I’ve always thought hazelnuts to be lavish and exotic. We never really ate them or had them laying around as kids, aside from the holidays when we’d receive boxes and boxes of gold foil-wrapped Ferraro Rocher chocolates with one smooth, crunchy hazelnut entombed in milk chocolate and dipped into more chocolate studded with chopped hazelnuts. Peeling away the little crimped cup and foil always made me feel so fancy - far more so than tearing the plastic (pfft…please!) from a snickers bar.
I find myself tucking my beloved hazelnuts into everything these days - pestos, salads, homemade nut butters, ground into smoothies or mixed with breadcrumbs for a crispy coating. When toasted lightly, their flavour is so distinct, rich and unlike any other nut available. They don’t hide behind the flavours you mix them with, they always stand out dominantly, refusing to melt into the background. I love that about them.
This granola, like my dear puggish hazelnuts, is bold and beautiful. It’s full of texture and flavour and comes together so brilliantly, you’d wonder why they don’t sell a pre-made version of it already (answer: because it’s never as good as homemade!). I’ve been crunching away at it for the past few days and I’m fairly certain it just kicked the fanny of my favourite almond granola. Because I wanted the flavour of the main ingredients to really shine, I didn’t add too many other flavourings. You’re welcome to play around with spices in it, but I suggest trying it on it’s own first. It’s simple and doesn’t need much fuss about it.
Cocoa Hazelnut Granola with Sour Cherries
adapted from Food in Jars
I used coconut oil because I love it, primarily, but it’s also a very healthy oil (which is up for debate with some people, I realize, but I feel good about it), you can feel free to use whatever neutral oil (sunflower, vegetable etc) you like or have on hand.
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, rough chopped
1/2 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
3 cups rolled oats
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, rough chopped
Preheat oven to 325.
In a large bowl, mix the nuts, coconut, rolled oats and cocoa powder. Give it a good mix to make sure the cocoa powder is evenly distributed.
Mix the honey and the melted coconut oil until well combined. Add the wet ingredients and salt to the oat mixture and mix until everything is well combined.
Spread evenly on a foil lined baking sheet and pop into the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t burn. When it’s golden brown and crunchy, it’s all ready. Let it cool completely (this helps those big, wonderful ‘clumps’ of granola form) and then stir in the sour cherries. Keeps for a few weeks in a sealed glass jar or ziplock bag.
Serve with milk or on top of yogurt, by itself or with fresh fruit.
Sometimes it’s the moments of panic that surprise you. The final 40 minutes before you head out the door to a friend’s house when you realize your tiny bowl of hummus and pita chips doesn’t look like much of an offering. And so you panic; repeatedly opening and closing the fridge, hoping something in there will jump out and inspire a simple dish, you check the pantry to see what sort of beans are in there (none? Frig!), you dig through the crisper and spice drawer like a certifiable maniac.
And then you see the head of cauliflower. It’s browned around the edges but nothing a few swipes of the knife can’t fix. You look in the fridge again to see that same container of Greek yogurt you’ve been avoiding all week (in place of bagels and croissants) and some curry powder left out on the counter from last week. This is good, these things can make something edible. I know it!
I roasted, pureed and finished with a drizzle of grassy olive oil and cayenne pepper, stuck it in a paper bag (because we’re also out of any sort of kitchen wrap, tin foil or anything normal people usually keep their kitchen stocked with – it’s been a busy week and we’ve neglected our shopping duties) and hauled ass out the door. Much to my surprise, my girlfriend Ashley (hi Ashley!) enjoyed this panicked, cooked-by-the-seat-of-my-pants dip more than my hummus, which is typically highest on her list of requests whenever that fateful question, “What can I bring?”, comes up. I must admit, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, too. The combination of warm spices, Greek yogurt and roasted garlic make for a decadent dip or spread that’s hearty without the calories of your typical creamy dip. Whether you’re dragging a pita chip through it, spreading a thick layer on a sandwich with fried eggplant and peppers, or simply scooping it up with your hands (guilty), I think you’ll be pretty tickled that so few ingredients can result in such a tasty eat-the-whole-bowl-by-yourself-without-feeling-bad sort of snack.
She asked that I share the recipe so here we are. If you’ve got an old head of cauliflower and a few other basics on hand, you can whip this up in 30 minutes.
Curry Roasted Cauliflower Dip/Spread
makes approx. 1 1/2 cups.
