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Friday, December 14, 2007

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

This is my favorite veggie lasagna. Roasting the vegetables first makes them very tender. You can add spinach, eggplant or any other desired vegetables.

3 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

2 medium zuchinni, sliced
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (extra smooth)
1 cup 1% cottage cheese
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg white
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked
3 cups of spagetti sauce (28 oz canned pureed tomatoe sauce, 3oz tomato paste, garlic minced, 1 tsp both rosemary and oregano)
1 1/2 cups shredded, part-skim mozarella or swiss cheese


1. Spray a large roasting pan with non stick spray. Add the first 10 ingredients. Mix well until the vegetables are coated with the seasoning. Roast uncovered at 400F for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking time.

2. While vegetables are roasting, prepare cheese filling and cook the pasta. For the cheese filling combine the following in a medium bowl: the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, 1/4 of the parsley, parmesan cheese and egg white. Mix well and then refridgerate until ready to use. For the noodles, cook according to the package. Make sure to rinse and drain them well.

3. To prepare the spaghetti sauce use 3 cups of pureed tomatoes (canned 28oz), add 3 oz tomato paste, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp rosemary.

4. To assemble the lasagna, spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with non stick spray. Spread 1/4 of the spaghetti sauce over bottom of pan. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles (3 lengthwise and 1 crosswise) over the sauce. Spread 1/2 cheese filling over noodles, followed by 1/3 of the roasted vegetables. Sprinkle vegetables with 1/3 mozza or swiss cheese. Repeat layering by placing 4 noodles, then 1/4 sauce, 1/2 cheese filling, 1/3 roasted veggies, 1/3 mozzarella. Final layer: 4 noodles, rest of spaghetti sauce, and top with rest of roasted veggies (1/3).

5. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining mozza cheese and parsley. Return to oven for 5 mins. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mini Lemon Pepper Salmon Cakes

These can be made with real or canned salmon. They work as an appetizer or an entree (make larger or keep them mini and serve with salad). They freeze well and can be reheated in 12-15mins at 425F.

2 large potatoes (1 lb)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 cans (7.5 oz) red sockeye salmon, drained
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

Alternative dip: mayonnaise, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper

Peel and cut potatoes in half crosswise. In saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and cook potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes; drain and return to pot. Using potato masher, mash until smooth.

In large bowl, combine potatoes, bread crumbs, onions, parsley, lemon rind and juice, garlic, salt and pepper; blend in egg. Fold in salmon. Let cool for 5 minutes. Form by rounded tablespoonfuls (15 mL) into 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick patties.

Make-ahead: Place on plates; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Dipping Sauce:
In small bowl, combine mayonnaise, parsley, garlic and lemon rind. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Cooking Cakes:
In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Fry fish cakes, in batches, until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

Make-ahead: Place on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; let cool in refrigerator. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Reheat in 375°F oven, about 6 minutes.

Serve with dip.
Yields: 32 mini cakes

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Story of Stuff

I came across this interesting cartoon regarding the story of stuff from extraction of resources to consumption and disposal. The purpose is to "expose the connections between environmental and social issues, in the hope to create a more sustainable and just world."

Post WWII some bright capitalist got the idea that in order for economic growth to occur a system of consumption needed to be created. He stated that ...

"Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption, we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."

This cartoon is pretty long at20mins, but can be broken down into chapters listed at the top of the screen. Although all chapters have interesting and important information, I think the consumption chapter is expecially important and interesting as it is something we can all relate to. So if you do not wish to view this at all or in its entirety, I urge you at least to skip to the consumption chapter and/or listen to bits of each chapter. I think we owe it to yourselves, our family, future generations and your planet.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chocolate Crunch Cookies

This cookie was featured in the LCBO Food & Drink magazine. The recipe is from Ottawa's Planet Coffee in the Byward Market, who offer organic fair trade coffee and delicious treats.

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups oats
2 cusps Rice Krispies cereal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix together butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, oats, cereal, chocolate chips and pecans. Stir together until combined.
Drop batter on baking sheets in mounds of 3T about 3 inches apart for large cookies, or 1 T mounds for smaller cookies and flatten with hands. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until pale gold.
Makes 30 large cookies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


These are one of my favourite appetizers to make and are usually a hit. Different from your traditional pinwheel, these vegetarian bean wraps are simple, healthy and flavourful.

