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Posts Tagged ‘Cook’

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.

Ingredients

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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cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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tin

Festive containers for festive cookies

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to share some holiday love with some girl friends. We had a holiday bake-off. The idea was that rather than getting together for some gossip and goodies we would spend an afternoon together, baking, gossiping, and eating. I know it sounds like almost the same thing, but it was really nice to work together.

sandwiches

Cres-sandwiches, the perfect light lunch

We’re bakers of all shapes and varieties: my friend W, who wasn’t able to make it, is an excellent creator of traditional treats. My friend A  is an excellent creator of vegan treats. I’m more of a free-form baker, and I am often disappointed that creations don’t work out. Then we also had a couple of girls who don’t bake at all.

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

I remember the character of Marilla Cuthbert telling Anne Shirley that she and Rachel Lind could live together, provided they didn’t have to share a kitchen. While I agree that sharing a kitchen day in and day out is too great a trial for even the best and most adaptable cook or baker, I see the value in sharing a day in the kitchen. You get to see how other people manage their time while their baking, how they complete different tasks, and how they manage to keep their counter-tops clean so that they can keep working. We shared kitchen wisdom, recipes, tips and tricks, as well as new products.

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

We had all of this knowledge sharing, a nice visit, and some of the most delicious treats. We started our afternoon with cres-sandwhiches, vegan chocolate cupcakes, and vegan butter tarts—no Christmas would  be complete without butter tarts. We ate this while my free-form peanut butter cups cooled in the fridge.

Candy cane cupcakes--yum!

Candy cane cupcakes–yum!

After lunch we helped J make one of Martha Stewart’s recipes: Lime Melt-aways. These ultimately became the hit of the party. J isn’t much for baking, but she’s a good sport, and she’s a hoot so it was fun to watch her bake. So with a little help from A she was able to get the dough prepared, and into the fridge to chill, before finally slicing the rolls and putting them in the oven.

Lime Melt-aways, I'll bet you can't eat just one...

Lime Melt-aways, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one…

While we were waiting to move on to the oven stage of J’s cookies Penelope, J and I started assembling the empire cookies. She had pre-baked the sugar cookies, so that all we had to do on the day of was combine two together with jam in the middle, and top with icing and a chocolate square.

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

We all had a great day, and we each walked away with a tin full of delicious, vegan, holiday treats. Now I just need to learn how to stagger out these goodies.

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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!

Swoon.

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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A meal fit for a witch!

I have become accustomed to cooking and baking during the weekend…and of course to sharing my experiments with you on Monday morning. Unfortunately for my culinary adventures this weekend was too busy for cooking of any kind. That’s when I remembered that I have an old experiment that I haven’t shared with you. Artichoke soup.

This recipe fit the bill perfectly; it is high in vegetable content, and low in milk, butter and cream. In spite of this the texture is still creamy. The colour is…well…it’s a very natural shade of green…I guess.

Choice ingredients

I’ve never really made a soup before. Well, I tried to make a beef stew last year, but I didn’t like it, and I usually make a whole bunch of hot water with potatoes and vegetables floating in it that I like to call soup. But, in all honesty, this was my first foray into soups.

mmm, flavour

I used canned artichokes instead of fresh ones; this is because I don’t know how to cut them. Neither have I any idea what I accomplished by heaping all of the artichokes into a large bowl full of water and lemon, but I wanted to make sure I followed the recipe exactly.

A big bowl of artichokes

In all, it only took me about a half hour to pull it all together. Well, maybe 45 minutes. But the recipe yielded 5 or 6 servings–somehow I ended up with double the servings I was supposed to get. I won’t complain about that; it just meant that I had some lunches, and a couple of dinners to see me through the week.

Bubble, bubble!

Less than a week after writing on a blog that I would never puree hot soup, I took my life in my hands and took the plunge. I did it in 2 batches, and didn’t rush the process so that I could be sure not to have an explosion in my very small kitchen.

More flavour

After pureeing the soup, I put it back on the stove where I added a single tablespoon of butter to the whole concoction. I let it simmer for another 5 minutes, and then topped it with some very yummy parmesan cheese. I paid a fortune for it, but a good cheese is always worth it. All that was missing was the perfect pairing…

Do you VQA?

This bottle of Pelee Island wine was given to me a couple of months ago when I hosted a party. I had stored it in the fridge because I had no where else to keep it; it was nice to have a chilled bottle of pino grigio waiting to be paired with a great meal. 

This experiment was such a success that I’ve already agreed to make it for our New Year’s Eve supper, along with spanakopita maybe.

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