30 Good Things Before 30: #17 – Burnt Broccoli

30-good-things-before-30You know how to tell if you’ve found a really good thing? If it stands the test of time and still has a place in your life years down the road.

That’s what I’ll be talking about tonight with #17 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:


Burnt Broccoli

I was turned onto this little beauty of a cooking method by a friend back on my west coast days. It was about five and a half years ago.

I know this because I was so totally in love with this method that I wrote a blog about it.

Five and a half years later and I’m still very much in love.

The Method:

  1. Cut up a bunch of broccoli.

    Tiny green trees

    Tiny green trees

  2. Throw 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a covered pot and heat on high just until it starts to smoke.
  3. Quickly — very quickly — throw all the broccoli in, cover, and leave for 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and give it a shake. Put back on burner for another 2 minutes.

    Don't be afraid if it gets real smoky in there. That's what you want. It's burning in all the deliciousness.

    Don’t be afraid if it gets real smoky in there. That’s what you want. It’s burning in all the deliciousness. (Also don’t mind my stovetop: I’m a messy cook. I’ll clean it up when I’m done…)

  5. If broccoli aren’t at desired tenderness, put on the cover, give another shake and put back on the burner for 2 more minutes.

That’s it.

Easy.

Scorched little green trees

Scorched little green trees

And delicious.

I had these tonight alongside a Mexican ground “beef” wrap. It was inspired by runger and, more specifically, by running past Mexicali Rosa’s in the last few hundred metres of my 13 km run.

Came home. Made this.

runger

The runger is real

Delicious.

By the way, you can also do burnt broccoli in the oven. It’s every bit as easy but requires more forethought since it takes them quite a bit longer to burn just right. Not the kind of thing you’ll come home and do when the runger is this real. A good recipe for that method is over here.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ok, I admit mid-June is kind of a weird time to break out a belly-warming recipe like Shepherd’s Pie, but give this a try and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be making it year-round.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie. Humble. Delicious.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. Humble. Delicious. (Pin this)

Like the vast majority of my recipes, this one was inspired by stuff in my fridge/cupboards that was about to go bad: specifically, a package of Yves Original Veggie Ground Round fast-approaching its expiration date and some potatoes threatening to go to seed. I searched the depths of the interweb for a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that featured a packaged veggie ground to no avail.

So, I made up my own. Well, to be perfectly clear, I took this recipe by Alton Brown and adapted it for my needs.

The end result? A pretty tasty vegetarian alternative that, if the opinions of my meat-loving husband count for anything, stands up pretty well next to the meaty original. As an added bonus, it’s way less muss and fuss to throw together.

Plate it up with a salad and you're golden

Plate it up with a salad and you’re golden

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the potatoes

  • 3/4 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the “meat” filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 package (340 g) Yves Original Veggie Ground Round
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup reduce-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup canned or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup canned or frozen peas

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Dice peeled potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, place in a pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and keep at a simmer, cooking until potatoes are soft enough to easily pierce with a fork (around 10-15 mintues).
  3. Drain potatoes and then place them in a bowl, along with milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash or blend with a mixer until smooth. Add yolk and stir until well combined.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots, sauteing until onion begins to turn golden (around 3-4 minutes). Stir in garlic.
  5. Add the veggie ground, salt and pepper, and saute until heated through.
  6. Stir in tomato paste, veggie broth, rosemary and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer slowly until sauce thickens.
  7. Add corn and peas to the meat mixture.

    Carrots and corn and peas, oh my!

    Carrots and corn and peas, oh my!

  8. Spread evenly in a 7×9-inch glass baking dish and then top with potatoes.
  9. Bake on the middle oven rack for approximately 25 minutes, until potatoes start to brown.

    Brown 'em up real nice

    Brown ’em up real nice

Who says vegetarians can’t have a nice, hearty stick-to-your-ribs Shepherd’s Pie?

Enjoy!

5-minute Vegetarian Chili

Every cook has their specialty: that one crowd-pleaser they can whip up with their eyes closed. Gather round, kids, ’cause this one’s mine.

5-minute Vegetarian Chili (You don't need to use this much sour cream and cheese, by the way.  That's my husband's doing. His love for dairy knows no bounds.)

5-minute Vegetarian Chili (You don’t need to use this much sour cream and cheese, by the way.
That’s my husband’s doing. His love for dairy knows no bounds.)

