My Trip to Toronto

Toronto is a mecca for restaurants, and every time I’m asked to go, I research and book some good picks.

The last time I was in Toronto, I went with my good friend, Carol. Her sister (who lives in Toronto) booked a veryamazing restaurant experience, Bar Isabel. She knew we were coming, and had to book two months in advance. Omigosh, the ambience was rocking, and the place was buzzing with people. That is a place I wouldgo to again, but on this trip, I want to try some new flavours. I had so many recommendations from my friends.

On my travel day, because I checked into the hotel late, I just wanted to eat. I decided to go into Chinatown because I had such good memories of growing up with Vancouver’s Chinatown, I was curious. I went into a restaurant that had a sign “All Day Dim Sum” – Rol San Restaurant on Spadina Avenue. I ordered the Shredded Pork n Century Egg congee, Curry Beef Brisket w/Won Ton Noodles in Soup, Shrimp Dumpling, and Beef Roll. While the meal hit the spot, it was quite ordinary. I just needed a meal to feed the soul.

When I travel, I try to eat as I do at home. Day 1: For breakfast, I had a small bowl of steel cut oats solo, a side of fruit, and a hard-boiled egg, with a latte and glass of water.

We walked everywhere … first stop was at Kensington Market. I have heard about this place time and again on Canada’s Top Chef series. Yes, I’m a curious cat! There were some places that I filed in the back of my mind for a later visit. I know we’ll be back here. Kensington Market has the feel of Commercial Drive, a span of only about three blocks. We were determined to make good use of the bus and subway systems.

Because Kensington Market was a muchsmaller area than we thought, we had time to get down to the Distillery District. We walked down there as well, and went to St. Lawrence Market. That was more reminiscent of Lonsdale Quay. Such a nice walk … the weather certainly held out for us. We had already talked about returning.

For lunch, we spotted a neat little place called Pumpernickel’s (Adelaide location). There were many places with already-prepared foods such as wraps, burritos, salads, etc., but we wanted healthy food made fresh. I had a Chicken Caesar salad sprinkled with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other ingredients were being put together to make the dressing just for me!

A block away from my hotel, we spotted Wahlburger’s. Having seen the interview with Mark on the Food Network, we were curious and wanted to give it a try. BUT, we had seen so many burger places on our walks that we decided to do a shoutout on FB and to our friends who have been here, or live/lived here. So many recommendations, but we ended up going to Burger’s Priest on Queen St. W. I had the CaliforniaClassic, pretty simple actually – a cheeseburger that had sautéed onions, secret sauce, with lettuce and tomato. The buns were not your regular burger buns; furthermore, the buns were buttered! Yum! I am convinced – the messier the burger, the better it is.

I would definitely come back here to try another item on their menu. This is not the best thing that happened that night, though – we ended up going to see Wonder Woman, yes, we sure did! … AND, they served beer! Now, I’m not a beer girl, but what an occasion to have one, so I did … best date ever – burgers, Wonder Woman movie, and beer!

Day 2: Nothing different from the previous day. The best way to start out each day IS TO HAVE BREAKFAST – that’s my opinion, for whatever its worth. We had planned on visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’m not the hockey fan, but thought it a great opportunity and we’d probably regret not going. It’s not every day hubby is in to checkingoutmuseums of any sort, so Irolled with it! We enjoyed ourselves, actually. There were a few interactive stations, which we did take advantage of. We wanted to be in the Kensington area, so we made it down there, and were determined to have Mexican cuisine. I was set on having a slice of pie from Wanda’s Pie in The Sky at some time during our visit, preferably after lunch today, highly recommended by a friend who lives here. Needless to say, we never made it, as the meals we ordered were of generous proportion. We ordered tacos at El Trompo: El Pastor and ?El Tingo?

I ordered a Lime margarita, while hubby ordered a Coronarita – two drinks in one – a margarita poured into a beer glass, which had a bottle of upside-down Corona supported by a gadget that allowed the bottle to stay stationary. Asone sipped his drink, thebeer slowly flowed out of the bottle. The beer cut the sweetness from the margarita just enough. Yum.

