Corn to be wild

2 Aug

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I made a lot of corn on the cob for Sunday’s BBQ. So much so that I had to cook it on the stove in our HUGE roaster. See these bags of corn? That’s *almost* all of the leftovers (minus the one cob I used for lunch today).

My mom informed me that she’s kind of tired of corn on the cob right now. I told her it’s a bad time to be tired of corn. So what to do with it all? Here’s what I’IMG_2424ve come up with so far….

For lunch yesterday, one cob’s worth of corn kernels made their way into a tasty salad, along with the teensiest bit of leftover “cowboy caviar,” red pepper, green onion, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pickled red onions, fresh basil and parsley, and a tasty dressing made with chardonnay peach vinegar.

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What are those herbaceous cheesy topped veggies beside the salad? SO glad you asked. They don’t contain corn, but they were so tasty, I just have to share with you! I grilled a slice of eggplant and a portabella mushroom. Then I topped them with a couple of tablespoons of light ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, chopped thyme, basil and oregano, and lemon zest and juice. Mmmm! Summer deliciousness to the max. All the flavours worked SO well together and made a great light bite.

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Lunch was good. But more corn still remained. What to do, what to do? Then I thought, “I bet if I made cornbread with fresh corn kernels, it would be really good.” Then I thought, “I bet I could find a recipe that uses buttermilk, since I still have buttermilk kickin’ around in the fridge after making these biscuits.” Then I looked in Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and found her recipe for buttermilk cornbread. Then I though, “I bet I can make this healthier.” And here we are.

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I think that Pioneer Woman would be disappointed in me if she saw what I did for her cornbread. And this is why: 1. I sweetened it. I think I’ve heard that southerners DO NOT like their cornbread sweetened…but I do. And not only did I sweeten it, I used Splenda (the horror!). 2. I cut out the shortening and used a reduced amount of oil. You know how PW loves her ranch food. Since my long runs can never come close to the rigors of working on a ranch, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, ya know? I also used a square pan since I don’t have a cast iron skillet. PW, I love you, and hold you in highest esteem. Please don’t hate my northern cornbread, ok?

Fun fact: It took me three tries to get my “ingredients” (or cast of characters, as PW would say) shot since I kept forgetting things! The things I do for the blog!

Northern Girl’s Healthified Corny Cornbread

  • 1 cup Yellow CornmealIMG_2430
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While oven is pre-heating, put a 9 inch square stoneware pan or other oven-safe pan in the oven to get nice and hot. MAKE SURE YOUR PAN IS OVEN SAFE SO YOU DON’T HAVE A TRAGIC ACCIDENT AND HURT YOURSELF!!!!

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and Splenda in a bowl. Stir together.

Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.

Slowly add vegetable oil to the batter, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in fresh corn and jalapenos (if using).

Remove the hot pan from the oven and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Edges should be crispy! Cut into 12 pieces.

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Dry ingredients.

 

 

 

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Plus milk/buttermilk/egg/baking soda mixture.

 

 

 

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Add in the jalapenos and the corn kernels.

 

 

 

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Mix it all up, and ready to go in the oven.

 

 

 

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My pan is nice and hot. It’s really fun to pour in the batter and hear it sizzle.

 

 

 

 

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Now what goes good with cornbread? Can’t you tell what I’m going to make with olive oil, MORE CORN, zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cauliflower, black beans, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, canned black beans, and leftover outside-in tamale pie (a little freezer burned after almost 4 months in the freezer, IMG_2441but not much worse for wear)? Don’t those leftovers just look SO appetizing in the photo? Smile with tongue out 

What? It’s not obvious? Ok, I’ll tell you: chili! And a darn tasty chili too! I just combined the above ingredients (well, sautéed the fresh veggies in the oil first) with a bit of water, salt, pepper, spices and Epicure seasonings, simmered away, and voila!

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The chili was delicious, and even better topped with Greek yogurt and leftover pickled onions, with a side of a cool cucumber salad, and of course, cornbread! I picked a pretty hot day to have chili, I’ll admit, but it did use up a lot of leftovers, so mission accomplished. At the end of the day, I said I felt like all I’d done was cut corn off the cob…do you understand why?!?!

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I was literally sweating after eating the hot chili for supper, so this chocolate cherry sundae (low fat vanilla ice cream, fresh sweet cherries, fat-free biscotti, light chocolate syrup, fat-free Reddi-Whip) cooled me down nicely.

 

I’ve still got a big bag o’ corn left. Any bright ideas to use it up?

Burger Bonanza

1 Aug

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I’ll admit it. I had a total “food baby” after last night’s delicious BBQ supper. But it was SO worth it. You all know how much I love burgers. Add on a buffet of delicious toppings, AMAZING local corn on the cob, tasty salads, baked beans and multiple tempting desserts? Summer perfection!

 

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These pictures don’t do it justice, but here you can see the array of toppings on the burger bar. This is the third time I’ve done build-your-own-burger as a summer party, and I have to say, it’s one of my favourite ways to entertain in the summer. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger? I used store-bought burgers and buns, but the tasty toppings take it up a notch.

