Friday, April 18, 2014

Quinoa and Chicken Chili


I think this may be my favorite chili I've ever made. Not least because there is basically no prep; minimal chopping, just mix everything in the slow cooker and you come home to a hot, healthy, deliciously filling meal. Fantastic.

I hate it when chili is too watery. Watery chili is up there with slow drivers, one-upping moms, and workplace butt-kissers in my book of Things That Annoy Me. This chili came out the perfect consistency. Plus it makes lots for leftover lunches, which is even more of a bonus lately when I can't just throw together a sandwich (for lack of gluten-free bread, which I hope to rectify when I do grocery shopping tomorrow).

Speaking of gluten-free. I am so stoked for Easter brunch on Sunday. It's going to be a dairy and gluten fest. Then I'll go back to being good. I cannot pass on Easter brunch with dishes like egg and sausage pie, cheesy bread pudding, that I've been eating every Easter for my ENTIRE LIFE. Clearly.

You know what else would be good with this chili, assuming you are good with gluten and dairy? Biscuits. Always a good idea with chili. Oh, I happen to have posted a recipe for Best Drop Biscuits a while back. You're welcome.

QUINOA AND CHICKEN CHILI
Serves 8
Adapted from Everyday Reading
Use less salt if you are not using no-salt added canned goods.
  • 1 540-mL can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 540-mL can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 796-mL can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • optional toppings: chopped cilantro, diced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream
Mix all ingredients up before chicken together in the crock of the slow cooker. Nestle chicken in the middle, ensuring chicken is submerged in liquid. Cook on low 6 to 9 hours. Shred chicken into chili prior to serving. Serve with desired toppings.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bacon Mushroom Burgers with Tomato Avocado Salad


The daughter of a friend of mine used to say "I can't like that Papa," instead of "I don't like that Papa." I love that. And I totally get where she is coming from. I have tried to love mushrooms. I'm getting there. But right now, I can't like them.

Despite this, these burgers looked sooo good in the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook. I gave that book back to my colleague almost 2 weeks ago and I've been thinking about making them since. Bacon and mushrooms mixed into the beef and then grilled. How could that be bad?

Ok, bad for your arteries, maybe. But great for your taste buds. I didn't even miss the bun. In fact, I think I liked the burger better with the citrus-y, creamy salad eaten with each bite. You can taste the burger much better without the bun in the way.

It occurred to me today (while in the shower... random... I guess I'm always thinking about food) that the Paleo Diet, aka Caveman Diet, is kind of like the Atkins Diet version 2.0. Low carb, lots of meat and fat. Dr Atkins died of a heart attack. Go figure. And how long did cavemen live? I believe 33 was a ripe old age. Though that may have been more due to the saber-toothed tigers than their diet.


 BACON MUSHROOM BURGERS WITH TOMATO AND AVOCADO SALAD
Serves 4
Even if you are not going to make these burgers right now, at least just click through to see the mouthwatering juicy, bacon-y meat goodness. The recipe calls for pan-frying the burgers. We grilled them on the barbeque. The salad would be great with chicken or salmon as well.
  • Bacon Mushroom Burgers
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • small handful cilantro, chopped  
Mix tomato, avocado, cucumber. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze lemon over. Add cilantro and stir well. Serve with burgers, with or without buns.


Friday, April 11, 2014

A Gluten and Dairy Free Week for Food Lovers


I've mentioned before that I love spending Saturday mornings with a coffee doing my menu planning. You know what I enjoy on Friday nights? Writing with wine. So here we go.

I'm going to share with y'all what I've been eating this week since going cold turkey on dairy and gluten for now. I hope that this will be helpful to any other food lovers who eat this way, whether by choice or necessity. I will not share the minutiae of what I put in my belly every week, I swear! This first week I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't cry myself to sleep for want of bread. Perhaps because I ate enough bread dipped in gravy (omg that is the best right?!?) to last me for months during Sunday dinner at my parents this past week. Anyway. Moving on.

Monday was not completely gluten-free. I was still on the fence about eliminating gluten but I felt super guilty eating toast and crackers knowing I was advised not to. 

Not included below is my morning coffee with almond milk and sugar. This is a given and a must every day. Yes, the almond milk tastes a bit different, but I still love my coffee. I also drink at least 2 cups of green tea a day at work.