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We met up with two couples, both who live here, at Colette Grande Cafe, located at the Thompson Hotel, but it is not part of the hotel. This restaurant choice was one of my friend’s favourites. And when I arrived, I understood why. I was already drawn to its elegance. I couldn’t wait to see what the menu had in store for us! The only photo I have is one of me being a tourist poser. The staff were nervous about my taking photos inside, so I never did.

Day 3: We’re at Friday now, and the Bata Shoe Museum was on the list. The Museum held a lot of history, some notables like Ferragamo, one of my favourite design houses. I cherish my handbags, wallets, and own a pair of their shoes. High quality craftsmanship. Did you know that Ferragamo is best known for starting the “wedge” sensation? … Dinner reso’s were already made at Figo (Italian), where I’d be meeting up with an old friend from high school! I was so excited. We used to play tennis and badminton together, and we shared notes in class … he was definitely the braniac. Our meal, right! Our dishes were quite flavourful, and paired beautifully with red wine. We had a fantasticevening.

Day 4: OK, our last day, and we had some choices … actually, it was no contest. We had been told of a mansion tour before we left for our trip, and the entire time, I knew it had to be on our list. We visited Casa Loma – I will leave you to google the history. And I recommend getting the audio tour because, well, this is the best way to maximize one’s experience. Susur Lee, I am certain some of you have heard of him, no? We have been to Lee Restaurant several times, and it never gets old. We met another couple there, with whom we shared about 10 dishes. We enjoyed different wines and cocktails with our meal. No disappointments here. After dinner, we continued walking around intheEntertainment District, where we decided to have a drink at a bar/restaurant. The bar area was of generous sizing. I just wish Iremembered the name. The architecture was amazing! I thought it was a pretty cool place.

Day 5: We slept in a little today, as we were scheduled to fly out later in the afternoon. We stopped into a place for brunch – Canteen. It was quite a spacious restaurant with a huge patio. Simple food made well. It was a great way to end our time in TO. Now, on our way to the airport.

Toronto is a place I could definitely visit every year. It makes for a great weekend getaway, for sure.

What are some of your favourite sights and restaurants in Toronto?

Nuts n Seeds Snack Bar

This is a fail-safe, super duper, easy recipe to put together. To all the non-domestics out there, this is as easy as it gets!

When all ingredients are mixed together and formed into a ball, it then gets pressed into a baking pan lined with parchment paper, pictured below. Here is the recipe:

1 can condensed milk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 c. quick cooking oats
1-1/2 c. large flake oats
1 c. walnuts
1 c. dark chocolate chips
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350F. Then line a casserole baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together condensed milk with the melted coconut oil until well combined.

Pour the condensed milk over the dry ingredients and using a spatula, mix all ingredients together thoroughly, forming into a ball. Transfer the ball into the lasagna pan, and press down firmly, and evenly.

Place in the middle rack and bake for approximately 20 minutes. If you like a bar that is crunchier, then bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Cut into bars when cooled. I like to cut my bars when it has been out of the oven for about 20 minutes. I get about 24 bars.

Here are other combinations I have tried:  dried apricots with dark chocolate mini chips; raisins with pumpkin seeds; cacao nibs with cranberries. There are countless possibilities. What are your favourite seed/nut/fruit combinations?

 

Pound Cake

Do you know how Pound Cake got its name? Think about it. I love pound cake because it is dense and packed full of buttery goodness! I love that it is used for fondue, it’s just perfect!

As a child, I remember thinking “wow, I’m in heaven!” every time I had a slice, which wasn’t very often. I ALWAYS wanted more! Butter and sugar, the best combination in the world!

Pound Cake, originating in Europe in the 18th century, got its name because each ingredient was a pound’s worth – butter, flour, sugar, and eggs.

The cake can be baked in a loaf pan, which is how I have always seen it in the bakeries, and at Christmas time. However, I bake it in any cake pan I am loving that day. Here, I used a bundt pan that is made of stoneware. The baking was even, and the cake turned out so fabulous and pretty!

