Thursday, December 29, 2011

Powder Power

I have recently discovered the joys and benefits of using onion powder and garlic powder. In the past I had been aware of them but I absolutely love the real deal when it comes to these 2 kitchen staples.
I think I originally bought them for a chilli recipe and then didn't use them much but then I made some mashed cauliflower (as a lower starch alternative to potato) and I had read a suggestion in a book to use the powders for extra flavour. Turns out, they make things taste pretty good! Since then I have used them with success in a few different ways and they have the advantage of great flavour, no mess, zero prep time and make for a really smooth texture. Here are my fave things to use them for so far:

  • Coating for breakfast potatoes. Parboil halved baby potatoes and then pan fry in canola oil over med.low heat for 20 mins until browned and cooked through. When cooked, toss with 1 tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt, pepper and dried rosemary.
  • Extra quick guacamole (or use as a spread alternative to mayo or butter in sandwiches or burger buns). Mash up an avocado until smooth. Add 1-2 tsp onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lime and a splash of hot sauce.
  • Mashed potato (or cauliflower). Add onion and garlic powder to mashed potato/cauliflower along with butter or olive oil and some of the leftover potato water. If you wish, add some milk or cream.
  • Add to chilli
  • Add to homemade beef burger mix
  • Add to homemade dry spice rubs

I also have used dehydrated onion in place of the onion powder. This is a little coarser in texture but again gives a rich onion flavour. I recommend buying organic dried onion/onion powder or garlic powder as sometimes the non-organic version can have other things in them to stabilise them. Or just check the ingredient list before buying. Another bonus is that these seasonings add lots of flavour but are low in sodium.

I have read that you can make your own garlic powder so that is going on my "to do" list along with lots of other things including dehydrating apple rings and making my own Kombucha.

If you've never tried garlic or onion powder, and swear by the real thing, I challenge you to try it out...and report back!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Avo Appy


Merry Christmas to all my readers...hope you are still out there reading despite distinct lack of recent updates. Do not worry, I have been eating and cooking but very busy working 2 jobs and buying a house...as well as Christmas occuring. It's all been good and now that most of the craziness is over (except the actual move next week), I now have a moment to breathe and blog.
PB and I love our appies and this is one that we created together recently. It does come with a warning though, they taste really good so be prepared to eat every single one you make and be too full for your main course!

Prosciutto avocado toasties
Sliced crusty loaf
Super thin prosciutto cut into 1 inch wide x 2 inch long slices
Medium ripe avocado, sliced
Olive oil for brushing

Put broiler/grill on med-high heat.
While it's heating, prepare the topping by wrapping the avocado slices in the prosciutto slices.
brush slices of bread with olive oil on both sides and place on broiler/grill pan.
Broil/grill bread until lightly toasted and flip over and repeat.
Remove bread from broiler/grill and top each piece with avocado/prosciutto rolls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dough!



Who doesn't love pizza? It's one of my favourites but something I don't often have due to the dairy and wheat intolerances but homemade pizza is hard to resist and if I've been off wheat for a few days, I can usually deal with it and I have determined my threshold for cheese is approx a 1 inch square cube so as long as I go (very) light on the cheese, it's PIZZA TIIIIME!
I love making my own dough, that way I can determine the thickness of the pizza or mix herbs into it for extra flavour. This recipe was from a friend and it's my go to recipe for pizza base, always perfect, as long as you are willing and able to knead for 10 minutes straight (which is a really long time when you actually time it and don't just guess). Start working on those pipes!

Basic pizza dough
1 1/2 cups strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp easy blend yeast
1/2-3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil
(dried herbs are optional)

Sift flour and salt into large mixing bowl and stir in yeast
make a well in the centre and pour in olive oil and water. (I usually add 1/2 cup water and then add more if needed rather than the other way around-I find the amount of water is THE critical factor in making amazing dough)

Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 10 mins until smooth and elastic. (The test I use for this is poking the dough with my finger. The dough should spring back almost immediately. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film. Leave until doubled in size, about 1 hour.I usually leave the dough in the oven after I've turned it on for a few minutes. The warmth helps the dough rise but you don't want it too hot...just some residual heat)
Turn out dough on to lightly floured surface and knead lightly for 2-3 mins ( The best part of this whole recipe, besides eating the final product, is the first punch into the puffy dough)

Roll or shape as required.
(I prefer to press the dough by hand and then stretch it by hand. The rustic texture makes for better aeration and air bubbles. Go really thin with the dough, it will rise a lot so if you want a really thin crust, this dough ball needs to make a 25-30 cm round pizza base. If you've done a good job with your dough, you should notice that it shrinks back a bit when you try to stretch it out.)

For toppings, on this occasion, PB and I had some genoa salami, black olives, mushrooms, artichokes and mozza. I also always drizzle lightly with olive oil and also sprinkle dried oregano or italian dried herbs over the top and this adds a great level of flavour.

Oven should be hot at about 425F and for optimal results, use a preheated pizza stone with cornmeal on it. Failing that, a pizza pan with holes in the bottom or a plain baking tray, lightly oiled.


Tip -most ingredients going on your pizza should be cooked before hand. i.e. if you are putting bell peppers or mushrooms on, they come out way better if you've pan fried them first-just my experience

Other toppings I LOVE (not all together though!):

-oven roasted vegetables
-prosciutto pieces on top (they crisp up wonderfully with the hot oven)
-brie
-candied salmon
-caramelised onion
-fresh basil (add after cooking)
roasted garlic (slowly roast the bulb at 350F for about 45 mins with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Squeeze soft gooey goodness out of cloves and spread on base or randomly drizzle on top)
-HOT SAUCE!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The potato formerly known as Baked


PB and I have a tradition of cooking brunch together at least once a week. Sometimes it's on a Sunday but as neither of us works a conventional Mon-Fri 9-5 job, we will have it whenever we both have a day off together and no particular place to be in the morning. We usually have the same few ingredients:
  • hashbrowns-unpeeled baby potatoes cut in half, parboiled and then pan sauteed over low heat for a bout 20-30 minutes. They are then seasoned with salt, pepper, herbs and garlic powder
  • back bacon or breakfast sausages
  • lightly scrambled eggs (for PB)
  • beans for me with a side of mustard or salsa
Sometimes we have toast too if we're planning to be out all day and not going to be eating much. Toast is always wholewheat or sprouted grain with peanut butter and creamy honey.

On our most recent at-home brunch date we realised on doing our pre-cooking prep that we did not have any baby potatoes left. However, we did have some cold baked potatoes that I had left over from making chili earlier in the week. I suggested we slice them up and pan saute for our starchy side.
Andrew sliced them about 1/2 inch thick and sauteed over low heat until browned and crispy.
He then tossed them in salt, pepper and garlic powder.
I could try to describe the taste but I think the photo will probably already have you drooling sufficiently. Yes they tasted as good as they looked.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WARNING: This post contains T*fu


Dear non-vegans,

I have discovered a recipe for brownies that could actually be THE best brownies I've ever had. You will be very surprised to find that they contain no eggs or dairy products, yet taste so decadent that you will be thinking about them for days...maybe longer and you may even contemplate veganism (well maybe in the baked goods category anyway).
Regards,
Sally (aka the vegan baker)

I feel I should explain why my blog contains both vegan recipes and meat recipes...I am vegan when it comes to baking as I can't eat eggs or dairy in any significant amount. So vegan baking is the way to go for me. But I eat meat, hence the giant meat fest pic on my main blog page. And the previous post prominently featuring sausages of the pork kind. Capiche?

The recipe for these brownies is from a cookbook I use regularly called The Everyday Vegan. I have tested the baked result on several sets of co-workers and friends/family and every time the verdict has been that these are hands down WINNER brownies (and that's without them knowing about the vegan part. and the tofu part). I find a lot of people are scared of tofu and anything containing it so I try to keep it a secret until they've eaten the brownie. The most recent testing of the brownie was at my current workplace and one of my coworkers, I call her CC now (short for Chocolate Chip), stated the following on devouring her brownie;

" I just died a little bit inside. In a good way."

I was pretty happy with that and afterwards she said they were the best brownies she's ever had. Another co-worker ate 3. I think it's safe to say that the brownies are now mainstream.
There is a misconception out there that vegan food is either bland, not tasty or super healthy. None of these is totally true. Of course some vegan food can be bland and not tasty as can animal based food. That's down to the cook and the preparation. As for vegan food being good for you....well, for the most part it usually is higher in fibre, free of cholesterol and higher in vegetables but certainly in some categories, it can be loaded in fat, salt and sugar. Dairy substitutes such as tofu can be deep fried as in agedashi tofu or laden with sugar like the premade tofu desserts.
This particular recipe is delicious but it does contain sugar and chocolate as is required for all brownies. However, as far as baked goods and desserts go, I think this is on the healthier side with the use of cocoa powder for decadent richness and only 2tbsp of oil in place of what is usually a larger amount of butter. The plain soft tofu adds smoothness without adding a distinct taste and so no one will know the difference, I promise. Be prepared to reveal your secrets though, they will ask you for the recipe!

