Healthier chocolate coconut macaroons (vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

These are so yummy. Sticky, gooey, and even though I made mine with carob, surprisingly chocolatey. My mother can’t tolerate chocolate so I can’t wait until she has a taste of these! I served them at a party and they were gobbled up; time to make another batch. J

Healthier chocolate coconut macaroons (vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened coconut (shredded)
3 cups uncontaminated GF oats
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup Earth’s balance vegan margarine
1 ½ cups coconut sugar
6 TB of cocoa or carob powder
½ cup of milk of your choice (I used homemade almond milk)

Directions:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut, oats and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. On the stove in a small pot, combine the rest of the ingredients on medium-low heat.
  3. Once the pot’s contents are melted, allow them to bubble on med-low heat. This might take a few minutes to reach. Resist the urge to jack the temperature as you can scorch it.
  4. Once the mixture has been bubbling for 2 minutes, take it off the stove and pour it over the oats/coconut/vanilla mixture.  Mix well.
  5. Drop a spoonful in piles on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Now bring the cookie sheets someplace cool to harden.

Mine usually end up in the garage on top of the car until they harden, then you can stack them in a container. Keep them in the freezer if possible, or at least the fridge. Enjoy!

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Herbed turkey & chicken meatloaf with gravy (gluten free, nightshade free)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wow. I wish I had the wherewithal to have taken a better picture before we packed up the leftovers, but here she is, in all her glory:

Parents- she even contains hidden veggies!!

 Herbed turkey & chicken meatloaf with gravy (gluten and nightshade free)

Ingredients for the meatloaf:
  1 onion, diced
  1 zucchini, diced
  1 tsp tarragon
  1 tsp rosemary
  1 TB grapeseed (or other) oil
  1 TB gluten free soy sauce
  1/2 tsp garlic powder
  1 egg
  3 stalks celery, chopped
  2 lbs ground turkey or chicken*
  1 TB grainy mustard
*I used 1 lb of each (Note: use organic meat where possible, or at least hormone and antibiotic free)

Directions:
  1.  Combine the onion, zucchini, tarragon, rosemary and oil in a frying pan and sauté on medium/low until onion is clear.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix all ingredients together.
  4. Add all ingredients to a bread pan lined with parchment paper (easy cleanup!).
  5. Bake at 375 for approximately 1 to 1 1/4 hours until internal temperature reads 160 Fahrenheit.
  6.  Lift the loaf out of the pan (it should be pretty full of drippings- quite watery even) and place it on a baking sheet (again on parchment for easy clean up) and return the loaf to the oven until the temp reads 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit.


For the gravy...
At this point, you can pour the drippings from your loaf pan into a small pot on the stove, and add:
  1 cup worth of organic chicken bouillon (mine is 1/2 cube)
  a slurry of 3/4 cup water and 2 TB brown rice flour
Bring to a boil, whisking constantly until it thickens.

Serves: 6 hungry people, or 8 people with lots of side dishes

Now serve, to a chorus of "oohs", "aahs" and even a high five or two. You are a culinary superstar.  

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Tangy lentil soup (easily vegan, gluten free)

Friday, December 9, 2011

I recently spent a week with my sister and acted as chef while she tended to her new baby. With an inherited ability (our mom's) to produce meals out of scraps, and inspired by Red Lentil Soup by "Dance while you cook", I came up with my own version.

Tangy lentil soup (easily vegan, gluten free)

 Ingredients
1 1/3 cup red lentils - soaked for at least 1/2 hour, then drained
1 onion
3 stalks celery
1/2 large sweet potato, grated
1 box low sodium organic chicken broth (sub veggie for a vegan option)
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp rosemary
Splash grapeseed oil (or other)
Pepper to taste 

 Directions
1- sauté chopped onions and celery in oil on med/low until translucent (approximately 5 mins)
2- add pepper, tarragon and rosemary to the pot and sauté one additional minute- mix well 
3- add lentils and sweet potato, mix well and stir for one additional minute. 
4- add 3/4 of the broth (approx 3 cups) and orange juice
5- bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer on low for approx 40 minutes. 
6- blend using an immersion blender or by pouring into your regular blender. 
7- return to pot, add in last cup of broth and stir. 


