Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

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One very busy day over the summer when I was back south for appointments, I didn’t have time to make a veggie wrap (my favourite go to lunch item on the run) in the morning so I popped in to Denninger’s (a local  deli/European food market) to rummage through their prepared food aisle.  I came across this salad and after scarfing half of it down in the car (the other half saved for dinner), I vowed to recreate it.  Now that the apparent heat wave of summer is over, I can turn the oven back on for roasting fall veggies.  So here it is.  Awesomely good for you too.

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Roasted butternut squash and kale salad

Ingredients

1/2 of a small butternut  squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)
4 large kale leaves, washed, trimmed from stem and chopped into bite size pieces
½ cups dried cranberries
¼ cup sunflower seeds (roasted)
2 tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of Honey Mustard Dressing ( I cheated and bought one)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toss squash cubes in 1 tbsp olive oil and roast until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temp.

Toss kale in remaining olive oil and roast for 5 minutes, any longer and you will have kale chips (which are yummy!), let cool to room temp

On a large plate, arrange kale, add cubed squash and sprinkle cranberries and sunflowers over all.  Drizzle dressing over, add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a crusty loaf of bread.  Makes one large salad!

Deborah

p.s…..a “what I did on summer vacation” post is coming soon…so stay tuned.

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Pancake Tuesday Rocks!

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Today is Shrove Tuesday…aka Pancake Tuesday.  Which is the day to stuff yourself silly before Lent.  I accomplished step one.  As for Lent, I don’t normally partake in the practice, being that I have a hard time giving up anything for longer than 5 minutes.  I may participate this year in the chocolate department….I said *MAY*…I will decide later, but right now, let’s get on with the totally awesome-good-for-you pancakes I made this morning.

DSC02812Healthy Whole Grain & Nut Pancakes

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Whole Rolled Oats
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbsp Ground Flax
1/2 Chopped Walnuts
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Large Egg, beaten
1 1/4 Cups Buttermilk*
Olive Oil
1 Banana
100% Pure Maple Syrup

Directions
1. Heat buttermilk on high in a microwave for 1 minute. Add the butter and whisk until the butter melts and incorporates into the milk.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, flax, nuts, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pour the heated buttermilk/butter mixture over the the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes so the oats/flour absorb the wet ingredients.

3. Add beaten egg and mix well.

4. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add enough batter to make a round about 5-6″ in diameter. Cook until bottoms turn brown and bubbles start to appear on the top. Flip pancakes and cook until browned.

5. Serve with maple syrup and slices of banana.

6. Seriously consider Lent after eating 2 of these.

Makes 4 really large pancakes.

* To make buttermilk, add 1 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes.

Deborah

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Stop and Smell The Roses

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Or the dandelions, or mums, or whatever plant tickles your fancy.

Take the time to savour each and every day.
Every minute.
Every second.
As it could (unknowingly) be your last.

My new motto is: “Enjoy your time on this planet while you can”.

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That is all for today.

Deborah

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How To Make A Bean Bag Heating Pad

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We all get aches and pains now and then which require the use of a heating pad, but sometimes the “traditional” heating pad that you plug in is impractical not to mention it uses up costly energy.

Instead, here is a super quick way to make your own bean bag heating pad using scrap cotton fabric and your choice of fillers.  I can’t stress enough that 100% cotton fabric is the only choice to use, if you use any other type of fabric, you run the risk of melting it in the microwave (definitely not desirable).

Fillers can be any type of dried rice, hulled grain (like wheat or barley) or small dried beans.  You can even add a fragrance for some “aromatherapy”, like Lavender or fragrant essential oils.  Just mix the fragrance and fillers and place in a seal-able container and allow to sit covered for a day or two to distribute evenly.

DSC00972To make the heating pad, cut one rectangle (or whatever size/shape you desire) of cotton fabric large enough for its intended purpose.  This piece was a remnant of the table runner I wove and measured 19″ wide x 11″ tall.

DSC00975Fold the piece in half with right sides together, then sew up the 3 sides leaving a 3 inch opening.

DSC00981Turn right side out and press seams flat.

DSC00983Now add the filler to the bag.  To make it easier, make a funnel out of a plain piece of paper and pour the filler into the bag.  Only fill the bag about 2/3rds full as you want it to be flexible.  Slip-stitch the opening closed and voila! your very own bean bag heating pad.

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Bean Bag Heating PadTo use, just heat in the microwave on high for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.

I have been using mine after each loom threading marathon session as it is an awkward, tedious and muscle fatiguing job.  I just drape it around the back of my neck and let the soothing heat radiate and release the tension for about 20 minutes and then I am able to get back at it.

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The Power of Kale

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I did it.
I tried something new in the way of food.

I am usually pretty good in the food department.  Comes from loving to eat I guess, but there are some things in this world that I had not tried yet and Kale was one of them.

I discarded it as a ‘healthy-therefore-it-must-taste-awful’ vegetable.  But I admit when I am wrong and today is one of those days.

Kale isn’t just a healthy vegetable – it is a Super-Duper Healthy Vegetable that has the power to lower cholesterol better than Doctor prescribed medicines (if you want, you can read more of the benefits here) and has a very low GI index which is a boon for diabetics.

So I decided yesterday to buy some Kale and give it a whirl.  Since I had no idea how to cook/prepare it, I googled Kale recipes and found a basic recipe to test drive with some quinoa (another Super Food!).

KaleI must say, I was impressed with the taste as initially, it doesn’t look like something you would want to eat…..like eating the  leaves off the outside of a cauliflower plant, only with curly fringes.  But the taste is similar to broccoli, mild and depending on when it is picked, can be bitter (early in the season) or sweet (allowed to stay in the ground well after frost hits).

Kale SaladBut the salad I made turned out fantastic, of course, it contained avocados (another super food) and if you put avocados in or on anything, it will taste even better.  So now I am a Kale fan and will hunt down other recipes as well as do some experiments of my own.

Perhaps I will have to be brave with other food types that I currently shun i.e. oysters, mussels – uh, nope, forget those.  You can wrap those things up in chocolate and I still wouldn’t eat them.  I will stick to weird looking fruit and veggies…like Dragon Fruit, I have always loved the look of Dragon Fruit.

Oh…You want the recipe for the above yummy looking salad?  Keep scrolling down….

Kale, Quinoa and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

2 Cups roughly chopped Kale
1 Avocado, halved and sliced *
3/4 cup chopped Cucumber
1/2 cup chopped Bell Pepper (any colour)
1/4 cup chopped Green Onions
1 Cup cooked Quinoa (see tip below)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 Tbsp fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Directions

1. Steam kale for 3 minutes on high in a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 cup water; remove, drain and divide Kale evenly among two plates.

2. Divide cooked Quinoa in half and place on top of the Kale, top with remaining veggies.  Add avocado slices sprinkled with additional lemon juice to  keep from browning.

3. In a small bowl, whisk oil, dijon mustard and lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the salad.

Dig in!

Makes 2 servings

(Tip for cooking Quinoa, use chicken, turkey or veggie broth for more flavour!)

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Turkey Enchiladas With Salsa Verde

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I love Mexican food…oh heck.. If you know me at all,  you know that I just love ALL things Mexican (especially when I get to GO there!).  So if you are still up to your ears in leftover turkey, here is a lip-smacking yummy recipe to transform ho-hum turkey leftovers into a fantastic Mexican meal.  Why go out for Mexican food when you can easily make it at home…for cheap (uh…frugal, especially when the January bills start coming in the door)…

Enchiladas de Pavo con Salsa Verde

Ingredients

2 Cups shredded, cooked Turkey (white or dark meat)
2 Cups Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Salsa, home made or store bought), divided in half
8 ~ 6″ Whole Wheat Tortillas
1 Cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/2 Cup chopped, fresh Cilantro (and more for garnish)
1 Jalapeño, seeded and diced (or more to taste)

Directions

1. Combine the shredded Turkey, chopped Cilantro and Jalapeño with 1 cup of the Salsa Verde; mix well.

2. Prepare a baking dish large enough to hold the 8 enchiladas; spray baking dish with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup Salsa Verde on the bottom of the dish.

