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.