Recipe for a perfect Thursday

12 Aug

IMG_2537

IMG_2538

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Drive a few hours (TOTALLY worth the trip) to meet these two lovely ladies who you haven’t seen in WAY too long.

IMG_2536

IMG_2539

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Eat lunch at a cute little place in Port Elgin that your friend recommended – tomato and bocconcini salad and a Hello Dolly bar, enjoyed on a lovely outdoor patio. IMG_2540

3. Go for a walk on the Port Elgin beach on a beautiful, if a little windy, day. IMG_2543

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Be genuinely touched and surprised at the thoughtful early birthday gift (totally milking the extended birthday this year and LOVING it)from the girls – food magazines and CHOCOLATE (thanks so much ladies)! *FYI, they both loved the house-warming/engagement gifts of wine and s’mores truffles. And, best thing EVER – I walked in and gave them to my friend and she was like: “I just saw these come up on your blog!” – LOVE IT!

5. Drive home, enjoying the beautiful weather and countryside, and stopping at numerous little country markets/farmstands, eating some of the birthday chocolate (hey, put me in a card over the dinner hour with 3 chocolate bars – what do you think is going to happen?!?!), 2 peaches and a mini muffin that your friend packed you as “emergency snacks,” and then stop at Starbucks for a frappucino and a Sobey’s visit to re-stock on tofu shirataki noodles.

6. IMG_2542Arrive home, satisfy your craving for nachos for a late dinner after all your treats and snacking – made with Guiltless Gourmet chips, light shredded cheese, green onion, tomato and a mini pepper from your garden Smile, hot peppers, fat-free sour cream, refried beans and delicious homemade corn salsa that you bought at the cutest little Mennonite farm market. Eat the one s’mores truffle you saved for yourself (‘cause any more would be trouble), plus a few more snacks for dessert.

Insert contented sigh here….perfect day.

Now, because I don’t want to leave you without a recipe/food inspiration going into the weekend, I will share with you a delicious Hungry Girl recipe for PB cookies I made on Wednesday with another lovely lady I know. Try these! They are so easy and so so so good. It’s kinda a good thing that they make such a small batch, if you know what I mean (FYI, recipe says it makes 6, but those are 6 HUGE cookies…if you want ‘em a bit smaller, you can get about 8 reasonably-sized ones).

Hungry Girl’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Softies

  • 3/4 cup regular oats (not instant)IMG_2530
    1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
    1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
    1/4 cup light peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
    2 tbsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread, room temperature
    2 tbsp. no-sugar-added applesauce
    2 tbsp. fat-free liquid egg substitute
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
    Dash salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, Splenda, butter, applesauce, egg substitute, and vanilla extract, and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk or fork.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until completely mixed and smooth.

Add oats and mix until they are thoroughly coated with the batter.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon batter onto the sheet in 6 evenly spaced mounds. Using the back of a spoon, spread and flatten batter into circles about 3 1/2 inches wide.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean.

Remove baking sheet from the oven, and allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the sheet. Then slide parchment paper onto a cool surface, and let cool COMPLETELY. (Really, they taste best once they’ve totally cooled.) Enjoy!

MAKES 6 SERVINGSIMG_2531

Serving Size: 1 large cookie
Calories: 170
Fat: 6.25
Sodium: 160mg
Carbs: 23g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 7g
Protein: 4g

IMG_2533

Make these! You know you want one (unless you’re allergic to PB, then maybe not so much…anaphylaxis is not where it’s at)! It’s supposed to be a rainy weekend, so what’s better for a rainy day than baking delicious cookies!

 

 

Happy weekend my friends! There are, dare I say it, not that many summer weekends left – so enjoy it!

If I was a normal person…

11 Aug

IMG_2515

…who had spontaneously decided on a Tuesday night to go see Captain America (loved it, by the way) and then after the movie, go to one of my favourite local restaurant’s weekly Tapas nights (and so not be eating until well after 9 o’clock), and wanted a snack to tide me over, I would probably have just grabbed a granola bar, or some fruit and a cheese string or something.

But, as we all know by now (or if not, I sure have been doing one heck of a job pretending), I am not normal. So, for a “light snack” before the movie, I made a salad with loads of fresh corn (I had been planning on eating corn on the cob for supper,  and so was really craving it), veggies and herbs; ham slices wrapped around some of my homemade dills (I made even MORE…we have a HUGE jar now) and a peach. Not your average “snack,” I know, but it was full of fibre and some protein, so it tided me over so well that, come 9 o’clock, I wasn’t even that hungry.

IMG_2516

And the tapas? Also quite delicious. The Belworth House, a local gem of a restaurant, has started offering tapas on Tuesday nights. Now they’re not tapas in the sense that they’re Spanish, more in the sense of small plates for sharing. You get a menu, and highlight the selections that you want, and they’re brought out for you one at a time. You can get 4 for $25 or 6 for $35. My mom and I each got 4, and shared (except for the seafood ones she got, which I do not care for). It’s a fun night out, and I didn’t leave feeling stuffed at all.

Here are my tapas:

August 10 2011

(sorry for the bad photos…low lighting). Clockwise from top left: potato bites with goat cheese and bacon, cowboy steak and corn on the cob, sesame chicken with bell peppers and crispy wontons, beets with haloumi cheese. All were REALLY good! The beets/haloumi were quite unique – haloumi is a cheese that you can grill without it melting all over the place, so it had a nice smoky flavour. The cowboy steak was really good too, it had a sweet sauce on it, which I liked.

