2014 What’s New and what’s not

To be honest there is not alot NEW in the area of Healthier Living. The conversations about what’s healthy and what’s not are still happening with little change really being made. We are creatures of habit and change is hard but not impossible. It won’t happen overnight just like whatever health challenge you are facing didn’t happen overnight. Too much stress, too little exercise and years of not really thinking about what we are putting into our bodies and of those we love won’t change overnight.

We are more than a week into 2014 and if you’ve resolved to do something about living healthier don’t give up. What’s not new is that we need to GET MOVING. Our bodies were built to move! 150 minutes per week, 30 minutes 5 times per week for adults and 60 minutes per day for kids over the age of five is the bare minimum. According to Statistics Canada released in 2013, only 15% of adults and 6% of children meet these targets! Try something new like snowshoeing. It is aerobic and fun.

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We need to EAT MORE LEAFY GREENS. If you aren’t eating them now this is one food that boosts the nutrient density of your diet. Try something new: kale, collards, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, bok choy. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the supermarket. It is loaded with vitamins A, C and K.  I swap out spinach for kale in soups, stir-frys and even pasta dishes. Try this new recipe:

BAKED PASTA, KALE AND BEANS

Drizzle of olive oil for cooking

1 onion, chopped

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 cup cooked white beans or 19oz can, rinsed and drained

5.5 oz can tomato paste

1/4 cup pesto (optional)

3 cups whole wheat or brown rice penne or rotini pasta

2-3 large kale leaves, washed, torn away from middle tough stem and cut into ribbons

1/2 cup shredded soy mozzarella cheese or sheep’s milk white sharp cheese

1/4 cup grated romano cheese

Fresh torn basil leaves

In a large pan, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, beans and tomato paste and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pesto if using.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain reserving 1/4-1/2 cup cooking liquid. Toss with kale, beans & mozzarella in a large bowl. Stir in hot tomato sauce which will slightly wilt the kale. Pour into a large baking dish or 2 if needed and sprinkle with grated romano. Season with fresh ground pepper.  You can cover and refridgerate overnight, freeze or bake now at 350 for about 30 minutes until bubbly and golden. Garnish with torn basil leaves.

Serve with a side dish vegetable like steamed carrots or broccolini and a salad.

Enjoy:)

Comfort foods..

There is nothing better on a rainy or snowy day than a big bowl of soup or my new favorite pasta dish. Comfort foods that are healthy, satifying and delicious are not hard to make. Add a thick slice of your favorite whole grain artisan bread and a either a salad or another new favorite vegetable as an appetizer and you are set to go.

I have become a bit obsessed lately with Italian foods, shopping often at our local Italian market. Probably has something to do with the two books I finished this fall; “Bella Tuscany” and “Under the Tuscan Sun” written by Francis Mayes:)

I can spend hours perusing the aisles for olive oil, balsamic vinegar, all shapes and sizes of pasta, fresh olives and the huge variety of quality cheese perfect for garnishing pasta dishes.

I stumbled on a pasta and beans recipe that is the perfect comfort food. I hope you enjoy it.

Pasta Fazool (serves 4-6)

1 tbsp olive oil for cooking
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 carrots scrubbed and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup cooked cannellini beans or 1 tin (19oz-398ml) cannellini beans or pinto beans
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium)
14oz or 398 ml tin diced tomatoes
½ tsp Italian seasoning or dried oregano
½ cup dry small pasta (shells or orecchiette)
Grated parmesan or romano cheese to garnish
Fresh ground pepper.

In a medium pot heat the olive oil of medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse the beans and add to the pot along with the stock, tomatoes and oregano. Simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid on.
Add the pasta and simmer for another 10 minutes or more until the pasta is tender. If the mixture is too thick add a little extra stock or water. It should be thick but soupy. Season with pepper and grated cheese and serve hot.

