Monday, April 29, 2013

Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet with Black Bean Soup

A big thank you to Ulysses Press for sending me a copy of Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet written by Erica Kerwien.  This isn't a large book but it's packed with over 100 recipes that are sugar-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  Filled with appetite stimulating pictures, the recipes are truly a "must have" for those struggling with Crohns or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), just to name a couple.

I admit I was a tad skeptical about the outcome of  the Black Bean Soup but it didn't stop me from trying the recipe.  Surprisingly, I had all the ingredients in my pantry - bonus!

2 Tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)
1 large yellow onion finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
4 medium garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tsp chili powder (I used more - love the bite of chili)
4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth or water)
1 Tbsp honey
1 red pepper, small dice
2 cups black beans either from a can (with no additives) or dried beans that have been rinsed and soaked in 4 quarts of water overnight,then washed and drained)
a few tablespoons of lime juice, to taste
sea salt, to taste

1.  Place the olive oil in a large saucepan (at least 6 quart size) over medium size.
2.  Place the carrots, onion, celery and salt in the saucepan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to turn translucent.
3.  Add the garlic, cumin and chili powder.  Blend well and cook for a few minutes.
4.  Add the broth, honey, red pepper and beans and blend well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
5.  Ladle out half the soup to a blender.  Puree until smooth and then stir back into the soup in the saucepan.  (I blended the whole thing)
6.  Add lime juice and sea salt to taste and serve with your favourite toppings.  This soup can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for later use.

This cookbook made a positive impression on me for a number of reasons:

1.  Bean soup is one of my favourite soups.  This version is unique in that I was able to identify so many different flavours.  The carrots added a sweetness that I really liked as it offset the slight amount of heat.  Adding a sour cream or creme fraiche topper introduced a sour in a good way.

2.  It's comforting and satisfying without being heavy.

3.  There is a large variety of really interesting recipes that I plan to try.

4.  The cookbook is still on my coffee table - that doesn't happen very often

5.  I come from a family of IBD, colitis and other intolerances.  I suspect this book will introduce some new recipes all around.

I only wish I had an extra copy for giveaway.  I'll have to ask the next time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Vegan Eggplant Lasagna

The other day, I talked about eating more vegetarian meals.  Although there are some meat dishes I really enjoy, for the most part, eating less meat hasn't required too much effort or restraint.   In contrast, becoming vegan would be a completely different story for me.  

The vegan salad I made tasted great -- but I don't think I would survive never having feta cheese in my salad again.  This eggplant lasagna was already really flavourful!  But, I missed having real cheese on top.  Daiya is a great substitute.  But it doesn't melt the way real cheese does.  

Okay -- enough knocking vegan food.  In fact, this dish was actually really good.  I made a vegan eggplant lasagna (no noodles).  Here's what I did:

First I peeled and sliced eggplant into rounds. Then I sprinkled salt on both sides of the eggplant to remove the bitterness.

After letting the eggplant sit for about an hour (maybe longer), I rinsed off the eggplant to remove the salt.

I looked all over the place for a soy-based ricotta or cottage cheese.  I should have started with Google because it turns out that it's really easy to just make a ricotta-like substitute by blending a firm tofu and adding some spices (e.g., oregano, basil, garlic powder).

For the first layer, I spread out a fair amount of crushed tomatoes

Then eggplant

Then more crushed tomatoes

Then I put a layer of cheese

Then, the tofu ricotta and a layer of spinach

sliced mushrooms

and canned San Marzano tomatoes

Next comes the last layer of eggplant

I put the last of my crushed tomatoes on top of the eggplant and finished it off with more Daiya cheese.

I let the lasagne cook at 350 for about an hour (partly to make sure that the eggplant was cooked through, partly because the cheese was slow to brown and partly because we were eating the salad and visiting with friends)

Like I said, the dish tasted good.  It was a bit messy plating it.


Hopefully you're not pictured out because I also wanted to quickly share the appetizer.  At the end of the garden season last year, we had a bunch of cherry tomatoes to use up.  So, although I could probably just eat them standing over the counter, we decided to preserve them by oven roasting them with garlic and freezing them in ice cube trays.

I took a bunch of the cubes from the freezer and warmed them up,

The entire appetizer was motivated by wanting to try the Apple Cider Vinegar Pearls we recently got.  Gingras makes these caviar-like pearls that are little bursts of apple cider vinegar.

