All my eggs…

•January 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What I don’t know about food is my reason for being. What I do know keeps me coming home.

This journey into healthy living has been rewarding beyond my expectations. Renee helps with the focus and a new calorie counting app (calm down, it’s just until I have a good sense of what I’m putting away in a day) keeps me from bingeing away any progress I might make.

However, sometimes I’m at a loss for what to eat, whether it’s breakfast, dinner, or lunch. My imagination runs dry and I am forced to turn to the ‘never let me down’ drawer in my brain and it invariably spits out something with eggs in it. White, brown, not quite round, eggs you keep me from starving!

Eggs are a tough one for Renee. If she sees a glistening egg white she’ll throw in the towel and uncooked yolk could be grounds for a swift exit from the room. She is brave enough to try it though and a few minutes extra in the pan won’t hurt an egg’s feelings.

This is a good compromise and a healthy source of protein.

1. Cube 2 potatoes and blanch them in boiling water. When they are just beginning soften drain them and rinse them with cold water and set aside.

2. Chop 1 Cup of mushrooms
Trim a head of broccoli
Mince a clove of garlic…
…and add it to a saucepan with some butter or margarine (enough to keep things moving-you’re a grown up)

If you have anything else knocking around the fridge that looks like it might add something, toss it in. I like to use whatever fresh herbs that aren’t rotting away quietly in the crisper. Sauté the whole mess until it looks like you want it to. Add the veggies to a high heat pie plate, add the potatoes and set the oven for about 350 degrees. Meanwhile in another bowl…

3. Whisk six eggs while maniacally shouting out the first 14 digits of Pi and then up-end the bowl over your potato and veggie mixture.

4. When the oven is ready slide it in and wait until the eggs are cooked firm and have lost that smug look you so despise (maybe twenty minutes?) Remember that cooking is supposed to be therapeutic.

This one isn’t rocket science. The eggs have good protein, the veggies are…well, veggies and a good sized portion will only add up about 230 Calories!

I have a penchant for brown sauce (a hold over from my carnivore days) and it works wonderfully with a frittata, as I call this mish-mash of eggs, potatoes and vegetables. Look it up if you don’t believe me and then sit down and eat. There will be enough for leftovers.

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Rice and Lentil Salad

•November 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Renee made this for dinner and I’m a convert. Lentils have always been a problem for me (a bit too close to the hated beans) but when they’re cooked right they have a firm texture and are soft to bite into. These ones add a little peppery taste that is amazing. This is simple and delicious and you can change it up to suit your mood and what’s in the fridge. The rice and lentils are filling and the flavours of the pine nuts with sun dried tomatoes, the feta and the apple cider vinegar are incredible. Make this now. You won’t be disappointed.

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Fixings:
1/2 cup white long grain rice
1/2 green lentils
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes drained (set aside 1tablespoon oil)
1/3 cup Feta cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 Clove of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of sun dried tomato oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Cook the lentils and rice according to the directions or to your own taste.
Toast the pine nuts by putting them in a fry pan on a medium heat and keep them moving. They will toast quickly and burn quicker.
Chop up the garlic and the sun dried tomatoes and add to the oil, vinegar and oregano
Mix everything together and eat it!

If you have any suggestions for substitutes send them along and I’ll eat them.

The Great Cupcake Massacre

•November 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Life gets busy and then you get busy with life. These beautiful morsels debuted at Halloween and were all promptly devoured, eaten alive (depending on your definition of life) and no one shed a tear except the people who arrived late to find them gone.

I’m not a cupcake kind of guy. Baking is all about accuracy and I don’t always have the patience to be messing around with teaspoons and such. Bread is different because it’s a science quiz with multiple answers, all correct. Cupcakes have made a fool of me once too often.

This is Renee’s arena. She’s a great baker because she trusts the system. They always turn out beautifully and taste amazing. This recipe is a ‘basic chocolate cupcake recipe’ she told me, with buttercream icing and a few elaborate details (I got to stab the cupcakes with fondant knives).

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Bready Goodness

•October 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I started taking bread seriously a few years ago and I can say without hyperbole that one of the greatest pleasures life can offer you is pulling a home made loaf of bread out of the oven. Making bread is neither cooking, nor baking. It’s chemistry and intuition. It’s years of study and dumb-ass luck. It’s an amazing wonder of the natural world that only happens under the tightest of security.

I’ve written out a recipe for the bread pictured here, although I have to admit that I thought I’d just ‘wing it’ when I started it. You have to do this when you’re making bread. You need to experiment with all the variables and 9 times out of 10 it won’t work out. Marry someone who likes to eat kitchen disasters.

Then somewhere along the way you have an insight. The water will be a little warmer or a little colder, you’ll add the salt to the flour before the yeast or you’ll slip into a happy day dream while you’re kneading and not remember how long it’s been. It will feel right.

Everything has to be exactly right accidentally. It feels like the sun on the back of your neck. It feels like Saturday morning.

