Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Funday = Making Sushi with Sloane

A favorite girls only activity for myself and my daughter, Sloane, is making sushi.  The boys in this family are not so adventures in their culinary palette's, and consider sushi "gross", unwilling to even give it a taste!  Whatever!  More for us!!

Once you have sushi (calrose) rice, seasoned rice vinegar, nori (roasted seaweed) sheets,  and wasabi in your pantry, sushi becomes really easy to throw together.  We usually make ours vegetarian, by adding avocado, carrots, and cucumber, all of which are usually on hand at our house.  You could easily add some crab or salmon to the base recipe and make it more traditional, or more to your personal taste.

Calrose (sushi) rice is short grain rice, that gets slightly sticky when it is cooked.  don't try to swap out for long or whole grain rice, as it will be drier and won't stick together properly.

Sushi Rice

3 cups sushi rice
3 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Put the rice in a colander and rinse it with cold water until the water becomes almost clear. 
Place the rice in pot, add water and bring to a boil.  Then turn temperature down to low, and let steam for 15 minutes.  Take rice off heat, and let rest for a final 5 minutes.
Prepare the sushi vinegar by mixing rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in dish, and microwave or heat in a pan, until the sugar dissolves.
Add the cooked rice to a large wooden bowl.  Only use a non-metallic bowl to prevent interaction with rice vinegar. I use a big wooden salad bowl, and wooden paddle.   Pour the vinegar mix onto the rice and combine it quickly but delicately to not smoosh the rice.  For even faster results, use a fan as you mix sushi rice (2-person job!) to cool and remove the moisture from the rice as you stir.

I took step-by-step pictures on spreading and rolling, but they turned out too it if this doesn't make sense!
Place nori sheet shiny side down, on a bamboo rolling mat.  Spread out the sushi rice (about 3/4 cup)on the bottom portion of the nori sheet, leaving 1/2 inch strip at the top uncovered.  You can wet your wooden rice paddle, or your hands to help spreading the rice, without having it stick!  

Add a swipe of wasabi along the bottom end of spread out rice, and then add your veggies and whatnot on top of the wasabi.
Using the bamboo rolling mat (allows for even distribution of force) and starting at the bottom end, start rolling the sushi give the first roll a bit of a tuck to secure the veggies, and then continue to roll tightly away from you.
Once the roll is almost complete, with your fingertips apply water to the end of the nori with no rice which will act to help it adhere together, once you complete the roll squeezing it gently to compact the roll.
Remove the sushi roll from the bamboo mat, and cut on a cutting board using a very sharp, or skinny serrated knife.  Moisten the knife with water for a smoother cut.  Serve sushi with soy sauce, and additional wasabi for dipping.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yerba Mate Energy Bars (GF! Bake or No Bake!) & Perseverance

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life, and the highs and lows are a veritable roller coaster ride.  One week ago today, I was told I have a blood clots deep in my right bicep, and under my clavicle.  The clots I have are known as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).  I must admit I was in total shock.  I certainly had the symptoms, with a unexplained swollen arm, and weird circulation issues, but I had thought it was a pinched nerve maybe?  ...from a crazy workout or something(?) and was seeing my physiotherapist!  But after three weeks, my arm still felt...not right. 
My family Doctor sent me for both an x-ray, and and ultrasound, and the ultrasound technician picked up on the thrombosis straight away.  I then had to go to Emergency, where I waited for 5 hours to be seen, and then was told that it is indeed DVT, and administered an injection of blood thinners, as well as prescribed Warfarin tablets.
I now need to get blood taken every other day to monitor my INR (International Normalized Ratio), and need to administer my own injections daily, and will continue to take the Warfarin for about the next 6 months(!) or so. 
Warfarin, is a CRAZY drug!  It has so many interactions to other commonly used medications, and herbal supplements, and green leafy vegetables, or anything high in Vitamin K!!  These are all my favorite things!  I eat spinach, and kale, and broccoli, and consume green tea, almost on a daily basis!  How many times do you hear of people being asked to limit their intake of green leafy vegetables??!!  Seriously.  
During all this health scare craziness, my city is in a state of emergency.  On Thursday, while I was trying to rock away my medical blues seeing Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, during the Sled Island Music Festival, Calgary's river's crest their banks and flooded the city.  
Photo from :
After days of hard rain so many rivers in the province of Alberta were no longer able to contain themselves, and many towns were in this state of emergency, with loss of buildings, and highways, and homes.  Almost the whole of Calgary's downtown, and low lying areas were evacuated, with 100,000 people displaced!   

