almond & apricot granola

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crunchy, chewy, filling and good for you

We were getting in a rut of eating toast and eggs for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong I love toast and eggs (especially because we get local fresh eggs from a dedicated amazing 12 year old egg farmer!). To change things up a bit, I recently purchased some granola from Farm Boy – a small little package on sale for $4.99.  $4.99 is better than $5.99 but that is still really quite expensive when you think about what it in the store-bought stuff…a few cranberries, tiny tiny slivers of almonds (maybe 2 tbsp!) and a whole lot of oats and brown rice syrup (the first two ingredients listed on the back of the package).

I actually really enjoy making my own granola but just haven’t done so in awhile. You get to put whatever you feel like in it and you can control the sweetness.  This time I used what I had in the pantry and I loved the combo – apricots and almonds (and I had to use up about 10 pecans so if you’re eyeing my pictures carefully that’s the other nut you see!). The apricots are super dark because I bought the unsulfured kind. They are actually really soft, sweet and really delicious.

Homemade granola is a great snack on its own, over yogurt, or can act as cereal with any kind of milk (2%, almond, soy, etc).  You can play around with the ratios a bit but you need the fat (I used coconut oil but you could use melted butter) and you need some liquid sweetness (like honey or maple syrup) so that your granola forms some clusters.  I like loading mine with mostly nuts and fruit, unlike the packaged stuff which is mostly oats. It’s definitely a better bang for your buck, and super easy and quick to make. It stores really well for at least 2 weeks in an airtight container (and even longer if you have it in the fridge).  It’s also a much more guilt-less snack when you’re craving something to munch on later in the evening once the kiddos are in bed!

what you need:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups of whole raw almonds
  • 1 generous cup of dried apricots (I used organic unsulfured)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

what to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place almonds in a large ziplock bag and roughly crush them with a rolling pin.IMG_8048.JPG
  3. Place almonds and oats in a large bowl. Add cinnamon, salt, honey and melted coconut oil. Stir to coat and mix evenly.
  4. Spread mixture out on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes – carefully stirring once halfway into cooking time – until golden brown (I have a convection oven which bakes faster).
  5. While almonds are baking roughly chop apricots into small pieces.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool – combine apricots and almond mixture, & enjoy!
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store in an airtight container

 

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banana mini muffins

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cute, fun and school safe

I think I’ve mentioned this before; banana bread is a staple in our house and I make it probably almost biweekly (sometimes even weekly!). It’s one of those recipes that I can make with my eyes closed and it’s always a hit with the kids. Especially when there are some chocolate chips in it!  I always buy extra bananas (and even the bananas that are for quick sale at the grocery store because they are very spotty – just pop them in the freezer!) so that I always have them on hand at home.

I have 2 or 3 versions that are my go to’s but today as boss and I mixed the batter I decided to switch it up from a loaf pan to mini muffins. My mini muffin pan has been at the bottom of my cupboard and quite neglected. The kids loved the look of mini muffins and a bonus is that they take way less baking time (good for the gas bill!). They make for easy storage and pack nicely for lunches.

Be sure to butter or spray your muffin tray really well (or you can line the tray with mini muffin cups) or else your batter will stick and then it’s annoying to clean.

prep: 10 min   bake:  15 min     yield: 24 mini muffins

what you need:

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp or more of melted butter (to grease muffin tray)

what to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a large fork until mushy. Add egg and mix well into the bananas (using the fork is fine).
  3. Add vanilla, maple syrup and butter and mix well with fork again.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine salt, flour, oats and baking soda.
  5. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Mix with fork until just incorporated – do not over mix or you will have dense muffins.
  6. Fold in greek yogurt, just until incorporated.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. Grease muffin tray with melted butter, using a brush, making sure to grease the bottom and sides.
  9. Fill each muffin cup to the top. They will rise as they bake, making the classic muffin top.
  10. Bake in the centre rack for ~15 minutes. I used convection so if you have a regular oven it may take a bit longer. For the last 2 minutes I turned the oven to broil high to get a golden brown top (if you’re doing this keep a close eye because depending on how hot your oven gets they can burn quickly!). They are done when a toothpick comes out just clean (not wet but little bits of batter can be present).
  11. Remove from oven, and then after a few minutes when they are cool enough to handle, transfer each individual muffin to cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
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hot out of the oven

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broil for a minute or two for golden brown tops

chicken & broccoli stir fry

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veggies & chicken glazed in a sweet & savoury asian sauce – yum!

