Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lentil "Chili" with Quinoa.

I've been kind of on a quinoa kick lately. I love these little grains! On the nutritious point of view it's one of the healthiest, very high in protein and fiber. And it tastes really good, almost nutty and buttery kinda flavor. Plus, it's gluten-free so since I always try to eat at least one gluten-free meal a day quinoa is a good option.
I also always try to eat at least one meat-free meal a day. I used to be totally vegetarian, but I really like chicken and fish so I went back. But I don't HAVE to have meat at every meal. I don't crave red meat all that often. Lentils is one of my main sources of protein. I have at least 3 bags of different types of lentils in the pantry and I used them in a lot of stuff. Soups, stews, stir frys... They're so easy to cook and you don't have to soak them like beans and chick peas. And those little things are so high in fiber also and protein and iron, and they have no fat. Love that!
Ok so this meal was totally done in a freestyle fashion:
(I should mention this is enough for 2 people)

I cooked the quinoa in water with a pinch of salt and a couple sprigs of thyme. To cook quinoa it's 1 part grains 2 parts liquid. Let the liquid boil, throw the quinoa in, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until cooked. Easy as pie.
Meanwhile, I chopped one medium onion, one green chili pepper, one clove garlic and sauteed them in oil for 5 minutes with salt and pepper. Then I added 1/4 cup red lentils, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1/2 small can tomato juice to start, if you see you need more by all means...(I thought 1/2 can was enough though), cumin, cinnamon, red chili flakes and molasses to cut the acidity of the tomato!!. I then let it simmer until the lentils were cooked. If you see you need more liquid add a bit of water, or more tomato juice(unless, like me, you drank the rest of the can...). Check seasonning and pour over quinoa. Shredded cheese to tame the heat a bit and Oh My was that ever nice!

This would be a really nice pasta sauce too!

for a little info on quinoa:
Quinoa on FoodistaQuinoa

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cheddar-Jalapeno Bread with a Quinoa Twist

I've been thinking about making this bread for a few days now. Now that I understand the process and the necessary ingredients and how they work, you can expect a lot of bread on this website!!

This is totally my own recipe. I kinda went into it blindly, and hoped it would work. And boy did it work! I'm eating a slice as I type this and I can't believe how good it turned out. I actually got the idea from a bakery I used to work at in Lake Louise, we used to get cheddar and jalapeno bagels. I looooved them! With cream cheese, wow. And jam? Even better. Or both...And of course just by itself, toasted with butter. This bread doesn't taste the same of course(bread and bagels are totally different in texture!). I put some quinoa in it and that comes out really subtle but obvious when you know it's there. The jalapeno is not too spicy at all, I only put in one just to be safe, but when I make this bread again I'll use 2. The cheddar taste also is veeeeery subtle. I used mild marble cheddar so next time I'll get a stronger cheese. But trust me, it's awesome like this too! The texture is very soft, the oil in the cheese did it's job!!

So here's the "formula":

4 cups bread flour(3 white, 1 whole wheat)
1/2 cup quinoa flakes(available at health food stores)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 TBSP canola oil
1 1/2 cups warm water, at 120F
1 cup cheddar cheese(*little trick: toss in about a teaspoon of flour in the cheese so it doesn't clump together...)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped.

Mix the flour, quinoa, yeast salt and sugar in a big bowl.
Heat up the water at 120F, add oil and pour in the flour mixture while stirring with a fork. If it seems too dry add more water, if it's too wet add flour. When it starts to form a ball transfer to a floured surface and knead until it starts getting smooth. Add the cheese and the jalapeno, and knead more until it's all incorporated. When it's nice and smooth with the consistency of an earlobe put the dough ball in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until double. This one only took 45 minutes.
*A good way to speed things up: turn on the oven and put the bowl on it. My stove top gets kinda hot, that helps the rising process!

When it's risen enough punch it down gently, turn into a floured work surface and knead again for no more than a minute and very gently, all the while shaping it into a short and thinck kinda log. Now you can either put it on an oiled baking sheet and bake it as a rustic-looking loaf, or do the pan thing, like I did. In an oil-sprayed 9x5 loaf pan. Loosely cover with plastic and let rise again until doubled, it took this one 30 minutes(again, on the hot stove top...). Before sending it to the oven brush with eggwhite or milk, or butter, or nothing...I did eggwhites. It's just a fantasy, really, not essential. It changes the look and texture of the crust.
Bake it at 375 for 30-35 minutes, when it's done it'll sound hollow when tapped and thermometer will read 180F. Let it cool on a rack.
As you can see my pretty baby here got really big!(and lopsided because my floors are not quite even...)

