Monday, November 5, 2012

Greek Lentil Soup

It's getting colder here, and for me that means pulling on thick sweaters, mittens and boots, and of course, eating more soups and stews. Here's a favorite of mine, shared by a good friend, and one that I eat often. Perfect for those long cold winter nights, and an awesome take-to-work lunch. I make a big batch and freeze it into single portions.

For those Weight Watchers amongst us, this makes 8 portions at 5 points each.

2 c uncooked lentils (I use the orange colored ones)
8 c water or stock
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 potato, you guessed it - chopped
2 T olive oil
2 bay leaves (you don't want to forget these - they absolutely make the soup)
1 1/2 - 2 t salt (taste before you add; your stock might have made it salty enough)

Throw it all in a pot and cook about 30 min. Just before serving add 2 t red wine vinegar (I've never done this; someone tell me how it tastes).

Mmmm, mmmm, good!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Laying fallow

My future garlic bed, freshly turned with manure and compost
Mar 25, 2011 - the date I was last inspired to post something. I originally set up this blog as an outlet to share my creativity in the kitchen but it started to occur like work so I took a break. I liken it to the farmers fields that lay dormant for a year - they call it leaving it fallow. Basically the farmers give the field a rest for a whole year, so the earth has a chance to rejuvenate itself and gather in more nutrients so it improve its output in the following years.

Last night I made a beautiful salad and it occured like the most natural thing for me to pull out my camera and snap a picture of it, all the while I was planning my blog posting in my head. At that point I knew my fallow period was over! So in celebration of a new era of blogging, here's the recipe for a raw kale salad, taste-tested and approved by my loving bus driver.

The key to eating kale raw is cutting out the hard vein down the centre and then chopping it up into small (1 inch) pieces. This recipe serves 6 - really! I cut the recipe in half and served 2, and neither my bus driver nor I could finish the serving. That's just a lot of kale to chew through! That said, there is a whole lot of taste going on in this bowl, and we are looking forward to leftovers today.

 Raw Kale Salad with Root Vegetables
Serves 6
Tender, long-leafed Lacinato kale works especially well in this recipe, but any variety will do if it's cut very thin and given a thorough rubdown with salt, vinegar, and oil. The grated root vegetables and maple-glazed pecans add just the right crunchiness.

  • 2 12-oz. bunches kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips or chiffonade
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and grated or julianned (1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated or julianned (½ cup)
  • 2 green onions, cut thin on diagonal
Maple-glazed Pecans
  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
To make salad:
Place kale in large bowl, and pour olive oil, vinegar, and 1 tsp. salt over top. Gently massage mixture into kale about 2 to 3 minutes by hand, or until kale starts to wilt. Let rest 30 minutes. Stir turnip, carrot, and green onions into kale mixture. Toss with dressing. Garnish with pecans.

To make pecans:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss together pecans, maple syrup, olive oil, remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, and cayenne in medium bowl. Spread nut mixture in single layer on prepared baking sheet; bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until pecans are brown and fragrant, stirring frequently. Cool in pan.

To make dressing:
Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup in bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

(Modified recipe sourced from Vegetarian Times, October 2010 p.65)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ladies who Brunch

Every once in a while I feel the need to cook for more than just Mr bus driver man and the boy with braces. And who better to spoil than some of the women in my life! A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do just that. A Sunday morning, an invitation, a yummy recipe and ta da! The Ladies who Brunch! was created.

What would brunch be without something sparkly to drink? And orange juice from a container with ducks on it??
Now, I generally live by the 80/20 rule of eating, which goes something like eating healthy 80% of the time and eating what I really want 20% of the time. Now, that kind of sounds like I don't enjoy eating healthy, which isn't true, but if we're being honest here, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the 20% sense of freedom and joy that still shows up!

Cinnamon baked french toast - a winner with the women!

Oh so happy that fondues are back in style!
That's not to say we didn't share some yummy healthy food because as you can see, we did (and in the world of Ladies who Bruch, it goes without saying that chocolate fondue is healthy)

But it wasn't really about the food. This was an opportunity for us all to feed ourselves on a spiritual level as well, sharing the company of women we love.

So glad to see my good friend Jen, who was in town visiting from San Francisco - impeccable timing on her part!
I was thrilled she could come and join the party.
Oh yes, the party was made complete with the addition of a baby!  
I know, a boy snuck in but he kept his face turned away from the camera so no one could tell he was there!
Now I test-drove a new recipe for the event, and told one of my friends I would never consider posting it on my blog (even though it was SO DELISH!! but not what I call healthy), given that this space is all about eating healthy. I got called out on that by the way. Apparently it fits my 20% criteria perfectly - I hadn't considered that before. So, without further ado, the recipe!

Cinnamon Baked French Toast
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks). This is a make-ahead (like the night before) recipe which makes it incredibly easy to prepare for company, or you know, you!

