Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blueberry Banana Soft Serve

A while back I talked about my new found love of Banana Soft Serve, which I discovered from Oh She Glows. I am still loving it! I have tried some different additives such as peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and blueberries.

The trick is to balance out the "hardness" of the icy treat. The other day I used 1 frozen banana and 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries.



It was delicious! All of this frozen fruit yielded a very hard product that wasn't easy to eat with my oatmeal, but perfect on it's own.



I am wondering what the consistency would be like with unfrozen blueberries.

Along with new additions to my banana soft serve, I have made a new addition to overnight oats. The original recipe I found on Oh She Glows uses chia seeds. I had been substituting ground flax seed becuase that is what I had on hand. After doing some research on chia seeds, I knew I had to try them. One tbsp of chia seeds has about 70 calories, with 3.5 g of unsaturated fat (mostly omega-3), 5.5 g fibre, and 2g of protein. This seed is a nutritional dynamo!

The dried seed absorbs the soy milk and thickens the oatmeal mixture. The seeds become moist and chewy, and adds a wonderful fatty flavour.



I have even read that chia gel (chia seeds soaked in water) can be used as a substitute for butter! I would love to try this substitution in the future.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a new way I found to cook an egg, inspired by all the green peppers from our garden. For now, I'll leave you with this picture which I thought was kind of pretty. I baked the haddock fillet in a foil packet with a lemon wedge and a sprig of oregano.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Crostini and Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

For my parent's anniversary they received a wonderful gift basket from a friend with lots of Italian food products. It came with a jar of mushroom bruschetta and ever since, my Mom and I have been thinking about eating it with some nice crusty bread. While we were at the store yesterday we picked up a whole-wheat french baguette. We had all that we needed.

Before we began I wanted to make sure I would like this mushroom bruschetta. It looked delicious but I had no idea what it would taste like. So I tasted a bit and wasn't a big fan. I love mushrooms but didn't enjoy this preserve at all. So this led to creating two different kinds of crostini since my Mom liked the mushroom brushcetta.

I sliced the baguette thinly. Normally when making crostini you would toast the slices first, and then top them, but I was a little impatient. I topped half of the fresh slices with the mushroom bruschetta, and half with thinly sliced tomato and jarred hot banana peppers. Then I sprinkled them all with a bit of Parmesan cheese. I set the oven to broil and they took about 5 minutes to toast. So simple and delicious!



I had my crostini with barbecued eggplant and zucchini that my Dad had made the day before. I am not quite sure how he does it, but this is the BEST way to eat eggplant and zucchini. I will make a post on that recipe in the future.



For dinner I got together with Jenna to make a recipe from Healthy Girl Cooking. We have been eying multiple recipes from this site, and finally got around to making something. We decided to make Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers, modified from healthygirlcooking.com

3 large bell peppers that stand up well
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup beans (any kind you like)
1 cup corn
1 tomato, chopped finely
10 basil leaves, chopped finely
parmesan cheese

Mix the quinoa, beans, corn, tomato and basil in a bowl. Cut off the tops of the peppers and cut out any seeds and white flesh.



Stuff pepper with as much filling as it can handle.



Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 3-5 minutes.






Boy were these guys filling. They are very nutritious as well. They were lacking in the flavour department though. I would not serve these to guests until making some adjustments with the flavour. We brainstormed some ideas to increase the delicious factor for these peppers and came up with a few ideas:

  • after filling the peppers half-way, add a layer of cottage or goat's cheese, before filling the rest with the stuffing, OR mix in the cheese with the stuffing.
  • add a bit of salt, simple as that.
  • add cumin or coriander; there are endless possibilities in the spice department here.
  • cooking the quinoa in flavoured broth or tomato juice, or mixing in some tomato paste after cooking.
Any other ideas for making these stuffed peppers spectacular?

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Have Returned!

I got back from Alberta on Wednesday and have been EXHAUSTED ever since. A 7 am flight from Calgary means waking up at 3:30 am in Banff which allowed me only 2 hours of sleep. I have spent the past two days in Waterloo and am back at home now, unpacking, organizing my 970 pictures and video, and trying to get back into my routine.

In case you were itching to find out, the carrot cake disagreement was settled. Jenna agreed that the cake was not delicious, but definitely was not awful. The cake did it's job as mid morning or afternoon snacks.

While I was away I got to try some new restaurants which is always fun. I took some photos of some of the meals and will share them with you today.

The first morning in Calgary we decided to get a hearty breakfast and found a pub on Stephen Ave. which had a great breakfast menu. This sandwich was delicious and had fried egg, bacon, tomato, and greens (can't remember what kind exactly) on a garlicky bun. It was served with a side of onion laced homefries.