I served it this week with roasted brussel sprouts as an appetizer. These used to be my husband’s most hated vegetable and much to my disbelief and even his own we almost have to “count” them out now to be fair.:) I wash and cut in half about a half pound of brussel sprouts. Toss them in a tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and fresh ground pepper. I then roast them in our toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Then top them with some freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese and eat hot. I dare you to try it!

Well It’s Official, We are emptynesters…

It really feels like it this week. Back to school week. No more back to school jitters, no more back to school shopping, no more thinking about lunches.  Where did the time go?  Not sure why it has hit me more this week because really, it’s been over 2 months since the last wedding and the final exodus.  The bedrooms have been switched over, one is now our exercise room, complete with a pull up bar.  The other is slowly being decorated as an official guest room.  “Their” bathroom has been clean for 2 months now.  The dining room table is set with candles and flowers instead of binders and books.  I love coming home and finding the house exactly how we left it, especially the kitchen.  The leftovers are still in the fridge, the ones I planned to reheat for dinner or take for lunch.

I love the quiet, YET I miss the noise. I miss hearing all about their day at school, the latest story from work, the smell and taste of Rachel’s homemade cookies and Kirsten’s latest Thai stir fry even though every cooking utensil was used. I miss their infectious laughter and wiping away their tears.  I knew it would happen one day, and that day has come.

I’m thankful that we have a made a point of building into our marriage. We have made good friends with common interests and have stuff to talk about and do. We are looking forward to this next phase, doing life together as emptynesters and making new memories with our daughters and new sons.

Speaking of leftovers, I made this recipe last night for dinner and we both enjoyed the leftovers today. I usually serve it with a piece of naan bread and at this time of year, fresh corn on the cob. Enjoy!

Chickpea Curry

 

 Olive oil for cooking

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (or other hot pepper)

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp curry powder

2 fresh tomatoes coarsely chopped (or a few whole canned tomatoes)

2 cups cooked chickpeas or 19oz (540ml) can rinsed and drained

½- 1 can lite coconut milk (398ml)

1 cup fresh green beans cut into 1 inch pieces or 1 cup frozen peas or a handful of fresh spinach

Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

 In a large skillet heat a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seed and cook for a minute or two, until wonderfully fragrant. Add the onion and cook until soft and starting to turn golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add the jalapeno, cilantro, ginger and curry and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and half the can of coconut milk. Add in the fresh green beans if using and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes until everything softens and thickens. Add the rest of the coconut milk if you like it saucier (yummy for dipping naan bread) Stir in well and add frozen peas or spinach and cook another 1-2 minutes to heat (peas) or wilt (spinach). Serve hot over brown rice.

 Serves 4-5.

Keep it simple…

It has been a while since my last post.  While thinking about what to write about next I realized that  we eat quite simply. I have shared many of our favorite recipes and for the most part I stick to doing pretty much the same thing. I have been close to ending my blog but then I bump into someone who encourages me to keep at it, that they check in regularly and love it. So…..I will endeavor to keep it going, with one simple thought each time and  a recipe we love.

FISH……….

We  still eat fish, though only about twice per month. I still am not sure where I stand on this issue, it’s one of those, should we or shouldn’t we? Is it healthy or is it not healthy?  When we do eat fish I make sure that I spend the money and buy fish that is oceanwise approved. See the link if you are not sure what that means.

http://www.oceanwise.ca/about

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/omega-3/HB00087

 

Our serving size is limited to about 4 oz or the size of a deck of cards.

Broiled Salmon or Artic Char with Herb Mustard Glaze

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp dry white wine

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp whole-grain mustard

pinch salt

fresh ground black pepper

In a mini food processor combine the garlic, herbs, wine, oil, honey,  Dijon and 1 tbsp of grainy mustard. Grind until the sauce is combined. Transfer to small bowl and stir in the remaining tbsp of grainy mustard.

Preheat the broiler. Line the bottom of a heavy baking sheet with foil. Brush with a little olive oil. Place the fish on the baking sheet, skin side down, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and the fresh ground pepper. Broil for about 2-3 minutes. Spoon over some of the mustard suace and continue broiling for another 5 minutes. Add more sauce and broil until the fish is just cooked through.  This can vary depending on the type of fish and how thick the fillets are. I have found it can take anywhere from another 2-3 minutes to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the fish as it cooks. The sauce may start to burn.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges on the side, with a large salad and dinner is served.

 

 

 

The best Thai Soup Recipe..

My friend Eunice found this one.  When it comes to spicy her family likes it hot.  My family likes some heat but not so much that you can’t feel your lips:) You will need to have a few items in your pantry that you might not normally stock but so worth it! They have been staples in our house for awhile now. Check out my “pantry” list for details.  I made this soup last week. It really hits the spot after snowshoeing or X-country skiing or any other winter outdoor activity. We have another month at least of winter.  Don’t rush away the days, embrace them. Get  outside , get moving… and before you go out, make a double batch of this soup. You will be glad you did.  Yum!

 Thai Soup (double to make full pot)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 a red bell pepper, diced

2 cups sliced mushrooms (could leave these out or replace with boy choyor carrots)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 Tbsp. Gourmet Garden™ Lemon Grass herb paste (the stuff in the tube or the real thing, if you can find it) ***Could substitute with 1 tbsp lemon juice & 1tsp fresh grated  ginger

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 can lite  coconut milk (398ml)

2 tsp. red curry paste

1 1/2 tsp. Sambal Oelek chili paste

2-3 Tbsp. tomato paste (to taste)

½- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch (depends how thick you want the soup)

2 cups cooked rice ( brown rice or try a mix of long grain with wild rice or black thai rice for some added texture)

Fresh cilantro, parsley or basil leaves shredded for garnish

Lime for garnish

Instructions:

Cook rice and set aside (or use left-over cooked rice).

Heat large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp. oil. When hot, add mushrooms and cook until golden and tender. Remove to a plate. In same pot, add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and heat. Add onion, red pepper, (if using carrots or bok choy add here)and saute just until softened. Return mushrooms to pot. Add broth  and heat through. Add lemon grass paste, fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce and simmer 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, turn heat to low, then cover and simmer 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, add curry paste, Sambal Oelek, tomato paste, 2 Tbsp. water and cornstarch and mix until incorporated. Stir into soup until combined and heat until soup simmers, thickens very slightly and has a velvety appearance. Add cooked rice, cover and simmer 5 minutes.  (You can also add more curry paste, tomato paste and/or Sambal Oelek to taste at this point, as well).

Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, parsley or basil leaves and serve with additional Sambal Oelek for those who prefer a hotter soup.

 

 

Miso, Tahini, what in the world?…

Are ingredients I had never heard of until we started our healthier eating journey. Almost 9 years later, I don’t know what I would do with out them. Miso, a traditional Japenese food,  is a high protein seasoning made from soybeans, cultured grain, salt and water. It’s many uses include adding it to soups, or as a sauce, gravy or dressing. There are different types but most importantly I choose one that uses select organic ingredients including, non GMO whole soybeans. I have stocked both “white miso”, which has a mellow, slightly sweet flavor and “amano miso” or “barley miso” which is a naturally aged blend of pearl barley and soybeans with a full-bodied flavor.

Miso soup which is traditionally served with every meal in Japan is delicious, easy to make and loaded with vitamin D and healthy vegetable protein. I made this a few days ago when I feeling a little under the weather with flu-like symptoms. It was just what I needed…nutrition packed, chasing the flu away.

