Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this?

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this?

I was browsing through instagram on the weekend when I found a slogan that really stuck with me. It was a meme, but the photo was of a countertop with 5 tupperware containers filled with fresh cut veggies. The slogan superimposed on top of the image said “Fail to plan. Plan to fail.” This has really stuck with me since you know how lazy I am, and how I’ve been working to make healthy eating as effortless as possible. The hardest meal of the day to plan for is breakfast, and it is the meal where I’m most likely to sabotage myself. There’s nothing more disheartening than waking up full of good intentions, and then instantly shooting yourself in the foot with a high-calorie muffin, or a carby bagel.

My usual solution is to fall back to hemp hearts and almond yogurt, but really, there is nothing in the world like a hot meal. Especially when you live in a cold climate, and you are forced to get out of your warm, cozy bed to go do things like work. But I recently found a solution.

Last year for Christmas Santa Claus brought me a crock pot. I’d wanted one for a long time, and I was delighted when I tore the paper off the package and found it sitting inside waiting for me. I used it constantly last winter, for meat loaf and roasts, but since cutting meat and animal products from my diet back in the fall I haven’t had much use for it. But still, it was the kind of thing that I was really unwilling to give up, and while I search for some killer vegan slow cooker recipes I will share one recipe that has made my mornings easier, tastier and much healthier. That recipe is for slow-cooked apple cinnamon oatmeal.


4 cups milk (I prefer non-dairy)

4 cups water

1½ cups steel cut oats

3-4 tablespoons of cinnamon

2-3 tablespoons of nutmeg

2 gala apples (or other of your choice)

½ cup raisins

½ cup frozen cranberries

2/3 cup brown sugar

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 8 hours.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

In the stoneware add milk, water, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, sliced apples, raisins, cranberries and 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Stir together so that all ingredients are mixed together uniformly. By this I mean that you don’t want to have “hot pockets” where all of the cinnamon is, but obviously you won’t be able to ensure that things are incorporated since it’s cooking so slowly.

Picture 179

Set your crock pot on the lowest setting, and leave it and go to bed. Wake up and stir in the remaining brown sugar, making sure that it is thoroughly incorporated in the now cooked mixture. Turn the crock pot off, and allow the oats to sit for 15 to 20 minutes while you make the bed, and get dressed, or do whatever you do in the morning.

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this?

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this?

Stir the oatmeal a few times, breathe in the tempting aroma, and serve.

Be careful, it will still be quite hot. But it is so tasty; the cranberries will pop tartly in your mouth, while the rest of the oatmeal will sweetly coat your mouth, and stick to your ribs, making you ready to take on the day.

The beauty of this recipe is that I am easily getting 6 servings out of each pot, and what’s great about oats is that you can store them in the fridge for a couple of days, and in the freezer for up to a week. They reheat beautifully, and will ultimately give you 6 healthy, filling meals. Also, you can now roll out of a nice, warm bed and find a fantastic hot meal waiting for you, that will also make your home smell delicious.

Bon appétit!

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This was a long weekend, and it was a busy one. I spent Saturday travelling to visit my family. This also turned into a shopping spree at a fabric shop–more about that later this week. But then on Sunday it was time to create. Time to lock myself in the kitchen and stay there until I had something totally delicious to eat.

We used the democratic method to decide that I would make the boeuf bourguinon. So I ran around like a fool on Saturday: I had to buy a dutch oven, and all of the ingredients I’d need. So I got in my car and drove around looking for free parking close to the shops I needed. That took some time, I should have just paid for parking.

At any rate, I came home with everything I needed, except potatoes, but no one is perfect. Given that I had everything I needed there was no excuse for my not starting to work on this until 4 pm, but that’s what I did–I spent the  day lounging on the couch, then at 4 I decided it was time to get started.

I had no idea this recipe was going to be as complicated and time-consuming as it was. I’m pretty sure I cooked for 2 to 2.5 hours. It was pretty labour intensive, and I ended up getting splattered with hot oil just on the outside of my left eye. So everything had to stop while I treated that small injury, and said a quick prayer of thanksgiving that the oil didn’t hit me even 1mm to the left of where it did.

