Sunday, April 6, 2014

"sugar" free banana blueberry muffins

sweetened with coconut sugar and maple syrup
Recently I have been trying out substitutes for the usual refined sugars (granulated sugar, brown sugar) and have found that baking with honey, maple syrup, organic coconut sugar, and turbinado sugar taste pretty great.  These blueberry banana muffins are adapted from a recipe I found from Looney Spoons , and they are super soft and moist with a nice crunch on top without having to use refined sugars.  You can feel good about giving these to your little ones - Madi (who's almost 2 now!) couldn't wait to try them.  She ate one straight out of the oven as I gingerly cut them with a knife and we blew on each piece to cool it down for her to eat!  She asked for seconds and got them:)

what you need:
*makes a baker's dozen

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 heaping table spoons ground golden flax seed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 3 large bananas, very ripe
  • 1/4 vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a muffin tin with large muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt and flax seed.  You can just use a large fork.
  3. In a large bowl, mash bananas well, then mix in oil, egg, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Again, a large fork will do.  (If you use electric beaters be careful not to over mix).
  4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture.  Combine with a spatula just until batter is evenly mixed.
  5. Add blueberries and fold them in gently with the spatula.
  6. Fill the muffin cups evenly, almost to the top.  Bake for 20 minutes, the tops will be golden brown and a toothpick will come out clean.  When cool enough to handle, move muffins to cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

indian spiced roasted cauliflower

tender and flavourful
I feel that cauliflower is a vegetable that doesn't get much attention; I don't tend to buy it very much but when I do and prepare it in this way, I remember how much I enjoy it's taste and texture. This easy side dish is a perfect compliment alongside basmati rice and other Indian or Asian inspired dishes.  Use the whole cauliflower as left overs are great for the next day.

what you need:
  • 1 whole head of cauliflower
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped.
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes *optional*
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil
what to do:
  1. Clean and cut cauliflower into small bite size florets.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. In a large dutch oven* on medium heat, melt butter with grape seed oil.  Toast mustard seeds in oil, about 1-2 minutes.  They will become fragrant.  Add garlic, turmeric, cumin, and chilli flakes and stir to avoid burning. 
  4. Add the cut up cauliflower once you smell the spices.  Stir to coat all florets with spices. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the dutch oven with the lid, then transfer to the oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes, until fork tender (but not mushy).
  6. Serve hot and enjoy!
*If you don't have a dutch oven, do this step in a regular frying pan.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  After step 4, transfer florets to the baking sheet and roast.  You will have a slightly nuttier flavour on the cauliflower and some bits of crunch, which is also really tasty.
tossed with spices on the stove before hitting the hot oven

Sunday, January 19, 2014

gluten free peanut butter cookies

You can feel good about making these cookies for your little ones because they don't have any butter or refined sugar in them!  The use of brown rice flour as the base makes them gluten free as well.  The chocolate chips are optional for a sweeter treat but you can easily substitute raisins for a healthier version.  These cookies are super easy to make and bake up within minutes.

what you need:
*makes about 20 cookies

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or raisins
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix honey and peanut butter in a large bowl, then add egg and mix until smooth.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture, and stir just until combined. Do not over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Using two spoons, drop golf ball sizes of dough onto lined cookie sheet - around 8 per sheet.  Bake for 8-10 min. Cool cookies on cooking rack once done.  Enjoy!

peanut enjoying her cookies

Thursday, October 17, 2013

creamy tomato & white bean soup with herb & parmesan croutons

crispy croutons in a smooth soupy bite
Who doesn't love grilled cheese & tomato soup?  This recipe unites this classic into one bowl and one bite.  The soup has more body because I've added white kidney beans, which adds a very mild flavour once pureed but doesn't disturb the tomato yumminess of a creamy tomato soup. The addition of beans makes the soup meal-like, as they are a great source of protein and fibre. The homemade croutons are a perfect touch to add texture and flavour, as they are tossed in herbs, olive oil and parmesan.  A perfect meal for a cold fall day.