MISO AND MUSHROOM SOUP

Makes 4-6 servings

5 cups vegetable broth

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms or 2 cups thinly sliced cremini (brown) mushrooms

1/2 cup thinly sliced leek (green part mostly)

1/2 pound firm organic, non GMO tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 sheet nori, cut into 1-inch squares (nori-dried seaweed)

2 to 3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 cups small broccoli florets or bok choy chopped large pieces

1 cup julienned or grated carrot

3 to 4 tablespoons white miso or 3 tbsp barley miso

Pour the broth into a large pot, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Add the mushrooms, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened. (if using dried shitakes) Remove the mushrooms from the broth with a slotted spoon. Cut off and discard the mushroom stems. Thinly slice the caps and set aside. If using fresh sliced mushrooms, add them to the broth together with the leeks,  bring to boil then simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until softened

Add the tofu, nori, and ginger to the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms (if you had removed them), broccoli, and carrot. Cover and simmer for 1 minute, just until the broccoli turns bright green. Transfer 1 cup of the broth to a measuring cup and stir in the miso with a fork until it is completely dissolved. Pour the dissolved miso into the soup and stir until it is well incorporated.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator, Miso Soup will keep for up to 3 days.

Note: Do not boil the soup after the miso has been added, as high heat will destroy the beneficial enzymes in the miso.

Tahini, (raw and organic) is made using mechanically hulled sesame seeds. It is naturally low in saturated fat, and is an ingredient found in many asian foods. Instead of the high salt versions of teryiaki sauce, or soy sauce dressings and sauces, I have found a great recipe for topping stirfrys using tahini, a “no salt” added, surprisingly yummy sauce. There are a few ingredients in this sauce you may not normally stock and can be a little pricey.  They last a while when stored correctly, are healthier than the traditionally stocked condiments in your refridgerator and will open wide your taste buds to some unique and wonderful flavors. Try some new flavors in 2013!

Yummy Tahini Sauce

 1 small onion or ½ cup shallots roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp dark toasted sesame oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tbsp Braggs ( low sodium soy sauce available in health food stores)

1/3 cup raw sesame tahini

1 tbsp maple syrup

½ cup vegetable stock (low sodium)

¼ cup olive oil

1/8 cup flax or hemp oil (found in health food stores in refridgerator)

 With a blender or food processor, blend all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

A little  goes a long way with this sauce. Try topping brown rice, lentils or quinoa and steamed vegees starting with  a tbsp at a time. The flavor is rich and delicious! I usually toast  raw sesame seeds and top it all with about a tbsp per person. Yum!

 

Vegetable Barley Soup….another delicious and nutritious grain

It is snowing, lovely and white and the perfect time for a hike outdoors then a steaming hot bowl of yummy soup.  I have adapted this recipe to exclude the beef and added in more vegetables. It is hearty and delicious. Barley, especially in whole-grain form (hulled or “pot barley” ) is an excellent grain to add to your repertoire. It is more flavourful and has a chewier texture than white rice, with a more subtle flavour than brown rice.

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Barley is versatile: and like oats, it is an excellent source of soluble fibre, which can help in lowering blood cholesterol levels and is high in thiamin and fibre.

One serving of 1/2 cup cooked barley provides 97 calories, 1.8 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 3 g fibre.

Whole grain pot barley contains high levels of numerous vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin and folate.

This recipe is easy to make. I like to make the soup in the morning (20  minutes tops), and adding it to the slow cooker. No matter what the rest of the  day looks like, whether off to work or out for a hike, a ski, snowshoeing or skating, nothing beats coming home to a hearty bowl of hot soup with a thick slice of whole grain bread.  Enjoy:)

Vegetable Barley Soup

 1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp salt

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (any variety –white, cremini, shitakes, oyster or portobellos or any combination of)

1 each carrot and celery stalk, chopped

1 small turnip, diced

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried

2 tbsp no salt tomato paste

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 cups low sodium vegetable stock

3 cups water

½ cup pot barley

1-2 bay leaves

1 can (540 ml) black beans or white cannellini beans or combination of

 

1. In a large deep pot, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic with salt until onion is soft. Add mushrooms, carrot, celery, turnip, thyme and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms.

 

2. Add the tomato paste and  vinegar; stir to coat the vegetables. Add stock, water, barley and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until barley is tender or after boiling, transfer to a slow cooker, set to low for about 3 hours.  Add beans and heat through. Remove bay leaf before serving with fresh ground black pepper. Makes 4-6 servings.