Sunday, March 22, 2015

ZUCCHINI NOODLES

Using zucchini as a substitute for pasta noodles or cucumber as a substitute for vermicelli noodles is one of the options used by people who are reducing their consumption of grains.  To make zucchini or cucumber look like noodles you either have to use a julienne peeler or one of the gadgets being sold in your favourite kitchen store.  I do have a julienne peeler in the kitchen drawer but the temptation to try a spiral slicer was too great to overlook.

I have been wanting to try to make zucchini noodles for a while and while at one of my favourite kitchen stores yesterday I went looking for a spiral slicer and purchased one.  There are a number of different products on the market and I bought a simple hand crank slicer.  The slicer has four different widths depending on the thickness you want.


The picture doesn't capture the hand crank coming out from the top of the container.  It is simple tool to use and will create a bit of fun for me in using different vegetables in recipes.


The zucchini noodles in the colander is from one medium sized zucchini.  I used two zucchinis to make the noodles.

PREPPING THE ZUCCHINI:

Using two zucchinis, julienne or spiral slice them into noodle like strands.  Place them into a large colander and salt them.  I used over half a teaspoon of salt.  Toss the zucchini noodles so that they are well coated.  Let the colander sit in the sink for about 30 minutes.  The salt will make the zucchini sweat and draw out the moisture.  After thirty minutes rinse the noodles thoroughly in the colander with cold running water.  Let the noodles sit in the colander for about five minutes.  

Place the noodles on a few sheets of paper towels or a clean dish towel and damp dry them to remove excess moisture.  If you have the time, you can place the noodles, uncovered, in the colander and place in the fridge for up to two hours.  This will help dry them out.  They can also be stored for a few days in a covered container in the fridge if you are not using them right away.  I found the tip about letting the zucchini noodles dry in the fridge from a cookbook "Well Fed 2" by Melissa Joulwan.  She has a number of great recipes and wonderful tips in her cookbook.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium high heat.  Saute them for several minutes.  Remove them from the stove and add to the hot pasta sauce you are using.  Or you can add a bit of flavoured olive oil to the noodles while they are still in the pan.  You can also add some shredded Parmesan cheese just before removing them from the pan for a simple pasta dish.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

HERMIT-TRAIL MIX COOKIE

While at Costco today, one of the samples being given out was a type of breakfast cookie.  There are a number of variations of breakfast cookies and some are more healthier than others.  The DH was slightly tempted in buying a package of these cookies but I told him that I would make a batch this afternoon.

The breakfast cookie reminds me of a hermit cookie.  A hermit cookie includes the usual flour, oatmeal, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fruit.  A breakfast cookie can include most of the same ingredients but some of the dried fruit ingredients are interchanged with seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut.  There are also breakfast cookies that are flourless, no eggs, coconut oil instead of butter, dates exchanged for the sugar and so on.

The cookies can be made gluten free and vegan friendly if desired.  I didn't add the cranberries or raisins.  I used splenda instead of sugar and oil instead of butter or margarine.  Because I used oil the cookies are more crumbly.  I would have preferred to have used butter or margarine but didn't.  Lessons learned.  Regardless, the cookies are very good and will be eaten with pleasure.

Mixing batter in the bowl.


I experimented and used two different kind of liners to bake the cookies.

Cooling before sampling begins.

 INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup softened butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar or splenda
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins or cranberries or half and half
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl mix the flour, flax seed, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In a separate larger bowl mix together the wet ingredients.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine the cookie batter.  Using the mixing bowl from the flour mixture, combine the oatmeal, chocolate chips, cranberries, seeds and coconut.  Mix well.  Add the oatmeal mixture to the cookie batter and combine but be careful to not over do it.

Using non stick baking sheets, you can line them with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets if desired.  Take a tablespoonful size of batter, less than a golf ball size and drop onto the baking sheet.  I first shaped the golf ball size batter with my hands before putting it on the baking sheet and then slightly flattened it.  Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, remove, let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then place the cookies on a cooling rack.  Makes about 36 cookies.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

THAI BEEF SALAD

I was recently talking with one of my friends about favourite recipes and she shared with me a recipe for a thai beef salad.  She calls the salad 'weeping tiger beef'.  The beef steak is marinated and then grilled and served over a salad.  It has a fresh taste as it uses both mint and cilantro.

I made a few changes to the recipe and since the barbecue gets limited usage in the winter time, I cooked the steak in the oven.  The original recipe was a green salad with tomato and green onion.  I also added mushrooms and cucumber.  You can add other favourite vegetables to the salad.  The recipe calls for fish sauce.  Instead of using fish sauce which is high in sodium, I used nuoc cham dipping sauce which is the sauce used for vietnamese fresh rolls.  It is about a third of the sodium content.  Instead of regular soy sauce I use Bragg liquid aminos as it is much lower in sodium.  Both the DH and I enjoyed this salad.  It is a keeper.

I used this sauce instead of fish sauce.

Marinade

Beef steak placed in the marinade.

Salad is ready to eat.
INGREDIENTS:

3/4 to 1 pound beef steak
5 to 6 cups of chopped lettuce 
1 to 2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tomato chopped into small chunks
1 mini cucumber, chopped
2 large mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
8 to 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 tbsp cashews, almonds or peanuts, chopped

Marinade
2 tbsp fish sauce or nuoc cham
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar or splenda
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
pepper to taste

Dressing
2 tbsp fish sauce or nuoc cham
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet red chill sauce
1 tbsp water

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the steak into several large pieces and place into a container that has a lid.  Mix the marinade in a small bowl and add to the steak.  Turn the steak over a few times to coat with the marinade.  Cover and place in the fridge for an hour.

Heat the barbecue or oven to 375 degrees F.  Cook the steak in the barbecue or oven to how well done you like meat to be.  While the meat is cooking prepare the salad.  Divide the salad between two large plates.  After cooking the meat, let it rest for five minutes.  Thinly slice the meat and divide it between the two plates.  Mix the salad dressing and add it to the salads.  Serves 2.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

BANANA MAPLE OATMEAL COOKIES


I had a craving earlier this week for oatmeal cookies after looking at some cookies in a local coffee establishment.   These cookies are fat free and low in sugar.  I didn't flatten them with a fork when placed on a baking sheet and left them higher and chunkier to bake.  Since these cookies were more chunkier, I baked them for 12 minutes.  They passed the DH's tasting session and are good.  They would probably be great dunked in coffee or regular tea.




INGREDIENTS:

1 cup regular or quick oats
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½  tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup raisins
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
2 tbsp water
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup sugar or splenda
1 banana, mashed
½ tsp lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium size mixing bowl, mix the oats, flour, baking soda, sugar or splenda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and then add the raisins. 

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg and add the maple syrup, water, vanilla, mashed banana, and lemon juice.  Combine well.  Pour into the dry mixture and stir well but don’t overmix.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper.  You can flatten each cookie slightly with a fork.  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until bottoms and sides are lightly brown.  Makes 18 to 20 cookies.

Modified from fatfreevegan.com

Saturday, January 31, 2015

CARROT, SQUASH AND SWEET POTATO SOUP

I have been thinking of making a squash carrot soup for awhile and since I had a bag of frozen, uncooked, cubed winter squash in the freezer, it was not a difficult decision to make.  If using fresh squash, you can use a vegetable peeler, peel the skin and cut the squash up into pieces.  I do have an easier tactic as one of the grocery stores I frequent sells squash already peeled and cut up into small pieces.  If I am not going to use this squash, I end up freezing it.

The soup turned out fine.  I added more broth than what the recipe calls for so it is a bit thinner than what I would have liked.  I did add more ginger after the soup was pureed.

Ready to go into the fridge.


INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 coloured pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled, chopped
3-4 cups uncooked winter squash, peeled, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
6-7 cups broth, vegetable or chicken
salt and pepper to taste


DIRECTIONS:

Into a large soup pot, add all of the ingredients.  Cover the pot with a lid and heat to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.   Cook for about an hour, until the vegetables are tender.  Using a hand immersion blender, puree the soup.  Serves 9.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

TIDYING YOUR SPACE

I recently bought a book entitled "the life-changing magic of tidying up.  The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing".  It is written by Marie Kondo and has been translated from Japanese.  Along with the introduction the book has five chapters.  The author's premise is that you don't have keep tidying your house every day.  Tidying can be done once and the tasks that you need to continue for the rest of your life are those of choosing what to keep and what to discard and caring for the things you decide to keep.  Furthermore, by tidying once, you will be able to put your house in order and have the time and passion to pursue what brings you joy into your life.  The author says that when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.  You have to first start by discarding what you really don't need and then organizing your space.


You might be wondering why I bought this book and if I am a messy untidy person.  I think I am tidy and try to not collect too many piles of papers or books at home.  But it is all relative based on who I am comparing myself to.  I am also conscious of not trying to saving everything.  What caught my attention when looking at this book at the bookstore was chapter 3 on tidying by category.  I started to read the pages on how to fold clothes and store socks.  I was intrigued.  The author feels that the inside of your drawers should be organized so that the each item can be seen at a glance, just like seeing the spines of your books when they are lined up on your bookcase.  Clothes in your drawer should be stored standing and it is not the folding that creates wrinkles but the amount of pressure applied that causes wrinkling. The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a smooth, simple rectangle.  Every piece of clothing has its own sweet spot in terms of the number of folds.  I love tee shirts and have written about tee shirts in a previous post  how many tee shirts should you own?   I have several drawers of tee shirts and the tee shirts are separated by whether they are short sleeve or long sleeve and colours.  The tee shirts are all nicely folded but are stacked, and are not stored in the drawers standing up.  You can bet already that I will be rearranging my tee shirt drawers.

Chapter 3 also contains information on storing socks.  Besides tee shirts,  I also love socks.  I store my socks in the drawer by rolling them up and fold the tops back to form a flat ball.  The author write that socks should not be balled-up.  Storing them in the drawer is a time for them to rest.  Your socks are essentially on holiday.  When you wear your socks they endure pressure and friction.  If you store your socks balled-up, the fabric is stretched, the elastic is pulled and they never get the chance to relax.  This make perfect sense to me.  The socks are folded like clothing and are stored with the socks on their edge.  I spent 45 minutes today unwrapping my socks and storing them folded on their edge.  I also separated the socks based on winter and summers weight and whether they were fine socks intended to wear with dress shoes.  I realized doing this that I have a lot of socks, likely too many socks.  And I like every pair of them.  

The book contains other interesting information from arranging clothes in your closet, to arranging books on your book case, to designating a spot for each of your items, to appreciating your belongings, and to learning that you can do without.  Since I have been reading the book in a non sequential manner, I will start to read it from beginning to end.  It is not a big book both in size and page numbers so it should not take me long to read it.

 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SHRIMP AND PASTA

I do find a difference in taste using freshly made pasta versus the dry packaged varieties.  I was at an Italian restaurant recently and they sell fresh pasta that they make on the premises. You can buy it and take it home to use for your own dishes.  I didn't even have pasta that night at the restaurant.  They have a number of entrees in which pasta is not included.  I bought 8 ounces of uncooked linguine to use for the following evening meal.  Since I had cooked shrimp in the fridge I thought I would create a simple dish using the pasta and the shrimp.  It was well received by the DH and he definitely liked this pasta dish versus the ones I have sometimes created using black bean pasta.  You can make this recipe using dried pasta and it would be just as good.  As I had about two tablespoons of an artichoke dip left in a container in the fridge, I added this to the pasta dish at the end.

Shrimp and spinach in the frying pan.

Fresh pasta cooking away.


I added two tablespoons of this dip to the pasta and shrimp while still in the frying pan.

Finished dish, ready to be served.

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces uncooked pasta such as linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp oil
several handfuls of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp fresh dill. chopped
20 medium size cooked shrimped, shelled
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chunky artichoke dip, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Boil a medium size pot with salted water, with enough water to cook pasta.  Add the pasta, reduce the heat to medium and cooked to al dente.  Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water in case it is needed later in the recipe.

