I eat apricots a lot. Apricots are a funny fruit, though, because I don’t tend to eat them raw. In the summer, I have a habit of buying fresh apricots, but eating them fresh tends to be lackluster.
Instead, I find dried apricots more flavourful and have incorporated them into many salads, granola and energy bars. I have even added them to savoury dishes. When I do find myself with fresh apricots, baking is the best way to fully bring out its sweetness (remember those Moroccan Apricot Parcels? yum!)
As you know, I have a habit of trying out interesting, healthy breakfast ideas. I spotted an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis at Chocolate & Zucchini, and knew that I wanted to try it. The fruit, nuts and other add-ins are completely up to you, but incorporating freshly baked apricots is a royal treat.
But what the heck is an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis? To me, a clafoutis has always meant a custard-like cake speckled with fruit. Here, it means a creamy baked oatmeal filled with fruit.
I have made baked oatmeal before (with rhubarb and apple/banana) but this one was definitely the creamiest of them all. But the great thing is that they kept their shape well, so for anyone who likes to munch on the go, this is perfect for you. According to Clotilde they freeze easily, so you could stack your freezer with individual portions, reheat them and grab them to run.
This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring Breakfasts To Go!
Everyone has a favourite granola recipe. Personally, I have tried many recipes, and love to try new ones for variety. Adapted from The Stop‘s cookbook Good Food For All, I was drawn to Joshna Maharaj‘s healthy granola recipe because it was filled with my favourite fixins – almonds, coconut, cranberries and date with less oil. It also used a lot of wheat germ and All Bran buds.
A few years ago, I used to eat All Bran buds all the time with yogurt. It was a quick satisfying snack or dessert. I once chatted with a surgeon who was a strong proponent of All Bran buds and psyllium (the main fiber source on All Bran buds). He was a colorectal surgeon and saw people with constipation and colorectal cancer. He was adamant that we could add All-Bran buds to ANYTHING – even pizza! While I am willing to try many thing, I am not THAT adventurous. However, adding All Bran buds to granola just makes sense for a healthy, filling breakfast.
A note about this granola: it is not incredibly sweet. It does not clump well. But it is tasty and best combined with some fresh fruit and yogurt as a lovely breakfast parfait.
I have more than a few posts in my drafts folder, as I figure out what to write, take the photos off my camera, go on vacation to Morocco.. You know, the typical delays.
I made this delicious breakfast oatmeal pudding last month, when pumpkin and fresh cranberries were both abundant. Now that Christmas cookie, mint and chocolate season is knocking at the door, I figured I should whip this baby out before it was too late! :)
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, this is a variation on the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding I posted in September (based on Ricki’s original recipe). Back then, it was my pre-cycling breakfast of choice. This time, though, my pudding was a bit thicker, a bit lumpier, so I wonder whether I had to pulse my almonds longer. However, I enjoyed this variation, too, as it had a different mix of flavours. The pumpkin puree replaced the applesauce, the fresh cranberries substituted for the blueberries and the mix of savoury spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves) worked perfectly. Not too sweet, and definitely not bland, this was a perfect start to the day. Likewise, it could work as a nice dessert as well.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
I used to eat the same thing for breakfast, but now I look at breakfast like any other meal. I still try to keep things no-fuss to save time in the morning, but I can be equally creative as I am for lunch and dinner.
This revelation came when I realized I could enjoy breakfast leftovers, where I might make something a bit more ornate in the evening and chow down the following few mornings. Granola is a prime example of this. Baked oatmeal is delicious but even stovetop oatmeal can be easily reheated the following day.
But why limit yourself to oats?
Last year, I made a breakfast couscous with almonds, coconut and honey and here is a creamy breakfast porridge with quinoa.
Quick and tasty, this milky quinoa porridge is topped with ripe, soft pears sautéed in a touch of olive oil. Depending on how sweet your pears are, you may not need to add any additional sweetener. You will have to warm your stove to make this breakfast, but it is delicious.
I spent the summer training for a double imperial century bike ride and have since rejuvenated my cycling energy within the past couple of weeks. You see, I finally bought a road bike. This summer, I was using a flat-bar hybrid which is a great bike, but not ideal for cycling such long distances. With my upright seating position, I often felt like I was a parachute in the wind!
They say athletes get tired of the same snacks day after day. Flavour fatigue. Despite peddling over 4000-km on my bike this year, I guess I don’t exercise enough to get bored of the high energy snacks. Oats and dates have played prominent roles in many of the snacks, but I wanted to try something different.
Adapted from Runner’s World, these energy bars are similar to other bars based with dried fruit, but instead of dates, it uses figs as the main component. Dried cranberries and raisins add extra flavour with roasted hazelnuts adding healthy fat. There is only a minimal amount of honey so these are not overtly sweet. Technically, they travelled well and kept their shape during the summer heat.
