recipes


gluten free workshop

12 Mar 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Going gluten free - it's mainstream health news.

Bookshelves, magazine racks, the media, our friends and co-workers - all broadcast their opinion and understanding on the why and how to eat GF. 

This workshop will help you navigate this journey for yourself by providing nutritional information, instruction and tasty GF alternatives. 

Even if you're not planning - or needing - to follow this diet route yourself, the recipes and handouts will help you serve healthy and tasty GF dishes to your family and guests who are eating that way.

If you're skeptical that {healthy, tasty and easy=gluten free}  here's one of  several recipes we'll be tasting.

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies - gluten-free

1 ounce dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater)

1 1/2 cups soft-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained

3 eggs

2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or substitute with olive oil)

1/4 heaped cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. GF baking powder

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or substitute almond extract)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup or raw organic honey

1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped (optional)

How to:

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease or mist 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.

Melt dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with 1 Tbsp. water mixed in. Combine melted chocolate, beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, baking powder, flavoring, applesauce and sweetener in a food processor (or powerful blender); process well until smooth. Stir in walnuts and pour mixture into prepared baking dish. 

Opt: sprinkle a few more chopped walnuts on the top.

Bake in preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides, about 35 minutes.

recipe source: Clean Eating Magazine

 

Posted by karen
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Next to my passion about food (cooking, eating, working), I love fitness, a.k.a. cardio stuff: running, cycling, hiking, rowing. This love affair supports one another: they're joined at the hip. For my goals and abilities it's a compatible marriage - takes work but worth the effort.

 
Boosting that regime to endurance training for an ironman distance triathlon - is - another - story. 
 
It's NOT MY STORY. I hate competitive swimming, the training's too all-consuming, and I'm not that crazy.   
 
This is Tammy Slauenwhite's story.
 
http://www.realfoodmatters.ca/sites/realfoodmatters.ca/files/L1010149.JPG
 
 
I met Tammy almost five years ago - the two of us were thrashing our way around the buoys in Fancy Lake - surrounded by other triathletes, some absolutely flying doing the front crawl.  
 
We were both new comers to the Bridgewater Triathlon Club. Tammy was making the move to add to her personal trainer portfolio and I had just made a move across the country and wanted to meet active people.
 
Both of us met our objectives.
 
Fast track to the present. With a log book bulging with short races, several half-marathons, and two half-ironman distance races, Tammy is gunning for the big one.
 

What motivated her to commit to this??!!

- an ironman distance triathlon is on her bucket list
 
- the first ever EPIC Dartmouth is scheduled for the 2012 Maritime race roster - in Halifax, an hour-plus from Tammy's home
 
- a charity route was a registration option (fund-raising for $1200  in lieu of  paying $395). Her charity of choice was PRO Kids, an organization that matches youth and children in need with community-based recreational activities. Great fit.
 

Why aren't we all signing up??!!

 
Because last week alone was an 18-hour training week. (With still four months until race day, I'd be afraid to check what's coming down the pike in the training program.)
 
To see how that looks in the trenches, check out  her facebook page: TamFit (Tammy Slauenwhite) is taking on EPIC Dartmouth for PRO kids, which will also provide information re: donating to PRO kids.
 

I wanted to know what a typical food-day looks like. From hitting the floor to hitting the sack.

- protein and fruit shake
- eggs with greens and salsa or oatmeal
- fruit and nuts
- salad greens - with some of these: veggies, unsalted nuts, seeds, chicken or beef or beans
- yogurt and berries
- veggies and protein (chicken, beef, fish, eggs)
- nuts, yogurt or hot milk
 
- other "whenever" - raw veggies, fruit, nuts, dates, sometimes home made peanut butter cookies.
- post-workout favourites - dates, nuts, thick protein shakes with banana, berries, yogurt, milk 
- on the bike and the run - water, oranges (and oj), dates, bananas, homemade gel
 
Here's the gel recipe, previously posted. Recipe tweak: finely chop the dates and soak for an hour before making for smoother blending.
 