At any rate, after hours of browning bacon, beef and vegetables, I was able to get the whole concoction into the oven. It didn’t take long before the whole apartment had a wonderful, meaty aroma, that made me so hungry I started picking at my desert–I didn’t want to, but the stew needs to spend 2.5 hours in the oven. But it was worth it. The stew was perfect!

It was tender, and perfectly seasoned. This is the moment that I regretted eating my desert first. I was way too full to fully enjoy my dinner. Oh well, at least I have enough fabulous stew to last me a week. It was worth waiting until 9:30 pm for dinner.

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17/365: Julie & Julia Child, Food Temptress

Image by kalebdf via Flickr

Julie & Julia was on tv this last weekend. I just love that movie. I know so many people feel motivated to blog after watching it. Not me; I mean, I like blogging, but I don’t need a movie to motivate me to do this. Where I do need motivation is in the kitchen. Yes, that’s right, Julie & Julia makes me want to cook.

If I had a big, beautiful kitchen like Julia Child’s I might be more interested in spending more time there. But then again, I doubt I would have the motivation to keep that kind of space clean. But I digress, that movie, with its gorgeous food photography, makes me realize that I am wasting my life eating canned soup. I also feel that way when I watch Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. So maybe I’m in love with French food. But that’s a post for another day.

The point, chickens, is that I’m in the mood to cook, to create, and this upcoming weekend is Thanksgiving weekend, so I can think of no better time to cook. And since my holiday plans don’t include a lovely home-cooked meal, I absolutely MUST cook.

Cooking, as you know, starts with a trip to the grocery store, and a well-thought out list. But first I need a plan. I need to decide what I will spend my time cooking. I’ve always wanted to try the Boeuf Burgeon. But then I saw some lovely pictures of beef vindaloo, there is also the appeal of trying to make bi bim bap. And of course, I will need something sweet. I read a recipe for pumpkin chai cupcakes, or I could try’s Bene’s trifle recipe.

I guess I need some help deciding, and since today is election day (honestly, it’s a big week up here) I am looking to make this decision democratically. So what’s your vote?

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Cooking is new to me. I know, it’s not much of a confession, anyone who knows anything about cooking, baking, grocery shopping or being in the kitchen can tell that I know next to nothing about cooking. Imagine my humiliation last week when I announced that I had made a spaghetti squash dish, only to discover that it was actually a butternut squash. And thank you to all of you who did not make fun of my total ignorance. In my defence, the squash were mislabeled at the grocery store, so really, I would like to shove the blame onto someone else.

This is a spaghetti squash. Now I know. I also know that I love butternut squash, so I guess there is a silver lining. As you can see spaghetti squash is very tough, and bested even my best and sharpest knife. It was so scary that I considered locking the dog in the bathroom until I was done cutting.

As you can see I made it through, and I still have all of my original fingers and toes. I also did not stab myself in the abdomen and the dog is still alive, so…all things considered it was a success.

I was a little bit concerned about waste, but I decided it wasn’t worth risking more knife work to salvage what was left of the squash. So I took what I had and seasoned with butter, pepper, coarse salt, and then my hand landed on the cumin, and I thought “why not?” so there’s also cumin in this dish.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes, but I don’t think it was enough; my squash was a little el dente.

I was totally stunned by just how much like spaghetti this looked. Nature does some funny and amazing things sometimes.

Then I added in my warmed up quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini and onion. I also added more seasoning: Salt, pepper, butter, and..why not, more cumin!

Finally, I added the salmon and a touch of lemon juice. I mixed it all together until I ended up with this.

Yum! So I would do a few things differently: I would roast the squash longer, so that it’s just a little more tender. Also, I would use a little less cumin. It was good, just a little too much for my taste. Otherwise, I loved it. I found it very filling, and I would totally make it again.

But first, I need to get a much better knife.

