Thursday, 24 February 2011

Quinola: The Healthy Breakfast of Champions

I came up with this recipe about a year ago, when I was going to the gym and working out hard before my wedding. I never ate breakfast, and my trainer, Dylan, would always get on my case to eat a breakfast full of protein and good fats and complex carbs that would sustain me and jumpstart my metabolism. Until then, I never ate breakfast, and wouldn't usually eat anything until lunch time, where I would get a little nutty and eat whatever I could get my hands on (often not healthy and too much). 

I like minimal effort, especially in the morning-hense the no breakfast. I came up with this one day playing in the salad bar of my local beloved Whole Foods. It's delish, full of textures, flavours, omega's, protein and it's warm and hearty and sticks to your ribs to get you through the morning without loud stomach growling sounds interrupting your meetings with important people. Yes, it's happened to me-Awkward! 

Now, you can make this at Whole Foods, or you can make it at home. It'll be cheaper to make at home... but Whole Foods is pretty, and way less effort. You take your pick!

You can mix things up and put in whatever you like, it's up to you!

In a container, layer the following ingredients:
Cooked Quinoa (red, white, both, whatever you can get. I usually mix both-They both taste pretty much the same so I don't discriminate)
Raw Pecans (like one scoop or so)
Raw Almond Slivers (like one scoop or so)
1/2 scoop of dried black currants
1/2 scoop of dried cranberries
1/2 scoop of raisins
1 T cinnamon
1 to 2 T ground flax seeds (or more, whatever)
1 T Brown, Demerara, or Turbinado Sugar (or not, whatever-this is to your taste)

Mix it up and separate into containers for your breakfast for the week. Refrigerate. 

You can do this ahead of time before you toss the containers in the fridge, or in the moment you plan on eating it, add some milk (I use Almond Milk) just enough to cover your "Quinola". I found that by adding it ahead of time, my Quinola was tastier with all those flavourings marrying together. The dried fruit would plump up and the whole thing tastes so yum! It also reduces a step in the morning! Pouring milk into this while half asleep and cranky can get messy! Or is that just me?

When you're ready to eat, microwave it for a minute or less until it's hot enough for you and enjoy! This stuff is filling so you don't need too much! If you use a sweetened Almond, Soy or Rice milk, omit the sugar as there will be more than enough sweetness from the fruit and the milk. 

This could be great with blueberries... apples... bananas... whatever you feel like. Just know that adding fresh fruit reduces the shelf life in your fridge. 

Let me know if you made this, what you decided to change up and what you thought! I love hearing new ideas!


Porto-Yummo Mushrooms

So the story goes like this: Last summer, My hubby Dennis, his mom Maria, his brother Michael, Michael's wife Amy, my Mom, my Best Friend Allie, her mom Susan and Allie's Boyfriend Mark all went out to Dinner and Cirque du Soleil (a mother's day gift from us kids to our moms). We ate at Milestones for an early dinner. I can't even begin to remember what any of us ate that night, but I do remember Michael ordered a side of Portobello Mushrooms. 

He took one bite and exclaimed, in his loudest, funniest, most excited voice: "Ooooohhhhh Yoooouuuuu wouldn't BUUHHHH-LEEEEEVE how good this is!"A statement Dennis has uttered way too many times in the same funny and borderline irritating manner; both as a way to lovingly mock his big brother, and as a way to exclaim his love for whatever he's eating-generally involving some variety of mushrooms. This is generally followed by: "Why don't you ever make Portobello Mushrooms?!!?"

You see, Dennis never ate his veggies until I came along. I introduced him to the usual suspects, carrots, greek salad, caesar salad, corn, mushrooms, among others. The meaty nature of mushrooms was an easy win for him. I've often sauteed mushrooms (see Pizza recipe below) for many meals, as a delish side dish. 

2 giant Portobello Mushrooms came home with me on a recent shopping trip at my favourite grocery store. I had leftover stuff from the pizza I made the week before and I started to get some ideas.... Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms!!! I was a little unsure of what I was doing, and I pretty much decided the ingredients on the fly. 

If you decide you want to make this, please know it's not a science, but rather an experiment in flavour combinations. What I did is just an experiment, albeit a successfully tasty one! Get crazy! Put things together that you like to eat together (Tomato Sauce, Pepperoni, Mozzarella? Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Zucchini and Bocconcini?-Whatever you decide, please let me know so I can try your ideas too!!!) 

The Portobello Mushroom is like a flavour vehicle, and you decide who the tasty passengers are going to be for the delicious ride!

In the words of my dear sweet brother in law, Michael Damjanovic, "Oooooohhhhhh Yooooouuuuuuu wouldn't BUUHHHH-LEEEEEVE how good this is!"

Preheat your oven to 400F

Caramelized Onions
1 Medium Sized Sweet Onion, cut into thin strips
a small splash of Canola Oil
Hot pan

reduce the heat to mediumish and move the onions around occasionally until they wilt down and turn brown and caramelized

Applewood Smoked Bacon
Bacon, cut into small pieces into a pan on medium-medium high heat until the fat has rendered off and the bacon bits are crispy. drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside. Take out the fat into a bowl.

