Virchew signalling – can dogs go vegan?

But first…

Photo: d. king

Let me preface this by asking – did you know that one of the oldest living dogs was a border collie named Bramble who was vegan and lived to be 25?

There’s a book “Bramble; The dog who wanted to live forever” that documents the care regime, diet and the people who looked after her. The book also demonstrates how to circumvent the pet food industry which in many cases contributes to greenhouse gasses and animal abuse via intensive farming.

I know I’ve been appalled at some of the ingredients I’ve noticed on many pet food packages, many of which are on the shelves for sale at your veterinarian. Kudos to anyone trying to improve the industry…but that’s not to say that I would jump in and rapidly change my dog’s diet, which I believe is pretty healthy as is.  As with almost everything else, you must do the research yourself.

Photo: d. king

Here’s what I found: Dogs can thrive without meat, but only if they are fed a properly balanced vegetarian diet. As is true with people who prefer vegetarian diets, protein or vitamin deficiency can occur in dogs who eat strictly vegetarian diets if they are not properly supplemented.

I also found: dogs are omnivores, which means that they eat both meat and plant products. While it is theoretically possible, the British Veterinary Association does not recommend giving a dog a vegetarian or a vegan diet as it is much easier to get the balance of essential nutrients wrong than to get it right. Feb 1, 2022

Vegan diets are healthier and safer for dogs than conventional meat-based diets, according to the largest study to date, as long as they are nutritionally complete. The diet and health of more than 2,500 dogs were followed over a year using surveys completed by their owners. Apr 13, 2022


Photo: d. king

Meet Laura Simonson. She’s a local entrepreneur and the founder of “Virchew,” a complete plant-based nutritionally balanced food (along with treats) for dogs.  Based in Vancouver, BC, Virchew is powered by trail-blazing veterinary nutrition programs – with a dogged focus on skin, digestive and preventative solutions. 


Unlike most dog foods, Virchew is not a kibble.  Meals are a convenient dry blend that is jam-packed with clean, green proteins, essential fats (omegas and DHA), complex carbs, healthful fiber, essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and nutrients. You simply dish it up to your dog’s bowl, stir it up with warm water and serve it up! Complete ingredients are on the website.  They also deliver and ship to your door.

I walked by her shop a few weeks ago and got hooked by the colourful posters and ambience so went inside to check it out and ask a few questions. I left with some love bowl samples.  I like the idea behind the name and believe she’s concocted a healthy plant based formula, however I’m continuing to feed Layla a combo of meat + veggies as this is a new concept for us. We’ll continue with her regular routine. I always add several drops of a cellular formula called “rejeneril” (see link below) to her kibble in the morning. In the evening I mix either cooked ground turkey, chicken or wild salmon with mixed veggies (carrots, peas, green beans, a little squash or sweet potato) and rice. I add a tsp of coconut or ultra fish oil to the mix.  She never gets bored.  I also give her a bit of plain yogurt, but not everyday.

Let’s consider Laura’s story…taken from her website profile page:

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

One day in 1989, Laura went to a natural health bookstore in Saskatoon, SK. It was a highly unusual store for its time and so was a book she happened upon. The self-published book title eluded to “vegetarian dogs.” (The word ‘vegan’ was not yet mainstream).  Since she was a bona fide natural health foodie, competitive bodybuilder, athlete, passionate animal lover, and considering vegetarianism herself, Laura was intrigued and the idea stuck.”

Fast forward to 2001, now a vegetarian and after several years as a top-selling realtor and sales manager, Laura pursued one of her first entrepreneurial business ideas: to open the first health & fitness studio of its kind, supported by personal growth programs, and vegetarian catering. Laura created the programs and personally provided the catering each week. It was during that same year she found her dream dog, Shanti, a border collie.

“She had already planned Shanti’s vegetarian diet, and after consulting a veterinarian friend, she decided on a home-cooked diet combined with a veterinary, vegetarian formula. Shanti quickly became the studio’s living mascot as she delighted clients and friends alike with her boundless energy.”