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Earlier this week my friend Bene sent me an email with a link to a great squash recipe from Martha Stewart’s website for what looked like a delicious spaghetti squash meal. I had no idea there was such a thing as spaghetti squash, but the picture was so appealing, and it also featured shrimp, Yum and Yum.

The recipe really only involved 3 steps: roast the squash, roast the shrimp, combine the two, enjoy! Alright, 4 steps. So after I figured out what a spaghetti squash was I was more than a little excited to try this recipe out. But it needed some work. The first change was that, on Bene’s advice, I removed the seeds before roasting the squash. This was good advice.

I seasoned the squash with ground pepper and coarse salt, then placed it face-down in 3/4 of a cup of water. The oven should be set to 375, and it should take about 45 minutes to leave the squash tender.

The second change I made was to add quinoa. I decided to add the quinoa because Penelope doesn’t like shrimp. So, while the squash was roasting I made a big pot of it.

While the quinoa was being made and the squash was roasting I decided to up the flavour factor a little more, by warming up some cherry tomatoes, onions (not pictured) and zucchini. I kept the heat as low as possible; I just wanted the veg to be warm, and tomatoes can have a somewhat unpleasant texture if they’re overcooked.

Allow the squash to cool, and then strip the “meat” out with a fork so that it is long and stringy.

I didn’t have a spaghetti squash, so mine was more squishy than stringy. Not that I’m complaining, it was still delicious.

Next, combine everything to taste. I have no idea how much quinoa is here, so just add as much as you think you would like.

Then add everything else. I chose to add the veg first, serve Penelope, then add the shrimp. Doesn’t that look good? Warm, but also fresh, the perfect meal for this time of year.

The shrimp was good, but you could also use salmon, or go without any sea fish. It’s a very filling meal even without it.

All this meal needs is a fabulous glass of pino grigio, or a glass of sparkling pink lemonade. Yes, I’m now in love with squash, and will be eating it regularly. Thank you Bene.

And Bon Appetit!

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Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, ...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

As you know, adding Step classes once a week was one of my goals for 2011. That being said, I haven’t had much luck getting to Step Class this month. I had to work late last Tuesday, and this week I had to hurry home because I was worried about Cadie. Originally, the plan had been to take Cadie for a good, long walk, then head out to Body Pump at 7, but I was without food, so instead of going to Body Pump, I decided to do my grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping, it’s kind of like ironing to me; that being said, I love having fresh food waiting for me at home. Here are some of my treasures.

Firstly, I did not buy pizza, french fries and chicken strips. How these items ended up being photographed in my kitchen is inexplicable to me.

Feed me tomatoes! I think I’ve been eating too much comfort food; I want fresh food that makes me feel light and happy. Tomatoes always make me light and happy, plus they are cancer fighters. So they got a big check as I added 2 different varieties to my cart.

I have also been craving zucchini. These zucchini don’t look all that good–in fact, I think you can see just how beaten up they are, even in this picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants zucchini. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Root vegetables–so you can see that I’m not totally over comfort food. I can’t wait to play around with these vegetables. Oh, and wipe the stove. Life is good!

Some necessities. I can’t stand not having milk in the apartment. So yes, I buy 4L, and it’s all for me! I also bought eggs and butter, so now I can bake again.

If I’m going to take my journey for health to the next level I need to start addressing some of my weaknesses. I bought these lovelies to take to work for easy snacking. I have no idea if they are seeded or seedless (though my money is on seeded). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. (I have so many plans to eat so many things tomorrow–this is the upside of grocery shopping:D).

I was so excited to find the Quinoa, oh the things I will do with this…will tomorrow never get here?

A little treat for after dinner. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I don’t believe in depriving myself of the things that I love, and I LOVE ice cream, but I can nudge myself closer to a healthier lifestyle by choosing frozen yogurt.

My colonial mind is addicted to crumpets. So warm and buttery. MMMMMMM.

