Thursday, 29 March 2012

Prep for Menu Planning

I'd like to address menu planning soon, well, in a little while.  I'm building the post a little at a time.

In the meantime, read this article.  It addresses some of the things I will be saying later on.  You can put it into practice by having a leftover smorgasbord supper one day.  Nothing goes beyond safe keeping time, in the fridge or freezer.  You have little bits of this, one piece of that hanging around in your fridge.  Give your pickiest eater first dibs, heat it all up and spread it on the table.  The fridge gets cleaned out, you get to put your plastic containers in circulation again, you've saved cooking a meal and saved money too.

I will be incorporating "cook once, eat twice" into the menu planning, but this is besides that and often isn't planned - there are just many little bits in the fridge and you're going to eat them instead of throwing them out.  Always keep in mind food safety though, if you're not sure, toss it.  Better safe than sorry.

Do you have any specific questions or issues you'd like me to address when I post about menu planning? 

If you'd like to do a bit more to prepare for this, start jotting down what you actually do eat (I keep track on my family calendar), ask and make a list of favourite meals the people in your family like (you might be surprised what some of the answers are, this is fun), and broach the subject of other members prepping, cooking and working with you in the kitchen.  No need to make changes yet, just bring it up and plant the seed.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Motherload of Mango

My parents are visiting from Out West and it has been a wonderful visit.  The Middle Kids are really kinds smitten with The Grandfather and seem to be able to take or leave The Grandmother.  The Wee One still just wants me.  The Big One has been The Grandfather's for a while now, he's lost to me when he's here!  The Man finally got a few minutes with my Dad last night.  Something we miss since three more kids came along is just sitting and enjoying all of our parents.  After the kids are in bed, we are so tired we just pass out.  No more cigars, card games, late-night chats, midnight meals.  Although, the three Big Boys did get out yesterday for an amicable game of bowling, all were happy.

Anyhow, they skipped out for a trip to Costco yesterday and came back with a surprise for us.  The Motherload (or mother lode, I could not confirm the correct spelling, seems both are used and perhaps Motherload is more correct?).  A big box of oranges, fresh mangoes - the kind my Mum just had in Mexico last week, mango juice, chips, batteries and a charger, three chickens and big bag of flour!  Yeah, baby!


Many mangoes!

Box of oranges - fresh squeezed anyone?

Quick, what can I do with fresh mango (keep it clean, kids)?  Other than the obvs mango coconut smoothie, I got that one covered.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Buttercream Icing

Your search is OVER!  I have searched far and wide for the best (in my opinion) recipe for butter icing or frosting.  I wanted one that would pipe, that sprinkles would stick to and that, above all else, tasted great... awesome really... I have high standards... well, I like to think so.

I will search no more, I may now rest.

Oh. my. god. 

You can make this to go on chocolate cake, white cake, cupcakes, crepes, waffles, a spoon... you get the idea.  Store it in your fridge or freezer if there are any leftovers but I doubt there will be, you'll take care of it.

Here, The Kitchen Magpie titles it the Best Buttercream Icing and she's right.  I'm not going to dispute this at all.

Geez, isn't it just gorgeous?!  Like a cloud!

I made it white with vanilla beans and butter being the flavours.  To what was left of that, I added cocoa.  You can make this vanilla or chocolate butter icing to suit your needs.  She talks about adding lemon, but I rarely think of lemon.  You go right on ahead.  In fact, icing is the place to play with your cake combinations and you can seriously go CRAZY!  These guys do, why not you?!

Just beautiful...

The secrets here are whipping your butter and resulting icing until it is super light and fluffy.  Don't be afraid, let 'er go on high!  The other secret is cream, 18% or higher.  Don't be cheap, buy the good stuff, find a reason to use the rest.  She also stresses the importance of fresh icing sugar - I go through it so fast I think it's always fresh.

If you look carefully you may see tiny black flecks in the white... yep, that's real vanilla seeds my friend. 
I was at the end of my vanilla bottle and that's the yumminess that's left.

Here goes.  Write this one down in your recipe book, bookmark it, Pinterest it, print it, whatever you gotta do to keep this one forever, I kid you not.

The Best Buttercream Icing
from The Kitchen Magpie
1 cup of salted butter (trust me on this one and use salted butter in this icing)
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 cups of icing sugar
4-5 Tbsp coffee cream (18% and up)
- whip that butter, with a paddle beater if you have it, if not, don’t worry
- add in the icing sugar
- add in the cream.
Stiffer icing = less cream.
Whippier icing = more cream. 
- keep mixing it until fluffy and thoroughly combined

Chocolate Butter Icing
to the above recipe, add up to 1/2 cup cocoa, to taste

These were made for a 3 year-old's birthday party today.  I think he liked them.

Quick spaghetti supper

After a busy day of cooking, you turn around and ask yourself "What's for dinner?", or your partner asks, or the kids are asking. 


Enter Quick Spaghetti!  I don't know about you, but at our house spaghetti sauce is a sure-shot.  Everyone eats.  Many take second servings.  All are happy and full afterward.

Ingredients lined up, beef browning in the pot.
This is what I threw together tonight and called it supper.  You can put just about whatever you have in the fridge in it (even bacon!).