My mom’s tapas:

August 10 20111

hummus with olives, caprese salad with olive vinaigrette, perch frites, scallops. I had some hummus (no olives), Caprese, no perch and a tiny bite of scallops. All around, it was a delicious, fun evening out, and a nice spontaneous Tuesday!

IMG_2514

Another case of “if I was a normal person.” If I was a normal person, and going to visit two good friends from university who I hadn’t seen in a while, as I am today, and one of them had recently gotten engaged, and the other bought a house, and I wanted to bring something, a normal person would just grab a bottle of wine for each of them, right? Not this insane-live-in-the-kitchen kinda gal, nope. I bought them each a bottle of wine AND made them homemade s’mores truffles (yesterday was national s’more day, I’d love to say that’s why I made these, but I’d be lying. I really made them because I wanted to bring a chocolate creation, and I wanted a way to use up some hot chocolate mix in my cupboard). These are an original creation, and as they have not yet been eaten, I cannot give you a review…but the bits and bites I *didn’t* eat (wink wink) while I was making them sure tasted good! Winking smile

S’mores TrufflesIMG_2504 - makes about 25, depending on size you choose

  • 1 heaping cup hot chocolate mix (this measurement is not exact because I used up what was in the container, but that’s what it came to)
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not in the original ingredients shot because I added it later IMG_2505on to thicken up the mixture without getting it too sweet)
  • mini marshmallows, as desired (depending on how marshmallowy you want the truffles to be – I used about 1 to 1 1/2 cups, I’d say)
  • chocolate to coat (melting wafers are best, if you can’t find them, use what you’ve got)
  • vegetable shortening, if necessary, to thin the chocolate
  • graham crackers, crushed, for sprinkling (I opted to crush whole graham crackers rather than use crumbs, ‘cause I wanted a chunkier, more homemade look/texture)

In a small to medium bowl, combine icing sugar, cocoa, hot chocolate mix, butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until combined. If the mixture seems a little sticky to you, add more cocoa/icing sugar as needed.

Use a spatula to gently fold in the marshmallows.

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Use a cookie scoop and/or your hands to roll the mixture into balls. I left mine imperfect – it was easier with the lumps or marshmallows and, again, I was going for a homier look. Chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Use a spoon to dip the balls into the chocolate, one at a time. Tap off any excess chocolate, return balls to waxed paper-lined sheet and immediately sprinkle with crumbled graham crackers. Chill until set, and store in the refrigerator.

IMG_2503

 

We’re all mixed up, how about some marshmallows?

 

 

 

IMG_2506

 

In you go! (if you’re like me, and don’t use marshmallows all that often, chances are they’ve been sitting in your cupboard for longer than you’d care to admit and they might be slightly stuck together. That’s ok, you just need to use your fingers to separate them and help things along a little bit)

IMG_2507

The marshmallows you see in the above photo weren’t enough….I added more! But now these guys are ready to play ball, or balls, that is. *Note: your truffle mixture will be quite thick and a little hard to stir, but that’s how it should beIMG_2508.

 

 

I love cookie scoops, they make my life so much easier. You really should get one if you don’t own one yet.IMG_2509

 

 

 

The truffles are rolled and ready to go into the fridge. And remember, don’t let that stuff in the bowl go to waste! Smile

IMG_2510

The “outside” ingredients. If you find whatever chocolate you’re using is a little too thick to coat easily, just add a tiny bit of shortening to thin it out – works like a charm (thanks Bakerella)!IMG_2511

 

 

Just wanted to show you guys a close-up of my crushed graham crackers and the coarse texture I was going for.

IMG_2512

 

Let’s take a dip, shall we?

IMG_2513

 

 

 

 

Graham crackers top it all off, and we’re done! Just a quick trip in the fridge and you’re ready for truffle perfection.

Try these! They’re a perfect summer gift for anyone, or great for a party! And since there are fire bans due to the dry summer, this may be the only s’more chance you get (unless you try Tina or Donna’s s’mores on a stick) – so go for it, I say!

*Just to clarify, since tone doesn’t always come through in blog posts, I am not telling you about about all my crazy culinary exploits to brag or say “look how great I am,” I’m just poking fun at myself and my desire to do all this stuff in the kitchen where normal people would go with something simpler – okay?

Where are you not normal/go a little crazy or over the top sometimes?

Happy Hump Day 10/08/2011

10 Aug

Remember my Happy Hump Day post of a couple weeks back? Well, I liked the idea, and, given all the negative things going on in the news these days (markets crashing, troops getting killed, people rioting), I figure we can all use more excuses to smile, right? So in an effort to spread the joy, I plan to share with you things that have made me smile lately on most (if not all) Wednesdays. So here’s the list for this week.IMG_2469

Smile# 1: Pre-boiled beets. I know, I know, a little odd to be on this list, especially at the top. What can I say? I’m a nerdy locavore food blogger. But just stop and consider the happiness made possible by the convenience of having this gorgeous purple gems ready to go in your fridge. You can make this pizza in about 20 minutes.