Sandwiches this week are gonna rock!

I will submit this to yeastspotting for next week!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Onion and Chicken Soup with Mushrooms and Spinach.

Mother Nature is acting up today. April 27th, it's snowing. Personnaly I don't mind it so much because it is late april, it's gonna melt and tomorrow we'll be running in shorts again. But, today, it feels like late november. And in late november I make soups and stews and comforting hot meals. So the snow outside inspired me to make this awesome chicken soup loaded with onions and mushrooms. Earthy and delicate.

I already had cooked chicken in the freezer so I used that.
I started by sauteeing one big leek and one big yellow onion in oil and a little butter, for about 5 minutes. Then added about a cup of mushrooms and 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, a bay leaf, couple sprigs of fresh thyme and dried chili flakes. Sauteed for another 2 minutes, added chicken stock(3 cups)and simmered until the onions were well cooked. About 15 minutes...
At the end I threw in the cooked chicken, 2 cups chopped baby spinach and 1/4 cup chives, let it all heat up and done!

With bread on the side, that's a pretty decent lunch.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Unexpected Berry Crumble.

This is one of my favorite things to make when I have a craving for fancy dessert but it's too late to bake a cake. I had no plans of making this tonight but after a rather spicy stir fry I felt like having a sweet fruit dessert. It's super easy to make, and very easy to change from time to time. And also you can make it in individual baking ramekins so that way there's no temptation for seconds and you're not "stuck" to eat it for days afterwards...

The crumble mixture also is the easiest thing, it doesn't even have to be THAT precise, use more butter if you want a soft crust or more oats for a cruchier one. And it can stay in the fridge for a few days if you don't use it all. It can even make a good base for date squares. I don't remember where I got the recipe though. I think it was from a Food Network show, may have been Anna Olson's or Ina Garten's, I don't know... I scribbled it down on a piece of paper and kept it in one of the many baking books I own:

1 cup flour(i used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter(about 8 tablespoons), cut into cubes
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix everything together with a fork or a pastry cutter until it ressembles coarse crumbs:

For the fruit underneath the possibilities are endless. Whatever you got is fine. For this one I used a mix of berries, frozen because it's not berry season yet. The only thing to remember here is to give the fruit a little boost! A little sugar, cinnamon, squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of flour to thicken the juice given by the fruit. If you like the crumble really juicy use veeeeery little flour or none at all(I omit the flour when cooking with apples, but frozen fruit always give out more liquid...) This is why I love making these: no need to measure!!

Bake it at 375F for about 25-30 minutes, until it becomes bubbly. Then what I do is turn on the broiler and let it brown a bit and crisp up...but if you do this don't walk away from the oven!!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Beets is one of my favorite vegetables, but I rarely eat them. I almost never buy canned veggies or pickled stuff, so when I pick up beets at the grocery store it's always in a bag, or sometimes in a bunch with the leaves still on. But it takes so long to cook! And I seem to always forget I have them. They sit in the bottom drawer and end up rotting. Tonight I had to throw out half of the bag 'cause of blue stuff growing on them. Yuk. But I salvaged the rest and cooked them all. The easiest way obviously to cook those gems are in boiling water, but like anything else, they end up losing a lot of nutrients with that water. So I baked them in the oven. It takes around 45-50 minutes, for cubes of about 2 cm. in diameter. All you gotta do is peel, cube, lay on foil with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and some herb(i used thyme. it goes with everything!). Fold up the foil around the beets just a little, leaving a big opening at the top, and bake at 400F for, like I said, 45-50 minutes. So delicious!
For this salad I used baby romaine, green onions, feta(surprise, surprise...), flat-leaf parsley and chopped roasted pecans.
For the dressing, I made a honey-balsamic vinaigrette:

1 TBSP honey
small squeeze dijon mustard (just to help bind everything...)
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/2 TBSP lemon juice
2-3 TBSP olive oil
cracked black pepper

I mixed all the greens and feta and nuts, with some of the dressing, and added the still kinda hot beets on top so everything kinda whilted and warmed-up a bit. Poured the rest of the vinaigrette, big squeeze of lemon juice and more pepper.