Quick Spaghetti
from ME
1 lb ground beef, chicken or pork (or 1 pkg firm tofu or alternative mentioned below)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 bottle prepared spag sauce (I used Ragu, it's what I had in the house today)
Italian seasoning, S&P to taste (may need a tsp or two of sugar to taste)
- brown beef and drain if needed
- add onions and garlic to pan for a few minutes on medium heat
- add tomato paste and let cook for a minute or two
- shake on italian seasoning, S&P, sugar if needed
- simmer as long as you can (may be 10 minutes, may be an hour - stir and don't let burn)
- serve with your favourite pasta shape

Note on meat and alternatives for this dish: you can use 1 lb ground meat of choice, 1 pkg firm tofu broken up very small with your hands, 1 can green lentils or 1 can beans of choice, mashed a bit (black, kidney, romano).  They do sell a soy product (in my grocery stores it's found at the end of the produce refrigerated section) that imitates ground beef.  I have found that this particular brand (Yves) upsets my stomach intensely.  I'm not saying you can't try it, obviously it's working for someone because they keep selling it. Anyhow, after repeated attempts I have narrowed it down to this brand and I simply avoid it.

What are some of your quick go-to meals out of the pantry?


We had crêpes for breakfast.

Leftover smorgasborg for lunch.

I made party cupcakes for a three year-old.  Found and made the best whipped vanilla butter frosting I've ever made so far and sprinkles stuck to it! 

Made a batch of homemade vanilla.

Made a batch of Lazy Granola.

Made this for snack.

Going to a birthday party for supper.

Drinks tonight?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Bad coconut milk

This afternoon I opened a can of coconut milk that was bad.

How did I know it was bad, you ask?  Good question, class.  Let's review the clues that led to this conclusion:

1) Before I opened it, I gave the can a shake and I didn't hear anything (I always shake the can, I think it may just be reflexive or a habit, not sure what the difference is).

2) When the can opener pierced the can, it kind of hissed at me which is unusual.

3) The solids in the can were not happy-looking and rimming the top.  Instead, there was a mass in the middle and the liquid was all around, like grey, dirty water.

4) The smell was only a tiny bit off, just didn't smell sweet and rewarding which I was looking forward to.

5) Yep, I tasted it.  I don't recommend this, but it didn't hurt me.  Not yet anyhow.  The taste was metallic and lingered for minutes in my mouth.  Blech.

6) Upon pouring it out, said mass glopped into the sink.  That doesn't happen with a good can of coconut milk.

Nope, I did not get one picture, didn't cross my mind 'til I decided to tell you about it, of course.  My apologies.

Thought you'd like to know.

Plan B for supper, sigh.  This was my last can of coconut milk in the house.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Chowder - Corn, Potato and Bacon

There's nothing like a steamy, hot bowl of chowder to heat you up on a... sweltering hot... summer-like day... hmmmm. 

I didn't plan that one very well, did I?! 
Today was the second record smashing day, tomorrow it'll be slightly above normal - but what's normal anyhow?  (I think that's content for another blog entirely.  I could write that one too actually.)

Nonetheless, this is what I made for supper tonight and it was great.

BBQ may have been more appropriate or a cool, crisp salad, but I had a hankering for chowder.

This is the recipe I based supper on tonight, completely omitting the cream.  It was still delish.  I've included a second recipe that I have used many times with good reviews.  There is a link to a third recipe at a local (to me) site and the fourth is a site I refer to often. 

I usually add about a quarter of the volume of potatoes in sweet potatoes or carrots.

Recipe #1
Chowder like Gramma's (not either of my Grammas, just a generic Gramma)
adapted from AllRecipes
1/2 cup diced bacon
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups water
3 cups cream-style corn (note below)
2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
- in soup pot, cook bacon to crisp, but not burned (after coocking in the soup it will not remain crisp)
- add potatoes and onion, cook for about 5 minutes to a bit tender
- add water and corn, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer
- simmer about 20 minutes to potatoes are tender and then enjoy
- works well for leftovers and freezes well too though it is much creamier (mushier) after freezing but not in a bad way
Note: corn can be canned creamed corn or niblets or frozen kernels that you have puréed slightly with a hand blender or food processor
Recipe #2
Old Fashioned Corn and Potato Chowder
cannot remember source, it's been a while
2 1/2 c corn (canned or frozen)
2 c diced potatoes
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 c diced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c boiling water
2 c hot milk
1 Tbsp flour, mixed with
1 Tbsp cold water
- combine in a large pot all ingredients except milk and flour/water
- cook to potatoes fork tender
- add mik and flour/water, stirring well
- bring to a boil and allow to cook for 10 minutes
- serve topped with chopped green onion and shredded cheddar cheese

Recipe #3
Fresh Off the Cob Corn Chowder
I have not tried it yet, but I fully trust her to send you the best.  Click here.

Recipe #4
Creamy Corn Chowder (vegan)
In case you've stumbled here and are embracing the vegan path, she won't steer you wrong.

The great thing about all of these recipes is I have found they can both be bulked up to increase the volume of soup made.  Add a couple of carrots or sweet potato or turnip or broccoli florets or frozen spinach.  Purée some cooked cauliflower and throw that in (about half cup to 1 cup). 

What would've been a better idea on a summer day in March?  What did you have today?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Vegan Brown Sugar Blondies

Want a piece of vegan heaven? 

Make these and eat them.

I've made several batches already and love, love, love them.  There's a big piece in my freezer for another day.

