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Archive for March, 2010

Good Morning!! I’m in WAY too good of a mood for 8am on a mid-week day. I woke up today completely refreshed with nothing but oats on my mind! I’m seriously contemplating starting a club dedicated to oats. They are hearty, delicious, HEALTHY and so versatile. It is the one breakfast that I know will satisfy me and send me off with high spirits for the day. Today was no exception, and this bowl of Pumpkin oats was scrumptious. Yes, my word of choice today is scrumptious, because no other word seems to fit the sheer enjoyment contained in this bowl.

In the mix: 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 sliced banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, vanilla extract, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 2 TBS oat bran, 1/2 TBS chia seeds,  1/4 cup canned pumpkin (stirred in at the end).

Toppings: 1 Chopped Medjool date, the last of my Plain Chobani container ~1/4 cup, 1 TBS almond butter, and a big spoonful of Crofter’s Europe Superfruit Spread (black currants and pomegranate!).

The “brag” factors in this bowl were: Medjool Dates, Crofters and Oat Bran. I love the soft consistency of the dates, and the sweet “melt-in-your-mouth” feel they provide. They are such a nice pair with pumpkin and almond butter; something I have to remember next time I make pumpkin bread! The tart Crofter’s gave this bowl a little somethin’-somethin’. It  mixed so well with the Greek yogurt and provided a nice contrast between the sweet and spicy elements in the base of the bowl. Lastly, I am officially a fan of mixing oats. The rolled oats provide a slight chew factor and the oat bran leaves it nice and creamy; the perfect consistency for me :).

Back At It,

Nora

What is your “happy food”? Something that you can rely on to always treat you well?

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I woke up this morning with absolutely NO appetite; very strange for me. I’m never starving when I wake up but almost always want a big bowl of oatmeal or granola to start my day. Today, the very thought of oatmeal, or anything sweet for that matter made me cringe. I had a slight headache and stomach ache, and could only imagine that something sweet would add to my yucky feeling.

Why was I feeling like this? Well, last night after dinner I was full and content but the sweet-tooth fairy told me that it was time for dessert. I wasn’t craving anything but went for an old stand by: Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Chunky Apple Sauce, Peanut Butter and Kopali Dark Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs. I was watching TV as I ate this and before I knew it, it was gone. I decided I wanted a bit more and fixed myself a second bowl, this time using Dark Chocolate Almond Spread and Galaxy Vanilla Almond instead of Peanut Butter and Cacao Nibs. About half way through the second bowl I was feeling uncomfortably full but refuse to waste, so finished it. I did not leave myself enough time between eating and bed to digest and it resulted in a “yucky” feeling morning.

I had to get to class, and never go breakfast-free, so I made myself a bit of a light and savory breakfast, aka a Green Monster. Into my blender went 1 cup vanilla soy milk (I like using almond milk better, but had to finish this carton off), 1 frozen banana, 1 scoop Chocolate Amazing Meal, 2 huge handfuls of baby spinach. I used the apple sauce jar (ELR style) that I conveniently polished off last night as my “to-go” cup and headed out. I think I was a bit dehydrated (maybe last night too…should have had WATER instead of extra dessert, oy!) and I drank a few glasses when I woke up. Thankfully my headache and stomach ache were gone a few hours later, and my appetite returned.

For lunch I had a normal campus-dining hall large tuna salad complete with artichokes, cauliflower, cucumbers, mushrooms, snap peas, carrots, spinach, balsamic vinaigrette and a few dashes of hot sauce. I love the combination of artichokes, cauliflower and tuna, it has such an Italian feel. If I was able to get a few olives and peppers in there it would have sealed the deal.  I also had a big and crisp Empire Apple on the side. I can’t wait for apple picking season, I have to say I am pretty obsessed with all varieties of this fruit.

