Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Seedy Trailmix Cookies: My New Favourite Treat

There is a bakery in the mountains that I love to go to when my husband and I head out to the Rocky Mountains for a weekend getaway, and at this amazing place they sell the biggest, heartiest trailmix cookies you've ever had.  These cookies are chewy yet crispy, with a plethora of seeds and chips and raisins to make a hearty (yet TASTY) treat.

Longing for one of these cookies but not willing to drive the 3.5 hours to get one, I decided to create my own recipe attempt for these magical cookies.  The result?  SUCCESS.  Perhaps not EXACTLY the same as the originals, and surely a smaller size, but the resulting cookie attempt was a delicious, faux-healthy treat.



To make:

Ingredients:
-1 cup flour
-1/2 cup butter or margarine
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 egg
-1 Tbsp milk
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 cup Quick oats
-1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-1/4 cup sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup flax
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-dash of cinnamon
-1/2 cup raisins (or slightly more)
-1/2 cup chocolate chips (or slightly more)


Directions:

1)  Beat the margarine/butter and the brown sugar together until well mixed and fluffy.  Add the egg and the vanilla.  Add the milk.  Mix to combine.

2)  In a separate bowl mix together flour, oats, pumkin seeds, flax, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

3) In 2 additions (to allow for better mixing) add the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix to combine.

4)  Add chocolate chips and raisins.

5)  Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes depending on the size of cookie you desire on a greased baking sheet, or parchment lined baking sheet.

6)  Remove from the oven, allow to cool enough to place in mouth, and ENJOY!


I HIGHLY recommend these cookies for actual hiking trips as they are packed with a lot of energy and flavour!  Any questions or comments please leave below, I'd love to hear from you!



Saturday, 15 June 2013

Husband approved meatless meal! Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers with Homemade Tzaziki

I am so grateful to have a husband who is open to trying new things, even without his favourite meaty portion of the meal.

This recipe was discovered on The Foodie Physician's website, and is one that I will be keeping in my repertoire for years to come.

I have always been a huge advocate of black beans.  Loaded with fibre, folate and protein, these beans are a tasty way to pack nutrition into a meatless dish.

I have tried several recipes for black bean (veggie) burgers in the past, and this is by far the best (as agreed upon by my husband who is always a good sport for trying out my experimental recipes!)

Without further ado, the recipe (modified from The Foodie Physician).




Black Bean and Quinoa Veggie Burgers


-NOTE: these work best if left for 2+ hours-overnight to "bind" together, although I have eaten successfully within an hour of making, although they did crumble more than if I had let them rest

Ingredients:
-1/2 cup cooked Quinoa (this can be done in advance, used freshly cooked, or use leftovers)
-1 tsp olive oil
-1/2 red onion, diced
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 can of drained and rinsed black beans
-2 Tbsp tomato paste
-1 large egg
-2/3 cup frozen corn
-1/2 cilantro, chopped (I omitted this as we do not enjoy cilantro)
-1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced (if you like spice, add more--I added 1 large and 2 small for a good amount of heat in the patty)
-2 tsp cumin
-1/2 cup rolled oats (I used Quick Oats)
-1/4 cup of flour (or oat flour, or whole wheat flour etc.)

Directions:

Heat olive oil in small pan and sauté onions and garlic on medium heat until they are softened and fragrant.  Place the mixture in a large bowl and add the drained black beans.  Mash the mixture with a fork until it forms a pasty mixture.

Stir in tomato paste, egg, corn, cilantro, chipotles, cumin, and salt.  Then add in the quinoa, oats, and flour until the mixture is well blended.  Using your hands, form the mixture into patties (take into consideration the size of your bun).  I made 6 very healthy sized patties, I probably could have made 8 thinner patties instead.  Put the patties on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight being ideal for the flavours to mix and the egg and flour to bind the patty together to reduce crumbling.