3. On each tortilla, divide shredded cheese and place into the middle of the tortillas and top with half a cup of the turkey/sauce mixture, top with chopped cilantro.

turkey enchilada_14. Tuck in sides and roll into an enchilada and place seam side down in the baking dish.

5.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup Salsa Verde and more cheese if desired; bake at 350°F for approximately 30 minutes until bubbly, garnish with chopped fresh Cilantro.

Serve with sliced Avocados and Mexican Rice.  Makes 8 enchiladas.

Buen Provecho!

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Staying Healthy During The Holidays

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What is the Hardest Part of the Holidays?

Staying Healthy of course…

As we head into a very stressful time of year with a very hectic schedule ahead.  Make sure you and your family stay healthy over the holiday season by being mindful of holiday stressors that can suddenly creep in to kill the holiday mood.

Fatigue:  Most adults can attest to not getting enough sleep all year long, but throw the madness of holiday time into the mix and you have a good chance of being downright miserable and cranky come December 25th.  So do what I do – nap! Who says naps are just for children?  Even a 30 to 60 minute nap is enough to recharge your batteries to get you through the day.  Make sure you get at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night too.

Over-indulgence:  Yes, it is the holiday season, but it is no reason to totally abandon your healthy meal choices.  Over-indulging not only leads to weight gain, but it will make you miserable in the process and lead to anxiety which leads to sleeplessness, which leads to more misery post-holiday time.  Treat yourself once in a while, but also keep the hummus and carrot sticks handy for when you want a snack.

Exercise:  Just because it is the holidays, doesn’t mean you are allowed to hang up your gym shoes for the month of December.  If you can’t find the time to get to the gym, throw your favourite music CD into the player, crank it up and dance while you vacuum or steal 20 minutes from your day and bundle up to take a brisk walk.  Moving even for just 20 minutes a day will help to keep your muscle tone.

Booze:  Most certainly, for an adult, it can be one of the best (or worst, depends how you look at it) things to happen over the holidays.  Fancy-schmancy martini’s and liqueurs to sample at the many parties to attend can lead to more than just a hangover the next day.  Too much booze isn’t good for the mind or the waistline.  One of the best things to do while at a holiday party is to drink a full glass of water after each cocktail, taking the time to nurse both cocktail and water will ensure you are staying hydrated and sober.  One major rule of the holiday season never to be broken is: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.  Call a cab or have someone be your DD.

De-Stressing Activities:  Make time at the end of your hectic day by taking 30 minutes or so to ‘unwind’.  Walk the dog, do some yoga or pilates, unearth your knitting project or work on that crossword puzzle.  Spending 30 minutes or so to unwind at the end of the day will prepare you for a good nights sleep.

zenPracticing and following through on the above will help you get through the coming days of madness without sacrificing your mind and body…soon it will be over and we will be able to get back into our normal routines…whatever your normal may be!

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This is gonna hurt….

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While the gardens kept me busy throughout the summer, it is time to get back into an exercise routine now that the last of my canning/gardening chores are behind me.  I need to focus on getting my beach bod in shape for my January trip to sunny Mexico, not to mention build some upper body strength to deal with the impending white stuff.

So I pulled my exercise runners and Pilates DVD’s out of mothballed storage and got to work first thing this morning.  After 45 minutes of huffing, puffing and feeling like a bloated cow wearing a size x-small sausage skin, I thankfully was done.

exercise stuffI found out two things.

First….I am out of shape.

Second…. I am very much out of shape.

