(Re)Start Your Engine

30 12 2011

Soon we will be saying farewell to 2011 and hello to 2012. How’s that feel? Another year to reflect on and another year to look ahead to. Lots to think about… I like the week between Christmas and New Years, lucky for me I usually don’t work so it is time to dig into books, my yoga practice, kick up the healthful routine and spend quality time with friends. The weather here has been so amazing, walks with good friends and tea dates have been a good way to spend the time. What have you been doing?

Great cup of Tea, Crazyweed, Canmore

I stuck to my green smoothies throughout most of the holidays, this routine is so important and if you haven’t tried it, maybe next year ;). Green smoothies are a good way to pack in the vitamins and nutrients any time of the year. Here is an easy recipe: 1 small or 1/2 large banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries of your choice (makes the smoothie not so green though), 1 stalk of celery, 2 cups water and a few big leaves including stems of swiss chard. If you don’t have a good strong blender you might have some clumps, but whatever, it tastes good and it’s good for you. Maybe next year you’ll buy a Vitamix as well!

In the fall I picked a bunch of mint from the garden and dried it out. I like mint tea on its own, but I thought I’d experiment and mix it with other flavours. I grated the zest from three organic lemons and let it dry and bought dried grated ginger from Life with Style from my favourite market, KFM. I mixed equal parts mint, ginger and lemon together to make an herbal tea. Turned out pretty good.

Mint, Ginger and Lemon Zest Tea

One of the most popular recipes on this blog is the Spicy Black Bean Soup – I made a pot of it the other day, mmm good and nourishing. Froze some for work next week. I gotta say though, I couldn’t find a sweet potato near by, so I used a regular potato, it turned out fine but you certainly miss the flavour of the sweet potato. I also toasted a new jar of mixed seeds and nuts to put on my whole grain breakfasts. Although I love sprouting grains, good old oatmeal has been my fave these past few weeks, easy and warming. Lightly toast roughly chopped walnuts, almonds and pecans in a medium-high dry pan, stirring often. Add pumpkin and sunflower seeds, toast until you hear them pop. 1/2-1 cup each nut and seed. Let cool and store in air tight jar. Order organic from Real Raw Food.

Ready to go, toasted seeds and nuts

Thumbing through the newest City Palate get’s my cooking juices going…time to get back to the kitchen and experiment with more healthful eats.

Wishing you all a healthful and happy New Year.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Recipe Share: Almond Butter Maple Cookies

18 04 2011

Bit of a dry spell on the blog as of late. This weekend I finally had time to spend in the kitchen, besides whipping up easy soups for work, at least I got that far the previous two weeks.

I have been wanting to start a post called ‘Recipe Share’ for awhile. I have a beautiful recipe book that my dear friends put together for my wedding shower. Each guest wrote down a favourite recipe and it was pasted into the book. Since then this book has become my recipe-food-garden journal. I have recorded menus for meals we have hosted, garden plans and progress and recipes in it. I save a lot of what I do digitally, but there is something nostalgic about writing it down. My grandmother has an amazing recipe book that was her mothers, and I hope that I will be able to pass mine down to someone one day. How do you save your recipes?

Anyhow, my goal is to write about the recipes I try from the book, from friends and blog readers. Today’s Recipe Share is from my sweet friend Emily. She gave me this cookie recipe to try, and it is yummy. It made for the perfect dessert Sunday night. I have recorded the original recipe below with my comments of course, I can’t help but give alternatives and share what I did. If you are looking for a semi-healthful sweet, these are for you.

1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (I used 1/2 cup pastry and 1/2 cup spelt to up the wholeness)
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt (use sea salt if you got it)
1/2 cup Chopped Almonds (I used slivered almonds)
1/2 cup Almond Butter (unsweetened)
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil (I used 2 tbsp and try using a light olive or sunflower)
1 tsp Vanilla or Almond Extract (invest in good quality, not imitation, they’re full of chemicals)

  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together (although, I mixed the almond butter right into the dry and then added the mixed wet). Mix the wet and dry. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the fridge. Pinch off and roll into 1.5 inch balls, press lightly onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10-14 min. I give this range because the recipe calls for 10, my oven 14 was better. 12 worked and they were a bit chewier in the middle. Makes about 16.
  • Thanks Emily!!!

