Ultimate PBJ

Creating the ultimate PBJ was not my intent. I stumbled across an inspiration for this recipe at, “Oh She Glows“, last night. Turns out, searching for breakfast recipes all evening can leave a person feeling very hungry. This recipe was the last straw. I had to call it a night.

Cook'n Recipe OrganizerIn fact, I now have some very serious recipe creating and organizing to do. All of that work is going to be a breeze thanks to Cook’n Recipe Organizer. I know. That sounds like some kind of endorsed statement, like I’m being paid to be a raving fan. But I do think this program is pretty good for a $74 investment.

  • I can finally capture all the recipes from the web in an easy process , (no re-formatting!)
  • All my printed recipes, including those in cookbooks, I can take a photo with my cell phone and capture the data, (no re-typing!)
  • Menu creation for a day, a week or a month!
  • Grocery shopping list generation!
  • Nutritional information can be entered via a detailed data set sorted into brands and whole foods, (only down side is having a close look at the levels of sugar, fat, sodium and cholesterol.)

But I feel like Julia Child in the movie, “Julie and Julia” when she was about to start her tres gourmand cooking school in France, she wanted “precise measurements to yield predictable results”. Something like that. It is not really the way I cook, but I think there may be something to it when you are throwing around ingredients where you could do with less. Liberally spreading butter, versus a light touch only saves your heart. It does not sacrifice flavour. At least, that is my new story and I’m sticking to it.

Speaking of butter and bread and spreads….OK. This sandwich is in the “once-in-awhile” category. No matter how light of a touch you have, this dish packs a lot of calories. My son was halfway through when he asked if he could have another. Normally, I might have said yes, but today I said no. If you are still hungry, eat an apple. Turns out, he didn’t need another. It is rich.

Ultimate PBJ_web

Ultimate PBJ

  • 3 slices bread
  • 2 T jam
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 2 t butter

Nice hot cast iron frying pan. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread. On next slice, spread half of the jam. Face these 2 spread sides together. On the top of this spread rest of jam. Top with 3rd slice of bread. Butter top, lay into frying pan, butter side down. Spread butter on plain side in frying pan. Flip when golden.

For an extra flair, take a can of coconut milk from the fridge where you keep it, handy for this kind of thing. Whip it into a cream. Dolop on your plate and dip sandwich into it.

Now play with different butters and different jams. I used fig jam with cashew butter, WOW!

Fig_Cashew Butter Sandwhich_web

Nutritional Information, (high fibre bread, cashew butter and cherry jam)

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 496
Calories from Fat: 59

  • % Daily Value *2,000 calorie diet
  • Total Fat 16g 25%
  • Saturated Fat 16g 82%
  • Cholesterol 25mg 8%
  • Sodium 524mg 22%
  • Total Carbohydrates 76g 25%
  • Dietary Fiber 8g 32%
  • Protein 9g 17%
  • Sugars 29g, **
  • Vitamin A 10%
  • Vitamin C 15%
  • Calcium 7%
  • Iron 35%

**according to the World Health Organization this should be considered about half your daily intake of sugar, but the USDA has not set a guide on daily intake of sugar.

 

 

 

Cookbook problem

This is becoming a problem.

  • The space I have dedicated to hold cookbooks is overflowing. There are piles of cookbooks and recipes everywhere.
  • I have recently acquired 3 new cookbooks and only begun testing recipes from one of them.
  • I’m buying some of these new cookbooks for just one or two recipes and then not really liking the rest of the content.
  • I have so many cookbooks, I can loan them out for months at a time. I don’t miss them.
  • I own cookbooks which I have never cooked from. Sometimes these are gifts, but they also represent my good intentions. Everything in due course.

But I get so much pleasure out of cracking open a new cookbook and reading all the bits of the story hidden within. I feel the sharing of recipes to be deeply personal. These are the techniques and the ingredients which the author consumes themselves. (Or at least I like to think so).

Then there is a fantastic meal which ends up amazing me. Both for the pure joy of the taste and the wonder that, “I made this!” It still happens to me. Sometimes from a new cookbook and then  sometimes from a golden oldie where I dare to try something new.

The wonder at my talents is not something which is universally shared by my family. I suppose those who are closest to us don’t appreciate our internal obstacles, the dedication required to learn something new. And then there are children who just plain old don’t like the taste. But I’ve tried to show patience with that. Quite frankly, it is their problem, not mine.