When you're ready to feast, set your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a cooking sheet with non-stick spray and cook for 10-14 minutes until the top of the patty becomes brown and crispy.  Flip the patties and cook for another 10-12 minutes.  (patties can also be pan fried on stove top for 4-6 min per side/hot in the centre)

Serve on a wholewheat bun with your favourite burger fixings.  As these are slightly drier than a meat patty, I HIGHLY suggest serving with tzaziki (recipe below) to moisten the burger and cool down the spicy patty.  This is a summertime HIT!


Homemade Tzaziki

Again, the husband was THRILLED with this dish and ate the leftover tzaziki for a week on chips, veggies etc. and graciously called this the best tzaziki he had ever eaten, restaurant or otherwise.

This recipe is based off one called Nancy's Easy Tzaziki and it is, truly, easy and delicious to make!

For this recipe I used my homemade greek yogurt I had prepped earlier in the week (see recipe here!) but you could easily use store bought yogurt as well.  The key is that it has to be the thick (low fat) greek variety otherwise your tzaziki will be far too runny.  You can always strain normal yogurt through a cheesecloth to get it to the thicker greek consistency, but keep in mind you will end up with a smaller amount than you started with.

Ingredients:
-2 cups of greek yogurt
-1 large cucumber (or 2 medium)
-1 Tbsp salt
-a pinch of pepper
-2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 tsp vinegar (or you could use white wine vinegar)
-2 Tbsp of lemon juice (fresh or concentrate)
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 tsp Dill (fresh or dried--I used dried with great success)

Directions:

Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise.  Using a small spoon, scrape to discard the seeds and softest flesh as this will make your tzaziki far too watery.  Dice into small pieces/cubes.  At this point, toss your chopped cucumber with the Tablespoon of salt and place in a strainer (I placed mine in a coffee filter in a strainer) over a bowl in the fridge for 1 hour.  This step allows the excess fluid in the cucumbers to drain out to, again, decrease the watery-ness of your finished tzaziki. 

After an hour, remove the cucumbers from the fridge and squeeze out as much excess water as possible (I did this between 2 paper towels.)  Do it over the sink as you will be surprised at how much water comes out!  Pat them dry with paper towel and place in a small bowl.  Add to the cucumbers: vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill and pepper.  At this point you could also add a touch more salt, although I found it was not required due to the salt retained on the cucumbers (I also am a salt minimalist when I cook, so it was definitely not required by my palate.) Toss the cucumbers and these mixings until the cucumbers are well coated.

In the bowl/container you wish to store the tzaziki, place your yogurt and mix in the cucumber mixture.  Stir well to ensure a good blend of flavours. 

This (DELICIOUS) tzaziki can be served immediately (atop your veggie burgers) or can be stored in the fridge.  We found that the longer the tzaziki sat, the more flavourful it became. 

This is one of my new favourite summer meals, and I would love to hear from you if you try it! 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Non-Toxic Household Cleaners

I swear to you I live in a house that dirties itself.  After a few hours of hard labour to make it look  clean, I turn my head and find it in disarray with a layer of dust in no time at all.

Luckily, my favourite cleaners happen to be 2 household "food" items that are:

1-Readily available at any supermarket (or probably already in your cupboard)
2-Inexpensive
3-Non toxic

You may have already guessed their true identities, Baking Soda and Vinegar.

I never would have guessed that in my "older" years I would appreciate these 2 ingredients even more than as a child, when we would combine them with a little red food colouring to create volcano experiments during the summer.

Let me explain to you the many ways in which I use these 2 items to create a non-toxic, clean home!

1- The dirty bathtub fix:  My bathtub is GRIME central.  My husband and I purchased an older house, inheriting a tub that seemed to hold on to hard water deposits, soap scum and other grime better than any I had ever seen.  This usually leaves a gray deposit on the bottom and walls of the tub that is hard to remove (and NOT conducive to taking baths).  Enter: baking soda.  After dampening the bottom of the tub with a little water, I give a healthy sprinkle of baking soda to the grime covered mess, grab an old shower loofah, and start scrubbing.  As a bonus you get an excellent arm workout as the gritty particles of baking soda remove that grime from your now clean tub.  After rinsing the resulting mess down the drain, I pour vinegar onto the tub and down the drain to help remove any residual scum.  A nice "volcanic" eruption may occur here too with the leftover baking soda, which always gives me a giggle.  After this, reap the rewards of your hard labour with a nice bath in your newly cleaned, NON-TOXIC tub.

