Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oven Cleaner

This is wonderful!
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical and thought it probably wouldn't do a great job - wow, was I wrong! This required hardly any effort and got the bottom of my oven really clean (see below for my idea on cleaning the sides). It's absolutely non-toxic and non-smelly and requires little to no elbow grease!

1 cup baking soda
Liquid detergent or liquid castille soap (I love Dr. Bronner's)

Sprinkle or spray water generously over the bottom of the oven. Cover the grime with baking soda. Spray more water on top of the baking soda.
Let this sit overnight. Wipe up the baking soda with a rag or wash cloth - the grime/yuckies will come with it.
Squirt a little soap/detergent on a damp sponge to wipe up any remaining baking soda.

Since you can't exactly let baking soda sit overnight on the sides on an oven, I'd suggest making a paste of baking soda and water and wiping that on the sides. This should get the grime off with a little rubbing. You might also try adding some castille soap to the baking soda/water mixture to help out a bit.

I found this "recipe" on the Care2 website.

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

These yummy bars are very nutritious! They are filled with wonderful blueberry antioxidants and provide a nice dose of protein. Blueberries are also a source of fiber and are low in calories. Despite the use of 3 eggs, I cut these up quite small so they are still relatively low in fat (only 1-2g sat. fat per bar; around 7g total fat).

The combination of dried and fresh blueberries makes these doubly delicious and the crust is amazing!
The photo does not do them justice... lol

Serves 16/Makes 16 bars

18 graham crackers (according to the original recipe, whole wheat ones are the best. Honey, I couldn't find whole wheat crackers, ones are also yummy!)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar (see note below)
1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon peel (I always use organic citrus when I need the peel)
3/4 cup dried organic blueberries (a 1/4 lb. package was perfect!)
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh organic blueberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (see note below)

*Before you begin, soak the dried berries in a little lemon juice (additional to that listed in the ingredients) for 30 minutes. Drain the liquid before adding to the recipe.

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Process the graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground (you will need about 1 1/3 cups crumbs). Add all the remaining crust ingredients and pulse just until combined. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and bake 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and 1/8 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and lemon peel in a large bowl at medium speed for 1 minute or until frothy and the sugar is dissolved. At low speed, beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until blended. Stir in the dried blueberries and lemon juice. Pour the filling over the cooled crust; sprinkle with fresh blueberries and walnuts.

4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is light brown and the edges start to brown. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cut into 16 bars; cool completely in the pan (about 1 hour).

Notes: *Brown sugar rave - Just a quick product rave! I've been using "Wholesome Sweeteners" sugars for a while now and just got their brown sugar after running out of some national brand (I'll protect the not-so-innocent by letting the company remain un-named). Wow! I've never had such molasses-rich brown sugar. Yum...
It's organic and certified fair-trade (yeay!) Plus, it is processed without any animal products/by-products so it's suitable for vegetarians/vegans.

*Toasting walnuts - To toast walnuts, place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until pale brown and fragrant. Cool.

*Changes I'd like to try :) - The original recipe listed several other options for these bars.
~Soak the dried berries in orange juice for 30 minutes; drain.
~Substitute chopped pecans or slivered almonds for the walnuts.
~Replace the fresh blueberries with raspberries.

*Organics - I realise some people scoff at organics and think they aren't worth the expense. I happen to not feel this way! I can't always find organic everything but I do always try to buy certain things organic. This includes berries, anything I'll be eating/using the peel from, etc. Not only are they healthier, they taste better, and have a lower environmental impact than traditionally-grown products.
Just to add to the rave, organics are also more likely to come from sustainable farms as well as being more likely to be produced fairly. *Jumping down off soapbox* ;)

This is the Double Blueberry-Lemon Breakfast Bars recipe from the June/July 2008 issue of Cooking Pleasures magazine.

Havanna Black Beans

Another yummy version of black beans! Perfect alongside Orange Cashew Rice.
The coconut milk adds a nice touch to the beans - I really need to cook with this more!

