Mini Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes

Breaking Bland Eats

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! To celebrate, I’m sharing these adorable raspberry lemon cheesecakes with you, because what says love more than cheesecake? I originally developed this recipe for a pink-themed baby shower – they were such a hit. Valentine’s Day seemed to be the perfect excuse to reintroduce these cute, handheld, mini-desserts. Not only do they fit the Valentine’s Day colour scheme, they take a fraction of the time to cook versus making an entire cheesecake. I took my favourite cheesecake recipe, added some raspberry purée, fresh lemon zest to brighten up the flavour, and baked them into individual portions using muffin tins.  I was pleasantly surprised that the recipe fit perfectly into 24 muffin cups – it was meant to be!  Lining the muffin tins with paper liners makes for a quick cleanup and it is easy to get these cheesecakes out of the pan.

Graham Cracker Base

I used frozen raspberries in this recipe, because one;  it’s winter, and two;  it’s what I had on hand. Frozen berries are picked ripe and frozen right away, so often, they have a better flavour than buying fresh imported berries.  I like to keep a stock of frozen berries in my freezer since they make a quick and easy breakfast when mixed with yogurt and homemade granola, or when added to muffins, pancakes, or smoothies.  To make the raspberry purée, I cooked frozen raspberries with just a touch of sugar, puréed the mixture, then passed it through a fine mesh strainer to remove all the seeds.  You can also make this recipe with blueberry or blackberry purée resulting in a lovely purple-coloured cheesecake.

I hope you get to spend this weekend with your loved ones and these adorable mini-cheesecakes ♥

 

Mini-Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes

Mini Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes

Ingredients:

    • 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
    • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 3 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 3/4 cup raspberry purée (see recipe below)
    • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Combine graham crumbs and melted butter, divide evenly between all the paper liners (~2 tablespoons each). Using a small spoon press the graham cracker mixture down to form the base.
  3. Bake for 5-6 minutes, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Lower oven temp to 300F
  5. Prepare the filling: in a stand mixer beat the cream cheese, flour, and sugar together until very smooth, about 3 minutes – scraping down the sides often to ensure everything is evenly mixed and there are no lumps. Add the raspberry purée, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. You do not want to beat the mixture too much once the eggs are added, otherwise the cheesecake will rise too much and when it cools it may crack.
  7. Divide batter between the 24 muffin cups (~1/4 cup batter per muffin tin)
  8. Bake for 20-22 minutes, the cheesecake will be slightly puffed and will jiggle like Jell-O.  Note: If making a full cheesecake it will take between 60-70 minutes
  9. Allow the cheesecake to cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan before removing.
  10. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve, or freeze for later.  Serve with fresh berries or more raspberry purée.

Raspberry Puree:

1 12-oz bag frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

  1.  Combine frozen raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook the berries and sugar for about 5 minutes,  stirring occasionally until the berries are broken down and slightly thickened.
  3. Cool the mixture, then puree it in a blender.
  4. Using a fine mesh strainer and the back of a spoon, strain the sauce into a bowl to remove the seeds. Make sure that all that is left in the strainer is the seeds – it takes a little while to press all the puree through.


Mini-Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakse

 

Black Bean Turkey Chili

Black Bean Turkey Chili {Breaking Bland Eats}

 

I’m dreaming of warm California weather today.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re on day number ‘I’ve lost count’ of clouds & rain while my friends to the East are getting the snow storm of a lifetime. Back in November, my husband and I spent an amazing week touring around southern California, which of course included a day at Disneyland. Walking around the park there were a lot of great food choices but I took note of all the people eating hot chili in what we would consider summer weather. Everyone else was bundled in warm jackets and pants while we were sweating in t-shirts and shorts! We may also have been sweating from the 30,000 steps we took while running around the park trying to avoid the line-ups, but either way our definition of cold is clearly very different.