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
4 cloves garlic, whole
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch or two cinnamon
1/4-1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp lemon juice, depending on taste
cayenne pepper, to garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
Place the cauliflower, spices, garlic cloves and two generous pinches of salt into a large bowl. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat everything. Toss onto a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, until edges of florets are golden brown. Flip the cauliflower and roast another 8-10 minutes until everything is golden and fork-tender.
Place into a food processor/bullet with the greek yogurt, lemon juice and a good drizzle of the olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Spoon into a large bowl and drizzle with a touch more olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Serve with veggies, pita, bread or spread on sandwich or panini of your choice.
Ok, so maybe “changed the world” is a little over dramatic. But they certainly changed MY world. And continue to do so.
Breakfast was always very important in our family. You didn’t leave the house or start a day without it. Typically, there was cinnamon sugar on toast, cereal (only the occasional sugary variety), eggs on toast, or bagels with cream cheese. Perhaps not the healthiest of choices, but they were better than some of my friends who ate a chocolate bar and pop before 1st period.
To this day, I could live on bagels & cream cheese alone. I wake up each day to a ravenous stomach screaming for sustenance. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m eating too late in the evening (I know, I’m naughty), or not eating nutritionally sound snacks, but I have always woken up feeling nauseously hungry in the morning, for as long as I can remember. Taking the time to make something healthy isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind while my stomach throws a tantrum fit for the toy aisles of Wal-Mart. I like to be able to grab something on the way to work with my coffee. Generally, this means less-than-healthy options. Croissants, bagels, muffins filled with buttery, delicious fats… not exactly the types of things that help an active body and mind stay alert and satisfied. I’ve been on the hunt for a healthy muffin for some time. Both from a recipe standpoint or from any coffee shops along my walk to work. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t happy with what I found. So I began looking at the recipes I liked and adjusting them to suit my tastes and needs. Ultimately, I would come out with a muffin filled with unprocessed ingredients that would be deliciously moist and flavourful, but filling and incredibly healthy at the same time. It’s rare that I give you lessons in healthy eating, so if you’re going to pay attention to any of my rants, this one is probably most beneficial.
To get the right balance of fiber (which my diet is sorely lacking these days) I wanted a combination of both soluble and insoluble varieties. With that in mind, I found a balance with both oat bran (soluble) and wheat bran (insoluble). Each boasts its own set of benefits; Wheat Bran aids digestion, adds bulk to stools and prevents constipation (ok, have a chuckle. I’ll allow it). Because wheat bran absorbs water and expands in the system, it’s said that it provides a feeling of fullness for longer. 1 half cup contains 60 calories, 1g of fat, 18g of carbs and 4g of protein. The same amount offers 12g of dietary fiber, which provides 48% of the entire recommended daily value (Source: LIVESTRONG). Pretty amazing, right? When I grow up, I want to be wheat bran. Oat Bran contains soluble fiber that is heart healthy and helps lower bad cholesterol and keep blood glucose levels in check. One 3/4-cup serving of cooked oat bran contains 5.3g of protein, 1.4g of fat, 4.3g of fiber, 16mg of calcium and only 66 calories (source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b).
These two powerhouse grains make for a brilliant start to your day. Especially when you combine them with ground flax, sunflower seeds, toasty nuts, bananas, apples and cinnamon. Just to be clear, before you write this off as “just another bran muffin”, I need you to believe me when I tell you THEY ARE SO DELICIOUS, TOO! Shockingly so. I had planned to do a few test runs of this recipe, making changes as I went. But I was so thrilled with the first batch that I ate 4 of them (which was a bad idea…. for reasons not appropriate to talk about with internet friends, perhaps), wrote out the recipe, and shared with some friends immediately. They even passed a taste test with my best friend, the queen mother of all things fibrous and healthy. They are winners, guys! Gold medal winners of the Breakfast Muffin Olympics! So feel free to make these, and eat them sans guilt for breakfast. They are so healthy that I didn’t even feel bad about slathering them with a little butter. Everything in moderation, right? So butter up those buns. Err… muffins.
I’ve been having one of these each morning with my coffee (I’m not willing to give that up yet. Or ever.) around 9am and they have been keeping me full and happy until I eat lunch around 12:30.
Sexy Morning Muffins
adapted from Nancy Silvertons Bran Muffins & Joy the Baker’s Gnarly Muffins
makes 1 ½ dozen.
You can typically find oat and wheat bran (Bob’s Red Mill sells both) in the baking or health-food section of your grocery store. Otherwise, you can usually find them in bulk stores. (Edit: You can also find it from Quaker in the oatmeal section!)