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This loaf is made by mixing some whole grains, that have been soaked for a while, with flour and yeast and a bit of salt.

Soaking whole grains is seen as beneficial because a slightly acidic soak can break down a portion of the Phytic acid in the bran which prevents the absorption of some minerals we need to be healthy. However, Phytic acid is thought to prevent some forms of cancer so it’s not a bad thing to ingest. Lucky for you you get both when you bake with me.

Grain Mix:
Mix together one cup of grains (I used 1/2 cup of oats and added wheat bran, buckwheat and rye flour to reach one cup-maybe a bit more) with enough warm water to make a thick paste. Add a bit of lemon juice and let this sit covered with cello wrap for at least 12 hours. The longer the better.

Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup Grain Mix
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2-1 cup water

Mix everything together until it forms a ball and then knead it for 4-5 minutes adding either flour or water to make the dough sticky but not too wet. Turn the dough into a greased bowl and let it rise for at least two hours (more if you have time).

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Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and shape it into a loaf without degassing it too much.
Place the dough on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal and cover with a cloth for another hour. Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes, misting the oven with water a couple of times, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for another 20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

If it doesn’t look like the picture above, make another one.

These cookies kill fascists

•October 14, 2011 • 1 Comment

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Renee made these. They may be the best cookies I’ve ever had. She found the recipe and they take a lot of time, a lot of sugar and a lot of will power if you think eating them by the dozen is a bad thing.

Pear and Brie Pizza

•October 5, 2011 • 2 Comments

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I first came across this pizza when I worked for a restaurant in Ottawa. There was a massive wood burning oven built into the building and at heat it would take about 3 minutes to cook a pizza. This pizza confuses everyone so don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know whether to serve it as a main or a dessert. Taste it and decide for yourself.

All right. Let’s get to it.

Pizza dough:

3 cups of unbleached white flour
2 tsp of instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup of warm water
1 Tbsp of vegetable oil

Preparation

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients making sure you mix the yeast in well before adding the salt. Stir in the water and the oil and mix until a rough dough begins to form. Turn out onto the counter and continue to knead the dough for 10 minutes. Work it slowly feeling the dough stretch, adding a bit of flour if it needs it and when it feels elastic but smooth cover it with cello wrap in a greased bowl and set it aside. It should rise for at least an hour before being used. You can also freeze unrisen dough and use it later.

Toppings:

Caramelized Onion

1 large onion, sweet or white
1 cup of red wine
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
Fresh or dry herbs
Black pepper

Peel the onion and chop it finely. Sauté in a tbsp of oil for a few minutes until it looks glassy and then sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on and continue stirring. Add 1 cup of red wine and reduce the heat to low stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. Pour yourself a glass and lean on the counter until the wine is reduced in the pan and re-filled in your cup. You may add herbs during the reduction process, some rosemary or thyme. (parsley and sage may not go so well…).

When the wine has reduced and the onions are thick set aside to cool.

Pear and Brie

Slice an almost ripe pear into wedges, thinner rather than thick and cut the Brie into dime-sized chunks.

We are ready to make Pizza!

Assembly

Set the oven for 400 degrees fahrenheit

Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down. Cut the dough into four equal pieces. With a rolling pin begin to roll out a large thin disk, about the size of a dinner plate, and top with caramelized onion. Arrange the pear slices and Brie chunks alternately and put the pizza into the oven. A baking sheet with cornmeal on it will suffice if you don’t have a peel and a baking stone although make sure you put the dough on the pan before dressing it.

When the pizza is cooked you can brush the edge of the crust with a little oil or butter and it will make the dough turn a beautiful golden brown. Serve hot!

I’ve seen many variations on this pizza including apples and sharp cheddar. Try your own combinations but don’t blame me if the pineapple and gorgonzola makes the kids cry.

Michael

Let’s Make This Easy

•October 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Quick Bar-B-Q feast

The idea for this blog came about after I met Renee, a long time vegetarian and a dedicated runner. Renee works hard and trains hard but when it came to cooking she can eat the same thing five days in a row as long as it gives her the nutrients she needs. I have only recently returned to vegetarianism after a lapse and I need to re-learn some basic concepts for cooking vegetarian meals. I cooked professionally for a few years in my twenties and thirties and I’m not afraid to try new things but I have a real problem with some of the staples that vegetarians eat in this part of the country.

Here it is. I hate beans. The taste, the texture and the pasty dry mouth that results. Beans, to me, are filler, and for the most part I mean for filling potholes, plugging holes in dikes and patching drywall. I’m waiting breathlessly for the tirade of bean lovers everywhere. Your arguments are sure to lift the veil and make me realize how wrong I’ve been. That’s sarcasm. Don’t count on it.

We need to eat though, and this blog will be the record of what we learn about food, eating well and learning to love what we think we hate. I’ll never say no to a well cooked meal and this photo of a few grilled vegetables seems like the perfect place to start.