 
 
The program:  eating every 2-3 hours. "I allow my body to tell me. I don't like to go hungry and I don't like to get bloated so I tend to eat really small amounts at a time." 
 
There's an obvious absence of grains, and Tammy's response to that: "since I cut back on wheat and grains I find my body less bloated and to fill up that space I find I eat more fruits and vegetables which I REALLY need - they have vitamins and minerals I need." 
 
Looks like clean eating to me.  And to date, this is what works for her. Tammy admits that consuming enough veggies and fruits is a challenge. Preparation, shopping (she likes to go organic if available) - along with the protein foods, the total food bill adds up.  Not to mention that she has a teen-age son who also has a healthy appetite - sometimes for different food than what's on her plate which adds time in the kitchen.
 
Tackling an event like this is close to a full-time job commitment. To show support - besides get in a good long run, it's been great fun logging the miles with Tammy and friends. Her program says long runs are slow - yes! - but the time flies as we chat about food, fitness, family and more.
 

I admire Tammy's drive (and her fitness level) to go for such an ambitious dream. The inspiration she wants to share?

"Women my age [almost 40] can do the things they aspire to. It's not too late! Go for it."

Her wish for race day:

- not to be injured

- to be fueled properly (and stay that way) so she's not feeling hungry

- to have energy to be upright and smiling at the finish line

I wish you the best of days, Tammy. 

Speaking of hunger, it's time to fuel up myself after today's 17km  - a beautiful "rave run" by the Atlantic. 

I've made a huge salad of greens, carrot strips, green onions, avocado, cauliflower florets, nuts, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and popped amaranth. The dressing - Creamy Tofu with Dill - is delicious, nutritious and reminds me of my grand-daughter, Brienne, who made it for many of our salads last summer. Do give this a try.

Creamy Tofu with Dill Dressing

1 1/2 cups soft or silken tofu

1 shallot, finely chopped

6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. Herbamare

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. maple syrup

Mix everything in a blender (I used a Magic Bullet) until smooth and creamy. Makes about 2 cups - delicious on salads or as a dip for veggies.

Mmmmm goodness.

 

Posted by karen
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I routinely follow about half a dozen blogs, others I check out occasionally, and the surprises are those discovered through curiosity or Web-wandering rabbit trails.

One of my wanderings landed me at the recipe for chunky monkey muffins - and that trail led to two quick-track baking sessions.

First time around I forgot to add the almond butter. Voila! Fudge brownies that had to be eaten with a fork.

Better texture and improved flavour the second time - using all the ingredients.

My recipe tweaks: used organic coconut oil, the chocolate option, toasted the nuts before adding them to the top. Needed about 20 minutes to bake.

Pretty yummy, and fast if you get it in one try!

Visit the rest of this motley mix for busy people - living healthy, living active.

 
My daughter home-schools her three (beautiful, intelligent) children, writes, lives with her adventuresome husband - and cooks delicious, healthy food. She's fine-tuned how to come up with the goods but spend less time in the kitchen. Her blog overall is targeted to young creative Moms but this post is brimming with practical time-saving tips, menu ideas and applies to busy cooks in any stage of life.
 
The "domestic divas" offer a wealth of wisdom about cultured foods - and a whack of other topics. This instant breakfast porridge recipe is a zinger for athletes, camping, packing in lunches, traveling - and of course, breakfast too. 
 
Have you recently walked by (or to) the coolers stocked with sports drinks? Their brilliant colours have to be be the first red flag they can't be all that good for you. An RHN colleague (and author) has recipes to make your own - they might even give you the leading edge you're looking for! 
 
If you are a walker, runner, weight lifter, cyclist, swimmer, hiker: a window washer, gardener, painter, carpenter, secretary: or anyone who moves muscles --self-massage techniques  could well lengthen the time span between professional tune-ups. (This isn't a family blog promo, but my son-in-law's site is worth checking out.)
 
 
If you follow some favourite nutrition-fitness blogs, do tell!
Posted by karen
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Last week I spent Valentine's Day with my sister who lives in Alberta. For the record, we both have husbands who are our "true loves" but infortunately neither of them were there. In reality, her husband was as close as the other side of town, in the hospital (poor guy - the good news, he's since been discharged) - and my husband was at our home on the other side of the country. 

