Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coffee Break Cookies (and Bars!)

Wow. I can't believe that there's less than a month left until I get ripped free of my little "safety cocoon" of school and let loose into the working world. Granted, there's a lot of work left to do in these last few weeks - between school, articles for Nutrition in Motion and Total Cleanse, and all 4 of my co-ops, there's hardly any time left to sleep - let alone blog! Having just finished writing presentation notes for one of my co-op boss' presentations (a 3-hour one on healthy eating on a budget, complete with some of my recipes!) I figured I'd take a few minutes to let you in on some of the goodies I whipped up during some of my fits of "I can't sit anymore".

So I guess it's no surprise that the main flavours that came into play over the past few weeks were two of my old "stress relief" foods - coffee and chocolate. Quite possibly the most potent of all my past comfort foods (and chocolate still is in the form of cocoa powder in warm oatmeal!), I knew that almost everyone that would be partaking in either treat would fall just as hard as I did - coffee lovers or not. The espresso hounds were thoroughly sated by the end of their snack break - but the chocolate fiends were just as pleased (especially with the cookies - cocoa, chocolate chips and cacao nibs? Puh-leeeze!).

So, while I'm burning the midnight oil with a cup of green tea, enjoy a couple shots of espresso on me. Trust me... you've earned it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Inspiration + Impulse = A Totally Different Dinner

Wow! Another dinner post! I guess you can’t fault day trips out of your borough for a lack of inspiration. I actually went down to Kensington a few weeks back with a mission to buy one of the ingredients that came into play with this spicy seafood meal of mine, but believe it or not I came home with it (after searching a few stores) but without a clue why I chose to buy it in the first place! Thankfully, achiote is a fairly common ingredient in the foodie universe, especially with the Mexican and South American crowd, so although I bought the annatto seeds ground to a powder and not make into a paste, a few quick searches and some stitching together of recipes gave me a viable substitute that was perfect for a whole different meal.

I can’t believe how well the spicy paste mixture meshed with the sweet shrimp in this cobbled-together crapshoot of an idea. In all honesty, it would be a killer use for grilled steak, mixed into burgers, stirred into veggies and rice or smeared onto BBQ’d jumbo prawns (mmm, shrimp on the barbie!). I can’t wait to try it out with tofu, too – I’m betting that with a good, couple-days soak in the mixture it would convert any meat freak! The sweet and sour slaw was a refreshing, crunchy and cooling accompaniment, balancing out the entire meal. In short, it was nothing less than a perfect Summer supper.

Now if I could only figure out what I bought the achiote for in the first place!

Achiote Shrimp Slaw
Serves 1

Sweet and Sour Slaw
9 oz bag coleslaw mix
5 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp mustard seed
¼ tsp celery seed

Marinated Shrimp
1 tbsp achiote powder
½ tsp cumin powder
¾ tsp black pepper
pinch chipotle pepper
pinch allspice
pinch oregano
pinch cinnamon
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 clove garlic, pressed
½ tbsp grated orange zest
1 can (106g) small salad shrimp, drained well, OR 3.5 oz cooked small shrimp

  1. Mix rice vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seed in a small cup.
  2. Pour over the slaw mixture and toss well. Let sit 1 hour.

Shrimp and Assembly
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together achiote powder, cumin, pepper, chipotle, allspice, oregano, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, white vinegar, water, fresh garlic and orange zest.
  2. Add shrimp and stir to coat thoroughly.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning, then top slaw mix and serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 253.1
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 70.0 mg
Sodium: 492.8 mg
Total Carbs: 43.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 20.7 g

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spices for Dad

I’m always at a loss for ideas when it comes to gifting occasions with my parents and grandparents. I’m old enough that hand-made clay paperweights and painted rocks don’t cut it in reality, but with a few exceptions I don’t have enough income to buy them things they either really want or really need. Wine has been my default gift with my parents for a few years, but now that both my mom and dad have decided to cut down on the alcohol in their diets (not that it was a lot anyway – a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with a BBQ’d burger), it’s been morphed into a special-occasions-only beverage. In a family that appreciates good wine (and with a wine hoard to match) it’s not overly prudent to buy them any more! I usually default to a more-or-less “trinket” gift accompanying something homemade, but even that can cause problems too when trying to pick something!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A VERY Late Harvest

