Thursday, 14 December 2017

Quinoa Breakfast Cookies



Quinoa cookies make a great make-ahead breakfast. They're quick to make, and freeze well, so all you gotta do is pop a couple in the oven in the AM, and enjoy a whole grain, fruity, delicious brekkie! I considered making these like a pancake, but I am not a fan of standing over a pan and waiting to flip each individual pancake! Baking them all at once works terrifically, and there's hardly any labour involved in making these!





Quinoa is a cool food, because it's high in both protein and fibre, plus loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. It's really easy to prepare (like this super easy lunch idea). I usually make my grains on the stove-top, but experimented in the microwave, and was super impressed that it really worked, and how easy it was! *Caution* cover your bowl when microwaving; I made a bit of mess. 



I often crave savoury food for breakfast (especially when I've had lots of sweet food the day before), so I opted out of using sugar in these cookies, depending on the sweetness from the almond milk and fruit, but you can experiment with the sweetness, and/or savoury-ness (notice the black pepper and cayenne here๐Ÿ˜‰).



Do you prefer sweet or savoury breakfasts? Comment below!





Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw quinoa
  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cup mixed berries
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine quinoa with milk and microwave covered 6 minutes
  2. About half the liquid should be absorbed by now. Stir & return to microwave for 2 minutes
  3. Remove from microwave and allow to sit 5-10 minutes
  4. Preheat oven to 350℉
  5. Add in all ingredients and combine
  6. Form into medium sized cookies
  7. Bake for , remove from oven to cool.
    Yield: 19 medium cookies.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Making sense of the pasta aisle



I'm a big pasta fan. I can easily eat it 2-3 times a week (and that's saying a lot. I like variety in my food๐Ÿ˜Š). 

This is NOT an ad, nor a sponsored post despite the pictures. If you follow me on Instagram you'll be familiar with my weekly #SUPERmarketfinds or #superMARKETING videos where I profile foods and break down if their marketing masquerades them as better than they really are, or if it's honestly a great food. This is basically an extended version.

The pasta aisle is so confusing! And not just because of all the different shapes of noodle (which 100% taste different, and you can't convince me otherwise!). But now there's also all these "smart" pastas, with added fibre, and added vegetables, and added... superpowers? Is it all necessary, and how can you know if you're choosing the best noodle for your dish?




There seems to be a lot of confusion around pasta. If you do a Google search of "is pasta..." the top suggestions are: vegan; good for you; bad for you; gluten free; fattening

VEGAN & GLUTEN FREE?

Pasta is made with flour and a liquid. Most of the pasta I've seen is made with wheat flour- making it gluten FULL. However, more and more gluten free options are popping onto grocery shelves, including rice, bean and lentil noodles. As far as vegan options go, unless a package specifically mentions containing eggs, pasta is vegan.

GOOD, BAD, FATTENING?

Carbohydrates are an important addition to meals, as it's the easiest energy source for the body, and the main energy source for our brain. Pasta is a no-to-low fat carb option that's inexpensive and easy to make (win-win in my mind!). It's also an incredibly diverse food that can be the base of absolutely anything- including vegetables and beans, and meat or fish or cheese... it's literally a blank slate of endless options.



SO HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NOODLE?

1. When looking at the veggie pasta, one touts its "super greens", but doesn't make any claims about amount of vegetables per serving, while the other claims to have half a serving of vegetables in every pasta serving. I'm always a bit skeptical with these added veggies, as most of the time it's vegetable powder added mostly for colour (and to make this claim), and the nutrition information doesn't really reflect that vegetables are there. In this case, the high fibre in the Smart Veggie is likely coming from the added oat fibre. And while at first glance, the super-greens appears to have high potassium from the added vegetables (as none of the other boxes mention potassium) in truth all pasta has potassium! And basically this amount! This box highlights this nutrient to appear more beneficial, but may just be #superMARKETING

2. Comparing the added fibre pasta to the ancient grains pasta, you'll find they're pretty similar in terms of nutrition, and have the same amount of fibre, though it is quite higher than the fibre of a regular pasta.

BOTTOM LINE:

Choose the pasta you enjoy the most. The goal of healthy living isn't to have food in your fridge and cupboards that you're not eating. A basic pasta is high in protein, a good source of fibre, and low in fat and sugar. Cook your pasta to al-dente, as this will slow down digestion and you can avoid a steep sugar rise and crash.


As always, pair your pasta with nutrient rich vegetables and filling proteins to provide a balanced and filling meal that leaves you feeling satisfied and energized.



What's your favorite pasta shape and pasta dish? Comment below!!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Apple Cinnamon Muffin-tops


Apple and cinnamon is one of my favorite autumn flavour combinations. Apples are in season, and they just scream for cinnamon! 