For me, chili is the ultimate winter food and is perfect for feeding a large group of people – say for an upcoming Super Bowl party? (or my bottomless-stomached husband). I like to make a big batch of chili when having friends over – once the chopping is done it becomes pretty hands-off as it cooks, allowing you to be with your guests rather than in the kitchen.  Then your guests or family members can create their own chili bowls by customizing the toppings.  You can also make chili a day or so in advance which is why this recipe has a permanent spot on my make-ahead dinner list.

I’ve been playing around with this recipe for some years now, mixing different types of beans and vegetables and have finally found the perfect combination.  Kale is the surprising ingredient in this chili, but I love how it stands up well to the long cooking time and also I’m happy whenever I can get something green into a meal.  If you want to make this chili vegetarian, which I often do, simply omit the ground turkey and add a second can of beans.

Hope you all are managing to stay warm.  Me, I’ve got a belly full of this chili!

Black Bean Turkey Chili {Breaking Bland Eats}

 

Black Bean Turkey Chili

Serves 6-8 people

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeños, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 10-12 button mushrooms, sliced (4 cups or ~8 oz)
  • 1 796ml can diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 1 796ml can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (2 cups)
  • 2 cups of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 540ml can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 bunch of kale, middle stem removed and leaves chopped.

Spices:

  • 2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Toppings:  green onions, cilantro, grated cheese, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, diced fresh tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, hot sauce, tortilla chips, cornbread….let your imagination run wild!

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a 5-quart dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add turkey and cook until no longer pink, ~5-7 minutes.
  2. To the turkey add diced onions, garlic, and jalapeños. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions begin to soften.
  3. Turn down the heat to medium and add the spices. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, cooking the spices in the oil will develop a deeper flavour and take away the raw spice taste.
  4. Next add the mushrooms, diced and crushed tomatoes. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  5. Add zucchini, black beans, corn, and kale. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasoning to taste and continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  At this point you can cover the chili and turn heat to low and keep cooking for up to a few hours – the longer it cooks the more flavour you will develop.

 

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup {Breaking Bland Eats}

I’m sitting here wearing my new fleece onesie (thanks hubby for the early xmas present), binge watching Netflix, with a box of kleenex at my side.  Yup,  I’m home sick today.  Luckily, I made this soup this past weekend while I still had energy.  Everything cooks together in one pot and blends the flavours of chicken stew with the earthiness of mushrooms and wild rice.  You can easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the chicken, which I accidentally did once and only realized when I sat down to dinner and there was no chicken! It was still delicious.  I’ve also made this soup using cooked chicken or turkey, so a great recipe to keep on hand for using up leftovers post thanksgiving or christmas dinner.

Cooking a big batch of soup or stew is one way to ensure you have healthy meals even if your busy schedule doesn’t allow time to cook each day.  Boy am I glad that I have these leftovers in my fridge for lunch today.

Going to keep this post short because I need to get back to watching my stories.

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cups of sliced cremini or button mushrooms
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cups of low sodium stock
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into small pieces.
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Sauté onions, mushrooms for 5-6 minutes stirring frequently until mushrooms begin to caramelize.  Add the carrots, celery, and garlic. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add wild rice, dried thyme, and water/stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Add diced chicken, milk, and parsley.  Cook for 5-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked and the rice is tender. If the soup is too thick you can add more milk to desired consistency.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

 

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup {Breaking Bland}

 

 

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Pumpkin Apple Muffin {Breaking Bland Eats}

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are changing colour and pumpkin is making an appearance everywhere.  I can’t help but jump on the pumpkin bandwagon every Fall.  But I’m not talking about pumpkin flavoured products, I’m taking about 100% pure pumpkin.  It’s one of my favourite Fall flavours and it is so versatile, especially if you keep cans of pumpkin purée in your cupboard. I love adding it into my morning oatmeal, or mixed into macaroni and cheese to add vegetables and a wonderful orange hue.   But, you can’t beat the flavour that pumpkin brings to baked goods.

