used miner’s lettuce because it is abundant taking over my garden, but any greens will work. Arugula would add some spiciness. Create away!

Serves 4


  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 shallot, or white part of 3 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 to 3 cups washed greens of your choice
  • 1 cup shaved Parmesan Reggiano (just use a vegetable peeler)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds, toasted
  • garnish with  green portion of green onions, or chopped chives and chive blossoms or other edible flowers


  • 3 Tbsp.  olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


Rinse the quinoa in cold water to remove any bitterness. Put the water in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and cook until the water has all been absorbed. Fluff with a fork, let cool, then refrigerate.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the honey and stir to combine. Add the shallots and rhubarb and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until rhubarb is tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar,  and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooled quinoa, the shallots and rhubarb, and the rest of the ingredients; toss and stir gently with just enough of the dressing to coat. Serve on a bed of fresh greens.

Rhubarb-Quinoa Salad<

Posted in gluten-free, quinoa, salad dressing, salads, vegetarian meals | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Rhubarb-Ginger Ice Cream

Rhubarb-Ginger Ice Cream

Let me just start by saying that I love my Vitamix. I really, really love it. I know I’m not the only one who has an infatuation with this kitchen appliance. Just ask anyone who owns one and I’m willing to bet they feel the same. (And no, I don’t sell them. This is not a sales pitch.)

I can whip up smoothies,  dressings, soups, dips and aiolis, sauces, cocktails and nut butters. If I’ve run out of icing sugar, I can turn some granulated sugar into powder in less than a minute. I can whip cream in seven seconds. Wait . . . there’s more! I can grind my own flour–wheat, quinoa, rice, almond–you name it. But best of all, I can make sorbet and ice cream in 2 minutes flat.

It’s rhubarb season, people! What do we always do? We mix it with strawberries and make strawberry-rhubarb pie or strawberry-rhubarb crumble or strawberry-rhubarb muffins. It’s time to branch out and think outside the box! Tonight we had this delicately flavoured rhubarb-ginger ice cream for dessert. It tastes fresh, like spring.

Rhubarb-Ginger Ice Cream
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup milk (half and half, whole milk, coconut milk or almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup rhubarb
  • 1 inch long knob of fresh ginger root
  • 4 cups ice cubes


  1. Place all ingredients in the Vitamix.
  2. Start at Variable 1, then quickly increase to Variable 10 and then to High. You will need the tamper to press the ice into the blades.
  3. After about 30-60 seconds, listen for a change in the sound of the motor and watch for 4 mounds to form. Stop the machine at this point. If you keep on mixing, it will begin to melt.
  4. Serve immediately.
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Matcha Mint Smoothie

Wake-me-up Matcha-Mint Smoothie

My matcha green tea had been languishing in my tea drawer until yesterday. I had forgotten about matcha and its amazing benefits until tossing it in a smoothie was recommended to me (thanks Kirsten!) I had a look around my garden, my frig and my cupboards for inspiration for smoothie ingredients: kale? naaa–too strong with matcha,  . . . kelp? same problem . . . mint? yes!

I began with my usual coconut milk base, added half a frozen banana for sweetness, tossed in a whole kiwi to get that magnesium and fiber, mint leaves for digestion, hemp seeds for protein (and a host of other benefits) and matcha for the incredible benefits of green tea. It looked a little thick so I added some ice.

Loved it! You could easily substitute your favourite fruit. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose the beautiful green colour, so the kiwi made sense to me.

Matcha Mint Smoothie
Serves: 1

  • 1 cup coconut or almond milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 kiwi, skin and all (if you have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix)
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1-2 Tbsp hemp or chia seeds
  • 1 tsp matcha green tea
  • 4 ice cubes

Toss all in a high-speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth.

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Chipotle Chicken Tostadas


Chipotle Chicken TostadosLast week, we dined at a local restaurant with friends. For my starter, I ordered Oyster Tacos.


I was a little surprised to discover that half a breaded oyster (yes, you read that correctly) topped each taco. Half. Underneath was a little jicama and lettuce slaw, some avocado, and it was served with some cilantro lime aioli.

Fried Oyster Tacos

I went home, knowing that I could improve upon that dish, for a whole lot less than $12. Still looking for new ideas for gluten-free meals, I bought some corn tortillas and some locally made chipotle mayonnaise and headed home to use what I had in the frig. Here is what I came up with.    Success.

Chipotle Chicken Tostados
Makes 6 small (6 inch) tostados

  • 6 soft corn tortillas
  • 1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack with Jalapeno or Habanero is good.)
  • 1/2 cup julienned or matchstick-sliced jicama
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • juice and zest of half a lime
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, roasted or barbecued and sliced (or white fish)
  • about 1/3 cup chipotle mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Toss the jicama and the cucumber with the lime juice and zest and set aside.
  2. Lay the tortillas on a baking sheet. Top with grated cheese and broil in the oven until cheese is melted and starting to bubble. Remove from oven.
  3. Assemble with the cucumber-jicama slaw on top of the cheese, then the red pepper, the avocado, the chicken, and drizzle about 1 Tbsp of the chipotle mayonnaise over each. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.

And think of how much money you saved by eating at home.

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