You have to try this one! It’s so good. Make a side of rice or noodles that will be your bed to soak up the sauce from this delicious stir-fry.

The other day I was staring at my fridge (after I had already taken out a whole chicken out of the freezer to defrost) and I knew I had to use up my broccoli before the florets started to turn into that yellowy colour (not very edible). I was thinking some sort of stir-fry to combine everything in one pan. Less mess!

So, obviously, I’m asian. Taiwanese, to be exact. And I can make a good stir-fry. But I was kind of tired of my usual go to combos (1. garlic, soy sauce, sugar or 2. ginger, sesame oil, green onions) and really wanted something that felt like take out but not greasy and unhealthy like take out (it always tastes so good in the moment but then you feel so terribly thirsty at night because of all the salt!).

I googled “broccoli and chicken” and came across “Little Spice Jar“.  Her “ginger chicken stir-fry with broccoli” looked simple and inviting, but I didn’t have the exact ingredients. I also wanted to make one dish for the whole family (we have piepie who’s 5 years old and boss who’s 3 years old) so I couldn’t make it spicy at all. Sometimes I make the effort to make two separate pots or pans of a dish so that Ryan and I can enjoy our spice (yum chillies!) but this was one of those days where a one pot dish was going to keep my sanity. And we always have sriracha in the fridge anways:).

We all loved this dish and the kids ate it up – broccoli and all. The leftovers were awesome for lunch.  So if you’re craving a little Chinese food, take out style, you have to try this one!

prep time: 15 minutes    cook time: 15 minutes    yield: 4-6 servings

what you need:

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • chicken (your choice skin on or off)
    • you can use 2 chicken breasts
    • OR
    • 2 chicken thighs and 1 chicken breast
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 red onion
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar (or any sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

what to do:

  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well, no clumps.
  2. Wash and cut broccoli into bite size pieces.
  3. Wash and peel carrot, then slice lengthwise in half. Thinly slice on a diagonal.
  4. Peel onion and cut into bite size pieces.
  5. Cut chicken (remove from bone if bone-in) into bite size pieces (about 1″ cubes). Season lightly with black pepper.
  6. Heat up a large skillet (I used cast iron…you can use non stick pan as well) on medium – high heat. Add 1 tbsp cooking oil, then add chicken pieces (might have to do it in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t brown nicely). Once they are browned on all sides, remove from pan into a bowl.
  7. Turn heat to medium.  In the same pan after all chicken is browned and removed, add another 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add broccoli, onions, and carrots. Use a wooden spoon to stir occasionally, tossing everything together and cooking until broccoli turns bright green. It will take about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium low.
  8. Add sauce mixture to pan and stir to coat – the sauce will thicken quickly. Add in the chicken and stir to finish cooking the chicken and coat everything evenly with the sauce.
  9. Remove from heat and serve on top of rice or noodles. Enjoy!

carrot & apple slaw

Remember my post about having lots and lots of carrots…well this is another great way to use them!  I am pretty sure this is going to become a summer staple in our household. We had it alongside BBQ ribs and chicken at the cottage over the long weekend.  It’s a fresh and light bite against the smokey meat.

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sweet and tangy

And it’s easy for the kids to eat because it’s not too hard to chew and the apples provide an inviting sweetness. Be sure to make lots of extra vinaigrette so that you can keep it available in your fridge for other salads!

prep time: 15 min        yield: serves 6

what you need:

  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 apples (firmer variety, like gala)
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 small handful cilantro *optional

apple cider vinaigrette (we like it pretty tangy – if you think it’s too acidic, add 1 tsp of oil at a time to adjust):

  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil (or light tasting oil)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon *optional

what to do:

  1. Mix vinaigrette ingredients together in a mason jar and shake well.
  2. Wash and peel carrots and apples. (I left the skin on the apples)
  3. Grate carrots and apples.
  4. Wash green onion and cilantro, chop finely.
  5. In a large bowl, toss together carrots, apples, green onions and cilantro. Dress lightly and toss to coat everything.  Taste, and add more dressing if needed. Rest for 10 minutes or so before serving. Enjoy!

carrot soup kissed with ginger & turmeric

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mild ginger warmth balances out the sweetness of the carrots

What do you do with the most ridiculously humongous bag of carrots from Costco? (I can hear a few family members and friends snickering as they read this! Before I moved back to Ottawa, Kanata I had sworn I would never get a membership)

Make carrot soup! It’s so good.