If you are one who has no self control, try baking mini pound cakes, or bite-sized cakes. I have two pans with these beautiful designs. I like this size for after dinner, or a dinner party. A bite is a big enough sampler; however, the bigger picture is that one can have more than one kind of dessert!

This is one of my favourite pans. It is a non-stick variety, and does the trick very well. I lightly spray the pan, or brush on some oil just before filling with batter.

Once baking is ready and cooled, invert the cakes and cut around the edges to smooth out. See how pretty they are. Try dipping them in dark chocolate, yum!

The recipe I love using is from Martha Stewart. I have tried her Vanilla Pound Cake as well as this, the standard – Traditional Pound Cake:

1-1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside. Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack, and let cool completely. Before serving, dust cake with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

I look forward to more adventures with Pound Cake. There are many versions to try – one of them being chocolate, yay!

What is your favourite Pound Cake variation – chocolate, coconut … ?

On-The-Go Bars

Hi, how are you today?

Have you ever been referred to as the “it girl”? The “it girl” can be referenced with the fashionista, the friendly, the talented … and yes, one girl can be the “it girl” for various categories. As far as food is concerned, I’m known to turn plain recipes into “gold” or “family tradition” recipes.

I’m the girl who’s always been able to improve a recipe. My friends would complain they didn’t have a good banana bread recipe, or a cupcake recipe. There are staple recipes that everyone must have, and yes, that’s according to me. I have a good base recipe or two for almost every category, because the same dish doesn’t serve up well at all events. For example, I would not make Lasagna for a summer party. That’s more of a winter item.

For potluck parties, I would make a Lasagna or Tuna Casserole. If a vegetarian option is offered, I would make a Sweet Potato Casserole. Or a Zucchini n Tomato Bake. Summer’s here? I have plenty of salad options, with quinoa, fish, chicken … but the dishes will generally be lighter.

Speaking of staple recipes, there are so many I can share, but today, I am going to share with you a hearty on-the-go bar. It’s a snack that’s packed up like a cookie, but is nutritious and hearty enough to have for breakfast or in-between workouts. I have one before I work out and one after an hour, as I tend to burn through pretty quickly. So, I’m going to give you the downside of my “gift of improving or re-inventing” recipes. The ingredients  multiply. This bar has 17 ingredients, and yes, that does read “17”; there are no typos.

Shall we get on with it? OK, here are the list of ingredients:

2 c. flour
2 c. quick-cooking oats
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. raisins
1 c. rice cereal
1/4 c. pecan pieces, toasted
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted OR THESE (I crushed them before adding):

     

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake time will be 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven and/or crunch.

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl and combine with a fork. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars in a mixer and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Then spoon in flour mixture, a bit at a time, stirring until just blended. Stir in raisins, and the remaining ingredients, until well incorporated. Form into a ball.

Press into moulds or drop onto cookie sheets (use parchment paper), 2″ apart, pressing lightly with a fork.

     

Remove from oven when done, and eject from moulds onto cooling racks.

     

I doubled the recipe and was able to fill all four of my moulds, plus making some freehand, like drop cookies. In this particular batch, I made 100.  Yes, I had plenty to share! And that, I did.

    

In this particular batch, I substituted the pecans with Skor bits, and used less 2 T. sugar. I like a subtle sweetness punch when I eat these, but I do love the combination of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

What types of nuts and/or seeds do you like to use?

 

 

Pineapple-Carrot Oatish Muffins

This picture is the quick oats version.

It’s been a while since I shared anything with you all. I apologize for this. Sometimes I sit and wonder how life got this busy. I have been helping out with a few committees, and attended a couple charity events. And this Friday, I am handing out race packages for the Fairmont Mother’s Day Run which takes place well, on Mother’s Day! And throw in my regular just life stuff!

I am posting a recipe that has since become popular among my family and friends because of its moistness and flavour. It’s not a typical muffin? I beg to differ. There are many variations floating around.