This is an egg breakfast sandwich from Wild Flour in Banff. This was such a great bakery that was all organic and also had a lot of vegan options. The sandwich contained egg and cheddar between two slices of freshly baked sourdough bread and then grilled. It was very delicious and perfect to fuel a 4 hour hike at Johnston's canyon later that day.



After visitng Wild Flour for breakfast, Jenna and I knew we wanted to try one of their grilled sandwiches for lunch one day. We decided our shopping day would be a perfect time. I had the veggie and bean baguette grilled sandwich:



Jenna had a grilled chicken pesto sandwich on multigrain bread.



Both were absolutely delicious. The bakery is a little pricey but was a nice treat. For dessert we got a dairy-free brownie which was nice and crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. I don't have a picture of the chocolaty goodness because, well, photography just wasn't on our mind anymore.

This is a veggie burger that both Jenna and I had at the Rose and Crown in Banff. This place was great! Everything came with two sides which is great when you can't decide between french fries and salad. The rice-based veggie patty was topped with portabello mushrooms and roasted red peppers. I found the burger a bit dry and lacking something, but Jenna loved it! I think a nice slice of pickle would have solved it, haha.



In Banff I also had the best peanut butter and jam sandwich I have ever had. This was at the plains of six glaciers tea house at Lake Louise. After a 5.5 km hike this sandwich definitely hit the spot. This tea house has no electricity or running water, and this bread is baked fresh daily. Supplies are helicoptered in once a year and backpacked or horseback rode in daily. You can appreciate the sheer effort that is put into running this teahouse on a daily basis, and made this sandwich taste even better



Can you tell that I like sandwiches? Some other memorable meals included chicken tacos at Earl's in Calgary, 3 cheese grilled cheese at Rose and Crown in Banff, and a Mediterranean pizza at the Elk in Banff.

I had such a great trip and it was sad to leave my friends, but I am looking forward to doing my own cooking again. I am also excited to finally return to my overnight oats tomorrow morning.

I'll leave you with a sample of the scenery in Banff National Park:



The Ink Pots at Johnston's Canyon

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carrot Cake Disagreement

A while back I made a carrot cake for dessert from 101cookbooks.com (Big surprise. At one point, every meal I ate came from that site, I just love it!). It was hearty, dense, not too sweet, and was fairly healthy. I had it with a light maple cream cheese icing (included in the recipe) and it was delicious! With this success I forwarded the recipe link to my good friend Jenna who also loves a healthy baked good recipe. She tried it out with her Mother one day and thought it was awful! The only way she could eat it was with the icing!!

This surprised me beyond belief. We don't need our muffins very sweet and usually like the same foods. It takes a lot for us to call a baked good awful! I had to find out once and for all whether we did something different, or whether we really do disagree on the deliciousness of this health cake.

I thought today would be a perfect time to rebake the cake. I am leaving for Alberta tonight (with Jenna) and it would make a good snack as well as a quick breakfast tomorrow for my friends and I. I followed the recipe as it is on 101cookbooks but left out the dates. The first time I made it I also left out the dates. I also use regular yogurt instead of Greek yogurt.

The finished product:



I didn't make the icing this time becuase I didn't think it would travel well with icing, haha.



Then I had a piece....

So it wasn't as delicious as I remember, and I could have definitely used some cream cheese icing, but it wasn't awful! I think next time I will include the dates becuase they would definitely sweeten it up. I will still take this cake on my trip with me and will do it's job of providing a hearty and healthy snack.

Now to round out the experiment Jenna just needs to try a piece. We will share a piece on the flight tonight and I will know once and for all if our taste buds are not quite as similar as I thought, or whether Jenna's baking skills are not as fine tuned as mine (joking of course - Jenna is much more careful than I - haha).

I'm off to get ready for my trip to Alberta. I hope to have some great food stories to share from out west while I fuel up for days of hiking!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The "Ultimate Veggie Burger"

Burgers are a really exciting food. They scream "summertime" and can pretty much be made out of anything! I have had this recipe from 101 cookbooks bookmarked for a while, but decided to make it the other day when I had some cooked chickpeas on hand.

The recipe is for the Ultimate Veggie Burger. This is only the second veggie burger I have ever made but it was the best, and I think it might be for some time. It was hearty, meaty, and can be eaten with a variety of toppings. I left out some items from the original recipe and used half the amount of eggs it called for. The recipe suggest you make thick burgers that can be cut in half and used to sandwhich the toppings, but I just made patties to my liking and did not half them.

