My Version of Vietnamese Pho

pho gluten-free dairy-free
Baby, it’s cold outside. PHO REALZ!  (Yes, that’s right. I just said that.) Perhaps it has now become painfully obvious that I’ve spent the last six years working with teenagers as a teacher. As for the cold, it has been the most bitter winter I can recall. Like everyone I know, I just want to hibernate, wear my flannel pajamas and eat hot soup.

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Arugula, Pistachio & Roasted Garlic Pesto

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How can anyone possibly feel guilty over eating a giant bowl of pasta when it is disguised as a serving of greens? In fact, I think I may have seconds.

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Now to stray from the garden path for a moment (I promise that there will be arugula along the way), about six years ago I watched Micheal Arndt’s Little Miss Sunshine for the first time. One scene in particular has really stuck with me. This was when the aviation-obsessed character from the film unintentionally discovers he is colourblind; which instantaneously diminishes all his dreams of becoming a pilot. The usually still character who was in the middle of taking a dedicated vow of silence, immediately burst into a fit of frenzy – cursing and yelling over this misfortune. This scene was so powerful that I could feel the character’s immense disappointment and level of anger. A few years ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, the first thing I thought of was that scene. Yes, there are far worse things to be diagnosed with but this still flat-out sucked. I had already spent my life with an annoying dairy allergy and now this newly discovered gluten intolerance wasn’t going to make life any easier. What was I going to eat?! I lived for fresh, soft bread and hearty pastas. Did I really have to give all these goodies up? Alternatively, if I continued to eat gluten, life unquestionably wouldn’t be any easier down the road. If a Celiac continues to eat gluten, serious damage will continue to be done to the body.

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While in the beginning, it seemed daunting to follow a dairy and gluten-free diet, I slowly discovered that there were many delicious alternatives. Yes, it can take some trial and error to find replacements that are closest to the real thing, but it’s worth hanging in.

For this recipe, I used Catelli’s Gluten-free pasta. You won’t be able to tell the difference between this and a wheat-flour pasta. The pasta is a four grain blend of white and brown rice, corn and quinoa. I have also eaten many varieties of rice based pastas but found the texture sometimes overly starchy. Corn pasta is the next best thing after the four grain blend.

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As for the pesto: it is sharp, zesty and savoury. I love it topped with grilled vegetables and shrimp but you can easily substitute your protein with chicken or grilled tofu steaks. The pesto also compliments as a sandwich spread. The idea came to me one day while searching for fresh basil with the original intention of making a basil-based pesto. But being that it’s mid-February in Ontario, the basil was a little lacklustre. Meanwhile, packaged organic and ready-washed arugula was luckily plentiful and crisp! I love the peppery zing of this rocket salad, so I thought why not have some fun in the kitchen. Arugula-based pesto here we go!

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Arugula, Pistachio & Roasted Garlic Pesto served with grilled prawns, cherry tomatoes, zucchini & mushrooms

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cook Time: 30 minutes     Serves:  Author: Milk and Marigolds

1½ cups of organic arugula (lightly packed down into measuring cup)
½ cup of pistachios (without shells)
1 head of roasted garlic
1 raw garlic clove, smashed
¼ cup of olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
juice from half a large lemon
1 large zucchini, thinly-sliced into “coins”
6 crimini “brown” mushrooms, thinly-sliced
340 g box of G-Free pasta (Preferably Catelli’s Four Grain Blend)
454 g (1 lb) bag of uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp (or another protein source of your choice)

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, grilled
1 teaspoon amount of crushed pistachios per serving
½ cup packed arugula for garnish
sea salt and lemon wedges for the table


1. Defrost shrimp under cool running water

2. Preheat oven to 400°F.

3. Prepare a large pot of salted water and boil for the pasta.

4. Begin by cutting 2 – 4mm off the tops of the head of garlic so each clove’s flesh is exposed. Drizzle olive oil over the entire head and then cover completely with aluminium foil. Place on baking tray or in cupcake tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cloves are tender and caramelized.

5. While the garlic is roasting, slice the mushrooms and zucchini. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Roughly chop up the arugula. Smash one raw garlic clove under the side of a knife. Crush approximately 4 teaspoons worth of pistachios and set these aside for garnish.