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To choose from, we had:

  • sliced tomatoes
  • bacon Smile
  • sautéed onions
  • hot peppers
  • sliced avocado and leftover guacamole
  • salsa
  • the standard mustard, ketchup and relish
  • Dijon mustard
  • spicy mustard (mix of Dijon, grainy mustard and Ancho chile powder)IMG_2393
  • BBQ sauce
  • Velveeta cheese slices
  • goat cheese
  • homemade pickled red onions
  • homemade dill pickles
  • homemade red wine onion relish (those last three items are from my new Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes book – they were all pretty simple and DELICIOUS!)

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To start things off before the burgers, we had “Cowboy Caviar,” which is a tasty dip made with fresh corn (recipe says used canned, but why would I when the fresh stuff is so good?), black-eyed peas, green onions, tomatoes, avocadoes, fresh flat-leaf parsley (recipe calls for cilantro but I switched it – there’s a lot of haters out there when it comes to cilantro) and oil/vinegar/seasonings. Sooooo good! That big bowl disappeared pretty quickly! We also had a Hungry Girl cucumber dip and veggies.

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Main course was the aforementioned burgers, a salad I made, 3 other tasty salads brought by guests, baked beans Red heart brought by a guest, and LOTS of corn on the cob (I may have overestimated there just a bit – there’s quite a bit leftover – guess what you’ll be seeing in my meals this week? Winking smile). I had some of everything, and went back for more of the sides!

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Desserts. SO. GOOD. We had fruit (watermelon, muskmelon, honeydew, cherries) – gotta keep things healthy, you know? I made peach blueberry cobbler (I think what my family calls a cobbler is technically a crisp, as it has an oatmeal topping, but we’re not going to change now). Mmmm…one of my all-time favourite summer desserts. So simple, yet so delicious! To go with the cobbler, I made homemade vanilla bean ice cream – I may never buy store-bought again! And to top it all off, I made “Better than you-know-what Cake” (I think you can all guess what “you-know-what” is without me telling you, right?Winking smile). For those of you unfamiliar with this dessert, it’s basically a chocolate cake with chocolate chips, soaked in sweetened condensed milk (AKA the Nectar of the Gods) and caramel sauce, then topped with Cool Whip and Skor bits. Not for the faint of heart! But I cut back on the oil and sugar in the cake and used low fat Cool Whip, so it’s practically calorie-free, right?IMG_2421

It was a great night – tasty food, warm weather (as the shiny-ness from my sweaty face in this picture shows), and great friends. If I’m going to splurge on some 80/20 food, this is my favourite way to do it – tasty, homemade, comfort food…mmm!

I’m not going to share all the recipes with you today – but I’ll start with Bobby’s Red Wine Onion Relish. This stuff was so good, I would have no problem eating it straight up (in fact, when I got my second plate, I took a spoonful and did just thatEmbarrassed smile). And it was actually easier to make than I expected. I would have thought that you had to caramelize the onions, but the recipe only calls for sautéing for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before I give you the recipe, let me just say, even if you don’t like wine (which I don’t), this stuff is GOOD. It definitely kicks the burger up a notch, and I think it would be good on any sandwich, or even grilled meat. You really should try it soon!

Red Wine Onion Relish from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced (I used one red onion, one Vidalia, because I have lots right now and I love their sweet flavour)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine, vinegar, honey and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl, stir in the parsley, and let cool to room temperature. The relish can be made 2 days ahead and stored, covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

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Sautéing the onions. The 10 minute cook time and occasional stirring were much more low maintenance than caramelizing them!

 

 

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This is right after I removed from the heat and stirred in the parsley. I didn’t transfer to a bowl first (sorry Bobby), but by now, that shouldn’t surprise you, as you know what a rebel I am in the kitchen.

 

Ok, for the other recipes, I thought we’d try something fun. Leave a comment in the comments section or on facebook, or email me, and let me know which recipe you’d like to see on here first. Depending on the response I get, I will post whichever recipe gets the most votes in an upcoming post (don’t worry, I may share more than one). I thought I’d do a “readers’ choice” post later this week, where I share the recipe you choose and answer the questions I got last week (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten)! So, the more you respond, the better the post will be!

Fellow Canadians, how did you celebrate the long weekend?

Fajita Fiesta

30 Jul

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Happy Long Weekend fellow Canadians (and happy Saturday everyone else)! I hope you are enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

Last night was our first round of entertaining for the weekend, so I decided to do a BBQ version of fajitas. I love fajitas. They’re actually one of my go-to choices at restaurants when there’s not a lot of healthy stuff to choose from, as it’s easy to pick and choose which toppings you want. And it’s a great meal to feed a group for the same reason – you put what you want on your fajita, so it suits a variety of preferences.

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But since it is summer time and grilling is practically an institution when entertaining, I decided to take things outside and do the meat and veggies on the BBQ instead of in a skillet on the stove (bonus: saves calories because you don’t need oil).

