Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Snap Peas & Carrots

This is a tasty little side dish that I make quite a lot and it's suitable for the cleanse. I stumbled onto the recipe on the Canadian Living site quite by accident. It turned out to be a happy accident.

This takes no time to prepare, has very few ingredients and with carrots and sugar snap peas available pretty much all year round, you can make this anytime the mood strikes.

Sautéed Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

4 cups (1 pound) sugar snap peas
3 carrots
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
¼ cup vegetable stock*

Trim stem ends of peas. Peel carrots and cut into sticks about as long as the peas and ¼-inch thick. Set aside separately. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook carrots, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add stock; cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add peas; cook, covered, until vegetables are tender-crisp and glazed, about 4 minutes.

* Please see my notes at the bottom of this post regarding vegetable stock if you are doing the cleanse.      

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spuds on the Grill

Oh spuds, how I love thee. Baked, mashed, are my comforting friend. Potatoes are allowed on the cleanse and one way I like to do them is on the BBQ. 

Take about a pound of potatoes, wash them and cut into chunks. Put them in a bowl and add:
- 1-1½ tbsp. olive oil
¾ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. zesty pepper medley* or freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. paprika
¾ tsp. dried parsley (or alternately you can use a couple of tbsp. of fresh parsley)

Toss it all to evenly distribute the spices and oil. 

Divide between 2 pieces of aluminum foil, each large enough to wrap the potatoes into a neat packet. I spray the foil with non-stick spray just to be safe. I've had potatoes stick before and then that browned loveliness that is so delicious gets stuck on the foil. 

Sometimes I'll omit the paprika, use just half of the amount of onion and garlic powder and throw a sprig of fresh rosemary into the packet with the potatoes. As they cook, the rosemary releases it's essence and gives the potatoes a nice subtle hint flavour. 

I double wrap and for the second layer I use heavy duty aluminum foil. I don't want the spuds to burn. Now these babies are ready to go onto a preheated BBQ. Jim is our resident barbecuer and he'll put these on the lower rack at medium temperature, close the lid and leave for about 10-15 minutes, then he'll flip them, close the lid and leave for another 10-15 minutes. If you're cooking other things on the barbecue, then these can get moved to the top rack to keep them hot.  

All done! They come out a nice golden brown and are super delicious. See....this cleansing business isn't so bad, is it? 

* I get zesty pepper medley at the Bulk Barn. It's a nice mix of different peppers. If you don't have it, regular freshly ground black pepper will work just fine. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crock Pot Easy

I've had a crock pot for many years and I'm sad to say that it doesn't get used as often as it could. I don't know if it's just me, but I find it hard to really regulate how much it's cooking the food. I know that the longer cooking things go in first and all that, but in the past, I've made things and some of the ingredients are mushy while others are under-cooked. I've found if I'm home and am able to keep an eye on it or to add some ingredients later on in the cooking time I have more success, but the "dump and leave all day" method never really worked for me. Until now. I made this because it fit in with my cleanse but I can see myself making it again at any time. It did take some advanced preparation, but it was easy and delicious!  The night before, I made a batch of salsa. 

Excuse the not-so-good photo. I took it with my phone. Anyway, I adapted the salsa recipe I've used in the past to be suitable for my cleanse. 

Tomato Salsa

3 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red or green pepper, chopped
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp. lime juice 
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped small (I added a few of the seeds for some kick)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix it all up in a big bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day, you'll see that the tomatoes have released a lot of their juice and it will seem kind of sloppy. That's OK. You want all that flavourful juice. Normally, this would get a dash of hot sauce to amp it up, but alas, hot sauce is made with vinegar. That's OK. This is going to get spiced up anyway. 

The dish that uses the crock pot I found while looking around on the Eat Clean site. The original called for jarred salsa, but I could not find one that didn't have vinegar and/or sugar it. I think using home made is better anyway. I increased the amounts and used tofu instead of chicken. When I buy tofu, I usually get extra firm and a lot of the time it goes straight into the freezer. When you freeze tofu, it changes the texture. It gets chewier and more porous. Once it's thawed, it will require some gentle squeezing to get all of the water out. It really holds a lot! 

Slow Cooker Mexican Tofu

1 (14-16 oz) block extra firm tofu, frozen, then thawed 
1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 batch salsa (above)
2 tbsp. cumin
1½-2 tbsp. chili powder 
1 tsp. salt
few grinds of black pepper

Drain liquid from tofu and squeeze with the palms of your hands. Alternately, you can put the block of tofu on a plate, top with another plate and weight it down with some heavy books or cans and leave for 20-30 minutes. I'm never usually that patient, so I just squeeze it with my hands, but don't twist or squeeze too hard or you'll end up with crumbled tofu. 
Slice into 6-8 even slices and then squeeze the slices to get out the remaining water. You don't need it dry, but this extra step will ensure that you've gotten the majority out. Placing the slices between paper towels and squeezing with your palms is a quick method. 

