Tag Archives: fruit

I made this!

13 Jul

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Eat your heart out Edible Arrangements. Because yours truly created a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) creation in the comfort of my own home. Yesterday, we took supper to some dear friends after the death of a family member. I’m sorry the occasion wasn’t happier, but on a brighter note, the fruit was enjoyed by all. This would be a great party trick for summer…and really, it’s not that hard. I’ll break it down for you step-by-step.

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I “anchored” my fruit skewers (which were just regular old bamboo skewers) in a large hunk of watermelon. I cut off the bottom so it would sit flat, and had to cut off the rind on the sides so it would fit in the bowl.

 

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Here’s the watermelon chunk in the bowl before I began. I stuck all the fruit skewers into it, then added the cherries on top.

 

 

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I used my Pampered Chef melon baller to make balls of honeydew for the flower “stems”. As you can see if you look closely at the bouquet, my “balling” skills can use some work…some balls turned out better than others.

 

 

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Here’s my set-up before I began: honeydew balls, washed grapes and cherries, watermelon ready to go in the bowl with more waiting to be sliced, peeled pineapple (although I feel like peeled is not the right word, as you can’t really peel a pineapple, but you know what I mean – outside off), flower cookie cutters ready to go.IMG_2140

This was a really fun project. I used various sizes of cookie cutters to make different-sized flowers, threading a few melon balls and/or grapes on a skewer for “stems,” then adding a flower topper. There were a couple all grape skewers, as well as some with just grapes and melon chunks. Once I had stuck all the fruit in my watermelon anchor, I topped it off with fresh, local cherries. It was a hit with kids and adults alike – who says healthy food is boring?!

I have a lot of odd-shaped fruit chunks in my fridge, so I see maybe a variation on Katie’s fruit salsa and perhaps some delicious fruity drinks in my future….any other suggestions? Perhaps another feta/watermelon salad?…maybe I’ll add honeydew, just to live on the edge. Winking smile

You know what else I made? These:

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Lemon-Thyme Biscuits. They are from the same Food Network Magazine article as the beans and coleslaw (that means they’re light!) and they are absolutely fantastic! The delicious buttermilk flavour you’d expect, with the added elements of lemon and thyme – I’ll definitely make these again! Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Thyme Biscuits

From Food Network Magazine

Makes 18 (I used a smaller cookie cutter and got 32)IMG_2132

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling (I used regular old iodized salt in the biscuits, then sprinkled with my fancy-pants sea salt from Winners)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I used salted, ‘cause I’m a rebel like that)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, wheat germ, salt, lemon zest and thyme in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is in pea-size pieces. Gently stir in the buttermilk with a wooden spoon until just moistened. The dough will be loose.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3 to 5 times, just until it comes together. (Don’t overknead or the biscuits will be tough.) Roll out to 1/2 inch thick, then cut out biscuits using a floured 2-inch-round cutter. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with water and sprinkle lightly with salt and thyme.

Bake the biscuits until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

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Cuttin’ in the butter. Even with only 4 tablespoons (which equals 1/4 cup, FYI), they still had great, flaky biscuit texture…I promise!

 

 

 

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Cutting out the biscuits.

You’ll notice that unlike many healthy baking recipes, there is no whole wheat flour, but there is a little wheat germ. I smiled when I bought it, as it reminded me of my childhood…growing up, I would say my family ate pretty healthfully in general. My parents were by no means granola-munching hippies, but we didn’t eat a lot of processed stuff or food from cans. But in what I think was an effort to be more “healthful,” my mom would sprinkle wheat germ on our food from time-to-time….and I can remember HATING IT (sorry mom, but thanks for trying). Needless to say, I didn’t mind it at all in this recipe (just thought I’d share that little nostalgic moment with you all, it’s what wheat germ does to a girl).

2 questions:

1. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever made in the kitchen?