Chop up the stems from the Portobello Mushrooms into little bits
Chop up a small bunch of green onions
Throw both into the pan from the bacon, maybe add a few drops of the fat if things are sticking
Add chopped walnuts and black pepper.
Mix around til it's hot
Add a handful or two of bread crumbs (I added gluten free bread crumbs)
Mix through this everything in incorporated
Toss it into a bowl and set aside to cool

Mushroom Caps
2 Portobello Mushroom Caps, sans stems, brushed lightly with EVOO and put on a super hot grill pan, rounded side down to get some grill marks and cook it a bit. turn over after maybe 5 or so minutes to get marks on the other side

Stuffing (Part Deux)
While your Mushroom Caps are on the grill pan, get the rest of your stuffing incorporated:
Into the bowl you set aside, add the onions, the dry crispy bacon bits, a splash of Balsamic Vinegar and a bit of Goat Cheese Crumbles. Set the bowl aside until you're ready to assemble

Assemble Your Stuffed Mushrooms
Take the mushroom caps, rounded side down and pack down and pile the stuffing you had set aside. Top with a little bit more goat cheese crumbles and shredded mozza (I used Goat Mozza)

Bake & Broil
Bake in your oven until the cheese is bubbly. Then switch your oven to broil to get some colour.

Serve with some brown rice, wild rice, salad, whatever you feel like! I ended up made a salad dressing out of leftover ingredients and tossed it with some romaine as the costar on my plate. 


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Seriously Craving PIZZA!

Pizza- the favourite food of kids, teens, adults and Ninja Turtles alike! Who wouldn't love a bready crust layered with tangy tomato sauce and goey stringy cheese?! SO comforting, tasty and full of lactose and gluten... :o( boooo!

I discovered these Kinnickinnack frozen pizza crusts in my freezer section at Whole Foods (also available at Superstore). They are square shaped and come in a box of four par-baked crusts. Weary as I am to try anything GF, I decided to be adventurous and break them out of my freezer to subdue my craving for the cheesy delight.

Generally, my favourite pizza is plain cheese-I like to keep it simple-but I was concerned though that if these crusts were yucky, I would need a plethora of toppings to cover up the questionable taste and texture. Everyone at work has been talking about BBQ Chicken Pizza lately, so I decided to go for it and make the yummiest BBQ Chicken Pizza I could make, full of tasty toppings so I could forget the possibly yucky crust I was eating!

As it turned out, the Pizza Crust was AMAZING! how could I ever question the quality of Kinnickinnack products?! Their chocolate chip cookies were so good when I tried then I was actually convinced they were lying about the Gluten Free-ness of them!

Here's how I made it:

First, I got my toppings together-most of them needed cooking before I started assembling the pizzas.

BBQ Chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts seared lightly in a hot pan with a few tablespoons of  BBQ sauce poured over the chicken and then some water poured over that to poach the chicken. Keep spooning the BBQ/Water sauce mixture over the chicken and move it around in the pan while the BBQ mixture reduces. When you're ready and the chicken is cooked and the sauce is reduced, cut up/shred up the chicken on a cutting board, mix back into the sauce mixture and set it aside til you're ready for it.

Caramelized Onions
Half a giant sweet onion cut into thin strips placed into a hot pan with a touch of canola oil. Let it get some colour and move it around the pan. Cover it, reduce the heat and let it slowly caramelize. visit it every so often, mixing it around a bit to keep the colour consistent. Once it's where you want it to be, set it aside til you're ready for it.

Bacon Crumbles
4 slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon cooked in a hot pan til super crispy, drain on a paper towel. chop it up into little crumbles and set aside til you're ready for it. Pour out the bacon grease but leave the bacony-greased pan aside for the mushrooms.

Sauteed Mushrooms
clean, trim and slice up into 1/8" slices a small pack of Crimini mushrooms (or whatever you have). Throw them in the bacony-greased hot pan you used for the bacon. add fresh ground black pepper  and sautee over mid-high heat to get colour on it a bit. they will shrink up. NEVER ADD SALT TO SAUTEED MUSHROOMS!!! Salt draws out the water from the mushrooms and you'll end up with a soggy, soupy mess! Pepper is great, I also love dried tarragon if I'm making it as a side dish for chicken, beef... etc. Once you're happy with how the mushrooms look, set it aside til you're ready for it.

Prep the following into small bowls and set aside til you're ready for them:

1 Minced Shallot

1/2 Chopped Red Pepper

1/3 can of pineapple tid bits

BBQ Sauce and a basting brush

I shredded up some Goat Mozza and I had some Vegan Mozza shreds from Whole Foods I've been scared to use til now. I also got some Blue Cheese slices and alloted one slice per Pizza.

Assembly Time!
Using your basting brush (or spoon) cover the crusts with a thinner layer of BBQ sauce-The side with the cornmeal goes down, FYI. Oh, and I went all the way to the edges with toppings and sauce. I added a tiny bit of Goat and 1/4 of the Vegan Mozza I set aside and baked it in the over so the cheese got a bit melty, the frozen crust thawed a bit and the sauce sunk in a bit. Then I pulled them back out to adorn them with all our tasty toppings!

This is what I did per pizza crust, in order...
1/4 of the BBQ chicken
1/4 of the Caramalized Onions
1/4 of the Sauteed Mushrooms
1/4 of the Bacon Crumbles
1/4 of the Minced Shallots
1/4 of the Chopped Red Peppers
1/4 of the Pineapple Tid Bits
1 Blue Cheese slice broken up over the top of the pizza
1/4 of the Goat Mozza left over

Bake at 375F (I think) for about 15-20 mins. Keep an eye on it... basically, you want it to look like all the cheese is melty, the pizza is hot and there's a bit of colour on the top of the pizza. Keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn't get too dark.  

Cut up into quarters and serve! 

It was so delish!!!

I think this is the start of many more pizza nights at our place!


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Allergy Crisis!

So I'd been getting sick lately around my cat and living in my basement full o mold. My doctor had me go in for allergy testing and (YAY) I was diagnosed with a zillion food allergies too. 

This sucks! I love food-eating it, cooking it, watching shows about, shopping for fancy kitchen tools-everything! What I wouldn't give for a nice piece of Extra Old Cheddar cheese right about now! Food is a love... a passion... an excitement! And now I had to avoid Cow's milk, Cheese, Wheat, Corn, Strawberries, Oranges, Peanuts, Beef, Pork, Shellfish, Crustaceans, Chocolate..... CHOCOLATE!

Dinners have been a major chore for me! 

On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I found a couple amazing organic spaghetti squashes... and there-in lies my inspiration...

If you try this, let me know your thought... If you change anything up, let me know what you did and how it turned out!

Spaghetti Squash... with a Veggie puree and Turkey Italian Sausage Meatballs... Allergy Free (for me anyways!)

Cut a spag squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds from inside and clean it out. Put cut side down In a deeper baking dish and add approx 2 cups water. Bake untouched for 50 mins at 350f

In the meantime, sauté half onion chopped in evoo til translucent and a teeny bit of color.. Add giant scoop of mined garlic. Mix to incorporate. Add three to four organic roma tomatoes chopped and mix. Add some dried oregano salt and pepper. Add crushed chills and some hot sauce to taste. Add a tablespoon or so of brown sugar (or turbino sugar, in my case) Cook till bubbly and kinda reduced. Maybe five or so mins on med high. Empty it all in a jar and using your immersion stick blender purée til chunky smooth. 

Get your fav italian sausage links i used organic turkey... Whatever. Pinch off small meatballs out of the casing and set aside. 

In same pan from tomatoes. Add more evoo and heat up. Place meatballs in single layer and get some color and then sauté them around a few times til cooked and golden

Grab squash and using your fork gently fork out squash into strands into a pasta bowl. Add a couple meatballs and pour some sauce ontop. Top with a bit of shavings of cheese like Parm or in my case a firm goat...


The Piri Piri Chicken Experiment

Our dear Petra got promoted to another location and we decided to throw a workplace potluck party in her honor. Someone-ME- had the bright idea (right!) to make it a themed potluck featuring dishes that start with the letter P, in Petra's honour. 

Now anyone who knows me, knows I like a challenge, so I decided to shun predictable choices, like Pasta, and aim higher. In brainstorming... I came up with Portuguese something.... hhhmmm what's Portuguese? A Ha! Piri Piri Chicken! An African/Portuguese type BBQ dish... Spicey.. Lemony.. D-Lish! 

Here's what I did... Try it... If you do... let me know what you thought! If you did something different.. Share!

I made three different batches of my piri piri marinade... slight variations in between each... They are marinading now... Here's how I did it:

7-8 (or a couple more, whatever fits :) ) chicken drumsticks, skinless, bone in (I prefer free range organic.. but what ever you prefer)

I made cuts into the flesh to about the bone.. about two or three per side... to get the flavor right in there. 

I put them into a giant ziplock bag

here's the marinade:

2 T chopped Garlic 
1 huge teaspoon of minced ginger
1 whole habanero pepper incl seeds and all
half a mango chopped
1/2 t salt
1 T pepper 
1 T each ground Cumin, Paprika & Chilli powder
three lemons juiced incl any pulp

blend it til smooth.. pour over chicken in the bag, add a couple T of EVOO, zip it shut and mix and massage the sauce into the chicken

throw it into the fridge...

I'll be roasting it either late tomorrow night or super early friday morning and this is how i'll do it (this way worked fab for me when I made tandoori chicken last week):

line a cookie sheet with foil and put a wire cooling rack on top of the foil (spray it first with pam)

Lay out the drumsticks leaving room in between to breath

place oven rack closer to top of oven (maybe not all the way to the top, but closer than in the middle)

Get oven to 500F and get the chicken in

bake for 15 - 20 mins or so, turn over, bake for another 10-15.. should start getting black spots... turn over for a couple more minutes to finish off getting dark spots on the first side.

let rest and serve with maybe some cilantro... I am seriously hoping it turns out. if you try it, let me know what you think and if you had any variations...

one of my batches I added extra chilli flakes for more heat and the other one I added some honey for sweetness cus that one had a harder mango...