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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blue/Green Berry Muffins (Vegan option)


Once again I discovered a pile of bananas getting overripe on our counter so a baking-fest was in order.  The girls' vegetable eating has been up-and-down lately (suddenly they no longer like bell peppers, broccoli and brussel sprouts are hit-or-miss), so I decided to see if I could get away with stuffing some greens into them.
Because you pack these muffins with blueberries, which turn the batter kind of greenish anyways, the spinach seems to sort of miraculously disappear.  And can you taste it?  Not at all.  And did they like them?  Totally.  In fact, Big A commented, "Mom, these aren't just good, they're awesome."  You heard it, from the tween herself who generally tells us everything is, "Boring!"

Blue/Green Berry Muffins

4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup plain or sugar-free vanilla yogurt (dairy or soy or coconut milk based)
4 egg whites (or 4 flax eggs)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other milk of choice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 heaping tbls Vega Almondilla smoothie mix (or other protein powder/smoothie mix)
2 tbls New Roots stevia powder (or other sweetener)
1/3 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed

2 cups kamut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together dry ingredients to remove any lumps.  Dump dry ingredients and berries into wet ingredients and stir just until mixed.  Scrape batter into greased mini-muffin tins and bake at 375F for about 14 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 36 mini-muffins.  Freezes well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Toronto Mom Now

I am excited to announce that I have been nominated to the top 30 Toronto mom bloggers on the Toronto Mom Now website!

If you enjoy reading my blog, please be so kind as to vote for me.  Just click on this link to the Toronto Mom Now site.

Many thanks,

Erica

Gumbo Z'herbes

Unlike my two princess-, sparkle- and tutu-loving girls' I never liked pink, not even as a kid. 

Nope, my favorite colour was always green.

Nothing makes me feel happier than a big plot of really green grass.  You know, the kind that you can tell is watered and manicured on a regular basis.  Of course, this, like many other good things, has now been deemed "bad".  Caring for grass this way is not environmentally friendly.

Don't fret, we have no grass in back, and our front lawn is the size of a postage stamp and we NEVER water it.  Perhaps that's why it's more brown than green.

I think green reminds me of happy cartoon kid's shows and children's books that are brightly coloured and portray idealistic worlds where nothing really bad happens? I don't know.

But perhaps its my love of the colour green that is responsible for my adoration of leafy greens.  To eat, I mean.  Although, really, I also just find them delicious.

So when I came across a classic gumbo recipe that uses a plethora - and I mean plethora - of leafy greens, I was extremely excited.  Yeah, I know, I get excited by weird things.

Of course, I've modifed it a bit, but then you can find a lot of variations, and I'm betting there's a mama somewhere in the Bayou that makes a version similar to this...maybe?


All I know is I did NOT following Emeril Lagasse's recipe and using bacon fat and ham hock!  I did finally find nitrite-free turkey bacon at Whole Foods (Beretta Farms seems to be making it now), but I actually prefer sausage to bacon, so I went with spicy turkey sausage instead.

Traditional recipes don't contain any tomato, but my hub loves tomato, and since this dish indulges my greens obsession, I thought I'd indulge his tomato obsession a bit too.

Broccoli is also my own twist, because...I love broccoli and thought it would be great in this...and I was right!  Most recipes use a mix of: collard greens, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, parsley, beet tops, carrot tops, and/or turnip tops.  Use whatever you prefer.

I just used what looked best at the market and what I like best.

You could easily veganize this by using chickpeas or black eyed peas instead of sausage.  I saw many variations in seasonings used, so don't be scared off if you can't find or don't like one I've used.  Customize according to your taste and you'll end up with an awesome meal, guaranteed.

Gumbo Z'herbes

1 tsp olive oil
1.5 lb turkey bacon or sausage (or 1 can beans)
Onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbls cajun spice blend or chili powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
1 large can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 Bay leaves
Green tabasco (or other hot sauce), to taste (optional)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbls file powder (optional)*

In a large skillet or pot, saute sausage, onion, garlic, broccoli (if using) and seasonings in the oil over medium heat.  Add remaining greens, tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer until greens are wilted.  Just before serving, stir in green onions and file powder.  Adjust seasonings, to taste.  Serve with brown rice (or other whole grain).  Serves 4.  Freezes well.

*I managed to find file powder at House of Spice in Kensington Market, and I bet you can probably also find it at St. Lawrence Market.  I can't say how widely available it is in Canada outside of Toronto, but you can certainly still make this dish without it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coffee Talk

Remember Mike Myers' sketch from SNL?  My family used to love it because he and his guests sounded just like my grandma Ruth and her friends, with their strong New York City accent.

My coffee drinking began when I was a university undergrad, but didn't become a habit until grad school.  Then I went of caffeine for a while when I was really struggling with insomnia, and building our family.  After Little A was born, caffeine slowly crept back into my life, and all of a sudden I went from the occasional coffee drinker to a junkie all over again.

This is one habit, though, that is healthy.  Are there some people who should avoid coffee or limit consumption?  Sure.  Anyone sensitive to caffeine (and then you can sub decaf), pregnant, or who finds it irritates their stomach or bladder.  But coffee is actually the greatest source of antioxidants in the North American diet, and studies show that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of Type II diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.  Of course, you can easily negate the benefits of coffee by adding high fat dairy and sugar, but in and of itself, coffee is a good thing.

I mentioned a week or so ago that President's Choice has stopped making their organic, fair trade dark roast that I love.  But I recently discovered that it has come back in whole bean form (weird they didn't think to mention that when I contacted them).  So my choices are to either go out and buy another coffee grinder, since mine is being used as a spice grinder, or just dump the beans in the grinder at Loblaws after I purchase the bag.

 PC Organics Fair Trade Dark Roast Coffee
In the meantime, however, I've been sampling various brands.

While in New York, I bought Eight O'Clock French roast and loved it.  Unfortunately, it's not available in Canada, nor is it organic or fair trade.

I tried Van Houtte's French Roast, simply because it was on sale at Loblaws and I wondered if it compared to the Eight o'Clock product.  It doesn't.

