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This past month has been real transformation for me in terms of food as I have undergone quite an intense elimination diet to heal my digestion tract and rid my body of yeast, aka Candida overgrowth.  I have always felt that I lead a very balanced and healthy life by eating whole foods and being active and good to myself and yet over the holidays I found out that my internal organs are actually screaming at me and are seriously inflamed.  Sure I could have gotten a prescription filled out and continued living the way I did, but instead I listened to my heart, my mother and an alternative healer who advised me to cut certain food groups out of my diet for a period of time and to take some herbal supplements to aid and accelerate the mending time.

Some of the main items I had to cut out were cow dairy, refined sugar, yeast, wheat, caffeine, nuts, seeds, soy beans (excluding tempeh,) raw greens, beans (excluding chickpeas,) alcohol, onion, garlic, hot spices, and vinegar.  After seeing this list my stomach sunk; I really thought it was going to be impossible.  My whole diet was literally based on things like nuts, beans, raw greens, garlic, and HOT spices, and this was made very evident after hearing the list as my body was saying “HEY! Stop! I NEED a break!”

The first few days of January were very boring.  I was fuelling up on things like plain brown rice, steamed peas, avocado and plain sardines.  I actually felt like I was prematurely at an old-aged home; it was a food lover’s hell.  Eventually I had to step it up and show myself and poor Adam (who was forced to eat like me unless we began making two different meals) that elimination diets can be delicious, nutritious AND kind to my colon.

While I have done a lot of experimenting and tweaking of things like pancakes without wheat, brownies without sugar or dairy, and stir-frys without garlic, onion and spices, I thought I would begin with something basic, wholesome, and addicting: caramelized root vegetables.

I have made this side dish a few times now as it has been a hit over and over again.  While I have switched up a few of the vegetables each time, I have kept the basic glaze down and it is incredible.

Caramelized Root Vegetables

* serves 2, but can easily be adapted to suit larger crowds

1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into half moons
12 brussel sprouts, cleaned and sliced in half
4 stalks of celery, sliced diagonally in longer pieces
1/2 mango, diced into small chunks
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 tsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. minced rosemary
1 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Himalayan Rock Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. mild paprika

Method

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil so that it overlaps the walls quite a bit. Lay the vegetables and mango onto the foil and then pour on the grapeseed oil, agave, and Braggs. Sprinkle on the seasonings and then using your hands toss to coat.

2. Fold up the overlapping foil sides to create a tent around the vegetables. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven. Unfold the tent and toss the vegetables. Return to the oven uncovered and bake for another 20 minutes. For the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking, turn your oven to broil and watch closely so that the vegetables don’t burn but rather glaze and turn a deep brown.

Serve as a side to fish, tempeh or any other of your favourite dishes.

caramelized veg

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This passed week has been an internal fight with myself in regards to studying or not studying.  And for some reason the latter has yet to be beat as I have been quite tactful at designing excuses in my strung-out-anxious head.  Whether it’s “I am too tired from working all day,” or “This may be the last sunny day for awhile,” or “I need to go to yoga to clear my head and get my sweat on,” or “I need to eat,” or “I need to eat but there’s no food in the house so I have to go grocery shopping,” or “I need to eat but I have to make something to eat and it has to be delicious and perfect,” or…Okay, I could go on.

Well this weekend when the excuse of “I need to eat but I have to make something to eat and it has to be delicious and perfect” popped up I turned to Adam for some insight and thought triggering.

Me: “What do YOU think I should make this afternoon?”

Adam: “All I can think of right now are things unhealthy…”

Me: “That’s okay; I am going to try to healthify it!”

Adam: “What about banana bread? Or ooh butter tarts? I love butter tarts.”

He left me alone shortly after and I scoured my head and cupboards for ingredients that screamed out butter tarts.  As I started sorting through different methods for healthifying butter tarts I slowly became discouraged as I pictured myself trying to make a “flaky, buttery” tart shell…I came to the conclusion that today was not the day.

