Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meatball Calzadilla

Last year my vegetarian roommate AG got me to try a veggie burger. All my life I had scoffed at the 'fake' meat I had seen in grocery stores and on restaurant menus, thinking that it was gross. But I like to think of myself as someone who's pretty adventurous with food, so I gave it a try. It. . .was. . . freaking delicious! I now eat veggie burgers even when given the choice of a meat patty, much to the confusion of a waitress recently who had to clarify, that yes, I did indeed want a veggie burger with bacon.

This had me realise that meals didn't have to centre around a meat dish, that meat needn't be the centrepiece of an entree, or even necessary. Now I eat a mostly vegetarian diet to the dismay of my mother who still carries the aforementioned paradigm. She tells me all the time that I'm going to be anaemic if I don't eat more meat. Guess what? My hemoglobin levels were at the very adequate level of 133g/L last time I donated blood, so there.

Unfortunately this also means that I'm slightly at a loss on what to do with meat. Nonna hooked me up with some delicious homemade meatballs and the only thing that came to mind was your standard spaghetti and meatballs. I needed some inspiration.

Allrecipes gave me 1000's of recipes for meatballs, but not really any with meatballs, so I kept looking. Luckily I haphazardly came across a recipe on the Trader Joe's site and put my own spin on them to create: The Calzadilla.

What is a Calzadilla you ask? Sort of like a calzone, quesadilla, pita sandwich sort of thing. Duh.

Meatball Calzadilla
Yield: 1 serving
  • 1 pita bread (pocket-style)
  • 2-3 meatballs, cooked and heated
  • Marinara sauce
  • 1/5 green pepper, julienned
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella
  1. Saute green pepper and onion in a bit of oil until fragrant and add marinara
  2. Push to one side and place pita on pan, cover half of it with the vegetables
  3. Add meatballs and squish them slightly
  4. Sprinkle with cheese and fold over the other half of the pita
  5. Allow both sides to brown

Stuffed French Toast

If I was ever in need of another reason to love weekends, it would be that weekends mean that there's plenty of time in the morning to put together decadent breakfasts. I had entirely forgotten how good cream cheese tastes since I quit eating bagels. I realized that bagels are nutritionally nothing more than glorified savoury donuts. In fact, they're worse. So next time you're at a coffee shop, choose the donut, not the bagel.

I digress.

A neat trick I figured out on my own is that if you make your French toast with the lid on the pan, it helps it puff up nicely. Not to mention that when you do lift the lid, your kitchen gets filled with the most addictive scent of brown sugar and cinnamon. Surprisingly, I liked this better without the syrup.

Stuffed French Toast
Yield: 1 serving

  • 2 slices bread (I used whole wheat)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons jam
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (yes, a whole teaspoon)
  • icing sugar to dust (optional)
  1. Spread cream cheese and jam on the bread to create a sandwich
  2. Whisk together the milk, egg, sugar, and cinnamon until well mixed
  3. Soak both sides of the sandwich in the egg mixture (If you're using heartier bread like whole wheat, piercing the bread a few times with a fork helps it absorb faster)
  4. Fry on a greased skillet with the lid on
  5. Dust with icing sugar

Arugula: a love affair

On a dark rainy Seattle night, my family was on the prowl for a restaurant we had looked up earlier. Our GPS was uncooperative and sent us to a neighbourhood high up on a hill. Though the homes were gorgeous there, none were restaurants. We were hungry and finally gave up and settled on a restaurant that looked good from the outside.

I don't remember the name of the restaurant, or where it was. The menu had few items, all of them pricey. I went with the salmon that was topped with an arugula salad. An there I fell in love. . . with arugula. It's fresh yet earthy spiciness drew me in, and so ended my days of eating boring romaine and bitter radicchio. I vowed to buy it by the truckload during our next trip to the grocery store.

Sadly I polished off my latest box last night. It was paired with delicious cannelloni compliments of nonna which I realised I had yet to photograph. To my delight, I even grabbed one of the side-of-pan burnt edge pieces. Like burnt corner lasagna and corner slices of cake, it's always the best.

Once again, I was so distracted by the arugula I finished off 3/4 of the bowl before I remembered the cheesy delicious pasta right beside it. It seems almost silly to post up a recipe for a salad since there's really no wrong way to make one but here's the recipe for the arugula salad I made last night. You'll have to ask nonna about the cannelloni.