I should definetly eat beets more often...

*on a side note, i've been trying different settings on my camera, so it's totally normal those 2 pictures have different lightings... :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oatmeal-Walnut Bread

This is now my basic bread recipe. I know I always say this everytime... but it's sooooo good!! And really easy. It takes a while to make though, 2 hours total rising plus the baking but it's so worth it!! It makes a BIG loaf, it's healthy and you can add stuff to it. Perfect for my "type" of baking.

This recipe comes from here. The "original" had fruit and almonds in it, I used only walnuts because I had a bit too many left over and nothing's worse than having to throw out a bag of walnuts because they went bad. So walnut bread it is. I made the recipe exactly the same as it was on "Food for Poems", but next time I'm gonna try to tweak it with a different kind of oat and maybe I'll add fruits, maple syrup instead of honey would probably work too, who knows...I'm beginning to understand this yeast chemistry thing...

3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp salt
2 tsp rapid-rise yeast

1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 TBSP butter
1 1/4-1 1/2 cup warm water, at 120F.(start with 1 1/4 and add if necessary...)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts.

Throw all the flour, oats, yeast and salt in a big bowl and mix it.
In a different bowl mix warm water, honey and butter and add to the flour mix slowly while stirring with a big fork(or with the dough hook of a mixer).
Ditch the fork and knead on a well floured surface until nice and smooth, about 5-8 minutes. Add the nuts towards the end of that process. Make sure they get all the way to the middle of the dough, knead knead knead...
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish rag and let it rise for 1-1 1/2 hours, until doubled.



Punch it down!

Take it out of the bowl and form into a loaf, but no hardcore kneading!! Gentle...
Place on an oiled baking sheet and let it rise again until doubled, another hour or so...I covered it loosely with plastic wrap.

This is the "after" result:

Bake at 350F on the middle rack for about 35 minutes.
Internal temperature will be 180-190F and it'll sound hollow when tapped.

Cool on a rack, wait at least 30 minutes before slicing(THIS is the hard part, actually...).

I have a feeling I'll be making french toast for breakfast tomorrow...

The walnuts here add a really nice crunch. Not to mention some healthy protein and fats!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More than just coleslaw...

Cabbage is one of the heathiest vegetable. Vitamin C, folic acid, cancer-fighting agents, etc. And the red is twice as high in vitamin as the green cabbage. The brighter the food the better. That's what the nutritionists always say, right? Red purple, bright red, dark green, orange, we should all eat food of bright colors! All from nature of course because red jelly beans don't count.. :)
I bought a red cabbage a few days ago, because I try to eat as colorful as possible, but also because it's great in salads. And the great thing about this type of salad is that it stays good for quite a while even with the dressing in it. It even gets better with time...Plus, the cabbage itself keeps for a while in the crisper. I don't know if it's the "proper" place to store it but it won't go bad for a few weeks, wrapped in plastic in the bottom drawer.
So at first I was gonna make just coleslaw with ONLY that cabbage and a red wine vinegar dressing, but I got carried away and added a bunch of other good stuff.

Ingredients(don't know the exact quantities, I didn't measure...):
Red cabbage, carrots, celeri, yellow pepper, flat-leaf parsley, golden raisins.
Sadly I was out of green onions, otherwise there would have been green onions in there.

1 TBSP dijon
1-2 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP orange juice
Extra virgin olive oil, however much you'll need...
For dressings I usually mix everything except the oil until it's homogenised, then add the oil while whisking and emulsify slowly until it looks good enough, and adjust it if need be.

This is so much better than just plain coleslaw, the raisins bring some sweetness to it, and the o.j. in the dressing brightens everything up.

Try it you won't be disapointed!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zucchini Bread

Back from an amazing week-end in Quebec City! For details of my swimming races go to my other blog.
Now on to today's recipe. I actually made this last thursday to bring to the meet and share, along with the protein bars, which were well liked I might say...And very usefull before and after tough races!! This bread too was good to have on hand, low in fat, high in protein and super tasty!

I love making breads like this because it's easy(as opposed to "real" bread where yeast can play tricks on you...), and it makes a great snack! This one is a zucchini bread, adapted from my favorite healthy baking recipe book by Sarah Philips.
I just now had the last piece and 4 days later it's still moist and so amazing, I think I'll make another one later today, since I gave almost all of it away!!
Okay, so here's what you need:

Dry stuff:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup quinoa flakes, or oats.
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt

Wet stuff:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened appelsauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 TBSP canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of one lemon(or orange would be good in here, too!)

1- 1 1/2 cup shredded zucchini(the more zucchini the "wetter" the bread...)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cut chopped walnuts

-Heat oven at 350F, place rack in the middle, oil-spray a 9x5in loaf pan.
-Mix all dry stuff, set aside.
-In another bowl, beat all the wet stuff until frothy.
-Pour the wet stuff in the dry stuff, mix until just humid. Add zucchinis, nuts and raisins, mix to combine but no over-mixing!!
-Spread the batter gently in the pan, and bake for 55-60 minutes. When it's ready the loaf will spring back when you press on it, and a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean.
-Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then unmold and cool on the same wire rack.
-Try to fight the temptation to dig in right away, it will fall apart if it's too hot, this bread is so moist and tender!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Almond-Chocolate Protein Bars.

Being a pretty active person I have to say I spend a lot of money on protein bars. Well, I should say USED TO because I found a great recipe to make them at home for 5 bucks a pan rather than 5 bucks for 2 bars with an ingredient list longer than my arm. I found this recipe here on Georgie's website. Go check it out, it's a great website with nice recipes, a lot of info about nutrition and all health related stuff!
Anyway. So as I mentionned a few posts ago, there's a big meet this week-end, out of town, so I'm planning ahead and bringing a lot of baked goods, for me and my teammates. I wonder if I can bribe the timers and judges too...? Hehe...Probably not...

Ok, so I made 2 batches of these bars, one like the original with peanut butter, and the other one I tweaked it and made it all almond. Both chocolate because I used chocolate protein powder, but I'm sure they would work with vanilla or something else. They both turned out very nice. The peanut butter one looked exactly like the original(how often does THAT happen?), and my tweaked-out version looks like a fancy chocolate dessert!

The great thing with these too is that you can freeze them and pop them in a micro-wave for 30sec after a work-out and it's good to go. Portions also may vary, I cut them into 10 bars per pan, since I want to share(!) but also for between swimming races it needs to stay "lighter"...
So, here's the recipe, I urge you all to try and make them them, it's easy and so delicious, taste almost like cake, but packed with protein and healthy fats.
Go to Georgie's site for the "original", and here's my different kinda version:

1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/4 cup egg whites(you can buy egg whites in a carton at the store. great for omelettes to have on hand!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

1/3 cup chocolate WHEY protein powder(no soy, please...there's alredy soy milk in here!)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar(or Splenda, if you have it...)
1/4 milled flax seeds
1 TBSP whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 TBSP ground almonds
1 TBSP cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

6 TBSP almond butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds, preferably(but not necessary)toasted.

-Oven on at 350F, oil spray an 8in square pan.
-Heat oats and soymilk in microwave for 60secs. Let it cool a bit.
-Meanwhile, mix whey protein, sugar, flax mill, flour and almond mill, coco powder, baking powder and salt.
-Now the oatmeal mix should be cool enough, mix in the egg whites, vanilla and almond extract.
-Pour the wet in the dry and mix until combined but don't overmix.
-Spoon the almond butter over and spread it around with a fork.
-Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top.
-Bake for 10 minutes, the centre will still be a little jiggly but they will firm as they cool.
*Once they completely cooled, sliced and wrap in plastic to preserve freshness. Plus, it's practical to just grab out of the fridge/freezer and bring to the gym/pool for later...

Thanx again Georgie for this amazing recipe! They will now be on my weekly baking list for sure!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spinach Salad with Peas and Feta and other good stuff.

This salad is awesome. It has a lot of my favorites in it: spinach, feta, sundried tomatoes...I've been making this a lot lately. A few secondary ingredients change from time to time, depending on what I got, but it pretty much always tastes the same.

I really like using baby spinach in salads. They come in packs already washed, so it's quick. And the nutrion values of that leafy green is no secret, right?
If you've been following this blog you know by now how much I love feta and sundried tomatoes, so I won't get into that again.. ;) Lots of those in this salad!
And then there's the green peas. Lovely frozen green peas ready to use anytime in anything, rich in fiber and protein. Great for vegetarians.
What else is in there?? Green onions, leftover cooked millet from a few nights ago (grains in salalds is genius! throw in some barley or rice or couscous, combined with the peas it's a complete protein!!), and some cucumber also is in here.

