Sunday, November 23, 2014

LIMA BEAN PUREE

I made some baby lima beans one recent weekend from dried beans and after looking at them in the storage container the following morning I thought they needed some dressing up.  I decided to puree them and add a few condiments to enhance the taste of just undressed lima beans.  Pureeing them provides more options such as spreading on toast or crackers, using as a dip for vegetables, adding to cooked rice or quinoa or incorporating it into a homemade salad dressing.   Other beans can also be used to make a puree.

I didn't want to add ingredients similar to hummus, e.g. tahini, as there was already a container of hummus in the fridge.  One product that I like to use and I call it convenience in a tube are herbs made into a paste and sold in tubes.  I have both tubes of ginger and lemon grass paste in the fridge.  I used the lemon grass paste in making this puree.  Since I have several flavoured olive oils in the cupboard, I used a lime olive oil to add to the ingredients.  The end result is that the puree has a subtle taste and I can use it in a variety of ways.

After being pureed in the food processor


Convenience in a tube.

INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

2 cups cooked lima beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon grass paste
1 tsp fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Place in a food processor and blend until smooth.  If too thick, add a bit more lemon juice while blending.

Monday, November 10, 2014

FRENCH APPLE CAKE

I have a 'go to' recipe for apple cake by Bonnie Stern and I have posted that recipe along with my variations.  I receive an email newsletter from America's Test Kitchen.  The frequency is once or twice a week.  They produce the magazine Cooks Illustrated which I have bought on occasion.  It is a great magazine and provides a lot of information on cooking.  One of their newsletters had a recipe for french apple cake.  The recipe required a few more steps than the Bonnie Stern recipe and it also included explanations on why certain steps or procedures were done.

This cake has a custard like cake bottom which includes the chopped apples.  A second layer is added which is more of a standard cake recipe. The custard like cake is created by adding two egg yolks.   With friends coming over for dinner I decided to try this recipe and as I had some time in the morning, I knew that I would have the prep time.  I thought I would follow the recipe and don't do too much tweaking.  The only substitution I made was using cointreau instead of white rum.  The recipe calls for two tablespoons.  I have provided the link to the recipe site after these photos as they do an excellent job providing the detailed steps.  My cake didn't turn out like their recipe photo.  Their recipe looks more like cake.  The DH and I did some sampling and it is a great cake.  The cake looks like the Bonnie Stern recipe but it tastes a bit different because of the custard bottom.  In the last two photos you will notice a white glaze on top of the baked cake which is sugar.  Before baking you can sprinkle some sugar on top of the batter.  I likely sprinkled a little too much.  The recipe also suggests placing the pan with the batter on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil before placing it in the oven.  I did hesitate and wonder if I should do that.  I am glad I followed the directions as there was some batter leakage from the bottom of the pan onto the aluminum foil and clean up was so much easier this way.
Chopped apples going into the microwave.

The two bowls containing the wet and dry ingredients.

Apples folded into the custard like cake batter.

The top cake batter has been added to the pan.

Cooling off on a rack with the tin foil still under the pan.  I used a spring form pan.

The DH and I sampled the cake to ensure it was good enough for company.
I would make this cake again.  Making it in a spring form pan is the most easiest as you can lift the sides of the pan off.  I plan to serve this cake with caramel ice cream.  I thought that the carmel ice cream would compliment the apples.  Here is the link to the recipe Cooks Illustrated.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

POTATO CASSEROLE

Potato casserole is a wonderful dish to make during the fall and winter months.  The foundation of the dish is minced, finely chopped or shredded onions and potatoes.  Other vegetables can be added including celery and carrots.  If my grandmother had made this dish years ago, she would have hand grated the onions and potatoes.  I have evolved to using electrical tools and I have both shredded the potatoes and onions using a food processor with a shredding blade or with a bottom blade that finely chopped the potatoes and onions.

In making the recipe this time, I added a large carrot to the ingredients to give some colour and more texture.  You can also freeze it once the cooked casserole has been baked and cool down to room temperature.  I like to cut the casserole into squares before freezing to make it easier for serving and also if you only want so many portions for a meal.


INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup four
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Using a hand shredder or food processor, shred or finely chop the onion, potatoes and carrot.  The shredded or finely chopped vegetables can be put into a large mixing bowl.  If I am using a food processor, I add the remaining ingredients to the food processor in order to beat the eggs with the oil, baking powder, flour, oil and salt and pepper.  Beat the mixture to ensure that it is well mixed.  Add the liquid to the shredded vegetables and mix everything together using a mixing spoon.

