Gluten Free & Vegan Finger Food: Quinoa Balls

December is a social season for most of cultures. I am sure you have many invitations to the gatherings and parties. I am introducing this recipe for people looking for gluten free & vegan finger food to bring to the potluck or for your party!

Idea is from Quinoa burger, and we are now making it in mini size, just like meat balls. It’s nutty and crispy outside and I made this nutty, crispy appetizer for a big party and both kids and adults really enjoy this “Quinoa Balls”!

Enjoy the festivity!

Ingredients (about 40 balls) :

  • 1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa (well cooked side to make it stick together)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, minced in food processor (combination of brown/white and Portobello)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp flax meal (ground flax seeds) or any alternative flour (buckwheat, chick pea etc) to bind
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • sea salt & black pepper for taste


Combine the quinoa, mushroom, shallot, and parsley in a medium bowl. Stir in the olive oil, flax meal and all the spices in to the bowl and stir well. Let sit for a few minutes so the flax meal can absorb some of the moisture.  Make small balls in 1-2 bite size, about 1 to 1.5 inch diameter (if it does not hold together, add some more flax meal), place on baking sheet (put little olive oil on the sheet).

Preheat the oven at 400F and bake the quinoa ball for 10-15min until all sides are golden.

Serve with Tahini Sauce (below) or Greek style plain yogurt for non-vegan.

Tahini Sauce


  • 4 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (high quality extra virgin would be better)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp finely chopped chive as a garnish

Direction: Combine all the ingredients except chive, whisk together for a few minuets until the source is smooth. garnish with chive.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

I came across this type of beets & goat cheese salad a few times at the restaurants, and each time I did enjoyed them! The combination of the sweetness of beets and creamy goat cheese is simply great! So I decided to enjoy it at home too! In this salad, I also added maple syrup coated walnuts to give another layer of flavour.

In this season, you can make this salad easily at home with all local ingredients in Ontario. It is quite simple to make but the richness of the colours makes it to be quite gorgeous on the table.  Thanks to the blessings of the mother earth.


  • 2-3 medium beets – you can use different colours, too!
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 handfuls of your choice of greens (mixed green, baby spinach, arugula, dandelion green etc)
  • Chèvre (soft, fresh type of Goat cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • dash of sea salt and black pepper


1. Wash and remove stems and ends from beets and place in a saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Cook on boil for 40 to 60 minutes, until you can stick fork or knife through beets easily. After cooling, remove skin and cut into thin slices.

2. Place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat to toast. When walnuts are heated up and starting to have a nutty smell,  stir in the maple syrup and pinch of sea salt. Stir well until walnuts are evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and sea salt and black pepper to make the dressing.

4. Toss greens in a big bowl with the candied walnuts and beets then top with goat cheese. You can drizzle the dressing on each plate separately or toss with the spinach before adding other ingredients.

Vegan Vichysoisse: Cold Potato & Leek Soup

Cold soup on a summer day can be a refreshing appetizer for a BBQ or a garden party! Using a new potato will add a mild sweetness to the taste. 

Ingredients (for 2)

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 medium leeks, slice thinly
  • 4 medium potato or 6 new potato, cut in small cubes
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can of coconut milk (or 1 cup of other milk substitute)
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • sea salt, black pepper, and nutmeg for taste
  • chive, chopped for garnish
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the coconut oil in low-medium heat. Add the leeks and a little pinch of sea salt, saute until leeks sweat for about 5 to 10 minutes, careful not to change the colour of leaks to brownish. Add the potato cubes, cook for about 2 more minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook at a low simmer on low heat for about 1/2 an hour, until the leeks and potato are very soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes before the next step.

Using a blender or food processor, very carefully puree the soup in small batches. Return to the cooking pot, whisk in coconut milk, nutmeg and taragon. Add the sea salt and pepper. Return to a boil, turn down and simmer for 5 minutes. If it’s too thick, add a little more stock to thin it out. Then let cool and refrigerate. Serve topped with chives.

