Drinking Well is the Best Reward

 Today’s re-post from a coach I’m following contained some great food for thought – it was a post about drinking (or more to the point, not drinking). She is currently working her way around the world with Remote Year, and one of her co-travellers blogged about her experience travelling the world while sober. It was a great reminder that, although we may love a toast, an after-work cocktail, or a glass of wine (or two!) with dinner, everyone doesn’t do that. They shouldn’t have to. And we absolutely need to get over the idea of having to cajole them into doing so.

So when you’re thinking of enjoying a beverage to celebrate, remember you always have options, and whether for religious reasons, health reasons, or just because that’s how they roll, remember to include your friends who don’t make alcohol the centre of every celebration. Some delicious options you can offer include:

Fizzy water garnished with a slice of orange or lemon, cucumber, or a sprig of mint

Plain old ice water, with or without a tiny splash of fruit juice for flavour

Smoothies, sweet or savory (here’s today’s recipe, for two):

1 banana

1 cup washed strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 carrot, chopped

1T/15ml or so of fresh ginger, chopped

1t/5ml cinnamon

Add these to the blender and then pour in unsweetened, low sodium soy milk to the 1L/4c mark. Blend until smooth and enjoy. No added sugars, no artificial anything, filled with fibre, sweetness, and good-for-you vitamins.

Salut! Slante! A la tienne! Prost!

Granola, Granola, We Love Ya, Granola…!

About five years ago, we went off breakfast cereal entirely. We had been working on our diets, lowering our sodium, increasing fibre, and generally getting rid of things with excessive sugar or additives. Around that time I started experimenting with various recipes – some were too sweet, others were too fatty, but bit by bit I found what works best for us.

I often get asked, “what’s the recipe?”, and the truth is, there isn’t exactly a recipe. Here’s what I do:

Preheat oven to 350F, and line two cookie sheets (whatever size you have, which is why it isn’t a recipe…) with parchment paper. This eases cleanup and makes sure nothing sticks.

On each sheet, put a layer of large flake, old fashioned rolled oats. Not the quick cooking kind! Sprinkle with some dried fruit, probably half a cup or so is enough. Some recipes suggest you stir it in at the end, but I like the toasty, caramel-y flavour it gets if you bake it in. Next, add a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. In these photos, the top one has raisins and pumpkin seeds, while the bottom one has dried apricots and walnuts. Sometimes I’ve added coconut or dried bananas; these up the calories but it’s your call!

Drizzle each sheet with 2T (30ml) of pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup, please!) and 2T of canola oil. Other oils will work but this oil is Canadian and doesn’t change the taste. Sprinkle each sheet with cinnamon and stir all of it together. I’ve made this in a bowl before, but I’m lazy about doing extra dishes, even with a dishwasher. You could make a single sheet, but if the oven is going I figure I  should use the energy wisely.

Put the sheets in the oven around the middle rack (not too high, not too low…but you know your oven best). Set the timer for 10 minutes and stir. Depending on humidity and lots of factors, the granola will take more or less time. You want  a nice toasty golden colour.

Cool this, put in mason jars and store. You don’t need a lot – a serving is about 30g or an ounce if you’re watching your calories, topped with a banana or some berries. We use soy milk on ours. It’s also lovely sprinkled on ice cream or yogurt.

Enjoy!

 

Start your day colourfully!

Delicious smoothies hide tasty produce inside. We endorse Natur-A products.

Purple Smoothie Everyone can benefit from more fruits and vegetables – and one way to get them on-the-go is by starting the day with a delicious smoothie. Today’s version turned out to be a gorgeous purple colour, but a word of warning: sometimes the results are surprisingly unappetizing in their appearance, despite amazing ingredients. For this version, for two smoothies, I used a carrot, chopped, an over-ripe banana, a cup of blackberries (mine were fresh but frozen are just as good), a shake of cinnamon, and filled the blender to the 32oz or 1l level with unsweetened, low-sodium soy beverage. The brand we always use is Natur-a.  They’re Canadian, organic, and low-sodium, which can be very hard to find in plant “milks”. Unsweetened is even more difficult, so your healthy beverage can actually be quite a sugar bomb. These taste great to drink, on cereal, and also work as a one-to-one substitute for dairy milk in most recipes.

Better For You Bread

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you’ll remember my obsession last year with sourdough. I still love it, but the care and feeding of an infant dough all the time can be kind of time-consuming. I still follow my “no store bought loaves” rule pretty well all the time (even hamburger buns, although I don’t know the last time I actually used them for burgers). Yet I will admit to using store-bought yeast as it does speed up the process.