But I am looking forward to Day Two.  Right now at least.  I know my mind (and body) will have something different to say tomorrow morning.  Therefore I will be looking for some extra motivation once I bounce out of bed with all the energy of a slug.

For those that are faithful gym bunnies, what makes you get up in the morning and hit the gym?  Are there any tips or tricks you have implemented to talk yourself into keeping the exercise momentum going?

At the moment my motivation is my bathing suit for Mexico. I have it taped to the fridge, along with a giant pink pig made from construction paper….hope it works…

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Soup For The Soul

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As the sun lightens the sky this morning, it reveals a low fog that has settled over the lake during the night.  The tree tops of the offshore islands are just barely visible, with nothing to see below but fog.  It blends with the calm waters of the lake making for an eerie and ethereal landscape.  A Blue Jay screams good morning as he lands on the bird feeder, breaking the silence.  Good morning to you too I reply.

With the temperature hovering around 46F and my hands firmly wrapped around my mug of hot tea.  My thoughts wander to soup.  Soup is great for days like these that start off chilly, foggy and damp with dew so thick you can see the large water droplets clinging to the leaves and grass blades.

I am heading to the market this morning and the first thing I will be buying is a butternut squash.  Butternut squash soup is just the ticket to warm you to your toes on frosty, chilly Fall days.  Or how about sweet potatoes?  My Caribbean inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean soup is sure to tantalize your tastebuds and transport you to the islands.

Caribbean Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

What are your favourite soups for Fall?  If you have a really good one to share, write it up below in the comment section as I am always looking for new soup ideas.  They freeze well and you can pull out individual servings for busy lunches on the go.  Bonus points for healthy, cream and fat free recipes!

Go ahead, pull out that soup pot and make your kitchen smell fantastic.

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Preserving and Canning Food Guidelines

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In light of recent news of a jam being responsible for the food poisoning episode last week at Toronto’s annual CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), it shows that even a commercial maker of jam’s and jellies can slip up when making their product.

Home cooks must follow a very strict and rigid set of rules when canning/preserving food for their families to avoid serious illness contracted from bacteria as a result of improper food handling.

I preserve a lot of food for my family, most of it being different types of jams, jellies and tomato products.  I have always taken every precaution in order to ensure food safety for my family.  There are guidelines to follow for canning and preserving food and I would like to remind everyone that preserves their own food, that these quidelines were created for our own safety and well being.

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Rules of Canning and Preserving

1.  Always start with the freshest ingredients, if it is produce, ensure it is washed and inspected for bad spots or mould.  Toss any and all damaged product.

2.  Ensure your work space, utensils and yourself (hands especially) are spic n’ span clean prior to beginning.

3.  Sterilize all canning jars, lids and screw bands as per manufacturers instructions.  This cannot be stressed enough.

4.  Follow recipes to the letter, do not be tempted to omit an item (especially an acid called for in a recipe) because you either forgot to buy it or ran out.  Canning recipes are tested until perfect with ingredients being listed that way for a reason.  Ensure the product is cooked to the exact specifications called for.

5. Fill jars with prepared product to the required headspace, wipe rims with a clean cloth before placing on the lids.  Screw bands down until fingertip tight.

6. Process jars in a water canning bath for the exact time called for in the recipe, same with pressure cookers, do not be tempted to shorten the time because you are running out of time.

7.  Ensure all jars are properly sealed before storing.  Any jars that have not sealed, either re-process or store in the fridge and use within a week.

There are several Home Canning books available from the maker’s of the glass canning jars (Ball and Bernardin), so do yourself a favour and head to your local bookstore to obtain one, better safe than sorry is my motto!

We live in a highly civilized country with the technology and know-how to ensure we do not eat contaminated food.  The 150 or so people that fell ill at the CNE deserved to be served food that was safe and it is disappointing to see things like this still happen in our country.

Following these tried and true rules will ensure your family is safe from food borne illnesses and not become another statistic.

Ok, the lecture is over.  You may continue on with your day.

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