Monday, November 26, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple

Recipe #97: Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple

Well, my only class today got cancelled so instead of working on an assignment that is due in a few days, I decided that I would put that off in favour of finally doing something culinary with the pineapple and yams that have been staring accusingly at me for a while now.

In a fit of what can only be described as "what WAS I thinking?", I recently bought two yams. Yams? I don't even really like yams. He doesn't care for them either, if memory serves, so why did I bring them home? Oh, right - the new What's Cooking magazine showed up in the mail the other day and I thought the above recipe looked good. Lucky for me, it IS good!

Tasty on Instagram!

I'm not quite sure how their suggested 4 sweet potatoes equates to about 2 lbs/900g. My two monsters weighed roughly that combined although I ended up using only about 1.5 yams after cutting off the parts that got fed up with waiting to be eaten. I didn't buy pre-cut pineapple to be sure to have 3 cups since it was more cost effective to buy a whole pineapple and use whatever it gave me (I estimated 1 1/2 cups). Next time, I'll buy 2 pineapples - the more, the merrier! I had to rehydrate my brown sugar with hot water in the microwave to get it to crumble enough to use; I used butter instead of margarine; and I added the suggested 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper for kick. I happened to have olive flavoured cooking spray on hand so I used that for the baking sheet.

Aside from having to hack up the yams (about as much fun as washing all the dishes...), this recipe was simple to make. I ended up with about a 2:1 yam to pineapple ratio in the end, and it has a nice shot of taste to it with the added pepper. Better still, it is a simple and delicious way to get some extra vitamins into me, especially if he won't eat any. Bonus: I LOVE HOT PINEAPPLE!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Get Well Soon Chicken Improv Soup

Recipe #96: I made up my own!

I've been feeling rather run down and lousy for the past day or so. It probably doesn't help that:
a) it's the end of the semester (and my degree!!!)
b) I work in a hospital and a fitness centre, and am a full-time student (3 extra-germy environments)
c) I keep encountering people who were sick with "that thing going around"

That being said (and the kale needing to be eaten), I thought I would invent myself some variation on chicken soup so that I would hopefully boost my immune system and start feeling better. What better reason to clean out the fridge that to make up a recipe as I go?

Cleaning out the fridge is good for me!
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion (because you were tired of looking at it and it needed eating)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or finely chopped because the mincer was in the dishwasher and you didn't feel like cleaning it again)
4 cups cauliflower in bite-sized pieces
1 can (540 mL/19 oz) white kidney beans (or equivalent), rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 cup small bows pasta
2 farmer's market medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped baby carrots
6 stalks celery hearts, chopped
2 1/3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock (because it was in the fridge and needed to be used up)
3 2/3 cups organic vegetable stock (because the beef stock in the fridge had gone off and you only had vegetable in the cupboard)
2 cups water (or more in lieu of stock)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp squeeze tube basil
1 tsp squeeze tube oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups organic baby spinach
71g/2.5 oz cooked chicken, shredded
4 cups farmer's market kale, stems removed, chopped well

I can't swear to it because I was multi-tasking while watching college football, but I'm pretty sure the cooking process for this soup went something like this:
1. Chop/dice everything that needs to be smaller.
2. Heat the oil in a big pot on medium-high; cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes until they start to burn and/or smell really good; turn the burner down to medium.
3. Add the celery and carrots; stir.
4. Add 1 cup of stock when the vegetables start smoking; wait until it boils.
5. Add more stock until you think you have enough; then, add the cauliflower, tomato, spices/herbs and mushrooms; stir.
6. Add water and chicken randomly; remember to add beans; stir.
7. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring periodically. Taste occasionally because you are starving and it smells good.
8. Add pasta, kale and spinach, stir.
9. Cook another 10 minutes, stirring and tasting occasionally until pasta and vegetables are tender to your liking.
10. Mangia, mangia!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry

Recipe #95:

Well, the weather out here is mostly fall-like these days: 5 degrees and drizzling this morning ... although I was walking outside in the sun wearing capris and a tank top yesterday ... welcome to Calgary.