Overall, the appetizer was just okay.  I really like the crackers (I just randomly chose them while shopping).  I think the vinegar pearls didn't add much to the flavour of the tomato, which already have their own acidity.  I suspect they would be better with a cheese or meat topping.  They also didn't visibly stand out very much against the tomatoes. Thankfully, I still have 2 out of the 4 sachets of pearls left.  So, I'll keep experimenting with them.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Boy & Tangled Thai Salad

About a year and a half ago, Peanut Butter Boy (aka: Nick) contacted us about trying out some peanut butter samples for a line of PB that he was developing.  Nick started out as a food blogger who blogged about peanut butter recipes.  With all of his experience cooking and baking with peanut butter, Nick began to focus more on the quality of the peanut butter he was using.  In his search for the perfect peanut butter, Nick decided to take matters into his own hands and developed his own line of peanut butter.  

For now, Peanut Butter Boy has two peanut butters to choose from: Super Smooth and Crunch Power. Both peanut butters include only three ingredients: roasted peanuts, palm oil and sea salt. 

Since the peanut butter uses no fillers and is vegan-friendly, I knew I wanted to use it to make a vegan meal for friends we had invited for dinner.  I searched around for vegan salad dressings that include peanut butter and found this recipe for Fresh Restaurant's Tangled Thai Salad.  Even though the list of ingredients is long, I was drawn in by the pictures and a desire to try some ingredients that I don't normally use.  

  • 1 cup chopped napa cabbage
  • 1⁄3 cup jicama, cut into small sticks
  • 2⁄3 cup peeled raw carrot, spiralized (or cut/peeled into julienne)
  • 2⁄3 cup peeled raw yellow beets, spiralized (or cut into julienne)
  • 4 tbsp Peanut Lime Dressing (recipe follows)
  • 3 slices cucumber, halved (or cut into julienne)
  • 2 tsp chopped raw peanuts
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Salad Topper (recipe follows)
  • 1⁄4 lime
  • Cilantro to taste
Peanut Lime Dressing
  • 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3⁄4 tsp sambal oelek (a South Asian chili sauce)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, densely packed
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1⁄2 tsp tamari (a type of soy sauce)
  • 1-1⁄2 tsp organic sugar
  • 2 tsp coconut milk
  • 3⁄4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 cup sunflower oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
Fresh Salad Topper
  • 1 cup puffed quinoa (optional)
  • 1⁄4 cup goji berries
  • 1⁄4 cup currants (optional)
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp hazelnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pistachios, chopped
  • 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
Panko Crusted Tofu
  • ½ block of tofu (about 225 g)
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp coconut or peanut oil
Peanut Lime Dressing
  1. In a blender, purée all but sunflower oil. With blender running, add oil in a thin stream.
  2. Makes 1 cup, enough for 4 salads
Here is the dressing with just some of the ingredients.  I made a double recipe of the dressing.

Fresh Salad Topper
  1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix.
  2. Makes approx. 1-3/4 cups; refridgerate unused portion
Panko Crusted Tofu
  1. Slice tofu into 1 inch rectangles or triangles.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Place cornstarch and breadcrumbs in two separate small bowls. Coat tofu pieces with cornstarch, and then press breadcrumbs into them.
  4. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

  1. Put cabbage into a large bowl and top with jicama. Pile the carrot and beet strands on top and drizzle with Peanut Lime Dressing.


2. Garnish with cucumber, peanuts, Fresh Salad Topper, lime and cilantro.


The salad was delicious!  The dressing really makes it.  I wish I knew how to mix ingredients to create a blend like this without a recipe.  I need to do more experimenting.  The peanut butter was just one of many ingredients.  I  have also tried some on a spoon and loved the flavour.  But, I'll need to continue to try the peanut butter in other recipes!  

There were some bumps in the process of making the salad.  For one, it took quite a while to put together -- between getting the ingredients (I never did find jicama, so I substituted Asian pear) and all of the chopping.  Yet another reminder that I need to be more prepared.  Sometimes I over-estimate how productive I can be with a baby in tow.  Thankfully, E was happy to hang out on my back while I made dinner.  Yay for babywearing!

Another challenge was trying to puff quinoa.  I Googled what this meant.  But, really had no idea what I was doing.  I tried to keep shaking the pot, so as to avoid burnt quinoa.  But, I still ended up burning it.  Below is my dutch oven, sitting on my balcony to avoid the burnt smell from circulating in the house.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mushroom Risotto with Peas

Ever have days where you have a craving but can't put your finger on what you're craving?  Power up  the computer and start browsing.

It didn't take long to find a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for Mushroom Risotto with Peas.  Ingredients started appearing, a bottle of chardonnay opened (some for the dish and lots for me) and I was on my way to nirvana.


 8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
 1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional


Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.
Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil.
Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes.
Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth).
Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

So so satisfying either as a main or a side with enough left over for aranchini, but that's a whole other post for another day. StumbleUpon

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Knitting Update post ahead.  