19 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 x 10 inch whole wheat flour tortillas
1 x avocado, sliced
3 x roasted red peppers, sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp of minced garlic
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Sour Cream Dip
2 cups sour cream
2 tsp chopped cilantro, optional
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper, to taste


Puree black beans (or mash with a potato masher). Add garlic, lime juice and spices. Season with salt and pepper. Spread black bean mix evenly onto 8 tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with roasted red pepper, diced avocado and cheese. Roll up. Cut and serve as appetizers with sour cream dip.

Sour Cream Dip
In medium bowl, combine the sour cream cilantro, parsley, cayenne, lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Another pinwheel option that was a hit at a recent luncheon I hosted was sliced turkey breast (real not processed meat is preferred), fresh cranberry sauce, brie cheese and lettuce rolled in a whole wheat or flavoured tortillas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pasta Sauce with Chicken and Peppers

6 to 8 grain fed chicken thighs
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 x onions, diced
8 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup of red wine
1 x red pepper, diced
1 x green pepper, diced
1 x 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 x 156 ml can of tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Pasta Sauce with Chicken and Peppers
Place a large pot on the stove and turn heat to high. Add oil and begin to brown thighs, skin side down. When skin is golden brown, flip the thighs and brown the other side. Remove and set aside on a plate.

Drain excess fat from the pan and put back over heat. Add onions and stir and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. When the onions are golden and caramelized, add garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of red wine, chicken pieces, peppers, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cover with a lid and let simmer for an hour. Serve over pasta such as penne or rotini.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Meatrix

In a past blog I gave a simple and likely boring yet informative piece about the importance of buying locally. I discussed how large agricultural corporations have destroyed the small local farms in order to mass produce meat & vegetables for economic gain. And that in doing so they have caused mass air and water pollution and contaminated food products with dangerous pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals.

A point that I did not elaborate on was the cruelty towards animals that these large corporations practice. Cows & chickens do not have acres to graze in, but instead are packed in so tightly that they are literally on top of one another with no space to even turn around; chickens beaks are cut off to avoid pecking one another; calves are fed the blood of other cows (yes this is part of the mad cow issue were meat and bone meal was fed to livestock); cows are slaughtered while not being unconscious - please see this website for much much more information

I recently watched a movie called Fast Food Nation which is based on a book by Eric Schlosser, a book I was fortunate to have read in sociology class. The movie does a great job at emphazing the economic and political power these large fast food corporations have and how they will put economic gain above public health. Although the film has one momentum from start to finish, the big picture and different perspectives makes for a powerful message.

Even more impressive than the movie itself is the three short animations that are special features of the dvd called the Meatrix starring Moopheus. I urge everyone to go to the following website and play all three movies (part 1, 2, and 2 1/2), as they provide insight into the world of factory farming.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blacked Salmon with Mango Salsa

Salmon Fillets
4 x 7 ounce portions of salmon with skin (or use other fish such as halibut)
1 1/2 tbsp blackening spice
1 tbsp olive oil

Mango Salsa
2 x mangos cubed into ½ inch pieces
2 x green onions sliced thinly
2 tbsp red onion, chopped fine
1 x Thai chili, finely chopped (if use jalapenos without seeds salsa is good but hot!)
3-4 tbsp cilantro, chopped roughly
2 tbsp red pepper, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combined all ingredients in a bowl and add season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill mixture in refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving. (see Mango Salsa)

Blackening Spice
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp white pepper
1/2 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp oregano

Combine all ingredients and store in airtight container for up to 2 mths. Makes 1/2 cup.

Preparing Fish: pat dry with towel and rub on desired about of blackening spice to one side - the flesh side.

Grilling: preheat well oiled grill to med-high heat. Place the fish skin side down and grill for 4-5 min then flip and grill other side for 4-5 min, until fish is opaque. Do not over cook. Serve immediately with mango salsa and side dish.

Side dish suggestions: baked or grilled acorn squash or grilled balsamic vinegar vegetables with goat cheese or grilled vegetable coucous salad.