 So simple. So ridiculously creamy and good.
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Kale chips (vegan)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sorry it's been a while. I have been cooking up a storm and have a few items up my sleeve to tell you about over the next week or two. Today, I'd like to share my triumph with making Kale chips.


First of all, please don't assume that just because you don't know what kale is, or because you don't like "green stuff" that you won't like this. Au contraire my friend.

All about kale
Kale is a gorgeous leafy green veggie that is packed with tons of goodness. You can chop it and eat it raw in something like cole slaw (it's chewy, and rigid rather than soft and floppy like boston lettuce for instance) steam it, or add it to a stir fry or soup right at the last minute. The longer you cook something, the more you reduce its nutritional value. That's one of the reasons why either eating it raw, or cooking it very quickly, or at very low temperatures is ideal (really, that's the ideal way to eat any produce). This recipe calls for a temperature of 200 degrees. If you want to maintain a "raw"state you should keep to less than 180 degrees so that it "dehydrates" more than "cooks" but at 200 degrees you're still doing okay. See how low your oven will go...

Kale is an anti-oxidant powerhouse, strongly anti-inflammatory (illness equals inflammation, so anything anti-inflammatory that you can add into your diet will help combat illness) and is very high in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.

So, on to the recipe.

Cheezy kale chips

Ingredients:
1 bunch of organic* kale
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 large garlic clove or two small
2 TB nutritional yeast
1/2 red bell pepper
1 TB maple syrup
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper (I did about 3 cranks on mine)
*Greens are one of the fruits and veggies that become most contaminated by pesticides (i.e. you cannot wash it off). Go organic with greens if you can.


Directions
  1. Soak the cashews in warm water and set aside while you work on everything else. If you can soak in advance, this recipe will be easier to make (2 hours is probably ideal). 
  2. Wash the kale carefully as it can trap dirt in its many folds. Remove the tough spines and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. 
  3. Spin in a salad spinner to really dry the leaves then dump them into a big wide bowl.
  4. In your blender- combine cashews (drained), nutritional yeast, garlic, red pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, maple syrup and cider vinegar.
  5. You will have to blend then scrape down the sides a bazillion times before this blended properly. The longer you soaked the cashews, the less scrape downs you'll need. But trust me- eventually, the mixture will combine and look like really chunky peanut butter.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees (or less if desired).
  7. Pour the mixture, a third at a time, on the kale and use your hands to coat all the leaves.
  8. Prepare two or three sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Separate the prepared kale onto each pan trying not to bunch it up. If it is all separated, it will dry quicker than if left in piles. 
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip all the leaves. Repeat this process until they are dried out. It took me three times (roughly an hour) to get them all dry and crispy. They will get to the point where they are very fragile and can be crushed to flakes. That's when they are EXQUISITE. :)
Enjoy!!!!



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Why I run

Monday, September 12, 2011

As a relatively new runner, I can say with absolute certainty that up until recently, I had no clue what the granola munchers saw in running. I will admit to uttering a few curse words on a cold bleak morning when icicles were forming on my eyelashes and I would see the odd one run by. And I really did think those "running people" were odd.

I get it now.

I have had a few moments in my life where I've been incredibly proud of myself. In terms of physical challenges, I'd say my number one moment was the birth of my daughter at home. However, I must say, that moment aside, I have never been prouder of myself than the first time I crossed the finish line at my first 5k race this summer. I've heard it said by a runner that she wasn't the winner, but she crossed the same line that the winner crossed. I couldn't agree more.  I am now upping the ante and have signed up for a 10k this fall. I'm renewing my relationship with my sneakers, and getting slowly back into my rhythm.

For anyone who has ever run, there is a progression every time you start to think about going out, then as you pass through your kilometres (or miles, for my US friends), then as you round the bend on your last stretch home. Here's what mine looks like:

Before the run: "I really should go. I know I'll feel better once I've gone. But child #1 or child #2 needs something/dinner isn't made yet/I don't think I've had enough water today/ hubby isn't home yet/I just ran two days ago, didn't I?/etc./ ad nauseum.

