Sunday, April 29, 2012
My kids and I love having a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. There's just something so satisfying and comforting about it, and it sticks with you all morning long. The problem is that we usually don't have a lot of time in the mornings to prepare oatmeal. I sometimes buy instant oatmeal packets for speed and convenience, but I don't like how much sugar and salt they contain. That's why I decided to make my own instant oatmeal with ingredients that I enjoy. I happen to like raisins and cinnamon in my oatmeal, so I added those. I also love chia seeds because they're rich in omega-3 and fibre. They work really well in this because they have a similar texture to oatmeal when cooked so you don't even notice they're in there. You can of course customize this recipe to include whatever you like best. Bennett especially loves this stuff and has been asking for it almost every morning lately. I've also been eating it regularly and I enjoy it a lot. It's much lower in sugar and sodium, and higher in fibre that the store-bought kind, so it's a breakfast cereal you can feel good about eating. If you're opposed to the sugar in the recipe, you can certainly leave it out and sweeten it after cooking with any alternative to sugar that you like. A tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup would work great it this.
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raisins
2 tsp cinnamon
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Makes 10-12 servings.
Single Serving Directions:
Scoop 1/3 cup of oatmeal mixture in a bowl and pour in up to 1/2 cup of boiling water and stir. Let stand until thickened.
Scoop 1/3 cup of oatmeal mixture in a bowl with 2/3 cup water and microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring after each minute.
Milk or non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut)
Nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond)
Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
Fruit (blueberries, bananas, strawberries)
*For kids: add an ice cube or two to cool it down quickly
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Oh pretzel bites, where have you been all my life? I can't believe it's taken a carb-lover like me this long to make these. A while back I had tried a soft pretzel recipe without success, so that put me off of homemade pretzels for a while. I finally decided to try them again, using a different approach. The recipe I used before didn't allow for the dough to rise, which resulted in a dense and chewy texture that I didn't enjoy. This time I tried letting the dough balls rise before boiling them. That worked much better, in my opinion. They were softer and lighter this time- a big improvement.
Here are the soft little balls of dough rising. Little do they know they're going to be dunked it boiling water soon.
There they go, into the pot. Sorry, poor dough balls. This is why I could never cook lobsters; I'm pitying dough balls for goodness sakes.
Next I brush them with egg yolks and water. That helps them brown nicely in the oven.
Now, you can put them in the oven at the point if you like, and then after baking you can brush them with melted butter and add toppings. I opted to add the toppings before baking so no butter was required. If you do it this way you need to watch the balls carefully as they bake to make sure the topping doesn't burn. It should be lightly toasted, not blackened.
I used a mixture of parmesan cheese, garlic salt, and chia seeds for topping.
Now into the hot oven they go. Geez, these dough balls just can't catch a break.
But don't they look yummy? Their tumultuous journey through boiling water and a scorching oven has not been in vain.
We enjoyed these at our game night with my brother and his fiancee while playing Settlers of Catan. My brother has developed a Lego version of this game which is pretty awesome. Check it out at Cuusoo: http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/693. If it gets enough votes it'll be developed by Lego as an actual set!
I made up a quick mustard dip to go with it and I've included that recipe below as well. Have fun experimenting with your own ideas for toppings and dips. These are so versatile and fun.
1 cup warm water
1/2 tbsp yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
2-3 cups flour
6 cups water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
cinnamon and sugar
In a large bowl dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until yeast becomes bubbly. Add flour slowly while stirring until dough does not stick to the side of the bowl. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary if dough is too sticky.
Take about a tbsp of dough at a time and form into balls by flattening the dough in your palm, then gathering the ends and pinching them together at the base. Place balls on a greased baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes.
In a large frying pan, dissolve baking soda in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add dough balls to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove from water and place on a greased baking sheet.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Brush dough balls with egg mixture. Sprinkle with desired toppings.* Bake at 475F for 8-10 minutes until browned.
*Alternatively, you can bake first, then brush baked pretzel bites with melted butter and add toppings.
Makes approx 28 bites.
