Christmas Traditions old and New!

The holidays are near erm..past (took me a while to finish this post up!) and I love this time of year! I must say most foodies MUST love christmas... Maybe all foodies except the ones trying to lose weight! *Grumble grumble* hihi! Holiday food is just as wonderful as autumn food - rich, flavorful, comforting...YUMMY. Speaking of which, I tried Kath's sugar plum oats the other day and I must say that I am in love! I modified it slightly (I always do) and I got this:

Some Sugar Plum Oats in a nice bowl...

A creamy bowl of oatmeal made from oats, ground up flax, oat bran, milk and water as well as a sincerely over ripe banana. The banana mushed up really well in the oatmeal, giving it a perfect marshmallow texture... or really, like I exclaimed on the spot; fried banana texture (the battered ones you get in Asian restaurants). As for the plums... I quartered them and fried them in some butter with of course brown sugar until the whole thing became a goey red caramel of plum goodness. The syrup actually caramelized upon cooling - a chewy soft "Kraft" like caramel! Mis-a-part pumpkin-butterscotch-almond-butter oats, these are a definitive fave!

OH! I almost forgot! I got the cutest oatmeal bowls for my birthday EVAR! We nicknamed them BOO and LOO (Bowl Of Oats and Lots Of Oats)!

BOO and LOO, from the best hubby in the world

I wanted to talk about my new tradition for christmas, that of making gift baskets out of homemade treats. It is getting more and more popular and I have an aunt and uncle in my family who especially appreciate that sort of thing. You know... the type that never eat at home and have pretty much everything they could ever want... My sweet grandma also loves these because she cannot cook as much as she used to. Enough said, they all rant and rave when I make my dear baskets! The ones I made this year included:
  • Gingerbread cut-outs
  • Fleur de sel Caramels
  • Orange flavoured Chocolate Truffles
  • Cranberry Chutney
  • Cinnamon pecans
  • Crunchy Buckwheat Granola
I would be happy to share recipes! Anyone else make baskets? What do you guys bake?

I was exceptionally spoiled this christmas as a foodie goes... A new more powerful laptop for blogging and a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer!!!! I was so excited! Unfortunately, I have not have had much time to use them - my baby girl has been extra fussy and we think she may be starting to teeth! I HAVE however made delicious chai flavoured cupcakes with chocolate icing... Unfortunately my hubby lost the pictures he took of them :(. For those of you who read French, I modified the recipe from Rose Madeleine's Lemon Grand Earl Grey Cupcakes. Everything she does looks sooo goood! . I want to try to flavor cupcakes with a coconut pepper chai I have on hand and will probably ice them with a coconut butter icing! Look for my comments about it later...

Anyway, I will try and blog more often now that the crazy holidays are gone. Hopefully my daughter's teething will come to pass and mommy won't be so busy anymore! Happy baking and happy New Year!!

A Yummy Healthy Foods Review!

I am a health food junkie. When my mom and I decide to go to the natural foods store (Tau in Laval), we spend hours and too much money prancing down the aisles. We want to try absolutely everything and we have a food fest when we get home. This here post is some of what I brought home last week on my treasure hunt, reviewed here for you. As we say in french "mes coups de coeur".

Kashi TLC 7 Whole Grains Crackers and Covered Bridge Lime Tortilla Chips

Both are "wow", yet for very different reasons. The Kashi crackers are grainy, crispy and slightly nutty-sweet. Paired with a blue cheese, the tongue is left with a buttery aftertaste. Delicious with cheese and soup or just as a snack on their own. At 2.99$ on special they were well worth it! I would buy these again, however, I would get them at Metro since I saw them there for 3.49$ regular priced and I go there every week anyway.

THE chips. Intense. Zingy. Never ever tasted something which such lime kick in the mouth. Makes me think of the bite of salt and vinegar but only from lime juice. They are perfectly sized (I hate multiple bite chips!), perfectly salted and perfectly crispy without being crumbly. Price was 3.49$ and again well worth it.

SunLand Dark Chocolate Creamy Peanut Butter

Finally! I had been wondering if this type of thing existed in Canada, having only ever read about it on Kath's blog! I was able to spoon some of this creamy concoction over my oatmeal and I must say that I was not disappointed! The chocolate tames the peanuty taste to an undertone without being overwhelming and there is just a hint of sweetness. I was afraid it would taste fake and Nutella like but I was pleasantly surprised. Guess you can't go wrong when its made from REAL organic ingredients! Nom Nom! This pot cost 5.49$ - not overpriced for organic nut butter but I wouldn't start making cookies with it!