For today though, I'm outside where it is a balmy 23C.   Let me sum that up for you.  I'm in Canada, near the Atlantic Ocean and it's that warm in March.  We're all going crazy.  The motorcycles are out (I live on a popular bike route) and the birds are all, shall we say "excited", the crocus' are up and we won't have much of a maple syrup season this year.  Ah well, the good with the bad.  It's a hot, record-breaking kinda day.  This should last one more day then it's back to normal, which isn't bad either.

I'm at my picnic table with a plate of these blondies drenched in soy milk, the sun in my face.  Ahhhhhh

I've made these with the ever-popular Chipits brand of chocolate chips and the whole family ate them.  Then I made them with my homemade chocolate chips and it became "my pan".  I can't complain, but it was noted that my homemade chocolate chips do not yet make the grade when compared to commercial ones.  I will persist and try, try again.

Vegan Brown Sugar Blondies
adapted from Cheeky Kitchen
1/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut milk (go for the fattier one if you have a choice)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp maple extract
2 cups white flour, spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup (8 oz) dairy-free chocolate chips (or your faves, which may not be vegan)
- beat coconut oil, coconut milk and brown sugar to very well mixed. 
- add baking powder, salt, vanilla and maple extract.
- mix in flour to just combined, add the chocolate chips.
- press into a lightly greased 9x9 baking dish (I lined mine with foil and greased it for easy removal), then bake at 350F for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the edges of light golden brown.  Best when underbaked. 

- serve hot slices in bowls with Original Silk soymilk or coconut milk poured over the top of the blondie. Grab a spoon and enjoy!  This recipe freezes well.

Homemade Vanilla

Buy vodka and add split vanilla beans.  Wait six weeks to use.

Give away as gifts in a pretty bottle.
Keep a bottle steeping and use a bottle.  As you empty one, add another bean, fill with vodka and wait six weeks.

I've been getting rave reviews from the fam since I started using my own vanilla, even in simple things like pancakes using the same old recipe.  Huh.  Yipee!

Homemade vanilla
found here
6 vanilla beans, split lenghtwise
350 ml bottle of vodka (approximately)
- split beans the long way, scrape seeds out and into bottle, put beans in bottle, cover with vodka.  Let steep in a dark place and shake it every now and then.  After six weeks, use it as you would any other vanilla.

Any questions?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Julie & Julia

I'm watching Julie & Julia again.  I love this movie.  I want to be Julie or Julia.  sigh

I love butter.  sigh

I'm seeing the movie in an entirely new light tonight from the last (and first) time I watched it.

Love it, love it. 

If you like food, particularly French cooking, Meryl Streep or Julia Child, you will enjoy this film.

Magic shell x2

Seeing as how it's such a warm day here and a few more hot ones in the forecast (in March?! In Canada?!  yeah, I KNOW!) I figure there'll be a lot of ice cream consumed in the next few days.  Here are just a couple ideas for toppings.

I'm partial (okay, I could be addicted if it weren't so darn expensive) to a certain chain of ice cream shops that have two letters in their name for their dipped cones.  I LOVE the dip.  I order sundaes from them with this magic that hardens into a buttery, chocolatey mass in the cup!  Ahhh.  OR ask them to double-dip it, some adventurous (or new) workers will do it.  Yummy yummy.

You can make this sauce that hardens AT HOME!  For WAY LESS!

Below are a chocolate recipe and a peanut butter one.

Now, keep in mind that once you make and enjoy the shell recipes here, there's no reason at all why you can't experiment with add-ins.  Make your next batch with a teaspoon of an extract (mint, almond, anise, coconut come to mind) or your favourite liqueur (Kahlua, Bailey's - for an adult version).

If you haven't bought coconut oil yet, what are you waiting for?!  THIS is a good reason, if I may say so.  Here is another one, and another and a really good reason.  But if you just don't want to, you can make this with butter in the same ratio, just store it in the fridge.

This makes great hostess gifts too.

The ratio is easy, 3:1.  You'll use 3 parts chocolate to 1 part coconut oil or butter (or a mix of both, totalling 1 part).

Chocolate Magic Shell
1 cup favourite chocolate (can be chips or bars broken up, whatever you eat by the handful)
1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter or a mix of the two)
- melt in a glass jar, either in the microwave in 20 second intervals and stir to melted or on the stovetop in a pot of hot water.  If you're adding extract or liqueur, do it after it is melted.
- pour over (frozen) ice cream, wait a few seconds and enjoy.  Crack! (that's the sound it makes)

Chocolate crackle sauce or "Magic Shell" poured and hardened....
Peanut Butter Shell
from Chocolate Covered Katie
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
- melt and enjoy!

** You can play with and adjust the proportions to better suit your tastes, but these are great starting points.

Summer is coming!  What are some of the things you are most looking forward to this year?  Have any plans yet?  Maybe just dreams?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Better butter chicken

For this recipe I refer to my copy of Janet and Greta Podleski's Eat, Shrink & Be Merry cookbook.  They're the authors of Crazyplates and Looneyspoons as well.  Good, low fat home cooking books.  I won my copy from the Chronicle Herald a little while back - it's a SIGNED copy, do you think it's worth much?  Well, it's worth lots to me because I love many recipes in it.  I guess that makes it priceless... nah, just sentimental worth.

This is a fast recipe, make it on a school night, TaeKwonDo night, gymnastics / swim practice night, violin lessons, Scouts... you get the idea.