These muffins combine the irresistible  flavours of pumpkin and cinnamon along with another of my Fall favourites, apples.  I had a bag of Honeycrisp apples on hand so that’s what I used today when the baking urge struck me, but feel free to substitute your own favourite apple variety in this recipe.    Grated apple helps to provide a touch of sweetness and moisture which keeps these muffins light and fluffy.  When I’m cooking or baking with apples I prefer to keep the peel on the apple because one, I hate waste, and two, it provides additional fibre and texture.  Plus, it saves time, who doesn’t love that?

Fall Colours

This photo was taken on a stroll around our neighbourhood this afternoon.  I can’t get over how pretty this time of year is or how wonderful my kitchen smells after baking a batch of these muffins!

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Recipe by Kirsten, makes 12 muffins.

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin purée (either canned or homemade)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 medium sized apple, grated (~1/2 cup grated)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

optional add ins: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts/pecans or pumpkin seeds.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
  3. Combine wet ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and stir until well combined.  If using optional add ins you can mix them into the wet ingredients now.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients  and then add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined, it’s ok to have some streaks of flour.
  5. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the centre of the muffin springs back when lightly touched.
  7. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Whole Grain Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Blueberries

Whole Grain Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Blueberries | Breaking Bland Eats

Breaking Bland Eats turns 2 years old today! I’m so thankful to everyone who reads these posts and for all the positive feedback I have received.  This blog was a way for me to keep and share my favourite recipes, and the fact that anyone actually reads, let alone makes, the recipes still amazes me.  So, thank you.

This past summer I’ve had to get creative with zucchini recipes since both my parents and in-laws have supplied us with an almost endless supply of zucchinis.   After making zucchini bread one day I thought the flavours would be perfect as a pancake.  So, I took my standby buttermilk pancake recipe and added grated zucchini and cinnamon. Then decided to add blueberries – because blueberries make everything better.

When making blueberry pancakes I like to add the blueberries individually to each pancake once they are on the griddle.  This way you get an even amount of blueberries in each pancake, and avoid those blue streaks that often result when you mix blueberries into a batter.  This technique also works well with bananas, chocolate chips, or any other addition you want in your pancakes.

Placing a cookie sheet in a preheated oven (~200F) will keep the cooked pancakes warm until the rest of the pancakes are ready.  This is especially helpful if you are doubling the recipe and serving a large crowd.   These pancakes retain their moisture and keep in the fridge for a few days, or you can freeze the pancakes and reheat in a toaster or toaster oven for a quick weekday breakfast option.

It can be confusing when looking at different flours or breads, what’s the difference between whole wheat, whole grain, and multigrain? First off be wary of anything that says “multigrain”.  Simply put, it means that more than one grain was used and often these grains are refined and have been stripped of their fibre and vitamins/minerals.  Make sure to look at the ingredient list, you want to see the word “whole grain”.  Whole grains are exactly as they sounds, the whole grain has been milled down to make flour, leaving all the nutrients intact.  Nutrition lesson over, time to celebrate with some pancakes!

Whole Grain Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Blueberries | Breaking Bland Eats

Don’t have zucchini on hand?  Grated apples make a great addition, simply replace the 2 cups of zucchini with 2 cups of grated apple.  Yum.

Whole Grain Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Blueberries

Makes 12 pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups of 100% whole grain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups of grated zucchini, ~1 large zucchini or 2 medium.
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla

1-2 cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.  Then stir in the grated zucchini.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined, lumps are ok!
  4. Ladle ~1/3 cup of batter per pancake onto a preheated skillet or cast iron pan, sprinkle blueberries on top, and allow the pancakes to cook until small bubbles are visible all over the surface of each pancake. Flip and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the centre of the pancake springs back to a light touch.
  5. Serve with maple syrup, a dollop of greek yogurt, and fresh blueberries.

*Tip: If you don’t have buttermilk simply add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar for each cup of milk you need.

Don’t have zucchini on hand?  Grated apples make a great addition, simply replace the 2 cups of zucchini with 2 cups of grated apple.  Yum.