 
Us two girls needed a pick-me-up.
 
True to our personalities, my sister went out and bought us a rose (you can see a bit of it in the photo above) - I got busy in her kitchen. 
 

I was bent on making us a treat which didn't mean tossing aside good nutrition.

 
I found in the basement a dust-covered box containing a Donvier ice cream maker.
 
In the freezer were some frozen strawberries from last summer's pickings.
 
In the cupboard was a Magic Bullet blender, coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract (from Jamaica, no less!).
 
In my memory was a simple recipe I've often made from Whole Food Nutrition.
 
 

The recipe: strawberry-coconut ice "cream" without dairy and refined sugar.

 
I made a small batch as her Bullet wasn't a full-size blender (and really how much treat did the two of us need?!) but doubling the amount would have fit fine into the ice cream maker.
 
-- 1 can full fat coconut milk (check the label to ensure there's no added sugar)
 
-- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (other fruits like blueberries are equally as yummy)
 
-- 2-3 Tbsp. honey (could substitute with agave nectar or maple syrup)
 
-- 1-2 tsp. vanilla (I coaxed about 1 1/2 tsp out of the Jamaican bottle)
 
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth and creamy. To take good care of my sister's Bullet I stopped and started a couple times, but mixing doesn't take very long - especially if you have a stronger machine like a Vitamix. 
 
 
You can pour this immediately into the Donvier's frozen cannister but I let the blender and contents sit in the fridge and chill for about half an hour before doing so.
 
This type of ice cream maker requires turning the paddle about every minute or so - it was ready in 20-25 minutes.
 
 
Scoop it out of the cannister and into another container: let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before serving. It's okay to chill longer of course, but can get rock solid and has to sit out for quite a while before you can scoop it.
 
 
Honestly, this is the stage I could sit down and spoon up! Creamy, smooth, punched full of strawberry and coconut flavours.
 
Not as good as sharing the day with my life-long Valentine (another story - how I still have the Valentine card my hubbie gave me in elementary school!) but this hit the spot for an occasion when "....all you need is love..." wasn't quite enough :)
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It's winter - and soup is on the menu.

Reasons why home made soup can be a winner in any season:

 

-- you know what is in it - and what isn't in it (like salt, additives, preservatives, sugar, etc.)
 
-- great way to add more veggies to your diet
 
-- perfect dish for adding chopped greens (kale, spinach, chard) -  which boost your day's intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; fight off the flu and colds; and boost your energy 
 
-- economical – what you find in the fridge can become your “soup of the day” 
 
-- convenient – make a large enough batch to have extra to freeze for later
 
-- the protein you add (eg. beans and lentils) plus the fibre from the veggies is satisfying, can boost weight loss
 
-- increases water intake  - not drinking enough water is a deficiency that lowers metabolism, increases cravings, sends you messages that you're hungry but are most likely just thirsty
 
 
Here's the recipe for my latest favourite - I think you're going to love it too!
 

Carrot Leek  Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
 
2 large leeks – chopped (can substitute with 1 large onion)
 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
 
12 medium sized carrots cut into small pieces
 
7 cups water
 
lemon peel from 1 lemon – organic is best
 
2 - 3 Tbsp. light miso
 
pinch of cayenne (to taste)
 
1 – 2 tsp. dried dill or 2- 3 Tbsp fresh dill or any of your favourite herbs
 
Saute leeks (or onion) in olive oil until tender. Add water and bring to boil. Add minced garlic, carrots and lemon. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 - 20 minutes. Remove lemon and discard. Add miso, cayenne and puree, using hand blender, blender or food processor. Add herbs and serve.
 
This is such a comforting, nutritious soup: beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and a long list of minerals.

This past week I made two (huge) pots of soup for my Dad's 90th birthday party - still enjoying the leftovers. 

I omitted the sherry and didn't use spaghetti squash in this roasted squash soup, and left out the potatoes and peas in this one hearty and wholesome vegetable soup . Both delicious.

Do yourself a favour - get out the stock pot, fill the house with the goodness and fragrance of "Soup's on!"

