Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cranberry Apple Crumble Pie

Call me the Leftover Queen, but I just hate to throw out perfectly good food!
In searching my fridge for ingredients to make a pie (I had the second of a double pie crust in the freezer), I found some honeycrisp apples and half a bag of fresh cranberries (leftover from some Pom-Kiwi-Crantinis I made last week). And because I had no pastry for the top - I crowned it with a great crumble! And the result? - Oh so YUM!!

Who doesn't LOVE a great pie? 

1 single pie shell

For the filling:
5 honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1 cup fresh cranberries, washed
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

For the crumble:
3/4 cup flour (I mixed 1/2 white 1/2 whole wheat)
1/4 firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

  • Method:
  • 1. Place cranberries and apples in a mixing bowl. Add lemon juice and toss to coat (this will prevent the apples from turning brown). Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over fruit and toss to coat evenly. Pour into unbaked pie shell and dot with butter. Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning and bake in 400F oven for about 30 minutes. 
  • 2. In the meantime, combine all ingredients for the crumble in a bowl and mix well with your hands (yes, your hands!) until, well...crumbly.
  • 3.Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 45 minutes until apples are done and topping is golden brown. Let cool to room temperature. Serves 6.
  • Try eating just one piece, I challenge you!

Soup and Sammy

Sunday is my day to make a large pot of soup. Hubs likes to take some to work for his lunch during the week and it definitely cuts down on the cost of eating out. I use medication-free turkey in my recipe, as I always try and avoid meat that is high in growth-hormones and antibiotics, but you can certainly use whichever meat you are accustomed to. The addition of Creole spice gives this delicious soup the perfect amount of warmth. Did you know that spicy foods speed up the metabolism and help in digestion among other benefits?

The top 5 benefits of spicy foods:
1. Spicy foods speed up the metabolism, which helps in weight loss.
2. Capsaicin (in jalapenos) is great for cancer prevention
3. Spice stimulates the digestive juices in the stomach*
4. Spice increases blood circulation
5. Spicy foods are known to improve sleep patterns

*If you have a tendency toward heartburn after eating spicy foods, it usually means that your stomach isn't producing enough stomach acids. The tendency is to take an antacid, but this actually exacerbates the problem, because antacids are alkaline.Your stomach really needs more acid to digest the food. The best remedy for heartburn is to take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. If you have difficulty taking the vinegar on its own, you can chase it with a small glass of water, but for the most effective remedy, its best to take the vinegar straight.

And what would a great bowl of soup be without a yummy 'sammy' (aka sandwich)? One of my favourite herbs is often under-utilized tarragon.Tarragon pairs beautifully with chicken, so I decided to combine a melange of tangy, sweet, crunchy, and fragrant to create a scrumptious sandwich filling, that is super satisfying as well as simply delish!

Creole Turkey Soup
Click HERE for printable recipe

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
10 cups low sodium chicken stock 
2 large cans low sodium diced tomatoes
(with juice)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp creole spice ( recipe to follow)
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
pepper, to taste
1/2 cup long grain rice, raw

1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook until nicely browned. Add spices, stirring to combine with meat and cook for about 5 minutes to release the spice flavours. Add celery, onions, garlic and carrots and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 1 hour. Add rice and continue to cook an additional 20 minutes, or until rice is done. Serves 10. 

Creole Spice Mixture


2-1/2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp cayenne
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme

Mix all spices together and store in a glass jar for up to 3 months.

Tarragon Chicken Salad
click HERE for printable recipe

2 cups cooked chicken (use leftovers or a store bought ready chicken)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 gala apple, chopped
1 Tbsp red onion, minced
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp tarragon
1 tsp Dijon mustard ( I use the Maille brand)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Foccacia bread

