Colour & Balance

October 2, 2011

Morning Greens

My little blog has gathered dust. Time to blow it off, give it a light polish and add something fresh. So here it is then, fresh, though a dubious green. This kale shake arrives every morning in varying grades of greens, from the olive-hued one pictured to prettier spring green. Michael blends one together for us each weekday, and everyday he has a different balance of ingredients. What is balanced, I think, is the nutritional value. At the very least, we begin our day properly. And, for the most part, this shake is surprisingly yummy. Everyone that tries it is pleasantly wowed. Maybe their expectations are really low? Sometimes, not often, ingredients are imbalanced and breakfast can taste somewhat grim green. Stick more not less to the recipe below and you, too, will be pleasantly wowed.

Makes 1 tall shake

1 handful of fresh kale leaves

1 handful fresh spinach leaves

1/2 a ripe pear, cored

1/2 a ripe and frozen banana

a scoop of frozen berries

1 scoop of hemp protein powder

about half a cup of water or almond milk

Pack kale and spinach leaves into the bottom of your blender. Add all other ingredients and blend on the fast, faster, fastest setting until smooth and evenly green.

Breakfast Pie

September 20, 2010

Oatmeal Pie

This is a wedge of warm oatmeal pie. I stole the idea from this charming site and healthed it up a little. I love it, I just love it. And it cooled into a very sturdy granola-like bar. Have it warm for breakfast or later in the day for an afternoon tea break.

Makes 1 – 9″ pie

1 1/2 cups large flake oatmeal

1/2 cup quinoa

1/4 cup ground flax

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit

1 whole egg

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil plus a dribble more

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Lightly oil pie plate with the extra dribble of olive oil. Measure the oatmeal, quinoa, flax, cinnamon, cardamom, sea salt, baking powder and raisins into a mid-size bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg with apple juice, almond milk, honey and olive oil. Pour the wet into dry and mix together. Scoop into prepared pie plate and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut out a wedge and serve warm with slices of ripe autumn pears and almond milk. Or cool completely, portion and wrap for a portable granola-esque snack.

Pie For Breakfast

Slowly Through the Night

April 19, 2010

Early Bird

Early Bird

Don’t you wish that you could wake up to breakfast ready? Something hot and nutritious? So that you didn’t have to rattle around clumsily, hurried, before work? Wish no more. Here’s a recipe by yours truly that guarantees you breakfast by dawn. Get it? Breakfast by dawn? Haul out your slow cooker.

Makes lots

1.5 cups large flake, old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup quinoa flakes

3/4 cup pearl barley

1/4 cup quinoa

1/4 cup red quinoa

1/4 cup ground flax

pinch of salt

8 cups water

There is not much to this method. You can almost do it with your eyes closed, which is partly the point. Throw all of the ingredients into your slow cooker, program it for four hours on low and go to bed. Wake up to a rather large potful of hot cereal. Admittedly, you will have to reheat over the next few mornings. But that’s okay, there’s nothing to think about as long as, like me, you don’t mind eating the same thing for a few mornings. You can have it with seeds or nuts for crunch, dried fruit for a bit of sweetness and almond milk to render it cool and creamy.

A Good Start

Frittata

January 28, 2010

Open-Faced Omelette

A frittata is an open-faced omelette. It requires little skill, unlike an omelette, which requires a quick flick of the wrist or a deft flip with a spatula. I used to load up my frittatas with a generous handful of cheese. Now I leave it out. A frittata is fairly easy-going and welcomes a wide range of ingredients. Without a doubt you have all the ingredients you need in your fridge to make a frittata right now. And a wedge of cold, leftover frittata makes a great snack or quick lunch. As you can see, I finished this one with a pretty dice of healthy, nutrient-rich red pepper.

Serves 2

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1/2 a small onion, finely chopped

1 mushroom, chopped

small clump of steamed spinach

4 eggs, whisked

a little chopped, fresh herb, such as thyme or a pinch of dried, I used herbes de Provence

a couple of pinches of salt

fresh black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 375º. Heat olive oil in a small pan, I used a little 6″ black frying pan, over medium heat on the stove top. Add diced onions and sauté for a couple of minutes and then add mushrooms and the small clump of spinach. While these ingredients are cooking and heating, whisk eggs with herbs and salt and pepper. Pour eggs into pan over vegetables and let cook, undisturbed, for a couple of minutes. Using a spatula, pull cooked egg from the edges and bottom of the pan into the centre, this will allow the uncooked egg flow to the bottom and sides. Let cook on the stove for another minute or two and then slide into the oven. Bake the frittata for about 15 minutes, it will puff up importantly when it’s done. Take it from the oven and let it rest. This is key, to let it rest a few minutes. It will deflate a bit and pull away from the pan around the sides slightly. Now you will be able to remove it from the pan with a bit of help from a dinner knife. Of course, you could serve the frittata in its little pan if you prefer. This recipe is a guideline. You can put almost everything except for a kitchen sink into a frittata. Cold, leftover potatoes are excellent! Add a minced clove of garlic, a little bit of meat, chopped green onion, smoked salmon, tomatoes, asparagus… I think you can see where I’m going with this. And if you have a crowd coming for brunch, triple the eggs and use a large pan. It portions neatly into pie-shaped pieces and is delicious at room temperature. Obviously, the cooking time will increase with the size, so plan accordingly.

All Puffed Up

Sunday Morning

December 14, 2009

Unpuffy Pancake

Back in the day I would make puffy pancakes quite regularly. A puffy pancake, sometimes called a Dutch Baby, is made from a simple, loose batter. You slide this unpromising batter into a hot oven, and it bakes up into a buttery, crisp and majestic wonder. I was out in the early morning frost yesterday for an invigorating run with the always amazing Parkside Runners, and came home determined to make Michael and I a puffy pancake. Let me tell you, puffy pancakes freak Michael out, he loves them so much! As I read through my recipe, my determination wavered. I realized that I might be able to clean up the recipe and make it gluten-free, wheat-free, refined sugar-free and dairy-free. Plus, if it was clean, it had potential to be Baker’s Balance blog-worthy. I swept aside my crestfallen Michael and proceeded. The results were a bit deflating: this cleaned-up pancake refused to puff. I concocted one recipe and then another. The results were quite tasty, but lacking in the puffed-up drama of puffy pancakes past. I realize now, as I’m writing this, that clean-eating has had the same effect on me as this pancake: neither of us are puffed. Do not be deterred by the lack of rise, this is a yummy panful of pancake for a Sunday morning.

Serves two

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

a pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons agave

2 large eggs

1/2 cup almond milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Pre-heat oven to 425º. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, cornstarch, xantham gum and sea salt. Add agave, eggs, almond milk and vanilla extract. This will whisk up into a runny batter, so loose that it might have you wondering if you mis-measured. You have not, in all likelihood. Set a 9″ or so cast-iron or stainless steel pan over medium heat on top of your stove and add the coconut oil. Let it melt, swirl it around and up the sides of the pan. Pour your runny puffy pancake batter into the middle of the pan and let it sit, without stirring, on the stove for about one minute. Remove from heat and slide into your hot oven. Bake for about twenty minutes, or until (un)puffed and golden. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

November 5, 2009

L1030963

Great Pumpkin Loaf

My friend Jen G. bakes an exceptional pumpkin loaf, but her recipe begins with 3 cups of sugar. I scaled back her recipe and changed up a few ingredients. Here is the result. It’s not quite as yummy as Jen’s, but it’s a whole lot healthier. I also made great pancakes from this recipe. If you want to make pumpkin pancakes and a loaf, double the recipe.

Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup agave

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1 large egg, plus 1 large white, save the yolk for your morning omelette

5 oz pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/3 cup almond flour

1/4 cup ground flax

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Pre-heat the oven to 350º. Line a loaf pan with parchment and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk agave and coconut oil with egg and egg white. Add pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, almond milk and water. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over and mix together. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer into the centre, it will emerge cleanly when done. If you have doubled the recipe for pancakes, pour just half of the batter into the loaf pan and reserve the remaining batter. I fried my pumpkin pancakes in a little bit of coconut oil, they make a great breakfast treat.

PS – Check the comments section for easy instructions on how to make your own roasted sugar pumpkin puree.

Galettes de Sarrasin

October 8, 2009

Buckwheat Crêpe

Buckwheat Crêpe

Crêpes were one of the first things I learned to make as a child. I would spend many a Sunday morning blending up double and triple batches of batter and proceed to make crêpe after crêpe. Back in those halcyon days of the early 1970’s I would serve my foot-high stack of artificial lemon-extract flavoured crêpes with two pounds of crispy bacon, Roger’s Golden Syrup, bowls of my mom’s lovely preserves and half a litre of cream, whipped loose and thick and barely sweetened. And Woodward’s coffee. I didn’t drink coffee then, but I loved to make it for my parents – the ritual of measuring the grinds, the gorgeous rich smell as it brewed while I crêped. Impressively, or perhaps horrifyingly, the four of us would finish most of the crêpes, all of the bacon and usually all of the whipped cream. My skinny little brother had (has) a shark-like stealth, and could quietly and efficiently inhale way more than his fair share. He is still skinny and stealthy.

I know my family will balk at the idea of a healthy crêpe, but times have changed and so have my recipes. Buckwheat is excellent for savoury crêpes, and even serves well for a dessert crêpe. Buckwheat makes a nutty, almost hearty crêpe, and is a delicious gluten-free treat. They can be filled with any number of things – from egg or smoked salmon, to sliced tomatoes with basil, leftover ratatouille, or sweet fall pears with fresh lemon.

Makes about 10 – 9″ crêpes

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup almond milk

5 tablespoons water

1 large whole egg + 1 large egg white (save yolk to add to tomorrow’s omelette)

1 tablespoon coconut oil + more for pan

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1/8 teaspoon stevia

Measure all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend or process until thoroughly combined. Pour into a measuring cup and let rest at room temperature for about an hour or overnight, covered, in the fridge. Heat a 10″ non-stick pan over medium-low heat, coat lightly with a tiny bit of coconut oil. Stir batter and pour about 3 tablespoons into pan, pick up pan and quickly swirl the batter so that it covers entire surface, return to heat. Let cook for a couple of minutes, the edges will turn a pretty, delicate gold as the rest of the crêpe sets. Sometimes you need to discard (eat) the first crêpe as it is prone to being far too thin and lacy from the bubbles on the surface of the batter. I used to make my crêpes one after another until all my batter was used up, and sometimes I still do this. Or, you can make one at a time. If you choose the latter you can fill and finish them as you go. For example, as your first crêpe is almost done, crack a fresh egg right on top, season with sea salt and pepper and add fresh herbs. Leave the egg whole or gently break the yolk and tilt the pan so that it coats the crêpe. When the egg is done to your liking, fold the crêpe in half or quarters and turn onto a plate. Et voilá – galettes de sarrasin! So good your whole picky and opinionated family might like them. Especially if you serve them with an entire bowl of whipped cream and a fresh pot of coffee.

With Pears

With Pears

Note: cooked crêpes keep well, stacked one on top of the other, covered and refrigerated. Filled with jam they make a great snack in the evening for one little brother, or anyone else who’s not clean-eating.

A final note: the lovely linen napkin is from the superb Provide home accessories shop!

Tailor-Made

September 28, 2009

Tailor-Made

Tailor-Made

Granola has the unattractive image of being just for hippies, sort of like patchouli. But granola is for the chic, too. Here is a template for granola – it’s a flexible recipe that you can tailor as you see fit. If you read the list of ingredients and raisins don’t suit you then leave them out and substitute in something else. Or, again, if you read the list of ingredients and think “What the hell? I don’t have amaranth in my pantry, I can’t make this.” Well then, swap out the amaranth for more oatmeal flakes. In fact, you can swap out the quinoa flakes, ground flax, buckwheat kasha and the amaranth and use only oatmeal, just ensure that you put in a total of five cups. Same with the nuts and seeds. What I’ve chosen to put in my granola depends on both what I like and what I have on hand. It’s not that much work to make your own granola. This recipe makes loads, you will have plenty, even if you give some away. Not only is granola expensive to buy, it often contains bad oil and refined sugars, and lots of both. And if you custom-make your own you can put in exactly what you like, as I’ve said, so that it fits your appetite. Not that you’re fussy. It is a scrumptious and addictive breakfast with almond milk, and a superb snack that travels well. Now, shake shake shake those chic hips and start measuring and pre-heating. Just stay away from the patchouli, okay?

Makes: loads

3 cups large flake, old fashioned oatmeal

1 cup quinoa flakes

3/4 cup buckwheat kasha*

1/4 cup amaranth

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut, I am especially fond of ribbon coconut

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup natural, unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup cocoa nibs** or chopped dark chocolate, optional

Pre-heat your oven to 350º and adjust your racks so that you have two racks as in the centre of your oven as possible. In quite a large bowl (hopefully you own one and didn’t sell it at this year’s yard sale… you can use a large pot if you did) combine oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and sea salt. Stir in the spices, if you’re using. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. If you’re a cinnamon girl as the lovely Jen G.*** is, use all cinnamon and leave out the cardamom. Add the seeds and nuts and set aside. Measure the apple juice, agave and vanilla directly into a measuring cup, stir and pour evenly over your big bowl or pot of granola-to-be. Toss and stir well to thoroughly dampen all ingredients. Turn out onto two parchment-lined half-sheet pans and spread out evenly. Set aside your bowl, or pot, but don’t wash it yet. Slide both trays into your oven. Bake for about half an hour or so, being diligent about stirring so that it toasts evenly. Stir at least twice during the baking time and rotate the pans once. Meanwhile, in your slightly used bowl or pot, toss in the dried fruit and cocoa nibs or chocolate, if using. I think chocolate would be very nice in granola but I can’t be trusted, I would pick out the chocolate bits and end up with a bowlful of chocolate and almond milk for breakfast. Once your granola is out of the oven, cool completely before adding it to your dried fruits and cocoa nibs or chocolate. Combine and store in a large cookie jar or container. In theory your granola will last for a long time, it has a good shelf life. But you will probably make short work of it.

*Buckwheat kasha are toasted buckwheat groats, and they’re gluten-free. I think kasha has a cinnamon-esque flavour. It’s considered a pseudo-cereal because it’s not a grass but a fruit seed.

** Cocoa nibs are fermented and crushed cocoa beans. They are raw and minimally processed, contain no sugar and are super-high in antioxidants as well as minerals. Plus, they have a deep, nutty chocolate taste because they are chocolate.

*** Jen G. is a superstar (note the three *s by her name) and one of the divine Parkside Runners. She has the prettiest, craziest eyes out of all of us. Once she is on board for something, like a marathon or a triathlon, she develops tunnel vision. Training for our first triathlon begins after the RVM!

A Good Egg

August 31, 2009

The Perfect Egg

The Perfect Egg

It is said that a toque blanche, a chef’s white hat, has exactly 100 pleats, and these pleats represent the many ways an egg can be cooked. Perhaps that is folklore. Regardless, eggs are nothing short of amazing. And a perfectly boiled egg is sublime. I have recently had the pleasure of meeting a talented and passionate chef named David, and he asked me if I have ever had The Perfect Egg. And, while I pride myself on my boiled eggs, it turns out that I have never made or eaten The Perfect Egg. Until now. The Perfect Egg is cooked in a pot of hot water that is held at exactly 64.5º C for 45 minutes. The water, while hot and steamy, does not simmer or move, the heat is that low. It was a tad tricky and tedious to do this on a gas stove but I succeeded with the help of a thermometer and incessant monitoring. The result was an egg with an exceptionally silky, fully-cooked white and a thick, creamy, decadent yolk.

For real life I have a method for boiling eggs that is foolproof, no chef’s hat required. There are always, almost always, boiled eggs in my fridge. When left in-shell they are a portable and perfect source of protein. Sometimes one will serve as my breakfast with a sprinkling of sea salt, peeled while standing in the early morning dusky dawn of my kitchen, ready to head out the door for the day. To accompany this modest meal, a spoonful or two of sprouts, or carrot sticks, sometimes an apple, whatever is handy and easy. Because of their portability I often tote a cold, boiled egg about, nestled in a container with an odd grouping of fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts. I am fussy about how my eggs are cooked. I really dislike over-boiled eggs with their chalky yolks, ringed with unappealing grey-green edges and rubber-like whites. With a little care and eight minutes, it is simple to boil up a good egg or twelve.

A Good Egg

A Good Egg

Make as few as one or up to a dozen, whatever your pot can accomodate

large, good-quality eggs – when I’m lucky I manage to get a dozen from UBC Farm

Bring a medium to large pot of water to a simmer. Carefully lower eggs into the water, I use an inexpensive Chinese strainer with a bamboo handle. Set timer for four minutes, taking care that the water doesn’t come to a boil but stays at a gentle simmer. Once the timer beeps turn the heat off and reset the timer for another four minutes. Let the eggs sit undisturbed in the hot water. When the timer beeps for the second time lift the eggs from the hot water and rinse cold water over them until they’re cool enough to handle. Pat dry and store in the fridge. Left in-shell they will keep for at least a week. You can’t go wrong with a good egg.

Break Your Fast. Fast.

August 26, 2009

Get Cracking!

Get Cracking!

What’s for breakfast? BIG challenge some mornings. A little organization goes a long way. I made this breakfast in three minutes, I timed myself, which is a bit of a geeky confession. I’m kind of embarrassed for myself, but I was curious. It didn’t take much longer than a smoothie. I had some leftover steamed spinach and a container of pesto in the fridge so it made for an extra-fast, really tasty omelette.

Serves 1 hurried person

2 whole large eggs

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup leftover steamed spinach, or other leftover vegetable

1 tablespoon pesto

sea salt

pepper

fresh tomatoes or oven-roasted if they’re not in season

wedge of avocado

Pre-heat a 7″ pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the olive oil and crack the two eggs directly into the warming pan – no need to mess up a bowl. Break the eggs apart with the tip of a heatproof spatula, don’t go crazy, the streaks of yellow yolk are pretty. Season with a little sea salt and pepper. By now, approximately one minute in, the edges of the egg will be crisping and setting. Strew leftover spinach over half the eggs and dollop the pesto about. It’s about two minutes in now, place a lid over to speed the cooking of your omelette. Cut some fresh tomatoes onto a plate and add a wedge of avocado. Lift the lid, flip half the omelette – the half with nothing on top of it – over top of the other half, put the lid back on. Wait patiently for thirty seconds or so, to ensure that the eggs are fully set. There, it’s done! Quickly turn the omelette over onto your ready plate. Maybe it took you longer than three minutes, but probably not much. The more practice you get the faster you’ll get. Breakfaster.