I’ve made lots of changes to bread that really help it be healthier than what we buy in the store. Of course, eliminating salt really helps. Yes, salt can be a regulator of the rise, but frankly, with modern yeasts, that is really rarely an issue. Keeping the amount of sugar down is just plain good for you, and using something more natural, like maple syrup, is better than a refined version. What else can I do to make the break healthier?

Recently I needed chickpea flour for a recipe – and in my neighbourhood, we have lots of neighbours from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East – all of whom rely on this staple in their cooking. That means we can get it in huge bags, very cheaply. But what to do with the rest? I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago with my bread, and it turned out really well. The texture was not compromised; if anything it was better, and the added bonus was to increase both the fibre and protein content of the bread.

Here’s what I did:

I always start with water that has been boiled then cooled to lukewarm, because that gets rid of some of the chlorine, which can inhibit the yeast. Begin with 3 cups.

I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkled on two tablespoons of traditional yeast, not the breadmaker or instant kind. This should sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes until it is good and foamy. Stir it with a fork and add to a large bowl. You can mix this bread with a mixer and dough hook, or by hand with a spoon and your hands, but the batch is a little large for a food processor. You could cut the recipe in half, but it seems a waste to heat the oven for a single 8″ loaf

Many traditional recipes have fat – butter, lard, or oil, but I added none to this. I did add a cup of chickpea flour, and then 5-6 cups of 100% whole wheat flour. Add the flour a cup or two at a time, with the machine running, or with the spoon, stopping to knead in by hand when it becomes difficult. About halfway through add tasty treats if you want – this batch had sunflower seeds, but I’ve also done raisins and cinnamon or other kinds of nuts or seeds.

Knead until the flour is incorporated and you’ve used just enough that it feels elastic and not sticky – or if using the mixer, until it cleans nicely away from the sides of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking oil or wipe gently with cooking oil, and put the dough back in, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for an hour or so (not much more, or it will deflate).

Then shape it into two loaves, or a loaf and a cookie sheet with 12 buns (divide the second half of the dough into 12 even pieces, and press or roll into discs, about 4″ or 10cm across). Cover with clean cloth and let rise for another hour. This is a great project for when you are also making soup, when you are snowed in, or when you have a long project you’re working on at home.

About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 400F. Bake your loaves about half an hour; if you make rolls, check them about 20 minutes in. Tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound to be sure they are done. Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to a wire rack immediately.

The “no store bread” rule has meant I can enjoy my bread without eating too much of it, and that’s a compromise I’m willing to work for.

Alterations and substitutions: 

I have also substituted 1c/250 ml old-fashioned oats, soaked in an equal measure of hot water, for 1-1/2 c/375ml of the wheat flour.

I have used 1 c/250 ml of dark beer instead of the same amount of the water – this can make a very light loaf with a lovely flavour.

Any kinds of nuts, seeds or dried fruit can be added, about a cup or 250ml in total. Herbs, olives, or sundried tomatoes also make a very interesting bread.

 

Get Your Veggies with All-Season Salads

There’s a tendency, perhaps precipitated by cooking magazines, to move off of salads this time of year, and focus on warmer fare, like soups or stews. I know that this seems logical, but there are so many great veggies available now, that it seems a shame to only eat them cooked. Sure, local lettuce may be less available. What I’m suggesting is that if you have the privilege of accessing fresh fruit and veg in your local market, please do take advantage.

What I am not saying is that everyone is as fortunate as we are in Toronto. A head of hydroponic Canadian lettuce is out of reach for many families. Heck, there are some places (not in far-off lands, but here in our own country), where fresh produce of any sort is just not in the store, or it costs so much that you can’t possibly afford se it to feed your family. This is a travesty. Please speak out about this.

And while we are on the subject of hunger, if you do have enough, do support your local food bank or soup kitchen. You would be amazed how far they can make a dollar go. I learned from one of them that they can get wholesale prices, making better use of their money, although I’m a big advocate of having your kids choose foods from the store, so they learn about sharing and healthy choices). When our kids were small, we started emptying our coins into a jar at the end of the day. Once a month, we would use this money to buy food bank food. We still give regularly, even though the kids are grown.