This is one of my favourite dishes to make as it is again full of fresh flavor. The fruity mango compliments the heat of the blackening spice. I have found the salmon at Lapointe's fish market to be excellent - very fresh compared to your Loblaws fish, and usually cheaper or the same price. You can also get wild or organic farmed salmon, which are about two times the price per pound. This recipe was modified from

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wynn's Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

A great idea of a bridal shower particularly for those bride and groom's that already have a home or a well accessorized apartment is a wine and cheese. When I did this for my sister's bridal shower, I requested that guests bring no gift, just a bottle of wine to contribute to a wine cellar for the to be newly weds and I served as you can guess wine and cheese to the guests. I was amazed at how many great wines she received and how fun it was to try these wines.

So when my bridal shower came around, my sister, knowing how much I enjoyed inviting myself over to try her wines, did the same for me. I received about 15-20 bottles of wine, some of which were recommended to drink immediately and others to age in a wine cellar anywhere from 1-5 years.

One particular wine which I stored for 1 year was the Wynn's Coonawarra Estate 2002. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, Australia. This wine is known as 'Black Label.' Although I have recently discovered that this wine's should be properly stored in a cellar from 3-5 years, after 1 year it still had great flavor.

This wine has a very strong deep red colour. Aromas consist of blackcurrant & blackberry, it was very earthy with some vanilla. I found it to be full bodied with a nice dryness on the palate. Flavours consisted of blackcurrant, cherry and mocha flavours. I would recommend decanting this wine as it has a lot of sediments.

International Wine magazine notes that this wine "is richly flavored and finely structured with sweet fruit flavors and vanilla oak in the background. Deep red. Pungent, floral, spicy nose exudes strong aromas of blackberry, bitter cherry, beef jerky and musky underbrush. Sweet oak spice and floral pastilles accent intense redcurrant and cherry flavors, with suggestions of earthy tobacco and succulent herbs. Finishes with deeper, darker blackcurrant and plum flavors and well-managed, silky tannins."

Its a perfect match with steak, rack of lamb and bold tasting cheeses.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Crepes Suzette with Espresso Sauce

It is nice to start the day with these light crepes, another great creation from my husband. The taste of orange is refreshing and the contrasting bitter and chocolaty espresso sauce certainly helps kick start the day.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup melted butter or non stick spray

Espresso Sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
3 T instant espresso coffee
1 T cornstarch
2 T butter

In a saucepan heat sugar, water and 3 T instant espresso until coffee is dissolved. Moisten 1 T cornstarch with 2 T cold water, stir into suace. Cook, stirring constantly, until suace is clear and smooth. (Sauce will be quite thin). Blend in 2T butter. Let cool until serving time.


Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, orange liqueur, vanilla, and orange zest and flour until combined. If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining milk until a thin consistency is achieved. Cover and refrigerate batter for 30 minutes.Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute.

Cover the surface of the pan with melted butter or non stick spray (need to keep spraying after each crepe) until it gets sizzling hot. Ladle some batter onto the middle of the crepe pan and immediately start swirling the pan to distribute the batter over the surface. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds or until lightly golden brown. Flip over and cook the other side for 20 seconds. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve with mimosas or coffee with kahlua

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Raw food diets are basically just that - the consumption of uncooked (or heated no greater than 115F or 46C), unprocessed, and mainly organic foods including vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and unpasterized dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese).

The raw food movement is by no means new, but is certainly gaining popularity as it thought to provide enhanced health benefits such as increased energy, improved skin, improved digestion, weight loss, reduced risk of chronic diseases, particularly those related to obesity (heart disease, diabetes), as well as certain types of cancers.

Raw foods contain enzymes which aid in digestion and many of the body’s metabolic processes important to our health. When we cook or process food these enzymes are broken down and do not work as efficient or effectively. It is thought that the breakdown of these enzymes lead to toxicity in the body and thus to chronic diseases. Cooking meat creates toxins (heterocyclic amines to be accurate) which are thought to increase the risk of cancer. In addition raw foods are noted to have higher nutritional values then cooked foods and to contain bacteria which are thought to aid our immune system.

In my research on this diet I found out that cooking meat below 100 C creates ‘negligible amounts’ of these toxins and microwaving meat before cooking may reduce them by up to 90%. For now, I will stick to those alternative cooking methods (with the addition of dehydration methods) and enjoy raw fish (another excuse to eat sushi and sashimi), and continue to eat my usual organic raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and reduce my sugar intake. But a complete switch to this diet takes dedication that even my obsessive compulsive dietary behaviours finds demanding.

