November 22, 2013

Recipe Round-Up: Comfort Food & Cookies

It's been a while since I've posted a round up of recipes I've tried from other blogs - other than all the pumpkin recipes that I've enjoyed this year!

My meals lately have definitely transitioned from fresh and light salads to warm and comforting bowls of roasted veggies and hearty soups and stews. I've also tried out a few vegan cookie recipes recently that I wanted to share with you too!

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad  from the taste space

I've made this dish a couple of times in the past and it's just as good every time I go back to it. All you need is some canned artichokes and chickpeas, slivered almonds, and some flavourings in the form of garlic, lemon juice, and dried herbs. It seems like a simple combination, but when you eat everything together warm, it tastes a lot more special!

Sweet Potato Broccoli Bowl from Coffee & Quinoa

Sometimes all I want for dinner is a bowl of veggies, but to make it a bit more dinner-worthy, I'll whip up some kind of sauce to pour over top - usually with tahini and lemon juice. I didn't follow this recipe exactly, but this is the kind of creamy-yet-still-healthy sauce that I think goes perfectly over roasted veggies. To save more time, you can steam the veggies like I did, and use leftover quinoa or even leave out the quinoa.

Red Lentil and Squash Curry Stew from Oh She Glows

When I thought I might be coming down with the flu last week, I made this healthy stew that had lots of nutritious ingredients in it: garlic, ginger, onion, squash, sweet potato (which I added because I didn't have enough squash), red lentils, and spinach. I even added extra spinach (I used a whole bunch rather than 1 cup) because it cooks down a lot. This was just what I was craving, and while I'm not making any claims as to the powers of this stew, I did manage to fight off any sickness!

West African Peanut Stew from Sing for Your Supper

Another easy stew that I tried recently was a variation on this african peanut stew, which I made for my parents the last time I visited. I love anything with peanut butter and spices so I knew I would like it, but I wasn't sure if my parents would. Turned out I was wrong - they both raved about it! The only changes I made were to replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth and I added a hot pepper and some black beans to make it a bit more filling. I liked it just on its own, but it would also work well over rice or couscous!

Mini No-Yeast Cinnamon Rolls from Krissy's Creations

Out of all the recipes in this post, these were probably the least healthy, but I made them as a treat for a special occasion (my mom's birthday). I was looking for a no-yeast cinnamon roll recipe because I didn't have a lot of time in the morning, and these were perfect. Plus they were a nice small size so we could still eat a couple for breakfast and not be too full for lunch later! While they weren't quite as tasty as the yeast kind, I thought they were a really close substitution, especially fresh from the oven! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Bites from Minimalist Baker

I may have posted these cookies before because this is the second time I've made them, but I can't resist a healthy cookie with the combination of banana, peanut butter, and chocolate chips! These are super easy to make and you probably already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen, so you can whip them up anytime as a snack!

Chocolate Banana Cookies from Katy's Kitchen

I've recently discovered Katy's blog and I'm constantly bookmarking or pinning her recipes to try! These cookies are pretty healthy and had the perfect balance of banana and chocolate flavours. I also liked that they were nice and soft and fluffy - my favourite kind of cookie!

Skinny Snickerdoodles from Chocolate Covered Katie

Another healthier cookie that didn't taste "healthy" were these snickerdoodles. I loved the texture - pillowy and soft inside with a bit of crunch on the outside from the sugar, and they're a nice small size so you can eat lots of them! I changed up the spices a bit, adding some chai spices to the coating for a bit of a twist on the usual cinnamon-sugar combo.

I might consider adding these to my holiday baking wish list, or if you have any other good cookie recipe recommendations that I could make for our annual cookie swap next week, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

November 19, 2013

Almond Butter, Cherry & Chocolate Granola Bars


It's been awhile since I've made my own granola bars as I've been taking the more convenient route of buying them from the grocery store instead. Lately I've been enjoying Kashi chewy granola bars in my favourite flavour: cherry and dark chocolate.

I love the combination of dried cherries with chocolate chips in a granola bar because it makes a healthy snack taste a bit more decadent! Since that brand can be a bit expensive if they're not on sale though, I wanted to make my own version of a granola bar with those same flavours.