what you need:
  • 1 large can tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 540 mL can white beans, drained (kidney or cannellini) 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup cream *optional* 
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced *optional*
  • 1 green onion
  • a few slices of day old bread (I used whole wheat)
  • fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand, I used sage, oregano, parsley)
  • parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
what to do:
  1. In a large pot, heat up butter and 1 tsp olive oil on medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until tender and golden.  If you like some heat in your soup, add the red chilli and sauté with onions.
  2. Add tomatoes and beans.  Add bay leaf.
  3. Bring to a gentle boil then turn down your heat down to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Cut bread into bite size pieces.  Finely chop herbs, about 1 tbsp of each.  Place them in a large bowl, then drizzle about 1 tbsp olive oil over bread pieces.  Toss to coat and mix herbs.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice green onion and set aside.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread bread pieces out - no overlapping for even browning.  Grate parmesan cheese over top of bread.
  7. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 5 minutes, or until croutons are crispy and golden brown.  Be sure to check often to avoid burning.
  8. Remove soup from heat and when cool enough to handle, use an immersion blender or a blender to puree the soup until smooth.  Pour soup back into the pot and place it over medium heat, adding cream if desired.  Taste, and add salt and pepper as desired.
  9. Serve soup hot, sprinkle a few green onions on top and then top with a few croutons.  Put extra croutons in a separate small bowl for extra dipping (this way they don't all get soggy right away!) - Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

mah jong mien (aka peanut butter noodles)

a light meal that is rich in flavour
I have no idea why this is called Mah Jong Mien in Taiwan, as it has nothing to do with the game of tiles, but it has been a staple go to meal growing up in our household.  My mom is the queen of putting together a healthy home cooked meal in minutes from items found in her pantry and fridge, and this peanut butter noodle dish is just one of those.  I think we ate this as kids weekly - and still do whenever we are home to visit.  My mom's version is even simpler - she mixes peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and garlic together in a bowl until smooth then tosses it with the noodles and vegetables.  It's super easy and tasty.  Below is my take on our family staple.

what you need:
for the peanut sauce
  • 2 heaping tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp white pepper 
for the noodles
  • 4 servings of any dry asian noodle, you can even use pasta (e.g. linguine)
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • a small bunch broccolini (or broccoli) 
what to do:
  1. Start by getting your sauce ready.  Thinly slice ginger and roughly chop garlic.  Cut off bottom white part of green onions (about 2 inches) and slice lengthwise.  Get the rest of the ingredients for the sauce measured and ready on hand.
  2. In a small sauce pan on medium, heat up grapeseed and sesame oil.  Add ginger, garlic, and onions.  Sauté for about 1 min, then deglaze with the water.  Add soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, and white pepper.  Stir until peanut butter dissolves, and reduce heat down to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce to about half.
    garlic, onions, and ginger sautéing
    reducing sauce
  3. Get a large pot of water on the stove on high heat to cook the noodles.
  4. While waiting for the pot to boil, clean and prepare vegetables.  Peel and grate the carrots, and slice broccoli into long slim pieces.  Slice remaining green onion on a bias and roughly tear cilantro.  
  5. Once the water is boiling, add noodles.  Depending on what kind of noodles you are using, your cooking time will vary.  Whatever your package indicates, set your timer for 1 minute shy of it's cooking time.  This is because you want to put the vegetables in with the noodles to cook for 1 minute.  
  6. Drain noodles and vegetables, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  7. Return noodles and vegetables to pot and pour reduced peanut sauce over noodles and toss.  You may need to add a little bit of the cooking liquid if the noodles seem too dry.  Toss in some of your cilantro and green onions, but reserve a small amount for garnish.
  8. Transfer noodles to serving platter and top with cilantro and green onion for garnish.  Serve with your favourite hot sauce if desired - we used sriracha.  Enjoy!
with sriracha

Sunday, September 22, 2013

banana pear & oatmeal muffins


These muffins are a great morning treat or snack, as they are packed with fruit and rolled oats!  The grated pears and banana help keep the muffins moist so you don't have to use very much oil, and the natural sweetness of the fruits allows you to cut down on the use of refined sugar.  Madi (my one year old) loves these and gobbles them right up.

what you need:
*best if everything is at room temperature
**makes 24 medium sized muffins
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (I used 1 min quick cooking rolled oats)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large bananas, mashed well
  • 1-2 pears (to get 1/2 cup grated pear)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Combine flours, rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl. Stir to combine. 
  3. In a mixer (or with electric hand beaters), beat eggs and 2 tbsp sugar until light and airy, about 2 minutes.  Add milk, oil, grated pear, and mashed bananas.  Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated (do not overmix or muffins will be dense).
  4. Line 2 muffin tins with medium cups.  Fill with batter and then bake for 10 min, or until very lightly golden on top and toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Remove and cool when ready to handle on cooling rack.  Once at room temperature, store in air tight container.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

meatless "antipasto" platter

perfect for sharing
serve with homemade pita bread
This meal is perfect for a night in with friends or a date night.  Lots of tasty bites to share, and all even better with a glass of wine.

Before I made this I had only tried artichokes in their jarred form, or on top of pizza or in a salad at restaurants.  The fresh green ones at the grocery store have always intrigued me, and I've seen how they are cooked on foodnetwork, but never tried it.  I decided to go for it and it was definitely worth the effort.  It was a perfect on this "antipasto" platter - quotations because it's not the traditional italian kind with cured meats and pickled veggies etc.  Each component on the platter takes a bit of time to prepare, but you can multitask and enjoy wine while doing it!

what you need:
  • 1 medium sweet vidalia onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • fresh pita bread (check out my homemade pita recipe)
  • 1-2 artichokes
  • 1 small package of king oyster mushrooms
  • assorted cheeses of your choice (I used some feta, sharp cheddar, and parmesan)
  • pita bread
artichoke dipping sauce 
(mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to enjoy)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (low fat is OK)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 lemon's zest and juice
  • salt and pepper

what to do:

caramelized onion

1. Thinly slice onion.
2. In a non-stick pan, melt 1 tbsp butter + 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat.
3. Add sliced onions and turn heat down to medium low.  Caramelized onions take a long time but it's the slow cooking process that draws out the onions sweetness.  You don't want the heat too high or you will just get browning.
4. Continue stirring and checking on your onions as you work on other parts of this platter.  Once the onions are very soft, sticky, and very lightly browned, they are done.

roasted red pepper

  1. If you have a gas range, fire it up and put the red bell pepper directly on the flame, blackening all sides and softening the pepper.  Otherwise, preheat oven to 425 F and roast pepper whole in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  Either method, you know the pepper is ready when it is soft and careful it may squirt very hot liquid!
  2. Place cooked pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  
  3. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove blackened skin (should slide off easily) - slice thinly and toss with 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.  
blistering on the flames
covered by plastic wrap to steam, then cool
  1. Get a large pot of water boiling.
  2. Wash artichokes by rinsing in cold water, then cut about 1 cm off each end.
  3. Use kitchen scissors to cut tips of each leaf (this gets rid of any potential pointy parts).
  4. Cut a lemon in half and rub all over artichoke to keep it nice and green.
  5. Immerse artichokes in boiling water and cover, turn heat down to medium and cook for 30-40 minutes (bigger artichokes will need more time).
  6. Get an ice bath ready (lots of ice with cold water in a large bowl)
  7. When the artichokes are cooked, drain and immediately immerse in ice bath.
  8. Once cooled, remove and allow artichokes to drain/dry on a cooling rack or paper towels.
trimmed and leaves cut, ready for boiling
draining water out
roasted mushrooms & garlic

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut king oyster mushrooms length wise, about 0.5 cm thick.
3.  Toss mushrooms with 1 tbsp melted butter, a pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place mushroom slices on, do not overlap.
5. Cut off tip of garlic head, about 0.5cm, to expose tops of cloves.
6. Drizzle top with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
7. Wrap tightly in foil and place on corner of baking tray, alongside mushrooms.
8. Check at 10 minutes to see if mushrooms need a flip.
9. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, until garlic is soft and mushes easily, and mushrooms are soft and slightly golden brown.