Of course I am all for a lifestyle diet that truly offers health benefits – particularly those that claim to reduce cancer risks – and there are many amazing stories about curing chronic diseases and weight loss (important for preventing diseases). My only concern with any diet becoming main stream or the next buzz word is that people might jump on the ban wagon before knowing all the facts of such a diet. This diet is by no means as simple as the word may imply and requires a great amount of research and dedication to ensure it is properly followed so as to not actually enhance potential damage to the body.

For instance it should be know that some so called raw foods do need to be heated at a certain temperature to kill bacteria or parasites which can lead to life threatening food borne pathogens – in this case high temperatures are usually required. Or that a lack of certain nutrients can lead to a loss in bone density or reproductive problems (potentially a lack of B12, copper, iron and zinc and protein).

If you are interested in this diet I would suggest doing your homework first and consider gradually changing into this diet so as to avoid experiencing the detoxification effects such as headaches and nausea mainly from the withdrawal of sugar and caffeine in your system.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a must make recipe for anyone who loves goat cheese and tomatoes. The flavors absolutely melt in your mouth. Although the plan was to grill these, the condo we stayed at did not have a bbq, therefore they were made in the oven. The following recipe is for 4 tomatoes, however, we halved the recipe as we felt 1 tomato per person was plenty, considering the rest of the food we had already eaten. If using smaller tomatoes, 2 per person would be a nice side dish.

1/2 cup soft fresh goat cheese
1/2 - 1 T fresh cilantro (or sage) chopped
1-2 green onions, chopped
4 medium firm tomatoes (2 yellow and 2 red)
salt and coarse ground pepper to taste
1/2 T olive oil

Cut cone like openings in the top of the tomatoes making 1 1/2 inch round pocket. Chop fresh cilantro (or sage) and add to the goat cheese, along with the green onions, salt and pepper. Spoon cheese mixture into tomatoes with the cheese heaping over the opening. Place on baking sheet ready for the oven or grill (300F in the oven - medium heat on BBQ).
Drizzle with oil and salt and pepper and cook (oven 10-12min and 8 min in BBQ - until cheese is warm and tomatoes have softened). If in the oven broil for another 2 minutes allowing the cheese to crisp on top. Remove from oven/grill and serve immediately.

The goat cheese mixture can also be used as a spread for an appetizer served with crackers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lamb Chops with Chili-Cilantro Sauce

This entree was prepared by my husband following our mussel appetizer. Originally the plan was to grill these, however with no bbq, we resorted to pan cooking, which turned out excellent. The marinade and sauce made these very tender and full of flavor.

Lamb Chops

6 lamb chops x 1 inch thickness
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T chili powder
1 T dried oregano
1 T ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chili-Cilantro Sauce

1 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallow or green onion
1 T garlic, minced (about 2-3 cloves)
1 T cilantro, chopped
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
4 T butter

Combine the ingredients under the Lamb Chops heading and coat the lamb chops with mixture and marinate for 6-8 hours. Cover and refridgerate.

Prepare the cilantro sauce: heat 1 T oil in medium saucepan, add shallots, garlic and sautee for 2 min. Add wine, beef stock and 1 T chili powder. Boil until sauce reduces to about 1 cup (takes a while). Remove sauce from heat and stir in butter 1 piece at a time, whisking to incorporate. Stir in the fresh chopped cilantro.

Grill lamp chops at medium-high heat about 5-6 min per side. Pour sauce over the chops and serve with goat cheese stuffed grilled tomatoes, green and yellow beans.

Wine: Folonari Valpolicella Classico 2003 Ripasso (aged 1 year in oak barrels and than properly stored for 1 year)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why buy locally?

Buying food, goods or services produced, grown, or raised as close to your home as possible helps promote sustainability (an outcome which considers both humans and the environment at present and in years to come).
With industrialization, our food is being grown and processed in fewer locations and must travel further from producer to our homes. Of course, large agriculture corporations are reaping the economic benefits of this method of mass production. Although mass production may have some advantages – I have yet to see the so called proclamation to end world hunger being part of this industrialization process. Rather, this method of mass production is causing harm to the environment, consumers and rural communities, as well contributing to the world of convenience and gluttony.

For instance, a tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, and air pollution.

Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep food fresh (or at least looking fresh) for a longer period of time. This packaging eventually becomes waste that is difficult or impossible, to reuse or recycle. In addition, the large industrial farms which produce these foods are often major sources of air and water pollution.

When it comes to health, buying food from local farms means getting food when it’s at its prime and has all its nutrients (not lost through days or weeks of travel on trucks). Food from afar tends to be genetically modified so that they appear fresher (brighter shine or color), longer shelf life, or can last in different temperatures. Many of the preservatives or the pesticides, growth hormones and chemical fertilizers large industrial farmers use to grow food and make it last longer are potentially hazardous to our health and the environment. Many cancers are being attributed to chemicals in foods which are bioaccummulating in your bodies.

Local foods from small farms usually undergo minimal processing, are produced in relatively small quantities, and are distributed in close proximity of the farm itself. Food produced on industrial farms is distributed throughout the world, creating the potential for disease-carrying food from a single factory farm to spread rapidly throughout the entire country (examples, include E-coli). From an epidemiological point of view tracking the origin of diseases can be difficult when all packaged meats are grouped together from thousands of different animals and distributed world-wide – and thus preventing or controlling disease outbreaks such as mad cow and E-coli is difficult (sorry that is the Risk Management in me).

Overall, by supporting our local farms and local stores we can help farmers keep their lands, preserve land which would ultimately be subject to urban sprawl, as well as prevent large organizations from economically pillaging small communities. Health wise these foods will be fresher, less contaminated with chemicals, contain more nutrients & vitamins needed to prevent disease and promote wellness.

We are lucky here in Ottawa, as this city offers a vast amount of areas to buy great local foods from the Byward Market, the Farmers market at Landsdown, the Parkdale Market, Westboro, Glebe as well as all the rural areas. Furthermore, there are an abundance of independent stores selling local goods and services. Whatever neighborhood you live in, rather than for the convenient one stop shopping at large corporate stores (Superstore, Walmart…), look around and see what stores offer local goods and services and help support them and keep them in business. Some complain about the prices, and yes this can be a deterrent to many, however it is about the supply and demand and unless we begin to support your local community costs will never go down and more and more independent stores will go under.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Spicy Turkey Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 x red pepper, diced medium
1 x yellow pepper, diced medium
2 tsp chili powder
canned Chipotle chili to taste chopped finely approximately 2 tsps
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
2 x cans, (3 cups) chopped tomatoes
2 x black beans, drained and rinsed for approximately 3 cups
1 cup canned corn drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup corn tortillas

In a large skillet set over medium high heat add the oil. Allow the oil heat for approximately 1 minute. Add the white onion, garlic and red onion, add turkey, ½ the red and yellow peppers and all of the spices. Cook until turkey is no longer pink approximately 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Once boil is reached, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in beans, corn and the rest of the peppers. Allow to cook for 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with cheese and tortillas.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This is a great fall recipe for lunch or dinner and goes great with a crusty piece of french bread. Although the word curry sounds potent those who have tried similar soups will know it is a nice blend without the pugent curry taste.

1 T reduced-fat butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups low sodium, reduced-fat chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice
4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 cup peeled, chopped pears
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup low fat sour cream
fresh parsley for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle curry powder over onions and cook 1 more minute. Add broth, apple juice, squash, and pears. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a medium-low. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.

Transfer soup to a blender or food processor. Pulse on and off until mixture is pureed. Return to pot. Add salt.

Serve with spoonful of sour cream and parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blueberry-Raisin Bran Muffins

I recently posted a bran muffin recipe however I had bran flakes and buttermilk to use up before its time. So I decided to try this recipe and was pleased with the flavour.

2 cups bran flakes cereal
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sultran or golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease/spray a 12-cup muffin tin.
Mix cereal with sugar, flour, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk oil, egg and buttermilk. Add buttermilk mixture to cereal mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in blueberries and spoon into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spaghetti & Hike for a Cure

This weekend marked the 1st annual Hike for a Cure, an event created by my husband to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. At 7am in front of the Parliament myself and three others (husband, brother in law and friend) started our 100km hike through the Trans-Canada trails to Wakefield and back - over the course of 2 days. Thanks to my husband's idea and dedication in putting the event together and everyone's support (family, friends, co-workers) we reached far beyond our goal in raising money for Canadian Cancer Research, and are "a step closer in the fight against cancer."

Before we began our trek it was essential that I load up on energy, so I induluged in my mother-in-law's spaghetti sauce, served with freshly grated parmesan, warm baked whole wheat bread and a glass of wine (recommend a hearty shiraz cabernet or a merlot).

1 3/4 pounds extra lean ground beef
1 cup chopped chopped onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 1/2oz) can beef broth
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp salt
1 large bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh pasley
1 can or chopped fresh mushrooms

1. Cook meat, onions, celery and garlic in a large saucepan over med-high until browned. Drain mixture. Return meat to saucepan stir in tomatoes and next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 35min. Stir in parsley cook 5 min. Dischard bay leaf.

Makes 8 (3/4 cup) servings

220 cal, 11.4g carbs, 3g fiber, 22.8g protein, 9g fat

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goats do Roam

For the past 2 years I have been trying to keep a decent wine cellar. The past months have certainly put a dent into not only quantity but quality of my wine selection. With fall and winter coming I am anticipating many hearty dishes like soups, stews, pastas & roasts that would be complimented by the perfect pairing wine.

A new addition to the cellar is a wine I have tasted before and immediately enjoyed the both the aroma and taste.

This South African shiraz has a vibrant red brick color with plum fruit, olive, licorice, and dried herb aromas. To the palate it offers a medium to full bodied, warm and peppery taste that offers a spicy and smooth finish. It goes perfectly with light meat dishes, and my favorite - spicy foods.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blueberry Bran Muffins

The recipe is out of the Looney Spoons Crazy Plates recipe book. They make a great breakfast or afternoon snack with tea. I made a bunch of regular sized muffins, but also a bunch of mini muffins. The peaches replace nearly all the oil, the bran adds tons fiber and the blueberries offer rich antioxidants, making them a low fat and healthy snack.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (140z) peaches in light syrup, undrained
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup fat free egg subsitute or 2 whole eggs
3 T vegetable oil
4 cups bran flakes cereal
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh of frozen) or use cranberries.

Preheat oven at 375 C, spray muffins tins with non stick spray. In medium bowl combine flour, bakingn soda, cinnamon, salt.

Drain peaches and reserve 1/3 cup of the syrup. Pour peaches and reserved syrup into a blender and puree until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together pureed peaches, brown sugar, egg substitute and vegetable oil. Add Bran Flakes and mix well. Add flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix. Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20min (less if using mini muffin pans), or until toothpick comes out of center clean.

Makes 12 regular muffins.

Tips on perfect muffins:

1. When mixing muffins do not overmix, just mix until the dry ingredients are wet and mixture is combined...NOT until lump free. Overmixing causes the gluten in the flour to over develop, making muffins dry and hard.

2. You can prepare the wet and dry ingredients the night before and store in the fridge. In the morning add the mixtures together and bake for fresh muffins.

3. Do not overfill muffin tin or they will not bake evenly - I use a cookie scooper to ensure they are all even.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough & Pizza Sauce

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
4 tsp honey
2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
add herbs if desired (oregano, basil, chili flakes)

Place the yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl and pour the heated water over the mixture, stirring until well blended. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes until foamy. Add the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and salt and stir with a fork until a coarse dough forms

Continue to mix by hand until a dough ball forms and all the flour is well blended. Cover the bowl and place it in a sink with about 4 inches of hot water in the bottom. The heat from the warm water will help the dough rise. The dough will double in size in about 40 minutes.

Punch it a few times with your fingers and let it rise another 30 minutes. Remove from the bowl and cut the ball into four equal pieces or 2 pieces. Can refridgerate unused dough for a day or two.

Pizza Sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups tomatoe sauce
1 can (5oz) tomatoe paste
2 T dried oregano
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, italian seasoning as desired to kick it up a bit. Cook onions and garlic in saucepan for 3min until softened. Add the rest of the ingredient and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 min. Cool before using. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fair Trade Coffee

It is imperative that I start my day off with a cup of coffee and I am not alone, as over 50% of Canadians drink coffee on a daily basis whether it is at home or from a coffee shop. In fact Canadians consume more than 40 million cups of coffee a day. Coffee’s allure comes from its aromatic character, boastful flavor and offers a caffeine jolt that can shake the cobwebs out of your head.

"What is the first thing you think of when you think of coffee?"

I decided to randomly ask the first ten people I ran into today that exact question. The typical themes/answers I received were Tim Hortons, Starbucks, morning and cookie/donuts. As expected no one mentioned anything about poverty or sustainable development. What does poverty and sustainable development have to do with coffee?

Most, if not all, Canadian coffee comes from developing countries including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua … Unfortunately, large corporations like STARBUCKS © obtain coffee from these developing countries in a manner which unfairly exploits the poor people of these regions, by paying them low prices for their coffee and then selling it at a higher price. The consequences are that coffee farmers are becoming more impoverished, and losing their lands, all the while large corporation (Starbuck’s) are reaping the economic benefits.

In order to ensure the producers in the developing countries receive fair price for the goods we consume some organizations have dedicated their efforts to push for more fair trade practices. Fair trade is a social movement which promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism and social policy in areas related to production of fair trade goods. Fair trade focuses on exports from developing countries to developed countries. The intent of fair trade practices is to help the producers and workers in these developing countries to remain independent and achieve economic sustainability in the international trade market.

Under fair trade practices less money goes to the “middleman” and more goes to the coffee grower. They (coffee growers) receive about 28 cents for every dollar spent by the coffee-consuming public, compared to about 11 cents per dollar under non-fair trade practices. When the producer is paid a fair price which covers the cost of production, it also enables them to produce the beans in a socially just (reduced exploitation of cheap women and child labor) and environmentally sound manner.

However, there needs to be a demand for “fair-trade” coffee in order for countries to be granted fair trade status. Currently, Nicaragua is in what is called a “coffee crisis” because it has been deemed that there is no demand for it – however, you have corporations like Starbucks that are not buying from fair trade importers and not brewing fair trade coffee but are getting richer and richer while Nicaraguan’s are getting poorer and poorer, losing their lands and dying from starvation.

I target Starbucks because they are the largest coffee chain in the world and only a measly 0.1% to 1% of all their purchases represent Fair Trade coffee. There is a campaign to push Starbucks to brew fair trade coffee and to highlight it at least once per week as the coffee of the day. In order to help this campaign you can send a free fax from the Global Exchange website:

You can also help developing countries by buying fair trade products (look for the label) and when buying from a coffee chain ask for fair trade brew. Locally, Bridgehead & Ten thousand villages among others are supporters of Fair Trade practices.

So next time you sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee ask yourself the question:

“What does my coffee make me think of?”

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

I was looking for a casual dessert to make for the cottage, and in the 2006 summer issue of Food & Drink I came across this recipe that stated "a weekend at the cottage wouldn't be the same without a pan of brownies. These decadent treats can be served simply with a dusting of icing sugar or topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with berry or chocolate sauce for a more elaborate dessert. "

Well that couldn't have made my search any easier, so although I am not a brownie fan I new my guests were. However, after whipping up a batch of these I quickly changed my tune about brownies.

Homemade brownies with high quality chocolate (using chocolate with with cocoa liquor, cocoa mass or unsweetened chocolate listed first in the ingredients list makes a huge difference in taste.

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (50 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 oz (175 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1½ cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla essence
4 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) chopped toasted pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Line a 13 x 9-inch (3-L) metal baking pan with foil, allowing excess to overhang edges. Lightly grease foil.

3. Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Melt butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until well blended. Stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula just until blended. Stir in pecans, if using. Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter into corners.

5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a just a few moist crumbs cling to tester inserted in the centre. Do not over-bake. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Remove foil from pan and transfer to cutting board. Serve immediately or wrap completely in foil and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. (To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, then in foil or airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.)

Cut into squares.

Makes 16 to 24 brownies

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It is a blistering 40 C outside with the humidity and I have the joy of living in the third floor apartment with air conditionning limited to the bedroom. That means that the hot sun hitting the black shingles, the lack of breeze through the windows and the humidity seeping it is literally an oven in my living room and kitchen. Needless to say cooking over a hot stove or turning on the oven right now is not really appealing. Although I am of the opinion that it is warm enough in here for things to cook on their own - something tells me it is not a good idea. I could grill but the downtown air is thick with smog and there is no shade to protect me from the ball of fire in the sky. Therefore I have decided to enjoy a few cold drinks.... liquid dinner I guess. I was going to grab a refreshing cold Corona with lime or a Smirnoff Ice. But then I was reminded of those relaxing days in Mexico when all I had to worry about was what bar I should sit at or should I swim in the pool or the ocean. My favourite drink from my favourite and bartender was a delicious and absolutely refreshing Mojitos. There are many ways to make them, and some are sweet, some bitter, but the one that I enjoyed seemed to have the right blend.


