Monday, May 10, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds, Cilantro & Raisins

I decided to make a big bowl of quinoa salad that I can portion out for dinners and lunches for this week and I think this one is a definite winner! As I had a lovely bunch of fresh cilantro I used almost a cup's worth in this recipe, however if cilantro isn't your herb of choice, I think that the Italian flat leaf parsley would also be really delicious and fresh in this salad...or perhaps a lemon thyme...hmmm! Got to try that next time I make this salad!

1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water or broth
1/2 cup EVOO
1/3 cup of lemon juice
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
4 green onions, finely sliced
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup of slivered almonds, toasted
2/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Salt & pepper to taste

  • After rinsing and draining the quinoa to remove the bitter saponin, add the quinoa and the water to a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool, fluffing with a fork.

  • Place slivered almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 325F oven for approx. 5 mins - watch the almonds as they go from raw to toasted to burnt very quickly!! Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

  • Meanwhile, combine the EVOO, lemon juice, and garlic in a bowl. Whisk and taste prior to seasoning.

  • Place quinoa, almonds, raisins, cilantro, onions and dressing in a bowl and let cool in the refrigerator. This salad's flavour enhances the longer you allow it to sit and absorb the dressing in the fridge!

  • ENJOY!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy 65th Mum!

Not only is it Mother's Day weekend, but yesterday was an important day for our family as it was my Mum's 65th Birthday!!! If you know your history then you guessed correctly that she was born the day WWII ended in Britain. In fact the story goes that my Grandmother was in the midst of giving birth while the nurses and doctors were hanging out of the hospital windows, banging bed pans together and revelling in the parade/festivities that were occurring down on the street!!! Therefore, as a child growing up in post-war Britain and in the south near Plymouth, rationing of food stuffs and economizing with what meagre foodstuffs you did receive were a common part of my mother's upbringing. Thankfully my Grandpa had a very productive vegetable garden so that my mother was raised on organic, fresh produce! Meats and cheeses, butters and milk were not as plentiful as one would expect in the breadbasket of England, as much of what they produced was sent abroad or to London. Luckily my Grandmother not only was a fantastic cook (like her mother before her who was a head cook for an estate home in Devon), but an economical one too. Although she had not heard of half the foodstuffs that I have available to me, what she did have was used judiciously and with amazing results. Due to the fact that my Grandmother was so efficient in the kitchen and preferred to work alone (a trait I see in myself), my mother did not develop a love of cooking. She is a great cook but does not enjoy the culinary arts in the way that I do. In fact Mum was horrified when I told her that I wanted to enter into the Culinary Arts program at George Brown - something akin to me stating that I wanted to run off and join a cult in Tibet!!!
Over the years Mum has become more adventuresome with her cooking and is always ready to try one of my new creations! Now if we can only get her to make her Cornish pasties more often.... Even if she doesn't share my passion for cooking, I have managed to spark a love of scrapbooking in her!

Happy Birthday and Mother's Day Mum!!! I love you!

Steel Cut Oatmeal

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Quinoa & Chickpea Soup), I am following a "Booty Camp Fitness" challenge. Funnily enough the elimination of dairy from my diet has been relatively easy, but refined sugar is more challenging because it is included (in a variety of forms) in almost all foods! Although I thoroughly enjoy eggs and sprouted grains toast with nut butter and honey, I decided to create something different for breakfast. As I was cooking the oatmeal, it occurred to me that perhaps many do not know the difference between the regular instant oatmeal and steel cut (or pinhead/Irish) oats.
Steel cut (or pinhead / Irish) oats are essentially instant oats prior to processing.Steel-cut oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into only two or three pieces by steel. These take longer to prepare than instant or rolled oats due to their minimal processing. Generally between 15-30 minutes to simmer (much less if pre-soaked). The taste and texture of the cooked product is what differs between these two forms of oatmeal - steel cut have a firmer and nuttier flavour.

Oat kernels can look very much like wheat berries in their raw state, but because the oat kernel is soft, the nutritious bran is not removed during processing and it takes much less time to cook (huge bonus in my books!!) Whole grain oats contain seven B vitamins, vitamin E, and nine minerals, including iron and calcium. The quality and quantity of the protein in oats is far superior to that of wheat and most other grains. One ounce of oats has TWICE the protein of wheat or corn flakes. But the most important nutritional advantages are the soluable fiber and the GLA (gamma linoleic acid); the soluable fiber is what gives it the gummy texture, and it helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood.

I like to cook mine and then add cinnamon (since it is delicious, helps regulate blood-sugar levels as well as battle against harmful yeasts in the body), a tbsp of maple syrup (since it is DELICIOUS, I get it from a farm down the road and has health benefits since it has high levels of zinc and manganese), and a handful of fresh blueberries (which help sweeten the oats as well as provide health benefits for almost all facets of the body's functioning). You should try this simple and nutritious cereal for breakfast or a snack - you'll be glad you did!

3 cups water
1/4 tsp sea or kosher salt
1 cup steel cut oats
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • Bring the 3 cups of water seasoned with salt to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the oats. Cover and simmer 10-20 mins (depending on how chewy you like your oats!), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Once all the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and add maple syrup and cinnamon. Stir well to incorporate evenly throughout the oats. Fold in the blueberries and ENJOY!

My Lovely New Canning Cupboard!

So I have to applaud my hubby yet again - this is a cabinet that he had made for me for Christmas. He designed it to suit my love of mission-style furniture, chose cherry wood and made sure that it has enough cabinets to fit my collection of cookbooks, canning jars and preserves. Then when he renovated our sitting room he built it in to the room! It is truly beautiful and SO much nicer than looking at mason jar boxes labelled and stacked in a corner!!! This summer I aim to fill more than just the top two shelves since we have already run out of my spaghetti sauce and a variety of other preserves ~ and now I have the perfect space to store all my creations!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quinoa & Chickpea Soup

I have recently joined the creator of "Booty Camp Fitness", Sammie Kennedy, in her 8 week online challenge. I completed a Booty Camp session in Mt. Albert and had amazing results so since a second session isn't being run, due to my instructor hurting her back (get better Erin!), I decided that this online challenge was just what I needed to give my booty a kick! The challenge consists of completing a 45 mins workout every day and some dietary restrictions (no dairy, no refined sugar, and no or 50% reduction in alcohol...not to mention a big salad daily). I knew that no dairy wouldn't be that huge of a challenge for me, but I didn't realize how difficult it would be to 'kick sugar''s in absolutely EVERYTHING! However, I am just watching labels more carefully and making substitutions where necessary.

I created this soup the other day and my family loved it (it was a little spicy for the kids but they ate it)! It's simple to prepare, nutritious, and absolutely delicious!!

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika (spicy or regular is fine)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 whole tomatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup organic quinoa (rinsed and drained)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
  • In a large pot, heat the EVOO over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until tender. Add garlic, quinoa, paprika and cayenne. Stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning, cook for 2 mins.
  • Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, stock, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 30 mins. covered, stirring occasionally.
  • Add parsley and lemon juice and blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve and ENJOY!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Other Passion - Scrapbooking!!!

As I said in my bio, my other passion is scrapbooking. I love reliving all of our family memories and arranging them in albums in a creative way with my thoughts and memories journalled for future generations to look at. Unfortunately I haven't been indulging this passion very much at all, lately. :-(

Recently we remodelled our sitting room and my wonderful husband created this area for me to scrapbook. It's flooded with tons of natural light during the day and he installed lighting for when I scrap at night. With my new space organized and so inviting, I wanted to work on some project that has been put aside. However, with May comes birthday parties and so I decided to christen my work space by creating invitations for both India and Devon's birthday parties!!!

This past weekend I went on an all day crop celebrating National Scrapbooking Day - it definitely got my creative juices flowing again and now I have the perfect place to work!

Thanks Greg!! xo