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I decided to do a “mixed grill” of chicken and steak (but I marinated all the meat in the same bag – I don’t know if that’s a no-no or not, but you know me, always the rebel).

The marinade was pretty simple, and, not to toot my own horn, but it turned out really well. The meat was tender and super-flavourful. I used 2 Mesquite-marinated steaks from M&M, so they added a bit of their seasoning, then I added:

  • lime juice
  • red wine vinegar
  • Ancho chile powder (Ancho is great because it’s not as spicy as a lot of other chiles, but still adds great Mexican flavour)
  • cumin
  • Epicure salsa seasoning
  • a few cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • salt and pepper

IMG_2336I put my steaks and chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and marinated in the fridge for several hours, turning the bag several times to distribute the marinade.

I grilled the meat over high heat, then removed, covered with foil and let it rest while I grilled the veggies (red pepper, Vidalia onion and zucchini), which I sprayed with PAM for the grill and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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After the meat had rested for about 10 minutes (this helps keep all the juices in), I thinly sliced it (along with the veggies) and plated it all up. For tortillas, I went with Dempster’s whole wheat Body Wise tortillas (I know corn is more authentic, but the grocery store didn’t have them and I wasn’t in the mood to go hunting).

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We had a wide variety of other toppings, which included:

Our sides were delicious, local corn on the cob and red cabbage slaw (same recipe I made for my mom’s birthday, only with the addition of a Granny Smith apple I had leftover) .

I think it was safe to say that the meal was enjoyed by all. This is a pretty easy meal to put together for summer entertaining, and a nice change from the usual steaks or burgers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Speaking of burgers, we’re hosting a build-your-own-burger bar supper here tomorrow night for between 12 to 18 people! It’s going to be epic, with lots of decadent toppings and some seriously delicious 80/20 style desserts! So I may or may not make it on to HHH to update you tomorrow, but I plan to do NOTHING Monday, so for sure I’ll be back by then.

Since in my town on the August long weekend, we celebrate Friendship Festival (yes, one of the advantages of living in a small town, we are cool enough that we have a weekend-long festival devoted to friends), I would like once again to wish you, my blog-friends, a happy long weekend. May it be filled with food, family, and FRIENDS!

I did something stupid

29 Jul

…I’m not sure what. But somehow, I had a post almost completed, meant to press “ctrl B” to make something bold, evidently pressed something else, and DELETED AN ALMOST COMPLETED POST!!!!!!! Crying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying face Lame!

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But I am not going to cry about it (except through my crying face emoticons above), I am just going to move on, re-type everything (while obsessively hitting save) but probably do so in a less wordy fashion, to save precious time.

First up: shoe review. Yesterday was my first run in my new Asics. I completed a wet 13 km (last week, extreme heat, yesterday, rain) in these guys. I actually don’t mind running in rain, as long as it’s not a torrential downpour (although I’ve done that too). I’m happy to report no soreness today, and no blisters from “breaking them in” (I’ve done that before – not pretty). I can tell these guys are way more supportive than any shoe I’ve had before. So far, so good!

It’s been one of those weeks where I feel like I’ve barely been home or eaten in my own kitchen. Observe: Monday: cater pool party for Aunt. Tuesday: Lunch with Lynne the Landlady in London (like the alliteration there?). Wednesday: Help with funeral food at church, lunch with sister, quick gym workout, then get-together for dinner with family friends. Thursday: market, lunch/pool party with friends, then Bible study. So that means Friday morning is being spent at home in pyjamas, putting off my workout until lunch. Smile

IMG_2318So, my Wednesday lunch was with my sister at Boo’s Bistro, one of her and my brother’-in-law’s favourite restaurants. I had a Wagjag coupon for $50 worth of food for $25, so it was a no-brainer! Since I’m trying to save on words this time around, I’m just going to give a brief description and let the food speak for itself. But let me say this – while a heavy meal and 80/20 splurge, I can summarize the meal in one word: YUM!

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Appetizers: mango salad (mostly me) and crabcakes (sister. I had one bite – not bad for crab).

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Main course: burger (both) with apple, gouda, bacon, caramelized onion marmalade. Mixed greens (me), frites (sister, but also me a bit because she shared).

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Dessert: chocolate pot de creme over top of a sweet cherry compote (shared). Delicious and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, before the next food fest, I made a visit to The Athletic Club to go to UFC class, as it was the last day of my $19 one month membership. UFC is basically a high-intensity circuit class of weights and cardio. Example: burpees with a medicine ball: epic. I felt the burger at times (I am NOT used to eating such a big meal at lunch), but was glad I did the class afterward – I felt great!

No pictures of dinner – but it was a typical summer meal – beef on a bun, salads, corn on the cob, veggies and dip, cake, cake pops, fruit and ice cream. The amount I ate actually wasn’t a lot, and would have been fine if I hadn’t had such a huge lunch. I couldn’t resist a cake pop, ice cream and fruit for dessert. Needless to say, I was full when we left. Thank goodness for yesterday’s long run!