Vegan Brownies
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unrefined sugar ( I use Sucanet but you could use regular sugar also)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup soft plain tofu
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp water (not sure how much of a difference the 2 tbsp makes)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup non dairy chocolate chips (read the label, most semi-sweet choc chips don't contain dairy)
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp canola oil (do not use olive oil or other strong tasting oil!)
1/4 cup non dairy choc chips
1/4 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. Stir in salt and sugar and mix well.
In a food processor (or using an electric whisk) combine tofu, water, vanilla and flax meal and puree until very smooth.
In a pot over boiling water (Tip: for a quicker option, melt in microwave in 20 second increments until melted) melt 3/4 cup chocolate chips.
Add melted chocolate to tofu mixture and then stir the chocolatey goodness into the dry mixture.
Add canola oil just as it comes together, mixing until just combined.
Pour batter into a lightly oiled 8"x8" baking pan. Sprinkle on 1/4 cup chocolate chips (whole or crushed) and walnuts. I also add a small sprinkling of sea salt as I love the salty bursts contrasting with the rich dark chocolate-ness.
MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Lick bowl and spoon :-)
Bake for 30-35 minutes depending on desired level of goo-iness.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan.
Chill brownies before cutting for best results.

This recipe makes 12-16 brownies. I find them rich so I usually cut the portions quite small. Plus there are a lot of mouths to feed at work. Another word of advice... serve yourself one before presenting to the masses. Trust me, your tupperware box will be handed back empty.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Got sausages?


I'm now working full time at Lululemon and as is expected with retail, working all kinds o' random shifts on a weekly basis, with some spanning 2 traditional meal times such as 11-7pm or 12-8pm.
I was also finding that being on my feet all day in a crazy busy store required my meals to be a bit bigger to compensate and my regular snacking between meals is now non existent. Dipping celery sticks in peanut butter is not a good thing to do while folding pants.
So my recent days off have turned into mammoth cooking (and consequent tupperwaring) sessions to prepare me for my work days ahead.
This week my weekend was Weds and Thurs so Weds was spent choosing recipes and buying ingredients and on Thursday the kitchen became Command Centre: Special Ops.
On the menu was a simple sausage bake I ripped from a random magazine at some point and stashed in my file of torn out recipes. Also I wanted to make a chicken curry in my newly purchased slow cooker. I made this chicken curry before and was hoping for the same delicious end result without the preceding drama. If you missed out on that click here to learn about it.

The sausage bake I chose because, well, it's got sausages in it and it would be suitable as a breakfast, lunch or dinner option in a hurry when reheated.

Tomato, basil, sausage bake

4 large or 8 small sausages (I used local organic pork sausages from Planet Organic)
punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, cut into wedges
olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
basil leaves, roughly torn


Pre-heat oven to 400C.
Toss sausages, garlic and onion in a large baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake uncovered for about 20 mins for small sausages, 30-40 for larger, until golden.
Add cherry tomatoes and vinegar and toss together gently.
Return to oven for another 15 mins or until the sausages have started to break down and the sausages are cooked through
Stir in basil leaves and serve.

I didn't have any balsamic vinegar but I made it anyway and it was fine although I do think the vingear would make for a more lively sauce, and if you happen to like fresh crusty bread, it would probably taste alright when dipped in said sauce.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pep up yo' shrimp


This is my go to recipe when I want a quick meal that is intense in flavour, deliciously fragrant and simple to make. You could serve for a weeknight meal or to impress any guests.
The recipe is from a magazine I bought a few years ago called "Fast and Fresh" and I have probably made it at least 10 times. If anyone asks me for inspiration for dinner tonight, I usually describe this dish.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp
2 tsp black peppercorns (or a mixture of black, pink, green and white)
2lb shrimp, peeled with tails on or off...your choice. (the recipe calls for shell on, but that's a pain to eat and the flavour doesn't penetrate as much. I leave tails on for aesthetics as they are easily removed when eating)
2 tsp salt ,divided
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed ( I prefer crushed to finely chopped from a texture stand point and I find the chopped form is more likely to burn due to the higher heat of stir frying)
1 cup cilantro, chopped finely

Crush the peppercorns roughly.
mix shrimp in a bowl with half of the peppercorns and 1 tsp of the salt.
Heat wok or pan over high heat and add oil, garlic, and rest of peppercorns and salt and stir constantly for one minute until fragrant. The pepper will be very fragrant so be prepared!
Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly until cooked through, about 3 mins depending on the size of the shrimp.
Turn off heat and add the cilantro to the shrimp in the pan and toss to combine.

Tonight I served this on top of lightly steamed green veggies (asparagus, zucchini and broccoli) that were drizzled with a tamari (or soy sauce) and toasted sesame oil drizzle. I didn't have any cilantro and the dish was still great but the cilantro really makes the flavour so much more intense and the dark green flecks definitely add to the mouthwatering rating.

I like using large shrimp for this, usually at least size 26-30, and I love black tiger shrimp. If you make extra, refrigerate the leftovers and serve in a salad for a gourmet lunch the next day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ultimate tenderloin



Since my move to Halifax, I've been on a random daily schedule and have found myself at times, turning on the TV between the hours of 1-3pm.....potentially a danger zone. I have, for the most part, not been sucked in by Dr Phil, but I have discovered that I LOVE Steven and Chris on CBC. SHOCKER! yes, I particularly love Chris and his sense of humor. I want my own Chris to tell me which cushions to buy and that I simply MUST buy that handtowel. I particularly loved the episode where they had miniature pigs.....AHHHHHH! Guess you had to see it to get it. You would want one too.
The other CBC show I have caught is Best Ever Recipes. What I like about this show is that the recipes they choose are always simple but dinner party worth and usually very well balanced nutritionally. On this particular episode, beef tenderloin was the star. I watched and drooled, and promptly scribbled down the recipe before running out the door to buy the ingredients. Pb is an expert tenderloin cooker, in particular on the BBQ. He puts the meat out to marinate for a few hours in olive oil and then cooks it to perfection (aka medium rare/rare) EVERY time. He's a natural.
I was a little hesistant to attempt the tenderloin as I have become so accustomed to the ultimate steak courtesy of PB and his BBQ skilz but my mouth was watering and I couldn't resist having a shot at it.

Peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin
2 1 inch thick tenderloin steaks
2 tsp crushed black peppercorns (coarsely crushed and freshly crushed)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove

mix together all the ingredients (told you it was easy). Roll the sides of the steak in the mixture leaving the top and bottom surfaces clear.

Heat some oil and a knob of butter in a pan over med high heat and sear steaks on both sides for a few minutes until desired done-ness. Let sit for 5-10 mins covered in foil.

I served mine with a green salad and button mushrooms pan fried with shallots in red wine.
The proof is in the picture! the crust was amazing and don't worry if you don't like mustard, the taste was not prominent but it enhanced the beef immensely. I will be doing this next time I pony up for tenderloin. Worth every penny...Sirloin is SO ....not tenderloin.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hit a Sushi Home Run






This is probably the 3rd or 4th post on sushi that I have done but my dear friend, Ms P just send me some fab photos of a sushi making night we had a couple of months ago. She has a very good camera, unlike my basic point and shoot that is usually on hand in the kitchen, and the pictures are worth of sharing. I think this was the second time in 2 weeks that I had made homemade sushi so my technique was steadily improving. We got all our supplies and Ms P made the rice in advance so it would be cooled and sticky. We started off with my signature sashimi salad, pictured above. Click here for the recipe from previous sushi night. This is so easy and so tasty, I would like to experiment with more presentation styles though.
We then made a selection of inside out rolls, with a layer of seaweed between the rice and filling, nigri and also a regular roll.
Tip # 1 Sushi rice is sticky and is coated with a mixture of rice wine and sugar. For this reason, when you cut the rolls, you need a very sharp knife that is totally clean. You will need to clean it between every slice or the sticky residue will pull on your rolls and mess them up. We managed to avoid too many casualties on this occasion. The one that did not make it took the short cut to sushi heaven (aka, my stomach-they still taste as good!)
From what I recall, we made avocado rolls, salmon and tuna and maybe mango. You can put in whatever you want.
Tip # 2 (learned the hard way). place a layer of cling wrap on top of your roll mat before making your roll. Roll mats are very hard to clean and the rice is determined to get well jammed into the gaps.