I bought whole flax seeds and opted to grind them myself at home. Flax offers the best benefits when its ground fresh and hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for 3 months. You can buy pre-ground if you prefer or if you don’t have the means to grind it at home.
1 cup unbleached All-Purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
3/4 cups whole flax seeds
3/4 cup oat bran
1 cup brown sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tsp cinnamon (I used 3, but I LOVE cinnamon)
1 tsp cardamom
2 bananas, mashed
2 apples (skin on), grated
1/3 cup raisins, whole or roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted pecans (or whatever nuts you prefer)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Pour wheat bran onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan and toast for 5-6 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes, until fragrant. Pour into white flour and mix. (This is basically a homemade, superior, chunkier version of whole-wheat flour).
Place the flax seeds in a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle or bullet and grind until powder. In a medium bowl, stir ground flax into the flour blend along with the rest of the dry ingredients (first 10 ingredients). Stir until uniform in texture.
Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir just until combined. Be careful not to overmix.
Spoon into lined muffin tins (3/4 way full). Sprinkle with brown sugar (and oats if you have them) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Eat a muffin. Check yourself out in the mirror, and feel good about it. Maybe even do a little dance. And then eat another muffin, you sexy thing, you!
After months and months of thinking “Jeez, I’d really love to be part of a Supper Club…” I finally decided “Ok, I’ll start a Supper Club”. Waiting around for other people to plan things for you never did anyone any good now, did it?
Tonight is the first meet & greet of our little Centretown Supper Club and I’m so looking forward to meeting some new like-minded people (and some I already know and love) to chat with over tasty snacks and a glass or two of wine.
When I asked everyone to bring a small bite to snack on, my brain immediately started to dream up elegant bites with delicate little garnishes. But the truth of the matter is, whenever I try to make things too complicated, they usually blow up in my face and I end up wishing I’d just stuck to what I know; simple, honest food made with straight-forward, speak-for-themselves ingredients. Try as I may, I’m just not a fancy gal I suppose.
I recently bid some new underwear to win 3 brand-spankin’ new cookbooks for Simply Fresh's Underpants Up fundraiser and lucky for me, I won! One of the cookbooks I won was Just Married and Cooking (by Brooke Parkhurst, James Briscione) and it is absolutely jammed with simple, everyday recipes that every homecook should add to their repitoire. Everything from Simple Syrup to Pistachio-Mint Crusted Rack of Lamb (part of a full Valentines Day menu). It’s an unfussy, real guide to delicious everyday meals.
Among it’s pages, I found a delicious sounding recipe for a Roasted-Carrot Hummus. You do know how much I love to dip things in other things right? This was exactly what I needed for our little meeting this evening. Simple, velvety dip that won’t leave my guests needing to unbutton their jeans (I plan to wear tights so this won’t be an issue for me. Snork snork!)
Roasted Carrot-Cumin Hummus
adapted from Just Married and Cooking
I was too lazy to pull out my food processor so I did this in batches in my Bullet which ended up being more work than it would have been to just move the food processor from the cupboard to the counter. Lesson of the day; don’t be lazy like me.
If possible, this should be made the day before you plan to eat it so the flavours all have a chance to hang out and get acquainted.
4 medium carrots, peel and cut into 4” chunks (if organic, just wash and leave peel on)
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 16oz can of chickpeas
3 tbsp tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
pepper to taste
extra oil to garnish
cayenne pepper, garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400.
Toss the carrots, garlic, cumin and a good pinch of salt with the oil. Wrap in a packet of aluminum foil and roast until everything is soft, about 30-40 minutes.
Pour the contents of the foil packet into the food processor along with the chickpeas, tahini, lemon and a few grinds of pepper. Process until smooth.
Spoon contents into a serving bowl and top with a drizzle of oil and a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper.
Serve with raw veggies, pita chips or whatever dip-ables strike your fancy.
You know that friend you had as a kid? The one with cupboard upon cupboard of cookies, chips, packaged foods, desserts and a freezer full of pizza, french fries, and chicken fingers? Yes, we all had that friend. But I was not that friend.
In hindsight, it’s probably best that we didn’t have cupboards overflowing with salty, sweet, incredibly over processed foods, but if you’d asked me when I was younger, I would have told you I was deprived. Missing out on a life of Fruit Roll Ups and Dunkeroos in exchange for cheese and apples. Needless to say, I was not at the top of the “Would like to trade snacks with” list.
Grocery shopping with my dad was one of my favourite weekend activities. He was, and still is, predictable in a good many of his purchases. Especially when it came to the snack aisle. I remember my sister and I would occasionally try to swing one by him, tucking a box of Pop-Tarts or Dino-sours underneath the ever-present bananas or hot mortadella. But my good ol Dad, knowing exactly what should (and shouldn’t) be in that cart, would pluck it out and place it back on the shelf with a smug grin. He must have known that he was paving the path for our future eating habits. As much as I hate admitting when my parents were right…
I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want you getting a big head or anything, Dad. [OK, you were right. There, I said it.]
I think more so than actually enjoying the sweet packaged snacks, it was thrilling to be able to eat them. Whether it was at a friends house, or with a few allowance dollars, it felt like getting away with murder. The only problem was how terrible they actually tasted. Take a much sought-after Pop-Tart, for example, with it’s sandy crust reminiscent of cardboard, ’fruit’-filling containing about as much fruit as a jelly doughnut and topped with an icing that likely contains at least 20 ingredients, with not one them being sugar. Not exactly the type of snack that seems worthy of a child’s lust. But of course, that didn’t stop me from cramming perfectly measured square after square into my gob.
Fast forward 15 years. Though you may find the occasional bag of chips, and maybe some processed cheese slices, a well-known guilty pleasure of mine and my sisters, I have very little in the way of snack food. Likely a result of my well-meaning parents. But when I came across Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Homemade Pop Tarts [sound of simultaneous jaw dropping to the floor + head exploding], I knew my house was about to get a little snackier. Hey, it’s homemade so it’s cool. Right?
[I made a little homemade jam for extra delicious tarts. My favourite is David Lebovitz’s Berry-Rhubarb Jam. Recipe here.]
Though, as always, I was a little intimidated by the shortbread-like crust, I pressed on and was amazed at how simple these adorable little filled-pastries were. Fill them with whatever you have on hand. I did three different varieties; Mixed Berry, Peanut Butter & Jam, and Nutella filled. Honestly, my favourite was the simple jam-filled ones. It helps keep them moist, and the tart jam was a nice flavour contrast to the sweet flaky dough. If you’re looking for a nice breakfast treat for guests, or even a sweet lunchbox surprise for your kids, these will win over even the pickiest of snackers.
Homemade Pop Tarts
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 All Purpose + 1/2cup whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or water
1 large egg (for brushing tops of pastry)
Mix the flour, sugar and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until there are no bigger than pea-sized lumps of butter. It should hold together if you squeeze it.
Whisk the egg and milk (or water) together. Stir them into the dough until evenly combined. Knead once or twice on a well floured surface, if needed. Cut dough in half and form into a rectangle. I opted to chill mine for 30 minutes before working with it as my kitchen was warm, but you may roll it out from this point into a large rectangle (about 9x12” in size, 1/8” thick). This is not an exact science, folks. Pop Tarts are supposed to be fun. Cut the rectangle into 3” x 4” rectangles. You should get about nine of these.
1 tbsp of jam, Nutella, nut butter, caramel, dark chocolate, or other filling of your choice per tart
Place your filling on one rectangle and top with another. Dip the tines of a fork into flour and press around the edges to seal the tarts. Using the tines or a toothpick, poke a few steam holes in the tops of the tarts. Give your addition egg a quick whisk in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the tarts with the egg wash. This will help make them shiny and golden brown on top.
If you’d like, and I trust you will, you can top them with some coarse turbinado sugar for extra crunch.
Place the tarts on a baking sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350.
Once chilled, bake tarts for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Note: if you’d like to do a savoury tart, omit the sugar and cut the salt in half in the dough. Some filling ideas I received from Twitter followers were: Bacon & Egg, Marinara & Mozzarella, Parmesan & Basil Pesto, and Cheddar & Apple. Really, the possibilites are endless. What wouldn’t taste good in a shortbread crust?! The answer is nothing, guys. NOTHING.
Finally, Friday has come! And it’s brought with it some big fluffy flakes and cloudy skies. My favourite weather (ok, aside from cloudy fall days). It calls for hot chocolate, sleeping in, and cuddling.
I wanted to share a quick snack recipe in case you were planning on taking advantage of this weather and staying in with some close friends and a bottle of wine.
As previously mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot of Jamie Oliver lately. I know I’m a little late to the Oliver game… but better late than never, right? I really appreciate his simple, straightforward recipes that typically contain less than 10 ingredients.