Besides making cookies and a nice meal on Sunday, I gave my new favourite kitchen appliance a try, my Vitamix. Oh yes, this is the shizzz. I have been blending perfection into my green smoothies since I got it, not a kale or swiss chard lump in site. Sunday I made almond mylk for the first time using it, I was saying out loud, ‘unbelievable’. How smooth it was. The almond meal left over is flour. Not that my old blender didn’t do a good job, it’s just amazing the difference the appliance makes. If you haven’t invested in one, think about it. I finally felt justified to retire my eight year old blender Tony so sweetly bought me (and fixed half a dozen times) for my birthday when we first started dating (ah). Plus, I got the smaller four cup container thrown in, how could I resist!

I hope everyone is having a nice Monday…have a great week!

Eat well, Be well

Nat





Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Goodness

26 02 2011

I am always looking, finding and noting recipes that are healthful. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe in SwerveCalgary. I think I got a tweet from somewhere to something that led me to find these cookies by Julie Van Rosendaal, a well known chef/foodie, she’s hilarious. It was a no brainer. Hurry up banana’s ripen!

I made them and they are now my favourite oatmeal cookie. Here is the recipe with my notes on how I made them. Make them today, seriously, go, now.

If you need to make these peanut free, try other nut butters or a soy nut butter that is okay with schools. This recipe is sooooo good for kids lunches, but the peanut/nut free thing is so constraining for mom’s. I lived off peanut butter as a kid, today, this is not the case. Most kids can’t bring peanut or other nut things to school.

  • 2-3 very ripe bananas (I used frozen, thawed them, poured off most of the liquid, left about a tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably all-natural (sugar free!!!)
  • 1/4 cup canola or mild olive oil (use the olive, canola, not so much)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned (large flake) or quick oats (not instant and to be gluten free you have to use gluten free certified oats)
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut (sugar free!)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips (I used a regular sized Green & Blacks organic dark 80% chocolate bar, chopped it up, about 1 cup. I could have used less, like 3/4, but they were good)

1) Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2) In a large bowl, mash the bananas with the peanut butter, oil and vanilla until smooth. (A fork worked perfectly). Add the oats, coconut, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir until combined, then stir in the chocolate.
3) Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray (I pressed them down a bit). Bake 12-14 minutes, until just set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 24 cookies (I baked for 14 on convention, made about 20 cookies).

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Walnut Kifli

22 12 2010

‘Kifli’ is a very common Hungarian yeast dough pastry, cut into triangles and rolled up into a crescent shape. There are savoury ones and sweet ones. I grew up with a sweet one made with a walnut filling. Kifli are a staple during the holidays and I recently made kifli with my grandma Ann. When I first got the recipe for kifli from her she explained the dough needed to rest in the fridge overnight. I thought, great, i’ll make the dough and come by the next day and learn how to roll the cookies. Before the plans were solidified she says to me ‘I think you should come here and make the dough, I don’t trust you’ll know how to do it right’. She was right (head hung). When it comes to cookies, these are a bit labour intensive, but once you get the hang of it, and are well supervised :), time flies. I’ll do my best to explain, but I agree that it takes practice, a trained eye and taste experience to know what is a ‘good’ dough, filling and end product.

***Warning, these are not my typical no sugar, whole grain treat. The experience of learning tradition and spending time with a grandparent is the treat. And besides, these are simple ingredients, low in sugar and considering the recipe will make 85-95 cookies…well, do the math, you’ll live if you eat a few of them.***

Dough:

  • 2 cups Regular Flour
  • 1 cup Pastry Flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cup regular Butter
  • I tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 package of Dry Yeast, dissolved in 1-2 tbsp of warm milk
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Sour Creme (buy a small 250 ml container)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling

  • 1 lb Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Rinds of 2 Lemons, grated

Sift the flour and salt together (that sifter of grandmas is older than ME!). With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix the sour creme, yeast mixture, lemon juice and eggs together. Add the wet to the dry, mix with a spoon, folding over until it is blended. Then with your hands form it into a ball. On a floured surface, kneed a few times to incorporate all the ingredients, not too much or it toughens. Cut into two pieces, put in fridge over night.