It’s nothing fancy and if you’re a chili afficianado, you might balk at this being called a chili at all, but it’s a favourite of mine. In particular, there are four reasons I love this recipe:

  1. It’s foolproof – If you have the culinary skills to open a can and chop an onion, you’re golden.
  2. It’s quick – I’m notorious for underestimating the amount of time it’ll take me to put dinner on the table. With this one, when I say it’ll be ready in 5 minutes, I’m actually telling the truth.
  3. It’s balanced – Protein, veg, dairy. Serve it up with some wholegrain garlic toast and a side salad and you’re killing it, nutrition-wise.
  4. It’s tasty – I’ve served this to everyone, including many a meat-eater. While I don’t claim it compares to the traditional chilis that are born of eight hours on a hot stove, the critics agree: this one’s a keeper.

My recipe is adapted slightly from this one over here at Kraft.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Louisiana hot sauce, dash
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • cheddar cheese, shredded
  • sour cream

Instructions

  1. Heat your oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add onions and crushed red pepper (I usually use a couple good-sized pinches for a little bit of kick but not a burn-your-face-off kind of heat) and cook until onions become transluscent.

    Pro tip: Easy way to make your house smell delicious? Fry up some onions.

    Pro tip: Easy way to make your house smell delicious? Fry up some onions.

  2. Add diced tomatoes, Louisiana hot sauce, black beans and corn. Mix it all up, reduce heat, and cook until heated through. If you have time, you can let it simmer over low-heat until the liquid reduces.

    All the pretty colours.

    All the pretty colours.

  3. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream, to taste.

And that’s it! I always keep these ingredients on hand so that I can turn to this as an easy weeknight meal. Been making it for 7 years now and no complaints yet.

Enjoy!

Don’t Stock Believing

I think I’m probably the only person in the world that will be excited about this, but that’s okay. I’m excited enough for all of us.

Last night, I completed Mini-Resolution #21: Don’t Stock Believing. That’s a joke, by the way. A reference to Journey’s hitto-end-all-hits “Don’t Stop Believing.” Yeah… I’m also probably the only person in the world that finds that funny.

Anyhow, this mini-resolution was about my commitment to make my own vegetable stock from scratch. Like everything else I’ve been doing with my spare time lately, it came straight from Dr. Andrew Weil’s 8 Weeks to Optimal Health plan.

Veggie stock

The finished product. The floaty bits are spices. Maybe my sieve wasn't fine enough. Oh well.

In Week 3, Dr. Weil suggests we try making our own veggie stock because, apparently, veggie stock is a great thing to have on hand for cooking veggies.

This is news to me. I roast a lot of veggies. I stir-fry them. Boil them occasionally. But I don’t think I’ve ever cooked veggies with veggie stock.

And having never needed veggie stock for cooking, I’ve never found myself with the desire to throw together a big ol’ pot of veggie stock in my spare time.

Well, welcome to my brave new world where I not only make veggie stock from scratch, I beam with pride at my ability to do so.

I used (surprise, surprise) Dr. Weil’s recipe which you can check out here. Like most of his other recipes I’ve tried so far, it was simple. Foolproof even. Although I did have to Google how to cut up a leek since I’ve never cooked with those before either.

(The directions are here, by the way, if you’re in the same boat as me. I can’t be the only leek virgin out there.)

Veggie Stock in the Making

Homemade veggie stock in my too-tiny pot.

The only real stumbling block turned out to be the size of my pot. As it turns out one-and-a-half gallons of water is a lot when you’re adding it to a pot that already contains four onions, six carrots, three stalks of celery and two leeks. I ended up throwing in only about one gallon of water. Which I figure is okay. I mean hell, I haven’t made veggie stock before. How am I going to know the difference?

The finished product smelled and looked amazing. I directed my dear fiancé to the kitchen the moment he got home so he could see the fruits of my labour. He wasn’t that jazzed up about it. I guess I can’t blame him. I mean it is just stock after all.

Still, there’s something really fulfilling about making from scratch that which you usually buy prepackaged. Plus, I felt like a total kitchen pro having to whip out the fine-mesh strainer. Yes, I realize it doesn’t take much.

It went a little against my instincts to follow Dr. Weil’s direction to just “discard” all those veggies after pressing the liquid from them. Obviously, they would have lost most of their nutrients, a lot of their flavour and definitely their texture — but still, isn’t there some way to save these veggies? Thoughts? Anyone?

