Green? Smoothie Recipe

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My “green” smoothie…how are you starting your day? 2 kale leaves, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup of walnuts, 1 cup of water & 1/2 cup of Fruit D’or’s cranberry-blueberry-cherry juice. Blend well (I use my NutriBullet) and enjoy!!

Maple Syrup On A Stick

In honour of family day and the fact that maple syrup season is just around the corner I thought for today’s “recipe” I would post about making maple syrup taffy. If you have ever been to a sugar bush you may have tried this tasty treat. If you live in a region where you have access to a sugar bush, yet have never been, what are you waiting for??? Our family usually hits at least two every season. It’s probably one of our most consistent traditions. Our kids could probably do the tour at the one sugar bush we hit every season.

You can find lots of recipes on the internet. Our family’s only requires, maple syrup, fresh snow, and a few mistakes for good tasting.

So onto the fun!

What you’ll need:

  • Pure Maple Syrup – no ifs ands or buts, it needs to be the real thing
  • Freshly fallen snow. You are going to be consuming this, you want the fresh stuff!!
  • A candy thermometer can be very useful, but is optional
  • A pot, Pyrex measuring cup, plates or cookie sheet
  • A spoon, and popsicle sticks if you have them, we’ve even used chopsticks.

The “technique”:

  • Bring about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of maple syrup to a boil. I prefer a slower boil as I can keep a better eye on it and it doesn’t reduce too quickly.
  • If you are using a candy thermometer, you are aiming for the “soft ball” stage, 235 degrees F
  • If you aren’t using a thermometer, you will be reducing the maple syrup by approximately 1/3. You are looking for when it starts to thicken and the syrup sticks to the back of the spoon.

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Now onto the real fun.

  • As the syrup is nearing this stage, you can have everyone fill their plates with snow. We always give the kids their own, saves on any arguments! If there aren’t any of those concerns in your house (well that just means you’ve never done this before!) you can use a cookie sheet and pack that with snow.
  • Being VERY, VERY careful, this is boiling sugar, pour the syrup into the Pyrex measuring cup. Pour the maple syrup in lines on the snow. Without transferring to a cup, you can also use a spoon to drizzle the syrup over the snow. I tend to use the spoon method because I don’t use a thermometer. So sometimes I find i have to return the syrup and boil it down a little more. Honestly I think the kids enjoy these “mistakes” and they get to enjoy a little more of the maple syrup.
  • Wait about 30 seconds. Using the popsicle sticks, roll the toffee onto the sticks, or you can also use a spoon to roll it into a ball.

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This wasn’t quite ready, as the “balls” were still soft. Too bad, but not really, it was still delicious!

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imageEven if it’s not quite perfect, the memories will be! I hope you get to enjoy this fun, tasty winter tradition with your family!

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Walnut Steel-Cut Oatmeal

After having a talk one morning after bootcamp about make ahead breakfasts, and overnight breakfasts I decided to do a little research and see what I could come up with. I found so many great recipes out there so I promise you, after some family experiments, there will be more to come. For now, I really liked the idea of the slow cookers. It’s nice to be able to have one less things to worry about in the morning. Or if you are like myself, this is also fantastic for shift workers. Come home in the morning, mix up the ingredients and wake up in the afternoon to the lovely smell of cinnamon and apples and a warm bowl of oatmeal.

The Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of uncooked steel-cut oats (we like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • butter – enough to coat the slow cooker pot
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (you may like to start with less and add more to each individual bowl)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

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The Steps:

  • Coat the inside of the slow cooker with butter. Just enough so the oatmeal won’t stick. Some people suggested cooking spray, but I prefer butter.
  • I combine all the ingredients in a bowl stirred them up and carefully poured them into the crock pot, the pouring was probably the biggest challenge!
  • Cook on low for approx 7 hours on low.

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Already to go!

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7 hours later, a warm and wonderful start to the day!

Things to Keep in Mind:

The cooking time may vary depending on the style of the crock pot. The first time you make it you may want to make it during the day so you can keep an eye on it. This will re-heat nicely. You can add a little milk and warm it in the microwave. Add different garnishes to your taste. Think raisins, a little maple syrup, try different types of nuts. Many recipes advised to add the nuts later. I actually like them as part of the cooking process. They soften a little, which I find a much more pleasant experience in this oatmeal then hitting a hard “crunch”.  With the milk this almost has a rice pudding consistency. If all you’ve ever had is instant oatmeal – you are in for a bit of a surprise. If you are not a fan, give it a few tries. I’m sure once you get used to this it will be hard to go back to the synthetic over-sweetened taste of the instant packages.

 

Crock Pot Lentil Stew

Sorry I didn’t get this posted for yesterdays Monday recipe. I was sitting down to write and my 15yr old asked to help quiz him for his science exam. Well, anyone out there with a teenager will probably understand when I say that when they ask to spend time with you, you jump at the chance. Mind you, my brain was spinning a little by the end…electricity and ohms never were my thing!

So here we go. This is a great slow cooker recipe I adapted from a vegetarian cookbook. I had never successfully cooked with lentils before so I was excited to try it.

