Overnight Steel Cut Oats

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Bright, refreshing, tangy; I just love citrus.  It is like sunshine. By using the whole orange (zest, pith, sections, and all), the fresh flavour shines through this warm comforting oatmeal dish.
 The steel cut oats soaked in milk become tender overnight and mixed with carrots, coconut, walnuts and spiced with warm ginger and cinnamon this healthy bowl will make your morning a little easier. Especially since you have mixed it up the night before, the only work in the morning is to pop it in the oven.
 Make ahead breakfasts simply make mornings more pleasant and start everyone off with a healthy breakfast before heading out the door. Stay tuned for more make ahead breakfast ideas!

Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Oranges, Carrots and Walnuts

1 cup steel cut oats*

2 cups 1% milk*

1 large egg*

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup grated carrots

1/4 cup coconut

1 whole orange (pureed in blender)

zest of an additional orange

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Butter an over proof dish that is approx 8 x 8.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and pour into prepared dish.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.  In the morning remove cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until browned, toasty on top and cooked through.  Serve warm with milk or yogurt.

*to make this recipe vegan, use almond or coconut milk for the 1% milk, coconut oil for the butter and a flax egg instead of the egg

*to make gluten free, ensure gluten free oats are used.  Oats are naturally gluten free, however can come in contact with gluten during processing.

 

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries
Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

Ever since I saw a video of this simple recipe on my Instagram feed I couldn’t wait to try it.  But in the midst of holiday traditional baking and festivities I didn’t get to it until New Years Eve.  It comes together so quickly, literally, it takes 5 minutes to prepare and then sets in the freezer for an hour.  It is amazing, with just the right amount of sweetness from maple syrup, tartness from the raspberries wrapped in smooth, silky, rich chocolate that you have made yourself.

I have been experimenting with making chocolate for a while.  Various recipes using cocoa butter, coconut oil, honey, cocoa powder etc with varying results.  I like that this recipe includes some nut butter and nut milk and makes a soft chocolate that is a delicious fudge like dessert. A perfect sweet treat that is easy to vary based on seasonal fruit or what ever combination you like.

Although my family tells me they could eat this everyday, it is luxurious enough for special occasions.  When liquid it would pour nicely into molds, such as hearts for Valentine’s Day or other shapes for other special days. Packaged up in a special box, what a lovely gift it would be.

Homemade Chocolate with Raspberries

100 grams cocoa butter *

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cashew butter or other nut butter

1/4 cup coconut milk or almond milk

fresh raspberries

Prepare small cookie sheet or pan by lining with parchment paper.  In a small saucepan melt the cocoa butter with the maple syrup.  When melted whisk in cocoa powder until well blended.  Add nut butter and coconut milk and whisk until combined.  Pour onto parchment paper and spread out a little (I simply tilted the pan to spread evenly)  Sprinkle with fresh raspberries and freeze for one hour.  Cut into pieces and serve.  Store in the refrigerator.

*For those in the Metro Vancouver area, cocoa butter is available at Galloways.

This recipe is from feedfeed as part of Edible Holiday Gifts.

Lentil Tacos

Lentil Tacos
Lentil Tacos

I have made a very conscious effort to include more lentils and other pulses in my cooking. There are just so many healthy benefits: they’re high in protein, high in fibre, high in iron and many other vitamins and minerals.  Lentils are also very budget friendly – the cost of the protein in the meal will only be dollar or two.  Through experimentation I have found pulses really work with many different herb and spice combinations, and it is easy to mix things up to avoid ho hum dinners!

I remember the first time I made these my family just loved them! Tacos in any form are such a fun, kid-friendly meal and great for casual family style dining where all the fixings are on the table and everyone builds their own. These are so delicious, with all the familiar flavours of tacos, yet the lentils make a lighter, healthier,  fibre rich meal.  Paired with a fresh green salad, this easy dinner is on the table in only 40 minutes. I usually make a double recipe so that I cook once and then have extra filling for another meal of taco’s, burritos, or other mexican flavoured dish. The filling freezes well.  Simply defrost, heat and serve. This meal is gluten free and vegan (with a dairy free cheese).

