Salad and Healthy Food

I just did the grocery shopping  for making cupcakes and mini cheesecakes for my sister’s bridal shower this weekend.  Having bought a huge bag of flour, two pounds of butter, 1kg of icing sugar and 3 packages of cream cheese, I am feeling fat just thinking about all of those ingredients.  For that reason I would like to reflect on salad.  This upcoming weekend is going to be a carb-opolooza, so I would like to think happy green vegetable thoughts for a while.  I know my blog features a great deal of baked goods, so I assure you I eat salads and healthy foods too!

Last week Jonathan and I went to Fresh; a restaurant with three locations in Toronto. It’s been around for a while, but it was my first time going there.  I ordered the baby beach pasta bowl which is composed of: grilled red pepper, zucchini & sweet potato with avocado, sun-dried tomato, sunflower sprouts, olive oil, tamari, lemon, mixed herbs and goat cheese.  It was simply delicious and I definitely want to go back sometime soon.  I had never had soba noodles before (soba are noodles made from buckwheat flour).  I also ordered an antioxidant smoothie that was very tasty.  When I was at Chapters the other day, I saw two cookbooks from Fresh –  I flipped through the pages and there were many delicious looking recipes for salads, smoothies, and wraps. They are definitely going on my wish list.

I made the following salad today for lunch.  It has baby spinach greens, cucumber, red pepper, avocado, bacon and Balderson cheddar.  The salad dressing I made was quick and simple: 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar, dash of salt, dash of freshly ground black pepper and two drops of lime juice.  It was a hearty and filling salad.

One of the biggest parts of healthy living is exercise and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  So here is a beautiful afternoon snack – lovely organic oranges!

Butterscotch Pudding

The recipe for butterscotch pudding came from Desserts for Two, one of my favourite blogs. Dad generously donated a teaspoon of his McClelland’s Scotch Whisky to make this creamy and flavourful dessert – and my family absolutely loved it! Homemade pudding made from scratch is just so silky and delightful.  My Dad grew up eating Jell-O brand pudding, and he loved my version, especially since I’m sure Jell-O doesn’t use real scotch!  The flavour from the scotch, vanilla, milk and fresh whipping cream was to die for – it was perfectly creamy and heavenly.  I would even venture to say that it is better than strawberry mousse.  Perhaps I will have to experiment with other pudding flavours.

My family is a bit larger than just two people so I increased the recipe from the Desserts for Two website.  I put the pudding into fancy cups that are probably about a half-cup serving size, so it was enough for eight people to enjoy this rich dessert.  Now, a really important part of the recipe that you should not ignore is that once you have made the pudding, make sure the plastic wrap touches the pudding so that it is air tight – this way, a pudding skin does not develop.

After a short four hours, a delightful treat awaits!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon McClelland’s Scotch (or regular whiskey)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • extra cream for topping

Instructions

  1. In a medium glass bowl, add the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir lightly with a whisk to blend.
  2. Then, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the cream and whisk vigorously to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch. Add the last of the cream slowly, still whisking.
  3. Add the milk slowly and whisk very well to ensure all the dry ingredients are dissolved.
  4. Pour the milk and cream mixture into a saucepan and turn the stove onto medium. Bring the pudding to a simmer while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the saucepan during cooking.
  5. Once the pudding starts to gently simmer, turn the heat to low and cook another 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and then stir in the butter, vanilla, and scotch.
  6. Pour the mixture into dessert cups, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. If you don’t like a pudding skin, press the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding before chilling.

O&B’s Bannock

Last night Jonathan, my sister Laura, her fiance Chris and I went to Bannock in Toronto.  The restaurant is owned by Oliver & Bonacini and located in the flagship Bay department store on Queen Street West. While the food was good, I think the desserts were better than my entree.  I ordered macaroni and cheese with wilted spinach and it was kind of milky, which was strange.

The sour cream donuts with a caramel sauce was truly phenomenal.  The donuts were warm, fluffy and rich.

Laura and Chris ordered the s’mores pie to share.  They said it was simply delicious.  Laura and I reminisced about our time at Sparrow Lake Camp making s’mores pie over the camp fire.

After dinner at Bannock, we came home and had a few friends over.  Beau was the star party guest – he showed off his tricks for all the guests.  Chris has taught Beau to walk on his hind legs for two meters (amazing)!  This morning Beau is looking a little tired.

Pineapple Loaf Cake

The inspiration for this recipe came from Miss Susan’s Pineapple Sheet Cake recipe, which I found on Pinterest.  From this recipe I decided to make a few changes.  I decided to use white and brown sugar instead of just white sugar.  I also decided to take out two tablespoons of pineapple juice and replace it with one tablespoon of canola oil.

I would describe this loaf as similar to a banana bread, but with pineapple.  I’m not a huge fan of pineapple, however I wanted to give it a try.  I found the pineapple loaf cake to be sweet – with a nice amount of pineapple and vanilla flavour.  Experimenting is part of the fun with my food blog, so I think this was a success.  I didn’t make the cream cheese icing from the original recipe because I am tired of cream cheese frosting.  The icing sugar and milk drizzle was perfect and light.  My pineapple loaf cake was a sweet treat and turned out well.  If you are looking for an afternoon snack give this recipe a try.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 eggs beaten

398 mL can of crushed pineapple – minus two tablespoons of the juices

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Drizzle

¾ cup icing sugar

2 tbsp milk

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Mix flour, sugars, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.

3. Beat eggs and then add them to the dry ingredients.

4. Add in crushed pineapple, minus two tablespoons of juices to the dry ingredients.

5. Add in vanilla extract and canola oil and stir until thoroughly combined.  Don’t over stir.

6. Bake for 40-50 minutes in oven until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove.

7.  Make the drizzle by combining the icing sugar and milk thoroughly, then slowly drizzling on top.  Add more icing sugar lightly on top using a sieve.

Austrian Jam Cookies

I was craving cookies, so I found this recipe on the AllRecipes.com website.  As always I made a few minor changes to the recipe.  The cookies turned out very well; they weren’t overly sweet and they were nice and soft.  The black raspberry preserve that I used gave a delightful and sweet flavour to the cookies.  It makes a small batch of cookies, so if you want more than 15-16 cookies you should double the recipe.

These cookies are traditionally Christmas cookies, but I think they are delicious for any time of the year.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped almonds (I didn’t add these, but you can, if you like almonds)
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (I used a Seedless black raspberry preserve from Abbott Farms, but you can use any jam.)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, tiny pinch of salt and egg yolk; mix until fluffy. Stir in the flour, and refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.
  3. Measure out the dough with a small spoon, and roll into balls. Dip the balls into chopped almonds and set on the prepared cookie sheet 1 inch apart.  (I didn’t use almonds here, but if you like almonds add them.)
  4. With a finger, make an indention in each cookie and fill the indention up with jam using a teaspoon.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, cookies should be golden brown. Remove from pan after baking to cool on a wire rack.
  6. This recipe makes about 16 small cookies, so double it, if you want more.

Indian Style Chicken Curry

Jonathan and I were looking to make butter chicken or chicken korma, but we weren’t happy with the recipes we found online.  So, we decided to experiment.  Jonathan played a huge role in the research and selection of the spices.  He learned from his wonderful Mom about how to simmer the spices to get their full flavour.  So, in the beginning of this recipe add the oil, onion, ginger, green chili and spices and allow to cook for about two minutes or until fragrant.  After we had finished making the curry, Jonathan told me that his Mom sometimes puts the sautéed spices in the blender to make them nice and smooth.  So we will have to try that trick next time.

The recipe was easy to put together and we used a fat free Balkan style yogurt to make it a little healthier.  Jonathan and I agree we will make this recipe again.

Enjoy a bit of spice in your life!