Once I've decided to go: "Okay. I'm super pumped. I'm going to KILL this run. Kids are set, hubby is organized, duties set aside, time to go. But wait- where are my pants/ socks/sports bra/shuffle/etc.?"

The first km: "Omg. Maybe I could just turn back. No one would know."

The second km: "Why did I think this was a good idea? When will I stop feeling every single ache and pain, and when will my legs start working again? I need more grease than the Tin Man."

The third km: "I could just take the short cut. If I cut through there, I'll be back home in ten minutes. Why is this taking so long?"

The fourth km: "Anytime now. I know it's coming. Just ease into it...man I love this..."

If you're a runner, you know what I'm talking about. It - that elusive moment you wait for each time you run. It's the moment that sometimes just doesn't come- like a sneeze that never materialized and left you unsatisfied. But most of the time, it does come and transports you away from your body. You stop feeling every hurt, every step, hearing your breath, complaining, mentally punching the person who convinced you to go...

...and you're there.

It is that point, where it's just me, my music and the road, that keeps me coming back for more. That surreal place where no one wants anything from me, and it's just me, competing against myself.

Those times when I hear that voice, before it comes, I crank my music and skip to a song with a bigger, faster beat. Each time the voice gets louder, I make the music louder. It's the voice of defeat and I don't want to listen to it, so I drown it out and tell it to Eat. My. Dust.


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Gourmet chocolate french toast (gluten, dairy and refined-sugar free)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hold on to your hat. This is going to blow your mind...
This is a french toast sandwich, filled with chocolate frosting. 
Decadence without guilt. Bring. It. On.

In recent months, I have made cupcakes for birthdays a few times. This is definitely my go-to recipe for icing/frosting and I highly recommend it- unless you have a party guest with a hidden cashew allergy. Then I'd say you'd be best to avoid it...like the plague...or head lice...

In any event, for those cashew-eating folks, this is an awesome recipe. It is inspired by the Spunky Coconut's Clementine frosting recipe. I recommend you start by making a half batch which will give you enough for several breakfasts...or you could make a whole batch and then bake a cake to use it on also- your call. :)

1) Make the frosting

Chocolate frosting (dairy, gluten and refined sugar free)
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raw honey
2 mountainous tablespoons of raw cacao powder (use the spoon as a scoop)
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup of your preferred milk (coconut, rice, almond, soy...)
1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to liquid format-not hot)

Blend all ingredients on low in your blender. This will required patience and many "scrape-downs" of the sides of the container. You may even need a tiny extra splash of milk to get it moving.
Once you're done, pour it into a small glass jar. If you put it in the fridge, it will harden slightly (which is what makes it SO good on cake) but it will be difficult to spread so you'll need to put the jar into a warm water bath to loosen it up again if you're using it straight from the fridge.

2) Make the egg mixture
This morning, we made 10 slices of french toast. Here is the recipe:

French toast (gluten free, dairy free)
8 eggs
3 tsp vanilla
6 hefty shakes of cinnamon (I'm going to guess between 1-2 tsp)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup of your preferred milk (coconut, rice, almond, soy...)
Whisk together ingredients in a dish with a flat bottom suitable for dipping your bread (no sense in dirtying two dishes...). I used a giant mixing bowl.

3) Dip, flip and pan cook your french toast. I used Udi's bread for this one, but any gluten free bread will do. I also put a dollop of Earth's Balance spread in the pan for grease.

4) Assemble "sandwiches" with chocolate icing inside then cut into "dip-friendly" halves or strips. Serve with a small dish of maple syrup for dipping (this uses SO much less syrup than pouring over top).

Enjoy!!


