Overnight Oatmeal

It’s been over two months since Christmas and I’m still spiralizing my heart out. I have lots more recipes and photos that need to make their way onto this blog… Oh, and ‘spiralize’ still has not yet become a real word in the English language. *sigh*

Anyway, all that to say, although I’m still hooked on veggie noodles, I’ve recently developed an obsession for another cooking “theme”.

Mason Jar Meals!

Because, seriously, there’s just something about that little old fashioned glass jar that makes my soul happy. And stuffing it with food, well, that just amplifies the happiness.

:)

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I adapted this recipe from a post I found on Pinterest and it works like magic. You can have healthy, delicious, dessert-like breakfasts for the week in 10 minutes–max.

Per jar/serving:

– 1/4 cup oats

– 1/4 cup yogurt (I used 0% plain greek yogurt)

– 1/3 cup milk (I used vanilla soy milk, but regular milk or almond milk will work just fine too)

– 1 tablespoon chia seeds (I put those little super seeds in everything I can)

– 1 teaspoon maple syrup

– a couple generous scoops of fresh or frozen fruit to top (I used frozen mixed berries and frozen cherries)

1) Place all ingredients except fruit in each jar.

2) Add lid and shake until combined.

3) Remove lid and add fruit to top of jar.

4) Replace lid and refrigerate overnight.

 

Crispy Carrot Salad

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So, I think it’s safe to say that I’m inspiralized. I’ve had my spiralizer in business for five days and I’ve already spiralized four vegetables (cucumber, carrot, butternut squash and potato), and made three spiralized meals. I’ve been getting some inspiration from www.inspiralized.com and dreaming up many of my own ideas as well. I’ve also been practicing photographing my creations for use in my blog (and possibly in a cookbook someday?).

If I ever do write a cookbook, I’ll have to work on giving more precise measurements. My cooking style is more of a “eyeball it and hope for the best” approach, rather than using precise measurements of quantities. In many cases, as in this carrot salad, exact quantities aren’t worth the fuss. Here is a list of what I used, and you can add as much or as little of each as your inner foodie desires (about a handful of each should do).

– 2-3 large carrots, peeled and spiralized

– crumbled feta

– candied pecans (see previous post for recipe)

– dried cranberries

– sesame seeds

– snow peas, halved or left whole

– grape tomatoes, halved

– balsamic vinegar to dress

– 4 poached egg whites

– pepper

1) Spiralize carrots and place in large salad bowl

2) Poach egg whites and season with pepper

3) Add remaining ingredients to carrots

4) Top with poached eggs

Serves: 4

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Butternut Squash “Pasta” with Marinara Sauce, Candied Pecans, Goat Cheese and Fresh Basil

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Santa brought me a spiralizer! And I’m already addicted.

Yesterday marked my first spiralized creation, and hopefully a year full of many more to come. This one was inspired by the Butternut Squash Ravioli that I adore from Milestones. Instead of stuffing ravioli with butternut squash, as they do at Milestones, here, the butternut squash IS the “pasta”. I added many of the same toppings to give it the same great taste; a healthier (and way easier) version of a delectable dish!

For the “Noodles”:

– 1 butternut squash (cylindrical part peeled, and bulb part discarded)

1) Spiralize on the “spaghetti-like” setting of your spiralizer.

2) Place in steamer and steam about 5-10 minutes or until tender but firm enough to not turn into mush when scooping into bowls.

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For the Marinara Sauce:

– 2 large tomatoes, diced

– 1 onion, chopped

– 1 clove garlic, crushed

– 1 cup jarred tomato sauce

– 1 tsp olive oil

– ~2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped finely

– pepper to taste

1) Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until soft

2) Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes

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For the Candied Pecans:

– 1 cup pecans, halved or chopped

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1) Spread pecans out on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and broil on medium for 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted

2) Combine olive oil, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until gently bubbling

3) Add toasted pecans to mixture and stir until well covered

4) Return pecans to baking sheet and spread out to allow coating to harden

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Putting it all together:

– 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

– 2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped

1) top butternut squash noodles with marinara sauce

2) sprinkle pecans, crumbled goat cheese, and fresh basil on top in any order your inner foodie desires

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Voila! Simply spiralized.

 

 

Every War Story is actually a Love Story

Love for your country. Love for your family. Love for the future generations that you will never meet. Love for those who can do nothing for you.

My Great Grandpa, Arthur Lester, serving in World War II, 1941.

My Great Grandpa, Arthur Lester, serving in World War II, 1941.

I had the pleasure of coming to know and love my Great Grandma—Grandma Betty—for the first 14 years of my life. And though I never met my Great Grandpa (her husband), their story, as told by my Grandma, is one worth sharing this Remembrance Day, as we keep our promise to never forget.