Tomorrow, I will attempt to put the stock to use in my first ever veggie stock-based cooking attempt. The plan is braised red cabbage. Excitement abounds!

And now… tally time:

Days to go: 329

Mini-Resolutions to go: 242

Miso and Me

If I take away only one lesson from my quest to complete Dr. Andrew Weil’s 8 Weeks to Optimal Health program, it would probably be the importance of keeping an open mind.

If I didn’t keep an open mind, I would have never known that greasy, canned fish chunks (read: sardines) make a wicked pita pocket filling. Or that pressed tofu, despite its striking resemblance to mold-encrusted regular tofu, makes a kickass fajita. Or that buckwheat groats — well, I’m still working on the buckwheat groats.

The point is it pays to have an open mind — an idea that was reinforced as I embarked on Mini-Resolution #20: Me and Miso.

Miso

Mmmm....fermented soybean paste.

When I committed to trying out a miso recipe as part of Dr. Weil’s plan to get us ingesting more vegetable-based proteins, I had no idea what it was. That’s probably a good thing because, as it turns out, miso is a soybean paste.

Now if I were a closed-minded person, the word ‘paste’ would have immediately ended any further miso exploration. I’ve never been enthusiastic about the idea of eating paste of any kind. Paste is not an appetite-inducing word. In terms of food appeal, it’s ranked down there with — oh, I don’t know — fermented, maybe?

Which just so happens to be how miso paste is made.

From the World’s Healthiest Foods:

“Miso is a soy paste that is created by inoculating trays of rice with the vitamin B12 synthesizing fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, then mixing in a ground preparation of cooked soybeans and salt, and letting the mixture ferment for several days before grinding it into a paste with a nut butter consistency.”

Yum, right?

Actually, it is.

I picked up my tub o’ soybean paste at Fujiya, the friendly neighbourhood sushi joint/Asian grocery store. They have an amazing array of miso in a variety of colors. I had no idea what it all meant so I picked the cheapest.

I used said miso in another recipe from Dr. Weil’s healthy kitchen, this one for Miso Soup. You can check it out (and I recommend you do) here.

Miso Soup

My miso masterpiece. And some sushi. You can't live on soup alone, right?

When I told dear fiancé I was making miso soup for dinner, he groaned. Actually groaned out loud. He said he’d had some bad miso soup in his day, but assured me that mine would be fine.

My confidence a little bit shaken, I got to work chopping up carrots, celery and cabbage while eyeing that tub of orange goo somewhat suspiciously.

And much to my surprise, it turned out amazing. I mean who knew fungus and rotten soybeans would taste so delicious?

The verdict was unanimous. The soup was great. A little bland after following Dr. Weil’s directions exactly, but that was quickly remedied with a dash of salt which brought out the flavours perfectly.

It was even better the next day.

I’m not a big soup maker. I’ve always though that if you’re going to go through all the effort of preparing a meal, shouldn’t the final product be something a little more substantial than soup?

Well, I’m a convert. This soup is so easy to make it’s frightening. There’s nothing fancy. No pureeing or straining. Just easy chop and simmer. Plus, pair it with a tray of spicy tuna rolls and you’ve got yourself a quick, well-rounded and sophisticated meal.

Nutritionwise? Well, it’s pretty much just water and vegetables so it’s no surprise that the calorie count is low: about 100 calories a bowl. It’s got 3.2 g of protein, 5.4 g of fat and 3.3 g of fiber. With the exception of the fat content (which seems kinda high, doesn’t it?) that’s comparable on all accounts to a serving of canned garden vegetable soup. Except it’s way more interesting than your regular old Campbell’s.

Unfortunately, the recipe only uses 4 tablespoons of miso, which means I have pretty much a whole tub left over.

Any miso recipe suggestions out there? Please fire away. I’m sure there’s life beyond soup for miso, isn’t there?

And now….tally time!

Days to go: 330

Mini-Resolutions to go: 243

Tofu and a vegetarianism-related rant

So I just chowed down on the results of Mini-Resolution #13: Get Acquainted with Soy and I’m pleased to report it was deemed a success by both myself and the carnivore I live with.

In Week 2 of his 8 Weeks to Optimal Health program, Dr. Weil asks that we familiarize ourselves with some of the soy products out there. He thinks the world would be a much better place if we all cut way down on the amount of animal protein we consume — he eats no meat, only fish — and I think he may be right.

