Saturday, August 1, 2015

GREEN BEAN POTATO SALAD

With more green and yellow beans being produced in the garden, it was time to do some picking.  Previously I had picked about 15 cups of beans and blanched 12 of these cups to freeze for future meals.  After picking a few pounds of beans today I had to give some thought to what I would do with these beans.  I had seen recipes in the July/August Nutrition Action Health newsletter of which one combines potatoes and green beans.  This was a good option for using garden beans.  The recipe turned out well.  I like to mix the oil vinegar dressing with the potatoes and beans while the vegetables are warm.  The dressing seems to stick to the warm potatoes and beans.  I prefer this recipe to one that is cream based.  For the mustard in the dressing I used a dill mustard.  The addition of dill to add to the flavour was a good choice.



INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of potatoes, cut into small cubes

1 pound of green and yellow beans, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp mustard, grainy or flavoured preferred
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium to large pot bring potatoes cover with cold water to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and gently boil them with the lid partly off for ten minutes until also tender. Add the beans, turn the temperature up to get the mixture to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to medium.  Cook for four to five minutes.  Drain in a colander.  Pour some cold water over the beans and potatoes to partly cool them down.  Set aside for a few minutes.


In a medium size serving bowl, mix the mustard, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes and beans and combine so that the vegetables are coated with the dressing.  Serves 5 to 6.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

With cherries still on the trees in the backyard, I decided to try a new dessert recipe.  A clafoutis is of French origin and originates from the Limousin region of France.  It is a baked dessert that traditionally uses black cherries that are not pitted.  The cherries are placed on the bottom of a baking dish and the flan like batter is poured over.  A final dusting of sugar is sprinkled over the batter before baking.  I like to pit the cherries before baking with them and did so with this recipe.

The batter is based on a crepe batter and has more eggs and less flour than a cake batter.  Other fruit besides cherries could be used.   I was in a hurry making this recipe and I forgot to add the milk.  It still tasted good.  Since I used a heaping 4 cups of pitted sour cherries, I added another egg and a bit more flour.   Instead of sugar I used splenda.  I baked the dessert in the oven using the convection option so I baked it for 40 minutes and I reduced the oven temperature to 350 degrees F for the last five minutes.  The DH thought this clafoutis was delicious even without the milk in the batter. 

Ready to go into the oven.  I sprinkled some splenda on top of the batter before put the dish in the oven.

Just out of the oven.  You can see the white specks from the splenda on top of the cooked batter.  
Cherry Clafoutis

INGREDIENTS:

1 ¼ pounds (about 4 cups pitted) sweet cherries
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cup whole or lowfat milk

Softened butter, for greasing the baking dish.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.   Smear a 2-quart shallow baking dish liberally with butter.   Lay the cherries in the bottom of the baking dish.

In a standard blender, or using an immersion blender in a bowl or a mixmaster, mix the eggs, flour, vanilla and almond extracts, ½ cup sugar, and milk together until smooth.

Pour the batter over the cherries and sprinkle the fruit and batter with the 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Bake the clafoutis until the batter is just set for about 45 minutes.


Serve warm or cold.  Makes eight servings.

Recipe adapted from www.davidlebovitz.com

Sunday, July 19, 2015

KEEPING MEMORIES CLOSE

This past weekend I read a commentary by Rob Walker in the New York Times ("my digital cemetery") about all of the digital contacts he has acquired over the years.  His list of over 2700 contacts stretches over two decades including those recorded on his first palm pilot.  His contact list runs the gamut from work to personal to home repairs.  He has not edited his contact list over the years and he is not in communication with all of these 2700 people.  Some contacts have moved on, there is no longer any more need for a connection to this contact, the person has died, residences and geographic locations have changed or numbers have simply changed.  He did focus on his commentary about keeping the contact information for friends who have passed away.

His commentary got me thinking about my own experiences.   I have some old address books that includes information on people that I have not had contact with in years.  I even carry around a slim address book in my purse that lists telephone numbers and addresses for people that I have lost communication with, whose ties to me no longer exist for a variety of reasons.  I have not updated this address book by erasing these written names and their coordinates.  This book dates back to before I had a phone or a computer with an address app.  When necessary, I add names to the written address book as required.  And at home, I still have a traditional address book with alphabetical tabs that includes old and new home addresses and phone numbers that I use when sending out greeting cards during the course of the year.  