We also made some nigri ( in the middle-rice with topping) and the ginger there is my homemade ginger, click here for link to recipe.
Finally, we must have our greens! in sushi world, that means gomae! Gomae is steamed spinach, served cold usually with a tahini (sesame seed paste dressing) but some places use peanuts.
I tend to just go without a recipe for this and eyeball it, taste it as I go along.
Here is a basic summary of something resembling a recipe for Gomae sauce:

2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey or sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1-3 tbsp water depending on desired consistency

You can adjust the sweetness or saltiness as you go along. Err on the side of caution and start with 1 tsp of everything if you prefer. You can also add some sesame seeds for texture.
Serve over cold steamed spinach. You can see the spinach and sauce in this pic. What a spread. We were very proud of ourselves! Arigatou gozaimasu, Ms P, for a lovely evening!

Cilantro Solution

Just a quickie post, spurred on by me just unpacking my groceries. I buy a bunch of cilantro every week, sometimes too for use primarily in guacamole, salsa, salmon burgers and curries. I find it deteriorates very rapidly when left in the fridge unpackaged, even in the crisper. In fact, I find the crisper drawer makes it worse. I have 4 methods of storage that I have found work best:
1) store bunch in an airtight tupperware container
2) store bunch in a ziplock bag
3)chop cilantro when you buy it and store in tupperware container (this works well when you don't have a spare container large enough to hold the bunch and stems). Also saves time when cooking as it is already chopped!
4) put bunch in a glass of water and store in the fridge. This option comes with a warning! Do not get any of the cilantro water on your hands! After a couple of days, if you have not refreshed the water, it may get slimy and while the leaves at the top are fine, the stem bases are not. The smell is so foul and, of course, does NOT wash off easily. It's as if it permeates all 7 layers of skin immediately. Also when disposing of the water, use your waste disposal unit and lots of lemon and bicarb of soda or your kitchen will smell like your hand (or other body part you managed to splash).

Do you have any tips for storage of food items that spoil easily? Please share!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sizzle, Stir, Serve

I made this quickie stir fry last week with a random assortment of ingredients that were in my fridge and in need of using. Stir frys are a great way to mix the more transient inhabitants of the fridge (fresh meat, veg etc) with the long term residents, who tend to prefer the door of the fridge (condiments and seasonings). The great thing is that usually you can go without a recipe and if it tastes bland, a splash of soy sauce will usually fix it!
A few rules for stir fry that I've picked up:
  • get the wok hot enoughand use an oil with a high smoke point (such as canola) unless you want to be fanning the smoke alarm for the duration.
  • chop all the vegetables a similar size so they cook equally.
  • Have ALL your ingredients prepped and ready to go. From start to end, the cooking process is usually 5-10mins.
Here is the recipe I came up with:

Ginger beef and pepper stirfry
Meat marinade (choose beef, chicken or pork, sliced)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
marinade 10-60 mins depending on time. I usually put the meat in to marinate and then prep all the veggies.

Veggies
sliced yellow bell pepper
sliced mushrooms
chopped scallions
hot sauce to taste (optional)
1 tbsp grated ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed


Heat vegetable oil in wok. Drain marinade from meat (set liquid aside). Add meat to pan, it should sizzle. Stir frequently until browned and then remove from pan and set aside.
Add ginger and garlic to pan and stir for 30 seconds, ensuring it doesn't burn.
Add chopped veggies( not scallions) and stir until they soften slightly. Add meat back to wok.
Stir and add reserved marinade.


Add hot sauce at this point if desired.
Remove wok from heat. Serve over rice or noodles and sprinkle on scallions and sesame seeds to serve.



I am a very fast eater so I always use chopsticks for stir frys to slow me down. I should probably try to use them for other meals too...or I could just...slow...down.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My favourite kitchen staples

I frequently mention certain foods/ingredients in my blog and there is nothing more frustrating than reading a recipe and getting excited and then realising you have to trawl the city to find one key ingredient. I try at all times to choose recipes and foods that are simple, whole and easy to get hold of but there are a few things I can assist in pointing you in the right direction for. I will be adding to this posting regularly and getting it more organised.

Where do I find (BLANK) in Halifax
, Nova Scotia?

Silver Hills sprouted grains bread; Sobeys (in the freezer part of the natural foods section), Planet Organic

Nutritional Yeast (nooch): Sobeys, Planet Organic, Superstore, Healthy Selection Shoppe

Hold Crap/Skinny B/Wild Chia cereals: Planet Organic. some Sobeys

Coconut cream (not milk): Healthy Selection Shoppe/ Buy 3, get 10% off

Emergen-C (vitamin and mineral supplement): all of the above mentioned stock these but the best price is at Superstore where it's usually $17-$18 per box. Everywhere else is $20+. I also recently saw these at HomeSense!

Yogi teas: Healthy Selection Shoppe (my fave flavour is Kombucha)

Mary's Crackers : Sobeys, Planet Organic, Superstore (best price is here)

Kitchens of India boxed curry-Sobey's. These are great to have on hand for a quick healthy meal in a rush, or you can use them as a base for a curry that you add veggies and protein too. they have no additives but are a little high in salt so watch out for that. I like the eggplant one and the chickpea one. Neither have dairy in them but some of the other flavours do.


Where are these places?
Sobeys is omnipresent in Halifax. Drive in any direction for 10 mins and you'll find one

Planet Organic Click here for website. Located on Quinpool Road

Healthy Selection Shoppe 1129 Bedford Highway, Halifax


Where do I find (BLANK) in Vancouver, BC?

All of the above mentioned items can be bought at most grocery stores in Vancouver. I will therefore just list the places I used to frequent for my weekly shopping with some tips thrown in for good deals

Save on foods-great selection in their health/natural foods section but usually a little pricier than other stores.

Superstore-has an expanding natural foods section and the prices are great. They have the best deal on the Emergen-c as mentioned above. They also have the best deal on Yogi teas. You can find cartons of coconut cream in the ethnic food aisle and raw virgin coconut in the freezer section. I just find the store layout uber annoying and illogical. But I can get over it.

Whole Foods Yep, I know it's expensive and you end up coming out with 2 grocery bags and a short receipt with triple digits at the bottom. HOWEVER, if you check for the specials, you can get great deals. Usually the Marys Crackers are $5-7 a box in most stores but Whole Foods usually puts them on sale....for HALF price..a few times a year. Worth stocking up. The most I ever see them discounted elsewhere is $1

Apple Farm Market on Lonsdale (across from London Drugs)-small store with a lot packed in. Prices vary, some things are priced well, others not so much. If you want to make guacamole that day, they usually have very ripe avocados for very low prices.

Parkgate Farm Market- This place has been open maybe a year and has got my vote. THe owner has some hardcore connections to produce suppliers and gets THE best prices. Trust me. Go there. They are slowly expanding their range of other foods such as nuts, cereals, breads, snakc foods, honey and chocolate. I always leave smiling and the staff are very friendly.

Queensdale Market (Queens and Lonsdale in North Van-see what they did there?). Suprisingly large store that has lots of nooks and crannies packed with stuff you didn't know you needed. LOTS of selection but a little overwhelming and not the best organised. For those of you with Northvanrec playcards, you get 10% off orders over $50 with your playcard.

Artisan Bake Shoppe, North Van. This is prob by favourite bakery. They offer a range of breads which are wheat free and made fresh daily. They also offer some other yummy treats and make sandwiches to order. Their breads are sold at numerous other stores such as whole foods, Queensdale Market and Parkgate Farm Market. I'm addicted to the spelt bread-get the one with the sesame seeds on top. It's delicious, crunchy and nutty when toasted and makes exceptional croutons.

Thrifty foods (which is part of the Sobey's group)-great selection of foods and a lovely store to browse around. Prices usually a little higher but very good quality produce and deli. They are the cheapest place I have found for Amy's cheese free pizza at $8.99 vs $10.99 or more elsewhere.