BiBimBap

03 Feb 2012
Posted by karen
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Bee-bim-bap(rice).

Please join my fast-track-taste-tour through the Orient.
 
Growing up in a family of seven, eating out in a restaurant was a rare occasion - like maybe four or five times a year we had a Chinese food treat at The Seven Seas. Egg rolls, chicken balls, vegetables covered in a gelatinous sauce, chow mein noodles, dry ribs, stir-fried rice. We ordered the dishes for our "special of the day"!
 
Fast forward. My husband and I made more frequent restaurant visits and we adventured into other Orient options: Beef Noodle Satay Soup from Vietnamese Oriental Noodle House became a favourite. Later, our daughter and son-in-law introduced us to sushi and the fresh cuisine of Japan.
 
Then in 2005 for three months we were privileged to host a Korean house-guest/boarder  - who loved to cook. Shopping with Joon, stocking up for his culinary specialties, was like taking kids to the toy store. Then watching him work his magic for food presentation, and later eating his fare...it was the best of times.
 
Joon taught me how to make BiBimBap. I love this dish because it has a variety of veggies, it's not heavy - and once in a while I love a fried egg. It's a meal in a bowl that's nothing like the one-pot dishes we're used to.
 

Here's how you make it.

 
Cook a pot of rice as you normally would - in a rice cooker or on the stove. (When I was outnumbered by Joon and my husband it was white rice - now I make brown.)
 
While rice is cooking, prepare your choice of the following toppings (about 4 -6, not including the eggs). Some of the prep can be done ahead of time or round up the troops to help - guests come in handy to join in the work, and the fun.
 
-- carrots - sliced into tiny julienned strips, or grated slivers, 2 - 3 inches long
 
-- red or green cabbage - finely sliced
 
-- package of fresh bean sprouts
 
-- green onions - cut on the diagonal
 
-- tofu - cubed or sliced, lightly sauteed in mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil
 
-- fresh, or re-hydrated wild mushrooms - thinly sliced, lightly sauteed or not
 
-- English cucumber - sliced into 1/4" thick slices and lightly sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- zucchini - cut in half from top to bottom, sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- spinach - left in fresh leaves, or lightly wilted with sea salt
 
-- thinly sliced minced beef - lightly fry in hot pan with bit of sea salt until cooked
 
 
-- eggs - cook sunnyside up (or to your preference) at the very last, just before eating.
 
 
-- kimchi - purchased from reputable source or make your own - here's how. 
 
-- soy sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce - or gochujang - Korean traditional hot chili paste
 

To Serve:

Scoop up a mugful of hot rice and tip it out in the middle of a wide-mouthed cereal bowl or small serving bowl. Around the perimeter of the rice, using chopsticks or a spoon, serve up  amounts of the toppings, reserving the "peak" of the rice for your egg(s). (Sorry, my photo doesn't show any rice, but it's there under all the toppings.)
 
Sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and your choice of hot sauce.
 
Using chopsticks (or fork), stir everything together and eat up - adding extra bits of toppings and rice as desired.
 
Look for BiBimBap on the menu of your favourite Oriental restaurant. It will have its own variations -  more ideas for your own healthy BiBimBap experience.
 
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Microscopic bacteria and fungi - dish me up another serving, please.

 

Before you stop reading - never to return - I ask you to hang in with me here.
 

The microorganisms I'm referrring to protect us:

-- by competing with - and conquering - potentially dangerous organisms
-- they teach the immune system how to function when it's exposed to the diversity of unsavoury microorganisms, e.g. those found in soil and untreated water 
 
And - those living cultures have transforming power to create flavorful, nutritious fermented foods. 
 
 

Following are some of the myriad health benefits of fermentation:

-- preserves food - history has is that sauerkraut lasted for 27 months on Captain James Cook's second exploration, preventing his crew members from developing the dreaded vitamin-C deficiency disease we know as scurvy
 
-- breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms
 
-- increases the nutritional value of certain foods, e.g. sauerkraut has significantly higher vitamin C levels than unfermented cabbage
 
-- provide lactic acid, food for the good bacteria 
 
-- creates new nutrients - e.g. B vitamins like folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and biotin
 
-- can function as antioxidants, those scavengers snatching up free radicals (unstable molecules that can wreak cellulor damage, promoting disease)
 
-- removes toxins from foods, e.g. fermenting grains by soaking them before cooking neutralizes phytic acid, a compound that can block absorption of minerals
 
-- ancient Chinese medicine states that the unique flavour of cultured foods has a balancing effect that helps cancel out cravings for sugar - and neutralizes/helps assimilate sugar if/when it is eaten with a fermented food
 
 

Be watchful of commercially fermented foods:

-- yogurt: pasteurization after the culturing process kills the bacteria so you want to purchase yogurt that states on the label "contains live cultures". Or another way to be certain is to make your own. I have step-by-step-instructions for you.
 
***Another bonus of making your own yogurt is your opportunity to make your own yogurt cheese, a healthier version of sour cream. It's a simple process of lining a small strainer or colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth and carefully scooping yogurt into it. Let it drain: the liquid left is whey, which can be substituted for water in baking or cooking. My sources tell me this whey can be used as a starter for kick-starting other foods to ferment - some day I'll try it but as yet have no experience to report.
 
-- store bought sauerkraut is often heat-processed and canned for longer shelf life.  This too I recommend that you make your own. Here's how.
 
 
Another favourite fermented food in our house is kimchi. I have tried several recipes: the following is my present go-to. I love this condiment as a a spicy topping on my rice,  spooned over salad, snuggled next to poached eggs, hidden in a veggie wrap......
 

Kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut)

 
1 large head napa cabbage – (this type of cabbage will give the traditional look and taste of kimchi)
1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
5 or 6 cloves minced garlic (for my taste, more is better, but this is a personal choice)
2 – 3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
2 Tbsp. sea salt – to taste
 
(other vegetable options to add: finely sliced daikon or other radishes, turnips)
 
Cut each napa cabbage leaf if half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch (bite-sized) pieces.
 
Chop the green onions using both white and green parts. 
 
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
 
Massage the veggies with your hands until juices are released.
 
Pack the kimchi into quart jars, making sure that there is some liquid above the vegetables, and leave a 1-inch of air space on top. Put lids on the jars, without turning them too tight.
 
Let the jars sit out on the counter at room temp for 3 – 10 days. I let mine sit out for about a week. When the veggies rise to the top in the jar be sure to push down with a spoon to keep them covered by the brine.
 
Put into the fridge for storage.
 
(Note: It's the benefit of the fermentation that makes this such a healthy condiment. Amounts of garlic, ginger and chili flakes is totally dependent on how spicy you like your food. This recipe is a variation of one from the Domestic Diva:  whose enthusiasm for all things fermented is contagious.)
 
 
Ideas for fermented foods is a list limited only by your imagination and taste. If you're interested at all in this kind of experimenting and eating, I recommend you read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz: it's a valuable resource - one I give credit to: for much of the information, and certainly the inspiration, for the writing of this post.  
 
Olives are on my fementation to-do list. Or were. Yesterday I checked out the idea at the Mid East Food Center in Halifax. The only way that's going to happen is if I go to the Middle East/Northern Africa and buy the olives freshly harvested and smuggle them home in a hurry before their condition deteriorates. Thankfully Mid East has a variety of delicious olives besides many other Mediterranean foods. 
 
Any time is an ideal time for a second serving of an FFF: a fantastic fermented food.

 

Posted by karen
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This last post before Christmas is all about the sweet finish. If your house is like ours, desserts are a special treat - saved for occasions that are also special. 

It's been several years since I stopped buying - and drinking - egg nog. Nutnog is the alternative I've been waiting for. 

Cashew Nutnog for four (or more)

Cover 1 cup* cashew nuts with water and soak overnight.
 
In the morning, drain the cashews, rinse well and put in blender.
 
Add:
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with honey, agave syrup or 4-5 Medjool dates)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
couple dashes of sea salt
 
Blend for at least 1 minute, until thoroughly blended.
 