Cube the tofu and place into crock pot. Add all of the other ingredients and mix to evenly distribute the spices. The tofu will soak up the liquid from the salsa and it may seem dry, but do not fret. Once it's finished doing it's thing there should be some liquid on the bottom of the pot. 

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

Serve over brown rice

Makes 4-6 servings. 

If you want the original recipe, it's here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Herbal Cleanse

Have you ever done a cleanse? It's not just for spiritual gurus. It's a way to give your body a bit of a break and rid itself of toxins that store up over time, making you feel tired, cranky and generally lethargic. When I first starting looking into doing a cleanse, I found lots of info on the internet - and some of it was downright kooky. There was the ever popular juice cleanse or one where you drank water, lemon juice & cayenne pepper. Give me a break. I wouldn't last a day on that. I need to eat! If I don't get nourishment, I get extremely fatigued, and get terrible headaches. My search continued throughout stores in my city. There were some crazy Jillian Michaels chemical concoctions I saw, but that wasn't what I was looking for either. Then, in the health food section of my local Fortino's, I happened to see an herbal detoxification kit that included a diet plan with lists of foods to eat and ones to stay away from. Upon further investigation, this sounded like what I'd been looking for. And, to make it even better, it's a Canadian product!

So this is what you get in the box - drops to put in your water that are to help with cleansing of the urinary tract, and three bottles of herbal supplements that you take twice a day with meals. One is a natural laxative and since ridding the body of toxins is the focus of a detox, where do you think they're going to go? Not that I want to talk poop, but it is part of the cleanse. I found these very mild, but they did help to keep things easy and regular. Another one of the supplements is to help cleanse the bloodstream and the third helps the liver and gallbladder.  

The list of "can't haves" was a bit daunting at first. I was thinking "What have I gotten myself into?"  My no-no foods - dairy of course, flour products - that means bread of any kind, pasta, processed cereal, all fermented foods because yeast is a major ingredient in these foods and we're trying rid the body of excess yeast. No fermented foods means more than just sauerkraut my friend. Try vinegars, soy sauce, black tea, miso and certainly no alcohol. In avoiding yeast that also means not eating foods that have naturally-occurring yeasts or molds that appear on their skins. Things like peanuts (and peanut butter), mushrooms (no loss there - blech), grapes, oranges or grapefruits. Also, no sugar or sweetener of any kind or dried fruit because that's what yeast thrives on.  So then that also leaves out tropical kinds of fruits because they are much sweeter. "Domestic" fruits are acceptable, but not too much. 

Still with me. Yea...what the heck am I going to eat? Coffee is allowed, but black, and herbal teas or green teas are allowed. One thing I did learn - black and green tea come from the same plant, but black tea goes through a fermentation process and green tea does not. Because of the fermentation, black tea is off the list. Bye-bye Chai! Even though oranges and grapefruits are out, lemons and limes are in. Thank you! The booklet gives a list of protein foods, starch foods and neutral foods and recommendations of what to eat lots of and what to eat in moderation. 

So....I did this cleanse back in the fall and after the first few days, I started to feel great. I had more energy, I was sleeping better and as an added bonus, I even lost a few pounds. I tried to keep eating well, but then I had some tragedy in my life and eating properly wasn't really on the top of my list of priorities. I indulged in "comfort eating", then sort of went right off the rails and after a while I started feeling all crappy again. So I decided it was time for another cleanse. Jim's doing it with me this time to see if it helps to ease the pain of his arthritis and increase his energy level. 

When I started this I didn't bother taking pictures of what I was making and eating. I didn't figure anyone would be interested, but it turns out some of my friends are interested. Some of what I'm eating is bland and kind of boring and nothing that's really picture worthy. For breakfast I'll have eggs and rice cakes with nut butter or Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Cereal that I add cinnamon to and grate in some apple before cooking. Sometimes I'll throw in a handful of blueberries. Add an apple, a peach or some berries and my day begins. 
I did make a stew that we had for a couple of meals. It was adapted from this recipe, but I added a bit to make it more filling and satisfying. Sadly, I didn't take a picture but there are pictures of the original dish if you click the link for the recipe. 

Chickpea, Quinoa, and Tomato Stew
adapted from The Vegan Chickpea

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red or yellow pepper, cut into small chunks
½ tsp. dried sage
2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp. salt (see note below)
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable broth *
½ cup dry quinoa, well rinsed 
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
1 (19-oz) can chickpea, drained and rinsed
1-1½ cups fresh or frozen green peas
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Saut­é onion and carrots until onion has started to soften. Add garlic and red pepper and sauté until fragrant, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the herbs, salt & pepper and stir for a few seconds, then add vegetable broth and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.  Add in tomatoes and chickpeas, cover again and simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Add peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes. If necessary, season with more salt and pepper to taste. 

Serves 6 

* Vegetable broth (and bouillon cubes) can contain yeast and/or sweeteners of some kind. On this cleanse neither is allowed. I was able to find a few options though. Imagine makes one as does Pacific, which it the brand I buy. I also will use bouillion cubes. The only one I could find that was yeast free was made by Go Bio. It's got a pretty good flavour and I actually prefer it to regular bouillon cubes. 

Note: If you do go with the cubes option, you may not need to add the salt. The first ingredient listed on almost all bouillon cubes is salt. I would leave out the salt and adjust, if needed, at the end of the cooking time.  Or let you're hungry eaters salt themselves. 

** If you want more information about the detox program, you can find it at Wild Rose D-Tox.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie

It's hard these days to find a decent coconut cream pie. It used to be, when I was younger, back in the *cough* 60's & 70's *cough* coconut cream was a staple of restaurants and diners everywhere. Those were back in the days when food was made on site, not in some giant factory, flash frozen and sent out, en masse to everywhere and everyone. Don't you find that today everything tastes the same? And the taste is fake and well....tasteless? And we won't even start on the ingredient lists! Maybe because I cook the majority of my own food, I haven't lost the sense of good wholesome food. 

OK, so desserts aren't really wholesome, but when made from scratch, with decent ingredients and things you can pronounce, it's a better choice than eating a bunch of chemicals.  

When I asked Jim one time if he had any requests for dessert, this is what he wanted. Don't be intimidated -  it's super easy! If you've ever made a lemon meringue pie before, the method is a bit similar. Just get all of your ingredients measured and ready before you start and it will all come together, stress free.  

Coconut Cream Pie

1 (10-inch) baked pie shell (recipe follows)

3-4 tbsp. flaked or shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (do not use low-fat)
    (this measure will be almost an entire can)
1 1/2 cups milk 
4 tbsp. cornstarch
5 egg yolks (use the whites for an omelette)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flaked, unsweetened coconut
½ - 1 tsp. coconut extract  
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon margarine

½ pint whipping cream

1-2 tbsp. powdered sugar

Pie Crust: - 1 1/3 cups unbleached flour

                   ½ tsp. salt 
                   ½ cup shortening
                   4-6 tbsp. cold water

(When making your pie crust, make sure that your shortening is cold and that you use very cold water. Before I even start, I put some ice cubes and cold water in a glass, that way, when I need to add it to the flour mixture in the bowl, I know it's super chilly.)

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender until the shortening is the size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and just holds together. You don't want the mixture to be wet. And do not overwork the pastry or it will become tough. Pastry should be light and flaky. Shape dough into a ball, flatten slightly and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so, or if in a rush, you can roll it out right away (so long as your shortening and water were super cold to begin with*). Roll into a circle about 1 or 2 inches larger than your pie plate. To get the pastry safely into the pie plate, fold it in half, then in half again. Place the point of the the folds into the center of the plate and carefully unfold. Trim the edge and if you're inclined, make a fancy fluted edge or use extra dough for cut-outs to place around the rim. Moisten with water so the cut-outs stick and stay in place.           

* For more tips on making a flaky crust, check out good ol' Betty Crocker.

Bake your pastry blind. Not sure what that is? Instructions can be found here.  I use the method that covers the crust with parchment and add weights to keep the crust from forming air pockets. My weights are some dried chickpeas that I've used over and over again. Just make sure you keep them separate from beans that you may actually want to soak and cook! Keep an eye to your crust and if the edge is starting to brown too much, cover it with foil strips. Allow the crust to cool completely before you add the filling.

While your oven is still hot, toss 3-4 tbsp. of coconut into an oven proof pan. A small cake tin is what I usually use. Set this in your oven to toast the coconut. Stir occasionally and watch it carefully! Coconut toasts very quickly and burns very easily. When it looks nicely browned, remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make filling:- In a medium-large saucepan, combine sugar, coconut milk, and 1 cup milk. Place over medium heat and scald the mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk egg yolks with salt. Temper yolks by adding 1/2 cup scaled milk mixture to yolks, whisking while you do this so the hot mixture doesn't cook the egg yolk. Whisk well until all incorporated.  Add yolk mixture and milk-cornstarch mixture back into the pot and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut, coconut extract, vanilla, and margarine. If you're finding this a bit difficult to keep up with the whisk (my whisk get loaded down with the coconut) then switch to a spoon.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and press it down onto the surface of the custard to avoid getting a skin on the top. Place in the refrigerator and chill pie completely, about 2-3 hours

While you're waiting for the pie to cool, put the bowl you intend to use for making the whip cream and the wire whisk or beaters into the fridge. I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The stainless steel bowl gets nice and cold. After the pie has cooled, it's time to make the whipped cream. 

Pour the entire half pint into the bowl and start whipping! As it's getting thick, sprinkle in the icing sugar. Continue whipping until it's nice and fluffly and holds it shape. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Spread the whipped cream over the entire surface of the pie. You can get artistic and make pretty, swirly designs if you like. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top and pop the whole thing back into the fridge until you're ready to slice and serve.   

How flippin' good does that look?