I have tried many versions of Pineapple-Carrot Muffins, and they all vary just slightly, but I found this one to be less oily, thus, more flavourful. This recipe was given to my mom quite a few years back – from a very close family friend. They and my parents were born and raised in the same village in China, actually! This recipe is a good healthy choice, as it does not contain a lot of fats. The carrots and pineapple are enough to balance the moistness factor, without ever adding more oil.

I have made this recipe many times but have tweaked along the way. A lot of recipes can be tweaked to personal desired flavours. For example, I do not use walnuts, rather, sunflower seeds. And I love toasting my seeds and nuts from time to time.

Consider this a good base to start with. I have pared down the sugar to 1/2 c. now; however, depending on the type of sugar used, 1 c. will be perfect.

Also, I have swapped out oat bran for quick oats. In this picture, I followed the recipe and used oat bran. I prefer the texture of quick oats.

Give these a try and share your substitutions. Are you an oat bran or a quick oats fan?

This picture is the oat bran version.

1-1/2 c. flour
1 c. oat bran
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 c. shredded carrot
7-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained (I like to add in an extra ounce or two)
2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. oil

Measure the dry ingredients and place into a big bowl. Combine well.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs slightly. Then pour in the rest of the ingredients and incorporate well.

Make a well into the centre of dry ingredients. Pour liquids and mix well, but do not over-mix. Bake in a preheated 350F oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Bakes for 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Cereal/Granola Breakfast Pucks

I thought I’d tempt you all with a picture of the finished product first.

There’s really nothing fancy about these granola bars, except their shape. You change the shape and name of something, and all of a sudden, you’ve got everyone’s attention! Well, if it works, why not? I’ve been a gym/food/fitness junkie all my life, and I started to get bored of granola bars, all of them. I can’t vouch for the power bar varieties, but the snack varieties, I can. Let’s face it, processed, quickie foods … that’s all they are!

I love to experiment, and I have a handful or more guinea pigs to taste test my creations. Trust me, they are more than happy to help me with my “special projects”. Never had one complaint!

Visuals work best, so I am just going to give some of my ingredients list that way:

These are liquid sweeteners. Maple syrup can also be used, as well as honey. Just experiment, as some seed/sweetener combos do not work well together.

There are many nut butters out there, some are “raw”, which I also use. These are more natural and less processed than peanut butter, so the sweet factor is significantly less.

Chia seeds, flax seeds (must grind before using, better absorption of nutrients), hemp hearts

I have tried many protein powders, and have not liked most of them. This is what I buy most of the time, unless I receive sample packs for testing. I like these because they possess a more natural flavour, and it is on the lower side of sweet.

These are muffin “tins” made out of silicone. I have never baked in silicone moulds, though I have used a silicone mat to bake vegetables and cookies. I prefer parchment for baking cookies; but as for vegetables, I would use the mats again. They prevent vegetables from sticking or burning.

Storage of the pucks – place in a container and separate with a layer of parchment to prevent sticking.

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I’m going to share a version of this recipe, as a lot of the ingredients are interchangeable, so I always suggest you put in what you already like. Experimenting with organic or what some call “funky” ingredients can be expensive. Unless you know you already like them, stick with what you do like. For example, I paid $20 for close to 2-oz of matcha green tea powder, and $18 for less than 2 cups of cacao nibs. Good for me, I love both these ingredients, you get the picture … and I just want to mention that I use raw where I can, i.e. raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Total prep time is a measly ten minutes! I love it!

1-1/4 c crispy cereal (I used a rice crisps)
1 c quick cooking oats
2 T ground flax, hemp hearts, or chia seeds (try sesame or black sesame seeds)
1/4 c finely chopped dried fruit (I used cacao nibs)
1/4 c finely chopped nuts or seeds (I used pepitas)
1/2 c maple syrup or brown rice syrup (I used rice syrup)
1/2 c nut or seed butter (or peanut butter, Nutella?) (I used sunflower seed butter)
1 t vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients, including dried fruits, together into a bowl and set aside. Measure syrup and butter into a pot over medium-low heat and stir to mix thoroughly – mixture will be thick. Pour over dry ingredients and quickly stir together until everything sticks together. Immediately press into moulds. Refrigerate for two hours before consumption. Must be stored in refrigerator, and can be stored for up to two weeks’ maximum.

