I need a long weekend after my long weekend.

This long weekend consisted of a stay-cation or shall I say raft-cation. It was hot, hot, hot in Calgary and the only way to beat-the-heat was by pumping up the Adrenaline. Check out the ride.

Adrenaline aka Hot Ride

Everybody on the river was jealous…  Except for when we started to mildly deflate and were running into the trees on the sides. What we lacked in paddling skills, we made up for in comedy though.

Heaven

Prior to one of our floats Kelly and I completed a VERY hot and sweaty 14 km run, which was gladly rewarded with a cold margarita at Julios Barios. I need to run 14 km more often…

Post 14 km run. Can’t beat a margarita!

And of course, I couldn’t round out the weekend without a delicious concoction such as this. Steamed brussel sproats with goat cheese is turning into an obsession of mine and nothing beats tomatoes topped with pesto – and of course more goat cheese. For those hot summer nights, this easy meal was a breeze.

Goat Cheese Galore

Hope you had a good long weekend!

-L

Prep Day

With work getting more hectic leading into Stampede  this weekend was a welcome break. I really needed to catch up on sleep, reading and of course cooking. As mentioned previously, I love preparing a bunch of things at once on Sunday and not having to cook during the week.

I haven’t been doing this lately and mid-week I get stuck with an o-crap, what do I have to eat?! Pb and toast it is! Luckily my fridge is now stocked with delish eats.

On to the goods:

Roasted Vegetables with a Moroccan Twist ~
Rosemary and Garlic Beef Soup
Strawberry Rhubard spread

Rosemary and Garlic Beef Soup

Soup is one of my favourite things to make. It is simple and always delicious. It almost always tastes better the next day too, as the flavours meld. Good food doesn’t need to be complicated!

1 tsp coconut oil
1 package stew beef chopped into smaller pieces
1 small striploin steak chopped into smaller pieces
1/2 onion chopped
4 large carrots chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 L of beef stock
1 cup of lentil mix
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tsp garlic
1 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat coconut oil on high in pot. 2) Brown the edges of the beef. 3) Add onions and garlic. 4) When beef is 1/2 cooked add chopped carrots and celery. Cook for approximately 7 minutes until the vegetables are tender. 5) Add beef stock, rosemary, cayenne, and lentil mix. 6) Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down to low heat and simmer for approiximately 45 minutes.

Simple, healthy and delish!

Now on to dessert!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Spread. Looks Gross. Tastes Delish!

I had a bunch of sad strawberries sitting in my fridge when I went to clean it out. Luckily, I brought one of strawberries best friends home – rhubarb.  I love the combination of strawberry and rhubarb. It is the epitome of summer for me.

Sad Strawberries

I wanted to make something simple that I could use as a dessert or throw on top of my morning oatmeal and this will work perfectly. The best part is that I only needed to add 1 tsp of maple syrup. All natural sugars in there baby! I can’t wait to try it on top of some vanilla greek yogurt!

4 stalks of rhubarb
10-12 sad strawberries
1 tsp maple syrup
4 tsp water

1) Chop  rhubarb and strawberries into small pieces. This will help them to cook down. 2) Add water and maple syrup. 3) Cook on a low temperature and stir consistently until half of the fruit cooks down. Usually about 5-10 minutes. I then put a lid on the pot and   let it simmer at a very low temperature stirring every couple of minutes.

Question of the Day: What food reminds you of summer? Pie always reminds me of summer and my favourites are strawberry-rhubarb or blackberry. Yum!

Banana Muffins – Gluten Free

THEY TURNED OUT!!!!

Now this may not seem like a huge triumph to some, but the last time I attempted to make GF muffins from scratch it was a major fail. Major. They were gummy and all-around just gross.

But this time, they are glorious – moist in the middle with a crispy muffin top on the outside. YUM!

Image

GF Banana Muffins

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup GF oats (grind into a flour)
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
2 mashed bananas
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg beaten

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Mash bananas in a separate bowl. Add egg, vanilla and oil to mashed bananas. Add wet to dry and fold until fully mixed. Do not over stir. The mixture will be thick.

Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with oil. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Bake in 350F oven till golden brown. Approximately 25-30 minutes.

I cook by smell and look which I know is not helpful, but I always forget to put the timer on. I let my eyes and nose tell me!