All of a sudden, E's "radius" is expanding.  For a couple of months, she has been pushing herself backwards, which often resulted in her being further from her goal (usually a toy or person) than when she started.  But, last week, she started pulling herself forward.  It's more of a wounded soldier crawl at the moment.  Let the baby-proofing begin!

I realized that I haven't shared one of my favourite baby knits yet!  This pattern was actually one that Giz found.  Usually when Giz sends me a link to something she finds cute (happens multiple times a week), I take a quick look but assume that I'm not going to be as interested as she is.  But, this one was different.  I couldn't stop thinking about it.  It has a old-fashioned, delicate look to it.  It works as both a casual sweater and something a bit fancier.  

I've learned that the half-buttoned sweaters work really well in terms of longevity.  I also like the 3/4 length sleeve.  You don't have to deal with massive cuffs when the baby is small.  These pictures are several months old.  I'll have to see whether the sweater still fits!

In these next pictures, E is modelling one of the hats I made for her.  I made the mistake of making too many hats for the first winter.  Between gifts and what I've made, she has about 7 hats that probably won't work for more than this past winter.

Since E was born, I've had a hard time finding the time for knitting.  Part of the problem was that I was working on a project that required that I pay attention to the pattern.  It's best for me to just work on something with a consistent pattern so that I don't have to take 10 minutes to figure out where I am every time I pick up the project. I finally got the pattern (a butterfly) done and realized that I didn't do the shaping correctly.  Not a small mistake.  I had to take the entire panel apart.  Now I've abandoned the project because it's a 12 month size and by the time I finish it, it won't fit.

I have picked up a more basic project. will stay in hiding for now.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lemon Curd Trifle

I think the amount of food in our fridge that gets tossed reflects more than just simply being wasteful, it reflects how our life is functioning at the time.  On the well-functioning weeks, I can stick to our meal plan, remain cognizant of what is left to be eaten up and plan for the future to avoid waste.  On the not-so-well-functioning week, I feel overloaded to the point where thinking about what's in the fridge becomes low on the priority list or I feel too tired to care about making dinner using the food in the fridge.

So, using up food, for me, is a win-win because not only does it avoid waste, it means that I've got my sh*t together.  Maybe I should call this recipe "I've got my sh*t together trifle."

After making these cupcakes, I had a bunch of lemon curd left over in the fridge.  I put it in a tupperware container with a plastic wrap right on top of the curd, to prevent it from drying out.  Making curd isn't particularly difficult, but by the time you use up all of those lemons and bring out your thermometer, a fair amount of effort goes into making it.  So, I really didn't want it to go to waste.  

Since the curd has a strong lemon flavour and is quite sweet, I knew I wanted to tone down the impact a bit.  So, I decided to make a trifle with nutriwhip and some leftover lady fingers I had in my pantry.  Just before adding the top layer of nutriwhip, R convinced me to add in the strawberries I had sitting in the fridge.  Good call R!

So delicious!  How can you go wrong with trifle?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pineapple Cheesecake for Dieters

Bet you thought I fell off the face of the world.  Truth be told I've been out of commission - a big yayy to Psychgrad for keeping things running.

I'd been hearing about this recipe for quite a time. My friend's mom, who is diabetic and has a sweet tooth had to find a way to enjoy a sweet dessert without creating an impact on her blood sugar level. Now I admit, that's a pretty simplified rationalization and there are a whole host of other dynamics at play with diabetes.... but .. if you're going to have a cheat let this be it.

2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbls lemon juice
2 pkgs Knox Gelatin
1 pkg 500g pressed cottage cheese (I used Western)
1 cup cottage cheese (I used 1%)
15 pkg splenda
1 14 oz jar crushed pineapple (drained and divided)

Set oven at 350 F Spray an 8" square pan with Pam

1. Drain pineapple and add the gelatin to the liquid. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, add the cheeses and mix for about a minute.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix the batter for a good 5 minutes - you want it smooth textured.
4. Fill baking pan and bake for 35 min. Let stand to cool for 30 minutes, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Verdict: For NO Fat cheesecake - pretty good. Don't like pineapple - use peaches You can easily double this recipe into a 9x13 pan To dress it up I took some fresh blueberries, added a tsp of butter and a splash of lemon, cooked them on the stovetop and added a heaping spoonful to each slice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

R and I used to joke that we should put "no one is allowed to become a vegetarian" in a prenuptial agreement.  At the time, we ate meat at almost every dinner.  But, over the past year or so, we've cut down on our meat consumption.  Before, a meal wasn't a meal without meat.  Now, about about 80% of our meals are vegetarian.

