What a dessert has to do with politics? Brigadeiro has indeed a strong connection.

The origin of the name “brigadeiro” is linked to the presidential campaign of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, a candidate for the Brazilian Presidency in 1946. One of his supporters, a member of a traditional Carioca family (i.e. a person who is born in Rio de Janeiro), created this confection and named it under the candidate’s title. The “brigadier’s sweet” became popular, and the name was eventually shortened to just “BRIGADEIRO”. Despite the support received, the brigadier was defeated and his opponent won the election. Even though the Brigadier did not win the election, he has become immortalized among Brazilians as one of their favorite sweet bites.

traditional brigadeiros with different types of chocolate sprinkles

The traditional recipe is simple and asks for a few basic ingredients:

  • 1 can condensed milk (14 oz or 397 mL)
  • 2-3 tbsp cocoa powder (more or less according to your preference)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  1. Add all the ingredients into a pan and cook the ingredients over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Mixing is important to prevent the mixture from burning.
  2. Cook it until the brigadeiro thickens and you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds.
  3. Pour onto a greased plate and allow it to cool down.
  4. Roll and shape into small balls and roll them into chocolate sprinkles.

The traditional recipe is delicious but foodies are always looking for new ways of improving old recipes. This has been happening for years. Foodies in Brazil, and now around the world, keep adapting the recipe, substituting ingredients, and creating new flavors to entice the appetite and make us crave the new flavor.

Wasabi brigadeiro with sparking ruby chocolate pebbles is one of the many gourmet versions of this delicious mini bite. The recipe was developed by Chef Renata Arassiro, Callebaut Ambassador in Brazil. Thank you Chef Arassiro for your permission to publish this recipe on the blog.

Wasabi Brigadeiro with Sparkling Ruby Chocolate Pebbles

Brigadeiro with wasabi
Brigadeiro with wasabi


  • 395 g of condensed milk
  • 100 g of heavy cream (35%)
  • 60 g dark chocolate
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g 100% cocoa powder
  • 30 g glucose or another inverted sugar (honey, light molasses or golden syrup)
  • 3 g wasabi powder*


  1. Dilute the wasabi in the hot cream and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and then add the cocoa powder, mixing well to dissolve all the cocoa in the butter
  3. Add the condensed milk, chocolate, glucose and cream with wasabi
  4. Mix well and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the bottom of the pan appears and achieve a rolling point.
  5. Place the brigadeiro in a container and cover the surface with a plastic film.
  6. Allow cooling completely before rolling into small balls

Ruby stones Ingredients


  • Q.B. ruby chocolate in callets
  • White sparkling powder (for confectionery)


  • Place the ruby ​​chocolate in a food processor and break into small pieces, without beating too much so the chocolate does not melt and acquire a pasty consistency.
  • Add a little sparkling powder and mix well.


Roll the brigadeiros with 12 g each and roll in the sparkling ruby ​​chocolate pebbles. 

*Note – The amount of wasabi you use is optional, but be careful not to overdo it and overpower the ruby ​​chocolate flavor.

I will post a few brigadeiro recipes in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, enjoy the recipes above.


Basil (Ocimum basilicum)


Fresh basil
Fresh basil

Even though basil is mostly associated with the Mediterranean cuisine, this herb is also prevalent in many Southeast Asian dishes. It matches quite well with Mediterranean flavours and foods such as garlic, tomatoes, olives, saffron, and grilled bell peppers. Grounded with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese it becomes pesto or the French ‘pistou’. Basil can be added last-minute to sauces, vegetable soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Among numerous varieties the most common ones are:

Mediterranean varieties:

  • Sweet basil – with long and large green leaves but when crushed one can detect cinnamon and anise notes, especially anise.
  • Greek basil – smaller leaves and more peppery taste
  • Purple basil – these darker leaves have a milder flavour

Asian varieties:

  • Lemon basil – smaller leaves with a citrus note
  • Thai basil – similar to sweet basil but has a pungent licorice note
  • Holy basil – more intense and spicy. Best cooked than raw. Holy basil is sacred to the Hindus and is often planted around their temples.

Basil grows all year round, but it grows better during the hot summer months. Even during the long winter months, you can enjoy fresh basil if you keep a small plant inside. Potted basil plants must be kept in a sunny and sheltered place (a sunny windowsill) and watered regularly but not in excess. Ensure the soil is moist but avoid leaving water on the container’s dish. Picking stimulates new growth but you should not harvest more than ⅓ of the plant at a time if you want it to keep producing. Basil flowers are also edible and delicious.

How to store basil

Fresh basil and refrigeration are not best friends. Cold temperatures cause basil leaves to turn brown and unappetizing. Your best bet is to keep the cut ends of basil stems in a jar with water on the kitchen counter. Another option is to wrap the basil in a damp paper towel and keep it into an open/unsealed bag in the refrigerator [1].

Do not wash basil until before you need to use it as this can decrease shelf life by half [1].

To make your own dried basil, hang basil stems upside down or pinch off leaves and place them loosely in a brown paper bag for a few days (about 4 days) or until the leaves are dried. Keep it in a well-ventilated area. I use this same method to dry most herbs. Store dried basil in an airtight container for up to 4 months.


Drying herbs
Drying herbs


To freeze fresh basil leaves, chop the basil leaves and add small amounts of the chopped basil at a time into an ice-cube tray. The best way to chop basil is referred to as chiffonade. Fill each cube with extra virgin olive oil and take the tray to the freezer. Pop out cubes as needed or store the frozen cubes into a freezer bag.

Freezing herbs
Freezing herbs

Nutritional content:

Basil is a source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and of vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin [2].

How to chiffonade basil:

Chiffonade or simply cutting fresh herbs, especially basil into this slivers is a traditional French technique and it means “made of rags”. All you need to do is to stack fresh basil leaves, roll them into a cigar shape and slice the roll into narrow ribbons using a sharp knife to avoid crushing and bruising the delicate basil leaves [1,3].



  1. Crosb, G. (2012). The Science of Good Cooking. America’s Test Kitchen.
  2. Canadian Nutrient File. Fresh Basil.
  3. Eating Well. (2016). Vegetables, The Essential Reference.

Vegan Pesto

Vegan pesto


Pesto ingredients
Vegan pesto ingredients

This green jewel-like vegan sauce is based on the traditional pesto alla Genovese. Pesto alla Genovese is an Italian no-cook sauce that has its origin in the city of Genoa, on Italy’s North-Western Ligurian coast.[1]  It is traditionally prepared with fresh sweet basil leaves, garlic, salt, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Some pesto recipes include a duo of cheeses, Parmesan and ‘Pecorino’ (a sheep’s milk cheese). Even though this is a vegan recipe, you can easily add the cheese of your choice when coating the pasta with the pesto.

Traditionalists pound the ingredients in a pestle and mortar until a nice green paste is formed. They start with the garlic and salt, then add the basil leaves, pine nuts and finally the cheese. For convenience, I use a food processor to speed up the process but do not to over-process it.

Pesto Variations:

You can also make pesto using a combination of greens, for instance, basil with arugula, basil with parsley (parsley will boost the green color), or combining all these three ingredients together. You can also add a touch of other herbs such as oregano, thyme, and marjoram.[2]

Instead of pine nuts, you can use walnuts, cashew, pistachios, Brazil nuts, almonds, and why not try some seeds such as pumpkin seeds. Toasting the nuts of your choice contributes to more intense flavor and aroma.[3]

Vegan Pesto
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Sauce
  • 3 large bunches of basil (about 3 cups packed basil leaves)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly roasted
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for storing
  1. Heat a small frying pan over a low heat. Lightly toast the pine nuts until golden, stirring them frequently. Remove from heat and allow the nuts to cool down.
  2. Gently wash the basil, pulling all the stems off and preserving only the leaves. Extra tender stems can be included. Remove the excess water and allow the leaves to dry on a clean towel.
  3. Add the garlic, basil leaves, and toasted pine nuts into a food processor cup and process well. If needed, stop the processor a few times to scrape the pesto from the sides with a spatula.
  4. Pour the extra virgin olive oil slowly and continue processing until the pesto is creamy. Taste the sauce and season it to your taste.
  5. Pour the pesto into a jar and cover with some extra EVOO to prevent oxidation, then seal the container and store it into the fridge for up to two weeks.
  6. For freezing, add pesto to small freezer-friendly containers and cover the sauce with some extra EVOO.
  7. Makes approximately 250 mL.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1½ Tbsp -- Calories: 75 kcal, Fat: 8 g, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Sodium: 118 mg, Protein: 1 g

Vegan pesto.
Vegan pesto

Serving tips:

– To serve pesto with pasta, prefer kinds of pasta that have a special shape such as ‘fusilli’ or ‘gemelli’ to allow the pesto to cling into the rivets of the pasta.

– Combine the pesto with a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. The starch in the cooking water will further help the sauce to cling to the pasta.

– The recipe above is vegan, but if you wish you can add grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese while stirring the pasta with the sauce. Another great option is to add fresh mozzarella pearls.

– Add some cherry tomatoes for color and flavour. It also helps you to add vegetables to your plate.

– In addition to the traditional ‘pasta al pesto’, this sauce can be:

  • added to a tomato-based pasta sauce or to finalize your pasta dish or a risotto with a small dollop of pesto on top
  • spread into a sandwich
  • beaten into softened butter then over boiled potatoes or a protein of choice
  • combined with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese for a Caprese salad
  • partnered with summer vegetables, especially tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants and new potatoes, and with fresh cheeses, like mozzarella, ricotta, and goat cheese. [1]

Pasta al pesto
Vegan pesto with fusilli casarecci pasta

Fresh and frozen pesto. Add a layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation.
Fresh and frozen pesto. Add a layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation.

Keep frozen pesto up to 6 months in the freezer. To thaw it, remove the container from the freezer to the refrigerator a day before using it.

Learn more about basil



  1. Madison, D. (2013). Vegetable Literacy. New York, Ten Speed Press.
  2. Petterson, J. (2012). Vegetables revised. New York, Ten Speed Press.
  3. Crosb, G. (2012). The Science of Good Cooking. America’s Test Kitchen.




Tomatoes - public market in France
Tomatoes – public market in France

There is nothing better than a tomato plucked straight from the vine right when it is ready to eat… what a sweet summer treat! Tomatoes come in a vast array of sizes, shapes and colours and enrich our diet with endless possibilities. This versatile fruit/vegetable is low in calories, packed with nutrients and delicious. They can be used fresh or canned; cooked, dried or raw; whole, diced, sliced or puréed; and in the form of paste to add colour, flavour, and texture to soups, stews and other savoury dishes in kitchens all over the world. Although not usual, tomatoes are also found in many desserts.

Cherry tomato tree on my balcony...
Cherry tomato tree on my balcony…

Curiosities about tomatoes:

From a botanical perspective, tomatoes are classified as a fruit since they result from the fertilization of flowers. From a horticultural standpoint, it is viewed as a vegetable due to its use and cultivation.

Tomatoes originated in the Andes where they grew wild. The plant was first cultivated by the Aztecs as early as 700 A.D. It was only around the 16th century that this plant of the nightshade family made its way to Europe, but for a long time was considered as poisonous thus unfit to human consumption. Only around the late 1880’s, thanks to Neapolitans and the creation of pizza, tomatoes became popular and garnered favor all over Europe. From there, tomatoes have traveled across oceans and today we have an abundance of varieties, and producers continue to create/select juicier and meatier fruits.


Tomatoes are a nutrient dense food. One medium unit (about 125 g)  has approximately 22 calories, 1 gram of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates and 1.5 g of fibre. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene (a pro-vitamin A that is converted to vitamin A and retinol inside our bodies), and potassium.  In addition to beta-carotene, tomatoes also contain other carotenoids, among them lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant responsible for tomatoes’ red colour and also gives other fruits and vegetables their yellow, orange and red color. Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds and for this reason they need fat from the diet to be absorbed by our bodies.

The redder and riper the tomato, the higher the levels of lycopene contained within it. Heirloom varieties have the most lycopene, followed by vine-ripened tomatoes and last those ripened after picking. The amount of lycopene in cultivated tomatoes is much lower than in wild species. The difference can account to 4 to 5 times more lycopene in wilder species.

Lycopene is better absorbed in cooked tomatoes than in raw tomatoes. Yet, we can still get lycopene from raw tomatoes, which have higher levels of vitamin C and folate than cooked tomatoes. To maximize the absorption of lycopene, tomatoes should be eaten with some sort of oil (as above mentioned, carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds), preferably healthy fats. Among numerous healthy options you can choose are: a simple but luscious tomato salad with basil leaves drenched in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), sliced tomatoes and avocado in sandwiches or found in a traditional guacamole recipe,  hot or cold tomato soup, roasted tomatoes, spicy tomato juice (pay attention to sodium content of over-processed/industrialized products), or simply finalize a tomato sauce with some EVOO. The monounsaturated fat in EVOO and avocados make lycopene in tomatoes up to 4 times more bioavailable.

Pasta with tomato sauce
Pasta with tomato sauce


Cherry tomatoes, basil and Bocconcini cheese
Cherry tomatoes, basil and Bocconcini cheese

But why am I talking so much about lycopene? A number of studies have suggested that men who consume large quantities of tomatoes and tomato-based products have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, especially men aged of 65 and over. The mechanism by which lycopene may reduce the development of prostate cancer is not yet well understood. Some researchers believe that lycopene’s antioxidant activity may impede prostate cancer development by interfering with sex hormones involved  in the excess growth of prostatic tissue and by disturbing the growth of tissue cells. Simply eating two meals a week with some tomato sauce can reduce the risk of developing prostate by 30 percent, not so difficult isn’t it?

Lycopene may also neutralize the action of free radicals produced by UV rays. Daily consumption of tomato based products may be associated with a higher degree of skin protection against the sun and lower the risk of melanoma, increased collagen levels and slowing down skin aging. Some researches extend the benefits of tomatoes on the prevention of kidney and breast cancers, while other studies show an association of dietary intake of tomatoes and its products with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases.


Lycopene chemical structure
Lycopene’s configuration enables it to inactivate free radicals (electrochemically imbalanced molecules, highly reactive, and ready to react with cell components that are formed naturally as by-products of oxidative cellular metabolism).

Besides tomatoes and tomato products, lycopene is also present in fruits such as guava, watermelon, papaya and pink grapefruit.

In addition to lycopene and beta-carotene, tomatoes are also a rich source of lutein. These powerful antioxidants that have been shown to protect the eyes against light-induced damage associated with age-related macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.

For maximum nutritional benefits avoid peeling and seeding tomatoes unless really necessary. The tomato peel is richer in nutrients than the flesh and the seed part in the center is high in salicylates.

Shopping for tomatoes:

  • Choose ripe fruits with a smooth skin, which are firm but not hard.
  • Locally grown tomatoes, especially heirloom varieties are the best choice for flavourful and lycopene rich tomatoes. If heirloom varieties are too expensive or not available look for tomatoes sold on the vine or those who claim to be naturally ripened.
  • When buying canned tomatoes prefer products with no added salt or sugar, and cans which are not lined with Bisphenol A, i.e. BPA free cans.
  • Cultivate tomatoes at the backyard or on your balcony. Most garden centers sell small plants that need to be re-potted to a larger container or start early in the spring if using seeds.
  • If you don’t have a choice of buying ripe tomatoes, you can speed up the ripening process of under-ripe tomatoes by putting them within a brown paper bag along with a fruit that releases ethylene gas such as a banana or an apple.

Heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes

How to store:

  • Store ripe tomatoes at room temperature out of the direct sunlight. Cold temperatures damage enzymes found in the fruit that are responsible for flavour compounds and for proper the texture.
  • Freeze tomatoes to use in cooked dishes and sauces.
  • If the tomatoes are attached to its vine, leave it on. Otherwise, store them stem side down to prevent moisture loses.
  • When buying canned tomatoes, check the “Use by” date to ensure the ingredient is at peak quality and avoid brands using BPA cans or that add sugar or salt.
  • Storing unripe tomatoes in the fridge will prevent them from ripening but also affect their flavour and texture.
  • Overripe tomatoes can be stored in the fridge to stop the ripening process without fully compromising the flavour.
  • The best temperature to store tomatoes is 13°C or 55°F.

Tomatoes on the vine
Tomatoes on the vine


– Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group, Arch Ophthalmol. (2007). The relationship of dietary carotenoid and vitamin A, E, and C intake with age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study.  Jama Network.

– Béliveau, R. and Gingras, D. (2016). Foods that Fight Cancer, Preventing Cancer through Diet

– Canadian Nutrient File -Tomato, red, ripe, raw, year round average

– Heber, D. and Lu, Q.Y. (2002) Overview of mechanisms of action of lycopene. Exp. Biol. Med. 2002, 227, 920–923. [NCBI, PubMed]

– Mordente, A., Guantario, B. , Meucci, E. et al. (2011). Lycopene and cardiovascular diseases: an update. Curr Med Chem. 2011; 18(8): 1146–1163. [NCBI, PubMed]

– Cooking for Geeks, Jeff Potter, O’Reilly

– The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen

– Vegetables the Essential Reference, Eating Well





This cold soup is summer on a plate. Salmorejo is made with fresh and ripe tomatoes, stale bread or breadcrumbs, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Traditionally, this smooth and creamy soup is garnished with hard-boiled egg and Ibérico or Serrano ham (aka jamón Ibérico or Serrano), but you can garnish it with vegan alternatives of your choice. We enjoy beautifying the soup with edible flowers from our balcony, olive oil caviar, smoked salt flakes, basil infused oil, sliced avocados, seeds… pretty much anything.

Salmorejo with nasturtium flower
Salmorejo with nasturtium flower

This practical and easy recipe only takes a few minutes to prepare. Make it ahead of time as salmorejo must be served cold. It keeps well on the fridge for up to 4 days, but it rarely stays all this time on my fridge.

Ingredients for salmorejo
Ingredients for salmorejo

Once you have separated and prepped the ingredients, all you need is a blender or a food processor and a bit of patience until the soup gets cold. If using a hand mixer cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces.

Many people eat this soup as a starter, but it is hearty enough (especially when topped with hard-boiled egg and diced Ibérico or Serrano ham) to have it as a main course. I often have a side dish of mixed leaf salad or a few Belgian endive leaves to scoop the soup. This healthy, refreshing, and delicious recipe is a must-try and one of the best ways to cool off in a hot summer day!

Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 4 portions of 200 mL
  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered (San Marzano, plum or vine tomatoes)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tsp of sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Hard-boiled eggs (or quail eggs) and jamón (Spanish cured ham) to garnish (optional)
  1. In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes, garlic, breadcrumbs, sherry vinegar, sugar and salt. Purée the ingredients at high speed.
  2. Reduce the speed of the blender and gradually add the extra virgin olive oil. Continue blending until a silky smooth texture is obtained.
  3. Transfer the soup to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
  4. Before serving, whisk the soup and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed.
  5. Ladle the cold soup into small bowls and garnish with small pieces of hard-boiled egg and ham or omit these ingredients for a vegetarian/vegan version.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 200 mL Calories: 214 kcal, Fat: 18 g, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Sodium: 654 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 2 g

1. Ingredients are added to the blender
2. Puréed ingredients
3. Silky smooth texture with subtle change in color


Some salmorejo recipes call for peeled and seeded tomatoes. I particularly prefer to keep both the seeds and the peel as they provide antioxidants and also fibre. Research on the effects of peeling and seeding tomatoes showed that peeling can reduce ascorbic acid, lycopene and phenolic contents, while both peeling and seeding can lower the antioxidant activity from the fruit1.  In addition, it also helps to avoid food waste. Once they are pureed and the soup is smooth, they do not interfere with the taste, presentation or texture of the soup.

The ingredients for this recipe are quite simple, thus the quality of the ingredients drastically influence the final results. Choose the ripest and freshest possible tomatoes and a good quality EVOO and vinegar. I personally prefer using sherry vinegar as this is commonly used in Spain to prepare this recipe, but you can use another type of vinegar too.



Learn more about tomatoes and the health benefits associated with this this delicious fruit/vegetable…



1. Vinha, A.F., Alves, R.C., Barreira, S.V.P., et al.: Effect of peel and seed removal on the nutritional value and antioxidant activity of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) fruits. LWT—Food Sci. Technol. 55(1), 197–202 (2014)

Black bean brownies

Black Bean Brownies

Black bean brownie with ice cream
Warm black bean brownie with vanilla ice cream

These vegan and gluten-free brownies are so delicious… They are an easy way for me to include more pulses into my diet. It may help you too.

Ingredients for black bean brownie
Ingredients for black bean brownie

To prepare flax egg simply combine flax seeds with water in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it a couple of times. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes. The ratio is 1 Tbsp of ground flax seeds to 3 Tbsp of watera common ratio used in a multitude of recipes (brownies, muffins, pancakes, and other recipes) posted on various vegan baking blogs.  The gelling capability of flax seeds helps to bind all the ingredients and provides additional moisture to this recipe, ensuring the brownies will not get dried out or crumbly. But remember not to over bake it.

If you don’t have coconut sugar you can use regular cane sugar. Be aware that coconut sugar is less sweet than cane sugar when added to baking goods. I have used it as I prefer desserts or snacks that are not too sweet.

The next step is to add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips and nuts into the food processor, and process the batter until smooth. If the batter is too dense add a tablespoon of water at a time and scrape down the sides of the food processor cup as needed.

Add the chocolate chips to the batter
Incorporating chocolate chips to the brownie batter. You can also add chopped nuts.

Once the batter is smooth, add chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts. Pour batter in a lightly greased baking sheet or muffin tin. I have used coconut oil for greasing as I used it in the recipe.

Bake it for 20- 25 minutes. The time will depend on your oven. Once they are baked, allow it to rest and cool down for 20 minutes or more… or less if you can no longer resist them:)

batch of black bean brownies
A batch of black bean brownies

Black bean brownies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: dessert or snack
Cuisine: vegan, gluten-free
Serves: 10-12 servings
  • 1 large flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp water)
  • 1 large flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp water)
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups black beans (398 mL can)
  • 1 ½ cups black beans (398 mL can)
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F or 177°C
  2. Mix ground flax and water to form the flax egg mix. Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Place all ingredients except chocolate chips and nuts in a food processor and process until completely smooth. Scrap down the sides as needed. If the batter is too thick add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. The batter should not be runny but not excessively dense.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Grease a baking pan (8” by 8” or equivalent) or a standard muffin pan.
  6. Pour batter in and add the nuts. Smooth the top with a spoon.
  7. Bake for 20- 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 minutes.
  9. Cut into squares or remove them gently from the muffin tin.
  10. Store brownies into an airtight container for a few days.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 muffin, Calories: 115 kcal, Fat: 6 g, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Sodium: 78 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 1 g

This brownie freezes well. Wrap each piece individually in aluminum paper or parchment paper.

Serve it with your favorite ice cream or a jam.


Legumes and Pulses

Legumes and pulses


Legumes are plants that have their seeds arranged within pods. When the seeds are removed from the pods they are called beans, lentils or peas. Examples of legumes include fresh peas, fresh beans, pulses (dried beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, lupins, and fava beans), peanuts and soybeans.

Fresh romano beans into their pods
Fresh romano beans

Fresh yellow beans
Fresh yellow beans

Legumes are powerhouses of the plant kingdom and represent a great family of plants with more than 600 genera and 13,000 species.

Legumes are referred to as a “nitrogen-fixing crop” since they draw nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. The plant releases some nitrogen in the soil, enriching it and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Nitrogen soil fixation also happens as part of a partnership between soil bacteria and the plant.

Flat beans
Flat beans

are part of the legume family. The term pulse refers to dried seeds such as dried beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, lupins, and fava beans. Like legumes, pulses are nitrogen-fixing crops able to increase biodiversity, soil fertility, soil microbial biomass, and activity. Pulses can help to improve the environmental sustainability of crops and to reduce our environmental footprint.

A selection of pulses - dried beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas.
A selection of pulses – dried beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.
Note – soy is not a pulse but a legume.

Why should we eat it? BEANefits of eating pulses 🙂

Pulses contribute to the health of our planet, but also to ours as they are an extremely healthy food choice.

  • Overall, these nutrient-dense foods are a great source of protein, , fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate as well as other B vitamins.
  • They have virtually no fat.
  • They can supply a significant amount of protein for those who do not consume or limit animal proteins – lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and tofu have a percentage of calories from proteins similar in range as regular ground beef, eggs, cow’s milk, and cheddar cheese.
  • Pulses have a low glycemic index, making them a great dietary option that can help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Pulses are a concentrated source of fiber (soluble and insoluble fiber).
  • Pulses provide good amounts of soluble fiber, which can help to lower LDL cholesterol and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Pulses are also rich in insoluble fiber, which helps move waste through the gut. Thereby, they can lower the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease.
  • The resistant starch present in pulses is considered as a prebiotic food. Prebiotic foods serve as an aliment for the friendly bacteria that colonize our guts and stimulate the colon activity. Bacterial fermentation of prebiotics in the gut can promote numerous health benefits such as improving immune functions, promoting healthy digestion, supplying essential nutrients, synthesizing short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and vitamin K, promoting new blood cells, among others.
  • The phytochemicals, saponins, and tannins (found in pulses) have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects, indicating that pulses may have important anti-cancer effects.
  • Beans, in general, contain estrogen-like phytochemicals known as isoflavones. This substance is associated with a reduced risk of breast and prostate cancers.
  • Pulses are naturally gluten-free and can enhance the nutritional profile of those following a strict gluten-free diet.
  • Eating pulses instead of red meat (beef or pork) can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, and T2DM.
  • Pulses offer interest to our diets with a rich array of tastes, colors, sizes, and shapes, consumed whole, split or ground or as an ingredient into a recipe.
  • They are an inexpensive and delicious way to introduce healthy options to our and should be part of a healthy diet.

N.B.: Soybeans and peanuts differ from pulses as they have greater fat content, whereas pulses have almost none.

Tips to consider:

  • Pulses are low in methionine (an essential amino acid) and cysteine (a conditionally essential amino acid), but by complementing pulses with grains (which have both of these amino acids but lack the amino acids lysine and threonine) we can potentially increase the protein quality of a meal. Note that we don’t need to consume pulses and grains at the same meal.
  • To enhance iron absorption from pulses and from other vegan sources of iron, it is important to combine these foods with a source of vitamin C.
  • Pulses are rich in oligosaccharides, i.e. carbohydrates that our digestive enzymes are not able to break down. Instead, they are fermented in the gut by our microbiota, which can produce gas. To increase the digestibility and reduce gas formation due to consumption of beans and chickpeas, soak these pulses prior to cooking to reduce some of their oligosaccharide content. After soaking, discard the water and rinse the seeds well. For most adults, flatulence decreases with a regular consumption of pulses. Increase the serving size of pulses gradually.
  • Soaking beans also reduce the effects of phytic acid – a compound in legumes that can decrease the digestibility of starches, proteins, and fats, and can reduce the absorption of the minerals iron, zinc, and manganese.
  • Soaking legumes also help to reduce lectins. Some lectins can be toxic but most are harmless as they are denatured during the cooking process.
  • Avoid eating raw or under-cooked legumes such as beans and lentils as they can promote vomiting and diarrhea. Ensure to cook/boil your beans for at least 30 minutes.
  • Soft legumes like lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas must be thoroughly rinsed rather than soaked before cooking.
  • Canned beans and chickpeas are convenient but they can be loaded with sodium. Rinse canned beans and chickpeas well under running water for 10 or more seconds and drain the seeds well. This simple step can help to reduce up to 40% of the sodium content of canned pulses. If you can afford, prefer to buy sodium free versions.

How to properly soak your beans?

  • Prior soaking check if there are pieces other seeds or small stones.
  • Wash the grains to remove residual dust.
  • Cover the dried seeds completely with water and add at least 2 more cups of water. Cover and allow the beans to soak overnight.
  • Reduce soaking time by boiling beans for three minutes, then remove the beans from the heat and leave them covered for two to three hours. Discard the water and rinse before cooking.
  • Check the instructions on the package before soaking or cooking beans.

Protein content in pulses and legumes:

For comparison:

– 75 g of lean flank steak has about 26 g of protein

– 1 large egg about 6 g of protein

Portion size Food choice Protein content
125 mL / 88 g Tempeh* 16 g
150 g Steamed regular tofu* 15 g
125 mL / 95 g Cooked edamame (soybean) 12 g
½  cup / 104 g Cooked lentils 9 g
½ cup / 91 g Black beans 8 g
125 mL / 87 g Chickpeas 8 g
125 mL / 90 g Lima beans 6 g
125 mL / 85 g Boiled green peas 5 g
125 mL / 85 g Kidney beans 4 g
15 mL / 16 g Natural peanut butter 4  g
*Processed soy beans are used to manufacture these products


A selection of processed legumes - tofu and various canned pulses
A selection of processed legumes – tofu and various canned pulses


How to incorporate legumes and pulses in your diet?

  • Give traditional ‘pasta primavera’ a twist by adding blanched handfuls of fava beans, sliced green beans, and combining them with spiralized zucchini and fresh pesto.
  • Use frozen or fresh shelled organic edamame beans to prepare a dip in minutes. Pureé blanched and cooled edamame with a little Greek yogurt and mint as a lighter alternative for hummus.
  • Use fresh green or yellow beans and sugar snap peas into a stir-fry.
  • Minted pea pesto makes a quick and healthy topping for bruschetta. Just blend cooked peas with a handful of mint, half crushed garlic clove, and a little olive oil until smooth.
  • A traditional appetizer for Brazilians is a mug of black beans seasoned with garlic and accompanied by a caipirinha (a Brazilian cocktail).
  • Roast cooked chickpeas with your favorite spices for a healthy snack.
  • Incorporate cooked beans into recipes, such as black bean brownie or add cooked beans into salads, soups, fritters, burgers, smoothies … the possibilities are endless…
  • Mixing lentils to cooked rice makes a side dish rich in color, flavor, and nutritional value. Top it with caramelized onions for even more flavor.
  • Prepare a dhal with red or yellow lentils. Cook them slowly in coconut milk (do not boil your coconut milk to prevent it to curdle) with a little ginger and garlic. Flavor the dish with garam masala and turmeric. Serve with rice and a little bit of yogurt.


Tell us how you incorporate beans into your diet… your comments are appreciated.



– Fuentes-Zaragoza, E., Sánchez-Zapata, E., Sendra, E., Sayas, E., Navarro, C., Fernández-López, J. and Pérez-Alvarez, J. A. (2011), Resistant starch as prebiotic: A review. Starch/Stärke, 63: 406–415. doi:10.1002/star.201000099

– Grains, Pulses and Seeds Background Information – PEN

– Gupta RK, Gangoliya SS, Singh NK. Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. Journal of Food Science and Technology-Mysore. 2015; 52(2): p. 676–684.

– Health Canada. Beans. Canadian Nutrient File

– International Year of Pulses 2016–Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future–FAO

– Mayo Clinic. (Sep 2015). Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Retrieved from:

– Melina,V. and Davis, B. (2013). Becoming Vegetarian. Harper Collins Publishers.

– Mudryj, A.N, Yu,N. and Aukema, H. M. (2014). Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2014, 39(11): 1197-1204, 10.1139/apnm-2013-0557

–  Urban, J. (December 2016). The Bean Scene. Nutrition Action Health Newsletter.

– Ofuya , Z M & Akhidue, V. (2005).The Role of Pulses in Human Nutrition: A Review. J. Appl. Sci. Environ. Mgt.

– Oashkova, A. (2017). Four things to know about the ‘new gluten’: lectin. Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

– Pulses Canada

– Vegan Baking Basics: What is a Flax Egg? –

– Zhang Y.-J., Li S., Gan R.-Y., Zhou T., Xu D.-P., Li H.-B. Impacts of gut bacteria on human health and diseases. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2015;16:7493–7519. doi: 10.3390/ijms16047493

Pimientos de Padrón

Pimientos de Padrón


pimientos de Padron served with rosé wine
Pimientos de Padrón served with rosé wine


Padrón is a village in the northwestern province of A Coruña (Galicia, Spain) famous for its small and slightly conical fresh green peppers called pimientos de Padrón. About one in every ten is hot‒a manageable kick‒but in fact, most are mild. Even though the level of heat in these peppers is not something to be concerned about, whoever in the group is more sensitive to heat is bound to get it, something Jeff Koehler, a food writer, aptly refers to as the “Padrón’s Law”.

A particularity about pimientos de Padrón is that they are an addictive appetizer and they match perfectly with a cold glass of rosé or white wine. When travelling in Spain, we often stop at simple bars or taverns and ask for a portion of fried pimientos… and we keep coming for more. This is a cheap tapas dish and the portions are generous. Padrón peppers contain vitamins A, B1, B2, C, protein, calcium and iron (thanks to Angela for the nutritional information).

They were introduced by some chefs a few years ago (probably 2013 or 2014) in restaurants in Toronto and quickly became a big hit. They have become so popular that many farms in Ontario started to grow them or an East Asian variety known as Shishito peppers, which are slender but have a similar taste. Both Padrón and Shishito peppers are “cousins” and are from the cultivar Capsicum annuum.


Pimientos de Padrón and shishito peppers
Pimientos de Padrón and shishito peppers


Many Loblaws and Michael-Angelo’s stores in Toronto carry Padrón and/or shishito peppers during the summer, but we have found this delicacy on other seasons too.  When buying, look for shiny green peppers with firm, unwrinkled skin. They are sold into small containers like the one on the photo and the price range is between C$5.00 and C$7.00.


Boxes of Padrón peppers at Loblaws
Boxes of Padrón peppers at Loblaws

 Padrón peppers
Padrón peppers

The simplest form to prepare this delicacy as a tapas dish is to quickly fry the pimientos in olive oil until blistered in spots and then generously scatter salt over them. The oil needs to be hot (but not smoking!) before adding the pimientos. They also should not be fried too long or they will lose their natural aroma and flavor.  Another option is to deep fry them, but more olive oil is needed in this case. Both varieties are also excellent choices for stuffing, sauteing and tempura.


Ingredients for pan-fried pimientos: extra virgin olive oil, pimientos and salt
Ingredients for pan-fried pimientos: extra virgin olive oil, pimientos and salt

To eat them, pick up a pepper by the stem and chew up the whole pepper, seeds included, discarding only the stems. Yes, you can eat the soft white core and the seeds if you want. Delicious!


Padrón peppers
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Snack, vegan, appetizer
Cuisine: Spanish
  • 1 container (250 g) Padrón or Shishito peppers
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Maldon, kosher or coarse sea salt
  1. Wash the peppers and dry all of them well. Do not remove the stems.
  2. In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the peppers and quickly cook, turning as needed, until they are blistered in places but not blackened (about 4 minutes). You may need a splatter guard.
  4. Transfer the peppers to a plate with absorbent paper towels to wick away the excess oil.
  5. Move the peppers to a serving plate and generously season with salt flakes. Serve hot.



Nutritional Values of Padrón Peppers, Casa Conde Europe

Spain, Jeff Koehler. Chronicle Books


fresh mango



It is March break!!! Outside the snow is falling and the temperature is -18°C… I keep asking myself why I have not booked a vacation to a warm destination like some of my friends have done. I truly wish they all have a great time under the sun, so to celebrate their sunny vacation and to bring me back some warm memories of bright and sunny days, I have chosen to prepare a few comforting recipes with the “king of fruits”, i.e. mangoes.

Mango is a happy fruit, full of colors and flavor. I have fun childhood memories of climbing mango trees not only to savor a ripe fruit but also to enjoy a battle of mango pits with my siblings and friends. Now, far away from the tropics and from mango trees, I am able to recall these good memories every time I buy or eat a mango.

If you allow a mango to ripe properly, the aroma is sweet and fruity. This delectable aroma comes from the stem end of the fruit, and this is the best clue to indicate that a mango is ready to eat. Do not be deceived by red or orange tones on the skin as ripeness or judge green tones as not ripe… and as a matter of consideration for other buyers, please do not squeeze mangoes (and this applies to avocados, peaches, and plums too) to check for ripeness. This pressure can promote bruises on the fruit. Indeed the flesh of your mango will become softer as they ripe but be gentle with your food, use other senses, and exert patience. Good things take time…

Nutrients in mangoes:

A cup of mango provides 60% of your daily vitamin C needs and a third of a day’s vitamin A, about 3 grams of fiber, and a good dose of blood-pressure-lowering potassium. In addition, mangoes are also a source of vitamins B6, E and K, and of copper.

The vibrating color of mangoes is produced by the phytochemicals beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. These phytochemicals help to protect our eyes from damage by free radicals. Mangoes also contain carotenoids and polyphenols – these antioxidants have been associated with a reduced risk for certain cancers such as prostate, colon and breast cancers.

Added bonus, mangoes are less likely to have pesticides residues.

Ripening and storing mangoes:

  • Unripe mangoes must be stored at room temperature. During the ripening process, the flesh will become sweeter and softer.
  • Speed up ripening process naturally by placing a mango in a paper bag at room temperature. You can also add an apple or banana to further speed up the ripening process as these fruits will release more ethylene gas.
  • Once ripe, move your mango to the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. You can also lock the freshness of ripe mangoes by peeling, cubing and storing the pieces into an airtight container or a freezer bag (to prevent freezer burn) for up to 6 months.

Mangoes have natural tenderizing properties, making them a perfect ingredient for marinades. This versatile ingredient is a great addition to smoothies, salads, salad dressings, salsas, chutneys, on fish, seafood, chicken or pork, as a featured ingredient on desserts or simply plain. Below are three simple but delicious recipes using mangoes. Enjoy!

Mango salad

Mango chia pudding

Mango sauce


AM, foods&foodies, 2017

Mango sauce

Mango sauce on sushi

Mango sauce


This mango sauce is a great topping for mango chia pudding, pound cakes, fruit salads, and ice cream. Many countries incorporate mangoes in various savory dishes such as salsas, salads, and chutney. Some countries substitute mangoes for avocados when preparing California rolls. Mangoes are creamy and add a nice sweetness to the rolls. The recipe for this mango sauce was used on top of hako sushi (Osaka’s boxed style sushi) on the image above. The incorporation of lime juice to this mango sauce prevents discoloration and adds a subtle citrus touch. You can omit the sweetener agent if you prefer, as ripe mangoes are often sweet.

This versatile sauce also can be used as a base for a delicious mango popsicle. Just fill up popsicle molds with the mango sauce and voilà!  If you do not have popsicle molds, you can use small disposable paper or plastic cups and add a wooden stick. However, omitting the sugar, honey or other sweetener of your choice from this mango sauce when preparing a frozen treat can make it quite bland – especially for those with a sweet tooth – and this blandness can be explained by a bit of food science.

popsicleA bit of food science:

For food scientists it is a common knowledge that the temperature range of foods and fluids can affect the intensity of some primary tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami). For instance, sugary foods and fluids seems sweeter at higher temperatures than at lower temperatures.

This effect was be better described by a group of scientists from Katholieke University (Leuven, Belgium). They have detected that  some cation channels – called TRPM5 – in our taste buds play a key role in the perception of sweet, umami and bitter tastes. TRPM5 are heat-activated channels and are extremely sensitive to variations in temperature. The reaction of TRPM5 in our taste buds is stronger when the temperature of sweet foods and fluids are higher. A good example of this is our experience with ice cream. Ice cream does not taste as sweet when frozen, but becomes sweeter as it melts in the mouth. If by accident, ice cream completely melts before consuming it, it will taste extremely sweet. This same effect also happens with foods and fluids which are bitter, the higher the temperature the bitter the taste, for instance think about the difference in taste of cold versus a at room temperature beer.*

As you can imagine, to make ice cream taste sweet, ice cream makers use loads of sugar to compensate for this effect. For this reason, I prefer making my own popsicles so I can reduce the amount of added sugars in my diet and still enjoy a frozen treat. Understanding the science behind the foods I like, empower me to make choices that can positively impact my health and of my family.


Mango sauce



Mango sauce
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 8 servings (50 mL each)
  • 1 ripe mango (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 1 Tbsp of lime juice
  • 1 tsp of superfine sugar or honey
  1. In a blender or food processor, purée the mango cubes and the remaining ingredients until reaching a creamy and smooth texture.
  2. Pass the mango mixture into a fine sieve for an extra smooth texture.
  3. Sauce can be kept for 2 to 3 days into an air tight container under refrigeration.
Make your own superfine sugar by processing it into a food processor or blender for 1 to 2 minutes. Add more sugar than the amount required for the recipe to compensate for a reduction in volume.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 50 mL Calories: 19.5 kcal, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Calcium: 3.3 mg, Fiber: 0.5


Nature 438, 1022-1025 (15 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04248; Received 29 July 2005; Accepted 15 September 2005