For the vinegrette it's pretty simple:
*1 tsp each of honey and dijon mustard (could be more, just taste and adjust to your tastebuds!!)
*1 TBSP each of lemon juice and red wine vinegar
*5-6 TBSP extra virgin olive oil.
(i like vinegrettes very vinegery so I always use less oil than the traditional 1 part vinegar 3 parts oil ratio.)
Mix in everything but the oil until well combined, add olive oil 2 TBSP at a time and whisk with a fork or one of those mini whisk thingy until it's all nicely emulsified...add salt and pepper to taste. This will be enough for a couple of BIG salalds or 3-4 small ones.
Homemade dressing are so easy to make and so much better than the chemical filled storebought stuff!

Tastes like summer....
Spinach on Foodista

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peach-Pecan Banana Muffins.

I've never been one to follow recipes very well. I love cook books and food blogs but I use them as inspiration rather that strict guidelines. I always change things, substitute or add. For cooking it doesn't really make huge differences but when it comes to baking recipes, one really has to know what will replace what in a recipe. You can't just, say, replace butter with oil. The consistency is different; the butter molecules interact with the sugar to make those little bubbles, oil won't!! Same thing for sugar v/s honey. It's a little tricky and it takes a few trials and errors to find out what works. Or a good cook book that explains it all...
Today I wanted to use up 2 very ripe bananas in either a banana bread or more muffins. I chose to bake muffins. I'll make a quickbread of some kind tomorrow or the day after anyway, I have a big swim meet this week-end and I need some yummy low-fat, high protein and healthy eats for in-between races.
Ok, so. Back to baking. Same as my cooking habits, I love switching things up in goodies as well. Muffins are great for that. And so is my most favorite book, again, "Healthy Oven"...(I'm gonna slowly bake my way through this thing I can feel it!!). The recipes in there are well explained, and substitutions are easy to make. This recipe is actually quite different than the original, so let's say it's "loosely adapted from...".


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour(o 1 1/2 cup TOTAL of the same kind of flour...doesn't really matter. just NO bread flour!!)
1/2 cup quick oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 ripe bananas, smashed up.(or as the recipe called for, 3/4 cup applesauce. fruit purees act in a similar way as butter with the sugar because of the's all chemistry, right?)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 TBSP canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried peaches, cut up in small pieces
1/2 cup roasted UNSALTED pecans
*or, as you might have guessed, any other type of fruit and/or nuts you wish...

Set oven at 350F, rack in the middle, oil-spray muffin tins.
Mix all dry ingredients, set aside.
Mix all wet ingredients, beat/whisk until slightly frothy, for about 2 minutes.
Add wet to dry, with fruits and nuts, mix until just combined, without overmixing!
*Here it will seem very wet, but it's all good. Put a baking sheet under the muffin tray in case it spills!
Scoop into muffin tins, bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes and unmold carefully to a cooling rack.

**Today, I somehow forgot to set the timer...oups...but I kinda remembered the time it was when I put them in, it was half way through The Bold and The Beautiful(...i know...), so I was able to wing it...they came out fine.
This will give you about 9-10 muffins.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Macaroni with Creamy Leek Sauce.

Here's another freestyle meal. It was originally gonna be mac and cheese but I remembered I had leeks kicking around in the fridge so I changed it to this. Instead of a rich cheese sauce I kept it simple with an easy bechamel/alfredo type sauce. It really hit the spot I tell ya'. And it took only about 30 minutes total to prepare. Not the healthiest(in the end I think I used about 3 tablespoons of butter...yikes!) but in my defense(...) I used "smart" pasta, low-fat milk and UNsalted butter. I had a bit of a sugar overload yesterday so this salty and very peppery meal kinda balanced eveything.

First, get some water boiling for the pasta. Finely cut 1 medium leek, it will be about 2 cups. Seems like a lot but they will shrink when cooked! But if you want less by all means...I just really love leeks! Slice 1-2 cloves of garlic.(Oh and btw this was just me eating so for 2 people double the quantities). Sautee in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter, on medium heat, with salt, pepper and 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, until tender. Cover to help keep the moisture in.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour, stir and add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of milk. Simmer very gently while stirring often, until the sauce starts to thicken. You might need to add a bit more flour, a bit more butter, and/or a bit more milk, just eyeball it...When it hits the consistency you want throw in some parmesan, about 1/4 cup, add the cooked pasta, stir it all to get the noodles all coated, check for seasonning, add more parm on top, freshly cracked black pepper, and it's done!