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My girlfriends and I potlucked for lunch yesterday. Nicky made tasty wraps with lettuce, tomatoes, corn and cheese in a dressing that was half Ranch and half salsa – yummy! Heather made a deliciously summer-y salad of cucumbers, peas, and onions in creamy cucumber dressing (which I haven’t had in forever and forgot how much I loved).

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I did dessert (naturally) and brought fresh cherries from the market and a quickie mini chocolate raspberry trifle I made (perfect size for a small group). Although trifle is usually a feed-a-crowd kinda dessert, you can easily make a smaller one if you have a small bowl (or do in wine glasses for individual servings and a cute presentation). And, as you know I was short on time this week, you can whip something like this up in 15 minutes if you’ve got the right stuff on hand (that’s all it took me). Here’s what I did:IMG_2314

Quick Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Grab a bag of 5 chocolate zucchini muffins from your freezer (they may or may not have been there since last summer, but if you can’t use slightly freezer-burned muffins in a trifle for your girlfriends, where can you use them?).

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Thaw muffins in the microwave. Remove papers and crumble them (and please, eat any crumbs left on the paper liners like I did). Set aside.

 

 

IMG_2316Make a package of Jell-o fat-free chocolate instant pudding mix with just over 1 cup of skim milk. Gently whisk in about one cup of fat-free Cool Whip. Optional: add a couple teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I just like the added depth of chocolate flavour.

In a small glass bowl, layer half the crumbled muffins, fresh raspberries from your garden (ok fine, a store if you have to) and half the pudding. Repeat the layers, top with more Cool Whip, garnish with strawberries. Put in the fridge – you’re done!

This can easily be made with any combo of pudding/cake (or muffins)/fruit. And trifle (especially when it contains chocolate) is always a crowd pleaser!

The weekend is full of a LOT more food and fun – but thankfully, it’s all home-based, so I don’t have to go anywhere. We’ve got company coming tonight, and then we’re having a HUGE BBQ party Sunday.

Canadian friends – what are your plans for the long weekend? Whatever they are, enjoy. Hopefully, if you’re lucky (like me) you will be surrounded by good food, family and friends!

Tea for Two

28 Jul

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I had an awesome landlady for the 3 years I lived off-campus during university. As in, free parking in the driveway, drive you to the hospital and wait with you for 5 hours and pay the parking ticket when you needed stitches kind of awesome. So when I bought a groupon to Dishington’s, a tea room just outside of London, I called her and asked her if she wanted to get together for lunch to catch up (she’s an avid HHH reader…Hi Lynne!). Thankfully, she accepted, and Tuesday we had lunch.

When I thought tea room, I was thinking creamy salads, sandwiches and baked goods, but thankfully, I managed to find some healthier options (since this week/weekend are PACKED with food-focused occasions, I didn’t want to start 80/20 –ing too early Winking smile). I ordered the “soup, salad and biscuits” with a garden salad. The soup of the day was tomato vegetable, so pretty healthy. I didn’t snap a picture of the biscuits, but I only ate one (no butter). I LOVE biscuits, but rarely eat them, so it was a nice treat. The salad was your average salad, and the soup was good.IMG_2306

Lynne and I decided to share a dessert. Given my love for peanut butter and chocolate, when we heard that peanut butter chocolate ice cream cake was the feature, that was our choice – YUM! It was pretty much just as delicious as it looked and sounded. The tea was good, but I was a little disappointed that at a fancy tea room, it was just Lipton! I was hoping for something a little more special.

All-in-all, it was a great lunch though. So nice to catch up with Lynne, who is no longer my landlady, but a dear friend. And I treated myself without going too overboard.IMG_2313

After saying good bye to Lynne, I headed downtown to The Running Room to get new runners. My current pair have been through a marathon and a half marathon with me, so they were well past their prime. After consulting with the helpful staff, I came away with the most expensive running shoes I’ve ever owned – these Asics. The guy told me that the shoes I have now weren’t supportive enough for my arches (I expected as much. I have flat feet and was in MAJOR pain when I crossed the finish line last fall at my marathon). I’m planning my “maiden run” in them today, so I’ll keep you posted!

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I was really hungry by the time I got back home (around 6). Although my lunch included some yummy treats, what it didn’t include was very much protein. I wanted something that would be satisfying and filling, but still pretty light. Enter: zucchini “pasta” with meat sauce.

Not only does zucchini “pasta” IMG_2309have way less carbs and calories than the usual stuff, it also cooks up WAY quicker ( a great benefit when your stomach’s eating itself). All you do is use a vegetable peeler to make thing strands from the zucchini. As long as it’s not too big and seedy, you can use the whole thing (one medium zucchini makes one serving).

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I cooked my “noodles” in salted water in my microwave cooker for 4 minutes, drained, seasoned with salt and pepper and that’s it!

 

 

 

 

For my quick meat sauce, I sauteed ground turkey, onion, garlic, mushrooms, IMG_2308red pepper and yellow pepper (from my garden!) in a teaspoon of olive oil until browned. Then, I added part of a can of San Marzano tomatoes, a splash of red wine (because it was sitting there, I was feeling rebellious, and I like the taste of wine in sauces, just not to drink)and salt and pepper; brought to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered for a few minutes.

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Right at the end, I stirred in a generous handful of chopped fresh basil and oregano, simmered for a few more minutes, and we were good to go. I poured the sauce over my “pasta,” added some Parmesan, garnished with more fresh basil, and dinner was served!

 

Thank you to those of you who submitted questions to me earlier in the week. I plan to answer them in a post to come – it’s just been a bit crazy this week. Stay tuned for the rest of my eating adventures (and a shoe summary).

If you are a runner (or any other type of exerciser for that matter) have you shelled out the big bucks for shoes, and was it worth it?

Happy Hump Day

27 Jul

Happy Hump Day all! And, going with the post title, this post is all about things that made me happy/smile this week (I’m writing this on Monday night, doing double posts since it’s such a busy week ahead). It’s a bit of a random collection, but I promise, at least one of these things will make you smile too (contact me if not and I’ll see what I can do IMG_2288about that).

Smile# 1: This cream cheese. What is it, you may ask? It is garlic, feta and dill cream cheese, and it’s about the easiest thing ever to make, but seriously delicious (although if you are one of those strange, I mean, unique and special, individuals who doesn’t like garlic, you might want to skip this one.IMG_2287

My mom made this for our pool party Friday, and my Aunt requested it for the party I catered for her Monday. The ingredients are (are you ready for this?): garlic, feta, dill and cream cheese – that’s it! I found this on allrecipes.com back in the day for my mom’s birthday and it has since become a family favourite. It only gets more garlic-y as it sits (NOT a bad thing). And the beauty of this recipe is that you can use more or less of any one ingredient depending on your preference, and it will still turn out beautifully. Here’s the basic recipe:

Garlic, Dill and Feta Cream Cheese from Allrecipes.com

  • 2 packages (light) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (mine was 400 g) (light) feta, crumbled
  • 3 (or 4 if you’re me) cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons (I used a bit more) chopped fresh dill (or substitute about 1 tablespoon dried)

Beat all ingredients together until combined. Allow to sit at least a few hours for flavours to blend.

Mmm….when I had this last Friday, it was one of those “Why haven’t I made this in so long?” moments. So easy. So good.

Smile #2: Dance Party Class at The Athletic Club Brantford. My cheapie $19 one month membership ends Wednesday, and I’ve been about 9 or 10 times – I think that’s getting my money’s worth, right? I’ve been to this class 3 times, and it’s SO MUCH fun. First of all, the instructor, Trudy, is fantastic. She really does make it feel like a party, she’s all smiles and a ton of fun. And we do all different dance moves – everything from Lady Gaga to Britney to Michael Jackson to Line Dance, Swing, Bollywood and Irish Dance, and it’s pretty easy to follow.

It’s also a good cardio workout. I was sceptical before my first time, and although there are some more “mature” participants, it really is easy to pump up the moves and get your heart rate going. If you are a member at TAC Brantford, and are available at 9:30 Monday mornings, go party with Trudy, and just try not to smile!IMG_2282

Smile # 3: Crackerjack Sundae. Put a scoop of light vanilla ice cream in a bowl. Crack open a box of Cracker Jack. Pour over the ice cream. Enjoy, with a smile on your face, at the sweet and crunchy treat you’ve created (these boxes are under 150 calories, and 3 for a dollar at Walmart….go get some…NOW)!

Smile#4: This article on Serious Eats. The author goes to the Cold Stone creamery and discovers what happens when you order every mixin. It’s good for a laugh. If you haven’t visited seriouseats.com, you really should. It’s a fun food site, with lots of whimsical and light-hearted articles – great for procrastinating/time wasting when there’s something else you should be doing. Although the site is called Serious Eats, they don’t take food too seriously. But it is a seriously awesome website, and a seriously hilarious article.

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Smile #5: Getting all this from my garden in a single visit: 2 zucchini, fresh sage (which I used in a tasty pasta dish), kale and my first yellow pepper (which took FOREVER to ripen). I just love summer and all the garden goodness. It makes healthy eating so easy (and delicious).

#6: Being featured in the Simcoe Reformer. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag, and I know it’s not all that big of a deal being featured in a small town paper, but it’s exciting to me. And I was really happy with the way the article was written. Today the Reformer, tomorrow?

What has put a Smile on your face lately?

Sorry….salads!

26 Jul

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Just to clarify the title, these are not sorry salads, as in, salads that have seen better days. More like, sorry…I’m posting salads AGAIN! But it’s hot, it’s summer, and this really is what I’m eating these days. So if you’re a salad hater like my cousin Jonathan, my apologies.

But before I give you the down-low on my latest salad sensations, some exciting news: I WAS FEATURED IN MY LOCAL PAPER YESTERDAY! Check out the article here. I called the paper to tell them about my blog and upcoming trip to the Healthy Living Summit, and to see if they wanted to write an article about me…turns out they did! As a Canadian blogger in a small town, there are many strikes against me when trying to promote HHH, but there are also benefits (ie, if I call up the paper, I get an interview and an article. Also, my stats jumped way up yesterday, so I guess even the smallest media feature helps. And if you are a new reader who found me via the Reformer, welcome!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled salads.IMG_2285 When I tell you the main ingredients of my Sunday lunch salad, it’s going to sound sort of like a weird casserole your hippy-Aunt would make.

