January 28, 2010

Granola

granola

I'm a notorious granola snacker. When we have some made, it doesn't last too long.

This defies why I wanted some made in the first place. I'd like to get a bit trimmer for the summer season, so I thought I'd start eating a lighter breakfast, yogurt and granola. Of course, snacking counteracts this.

But something as delicious and pretty as this, it's a bit hard not to grab a handful.

granola diptych

You can add different variety and proportions of nuts, seeds and fruits to your granola. The recipe below is what we made this time around.

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Granola
recipe by my husband, official granola maker in our home

1 cup almond slivers
1 cup pecans
1/3 cup sesame seeds

roast above for 7 minutes at 375, take out and let cool a bit

1/3 cup butter melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup splenda (or white sugar if you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix above in a big bowl

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Mix oats, seeds and nuts into butter/syrup mixture, stir well, roast at 300F for 25 minutes stirring once at 12 minutes.

Take out and mix in:

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Cool

Eat

Store in a sealed container.

January 26, 2010

Garden Fresh Spinach - I Miss Thee

garden fresh spinach - I miss thee

I've reached that time of the year when I'm longing for fresh produce.

It's that "in the dumps January/February slumps". You know, the post-Christmas hoopla of socializing and eating, now left with a bit of boredom and getting tired of "comfort foods".

I want spring to come. I'm tired of the snow. I want fresh herbs, garden tomatoes and green produce, like the spinach pic above.

The sadness is that that is not near. I've got months more of snow.

When is that darn Asparagii coming to the supermarkets? Soon please. SOON.

Root vegetable anyone?

Sigh...

So miss the garden greens.

January 25, 2010

Weekly Photos: Knock on Wood

wood knick knacks

I'm not a collector of many things but I have to admit, I have a mad obsession with anything made out of wood. Mad.

If you step into my home, you will likely notice. My floors are hardwood, my cabinets are solid wood and I have a lot of built-ins made from beautiful grained wood. Coffee table, platform bed, office desk, sideboards, benches and chairs and, well, the list goes on.

And on.

Yes, the picture above is only a small compilation of knick knacks, bowls and trays I have. I was devastated when my 50+ year old pine tree in my front yard was destroyed by a storm. I think I may have been a tree-hugger, a lumberjack or beaver in my past life, because my appreciation of wood products is pretty great.

wood trays

I'm not going to lie. I'm not sure how many wood trays I have.

Yup. It's a sickness. But, really, it could be a worse sickness :)

Are you mad about collecting something? Please tell me. I can't be the only one.

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AND... for the winner of the Mayo Clinic Diet Book & Journal Giveway


That would make it Commenter#3: Chris on January 20, 2010 9:39 AM

Shoot me an email and we will make plans to get it your way :)

Thanks to all who left a comment!

January 21, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rolls

When I think of comfort foods, I often think of foods with cinnamon.

I absolutely love cinnamon and there was one winter where I was adding cinnamon to something everyday. My cereal, oatmeal, coffee, toast, you name it. The aroma of it makes me instantly feel warm inside and puts a smile on my face. Comforting for sure.

I've been eating a cinnamon roll for breakfast everyday this week. I feel so spoiled. There are so very good. The bun encased with sweetened cinnamon and raisins.

Oh, look at that... coffee break time! I may just have to have another.

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Cinnamon Rolls
makes 15 rolls

4 to 4.5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 pkgs (8 grams each) quick rise instant yeast
1-1/4 tsp salt

1/2 butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs

1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp raisins

1/4 cup butter, melted


Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt into a bowl.

In a saucepan, warm butter, water and milk until about 120F (50C). Then, stir into the above dry ingredients.

Add eggs and left over flour. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Put back into bowl, cover, and let rest in a draft-free area, for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle, roughly 2 feet by 1 foot. Brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-raisin mixture over the dough.

Start to roll up the dough into a long jellyroll. Pinch all seams well, to prevent uncurling during baking. Cut the roll into 15 pieces and place onto a greased baking pan.

Cover and let rise for about 1 hour.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon rolls from baking pan onto wire racks immediately and let cool.

Store rolls in a airtight container to prevent drying.

Recipe adapted from: Cinnamon Rolls, Fleishman's Yeast Best-Ever Breads Recipe Book.

January 19, 2010

Giveaway: The Mayo Clinic Diet

I received an email asking if I wanted an advance copy to review the The Mayo Clinic Diet Book and Journal. I often visit the Mayo Clinic website for medical information so I thought the book would be worth the look.