Chill (will thicken up when it gets cold). Shake well before serving. 
 
Serve in pretty goblets and sprinkle liberally with more grated nutmeg.
*If you like your nog thick and creamy, use another 1/2 - 1 cup nuts.
 
 
(Nutrition notes: among other things, cashews boast magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. And - they have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate level than most other nuts!)
 
This nutnog can also be made with raw almonds or Brazil nuts: but the "milk" will have to be strained in a fine mesh bag to remove the pulp before adding the other ingredients. (The pulp can be saved to use for baking or adding to hot cereal breakfasts.) The how-to can be viewed here.
 
A perfect partner with the nutnog is the following banana cake: gluten free, moist and delicious. This recipe came from my daughter-in-law; it's a standby treat in her GF house.
 

Banana Cake - gluten free 

3 cups almond flour
3 eggs. beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed (enough to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 
Spread in lightly greased 9-inch square pan. (Use liner paper if wanting to remove the whole cake.) Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.
Test for doneness, cake will be moist but you don't want it soggy.
 
Let cool, cut and enjoy.
 

The following offering is a simple, elegant, light dessert my son-in-law prepared for a feast many Christmas's ago. Its presentation is as impressive as your flair.

Wine Baked Pears

4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
2 cups fruity white wine - I like to use a  local pear wine - or a Reisling is very tasty too
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 strips orange zest
 
optional: roasted walnuts or pecans garnish
                ricotta cheese or thick plain yogurt
 
Preheat oven to 400F.
 
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand upright. Arrange the pears in a large pie pan. Whisk wine and honey in small bowl until well blended; pour over the pears. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind to the wine mixture around the pears.
 
Put the pears in the oven, basting every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour - depending on the type of pear used. If planning to use the nut garnish, toast them in a separate dish in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Don't forget them!
 
When baked, remove pears from oven to cool. (By now your house will exude a spicy, heady fragrance.)
 
To serve: use slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls. Drizzle the wine mixture over the pears and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange zest. If using, sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve with ricotta cheese or yogurt.
 
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
 
 
For many of us, Christmas is about families, traditions - and memories. I miss my Mom. In January it will be 6 years ago since she died and, except for her last Christmas, Mom was always a vital part of preparing for the feast(s). When my generation encouraged her to let us do more of the work, she was happy to allow that - but she set the hospitality standard for me. I'll always be grateful for her expression of giving from her kitchen and I'd like to chat with her about that - and other foodie things - once in a while. This is one of those "whiles." 
 
Mom's Scottish background ensured shortbread was included in her holiday baking. She wasn't a total purist, using only one recipe that came from her great-grandmother :) She'd often try new recipes with different proportions of butter (always used butter), flour, sugar and flavourings. Now that I'm the Nana, wishing to share and continue our heritage traditions, I too am trying new shortbread recipes.
 
Except I'm looking for recipes using gluten free flour, and sweeteners other than refined sugar. I've also included the optional coffee flavour. This summer my 8-year-old grand daughter liked this variety from a coffee place/bakery/restaurant in Lunenburg. (I think it was her "legal" opportunity to enjoy the flavour of coffee :) Since I'm experiementing I thought, "why not"? I'll do coffee shortbread this year to honour my Swedish Dad who still enjoys a good cup of coffee.
 
I dared not mess with a butter substitute. Not yet, not this year.  And maybe never. I think there are some things that are best left alone, left in the recipe and enjoyed once or twice a year. The one ingredient I forgot when I made this, but included in the recipe, is the almond or vanilla extract.
 
If you're familiar with baking with gluten free flours, you don't expect most baked goods to have the same texture as when you use wheat or spelt or another "conventional" flour. And that holds true for this shortbread too. The texture isn't the same but they are still melt--in-your-mouth shortbread:  a very acceptable substitute if you or your holiday guests are not able to eat gluten.
 

Shortbread - gluten free, does have butter and coconut sugar

 
1 1/4 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
optional: 1-2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder -according to how strong a flavour you want
 
Put in food processor the dry ingredients,  the cold butter cut into rough chunks, the extract and the optional coffee. Process until ingredients cling together.
 
Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased, paper-lined 9 x 9 pan. Mark into squares or rectangles, prick with fork and bake at 325F for 35-40 minutes. When baked, remove from oven, cut again (it's important to cut while warm,  they'll crumble if cut later), let stand 10 minutes. Lift to a wire rack and let cool. 
 
I've tested this recipe only once so I am hoping to hear feedback and suggestions from any of you who make these. I'm sure you've got some good tweaking ideas.
 
Enjoy your Christmas, friends. God bless your feasting, your fellowship with family and friends - and give you safe travels.
Posted by karen
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This is it. The weekend that launches my season of Christmas hospitality. It's fast and furious, with a dinner for four Friday night and hosting a neighbourhood potluck brunch on Sunday. 
 
This is a "world-away" contrast to a former chapter of my life.  When December was a flurry of celebrations: from the get-go birthday party on the 2nd for my daughter - to a host of Christmas parties connected to all the life-circles of my husband and I and our two children- to our son's birthday on the 23rd. And this event was the starting gun for the marathon of Christmas celebrations that revolved around a community of family - going from house to house - which would wrap up sometime around the New Year. Just recording this makes me breathless. But it was wonderful: a time of sharing, laughter and fun, and of course, eating.
 
Coming from a heritage of accomplished cooks, the food was plentiful and delicious. Taste memories range from the traditional Swedish lutefish and lefse, to the stuffed turkey, a myriad of salads and vegetable dishes - and a "stretch buffet" of sweets and desserts.
 
But just like the jam-packed holiday schedule has changed, so have many of the food choices that are now on our feast menus. 
 
Generally, we now have: more fresh vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less animal fats, more natural sweets, less refined sugar.   
 
The following recipes I've made this weekend are some healthy holiday eating suggestions you may want to serve at your holiday feasts.
 

Begin with "A Starter" 

Curry Pumpkin Hummus 

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp.allspice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Herbamare)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
garnish: chopped pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds
 
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Stir in tahini and chick peas; remove from heat.
Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with garnish.
 
(Nutrition notes: these flavorful curry seasonings improve circulation - good "flu-fighters". Tahini and chick peas are protein sources - pumpkin supplies vitamin A.)
 
Recipe adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" by Robin Robertson

Home-Made Pita Chips - one version GF, one not

Cut whole-wheat pitas (or for gluten free use corn tortillas) into wedges and arrange on large baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a wee bit of sea salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp: flipping them over half-way through. Not gluten free, but a healthy alternative to nachos cooked in oil. 
 

Quinoa and Roasted Squash Salad - delicious make-ahead salad

1.5 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt
 
2.5 pound squash - acorn, buttercup or Kabocha - enough for 8-10 cups cut into cubes
3 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbamare
1/2 tsp.cinnamon
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup chopped parsley
 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar (I used balsamic fig from this great source in Halifax)
1 tsp. orange zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 
optional: crumbled feta cheese
 
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in 2-quart pot with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. (Can be made ahead 1-2 days before you need it and kept in the fridge.)
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and cut into equal bite-sized chunks, about 1-inch squares. Place into baking dish, toss with the olive oil, Herbamare and cinnamon. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Stir once halfway through - let cool on the pan.
Place the pecans in a separate small baking dish and slide them in the oven along with the squash. Roast for 10-12 minutes - don't forget them in there!
 
Saute the slivered red onions in a wee bit of olive oil - for about 5 minutes, just until soft and beginning to change colour. Remove from heat.
 
Place cooled quinoa into a large bowl, add the roasted squash, roasted and chopped pecans, sautéed onions, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
 
Put dressing ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour over salad. If desired, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before  refrigerating until serving.
 
Recipe adapted from www.nourishingmeals.com
 
 

One favorite has not changed - that's our holiday fruitcake. Gloriously good and gluten free.

 
 
Many years ago my Mom found a recipe for this fruit cake which has become an annual Christmas standby - and sometimes shows up during other times of the year too!
 
Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my family; it has evolved into a delicious gluten free version.
 
