Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top 10 Recipes of 2014


Most of the recipes on this blog are created by Lauren and me, which sometimes leads to disasters (note:  We don't post those ones!), but occasionally, I taste something I've made that is particularly spectacular and think to myself, "You are a wizard."  Those instances make up for all the recipes that just didn't turn out.  With 2014 wrapping up, we've decided to make a list of our favourite recipes from this year.

Lauren's Top 5 recipes:
Who doesn't love breakfast that tastes like dessert?? And what's better when its made from healthy ingredients that will keep you full and satisfied all day long??

2.  Roasted Sweet & Spicy Chicken Legs
The perfect combination of sweet and spicy! This chicken was so lick your fingers delicious! 

3.  Greek Potato Cakes
The perfect side to any meal, plus they make an excellent snack the next day! 

4.  Flourless Cashew Butter Cookies
These cookies are so delicious it was really hard to eat just one or two! 

5.  Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread
My all time favourite banana bread recipe!


Amanda's Top 5 recipes:
1.  Slow Cooker Lasagna
This recipe blew my mind because it means I can have lasagna without having to cook the meat and pasta before assembling it.  I tried it with chunky vegetables and with food processed vegetables mixed into the ground meat and both versions were great.  I've also made it with ground chicken and with ground beef.  The winner was ground beef.

2.  Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sausage and Chickpeas
This one was so good, I also made a slow cooker version.  It reheats well in the microwave and we've even had the leftovers for breakfast before.  It's packed with protein and fibre, so it will keep you full.

3.  Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
Any food that provides me with an opportunity to pile fresh guacamole on top of it is a winner in my book.  I had a power outage in the middle of cooking this and it still turned out perfect, so I think it is impossible to mess this one up.

4.  Chocolate Avocado Brownies & Fudgey Black Bean and Avocado Brownies
Mashed avocado in baked goods provides all the fatty goodness of a cup of butter in fruit form!  What could be better than that?

5.  Chili Pepper and Basil Pesto
Fresno chilies and fresh basil from my potted plants provided the inspiration for this recipe.  It works well on chicken, pasta, flatbreads, etc.  Jars of homemade pesto make great homemade gifts, so if you have a food processor, I highly recommend this one!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Slow Cooker Turkey Broth

Christmas dinner was an 18lb turkey with all the fixings.  That meant there were a lot of turkey bones left to make homemade stock.  There were so many, in fact, that I froze half of them to use later when this batch of stock runs out.  I have a six-quart slow cooker, which yielded three 900mL containers of stock (the same volume as one store bought carton of broth).  This way, I can freeze them in portions required for a pot of soup.  The containers I used are Ziplock 946mL with liquid safe lids (they twist on like a peanut butter lid).  Once your broth is done, the soup recipe is below.

For the broth:

Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, meat removed from bones
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
4 green onions, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried parsley (or fresh)
Handful of fresh thyme
Handful of fresh rosemary
Black peppercorns, to taste
Pinch of sea salt (more can be added when making soup)
12 cups water

Necessary tools

3 liquid safe Tupperware containers
Mesh sieve
Tongs
Ladle

Directions

Place turkey bones in bottom of slow cooker pot.  Chop carrots, celery and leeks in 1 1/2 inch chunks and place in pot.  Add onion and garlic (whole).  Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, rosemary and peppercorns.  Fill pot with water to 1 inch below the rim (about 12 cups).  Cover and set slow cooker to low for 12-18 hours.

When cook time is complete, use tongs to remove large pieces of bone and vegetables.  Ladle stock through a mesh sieve to strain and pour into containers.  Allow to cool, then freeze.  Thawed stock can remain in fridge for up to three days before use.

Homemade turkey broth is rich in flavour, inexpensive, and low in sodium.

To make soup with your broth in the slow cooker:

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
4 green onions, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups turkey broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp onion powder
Dried parsley, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
3 cups cooked turkey, sliced into bite sized pieces
180g brown rice, cooked according to directions

Directions

Layer all vegetables in slow cooker pot. Add turkey broth, bay leaves, dried herbs and spices. Cook on low for 6 hours. When there is 1 hour remaining on the cooking time, remove bay leaves, add cooked turkey pieces, and stir. Replace lid on slow cooker.

Cook brown rice on stove top according to instructions. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, and add cooked rice. Stir and serve.

Nutrition

Calories 266
Fat 4.4g
Saturated fat 1.3g
Carbohydrates 30.4g
Fibre 2.8g
Sugars 3.8g
Protein 25.6g

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Almond Butter Protein Bars



While I am a huge fan of Quest protein bars, the price of them can add up. Making your own bars is much more cost effective, and this way you can create your own delicious combinations of ingredients. The ones I made are filled with fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

Ingredients

3/4 cup natural almond butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 scoops protein powder (I used Lean Dessert in Chocolate Fudge)
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup rice krispies
1/2 cup oats
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

1. In a bowl mix together almond butter, vanilla, maple syrup, and melted coconut butter.
2. Stir in protein powder, salt, and oats.
3. Gently stir in rice krispies and dark chocolate chips.
4. Spray a square brownie pan with cooking spray (I used a coconut oil spray from Trader Joes) and press the mixture into the pan, pressing firmly.
5. Put into the freezer for 10 minutes then cut into squares.

Optional: I melted together 2 Tbsp of dark chocolate chips and 1 tsp coconut oil and sprinkled onto for an added chocolate perk!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Greek Chicken & Potatoes


I used to live on the Danforth in Toronto - aka Greektown. There was a restaurant there that I absolutely died for, so I used that for inspiration for tonight's dinner. We had greek salad with feta cheese, lemon and oregano chicken and potatoes, and whole wheat pitas with fresh tzatziki - delish!!

Ingredients

4 chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp salt and pepper (each)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
4 garlic cloves
2 russet potatoes

Directions

1. In a large bowl mix together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and garlic. Divide mixture in half by pouring half into another bowl.
2. Put chicken breasts into the one bowl with the mixture and toss. Cover with foil and put in the fridge for 1 hour to let marinate.
3. Peel and chop potatoes into 1-2 inch pieces. Toss potatoes in the mixture and lay on a pan. Place into an oven at 425* and bake for 45 minutes.
4. Bake chicken for 25 minutes.

Serve with greek salad, pita bread, and tzatziki!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder

Corn has had a bad reputation in the nutrition world for some time now, but this starchy vegetable is high in potassium (392mg per cup for yellow corn and 416mg per cup for white corn) and insoluble fibre (3.9g for yellow, 4.2g for white per cup).  Insoluble fibre (sources include dark leafy greens, dried fruits, whole grains, root vegetables, etc.) speeds up the passage of food waste through the digestive tract.  The other type is soluble fibre (sources include oats, lentils, fruits, flaxseeds, etc.), which slows food down from leaving the stomach, making you feel full longer.

The concerns about corn and corn based products are based on use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs or Genetically Modified Foods).  If you are concerned about the use of GMOs, you can use organic corn for this recipe, but research shows no negative health effects from the consumption of GMO vegetables.  If you would like to know more about this topic, I highly recommend Tufts University podcast "Nutrition Talk: GMOs--Friend or Foe."

Serves 6

Ingredients

200g (8 strips) turkey bacon, diced and pan fried
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks
3 cups frozen corn
2 leeks, stem and dark green section removed, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 1/2 cups chicken broth, no salt added
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 tbsp butter

Directions

Slice turkey bacon into small pieces and pan fry for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Set aside.

Layer potatoes in bottom of slow cooker pot.  Season potatoes with paprika, cayenne, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add celery, onions, garlic and leeks.  Add turkey bacon and corn on top of vegetables.  Pour chicken broth on top and add bay leaf.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

When there is 15 minutes remaining on the cooking time, remove bay leaf, and add milk and butter and stir.  Replace lid and cook for remaining time.  When cook time is complete, unplug slow cooker and remove lid.  Using a ladle, scoop out half the chunks and pour into a large bowl.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup remaining in the slow cooker pot.  Pour the contents of the mixing bowl back into the slow cooker pot and serve.

Nutrition

Calories 240
Fat 7.0g
Carbohydrates 30.8g
Fibre 3.9g
Sugars 5.9g
Protein 14.4g




Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Outdoor skating

I was pretty excited about the Rink of Dreams opening for the season last week!  If you ask me sometime in February (when it's -40 out) why I moved to Ottawa, I will cringe and say I don't know what I was thinking, but in December, when skating season starts, I'm pretty happy about it.  The photo is one of me and my friend Leah skating in Niagara Falls last winter.

I often get bored of doing cardio in the gym, and skating is a great way to switch up a workout.  Leisurely skating burns approximately 5 calories per minute, which puts it at around the same caloric output as moderate stationary biking in the gym.  Compared to other low-impact activities, skating burns more calories than moderate walking, but less than the elliptical.

Getting ready to go skating?  Here are some tips:

Wear layers that keep you warm, but allow you to move efficiently.  I recommend a long sleeve workout (my personal favourite is ACX brand from Giant Tiger) shirt under a fleece sweater (love this leopard one from Old Navy), and a parka.  A warm pair of tights (these Under Amour tights are expensive, but a good investment if you spend a lot of time outside) and snow pants will keep you warm but won't restrict movement.

Walk to a local rink for your warm up.  Keep in mind that stretching before outdoor skating can be a bad idea since it is so cold outside, the muscles will be cold too.  Never stretch a cold muscle!  Warm up with a fast paced walk instead. 

Cross train in the gym with exercises that work the muscles used for skating, with side lunges, squats and single leg deadlifts.  These exercises will strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back and abs.  They will also improve your balance.  Be sure to maintain good posture with chest out, straight back, abs in and keep your weight on your heels for these exercises:



Skating a fun way to include some extra cardio in your day, and it is low impact!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Slow Cooker Ham & Navy Bean Soup


What to do when your oven is broken?  Slow cook everything.  You might have seen some of my posts in the past few weeks in which I had power outages in my condo.  My power went out in the middle of cooking Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos, which is looking like it was the fault of power surges related to the oven, because my 2 year old Kitchen Aid convection oven is now toast.  It's pretty frustrating, because not only can I not bake or roast anything, I also can't use the burners.  This means no stir fries, no rice, and no eggs.  I'm most frustrated about the lack of eggs, because I eat two hard boiled eggs as my mid-morning snack every day.

Anyway, back to slow cooking...this recipe is similar to my Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup, but with a few more herbs and spices thrown in for good measure.  I like my soup very thick, so if you prefer thinner soup, add one more cup of chicken broth.

Serves 6

Ingredients

450g (1 lb) dried navy beans
350g ham, precooked and diced (about 2 cups)
340g (12oz) baby carrots, chopped
3 shallots, diced (or 1 small onion)
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
Black pepper, to taste
5 cups chicken broth ('no salt added' or low-sodium)

Directions

Layer ingredients in the slow cooker pot in the order listed, adding the broth last.  Do not stir.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours until beans are soft.

Nutrition

Calories 363
Fat 4.9g
Carbohydrates 54.7g
Fibre 20.6g
Sugars 6.9g
Protein 26.2g