2. What did your mom do to try and get your to eat healthier growing up?

Sweet and Salty Salads

28 Jun

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It’s no secret that I love all things sweet and salty. Pretzels and peanut butter, salted caramel…I could go on (and on and on)….but sweet and salty salad? Seems a bit more unlikely, but trust me, it’s good! In the last week, I’ve tried 2 sweet ‘n salty salad combos, and both have worked out delightfully.

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My first attempt was for a lunch last week. It seems like in the food world (blogs, magazines), I’ve been seeing the watermelon feta combo EVERYWHERE for the last few summers. It’s always intrigued me, but I’ve never tried it, and since I had watermelon in the fridge leftover from Father’s Day, I decided the time was right to give it a go. My base was spinach leaves, which I topped with watermelon and feta, fresh mint, tomato (I feel like I’ve seen those 2 in many of the recipes I’ve come across), Vidalia onion (because I love ‘em, and WHY NOT?) and steamed asparagus (because it’s in season, and I put it in practically everything I can this time of year).

I made a fruity vinaigrette with one of my schmancy wine vinegars from Niagara to top it all off. The verdict? Yum! Perfectly cool and refreshing…could be a new summer classic! I love the salty feta paired with the sweet watermelon, and the mint added a nice freshness. I will definitely do this one again (although, since asparagus season is drawing to a close, it sadly may not make an appearance).

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SSS (sweet salty salad) # 2 was created for last night’s (low carb day of the week….last one for June) supper. I was home later after signing up for my one month cheapie membership at the Athletic Club and trying my first class which reduced me to a quivering pool, and wanted something quick and cool (and of course, low in carbs) and that used up stuff in the fridge.

This salad’s greens were lettuce, chives and parsley FROM MY GARDEN (sorry, didn’t mean to shout at ya there, just lovin’ the local). I topped them off with “normal” salad veggies for me (cucumber, mushrooms, red pepper, Vidalia onion), then some grapes that had been in the fridge since, as Katie would say, “Jesus walked on water,” sliced fresh strawberries (I would have gone all berry, but my desire to use stuff up won), diced ham (had some in the fridge, also leftover from Father’s Day, that needed to be used) and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds for crunch. I mashed a couple of strawberries into my dressing, created with another one of my fancy wine vinegars (maple this time).

Results? Also delicious. Sweet and salty wins every time. Now, it’s no peanut butter and pretzels, I’ll admit, but still incredibly fresh and delicious.

Two side notes:

1. I am STOKED about my one month membership at the Athletic Club. And although my Shape up for Summer challenge officially ends as of Thursday (full summary/recap to come), I think this is just what I needed to push myself more in my workouts, if my soreness from my first class (TRX, a totally cool weight class which uses this crazy harness thing, your body weight and resistance) is any indication. Just glad they also have a pool so I can use that to recover!

2. I am also STOKED about the huge bump in my site stats the last 2 days. I don’t know if I’m done anything in particular to draw in new readers, but my numbers went WAAAAY up Sunday and yesterday. So a big thank you to everyone who stops by to hear my ramblings and follow my journey. I truly appreciate you all and I hope you enjoy reading this little blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

Question: What’s the most unusual salad combination you’ve ever created?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Terrific Trifle

21 Apr

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On Monday night, I hosted a wrap-up meeting for our cookbook fundraising committee at church. I also volunteered to make dessert. So the age-old debate in my head began: do I want to choose from one of my endless dessert cookbooks and make something decadent, or do I want to go for something a little more sensible? My heart (and stomach) are always up for the first option, but it was a Monday night. I had eaten a lot on the weekend, and Easter is just ahead – option 2 it is. Now for what to make?

I decided to go with a trifle. I just love trifles, for so many reasons. They are SO versatile and adaptable. You can make one that’s pretty healthy/low-cal as I did for Monday’s version, or you can splurge and go for totally decadent ingredients. You can go for a fruity version as I did here, or use brownies and chocolate pudding for a chocoholic’s delight. You can use fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or IMG_0805a combination of all of the above (that’s what I did here). You can dig out that leftover cake from your freezer, make your own from scratch or a mix, or even just grab a premade angel food cake or pound cake from the grocery store bakery.

So I’m going to tell you how I made my trifle, but feel free to change and adapt anything and everything to suit your tastes.

Mango Peach Berry Trifle

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First up is the cake. As you can see from the picture, I used an Angel Food cake mix. I’m not a huge mix person, I’m more of a from-scratch kind of girl. But making angel food cake from scratch is kind of time-consuming, and I was in a make-it-fast kind of mood on Sunday. Plus, I had this mix on the shelf. Added bonus? The mix made two loaf-size cakes, IMG_0809and I only needed one for my trifle. So of course, I wrapped and froze the other one and now the next time I want to make a trifle (or just eat a slice of cake), it’ll be ready to go. While we’re on the subject of cake, trifle is also a great way to resurrect cake failures. If you try to get the cake out of the pan and fail, resulting in a crumbly mess, DON’T THROW IT OUT! Just go with the crumbling and put it in a trifle – no one will be the wiser. Winking smile

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Pudding comes next. I always use fat-free instant pudding mix for my trifles. I make it according to package directions, but like to reduce the liquid it calls for. So instead of 2 cups skim milk, I used a little over one. Then I fold in a bunch of Cool Whip for a nice mousse-like texture. I think I might have read about this trick in a magazine somewhere, I’m not sure, but it’s my standard method when making a trifle. But if you want, just make pudding as to package directions and go for it.IMG_0812

Assembly time! The fruit I chose for this trifle was a mix of sliced mangoes (are you surprised?), canned peaches in water, drained and chopped; sliced fresh strawberries and frozen blueberries (since I was making it the night before, I didn’t bother to thaw first). Again – use whatever fruit you like/have on hand/is in season. I got my cake crumbled up, and started with a layer of cake cubes, topped with just a couple of splashes of the liquid from the peaches to moisten (this is not essential if you don’t have any liquid, don’t worry – but this is where many people take the chance to add some booze Winking smile), then I topped with a layer of fruit, then the pudding mixture. I repeated these layers again, and topped it all off with a layer of fat free Cool Whip, and a decorative strawberry garnish.

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Another one of trifle’s charms is how well it sits in the fridge. I think many people would say it’s better after sitting overnight. It’s a great make-ahead dessert. I made it on Sunday, so I was good to go on Monday. I’d say it was a big hit with the ladies. I think everyone appreciated having a dessert that was delicious, but still fairly light.

I’m sure there will be more trifles in the future, as for me, I consider trifle more of a spring/summer dessert – there’s more seasonal fruit, plus it’s a cool and creamy dessert. But really, if you’ve got the stuff, you can make a trifle any time of year! Do you have any favourite trifle flavour combos/recipes?

Favourite Things: Low Season Produce Boosters

4 Apr

I’ve made a couple more recipes from my new Hungry Girl cookbook, but I thought I’d give you a bitIMG_0640 of a break today for another edition of my Favourite Things. The title may be a bit confusing, but once I explain further, I think you’ll get it. I try to eat seasonally and locally when I can. Let me emphasize again – try! I certainly do buy produce frown in other countries, but if there is something local available, that’s always my first choice. I love fresh, crisp apples in the fall, and happily eat squash all winter long. Of course, I love the wide variety of fresh fruit in the summer, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh, local asparagus. But right now, we’re in a bit of a lull. Apples and pears are getting old, citrus is past its peak, squash is now shipped in from Mexico (although I do still buy it), and asparagus and strawberries are a month away. Lest I (and you) get scurvy, I have a few tricks to get you through the produce doldrums…take heart, before you know it, we’ll be drowning in fresh asparagus and eating rhubarb crisp (drool, sigh)!

1. Canned Tomatoes I’ve written before about my love for this pantry staple. They are so inexpensive and you can use them in so many ways. Add them to a soup or cook them as a sauce (sauté garlic and chili flakes in olive oil, add tomatoes, season with salt and simmer). On the weekend, I even tried them in a salad. Since fresh tomatoes are expensive (and pretty tasteless) this time of year, canned just make sense. Plus, you don’t need to worry about peeling and chopping…just open a can and pour right in. Depending on your recipe/preferences, you can buy them whole, chopped or crushed. There are lots of varieties available with different seasonings too if you want to be different. Check out one of my favourite quick, easy and healthy recipes for eggs poached in tomato sauce from Smitten Kitchen (I haven’t made this one in forever – I need to get on it) – a great way to put those canned tomatoes to use.

IMG_0641 2. Frozen Berries (or any fruit) (if you’re wondering why this is such a strange and frosty-looking phot0, it’s because it’s right out of my freezer…I just went down to my basement and snapped away) I am blessed to live in a region where fresh fruit is widely grown in the summer. That means that it’s also inexpensive, especially if you pick it yourself. So every summer, I freeze lots of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. After I get over the sore back and sunburn that often accompanies the strawberry picking (I usually buy the other 2), I’m always glad to have my stash stored away in the freezer. Locally grown taste so much better than those imported from Florida or California, and you can’t argue with the price! To freeze the berries, I wash first (and hull, if using strawberries), then spread in a single layer on metal baking sheets. After they’re frozen, I transfer them to resealable plastic bags. Frozen aren’t the same as fresh (and I’ll admit, this time of year, I sometimes break down and buy the strawberries…who can say no when they’re 3 boxes for $5?!), but I manage to use them in a variety of ways. Smoothies are the most obvious route. I also like to thaw the berries and stir into yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast. You can bake them into muffins, or make a great sauce (just boil the berries down with a bit of the sweetener of your choice) for pancakes, French toast, or ice cream. I’m always motivated to use up my stash at this time of the year too, because I know that the fresh ones will be here in a few months, and I want to make room in my freezer!

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3. Frozen Spinach This stuff is one of the biggest bargains in the grocery store freezer! When you look at the amount of spinach you get, then think about how much fresh stuff you’d have to cook down to get that much…it’s a steal! And now you don’t have to just buy the one big block of frozen spinach (great if you need the whole thing for a big batch of tasty spinach dip, not-so-much if you just want to add a handful to your recipes), you can buy bags like the one pictured (brands vary depending on where you shop) of chopped spinach pieces/nuggets, so you can just take out as much spinach as you want then re-seal the bag. Just a tip when using this stuff, I like to take out the amount I want and pop it in the microwave for a minute before using. That way I can drain the excess water (I like to just dab with a paper towel), which can affect the flavour/texture of recipes. Once drained, I’ll add the spinach to pasta dishes, soups, or stir frys. I also like to add the drained spinach to a mushroom sauté and then sandwich it between bread with cheese (goat cheese tastes AMAZING)  and grill for a yummy panini. I will often add spinach to my own dip creations – some mix of cream cheese, sour cream and Miracle Whip (all fat free, of course), seasonings (like Epicure dip mixes, garlic salt or herbs) and then toss in the spinach for your own signature dip! Another great use for the green stuff? Add to an egg scramble for a tasty veggie omelette! In short, any where you see a recipe/meal that you think is a little shy on veggies or nutrients, break out the bag of frozen spinach and make Popeye proud!

Well, hopefully these tips have helped keep scurvy away and your teeth intact! Smile Do you have any other tips for incorporating fruits and veggies in your diet, even when the fresh selection leaves a lot to be desired? Do tell!

Build A Better Brunch

2 Feb

Last Saturday, I went to a ladies’ brunch at my church. Although the speaker wasn’t my favourite, I had a great time at the brunch afterward with the women at my table. I wanted to enjoy the day and the food, but at the same time, I wanted to choose wisely since I had a splurge dinner out coming up. Like many other times when dining out of the house, the food at this event was completely beyond my control. I lucked out this time, as there were some great choices. The word brunch for me conjures up images of rich pastries and egg dishes, fatty breakfast meats, and maybe if I’m lucky, some fruit to go down with it. Thankfully, the fruit was there, but none of the aforementioned items. And it was really more of a lunch than a brunch.

As is often the case when I dine out, my healthy choices began before I even left the house. I didn’t know exactly when we’d be eating, so I ate a grapefruit before leaving the house (and it was a good thing too – the brunch started at 10:30, and it was close to 12 when we finally ate!) so I wouldn’t be starving. I also made sure to build exercise into my day by making the time to go to a spin class at the gym before the brunch.

Lunch was a buffet, so that made it easy to pick and choose healthy choices. I avoided the potato salad (while I enjoy it, if you don’t make it yourself, it’s usually best to avoid it since 99% of the time is a fat and calorie trap – made with high fat mayo and lots of eggs) since it’s not really worth it for me. There were veggies and dip, so I made sure to load up my plate with veggies but skipped the dip (again – at restaurants/buffets, if there’s a creamy white sauce or dip, it’s practically guaranteed to be high in fat/calories). We had a selection of wraps to choose from – I think there were chicken Caesar, egg salad, vegetarian and ham and Swiss. I figured ham and Swiss was the best option – as both are packed with protein, and a leaner option than the Caesar or the egg salad. And even though I think the wrap had mayo on it, it was only a half wrap anyway so it couldn’t amount to much. Of course, I added fruit to my plate.

There were a number of baked goods available for dessert, some looked good, but most didn’t look totally amazing. As you can see above, I did take some cinnamon hearts (they may not do it for you, but I actually really do enjoy them, and they are a once a year treat for me), but I decided to pass on the baked treats. This is one way to save calories – be a dessert snob! I am never one to go without dessert, but if something isn’t absolutely delicious, it’s not worth the calories for me. Don’t worry – I did satisfy my sweet tooth though. All of the ladies received a mini Laura Secord 70% dark chocolate bar at our place – this was perfect for me! I LOVE dark chocolate, and it was just big enough to satisfy my cravings without busting my calorie budget. I savoured the rich creaminess, and got something I really enjoyed, as opposed to settling for a pastry that was just so-so.

I left the brunch without regret, having made smart choices and enjoyed good laughs and great conversation with some lovely women (and it turns out that most of my table are followers of HHH). Thanks for your support ladies! Keep reading and spreading the word. And for those ladies, here is a link to an article about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams (it was a topic of discussion at our table).

A few of my favourite things (winter fruits and veggies edition)

15 Jan

I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog. Every so often (I haven’t decided just how often yet) I will share some of my favourites with you…this includes foods, exercise routines, kitchen tools…and whatever else I can think of. I’m really excited about this series, as I am pumped to share with you all the things that I love. First in the series is going to be winter fruits and veggies.

Now…fruits and veggies may not seem glorious and exciting….but I love them in any season. They are key to bulking up my meals…filling me up without filling me out…and they are chock full of fibre, water, vitamins and lots of good stuff (do I sound like an add for the Food Guide yet?). Seriously, though, I don’t just eat fruits and vegetables because I know they’re good for me, I also genuinely like eating them. I do not think that fruits and veggies are bland or boring….if prepared right, they can be full of flavour. In the winter, it can be harder to get your fill of the good stuff, but here are some that are available during the colder months (note: this is NOT complete, as I couldn’t fit all of my favourites into one post, I’m just highlighting some that I love) :

1. Butternut (or any) Squash

I really can’t say enough about how much I love squash…it is just so tasty and so versatile. You can puree it in soups, roast it in the oven (especially tasty with apples), stuff it, top it with veggie chili and cheese for a healthy lunch (one of my favs), use it to make Hungry Girl’s butternut squash fries (which were part of supper tonight) or any of the other wonderful squash recipes HG has, put it (roasted and cooled) on salads, mash it as a side dish, or use it for breakfast. I buy this stuff like crazy all fall and winter long.

2. Apples and Pears

I’m always excited when apple season comes around. For both apples and pears, the crunchier the better is my philosophy. My favourite apple varieties are Ginger Gold, Crispin/Mutsu (different names but the same apple), Empire or Honeycrisp. Bosc pears (the brown ones) are my favourite. And how do I enjoy them? Let  me count the ways! There’s always the classic – grab a whole apple and pear and eat it, plain and simple – always a good option and great if you need a quick snack. But I go beyond that – simmer one in a little water, with some brown sugar twin and spices for use in breakfast (mix with yogurt or top an English muffin and ricotta) or dessert (top with a crumbled fibre 1 caramel bar and serve with sugar free vanilla pudding for a quick, healthy apple crumble, serve over ice cream, spread with some sweetened cream cheese inside a tortilla and grill for a dessert quesadilla). Dip a sliced apple or pear in any one of my favourite dips – melted caramel candies with a little bit of water, or fat free cream cheese mixed with Cool whip, cinnamon and a bit of Splenda, or light peanut butter mixed with a bit of fat free caramel dip. And don’t forget about savoury uses for apples or pears. You can slice them over a salad or in a slaw, put them in a grilled cheese sandwich, or cook them in a quick chutney with raisins, vinegar and spices to serve with meat. You can also make your own applesauce by cooking apples (peeled or unpeeled), sweetener of your choice, cinnamon and water until the apples are tender, then mash with a potato masher. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but you get the idea.

3. Winter Greens (kale, collard greens, chard)

I decided to give winter greens a try when I was living on my own during university…and I’m so glad I did! They are full of flavour and nutrition….I always feel super-healthy when I eat them (sorry to get all Food Guide-y again). These all need cooking and, although you may start with a huge pile of greens, they wilt quite a bit once they’re cooked (you can steam or boil and/or saute them). I love greens as a side dish sauteed with garlic and olive oil. They also make a hearty addition to pasta dishes or pureed vegetable soups (try with squash soup). You can also roast kale in the oven to make crispy kale chips (sounds weird, I know, but give it a try!).

4. Pomegranates

The window of availability for pomegranates is short, so act quickly. And yes, they are a hassle to prepare, which is why, if you eat them a lot, you should invest in the Arils Removal Tool. I read about it in the LCBO magazine and ordered one online (as well as one for a gift for my sister and brother-in-law). This tool makes removing the arils (seeds) much quicker and easier. I use the pomegranate arils as an addition to my morning yogurt mostly, sometimes to top salads, or in mixed fruit sauces.

5. Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts

Now I know there may be many readers out there who think they don’t like one or both of these veggies but hear me out – prepared correctly, they are absolutely delicious! With brussels sprouts, I like to roast them in the oven with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper or maybe some garlic. Roast at a high heat (400 or above) for about 30 minutes (more or less, dpending on temperature or quantity. They are delicious on their own or in a salad. I like making “sweet and sour cabbage,” inspired by a recipe I saw online once. I saute the cabbage with a bit of onion in a nonstick pan with a bit of olive oil. After a few minutes, I add vinegar (balsamic, apple cider or white wine vinegar are all good choices), salt and pepper, and a pinch of splenda. I also sometimes add a touch of chicken broth. Then I reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender. Cabbage is also great in slaws…make ahead so the cabbage can absorb the flavour of the dressing, and the texture is better too. My favourite basic dressing is fat free Miracle whip, vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a touch of sweetener. After that I play with flavours. I love adding apple to my slaws, and of course, lots of onion. Cabbage is also good to add to soups and stews.

Well, that will be it for my first edition of favourite things. There are so many more fruits and veggies I love, but these are just 5 of my favourites that are good this time of the year. More faourite things to com ein the future – let me know if there’s any particular category you’d like to see.