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Summer slips away

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our family has been on a bit of a whirlwind vacation over the last few weeks. We essentially did a big Ontario roadtrip which ended at the cottage for the last week or so. It was a really amazing few weeks. Here are a few highlights:

I wish I had better pics of this place, but it is a vegetarian restaurant called The Cornerstone, in Guelph Ontario. The meal was exquisite, they were well versed in gluten and other food intolerances, and it was super great. This is the latte I drank which would blow your mind. I had it with soy milk...it was a treat. :)


These are pictures from the Ontario Science centre. That floor is a projection from above, but still somehow knows where you step and makes waves on the floor as you do. Awesome.

 The kids loved their day there. So did the grown ups. :)


We found this great Gluten free bakery in Richmond Hill (north of Toronto) called Nate's Bagels. They had fresh pasta, a dozen or so varieties of frozen gnocchi, frozen loves (like the mock rye loaf below), the focaccia bread that forms the basis of the GF pizza at Il Fornello in Toronto, and fresh hot bagels right out of the oven that would make you CRY they are so good. Here are some of the pictures of our meal that night.






 Here's the wee lass as she experiences her first pedicure. We had so much fun. She sat like a statue for a long time before even asking when we were leaving. I gave her my phone to look at photos and listen to music. I wasn't watching but she found the emoticon keyboard I downloaded (yes, she's four and can totally ROCK an iPhone) and proceeded to spam her father with text messages for the next 30 minutes. Whoops. :)
I have a stubborn video of the pool at the Courtyard Marriot in Kingston and my kid barelling down the slide. The video won't seem to upload (thanks Blogger) but suffice it to say he's a total fish. He's never taken swim lessons but just decided this year that he could swim with no floaties. I'm super proud of him.

We also visited Fort Henry in Kingston. I thought this would be a bit of a bust but the kids loved it. We had a fantastic day there. They (not the kids :) even shot off the cannon which was definitely the highlight.




While in Kingston, we ate at The Silly Yack, which is essentially a sandwich place and entirely gluten free. I'm not a big bready sandwich eater but if you want a simple sandwich, soup, pizza etc. this is the place to go.

We also ate at Greco's. OMG. I cannot express how amazing the food was at this restaurant. The waiter knew exactly what to offer me, all the ingredients in each dish, and everything was incredible. He even asked if he could bring bread to the table and although I don't mind, I asked him not to because the kids fill up on it and don't eat their meals. He instead brought cucumber slices and taramasalata to dip in- which is mashed potato, lemon juice and zest, salmon roe and garlic. I wanted to drink the stuff it was so good.

Our other incredible dinner was at Chez Piggy. Again the waitress knew exactly what was in every dish and the food was mind blowing. The ambiance was also fantastic- it is such a lovely place to eat and the kids were welcome there.

We headed off to the cottage next for some R&R. Here is the cottage kitchen that we recently remodeled. It was all brown...and gross...before. Now I finally feel like I can cook/create in there.
Hammock time...
One of several rocking great meals. Caesar salad with grilled veg/chicken skewers. Recipe to follow in another post...

Poor tortured frog found at the beach
More torture
Baked apples with a mixture of ground nuts and Pamela's baking mix. Not sure...wasn't perfect. Must try again. :)
Sunset boat cruise

Children strangling loving each other

Totally fantastic time. I promise to be more diligent with the posts now that our slack summer is slipping away...can't say I like the fall but it does inspire a whole different set of recipes. I can smell cinnamon in the oven already. :)
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Adopt a gluten free blogger: Aran of Cannelle et Vanille

Thursday, August 4, 2011

As you may already know, this is my first adoption during the monthly "adopt a gluten free blogger" round up. I'm super pumped to be participating and glad for the opportunity to adopt Aran Goyoaga's blog Cannelle et Vanille.

Aran’s blog looks like it's right out of Martha Stewart’s magazine (it’s no wonder they’re affiliated). The artistry is stunning- the layout, the rustic beauty, the lifelike intensity in every photo. It’s all just amazing. It’s how I would imagine a non-chaos version of myself and my own blog…in a dream…totally far away from reality…

I basically used this adoption as an excuse to take the time to poke around in Aran’s blog. I almost feel badly for dragging her recipe to my little corner of chaos... But then I remember that's why you're here. You already know about the chaos and disorder and you still come and visit. So all in all, I'm just glad for the company and your continued faith in me.  Now on to Aran's recipe.

