Monday, June 17, 2013

Baby greens and herbs with balsamic vinaigrette

I love salad. Not because its healthy but because I really just like salad. Give me some nice, light lettuce with some crunchy veggies and maybe some cheese of some kind, with a dressing that makes your lips pucker (none of those sweet creamy ones for me thank you) and I could eat the whole bowl. When we were kids we always had homemade vinaigrettes with our salads. One of my brothers would wait until everyone had taken their portion, then he would hold up the bowl and ask if anyone wanted any more and hardly waiting to hear the answer he would take his fork and polish off whatever was left. We are a family of salad lovers. Perhaps it is the French influence? Who knows. Whatever it is, thank you to my parents for instilling it :)

These days I love to go to the garden and grab a couple handfuls of various colours of lettuce and greens, some herbs and throw it all together for a quick side salad to whatever we're eating. Lettuce grows well when its cool and tends to get bitter quickly once the weather warms up, so I am hoping to take advantage of this prime lettuce weather while it lasts. Here are some pics from my garden of what went into the salad, with the recipe for my go-to vinaigrette. I just picked a bunch of baby lettuce, baby chard, basil and parsley, and tore up the herbs a bit to spread out the flavour.

Variety of baby lettuce 

Rainbow chard!

Basil and Italian parsley flourishing on the deck

Getting to the plate


Balsamic vinaigrette

This recipe packs some flavour punch. If you like a milder dressing, add more oil and less garlic.  Feel free to dress it up differently with some chopped shallots or whatever herbs are in season - mint complements nicely!

2/3 cups good quality olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped

Simply combine in a pourable, storable jar or container and shake it up!  Use to taste with any salad, with greens or another favourite - quinoa salad. 

Lunch: baby greens with vinaigrette, chicken soup from my mom, cheese and Sophie's leftover granola bar.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Homemade granola and yogurt

Yesterday, in what can only be a fit of insanity after my wonderful toddler opted to scream for an hour instead of nap, I decided to hit the kitchen and make not one but four recipes, granola, chocolate oat drop cookies, granola bars and homemade yogurt. On the heels of three days of sweeping out closets, spot cleaning the kitchen floor, cleaning windowsills and a weird trip to the grocery store where I found myself stocking up on Kraft dinner, tuna and licorice, I think we can safely say that at 37 weeks of pregnancy I am in that stage they call "nesting"... Even though the baby's room is only half-finished with walls that need a second coat of paint and, well... a floor, Baby #2 could arrive any time and we'll have a full pantry at least!

One of my favourite breakfasts is granola, yogurt and fresh fruit. It also makes a great healthy snack! The store-bought versions of granola tend to be full of sugar and fillers of all kinds. Even with some sweetener added, homemade granola is full of nutritious goodness when packed with whole grains, seeds and nuts,and makes for a hearty breakfast that stays with you until lunch. Granola is actually very forgiving; using oats as the base you can add your own combination of nuts, seeds, bran/coconut/dried fruit depending on your taste and what you have in your cupboard.


I usually halve this recipe from, with a few tweaks based on what I have on hand, but this recipe is the simplified version that I use as a base when I make granola now. You just need to keep the approximate proportion of dry ingredients to sweet/wet to help it stick together. Flax and chia seeds both add to the stickiness factor when soaked in an equivalent amount of water for 10 minutes before adding to the mix.

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups nuts and/or seeds
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup wheat bran or crushed bran cereal
2 tbsp oil
6 tbsp liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave syrup)
1-2 tsp ground spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom)
5 tbsp ground or whole flaxseed (and/or chia seeds) soaked in 5 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup dried fruit (raisins, chopped apricots, dried cranberries or blueberries...)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Toss all the dry ingredients EXCEPT dried fruit in a large bowl, the top with the wet ingredients and flavourings. Combine well and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Use a silicone baking sheet if you have it! It's my new favourite kitchen thing - it makes cleaning pans SO much easier. Bake for about 30-40 mins, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set somewhere to cool. Wait until it has cooled before you stir it, that way you'll have those nice crunchy chunks. Stir in dried fruit and store in an airtight container or bag.

The Yogurt

It's not as hard as you think! You can use a yogurt maker, but here is what I do almost weekly. You can use a lower fat milk, but it makes for a thinner yogurt. Embrace the fat!  Also feel free to multiply the recipe if you feel you'll use it up. You can use homemade yogurt as a starter for the next batch, but it will only work a few times before the bacteria seem to weaken or something. Fresh yogurt is the best starter.

1 L whole milk 
1 tbsp new plain yogurt (I use Balkan style)

Scald the milk gently in a medium sized saucepan. Set the timer for about 15 mins at a time so you don't forget about it. Let the milk cool until its still warm/hot but you can still stick your finger in for up to 20 seconds without it being too hot (about 115° if you have a thermometer).  Stir in a spoonful of new plain yogurt and pour into a jar or container. Cover and let sit in a warm place for about 8 hours. I put it in the oven with the light on, or you can also put it in a cooler with a hot water bottle. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Note: If you use the oven-with-light-on method, make sure to mark the oven somehow so that you won't turn the oven on to preheat for something else and have the high heat subsequently ruin the yogurt and/or container with a plastic lid... I learned this the hard way. (About 4 times - hello pregnancy brain!) Word to the wise - hang something on the dial or a noticeable equivalent that will stop you in your tracks and make you take out said yogurt before ruination occurs. 

Here are two other places that explain how to do it:

David Lebovitz

Chocolate and Zucchini

Today's breakfast - Granola with yogurt and nectarines.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

German Apple Pie

This isn't really a pie, and I'm not sure what makes it German, but this is what it's called!  It's a quick and easy hot breakfast for those mornings when you want more than toast or cereal but don't want to slave over a hot griddle. It makes enough for three, or two plus leftovers. Growing up my dad would make this all the time, and doubling the recipe would feed all 6 of us no problem. Hubby loves it and our toddler likes it if she's not being a diva...

1/4 cup butter/margarine
2 apples, peeled and sliced
4 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk

Optional (depending if you're feeling like sweet or savory)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt butter in pie plate in the microwave, then layer the apple slices on top. 

Whisk together eggs, milk and flour. You can add your optional flavourings now, or sprinkle over the top later. 

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the top of the apples. You will see little pools of butter on the edges - works wonders towards a crunchy and delicious crust! 

If you opted to wait to sprinkle cheese or cinnamon/sugar on top, now is the time!

Bake for 20-25 minutes, and enjoy while it's smoking hot! We were halfway through this one before I remembered to take a photo of the finished product... 

Add this one to the regular breakfast rotation - especially on chilly gray mornings!