Maple Coconut Granola

Maple Coconut GranolaI love granola and I used to make it all the time. But as with my homemade yogurt making, it fell to the wayside over this past crazy year. One of my favourite weekday breakfasts includes this homemade granola, Greek yogurt, and some seasonal fruit.  And a coffee, don’t forget the coffee.

Sure, there are hundreds of varieties of granola in the store you can buy – but trust me this homemade version is way better and it’s really simple to make.  Also, have you ever looked at how much sugar is in some of those store bought granolas? I like my granola less sweet and with a lot more extras. This recipe is extremely customizable; use whatever nuts or seeds, dried fruit, or whole grain flakes you like. When I was in my granola making heyday, I made sure my cupboard was stocked with different kinds of whole grain flakes, from my trusty oatmeal, to barley, quinoa, or spelt flakes.

In this latest batch I added shredded coconut, maple syrup, and some unsweetened dried cranberries for something a little tart. Walnuts, ground flax seeds, and my latest obsession, hemp hearts, provide a triple punch of Omega-3’s. Most of us don’t get enough of these essential fatty acids in our diet. If you are using flax seeds make sure to buy the ground flax seeds, otherwise your body won’t absorb those beneficial Omega-3’s.

The grains, nuts, and seeds become slightly candied in the oven and are deliciously addictive. I suggest adding the dried fruit at the end, once the granola has had a chance to bake; otherwise you’ll end up with very hard, potentially bitter pieces in your granola. No one wants that. If you like your granola with lots of granola clusters don’t stir it as often, or if you like it broken-up, stir it more often.

Maple Coconut Granola 2

Maple Coconut Granola

Ingredients: 

4 cups of rolled oats or mixture of whole grain flakes.
½ cup unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)
½ cup shelled hemp hearts
¼ cup ground flax seeds
½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup chopped or slivered almonds
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped cashews

½ cup of your favourite oil*
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup dried unsweetened cranberries (a little harder to find but I love the tartness these add)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F.
2. In a large bowl mix together all ingredients, except the vanilla and dried cranberries. Mix well.
3. Line two rimmed cookie sheets or 9×13 pans with parchment paper. Split granola between the two pans.
4. Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring the granola every 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle vanilla over the warm granola, this will add a wonderful scent to the granola. Set aside to cool.
6. Once cooled, mix in dried cranberries and seal in an airtight container.

* note if using coconut oil you may need to heat the oil briefly so that it becomes liquid.

10 Minute Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Pops

Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Pops
My sister-in-law over at Maman Loup’s Den gave me my Christmas present a little early this year – a Zoku Quick Pop Maker.  My present came with one condition; I had to come up with a recipe so that she could review the product.   We both have a mutual love of all things pumpkin spiced so I decided to make a healthy popsicle using greek yogurt,  pure pumpkin puree, and crushed gingersnaps for a little crunch.

Go check out her blog for the recipe and to see just how easy it is to make popsicles in 10 minutes.

http://mamanloupsden.com/2014/12/20/zoku-quick-pop-maker-review-greek-yogurt-pumpkin-pops-recipe/

I can’t wait to test out more recipes.  Thanks for the Christmas present Lindsay!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday Season.

Turkey Congee (Savoury Rice Porridge)

Turkey Congee

Sorry for the hiatus.
It’s been a busy past few months, including two wonderful weddings – one of which was my own!  I’m happy to be back in the kitchen and excited to use all of our new wedding gifts and matching cookware.  I feel like such a grown-up.
My first introduction to congee was a few years ago at one of my husband’s bi-monthly family dinners.  A few times a year, Popo (grandma in Chinese) makes a huge vat of turkey Jook, another name for congee.   Congee is a popular Asian rice soup made by cooking rice in water or stock until it has broken down to a porridge consistency.  At first I have to say that I was not overly fond of its bland taste but saw the potential to spice it up.
As the the name of this blog would suggest, I’m all about breaking bland so I had to try making my own version.  Loaded with lots of fresh ginger, turkey or chicken, and a variety of delicious toppings, this meal is now on my comfort food rotation.   I like to add sautéed mushrooms and bok choy, because for me, a meal isn’t complete unless its got veggies! Congee is a great way to use leftover roast turkey, say after Thanksgiving or Christmas – and it freezes well, so why not double the recipe?
Don’t tell Popo, but I like my version best, shhhh….