I will admit to being slightly intimidated by some of her more complicated recipes. I love food, but I'm certainly not a chef. I combed through a zillion of her recipes and eventually settled on her Spring English Pea, Potato and Rice Soup. I will also admit to trying very hard to get this done amidst weekends away at the cottage and not much time for myself. But I did get it made last night, and it was simple and good. 
Note to self: I obviously have a very skewed idea of what a "small" potato is, because my pot became a veritable minefield of potatoes. next time, don't do that...

Here's a photo of my helper discovering fresh peas:

The beautiful produce I scored at the local market


Here is a photo of what I looked like when it was done:

Next time: makin’ it Dropsie style
So once I get a chance to try the recipe again (as I always futz around incessantly with everything) I think I would use a splash of lemon juice and maybe some red pepper flakes in the broth to make it more "me". I would also also use teeny baby potatoes - maybe even the purple ones - to avoid the mountain of potatoes I put in my pot. I love these fresh peas so much I think I'd probably double the amount and simmer for less time- maybe 15 minutes to keep them brighter green.

Thanks Aran for providing me with an excuse to take the time, sit down and feel like a guest in your beautiful kitchen. I look forward to visiting again (maybe in the fall when trips to the cottage are no longer my singular focus in life) and sinking my teeth into another one of your beautiful dishes. Bonne appétit!

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Restaurant review: Milestones' gluten free menu

Monday, July 25, 2011

Milestones Restaurants are (with the exception of two locations) a corporate chain, and not independently owned franchises. The chain falls under the Cara Foods umbrella which also heads up a whole host of franchises including Kelsey's. From what I understand, Milestones is unique in the collection in that it boasts what it refers to as "the gluten free experience".

I was contacted by Cara and asked if I would visit a local Milestones (on the house) and blog about my experience. So the husband and I arranged a special outing to the Milestones location on Sussex in Ottawa, Ontario. This was not our first trip to that location; in fact, we were there recently for an event and I was able to take some photos from that trip too so this review will be a combination of both events.


How they accommodate a gluten or dairy intolerance 
When you order from the menu, you need to tell your server that you have a food allergy/intolerance and they will work with you in making the dish perfect. They make a clear distinction between whether or not you can tolerate trace amounts. For me, trace amounts of dairy are okay, while a lot is bad news. Any gluten is a definite no-no. Here are their next steps:
  1. they immediately have a discussion with the kitchen manager, and at this location (not sure about all), the meal is prepared in a dedicated area of the kitchen. 
  2. The chef goes so far as to change his/her whites, use clean cooking utensils, and a clean pan to cook grilled meats (they warm bread on the grill so it's not okay for severe gluten intolerance or allergy). 
They are not "bothered" by this, don't give you any attitude, and in fact, seem truly happy to provide you with a tasty meal that will not make you sick. This is over and above what I've seen at other restaurants. They are quick to point out what is made outside the restaurant so that you know they cannot guarantee it; they don't make promises about anything they are not making from scratch. I totally respect that- and really REALLY appreciate it. This has been my experience every time I have gone; it was not only what I experienced when they knew I was coming. :)

The menu
Let's talk about the menu. It's big. There are a myriad of dishes to choose from- anything from salads to noodle bowls, steaks, burgers...they've got it all. There is a dedicated section called "Gluten free favourites" in which they list several menu items that are naturally gluten free.
Here's a peek at the regular menu (though additions appear from time to time also)...


I have one complaint about this menu: Milestones- you are missing out on all the other naturally gluten-free food you offer! The menu items in the gluten free section are tagged as gluten free, but you need to tag the items that are also naturally gluten free, or that can be made gluten free. Add a little comment about being sure to identify your food allergy/intolerance to your server and wham- you have a ton more dishes to choose from. There are five items in the "Gluten free favourites" menu, but so many more that you can add to your already fantastic list. The noodle bowls can be made with brown rice noodles, several salads are gluten-free-friendly, as well as simple dishes like steak and seafood are all easily gluten free. If you ask your server to make you something, they will accommodate, so Milestones should take the opportunity to toot its own horn about all the possibilities they offer. You guys are doing a great job in offering real food, hot meal options, and you should celebrate all those choices!!!