Some doctors treat patients, and others go into research. The insane do both. I don’t know where I want to fit in just yet.
A positive point for research is that a discovery can help thousands or millions of people, whereas as a solo practitioner, you help one patient at a time.
It is kind of analogous to food blogging.
I can cook something at home and share it with friends and family. I have affected only a handful of people. But when I blog about it, it can reach to the furthest depths of the interspace. People from around the globe can read and try the dish to their own tastes.
While I love reading reader comments, I also really enjoy that instant gratification from sharing food with friends. Especially when it is new for them. Considering how little I repeat recipes, it is likely new for me too! A bit of Russian roulette.
Case in point: this salad. I shared it not once, but twice, with friends from out-of-town. It was fun to introduce my summer salad sensation, coarse bulgur. However, they misheard me the first time and thought I said “Booger salad”. Yes, my friends, I am serving you booger salad. From my childhood cookbook, which also included recipes for barbecued worms and muddy caterpillar hotdogs (I am not making this up, that’s what I did as a kid).
Thankfully there is no mud and no insects were harmed in creating this bulgur, I mean booger, salad. It is a light and bright salad, with lots of vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, broccoli), satisfying nutty pan-fried chickpeas with a crunch from both the almonds and sunflower seeds. A special sweet crunch comes from the red grapes. The balsamic-lemon dressing pulls everything together along with the base of coarse bulgur.
This is my submission to Blog Bites 8, featuring one-dish meals.
You don’t win friends with salad. Well, I think my friends could be won over by a tasty salad. Nothing says ‘I love you‘ better than a healthy, tasty meal, right? Or is it just me? While I do enjoy desserts, I am more likely to fawn over mangoes, raspberries, pomegranate molasses, baked eggs, marinaded tempeh and let’s not forget the best salad ever. Bulgur has also been a summer obsession and when I was invited to bring a salad to a BBQ gathering with friends, I thought this would be a perfect side salad for the tasty grillings.
This salad was adapted from Delicious Days, who called this “The Salad You Must Make”. I was very tempted. My winning salad was also made with bulgur, and I really like almonds, cranberries and lemon (yes, I cook with them a lot). I knew I had a great combination despite the seemingly simple ingredients, so I brought it along for BBQ bliss.
I really liked the salad, albeit a side salad. Truth be told, I wouldn’t normally make it for myself as I prefer one-dish meals. I was worried it would be dry (where is the dressing?) but it worked well together. The coarse bulgur was slightly creamy. The cranberries were sweet and the lemon zest a bit zippy with the nutty almond crunch. And the grande finale came from the sauteed green onions. They melted down and added that extra dimension (creamy? tasty? buttery? it was great anyhow). I think leeks could work as well, but green onions are cheaper so kudos to that!
Rolled oats are no stranger to the breakfast table and oatmeal is a regular standby in my morning routine. After the Nutrition Action Health Letter (aka the Consumer Reports of healthy foods), deemed Bob’s Red Mill Country Style Muesli their favourite, it became my new breakfast.
Oatmeal is cheap, healthy and relatively quick. It is great since it is a whole grain, fiber-rich, and lowers cholesterol. When you cook traditional oats, you also have no added sugar or salt (can’t say the same for the instant, flavoured varieties). But let’s be honest: when you cook rolled oats with water and a dash of salt, they aren’t that tasty. You can make oatmeal more flavourful by adding in your own sweeteners, fruit (dried or fresh), nuts, seeds, peanut butter, etc. The possibilities are endless.
This recipe for whipped banana oatmeal is a great way to make a creamy bowl of oats without any cream at all. The magic comes from a ripe banana that melts seamlessly into the oats, imparting both sweetness and creaminess. It is a bit more involved than your standard bowl of oats, as you need to whip everything together, but it is worth it. I liked the addition of dried cranberries, but feel free to add in your favourite fixins. I spotted and then adapted the recipe from Macheesmo, who adapted it from Kath Eats’ Tribute to Oatmeal.
This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club, featuring British breakfasts (the Brits call this porridge). This recipe, coupled with Peach Blueberry Raspberry Crumbles, is my entry to Blog Bites 7, Iron Chef-style, where we use one ingredient two ways! My ingredient: oats!
With a few long-distance cycling trips already under my belt this summer, I oftentimes feel like I am eating to bike. I routinely make my own sports drink and have made different portable snacks for my rides: peanutty energy bars, cocoa mint nibbles and almond chocolate larabars. Next up in my arsenal of snacks: homemade granola bars.
I have been making my own granola for some time, but had yet to venture into making granola bars. The thick and chewy granola bars posted by Smitten Kitchen (who, in turn, found and adapted it from King Arthur Flour) called out to me since she posted them in February. I bought oat flour immediately (back when I didn’t have a food processor) but it took me almost 6 months to finally buckle down and make them. What happened? Well, life (in a good way), and I was shunning desserts for a while. Thank goodness I bike now so I can enjoy these guilt-free. ;)
These were subtly addictive. Chewy yet firm, oaty and wholesome, sweet from cranberries and with a strong peanut flavour. You munch on a chewy bar and think to yourself, ‘Is this what granola bars taste like?’ It is miles away from what you get in a store. Deb leaves the recipe completely flexible, with substitutions for the nuts, fruit and nut butter, and I have included my own interpretation below. I was surprised at the strong presence of the peanut butter flavour, so I may decrease it next time or switch it to almond butter which I think would work better with the cranberries. Otherwise, I went with my granola staples of dried cranberries, coconut and almonds. I found coconut chips at Bestwin which are like large coconut flakes. I liked the burst of coconut flavour but found they didn’t integrate with the bars as well; they left the bars more apt to crumble mid-bite. Next time, I’ll stick with my flaked coconut for the granola bars and use the coconut flakes for my crumbly granola.
Hi. My name is Janet. And I am a hoarder.
I like to buy things on sale. I like to buy things for dishes I plan on making. As such, I have purchased seemingly obscure ingredients and spices for ethnic dishes.
I try to cook with fresh ingredients, so my fridge is usually packed with food and my freezer is filled to the brim. My excuse is that I have a condo-sized fridge, which I feel is not much bigger than a beer fridge. :P One year ago, this is what my fridge looked like, when I was profiled on blogto.com.
Since I have a tiny kitchen in a tiny apartment with limited storage, I have kitchen appliances and food stashed in each room.
I realize this can be a problem, but I still begged my mom to bring me more fresh rhubarb from her backyard. I used the last batch to make a sinfully delicious baked rhubarb and apples with earl grey tea, cardamom and orange zest, a savoury Indian-spiced lentil and rhubarb stew and rhubarb baked oatmeal. And I still had more recipes to try…. so it was justified to ask for more, right? :)
I figured I would also try to help clear some room from my freezer when I saw the blueberry rhubarb crisp with a pistachio crust from Gourmet (June 1999). I knew I had frozen blueberries, so I was off to the races. But then when I measured them out, I was a cup short. Oh no! What to do?! :) Luckily, fruit abounds in my freezer, so I had to decide between mango and cranberries. In the end, I used cranberries to add to the blueberry/rhubarb mixture. And you know what? It was perfect. Sometimes the wacky impromptu substitutions work well!
This seemingly odd combination of tart, soft baked rhubarb with not-so-sweet blueberries and even more tart cranberries was wonderful. The pistachio crisp topping had just the right amount of sweetness for the base and since I squished the topping together, there were nice hearty globs of topping for the fruit filling. The only thing I would do differently next time is increase the fruit filling.
This was delicious slightly cooled from the oven as is, but the leftovers were perfect with vanilla yogurt the next day. The warm crisp with lightly melted vanilla ice cream is an equally decadent treat. Dessert? Breakfast? Sometimes I can’t decide.
One of the great things about cooking and eating for yourself is that you really only have to please yourself. The shackles of what a “typical” meal can be broken. This is when I can eat breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Personally, I think that if a meal is good enough for the start of your day, it is also good for the middle and end as well. There are naysayers out there. I know, because I have tried to feed friends breakfast meals for dinner with protests (‘this isn’t enough to eat! this is for breakfast!’ hmmpht! well what do YOU want to make instead?).
To be honest, when I come home from work, the simplest meal is to throw some oatmeal and milk into a pot, stir and enjoy… or devour dry cereal with some milk (my last ditch effort, I swear, used only when I would come home after working 36 hours, just wanting to sleep but with a hungry belly and nothing else in the fridge). But I try not to do that very often. But I will eat granola around the clock.
There is a magic behind homemade granola. I don’t know what it is, but it evaporates quickly. Even if I make 6 cups, it is gone within a week. I start by eating it for breakfast, with some yogurt and fruit, and then it also turns into a dessert after dinner.. and after a while, it is my whole dinner. Once I start, I just can’t seem to stop.
I posted a delicious Crunchy Coconut Macadamia Granola with Honey earlier, and I really like the simplicity and wholesome-ness of this granola. It was adapted from Eat Me, Delicious, who originally found it in The Best Life Diet Cookbook, and it isn’t as sweet as my previous addictive granola. This one is more subtle. Not much clumping, which is typically due to sugar and butter. This granola is low in fat but still high in flavour and best served with yogurt and fresh fruit. Like all granola recipes, it is flexible to meet your own tastes – feel free to sub in different dried fruit and nuts.