6. Place the arugula, ½ cup of de-shelled (uncrushed) pistachios, lemon juice, salt, raw garlic clove and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blast until smooth. Add an extra tablespoon of olive oil if the paste is too thick. Set aside remaining in the blender.

7. Grill or sauté the sliced mushrooms and zucchini in a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Lower heat and add the shrimp and tomatoes during the last 4 minutes. Cook tomatoes face-down on the grill. Flip shrimp halfway. Lightly season with salt.

8. Take garlic out of the oven, unwrap and allow to cool down. Carefully remove the caramelized cloves from their individual skins. Add half to most of the cloves to the blender with the pesto mixture and blend once more until distributed.

9. Pour the vegetables and pesto mixture over the warm pasta. Lightly drizzle 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the cooked shrimp and toss pasta. Individually serve with crushed pistachios, grilled cherry tomatoes and a pinch of arugula as garnish. Salt to taste.

Although the pesto may seem rather peppery on its own, once it is tossed into warm pasta, it settles. Still too peppery? Squeeze more lemon over the dish and toss. Allowed dairy? Sprinkle crumbled feta or parmigiano-reggiano on top of each serving. Pesto will keep in a sealed, refrigerated container for 2 days (although it is best when used right away). Heating the pesto paste in the microwave will change the flavour. Best flavour is preserved when it is kept cool.

Copyright © 2014 . Milk and Marigolds

Smoky Paprika & Zesty Lemon Hummus

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“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed pope-mobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble Taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.” ―Anthony Bourdain.

Sometimes I feel like I am in a long distance relationship with the planet. I watch her from afar, carefully studying the many cultures and cuisines she has to offer, yet I still yearn to be closer to her.

Soon enough I will have the opportunity to do some serious travelling. Between working on my teaching career and paying back bothersome yet essential student loans, I’ve had little chance to venture out on an extended trip. I must admit that I have been fortunate enough to fit in some extraordinary getaways but neither of them were long enough to get beyond the ‘honeymoon’ stage. I want to get to  know all aspects of a place – faults and all. In the meantime, I continue my long distance relationship through the vehicle of cooking. Somehow it makes me feel like I’m closer to the places I want to experience. Today my kitchen and imagination will visit the Middle East. I’m thinking Morocco, Turkey or Lebanon.

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This Middle Eastern dish is delightful as a spread or as a dip and is a source of healthy protein. Did I mention that it is also thankfully gluten and dairy-free?  Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to daydream as I sample this hummus myself!  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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Smoky Paprika & Zesty Lemon Hummus

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Serves:  Author: Milk and Marigolds

Hummus Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas
juice from ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of smoky paprika
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of tahini
2 tablespoons of warm water
2 cloves of crushed, fresh garlic
a few cracks of black pepper
Infused Oil & Garnish:
3 heaping tablespoons of olive oil
½ a teaspoon of ground cumin
½ a tablespoon of paprika
¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
½ cup of chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon of pine-nuts
¼ cup of whole chickpeas

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1. Begin by rinsing and draining the chickpeas. Finely chop the cilantro and garlic (2 cloves for hummus mixture, 1 clove for oil) and set aside. Also set aside about ¼ cup of the chickpeas for later.
2. In a small, medium-warm pan (refer to infused oil ingredients list) add 3 heaping tablespoons of olive oil. Once oil is warmed, add half a tablespoon of paprika and half a teaspoon of cumin. Add the entire suggested amount of cayenne pepper to the oil. Lightly stir for approximately two minutes. Turn the heat down and add 1 teaspoon amount of the chopped garlic. Stir and watch that it doesn’t burn as this will ruin the infused oil. If you do accidentally burn it, it is important to start over again fresh. Once the garlic starts to become clear, remove the pan from the heat and set aside as garnish for later.
3. In a blender or food processor, add the chickpeas and all remaining ingredients EXCEPT for: the chopped cilantro, pine-nuts, spice/garlic infused oil and the set aside chickpeas (¼ cup).
4. Blend the hummus mixture until smooth and creamy in texture.
5. Scoop hummus into a bowl, top with a layer of chopped cilantro followed by the whole chickpeas and a light sprinkle of more ground cumin and paprika. With a spoon, swirl the infused oil over the hummus. Serve with corn-based tortilla chips, GF cornbread or your favourite gluten-free crackers. This hummus lasts in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 – 5 days.

Tips: Can’t handle the heat? Eliminate the cayenne. Want it zestier? Add more lemon juice.
Although I feel that coriander is essential to life itself, it can be replaced with parsley for cilantro haters.

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Copyright © 2014 . Milk and Marigolds

Curried Carrot and Parsnip Soup

Sweet, savoury and spicy all in one bowl, this soup is a real crowd pleaser that is healthy and easy to prepare;  not to mention inexpensive to make.

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Behind every good meal, there’s a (good?) story…

While I was in high school, I was given the lucky opportunity to work in a kitchen alongside an experienced cook.  There I assisted with planning and catering three-course meals every Sunday for a group of 10 to 15 people.  This kitchen was spacious, well stocked and therefore every cook’s dream. It has forever ruined me!  No other kitchen will ever (sigh) compare.   After all, they do say that you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

I should note that this all took place in a retirement home.  Initially, I ignorantly thought my meal planning would consist of all things mashed and puddings.  But as it turns out, the elderly are human beings too, and also enjoy eating a range of cuisine and textures…OBVIOUSLY!

Was I ever a dummy!  Yes, at times, softer foods were, um…necessary.  But man!  Most of them could put away a well-done steak with no trouble at all!  I’m talking ninety year-olds here, people!  To be honest, I hadn’t really spent too much time with older people until then.  All of my grandparents lived overseas and during a holiday visit, I once saw my grandmother’s dentures floating in a glass of water.  This, quite frankly, frightened the life out of me.  So there I was, about to embark upon work in a retirement home and all I could think of were those loose, detached dentures.  After a few weeks of working at the home, my eyes were opened as I slowly got to know some of these wonderful individuals.  In fact, I ended up having some of the best conversations of my life with these people.

Some of the most memorable conversations were about the specialities they once prepared in their own kitchens for family and friends.  After all, where did I think recipes came from?

By now you’re probably wondering, that’s nice, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SOUP!?

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Well, one of the first things I learned to cook properly was carrot soup. When arriving to the kitchen with the little experience I had, I thought…brilliant! I can serve them soup! Old people can eat soup! Luckily, despite this recipe being stereotypically smooth and soft in texture, it was well received and became a regularly requested item. Outside of the home, it also became a favourite of my family’s. Therefore, I thought why not kick off my blog with this contender! If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there for the long haul! I hope you love this soup as much as my friends and family do. Enjoy!

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Curried Carrot and Parsnip Soup  

Prep Time: 15 minutes    Cook time: 45 minutes    Serves: 4     Author: Milk and Marigolds

4 carrots, diced
1 medium parsnip, diced
1 small potato, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1½ teaspoons of ground cumin
½  teaspoon curry powder 1 tablespoon of Patak’s vindaloo curry paste (or triple the quantity of the curry powder instead)
1 gluten-free chicken or veggie stock cube
4½ cups of hot water
½ cup of roughly chopped cilantro as garnish
pepper & salt to taste


1. Begin by preparing the vegetables and boil enough water for the stock ahead of time.
2. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the cumin and curry powder and stir for about 1 minute.
3. Add the onions and celery and sauté until mostly clear or lightly browned. Then add the garlic. Continue to stir. You want to avoid browning the garlic too much as this will make your dish taste bitter.
4. Add the carrots, parsnip and potato. I dice them to cut down cooking time. Stir for one to two minutes until they become coated in the oil and spices.
5. Add the vindaloo paste, stock cube and boiled water.
6. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. Keep the lid on to avoid liquid evaporating. Occasionally stir. Test if the carrots are tender by placing a knife through its centre.
7. Using a blender, (I personally love my hand blender as it’s less cleanup) puree the soup until its smooth in texture.
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with chopped cilantro before serving. Enjoy!


If the soup is too spicy for your liking, add half a cup of coconut milk to lessen the heat. The coconut milk also adds great flavour. You can change the consistency by adding more stock if desired. Don’t dig cilantro? Garnish with thinly sliced spring onion instead.

Copyright © 2014 . Milk and Marigolds

Life is sweet

Life is Sweet.