Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spinach Pancakes

I was a little skeptical when I first came across this recipe for spinach pancakes. I am a creature of habit and a lover of any and all things pancakes. I knew that this recipe was not going to be your traditional pancake recipe and you weren't going to lather butter and maple syrup on it so of course I thought, what the heck are you to do with it? Well, let me tell you folks. This little recipe makes a tasty alternative to bread when making a sandwich. Better yet they are vegan, gluten and dairy free. Popeye would be proud.

This is a simple recipe in terms of ingredients and I whipped them up fairly quick. I don't own a food processor so I tried this in my blender and sadly it didn't work out so well. However, I did have a handy dandy little chopper that did the trick, although I had to chop in several batches. Bottom line, I got it work and it turned out GREAT! Now I decided to do something different and use these little green gems as an alternative to bread and the result was amazing!

This is also my first time using rice flour and chia seeds and I have to say that I am quite impressed by these little ingredients. After doing some research I discovered that the little chia seed really packs a punch nutritionally and is very versatile when it comes to cooking/baking.

I stumbled upon this recipe on Spabettie's blog.

Spinach Pancakes

3 cups (handfuls) fresh spinach
3 tablespoons chia
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water (I ended up using about another tablespoon of water when mixing)
2/3 cup rice flour
Combine chia seeds with water, set aside to gel. Pulse spinach and chia gel in food processor until blended. Add flour and pulse until completely blended.
Pour in 1/4 cup increments onto heated griddle, flipping once when cooked through. Makes 10-12 pancakes 3 inches in size.
This is what it looks like after chopping the spinach and mixing in the chia seeds

I measured it out in a 1/4 measuring cup and spread out with a spatula  once on the griddle

My sandwich fixings
The finished sandwich
I spread some garlic hummus on the bottom, in the middle and top. Layered tomatoes, avocados and yellow bell pepper

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Baked Tilapia with Red Potatoes

Oh my goodness did this ever turn out to be delicious. I was talking with my manager the other day and she was telling me about this great baked fish that her mom use to make. I asked her for the recipe but she ran out of time to send it to me before leaving out of town. I thought, I can whip this up with what she briefly told me about it. I was totally flying by the seat of my pants on this recipe. I was craving fish and what better way to make it then on a bed of red potatoes.

I'll be honest. I'm not very knowledgeable about fish. If it doesn't have a fishy smell then I'll buy it. I know, I know, not exactly the way to choose fish. Then again, that could also apply to how I pick out wine. I go by how pretty the label is. Sometimes I miss then sometimes I hit it right on the head. 

This was a really simple dish to put together and didn't take long to prep. I will say that I just purchased a mandoline slicer and WOW, why have I waited so long. I sliced those potatoes in a jiff. I don't have exact measurements for the spices, I just winged it but I'll try my best.

Baked Tilapia with Red Potatoes

5 red potatoes thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper
3-4 Tilapia fillets
Salt (approx 1-2 tsp)
Pepper (approx 1-2 tsp)
Fresh Dill (approx 2 Tbsp finely chopped)

Preheat oven to 350

1. Wash and thinly slice 5 red potatoes. Place the potatoes in a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Lightly brown the potatoes. About 5-10 minutes.
2. Take a 9x13 pan (I use glass). Lightly drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the pan
3. Place the potatoes on the bottom of the pan. I used a couple of forks to move the potatoes around since they were hot.
4. Next take your 3-4 Tilapia fillets and place on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper and I used some lemon pepper I had. Top with some freshly chopped dill
5. Slice your red bell pepper and place on top of the fish.
6. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes

The flavors all came together nicely. The sweetness from the red bell pepper, then crispiness of the potatoes and top that off with the nice Tilapia, you don't get any better. 


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baked Banana Bread Oatmeal

I'm not a fan of oatmeal. It stems back from childhood memories of being fed this for breakfast and of my grandmother eating it all the time when she got older. The smell, the texture, all of it, not good. Really not a good way to start off a new blog entry about this recipe, right. LOL. But in keeping with my goal of breaking out of my cooking box and trying new things this year I decided to give this little ingredient another try. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. 

I found this recipe after a friend of mine posted it on Pinterest. The recipe was originally posted on a blog called Budget Bytes. What a great blog too. I really like how she breaks down her recipes into what it actually costs to make it. I tweaked her recipe ever so slightly and it turned out great. It was a one bowl recipe. How can you not like that? Plus it smelled divine baking in the oven. Another plus is that there are several other ways to make this recipe too. Why not change it up a bit and substitute blueberries or better yet add them into the recipe. 

