A makeover of the popular Chocolate Quinoa Cake takes it from a good picnic cake, to a classy evening dessert. The addition of peppermint extract within, and a dark peppermint ganache frosting adds a depth and sweetness, making these quite the treat.
I topped mine with cacao nibs and mini candy canes from my David’s Tea but outside of the festive season I would vouch for fresh mint leaves. Oh for the change of season where this snow can melt away and the garden can flow with mint and other herby greens..
Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes
From adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
Makes 15 cupcakes
2/3 cup quinoa
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp peppermint extract
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup raw cane sugar (or white)
1 cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, cook for 10 mins. Turn off heat and leave for another 10 mins. Fluff with a fork and let cool.
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Lightly spray a 12- muffin pan with baking spray.
In blender combine milk, eggs, peppermint. Add 2 cups quinoa and the melted butter and blend until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 20 -25 minutes until knife inserted in centre of a cupcake comes out (fairly) clean.
Peppermint Chocolate Ganache Buttercream
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes
125g butter (salted)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
100g dark chocolate, melted
2 tsp peppermint extract
dash milk as required
a candy cane, crushed (or fresh whole mint leaves)
Thoroughly beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Add icing sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth. Pour in cooled melted chocolate and peppermint extract and combine, adding milk as necessary to make easy to spread on cupcakes. Top cupcakes with cacao nibs and chopped candy cane (if desired).
I have the fortune of working for an organisation that values wellbeing. Not only is my role to love and serve some of the neediest in our community and aid them in their employment, but through the organisation my health concerns are also well taken care of. Each morning on arrival at work I beeline for the Pure North booth. Here I have access to any vitamin, fish oil or supplement I could possibly dream of (if I were so inclined), alongside a Green Juice – powdered greens and pumpkin seed protein mixed through orange juice.
Pretty ideal straight after the early morning workout, or for a mid morning pick-me-up.
As employees we are also offered free bloodwork assessment and a program for a daily pack of vitamins and supplements. I jumped at the opportunity to get things checked out (why not?) but was rather surprised to find that my ‘healthy body’ could still benefit from taking 9 pills and 8 D3 drops a day. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t bode well with my idea of a healthy, natural, wholefood diet.
Having grown up in a household rather cynical towards supplements in pill form (the joy of having a doctor and a nurse for parents!) I am certainly hesitant to get involved in the supplement program. Articles such as this one which recognizes the risks of long term vitamin supplementation and this one which questions the necessity in a well nourished population – of which I most certainly am.
As my mother always said, supplements mostly lead to expensive pee. And this (questionably reliable) article discusses this further..
Nonetheless, I do like the concept of incorporating more greens into the diet (or, gosh, should we be wary of this too!?). So I requested from Pure North a small pack of the Pure Synergy Superfood powder so I can make these green juices on the weekend too.
Instead of using only the sugary juice of the orange I like to incorporate as much whole, fibre-filled fruit as possible – a whole orange, a whole apple and a good handful of spinach. This is a meal in itself – load up the ginger and it’s sure to fight off any cold during this sick-season.*
*Not scientifically proven.
Super Green Smoothie
Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows
Being highly fibrous, dark greens (the spinach and the Superfood Powder) will absorb liquid in the body leaving you with some uncomfortable bowel movements. If you normally maintain a low-fibre diet (as most in North America do) you will want to ease into high-fibre greens by beginning with only 1/4 teaspoon a day and ensure to keep well hydrated.
1 cup spinach or kale
1 large Gala apple (or other sweet apple), roughly chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 Tbsp powdered greens (spirulina or Pure Synergy Powder)
1 tsp honey, to taste (I used 1/2 tbsp or so)
Protein powder, optional (pumpkin seed protein recommended for this one)
water as necessary
Place all ingredients in blender in order listed. Whizz until blended, adding water as necessary to loosen. Throw in some ice cubes to cool and thicken if desired. Serve with slices of fresh, cool cucumber.
Bananas steal the show in our home. If it’s not banana oatmeal of some sort, it’s a banana chocolate shake or a decadent mini banana caramel cake. Although I would rarely consume a whole, fresh banana these days, they do manage to appear in something I eat everyday.
Full of potassium (which does a fine job at relieving muscle soreness) and packed with the exact carbohydrates and glycogen I like after exercise, bananas will never be shunned in our household, regardless of how many 5 Food To Never Eat ads are thrown my way..
Every so often we splurge on our favourite banana ‘icecream’. This concept blew our mind – instant icecream!? Made entirely from whole, natural, nutritious ingredients? It got us through the super hot, twentyfour-hour-sunlight summers in Norman Wells and will surely be a staple during Calgary’s hot summers.
This combination is inspired by the popular Ben & Jerry’s icecream flavour (Tip Top is yet to introduce this awesome combination) of banana, fudge chunks and walnuts. I’m a bit of a coconut fiend so threw in some toasted threaded coconut aswell.
Go and throw some bananas in your freezer. You’ll be thankful tomorrow night.
Nutritious Chunky Monkey ‘Icecream’
Inspired by Healthful Pursuit
2 large bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen
2 tbsp almond (or peanut) butter
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
dash milk (or almond ‘milk’)
1/4 cup raw walnuts
long threaded coconut
2 rows of dark chocolate from a good quality block (not optional)
Place bananas, almond butter and coconut in blender. Blend until smooth – add milk as required or leave to allow bananas to soften slightly.
Heat a skillet over moderate heat. Place walnuts and coconut onto dry skillet (no need for oil) and toast until golden on both sides.
Spoon banana ‘icecream’ into serving dishes and top with the cooled nuts and coconut along with coarsely chopped chocolate. If required, place in freezer to firm up before serving – it melts quickly!
A simple low fat, high protein meatloaf that tastes OUTSTANDING. Turkey and apple make for an excellent flavour combination, with the apple providing sweetness and ensuring moist meat. Being a bit of a meatloaf hater, this one definitely swayed me. It’s a simple, tasty solution to transporting flavour-packed protein to work for lunch – I like to slice the loaf into individual portions and freeze, ready to take to work alongside some roasted kumara and steamed greens.
Turkey & Apple Meatloaf
500g ground turkey (breast or dark meat)1 granny smith apple, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika (I prefer smoked, de La Vera)
1/3 cup egg whites
1/4 cut rolled oats
1/2 cup tomato sauce (aka ketchup)
1 granny smith apple
fresh herbs, chopped
Mix together turkey, onion, garlic, paprika, egg whites and rolled oats. Grate the apple and squeeze out most of the juices. Add the grated apple to the mix along with 1/4 cup ketchup. Press into a lined loaf pan (I managed to squeeze it into an 18x9cm tin). Combine the apple juice with the remaining ketchup and spread over the top of the meatloaf along with some fresh herbs.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and, if desired, brush with a little more ketchup. Return to oven for another 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the centre reads 165˚F (or 74˚C).
With such little time together these days (thanks to continuous overnighters from the Airline) Jesse and I bathe in our quality time together and shared meals. The joy we get from sitting down to an early evening glass of wine with some quality cheese..
Living in a gourmet-food-center of Calgary (Inglewood) we have a huge range of outstanding cheeses at our fingertips (with an extensive sales pitch and plenty of samples at the local groceteria to aid our decision). Sometimes, at these wine-and-cheese occasions, we include crackers, but only when we can get our hands on decent ones. Raincoast Crisps by Lesley Stowe (Vancouver) have become well popular in Canada. We first tried them at a dinner party in Norman Wells and, like the rest of the country, were pretty keen on them.
Because we are not ones to buy store bought anything (and because this blog is essentially called homemade in Spanish), I was stoked to find they are easily made at home.
With a stash of these on hand we are well equipped for an unscheduled sit down and catch up, for those rare occasions in which we find ourselves at the same place at the same time.
Almond, Cranberry & Rosemary Raincoast Crisps
Barely adapted recipe from fellow Calgary blog, Dinner with Julie
These freeze well, both before and after baking. I like to make two loaves, slice one and bake into crackers, and freeze the other. Alternatively I’ll make all the crackers and freeze half of them – both methods work great. The slight sweetness of the crackers mean they are great on their own too. Note: The loaves are much easier to slice thinly when very cold. I recommend cooling overnight, then freezing for 30 minutes or so before attempting to slice.
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (or milk with a dash vinegar)
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, sugar and honey and stir. Add the craisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and mix until blended.
Pour the batter into two 8”x4” loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for about 35 – 40 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
Slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reduce the oven heat to 300° F and bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.
On this particular occasion, instead of buying our usual soft (or blue) cheese, we worked with what we had. Which happened to be a 600g tub of dry curd cottage cheese (has anyone else made the mistake of buying this for its outrageous protein content and non-existant fat/sugar content, only to find it’s horrible on its own and barely purees without becoming gritty? No? Apparently I’m not the only one.). Eager to find a use for this, I simply whizzed it with a splash of natural yogurt, a few springs of cilantro, a squeeze of lemon juice, a handful of baby spinach and some chopped spring onions. Quite an impressive hit of protein before even starting on the meal.
Like most working couples, dinner in our household is more about meeting the need for quick and easy, wholesome meals than it is about cooking a decent and ‘blog worthy’ dish.
More often than not it’s a matter of clearing out the fridge. A soggy potato starting to discolour combined with a fresh bulb of fennel can really make for a cracker meal. A scoop of natural yogurt (always, always in supply in our fridge) easily transforms into a tzatziki for beef wraps, raita for curry or a creamy dressing for latkes.
While we’re not ashamed to admit to the occasional pancake dinner, I’m adamant that these are a step up, and therefore surely blog-worthy. Latkes are a Jewish fried potato pancake, commonly part of a traditional Hannukah feast. The addition of fennel lends a lovely aromatic, licorice flavour to the traditional potato latke, combined with chunks of salty feta and a smattering of plump sweet raisins. Inspired by the common orange-fennel salad, a splash of fresh orange juice turns yogurt into the perfect dressing. These are super quick to whip up and clean up, and definitely fill the void for some hearty fried food this winter*.
*New years resolutions, say what?
Fennel & Feta Latkes with Raisins & Orange Yogurt Dressing
Serves 2 (makes 4 latkes)
1 large (or two medium) potatoes, peeled
1/2 fennel bulb, cleaned
1/3 cup egg whites (or 1 egg)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp raisins soaked in boiling water (optional)
2 Tbsp feta, crumbled
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (or flour)
pinch salt & freshly ground pepper
Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat.
Using a box grater, grate potato and fennel. Place in a sieve lined with paper towels and leave to drain. Meanwhile, whisk together egg whites (or egg), garlic, raisins, feta and breadcrumbs. Squeeze out as much liquid from potato as possible, and transfer to bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix together and season well. Pour 2 Tbsp sunflower oil into pan and heat (until it splatters when flicked with a little water). Pour in about 1/3 cup mixture and arrange into a pancake. Continue with batter, as many as fits on a pan. Cook until golden on each side. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towel.
Orange Yogurt Dressing:
1/4 cup natural yogurt
an orange half, squeezed
fennel fronds, finely chopped
salt & pepper
Mix together all ingredients and serve alongside latkes.
Despite fall being long since over (it’s snowing a storm out there), there are some seasonal flavours that never pass, like tangy green apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s one (of the many) combinations our household has no resistance for. Combined with salted caramel and toasted walnuts, these are some killer crumble bars suitable for any season.
Oh, and happy christmas! Our second Christmas outside of NZ and our first white one. Although we don’t have much in the way of family or tradition here in Canada, we more than make up for that with friends. Jesse and I enjoyed a relaxed day of endless cups of tea and quality time, a long leisurely walk, and a superb evening of perfectly cooked turkey (and in true Canadian spirit, sweet potato marshmellow casserole!) with some new friends. As per tradition (oh, turns out we did bring one with us), our festive meal was made complete with Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Tart – this time served with a berry compote rather than the fresh berry, melon salad typical of the NZ summer Christmas.
Caramel Apple Crumble Bars
Recipe from Annies-Eats
Makes about 16 bars
These are straight from Annies-Eats, bar one or two minor tweaks. I used mostly wholewheat flour and only one type of sugar (raw cane). I also had a can of dulce de leche remaining from making the chocolate turtles which, when mixed with a dash of sea salt and heated until smooth enough to pour, worked great in place of melted caramels.
For the filling:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 apples, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of grated nutmeg
For the caramel:
9 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tbsp. heavy cream
270g salted dulce de leche, warmed until pourable
For the dough:
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
170g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. To make the filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, prepare the dough. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Add in the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and pulse a few times just until a crumbly dough comes together. Transfer about two thirds of the dough mixture to the prepared baking pan and press down into an even layer. Bake until light golden, about 12-14 minutes. Add the walnuts to remaining dough in processor and pulse a few more times to incorporate and roughly chop the nuts.
If making caramel from candies and cream (rather than dulce de leche), combine the caramels and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Melt the caramels, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is totally smooth. Remove from the heat. Once the base layer is baked, pour the caramel over the top. Layer with the cooked apple slices and crumble the remaining dough over the top.
Bake about 22-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.