While the pasta is cooking, add the oil to a non-stick frying pan and heat on high. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for a few minutes.  Add the spinach and cook it until it is wilted.  Add the shrimp, dill and lemon juice to the frying pan. Cook for a few minutes.  If the mixture appears dry, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to  taste.

Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and using thongs, mix the pasta with the shrimp and spinach.  Add the chunky artichoke dip.  Combine and remove the pan from the stove.  Serves 2 to 3.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

VEGAN MORNING MUFFINS

I came across this recipe in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper.  The story wasn't focussed as much on the muffins but the person who makes these muffins - Kathleen Edwards. She is a singer-songwriter who has opened up her own coffee shop.  These muffins are quick to make and you can add items to them based on your preferences - from bananas to nuts to dried fruit to frozen berries to coconut.  The recipe calls for applesauce.  The only applesauce I had was frozen so I substituted cranberry sauce that I had made earlier in the week.  I also added shredded unsweetened coconut to the recipe.  One ingredient made me pause.  The recipe calls for two tablespoons of vanilla extract.  I would think it would have been two teaspoons but I followed the recipe and added the tablespoons.  The muffins tasted fine with that amount of vanilla extract.  Instead of sugar I used 1/3 cup of splenda.  I used regular bran instead of the red bran that the recipe calls for.  The muffins taste healthy.



INGREDIENTS:

Dry:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup red bran
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
dash of salt

Wet:
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup almond milk. Add a tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let curdle for five minutes before adding to the wet ingredients.

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula.  Choose one to three of the following items to add to the mixed batter: 2 to 3 ripe mashed ripe bananas; 1/4 cup dried and diced dates, apricots, cranberries, raisins, cranberries, frozen berries, seeds, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.  Combine your choice into the batter.   Add batter to non-stick muffin tin.  I like to use muffin paper liners to make it easier to lift the muffins out of the individual muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes.  Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ASPARAGUS SALAD

I was thinking about some recipes over the these holidays to make ahead prior to the supper meal in order to pace myself and to ease the load of trying to have everything ready at once to serve.  This asparagus salad can be made during the afternoon.  I cooked the asparagus and added all of the chopped vegetables but didn't add the dressing until the salad was ready to be served.  I covered the salad with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge for the few hours before supper.  It is a great salad and is an option to consider if you are looking for a non-lettuce option.



Asparagus added to medium size pot.

Before the salad was mixed, the peppers, tomatoes and avocado are layered over the asparagus.

INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and chopped into small chunks
1 to 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 coloured pepper, seeded and chopped
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste


DIRECTIONS:
Add asparagus to a pot of water and boil for about two minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Into a large serving bowl, add asparagus with remaining ingredients and combine to mix the vegetables with the dressing.  Serves 6.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

MUESLI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I buy a number of products made by Bob's Red Mill.  I have never counted the number of products that the company sells but they cover the gamete from flour to cereal to grains and beans.  Bob Moore started his first company milling flour in the 1960s in California.  The current company, located in Oregon, got started in the late 1970's and Bob sold it to his employees when he decided to retire years later.

On one of my grocery trips, I bought a large bag of muesli made by Bob's Red Mill.  I add the muesli to my porridge instead of chia seed or hemp seed to have some variety.  On the back of the package is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I decided to make a double batch as I wanted to bring cookies to work and I can't take all of the cookies and not leave the DH any morsels so a double batch was made.  I used Splenda instead of brown sugar and used a mixture of unbleached flour and multigrain flour.  I also used butter in the recipe.  I made the cookies small in size and they are what I call a two bite cookie.  They are delicious.  




INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Muesli
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium size bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.   In a separate bowl blend the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Beat in the egg.  Add the flour mixture and mix.  Add the muesli and chocolate chips.  Combine.  Drop by a teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes about 24 cookies.

recipe adapted from the Bob's Red Mill Muesli