Monday
Breakfast: Whole grain toast with avocado.
Snack: Smoothie with mixed berries, banana, baby spinach, cold green tea
Lunch: Carrots and red peppers with hummus, Triscut crackers, a hard-boiled egg topped with a little Miracle Whip and chopped spicy picked green beans.
Snack: Green tea. Apples with Sun Butter.
Dinner: Roast chicken with weeknight risotto (recipe below)

Tuesday
Breakfast: Overnight Oatmeal with almond milk, flax, mixed berries. (Oats are kind of debated whether or not they acceptable on a gluten-free diet. I'm allowing it. I'm the boss of me.)
Snack:  Smoothie with mixed berries, banana, baby spinach, cold green tea
Lunch: Leftover chicken and risotto
Snack: Apples with Sun Butter
Dinner: Quiche made with a shredded-potato crust with sausage, tomato, onion, basil. Water instead of dairy used in the egg mixture.
Snack (after boot camp): Smoothie with coconut water, ground chia seeds, cocoa powder, almond butter

Wednesday
Breakfast: "Breakfast salad". I was out of oats and decided I wasn't going to eat bread, so I wandered around my kitchen peeking in the fridge and cupboards until I had 5 minutes left to wolf down some food. I mixed up a chopped hard-boiled egg and avocado with kale and mixed in some balsamic dressing. This was not my best work.
Snack: Smoothie with mixed berries, banana, baby spinach, water
Lunch: Quinoa salad made with sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, red peppers, cucumber, chicken, balsamic dressing
Snack: Apples with Sun Butter
Dinner: Stir-fry with tofu and brown rice
Snack: Flourless Nut Butter Cookie with almond milk

Thursday
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs topped with chopped tomato and avocado. I didn't love this. The hot egg + cold avocado and tomato wasn't my favorite. Better than the "breakfast salad" though.
Snack:  Smoothie with mixed berries, banana, baby spinach, water
Lunch: Quinoa salad same as yesterday
Snack: Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas. Dark Chocolate.
Dinner: Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes (recipe below)
Snack (after training run at the track):  Smoothie with coconut water, ground chia seeds, cocoa powder, Sun Butter. Nut butter cookie.

Friday
Breakfast: The tomato-avocado scramble improves a notch. Notably better mixing the tomato and avocado in the pan with the eggs while cooking. My next experiment will be making a salsa from the tomato and avocado and putting this on the eggs. Stay tuned.
Snack: same smoothie as every other day. And green tea. Of course.
Lunch: Salad with chicken, canellini beans, carrots, red pepper, Asian Sesame dressing
Snack: Apples with Sun Butter. Roasted chickpeas. Dark chocolate. A couple Starburst candies (it's Friday, ok!?!)
Dinner: ActiFry chicken wings with sweet-chili sauce, baked potato wedges, raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, snap peas). Have we talked about the T-Fal ActiFry before? I don't think so. Fantastic appliance. Read up on it. Then get one. For example, I cooked a pound of wings in it tonight, they crisped up beautifully, and I poured off almost a quarter cup of fat (potatoes cooked in schmaltz anyone?). Talk amongst yourselves.
Snack: Is red wine considered a snack? And a cookie.


WEEKNIGHT RISOTTO
Serves 4
An Amy Original 
Traditional risotto involves a lot of standing by the stove and stirring. This quick and easy version is a good alternative when you don't have the time or patience for babysitting food. Or perhaps you are actually physically babysitting a child (aka parenting). Measurements are approximate. Tweak as needed. If you are not avoiding dairy, mix in an knob of butter and some grated Parmesan cheese at the end if so inclined.
  • olive oil  
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 of a 750g bag Arborio rice
  • small handful sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, chopped small
  • fresh basil, julienned
Heat a glug of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion, saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add rice, stir for 2 minutes. Add stock and sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to keep at a simmer until rice is cooked through with just a bite at the center (like al dente pasta). If the pot is dry before the rice is cooked add some more stock or water. If your rice is super watery with only 5-10 minutes left of cooking, remove the lid and increase the heat a bit.

Meanwhile, heat another glug of oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, saute until golden-brown on all sides, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Mix most of zucchini (plus butter and Parm, if using) into risotto once rice is cooked. Serve with a garnish of the remaining zucchini and the fresh basil.

TWICE BAKED SWEET POTATOES
Serves 3
An Amy Original
It's easiest to cook the potatoes and garlic the night before and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • 1 head garlic
  • olive oil
  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 of a 540mL can of chickpeas, rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 slices bacon, sliced into lardons
  • fresh basil, julienned
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut top of garlic off to expose the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place on a baking sheet. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork. Place alongside garlic on baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft all the way though when tested with a sharp knife and garlic cloves are soft and caramelized. Cool to the touch.

