Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Lesson in Recipe Writing

My family makes a lot of food.  I mean, it's really no more than any other family, I guess, but my point is that we cook three meals a day plus do frequent baking.  We have a shelf of cook books in our dining room and I have multiple boards on Pinterest dedicated to food - soups, crock pot recipes, breakfast items, desserts, cookies, and healthy versions of several of those.  The awesome part is that we've made dozens of new dishes from these collections of mine, and we've found several new favourites.  It's fun to branch out from the regulars from time to time, and since we don't go out to eat much, we get to try new things frequently.

Something I've noticed, though, is that while there are many excellent cooks and bakers out there, and many, many wonderful blog writers...entirely too many of them do not know how to properly compose a recipe.  So, for those of you who want to keep a record of any brilliant ingredient combos you design, or just want to put a recipe in your recipe box or book or blog...this post is for you!

How to Write a Recipe
  1. List your ingredients in the order in which they will be used.
  2. Abbreviate Tablespoon and teaspoon, and make sure to use a capital T for Tbsp and a lower-case t for tsp. 
  3. If there are two parts to the recipe, separate the lists of ingredients (e.g. a dish and a sauce, or a pastry and a topping, etc.).
  4. If the food item will be baked in a preheated oven, list the temperature at the beginning of the instructions.  If the oven should not be preheated, say that at the beginning and list the temperature in the directions when you get to the step where it's put in the oven.
  5. Make sure your directions list EVERY STEP and use EVERY INGREDIENT.  Double check this before publishing your recipe anywhere.
  6. Keep your directions simple by including how ingredients should be prepared in the list of ingredients, rather than in the instructions.  For example, list, "red bell pepper, diced" in your list of ingredients, rather than including, "Dice the red pepper," in your instructions.
  7. Generally, you do not need to refer to each ingredient by its full name in the directions.  For example, you can simply say "oil" instead of "olive oil," or "flour" instead of "whole wheat flour."  The only exception to this is if there are more than one different kind of the same thing in the recipe.  For example, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners sugar.
  8. Make sure you put the directions in the order in which they need to be done.  For example, don't make the sauce the final step in the recipe if it has to sit for 20 minutes to thicken.  Make it the first step so the rest of the directions can be completed while the sauce sets.
  9. Always include how much the recipe yields.  
Helpful, but not required information in a recipe includes:
  •  Serving size
  • Whether or not the leftovers can be frozen
  • Prep time and bake/cook time (if applicable)
  • Calorie/carb/fat content per serving (this requires a noted serving size)

And now you can put together a useful, correct recipe!  Have fun creating...and more fun eating. 

Healthy Banana Snack Bites

Okay, I admit it: I have a thing for bananas and peanut butter.  My last treat/snack post was about the frozen peanut butter banana bites, and here I am posting another banana snack...with peanut butter. 

Another confession: I am incredibly picky about the texture of my food.  Anything slightly slimy will not pass my lips or I might gag it right back up.  And no one - least of all me - wants that.  This "slimy" I refer to includes yogurt, custard, pudding, certain fresh mangoes, and yes, bananas - among other things.  So when I eat bananas they either have to be barely ripe so they're soft but not very, or slathered in something with a texture I enjoy.

Bananas are the fruit with the highest sugar content (if I'm wrong on this, please someone correct me), and the browner they get, the more sugary they are.  That's why banana bread made with super brown bananas is so delicious.  So with a super sweet fruit like banana, plus the salt of the peanut butter and the crunch of the walnuts, you've got yourself a killer snack that will not only taste delicious, but it will satisfy your sweet tooth, and fill you up until your next meal.

1 medium banana
1/8 cup creamy peanut butter (I prefer Adam's No-Stir)
2-3 Tbsp chopped raw walnuts

Peel the banana.  You can either cut it into 1-inch sections or leave it whole; I've done both and they work equally well.  Spread a dollop of peanut butter on the tip of the banana.  Dip the peanut butter end of the banana into the chopped walnuts.  Consume and enjoy.

What are some foods you can't eat due to a "weird" taste preference (like my aversion to "slimy")?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Strawberries & Cream Oatmeal

According to my mother, when I was a baby I loved oatmeal. At some point I lost track of my senses and as a child, teen, and young adult, I hated the stuff. Then I met and married my husband. While he doesn't love oatmeal, he enjoys it enough to choose to have it for breakfast on occasion.

While trying to breastfeed my second, I struggled with supply. I did many things to try to bring my supply up...including eating oatmeal.

At first I was hesitant. I have a thing about texture in my food and slimy oatmeal just did not do it for me. So, since I needed/wanted to try everything I could to provide breastmilk for my child, I dove in.

In order to avoid the over-sliminess, I added toppings with textures I liked, such as Craisins and walnuts or pecans.

My second is now about to turn one and I'm still enjoying oatmeal. In fact, as I type this I'm siting over a large bowl of my new favorite oatmeal...which I'm enjoying for the second morning in a row.

1 cup fat free milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups oats
1 heaping cup chopped fresh strawberries

Bring the milk, water and vanilla to a boil (NOTE: Make sure to keep an eye on it because as soon as the milk starts to boil it will rise to the top of the pot and overflow.). Reduce immediately to medium heat. Add oats. Allow to cook until finished (5-8 min).

Once the oats are cooked, remove from heat. Top with chopped berries and drizzle with enough honey to sweeten your liking. Mix and enjoy!

Yield: 1 hefty serving or 2 smaller portions

What's something you thought you hated for years but have found a new way to enjoy now?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Simple Asparagus

This is another vegetable I've come to love after years of insisting it was on my "won't touch with a 29 1/2-foot pole" list.  (Brussels sprouts are, unfortunately for them, still on that list.)  It's the time of year when fresh asparagus is showing up in the grocery stores again (at least, around here), and that means it's not only plentiful, but also quite flavourful.  I'm excited about trying new ways of enjoying it again this spring and summer, but here's a classic, fast, delicious way to prepare asparagus that may - if you're on the fence, or even completely against it - just change your mind about asparagus for good.

Photo: paninihappy.com
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

Wash asparagus and break or cut off base where they naturally want to break/be cut. (NOTE: I cut them, and I just gently press a sharp knife into the flesh of each piece and if it doesn't easily cut through, I move up the stalk until it does.)  Place asparagus in a baking dish and sprinkle in oil and salt.  If desired, roll asparagus in oil to ensure all are covered.  Sprinkle pepper on top to taste.

Broil in the oven for 3-5 minutes until they are done. (NOTE: Keep a very close eye on the asparagus in the broiler, as it will easily burn if left too long.  If you prefer a "safer" route, bake the asparagus at 350 for 10 minutes.)

Serve hot.

What's your favourite early season vegetable?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cucumber Quinoa Fruit Salad

Did the name of this recipe make you do a double take?  Cucumber and quinoa in a fruit salad?  Whaaa--?!?

No, seriously, this is the best thing that's happened to me since...well, since the last time I tried an amazingly delicious recipe and was so glad I'd branched out. (Probably another quinoa recipe...hmmm...)

The base is quinoa to give you some protein and a dose of grains for the day.  The cucumber adds crunch, the mango adds sweet, and the berries add the tart.  I love the different textures in this salad, along with the amazing colours.  It's not only delicious, it's pretty, too!

Photo: tastyhealthythriving.blogspot.com

And to top it all off, you drizzle it with a lemon basil dressing.  No kidding.

Just trust me.  You won't regret it.

NOTE: This recipe made just enough for me to have as my entire lunch.  If you're using it as a side dish, it would probably serve two.

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup mango, cubed
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/8-1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
10 basil leaves, chopped finely (or 2 tsp dried basil)

Place quinoa and water in a medium skillet and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked and the water has been absorbed. Fluff with fork and cool to room temperature.

Combine blueberries, mango, cucumber, and cranberries in a bowl.

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper (I just put it all in a clean baby food jar and shook it).  If you're using fresh basil, add it to the dressing just before serving or it will, according to the original poster of this recipe, go black.  If using dried basil, you can combine it with the above ingredients immediately.

Just before serving, add the quinoa to the prepared cucumber and fruit.  Pour dressing over it all and mix carefully.  Serve immediately to avoid sogginess.

Do you have a surprising salad combo you love?

NOTE: The original recipe is posted at veggiebelly.com.  I altered the amounts of a few ingredients from her version, and served all the dressing at once (she says serve half and half on the side), but other than that it is her recipe.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Carrot Cabbage Patties

As an adult I have found a new appreciation for vegetables and enjoy trying not only new vegetables, but new ways to prepare them.  It's been almost two years since I created this recipe and I don't think I've made it since.  I just ran across my notes on what ingredients I used, and thought it would make a good addition to this blog.

NOTE: At the time that I made these my daughter was not yet two and loathed onions.  Okay, at nearly four she still hates them. Anyway, if you want to add onions to this recipe, please do - I think it would be delicious.  To encourage Little Miss to eat them, though, I used onion powder instead.

Photo: thecookingroute.com

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1/2-3/4 cup chopped cabbage
1/8 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp onion powder

Mix all ingredients together.  Heat frying pan on medium heat.  When the pan is warm, drop mixture by large spoonfuls into pan.  (NOTE: No oil is necessary in the pan.  Adding any will just make the patties greasy.  If your pan tends to stick, spray it with non-stick cooking spray before dropping the mixture in.)

Fry patties until they are golden-dark brown on one side, then flip.  When both sides are golden-dark brown, remove from pan.

Yield: 6 patties

What kind of new concoctions have you created for familiar vegetables?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Discovery: Sliced Almonds

I love salads.  Ten years ago, I never ever in a million years thought I'd say that, but I guess time has a way of maturing a person...and perhaps taste buds.

One part of salads I've always enjoyed is the croutons.  I mean, come on!  Who doesn't love seasoned bread?!?  But as I grew in stature and wisdom (and rotundness), I came to the understanding that croutons add nothing of nutritional value to salad.  They add carbs, raise your blood sugar, and detract from the actual nutrients found in the salad itself. (Of course the dressing doesn't do much, either, but that's a post for another time.)

So when I started eating healthier, I started skipping the croutons.  At buffet salad bars I'd take sunflower seeds for a little crunch, or nothing at all.  There are plenty of things you can combine to make a delicious salad without having to top it with anything.

One day I was scouring the pantry for new ideas and came across a little container of sliced almonds.  I'd purchased them months prior for a recipe of some kind, and the leftovers had just been enjoying the solitude of the back of my pantry ever since.  And somehow, when I saw them this time, I was inspired to sprinkle them on top of my salad.

Photo: almondaccents.com (ironically...)

Now, I know this thing called "Almond Accents" exists - roasted sliced almonds seasoned in a variety of flavours.  I've had them before, and they are delicious.  But these almonds that I found were raw and unseasoned.  Completely clean-slated for versatility and creativity.

And ya know what?  They add the perfect amount of crunch to a salad (like a crouton!), while also contributing:
  • Protein
  • Assistance in lowering your cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes
  • Improved blood fat
  • Increased energy
Try it next time you make a salad.  If you enjoy the flavour of croutons or seasoned almonds, try adding some fresh or dried herbs to your salad, as well.  Not only does it add flavour, it also avoids the sodium found in croutons or other seasoned salad toppings.

What's your favourite salad topper to add a bit of crunch without the carbs?