March 30, 2013


According to the Stats Canada Twitter account (a parody of Canadian stats and not affiliated with the actual Statistics Canada) "67 per cent of Canadians will spend the Easter long weekend cleaning their garage." Admittedly, I am taking that extra day to start some spring cleaning. Although it's more like spring unpacking, throwing out and organizing. There seems to be an endless stack of empty boxes that  won't go away after moving places. I am looking forward to the summer in our place though with lot of beautiful skylights and hopefully a newly built deck soon.

Coconut Date Squares

I checked out the new Target store in town yesterday and purchased a few things to spruce up the place for Easter. I think Easter colours and decorations are my favourite of any holiday. The lovely pastel colours, cute animals, bright coloured eggs and spring flowers are all signs that Spring is definitely here. Also, some of my favourite chocolates include Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs.

I even found rainbow coconut at Bulk Barn in pink, yellow and white colours; a neat way to add some colour and flair to desserts. The plates were purchased at Target and are actually plastic salad plates. I am a sucker for anything coral or teal coloured. They have some fairly nice home decoration items as well, but unfortunately, my goal was to stock up on marshmallow Peeps and they didn't have any. I was a little disappointed at their selection of Easter candies and chocolates.


I will probably attempt some shopping tomorrow for food and last-minute treats. For now I am enjoying a day of peace and quiet. Things just seem better with some sunshine, chirping birds and more outdoor time. When it comes to most things though, the right tools for the job are always important.


Take making pizza, for example. I take pizza seriously, so when I am making it at home, I make sure I have the right equipment. First, a pizza stone is essential. One day I would love to have a real pizza oven somewhere in my house or yard to live out my pizza making dreams. A stone is a worthwhile purchase for any serious pizza lover. You also need a pizza paddle. You can't really have one without the other because you will have a hard time moving the pizza from the stone without one. Trust me, it works wonders and both of them together make great, crispy pizza.

I usually make a quick batch of dough and sauce for pizza. There are a ton of recipes out there. My usual recipe involves some tomato paste with a bit of water, honey, spices and a touch of fish sauce. Then add any toppings to the pizza, including meats, olives, vegetables and cheese.

I know it seems a little excessive. And it would be much easier to simply call up your favourite pizza place and order one. And I do have my favourite pizza place(s). But sometimes there's nothing better than homemade and feeling like a pizza making master at home. I don't throw the dough up in the air though. I haven't quite mastered the perfect pizza dough. If you have any recommendations for super dough recipes, let me know.


Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the stone and paddle. Roll out the dough and assemble the pizza near the front of the paddle. While you are making the pizza, heat up the stone in the oven for about 20 minutes. When it's pre-heated, transfer the pizza from the paddle to the stone and bake for about 15 minutes at 400F. You need a hot oven to make good pizza.

Homemade pizza

I had a bit of a transferring mishap with this one, so it's not completely perfect. Like anything, it takes practice and the right tools for the job. I would say that the stone has drastically altered the quality and crispiness of the crust though. And you can put together the whole thing in less than 30 minutes. I usually keep some dough and sauce readymade in the freezer.

With all of the treats and chocolate over this weekend, here's a little something on the lighter side. You could eat it as a dessert, breakfast bar or snack. The recipe is vegan as it uses a mixture of chia seeds and lemon juice to bind the ingredients together instead of eggs. There is also no butter. Save your splurging for the abundance of chocolate eggs/bunnies you'll probably be eating this weekend.


Coconut Date Squares


Coconut Date Bars (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten-free, substitute with quinoa flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup shredded, dried coconut (with some extra to sprinkle on top)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped dates

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and lemon juice together and let sit for about 15 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Combine the oil, applesauce and maple syrup, then mix in the chia seed mixture and chopped dates.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine and then pour into a baking pan.



5. Sprinkle some more coconut on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares.


They have a bit of tang from the lemon juice and chia seeds, plus some natural sweetness from the dates and coconut. And you can bet these squares have lots of good fibre too. If you're having people over this weekend, they will love a break from the super sweet with these healthy, filling squares.

Coconut Date Squares
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March 15, 2013

Things have been a little topsy turvy lately. In the midst of the heavy lifting involved in moving to a new place, I have been doing the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21-day Meditation Challenge to relax a little bit. Hearing a meditation by Chopra is a nice, soothing way to end my day and I find I can focus and relax a little more each time I meditate. 

In one of the meditations, Deepak talked about finding balance and the centering thought was "balance is my true nature." He described how we can send messages of love and support to our bodies by eating good food, getting rest and engaging in stimulating activities. It's a nice thought, but sometimes when I try to find balance, I feel like I'm swaying back and forth and about to fall on my face. I try to find balance in work, life and health, but frankly, I don't think many people have found that perfect balance. 

Overnight oatmeal in a jar

Sometimes we sway completely to the side of laziness, bad food and stress because that's the way life goes. For example, I can't feel settled in a new place until I have everything unpacked and arranged perfectly. Unfortunately, that process takes quite awhile. I don't know where anything is, so it's hard to achieve my normal feng shui. There are things you can do to help make things easier though. One of those things is quick, healthy and easy meals on-the-go.  

One of my favourite Tumblr blogs right now is Sad Desk Lunch. It doesn't really give packed lunches a good name; however, I can find the humour in trying to put something together for lunch and sometimes failing and also those times when your co-worker's lunch looks and smells way better than yours. Sometimes there is just too much going on to have time to worry about making good choices for each meal of the day. 

I thought I would take a cue from Sad Desk Lunch and show off my desk lunches too. I don't think they're too sad. I try to bring my lunch to work most of the time. On occasion I will buy something or get a coffee somewhere. These are my meals from last week not counting various snacks throughout the day and office treats (do you find offices are always in abundance of sweets and treats?) 


Monday: Bagel and cream cheese with fruit salad


Tuesday: Italian wedding soup with an Activia yoghurt


Wednesday: Bagel and cream cheese with a few slices of sausage and fruit salad


Thursday: Leftover rice noodle salad with tofu and a piece of toast


Friday: Leftover pizza (at least I used a plate).
Maybe some of them fall on the side of sad I suppose. Day-old pizza heated up in the microwave was a good and bad addition to the weekly menu. Then I discovered the magic of mason jars for packed lunches and my mind was blown. It's not like making oats is an arduous process. You can cook them in the microwave in a few minutes. Who doesn't love an easier way of doing things though, right? It definitely makes me feel a little more at peace.

All you do is add oats, milk, fruit and toppings to a jar and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning you have oats that are ready-to-go. The "soaking" process "slow cooks" them rather than having to heat them.

Oats in a jar

Soaked Oats in a Jar (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup frozen or fresh fruit
3/4 cup vanilla soy, almond or regular milk
1/4 cup water
Toppings of choice: Sliced almonds, raisins, chia seeds, etc.

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a jar and stir together. Let sit in the fridge overnight. Make ahead the night before for cold out of the jar or warm ready-to-eat oats.

That is also why I love slow cookers. Just set it and forget it. Slow cooking helps when your house is full of boxes, bags and stuff everywhere. Oh, moving day. When your kitchen--and life--is in disarray, the last thing you want to worry about is being perfect.

Canned goods, bulk items and kitchen staples can be a life-saver when it comes to finding quick meals. You will always have a meal on hand if you have something such as canned tomatoes, tuna, frozen vegetables, oats, pasta, etc. in your cupboards. Canned fruit is a quick alternative to fresh fruit; however, the sugar levels in the canned syrup are quite high. I was trying to use up some canned goods and food so I wouldn't have to pack it up and move it to our new place, so I added it to some oats to make my own version of "Peaches and Cream" oatmeal.


Peaches and Cream Slow-Cooker Oatmeal (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

1 can of peaches in juice (try and find the reduced sugar variety)
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup soy, almond or regular milk
1 cup water

Directions:

1. Add ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low overnight. Add more milk to serve if desired.

Peaches and Cream slow cooker oatmeal

After a few hours or overnight, you have warm oats when you wake up for breakfast.

We have just about moved everything. Now it seems like the calm after the storm. All there is left to do is try and make the place feel like home. Last night I baked for the first time in our new kitchen and it started to feel a lot more cozy. Plus there are lots of beautiful windows for natural light and food photos of course. I can't wait until summer when the warm sunshine beams into the skylights and large windows.


In one of the meditations I have been doing, one of the mantras to repeat was the word "Yum," which stands for the sound that resonates with the heart centre. According to Chorpa, you should repeat the word "Yum" until you feel infused with a feeling of peace and safety." How fitting that a word often used to describe how we feel when eating delicious food is connected to the centre of our hearts.
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