Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Banana Power Bars

With the recent heat wave, I've been finding it less and less appealing to have a hot, hearty breakfast before work. My normal oatmeal routine - which I'm pretty stuck on, even in most Summer situations - seems like just a bit too much these days, and since my schedule allows for a little more time at the gym (my third home, after work!) a heavier meal just doesn't sit well.

That said, having a nutritious, balanced breakfast any time of the year or day of the week is important, and even more so if you're on the go. I came up with these portable, decadent-tasting bars packed with protein and fibre so that I'd be able to eat after Zumba, on the way to work or simply when the thought of turning on the stove in the morning was anything but appealing. They're also deceptively moist and tender (almost like a brownie) for being low fat, and the flavour is akin to banana bread! How can you go wrong?

Banana Power Bars

My "secret success" ingredients this go-around were my new favourite flour - kinako - ground tiger nuts and vital wheat gluten. Why can't we have our snacks and eat them this bikini season too?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beet and Rhubarb Chutney - a Fresh from the Garden #RecipeRedux

Days like today, in the throes of Summer, are my bread and butter. While the temperature may be on an ever-climbing spiral and the humidity even more so, you will never hear me complain about the heat. For me, this season is far too short and far too close to the inevitable -20C Winters to squander - no, the season of sun and heat is primed for getting outside, into the pools, parks, lakes and (most importantly to me) gardens and lapping up every experience you can!

Of course, with the heat and humidity comes the occasional day of thunderstorms, and on those days I turn to the kitchen with my pots, pans, bowls and jars with the aim to preserve and showcase the bounty the season has given us so far. Our rhubarb plants (we have 5!) have been prolific this year, and I also had roasted beets from last year that I had frozen and been slowly enjoying through the Winter, but needed to shuffle out of their chilly home to make room for this year's stash. Combined with a pantry bursting to the seams with spices, I was inspired to make this year's chutney.

Now, this is one of those recipes that's "new" but not really. Instead, the mixture of spices along with the rhubarb is a twist on my Rockin' Rhubarb Chutney, with a few zippy additions (namely nigella seeds, amchur and pomegranate powder) along the way. The beets, apples and figs found their way in (being more "clean-up / clean-out" items) for a touch of extra sweetness and body, not to mention providing pops of texture when stirred into rice or dolloped onto grilled meat! I braved the wrath of my overheating family and canned most of this, but made sure to stash a jar in the fridge for them to enjoy as a little "thank you" gift!

The #RecipeRedux team is celebrating the season of bountiful produce with recipes packed with hauls from the Farmers Market, CSA shares, or our own backyards. How do you celebrate the season?

Beet and Rhubarb Chutney

Sunday, July 19, 2015

8 Grain Bread - a Farmstand #SundaySupper Staple!

I don't think there can be a shopping experience quite as inspiring for a foodie as a trip to the local farmer's market. I can't even begin to think of all the meals, snacks and desserts I've come up with after visiting one of my local haunts and picking up everything from gourmet mushrooms to just-picked berries, juicy peaches, sweet corn and peppers and even local eggs, dairy and meat. Sampling is always encouraged, and families get into the experience of tasting unfamiliar produce together - something that has caused more than one child I know to fall in love with a fruit or vegetable!

One of the stalls I always make sure to scope out is the bakery outlet, which in the early morning boasts still-warm loaves and muffins packed with seasonal produce and locally farmed grains, and by lunchtime barely has a roll left. I troll the stalls regularly, not always buying (sorry!) but always investigating the flavour combinations so that I can recreate the loaves at home. Over the years, I've churned out my share of breads inspired by the local bakers - sweet and hearty Multigrain Spelt and Blueberry Sourdough that my mom devoured with an array of homemade Toast Toppers, tangy Bauernbrot (which made an appearance on the menu for both Christmas and birthday menus) and a savoury Olive Semi - Sourdough Boule packed with sun-dried olives and whole grain flour. My latest journey to the farmer's market resulted in not only the purchase of freshly milled Red Fife flour and a small bag of maple sugar, but the mental image of a dense, grain-packed cranberry loaf with a rich colour and aroma.

Once back in my home kitchen (and armed with the new oven!), I set about creating this loaf - adding a touch of sourdough, multigrain cereal and cocoa to the body of the dough along with the slight sweetness of maple sugar and an almond-flavoured stevia. Instead of a boule, I picked a more traditional "panned" loaf which could fit in the toaster slots - a call for a slathering of Purely Peach Jam or Blueberry Pomegranate Butter if there ever was one! 