I know – what am I doing posting a fall-ish recipe in the middle of June? Well, I figure that cake is a universal food... who needs to play by the seasonal rules when freezers are invented and apples are always around? I actually was inspired to make this after I – ahem – overbought a host of Red Prince apples because they’re delicious. But being the only apple eater around, I had a few that got a bit past their prime and not being enough to warrant sauce-making I got my bake on! I knew that we had a half-bag or so of cranberries in the freezer (left over from Christmas) and I had ground some of that season’s roasted squash seeds into a coarse flour that was very popular with my peers at school when I used it in banana bread a few months back. I also discovered in the midst of my “pantry rooting” some candied pineapple I had baked into biscotti in December. Everything came together nicely when I found a recipe in an old copy of LCBO’s magazine, and though it totally wasn’t what I expected (the batter is more a dough!) it was even better than I imagined with my “veganizing” and flour additions! The tasters at school loved the mysterious hint of coconut, mesquite and banana flavours, the pop of the cranberries and of course the pumpkin seed meal.

So while it might not be July yet, you can enjoy a summery “Christmastime” with all the yummy treats the cold, dark months also bring. Call it “extending the harvest”, call it crazy, or just call it what it is – plain good food.

Harvest Cake
Serves 10
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
2 tbsp mesquite flour (optional, but GOOD!)
½ tsp powdered stevia extract
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup coarsely ground, toasted pumpkin seeds (from 1/3 cup whole)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 large, over-ripe banana
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla
zest of 1 orange
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup cold brewed apple herb tea
2 medium apples, peeled and diced
3.5 oz candied pineapple, diced
¾ cup cranberries, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F, line an 8" springform pan with parchment and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, stevia, coconut, pumpkin seeds, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, mash banana with sugar, agave, vanilla, orange zest, oil and tea.
  4. Add the dry mixture and fold in. Dough is slightly stiff.
  5. Spread two-thirds in bottom of pan and top with an even layer of apples, pineapple and cranberries.
  6. Pull off small pieces of remaining dough, flatten slightly and lay on top of fruit, allowing some to peek through.
  7. Bake for 75 minutes or until tests done.
  8. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes; then remove from pan and finish cooling on the rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 260.6
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 28.8 mg
Total Carbs: 50.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
Protein: 3.6 g

Thursday, June 16, 2011


It’s been a while since I put up a savoury post of any kind – not since my to-die-for pizza recipe! I am still on that pizza kick, by the way – but once in a while everyone needs to jazz things up. Somehow, though I had never eaten it before in my life, I got it into my head that I wanted to try one of the ugliest fish in the ocean – monkfish. It’s called a “wolf fish” too, for good reason: the whole animal is one Hell of a scary looking thing (if you’ve ever seen the “Money, Money, Money” scene in Mamma Mia!, you’ve seen one), and the only part of the beast that’s commonly thought to be edible is it’s massive tail. It’s also one of the leanest fish out there, even though the meat is as hearty as tuna loin or halibut and grills, sears and roasts remarkably well.

Flavour-wise, though it’s often called “poor man’s lobster”, I on no level tasted that type of sweetness or butteryness. In fact, the overall taste is fairly mild, almost like a muted tuna, and while apparently it (and it’s liver) are used in sushi and sashimi I wouldn’t recommend it raw to the squeamish or the overly sensitive. Even as fresh as possible (it was practically still swimming when I bought my fillets in Kensington market) the smell and texture is... odd to put it mildly. Unlike any “fish” smell I’ve ever experienced, it is pungent and lingers on your fingers even after washing, although that disappears with even quick cooking. However, it is one of those creatures of the sea that will stink up your house for hours if you steam or microwave it (for God’s sake, don’t microwave any fish!). No matter how frugal-minded you might be, resist the temptation to try and skin it yourself (unless you have a wicked-sharp knife and experience with them). They aren’t your typical scaly fish, but have a thick skin and a slimy membrane coat underneath that that’s creepy enough just touching, let alone trying to remove. Besides, monkfish is one of the cheaper fish out there – it’s worth your while to have the skilled professionals do the work for you this time.