  • kale
  • beets
  • quinoa
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • portabella mushroom

….see? But it’s really good, I promise! This was my first time eating raw kale, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was actually pretty good. I mixed the kale with arugula and spinach for my IMG_2286greens, and tossed in some beans and peas from the garden as well. Then, I grilled a slice of zucchini, Vidalia onion and a portabella mushroom cap; sliced them up and tossed them in. I topped it all off with a cup of cooked, sliced beets (I pre-boiled and chilled them so they’d be at the ready when I needed ‘em), half a cup of leftover, cooked quinoa, fresh thyme and basil, and feta cheese. My dressing was made up of fancy cranberry wine vinegar, grainy mustard, oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing.

Oh. Wow. This salad was seriously yummy, and not in a weirdo healthy way at all. I love beets, and the sweetness of them and the cranberry vinegar in the dressing worked perfectly with the saltiness of the feta. The mix of grilled and fresh veggies provided a nice mix of textures as well. Mmmmm! And, as seen in the last close-up, one thing I love about beets is how they colour everything around them – I think it’s just so purdy.

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Salad number two is another grilled veggie wonder – grilled corn and zucchini, tossed with fresh spinach, onion, cucumber, red pepper, tomato and a bit of broccoli slaw. I put a bit of ham and feta in the mix, along with fresh dill, salsa, red wine vinegar and fat-free Italian dressing. Another winner! This salad was nice and light, and was the perfect pre-pool party lunch for Friday when I knew I’d be nibbling all afternoon.

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This is not a very good photo (I only have two hands, and I don’t have my own personal photographer), but I am attempting to show you a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray: when stripping corn off the cob, stand the corn up inside your bowl vertically, and run your knife down the cob – then all your kernels will end up in the bowl!

This may seem like a lot of salads, but starting today, it won’t be like that the rest of the week. I’ve got two lunches out planned (thanks groupon and wagjag), a BBQ/dinner planned with family and some friends visiting from BC, a potential girls’ pool party (rescheduled from last weekend), and we’re hosting two BBQs on the long weekend….so wish me luck! This is going to be one of those weeks when the 20% of the 80/20 rule won’t be enough for all of the splurging I want to do!

Do you like eating salad all summer, or do you get sick of it?

Q and A’s for Summer

25 Jul

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Happy Monday! Today’s post has a question and answer theme. I’m not enough of a “big-time blogger” yet that I receive multiple questions via email (maybe some day), so I’ve decided to create my own questions, and give you the answers…enjoy!

Question one: Why does the propane tank on the BBQ always run out on me when I’m home alone, I’ve waited too long to have dinner, and my stomach is eating itself in hunger?

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Answer one: I’m gonna have to say I don’t know on this one, but at least I had a nice grilled veggie, dill and goat cheese pizza (basically the same as this one, only no bacon, dill instead of parsley, and goat instead of Tex-Mex cheese) at the end of it all (with a side of beets and sautéed beet greens to go with it).IMG_2257

Question two: How do you improve upon the culinary triumph that was the bubbling berry biscuit bake?

Answer two: Find the oven-safe dish you couldn’t last time, make it with a mix of raspberries and blueberries, and bake at 400 for 20 minutes (perfect time and temperature). Enjoy the biscuits, berry goodness, and melt-y vanilla ice cream. Smile

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Question three: How do you switch up the cool and creamy red pepper and tomato gazpacho you’ve been loving lately and give it a bit of a south-western kick?

Answer three: Make it exactly the same way you have in the past, only swap out the basil for cilantro, add a splash of lime juice, and a touch of cumin, chili powder and chipotle chili powder. Garnish with chopped cucumber, tomato, green onion, cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Mmm….this was cool and creamy like I’ve been loving, but I enjoyed the different flavour profile. It is kind of odd though, to eat something that’s spicy and cold at the same time. Not bad, just a different sensation.

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Question four: What do you have for a Saturday afternoon snack that you can eat while blogging/catching up on other blogs that is healthy but just a little decadent?

Answer four: A bowl of the best cherries you’ve had all summer and a fiber one 90 calorie chocolate brownie, naturally! Healthy cherries and chocolate? Sign me up!

 

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Question five: What do you eat for supper when you’ve been cooking all day in preparation for the pool party you’re catering for your Aunt, you’ve been grazing all afternoon in the kitchen (including way more mocha cupcake batter and coffee frosting than you care to admit), you’re hot, you’re sweaty, and you want something light, filling, and that doesn’t require any heat?