Turkey Congee

Serves 4-6 people, recipe by Kirsten

1 cup of long-grain white or brown rice (pictured above is with white rice)
3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
8 cups of homemade turkey stock (or 4 cups store bought stock + 4 cups of water)
1 cup of cooked, shredded turkey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Toppings: choose as many as you like
– chopped green onions
– cilantro
– chopped peanuts
– sautéed mushrooms
– steamed bok choy
– crunchy chow mein noodles
– soy sauce
– Sriracha or other hot sauce
– sesame oil
– soft poached egg

Directions:

1. Place rice, ginger, and  stock in a large soup pot.  Bring to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the cooked turkey and cook for another 15 minutes or until the rice has broken down* and resulted in a thick creamy soup. If the soup is too thick you can add some water, 1/2 cup at a time, until you reach a desired consistency.
3.  Add salt, sugar, and rice vinegar.  Adjust seasoning to taste.
4. Serve immediately with toppings of choice.

 

*If using brown rice you will find it takes longer to breakdown than the white rice.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

If you’re in need of an easy, ultra decadent, no-bake dessert I have the perfect recipe for you.  I made this dessert for a good friend’s birthday and everyone asked me to share the recipe, so here it is.  It’s almost embarrassing how simple it is to prepare.  Basically you throw all the ingredients together in a food processor and then pour into a pre-baked graham cracker crust.  The hardest part is probably waiting for the pie to set.  If you don’t have a blender/food processor you can always whisk the ingredients together by hand, but it may take a little while longer.

This pie filling has a surprise ingredient…..silken tofu! But trust me, you won’t be able to taste the tofu at all, so all you tofu haters out there please don’t stop reading here. Tofu’s flavour is fairly neutral and in this recipe it helps create a wonderful silky smooth texture, and helps the filling keep it’s shape.

This is a very rich dessert so a small piece will usually suffice. I think next time I’ll top it with some chopped peanuts for an added crunch or maybe some sliced bananas.


Chocolate Peanut Butter (Tofu) Pie

Serves 12+ people.

1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons melted butter

1 300g package silken (or soft) tofu
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Prepare the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter.  Stir until evenly mixed.  Press into a 9 inch spring form pan or pie dish making sure to create a crust up the sides to hold the filling.
2. Bake crust at 375F for 8-10 minutes of until edges start to brown.  Set aside to cool.
3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring frequently until completed melted.
4. Prepare the filling in your food processor by mixing the silken tofu and maple syrup together.  Blend on high for 1-2 minutes.  Next add peanut butter and melted chocolate and salt.  Mix on high for another 1-2 minutes or until evenly mixed
5. Poor filling into the cooled crust, smooth top with the back of a spatula, and place in fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the filling to set.
6. This pie can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

Whole Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Chickpea Salad with Fresh Mint and Greek Yogurt Dressing

 

Chickpea salad with fresh mint and greek yogurt - BBEIt’s reached that time of year again.  It’s officially too hot to use any appliance in our small, one-bedroom apartment.  Dinner-sized salads have edged out comforting soups and stews on my dinner rotation.  I came home from work needing something quick to eat.  Since I didn’t have any leftover protein in the fridge, I went to my trusty cupboard and grabbed a can of chickpeas. These little beans pack a punch of protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as heart healthy fibre. You’ve heard me talk about fibre before and for good reason.  Most of us simply don’t get enough! By adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and these versatile legumes into your diet, you can easily boost the amount of fibre you eat.

This salad has all the key ingredients of a delicious and satisfying meal-sized salad; crunchy vegetables, tangy dressing, protein-packed chickpeas and a burst of flavour from the lemon and fresh herbs.  I can already picture this salad going perfectly alongside grilled meat or fish, or even wrapped in a tortilla for a quick lunch.