Hopefully you'll have leftovers to put in the dreaded lunchbox the next day (you can use more than one chicken's meat as well, stretch the sauce out with up to a half of a chicken extra and this will freeze and thaw nicely in lunch-sized servings).  Oh how I do not enjoy making lunches when my kitchen is not well stocked.  On the flip side, I love to make lunches when there's lots to choose from and send School Boy or Working Man out the door in the morning with a little bag of love to carry them through their day.

Turns out, this recipe is already up online and is exactly what has been published in their cookbook.  Here is the recipe.  It's über easy when you use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  Or maybe you have lots of cooked chicken meat in your freezer, pull it out and make this.

This is really good served over hot, fragrant basmati rice (or any rice you choose).  If you have time, feel free to make a batch of naan or chapatis, I love to eat with my hands when I can.

Do not be scared off by the list of ingredients, it's a few spices that really make the dish!  I do recommend opening the cans and having your spices measured in a little glass at the ready.


The Better Butter Chicken
from Eat, Shrink & Be Merry
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon  
1 (19 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 whole rotisserie-cooked chicken, skin removed and meat cut up (or more)
13 cup light cream (5%)
¼ cup light sour cream or light plain yogurt
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro I just can't stand cilantro, I never use it, this may be why
hot cooked basmati rice (optional)
- melt butter in a deep, 10-inch skillet over medium heat; add onions and garlic; cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are tender - about five minutes.
- add ginger, chili powder, turmeric and cinnamon; cook one more minute.
- add undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper; reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- add cut-up chicken, cream and sour cream; simmer, uncovered, for five more minutes.
- remove from heat and stir in cilantro; serve over hot basmati rice, if desired.

Onions, garlic, spices

Added tomatoes, tom paste, br sugar, S&P

Added chicken, cream and sour cream, all done.

Plated!  Yum!

Do you like how I underlined the last line in a chunk of the ingredients indicating a break in the instructions?  When I'm going back and forth between my work space and the recipe, I spend time scanning to see where I was and often draw a line right in my cookbook to indicate natural breaks in the recipe.  Should I continue this practice for you or not?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Chocolate Fudge Pie 2

I've made it yet again and this time I took photos.  This is a follow-up to this post.

This chocolate fudge pie was made with silken tofu and a hot chocolate cookie base.
Miam miam.
It was so rich.  I served it drenched in coconut milk but those photos were not appetizing so I chose to omit them.  A tiny slice is all you need and you can go back for more if you need it.

This would be awesome (kick-ass) with any of the following additions: toasted coconut on top, a couple homemade chocolate chips on top, orange zest in the filling, a teaspoon of ground coffee in the filling, perhaps a chocolate dipped coffee bean on each slice.  Really, the possibilites are endless - whatever goes with chocolate!  Just remember the pie is rich so keep your additions light, for example I don't think I'd add peanut butter even though I adore this combination, it's just too much.

See, I'm not much of a berry or lemon kinda girl and I'm not one to decorate the top.  BUT, if I were serving this at a dinner with friends (and I would serve this, it's so good) I'd decorate the top with sliced strawberries and whipped cream - it'd be really good with real whipped cream sweetened slightly with real maple syrup.

Okay, here's how I did it this afternoon. 

First, I made up two batches in little bowls of this chocolate bar and just left it in the bowls (I'll be reheating it later to melt again).

Then, I made the base for the pie following this recipe drizzling in chocolate bar mix in place of chocolate chips (this is what I make my chocolate chips with).  I pressed it into a pie plate.  I baked it at 350F for 9 minutes and let it cool completely.

I blended the filling and drizzled in the second batch of chocolate bar mix I had ready and reheated to melt (30 seconds in my microwave).  This is where you can add in whatever you like, though I highly recommend it plain as the recipe is.  Mmmmmm.

I poured the filling into the cooled crust and refrigerated the whole thing for 3 hours and it was magnificent.  It cut well, stood up on the plate well and the base was chewy.  Mother-in-law-type-person (I'm not married, so she's my boyfriend's mother - geez that sounds casual) really liked it and I could say I never even took out the sugar to make it as the sweetener I used was honey.

Chocolate Fudge Piedirectly from CCK
2 1/2 chocolate bars or 1 1/3 c choc chips (you chocolate mix as described above)
1 pkg tofu, anywhere from silken to firm
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk (cow, soy or almond)
dash salt
2-3 Tbsp sweetener (honey, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, sugar...)
- melt chocolate (you can microwave if you want)
- throw it all in food processor (or magic bullet or vita-mix)
- give 'er to smooth
- pour into prepared crust if desired or straight into pie pan
- chill, firms as it cools and continues to set the longer you wait (hours are good, overnight works)

(Hot Chocolate Cookies)
1 cup flour (120g)
2 Tbsp cocoa
packed 1/4 cup pitted dates (45g)
scant 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (or your mix of chocolate as prepared above)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3-4 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil
- in a food processor, blend first five ingredients until dates are finely pulverized.
- in a separate bowl, melt your chocolate mix and combine vanilla, oil.
- pour the dry ingredients, as well as the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, into the wet. Stir until evenly mixed, making sure to break up any big clumps. It’ll seem dry at first, but keep stirring until it all looks dark and shiny. Press into pie plate and bake at 350F for 9 minutes. (Take out when still undercooked, as these continue to cook as they cool.)  Note: if your dough is too dry to stick together, use a bit more oil to compensate.