1 loaf bread (could be french, italian, sour dough, whatever you want)
8 eggs
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1-2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, cut into pieces
fresh fruit (optional)

Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan. Mix together eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge several hours or overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add nutmeg if desired. Add butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture until mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in the fridge.

When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove casserole from the fridge and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. (If you’re using fruit, sprinkle on before the crumb mixture). Bake for 45 -55 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Serve topped with butter, fresh fruit, plain yogurt and/or maple syrup (or all of the toppings). Or whatever you want - nuts and raisins are good too. My family wolfed down the leftovers plain and cold. Yup, it's that good!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa has become one of my favorite grains. It’s packed full of protein and once I got the hang of cooking it, I started to substitute it for rice and pasta in most of my cooking. This salad is easy to pack which makes it great for lunch at your desk (not that I advocate eating at your desk, but sometimes you do what you gotta do). And its super easy to make (now that I’ve figured it out, I’ll let you in on my secret)

Measure and rinse the quinoa. Rinsing the raw quinoa is important to take off the bitter resin-like coating (really important because otherwise it cooks up all glutinous and tastes pretty bad). Rinse it in a strainer with the finest grill you have. Quinoa is tiny so you can easily lose it down the drain if the holes in the strainer are too big.

Cook the quinoa in either a rice cooker or on the stove. I use a ratio of 1 cup grain: 1 ¼ cup water which I find is perfect. Cook until tender – about 15 minutes is all it takes. Put the quinoa into a large bowl and let it cool.

Prepare your veggies

Add them to the cooled quinoa along with the oregano and pine nuts (mmm, I think the pine nuts are the secret ingredient for this salad). Grind lots of pepper over the salad.

Put the oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice in the magic bullet and give it a whirl. Add it to the salad.

Mix it all up and then portion out some for lunch tomorrow before it all disappears. The flavours are really subtle but don’t be fooled. This salad packs a punch of good nutrition.

Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 ¼ cups water
½ cup grated carrot
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
1 ½ tsp oregano
¼ cup pine nuts
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
Lots of freshly ground pepper

Put quinoa and water in rice cooker or medium sized pot. Cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Put cooked quinoa in large bowl and let cool. Add the carrots, onions, oregano, pine nuts and pepper. Mix oil, vinegar and lemon juice together and pour over salad. Mix it all together. Will keep in fridge for 2 or 3 days.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Apple Pecan Muffins

I pretty much gave up eating muffins a while ago because for the most part, they really are just cake. And big pieces of cake at that! Cake that does damage to the waistline (the term "muffin top" was not a coincidence).

No this is not me!
 Not pretty!

Ok, now try to get that picture out of your mind while I tell you that today's recipe is actually healthy! Likely one of the healthiest (and yet tastiest) muffin recipes you will come across. And really, an occasional muffin isn't going to kill anyone (or even sabotage a weight loss plan) but people! The key is moderation. So here's what I'm going to suggest. When you make these (and you will), eat one fresh (no butter required!) and freeze the rest (or better yet, send them to school for the bake sale). These are a favorite with the boy with braces! And Mr bus driver man. He got a six-pack of these for his desert adventure.

So, let's start with some spelt flour. You can buy this at the store

 or you can grind your own.

Spelt grain can be purchased at most health food stores. If you don't have a grain grinder (and let's face it, how many of us do?) use a high speed blender to grind. I like to use my Magic Bullet if I'm in the mood to grind my own spelt. Make sure to grind it really really fine. You won't lose any of the nutrients but if the grain is course, you will have very heavy muffins. Which translates to almost inedible, and if you are treating yourself to something yummy and nutritious like this, you don't want to be eating something classified as "almost inedible." Really. Trust me on this one.

Once you've sorted out your spelt flour (to grind or not to grind...), throw it in a bowl and add in some brown sugar (yes, I said sugar), some ground flaxseed (have you invested in a magic bullet yet? Can you see a theme here?), some cinnamon, the usual culprits baking powder and his sidekick soda and a bit of sea salt.

Don't forget some fresh ground nutmeg. 
Have you met my little nutmeg man yet? I use him exclusively for grating fresh nutmeg. There's nothing like fresh nutmeg, especially if you grew up eating stale nutmeg (sorry Mom, you were an awesome cook and baker but your spice cupboard was um, how shall I say this? Hmmm, why did I start down this path...nothing good can come from it I am sure). Anyway, back to nutmeg. I used to wonder what the point was. It was quite revolting. But fresh nutmeg?? It's a completely different animal! Or nut! Ok, ok. back to work here.

Look where he stores his nuts.

Alright, enough oggling the nutmeg man.

Get out your knife and chop some apples into little bits like this.

Add in some vanilla, milk, yogurt, an egg and some broken pecans.

Mix it all up with a wooden spoon.  Then add it to the dry bowl.

I love these action shots!