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, tarragon. Dijon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Coarsely chop chicken. Place in bowl and add celery, apple and onion. Toss to combine. Add dressing and mix together gently. Chill until ready to use. Serves 4.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Hey why not reward yourself with an indulgent (but healthy) cocktail to help shake off the stress that has been building all week? Ok, by now you have probably recognized that my cooking style is based on healthy, low fat, low sodium, unprocessed ingredients - and yes, I do live a very healthy lifestyle BUT - I do believe that alcohol in moderation is actually GOOD for you - hey it relieves stress, right? So less stress =  less inflammation = more in creating my Pom-Kiwi-Crantini,  I have combined antioxidant rich pomegranate juice with cranberry juice (good for the kidneys and bladder) and fresh kiwi (vitamin C) for the healthy aspect of this drink...*ahem - ok, then I added some tropical flavoured coconut vodka and...aaah I was instantly transported to a warm tropical clime (not literally...although after a few of these, you may believe you actually are there!

It's Friday...tie one on tonight!

1 ounce 'Pom' juice
1 ounce cranberry juice 
1/2 kiwi, peeled & pureed
2 ounces coconut vodka
Shaker of ice
kiwi and cranberries for garnish

Combine Pom, cranberry juice, pureed kiwi and coconut vodka in a cocktail shaker. Shake well to chill. Strain into chilled Martini glass and garnish with kiwi slice and cranberries.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Night Shepherds Pie

My Roast Chicken with Eggplant and Prune Stuffing was a hit last night, and I did have some leftovers (the stuffing was gobbled up), even after feeding my husband and two teen aged sons! Not one to waste anything worthwhile keeping, I took the remaining roast chicken (added some ground chicken), the veggies, gravy and yam and potato gratin and turned it into a brilliant Shepherd's Pie for tonight's supper. One prep two dinners - Yay!

3 cups left over chicken, chopped (or add cooked ground chicken to equal 3 cups meat)
2 tsp poultry seasoning
Left over vegetables (carrrots, peas and corn) about 1 cup
Left over gravy, about 1 cup
Left over yam and potato mash (or mashed potatoes)
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Chop up left over chicken meat and combine with cooked ground chicken. Add poultry seasoning, vegetables and gravy. Place mixture in a 9"x13" casserole dish.
2. Heat potato mash in a skillet on medium flame until heated through. Top meat mixture with warm potato mash. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 325F, covered in tin foil for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roast Chicken With Eggplant And Prune Stuffing

Oh...what to cook for Wednesday evening supper...? I thawed a very large chicken in the fridge overnight (yes, its medication-free - but I lucked out and found a 4 1/2 pounder at the Real Canadian Superstore! I really wanted to do a stuffing, and since I am eating gluten free, I decided to use up some eggplants I had in the fridge, some dried prunes and pistachio nuts to make a yummy wheat free stuffing. What I came up with is a delicious Mediterranean style recipe for a stuffed bird:

1 large roasting chicken
1Tbsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic pepper

1 medium sized eggplant, cut into small dice
3 strips bacon, fat trimmed and diced
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 tsp poultry seasoning
8 prunes, chopped
2 Tbsps pistachios, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil

1.Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until not quite crisp. Add onions, eggplant and poultry seasoning and continue cooking until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. If  pan becomes dry, add olive oil. Remove from heat and add prunes and nuts. Set aside to cool.
2. In the meantime combine spices and herbs in a small bowl. Season the chicken inside and out with the spice mixture. Stuff the chicken loosely with stuffing and convection roast at 325F until meat thermometer inserted in breast reads 170 F. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving (this seals in the juices).
3. Scoop out the stuffing and serve on the side.
I used the drippings from the roasting pan to make a delicious gravy, by whisking 3 Tbsps of gluten free flour into the pan juices, cooking over medium-low heat, then slowly adding low sodium chicken stock to the pan, whisking while it thickens to desired consistency. Serves 4-6.

Yam And Potato Gratin
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
2 lbs yams, peeled and diced
Sea salt, to taste
3 Tbsps buttermilk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated Pecorino (sheep's cheese)
Small bunch fresh chives, chopped

1. Boil yams and potatoes together until soft. Drain. Using electric hand-mixer, whip yams and potatoes together with buttermilk, butter and salt.
2. Place in a casserole dish and top with Pecorino cheese. Broil for 8-10 minutes, or until just golden brown. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serves 4-6.

*The mixed veggies (carrots, peas and corn) are tossed with browned butter and fresh mint.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scallops and Shrimp with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis and Jalapeno Chive Aioli

Here's a beautiful, light mid-week meal that can also stand up as a fancy offering to your guests at your next dinner party. I was able to find some wonderful sea scallops (flash frozen) at Costco last week and at the same time purchased a bag of frozen 21/30 shrimp. If you've ever wondered what those numbers mean on the package, they refer to the size of the shrimp. 21/30 means there are approximately 21-30 shrimp per pound. The larger the number, the smaller the shrimp. Check out the table below for a quick reference. 

Shrimp Count Sizes
Shrimp per pound:
• 10 shrimp or less = Colossal
• 11 to 15 = Jumbo
• 16 to 20 = Extra-large
• 21 to 30 = Large
• 31 to 35 = Medium
• 36 to 45 = Small
• about 100 = Miniature

Did you know that there are over 300 varieties of shrimp? The largest are not actually shrimp at all, but prawns, which are part of the lobster family. A delicacy here on the West Coast of British Columbia, are Spot Prawns, which are only available fresh in May and June. Check back with me for a delicious Fresh BC Spot Prawn recipe later in spring.

I absolutely LOVE scallops as they are not only healthy (high in Omega 3's and low in fat), but extremely versatile. Scallops can be sauteed, panfried, broiled, grilled, BBQ'd and made into a bisque or chowder. The most popular scallop varieties are sea scallops (the largest), pink, calico and bay scallops. The key in succeeding with your scallop recipe, is to NOT overcook them, or they become tough.

8 sea scallops
12 large shrimp
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

For the rub:
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground anise
1 tsp whole mustard seed

With mortar and pestle grind the spices together use as rub for the prawns and scallops. Set aside.

For the Roasted Red Pepper Coulis:
3 roasted red bell peppers* (see method below)
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp sea salt

For the Jalepeno Chive Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 jalapeno
1 small bunch fresh chives

1. Place whole red peppers on baking sheet and roast on middle rack under broiler, turning over once until charred and soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place in sealed paper bag until cool. Remove from bag and peel off charred skin. Remove seeds and stems and place in blender. Add paprika, vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. In food processor blend olive oil, chives, garlic, lime juice and jalapeno. Place mayonnaise in mixing bowl and slowly whisk in olive-chive mixture until smooth and glossy. Fill prepared aioli into a plastic squeeze bottle for easy garnish technique.

3. Heat red pepper coulis in small saucepan on medium-low heat until just heated through. In a separate skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Place shrimp and scallops in pan to sear, 4 minutes on one side, then turn and sear an additional minute or so just until golden. Remove from heat.

To serve, place about 2-3 Tbsp of the red pepper coulis on plate. Arrange scallops and shrimp on top and garnish with a few squeezes of aioli. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives. I served this dish with a yam and potato mash garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Serves 4.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Huevos Rancheros

In keeping with my Sunday morning ritual of clearing out the fridge of leftovers, I put together my rendition of Huevos Rancheros, using up some turkey sausage, black beans and very ripe grape tomatoes.

3/4 tin black beans, drained - some liquid reserved (you can use a whole tin - I used left over beans)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup Monteray Jack cheese, grated
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 turkey farmers sausages, diced
2 Tbsp red onion, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1/2 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, diced
4 poached eggs
4 flour tortillas
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sour cream and salsa for garnish

1. Place beans in skillet and cook over medium heat until steaming. Using a potato masher, coarsely crush beans, leaving some whole. Add garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until heated through. Add a little liquid if too dry. Stir in cheese and keep warm, covered until ready to use.
2. In skillet, cook turkey farmers sausage over medium-high heat until browned. Reduce heat and add onion, jalapeno, garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper and chili powder. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tomatoes burst, about 15 minutes.
3. Wrap flour tortillas in foil and place in 325 F oven for about 10 minutes.
4. To assemble Huevos Rancheros: place a warm tortilla on a plate. Spread refried beans onto tortilla. Place a scoop of the meat and tomato mixture on top. Add avocado slices and poached egg. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sour cream, salsa and a lime wedge.
Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Its still winter here in Vancouver...yup the first day of spring has come and gone and our temperatures are soaring around 9 C with a forecast to drop even lower in the next few days. I  am oh so in need of sunshine and memories of holidays in a warm land just to revive me...
Last evening I connected with a favourite place I once visited as a child by delving into one of my favourite cultural cooking styles: Greek. This recipe uses my rendition of a tangy, herbaceous marinade to 'greekify' a beautiful side of Steelhead Trout. You can substitute salmon or chicken breasts for the protein for equally scrumptious results!