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts – chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup of plain yogurt

Cilantro for garnish or as desired

3 tbsp canola oil

1 onion chopped

2 tomatoes diced

1 can of tomato paste

1 cup water

1 bouillon cube

2 cloves of garlic minced

2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger

1 green chili – chopped

½ tsp Fennel Seed

½ tsp Ground Cardamom

1 tsp Ground Turmeric

½ tsp Ground Cloves

½ tsp Ground Coriander seed

½ tsp Whole Cumin Seed

Instructions

  1. Heat up canola oil in pot.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, green chili and all of the spices.  Sauté for two minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste and diced tomato.
  3. Add one cup of water and bouillon cube.  Stir and allow boiling.  Let boil for about 2 minutes.
  4. Then add in uncooked chicken and allow simmering for 15 minutes.
  5. Add plain yogurt and stir thoroughly.  Allow simmering for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve on top of brown rice.  Add fresh cilantro leaves for garnish if desired.

 

 

Montreal Part 2

Well there is more to share about wonderful Montreal.  Starting with Schwartz’s famous smoked meat sandwiches.

Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwiches have been an institution in Montreal since 1928.  The inside of the restaurant is atmospheric and very welcoming.  Jonathan and made it there in time to miss a huge lunch time line up.  Yes, people were lined up, even on a rainy cold Montreal day! Jonathan ordered us both a medium-fat smoked meat sandwich that were piled high with smoked meat.  I think Jonathan appreciated the smoked meat sandwiches more than I did.  I enjoyed the experience, but I’m not big on giant meat sandwiches.

The next stop on our list of Montreal foodie things to list was to try bagels from Fairmount and St. Viateur Bagel.  While in the St. Viateur bagel shop they took a picture of me while they were making the bagels.  I was very excited by this.  The large oven and the smell of fresh bagels was a dream come true.

Jonathan has concluded that he likes the Fairmont bagels better, because of the crispier outside and soft inside.  I am undecided on which I prefer – I suppose I will have to go back and sample more bagels!

Next on the foodie institution list was Wilensky’s Light Lunch.  Wilensky’s is famous because of Mordecai Richler’s novel “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.”  Jonathan and I ordered the Wilensky’s Special, which is a grilled salami and bologna sandwich with a splash of mustard on a egg bun known as a pletzl, pressed flat from the grill.  Mustard is compulsory and the sandwich shall never be cut in half, as a delightful sign in the restaurant states.

The sandwiches were delightful and tasty.  In addition to the sandwiches we also ordered fountain drinks from a real soda fountain.  Syrup is put into a glass, then soda water is added, and then it is stirred.  “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” being one of Jonathan’s favourite books, eating at Wilensky’s made this lunch very special.  We were both delighted, enchanted and thrilled to be sitting in this historic restaurant.

From our trip to Montreal, I think we can safely say we had an authentic experience, and had great fun strolling through some Montreal neighbourhoods that have true character.

Restaurant L’Orginal in Montreal

This weekend Jonathan and I decided to visit Montreal, Quebec.  We enjoyed many delicious meals and Montreal specialties – including the famous Montreal bagels and smoked meat sandwiches!

Montreal is also home to many beautiful historic Catholic churches, including Notre Dame Basilica that we took a picture outside of and St. Patrick’s Basilica where Jonathan and I went for Sunday Mass in English.  Montreal is a very bilingual city and it has been a wonderful visit.

For a fancy dinner we went to Restaurant L’Orginal (L’Orginal is French for moose) last night.  I had the best risotto I have ever eaten.  The mushrooms, bacon, spring peas and truffle oil combined to create a masterpiece.  I wish I could eat it every day!

Here are some of the pictures.  More details will follow.

Au revoir, Montreal – we will miss you and your wonderful cuisine!

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Jonathan and I were at COBS Bread before Easter buying hot cross buns and I decided to buy a cranberry white chocolate chip scone.  The scone was very tasty and I held the flavour combination in the back of my head – and added it to my baking to-do list.  While I was at the grocery store yesterday, I thought I should pick up some cranberries and white chocolate chips to make a muffin version.

Usually my stomach is sensitive to cocoa and milk chocolate, however some brands of white chocolate don’t cause any stomach pain.  I did some reading on Wikipedia about why this might be and the answer seemed to be because white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids.  I am also very cautious about if nuts are processed in the same factory.  The Chipits brand doesn’t seem to aggravate any stomach sensitivity or allergies, so I used them for this recipe – hooray!