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully peel off skin, taking care to keep in one piece. If it doesn't peel off easily, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Place skins on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place flesh in a food processor with a glug of olive oil, chickpeas, water, salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to sweet potato mixture. Puree until smooth. Scoop onto potato skins. Bake 20-30 minutes or until heated through.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a pan, transferring to paper towel lined plate once crisp. Serve sweet potatoes with bacon and basil sprinkled on top.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Flourless Nut Butter Cookies


Well, I've been dairy- and gluten-free since Monday and so far I've survived. I'm actually kind of enjoying getting creative with meals. I'll share what I've been eating in an upcoming post.

One thing that has helped me feel much less deprived is... SUN BUTTER! As you know, Parker has a full-on Epi-Pen allergy to peanuts. Therefore, no peanut butter in our house. I kept some peanut butter in my desk at work for a while, but that was a slippery slope from having a schmear of peanut butter on a couple of crackers to eating out of the jar with a spoon. On a daily basis. Not good. This week I discovered the BEST alternative to peanut butter- Sun Butter made from sunflower seeds. It tastes almost exactly like peanut butter. Maybe even better. I'm scraping the bottom of the jar already. Oy. In my defence, it's a small jar and I used an entire cup of it for these nut butter cookies.

I Googled "nut butter cookies" last night and was stirring ingredients for these flourless cookies within 5 minutes. I read through a couple of the recipe reviews to ensure they would turn out ok with the Sun Butter since it's a bit runnier than peanut butter, the reviews seemed promising so I went ahead. Indeed, these are exactly like the real thing. Oh peanut butter cookies, how I missed you in my life.

One of the reviews I read made me laugh out loud. A woman said, "They're sweet and rich. I baked them on the top shelf of the oven rack. I sprinkled them with sugar prior to baking them. I followed the recipe exactly. I gave them four stars rather than five because I like to eat several cookies at a time and these are so rich, you can only eat one, maybe two. But the flavor and texture were perfect."
You're kidding right? You gave a recipe less of a rating because they're so delicious that you want to eat a ton more but the cookies are so rich that you are satisfied with just one or two? I call that a win.

FLOURLESS NUT BUTTER COOKIES
Adapted from Food Network
Makes approx 18 cookies
If your nut butter is not sweetened increase the sugar to 3/4 cup or up to 1 cup. Give a bit of the dough a taste and use your judgement. 
  • 1 cup Sun Butter or other nut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix all ingredients but salt in a mixing bowl until combined. Spoon 1 tbsp of dough onto baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Roll into balls then flatten with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle with salt. Bake approx. 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before carefully transferring to cooling rack.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bookmarked and a "Recipe"


Jokes on me. It was 2 years ago that Tyler went on a wheat and dairy elimination diet. I complained. Quite a bit. Well, now it's my turn. To clear up my winter eczema, among a couple other more serious concerns I don't care share here, I saw our Naturopath on Friday who suggested I limit dairy and wheat consumption. Yay. Ironic that in my last post I professed my love of bread. I am going to take baby steps here. Dairy first, then maybe wheat (I am trying to limit it though). I feel dairy is more of a problem, but that may just be my subconscious convincing me of that as it is easier for me to forgo dairy. I think. We'll see. I found Spaghetti and Meatballs last night to be only slightly lacking without Parmesan cheese.

Funnily enough, I borrowed a Paleo cookbook from a woman at work earlier this week. I finished leafing through it as I was cooking dinner on Wednesday. And then I went and made a cheese quesedilla. Haha. Now that I am limiting dairy and wheat though, this book/blog will be a good resource for the next while. The recipes on Nom Nom Paleo look fantastic, actually. She uses a lot of bacon. Now that is a concept I can get behind.

I think for the next while though, I will be thinking of life Pre-Cheese and Bread Goodness and Post-Cheese and Bread Goodness. Bookmarks are divided up as such below.

The "recipe". Can a smushed avocado on toast be called a recipe? Not really, hence the quotation marks. More like a delicious suggestion. Inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow's avocado on toast from It's All Good (OMG I just realized I already own a dairy- and gluten-free cookbook!), I've added some tomatoes to make this a lunch. I don't know why I feel this is more lunchy. For breakfast I do the same without tomatoes.

SMUSHED AVOCADO ON TOAST
Serves 1
  • 1/3 avocado, peeled
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 a tomato, chopped
  • basil, chopped
  • mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip in my case, I don't like real mayo)
  • toast
  • salt and pepper
Smush up avocado with red pepper flakes in a bowl. Stir in tomato and basil. Spread toast with a thin schmear of mayo. Top with avocado mixture and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. A fried egg on top wouldn't go amiss if you are really hungry. Oo and some bacon.

