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Crispy Chick Peas

For me, cooking is a way of life and it’s something I really enjoy doing.  There’s nothing quite like putting together a meal, chopping and cooking simple ingredients while listening to some of my favorite tunes or catching up on the day with my husband.  It’s relaxing, it’s enjoyable, and I always get excited when I discover a new recipe that I can’t wait to share.

Although we cook at home several times a week, there’s always the “leftovers” night, and this entails gathering up random leftover items and whatever greens we have and throwing them into what we call our “kitchen sink” salad.  I must say, to our amazement, these salads end up being some of our best!

This latest recipe started with half a can of leftover chick peas sitting in the fridge that I was staring at when I was putting together one of our meals of leftovers.  Although I love chick peas in flavourful dishes like curries and soups, I find them bland and boring on their own.   I wanted to jazz them up a little and that’s when I thought back to an amazing dish I had in one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Vancouver.  The dish is made up of deep-fried chick peas tossed in arugula, mint, lemon zest, and chili flakes.  I have simplified the recipe and found a way to transform chick peas into an addictive snack and crunchy addition to my “kitchen sink” salad.

Here’s how I made them:

1 cup Chick peas, rinsed and dried
2 – 3 tbsp Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat up oil on medium-low heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the chick peas and cook until golden brown (tossing gently every 5 minutes or so).  Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste and place chick peas onto paper towel and cool for a few minutes.

Go give them a try! Enjoy!

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

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Crispy Chick Peas

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For me, cooking is a way of life and it’s something I really enjoy doing.  There’s nothing quite like putting together a meal, chopping and cooking simple ingredients while listening to some of my favorite tunes or catching up on the day with my husband.  It’s relaxing, it’s enjoyable, and I always get excited when I discover a new recipe that I can’t wait to share.

Although we cook at home several times a week, there’s always the “leftovers” night, and this entails gathering up random leftover items and whatever greens we have and throwing them into what we call our “kitchen sink” salad.  I must say, to our amazement, these salads end up being some of our best!

This latest recipe started with half a can of leftover chick peas sitting in the fridge that I was staring at when I was putting together one of our meals of leftovers.  Although I love chick peas in flavourful dishes like curries and soups, I find them bland and boring on their own.   I wanted to jazz them up a little and that’s when I thought back to an amazing dish I had in one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Vancouver.  The dish is made up of deep-fried chick peas tossed in arugula, mint, lemon zest, and chili flakes.  I have simplified the recipe and found a way to transform chick peas into an addictive snack and crunchy addition to my “kitchen sink” salad.

Here’s how I made them:

1 cup Chick peas, rinsed and dried
2 – 3 tbsp Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat up oil on medium-low heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the chick peas and cook until golden brown (tossing gently every 5 minutes or so).  Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste and place chick peas onto paper towel and cool for a few minutes.

Go give them a try! Enjoy!

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

DIY: Super yummy granola bars

It amazes me just how many varieties of granola bars are on the grocery store shelf.  I haven’t counted them but there’s lots.  These days, it’s boring if a granola bar is simply made with oats and honey, and maybe a few raisins.

IMG_2331That is why there’s one made for every taste bud out there: sweet, sweet and salty, chocolate or yogurt covered or dipped, chewy, crunchy, made with “real fruit filling”, peanut butter, with fibre added, calorie controlled… Ugh, the list goes on and on.

It’s almost as confusing as the yogurt section of the grocery store.  You can sit there all day comparing the labels (like we’re not busy enough), and getting nowhere with it… It’s no wonder people are confused and don’t know what to eat.  Anyways, that’s for another blog post.

I have realized in the last couple of years that I really don’t like store-bought granola bars.  In fact, I find them quite expensive and well, they don’t taste good, at all!