What I ordered
Having been to Milestones several times, I've had the chance to try quite a few things.

Visit numero uno:
In my first visit (of the two I'm reviewing here) I began with the California spring salad off of the "Girls' night out" menu. This is the Monday night event where you and three friends can hit Milestones for four Bellinis (undoubtedly the best frozen girly drink you'll ever consume) and four appetizers for 40$.

Here's a pic of the dish, and another of me enjoying that divine dish. It is made with greens, strawberries, onions, candied pecans-not guaranteed GF as they are made outside but they didn't make me sick- and a lovely light vinaigrette.

Next I chowed down on the Mediterranean chicken, which as you can see comes with greens, chick peas and sauteed tomatoes. The chicken is usually stuffed with cheese, which I omitted. While this wasn't the best time I've had it (greens and chick peas were dry), I am not giving up on this dish as it was positively mind-blowing the other two times I've had it. :)
The piece de resistance: gluten free chocolate Ganache torte. Yes. A real gluten-free dessert, on a menu at an actual restaurant. The crust is pecans, the torte is smooth and sinfully delicious. I'm told there is dairy in this, but I took the plunge anyway and was not severely bothered by it. Whew. Dodged that bullet but even if I hadn't, it was SO worth it.
Um yeah. The hubby and I tore that puppy up. It was RIDICULOUS. Is it rude to lick your plate at a restaurant?

Here's what I had on the last visit...
Visit numero dos
We were greeted by the manager Meghan and our waiter Todd (both fantabulous) with two glasses of champagne- apparently because I had mentioned to the super-fantastic Andrea at Cara that my beloved and I were celebrating our anniversary (8 years!!). Is this a Milestones standard? I have no idea. But it was lovely. :)
Yes, 8 years of marriage and 10 years together. It's quite possible that no one else could stand either of us because we're so weird.
Exhibit A.
 Exhibit B.
I digress. So, off of the seasonal menu, I chose the watermelon and roasted beet salad. Now, I had to omit the beets and the cheese, because of possible deep-fryer cross contamination of the beets and the dairy component obviously, but this was MIND BLOWING people. It had greens, watermelon, and although it is not on the menu, what looked like roasted plantain slices. Maybe that was a substitute from the kitchen staff?? Maybe it was the beets and they forgot?? Not sure. Whatever it was, I LOVED it. The dressing was citrusy and had a nice soft spicy kick to it. Plus I didn't get sick, so there you go.
Hubby had the caesar salad complete with roasted garlic. Without croutons, this is definitely gluten (though not dairy) free and I'm told it is also fantastic.
This is me, studiously taking notes so that I'd remember to relay all this to you...
This is hubby's dinner of top sirloin of with crab and shrimp. He tried to describe it to me, but was too busy moaning in ecstasy to get two words out. I think it was good.
Please sit down, I don't want to be responsible when you pass out. This, friends, is a gluten free burger. Yes. A bun. At a restaurant. In Ottawa. Our waiter Todd (remember his name, and ask for him- you won't be sorry) really didn't do this bun justice. I am a consumer of all kinds of disgusting gluten free bread. Most of it is gross, tasteless and so dense it could be used to knock someone out in a tricky situation. But this was fluffy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, slightly sweet and delicious. Yes, it did come apart a little while I devoured the chicken breast nestled inside, but it was glorious- every drippy bite of it.
This typically comes with a salad but I thought it was kind of weird to have two salads in one meal so I was pressed to come up with an alternative and chose rice. It was boring (sorry Todd...yes, boring) and I ended up coveting the asparagus above. Milestones- please list the available sides on your menu. This would help in moments of stress such as these. :)

All in all, a big thanks to Cara foods and to the Sussex location of Milestones in Ottawa. The hubby and I had a great night and of course, we'll be back. 

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