It's a visually-beautiful put together book and it's exactly what I thought would be put forth by the Mayo Clinic. It's an overall health book. It advocates setting goals, being active, eating to the pyramid guide, portion sizes and healthy substitutions. But also, it focuses on the mental side ... changing behaviours and strategies to sticking to a healthier lifestyle.

If you live in the Edmonton area(or surrounding regions and are willing to come into the city to meet me half way), I am giving away this book and journal to a comment left below. A randomly-picked commenter will be chosen next week. You have until Sunday, January 24th to leave a comment below for your chance to win.

I've included an excerpt from the book below, after the jump. Photo from Good books website.

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Healthy Cooking
By the weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic and Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H.
Authors of The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat well. Enjoy life. Lose weight.

Healthy cooking doesn't mean you have to become a gourmet chef or invest in special cookware. Simply use standard cooking methods to prepare foods in healthy ways. You can also adapt familiar recipes by substituting other ingredients for fat, sugar and salt.

Use these methods

These methods best capture the flavor and retain the nutrients in your food without adding too much fat or salt.

Baking. Besides breads and desserts, you can bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, and vegetable and fruit pieces of the same size. Place food in a pan or dish (covered or uncovered) and bake. You may need to baste the food with broth, low-fat marinade or juice to keep the food from drying out.

Braising. Braising involves browning the meat or poultry first in a pan on top of the stove, and then slowly cooking it covered with a small amount of liquid, such as water or broth. In some recipes, the cooking liquid is used afterward to form a flavorful, nutrient-rich sauce.

Grilling and broiling. Both grilling and broiling expose fairly thin pieces of food to direct heat and allow fat to drip away from the food. If you're grilling outdoors, place smaller items, such as chopped vegetables, in a long-handled grill basket or on foil to prevent pieces from slipping through the rack. To broil indoors place food on a broiler rack below a heat element.

Poaching. To poach foods, in a covered pan gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid, such as broth, vinegar or juice, until cooked through and tender. For stove-top poaching, choose an appropriate-sized covered pan and use a minimum amount of liquid.

Roasting. Roasting uses an oven's dry heat at high temperatures to cook the food on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. For poultry, seafood and meat, place a rack inside the roasting pan so that the fat can drip away during cooking.

Sautéing. Sautéing quickly cooks small or thin pieces of food. If you choose a good-quality nonstick pan, you can cook food without using fat. Depending on the recipe, use low-sodium broth, cooking spray, water or wine in place of oil or butter.

Steaming. One of the simplest cooking techniques to master is steaming food in a perforated basket suspended above simmering liquid. If you use a flavorful liquid or add herbs to the water, you'll flavor the food as it cooks.

Stir-frying. Stir-frying quickly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of food while they're rapidly stirred in a wok or large nonstick frying pan. You need only a small amount of oil or cooking spray for this cooking method.

Find new ways to add flavor

Instead of salt or butter, you can enhance foods with a variety of herbs, spices and low-fat condiments. Be creative.

Poach fish in low-fat broth or wine and fresh herbs. Top a broiled chicken breast with fresh salsa. Make meats more flavorful with low-fat marinades or spices -- bay leaf, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic, ginger, green pepper, sage, marjoram, onion, oregano, pepper or thyme.

To bring out the sweetness in baked goods, use a bit more vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg.

Adapting recipes

If the recipe calls for

Try substituting

Butter

Margarine

Shortening

Oil

· For sandwiches, substitute tomato slices, catsup or mustard.

· For stove-top cooking, sauté food in broth or small amounts of healthy oil like olive, canola or peanut or use non-stick spray.

· In marinades, substitute diluted fruit juice, wine, or balsamic vinegar.

· In cakes or bars, replace half the fat or oil with the same amount of applesauce, prune puree or commercial fat substitute.

· To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don't substitute oil for butter or shortening, or substitute diet, whipped or tub-style margarine for regular margarine.

Meat

Keep it lean. In soup, chili or stir-fry, replace most of the meat with beans or vegetables. As an entrée, keep it to no more than the size of a deck of cards -- load up on vegetables.

Whole milk (regular or evaporated

Fat free or 1% milk, or evaporated skim milk.

Whole egg

(yolk and white)

1/4 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites for breakfast or in baked goods.

Sour cream

Cream cheese

Fat-free, low-fat or light varieties in dips, spreads, salad dressings and toppings. Fat-free, low-fat and light varieties do not work well for baking.