What goes with crumpets? Tea, of course. I’ve got Lady Grey for the office and lemon ginger for right before bed. A word on Lady Grey, if you haven’t tried it yet you should. It’s a lovely, light black tea with a hint of citrus.

I never buy shrimp, let alone cook with it, so here’s hoping I don’t ruin it. I also bought chicken, but I consider it to be a staple, like milk and eggs.

Oh no, that’s the end. Still, it’s a good haul for one trip to the grocery store.

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I know I owe you pictures, but I’m not ready yet, so I promise, I will have something for you on Monday. Instead I bring you my kitchen wish list.

I know that it’s a poor craftsman who blames their tools. But the more time I spend working in the kitchen the more I realize I “need” to make my kitchen experience better.

1) A cooling rack. No, I don’t have one, and I know, it’s the simplest and most basic of all the kitchen accessories. I know, it’s also one of the cheapest, so I should just bite the bullet and buy one, but in the meantime, I will dream about owning one. Even now, I can just see all my cookies and mini muffins cooling on a lovely little rack, while the dog strains her neck trying to get close to it. (Don’t worry, the rack will be up too high for her to reach 😉 )

 2) The Slicer Plus knife  is the greatest thing ever for a lazy person like myself. It’s a knife with a built-in cutting board.  This would be so perfect for me, and…can I tell you my dirty little secret? I drool a little every time I see it on television.

3) A Le Creuset pot. I’ve always admired the red ones, but now I think I want a whole stack of white and robin’s egg blue ones. Think of all the wonderful, delicious things I could create with this.

4) A KitchenAid Mixer. I have nothing to say about this desire as I think just about everyone who doesn’t have one, wants one. The only real trouble I have is in deciding which colour would best complement my lifestyle.

5) A milk steamer/cappuccino maker. I know I really should not tempt myself further by bringing the ability to make my own latte into my home. But, I would LOVE to have a steamer.

6) An arena-style popcorn maker. I’d love it to be all red and white, and chrome all over. With a large glass front so that you can see all of that fully delicious popcorn rolling around in there.  But I could be very happy with this one. It looks much more practical for storage, and for someone who anticipates occasional use at most.

7) New knives. I’ve heard stories of knives so sharp that you can actually cut things with them. Is this true or just a fairy tale? I’m determined to find out for sure.

8) A crock pot, or slow cooker, or whatever you call it. I’ve always been afraid to go to work and leave the crock pot on unattended. Mostly I worry that the building will catch fire and the dog will die. It makes me cry every time I think of it. But I have been assured that the crock pot is very safe and the dog will still be alive when I get home. Think of it. How wonderful would it be to come home from Body Pump, walk the dog, and then sit down to a ready-made, hot and filling diner. Sigh!


Moving on.

9) An ice cream maker. Like the steamer it would be best if I didn’t bring this temptation into my home…but if I’m dreaming I might as well dream big.

10) More space. I used to watch Reba McEntire’s show just so I could admire the kitchen. I would love to have a big, sunny kitchen where I can move around without whacking my elbows on walls or appliances. PS. this is just proof that I can’t dress myself, I thought that shirt looked good. I think I need to start taking picture when I get dressed in the morning.

Have I left anything out? What’s on your wish list?

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This is the story of the little  soufflé that could. If there is an ongoing theme of my kitchen it would be disaster. Do you remember the spanakopita where I dumped all of the “feta juice” all over the floor? Or the dozens of other baking and cooking experiments with missing ingredients, etc. This, combined with the  soufflé’s reputation for being a tricky dish, made it an unlikely choice for my ladies’ luncheon. But then I found this recipe from Laura Calder, my favourite food network personality. Laura said it was easy, and why would Laura lie to me?

The first thing that I did wrong was that I cut up the onion before putting it in milk. But that’s okay, it didn’t upset anything, though it did slow me down a little. While the milk and goodies were steeping I greased and parmeseaned my casserole dish.

Then I grated too much cheddar; the recipe called for 20g, and I grated nearly 300g. Oh well, you can never have too much cheese right?

