Monday, May 30, 2011

Penanapple Wraps

My kids love to cook and so a month or two ago, I signed up for a free cooking class that all of us could do together.  Unfortunately, we had to cancel the class due to other events that had to happen on that same day. So in efforts to make up for it, the kids and I have been going through a fun kids cookbook to make more foods together in our own kitchen.  And today, we discovered this gem of a recipe.  So simple yet so different and refreshing AND completely naturally sweet.  (I have to admit I was a little surprised the recipe used a fruit for sweetness!) 
My kids loved helping to make these wraps and then loved eating them too!  What could be better for any parent who has kids to feed.  The only possible down-side to this creation is it contains peanut butter which means it cannot be sent to 99% of the schools for lunch (at least in our area).  But there are lunches on weekends and spring breaks and summers plus one could easily substitute any nut or seed butter for the peanut butter for those with allergies.  I hope you will give it a try - and with your kids if you have any.

We named the recipe "Penanapple Wraps" cause it is more fun but it was called "The Sky is Falling Apples! Wrap" from Disney's  The Magic Kitchen Cookbook

Penanapple Wraps
(Peanut butter banana apple wrap)

1/4 - 1/2 small banana
2 - 3 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1/2 apple - chopped into small pieces
2 - 3  8" whole wheat tortilla wraps (or wrap of choice)
* See the Cook's notes below for details on the recipe

Put your peanut butter in a small bowl for mixing.

Slice the banana into the bowl and mix or mash until it is as mixed as you like.

Cut the apple into small, bite-sized pieces.
Spread the peanut butter mixture over the surface of the wraps. Sprinkle the apple pieces over the top and roll up the wrap.

Slice as desired and enjoy!

Cook's Notes:

About the banana, you need the banana to add sweetness to the peanut butter so I would not use a green one but perhaps not too overripe either cause then the banana flavour is too strong.  So my thoughts are use a banana that you enjoy for just eating purposes.
About the measurements: Sorry I am not an "exact" cook when it comes to measuring ingredients in something like this.  I hate putting peanut butter in a spoon just to measure the amount so I just estimate.  Hope you are okay to go with it.  It can be made with more or less of everything to suit your needs.
About the Tortillas: I normally try to avoid wheat as much as possible.  And yes, I do have a spelt recipe to make tortillas on the blog but my real world does not allow me the luxury of time to have those on hand all the time.  So do what works for you.  When it comes to lunches, much easier to have some purchased tortillas on hand.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oat Bran Muffins

This is a super moist, delicious, low-fat bran muffin.  Am I the only one the finds Bran Muffins a comfort food?  They always bring me back to my childhood with good memories.  But what I also remember is that most recipes I have made over the years had an abundance of oil and sugar.  I found my inspiring recipe a few years ago but rediscovered it again more recently and made it "clean". 
Last week I made some for my elderly neighbour and he said they were so good, he ate one, then two, then three in one sitting!  And then he called me to thank me and ask me for the recipe so his daughter could make them. After that, I knew the recipe had to be shared beyond my kitchen.  I hope you will enjoy them.  I just put a dozen in the oven while the inspiration carries me on to write the blog....can you smell them??  (I just ate my second one as I edited this post!  One is certainly not enough.)

Recipe was inspired by this Loaf recipe .

Oat Bran Muffins

1 1/4 cup spelt flour**
1/2 cup oat bran*
2 Tbsp ground flax
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup yogurt - plain
1/3 cup apple butter*
1 egg
2 Tbsp oil of choice (coconut, safflower, melted butter etc)
3/4 - 1 cup fruit of choice*

* See cook's notes below
**Recently found the addition of 1/4 c flour made a better muffin.  Previously just 1 cup.
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, bran, flax, cinnamon, soda, powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix together the applesauce, yogurt, apple butter, egg, and oil.  Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix in any fruit as desired.  Stir until just combined.

Scoop the batter into a muffin pan (makes 12 muffins).

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until the muffins springs back when touched.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing to enjoy.