Later in the afternoon I reclaimed my sweet tooth with a new favorite combination at Starbucks: Grande Decaf Cappuccino with Sugar Free Hazelnut. Yes, I know the sugar-free flavors aren’t particularly good for you, but they just so delicious every once and a while :). I was actually craving an Awake Tea Soy Latte, but I have kept up during Lent with the “no caffeinated beverages” ordeal. I had a few slip-ups here and there, but I feel AMAZING being caffeine free. I swear I am a whole new person. I love coffee so I still drink decaf but I feel more refreshed and energetic all the time!

Speaking of Lent, IT’S ALMOST OVER, which means Easter is coming up! I’m heading home for a big family get together on Sunday, and hopefully will be cooking up something fantastic to share with my family! I have been thinking of some type of sweet bread, rosemary bread, an asparagus dish, a root vegetable dish, and something lemon/blueberry for dessert. Decisions, decisions.

For dinner I was supposed to go to Sedar with my friend but she wasn’t feeling well, so AGAIN I did not go. She has promised to cook a traditional Kosher meal with me later in the week, so at least I can look forward to that (hopefully!). I wanted to keep dinner light and simple tonight, and decided to make use of the second half of my celeriac and leek. It is still a bit cold out (but won’t be for long!!!) so I decided to make a Leek and Celery Soup topped with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms and Lemon-Thyme Cream. Well…this was a bit more of an “experience” than I had hoped for. When I went to remove the blender from it’s base, my soup came out of the bottom! All of my pretty visions  died. All I wanted for dinner was a nice soup and here it was all over my counter, and BURNING my hand. I managed to save 3/4 of it, garnish it how I wanted and try it’s deliciousness, but it was a sad, sad cooking experience. Maybe my blender just wasn’t meant to be used twice in one day? No more green monsters for a while :(. On the side I had some a simple salad with spinach, red peppers, olive oil-herb roasted carrots, cucumber, sprouts, goat cheese and apple-cranberry chutney.

I can’t decided if dessert is in my future this evening but I have learned a very important lesson: listen to your body not your habits. I get so in the habit of having dessert every night that I often don’t realize if I’m actually in the mood for it. Usually if I am full, I can have a piece of chocolate and be done. Last night was a combination of wrong choices:  not hydrating properly and the decision to mindlessly eat dessert even though I was not craving it. I felt so off today, and it goes to show that the foods you eat really do influence the way you feel. Oh well, live and learn. Hopefully tomorrow my breakfast concoctions will be back on track :).

Savory NOT Sweet Dreams,

Nora

Any ideas for “spring” side dishes and desserts that I could make for my family for Easter?

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After seeing last week’s Cook’s Mission competition, I knew I needed to get in on the game! I impatiently waited until Saturday when the ingredients were announced: Celeriac (celery root) and apples. I thought this would be a “no-brainer” because I have seen them prepared together before, and although I have never cooked with celeriac, have seen it prepared in a variety of fashions. The first thing that came to my mind was celeriac-apple puree. Done and done. That just didn’t seem good enough so my next thought went to celeriac-apple soup. Hmm…I have seen/heard of these before. As I searched online for recipes, I just became more confused and my creative juices slowly died. I didn’t want to make a dish that was typical or done before. I peeled myself away from celeriac-apple research and waited until one came to me: Risotto. Initially I was going to integrate the apples into the risotto but I already had thoughts of cranberry-apple chutney in my mind. (Hello THANKSGIVING!)  I decided to use the elements separately, but in a way that really complemented each other. I ended up mixing the chutney into the risotto and it was fantastic! All together my dish was: Celeriac Barley Risotto with Apple-Cranberry Chutney. After tasting the risotto and the chutney I decided to make a side dish of Honey-Orange Carrots and prepare a Pan-Seared Chicken Breast to round out the meal.

SERVES 1:

Barley Risotto:

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS minced garlic

1/4 Lemon, juice and zest

cracked black pepper

1/2 Leek (white and light green parts only)

1/2 medium Celeriac bulb

1/4 cup quick cooking barley

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock

2 TBS shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup torn baby spinach

In a medium sauce at a medium heat add olive oil, garlic, black pepper and leeks; cook until soft. Add celeriac, lemon juice and zest; cook until celeriac is tender and slightly brown. Add barley and stir 1 minute. Add white wine and allow to simmer, then add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer. Allow to cook ~10 minutes stirring occasionally until all the liquid has absorbed. Take off heat and wilt in spinach and mix the parmesan cheese. The result is a creamy “risotto”!

Cranberry-Apple Chutney

1 tsp olive oil

1 shallot (white and light green)

2 sprigs of thyme (chopped)

1/4 Lemon, juice and zest

1/2 orange, juice and zest

1/2 cup orange juice

cinnamon

nutmeg

ground cloves

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/4 cup jumbo raisins

1 small Gala apple

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a small sauce pan add olive oil, shallot and thyme until tender. Add spices, apple, cranberry and raising and mix. Add lemon and orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and add walnuts before serving.

I was going to make this tomorrow and use MY NEWEST PANTRY ITEM that came in the mail today, but I am going to Passover Sedar with my friend tomorrow night! She had too much going on this evening and decided to go to services tomorrow instead. I am so happy that I am going to be able to go after all. My how things change through the course of a day.

What is my newest pantry item you ask? Well, I am a sucker and couldn’t pass up on Kath‘s Open Sky deal for Kodiak Cakes. I have been eyeing these babies for a while now and can’t wait to give them a try. I had a savory pancake in mind for dinner, but you will just have to wait for another day to see my creation :).

Monday Funday (In The Kitchen),

Nora

Have you ever made a dish that is traditionally sweet into something savory or vice versa?

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In honor of the Ginger Snap Lara Bar I tried over the weekend, I added a new addition to my oats today: ground cloves. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the warm flavor, and knew it would be a nice addition in my morning oats. Cloves remind me of the winter holiday season where items like dried fruit, nuts and spices are staples in every meal and dessert. I wanted something hearty, creamy, dynamic and sweet to start my day so I decided to make Banana Fruit Cake Oats: 1/3 cup almond milk, 1/3 cup water, 1 sliced banana, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 2 TBS oat bran, 1/2 TBS chia seeds, 1 chopped Medjool date, 1 chopped apricot, 1/2 TBS dried cherries, 1/2 TBS dried cranberries, 1/2 TBS raisins and 1 TBS natural almond butter. I added the milk, water, spices and 1/2 of the banana (reserve other half for top) into a small sauce pan until it starts to boil. I reduced the heat and added the oat bran, oats and chia seeds for about 8 minutes and topped with the dried fruit, banana slices and almond butter. Oat bran is a new product for me. A few weeks ago I was adding about 2 TBS of instant oats (an attempt to get rid of them) to my rolled oats and noticed that they added a lot more volume and creaminess to my bowls. I wanted to find a product that would give this same feel, and the fine grind of oat bran did the trick! This was delicious and SO filling. I had  small apple mid-morning but this held me over for hours!

For lunch I was oddly craving hummus and carrots. I made a big spinach salad using: spinach, 1 large grated carrot, 2 inch piece of an English cucumber, 1/2 Roma tomato, 1 stalk of celery, 3 white button mushrooms sliced, clover sprouts, hummus, goat cheese and hot sauce. I really like the addition of hummus to big salads, and always put ~2 TBS right on top of the clover sprouts to spread it around. It is such a delicious combination. On the side I had a handful (plus a few pre-photo!) of Food Should Taste Good The Works! Chips. I’m not really a big chip person, but I do like blue tortilla chips and fancy chips from time to time. This company makes so many “different” chips including sweet potato and chocolate! I saw that The Works was a mixture of caraway and poppy seeds, minced garlic and onion and HAD to pick them up. I love the flavors of caraway and poppy and haven’t had them in a long time. These chips were a bit salty but paired nicely with the hummus and hot sauce. After lunch I needed something sweet to cleanse my palate and had 1 sliced kiwi, 2 sliced frozen strawberries and Chobani Greek Yogurt; light and refreshing.

I just found out that I won’t be able to attend the Passover dinner with my friend tonight. I’m a little bummed because I was looking forward to experience her religion and see the traditions, but I received an exciting little something-something in the mail today that might make an appearance around dinner time!

Creative Thoughts,

Nora

If you are an oatmeal person: what types of oats do you use and what are essential ingredients in the base of your oats?

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I think Sundays are officially going to be my yoga and fresh juice days (except for next week because I will be home with my family for some yummy Easter eats!!). After an afternoon of work, I decided to wind down from my week with a Vinyasa class. The Sunday instructor is SO hard and I was basically DRENCHED in sweat by the end of the class! I was in need of some fresh juice to recover. I wanted the same “Lean ‘n Green” I ordered last week, but they ran out of celery so Beetnik it was. I actually LOVE this drink. The apple, carrot, beet combination is deliciously sweet and earthy; I think I finished it in about a minute flat. I find that there is a noticeable difference in the way I feel when I do and do not  have juice post yoga/activities. Drinking raw juice instantly restores my energy levels and my muscles feel less tired and shaky.

After yoga it was POURING rain outside, and I decided to do a little grocery shopping to stock up on some much-needed produce, and some ingredients for the Cooks Mission. To my surprise, they ran out of one of this week’s ingredients: celery root. Who would have guessed that celery root was such a hot item to cook with? I’ll have to find some time and try again tomorrow, because I would be disappointed if I couldn’t participate in such a fun activity.  I did manage to find my favorite  Mint Cookies ‘n Cream Fro-Yo, pumpkin and oat bran. Oh yea, you can look forward to some interesting oats this week!

It was nearly 7pm when I got home, and I had oddly been craving runny eggs all day. I can’t even remember the last time I had fried eggs, but hey, you have to feed your body what it wants!! I wilted a bed of spinach and topped it with, sautéed white mushrooms and spanish onion in balsamic, 1 sliced Roma tomato, 2 fried eggs, goat cheese, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon and hot sauce. On the side I had 1 slice of Ezekiel’s 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread with Crofter’s North America Superfruit Spread. I love having breakfast for dinner. It was a simple and cozy meal for a rainy night.  For dessert I had a bowl of Mint Cookies and Cream topped with frozen raspberries. I’m not entirely sure where or why I came up with this combination, but it works!

Tomorrow is the start of another busy week. I have a long day of classes, projects and I am attending a very late (Almost 9pm!) dinner with a friend for Passover. I do not celebrate this holiday, but have a lot of interest in cultural/religious traditions, especially when they surround family, community and food. I am so excited that I am able to share this with her and can’t wait for the experience!  Hopefully I’ll be able to sneak a few photographs, but no promises since it is a religious ceremony.

NOW FOR SOME BIG BREAKING NEWS! A little less talk, a little more action……..I BOUGHT A JUICER! Hopefully it will be getting here in the next week or so!!! I cant wait to start making some fresh juices of my own! I decided on the Breville Multi-Speed Ikon Juicer. I can already tell I am going to have WAY too much fun with this!

To Another Week of Good Eats,

Nora

What is something you haven’t had in a while?

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Before I get into my snack bar reviews, lets start with my favorite meal of the day:  breakfast. Unless I have something in mind (Let’s be honest, I usually think about what I am going to have for breakfast before I go to bed!), my breakfast cravings tend to be non-existent in the morning; I have to debate with myself as I am getting ready about what I am “in the mood” for. Today was an exception to this, and I woke up thinking, “WARM SPICED APPLE, WARM SPICED APPLE.” I quickly entered the kitchen and made stove top oats with natural chunky apple sauce. In my mix: 1/3 cup natural apple sauce, 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/4 cup water, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 TBS chia seeds, 1 TBS natural crunchy almond butter, Crofter’s North America Superfruit Spread, 1 TBS Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola. It was warm and delicious! I’ve never tried almond butter that is JUST ground almonds and was surprised by the runny consistency. I actually really liked it in my oats, but for spoonfuls of nut butter, I think I prefer the sweetness of MaraNatha Crunchy No-Stir.

I have a massive snack bar collection that I need to start cutting down on before graduation! I don’t even know how many Larabars, Kind Bars, Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Kashi Bars and other random bars I have in my apartment. WHOOPSIES, I’m a snack bar pack-rat. I was hungry slightly after breakfast this morning, and decided to try the Bumble Bar, that I purchased a few weeks ago.  It was somewhat bland but extremely hearty packed with sesame and flax seeds. I think I am more of a fruit/nut bar person, so this wasn’t my favorite but the toasted sesame flavor was on key.

Before heading back to school yesterday I had a photo-shoot with my princess-cat, Rose, and tried the Ginger Snap Larabar. This bar contains: Dates, Almonds, Pecans, Cinnamon, Ginger and Cloves. I am SO impressed with the flavor! It was spicy and warm; perfect with a cup of orange tea. I immediately ran to my mom’s spice cabinet to investigate the prominent flavor in this bar. The result: Ground Cloves. I love the cozy feeling of this spice, and think it might be making some appearances in my cooking soon!!

I’m having a bit of  cookers-block. I have been trying to think of new dishes I want to create but the more I search recipes etc for ideas the more confused I am about where my flavors are coming from, and the combination’s I want to try. This is semi-frustrating, but I know it will pass…well I hope it will pass because I plan to participate in this week’s Cook’s Mission!

I wish I could take after my Princess Rose and lay around all day. How nice it must be to live the life of a cat.

Warm Wishes,

Nora

What are your favorite spices and how do you use them?

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I love coming home to my mom’s pottery. I found this bunny dish (PERFECT for Easter!) and knew I had to have my oats in it this morning. I have a minor obsession with cups, bowls, plates and serving items. It is probably equally as bad as my obsession with nut butter, jams/spreads, granola and bars. I always have to restrain myself when I go shopping because I want to buy MORE and do not have the space. Even when I go clothes shopping I somehow always manage to make my way over to the home goods section and 9 times out of 10 buy a new cooking item rather than the clothes I intended to buy. We eat with our eyes, and having dishes to complement the food really does make for a better dining experience (plus the pictures are always a bit more fun!). My foodie collections are getting a bit out of control though. I recently decided that until I finish my 2 bags of granola, muesli, oatmeal and 2 boxes of cereal I WILL NOT BUY MORE! This also goes for my…lets just call it 7, jars of jam in my refrigerator.

It was a quiet, cold and sunny morning; perfect for a warm cup of copy and hearty bowl of oats. I searched the cabinets and cupboards and decided to make use of some soon-to-be overripe strawberries for my Banana Oats with Peanut Butter, Strawberries and Cream. I used 1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk, 1/3 cup of Water, 1/2 sliced Banana, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Vanilla Extract, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 TBS Chia Seeds, 1 TBS Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, Greek Yogurt and 4 sliced Strawberries.

When it warms up a bit I plan on going for a run. I live in a pretty rural area and it is so peaceful to do a ~2 mile run down the street and absorb the natural beauty of older “farm” homes, birds, animals and trees. Coming home is like a mini getaway from the busyness of school and work. It reminds me that true happiness is not a result from success, but rather, derived from life’s simple pleasures: family, food and nature.

I’m heading back to school later, and as graduation nears, I am growing more anxious about what I am going to do next year. I know that my passions rest in the realm of food/wine/family/marketing but I have yet to find a job. I know that whatever I do in life, it has to be something that I can truly own, dedicate myself to and be happy with. A perfect career for me would never be about the money (although the way I eat, money is good to have to pay the grocery bills!), it would be about the personal success and satisfaction I get from knowing that I am making a difference.  Enough with that for now, something will come with time.

Enjoy The Little Things,

Nora

Do you have the tendency to over-buy certain items when you shop?

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