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*Okay, side note here before we get to answer five. Public service announcement: the coffee frosting I made yesterday should be illegal. It is just WAY too good. Now, I’m not saying that to brag and tell you how awesome I am for making it. It’s just the truth. I’m not posting the recipe for two reasons: 1. It’s seriously dangerously good and addictive. 2. I made it up as I went along and didn’t pay attention to measurements. You see, I’m a cake and icing SNOB, I’ll admit it. Birthday, anniversary, shower cakes that are purchased from a grocery store and decorated with sugary frosting? Duncan Hines from a can? I’ll pass. I find that stuff pretty flavourless and uninteresting (not trying to be mean, just being honest). But this icing, man, it was something else. Because of the coffee in it, it had loads of flavour, but the bitterness of the coffee kept it from being overly sweet. And while I’m not a straight-up coffee drinker, I LOVE anything coffee-flavoured. Cappuccino frozen yogurt, anything with the word “mocha,” my homemade iced coffee drinks, Starbucks frappuccinos (don’t even get me started)…I’m there! Which is why this icing was SO DEADLY. I just kept eating it. I may have even dreamt about swimming in the stuff. Anyway, just had to warn you. That concludes this public service announcement.*

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Answer five: a nice plate of bits and bites, comprised of a seriously tasty salad of baby cucumbersRed heart, garden-fresh beans and peas, tomatoes, red onion and a dressing of seasoned rice vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing and olive oil; veggies and artichoke hummus;  a roasted red pepper spread with goat cheese and fresh basil and rolled up; ham slices wrapped around the last of the pineapple you had leftover from making pineapple chicken teriyaki skewers and fat-free Lays Ruffles chips from the US of A. And for dessert…lemon ginger frozen yogurt with fresh berries.

That about sums up today’s Q and A.

Two Q’s for you: What have you made/someone made for you that you found absolutely irresistible/dangerously delicious? And…are there any questions you have for me (don’t be shy). Winking smile

I’m in love…

24 Jul

alton brown

…with this guy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…and also with this stuff.

 

 

Now, there is a link between the two, allow me to explain.

 

For those of you who don’t know, the guy at the top is Alton Brown, host of Food Network’s Good Eats, and Iron Chef America. Now, if you know me, you know that I choose odd people to have crushes on. People like Alton Brown, my dentist, random characters from made-for-television musicals, characters from audio dramas I listened to as a child, and Cory Matthews from Boy Meets World (I still have a crush on him and the series ended over 10 years ago). Don’t question, don’t judge, just indulge me, ok? I love me some Alton…I just love his dry sense of humour, food knowledge, and, of course, his recipes.

Which brings us to our second photo. By now you may have guessed it, the lemon ginger frozen yogurt you see above is a recipe from Alton Brown. Ladies and gentlemen, I must proclaim that this is my favourite recipe made so far with my new ice cream maker (after one spoonful, my mom agreed). It is perfectly tart and refreshing, and even if you don’t like lemon, I’d give this a try, as the lemon is present, but not overwhelming. I’ve only tried it on the day it was made, so I’m not sure how hard it will freeze, so I’ll have to report back on the texture. But oh, I just love this stuff so much! Here’s how you make it (my adaptations noted).

***Update: It DOES freeze pretty hard, but after softening up/a bit of microwaving to help things along, the texture is just fine, better than the other light ice creams/yogurts I’ve made.

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Adapted from Alton Brown (from Good Eats).

  • 8 cups plain yogurt (I used mostly fat-free, but a bit of 1 %)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (I didn’t have enough, so I used 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup agave nectar…worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (original recipe called for 3/4, but I found 1/2 produced the nice tart frozen yogurt taste I like, but was still sweet enough for me)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup sliced crystallized ginger

Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander (I used paper towels because I didn’t have cheesecloth – worked A-OK) set over a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. At end of 12 hours, discard the liquid and cheesecloth.

In a bowl combine the drained yogurt, corn syrup, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and fresh ginger. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and process per manufacturer’s instructions, about 25 minutes, adding in the chopped crystallized ginger about 5 minutes before it finishes churning. Transfer frozen yogurt to an airtight container and freeze for 2 hours.

Alton says it makes a quart, but I had a little more than that (because I love you Alton, I’ll for give you).

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The yogurt and paper towel-lined colander over a bowl, ready to see action. FYI, 8 cups of plain yogurt is almost exactly 3 containers.IMG_2260

 

 

The yogurt begins its overnight transformation in the fridge. This is where I became very thankful for our extra fridge in the garage so I didn’t have to re-arrange all our miscellaneous condiments to make room for this in the kitchen fridge.

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The two photos above show what the yogurt looked like the morning after. From 8 cups of yogurt came almost 4 cups of liquid! Just for kicks, I tasted the liquid. It tasted like (gasp!) yogurt. Shocker.

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I just wanted to show you how thick the strained yogurt was (that’s a spatula standing straight up in it). I got between 4 and 5 cups I think. Essentially, you are making Greek yogurt at home. I’ve read about doing this before. I haven’t done a full cost analysis yet(sorry for the financial-speak, my mom’s an accountant/financial planner), but I think this may be cheaper than buying Greek yogurt, and really, it’s not that hard.