Arugula salad
Yield: 1 salad
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • plenty of pepper
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1/2 tomato
  • small handful craisins
  1. Whisk the first 4 ingredients together until well blended
  2. Toss with remaining ingredients
  3. Serve immediately

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Stacked Pancakes

My two favourite meals of the day are breakfast and dessert. I'm often tempted to eat pancakes for dinner and always scoping out the dessert menu while the waitress is asking whether I'd like an appetizer. I'm sure that's only half bad, after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

My blackberry has been acting up lately and has failed to wake me up 3 out the 4 last mornings. Frustratingly, this means that I missed out on my 8:30 90 minute spin class this morning. And no, I'm not insane for waking up that early on Saturdays to work out. Ok maybe slightly insane, but the resultant endorphin rush and charming middle-aged couple that teach it do help.

Putting that behind me, I decided to whip up these Strawberry Shortcake Stacked Pancakes from ohsheglows. That's right, strawberry shortcake for breakfast! Like I said in a previous post, Angela at ohsheglows is a genius that can make healthy food even more appealing than junk. Did I mention it's all vegan too? Genius indeed.

These were quite a bit of work but were well worth it. The 'soft serve' topping reminds me of summer, regardless of the fact that it's -8C outside right now. I'll definitely be making it by the bowl in the next few months.

The pancakes themselves were also delicious. I loved the addition of shredded coconut and they tasted surprisingly buttery even without the use of any butter, oil, or eggs. I'm still in amazement.

Luckily I did snap a few pictures before I went straight for it.

Already half way there, the party's almost over.

Did anyone catch on to the P90X Ab Ripper X reference there? No? Ok..then.

And then it was all over :(

Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes
Yield: 8 pancakes (I ended up with 9.5)

Recipe here

Note: I didn't have any nutmeg, allspice, maple syrup or coconut milk so I omitted the first two and used cow's milk and honey instead. 

Per 4-ish pancakes (with strawberries and topping):
575 calories | 31g sugar | 21.45g fat | 17g protein (whoa!)

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Week 2 of half-marathon training is going just swimmingly. I did some speed work today so that I'll be able to finish in my goal time of 2 hours. The plan was to do a short warm up and then eight repetitions of 0.25mi. at 6.0mi/hr and 7.5mi/hr which seemed really daunting. If you add up the 8 repetitions alone without the warm-up that's already 4 miles, but I guess I was working off of some runner's high because I breezed right through it!

I usually go to a 60 minute Hot Yoga class Sunday evenings to sweat away anything stressful I encountered throughout the week. It's a great way to start fresh and be ready to dare Monday to give you its best shot. If you haven't tried hot yoga before, you must; the first time I went it was, sort of, life altering. It's like I had never felt so peaceful in my life before, really. But my schedule is doing funny things again so I went tonight instead.

The problem with that is that it means that I'm burning through a lot of calories today and need some way to replenish them. That would be easy except I coincidentally had a protein-full omelette for breakfast and wasn't all that hungry today so I needed another way to refuel. At least I know a delicious ingredient that will do the trick, peanut butter of course!

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Yield: 1 ~16oz. smoothie
  • 1 frozen banana, peeled and broken into smaller pieces
  • 3/4 cup 'milk' of your choice (I like soy)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional but it adds some nice texture and is full of omega-3's and fibre)
  • water to adjust consistency
  1. Blend until smooth and add water as needed
378 calories | 21g sugar | 18g fat (mostly healthy fats!) | 14g protein

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nutella Granola Bars

I am a granola/energy/protein bar fiend. They're portable, tasty and can be quite healthy if you want them to be. Most importantly, they're also extremely customizable. Even though I have about 40-50 bars of many varieties lying in my room right now, none of them taste like the heavenly union between hazelnut and chocolate, which is a problem. Enter, the Nutella Granola Bar.