French Roast - Dark Roast - Ground
 The only thing I found that I DO like is the coffee from Reunion Island - a Canadian company, which is available at Fiesta Farms, and other retailers, as well as direct from the company online (http://www.reunionislandcoffee.com/default.asp). 
Colombia Las Hermosas Whole Bean 1 X 12 Oz
All of their roasts are organic and fair trade and they have a lot of varieties.  I made my own blend, using about 4 different kinds and it turned out great.  It is also very reasonably priced.  If you can't find it in stores, they have free shipping for their coffee and other products on orders of $49 or more.

Yay, problem solved.  I now have more than one option and can go back to fully enjoying my morning cuppa.  If only I didn't hate my coffeemaker.

Believe it or not, what you make your coffee IN is just as important as the coffee you use to produce a great tasting product.

A few months ago, my beloved President's Choice coffee maker kicked the bucket.  it was about 5 years old and even though it was really not an expensive machine, it produced a great cup of coffee.  It was a Sunday afternoon and in a panic to get another machine before stores closed, I raced out - without doing any research - and purchased a Kitchenaid for $100.  I figured it was a pretty reliable brand and a safe bet.  Sheesh, was I wrong!
KitchenAid® 12-cup Coffee Maker
First, I broke the glass carafe the first DAY because I pulled the top off entirely so I could put it in the dishwasher.  Apparently the top is NOT supposed to come off.  I've never had a carafe with a top that doesn't come off.  It makes it impossible to put in the dishwasher AND difficult to even clean by hand.

In addition, I have NEVER been able to get the programmer to work and it is a slow machine so if I don't remember to turn the damn thing on at the right time, I have to wait a while. 

Worse yet, until I figured out how to use the "bold" setting, it produced a repulsively watery brew.  The machine also pours out coffee after you pull out the carafe when it says it is done brewing.

I called the company to request a new carafe and they offered me a stainless steel one (for $15) as an alternative to another glass one.  I jumped at the chance since it wouldn't be at risk of breaking, and, I was hoping, would be easier to clean.  Yep, top comes off and it's easier  to clean, only instead of doing a BETTER job of keeping the coffee hot, like it is supposed to, it seems to suck the heat right out and I have been drinking luke-warm coffee for the past few weeks.

So I have my eye on this Cuisinart with a built in grinder, which one of my friends recommended.



I think I'm gonna ask Adam for it as a birthday gift, but since my birthday isn't until September, I might need it a wee bit early.  Okay sweetie?

Speaking of birthdays, Adam has decided that I should now be referred to as his "Almost 40" wife and is on a campaign to get the girls to refer to me as such.  He thinks he's so funny and can get away with this because he is 2 years younger than I.  Given that I am ONLY turning 38 this year, I am not appreciating this!

But the reality is we are all getting older, and as anyone wise knows, isn't the only alternative worse?

The girls had their annual physicals last Friday and Big A is still 90th percentile for height and weight, and Little A, who appears so delicate, is actually 75th percentile for height and weight!  Still cracks me up that we have such large children given how small Adam and I are.  I hope this means the girls will crack my peak height of 5'2!!

The pediatrician declared them healthy and doing great.  Of course they are still such characters.  Little A continues to insist on playing with the bully at daycare, regardless of how often the teachers try and intervene, or we talk to her about trying to find other friends.  She also continues to have this weird sock fetish she's had since infancy.  Even in 33 degree, 100% humidity that was yesterday's weather, she insisted on wearing socks with her sandals, while the rest of us bared as much skin as possible to try and stay cool.

Big A is fully ensconced in tween world.  Her latest thing is to refer to everything - from suggested activities, to clothing, to food options we present her with - as BORING!  I suspect eye rolling is not far off in the horizon.  Before I know it, she'll probably be drinking coffee with me!  I just hope we share the same taste in java.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie (Vegan and Gluten-free)

Rich and decadent, yet free of eggs, dairy and refined sugar.  This makes a perfect summer dessert, along with fresh, seasonal berries.


Filling

85g creamed coconut (half a box), chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup coconut sugar
2 oz dark, unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
340g silken tofu, drained

Pour boiling water over creamed coconut and coconut sugar and stir until dissolved. Place mixture with chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl set over simmering water until chocolate melts. Stir in salt and whisk until smooth. Let cool. Place tofu in food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add chocolate mixture and process until smooth.

Crust

2 cups large flake oats (gluten-free if you need to avoid gluten)
2 cups pecans
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
2 tbls agave syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt

Place pecans in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add all other ingredients and pulse until mixture holds together.  Press firmly into the bottom and sides of springform pan.  Bake in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes, until golden.  Let cool and then pour in filling.  Refrigerate until firm.  Keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days (if it lasts that long!).

This was an even bigger hit with everyone than I expected. The whole thing disappeared in 3 days!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fresh Grated Nutmeg: You Gotta Try It, No Ifs, Ands, or BUTTS!!



I have always heard chefs and bakers claim that fresh grated nutmeg is far superior to the kind you buy already ground, but it is only in the last 2 years that I got around to trying it.  I was never a huge fan of the dusty, ground variety you buy at the grocery store, and it just wasn't high on my culinary priority list.  But one day last year I grabbed a bag of whole nutmeg at Kensington Market's House of Spice (one of my favorite places to shop in the market!).  Man, I cannot tell you how good it is!  I find myself looking for dishes to cook just as an excuse to use it.

Nutmeg is awesome in desserts like gingerbread, spice cakes, oatmeal cookies (all the things I love), as well as puddings, pancakes, french toast, etc.  It also adds a unique flavour to potatoe and cheese dishes and recipes involving cream sauces.

But my newest use for some freshly grated nutmeg is my morning oatmeal.  I have always been a purist when it comes to oatmeal, and aside from maybe some egg whites for added protein, and chia or ground flax for added fibre and fat, the only thing I like to flavour my oatmeal is cinnamon and a bit of sweetener.  However, I discovered that fresh grated nutmeg puts it absolutely over the top into the stratisphere of deliciousness.

Unfortunately, unlike some herbs and spices, nutmeg doesn't have any major proven health benefits (cinnamon, by the way, is excellent for diabetics and for balancing blood sugar), though in large quantity it is apparently a hallucinogenic!  Hmm, that explains a lot...

Perhaps I'll blame nutmeg-induced delusions for my most embarrassing indiscretion yesterday.  While you will usually find me in yoga pants and tank tops when not working, I do try to present myself more professionally on days I am at the clinic, have meetings and/or seeing clients.  Given the predicted hot weather, I decided to wear my favorite short skirt and top outfit.  Faced with the usual whining, protests and battles to get out of the house in the morning, I hastily pushed everyone out the door and we walked briskly to the girls' school.  As I struggled with trying to maneuver Little A's stroller through the double doors, a dad arriving with his two kids held the door for me.  I thanked him but as we entered the school he tapped me on the shoulder and discretely murmured that I was "tucked in".

I looked down and was COMPLETELY mortified...my lovely skirt was tucked into my waistband on one side and my butt was hanging out.  And no, I don't wear briefs, so we're talking about bare skin here!  I walked ALL the way to the school this way.

Clearly I can never risk seeing this man again.  We are going to have to find a whole new school and daycare for the girls...actually, I think we are going to have to sell our house and move to an entirely new neighbourhood...or maybe we should leave Toronto?  Canada?  North America?

Man, this is even more humiliating than the time a few years ago when I nursed Little A at a cafe on the Danforth and then forgot to put my dress strap back up.  We went ALL the way home on the subway and bus with my dress hanging down and my bra hanging out.  Hmm, guess I can't blame it on the nutmeg after all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bubby's Banana Bread (healthified a wee bit!)

My mother-in-law and Big A love to bake together.  The recipe they make most often is chocolate chip banana bread.  Big A begged her to write down the recipe so she could make it at home.  With a bunch of over-ripe bananas sitting on our kitchen attracting fruit flies, I thought it was the perfect time for us to bake up her favorite.

She has become quite adept at mashing bananas, cracking eggs, pouring oil and vanilla, and whisking batter.  Little A wanted to help too, but we limited her responsibilities to adding the chocolate chips.  The kid still has a knack to make the most gigantic messes!

We agreed to make one heart-shaped loaf to give to my mother-in-law, and filled 4 additional mini loaf tins with the remaining batter.  They were supposed to be one for each of us, the girls devoured theirs, and Adam ate his AND mine too.  I'll forgive him, I know he can't resist anything with chocolate.

I am particularly pleased that this turned out to be such a big hit with everyone because I made several modifications to the original recipe to make it a bit healthier, and no one noticed the difference. You won't believe how light, sweet and fluffy this bread is, even though I use less sweetener and all whole grain flour.  Score!

Bubby's Banana Bread (healthified)

4 small or 3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup coconut sugar (original called for 1 cup white sugar)
3 egg whites (original called for 1 egg + 1white)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup non-fat yogurt (I used non-fat, sugar-free vanilla)
2 cups kamut flour (original called for 1 cup white/1 cup whole-wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Few pinches fresh ground nutmeg (my addition)
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F.  In a large bowl, beat together bananas, oil, sugar, egg whites and vanilla.  Whisk in yogurt.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Dump dry into wet, add chips and stir, just until mixed.  Scrape into 9x12 loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (or some smaller pans like I did and bake for 30 minutes or so until a toothpick comes out clean).

Even my father-in-law loved this recipe, and he's typically not a big banana bread fan...nor is he much of a fan of healthy food in general.  So if you have hard to please folks in your family who are used to white flour/highly processed baked goods, this recipe is a good place to start getting them moving towards healthier options!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Granola (Oil and Sugar Free!)

You won't believe how light this granola is compared to conventional sugar and fat laden recipes.  It is sweet, crunchy and flavourful, with lots of yummy clusters.  While it bakes, it also fills your kitchen with the most amazing aroma.  Perfect thing to make right before you show your house if you're selling.  Guaranteed it'll cause a bidding war!

My last healthy granola recipe got rid of the oil, but still had sugar (maple syrup).  Maple syrup, honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc., are all less processed than white sugar, but they are still high in calories, raise blood sugar and can cause tooth decay.  This is why I often use both 'artificial' and 'natural' alternatives to sweeten food.

I am perfectly comfortable using sucralose (Splenda) because there is a large body of research proving its safety.  But I also use stevia, xylitol and erythritol, which are all natural, low-calorie sweeteners that do not raise blood sugar or cause tooth decay.

Product image for SKU 6927

For this recipe, I used erythritol and it worked beautifully.  But if you don't need your granola too sweet, you can rely solely on the apple sauce and cinnamon to sweeten it.

1.5 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cul erythritol
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste (optional)

4 cups large flake oats
8 cups unsweetened, puffed rice cereal
2 tbls whole chia seeds

Mix-ins: 1/2 cup chopped, dried apples, 1/2 cup raisins

Optional additions: dried apricots, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds

Whisk together wet ingredients and spices in a large bowl.  Add dry ingredients and stir until dry ingredients are well coated.  Spread in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and bake at 325F for 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until golden.  Let cool and then stir in desired additions. 
Store in an air tight container.

Big A declared this the best granola I've made yet, so good, it can be snacked on plain, not just eaten with milk or yogurt.  Little A, who typically is not a big fan of granola, said even she likes it, and has been grabbing handfuls whenever she has the chance!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Infertility Awareness Week


Image source: Infertility Awareness Association of Canada

It is Infertility Awareness Week in Canada.

This likely means nothing to you unless you have facing infertility yourself, or know someone who has.  Chances are you may fall into this category and not even know it.  Why?  Because 1-in-6 Canadians deal with infertility at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of stigma around infertility so many couples keep their struggles a secret.  This means that infertility is still poorly understood, and many people suffer in silence.

Dealing with infertility is extremely challenging for individuals who want to have a child or more children.  Here are some facts about the emotional implications of infertility.

First of all, men and women react to, and experience, infertility in different ways:



Men:

  • Experience significantly less distress unless cause is male-factor infertility;
  • Those facing male-factor often experience guilt, shame, loss of self-esteem, anger, and isolation;
  • Men may feel even more stigma than women because it is associated with sexual dysfunction;
  • Often cope with denial, repression, distancing and avoidance; 
  • Often keep diagnosis secret.