This weekend and next week, (I’m home the whole time, which helps), I’m dedicating my efforts to a new cookbook from Curtis Stone called “What’s for dinner?” He has a great way of summarizing the home cooks mood on the days of the week. Phrases like “Time-saving-Tuesday” or “One-pot-Thursday”. We’ve all been there, we know what it means to be in the trenches trying to crank out healthy dinners.

Curtis Stone What's for dinner

The morning before

White Rock foggy morning - August 2013

White Rock foggy morning – August 2013

It is my last morning of sitting in bed with a large coffee and cream. The end of an era. Time to shake things up. Try something new. I might return to this habit in 3 weeks time, I might not.

Tomorrow morning, I start a 3-week cleanse. I am using the principles outlined in the book called “Clean”, by Dr. Junger M.D. I borrowed his book from the library and am going over to my local “Choices” grocery store to procure some of the more unusual recommended ingredients. However, I am choosing to use food as the main ingredient. No powder drinks, no supplements, just a wide variety of fresh food. I am really crowding out the space on my plate where all the potential irritants are sitting. (Cleanprogram recipes are available for free online).

This idea started in June of this year with the purchase of a cookbook. (Ahh, the feeling of acquiring a new cookbook) And, I have been intrigued to know more about the food sensitivity to gluten, so many people have.  So when Gwenyth Paltrow was smiling out at me in such a happy, clean and bright way, I had to know more. This is where I first learned about the long list of processed foods that cause digestion problems. So many common and irritating ailments are a sign of poor digestion. (Who knew?) As each new “health type problem” was added to my running list, I just assumed these were signs of getting older. New and not exciting signs of ways that my body was betraying me. And that I was doomed to accept these forever more.

I had thought, up until that time, I practised a pretty healthy diet. But, if I looked closely, took the time to learn a few new things, it was surprising to uncover a some rather unhealthy habits. My kitchen cupboards contained a whole lot of processed food ingredients. I was then combining them all together, with a bunch of time and effort to create a home-made version of what was available at the store. Sure my baked goods had slightly less sugar in them, maybe a few bits of grated carrots or zucchini thrown in, but they were essentially a processed food. When the main ingredients are finely milled flour + processed sugar + butter, it is hard to say that is a going to produce a healthy product.

Once I looked beyond the big food manufacturers widely available at every grocery store, there is a small, (but growing quickly), and secret door into a world of TRULY healthy and tasty options. Every time I shopped for groceries I challenged myself to try a few new ingredients. So I became to experiment with coconut oil, chia seeds and cocao. My children know what agave nectar, stevia and mulberries are.

As I began to experiment in the kitchen and focus on what each and every meal contained, I was surprised by a few things:

  • I began to find sweetness in vegetables. Evidently, we have become accustomed to expect a very high level of sweetness in our food. High fructose corn syrup is present in a wide variety of processed foods. As the name indicates, it only requires a small amount to yield a highly sweetened result. As I shifted away from adding sugar or ingredients containing sugar, I started to really enjoy naturally sweet vegetables.
  • Home made milk alternatives ROCK. I have never enjoyed the feeling of drinking milk. I had long suspected it created excess mucus, and it does! But a freshly made  almond milk with a touch of vanilla, still frothy from the blender is amazing!
  • Needing caffeine to get going in the morning is not good. I have long thought this, but have so enjoyed the feeling and rush it gives. As my husband and I have experimented with smoothies in the morning, first thing, we have forgotten to drink the coffee afterwards. Maybe because the smoothie is filling and leaves a feeling of satisfaction, different from coffee.
  • Substituting flour with my home-made almond milk, flour-like leftovers has given us the most amazingly moist, rich and gluten-free muffins. I am throwing in all kinds of fresh or frozen fruits. The experimentation has only just begun. More on this to follow. I just got from the library, (after paying over $20 in fines! Travel to Oslo wreaks havoc on my library routines), “babycakes“, by Erin McKenna. A gluten-free New York City bakery I have heard about and will be trying in November.

Timing is everything. This is a great time of year to focus on fresh food. The local farmer’s markets are over flowing with local produce. A trip to Mary’s Garden yesterday yielded $60 worth of the most amazing vegetables and fruit. As I have slowly been changing over my pantry supplies, the investment today, should not be significant. (Will see about that. Is probably like doing a house renovation, double the time and capital from the budget!)

Web_Produce3

It will be an interesting journey, for sure. I am going to keep a detailed daily journal. I’m not sure how much of it will make its way to this blog. I have read that this journey will be profound. The changes will happen on many levels and effect every part of me. Probably more information than anyone else needs to know. My husband will suffer all the details like a champion. My children will probably only question why I need to “drink” my dinner each evening while they enjoy a proper “chewing” meal.

