Friday, February 25, 2011

DeTox Smoothie

Yup! We've been cleansing again! I have to tell you -- that lemon and water drink in the morning is MUCH better after your workout. So refreshing and almost energizing after you've had a good cardio sweat. I think I'll do it even if I'm not cleansing.

Remember the cleanse? I learned about the versatility of quinoa, the wonders of bananas and toasty, tasty truth about millet. While I wanted to delve into the world of fat-free, sugar-free, fruit-sweetened baking (brownies made with apple sauce, mashed banana, and cocoa powder), I didn't have the time. I did, however, make a few tasty things, including this wonderful detox smoothie. It's got the powerful detox and anti-oxidant power of grapefruit and green tea, some orange to sweeten things up and a few frozen berries to round it all off. It's a refreshing, tangy and detoxifying drink that's sure to kick your body into start mode if you have it in the morning.

While I found the taste very refreshing and tangy, my partner described it as tasting of Buckley's cough medicine.. I suspect that I brewed the green tea a little strong. To make sure your super detox smoothie isn't overpowering and overly intense, brew your tea a little weaker. You'll be fine. Mind you, I still prefer my regular morning smoothies to include a bit of yogurt and soy, but in the spirit of cleansing, this drink does wonders.

Super Detox Smoothie

1 cup of brewed green tea, cooled a bit
1/2 a grapefruit, sectioned
1 orange, sectioned
a handful each of frozen blueberries and raspberries (or whatever you have on hand)

Blend everything up in the blender and enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Asian Treats

What do you do when you have a half day?
a) go home and crawl back into bed
b) plan for the next week
c) bake

If you chose c), you've won my heart! I swear, I cook other things besides baked goods (most recently, soup, but it wasn't very photogenic ..), and in fact, I have some cleanse meals coming up. However, in light of this extra long weekend, made extra because of my half day off on Friday, and a get-together with friends, I've done some extra baking.

What did I bake, you ask? I thought you'd never ask. First, I made these deep, dark chocolatey bites of cookie goodness -- like a brownie in cookie form! You can get the recipe here. Totally worth splurging for the really good stuff.

Then, I tried something different .. behold: the Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake. Intrigued? So was I. I first discovered this recipe around Christmas time when I was requested to bake a cheesecake for our annual post-Christmas-pre-New-Year's potluck and game night. At the time, I chose something more traditional, but I didn't forget about it. I thought about it again when the prospect of filling up a half day off from work came up. A perfect time to experiment.

It's a very different recipe from all other cheesecake recipes I've seen. You melt the cream cheese with a little milk and butter. And you whip the egg whites. There's a tiny bit of flour and corn starch to stabilize it, and there's no crust. It's flavoured very subtly with lemon juice and the texture is truly cotton soft: very light and airy, but still having that distinctive, creamy rich cheesecakiness. Pretty easy to make (once you get past whipping the egg whites which I had to do by hand ... oh and be careful when pouring water into the pan for your bain marie. Just so you know, a little splash of boiling water in the cheesecake batter won't hurt it at all ...), and very easy to eat. I like it because it's a rich, creamy treat, but it's not too over-the-top like most cheesecakes can be. Next time I make this, I'm going to try it with a really good cream cheese instead of the PC light cream cheese that was on sale -- mind you, it was still really good, but I think ricotta might work really well, or a New York style whipped cream cheese.

The only hitch: All the recipes I found used weighted measures (so no cups and tablespoons, more like ounces and grams) which can be a drag if you don't have a kitchen scale. I've tried to estimate the amounts for you, but you'd better be safe and go with the scale if you have one. Go try it. And tell me how you like it. I'll wait ... Go on..

Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake
via Fat About Food: I've cut the recipe in half and it still makes lots.

125 g (1/2 cup) of cream cheese
1 oz (2 tablespoons) of butter
50 ml (3 tablespoons) of milk (I used soy just because that's all I had)
juice of half a lemon
3 eggs, separated
2.5 oz (about 1/4 cup) of white sugar
1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar (or baking powder)
1 oz (about 2.5 tablespoons) of flour
0.5 oz (about 1 tablespoon) of cornstarch

1. Sift the cornstarch and the flour together and set aside.

2. Combine the sugar and the cream of tartar (or baking powder) in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Melt the butter, cream cheese and milk (if you want, you can use the double boiler method, but I didn't bother) over low heat until everything is combined. Cool for about 2 minutes.

4. Separate the eggs. Combine the lemon juice with the egg yolks, and then add this mixture to the cream cheese mixture. Stir well to combine. Add the flour and cornstarch and fold to combine. Do not over mix.

5. Beat the egg whites, slowly adding the sugar and cream of tartar mixture. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks and get nice and glossy.

6. Add the egg whites to the cream cheese mixture (in three additions), folding slowly until everything is combined. Pour the batter into a parchment-lined cake pan. Place this cake pan in a larger cake pan, and fill half way with boiling water.

7. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until the top gets nice and brown and the cake is set.

8. Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool. Best enjoyed in little cottony-soft bitelets.

Coffee Update!

The Green Beanery: vanilla soy latte, cappuccino, drip coffee, enjoyed later in the evening with little dark chocolates

Red Rocket (Leslieville): vanilla soy latte, spicy Red Rocket (double shot of esspress, chocolate syrup and medium roast coffee), and a Green Bee (green tea, honey and steamed milk)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another New Year .. a little late

I've crawled out of my report card hole, thank goodness! I'm a little late, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! It's the year of the Rabbit, which only means to me, that the students at my school are all making cute little origami rabbits.. I have like ten of them on my desk right now.

Lunar New Year means lots of little traditions in my family -- cleaning the house (did that .. kind of), getting a haircut (yeah .. not this year), lots of family time spent eating (yup.. dinner.. and then dim sum!) and of course, New Year treats. I love baking for family occasions. The holiday season, I did tons of baking for my family: gift-cookies, orange crumb cake on Christmas eve, cranberry walnut bread for Christmas morning, rosemary chocolate chip olive oil cake for New Year's day .. yup! I totally baked up a storm. But for Lunar New year, it's a bit tricky. I never delved into the world of Chinese desserts, mainly because they either included difficult-to-make fillings (like lotus paste, black bean paste, and melon/coconut filling) or they were deep fried (yuck).

One of my favourite new year flavours is included in a deep fried, oily dumpling-type snack. Basically, it's a deep-fried pastry pocket filled with sesame seeds, sugar, peanuts and coconut. I gave those up several years ago, but this year, I thought I'd try to re-make it in my kitchen. I'm so glad I did! Instead of rolling up all those goodies into a deep-fried package, I baked it into a healthy-ish cookie (oats, whole wheat flour, canola oil ..). I made one batch with peanut butter and another with tahini -- both were delicious. The secret is toasting the coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds in the oven before mixing them in the cookie. It's crumbly and crunchy with just a little bit of chewiness when you get to the middle -- perfect with a cup of jasmine tea.

Now that I've officially tried baking Chinese-inspired desserts, my next plan is to play around with azuki beans. It's often made into a sweet paste, or cooked into a sweet dessert porridge (yeah I know it sounds kinda .. well... ya know..), but who knows? Azuki muffins? Bars? Squares? We'll see ...

New Year Cookies
makes about 3oish mini cookies

1/2 cup of peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds
1/4 cup of peanut butter or tahini
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 egg
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the peanuts, coconut and sesame seeds out on a baking tray and place in the oven. Toss after about 5 minutes and let it toast for another 5. They should be nice and golden. Set aside.

2. Mix the peanut butter, oil and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, oats and baking powder and mix.

3. Add the coconut mixture to the cookie dough. With your hands, knead the dough so that all the coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds get incorporated. Form the dough into little balls and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten (or not!) with wet fingers and bake into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they get golden brown.

4. Serve with Chinese tea. Gong Hai Fat Choy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's a SNOW DAY!

OH MY! It's a SNOW DAY! That never happens for me .. EVER! I walked into the school this morning to find out that it was closed. I almost jumped for joy.

So what did I do on my snow day? Reports .. reports ... marking ... reports. In between,

I drank cup after cup of jasmine green tea -- my latest obsession when it's not a coffee day,

and made this beautiful carrot apple loaf, packed full of yummy things like spices, raisins, coconut and whole wheat. I was inspired by this wonderful recipe from Poppy Talk posted by kickpleat, and a big beautiful bag of multi-coloured carrots purchased in Rowe Farms.

Happy Snow Day! (now, back to the grind ..)

Carrot Apple Spice Loaf

adapted from
Poppy Talk

1/3 cup of canola oil
1/3 cup of plain yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
a splash of vanilla extract
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
a small pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of shredded coconut
1/4 cup of raisins
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small apple, grated

1. Whisk together the oil, yogurt, egg, sugars and vanilla until well blended.

2. Sift in the flour, spices and baking powder. Stir until just combined.

3. Stir in the carrot, apple, raisins and coconut. Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the top gets nice and golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

4. Enjoy with your tea and have a happy snow day.