Raspberry Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

I think this will have to be my last pancake post for a while, I may be overdoing it with pancakes on this little blog, but I needed to post this one. I’ll be really honest with you all…I have not been good to my body lately. My sugar consumption is through the roof, I can’t even start to explain how much I have been craving it lately. I haven’t done yoga in a couple of weeks, and I have been eating carbs by the truck load and let me tell you, I am feeling it. You know when you feel sluggish and drained? I have made a promise to myself to get back on track asap. Meaning warm lemon water in the morning, healthy breakfasts and balanced meals with lots of whole foods and less carbs. I also need to start doing yoga again at least 3 times a week. Maybe writing this on the blog will help me keep my promise… maybe? I just find winter makes me want to eat all sorts of comfort foods that aren’t necessarily good for me, and sit around in my comfy clothes reading and watching tv. I am seriously dying for spring, it’s always these last 2 months of winter that really get to me.

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Pancakes are not typically a healthy breakfast, but as much as I believe in treating my body right, I also believe balance is the key to everything and I don’t think missing out on foods that make you happy is the way to go. All in moderation, and if you are consuming more of the good stuff then the not so good stuff, you’re on the right track.
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These pancakes are a good start in the right direction since they are made with whole wheat flour, rolled oats, natural sugar, rice milk and fresh fruits. Served with a healthy smoothie on the side, and you have a healthy weekend breakfast that doesn’t really feel that healthy!
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What I love about pancakes is you can really play around with them, you can substitute the flours and sugars and you could make them with any fruit really. I chose raspberries because they have a great balance of sweet and tart which I love. Served with pure maple syrup, which I often use to sweeten most of my baked goods, adds the right amount of sweetness to complete this breakfast. Try these out next weekend for a great, healthier alternative to your favourite pancake recipe.
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Raspberry Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes Recipe

What you will need: 

Raspberry Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup rice milk (or any kind of milk you like)

2 tbsp baking powder

1/2 cup oats blended in a food processor

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 egg

1 tsp coconut oil

pinch of salt

1 tblsp maple syrup + more for serving

Fresh or frozen raspberries

Strawberry Banana Smoothie 

(Serves 2)

2 cups frozen strawberries

1 whole banana (frozen is preferable)

2.5 – 3 cups of rice milk (or any milk of your choice)

1 tbsp or more to taste pure maple syrup

1/4 cup rolled oats *optional*

What you need to do: 

Raspberry Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

1. In a food processor blend the rolled oats until they resemble a flour like consistency. Sift together the flour, blended oats, baking powder.

2. To the dry ingredients add the egg, coconut oil, salt, maple syrup and the rice milk. Blend with a whisk until smooth.

3. On Medium low heat, add a little coconut oil. Ladle in the batter to the size you want and add a few raspberries to each pancake (I like to cover the raspberries with a little extra batter so they don’t burn on the pan when flipped). Let the pancakes cook until you see bubbles forming in the middle and the sides look dry. Flip and let cook a couple more minutes.

4. Serve with extra raspberries and pure maple syrup!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1. In a blender add in the rice milk first then the fruits and maple syrup and blend until smooth.

2. Seve and enjoy!

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10 Reasons Why I Love Avocados

Avocados are a beautiful thing, don’t you agree? I love them for so many reasons but for the purpose of this post I narrowed them down to my top 10. Here it goes:

1. Avocados are a superfood, packed with a ton of vitamins and minerals in every single serving!

2. They are one of those really “fatty” foods that’s actually good for you to eat. Filled with monounsaturated fat, they actually lower your cholesterol (when eaten in moderation).

3. They make the best spread for toast. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and maybe an olive oil fried egg on top and you have the best breakfast, lunch, snack or even light supper!

4. They make smoothies extra creamy! Try it, you’ll agree!

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{Top Row – Left to Right} Espacio Culinario, Jessica Pevzner, How Sweet it is {Middle Row – Left to Right} The Berry, Not Without Salt, The Clever Carrot {Bottom Row – Left to Right} Dash and Bella, The Food Club, Pinterest

5. Their oil is great for cooking with and has awesome health benefits for your body, like preventing heart disease!

6. Avocados make an awesome butter substitute for your baked goods! Take out the bad fat and switch it for the good.

7. They are the most beautiful shade of green!

8. They are the main ingredient in guacamole and well, guacamole is delicious!

9. They taste awesome in both sweet and savoury dishes, on their own or with other things. Versatility is always good.

10. Finally, they just taste AMAZING!

What’s not to like about and avocado though, really?