I mentioned that monkfish will give your home an oh-so-lovely aroma when you choose to steam it. Well, it was never mentioned to me, and so what do you guess I did with the first round of my catch (I froze the other 2 portions)? Yup, I steamed the sucker. Thankfully, the meal tasted absolutely fantastic – a little salty (I would reduce the tamari by ½-1 tbsp and definitely use low-sodium broth), and the “fishy” smell infiltrated the vegetables a little bit – but it wasn’t obtrusive. Next time I’d probably just pan-sear the fish, poach the veggies and combine them at the end in the bowl with a nice side of brown Basmati.

Steamed Asian Monkfish with Poached Vegetables
Serves 1
½ cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated ginger
3.5 oz broccoli, chopped
12 green beans, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
5 oz raw monkfish, cubed
1 tbsp minced green onion (I used the green parts of my Egyptian onion)

  1. In a deep saute pan, bring broth, tamari, honey and ginger to a boil.
  2. Add all the vegetables, cover and cook 3 minutes.
  3. Drizzle lime juice over monkfish cubes and season with pepper.
  4. Lay fish on top of the vegetables, cover and cook 3 minutes.
  5. Remove vegetables and fish with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
  6. Bring liquid to a boil and reduce for 5 minutes, until thickened.
  7. Spoon vegetables into a bowl, pour hot sauce overtop and garnish with minced green onion tops (and Siracha if desired).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 276.1
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 50.0 mg
Sodium: 2,604.9 mg
Total Carbs: 37.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.3 g
Protein: 29.7 g

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stressed Students and Spelt

I know – you’re probably sick and tired of hearing me moan and groan about school. Well, this isn’t all a whine-a-thon, I promise! As a group, our student body were sidelined from any sort of realty by our final exam for the Body Metabolism course. While the teacher, thankfully, was a fair, honest and all-around nice person (come on, she baked muffins, cookies and cake for us the day of!) the material on said exam was anything but nice. She had given us due warning, not to mention several “hints” and “gimmes” as to the questions that would show up – so the entire weekend (and Monday and Tuesday) prior found us all practically embedded in our books and notes. The weekdays before the exam saw the attendance levels drop like a rock, too, and by the time we actually started writing the stress level was palpable.

So, to break the ice and ease my own studying stress, I did what I always do – head to the kitchen and crank up the oven. I wanted to make something slightly sweet but not guilt-inducing, hearty and – yes – healthy enough to sate the nutritionist crowds at the Institute. Vegan and whole grain went without saying, and I even made a conscious effort to ix-nay my usual almond milk in favour of a small box of soy so that the few girls in the building with allergies could take part too. Making a bran muffin popped into my head, since I had a ton of it in my pantry, and I knew I could make a decadent and moist version that wasn’t stodgy! They wound up becoming the carrier for pretty much everything under the sun that I could get my hands on (except – gasp – chocolate!), and the result was a decadent, dark, sticky muffin that went like wildfire. My mom managed to grab a single one to bring on a business trip, and apparently it garnered “oohs” from the rest of the coffee-break crowd!