Photo: d. king

“In 2008, through a fortuitous event, Laura met Gord Espeseth, an entrepreneur, innovator, and businessman who was also a vegetarian. With a background as a farmer, bush pilot, social worker, international food broker, owner of a food production company, and inventor of TRAK Kayaks (National Geographic dubbed TRAK the world’s ultimate kayak), Gord was the perfect match to play a support role for Laura’s next BIG idea: a vegetarian food company with a social venture foundation.” 

One day in December 2009, while assisting a friend with a food demo at a West Vancouver Whole Foods store, Laura took a break to walk down the dog food aisle. As she scanned the shelves and saw the absence of a vegetarian or vegan option, it was at that moment that the inspiration lightbulb went off! She knew what needed to be done and quickly linked this new idea all the way back to that moment in the book store in Saskatchewan and that glimpse of the vegetarian dog book.”

From that day forward, the idea was complete and Virchew was born.

So…food for thought – would you consider feeding your dog a completely plant based formula?

Veggie Dogs anyone?

DURGA Interiors – heavenly scents

On a mission to find my signature scent (or perfume) someone said I should check out this exotic shop on 4th Ave in Vancouver called Durga Interiors.

Photo: d. king    3466 West 4th Ave.

It was here among vintage furniture and devotional Hindu art that I discovered on a wall at the very back of the shop, a treasure trove of rare, unusual and organic Ayurvedic Essential Oils & Extracts hard to find outside the Indian Subcontinent.

Photo: d. king

It was here that I tested at least thirty oils on a toothpick, as they’re so concentrated that you need only to dip the tip of a toothpick to find out if you like it or not. Of course it got too overwhelming so I left the shop without purchasing a thing. But not for long.  One scent I could not ignore.  How to describe it? It had a slightly floral aroma but the earthy tropical undertones with a hint of spice toned it down a little.  It was beautiful but different so I went back a few days later to test only the one called “white lotus” (apparently rare) and when I walked into another boutique close-by, the girl who owns the shop said she loved the scent.  So back to Durga I went and bought it.  Seemed pricey for a tiny, tiny bottle but I realize that their oils (ones meant to be used as perfume) last all day – sometimes until the next day when only applying a tiny tiny bit.

Photo: d. king

So of course I had to research the meaning behind the white lotus flower.  It is known to symbolize Bodhi (being awakened), and represents a state of mental purity, and that of spiritual perfection; it is also associated with the pacification of one’s nature. This lotus is considered to be the womb of the world. Well; what do you know? I am pure perfection! Ha.  Well maybe more like someone who feels difficult to defeat.  Yeah; that’s more like it. I love the word “resilient.” I am feeling resilient like the divine plant itself – one that grows in the murkiest of muddy marshes but blossoms everyday with the pre-morning sun.  Love it!  The Buddha is known to sit on its iconic petals.

Durga, (Sanskrit: “the Inaccessible”) in Hinduism, a principal form of the Goddess, also known as Devi and Shakti. The word Durga (दुर्गा) literally means “impassable”, “invincible, unassailable”. It is related to the word Durg (दुर्ग) which means “fortress, something difficult to defeat or pass”.

No wonder I loved the vibe inside this unusual place.

Photo: d. king

Of course the end result is that other people can wear this very same scent… although it  smells differently on each of us because of our unique bodily chemistry.

If you live in Vancouver or visiting and want to test out something more particular than what you’d find elsewhere then this is the place.

Taken from their website: At Durga, we are all about providing you with inspiration, not only in the form of contemporary and antique Indian styles, colours and innovative designs, but also through soothing traditional music, healing fragrance and a soulful ambiance. All our items come with a brief description, age and provenance so you can walk away with as much knowledge as you can about the pieces in your hands. Visit us today and prepare to be transported to another time!


Suddenly September

Adios August; you were wonderful. Welcome  September.

basically how I’ve felt all summer (ok; almost all the time!)

