For most of us, the thought of Easter approaching might be a little bitter sweet. All that lovely, silky smooth chocolate artistically formed into enchanting woodland creatures brings us back to our childhood.
I remember waking up bright and early and running through the house checking the corner of every window sill, under every plant pot and inside every lampshade to find the eggs the Easter Bunny had meticulously hidden. Then we would pull on our new (usually quite colourful) outfits and sprint outside to share our treasures with our friends.
Now of course I see chocolate in a slightly different light. Initially I think of just how far I have to run to work off every bite, then I think of how lusciously it slowly melts in the mouth into a smooth, velvety texture, and then the dietitian in me kicks in and I'm reminded that it's rich in antioxidants and boosts serotonin and endorphin levels which improve mood!
Of course, we're talking about DARK chocolate. Milk chocolate has had much of the flavonoids removed and doesn't have the same benefits. So the beautifully crafted milk chocolate Easter bunnies might look great, but they are loaded with sugar, have little antioxidants and do not contain the same vitamins and minerals found in dark chocolate.
So to help you enjoy the wonderful creamy texture of chocolate, while reaping the benefits, I'm posting a recipe for Almond bark that everyone LOVES!
I prepare this using 1/2 pure dark Belgian chocolate and 1/2 semi sweet dark chocolate, but that might be a little bitter for some of you, so here is the original recipe.
Dark Chocolate Almond Bark
1 pound (454g) Semi sweet Dark chocolate
1/2 pound (227g) raw almonds (to add a little sweet/salty edge to it, use salted almonds)
Preheat oven to 350F. Roast almonds approx 15 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.
Add the roasted almonds. Mix well. Pour onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Chill and cut into pieces when firm.
Enjoy & Happy Easter!!!
It's almost Epiphany...the day we usually take down the tree and pack all the glitter away for another year. There's often a quiet sadness that accompanies this time of year. The parties are over, the gifts have all been opened, and even the singing has stopped...at least for a while. For many of us, however, our bodies are saying "Thank goodness for that"! The rich foods, abundance of chocolate, wine and eggnog definitely take their toll! Well I have the perfect recipe to help rejuvenate, invigorate and re-awaken our sleepy systems. "winter Citrus Salad" (adapted from Angela Liddon's Oh she glows vegan cookbook). I tried it out at our Oncology Christmas party where it received rave reviews! Serve it tomorrow evening after dinner to lighten your heart and your body as you put away the festive decorations until next year.
Winter Citrus Salad
2 red grapefruit
4 navel oranges
4 blood oranges
3 Tbs (45 ml) natural cane sugar
3-4 Tbs Pomegranate seeds
4 Tbs (60 ml) lightly toasted almond slices
4 Tbs fresh mint leaves plus a few extra for serving.
Segment the grapefruit and oranges:
Slice off the top and bottom of the fruit so the inner flesh is exposed. With a sharp pairing knife remove the peel and pith and cut the segments out from between the membranes. Place the segments on a serving plate.
In a food processor, process the sugar and mint leaves together until it looks like green sugar. Sprinkle over the citrus segments and toss lightly. Sprinkle toasted almonds and pomegranate seeds on top and add a few mint leaves as garnish.
Most of us know the story...three kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but have you ever wondered just what frankincense and myrrh are? As a child, I thought myrrh was dish soap! My mother always purchased "Mir" probably because it was one of the least expensive available. I could never understand why a king would bring such a thing. I finally took the time to look them up.
It turns out that Frankincense and Myrrh are both aromatic tree resins and have been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.
The bark of the Frankincense or Myrrh tree is slashed allowing the resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old. Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation
While Frankincense is used in perfumery aromatherapy, and occasionally as an ingredient in skincare lotions, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwash, gargles, and toothpastes. As for their use as a medicine for a multitude of ailments, there is still not sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy to support it's use.
That said, my favourite gifts are almost always those I can eat. They're fun to make, they don't have to fit, they don't gather dust, and they're usually delicious!!
Here are a couple of my favourites:
MARINATED GOAT CHEESE:Ingredients
- 1 goat cheese log
- 1 tiny chile pepper
- 2 strips lemon zest
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh oregano or thyme
- 1 sprig fresh fennel or ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Cut goat cheese log into 4 equal pieces; Form into balls. Pack all 4 balls in a sterilized wide-necked jar. Add chile, lemon zest, bay leaves, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic to jar. Pour in olive oil to cover cheese.
Seal jar and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hrs.
ROSEMARY & THYME SPICED NUTS2 tablespoons olive oil3 cups mixed nuts (pecans/almonds/peanuts...)2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme1 teaspoon cumindash of cayenne pepper½ tablespoon packed brown sugar1 teaspoon salt½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 300°.
Place nuts in a medium size bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just warm. Add rosemary and thyme and stir until aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat and stir in cumin and cayenne pepper. Pour the flavoured oil over the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir again. Transfer to an edged cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring after the first 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour into clear glass jars, wrap with a ribbon and Voila!!! The perfect gift...delicious sprinkled in salad, easily packed away for an energy boost while skiing or enjoyed in front of the fire with your loved one. Enjoy...and Happy Holidays!
Well, it's that time again...November. Most of us find this to be the darkest, dreariest month of the year. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. It's blustery and dark yes, but there's a certain serenity to November that comes with the darkness. It's a month to curl up by the fire with a good book, your dog at your feet and...an apple pie in the oven!