1 part Rum (Bacardi is good)
3 parts Club Soda
Mint Leaves
1/2 Lime
1/2 part sugar

Place a bunch of mint leaves, the sugar and lime slices in a glass and crush with at the bottom of your glass. Add rum, then club soda and stuff or top with mint leaves.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

For me there is nothing like getting up Saturday morning relaxing with a cup of joe and a healthy breakfast, then going for a hike/run in the Gatineau Park. My husband has been making pancakes on Saturday morning for years - fluffy banana pancakes, oatmeal pancakes, chocolate chip or berry pancakes. This morning he made some nice light fluffy low-fat and energy packed pancakes - Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. These were enough to kick start our day which resulted in a 20km (31/2 hr) hike in Luskville.

1 cup each whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder and baking soda
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cocoa
1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

In a large bowl combing flours, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and sugar. In separate bowl whisk together egg whites, buttermilk and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir just until moistened. Gently stir in blueberries (or add to each pancakes separately).

Spray a large wide skillet with non stick spray. Heat to mediumheat. Spoon about 1/2 cup batter for each pancake onto skillet. Cook until underside is brown and then flip and cook for 2-3 more mins. Serve with maple syrup or vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas

1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes)
1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's)
1 T chili powered
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice
8 (6") whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup salsa
1 cup reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese
3 T chopped fresh cilantro

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture thickens. Add rice and cook for 5 mins, until heated through.

Spoon a rounded 1/2 cup down the center of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish coated with non stick spray. Spoon salasa over each tortillas. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for 25 mins.
Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Bake 2-3 mins until cheese melted. Serve with lowfat sour cream.
Serves 8

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shiraz Cabernet

Being that it is Friday I have food and wine on my mind, well more than usual that is. The hot sun of the day has disappeared behind dark stormy clouds and the wind is picking up to the point the old windows are vigorously rattling. As weather plays an intergral part in my mood, I am more than content to open a bold bottle of wine, cook some comfort food and relax.
A wine that I have grown quiet fond of and fortunately is non expensive is Lindeman's Cawarra Shiraz Cabernet, Australia.

This wine has prominent aromas of spicy plum and dark fruit characters complemented by subtle vanilla oak. Medium bodied with firm tannins, the ripe cherry fruit flavours and balanced toasty oak character linger on the long, complex finish. It goes well with grilled or barbecued meats and meat flavoured pasta dishes. (yes I stole this from the label).

Many recipe books offer suggestive beers and wines to serve with dishes. However, tonight I think I will plan my food around my drink. Therefore tonight I will be having a Grilled Sirloin Tip Steak served with Toasted Cousous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables.

See Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Veggies

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (old fashioned)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 large eggplant, quartered lengthwise
10 spears asparagus, trimmed
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup basil chiffonade or chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
340 g whole wheat couscous
2 or (2 1/2) cups salted vegetable stock, heated

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Keep the other 1/2 for the dressing.Preheat the grill. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2" pieces, cut the tomatoes in half, cut asparagus diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the couscous and toast until lightly golden brown. Cover the couscous with the hot stock and let sit until stock aborbed then fluff with fork. Place in a large serving bowl, add the grilled vegetables and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Vanilla Bean Cafe

The Vanilla Bean Cafe was created as a means for me to post a compilation of both my own creative recipes and my favorite recipes inspired by others.

Inspired by the local markets, fair-trade stores, as well as trendy neighborhood cafes & restaurants, my passion for gourmet food & wine is quickly developing into an obsession. An obsession I love to share with good company.

As a health enthusiast most of my cooking consists of fresh foods, that boast flavor and offer essential vitamins & nutrients. In recent years, for health and environmental purposes, I have been trying to switch to more organic, fair trade and animal friendly foods. I hope to educate myself and others more about these issues through these blogs.

For those who share a passion for food and the environment , I hope you will find comfort in some of these recipes.

Saturday, August 4, 2007