Sesame Dressings: Korean and Japanese Style

Store bought dressings are typically and unfortunately the unhealthy part of the salad, because of the amount of additives that are usually in. Here are 2 types of sesame dressings that many people have enjoyed when I make them. Traditionally, these “dressings” are both used for marinating lightly cooked or steamed vegetables, but you can also use as a regular dressing on top of fresh vegetables. The key to the great aroma is to use the roasted sesame which you can easily make and store them or you can purchase at Asian grocery stores. 

1) Japanese Sesame Dressing 

This is called, “goma-ae” in Japanese. You can really enjoy the taste of roasted sesame with this dressing. This is more like  a paste then a dressing, so it is much easier to use with cooked vegetables (see below for instruction)


  • 3-4 tbsp Roasted sesame, grounded (or little different version, you can use tahini instead)
  • 1 tbsp Soy source 
  • 1 tbsp or less honey, maple syrup, molasses, or any natural sweetener

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, add vegetables (see below) mixed well

1) Korean Sesame Dressing 

This is called, “Namul” in Korean. It has a well balanced spice of garlic & ginger, and goes really well with rice!


  • 2 tbsp Roasted sesame
  • 1 tbsp Soy source 
  • 1 tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, add vegetables (see below) mixed well

Tips: Vegetables typically used are such as spinach, beans, carrots and/or bean sprouts. Boil water in a large pot with a pinch of salt, then boil vegetable lightly (vegetables are tender enough, but still has little crunchiness). Take the vegetable out when it is ready, and cool it down with a cold running water. Drain exsess water well from the vegetables and mix/marinate with either of dressings above.

Sesame is a great source of fiber and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper, also is high in amino acid, tryptophan.

Traditional Kelp Soup Stock

I think one of the nutritious food items that is so hard to introduce in Canadian daily meal is KELP (Kombu in Japanese). Here in Toronto is especially so faraway from the ocean, that smell of “sea” is somewhat foreign to people.

Making a soup stock is one idea of using kelp in quite paritable way! The bonus is it is super simple!  

This is a traditional way of taking soup stock from kelp in Japan. We use this in any type of soup, hot-pot, and cook with vegetables (nimono). When you mix this stock in soup (such as miso soup, chicken noodle, stew etc),  you will hardly know there is kelp in it. So I think this would be a good way to introduce kelp to children, too!

Kelp Soup Stock 1 (cold-water extracted)


  • Dried kelp, about 4′ x 8′ (about 30g) 
  • Filtered water, 1L
Wipe the surface of kelp with a dry cloth to clean (never wash it!). Put kelp in water and extract it for 10-12 hours. Take kelp out and use the soup stock. You can also eat or cook this kelp!
In Japanese home, we usually prepare the stock in the morning to use it for dinner, or just prepare it overnight. Kelp is also an alkalizing food because of its rich mineral contents, so it is recommended to drink a glass of this stock first thing in a morning!


Kelp Soup Stock 2 (hot-water extracted)


  • Dried kelp, about 4′ x 8′ (about 30g) 
  • Filtered water, 1L
This is a quicker way of taking broth. Wipe the surface of kelp with a dry cloth to clean (never wash it!). In a large pot, put kelp and water and soak for 30 min. Place this pot on medium heat, slowly bring it to boil, and just before boiling, take kelp out of soup stock. Again, you can also eat or cook this kelp!
You can also add dried Shiitake mushroom in the soup to add more flavour + nutrient (Shiitake is a great immune enhancer). You can add 5 dried Shiitake mushroom in a large pot with kelp and water for soaking 30 min. Place this pot on medium heat, slowly bring it to boil, and just before boiling, take kelp out of soup stock but leave the Shiitake mushroom in the stock. Reduce the heat to low-medium, simmer for another 30 min.
Here is a little highlight for the benefit of Kelp
  • good source of minerals including: iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, boron, and iron (important for healthy thyroid gland and bone)
  • Good source of vitamins including: b vitamins, vitaminC and E
  • Cancer prevention: has ability to induce apoptoses (cell death) in cancer cells
  • Remove radioactive substances: Sodium alginate in kelp (as well as in other seaweeds) reduce absorption of radioactive strontium by the intestine.
  • Anti-inflammatory: kelp contains fucoidan, a powerful anti-inflammatory

Spring Celebration: Fiddlehead & Asparagus Soup

Spring equinox is quickly approaching, so I wanted to share something to celebrate this wonderful weather we have been having! It is still early for our regular fiddlehe

ad season, but most likely we will be having early fiddlehead season this year.

Fiddleheads are the tops of baby ostrich ferns. They are great source of antioxidants, high in iron, magnesium and other minerals. They are also a source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. When you buy fiddleheads, look for a tight coil with only an inch or two of stem beyond the coil.


  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tbsp of butter or coconut oil
  • 3 green onion or a bunch of chive, chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp flour (or brown rice flour to make it gluten free)
  • 3 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 20 fiddleheads, cleaned well
  • 1 parsnips, chopped in pieces
  • 2 stalk of celery, chopped
  • natural salt and peppers for taste
  • freshly graded nutmeg for taste
  • 1.5 to 2 cup of milk or any substitute
  • OPTIONAL: a bunch of young nettle leaves, chopped
  • OPTIONAL: fresh Ontario goat cheese for a topping
  1. Preparing asparagus by snapping off the ends. Place asparagus in ovenware, sprinkle natural salt and pepper, covered with top or with foil. Grill asparagus in 475F for 5-10 min until tender, set aside.
  2. Melt butter (or coconut oil) in large soup pot at low heat. Add green onion and cook until tender. Blend in flour to make a roux; cooking for 2 minutes at low hear. 
  3. Whisk in stock in batches. Add oven grilled asparagus, fiddleheads, parnsips and celery (and nettle) to pot. Bring to boil on med-high heat and stir occasionally. Once it boils, bring down  to low-medium heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Puree soup in blender then return to pot. Stir in milk and seasonings.
  5. Optional: for a decoration, top with fresh goat cheese and a boiled fiddlehead on soup  

NOTE: Fiddleheads contain natural substance that can cause gastric irritation, so take the brown fussy covering with your fingers and wash well before cooking, and make sure to cook well!


Miso Soup for anti-radiation

“Miso soup” has been a quite common food in Canada through an introduction of Japanese restaurants. In Japan, miso soup is a daily food which most of people eat at least once a day (it used to be once per meal!). Miso soup has now recognized its health benefit especially as a protection from radiation damage. In fact after the nuclear bomb in Nagasaki, one of the doctor based at a hospital recorded miso soup was very helpful in recovery due to a wide of nutrients which was in a easily assimilated form, also the good bacteria from the fermentation, and seaweed particularly the kelp which is high in minerals and helped remove radioactive metals such as strontium and iodine.

Unfortunately the most of restaurant miso soup uses MSG as a “instant” soup stock. Fortunately miso soup is REALLY easy to make at home! Typical soup stock uses fish as a part, but in this recipe I will introduce vegan ingredients which would be easier to get in Canada.

Miso Soup (for 2)


  • 1 1/2 cup Filtered water
  • 10 cm x 10 cm square size of Kelp (kombu) (wipe with a dry cloth, do not wash it!)
  • 2 Sun-dried Shiitake mushroom
  • Miso 2-3 table spoon
  • Seasonal vegetables, tofu, wakame, green onion etc your favorite combo.


  1. In a medium size pot, put water and soak kelp and mushroom in room temperature at least for 30 min.
  2. Place a pot on a high heat, bring the water to boil. When the water reach to boil, take kelp out and bring the heat down to simmer.
  3. Add any hard vegetables (root vegetables etc) and cook them until tender. Add any leafy vegetables, tofu at this point, cook for a minute, and turn off the heat.
  4. In a small soup dish, mix miso with some of hot soup to melt miso, then put this into the pot with the rest of soup
  5. Serve in a soup dish, add fresh green onion or any other fresh herbs for taste.

Vitalize with Change of Season Soup

Last couple of days, the air has been cooling down, and I have noticed many people started to develop some cold symptoms. As we are always in a close relationship to the natural environment, with a change of season our body also goes into a transition. As a result, during this time, we tends to develop cold like symptoms (like fatigue, nasal obstruction, sore throat, headache, etc), or any part of the “weak spot” of the body tend to surface.