The moral of the story....lots of choice in Vancouver...check the flyers, shop around and you can make some great savings. If you only have time to go to one place, I'd choose Queensdale Market-support your local businesses! and get 10% off!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sushi Dreams Do Come True


I've now been in Halifax for 2 weeks (with a 3 days trip to Toronto in there) and have settled well in to the kitchen. I've eaten almost 100% of my meals at home but today after making some big decisions with regard to my career, I decided I was very deserving of lunch out...and that meant one thing....sushi!
THere is a sushi place close to home here but it's average in quality, serving size, menu range and it's a little overpriced but then all East coast sushi seems overpriced compared to Vancouver.
I took a little drive in the car and headed for the first sushi place I saw, Sakura Sushi House on Bedford Highway. This was probably about a 7-8km drive. Slight contrast to Vancouver where half the sushi restaurants in the world can be found within in the same distance, and all will be full. I had high hopes as always, but prepared myself for overpriced, standard sushi fare. I chose a house salad with ginger dressing, tuna tataki and 3 pcs of salmon sashimi. The restaurant was nicely busy, always a good sign and the menu was extensive although I have yet to find one of my fave dishes, Gomae (steamed spinach with sesame sauce) anywhere in existence out East. Not quite sure why, hence me ordering the salad in place of my usual green hit. The salad came out first and looked great. Not your average house salad. There was a huge pile of the fresh ginger dressing which was more like grated ginger and orange and fairly thick. No oil or vinegar that I could discern. The dressing was clearly freshly made and tasted as such. I was uber-hungry but I'm trying not to inhale my food as much so I took my time. Don't give me credit for having will power though. Chopsticks.
'nuff said.By the time the salad was finished, my sashimi had arrived. The salmon looked very fresh and they were big thick pieces. Some of my West coast sushi joints served very small portions of sashimi for a moderate price. This portion was definitely worthy of the $6 price tag. I polished off 2 pcs and then my tataki arrive. Tataki is very lightly seared tuna that is 99% raw except for the outer .001 mm. Usually it is served plain with a ponzu dipping sauce. This version had a salsa of tomato, avocado and jalapeno on top and was dotted with teeny tiny black and red masago (fish roe-Zey pop like zee bubblezzz in your mouth). Most places serve the standard orange masago so the presentation here really "popped".
I took a pic on my phone and immediately posted to Facebook, a new tool I have since I finally entered the world of data plans. And then it was gone.
I am so happy to have found a quality sushi restaurant to support my addiction... I mean appreciation of raw fish. My goal now is to recreate the ginger orange salad dressing in the comfort of my own food processor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breakfast of Bubbles and Blueberries




1 week in and I'm back in my foodie/cooking/blogging groove. Happiness!
So far since I arrived here last Monday, I've made every morsel that has passed my lips.
Breakfast is my now staple "Holy Crap" cereal plus blueberries and almond milk. What is "Holy Crap!?" I hear you all say? Well, anyone from Vancouver will probably have heard of it or eaten it but for the rest of my global readers, I will enlighten you. It is a breakfast cereal/dietary supplement that is made of chia seeds, hemp seeds and buckwheat. Thus it is extremely high in fibre...hence the name. The amount needed per day is 2 tablespoons so a little goes a long way. It can be sprinkled on yogurt or added to cereal if you prefer. I just let it sit in the milk for a few minutes and then inhale it before I leave the house. A good start to the day! I haven't yet found a supplier here for it but it's easy enough to make myself, and probably more cost effective too.

I supplement my breakfast with a drink (it's more like a shot) made from an Emergen-C sachet. These are basically vitamin and mineral sachets that dissolve in water and become effervescent. I like the taste and am very bad at taking tablet form vitamins so this works for me. I used to just mix with tap water but then PB suggested mixing it with sparkling water (we like Pellegrino and usually have a few bottles in the fridge at any given time). ULTIMATE EFFERVESENCE! Hard to go back to the regular tap water now. Thanks PB for taking my daily vitamin needs to the High Maintenance category.

Lunch has been leftovers from the night before as I have been at work so it's a quick refuel usually. See below for details!

Dinners so far:

  • Thai prawn curry
  • Sesame salmon with steamed zuchinni, broccoli and asparagus with sesame/soy drizzle
  • Mexican chicken and black bean hash
  • Salmon sashimi salad
  • Cheese-free Amy's pizza(store bought) with my addition of parma ham and Nooch(nutritional yeast).

For anyone who is lactose intolerant and can't eat/find/like soy cheese, the nooch is just sprinkled on and will give a cheesy taste to the pizza, sort of like using parmesan cheese. The bonus is that it's low in calories and fat and high in protein. Nooch is available in most supermarkets now, or failing that, health food stores should carry it.

Tonight's meal will be lemon chicken thighs with more of the steamed veggies. Or maybe I will roast them this time. Decisions Decisions!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From coast to coast in one crazy month

HELLO READERS!!!!! Yes it really is me, I am blogging again, finally. I do not actually really have time but I am needing a break from packing, sorting, repacking, resorting and a lot of waiting for people from craigslist to show up (or not).
It has been about 3 weeks since the decision to move to Halifax and I think PB and I win the award for most efficient cross country movers, especially seeing as PB has been gone from BC since early August.
In the space of 3 weeks, we rented an apartment via Kijiji, packed up, sold all our furniture, spent a week in Halifax interviewing for jobs (me) and working (PB) as well as moving into the aforementioned apartment and getting acclimatised to Halifax, and the humidity!
I have never been to the East Coast before, in fact, as far as Canada goes, I have never been out of BC so this really is an adventure. After an intense week of working, packing, and a lot more of both of those, I took the red eye, via Toronto to Halifax to meet PB who was flying there from his old job in Winterpeg.
We both loved Halifax right away and our first meal there was definitely one to blog about!
We went downtown to pick up our car rental for the week and the driver directed us to a pub that served big portions of good food for good prices and lots of beers on tap. The pub was great, lots of wood and casual atmosphere. Beer was good and menu was simple pub grub. I was trying to be healthy and avoid fried food so I opted for what was listed as 5 mini burgers. Great I thought...that is perfect, I can have 3 and PB can have 2. Well....what came out was 5 regular sized burgers on a platter with nothing else! The first image in my head was of the cartoon character Wimpy from Popeye as he ate loads of burgers. There was bun and burger patty.....x5.
No greens, no onions, no limp piece of iceberg masquerading as lettuce. I ate 2 and declined the doggy bag for the rest. Great value if you need to eat a lot of burgers or sharing them with 4 friends but a little excessive for moi. Anyway, it made for a fun experience and I would go back there for the beer and the craic.
The rest of the week was spent roughing it in foodie terms as we had an empty kitchen so rustled up wraps, salads and even PB and J sandwiches one day for lunch.
Now i am back in BC and trying to clear out the fridge, pantry and freezer and have had one too many meals of sardines on toast that I must stop in order to avoid the point of no return wherein, I will hate them forever, despite formerly loving them. This happened to me with cream of mushroom soup years ago.
I have one week left in BC and plan to eat most of my meals out , in good company and enjoy the abundance of cheap sushi and also Safeway wraps and sandwiches which I love. I did not see a single Safeway in Halifax but I did see lots of new foodie places to try out an am looking forward to discovering a new city and its array of new foods.
Stay posted for more updates soon....bring on the Lobster!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heading East.....waaaay East

So......got some big news, hence the lack of recent postings!
PB applied for and got offered a job in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So it's all systems GO for the big move in only 4 weeks time. During that time, I am away camping for one weekend, will pay a preliminary visit to Halifax to secure an apartment and attend job interviews and of course, pack up and move out the house we just moved into 1 month ago. Not a lot of cooking has been happening lately and I don't anticipate it happening any time soon seeing as I have a fridge, freezer and pantry full of food to eat through before I leave. I'm looking forward to meals such as beans on toast, quinoa and chickpea salad and lots of chicken as my freezer is full of the stuff from my recent visit to Thrifty foods where it was buy one get one free (BOGO).
Also trying to purge purge purge as much stuff as possible to reduce moving costs and general hassle of storing etc.
I've sold most of the big pieces of furniture, including my bed so i'll be sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a couple of weeks. I'm on my third round of sorting through my clothes too. It's hard to toss good stuff that I like but do I really want to cart it from one side of Canada to the other?
I'm uber excited for this adventure though, and can't wait to get there and get to know the place, the restaurants, the culture, the people and the beautiful scenery. Winter will be a shock to my system but maybe I will prefer snow to relentless rain.
So the blog will be on hiatus for a while, maybe a month, as my priorities lie elsewhere but you can bet I will be back with lots of exciting things to report. See you on the East Coast!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's pronounced Keen-Wah

In my quest to eat the food I actually have in my fridge/freezer and cupboards instead of just stuffing them full of more food, today I made a Fridge Raider Special salad. I had made a batch of Quinoa (Keen-wah) which is a grain you can use in place of rice or couscous. It's an ancient grain that is very high in protein and it tastes good too. Well...that's not strictly true. It's crucial to rinse the grains well in cold water before cooking to rinse off the bitter coating. I have a foodie friend who hates quinoa as her one and only experience, in my opinion, was unrinsed before cooking. Still, she won't try it again. I happen to love it and it's very quick and easy to cook with a ratio of 2:1 of water to quinoa, just like rice. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to very low, cover and cook for 10-15 mins til water is absorbed.
I also had in my fridge some fresh basil, some pureed mango left over from sushi night and some organic turkey smokie sausages. I try not to eat too much in the way of processed meats and sausages due to the nitrates/nitrites and additives and preservatives but McLeans make it on to my thumbs up list. They are also very lean as they are made from turkey. I buy them at Save on Foods and have seen them at a few other grocers too. They are a little more expensive than regular sausages so I only buy them once in a while.

Mango Turkey Sausage Quinoa Salad
1 cooked and chilled turkey sausage, sliced (Mcleans are already cooked)
handful spinach, torn
2 tbsp mango puree
handful basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Mix it all together and serve!