For the filling, grind the walnuts, check out that old grinder. A food processor will work, but be careful not to pulverize them into powder, they need to be a course grind. Mix in grated lemon rind and sugar. The cookies call for the evil white sugar – now i’ll experiment with alternatives one day, but 1/2 cup of sugar for 85+ cookies, i’ll live. My grandma makes them low in sugar because her mother watched her sugar intake. Nice.

After the dough has sat in the fridge overnight, no longer than 12 hours, take out and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours so you can roll it out. Roll out on a dusting of flour, turning and flipping over until dough is about 2mm in thickness? Cut into triangles 3.5″ across and about 45 degrees. Again, this isn’t going to be easy to explain here. Fill the base of the triangle with a spoon of filling, tuck the corners in a bit, roll, stuffing the filling as you go, brushing extra aside. Tip of triangle needs to be on the bottom of the roll so it doesn’t unravel while baking. Brush with egg white and bake for about 20 min in 375 degrees until golden brown. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That doesn’t do it justice but I don’t expect a pastry beginner to give this a shot. If you do, let me know how you do. By the way, and although she might not admit it in public, grandma said (sipping her tea and watching me) that my kifli were perfect, like i’d been doing it my whole life. Perfect. That’s right, must be in the genes.

Eat well and Be well over the holidays,

Nat





Rhubarb Peach Apricot Cobbler

2 08 2010

Back in June I wrote about Spring Rhubarb. In that post I gave a recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler. I’ve had some great reviews so I bring you this new version, Rhubarb Peach Apricot Cobbler. Tony’s folks were coming for dinner and to make it feel like summer (second complaint this week on the blog about our weather), I thought a fresh fruit cobbler would be perfect. Rhubarb from the garden that I froze in June and fresh peaches and apricots from last weekend’s trip to Kelowna. Yum.

I replaced the cinnamon for ginger powder, ditched the orange zest, added half the orange juice and used cashews instead of walnuts. Kept the rest the same. Delicious!

Rhubarb Peach Apricot Cobbler

Filling:

3 cups of chopped Rhubarb, 1 cm pieces

3 cups of sliced peaches and apricots

Juice of 1/2 an Orange

2 tbsp of Kuzu or Cornstarch, dissolved in the orange juice

Mix everything together, pour into a buttered pan, I used a smaller casserole dish, like 9″x5″.

Topping:

1 c Rolled Oats (not instant)

1/4 c Oat Bran

1 1/2 tbsp Flax Meal

1/2 c Almond Meal or Flour

1 1/2 tsp Ginger Powder

1/2 c chopped Cashews

1/4 c liquid honey

Mix all the dry topping ingredients together first, then add the honey, blend. Spread on the top of the fruit. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the fruit is bubbling and the top is browned, about 50 min. Let sit and cool a bit, serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt (mmm, wish we had some of that goat milk gelato we had in Kelowna).

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Spring Rhubarb

1 06 2010

Even though it snowed all weekend, I was able to harvest a bunch of rhubarb from the garden. Picking rhubarb this time of year is a move in the right direction, SUMMER. I have green rhubarb, which is the same as the red, but not as pretty. Oh well.

So, what to do with all that rhubarb? So much, where do I start. I have been experimenting with it the last few years, favourites are compote and crumbles. The ultimate favourite is grandmas’s strawberry rhubarb pie. This bowl of rhubarb is a lot, it yielded 9 cups of chopped rhubarb (about 1 cm or more size pieces). I used three cups in a cobbler, three cups in a compote and I froze three cups. That’s the nice thing about rhubarb, you can freeze it.

Prepping rhubarb: I don’t even rinse it off, unless it is really dirty, but the snow and rain took care of that. I use scissors to cut the stalks off the plant and the leaf off the top (don’t eat the leaves, toxic). I use a pairing knife and peel the very outer layer of skin off the stalk, it is really easy. Chop up into the required size, use right away or freeze.

It is tough to find recipes for rhubarb that don’t include a bucket of sugar. Rhubarb is tart, cooking it brings out the sugar, but most recipes add sugar to sweeten the pot. My goal (challenge) is to find ways not to use cane sugar and only natural sweeteners. So Sunday was rhubarb sans sugar experimentation day. I made a Rhubarb Ginger Jam, which I plan on using in my Thumbprint Cookies, and a Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler with Walnuts, yum. Here are the recipes:

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

3 cups of chopped Rhubarb, 1 cm pieces

1 tbsp of grated Ginger

Juice of 1 Lemon

1/2 cup of filtered water

2-3 tbsp Agave Nectar (based on your taste)

1 tbsp Kuzu (a Japanese starchy plant used as a thickener) or Cornstarch (optional)

Add the rhubarb and ginger to a sauce pot, saute for a couple of minutes, add the water, lemon juice and agave. Bring to boil, turn the heat down to a low boil/simmer for 20 minutes or until it softens and thickens. Stirring often. You may need more liquid, just add a bit of water, depends on the water content of your rhubarb. Use kuzu or cornstarch to thicken (mix with a small amount of water, don’t dump the thickener into the pot, or globs will form). Making jam is personal, you need to adjust to your thickness/sweetness. I ended up using 3 tbsp of Agave.

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler with Walnuts

Filling:

3 cups of chopped Rhubarb, 1 cm pieces

3 cups of quartered Strawberries

Juice of 1 Orange + 2 tsp chopped Orange Zest

2 tbsp of Kuzu or Cornstarch, dissolved in the orange juice

Mix everything together, pour into a buttered pan, I used a smaller casserole dish, like 9″x5″.

Topping:

1 c Rolled Oats (not instant)

1/4 c Oat Bran

1 1/2 tbsp Flax Meal

1/2 c Almond Meal or Flour

1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

2/3 c chopped Walnuts

1/4 c liquid honey

Mix all the dry topping ingredients together first, then add the honey, blend. Spread on the top of the fruit. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the fruit is bubbling and the top is browned, I think I baked mine for 50 min. Let sit and cool a bit, serve with ice cream, frozen yogurt (what we had with it, Chapman’s makes a good, low sugar one) or plain yogurt or almond milk (which I did yesterday, even better). If you don’t have oat bran or almond meal/flour, use spelt flour instead, just use less, using almond meal/flour creates a grainier texture as it has no gluten. Using wheat or spelt will make it more glutenous.

Eat well, Be well, Nat

(oh, look, the sun!)





Kamut for Breakfast

21 05 2010

I talked to a holistic dietician the other week and learned that I wasn’t eating enough in the morning. Having an ashtanga practice and being the most active in the morning requires fuel in the opposite order than people active through the day or at night. More food and complex carbs in the day, protein and veggies at night. Huh. Makes sense. I was actually slightly starving my metabolism. I thought the problems I was having were due to a sensitivity to sugar. They were sugar, but the sugar from carbs and the processing of complex carbs at night was taxing my system. So I changed to eating more through the day and feel the difference already, easier time going to sleep and more energy through the day. (For the record: the other reason for the metabolic  issues at night is age, nice, she politely told me that I was getting older. Argh.)

A new favourite breakfast of mine is kamut. I have my green smoothie (banana, another fruit and 2-3 cups of spinach, kale or chard) after practice and then a little while later whole grains like kamut with toasted nuts and seeds. I soak kamut for 24 hrs, rinse it a few times, drain it and then leave it in the fridge. 1/2 cup of soaked kamut in 1 cup of filtered water, low boil on the stove for 15-20 min. It’s just like making steel cut oats but without the starchy liquid. Once cooked (it is chewy), I dribble, and I mean dribble, agave syrup on it, like 1/2 tsp and mix it together. I like the smokey flavour of agave but honey would be yummy too. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of mixed toasted seeds and nuts on top, which I keep in a jar in the cupboard. This breakfast keeps me going until lunch and if lunch is late, no problem. If you are on the run, you could make this ahead and take it with you, doesn’t need to be hot and because it isn’t gummy like oatmeal, the kamut stays granule. You could add fruit to this, I don’t because I had a bunch in my smoothie. You could sprout the kamut as well…

Whole grains have so many health benefits. I found this great website from the Whole Grains Council with fantastic information on grains. Experiment with grains in your diet.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat