Thursday, May 30, 2013

Slowcooker Beef Stew

My intention was to share a light and healthy recipe with you this week, we are getting into the summer season here, after all, and I've been sharing nothing but treats lately!  But the weather here remains sporadically rainy and gloomy, and called for something more hearty, although still healthy!  

There are probably as many versions of beef stew, as there are...well, I was gonna say people in the world, but that clearly isn't accurate.  There are a gazillion different recipes for sure!  I definitely come out with a different version each time I make it.  The measurements provided are approximate, I usually add a dash of this, and a pinch of that, and whatever leftovers or vegetables I may have vanquishing away in my fridge.  Have fun with it, go on a crockpot flavour adventure, while still warm and dry in your cozy home.

Slowcooker Beef Stew

3 lbs boneless chuck roast, cubed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/2 cup flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth or red wine
3 cups beef broth
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of frozen peas


Have your slow cooker out, and turned to low.
Over medium-high heat add oil to a large-sized pan, and allow to oil to warm up.  Use about half of the flour, adding in about half the salt and pepper, then toss the cubed beef  in the mixture to coat with flour mix.  Add the beef to the hot pan in batches and brown each side. 
Once beef is browned, remove from pan and place in slow cooker.
Using the same pan (no need to wash!) add the onions, celery, and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, thyme, sage, and more salt and pepper, and saute for another minute or so.  Remove and add with beef in slow cooker. 
Toss the Mushrooms in the remain mix of flour, salt and pepper, and add more oil to the hot pan (still same pan!) if necessary, and brown the mushrooms.  Remove the mushrooms from pan, and add to slow cooker.
In the same already hot pan, over medium high heat, add beef broth or wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Any remaining flour in the pan may act as a thickener, so if you like a really thick stew, feel free to add more flour.  Add to the slow cooker, and then also add to slow cooker the beef broth, give a stir, and cover with lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  add frozen peas in the last few minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve salad, and crusty garlic bread, or fresh biscuits.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

GF Candy Bars


We're not a candy bar eating family, couldn't imagine eating a whole chemical and sugar laden candy bar, really.  But we do have mega-sweet teeth (tooth's?)!  I have been known to refuse a chocolate bar, but eat 3 cookies, no problem.  These here candy bars, are totally amazing.  Aaaaand, they're not horrible for you!!  I can very rarely get my kids into the raw treats that I enjoy, but the chocolate on top sealed the deal! I'm sure calling them "candy bars" didn't hurt either, actually my little guy just referred to them as chocolate squares... and may he have another?  I, was happy to oblige! 

These bars are a blend of two recipes I've recently encountered.  First, from  a new blog I stumbled across called Simply...Gluten Free.  A great blog, and she also has published cookbooks, which we have at CPL!  And then Secondly, from the hugely publicized new cookbook from Gwenyth Paltrow, called Its All Good.  Love Gwenyth...or hate her, the cookbook is actually really good!  Gwenyth actually shared this recipe in the April issue of Self Magazine, of which she was on the cover. 

What always alters the way I adapt a recipe, is which ingredients I have on hand.  I don't usually have sunbutter (as was called for in one recipe), but I do have sunflower seeds!  I didn't have that many cashews (as was called for in the other recipe) but I do have pumpkin seeds!  Don't be afraid to experiment!  This recipe is forgiving, and you could take it any direction you choose!  I also recommend instead of cutting into bars, cut into small sized squares; this gives you a smaller portion, and you can get away with eating a couple without feeling (too) guilty! 

GF Candy Bars (Squared)

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 coconut flakes
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 Tablespoons coconut oil

Line a 12 by 9 baking dish with a piece of parchment paper large enough to over hang the edges.
Place the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse until you get a sand-like texture. Add the dates, peanut butter, honey, coconut flour, and coconut flakes and process until the mixture forms a dough. Press the dough firmly into your prepared dish.  Refrigerate or freeze the base while preparing your chocolate.  Combine the chocolate and coconut oil and melt in a double boiler,or microwave, until the chocolate is almost melted, approximately 2- 3 minutes, stir the chocolate until smooth.  Pour the melted chocolate over the firmed -up base and spread evenly.  Refrigerate again until the chocolate hardens, about 1 hour.  Cut into squares and serve!  Keep the squares stored in an airtight container in the fridge.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunday Funday - Recipe Disaster Makeover!

I recently attempted to make peanut butter using a bag of toasted praline didn't go so well.  

But, I'll show you how I turned my peanut butter disaster into delicious chocolate covered peanut butter chews, and a fun activity for the kids!

I used my Kitchen Ninja, a Christmas present from last year.  I must admit, I'm still learning to use the Ninja, not totally in love with it yet, I usually still use my reliable old school blender.

So first the peanuts went all gritty...
...then formed a ball, and got a little smoother consistency...

In the instructions I had read for making peanut butter, this was a good sign!  It should get past this phase, and then go to creamy next.  But my Ninja started getting extremely hot!  I thought maybe if I added honey, it would help it get smooth faster, and add more sweetness?  Good idea, right?!  Not so much.

The peanut "dough" was completely clumped together, and had basically turned into candy!! Gah!

Disaster!  I didn't want to throw it away though!  So I pushed it into a casserole dish covered with parchment, and put it into the fridge, and forgot about it for almost a week.

 I unearthed it as I was putting away groceries, it had been pushed to the back of the fridge.  Forgotten.
I cut off a chunk, and was totally delicious!
Then I had a grand idea, and something the kids could get into too!

We still had a stash of Easter Candy, so I broke up the bunnies, and unwrapped a bunch of eggs, and melted them in my makeshift double boiler (a bowl over a pot of boiling water).  I chopped the chewy brick into bite sized pieces, and then poured the melted chocolate over top of the pieces using the same parchment covered dish.  Then returned the candies to the fridge for chocolate to set.

For the fun part of this disaster recovery mission, I recruited the kids to wrap the little chocolate covered peanut chews.  I cut parchment paper into small squares, and the kids wrapped the candies, twisting the parchment ends to complete the wrapper.

Turn that frown upside down...crisis averted!  No food waste here, yay!

The next part is to give some away before we eat all these candies!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stuffed Squash Bake

At my local superstore, when they have an overstock of produce, or when the produce is getting too ripe, they will mark down the price by half!  All of the Superstore's I've ever been to seem to follow this same practice.  I find this the best opportunity to purchase something I might not otherwise make room in the budget for.  My local superstore caters to the multi-ethnicity's that live within my community, and there are many different varieties of fruits and vegetables I have yet to cook with, or even taste!  One recent example is vegetable marrow. 

You want to know something?  I didn't know the other name for a summer squash was vegetable marrow!  Did you?  I have certainly eaten squash before, and tonnes of zucchini as we grew it in the garden growing up; but never before one in this form. 
I think the term vegetable marrow threw me off more than anything, that term is more commonly caused by Brits. 

 So,  I wanted to experiment first, as I wasn't sure how I should cook it.  I first tried it cut it half, scraped out the seeds, and placed in on a sheet with olive oil on it, and bbq'd as a side dish with burgers the other evening.  I thought it very similar to zucchini, it had a mild, sweet, almost nutty flavour.   So, now I knew what I was dealing with, I experimented further.  I washed, and cut the squash in half, scooping out the seeds, I found a melon-baller actually worked better than a spoon.

Then I kinda made up the rest.  I browned the pork, and added onion, garlic, cheese, panko, and carrots, spices, and baked it on a bed of tomato sauce for about a half an hour.  Served it with some buttery orzo, aaaand....dinner!

Stuffed Squash Bake

6 Spring Squash (or zucchini)
1 pound ground pork (chicken or turkey)
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, shredded
1 cup mozza cheese, shredded
1 cup panko
1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1 cup tomato sauce
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown the pork breaking up with wooden spoon as it browns. Drain grease, if necessary.  Add the onion, and saute for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic, carrots, herbs, and salt & pepper, continuing to stir, cooking for another 5 minutes or so.  Add the panko and cheese, remove from heat and stir to combine.  Taste!  Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Add about a cup or tomato sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish (I used 9x13), stuff the pork mixture into the hollowed squash halves, and lay on the sauce.  Cover with foil and bake for appoximately 30 minutes, take off cover and cook for about another 5 - 10 minutes to brown up the top (If you're a cheese-loving family, you could extra cheese on top!).  Remove from oven and let rest for another 5 minutes.  Serve with pasta, or rice.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Tacofino's Chocolate Diablo Cookies

Today being my Friday off means I start my morning at the gym, such an awesome way to start the day, 
I wish I could fit it in everyday.  The remainder of my day off is usually filled with grocery shopping, house cleaning, laundry, and yard know, the usual.  But today I also needed an oil change, and switch my tires over to spring/summer tires, nothing out of the ordinary.  But I received the dreaded call, that I probably need close to $800 dollars worth of additional work done on my vehicle.  Noooooo!  This was the month I was gonna get back on track financially, not be over extending my self again!
This called for cookies.  Really chocolaty. Really serious. Right now. Cookies.