My friend was over for a playdate and brought over some curried carrot soup she made – so bright, beautiful and healthy! And the sweetness from the carrots make it very kid-friendly. We had soup and sandwiches for lunch, a classic combo.

Here is my version of it!

what you need:

  • 5 large carrots
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 small cooking onion
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • some chicken bones (I used 5 drumsticks worth of bones)
    • this is optional!
  • 6 cups of water (or you can use veggie stock or chicken stock)
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)

what to do:

  1. Wash and peel carrots. Roughly chop into chunks.
  2. Peel onion and garlic, roughly chop.
  3. In a large pot on medium heat, add 2 tbsp cooking oil, then chopped onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir until fragrant, and onions are slightly translucent.
  4. Add turmeric and curry powder, toasting the spices until the aromas come out.
  5. Add chopped carrots, stirring as much as you can to allow the carrot pieces to meet the heat. Add water and then turn the heat up to high.
  6. Bring to a boil then add chicken bones. Bring to a boil again then once it boils, turn it down to medium low to simmer for about 45 minutes. *If you are not using bones, just turn the heat down from boil the first time to simmer.
  7. Remove chicken bones and then once the soup is not scalding hot, use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. *If you don’t have an immersion blender, be sure to wait until the soup is cooled enough to add to a blender.
  8. Enjoy!IMG_3049.JPG

salmon lettuce wraps

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so good and good for you

We eat salmon at least once or twice a week and it’s usually pan fried to get a bit of a caramelized crust on the fish, seasoned with just a bit of salt & pepper.  This time instead of serving it alongside stir fried veggies, I decided to try it in a lettuce wrap. Creamy avocado, crunchy tangy cucumbers and carrots, and warm caramelized salmon, all wrapped up in a tender lettuce leaf – pretty delicious! I think this might be my new favourite!  Boston bib lettuce is not a lettuce I normally buy (it’s in a huge plastic clamshell and I always think it’s expensive!) – but it really does make a difference to use this type of lettuce because it is soft and pliable but still has a nice crunch along the middle stem part. It does make for a very nice vessel for the ingredients inside and holds up without ripping or tearing mid-bite.

If your kids are like mine, they like to see what they are eating! (Especially piepie, no mixing for her…) – this meal is easy for that and suits the kiddie divided plates perfectly.

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after seeing me take a picture of the above wrap…piepie reminds me “I don’t want mine all mixed up together mom”

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of course once piepie wanted it separate…so did boss…

You can definitely use store bought pickles or pickled veggies, but it honestly takes one minute to make your own quick pickled veggies and they still maintain a vibrant raw vegetable appearance. These homemade leftover pickled veggies are great to top off salads or other dishes for another day – it will stay good in the fridge for about a week.

prep: 15 min    cook: 15 min    yield: 4

what you need:

  • salmon filet (enough to serve 4, about 12 ounces)
  • grapeseed oil
  • 3 mini cucumbers
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 cup or so white vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 jalapeno *optional
  • salt and pepper
  • small handful of cilantro
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 avocados
  • boston bibb lettuce
  • 1 lemon

what to do:

  1. Carefully remove one large lettuce leaf at a time, wash and allow to dry on a clean dish towel or paper towels.  Set aside.
  2. Wash carrots, cucumbers and jalapeno. Peel carrots, then cut all these veggies into bite size pieces. Remove seeds from jalapeno if you want it to be less spicy.
  3. Place carrots, cucumbers, and jalapeno slices into a mason jar and add vinegar and sugar, shaking it slightly until sugar crystals dissolve. There should be enough vinegar to cover almost all the veggies. 15 minutes should be enough time to get some pickled flavour into the veggies.
  4. Season salmon with salt and pepper.
  5. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, add 1/2 tbsp grape seed oil, then carefully place the salmon in the pan. Cover with a lid and fry for about 5-7 minutes – once the salmon is crusted and caramelized on the bottom side, flip it gently to cook on the other side – about another 5-7 minutes. (This will depend on the thickness of your fish. You can easily check the doneness by breaking it apart a bit at the thickest part of the fish and make sure it is solid pink and not opaque pink. Although some people prefer their salmon slightly medium or medium rare in the middle – it’s your preference).
  6. Remove salmon from pan and set on a serving dish to rest while you cut up your avocado into long slices.  The easiest way to do this is cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, then use a spoon and scoop out long lengthwise slices.
  7. Wash and roughly chop green onions and cilantro. Cut lemon into wedges (to squeeze on top of fish).
  8. Lay out all the ingredients and let your hungry eaters build their own wraps. Enjoy!