Mix until the wet and dry have converged into a sodden mess and then spoon into a greased muffin tin. Now comes the extra special bit. Mix up a wee bit of brown sugar and cinnamon and a few more chopped pecans in a little bowl and spoon a little bit of this on top of your muffins. Mmmmm, yummy goodness is in store for you very very soon!

Oooh, blurry action shots! This is true photographic skill!
Bake in a slow oven. While they are baking (they take about 30 mins) make yourself a really good cup of coffee. Or tea. Your choice, But let the quality of the brew match what you are about to savour from the oven.
Let the muffins cool for a bit in the pan and then help them out by running a spatula around each muffin before gently lifting them onto the cooling rack. You do not want to tip these over and try to shake them out. Not unless you want sugar and cinnamon and tiny little pieces of nuts spread all over your counters, floor, etc. Get the picture?? No I didn't take one, I figured that out on my own, thank you very much!
The recipe - Apple Pecan Muffins

 (makes 12 muffins)


2 cups spelt flour
¾ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt

1 ½ cups chopped apples (1 large apple usually is enough)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup skim or 1% milk
½ cup plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
½ cup broken pecans

½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 300°F. Spray your muffin pan. In two large bowls, separately mix dry and wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until just mixed. Spoon into muffin pan. Top each muffin with a sprinkling of topping mixture. Bake for 30 mins. Do the toothpick test to see if they are done.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Peanut Cinnamon Date Balls

Mr Bus driver man has headed south with a buddy for some serious guy time. This involves dirt, motorbikes, sunshine and more dirt. I suspect beer will be involved somehow as well.

Before he left he requested some healthy snacks to take with him. While I applaud his request, I think he is secretly looking forward to eating at those truck stops down the I5 (shudder).

At any rate, I took him at his word and sent him off with some apple pecan spelt muffins (recipe to come later this week) and these little energy balls. I found both recipes on fANNEtastic food, another foodie whose blog I follow.

This couldn't be any easier to make, although if your food processor is anything like my food processor, the ingredients will have to be encouraged to get back in the line of the blade every few seconds until they reach perfect pulverization.

Start by getting your food processor out of the back of the cupboard. Don't forget to grab the accessory box while you're there. Use your small bowl and blade if you are only making a single batch. You can easily double or triple this recipe which is a good idea because they pack easily and are perfect for hiking, camping, or even having in your car when you are on the go.

Throw all the ingredients into the bowl and start processing. My dates were really hard. Probably bought them during the last ice age (not the one we had last week but probably the one before that). I put them in a pot with a bit of water and let them cook for a bit. That softened them right up.

Oh, make sure the dates are pitted. Very important.

Process a bit and then using a spatula, push the ingredients down off the side of the bowl. Do this a few dozen times. Eventually they will look like this. Only not as blurry in real time.

Scoop them up into your hands and roll into little balls. Then scrape the yummy goodness of your hands and eat it.

Tada! One recipe makes 6 of these little guys, but each one is packed with peanut power. Don't eat these if you are allergic to peanuts.

The Recipe - Peanut Cinnamon Date Balls

3/4 cup pitted dried dates
1/2 cup peanuts (get the unroasted and unsalted if you can)
1 Tbsp oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp water (not needed if you soak the dates first)

Toss in the food processor and pulse until everything is all ground up and sticking together. Form into balls. That's it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time for a flu shot

When I was a kid and driving my dad crazy with a cough or sniffles, he'd head to the kitchen and make me a hot whisky. I figure he would pretty much be arrested for doing that today but there's something to be said for how effective those old remedies were. That's what I thought this was when I tried out this recipe given to me by my friend The Good Food Dude. Mr bus driver man and his buddy were hanging in the man cave playing with motorbikes and sounding retchedly sick so I whipped up a batch and delivered 2 steaming hot mugs.

It's pretty easy to make and is worthy of turning your nose up at it and even making gagging noises if you are so inclined. But trust me, when you are sick of being sick and those off-the-shelf "remedies" haven't done a darn thing to make you feel better, give this one a whirl.

Start with these 3 basic ingredients

Slice the green onions and ginger root. Don't worry about peeling the ginger - you won't be eating it. Throw it all in a pot like this

Add the garlic. I like to press the garlic cloves but if you don't have a garlic press, well, it's probably not the end of the world if you diced it up really fine. But just this once. A garlic press is an essential tool in my kitchen and I think everyone should have one. A good one, not one of those crap plastic jobs. But I digress.

Add some water and boil for about 5 mins. Strain the mixture into a cup.

Add a heaping tablespoon of honey and stir it up.

 It loses its appeal as it cools so drink up while its hot.

The recipe - Flu Shot

3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger root, grated or chopped
2 cups water
2 teaspoons honey (unpasteurized if you got it)

Boil onions, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes in the water. Strain and add honey. Drink while hot!