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Red Deer Foodie

…getting busy in the kitchen!

This entry was originally posted on Running with Rhyno – a great blog to check out if you’re interested in connecting with some other runners!!

nutbars
Over the years I’ve learnt a few things; like chocolate is the best thing ever, and if you add hashtag #paleo to any picture on Instagram you will immediately get a ton of “likes”.

Here at mi casa, we have been observing what I like to call a “modified paleo” diet for a few years now – even before Instagram made it cool! I remember google searching for paleo recipes and only a couple sites would come up. These days, I notice that the lines separating paleo and simple clean eating are very blurred indeed. No offence, but I seriously doubt cavemen ever ate hamburgers – with or without a bun made from romaine lettuce or kale leaves!!

Anyways, I often create some strict paleo recipes (like the one below) but we also enjoy dairy and the occasional grains at home – modern day cave-people please don’t judge!


No-Bake Nutbars

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 melted coconut oil
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup dates, chopped and pitted + 2-3 tbsp water

Method:
Prepare 9×13 baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
In a small sauce pan, heat the dates (chopped and pitted already) with 2 tbsp water over medium high heat. You may see the need to put another tbsp of water in there if it looks like it’s drying out. Basically, this process is breaking down the dates into a jammy like texture and takes less than 5 minutes – seriously – so pay attention to it! The dates are acting as the sweetener in this recipe – if you don’t have on hand, sub out for agave nectar or honey – but maybe start with ¼ cup rather than a ½ and then build up.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the nuts, shredded coconut, cocoa powder and chia seeds. In a microwave safe container, slowly melt the coconut oil & the peanut butter. Now that everything is melted/mixed combine them all in that big bowl. Press into the pan you got ready in the beginning, cover with saran and chuck into the fridge for about an hour.

Cut into 24 pieces and wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap, then chuck into the freezer. These make great pre-workout snacks! (I plugged this recipe into a calorie counter and they come out to about 137 cals and 2.5g protein per piece). These kinds of recipes are fun to play around with; you can add other nuts, seeds or dried fruit and play around with the sweetener if you like!!

If you want to check out what kind of things I’m #hashtagging on Instagram, check me out: @shannonyac.

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(“Kale for Two” is a blog entry I originally wrote for Running with Rhyno – dig around this great blog for some great running stories, and you may learn a bit more about me!)

Kale is touted as one of the world’s “super foods” – chock full of vitamins and antioxidants ready to be absorbed into the human blood stream.  Yes, kale is wonderful, but it is definitely an acquired taste!!  I had a bad run-in with kale a few years ago and I’m not going to lie, it’s taken a lot of time to mourn the loss of that worm I bit in half.

I digress; kale is just one of those things – you like it or you don’t.  I would say the humans in my house are more of the “don’t like” camp, but some recent googling revealed that kale could be a remedy for migraine headaches.  After suffering several days, I main-lined kale in several forms and fashions this past weekend, and guess what? The migraine went away!  It could also have been the T3’s… but I’m no doctor, don’t ask me!

Anyways, I started my kale adventure with Kale Chips – a visit to any paleo blog or website would have you believe that kale chips are the most delicious awesome things ever.  They taste ok – just like salt I guess, they’re digestible, but they make the house smell of farts, so they will never be made in my house again.

Moving on to the main course – I wanted to incorporate it into a couple different dishes and came up with TWO amazing and delicious (not to mention sneaky) ways to ingest this super food.  Please enjoy my newest creations: Kale & Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Tomato & Kale Salad.

kale dinner

INGREDIENTS (serves 2):

Kale & Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts

1 slice bacon, chopped

1 small shallot, minced

4 mushrooms (dealers choice – plain old white or fancy), chopped small

1 handful of kale, chiffonade (i.e. sliced into fine thin slices)

1 tbsp herb goat cheese

2 tbsp butter

Balsamic Tomato & Kale Salad

2 tbsp olive oil (or your fave oil – hemp seed or avocado oil would rock)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp each: dried oregano, sea salt & fresh ground pepper

2-3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Handful of kale, sliced chiffonade again

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 375C.  Butterfly the chicken breasts, pat dry and set aside. Fry up the bacon over medium high heat until the fat starts to render; chuck in the shallot and mushrooms.  Cook until shallot is translucent and the mushrooms have released their juices.  Add the kale – cook until the juices are reduced and the kale has wilted a bit.  Transfer to mixing bowl to let cool slightly.

Once the mixture is cool to the touch, add the goat cheese – now here you could put more in if you love it, you could also do another soft ripened cheese – like seriously little chunks of brie would be deadly in there – whatever you have in the house!  Now divide the mixture in half and stuff those chicken breasts.

In the same pan you did the stuffing, melt butter over medium high (again you could use whatever good quality cooking fat you like to use – coconut oil is also a dream in this case.)  Carefully place the stuffed chicken in the pan, top side down first.  Brown each side for about 3-4 mins till you get a nice golden colour.  Transfer to a baking dish and then bake for about 15-20 mins (depending on the thickness of the chicken).  Remove from oven, tent with foil and then let rest for another 5 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking away, get your salad going: combine the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until it emulsifies.  Add the tomatoes and kale and toss till it’s all coated.  I like to have that sit for a while so that the kale is wilted a bit by the vinaigrette, but if you like the kale more crunchy, don’t toss until right before you’re ready to eat.

And there you have it, fairly easy and I would say definitely done in under an hour – a great weeknight dinner!

 

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Did you know there is a super easy to make your chicken more flavorful and juicy?   Soaking your chicken in a home-made brine is a simple and inexpensive step you can do with only a few ingredients!  I posted this on instagram a while back (follow me if you’re bored @shannonyac) for more ideas!!

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Ingredients:

1 roasting chicken, cut into pieces (free range is best, but this technique works well with the cheaper grocery store kind)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 bay leaves

6 cloves garlic, smashed

handful of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, whatever you have in the fridge

10-12 whole peppercorns, plus a few grinds of freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp sea salt

Method:

Butcher your chicken into about 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drums, 2 breasts cut in half = 4, 2 thighs).  In a large ziplock bag combine the brine ingredients and smush together.  Add the chicken pieces and then slowly add water to the bag, filling it up so that you can still squeeze air out and also close the seal securely (you don’t want to overfill it b/c then you risk a blow out in the fridge!)

brined chicken

Place the bag in a large bowl and shove in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Time to cook: heat your BBQ to high and then cook the pieces in the normal way!!  Yep it’s that easy and absolutely no need to add any other sauces or seasonings.  I am normally totally grossed out by dark meat, but whenever I brine chicken in this way, I can totally eat the dark meat – such great flavour!

If you don’t want to BBQ, you can also roast your brined chicken in the oven at 425 degrees for about an hour.

 

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This week I had the good fortune to “inherit” my friend’s weekly installment of Steel Pony groceries – plus her co-worker’s bag!   So much produce to use up this week because each bag contained a large bunch of swiss chard, bunch of baby leeks (which at first I thought were green onions – duh!), a kohlrabi, carrots, potatoes, cilantro, and tomatoes!   I will admit I’ve never cooked swiss chard before, so was kind of curious as to what to do with it.  I snooped around on the internet for ideas and came up with this quick and easy recipe that is totally doable on a week night but looks like you slaved over it!!

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Ingredients:

1 Tenderflake deep dish crust

2 slices bacon, chopped

3 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only

3 cups thinly sliced swiss chard leaves (no stems!)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 tbs Dijon mustard

1 large egg, lightly beaten

150g piece of Swiss Gruyere cheese, grated and separated

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees & take pie crust out of the freezer.

In a large heavy skillet, cook bacon until golden – but not too dark!!   Add the leeks to the bacon and rendered bacon fat and cook till softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the swiss chard and chicken broth and cook till the chard is wilted – another 5 minutes.

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In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat and then lower heat before whisking in the flour to create a roux.  Careful here because things can get out of hand quickly – don’t let it burn!  Slowly add the cream and bring to a boil over that medium low heat – till the roux is thickened.

Now add your roux to the leek/chard mixture, and add the mustard and HALF A CUP of the gruyere.  At this point – season with salt & pepper and take a taste – if it’s good and seasoned to your liking then add in the egg.   I don’t say how much salt to add b/c it depends on your bacon and even the cheese you use!

Pour this mixture into the pie crust and then sprinkle with the rest of your cheese.  Chuck in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, until golden and bubbly.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Deeelightful!


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Is there such a thing as too many pancakes?  I have posted several recipes for a variety of pancakes on this blog: Rosemary Lemon Pancakes, Coconut Flour Pancakes with Mango Puree, Cottage Cheese Pancakes and Banana Nut Pancakes!  Today I post one more pancake recipe: Ricotta Pancakes with Raspberry Lime Sauce.  I’m beginning to think I should open a Pancake-themed food truck in Red Deer?

Anyways, I freakin LOVE ricotta; I often eat it for breakfast with some fresh fruit and honey – why wouldn’t it kick ass in a pancake?!  I’ve seen a few very similar recipes floating around the interweb, and morphed it into something that utilized ingredients I had kicking around the house.  Give it a try next weekend!

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Ricotta Pancakes Ingredients:

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup skimmed milk

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp sea salt

zest of one orange

Raspberry Lime Sauce Ingredients:

1 cup fresh raspberries

1/4 cup agave syrup

2 tbsp cherry jelly (or any other jam/jelly you have in the fridge)

2 tsp fresh orange juice

zest of one lime

dash of salt

Method:

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, milk and egg yolks.  Set egg whites aside for now – don’t forget about them yet though!  Add in the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest and stir until smooth.  Get back on those egg whites again – whisk them until frothy and then gently fold into the batter.  Set the batter aside while you preheat your griddle to medium.

fold those egg whites in!

fold those egg whites in!

While things are heating up, get your sauce on; combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  Stir to combine and watch as the berries break down.  Turn the heat down to medium and simmer until the mixture has decreased by about half.  This takes about 10 minutes.  At this point you can pour the sauce through a sieve to get rid of those pesky seeds, but Erin and I decided why throw out anything of the fruit, especially if it added fibre, which is something humans are dying to get into their bodies anyways?

Back to the pancakes… so the griddle (or your largest non stick frying pan) is heated up, your batter has had time to froth up a bit and now it’s go time!  Make pancakes as you normally do, flipping once when the tops are bubbly.  I usually heat my oven to 200 degrees to keep my pancakes in while I’m cooking the rest of the batch.

That’s it – it’s that easy – you can do it too!  I served the pancakes with the raspberry sauce, some lovely bacon and an egg, sunny side up.  A perfect brunch after a long Sunday run!!

 

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I know I’ve already posted different recipes for granola on this blog before, but this one is the best – inspired by one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever purchased, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  It’s super crunchy and sweet and makes a great little gift for anyone who loves maple!  I like to layer the granola between scoops of Greek yogurt and fresh berries – so good and keeps me full all morning!  This recipe is worth heating up the kitchen for!

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Maple Pecan Granola

(inspired by recipe in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook):

Ingredients:

3 cups quick oats IMG_0695

1 cup large flaked coconut, unsweetened

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup oat bran

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg white, beaten

Method:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and prepare a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment/baking paper lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, folding in the egg whites at the very end.

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Spread the mixture evenly onto the cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes – take out of the oven, carefully flip – make sure to keep some of those big chunks in tact.  Put back in the oven again for another 20 minutes, repeat the flipping, then back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  The batch should be nice and crispy – let cool completely on a rack.  So easy!

 

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The summer continues to fly by and I can’t believe we’re past the middle of August already!  I have been doing tons of cooking and baking, but obviously not a lot of blogging!  I’m going to try and get some of my new creations written down over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned!

Canadian Living Magazine has been busting out some awesome editions lately and this month included a little bonus mag called “Just for Moms” which highlighted some back to school lunchbox recipes.  One recipe for Chewy Quinoa Bars caught my eye because of an ingredient I haven’t tried yet: quinoa flakes!  I found some at Bulk Barn – they aren’t exactly cheap (over $6 for 350g, but it seems like there are many applications for these fluffy things!)  I fooled around with the recipe and came up with something I knew I would like.  A lot.  These have been a big hit at our place and around the office; they are quite filling too!

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Chewy Chocolate Quinoa Bars (adapted from Canadian Living Recipe, Fall 2013)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa  IMG_0690

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup tahini

1/3 cup liquid honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 1/2 cups large flaked rolled oats

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (in Red Deer, buy at Pure Earth Organics)

1 cup quinoa flakes

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1/2 cup pepitas

3/4 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare a 13×9″ cake pan with baking paper and coat with non-stick spray.

Toast the quinoa (not the flakes!!) in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, for about 8-10 minutes or until fragrant.  Set aside to cool.

While the toasting is going on, combine the corn syrup, tahini, honey and oil in a medium sauce pan, stirring often until smooth and combined.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted quinoa and quinoa flakes, coconut, pepitas and chia seeds.  Pour in the liquid mixture and stir to combine; at this point add about half of the chocolate chips and stir until melted.  Press the mixture into your prepared cake pan (isn’t it nice being prepared?)  Chuck into the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips on the top, pressing in slightly.  Let cool completely and then shove into the fridge for about half an hour before cutting into bars.

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