I do, however, love the chewiness of oats combined with a warm spice like cinnamon, crunchy toasted nuts and seeds, and the sweetness of dried fruit and honey to tie it all together.  So I started making my own, and here’s how I make them:

Pecan Granola Bars
Makes: 24 bars

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped (you can use other nuts you have on hand)
2 cups of chopped dried fruit (I used raisins and cranberries)
1 cup whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 lb (1 stick) butter unsalted, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 13×9-inch baking dish with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, pecans, and dried fruit.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey.  Using an electric mixer beat until light and fluffy, and then add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until all is combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture.  Add oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

Press the mixture evenly into the baking dish.  Bake until the top is golden and the edges are lightly brown, about 25 minutes.

The bars will be very soft straight out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.  Cool completely on wire rack then cut into bars.

* They will keep up to 10 days stored at room temperature in air tight container.  Or freeze some for a rainy day.

Enjoy!

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

Local and in Season: Berry Smoothie in February

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IMG_2344Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Melissa’s lost her marbles… berries are not local nor are they in season at this time of year”. Well not in this part of the world anyway, but this smoothie is made from local and seasonal berries.  No, I am not growing my own berries indoors in my little sun-filled den… although, I wish I could, but rather thanks to my freezer and a wonderful local winery.

Stocking up on berries is something I typically do every year.  Berry season explodes in the summer months here and I absolutely love it.  My sister and I usually get together and drive out to some local farms just south of Vancouver, buckets and bowls in hand, and head out into the fields to pick berries at the peak of their freshness.  Of course when I get home with my 10 pounds of berries, there’s only so many blueberry pancakes that can be made (and I’m not a great baker), so I end up stocking my freezer to have a steady supply for the months ahead.  When my frozen berry stock runs low (which is right about this time of year), I buy a box of local frozen blueberries from a winery in Richmond.

I make the following recipe all the time.  I know what you’re thinking again, “it’s a little cold outside to enjoy a frosty smoothie”, but last weekend was beautiful and sunny and I enjoyed this after a run.   I am currently training to do a half-marathon in June and I find that this smoothie is the ultimate post-run fuel.

How I make this:

1 – 11/2 cups frozen berries
1 banana (fresh or frozen and semi-thawed)
1 cup soy beverage or milk
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Place all ingredients into a blender and give it a go!

Wish me luck and enjoy 🙂

If you have a favorite smoothie recipe, please share.

A fabulous start to the day

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If you haven’t had steel-cut oats before, you have to try them!  The cooking time is longer than regular large flake and instant oats, but it’s totally worth it.  Of course I don’t make steel-cut oats when I’m scrambling in the morning, trying to get out the door in time.  Instead, I make a large batch on a Sunday afternoon, cool it and store it in an airtight container in the fridge, and there you have it, breakfast for the week.  Genius!

The best part of making steel-cut oats, is that there are endless possibilities to add flavour and personality.  I make mine with half milk half water and as the oats cook, they become thick and creamy.  I add raisins, and just before serving, chopped pecans.

Here’s a basic recipe to get you started and feel free to add fruit, nuts, seeds and warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

Steel-cut oats
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Ingredients

1 cup steel-cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups of milk
1 pinch of salt

How I make this

Bring the water and milk to a boil in a heavy medium-size saucepan.  Careful! When this starts to boil, it can make a mess really quickly if you’re not paying attention.

Add the oats and salt and lower the heat to low to bring it to a gentle simmer.  Cook for about 40 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add toppings and serve warm or cool and store in an airtight contain in the fridge.

Here’s to no more excuses for skipping breakfast!

I’m curious, what do you put in your steel-cut oats?

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

I ♥ PIZZA

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite things to eat is pizza.  I love it so much, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner… everyday!  I never get tired of it, which is kinda funny, because when I was little, I wasn’t that crazy about it, in fact, I didn’t really care for it at all.  Except for home-made pizza, now that was a different story.  When I was little, my family had pizza night every Friday.  My mom bought frozen pizza dough from the local grocery store, and let it rise on the counter-top during the day.  When everyone met up at home at the end of the day, the dough was ready to be rolled, we would chop the veggies, unwrap the pepperoni, grate the cheese and prepare the other toppings.  Sometimes there was dough leftover so my dad would make fresh Parmesan bread sticks.  Hmmm, so good!  My parents have pizza night still to this day, and when I’m visiting them in Québec, I always look forward to it.

Making pizza is super easy and it’s a great way to get the family around the table, and enjoy a meal together.  If you don’t have time to make your own dough, or still haven’t mastered it yet (like me), no problem, there are plenty of other options that are just as delicious. With pizza, you really don’t need a recipe, and that’s part of the fun, so today, I’m just giving you some tips on how to make the perfect pizza at home.

IMG_13531) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  A hot oven is the key to great crust and bubbly cheese.

2) For the dough, try using large whole wheat pita bread.  There’s a store near my apartment that sells pizza-size pita bread, which works wonderfully.  If you can’t find the large ones, use the small ones, which are great for individual pizzas.  You can also use naan bread or store-bought thin pizza crust.

3) Keep the toppings to a minimum, otherwise your pizza will get soggy in the oven if you load it with too much sauce and alot of veggies, and it won’t cook evenly.  Keep it simple, a good rule of thumb is 3 – 4 toppings including the cheese.

4) Cook or grill your veggies first.  This will add flavour to your pizza and minimize moisture.  For example, try grilling thinly sliced zucchini or peppers or sautéing mushrooms with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

5) Easy on the cheese.  More doesn’t necessarily mean better.  Spread it lightly and evenly.  To bring it to another level, use goat cheese or crumbled feta cheese.

6)  Top your freshly baked pizza with fresh herbs like basil or add a peppery flavour with a handful of fresh arugula.

7) Enjoy while it’s hot and with a glass of wine! Yum

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

Cold and rainy outside | Warm and sunny inside

Well summer is long gone and the fall has set in.  The days are getting shorter, there’s a crisp chill in the air, the colours of the leaves are stunningly bright and the rain has begun.  It’s funny because I always tell people that my favorite season is summer, but the more I think about it, when it comes to cooking a good meal, there’s no better time than the fall.  There’s nothing quite like eating a piping hot bowl of home-made soup with a hunk of crusty bread and a good cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, even though I enjoy all the goodness of fall cooking, I do enjoy a warm get-away when the winter gets long… or even when winter hasn’t yet begun, which was the case last year.  It was almost a year ago when the warm and sunny destination was Mexico for my friends Sheila and Shawn’s beach wedding in beautiful Puerto Vallarta.  The week was packed with meeting friends and family of the bride and groom, early morning yoga on the beach (I don’t even do yoga when I’m at home!), yummy cocktails on the sandy beach, and of course… food, food, food!  Needless to say, it was a memorable week and since a trip to Mexico is not in the cards in the near future, when I make this next recipe, it’s almost like I’m there… almost!

Enjoy and happy anniversary Sheila and Shawn.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients
Makes 6 – 8 servings

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast (or leftover cooked chicken)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
IMG_11381 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped canned green chilis
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups hot water
2-15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp cornmeal
5 whole corn tortillas, cut into uniform strips

Options for garnishes: sour cream, diced avocado, diced red onion, salsa, grated Monterey jack cheese, cilantro.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt.  Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil on chicken breast, then sprinkle a small amount of spice mix on both sides.  Set aside the rest of the spice mix.  Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until chicken is done.  Use two forks to shred chicken.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then add shredded chicken and stir.

Pour in tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more if needed—add more chili powder if it needs more spice, and be sure not to under salt. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before serving, gently stir in tortilla strips.

Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced red onion, diced avocado, pico de gallo, and grated cheese, if you have it! (The garnishes really make the soup delicious.)

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Photography by: Melissa LeBlanc

All Content © Everyday Nutrition, All rights reserved.
All Content © Everyday Nutrition, All rights reserved.