In my family, muffin tops are a hot-commodity, so when making these cookies, I tried for a fluffy muffin consistency. The secret is to barely mix the batter (similar to a muffin batter), and to wet your hands when forming the cookies because it's super sticky.


I can't be the only one who thinks cookies for breakfast needs to become mainstream right?! Well here's my contribution to that good fight; a low sugar and fat cookie. Pair it with some yogurt for a perfect morning meal ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I was honestly shocked how fast this batch went. 8-year-old M couldn't get enough of them as an after school snack, and the rest of the family literally (I don't use that word lightly) snapped them up.






Apple Cinnamon Muffin Top Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 small apple

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Combine all dry ingredients
  3. Mix in wet ingredients until just combined being careful not to overmix
  4. Wet hands to form medium sized balls- it’s a very wet mixture
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes
  6. Yield: 20 cookies.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sweet Potato Crusted Potato Knish


Mashed potatoes is a total comfort food, and also a staple dish at many holiday meals. A knish upgrades everyone's favorite side dish into its sophisticated cousin by stuffing it into a crusty outside. 

Go outside the expected, and welcome Autumn, by swapping the original flaky dough with my colourful antioxidant-rich sweet potato crust.

It's pretty, the colours contrast wonderfully when sliced, and man, this tastes great!



This recipe does take a bit of time to make (there's making the dough, and the filling, plus assembling it), but it's always super popular, so I only make it for Fall special occasions! 

Assembling mashed potatoes on dough

Microwaving the sweet potato instead of boiling it can cut down on some time. Depending on the size of your potato, it can be ready in 4 minutes to 16 minutes. Peel it after microwaving, and it's so much easier - the peel just slips off! 


Raw knishes before egg wash
Save the water used for boiling the other potatoes, and use it to make super smooth and creamy mashed potatoes




Sweet Potato Crusted Potato Knish

Ingredients:

Dough:
  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups flour
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
Filling:
  • 1/2 bunch leeks chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 5 small potatoes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • egg- optional for glaze

Instructions

  1. Microwave or boil sweet potato until completely soft
  2. Peel and mash sweet potato until smooth
  3. Combine all dough ingredients and set aside
  4. Boil potatoes- save this water
  5. Sautee chopped leeks and onion
  6. Mash potatoes well and combine all ingredients
  7. Add in reserved potato water to reach the smooth consistency of mashed potato you prefer

    To assemble:
  8. Preheat oven to 350° F
  9. Divide dough in 2 equal portions, plus about 1/8th to use for decoration
  10. Roll dough into a ¼ inch thick rectangle
  11. Spread filling in the centre of the dough, and fold dough over, so sides overlap
  12. Place seam-side down on baking tray
  13. Repeat with second half of dough
  14. Form a crisscross pattern using assigned dough
  15. Brush with egg wash
  16. Bake for , remove from oven to cool.



What occasion will you make this for?





Thursday, 19 October 2017

What's for Lunch?



Lunch is one of your most important meals of the day (breakfast and supper being the others ๐Ÿ˜‰). Packing a lunch is one of the best things you can do for sticking to your eating and budgetary goals, but it can be tricky coming up with lunch ideas day after day. I have some of my go-to ideas, and today I'll share one of my faves, plus some ways to switch it up.

A balanced lunch needs grains, protein and vegetables to keep you going strong throughout your day. Grains provide your brain with fuel, and making it a whole grain allows for slower digestion, both keeping you full for longer and preventing a sugar spike and crash. Protein also slows digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer, and vegetables provide important nutrients and health benefits.



  1. Chose a grain. Bulgur, rice, quinoa, wheat berries and barley are all great options; pick your favorite, or get adventurous and try a new one. (I've been wanting to try sorghum for a while now, but haven't been able to find it yet.)
  2. Grab your eggs: I recommend 2 eggs per person (this is a meat & alternatives serving on Canada's Food Guide, and more filling than just 1 egg)
  3. Season and choose your veggie add-ins; we'll get to those soon!

Instructions:
  • Add grain and water to a pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer until all the water is absorbed (amounts of grain, water and time vary, so check here to find ideal cooking times)
  • When most of water is absorbed, add in your raw scrambled eggs and combine with grains until fully cooked
  • Add in your spices: salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne... whatever gets your taste buds sizzling
  • Here's where you can get creative: the veggies! You've got 2 options: 1) Add them into the mixture 2) Top it off. (of course if you want to do both of them, you won't hear me complaining!) 
Wheat Berries + Eggs + Chunky Salsa

Some add-in ideas:
    • a couple tablespoons chunky salsa (adjust your seasonings depending on spice level here)
    • 1/2 can sliced yellow or green beans
    • fridge veggies reaching their prime
    • canned mushrooms
    • frozen green-beans (add before the eggs so the water is boiled out) 
Brown rice + frozen green beans

When going the topping route, you seriously can't go wrong: take any veggie you like, raw/roasted/sauteed etc. and top 'er up. Make it pretty if you want (I'm a proponent of 'pretty food tastes better'), and enjoy your high fibre, high protein, nutritious, filling lunch!!



Bulgar + 2 eggs Topped with 1/2 an avocado and 1 cob corn

Want more lunch ideas? Comment below and let me know :) 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Fig & Oat Squares


Figs, to me, are a special occasion fruit. Traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashana, it's a fruit I look forward to each year. (Figs are in season June to September). The tang of the skin, the sweet and creamy flesh combined with those crunchy seeds is a sensation like no other fruit! 

Figs are a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, copper, manganeese and pantothenic acid, and have many health benefits associated with eating them. 



With some extra figs this year, I decided to create these oat squares to kinda-sorta-not-really-at-all mimic those fave cookies; Fig Newtons.

The  fig jam filling is naturally sweet and tart (plus that great crunch!), and you may want to make extra for straight eating, because it is that good. 






Fig & Oat Bars

Ingredients:

  • 6 fresh figs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. On stove top, bring figs, water and lemon juice to a boil, and allow to simmer until mixture starts to thicken, about 5-10 minutes
  2. Allow mixture to cool for about 5 minutes
  3. Process mixture until smooth
  4. Set aside in fridge
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F
  6. Line 8-inch pan with parchment paper
  7. Whisk together oats, flour, sugar and salt
  8. Add in oil and eggs and mix until combined
  9. Wet hands, and press half the mixture into the pan
  10. Spread fig mixture on top
  11. Crumple pieces of remaining dough on top as crumbs
  12. Bake for , remove from oven to cool.
Yield: 12 squares.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Inside the Honey Dish


There's always a lot of hype around honey, and with Rosh Hashana coming- which is basically a honey celebration, I figured I should take a closer look at this natural sweetener. 


Sugar substitute:

Honey is not a "sugar free" sweetener. It is made up of glucose and fructose (along with small amounts of maltose and sucrose), and has an affect on blood sugar levels. Glycemic Index (GI) is the measurement of the effect in blood sugar from eating, and generally the higher a food's GI, the faster it raises blood sugar levels. Honey's GI is an average of 61 (it varies on location and what it's made from) and in comparison, table sugar is an average of 65. In one study  comparing honey to sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), all 3 had similar impact on blood sugar levels, lipid metabolism, inflammation and increased triglyceride levels, plus increased blood sugar specifically in people with impaired glucose tolerance. On the other hand, there does seem to be a quicker decline in blood sugar levels in honey versus sugar, possibly making it a better option in small amounts. Additionally, a small study suggests that long term  honey consumption may have a positive metabolic  affect on people with type 1 diabetes. One proposed mechanism for why this happens is possibly because of the fructose and the phytochemicals within honey act as a pre-biotic by enhancing bifidobacteria in the gut. This is why honey has a laxative effect for those with fructose malabsorption, and does not fit in a low FODMAP diet. 


Complementary Medicine:

Honey is often touted as a natural miracle healer. It does appear to have antimicrobial activity that is similar to antibiotics against certain bacteria (1) and prevents food spoilage and inhibits specific food-borne pathogens (2). While honey has been demonstrated as having anti-inflammatory capabilities, there is inconclusive evidence whether honey reduces inflammation caused from smoking (3). There is evidence that it is effective for healing wounds, burns and ulcers, and sterilizing infection, by stimulating tissue growth and minimizing scar formation (4). It's even more effective for healing diabetic wounds (5) as it combats many microorganisms that are involved in the wound process, and can fight inflammation. This makes it an "all in one" remedy that's safer, faster, more effective and more economical than traditional methods of wound healing.

Antioxidant Activity:

You've probably seen loads of varieties of honey- buckwheat, clover, acacia... Basically, this tells us which flowers were pollinated to make the honey. The flower variety influences the colour, flavour, and antioxidant level of the honey, resulting in over 300 honey varieties! Generally, the darker the honey, the more antioxidant content. Honey has small amounts of many minerals (calcium, iron and potassium among others), but with the small amounts, honestly you're better off getting your minerals and antioxidants from fruits and veggies! 


Want to start using more honey?

Honey is a pasteurized food, but this is only to make it last longer and be shelf stable. It still may contain botulism, and shouldn't be given to children under age 1 (adult's immune system should be strong enough to counter this).

When substituting honey for a sugar in a recipe, use 3/4 cup honey for each cup, and cut down on all other liquids by 2 Tbsp. Additionally, lower the baking temperature by 25 ℉.

At 17 grams of carbohydrates per Tbsp., honey is a good fuel source both pre-activity and during activity. It's possibly better than glucose as it increases heart frequency while keeping the blood sugar stable. 


What do you think? Is honey part of your usual intake, or relegated to once a year? Let me know below!