Serves 2

1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. chopped jalapeno pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cooked black beans, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup low-fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp. lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Sea salt to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion for 3 minutes until golden brown. Add the bell peppers and garlic; continue to saute for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, thyme, bay leaves, and jalapeno; combine well.

2. Add the black beans, coconut milk, and water to the pot. Stir well. Simmer the beans 10-15 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt.

3. Serve the beans topped with a garnish of cilantro.

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

Orange-Cashew Rice

This was fantastic! :)

Serves 2

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup rice
Small sprinkle of salt

1/4 cup chopped roasted cashew pieces
1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped
2 scallions, minced
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 (8-ounce) can mandarin orange segments, drained well

1. In a large saucepan, bring the water, orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, and a little salt to a boil. Stir in the rice. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has totally evaporated.

2. Empty the orange rice into a large mixing bowl, add the cashew pieces, peppers, and scallions. Just before serving, season with salt and add the mandarin orange segments, folding in gently to prevent the oranges from breaking.

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

Walnut and Pepper Pasta

This could be served hot or as a pasta salad (the original recipe says "at room temperature" but I think chilled would be better).

Serves 2

1/8 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 pound bowtie pasta or other short pasta
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. sliced garlic
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. capers, drained
1 tbsp. fresh oregano
1/8 up chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup bell peppers
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
Sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1/8 cup of the water used for cooking.

2. Saute the onions in a medium skillet over medium heat in olive oil until they begin to brown (8-10 minutes).

3. Add the garlic and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water and simmer for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, parsley, bell peppers, capers, and tomatoes and cook 1 minute or until heated through. Remove from the heat.

4. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Toss. Add the walnuts and Parmesan cheese and mix again.

Based on the Bowties with Walnuts and Red Peppers recipe from The Occasional Vegetarian.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tuscan Vegetable Saute

I haven't posted an update in so long and now I'm having to catch up! lol It's been so long since I made some of the things I'm about to post that I can't really remember what they were all like! I do remember drizzling balsamic vinegar on this which was lovely.
I also just noticed a note I left in the cookbook that says "*capers*" If I remember correctly, I thought about adding capers to this next time I make it.

This has a lot of ingredients! Don't worry if you don't have them all - this dish is very open to improvisation :) Also, it goes together easily and cooks quite quickly once you have everything prepped.

Serves 2

Good splash of olive oil (couple tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup bell peppers, chopped (any colours - I love the frozen tri-colour peppers from Trader Joe's)
1/2 zucchini squash, sliced
1/2 yellow squash, sliced
1 large vine-ripened tomato, seeded and chopped
3 white button mushrooms, chopped
1/8 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1/8 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 tsp. fennel, crushed
1/4 tsp. lavender, crushed
1 tbsp. fresh oregano
Drizzle balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

1. Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery and saute for 1 minute; stirring often.

2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the peppers, squash, and zucchini. Cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes until the veggies become tender. Stir in the tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.

3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the olives, chickpeas, rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, fennel, oregano, and lavender. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar just before serving.

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook. I marked my additions in purple.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Mmmm, it's like Catalonian ratatouille :) I *doctored this up* and added a bunch of other ingredients to it so it's really more like fusion ratatouille! I decided while eating that the fennel really overpowdered the lavender (among other things!) so I have cut this down to half the original fennel but kept the other amounts the same.
Whatever you choose to call it, it was really tasty! I'll mark my changes in purple.

Note on the original recipe: it mentioned in the directions to simmer until the liquid was absorbed. Um, there was no liquid listed in the ingredients and the veggies weren't really giving off much liquid! I decided to throw some broth in the mix to help the squash cook (and flavour everything a bit more). Worked fine!

This was really good with some couscous.

Here's my version:

2 servings

Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion (original just said "onion")
1 cup cubed, peeled eggplant (I salted my eggplant to help it hold its shape during cooking. Click here to find out what that means - scroll to the bottom of the recipe)
1/4 cup cubed squash (original called for zucchini; I was out but had half a yellow squash to use)
1/6 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp. dried thyme)
1/16 tsp. fennel seed (crushed in a mortar and pestle)
1/8 tsp. dried lavender (crushed in a mortar and pestle)
About 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in the eggplant, squash, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Stir in tomato, parsley, thyme, lavender, and fennel. Add vegetable broth (I started with 1/4 cup then added about another 1/4 cup later on - after the first 1/4 cup had evaporated). Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Uncover and simmer an additional 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed (I added the second 1/4 cup of broth at this point). Stir in salt, paprika, and black pepper; cook 1 more minute. Sprinkle with fresh basil just before serving.

Based on the Samfaina recipe from the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light.

**Note on photos. I have been taking photos of my stuff, I've just been really slacking on blog updates/uploading my photos lately. Plus, my digital camera is on its last legs and I really need to order a new one! :(
It's the last week of school (work school) so I'm super busy doing last minute stuff and taking care of my teacher check-out for the year. When I have a couple minutes I'll be back to add my photos! :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rhubarb-Lentil Soup

I grew up loving rhubarb - we actually used to grow it. :) I still look forward to spring when I know I'll be able to find it!
All this time eating it, though, and I've never tried it in a savoury dish. Wow, what have I been missing?! It was great in this soup but I think next time, I'd add a little more rhubarb - I think it got a little lost in everything else going on!

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup dried lentils
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 cups finely chopped carrot
1 3/4 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced (my addition)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp. fennel seeds (my addition)
2 cups chopped rhubarb (I'd use more like 3, 3 1/2 next time)
4 cups fat-free vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

1. Let the lentils soak in the boiling water for 10 minutes or so.

2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the cooking spray or extra-virgin olive oil. Add carrot, celery, onion, parsley, and garlic. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add the rhubarb and saute about 3 more minutes.

3. Drain the lentils and add them to the pan. Stir in the broth, fennel, and salt; bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

4. Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Place 3 cups of the mixture in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pan and stir in the pepper and dill.

From the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
I can't just leave Cooking Light recipes as they are (too bland) so here are my changes:
*Added garlic
*Added fennel
*Used vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth
*Skipped the creme fraiche (to make this version vegan/couldn't be bothered with creme fraiche even though I would have just used sour cream - lol)
*Threw the dill in with the soup
*I also added a little extra-virgin olive oil in with the cooking spray

Menu - June 1-7

I have only planned meals for myself this week... hubby had his wisdom teeth extracted on Friday and is having a way tougher time with it than I did. :( He is extremely hungry but can't really eat yet. I have plenty of stuff in the freezer/pantry for when he's feeling up to it so I'll have no trouble fixing something up for him as needed.

Confession: it is really nice only having to make one meal at a time, though! ;) I could get used to that! heh..

- Lentil-rhubarb soup (recipe coming soon!)

Monday - Summer pesto pasta with rosemary-cheese focaccia

Tuesday - Samfaina and couscous

Wednesday - Orzo and feta salad with lemon-caper dressing and kalamata olives (jealous?! I can't wait to try this!)

Thursday - Curried couscous pilaf with broiled Thai-style eggplant. If I remember to make it ahead (it needs to freeze for 8 hours), I'll also have a lime-coconut granita for dessert (it is the last day of the school year - work - after all! Have to celebrate!)

Friday - Havana black beans with orange-cashew pilaf

Saturday - Italian eggplant ragout with orzo

Yes, it is the week of orzo, couscous, and eggplant. ;)

Cilantro-Lime Rice

This makes a wonderful addition to black beans but I think it would be amazing stuffed inside a tomato! Yum :)
I served this with borracho beans over the weekend.

Serves 2

1 cup water
1/2 cup basmati rice (yeah, whatever, I used regular old white rice! ;)
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
1/2 tbsp. freshly-squeeze lime juice
Salt to taste
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup finely chopped baby spinach
2 green onions, finely chopped

1. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice, olive oil, garlic, zest, lime juice, and salt. Reduce heat to medium. Stir gently, cover, and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until the rice is tender.

2. Transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl. Add the cilantro, spinach, green onions, and a little more salt (if desired). Combine thoroughly.

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.