I was pretty happy with this summery, light salad that took 1 minute to assemble and about 2 minutes to eat. Healthy, whole, filling and convenient all at the same time. I imagine that cilantro would also work well with the mango in place of basil and you could add nuts, avocado, seeds and other chopped veggies to boost flavour and general healthiness.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A little bit of a pickle

In preparation of tonight's up coming sushi making night I have planned with a couple of friends, I decided to make my own pickled ginger. By co-incidence, I had bought a food magazine this week and it just so happened to have a recipe for pickled ginger. Really random as I had already planned the sushi night before I even saw the magazine and I have never seen a recipe before for homemade pickled ginger. For those of you less familiar with sushi, every order is served with 2 things, wasabi and pickled ginger. Wasabi is a very hot, usually bright green, paste made from a type of horseradish. It is one of the few food on this planet that I have not acquired a taste for. It looks fairly innocent but beware, even a pin head sized sampling will take off at least a few tastebuds and clear out your sinuses, even if they aren't blocked. The pickled ginger, usually dyed pink, is a palate cleanser for between each type of sushi and this I love. A few sushi places I go to do use the natural pickled ginger (which can naturally have a pinkish hue due to the rice vinegar reaction) but many still used the dyed pink stuff for aesthetics, I presume.
The ingredient list is short but the process was quite involved and probably took me an hour from start to end.

Homemade Pickled Ginger
1 lb ginger root
2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tbs table salt
(you will also need canning jars)


1) sterilize jars (see below for directions)
2) peel and thinly slice ginger
3) mix sugar, vinegar and salt in a pan and dissolve over med heat. Bring to boil and when boiling, remove from heat and cover.
4) bring large pot of water to boil. When boiling add ginger for 30 seconds to soften. Drain well in colander.
5) place ginger in jars, pour syrup over top and let cool with lids on. Refrigerate when cooled.

First thing was to sterilize the mason/canning jars. This requires boiling the jars in a large pan of water for 10 minutes. Seasoned canners (not me) apparently have a rack that fits into the pan so the jars don't touch the bottom but I did not have this so I used my metal vegetable steamer and put it on the bottom of the pan and it worked fine although I kept my distance from the stove just in case something exploded.
While that was busily sterilising away all bacteria known to man, I got to work peeling the ginger. This is quite a task. I already learned a couple of years ago that using a metal teaspoon is the best tool for peeling ginger while not losing too much ginger and not losing any knuckle skin from a vegetable peeler. I had purchased 2 large roots of ginger, I don't know if it was 1lb in weight, probably about 1/2lb but it was a lot to peel and whose measuring? I started with the first piece and while the spoon worked, it was messy as all the tiny shards of ginger peel stuck to everything. My thumbs and hand started to ache after a few minutes but I got it done, all the while seriously contemplating if doing the second root was necessary and whether an industrial machine existed that could peel ginger root efficiently.


After peeling came slicing. It is supposed to be very thinly sliced, paper thin. I had a mandolin (not a very good one although very sharp still) and a vegetable peeler. I started with the mandolin. Way too thick and I was terrified of slicing off a finger so I switched to the handheld peeler which made for a much thinner slice but also caught my knuckles a couple of times in the process. Apparently it's easier to peel myself than it is to slice ginger.
Exhausted after peeling and slicing one root, I set to work on the second one and got yet another knuckle scrape. Clearly not at peak focus today.
I had amassed a big pile of sliced ginger varying in thickness from paper thin to doorstep thick but I was proud of myself.
I then created the canning liquid syrup in a pan and brought to a boil, covered and remove from heat.
I then boiled another large pan of water. This recipe uses a lot of large pans, I did not have enough so I used my Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish for this one. I then added the ginger and softened for 30 seconds before draining.
I filled the jars with the ginger, poured on the syrup and voila! It's now in the fridge awaiting the guinea pigs (MM and D). I mean "the tasters".

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Healing...with the help of sushi and chocolate banana pie

It's 2 weeks today that I got injured and I'm happy to report that I feel I've made a lot of progress in the past day or two, as a result of my targeted recovery program. This program involves the following:
1) Rest-easier said than done for me, especially with the recent house move but I've committed to resting and I have noticed a difference. Thanks to all my friends and family who have helped out driving me around and carrying my bags and bringing me food!
2) Ibuprofen every 4 hours. To reduce inflammation. I learned early on that I must not get caught out without my meds if 4 hours goes by as meltdown ensues. That seems to have subsided now, thank goodness.
3) Arnica cream applied to sternum and taken orally in tablet form 3 times a day. This is a homeopathic remedy that many people swear by. I certainly believe it, whenever I apply to any visible bruises, they disappear within 1-2 days instead of going horrible greeny/yellow colour for days.
4) Physiotherapy 2 x per week consisting of Tens machine to get my body to produce it's own painkillers and Laser to help the damaged cells heal. I'm unable to have any joint function assessed yet due the pain.
5) Chondroitin supplement 1 x day to help repair bones and cartilage.
6) sleep..lots! I've been clocking in 8-10hours per night of solid sleep. The healing is done when sleeping so this is the most important part, in my opinion. The bedroom at my new house is extremely conducive to good sleep and both me and PB have had solid sleeps there since we moved in. I think it's something to do with it being a big room with high ceilings so there is lots of air flow. And having the window open is crucial.

I'm now able to sleep on my front with minimal pain and to rotate a little further to each side. I can shrug my shoulders higher but I do have to do it slowly.

I was concerned at having a vast expanse of time ahead of me during my time off but it's actually gone pretty fast. I can do most things at home like admin/computer work and light chores and I can cook. I have been eating randomly though, mainly due to not having a regular schedule and not doing any major exercise. I have been having a late breakfast and then a very light snack for lunch. Evening meals have been bigger though. Last night, a friend from work was kind enough to visit and bring sushi for us and her son to eat. I hadn't been that hungry all day but was famished when she arrived and devoured a spinach gomae, salmon sashimi and a selection of rolls. There are leftovers waiting for me in the fridge today so lunch will happen!

Last week, I finally made a no bake frozen banana pie that I had spotted on one of my favourite blogs The Nourishing Gourmet. It's dairy free, wheat free and very healthy with minimal added sugar. It's also raw (if you use agave instead of honey) and vegan. Sometimes I have found that allergy free versions of foods are really unhealthy but this one, and this blog, in general are very healthy and tasty. The blogger adapted it from Clean Eating Magazine which is a great magazine and there is a link in my sidebar to the website and to the blog too.

Frozen Chocolate Banana Pie
Crust
1 cup of almonds, (soaked and dehydrated, optional)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil

Pie Filling:
5 bananas
1 cup of full fat coconut milk
½ cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoons vanilla

1) Toast the almonds in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until browned and fragrant. Place in a food processor with the butter and honey. Blend until finely ground. Push evenly into the bottom of a greased 8 inch springform pan, or pie pan.

2) Rinse out the food processor and add the pie filling ingredients to it. Blend until quite smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over pie crust and freeze until well set (at least 4 hours).


3) Use a very sharp knife to cut into pieces. Can let sit for about 20 minutes to soften it up a bit. For presentation and added flavor, top with sliced bananas, sliced almonds, or chocolate shavings.

The pie certainly looked appetizing and was easy to make but when I've made stuff like this before, the ice crystals can be a problem. When I first took it out of the oven, I mean freezer, It was close to impossible to cut and then I remembered the recipe said to leave it for 20 mins to warm up a bit. That did help but I still need to use a really sharp heavy wusthof knife and it was still too much for me with the injury so I got some help.
The verdict on the pie from all who sampled was a resounding "DELICIOUS!" and I would for sure make this again. The base is really tasty and almost chewy. I'd like to experiment more with a more crumbly base like a cheesecake but I really like this base too and most people commented on the base before anything else. The topping was rich and satisfying but it was great to know the only sweetness came from the bananas. I preferred it slightly more melted and mouss-ey but having a more frozen piece added a nice texture. PB LOVED this dessert and his mom told me he usually doesn't eat dessert so I was secretly feeling very smug. His Dad, PB senior on the other hand, loves desserts. Particularly of the chocolate variety I have observed and he loved this too. My friend D was the first to taste it and she suggested making fudgsicles with the topping. I'll need to get some moulds but this would work great and they wouldn't need to sit for 20 mins before eating.
I refroze the pie several times and it hasn't seemed to affect the taste or quality. There is still a wedge in the fridge that I will pull out later in the week.
Overall verdict: Try it, it's a light, healthy alternative to cheesecake and chocolate pie.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tis the season to be berry


As promised, here is the daily blog update which I intend to continue with for the duration of my time recovering. Having ample time to research recipes, a decent internet connection (which I did not have until I moved here last week) and a fantastic kitchen for cooking in means I should easily be able to fulfill this commitment.
Today's time in the kitchen was spent making a recipe from a blog that a friend and colleague, GGG, sent to me. The blog is called Berry Blue Toes which has tonnes of raw and healthy but really tasty recipes. I also love the blog name and the font used for the main page blog title! The writer also blends the recipes wit knowledge of chakras. A bit spiritual but that interests me. This recipe is good for the third chakra which is associated with the pituitary gland, eyes, nose, ears and skeletal system. Probably a good thing for me to be eating for my bone bruise then.

I modified the recipe a bit by adding Mary's Ginger Crackers in place of some of the oatmeal. I also plan to add some chia seeds and hemp seeds next time to increase the fibre and protein content further. I also made (sans recipe!) a creamy coconut drizzle to pour on.

Raw Berry Crisp

* 6C of mixed Blueberries, Raspberries and Blackberries
* 2 tsp of maple syrup/honey/agave nectar
* 1C of pre Soaked Raw Walnuts
* 1/2T of vanilla
* 1/2C of Slivered Almonds
* 1t of cinnamon
* 1/2c dried Cranberries
* 1C of chopped dates
* 1C of Rolled Oats

In a dish mix berries and cranberries with honey maple syrup and vanilla. In a food processor pulse nuts, cinnamon, dates and oats. Serve in parfait cups layered or layer in a medium sized square cake pan (berries under nut mix on top) - best chilled in the fridge for a few hours before serving.


I used 2 tsp maple syrup in my first version and I substituted 1/2 cup of oatmeal for 3 Mary's ginger cookies.
These are a recent find and are allergy free. Mary's does savory crackers too and I'm sure they will be coming out with more products. I certainly home so. They can be purchased at London Drugs and some Superstores. Probably Whole Foods too, who incidentally have the best price for Mary's products but only when they are on sale which is a couple of times a year but they go on sale for half price. Most other stores only knock $1-2 off the retail price. Costco does sell bulk boxes of the savory crackers so they may eventually do the sweet ones too. Berry season is in full bloom in BC at the moment. Berry stands and farmers markets have overflowing punnets of cherries, raspberries and strawberries galore. Blueberries are not quite in season yet so we're still getting them from Southern Cali at the moment but my friend, D, bought me over some frozen blueberries from her mom's garden last year that were frozen so I used those in this dish along with some BC blackberries and raspberries from just across the border in Washington state that the Condiment Queen and Pb senior picked up on their recent jaunt there. Last year I grew strawberries in my vegetable garden and amassed as many as 6 strawberries in my haul. This year, my strawberry plant was on steroids or something as it was producing many more and way earlier than anyone else I know. Sadly I had to leave it as I moved house and didn't want to uproot it but it was nice to know the legacy of my tenancy there will remain. Not sure how important soaking the walnuts is but I did it anyway. I just put them in a bowl and put some water in and left them overnight. They had soaked up most of the water by morning and looked all plumpy.
I layered the dish as directed and placed it in the fridge but you can't see the beauty of the berries as they are covered so I pulled out my solo surviving martini glass and layered up in that for the impending photo op.
The blog suggested drizzling coconut milk over the top but I thought this would be too watery so I made my own Creamy Coconut Drizzle from coconut cream in a box (sulphite free) which GGG discovered at Superstore.
It's basically solid at room temp. I plunked it in the food processor with 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbs creamy honey. I added 1/2 cup boiling water and carefully blended until creamy. I dipped my pinky in and had a wee taste.....OMG! Deeeeeeviiine! I could just sit and eat that! I think it would be good frozen too. But as the intended drizzle, perfect!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A minor inconvenience


So, I guess I tempted fate by detailing my strenuous fitness schedule in my last post and have since suffered an injury that has sidelined me from all physical activity and is preventing me from going to work until at least July 16th when I next see my doctor for re-assessment. I sustained the injury while at a concert on Tuesday last week with PB. I was at the front, enjoying the great view and soaking up the energy of the live music when I got slammed hard into the metal bar on the barrier in front of me, just below my collar bone. As I had neglected to wear my body armour that night, it winded me and caused a lot of pain. Not a whole lot of protection just under the collar bone for this kind of impact. I shook it off though and adrenalin kicked in masking the pain. The next morning, I woke up,reviewed the night in my head and then realised I couldn't move an inch to get out of bed without intense chest pain. Major panic! I suspected a fractured rib or sternum which could be confirmed by X-ray but first I had to get to the hospital. Luckily PB was next to me and by painful trial and error we managed to get me to a standing position so I could get out to the car.
2 sets of x rays, a cocktail of painkillers and three and a half hours later, I was discharged with a diagnosis of sternum and chest wall bruising. Prescription in hand for more painkillers and a prognosis of it getting worse before getting better with a slow recovery, I was outta there with a glum face and a lot of wincing. This also happened to be the day PB and I were moving house. Without movers. Great combo. Luckily PB is very capable of doing lots of physical labour and I am very skilled at watching.
So 10 days has passed and I am still doing nothing beyond sitting, walking and a lot of talking/emailing/resting. At least another week off work, maybe more. I'm not allowed to return until I can do my job as gym manager and personal trainer. Might be a while....boo hoo.
However, one of the upsides of the time off is lots of time to sort out my pile of disorganised recipes, time to bake (although I need people to take me to the shops as I can't carry heavy stuff or drive myself there) and time to update the blog with a lot of overdue posts for yummy recipes I have made in recent months. I'm planning at least one post per day so get ready for an onslaught.
today's recipe is a quickie, courtesy of one of my staff at work,we'll call him Big J because he's a tall guy and his name starts with J. Original.
He found this recipe and modified it and I have modified it a little further.

No-Bake Granola Bars

1 Ripe Banana (mashed)
1 ½ cups Oats
½ cup Shredded Coconut (I used sweetened)
½ cup Raisins (or date chunks, cranberries, craisins, dried cherries/mangoes/apricots/etc. Any dried fruit will work)
1/3 cup Maple Syrup (add more for more sweetness)
½ cup Peanut Butter, 100% natural is best (or any nut butter, i.e. almond, pecan, cashew, etc.)

Stir all ingredients together and press down into a baking dish or pan so it is about 1 inch deep. Freeze for an hour or two and then cut in to shapes.

I also added 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup hemp seeds (to boost the protein content.

These are yummy, filling and satisfying. I especially love finding a big chunk of peanut butter. I didn't put the coconut in as dried coconut, unless organic, has sulphites in it which I am sensitive to. They are in lots of things but dried fruit is exceptionally high and results in me looking like I am about to give birth i.e. balloon stomach which is not such a good look.
Coming soon....more no bake desserts, a refreshing summer supper and hopefully retention of my sanity as I move into 2 weeks with no exercise or work. Thank goodness I can still cook and bake. If you come and visit, I guarantee I will feed you well!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Foodie Math: More exercise=more room for food