Give this a try and share your comments, won’t you?

What are your favourite fruit and nut combinations?

 

 

Espresso-Cacao Protein Surprise

I love coffee and drink it regularly, but I have never been one to drink more than one cup/day. The more active I am, the less I want to drink it, and it has always been that way. Too much of a good thing is actually not a good thing at all.

I am still working on some recipes to add to my repertoire of protein balls. A lot of them call for peanut butter due to the amount of protein it packs in; however, I find it sickly sweet and almost detestable after a few bites.  So … had to work on a few things! Before I detail my process, and I call it a process because it isn’t merely about substitutions. Before I introduce the line-up, here is a picture of the finished product, a mini version, good to have in-between workouts; and a standard one, great for a snack in-between driving kids to and from activities, or to and from the office.

Mini version – 1 tsp scoop

Standard – 1 T scoop

Here are some of the ingredients I use:

This is the brand of instant espresso I like to use. Remember to crush the granules finely. The product on the left – by Akava – is a natural coffee alternative – derived from the chicory plant. Chicory tastes similar to coffee. I drank one cup per day for a while, and will tell you that it does not do for your body what coffee does. It can be good or bad – some people like the caffeine kick while some don’t. I used this to make my coffee cookies because they were for family members of all ages. I did not want to be feeding caffeine to children.

There are so many protein powders out there. I have been using these for a while because they are not artificially-flavoured and sickly sweet. Although protein powders are highly processed, I do turn to them once in a while, as they are a quick replacement for a banana or granola bar.

And that my friend, is matcha green tea latte. I used this for my chia breakfast jars instead of pure powder because it is less potent, adds just enough of a hint of green tea, and it does not have bitter aftertaste. Cacao is chocolate in its pure form. Although it possesses a slightly bitter taste, almost like a dark chocolate, I like it. I prefer cacao simply because it’s a healthier choice. It is an expensive ingredient, but so worth it!

I love seeds – they can be used 1:1 interchangeably. The only seed I would read up on before you use it, is chia. Chia is something I would not use in smoothies, as it thickens up to a texture I don’t really like. Also, chia can stick to your teeth and along the gum line.

Sweeteners – there are many around, but I took pictures of a few that I have on hand. I use them as a substitute for maple syrup or honey, especially when making protein balls or granola bars. The sweetness level changes with different combinations of fruits and nuts. I did not find agave syrup to be a good binder when making granola bars or protein balls; however, brown rice syrup worked well. Keep experimenting until you find a combination that works for you!

OK, here is the recipe:

1 c of old-fashioned or quick oats
2 T protein powder or skim milk powder
1/4 c instant espresso coffee granules – I crushed these to a finer granule
1/4 c cacao nibs
1/2 c flaxseed meal
1 T chia seeds
1/2 c almond butter
1/3 c maple syrup
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

Place dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and mix until well incorporated. Cream together the almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Pour the almond butter mixture into the dry, and fold until combined. Use a scoop to shape into balls, your hands, or press into silicone moulds for easy storage, and removal. Must be stored in refrigerator.

Keeps fresh in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks.

Don’t like coffee? What would your “protein surprise” be?

 

Protein ball, snack or dessert?

Nutella Protein Balls and below them, Peanut Butter Power Balls (both are no-bake versions)

It was about 20 years ago when I first had a protein ball. My friend had brought some into work, and this version consisted of peanut butter, honey, milk powder, and chopped pecans. We ate it as a snack and whenever we had chocolate or “sweet” cravings. It was eaten like a treat during break times, and then we started bringing them to the gym with us. I think that’s how it evolved, and then for many years in-between, we never had them again, until recently. With the emergence of the granola bars, power bars, whatever you want to call them, the balls were phased out. I much prefer to make my own foods, as processed food is never as healthy as fresh/home-made.

These are Nutella Protein Balls – this (no-bake) version has mint chocolate chips as well as chopped, toasted walnuts.

I love making protein balls, raw foodie style, no-bake, and baked versions. They are easy, and very flexible in terms of ingredients. They can be made in different proportions, also. I prefer a 1″ scoop, as I like to have one in-between workouts. Just a little kick of energy. And it’s like a one-bite idea – pop it into your mouth, it’s done. Just the right amount of energy.

Below is another (no-bake) version of Nutella Protein Balls, containing 70%-dark chocolate chips. Here is my version:

1-1/2 c. Nutella
1/2 c. skimmed milk powder
2 T. almond milk
1/3 c. dark chocolate chips (can substitute with mint chocolate chips, toasted hemp hearts, or sesame seeds)

Mix together Nutella and almond milk, then fold in milk powder and chocolate chips. Form into 1″ balls and place into a container. For storage, cover the container, as the balls may dry up.

I don’t like to keep them too long, as they do dry out, and don’t taste as good as they did the day they were made. I suggest 7-10 days. This recipe made 28.

Pictured here are ingredients for a more exotic version of my regular Peanut Butter Power Balls. I used regular peanut butter because I ran out of my raw almond butter, a much healthier choice.

1 c. raw almond butter
1 c. honey
1 c. skimmed milk powder
1 c. chocolate protein powder
1-1/2 c. rice krispies
1/3 c. sea salt caramels

Cream together the butter and honey until well incorporated. Then add in the two powders followed by rice krispies and caramels. Shape into 1″ balls, and store in refrigerator until ready to eat. Makes approximately 50.

Here they are naked – and below, dressed, perfect for gift-giving. Put into a pretty little box, single layer, with a bow on top.

This is another way to store your protein balls. I made three different types and stored them in their own compartment.

A simple Peanut Butter Power Ball recipe is:

1 c. peanut butter
1 c. honey
2 c. skimmed milk powder
1 c. coconut flakes, toasted

Use method above to prepare.

What are your favourite combinations to make? Do you like peanut butter over raw nut butters?

 

Soup for the Soul

Butternut Squash Soup – to puree, I simply blend with my Vitamix, in several batches, then redistribute into a pot.

On this particular day, I made 12 quarts – I made to share with friends.

I ladle into casserole dishes as such, and when cooled, I put on the lid and store in freezer. When frozen, I pop them out and use my FoodSaver to wrap them up, pen in type of soup, date made, then put into deep freeze. The FoodSaver systems help to save money. Free of freezer burn for up to one year – I’ve own a system since 1997.

When I first started experimenting with soup – first making a base, then using that base as just a layer to make the soup, I thought “how daunting!”. I guess anything one is doing for the very first time can appear that way.

I experimented with Chinese soups because I felt most comfortable making them on my own. After observing my mom for years, I had acquired enough intel to do it all by myself.

Every good soup starts off with a solid base. For example, when I am making a beef based soup, I start a big pot of hot water over the stove and start to gather the ingredients – lots of beef bones and aromatics such as carrots, celery, onion, shallots, and garlic, to give a few examples. I prep the bones by rinsing them with a bit of salt – this is something I have done forever – packaged meats, turkey, etc. always get a salt rinse/rub prior to use. Ground meats, there isn’t much I can do there.

Bean n Veggie Soup

Cooling

Throw into the deep freezer

Chicken n Vegetable Soup

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Here is my process:

Base:
Salt rinse/rub bones/meat used for soup. Dice the meat into cubes and throw into marinade or seasoning. When the pot of water comes to a boil, throw in the bones and aromatics, and bring to a boil. You will see foamy brown floaties rise to the surface – some people toss out the bones and drain in a colander while some, like myself, use a fine mesh sieve to lift off the foam frequently.

When the bones and aromatics are at boiling, turn heat down to medium-low for an hour. Remove the bones and vegetables, and any foam. Turn heat down to a simmer.

I am an efficient person, so I try to do as much as I can ahead of time, or during the time it takes the pot of water to boil.

Meat:
In a saucepan, brown the marinated beef pieces and then add to the pot, along with 2-3 bay leaves.