That's some good comfort food.

*I could've done the breadcrumb topping thing in the oven but I thought of it too time!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mmmm,...Fresh Bread...

I'm happy to say I'm no longer afraid of bread...After that successful Focaccia, and another one last week(didn't post it due to lack of good pictures...), I'm now totally hooked! I still have a lot to learn but from now on I'll bake my own bread. It's so much nicer to have home made bread where you know EXACTLY what's in it, as opposed to the grocery store's perfect-looking loaves but less-than-perfect ingredient list...And it's so gratifing to make, say a simple grilled cheese sandwich with bread that YOU made. I love it. And also the taste is incomparable.

So, lately I've been searching a lot of websites for easy recipes, looked through some books, even got one as a present from a team mate(Thanx Mary!:)) I found some very interesting info and this website ,
where I got this recipe. It's one of the easiest and versatile.
Here it goes:

For 2 loaves(I only made one, so I cut the ingredients in half...)

6-6 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or half whole wheat half AP, which is what I did.
*if you use ALL whole wheat flour it's be REALLY dense. The AP softens it a bit...
3 TBSP sugar
2 envelopes RapidRise Yeast(1 envelope=2 1/4 tsp)
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 TBSP butter

First of all, mesure the ingredients, if using 2 kinds of flour keep them in 2 different bowls. In another bowl combine 2 1/2 cup flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Heat the water, milk and butter until it hits 120F, no more than 130F. Gradually add this mix to the flour&yeast mix and stir.(If you have a stand mixer, good for you, do it in the mixer...but I used a fork and it worked fine. Again...think of all the french boulangers in the 19th century who never had mixers...)
So when it starts feeling like a batter add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating whole wheat and AP if you chose that route. This is where I ditch the fork and use my hands. Nothing like a little manual labor!! So, when it starts to feel like a dough take it out of the bowl on a lightly floured surface and knead, knead, knead, addding flour as necessary(i didn't use all the flour required), and knead until the dough gets to the consistency of an ear lobe(i don't remember where I heard this...but it's a good tip...). Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes(time to clean up a bit and get the loaf pan ready...). Oh, and divide it in half, if you're making the full recipe.
Roll each half into approximately a 12x7in rectangle. At one of the shorter end, start rolling tighly as if making jelly rolls. Pinch the ends and tuck underneath. Place in a 8x4 or 9x5* oiled loaf pan, seam down, cover loosely and let it rise in a warm place for 1- 1 1/2 hour, until doubled in size. I find that turning the oven on at 170F(the lowest on mine)and putting the pan on the cheminee(top right burner) works great.
(*for half of this recipe I find my 9x5 pan is a little too big, the dough doesn't rise above the rim, but it still makes a good bread. I guess a smaller pan would make a taller loaf).


Bake at 400F for 30 minutes, in the middle of the oven. An instant thermometer will read 190-200F at the centre, or if you dont have a thermometer tap the top if it sounds hollow it's done.
Take out of the pan immediately and cool on a rack.

This bread makes great toasts, the crust gets really, um...crusty...and the inside stays moist. Tastes great with nothing on it, but even better with butter.

Cheers, and start baking!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lemon Bars with Blueberries and Coconut.

I've been wanting to make lemon bars for a while now. I've seen many recipes online and in books for them and they always look sooooooo good! I love lemons, anything lemons really so...And it just so happens I bought fresh lemons at the grocery store earlier. Perfect timing. So I looked in my "healthy oven" book for a healthy version, but there was none in there, so I turned to a "regular" recipe (from a book called "basic baking"), with lots of sugar and real butter... but hey, a girl deserves a treat once in a while!
I tweaked the recipe a bit from the original by adding blueberries and coconut. I actually got THAT idea from the coffee house I used to work at in Whistler, we were making lemon bars similar to these with cranberries. But since I didn't have cranberries I settled for blueberries. Turned out great! And they're very easy to make. And even more easy to eat...


for the bottom layer::
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP dark brown sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter

for the top layer::
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP flour
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut(plus 1-2 TBSP for the top)


