butternut baby

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So I found this recipe via Weight Watchers Online. Despite my own misgivings, the food I’ve made from their site has often been stunning… and that’s a nice surprise, of course. This dish is hands down, one of my favourites. You don’t add a lot of herbs and spices to the dish, and yet what is there plays with the flavour of the butternut and fruit. Not too unlike a more complex red wine, each bite has a few layers of taste that your tongue processes one by one, which is actually rather exciting!

What you’ll need, keeping in mind that I’ve made substitutions for my dietary preferences, as noted

1 tsp table salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 pound(s) uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast(s), four 4 oz pieces (I used Quorn chicken substitute)

3 spray(s) cooking spray

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin, or to taste

1 tsp ground coriander, or to taste

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste

1 large uncooked vidalia onion(s), chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 lb)

3/4 cup(s) uncooked jasmine rice, or basmati rice, rinsed

16 halves dried apricot halves, roughly chopped (I used white peaches as I couldn’t find apricots. I think apricots are pretty important here, and if I had to replace them again, I’d opt for plums instead as their density is more close to the apricot)

1 1/2 cup(s) canned chicken broth, or more if needed (I used veg broth)

1/4 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, minced (This is a must-have, but if you can’t get some, use parsley, flat leaf if possible, as I have done here)

 

What you do:

Coat a large crock or cast iron pot with a little cooking spray; heat over medium heat.

Heat and add cumin, coriander and cinnamon; cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. You’ll notice that it starts to stick immediately, at this point, I added a small amount of broth so it didn’t burn. You really want some pan scrapings so don’t add too much.

Add your “meat” cook until lightly browned and remove to a plate; set aside.

Add onion and squash to pot, scraping down sides and bottom of pot to incorporate the charred spices. Cook, fruit. Pour in broth; bring to a boil for 1 minute.

Cover pot and simmer until rice and squash are tender, checking half way through to see if more broth is needed, about 20 to 25 minutes.

I added my soy chicken at the very end, to preserve the flavour and prevent it from getting soggy.

Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Yields about 5 servings but it depends on your appetite. I found that the rice swelled up quite a lot in the end and it was pretty heavy and filling so I didn’t eat too much.

You want to make sure you have enough broth in the pot so it’s slightly saucy, otherwise I think it will be too thick. Play with it and see what suits your taste!

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My nemesis… homemade veggie burgers

I’ve decided that I’m going to try several recipes that I have on hand and review each one here. I’ve tried veggie burgers in the past, and consistently what I struggle with, is texture. I think that’s a common dilemma… how do you get the burger to stay in one piece when grilling it?

Here’s my first try: The Protein Powerhouse by Veggie & the Beast Why did I start with this burger? To be honest, it’s because of the high protein content. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet and despite having loads of greens on most days, I’m not cutting it in the protein department. I also love beluga lentils, and thought they would add such fantastic texture. This recipe is actually spot on, in that it made the amount of burgers specified, plus a baby burger. The texture of the burgers when wet was thick, dense, and slightly sticky but I had no problem forming them, even without refrigerating the batter for an hour, as suggested. To make them I used a tart pan, and flipped them once whilst cooking.

 burger patty

Since this makes 11.5 burgers, I froze the remaining patties and take them out whenever I fancy one. They’re great with a salad, which is really handy for when I’m at work and want a filling lunch that will satiate me until the evening.

The end result was also quite dense and filling. I left the beluga lentils slightly firm which I’m happy about as the burgers had a wee crunch, along with the walnuts. I’ve never used “flax egg” before, so I’m not really sure if it made a difference, but the burgers were quite resilient to being flipped and later eaten. How could these have been improved? I must admit, that one thing I miss from a beef burger is a bit of grill flavour and charring on the outer bits. Could you grill these and achieve a similar result? I’m not sure. Katie does make the suggestion in her post, and I think it might be worth a try. Here is my meal, to celebrate my 1 year anniversary with E, with homemade sweet potato fries and a lovely bottle of red wine procured on a recent trip to Sardinia. Perfection? Pretty damn close! Thanks Katie, for the recipe.

burger dinner

How sweet it is…

I’m having some degree of difficulty finding a way to eat really healthy. And I mean REALLY healthy. It seems close to impossible, or, maybe it has more to do with one’s (my) idea of “healthy”. Maybe in my head it’s as close to raw and natural as possible and really, that’s not a diet of convenience. Not even a little. Of course you can eat a piece of fruit easily and munch on choice raw veggies, but when it comes to grains, lentils, pasta, potatoes…. yeah then you’re more committed. Beans are easy peasy from the can, but cooking with most dried beans requires you to think ahead a day in advance to allow for soaking time. Grains need to be prepared, and even more, you need to procure them and in some areas (mine) finding more wholesome and unprocessed grains, such as quinoa or bulgar is about making a special trip to the local bio shop. When I started trying to consume less dairy and focus more on a vegan style diet, I began to notice that it’s way easy to make stunning desserts than savory meals. There’s a heavy lean towards fake cheese products, which for me defeats the purpose in some way of eating vegan. The supermarket is packed with synthetic meat replacements that have creepy ingredients in them, leaving me with the sensation of eating at Mc Donald’s. Vegan sauces are made with nuts, soaked and then blended and used on pasta and all sorts of ways but I’m not really sure consuming that many nuts in one go is great for you either. A lot of vegan or raw foods fall short (in my opinion) by over sweetening. It seems like so many recipes are laden with sugar via Stevia, agave, dried dates… I’m not sure about Stevia but I know that agave and dried dates both have a fair deal of sugar in them leaving them and the dishes they enhance a (camouflaged) calorie bomb. So much in fact that I’m not entirely sure it’s good to cook with them regularly. So maybe you have the opportunity to avoid refined sugar, but you substitute it for processed agave or calorie ridden dates. Where’s my healthy, natural food!?

Again, I’m seeing that maybe where I’m falling short here is by confusing my perception of the vegan diet as healthy and natural with the truth. The truth is probably more like, even vegans will consume processed foods of convenience because that’s just the “American lifestyle”. Also, many vegans aren’t herbivores for health as much as for moral beliefs, so who am I to go around making all these assumptions? I can accept that vegan or raw are not synonymous with low-calorie or even healthy at times, but I also keep in mind that choosing a recipe that doesn’t contain animal products doesn’t automatically earn me the “healthy well balanced diet” award, either.

Tonight I had a veggie stir fry with brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, peas, mushrooms, and red onions with sesame and soy marinated tempeh slices, and 2 buttery potatoes. Not a completely stellar meal, considering the oil required to sautée and the buttered potatoes, but better than what I really craved… pizza. And dessert was my attempt at adding more protein to my diet today; blended tofu with lemon, honey, and berries. I put in a fraction of the amount of honey stated in the recipe and actually found myself wondering if leaving it out all together wouldn’t have been the better choice. BUT, it was really tasty. I needed to finish my long, snowy day off with some degree of style, and I think this did it.

 Lemon Cream with Blackberries

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used less and added it to taste)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) silken tofu, firm or extra-firm, drained (I used firm, and the end result was similar to ricotta cheesecake. I think if you use softer tofu the blended result will be silkier so it’s your preference really)
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries (I used frozen and defrosted them)

Directions

  1. Combine 2 1/2 teaspoons of the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, and tofu in a blender.
  2. Puree ingredients until smooth, scraping down sides of blender with rubber spatula as necessary.
  3. Divide lemon cream evenly among four bowls or serving glasses. Garnish each portion with blackberries and reserved lemon zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Images and recipes: Whole Living

Chocolate salty balls

Well, they’re not really the “Official” Chocolate Salty Balls, but I couldn’t help writing that. Maybe I watch too much South Park. These babies are “Almond Date Truffles”, and I seriously recommend that you go make these. Total prep time was 15 minutes then 1 hour in the fridge and Wham! you have something healthy and SO delish to nibble on.

Ingredients:

  • 20 Medjool dates, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, well chopped

I sliced my dates in half, removing the pits, which was really the most time consuming part of this, and that only took me a couple of minutes. You toss the dates and vanilla extract in a food processor and pulse it until you get a paste. I added a touch more of the extract because my mix was very dry and it immediately turned into a paste. So, I don’t think using fresh vanilla bean would be ideal here, unless you added a 1/2 teaspoon of water to compensate. Add the almond butter and pulse a few times to mix, then add the shredded coconut, cocoa, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few more times. The mixture looks crumbly, but when you press it between your fingers it binds perfectly. Mine were a good consistency, but the recipe states, “if it seems too wet to hold in a ball, add more coconut, if too dry, add a touch more almond butter or a spash of water.”

I scooped the mixture with my fingers and hand rolled it form a truffle sized ball.It should yield 18 balls and I ended up with 19, so I think you can get away with eyeing it rather than trying to measure it out with a spoon or anything too complicated. I set the truffles on a sheet of baking parchment in a small baking dish and then set about toasting the almonds. * I will say now that I think it’s better to toast them before you start, so they cool. So go do that first (hopefully you read ahead before starting, if not, oops!) OK, so put your chopped almonds on a plate or in a small bowl and roll each truffle in the almonds (apply a bit of pressure to get them to adhere). I actually wet my fingers with water and rubbed them on the truffles before applying the slivers, because they didn’t stick as well without, even with applying some pressure, so food for thought. Place the plate in the fridge to chill for an hour. The blog states that the truffles will keep covered in the fridge for a couple weeks but I doubt they’d last anyone that long.

The end result is dense, just the right amount of sweet, rich with cocoa, and just a bit of a crunch. They’re perfect for a party, as you can be a show-off and everyone will tell you you have mad skills, or you can easily make this for having guests over during the week even. I actually take a couple to work with me so I have something healthy and yummy to snack on in the afternoon when I’m feeling a bit peckish.

Now, the photo, like most of the others on this blog to date, are from the original source, however, I will take a photo of mine tonight from my own kitchen, and make more of an effort to showcase what my end result looks like!

Now, make these and let me know how they turned out for you!

Via: Sprouted Kitchen