It’s something I’ve been mulling over for more than a year now. I think PETA started it. I watched a video on their website called Meet Your Meat. I should have looked away and continued my life in happy oblivion. I didn’t. This was a mistake. Alec Baldwin narrates it. That should have been my first clue.

I’m embedding the video in this post with a word of caution: it’s extremely graphic and difficult to watch.

The video explores factory farming, going through the whole slaughter process for poultry, cattle and pigs in these confinement facilities which, above all else, aim to produce the most meat, milk or eggs at the lowest possible cost.

It’s disturbing and shocking which is — I think we can all agree on this — what PETA does best. But the thing that struck me most was that I could barely stand to watch these animals be killed. It took all my will not to look away from the screen. Then I started to think what it must be like to work in one of these places and how I wouldn’t last five minutes.

Which led me to the following: if I can’t even bear to watch how this meat is produced, if I can’t even stomach the thought of seeing this process, let alone being a part of it, do I really have a right to eat the products of it?

That’s an ethical dilemma I haven’t yet reconciled.

Now I certainly acknowledge that this isn’t representative of all meat production. Both my parents grew up on farms and I know for a fact the cruelty that’s shown in this video wouldn’t have been tolerated on their family farms or likely on any small-scale farms today.

Of course that’s not the only issues with being a meat-eater, though. There’s also the environmental issue:

According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes on a “massive scale” to deforestation[2], air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of topsoil, climate change[3], the overuse of resources including oil and water, and loss of biodiversity.

And, of course, our primary concern in this forum, there’s also the health benefits of forgoing meat to consider. Vegetarians tend to have:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, renal disease and Alzheimer’s
  • Lower body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and blood pressure than non-vegetarians

Which, I believe, is the kinda thing Dr. Weil digs. This brings me back to the original point of my post: becoming better acquainted with soy. I originally wanted to try something really out of the ordinary for me: something like tempeh or TVP.

Alas, I couldn’t find either at my local grocery store.

(This may or may not be related to the fact that I was looking for these soy products on the same shopping trip I spent 20-ish minutes foraging for Quinoa and Kasha. You can only circle the store so many times before you start to look suspicious.)

I did, however, find pressed tofu which Dr. Weil also mentioned in his Week 2 tirade about the world of soy.

Pressed tofu is the meat-lover’s tofu as it has a more sturdy texture than the regular variety. It’s essentially just regular tofu that has been pressed to get rid of excess liquid and firm it up.

It’s also sold in flavoured varieties. I bought the “savoury” kind. This didn’t seem to amount to much, other than it was brown on the outside. It still tasted like tofu. Which is to say it tasted like whatever it was cooked with.

And on this happy occasion, it was cooked with red and green peppers and onion for a very healthy and delicious Tofu Fajita. The recipe is (again) courtesy of Dr. Weil. Check it out here.

We omitted the hot pepper because we’re spice-intolerant; some day I hope to live dangerously and incorporate a Serrano pepper. For now, I’m content with the kick of a medium salsa tossed in as a topping.

The recipe was super easy and quick. It definitely trumps chicken fajitas in that it doesn’t require the foresight to take some chicken out of the freezer a day before you want to eat them.

Nutrition-wise, you’re looking at about 30o calories per fajita with 10.5 g of fat, a whopping 23 g of protein and 8 g of fibre. In summary: pretty awesome.

Overall verdict: friggin’ delicious. I’d make these over chicken fajitas any day and — more importantly — my carnivore fiancé would be happy to eat them.

Now that’s a win-win.

And that means it’s tally time!

Days to go: 338

Mini-resolutions to go: 248

Also, I know I’m supposed to start Week 3 of Dr. Weil’s program tomorrow. That won’t be happening. For the record I have completed all the mini-resolutions related to Week 2 (can I get a “Hell, yeah!”) but want to get them in writing before I embark on some new ones. And that’s not going to happen tonight. Because it’s 10:30. And that’s past my bedtime, children.

Until tomorrow.

Get Cooking with Quinoa

Oh, Quinoa. *contented sigh* Where have you been all my life?

Quinoa

Quinoa, like the Buckwheat Groats, courtesy of Bob's Red Mill.

I’d like to take this moment to introduce you to my new favourite whole grain: Quinoa. I call her Keeny but that’s just because we’re besties. You can call her Miss Nwa.