From there I combined the flour, butter, extra cheese and herbs all into a pot. So far I was more or less on track. That’s when I almost went off the rails. I had separated out 3 eggs, so I had 3 egg whites and 1 yolk. I was supposed to add the yolk to my concoction, but I got confused and added the egg whites instead.

By this time Penelope and I were both standing over the pot trying to decide what to do; should we beat the cheese mixture, should we throw it all out and start over? That’s when W arrived. She told us to separate 3 more eggs and beat those.

Once the eggs whites formed stiff peaks W folded them into the original mixture, and then it went into the oven for 30 minutes.

And the result? Perfection. Very tasty, and so exciting for every one of us that day. This just proves that a good recipe and the help of good friends means that anything is possible, even salvaging a  soufflé when you make a [bunch of] huge mistake[s].

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As I mentioned Friday, this weekend was the holiday ladies’ luncheon and Scrabble grudge match. I know it’s just a gaming afternoon, but I wanted to try to make it special for my guests. What I really wanted to do was make the game come alive, and I wanted to serve a healthy snack. So I created an hors d’oeuvre that seemed to leap right out of the box. I wanted to created a healthy snack that screamed SCRABBLE! So I started by lining my table with paper, then I figured out the ratio of the playing board (I know, I’m still glowing with pride over that little mathematical feat).

From there I ruled out the individual squares on the board by using a saltine. I had intended to do a realistic board, but drawing the board to scale was a big enough time investment. Really, I’m not good at math, and I spent a lot of time working on the ratio alone. I also decided that drawing in the points system would increase the amount of ink that my guests would eat, so I don’t think it really mattered that the squares were left blank. I gave myself lots of time for this one. I drew the board on Wednesday evening.

On Saturday I prepped the food. We started by washing and cutting the peppers. The second step is very important. You need to make sure that the peppers are nice and dry, and cut into medium small pieces. As you can see, I chose two different kinds of hummus, the regular and the avocado hummus; both were delicious, but the avocado was very light and fresh — if you can find it I recommend trying it. The saltines did not stand up well, so if I were to do this again, I would look for something like mini malba toast.

Penelope came over to help me spell out some words, which I’m really glad she did, because it was time consuming, but lots of fun. It definitely provided the wow factor I was looking for.

Planning a party around a board game provides a lot of “wow” opportunities. The classic games have such iconic visual identities, there’s always a ton of opportunities. For example, if you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, you could make everything look like a pie. If you’re playing Battleship, you can do what my mum used to do, and turn deviled eggs into  “egg boats” by adding a leaf of lettuce on a toothpick. Happy creating! Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the other special touch I added…it’s less healthy. Oh well?

So, looking at the first picture again, do you want to take a stab at guessing the words that Penelope and I spelled out?

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As you know I’ve been watching Village on a Diet, and enjoying it. There was one scene in the second episode that hit me, and made me believe that I could make a small change to my own lifestyle. I LOVE chicken fingers. It started about 4 months ago. I was out to lunch with some of my coworkers, when I spied those tasty, fried chicken strips. That day I was good; I had a nice, light salad…very unsatisfying. Anyhow, I’ve been buying boxed chicken fingers and loving them ever since.

One of the things I’d like to do to improve my health is to stop eating so many processed foods. When I saw one of the participants make chicken fingers for her daughter, I realized that I could do that too. I did some research and found this delicious recipe. I love the taste, and I also love that they are baked instead of fried.

It was super easy. In total I think I spent 10 minutes prepping the ingredients.

In fact, I think I spent more time waiting for the oven to warm up than I did whisking the sauce, or mashing the cereal (yes, I used my potato masher to really crunch up the cereal) and finally dressing the chicken strips.

These chicken strips were just as good…no, they were better than the boxed ones, and I was able to freeze half the yield for a quick weeknight meal.

The strips kept really well in the freezer, even after two days they still tasted really good when I heated them up again. The only downside, and it’s pretty minor, is that unlike the boxed strips you have to defrost them before baking them. Anyhow, they were so good, I’ll definitely make them again

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