I thought I would move away from food for one post and talk a little about what I do for fitness. It’s sorta related to food as I have to plan my food around my workouts, or sometimes, my workouts around my food. I workout in some form or other most days of the week but do I change what I do during the year depending on weather, races etc.
This year, for Jan-June a typical week looked like this:
Mon Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Tuesday Spin class 75 mins aka Sweat fest
Weds Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Thursday netball training 1.5 hours aka run around while having chit chat with the girls in between
Friday Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Sat netball game 1 hour
Sun Rest day or easy hike (if nice weather-which hasn’t been very often this year to date!)
BFL stands for Body For Life. It’s a 12 week fitness training program that’s been around for years. You can read more about it here www.bodyforlife.com.
There are 3 components, cardio, strength and also a food plan. The appeal of the program is that you alternate between cardio and strength workouts during the week. You do 3 cardio and 3 strength workouts but they are all short. Strength days are 30-45 mins and cardio is 20 mins but of intense interval training.
I really wanted to focus on my strength as this area has fallen short over the past year due to injuries.
I decided to follow the strength plan listed but I would insert my own cardio workouts in as I had netball and spin class already going. Conveniently, they fell on Tu/Th/Sat allowing me to do the strength workouts on M/W/F as dictated in the plan.
I finished the 12 week program last week and am stronger than I have ever been. My arms are strong (I’d even go so far as to say pumped), I’m lifting more weight than ever with my upper and lower body and confident in my body’s ability to handle almost anything! I usually work very well with a structured plan so I devised my own 3 month plan for the summer. It’s pretty similar in essence with alternating strength and cardio days but I have some specific goals I want to achieve during that time. I want to be able to do pull ups….unassisted! I’ve never been able to do them but then again, I’ve never trained myself specifically to do them. That is the focus of this plan. I also have my fantastic workout partners who make a huge difference to my commitment and confidence in the program. The BFL food program followed a simple structure. Eat 6 times a day, small meals containing one portion each of protein, carbs and fats from the list provided. I tried it but it was too much food for me and I felt like I was snacking all day and never having a full meal. I love snacking but it’s best when between meals, not AS the meal.
My cardio plan changes slightly for the summer. Netball drops to once per week and I’m outside more running and hiking. The Grouse Grind is my big cardio focus in the summer. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s climbing a mountain trail that's steep and relentless. It’s famous in these parts as a great workout/pastime. Anywhere from 35-90 minutes of pure uphill slog dubbed Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. Last year I was on the trail about 2-3 x per week and got pretty fast averaging 50 minutes. I don’t enjoy it, per se, when I’m on there but I know it’s a great workout and there is no slacking! You are committed to finish and the faster you go, the sooner it’s over. It helps that there is the best view of the city at the top as well as beer if you want. The nice part is that you get to ride the tram down as it’s a one way hike. I’ve done it twice this year so far with the goal of doing it 1-2x per week. So far they’ve both been a slog and I’m 99% sure that’s due to not eating right for the hike. By that I mean, eating the right type of food at the right time. I eat well always but when preparing for intense exercise, I find that what I eat the day before and also just prior to the exertion is key to enjoyment/success. I did the Grouse Grind lots last year so I experimented with nutrition. I was very focused on improving my time as I had entered the annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run that was at the end of September. Cutting even just 1 minute off my time took a whole lot of extra effort as I am at max exertion for the whole climb (picture heavy breathing, beet red face, sweat dripping off ponytail-yes I CHOOSE to do this to myself). Losing/gaining 1-2lb body weight affected my time, the air temperature affected my time, what I had/hasn’t eaten or drank affected my time. Through a process of trial and error, I discovered what worked well. Green tea just before I set out in my car for the 15 min drive to the trail really gave me a good energy buzz and cleared my head. I had to make sure not to drink too much though as I hate feeling the need to pee halfway through. There are no washrooms during the hike, only at the start and end, unless you want to take your chances off the trail with the bears and the steep drop offs.
I also need to rest the day before…no netball, no heavy leg workouts, no late nights, no crazy drinking! For food, what I ate the day before helped. I ate clean but need to eat more in the way of carbs such as oats, grains etc to build my glucose stores up. The day of the climb, eat a larger meal a few hours before and then have a snack about 30 mins before. I found the best pre-climb snack was a homemade energy pudding from the Thrive Diet (www.thrivediet.com).

2 bananas
½ cup dates
¼ cup ground flaxseed
¼ cup roasted carob powder (or cacao nibs to make pudding 100% raw)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp sea salt

Blend in a food processer. I would make a batch and have about ½ to 1/3 of the product. I find my blood sugar drops fast once I get hungry. I have to eat every 2-3 hours in some form. As soon as I start feeling hungry, I know it’s only about 30-60 min until I start to feel lightheaded and unwell. So for me, I eat this pudding before I leave the house and it doesn’t cause me indigestion or cramps during the hike. It looks kinda chocolate mouss-ey but tastes good, goes down easily and does it’s job well.
So even though I started this post on exercise, it has come around to food! I’ve done the Grind twice this year so far and both have been sluggish and slow but I wasn’t following my pre-climb routine. I’ll try it next time and see how it affects my time. I’m hoping to get down to 50 mins again but I’ll be happy with 52. Obsessed? Moi?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My name is Sally and I am addicted to sushi

I love sushi. I love raw salmon and tuna. Yes I do! If you had asked me that 10 years ago I probably would have said you were out of your mind. Why would I eat raw fish....gross! Anyway, then I move to Vancouver aka sushi central and gradually worked up the courage to try some and.......guess who likes raw fish! For those of you who are at the stage I was at 10 years ago, don't fear, you can still enjoy sushi without eating raw fish. There are many rolls with vegetables and cooked fish or other proteins. Among my faves are Yam Roll, Avocado Roll and Gomae(a steamed spinach sesame dish). I do encourage you to be brave and try the raw fish though. It's so clean tasting and very good for you and who knows, it might just become one of you favourite foods as it has for me.
I have occasionally made my own sushi, mostly avocado rolls or vegetable rolls but I would like to make my own sashimi too. Sashimi is the name for pieces of raw fish, no rice. Whenever I buy sushi, I get salmon and tuna sashimi but it's very pricey, usually $10 for 6 small pieces...nowhere near enough for an addict like me. If I want to actually sustain myself, I have to buy a roll or two also and the bill quickly hits $20. I love my sashimi though, so I choose to have sushi less often but I have what I want when I order it. I have sourced out a couple of places to buy sashimi grade tuna and salmon. One is a japanese deli near my house. They sell frozen packages of sashimi shaped ready for cutting in to sashimi sized slices. For about $8 I can get 10 slices out of a piece. I also went to a fishmongers at Lonsdale Quay and asked if their salmon was sashimi grade. She said all their salmon was but you have to freeze it for 24 hours before consuming if it has not been previously frozen. This is to kill any parasites. Don't be put off.
Last week, I made myself the scrummiest sashimi salad with fresh Ahi Tuna. so simple to make and so delicious to eat.

1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 mango, sliced
3 oz sashimi grade ahi tuna, sliced
fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

layer the avocado, mango and tuna as you wish and sprinkle with cilantro.
Mix tamari and sesame oil together to make a dressing and drizzle over salad.
Eat with Chopsticks.

You don't have to eat with chopsticks. I just find they force me to slow down and savour the flavours of my creation instead of inhaling it in one breath.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A little less Rain and a little more Shine

I'm considering modifying the blog a little. It's recently turned into more of a list of recipes but I'm not really blogging much about my day to day stuff/interests that are affected/enhanced by food. I'm planning on writing more about the smaller experiences and discoveries I have daily, even if they are a little boring, in an attempt to take my blog back to it's original roots. So I'll start today!
This week is Bike to Work Week in Metro Vancouver. This event happens twice a year in May and November. Usually May is a decent month weather-wise but we are experiencing possibly the coldest wettest Spring in 50 years. Luckily the weather has miraculously taken a turn for the better (meaning we are still having rain most days but there is some sunshine in there) and it's perfect timing for the annual event. My route to work is about 12km and takes 35 mins each way. With all the extra exercise, I've become ravenous in the evenings. Maple Maniacs theory is that the early morning exercise boosts the metabolism. I agree, I'm not increasing my total exercise time, I'm just doing it differently but I'm way hungrier.
On my commute, there are bike lanes most of the way but some dodgy intersections (and drivers) to navigate but each day I am tweaking the route to maximise safety and efficiency as well as trying to stay off the busy polluted routes. As part of the weeks celebrations, there are commuter stations set up on certain days on key routes. Today one of those station was directly on my route. I stopped by and picked up some Larabars, an apple and a free sample of a Clif Builder Bar. It was a miniature one and it's wheat, dairy and egg free and contains a tonne of protein. I was planning saving it for a hike one day in the summer but once I had gotten to work and changed clothes and shoes, I couldn't stop thinking about it and managed to hold out until 10am before I demolished it. It was chocolate-mint flavour and as much as I try to stay away from commercial snacks, this was good and I would buy it in future. I got home from work at 5pm and again was starving but was planning on going to boxing class at 6:30 so a big meal was out of the question. I settled for spinach salad and some canned sardines (I know, you probably are thinking yuk, but I like 'em and the mustard sauce they are in doubles as salad dressing). As I speak, I'm leaving for boxing in 5 mins and ...I'm still hungry! I'm gonna have to figure this out as my appetite seems to be outweighing my energy expenditure but something about the biking is throwing off my eating balance. When i get home I plan to make brownies for a colleagues leaving lunch tomorrow....hmm too risky?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Treat time

I found this recipe in vegan cookbook (How it all Vegan) for Chewy Nutty Cereal Chip squares. They are no bake and very easy. I have modified the recipe slightly to make it a little healthier and increase the protein content. I usually find snacks and treat food are high on the carbs but low on the protein, which is something I have to ensure I get enough of.

Because I’ve changed the recipe to my liking, I’m renaming the bars "Cocoa-nut crispy squares":

2 cups Kashi Go Lean cereal (The original recipe calls for rice krispies but Kashi has a lot more protein in it)
½ cup nut butter ( I have used both almond and cashew butter and both work well)
5 tbsp maple syrup (or any combination or honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. I have not tried it with molasses yet)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut (you could use sweetened but I’m trying to make this treat as healthy as possible)
Couple small pinches sea salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder (the original recipe calls for vegan chocolate chips. These are hard to find. You could use cacao nibs or carob chips though or regualr chocolate chips but they won't be dairy free. I tried it with cocoa powder to keep it healthier and ensure it is dairy free)
1 tbsp soy milk (I put this in but not sure exactly how important it is!)

Over low heat, melt the syrup, nut butter, sea salt and soy milk until blended. Do not boil.

In another bowl, combine cereal and coconut.
Add vanilla and cocoa powder to nut butter sauce. Add sauce to dry ingredients and mix to combine. If you are using choc chips in stead of cocoa powder, add at the very end and don’t mix too much or they will melt. Not a bad thing, it makes a chocolatey sauce but if you like your chips to stand out, mix cautiously.

Press in to a lightly oiled baking dish or tray and place in fridge to set/cool.

Makes 16 small squares approx 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch.

I estimate these to be about 100 cals per square.

I’d like to experiment and improve the nutritional content (tasty treats that are good for you? Oui, C’est possible!) with adding hemp seeds, chia seeds and also using the base recipe minus the cocoa and then making a chocolate topping to spread on top. I’m thinking dark chili chocolate topping or seasalt chocolate. I also want to see how relevant the 1 tbsp of soy milk is and try to determine how to keep the cereal crispy after the wet ingredients have been added. Ideas?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The one where I made bacon cookies


Yes, bacon cookies. Cookies of the sweet variety. I saw the recipe in a book PB gave me for Christmas, Foodista, which is a collection of recipes from blogs all over the world. So I had to make them, just once. Just so I could say I had made, and tasted, bacon cookies. Who puts bacon in cookies? a genius! the sweet and salty contrast is a party in your mouth and of course from a nutritional standpoint, increasing the protein content of a cookie has to be a good thing. Does it matter that the saturated fat and sodium content go up too? Do I care? Not really, no one makes bacon cookies for nutritional reasons. It's all about being a foodie and I do call myself one so I kinda had to.
I'll get straight to it. Here is the recipe that many of you who sampled the goods have been asking for. It's from bellyuptotheblog

Oatmaiale Cookies


Candied bacon

6 strips bacon
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Cookie Dough

2 1/2 cups whole grain rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup chocolate chips
sea salt or finishing salt, preferably Maldon (optional)

1) first make the candied bacon. Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle of oven. Par cook the bacon in a pan to render the fat. remove from pan and pat with paper towel to remove excess grease. Mix maple syrup with brown sugar and rub to coat the bacon when it's cooled enough to touch.
2) Place bacon on parchment paper and bake for 14 mins, flipping the bacon halfway through cooking time. When done, lift parchment paper and let bacon cool. When cooled and the sugars have solidified, pulse coarsely in food processor or chop with knife to obtain pieces the size of chocolate chips.

3) to make the dough, you can toast the oats in a large dry skillet unlit light brown. Or use untoasted.
4) Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugars until fluffy ( i do not have a stand mixer so I just used a electric hand whisk and it worked fine). Add the egg and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds until blended.
5) Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the beaten butter on a low speed until fully incorporated.
6) gradually add the oats( I mixed manually using a spatula for the this step), followed by the candied bacon bits, dried cherries, and chocolate chips just until the ingredients are incorporated throughout the dough.
7) For each cookie, scoop out 2 tbsp dough and roll in to a ball and then press into a patty cake about 1/4 inch thick. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment. They will spread a bit so space out accordingly. Sprinkle tops with finishing salt.
8)put cookies in oven and check at 12 mins. They could take up to 15 mins. Cool on wire rack.

I made the cookies as directed but I did not use a food processor to chop the bacon and I did not use a stand mixer to make my cookie dough. I also did not have any cherries so I omitted them from the recipe.
I took the cookies to bookclub that evening and people were tentative to taste them but were brave and took on the challenge. They all agreed they would not have know there was bacon in there had I not told them. Although the cookies contained egg, I did sample one as it was only 1 egg for about 20 cookies so the amount per cookie was below my tolerance threshold. i took the remainder to work and the cookie monsters I work with loved them. It lead to a discussion about vegetarianism and how bacon is considered the gateway meat. That means it's the one meat the vegetarians generally have a hard time resisting and if they do cave, it's usually to bacon. Someone told me that there is a chemical in bacon that makes this possible. I have researched this on the web and not found evidence to support this but there is a lot of discussion out there...check it out.
So the moral of the story is... bacon tastes good, however you use it. I made extra candied bacon and used in a spinach salad later in the week. It was bacon-licious. My mind is now pondering the endless possibilities of bacon. It's quite overwhelming.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Restaurant Review: L'abattoir (Gastown)

On Friday night I had the pleasure of enjoying a fantastic meal with some fave peeps, PB and Ms Crow Pose's mum and dad were celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary-definitely cause for celebration. Turns out that after 33yrs, you know each other pretty well. So well, that they bought each other the exact same anniversary card!
The chosen eatery was L'abattoir in Gastown, Vancouver. The restaurant is very cool and definitely has that chic downtown feel with a mix of old brickwork complimented by the creative use of mason jars as lightbulb vessels. The 5 of us fitted snuggly around a 4 person table allowing for us to hear each other and talk without shouting but still soak up the energy and hubbub of the rest of the busy restaurant. The menu's were served on metal clipboards, another contrast to the old brick and woodwork. I liked it. The menu was small but everything looked fantastic. Most dishes did contain my main allergens of egg and dairy but I was very sure the chefs could modify most things. I opted for the confit of albacore tuna with smoked pork fat and crispy bits. Mmmm crispy bits. I don't care what they are crispy bits of, I just know they will be gooood. The others ordered theirs and as we waited we were presented with possibly the best bread basket selection I've every had. If you have read any previous posts, you will know that I am also wheat intolerant but can usually manage if I don't eat it too frequently. I was pretty sure that there would be good bread so I wisely ensured my wheat intake for the few days prior was low. I was right, the breadbasket came out with a selection of breads that quickly got devoured and PB Senior wisely ordered a 2nd basket as 1 was clearly not enough. There were 3 breads in there, a crispy flat bread with a spicy chili fennel rub on it, some cheese straws and some mini brioche (french sweet bread) buns with bacon bits on top. I'm on a bit of a bacon crusade right now. Specifically, putting it in things that are sweet or dessert-y in nature. More on that in another post. Anyway, suffice to say, I am a fan of the use of bacon in anything so these warm sweet buns sprinkled in it were divine. They did contain egg a little but they were small so I figured I could tolerate that amount and if I couldn't, then I would find out tomorrow but this is an example of when it is worth it to risk a migraine. If I know the risk and choose to take it, I only have myself to blame. I get more frustrated when I get migraine for no known reason and can't determine what it was I ate that had egg hidden in it. It doesn't happen too much but I do still get caught out after 5 years of managing this allergy.
My tuna/bacon/crispy bit appy was stellar. The crispy bits I think were croutons cooked in bacon fat. The pork belly was cut into small crouton sized pieces also and so whenever I picked one up I was unsure if it was a crispy bit or a belly bit. Both were good but the belly bits won 1st prize. The bacon and tuna combo was also exceptional. Not something that would spring to mind as complimentary textures or flavours but it worked and I want to recreate it at home. PB ordered the raw and cooked vegetable salad. He loves his salads and this one was a little more exotic in the vegetables chosen and the way they were cut. The bowl it was served in was akin to a gold panning dish and the dressing was served up the side of half of the bowl, as if the chef was indeed panning for gold in the salad dressing. Very cool presentation idea.
2 bread baskets and a round of cocktails later, we are on to the main course and into the wine. The sommelier recommended a pinot noir as we were all eating different mains from steak to lamb to fish. For my main course I ordered the lamb loin and sausage. I usually try to order foods I would not usually make at home or have not seen at other restaurants. I wasn't quite sure what I was ordering but what came out was a cylinder of meat containing the lamb loin and lamb sausage bound mixed together and then it was cut in half lengthways. The meal was delicious and the way the lamb was prepared made it less fatty and rich and the portion size was perfect. The presentation of food at L'abbatoir was amazing, every plate was a work of art. PB ordered steak diane, medium rare(the perfect preparation IMO). The deep, dark red of the centre of the steak was mesmerising and it was topped with a semi crushed peppercorn mix. The meat was so tender that steak knives were not even given but the regular table knives cut through the meat with very little effort. Everyone Mmmmm's and Ahhh'd over the food and then we tucked in and savoured every bite. On to the second bottle of wine now and the restaurant was buzzing. Or was that the effect of the wine? Anyway, dessert decision time. Dessert is usually the course that I have the most difficulty navigating with my allergies/intolerances. Most desserts contain egg, cream and usually both together combined to create delicious goodies such as chocolate mousse or my preferred dessert, creme caramel. Or should I say, my former preferred dessert. I'm over it now, and the bonus is that my waistline is thankful although I usually substitute my dessert for a glass of ice wine, something I have recently acquired a taste for. I passed on dessert but had I been able to indulge, it would have been the chocolate pudding cake that PB Senior ordered. Glorious in all it's ooey, gooey, melty, chocolatey perfection. Maybe I am not over it as much as I thought.