 Lentil Tacos

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp chili powder

1 cup brown lentils (rinsed and drained)

340 ml strained tomatoes

340 ml water or more

salt and pepper

 10 Taco Shells *see note about TBHQ

 Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute a few minutes and then add garlic.  Cook until garlic is fragrant.  Turn heat down to low and add cumin, coriander, paprika and chili powder.  Cook a minute or two.  Add lentils, strained tomatoes and water.  Simmer until lentils are cooked, adding more water if needed.  Once the lentils are cooked (about 25 minutes) continue to simmer to thicken to desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

 Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Place taco shells on cookie sheet and heat for about 5-7 minutes until warm.

 Assemble taco’s with filling, lettuce, tomatoes or salsa, cheese and avocado. (vegan cheese product to make vegan)

TBHQ – When you shop for taco shells, check the ingredient list.  One of the ingredients may be TBHQ.  TBHQ is tertiary butylhydroquinone, a synthetic antioxidant that is used to extend the shelf life of packaged foods. It is to keep the fat in the product from becoming rancid.  There are good qualtiy brands of taco shells on the market that do not have TBHQ and also have a very reasonable best before date.

Dark Chocolate with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Dark Chocolates with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

These are so easy to make and fun to assemble! They are just perfect for homemade treats to gift to family, friends, neighbours and teachers.  After making the first batch with my kids, they made them on thier own to sell in small packages at the school Christmas Craft Fair.  They were a huge hit and sold out so quickly we wish we had made more!

The variations in flavours are endless, although this combination tastes especially seasonal. Have fun experimenting and let me know what you come up with.

Chocolate is a treat but does provide nutritional benefits as well.  Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which are phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and antioxidant properties.  Dark chocolate varies in cocoa content and generally the higher the better, so aim for 70% or more.

 Dark Chocolate with Ginger, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Fine quality extra dark chocolate (this one is 72%) cut into smallish squares or pieces
Hazelnuts, chopped
Candied ginger, very finely chopped
Sweetened dried cranberries, finely chopped
Fine sea salt

Heat oven to 150 degrees (on my oven, this is one of the keep warm settings). Anything over 100 will work as chocolate melts at about 90 degrees.  Put a silicone mat on a cookie tray or pan and arrange chocolate leaving about 1 inch space between each piece.  Depending on the size of the chocolate and your oven temperature it will melt quickly (mine took about 5 minutes).  Remove from oven once chocolate is melted.  Sprinkle chocolate with hazelnuts, ginger and cranberries and top with a few grains of salt.  Cool until set and chocolate is hardened, generally a couple of hours, however the freezer works in case of emergencies. Gently lift from silicone mat (you may need to lift mat up and peel them off).

Caramel Cheesecake

Caramel Cheesecake - This award winning healthy cheesecake is made with Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. Dates add a lovely light caramel flavour and sweeten it so no added sugar or sweetener is needed.
Caramel Cheesecake

At dinner I mentioned to my family I had made cheesecake for dessert.  Cheesecake!  It is not like me to make a rich dessert, especially on a weeknight and they know it.  My son, immediately suspicious asked “Really?” Is it really cheesecake?  You see, they know I am always up to something, trying to add nutritious things into, well, everything.  When they tasted it they still couldn’t believe it, even though it tastes like cheesecake, but not as heavy as a typical cheesecake.  My son asked, is there anything in this cheesecake that doesn’t belong in a cheesecake? Does it have nuts?  Beans?  Spinach?  They know me. My daughter asked for a second piece.  Finally my husband asked “Does it have cheese in it?

This cheesecake is made with greek yogurt and the only sweetness is from moist Medjool dates which also add a lovely caramel flavour. It is a simple dessert which comes together quickly, yet is completely delicious and impressive!

Caramel Cheesecake

Prepared graham cracker or gingersnap cookies crust in buttered 9 inch spring form pan.

8 Medjool dates, pitted

2 cups greek yogurt

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place dates and 1/2 cup yogurt in food processor or blender and process until dates are blended will into yogurt.  This can take some time with stopping and scraping down periodically).  Add remaining yogurt and blend until completely smooth.  Add eggs, vanilla extract, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt, blending well after each addition. Gently pour into prepared crust and bake 30-35 minutes until set.  Garnish with thinly sliced ripe pears and pomegranate seeds.

I entered this recipe into a recipe competition with Tree Island Yogurt AND took away the prize for best dessert!

 

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It is hard not to love Fall.  Beautiful colours, cool crisp mornings followed by blazing sun filled afternoons. Perfect days to go to the pumpkin patch, a colourful walk in the woods, or stay home and bake up some comforing healthy treats using all the wonderful vegetables available to us during the harvest season.  Pumpkins, squashes, carrots, beets, parsnips, giant zucchini that your neighbours left on your doorstep; they are all terrific in baked goods.  Cookies, loaves, muffins, cakes, pies, bars, squares; great stuff for breakfast, snacks, desserts.  Using vegetables in baked goods usually means we can reduce the amount fat we are using by half. You can adapt your own favourite recipes by using this simple rule. The vegetables add moisture, boost the nutrition and add great flavours.

 Moist and delicious, this pumpkin spice cake was a wonderful addition to our Thanksgiving Dinner.   Filled with the warm spices of pumpkin pie and topped with a silky smooth cream cheese frosting it can be both a snack or a special dessert. This recipe makes 2 small round cakes or a larger sheet snack cake.  It is easy to put together and is much lower in fat and sugar than a typical cake. The frosting is AMAZING.  The cake freezes well without the frosting.  

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

 Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

125g Light Cream Cheese Spread *

3-4 tablespoons maple sugar

1/8 tsp vanilla

Directions:  Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth with a spoon.  The maple sugar dissolves into the cream cheese and blends beautifully.  Adjust the sugar to taste. Place in refrigerator.   This is enough for 1 small round cake or 1/2 the large sheet cake.

* I like to use Liberte brand Light Cream Cheese Spread. 

 Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup Fancy Molassas

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

 Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cake pans or glass baking pan with butter and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Add pumpkin, oil, sugars, molasses and eggs to mixer and mix until well combined.  Add in spices and salt and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Stir into pumpkin mixture until incorporated and pour into prepared pan(s).  Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before spreading the top with frosting.  Enjoy!  

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light Pumpkin Pie Cake.

 

Creamy Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

Bowl of Creamy Carrot Soup pictured with crackers
Creamy Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

This creamy carrot soup is so perfect for these cooler fall days when you want something comforting yet nourishing.  Made with rice to thicken and is creamy and delicious with the added coconut milk.  Simple yet elegant it is complimented perfectly by any variation of fresh herbs.  

 

Creamy Carrot Soup (with coconut milk)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves

4-5 small fresh thyme sprigs 

4 cups chopped carrots

6 tbsp white rice

4 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)

salt and pepper 

Garnish with coconut butter and finely chopped fresh herbs.

 

Directions:  

Melt coconut oil and heat along with olive oil in large saucepan, over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly browned.  Add thyme, carrots, vegetable stock and rice.  Bring to boil and then simmer until vegetables are very soft and rice is well cooked, about 1 hour.  Cool slightly, then puree.  Return to saucepan and add coconut milk, adding extra coconut milk or water to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste . 

 

 

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins with Blueberries and Lemon

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Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins with Blueberries and Lemon

One of my favourite childhood summer memories is foraging for blueberries in the Whiteshell area of Manitoba.  We would go almost every weekend to be sure to get enough blueberries to last our family of 8 for the winter.  That required a lot of blueberries!  On a recent trip to Manitoba, it was high on my list to experience this again with my own family.

What a great day!  Starting from Winnipeg and heading east on the Trans Canada Highway, we watched the prairie grain fields slowly change to rocky and evergreen terrain as we began to see the start of the Canadian Shield.  We reached the Whiteshell in a quick 1 1/2 hour on the road and then meandered through the lakes to a terrific hike at McGillvray Falls.  Although we did the short loop it took us 3 hours.  We stopped often to enjoy the picturesque views, climb up immense rocks,  and to pick wild blueberries which lined the trails and carpeted the forest floor throughout the area.  We quickly filled our containers and our tummies with these delicious sweet tangy blueberries. To complete the day we stopped at Falcon Beach to swim, enjoy the golden sand beach and a little of cottage life.

Having become accustomed to the taste of the cultivated larger blueberries that are grown in BC, what a treat to have these again.  They are delicious fresh, easy to freeze and wonderful in so many recipes.  One of my favourite blueberry recipes are these moist bright and lemony muffins. Low in sugar, low in fat, a good source of fiber from the oats and the blueberries these muffins make a terrific make ahead breakfast or snack.  They also freeze well and are a perfect make ahead muffin to have on hand for busy days.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins with Blackberries and Lemon
Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins with Blackberries and Lemon

This recipe is easily adaptable to other fruit.  Simple substitute other fruit for the blueberries.  Raspberries, blackberries, chopped peaches, nectarines,  and plums all work well.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins with Blueberries and Lemon

Makes 12

1 cup Buttermilk

1 cup Oats*

1 egg

1/4 cup oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

*I usually use Old Fashioned Large Flake Oats.  If you are short on time substitute quick oats and you can shorten or omit the soaking time.

Directions:

Line a 12 muffin tin with paper liners and heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size mixing bowl mix oats and buttermilk and set aside to soak for 1 hour. To oat mixture, add egg, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and sugar.  Mix well. In a separate small bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.  Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin tin to 3/4 full and bake 20-25 minutes or until done.

 

Watermelon “Cake”

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Watermelon Car Cake

With all the fresh local fruit and hot days, this is the perfect cake for a summer birthday, or just for fun!  Using a watermelon body, canteloupe bumpers, kiwi wheels, cherry blueberry driver and passenger, blueberry stripes,  raspberry soft top and lights and you have yourself a healthy and tasty car cake! I used toothpicks to hold it together (please remember to remove them when serving).

 Fresh, fun and kid friendly; it’s a great family project. Not to mention if you have a party coming up with guests that are on different diets (vegan, gluten free, nut free, etc) this one should suit everyone!

Depending on the size of car or train you want to make will depend on the size of watermelon you choose.  I suggest choosing a large one, with an oval shape.  Cut one end off so you can put the flat surface on the cutting board and “stand it up”.  You can then “peel” it with a knife preserving the shape.  Then carve away to make your shape.  This car or train body is a large rectangular shape with a smaller rectangle for the “cab” on top.  Have fun!

 

Zucchini Noodles with Lemon Balm Pesto

White bowl with zucchini noodles, lemon balm pesto, roasted peppers and fresh tomatoes, topped with goat cheese and pine nuts
Zucchini Noodles with Lemon Balm Pesto

Have you tried zoodles? It might surprise you how delicious zucchini is as a noodle!  There are many ways to make them into a noodle; with a spiralizer, vegetable peeler, julienne peeler or a mandolin.  Zoodles can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked with water, lightly fried with oil or baked.  Fun and flavourful, they are completely delicious combined with pesto, fresh or roasted vegetables, pine nuts and creamy cheese.

Zucchini Noodles with Lemon Balm Pesto

1-2 zucchini, spiralized or made into noodles with a vegetables peeler or julienne peeler

2-4 tablespoons lemon balm pesto or your favourite pesto blend

tomatoes, chopped

roasted peppers, chopped

pine nuts, lightly toasted

goat cheese or cashew cheese

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place zucchini  noodles in a single layer on baking sheets and bake about 10-12 minutes until tender. Add pesto to medium size bowl and mix well with zucchini noodles (silicone tongs work well). Add tomatoes and roasted peppers.  Put into serving bowls and dot with goat or cashew cheese and garnish with pine nuts and fresh herbs.