I can thank a certain guru of grain for bringing her into my life. That’s you, Dr. Weil. Much obliged.

To recap, in Week 2 of his 8 Weeks to Optimal Health plan, Dr. Weil recommends we up our intake of whole grains. Among his suggestions of grains to try were Kasha (see Mini-Resolution #12) and Quinoa.

I took on Mini-Resolution #11: Cooking with Quinoa last night and it was life-changing.

Here’s the quick and dirty on Keeny:

  • It’s an amazing source of vegetable protein, weighing in at 8.2 g of protein per cup cooked.
  • It also contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans making it an unusually complete protein source (with most vegetarian proteins you need to eat a variety to make a complete protein)

I opted for a Dr. Weil’s personal favourite and cooked up some Quinoa Pudding. The basic recipe is here. A few modifications:

  • I added a cup of chopped almonds in with the raisins. Any chopped nut would work well and adds a really nice crunch to the pudding.
  • I don’t bother measuring the lemon juice; just use the juice of one lemon.
  • I’d probably add a little more cinnamon than just 1 tsp but then I’m a cinnamon fiend.
  • I serve it cold, not warm.
  • Dr. Weil also suggests topping it with berries, bananas or maple syrup. I haven’t yet, but I’m sure it would be tasty as well.
Quinoa Pudding

So good, I just ate a bowl of it while I wrote this blog.

I will definitely be making this one again. I love the idea of a dessert made with whole grains that only needs to rely on the sweetness of apple juice and raisins.

The calories are a little high at about 360 per serving (although they are generous servings). That’s the same calorie count as a Walnut Crunch doughnut. Yikes, huh? Well, not so much when you take into account a serving of this pudding will give you 6 g of fibre, 10 g of protein and just 1 g of saturated fat in comparison to that doughnut’s 1 g of fibre,  4 g of protein and a whopping 10 g of saturated fat. Not all calories are created equal, children.

Even dear old fiancé, lover of all deep-fried pastries, was impressed. Now that’s a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, right there.

Love you, Keeny!

And now…..tally time!

Days to go: 339

Mini-resolutions to go: 249

Cooking with Kasha

Groats.

Buckwheat groats.

Does that sound like something you want to eat? Or something you might want to feed to cattle?

After last night’s escapades, I’m thinking perhaps the latter.

I successfully completed Mini-Resolution #12: Get Cooking with Kasha (a.k.a. toasted Buckwheat Groats) and lived to tell the tale — although my stomach did seem a bit worse for wear afterward.

(To be fair, that may also have something to do with my bouncing around the living room for 40 minutes to a Turbo Jam video a short 15 minutes after eating said Kasha. Just maybe.)

For those of you not in the know — such as myself a mere 24 hours ago — Kasha is the Russian name for buckwheat groats that have been toasted to a rusty color in order to reduce the buckwheat’s natural bitterness and bring out its sweeter, nuttier flavour.  Buckwheat groats are high in fibre (5 grams per 1/4 cup) and a good source of protein (6 g per 1/4 cup).

If you’ll recall, I embarked on this Kasha catastrophe due to Dr. Weil’s suggestion that I work on incorporating more whole grains into my diet. Kasha was one he suggested. Because I didn’t know what it was — and I think, also because it sounded a bit like one of my favourite cereal brands of all time — I decided to give it a try.

Toasting Buckwheat Groats

And this is how Kasha is born. Throw some raw buckwheat groats in a dry skillet over high heat and voila!

I was ill-prepared for this task. I realized it as soon as I walked into the grocery store with no idea where they might stock their groats. Nor was I particularly fond of asking any store employees about their groats.

(Is it just me or does groat really sound like slang for goat scrotum?)

I suppose I could have asked about Kasha, but I feared they might point me toward the Kashi, after which I would undoubtedly end up at the checkout with a basketful of Go Lean Crunch.

So I toughed it out and went to the aisle where they keep the flax seed. Several times. In fact, I made about five trips before I finally noticed a package of Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat Groats tucked in among Bob’s other grains, flours and cereals.

And honestly, that was the most difficult part of this whole adventure. Perhaps with the exception of eating it.

I cooked the Kasha according to directions from the guru of grain himself, Dr. Weil. His recipe included dried mushrooms, buckwheat groats, carrot, onion and soy sauce to taste. You can check it out here.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Ew. Just ew. It turns out I have issues with dried mushrooms.

It was pretty easy to prepare, although it was a bit out of my comfort zone. In addition to this being my first time cooking with Kasha, it was also my first foray into dealing with dried mushrooms.

And I just have to say ew.

The photo to the right shows the mushrooms before I soaked them. They only got more unappetizing from there, turning into soggy, semi-gelatinous specters of their former glory as real, fully-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. They also smelled as good as they sound.

I let them soak for about an hour but some of them were still tough in the middle.  Yuck.

However, that may be my fault. I simply followed Dr. Weil’s instructions and soaked them in water until they were soft. In my post-cooking reading, however, I’ve come across suggestions that they be soaked in boiling water. Maybe that would help?

(Un)Fortunately, I’ll have plenty opportunity to find out since I now have a five-ounce bag of them sitting in my cupboard. I’ll keep you posted.

Kasha with Vegetables

The finished product. To be eaten with lots of soy sauce.

Despite my griping, the finished product was okay. It kind of had the flavour of onion soup which was good.The veggies were crisp-tender creating a nice contrast with the mushy Kasha. It was a little bland but adding a bunch of soy sauce made it pop.

The mushrooms were the biggest turn off. Just a mushroom burp after my dinner last night almost brought it back up.

I still get a wave of nausea when I think about them, I think due to a combination of their texture and the smell they emitted while soaking in my kitchen for an hour.

It’s very possible this could be remedied by properly soaking them in boiled water.

I’d be willing to try the recipe again to see.

On the plus side, you can’t beat the nutritional content for this one: 147 calories, 6 gram of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

And that, my friends, brings us to tally time:

Days to go: 339

Mini-resolutions to go: 250

Burning up my broccoli

You know what’s really awesome?

When a recipe tells you to scorch food.

You know why that’s so awesome?

Because you can’t screw it up.

I speak of my latest adventure with broccoli. It began with the advice of a dear friend. She’s stranded on that God-forsaken rock called Newfoundland with very little fresh produce to speak of but has managed — on occasion — to hunt down a head or two of broccoli. And when she brings home this precious green gold, she’s got the perfect cooking method which she was gracious enough to share with me.

And now I will share it with you:

Apparently, this method originated with Heston Blumenthal.  Don’t know who he is? That’s okay. I didn’t either and I call myself a foodie. I Googled him and realized my face should be burning with shame for not recognizing his name. Suffice to say he’s the owner and chef of The Fat Duck — just a little three-Michelin-starred establishment in Berkshire, England.

In other words, he’s probably a guy you could take a cooking tip or two from.

His broccoli cooking method is described here. Basically you just heat up some olive oil over high heat until it starts to smoke, then throw in your broccoli, cover it and leave it on the high heat. Then salt it, pepper it, toss in a bit of butter, shake it up, cover it again and leave it for another two to four minutes.

When it’s done it should be scorched in some spots and green in others. That’s right. I said scorched.

But don’t let that freak you out. It’s fantastic. I guess the idea is that the high heat concentrates the broccoli’s flavour. Or something. I don’t know. Ask Heston.

All I can tell you with authority is that it was quick, foolproof and delicious. Also, that I will be making it again.

Thanks, Jamie!

Ali’s Super Healthy Granola Bar recipe

So one of my readers (that’s right, I have readers now — and I’m very excited about it even if they do consist only of my wedding party and my mom — love you guys!) asked for my granola bar recipe, and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Unfortunately, I can’t really claim it as my own. I actually found this recipe about a year ago. I had just started baking my own bread and was excited about limiting my intake of packaged foods and all the weird, unnatural and unpronounceable additives they contain.

The natural progression was to tackle granola bars and I was lucky enough to come across this recipe. It’s a personal favourite.

A couple quick notes:

  • This isn’t like your typical grocery store granola bar. It’s got kind of a different texture; more solid, kind of like a really healthy square or cookie or… something. You just have to try it to know. But I promise it’s good.
  • I use all-natural peanut butter instead of oil because it’s delicious and it adds some protein instead of just fat. This does mean you’ll need some extra applesauce to moisten up the recipe though.
  • Don’t forget about the additions: I like to throw in some raisins, sunflower seeds and walnut pieces, but you’ve got tons of options.

Enjoy!

Super Healthy Granola Bar recipe