There are also names with contact information of friends and family who have passed away in my written and my electronic address books.  I see these names with their cell numbers and email addresses as I scan my books for other contacts.  I simply can't erase their contact information.  At the start of this calendar year, two friends of mine passed away within a short time span to each other.   I have all of their contact information on my various electronic tools.  I know their cell numbers and email addresses are not connected anymore but it doesn't matter.  Having their contact logistics creates a feeling for me that they are still part of my everyday life.  I recently had to change my cell phone and I was worried about losing the text messages with the dates and time of day from my girlfriend who passed away in January.  With assistance from the IT support person, we transferred this data to my new phone.  

I thought I may be a bit quirky wanting to keep all of the contact information from friends who have passed away but in Rob Walker's commentary he also talks about this very issue.  He gives examples of other people who have kept their contacts lists intact with logistics of people who have passed away.  We all want to keep traces of people who we have loved and admired in our lives.  Now if I can only figure out a way to send text messages and emails to heaven cyberspace.







Sunday, July 12, 2015

BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE

As soon as the DH saw the full page of recipes in the newspaper for one bowl cake recipes, his heart was set on having one of these for dessert on the weekend.  There were four different recipes but he settled on the blueberry crumb cake.  This is a crumb cake that has a lot of crumbs, it is not just a smattering of crumbs.  There is more flour in the crumb layer than the cake layer.  The crumb layer also has a cup of melted butter which made me first gulp.  I was already calculating the calories in my head.  I compromised by using Splenda instead of sugar in the cake and batter layers.  I didn't have unsweetened shredded coconut so I used sweetened coconut flakes.  I used 9" X 11" pan which worked out fine.  The crumb cake was of course delicious and I am sure I will be making the other three recipes over the next few months.

First layer done, blueberries scattered over the cake batter.


Crumb batter placed over the cake layer and now ready for baking.

Ready for sampling.


INGREDIENTS:

Cake Layer:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
5 tbsp blueberry, blackberry or current jam or spread
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Crumb Topping:

2 3/4 cps flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp pur vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp melted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Line a 9" X 9" pan with parchment paper that is butter or oiled.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using parchment paper makes it easier to get the cake out of the pan.

Making the cake layer:
Into a medium to large size bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Combine well.  Add the oil, egg, vanilla and milk to the bowl and mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Use a spatula to scape down the sides of the bowl to get any batter clinging to the sides and add to the pan.  Drop each tablespoon of the blueberry jam over the top of the cake batter and swirl it into the batter using a table knife.  Scatter the blueberries over the top of the batter.

Making the crumb topping:
Use the same bowl that the batter was mixed in.  Combine the flour, brown sugar, coconut, cinnamon and salt.  Add the vanilla and melter butter and mix well using a wooden spoon.  The mixture should appear like climbs.  Scatter the crumbs of the batter and make sure that the batter is completely covered.  You don't need to press down on the crumbs.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.  The centre should be firm. Place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 9 to 12 squares depending on how large you cut the squares.   

Adapted from Karen Barnaby, The Vancouver Sun.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

FARRO VEGETABLE SALAD

I have been thinking of the ancient grain farro recently and wanting to cook up a batch for different uses.  Using my rice cooker, which can be used for other things besides rice, I cooked two cups of farro which made about four cups of cooked grain.  Farro has a wonderful nutty taste to it and I have written about farro in a previous post einkorn berry salad.

Besides adding farro to salads, I will use it over the next few days as an alternate to rice and as a cereal for breakfast.  I think farro would be a great in the morning instead of oatmeal as a cold muesli with berries and yogurt.

Instead of making one big bowl of salad for supper to serve two people, I like to make individual salad bowls.  The ingredients listed here are for one individual bowl of salad and you can just multiply the amounts if making for a number of people.   I used grapefruit flavour balsamic vinegar which has a nice taste in a vegetable salad.  You can add other vegetables to the salad than those listed in the recipe.


Cooked farro in a bowl

Vegetables piled over the farro.