2-  The dirty glass fix:  I made the very unwise decision of not only buying a GLASS coffee table, but also a GLASS vanity top for my bathroom.  Fingerprints EVERYWHERE; not to mention on my bathroom vanity there is a generous layer of mineral makeup powder that despite my best efforts to contain, still manage to coat the surface of my vanity.  Enter: vinegar.  I have tried Windex, I have tried the green alternative to Windex, but I must admit, nothing has ever worked as well for me on my glass items (and mirrors) as vinegar.  If you have an empty spray bottle it's excellent to be able to spray a layer of vinegar evenly over a mirror or table, or you could take the lazier route like me and just pour it straight on your lint free cloth and go to town.  Again, your biceps come into play here as the vinegar in conjunction with your arm muscles go to work!  Work fast to avoid streaks!

3-  The hard water tea kettle fix:  Perhaps my FAVOURITE use of all, cleaning my water kettle.  My grandfather was from London and because of this, we grew up enjoying an after dinner cup of tea when we were young.  I still enjoy this habit, but unfortunately live in a city where there is VERY hard water, and as such, my kettle builds up a gross skin-like layer of mineral deposits after a couple months of use.  It's never fun to look into your cup of tea, ready to taste that first fragrant sip and see odd chunks floating within...while harmless, it's quite off putting.  Enter: vinegar.  The first time I ever tried this, I was truly stunned with the results.  If you've never looked into your boiling water kettle before, I urge you to now.  If you see a white-ish, beige layer on the bottom, this fix is for you.  All you need to do is pour in enough vinegar to cover the layer of deposits.  Turn on your kettle and allow the vinegar to reach a boil.  Once the fabulous vinegar steam reaches your senses, pour out the vinegar and behold the SHINIEST kettle bottom you've ever seen.  Mind you, definitely rinse out/boil a couple pots of water to rid yourself of the vinegar aftertaste before using, but afterwards you'll have several more months of use before needing to give your kettle a "cleanse" once more.

I hope these few tips were handy and opened your eyes to the wonderful cleaning power of baking soda and vinegar.  There are SO many other uses (like the general deodorizing power of baking soda) but I didn't want to overload you with too much information!  I challenge you to start phasing out some of the cleaners that you need to hide away on high shelves or locked cupboards for fear your children may find them and ingest them, and try some of these everyday cleaning cures!

I'd love to hear if any of these has worked for you, or if you have other uses for baking soda and vinegar (or other non toxic cleaning ideas) in the comments below!


Monday, 3 June 2013

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins: The Best Thing I Ever Baked. And Healthy???

In my spare time I, like most ladies, like to spend a little time on Pinterest.  Unfortunately, looking through the pages and pages of fat ladened dips and appetizers, the most decadent desserts, and the calorie packed meals, makes it hard to stick to the healthy diet that I try to enjoy.  (ESPECIALLY now that I am 6 months pregnant.)

HOWEVER, in the pages and pages of Pinterest treats, a gem appeared.  These muffins, if made exactly how the website suggests are only around 90 calories per muffin!  However some of the changes and substitutions that I made bumped the calories up slightly.

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins

For the original recipe and post, please check out Dashing Dish, a site full of GREAT, healthy recipes!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups Oats (I used "Quick/Instant" Oats with great success)
3 Egg whites
3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce (I used Organic Unsweetened)
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (or regular plain low fat yogurt.  I used my homemade Greek yogurt, see recipe here)
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar (or 2 tsp vinegar)  I used vinegar and had success with the muffins, but was instructed by my baker friend to try Cream of Tartar next time to achieve a fluffier muffin for our altitude.
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Hot Water
1/2 cup Baking Stevia OR 1 cup of sweetener of choice (I used 1/2 cup Brown Sugar because I didn't have any low calorie sweeteners at my disposal)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

      

2- In a food processor, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.
     
3- Place mixture in a bowl and gently stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (set the rest aside). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pans.
      
4- Place muffins tins in the oven for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven momentarily (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute the other half of the chocolate chips on the muffin tops.
 
5- Place the muffins back into the oven and bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

6- Remove the muffins and let them cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.

ENJOY and feel less guilty and enjoy this chocolatey treat that can nourish your chocolate craving without packing on the calories!

Note:  These also froze well as my husband and I took them in our lunches to work (frozen in the morning, thawed by lunch) for a healthy dessert treat!


(sorry for the poor picture, it was iPhone or nothing!)


I'd love to hear from you if you try the recipe, or have other healthy recipes to share!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Healthy, Inexpensive Homemade Yogurt

There seem to be chemicals and "unedibles" in almost everything we eat nowadays. Pick up any package for any food at your supermarket and it will be full of names you can't pronounce and need to google. Short of buying a farm and really MAKING everything for yourself, it's hard to avoid allowing some of these items into your diet. Luckily, there ARE some things you can make easily at home, without all the chemicals (and BONUS: for half the price).

Everyday at work I take a 2% Greek yogurt. A 4-pack of this yogurt sells for over $4 at my local store; while I know that's a ridiculous price to pay, I ALWAYS look forward to eating that creamy, tart yogurt at lunch. Also, the health benefits of yogurt are proven: increasing calcium intake for stronger teeth and bones, increasing the "healthy" bacteria in your gut (typically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in "active culture" yogurts), and a low caloric but high protein snack to help fill your belly in a healthy way. All in all, yogurt is a winner!

Tired of paying the ridiculous fee at the grocery store, and not knowing EXACTLY what was in one of my favourite snacks, I set out to solve my problem...the answer was just a google away...HOMEMADE YOGURT!

The process seemed daunting at the time, until I stumbled onto a Kitchen Simplicity post about how to make homemade yogurt. With only 2 ingredients and a thorough description of what to do, how could I not try it!

Below I have included my photo documentary of the process.  My advice?  TRY IT!


What you need:
-2 L (quarts) of whatever milk you prefer. Personally, we drink 1% at home so that's what I used.
-2 tsps of any yogurt with "active bacterial culture" listed as an ingredient.  I used Oikos Key Lime which I conveniently already had in the fridge.  (it is my VICE!)

For the full "recipe" and instructions, visit Kitchen Simplicity but below is my quick step by step procedure!


1.  Pour 2L milk into a medium sized pot and heat to 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir often so it doesn't burn.




 
 
2.  After reaching this temperature, allow milk to cool to 100-115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir, but less frequently.


3.  Add 2 teaspoons of yogurt with active bacterial culture and whisk the mixture together.

 
4. Place the milk/yogurt mixture into a glass bowl or casserole dish with a lid, and wrap with kitchen towels.  I used 2 kitchen towels and taped them securely with masking tape so they were securely nested around the dish.  Starting in a cold oven, turn on the heat for ONE minute and turn off promptly.  This will slightly warm the air in the oven but not enough to heat the yogurt mixture.  At this point you are only trying to maintain the temperature of the milk/yogurt so the bacteria can incubate and replicate, you are not heating it any longer.  Leave in the oven for 8-12 hours to incubate.  It works well to leave the oven light on to provide just the smallest amount of warmth to maintain the temperature.  I left mine overnight in the oven while I slept.



5.  After 8-12 hours, open the dish up to find your lumpy, tangy product.  There will be a watery fluid on top (whey) that you can either mix in for a thinner, more tangy yogurt, or you can strain out to create a thicker, "Greek" yogurt.