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Spot Prawn Linguine

Spot Prawn Linguine

Growing up I disliked 4 things: peppers, pineapple, pork, and prawns. Maybe I just had a thing against foods that started with ‘P’??

Up until a few years ago, I had only been exposed to those frozen prawn rings, you know the ones with the cocktail sauce? They seemed to make an appearance every Christmas and I just assumed that all prawns tasted like that.  Boy was I wrong.  Spot prawns are in a completely different league and are nothing like the watery prawns of my childhood. They have a wonderful firm texture and a delicate sweetness.  It’s safe to say that I have been converted.

Sunshine Coast Sunset

Gorgeous sunset from our deck

I’m extremely fortunate to have parents that live on BC’s Sunshine Coast.  For the past few years my vacations have consisted of relaxing ocean side and enjoying fresh seafood. Some days we are fortunate enough to catch the seafood ourselves! Each April, before the commercial fishing opens, we try to catch as many Spot Prawns as we can and freeze them to be enjoyed throughout the year.

You can buy fresh BC Spot Prawns between May-June. Spot prawns are caught in traps and hand-picked from those traps, a practice which keeps the fishery sustainable, but also makes these little critters quite expensive.  One tip when preparing the prawns is to use scissors to cut a slit down the back of each prawn. This makes peeling easier once they are cooked, and allows you to easily remove the vein (of poop).  If you want you can peel them before cooking, but I think they look pretty with their shells on.

BC Spot Prawns

Freshly caught BC Spot Prawns

This easy pasta dish really showcases the natural flavour of the Spot Prawns and is simply dressed with garlic, lemon, and a little heat from chili flakes.  Plus, as always, I’ve added tomatoes and spinach for a punch of veggies. If you can’t find Spot Prawns you can substitute your favourite fish or seafood.  I often make this dish using salmon and it’s equally as delicious.

Spot Prawn Linguine

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4

454g linguine noodles
20 Spot Prawns, deveined, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste.
1 pint of cherry tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped.
2 large handfuls of spinach
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 to 2 cups of reserve pasta water
Salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions in salted boiling water.  Reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.
2.  While the pasta is cooking, melt butter with olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and tomatoes and cook until tomatoes soften and begin to release their juices 3-5 minutes.
3. Add prawns and cook until they turn pink, about 2 minutes.  Do not over cook.
4. Add lemon juice, zest, and spinach to the prawns and cook until spinach wilts.
5. Mix together cooked pasta and prawn mixture, if it seems dry add small amounts of the reserved pasta water until desired consistency.
6. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry Pecan Crackers

Cranberry Pecan Crackers {Breaking Bland Eats}

I’m breathing a sigh of relief today.  This past weekend we hosted a dinner party for 17 people in our cozy one-bedroom apartment. Why would we have 17 people over for dinner you may be asking yourself? Well, Sean met some amazing (and competitive) friends at school and they decided to start their own version of Dinner Party Wars. We take turns hosting a themed dinner party, complete with a 3 course meal, a signature cocktail, and a game.  Sounds crazy but it’s a lot of fun.  Plus the golden spatula is at stake – ok I’m a little competitive as well!

There are many different recipes for these copy-cat ‘Raincoast Crisp’ crackers floating around the internet, probably because they are so easy to make and you’ll impress your friends when you tell them you made crackers from scratch. Bonus, you can customize the ingredients and with the addition of whole grain flour and nuts and seeds they are a lot healthier than most store bought crackers on the market.

These crackers are super easy to make, but require a little planning in advance since they are baked twice like biscotti. It’s important that you allow the loaves to cool completely before you attempt to slice them into crackers prior to the second baking. I let the loaves dry out for a day or two on the counter, or if you are pressed for time you can freeze the loaf and slice them straight out of the freezer.  Trust me, don’t try to slice them when they are freshly baked, you’ll end up with very thick crackers. The thinner you can slice the crackers the crispier they will be.

Ok back to our dinner party.  I make these crackers as an appetizer and served them with a lemon-rosemary-olive oil marinated goat cheese and our signature cocktail. To say they were a hit would be an understatement. So, as requested by my dinner guests, here is the recipe complete with some options for making different flavours.

Cranberry Pecan Crackers

Recipe adapted from (Dinner with Julie), makes 2 loaves or ~ 8 dozen crackers.

Dry Ingredients
2 cups whole grain flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Wet Ingredients
2 cups buttermilk*
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses

Add-ins
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup hemp hearts or sesame seeds
1/4 cup  ground flax seed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or dried herb of your choice

* Note: if you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by adding 2 tablespoon of lemon juice/vinegar to 2 cup of milk, allow to sit for a few minutes.

 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients, then slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Next stir in the add-ins of your choice.
4. Divide the batter into the two prepared loaf pans.
5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown and the centre of the loaves springs back.
6.  Allow the loaves to cool completely.  I leave them on the counter for a day or two to dry out or you can pop them into the freezer to speed up the process.

Fast forward…..

7. When you are ready to do the second baking, preheat the oven to 300° F.
8. Thinly slice the loaves using a serrated or bread knife – The thinner the better.  If you’ve frozen the loaves you can slice them directly out of the freezer.
9. Arrange the slices face up on an cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping the crackers half way.  They should be nicely toasted and completely dried.
10.  Allow the crackers to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Cranberry Pecan Crackers

Cranberry Pecan Loaf – after the first baking.  Looks pretty delicious already!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cranberries and Toffee

This is going to be a big year for me.  I’m running my first 10 km race, writing an exam, and getting married! But right now, I’m taking a break from all the studying/wedding planning/training to share this delicious cookie recipe with you. I can confidently say that these are the BEST oatmeal cookies; I know it’s a bold statement but these cookies are deserving of the title.  The recipe starts out with a basic oatmeal cookie recipe, to which I’ve added, tart dried cranberries, bittersweet chocolate chips, and finally toffee pieces to make them a truly delicious and addictive cookie.  

The secret for achieving super chewy cookies is to take them out of the oven when the cookies are just starting to brown on the edges and are still doughy in the middle. Allow the cookies to set on the cookie sheet for a least 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. The cookies will continue to bake and firm up on the cookie sheet, so don’t worry if they look underdone when you pull them out of the oven.

These cookies can be frozen after baking, but I prefer to freeze the raw cookie dough into balls and keep them in a freezer safe bag. That way I can make freshly baked gooey cookies whenever I need them – say if I need a quick dessert to bring to a pot-luck or if unexpected guests show up. It also helps with portion control. Most cookie recipes have quite large yields and with just two of us at home we don’t need 2-3 dozen cookies tempting us on the counter!  When ready to bake, simply place the frozen cookie dough balls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and allow them to thaw on the counter for 5-10 minutes. Cook at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the original recipe.

The Best Oatmeal Cookies

Aka Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cranberries and Toffee.
Recipe by Kirsten, makes ~3 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal – I used a combination of quick and large flake oatmeal
1 ½ cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup toffee bits
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Beat butter with brown and white sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until combined.
  4. Add oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, beat until well combined.
  5. By hand stir in chocolate chips, dried cranberries and toffee pieces.
  6. Portion dough into 1 ½ inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet, ensuring you leave about 2 inches between cookies to allow the cookies to spread out.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookies are brown on the edges and just starting to get golden on top.
  8. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.

Raw cookie dough ready for the oven (or freezer!).

Thai Chicken Corn Chowder

Thai Chicken Corn Chowder | Breaking Bland EatsCold and flu season has hit our family pretty hard over the past few weeks, and they say nothing cures a cold like chicken soup, right? Well, this is my (somewhat loose) interpretation of a classic chicken soup mixed with one of my favourite dishes – red curry.  This sweet and spicy soup gives you a good dose of vegetables and is sure to help clear those sinuses! Red curry paste, frozen corn, and a tin of coconut milk make this a quick, one pot dinner. You know me, I’m always looking for ways to add more vegetables, so I used sweet potato and spinach in this soup, but you can play around with different vegetable combinations or even make it vegetarian by leaving out the chicken.

Kaffir lime leaves are a common ingredient in Thai cooking as well as many other Southeast Asian cuisines.  You can find them fresh or frozen in most Asian food stores and I’ve even spotted them at my local chain grocery store. They add a wonderful lime fragrance and they also freeze well, so it’s worth getting your hands on some if you love Thai cooking.  If you can’t find them, you could substitute 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lime zest, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.

Hope you are managing to stay healthy!

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Thai Chicken Corn Chowder

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced into 4 round pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes.
1-2 tablespoons of red curry paste, to taste
1 tin of coconut milk
4 cups of water
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or soya sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 kaffir lime leaves

2 skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups of frozen corn kernels
4 cups of packed fresh spinach
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
juice of one lime 

Directions

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
2. Add ginger, sweet potato, and red curry.  Start with 1 tablespoon,  you can add more later if you want it spicier. Stir until vegetables are evenly coated with the curry paste.
3. Next add the coconut milk, water, fish sauce, sugar, salt and kaffir lime leaves.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
4.  Add chicken and frozen corn, cook for another 10 minutes.  Once chicken is cooked and the sweet potatoes are tender, remove the 4 pieces of ginger and kaffir lime leaves.
5. Stir in spinach, lime juice, and cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasoning prior to serving.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans.jpg

Happy New Year everyone! We had a busy Christmas this year with lots of family and friend get togethers, which meant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but don’t get me wrong I enjoyed ever minute of it.   This salad was my contribution to an after Christmas potluck dinner.  It was the perfect side dish to offset all the rich food we’d been eating over the holidays.  Even my sister-in-law, who doesn’t like fruit in her salad, ate all of the leftovers!

Fennel Bulb

Do you ever cook with fennel? Personally, I think it’s an under-appreciated vegetable, probably because many people don’t know what to do with it.  Fennel has a mild anise, or licorice flavour, and is extremely versatile.  The white bulb can be eaten raw, like in the salad recipe below, or it can be cooked along with the tougher green stalks into pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any recipe which calls for onions or celery. You can use the wispy green fronds as a fresh herb on baked salmon or tossed into salads for a faint licorice flavour.

 To prepare the fennel, remove the green stalks from the white bulb.  Slice the bulb into quarters and remove the hard inner core.  If your recipe calls for sliced fennel you can use a mandolin or simply slice diagonally with a sharp knife.  For a nice side dish try cutting the fennel into 1 inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.Julienned Carrots and Apple

To add texture to this salad I decided to julienne the vegetables, which is a fancy term for creating match stick shapes. For carrots, slice diagonally into long ovals, place each oval flat side down, and cut into long strips. Use the same technique for the apples.

Image

Candied pecans are an extra special addition to this salad and are easy to make at home. A lot of recipes I’ve found require using an oven, but my go-to recipe uses only the stove and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I’ve included the basic recipe below, but try experimenting with different flavours such as cinnamon, cumin, or add some heat with cayenne and black pepper.   The recipe makes more than enough pecans for this salad, so keep the extras in an air-tight container for use at a later time.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

Candied Pecans: 
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon water
optional add ins: pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin etc.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 large apple, julienned or grated
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
½ red onion, sliced
Half of a 10oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup candied pecans

Directions

For the candied pecans: In a small pot or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add brown sugar, nuts, water and add-ins if using.   Stir constantly for 5 minutes until sugar is melted and nuts are evenly coated, be careful not to burn the sugar or nuts. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and taste, add more as needed.  Add sliced fennel, apple, carrot and red onion to the dressing and stir to coat.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soak up the dressing.  This can be prepared a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. The acidity from the dressing will keep the apples from browning.

When you are ready to serve the salad, add the spinach, feta and candied pecans to the fennel/dressing mixture and toss lightly until combined.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.