raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan!)

On October 19 I celebrated my birthday. This year it passed by quietly but had all of my favourite things – a grilled and buttered scone from Wychwood Barns, dinner out with my man, a low-key family lunch and of course a cupcake. It was a perfect birthday, really. Particularly so as I was feeling quite introspective this year.

raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan)
I couldn’t help but think back to my birthday last year. It was my 30th and Jeff took me to New York to celebrate. That weekend had all of my favourite New York things – a Russ and Daughter’s bagel, a bike ride, dinner out with my man and of course a cupcake. But despite an amazing weekend I couldn’t help but feel like I was coming apart at the seams.

This time last year my life looked very similar, but everything was different. I had too much on my plate, I was running myself ragged, I was focused on all of the wrong things. I exercised twice a week but that hour out of the week was the only time I spent on “me,” and even then I was obsessively checking my email between reps. I ate too much of all the wrong things. I was hardly sleeping. I was a lousy wife and an even worse friend. In short, I had pressed the ignore button on myself.

Shortly after we got back from New York I realized I was running on fumes and I knew that if I didn’t make some changes — and fast — my physical, emotional and mental health were all in danger. Over the next couple of months I worked hard to make changes and now, a year later, I feel like a completely different person. A better one.

More on those changes another time, let’s get back to that celebration? And this cake! Here’s a picture my mum took at my family birthday party. Two very excited girls, but one was not so excited once she realized it was a raw, vegan cashew cheesecake.

Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake
Adapted from Health Yeah!
Serves 8-10

As soon as I saw the Blackberry Coconut Zebra Cheesecake posted on Health Yeah! I knew it was going to be my birthday cake. Now, if you look at Hannah’s cake and then mine you will note that mine does not resemble a zebra in any way shape or form. Total Pinterest Fail. I was not paying attention when I set aside the coconut filling before happily whizzing my raspberries into what remained… Only to find out that instead of saving half of the coconut mixture I had poured out, oh, maybe a quarter. In the beginning I tried hard to layer the coconut and raspberry mixtures as instructed but gave up half way through and just mixed everything together. The result was still delicious, but certainly not zebra!

Spring-form pan


1 1/2 cups almonds (preferably raw)
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
3 tbsp cacao powder
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp coconut oil

Raspberry Coconut Filling
3 cups cashews, soaked overnight
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup coconut coil, melted
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp cacao butter
1/2 raw honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extra
2 cups raspberries

For serving
A couple extra raspberries
Some coconut
Handful of chocolate chips
Whatever you want to make your cake pretty


1. Prepare the base: place almonds and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed (it should stick together when you squeeze it between your fingers). Press mixture into the base of your spring form pan – use a pastry roller or the bottom of a glass to get it even. Place in the refrigerator.

2. Using a powerful blender (I used my Vitamix, of course), blend all filling ingredients except for raspberries until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed to make sure everything is blended up. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add raspberries to blender and whiz until smooth. Fold raspberries into coconut filing.

4. Remove base from fridge and pour in filling. Return to fridge or freezer and let set overnight. Just before you’re ready to serve, decorate with a few raspberries, some coconut and chocolate chips.


chocolate chip power cookies

Almond Power Cookies and Goji Chia Chocolate Crunch Bats
Thanksgiving is my favourite of all the holidays that involve family and large meals. Everything about it is just so perfect – the timing, the weather (warm enough to take a walk through the gorgeous fall leaves but cool enough that you can wear your best jean jacket), and of course, the food. We do it potluck style, and when your family is filled with as many passionate and talented cooks as mine, you know you’re in for a real treat.

This year I made another pot of braised white beans and leeks. My brother made a fine turkey that spent 48 hours in a beautiful bath of wine, salt and garlic, while my mum brought a restaurant quality salad that had orange slices and pecans in it. As always, my sister in law who has been blessed with the gift of baking made two types of cake and there was enough vegan mac and cheese to feed a small (vegan?) army. And of course, we can’t forget the roasted potatoes, which have been known to reduce Lairds to petty theft and physical violence for just one more. Okay, maybe not physical violence, but definitely petty theft.

I’ve been working with a holistic nutritionist to sort out some crummy allergy symptoms I’ve been having over the past few months and Thanksgiving fell smack dab into the middle of my elimination diet. While the buffet table boasted plenty of dishes that were free of gluten, wheat, dairy, corn and soy (the most common allergens in our diets), I knew that a sugar-free dessert was going to be harder to come by.

Not exactly one to pass up a sweet after a meal (and after Thanksgiving meal at that!) I knew I had to plan ahead. I debated a stop at a Tori’s, one of my favourite bakeries here in Toronto, but on Saturday morning I opened up my pantry and realized I had all of the ingredients to make these chocolate chip cookies. With a base of almond meal, sweetened with maple syrup and studded with soy-free, dairy-free unsweetened dark chocolate chips they hit all the check marks on my elimination diet.

Despite desserts for days on the table, these cookies were a hit! I was especially pleased that the two most important men in my life gave them the stamp of approval — my dad and my husband, who are equally discerning when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. These are definitely going to make a repeat occurrence at my table, for a celebration meal or otherwise!

Check out the recipe for Goji Chia Chocolate Crunch bars over at YumUniverse, my latest recipe obsession. And full disclosure, I did cheat on my diet with one roasted potato and the tiniest sliver of pink doughnut cake. But hello, it was a pink doughnut cake!

Chocolate Chip Power Cookies
Adapted from UnDiet
Makes 12 cookies


1 1/2 cups almond meal (raw, from 2 cups of almonds if making at home)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup chocolate chips (dairy free if you’re going for vegan)


1. Place rack in centre of the oven and preheat to 350F.

2. If making almond meal at home, whiz 2 cups of raw almonds in a high powered blender.

3. Mix all ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes to let the dough come together. This will make it easier to shape.