Vegetables:
Dice them into desired sizes and add them all to the pot.

Spices:
I like to pre-measure all my spices into a bowl, then toss them into the pot at once. Keep on simmer and check every so often. Once vegetables reach desired softness, then soup is ready.

My preference is to sauté onions, garlic, and shallots in spices prior to adding them into the pot. It adds a smokiness to the mix.

Adding beans? I do the following to barley and chickpeas as well.
I prefer to soak my own beans, and add them in at the same time as the meat. My method for soaking beans: Rinse and drain a couple times, then add 3 parts water over the beans, to allow expansion. Allow it to soak overnight. In the morning, rinse and rinse again, drain.

Pasta or Orzo:
I toss these in within the last half hour of simmer stage. Stir frequently upon adding into the pot so pasta or orzo does not clump together.

Kernels of Corn:
Toss in within final half hour of simmer stage.

Potatoes:
Add in within the last hour of simmer stage.

Split Pea n Ham Soup, ready to go into the freezer

I don’t freeze all my soup, but rather, keep some in mason jars for a couple days’ maximum. Shown here are Bean; Chicken n Vegetable; and a Chinese dessert soup.

I’d love to hear what you like to add into your soups. I love trying new things. Please share when you get the chance.

Thanks!

And thank you for your patience. Life got busy, as all of ours do, and I really wanted to share some more of my experiences with you.

 

 

Kitchen Sink Cookies

A couple weeks ago, I wanted to bake.  Not really having a specific cookie in mind, I decided to “go big or go home”, so went downstairs to the pantry and grabbed as many ingredients as I could.  The bricks of butter had already been taken out to soften earlier that day.

I am a texture girl, yes, that’s almost like my tag line because that is what I am – even with art – I love different art forms, styles, media used, etc.  And well, variety IS the spice of life, I must declare.

My trip to the cellar found me packing:  raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds; granulated and coconut palm sugars; unsweetened coconut flakes; hemp hearts; milk and extra-dark chocolate chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.

I always cut my parchment paper first and line my pans first.  Some preheat their ovens as a first step, but my oven preheats quickly.  I am Triple Type A for sure when it comes to being in the kitchen – do not mess with me!

Here is what properly lined pans should look like, to me, anyway.

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I always pre-measure as much as I can both wet and dry ingredients.

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Crack the eggs and set aside in a small bowl. (Remember to add eggs one at a time, after each has been beaten slightly.)

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Sugars are mixed together, and I usually combine them before adding to the mixture.  Vanilla is put into a little condiment cup and placed with the sugar, because it typically gets added after the eggs.

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My filling ingredients are usually premixed, and the reason for this is so one is not biting into a mouthful of just chocolate chips, etc.  Nuts, seeds, hemp hearts – always, always toast!  The flavours are intensified.

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In this bowl, I put the cranberries in with the flour.  I separated them prior to coating with flour, as cranberries, raisins, and the like tend to stick together.

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I always use a cookie scoop, as I like my cookies uniform in size.

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I doubled the recipe and ended up with 133 cookies.  I like to level my scoop before releasing, while my girlfriend likes her scoop filled up, rounded.  What I’m saying is, if she levelled her scoop like I did, I would have ended up with more than 133 cookies, just sayin’ :).

Here is the recipe, doubled:

2 c butter, softened
1 c each granulated and coconut palm sugars
4 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
4-1/4 c flour
1/4 c hemp hearts, toasted
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 c each milk chocolate and extra dark chocolate chips
3 c dried cranberries
3/4 c each sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 c unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

Use the drop cookie method for this recipe, and preheat your oven to 350F.  Bake on ungreased baking pans for 11-14 minutes.  I baked on convection, so I had to monitor much more.

I’ve talked a lot about process, but this is my madness.  If you are highly organized in the kitchen, you will have many successes.  With the way I bake, and you can ask a couple of my girlfriends who have done this with me, it’s like clockwork.  Stations are set up, it’s a no-fail!

What ingredients would you use in a Kitchen Sink recipe?