Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Brand New Grain

During my cleanse I discovered many different things. First, quinoa is more versatile and tasty than I thought. Second, bananas are a good replacement for sugar. Third, all you need is a blender and frozen fruit to make ice cream. Fourth, giving up gluten is not that easy. And last of all, millet is delicious. I had never tried it before, though I've seen many delicious-looking recipes, including a recent one that I'm aching to try now that I've jumped on the millet band wagon.

I did a little research online and found that it was easy enough to prepare, and fit within the boundaries of my cleanse (ie. gluten free). I also read that you should toast millet before cooking it up -- it gives it a deeper, richer, nuttier flavour. This I definitely needed, since added salt and fat were out of the question. I also toasted up some spices along with the millet before dumping it into a pot of water and letting it do it's magic thing. It cooks up fairly quickly -- about 20 minutes, so not much longer than rice or pasta -- and tastes magical. It's filling, hearty and a perfect, healthy cleansing supper. I ate it topped with some dressed up green veggies and smiled at every bite. I didn't even want to taste the spinach-infused noodles tossed with broccoli, barbecue pork and soy sauce that was being slurped up and savoured beside me.

Would I make it again, now that I'm not cleansing? Yes, definitely. Although I'd probably add a soft-boiled egg on top to bump up the protein factor, or even a little sprinkling of chopped walnuts or pecans. Next time we cleanse though, I'll get my act together a little bit better and experiment with dried legumes, and fat-free, gluten-free baking ...

Spicy Lime-Scented Millet with Dressed Veggies

serves 2

1/2 cup of millet
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of Mexican chili powder (or curry powder)
1 cup of water
1 bay leaf
1/2 a tomato, diced
juice and zest of half a lime

1 cup of broccoli florets
1 large handful of green beans, trimmed
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
a big grind of pepper

1. Blanch your veggies in boiling water until tender. Drain and toss in the lime juice, balsamic vinegar and pepper. Set aside while you make your millet -- the veggies will soak up all the yummy dressing goodness.

2. In the meantime, make your millet by first toasting it along with the cumin and chili powder in a dry pan until it becomes fragrant - about 2-3 minutes. Add it to a pot with the water and bay leaf. Bring it up to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture cook, covered until most of the liquid is absorbed - about 15 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, lime juice and zest and give it a good stir. Cook uncovered for another 5 minutes or until the tomatoes break down and all the liquid is absorbed.

4. Serve topped with the dressed veggies.

Coffee Update!

The Rooster - cappucino, regular coffee and double chocolate rooibos latte, enjoyed at home because it sooooooooooooo crowded!

Linux Cafe - maple soy latte, mochaccino and soy ginseng (!!) latte: kept me up all night!

The Tampered Press - cappuccinos and latte with homemade oreo, apple loaf slice and shortbread

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cleansing Treats

Who says you can't have treats while you're cleansing?? It's mid-week, I cleansed yesterday, crashed at 8:00pm after a long day at work, but I still had time for a little treat: Chocolate Banana Softserve with Strawberries. What?! That's not part of the cleanse?! Oh, but yes, yes it is. No dairy or sugar added .. inspired by Maya and Eliza and their creative blended frozen fruit desserts. The texture and taste were right on. I don't need to say more ... just MAKE IT!!

Chocolate Banana Softserve with Strawberries
inspired by nourishing mornings and pistachios and rainbows

1 frozen banana
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 cup of soy or almond milk (plus more if needed)
a handful of strawberries, sliced

Put everything in a blender or mini chopper and whiz until smooth and creamy. You might have to add more liquid depending on the size of your banana. Serve with fresh sliced strawberries and don't you DARE feel guilty about eating THIS dessert!

**I'm going to try it tonight with frozen banana, frozen blueberries and almond extract.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Ever been on a "cleanse?" Any type of cleanse? You know, where you try to clear your body of all the toxic bad stuff that we put into it everyday; kind of like a little holiday for your liver. During my first and second year of teaching, I heard the word "cleanse" every single day. Everyone at my school was obsessed with losing weight and "cleansing." Two teachers in particular, raved about this cleanse program where you have a smoothie made from this super expensive powder for breakfast and lunch, and then eat a prescribed dinner. I have to admit that I was tempted to try. But the idea of the powdered smoothie that had ingredients that I couldn't pronounced really freaked me out, so I passed.

I'm all about putting foods that feel good into my body, so that in turn, my body will feel good. I often am obligated to do so or my body will ultimately reject whatever I put into it. Go figure. Recently, during one of our three-coffee days, my best friend suggested that we try this weekend detox. You didn't have to by an expensive powder, most of the advice was common sense, and you don't do it every day. It looked doable. For 2 days (or however long), you drink lemon water before breakfast and abstain from alcohol, caffeine and sugar while drinking lots of water and exercising. They also suggest giving up red meat, gluten, wheat and dairy. We're taking it a little further by also eliminating all meat, potatoes, excessive sugar (including juice and dried fruit), salt, nuts and fat. We decided that the weekend would be difficult, so we're detoxing this Wednesday and Thursday.

As well giving my liver a break and cleansing my body for two days, I thought it would be a cool way to experiment with different foods and different ways to prepare foods. I've done a little test run by making a breakfast quinoa. I first saw a picture (scroll down till you hit January 26th) of this warm, comforting and satisfying meal over at simply breakfast awhile ago. There was also a link to a Martha Steward recipe that seemed simple enough to follow and adjust to fit the confines of the cleanse. I've had quinoa before, but never cooked into a porridge-like breakfast (or lunch in my case!) dish, so I gave it a shot. You know what? I didn't miss the diary, sugar or gluten one bit. It was still warm and satisfying and creamy but the quinoa held its unique, bubbly chewy texture. I definitely recommend it, even if you're not cleansing!

Next up .. millet ...

Breakfast Quinoa
adapted from Martha Stewart
My recipe makes only one portion -- Martha's, probably at least 2 if not 3.

1/4 cup of quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of soy or almond milk
a splash of vanilla extract (or almond extract or dash of cinnamon)
1/4 of a banana, mashed (chop up the rest and freeze it!)
a handful of fresh or frozen berries (I used strawberries, blueberries and sour cherries)

1. Bring the water and soy/almond milk up to a boil. Add the quinoa and vanilla extract. Cook, covered on low heat for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

2. Add bananas and berries. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring, until the porridge thickens.

3. Sit back, snack and let your liver relax.

Oh yeah! More on the coffee tour:

Crema on Dundas: We had cappucinno, soy latte, americano and chocolate biscotti and blueberry almond cookie, all enjoyed on the patio. One more thing ...

Beautiful, old buildings on Dundas St. West ... I wonder what all those books are about ..

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Favourite Fruits and Rainy Labour Day Baking

Labour day is always a funny kind of day. I always wake up with a funny feeling, the feeling of something ending and something beginning, wanting to have an adventure, but knowing that obligations follow the next day. And I never ever have a good night's sleep on labour day. My most vivid memory of labour day was when I was about 11 years old, and it had turned cold all of a sudden. Instead of bounding downstairs in shorts and t-shirts, ready to tackle the weekend, I dug around until I found my flannel night gown. I spent the day curled up on the couch and going back and forth from being excited and dreading the first day of school.

This year, was not too much different. The funny feeling came over me the minute I woke up, but this year, I wanted to make it disappear, or at least fade to the back of my mind for the first couple hours of the day. The rainyness didn't help and the chill that sneaked up over the whole loft reminded my of that labour day way back when I was 11. To help ease my anxiety over summer leaving and autumn arriving, my holidays ending and work beginning, I decided to do a little bit of baking with what I have just recently discovered, is my favourite fruit.

If you had asked me even a few months ago what my favourite fruit was, I would have probably said apples. They're reliable, wholesome, very Ontario and who doesn't like apples? But, as much as I like my empires, and macintoshes, idareds, granny smiths and cortlands, I've recently discovered that there's another fruit that I pretty much add to everything: the lemon. From iced teas to curries, muffins to coleslaw and everything in between, it's the lemon that adds brightness, fruitiness, tang and that unmistakable finishing touch.

But, this labour day, I made lemon the star of the show. Don't gasp, people. Those lovely pictures of the perfectly cut, sugar dusted lemon bars above are, sadly, not mine. They were made by my best friend and closeted cooking blogger for a barbeque party this past summer. Not only do they look lovely enough to serve to royalty, but the boys at the party couldn't keep their hands off of them... and my boy even asked for the recipe. We didn't get to baking it this summer-- mostly because we were afraid that we'd be disappointed that they wouldn't turn out to be the exact luscious, lemony, tangy, crumbly, buttery goodness of the originals from the party. But I thought it would be the perfect little baking project to chase away those labour day blues. And it definitely was. The smell coming from the oven instantly brought sunshine and summer back into my mind, and kept back the back-to-school anxiety, if only for a couple of hours.

I'm going to leave you with the original recipe, but as usual, I made a few little tweeks which I mention below. Happy lemon-baking!