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp lemon juice
Friday, April 13, 2012
Sometimes I feel like making something a little more exotic than the usual vegetable or chicken soup. I thought a Thai soup would liven things up. Cole had been leafing through my collection of cookbooks and was particularly interested in the recipes with shrimp, so I had bought a package of frozen shrimp for him. This Thai soup was a perfect opportunity to use them. The only problem is that apparently I'm horrible at peeling shrimp. Tony and Cole both found remnants of shell in their soup and weren't impressed. I had even bought 'easy-peel' shrimp, but that didn't seem to help. Cole suggested I buy shrimp that's already peeled next time. Good thinking, Cole.
Other than containing the odd shrimp shell fragment, this soup was a success. Tony seemed very impressed, and Cole was happy that I remembered he wanted shrimp. Bennett sat quitely slurping up noodles, so I think he was happy too.
I used light coconut milk to make it a little lower in fat, but you could definitely use a full fat coconut milk if you want a richer soup. Also feel free to use more curry paste. I used the mild stuff and a tablespoon was plenty for us, but we're weaklings. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It really does come together quite quickly because many of the ingredients take only a few minutes to cook. While the soup is simmering, get all the rest of the ingredients ready so you can promptly add them to the pot when the time comes. Hey, and if you use Cole's idea of buying pre-peeled (and even pre-cooked) shrimp, your soup will be ready even faster. Plus, there won't be any annoying pieces of shell.
Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 heaping tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 (14 oz) cans light coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 cups vegetable broth
60g rice vermicelli noodles
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 pkg bean sprouts
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp peanut butter
juice and zest of 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)
Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Saute shrimp until opaque, then remove shrimp from the pot and set them aside in a covered bowl. In the same pot, saute onions, garlic and celery for several minutes until softened. Add curry paste, coconut milk, ginger and broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add noodles, spinach, green onions and bean sprouts. Cook for a few minutes until noodles are soft and spinach has wilted. Return shrimp to pot. Add brown sugar, peanut butter, lime juice and zest, and salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Easter is still a week away and Cole is already preparing for the Easter Bunny's arrival. Today he wrote several notes for Mr. Bunny, and made bunnies out of pipe-cleaner and foam paper. These little handmade treasures are now hidden around our house for the Easter Bunny to find. I only hope that I..*ahem*... I mean, Easter Bunny, can find them all on Easter Eve.
We'll be away visiting my parents over Easter, so I wanted to make an Easter treat with the kids this weekend while I had time. These sugar cookies with egg-yolk paint were a simple and fun activity that we all enjoyed. Weekends are our time to have some fun and make a mess in the kitchen together.
I didn't have any egg-shaped cookie-cutters, so I just used a plastic cup. It was a Spiderman cup, of course. If you're not cool enough to own a plastic Spiderman cup, then I suppose you could use any plastic cup that is somewhat bendable. I squeezed it on both sides to form an oval shape as I pressed it down into the dough.
Cole took that photo of my hands because I don't have three hands, although that would be handy for taking food photos. I think he did a pretty good job! Pretty, pretty good <insert Larry David's voice>. I'll have to request his photography services more often.
Next, we whisked egg yolk.
Isn't that a nifty pottery egg separator? I got it for Christmas. Yes, I just used the word 'nifty.' All of us cool Spiderman cup-owning moms talk like that. It's how we roll.
So then we divided the yolk into a few bowls and added food colouring.
And finally it was time for the best part: decorating!
When they came out of the oven, they had puffed up nicely, and the egg yolk paint created a shiny and colourful coating on them.
They tasted terrific too, much better than actual eggs in my opinon.
Here are the boys showing off their creations.
From Betty Crocker
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
In a large mixing bowl, mix together powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg. Add remaining ingredients and mix again until fully combined. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
Roll out dough on floured surface and cut into egg shapes.
Egg yolk paint: Whisk 1 egg yolk with 1/4 tsp water. Divide into several small bowls and tint with food colouring as desired.
Decorate cookies by brushing egg-yolk paints onto the egg-shaped cookie dough. Place cookies onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375F for 7-8 minutes, until edges are golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies.