Apple and Cabbage Slaw

This coleslaw is super easy to make, naturally colourful and packed full of flavour and crunch.  I think I love the dressing the best about this salad.  And the mix of crunchy walnuts and tart green apples, also the earthiness of the purple cabbage.  Did I mention this is really easy to make?  

Makes 4 side salads
Gluten Free


2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Honey
 1 tsp. Ginger (grated)
1 tsp. Grainy Dijon Mustard
- Combine all ingredients and whisk until fully blended

Apple and Cabbage Slaw

1 small head of purple cabbage (finely sliced)
2 green granny smith apples (cored and julienned or cut into thin strips)
1/3 cup walnuts (roughly chopped)
2 green onions (sliced)
1/4 cup flat parsley leaves (whole or rough chopped)

- Prepare your ingredients by chopping as suggested above.  
*tip* Using a mandolin for the cabbage and apple can make things a lot easier.
- Once all ingredients are chopped and dressing is made, mix it all up and serve! 

It's that easy. 


Coconut Oil in your Coffee??

Have you heard of the latest trend of putting butter in your coffee?  If you have, or even if you haven't, coconut oil is another alternative that has some great benefits to your morning cup of awake.

I've written an article for Recipe Geek and you can read about it here!

Gingered Butternut Squash Soup

Winter came way too early for me this year.   I blame being born in the summertime for my love of the sun and the warmth that comes from it.  Now that the sun starts to go down at 4pm and the temperature drops to below anything comfortable, I go into hibernation mode.  Oh, if it were that easy... Instead, I put on my warm layers, turn up the heat and eat (or drink) something that will warm me up from the inside out.   

Squash is a great winter vegetable since most squash ripen in early to late autumn, and they can be stored for months after that.  I've made butternut squash several times before but since my palate has changed over the years, so has my recipe.  Check out my other, sweeter version of butternut squash soup as well as instructions on peeling butternut squash here!  

(vegan, gluten free, healthy!)

1 medium sized butternut squash (peeled and chopped)
1 medium carrot (peeled and small chop)
1 medium sweet potato (peeled and chopped)
1 small nub of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped)
(will only need 1 tbsp of ginger when chopped)
1 large cooking onion (peeled and chopped)
2 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 can (400ml) Coconut Milk
 Vegetable Broth (946 ml carton)
1/4 tsp of  sea salt (or Herbamere)
1/8 tsp cumin powder (or to taste)
ground pepper to taste

For garnish, you can use pumpkin seeds, cilantro or a drizzle of coconut milk!

Equipment needed
Large pot
Blender or Food processor
Knife/Cutting Board
Spoon for mixing in pot

  • Have all ingredients ready, peeled and chopped.  Carrots should be a slightly smaller chop than other large orange ingredients since carrots take the longest to cook. 
  • Melt coconut oil in large pot and add onion, cooking for 5 minutes or until soft and lightly browned (stirring occasionally). 
  • Add garlic cooking for another minute.
  • Add chopped squash, carrot, potato and ginger into pot. 
  • Add vegetable broth, mixing all ingredients so that they're all coated.  You can add some water here so that liquid almost covers all vegetables in pot.   
  • Cook on high temperature until liquid begins to boil, then turn temperature down to a simmer.  
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and almost fall apart when pierced with a fork. 
  • Once they're all nice and soft, slowly ladle ingredients from pot into food processor.  You may have to break this down and process a smaller amount before adding the rest of what's in the pot making sure to process until nice and smooth.  If you like a chunkier soup, stop processing when you're happy with the consistency. 
  • Add the salt, pepper and cumin and whirl again.   
  • Add the coconut milk** at the end and give it another whirl to incorporate.  
**If you want a thicker, creamier soup, keep your coconut milk can in the refrigerator for about an hour.  Remove and open can, careful not to shake it.  When you open the can, you'll find thick solid coconut cream on top.  Scoop that out carefully and into the food processor. About halfway down the can underneath all of that cream you'll find the liquid.  If you're happy with your soups consistency, discard the liquid, if you find it a little thick, add some of the liquid.  
  • Garnish your soup with chopped pumpkin seed, cilantro or  a drizzle of coconut milk. 


Beet and Goat Cheese Salad in Ireland

A ten day driving tour through Ireland showed my husband and I many old castles, lush green rolling hills, stunning scenery, lots of farm animals and one big beautiful Irish family wedding. 

Our stop in Dublin took us to one of the oldest pub’s in the world.  Back in Toronto, we used to live near a popular pub called The Brazen Head and we frequented it often.  When we came across The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin Ireland, we definitely had to check it out!   It was built in 1198 and I have a feeling, it was still pretty true to it’s original form.  The space was large but broken down into little rooms, most likely for heating purposes back then. 

After all of the Medieval type movies and tv shows that my husband had made me watch  and I had watched together, this 800 year old pub was what I had expected to see.  I imagined large and loud Viking men drinking ale out of animal horns and bar wenches serving them.   Fast forward to 2014,  there were no vikings, or horn cups, it was civilized (at least in the room we in) and there were gluten free and vegan options on the menu!  Oh, what would the Vikings say now!

Looking through the bar menu, I decided on a Warm Goat Cheese and Beetroot Salad.  I was really determined to have a healthy diet on the road in Ireland, and I have to admit, some day's it proved challenging with the numerous pub stops that we made.  The beet salad was really good, with so much flavour in every bite, I was totally satisfied and fulfilled.  I noted the ingredients, hoped to make this back home and when I did finally make it, I was just as excited with the flavours as the first time I tried it.   I'm not the biggest beet fan, I find they taste like dirt (sorry beets)…but roasting them brings out their sweetness, combined with  goat cheese, and all the other goodies in this salad, (not to mention how highly nutritious beets are for you) I can say I'm a beet convert.  

Summertime is the perfect time for salads!  Refreshing, light, seasonal, and the great thing about salads are how versatile they are.  There are no rules, no do's or don'ts, salads can be a mixed bag of whatever you crave, have in your kitchen or have growing in your garden.  

This roasted beet salad is really quite easy and quick to make and by all means, adjust it to your liking! Chop, dice or slice your veggies, roast the beets ahead of time and use cold chèvre instead of baking it if you like!   I had this salad the other night for dinner and use some leftover kale pesto that I had in my freezer along with some cold roasted beets from a few days before! 

makes a large yummy salad for one

4 small beets
2 handfuls of mixed greens (washed)
1/2 cup Cucumber (diced or sliced)
 1/2 small Red Onion (sliced)
1/2 cup Cherry Tomato (sliced in half)
1 goats cheese (chèvre) wheel
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
*Adjust quantities according to your own preference

Basil Pesto 
(or your own favourite pesto recipe will do)

 1 cup Basil Leaves
1 clove Garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (grated)
2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts (lightly toasted)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of sea salt and pepper

  • Pre-heat  your oven to 400º.  Wash and remove stems, leaves and roots from beets, place beets onto a sheet of tin foil (you can wrap them individually, or two or more if they're small).  Pour a teaspoon or so of Olive Oil over beets and wrap foil tightly.  Place onto cooking sheet and into preheated oven.  Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Beets will cook at different times depending on their size. Check by carefully peeling back foil and piercing beet with fork. If fork glides in easily, they're ready, if not, back in the oven they go! 
  • In the meantime, you can prepare the pesto.  Place basil leaves, crushed garlic, parmesan cheese and pine nuts into food processor and whirl until chunky.  Slowly add olive oil while you continually whirl, until you reach the consistency you like.  Set aside. 
  • When beets are ready and roasted, remove from oven and let cool. Lower oven temperature to 350º.
  • Remove goats cheese from packaging and wrap loosely in tin foil. 
  • When the beets have cooled, and your ready to start peeling them, place wrapped goats cheese in oven for about 10 minutes or until starting to melt. 
  • Peel beets using fingers, or a parring knife.  Doing this under running water can help and help keep fingers clean as beet juice can stain.  Use disposable gloves if you have them handy especially if you have an important meeting and you don't like the idea awkwardly pink fingers all day!
  • Whisk Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Balsamic Vinegar, add a pinch of salt and pepper.  
  • Mix your washed salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomato's, red onion, and balsamic vinegar/olive oil salad dressing.  Place mixed salad on to large plate.  
  • Drop a few spoonfuls of pesto onto salad, as well as your roasted, and halved beets.  
  • Finally, remove baked melty goats cheese from tin foil and flip on to salad.  


Kale and Walnut Citrus Pesto

Lately, pesto has become my new favourite go-to food and I really fell in love with it this past winter.  I think a few things finally registered with me, like just how easy and quick it was to make, that I usually have a few basic ingredients on hand to make some version of it, that it could be such a versatile accompaniment to many dishes, or maybe that I realized just how healthy it could be to eat!   I think it might of been all of the above. 

Traditional pesto is generally these simple ingredients, basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  
Making a traditional basil pesto in the middle of winter in Mid-Eastern Canada could break the bank, so I prefer to use a green that's more readily available.   I've learned to improvise when making pesto as it's such an adaptable recipe and kale was my green of choice here. 

Pesto is not a meal, but it can make a meal.  I've had it on pasta, rice, chicken, in a sandwich, on pizza, in lasagna, on a cracker, in scrambled eggs, YES, you can put pesto on almost anything!   

Have I sold you on it yet?  

Depending on what greens you use, you can get a good dose of iron in one meal and it's so good for your blood!   There are so many other great health benefits to eating kale and this article from Mind Body Green shows you the top 10 perks. 

I've added this pesto to a Gluten Free Pasta for my photography.   I love pasta and was heartbroken when I was told to cut out gluten.  Luckily for me (and many others) there are some  amazing gluten free foods out there, (unfortunately, some not so great ones too).  I found a large bag of Organic Non-GMO Ancient Grain pasta from Tru Roots at my local Costco, made from Quinoa, Amaranth and Brown Rice.  So exciting!  Unfortunately, I haven't seen it there for a while.    I had some of the leftover pesto the following day, mixed in with brown rice and a dollop on top of bbq'd chicken. Yum!  Breakfast the morning after was a little leftover rice combined with kale pesto and was mixed in with scrambled eggs.  The rest is in an ice cube tray, and when frozen, into a freezer bag for next time.   Possibilities are endless.  Can you see why I love pesto so much?

I found these adorable Russian Kale Sprouts as I was shopping for my photo-shoot.  I couldn't resist using them as a garnish!    You could also use crushed walnuts, parmesan shreds, or lemon zest to make your dish pretty!  

Kale and Walnut Citrus Pesto Recipe
recipe adapted from Canadian Living Magazine

1 bunch of Kale (stems removed)
2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic 
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (omit for Vegan option)
1/2 cup roughly chopped and toasted walnuts 
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 orange (zested and juiced)
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
pinch of salt and pepper

  1. After stems have been removed from kale, blanch kale in large pot of boiling water for about a minute. Drain and place into bowl of ice water to stop cooking.  Remove and squeeze excess water from kale.
  2. Place kale, garlic, parmesan and walnuts into food processor and whirl until coarsely ground.  Add lemon and orange juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pulse for a coarse texture, or blend longer for a smooth consistency. 
  3. Taste and adjust your seasonings


Gluten Free Breakfast Muffin in Ireland

Earlier this spring, while my husband and were packing for our trip to Ireland, I worried about two things, my diet and my hair.  I had half of my suitcase packed with hair products, hair appliances and other necessities to control my mane.  As for my diet, I had packed a few vitamin supplements, but mostly I had to trust my knowledge of food and what my body needed on any given day. When we arrived in Ireland, I was pleasantly surprised at the healthy dietary options available to me, as well as the beauty of Ireland itself. 

When we left Toronto, spring had not yet sprung, it was still cold and dreary.  Ireland on the other hand was blooming and lush. The colours of the landscape were so vibrant and the trees were exploding with life.

From our road trip, I'd say that most of Ireland was farmland, which I couldn't get enough of. My husband on the other hand, was a little annoyed with my insistence of  taking a  photo of every cow, sheep or chicken that crossed my path.   

While in Ireland, we stayed in Malahide for a couple of days, a small town north of Dublin.  On both mornings, we had our breakfast at SaomraTae, an adorable little coffee shop.  Who knew that this little town coffee shop would offer me such yummy gluten free options! And their dishes were so pretty, wish I could take them home with me!  Gluten free toast with my egg and bacon made for a great start to my first day in Ireland.  

We went back the next day just before heading out of town, and I had a different version of my day one breakfast.  This time, poached eggs with multigrain gluten free toast with tomato relish.  Yup, hit the spot! I was going to miss this place, I’d definitely come here again and again if I lived a little closer!  On the way out, I couldn’t help but eye their gluten free baked goods.  Apple pie, muffins, cookies… I decided on a gluten free breakfast muffin to go. 

On the road to Galway, our next destination, I was getting a little hungry.  I remembered my muffin and had a nibble.  I couldn’t stop just there, it was really good!!  I tried to slow down so I could break down the ingredients and maybe save some for later, I had to try and make this when I got back home.  I saw shreds of carrot, nuts, a taste of cinnamon?  Yeah, I had to figure this out.  The muffin was gone in no time and for days after, it was on my mind. 

Home a few weeks later and settled in, it was muffin time.  My first attempt was pretty bang on.  SO good!  A few adjustments to the recipe and I think it’s a keeper!   

Gluten Free Breakfast Muffin:

Makes about 12 large muffins

3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 quinoa flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts (extra to garnish tops)
1 cup chopped raisins
2 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
2 tbsp almond milk
2 medium over ripe bananas (about 1 cup mashed)
1 cup grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)

-Preheat oven to 350˚
-Prepare muffin pan with paper muffin liners. 
-Mix Brown Rice/Quinoa flours, baking powder/soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl, set aside.    
-Add almond milk to smaller bowl and beat in eggs.  
-Add mashed bananas and coconut oil to dry ingredients as well as milk/egg mixture.  Mix until incorporated. 
-Fold in carrots, raisins and walnuts. 
-Spoon mixture into prepared muffin pan, press the reserved chopped walnuts into top.  
-Bake for 16-19 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 


how to write a recipe

Working as a food stylist's assistant this past year and learning everything that I have, has been exhilarating and utterly exhausting all at the same time.  Coming from a photography background was a little daunting, especially since I knew I would be running into people that I have known from the biz for years, other photographers, food stylists and the rest of the freelance world in Toronto. I was afraid of the interrogations, the uncomfortable conversations, the questioning looks.  I was honestly just looking for something to inspire me again.  Don't get me wrong, I loved and still love being a photographer but I was ready for something more.  I don't consider myself a trailblazer, but have always followed my heart.  Peer pressure never really appealed to me, but I do what makes me happy, whether it makes sense to other people or not.  I have my father to thank for that.  Growing up, my dad was never really very encouraging (sorry pops),  but one thing he did always tell me was to do what made me happy.  And so, here I am :)

Fresh off of my photography career, followed by culinary school, I've been working full time as a food stylist's assistant for almost a year now.  I have learned TONNNNNES!!  I didn't know much when I first started.  Sure, I watched food stylists do their thing for years as I photographed their beautiful dishes and watched them go into magazine print, I went back to school and lived in a tv cooking show and became and educated cook, but what has transpired over this year, has become deep rooted in my psyche.   

This last few weeks were a little different from everything else that I've learned so far this year.  I was able to join my uber talented boss and get into his head a little as he created his own unique recipes.   After a year of following recipes to a T (not something I prefer to do at home but is usually very important with most food styling) developing recipes required me to process my thoughts a little differently. 

If you've ever thought of creating recipes, or even just tweaking one to suit your tastes, these are some tips that I thought were important. 

Notes on Recipe Developing:

Keep track of everything. Pay attention to everything.  If you ever want to repeat this recipe, or give it to anyone, you will thank me later!  Keep notes of how much of this or that ingredient you've used, what type of ingredient you used, how you've used it, cooking temp, oven rack position, cooking time, any little details you can jot down, even details you think are not important.  As you familiarize yourself with this process, you'll know what's important for you to remember.  AND....taste taste taste along the way.   OBVIOUSLY, making sure it's SAFE to eat.  I mean, don't taste raw chicken 5 minutes after you've put it into the oven.  Use your brain.  Pa-leeze!!   
**Disclaimer** I, Joanne Tsakos am NOT responsible for anyone who tastes raw meat/fish or any other foods that are unsafe to consume while recipe testing **  
Take any notes along the way.  Did you add too much salt? is it not spicy enough, does it need a little "something" more?  did you cook it too long?  is the texture funky?  is it yummy?  and if yummy, add more of what you've been doing!  Push the limits!!  If you don't want  to go further, stay at yummy.  This could be a good starting point if you ever want to revisit the recipe.  Test out other people's recipes, take notes on those recipes as well.  How did you feel, were they too spicy? lacking something? Use these recipes as your baseline and revisit them when you decide how you could make them more your own. 

Ok, now give it a shot and let me know how it goes!  I'll fill you in on any more tips as I keep learning!