Cook's Notes:
Oat Bran - In efforts to remove wheat from our diet, I like it's equally close cousin, Oat Bran.  It easily replaces wheat bran in recipes but perhaps a little more difficult to find.  I have only had success in finding at the bulk food store in our area labelled as Oat Bran Cereal.  In your grocery store, try looking where you find oatmeal as I have occasionally seen it there in a box - likely the bottom shelf.  If you cannot find it, wheat bran would be fine as well.

Apple butter - I only buy the Wellesley Brand apple butter as it is 100% natural and locally made.  It is found at all Bulk Barn stores in Ontario and in Manitoba which would lead me to think all Bulk Barn stores carry it.  It is in the cooler area and looks like a caramel molasses color.  When I substitute it for sugar, I usually do 3/4 cup apple butter for 1 cup sugar.

Fruit of choice - This recipe is really moist so I find that fresh berries work best.  Some ideas to try would include blueberries, cranberries,  raspberries, apricots, dates or raisins. You can try it with frozen berries, as I just did mine with frozen cranberries, but I cut them up into smaller pieces first. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate Nut Truffles

Here is a wonderful treat that is entirely naturally sweet!
Just blend it all together
and roll it into balls
and you have something delicious and "raw"
that sugar just can't beat!

Be sure to try out both the Chocolate
 AND Peanut butter versions!

The chocolate truffle recipe was taken from the 8Week Challenge Participants Guide (Chocolate Date Balls).

Chocolate Nut Truffles

1 cup packed Dates*
2 ½ cups walnuts
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup unsweetened coconut* - toasted
* See Cook's Notes below.

Stuff your dates into a 1 cup measure.  Really pack them down.  
Using a food processor (mine is 14 cup) place the dates inside and process.  Add the walnuts and process again until they are as small as you can get. Scrape down the sides as necessary.  Add the cocoa and coconut and blend until a small crumb size is obtained.

Using a small cookie scoop of 1 Tbsp, drop the dough onto a cookie sheet.

Then press the dough into a ball with your hands to keep it from falling apart.

 Chill or freeze until eaten. Makes about 34 small balls that are DELICIOUS!!!

Peanut Butter Nut Truffles
1 cup packed dates *
2 cups walnuts
½ cup natural peanut butter

½ cup peanuts
½ cup unsweetened coconut
* see Cook's Notes below

Follow the directions as written above.  Makes about 40 truffles. 

Cook's Notes
Packed Dates:  The key to making this recipe easy is moist dates.  I buy my dates in bulk and sometimes they can be dry.  After measuring out the 1 cup of dates, I pour hot water over my dates prior to blending and allow them to soak for 1- 2 minutes.  Drain the water off and then process the dates.  The mixture sticks together much better.
Unsweetened Coconut: I just tried toasting the coconut before adding it and "WOW" ! It tastes fabulous.  It adds a new dimension of flavour, and a little more crunch.  To toast your coconut, use a small frying pan and stir as it warms.  It will brown quickly.  I do mine in my toaster oven which basically broils like an oven.

Enjoy with a hot tea or coffee and friends of course!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A + Turkey Sandwich

In efforts to create a sandwich we enjoy without the mayo, butter and/or cheddar cheese, I think I found something that we really like. 
Apple + Avocado + Turkey = great sandwich! 
Although it sounds strange, the Avocado offers a creamy texture and buttery flavour.  The Apple offers a "crunch" and contrasting sweet and sour flavour.  And the turkey offers something of medium body and slightly salty.  For me, that is a perfect bite!  Even my kids enjoy this sandwich as have other guests at our home.  Give it a try - I am pretty sure you will like it too!

"A" + Turkey Sandwich

Sliced turkey meat* turkey roast or deli
Avocado - thinly sliced (approx 1/4 avocado per sandwich)
Apple - thinly sliced
Sliced bread of your choice* - toasted
Prepared mustard
* See cook's notes below for more details

Toast the bread to your desired liking.
Top with turkey, thin slices of apple and avocado to cover the surface and finish with a twist of mustard. 

Close the sandwich with the top slice of bread and cut the sandwich on the diagonal.  In my own uniqueness, I believe appearance of food has a lot to do with our enjoyment of it and a diagonal cut sandwich always look and enjoy and taste better in my books.  Enjoy on it's own or with a side salad.