One of my favourite weekend activities in November is strolling through the mounds of leafy greens, bright red tomatoes,ruby red cranberries and deliciously crisp apples at the market. The aromas, colours and the chorus of the farmers selling their produce awaken the foodie in me and I find myself so overwhelmed with the dozens of recipes I want to try that I have to calm myself down and choose two or three for the week. This week I decided on Apple cranberry crisp for breakfast, a lemon, garlic, tomato and sesame sprout salad and...my Mile high Apple pie! I thought it would be perfect for the blustery, slushy days ahead.
A little nutrition info on apples...they come in right behind bananas as far as overall popularity. They're easy to pack, tasty, juicy and contain only about 55 calories each! Although they aren't very rich in vitamin C (5mg vs 10mg in a banana)¹ they are very rich in other phytonutrients, including antioxidants. If we consider these additional compounds, an apple has the equivalent antioxidant power of 1500 mg of vitamin C. For those of you who may be interested in the cancer fighting benefits of these nutrients, a very interesting graph on how antioxidants in different fruit suppress cancer cell growth in liver cells can be found here
So to help us all get through the dark, blustery month of November, I'm sharing my favourite apple pie recipe; Sandra's Mile High, Apple Pie! Not only is it rich in antioxidants and taste, but it is also low in sugar and contains protein and soluble fibre which helps lower bad cholesterol and control blood sugar.
I hope you love it as much as I do!
Sandra's Mile high Apple Pie
2/3 cup (150 ml) plus 2 Tbs (30 ml) cold, unsalted butter
2 cups (500 ml) all purpose, unbleached flour
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
4 -5 Tbs (60-75 ml) cold water
1/2 - 3/4 cup (125 - 200 ml) sugar (I use 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp + (5 ml+) cinnamon
1/2 tsp + (5ml+) nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) plain, Greek style yogurt
1 large egg beaten (room temperature)
10 large apples (Cortland) peeled, cored and thinly sliced.
2 Tbs (30 ml) butter
Preheat oven to 450〬
Cut shortening into flour and salt until particles are size of small peas (can quickly be done in a cuisinart). Sprinkle with water, 1 Tbs at a time tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl. If necessary, add 1-2 additional tsp of water.
Gather pastry into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other, shape into flattened rounds on lightly floured cloth covered board. Using a flour covered rolling pin, roll small pastry ball 2 inches larger than the inverted pie plate. This will be the bottom pastry of the pie. Roll the larger ball as large as possible, without allowing the pastry to break into holes. Fold pastry bottom into quarters, ease into the pie plate and unfold allowing the edge to drape over the pie plate. Keep the pastry top aside.
Whisk together sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Stir in sour cream, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add apples, tossing to coat. Pour into pastry laced pie plate, piling the apples high in the middle.
Fold Pastry topping into quarters and place on top of the apples, unfold and firmly press the top and bottom pastries together to form a rolling crust around the bottom of the pie. Brush lightly with milk if you like a glistening crust. Place an empty, rimmed baking sheet on the lowest oven rack to catch any drips, and bake the pie at 450〬 for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350〬 and bake until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Serve with a slice of Cheddar cheese, or a dollop of Greekstyle vanilla yogurt. Delicious!
August...Gardens are in full bloom, cicadas are singing, sidewalks are sizzling and the humidity is so high my shirt is stuck to my back and my hair has never been more free spirited, But I LOVE it! It's what summer is all about.
August is the month for relaxing. Whatever that might be to you...people watching from a terrasse, chilling with friends on the patio or dangling your feet over the edge of a wooden warf into the calm water of a lake, its the perfect time of year isn't it? It's so... easy! No fuss hair, no fuss clothes, and no fuss entertaining!
To help you keep it that way, I'm posting have a couple of no fuss, low cal recipes. White wine Sangria and Crispy Kale chips. I can hear some of you groaning now....but just try them. I guarantee you will LOVE them. They're also delicious with an icy cold beer for the groaners amongst you!
Crispy Kale chips:
In addition to being delicious, kale is a rich source of the antioxidants lutein, Zeaxanthin, sulphoraphane and the Vitamins C and A. I first had it at a work party and was immediately hooked! (Thank you Grace)!
1 bunch Kale
1 Tbs Olive oil
Salt or other seasoning or grated parmesan
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
With kitchen shears remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt or seasoning if using.
Bake 10 - 15 mins or until the edges brown but not burnt.
If you did not use salt or seasoning, sprinkle with grated parmesan...Enjoy!
Sparkling White Sangria
Sangria is a delicious fruit-based wine "punch" with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.
Typically, sangrias are made with red wine, fresh, seasonal fruit and a bit of bubbly water or citrus flavored soda. It is easy to make, easy to drink and a huge hit at summer get togethers.
- 1-2 bottles of crisp white wine (suggestion: 1 Sauvignon Blanc & 1 sparkling Vino Verde)
- 2 fresh or frozen local peaches, sliced
- 1 pint frozen raspberries
- 2 kiwis
- several sprigs of mint
- several sprigs of Stevia (both grow easily in a backyard garden)
Pour the wine into a large glass pitcher, add the sliced fruit and mint to the wine and add several sprigs of Stevia until desired flavour is reached. You might have to crush them a little to bring out the sweetness. Place the pitcher in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Find a quiet spot outside to relax, sip, and catch up on a good book or chat with friends. A perfect way to end the day.