The ingredients:

  • 3 cups dried lentils (1 pound), sorted and rinsed – I used red
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1L of vegetable broth (you can use chicken, but stick with vegetable if you want it to be a vegetarian dish)
  • 1-14oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (you can use any colour)
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic (you can adjust to taste, but a minimum of 2)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

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Can’t keep the little fingers away from bite sized veggies!

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low for approx 10 hours.

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This dish takes a long time, and it makes a lot!! The recipe originally called to serve over couscous but I choose to serve it over spaghetti squash and found that very tasty. Also, because it makes so much I pureed about 6 cups of it and we had that as soup. In that form it can also be frozen, I am not sure that the stew would freeze as well. This is a dish that I also found was better the next day, probably because the lentils became more tender. I’m excited to try more recipes with lentils now. I’ll keep you posted!!

Why You Need to Read Food Labels

If your not an ingredient list reader I challenge you to give yourself an extra 30 minutes on your next grocery store visit to spend some time reading labels. I can promise you, you will find some surprises. In fact, take a look in your fridge. Just the other day this is what I found in mine:

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This is my minced garlic. I like convenience as much as the next person, I don’t know how I didn’t realize what was in this. I knew there was oil, didn’t think about what kind, but I was surprised and disappointed by the other ingredients. Then again, I should know better!! It’s a reminder to me to always check.

Here’s one more for you, see if you can guess what this label is on:

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Lemons anyone?!? Remember, read your labels so you can make concious food choices. Don’t let someone else (and that includes me) dictate what you put into your mouth. Become a proactive consumer. And remember, scrub your produce! Happy shopping.

We All Need A Little Comfort Food

Sorry to disappoint but this won’t be a post on Mac and Cheese. However if you are of European dissent at all, at some point you will probably have had sauerkraut. Now, sauerkraut is technically pickled cabbage, but as a “dish” it is often combined with a variety of meats. Here are a few (possibly not well known) facts about sauerkraut (not the “dish”, the picked cabbage on its own):

From NaturalNews.com: “Sauerkraut combines the health benefits offered by all cruciferous  vegetables (a category which includes cauliflowers and brussel sprouts as well  as cabbage) with the probiotic advantages derived from the fermentation  process. Cabbage offers a host of health benefits. It is high in vitamins  A and C. Studies have shown the cruciferous vegetables can help lower  cholesterol levels. Cabbage also provides a rich source of phytonutrient  antioxidants. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and some studies  indicate it may help combat some cancers. However, this already helpful  vegetable becomes a superfood when it is pickled.”

Also, “Healthy human colons contain many beneficial bacteria which feed on the waste  left over from our digestion, creating lactic acid. Without these beneficial  bacteria the human digestive system becomes home to harmful parasites and  yeasts, resulting in the condition of candida. Sauerkraut provides a high  density source of a wide range of beneficial live bacteria which assist in the  digestive process. Consuming a serving of sauerkraut can give your body as much  of a health boost as many of the expensive probiotic drinks and supplements sold  in stores.”

Ideally making your own would be the best, however, if you don’t have the space or time to pickle your own cabbage know what to look for on the ingredient list. So many of the commercial products contain a variety of ingredients. All you need is, are you ready, cabbage and salt. Yep, that really is it!! We like “Polka” brand and that’s all that is on their list. Sauerkraut, the “dish”, can be made in a variety of ways, with bacon, ham, sausage, onions and traditionally (like good ‘ole mac and cheese) it can be very high in fat once you add all those meats. We keep ours fairly basic:

A good quality sausage (usually 3), red onion and the sauerkraut (about 2 cups). The ingredient list on the sausages we use are: pork, water, salt, spices, crushed chili peppers. No fillers, no “preservatives” (yes salt is, but I can pronounce that!).

So the steps are simple:

  1. Pan fry the sausage, (I cook them whole, then slice them and brown them again) drain and wipe down the pan.
  2. Add in one red onion, chopped. Cook until almost softened
  3. Add in the sauerkraut
  4. Cook for about 20 mins, stirring to blend the flavours.

I do rinse my sauerkraut. I’m not honestly sure if this may affect some of the healthy aspects, but it will reduce the sodium content if that is a concern. Consequently, you can also rinse canned beans if you ever use them, it reduces both the sodium and the sometimes gassy after effect that some people experience. While this may not be a top-notch healthy recipe, it’s an adaptation of a traditional recipe that can certainly be even less healthy. Also this usually feeds about 5 adults. So divide 3 sausages between 5 adults and that’s not so bad!

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And since it’s the lovely cold and flu season, here’s a little something to warm you…

Hot Lemon and Ginger “Tea”

We have some sickness in our house right now so I thought I would share a homemade hot drink that we make to ease sore throats and help healing. It’s also another use for a French Press!!

The ingredients:

  • approx 2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
  • juice of approx 1/2-1 whole lemon (can use 3 tablespoons of ReaLemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of honey (or to taste – but this is not meant to be a sweet drink)
  • 2 cups of boiling water

Add the ginger and lemon juice to the French Press, top with boiling water. Allow to “steep” for about 5 mins. Add the honey, “press” and enjoy. In fact enjoy this anytime, you don’t have to wait for an itchy throat!

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