Notice a psychological shift that happens after the end of August? Even though technically summer doesn’t end until September 21st it certainly starts to feel different. Like summer is basically over. Kids back to school, the days are shorter and cooler.  We can still have many great sunny days in September but we’re gearing up for fall. And we adapt.  Fall is a great season.  New beginnings.  Speaking of new beginnings…

I’ve decided to start September off by launching a new product…or rather, perfecting an old one. Soon to be on my shop page.  I’ve formulated a luxuriously hydrating facial oil. It’s concentrated like a serum to be applied at night before bed but light enough to use for day before applying sunscreen.

Some of my friends know that I’ve been sourcing and buying exotic essential oils for many years now.  I used to sell my homemade products including an excellent makeup remover and a wonderful eye balm on another website. When I finally ran out of product I decided to take a break and compare mine to other similar skincare including cult favourites – vintner’s daughter (expensive but good) & olio lusso (acquired by Estée Lauder from founder/stylist Linda Rodin in 2014).

Even though the market is saturated more than before, I believe that mine works as good or better than others I’ve tried. Maybe a bit of a presumptuous claim, however I’ve comprised what I believe to be the best skin serving superstars – good for all skin types. Check out The Delightful Dozen:

sneak peek

The Basics:

Coconut Oil in its unfractionated form is rich in hydrating properties that helps to soothe and soften your skin.

Argan Oil is loaded with ingredients that are considered the best for maintaining skin’s health. Rich in vitamins A and E, omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, argan oil is especially effective in firming skin and improving elasticity, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles and increasing hydration. I’m told Argan oil is now the rarest vegetable oil out there because of the scarcity of Argan trees. This one was brought back for me direct from the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

Jojoba Oil is nourishing, hydrating and soothing.

Sweet Almond Oil has fatty acids and vitamins A + E to help skin retain moisture and heal irritated skin. *Note: Do not use almond oil if allergic to nuts. Please specify if you are allergic. I’ll be happy to make one without.

The Essentials:

Frankincense Oil strengthens, tightens and improves skin tone.  If you were to go back in time to Ancient Israel or Asia, many people would consider Frankincense to be more precious than gold. Today, Frankincense essential oil is still worth its weight in gold in a number of applications.

Evening primrose oil has emollient properties, meaning it helps soften and smooth the skin, improving the skin’s overall texture. It also helps lock in moisture to minimize water loss.

Rosehip Seed Oil helps to brighten and exfoliate.

Carrot Seed Oil has antibacterial, antifungal & anti-inflammatory properties.

Sea Buckthorn is excellent for reducing acne breakouts, because it signals the oil glands to stop creating excess amounts of sebum. Also helps to reduce inflammation in the skin.

Jasmine acts as an effective antibacterial, soothing dry skin and eczema. Not to mention that heavenly scent.

Baobob is luxurious and nutrient rich. High in linoleic acid, a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, baobab oil may help reduce skin redness and irritation.  

Ginseng has firming properties and helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

In addition I’ll be making a facial spray in an orange blossom water base with essential oils of eucalyptus which is purifying (good for reducing redness) and sweet orange which is refreshing.  Enzymes in orange are cleansing. The spray can be used anytime but best to spritz over face before applying a few drops of the oil. Skin requires access to water and oil, so underlying moisture is required.

Moving along through upcoming posts I’ll tell you where the oils come from and how they’re extracted. Almost all have been used by many cultures around the world for centuries.

Until then enjoy the sunny days of September.



Living Wine + Living Well

The Rio Theatre is alive and well. So is the Canadian “Living Wine” premiere I attended there last night with a delightful pre-show wine tasting. The VIP wine tasting experience highlighted a number of thoughtfully curated living, biodynamic, and organic wines from local producers and distributors. Plus a special glass of Else Wines’ ‘Muscat on Skins.’

You’ve got to hand it to the Rio.  This multidimensional independent theatre is a Vancouver classic!  It has it all. Although it was touch ‘n go for a while it’s now going stronger than ever. I just found out about the wine tasting/film combo by attending a movie there the week prior – Downton Abbey “A New Era” – which was fabulous.