This week #SundaySupper is celebrating the farmer's markets and farmstands with fare inspired - or fueled by the local bounty. This event is being hosted by Colleen of Foodie Tots with help from DB aka Foodie Stuntman at Crazy Foodie Stunts - thanks guys!

Appetizers, Sides and Salads


Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

8-Grain Bread

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Multigrain Twist Bread - #BreadBakers

Given how much bread is consumed in our household, it's rare that I ever really get to spend time churning out decorative or lengthy preparation loaves during the school year. Now that we're in the throes of Summer vacation (though granted, I'm still working at our Summer School until August), a small but workable window of extra time has opened up it's arms to me, allowing me the opportunity to garden, read, (start) typing up some long overdue cookbook reviews, begin this year's canning projects and - yes - even bake bread. With our latest major purchase (a convection hybrid oven) sitting primed for action in the kitchen, I've been itching to test out it's bells and whistles!

This loaf looks impressive and tastes even better, but is extraordinarily simple to put together. Thanks to a hefty dose of half and half, the crumb is melt-in-your-mouth tender even though it's 100% whole grain. For a little extra texture, flavour and protein, a bit of toasted soy flour and a hot "cereal" mix of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and chia seeds were added to the basic flour/yeast mixture, followed by extra crunch and sweetness from granola. Finally, the whole dough twists into a swirl that fits perfectly in a loaf pan, giving it both an appealing look and a practical form for slicing and toasting!

Multigrain Twist

The #BreadBakers are all about baking with oats this month! Oats of any kind: rolled, flour, steel cut, or quick cooking are all fair game, as well as the overall type of bread - sweet, savoury, quick or yeasted! This go-round is hosted by Kids and Chic. Thanks!

Oatmeal Bread themed #BreadBakers:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rendering Tallow

Ironically, it's in the Summer - when the thermometers are screaming 30°C and a nap in the shade is the ideal of a perfect afternoon - when I really get the urge to fall back into the "homesteading" mindset and get the pots and pans on the stove. Obviously, one of the reasons for wanting to subject the household to that kind of torture is because the warmer weather brings with it all the gorgeous, perfectly preservable fruit and vegetables begging to be turned into jam, chutney, pickles and sauce. But sometimes, I want to really get into the whole make-your-own thing (especially after reading books about homesteading or "country living", or visiting our local farmer's market when it's packed with that morning's eggs, homemade preserves and freshly baked bread), and that's usually when you'll find me in the kitchen making my own butter, grinding (or trying to grind) grains into flour, and my most recent project - rendering scraps of beef fat into tallow with my big ol' Dutch oven.

Now, some of you who have been reading this blog for a while might be a little bewildered. I mean after all, I'm 99% vegetarian (I eat fish very occasionally) and haven't touched beef, pork, or chicken to my lips for over 10 years. Besides, I'm a nutritionist, and here I am talking about beef tallow? Well, yes, I am. For one, I was never an "ethical vegetarian" first and foremost - I eschewed meat only after years of my body protesting the digestion of animal protein and high fat food of any kind. While I do care for the wellbeing of animals and the planet, my passion is directed at making sure those animals who are slaughtered for meat do not die for the sake of one or two cuts of meat. In other words, if a cow, chicken, pig or anything else is going to die for the table, I want to do my best to make sure the whole thing can be used to it's greatest potential. Call it my Native North American background, but seeing an animal whose skin is tanned into leather, made into warm clothing or cooked as a snack, whose bones are simmered for stock and whose meat can be almost entirely consumed in one way or another is far more of an ethical treatment for them than a life stuck in a cage or pen.

In terms of nutrition, I was originally as surprised as most people at the breakdown of "traditional" fat products - after all, animal fat gets a bad rap and an even worse mental picture. If I was to mention making traditional lard pastry or Cuban bread to most people my age, let alone entertain the possibility of breaking down chicken carcasses (including feet) for stock or chopping up hunks of beef fat to melt and refine into tallow, I'd be ostracized more so than I was for being an obese, bookish teenager. However, those able to see past the mental imagery of these ingredients as blobs of slimy tissue are treated to not only excellent additions to the pantry for cooking and baking, but fairly healthy options for culinary fats as well. With more poly and monounsaturated fatty acids than coconut oil, less Omega-6 (inflammatory) EFAs than butter and no trans fats (I'm looking at you, shortening), tallow is a fine addition to the culinary world whether you use it for savoury cooking or in the sweet kitchen. In fact, I whipped up a batch of oatmeal cookies with some of the first tallow I rendered to see how it fared - and it was fantastic. High heat stir fries and roasting potatoes were equally ideal uses for this versatile fat.

