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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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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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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!

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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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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Exhibit A: Proof of domesticity

 

Several weeks ago Jenna posted a wonderful recipe for pumpkin mini muffins. At first I just thought that it looked really pretty, but a few days later a coworker came to me and asked me to make something for an office baby shower. I gave it some thought, and agreed to bring a nice treat. I needed a simple, but tasty recipe with a high yield, so that I wouldn’t have to make it several batches. That recipe was perfect on both counts; it yields 72 mini muffins, and they’re very tasty, but not overly sweet. PERFECT!

Look at how thick and delicious this is, don't you want to stick your finger in the bowl?

Once the Christmas sweets ran out, I thought again of those delicious little pumpkin muffins, and I made a new batch. This time I made them on a Sunday night, and doled them out slowly so that I had something to enjoy at break for a week. Then I did it again. This was the beginning of my obsession. The mini muffin was just so perfect. They’re nice and small, but big on taste. I could go on, but it might start to get indecent; they are, after all, just muffins…not love. But last weekend, as my second batch started to run out, I figured that I was ready for a change.

I was really craving orange mini muffins. Oranges are so nice at this time of year, and I wanted to make the most of  them. I did a quick google search and found a number of recipes, but I was drawn to this one from the Pioneer Woman’s blog. Which is kind of funny, because Jenna has had some up-close interactions with the Pioneer Woman, and she had recommended to me that I visit her site.

I hesitated, because I was worried about the topping. In the end I decided to skip the topping, mostly because I didn’t think it would freeze well. These muffins were delicious. I mean, just look at that batter, it’s so rich and yummy looking. The orange has such a nice light taste, it was a nice break from my usual.

The reward for not eating all of the batter is that you get an army of perfect orange mini muffins

 

So why is post-worthy? In my attempt to start living a healthier life I should not be making a big batch of muffins every week. But I tell myself that making muffins is better than buying them…right? Anyhow, if you love oranges and you’re looking for a nice orangey treat, you should make these muffins, or if you like pumpkin you should make the pumpkin muffins. I am feeling like raspberry muffins now, which is weird, because I don’t love raspberry, but I digress, if I find a fab raspberry mini muffin recipe I will let you know.

Enjoy!

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