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad | Breaking Bland EatsThey say moderation is the key to healthy eating.  Well, I seem to lack moderation when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer months.  To say that I bought too much fruit on our road trip this past weekend would be an understatement.  But how could I pass up 20 pounds of BC peaches for $12, or fresh sunrise apples, tree ripened prune plums, or field tomatoes? Plus, with all the local garden produce available right now I’ve been up to my ears (literally) with fresh fruit and produce lately.  But that’s a problem I don’t mind having, but I may have to invest in a second fridge…

One of my all time favourite salads is an Italian Caprese salad.  Sometimes the simplest of foods can be the most delicious.  I’ve taken the classic combination of fresh sliced tomatoes, basil, and bocconcini cheese (a type of small fresh mozzarella), and added juicy peaches and kale.  Don’t worry, this isn’t any old kale salad; take a look at these beautiful heirloom tomatoes and peaches. Breaking Bland Eats

 

Breaking Bland Eats The kale is simply dressed in some lemon juice and oil, which when massaged into the kale helps to tenderize the otherwise tough leaves. This salad makes a perfect side dish alongside grilled meat or it’s hearty enough to eat on its own for lunch or dinner. I’ve got the rest of those 20lbs of peaches to deal with and I’m thinking that my favourite peach pie would make a perfect dessert for this weekend.

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad

Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of kale, thick stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces (~6 cups)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large ripe peach, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup chopped basil, ~10 large leaves
150g (5 oz) bocconcini cheese, sliced or cubed depending on the size
drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar (or balsamic reduction)
salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. In a large salad bowl, combine chopped kale with lemon juice, oil, and a small amount of salt and pepper.  Massage by hand until all the leaves are coated.  Don’t worry about being gentle, the kale can handle it.
  2. Set the kale aside and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Before serving, top the kale with the peaches, tomatoes, bocconcini cheese, basil, and drizzle with  balsamic vinegar.

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad | Breaking Bland Eats

New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

New Potato and Green Bean Salad

New Potatoes are such a treat in the summertime.  They are small, freshly harvested potatoes, that have a natural sweetness, and hold their shape after cooking – making them a perfect potato to use in salads.  For this easy side dish, I’ve lightened up a summer favourite, -the classic potato salad.  A tangy lemon-dijon vinaigrette loaded with tons of fresh herbs make for a refreshing twist on the traditional mayo-based dressing. Plus, I’ve added some crunch with tons of green and yellow beans, fresh from my father-in-law’s garden!

Blanching the green beans is an essential step to help them keep their vibrant green hue. Simply boil water, add the green beans, boil for 2-4 minutes depending on their size, then submerge the green beans into an ice-bath (a large bowl filled with ice and some water).  This “shocks” the green beans and stops the cooking process, sealing in the bright green colour and crunch.  I also like to blanche broccoli whenever I make a broccoli salad or even when I assemble a veggie platter – everyone always asks how I got the broccoli to look so green, so now you know.

If you’ve been following my previous posts this tip will be a repeat. Whenever you make a grain, pasta, or potato salad, ALWAYS toss the starch with the dressing when the starch is still warm.  This way, as the starch cools down it will absorb all the flavours, rather than just coating the outside.

New Potato Salad with Green Bean and Basil

New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

Serves 6-8, as a side

2 lbs new potatoes, washed
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed, sliced into 1 inch pieces

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 green onions, sliced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook the new potatoes whole, for 12-15 minutes, or until a fork pierced into the potato comes out easily. Remove the potatoes from the water with a slotted spoon, and set aside to cool slightly – reserve the water to blanche the green beans.

2. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the sliced green beans and cook for 2-4 minutes.  Prepare the ice bath by combining ice and a bit of water in a large bowl.  Test one of the beans at 2 minutes to see if it’s cooked to your liking, if not, continue to cook in one minute intervals.  As soon as they are cooked, drain the beans in a colander, then quickly submerge into the ice bath.  Once the beans are cold, strain the beans and set aside to dry.