Women:

  • About half of women who have faced infertility describe it as the most upsetting event they have ever experienced;
  • Up to one-third of women dealing with infertility may be at risk clinically-relevant mental health problems;
  • Infertile women are twice as likely to be depressed as their fertile counterparts;
  • Infertility is also associated with tension, hostility, anxiety, self-blame, suicidal ideation and social stigma.

I have mentioned before that stress does not 'cause' infertility and some of you have reacted with scepticism, but here is an explanation.  Very extreme physical or psychological stress can disrupt the endocrine system, causing hormone imbalances that may affect ovulation.  But there are many, many, many unrelated causes of infertility, and telling a couple having difficulty getting pregnant to "just relax" is going to make them want to push you into a paper shredder.  Unless they have a diagnosis, and they have told you what it is, you have NO IDEA what may be responsible for their infertility.  In addition, there is no evidence that being anxious about getting pregnant causes infertility.  In fact, in terms of distress, depression has been linked more closely with infertility and poorer fertility treatment outcomes than stress and anxiety.

There are a growing number of treatment options available for people facing infertility, but most of them are extremely expensive, and are not always covered under extended health insurance plans.  Common procedures include:
  • Cycle monitoring;
  •  IUI;
  • Ovulation induction;
  • Sperm aspiration;
  • IVF/ICSI; 
  • Assisted hatching;
  • Blastocyst transfer;
  • Egg freezing/embryo 
They also do not guarantee pregnancy or live births.  The success rates go down with age and are generally under 25% for women over 40 using their own eggs.  

There are also 3rd-party family building strategies, which are often tricky to arrange (particularly in Canada where it is illegal to pay for surrogacy, donated eggs or sperm, above reimbursement of incurred costs to surrogates and donors), expensive, and involve ethical issues, emotional issues and legal negotiations.

I hope that we can expand public awareness around the issue of infertility and the emotional, legal and financial challenges it creates for individuals struggling to get pregnant.

For more information, visit: www.iaac.ca

Also check out:  http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/infertility/report/caretoproceed.aspx 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken Tajine

For our anniverary dinner I wanted to make something a little special for Adam and I.  I think Moroccan food definitely fits the bill.  How can you NOT like Moroccan food?  I always wished Adam and I came from Sephardic backgrounds instead of Ashkanazi, because the Jews from North Africa eat WAY better food than what is traditionally eaten by us folks from Eastern Europe.

A tajine is actually an earthenware pot in which stews in Morocco are often cooked.



I don't have one, but I promise you it is not necessary in order to create an incredibly mouth-watering stew.  I couldn't believe how easy this dish was, especially given how fabulous it turned out.  You really just dump all the ingredients into a large stew pot and let it simmer until the meat is cooked. 

I roasted my veggies in the oven and then added them in towards the end because my stew pot wasn't large enough to cook everything down.  But this worked out amazingly because the veggies got carmelized and then when I stirred them into the tajine before serving, they absorbed all the yummy flavours of the sauce.

Its the perfect balance of salty (from the olives), sweet (from the prunes), spicy (from the harissa), and tangy (from the lemon and tomatoes).  You could even make a great vegan dish by subbing chickpeas for the chicken and vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

This makes a lot, so it is a perfect recipe if you are feeding a crowd, or want leftovers.  And believe me, you will want leftovers!  It also freezes well so you can have another scrumptious meal waiting for you when you are short on time to cook.

Serve over saffron rice (made with brown basmati rice) as I did, or quinoa, or whole grain couscous.

Chicken Tajine

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Onion, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls harissa spice blend (President's Choice makes one, and you can also find it at William Sonoma...for twice the price!)*
1 cup pitted green olives
1 cup prunes (or raisins)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1-680ml jar passata (strained tomatoes)
Juice of 1 lemon
Handful fresh mint, chopped
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Place onion, garlic, chicken, olives, prunes and seasonings in a large pot over medium heat.  Once onions and chicken start to sizzle, pour in stock, juice and tomato puree and stir everything together.  Make sure chicken is completely covered and add more stock, if necessary.  Turn heat to low and cover pot.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through (about an hour).  Stir in mint and parsley just before serving.  Serve over rice, quinoa or couscous.

*Harissa is somewhat spicy, so use less if you want less heat.  You can make your own with a combination of hot chili or cayenne pepper, coriander, chili powder, cumin and caraway seeds.

Veggies

2 lb parsnips, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 small zucchini, quarted lengthwise and then cut into thirds
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbls red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss veggies with vinegar and seasonings.  Spread on foil lined baking sheets and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.  Stir into tajine before serving.

Actually, I realized later on that it would have been most appropriate to make my homemade vegetarian pizza for our dinner, since this is what I made the night he proposed to me.  No regrets though, this was a fantastic meal!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Decade



Tomorrow will mark our 10th wedding anniverary.  Holy cow!  Time really does fly by.


Looking back, Adam and I were so young when we met: he 23, me 25.  We have both done so much growing since then.  Fortunately, I think we have grown closer together, not apart as commonly happens to couples, particularly those who meet young.


Marriage is tough.  Well, relationships in general are pretty tough.  Just like any other couple, we've had our ups and downs.  But I'm really lucky.  Adam is a wonderful husband and father and marrying him was one of the only smart things I did in my 20s.


Based on my counselling experiences so far, I can see that many people get married, and stay married for reasons besides love.  I have counselled individuals who literally cannot stand their spouse, but will never leave because of financial, cultural or religious reasons.  Others care for their spouse but cannot connect, have grown apart, or just simply cannot communicate effectively with one another.


According to Statistics Canada, more than one-third of marriages in Canada will end in divorce before the thirtieth anniversary.  Well, one decade down, two more to go.  I'm confident we'll make it.  Why?  We make each other a priority.  We have the same values and interests.  We still get silly and have fun together.  We don't fight over little things.  That's right.  No toilet seat left up/underwear on the floor type of arguments.  It's not that we are both perfect or that we aren't irritated by a couple of each other's foibles, but we tolerate each others imperfections and recognize their insignificance.


We also don't fight about money, which is one of the main reasons couples split up.  In this regard we are basically just lucky that: (1) we came into the relationship with no debts, and (2) we share the same philosophy with regards to spending, saving and investing.  Essentially, neither of us tolerate much risk, we believe in living frugally and do not EVER buy what we cannot afford or carry a balance on a credit card.


I will always be eternally grateful to Adam that he supported me while I made my big career change.  This past year I had the lowest annual income I have had since I was an undergraduate university student in my late teens/early twenties.  This has been a very difficult pill for me to swallow because this is the first time I have ever had to rely on someone else financially since the days when my parents did so.  Even so, in the 12 years since Adam and I have been together, I have been in school for half of those years.  Now that my counselling career has begun I finally have money coming in, but still a pitance compared to what I used to make.  I'm banking on the fact that this will change, of course, as my practice expands.  But now that I am doing what I love, I am so thankful that Adam stood by me and my decision to leave the corporate world. It certainly put a greater burden on him and he has never been resentful about it.


As one of Adam's friends used to say, our romance could be called, "Once Upon a Stairmaster" since we indeed met in the gym at the JCC.  Within 3 months of dating I knew he was my soulmate and everyone who knew us commented on how we are "Two Peas in a Pod" (AKA two fitness obsessed, A-Type personalities who both spent way too much time in school).


To you, my other Pea:  Happy Anniversary, I love you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Maple Apple Breakfast Not-Sauges

You know those chicken apple sausages that are seemingly ubiquitous on every diner menu across the U.S.?

Well they are almost non-existant in Canada.  I don't know why.  We have chickens.  We grow apples.    Weird!

Anyways, my vegetarian meatball recipe turned out so well that I decided to alter it to try and replicate the flavour of those breakfast sausages in a vegan alternative.  Another winner!  Oh, I'm having so much fun with this!!

They aren't quite as believable as the 'meat'balls as meat, but super yummy, nutritious and satisfying.  A perfect side for, say, some buckwheat blueberry pancakes.

I've entered this recipe in the Wellness Weekend Event over at Diet Dessert and Dogs.


1 cup sprouted bean mix (available at Costco and health food stores)*
3 cups water

1oz (about 8.5g) dried mushrooms**
18g unsweetened crispy apple chips (not dried apples)***
1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and halved
1 small golden delicious apple
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls cider vinegar
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/8 tsp ground savoury
1/8 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tbls chickpea flour
2 tbls quinoa flakes (oats might work too)
A few drops liquid smoke, to taste (optional)

Place beans and water in a large pot over high heat. Once water begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Then turn off heat and let stand. Meanwhile, place mushrooms and apple chips in food processor and process until finely ground (this will take a few minutes). Add shallot and apple and process until very finely chopped.  Add all remaining ingredients except beans and process for another 10-15 seconds. Add drained beans and pulse until mixture is combined and sticks together (beans should be well chopped, but not pureed).



Form mixture into small balls, flatten into discs (sausage 'patties') and place on baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes (the size of your apple may affect how wet/dry your mixture is, which will affect cooking time). Let cool and then remove from sheet. Use as you would breakfast sausages.  To reheat, cook on an oiled skillet or in a frying pan until heated through on both sides.  Makes 24 patties.

*I wouldn't use canned beans for this.  Instead, soak and cook 1 cup of dried beans if you cannot find the sprouted ones.
**I used white button this time (if you live in Toronto, most grocery stores have dried mushrooms.  I got mine at Fiesta Farms, which has a good selection).
***I used this brand of apple chips:

Product Image

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Buckwheat Honey

Did you know that buckwheat,is not only unrelated to wheat, but it's gluten-free?  It's also incredibly nutritious: high in fibre, and a good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly zinc, mananese, magnesium, and copper.  And it's delicious.  So why  I have never cooked or baked with it until now, I'll never know!

Buckwheat honey is another favorite of mine. 

Darker than most conventional honeys (which are usually clover), it is dark amber and has a stronger, more complex flavour.  It's like comparing light maple syrup to the dark. 

What better way to utilize both buckwheat flour and buckwheat honey, than in pancakes??

The flour can be a bit overpowering if you use too much, so I went with 1/3 buckwheat flour, 1/3 kamut flour, and 1/3 oats.  You can sub regular whole wheat- or whole wheat pastry flour for the kamut.  Or, if you want these to be gluten-free sub oat flour or brown rice flour for the kamut.

I also crammed in as many blueberries as possible, so I recommend keeping the batter on the thicker side to hold all the berries.  If you prefer to thin out the batter by adding additional water, to get lighter, fluffier pancakes, than keep you pancakes smaller or they might fall apart when you flip them.

If you prefer maple syrup on your pancakes, then by all means use it instead of the honey, but I highly recommend trying buckwheat honey if you haven't before.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup kamut (or whole wheat) flour
1 cup large flake oats
Granular sweetener (equivalent to 2 tbls sugar)
2 tbls baking powder
Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste (optional)
4 egg whites or 2 whole eggs
2 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
2.5 cups water
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Stir in blueberries.  Ladle batter onto a greased skillet and cook until golden on both sides.  Serve drizzled with buckwheat honey (or maple syrup).  Makes 8 giant or 16 smaller pancakes.  Extras can be frozen.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rhubarb Apple Butter Chicken

Growing up in a small city, we always had a big back yard.  Unlike me, my mom is quite the green-thumb, so along with a variety of beautiful flower, trees and shrubs, she always grew herbs and a a few vegetables, including rhubarb (apparently it is considered a vegetable by some folks, and a fruit by others).  Each spring, as soon as it was ready, all I had to do was pluck it from the garden and start chomping on it.  Yes, I kid you not, I would even eat it raw, sometimes with sugar, sometimes without.  I have always enjoyed its tartness.

Now that we live in a large urban centre, and a small house with very little available garden space, I have much less access to rhubarb.  Once in a while I'll find it at a farmer's market or, even more seldom, a grocery store, but it's really not something I see too often.  So a few weeks ago, when I noticed that Fiesta Farms carries Stahlbush's frozen organic rhubarb and I couldn't resist picking up a few bags.
Rhubarb
Instead of the eponymous rhubarb-strawberry-crumble-type-thing, however, I was inspired to use it in a savoury dish.  I was not disappointed.  This was spectacular!  In fact, I ate so much, I actually gave myself a bellyache.  The chicken is so moist and tender and the sauce is a perfect balance of sweet, savoury and tart.  AMAZING!!

2-600g bags frozen rhubarb, or about 1.4 lb fresh, chopped and leaves removed, cooked until soft
2 shallots

1 tsp oil (olive or canola)
1 onion, cut into 8-10 pieces
3/4 of a head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened apple butter
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
1.5 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbls maple syrup, honey or sugar/sweetener of choice, or to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place shallots in food processor and process until very finely chopped.  Add softened rhubarb and pulse a few times.  Set aside.

In a large skillet or deep pot, saute onion and cabbage in oil over medium heat until softened.  Add garlic, cinnamon, apple butter, rhubarb/shallot mixture, vinegar, stock and chicken.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thickened.  Season to taste and add sweetener if you find apple butter doesn't cut tartness of rhubarb enough for your palate.  Serve over a whole grain (I used quinoa, but it would also be amazing over brown rice, buckwheat groats, or millet).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Live and Learn

In case you have ever wondered: Hosting a birthday party for 14 6-year-olds in your home without hired entertainers (and tranquilizer darts) IS A BAD IDEA!

Ten minutes into the party on Saturday Adam began muttering, "Never again!" every time he passed me.  I couldn't agree more.

Apparently I suck at picking age-appropriate activities for kids.

They loved the t-shirt decorating, except I overestimated their ability to understand that the fabric paints were intended to be used like markers and drawn with.  Instead, they simply removed the caps and squeezed them as hard as they could shooting out permanent paint everywhere, and making such huge puddles of paint on the shirts that we had to scrape it off.

They were done (i.e. got bored) with that faster than expected.

Twister was even worse.  Big A was one of the few kids who knows her right from left, making it a pretty tricky game, and with so many kids, they had to play in teams, which meant the kids watching quickly got bored.

Much more exciting than Twister was jumping on our couches and throwing all the cushions off.  Just what we need, a broken bone and a law suit!

Then the pizza delivery was late.  The kids had already devoured ALL the fresh fruit, and most of the fresh veggies and were whining for dinner.  I called and complained.  Adam called and complained.  Finally the pizza arrived.

As happy as they were to have food, a number of the kids complained about there being no pepperoni.  Nevertheless, they still managed to eat their way through 2 extra large pizzas (whole wheat) and 1 small (gluten-free).

I made Bob's Mill gluten-free white cake for the cupcakes and iced them with my pink raspberry buttercream frosting.  I piped it beautifully on each one and topped it with a gummy candy.  But Saturday was warm and our kitchen was extremely humid, so unfortunately, the frosting melted down before I could get them to a cooler place.  In any case,  a number of the kids determined the icing to be 'yucky' because it tasted like raspberry.  Sigh!  At least Big A loved it.

Hey, I've said it before, I ain't no cake decorator!

Thankfully, Big A's boyfriend's mom stayed for the duration of the party, since he's younger than all the other kids and she really saved our skins.  If it had been just Adam and I, I don't think we would have survived.  As it was, we barely did...it was the longest 2 hours of our lives!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Potty Talk



Yesterday Big A turned 6 and tomorrow is her party for her friends.  She originally said she wanted a small, low-key party at home with no more than 5 guests, but we now have 13 kids coming!!!  I think Adam and I are going to be in bad shape at the end...most parents drop-off their kids at this age, so we are going to be hugely outnumbered by kids.

Hopefully the kids will be kept occupied with our planned activities: t-shirt decorating and Twister.  Yep, low-tech, old-fashioned fun.  They'll either love it or hate it, and if they hate it, we'll have over a dozen hyper, crazy children tearing our house apart.  Good times!

At least we were smart enough to enlist my in-laws to help out by taking Little A off our hands for the afternoon tomorrow.  The last thing we need is to have to deal with 3-year-old tantrums on top of the rest of the mayhem that is likely to ensue.

What is so surprising to me is how much of a "tween" Big A is already.  No more TreeHouse Television.  She eschews Dora, Caillou, etc, and is now into iCarly, Victorious, and (gulp!) Barbie.  She likes to listen to a lot of the same music as Adam and I! When did this happen???  I can't imagine what things will be like once she has raging hormones going on...

Speaking of which, she has her first crush, since the boy she was infatuated with at her old daycare when she was 2.  She doesn't seem to like boys her own age.  The first one was 6 when she was 2, and this little guy is just 4!  I worried, at first, that his parents would think she is some sort of predator robbing-the-cradle, but fortunately, they think it's cute.  She writes him love notes on a daily basis and says they are going to get married.  The little cutie is coming to her birthday tomorrow, and I just hope he isn't intimidated by her older friends.

Little A, our newly minted 3-year-old, is still giving us the run-around on the potty training.  She has proven herself physically capable and aware of what it takes to potty train, but she is deliberately resisting.  Not even letting her watch the Elmo potty training episode on YouTube over-an- over has been able to increase her interest and willingness to give up her diapers.

Last week my mother-in-law experimented with the Smartie-Bribe method, something Adam and I had discussed, but did not feel ready to try yet.  It worked like a charm at the beginning but then the novelty of getting one little treat every time she went wore off, and she began to try and exploit the system.  The rule was: one real pee or poo on the toilet and she gets one Smartie.  She quickly began to fight for 2 Smarties for each successful deposit (inflation, Adam said), and then started to argue that she should get a Smartie for each DROP OF PEE that comes out.  She has also started handing out the Smarties to everyone else who makes a pee or poo in our house.  At least she shares...

Yes, yes, I know bribing kids isn't a great idea and bribing them with junk food is an even worse idea.  I know, I know!  But it has gotten the ball rolling in the right direction anyways.

Her daycare teachers have warned us not to push too hard as that can lead to complete resistance.  The fact that she is physically capable but generally unwilling, they said, suggests that she is using this as a power struggle.  Adam and I already worry she will still be in diapers when she begins kindergarten, but her teachers said that there is still plenty of time (over a year) for her to be toilet trained.

