Saturday, April 23, 2011

My First Whole Foods Trip and Stir Fried Rice

What a lovely day it has been today. It reached about 17 degrees C, but with the sun felt much warmer. I wore capris, and sandals, and was very warm wearing shorts and a T shirt on my run. Not only was the weather nice but I went to Whole Foods in Oakville for the first time. I have heard all about it through reading lots of American blogs and just couldn't wait to go myself. I figured today would be a perfect day! (disregarding the volume of shoppers out on this Holiday weekend Saturday)

The produce section was smaller than I expected but the rest of the store sure made up for it. The meat/seafood section was VERY impressive. There was lots of organic and "properly raised" meat, along with a big selection of grass fed beef, which is where my Dad picked it up for my 23rd Birthday dinner. The seafood is all labeled with where it is from and they had a lot of sustainably wild caught and properly farmed fish. There was also an impressive amount of prepared foods. I was very glad I ate lunch before I went because I would not have been able to resist the salad and hot food bar.

Any lingering hunger I had was supressed by the samples throughout the store. I tried a strawberry jalapeno jam on brie cheese. It was amazing and definitely worth the 8 dollars a jar for a special occasion. There was a ton of in-house made foods. Fresh pasta, sauces, salads, soups, sandwiches, pizza, meats, anything you could ever want! Was it pricey? Yes. But you know what, if I could afford it, didn't have the time to prepare something, and wanted to ensure I was eating something made from real food with natural ingredients, I would definitely head to Whole Foods (if there was one in my city, anyway).

Although I took the trip mostly just to take a look, see what all the hype was about, and check out some prices of some of my favourite products, I knew I would buy myself something. First I picked up some Green Mountain Gringo Hot Salsa which was on sale for $2, regular $6! To go along with that I chose one of my favourite brands of tortilla chips Guiltless Gourmet. I chose the spinach artichoke parmesan flavour. This brand is awesome because the seasonings are made with natural ingredients, a rare find in "healthy" chips. Finally, I picked up a berry scone. As soon as I saw it I knew that is what I wanted to have for breakfast on Easter Sunday when Lent is finally over. The cherry on top of the whole trip was that at the checkout, I got the chips for free because they didn't scan, and got 10 cents off for bringing my own bag, all while we listened to the live Jazz band playing by the checkouts.

I could get used to that place.

I'll send you off with a recipe I put together one night when I got home late and was starving. It was quick, easy, and very filling.

Stir-Fried Rice

1/2 tbsp olive oil
dried chili pepper (whatever you can handle)
~2 cups of frozen veggies (I used a blend of broccoli, pepper, carrot, beans, and water chestnuts)
1 garlic clove
1 tsp minced ginger
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
1 egg white
dash of milk
soy sauce to taste

1. Heat oil with chili pepper on medium heat.
2. Add half defrosted veggies and garlic, and saute until no longer frozen.
3. Add ginger and rice and stir to combine. Heat for 3 minutes or so.
4. Meanwhile, beat egg, egg white and milk together. In a pan on medium-low heat, cook egg until about 1/2 done. Add to rice mixture and stir to combine, stirring until egg is cooked and veggies/rice are hot.
5. Serve topped with a bit of soy sauce.

This was my first time making a fried rice with egg and it turned out pretty good. I have made this twice since, and will probably make it many more times.

Have a fantastic Easter weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Strawberry Banana Soft Serve

I have talked about banana soft serve before, more than once, quite a while ago. It is quite ingenious as a method to make a vegan "ice cream" treat. Not only is it dairy-free, but it has no added sugar. It is just fruit, with a hint of vanilla. Lent is almost over, but this is a dessert I will gladly enjoy anytime of the year, even with no dietary restrictions.

Strawberry Banana Soft Serve

1 frozen peeled banana
handful of frozen strawberries
splash of soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Add banana and strawberries to food processor and pulse for a few minutes, scraping down the sides when necessary.
2. Add vanilla and a bit of soy milk. The soy milk helps to smooth out the consistency when using frozen fruit other than bananas. Add as much as is neccessary. Process for 3 or so minutes until smooth and "creamy."

This treat is so good on its own, but is awesome on top of pancakes or cold overnight oats. You can always make just plain banana soft serve, and omit the soy milk. Banana's really might be my favourite fruit. Not only are they delicious, very good for you, and peanut butters perfect partner, but they are practically magic for being able to turn into soft serve like this.

I have so many recipes and food adventures to post about, as I have not been able to blog the past week and a bit. I was really busy with some course work. Now I am finished and officially done required courses for my degree! I didn't think this would be such a big deal for until the day actually come. I think the fact that it ended on a Thursday before a long weekend, Easter long weekend, where the anticipation for summer has begun . Oh, and I can eat cookies in a couple days. That may also have something to do with it.