But I am excited. This is not a diet-to-loose-weight kind of thing. Everything has led to this moment. At age 43, I am finally ready to formally commit to a healthier way of living. My children are young enough to benefit greatly from this effort. I will set them free in the world with an abundance of great recipes, happy memories and the enthusiasm for life that comes from the foundation of good health.

Check out the website for Clean.

Writing a book

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”   ~Steven Wright

“Write drunk; edit sober.”   ~Ernest Hemingway

Nothing fancy. I am a lot of things, but a proper author is probably not one of them. But, I love food. And photography. Cookbooks, too.

In fact, I have a bit of a cookbook buying problem. There are almost 9 linear feet of shelves in my dining room lined with cookbooks. Those are the ones that are neatly put away. There is usually a pile about 14 inches high in my kitchen with tabbed pages of “active” recipes. It is no wonder my husband asks why we can’t have the same thing twice. Simple answer would be,”I can’t find the recipe for a second appearance!”

Then I borrow cookbooks from the library. Add to all that, the loose sheets of recipes printed from the internet. There are neat piles of those all over my house.

As luck would have it, I have a reasonably good memory for food. It is a bit strange really. I can remember exact dates, who attended a particular business meeting, for example, because I relate it to a meal we shared at a great restaurant.

It is time to start making sense of all these bits and pieces. Some favourite food moments, recipes, photo’s and habits. The way we eat. If nothing else, I’d like to organize it all.

I turned to the internet for a quick, easy and free way to compile everything. A 3-ring binder would be the cheapest, but something that looks like a real book would be better. I found what I was looking for in a program called blurb. It is iPhoto meets comic life with great built-in templates. So far, I am loving it. I have 3 pages done in a test book.

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Now, I run around taking pictures of all sorts of things. The guy re-stocking carrots at the market the other day probably thought I was a bit off. But they did look great.

carrots_450 pixels

The trick will be to condense the book into the most important pages, or it will be $100 per copy. But, for my purposes, the ultimate cookbook with page after page of my favourites, my thoughts and memories is easily worth that price.

Stay tuned.

It’s all good

“It’s all good.” ~Albert Einstein

I’ve always been intrigued by the kind of people who use this phrase on a regular basis. They are so chill, relaxed and laid back – probably hippies. They take everything in stride. I want to be like that, I really do. I just can’t seem to achieve it.

Maybe it has to do with what you eat? Everything seems to be related to that these days. I’m already, pretty much converted to that idea, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. But how does one go about figuring out what to eat? There is so much information on what we should not be eating, but why start a project with a negative thought?

I’ve been on a hunt for the one resource, could be a book, or a website, a course, whatever. But I’ve continually come up short. I’m also skeptical of the ideas related to juice fasting, detox, etc. Extreme deprivation for relatively long periods of time just doesn’t sound healthy to me. (More than a day is a long time in my food life.) And, am I prepared for the consequences? Could I possibly have a food sensitivity? Would I be able to give up any of the foods which I enjoy so much?

Time will tell. I’m going “all in” for the next couple of months. My inspiration circles back to where I started this post – “It’s all good” by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Its all good

Let me digress. I came by this cookbook in the usual way of things. By accident. I was grocery shopping, (there should not be an entire book aisle in a grocery store, really, I’ve spent so much money this way), and there she was. Smiling out so nicely, she looked great. She always looks great, but in this photo, particularly so. So I bit. (All puns intended).

Once I got the book home and read Gwyneth’s story about discovering her food sensitivities and allergies when her body started to give off some pretty serious signs of problems, I stopped in my tracks. I just thought, it’s time. I can’t put this off any longer.

Enter another new way of eating, that will drive my family crazy, and have me questioning my sanity – the 21-day elimination diet.

There is a bunch of information about the idea of an elimination diet on the web and with Alternative Medicine practitioners. Simply put, this is a process to determine which foods may be causing problems, understanding how great you can feel, then moving forward in that new way. Won’t be entirely simple to do, but seems quite worth the effort.

I’m preparing in this first week. I’ve tried a bunch of recipes from the cookbook with great success. Leaving out certain things has little effect on the finished product. In fact, by adding certain other things, the flavour turns out to be better! The quinoa flakes granola is the most amazing breakfast cereal / snack I have ever had. (I didn’t know there was such a thing as quinoa flakes).

The next post about this topic will include the story of acquiring a high power blender. That journey has taken 2 years and significant expense. But, in order to make the amazing smoothies, nut butters, nut milks, etc. I had to have the real deal. Stay tuned…

Its-All-Good-Poster

Blueberry Pancakes

Archaeological evidence suggests that varieties of pancakes are probably the earliest and most widespread types of cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies whereby dry carbohydrate-rich seed flours mixed with the available protein-rich liquids, usually milk and eggs, were baked on hot stones or in shallow earthenware pots over an open fire to form a nutritious and highly palatable foodstuff.   -Jones, M. Feast; Why Humans share food, Oxford University Press, 2007

After spending a week in Oslo, Norway – eating hotel buffets for every meal, there are quite a few things I crave. While I like the variety of different dishes on the buffet, particularly at breakfast, nothing can compete with fresh off the griddle pancakes. So this morning, I just had to try a new recipe for blueberry pancakes.

This recipe is from Canadian Chef, Michael Smith’s new cookbook called, “Fast Flavours”. A couple of things to note, 2 tablespoons of baking powder. Had a little issue reading that correctly this morning and 2 teaspoons yields quite a dense pancake. And somehow I have run out of my lovely vanilla extract from Mexico, so I substituted lemon extract. (I can’t bear to buy vanilla here when I will be in Mexico so soon.)

Extra blueberry pancakes
Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Flour, whole wheat
  • 1 cup Flour, white
  • 1 cup Rolled Oats
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups, frozen Blueberries
  • 2 large Egg
  • 2 cups Milk, 1% fat
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar, brown
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the skillet over medium high heat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the list of dry ingredients, up to the blueberries. Add blueberries to dry ingredients.
  3. Crack eggs and all other ingredients into a second bowl. Whisk together and pour into dry bowl. Mix to combine.
  4. Add a thin-film of vegetable oil to pan and drop in pancake batter. Turn once small bubbles become holes.

Nutrition Info (per serving)

Calories 445
Total Fat 14g
Saturated 2.8g
Polyunsaturated 5.2g
Monounsaturated 5.2g
Cholesterol 75mg
Sodium 266mg
Total Carbs 69g
Dietary Fiber 9.0g
Sugar 9.1g
Protein 14g
Vitamin A 73mcg
Vitamin C 1.2mg
Calcium 368mg
Iron 4.2mg

These were probably the best pancakes I have ever had. The rolled oats provide good structure to hold onto the butter and syrup. The outside is nice and crispy, the inside is soft and silky – like oatmeal, and there are blueberries in every bite. Another secret –  I always slightly under cook pancakes. That leaves the inside gooey which children love. (Thanks Sam!)

Other posts from “The Good Stuff” about Sunday morning breakfasts:

Food medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”    ~Hippocrates

I am a strong believer in the statement, “you are what you eat.” That is not to say that I am perfect at practising this. At times my diet has been as bad as anyone else in the Western world. Highly processed, too much refined sugar, nowhere near enough whole foods.

The more I learn about the power of food, the more I am convinced that eating a proper mix of whole foods is not only pleasurable and satisfying, but incredibly healthy.

So how did so many of us in the West become so disconnected with such an elemental part of our health?

I hear people saying that only exercise matters. Along as you are expending significant calories and working all your major muscles, you will have good health. That idea only holds water if the food going in is high quality. What does it matter that you have managed to sweat out a bunch of horrible calories?

People also tell me that, food is only fuel. Well that is an interesting way to look at a part of our lives that uses up so much time and resources. But even if that were true, then only the best quality “fuel” should be acceptable? Unfortunately, there are people who care more about what goes into their cars than their bodies.

What about all the other aspects of good health? It is a well-known fact that too much stress leads to bad health and sickness, so it would seem that to have good health a program for stress management is required. But who has that in their day timer? Drinks after work doesn’t count. Although it sure seems like it at the moment of the first few sips.

Our thoughts can work for us or against us. How much time do we devote in a week to enhancing that part of our health?

But it all comes back to food. If a person starts there, draws a line in the sand and says, “enough”, so many other good things follow. Because once we take control of our food intake, the quality and the quantity, so many other benefits come our way. You become the kind of person who also starts to care more about reducing stress. You think in a more constructive way.

What kind of world could this be if we starting treating our diet as if it were preventing the need for any kind of future conventional medicine? In other words food is medicine, or that is the way I am thinking these days.

And on a Friday night after work, and a 1 1/2 hour drive home, I raise my glass to the weekend and the medicine of a glass of wine. Dinner reservations in an hour, yipee!