I strained mine through a cheesecloth to get the thicker consistency.  After straining, mix the lumpy mixture into a smooth consistency and there you have it!  Homemade yogurt!  Remember this is unsweetened, and unflavoured and has a nice tangy quality to it.  Mix in honey or your favourite berries or syrup for a tasty, TASTY treat and know that you created it, and know exactly the ingredients you are putting into your body. 

Enjoy!!!

I'd love to hear from you below if you have tried this, or another method of making homemade yogurt.  Any other tips, tricks, or comments are read with joy!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sweet Treat for the One You Love!

I've been trying to stay pretty chill about being pregnant (mostly for my sanity and my husband's sake) but every once and again I get a little weepy, emotional, or extra needy. My husband had taken it all in stride and had embraced my new mental state, being extra loving, patient and affectionate on my tough days. We're living on a budget right now, saving for the baby WHILE completing endless renovations, but I did want to leave him a little surprise to let him know how much I appreciate him. Conveniently this Pinterest inspired surprise was based around his favorite candy--peanut butter flavoured anything!

What you'll need:
-a small jar (I used a magnetic spice jar with a clear lid ($2.99) but you could easily use a small mason jar or equivalent
-a permanent marker like a Sharpie or a paint pen
-Reese's Pieces

All you need to do is write a note on the jar (in my case I used the clear lid of the spice jar) containing the phrase "I love you to pieces" or a similar line. Then, fill your jar with Reese's Pieces and leave on a space where your significant other will find it. Since mine was a magnetic spice jar I stuck it to the front of the fridge where I know he'll head after work. Marriage doesn't have to be full of extravagant gifts and gestures, but the smallest of ideas can spread a lot of love!


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Safe, Non-toxic Coloured Play Dough!

I came across this idea in the local community newspaper, and wanted to ensure I remembered it for when my own kids are old enough to want to play with play dough.  Instead of spending your hard earned cash on that smelly, neon play dough, this is a homemade, toxin free recipe that will be sure to get your kids sculpting and creating in no time!

Recipe for Uncoloured Dough:

Mix together:
3 cups white flour
1/2 cup table salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir.***
***(eliminate this step if adding any of the homemade colour recipes found below)

Pour water/oil (or homemade colour mixture) into dry ingredients.

Mix with a spoon and add more flour as required for kneading (most likely ~1 more cup).  Knead until smooth with the consistency of bread dough.

This play dough can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.


Homemade Colour Mixtures

For these mixtures, substitute them in the above recipe in place of the water/oil mixture.

Green--Spinach  Boil 2 1/2 cups of water.  Add two handfuls of spinach and simmer 15 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and puree.  Add the puree to dry ingredients.
         --Liquid Chlorophyll  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of liquid chlorophyll.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.

Yellow--Turmeric Powder  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, stir, and strain if desired.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir.  Add to dry ingredients.

Orange--100% Carrot Juice  Bring 2 cups of carrot juice to a slow rolling boil.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir.  Add to dry ingredients.  (can also use boiled carrot puree in place of juice)

Red/Pink--Red Cabbage  Boil 3 cups of water.  Add 1/2 a cabbage, diced.  Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.
              --Red Beets  Boil 2 1/2 cups of water.  Add 1 large diced beet.  Simmer for 15 minutes and strain.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir, then add to dry ingredients.  (Red beet powder can be used as well)

Baking Soda Blue--Boil 3 cups of water and add 1/2 a cabbage, diced.  Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.  Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and stir.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.
**note:  I have no idea how this creates a blue colour, but if anyone tries it, please let me know!**

Brown--Cocoa  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa and stir.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil, stir, and add to dry ingredients.

Feel free to mix and match, and experiment with other naturally coloured items in your house!  This non-toxic, colourful, kid-friendly recipe should be a staple for any mom wanting


I would love to hear from you below, or if you try this, or have tried it, leave some feedback or other colour options you've discovered!  Happy sculpting!