3.  While the potatoes are cooling, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, dijon, garlic, and salt and pepper.

4.  When the potatoes are cooled enough to handle, slice into rounds and toss with the vinaigrette in a medium bowl.  Add the green beans and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.

5.  Before serving, add the green onions, celery, basil, and parsley.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken with Warm Corn Salsa

Tequila Lime Chicken with Warm Corn Salsa

A few years ago, on our way back from Mexico, we decided to bring back a rather large bottle of tequila. I don’t know why we did this, maybe it was too much sun (or maybe too many drinks at the beach?), but at the time we thought it was a good idea. Fast forward 4 years and we still have a huge bottle of tequila sitting on our shelf.  In my attempt to slowly make our way through the bottle, without actually drinking it, I came up with this marinade for chicken.  It’s now my go-to whenever I need super flavourful chicken for a Mexican inspired meal.   It’s delicious on tacos, quesadillas, or as a topping for a nice salad.  I recommend getting the marinade started first, because you want to let the chicken soak up all the flavours for at least 30 minutes before you cook it.  While you are waiting, you can prep the rest of the ingredients for the warm corn salsa.

Speaking of warm corn salsa, it is absolutely addictive. Sweet, salty, spicy, and a little sour from the fresh lime juice. It really deserves it’s own blog post, but for today it will have to settle for sharing the spotlight with this grilled tequila lime chicken.

This is the perfect summer evening meal: it requires little prep, is bursting with fresh summer flavours, and utilizes the BBQ.  If like me, you aren’t lucky enough to have an outdoor BBQ, you can use a cast iron grill-pan or an electric grill.  Or in a pinch you can simply use a frying pan.  Any way you cook this chicken it will be delicious.

Tequila Lime Chicken | Breaking Bland Eats

Warm Corn Salsa | Breaking Bland Eats

Tequila Lime Chicken with Warm Corn Salsa

Serves 4, recipe by Kirsten

Chicken: 

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt and pepper

Warm Corn Salsa: 

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups of corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 medium sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (~2 cups), sliced
  • juice of one large lime (or 2 small limes)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • salt
  • pepper

Serve with sliced avocado and a nice green salad.

Directions:

For the chicken:

  1. Combine all the marinate ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. On a preheated grill, cook the chicken for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway, until chicken is no longer pink inside.
  3. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps to seal in all the wonderful juices.

For the salsa:

  1. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add the corn to the onion mixture, and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick.
  3. Next add the lime juice and chopped tomatoes.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, then mix in chopped cilantro and feta cheese.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

**If you are using this chicken for tacos, once it is cooked slice into bite-sized pieces, place into warmed tortilla shells, top with the corn salsa and some avocado, sour cream, and fresh lime juice. Yum.

Breaking Bland Eats

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad


Breaking Bland Eats

Having just returned from our honeymoon I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the bright tropical flavours we enjoyed while we were away. Luckily, I found a sale on perfectly ripe mangos the other day, and I knew I wanted to use them in a veggie-packed quinoa salad.

This salad is like summer on a plate. Filled with vibrant colours, sweet mango, coconut scented quinoa, and a refreshing lime dressing. Feel free to sub in your favourite vegetables or whatever you have on hand. I love using edamame beans (soybeans) in salads, as they provide a complete source of protein, which is great if you don’t eat meat or are just trying to use more vegetable protein sources.

One tip to turn bland quinoa into something delicious is to cook it in something other than just water. I usually like to sauté some onions and garlic first, then cook the quinoa in vegetable or chicken stock. However, for this recipe, I decided to do a play on coconut rice and used coconut milk instead of stock.  The coconut milk provides just a hint of coconut flavour and helps to keep the quinoa from drying out. Fresh lime juice and cilantro make a simple dressing for this salad, and helps to balance the sweetness of the coconut milk.