Summerhill Selectiona few of my favourites shown here! Proprietor Stephen Cipes was instrumental in fighting for organic practices for wine making in the Okanagan, B.C.  A true pioneer.  It’s happening little by little.

There’s so many great things about the Rio.  For starters it’s conveniently located steps away from the Commercial Drive/Broadway Skytrain Station if you want to leave your car behind.  They show everything from Cult Classics to must-see feature films.  They have live entertainment including comedy and burlesque festivals, local musicians and fashion shows.  Also Live Satellite for Oscars, Grammys, UEFA Euro Soccer and other events.

They have the best concession in the city and they serve only real buttered popcorn – the absolute best!

 “LIVING WINE” the documentary must-see for wine enthusiasts:

This documentary merges sweeping wine country footage with insightful interviews with wine makers. Filmmaker Lori Miller showcases the dynamic natural wine movement that is transforming a growing number of Northern California vineyards.

The natural wine movement in the U.S. is about 25 years behind the organic food movement, and “Living Wine” follows innovative natural winemakers in Northern California who stay true to their disparate and unique artistic and ecological visions, while managing to save their businesses during the worst wildfire season on record.

As we start to learn about farming grapes naturally – no chemical inputs of any kind – our experts: Dr. Tim LaSalle (Center for Regenerative Agriculture) and Elizabeth Candelario (Mad Agriculture) explain that chemicals used to make ammunition for bombs during World War II became repurposed as synthetic fertilizer after the war, and that agriculture is a major cause of climate change as the tilling of soil causes carbon release and soil degradation, and the use of chemical inputs (fertilizers pesticides, and herbicides) contaminate our waterways. We later learn about the processes used to make conventional wine – lots of additives and manipulation of flavors in the production process.

The doc delves into farming techniques, philosophies, and spirituality.A must-see for wine enthusiasts.

More ABOUT the Rio:

Built in 1938, the Rio has been fully restored with a state of the art digital projector, surround sound, a huge stage for live events, and 420 comfortable seats (with adjustable arms in case you’re on a date).

In 2012, The Rio won a hard fought battle with the BC Liquor board, to change the liquor laws so that movie theatres could serve alcohol. Since the BC Liquor Laws were changed in 2012, The Rio has full bar service with a wide range of local Craft beer & cider, local organic wines, mixed drinks & cocktails, plus their signature artisan Grilled Cheese sandwiches!  Pretty amazing, right?

I mean…c’mon!

Local boy Ryan Reynolds helped save the Rio.  The actor was a vocal supporter of ongoing efforts to secure funding for the historic venue and stave off a bid from a potential new owner that could have seen the demise of the theatre.

He tweeted: The Rio Theatre in Vancouver is legendary. Spoiler Alert: I plan to be buried there. 

An Instagram message from Ryan Reynolds:

Photos: d. king

Living Wine Trailer:

Rio Calendar:

Tea or Coffee?

What’s your preference?

For me it’s definitely coffee first thing in the morning and if I have tea it’s always mid-afternoon.

It becomes a ritual more than anything.  The preparation, the smell of fresh coffee beans and the perfect cup.  Not to mention the daytime perk and a few other benefits.

After years of studies that seemed to swing between dire warnings and cheery promises about what our favourite caffeinated beverages do and don’t do, much of the recent science regarding coffee and tea is generally positive.

According to what some clinical dietitians have to say for tea vs coffee for health benefits: drinking tea has been linked to lower risks of cancer and heart disease, improved weight loss, and a stronger immune system. Meanwhile, studies point to coffee as a potential way to head off not just Parkinson’s but type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems. 

Drinking too much of either can have an opposite effect.  Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, and if you have low iron levels, excessive tea intake may exacerbate your condition. Excess caffeine intake from tea may reduce melatonin production and disrupt sleep patterns.

For coffee it can be increased anxiety and poor sleep (especially if you drink it at night).

But let’s face it, almost anything in moderation is okay and almost everything in excessive amounts is not. Maybe the best thing is to have a little bit of both.

Of all the various types of teas we can choose green tea is often touted as the healthiest tea. It is chock full of polyphenols and antioxidants that help to boost brain and heart health. Green tea is considered one of the least processed true teas as it does not undergo oxidation. But it’s not always the best tasting. You have to go for high end Chinese green teas which are pan-fired or roasted featuring toasty and earthy flavors. Japanese green teas are steamed resulting in floral and vegetal tastes. I always ask my friend who lives in Tokyo to bring me back powdered matcha when she comes to visit. My neighbour has brought me back very nice green teas from China.

As far as coffee is considered, drinking it black is best because of the micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and niacin. The effects of coffee vary widely based on the type of bean, the brand of coffee, the roast, and the brewing method. I do French press and prefer an organic fair-trade brand the best but it’s the flavour that seals the deal. To my detriment I can only drink it with real cream and maple sugar ( therefore one cup is sufficient. Right now my favourite is “Joshue Treethe first roast and their espresso – I buy the beans and sometimes mix them together as one is medium roast and the other is dark. They’re full bodied but not bitter.  Second choice is “Peet’s” Major Dickason’s Coffee Blend – a rich, robust dark roast with full body.  Unfortunately we cannot buy these in Canada. I brought several bags back but now they’re finished.

Canadian brand “Kicking HorseKick Ass is also high on the list.  My latest purchase is Ethical Bean which is organic and fair trade – bought at Costco. 

When back in Palm Springs I’ll be sure to buy Joshua Tree at the farmers market or when visiting Joshua Tree.  In my opinion it’s still the best.

So what will it or tea?

Tried & Treasured Skincare Products

An update of six products I’ve tested over six months or longer

For cleansing the face:

Micellar Water

Micellar Water: is a highly effective one-step all around gentle cleanser for removing makeup and to help clear out pores while removing impurities and toning the skin.  Perfect for those nights when you want to quickly clean up before bedtime. Plus, it’s free of alcohol and may help promote skin hydration.  It can be used on any skin type but may be especially beneficial for those with sensitive skin, as it can help reduce skin inflammation and irritation.  There are many kinds out there.  I bought Sephora brand shown in photo.

evanhealy Rose Cleansing Milk:This soft and creamy cleansing milk can be followed up after micellar water or can be used on its own. It’s very gentle with a lovely light rose scent. This brand helps to balance skin and prepare for nightly moisturizer.  Made with plant oils and floral waters, It helps draw impurities out of pores. I bought it at Whole Foods.

Face Cream for Day:

Grown Alchemist: I love this cream for morning before applying *sunscreen.  I keep it in the fridge not to preserve it but because it feels cooling on my skin. It not only has the nicest fresh scent, it’s super hydrating in a non greasy way.  I first tried it as part of the Curateur Box of Style and loved it from the get go. The clean ingredients really helps to nourish the skin.  It’s a keeper.

Face Cream for Night:

Nonie of Beverly Hills: I decided to list the ingredients first on this one.

This lightweight but effective night cream has 10% Alphy Hydroxy Acids from extracts of Bilberry, Sugar Cane, Maple Cane, Orange & Lemon Oils.  It has Coconut Oil, Almond Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Citrus Mix of Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Bergamot & Neroli Oils; Coconut Emulsifier, Orchid Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract & Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

 With vitamins A, B, C, this is touted (according to the website and several reviews) as the best anti-wrinkle, anti-aging exfoliator, and renewer around. It was created from real plant ingredients in the kitchens of Hungary.  It helps to stimulate cell renewal and is considered a natural exfoliator for the skin.  You can use it around your eyes too. I found it at Clark’s in Palm Desert but I’m sure you can find it at other natural health food stores as well as here:

Cult face/hair/body balm:

Cult King: this balm is the bomb. Sometimes we need a little extra help with hydration. This I believe was developed first as a hair product. My hairdresser turned me onto this balm which you can use for a multitude of reasons.  The website says it’s the go-to botanical godsend for hair, skin, shaving, the works.  Loaded with organic ingredients, I put a tiny bit on dry areas of my skin and under the eyes.  For me the efficacy & scent is what cements the purchase.  