Sugar

In most baked goods, you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-half without affecting texture or taste, but use no less than 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of flour to keep items moist.

White flour

Replace half or more of white flour with whole grain pastry or regular flour.

Salt

· Use herbs (1 tbsp. fresh = 1 tsp. dried = 1/4 tsp. powder). Add towards the end of cooking and use sparingly -- you can always add more.

· Salt is required when baking yest-leavened items. Otherwise you may reduce salt by half in cookies and bars. Not needed when boiling pasta.




































The above is an excerpt from the book The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat well. Enjoy life. Lose weight., by the weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic and Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Reprinted from The Mayo Clinic Diet, © 2010 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Published by Good Books (www.GoodBooks.com). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Donald Hensrud, M.D.
Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., is chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine and a consultant in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He is also an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. A specialist in nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hensrud advises individuals on how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. He conducts research in weight management, and he writes and lectures widely on nutrition-related topics. He helped publish two award-winning Mayo Clinic cookbooks.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy that the needs of the patient come first. Over 3,600 physicians and scientists and 50,000 allied staff work at Mayo, which has sites in Rochester, Minn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz. Collectively, Mayo Clinic treats more than 500,000 patients a year.

For more than 100 years, millions of people from all walks of life have found answers at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic works with many insurance companies, does not require a physician referral in most cases and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

For more information, please visit www.goodbooks.com/mayoclinicdiet and www.mayoclinic.com/diet.


January 17, 2010

Weekly Photos: Pseudo-Spring

icicles


The weather this week has been really wonderful. There were a couple of days that I felt that I should start spring cleaning. The sun was shining, the snow was melting and the drip, drip, drip from the icicles were indicating a change of season. However, I know that this is not to be. It's way too early for spring.

digging out bikes

My children were so very excited that we spent a lot of time outdoors. They started digging out their bicycles, since everything was melting, certain that they would be able to ride them soon. (yeah, their bad parents forgot to put them in the garage before the snow came this year)

flying

And the warmer air allowed them fly high on their swings. This is how we do it here, winter fun - Canadian-style.

Winter may not be over, but I'll take this pseudo-spring any time.

January 14, 2010

Tips / Techniques: Non-Mess Icing Bags

filling icing sugar bags

When I was in University, I spent 4 years working part-time at a Baskin Robbins. With time, I learned to decorate cakes and this wonderful tip when filling the icing bag.

I make up the icing in a bowl and then pull out a rectangular piece of plastic wrap. Then I add icing to the middle. Proceed to fold over the plastic wrap, leaving a small opening at one end for the icing to go through and twist off the other end.

non-mess icing bags

Then, you drop the icing into the white icing bag, with the opened side going in first. It's ready to go. When you run out of icing, you just pull out the emptied plastic wrap and pop in a new bag.

A LOT less mess and easy to use. Good luck :)

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Do you have any good tips or techniques?
Send them to me at oomelement (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll post them.

January 12, 2010

Banana Bread

banana bread

I find that one can never get tired of banana bread. It's right up there with zucchini bread in terms of comfort.

(Does anyone else get thrown having to spell "zucchini" out? I have to look it up EVERY time! One "c" or two, same with the letter "n". One or two? And that silent letter "h" is annoying as well.)

I find that I always add chocolate chips to my banana bread. It feels more comforting to me plus the kids always love it. What about you? I've added a poll for fun.



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Banana Bread
makes one loaf

2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1.5 cups all purpose flour
0.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.25 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 packed brown sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients, flours, baking powder and soda, salt and chocolate chips in a bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, butter and milk. Beat until blended. Add the dry ingredients and mashed bananas, alternatively, until just blended.

Pour the batter into a prepped loaf pan (oiled and floured). Bake for about an hour at 350F until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center.

Remove from oven onto wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Recipe adapted from: Banana-Nut Bread, Williams-Sonoma Essential of Baking

January 10, 2010

Weekly Photos: On the Acreage

Winter Wonderland
(Winter Wonderland)

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Though I'm not one to make new years resolutions, this year I thought I'd give them a try. One of them was to challenge myself with photos.

There are many folks and bloggers out there that do Project 365 or something similar. Basically, they take a photo every day and post it. I love this idea but I know I can't commit to it and I rather not set myself up to fail. So instead, I thought I'd post some photos on the weekend, every week.

I will not be limiting myself to food only. I feel this would be another way to challenge myself too. Photographing food versus people or landscapes is not the same at all.