IMG_2483Doesn’t strike your fancy? How about using the beets in a salad as part of this summer-licious salad, ready in under half an hour, perfect for those Sunday nights when you’ve got caught up in finishing the scrapbook for the trip you went on over two months ago. The gloriousness to your left is a salad of spinach, chopped mushrooms, red pepper, and onions, topped with loads of beets (minus the few chunks I ate…can’t help myself), balsamic vinaigrette and feta. Then of course you see beautiful, fresh, local sweet corn on the cob (delicious enough to be a Smile in and of itself), and a turkey sausage on a bun with mustard, sauerkraut and pickled red onions.

IMG_2493

Still not sold on the pre-boiled beets? Throw ‘em in an unconventional slaw, along with broccoli slaw mix, onion, a crunchy baby cucumber and some fennel. Make your dressing out of PC Blue Menu Tzatziki, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Thank you, pre-boiled beets, for making all of this deliciousness possible in relatively little time. All kidding aside though, I really did beets a lot more accessible if they’re pre-cooked and ready to rock.

Smile #2: An hour of FREE personal training. Yep, you read that right. My workout week got off to a great start Monday morning when, after my run and breakfast, I went to the gym for a 9 AM body sculpting class. The gym was pretty quiet, and I was the only one who showed up for class. The instructor offered me an hour of personal training, or we could still do the class…I went with the training. I told her I liked to focus on my upper body, and that’s exactly what we did! I was feelin’ the burn after in the best way. We chatted away while working my arms and abs, and before I knew it, the hour had flown by. Thanks Evelina!

IMG_2490

Smile # 3: The Month of August. It’s easy to get sad thinking about summer being over this time of year, but I refuse. Here’s why I love August:

  • it’s the month of my birth, and celebrations will be extended this year because it falls on the day I leave for Philly
  • speaking of Philly, I am going to HLS in only 8 days!Open-mouthed smileThis is my excited face…and I found out Monday that the opening night cocktail party is being held at a farmers’ market…SO COOL!
  • August brings the yummy produce you see above (peaches, plums and blueberries) and so much more, it makes eating so delicious
  • I’ve been able to re-connect with lots of friends this month due to time off from school, which also puts a smile on this girl’s face

IMG_2482

Smile# 4: Summer Sundays involving the things pictured at right. In this case, a cold drink (two Source creme caramel  yogurts blended with coffee, sugar-free caramel syrup and ice), a bowl of fresh local fruit, sunglasses, ipod with summer music playlist, sunglasses and Food Network Magazine. Not pictured, but also essential to the smiley face: lounge chair with comfy cushion and sun in the sky. Only thing that could have made it better? A little less sweat going on (TMI? Sorry.) and/or easy access to a pool. Oh well. You can’t have it all.

IMG_2401

Smile #5: (sort of related to #4) Local Peaches and Blueberries. They make such a delicious flavour combo, always remind me of my birthday (since both usually find their way into a birthday breakfast), and make healthy, delicious eating just SO easy. Peaches and blueberries have found their way into (among many other things)IMG_2405:

This decadently delicious peach blueberry cobbler (crisp if you want to be culinarily correct, but always a cobbler in my family) at my long weekend BBQ Fiesta.

IMG_2457

This beautiful breakfast (many times over, this was just one of the prettier ones), atop a breakfast thin (digging the cinnamon raisin ones I got State-side) with sweetened vanilla light ricotta. Looks like some blackberries tagged along here, with cherries on the side, and either an iced coffee or cafe mocha to drink, depending on my mood (speaking of iced coffee, I feel like I should own shares in Almond Breeze. I am tearing through that stuff!).IMG_2495

A new twist on the bubbling berry biscuit bake. This time, used brown sugar twin and added sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg to my fruit – peaches, blueberries and two little plums. I also used regular skim milk, not buttermilk (didn’t have any that needed to be used up). Don’t worry, I did everything else the same – right down to the vanilla ice cream and mint on top. Winking smileIMG_2494

Smile # 6: Make your own Peanut Butter Magic Shell. Check out the link from the wannabechef. I haven’t tried it yet, but doesn’t it look so fun, so good, and like it contains so many less ingredients than any other “shell” ice cream topping out there?! And I LOVE the idea of pairing it with banana soft serve. If you try it, let me know!

So, in an even greater effort to spread the happiness around, I will close every happy hump day post by asking you to share something that has made you smile lately (you can have more than one thing, you know). What has made you Smile lately?

Child’s Play

9 Aug

IMG_2480

My cooking is a lot of things. I like to think it’s healthy, delicious, fun, creative….(no, this is not a post dedicated to self-flattery, just in case you were wondering)….but kid-friendly isn’t always one of them. You all know how much I love fruits and veggies now. Well, really, I always have, but back when I was a kid, there was a list of ones I didn’t like, including squash, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts (I’m sure there were many more but I can’t think of them as of right now). Needless to say, I have embraced them and am trying to make up for lost time with those under-appreciated veggies.

So when my little cousins (it should be noted that their ages are 14 and almost 12, so at this point they’re not really “kids,” and certainly not “little,” but since I was the youngest until they came along, they’ll always be my “little” cousins) accepted my invitation for a sleepover Saturday night, I racked my brain that would make us all happy: tasty, kid-friendly, and veggie packed. The answer?

POTATO BAR! My family got the idea for this meal from a summer camp that my sister attended growing up (I went one year, suffered terribly from homesickness, and never went back). Basically, everyone gets a baked potato and loads it up with their choice of toppings. I served the potatoes with salad on the side. Although the above two photos just look like a plate of veggies, I PROMISE there is a potato under there (I should have taken pictures of my cousins’ plates, as they were much more “conservative” with the veggies than I, and you can actually see the potatoes). The toppings we had to choose from were:IMG_2478

  • butter spray/butter/margarine
  • fat free sour cream
  • light grated Tex-Mex cheese
  • light feta
  • bacon
  • ham
  • chopped mushrooms
  • chopped green onion
  • salsa
  • lightly cooked broccoli
  • chopped tomatoes

I started with butter spray, then added all of the above (minus the bacon). As you can see, I had a heavy hand with the veggies. In my somewhat limited experience in cooking for kids and/or people with dietary restrictions/people you don’t know well, I’ve found that self-serve, build-your-own meals work best. That way, if there’s something that some like and others don’t it’s easy to leave out. I was happy with my ham, cheese and veggie extravaganza, my cousin was equally satisfied with bacon, cheese, a touch of salsa and some broccoli. This is a great meal to feed a crowd too. It’s fun for all, and, other than chopping, pretty low-maintenance in terms of prep.

IMG_2477

I promised my cousins that if they came to sleep over this summer, we could make ice cream in my new ice cream maker together. Once again, I wanted to find a recipe that would satisfy my desire for something healthier but also meet the taste criteria for younger tastebuds. So when an allrecipes email came into my inbox with a link to this new recipe for Strawberry Freeze by “Laurie” that contained only three ingredients – buttermilk, strawberries and sugar, I was intrigued. The local strawberries available sealed the deal.

Strawberry FreezeIMG_2474

from Laurie at allrecipes.com

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar, or to taste
  • 3 cups buttermilk

Place 1 cup buttermilk, strawberries, and sugar into a blender. Cover, and puree until smooth. Pour in the remaining 3 cups buttermilk and blend until combined. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze or if using an ice cream maker, freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

*Obviously, I went the ice cream maker route, not the ice pop way. The recipe ways it makes 8 servings, but I’d say more than that or you’ll have 8 really big servings!

IMG_2475

IMG_2476

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blending up the strawberry goodness.

IMG_2481

The finished product. I know it looks like we added food colouring, but I promise we didn’t – it’s 100% all natural. This “freeze” was quite delicious – not too sweet at all (thanks to the buttermilk I think). Although, it did suffer the same problem as many of my healthier frozen treats. It got quite hard the second day. Still delicious, just needs a bit of microwaving before serving.

Do you have any go-to menus/recipes when cooking for kids?

You say tomato…

8 Aug

IMG_2463Happy Monday all! So I promised you yesterday that I would show you some of what I’ve been doing with the tomato goodness from my garden. Just a quick refresher on the varieties I’m growing: golden cherry tomatoes, Roma/plum, beefsteak, and 2 kinds of heirloom tomatoes: Brandywine and Japanese Truffle. I seem to have a little blight on some of my plants, but happily, not all of them. I’m not in peak season yet, the tomatoes are coming slowly but surely. However, within a week or so, I’m sure I’ll be overloaded (and ready to share).

IMG_2472

Today’s spotlight is mostly going to be on the Romas. Last year was my first year growing plum tomatoes, and I LOVE them. They are perfect for cooking, making sauces, and roasting. Oh, how I LOVE roasted tomatoes. Confession: when I was out in the garden harvesting tomatoes on Saturday and thinking about roasting them, I *may* have made a rock fist and declared aloud how much I love roasted vegetables….that’s normal, right?

IMG_2472

The tasty lunch you see here is a salad of sorts. I roasted plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onion with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper and olive oil (confession: I was actually running out to get a few groceries, and put these in the oven before I left (on a lower heat than I normally would), then turned them up when I got home. But I do not condone/recommend having the oven on when you’re not home, for obvious safety reasons). I tossed the warm veggies with some fresh spinach and spritzed with my fancy truffle balsamic vinegar. The spinach wilted slightly, but not all the way – it was just perfect. I also tossed in about 1/4 cup black beans (all that was left from the can I opened for the chili), some feta cheese, and a piece of chopped lunch meat chicken (seasoned with lime and an herb – I forget what).

IMG_2473

A close-up of the grilled goodness

On the side, as you can see, I enjoyed 2 slices of fresh local muskmelon wrapped in ham (my nod to the classic prosciutto/melon combo). Mmm! Such a perfectly delectable summer lunch. I mean, I love salads and vegetables, but roasting them just takes the flavour to a new dimension. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for?!IMG_2468

The other Roma/plum tomato usage I’m highlighting is in my Neapolitan green beans that were an accompaniment to my pizza Friday night (if it looks like a light meal, that’s because I was heading out to go to Costco and eat samples and then head to Starbucks with a friend). I made the beans the same way as I did when I first told you about them, only used fresh plum tomatoes. Garden fresh tomatoes + basil + beans = delicious side dish and happy Hilary.

IMG_2469

And the pizza? Ok, it does not contain tomatoes, but it was so simple, fresh, delicious, and AMAZING that you’re just going to have to hear about it, okay?

Goat Cheese, Beet and Arugula Pizza

Crust – by now, you’ve got the idea (click the link if you’re new here).

For sauce, I topped it with a smear of red wine onion relish (if you haven’t made it yet, WHY NOT? Seriously, so good) for a little added flavour and so that I wouldn’t be putting my toppings on a naked crust.

I topped that off with 3 beets that I cooked earlier in the day (it’s my new thing with beets. I LOVE them, but they are a pain to cook, so when I know I want some, I just boil the whole basket and put them in the fridge, then they’re good to go when I want them), sliced.

I sprinkled the beets with some crumbled PC Blue Menu goat cheese, and added salt and pepper, then popped it in the oven.

Now, to get all fancy and “restaurant-y,” I topped the baked pizza with arugula that I lightly dressed in a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing (basically my standard here). I’m really liking the fresh, cool salads on pizza thing lately (as in my spicy BBQ chicken pizza). Something about the contrast in flavour, texture and temperature just works.

Mmmm…this pizza was incredibly simple (as long as you’ve got the beets pre-cooked) but the flavours of summer produce really stood out in a delicious way. It’s so light that it would work for lunch, or cut in wedges it would make a great summer appetizer too.

Speaking of summer-fresh eating, head on over to Nourishing-Flourishing and check out her recipe for Garden Green Goddess Dressing. It uses avocado, fresh parsley, and a load of other delicious ingredients. I’ve really been digging the fresh parsley this summer. I’ve always planted it, but it took a backseat to Basil and my other fresh favs. But this year, I’m loving it’s fresh, grassy, herbaceous-ness and throwing into all kinds of salads (and dips – like that asparagus hummus and of course, cowboy caviar).

What is your favourite kind of tomato/favourite way to use fresh tomatoes (or you a hater, like I used to be)?

They’re coming!

7 Aug

IMG_2463

The tomatoes in my garden are starting to appear. I makes me so happy!

SmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmile

Roma, golden cherry, beefsteak, heirloom, it’s a beautiful thing. Come back tomorrow to see how I’m using them (so far).

IMG_2466

Look at that close-up of the golden cherry tomato and the cut heirloom (Brandywine) tomato. You can’t really see it in this shot, but they’ve got a beautiful green tinge on top.

 

 

 

 

Happy Sunday! Eat local today!

Confessions of a “healthy” food blogger

6 Aug

You’ve heard it here before. I’m not perfect. I like to eat things that are not always healthy for me (read: I am obsessed with dessert). My kitchen “experiments” don’t always turn out. I’m actually kind of jealous of Jamie of The Sometimes Healthy Living Blog for coming up with such a perfect name. I like to say that hungry comes before healthy in my blog name because I’m ALWAYS hungry and sometimes healthy. So are you ready for a round of HHH IMG_2412confessions? Fasten your seatbelts, ‘cause here we go!

Confession Number One: On Thursday night (designated as a splurge night back when I did WW, and can’t get the mentality out of my head) I ate 1.5 pieces of better than you-know-what cake and the little bit of homemade ice cream leftover from Sunday’s BBQ. I smartly gave most of it away, but kept these little pieces for myself. I didn’t post the recipe (because it’s dangerously addictive, and I care about you guys), but it’s basically chocolate cake soaked in the Nectar of the Gods (AKA sweetened condensed milk) and caramel sauce, then topped with Cool Whip and SKOR bars. It is, as Professor Harold Hill would say: “trouble with a capital T.”

I also ate a couple of jelly beans, a brownie, a cookie with PB (but both were small and low-fat), cereal, and a few frozen mango chunks (no, you’re not mis-reading, this is all in the SAME NIGHT). Oh well, just get on with things, start the next day with a workout, and it all works out in the end, right?

Confession Number One point five: This is one point five and not 2 because it relates to number one. I ate a sliver of a piece of better than you-know-what cake after my long run on Monday. Here’s my rationale: chocolate milk is supposed to be the perfect workout recovery food because it its protein/fat/carb ratio. And this cake was chocolate soaked in sweetened condensed milk, so pretty much the same thing, right? (just smile, nod, and agree with my rationalizations to eat insanely decadent desserts before noon). Winking smile

IMG_2450Confession Number Two: Inspired by Nourishing Flourishing’s Savory Summer Squash pancakes I decided to try and create my own variation on it with zucchini, adding fresh corn and black beans, and using a piece of crumbled leftover cornbread . I also added onion and fresh basil, and seasoned with garlic salt, pepper and cumin. While the results were delicious, they weren’t pancakes AT ALL.

IMG_2453

Everything crumbled and fell apart in the frying pan, creating what I called “zucchini hash.” Like I said, delicious, but not pancakes. I think I needed to better drain the zucchini and add some sort of binding agent. It isn’t really a “confession,” but I just HAVE to tell you about the sauce on the chicken in that photo. I made a red wine cherry onion sauce by simmering leftover onion relish (make it. Make it NOW. So good that you’ll eat it by the spoonful) with Dijon mustard, a splash of red wine and pitted fresh sweet cherries. Yeah. It was awesome. You know you want some.

IMG_2462Confession Number Three: I ate chocolate for breakfast yesterday morning. Okay, this really wasn’t a “bad”/unhealthy breakfast, it just sounds like it should be, and it was a really good breakfast and I wanted to share it with you and it’s my blog so I make the rules…okay? I had a deep chocolate VitaTop, a mix of fat-free regular and Greek yogurts, unsweetened cocoa powder, Splenda, fresh raspberries (last of my garden I think for this year) and a few strawberries. I finished it off with an iced coffee made with sugar-free caramel syrup (not chocolate, but still delicious). Mmm…if you want to get your day off to a great start, eat chocolate for breakfast! This one hit all the right spots! Smile

Happy Saturday! Do you have any healthy (or not-so healthy) eating/kitchen mishap confessions of late to share?

Life is funny…

5 Aug

If you’re like me before I started my own blog, you read other people’s blogs, and hear them talk about how much blogging has changed your life, and think things like “oh sure,” “that’s nice,” “sounds good.” But when you start your own blog, you get it.HLS badge

Take for example, my upcoming trip to the Healthy Living Summit (which I am SO excited about by the way…in 2 weeks I will be there)! I went out on a limb, asked 2 bloggers I didn’t know to go with me, and was all set to go with Donna. I met up with her in person a couple times, and now have a blog buddy who lives just over a half hour away…sweet!

But….long story short, passport issues forced Donna to cancel her trip! Sad smile While this was (and is) a MAJOR bummer, I have found someone else to make the trip with me. It’s crazy how this blog has put me in touch with people from my past. All my posts publicize on facebook, so I never know who reads. Well, Katie, my best friend from childhood/early high school, who I have been mostly out of touch with for several years and is now a dietician, has become quite  the avid reader. She had left comments on the blog a couple of times, so I contacted her to see if she wanted to catch up and go out for dinner – right around the same time the Donna drama was going down (Donna, love ya girl and DO NOT in any way think you’re a drama queen…it just sounds fun to say).

I went out on a limb AGAIN and asked my friend Katie to go with me, and after consideration, she said yes! So I have a HLS partner in crime once again! And she even liked my new idea to stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania on the way back (yes, I know it’s sort of ironic to stop in Chocolatetown USA on the way back from the Healthy Living Summit).

IMG_2458

Katie and I still got together for dinner this week. We went to one of my FAVOURITE local restaurants (okay, we don’t have all that many to choose from), The Blue Elephant. It is a restaurant the specializes in Thai food and pub fare. Another thing I LOVE about the Blue Elephant is they really make an effort to feature local produce, and have a different featured local menu each month.

Now, you wouldn’t expect a restaurant specializing in pub fare and Thai food to have a lot of healthy choices, would you? But surprisingly, the Blue Elephant does. I went with my standard – lunch in a bowl (even though it was supper. For lunch I get the half order ‘cause it’s HUGE). For lunch in a bowl, you choose your meat – chicken or pork. You choose your starch – noodles or rice. And you choose your level of spiciness. I went with what I almost do – chicken, noodles, medium. It’s just a BIG bowl of soup, seasoned with Thai spices, the meat and starch and LOADS of veggies. A total healthy eating SCORE for restaurant fare, if you ask me. It was delicious as usual.

Speaking of Donna, everyone’s favourite Happy Blonde, she nominated me for the blogger fun that is “7 links” earlier this week. If you, like me, don’t know what that is, here are the goal and the rules:

The Goal:

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavour to share lessons learned and create a bank of old, but not forgotten, blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

The Rules:

1. Blogger is nominated to participate.
2. Blogger publishes his/her 7 links–1 link for each category.
3. Blogger nominates 5 more bloggers to participate.

So, here goes!

Most Beautiful

Oh Happy Day! Ok, so compared to a lot of the tear-jerking, emotional posts out there, this might not be at the top. But it does tell the story of why I ran a marathon, and shares the joy of new growth in the garden, so those things are beautiful to me.

Most Popular

Q and As for Summer This was the day my stats went through the roof. While I’d like to say it was all because of me, a very large part of it was that this was the day I was featured in my local paper…yeah, that might have been why. Still a good post though!

Most Controversial

I don’t consider myself highly controversial, but I would say my recent post In a Funk generated a lot of buzz (thank you once again to all of you who commented/facebooked or emailed positive feedback, it meant a lot). It was controversial to me, because I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to get that real or raw about issues I was facing, but I decided it was worth it in my efforts to “keep it real” (hopefully it was).

Most Helpful

My Favourite Things: Winter Fruits and Veggies Edition. Sorry, I know it’s not in season right now (but don’t forget this one come December!). But this is where I first told you all about my love for kale chips (and several of you have since told me you’ve tried them). I also shared a lot of my favourite ways to use ingredients I love but that might not be so familiar to you all. I love doing these favourite things posts (I should get on that soon!).

Post who’s success surprised you

I fit a whole state in the oven, the post where I showed you step-by-step when I made baked Alaska. I was just surprised at how many hits it got, especially since it isn’t really a “typical” healthy food (although you can make it with low fat cake and frozen yogurt and it’s not too bad). I guess you all just enjoyed looking and the process and results?!

Post that did not get the attention it deserved

I echo Donna’s sentiments on this one – I’m happy with any attention I get and truly enjoy writing all my posts, despite the numbers. However, I posted this one on Favourite Things: Healthy but not-so-whole foods on Canada Day (and if you were out celebrating our great nation, I bear no grudge that you weren’t inside reading my blog), so it didn’t get as many views, and I feel like it’s a really interesting topic that I would love to hear more feedback on.

Post you are most proud of

The Wynn Workout This is when I was on vacation and made the best of a bad situation and created my own KILLER workout consisting of running hotel stairs, body weight resistance exercises and swimming. I felt pretty hard core, and was proud of myself for McGuiver-ing up a workout. I am also proud of this post, because it showed me working up a sweat AND indulging in a major way on vacation – pretty much my constant battle (minus the vacation part).

Now for the nominations (drumroll, please!):

Errign’s Adventures

Read Eat Sweat

The Sometimes Healthy Living Blog

I’m not quite following the rules because a) I’m a rebel (but you already knew that), b)it’s quite late as I type this and c) several of my favourite blog buddies have already been nominated.

It took a bit of effort to dig those up, but it was fun – hope you enjoy reading them! Happy Friday friends!

Question: If you are a blogger, what crazy connection has blogging made in your life? If not, how have you re-connected with someone from your past in an unexpected way?

In a pickle

4 Aug

IMG_2392

I’ve wanted to get into canning/making preserves for several years now. It just seems like such a “lost art,” and with as much as I love summer produce, it seemed like something I should do.

But there were always so many reasons not to – I didn’t know how, it seemed scary and time-consuming, and I lacked the proper equipment. However, I have now ventured into the canning world (well, technically not, as I did my pickling in rectangular glass storage containers) and my recipes come from a surprising source – Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes.

Mr. Flay has a whole section devoted to condiments in this drool-inducing volume. Two of which caught my eye – the homemade dill pickles and the pickled red onion. Both require minimal time (think about 20 minutes each), no fancy equipment, don’t require you to know how to properly seal a jar (that’s one thing that’s always scared me about canning), and don’t make ginormous quantities – how could I go wrong? I figured last weekend’s burger party was the perfect venue to try these recipes out.

Homemade Dill Pickles – from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 1 quartIMG_2340

  • 4 Kirby (or large pickling – that’s what I used) cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill (this is the time of year to make these – that mega bouquet was only $1.50 at the market!)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

*Spice note: I remembered that I had some pickling spices leftover from another recipe, so I just used 2 teaspoons of those instead of the mustard and coriander. Pickling spices include these anyway, plus Bobby says to feel free to experiment with spices, so I did!

Slice the cucumbers into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the cucumber slices into a medium bowl or other container with a fitted lid that is large enough to hold them.

Combine 1 cup water with all remaining ingredients in a small non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the sugar and salt dissolve, about two minutes. Bobby says to let this cool to room temperature before the next step – but I didn’t!

Pour the mixture over the cucumbers, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to a week, stirring the mixture at least once during this time (I found they had plenty of flavour after 48 hours). Drain before serving, discarding liquid and aromatics.

IMG_2341

 

Water, vinegar and aromatics in a pot all ready to boil! When this mixture was boiling, I thought my house smelled like Burger King. Smile

 

IMG_2343

 

Vinegar/aromatics mixture poured over the cucumber slices and into the fridge it goes!

 

 

 

These pickles are SO yummy – perfect for topping burgers and sandwiches all summer long (or just for straight-up snacking like I sometimes do). I like them so much that I made another batch yesterday (hey, I’ve gotta find something to do with all that dill).

IMG_2393

The pickled red onions I made are also quite tasty. Basically, they still taste onion-y, but don’t have that strong bite that fresh onions sometimes can, and the lime juice and flavourings give them an added dimension of flavour, or, as Bobby says, “they add a level of intrigue that raw onion slices could never do.” And this recipe is even simpler – no boiling! I really like the sort-of neon, pinkish hue they take, but be prepared for curious guests. To quote my friend Heather: “What are those things and why are they that colour?”

Pickled Red Onions from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 2 cupsIMG_2360

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (I used a mixture of bottled and fresh – sorry Bobby)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher (or sea) salt
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 whole serrano chiles or jalapeno chiles, slit down the center (optional)

*Spice note: I used 2 small jalapenos, and didn’t find the heat overpowering at all.

Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium nonreactive bowl and let sit until the salt and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and halve the onions, and then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add the onions, oregano, and chiles, if using, to the lime juice mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, stirring the mixture at least once during this time. Drain before serving.

IMG_2361

 

 

Everything’s diced up and ready for action – let’s pickle some onions!

 

 

IMG_2362

 

 

Soaking up the lovely lime liquid.

 

 

 

If you, like me, are experiencing preserve-a-phobia (that’s a very scientific term meaning fear of canning), you should take the plunge with these recipes. Another bonus of pickled vegetables? Since they use very minimal sugar, calorie content is basically the same as fresh veggies, which = guilt-free snacking and topping! And while I have not done an official/scientific/nutritional comparison, I feel like the homemade versions would be lower in sodium than store-bought.

Both my grandmothers canned a lot (my one grandma still does), so I grew up eating homemade canned deliciousness, so maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a desire to do it. My dad’s mom makes delicious canned peaches (always a favourite growing up) as well as many other fruits. My mom’s mom’s repertoire wasn’t as varied, but my personal favourite growing up were her homemade sweet pickles. It took me years to realize why they were such a deep emerald green – she added food colouring! It was a days-long process that I, regretfully, never got to learn.

What is your experience with canning/preserving? Have you done it? Do you have a mother/grandmother who did/does? If so, any good tips/tricks/recipes for me?

By request…

3 Aug

Well, the readers have spoken! It seems that the recipe generating the most interest from Sunday’s BBQ fiesta is Cowboy Caviar. You asked, I deliver. So here’s the recipe. Warning: it makes a pretty big bowl. And it’s kinda addictive. You could make it if you don’t have a big crowd coming, but then you might be forced to eat large amounts of it. Your choice. But you’ve been warned.

IMG_2395

Cowboy Caviar from Cooking with Grace – A Cookbook from Point of Grace (one of my all-time favourite singing groups, btw)

  • 2 avocados, diced (mine were small so I used 3)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 11 oz can shoe peg corn or petite white corn, drained (or use 2 large cobs worth of fresh corn kernels)
  • 15 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup fresh cilantro – leaves only, chopped (or, if you or your friends are cilantro-averse, use flat leaf parsley. I did so and it worked great!)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce to taste

Combine avocados, tomato, corn, black-eyed peas, cilantro and onions in a bowl. 

Combine remaining ingredients in a separate container (makes it easier if it’s something you can shake) then add to avocado mixture. Stir and chill for at least 2 hours.

Serve with your favourite tortilla chips (naturally, I used Guiltless Gourmet).

IMG_2396

 

Confessions of a food blogger: I don’t always use fresh lemon juice. There was only a splash in my Realemon jar, so I just added the rest of the dressing ingredients in there and shook it up!

 

IMG_2397

Caviar close-up. I much prefer this to the real thing – which is fish eggs!

 

 

 

 

IMG_2406

Grab the Guiltless Gourmet and we are good to go!

 

 

 

 

So, while we are on a “by request” theme, I thought I’d answer the questions I received on last week’s Q and A post.

Question One: When/where do you find you are most culinarily creative/get your best ideas, and why? Answer: It took me a while to think about this one, but here’s what I came up with: I think I am most creative when I am forced to be, like when I have an abundance of a certain ingredient, or something that needs to be used up before it goes bad. This forces me to be creative/think outside the box, and often, it’s surprising what I can come up with!

Question Two: Do you set a goal each week regarding how many new recipes you are going to try out? Answer: No. I just see what I’m in the mood for/have time for/what inspires me from the blog world/magazines/food tv/what ingredients are available. And speaking of magazines…

Question Three: Do you subscribe to any food magazines? Answer: Yes. I get (and LOVE) Food Network Magazine. It is so fun to read, has great ideas and information, and interviews with my favourite Food Network stars. The one thing I really like about this magazine is it has all different recipes depending on your skill level and the time you have. There’s a “Weeknight Cooking” section of fast and easy meals, and a “Weekend Cooking” section with more elaborate, themed menus. I also enjoy the monthly “Try this at Home” feature, where a celebrity chef takes you through how to make something that seems a little scary, like sausage, tamales, or homemade canned green tomatoes (which I hope to try this summer). I used to get Rachael Ray magazine, and also LOVE that one, but their subscriber services to Canada STINK Sad smile, so I decided not to renew. I also get Shape, which is not a good magazine, but has a couple recipes each month.

Question Four: Could you do a post of some of your salad dressing greatest hits? I would love to have all your dressings (or at least a few of them) in one place!! Answer: You ask, I deliver! My basic salad dressing formula (for one serving) is as follows:

1. In a small container (I use the 1/2 cup Glad containers), put one teaspoon oil. My typical choice is olive oil. Sometimes I use avocado oil (although I don’t find it has any real flavour at all). I’ve also tried flax oil (because it’s supposed to be good for you). And if I am in an Asian mood, I use sesame oil – major flavour there.

2. Add the following ingredients (I NEVER measure these – play with proportions, use a little more or less, see what you like):

  • mustard (usually Dijon)
  • fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • vinegar

I have a little bit to say on each of the above ingredients.

The Mustard. Dijon is my go-to because it adds a nice tang, and blends easily. However, if I have some flavoured/fancy mustards around, it’s fun to use those to play with the flavour. I also really enjoy the texture of grainy mustard, so I go with that from time to time.

Fat-free Italian salad dressing. Okay, okay, I know it’s “fake food” – hear me out! This started back when I did Weight Watchers. FF Italian is a “0 point food,” so I started adding it to my dressings to make them go further. Here’s how I look at it: I figure that making my own dressing, even if it contains some processed/fake ingredients, is better than just buying a bottle off the shelf, right? And if I use part oil/part dressing, I can have more dressing for less calories. Even though it’s called “Italian” dressing, I find the flavour fairly neutral and that it goes well with multiple ingredients. If using this stuff really bothers you, just leave it out and add more oil or have less dressing.

The Vinegar. This is where you can really give your dressing some personality. The type of vinegar is what drives the flavour of the dressing. My most commonly used vinegars are balsamic, red wine and white wine. I also like to use my fancy flavoured wine vinegars from time-to time.

Variations: The above formula is my go-to basic. But, I like to play from time to time!

  • Asian: skip the mustard, use balsamic or rice vinegar, sesame oil, and add some soya sauce
  • Southwest: red wine vinegar, and add some salsa and cumin to the mix. I also like this when you add a touch of BBQ sauce
  • Citrus: swap out some (or all) of the vinegar for lemon or lime juice

A secret weapon that I have recently discovered kicks butt in salad dressings?! Pickle juice! Swap out the vinegar for that potent potion and your tastebuds will sing!

Answering your questions was really fun, so thank you for your submissions. Feel free to ask more anytime and I will be happy to answer (as long as you don’t stump me).

And before I leave, let me tell you that my blog buddy Donna nominated me for “7 links” (which I had never heard of), but apparently the goal is to: “unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavour to share lessons learned and create a bank of old, but not forgotten, blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” I was going to find my 7 posts in this post, but I think it’s long enough already, so I will have to get to that later this week.

We’ve already made it to Wednesday friends! Question: Salad dressings – homemade, store-bought, or a combination of the two?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.