Coconut Lemon Squares
via "Mia the baker" adapted from Betty Crocker's Entertaining Basics

Coconut Crust

1 cup of all purpose flour
6 tablespoons of butter or margarine at room temperature
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix everything except the coconut in the large bowl using a pastry blender, fork, or cold hands, until a soft dough forms.
3. Stir in the coconut
4. Press into an ungreased pan (Mia used an 8x8" square pan)
5. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden. While the crust is baking, prepare the lemonyness.

Lemony Filling

1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs

1. Beat everything in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. (Mia used an electric mixer on high speed. It took about 3 minutes).
2. Pour the lemony filling over the hot crust.
3. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until there is no indent when you lightly touch the centre.
4. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.
5. Dust with icing sugar if you want to be fancy.

As usual, I made a few changes, the most drastic because it was raining outside and I didn't want to go to the store ...

1. Instead of 6 tablespoons of butter, I used 4 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter. I didn't need a fork or pastry blender -- a spatula worked fine. The peanut + coconut combo was so good that we didn't miss the butter at all.

2. For the flour, I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup of ground almonds and 1/4 cup of all purpose flour .. just to be interesting. :)

3. I used about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice because my lemon was large and I wanted to finish juicing it. :) My mixture never went light and fluffy .. it kinda stayed liquidy and I was worried, but all was mended under the heat of the oven -- it only took about 20 minutes for it to set.

4. Last but not least, I baked it in a 9 inch round pie-shaped dish, so I couldn't cut them out into beautiful little bars, but now that I'm thinking about it, it would make a great substitute for a birthday cake ...

Oh, I almost forgot! If you're in Toronto and you love coffee, you should totally buy an Indie Coffee Passport. $20 gets you a card where you can get a drink of up to $5 in 24 different independent coffee shops. It's a coffee adventure! We've already started ..

Green Grind: We had a cappuccino and a skim latte.
Red Rocket (Welleslely location): We had a cappuccino and a "Red Rocket" (a shot of espresso, chocolate syrup and brewed coffee).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A year ago, blogging woes, and getting over it ...

Last summer, something very special happened. Ok .. not so special, but something very relevant to "Leslie Caradmom" happened. I was sitting at home, bored and surfing the internet. I was looking for a project to do, something to make to while away the long dusty hours in late July. I stumbled across this post about buttermilk cherry sherbet at this blog: Everybody Likes Sandwiches. I thought to myself as I read the post: wow .. I never thought making anything ice cream-like would sound so easy. I was intrigued, and glued to that website for about an hour, looking through previous posts, drooling over the gorgeous photos and pretending that I had my own kitchen so that I could re-create some of the healthy and delicious looking recipes.

Then I remembered something: I had bought a whole bag of cherries and they were sitting inside my partner's fridge in his apartment. OMG, I was going to make ice cream. An hour later, I was staring at a beautiful, deep magenta pool of deliciousness. It was the most delicious ice cream I had ever tasted and I didn't even need all those calories from from heavy cream, OR an ice cream maker. I was totally hooked, and I went on to make another sherbet with lemons and limes, and yet another one with peaches and strawberries. Kickpleat's blog not only inspired me to cook, but also to write. I remembered making her carrot spice loaf but not having any eggs. Instead, I used a vegan trick I had learned in university: a handful of oatmeal, a teaspoon of cornstarch and a squeeze of lemon. The loaf turned out so perfectly that I wanted to take a picture of it and write about it.

Fast forward to March break of 2010 when I made my very first post. I was hesitant because I didn't want to be judged or made of fun of, so picked a handle, stayed fairly anonymous and wrote and cooked my way through to the summer. This summer, I tried a recipe that I've wanted to try since I read the post: tomato and corn biscuit pie. It's everything brunch should be: tangy, filling, hearty and healthy. I never thought I'd ever make any sort of pie, but there I was, rolling our biscuit dough and decobbing corn and zesting lemon. I made on a Saturday morning when I was having my best friend over for brunch, and it was definitely a hit. I followed it with this delicious, thick, creamy orange yogurt served on top of citrus fruits and the first cherries of the season.

It was like a milestone. I left so free to cook and write .. I hadn't written anything in ages, and hadn't shown my writing to anyone since university. I loved the privacy of anonymity; it gave me the freedom I needed to just relax and share my ideas with whoever was reading, without people around me knowing what I was doing. Apart from a few people, I told no one that I had started a blog. I wanted it to be a different part of my life, a little secret that I only shared with a few others. I loved that people actually read my writing, and was thrilled when other bloggers started commenting. It was free from the judgments and mockery of daily life.