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Vanilla Swirl Icing

I am a sucker when it comes to a good chocolate cupcake, I find there is something nostalgic about them, and this recipe does the trick! It really brings me back to my childhood when there would be a birthday party to go to every other weekend. I love this recipe for its simplicity, and since the cupcakes are not overly sweet, the fluffy vanilla icing on top ends up becoming the perfect sugary balance. I found the recipe on Sweetapolita, a baking blog that I can look at for days! Check out this amazing cake! Inspiring right?
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This weekend was a big one for us. We hosted a Super Bowl party at our place and went all out with the food. I think there will be leftovers for weeks! It was really the first time we entertained for that many people and it definitely won’t be the last.  I was going to get all creative with the dessert, seeing so many great ideas on Pinterest that blew me away, but I decided to stick to simplicity with a swirled blue frosting to go with the team colours. The blue should have been darker, but nobody complained. I also added some red sprinkles on top at the last minute for the Patriot fans in the room.
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This is no healthy dessert like my last delicious recipe I posted here, I won’t lie, but I don’t mess around when it comes to nostalgia. And lets be honest, it was the Super Bowl and I wasn’t about to introduce some healthy dessert to a room full of hungry men.

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I decided to do a swirled icing on top so it was a little more interesting and I think it turned out pretty nicely despite my lack of piping skills, don’t you think?  It’s definitely something I want to practice. There are so many amazing things you can do with a piping bag! Next time I make these, i’ll use a wider tip so the three colours can be better defined and maybe add more icing per cupcake for height and drama. All in all I was really happy with the flavour and look of these little guys and I think everyone at the party was too.

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If you’ve been looking for a classic chocolate cupcake/frosting combo, this is one to bookmark. Whether you know someone with a birthday coming up or you are hosting a party like I did, or even just looking for an excuse to bake cupcakes (you can always find an excuse to bake cupcakes), you have to give this one a try!

The Nostalgic Chocolate Cupcake Adapted from Sweetapolita

(makes 12)

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Fluffy Vanilla Swirl Frosting adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops of food colouring in colours of your choice

Heres what you need to do: 

For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt
3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix them for 2 minutes on medium speed carefully because it tends to splash. Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it’s hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.

For the Frosting 

1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Try not to eat too much of it in the process.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.

To decorate the cupcakes
1. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint 2 of them in shades of your choice and leave the last one white.
2. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip, add a spatula-full of each frosting colour I used this tutorial to help me out. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in.
Note: The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!

Homemade Oreos

Growing up, my mom held strict rules about what we had in our kitchen and junk food was limited. No yummy sugary cereals, cookies, soft drinks or TV dinners. I grew up on delicious home cooked meals, lots of salads and fruit. Of course I had junk food from time to time, my mom wasn’t that strict, but it was never really kept in the house. At the time, I didn’t understand how wonderful this was and how lucky I was, but I thank her now for instilling healthy habits in me from a young age. I now appreciate cooking and baking. I love bold flavours, spices, experimenting with new foods from different cultures, making things from scratch and sitting down for a good meal with family. At the time though, all I wanted was a bowl of delicious fruit loops, these Trixx yogurts with a pack of sprinkles you mixed in before eating, Michelina’s tortellini and broccoli frozen dinners, soda and Oreos! Anyways now that I’m all grown up I tend to steer away from packaged foods, sodas and junk foods. I do eat them on occasion, but I rarely keep them in the house. So when I saw this recipe I screeched! Homemade Oreos, it’s the best of both worlds!

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This recipe is extremely simple. It took about 10 minutes to prepare and about the same to assemble. I won’t call it healthy but it’s not processed (it will keep for a week in a well sealed container) and you know exactly what you’re eating… except for the vegetable shortening, I am not sure about that, but it is essential for keeping the filling from melting and turning into a gooey mess. I want to find an alternative (anyone have any suggestions?)
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My boyfriend took a bite and was disappointed that it wasn’t soft and fluffy. I guess he was expecting a whoopee pie from the way it looked (which is a great idea – Oreo whoopee pies? yum!) but this is no whoopee pie, it’s an Oreo cookie, and they are crunchy and slightly bitter to counter the sweet, creamy centre! I really liked the way they turned out, and urge you to try it!
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Homemade Oreo Recipe (from Smitten Kitchen, my favourite source for baked goods)
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

Chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (this will give it that bitter and sweet balance. Add 1/2 cup more if you want a sweeter wafer)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Creamy Filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Here’s what you need to do:
First, set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

To make the wafers:
1. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar well. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the room temperature butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

2. There are two ways to do this.
– You can take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart and with moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.

or

– You can divide the dough into 2 pieces, wrap with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator at least 1 hour. Then, knead the dough slightly to help soften it and avoid cracks when rolling. Place one piece between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper and roll into a ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Any scraps will have to be re-chilled before you can re-roll it.

3. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the creamy filling:
1. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.
2. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To put it all together:
1. In a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie.
2. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie.
3. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

**If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can easily use a zip lock bag with the corner cut off.

Enjoy them with a glass of milk and share them with all your friends and family!

Salted Caramel Brownies

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Having been away for a few weeks it was really nice to come home to my parents place in the country and enjoy the peace and quiet these mountains have to offer. All I have wanted to do since I have been here is read this, practice my calligraphy and bake. I also got to enjoy a nice long walk yesterday. The sound of the birds and the rustling of the leaves was pretty therapeutic. This time of year is one of my favourites (even though I am a true summer girl at heart.) I absolutely love the changing of the leaves and the smell of fall. The air is crisp, the sun is still shining and yet you just want to layer up and get cozy! It’s the perfect balance, just like these salty sweet brownies.

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When I come across a recipe I love, I end up making it over and over and over again. I am kind of like that with everything to be honest. Yes, I am that person that will put her favourite song on repeat, what can I say, when I like something I can’t resist enjoying it, and this right here is one of those recipes. I have no shame, it’s so worth eating again and again…this one is a winner! The first time I came across this recipe I was beyond excited to try it, but when I saw that it required making homemade caramel, I thought “there is no way I can pull this off.” (I’ve had trouble with sugar at high temperatures in the past, let’s just leave it at that) But let me assure you, if you are feeling the way I felt, it’s really not as scary as it seems! I was so happy to discover that making caramel is actually one of the easiest things to do! I really want to try making other recipes with it now!

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I am heading to a big family dinner and wanted to bring something sweet for everyone to enjoy. I needed something that would be a crowd pleaser and was fairly easy to transport, since this said family dinner is in Toronto. I chose this recipe for many reasons. First of all it has an awesome balance of salty and sweet and it has these ooey, gooey salty caramel surprises in almost every bite! It also uses a one bowl brownie recipe, which is awesome. I am pretty messy in the kitchen so when it can all be done in one bowl I am pretty happy about it and so is Zack. He always complains that when I cook he has to clean up a storm, but when he cooks I get away with cleaning a few dishes and then get to put my feet up (I am working on it!) For this batch I decided I would double the original recipe since it was devoured within seconds of being put on the table at the last family dinner. I am hoping that this time there will be enough for everyone to enjoy! I also discovered that this recipe can be made without flour for a gluten-free alternative. It was a happy mistake but they turned out just fine! I think I will be making these for passover this year!

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Salted Caramel Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Caramel
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Brownies
3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour (you can omit the flour if you want and they turn out just fine)

To Make the Caramel:
1. Prepare a medium sized plate by putting parchment paper that has been lightly buttered over it to prevent the caramel from sticking
2. In a medium dry saucepan melt the sugar over medium-high heat until its a deep copper colour. Stir if necessary to break up any sugar chunks that may form. (This will take about 5 minutes). Remove from heat once it has reached the desired colour and add in the butter string until incorporated. It may not entirely blend together but do your best. Now you can stir in the heavy cream and the salt and return to medium-high heat. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer and melt any sugar that may have solidified. Cook the bubbling caramel for a few minutes, until it is a shade darker.
3. Pour the hot mixture out onto the parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

To Make the Brownies
1. When your caramel is almost firm you can start by heating your oven to 350°F. Line an 8X8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper (in my case I used a bigger pan because I doubled the recipe), extending it up the two sides. You will want to butter the paper to insure the brownies don’t stick.
2. In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, add chocolate and butter and stir until only a few butter bits remain. The chocolate will be beautiful and silky smooth. Take the mixture off the heat and stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. When the mixture is fully incorporated, whisk in the sugar sugar and then then eggs, one at a time. Then add the flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Assemble Brownies
1. When the caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into the batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly and enjoy!