“Change of Season Soup” is one of my favourite ways to .support the smooth transition of the immune system. This soup is made of 4 commonly used Chinese herbs, design to enhance the immune system, to prevent a cold and flu, and to resist the body from everyday stress. It can be drink as a tea or soup for about 2 weeks during the change of season (especially from summer to fall). If you already developed a cold, treat the illness first, and drink this when you recovered from it.


Astragalus membranaceus: Helps elevate energy, helps build immune system and blood.

Codonopsis pilosula: Used as a tonic for weakness, fatigue and enhance immune system.

Dioscorea sinensis (Chinese yam): Helps the function of lung by hydrating and improves protective mechanims of the Lung.

Lyciium barbarum (Goji berries): Rich in antioxidants, improve circulations and boost immunity.

For basic stock: In a large pot, add 1-2L of water and about 2 to 3oz each of the herbs avobe. Cover the top and bring to boil, simmer for 4-6 hours. Top the water as necessary.

This basic stock has a mild sweatness and bitterness. For your taste, you can use this as a soup base to make your own chicken soup! Also check here to see herbs for chicken soup that also helps for the infection.

Good quality of self-care is highly recommended this time of the season. Eat well, rest well, and be well!

If you want to prepae for cold season, we offer herbal tincture making workshop on Wednesday Sept. 21, 2011! See detail from the website

Ratatouille from Garden Vegetables

I have my first shared garden this year in Toronto! With a quite bit of rain and sunshine, we have been blessed by the vegetables, now tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchinis are just in season.

With all of these vegetables, I like making Ratatouille, a dish originated in southern France. It’s like a perfect garden vegetable soup for mid to late summer!

I usually love adding some Kabocha squash to add little sweetness in sour taste of tomato. We found a nice fresh Kabocha pumpkin, so we made this:

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large, riped tomatoes, cut in cudes
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 Kabocha squash, cut in larger cubes
  • 4 baby zucchini, sliced diagonally
  • A handful of string beans, cut in half
  • 2 medium peppers (any colour), coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper for taste
  • 1 teaspoon of good quality olive oil for garnish
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely for garnish

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, place olive oil over low-medium heat. Add onion and garlic, stir well until onion becomes golden. Add tomatoes, continue cooking for 10 min. Turn the heat to medium, add eggplant, Kabocha squash and zucchini in to the pot, stir to combine, cover the top and cook for 15 min (stir occationally). Add beans and peppers cook another 10 min then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook with low medium again until the Kabocha squash gets soft. Serve with basil leaves and olive oil for garnish.

Also read: Nightshade Family and Inflammation

Cooling Summer Herbal Teas

In Japan, unsweetened iced tea can be said the most popular drink that any soft drink company sell!

Cold Filtered Water is yet the best choice of any drinks available to hydrate and cool you down, but some herbs are naturally cooling. We can certainly use this unique property and wonderful flavour of herbs to make ice-tea. About 2 tsp to 1 tbsp of each herb will be enough to make for 8 oz glass of ice-tea. Put herbs and a cup of water in a source pan, bring it to boil and simmer for 10 min. Let the tae to cool, add ice and water to dilute to taste.

So here are some healthy, easy, cooling herbal teas you can enjoy this summer!

  • Jasmine: it is a cooling and balancing herb for the body especially after too much sun exposure or fevers. Jasmine have a delicate perfume and aroma, and it makes a wonderful tea!
  • Mint: peppermint, spearmint etc are really refreshing just by itself. Adding fresh mint in the end to serve tea would make it pretty and also adds extra freshness!
  • Lemon Balm & Camomile: These herbs both have a cooling effect plus calming, soothing effect on nerves and digestive system.
  • Cornsilk: cornsilk is used as a medicine for treating edema, irritation of urinary system such as UTI, and it is cooling and reduce damps from the body. So it is great for humid summer. Making tea is quite simple, you need a raw corn silk from fresh corn, put them in a jug with water and leave it overnight to extract.

Sweeteners: start to make no sugary cold drink as a habit! You will soon enjoy the taste of actual herbs and your taste buds will start to recognize the flavors more without any sweeteners. But if you really need, some options are raw honey, maple syrup, stevia or molasses are things I tend to use. These are still all sugar (except stevia), but has much more nutritional value compare to any refined sugar. You can also use pure fruits juice as a sweetener/taste for your tea.