Magical Fruit?

For me, one of the easiest and satisfying things to make is soup. If you have a steamer and a blender or food processor, then this will really simply your soup-making life!

Since it’s fall (sorry for those that may still be in denial – especially those of you who push it and wear shorts until the first few snow flurries fall from the sky), I wanted to make some butternut squash soup. YUM! Since I try to avoid dairy at all costs, I had to research a way to get that creamy goodness of soup without adding cream. I discovered cauliflower!

But of course!

I also wanted to add some protein and fiber to my soup, so I experimented and added lentils.

With soups, I try to add the ingredients in batches since the ingredients rarely ever all fit into the blender at once. But that was fine…it was definitely worth the extra effort!

I was worried that the soup would lose its sweetnees because of the lentils, but really, it had a nice “earthy” flavour to it and was quite hearty.

Here it is:

Some quick health benefits of lentils, in case you’re dying to know:

  • lowers cholesterol
  • balances blood sugar
  • high in fiber
  • full of minerals
  • good source of protein

More great benefits are listed here.

So now, I try to incorporate this magical fruit into soups, stews, stir fries, salads, sauces to get my fiber and protein. Every little bit helps, right?

Here’s how to make it…

Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Lentil Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut in half and cooked with 1 tsp of butter and 1/4 tsp of cinamon in each half
  • 1/4 cup of brown lentils – cooked
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets – steamed
  • 1 garlic clove – steamed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of all spice
  • 2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper

Method:

1. Cut a medium sized squash in half and scoop out the gooky stuff in the middle. Add 1/4 tsp of cinamon and 1 tsp of butter to each half. Place the halves in a baking dish with 1 cup of water in the dish so that that squash does not dry out. Bake for 1 hour at 350F.

2. Cook the lentils.

3. Steam 1 cup of cauliflower.

4. When the squash is cooked, scoop out the squash and place in a blender of food processor. Add the cauliflower and lentils, and gradually add enough chicken stock so that it blends.

5. Add garlic,  chilli flakes, garam masala, spice, salt and pepper.

6. Blend and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Enjoy!

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy!

Today was one of those impossible lazy Sundays where for the first time in, I don’t know how long, I slept in past noon, watched reruns of The Simpsons and old chick flicks on the movie network while snacking and sipping on tea. In short: Heaven.

Around 4:30pm, I decided that since there is no way in hell I’d be doing anything overly productive for the rest of the day, I should at least make dinner. On the menu was butternut squash soup, to start and then roasted lamb cooked in a wine sauce.

I read in one of the recipes online that in order for lamb to be tender and “fall off the bone” it should cook for at least 3 hours … so I decided to get up off the couch and get my act together.  This proved to be a bit less difficult than I had anticipated, which is always a bonus especially since I had torn a muscle in my back last week and was relieved to find that the pinching and burning pain has subsided.  Looks like all the wine I drank over the weekend … I mean, all of the stretching and icing paid off. Thank the Lord! Nothing like a spazzing muscle in your back to hold back your plans of laundry and cleaning. In a way, I’m thankful for the excuse to rest and to do as little as possible for a couple of days.

Here’s the lamb cooking in the crock pot (God, I love this thing – what a lifesaver!):

Here it is after:

 

Trust me, it was even more delicious than it looks! The wine and the spices fused with the juice of the lamb was so savoury…and the onions and tomatoes were so tender and juicy that combined with pieces of the lamb, was like an explosion of flavour in my mouth. So amazing! I had some leftover brown rice that I served with it – but this would also be amazing with some sprouted grain bread, quinoa or even over mashed potatoes.

Lamb Shoulders in Red Wine Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 lamb shoulders
  • 1 cup of red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 romano tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of thyme
  • 1/2 tsp of rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Method

The reason why I love slow cookers or crock pots, is that it’s a no brainer way to cook. There’s really only step – put all ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours and then turn it down to low for the last hour or so.

Serves 2.

Enjoy!

Back to Tuna

Today was one of those glorious fall days where it was warm enough to not see your breath but cool enough to have wear cozy layers. If I didn’t have to go to work today, it would have been glorious day to be curled up on my couch with a nice, hot cup of tea and a good book!