-Preheat the oven at 350F and set the rack in the middle.
-Make the bottom layer: mix flour, salt, both kinds of sugar and lemon zest. Cut the butter in small pieces and add to the flour mix. With a pastry cutter or two kinves, or in the food processor if you have one(i do, but I like to do it by grandma never had a food processor...), blend until the butter is about the size of little peas. Transfer to an UNGREASED non-stick 8inch square pan and press with a spatula and get everything even. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
-Make the bottom layer: beat the 3 eggs, add sugar, salt, lemon juice and mix well. Add the blueberries and coconut and mix in( the color will change, obviously...). Incorporate the flour (here because I used frozen fruit I added 1 1/2 TBSP of flour...).
-Pour the lemon mixture in the pan over the bottom layer, sprinkle a bit more coconut on top and bake for 45-50 minutes. When it's done, the top will be golden brown and the middle will be firm when you jiggle the pan.
This picture is not the clearset but here's what it looks like when just out of the oven:

-Let it cool on a rack and wait until completely cooled before cutting into bars.

*If you make these for a special occasion, or if you feel fancy, sift some powdered sugar on the top. This always masks the imperfections. I didn't bother with this because...well I just couldn't be bothered really.
These are SO GOOD! It's very lemony; sweet and tangy perfect for spring!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Saturday morning is usually muffin baking morning. I always make the same recipe but this morning I was out of appelsauce and maple syrup, 2 major ingredients in this favorite recipe. But I had 2 ripe bananas and plenty of brown sugar so I looked through another one of my favorite baking books called "Biscuits et Muffins"(in french)by Marg Ruttan, and found a banana oatmeal muffin recipe. Perfect.

(now THAT'S a Muffin top!!)

Start by pre-heating the oven at 375F and grease muffins mold.
This recipe will yield about 9-10 big muffins.

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, or whole wheat pastry flour.
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup brown sugar(or regular white sugar, but I prefer brown sugar with banana recipes...)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg(magical with bananas, seriousy.)

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter or canola oil
3/4 cup milk
1 cup very ripe bananas, smashed into a puree.(about 2-3 bananas)

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

-Mix all the dry ingredients, set aside
-Beat the eggs, then add the rest of the wet ingredients.
-Pour the wet in the dry, with chocolate chips, mix until just combined, without overmixing.
-Bake for 20-22 minutes
-Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, demold and cool on a wire rack.

*To make sure the muffins don't break when you take them out, put a cookie sheet on top, flip it and shake the pan a bit to make them come out. It might take a few minutes but that way you won't end up with separate tops and stumps.
**These muffins are very moist and tender, so be careful when they're hot, handle them gently...
***Also they freeze well, but make sure they are completely cooled before freezing, wrap in plastic wrap and in a anti-freeze ziploc.

This morning I couldn't help myself I had 2 of them(it's ok, I'm swimming later...). They go really good with coffee.

Happy Easter week-end!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I don't how to call this one...brown rice gratin? ok.. Brown Rice Gratin.

This is a perfect example of freestyle cooking. Tonight i had NO idea where I was going with this, I just kinda made this dish up as I was going along. I knew I wanted something with rice, brown rice, so as that was cooking I kinda startd chopping veggies with the intention of a stir fry, then I had the idea of turning it into a gratin. A little cheese never hurt anybody right? Everything tastes better with cheese anyway. So I think I ended up with something pretty darn good.

Here's how it happened:
First, I cooked the brown rice. Toasted it first in a bit of butter(unsalted butter!) and added 3 parts of water. I knew it was gonna be a little too much but that water can be used to add moisture to the stri fry. Meawhile, I shredded half a zucchini(it was a big zucchini...), chopped about 1/2 a cup of mushrooms. couple of green onions, clove of garlic and 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley. When the rice seemed to be almost done I started sauteing the veggies in grapeseed oil, added salt, pepper, paprika and cajun spices. As I had thought the rice was done with a little extra liquid at the bottom, I threw all that in and cokked for a few minutes. That would have been awsome on its own. But the cheese! So I threw the rice mix in an oven proof dish, mixed in a couple big pinches of parm in it, stirred and topped it with about 1/3 cup shredded Montrey Jack queso. In the oven at 425 for about 10 minutes to make the cheese melt,(in the meantime the dishes are done...)broil for 5 minutes to give it a crisp and voila! Oh and to be fancy I sprinkled dried parsley on top. Restaurant habits die hard...
Pretty good diner. Also, the brown rice and the cheese together make a complete protein, so it's a great vegetarian meal!