 

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On the left we see all the ingredients (minus the crystallized ginger) in the bowl before mixing. On the right, it’s all mixed together.

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Tip time! If you don’t have a microplane zester/grater, you’re gonna wanna get one before making this recipe. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier. If you are still living on the dark side and grating lemons on a box grater (I’ve been there, I know), buy a microplane and step into the light. They’re not that expensive, and they do so much more than zest lemons and grate ginger. They also do Parmesan cheese, make chocolate shavings and grate fresh nutmeg. Really, I wouldn’t use fresh ginger without having one of these. Being as it’s so potent, you want it really finely grated.

Speaking of fresh ginger…tip # 2: (for this one, I give credit to my brother-in-law and Rachael Ray) When using fresh ginger, peel it, grate what you need, and put the rest in a resealable bag in the freezer. It’s actually much easier to grate this way (not as tough and fibre-y as fresh) and you won’t waste any. There you go!

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Adding the chopped, crystallized ginger right before the end of churning. Make sure you chop this stuff finely, it’s pretty potent!

 

 

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It’s ready! Now into the freezer you go to firm up for a little while.

 

 

 

 

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This last step is completely optional but highly recommended: enjoy your first scoop on the front porch while reading a magazine and listening to your “Summer Day” playlist on your ipod. Have most of it finished by the time “Soul Sister” by Train is done playing.

 

If you have an ice cream maker, MAKE THIS NOW! If you are lactose-intolerant, my sincere and deepest apologies. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, come over and enjoy some with me (Katie, (and anyone else) I’m sorry if this feeds your and Jeff’s ice cream maker envy).

It’s summer. And Sunday. Seize the day, blog friends (although I confess, I’m hoping it rains, as I am feeling rather shackled to the hose these days).

All choked up

23 Jul

I’ve mentioned before my love for canned artichoke hearts. If you haven’t tried them yet, you really should. If you’ve bought them, and find yourself with not knowing what to do with them, and have a can or artichoke hearts collecting dust on your counter – you’re in luck! Today I’m sharing one of my favourite Hungry Girl recipes with you: Artichoke Hummus!

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Yesterday, the women of my Mom’s family got together for a pool party at my Aunt’s. We were all to bring an appetizer, and, as it had been a while since I had made this hummus, it was my first choice. I don’t know why I waited so long – this stuff is so good! Nice and light, with traditional hummus flavour that you’d expect, but the artichokes give it a little “je ne sais quoi” (FYI, that’s French for “I don’t know what”).

Keep this one on file for summer entertaining…but it’s also good to have around for everyday snacking or packing in lunches any time of the year! I make a few modifications to the original recipe, so I will note those below.

Hungry, Hungry Artichoke Hummus (from Hungry Girl)
PER SERVING (1/8th of recipe, about 1/4 cup): 56 calories, 0.5g fat, 400mg sodium, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 3g protein

  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained
    1/4 cup fat-free vegetable broth (I usually just put in 1/4 cup water then add extra garlic salt)
    1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (often, I don’t have on hand, so I use regular plain yogurt – it works just fine!)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
    1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes (if at all possible, use a handful fresh parsley instead…I find parsley flakes kinda tasteless, and the fresh flavour is just so good)
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. black pepper
    1/4 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 tsp. paprika
    One 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    Optional garnish: additional parsley flakes and paprika

Place parsley and garlic cloves (whole) into food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped (see photo below). This step is my own addition that saves time in chopping herbs/crushing garlic.

Place all ingredients except chickpeas and optional garnishes in a blender or food processor (mini food processors rock for this recipe!). Set aside.

Place chickpeas in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher or fork. (The recipe says you can skip this step if you have a strong blender/food processor. I ALWAYS skip this step and it works out fine.)

Transfer to the blender. Puree until smooth, stopping and stirring if blending slows.

For best flavour, refrigerate hummus for several hours. Before serving, garnish with a sprinkle each of additional parsley flakes and paprika, if you like. Dip away!

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This is what your garlic/parsley should look like when you are done chopping. Don’t worry about scraping it off the sides of the food processor. The hummus-ification (VERY scientific term) of the other ingredients will incorporate the parsley and garlic into your mixture.

 

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Everything is all measured, in the food processor, and ready to go. All we need to do is put on the lid and press the button!

 

 

 

 

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After lots of blending, pulsing, and some scraping/stirring with a spatula, the hummus is finito! Now, if only I had a container….

 

 

 

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….ah, that’s it! Now get the lid on and cool it. Since I was having a 10:30 PM hummus making party (What…you don’t have those?) this guy got refrigerated overnight, so the flavours blended up nicely.

 

 

Don’t forget lots of fresh veggies, crackers and chips (BAKED, of course!) to serve. Your family and friends will thank you, but don’t get all “choke”-d up at all the compliments (sorry, I had to).

Pool party number 2 for today got postponed due to a scheduling miscommunication, so I’m not quite sure what’s on the agenda, other than a new ice cream maker project (details to follow, if it’s good). What about you? What are you doing on this summer Saturday?