Ah well, tomorrow will mark the end of birthday season in our house for a while.  I will post photos of the cupcakes I made for tomorrow, but after that I think I will take a break from cake and icing for a bit.  With spring finally here, I am looking forward to all the fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies that will soon be available.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Southwestern Tofu Scramble

I have never had scrambled tofu before inspite of it being a common item on restaurant menus.  But this is likely because:
1. I eat eggs;
2. I hate going out for breakfast/brunch (would much rather eat my usual oatmeal and would prefer to eat breakfast AND lunch, not one meal at an odd time, which at restaurants usually involves fatty, greasy, unhealthy foods);
3. If I am forced to go out for breakfast or brunch, I tend to gravitate towards the sweet stuff.

In any case, I enjoyed the tofu salad I made for lunch a few months ago so much, that I thought I would try using tofu as a replacement for eggs in a scramble and see what it was like.

The verdict?  Love it!  And so easy to make as a lunch.  I threw it into a whole grain wrap with bell peppers and onions I had sauteed down until soft and sweet with a little cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne and tomato paste.  Awesome!!


1/2 lb extra firm tofu (preferably sprouted, organic tofu), crumbled or mashed
1/4 cup salsa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tbls nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper, to taste

Throw salsa, garlic and seasonings in a small frying pan over medium heat and cook for a few minutes until mixture thickens (time will depend on how thick/chunky your salsa is).  Add tofu and stir until combined and heated through.  Makes 2 servings.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scary Green Monster Cake Frosting

Last night there was as potluck at Big A's school.  Her class was given the task of supplying desserts.  I'm feeling kind of baked out right now from all the birthdays in our house, and I'm still not done yet.  Big A's actual birthday is tomorrow, so I have to make a treat today for her to bring for her kindergarten class and her party for her friends is this weekend, which means pink cupcakes are on order. 

But duty calls, so I spent the afternoon yesterday making these green monster cupcakes, which I thought were adorable.  I know I will never be a professional cake decorator, but these really charmed the kids.  I found this cute set at the dollar store and couldn't resist:




Now even I thought putting spinach into cake frosting might be pushing things a bit, but everyone loved them, they were ALL devoured, and the frosting was such a big hit that several parents asked for the recipe.  Ask and you shall receive!




Scary Green Monster Cake Frosting

1 handful fresh mint leaves
1 handful baby spinach leaves
1 cup pure white chocolate chips, melted
2 tbls butter, softened
1 tsp pure mint extract
3.5+ cups icing sugar
3-4 tbls milk

Puree mint and spinach in food processor.  Add melted chocolate, butter and extract and process for 1-2 minutes until you have a nice green colour.  Add icing sugar and milk a bit at a time, pulsing to combine, until desired consistency is reached (I like mine pretty thick and stiff like fondant).  Spread or pipe icing onto cooled cake or cupcakes.  If it hardens too much, add a bit more milk or warm it a bit.  Makes enough for 1 layer cake or about 24 cupcakes.

The only one not charmed by these cupcakes was Little A, who declared them too scary because of the monsters and wanted to know why I didn't make Dora cupcakes.  Oh man!




Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Israeli Couscous Salad

I've mentioned this before, but in case you missed it: couscous is not a grain, it's tiny pasta.  That means that unless you buy some that is 100% whole grain, you are just getting refined flour, white pasta. 
It is not difficult to find whole wheat and spelt varieties these days.  For this, I used Shibolim organic spelt couscous.  Israeli couscous is much larger than regular couscous, but you can use regular couscous in a pinch.
Click here to view larger image

This makes a great vegetarian side dish or main course for lunch or dinner.

Salad

1/2 lb whole grain Israeli couscous, cooked according to instructions on package and cooled
2.5 cups cooked chickpeas
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup of my lemon and cumin-scented yogurt dressing (recipe below)
1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
2 tsp zataar seasoning (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl.  Stir in dressing and serve on it's own or over baby spinach or arugula.

Lemon and Cumin-Scented Yogurt Dressing

2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of a lemon
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbls white wine vinegar
1 cup non-fat, plain yogurt

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and zest, dijon, cumin, salt, and vinegar until fully emulsified. Whisk in yogurt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomato and Mushroom Strata

A strata is essentially a savoury bread pudding usually served for breakfast, brunch or lunch.  Since Adam comes home from the gym on Saturdays ravenous and eats a huge second breakfast, and because my parents stayed with us this weekend, I whipped this up to have on hand.  My version is dairy-free since Adam hates cheese and is lactose-intolerant, but I am sure it would be spectacular with some cheese sprinkled in. 
By the time I snapped a photo, it was half eaten...


6 eggs
2.5 cups plain, unsweetened non-dairy (or dairy) milk (I used almond)
1 tbls dijon mustard
2 tsp Costco Rustic Tuscan seasoning (or 1 tsp Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, lightly steamed or blanched
1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 cup marinated mushrooms

1-675g loaf of whole grain bread, cubed

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs with milk and seasonings.  Add veggies and bread and stir well until everything is combined.  Let sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.  Remove from fridge and scrape into well-greased 9x13 baking pan or Corningware.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 400F covered for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until top begins to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and serve warm.  Leftovers freeze well.  Reheat in oven before serving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Good Reads and Wikipedia

Maybe I'm a nerd, I'm definitely weird....but I am completely addicted to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia

No "Crack"berries for me, I don't own any sort of smartphone, I have sent maybe a half dozen text messages in my lifetime, I can't figure out the appeal of Pinterest, and I am not a fan of Twitter.  But Wikipedia has me hooked.

What does Wikipedia have to do with good books I've read recently?  Well, it's most often my reading that inspires me to research something on Wikipedia.  Usually it's a person, place or historical event mentioned in whatever I'm reading.  I just have to find out more!  So I "Wikipedia" (used as a verb here) the said thing.  Then my interest is piqued by some other related person, place or thing and it just goes from there.

Adam has frequently made fun of me when he comes into the room and finds me reading about some seemingly random or obscure thing on Wikipedia.  I can't help it, I love it!  Of course, being a researcher, I am well aware that it is not always the most reliable source of information because anyone can make contributions to the entries.  But it is such a quick and easy way to find out stuff about stuff.  If you want to know more, check out Wikipedia's entry about itself (ha ha): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia

And from there I will segue to the list of a few great books I have read recently (in no particular order):

Portobello - Ruth Rendell
Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Even if you are not a voracious reader, if you are planning summer vacations and usually grab a novel or two for your holiday, I highly recommend you try one of these...and Wikipedia away!

Man, it's been a busy week.  I am so glad Adam got back from Ottawa late last night.  It was a tough evening.  I told the girls I'd make them popcorn if we were organized (fed and bathed) early enough.  But then we stopped to play with friends on the way home from daycare and Big A refused to leave when I said it was time.  Then Big A wouldn't turn off the tv right away when dinner was ready.  Then Big A wouldn't turn off the tv right away when it was bath time.  Then Big A wanted popcorn as I was getting Little A into bed.  I said it was too late and she flung herself on the ground and began wailing.  It was a good 15 minutes and required taking away her bedtime story privileges before she calmed down.  In the midst of her tantrum - which was preventing Little A from falling asleep - Little A began hollering from behind her closed door.  When I opened the door she said, "Mommy I found some boogers in my nose!"  Yep, these are the joys of parenting!

I worry that if Adam continues to travel so much for work, we will end up with toothless, illiterate children suffering from scurvy.  Things that I *might* have the mental energy for when I have backup - like flossing the girls' teeth, coaxing Big A into praticing her reading before bed when she's refusing, or even finding a vegetable to serve for dinner that they will both eat, just go out the window when I'm on my own.  I wonder if there is a Wikipedia entry on effective lone-parenting strategies...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shirataki Noodles with Tofu, Cabbage, and Sea Veggies in Creamy Sesame Miso Sauce

I used butternut squash to lighten up the tahini-based sauce here, like I did with my lightened up peanut sauce.  Like peanut butter, I could literally drink tahini, but like all nut/seed butters, it should be consumed in moderation because it is so energy-dense.

I had a bag of dulce lying around so I threw it in, but arame or nori will work too.  Dulce does have a pretty fishy taste, but I like it in this, and all sea vegetables are so crazy, healthy.  This recipe made 2 yummy, power-packed lunches for me this week, which was essential, because it's been super busy and Adam is away again.

2-1 lb bags of shirataki noodles (soy-free, Asian style ones), rinsed and snipped with scissors.  I like JFC brand:

Stir Fry

1 tsp sesame oil, peanut oil or other vegetable oil
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
40g dulce or other sea veggies
2 bunches green onions, sliced
1/2 lb extra firm organic sprouted tofu, cubed

Lightened Up Creamy Sesame Miso Sauce

1 lb roasted butternut squash, cubed
1 large chunk fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls tahini
2 tbls light miso
2 tbls rice vinegar
1 tbls soy sauce
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

"Dry" noodles, by placing them in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until excess moisture is absorbed, then set aside. 

For the sauce,place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.  It should be very thick.
In wok or large skillet, saute cabbage, tofu, sea veggies and onions in oil.  Once cabbage is tender add noodles and sauce and stir until everything is combined and heated through.  Makes 2-3 servings.  Keep in refridgerator for 3-4 days.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Italian "Meat"balls

These, my friends, are vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, high protein, low-fat, high fibre, orbs of deliciousness.  If I do say so myself, I hit it out of the park with this creation.

I like meat as much as the next person, but strongly believe Michael Pollan's famous mantra regarding diet and health: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

And so, I do make an effort to limit my animal consumption. 

I do also like some faux meats, particularly Gardein products such as their beefless tips, and Tofurky sausages.  But these, like most commercially-produced meat alternatives, are high in sodium and extremely processed.  So I try to limit my consumption of these too.

So what's a health conscious meat-lover to do?
I've been exploring various options for making my own faux meat at home.  As you've seen in my other recipes, I often use lentils or organic tempeh to replace ground meat, but I have been wanting to make vegetarian sausage or meatballs and those options didn't seem appropriate for this purpose.  I considered trying to work with wheat gluten (seiten), but for some reason, this idea intimidates me.  So after much thought and consideration, I came up with this recipe and folks, no matter who or what you do or do not eat, I can guarantee you will love these!

I couldn't believe how much they look and smell like meatballs, nor how tasty they turned out.  The ingredient list may seem long, but they come together quickly in the food processor and you can alter the seasonings to taste, or based on what you have in your pantry (but definitely add the whole fennel seeds!!).  These can be frozen and they are very versatile.  I used them to make amazing "meatball" wraps, but next time I'm going to make them with spaghetti. 

Italian "Meat"balls

1 cup sprouted bean mix (available at Costco and health food stores)*
3 cups water

1oz (about 8.5g) dried mushrooms**
1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and halved
1 small zucchini
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (vegan, if necessary)
2 tsp Costco Rustic Tuscan Seasoning (or dried oregano)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tbls chickpea flour
2 tbls quinoa flakes (oats might work too)
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Place beans and water in a large pot over high heat.  Once water begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Then turn off heat and let stand.  Meanwhile, place mushrooms in food processor and process until finely ground (this will take a few minutes).  Add shallot and zucchini and process until very finely chopped.  Pulse until very finely chopped.  Add all remaining ingredients except beans and process for another 10-15 seconds.  Add drained beans and pulse until mixture is combined and sticks together (beans should be well chopped, but not pureed).  Form mixture into small balls and place on baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes (be careful not to burn them).  Let cool and then remove from sheet.  Use as you would meatballs.  Makes 30 balls.

*If you can't find sprouted beans, use 1 cup dried beans and then cook them yourself (Romano might be best?).  I wouldn't use canned beans as the texture is too soft and you'll end up with a bean puree.  Note that the cooking directions I have given are only for sprouted beans, regular dried beans take much longer and should be soaked overnight.

**I used shitake mushrooms because that's what I had in the cupboard, but since these are Italian, an Italian variety (like crimini) is probably even better.

I've entered this recipe in the Wellness Weekend contest over at the awesome Diet, Dessert and Dogs Blog.  This is a great resource for creative, healthy recipes.