Moist Vegan Bran Muffins
15 muffins
¼ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup hot water
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup spelt bran
½ cup spelt flakes
1 cup whole spelt flour
½ cup psyllium fibre husks
½ tsp stevia extract powder
¼ cup whole flaxseeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup Demerara sugar
3 tbsp agave nectar
1/3 cup applesauce
equivalent of 2 eggs in Ener-G egg replacer powder, prepared
1 cup vegan "milk"
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained (reserve 3 tbsp soaking liquid)
1/3 cup chopped prunes

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, line 24 muffin cups or grease well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed and hot water. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together brans, spelt flakes, flour, psyllium, stevia, flaxseeds, chia seeds, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  4. In a large bowl beat together sugar, agave, applesauce, egg replacer, flax mixture, "milk" and oil until smooth.
  5. Add dry ingredients and stir in just to combine, then fold in the raisins (with their reserved liquid) and prunes.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 190.8
Total Fat: 7.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 21.5 mg
Total Carbs: 32.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.8 g
Protein: 4.8 g

Moist Vegan Spelt Bran Muffins on Foodista

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chocolate Euphoria

 It’s another bright, sunny and overall awesome day in the T-dot-Oh (as some of my followers on Twitter call it) and while I’m sure the majority of us are stuck inside I can’t wait to get to the market with my mom on Friday! If my classmates are any indication of the opinions on the Summer’s infancy, there’s a buzz of both excitement that it looks like a great gardening season up ahead, and gratefulness that the air conditioning in our building is (as always) jacked up to the gazillions.

For me, I’d rather be anywhere but in the cold classroom – preferably puttering in our garden which is full of promise thanks to the rain and now sun and warmth, even though it’s still in its infancy. Though I’m not entirely sure what edibles the rest of the family are planting this year, I know I have four delicious types of heirloom tomatoes (including one kind that looks like a bunch of grapes!), two heirloom carrots (purple and red!) and Chioggia beets in the veggie garden (plus my Egyptian onion, rhubarb bush and a nice patch of Jerusalem artichokes!). Herb-wise, thanks to some savvy gardeners on Twitter that helped me out, lemon balm, borage, catnip, lemon thyme, garlic, rosemary, horseradish and pineapple sage! Hopefully I eventually figure out how to use all of those somewhere along the line – though I’m sure that you foodie gardeners out there (or readers who know some!) can help me out.

So with such an awesome day in play already, how could I possibly make it better?? Well, how about some intensely rich, flavourful muffins with not one, not two, but five forms of chocolate flavour tucked inside? Melted right into the batter, chocolate soy milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and (of course) two kinds of chips show up here. I did fling in a few “healthy” ingredients too, but really, it’s all about the chocolate euphoria. Oh, yes – these are a PMSing woman’s best friend (or worst enemy if you prefer to be pessimistic).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Good Bite

I’ve written before about my association as the nutrition counsellor for a family who’s first-born daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease and a host of allergies within the last year. I’m glad to say that since the initial assessment, all signs of her anaemia have disappeared and her celiac is being managed very well – she’s able to go back to school and one of her jobs! Like all of us with nutritional issues, she’s relearned how to feed herself and found some products that she both likes to eat and “work” for her system. While they aren’t all “replacement” analogues (like rice pasta and tapioca bread), a lot of the time they fill the void left by the absence of her favourite snacks like Kit Kat bars (which I did recreate).

One of these “snacky” foods that her mom clued me in on were cube-like “bites” of pumpkin and sesame seeds that were basically compacted into holding together and glued with rice syrup. Sounded great – full of good fats, iron and protein. But the not so great part was that they were only at one or two health food shops nearby – and with each single serving bag at $2 or more it was beyond the already strained budgets of this student and her family.

When her mom asked me (knowing I was first and foremost a cook and creator) if I thought I could recreate the pricey bites, I agreed to try without a clue what they were or really how to make them. In the end, though, it was a lot easier than I imagined to whip together – and by adding sunflower and flaxseeds to the required pumpkin and sesame I boosted the zinc, calcium and Omega fats as well. Not having rice syrup on hand (nor being particularly interested in buying any) I mixed up dark brown sugar and rich, local honey for a more flavourful “sticky factor”. The last little flair added in with the fine pink Himalayan salt I used was a teeny drizzle of toasted sesame oil. The taste was instantly boosted a mile high!