Nutella Granola Bars
Yield: 15 Bars
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup rice krispies cereal
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (next time i'm going to replace these with more hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts (refer to roasting instructions)
  • 1/4 cup Nutella
  • 2-4 tablespoons honey (depends on how sweet you like it, I think 4 was too many)
  1. Preset oven to 350F
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  3. Microwave honey and nutella for about 30 seconds
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients, hands work well
  5. Press into a parchment lined or greased 9" pan (10" would be ideal, I used a 9" and had a bit of mix left, it was delicious 'raw')
  6. Bake for 10-14 minutes (10 for chewy bars), allow to cool slightly (but not completely) and cut into bars/squares

Per Bar (using 4 tbsp honey):
159 calories | 10.7g sugar | 6.7g fat

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Week 15: Mint Chocolate Cake Pops

Just when you thought cupcakes were the cutest most adorable, sometimes saccharine member of the dessert world, someone came up with the idea of cake pops. Tiny little morsels of cake with the frosting already mixed in, covered in coloured chocolate and often adorably decorated, they're almost too cute to eat.

My cousin VP has an odd affinity for making cake from cake mixes. I'm really not sure why, but for some reason she brings up the idea of baking up some Betty Crocker Supermoist every time I visit. Not to say that we don't have fun baking from a box, there was the marble cake fiasco of  2010 when the batter over flowed all over the oven combined with the fact that we forgot to grease the pan. This time around, Nonna did us a favour and baked the cake for us, which means that there was plenty of chocolate cake lying around, just waiting to be enjoyed.

I took some back to school last weekend and already had in mind what I was going to do with it, cake pops of course! I watched a few instructional videos on Youtube and I was set. I made some buttercream frosting from scratch and added in some peppermint extract for good measure.

These were so much fun to make and made for a super cute belated birthday treat for my BFF SP.

Mint Cake Pops
Yield: ~50 pops
  • Cake mix, as prepared (I think I had about the equivalent of about 1/3 of the box)
  • 1-3/4 cup candy coating wafers
  • Food colouring (see note)
  • Frosting of your choice (see below for recipe)
  1. Crumble cake into a large bowl
  2. Mix with frosting and form into balls (I used a level tablespoon to measure)
  3. Allow to freeze (at least an hour)
  4. Melt candy coating in the microwave
  5. Add food colouring if using
  6. Using toothpicks or lollipop sticks, dip cake pops into chocolate, allowing extra to drip back into bowl
  7. Allow to dry by sticking into a block of styrofoam or box
Note: I only had white chocolate melting wafers on hand and wasn't sure if it was safe to use liquid food colouring with it without the chocolate seizing. Don't worry, it is.

Buttercream frosting
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients until light and creamy

Per pop:
77 calories | 7.8g sugar | 4.2g fat

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Scrumptious Weekend

Living a 4 and a half hour plane ride away from home comes with its perks. Freedom mainly, freedom from my parents always asking me whether I'll be home for dinner and awkward questions the morning after a late night. But despite this, most of the time it plain sucks. Not having your parents to move in your stuff every school year sucks, doing your own laundry all the time sucks, the rarity of home-cooked meals really sucks.

Luckily my parents were on their way to Istanbul and decided to come visit me! They came up on the Friday (this gave our campus 24 hours to get its act together post-St. Patty's), toured the campus and we  were in Toronto by dinner time.

This weekend definitely made up for the usual college fare I dine on most of the time. It began with a feast of Asian/Asian-inspired dishes compliments of my aunt MP (I was too excited and forgot to snap some pics). The next morning was a dim sum brunch (once again too excited to snap pics), but I did have these awesome buns with a gooey filling that's much like a liquid egg tart, that is, if liquid egg tarts existed.

Looks just like the real thing, doesn't it?

That evening, we were out for dinner with 8 of my dad's friends from high school at a Chinese restaurant. The meal had 12 courses, I repeat, the meal had TWELVE courses. My mind was blown. Someone at the table was vegetarian, which means that I got to try vegetarian sweet-and-sour pork. It was delicious, and probably much healthier since it was soy-based. Dessert included what I will call: fancy Jello cubes. They weren't that flavourful but they looked nice.

My fantastic food-filled weekend was topped off with lunch at Nonna's. Delicious soup, cannelloni, salad, cake and fruit; all from scratch of course. Not to mention a cup of delicious espresso (I like mine with plenty of milk).

This is the best part, the part where my scrumptious weekend gets to continue. Nonna hooked me up with plenty of homemade tortellini, left over cannelloni, homemade soup and plenty of cake (which you'll find out in a later post how I put to use.)
What shall I do with this? You'll know soon.
Perhaps I actually have the perfect situation, freedom and the occasional weekend feast.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Midnight-snack Yogurt

I used to be an avid consumer of flavoured yogurts. Though it sometimes got boring seeing the same flavours at the store time after time, I still ate it as I was convinced that it was 'healthy'. That is, until I read the nutrition facts label and saw how much sugar was dumped into it, no wonder it was so tasty. I'm not a very big fan of artificial sweeteners so I needed another alternative. I was a bit apprehensive to try plain yogurt but now that I'm used to it, I never want to go near flavoured yogurts ever again.

I like mine topped with berries, some PC Blue Menu crunchy cereal, and a bit of honey drizzled on top; especially as a late night snack.


Creamy Avocado Pasta

We have the best adorable little grocery store on our campus. They sell more varieties of hummus than a big box store and the bread comes from a local bakery and is hea-ven-ly. I often walk through it just for fun when I have time to kill and felt compelled to buy an avocado last week.

I didn't have any specific plan in mind for it, but I like to let the food itself lead me to meal ideas. I actually purposely picked the one that was the least ripe so that I would have plenty of time to think up an avocado recipe. But eventually it was getting soft and I was running out of time. But low and behold I found this interesting recipe that saved my precious green fruit from the garbage. It's from a blog that I've been reading religiously called ohsheglows and I couldn't wait to try it.

I'm planning on running the Scotiabank half-marathon in Vancouver this June so I've been working hard on increasing the distance on my long run so I can eventually make it 13.1 miles. It's been really challenging so far but I really like having a goal to work towards. Today I ran 6 miles, almost halfway to 13.1, yay! Obviously I was in need of an amazing dinner to refuel (especially since the smoothie shop at the gym that claims to close at 7:30 decided to close early :( ) and this definitely did not disappoint.

The avocado is so creamy that it makes you think you're eating some junky pasta filled with cream, but instead you're getting loads of heart-healthy fats and over 10 grams of protein (yay). In other words, Angela at ohsheglows is a total genius and made my night. I will definitely be adding this to my 'rotation' of easy and healthy dinners. I made a few changes and  increased the yield to 3 servings, there was a lot (aka lunch tomorrow!).

Bon Appetit,

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Yield: 3 servings
  • 1/2 box pasta (I used catelli whole wheat spaghettini)
  • 3/4 avocado
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of half a lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tomato (diced)
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower (chopped)
  • pepper (to taste)
  1. Set water to boil. Meanwhile, drizzle your peeled and smashed garlic with a little oil and roast in oven until fragrant.
  2. Cook pasta until al dente, add cauliflower in the few last minutes of cooking to blanch.
  3. In a food processor (I used my magic bullet), blend garlic, oil and lemon juice until smooth. Add avocado and salt and puree.
  4. Drain pasta and toss in avocado mixture
  5. Serve with plenty of pepper and topped with diced raw tomatoes.
*Note: Apparently this doesn't reheat well because of the avocado, but it does seem like it would be delicious cold. I'll keep you posted

1 serving:
375 calories | 10.6g protein | 16.6g fat (mostly healthy fats!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mocha Oatmeal

My name is Vivian and I am an addict, a caffeine addict. I know this because I felt great yesterday morning and decided to forgo my daily date with my coffee maker. I thought, it couldn't be that bad, I don't feel tired at all. I couldn't be more wrong.

Caffeine withdrawal is not fun. I almost dozed off in Pharm class a couple times and nearly fell off the stool I was sitting on. I was impatient and short with my lab group members and our TA and even skipped out on my workout I was in such a bad mood, which probably wasn't a very good idea.

Maybe it wasn't the caffeine at all, maybe it was the fact that a little thing called Daylight savings took an hour from me without my permission. But regardless, I think it's better to be safe than sorry so I took no chances this morning and decided to caffeinate my oatmeal.

This morning I was lazy and just put some instant coffee into my oatmeal, but what I'd really like to try is to cook my oatmeal in a bit of coffee. It was still delicious, like eating a mocha for breakfast, I mean, it WAS eating a mocha for breakfast and took care of my coffee cravings just swimmingly.

Mocha Oatmeal
Yield: 1 bowl
  • 1/3 cup quick oats
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (maybe more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  1. Mix everything together and microwave for 2 minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Banana 'sorbet'

This is probably the simplest and most guiltless dessert you can make. In fact, it's good for you. Plus, bananas are high in potassium so this is a delicious way to refuel all those electrolytes and carbs you just burned off. Yum. . . I expect gatorade will be going out of business soon?