Alas, I was getting ready to write my post about my love of Alphonso mangoes, but figured I should shed my winter meals first before jumping headfirst into spring and summer dishes. With a balmy 15C this morning on my way to work on my bike, I am happy as a peach.. sweet as a mango?
One of my favourite things to eat in the winter is butternut squash. Or buttercup squash. Any squash, really. When roasted, they are incredibly sweet and work well with many sweet and savoury flavours.
For this dish, adapted from Lou Seibert Pappas’ A Harvest of Pumpkin and Squash, the savoury side of a butternut squash is combined with cinnamon- and sesame-laced quinoa mixed with cranberries and pear. This is laid on a bed of welcoming spinach and topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.
It was a weird and interesting combination of flavours. If I were to remake it, I think I would omit the soy sauce and sesame oil, to keep the flavour palate more simple, highlighting the cinnamon and allspice. Otherwise, the flavours are my typical fall favourites: cranberry, squash and cinnamon. Not that it will stop you from making it during other seasons…. although I agree you may get distracted by the mangoes. :)
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s SOS Kitchen Challenge, featuring sweet or savoury natural vegan cooking highlighting spinach this month.
One of the best compliments of someone’s cooking is when others use your recipe regularly. Many people may ask for a recipe, but they may not venture to make it. It likely gets added to the ever-growing list of recipes to your ‘to-try’ file (and oh, am I guilty of that!). The biggest compliment is when a great cook adds your dish into their repertoire… especially when that fabulous cook is your mom, who can do no foul in the kitchen.
This is one of those dishes that my mom has lifted from my files and I figured it was about time I shared it with everyone else. I have already professed my love for wheat berries, the nutty, chewy kernels of wheat and this was the recipe that got me hooked. Wheat berries are combined with a sweet citrus dressing, paired with some greens (mixed, spinach, watercress, whatever!) and crunchy nuts. This makes a light yet filling salad, perfect all year round. I adapted this recipe from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.
Now a diversion regarding food photography: I attended a talk by food photographer Robert Wigington through the Toronto Camera Club last week. Granted food bloggers are very generous with their tips on how to get that perfect photo, and some have photographed their own cookbooks, but I get curious how the professionals do it. I actually eat the food I feature in my photos, and try not to let the food get too cold. Robert has shot food photos for numerous cookbooks, magazines as well as for companies like President’s Choice. I liked how he highlighted the importance of the food stylist, who makes and styles the food.. But not necessarily with the real recipe – a roast turkey would be cooked for 20 minutes, not hours! He rarely eats the food, probably because it isn’t real! While shooting a shot of a pizza slice with dripping melted cheese, he could go through 10 pizzas over a morning of photographing, just to get that perfect shot.
My favourite tip from the night, though, was how he loved reflections to convey whether a dish was moist or juicy. Usually I try to eliminate odd shadows or reflections, but I think these shots show how the reflections from the dressing work well with the first photo. The second one, below, doesn’t look as appealing and I blame it on the lack of shine.
Right now in Toronto, we are experiencing our first real snow storm of the year. We finally have a few centimeters of snow on the ground, which contrasts to our nearly bare ground throughout the majority of the winter. I had to venture outside the city to find snow, especially since one of my new winter activities is snowshoeing.
I remember walking around clumsily in snowshoes when I was in elementary school. We had wooden ones, and more commonly plastic snowshoes that looked identical to the wooden ones. I found it difficult to manoeuvre the snowshoes which substantially widened my gait and there wasn’t much traction on the bottom, either.
Fast forward a decade or two, and I join my friends at their cottage and we decide to go snowshoeing. ‘These snowshoes are more modern,’ they explain, assuring me it isn’t as daunting as I recall. The shape has changed (especially for women’s styles), they are lighter with great grip. It took a bit of use to walking up and down hills initially, but afterwards there was no stopping us. This was fun!
Around an hour north of Toronto, there is a small town called Horseshoe Valley. Because it is in the valley, it receives more snow than Toronto and the valley ridges provide ample trails with some altitude. I have been there twice so far this winter, and both times Horseshoe has not been less than stellar. An early morning snowshoe following fresh snow that fell overnight, or the above freezing temperature with ample sticky snow (great grip for the snowshoes).
After all this exercise, there is nothing better than to huddle back together in the cottage, sipping on some tea and munching on some date squares.
This date square recipe is courtesy of my mom, who is a fabulous cook. The original recipe calls for 250g dried dates, but I like a meaty filling, so you can definitely add more without increasing the rest of the filling. I added cranberries to this batch instead of currants (the more typical ingredient) but found it a bit too sweet for me (my snowshoeing companions had no complaints, though!). The currants have a slightly bitter taste that works well with the natural sweetness from the dates. I wonder whether fresh cranberries could have helped tame the sweetness – a project for next time!
The squares can be eaten warm or cold, but I prefer them warm with a big glass of milk. Enjoy!