This is not the traditional candied fruit, butter-rich kind of fruitcake. It's made with dried fruits, nuts, eggs, flour (I use a GF mix, as mentioned), baking powder, bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla. You know it's good when even the grandkids say, "it won't be Christmas without Nana's fruitcake."
 
Click here for the recipe for the Healthy Nut and Dried Fruit Christmas Cake.
 
This cake doesn't have to be aged - it'll be a hit (and so will you!) if you squeeze it into your schedule this week.
 
Happy healthy holiday eating!!
Posted by karen
karen's picture

My house is a maze of boxes and suffused with the energy and excitement combo that accompanies an approaching change. No, I'm not in one of my rare seasonal house-cleansing frenzies. This weekend our daughter and family are moving out and forward, on to their next life adventure, ending their six-month transition period of living with us. A season where our house has pulsed with the activities and kafuffle generated by five people (and one cat) – added to our mix of two.

No surprise that the kitchen has been the hub – and a huge amount of gratitude goes to my daughter, Renee, who's masterminded (and implemented) most of the healthy feeding program to sustain all the creative and physical energy.

One person can't – or wouldn't want to – do such a task singularily. Renee's husband, Damien, has 'done' most breakfasts and I've taken some shifts as head or sous chef, cleaner-upper and filling in other gaps. Celine, Laurent and Brienne – aged 12, 10, and 8 – have had their daily kitchen chores plus food prep as requested. They're proficient in cutting and chopping veggies, concocting delicious salad dressings (move over, olive oil and balsamic vinegar), and blending super smoothies – all adding to the wake of accumulated food bits and pieces scattered on the kitchen floor.

My body has probably never been happier with iself – fuelled mostly by fruits and veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, dried fruits instead of sugar. Meals and snacks (a favorite part of the food plan) have been just out-and-out delicious and nutritious....

African Peanut-Potato Stew...Tortillas...Pumpkin & Black Bean Casserole... Falafel...Simple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...Slow-Cooked Tofu in Pineapple Barbecue Sauce...Creamy Cashew Lemon Pie...Easy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna... Hearty One-Pot Meal Miso Soup...Raw Peanut Butter Cookies...Buckwheat Hazelnut Pancakes...Grated Beet & Carrot Salad... Chickpea and Roasted Tomato Salad...Savoury Millet Stew...Breakfast Rice Pudding...Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad...Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge...

But even when it's great, we can have our moments when we want a change of menu. This week for Celine, that meant finding an alternative breakfast recipe that she could make for the household. This health-aware pre-teen found one, tweaked it to use ingredients she had available – and we ate it this morning! Yum yum.

 

The Recipe: Pomegranate Muesli

Ingredients:

2 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup steel cut oats (could also use old fashioned oats – not quick or instant)

1/2 cup each sunflower and pumpkin seeds

4 apples, peeled and grated

1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

5-6 cups fruit – combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

2-3 Tbsp. hemp hearts

Instructions:

Soak oats and seeds in pomegranate juice overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning, stir in remaining ingredients. 

 

Note – add or substitute other fruits.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Nutritrient Notes:

-- soaking the oats and seeds overnight contributes to better digestion

-- pomegranates - high in vitamin K, contain vitamin C, choline, magnesium, potassium and calcium

-- hemp hearts - high in protein and fibre

-- flax seeds - omega-3 fats, selenium, fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants 

 

Celine's Dad peeled the apples (to helped speed up the operation) but she did pretty much everything else. When it came time to dish up our breakfast bowls, it wasn't only Celine who appreciated something new on the breakfast menu! 

The youngest cook in the house, Brienne, is not one to be left behind - in anything. You have to check out her Miso Soup Recipe - and try it. It's sure to become a lunch standby.

Cooking healthy meals takes planning, time and work - at any age. Inviting and allowing young cooks to mess about in the kitchen is messy. But it's fun - and offers them the pleasure of creating, and eating, nutritious food. A gift that will come back in spades - for their own healthy food habits and opening a window for future shared cooking experiences. 

When these young cooks are your grandkids, the pleasure is especially sweet. Who helps you in your kitchen?

 

(Photo thanks and credits to Fimby.)

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