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Showing posts from May, 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 vanill…

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 clas…

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, …

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 springfo…

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 white…

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 b…

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.



For this reci…

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, a…

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 …

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 muchgrowing 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.


Accord…

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 v…

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…

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.

Instead of the ep…

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 go…

Happy Mother's Day!

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…

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

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 min…

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.


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 an…

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 l…

Good Reads and Wikipedia

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

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 c…

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 see…