I can't quite remember why I chose to try this recipe aside from the fact that I had an excess of curry and cauliflower to use up. The Charmer won't touch chick peas, curry or sweet potatoes so I'll be eating all of this one solo.

I used regular cucumber dressing (store brand) and an entire white onion. I think it was a medium size although it did add up to about 1 1/4 cups when chopped. I have no idea if my sweet potatoes were "medium" - I bought them about a week ago and can't recall what the rest of the ones in the display looked like for comparison. I didn't measure them after chopping, either, but there is a lot of sweet potato in my pot... The rice is a nice one that we made last night. It's a mix of red rice, hulless barley, rye berries, black barley, whole oats, quinoa, and Himalayan long grain red rice. It's called Ancient Grains by Great Valley. I think we bought it at Costco? The Charmer added a can of cream of celery soup to it for flavour.

I'd say that this recipe was pretty easy to make, especially if you choose a big enough pot from the beginning and don't end up having to transfer ingredients partway through the cooking. Not the first time I've made that mistake. I ended up vigorously simmering the goods for about 25 minutes in total. The sweet potatoes weren't quite done by the 20 minute mark.

I didn't have any cilantro or toasted cashews to serve with this, but it sure makes for a strangely tasty dish when mixed with the rice dish from yesterday. Although this recipe might scare away those of the meat persuasion, it's really filling, probably due to all of the fibre. My favourite part is that it's not too heavy on any strong flavours - I had feared the curry would dominate. Om nom nom!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Crispy Topped Vegetable Bake

Recipe #94:

Oh, hello there again! Yes, I've fallen off the blogging (and cooking) wagon recently, but now I am back.

For those of us in Canada, it's Thanksgiving weekend as I write. As always, I am thankful for many things in my life, but, in particular, I am thankful for the bonds of family and friendship that exist across the miles that separate me from most of mine. This is the 3rd Thanksgiving in a row that I have missed with my family, and I miss them very much.

As with most holidays, The Meatatarian and I don't really do much to celebrate them unless we have guests or are guests elsewhere at the time. I bought some turkey pepperettes yesterday as my nod to the occasion, but we're mostly just eating random food. I did have some broccoli and cauliflower hulking in the fridge this week so I decided to try this recipe to use it up.

In addition to the 4 cups of each called for, I added about 1 1/2 cups of baby red potatoes. I cut them small so that they were approximately the same size as the cut broccoli and cauliflower. We did not have skim milk on hand so I used 1%, and I used regular mozzarella cheese since I find the light  or fat-free versions rather disgusting. I went with the microwave instructions for the sauce (bottom of Kraft page), but found that it was not nearly thickened enough after 4 minutes. I think I nuked it for about 8 minutes in total - 1 or 2 minutes, stir, repeat until satisfied. Somehow, I ended up with sauce all over my sweatshirt, oven mitt, forearm and even in my nose. Don't ask.

I found the end product to be rather tasty although some of my potato pieces are slightly undercooked. Next time, I'll boil them for an extra few minutes before adding the cauliflower and broccoli. The stuffing on my version is a bit like hard clumps of crust in a few places - you might want to take the time (I lack the patience) to spread it more carefully before it goes in the oven. Regardless, we'll both eat this recipe so it's a way to get more vegetables into our bellies. That's what I consider to be success.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cocoa Banana Bran Muffins

Recipe #93:

I have 5 words for these muffins: So. Good. And. So. Easy

These muffins came at a good time. It seems that the bunch of bananas I bought all decided to ripen at once and it was hard to eat them fast enough. I don't really like very ripe bananas. I used to give my mum fits because I normally eat bananas that are still somewhat green. Therefore, when I ended up with 3 quite ripe ones left, I started looking for a recipe.

What I like about this recipe is that I had everything on hand already. As far as ingredients go, I did not substitute anything. I happened to use organic free-range brown eggs and organic fair-trade cocoa powder, but everything else was ordinary.

The ingredients were really simple to assemble. I used muffin cup liners instead of spraying the pans, but I ommitted the banana slices on top of each pile of batter. The muffins sure smell good while they bake!

The end product is hot, soft and delicious. The chocolate and banana make an awesome combination (something I don't indulge in very often), and I didn't even notice the added benefit of fibre. I reheated one this morning for 20 seconds on power level 5 in the microwave for an excellent breakfast. I recommend you try one, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa

Recipe #92:
Whew! This recipe title is really long, but don't let that deter you from trying it. The first 7 times I looked at this recipe, I got tired just thinking about how much work it would be. My brain said, "Oh, there's about 4 different parts to this one - WAY too much work!", but eventually, I figured I would give it a shot.

As usual, my version had a couple of variations:
-I used up the bit of red onion that I had on hand from a previous recipe, but it wasn't exactly 1/3 cup. It was more like 1/3 of an onion. I didn't put any of it in the salsa because raw onion is beyond disgusting so it all went in with the beans.
-We didn't have any green bell pepper so I used up the approx. 1/3 of an orange pepper that I already had.
-Our garlic was getting a little long in the tooth so I used about 6 cloves of it to make up for the age factor.
-It turned out we didn't actually have any chili pepper so I used paprika instead.
-The broth was a mash-up of chicken and vegetable broth: about half and half. I intended to use up the beef broth I had in the fridge, but nixed that idea after a cursory sniff. Did you know broth can go mouldy?
-The cans of beans were 19 oz, not 15 oz. The more, the merrier!
-No kosher salt in this house. In fact, I'm not even sure if I added any salt, now that I think about it...
-The rice was mostly a mixture of wild & brown rice that I bought at a bulk food store with the remainder made up of brown jasmine rice (about 1/4 cup?).
-I'm too cheap for rotisserie chicken so I just bought two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cooked them in a frying pan.
-I didn't use any lime wedges for garnish, just half a lime worth of juice in the salsa and a bit in the bean mixture.

Each section was pretty ok to do, but as usual, I tend to struggle with juggling more than one section at once. The rice was fine - I cooked it in the microwave for the first time with better success than I've had cooking it on the stove. The chicken was easy, as long as I kept an eye on it. The only issue I had with the salsa was trying to convince the stupid cilantro to stay in the bowl with the apple and stop sticking to my spoon/hand/counter/bowl instead. Rather infuriating, actually. I kept finding cilantro everywhere. I had trouble getting the bean mixture to thicken so I ended up having to drain off some of the liquid even after allowing extra time for it to boil off. Mashing more beans didn't even seem to help. The final result was acceptable, but it did take longer than expected so keep that in mind if it happens to you.

In the end, I was pleased with the result, and doubly pleased when the Meatatarian announced that he liked it (completely unprompted by me). It's always a bit of a gamble to get him to eat meatless dishes, but he was quite keen on this one. The different flavours of the different parts of the meal seemed to compliment one another well. I was pleased to be eating the leftovers the next day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Kale Stew

Recipe #91: 15 ml (1 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced red bell pepper
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5-cm (1 inch) cubes
1 ml (1/4 tsp) red pepper flakes
5 ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika
1 ml (1/4 tsp) sea salt
1 bay leaf
625 ml (2.5 cups) fat-free, low-sodium vegetable stock
250 ml (1 cup) rinsed, chopped and loosely packed kale

In a small skillet, heat oil; saute onion, garlic and bell pepper over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add to slow cooker with remaining ingredients, except kale. Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

Add kale during the last 10 minutes of cooking time and let wilt. Remove bay leaf and serve.
Makes 11 servings, each 125 ml (1/2 cup).

Nutritional info/serving: 43 calories; 1 g total fat; 7 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 1 g dietary fibre; 108 mg sodium.
Soooo, I just realized my last post was in January.... Yep, it was a nasty semester and I got a bit burnt out. I'm working two jobs again this summer (one to fulfill Practicum 2), but at the moment, I have some extra time so I thought I'd try to get back on the cooking bandwagon.

My mom could probably tell you I haven't been much of a sweet potato/yam fan for the latter part of my life (rumour has it she fed them to me when I was small), but in the interest of expanding my food horizons and improving my nutrition, I decided to try this recipe. Somehow, gross vegetables like sweet potatoes, onions and peppers seem slightly more palatable in stew/soup form than in a lump on my plate.

For the most part, I didn't make too many alterations with this recipe. The store didn't have any red pepper left so I bought an orange one. The garlic is getting a little um, mature, so I added an extra clove to make up for that. I don't think I cut the stupid dense yams into 1 inch cubes per se, but I cut them up into bite-sized pieces. I'm using up the normal paprika for now, and the sea salt was just regular salt because I couldn't find the sea salt that I could have sworn was in the cupboard yesterday... I added two cups of kale for extra nutrition, in case you care.

This recipe is pretty simple to make, once you chop the bloody sweet potato to make sure it will all fit in your wee little slow cooker. I left it on low for about 6 hours, and it was ready to go when I got home. All I had to do was add the kale for 10 minutes, and presto! It's a bit on the sweet side for me, and the kale is kind of crunchy (next time, I'll remove the middle stem part and just add the leaves), but it's a hot, nutritious lunch to come home to after an intense gym workout that I will surely be paying for in the morning....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Recipe #90:
Well, one could say that both recipes today are chicken-heavy, but I opted to make this one with mushrooms replacing the chicken, to give my GI tract some more vegetables. Since it's the cold-and-flu, back-to-school, bloody-hell-cold time of year out here in Calgary, I thought it wise to have some healthy soup on hand to keep my busy body going strong.
I guess you could say my version is semi-vegetarian. As stated before, I used mushrooms (about 7 large ones) in lieu of the chicken. I used up the beef stock (25% less sodium version for all of my stocks) in the fridge which came to 1.5 cups of the 8 total. I used chicken stock for the remaining 6.5 cups. We didn't have any brown rice on hand so I used jasmine rice. The kale was an interesting project to chop and chop and chop.....
In terms of cooking notes, I ended up heating 1 cup of stock at the beginning after the 1/2 cup called for did not seem to be enough. Part of that could have been my warped aluminum camping pot that I used... I still haven't found the bay leaf in the pot to remove it as directed. I'll get to that when I find it. The rest of the cooking went quite smoothly. My end product is hot, nutritious and delicious! The kale is a wee bit crunchy-ish, but wilted and tender at the same time. I look forward to this soup for lunch tomorrow when the expected temperature is due to peak at -22C with a windchill of -32C...

French Bistro Chicken & Potato Salad

I meant to make this recipe about a week ago, but I kept balking because I didn't know how long to cook the potatoes for. Strange, but true. I googled it eventually and made this recipe today. My whole point was to use up some of the potatoes I've got on hand since we don't eat them very often.
I made a few modifications to this recipe. I only had regular Miracle-Whip on hand. My potatoes are the regular brown ones, not fancy baby red ones. I weighed them out to the same 1 lb. called for which was 3 of mine. I weighed out 1/4 lb. of frozen, french-cut green beans, then ran them under hot water in a colander to thaw them. I had to squeeze out the excess water by hand so that the end product wouldn't be too watery. I omitted the onions because I hate raw ones. My parsely and thyme were dried because I accidently killed my thyme plant and I'm out of squeeze tube parsely. I thought I had the proper salad dressing, but when I discovered I didn't, I used nearly 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar that I found in the cupboard.
The most PITA part of the recipe was chopping & cooking the chicken and potatoes. The rest was easy! My end product was tasty - I enjoyed it in a warmed pita as a sandwich. While it was -16C out today (before wind chill), I thought of summer while I ate my potato salad.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Buds Beef and Mushroom Meatloaf