Maple Bacon Flavored Tempeh

This sounded delightful sandwiched between lettuce and tomato. It was but not as much served plain with eggs the next morning. I love tempeh as compared to tofu (not that I don't enjoy tofu) texture wise. It's more chewy and dense... two things that real bacon isn't! The taste was definately there but on it's own it was all wrong! I much prefer the Porat bacon flavored veggie burgers (made here in Québec!) also from tempeh I believe. They are definitely a must on your grocery list!

Olympic Krema Greek Style Yogurt - Vanilla Infused

This all natural, organic, super creamy yogurt is delicious on just about everything. Watch out for the fat though; no additives means no gelatin, thus the decadent consistency is all due to its 10% fat content. I used it mostly to top fruit, french toast and crumbles - it resembles a cross between sour cream, yogurt and whipped cream - heavenly! At 5.00$ a pop, it is better used sparingly...oh but so worth it!

That's about it for now... I leave you with one of the best breakfast I have had in a long time:
Cinnamon Bun, halved, dipped in egg and pan fried, topped with maple syrup caramelized apples and a scoop of here greek yogurt... NOM! Bon Appetit!

An Ongoing Journey...Breastfeeding and Fibromyalgia

Baby Arielle is almost 2 months old now and things have changed only slightly for the better. While fibromyalgia did not seem to assail me the first few weeks post-partum, the symptoms are now back to what I have gotten used to be "normal". I am eternally tired, achey and get easily grumpy. Breastfeeding obviously doesn't help my case as:
- I am up on Arielle's demand, whether that's at 4am or during my 3pm nap, when I have time to nap that is.
- The position I breastfeed in tires my back and shoulders, spots already tender from my fibro.

The solution is quite straightforward but difficult to attain. I must sleep more and exercise, as this will give me physical strength and ease my symptoms. However, breastfeeding 9-12 times a day leaves very little time. In fact, some days I have to actually schedule time to eat and shower and when hubby gets home I tend to want to cook and clean. If I nap during the day, it is usually by cutting out a meal or a shower, which then cuts on time when hubby returns home. Since hubby works, I need to get up at night and do everything (diaper change, etc) which takes around 2 hours each time. My breastfeeding schedule, which includes supplementing with formula or expressed milk, simply does not make time to exercise... here is an example of half of one of my days:

9h30 - baby cries, wake up, run to the bathroom, come back, undress her and put her to the breast.
9h50 - she has fallen asleep at the breast. Get up, change her diaper to wake her up, put her onto the other breast.
10h10 - fallen asleep again. Burp her, try to lay her down.
10h15 - she's still hungry. Prepare formula or breast milk in a bottle.
10h40 - Put her in her chair and pump each breast to empty whatever she didn't nurse.
11h15 - Eat breakfast.
11h30 - she's ready to feed again.

Its a tiring vicious circle. I have been told repeatedly "why don't you give up?" but I still trudge on. Why? Because I want what is best for my daughter, no matter how many times I cry, feel resentment, despair... We have been slowly weening her off the formula, giving 1.5oz after each feeding instead of 2.5 we used to give her before. She is now 2 months old and drinks 2 extra times a day as compared to when we started weening her. Its rough but I know we are working towards exclusively breastfeeding her and I have hope.

My message to mothers with issues breastfeeding and or with fibromyalgia, who think of quitting is don't. Get help, surround yourself with positive energy and people. I may not be able to take meds whilst breastfeeding, nor do much exercise (I do walk a few times a week, if only to go to the store!), nor get much sleep... but baby Arielle is worth it ... worth the multiple visits to the breastfeeding clinic, the herbs and meds to up my milk production, the pumping, feeling like a cow, the nudging and sweet talking to get her to latch properly. I know that in a few weeks, maybe a month, I WILL be breastfeeding her exclusively... or so i hope.
In the meantime,

To Breastfeeding!

An Ode to Pumpkin part II

My parents came over for supper on Friday and my mom brought Pumpkin Pie! It reminded me that I needed to write about my favorite pumpkin dessert recipes!

Baking with pumpkin (or squash for that matter) usually requires pureed pumpkin, which can be easily done with the roasted flesh and a hand blender. "Pumpkin Pack" is indeed better as Valerie commented on my last post, but using it with all its juices is doable as long as you play with the amount of liquid. In my all time favorite pumpkin dessert (you guessed it, my mom's pie) we use the roasted flesh as is, neither blended or packed (the recipe requires blending later). Here it is in all it's glory....

Mom's Pumpkin Pie

serve this baby cold and slathered with whipped cream...yummy! For you guys watching your weight, replace the brown sugar by Splenda, place the mix in a ramekin for a crust less pie and top it with dream whip or sugar free cool whip (or is it fat free?).

Pumpkin Bread

I modified this recipe to get the above. I cut some fat and added spices mainly. It's wonderfully dark and rich because of added molasses and reminds us slightly of gingerbread. You can ice it with orange cream cheese icing, or eat it warm as is or with a little butter! Nom nom.

Pumpkin "Butter"

I have usually made this with squash in the past (buttercup or pepper) but its intended use is for pumpkin - just that pumpkin is not available year round and this recipe requires it cubed and raw... with a lot of maple syrup which is much cheaper in the spring! It is delicious on toast, on social tea like cookies, on Kath's banana whipped oatmeal (as is pumpkin itself!) and mixed with yogurt and I am assuming, on ice cream! I gave little jars of this on my wedding day as a favor...they were a big hit!

You can also use pumpkin to bake muffins or cookies and even use it in pancakes and oats for breakfast. I have also used pumpkin purée to replace applesauce in cake recipes... like this AMAZING carrot cake (the replacing wasn't my idea, but It's a great idea!) which I also made and iced with Orange Cream cheese icing for my Mom's birthday... It doesn't taste like pumpkin, but it adds a moistness to it.

Last but not least, I would like to point you towards Valerie's blog La Grignoteuse for her delectable Pumpkin and orange preserve... It is truly amazing! So that wraps up my love for pumpkin... What do you guys do with it?

An Ode to the Pumpkin

Well, Halloween just passed and fall is coming to an end. It actually snowed here on Saturday and trick or treat-ers were very few. Apart from candy (ok, ok, not a real food), there are so many “fall” foods that I enjoy and I must say that our happy jack o’ lanterns come pretty darn close to the top! This versatile squash can be used in a large variety of ways, from appetizers all the way through to desserts and this is what makes it so awesome in the kitchen.

I’d like to explain my favorite method to cook and prepare pumpkin, because too often I hear people complaining about how complicated it is. Well it really isn’t! So before you reach for that can, grab a nice big orange one and follow these basic instructions! First we…Slice the pumpkin in half. Yes, just in half. Arm yourself with a bread knife, the serrations seem to help and these knives also tend to be much longer which in this case is an advantage! Two…empty those seeds…and grill them! They are packed with good stuff such as protein and magnesium and with a little bit of olive oil and salt they are really tasty! Three…spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, flop down both sides of the pumpkin (or one at a time if you chose a huge one) onto the sheet skin side up (meat facing down) and bake in the oven at 450F until skin has browned and pumpkin has collapsed (the pumpkin caves in as it bakes). This can take from around 40mins to 2hrs depending on your pumpkin. It may never collapse… Check it regularly by poking the meat with a fork and watching for water accumulation at the bottom of the cookie sheet. This usually happens when the pumpkin is done. Four… spoon out flesh and use, or freeze! It’s ready for using! Now wasn’t that simple? Here are some of my favorite recipes!

Soups and entrees

Curried pumpkin soup with maple caramelized onions

It’s yummy, and it’s healthy! The site it is posted on will even give you the calories per serving! The above is my version of a recipe I found on here.

Roasted pumpkin … sounds dull, but it is very versatile! You can roast it with maple syrup and get something like this glazed squash recipe or mix it like I did with sweet potato, carrots and brussel sprouts served with chicken, which I was inspired by Kath’s recipe. Eat it hot and serve it cold over salad the next day to get something like this!

Use it as a vegetable! Like in my version of “chana masala”, an Indian chick pea curry dish in which I add cubes of pumpkin and cauliflower florets to the onion and tomato base. It’s also delicious in vegetarian chili!

Nom nom… next post: onto desserts!
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