I recently saw this recipe featured in this Month's issue of  Chatelaine.   I was admittedly surprised that they had the Chocolate Diablo Cookies from the wildly popular, and synonymously West Coast British Columbian food truck: Tacofino;  and they had the recipe available to boot!  I had seen these cookies on that cool show Eat St a few years back, not even realizing that I could possibly have access to this to-die-for cookie recipe.  These cookies are so amazing, I love the spice from the fresh ginger and cayenne.  They could be named "Diablo" as much for their spice as for their sinful addictiveness.  Good thing I hit the gym this morning.  I think these cookies were my dinner.  Fair warning.

Chocolate Diablo Cookies

Recipe From: Tacofino Via Chatelaine

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 Tablespoon ginger juice or grated fresh ginger
1Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon  kosher salt or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.
Sift flour with cocoa powder, baking soda, cayenne and cinnamon in a large bowl, add in chocolate chips/chunks, and set aside.
Whisk eggs in a medium bowl, add in both sugars, oil, ginger and vanilla, and give a good stir. Stir wet mix into flour mixture until well combined.
If you want huge cookies -  use a 1/4 cup measure, scoop 6 portions of dough onto each baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with the palm of your hand and sprinkle dough with salt or sugar.  If you'd like smaller cookies - create about the size of a golf ball, again flatten with the palm of your hand, and sprinkle with salt or sugar.  These cookies don't have much spread, and are very thick and filling!
Bake in the center of oven until cookies start to crack, approx 11 to 13 minutes. They should be slightly undercooked and will remain fudgy in the middle.  Cool on wire racks.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Baked Peanut Butter Banana Energy Bars

Need some inspiration when it's your turn to bring a team snack?  These protein - packed energy bars were a hit with my daughters' soccer team!  Little did they know that they contained no dairy, eggs, gluten, or refined sugar..muahahahaha!  The original recipe from Oh She Glows actually contained buckwheat groats, which I have yet to work with, and had walnuts which I omitted, but I replaced the Omega-3 hit of the walnuts, with the more easily hidden flax meal...these are 11 year old girls after all, so I also upped the chocolate appeal!  I may try them again following her recipe more strictly, but they turned out great regardless, using what I already had on hand!   The girls may not have won this particular game, but they had the energy needed for the game , and the rest of their day!

Baked Peanut Butter Banana Energy Bars
Recipe adapted from: Oh She Glows
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 Tablespoons chia seeds
2 Tablespoons flax meal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey or agave
1 teaspoon pure vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8-inch square pan parchment paper.
Blend oats in blender or food processor until flour like texture is achieved.  Measure oat flour after blending.  (Make a bunch of oat flour all at once, and keep it at the ready in a jar in your pantry!).
In a medium mixing bowl, add oats, oat flour, coconut, chia seeds, flax, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and salt, whisk slightly with a fork.
In a separate bowl, mash bananas until smooth, and then add peanut butter, honey, and vanilla.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir well until combined, and place batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22-26 minutes, or until the edges are golden.  Cool in the pan, then remove and cut into bars.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sunday Funday = Kabobs, two ways!

It was too nice to go on the computer yesterday, I wanted to soak in as much of the sun as possible, so you get Sunday on Monday!
Here in Calgary we go from winter to summer in about a weeks time.  You can tell shift in seasons as much by the weather, as from the sounds in the neighbourhood: lawnmowers; raking; power washers; children playing.  One of the senses also affected is your sense of smell; trees and plants blooming; sunshine hitting the earth; and of course BBQ!!  This weekend was full of outdoor yard work, our contribution to the neighbourhood orchestra: raking up the remaining fall leaves; hauling out the flower pots; putting up the basketball net; attempting to reorganize the broken nails (wah!), and blistered hands can show the proof of all the labour!  Sunday night called for an easy dinner, but something we could BBQ and enjoy outside, because we finally can!

I had purchased the pre-assembled and marinated MarcAngelo souvlaki kabobs, and had them in the freezer for a while, which saved me the steps of marinating the meat, and having to soak the skewers, which you should do so they don't burn up on the grill!

I disassembled the meat skewers, taking the meat off the sticks, and added in no particular order: chopped red and green peppers, hunks of onion, and mushrooms, and of course the meat I had pulled off!  Cory brushed them with some Bullseye, and we grilled them maybe 5 minutes per side.  So fast!
I served the kabobs with Orzo noodles that had added fresh dill, as well as butter, and salt and pepper.

The kids were in charge of putting together the dessert kabobs...these weren't going on the grill, but were a fun activity to busy the kids while we got dinner ready, and they got to create and contribute a delicious and healthy dessert.  Any number and kind of fruit would be awesome, but we just used what we had on hand: strawberries; bananas; pineapple; grapes; and mini-marshmallows!  We melted a leftover Easter bunny for a chocolate dip.  Yum!

A super easy and quick dinner, no recipe or fancy skills required.  Enjoy your time in the great outdoors, with your family.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cereal Crusted French Toast

I'm not a french toast fan.  I know, I'm sorry!  It's just too much bread for me!  But I bake for the people I love, and Cory L.O.V.E.S. french toast, and requests it regularly...I give in every once in a while.  Cory actually had the idea of sugary cereal crushed onto his french toast a few years back, and we had success with his creation, but this recipe I saw recently had such a great execution -  I wanted to try! 

They prepared all the bread ahead (soaking and dipping) and baked the french toast all at once on a baking sheet, so that they were all ready at the same time - perfect for a brunch crowd!

The only downside of this recipe was the amount of dishes: two baking sheets, two wire racks, a bowl for eggy dip, two bowls for the cereal (I did one for Cinnamon Corn Pops & one for Cap'n Crunch), and the bread.  Plus I made pancakes at the same time, as the kids weren't into french toast, so every inch of counter space was in use, and that was a little overwhelming! 

But, if I just say "Freaaanch Toast", Just like Leslie Mann in 40 Year Old Virgin, it makes everything awesome!

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Cereal Crusted French Toast
Recipe adapted from: The Bitten Word

6 cups of your favourite sugary cereal, crushed coarse (I used Cinnamon Corn Pops, and Cap'n Crunch)
1 1/4 cups milk, or half and half
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices of bread - day old bread works best!
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 F with the (first) large baking sheet IN the oven. Set wire cooling rack inside (second) rimmed baking sheet for placing dipped bread on - this will act to catch the drips!
To crush the cereal, pour it into a large zip lock bag, and using a rolling pin, roll over it several times.
Place crushed cereal in a baking dish or rimmed plate. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together in large bowl until combined.
Take the slice of bread and first soak in the milk mixture until just saturated, and then move to the cereal dish, pressing the bread lightly to adhere; transfer to wire rack drip catcher. Repeat with remaining bread.
Add oil to preheated sheet, tilting to coat evenly. Return sheet to oven and heat until oil is just smoking.  Carefully take the hot sheet out of the oven and arrange bread on sheet. Bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes, flip halfway through baking.  Serve 'em up!  They are already incredibly sweet from the cereal, but maple syrup is a must!  And if you have leftovers, they make THE most deelish peanut butter and honey sandwiches!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken & Vegetable Fried Rice

Perfect for the evening when you already have leftover rice in the fridge in need of a little inspiration, but are craving the ease of Chinese takout or the feast of a buffet.  This Sweet and Sour chicken is easy on both the budget, and the waistline; plus the use of cornstarch makes it gluten free, yay!  It does take a little more time though, so save it for an evening when you have more to spend at the stove.  I guarantee that it is well worth the effort, and will become regular rotation.  Promise!

I've seen this particular recipe being pinned and repinned quite a bit lately on the ol' Pinterest, but one thing that I've noticed about all of those recipes, is that they are lacking vegetables!  Maybe it's the Canadian adaptation of this westernized Chinese dish?  But to me, it's not a sweet and sour dish without the peppers and pineapple!   But if that's not your thing, this dish could easily be made without the veg, and the chicken could be swapped for pork, if that is your thing! 

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken
Recipe adapted from: Six Sisters Stuff

Chicken and Veg
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
1 1/2 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Have cornstarch in one bowl and set aside, and beat the eggs in another bowl and set aside.  Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and season with salt & pepper.  Dip chicken into cornstarch then coat in egg mixture.  Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook chicken in small amounts until browned, but not cooked through (cooking it in small sections will allow for the pan to stay hot, and the prevent the chicken from sticking together, so you have crispy chicken pieces, not a chicken blob!).   Place the half-cooked chicken on a foil covered rimmed baking sheet.  In the same hot skillet (no need to clean) saute the peppers, onion, and pineapple, until browned or softened.   While your veg are cooking prepare your sauce in a medium bowl.  Whisk together sugar, ketchup, vinegars, soy sauce and garlic powder.  Add the sauteed vegetables to the chicken and pour the sauce all over.  Bake for one hour, turning every 15 minutes.

Vegetable Fried Rice                                                                                             

3- 4 cups cooked rice (day old or leftover rice works best!)
3 tbs sesame oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
salt & pepper
2 green onions, sliced, or cut w/scissors
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup mixed fresh or frozen edamame, peas and carrots
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce

On medium high heat, heat the oil in a large skillet or wok.  Add the eggs and onion, and scramble.  Add the rice, peas & carrots mix, salt & pepper, garlic powder, soy & worcestershire sauce, and stir fry until veggies are tender and thoroughly heated.  Taste, add more seasoning according to your preference.