Dressing has been added and all of the ingredients are combined.
INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

1/2 cup cooked farro
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/4 coloured pepper, chopped
small chunk of cucumber, coarsely diced
1/2 cooked beet, coarsely diced
1/4 avocado, chopped

Dressing

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, flavoured
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp maple or agave syrup

Using a medium size soup/salad bowl, add the farro to the bowl.  Separate the kernels with a fork.  Add the vegetables.  Mix the dressing and pour over the salad. Combine well and serve.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

UPSIDE DOWN RHUBARB CAKE

With rhubarb growing in the garden, I like to look for different recipes.  This recipe is like a pineapple upside down cake.  I used a springform pan instead of a regular pan or a pie plate.  I thought it would be easier to invert it after it was baked.  The problem with using a springform pan is that the rhubarb will leak out of the seams on the bottom of the pan and make a mess in the oven.  After I realized that the rhubarb was leaking out of the pan I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper, placed the springform pan on the sheet and continued baking the cake.  Another change I made was using splenda instead of sugar. 

The cake turned out to be simply delicious and the DH said that I outdid myself with this cake.

Rhubarb, jam and sugar mixture spread on bottom of pan.



Cake batter spread over the rhubarb.
Springform sides taken off of the cake pan.  Ready to invert the cake into a plate.

Cake inverted so rhubarb is on top.

Sampling is starting. 


INGREDIENTS
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla, or 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:
Slice the rhubarb into small pieces. Place in a medium-size bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat the bottom and side of a 9-inch cake pan or a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate with 1 tbsp butter.

Place jam in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, until melted.  Pour the jam over rhubarb and stir to evenly coat.  Evenly sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over bottom of cake pan or pie plate. Spoon rhubarb mixture over the sugar and evenly spread it out.

In a medium-size bowl, using a fork, stir flour with baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 2/3 cup butter until creamy, then beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until evenly mixed, occasionally scraping down side of bowl. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat in almond and vanilla extracts.

Gradually beat in half the flour mixture, then half of milk. Repeat additions and mix until blended.  Batter will be thick.  Spoon evenly over rhubarb to completely cover, then smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 35 minutes and check to see if it is done.  It may need 10 or so more minutes.  If the top is a deep golden brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil. When done, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Then run a knife around edge of cake. Invert onto a large cake plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Other Options:

You can use other fruit beside rhubarb to make this cake.  I used frozen blueberries to make this cake a second time and it was delicious.  I used the same proportions of fruit, three cups.  It is best to let the cake cool down before you flip it over as it take times for the berries to solidify.  Instead of using a springform pan, I used a 9 inch round cake pan.




Adapted from www.chatelaine.com

Saturday, May 30, 2015

BLACK LENTIL RISOTTO

I recently saw this recipe in a magazine that was promoting careers and opportunities at a polytechnical school.  The Red Seal Chef who was being profiled, has made black lentil risotto as a side dish to go with a variety of entrees.  Black lentils are also called beluga lentils because of their shape and colour.  They look like beluga caviar when cooked.  In my stock pile of lentils I just had brown and red lentils and an old bag of french lentils.  You can substitute french lentils for black lentils but I wanted to try black lentils so I went shopping and bought french green lentils, green lentils and black lentils.  I like lentils and they are my favourite bean along with chick peas.  I am now stocked up with many kinds of lentils ready to be cooked in a variety of ways.

The recipe turned out great and both the DH and I enjoyed it.  The richness of the risotto comes from the parmesan cheese.  The recipe does not use a lot of cheese.  I did take photos of the risotto cooking in the pan and in a serving dish but the colour of the risottos was dark and did not look as good as it really tasted.  I decided to take of photo of it on a dinner plate.

Vegetables cooking in the pan.


Black lentils added to the vegetables.

Risotto is served with chicken wings, roasted mushrooms and salad.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrots
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup black lentils
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse and drain the black lentils.  Heat the chicken stock.  I heated the stock in the microwave for two minutes.  

Heat the butter in a large frying pan on a high temperature.  Add the shallot, carrot, celery and garlic and reduce the heat to medium.  Saute until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened.  Add the washed lentils to the pan and stir until the lentils are mixed throughout the vegetables.  