I love cranberry and the sweet and tart combination was definitely a winner.  I enjoy baking my own sweet treats and muffins are a splendid treat.  Making my own baked goods is really the only way to know they are allergy safe.  I made them in a mini version so that I can eat more of them and not gain ten pounds.    It probably wouldn’t be the best idea to eat these every day, but every once in a while they are great.  The mini muffins are rich and decadent, sweet and tart – simply yummy!

Some of these muffins are in the freezer for when I see Jonathan next.  I am sure he will enjoy them just as much as I do.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

½ cup milk

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup canola oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup frozen cranberries – dusted with 1 tsp of flour

¾ cup white chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix together in a large bowl the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the milk, sour cream, canola oil, eggs and vanilla extract.  Stir until thoroughly combined, but do not over stir.
  4. Dust the frozen cranberries with a teaspoon of flour and then fold them into the muffin batter.  Add in the white chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
  5. Grease the mini muffin pans with margarine or cooking spray.
  6. Fill the muffin batter ¾ of the way full.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  If you want regular sized muffins the cook time will be longer 20-25 minutes.
  8. This recipe makes 3 dozen mini muffins.
  9. Enjoy!

Jalapeño and Bacon Poppers

Looking through my last few posts I wanted to try some different flavours. Jonathan recommended jalapeño and bacon poppers. I reluctantly agreed, seeing as I had never purchased jalapeño peppers in my life. My Dad still has trouble saying the word “jalapeño” even though he took a brief Spanish lesson with my sister Sarah in Mexico. He says it “jal-ap-ino” and there are many other versions of his mispronunciations.

I did not grow up with spicy foods and so I was a bit nervous, but I was pleasantly surprised that with all the seeds out jalapeño peppers are NOT super spicy (my mouth was not burning, yay!)  There was still a pleasant amount of spicy flavour though.  Jonathan tried to convince me that jalapeño peppers taste like bell peppers (which they do not).  Just in case the jalapeño peppers were going to be too spicy for me, I decided to make four stuffed mushrooms. Jonathan and I have different versions of the meaning of ‘spicy.’ I’m sure we would both agree that these jalapeño and bacon poppers are delicious!  Slowly I am working up my spice tolerance.  These were not as spicy as a curry dish from the Pinto house.  As Jonathan accurately advised me, jalapeño peppers and hot chili peppers have very different flavours.

The cream cheese, garlic and bacon part of the recipe I knew I would love and the jalapeño flavour complemented the other flavours quite well. Another part of this recipe that I like is that the poppers are not deep fried like they would be at a pub. The Panko crumbs that I dipped the cream cheese, garlic and bacon mixture in, gave the tops of the poppers and nice crispiness.

Ingredients
250g container of Western Light Cream Cheese – Western brand is nice and fluffy
1 clove of minced garlic
6 slices of bacon – sliced into small pieces
4 or 5 jalapeño peppers and 4 or 5 mushrooms if you so desire
1 cup of Panko crumbs
1/4 cup of canola oil to drizzle on the baking sheet

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cook the bacon until crispy or however you like your bacon. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Dry off the bacon with a paper towel and then add to a bowl.
3. Mince one clove of garlic with a garlic press and add to bowl.
4. Add Light cream cheese and stir until combined.
5. Slice the jalapeño peppers in half. You may want to wear gloves to remove all of the seeds and the vein part of the inside of the pepper.
6. If you are making a few stuffed mushrooms – wash the mushrooms and take out the middle stem bit so that there is space for the cream cheese, garlic and bacon mixture.
7. On your baking sheet cover with tin foil and then drizzle with a bit of canola oil (you could also use cooking spray).
8. With a small spoon evenly distribute the cream cheese, bacon and garlic mixture onto the jalapeño and mushroom halves.
9. Roll the cream cheese top part in Panko crumbs and then place on the baking sheet.
10. Bake for 10-15 minutes on the middle rack (I did 10min). Then place the baking sheet on a top rack so that the Panko crumbs will brown a bit for 5-10 minutes (watch them to see when they have turned golden brown on top – I took mine out after 7 minutes). Oven temperatures will vary.
11. Enjoy!