This recipe does requires a little bit of planning ahead, since you want the quinoa to be cooled completely before you assemble the salad. A speedy way to do this is to spread the quinoa out on a plate or shallow dish when its hot. This increasing the surface area and allows the quinoa to cool much faster. At this point, you can place the quinoa in the fridge and start prepping the rest of the ingredients.  Speaking of prepping mangos, I recently saw this amazing life hack on how to peel a mango, you can see the video here.  Life changing isn’t it?

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad

Recipe by Kirsten.  Serves 4 (main dish) or 6-8 (side dish).

For the quinoa:

  • ½ cup dried quinoa
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk*

For the salad:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans, cooked and cooled
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium carrot, grated or julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of two large limes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • mixed salad greens (to serve).
  1.  In a medium pot bring coconut milk to a boil, add the quinoa, cover with a lid, and reduce to low heat.
  2. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat, and let the quinoa to rest for 5 minutes. Allow the quinoa to cool completely– see tip above if you are pressed for time.
  3. To assemble the salad, in a large bowl mix the cooled quinoa with the rest of the ingredients except the salad greens.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and more lime juice if needed.
  5. Serve the salad over a bed of mixed salad greens either as a main course or as a side dish to grilled fish or chicken.

* You can freeze the leftover coconut milk and use it at a later time in your favourite curries, stir-fries, or blended into fruit smoothies.

 

Cocoa Nib Brownies

Cocoa Nibs + Brownies
As a dietitian, I value eating healthy. Luckily, part of eating healthy is indulging every once and a while. These brownies are my go-to when I want something sweet and delicious. The only thing healthy about these brownies is how happy you will feel when you eat them. I’ve made these brownies for a couple of gatherings over the past few months and they have caused the same reaction – everyone asks me for the recipe! So I’m here to share my recipe to ensure you always end up with the most decadent fudge-y brownies; completed with a glossy, sugar topping. Trust me, you don’t need icing, they are rich enough on their own.

Three different types of chocolate go into creating the wonderful balance in this recipe – dark cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and crunchy cocoa nibs.

Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa nibs are roasted cocoa beans which have been chopped into small pieces.  They are bitter and crunchy and are great as a topping on yogurt or oatmeal (chocolate oatmeal – yes please!). My preference is to surround them in this rich brownie batter.  Cocoa nibs are more of a specialty item, so if you have trouble finding them you can always substitute chopped walnuts or pecans to add a similar texture.

The recipe is really easy to put together as it’s all made in one pot. You start by melting the butter and sugar together; this is the secret to achieving that beautiful crispy top sugar layer. After the sugar starts to dissolve you will need to let mixture cool down slightly before you add the eggs. Nobody wants scrambled eggs in their brownies.

Finally, whatever you do, DO NOT OVERCOOK the brownies.  This is how you achieve that fudge-y, almost truffle-like texture. No cake brownies here. You’ll know the brownies are ready when the edges are puffed and set, but the centre should still be gooey.

You will need to be patient and let the brownies cool and have a chance to set before you try to cut into them. Waiting for them to cool is the hardest part, but a very necessary step. Cutting them too soon will leave you with a brownie disaster on your hands.   These brownies are rich so I usually cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces, but most people go back for seconds!

 

Cocoa Nibs Brownies

 

Cocoa Nib Brownies

Recipe by Kirsten.  Makes one 9×13 pan.

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper or foil.
2. In a large sauce pan, melt butter and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar starts to dissolve, about 3-5 minutes.  Set aside to cool while you gather the other ingredients.
3. Add one egg at a time to the sugar/butter mixture, and stir after each addition. Next stir in the vanilla and cocoa powder until you get a glossy and smooth batter.
4. Into the chocolate mixture add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until you get a smooth, lump free mixture. Then stir in the chocolate chips and cocoa nibs (or nuts if using).
5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared 9×13 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
6.  Allow brownies to cool and set before cutting. Enjoy!