The grocery store

I absolutely love grocery shopping!  I love making my list, shopping, and putting it all away.  I'm like a kid in a candy store.  The grocery store IS my candy store (as an aside, I don't really like cander per se).  I can take my kids or leave them home, it's all good.  I get in this shallow zen-like state.  I go around the aisles I need and take in all the colours and fonts on the labels. 

Maybe I just need to get more.

It's true what they say to "shop the perimeter" to get more bang for your buck.  That's where the ingredients are and not the ready-to-eat, more costly foods.  When I come home and look in the cupboards and there's "nothing to eat" I know I've done a good job and I smile.  When I come home with all my bags full of nourishing food for my family, I smile.   When I look at the receipt before I file it, I smile again.

I'm no coupon-er, I just can't be bothered.  I also don't properly shop the sales and stock up on our "usuals".  I have a tiny house and a tiny kitchen and can only store so much.  I do, however, have a case of various canned beans, a case of diced tomatoes and a couple bags of frozen vegetables which, along with a well-stocked spice drawer, means I can throw together many meals out of what's around.  There's still lots of room for improvement, but for now I am pleased with how I choose items and use them.

We've drastically reduced the amount of meat we consume and eat more of what meat eats - grains, fruits and vegetables and legumes (beans, lentils and tofu).  When we do eat a meat meal, it's usually stretched with another form of protein (beans or tofu) or oats.  I love to BBQ steak and still do it and enjoy it that much more.

So, for today I leave you with:
1) make a list (preferably after you've done some menu planning - lots more on that soon I hope)
2) seriously, don't shop thirsty or hungry.  Fill up on water and a meal before you go.  Leave your kids home if they are distracting or really sneaky (I don't like surprises when I get to the cash).
3) buy ingredients, not meals
4) shop the perimeter as much as possible
5) try not to forget stuff in the fridge and eat all that you bought, you paid for it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Chocolate Fudge Pie

Not sure why I've taken so long to post this, but I will keep you waiting no longer.

Chocolate.    Fudge.    Pie.

Need I say more?

Well, you know me, I will anyway.

A very early picture for me, choc pie with PB cookie crust.

On my quest to make food from food that is real, Chocolate Covered Katie has my attention.  She takes the time (makes the time / has the time?  Her blog is her job.) to experiment, which I do not.  I am great at this point in my life of recreating someone else's discoveries.  That's what I'm good at.  SHE is good at finding what works.  She is using real ingredients you probably have in your house right now or at least know where to find at the grocery store.  I like that.  I also like that it is all food and is real.

Take this pie, for example.  It's definitely dessert.  It can be an elegant, mousse-like pie or a fudgey, stand-up-on-your plate and chew it kinda pie.  She has played with it a bit and suggests a few flavours that work. 

I have made it twice and enjoyed it both times.  I have eaten it as she may, without a crust once and the second time used peanut butter cookies crushed up with a bit of melted butter.  She does recommend one of her cookie recipes as a crust which I have eaten all by itself, but not containing a pie filling (it is delish, by the way, you should try that too).  I recommend using her Hot Chocolate Cookie as a crust, that's what I'll do next and I'll report back to you.

I have made it both times using firm tofu and have silken in my fridge now thinking I'd make smoothies but maybe I'll just make another pie tomorrow.

Chocolate Fudge Pie
directly from CCK
2 1/2 chocolate bars or 1 1/3 c choc chips
1 pkg tofu, anywhere from silken to firm
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk (cow, soy or almond)
dash salt
2-3 Tbsp sweetener (honey, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, sugar...)
- melt chocolate (you can microwave if you want)
- throw it all in food processor (or magic bullet or vita-mix)
- give 'er to smooth
- pour into prepared crust if desired or straight into pie pan
- chill, firms as it cools and continues to set the longer you wait (hours are good, overnight works)

You know, her pictures are much better, go check them out.

So she suggests a couple. 
This one looks awesome.  My dinky little food processor can't handle the two cans of beans in this recipe.  I cannot wait to try it though, I keep thinking about it.  I'd halve the recipe for a pie crust.
This one is great all on it's own as a snack, I can see how it may work as a crust.  You don't bake it, just blend the ingredients and press into a pan.  MMmmmm.  Roll into balls and stick them in yer mouth.  Or your kids' mouths, it'll keep them quiet for a good... 3 minutes.
This one makes awesome cookies.  I just love them!  I don't see why it wouldn't make a great pie crust.  Throw together the dough, press it into a pan and bake for about 8 minutes.  Cool.  Fill. Eat.

Well, there's the obvious chocolate sauce.  There's this vegan cool whip which I'm going to try tomorrow (just too anxious to share the pie recipe with you, but I'll tell you how it goes!).  Melt some peanut butter and drizzle it over.  A raspberry coulis.  Shave chocolate on top.  You could, of course, use all of them and make up your own!

Note:  There is a follow-up post to this one here.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Loaded Elvis pancakes

So, apparently, Elvis Presley had quite an appetite for low-fuss food.  This includes possums, pig's ears, banana pudding and bacon.  He liked to eat with his fingers.  It seems fans of Elvis know this and have written books on the topic of his diet and some peculiar details. 

Will people know stuff like this about me when I've left this Earth?  Has Elvis left this Earth?  He'd be... 77 now, do you think he's in Hawaii which is the last rumour I heard?  Here's a song I really like from him, performed by him, go play it and come back to read this while he serenades you.