Recipe #88:
Not to be gross on a food blog, but I've been coding a LOT of colonoscopy charts lately so fibre has been on my mind. It seems that the standard recommendation by gastroenterologists for those of us who are ageing is to increase your fibre (aim for 30g daily) and water intake. That being said, this recipe may help you for the fibre goal.
I really can't quite remember how I stumbled across the All-Bran recipe section of their website since I normally don't even eat their products, but it does have some excellent ideas for increasing your fibre with great-tasting results. However, unless you are REALLY good at cooking while you're on the phone, try not to combine the two like I did...
As far as ingredient substitutions, mine were pretty minimal. I had the squeeze-tube parsely on had so I used that up (came to 1/4 cup total). I thought I'd bought the All-Bran Buds cereal, but it turned out that I had the regular kind (not Flakes) so I used that. I don't really see what difference it makes once it becomes soggy with the beef stock. Speaking of beef stock, mine was the 25% less sodium version, and I did not add salt to the recipe. I actually forgot to add pepper because I was on the phone with a friend in crisis while cooking. I'm not entirely sure if all of the beef I found in the freezer was extra-lean, but it probably was because that's what we usually buy. My egg happened to have expired a while ago.....
My biggest mistake with this recipe was misreading "cook the mushrooms" for "cook the meat". Thus, I started to cook the meat with the oil when suddenly I realized I was not supposed to be doing that. This is why I should not cook while on the phone. In the end, because I cooked some of the meat at the beginning, my "loaf" is a bit more 'fluid' than it should be. It still tastes fine, but the texture isn't quite what a person expects from "meatloaf". Consider yourself warned.
For those who fear the fibre factor, it's really not an issue from what I can tell. The Meatatarian ate it and said it was tasty although I think he's a little confused as to why I'm forcing fibre on him. Ah, the joys of being the victim of a cook-in-training... I didn't really notice the cereal so it's not as if your meatloaf will be crunchy or something. I think it adds good bind and bulk, actually. I'm glad I didn't add even more parsely - I'm not sure it really needs to be there in the first place because it lends a rather green cast to the finished product which might offend some. It does add flavour, but I might try something different next time. Regardless, I'm glad it is no longer lingering in the fridge.
Time for leftovers!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas Made Over

Recipe #87:
Yep, another "healthier version" Kraft recipe. What can I say? I'm on a roll. And in the mood for simplicity, quite frankly.
I altered a few things in my version:
-I left out the red and green peppers because I don't like peppers, the Meatatarian doesn't really like them either, and I plum forgot about them at the grocery store.
-I only had regular cream cheese on hand.
-No fancy Tex-Mex cheese here - just some old cheddar I grated after carefully checking for mold first. Oops, inside voice...
-Our salsa happened to be of the mild variety, in case that matters to anyone.
This recipe was pretty easy to make. I did use cooking spray (PC Olive - ooh la la!) on both the chicken saucepan and the baking dish. I'm learning! The tortillas were slightly messy to roll, but I managed without any real drama. Their suggestion of 1/3 cup per tortilla is pretty much bang on.
My version was probably a little blander than the Kraft pepper version, but I happen to like it. It still has good flavour. A hungry friend who stopped by also said it was good, so I'm 2 for 2 in tasting so far. I don't eat a lot of enchiladas - am I supposed to use cutlery? We just used our fingers and slurped a lot. The ends are crunchy, but the middle is soft. I hope they're just as good when I reheat the leftovers tomorrow.

Unfried French Fries

Recipe #86:
Happy New Year! Sorry about the recent lack of updates. It was one hell of a fall semester, then I went home for the holidays. Now I'm back in Calgary and my mom is no longer making dinner each night. Sad face.
I chose this recipe for a couple of reasons:
1) I'm trying to keep eating better this year and this is one of Kraft's "makeover" recipes in which they provide a healthier way to eat the same foods.
2) We have a lot of potatoes at home (ignoring the fact that I had to go buy baking potatoes since none of our are that kind...)
About the only alternation I made with this recipe was that my parmesan cheese was the regular kind, not the lighter kind. We have an awful lot of it so I wasn't about to go buy more. Wait...that sounds a bit like the potatoes.... I digress.
I used Kraft's suggestion for cutting the potatoes (see bottom of the link above), but when they say 1/4" width, they really mean it. Some of mine were thicker than that, and they were the ones that were still crunchy after cooking. Take note. Also, I don't know if it was just the baking sheet I used (the only clean one I could find), but I wasn't able to get them all on it in a single layer so I had some overlap. That also contributed to some crunching, I'm sure. I used aluminum foil instead of cooking spray since I thought it would wreck the non-stick pan, but you really do need to use cooking spray both below and on top of the potatoes. Otherwise, you'll be eating aluminum foil, too. Take my word for it.
Overall, crunchiness notwithstanding, these were tasty. They were a bit more similar to potato wedges rather than fries, but they had a nice flavour and were filling. I had mine with a salad and cup-o-soup.