Here is the recipe as it's posted and my tweaks are in red.

Banana Bread Oatmeal

1.5 cups (about 4 medium bananas) - mashed
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanat sugar)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups milk (I used vanilla coconut milk)
2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

STEP 1: Begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas well with a fork. 

STEP 2: Whisk the mashed bananas together with the brown sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Next whisk in the milk, then stir in the oats. Roughly chop the walnuts and stir them in as well.

STEP 3: Spray the inside of a glass baking dish (8x8 inch or similar size) with non-stick spray. Pour in the oat mixture. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the center is solid and the edges are slightly golden brown.

STEP 4: Serve warm or refrigerate and enjoy cold!

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this recipe tasted. The oatmeal texture was not overpowering for me and I was able to enjoy it. This recipe is packed full of protein, fiber, vitamins and is low in fat. It is lower in sugar as well, which is a good thing. 

I am really into trying different types of sugars and experimenting with them in recipes. My goal for starting this food blog was to help me better keep track of what I'm making, be it cooking or baking and how what I've learned from substituting different ingredients for a more healthier version. A brief background into me. I've always struggled with my weight. I love food and never really learned how to cook healthy. I grew up during a time when a family still sat around a dinner table every night and usually had meat, potatoes some sort of vegetable and always, always dessert. I don't blame anyone. Both my parents worked full time jobs and it was a busy household. Dinner preparation was sometimes delegated to me and I opted for easy to make recipes and quick ones. I was 15 at the time. So, fast forward 30 years and I have now taken an interest in learning how to rethink what I eat. What goes into my body. What is the food I'm eating made out of or from. Am I ingesting too many processed foods/chemicals. What does that GMO on a label really mean? ( I know now).

I am not counting calories, points, carbs, whatever and mean no offense to anyone that is. For me, that doesn't work. So, I decided to sit down and like I said rethink some of my recipes. Try new ones and try experimenting with new spices. It's working. I've replaced the type of sugar I ingest and I notice I no longer get those sugar highs after eating something. I've switched to eating dark chocolate when I'm craving something chocolate. Baby steps as I like to say. With that being said I'm posting a link to a very good source of information about the benefits of eating a low Glycemic diet ( I hate that word). Let's call it low Glycemic lifestyle. Yes, I like that much, much better. The article is from the Mayo Clinic.

I welcome any comments, suggestions of ideas of what to blog about next. If there is a recipe you are thinking of trying but aren't sure what to substitute an ingredient for, hit me up. If I can't find the answer I know my good friend, Jackie will have the answer. She's been eating this way for years now and is my reference source when I get stuck. 

Bottom line. Have fun with your cooking. Don't stress out if the recipe doesn't work out or doesn't taste the way you hoped it would. Remember that if everything turned out perfect then life in the kitchen would be rather boring. 

I poured a little of my coconut milk on top before eating


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

I love squash, I do, but I absolutely hate cleaning them out. It's the ooey-gooey insides that get to me. But, because I love squash so much I buck up and scoop out those nasty insides. What I found that works great for me is an ice cream scoop.  I don't think I will ever tire of squash. For me it's one of those foods that have endless possibilities. 

It's been a while since I've made this spaghetti squash recipe but I was dying for something different than eating pasta tonight and something lighter. I had the ingredients so I decided to take a stab at making it again. It really is an easy and quick dish to make. While the squash is cooking in the oven I'm getting the rest of the delicious ingredients ready.

I found this recipe on Allrecipes but I have tweaked it just a little. I will list the Allrecipes recipe with my tweaks in red.

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used 2. I LOVE garlic)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used 4 Roma tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sliced black olives (I used a whole small can)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used a small bunch of fresh basil. Can you really have too much?)
  • I added a handful of fresh spinach

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. (I used a 9 x 13 glass pan and put a little water in the bottom so I didn't grease the pan then I put the squash flesh side down)
  1. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

If you have never tried spaghetti squash before it is quite fun pulling out the stringy goodness that's inside. Wait until it's a little cool to the touch. Hold with one hand and use a fork to gently scrape/pull out the squash. 

This is what it will look like after you get it all scraped out and in the bowl

  1. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm. (at this step I turned the heat off on the stove and added the fresh basil and spinach. I covered and let it sit until the squash was done)
  2. Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm.

Quick tip: I start to saute the onions when I have about 10 minutes left on the timer for the squash. Works great and everything comes together nicely. The above recipe will serve 4 nicely.