Recipes below...

When I was growing up in Germany, I had the opportunity to travel with my family to Greece. As a young impressionable girl, I was immediately taken by the rich history and stunning beauty of this ancient, mysterious land. Visions of white-washed structures clad in azure blue shutters clinging to the edge of this rocky terrain, still conjure up fond memories of a carefree time spent in this spectacular country during my childhood holidays.

I still remember sitting on the millenia-old stone steps of the amphitheater in Delphi imagining a rendition of Homer's The Illiad and the Odyssey unfolding on the stage before me. Actors dressed appropriately in a peplos, the Greek version of a toga ( not to be confused with the costume of choice at college initiation parties...) and carbatine, a type of leather sandal (in my teen years also known as the 'Goliath Sneeker'), reciting this epic poem about ancient Troy.

Some of my fondest memories are of sitting in a quaint sidewalk Taverna in Paleokastritsa on the gorgeous island of Corfu, savouring some of the lip-smacking local cuisine. It is here that I sampled Kalamarakia (calamari or squid) and Htapothi (octopus) for the very first time. To my surprise, the octopus required a somewhat unconventional type of prep to make it palatable...I hesitate to share this information, as it still conjures up one unpleasant 'foodmare'  that haunts me still...*having flashbacks, starting to hyperventilate*... 

Ok, I was witness to the local fishermen hauling in their catch of these creepy looking bulgy eyed, slimy creatures, all tentacles and legs waiting on their fate (the daily restaurant plate special). It wasn't bad enough that the the octopi were hung on a clothesline to drain...I digress...admittedly though, grilled octopus is a must try, it is insanely good!

The best street food I have ever eaten was a lamb Souvlaki grilled on a small BBQ by a local vendor in Pelekas. I can still taste that tangy lemony-garlic and sage marinade engulfing those succulent little skewers. I could smell them all along the walk uphill to the top of the village where our B&B was located. A couple of Drachma could buy you two Souvlaki, piping hot off the grill, the perfect snack to tide you over until dinner at the nearest Taverna. Here is where we would indulge in some Spanakopita (spinach pie) or Dolmades (meat balls) for our Mezethes (appetizer), Moussaka or fresh grilled Scampi for a main with a refreshing traditional Greek salad and rice pilaf and of course some Baclava to complete the perfect the time I wasn't old enough or the slightest bit interested in Ouzo, one of Greece's staple alcoholic beverages, but I can tell you that I was witness to the result of what happens when the adults indulge in too many bottles of this licorice flavoured spirit...lets just say: Zorba the Greek arrived!

Greek Fish Marinade

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste

1. Place herbs, salt and pepper in mortar and pestle and crush to combine. In measuring cup, whisk together herb mixture, garlic, lemon juice, orange juice and olive oil. 
2. Pour over fish, coating well. Marinate for 2 hours, turning fish frequently. Enough to marinate 4 fish fillets. Place fish on hot grill and cook, basting frequently to desired doneness.

Greek Salad

3 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
2 dozen black Greek olives
150g goat feta, crumbled
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp oregano leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp sugar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Place vegetables and olives in a large salad bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, herbs, sugar, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add dressing to vegetables and toss until well combined. 
2. Before serving, top with crumbled feta and garnish with additional oregano. Serve chilled.

Sprouted Brown Rice Pilaf

2 cups sprouted brown rice
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/8 tsp sage
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1. Heat olive oil and butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots and rice and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add stock, herbs and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered until rice is done, about 25 minutes. 
2. Remove from heat and let rice rest for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Frittata

I like to empty out my fridge of leftovers on Sunday mornings and take inspiration to create something delicious for brunch. My challenge this morning was to use up some grilled peppers and zucchini from last night's steak dinner, which I decided to incorporate into this fabulous frittata.

Frittatas are essentially the Italian version of a Spanish omelet, except much easier to prepare. Instead of placing the filling into the cooked egg, the ingredients are all mixed together with the eggs as a mishmash and cooked as one, then finished off under the broiler.

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup grilled roasted peppers (any combination), thinly sliced
1/2 cup grilled zucchini, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
8 mushrooms, sliced
6 eggs, beaten
Pinch smoked paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 slices Havarti cheese, cut into strips
2 oz Chevre (goats cheese), crumbled
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Cilantro for garnish

1. Melt coconut oil on medium heat in a medium-sized oven proof skillet (I use cast iron, because it significantly increases the iron content in your food during the cooking process, especially when cooking acidic foods like tomatoes**).
2. Add mushrooms, grilled vegetables and scallions and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, paprika, pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
4. Pour ingredients into the skillet and stir to blend ingredients. Cook uncovered, about 10 minutes until the eggs are set. Place the Havarti, Chevre and tomatoes (cut side up) onto the frittata.
5. Place frittata under pre-heated broiler on middle rack and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until puffed.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serves 4

And while on the topic of cookware...I thought I would share my opinion and some information on some of the types of cookware that I prefer to use.

Don't throw out your grandmother's old cast iron pans...!

I don't believe in using non-stick cookware. TEFLON - or non-stick cooking pans are generally deemed safe, if used according to manufacturers specifications, however if a pot or pan is left to overheat, then the toxic chemicals (perflurooctanoic acid or PFOA, also known as C-8) can be released into the food and simultaneously into the air. PFOA is a known carcinogen, so why take the chance?

My favourite skillet is made from cast iron, which is known for its durability and even heat distribution and can help ensure that eaters in the house get enough iron - which the body needs to produce red blood cells. The majority of my pots and pans are made from stainless steel, which contains nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all elements the body requires. It is safe to use in cooking as long as the pans aren't overly dinged and pitted, which would enable some of the metals to leach into food. At low amounts the toxicity is negligible. There are literally hundreds of stainless steel cookware brands out there. Try and find a brand that offers at least 18 gauge steel. Top of the line cookware is between 5-7 gauge, but quite expensive.

I use anodized aluminum bakeware, which is safer than straight aluminum as the electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the aluminum, so that it can't leach into the food. Check out brands like Calphalon (try and find the ones made in the US) - or All Clad, although most are made off-shore and may contain traces of toxic lead.
Ceramic coated cookware, such a Le Creuset and Emilie Henry has been commonly used in Europe for years, is safe as long as the ceramic coating is intact. Copper is great for even heat distribution and quick heating, but the copper can leak into food when its heated, so make sure you choose cookware that has been coated with tin or stainless steel. Popular brands are: Baumalu, De Buyer and Pierre Vergnes, or the Williams and Sonoma line.
Glass cookware is 100% safe, as far as toxicity, but the disadvantage is breakage. Stove top brands are Visions and oven/microwave varieties include Corning and Pyrex.
The type of cookware you use is really a combination of  personal choice and the type of range you are cooking on. The world is really your oyster here. There is cookware to suit every taste and budget, so a trip to the kitchen supply store, where you can talk to a professional can definitely help with the decision making process. Happy Cooking!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unconventional Beef Stew

Sometimes the best comfort food is a simple beef stew. I was searching my fridge and pantry for the usual suspects: potatoes, carrots, barley and peas to accompany my package of stewing beef in the cauldron, but alas, they were not to be here is what I came up with and the results are, well...simply divine!

1 lb stewing beef
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
4 cups beef stock
3 Tbsp raw Quinoa
1 cup frozen green peas
1 small bunch Italian parsley

1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Toss beef cubes in mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Brown beef until golden then add onions. Cook until onions are transparent, about 10 minutes. 
2. Add bay leaves, chilli flakes, sun dried tomatoes, Worchestershire sauce and beef stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 45 minutes.
3. Add butternut squash and continue to cook for another 45 minutes.
4. Stir in Quinoa and peas and continue to cook for about 15 more minutes, or until meat is tender.
Garnish with chopped Italian parsley.
Serves 6

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Treating a cold...the natural way!

Winter time is let's face it, cold and flu season. Although the pretty yellow and pink blossoms are now beginning to emerge and the days are getting longer, it isn't necessarily an indication that we are out of the woods, at least not yet.

When I feel a cold or flu coming on, its no secret. Its the tell-tale tightness in my throat or the tingling in my sinuses that indicate some nasty virus has managed to sneak into my body and make itself at home as a most unwelcome guest. I feel it in the loss of energy and fogginess in my head, the aching in joints and muscles and my craving for oranges and anything citrus.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Easy Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

3 lbs pork back rib ends (tails)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup liquid honey
2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 green pepper, diced
salt, pepper to taste

1. Separate the ribs by cutting in between bones into bite-sized riblets.
 Set aside.
2. In mixing bowl, combine ketchup, tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, ginger and garlic. Blend well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place riblets, onions and green peppers in Dutch oven (or similar oven proof pot). Add sauce, stirring until well combined. Cover with lid or tinfoil.
4. Place in 325F oven for 2 hours. Serve with steamed rice.
Serves 4-6

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yoga or Aerobics?

When its time for that workout, are you a die-hard aerobics fan, who's enviably coordinated, all jumping jacks and flailing arms, while gasping for that next breath, or do you prefer a slower, more controlled workout, painfully holding poses and tuning in to your Drishty, while having to remind yourself to keep breathing?

I am a glutton for both...ugh - well I have to admit, as far as aerobics, I fit more into the embarrassingly uncoordinated group, who positions herself in the last row in order to follow whoever the keener is in front.

I stopped going to public aerobics classes for that reason, yeah there were too many head-on collisions that could have been avoided if I were just able to get it together. My least favourite combo was the grapevine, a convoluted move requiring great concentration (on my part) crossing over feet and reversing direction, one I bombed on even after a year participating in the same class with the same instructor! And so I felt in the best interest of public safety it was my duty to resign from public fitness classes for good, choosing instead to partake in the comfort and privacy of my own four walls...

Skinny Bitch Fitness are my go-to DVDs for fun, total body workouts, that do sometimes involve coordination, but now only the dog can laugh...

My favourite is Skinny Bitch Body, which is a one hour work-out targeting arms, abs, legs and butt-or ASS... as the two cheeky hosts with the most call it. The workout is literally 'kick-ass' featuring a combination of Yoga moves, Asian and South American Martial Arts. The best part of the workout is that it can be done in the privacy of your own home (so you don't have to be embarrassed if you are feeble at coordination, like me...).
I am totally addicted to the workout, getting that pseudo 'runners high' as it not only makes you feel good about yourself, but gives you the chance to have some fun while you're working this I have learned not to take myself so seriously - imagine yourself doing the SUMO in front of the TV screen - YES in a half-squat, slapping your thighs while chanting Aaa-hiaah!!

Rating: *****/5

Yoga is something I indulge myself in, as it not only gives me the body workout I desire, but the mind and body connection. The poses, or Asanas create great body strength as well as an opportunity the be in the moment and focus on what is going on inside, an important factor in staying balanced. Now this is where I do attend public classes. For me it is just as important to feel the energy from the other Yogis in the studio, as it is to get my workout. I feel much more grounded after a Yoga session, especially when reflecting on gratitude and sending out healing thoughts to those in need.

 I have been part of the same Yoga studio for 8 years. I have my favourite instructors and favourite fellow Yogis, who contribute to the overall good energy in the studio. But, I have recently subscribed to a free on-line Yoga group called Do Yoga with Me, which gives me the opportunity to do Yoga in the comfort of my home, or back yard (weather permitting), on those days when I am just not up to facing the world (we all have our bad days). But taking the time to engage in Yoga always makes me feel much better.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme...

Cooking with everyday garden herbs not only adds that special boost of flavour we all crave, but using herbs has great medicinal value, which is just plain smart! Look no further than your vegetable patch or decorative planter for those little green Titans commonly known as basil, oregano or parsley, to name a few. Herbs have been used by civilizations since the prehistoric times as the go to remedy for countless ailments.

Here are some examples of herbs and how to use them medicinally:

Basil is rich in flavonoids which keep cells healthy and functioning properly. As a good source of vitamin K, it also helps promote blood clotting to heal cuts and abrasions. Eat basil to sooth menstrual cramps and slow heavy flow and to ease sore muscles; basil also contains eugenol, an anti-inflammatory agent that works in a similar way to aspirin.

Mint is a great digestive and anti-nausea aid. The menthol activates digestive enzymes, which relaxes the intestine for smooth digestion. The rosmarinic acid in mint shows great promise in aiding respiratory disorders and promoting good oral health. Some studies show that peppermint oil contains a phytonutrient that may inhibit the growth of mammary, liver and pancreatic tumours.

Rich in myristicin, parsley contains chemoprotective qualities which may inhibit growth of certain tumours and neutralize carcinogens in grilled foods. It is also rich in disease fighting vitamins C and A, which boost our immune systems to help battle colds. It has been used traditionally to help cleanse blood and tissues in the kidney, liver and bladder. Eat a sprig of parsley after garlic to freshen your breath!

Soothing in aroma, rosemary also stimulates the immune system and keeps blood flowing to ensure a healthy nervous system. Fragrant sprigs contain anti-inflammatory properties useful in quelling asthma attacks and bringing relief to headaches. Adding a few drops of rosemary oil to a hot bath works as an internal cleanser, helping expel toxins through sweating.

Sage contains rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the nervous system and protects against cell damage. Its anti-inflammatory properties may help soothe asthma and rheumatoid arthritis pain. Sage also contains phytosterols that may help alleviate cramps and provide relief for menopausal hot flashes.

Anti-fungal and antiviral properties are found in oregano oil as well as a high amount of fibre, which when digested, helps break down unhealthy cholesterol. It's also rich in vitamin C and calcium to help keep bones strong. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), oregano is often used to help bring down a fever, treat jaundice and relieve diarrhea.

Similar to parsley, dill contains chemoprotective compounds and antioxidants that destroy cell-damaging free radicals. Dill is often used as a digestive aid (relieves gas) and is a good source of fibre and magnesium, a nerve and muscle relaxant.

Known for its help with respiratory problems, thyme is used to soothe coughs, chest congestion and bronchitis. As an antiseptic and digestive aid, it soothes sore throats and coughs. Thyme is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, linked to keeping the brain, kidney and heart healthy.

I love to use herbs, especially when I can just trim a bunch fresh out of my garden patch or planter. Herbs are great flavour enhancers for many savoury recipes. The usual suspects like basil and oregano are wonderful when used in Italian or Greek dishes, while dill and tarragon marry well with fish and seafood. I recently started broadening my repetoire using herbs to heighten the flavours of my sweet recipes. Think basil paired with licorice over strawberries, or rosemary to complement the taste of chocolate. Using herbs in desserts may seem somewhat unconventional, but it gives your dish that unexpected twist and with amazing results...

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a yummy dessert using rosemary. This herb imparts a similar flavour as mint, but is deeper and earthier. 

Deep Dark Chocolate and Rosemary Pudding
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
2 large sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary (about 3 Tbsp)
2/3 cup organic cane sugar or coconut sugar
1/3 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 1/2 Tbsp tapioca starch (or corn starch)
Pinch of sea salt
3 1/2 oz 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate chunks
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1. In saucepan bring milk, cream and rosemary just to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand 15-20 minutes to infuse. Strain out the rosemary leaves.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, tapioca starch and salt. Bring milk and cream back to a boil. Whisk in sugar mixture. Reduce heat to medium, whisking continuously until pudding begins to thicken. Just before it boils, remove from heat, then stir in chocolate chunks and vanilla until smooth.
3. Pour into 4 decorative glasses and refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
Serves 4

credit: Jennifer Danter/Alive magazine

The Evil Twins: Wheat and Gluten

I had been feeling the ill effects from Fibromyalgia for just over a decade and was long on the hunt for the elusive pain reliever for this frustrating condition, as conventional pain medications unfortunately do not work for Fibro-related pain.  Its one thing to just suck it up and try and ignore the aches and pains in those tell-tale 18 body target points, but eventually the constant inflammation and pain signals alerting the brain that things are not right begin to manifest in your body in other, not so pleasant ways. 

Recently I visited a new Naturopath (I 'fired' my old one for reasons of 'induced paranoia'), who tested my body (among other things) for areas of inflammation. The results were quite astounding. It turns out my overall life force was weakened by several things I have been eating and the result was severe inflammation. The main culprit: wheat and gluten. I have long heard stories of these evil twins, but tried to ignore the fact that ingesting them was the cause of my pain. The thought of giving up baguettes and bagels was enough for me to have a breakdown and send me into therapy...

Not only was I experiencing pain in my joints and muscles, but I was increasingly gaining weight, something I attributed to what I endearingly call LOW-E (low estrogen, or early on-set menopause which I presumed was the result of  medication I had taken for breast cancer treatment... that is another story I will share with you later). Over the course of 8 months I packed on a total of ten pounds, which on my small frame had to be more than the result of indulging in all things gluten. I began to diet and at times ate only half of my daily calories, just to fit back into those jeans I wore one year earlier. 

After having some blood work done upon my Gynaecologist's recommendation,  it was revealed that I was still as fertile as a young maiden and thus the weight gain had absolutely no correlation to a decrease in hormones...Ugh!  

It was around the same time that a friend of mine mentioned a book she was reading called Wheat Belly, written by Dr. William Davis. On my next trip to the book store, I found it on one of the centre displays labelled New York Times Bestsellers. I read the back jacket and Eureka! had me at Reduction of inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis pain!! In addition I was intrigued by another comment: Did you know that eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase your blood sugar more than 2 tablespoons of pure sugar can?

I have been off wheat and gluten for 3 months now. I feel so much better; I have way more energy, no more brain fog, no more bloating - yes that was a huge issue for me - and the pain in my joints and muscles has improved tremendously - and guess what...? I have lost those 10 pounds I was unable to shed before (and I am back in my favourite jeans again!!)

I can highly recommend this read for anyone who cares enough about their health - it is a very important documentation of the direction our diets are going (and that's not necessarily a good thing...)
Rating: *****/5 

P.S. My friend Jeanine has an awesome web-site called The Baking Beauties, featuring all things gluten free. Her recipes are amazing and the photos of her delicious creations are gorgeous!

This is a recipe I came up with to help me get through those busy days when I'm on the go and can't find a sensible wheat free snack...anywhere.

Yummy Wheat Free Energy Bars

1 cup oats ( I used the quick variety)
2 cups gluten free cereal (rice or corn crisps )
1 cup nut mixture (chopped walnuts, almonds, and pecans,  pumpkin, sunflower seeds)
plus 1/2 cup ground nuts (almond or walnut)
1 cup dried fruit mixture (raisins, apricots, currants, berries, apple...)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sesame seeds 
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
3 Tbsps chia seeds
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Place nut mixture (except ground nuts) in a skillet. Toast on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until slightly brown. Add salt and toss to coat. Set aside to cool. Chop any of the larger dried fruits, such as apple or apricots, so they are similar in size to the berries/raisins.

Blend ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup coconut sugar ( or any unrefined sugar)
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (available at Middle-Eastern shops)
1/4 cup pure unpasteurized honey

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into dry mixture. Stir until the mixture is well combined. Press firmly into 2 -  9" x 13" cookie sheets (or 1 cookie sheet for thicker bars). Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, then cut into bars. 
** Optional; add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to dry mixture for extra sweetness ( I usually make 1 pan of each).