(Events like these also contribute to the time I waste and list of excuses I create for not being able to study.)

Twenty minutes come and gone and I found myself still staring into the cupboard deciding on what the heck I was going to make and with what.  The only thing staring back at me was a can of tomatoes and a can of chickpeas.  Now there are not a lot of fantastic baked tomato pies out there, nor are there many chickpea strudels…But if you have spent any time in the blogging world recently you KNOW there has been a fare share of baked bean brownies.

Now I know it sounds a little strange, but most incredible food items are.

I had my first experience with a black bean brownie a couple of years ago when my sister decided to Saran Wrap a straight-from-the-oven black bean brownie in order to throw in her carry-on just before catching a plane across Canada to visit me.

Needless to say, it was a little smooshed.

But I was over joyed and could care less that it slightly resembled Little Bear’s fecal matter.  The black bean brownie was on the dryer side but I blame that entirely on the high altitude and had it been eaten in one time-zone it would have stood up to any fudge-tastic square because the flavours were there! I was going to give this poor black bean brownie a second chance…Two years later.

With chickpeas instead of black beans…Because that’s what I had.

For inspiration and moral support, I followed many of the same ingredients and measurements as Katie because she seemed to be able to fool all of her loved ones with a gooey chickpea blondie — Chocolate chips are blinding.

Now before you go crazy and think you’ve found your new go-to recipes for the best brownies ever, be warned that these DEFINITELY taste different and are more for people that get excited about biting their teeth into an almond-stuffed date and calling it an “oreo.”  But if that’s you then you’ll adore these; they’re gooey, chewy, doughy and just slightly sweet so you can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and in between because I did…And nearly ate the entire pan at 10 o clock at night because I could…

Gooey Chickpea “Brownies”
** slightly adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Chip Blondies

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, 540 mL
1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter, or another nut butter
1 tbsp cacoa powder
1 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp chocolate chips for sprinkling on top, optional

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a square pan with parchment paper. In a food processor begin processing the chickpeas. Slowly pour in the apple sauce to ease processing and fully incorporate it into the mixture.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients and process until fully combined.

3. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth until its flat and even. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and bake for 25 minutes, or until the brownie has firmed up and has a crackle top. Hey? Crackle top? They’re definitely brownies then!

4. Let cool completely and then dig in.

I let mine cooling while I went to a yoga class. I spent shavasana “with my breath”…For 30 seconds. But my mind kept bouncing back to the brownies cooling on my counter.

When I got home I screamed with joy “DID YOU SEE WHAT I MADE?!”

Adam: “Ya! You made brownies!”

Me: “You can tell what they are?”

Adam: “Ya. I’m offended that you would think that I wouldn’t be able to tell…”

Me: “Well, they’re not exactly brownies…”

Later…

Me: “So did you try my brownies? Did you like them?”

Adam: “Umm not really.”

Me: “Well they were made with chickpeas.”

Adam: “Umm ya, I could definitely tell something wasn’t right. Now that you tell me that, ya they were good…But I could use a little sugar…”

 

So there you have it. I loved them. Adam could hold off. Oh well, more for me!

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Growing up in a small town, you eventually begin to accept that there is only one “grocery” store, one gas station, and one convenience store (that also acts as your post office and pharmacy.) If you forgot to pick up bulk toilet paper when you were “in the city” you’d either cross your fingers that you didn’t run out before you returned to the “city” or you paid the price of gold for two rolls of one-ply toilet paper.

It was a rough life…

But at least we had one restaurant. Or rather, one restaurant that was worth stepping into. What is it about small towns that have more restaurants per capita than it does toilet paper rolls? Think on that one for a minute…

Fortunately, the one restaurant we had happened to be one of the best restaurants in all of the neighbouring towns and cities as well. My family would go to the Gasthaus for all major celebrations: birthdays, the last day of school, and “business lunches.”