Pre-Cheese and Bread Goodness
Paprika and Cheese Crackers via Serious Eats
Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin via Food52 This I can still eat. Yay!
Squash Brownies with Chocolate Swirl Topping via Foodland Ontario
Spinach Brownies via Blender Babes Parker told me this week that he doesn't like spinach in smoothies, only in brownies. Random... Ok kid. Have at 'er.

Post-Cheese and Bread Goodness
Fig Watermelon Salad with Honey-Vanilla Cashews via Nom Nom Paleo. Oh my this looks beautiful and delicious. I can't wait to eat this during the summer.
Caramelized Pear Oven Pancake via Williams Sonoma I made this recipe this morning using almond milk in place of milk. And apples instead of pears since that's what I had. Fantastic! Yes, butter contains some dairy, but let's not go crazy here. I'm allowing it.
Maple Quinoa Granola via Food 52 I think the quinoa will add extra yummy crunch. However, I'll have to find a new way to eat granola- usually I have it on yogurt.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Roasted Parsnip and Butternut Squash Soup


Guys. I did it again. Remember how I got lost running around frazzled getting ready for my birthday party? It happened again last week. This is getting slightly ridiculous. Only this time I wasn't so frazzled. Oy vey. Tyler finds it amusing and slightly annoying how bad I am at directions. He thinks I'm just absent-minded. I like to think it's due to all the other genius going on in my head.

Onto the food. I know. Another post about soup. Trust me, I'd rather be eating a nice fresh salad right now. But lettuce from Mexico? No Thanks. So soup it is. Plus, this is just too good not to share.

I had some parsnips languishing in the fridge along with half a squash. I'm sure I'd had a plan for those parsnips when I bought them a couple of weeks ago, but whatever that plan was, it never happened. What to do with them? My go-to is always to roast vegetables. My Roasted Cauliflower Soup worked so well that I thought I'd try that with the roasted squash and parsnips. Success! Some Parmesan cheese finishes it off nicely. As well as a slice of freshly baked bread warm from the oven... with a schmear of butter... mmmm...

I've been making bread every week. This past week was Almost No-Knead Bread from America's Test Kitchen. It's fantastic. One tip though- it's a super easy recipe but it does need an overnight rise. Plan accordingly.

I'm all about the no-knead bread lately. I think I made Food52's recipe for No-Knead Sandwich Bread six weeks in a row. Yeah. We like bread in this house. Is there a Bread-aholics Anonymous? I may join. Oops... I just ruined the anonymous part, didn't I?

ROASTED PARSNIP AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Serves 4
An Amy Original
  • 1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss parsnips and squash with a drizzle of oil, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast on middle rack of oven 10 minutes. Stir, ensuring browned sides are flipped, and return pan to oven for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and onions. Cook until just starting to brown. Add stock and roasted vegetables. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and cool slightly.

Transfer everything to blender with Parmesan and blend until smooth, adding some water if soup is too thick. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.





Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's for Dinner

Photo Credit: LCBO

I've kind of lost my cooking mojo the last couple of weeks. For one, I was sick for a week. Tyler cooked dinner for most of that week. When I had an appetite I was treated to pierogis with a side of hot dogs. I am not even exaggerating for comedic effect.

The other thing is, the daily grind of getting home from working and getting dinner on the table is wearing me down. I had planned a bunch slow cooker recipes for last week, but even then, most take some prep either the night before or the morning of. So instead of using ground beef for slow-cooker meatloaf on Friday, I made pasta with ground beef mixed with a can of tomato soup and a can of cheddar cheese soup. Not my healthiest creation to be sure. And wouldn't you know it, Tyler and Parker ate two servings each. They literally shoveled it in. God help me.

I've rounded up some recipes for quick, easy, healthy recipes this week. Here's hoping all will go according to plan!

Western Omelette Sandwich with Root Vegetable Home Fries from LCBO Food and Drink

Fusilli Rosa from LCBO Food and Drink

Chicken Shawarma from T-Fal ActiFry in pitas with cucumber, tomato, hummus

Kale Salad with Apples, Bacon, Chicken, Pecans, Feta adapted from Lauren's Latest

Pretzel-Crusted Pork Schnitzel from Bon Appetit with Roasted Root Vegetables. I am making the brine for the pork right now so it's ready to go the night before I make this.