Healthy Dinner: Baby Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Stir Fry

I have been struggling with stomach problems my whole life, so what I eat is very important to me. We cook more than we go out/order, and when we cook we try to use all natural ingredients. This recipe is inspired by a recipe on one of my favourite blogs My New Roots. It is fresh, simple and delicious! P.S Have you ever tried uncooked Bok Choy in a salad? It’s so crisp and fresh, you will love it. If you are making this recipe and have too much Bok Choy left over, use some to make a salad for your lunch, it will rock your world!

If you can find fresh Shiitake mushrooms go for that, but dried works as well. Just make sure NOT to wash your mushroom. If they are dirty, wipe them down gently first. If you are using dried, let them soak for 30 minutes before cutting them up.

What you will need:
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
600g of baby bok choy
300g of fresh shiitake mushrooms (or dried which would be 1/3 of the amount)
1 small chili, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp. tamari
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
1Tbsp. maple syrup
large handful Thai basil or regular basil
Soba Noodles
sesame seeds to garnish

Directions:
First you want to brush the dirt off the mushrooms and slice them up. Then, rinse the bok choy and shake off any excess water and slice into strips. Set aside.

Mince the garlic and chili.

Get a large pot of water boiling for your noodles.

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add minced garlic and chili; cook for about 2 minutes until just until fragrant and beginning to brown then add the mushrooms, maple syrup, sesame oil and half of the tamari. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and most of the liquids have been absorbed. Add the rest of the tamari and all the bok choy. Stir together and remove from heat and continue mixing for about 5 minutes until the greens have wilted down. Now fold in the basil and let wilt.

Serve immediately over soba noodles, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve!

Hearty Roasted Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Dinners for us are often elaborate and fairly heavy, but sometimes I crave something light, fresh and delicious that can still be considered comfort food. While a can of tomato soup can do the trick in a pinch, I like to avoid all things processed, so spending the extra time making it from scratch always trumps any other way! Accompany it with a grilled cheese made with a hearty grainy bread and some aged cheddar cheese and I am in heaven! Even my tomato hating boyfriend helped himself to seconds!

The trick to any recipe is to make sure that your ingredients are extremely fresh. In this case the tomatoes should be especially ripe because they will be the star of this meal. You want to make sure they are perfection, so look for  the tomatoes that are a beautiful vibrant red, with a smooth and slightly shiny skin, avoiding any that have dark spots or bruises. The tomatoes should also be heavy and dense and slightly firm when you lightly squeeze them. The tomato should smell sweet and earthy at the stem. A strong sweet smell indicates that the tomato will be more flavourful.

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen (Serves 4)
What you will need:
For the Soup:
About 8 Large Ripe Tomatoes quartered and most of the seeds removed.
1 Medium onion
10 Garlic Cloves
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp. Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh Parsley
3 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable or Chicken stock
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
Fresh Oregano + Basil to garnish with.
For the grilled Cheese
8 slices of hearty grainy bread
8 slices of aged sharp cheddar (or another one of your favourite cheeses)
Butter

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First you want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. smash up your garlic and remove the skin, cut the tomatoes and the onion into quarter wedges. Then with your fingers, push out some of the seeds and hide the garlic cloves inside them. On a parchment covered baking sheet, spread the tomatoes and onions out and drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, add the chopped parsley and toss gently with your hands.  Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size. Remove and let them cool down a bit. 

Once the tomatoes are cooled, warm the stock adding the tomato paste and stirring until dissolved. Then add all of the  roasted ingredients into the stock and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano

Spread butter on the outside of the slices of bread, add two cheese slices to each and fry in a non stick pan on both sides until the bread golden brown and the cheese is nice and melted.

Serve immediately and enjoy!