4. Scoop out two tablespoons of dough, roll in to balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten them down a little.

5. Pop in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack (they’re delicate!). As the cookies cook they will crisp up.


kale salad with farro and chickpeas + eating out of tupperware

kale salad with farro and chickpeas
I will always click on a headline for a story about the glorification of busy, this idea that today being “busy” is something to strive for. Somewhere along the way I read that when someone asks you how you are these days, instead of saying “busy” you should reply “life is full.” I like that, life is full, and I find myself using it often.

September certainly started off with a bang. We weren’t off the plane home from New York for five minutes before I found myself going 100 miles a minute. Between work and life and now school — yes school! –, it certainly is so very full.

Last week I started classes at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, a dream of mine for the past 10 or so years, ever since I first started working in the little health food department of our local grocery story. At the time I was a vegetarian like so many other teenage girls, and I took my job so very seriously — spending any spare time at work or home studying herbs and supplements, learning more about the weird health foods I’d never heard of at the time like quinoa and puffed millet, how to cure the pesky patch of eczema I’d had on my leg forever.

I paid my way through college with that job and then eventually found myself a “real job,” but it was the one thing I’ve held on to all these years, my interest in nutrition. It’s a natural fit with my other love (cooking, duh) and I am so excited to delve deeper into the topics I have spent countless hours reading about online and in books. And of course, to put my knowledge to good use on myself and anyone else willing to listen!

But it also means that I’m now out of the house a few times a week, eating my supper out of Tupperware at the back of a classroom. So on Sunday when I sat down to map out our meals and grocery list for the week I was on the look out for one thing in particular: make-ahead. Each weekend lately I’ve spent a day in the kitchen stocking my freezer with soups and chillis, anything that is easy to grab and reheat. But even though it certainly feels like fall these days I wasn’t quite ready to give up on fresh greens and salads.

When I stumbled upon the recipe for this salad on Pinterest it practically begged me to make it. First of all it head make ahead right there in the title. It made a tonne, meaning I could whip up a batch on Sunday night and not have to worry about lunches (and school night dinners) for the next couple of days. And of course it featured one of my current favourite grains, farro and a miso dressing. In our house we are currently obsessed with miso in salad dressings (and by we I mean me, totally). I penciled it in to our plan.

It certainly did not disappoint. It was delicious and held up well in a Tupperware all day, and when I finally had a chance to dig in to my supper it hit the spot. Everything you want when life is full.
kale salad with farro and chickpeas

Kale Salad with Farro and Chickpeas

Adapated ever so slightly from The Kitchn
Makes about 4-6 servings

1 bunch of black kale (also known as Lacinato or dinosaur kale), washed and dried
1/2 cup farro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon organic miso
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
14 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup crumbled sheep’s milk feta

1. Cook farro according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, stack a few kale leaves on top of each other and role up like a little cigar and slice. Do this with the remaining kale until all of it has been roughly chopped. Put it in a large bowl.

3. Mix olive oil, miso and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add to the kale and, with your hands, mix into the kale until it’s nice and shiny and the leaves become tender. Add cooked grains and chickpeas and mix until well combined and coated with dressing.

4. Top with crumbled feta.


new york, ny

We spent Labour Day weekend in New York, the last stop on our Great North American Cities Tour (see also Detroit, Chicago, Montreal). What could I ever say about NYC that hasn’t been said? So instead of a lengthy blog post, an iPhone photo essay.

shake shackWe took a cab from the airport right to Shake Shack in Times Square.

 The salad bar at Whole Foods on the Bowery > every other salad bar.

levain chocolate chip walnut cookieShit got real at Levain bakery. We ate our cookie in the park.

dirtcandy melted my mind. This photo of the incredible smoked broccoli hot dogs that I ate is not from my iPhone but rather Amanda Cohen’s blog. I hope it’s okay that I borrowed it, this essay would not be complete without it.

the hall of ocean life at the natural history museumThe Hall of Ocean Life at the Natural History Museum was awesome. I <3 whales.

lunch break at the butcher's daughterLunch at The Butcher’s Daughter. Terrible service, but they weren’t kidding when they called that smoothie Heaven on Earth.

black label burgers and fries at minetta tavernJeff fulfilled his dream of eating a Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. It was delicious.

vegan ice cream at lula's sweet apocatharyWhatever mind I had left after dirtcandy was blown by the non-dairy ice cream at Lula’s Sweet Apothecary. The peanut butter and cookies ice cream was the best ice cream I’ve ever had, regular ice cream included.

russ & daughtersMy usual at Russ & Daughters: Norwegian lox with scallion cream cheese on an everything bagel. Untoasted.

vintage beer bottles at brooklyn breweryVintage beer bottles at Brooklyn Brewery.

pizza at roberta'sSaturday we ate pizza and got afternoon drunk at Roberta’s in Bushwick.

brooklynMaybe this is what Tony Maselli drove when he was a teenager?

 Tired feet in line for a Bea Arthur at Big Gay Ice Cream.

9/11 memorial Jeff took this beautiful photo at the 9/11 memorial.

biking on the west side bike pathWhen we couldn’t walk any more we rented bikes and took a leisurely ride up the west side bike path.

one lucky duck at the chelsea marketAfter our bike ride in the hot sun I was sweaty and tired and sunburned. I knew I needed some rejuvenation so I high-tailed it to One Lucky Duck at the Chelsea Market and refueled with a green juice.

manhattenOur last night we went back to Brooklyn for dinner at Pok Pok Ny. I took this terrible picture of Manhattan from Pier 6 Park.

I love you, New York. See you next year!