I had a few errands to run today after work and ever the multi-tasker, I thought it would be wise to get all of my shopping done before heading home. Did I mention they were calling for a rain storm this evening? I had to go to the dollar store and buy enough plates, cups, napkins and cutlery for 100 people (my Toastmasters club is hosting the Division contest tomorrow!) and then I needed a few things at the grocery store. I was on my way home, when I realized that I had to pick up a parcel from the drug store’s post office. So, in the cold rain, I have a massively awkward box under one arm and in the other, my purse, lunch bag and a huge plastic bag from the Dollar Store. Sometimes I daydream that a devestatingly handsome man will offer to carry my bags home for me. But instead, I get dirty looks from oncoming pedestrians as I take up half the width of the sidewalk because the box that I’m desperately clinging to is large and in charge.

By the time I made it in – I was drenched, hungry and miserable! I knew just the thing to make for dinner…an oldy but a goody… You may know her as Tuna Casserole.

Having fish for dinner tonight really tied in well with my nerdy, internal debate: Flax or Fish oil: Which one is more beneficial? Yes, these are the thoughts that occupy my mind. Scary? Sad? I can’t think of another “s” word so I will end it there. My good friend, who works for an Omega-3 company, informed me that though flax has ALA, which is needed to help convert the omega 3, it has a lower level of DHA and EPA than fish oil. BUT flax has other benefits like fibre and magnesium and aids in the absorption of calcium. BUT the whole point in me taking these oils was to get more Omega 3, so once I’ve finished this flax bottle, it’ll be back to ole fishy oil. UNLESS, I take Omega 3-6-9 capsules and the flax oil to help with the absorption… SEE?! Not straightforward. Or is it?

Back to Tuna.

One thing about me is that, when I’m hungry and tired, I don’t often make the best decisions…

Here is an example:

That’s 2 cups of shell pasta in the smallest pot I own. WHY? I do own other, larger, more useful pots. It all turned out for the best, though, but seriously…seriously.

Back to Tuna.

Here’s how to make the casserole that saved my sanity!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp of oregano, chilli powder, paprika, salt, pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of corriander
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (cooking or red)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 peeled zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) spinach
  • 1 can of flaked tuna (packed in water, not oil)
  • 2 cups of brown rice pasta
  • goat’s cheese (cheddar or mozerella), grated
  • sundried tomatoes, chopped

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350f. Then, in  a large pan or skillet, pour the oil until heated. Then add the spices and stir until fragrant. (about 3 minutes). While this is heating, start to boil water for the rice pasta and prepare this on the side. See the above photo! But please, use a larger pot.

2. Add the onions and cook until they start to become transparent.

3. Add the diced tomatoes. Stir in with the onions and spices. Let the tomatoes simmer until they start to become juicy. About 3 minutes.

4. Add the zucchini and stir it in with the tomatoes, spices and onion. After about 3 more minutes, add the spinach and stir in gradually. It will look like this… but as the heat and juices rise up, the spinach with shrink and it will be easier to stir it in. I PROMISE! But you have to be patient!

5. Once the veggies are stirred and the pasta is cooked, you can then add the following to a medium-sized casserole dish: Layer : pasta, tuna, veggies, sundried tomatoes, grated cheese.

6. Bake at 350f for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

The end result should look something like this!

Serve as is or with a side of your choice. This would go well with a salad or even a creamy soup (like cauliflower or something seasonal like butternut squash or sweet potato). This also would have been amazing with a nice glass of merlot…but my hands were way too full to carry anything else home. This weekend, I’ll be sure to stock up!

Serves 2-3.

Total time: 45 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook Time:
Rice Pasta: 20 minutes
Casserole: 10-15 minutes

Enjoy!

Whey not?

I read, recently, that women do not get enough protein in their diet. This made me question my own eating habits and I realized that with my busy schedule, I’m probably not getting enough either. Even though I have a solid breakfast, a mid-morning snack and I drink plenty of water, I’m still STARVING by lunch time. What gives? Do I need to fry up a steak in the morning? Do I need to crack a few raw eggs in my mouth a la Rocky Balboa? I hope not. Then I remembered the wise words of my naturopath suggesting whey protein and I thought, whey not?

I went to Noah’s health food store and asked the sales person a million and one questions about whey protein – how much to take, what brands were good, what did she recommend for someone with a lactose, sugar and wheat sensitivities etc. She recomended an isolate – which is the whey protein in its purest form with minimal lactose. Of course, I opted for the natural flavour to avoid any additives. I figured by adding fresh fruit, not only would I get a natural flavour, but it would be sweet enough. She also had some great suggestions and shared with me that she adds fish oil or flax oil to her smoothy. I thought that was genius, so I totally copied her. Then, after a few days, I had the genius idea of adding matcha to my smoothy and I feel like a rock star! I usually add berries (strawberries have been the best so far) and/or a banana (but I limit my banana in take as bananas have a  lot of sugar).

Some immediate benefits were that I felt fuller for longer and I had more energy, especially after I went running.  After trying this out for a week, I’m noticing that my digestion is improving and I’m toning up a bit (but maybe that’s all in my head).

Anyways, I did some Internet research and I came across some great websites that explain why protein is important. Here’s one that you should check out.

Basically, whey protein is very low in fat and calories and a great source of amino acids, which is important because it:

  • helps build muscles
  • promotes skin, hair and nail growth
  • assists in weight management
  • assists with healthy aging
  • aids with wound healing

If you find that you are not getting enough protein in your diet but are watching your weight, I say, give it a try! You don’t have to be a body builder or competitive athlete to enjoy its benefits. Who doesn’t want a stronger immune sytsem and more energy? Especially now that cold and flu season is around the corner!

Here is my favourite recipe:

Combine the following ingredients in blender and blend on low until all contents are mixed.

  • Recommended serving of whey protein isolate
  • 1 handful of frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp of matcha
  • 2 tbsps of fish oil or flax oil
  • water (until desired consistency is achieved)

Enjoy!

I’m back!

September proved to be a very hectic month both personally and professionally. When I wasn’t travelling around for work, I was working hard as the club president of my Toastmasters club, doing a 30 day running challenge with my friend and just trying to catch up on some rest.

Now that things have calmed down and the hoopla is over (for now), I’ve settled into a routine and I’m able to dedicate some time to blogging.

Over the weekend, we had some pretty disgusting weather here in Toronto. Nothing like walking around the city with an armload of groceries while gusts of wind are pushing against you. By the time I got home, I felt like I had a workout!  I was so glad to be home and relax but as soon as I unpacked a few things, I realized that I forgot dish soap and lightbulbs. Since there was enough dish soap left to wash a spoon and 2 out of 3 light bulbs in my kitchen had burnt out, I had to suck it up and get back out there. The fun never ends.

The upside? Yes, there is an upside! Now that the weather is cooler and I don’t need to strategize what time I can cook without melting (I suffered without A/C this summer), I get to bust out my skillet and crock pot and make yummy warm foods without sweating buckets in the kitchen. Like I said, the fun never ends! Stay tuned for new recipes that I’ve been working on for fall.

On Saturday, after running errands and buying groceries, I made myself a nice, veggie lunch. I just bought some Ezekiel bread (the seseame kind) so I decided that I would make myself a sandwich. Then, I realized I had some left over avocado and some cucumber, which would go perfectly.

Here it is in its finished state:

How to make:

Veggie Sandwich

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 2 slices of sprouted grain bread toasted (I use Ezekiel).
  • Butter
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Mustard Powder
  • Goat’s Mozerella Cheese
  • Zucchini
  • Sun dried tomatoes

Method

Lightly butter the toasted bread and sprinkle the spices on the melting butter. Add a few slices of zucchini and sundried tomato and some cheese (enough to cover the veggies). Put the second slice of bread on top and broil in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Slice in half and enjoy!

Avocado and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients (serves 1 or 2):

  • 1/3 of a cucumber (sliced into small pieces)
  • 1/2 an avocado (sliced into small pieces)
  • Garlic power
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar

Method

In a medium sized bowl, toss the cucumber and avocado pieces with the spices, olive oil and rice wine vinegar until coated. Then, chill in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes (this could be done while your sandwich is heating up in the oven). Serve as a side dish or eat as a refreshing snack!

Enjoy!