Add two cups of the stock and keep on stirring for a minute.  As the liquid gets absorbed add 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the lentils are al dente.  Stir frequently.  After most of the stock is absorbed, add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and is mixed throughout the dish.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4 to 6. 

Adapted from chef Rob Harrison.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

MOROCCAN LENTIL SOUP

I have a few books written by Leslie Beck, including nutrition and cookbooks.  I like her philosophy on nutrition.  This moroccan lentil soup had ingredients that I had in the kitchen pantry and also looked good to have for lunches during the week.   I did modify some of the spices to my own taste buds.   Both the DH and I enjoyed this soup for lunches.



INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
8 cups broth or water
1 cup green or brown lentils
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a large soup pot on a high temperature.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, reduce heat to medium and sauté for five minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for another three minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, bring the pot to a boil, cover it with a lid and then reduce the heat to a simmer.   Cook for an hour.   Using a hand blender, puree the soup until everything is blended.  Serves 8.

Adapted from 'Leslie Beck's Healthy Kitchen'.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

HOKA RUNNING SHOES

The kind of shoes you wear have a huge impact on how your body feels and works.  Wearing the wrong shoes affects your back, shins, hips, knees, leg muscles and feet.  To complicate it, there are many different makes of running shoes and models to choose from.  I have worn a number of different makes of running shoes over the years.  I wear running shoes when participating in a variety of sports/exercises and also to wear as casual shoes for out and about.  When I first started to run I wore shoes that were not right for my feet and I ended up with foot problems.  I had to replace running with swimming laps until the inflammation subsided.  The problem got corrected by using an orthotic insert in my running shoes and wearing motion control shoes.  My running days have since transformed into walking days.  Regardless of whether you are walking or running, you need to wear well constructed shoes because your feet are pounding the ground.

Stinson lite and Bondi models.
A friend of ours told the DH about Hoka running shoes that he had purchased in the U.S.  I hadn't heard of these shoes before this friend talked about them.  After hearing about these shoes, both the DH and I decided to visit our local walking/running store and give them a try.  These shoes are softly cushioned, create a rocking motion when you walk in them, are light, and are very comfortable.  I found that I can actually walk faster wearing these shoes.

These two models that I wear - the Stinson lite and the Bondi, are for different uses.  I didn't plan on getting two pairs of shoes.  I found the Hoka shoes so comfortable for walking the dog that I decided to get a pair for casual wear.  Because of the accumulative mileage I put on walking the dog, the way I heel strike and the dirt that collects on the soils of the shoes, I wear my walking shoes just for walking.  I wear the Bondi model for walking and the Stinson lite for casual use.

These shoes are a different look than the sleek look of the Nike air shoes that Mick Jagger wears but your feet and gait feels great when you are wearing them and do have some style to them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

SMOKED SALMON APPETIZERS

Smoked salmon is one of my favourite foods.  There are many different kinds of smoked salmon.  I usually gravitate to a lox style of salmon from a sockeye fish.

I made these as an appetizer for a recent supper with friends.   They were thoroughly enjoyed.  I like to add ample strips of salmon to each piece of bread and I may have gone a bit overboard with these.




INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

loaf of a french baguette bread
fresh herbs - chives, dill
cream cheese
capers
salmon
fresh lemon

1. Thinly slice a loaf of french baguette bread.  Factor 2 to 3 slices per person as part of the appetizer selection.
2. Place onto a cookie sheet and put into a preheated oven at 300 degrees F.
3. Bake for 5 - 8 minutes or until the slices appear toasted.  You don't want to brown them.  Remove from the oven.
4. Spread each slice of bread with cream cheese.  I used a low fat variety.
5. If you have fresh chives or dill, chop these herbs into small pieces and place a few pieces on top of the cream cheese on each slice of bread.
6. Place a few capers on top of the cream cheese for each slice of bread if you like capers.
7. Layer a piece of smoked salmon on top of each slice of bread.  I cut the strips of thinly sliced smoked salmon into small pieces so that it would be easier to eat before I put it on top of the bread.  I was generous with the amounts of salmon added.
8. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon over each slice of bread.
9. If not eating right away, store in the fridge and cover the plate with plastic wrap.