Monday, February 20, 2017

Chocolate Beet Muffins

While Valentine's Day is over, we are still firmly entrenched in the month of all things "chocolate". Granted, for me (and most of the women I know!) every month, if not every day, is worthy of celebrating with chocolate, and what better way to celebrate than with a decadent, yet (slightly) virtuous muffin that you can enjoy for breakfast, with coffee or as dessert?

Chocolate Beet Muffins

I adore muffins for their simplicity and variability - you can have a relatively run-of-the-mill blueberry or chocolate chip from the bakery, or take things up a notch at home with your favourite ingredients. For example, these rich, sweet mouthfuls I whipped up for V-Day are made not with eggs, but a mixture of chia seed and aquafaba. Seeing as it's also "heart month", I utilized the cholesterol-lowering benefits of oats in my flour choice, and I also couldn't resist utilizing one of my favourite heart-healthy foods: beets. Coincidentally, beets also pair beautifully with dark chocolate, infusing an earthy sweetness into the bitter cocoa mass. For extra moisture and flavour,  buttermilk stepped up, admirably filling in any dry spots that might have dared show up in the batter. Finally, because I was feeling fancy, I tossed a sprinkle of white chocolate chips on top.

Thankfully, these aren't the type of sweet that needs to cool down before enjoying (although if you put them directly from oven to freezer for 30 minutes you're rewarded with an almost brownie-like texture), so go ahead and sneak one once they're cool enough to handle. If you burn the roof of your mouth, I'm not responsible!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sugar Free Chocolate Power Cookies

Yikes! I meant to have this posted yesterday, but apparently my scheduler didn't want to play nice. I blame fat fingers 😊.

Anyways, with Valentine's Day upon us, it only seems traditional to present something rich, chocolatey and decadent for your gustatory pleasure. While it is cliche to beat the chocolate factor into the ground, it is undoubtedly one of the classic flavours associated with the day, and romance in general. Of course, there can be such a thing as too much chocolate (sacrilege!) - at least according to our waistline and general health. Rather than tell you to eschew it completely or simply be satisfied with tablespoon-sized portions - neither of which I can put up with - instead, I'm offering these sugar-free, protein enriched, chewy and very chocolatey cookies that will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but will satisfy your hunger and are even nutritious enough to enjoy for breakfast with a glass of juice.

Sugar Free Chocolate Power Cookies

Instead of sugar, these gluten free and  vegan cookies are sweetened only with a homemade date paste and date syrup. To bulk up the satisfaction and chew factor, oats, brown rice cereal and hemp hearts combine with a sprinkle of stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. Enjoyed just barely cool, room temperature, fridge cold or frozen and made into ice cream sandwiches and stored in the freezer (yes, I went there), they're a soul and stomach pleasing treat any time.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chicken and Black Bean Chili

Every year, our school hosts a "Chili Night" fundraiser to help offset the costs of the elementary year-end field trips. Bread bowls are bought (or occasionally donated by a past parent, who owns a bakery), crock pots and steam tables are set up, grade 7 and 8 students are commandeered to work the "fixin's" station and three or four staff members show up with their finest chili renditions. This year I finally jumped into the "donation" pool after a survey of the offerings showed a vegetarian, a spicy and a "regular" version but none with an alternate meat or a different bean in the mix. 

When I was on Weight Watchers in (first year) university, I used to take containers of my grandma's chicken chili to heat for dinner on nights where my classes finished after the dining hall closed. I took her basic recipe and twisted it this way and that, adding black beans instead of kidney, doubling the garlic, caramelizing the onions and adding a grated carrot for extra sweetness. As I made up the broth / tomato mixture, it seemed a little thin and the chicken a little scant, so I tossed in a handful of TVP to bulk things up. For seasoning, I mixed the sweet heat of ancho peppers and standard "American" chili powder with the hellfire flames of a Scotch Bonnet - which I pierced and added whole to the pot, cooked and removed at the end. A dash of smoked paprika and cumin rounded things out nicely,  providing just enough heat to toast you up without setting you on fire! 

Chicken and Black Bean Chili 

Of course, my favourite part of any chili is that it gets better overnight - and in fact, when my mom had a spoonful, cold, right out of the fridge at noon the next day she declared it better than grandma's!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Crab Caesar Salad #SundaySupper for Two

Salad is something that I eat a lot of daily. Not only is it refreshing and (when done right) filling enough to satisfy without weighing you down, it's so variable and easy to make that some weeknights it is dinner for one, poassibly with some toasted pita on the side. My "rabbit habit" is somewhat legendary at work, as not only do I eat the same thing every day, I'm one of the few people who willingly eat that quantity of vegetables, in their raw state, as their work-sustaining midday meal.

Chopped Crab over Mixed Lettuce with a Caesar Vinaigrette

Regardless of the eye-rolls and jokes, I love the refreshing crunch of my salads, and like my five year old self, Caesar style is always a hit. Often I will make a double batch of dressing and keep it in the fridge so that I can whip up a dinner like this on a whim. The full recipe for this tangy, lightly dressed salad is the perfect meal for two this #SundaySupper, and by opting for a dairy- and mayo-free dressing it keeps things even lighter. I chose to combine iceberg and romaine lettuce for both crunch and classic flavour, and since I can't tolerate more than a little bit of "real" crab I mixed in some surimi for extra body and protein. Since I don't do bacon (and love spicy things), for the "smoky" element of the dressing I used a combination of smoked paprika and chipotle chili flakes (if you don't want the heat use smoked sweet paprika and plain black pepper to taste).

Whether or not you have someone to share this #SundaySupper with, you can be sure that a bowl of this salad won't be relegated to "side dish" status!

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Beer Nut Brittle

Back about the same time I was cooking up the Vanilla Stout Glazed Nuts, I decided that the literal "beer nut" theme was something too good to pass up for a single recipe. Not only did I have most of the can of vanilla stout lying in wait, but I wanted to see what other things I could do with the two key ingredients.

Beer Nut Brittle

That said, over the holidays (when I made this - the first time), kitchen, pot, bowl and pan space is at a premium. With every conceivable saucepan in the house in use (except our tiny "porridge pot" for two), I turned to the same method that worked so well when I made Chickpea Brittle - the microwave! Not only is it great for getting things cooking and cooling fast, but my microwave is far more even at cooking things like sugar than most of our old, well-loved but battered pots on the stove. The ingredients for the beer-based brittle were a little more complex to get to the right temperature than the basic chickpea one I made before, but as long as the mixture is fairly thick and starting to coat the nuts easily before adding the baking soda and vanilla, you're laughing.

Then again, you do have to wait for this to cool completely... and due to the beer (at least that's what I'm blaming) its more delicate and slightly "grainier" than your usual brittles would be. No matter though - one taste and you'll be as hooked as we were! Here's to offering a new "beer nut" this football Sunday!