Mais, récemment, j’ai perdu cette intimité. C’était comme une sévère invasion dans ma vie privée, comme j’étais exposée, forcée de partager une partie de ma vie que j’ai essayé si fort à tenir et cacher. J’ai pensé quitter à blogger, mais enfin je continue et j’en suis bien contente. Je continue à cuisiner et écrire, et partager mes histoires avec ceux qui veulent prendre le temps de le lire; c’est en fait ce que j’ai admiré de plus chez les autres blogs que je lis : le fait qu’il y a des personnes ordinaires qui tiennent le courage d’expérimenter et de partager leurs résultats, qu’ils soient des succès ou des échecs, avec le monde. Peut-être pour moi, c’est comme un petit signal inconscient: je dois écrire en français plus souvent pour maintenir de temps en temps la liberté et l’intimité dont j’ai désespérément envie. Alors, c’est un assez longue poste, mais ça me fait du bien: merci pour votre patience. Je vous laisse avec une petite recette pour la crème glacée – modifiée bien sur de ce poste original de kickpleat. J’ai utilisé des mûres au lieu des cerises, et j’ai ajouté le jus de lime et de citron. C’est bien rafraichissant, pas très sucrée, bien acidulée et parfaite pour savourer quand le monde vous fait du mal. Essayez-la, je vous en prie. Ça vaut la peine.

Blackberry Yogurt Ice Cream
adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1 cup of blackberries
3 tablespoons of water
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 tablespoon of creme de cassis or a liquor of your choice
1/2 cup of skim milk yogurt

1. Put the blackberries, citrus zest, water and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small pot. Bring to boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the berries have broken down and the liquid has reduced and become slightly syrupy.

2. Let the mixture cool a bit. Add the rest of the sugar and let it cool completely. Add the citrus juice, alcohol and yogurt stir until combined.

3. Pour into the glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put it in the freezer and whisk the mixture every 30-40 minutes until the mixture has set (about 4 hours). Remove and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

***I found that no matter what I did, the mixture still froze solid come morning time. Oh well. It takes about 15 minutes at room temperature to become scoopable. Worth the wait, I would say!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letting Summer Go ...

I know, I know. I've lamented about the loss of summer more than once. But .. but .. it's just that I'm so relaxed in the summer, and there seems to be so much more time to just be. Like every other summer, this once seemed to fly by. It was like all of July, I spent anticipating our trip to Moncton, and then once we got back, all I could do was think about school starting and counting the days till the end of freedom. Well, my friends, September has finally arrived and summer, for me at least, has come to an end.

But I'm not crying, because this summer has been one of the best and most exciting. I have one last summer story post for you coming up next week, but for now, I'll keep it short and sweet and present to you ... some beer bread. But this is not just ANY beer bread -- it's fruity, summery, memory-inducing beer bread, made first with Pump House Blueberry Ale that my best friend brought over one weekend as a funny surprise. Her and my partner drank quite a few of these when we were in Moncton. Over there, it was the specialty, brewed in downtown Moncton. It even had a little restaurant attached to the brewery called The Pump House.

A little research brought me to this wonderful blog, Farmgirl Fare, where I saw her recipe for whole wheat beer bread. I used the blueberry ale and added in a handful of fresh Ontario blueberries for good measure. It smelled wonderful in the oven, and even better when it came out. The blueberries had exploded and turned jammy and beautiful and I could definitely taste that slightly bitter tang from the beer. The texture was hearty and dense, as expected from a beer bread, but a little bit too moist and sticky. The next time I tried it, I used KLB Raspberry Wheat Beer and, you guessed it, fresh local raspberries provided by my sister's CSA. This time, I baked it a little longer and the texture was definitely better.

Don't be scared of bread. Go ahead and bake some. Use a fancy beer and throw in some fruit. Hey .. you could even try chocolate beer bread and use chocolate stout .. oh my ...

Fruity Beer Bread
adapted from Farmgirl Fare

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of honey
7 ounces of fruity beer (that's about 3/4 of the bottle)
a handful of berries to match the beer, washed and patted dry

1. Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour the honey on top of the dry ingredients.

2. Open a bottle of fruity beer. Take a biiiig gulp. Pour the rest of the bottle into the other ingredients and stir gently until everything comes together in a sticky, thick batter. Add the berries and mix them in.

4. Pour in a prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean, and the top has browned every so slightly. Best served warm with a cup of coffee.