Straining Tallow
One of the best things about this whole project was that it was cheap - the beef trimmings came gratis from our butcher (who I'm sure thought I was crazy for wanting them) and by using my heavy, enameled Dutch oven I was able to vary the oven temperature for other projects while the fat slowly cooked away, thus allowing me to justify the electricity for the long, slow rendering process.

Rendered Tallow

Anyways, this is how I rendered my own batch of snowy-white tallow, using the guide from Mark's Daily Apple and it's subsequent comments.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Oatmeal Raisin Banana Bars - #SundaySupper

Generally, when it comes to baking for a crowd, I try to steer away from common allergies like nuts, dairy and eggs. Gluten and wheat are not generally a problem in our family or my workplace, with the exception of one second cousin, but I know of a few severe reactors to the other three in both camps. Being the only nutritionist - and certified baker - in the clan, I've been asked a few times to bring something everyone can enjoy when there's a birthday or potluck, and I'm always happy to oblige! I find that bar cookies are by far the best treats for parties, since not only are they perfect for making ahead and freezing, but they travel and hold exceptionally well too. In fact, I almost always freeze the pan of brownies or bars ahead of time and let it thaw out on the drive, ensuring that they are neither dried out, in the temperature "danger zone" or broken to bits by the time I arrive (the farthest we travel is about 2 hours away, for reference).

Oatmeal Raisin Banana Squares

Recently, these banana bars have been my go-to treat both at school and at home. The combination of toasty oats, brown sugar, melted butter and raisins bakes into something reminiscent of a butter-tart (coincidentally one of my mom's and my favourite desserts), while adding a mess of mashed bananas lends extra sweetness, moisture and an egg-like binding capability too. Both soft and chewy, they're perfect for every age - not to mention ideal for other additions if you care for them! I'm partial to sesame or sunflower seeds, but in the interest of simplicity I left them out of the below recipe. Plus, I never measure them...

Summer is in full swing. People are taking vacations, going to picnics and potlucks, or bringing food to those in need. This week, #SundaySupper is sharing recipes for food that travels well to a vacation destination, potluck party, or to someone who could use a good meal.

This event is being hosted by Marion of Life Tastes Good with help from Coleen at The Redhead Baker. Thanks, ladies!

Adventurous Appetizers
Destination Desserts
Mains in Motion
Sightseeing Sides
Traveling Treats

More Tips
Sunday Supper Movement 
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Camperless S'mores

Happy Canada Day everyone!! We up North may be winding down on our national birthday, but this "national day of hooky" is just the first in what looks to be a host of excuses to embrace Summer sun, heat and food!

One of those quintessential Summer treats is the s'more - that combination of ooey, gooey fire-toasted marshmallow, sweet and creamy chocolate and crispy graham cracker that both shatters and melts into oozy, decadent oblivion when you bite into it. Now, I don't know about you, but building up a big ol' campfire in the backyard isn't always practical (or legal) - especially if you have a gang over which includes a lot of wee ones, or if the soiree you're hosting is a little fancier than standard BBQ fare. I, for one, couldn't very well start stockpiling a heap of firewood in the back playground at my school when we're running the Summer camp, but since we're not doing anything else relatively "campy" (like pitching tents or hiking) I wanted to bring one of the gastronomic delights to the older kids right before our classes ended for the year.

S'mores without the campfire?  Yes please!  #teaching #MLCP #homeeconomics #sweet #summer #simplefood #vegetarian

Now, there are recipes for s'mores at home which use the broiler or oven to toast up the marshmallow, and they're delicious on their own. But to me, a s'more just isn't a s'more without that little touch of fire... not to mention we were without an oven in the Home Ec room. My solution? Bring the fire to the classroom with a kitchen torch, whip up a marshmallowy meringue and nestle a softer, graham-laced chocolate filling between mallow and graham. The combination worked better than I could have hoped for, yielding square upon square of Summery goodness that was, dare I say, fancy while being totally kid friendly!

Not only do these not require tromping outside at dusk with the blackflies and mosquitoes, but they're also seasonless - if you have graham crackers, chocolate and egg whites on hand and the butane topped up, nothing is stopping you from enjoying a little Summer at Christmastime!