A little bit of Elvis in our menu tonight.  We had a vegan version of Elvis pancakes.  I think he'd enjoy the peanut butter 'n nanner topping.  I liked it all - the pancakes were great and the toppings were fun and healthy too!  Judging by this entry I found online, you could summon The King himself to join you for a plate if only you added bacon.  Here's a yummy combination for a sandwich - the peanut butter, banana and bacon fried sandwich.  Drool!

Well now, THIS is what they call "food porn", it makes you want some!
(Don't worry, I probably won't use that term again, I find it kinda crass.)

Well, anyway, we made loverly vegan pancakes, smeared them with PB, topped with sliced banana and drizzled (in one case, drowned) them with syrup.  Real maple syrup. Which reminds me, it's that delicious time of year again when we visit a maple sugar shack and stock up!

Vegan pancakes risin' high and fluffy.

Vegan Elvis Pancakes
adapted from Cheeky Kitchen
1 very ripe banana
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup soy or almond milk (cow's if you need to, it won't be vegan)
1 Tbsp vanilla (I used my homemade vanilla)
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or white)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (I rounded my measure, I usually do)
1/2 tsp salt
- whirl banana in stand mixer to mash (or do it by hand).  Add all the wet and mix well.  Add dry and mix, you actually don't have to be careful to mix very little -   give 'er.
- cook your pancakes as per usual
- plate one pancake, lay on the peanut butter, cover with sliced bananas and blueberries (or any berry mix), top with another pancake.  Drizzle with syrup to taste.  I recommend using a fork with or without a knife (though one of my minis just picked his up like a sandwich - hey, he ate it, I'm not picky)

I am finding the cost of cutting most meat out of our diet is enabling me to continue to buy high quality ingredients which is now branching out into the organics.  I'm thrilled to see the changes in our menu is balancing out cost-wise, just thrilled.  And I'm feeling encouraged to keep it up.  Have you made any changes you'd like to share here?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Chocolate peanut butter cups

Oh how I have missed you so, blog audience.  Just because I've skipped a few days does not mean I'm not thinking of you, rest assured you are always on my mind (I should write a song - oh, wait!  Someone already has I see!).

So, these chocolates are awesome! 

 Aren't we pretty?

I wanted to post after I played with the recipe a bit with add-ins but this is just delaying me posting at all, it seems.  I can wait no longer and perhaps you will toy with it and tell me what you did and what worked and what didn't.  Or maybe you'll just make them as I post here and love them and maybe you'll check back someday soon 'cuz you want to make them again and you will come here for the recipe and maybe, just maybe, there'll be a big edit at the bottom of the post and you will see more of my fun in the kitchen.

Still safely in their papers.

Sigh, these are yummy.  Scrumptious.  Quick.  Kinda nutritious in that the fats are good fats, the cocoa has iron in it, the peanut butter has protein and caffeine is good all-around.  I could probably write off brownies as nutritious if you just give me a minute... nah, they're not!

Word of caution, these need to be stored in the fridge or freezer and eaten as soon as they come out and plan to lick your fingers - they melt very quickly once you touch them.  They were hard to photograph as I couldn't place them well.  I had to use tools like an egg turner and a butter knife.
Oh my!
In this candy, the chocolate and peanut butter are combined but you will still taste both, fear not.

Healthier Peanut Butter Cups
adapted from Healthy Indulgences
3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp peanut butter (all natural or not)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp honey
about 12 granules of kosher salt

- set out about 12 tiny candy papers or line a small cookie sheet with plastic wrap
- smallest saucepan, melt coconut oil with peanut butter
- remove from heat, add remaining ingredients.  Stir with a spatula.
- taste, add more honey or PB if desired
- dribble into paper candy molds or pour onto cookie sheet
- freeze about 10 minutes to completely set.  If you used a cookie sheet, take it out a bang it on the counter to break it up, quickly pop it into a container or bag and get it back into the freezer or fridge.
- store them in the freezer or fridge, the fridge offers a fudgey texture.
Some things I'd like to try:
1) adding a few coffee granules to the chocolate (using no peanut butter) and sprinkle a couple on top of each morsel.
2) using crunchy peanut butter
3) adding some orange zest (and no PB)
4) drop a salt granule on top of each chocolate
5) add bacon
6) try broken up candy canes
7) try broken up pretzels or even chips

Here`s another quick fix using your favourite chocolate (you`ll probably use your chocolate chips) and nut butter.  Too quick and easy, careful now!
Have you any flavour combinations you'd like me to try and post my results (it's a sure thing I'm going to be playing with this recipe for quite a while, they're so satisfying)? 

Friday, 9 March 2012

What's been weighing on my chest

(The following blurb contains incomplete and run-on sentences, readers should be aware.  I'm kinda ranting but not at anyone, just jotting it all down.)

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, omnivore locavore, paleo, gluten-free, avoid dairy, nuts, eggs, or soy.  You might follow a Mediterranean diet, a Western diet, Ayurveda, eat clean, eat "green", eat the rainbow.  You eat for your blood type, eat to lose weight, eat to gain weight, eat to combat heart disease, stress, depression, hair loss or for your sex drive.  You eat whole food, raw food, processed food, free-range, fast food, slow food, organic, support sustainable farming, urban farms, wild food, local, fair trade, eat only fruit, avoid all fruit.  You avoid chemicals, things you can't pronounce, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and "BHT added to packaging to maintain product freshness".  You avoid extra packaging (my theory has always been that if it comes in a crinkly, noisy packaging, it's not good for you - then they started wrapping broccoli in plastic, go figure!).  You eat fish on Friday and you carry David Suzuki's fish guide in your wallet, you avoid the "dirty dozen".