R really gets credit for this.  He spends a fair bit of time looking up and preparing new vegetarian dishes.  Interestingly enough, I don't really miss or crave meat.  Now if only I didn't crave carbs...then we'd be "in business."

I expected that I wouldn't like this recipe.  Mix a bunch of ingredients together, put potatoes on top and call it a meal?  That's not usually my cup of tea.  But, I was wrong.  This recipe not only tastes great, it has become a staple in our vegetarian repertoire.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
(Shiksa in the Kitchen)

2 lbs. Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (I plan to try substituting for sweet potato)
1 whole garlic clove
1 cup (1/2 lb.) dry brown lentils
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup corn
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, divided
2 tsp vegan Worchestershire or tamari sauce
3/4 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute (soy, almond, or rice milk)
3 tbsp butter or vegan butter substitute
Salt and pepper
Nonstick cooking oil spray
Sriracha sauce for topping (optional)

YOU WILL ALSO NEED 2 quart baking dish, potato masher

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the peeled potatoes in a pot along with one whole peeled garlic clove. Cover the potatoes with plenty of water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then reduce heat to medium to the potatoes continue to simmer. Let the potatoes cooks for 25-30 minutes till fork tender.

Meanwhile, rinse and sort the lentils. Pour the lentils into a pot along with a bay leaf. Cover with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let the lentils cook for 15-20 minutes till just tender.

Remove from heat as soon as they're cooked. If there is any excess water, drain it. As potatoes and lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion to the skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes till softened. Add the diced carrots and celery.

Continue to saute for 5-6 more minutes till the vegetables are tender-crisp. Add crushed garlic, peas, corn, 3 tbsp of the chopped parsley, vegan Worchestershire or tamari sauce, oregano, and cayenne pepper to the skillet.

Stir and saute for 3-4 minutes more till the vegetables are tender and fragrant. Stir the skillet vegetable mixture into the cooked, drained lentils. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the cooked potatoes; reserve the whole garlic clove that cooked with them. Mash the potatoes and softened garlic clove with milk and butter (or vegan milk and butter substitutes) till smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the lentil and vegetable mixture in an even layer across the bottom of the dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable mixture, using a spoon or fork to add texture to the top of the potatoes for browning.

Top with cheddar cheese (or vegan cheddar shreds), if desired.

Place the dish in the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes till the tips of the potatoes turn golden brown. Increase heat at the end of cooking for more browning, if desired.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of chopped parsley on top of the pie to garnish. Serve hot. StumbleUpon

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Beef Stew & Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Every weekend, we make a grocery list.  About 80% of the grocery list rarely changes: milk, bread, salad fixings, bananas, grapefruit, etc.  Then, we come up with 3 dinner ideas and make sure that the ingredients we need are added to the list.  For the other days, we'll either have leftovers, something from the freezer or an easy meal (e.g., grilled cheese, breakfast for dinner).  

Among a list of regular meal ideas, stew comes up as a suggestion fairly regularly and I'm usually the one to nix it.  I'm so tired of the same old stew recipe.  So, I decided to try out a new stew recipe.  I went with a Jamie Oliver recipe -- you can find it here.

It was delicious!  The pictures don't do it justice.  I loved the flavour that the wine added to the broth and the texture and sweetness of the squash.  I'll definitely be making this recipe again.  Though, next time I'll probably use the slow cooker.

We also took advantage of the long weekend to visit the Agriculture Museum at the Experimental Farm.  The museum is part of a fully-functioning farm, with a variety of animals (cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, etc.).

Of course, I loved watching E pet the kid.  This is really the heart of the museum: up close and interactive opportunities for kids to be around farm animals.

The cows are regularly inseminated so that they continue to produce milk. This calf was just born.  I got a bit teary-eyed when I read that the calves are separated from their mothers after 48 hours.  At least they get the colostrum.  

Giz likes to make fun of how it'll be difficult for me to go back to work without singing nursery rhymes at inappropriate times.  But, tell me this picture doesn't make you want to break into "Mary had a little lamb"!

I'm looking forward to the opening of their new learning centre.  The Learning Centre will have an exhibition gallery, learning labs, lecture hall and improved visitor and group amenities.  

The museum is changing names and becoming the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum, recognizing the museum's enhanced focus on food literacy. I'm really interested to see what types of food-literacy exhibits they'll have.  The inaugural exhibition for the Learning Centre will look at what would be involved in baking an apple cake if you had to produce all of the ingredients yourself.  Sounds very interesting!  I hope they can drive home a similar message with respect to meat.  
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