I turned to the blog Healthy Food for Living for my recipe inspiration because I've tried her granola bars in the past and loved them. I only made a few minor changes, swapping almond butter for the peanut butter, changing some of the ingredient amounts, and adding some chopped pecans. I also followed her suggestion of baking them in a loaf pan to get thicker bars.

These came out soft and chewy, with lots of flavour - just how I like my granola bars! I also liked that they were plenty sweet for my tastes with only a bit of extra sweetener (in the form of pure maple syrup) because the tart cherries added some sweetness of their own.

These make a tasty and hearty snack that you can cut into whatever size you want - smaller squares or longer granola bars. I can't say that I'll stop buying Kashi or other granola bars, but it's nice to have a homemade snack around once in a while too!

Almond Butter, Cherry & Chocolate Granola Bars

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup large rolled oats
1.5 cups rice krispies (or another type of puffed rice)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dried cherries
2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x5” loaf pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the applesauce, maple syrup, and almond butter until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the remaining ingredients until everything is evenly coated.

Pour into prepared pan, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula. Use your hands or the spatula to press down firmly on the top so that the mixture holds together tightly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm on top. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 10 squares. 

November 12, 2013

Quinoa with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Clementines & Pomegranate

Now that we've had our first official snowfall of the year (as in, the snow actually stays on the ground and doesn't just melt away immediately), I think it's appropriate to share a holiday recipe on the blog!

This recipe can actually be made any time, it's not just for the holidays - I just think it looks so festive with the green, red, and gold colours in it, and it tastes Christmassy too!

I saw this recipe for roasted brussels sprouts, clementines, and pomegranate on Edible Perspective and thought it would make a great quinoa dish. It may sound like an odd combination of ingredients at first, but when everything is tossed together in a citrusy dressing with crunchy pecans, it works!

Roasted brussels sprouts are my favourite way to eat them, and if you've never tried roasting citrus fruit, this is a great way to try it out too! The slightly charred clementine segments come out of the oven soft and warm and bursting with juice. Plus, you don't have to worry about any pesky seeds with clementines!

The pomegranate arils add lots of crunch to the mix along with the toasted nuts, and I loved the sweet and tangy clementine dressing with a bit of a kick from some garlic and ginger.

I think this could make a nice side dish to keep in mind for your holiday meal planning over the next month or two!

Quinoa with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Clementines & Pomegranate
Inspired by Edible Perspective, dressing loosely adapted from Oxmoor House

1 lb brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3 clementines
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup pomegranate arils (I recommend buying POM POMS if you can find them)

2 tsp clementine zest
1/4 cup fresh clementine juice (from about 1 large clementine, blended then strained to remove pulp)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp agave nectar (can substitute honey for non-vegan)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 tsp minced fresh ginger (to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F and prepare a large baking sheet by lining with tin foil.

Wash the brussels sprouts and trim off the bottoms and outer leaves. Slice in half (or quarters for larger ones) and toss with the olive oil, some salt and pepper. Peel the clementines (tip: before peeling, remove enough zest for the dressing) and separate each one into four or five sections. Toss clementine pieces with the brussels sprouts, then spread everything out onto the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are browned. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, separate the clementine chunks into single pieces.

Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes (or according to package directions). Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the pecan pieces for a few minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl.

Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and add the roasted brussels sprouts and clementines. Add the toasted pecans and pomegranate arils. Toss to combine. Pour over the dressing and toss well to mix. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

(Note: Leftovers will keep in the fridge, but I liked the best when it was freshly made...after a day or two, the clementines get a bit too soft and reheated brussels sprouts never smell very good!)

November 05, 2013

Pumpkin Recipe Round Up 2013

I got a late start to my pumpkin baking this year, but once I opened my first can, I made sure to squeeze in as many pumpkin goodies as I could! I've heard people say before that they're going to turn into a pumpkin from eating too much of it, and now I understand how they feel...Not that I'm complaining - personally, I can't get enough of anything and everything pumpkin this year!

And instead of keeping all the goodies I've tried to myself, I thought I would post a round-up of the pumpkin recipes I've tried this season, similar to last year's post. Most of them were adapted from other blogs, so be sure to check out their sites too!

Pumpkin Stuffed Energy Balls

With all of the pumpkin recipes that I bookmark, there's never a shortage of ideas from other bloggers that I want to try. But the one pumpkin recipe of my own from this year were these pumpkin stuffed energy balls. With the "dough" made from raw nuts and dates, and a filling of pumpkin hummus, these made a healthy and tasty snack!

Pumpkin Pancakes

For breakfast a couple of weekends ago, I used some of my leftover pumpkin puree to make these vegan pumpkin pancakes from Daily Garnish. They turned out a bit thinner than my usual pancakes and took a while to make with my limited set of skillets (which is why I started making mini ones, seen on top in the photo), but they were worth the wait! They had a nice amount of pumpkin flavour and the pancakes themselves weren't very sweet, making them the perfect base for lots of maple syrup!

Pumpkin Coffee Smoothie

When I'm in the mood for a cold drink in the morning instead of hot coffee, I like to add instant coffee to a smoothie. This smoothie also had pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice to make it more appropriate for fall. I didn't really measure ingredients this time, but you can check out this post from last year for a recipe.

Pumpkin Banana Coffee Cake

One of my favourite pumpkin recipes that I've tried so far this year was this pumpkin banana breakfast cake from The Pancake Princess. The only changes I made were to use coconut oil instead of olive oil, chopped walnuts in the topping instead of ground, and I replaced the spices in the cake with 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice. I loved the texture of the cake, and I liked that it tasted light and not too sweet, so that you could eat it as a relatively healthy snack any time of day!

Mini Pumpkin Muffins

Another healthy baked good that I made with pumpkin were these mini vegan pumpkin muffins from Eating Bird Food. They were nice and fluffy and moist inside, despite having very little oil, and even though they looked a bit plain, I thought they still had lots of flavour!

Pumpkin Beer Bread with Pumpkin Butter

I've had a large bottle of this pumpkin beer sitting in my fridge for awhile, and since it was a relatively strong one, I decided to use some of it in a recipe rather than drinking the whole thing myself! I've been wanting to try making beer bread for awhile too, so when I saw this recipe for pumpkin beer bread on Gimme Some Oven, it was the perfect opportunity! With pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and pumpkin beer, this bread had a nice amount of pumpkin flavour, while still being more on the bread side than a sweet breakfast loaf cake. Unfortunately, my bread ended up with an unpleasant bitter aftertaste from using a dark, strong beer, so next time I would make this with a lighter pumpkin beer. 

To cover up some of the bitter taste, I made a thick, spiced pumpkin butter to spread on it, which was the perfect combination! I only had a small amount of pumpkin puree left in my can, so I roughly followed a couple of recipes that I'd seen for pumpkin butter, just guessing on amounts of spices and sweetener. Luckily, pumpkin butter isn't very finicky so it still turned out great! For actual recipes, I would recommend looking at these ones from Oh She Glows and Hidden Fruits and Veggies (I used a less sweetener in mine though).

Pumpkin Granola

I've made pumpkin granola in the past and remembered loving it, so I wanted to make another batch this year. I followed this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, except I left out the brown sugar because I didn't want it to be too sweet, and I added some coconut flakes near the end of the baking time. This was nice and crunchy and it was good for both snacking and eating with yogurt!

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Last but not least were these vegan pumpkin swirl brownies from The Balanced Platter. I'm not usually one for chocolate treats, but these had a good balance of richer chocolate with lighter spiced pumpkin. They turned out more like a snack cake than brownies, and were definitely more on the healthy side than a decadent dessert, but I loved them more for those reasons! I need to work on my swirling skills (and learn not to flip the cake upside down onto a wire rack, leaving lines all over them), but I would definitely make these again!

Of course, not all of the pumpkin treats that I've enjoyed this year have come from my own kitchen.  In addition to too many Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes, my favourite storebought treats recently have been a pumpkin pie square, a pumpkin butter tart, and classic pumpkin pie (all pictured above).

Even though it's now November and holiday drinks and treats have made their way into every store and cafe, I still plan on enjoying pumpkin for as long as I can!


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