Body Scrub:

Suzanne Somers Organics Acai Scrub: this delightful natural fruit acid complex has to be my favourite exfoliating body scrub (and sometimes used for face). Good for anywhere you develop rough dry patches.

*Sunscreen: Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and the results you found.

Random Risotto Recipe

Green Veggie Risotto

When was the last time you had risotto?

Photo: d. king

This recipe is random mostly because I wanted to use up what was on hand (as I so often do) blame it on the wine but also because I hadn’t made risotto in a long time.

In the past I made it using wild mushrooms and low-sodium chicken stock but this version is equally as yummy.  Once plated I drizzle a bit of white truffle oil over top to further elevate the taste.  For those who don’t like the taste of truffle you can drizzle a bit of plain or lemon flavoured olive oil instead.  Sidenote: I usually don’t go for flavoured oils, however I found a great tasting stone-crushed olive & lemon oil product from Italy.  The company is “Belazu” –it’s amazing.

Photo: d. king Prepping for the Pot

For the wine I used a nice NZ sauvignon blanc but here’s the story: when having company over on Canada Day and knowing how quickly they go through wine I put a couple bottles of white wine in the freezer to get them cold quickly.  Two days later I went to get something out of the freezer and Voilà..there was a forgotten extra bottle – frozen solid. Ahhh what a waste or so I thought.  After researching what to do and finding many different suggestions I decided to leave it outside in a plastic bag just in case it exploded. So the next day it didn’t explode but there was only half a bottle left. Even unopened, it managed to seep through the twist top.  Apparently you can drink wine that’s been frozen and thawed within a day or two.  While it didn’t taste completely off, it didn’t taste quite so good either, therefore… not wanting to waste a good bottle of wine the risotto idea came about.

When making risotto you want to keep your eyes on the pan for the whole time – so whatever else you decide to serve alongside it should be easier to cook.  I made baked salmon which was easier than having to watch the BBQ.


6 cups *vegetable broth

2 teaspoons olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 ½ cups Arborio rice (do not wash before; starch is needed here)

½ cup of dry white wine

¾ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Baby spinach leaves (approx. 3 cups; torn)

½ pound asparagus; cut into ¾-inch pieces

1 cup frozen peas

¼ freshly grated parmesan

*I use organic “better than bouillon” seasoned vegetable base (dissolve 6 tsps. of base to 6 cups of boiling water).  

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and cook the garlic + onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of the hot broth, the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more, until rice is almost tender and creamy-looking, about 18 minutes. Careful not to let it dry out.
  • Add the spinach and asparagus and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the frozen peas and cook just until the vegetables are hot. Stir in the Parmesan and more broth if the risotto seems too thick.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, some lemon + cracked pepper. 

Try drizzling a little white truffle oil over top.  Enjoy!

Dinner is Served
Makes good next day leftovers.

Lemon Pepper Parsley Pasta

It only takes a few ingredients to make a fabulous meal – just ask the Italians.

Photo: d. king

The thing that makes something go from fine to fabulous is the freshness of the few ingredients.  This is where less is more.

I mean look at minimalist cacio e pepe (love it) – it’s literally “cheese and pepper. ”   Bon Appétit refers to it as a stripped-down mac and cheese.  

In Italy a friend served homemade gnocchi with sage from her garden pan fried in butter to make it browned & crispy. It was excellent on its own served with parmesan.

Parsley is something I don’t use enough of and it’s so good for you.  Except for making your breath fresher, on its own it’s kind of bland but when you marry it up with garlic, fresh lemon and reggiano parmesan it shines. I just used some in a ranch dressing and there was so much left over that I wanted to use it up.  I don’t like throwing food away.

Often labeled as one of the most powerful disease-fighting plants, parsley provides great nutritional value and offers many potential health benefits.  Over the years, parsley has been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, and inflammatory diseases.

The herb is rich in many vitamins, particularly vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting and bone health. Parsley is also a great source of vitamins A and C — important nutrients with antioxidant properties.

For this dish you need only spaghetti, fresh lemon (sprinkle some zest over top at the end), a few garlic cloves minced, chopped fresh parsley, olive oil, a little butter, parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and course salt. 

Cook the spaghetti to package directions (al dente is best).  When it’s draining you can use the same pot to mix the rest and then put the spaghetti back into the pot. Serve right away.  This can be a great side dish for chicken but works well on its own too.

I’m trying to eat more gluten-free as often as possible because it’s less bloating and you don’t feel overly stuffed. I’ve tried almost all the gluten free pasta varieties there are.  Some are mushy, some fall apart and some taste just plain awful.  Over time I’ve managed to find a few labels that taste good and cook like normal pasta. In the process I’ve wasted some good sauce on crappy tasting pasta.

I’ve tested chickpea, quinoa and lentil but the ones that come closest to old fashioned style is made with brown rice and corn.  Even Barilla has gluten-free now.

End result. I usually say it tastes as good as it looks. In this case it tastes better than it appears.



Taking it easy: back at the ranch

Summer is the time for Simplicity and Salad Dressings from Scratch

Photo: (check out some of her recipes)

Notice less recipes on my blog lately?  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, it’s just that I’ve been making things more on the fly and testing out simple but satisfying side dishes that can double as a whole meal.  Making more of an effort to eat less meat too while maintaining a balance of carbs and protein.  An overall healthier way to eat. Sometimes I feel it doesn’t make for an interesting food post.

However eating healthily doesn’t have to mean boring. I’ve been making a variety of very yummy veggie/rice or veggie/pasta bowls with spicy peanut sauce, teriyaki with ginger and garlic and pad thai.  I don’t always follow a specific recipe and when I do, I usually end up tweaking it.

Lots of salads too. 

I prefer making homemade dressing.  It’s easy and tastes better than bought.  If you read the ingredients on most bottles you’ll see what I mean.  Many use Canola Oil (over 90% of the canola crops grown in the United States are GMO). Many have very little nutrition with added sodium, sugar and fat. I go between simple vinaigrettes (a favourite is a mix of champagne vinegar, walnut oil, shallot and lemon juice) and Asian dressings.  Also  Martha Stewart’s red wine vinegraitte and olive oil with dijon mustard and garlic.  

I love using fresh herbs.  I think that’s the main reason I tried for the first time a homemade ranch dressing. I had nice fresh chives, dill (from someone’s garden) and Italian parsley.  Funnily enough, ranch is not one of my favourites but this one is delicious and share worthy. This fancier style ranch recipe got my attention.  It comes courtesy of Caroline Somers who I follow on Instagram.  Her website is called and there’s a variety of good looking recipes over there.

When I first made it I put it out as a dipping sauce for veggies.  Although it was very tasty, it was not thick enough for a dip.  For a salad it was perfect.

DIY Fancy Ranch Dressing with Buttermilk and Parmesan

Photo: taken from empty nesters website


2 cups buttermilk
½ cup *mayo                                                                                                       ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 clove minced garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon **dried mustard

Shake it up in a bottle. 

Only a couple tweaks here:

 * (I substituted regular mayo for vegenaise made with grapeseed oil)

**(I substituted dried for deli-style spicy brown mustard)

If you end up making it let me know what you think.

Sidenote for those with canines: because I have a dog and am familiar with a few herbs that can be given in small doses (like rosemary) to their food, I wanted to find out if any of the ones in this recipe were okay to include.

Chives I suspected were not good but now I know they can be poisonous if the dose is right but we don’t want to test it out…so NO chives.

Fresh Dill can be added to your dogs food but don’t overload.

When it comes to parsley for dogs, you should only feed the curly variety.  Parsley  contains a toxic compound called furanocoumarin which can be dangerous in excessive amounts. In smaller servings, however, parsley does your dog more good than harm.

Always check beforehand.