If you have all these ingredients, make a great salad. If you don’t, I’m not giving a recipe. Try using whatever veg you can get. If you have frozen veg, give them a quick refresh under cold water rather than cooking. Or if you have “winter veg” (beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage), shred them. Use leftovers. They’re all good. Here is what I did today:

Chopped some hydroponic butter head lettuce onto a plate.

Diced celery and yellow pepper (both “ugly vegetables”  ). Use whatever veg you have, truly. Serve in a bowl if necessary, and use a spoon instead of a fork.

Drizzled with this dressing:

2t/10ml Dijon – it emulsifies, thickens, adds flavour

1T/15ml vinegar

2t/10ml canola oil (it’s Canadian!)

Next add some protein. I had cheddar. You might have hard-boiled egg, tofu,  beans, nuts, seitan, or leftover pork chop. No matter. Protein builds muscle and helps your blood pressure stay regulated. Not too much! A couple of ounces. It’s lunch!

Here’s what it looked like, when it was done. Enjoy. Use stuff up. Appreciate what you have, and give someone else a hand.

Have an awesome day!

Crunch Fall Salad

 

Turkey Soup, Two Ways

Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice SoupSoup season has arrived! (Okay, to be fair, it is always soup season at our house). Each time we have a bag of parings, ends, and leftover veg bits, we make stock. And the same goes with something like the Thanksgiving turkey. We don’t eat much meat these days, but when we do, we are conscious of using every bit.

This starts with putting some sliced onion (skin and all) or other vegetable parings underneath the bird as it cooks. These will add flavour to the stock. We like to use a large roaster with a lid, and cook the stock right in the same pan, or otherwise put some parchment underneath so every bit can be transferred to the stock pot. We always keep stock on hand, and we love to make traditional soups, like Traditional Turkey, or new ones, like Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice soup.

What’s your favourite soup?

We Grew 1001 Balcony Tomatoes (OK, Quite a Few)

fresh tomatoes Fresh, ripe tomatoes, warm off the vine. You might think you need a plot of land, or at least a large-ish garden to make this happen, but we have been happily surprised with the productivity of our condo garden this first year. We have planters on our balcony, as well as a metre-square plot in the building’s communal roof garden (a yard, if you’re using imperial measures).

We’ve been incorporating fresh tomatoes into our menu for a couple of weeks now, and have even canned a couple of jars. Small-batch canning is easy cooking tomatoesenough; you really just need a big poaching eggs in tomatopot of boiling water that is deeper than your canning jars. I’ll blog about that another time.

Today’s recipe is for a favourite breakfast of ours. Simply chop a big bunch of tomatoes. Add herbs if you like; we had a bit of basil and also a smoky chipotle in adobo which we chopped and put in the pot. Get the tomatoes really simmering. Once you’ve got them bubbling away, crack in a few eggs, one or two per person. I find the easiest way to do this is to crack them one at a time into a small bowl or cup, and gently pour into the tomatoes. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to medium-low, and check every couple of minutes until they are poached as you like. (Probably 5 or 6 minutes). Typically this is just enough time to make some toast.

This is an easy lunch or brunch dish, or a hearty, healthy, low-fat breakfast.

Eggs tomatoes and sourdough

Drink Your Veggies!


There are SO many opportunities to sneak in some extra veg – like this delicious smoothie. It features red cabbage (with some peaches, mangoes, strawberries and blueberries for good measure). I topped up the blender with almond milk, a few sunflower seeds, and some cinnamon, and we were all set.

A Regal Breakfast


Who could resist this gorgeous royal purple colour!?! And no, despite the coaster, no wine was involved. What you might not know, is that it packs a nutritional punch. For two, I blended:

2 c (500ml) chopped red cabbage

1 chopped carrot

1/3 c (80ml) raw cashews

1.5c (375ml) frozen strawberries

1t (5ml) pure vanilla extract

With enough unsweetened almond milk to fill the blender to the 4c (1L) mark.

Process until very smooth and creamy, and enjoy. I know I am, as I reflect on how grateful I am to have this special day with both my kids and their delightful partners.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Pudding for breakfast!

Sometimes a sweet treat for breakfast hits the spot. This breakfast pudding, or smoothie bowl, in common parlance, is fast and delicious.

In a blender, combine two ripe bananas, a small avocado, 2 T (30 ml) good-quality cocoa, 1/2 c (125 ml) silken tofu, and 1/4 c (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk. Using ripe bananas gives lots of natural sweetness. 

Blend until smooth, and top with chopped walnuts and grated coconut. Pumpkin seeds would look and taste fabulous as well!

Serves two.