Cook's Notes:
Turkey meat: If you have leftover roast turkey that would be ideal for this sandwich.  However, I am not a cooker of turkey so that does not happen at my house.  And I know many have mixed reviews of deli meat but at our place, we do have some deli meats for quick and simple lunches.  I buy ML Natural Selections Turkey which does not have nitrates and has ingredients that I am okay with for the sake of convenience.  If you have not tried Natural Selections, I think it is worth a try and the price.  If you have other deli selections that are great, or other alternatives, please feel free to share. 

Bread: At our home, we really try to avoid wheat/added gluten so our breads are usually Spelt or Kamut with Flax. And since these breads do not have the additives that keep bread soft and moist, I freeze it.  Therefore, we toast our bread for the best we like the crunch it offers in our food.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ground Beef Barley Soup

I have loved the 'idea' of Beef Barley soup for a while now but oddly enough, I never seemed to have the stewing beef around to make it.  And when I made the effort to go buy some just for the soup, it was always way more expensive than I anticipated so I never bought it and never made the soup.  One day, I had finally had enough of the soup's denial and took the chance on trying something new - ground beef!  Definitely a cheaper option and after eating it, equally as good if not better.  My recipe below was modified from "Looking for Mr. Goodbarley" in my all-time favorite cookbook Crazy Plates.  It is perfect for  the winter's stormy weather!  It really is packed full of goodness.

Ground Beef Barley Soup
1 - 1 1/2 lb ground beef *
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup celery - chopped
1 cup carrot - chopped
3 cups water
4 cups Beef Broth/Stock *
1-5oz can Tomato Paste
2/3 cup Pot Barley*
1 tsp dried Marjoram
3/4 tsp dried Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cup frozen kernel Corn 
1/2 cup fresh parsley* - chopped

Optional veggies to add: peas, green beans, parsnips, turnips

In a larger stock pot, brown the beef over medium-high heat.  Turning the heat to low-medium, add the diced onion, garlic carrots and celery and saute this for several minutes (5 - 8 minutes will bring out great flavour of the veggies).

Add all the remaining ingredients except the parsley.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or two.  You could also make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for the day.  Prior to serving, add the fresh parsley. 

Add some fresh (wheat-free) bread and a salad and supper is served!

Cook's Notes:
Ground Beef: In many cases, I brown several ponds of beef with onions and garlic ahead and freeze it for another time such as this.  If you are doing the same, just add the veggies to the browned meat and carry on.  I have also used a mix of ground chicken and beef and it went undetected to those who enjoyed the soup. 
If you happen to have stewing beef to use, feel free to do so and just brown the outer edges first (do not fully cook it) in the pot and add the remaining ingredients as noted.  You would also need to cook the soup then for 2 - 3 hours or until the beef is tender and done.

Barley 101:  The most commonly found options in the grocery stores are Pearl Barley and Pot Barley (or Scotch Barley).   The Pot Barley is less polished and therefore contains a more nutritious outer layer but takes longer to cook.  In health-stores or specialty stores, you would likely find the even better options of Barley flakes and grits or Whole-grain (bits of whole-grain barley).  Both those would require longer cooking times but in a soup like this, why not?  Soup always tastes better with longer simmering.  

Beef Stock/Broth:  I am still in the process of finding a "healthy" broth/stock option for beef.  I thought i found one at the bulk barn but discovered it had maltodextrin which is a sugar.  So please use something you are comfortable with.  Once I find one that I like, I will be sure to pass it on.
If you an unsure of the difference between stock and broth, stock is made using meat with a bone (and a deeper flavour) and broth is made using only meat.

Parsley:  Fresh herbs are best added right at the end of cooking for the most flavour impact.  And dried is not really the same in my books.  Parsley is also very high in calcium so don't be shy about the amount.  3 1/2 oz has 203mg of calcium and cow's milk only has 118 mg for the same amount.***
And I know many people do not like to buy the fresh parsley because it does not last long.  So here is my trick.  I wash it and then store it in a larger yogurt container with water at the bottom and a produce bag over the top to keep it fresh longer.  Mine can last anywhere from 1 -3 weeks depending on how crowded the container is.
Another great tip for cutting fresh parsley and other similar herbs is to put the greens in a small bowl and snip them to the desired size.  I think it works like a charm!

***source: Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin