The sous chef and I usually use our trusty Slammin’ Salmon recipe when looking for a delicious salmon marinade, but last night I wanted to try something new, so used the “Skewer Always on My Mind” recipe in the cookbook “Eat Shrink and Be Merry” by Janet and Greta Podleski (the authors of Starvin Guy Chicken Pie). The result was fabulous; read on to hear more and drool over the photos!
I started with a lovely piece of wild sockeye, and cut it into large chunks.
Happy Monday, everyone!
Tonight’s dinner features a very easy twist on lasagna that’s perfect for a quick weekday meal. Its one of the sous chef’s favourites… read on for more evidence on that!
To start, you need a meat sauce prepared ahead of time (unless you were simply using jarred tomato sauce). Luckily, we had some in the freezer so I just defrosted it the day before. It consisted of tomato sauce, ground turkey, sauteed mushrooms, onions, and spices.
Now, all you need to do is layer a few things and throw it in a preheated oven to 350 degrees, couldn’t be easier!
First up – lightly spray the bottom of a pie pan or cake pan (I used an 8 inch round pan). Put down one tortilla.
Next, add half of the sauce mixture you’re planning to use.
Then I sprinkled on some nutritional yeast (you could skip this or add Parmesan).
Fresh spinach comes next, along with grated cheddar cheese (I used a vegan substitute because I’m avoiding dairy and it was actually really good – the sous chef loved it!!).
Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy!
A sign of a good meal? The sous chef actually would not surrender the pan to be washed; he was determined to get every speck of sauce/cheese he could! (Kind of reminds me of someone named Max!).
Give this one a try!
The sous chef loves the granola bars that I make him to take to work. Recently, he’s made several comments about how that recipe “must go on the blog” and “it’s too bad you didn’t take any photos last time you made them.” Hmmm… am I sensing any ulterior motives here?!
So, since the sous chef thought you would all like these, here is my recipe for Almond Raisin Granola Bars. I’ve played around with these and you can basically add whatever you want to them and they work out. I’m not a big fan of store-bought granola bars because they are usually loaded with sugar and not much fiber/protein. And while I don’t usually eat granola bars at all (I much prefer straight almond or peanut butter!), I must do my nutritional gatekeeper duties and keep the sous chef healthy and happy.
Recipe as follows: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:
4 cups oats (I would usually use large flake/regular oats, but only had quick oats today)
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons ground flax (we grind ours in a coffee grinder. You must grind it or your body cant absorb the nutrients)
3 tablespoons chia seeds – love these! I’ll write a whole post about them someday
1 1/2 teaspoons each cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar
Then, add the wet ingredients and mix well:
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter (no sugar or salt)
Finally, add in your mix-ins! Any nut, dried fruit, or even chocolate will do. I added:
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (no need to pre-roast since they’ll cook in the oven)
1 cup organic raisins (probably a bit much for my taste but the sous chef loves raisins)
Bake in a 9 by 13 lightly greased pan for for 25 minutes, and you have your very own healthy delicious granola bars! Once cooled, I cut them into individual squares and freeze them. The recipe can also be halved to fit in an 8 by 8 pan.
Last night the sous chef and I had a delicious creamy, rich pasta… but with no cream and minimal oil involved! It was phenomenal and so simple; you really must try it. (We fought over who got to eat the leftovers for lunch today… somehow the sous chef won. Must be because he was a trooper and did all the dishes by candlelight during our power outage).
This recipe comes from another blog, Oh She Glows, and can be found at: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/01/31/15-minute-creamy-avocado-pasta/
I made a few adaptions and additions, as described below.
Step 1: Put some pasta on to boil. I used brown rice spaghetti, but really any type would do.
Step 2: Gather up your ingredients for the sauce, including an avocado, fresh basil, a lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. I used a food processor to blend it all together, but a blender or even an immersion blender would probably work.
Step 3: Blend together 1 avocado, 1/2 cup fresh basil or more (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup but I don’t think you can add too much fresh basil), juice of whole lemon (I increased this from 1/2 lemon), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove garlic (I reduced this from 2 the recipe called for), 1/8 teaspoon salt (I found 1/2 teaspoon way too much), and pepper. Blend this until smooth, and your sauce is ready. It does not get heated up, but will become hot once tossed with the cooked pasta and veggies.
Step 4: Saute mushrooms and spinach in a frying pan until browned.
Step 5: Once the pasta is done, add the sauce and veggies and toss until combined. It’s best to do this in the hot pot to add heat to the sauce. I also threw in some cooked chicken breast to add some protein. (Helpful tip: every week or two we cook up a bunch of chicken breast, slice it, and freeze it to add to meals. It’s so easy to do all at once and makes weekday cooking a lot easier.)
Step 6: Enjoy!
Over the weekend, we had some serious business to attend to. I was most excited to learn some new cupcake decorating techniques! But first up was the redo of the apple cinnamon scones, this time adding a bit of sugar which was previously mistaken. [note - we are not the only ones to forget adding sugar - one of my friends (who will remain anonymous) is an amazing baker/cook and she phoned me this morning to tell me she forgot to add any sugar to her chocolate cake recipe - oops!!]. You see, even the best make mistakes; the key is to salvage the damage and move on!
My mom had brought over the dry ingredients so these were whipped up in no time. The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewarts recipe http://www.marthastewart.com/874312/apple-and-oat-scones-cinnamon-and-nutmeg but the sugar was reduced (3 tablespoons were used) and the butter was reduced (only 1/2 cup was used) but we used salted butter so reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. In addition, Nutragrain flour was used instead of white flour to up the nutrition, and the amount of buttermilk was increased to 3/4 cup. Also, some blueberries were thrown in to add some antioxidants to the mix!
20 minutes later, and they were done! I didn’t try them but the sous chef was around to do some taste-testing, and gave his seal of approval!
And now on to the fun part… it was my sister’s birthday on Saturday so I wanted to make some cupcakes to take to her party and learn some decorating techniques from the master cupcake maker, my mom. I baked up a simple white cake recipe and got to use my awesome new mixer the sous chef gave me for my birthday!
I added some coloured sprinkles for a little festivity and made mini cupcakes.
While they cooled, the buttercream icing was made (note – the nutritional gatekeeper does not approve of mass consumption of these, but also thinks life is too short not to indulge every so often… that, and I didn’t want to be kicked out of the party for bringing sugar-free whole-wheat muffins with vegan icing). A really easy recipe for buttercream involves using 1/2 cup salted butter, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and then gradually adding in 4 cups of icing sugar and 4 tablespoons of whole milk.
I added some food colouring to make a nice lavender colour, and then set to work learning how to effectively use piping bags and tips. Some cupcakes were definitely better than others as I started to get the hang of it! One of the keys is to keep the icing cold, alternating between two bags so one can be kept in the fridge to firm up.
Next up was making little blue flowers on the top. We added blue colouring to the leftover icing, changed tips, and then piped right on top of the lavender icing. Finally, tiny candy pieces made the center of the flower.
And here’s the final product! I’m happy to say they wowed people at the party, and must have tasted great too, because they were all gobbled up in no time!
… we had a bit extra icing… so had some fun:
That’s it for now… coming tomorrow: an avocado pasta recipe that is actually nutritional gatekeeper approved!
So yesterday I ventured over to do some cooking with the woman who has been instrumental in developing my own interest in cooking and healthy living: my original nutritional gatekeeper – yes, for those who guessed it – my mom! (sorry dad!). Growing up and even through entering young adulthood, I’ve learned about the importance of and techniques for healthy cooking, but this has also been balanced by her unwavering passion for (which I’ve also developed) all things baking: cupcakes, cakes, cookies, tarts, anything chocolate; you name it!
So today, we’ll take a look at a recipe that she created that we’ll call Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Caramelized-Onion.
But first, here’s a sneak peak of a recipe to be featured later on:
Earlier in the day, she had whipped up a batch of healthified Martha Stewart (I think Martha might benefit from reading this blog based on the amount of butter and sugar these called for…) Apple and Oatmeal scones. However, these were simply the test batch, as she accidentally forgot to add any sugar! I still thought they were pretty good (and the sous chef isn’t complaining either).
But back to the first recipe. This savory tart is very versatile, in that it can be customized to whatever toppings you like or have on hand. Other ideas for toppings include asparagus, peppers, and a variety of cheeses. Its great to serve as an appetizer, or side to a main meal. We do admit that it isn’t the healthiest recipe out there, but trust us, its worth it! It could also be modified to up the nutrition stats (using whole-wheat flat-bread, light cheese, etc).
1 package frozen puff pastry; thawed (mom swears by Presidents Choice brand as it comes pre-rolled)
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated
1 1/2 large Bosc pears, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat up a pan on medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil, and add the sliced onion. Then sprinkle the salt and sugar over the onion, and cook while stirring periodically, until the onion is caramelized, approx 10-15 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and remove from heat.
While the onion is cooling, roll out the pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The pastry does need to be rolled a bit with a rolling pin to make it thinner and fit to the pan (10 by 14″).
You can see Max, the resident cooking cat, looks on with his approval.
In a small bowl, beat egg with 1 tbsp water and then using a pastry brush, lightly brush the pastry with this mixture to seal it (you will not use all the egg mixture). Then evenly spread over the caramelized onions, grated swiss cheese, and pine nuts.
Next, thinly slice the pears and lightly coat them with a mixture of 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp honey.
Then, assemble them on the tart, add a sprinkle of ground pepper, and they’re ready for 30 minutes in the oven!
Once out of oven, immediately crumble the blue cheese over the pears and allow it to melt for several minutes before serving. Cut into sizes/shapes of your preference. It can be served, hot, warm, or cold.
This tart was phenomenal! The crust was light and flaky, and the complimenting flavours of the blue cheese, pears, onions and pine nuts were perfect! This certainly isn’t your everyday dish, but for a special occasion or to wow your friends at the next dinner party, try this out!
Cooking Baking adventures part 2 later this weekend!
Many people are drawn to muffins… that fresh baked smell, sweet taste, and convenience of grabbing a snack on the go. However, all muffins are not created equally. Just because they might contain 1/2 cup of oatmeal does not make them healthy. Pursuing Starbucks nutrition facts reveal that some muffins weigh in at almost 500 calories and up to 30 grams of fat (and I find it interesting that they don’t differentiate which type of fat). This, my friends, is no friend to your health.
Furthermore, many muffins are loaded with so much sugar that they are nutritionally equivalent to cake. Personally, if that’s the case, I’d rather just eat cake!! With lots of butter-cream frosting
That being said, I’m always on the lookout for a healthy muffin recipe to bake for myself and the sous chef, who loves eating muffins with his morning coffee. I stumbled across this particular recipe on a blog I sometimes read:
These muffins appealed to me because they are high in protein and fiber, contain a small amount of natural sweetener, and only contain healthy fats.
I’d rename these muffins Pumpkin Protein Muffins, and whipped up a batch yesterday afternoon. This was also my first time baking with almond flour/meal as a substitute for flour, so I was excited to see how that would turn out. As a bonus to those with specific dietary needs, these are gluten-free and very low in carbs.
Making these muffins couldn’t have been easier: everything was thrown into one bowl and mixed together (no chance for the fatal mix-up of ingredient additions as was experienced in the traumatic Starvin’ Guy Chicken Pie incident). I followed the recipe with the exception of adding two tablespoons of ground flax seed, and didn’t put in all the amount of honey called for.
Then put in muffin tins. I chose to use mini-muffins (and yes, those are liners leftover from Christmas…). Ice-cream scoops of various sizes are great kitchen tools to have on hand for scooping cookie dough and muffin batter.
About 25 minutes later, they were ready!
They tasted a lot like pumpkin pie, and I’d definitely make them again. They’re great to have on hand for snacks on the go, and are Nutritional Gatekeeper approved for being a healthy alternative to more typical muffins! (The sous chef also gave his stamp of approval!).
Stay tuned for more recipes later this week with features from this nutritional gatekeeper’s own original nutritional gatekeeper (can anyone guess who that might be?!).
A cold winter evening was the perfect opportunity to try out a healthified chicken pie recipe. Read on to hear about how it turned out and what happened when disaster struck during a crucial step in the recipe!
Most chicken pies are delicious comfort food, but are also laden with heavy pastry crusts full of trans fats and other things that this nutritional gatekeeper says no to! This particular recipe substitutes that with a sweet potato whole-wheat biscuit topping, and comes courtesy of Greta and Janet Podleski from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry.
To get started, veggies were sliced, diced, and sautéed with a bit of olive oil. Baby carrots and frozen peas also joined the pot, but creamed corn wasn’t used. As a veggie lover, the amount of each was definitely greater than called for!
Meanwhile, my expert sous chef was preparing the buttermilk for the biscuit topping, which was actually based on unsweetened almond milk due to some recent dietary changes.
Back to the pot! Chicken broth and seasoning were added next:
Then cooked chicken was added (we defrosted cooked chicken breast, but the recipe calls for buying a rotisserie chicken to get a mixture of white and dark meat) along with grated Swiss cheese.
At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to add the condensed milk/flour mixture which was supposed to be added before the chicken. In a bit of a panic, I called out to my sous chef to quickly add that mixture he had also earlier prepared. In the chaos of the moment, he accidentally added the buttermilk which was reserved for the biscuit!! Immediately the mistake was realized but the damage had already been done…
We stared at the pot dramatically and wondered if all our hard work had gone to waste. Surely we had to rectify this, as we couldn’t yield a disaster on our first attempt for the food blog! Mr. Sous Chef set out to remake the buttermilk while I attempted to salvage the now much too liquidy contents of the pot by adding (probably too much) cornstarch. (Tip from my mother: don’t directly add cornstarch to the pot as it won’t dissolve well. Instead, remove a small amount of the liquid in a cup and add cornstarch to that. Once dissolved, put this back in the pot to thicken the mixture. Thanks mom!).
At this point we were charging forward with fingers crossed things would turn out. The pot was removed from heat, covered, and set aside while we tackled the biscuit topping.
Earlier in the day, I had cooked a large yam (400 degrees for about an hour, poked and wrapped in tin foil) so just had to scoop out one cup worth to add to the buttermilk (take 2) and a small amount of melted butter for the biscuit.
This was then mixed with white and whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. The dough seemed extremely wet to me, so I added more flour and attempted to roll it out as instructed but it was sticking to everything!
Meanwhile, as you see above, my sous chef had put the chicken veggie mixture into two casserole dishes. The recipe calls for 8 individual ramekins, but we were lacking these (wedding registry idea?!) so improvised with the larger dishes.
At this point, I was supposed to put a nicely rolled-out biscuit topping on the chicken veggie mixture, but it was still not holding together so I basically threw it on there Play-doh style, trying to achieve even coverage, but certainly not earning many points for aesthetics. Melted butter was brushed on top and they were ready for the 400 degree oven!
After approximately 30 minutes, a delicious smell wafted over the kitchen and a golden brown crust confirmed it was almost time to eat! However, I was dismayed that the biscuit hadn’t risen much at all. I was expecting a luscious flaky topping, but it was more of a harder crust… Probably related to it being too wet (or not using real buttermilk which contains substantially more fat than almond milk)… So take note if you try this out!
After letting it stand for five minutes, it was time to dig in!
The verdict? A delicious hearty meal which was enjoyed by both myself and the sous chef (who had a particular love for the dense topping). The filling turned out well despite the near-disastrous substitution, and was full of flavour and seemed very rich even though it was made with exclusively healthy ingredients. (See, another win for the nutritional gatekeeper!). We both thought it could use a little salt though, so would probably add that if we made it again. In the end, although I was disappointed by the lack of loft in the topping, it worked by providing a nice crunch on top and softer doughy texture to enjoy inside.
And one of the best parts? LOTS of leftovers, which we are big fans of.
Would I make it again? Probably, but likely with a few additions/changes as previously noted.
Hungry? Come on over for a serving of Starvin’ Guy Chicken Pie – our fridge is full!!