My Great Grandpa and Grandma Betty were 18 years old when they solidified their eternal commitment to each other, in marriage, after he found out that he would be posted overseas to serve in World War II. Evidently, the question after that, was whether or not to pursue having a child, with so much uncertainty lying ahead—would he even return home to raise this child? My Grandma Betty wanted to know that she would have a piece of him, of them, regardless of what the circumstances would later entail.

So, just months later, as they waited for him to board the ship that would carry him overseas, she was able to say, what could be a final goodbye, knowing she carried this piece of him. In the somber atmosphere of the soldiers waiting to board, their families in tow, a little girl ran up to my Great Grandpa.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed to him. I’m sure, in their uniforms, the men all did look the same, and so its no surprise that she mistakenly took my Great Grandpa for her father.

Grandma Betty smiled, “what’s her name?” she asked the little girls mother.

“Elaine”, she replied.

“If this baby is a girl, I’m going to name her Elaine.”

My Great Grandpa went on to serve in the war for its entire duration: 6 years. He spent the first half as a soldier, where he fought in the line of defense, as well as, dodged enemy traps as he drove motorcycles and trucks to deliver messages during the night. One night, on one such mission, him and some fellow soldiers noticed another Canadian soldier on the side of the road. Evidently, they stopped to pick him up in their truck, to take him where he needed to go. Although this soldier spoke perfect English, there was something about his uniform that was slightly off. As it turns out, he was not a Canadian soldier at all, but a German soldier in disguise. Fortunately, though the outcome could have been devastating, my Great Grandpa, along with his fellow Canadian soldiers, were able to secretively turn him in to their superiors.

After a couple years of service, his role changed through an interesting twist of events that occurred one night. His friend, who was the cook for the soldiers, was unable to finish his duties on this particular night. My Great Grandpa, being the dependable man he was, finished all of the nighttime baking so as to save his friend from being punished: how honorable. His work was so astounding that he not only became the cook for the soldiers, but later, for the officers! These duties continued through the next three years of war.

Meanwhile, back home in Ottawa, Canada, my Grandma Betty did give birth to a little girl, Elaine—my Grandma.

She went on to raise her, at only my age, with the hopes that, one day, their little family could reunite.

Finally, six years later, when my Grandma was 5 and a half, her father returned home to meet his little girl for the first time.

To follow was more children, grand children, and great grandchildren. Through it all, and despite the brutalities of war that were his reality for six long years, my Great Grandpa—Arthur Lester—was referred to as ‘Uncle Happy’, for his unfailing joie de vivre.

His children and grandchildren recall that whenever he spoke of the war, he only shared positive stories. He even brought home an “army fork” that became the prized possession of his grandchildren—who squabbled over who got to use the army fork to eat their meal! Not to mention, the silly stories he would share, like how he attributed his baldness to wearing a soldier helmet for so many years!

I wish I could say that, after a story like this, I would never again complain about the long walks across campus in the dead of winter, and that I will forever appreciate the comfort and safety of my own home. Essentially, there is lots I take for granted; but this is an encouragement to live a little more gratefully, act a little more humbly, and be a lot more loving.

This is an amazing story; but it is only one among many. Thousands of others have been told, are waiting to be told, and will never be told. And many don’t share a similar happy ending. But, if you delve deep into the roots of any war story, I think you’ll find that they all share at least one thing in common: its not about war, its about love.

 

 

Lessons from Pasta Skeletons

It’s that time of year again…where we get our Hallowe’en crafting on by making pasta skellies at Playcare. It’s arguable whether it’s more fun for the kids or for us, but in any case, this year, I vowed to let the kids take the lead.

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“This is the example”, I told them, “but you don’t have to follow it if you don’t want to; you can make your skeleton as unique and creative as you like.”

And then I tried hard not to cringe every time a femur went where a humerus should go, legs connected to the skull, or a patella was misplaced or absent (Health Sciences has done me well).  But since I was working with such young ones (about 3-6 years), it didn’t need to be so focused on the finished product. We had everything from piles of pasta swimming in globs of glue, to fully formed, anatomically correct skeletons. If you are working with older kids, though, I would definitely adapt it to make a science activity out of it, and have them place “bones” properly, and even have them label the major bones (cranium, humerus, femur, ribs, vertebral column…). But for these guys, the fine motor skills they were developing while manipulating the pasta, as well as the (major) life lesson on using glue conservatively, was educational enough.

Another point that was brought to my attention through the making of this project, is the controversial teaching, being incorporated into early childhood education, that discourages the use of food items (ie. rice, pasta, beans) as craft or play supplies. Personally, I see these items as inexpensive educational resources to be used in the right context. Not to mention, we are likely causing immensely more waste and economical disparity through the use of excessive and over-the-top craft and toy products. What are your thoughts?

Happy Hallowe’en from the skeleton team!