Oh and I have to share my new kitchen gadget that I picked up at a local cooking store. I'm in love with it and need to go back and get a couple more. It's this handy dandy little spoon holder that clips on the side of your pan. 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Roasted Onions

A very good friend of mine turned me on to this nifty little way of cooking onions. Her trick is not only super easy but also makes a great presentation on the plate. 

First start off with a small to medium onion (yellow, white, red)
Peel it
Then slice off a little on the bottom so it will stand up
Then slice off the top
Score the center of the onion and scoop out the inside with a spoon
Make sure NOT to go all the way down to the bottom of the onion. You want them to be little onion cups

After scooping out the center of the onion stuff it with Butter, Earth Balance, Olive Oil, etc

Place in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes

The onion will come out soft and sweet and slightly brown on the bottom

Now sit back and enjoy this delicious treat with a nice meal!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Apple Pie (in the apple)

This was such a fun recipe to try out and the presentation was wonderful. I found the recipe on Pinterest and adapted it to make it Gluten & Dairy free. The lighting was not the best this evening so the pictures do not do it justice. The aroma in the kitchen was at it's highest tonight between the mini apple pies and the stuffed butternut squash. I was in heaven.

These little darlings were easy to prepare and tasted even better. I used Gala apples and I tested each one out before buying. By that I mean I made sure they could stand up without falling over. I got some odd stares when I was at Trader Joe's trying the apples out. LOL.

Ingredients for each apple
1 tsp sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1/2 tbsp all purpose flour (I used almond flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (this was my addition)
*Mix all ingredients together with the diced inside of the apple and place back into the apple bowl*

Instructions for scooping the apple:
  • You start by slicing off the top of the apple and scooping out the inside. I found that by scoring the top of the apple then using a small spoon it worked a lot better. You don't want to scoop all the way to the bottom of the apple but make sure to leave enough of the "apple" so it looks like a mini apple bowl. 
  • Next take the scooped apple and pick out the seeds and the core
  • Dice the remaining apple along with the top that you sliced off
  • Mix with above ingredients (in red) and place back into the apple bowl
  • Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes
  • Take out after 30 minutes and add the gluten/dairy free crumble topping (recipe below)

    Gluten & Dairy Free Crumble Topping Recipe (this recipe yields enough to top 4 to 5 apples)
    • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (set in glass bowl on stove while apples are cooking. great way to melt the coconut oil)
    • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (I used turbinado because that's what I had on hand)
    • 1/3 cup Quinoa Flakes 
    • Ground cinnamon
    • Make crumble topping by combining coconut oil, sugar and Quinoa Flakes until crumbly. Spoon on top of apple pies
    Place the crumble on the apple pies after they have been in the oven cooking for 30 minutes. Cook another 15-20 minutes. Any longer than 20 minutes and they start to burn a little.

    This really was a fun dessert to make and my guests really enjoyed it. If you can eat dairy then this would also be good with some whipped cream on top or served with a single serving of vanilla ice cream on the side. The original recipe called for pie crust to be cut out in a circle and placed on top of the apple to resemble a traditional apple pie. Who said anything to me about being traditional? 

    I went outside the cooking comfort box tonight and discovered a new way to make a traditional dessert. Cut those apron strings and live on the wild side. You might be surprised what's on the other side of that spice jar. 

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Risotto

    I admit it, I'm in love....with Pears. I can't get enough of this wonderful fruit. Where have you been all my life? It's another food that I thought was just good to eat all by itself. Little did I know that hiding beneath the luscious skin was this delectable fruit with an even better texture. Add this little jem to a salad and POW! Add it  to roasted butternut squash and risotto and you have a dish that will blow you away. 

    Ask my family and friends and they will tell you I'm a big texture nut. That goes along with my love of books and being very tactile. If the book doesn't feel good in my hands forget about it. I had to change that when my carpal tunnel flared up and I purchased a NOOK because I can no longer hold large books for long periods of time. I digress. Example. I like raisins but put them in any food and it's enough to make me throw up. It's the texture. However, with pears it's a whole other story. 

    Tonight was a spur of the moment dinner. I picked up a friend and we decided to go to The Good Earth for dinner. I was going to help her prepare for a job interview tomorrow. She had a wonderful bowl of gluten-dairy free bean soup and I had the roasted butternut squash pear risotto. It came out and it was gorgeous. Good size chunks of butternut squash with fresh spinach, onions, cubed pears, goat cheese and pecans. All mixed in to this delicious Arborio rice. Everything was in perfect harmony. 

    I came home and promptly looked online for a recipe. I found one, although it is not exactly like what I ate tonight but it can be modified. I have yet to make it but I will post the recipe I found tonight. 

    My changes:
    • Add spinach
    • Change the stock to vegetable
    • Change the cheese to goats cheese
    • Add pecans
    • Omit the wine
    • I don't think mine had garlic in it either

    Here's the recipe I found online:

    Roasted Winter Squash and Pear Risotto
    - Chef Richard Julien

    Pasta loses favour as you cross over from the rolling hills of central Tuscany and Umbria to the northern provinces of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto. Here rice is the staple starch and specifically the high-starch short grain varieties known as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano and Arborio. All three varieties provide risotto with its rich, creamy texture and flavor.


    2½ cups (750 ml) of half-inch (1.25 cm) cubed butternut squash pieces
    5 tablespoons (75 ml) olive oil - divided
    1 pear, diced
    1 cup (250 ml) Carnaroli or Arborio rice
    4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 small onion, diced
    ½ cup (125 ml) white wine
    3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh sage, chopped
    ½ cup (125 ml) parmesan, grated
    ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) all-spice
    Pinch salt
    Pinch pepper

    Preparation Method:

    1. Cube the butternut squash and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle the squash with 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
    2. Place the squash in an oven preheated to 400ºF (204ºC). Roast for 30 minutes.
    3. After the squash has finished roasting (can be pierced easily with a toothpick or skewer), remove it from the oven and set aside.
    4. Place the chicken stock in a pot over a medium-low heat.
    5. Place a separate pot over medium-low heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil. Add the onion to the pot with the olive oil and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (approximately 30 seconds).
    6. Add rice and sauté. Ensure grains are evenly covered with the olive oil.
    7. Increase the heat to medium and add the white wine. When the rice fully absorbs the white wine, add a ladle of the warm stock. When the rice has fully absorbed the liquid, add another ladle of stock. Repeat continually until the stock is finished.
    8. Add parmesan, pear, squash and sage. Stir until well incorporated.
    9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Servings: 4-6

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Russian Cabbage Borscht Soup

    I have recently fallen in love with Russian food. It all started New Year's Eve. My friend and I decided to try a Russian restaurant in our neighborhood. She had been there before but not me. I looked at the menu online before going so I would have an idea of what to expect. Being the careful cook I am the sounds of all these exotic spices made my head spin. What was I getting myself into? I grew up being told that you can't say you don't like something until you try it. Well, that only worked on me until I moved out of the house. Twenty five years later I've decided its time to break out of the cooking box I've put myself into.

    Back to New Year's Eve and the Russian food. I walked in and was immediately hit with this aroma of spices. We sat down and both decided what to order. I started off with a wine poached pear salad (OMG) then for my main dish had blackened salmon on top of potato filled dumplings covered in a Chardonnay cream dill sauce. Hello! My friend started off with Borscht soup followed by grilled vegetables in Southern Russian spices on top of buckwheat. We were both impressed with the food.

    I went home determined to make the Borscht soup. I love beets but never know how to cook them. I searched and found a fairly simple recipe on . A quick trip to the co-op to get the ingredients then home to cook.

    The soup turned out great. A little different than what I tried at the restaurant but I was okay with that. I was pleased with how well everything turned out and the wonderful smells coming from my kitchen. Here is the recipe from Allrecipes with my notes on what I did differently in bold.


    • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
    • 1 cup thinly sliced beets (I used 3 small beets)
    • 4 cups vegetable stock or water (I used vegetable bullion cubes. Each cube made 2 cups of broth)
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
    • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 celery stalk, chopped
    • 1 large carrot, sliced (I put in 2 carrots)
    • 3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage
    • black pepper to taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed
    • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 cup tomato puree (I omitted the tomato puree as I am not a fan - personal taste)
    • sour cream, for topping
    • chopped tomatoes, for garnish (omitted)


    1. Place sliced potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over high heat; cover with stock, and boil until vegetables are tender. Remove potatoes and beets with a slotted spoon, and reserve stock.
    2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt; cook until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots, and cabbage. Mix in reserved stock; cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
    3. Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black pepper and dill weed. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream, extra dill weed, and chopped fresh tomatoes.

    What would I do differently the next time I make this soup? I would increase the stock to 6 cups instead of the four. I like my soup a little more soupy.

    If you are looking to break out of that cooking box you have gotten yourself into I suggest trying this recipe. It's easy and satisfying. And as the Russians like to say: Na Zdorovie! (to your health)

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