While I was wrapping gifts a few days before Christmas, I turned on the Food Network and watched as he turned a pile of slimy, unappealingly brownish-red livers into a smooth, creamy spread spiked with brandy. If I hadn’t already gotten into my pyjamas at 4pm (a regular occurrence at our house) I would have rushed right out to fill my cart with liver and red onions. Instead, I took a deep breath, told myself I would make them the next week and tried to continue on with my night without drifting away with thoughts of pate. (It wasn’t meant to rhyme! Honest!)
The pate is quick to make, can last up to a week in the fridge if you make the clarified butter to seal it, and is a really pretty, unpretentious dish to share between friends.
It’s important to note that I made this before I started trying to eat slightly better. Nothing like a layer of butter to stick to your thighs!
Chicken Liver Pate
recipe from Jamie Oliver
1 cup unsalted butter
handful of whole sage leaves
2 medium red onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1 kg chicken livers, if possible organic/free range
1/2 cup brandy
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 baguette, sliced, drizzled with olive oil and baked until golden
bunch of watercress, arugula or other peppery green
To make clarified butter:
On a pan over low heat, add 3/4 of your butter and let it sit for 20-30 minutes until separated. The white stuff on the bottom is the whey. Skim the clear butter off the top and put in a separate pan over medium heat. Let it warm for a few minutes and add the sage. Cook until crispy. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add onions, garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until just starting to colour. Add another splash of oil, your chicken livers and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Cook on high heat for no more than 4 minutes. The livers should still be a little pink inside. You don’t want to overcook them since they get tough pretty
quickly. Add brandy to the pan and let the alcohol cook off for a minute or two. Pour everything into your blender/food processor and zip a few times until the livers are very smooth. Keep in mind, it will be pretty loose looking but will harden up in the fridge. Have a taste of the mixture, season to your liking and then, as Jamie recommends, add a little more since seasoning goes down when you chill the pate. Add your remaining 1/4 C of butter to the pate and give it another zip in the blender until it’s shiny.
Spoon the pate into one big dish, individual terrines, or however else you’d like. Top with your sage infused clarified butter, cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or until butter has become semi-opaque.
Get your bread, greens and pickles ready, and off you go! If you don’t want to eat right away, the pate will keep well in the fridge for up to a week.
You’ll never guess what I have for you today. Not if your life depended on it. It’s just so unique to The Gouda Life.
ITS A SQUASH RECIPE. Can you even believe it? I hardly ever talk about squash. I don’t even like squash. I have no problem walking past the squash display. Even if the colour of their flesh reminds me of closing my eyes and staring at the sun on a warm day. I don’t even look. Complete and utter disregard, guys. COMPLETE.
But hold on. Before you go and leave me here, sitting alone with my posse of gourds, please know that this is more than just a recipe for squash. It’s as much a feta recipe, a spinach recipe and a muffin recipe as it is a squash recipe. So get over it already, ok? I’m already planning my next 15 squash recipes. Just for you!
This was based on Heidi Swanson’s Pumpkin & Feta muffin recipe from 101cookbooks. Only, it’s November 2nd. Two days after Halloween. The pumpkins weren’t nearly as plentiful as I imagined they would be. Didn’t the people of Ottawa know I would be looking for pumpkins today? The nerve.
Whole Wheat Spinach Squash and Feta Muffins
Whole wheat is not 100% necessary. If you don’t use it, reduce the milk quantity to 3/4 cup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, 1/2-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 large handful of baby spinach, chopped
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds kernels or pine nuts
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup cubed feta
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400.
Toss the cubed squash/pumpkin with the olive oil and a pinch or two of salt and turn onto a baking sheet. Bake until cook through evenly. About 15 minutes.
Toss 2/3 of the squash with the spinach, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, mustard and 2/3 of the cubed feta. Mix lightly just to combine.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. Add to the spinach and squash mixture and mix gently until combined. Sift the flour and baking powder over top and mix again until combined. Do not over mix or you’ll end up with a tough muffin. Nobody likes a tough muffin!
Fill your muffin tins, oiled or lined with muffin cups, 2/3 full. Sprinkle muffins with remaining feta and squash.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops of muffins are golden brown.
If you’re feeling wild, and you know how wild I am, have one of these for breakfast. and then for lunch.
And then tomorrow, we’ll meet here again and I’ll tell you all about another life altering squash recipe.