 

Lively Lunchboxes

Lunchbox Lovin’! My sister got bored of the standard school lunches, so I decided to take up the exciting challenge of lunchbox making–bento box style! I will add more as I make them, but so far she’s enjoyed…

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-mini pita pockets with hummus and tabouleh to stuff, with a side of vanilla yoghurt topped with fresh strawberries and raspberries

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-leafy greens, beet and goat cheese salad with raspberry/grape skewers, turkey rolls and red bell pepper with hummus for dipping

 

Autumn Applesauce with Pumpkin and Pecans

A cozy autumn recipe to kick off the fall..

Very easy and healthy!

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– 8 apples

– 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

– chopped pecans

– cinnamon to taste

1) Peel and chop apples, and place into a saucepan

2) Add enough water to the pan to almost reach the top of the apples

3) Bring to a boil, then let simmer about 15 minutes or until apples are soft

4) Drain excess water and mash apples for a chunky consistency, or puree for a smooth consistency

5) Stir in pumpkin, desired amount of pecans and cinnamon to taste

6) Serve in individual ramekins topped with pecans and cinnamon

Makes 10 servings.

Soccer Ball Cake

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After having only ever attempted one cake in the past using fondant to decorate, I was hesitant to take on this Soccer Ball Cake Project. Especially since, for the making of the last cake, I didn’t roll out the fondant enough, and it didn’t even come all the way down the sides of the cake; leaving me patching up the gaps with various fondant strips–not very professional looking! So, when this Soccer Ball Cake ended up being a huge hit at the birthday party I made it for, I thought I would share the simple steps; because if I could make it, anyone can. As a bonus; the entire thing was made using household items–no fancy cake making tools!

The awesome part is that the same steps can be followed for any sports ball cake (basketball, baseball, tennis ball..), or any rounded cake really,  just adapting the decorating phase accordingly.

Step 1:

Follow the directions on a box of cake mix of your choice, and split the batter somewhat evenly between two round cake pans of equal (or similar) diameter.

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Step 2:

Bake cake according to directions on box and remove from pans. Allow to cool to room temperature (approx. 1 hour).

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Step 3:

After cakes have cooled, generously ice using whipped icing. Start by icing the top of the cake that will be on the bottom, and then place the other cake on top. Then, continue to ice until sides and top are roughly covered. One of my cakes was slightly smaller in diameter than the other, so I placed this cake on top and it started to give the rounded shape. After icing, place cake in the fridge (or freezer if you’re impatient like me!) until it becomes very firm (about 20-30 minutes in the freezer).

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Step 4:

This step can be done while you’re waiting for the cakes to cook, cool or chill in the fridge. Roll out black fondant and use a paper pentagon template to cut into several pentagons with a knife (if you have a cookie cutter, then all the better!). Don’t forget to lightly coat your work surface and rolling pin in icing sugar so the fondant won’t stick. I placed them on a piece of cling wrap for easy removal, with an additional piece on top to prevent them from drying up.

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Step 5:

Once the cake is completely chilled and firm, use a large serrated knife to carve a curved edged around the top of the cake. This will give it as much of a ball shape as possible. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect…icing works wonders!

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Step 6:

Generously ice entire cake, again with whipped icing, and smooth out imperfections. This is the last opportunity to give your cake as much of an even rounded shape as possible.

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Step 7:

Now for the workout! Roll out the white fondant large enough to generously cover your entire cake. It may be necessary to measure the diameter of your cake to avoid running into the same fondant crisis as I did with my last cake. Drape the fondant over your cake and begin smoothing it over with your hands. It is important to have enough excess fondant so that it doesn’t wrinkle on the sides of your cake.

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Step 8:

Starting to get professional looking! Once you’re sure the entire cake is covered and wrinkle-free, cup your hands slightly and run them around the bottom edge of your cake, using the edge of your pinky finger and hand to crease the fondant at the bottom of the cake looking like…

This!

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Step 9:

Use a sharp knife to cut around the bottom edge of your cake, removing the excess fondant. At this point, I was ready to decorate and realized that I probably should have come up with a better plan for transferring the cake onto the platter…I used cardboard pieces and a lot of luck, but I would recommend placing the cake on some sort of a base that can be cut to the size of the cake immediately before icing, allowing you to transfer it seamlessly from one step to the next.

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Step 10:

Time to go from white blob to soccer ball! I began by placing one of the black pentagons in the middle of the cake. In theory, I was supposed to use a mathematical approach to place every piece in it’s exact position, but, because the cake is not a perfect half sphere anyway, it quickly became a guessing game. Thankfully, although it wasn’t perfect, it looked enough like a soccer ball once every piece was placed. I gently pressed each piece on to get an idea of placing, and then, when I was sure of where every piece was going, I lightly wet a towel and rubbed it on the back of each piece, fastening it to the cake.

And voila!

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The final touches included using a serrated knife to create the stitching effect of the white pieces, and piping green icing around the bottom for grass.

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