An absolutely heart breaking and surreal situation.  I'm on sick leave from work for a week or so for my body to accustomed to my new medications, and am feeling rather helpless.  Wish I could be out there helping with a the clean up, and volunteering opportunities.  But I did make these yummy Yerba Mate energy bars, and was working out the kinks before sharing the recipe with you, but because of the Warfarin medication I have been prescribed, I can no longer consume Yerba Mate, so I brought these into the Library for my co-workers.  They will certainly need the energy, as the leisure centre that our branch is located in is an evacuation centre.  The library will be only open to the city's evacuees, and they will doing it all the old fashioned way, as the servers are underwater at the Central Library.   No phones, no computers, hand written book checkouts.  But as most Calgarians are doing, we band together with a humbling show of support for complete strangers, or family and friends alike, in the aftermath of this act of nature, and we will persevere!

Yerba Mate Energy Bars (GF!  Bake or NoBake!)

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tablespoons honey or agave
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oats
1/3 cup oat or coconut flour
1/4 cup almond meal
3 Tablespoons yerba mate
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup rice krispies
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup carob or chocolate chips
(1/2 teaspoon baking soda, if you are baking the bars)

This as extremely simple recipe, and can be mixed together in minutes! 
Simply cream together the peanut butter, melted coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, and vanilla.  And then add the dry ingredients: oats, almond meal, coconut or oat flour, yerba mate, carob or chocolate chips, flax, salt, and finally fold in the rice krispies last to retain their crunch!  Line a 8x8 dish with parchment paper, spread out as best as you're able and put in the fridge to firm up.
When I experimented with baking these, I added the baking soda,  shaped them into bars, and cooked them as I would a cookie; at 350 F, for about 10 mins or so.  
The cooking of this recipe makes them more portable, and they would be great to take on a hike, or eat on the go on the way to the gym, as they don't need to remain refrigerated after baking.  The baking also enhances the flavour of the Yerba Mate, so if that's something you enjoy, give it a try!  They are delicious, filling, and energizing either way.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers Day Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes

When I saw this recipe from the Minimalist Baker recently, I knew I had found the perfect Father's Day Breakfast for our resident Daddy.  The only problem being, that their particular version was far too healthy for our Daddy.  There is no way he would go for a vegan, gluten-free breakfast, on his special day...

So, I made them 'specially for him, with all the gluten, and all the dairy, 'cuz that's the way he likes it, and topped them with a real deal peanut butter cup.  Happy Father's Day!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    pinch salt
    1 cup buttermilk more, if necessary
    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 Tablespoons cocoa
    2 Tablespoons peanut butter

    In a medium mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and whisk to combine; set bowl aside.
    I like to use a large measuring cup, then I can pour the batter directly from it into the pan, not making more dishes using ladles or smaller measuring cups.  So, to the measuring cup add buttermilk, egg, oil, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add wet and dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Split the batter between two bowls or measuring cups.  To one add the cocoa, and to the other add the peanut butter (I microwaved the peanut butter first, so it wasn't so hard to stir in, but no too hot, you don't want to cook the egg!)
    Spray a large, non-stick skillet with cooking spray, and use medium heat. Once skillet is hot, pour a small amount of the peanut butter batter in the center of the pan, and then carefully pour (circling the peanut butter), the cocoa batter.  Cook until bubbles appear in the center of the pancakes, and flip carefully.  I made these HUGE for extra special pancakes, you could use less batter for smaller pancakes. 
    I found I had much more peanut butter batter left over, so I made small peanut butter chocolate chip pancakes for the kids as well.


Friday, June 14, 2013

FRIDAY = Crunchy Nutty Caramel Popcorn!

Crunchy Nutty Caramel Popcorn

1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels (10-12 cups popped)
1-11/2 cups mixed nuts (**optional** for those with allergies or non nut-lovers, omit nuts for a still totally delicious, Crunchy Caramel Popcorn)  3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line the baking sheet(s) (use one large or two small/medium)with parchment or silpats, or a spray of oil. Once you start making the caramel sauce, everything comes together quickly so have all the ingredients and equipment you need handy!  In the time it takes to pop your popcorn, you can toast the nuts, just place them on the baking sheets, and remember to toss them around every minute or so, for about 5-10 minutes, you can smell when the nuts are done, and you'll definitely know when they're over done! Burnt nuts =worst!
Using an air popper, pop your popcorn.  Once the popcorn is popped, shake the bowl so the unpopped kernels go the the bottom.  Using either your hands or a measuring cup, transfer the popcorn to another large bowl and toss with toasted nuts, leaving the kernels behind!
For the caramel - Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Mix in the sugar until the sugar is completely melted into the butter.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Keep at a rolling boil for about 3 minutes while stirring continuously.
Take the pan off the heat, and add the vanilla, salt, baking soda, it will bubble up excitedly, and that's okay! Continue stirring until it transforms into a thick, glossy sauce.

Slowly pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn while stirring or tossing (I use salad tossers!) the popcorn (it helps if you have a partner for this step — one person pouring while the other stirs the popcorn). Continue stirring the sauce into the popcorn until all of the kernels are coated.
Spread the popcorn out into an even layer onto the baking sheet(s), you may have clumps, and that's okay!  Bake for one hour, stirring every about 15 minutes.  Let the popcorn cool completely on the baking sheets.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Peanutbutter Hoisin Pork Noodle Bowls

Oh you guys!  You gotta try these noodle bowls, so seriously good!  It kind of reminded of me of a deconstructed salad roll!  The spicy peanut butter dipping sauce being reflected in the marinade and sauce for the pork, the noodles replacing the traditional wrap, and my favourite part - all the crunchy vegetables, and refreshing hit of fresh basil and cilantro!  

It's another one of my build it your way recipes, as we are the house of many picky eaters, each who are picky in their own unique way!  The only downside to this recipe, was there was not nearly enough leftovers, and I want another helping right now!  *sobs*  Next time I'm doubling it, for sure!

Peanut Butter Hoisin Pork Noodle Bowls
Recipe adapted from: Pinch of Yum

1/3 cup Bragg's, soy sauce, or Tamari
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 Tablespoons sesame oil 
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
3 Tablespoons vinegar ( I used season rice vinegar)
5 cloves finely minced garlic
1 piece fresh grated ginger (1-2 tablespoons)
1 minced hot pepper (jalapeno, chili pepper, etc. or 1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce, or sriracha)
3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 Tablespoons peanut butter

11/2 lbs. pork cut into thin strips 
rice noodles, cooked
grated carrots, chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, cilantro and/or fresh basil, bean sprouts, red peppers, etc.

Whisk all the sauce ingredients together (soy sauce, water, oil, honey, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, peppers, hoisin, and peanut butter).   Marinate the pork in the sauce overnight or for at least a few hours. I prepared mine before work, so about 9 hours.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet or wok over medium high heat, and in small batches (this keeps the wok hot) sear the pork until browned on each side, and then transfer to a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
My wok got a bit of a burned peanut butter layer, so once all the pork was cooked, a\I gave it a quick clean, and then added the remaining marinade to the wok and brought it to a boil.  Cook the marinade at a high temperature, keeping it at a boil for approximately 5 mins or so, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  The sauce should thicken, but you could add a teaspoon or so of cornstarch to help it along if need be.  Turn the heat to a medium low and add the pork back to the sauce and allow the pork to cook for about another 5-10 minutes, or as much time as is takes you to prepare your toppings!
Cook your rice noodles according to package directions. Keep a little bit of liquid with the noodles to make sure it they don't  stick together or dry out.
Top rice noodles with pork, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, red peppers, peanuts, cilantro, basil, or if you need it even saucier add more hoisin sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, chili garlic, sweet chili sauce, sesame oil, etc.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Salad

I'm may be addicted to this salad, I ate it for lunch and dinner a few days in a row the first time I made it, and have been craving it ever since.  It may make a return to our house this weekend.  The nice thing about this salad is that once you've prepared the chicken, you can throw it together really quickly.  This salad could be enjoyed as either a dinner main, or a lighter lunch, or even wrapped up! And both the salad, and the dressing are adaptable to personal preferences.


Personally, I love a salad with a lot of vegetables in it, and I'm also a blue cheese fan.  My husband however, although not picky about the greens and amount of vegetable, dislikes blue cheese immensely, and would prefer as much chicken, bacon, and cheddar cheese as a bowl could possibly hold.  He also really digs Frank's Red Hot.  He puts that shit on everything.  Real Deal.

Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Salad
Recipe adapted from: How Sweet Eats

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs

2 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Approx 6 cups of lettuce (I used a prewashed mixed greens, but you could use romaine, or green leaf, or butter, whatever your preference!)

2 carrots sliced into sticks, or chopped
about half a cucumber, sliced into sticks
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
a handful of sugar snap peas, chopped

4 green onions, sliced or cut with kitchen scissors
4 (or more) slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
crumbled or shredded cheese of your preference (blue, cheddar, Gorgonzola, etc)

1/2 cup ranch dressing (or if your a blue cheese super fan, go with blue, or a mix of both!)
3 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce (more or less according to your spice preference)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Make yourself a dredging station: in one bowl have your whisked egg whites and buffalo wing sauce. In another bowl, stir together panko, breadcrumbs, onion powder and flour.

Dip each piece of chicken into the egg white mixture, then into the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to adhere. Place on prepared pan, spaced out a bit so they get crispy-crunchy, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

To make the dressing, whisk together the ranch, blue cheese and buffalo wing sauce.

To assemble the salads, combine lettuce, carrots and snap peas and whatever veg you wish in bowls or on plates. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then toss.

Top your salad with the baked buffalo chicken and bacon,  then add your favourite cheese, and finally drizzle with your spicy buffalo ranch(or blue) dressing! 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

White Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cookies & Inner Peace

I've been in a bit of a writing slump/bad mood lately.  My brain has been completely preoccupied by negative thoughts relating to a negative person, and I've let it go too far.  In the last week I was even loosing sleep, going over, and over, the thing I would like to say to them...and how I would say it!  I was making myself loony, not to mention sleep deprived!  It's unbelievable how counteractive my day is by carrying around the weight of these thoughts; I'm grumpy, and short tempered with my kids, and I even was making horrible food choices, it's spiraling out of control!  So, I'm just going to let it go!  I'd much rather have my brain swirling with recipes and stories to share, than ranting and not taking the time to breath. 

Breath positivity in...Breath negativity out.
Much Better. 

These White Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cookies are the perfect solution to any bad day/mood.  They are so moist and chewy, it's a revelation.  They do require a bit of premeditation, however, as the dough must be allowed to chill for at least 2 hours.  Chilling a cookie dough is a step I never really followed in previous recipes, I'm usually making cookies based on an immediate craving, and will need to eat them as soon as they are ready!  But, I've been experimenting with a few different recipes lately, that all use this chilled-dough method, and I must say, it's worth it.   Just as a chili or pasta sauce improves over time obtaining a deeper flavour from simmering all day, or even overnight, so does cookie dough!  Go Figure! 

Hope these cookies fill your day with light, positivity, and deliciousness!

White Chocolate Maraschino Cookies
Recipe adapted from: Averie Cooks

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
about 1/3 cup diced maraschino cherries **patted dry**
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and set aside. 
In a large bowl beat the butter until smooth, adding the sugars and continue to beat until creamed and well combined.   Add the egg, cream, vanilla, and beat again until light and fluffy. 
Next add the dry to the wet mixture until just combined.  Add the cherries, and white chocolate chips, and fold in delicately.   Don't overmix or the cherries stain the dough...unless you want pink cookies, then go ahead! 

This is a really sticky and tacky dough because of the moisture from the cherries, it will be (slightly) easier to work with once chilled.  Make the dough into a mound or place on plate, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the wrapped dough for at least 2 hours.  If you skip this step the cookies will spread-mega.  Chill. 

Preheat oven to 350°F  
Place the chilled dough well-spaced, about 2 inches apart, to allow for spreading.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes for a softer chewier cookie, or 11 to 13 for crunchier cookies.   Cool on racks and then devour!