Ultimate Veggie Burger, modified from 101cookbooks.com

2.5 cups cooked chickpeas
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, chopped
lemon zest to your liking (I will add some juice next time too)
1 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
1 tbsp olive oil

I first mashed the chickpeas, eggs, and salt in the food processor until thick but still a little chunky. Then I stirred in the onion, lemon zest and bread crumbs until evenly mixed. This mixture is really easy to form patties. I could make 6 decent patties from this recipe.
Heat olive oil in the pan on medium-low. Add the patties and cover, cooking for 7-10 minutes or until brown. Flip and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes on the other side. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the patties you create.

The ways to enjoy these burgers are endless. I topped mine with tomato, onion, Parmesan cheese and hot pepper the first day. The next day (btw these make good leftovers) I topped it with avocado, onion, Parmesan cheese and hot pepper. Delicious!


I would love to make a nice yogurt-based sauce to go with this burger and could see that happening in the near future. I will definitely be making these again and will continue to experiment with other alternative burger recipes!

Tomorrow is the celebration of my parents 25th wedding anniversary where some of my baking efforts will be showcased. Should be a great day!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rice Paper Black Bean Burrito Failure

I thought of something that I thought would be revolutionary on the weekend and tried it out on Monday night. Like I have said before, I like Mexican food, including burritos. While tasty and can be healthy when packed with lots of veggies, the tortilla can ruin it. The ones you can buy in the grocery stores are not very tasty and are never as good as the one's in the restaurants.

To find a lower carbohydrate option I thought of rice paper. Ideally it would still hold all the contents together and could be baked. In case you missed the title of this post, this idea was a fail. This was a fail because not only had I never made burritos, I had never worked with rice paper, and therefore, had never used rice paper to make burritos. I will go through how I went about this and discuss some possible reasons for the failure.

I will admit that I was in a bit of a rush when making these. I made the filling using a similar recipe to the Black Bean Tomato Sauce I have made in the past.

Black Bean Burrito Filling

1 tbsp olive oil
2.5 cups cooked black beans
1/2 large onion
2 bell peppers
3 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 jalepeno (this was being timid)
1/2 can tomato paste
chili powder to taste
salt and pepper to taste

I highly recommend chopping the veggies up very finely, and slightly smashing up the beans. I didn't do this, but I think this gives it a better texture for a burrito filling.

I heated the olive oil on medium-high. The onions were sauteed for 3-5 minutes and then I added the peppers. After 5 minutes I added the beans, tomatoes, jalapeno, tomato paste and some chili powder. I made sure it was stirred well and allowed it to simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes before tasting it for spice. From here you can add as much chili powder as you like. Then allow the mixture to simmer until the desired thickness is reached. You do not want much liquid left. You could even reduce the amount of tomatoes and add other veggies instead, be creative!

Like I said, these chunks are just too big (that is what happens when you are in a rush).


Another reason to make burritos is to have another reason to make and eat guacamole (as if I need another reason). I had half an avocado so I whipped up a 2 serving portion of guacamole.

Guacamole

1/2 large avocado chopped
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup diced onion
~1 tbsp lemon juice

Mash it all together or leave it chunky, its up to you!

Now I had the two stars of the burrito show. It was time to attempt to wrap them up in rice paper. To use rice paper, you soak it in warm water for about 5 seconds. I scooped 1/2 cup of the burrito mixture, 1/2 the guacamole and 1 tbsp cottage cheese into the center of the paper. I then folded each side up to form a sac. It held farely well together.

Unfolded rice paper (no guacamole in this one, how unfortunate):


After wrapping, before baking:


I should have saved some sauce to put on top but I forgot :( . I then baked the sacs (I refuse to call them burritos at this point), for 10 minutes at 400 F. The rice paper stiffened a bit and stuck to any rice paper that was close to it, resulting in a big mess! My make-shift burrito project was a fail.

I am wondering if little mini burritos would have been better and then not bake them after wrapping. The rice paper wasn't designed to be eaten with a knife and a fork so making them smaller, to eat with one's hands, may have been a better approach.

Does anyone have any creative burrito-like ideas?

I just though of one now! Burrito potato skins! The skin of the potato is the best part anyway! Into a hollowed out potato, add the burrito filling plus any other toppings (guac and cheese obvi) and bake to melt it all together. I think this would be fabulous; a much healthier alternative to tortillas and a more successful alternative to rice paper.

Now what am I going to do with all this rice paper?!?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Overnight Oats and Banana Softserve

Good morning! I just finished eating my new favourite breakfast. Overnight oats.

