Sunday, July 27, 2014

FISH WITH HERB PESTO

The word pesto is derived from the Genoese word 'pesta' which means to pound and to crush.  This is likely because it was originally made with using a pestle and mortar to pound the ingredients.  The modern day pesto uses basil, oil, garlic, grated hard cheese such as parmesan and basil but depending on the region or country, not all use pine nuts.  Different regions or countries will use other herbs besides basil and may almonds or tomatoes in making the paste.  I don't think the original pesto was used for fish but was added to pasta.

I made this pesto using a combination of basil and parsley to accompany baked halibut.  I made more pesto than what was needed for a pound of fish.  I also didn't finely chop the pesto and make it really smooth.  It had some texture to it.  To make it smoother I would have had to add a little bit of water or olive oil.  I also did not add grated cheese to the recipe.  Adding a bit of cheese could have helped in making a smoother paste.

The pesto did add wonderful flavour to the halibut and both the DH and I enjoyed this dish.



Halibut with pesto.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound halibut, cod or other fish fillet, cut into four pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pesto

1/2 cup parsley, basil combo
3 tbsp dill
3 tbsp roasted almonds, whole or slivered
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Using a small blender, add the herbs and nuts.  Using the pulse feature, pulse a number of times to finely chop the mixture.  Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth or coarse if you want to have more texture.  If the pesto is too dry, add one tablespoon of water to make a smoother paste.  This makes more than what is required for the cooked halibut. Set the pesto aside in order to cook the fish.

Heat a non stick frying pan on medium high and add the oil.  Once hot, add the fish and salt and pepper to your taste.  Reduce heat to medium and cook about five to six minutes on each side to golden brown.  

Add a spoonful of pesto to the fish once it is plated.  Serves 3 to 4 depending on appetite. 




Saturday, July 19, 2014

THE DOG


My four legged companion Shane is turning nine this weekend.   Time has gone by quickly.  From getting him when he was a pup and lying on my lap in the car (I wasn't driving) going to his new home to the present day, a lot has happened.  He has been a busy fellow:

  • he has had some major surgeries, 
  • chewed a number of shoes, 
  • damaged some underground sprinkler lines in the background, 
  • pulled a toilet paper rod holder off the wall which resulted in patching a wall and repainting a bathroom,
  • chewed two seat belts in the back seat of a car,
  • rolled in some awful smelling stuff on a number of occasions, 
  • cools off in the fish pond in the backyard and disregards his own wading pool,  
  • has mastered the art of licking a bowl,
  • developed a fondness for ice cream, carrots, banana and peanut butter,
  • discovered how to pick cucumbers off of the vine and dig for carrots,
  • taking food off of the kitchen counter,
  • learned to supervise me while I prepare and cook meals,
  • took a number of obedience classes, 
  • attempted but never succeeded mastering agility competitions (too many distractions),
  • never met a ball he didn't like,
  • loves his morning walk, and
  • loves to grab socks, gloves or shoes and trot off with them.

All dogs are wonderful and I have never met a cat or dog owner who doesn't like to talk about their pet.  Lab retrievers never quite grow up and I reckon that he will have that teenager dog sense of play  until his dying days.  He is a very social dog and on our daily walks, has managed to suck up to several walkers, non dog owners, who have to stop to pet him, praise him and tell him what a good boy he is.  This can happen on a daily basis.  I like to call him the Johnny Carson on the walking path.  All he needs is a chair and couch and he could have a reality TV show.

I have posted some pictures to share of the one and only Shane.


























Sunday, July 6, 2014

EDAMAME SALAD WITH FRESH HERBS

I have a fair number of frozen packages of edamame beans which need to be used.  Edamame beans are also quite tasty and lend themselves to being added to salads, quinoa or couscous dishes or just eating them on their own.  The frozen beans I buy are still in the pod so I cook them for close to six minutes in the microwave and then let them cool.  Each frozen package has close to a cup of shelled beans.  I made this salad as I also had fresh green beans and lots of herbs in the garden.  The herbs add a delightful freshness to the salad and I used fresh dill, parsley and mint.  I used about 5 large mint leaves and it added a nice flavour.  You could add quinoa or couscous to this salad as an option.  I had about a quarter of a cup of cooked chick peas in the fridge which also got added to this salad.   It was a good way to use up this small amount of chick peas.  I have a collection of flavoured balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  But that is another story for another post.  I used lemon white balsamic vinegar in this salad.   If you don't have white balsamic vinegar, regular balsamic vinegar is fine to add.


INGREDIENTS:

1 cup shelled cooked edamame beans
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cups of cooked green beans, chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup of fresh herbs: parsley, dill and a few mint leaves
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients except for the oil and vinegar into a medium size bowl.  Mix well.  Add the vinegar and oil.  Adjust the seasonings to taste.  Serves 3- 4 depending on whether this is a side dish or part of your main meal.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

MUSHROOM POTATO SOUP

I had over two cups of sliced mushrooms in the fridge which needed to be used.  When grocery shopping I sometimes buy a big package of sliced mushrooms and they have a limited shelf life.  The package is usually fine for about a week in the fridge.  This soup is like a vegetable chowder but does have fewer vegetables, it is pureed, it does not include any thickener such as flour and it also includes adding a cup of milk when the cooking is complete.  As a meal, this soup would not be a complete meal for me as it is low in calories, carbs and protein.  I will include adding some form of protein to my meal when having this soup as part of lunch or supper.  The soup would also be good to have as a snack instead of fruit or an energy bar if you are looking for variety.  I used baby potatoes in the ingredients but you could use two regular size potatoes.  You could also add more potatoes than what I added.  I didn't add carrots and used zucchini instead.  I made the soup in an electric pressure cooker and set the timer for 14 minutes.


INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
2 plus cups of mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen niblets corn
10 small baby potatoes, chopped
7 to 8 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of milk
salt and pepper to taste
Mrs. Dash no salt vegetable seasoning, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, add all of the ingredients, except the milk, and heat to a boiling point.  Reduce the  heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour.  Turn the heat off and using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  Add the milk.  Serves 8.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

VEGETABLE SAUSAGE QUINOA SOUP


For the past three weeks I have been making versions of this soup each weekend.  It is vegetable soup with the addition of sausage and quinoa or rice.  I have used italian sausage or breakfast pork sausage in the versions I have made.  I prefer italian sausage as it has more flavour than pork sausage.  I use mild italian sausage but you may prefer to use hot or other varieties of sausage.   There are options you can use in what vegetables you want to use to make the soup.  I use a variety of vegetables and like a soup that is thick and has many kinds of vegetables.  You could include cauliflower, potatoes, turnip or cabbage as other choices.  I have been using quinoa or a blend of sprouted brown rice and quinoa that is made by truRoots.  I buy this package at Costco.  Instead of cooking the soup on the stove, I used an electric pressure cooker and cooked the soup on medium pressure for 16 minutes.  The soup will great for lunches this week for both the DH and I.

Ready to eat.
INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 to 3 small zucchinis, chopped
4 to 6 mushrooms, chopped
2 bunches fresh spinach, chopped
6 fresh or frozen skinned tomatoes, chopped
1/2 heaping cup of quinoa or sprouted rice quinoa blend
3 raw mild italian sausages, chopped into small chunks
10 cups of water or chicken bouillon
2 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
6 to 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Mrs. Dash seasoning, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, add all of the ingredients.  Heat to a boiling point.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 90 minutes.  Serves 10.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

TURKEY CHILI STEW

Even though it is late Spring, with the rain and cool temperatures, I was in the mood to make a chili.  My chili is sometimes a cross between a chili and a stew.  I like to add more vegetables than a typical bean and meat chili and I don't add a lot of heat in terms of spices.  I used extra lean ground turkey in this recipe but ground chicken or beef can also be used.  If you want a spicier chili, you can add chili pepper or hot peppers.  I also used a pressure cooker to make this dish.  The directions provided below are for stove top cooking.  I can sauté in the electric pressure cooker before using the pressure cooker function and followed the same directions and then set the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.  The DH said that the chili was very good.

Ready to eat!


INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp oil olive
1 medium to large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 coloured pepper, chopped
2 small zucchini, medium to finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1.5 to 2 pounds ground lean turkey
1 large can of tomatoes or 6 frozen tomatoes
1/4 cup dry pearl barley
1 - 540 ml (19 ozs) canned white kidney beans
1 tsp herbes de provence
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

On medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic and celery for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the coloured pepper and sauté for a few more minutes.  Add the ground turkey and continue to sauté for about 8 minutes.  The turkey needs to be broken up if it clumps into pieces that are too large.

Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low heat for an hour.  Stir occasionally.  Serves 6 to 7.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

GRADUATION SPEECHES

This is the time of year when speeches are made to graduation classes.  I have heard some wonderful speeches in person with personal touches and great life stories.  I have also heard and read some speeches that are almost wishful thinking for the audience.  The person giving the speech has lived a life that most of us will never experience because of particular circumstances and significant opportunities that presented themselves to this respective person.  It is very interesting to hear about their lives and perspectives.  But how does that make it real for the graduate and how does the graduate relate to this person's life?

What got me thinking about this subject was a comment made on the radio this morning about the commencement address that Steve Jobs gave some years ago.  The commentator was talking about the first quote provided below.  She felt that Steve Jobs was downplaying the job that other people were doing so that he was able to follow his dreams and do the work he loved.  She provided examples of all the support he got at Apple, from the cleaners to the people who worked on the assembly lines putting together the computers.  In the first quote, Steve Jobs talks about doing the work that you love to do.  The second quote speaks to following your own heart and intuition and not living someone else's life. 







Both quotes from Steve Jobs provides wonderful advice.  But can we all relate to it?  What I am thinking about is the man or woman who works several jobs in order to give their children a better life.  Or the person who has responsibilities for elder care and is responsible for them and spends their  free time attending to needs of their parents.  They don't have the freedom to follow their dreams.  Or the person who was raised in an environment where education was not encouraged and wasn't encouraged to dream beyond the life of what their parent had.  Or the single parent who is raising several children, doesn't have a family support system and is unable to get training to improve their life.  Or the person who has disabilities and is discouraged by the uphill battle they face on a routine basis.

What I think should be discussed at these graduation ceremonies and other life events are the values you live by in your life and how you do your work.  The values include speaking truthfully; being clear and consistent in how you communicate; valuing all opinions; listening to others; keeping commitments; taking pride and satisfaction in your work no matter how small or big the task is at hand; being able to laugh at yourself; being grateful and showing humility.

Whenever I need a dose of reality about life, I need to look no further than the dog.  He doesn't spend his life looking backwards, will work hard at play, is loyal and is satisfied with just a toy in his mouth.


Satisfaction





Saturday, May 31, 2014

REVIEW - THE DIET FIX

I enjoy reading Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's tweets and postings on his blog site (www.weightymatters.ca).  Dr. Freedhoff is a family physician and an expert on weight management.  Several months ago I bought his 2014 book called 'The Diet Fix'.


The book is divided into three sections: an overview, a 10 day reset program and implementation.  Dr. Freedhoff doesn't advocate one diet over another.  He does group the various popular current diets and explains how to use reset principles to reset any diet.

So what are reset principles?  He presents a 10 day reset plan to help you set patterns to make any diet you choose to follow be more successful.  The plan over 10 days includes:
1. Gearing up
2. Diarizing
3. Banishing hunger
4. Cooking
5. Thinking
6. Exercising
7. Indulging
8. Eating out
9. Setting goals
10. Troubleshooting and moving forward

There are a number of things that I liked about the book.  It presents short case studies of people who have struggled to lose weight; the Doctor explains that real life does include chocolate; on each of the 10 days you review a 'start and an end of the day checklist' which makes you think about the day ahead and then review what happened; and, the implementation plan covers eight areas - diet, live, eat, move, think, weigh, heal and parent.

Dr. Freedhoff reviews a number of diets and doesn't pick the best diet.  In fact, he describes that we are all different and there are pros and cons and health benefits to every diet. The fact is that you have to like the way you are eating in order to eat that way forever.  I also liked another point he made which says 'the more weight you'd like to permanently lose, the more of your life you'll need to permanently change'.  He also says we need to aim for the healthiest life we can enjoy, not the healthiest life we can tolerate.  I could go on further and provide more nuggets of observations he makes but I will leave it at that.

If you want to read a realistic book about breaking the cycle of traumatic dieting, I recommend this book.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

GLUTEN FREE NUT & SEED BREAD

A friend of mine was recommending this bread she makes and she sent me the internet link to get the recipe.  It is a gluten free bread made with oats, flax, nuts and seeds as the main ingredients.  What is great about the bread is that you mix it up in the loaf pan.  It needs to sit for at least two hours and can sit overnight before it is baked.

The blog site where I found this recipe is called My new roots.   The author of the blog site is Sarah Britton and she is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.  I have spent a little bit of time looking at the various recipes and the photographs are stunning.  She is a holistic nutritionist and received her certification attending a one year program in Toronto, Canada.   Using a good camera does make a difference with the quality of your photographs.

I am providing the original recipe from the blog site.  I made some modifications.  I added an egg to the wet mixture.  I didn't have flax seeds but had ground flax so I used the same amount and added 1/2 cup of ground flax.  You will have to add at least half a cup to a cup more water to the recipe as ground flax seed is more absorbing.  I don't have a silicon loaf pan and used instead a regular non-stick bread loaf pan.  I baked the bread for about 50 minutes in the loaf pan.  I am tempted to buy a silicon loaf pan as one can never have enough gadgets and baking tools in your kitchen.  I mixed up the loaf at suppertime and let it sit overnight on the counter, covered with plastic wrap and baked it in the morning.  You need to let the bread cool on a rack before slicing it.  For breakfast this morning, I toasted two slices and put a piece of cheese on top.  The bread is very delicious and filling.


Dry ingredients mixed in the non-stick pan

The wet and dry ingredients have just been mixed and now it will sit to thicken.

Ready to sample.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup  sunflower seeds
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup hazelnuts or almonds
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp psyllium seed husks (3 tbsp if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 tbsp maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 tbsp melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups water

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well.  Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup.  Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable).  Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.  Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.  To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.

3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).

4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast.




Saturday, May 17, 2014

REVIEW - THE END OF EATING

I bought this book. 'the End of Dieting' by Joel Fuhrman several weeks ago.  I have another one of his books called 'Eat to Live' which was written in 2003 and revised in 2011.  I have the original edition. Both books are based on a plant based diet which includes consuming nutrient dense food.  Other books written by Dr. Fuhrman include 'The End of Diabetes'. 'Super Immunity' and 'Eat for Health'.   Dr. Fuhrman is a U.S. board certified family physician and researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods.  He has over three decades of experience.

This book focuses on consuming foods high in nutrient density which is more satisfying than foods high in calories.  The premise is that diets are doomed to fail as they are based on nonsustaining methods and short term fixes.  Dr. Fuhrman promotes nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, fruit and seeds.  He calls it a nutritarian program.  Eat these foods and less bread, potato, and rice.



The core concept is that health equals nutrients divided by calories.  Calories come from three things - protein, fat and carbohydrates.  But there are also noncaloric nutrients found in plants that are beneficial and important to your health.  Noncaloric nutrients include vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.  The doctor emphasizes that a high nutrient diet reduces one's need for high calorie, low nutrient foods.  You don't need to count calories.  People who are overweight struggle with sugar and fat cravings and physically feel the need for food.  But to beat food addiction you also have to beat emotional eating.  Dr. Fuhrman says that ice cream can be addictive but a peach is not.  The sugar and fat in ice cream makes you give up control.  Emotional eating is when you eat for comfort during moments of high stress or great difficulty.  Three essentials habits of health are nutrition, exercise and a positive mind set.  

Dr. Fuhrman evaluates five popular diets - the standard american diet, the paleo diet, the mediterranean diet, the wheat belly diet and low-fat veganism.  You will have to read the book to get his thoughts and criticisms on each of these diets.  It is quite fascinating.   

Dr. Fuhrman says we should stop looking for diets and just eat as healthy as possible.  Eat only for health.  His nutritarian diet plan has six basic guidelines:
1. Eat a large salad every day as your main dish.
2. Eat 1/2 a cup to one cup of beans a day.
3. Eat one large serving of steamed green vegetables a day.
4. Eat at least one ounce of nuts and seeds each day.
5. Eat mushrooms and onions every day.
6. Eat three fresh fruits a day. 

This style of eating does promote a limited or non consumption of animal products.  So could I follow it?  I do like eating some animal products including eggs and cheese.  There are days when I can be vegan and other days when I am an omnivore.  I do eat vegetables every day, but I don't think I want to eat mushrooms and onions every day.  The hypothesis set out in the book about how to eat healthy makes sense. It is all a matter of doing it.