Find the recipe here.

Week 14: Quinoa Brownies

Quinoa (sounds like Keen-wa) is a seed that comes from the Quinoa plant that is native to South America. It's considered a pseudograin as it is not part of the grass family (I didn't know that was a rule. . . But anyway) and has been a staple food since the time of the Inca's. Today it's become one of those trendy foods that claim to be so much better than the type that can be found at any grocery store (think: Acai berries, agave).

And what is a rice-like pseudograin doing in my chocolat-ey treat you ask? Well, I found a neat recipe that was just begging for me to try it of course. And I'm glad I did because my rice brownies taste like the usual flour variety but are much much better for you. Quinoa is one of few plant foods that are a complete protein, which means that they have all the essential amino acids that us inept humans can't make ourselves. Plus they are gluten-free, so you can mix and mix and mix the batter all you want and not have to worry about the bad things that happen to baked goods when flour is over-mixed.

This is what cooked quinoa looks like
I hear that brownies come in three varieties: cakey, chewy and fudgy. I would say that the chewy type would be my favorite so these turned out a little too cakey for my liking. They were also incredibly moist, maybe even too moist so I would consider reducing the milk a bit for a 'drier' brownie. I adapted the recipe from the website of my local grocery store and added in some instant coffee and chocolate chips for an extra decadent treat (had to balance out the healthi-ness of the quinoa, these are still brownies, after all)

Quinoa Brownies
Yield: 16 squares / 9" pan
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (or cooked equivalent if you're using leftovers from dinner)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk (reduce if you wish)
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used corn)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (maybe more if you have a sweet tooth)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (I used dutch processed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 chocolate chips
  1. Cook quinoa in a small pan or rice cooker with 1-1/4 cup water (If you've never cooked quinoa before, read this), fluff with fork and allow to cool
  2. Preset oven to 350F, line and grease a square 9" pan with foil (see note below)
  3. Dissolve instant coffee in milk
  4. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  5. In a food processor (I use a magic bullet), blend cooked quinoa, milk, oil and eggs until smooth
  6. Pour contents into dry mixture, mix and pour into pan.
  7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake for 30-35 minutes
  8. Allow to cool (if you can) and slice into 16 squares
Per square:
94 calories |11.2g sugar |3.8g fat

Here is a trick I learned somewhere along the blog-reading path. To line a square pan with foil eaily, flip it over and cover the outside of the pan. Then simply remove the foil and place it inside the pan. Voila.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Garlic Hummus

If you knew me you would know that if I had to choose one food to eat for the remainder of my life, I would choose peanut butter. In fact, my love for peanut butter even extends to foods that just look like peanut butter, foods like hummus! I actually like to think of hummus as a savory peanut butter.

Though the grocery store at school sells delicious well-priced hummus in neat flavours like eggplant and olive, I wanted to try making my own. Why you ask? Because I can. And so can you. . .

Note: This makes a lot of hummus and last time mine had green furry things growing on it before I was finished so I put half of it in the freezer. I'll keep you posted on how it thaws out.

Update: Ran out of my first batch so I had to thaw out the second one, it was just fine :)

Garlic Hummus
Yield: 2.5 cups
  • 1/4 cup tahini (aka sesame seed paste)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic (I like it really garlicky)
  • 1 19oz. Can of chickpeas (I used an unsalted type since some brands are loaded with it)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Drain chickpeas, preserving about 6 tbsp of liquid
  2. On a baking tray, drizzle garlic with olive oil and roast in oven (I used my toaster oven)
  3. Blend tahini, garlic, paprika and liquids until smooth (I used my magic bullet)
  4. Gradually add in chickpeas and blend
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste

Per 2 tablespoons:
40 calories | 0.1g sugar | 1.9g fat

Strawberry-Mango Smoothie

Maybe I was just famished after a long run and gruel would have tasted just as good, but this is deelish!

Strawberry-Mango Smoothie
Yield: 1 ~16oz. Smoothie
  • 3-4 frozen strawberries
  • 3/4 cup frozen mango chunks
  • half a banana
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • water to adjust consistency
  1. Blend until smooth and take out the twirly straw!
Per smoothie:
247 calories | 30.6g sugar | 5.8g fat


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