Incredibly Moist Applesauce Loaf

“Love doesn’t grow on trees like apples in Eden – it’s something you have to make. And you must use your imagination too.” – Joyce Cary

This recipe is a great way to enjoy a bucket of fall apples.  We made a quick homemade applesauce using fresh royal gala apples and then also grated in a whole apple.  Using whole wheat flour and a little bit of coconut oil lends itself to an incredibly moist and warm loaf cake.

Taken from  Hungry Healthy Girl

  • 1 large (1 cup) apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey + 1 tbsp.
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened homemade applesauce (or store bought)
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (spelt or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of all spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Prepare a 9 x 5 loaf pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine grated apple, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp. honey and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine all wet ingredients and sugar in a medium bowl and beat together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend on low. Don’t overmix. Fold in apples. Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Cool for about 20 mins before slicing.

Do you think “Isa Does it” Well? – A Cookbook Review

isa does it

Sometimes you just gotta live outside your comfort zone. By comfort zone, we mean cooking the same weeknight chicken fajitas over and over – not that there’s anything wrong with it! Although we don’t claim to be vegan experts, we thought we would test some vegan recipes with the best selling “Isa Does it” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Isa is the author of the previously successful “Veganomicon”. This author’s motto is very clearly stated in the first paragraph of her writing: “To get you into the kitchen, cooking satisfying meals with fresh ingredients any day of the week”. Well, that line had us hooked!

Isa starts by explaining her cooking journey and it is refreshing to note that she is not a professional chef. She admits to growing up on hamburger helper and frozen food and even disliked spending time in the kitchen. She relates to many of us who do not want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen making extravagant spreads, but just easy delicious food that gets on the table in a timely fashion.

The first few pages make for some fun reading. Isa includes her must have tools and gadgets such as a good quality blender and immersion blender. Her favourite simple tools include a solid wooden cutting board and a proper chef’s knife. She stresses the importance of stocking your pantry correctly and we like that she categorizes her spices that she uses all the time versus just some of the time. She provides simple ways to organize your pantry in a non fuss type of way. We like her “Vegan Butchery” section, designed to teach you how to correctly cube and triangle vegan protein options such as tofu and tempeh with easy to read pictures and steps. The rest of the cookbook is organized into interesting sections of food such as “Handheld” – including different types of burgers, “Sunday night suppers”, which are comfort meals and “Bowls”, such as a hummus bowl, spinach burrito bowl, etc.

So what did we try? A bunch of recipes! When one recipe turns out great, you feel like trying more and more and there are lots of great reviews online which is always a plus.  We gave her Pesto Cauliflower Soup, Tofu Mushroom Stragonoff, and Malai Kofta a whirl and were pleasantly surprised with each meal. Isa makes vegan cooking seem delicious and instead of reverting back to soy for every meal, as one might imagine vegan cooking to be, she makes it versatile using different things like cashews, tempeh and of course lots of tofu.

As with any cookbook, there are just a few points that we weren’t thrilled at. Perhaps Isa touched on this in her other cookbooks, but we wanted to know what drove her to become vegan. Was it allergy related? Did she grow up eating only vegan? Not sure, but we would have liked to hear the story. Also in her special tools section, she describes a must have tool as a thin metal spatula. We would love to see what this spatula actually looks like! Finally, while we enjoyed the recipes that contained cashews for a creamy base, anybody with a nut allergy might find it hard to work with.

“Isa does it” is an easy light read that is also charmingly witty and humourous. We sense a “punk rock” side to Isa that might be different from any other cook you encounter and the number of recipes we made that actually turned out have us experimenting with Meatless Mondays. Although we can’t say we would go full throttle Vegan, Isa might just open your eyes to the possibilities of flavor, ease and the simplicity of cooking and baking for your loved ones.

Here is a favourite from the cookbook:

Pesto Soup with Gnocchi, Beans and Greens

IMG_0472

This creamy soup just become a summer time staple in your home.  It is full of rich pesto flavour, a creamy (cauliflower base!) sauce, dotted with white beans, soft pillowy gnocchi and healthy greens! Not to mention it comes together very easily and you might even clean out your fridge and pantry as a result.  Enjoy, it’s a good one!

Makes 4-6 servings

Taken from Isa Does it

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head cauliflower (about a pound), leaves removed, cut into florettes
4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch dried thyme
Lots of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, plus a little extra for garnish
8 oz frozen gnocchi, partially thawed (leave on the counter for 30 minutes or so)
1 15 oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 small bunch swiss chard, stems discarded, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Preheat a 4 quart stock pot over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add cauliflower, 3 cups of broth (alert! only 3 of the cups! you’ll be adding the last cup in a bit), salt, thyme and several dashes fresh black pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, stirring every now and again for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Vigorously mix together the final cup of broth and the arrowroot until dissolved. Lower heat a bit so that the soup is at a slow boil. Mix in the broth/arrowroot and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened. stirring often. Add the basil leaves, and remove from heat. Use a immersion blender to puree until smooth. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Return to the stove over medium heat and add the gnocchi, cover and let cook for 3 minutes or so. Add the greens and beans and cook until greens are completely wilted and beans are heated through, about 5 more minutes. Be careful as you stir not to crush the gnocchi or beans. Serve garnished with extra basil and pine nuts, if you like.

Classic French Apple Tart

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree” – Martin Luther

Apple tart is a classic dessert that never goes out of style.  It’s pretty, flaky, and sticky in the best possible way! Cut up your apples, throw on some sugar and butter, bake and then spread with jam, that’s it! Feel free to substitute store bought puff pastry if you are in a pinch – it is still delicious.  You can serve the tart at room temperature, but we love it warm right outta the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Taken from Barefoot Contessa

Serves 6-8

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water
For the apples:
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Seared Shrimp with Pasta

‎”This is my advice to people: Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun”Julia Child

This is a great meal to share with someone special.  If you are getting tired of a traditional cream or marinara sauce with pasta, try this sauce for a lighter alternative.  It comes together in about 15 minutes and it’s a fun one to cook together! Tasty Kitchen Blog stresses the importance of first drying your shrimp (or scallops) really well before searing – this is the only way to ensure a nice golden crust.

Taken from Tasty Kitchen Blog

Serves 2

4 oz pasta (we used multigrain)
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (or scallops)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato minced
1 cup white wine, beer, or chicken stock
3 tbsp parsley, minced
half a lemon, squeezed
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in salted water per the instructions on the box. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, prep all the ingredients and have them at the ready nearby. For the shrimp, use a couple of layers of paper towels and pat very dry. Move the shrimp to a clean sheet of paper towel and pat dry once more. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat a large frying pan or saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the olive oil. Add the shrimp to the pan, not touching. Give each shrimp ample room so that they can sear properly. Cook for 2 minutes then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Turn the heat to low. Add the butter and the garlic. Saute for just 10 seconds and then add the tomatoes.

Turn the heat to high and add in the white wine (or beer or vegetable stock). Let it bubble a bit for 30 seconds and use your spatula to scrape up the bits in the pan. Season with salt and pepper (go light on the salt … remember your pasta is lightly salted now), throw in the parsley and then add in your cooked pasta. Stir well to let the sauce coat the pasta. Serve with the shrimp and parmesan cheese.

 

Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars

“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap” – Robert Fulgum

These blondie bars are perfect for last minute company.  They are soft, chewy, and oh so chocolately.  We’ve baked them so many times and they are really foolproof! Be sure to use room temperature butter and eggs to ensure a perfectly textured bar.

Taken from Ina Garten

Makes 12 Blondies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks, such as Nestle’s

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and with the mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold the walnuts and chocolate chunks in with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes exactly. Don’t overbake! A toothpick may not come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and cut into bars.

The Spiralizer Lets You Enjoy “Pasta” Once Again – A Kitchen Tool Review

At first glance, the spiralizer just looks like a basic white plastic machine. However, for those of you on restricted diets such as low carb, paleo, or gluten free, this kitchen appliance is a savior! It allows you to once again enjoy those starchy favourites – without all the heaviness.  “Pasta” with Bolognese is possible…this time with zucchini noodles.  This nifty gadget works just like a pencil sharpener.  It comes with three blades and allows you to turn raw vegetables into long noodle like strands of varying thickness.  Spiralize firm raw vegetables into angel hair thin pasta or a thicker spaghetti width, and enjoy steamed or as is with your favourite sauce. You can also turn an average salad into something extra special by easily spiralizing produce into ribbons or slices of artistic goodness.

Not only is the spiralizer easy to use, it’s easy to clean up.  A simple rinse of the attached parts, and you’re good to go. Watch those blades when you are washing though…they are incredibly sharp!

If you think you are only going to use this machine sometimes, then you might not want to shell out the cash. While not super expensive, it still retails for about $49.99 on Amazon.  The suction cups on the bottom have to be secured well to the counter otherwise the spiralizer wobbles around too much. Keep in mind that it can only slice solid, firm vegetables such as carrots, apples, and squash.

If you want a healthier, low carb version of your favourite pasta or noodle dish, this tool will surely satisfy your cravings.  There are some amazing blogs out there as well that churn out a range of carb-less, nutritious and decadent looking dishes.  Allessandra at Inspiralized, for example, dedicates her website solely to creating the most amazing ways that you can use this kitchen gadget.