Enjoy these delish muffins all day. They are perfect for breakfast or a sweet treat.

Gluten Free Brownies

Black Bean Brownie - GF

So I am not putting the secret ingredient of these brownies in the title because it may throw some people off but, trust me, they are delicious and simple. Gluten free and simple don’t usually exist in the same sentence in the baking world. To convert a typical recipe you usually have to mix 3-4 different types of flours, add in some xanthan gum and a pinch of pixie dust.

With the addition of black beans this also means they are healthy right?? Protein, chocolate, and nuts. What more do you want?!

The original recipe can be found here. This recipe only uses 1/2 of sugar too which is fantastic! The only things I changed was using coconut oil instead of butter and using raw cocoa powder instead of regular cocoa powder.

Coconut oil is my go to oil now for baking as it has a high smoking point so you don’t have to worry about it turning into a trans-fat before your eyes. Also, coconut oil is a medium chain tryglyceride which your body uses differently than other fats. Most fats are stored in your body’s cells, but the fat in coconut oil goes directly to your liver, where it is converted to energy. To read more about coconut oil and it’s benefits check out the Natural Health Sherpa. Added bonus, it adds another fabulous flavour to your baking!

I have also converted to using Organic Raw Cocoa compared to processed cocoa as it is non-alkalized. The alkalization process reduces the amount of anti-oxidant rich polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids in cocoa powder. To read more, check it out here. I don’t know about you, but I love my chocolate so I want the most nutritional bang for my buck! Plus, it’s a good excuse to eat more 🙂

Question of the Day: Any specific baking substitutions you always use? Do you use coconut oil?

Random Musing

Whenever “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey comes on, I can’t help but get excited. It doesn’t matter whether I am listening to it while on a run, at my desk writing a paper, or walking home – all I want to do is turn the volume on high, lip sync my heart out and fist pump. But not Jersey Shore style – more air guitar, with a finger dance included.

If you know me well, you will know the finger dance comes out when the “good” songs are played. I can’t help it. Side note: I’m holding the Pabst for a friend. 🙂

This post was 100% inspired by “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey coming on my computer while typing away. I got too excited not to write about it. Random – Yes. Awesome – Yes. Back to work – Booooo.

Now I am going to go listen to Levels by Avicii because it is my go-to “focus” song.

Happy Thursday!!

P.S. I totally want Steve Perry’s shirt from this video. Yellow leopard. Meoowwwww.

Basil, Boursin, and Red Pepper Quinoa Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Basil, Boursin, and Red Pepper Quinoa Salad with Basalmic Vinaigrette

I love Sunday nights. They always make me think back to when I was a kid and my mom would cook five meals in one night, so she was prepared for the week ahead. Lucky for me, I only need to prepare one large meal and it will be sufficient for the week!

I can only imagine how much better this salad is going to be as the days progress and the flavours meld because, as of right now, it’s pretty freaking delicious! Yes, I said freaking. I went there.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 red pepper, diced
1 1/2 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (add to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 boursin cheese (goat cheese would work as well)

1). Add quinoa, rosemary and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Remove from heat to cool. 2) Dice red pepper and tear basil. 3) When quinoa is cool (~ 20 minutes in the fridge) add the red pepper and basil. 4) Add oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. I just kept adding the basalmic vinegar until I thought it tasted delicious. Although the measurements above are approximations, they should be decently accurate. 5) Add Boursin. Use chunks of Boursin, as you would goat cheese. 6) Serve as a main or as a side dish.

P.S. If somebody can come up with a better name for this salad, please let me know. Because it is currently a mouthful – albeit, a delicious mouthful!

Enjoy!

Dear 2012

Seeing as January is almost over, my goals for 2012 are long overdue. I always find goals a motivating force me. As soon as I put something in writing, it becomes a reality for me and I know I must accomplish it, or at very best, attempt to accomplish it. I feel I did a good job on accomplishing the goals I set out for myself last year and I can’t wait to improve!

1) Run a half marathon. Last year I was able to run two 10 km races for the first time! I kept up with my running during the fall, but I can’t wait to start training for this race!

2) Get my group fitness certification. Although it was my intent to finish this certification last year, I ran into certain road blocks and never registered for the course. This summer I plan on finishing it.

3) Blog more consistently. I find that I blog in spurts. For instance, when I am on vacation (Christmas), or bored (Christmas). I always get great ideas for posts while I am running, but by the time I am home I am too exhausted to post. Plus, I tend to eat the same foods over and over… lol. Perhaps my next goal should be to cook more intricate meals; however, I know that with my limited time, that is not an Attainable goal.

Remember goals are supposed to be SMART! 

4) Teach people how to cook with healthy ingredients. Cooking is one of my passions. I love mixing it up in the kitchen. It comes so naturally to me that I forget that others don’t know how. I want to share my knowledge through my blog or in person!

5) Go to New York! My brother currently lives in NY and before that, in Kingston, ON. I always told him, “Ry, I will come out to the east coast when I have some time or money!, ” but the chance never occurred. Ry and Kate, this year I will do it. Broke or not – I will come out. Let’s do it!

These are my goals and I am sticking to them! I may add more as the year progresses, but these are my main ones. I look forward to the rest of 2012 because, honestly, January has not been my month. It never is. February, please appease my taste buds and make this girl a very happy one 🙂

Thanks mucho,

Lauren (A very proud supporter of 2012, and it’s bountiful glory 🙂 hahah)

Gingerbread Bis-Scotty

Nothing made my parent’s house smell and feel like the holidays more than scent of gingerbread permeating throughout the house. Warming all the occupants from the inside out. mmmm

The request for Gingerbread Biscotti came from my mom who loves to snack on it before, during, and after christmas! I happily obliged, as I love dipping biscotti in coffee on rainy days while curling up with a good book.

On a side note, I have finished the Hunger Games series. I was as engaged in reading both the second and third books, as I was in the first book. These books draw you in and leave you wanting more! I couldn’t put them down and finished each book within two and a half days. I highly recommend this series! It’s an effortless read!

Back to the biscotti.. or should I say Bis-Scotty. When my mom asked me to pass her a piece of biscotti, my brother Scott looked over at her funnily, and questioned, “What? You want to eat me?” I love having the whole family together!

Gingerbread Biscotti

Ingredients:

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill GF flour
3 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/ tsp baking powder
4 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 coconut oil unmelted or butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 eggs
3/4 cup slivered almonds

Icing:

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp almond milk or enough to desired consistency

1) Cream coconut oil or butter with sugar. 2) Beat in vanilla, molasses and eggs one at a time. 3) In a separate bowl mix flour, spices, baking powder and xanthan gum. 4) Slowly add dry ingredients to wet in the mixing bowl. 5) Add in slivered almonds. 6) Remove dough from mixer and divide in half. 7) Shape the halves into rectangles approximately 3 inches by 8 inches. 8) Bake in 325 F oven for 25 minutes or until center is firm. 8) Remove the loaves from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 9) When slightly cool, slice diagonally into 3 inch by one inch cookies. 10) Place back on baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 minutes or until crisp. 11) Remove and cool. 12) During the second round of baking, mix the icing by stirring the icing sugar and spices and adding almond milk 1/2 tsp at a time. 13) Transfer the icing to a plastic bag and cut off tip. 14) Draw a decorative design on your biscotti and enjoy! Delish!

Hope you all had a wonderful holidays! I will do a recap of my very busy 3 weeks off soon!

Mini Chip Butter Crisps & Gingerbread Smoothie

After my failed attempt to make Gluten Free Cinnamon Pecan Sticky Buns (see evidence below), I had to get my baking mojo back in check. I started simply by creating a Gingerbread Smoothie and then moved on to create my ultimate favourite christmas cookies – Mini Chip Butter Crisps.

Gluten Free Cinnamon & Pecan Sticky Buns

The sticky buns tasted alright, but the texture was off. They were hard after baking. This may be due to the fact that I refrigerated the dough before baking. It took forever for them to rise and I needed some shut-eye. I won’t share the recipe, as it needs some tweaking. I used sorghum in addition to my GF all-purpose flour and don’t know if this may have affected the texture. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

In the spirit of Christmas, I surprised my mom one morning with a Gingerbread Smoothie. She didn’t know what the flavour was when she first took a sip and was pleasantly surprised! This smoothie is nice and spicy. Definitely a delicious and healthy way to start your morning during the holidays. Especially, with all the indulgent foods lurking around the kitchen counters screaming, “Lauren, eat me!.”

Gingerbread Smoothie

Ingredients:

3 scoops of Vanilla Nutrimeal (or any other vanilla protein shake you have)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp all spice
1 tsp mollasses (blackstrap is preferred)
2 cups of water
ice

Mix all ingredients in blender and enjoy by the Christmas tree. Ahhhh I love the holidays!

Because the smoothie is a super simple recipe, I decided to kick it up a notch and share my favourite christmas cookie recipe. I have been making these cookies for over 10 years now, but this is the first time I have attempted to make them gluten-free. They are a crisp, buttery, flaky, cookie with a touch of chocolate and vanilla. This recipe is from dairy farms and is many, many years old. Delish!

Mini Chip Butter Crisps

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of gluten free all-purpose flour*
2 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

* I used Planet Organic All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour. It is made up of rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour.

1) Stir together flour and salt. 2) Cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla. 3) Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, part at a time. Blend smoothly until combined. 4) Stir in chocolate chips. 5) Form dough into 1-inch balls. 6) Flatten to rounds approximately 2 inches in diameter with bottom of glass dipped in flour. I like to use a glass with a nice design on the bottom. 7) Bake in 325 F oven for 10-11 minutes. Cool.

Decorative Glass for Flattening

This turns to this.

Flattened Rounds

Enjoy these cookies with a glass of milk and perhaps leave one or two out for Santa tonight!

Stay tuned for Gingerbread Biscotti and Toffee Cheesecake! I’ve been a baking machine these last couple of days! I’m a little behind with posting, as I was sidelined on the couch due to the stomach flu or food poisoning, but I will catch up!

Gingerbread Biscotti

Enjoy all the decadent foods this evening. I’m going guilt free and will be diving mouth first in to the cheesecake and ham. Yum! Merry Christmas Eve!

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Chocolate Ganache

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Chocolate Ganache

You can never go wrong when you mix dark chocolate, coconut and almonds. At least, in my books. With a sprinkle of cinnamon in the batter, these cupcakes taste as good as they look! Not to mention, they are super simple to make.

I cheated this time when I made the cupcakes and used a store bought mix. I just didn’t have time to go out and buy numerous different flours and mix them into a magic flour base. We all know that with gluten free baking you need some magic in every batch because mastering the chemistry of how the flours, sugar and oil work together is no easy task.

Ingredients:

1 package of Glutino Chocolate Cake mix
1 tsp cinnamon*
2 eggs
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup of butter or margarine

Ganache:

1 bar of good quality dark chocolate (I use lindt in the silver package)
2 tbsp full fat coconut milk
1 tbsp coconut oil

Lindt Dark Chocolate

 
Toppings:
Chopped almonds
Shredded Coconut

1) Mix cake batter according to box. 2) Place large cupcake liners in pan. 3) Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. 4) Bake at 350 F for 15-18 minutes. Check the cupcakes at 15 minutes and return to the oven if not fully cooked. Check 3 minutes later. Set your timer though! 5) Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool on cooling rack. 6) In the meantime, heat a small sauce pan filled with water and place a metal bowl on top. If you have a double boiler, that works as well. 7) Break the chocolate bar up into small pieces and place in the metal bowl. 8) When the chocolate is half-melted, slowly add in the coconut milk and coconut oil. 9) Remove from heat when the chocolate is fully melted and place aside. You want the ganache to cool slightly, so that it has a medium consistency. This allows the ganache to spread more easily. 10) When the cupcakes are cool, spread on your chocolate ganache and top with chopped almonds and coconut.

Delish!

* I think cinnamon enhances the flavour of chocolate, so I add it in to every chocolate recipe, but if you are not a big fan then you can omit

** It may be really fun to add shredded coconut or chocolate chips to the batter. I love little surprises inside of cupcakes!

Wish me luck as I venture to create GF Cinnamon & Pecan Sticky Buns from scratch this afternoon. Magic, love and luck will have to be on my side for this task. Perhaps even a pinch of pixie dust. It definitely couldn’t hurt.

 

Question of the Day: Whats your favourite type of cupcake? Mine is definitely chocolate. Although, carrot cake is a close second.