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I took a series of photos from my in-laws acreage. They are surrounded with so many beautiful trees.

Leaning tree of the forest
(Leaning Tree of Forest)

My father in law is very diligent with his woodpiles. He goes through his "forest" and all the trees that have died or fallen, he brings them back and cuts them up to use for heating his home. He's got years worth of woodpiles stacked up on his property.

How much wood can a woodchuck chuck
(How much wood can a woodchuck chuck)

The skies weren't very blue and the sun wasn't out shining but I think the day was still great. Especially since I'm feeling better and the weather has warmed up considerally.

hibernating bicycle
(Hibernating Bicycle)


Hope you all had a great weekend :)

January 8, 2010

Christmas Kitchen Gifts

Xmas Gifts 2009

I didn't mention anything about Christmas gifts I received!

It was definitely a food themed Christmas this year! My hubby bought me the complete year of Fine Cooking magazines in the hardbound book. I got three years worth: 2006, 2007 and 2008. So exciting to look through magazines for the full year all at once. Hopefully it will get me inspired to cook even more :)

I also got some fancy finishing salts. President's Choice has three variety in nice little tins. Himalayan, fleur de sel, and Cyprus Mediterranean mix. I haven't tried them yet but soon enough.

And who doesn't love silicone spatulas? I personally love this version, the spoonula type. I find the shape of the head so much more sturdier and easier to use for batters or scraping than the typical flat version.

I don't think I would ever get bored of kitchen gifts :)

January 6, 2010

Cheddar and Dill Scones

cheddar and dill scones

I have been sick as can be around here. My hubby mentioned that I'm not blogging enough in general but in this instance I'm bed-ridden, not going to happen. I was sick in bed on Boxing day and slowly starting recuperating to only get hit hard again. Today, I'm almost back to the land of the living. Though as one mom put it today, when I went to pick up my kids at school, "You sound like death". touche.

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Sorry, it's going to take me a while to work out the kinks on this blog. I don't know why I thought I can customize a web template, since I really don't know anything about html and widgets and such! But I have to give myself some kudos cuz I haven't totally wrecked it :)

But, I will continue to post on.

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I have to tell you about my one and only memory with scones. Yes, you read right, I've only tried scones once in my life. I was very young and we were visiting a little ole grandma's home. She had these beautiful triangle breads that she called scones and I was eager to try it. I took a bite and the crumbly dryness dehydrated my mouth to the point that I nearly chocked. And ever since then I have never, ever had a scone. The mere mention of a scone had me shaking my head "no thanks" every time. I remember thinking how scones and tea were often served together so I thought they were supposed dry and stale like that. The tea balanced out the dryness.

Throughout the last year, I stumbled upon a bunch of scone recipes and figured that I should really give it another go. Tastes change and I shouldn't blacklist something after one try.

Well, these Cheddar and Dill Scones have changed my mind in the scone department. And I'm wondering why I waited so long. It wasn't dry at all. Stale? Nuh-uh! These savoury scones were so delicous that they didn't last long at all at our house. I ate them plain they were so good but I can imagine, slathered in butter, they would be over the top good.

That little ole grandma probably had her scones sitting in her cupboard, forgotten, and then she brought them out and ruined the experience for an impressional child, which lasted a good 20+ years.

Glad I finally put an end to that :)

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Cheddar and Dill Scones
makes 16 large scones

4 cups + 1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups(3/4 pound) cold butter, diced
4 extra large eggs
1 cup cold heavy cram
2 cups(1/2 pound) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp dry dill (or use 1 cup of fresh dill)
1 egg wash (1 egg with 1 tbsp milk or water)

Mix together the 4 cups of flour, powder and salt. Blend in the butter and mix until course crumbs develop. (Use a mixer or food processor)

Add the eggs, cream and combine until blended. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, mix the cheese, dill and flour. Add to the above mixture until evenly distributed.

Roll the dough onto a floured surface to a thickness of 3/4 inch. Cut the dough into 4 inch squares. Cut each square into half, diagonally, to get triangles.

Place the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the dough with the egg wash.

Bake at 400F for 25 minutes and the outside is crusty.

Recipe adapted from: cheddar-dill scones, the barefoot contessa cookbook.(

January 3, 2010

Blog "Renovations"

Doing a wee bit of construction around here at the ole blog.

Please excuse the mess.

Not sure when it will be done. I'm scratching my head, wondering why I do these things.

Be back soon hopefully.

BTW: Happy New Year!!!
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