We spiralized some zucchini and threw it atop Ina Garten’s Baked Shrimp Scampi.  This recipe is one of our favourites using the spiralizer.

Baked Shrimp Scampi atop Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.” – Bubba, from Forest Gump

zuchinni pasta with shrimp
Fresh and flavourful baked shrimp…

The possibilities are endless when you make Ina’s Shrimp Scampi.  The shrimp are buttery and succulent and every mouthful is pure joy! Enjoy as a party appetizer or over your favourite pasta for a special dinner.  In this case, we used fresh zucchini noodles.  Using your spiralizer makes it easy to create long ribbons of zucchini “pasta” which can be lightly steamed before serving.

Taken from Ina Garten’s Shrimp Scampi 

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1-teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2-teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the centre of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges over sprialized zucchini noodles.

Mushroom Grilled Cheese

“Sandwiches are wonderful.  You don’t need a spoon or a plate!” – Paul Lynde

Want to make your ordinary grilled cheese a little more interesting?  Adding sautéed mushrooms hinted with rosemary gives this vegetarian option a meaty kick.  We like to serve it with a mellow tomato soup – from scratch.

Serves 4

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup parmigiana reggio cheese, grated
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 slices bread
Kosher salt and pepper

Gently combine cheeses and set aside in a bowl.  Warm butter and oil in a skillet and add the rosemary over medium heat.  Stir for a minute or so, until you can smell the rosemary.  Add the mushrooms and stir, cooking until they are golden brown.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Keep the skillet on medium heat.  Butter one side of each bread slice.  Place the buttered side down on the hot skillet (fit as many as you can in your skillet depending on the size, in a single layer).  Use enough cheese to cover the surface of each slice of bread (feel free to add more or less depending on how cheesy you like your sandwiches).  Put a few spoonfuls of the sautéed mushrooms on top and cover with a bit more cheese.   Cover with the remaining 4 slices (now buttered side up).  Work in batches to grill them on the skillet.  Grill until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown, about 2-4 minutes on each side.

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

“Sometimes me think ‘What is a friend?’ And then me say ‘Friend someone to share last cookie with’” – Cookie Monster

Share one of these with a friend.  This from scratch cookie is a basic oatmeal cookie recipe that can easily be adapted.  We have tried these with chocolate chips, various nuts, all of which yield a delicious, chewy oatmeal cookie.  We’ve even snuck in the wholesome goodness of whole-wheat flour – we don’t think Ina would mind!

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 30-35 cookies

1 ½ cups nuts (pecans and walnuts work great)
1 cup butter, unsalted and at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, scant (less than full)
1 cup granulated sugar, scant (less than full)
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp salt
3 cups oatmeal (any kind, old fashioned, quick etc.)
1 ½ cups raisins or chocolate chips
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Place the nuts on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp.  Set aside to cool.  Chop very coarsely.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars with a hand mixer (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Bring the speed down to low and add eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixer while the mixer is still on low.  Add the oatmeal, nuts and raisins and mix until just combined with a large wooden spoon.

Drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto a prepared sheet pan with parchment paper.  Flatten slightly with a damp hand.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  They are finished when the edges turn slightly brown.  Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

Homemade Baby: Roasted Eggplant Caponata


“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”- Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)

Caponata is an italian dish often served as a dip, made with eggplant, olives and onions seasoned with herbs.  Simply put – it’s delicious, so why not let your baby try some? Roasting vegetables instead of steaming adds a great dimension to baby food, one that will be greatly appreciated.  The veggies develop a nice sweetness and flavour from baking at a high temperature.

Suitable at 8 months*

Makes about 3 cups

1 baby eggplant, peeled
1 tomato
1 garlic clove
1 onion
1/2 red bell pepper seeded
extra virgin olive oil
pinch of oregano

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Chop everything and toss with one tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.  Spread onto a roasting sheet and roast for 30 minutes, mixing once. Transfer to a blender and puree (or mash with a fork) until desired consistency is reached, adding a little water if needed. Serve with a sprinkling of dried oregano.

*Always check with your paediatrician before introducing any new food to your baby. 

 

Green Energizer Smoothie

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug Larson

We hope you had a St. Patricks Day full of good food and celebratory drinks! After chugging all those green beers, we thought you might appreciate this delicious and healthy green smoothie. We love our Vitamix, as it grinds the whole flaxseed, while blending the other ingredients. Enjoy this smoothie as a snack or for a complete meal, add in a few scoops of your favourite protein powder.

Makes 2 servings

3 cups baby spinach
1 cup red seedless grapes
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp. whole flaxseed

Put ½ cup of cubed ice into your Vitamix. Add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.