I have always loved oatmeal, and I feel better when I eat it every morning. This does get boring though even when I make some changes every once in a while (large flakes, steel cut, quick-oats, with eggs, or with toast etc.). I was first introduced to overnight oats on Oh She Glows, one of my favourite blogs. She has a great recipe that is open for creativity. The first time I made this, I followed the recipe but without the chia seeds (I added ground flax seed instead) and I used soy milk instead of almond milk. It was very different than anything else I had eaten before but I loved it! All it takes is a little bit of planning the night before. You can make so many variations and modifications to get it to the consistency and flavour that you like. I am not so sure how it would turn out with regular milk, but it would be worth a try!

Lately I have not been adding the banana (so I only add 1/2 cup soy milk) because I have been eating my daily banana a different way. I also got this idea from OSG but I think the Choosing Raw Blog is the originator. I have been making.....Banana Soft Serve.

It could not be more simple or more delicious. For anyone who is lactose-intolerant this may just be a life altering "recipe".

Step 1. Peel, cut up, and freeze one banana...or however many servings you want to make.
Step 2. Put said banana in food processor.
Step 3. Add in fruit, cocoa, vanilla, peanut butter, or whatever your heart desires.
Step 4. Blend for 3-5 minutes until whipped.

And there you have banana soft serve. It has the consistency of frozen yogurt, without the dairy, and has a delicate banana flavour. I have been eating this with my overnight oats just like OSG. Not quite as creatively as she makes it but just as delicious I'm sure.

Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter Banana Soft Serve - 1 Banana + 1 tbsp Peanut Butter


Overnight Oats with Chocolate Banana Soft Serve - 1 Banana + 1 dash Vanilla + ~1/2 tsp Cocoa


I would also like to share some picture from the dinner party I went to the other night. It was a lot of fun and there was delicious food.

Guacamole made by Martha. It was REALLY good.


Goat Cheese Appetizer tray assembled by Meg...mmmm I LOVE goat cheese.


All the girls enjoying homemade sausage with ratatouille over whole-wheat pasta, made by Kelly...it was delicious! Oh and some wine of course.


I'm off to spend the day at the beach to enjoy this hot weather.

Bye for now!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Holiday, I know I did. Spent the day outdoors mostly, except when shopping at lululemon in Oakville which was open today with stuff on "sale". The day concluded with a dinner party at a friend's house.

Birthday Dinner on Wednesday was a success...I think, haha. I made three dishes, two of which I had never made before. None were my own recipe, as I am not very well versed in Indian cuisine. I made Indian Spiced Baked Chicken, Palak Daal, and Bhindi Bhaji. These were served with naan bread and some brown rice (for save measures for the picky eater brother). I made few modifications this time around, but I have many suggestions for some modifications.

Indian Spiced Baked Chicken


This chicken recipe is actually really good (click here for the recipe). I love baked chicken, I find that it usually turns out very moist. I used chicken breasts and thighs instead of a whole chicken just so I didn't have to man-handle too much raw meat (not my cup of tea). In this recipe you "rub" the chicken with some spices and marinate for a couple hours. I was short on time so only did this for about an hour. Next time, I would leave out the ginger as I found it very overpowering in the end.

I loved the idea of the yogurt coating which is added after baking for 20 minutes. Once covered with foil and returned to the oven, I feel it really keeps the meat moist and adds a bit of creaminess to the drippings, which can be used as a sauce if desired. To make this recipe as healthy as it can be, and it is already lean and filled with beneficial spices, use olive oil to make the yogurt topping instead of the butter.



Palak Daal

Like I mentioned in my last post, this is one of my favourite dishes. I decided to follow the recipe more closely than I usually do (click here for the recipe). Normally, I do not add chili peppers, ginger, asafetida, or cilantro. I also use green lentils, ground cumin instead of cumin seeds, and add double the amount of cumin. I much prefer it with my modifications which were originally made out of convenience.

before:

after:


This soupy comfort food is good with rice and also with naan or pita bread.



Bhindi Bhaji

I wanted to also make a vegetable side dish that didn't have too much spice. This dish uses okra (click here for the recipe). I have never tasted okra before this so it was all very new. It kind of tastes like zucchini but not as good. Since my mom doesn't like tomatoes, I didn't add them afterwards as a garnish but had them on the side. I think it would have been best to add them into the pan with the okra. I also didn't use cilantro becuase I am not a huge fan, but I think I would next time; it was a little plain.




Cumin, tumeric and coriander are present in many indian and mediteranean dishes. There are many health benefits to these spices such as detoxing as well as increasing the metabolism due to the heat of the spices. Cumin is very versatile and can be added to almost anything, veggies, popcorn, guacamole, salads, etc. Have fun with it!

Tomorrow I will be talking about my new favourite breakfast which I finally tried after reading about it on one of my favourite blogs, "Oh She Glows".


P.S. I don't know why the font went all wonky...I didn't mean for the Bhindi to be all in your face, lol.