Have a great good Friday. OH and Happy Earth Day! Get yourself a free Starbucks coffee by taking in a reusable mug to use!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sweet Potato and Carrot "Risotto"

As I have mentioned before, I have numerous mason jars in my cupboard filled different kinds of rice (along with other grains). One of them is a sunset blend from the bulk barn. It contains: parboiled medium rice, lemon garlic orzo pasta, sweet potato orzo pasta, Himilayan red rice, and brown mustard seed. I purchased it last summer when I went to the bulk barn for almonds and 30 dollars later came out with a bag full of goodies. When I saw this recipe on Framed Cooks, a fantastic blog that I frequent, I knew how I would use the rest of the senset blend. I wanted to use up a sweet potato, so I substituted some of the carrot, which I loved. This rice/pasta mixture doesn't provide the same risotto texture as arborio or other white rice, but it still worked nicely.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Risotto adapted from Framed Cooks

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and shredded
3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1 1/4 cup rice (I used sunset blend)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated picorino cheese, plus some for topping

1. In a saucepan, mix the broth and water and heat. Keep at a low temperature, without simmering.
2. In a large pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add shredded sweet potato and carrot. Cook for about 5 minutes until soft.
3. Add rice and stir to coat well. Add white wine and continue to stir until absorbed.
4. Add broth mixture 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously until absorbed before adding the next batch.
5. Once all liquid has been absorbed, add the cheese and stir until melted. Serve topped with some more grated cheese.

While all the stirring and attentiveness seems a little labour intensive, this was actually not that bad compared to risotto with arborio I have made in the past. While this could be done with any rice, the lemon orzo pasta in the sunset blend was wonderful with the sweet potato and white wine. Next time I make this I think I would use all sweet potato, becuase I am not the biggest carrot fan.  While a warm dish with root vegetables, this dish has spring written on it for me, if only due to the vibrant colour and lemony hues.

It is daylight while I am writing, which is a nice change. Not only is this due to a non-late night post, but also becuase the days are getting longer. This makes me very happy. Before you know it, it will be Easter! Until then, I am still finding ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. Soon I will be sharing a more successful attempt at a non-sugar and butter laden dessert (unlike the rice "pudding").

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wild Rice and Tofu Salad with Sesame Dressing

I LOVE the bulk barn. Really, I will take any opportunity to browse the bulk barn, even when I don't need anything. I also buy things I don't really need. A while ago I bought some wild rice even though I had mason jars of 4 different kinds of rice already in my cupboard. When I saw this recipe on the New York Times I knew that was going to be my use for the wild rice. Plus, I got to use my magic bullet to make another dressing. I made a couple modifications based on what I had on hand, but the gist of the recipe is the same.

Wild Rice and Tofu Salad with Sesame Dressing from the New York Times, Recipes for Health

1/2 lb firm tofu
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 cup uncooked black rice
1 cup frozen edamame, defrosted

1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds*

1. Cook rice according to package directions. Yields about 3 cups of cooked rice.
2. Meanwhile, cube the tofu and pat dry with paper towel. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp soy sauce. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until bottom side browned. Flip and bake for another 10-20 minutes, until browned.
3.  Combine cooked black rice, tofu and edamame in a large bowl. Allow to come to room temperature.
4. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor or magic bullet. Blend until most of the sesame seeds are no longer whole. Pour most (80%) of the dressing over the rice mixture. Toss and serve room temperature or cold.

*Toast sesame seeds on a pan over medium heat. Be careful not to burn.

This salad was incredibly filling and tasted great as leftovers cold the next day. I really liked the dressing, but I think it would have been better with rice vinegar as the original recipe called for. The original recipe also called for raw tofu. While I am a tofu fan, I don't go so far as to eat it raw. The basic baked tofu used in this recipe would be great for any stir fry using tofu. This salad lacked veggies for sure which is really just the result of it being put together on a Friday, a day short of the usual grocery day. Bell pepper, cucumber, celery, onion, and mushrooms would all have been lovely in this salad.

I don't know if it is the sudden arrival of spring weather here in Ontario, but this salad makes me feel like summer is on it's way. I am pretty sure it is the weather but just in case it is the salad, you should make it too so you can feel like summer is coming, it is a great feeling ;)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg

During the winter months I tend to buy the same kind fresh of vegetables: beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and the occasional green or celery stalk. This week I changed it up a bit and bought asparagus, eggplant and parsnip. I had an idea on what to do with the parsnip and eggplant but I had no idea what I was going to do with the asparagus. I love asparagus blanched with a bit of ground pepper, but I thought I should try something new. With a bit of a search I came across this recipe on TasteFood. I loved how it was simple and had few ingredients as I didn't have much else to work with. I also learned a few months back that asparagus and eggs are a winning combination, so I added a poached egg.

Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg adapted from TasteFood
serves 3-4

1 tbsp olive oil
5 green onions (white/light green parts only)
1 L good low sodium vegetable broth
1 bunch asparagus (1.5-2 lb), tough ends removed, and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
black pepper
goat cheese
poached egg

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft.
2. Add asparagus and cook until colour brightens.
3. Add broth and simmer for 10 minutes until asparagus is soft.
4. Use a hand blender and puree the asparagus to your taste. (Note: If you want a good blended soup, use a blender as a hand blender does not do the full job. Allow soup to cool down and blend in batches. Return to pot and return to simmer).
5. Add milk and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, poach your egg. I used a microwavable poaching dish.
7. Serve soup with poached egg (with a semi-soft yolk) and crumbled goat cheese on top.

pictured without goat cheese
This soup was great. Especially considering the soup contains about 4 ingredients. The fried egg over asparagus I tried a while back was nothing compared to this poached egg immersed in asparagus. I also had some toast on the side which I dipped into the soup, making sure to scoop up some goat cheese and egg. This is something I will definitely make again, turning a simple bunch of asparagus into a memorable meal.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Rice Pudding

After almost 4 weeks with no treats, I have been in need for something sweet. This is a perfect time for me to experiment with modifying some traditional desserts to contain no added sugar (or very little) and I have yet to do this. Until today!  Rice pudding is something I have not really had before. I have definitely tried a spoonful or something, but never really eaten a serving myself. That being said, I am no rice pudding expert. I imagine that it is usually quite sweet and creamy, after taking a look at some traditional recipes out there. This recipe contains no butter, no dairy, and no added sugar, and while it uses white Arborio rice and not brown rice, I'd say it is a fairly healthy alternative to the traditional.

Apple Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 cups water
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
3 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
3 tbsp chopped walnuts

1. Bring water to a boil, and add arborio rice. Once a simmer is reached, add applesauce. Reduce to low-medium heat and continue to stir.
2. In a separate pan, warm soy milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
3. As the rice mixture thickens, add the milk mixture 1/3 cup at a time. After each addition, continue to stir until no longer liquidy, then add the next milk portion. Continue until all the milk mixture has been added and the rice is thick and soft. Stir in walnuts.
4. Remove from stovetop, allow to cool (will thicken more), and refrigerate.

I am going to be straight with you, this isn't the sweetest dessert out there. If it wasn't for Lent, you bet I'd be drizzling it with a bit of maple syrup, or adding a couple tsp of brown sugar to the milk mixture. Even using some sweetened vanilla soy milk would have made it a little better. Come to think of it, in it's current state, this recipe would make a pretty good breakfast on a weekend. Next time I would also add more of the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; dare I say double it.

I am not sure if this satisfied my craving for something sweet but I have a few other tricks up my sleeve.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cheese Tortellini Frittata

I have found another way to use some of the Basil Vinaigrette that I had made for the Wheatberry Salad. Wanting to use some cheese tortellini I had in the fridge, but also wanting to have eggs for dinner lead me to Google search pasta and egg dishes. Beyond carbonara, I really didn't know what ideas would be out there. I started to come across a lot of casserole or frittata type ideas. A frittata with cheese tortellini felt like the perfect idea. Adding some Basil Vinaigrette to the mix didn't seem like a bad idea either.

Cheese Tortellini Frittata
Serves 2

1 cup cheese tortellini
2 eggs
2 egg whites
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup chopped spinach
2 tbsp Basil Vinaigrette
crumbled feta cheese

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Do not overcook.
2. Beat together eggs, egg whites, milk, chopped spinach, and basil vinaigrette.
3. Mix egg mixture with tortellini and pour into a greased oven-safe shallow dish (the thinner the frittata the easier it is to cook). Sprinkle with crumbed feta cheese.
4. Bake covered with foil at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and allow the top to set (another 10 minutes or so).

For anyone who doubts tortellini with eggs, I recommend you make this because it will settle all your doubts. So easy to make, and would make a great addition to any breakfast/brunch or even dinner menu.

Earlier in the week there was a bake sale at a charity hockey game through school. My housemates and I each baked a lot of goodies, which resulted in a near 3 foot stack of cookie filled containers. I gave up sweets for Lent, so baking 4 batches of cookies last Sunday was no easy task. It took me about 5.5 hours in total, and using my Mom's kitchen (bigger than my own), kitchen aid mixer (much faster than my own hands), and cookie sheets (more numerous and much more clean than mine) helped tremendously.

Here are some pictures of the fruits of my labour:

Butterscotch Peanut Butter Corn Flake Clusters
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cranberry Peanut White Chocolate Chip Cookies
I also made lemon icebox cookies but I forgot to take a picture of them. They were ugly anyway.

All the recipes are from Cookie Jar Classics by Company's Coming.

There was an overload of baked goods for sale made by many of the Grad students. Everyone made such delicious looking treats!

There were a lot of leftovers and a few are kicking around the house here. I have a container of cookies in the freezer waiting for me when Lent is over.