Oil a 9 X 13 baking pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees F.  You can also use two smaller baking pans to cook the casserole.  Serves 8 to 10 depending on appetites.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP


Every weekend I make a soup for week day lunches.  I like soup, it is filling and great if the weather is cold or rainy.  I had vegetables from the garden that I wanted to use and some leftover cooked chicken and rice.  These ingredients are the basis of chicken vegetable soup.  The vegetables can vary depending on what you have available.  If you don't have leftover rice you can add uncooked rice, quinoa or couscous or not even add it.  I add the broth to the pot after I add all of the vegetables.  I like having the liquid cover the mound of chopped vegetables in the pot.  I use this measure as a way of knowing if the soup will be thick enough or too watery.  I made this soup in the electric pressure cooker instead of using the stove.  Both the DH and I enjoyed this soup for lunch after just making it and I went back for a second half bowl.



INGREDIENTS:

1 onion chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 med size zucchini, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 small cabbage, chopped
2 big handfuls of spinach, chopped
1 to 2 cups of left over chicken, diced
6-8 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup cooked rice, optional 
1/2 tsp dry dill
dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Into a large soup pot place all of the ingredients.  Heat to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer for an hour to 75 minutes.  Makes 8 to 9 servings.

If using an electric pressure cooker, set on medium pressure and cook for 17 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RED LENTIL ZUCCHINI SOUP

With all of the zucchini in the garden, I decided to make a soup that included zucchini.  The zucchini and carrots that are added to the soup have to be grated.  Using a food processor, I grated more than what was needed and froze about two cups of carrots and zucchini which I can use for a future soup.  Instead of adding couscous, I decided to add about six baby potatoes and I grated these along with the other vegetables.  Since red lentils are so small, they dissolve in the soup and help make the soup thick.  I made this soup in the electric pressure cooker and set it for 16 minutes at medium pressure.  The Dh liked the soup so much he had two bowls.



INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tsp oil
4 carrots, grated
2 medium size zucchini, grated
1 cup red lentils
6 cups broth or water
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/3 cup couscous
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil on medium high in a large soup pot.  Add the onions and celery, reduce heat to medium and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden. If the vegetables are sticking to the pan, add a little bit of water.

Add all of the ingredients to the pot except the couscous, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for about 50 minutes and stir the pot every so often.  Add the couscous and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.  If the soup is too thick for your taste buds, add a little bit of water.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 8.

Modified from MealLean i Yumm by Norene Gilletz

Sunday, October 5, 2014

WALKABOUT


One evening last week, Shane, the dog, decided to add some excitement to the evening.  As per the usual routine, I let him out for his final backyard tour before we all turned in for the night.  Unknown to me and the DH, the back gate was not latched properly.  We had some work done on the house that day and what transpired was that they didn't latch the back gate when closing it after finishing their work.

After about 15 minutes, I was wondering why there was no Shane at the back door waiting to come in.  I stuck my head out and he was not around.  My antennae of knowing that he was up to something shot way up.  I raced around to the side of the house and saw the gate was open.  I grabbed my coat, ball cap and shoes, yelled out to the DH who was transfixed on a TV program that Shane got out and I was gone.

Of course figuring out the mind of a dog and deciding if he went to the right or left upon leaving the house is always a gamble as the odds are that you will be 50 percent wrong.  I went left and started to walk towards the park.  It was cloudy and spitting rain and I am calling out 'Shane, come' while walking.  I didn't see him lurking among the houses so I kept walking.  The DH started to follow me and I stopped.  The DH had taken a few cookies which always serves as a good bait and enticement.  I took a cookie from me and kept on walking in the direction towards the park.  The DH went the opposite way.

Now you can imagine me yelling out 'Shane, come, cookie' in a loud voice across the park.  The park is a good size and has walking pathways going through it.  I could hear the echo of my voice after saying those three magic words.  After a few minutes of calling there was no sight or noise from the dog.  Maybe he had not turned to the left from the house.  I met up with the DH who was going to walk to another park that had a trail which goes for several miles.  I decided I needed to up my game and got into my car.  I could cover more distance.

For over an hour and a half that night I drove around to all of the routes that we follow while out walking.  Plus I drove around a number of other blocks just in case.  Along the various routes, I would stop the car, get out and sing out those three words 'Shane, come, cookie' in various voice tones.  Added for good measure there were a few whistles.  It was raining and not good weather for a pleasant walkabout which I imagined Shane was taking.  I was worried about Shane not being a good road warrior and he only has one eye so his perception is limited.  He would not be looking both ways before he crossed the street.

It was time to go back home and take stock plus I needed to check in with the DH.  Lo and behold, the animal protection officer called our house and reported that someone had found Shane.  Shane wears a dog tag license on his collar that was used to make the connection to us.  We provided  logistics to the animal control officer and 15 minutes later, the fellow who found Shane drives up to our home with Shane in the back seat.  Shane is leaning over with his body into the front seat and smiling and wiggling.  It had a been a great adventure for him.  All was well.

The fellow was walking his golden retriever in the park and saw Shane and realized that Shane must have gotten out of his yard or got loose in some manner or way.  He leashed Shane and Shane went back to this person's home.  So Shane must have turned left upon leaving our home.  Shane had a great time with the golden retriever and this fellow told me that Shane was a gentlemen.  Shane a gentlemen?  There must have been some distractions in this person's home like shoes, food or gloves.  Well he was a well behaved guest.  The fellow did give me his name, the street he lived on and also suggested that I get a tag with Shane's name and our phone number to make it easier to find him if this ever happened again.  I profusely thanked him for finding Shane.

Of course when I got into the house, I remembered this fellow's first name, his street but couldn't quite remember his last name.  How was I going to follow up and give him a proper thank you or a small token of our appreciation?   This was going to require some detective work.  The following day I started to do some reconnaissance.  Multiple leads were followed, some messages left with some people returning phone calls.  The street that this fellow lived on was long and had a few side streets off of it.  I hit jackpot finally with one person I knew that lived on that street and who had two dogs. All dog owners know the other dogs that live on their street.  They may not know the owners' names but know in a general way where other dogs live.  I was able to get a general sense of the area where this house was and was ready to do some door knocking.

I got a small gift and with Shane in tow in the car we went on our mission today.   Upon ringing the door bell at the first house I hit the jack pot.  It was the same fellow who had dropped Shane off and he was hanging on to the collar of his golden retriever who is a real sweetheart.   Mission completed and all is well.  Oh, by the way, Shane now has two tags that jingle from his collar one of which has his name and our phone number.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

COUNTING YOUR PENNIES


Over the past few years I have written about diets, making changes in my eating style and approach, eating a more plant based diet, exercising and general nutrition.  I have also recognized that for my metabolism I need to include cardio into my daily routine if I want to lose any weight or even maintain my weight if I am overindulging.  Cardio for me includes using machines or apparatuses such as an elliptical, rower or rebounder.  Increasing my heart rate is key to budging the number on the scale.  Even though I walk every morning with my best four legged friend, the cardio is needed.

In June I decided I needed a nutrition coach to help me be accountable and lose those persistent ten or so pounds that have been my companion for the past decade.  This companion comes and goes and as I have gotten older, it is getting harder to get rid of these companion pounds.

I did find a nutrition coach who does not live in the same city as me.  The coaching has been done through telephone calls.  It has been a slow process to lose these pounds.  I call them my Velcro pounds.  I literally need to peel them off to see progress.  To help with accountability, I write down everything I eat and the exercising I do.  I don't find that difficult as I am an old hand on recording food consumption and exercising.  This diary gets shared with my coach who reviews my progress.

I had an 'ah ha' moment last week.  I get so focused on eating properly and exercising but I realized that I needed to focus on the smaller things, the smaller picture.  I needed to watch and count the extra bites or in other words, my pennies.  By counting my pennies the dollars would look after themselves.

Counting pennies is an analogy to watching the extra small bites or snitches of food.  Taking in an extra 100 calories or so can stall progress for me on losing those ounces (or grams if you use metrics).  I was consuming a few too many almonds, my Saturdays were a challenge at times between sharing a muffin with the DH while out getting a latte and sampling at Costco and I was not paying enough attention to the balance of carbohydrates and protein at supper.  I was likely having an extra ounce of protein at supper when I was having two servings of carbohydrates.  

For this past week I have been telling myself to watch the pennies, and the dollars will look after themselves.  The 30 or 40 calories of extras can add up during the day.  

As the tee shirt in the photo says, 'remember where you come from' and I would add, remember where you are going in order to see some positive outcomes.  I am hoping to build the dollars over the next number of weeks.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

RICE COOKER - ZOJIRUSHI

To cook rice, I have been using a few different methods.  I stopped using the pot on the stove to cook rice some time ago.  I didn't have luck or timing in making sure the rice didn't boil over or that it would stick to the bottom of the pot.  I started to use either a rice cooker or the oven.  The rice cooker was the basic cooker with the glass lid and steam hole.  There would be a mess around the counter where the cooker sat as when the rice was cooking away in the nonstick bowl, the steam and the liquid would be spewing out the stem hole and sometimes around the glass lid.  And when the rice would be finished, there would be a rice crust on the bottom of the cooking bowl.  The oven method was easy, no overflow of steam, liquid or rice and no rice crust on the bottom of the corel casserole dish that I used to cook the rice.  But heating an oven and using it to just cook rice seemed a little much.  

Recently I was describing my rice cooking experience to a friend of ours.  He promptly provided me with information and rationale on the rice cooker that he has been using for the past ten years.  He said that this was the best cooker and that the quality of the rice made was very different from the basic cooker I have been using.  I was intrigued about the model he recommended - Zojirushi.  I started to do my own research on what is the best rice cooker and I read a number of reviews.  The Zojirushi rice maker did get high marks.  Reading all of the information prompted me to buy a new rice cooker.  

I did buy a Zojirushi rice cooker and I bought a model made in Japan.  There are many different models made by this company.  I bought one that has advanced fuzzy logic technology and is the 5.5 cup capacity.  The technology figures out the time required to cook the rice.  The cooker has multi menu cooking functions for different kinds of rice and also for porridge.  The times will change depending if you are cooking white rice, sweet rice, brown rice and quick rice.   I am looking forward to testing the cooker to make steel cut porridge.  The cooker also has a steamer basket.   The design of the rice cooker is interesting.  It looks like a tub and has a handle that you use to lift and carry it around.

Last night I made basmati rice and I think it was the best rice I have ever made.  The rice was fluffy, each kernel was separate from the others, it was not gummy and there was no mess around the counter.   I am looking forward to try brown rice and sweet rice made in this cooker.  The reviews I read said that this cooker makes excellent brown rice.  Rice does take longer to cook in this style of cooker versus the basic rice cooker.  It took 50 minutes to cook the basmati rice.  I did make a bit of rice in order to have left overs.

Cooked basmati rice.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

GLUTEN FREE CHERRY COBBLER CRISP


Over the past few years, I have posted recipes for both crisps and cobblers.  With needing to make a gluten free dessert and knowing that my company likes sour cherries, I decided to experiment and make a topping that included both ground almond flour and oatmeal.   I took a recipe for a cobbler and adapted it.  I had nothing to lose and besides, it is always fun to experiment when company comes.  Of course it is easier when your company is family.

For the filling, I used half a cup of splenda.  For the topping I used almond milk instead of buttermilk or dairy milk.   Since I had blackberries to use as they were getting soft, I used those in the topping.

The company loved the dessert.  It was just about inhaled and not too many leftovers.

Just out of the oven.


Not much left!


INGREDIENTS:

Filling

4 cups of fresh or frozen pitted cherries
¼ cup white sugar or splenda
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp ground almond flour

Topping

1 ½ cups quick cooking oatmeal
½ cup ground almond flour 
1/3 cup sugar or splenda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces or coconut oil
1 cup buttermilk or one cup of milk with 1 tbsp of vinegar (soured milk)
1 cup blackberries or blueberries or other berries

DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, comine all of the ingredients for the filling.  Oil an 9 X 13 baking dish.   Place the filling into the baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the oatmeal, almond flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and using a fork or pastry blender, mix the butter into the dough until it is crumbly.  Pour the milk over the flour mixture and mix it together.  Fold in the blackberries or blueberries.  Using a wooden spoon, spread the dough on top of the fruit. 

Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes or until the  dough is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling.  Let cool and serve with ice cream.  Store leftovers in the fridge.   Serves 6 to 8 depending on appetites.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

CELERY POTATO SOUP

This year after the garden got planted, the sparrows decided to eat the young shoots of the beets and swiss chard plants.  With those plants gone, we had space to fill.   I have never planted celery before but after talking to a person working at a gardening centre, I thought I would give it a try.  About 10 plants were put in the garden.  They all survived.  Ten large bunches of celery is a lot to eat.  Some has been given to friends and we are busy eating celery.  I got the idea to make celery potato soup from a neighbour who was going to use the celery I gave to her, to make this kind of soup.   I made this soup as the appetizer for a supper meal.  With zucchini being plentiful in the garden, I added a small chopped zucchini to the soup.  One needs to be creative in using zucchini.

The soup was enjoyed by all and the DH even went back for a second bowl.



INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound celery, chopped
12 ounces of potatoes, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped - optional
6 cups of broth such as chicken or vegetable
1/2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot heat the oil on medium high heat.   Add the onion and celery and reduce heat to medium heat. Saute for five to seven minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add the potatoes and zucchini if using.  Continue to saute for another five minutes.  Add broth, thyme and salt and pepper.  Heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.   Turn the heat off and using a hand blender puree the soup.  Adjust seasonings if required.  Serves 6.