I recall one “business lunch” quite fondly. It was the first time I had ever tasted butternut squash soup. In fact, it was the first time my sister, my mom AND I had ever tasted butternut squash soup and we nearly died and went to heaven on our ladies’ day out…Or err, business lunch.

I don’t know what it was that made it so incredible; it quite possibly could have been the sketch of a steaming bowl of soup on the sidewalk chalkboard outside, or the fact that we were eating outside on a patio in November, or that we were even ON a patio out on the “town” for a lunch that was not our birthday, or it could have been the crusty white pretzel roll that accompanied it, or even the in unison “mmmm’s and ahh’s” that accompanied each bite. But I think it was the touch of maple syrup, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, and the velvety butternut squash…On top of everything else that made it the absolute BEST roasted butternut squash soup we had ever had.

And that has remained tried and true…Until tonight. The night I created the out-of-this-world-BEST roasted butternut squash soup — With a twist. Because everything is better with a twist.

Golden Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic and Cranberries

Makes about 8 – 10 cups

1 large butternut squash, roasted and cubed, or about 3 cups canned squash
1/2 head of garlic, roasted
2 small onions, roughly chopped
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2-1 cup water
3 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2 tsp. poultry seasoning (or a blend of sage with thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or savory)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
Herbimare or salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grape seed oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and drizzle on a little bit of olive oil and salt (or Herbamare) and pepper. Lay cut side down on parchment paper. Wrap half a head of garlic in tinfoil and place along side squash. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes or until most of the squash can be easily scooped out and the garlic squeezes out of its clove.

2. Clean up a bit and then begin preparing the rest. You can take extra time here as it does not take 45 minutes. In a large pot, heat the grape seed oil and then add the chopped onion. Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the cranberries. Continue sautéing until you hear the cranberries begin to pop. Add in the fresh thyme and remaining seasonings.

3. Once the squash has roasted, remove from oven to let cool. Then begin scooping out the flesh to add to the onion mix. For the slightly more tender bits, peel back the skin and cube with a sharp knife. Add to the pot, and then squeeze in the roasted garlic. Stir in the vegetable stock so that all of the ingredients are submerged in the liquid. If there is not enough liquid, add in the optional 1/2 to 1 cup water. Bring to a boil for about 15 to 20 minutes so that all of the flavours unite.

4. Transfer in small batches to a blender and puree until it reaches a velvety smooth consistency. Continue doing this until the whole batch is pureed.

I served mine with a crumble of goat cheese, but a drizzle of yogurt would work too, or all on its own. It can stand on its own. I tested it. Tried and true.

With the subtle hint of cranberry and the lingering thyme and sage, this soup is definitely the perfect meal for a crisp autumn day.

You may even momentarily forget that you didn’t pick up toilet paper in town.

PS. What do you think of the new blog layout/design? Oh and check out the recipe page now. Let me know your thoughts!!

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There’s something about fall and its relationship with school that makes large batches of something hearty and comforting quite appealing.  After a long day of staring at a computer screen and text books there’s really nothing better than returning home to a “ready in minutes” bowl of _____.  I’m leaving that space open for anything as at the end of the day exhaustion paired with the lack of motivation in me to cook lessens my culinary judgement and, I really would eat ANYTHING.

Well today that’s all I needed and wanted.  The only thing that got me through my chemistry lab of mixing some clear liquid with some other clear liquid to eventually produce a green powder (I was ready to eat that powder at one point — it was highly condemned) was the thought of coming home to a big pot of warm deliciousness.

However that was only a thought, a day dream, rather.  The reality was there really was no big pot of warm deliciousness…Until I made it; so, that’s what I did.

What started as chili quickly turned into a TAKE ON chili when I discovered I didn’t actually have any chili powder.

So I bring you the perfect fall meal: Harvest Vegetable Chili with a Twist.

Harvest Vegetable Chili with a Twist

Ingredients

1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
4 sticks celery, diced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, cubed — about 4-5 mushrooms depending on size
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 can (540 mL) kidney beans
1 can (540 mL) bean medley, or make your own: garbanzo, romano, white bean etc.
1 large can (740 mL) crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp unsweetened apple butter
1/2 cup water, from rinsing out tomato can
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano (strange…I know, but trust me)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or more, to taste 🙂
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
Salt (or herbamare) and Pepper, to taste

Method

1. In a large pot on medium heat, pour in grape seed oil. Add the onion, peppers, celery, and carrots, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and garlic and continue sautéing until onion is translucent.

2. Stir in the beans and tomatoes, and water.

3. Add in the pumpkin and coconut milk. Add in all of the spices and apple butter; let simmer on medium until bubbles form on the top.

4. Reduce the heat to low and cover for about 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender yet still have a “bite” to them.

Serve over a bowl of brown rice or if you have more time on your hands throw together a batch of cornbread, because nothing goes better with chili, or not-so chili, than cornbread.  I sprinkled on some nutritional yeast and put a dollop of greek yogurt on top for extra protein and deliciousness!

This chili just takes a few minutes to throw together and then it’s all about playing the waiting game. To speed up that game I quickly cleaned and then went for a run to take full advantage of the nearly 20 degree clear blue sky weather in mid October.

And even though I had to completely adapt the spices and then add other ingredients (coconut milk and pumpkin??) to compliment them, this large batch of “chili” really was a bowl of deliciousness…And Adam will second that with a bronze medal! While he clearly lost this round of the waiting game, I did get a message of earnest approval during my run: “Mmmmmhhhmmm awesome chili love!”

Yes…Chili… 😉

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It was one of the most exciting days of my childhood… Next to getting a dog and going to Staples every September for new pencils and erasers. In fact I think it was even more exciting for my dad, the day we got a BBQ.

I don’t know what it is about “grilling” but most people tend to go a little “grill crazy.” Well my dad definitely did not fall short on that feeling…Having grilled his fare share of fish and vegetables, he was ready to get those grill marks on anything in arms’ reach. Pizza? Ohh ya! Christmas dinner with all the fixin’s? You bet! Eggs? Well ya, after learning that a pan was necessary. Our dog? Okay, no; too far.

Snow or no snow, my family, or rather my dad, grills all-year-round. I, on the other hand, don’t like scraping off the food remnants let alone snow from the grill so I wait till there are clear blue skies, sunshine, and well high temperatures…. Say 28 degrees?

This past week with the thermometer hitting nearly 28 degrees, I decided it was time to go grill crazy…With portabello mushrooms.

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

Ingredients

3-4 portabello mushroom caps
25 g soft ripened goat cheese
2 medium sized firm tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bunch of basil, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method

1. Preheat the BBQ. Meanwhile, wash and cut stems off mushrooms to make a bowl-like shape.

2. Combine chopped vegetables and garlic with basil. Add in olive oil and vinegar and stir until saturated. Add spices to taste.

3. Grill mushrooms top side down first for about 10 minutes or until juicy and darkened. Flip over to their bottoms and spread goat cheese on to the “bowl’s” insides. Scoop a hefty amount of tomato mixture on to each portabello and then crumble on a little more goat cheese. Grill uncovered for about 5 minutes, and then cover for the last 2 to allow the cheese to melt a little. They are finished when those grill marks appear on the bottom!

3. Serve with a grain, like quinoa or brown rice, and possibly a side salad.

Get your grill on and enjoy!

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Getting a soft-boiled egg for breakfast was always more exciting than it should have been…This could be attributed to not having to choke down yet another bowl of porridge or it could just in fact be the sing-along that came with it.

With each strike to the side of the egg my mom would say in her singsong way “chip, chop off goes this old man’s head.” It seems quite morbid thinking about it now and if I was her I probably would have looked further into my daughter getting a high from the act of guillotining…But nevertheless, it was a ritual (passed on from her mom) that I looked forward too!

To this day eggs for breakfast excite me…However, I have ventured far from my chopping head fascination…I guess you could say it has matured — into the need for a perfectly cooked medium over-easy egg.

One’s ‘ideal’ egg comes with time which is why knowing how someone likes their eggs is a fine indicator of how close you are to him…

Having recently attached myself to a man who much prefers a soft-medium POACHED egg, I have put it upon myself to perfect it. Sure I could just know how he LIKES them, but true closeness comes from taking the time to show that I care about the whole process.

So I made some sacrifices the other day and made poached eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…By the time dinner came around the idea of yet another egg was no longer exciting…

And then I remembered about a dish my girlfriend had told me about earlier that week: Shakshuka. Having little to no Israelis background in me, the dish was clearly foreign to me. But I was not going to let that get between me and my poaching perfecting so I put it to the test…By taking the beaten track off a recipe I scrounged up from the Internet.

Shakshuka:Revised

* Serves 1 (Can easily be double, trippled, etc.)

** Adapted from AllRecipes

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/4 raisins
2 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
2 tbsp Goat cheese, crumbled
A few diced jalapeño peppers, garnish
1 whole wheat tortilla (or pita, rice if gluten free, etc.)

Method

1. In a sauce pan on medium heat, saute the garlic, onion, and zucchini in olive oil until tender.

2. Add the crushed tomato, corn, raisins, chia seeds, and spices.  Simmer on low heat until slightly thickened.

3. Crack the egg into the sauce, and turn the heat on high so that the sauce begins to bubble.  Cover for about 1 to 2 minutes until the top of the egg whitens.

4. Remove the egg from sauce with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Top a warmed-up tortilla with sauce, and place the egg on it.  Crumble goat cheese all over and garnish with jalapeno peppers, if using. Serve with a side salad.

After much anticipation, I cut into the egg…and it was ALMOST perfect.  Next time I will poach the egg just a little bit longer to ensure that I meet those soft-medium standards!

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We’re all in the thick of it.  Crunch time.  Or the time when that person, who you really just met a little over two months ago, wants to strip you of everything you have to offer in this world…ie. He wants those projects, essays and exams you were forwarned about back in September. 

Every September I say to myself “I’m going to read every night; I’m not going to leave things to the last minute; I’m going to put forth all my effort; I’m going to win the lottery…” Okay, maybe not the last one.  But I do reiterate those other statements each year.  And each year I do the exact opposite.

You’d think that by the time I hit fourth year I would have figured out all of the keys to success, but quite frankly that time flew by so quickly.  And thus, I’m still searching for those keys.

Thankfully, I have others to drown with as most students are in the same boat.

I think the only thing keeping me alive and well is the thought of good comfort food.  And what better way to get through a draining study sesh than with a bowl full of fries…Sweet fries.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

**Slightly adapted from Natural Noshing

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato

1 egg white

1 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. Italian spice (a mix of marjarom, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil)

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Peel and slice sweet potato into strips.  This is where you get to control how thick the fries are…Do you like them shoestring or wedge-like?

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg white until a foam forms.  Add the garlic, Italian spices, and pepper.

3. Add the sweet potato sticks to the egg white mixture and toss to coat.

3. Spread out onto a non-stick baking pan (mine turned out NOT being non-stick…I had some problems) making sure none of the fries overlap. Sprinkle with sea salt.

4. Bake for 15 minutes.  Then, give the fries a flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes. 

5. When the fries have become golden brown, reduce the heat to 225 degrees to get the crunch you crave.

6. Serve plain, or with any kind of dipping sauce you like.

I made a chipotle aioli sauce but wasn’t very pleased with it as we only had Miracle Whip in the fridge.  WHAT is that stuff. Remind me to not even touch it with a ten foot pole.

So instead I dipped them in ketchup, and PBF sauce, clearly.

Happy and healthy studying!

What comfort food would you like to “healthify” to get you through hectic times?

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