It's inevitable that most days, you will eat.  Unless you're a breatharian.

We have to make every bite matter for our bodies and our environment. 

I have ensured the meals I serve matter.  I have made a small effort to ensure the snacks mattered.  Now I have to look at the big picture.  If I don't stock it in my kitchen, we won't eat it.  But if I do, we will.  I have the responsibility of feeding several growing bodies and brains.  I want us to be the best we can be and if we are what we eat, then I want to eat the best.

What that is is hard to figure out.  We have no known allergies or medical conditions to work with, we are lucky that way.  The variety of information that is available to us is mind-boggling to say the least.  How on Earth do you decide what path to follow and to what degree?

I think I've got it.  For now.  For us.  I had a bit of a revelation around this topic.  Cheesy, I know, but that's the best word I can think of to capture the feeling.

We will embrace more and more vegetarian, vegan meals.  Snacks are better for us than ever.  Treats will be sweetened with date purée or brown rice syrup.  Honestly.  This feels right.  I'm hesitant to choose a title and a path, I'd rather flit from one to another as our needs grow and change.

We will eat meat, sometimes.  We will choose it wisely.  Most meals will be bean, grain and vegetable based, most already are.  We will reduce the white sugar, white flour and cow's milk in our diets.  I will help them, we will do it together.  There will be resistance, but resistance is futile (I read that somewhere and I liked the line).  But, change will happen gradually or it will not work.  It has to become part of me and I'm ready.

I will still want chocolate cake.  I will still make chocolate cake.  I will still eat chocolate cake.  I can use avocado, coconut oil, and / or honey.  Even the fats will be good, useful fats.

We'll eat out and choose what we want.  We eat the vast majority of our meals at home so the vast majority of the time, we're covered.

I've wanted to start a food blog for quite a while now.  I didn't really know what was driving the desire but I thought about it often.  I still don't quite know.  I do know I'm really enjoying it.  I do know I love youre feedback.  Even once I got started, I felt there was more for me to do here and that has not quite revealed itself to me yet.  I do feel it's close, near to the surface.  If  you're still reading and you're not weirded out by what I just expressed, then let's keep going and we'll just have to discover it together!
Here's what I'm asking you to do: send me your ideas, links, cookbook titles, recipes and / or menus.  What kind of "eating plan" do you subscribe to?  Is there anything you'd like to change or add to your diet?

Repost - Tahini oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

One of my very first posts and I did not do the recipe justice at all.  I went to look up the recipe and I was overwhelmed with what I saw!  My entry was colourful, distracting and far too wordy.  This one is much cleaner and I hope you are inspired to try this recipe.

 Cookies all lined up before baking.

These are highly addictive and a perfect balance of sweet and not sweet (ha haha ha). These are easy to make, they freeze well, they go in lunches well and are somewhat nutritious. At the very least you are using tahini which will add the goodness of sesame in your diet. Yum yum! If you make hummus at home, you probably have tahini in the fridge. If you don't make hummus at home, you should (kidding, it's not for everyone). But I would recommend borrowing some tahini from a friend to try these cookies then you WILL be going out to buy tahini to make these again and again (and give your friend a batch to say thanks for the initial lend of tahini). Tahini is found at my grocery store in the Natural Foods section and in the Ethnic Foods section. You will find it next to the canned stuffed grape leaves (which are also very good, go ahead and bring a can of them home too - just don't eat them all in one sitting, it is all natural fat but it's still fat). Stir the tahini every time you open it as it will separate much like a natural nut butter.

Cookies all lined up after baking.  This is the same pan, see how they did not spread at all?

Tahini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
inspired by UrbanVeganista's site

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup mixed flax meal, wheat germ and oat bran (or another 1/3 cup flour) (so 1 cup flour total)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, rounded
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter)
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts and / or raisins and / or sunflower seeds
(I'd limit the add-ins to 1.5 cups total from experience of adding more and it being harder to work with)
- mix dry in medium bowl
- beat tahini and coconut oil with electric mixer, add sugar and beat, add eggs and beat, add vanilla and beat
- add dry to wet and combine well
- add add-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, seeds...)
- form into balls and flatten slightly (cookies do not spread much at all, so you can space them pretty close together).  You may need to use wet hands for this.  You may also want to chill the dough for about 20 minutes before this step.
- 350F for 12-14 minutes
Please tell me you tried them and love them as much as my family and I do!  Or not...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Tamale Pie (baked chili casserole with a cornbread topping)

Inspired by Cheeky Kitchen's tamales, I remembered I had a recipe with more vegetables in it so I pulled it out.  This recipe turns out to be, essentially, a veg chili with just enough cornbread topping baked on it. 

Tamale pie plated. Miam miam.

The recipe is quick to make with pantry and fridge staples (usually they're staples in my house unless I've run out).

The chili portion can take almost whatever veggies you want it to.  You could use a portion of chili you may have frozen in the freezer for a make-ahead meal.  Thaw completely, spread it in your pan, top and bake.  Even quicker!

 Tamale pie filling (chili) ingredients.

The cornbread topping is just enough, not too much and not too little.  It's delightfully light and surprisingly buttery without any butter or cheese. 

Cornbread topping - so yummy!

So the recipe I followed last night was from Moosewood Restaurant`s Low Fat Favorites (here`s an online version of the cookbook recipe).  I used no cheese and no cilantro (I can't stomach it, here's an article which may explain some of my innate aversion).  I used plain yogurt in the topping.  Those are my only variations, I think.

Tamale pie broken open.

Everyone in my house loved it and it served us all for supper with two lunch servings for the school-guy and worker-dude. What am I going to have for lunch now?! Hmmmm

Tamale Pie
Adapted from Moosewood`s Low Fat
2 tsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp cumin
1 t. oregano
2 Tbsp water
1 cup peeled diced carrots
1 cup diced bell pepper
½ cup frozen corn
1 c. crushed canned tomatoes (15oz)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (19oz)
1 can green lentils, drained and rinsed (19oz)
¾ c. cornmeal
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking  soda
1 egg
½ cup plain yogurt, which I used (or buttemilk)
2 Tbsp oil

- warm oil in saucepan add onion and garlic and vegetables. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add cumin, oregano and water to prevent sticking.  Stir in tomatoes, lentils and beans, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes remove from heat add salt and pepper to taste.
- preheat oven to 375F.
- prepare 2 qt casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread mixture in bottom of dish.
- in bowl combine flour, meal, salt powder and soda. In separate bowl combine egg, milk and oil gently fold wet ingredients into dry . Pour on top of veggies bake 30-35 minutes.

Would be great garnished with sour cream and scallions.  Or served with a few tortilla chips, which we did.  Yeah, baby!

 Tamale pie baked - gorgeous!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Tin foil cod supper

Still on the topic of campfires and sing-alongs, who wants a tin foil supper?  No, you're not going to eat the tin foil, but your supper will be steamed inside tin foil pockets on the fire (or BBQ if you're just not survival-person enough to build and maintain a fire... no judging here, I can't even start a respectable fire).

Plated! Yum!

First step: go out and hunt, fish or go to your nearest fishmonger like I did, I'm a city girl.  I bought cod from Evan's Fresh Seafoods & Restaurants and all the slaying I had to do was slice open the pretty little plastic vacuum sealed bag it came in.  Phew!

Pocket of Evan's cod.

Next step: harvest the vegetables.  I chose frozen veggies and fresh carrots.  I should've added a potato, I missed it.  Slice up an onion when you get back from the field.  Rrrrr rrrr rrrr.

Pocket of veggies.

Then, create two tin foil pockets.  I'm not really talented with this, so I had two sheets to just cover the food.  I put the fish down on one with S&P, onion, butter, folded it up as well as I could (I don't wrap gifts very well either), very gently flipped it over and wrapped the second layer as tightly as I could.  Repeat with the veggies' pocket. 

Fire should be all red (this is where I leave you fire-people, I'm BBQ'ing mine) or BBQ hot.  Turn one burner off and gently place your pockets on the other side.  You will not be flipping, it's too fragile.  Mine were, yours may not be so precariously wrapped.

20 mintues later, supper can be photographed!  Em, I mean served!

This can very easily be done with hamburger meat as well which is fabulous with a packet of French Onion Soup mix!  You can make one pocket for each person too if you have differing tastes.  Mark an initial on the pocket after wrapping and before cooking so you can differetiate to serve.

What are some combinations you've done and loved?  Or not-so-much?  Want to talk some more about campfire memories?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Rainy Saturday afternoon special - S'mores!

We just had a snack after a nutritious snack - we had s'mores!  We microwaved the marshmallows. It was quick and easy. 

Lacking were the campfire songs, mosquitoes, and burnt (sometimes like a torch) marshmallows lost into the ashes.  I have fond memories of Girl Guide camp, year after year, when my Mum was our Leader and we made s'mores, we sang songs (mmmhmmm, I wanna linger, mmmhmm a little longer, mmmhmm a little longer here with you)(I can still sing most of "Barges", anyone else know that song? I have vague recollections that it was written by a young female cancer patient looking out her window, is that accurate?)(how about the one about "sipping cider through a straw"?  We actually had to stop singing that one, it was "banned" and I never knew why 'til I was older).

These are relatively clean and easy.

Our s'more recipe
from my childhood, circa 1980
2 graham wafer squares
peanut butter
chocolate chips
1 big marshmallow

- thinly spread both graham wafers with pb (this is so the marshmallow and the choc chips don't fall off, there is logic to this).
- place both graham wafers pb side up in the microwave, top one with enough choc chips to satisfy (perhaps cover the surface, then adjust to taste), top the other with a big marshmallow (or as many minis as you can squeeze on there)
- microwave 10-12 seconds (don't leave the microwave, it happens fast) until the marshmallow(s) puff up
- quickly flip either layer on top of the other, this takes a bit of finesse.
- don't press down, let the weight of the top side do it's work
- let sit for about 30 seconds to melt everything and set the marshmallow just a bit.
- eat, lick fingers and / or plate as needed.
- Repeat as needed.

It is tradional folklore to use a piece of a milk chocolate bar, but they don't melt fast enough and I find them too sweet (I use semi-sweet choc chips).  Peanut butter is not customarily used.

Edit: We went outside moments after posting this and HAD A FIRE and ROASTED MARSHMALLOWS, of course!  Here are some pictures.

Where were you when you had your first s'more?  Have you not had one yet (what are you waiting for?)  What do you dress yours up with?